While getting my shopping done on base in early June, I noticed a banner and some signs for the annual PX Pet Show that was to be held on the morning of Saturday, 23 June. This is an annual event that has been running for nearly a decade now, and Ronja and I previously attended two years ago, along with our friend Jess and her pup, Max.
Sadly, even though the event has been going on for nearly a decade, there is no website and no place to information about it online. The first year we competed, we just showed up and went to see what the event was all about. Even completely unprepared, we had a blast. A couple of vendors offered treats and toys, and the military police K-9 unit did two demonstrations, one on locating explosives scent and one on bite work. Competition included largest and smallest dog, best trick, dog-owner look-alike, and best costume. Back then, Ronja and I competed in best trick because we weren’t prepared to do anything else (like best costume), and wound up taking first place.
This year, I tried to find out more information prior to the event – I figure if we’re going to compete, we’ll go all in, regardless of whether we’ll do well in a category or whether we’ll just make fools of ourselves. After unsuccessfully trying to find information online, I resigned myself to calling Customer Service at the PX. Let me tell you, that was an experience. It went something like this:
“Hi, I’m trying to find out some information about the Pet Show.”
“Sure, hang on – I’ll transfer you.”
“Hi, I’m trying to get some information about the Pet event?”
“Uh … yeah … hang on, I need to transfer you.”
“Yeah, hi, I’m just calling to get some information about the Pet Show.”
“Can you hang on one sec? I’m at the front register, but I’ll transfer you to someone who knows.”
I eventually got a voice mail where I left a message and, after not getting a response for a few days, went through the whole phone tree again until I spoke to a real live person who actually had some information. For reference, if anyone finds this post while trying to find information for an upcoming PX Pet Show, the number at the PX to call is customer service at (315) 773-0061, and it’s a good idea to call about a week out since you may get a voice mail or may need to keep trying.
At any rate, I learned that the competition would include “Doggie Field Days”, which are basically different stations you can try out with your dog, such as a hoop jump, ball toss, or slalom run. There’d also be a “Guess How Many Treats In the Jar” contest and a Spin-the-Wheel to win prizes furnished by the event sponsors, which included the local SPCA Shelter, the PX, and various dog food manufacturers. And, lastly, the judged competition where pets and owners would compete in the categories Most Obedient, Best Trick, Best/Funniest Costume, Dog-Owner Look-Alike, and Most Unusual Pet, the latter of which also included two sub-categories, Largest and Smallest Pet.
Armed with this new knowledge, I decided I would enter each category because, well, it’s free and what the heck – might as well go all out. Since this event was held on base, I decided that our costume would be dressing Ronja up in a set of Army PT’s, complete with reflective belt and running shoes. This was easy enough – $5 got me a pair of extra small PT shorts and a small PT T-shirt at the local thrift store, and I took the spare reflective belt I’ve been carrying in my Jeep and made it fit Ronja. It’s a very cute costume for her, especially with her dog boots which do look a lot like “running shoes”. Since I was already being creative, I figured we’d also enter dog-owner look-alike and instead of having the dog look like me, I’d try to look like her – so I wore my PT’s along with my set of ears and my tail. 😀
On Saturday morning, we loaded into the car and headed out to the PX. I’d been told that registration starts at nine and that competition would start at ten, so we made an effort to get there early. It’s generally a good idea to get to any dog events early since that gives the dog a chance to get settled and be less stressed, rather than getting there late just throwing them right into the chaos. (A good idea for all kinds of dog events, by the way!) That would’ve been a good plan had it not been for a rain delay.
Eventually, the sky cleared, the sun came up, and things got going.
After signing up to compete twice – once because I was second in line and then again because there were separate sign-up sheets for each category that the girl doing the sign-up hadn’t been aware of – I went around to see everything offered. Ronja and I tried out the different games offered in “Doggie Field Days”. She slalomed through parking cones and chased after a yellow squeaky tennis ball. She resolutely refused to jump through a hula hoop. Actually, she kind of looked at me like I’d lost my mind when I asked her to jump through the hoop.
The event mascot, Pokey the Puppy, demonstrated proper technique for getting through the hoop. Right up to the point where he got stuck because his head didn’t fit. Despite Pokey’s hoop prowess, he wasn’t well-received by all of the dogs. Some barked at him. Some spent a lot of time sniffing him. But at least nobody bit him!
Around 10:30, the competition took off after the judges took their seats and a mat was laid out in the demonstration area. The judges consisted of the Exchange’s general manager and two 10th Mountain Division soldiers. I’m not sure how they got chosen for this detail, but I expect there are worse things you could be detailed for.
“Best Trick” was up first, and people tried to show off the best trick or tricks their pet had learned. One Poodle who was wearing a sports jersey danced on his hind legs and then spun in circles. A Boxer called Major knew how to crawl forward and bark on command. An Irish Wolfhound knew how to bark in his quiet inside voice. Some dogs suffered from a bit of performance anxiety and just refused to do anything at all once they hit the demo area, like this big Mastiff who later competed for Largest Dog (and won).
Ronja had her energy up pretty well when we headed up into the demo area and we did a couple of our tricks, like turning in a circle, going around me, going through my legs, rolling over, speaking on command, and playing dead. Our “play dead” needs a lot of work and while she laid down, she refused to flop onto her side, dead. She just went into her “platz” position and looked at me. We finished up with her biting the jute tug and me swinging her by it. That one’s always a hit, whether we do it with a tug or the bite sleeve, and everyone here liked it as well.
Now, remember how I keep saying Pet Show and not Dog Show? That’s because the PX Pet Show is actually open to any type and species of pet and not just dogs, although the majority of people bring dogs. The first year we competed, someone brought a cat that knew how to walk on a leash. This year, two little girls competed with two mice, one white and one black. The latter was named Truffles.
Truffles competed for Best Trick by balancing across a rope, made visually even more interesting by the patriotic props set up by his humans. It was very cute, especially when Truffles stopped halfway across the rope and sort of swung around, trying to regain his balance, his tail moving in big circles to propel him back upward and forward. (The mice also competed for Smallest Pet and Best Costume.)
Next up was the Best Costume category. A lot of dogs had store-bought costumes, such as the little Dachshund mix dressed as Spiderman or the dog below, dressed as a partially-peeled Banana. But a fair number of dogs had creative homemade costumes, too. (I like those better.) There was a black Labrador dressed as a soccer referee, a Husky dressed in a bright orange shirt and black shorts, a Golden Retriever in a white work shirt, and a black Dachshund who wore an Army jacket and beret. Ronja, as mentioned previously, wore Army PT’s. But the best costume, in my opinion, was a Beagle dressed as Underdog, in a properly homemade Underdog costume. (Unlike the movie photo, this Underdog wore a red long-sleeve shirt with an applique U on the front, not a knit shirt. But it was spot on and got lots of applause. From us, anyway!)
After the Best Costume category came the Dog-Owner Look-Alike category, which is a good thing because it meant that I didn’t have to undress Ronja right away (which would have meant re-dressing her again later). I clipped on my ears and tail, which got lots of snickers and applause, and we walked up and looked foolish when it was our turn. There were a lot of, “OMG! The dog even has shoes!” yells for Ronja and a lot of “She’s got a tail!” yells for me.
The last two categories were Most Obedient and Most Unusual, so after getting both Ronja and I changed back to our normal selves, we headed up to compete for Most Obedient. I had her heel up to the judges’ table, then turned in a small circle with her at the heel to the left, then to the right. Then I had her sit and down, and while in a down, I threw her ball up in the air and swung it around her head to demonstrate stay and self control. Then I walked around her in a circle and finished up by standing over her while she was in a down and then have her sit up. She did really well, not just in part because she’d already calmed down for the day and was no longer hyper-hyper for her ball.
The Most Unusual category included both actually unusual pets, as well as the Largest and Smallest Pet. Truffles the mouse competed for smallest and was, by default, the smallest pet there, closely followed by a tiny little Miniature Pinscher puppy whose head was smaller than a tennis ball. The Irish Wolfhounds, Mastiff, a Great Dane Puppy and a big, fluffy Great Pyrenees all competed for largest. The Wolfhounds were tallest, but the Mastiff won the category because he outweighed them by quite a few pounds. The title of Most Unusual went to a Chinese Crested who was the only Crested there and, let’s face it, you don’t often see them, so she was most definitely the most unusual (and possibly the most sunburnt, according to her owner).
After the last competition, the judges tallied the scores and awarded the prizes.
First, Second, and Third place were awarded in the categories Most Obedient, Best Trick, Best Costume, and Dog-Owner Look-Alike, and First places were awarded for Most Unusual, Largest, and Smallest. Ronja and I took First for Most Obedient and Best Trick, and second for Best Costume. We won three PX gift cards that can be used at any AAFES locations – two for $25 each for the First place wins and one for $10 for the Second place win. We also won two large bags of dog food with our First Place awards, which I donated to the SPCA because I know they can always, always use those at the shelter.
Obviously, we had an absolute blast again and with the nice weather, it made the day all the more awesome. I even got Ronja to cool herself off in a kiddie pool, which is unusual for her since she doesn’t like to get into water. She still won’t sit or lay in it, but at least she’ll put her paws into it now without a lot of coaxing. (One of these days, I’ll get her to swim, too!)
After the event wrapped up, we headed over to the dog park so Ronja could run around and relax since she’d been working so hard, and we even got a small order of French fries from Burger King before we headed home as her reward since she loves fries and doesn’t often get them. She certainly deserved them!