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A couple of weeks went by like that, with my relatives trying to let me down gently and me stomping about the house in a huff.
Then one day, I heard Grandad loudly saying to my uncle Bob, “Oh, how nice — a new list of categories for the dog show.”
They looked at me out of the corners of their eyes.
“Yes,” said Bob, in an equally loud voice. “A new list has been drawn up — they’ve expanded it.”
I rushed up to see the sheets spread out on the dining room table.
“Look!” My eyes shone. “There’s a ‘Tail-Wagging’ category.”
“So there is,” said Bob. “Isn’t that interesting?”
When the day came, my Mum, Grandad and two aunts took Bess to the dog show with me. Suddenly something dawned on me. “Mum,” I said. “How are we supposed to get Bess to wag her tail at the exact moment when she’s supposed to?”
Mum looked at Grandad, who looked blankly at my aunts Pat and Cathy.
“Well, I guess the other entrants are in the same boat,” Grandad said. “We could pat her and make a fuss of her.”
“That’s not the same as when she sees someone she recognizes, who she hasn’t seen for a while,” I said. “Watch.” I bent down to play with her ears and hug her neck. Bess swung her tail, of course, but not with the wild, ecstatic gyrations that happened when rushing to our front door to greet me after a day at school, not with the almost U-turns where her nose would meet her right hip then her left hip.
Pat hit on an idea. “She hasn’t seen Bob for a while,” she said. “I wonder if I could phone him at work.” She dashed off, and in a few moments returned, panting. “He’s coming, but he’s way out at the Potteries on a bicycle.”
Grandad groaned. “He’ll never get here in time.”
We waited on tenterhooks for the judges to call out the Tail-Waggers. There was a technical issue raised in the Dachshund section that took a bit of time to sort out, so that gave us a bit of a delay, but we could see that Bob just wasn’t going to make it in time.
Finally, the Waggers were called, one by one. Mr. James’s Afghan hound was first, pulled hastily onto the grass square. Mr. James was in the same predicament as us. He coddled his Henrietta, then hopped around like a bunny in front her, trying to get some sort of response. The one he got was not what he wanted. Henrietta, baffled by her owner’s peculiar behaviour, growled and bared her teeth.
When it was finally Bess’s turn, Mum and I led her into the square. I got down with a stick to play her favourite game of tug o’war, hoping that might make her tail wag. In that instant — Yes! — we heard Bob’s voice in the distance. He was calling “Beeessss.”
“Over here,” yelled my Mum.
The judges were already writing notes. Suddenly, Bob burst through the crowd and ran towards us, calling Bess’s name. Restrained by her leash, she howled in delight, and then it happened — her nose nearly hit her left hip then the right hip, on and on in rapid, ecstatic succession. Her tail resembled the blur of propellers. Bob deliberately slowed to a walk, to give the judges time to witness this phenomenon, before he knelt to hug my lovely, affectionate dog.
Bess won her winner cup — or mug, I should say. The prize was an olive-green mug with a cute, curved handle. I could not have been prouder if it had been the Stanley Cup.
Life was simpler back then. I knew my dog was going to win something. And she did.