I used to love books like Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, The Hunger Games, and Ready Player One. Used to, until too many elements of those books starting creeping into real life. It starts with an evil dictator, then comes socially acceptable racism and misogyny, then the global pandemic, economic collapse, and mass panic isn’t far behind. In recent months, holding onto normal life has gotten increasingly difficult and maybe more important than ever.

This story begins back in 2018, when I agreed to chair the PBGVCA National Specialty. My primary reason for doing this was to have a show that was planned for the comfort of the dogs and the people who travel to shows with them. I wasn’t looking for a tourist destination or a smoke filled casino, I wanted a great place for a dog show with safe equipment, good exercise areas, RV hookups, and plenty of space. Roberts Centre in Ohio fit the bill perfectly, even if it was 7 hours from home. So my awesome committee and I planned a dog show for April 2020 and had everything ready to go by mid March……… you can probably guess where this is going.

By the end of March it was clear that April wasn’t happening, so we arranged to move most of the events to the end of August on what was at the time the only date available. We had to cancel some things like the FAST CAT and the hunt test, but most events looked good to go and most of the judges were still available. Ok, things will be fine long before August, right? Remember in March we thought we were looking at a shutdown of just a few weeks.

March became April (boy was the week the show should have been a depressing one for me),then May, and then June. Throughout this time my small business was shut down by the government for being less essential than a golf course, so I didn’t have much to do other than train my dogs and plan the show that I no longer believed would happen. We pushed on, replaced the people who couldn’t come, made new premium lists, and hoped for the best.

Over the summer things started to open, but things also looked bleak. Ohio allowed up to 200 people at weddings, but only 10 at other events. Hmm, who do I know who wants to get married at PBGV national? Luckily this rule changed before I had to figure that out. A few dog events were held, which started to give us ideas for how things could work. I stockpiled hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes, gloves, and masks and tried to figure out how to avoid anyone touching anything. Or maybe surface contact wasn’t a big deal? Or maybe it was? Making a concrete plan in a world where you no longer trust any source of information is hard. We decided to make things as easy to clean as possible, which meant eliminating things like tablecloths and centerpieces. This surprised me by turning out to be a source of complaints. Apparently there are people who judge the quality of the dog show by the linens and centerpieces. Who knew?

One area that did worry me but turned out ok was the ban on indoor blow dryers. Most shows aren’t even allowing indoor grooming at all, but we opted to allow grooming without dryers inside since August can be very hot to try to work outside. Basically every PBGV is bathed and dried the morning of every show and grooming in hotel rooms is not cool, so we needed a plan. No problem, we’ll get some electric only RV spots and set up shade tents. Well, kind of a problem- every restaurant in the world was buying all of the shade tents available for outdoor dining. We did find some in time, but it was getting close.

As it started looking like the show might happen, things started to go wrong. Not once but twice we had to stop Facebook rumors that the show had been cancelled. (Seriously people, before sharing or believing this kind of thing, ask the show committee.). A few key committee members were unable to come for different reasons, mostly not COVID related but some because they couldn’t go home after the show without quarantining. A big glitch was the loss of the conformation judge for the national. We were able to quickly find a replacement, but judge changes never make everyone happy. Conformation judge selection for our national is determined by a vote of the membership and is something that the show chair has nothing to do with, but I still got to listen to everyone’s opinion.

At the time entries closed, I really didn’t no what to expect. I know there are plenty of people reading this and thinking that this was non-essential and that we had no business holding a show right now. I’d like to remind you that the dog world is full of hard working people whose livelihood depends on dog events. Those of us who depend on “non essential” activities to support our families may have a different perspective. As it turned out, people really wanted to come to a dog show and they really showed it. Not only was the entry as good or better than shows held when the world wasn’t ending, but people really stepped up to volunteer their time.

From the day in March when the world fell apart, I didn’t really believe that the show was going to happen. Even as we made last minute plans in the days before the show (like working around the fact the the evil dictator interfered with with the postal service while I waited for time sensitive packages), I was waiting for another shutdown to ruin everything, but it didn’t.

So, we had a dog show and people came. More than that, I think people had a much needed good time. Almost everyone cooperated with the social distance plan and we did our best to address concerns and make everyone feel safe. This is hard because we all have different comfort levels and restrictions are really varied from one part of the country to another. The hotel was really responsive and did a great job with their first indoor dog event since March. I hate that a few of our attendees did not treat the hard working hotel staff with the respect they deserved, but I could only follow people around apologizing to everyone they came in contact with for so long.

At the time of this writing, the show was 2 weeks ago so I think I can safely say that our precautions were successfully. I will admit to having a small meltdown at the end of the show when the breed judge shook hands with everyone in the ring before making his choice, but I think it’s easy to forget how much life has changed. Thanks for everyone who supported the show in any way.

The opinions expressed above are mine alone and don’t necessarily reflect those of PBGVCA.

The Clever Hounds on agility day.