This year's Irish Wolfhound of America's National Specialty, an annual four day long show that is held in different parts of the country each year, was here in St. Louis, at Purina Farms last week. A breed club's annual National Specialty is a dog show for ONLY dogs of that particular breed, and is meant to collect the best specimens from all over the country - and it is not unusual for dogs to come from out of the country.
In our club, we have some very famous kennels that come down every year from Canada - but also, many dogs are imported for breeding and show stock and represent their countries of origin, from afar. It is a show to judge the best of the best, and always the highlight of any kennel club's year.
Over the past few decades, national specialty shows have grown to include not just conformation (the beauty ring show, such as Westminster) but also to include other venues, such as the area of work that the dog was created to do (herding, retrieving birds, and in my breed's case, lure coursing) but also obedience, rally, sometimes tracking, agility, etc.
I was asked last winter if I would judge the AKC Canine Good Citizen test which purebreds and mixed breeds alike can participate in. All of my dogs have always earned their "CGC" titles, I used to travel with them with their "diplomas" of passing, and every rare now and then, when it would be midnight and I would be driving in the middle of nowhere, I could convince a wary hotel clerk to let my dogs spend the night with me in their hotel.
I was the first CGC evaluator in the area (so I was informed by the American Kennel Club) but I had years ago let my membership lapse, since I don't currently teach group obedience classes or compete regularly. So, I re-applied and took my test ($50), passed, purchased my Judge's kit ($15.00), and began my busy goosing season (aka "forgot all about it" - until the deadline loomed near - let the fiasco begin!).
The test was due to be held last Wednesday during the specialty show, on the grounds of Purina in Grey Summit, MO. I realized on the Friday of the week before that I had not yet received the Judge's Kit (including all the official paperwork to not only conduct the test, but also to send home with the owners - from all over the country - to submit for their dogs to the AKC).
I called the AKC. No problem, they informed me, we will sell you a new kit. What? But I never got the one that I already paid for. That's OK, they reassured me, they had plenty of others.
Since the test was a mere five days away, with a weekend thrown in there, I begged for overnighting.
No problem, they would happily charge me for that, too.
Since I was donating my entire working day's wages AND all the entry fees totally to Irish Wolfhound Rescue, this was starting to add up.
The kit was due to be delivered on Tuesday - show day was Wednesday, remember? I had to "take" another paid day off work to wait for the Fed Ex guy, in case I had to sign for the package. As it turns out, I did, and with shaking hands, I opened it.
Inside was NOT the judge's kit, which I had now twice paid for, but instead, an application to BECOME a judge. Since I am new at blogging and since I have an editor, I believe that I should not write what I said.
But ... I managed to pull it off without a hitch and had a really fun time, and only failed one dog who tried to bite me when I picked up his paw to examine it. Happily, it was not an Irish Wolfhound, but a mixed breed terrier cross who was testing with his "brother" Irish Wolfhound dogs - one bought from a breeder, the other from their local rescue group (Chicago area), a male used for breeding in a puppy mill.
The test is really quite fun and easy, and I encourage ALL pet owners to go through it. There are 10 stages, which start from meeting a neutral stranger; go through walking on a loose lead through a crowd of people; work up to being put into a 20 foot-away sit stay then a down stay then coming when called from those (conducted on lead for safety); being examined and lightly groomed to evaluate how they behave at the vet or groomer (that is when the little terrier dude tried to bite me); and lastly, being held by the evaluator for 3 minutes while Mom or Dad goes out of sight.
At this time, they should not bite me, bark non-stop, pee on me, drag me anywhere, howl or whine, or freak out and try to run away. One great, big, huge, un-neutered male Irish Wolfhound looked after dad, went "squeeeeeeeak!", looked up at me in misery, and slumped to my feet to endure the rest of the three minutes in agony. Our hounds are like that - VERY attached and emotional.
For more information, and to find out about upcoming tests near you, please contact the AKC Canine Good Citizen Program at CGC@AKC.org. It is a fun and easy test, and the entry fees go towards lobbying for the benefit of pet dogs and their rights. Although, having said that, and bad me - it has been years since I looked at where those entry fees go, so don't quote me on that, and research the end means, if you are of legislative sensibilities.
Dorene Olson, BA, APDT, AKC Evaluator 9706
TARA Training and Behavior, LLC and WyndSong Border Collies and Canada Goose Management