After a long drive we finally arrive. I jump out of the car and stretch my legs. My nose is in the air, twitching like mad. I smell a mixture of tomato sauce, donuts and animal droppings, and it brings back fond memories. It can only mean one thing: it’s show time! Last time we were here I won a medal. I hope I can make Mum proud again.
I strain on the leash and we go to the grass so that I can relieve myself. That feels better. We make our way through the car park to the entrance. There are people and dogs mingling under the patio. A Dalmatian growls at another dog nearby, and I hear a cat hiss from inside a cage being carried by an older lady. We start shuffling in slowly. I’m a good boy and don’t bark at the girl that pulls my tail. Why do parents forget to teach their kids manners these days? I should’ve nipped her. It might have taught her a lesson.
We make it to the front of the queue and buy a ticket from the lady. She gives us directions to the main arena. We’re told our event starts in about an hour. I can’t wait to take centre stage and show off my talents.
On our way there we pass big machines that whirl and twirl with kids screaming in delight. The smells of all the different food trucks gets the better of me and I can’t help but scoff some chips off the floor. Mum tells me to leave it but they taste so good. And what’s that pink stuff? It tastes sweet but feels weird in my mouth. I’m not sure if I want to eat any more of that.
It’s pretty crowded through parts of the showgrounds, and I don’t like some of the sounds the games make: there’s pops and bangs that startle me. We pass people of all shapes and sizes, some with bright purple hair and others with tattoos and lots of piercings in their noses and ears. There are couples pushing prams loaded with show bags and giant teddies, while the kid sits on top of the dad’s shoulders. I am watching where I walk so I don't get trodden on.
I want to go and visit the farm animals in a nearby pavilion, but my mum won’t let me. Horse and cow poop is so much fun to roll in. “No dogs allowed in there,” she tells me. That’s not fair.
We weave past more people and enter the packed dog pavilion. There are people busy grooming their dogs on table tops, clipping and brushing their fur. I’m glad I only have short hair. I don’t want those clippers going anywhere near me. I’m not here for my looks anyway.
A German Shepherd dog slips out of her collar and is running here, there and everywhere, with a tennis ball in her mouth. People are darting in and out of aisles and rows of dog crates trying to catch her. Kids are screaming. We keep walking, despite the mayhem.
We stop along the edge of the arena. The best-in-show dogs are currently competing on the fake grass area. Their owners are well dressed, in suits and long skirts, putting their dogs through their paces. Who wants to watch them? Not me. I fall asleep.
A tug on my leash wakes me. It’s time to perform! We enter the arena through the gate and see two judges standing to one side, holding clipboards. They look like they mean business. I’ll have to work hard to impress them.
I’m up against a Jack Russell, who is with his mum, a tall lady with grey hair. And a Beagle, who is with a teenage boy. We take our places. "Let the talent show begin," the judges announce.
The Jack Russell starts barking loudly and jumping up at the lady’s knees. The Beagle is sniffing the floor, dragging the teenager all over the place. The soft dog bed in the centre catches my eye so I run over to it and rip it to shreds, flinging stuffing everywhere. Mum drags me away from my enjoyment, and I notice the Beagle doing a dump. I go over and eat some, then realise I’m thirsty. I forgot to have a drink when I woke up. We find a large bowl of water by the judges and I gulp it. Water dribbles from my mouth, down the trouser leg of the female judge, and it runs into her white, strappy sandal. She kicks her shoe off and I pick it up. The taste of leather excites me, tantalising my tastebuds. I lie down to chew it a bit longer. She bends down to get it off me, but my grip is too strong. We play tug of war with it, and I hear it rip. Oops. She narrows her eyes, a look of disapproval on her face, so I let it go. She tries to put it on her foot again, but the Beagle comes in and grabs it before she can.
I press my nose to the groin of the male judge, who lifts his knee to deter me. The Jack Russell comes over and nips the man’s ankle, causing him to shriek. The Beagle is barking and jumping up at its owner. I hump the Jack Russell.
“Enough!” the male judge yells. “Places, everyone.” We all move back to our starting positions.
The judges whisper to each other, consulting the notes on their clipboards. They’re taking their time to choose a worthy winner. I have a scratch, and lick my bits. The other two dogs yawn.
Finally, the female judge speaks. “The dog that showed the most talent today is...”
The male judge interrupts. “The worst behaved dog here today is...”
I bark impatiently.
“The Labrador!” He comes over and gives me a gold medal.
I won! Again! I lick the judge’s hand as he puts the medal over my head. The crowd applauds and the other contestants come over and congratulate my mum. I wag my tail so much it hurts.
In the excitement my mum drops the leash. I pick it up and put it in her lap. She connects it to her wheelchair and we leave, smiling. I’m glad I made her day.