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You say "bitch" like it's a bad thing…

By Gloria Diaz

Check out Gloria's Blog — Edge of Gloria!

Fort Wayne Reader

2005-05-16


Life is strange. One day, you are working at a factory, making air conditioning parts, wondering how your employer can get away with only allowing a 20-minute lunch break and one 10-minute break during an eight-hour shift; the next you are proofreading an award-winning magazine that is racing towards deadline. A few weeks later, you find yourself on a bus headed for St. Louis, because your boss thought it would be a good idea to have you help her out at the American Shetland Sheepdog Association’s National show in Collinsville, IL. The National, as it is known, isn’t quite Westminster, but for those who like dogs, coming here is like dying and going to Sheltie Heaven. It’s a big show. People from all over the United States, and a few foreign countries, are converging a half-hour out of St. Louis to see the best Shelties in the country.

For those of you who are clueless, Shetland Sheepdogs look like miniature versions of silver screen and small screen canine star Lassie, but don’t ever, EVER refer to Shelties as “miniature collies.”

I’d never been to a dog show on this scale before. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’d seen Westminster a few times on television, along with some of the Eukanuba championship shows, and of course, I’d seen the movie Best In Show, but to see some of the dogs I’d seen advertised in the magazine I work for would be interesting.

In the few short weeks I worked for the magazine, I learned there were several different varieties of Shelties: not all of them looked like Lassie, some of them were black and white, some were black, white and tan, and others were white, gray and black. I also learned breeding them was a tricky proposition as well. You had to be careful breeding one color of Sheltie to another. And of the breeders we wrote about, it seemed like all of them had day jobs; maybe their dogs sold for quite a bit of money, but it didn’t seem like the type of business where you had a few litters of pups and could retire a millionaire.

Then again, I’d heard from my boss’s husband, and later confirmed by my boss’s assistant, that some Japanese visitors to the show had plopped down $30,000 for a bitch and two of her puppies.

And the time and money it takes to “finish” a dog can be a long, expensive journey. “Finishing” a dog means making sure it earns enough points for a Championship. Indeed, that’s the whole point in showing a dog: making sure it earns a Championship. If the dog becomes a champion, it appears worthy enough to be bred, and possibly have champion children. The Shelties at the National are the best the breed has to offer.

I’ve also learned there are cat people, dog people, and dog show people. Dog people can probably tell you what breed (or breeds, as the case may be) their dog is, and how old it is, but dog show people will probably have his or her dog’s pedigree memorized back to at least two generations, and can tell you what titles the dog’s littermates have.

I showed someone who visited our booth a picture of my dog, and the lady asked me, “do you keep her in full coat?” Uh...sure. With Daphne, it’s more like “slob coat,” slightly dirty with a few mats thrown in for variation and texture. Despite this, she still gets comments about how cute she is, whenever we are out in public.

It was a different world, that’s for sure. There are Trekkies and Star Wars fans; each have their own language. So do dog, or in this case, Sheltie fanciers. It’s quite amusing to hear ladies talking about bitches and studs with no embarrassment whatsoever on their part. When you hear it, it’s enough to make the little kid in inside of you giggle like a madman. Needless to say, yours truly has had a field day at work being able to say “bitch” in front of her boss and not get reprimanded for swearing.

Do I have a great job, or what?

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