A while ago we watched the annual Westminster Dog Show conducted in Madison Square Garden in New York City, and "we was robbed!" as residents of old-time Brooklyn would complain.
I mean, that little hairball Pekinese the judge picked for Best of Show couldn't hold the hairbrush for that magnificent Doberman Pincher or even the elegant Irish Setter. Heck, even the Dalmatian, spotted critter that he is, would have been better.
My friend Francis Abernethy once told me—because of my affection for John Wayne films—that my "taste is all in my mouth." Apparently this affliction extends to dogs, too. Although we adore our little white Shih tzu, I do like for a dog to look like a dog.
Enough sour grapes. What I really want to tell you about is all the primping and preparation required for such shows, especially the Westminster, which is the really BIG TIME for canines. The camera snuck "back stage" to the prep room a bunch of times to reveal the bathing and blow-drying and hair rolling and brushing and primping and such, all to make these critters into show-offs.
Mostly the contestants took it in stride—they just stood still for the bath and the rest of it. Our little Suzy resists bath water like it is lethal and thinks brushing nothing but torture. Her "cousins" in show business seem to regard these beauty shop activities as just another day at the office. One might even intuit a bit of boredom in their patient suffering of the inevitable.
Come Show Time, why these show biz dogs fairly pranced and preened over the green carpet and took little notice of screaming fans in the audience. They were encouraged occasionally by treats out of the pockets of handlers, but most had been on the runways enough to know what was expected of them.
And all were perfect gentlemen and ladies, even when that blamed Peek took home the ribbon.
People are a lot like these critters, aren't we? We shave and shampoo and "put on the dog" to impress others, too, even if we are not nearly as good a sport when we don't prevail at something.
Maybe we could learn a lesson here.
Archie P. McDonald is a professor of history and Community Liaison at Stephen F. Austin State University. His commentaries are also featured each Friday morning on Red River Radio.