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Publisher’s Message: A February Head’s Up

Move your feet, lose your seat. Aidan has figured out how to jump into my chair in the living room.

This year I will celebrate the whole month of February as my 65th birthday month. Or at least the first couple weekends of it by taking them both off.

After pretty much ignoring birthdays 50 and 60, perhaps it’s time to mark this milestone of sorts and celebrate with something fun.

Especially after living through the complicated nightmare that is Medicare. I figure I deserve something special just for making it through that maze of choices and all the annoying phone calls and junk mail from companies trying to sell me old person health insurance.

Every year since I was a kid, I always ask for the same thing for my birthday – snow. And more times than not, I’ve gotten my wish over the years, but it’s been a very mild winter here and if long-range weather forecasts can be trusted, I’m not seeing a whole lot of white stuff predicted for later in the month.

So, Plan B.

I’m gifting myself something else that’s fun – back to back weekends of local dog shows.

So, all you folks who like to wait until the last minute to send me information to be published ASAP on Chelsea Update, you have ample warning. It won’t happen in early February.

I bet it’s been more than 10 years since I’ve taken a whole weekend off, and probably longer, because I covered a lot of weekend events for the Ann Arbor News.

So, with a lull in the Rally and AKC dog show action until March both Buzz and Aidan are entered in conformation competition at United Kennel Club dog shows on Feb. 4-5 and Feb. 11-12. If you’d like to see us, they are happening close by at the Ann Arbor Dog Training Club building in Whitmore Lake.  

My “little aardvark” Aidan will be six months old by then, and he’ll get lots of ring time because there are two shows each day. That’s eight times in the ring over the two weekends, and if he actually manages to win a class along the way, he’ll get to go into the ring even more.

I bought Aidan a new bed this month but look who decided to make himself at home in it.

I’m proud to say Aidan looks like a small sized Toller now and not a reverse giraffe, so there’s hope.

It’s been a long time since Buzz competed in anything other than Rally or obedience at a dog show, but in his early years, Buzz earned his UKC championship and a few UKC Rally titles as well.

So, I’ll be dusting off his blinged out special collar and leash and he’ll actually be allowed to eat food in the ring. Won’t he be surprised.

And, since the way these shows work, Buzz will show after Aidan, perhaps the judge won’t think I’m a complete buffoon as a handler. Buzz has a solid stand, unlike Mr. Aidan. But the young fellow has been working on this skill after his less-than stellar debut in December in Lansing.

And there will be a bunch of Tollers showing there as well – probably more than most people have seen together at one time at a UKC show – at least around here.

Buzz and Aidan will be joined by Aidan’s brother, Dare, and their mother, Phury. In addition, my friend Nancy Jennings will show her Toller, Gopher. Since none of us profess to be very good stand and eat food handlers in the conformation ring, it could be comical.

If I were a betting person, my money would be on Nancy because she did a lot of winning with Ryan, but, Gopher and Buzz look very different, so, the judge will have some quick thinking to do since the eventual winner is totally a subjective opinion.

To most people, a conformation dog show may look like a beauty pageant, but it’s not supposed to be. Dogs are supposed to be judged by how closely they conform to the standard of their particular breed, not against each other.

Bottom line, it’s still subjective in that judge’s mind on that day. And, although you might win under a judge one day, the next weekend, you might end up dead last. Ask anyone who does this a lot more than I do. 

I will predict that there will be a lot of laughter and maybe some video of bloopers if we can get someone to record it for posterity.

Truth be told, none of us take ourselves too seriously showing in conformation, but we all do like to win. And don’t want to embarrass ourselves too much in the process.

So who knows, with eight chances, maybe one judge will take pity on Aidan and he won’t finish last every time. The smart money’s still on his brother, though.

Now, that said, the odds are a lot more evenly stacked among the three adult dogs (Buzz, Gopher and Phury). This competition could be a lot more interesting.

Whatever the outcome, sharing my life with staff members Buzz and Aidan is the gift that keeps on giving and the best birthday month present I could ever ask for.

Snow or no snow.

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