Dog Evaluations and Hell Hath No Fury Syndrome

 

     (as you read the story below, you will encounter some numbered footnotes that will be explained at the end of the story, read the entire story first and then go over the story a second time and place your cursor on the numbered footnote, click on the number and it will take you to the footnote at the bottom and their meanings)

 

“Whoa?” you exclaim with much inquisition, as you glanced over the above title.

 

“What in the world (or underworld as per the individual asking the question), do dog evaluations and hell hath no fury have to do with each other?” will probably be the next question that might pop into anyone’s mind that has nothing better to do than to be reading this small essay that I have penned for the Chambray Blog Site[1].

 

Well, sit a spell and I will spin a yarn or two about these two topics and how they become a bossum-body brace[2] at a specialty show.

 

For most of you that are actually reading this, I don’t have to give you much background about my experiences with the breed, but I am sure that there are a few new members that I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting and might not know of my escapades in the last 30+ years with Labradors[3].

 

We’ll shorten the history lesson and just back up to the last 2 decades of participation in conformation (that’s “dog shows” for the neophytes). We’ll shorten the chase even further and get to the knurly bone and dispense with the meat.  DOG EVALUATIONS!

 

That’s it, DOG EVALUATIONS. Two words, two words that will send grown (and not so grown women) scampering, when the message is not what they want to hear.

 

Yes, Women! Look around you and you will see that over 90% of the Lab breeders, owners and exhibitors are from that glorious gender[4]. So before I am labeled a male chauvinist pig, do the math. Of course I have already accumulated enough loving and not so loving monikers to adorn the Great Wall of China, that a new one will hinder me not[5].

However, I take great pride in my convictions about women’s rights and equality of the sexes, so this is one tag that I do not want hung around my nape.

 

So just what is a dog evaluation and how does the Hell Hath No Fury As That Of A Scorned Woman come into affect? Let’s start with the evaluation part.

 

In the conformation ring, dogs are stacked up against each other and the judge decides which individual represents the breed best according to the written breed standard for that breed of dog. This “best” exhibit will be marked as the first place dog or the Winners Dog. Sound simple? Well, yes and no. The simple part is that there is only one winner. The “not so simple part” is that the rest of the dogs in competition are not winners. Creating a “therefore” situation of “If it is not a winner, it must be a loser”, thus leading the inevitable “therefore” situation of “What’s wrong with my dog” syndrome. This dastardly process creates many losing exhibits, that is, with only one dog winning the coveted award, all the others walk away with an empty feeling. It is this precise outcome that leads many of those whose dogs do not win at these venues to seek out “experts”[6] to answer their question as to why Pooch is not winning. So, with dog in tow they seek out a guru[7] to evaluate their beloved, four-legged companion as if though these pearls of wisdom that will emanate from the chosen one will somehow make their dog a better competitor in the arena of show dogs.

 

So, the trap is set for the evaluator, for no one that is winning at the dog shows ever needs an evaluation, it is only those whose dogs are not faring as well as the expectations set by the owner that search out for the Dali Lama or is that Salvador Dali (I always get these two guys confused!).[8]). Yes, the Hell Hath No Fury Like That Of A Scorned Women is about to enter our little essay. As Sam the Sham of the Pharaohs would say. “Look out, look out, it going to getchu!”[9]

 

The fury is sure to rise, as there is one element that has been left out so far of our story. That missing element is the emotional side of dog ownership and their owners (especially the 90% sector previously mentioned). Since women are from Venus and on their trip to Earth they brought their entire emotional luggage[10] with them, the poor evaluator is about to be ambushed and bushwhacked all at the same time by the baggage master[11]. For the one thing that an evaluation does not consider is any emotional ties between the owner and dog. A true evaluation must be an honest opinion based on a tremendous amount of expertise on the particular subject, which in this case are Labrador Retrievers and the conformational aspects as it relates to dog shows.

 

So in there lies the problem and the rise of the fury that will assuredly follow. In my experiences with evaluations, and nary a week goes by that I am not asked to perform this dastardly deed, about 9 out of 10[12] are not favorable. Yes, out of 10 Labradors that come to me for evaluations, only 1 dog comes away with a positive “Yes, this dog should be in pictures” or better yet, “This dog is a worthy specimen of the breed as called for by the breed standard. “Furthermore, he possess those attributes that will make him competitive with the right handler[13] at the end of the leash.” Needless to say the 1 out of 10 dog owner is an instant happy camper and will sing the praises about the evaluator[14].

 

So, now we come back to the 9 out of 10, not-so-happy leash holders. These then become the “scorned”, the ones that will deliver the wrath that not even the burning inferno flares up from deep down can muster. This negative evaluation of their dog seems to open the door to a bipolar[15] existence that laid dormant until the fateful evaluation that evoke the sudden rage syndrome (SRS)[16].

 

 “How dare you insult Fido that way?” is the look on the owner’s face. This, as if though Fido can really comprehend the verbal exchange that suddenly propels him from a possible champ dog to a has-been chump dog. The evaluator has committed the ultimate insult and the fury has begun. Oh, it doesn’t burst forth on the spot, it sort of simmers and comes to a boil gradually and then the torrential wrath will eventually flow.

 

Here is one case to prove my conjecture[17]:

 

The young lady approaches me and asks me to evaluate her pride and joy chocolate Labrador.  He seems not to be winning, not even a placement whenever there are more than 4 other dogs in his class.

 

I scrutinize the dog, front and back. I feel the dog all over and look inside his mouth to check his bite and to see if he has any missing teeth. I observe his gait, front and rear and side view too.

 

“Do you really want an honest evaluation?” I ask just to make sure that she is ready for the hammer that is about to fall, fearing the scorned woman that will surely follow. For this dog does not possess those attributes that will make him competitive in the show ring, in fact this particular specimen is riddled with breed standard inconsistencies. Obvious faults that the majority of judges will hold against him when being compared to other exhibits in the ring,

 

“Yes, I want to know if there is something that I am doing wrong or if it is something that judges are seeing that I have missed.”  She answers in a very determined manner[18] as I flinch for a moment and think about the consequences that will follow with the verbiage that I was about to administer[19].

 

 

“Well to begin with, he is chocolate and the reality is that it is not a color that is favored by as many judges.” I begin very methodically and modestly, as this is conventional wisdom that is known by all those that have been into this endeavor for any length of time.

 

The rest of the evaluation was a series of what was conformation-wise wrong with the dog, from possessing a “rat tail”, instead of an otter tail[20], to having an undershot bite and missing teeth! The scowl on her face deepened as the negative list grew longer until the color on her face was as deep as the color of her locks. “Low tail set and a major dip in the topline”, not to mention that he moves like a Mack truck on a muddy, dirt road were more of the negative attributes that were part of the evaluation.

 

This definitely is one of the 9 out of 10 on the Richter Scale, “Not what you want to hear” evaluations and this young lady had in an instant become a member of the Hell Hath No Fury Like That of a Scorned Woman legion. For the next 6 months, I seemed to possess the plague as far as she was concerned and it would all come to a head one day at a dog show where her chocolate boy would be awarded a Reserve Winners Dog. No sooner had the judge handed her the stripped ribbon, that she bounded through a small crowd to get to where I was and vindictively waved the runner up, colorful piece of cloth in my face and smugly said, “And you said he couldn’t win!”

 

As the story ends with this case, the dog was to never win a point in the show ring and eventually was “retired” from showing, he was used for breeding and did eventually pass on the bad bite to several of his offspring that coincidently enrolled in one of my training classes. He passed on the rat-tail to several other offspring that I was to encounter at other dogging events.

 

Case number 2: The dog and owner had been attending my training classes for months and also had been competing at the dog shows too. Same results as the previous case, no wins from any of the shows that it had been entered in, not even a placement from his class. The owner was very persistent in her training of the dog, as they not only attended my once-a-week conformation class; they also went to two other dog club’s classes. 

After months of the same routine with the same results, the owner approaches me after class one night and tells me that the instructor at the other classes had told her that the dog might not be show material and that she should get an evaluation from a Lab breeder. Smart fellow that instructor, he passes the buck and avoids the wrath!

 

Does anyone see the fury coming? Well, my evaluation went something like this.

“Very small head with a very pointed muzzle, very light bone and no substance, no fore chest and a very short neck, roach back and low tail set, very close rear and cow hocked and a totally incorrect wholly coat[21]”.

 

The facial expression changed as the face became contorted, looking more like one of those faces up on Mt. Rushmore and the sweet elderly lady from a few minutes before was now nowhere to be found. The bipolar effect had appeared almost on cue and of course the wrath was to follow.  How dare I talk about this grandest of all dogs that came from a very famous kennel all the way from Timbuktu[22], she implied as she said “Don’t you know who the breeder of this dog is, they have twice as many champions as you have produced![23]

This owner never attended one of my classes again and would never acknowledge me personally again whenever we encountered one another at the dog shows. Again, needless to say that after almost 2 more years of sporadic showing with 5 or 6 different handlers, the dog was to never win a point and consistently ended up at the end of the line in his class. To this date, 11 years later, the scorn still exists for the evaluator from the owner of the dog from Timbuktu.

 

It seems that casting dispersion about someone’s dog, even if the owner elicits it causes the Incredible Hulk[24] to emerge from within the dog owner. Time and time again, the tale repeats itself with incredible accuracy. Treading upon the perception that all dogs must be show dogs, especially those at the end of someone’s lead becomes one of those stimulus/response things. Bad things seem to emanate from the receiver of the 9 out of 10 evaluations. Reactions from the receivers seem to span the spectrum, from mild annoyance and avoidance of the evaluator to a total bipolar, schizophrenic about-face equal to and greater than the Three Faces Of Eve[25].

 

There are countless stories like these two, some with even more dastardly repercussions, but I think that you all get the gist here and we will leave these as our examples, like they say, “Let sleeping dogs lay”, for surely I do not want to get bit by waking up any of those other owner’s dormant wrath.

 

I will part with this last thought.

I really enjoy all aspects of the Labrador world, from raising my occasional litter to finishing another homebred champion and to all the hard work and perseverance that lie in between those two extreme endeavors. I even look forward to the 12 or so evaluations that seek me out per month, hoping to find that 1 out of 10 dog and being the bearer of good news to that lonely number, for as the song said, “One is the loneliest number that you will ever do!”[26]  I am not a glutton for punishment, nor do I enjoy dispensing the 9 out of 10 “not so good” evaluations, but as someone that loves the breed with the passion and integrity that I do, I feel that I owe the breed and those owners that want to hear the truth the most honest and realistic evaluation that money can’t buy. For you see, all this and there is never a cent to be made, for they are all on me and it truly pains me tremendously when I become the bearer of bad news. 

 

So the next time that any of you request an evaluation of Rover, and the results are not what you wanted to hear, please don’t kill the messenger especially if that messenger is me!

 

 

[1] I am doing this blogging stuff just to stay up with the Joneses, or maybe since it has to do with computers and the Internet, we should rename them the Geek’s

Okay, here are the footnotes. To go back to the spot of the story, click on the number here and it will take you back to where you left off. (I really like this computer stuff and all the neat things you can do it)

[2] Brace – two dogs yoked together and that’s no joke.

[3] I hope that by now, you realize that is article is written as a humorous look at a not so humorous subject.

[4] How’s that for kissing up to most of you that are women that are reading this article?

[5] As the proverbial fly on the wall, I’d love to hear some of them.

[6] Experts - Everyone around ringside is an expert so opinions are dispensed very freely (not worth much, but hey, they are given freely!).

[7] Guru – There are not as many of these, but you will usually find 3 or 4 people flocking around them

[8] The 2 Dali's – I really know who both of these guys are/were. I actually met the artist way back in 1985 when I owned Artistically Inclined Associates Inc. and I used to market the signed and numbered prints. I gave Johanna one called Rose Dancer as an engagement present. The "other" Dali recently visited Miami and I our paths crossed at the airport.

[9] It going to Getchu – that is not a miss spelling, he actually sings it that way

[10] Luggage – I thought luggage was more sophisticated than baggage

[11] Remember that commercial where the baggage masters were gorillas?

[12] 9 out of 10 – it might not be exact, but it is pretty close.

[13] Right Handler – a good dog with poor handling is going to get nowhere over and over again.

[14] These happy campers will now become part of the flock around the Guru who graced their dog with the positive evaluation

[15] Bipolar – A very politically correct word to use at the moment, so I had to throw it in.

[16] SRS a neurological disorder that affects many dogs and bitches too.

[17] Names have been withheld to protect me from further assaults.

[18] Every person that has ever asked me for an evaluation, is always determined and serious and is genuine in their request as the why Rover is not appreciated by the judges.

[19] It is a split second later after hearing why Rover is not appreciated by the judges, that my name becomes Mudd

[20] I had a lady call me wanting a Lab with a Beaver tail!!!!

[21] The standard reads, “Short, dense and course to the feel” Not plush, thick, long and open as we are now seeing more and more!

[22] Timbuktu, it seems that the further away the dog comes from, the better it is supposed to be.

[23] This particular kennel also breeds 30+ litters a year, that’s more litters than I have produced in the last 13 years put together!

[24] Even the shade of green is the same.

[25] A college book that was required reading in Psychology 201

[26] A very popular song from 1969

 

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