CHICAGO – Pup whimper of Columbus, Ohio won the Great Lakes Puppy 2006 title this past weekend and Sir Bill of Oak Brook, Illinois got the Handler title. The difference between this contest and the other puppy contests I’ve covered? This time, yours truly, this faithful reporter, was the first runner-up for Great Lakes Puppy.
This was my first contest, period. I’ve never before had an urge to enter a contest. Plus, there’s fact that I’ve only been into puppy play for about three months. And I also happen to hate getting up on stage in front of people. So the whole experience was a surprise on many levels. However, I had a great time, even from the perspective of two feet from the floor.
If you’ve never heard about puppy play (which would be hard to believe if you’ve been reading this website for the past couple of months), it’s a bit hard to describe. At its most basic level, the puppy (in this case, me) is a person who is on all fours and acting like, well, a puppy. Crawling around on my hands and knees, barking, playing fetch, and sniffing the occasional butt. Maybe some leg humping. But it’s more than just pretending to be a golden retriever. There is actually a mindset. It is a distinctive headspace where the human puppy is going on instinct and the immediate needs of a canine. Where the only things he, or she, worries about is having fun, getting pets and snagging as many Scooby Treats as he can. He also doesn’t have full use of his hands, since pups don’t have opposable thumbs. Which is where the handler comes in. Someone has to hold the leash, after all.
This was the fourth year for the Great Lakes Puppy Contest, and the second year of it being produced by the Windy City Boys Troop. I also happen to be president of the troop and this magazine was a sponsor of the contest. So I was already pretty deeply involved in it. My Sir, who happens to be the Sir Bill who won the Handler title, and I entered the contest because they really needed contestants. Unlike me, however, Sir has been in contests before. He competed in the Mr. Chicago Leather contest last February so he had an idea of how things worked. I have been to almost every contest held in Chicago for the past four years, but I’ve never been on the inside. I had no idea what to expect.
Things started Friday night with the meet and greet. I’ve been to those before, but just as someone trying to schmooze some more content from people about things going on in the region. Now, I was actually introducing myself as a contestant and making a point to meet all the judges. Usually, I have no problem talking to people out of nowhere. You kinda have to when you report on events. But this was a time when I had to because I had to meet all the judges and anyone interested and actually represent myself as a good contestant. Not a whole lot different, but it felt awkward.
During the meet and greet, I went into puppy mode. Not the first time I’ve done it in public. But the first time with so many friends around. It was fun though. It was a side of me that most of them haven’t seen before and they seemed to like it. There was a drawback though. In pup mode, it’s kinda hard to talk. Bark, yes. Along with whimpering, growling and begging. But coherent words are another story. I saw friends that I haven’t seen on months, and all I could do was bark and wag my butt. Which these same friends thought was very amusing.
The tough part started the next morning. Well, afternoon, but that’s like morning on a Saturday. Especially when you stayed up until 2 a.m. the night before. But we showed up for the interviews and vet exam. The interviews are what you expect for a contest. Why do you want the title, what does it mean for you to be a puppy/trainer, what would you do with a title, why did you wait four years to admit you were a pup. Okay, that last one was just for me. But you get the idea. Then there were the pup vet exams. No, they didn’t stick a thermometer up my butt like they would a real dog at the vet’s office, but they did check to see how well I responded to commands and how I took having a lot of people touching me at once. Luckily, four of the five judges were good friends of mine: Jeff Willoughby, George Brown, pup fifi and Michael Daniels. Terry Brown I didn’t know as well, but we had met more than once. That and I just happen to like being touched. But the focus was how well I stayed in pup space. I’m guessing I did pretty well.
After a lunch break and nap, it was the public portion of the contest. This was the part I was really nervous about. Usually when I get on stage, my voice goes up two octaves and cracks like I’m going through puberty again. Then again, I wasn’t talking. I was barking.
There was an intro then question and answer. My question was how I let Sir know when I had to go to the boy’s room, or find a fire hydrant. Luckily, that was something we established a long time ago. I have no problem crawling on the floor and barking, but I do NOT want to be that close to a lot of bar bathrooms, thank you very much. Then we moved on to tricks. One of the other pups, devilpup, found a fugitive out in the audience by sniffing out a pair of scented handcuffs. His handler, Mistress Simone, told the “fugitive” that she expected her handcuffs back. She had uses for them later. Mine was raising me leg on the emcee of the contest, WCBT vice president boy phil. He said we’d have to talk about our pissing contest since I was now one up on him.
By this time we were all tired, especially the pups. We’d spent the better part of the day in pup mode, which is physically very demanding. Humans are not designed to walk on their hands and knees for an extended period of time. Even with the knee pads we all wore, we were in a bit of pain. But we were almost at the end. Evidently, it was a close race. I got first runner-up. I will admit I was hoping to win, but second place isn’t bad. Sir did win. And even if I don’t join him on stage, I will be going with him to the International contest. And whimper did deserve to win. He was the better puppy.
I was tired, sore and worn out at the end of everything. Did I have fun? Oh yeah. Will I compete again? Definitely, as soon as I can find a handler to join me. On stage only, of course. But it was great. And I’m looking forward to the next one. As soon as my knees recover.