Oscar and the Chocodiva

Online home for Oscar and the ChocoDiva or, to be precise, the online home for Morrigan's Cu mac Shimidh and Morrigan's Godiva.

Friday, September 29, 2006

A Champion is Made

Dog shows are fun.

Simple sentence. Simple fact. Simple bit of nonsense that is oh so easily forgotten when one is stepping into the ring. Lest we fool ourselves, this is a competition. And who in their right mind wants to lose?

Certainly not me.

Hence my somewhat sadly drawn conclusion to retire him unfinished some weeks ago when Oscar and I started the August Atlanta weekend shows. I’d taken it into my head to show Oscar myself, and I think I did a reasonable job of it, with one troubling exception. While he would move fine for me, he had no expression on his face. After all, what was there to be interested in? Trotting around in a circle? Please. Trotting around in a circle next to Mom? Whatever, he sees me everyday. Nothing interesting there. How was I supposed to finish him when he was barely tolerating the silly circling of the ring, and would obviously rather be somewhere else? Besides that, Os is big and when he shifts around being bored, he practically tosses me around the ring. Like most mastiffs, Os doesn't stand, he leans.

Coming out of the ring that August Saturday with a lousy YELLOW ribbon, I was beyond disappointed. As I was waiting to go in with Chocolate, I struck up a conversation with a lovely woman with Bernese Mountain Dogs. My frustration was like a foul aftertaste in my mouth and she commiserated with me like only another dog show person can. Yes, she said, it is frustrating. Yes, he is beautiful, what a heartbreak it must be. You should meet my handler, she said.

I was wary, but truthfully, willing to grasp any rope thrown our way. So I met Gary Sheetz, her handler, Saturday and resolved to introduce Oscar to him and see what Oscar thought. I arrived at the Sunday show early and promptly hauled Oscar over to meet Gary. Immediate connection. Really, Os took to Gary like Gary was his long lost best friend. I was delighted and not a little surprised. See, Oscar has been described as a Mastiff Ambassador, a Used Car Salesman and a million other things that basically mean he’s never met a stranger. But while he has never met a stranger and wants to meet every single living being on the planet, the second he turns away, he’s forgotten them. Not so with Gary.

Os and Gary entered the ring on Sunday and stole the show. They were perfect and went on to win Winner’s Dog and a 3 point major. Needless to say, I am completely and utterly sold on the handling expertise of Gary Sheetz. As this rather companionable pat between pals illustrates, Os thinks he's pretty great, too.

So entering the September Atlanta shows, Oscar had 14 points and two majors. A pretty comfortable place to be, but something easily forgotten when I saw all the beautiful dogs competing on Friday. While I’m getting a tiny bit—a very tiny bit—of experience, I am still absurdly nervous both for watching my boy and then for knowing I’m going to be taking the ChocoDiva in. So I’m standing at ringside gripping Choc’s leash for all I’m worth, praying my boy doesn’t misstep, that the judge sees the beautiful boy that I see and awards him accordingly. But remembering the times he’s been overlooked or snubbed.

Sometimes, things just fall into place. Ribbons fell smack dab on my boy Friday. Judge Carmen Battaglia pointed to Oscar for the blue ribbon in open dog. Yes! We’d made it out of the class. At this point, my heart is pounding and it’s suddenly very hot in the Exposition Center. So close...

And then the time came for Winner’s Dog and a truly magical moment came to pass--the sort that burn into your brain and you know you'll remember them for all time. Judge Battaglia pointed to Oscar!

I didn’t scream. I sort of squeaked. My eyes watered and I kept blinking away the tears and clenched my teeth—I had to keep it together, just a little longer. A single refrain repeated over and over in my head: he did it, he did it, he did it! And I still had to take my girl in and I thought, if I made a cake of myself, that wouldn’t look good for Chocolate.

But I met Gary and Oscar at the gate and you better believe that I hugged Gary for all I was worth. He’s a dream of a handler and put Oscar in the spotlight with an ease that boggles the mind. At one point when the dogs had been getting ready to go around as a group, when they’d taken possibly 5-6 steps out, Os had started to pace. Gary stopped the entire group and started him over. I was shocked and immediately scared about what sort of repercussions that would have. But not only did the judge allow it, he warned the rest of the group to give Os room. And then Os strutted his big ol’ self around the ring like nobody’s business.

People have commented about Os and his pacing and I’ve been embarrassed about it for long enough. This last weekend, Os proved that not only can he walk, he can trot, run, sing and dance like a champion.

He's my pet that turned into a competetive show dog, my baby boy who now ansers to Champ. He's my Oscar, thank you very much, Champion Morrigan’s Cu Mac Shimidh.