Friday, December 24, 2010

Catching up: Thanksgiving Cluster

Between work, looking for a new job, holiday preparations, and an ill cat, I seem to be about a month behind in posting. Because of car repairs, other expenses, and a lack of time, Chandler and I haven't been able to attend Nosework classes. There hasn't been much time to practice at home either.

However, we did manage to get to the Thanksgiving Cluster dog show at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds on the day after Thanksgiving. We go every year and have a great time. This may seem a bit odd, considering that Chan is an English Shepherd and the cluster is an all AKC show. To be honest, I am very glad that my breed has largely avoided the diversity depleting rigors of the conformation ring, and would prefer that the English Shepherd is never even a blip on the AKC's radar. When we go to the cluster, Chan largely masquerades as a Border Collie unless somebody directly inquires about his breed.

For me, the draw to the cluster is the shopping. Vendors like Bravo, Clean Run, and Dogwise are there every year. I generally try to budget for a new collar, some treats, and maybe toys or training materials.

Usually I try to meet up with a friend at the cluster. It is always more fun to watch the Agility competitions and peruse all the stuff if you aren't doing it alone. This year was a special treat for me, because it turned out that the woman behind It'za English Shepherds, Vivian, was going to be in the area for Thanksgiving. Chan's dam is an It'za bred dog, and although Vivian has been out of breeding for a while, she was happy to have an opportunity to meet one of her dogs' descendants. We both agreed that the Cluster would probably be the most convenient place and time for us to meet.

Apparantly Chandler and I were not difficult to recognize, because Vivian and her niece walked right up to us on the grass outside the Mallory building. We proceeded to have a great day spectating at the show and talking about English Shepherds. It turns out that Chandler reminds her a lot of his uncle Pen; Pen was her "court jester", and Chandler seems to share some of those silly tendencies, in addition to being similarly colored. Vivian remembered her camera and got some pictures.

Me, Chandler, and Vivian
(Chandler, true to form, tried to wade in that ornamental pool behind us.)

My friends Jen and Laurie also showed up that day with their ES. I ended up feeling a bit like I was ping-ponging between groups for a while, but Vivian got a photo of this four dog lineup. Notice which dog has broken his sit and is grinning at the end of the line. Vivian says that happened because her niece was squeeing at the sight of four dogs sitting on a bench and staying in place. Personally, I think Chan will take any excuse he can get to be silly. Maybe I've been hanging around Jen and her excellently trained dogs too much. I don't see anything unusual with Chandler staying put and posing when I ask him to do so.

Finn, Nixie, Helo, Chandler

It ended up being a long day. I was there most of the morning with Vivian and Allison, her niece, and then I spent a lot of the afternoon with Laurie and her friend Sandy. My memories of the day remind me of a collection of short films:

...talking about agility as we watch dogs compete.

...noticing that Nosework class has made Chandler's food detection abilities EVEN BETTER, as he'd quickly home in on any treats at any of the vendors or being held by the competitors and spectators. Unfortunately, Chandler did manage to make a stealthy raid on the freeze dried turkey breast at the Bravo booth before I caught on to him. One second he was walking along airscenting, and the next I had to pull him out of the bowl of samples on the table. Very embarrassing.

...Chandler schmoozing Vivian and Allison for pieces of pretzel when we paused for lunch...and then attempting to introduce himself to the person at the other end of the table and those on neighboring tables.

...Chandler finally relaxing and looking happy as we shopped the vendors in one of the conformation buildings. For some reason, he usually wilts in the conformation buildings. I think it may be the added tension in the atmosphere around people showing.

...Laurie, toting a HUGE bag of stuff she had bought as Christmas presents for her dog friends. She was quite glad I had mentioned the show to her, because it was a dog lover's gift bonanza.

...the man at the Dogwise booth vigorously ruffling and petting Chandler while declaring what a great dog he was, and Chandler having a great time despite his tendency to be wary of men. (Woohoo, a good experience with the Y chromosome!) I have to add that the Dogwise people were great. Chandler mooched a drink of water from Sandy next to their booth; he's a messy drinker and splattered the floor a bit. Perhaps they were just happy that it wasn't urine, but they were nice about the accidental mess. Yes, I did buy a book from them. :)

...having somebody ask if Chan and Helo were English Shepherds, being shocked that anybody would know enough to ask, and then finding out that the person was a canine massage therapist who had worked on Chan's cousin Nixie.

...the girl who fell for Chandler while we were shopping for collars. I cautioned her that he was a lot of work and his good behavior was the result of years of training. She offered to train him for me for the next six years. I politely declined. ;)

...running into Michelle and Muffy, who have Chandler's grand-niece. They were showing one of their friends the dog show, and happily paused to point out that Helo and Chan were English Shepherds, just like their own Kateri.

I'm sure there were more moments that I have forgotten. It was a great day to meet new friends and also see some old ones. Hopefully we'll have as good a time next year.

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