I actually have a dog in this fight. Bob the Reluctant Show Dog, presented by Jean Jennings of Automobile Magazine and JeanKnowsCars and her husband, Tim, is in the holding area as I type, getting ready to enter Ring 8 for judging at the Westminster Kennel Club's 2014 Dog Show. I've been following their trip from Michigan, as Jean reports it online, and I have to admit that, having once shared a late night breakfast with Bob, my heart is quite invested in the outcome.
Live streaming of the dog show.... I never would have imagined that would be the backdrop to my sunny morning. Yet, here I am, reading my email, filling out alumni contact forms for my alma mater, checking my Facebook feed, and listening to the hoots and hollers as the setters, Irish Red and White, leave the ring and the Wirehair Pointing Griffons take their places.
Bob's group, the Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, is due up next. My anxiety is mounting.
There's no commentary, just the occasional bark interspersed with human clapping and cheering. Whooooo seems to be the shout of choice this year. The live stream is just that. The camera moves from beast to beast, held low, dog level, focusing on the grooming and the leg placements and the running for the judges.
I want Bob.
It's akin to the feelings reflected on the faces of the moms in Sochi. The ice dancing moms, who've traveled together since the kids were 8 and 10; the brothers' mom, of one gold medalist and the other cheering wildly with his cerebral palsied limbs; the Proctor and Gamble moms in the commercials, up early for before dawn practice, wiping tears of joy and pain and love.... I have a little bit of that going on right now in my own heart.
The weimeraner looked quite elegant as she posed before her Best in Breed plaque, and now the screen says that the Chessies are on their way... up next... and my stomach is all a-flutter.
They entered the ring without much fanfare. There are skinny handlers and male handlers and orthopedically shod handlers and I'm having a hard time distinguishing Kelly Leonard, Bob's companion, from the rest of the crowd. I don't have a chance of distinguishing Bob from the other beautiful specimens in the ring. And then, there they are, center stage for thirty wonderful seconds, being poked and prodded and then proudly strutting their stuff.
They looked great.
The judges patted and pressed and lifted and observed first one round and then another round and the camera included Jean, standing on the sidelines in an orange hat and broken-ankle-boot, suddenly abandoned by her companions, taking a huge, deep, shoulder lifting breath. I can feel the angst two thousand miles away.
It's not easy sitting on the sidelines, unable to help, just watching and hoping. I can see her keeping her distance, not distracting the athletes as they prepare for their turn. The camera focuses on Bob and Kelly and, for a moment or two, I'm in Madison Square Garden with them, inhaling and exhaling as they do, watching with eager anticipation as the judge makes his rounds, examining, reordering, asking for one more promenade, one more feel of the haunches, before he chooses one... not Bob... two.... nope... three... and it's over.
Bob didn't make the cut.
I'm unable to offer an intelligent perspective on the situation; I know nothing of the specifics which make one Chesapeake Bay retriever stand out from another. I do know that Bob is a marvelous companion and that I've had a more intimate experience with this Westminster than I've had with any other. It was akin to watching the Olympics when Jonny Moseley competed in the moguls. He's an alum of the Cuter's high school in California, he babysat for one of Little Cuter's closest friends, he was the grand marshal of every parade in our little town. I didn't know him, but it felt as if I did.
He was one of ours, just as Bob is. Winning or losing, I've enjoyed the ride. Thanks for sharing the journey.
Want Jean's take on the whole thing? Click here to go to her report on Jean Knows Cars/ Road to Westminster.