Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Dog Olympics

         A dog show also known as a conformation show or breed show is an event where people bring forth their dogs and enter them into a prize winning contest where judges vote on which of the many dogs conform to the established breed type for their breed. In other words, how well the dogs look like the perfect dog in association to their breed type. It is like the Olympics of dogs! The dog owners teach and train their dogs for months at a time or as far back as being a little puppy.  They feed them the healthiest type of food and allow them 30 minutes to an hour of physical activity a day. I found this topic to be very amusing thus I decided to attend one of these shows and see for myself what the commotion is all about.
        I purchased my ticket with much excitement and went straight to my seat for the show was about to begin. All the trainers come out with there dogs in full attire suits and walked side by side with their dogs. They get introduced to the public and each one takes a turn with their dogs to walk around the stage. They perform a sort of walk /run so the dogs get to run a bit and show off their muscles I suppose. After the introduction, the competition begins. Each dog must perform a certain number of tricks to prove to the judges that they are worthy of winning.
As I sit and watch the show, you feel a sense of companionship between the owner and the dog. Something more unique and special than just a friendship, they both share a love, partnership and a passion for winning. It is amazing to see how dedicated the owners are to their dogs and how much effort and time spent into making them the best dog in the nation. These championships range from regional, national to even international levels. The show I attended was a national one so about 30 dogs were completing. They performed such acts with their owners/ trainers side by side. I was intrigued on how precise the owner holds the dogs leash and how coordinated their introductory run is. You can tell this took a long time to master.
            The judges or sponsors say a few words of good luck to open the ceremony. You can hear the cheering and the clapping of the audience from a mile away. It was starting to become a very interesting experience for me. The competition begins. I wondered how the dogs win because dogs can be alike or who says how a dog should act or look to be the Champion. I began asking questions to this lady beside me. Her name was Alicia Silvertooth and she has been attending these events for 6 years now. I asked her my question and her response was very simple.  “They earn points”. The dumbfounded expression on my face was an understatement. She continues to say, that “the dogs complete in many shows and if the dog wins then it earns a certain number of points and a prize towards the Championship. The number of points varies depending on what level within a show the win occurs, how many dogs are competing, and whether the show is a major (larger shows) or minor (smaller shows). The exact number of points needed to gain a championship varies depending on the kennel club offering the title.” As she continues to talk, I see how serious and how analytical she talked about this game. More and more I begin to realize how less of a joke this sport really is. This dog show was more than just a hobby; it’s a serious sport.
I realized many cultural aspects while watching the event. How much detail and measurement people put into these dogs. It reminds me of our society and how stereotypical we are when it comes to weight, beauty and rank. I went to the event all happy and excited only to find that I supported an institution that is based on perfection and cruelty. We compete for the best salary, to get into the best school with the perfect grades and to maintain the perfect weight. It’s society’s unending struggle to be perfect that it has to go as low as using their dogs for fortune and prize. It gives man another reason to express their stereotypical views of “perfect”. These dogs are trained to be the perfect dog! The event says to the audience how society has fallen to shreds and has no hope for survival. It will never cease its undying strife to be the best even if they must sacrifice the happiness of their dogs, children or themselves.
            I continued to watch the event with disgust as I see them measure the dog’s height, weight and such. I pity the little beasts and the fact that their only meaning for existence is to compete again and again to show the world that they are the perfect dog when we all know there is no such thing a perfect thing. We are beautiful the way we are and how God created us. Our imperfections should make us special not outcasts. The tasks are done, the rounds eliminated many contestants and they are left with five. The dogs and their owners line up as the judges vote on the winner. The winner is announced and everyone cheers. I see the owner give the dog utmost affection. They give the puppies their prizes and the winner grabs the dogs leash and run/ walks around the stadium so exuberantly happy as if he had won the lottery.

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