Since 2016 lumbered into existence, it seems like we’re trapped in a freakin’ nightmare. Artistic geniuses are falling like flies. We’ve seen some of the worst mass shootings of all time in a period of months. Fascism is somehow on the rise at a time when Captain America movies are blockbusters. The flags seem to be perpetually at half mast, and we can’t even go to the beach because of flesh-eating bacteria. Is there anything bright to look forward to, some port in this storm?
My advice? Go to a dog show. It’s the best cure for the troubled heart I have ever seen.
Saying I was dragged to the World Series of Dog Shows at the NRG Center this week would be an exaggeration, but I also wasn’t really into the idea. My wife is an avid dog show fan, and about three times a year, she will insist we sit down and watch one. They’re engaging enough, but the whole thing is just ridiculous stuff. It’s one person after another taking how well they can pick a sex partner for their pet way too seriously while a guy with a British accent takes every opportunity he can to say the word “bitch” on midday television. That’s not really something about which I’ve ever said to myself, “Man, I got to see that up close!”
And, truth be told, watching someone judge schnauzers for 15 minutes at a time is actually slightly duller than on TV (that announcer usually has interesting historical trivia at least), but the convention that surrounds the show is a whole different story. Think about it this way…do you ever want to talk about your dog, but you’re always wondering if you’re that person who won’t shut up about his or her dog so you just err on the side of caution, leaving your dog-conversation needs less than fulfilled? Well, at a dog show, everyone wants to hear about your dog.
Dogs at these shows, whether they are competing or just accompanying their dog-obsessed spectator owners, are like cosplayers at a comic convention. Instead of snapping a quick picture with a gender-swapped Deadpool, you’re petting puppies. My family couldn’t seem to get more than a few yards down the aisles at a time before my daughter would make a new best friend that required at least ten minutes of pets and assurances that they were good boys/girls.
Theoretically, every gathering like this is a group of people who love something. Anime conventions have people who love Japanese pop culture. Horror conventions are full of gore aficionados. A dog show, though, is people who love something but who also have it love them back in a very tangible way. If you think about it, a dog show is a fan celebration of the concept of loving something other than yourself. What could be a better message now?
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It’s impossible to worry about the world being on fire when some fresh-faced and polite middle school kid asks you to vote on which novelty doghouse is the most whimsical. You can’t keep up the assumption that all humanity has been lost when there’s a row of breed-specific volunteer rescue organizations that goes off into the distance. Yes, some people give up their free time to harass black women for having the audacity to be a Ghostbuster, but others give up their time because they love border collies and want fewer of them hungry and homeless.
One of the last things my family did was drop by Pug Hearts, the Houston pug rescue. There was a little pen there, and children were encouraged to jump in and let all the hilariously flat-faced little furballs love and drool all over them. Did I mention that many of them were wearing homemade steampunk waistcoats and dresses complete with tiny hats? BECAUSE THAT WAS TOTALLY A THING!
Yes, outside right now the world is cruel and strange and hurtful. It’s also a place where people make pug hats, and I think we need reminding of that every now and then. When things are bleak, hit the dog show. You will thank me.
The World Series of Dog Shows runs through Sunday July 24 at NRG Center.