On the issue of purebred dog versus rescue mutt, I am Switzerland. A really, really overthinking, emotionally compromised Switzerland. Which is all I have room in this post to say.
Anyway, when I realized yesterday that there was a big dog show in town, I decided to go. (No photos, both because the few I snapped are bad, and because I didn’t ask any kind of permission.) The day I picked was actually kind of boring, from the purely show side, as it was very early in the process and most of the classes were quite small. This also meant that I didn’t see a huge variety of dog breeds, because only some breeds were showing. It was also hard to keep up with what was happening where, since there were at least 15 show rings running, intermingled with vendors and grooming stations.
Despite it being not terribly exciting from the show perspective, I found the whole experience to be emotionally exhausting.
I think there’s pretty general consensus that some show dogs are genuinely lovely creatures, and some are genetic disasters. (Trying to get people to agree about which are which is the trick. Also, some of those genetic disasters are out there for everyone to see, but others are hiding on the inside in the form of serious health or temperament issues.)
What I didn’t expect is that TV is a terrible averager of dogs.
Dogs that look lovely on TV looked amazing in person. As soon as I was inside, I ran across a class of Dobermans that was breathtaking. The Golden Retrievers looked like they just stepped out of fashion magazines. Scrappy Norwich Terriers vibrated with joy to be in the ring. Those strange looking Bedlington terriers are, in person, kind of adorable. I texted a picture of a Basenji to my husband, and he immediately asked if Silas needed a sibling.
Unfortunately, I also found the opposite to be true. I walked in to the arena from a back way, where many of the big dogs were milling around outside with their owners. Literally the first dog I saw of the entire event was a poor German Shepherd whose back legs wobbled pathetically with every step. He wasn’t even the worst; no wonder Westminster doesn’t show that angle. Dogs that seem just a little too much on TV were way too much in person. I saw a Basset Hound who was one leg wrinkle away from not being able to walk, and several Sharpeis who were surely incapable of seeing.
It was also obvious that some of these dogs were deeply loved and some of them were commodities. (If an unstressed, healthy, non-toy dog freely uses the bathroom in his crate, the message I take away is not that he is a beloved family pet.) In that regard, I found the breed-specific rescue booths, with their adoring volunteers, comforting, although then I had to feel bad for the poor homeless dogs.
Like I said, emotionally exhausting.
I will say, I think anyone who wants a purebred dog should go to the shows before they’re dead set on a particular breed. Most people pick their “ideal” dog breed from a picture and a general description of its temperament, which is only a tiny part of the picture. For instance, Viszlas, which were pretty high up on my fantasy dog roster, routinely emit a howl that sets my teeth on edge. Scratch that.
Have you been to a dog show? Did you enjoy it?