Lacking in organisation and spurred on by the tiniest shred of optimism, I brought my four-legged friend, Ruby to the Iverk Show in south Kilkenny, for the first time this year.
With my companion leading the way, everything went in slow motion. Poles need to be sniffed, tyres investigated and I noticed how many bins were dotted around the show site, because this, she discovered is the perfect territory for picking up chips scattered from their trays.
“Are you entering her?” naturally came up over the morning. I hadn’t intended; I thought if this went reasonably okay, we might consider an entry for next year. Ruby, to her credit, was smiling up at all humans, wanting to meet as many small children as possible. She was as good as the politicians, and didn’t even need her own tent!
So we found ourselves wandering over to the dog show area. It was clarified that as Ruby is not a papered pedigree, we were to make our way to Ring 2 and Best Large Dog was suggested as the most suitable class for us. I got a bit carried away and put our names down for Best Rescue too, because to me, she is the best, who happens to be rescued.
We took a break for food, water and a rest back at the car and apart from that, our preparation was minimal. Like her human, Ruby is zero to no maintenance. Back in time for the show to start, we perched ourselves on a bench near the trees with a reasonable view of the show ring. I intended to give Ruby time to chill while I got an understanding of what happens during each class.
This didn’t go exactly to plan. The fella sitting next to me started sharing some great tales about his own dogs and the night his tractor nearly got stolen. Ruby, going by her internal clock, started to wonder when she was going for her afternoon nap.
When Class 6 came around, our beginners’ luck came in. Just one other tall, blond Labradoodle-type dog entered the ring and this distracted Ruby from missing any sleep.
With a fluffy rear end not too far from her nose, my girl kept an impressive focused pace around the ring. Beckoning us into the middle, the judge seemed very taken by her shiny, if slightly well-fed condition and I seemed to give all the correct answers to his questions.
Ruby, you are playing a blinder, a rosette might be coming our way I began to wonder!
On the final lap of the ring, I could see her pace beginning to falter. She wasn’t getting to sniff that new doggie? Why all the circles?
Being the large breed class, I couldn’t just scoop her up and carry her. Treats were running low, so I said as hushed as possible so the judge wouldn’t hear me, ‘Where’s the pussycat?’ It resulted in a slight improvement but mercifully, the judge had enough information to make his mind up.
The immaculately presented dog and his friend in front deservedly took the red rosette and we secured one of the luckiest blue rosettes of the day!
With a steep learning curve behind us, and a dog keen to let me know show business is eating into her snooze schedule, we didn’t have much time to change our minds when Best Rescue was announced.
Things got steeper still when the three other entrants – all spritely, shiny terriers fixated on their humans bum bags full of high-value treats – entered the ring.
My back pocket had one-half of a cheap gravy biscuit left and there was no handsome dog catching Ruby’s attention a few paces ahead of us this time.
Not even willing to round a corner of the ring, Ruby sat down and discharged the peaceful protest stare that means: I’ve had enough.
In a bit of a bind – families were watching, and the judge wanted to know what was going on – I wasn’t quick enough to explain this was our first time in the show ring. Kindly, he invited Ruby over and after a bit of a fuss, suggested we stand to one side to save our blushes.
As the red, blue and yellow rosettes were shared amongst the enthusiastic participants, I was about the leave with my own tail between my legs when the judge came over with an eye-catching black and amber rosette for us.
With a paw print at its centre, this has become my favourite souvenir from the summer shows this year. Refusals and stubbornness aside, I still remain barking mad… about dogs!
Another dog-friendly place to visit in Kilkenny is Ballyrafton, between Ballyfoyle and Jenkinstown in the north of the county, read about it here: