The Kerry Blues

I didn't see you on the circuit this year. Normally you wouldn't see me either, but I was there in Killarney, and in an important, nay, essential capacity. I was a steward.

Now some people fail to recognise the enormous contribution the steward makes to a dog show. The judge is all very well, poncing about telling people to go and they goeth and come and they cometh and triangle and they triangleth. But it is the steward who, with quiet authority and understated expertise, assembles the competitors, rounds up the strays, and distributes place cards to the grateful finalists. Or, in my ring, can't tell one breed from another, mixes up the classes, fails to understand the concept of the Green Star challenge and does it all at a volume that frightens elderly women and causes leaves to fall from nearby trees.

I wasn't, of course, supposed to be a steward. I was there because the Dragon Lady was judging, and I thought it prudent that I should be ready with the engine running to carry her to safety at the end of her stint, before the shock wore off and the losers rose up in their righteous anger to smite her. But, after a treacherous invitation to breakfast, I was informed that my stewardship would be required in the Dragon's ring. I demurred, of course, pleading ignorance, lack of tact and dementia. No, I said, but Auntie Patsy said Yes, and when Auntie Patsy says Yes, no man says No.

I'll rephrase that.

When Auntie Patsy issues an order, that's that. And so it was that I witnessed The Great Kerry Mistake.

It was Sir's first foray into the Terrier group, and she prepared for it with all the dedication and energy that makes her such a pain in the ass sometimes. Housework went undone, ready-meals were microwaved, washing piled up, I even had to wash the dishes once, while she pored over her standards day and night. The whole trip from Dublin was a nightmare of arcane Q&A on the minutiae of scissors bites and undercoats and all sorts of nonsense, broken only by some wonderful road signs.

That one reveals that Roscrea is a whole lot bigger than we thought, while this one, just down the road from it, is my favourite

. There have been a lot of inane things done on the roads recently (Traffic Calming, anyone?) but this is surely the first time they've boasted about it (while we're on the subject of roads, how about this, at Kinnegad.

And they say Ireland isn't a caring society)

' Anyhow, the Kerrys. The standard for Kerrys, as supplied by the IKC is exhaustive and easily understood, apart from the sinister remark, under BODY, “Not long over lions”. I suppose this is wise, I wouldn't spend long over them either, but it is an odd thing to put in a breed standard. Apart from this, everything you could think of is mentioned.

Except tables.

So here comes the Dragon Lady, word-perfect in the Standard and focussed like a laser-guided missile, fresh from judging a bunch of Toy breeds, and the first instruction she gives the Kerry exhibitors is to put their dog on the table.

It was as if someone had asked Pope John Paul to dance the hoochie-coo. A sudden hush descended on the spectators as they awaited the inevitable violent revolt. The contestants glanced incredulously at each other. The woman was clearly mad. Or drunk. On the other hand, she was the judge. Years of subjugation kicked in, and, with the quiet dignity of an early Christian martyr, the first handler manoevered his bewildered dog onto the tiny table while his cohorts looked on in mute sympathy and some in the audience tittered nervously.

After four or five Kerrys had been thus humiliated my beloved suddenly stopped as though poleaxed and turned a fetching shade of pink. Too late. She finished out the breed in the conventional fashion, but Kerry Blue people don't forget. Perhaps they should be thankful that there were no lions in the vicinity With the Dragon's fixation on Breed Standards, God knows what might have happened.

Before I go, I must share with you two more morsels from the internet. First

A little girl asked her mother, "Mum, may I take the dog for a walk around the block?" Mum replies, "No, because she is in heat." "What's that mean?" asked the child. "Go ask your father. I think he's in the garage." The little girl goes to the garage and says, "Dad, may I take Belle for a walk around the block? I asked Mum, but she said the dog was in heat, and to come to you". Dad said, "Bring Belle over here." He took a rag, soaked it with petrol, and scrubbed the dog's backside with it and said, "Okay, that should take care of that problem, You can go now, but keep Belle on the leash and only go to the top of the road." The little girl left, and returned a few minutes later with no dog on the lead. Surprised, Dad asked, "Where's Belle?" The little girl said, "She ran out of petrol about halfway up the road, so another dog is pushing her home". And