Busy weekend with Saturday’s road trip to Sampson State Park where, during the last weekend in September, everything literally goes to the dogs. I don’t know the history of this 4-day dog show, but, my experience as a spectator began almost 20 years ago.
There were years when I attended all four days, arriving early in the morning and staying until well after 5PM. It was manna from heaven – an endless conversation about dogs.
And, it was but one stop on the dog show circuit that stretches from Buffalo, NY east to Syracuse; a circuit I traveled for eight years.
The park is a dog lover’s dream … when the sun is shining and there’s a cooling breeze blowing off of Seneca Lake. There is (we used to say) no finer place to be when the weather’s behaving itself.
Back in the day, Sampson was where I watched lure coursing for the first time, discovered top quality vendors, became friends with a whole slew of whippet fanciers, cheered my friends on who came down for the obedience trials. Standing ringside, talking with breeders is where I started to educate myself about
dog movement conformation. Over the years, I became pretty good at assessing a dog’s “front assembly,” and analyzing “top lines.”
Sampson is also where I started collecting the names of Great Dane breeders and watched an agility trial for the very first time; where I eavesdropped on dog show gossip, not quite understanding all of its nuances – It was like learning a foreign language in those early years.
They are a world unto themselves.
A serious, expensive lifestyle. A traveling road show. Sampson attracts serious breed enthusiasts from all over the eastern part of the country. Many of them camp out for the whole four days.
This year, it seemed to me that the number of exhibitors was down. I know that the number (and quality) of vendors was less than what I remember.
And, this year, I felt the absence of friends who had taken me by the hand and generously ushered me into this world. Friends who taught me to have an appreciation for what it means to “protect the integrity” of the breed. Friends who had a deep love for a specific breed, who worked hard and played well.
Everything old is new again.
Standing outside the ring while Great Danes were being shown, I met new (to me) dane fanciers and later on, standing outside of the ring where whippets were being shown, I discovered old friends and new beginnings.
Which might be the point of all of this; that people and dogs come into our lives for a reason and for a season. We don’t have a lot of time to cherish both, so we need to guard that time and those relationships as best we can. [gplus count="true" size="Medium" ]