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From The CC Vault: Oops!

by Peter Baynes

Originally published March 2012

The word “oops” has begun to have a new meaning since a famous politician had a lapse of memory. Unfortunately, his mistake was on national television, and the “oops” moment is largely credited for scuttling his presidential campaign, and he has been mocked for months.

In the dog show world, we can all recall many mistakes of our own, and of others. Luckily, only a few on live television (bloopers). We are fortunate that we are not running for high office and many of our personal “oops” moments are secreted in our memory. The other more visible ones still cause amusement, ridicule, or shock in our small doggy world.  It does, however, give me the opportunity to recite just a few of the minor “oops” of which I have heard about, witnessed, or been involved.

One of my earliest mistakes (as a know-it-all-novice) was when a successful breeder and judge of Boxers was mentoring me. He had a nice litter and of the two I liked he sold one to a show home. When they were about seven months old, the one he sold started doing quite a bit of winning in puppy classes. He didn’t show the one he kept at that time but I saw it at his kennels. One day I had the courage to exclaim that I thought he had sold the wrong one. “Oops,” that was the wrong thing to say! “Tha’s wrong lad,” he barked in his thick Yorkshire accent, and then lectured me on the subject of judging puppies against their final potential. He was, of course, right; the puppy I liked did some winning but the one he kept went on to become one of the top champions at the time. There again, still today, many inexperienced breeders have sold the wrong puppy for the above reasons.

Before I was a handler and still disorganized (in England), I have gone to shows on the wrong date. Even on one occasion, still in England, with three friends we set off to attend a large Specialty somewhere in the south of England. Headed in the right direction, we suddenly discovered after about 180 miles that not one of us had a clue about the location of the show. With remarkable judgment and without the use of cell phones, we deduced it was in a field somewhere… four “Oopses”!

One of my early stupid mistakes is when I entered five dogs under a German judge who I knew would not like my current team of winners, and so I chose five of my least favorite to enter for the competition. Unloading my team onto the benches, I realized that “Oops” I had brought the wrong five dogs.  It was too far to drive home and change them, and I knew everyone would know after looking at the catalogue that I had with me all the wrong dogs. Therefore I became an interested spectator of a very interesting display of judging. My biggest dismay was when I realized that after surveying his winners, one of my relatively ugliest ones would have fared very well, and I never got the opportunity to say, “I thought you would like this one.”

Until armbands and dogs share the same barcode or other future devices, many exhibitors in this country will still enter the ring wearing the wrong armband. The judge or steward usually can usually sort it out, but on some occasions this is not possible. I once won a major on a Saluki, but my assistant had picked up the wrong armband. It was for another exhibitor with the same name who was absent. The major went to the wrong dog until we sorted it out with the help of a friendly judge. I can, therefore, understand several years ago in this country when a young owner-handler had the good fortune of winning a strong group only to find out that it was not the dog in the catalog. Her honest mistake was that she had entered one dog but showed another dog… “Oops”!

Of course, many judges make mistakes too, and sometimes friendly handlers will come to their rescue. At a show in Florida, I was handling a nice Samoyed in a large entry. The elderly lady judge divided the class in half. I happened to be in the first section. After examining all the dogs in this section, she pulled me out first along with three others. I thought she was making a cut. I was surprised when she lined us up along the markers in order. She quickly marked her book and handed me a first place ribbon. Trying to be Sir Galahad, I whispered to her, “I think you have to judge the other half of the class.” She smiled sweetly and agreed with my advice. She went through the next group rather quickly and pulled out several for final review. I was not placed in the final line-up; I think the one that came fourth in the original group went winners – “Oops”.

One highly regarded elderly judge in England made a familiar mistake of going over my dog for the second time in a large class. I was young then and hesitated to tell him but when I finally did he said, “Thank you young man, but remember, no one is infallible.” I didn’t win that day but I’ve always remembered his words. Not only did his words resonate but I learned that being helpful to judges  does not always reap rewards. If a handler whispers to a judge, “I think you’ve gone over this one already,” it doesn’t usually mean that the handler is going to win.

Nearly every judge has had an “Oops” moment in the ring, and some have honestly described it as their most embarrassing experience. Maybe judges should have cards printed apologizing for “Oops” moments, or even understanding handlers could have similar cards printed pardoning judges for their moments of “Oops.” I know of one handler who, in the old days, would hand out similar cards when it was common for judges to have a (permissible) sense of humor.

High profile judges have been known to leave the show forgetting that they were scheduled to judge a group. One judge even forgot that he was supposed to be judging a show. When he didn’t arrive, the show chair called his home and found out that he was mowing his lawn. They found a replacement but, unfortunately, the substitute had traveled to the show with a professional handler with whom he had shared a room the previous evening. Undeterred, the professional handler showed most of his string to the replacement judge – and WON! He later boasted that he had slept with the judge the previous evening… “Oops”!

Clients can make mistakes, too. One of my clients asked if I would be going to one of their Specialties. It would have meant leaving a day earlier for a circuit at a particularly busy time so I declined. I did arrive towards the end of the show, and as I was very interested in the breed, I bought a catalog. I had finished several dogs for this client and I was pleased to see that included in the catalog were the names and pictures of some of the dogs I had finished.  Unfortunately, it stated that they had all been owner-handled to their championships – “Oops”.

Covering a breed for another handler can sometimes be hazardous. Asked to cover a sporting dog for a handler friend of mine, all was going well until the owners outside the ring started waving to me in a frenzied manner. I didn’t understand their sign language. I thought I may be handling the dog in the wrong way. Then, as they kept pointing to their mouths, I thought they might be indicating that I should say something to the judge (which I would never do). Luckily, just before the dog was to be examined by the judge, I looked in the mouth and there was a rubber band on the teeth… BIG “Oops”!

Sometimes at a show I have seen exhibitors and judges in the strangest and odd-colored outfits, and I have remarked to friends they must have dressed or packed in the dark. I have never had the courage to tell them to their face, as the choice is theirs, no matter how strange. However, at a very jovial dog show party in Ohio I saw a very nattily dressed gentleman who I didn’t know, but whose clothes I admired. His jacket and tie were wonderful but, in my humble opinion, they didn’t match. I thought it was my Beau Brummell duty to tell him so. I introduced myself and immediately blurted out my reason for approaching him. “Thank you” was his only reply. Then I noticed the AKC badge in his lapel – he was the AKC rep… “Oops”!

Many seasoned showgowers have seen numerous hilarious “Oopses” in the ring; ladies who drop their underwear and deftly kick them out of the ring; gentlemen judges who are unzipped. I saw one judge at an indoor show on a warm day wearing a raincoat. “I split my pants” was his answer when I asked him why. I noticed another judge was wearing odd colored shoes. I pointed it out to him and he exclaimed, “I know, I have another pair at home just like them!”

“Oops” is a relatively mild expression in our close-knit environment; in doggy circles, you will hear expletives that are more descriptive. I could list them here but then I would be stepping into at least one of them. My wife, who is obsessive about anniversaries, made one such expletive when she discovered she had (only once) totally forgotten my birthday. Even at the distinguished Westminster event, you will hear several of these uttered by disappointed supporters throughout the proceedings. I am sure I could relate some of them to you later (or maybe not!). As Westminster groups are televised live, we may be privy to more than one “Oops” moment. Detractors will no doubt have their eyes peeled.

Critics claim that the AKC has had several “Oops” moments in the last few years. We just hope that the organization to which we are all dedicated does not have too many more of those moments in the future. Although as the old judge said, we must remember that no one (or organization) is infallible.

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Posted by on Mar 31 2023. Filed under Current Articles, Featured, The Buzz. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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