Our dog is a very specific rare breed here in the United States. Less then 200 here on American ground. They are heavily populated over in Sicily where they are from, running around all over the fairly small island off the coast of Italy’s mainland. The breed is called Cirneco dell’Etna. Chestnut colored short hairs coat their body with long lean muscles slightly bulging from underneath. They kinda look like a miniature greyhounds but on steroids.
After birth their big ears begin to naturally stand up on their own, slowly one at a time they creep up, to high point. They are sight hounds full of energy. The breeder that we purchased our Cirneco from lives in Texas, so we say ours is our Italian cowboy. We named him Giuseppe. She takes to picking the new family owners of the breed very seriously, with full background checks, letters of recommendation, a will (in the event of the owner’s death) and a special letter of agreement to NOT neuter the dogs until later in their life (allowing for opportunity for mating and/or showing the dogs in competition).
-Dogs are not allowed to compete if they have been neutered, a fact I never really knew before becoming familiar with this breed.
As our little guy reaches his 9th birthday, I thought it would be fun to do a little feature write up on my first born fur baby from the good old days.
The lovely Lucia Prieto (who is the Texan breeder of our dog) was going to be in town/ state and asked me if I would mind putting our dog in a show, the first week of December. It was nearly Thanksgiving, “I had never worked with him to be in a show” I told her. We purposely kept him “intact” in the event he was ever giving the opportunity to be in a show. She said not to worry she would do everything, she can show him, all I need to do is drive him over to Orlando for the day. That sounds pretty simple I thought. Then she added just in case I get busy (she had other dogs coming along on this trip to “show”, maybe I could even show him if I feel comfortable that day. We’re just going to be staying over at the La Quinta Inn, it’s dog friendly, maybe you could come over a little early so I can work with him a bit. I can do all the paper work for Giuseppe to enter and you can sign everything when we get there. Sure, I decided. Thinking it shouldn’t be too big of a show, upon hearing we were going to be at the La Quinta Inn. I can’t possibly embarrass my dog or myself too bad in front of such a small crowd.
So a lot changed in those two short weeks back in 2012. I booked myself off of work for the little old “dog show” at the La Quinta in Orlando and we found out that I was very newly pregnant! I didn’t think too much of it seeing that I was feeling pretty good not really nauseous, just a little tired. My brain, however, was not working, early on set pregnancy brain problems.
Anyway the day before the show, I mentioned to my coworker Tammy, and her client, who was sitting in the chair, that I wouldn’t be at work the next day because Giuseppe was going to be in a dog show. After bursting out laughing at me she asked what I was really going to be doing. I smiled and straight faced repeated about the dog show. I told her how the breeder called and asked if I would drive him over, for her to show him, and I said yes. “You can’t just put your dog in a dog show if you haven’t trained him” she laughed. “Well he listens to commands really well and I run him all the time. I don’t know, the breeder said she could teach him. Unless she’s busy, then I might end up having to show him, I’m not sure yet” I responded.
At this point she was hysterical. Her client in the chair who is a sweet regular, was also laughing, really hard. The client spoke up and mentioned how her husband is into dogs and actually puts them in “shows”. They have spent lots of money sending their dogs to different camps and workshops to train for these dog shows. Now I was getting nervous. Well it’s just over at a small hotel, were meeting up before the show to go over some stuff. “Ok well be sure to let us know how it goes” they joking laugh, “good luck”!
It occurred to me as I was dressing, that morning of the dog show (I believe for the first time seeing that all my thoughts had immediately turned into baby) that there was a chance I could be the one showing Giuseppe. What do I wear I thought standing in my closet staring off. I hadn’t ever been to a “dog show” before. An agility dog show once, actually with my Uncle but never a “showy dog show”. The only show I had ever seen was immediately following the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade once a year, and I don’t know if I’ve watched it all the way through. All I could think of was long skirts and flowing dresses that the women wore running around aside their dogs. That wasn’t what I was going to be wearing today. Jeans were too casual and dresses all seemed too formal. Plus, I was still in those super early bloated pregnancy weeks, so the best I could come up with was a pair of black leggings and a black tunic. Black seemed good to not stand out, not wanting to steal any of Giuseppe’s thunder. All so silly anyway, I’m sure Lucia will be show him. Plus it’s going to be super small and low key.
Pulling up to the hotel, I can see a grouping Cirnnci of dogs over the back corner. Giuseppe and I excitedly walk over to greet Lucia, who we always love visiting with, along the small pack of other dog friends and owners. One other owner had driven up from South Florida and a few others flew in with their dogs from other states. Wow I thought to myself, that’s pretty nice to make arrangements for just a little dog show. Looking around to the other side of the lot. I was half looking to see if some section of the parking lot was blocked off for this little escapade or maybe if there was a small room inside. I didn’t see anything indicating a dog show would be taking place but I felt better realizing just how small everything would be.
Lucia was loving on Giuseppe and he seemed to be doing an excellent job of taking commands. She asks me to practice a few times with him. Explaining that she will now be showing two or three other dogs. Maybe it would be best for me to show him because he’s already such a natural and he’s more used to me. Sure that’s fine he’s doing great. Looking around a few other breeds of dogs with the owners had stepped outside. This crowd seems pretty light, we should be fine. Before I knew it a couple hours had passed and she asked if anyone wanted to make a bathroom break before we go to the show. I wasn’t really sure what she meant when she said “go to the show” but I soon saw a couple with their dogs from our little group getting onto a small bus. A bus that was quickly being to be filled with our little Cirnnci group. Without saying anything, Giuseppe and I climbed aboard, the now very full human and dog bus. One girl from up north somewhere was squealing with excitement. She exclaimed how she had been counting down the months for this, she was so excited the show was finally here.
Oh shit, was all I could think. This is for real. This is not going to be some small dog show at the La Quinta after all. Nopeity, nopester. How does this happen, how do I always end up in random situations like this. All I could think of was my coworker and her laughing client the day before. What am I doing here, we are going to look like fools!!
Looking like fools was all I could think to myself while the bus overflowed with excitement- from both dogs and humans. I knew it was bad when I saw the bus pulling up to the convention center. See the convention center is where they typically hold larger events, ones you would hopefully be prepared for, ones you would know you were going to. The Orlando Convention Center is on a whole other caliber of a level. It’s like the Mecca of convention centers. Seriously it may have its own zip code, but for real. It’s ginormous and I could tell by the typical completely packed parking lot, seeping out cars into extra even further away parking lots. This dog show was going to be HUGE- as the Kia car sales guy would say (thank you New York, he’s now down here in Florida, too).
Yup bigger is better and here at what turned out to be The Eukanuba Dog Show, big was just the beginning. I couldn’t believe my eyes as Giuseppe and I walked into the building with dogs all around. I had been to the Orlando convention center before, almost every year to be exact. For the big hair show with all the bells and whistles bringing in hairstyles from all over the world. Well, it was the same here for the dogs, only more. Bells, whistles and dog stylists all over the place. Blue and red carpeted large areas, roped off with chairs and white long judges tables. Stands all around selling top dog gear, leashes, bedazzled t-shirts for owner and of course, dog. News reporters and cameras stampeding all over the premises.
I cheered professionally and I can honestly say there were way more cameras with flickering lights here than at any game I ever attended. It was surreal. I remember calmly reaching down and petting Giuseppe occasionally. He wasn’t nervous in the slightest but he also didn’t realize he was going to be the one in the center of the room, about to preform the little act we just made up, in the parking lot of that sweet little Inn I was now longing for. Giuseppe was happy and peppy in his perfectly still body, as he often is. That’s the funny thing about him. He can seem completely clam and collected and in a bat of an eye, be off to catch a squirrel. He runs a good poker face.
In a whirlwind of “dog watching” the time had come to enter the ring. Listen up, I told Giuseppe, it’s just like we’ve been practicing. We’ve done this a million times, since 9am or at least as many times as you can as it’s now almost quarter to one. This is what we came here to do, sorta. Today you become a show dog, whatever happens in there, I’m proud of all your hard work. The last four hours you have been incredible, you’ve got this.
The announcer, announced, as we stepped into the ring. Briskly walking straight down once and back, then diagonally across the floor, followed with a big rounding circle. Then a light run till we reached the back holding position. A judge approached Giuseppe, examining his ears, mouth- especially teeth, strong lean body and a quick squeeze on the old balls- yes you read that right. Giuseppe was a champ, standing firm the whole time, even when the judge got fresh with him, he hardly flinched. A real professional, you would of thought we had been training for years.
We waited for the remainder of the dogs in his group to finish up the routine while standing in line just behind the ring. It’s weird in a dog show watching the other competitors. Back when I cheered in competitions, you secretly hope someone stumbles or gets off beat, just a little so that your score will be higher. Not here, well maybe just a little to win, but everyone is so cute. All the competitors look like adorable, lovable, little fur friends. Although, I secretly do hope to see one of those fake prosthetic dog balls fall off, just for the humor of it. I mean, I only just found out that there even is such a thing that morning. I would love to see someone try to explain themselves out of prosthetic balls. To no avail, all the dogs competing that day slid by, by the hair on their… never mind.
After the last dog is shown, the judge calls a group of us to the center. After one more careful interrogating glance, the judge points to the dogs having them step aside. Pointing to my Giuseppe, she yells out “second”. Second place holy cow we got second place Giuseppe, I knew you could do it!!! I suddenly have an urge to call everyone I know and announce our big important second place show dog win! Except for then I remember nobody really knows we’re here because we didn’t tell anyone we were coming to this big dog show, seeing that we didn’t even know how big it was till we pulled up. I do have Tammy and her client to tell back at work, boy will they be surprised!! I call my husband quickly to tell him about our big win here at the dog show. Which reminds me, I still have to tell him how big this thing is and that we’re even at the convention center. Gavin answers the phone saying “Wait did you say there’s cameras, are you going to be on TV? I have to find you and watch this, I want to see it over and over again he laughs.” “Are you even listening, this is a big deal. Our little Giuseppe is a second place winning show dog CHAMPION” I cry out in excitement!! “Yes, yes I’m so happy for you guys, I know you’ve been working so hard on this! Gavin responds. Ok, ok, I know we didn’t know we wanted this but not that we have won, its great!!
Giuseppe and I drove back safely and very happily to Tampa, as winners. He was given extra treats and cuddling snuggles all night. I told him “today you woke up Giuseppe, now and forever you will always be a recognized show dog”.
I didn’t get Giuseppe back into the biz over the months to follow. The days were quickly filled with Dr appointments and getting ready for our first human baby to arrive. After about a year, we decided he was getting to an age in which they say it is healthier for the maturing dogs to be neutered. So after a fairly quick procedure, we told him it was time to hang up his coat, sorta speak. He has since retired from the Limelight of dog shows but he still has his medal to fall back on. The good old days full of prancing and being grabbed, oh wait we have now two little ones. He prances and get grabbed by them all the time. We love our Giuseppe.
Gavin and I believe that when we first brought home our son, Giuseppe was probably trying to tell us “guys there’s something wrong with this one, he’s missing his fur! That’s ok little guy, we will love you anyways. You’ll just never be able to take home second place in the Eukkanuba dog show like me.”