I didn't know what we were getting ourselves into when my son joined 4-H CCI last October. I knew bits and pieces about the club, but was mostly concerned that CCI Training would stay the forefront for my son and Haddie.
As the months went along, and the weekly club meetings stayed true to CCI Training by our amazing Trainer, all the pieces started falling together. Some more sketchy than others, but in the end everything always seemed to work out.
Going along our year we continued to hear the excitement about the The Fair. I knew from my growing up years that Fair was about kids of 4-H showing their animals or projects in a public format, with rides and cotton candy, and scones wafting through the backdrop. It was about Showmanship, Confirmation, and Best in Show, Prize Winning achievements of each member's personal best. Ya' know, it was Charlotte's Web and "Some Pig" with gluttonous Templeton Rats running around at night.
Having spent (2) 16 hour days with driving and supporting my son and Haddie at the Fair, I can share that Fair is all about fun, laughter, friendship, and self-confidence. What a fantastic experience! No matter the final judging, my son was quickly dedicated and fired-up to be on display and educate the public on Service Dogs, working Haddie when it was their moment, caring for Haddie during their off-duty-time, and enjoying being a participant. He is already talking about Fair 2013.
I think a lot about our experience has to do with our club members and leaders. The parents stand back and let the kids work, hold responsibilities, and accountability. While there is no slacking, whining, taking short cuts, or sleeping on the job, there are no "backstage parent" (so to speak). It is just an underlying expectation we have among each other through the leadership of our leaders. Parents genuinely support and care for every child. It is hard to really put into words, other than our club truly is an amazing group of people.
Our leaders are firm, yet they expect just enough from each child to push them as individuals. They know each member, what they are capable of and raise the bar just enough to stretch them, and set them up for success. Never mind their amazing dog-handling and training skills, these leaders also have the human relations side of the story to make for a great team. We are truly grateful.
From Graduate dog to four month old puppies, our doggie team is just a bunch of cute wrapped up in wagging tails and snuggles. Oh my! They were the icing on the cake! The dogs were on tie-outs on benches for the weekend when they were not at work so the public could coo-over them. They would sleep piled on top of one another (amazing how such a short tie out can stretch into the oddest angles to get in their snuggles, but somehow they figure it out). They played games in the Ring when the events of the day were over and we were waiting for the Fair to close to go home. They walked the Fair with their vest on and practiced great Social Skills like any other day. They were the Rock Stars of the weekend.
Dogs and puppies rotated through the Pet Me Bench where Fair Goers could pet them with a Handler assisting and answering questions. Thankfully, a low rising metal gate kept the public away from the bench of dogs and members, otherwise the Barking Man would have been too close for comfort. Oh yes, we got one man who traveled up the gate, stopping in front of every dog, to Bark. Every. dog. to. bark. Sigh. Our dogs, nor members, were impressed and we all let him be. Whew.
There is something fun about parking the car only at row fifteen, walking into the Fair before the rides open and Scones are hot and ready, to set up and get the dogs in order, to scurry about changing clothes and watering/hurrying the dogs, and getting badges on for the Ring, to perform their best, to work quickly in reverse order to relax before having to start the process all over again, before going home when the Dog Barn interior lights turn off and the door is locked. There is something magnetic that gets you into bed at 11a and up the next morning at 6a to start another day at the Fair just like the day prior, but with new scurry routines and hurry up and waits.
The Fair is a unique experience to remember, and I am so thankful we know what it means to participate with our 4-H CCI Club: personal achievements, club friendships, and fun.
My next post will share the specific successes that Fair spotlighted with Team Haddie ... with thousands of pictures. Get your Java ready ... you just might need it to get through the next series of posts (thanks for reading).