Monday, June 11, 2012

Velvet's Debut In Flagstaff

I'm always nervous when I bring out a new puppy in the show ring.  But especially now - after an incident last fall which I've not shared yet on this blog because that story is still unfolding.

I only worked Velvet a little bit before we went to Flagstaff and I was hoping it was enough for her to have a good experience in the ring.  We only had the opportunity to observe one handling class and work on the sidelines a couple of weeks ago before I came down with bronchitis that set me back for 2 weeks.  This class was really Velvet's first time on a lead and she begrudgingly walked a few down and backs, kind of unsure of herself and the grass beneath her paws (our yard is all rock - no grass).  From there we spent about 30 minutes in PetSmart one evening once I was well enough to make the trip.  Velvet met some young children in the store who thought she was adorable.  Luckily the mom of the brood had taught her children well and they held out their hands gently and let Velvet come to them instead of abruptly approaching her.  As it turned out Velvet walked nicely in the aisles for me, although still a little unsure.  But when I brought out the squeaky, her ears perked up and the tail wagged.  All good stuff.  Then the friendly check out girl gave Velvet a little treat as I paid for a couple of new toys and some yummy training treats.  A successful trip!  From there the following week we worked in the cul de sac after sundown - something we hadn't  been able to do because, not only  had I been sick but the only streetlight out there had been burned out for weeks - until I contacted the city for a fix.  Luckily the city responded and we did about 10 minutes out there a couple of nights before the big debut.  Along the way we did table work after grooming, playing dog show and stacking for 5 or 10 seconds to get a treat.

I say a prayer each morning when I leave the house asking for a safe return to my babies at the end of the day.  Saturday when leaving for Flagstaff it was no different - the first prayer was asking that we make it to our destination and back - safe and sound.  I had some addendums on Saturday - the second prayer was that Velvet just have an enjoyable experience.  I added a small prayer for a friend that is in need to the end of my request followed by a humble thank you to my maker, put the car in drive and we were off to the show! 

It's about a 2 hour drive to Flagstaff and as you hit about 5000 or 6000 ft elevation the pines begin to emerge as you continue your climb up the mountain.  The temperatures drop to a pleasant 60 or 70 degrees in the early June morning hours and you can smell the pines - bringing back memories of northern Michigan.  I really enjoy the Flagstaff shows just because it reminds me of driving up north back home.

Once in Flagstaff I unloaded everything and got set up.  Velvet was doing great.  Happy and still engaged every time I got out the squeaky toy.  I spent about 90 minutes grooming and Velvet got her very first topknot!

I know I'm adorable!

Off to the ring we went.  We had a bit of a wait and Velvet gained a few admirers.  Several pictures were snapped.  I wanted her to stay happy - but I also wanted her to stay neat and presentable!  Everyone always wants to touch a Shih Tzu's coat.  I always say no prior to ring time when asked but offer unlimited time to pet and love after we are done in the ring.  Soon we were called to the ring.  I carried my girl over, put her down just outside the ring, smoothed down her coat, called her name and squeaked her little toy and up came her tail - wagging away.  Talk about relief!  We walked into the ring behind the other entry and my girl was animated and darn happy to be there!  I knew she had made a good first impression because the judge smiled and looked at Velvet just long enough for me to know he liked what he saw.  Velvet just had to work it.  We moved out and there was my girl by my side - tail up, head up and I loosened the lead by dropping my arm down towards my side giving plenty of slack to the lead.  Velvet kept moving.  All good stuff!  When it was Velvet's turn on the table I encouraged her and kept telling her she was a good girl.  She did fine for her first exam.  The judge could tell she was new to this and I confirmed it was her first show.  He instructed us to do our down and back and Velvet was doing great.  We barely made it back to the judge when he pointed to me and said "You're number one!"  I let out I'm sure a sigh of relief.  What a great day in the ring!  Thank you to judge Fredrick Stephens!

So lots of firsts on Saturday - first topknot, first show, first Best Of Breed win and first point!

Sunday we were blessed with another wonderful experience under judge Dr. John Reeve-Newson.  He was so gentle and such a pleasure to show to.  He asked me about Velvet's background and as it ended up he knows my dear friend Marg Brown of Shente Shih Tzu - who's top winning dogs happen to be part of the basis of my line.  We had a lovely conversation after he gave me Velvet's winning ribbons.  He knew his Shih Tzu.  When a judge asks about pedigree - they know the breed!

We had a wonderful weekend in Flagstaff!  Now we wait for the weather to cool here in the Valley.  We'll be back at the shows in the Fall!