Due to a recent thread about someone wanting to get into showing, I thought I would share my own experience and perspective. I hope the breeders and show folk will add more about their own experiences because I think it is important people can see what sacrifices are made for the glory of that show ring. I do not mean to put down the show ring at all, I had the gamet of experiences there from breathless thrill to tears of defeat and a whole lot of in between. The show ring has its purposes and its tradition and really is the pinnacle for animal husbandry. I just think for those considering getting started in this, a real-life story may just be helpful. For those who want to dedicate your lives to the breed, my hat is off to you and I hope you skip right to the experiences I had at the end and skip the early parts just by knowing about them. This is MY tale. I did this in the world of cats, Persians/Himalayans specifically, but it is precisely the same as if they were dogs/shelties except we had eight to ten different rings per show and you can also show alters which is great. I am sure many will agree that somewhere in their past it started a bit like this no matter the breed or species. In my 20’s, as a college graduation present, my first husband gave me a pet. Lovely little mixed breed. We joined a local club and helped put on a show. They had a “fun” category for “pets” and we entered her. It went well. I got pretty ribbons and that is all it took. Soon after, my husband suggested we get a pedigreed animal and show. YES! We hunted and found a lovely little girl, old old lines in her pedigree going back to Jesus himself, priced quite reasonable for a show animal too! We were proud. A breeder in the club taught us to groom for show respectably. We showed in the juvenile classes. We learned a lot. We did okay but not great. We placed a few times, we lost entirely a lot more times. We didn’t do a thing in adult classes. We realized then that while she had a killer pedigree, she was really more breeder quality and not show quality but we didn’t have the eye to see all the flaws at the time. During our time around the hall we met some really nice breeders and some who really looked down at us for not being quite up to par. It so happened there was a really nice little show male about 6 months old for sale. The breeder was nice, respected our breeding lines enough to be willing to allow her lines to mixed with them, respected our grooming techniques enough to think we would show off her lines well and not embarrass her by doing it wrong, AND my husband reminded her of her son, so she let us buy the male for A LOT. I mean, we raided our savings. It was the going rate for show 20+ years ago and looking back now it wasn’t really that bad a price, but to us then it was A LOT. But, she also gave/loaned us two females with an offspring-back deal and the stipulation we finish the male and one of the females in the ring. WOW! A show quality male, a show quality female, a breeder quality female, plus our own breeder female and my pet at home. We were set! We showed every couple weeks. We went to hotels, we made friends, we made enemies too, and it was SO stressful. We both groomed our hearts out with those longhairs. It used to make me sick, was it good enough, is there one hair sticking up that ruined the look, would the animal be “on” or just not look at the judge? Then, we found politics. Who was friends with what judge, what male judge thought my husband was cute and would place us, what judge thought he looked like her ex and wouldn’t place us so I had to handle the showing for her ring. We navigated the system, but it was taking its toll on us financially and emotionally. Win or lose it seemed I was always in tears or sick in the hotel room just over the stress. I learned to groom on the fly a few times bathing my animals in hotel sinks after a fur-messing accident from either end. We purchased lots of special show gear, including our own cage system that would prevent people from poisoning the animals or “spilling” kool-aid on them “accidently” which happened an alarming amount in the halls. The little female did okay but it was not easy to finish her. I got SO close and she blew her coat and I had to pull her for the season. The male was in direct competition with two others, and we hit all the shows together. We alternated winning depending on the judge for each ring. Man, the first time we got overall best we were shaking. More often, though, we got points and inched towards finishing, slowly winning respectably but not overall best. But that did happen too, Best of the Best. It was a lot of weekends, and hotels, and meals out, and travel. Every show weekend then was almost $500. Now, 20+ years later, it’s a lotmore. BUT! To breed and have desired offspring, you have to show. Show titles were the means to value. Period. You showed because you wanted yourself and your animals to be sought after by others. Then, we split up. I kept my pet. He kept our first female and the male. The two co-owned went back to the breeder since we didn’t complete the contract on them since they were still too young to be bred. Yes, all this for breeding and only our first female ever produced – however, out of 10 little ones 3 went into showing and breeding programs with some top breeders. My husband continued to show the male for awhile and finished him as per contract because every titled animal was an asset to his breeder. Then he met a girl and fell in love. I got a call one day that SHE wanted the male gone before their wedding and that I could “buy” him off them for his “half” of our original purchase together. I did because I wanted the boy to go to a good home where he was loved and not to some stranger who might make him live in a cage. He was so deconditioned it was pathetic. From physique to fur it was ALL blown. Six months I worked and waited. During this time he got a bad bad urinary infection. I got him better, had him on the right food, he recovered. He was ready! I was in the hall again, this time with an alter (remember, you can do that with cats). Fortunately, the alter category is a little easier than the regular because by now the standard was passing us up. I was part of a breed in development and advancement and change. He was being left behind by newer models! However, I showed him. He did great! I racked up the ribbons quickly. However, he did NOT like judges “down there” after this urinary thing. He was acting up anytime they felt “down there”. The rest of the time he was happy. Reach below, lookout! The last show was a nightmare. He got DQ’ed under one judge for reacting, we squeaked by in the other rings, I did extra things to help handling, I told the stewards to ask the judges not to lift him from the underside on their arm to ease the burden on the sensitive spot, I prayed a lot, we were SO close, just a few points more. He got the last point needed at the end of day 1 of 2 of a show. I pulled him the second day and told friends he’s DONE, forever. They said they would hate to lose me in the hall. BUT, if I wanted to show, I would have to buy a new animal at a high price. I loved showing, but I loved this guy, we had a long history, he was the last of my former life. Someone wanted to buy him as a pet and offered me quite a bit of money. I said YES but then quickly recanted in like five minutes. They understood. He lived his whole life with me til he died at age 15. My fuzzball. GC, PR, RW, Prancenpaws Simply Ostentatious himself. He died a few months after my first pet girl, Aurora. I showed again. I campaigned a gorgeous black for a breeder friend who got him from a top top top breeder in a trade but didn’t have time to put the work into him as she had too many irons of her own in the fire. He showed easily and titled in just a few shows. He won best after best after best. I loved it. After four years of working my way up the ladder and my fifth show animal, I had THE ONE. The easy shower, the unbeatable, the perfect. Judges raved at how this particular well-known line is so rarely seen in my part of the country. They didn’t want to take their hands off him. They talked about him amongst themselves at the lunch table. However, he hated showing but endured it because he was the nicest little soul. We got our title, I cried, I went through one more ring as a point cushion just in case of a math error someplace, and I pulled him forever. I got to keep him since he was an alter (only one descended testicle) and I had put out a couple thousand on those shows (all inclusive) and my friend flat out did not have time to groom him as she was a shorthair breed breeder but needed to finish a longhair so she could start the judging program. GP Marhei Black Gold (Mr. Darcy) lived a couple years longer than my other two and died at nearly 16. When Darcy was done, I was done. I was engaged to a guy with hobbies and life got in the way. I still have the ribbons. It is all bittersweet in my memory. Showing is a way to make your lines worth something, it is a way to get respected yourself for what you have and how you present, it is a way to make friends and spend lots of money and time, it is a way to be part of a heritage of honor and glory, sometimes it is a way to get revenge on and/or heal from someone who let you down, but in any case it is a way to drive yourself crazy too. Fortunately, in the dog world, there are options one can train for, ways to make your own destiny with hard work and not be dependent on judges and tiny tiny aspects of condition or physique that vary from weekend to weekend or can change with age. It’s a way to truly have fun with the bond between you and your animal. Such things as Obedience, Rally, Agility, Scent, Flyball, freestyle “dance”, herding, therapy, walking for charity, performing tricks for crowds, and much more are competitions and activities where you achieve with skill. Your pride at your accomplishment is HUGE and you have things to do with the vast vast majority of animals who are not top show (or ones who are no longer top show for whatever reason). I hope my story someday helps someone who is considering showing to really see what it is like from the ground floor, to think about things you don’t see behind the scenes, to consider all the options available rather than just the one kind of show ring, and to not judge your animals as lesser for not being that show star when there is so much fun that can be had as a team, which is what dogs should be, our friends and our teammates.