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St. Louis Blues


Sometimes it’s wise to just cut your losses and go home.

I think everyone has been in this type of position: Some big event you decide on months and months before its actual occurrence that sounds like a good idea mostly because it’s – well – several months away.

Then all of a sudden it’s tomorrow and it’s not looking like such a great idea anymore, but you plow ahead anyway because you’ve planned this for several months. And you know – you know – just like you know that the Phillies will once again break your heart this season – you know things are not going to go well. You know – like you know that you will immediately gain ten pounds the day after you buy an expensive “investment piece” of custom-tailored wardrobe – the whole deal is going to fall apart like Wal-Mart furniture. You know there are not enough cheesy metaphors to describe how much you know you are heading for disaster.

Yet, there you are, packing your bags, making reservations, and ignoring all the alarms going off in your head: “Danger! Danger, Jeanne Jackson!

We were doomed before we even pulled out of our driveway to head for the United States Australian Shepherd Association National Specialty at Purina Farms near St. Louis, Mo. Our accountant had just delivered us a whopping tax bill three times what we expected. Where, exactly, was all this money we supposedly made? (And we’d appreciate a thank you note or something for supporting the entire federal budget ourselves.)

We’d better stay home, I said. I’ve got this feeling, I said.

“But, no,” says Dirtman. “We’ve already paid our entry fees.” (We’ll come back to that statement later.)

So off we go: Dirtman, our Aussie Zsa Zsa, her breeder and my friend and mentor Karen and her husband Michael, and their five Aussies, Bedford, Polly, Fallon, Liam and Sam.

I won’t bore you with the details of driving through Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, southern Indiana and southern Illinois; because that list should tell you just how abysmally boring Interstate highway driving can be through the most abysmally boring sections of those states. All I can tell you is that at some point in Indiana I actually said, “Oh, look! A shoe on the side of the road!”

Suffice to say, we got there with minimal trouble, sort of the calm before the storm. I was lulled into a false sense of security. Maybe we’ll have a good time at Nationals, I posited.

“See!” Dirtman chirped. “It’s all attitude!”

My first event was Rally, a sort of fun version of the rather military Obedience event. Karen steered me toward doing Rally because it’s a more laid-back activity and I am kind, sort of – umm – how should I put this – nervous about doing any event. Okay, I go into full blown panic attacks. There is nausea, there are tears, there are asthma attacks. It’s not pretty. I write real tough, but that’s because no one is looking at me. I’m really just a bundle of insecurities like everyone else.

This was no different and it took all of Dirtman’s persuasive skills to get me into that Rally ring.

Zsa Zsa performed beautifully. We were disqualified.

The judge said we hadn’t done a move that was required and the judge’s word is final. Even though Dirtman had a picture of us doing that particular move when we were supposed to do it; even though everyone who watched us saw us do that move, the judge’s word is final.

The only other dog to be disqualified took a dump in the ring – that’s how humiliating disqualification is. But to be disqualified unjustly — well, “meltdown” does not do justice to the Armageddon that took place once I’d gotten into the car, having had to thank the judge politely for her “patience with a rookie.”

“You know you did well,” Karen soothed as I wavered between relief it was all over, anger and absolute disbelief as to how very bad things can go in spite of your best efforts. This is just the sort of thing Karen says at times like this because she and Dirtman went to the School of Positive Pragmatism instead of the School of Who Does She Think She Is.

She said this just prior to getting into the ring herself to show Fallon.

“Break a leg!” we enthused.

And so she did. She snapped her right foccacia — or something. Maybe I heard that wrong.

Now, most people would immediately contact their insurance company. Instead, Karen called around for handlers to show her dogs in Thursday’s events. And now you know Karen.

Well, I can recognize a disaster when I see it, so I’m heading home where I can be humiliated in private, thank you very much.

“What about our entry fees?” Dirtman asked of the $50 we paid ahead of time for other events.

I think of the words of Ruth Bell Graham, who said, when asked if she’d ever considered a divorce from her husband evangelist the Rev. Billy Graham, “No. But I have considered homicide.”

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