The Hidden Gardens Dog Show

3 Jul

This is Tallulah the Irish Wolfhound, who is seven months old and the size of a small horse. I met her while I was staying with my Internet friend Lemongrass, who lives in a converted church in a village that seems too quaint to exist outside of a novel.

The cobbled high street was closed for its annual Hidden Gardens Fayre. It was lined with stalls offering bric-a-brac, fairground games and baked goods for charity. A brass band marched between the puddles. The villagers had opened their gardens to the public, and among their herbaceous borders and goldfish ponds were ballet dancers, jazz musicians, jugglers, and trestles overflowing with strawberries and cream.  Brollies opened and closed  against the vagaries of the English Summer.

This homeopathically-proportioned dachshund is called Darla. It’s that sort of village: all the dogs have posh names.

Tallulah and Darla were on their way to the village dog show. Having never attended a dog show before, I followed them with some excitement. My first impression was of chaos. This couple below spent the whole event untangling their four dogs from everyone else’s, while their Jack Russell barked hysterically at the world at large.

Inside the show-ring, these dogs were the most well-behaved. They won several rosettes, and the collie on the right won Best in Show. The blue marl collie under the man’s legs competed against Tallulah and Darla for Best Pedigree, and won.

I loved that the show’s judging categories allowed for non-pedigrees too. Even the oldest, most fleabitten family mutt had his opportunity to shine. The category for Best Mongrel was called “Best Mixed-Breed”, because we don’t say the M-word, not in this village.

A proud day for the Best-Groomed Dog

Second Best Senior Dog

Contestant for Fastest Sitter

All contenders for Best Trick were told to “sit!”

My favourite competition was for Fastest Biscuit-Eater. Here they are lining up for their biscuit-eating race. The biscuits were laid down in lines leading away from each dog. I thought Tallulah would be a fast worker because of her size; on the other hand, Darla was closer to the ground and thus to the biscuits, which had sunk into the grass and were hard to see.

“Ready – get set – GO!”

There was a surge of total confusion. Most of the dogs did not know what the hell was going on, but got excited anyway. Some noticed the biscuits, though not necessarily their own biscuits, and ate them. Tallulah gallumphed to the far end of her line and ate her last biscuit. She was getting away from all the little yappy dogs, because, as her owner explained to me, a chihuahua had once verbally abused her. Darla wanted to be picked up because there were too many Irish wolfhounds around for her liking, so her human had to patiently pick up each biscuit and place it in Darla’s mouth.

It wasn’t clear who won this contest, but we can rest assured that all the biscuits got eaten by the end.


9 Responses to “The Hidden Gardens Dog Show”

  1. Boot July 4, 2012 at 12:00 am #

    I can’t think of anything happier looking than the Old English Sheepdog attempting the fastest sitter contest.

  2. Wazeau July 4, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    What an awesome idea for a dog show – Fastest Biscuit-Eater! Must have been a very fun day :)

  3. Molly July 4, 2012 at 1:11 am #

    I am glad that you blogged about this. I was wondering what happened at Hidden Gardens. That Irish wolfhound is gorgeous.

  4. DewiMorgan July 4, 2012 at 5:52 am #

    That… was… DELIGHTFUL! :D *hug*
    And the photos really made it. You really are a very good photo-er.

  5. brownponytail August 2, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    that looked like so much fun!
    darla is adorable!
    i just followed your blog, i love knowing im in good company with other animal obsessed people!
    it would be awesome if you would check out the posts i wrote about my three terrors (aka cats) :)

    • Snailquake August 2, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

      Hi, brownponytail! Thanks very much for following. I checked out your blog and managed to find two of your furry terrors, who are very pretty – especially Loki. I liked some of your other posts too.

  6. Adrienne March 26, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Great article, do you think some dogs are smarter than others, or do they just each have special ways about them? I read in the newspaper that you can have your pup’s IQ rated with a company that claims they can measure the genius of your hound. AS IF!!! You can read the article at and take a free Hound Communication Test while you’re there. We have a Weiner dog and a Border Collie and they definitely h ave different talents.

    • Snailquake April 12, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

      Thanks for the link. :)

      Since breeders successfully breed dogs for particular mental abilities, it makes sense that these would vary between dogs. As for smartness, I guess it’s all down to definitions. A dog can have real trouble walking through a narrow doorway with a stick in its mouth, but studies now suggest it can recognise cancer before humans or machines can.

      Some years ago, the BBC website ran a free version of an “IQ test” for dogs and cats. It tested things like problem-solving and inference skills. It was quite fun to do, and I believe the results got pooled to show general tendencies among the UK’s pet population.

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