I like dogs.  They are just so giving and forgiving and wonderful companions.  Hospitals, aged care facilities and even prisons use them as part of their treatment and rehabilitation programs.  It seems that no matter how much a dog may be neglected or taken for granted, they will always be there with an expectant look and a wag of the tail.

There is an old story that goes something like this:

Question – How do you know whether your dog or your partner loves you the most?

Answer – Put them both in the boot of your car and close the lid.  Open it twenty minutes later and see which one is still happy to see you.

Don’t try this at home.

Karyn and I have both owned dogs, though we don’t have one at the moment.  Karyn would REALLY, REALLY just love to have “A LITTLE PUPPY”, but it is not practical due to our rather roving lifestyle.

In our trip so far, we have seen lots of dogs.  Winery dogs that sit at the entrance of the tasting rooms and greet the thirsty customers, (there is even a whole book published on these) the house dogs doing their territorial duty that bark at us, thankfully behind the confines of the fence, and the farm dogs that sit on the back of utes and round up sheep and cattle on command.

And then there are the dogs that are not really dogs at all.  Well they are dogs, but are not really allowed to behave like dogs.  We first met them at the Kangaroo Valley Show.  By the way, Kangaroo Valley is possibly one of the most beautiful locations in Australia.  We free camped beside the Kangaroo River for the few days that the annual show was in town.  Just an added bonus.  Now when I have seen dogs at agricultural shows before, they have always been working dogs that that get timed on how quickly they can round up a few sheep and put them in a small holding pen.  The whole experience is a pure delight and a wonderful Aussie tradition.

On this occasion, I accidently came across the “SHOW” dog section.  Here dogs are not judged on what they can do, but on what they look like.  The first one I observed was this enormous white poodle.  Well I think it was a poodle.  Most of its hair had been shaved off to reveal this very ugly pink and grey skin.  The remaining tufts of hair were being shampooed, blown dry and then preened by the owners.  They looked a little like poodles themselves and the whole event was taking place in an open tent that could very easily pass for a mobile hairdressing salon.  I started to feel quite ill and at one stage thought I might throw up.

Thankfully, Karyn rescued me and managed to hold me upright while we completed the rest of the tour.  We did the rounds of all the tents and the same scene was repeated each time. – Preening owners, prancing and pruning around perfectly manicured stationary objects that only on close inspection revealed dog like features.  In one such tent, one owner had her other baby (in this case, a human one) tucked away in a corner looking quite neglected.  And it was.

And then came the judging.  Each owner would present their prized possession to the very serious grey coated supreme pontiff for a bit of a feel job and then a prance around the ring.  I discovered that these dogs could actually move.  But it was the movement of the owners that had me intrigued.  The poodle owner had this stiff legged stride especially for the occasion and constantly jerked on the lead to keep the dog’s head high, just in case it remembered that it was actually a dog and wanted to sniff the ground and check out the scent of its companion non dogs.

All the contenders were then lined up for a final inspection and one owner had this little trick of holding a special treat in such a position that her dog’s head was constantly in the correct position.  Finally the mounting tension was released when the Pontiff waved her hand in the direction of the patchy poodle.  The supreme non dog of the Kangaroo Valley annual show was announced.  The pampered poodle owner pranced across to the pontiff to receive her prize and all the other owners hung their heads and developed a collective hang dog look.

I thought that we should call in the RSPCA and have all the owners and the pontiff all charged with cruelty to animals.

But it didn’t stop there.  We were heading for the National capital to check out the sites and catch up with friends.  Ian and Jill are travelling in their van with their dog, Chandon.  Now Chandon is a real dog and a beauty – An Australian cattle dog the colour of champagne, so hence the name.  They had booked into a caravan park that allows animals, so we did the same.  Our other friends, Wayne and Liz have been travelling in their car and were booked into the local motel.  It was like old home week with lots of hugs when we all arrived together.  We were looking forward to a wonderful week.

But, it just so happens that our arrival in Canberra coincided with the annual agricultural show.  This show also has non dog judging, and the non dog owners who travel in from all over, have to find a place to stay.  By now, those of you who are quick off the mark will have picked where all of this is going, but for the slow ones, no names mentioned, I will spell it out.

A very small campervan arrived and parked at the back of our annex.  It was very close.  The owner disembarked and proceeded to open the side sliding door.  Then she removed the fence, yes a fence, and proceeded to erect it in the form of a circle, with the only opening being the door of the van.  Then she pulled out a table with numerous pillows and a full sized free standing hair dryer thing that you see in the hair dressers shops.  I was transfixed in anticipation.  And then came the hose and all the brushes and combs.  It was only a small van.  And then came the dogs.  One, Two, Three, and finally, Four.  THERE WERE FOUR DOGS IN THIS TINY VAN.

She then proceeded to wash, dry, prune and prod each dog in turn.  She had actually taught them to put their head on a pillow and hold it perfectly still, while she carried out the finer points of the pampering process.  She told me that she was here for the show.  I would never have guessed.  We closed the back of our annex and opened the other end.

The following morning she packed everything up with the promise to return in the evening.  I could hardly wait.  For some reason however, she never arrived.  Possibly eliminated in the first round, dropped her bundle and sulked off home.  But never fear, she was just replaced by others.  We were completely surrounded and every van seemed to have multiple non dogs – All here for the show.  In one group, the all owners had uniforms.  On the back of their shirt were the words – SYDNEY PSYCHOS.  I thought, how appropriate.  I wonder who thought that one up?   Some of their non dogs had also picked up on the terminology as well, and were behaving in a manner in keeping with their name.  We closed the front entrance of our annex and bunkered down.

The show ends today and hopefully we will be left in peace.  Thankfully, Chandon will still be around, to remind us of what real dogs are like.