Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The Adventures of Frodo the Faller

When Frodo was a little chap, before he became a Faller, we would occasionally take him to dog shows. He was always very excited to see all the different breeds of dog and could barely contain himself. Eventually it would be our turn to enter the ring – yes, Frodo is a dog. What did you think? Who would call a child Frodo? J.R.R. Tolkien did, for one, although now I come to think of it Frodo Baggins was a Hobbit, not a human. I digress – something I frequently do. I ascribe it to having had four children and spending my entire working life with young children. It's almost impossible to hold one's train of thought when interruptions are frequent, repetitive and insistent. Many are the profound ponderings, grand philosophies and life-enhancing schemes that have been half-developed and abandoned; rather like a lovely dream from which one is abruptly woken and to which one longs to return but cannot, or like the floaters in your eyes that you can never quite focus on. Maybe the fruition of such deliberations would have proved them to be half-baked so better they were left embryonic.

The first time Frodo and I ventured into the ring – on which occasion, by the way, he qualified for Cruft's, the supreme beauty show of the canine world, though for a puppy to qualify the requirement is a first, second or third place in a class, so it's not very exacting. Why should it be? A puppy is full of promise. To resume, the first time we went into the ring, neither of us had much idea what we were supposed to be doing although we had attended Ringcraft classes – well, only one actually, as Frodo was five months old when he came to live with us and his breeder had already entered him for his first dog show just after his six-month birthday. Not wanting to disappoint and convinced we had a puppy that was going to become an instant star we bravely went along. With hindsight we would have let the breeder down less if we had not fetched up at the show at all. Notwithstanding, we galloped around the ring, Frodo leaping and prancing like a circus horse and biting his lead, me trying to look as though I was in control. Finally, we were called to a halt so that the judge could 'go over' the puppies. I was now an unattractive shade of puce, which clashed with the purple jacket I was wearing, and panting heavily. In fact, I was panting more than the puppies. All the other handlers looked calm and collected. With good grace Frodo allowed himself to be handled. This could be the start of something big!

During subsequent shows, however, it became apparent that Frodo was enjoying the whole shooting match rather less than I was (and I was not happy to be careering round in front of so many people – I'm not a shrinking violet, but I don't like to be on public display) My handling abilities had not developed noticeably and added to the requirement to keep Frodo moving at a steady pace, showing off his superb conformation, gait and spotting (he's a Dalmatian) was the necessity to prevent him taking lumps out of the other exhibits as we charged past. The final indication that the show world was not for Frodo was when the judge was gently examining him and he growled (Frodo that is, not the judge) – a soft, back-of-the-throat, please stop growl, a warning that he was not enjoying the whole experience. So our beautiful boy was to be for our eyes only, never to receive the highest accolade in the show dog world, Cruft's Supreme Champion. As it was, it would never have happened anyway because shortly before his third birthday Frodo became a Faller, of which more anon.

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