Monday, 10 December 2018
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COMMENTARY: Recalling the time I was judgmental

As a newspaper editor here and other places, I’ve been invited to a wide variety of events and gatherings. Some folks want free publicity, while others — I suppose — see me as the type of man who doesn’t miss many meals, so they feel inclined to feed me.

(Little-known fact: Media people, especially sports writers, are suckers for free food. If you want coverage at your event, promise the media you’ll feed them. Whether you make good on that promise is strictly up to you.)

To that end, I’ve been to various Rotary meetings, school plays and talent shows. I had a fine time at the last Alabama Cattlemen’s Association Awards Banquet in Huntsville.

One of the more unusual invites I ever received (and accepted) was the time I was asked to be a guest judge at Beechwood Baptist Church’s fourth annual dog show at the Mount Olive Community Center. This was 10 years ago or so, but the memory remains vivid.

I received the call from a church member a couple of months prior to the event, so it was evident they truly valued my expertise. I said, “Sure, why not?” because I’m a sucker for doing things that I never in a million years would ever dream of doing.

I arrived at the community center on Saturday morning not really knowing what to expect. I knew there would be dogs, but beyond that, I had no clue.

Once I arrived, I met the two other judges for the morning’s event, and soon realized I was out of my element. One judge raised Malamutes and had been involved with the American Kennel Club in California. The other judge had experience in dog obedience training and grooming.

I write and edit stories, design pages and construct rambling diatribes such as this. I love dogs, but I can rarely tell a mutt from a pure-bred pooch.

I tried to get a look at the competition before the show started. However, after several minutes of witnessing some earnest butt-sniffing, growling, barking and running, it was hard for me to get a feel on who I thought might be the best dog in Mount Olive, or at least at this particular show. I would just have to wait until the show began.

There were several categories, including puppies and small, medium and large dogs. All told, there were about 50 or more dogs at this event. The competition was fierce.

There was also a wide variety of dogs at this show. There were schnauzers, dachshunds, basset hounds, schnauzers, dachshunds, basset hounds and more schnauzers, dachshunds and basset hounds.

The last class of dogs we judged were the large dogs. That seemed to be the class that separated the men from the boys, or the pups from the … well, dogs.

The announcer called out, “S8, a borzoi named Drum.”

Out from the side jogged this majestic, tall, long-haired dog that looked like something you’d see at an AKC-sanctioned dog show.

Drum and his owner bounded up the ramp to the stage. The owner told the judges and the crowd her dog could do tricks.

I was skeptical after hearing a handful of similar boasts from owners only to see the dogs looking pre-occupied and wanting off the stage.

However, she spoke Russian to the dog and the dog barked. I was impressed.

It was the next trick that completely blew me away.

“He likes to flirt,” said the owner. “I’ll need a female volunteer.”

One of my judging companions ably scrambled up the side of the stage and agreed to be the volunteer.

After some coaxing from the dog’s owner and a series of questions that may or may not have questioned his manliness, the dog lunged forward and buried its head and paws in the bosom of the female judge.

Needless to say, the dog really could flirt and somehow managed to make some strong advances without the benefit of a steak dinner. I was impressed.

After we had seen all the dogs, I was rather vocal about my choice for Drum as the Best in Show pick. Surprisingly, the other judges agreed with me, even though one of them had been inappropriately assaulted.

All in all, I was pretty pleased with the dogs I picked and the dogs I judged. I met a lot of nice folks in the process, and I was left with a memory I’ll never forget.

The experience also taught me a valuable lesson that applies to nearly everything in life — sometimes you gotta know a cool trick to get a cool treat.

— Editor Adam Smith can be reached at


The Bark Box

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