Pug Dog Club of America's National Specialty and has come and gone, and I thought I'd share my thoughts on why I attend, and my observations of what happens there.
I attended my first National in 1998. I was not a member of the Pug Dog Club of America at the time, but had been showing in AKC obedience and agility for 8 years, so I was familiar with specialties and national events.
The National was in Oakland, about 2 hours from my house, so I entered in the obedience trial with my first Pug, Rudy. Agility wasn't offered yet, but I still competed in obedience with my pug, and had just finished our CD title. I wasn't really ready for Open, but Nationals is the perfect place to "compete if you're not quite ready".
I was one of two Open Pugs competing, and we busted every exercise but the heel free exercise and the long down. He did the drop on recall at my feet, kicked the dumbbell around with his front feet for quite some time on the retrieve on the flat, went around the jump on the way to the dumbbell on the retrieve of the high jump, walked over every board on the broad jump, and laid down on the long sit. His heeling was good enough to quality, although I had decided long before to emphasize "utmost in willingness" at the expense of precision. He was happy, prancing and bouncy. He was not, however, precise, and lost a lot of points for crooked sits and wide turns. He also nailed the long down, as apparently all of his shenanigans wore him out, and he was content to just rest during that exercise.
I knew he wasn't ready, so was not disappointed that we didn't qualify, but I loved showing at an event that was nothing but Pugs. There were Pug people at ringside, laughing at his antics, and oohing and ahhing when I took the leash off of him and he didn't run away.
Three months after showing at Nationals, I lost Rudy at the age of 5 during emergency surgery, and it really hit me how showing at Nationals had little to do with qualifying, and everything to do with celebrating this funny breed, surrounded by people that felt the same way that I did. I'm so happy that one of my last memories of showing him was there, a memory makes me smile to this day.
It's not cheap to attend, I have limited vacation to use during the year, and I hate to fly. So why do I attend Nationals?
I attend because of the people.
There is nowhere else in the dog showing world where you can be around people that have as much in common with yourself as at a National Specialty. I show in agility a lot, but as much as I have that sport in common with the other exhibitors, I don't have "showing a Pug" in common with them. The challenges of a small breed that doesn't work like a sheltie. The stubborn, quirky, gluttonous, random, unpredictability of the Pug. Only at Nationals can I watch run after run in agility, or performance in rally or obedience, and say to myself, "my dog does that". Or, "my dog would totally do that".
And it's not just in the performance rings that this commonality happens. The noises that come out of the Pug vocal cords, the commitment to keeping them cool at all costs, and the "my dog does that" thoughts happen everywhere at Nationals.
These are people I see once a year, but fall into conversations as easily as if I'd seen them the day before. These are people I've never met, but know of, and finally can put a name to a face. These are people that are committed to our breed, and work to show them off in the best possible light.
Each time I attend, I see people I haven't seen in years, and meet people I never knew existed. I always leave Nationals having made more friends than I started with.
I spend the whole week talking about Pugs. And more Pugs. And still more Pugs. Training Pugs, showing Pugs, grooming Pugs, the health of Pugs. I'm surrounded by people that have knowledge about these topics, and talking to them about Pugs expands my own understanding of the breed.
I just got back from attending my 10th National, and while I won't be able to make it next year, I will be there for the next 2 or 3, for sure. Because of the people.
Next time: Pug Nationals Thoughts Part 2: What exactly happens there?