|My silk painting of a frolicking boxer, "Having a Ball at the Beach"|
It goes without saying that an event like this provides dog watching opportunities second to none. I have seen sleek Salukis slinking past my booth, and toy like Coton de Tulears (a breed with which I was previously unfamiliar) with their snow-white powder-puff coats, not to mention a Newfoundland dog the size of a pony who strode past in a stately fashion. On one trip to the coffee stand I caught sight of a graceful Afghan hound shimmering like a mirage with its coat of long, gossamer hair, and later I glimpsed what I think was a puli, a stocky little herding dog whose mop-like coat resembles Rastafarian dreadlocks. And of course there are my personal favourites: the collies. I almost walked into a post gawking at a stunning blue merle male headed for the show ring, and had the infinite pleasure of meeting a young female smooth collie (the same breed as my own Riley only with a short coat) who is in training to be a service dog.
My booth couldn't be better situated for entertainment, with a great view of an arena where dogs are performing for show visitors. I have seen dancing dogs, obedient dogs, dogs who could jump really high and others who spin, or roll over repeatedly, or slink along on their bellies on command. Some have pulled carts, some have found their way through wooden "tunnels" in search of mechanical rats, others have clambered over obstacles, and still others have simply romped around and demonstrated their good natured, playful personalities. In the "Meet the Breed" area which surrounds this ring there are plucky representatives of Scotland's terrier clans, lumbering mastiffs whose wagging tails can pack a mighty wallop, a Portugese water dog who is inseparable from the stuffed toy he totes around, and even whippets wearing fleece pyjamas, all acting as ambassadors of their respective breeds and welcoming visitors to learn more about them. Their owners aren't shy about talking about them, and their eyes light up as they describe their dogs quirks, strengths and sometimes less-desirable qualities so that anyone interested in obtaining such a dog will know what both the pleasures and pitfalls of the breed can be.
The one thing every dog has in common is the obvious joy they bring to their humans. I have heard many stories of love, loyalty and faithful companionship, from tales of ageing dachshunds to proud boastings about newly-arrived Bichon Frise puppies. The stories are told with a smile that is sometimes wistful when a departed friend is the topic, but a smile nonetheless. These canines are family. And in the way of modern families, many owners whose dogs are waiting for them at home carry their precious pups' photos on their smartphones, so I've been able to not only hear their stories but see their pictures too!
I've used my time here, when I'm not chatting with visitors, to complete this coloured-pencil portrait of my Riley (aka the Collie Princess). It's been a fine way to not only show off my own wonderful dog but she's also provided a lovely subject with which to demonstrate my skills.