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Day one on the road to Illinois for the national specialty dog show was a long trek, 14 hours, including three stops for potty and water breaks, from Newtown to Elkhart, Ind. As we nestled into the Red Roof Inn for a good night’s sleep, it was anything but continuous. A group of camo-dressed hunters held a tailgate party right outside our room until the wee hours. Every time they laughed, my Norwegian Elkhounds, Adele and Linx, barked back. Have I mentioned that elkhounds are notorious barkers? Finally we were all fast asleep when someone was banging on our door at 5 am. “Bark. Bark. Bark.” I opened the door a crack behind the security latch.
“Taxi,” said the driver.
“Taxi?” I said to a cacophony of canine vocalization.
“Yes, taxi,” the driver offered again.
“No, taxi,” I replied.
“No taxi?” came his response as I closed the door.
“Bark. Bark. Bark.” Boy, this was going to be a long trip.
Linx hadn’t been on a long overnight road trip since 2007 when I took him to Canada as a puppy. This would be Adele’s first extended trip. Overall, they were really good dogs, but at night, the demons arrived to deprive us all of sleep. The next night was our first night at the resort, the day before the big national specialty dog show started with the Veteran Sweepstakes for the older dogs.
Crash! Bang! Rattle! Clang! I woke up with a start in the dark. No barking, but I knew that Linx had exited the bed, the wrong side of the bed. He opted for the tight space on the right side next to the wall. He had somehow hit the metal dolly (what I use to pull cargo around the dog show) that I had propped up against the wall at the foot of the bed for storage out of the way. I guess it wasn’t out of the way enough. Linx settled back into sleep on the floor across the room.
Next morning, I noticed Linx had some dried blood on his left rear paw. Upon closer inspection, he had actually pulled off his toenail. I went to investigate and found it on the floor next to the dolly. Then I got out my first aid kit and cleaned his paw. Next up, with the help of friends, we managed to get him bandaged in a donated clean sock and started him on antibiotics. He was no worse for the wear. But I needed to keep him from licking his paw, so the sock would stay on unless he was in the show ring. That night he proudly picked up a second place in his age group at the sweepstakes.
Crash! Shatter! Rumble! The next night, a bottle of Pellegrino I had in the mini-fridge froze solid and exploded! Woke us up and set off the dogs barking. Three nights, three disruptions. But we tried to sleep on.
A quick trip the next morning sent me to Target to purchase a 10-pack of clean socks. Linx garnered the nickname “Mr Sock” among his friends. He looked quite fashionable in a rainbow of colors, until someone made fun of him wearing a lady’s pink ped on his paw. I kindly informed them it was for good luck. His next class the following day was a large competitive Veteran Dog class with an entry of 10 and that the first place ribbon in that class was pink and it had his name on it.
The next day as predicted, Linx, at 9 and half years old, the oldest dog in the class, walked proudly into the show ring, performed his best, and walked out with the first place pink ribbon under a Norwegian judge. It qualified him for the Best of Breed class the next day. That night all three of us enjoyed one long uninterrupted slumber, finally!
Refreshed, we were ready to tackle the final day of the national specialty. Early in the day, Adele captured a first in the Open Bitch class. Then came Best of Breed, where Linx gained an Award of Merit, one of only 15 given among nearly 200 elkhounds. But the real fun was just about to start. The last class of the show is called Brace. According to AKC rules, a brace is defined as two dogs of the same recognized breed or variety that are similar in appearance, performing in unison, and presented by a maximum of two handlers. Both dogs competing in brace competition must have at least one common owner. I’ve always opted to show my brace as a single handler. I must be crazy!
Adele and Linx stepped into the ring. We trotted around the ring, stopped, and stacked. Linx on the outside, Adele on the inside. We stepped up for the individual exam. “Please stay, don’t move,” I sent them my message telepathically, while showing their mouths to the judge. And then the big test, down and back across the diagonal of the large ring with an outside turn. Stop for the judge for one last look and one more time around the ring. Weeks of roadwork and training paid off as Adele and Linx became Best Brace in Show with the point of the judge’s finger. Watch the video at lisaunleashed.com. After another two days of a regional specialty and two days traveling home, Adele and Linx finally got to sleep in their own beds. And there was no barking. Good dogs!
Lisa Peterson — lifelong equestrian, show dog breeder and award-winning podcaster, communications professional and journalist — writes about horses, hounds and history at lisaunleashed.com. Reach her at email@example.com.