The Premier event was like putting gasoline on a fire!  Rob and Indigo were a hit and Indigo earned his UKC Championship title during that weekend.  Rob was oh so ready for the BIG time now.....we call it balloon head!  He was in his groove and ready for the next big venue....Gateway Nationals at Purina Farms.  It is held the last weekend in October and is a major show on the UKC calendar.  I have to admit; Purina Farms IS an amazing place, visit or show it doesn't matter, it is a first class facility all the way. 

I had picked up another new poodle puppy at Premier, so she would be ready for her debut at Gateway Nationals.  So looked like we were planning another BIG, BIG Adventure!  We shared the news with Kay, my sister, who had come to Premier with us.  I was hoping she would join us on the Gateway event; I think the Kalamazoo or Bust was enough adventure for her.  She graciously declined.  Our friend, Kathy, who was Indigo's breeder, was happy that we would be joining her and Nicole (her daughter) at Gateway.  

Gateway Nationals is also a fun event; the UKC sponsors a costume contest and encourages people to decorate their grooming areas in a theme.  This got my artistic juices flowing......Rob and I tossed around ideas like tennis balls all of August.  We wanted to do it all!  Show, Decorate, participate in the costume parade and do Rally.  Oh and we were picking up another puppy from Kathy at the show too!  Actually.....I think we are little cuckoo! Being relatively new to this whole sport, little did we know how much that was to bite off!

The month of September was crazed!  Our son was back in school and sports, we had a new puppy, 2 poodles that needed to get ready for shows and rally obedience and I was giddy with excitement about my new 'little man", Roux.  Who I would pick up at Gateway.....yup certifiable! With all those ribbons and titles that hang on my office wall, their should be a BIG sign that says "Poodle Addict!" at least according to my son that is :)  Plus I was working on my creations for Gateway.....costumes and decorations for our grooming area!  My usually organized office had been turned into a Frankenstein Laboratory!  Fabrics strewn about, paints and cardboard mixed in with tulle and fabric fragments.....yes it was quite frightening!  I believe Rob thought, like Herr Doctor  Frankenstein he had created a monster.....only I don't have screws in my neck, nope they are just loose!

September was closing its last chapter; cool nights gave us the glories of Red, Russet and yellow leaves.  That scent of a bon fire burning somewhere in the neighborhood and dried corn stalks that rustled in the wind.  I love fall!  The colors appeal to my artistic nature, the harvest is coming to a close and sweatshirt weather is upon us.  It also meant we were oh so close to the dates of the Gateway Nationals.  Panic mode began to set in.....the peplum jacket I was making for myself with no pattern since I was creating something their wasn't a pattern for; when I tried it on was too small!  Self loathing sets in at this point......could I lose 5 pounds before Gateway? or do I just take it apart and remake it?  Being a woman, of course I would love to lose those five pounds, however practical I knew that there was no way that would happen!  Besides I eat when I'm stressed and YES, I am stressed!

The concept for the grooming display was a large 36 x 40 diorama.  Did you every make a shoe box diorama as a kid?  Well a shoe box and a 36 x 40 box are two different animals!  Great ideas sometimes take a lot of planning before they become a working model A......ask Henry Ford!  It took awhile to find the right box, painting began, then cutting out my figures and the background ...... that I gave to my hubby to create.  I still was working on the costumes and he is very artistic too, so he gladly designed our 'stage'.  He did a magical job!  Eerie and hauntingly beautiful all with the Van Gogh feeling.....I added a few touches of glow in the dark paint and VOILE' the painting was complete!  We found some strobe lighting to add to the effect and we had our diorama.  Rob was quite pleased with the effort but then dropped the bomb.....How were we going to transport it to Missouri?  My thoughts raced, 'Did I put the cart BEFORE the horse again?'  Rob measured the trailer door and we would have to un-assemble the diorama and put it together there.  Crisis resolved BEFORE I had a heart attack!

I swear that there was smoke coming out of my sewing machine the last few days before we left. That saying, "Pedal to the metal", well it certainly applied to my poor Shark sewing machine. Whirring away late into the night......good thing it can't charge overtime!

October 24th dawned.....grey skies and chilly as we loaded the last of the items; yes the diorama was one of those items, into the trailer.  Dogs in the back of the SUV, hugged our son, waved as we pulled out of the driveway.  Once again, the trailer was road bound; Missouri here we come!

My theme for our display and costumes was.....OOdles of Poodles....but of course!  I wrote a prose, read it outloud and my son put it to music that would play automatically as people passed our diorama. You can listen to it below.

Gateway Nationals was everything and more then we expected.  Perfect weather, great poodle people and showing at Purina Farms amazing indoor arena was almost as good as Madison Square Garden to us!  The days were longer then usual due to the large class sizes, rally obedience was never on time and it seemed that grooming went on and on!  

The silver lining was Roux!  He was more adorable then I ever imagined!  Kathy had also brought a couple of his siblings along for the journey.  He shared a kennel with his sister, LE and his brother, Dodge.  Poodle puppy mosh pit!  Roux,stole my heart in an instant and it's been that way ever since!  Sorry, rabbit's a picture....cute, right!

We were done showing and I was anxious to get into character.....oh the theater!  Somewhere inside of me is a Lillian Russel just bursting to be released!  We hurry down to the trailer to get ourselves into make up and get the dogs dressed......did I say dressed?  But of course its a dog show costume parade!  We get into our costumes, we'll get the dogs in theirs at the arena and make our way back to the event.  The looks we received were priceless and put us all the more into character.....that of the ghostly dead!  I have to admit at this point of the night I felt ghostly dead......I had begun another round of chemo earlier in the month the side effects were being.  I probably didn't need the white face make up because at this time I felt white as a sheet.  We enter the building to stares and fingers pointed our direction.  It would be awhile we were told until the contest would start.  'Oh Great!'  more waiting........after around 1 1/2 hours of waiting around I was done......really done in.  Rob went to tell the coordinator we were leaving and explained the situation.  I was extremely disappointed.....all those days of labor and creative endeavor!  But I really needed to lay down.  As we headed back to the trailer, out comes running the costume parade coordinator...."don't go!  We are going to start! "  Rob looked at his drooping wife and begins to decline.  I put my hand on his arm, "The show MUST go on!" I whisper with a hint of smile under white/silver lips.  

The costumes were amazing at the event.  So many people had put in much thought and effort to create their theme and carry it off.  I would not have wanted to be the judges.  After the parade around the ring, to the sound of laughter and applause the judges deliberated on their winners of 4 categories: Funnest, Scariest, Look Alike and Breed Specific.  Anyone who knows me or if you read my blogs, you know that I am a tad bit competitive......hard to believe I know. You can guess that I really wanted to win in the scary category!  The poodles did so well in their ghostly, hooded costumes and it wasn't easy to walk in those either!  But ever the Poodle spirit they did it!

It was time to announce the judges winners..........insert drum roll...................Oodles of Poodles for the Scariest Costumes!  I would have been more thrilled but I was really dead by this enthusiasm left in my bones.  We received a free photo shoot that would also be in the UKC Bloodlines magazine.  Rob scurried us over to get our picture shot so that we could get back to the trailer, get out of these hot costumes, eat and go to bed.  

As we relaxed in our lawn chairs, watching the dogs in their outdoor pen and just enjoyed the cool night air the stillness was interrupted by the sound of a farm tractor going past our trailer. Behind it was a hay rack filled with families laughing and enjoying their experience.  Suddenly as they pasted us I could hear them yelling.............................                                                                   "LOOK!  It's the OOdles of Poodles!" and applause broke out!

Hmmmm, I never did figure out how they knew that was us!

AuthorKaren Winters