Lucy has had a busy few weeks. She had to take care of visitors and then spend five days with Andy and her buddies at the Dog Camp just over the mountain. Since she’s been home and our visitors are gone she’s been exhausted and curled up on the couch, occasionally raising her head to bark half-heartedly at a bird outside the window.
Brigid and baby Sara were here at the house for ten days and Lucy’s duties had doubled. Not only did she have to keep tabs on Mom and Dad, she had to know what the visitors were doing at all times. Oftentimes, she missed her morning, afternoon, and evening naps. The responsibility was enormous. She just wanted some “me” time.
Sadly, it was not to be. Our friend Lynne, who sometimes minds Lucy, called.
“Why don’t you bring Lucy to the dog event at the West Kerry Agricultural Show on Sunday? I’ll be judging. It will be a gas.”
Now Lynne is a serious dog person. She has two black labs and two whippets. In fact one of the whippets, Treacle, had just won Best in Show at the Whippet Club of Ireland Championship in Dublin. She is also a groomer and dog minder.
“Sure,” we said. “Why not?”
“Maybe she can win Best of Breed,” I thought, since I’m reasonably sure she is the only Havanese in Ireland, and certainly the only one in West Kerry.
So we dragged Lucy off her couch and set out for The Mart Grounds just outside of the town centre. The 52nd Annual West Kerry Agricultural Show is like a county fair in Ohio compressed into one acre. There are competitions for Arts and Crafts, Cookery, Jams, and Flowers. Vendors are selling work boots and wellies, and fertilizers and soil modifiers. Schoolchildren have their finest artwork on display. And there are cattle and ponies and horses and sheep. Lots of sheep.
We asked where the dog show might be.
“Just above, in the sheep barn,” we are told. That’s where we headed with Lucy reluctantly following.
We see a lot of sheep on our walks near our home in Mullenaglemig. In most of the fields on the hill above us, they graze in well-tended pastures. On the mountain beyond the hill, they are left to free range. As we walk among them, we always notice a certain earthy smell that is understandable for an animal left outside in all types of weather. But the fresh air and light breeze help to temper the impact. It’s almost pleasant.
In a sheep barn, it is not pleasant. Sara almost gags.
“You’ll get used to it,” I tell her. “As my grandmother used to say, ‘you can get used to hanging if you do it long enough.'”
Sara is not impressed.
We find the pen where the dog show is taking place. Lynne and her fellow judge are wearing long white official-looking coats. There are categories for puppies and rescue dogs. Large dogs and gun dogs. Terriers and sheep dogs. And the final category: Small Breed.
“Sorry, Lucy. No Havanese category,” I tell her.
She looks relieved. “Can we go home now?”
“Let’s put her in the Small Breed,” Sara says. “It will be fun.”
Lucy looks stunned. She climbs into Sara’s arms.
Finally, after all the other categories are finished, Lynne raises her megaphone and call for the Small Breeds. About thirty dogs and owners enter the pen. Sara and Lucy join them. Lucy is trembling. The judges begin to walk among the entrants.
Meanwhile, in the pen next to the dog show, two men in identical long white coats are judging two-year-old rams. The owner of each ram holds the sheep by their horns.
Lucy is watching, sitting at Sara’s feet. She looks at Sara. “You aren’t grabbing me by the ears, are you?”
The white coats next door look at the rams’ teeth.
Lucy panics. “My teeth are crooked. I told you I needed orthodontia!” She jumps onto Sara’s lap.
Lynne and her cohort continue to circle. The sheep judges look in the rams’ ears.
“Wait. When was the last time you cleaned my ears? You know I can’t hold a Q-tip! I don’t have thumbs!” She crawls to Sara’s shoulder.
Lynne begins to divide the dogs into groups, directing them to various sides of the pen. “Thank you for coming” ribbons are handed to the owners of most of the dogs and they leave the pen. Seven dogs remain. Six perfectly groomed dogs and Lucy.
“We might have a shot at this!” I think. I haven’t been this nervous since the Chicago Oireachtas in 1983 when Meg placed second.
“Will each of you walk your dog in a circle?” Lynne says.
“Uh oh,” I think.
A pure white, elaborately coiffed, toy foo-foo dog walks in a perfect circle. Two other prissy dogs do the same. Three make a half-hearted attempt. Sara has to drag Lucy around. The judges confer.
Of course, the foo-foo dog takes the blue ribbon. The prissy little things take second and third. Then Lynne approaches Sara.
“Fourth place goes to the Havanese,” she says as she hands over a cup and a green ribbon with the official logo of the West Kerry Agricultural Show on it. Sara and I trade high fives and walk though the crowd humbly accepting congratulations.
When we get home, I say to Lucy, “If we teach you to walk in a circle and give you a bath, you could win this thing next year.”
“Yeah, whatever,” thinks Lucy as she curls up on the couch next to her ribbon.