Now in her fourth year as official ambassadog for Carolina Poodle Rescue, Luna often finds herself in different and unique situations. Handling something new is generally no problem for her. She’s also quite accustomed to chaos and noise–it’s just humans being humans.
But on April 20, 2018, Luna found herself in a situation brand new even for her. At Greenville Fashion Week (GFW), we represented Carolina Poodle Rescue, Auction for a Kaws, and rescued and rehomed dogs everywhere. While it was our first time at this event that wasn’t the big deal.
Luna and I are co-dependant. I’m happiest when she is with me, and she is happiest when she is with me. It works for us.
Tonight, for the first time ever, I committed to letting go of her leash.
Anyone who knows Luna knows that part of the reason she is so well behaved is because I am her rock. As long as she knows where I am, all is right in her world and she behaves beautifully. Get me out of sight and there are often problems.
Take the Harper’s Bazaar photo shoot with Reese Witherspoon. The photos were amazing and Ms. Witherspoon and Luna looked like long time BFFs. But–what you don’t know is that immediately behind Ms. Witherspoon‘s impeccably elegant pose was one dog handler (me) standing just out of lens range but fully within canine sight range so that said canine would perform as expected. As usual, my girl only had eyes for me.
For GFW, we met at the downtown Marriott. I never did get a total count but there were at least 12 dogs in the lobby, along with the normal chaos of any production. If you’ve not been backstage at a theater or at a modeling show, please let me tell you that the beauty, the poise, and the professionalism you see on stage is not going on backstage. Backstage it is bedlam. Costumes are flying. Actors are practicing. Makeup mirrors and discarded shoes litter the carpet. And in this case, there were rescue dogs, some of them straight out of their kennels or rescue situations, looking around at all the humans and going “what the heck?”
Luna took it all in, fascinated but well behaved, since she was happily just a leash length away from my side as usual. This was just another dog show. She had been groomed. She went on a long car ride and then there were people and dogs and noise. There are more people and less dogs than usual, but it still had all the flavor of a show. When she saw her beaded show leads, she knew what was coming. It was time for her to strut. Easy–we’ve done it lots.
Getting close to what we were told was start time, we did a few practice runs just like we would do at dog show.
Thirty minutes later we did a few more practice runs.
Thirty minutes after that we did a few more. The show was running late–about two hours late altogether.
The other dog handlers and I agreed in retrospect that this delay was not bad. It gave the dogs time to stop, look, and listen. Animals that had been squirmy and restless were settled down happily, either on owners’ laps or at owners’ sides. Dogs are situational. They are most comfortable when they are in situations they have been in before. This situation, odd as it was, was becoming familiar.
As usual in a production, when they call you, no matter how long the wait, you’re never quite ready. We all rushed to the holding area directly backstage, and I realized that my stomach was churning. This was the part I had been dreading. We had been given a choice: walk our own dogs or let a model walk our dogs. It would be much more effective if the professionals did their jobs. I had opted to let a model walk Luna. I realized in those few minutes before we were to go on that nobody else had ever walked Luna before. Not on a stage.
What had I been thinking?
It was too late to change now. We were suddenly surrounded by a group of young beauties, excited and eager to help the rescue dogs. The first one came to me, smiling and reaching for Luna, and I intercepted, and asked, “Do you have a dog?” She said no. I told her this one was too much for her.
The next model in line had heard the question and told me she did have dogs. In fact, she had three. Okay. There are some possibilities here. I reset Luna’s collar in the correct position for showing off her best attributes and said, “This is how you hold a show lead. You’ve seen Westminster on TV, correct?”
Her response – No.”
Me (incredulous) – “You’ve never seen a dog show on TV?”
Response – “No.”
Oh my. Summoning everything I have been told from all of my mentors and stuffing it into about 30 seconds, I showed her exactly where to put the serpentine show collar, high and just behind the ears where it would allow the model’s hand full communication with Luna in that sensitive area at just the flick of a wrist.
I showed her exactly how to give a very subtle tug –“no more than a flick of a fingernail”–if Luna dropped her head.
And then I ran. I glimpsed over my shoulder just once to see Luna peering through the crowd, trying to figure out where her dependable person had just taken off to and why she was with a stranger.
Meanwhile, I’m fighting back waves of panic. I had just handed my baby to a total stranger, a novice in dog show walking, in a room full of strangers, in downtown Greenville. What if Luna bolted? What if she pooped on the stage? What if, what if, what if?
You know what? All my stage-mother-worrying was for absolutely nothing. That lovely young model may not know dogs as well as I do, but she knows her own craft and, because she was confident in her ability to show herself well on a runway, Luna picked up on that and she showed herself well too. Dog people know that you communicate your feelings down the leash. Luna’s model communicated to her how great they both looked and Luna felt it and responded.
Waiting in the wings, I smiled when the crowd went crazy when Luna took the stage. In my opinion, she was the best model there. I was waiting just offstage where the models were exiting. Luna saw me and took the steps two at a time, then bounced into my arms which were open wide. She had done it, her first walk without me, but now it was time to reunite.
I don’t know who was happier to see who.