Andy and his aunt were due to be shown in the ring by two professional handlers, Bob Forsyth and Jane Kamp, who were busy at the moment, one with an Afghan, one with a giant Schnauzer. "If the judges are slow on those dogs," said Serena, "Bob and Jane may not get through in time to handle Phoebe and Andy."
Was she nervous? "Always," she said, "but it is exciting, and the more gruesome it is the more tempting it is, somehow. Look, I've got the shakes. But my hands are so tired from grooming I think maybe I'm just musclebound. Look at this cornstarch all over—I should own stock. I don't even buy it wholesale, I go to the A & P and pick up dozens of these little boxes. They think I'm insane."
The loudspeaker screamed last call for Old English. One of the red-aproned handlers rushed up and seized Andy as Serena was washing off his nose so it would show up "large, black and capacious." The handler ran up the dark, dirty ramp, with the dog dangling like a bundle of fluff-dried laundry in his arms. We rushed after them.
Mr. Van R. was already there, his shoes white with cornstarch—he had groomed Phoebe. People crowded up to the ring. While Andy, Phoebe and five other sheepdogs waited to go in, Andy's white lead was picked up in the nick of time by a breathless Forsyth. Jane Kamp was trapped in another ring, so Phoebe had a substitute handler. Serena kept brushing at Andy, refusing to let him sit down for fear he would flatten his "petticoat" and get his heels dirty. She even took a brush swipe at Phoebe but the handler snapped, "Stop picking at her—I've got to show her." Andy yawned, then the dogs went shuffling into the ring.
The next moments were a lifetime for everyone involved with Fezziwig Kennels. The judge, like all judges, was taciturn, noncommittal, seemingly almost irritated by his great responsibility. When his time to gait came, Andy really stepped out, and Forsyth handled him beautifully, encouraging him at the turns. "You see," whispered Serena, "Bob is so good with him."
Hendrik Van Rensselaer said slowly, "In my opinion, the judge is looking mainly at movement. He seems interested in gait and likes medium-sized dogs."
In the ring Andy stood still, poised to display the excellent traits of his breed—the perfect stance, with shoulders lower than hindquarters, the contrasting pigeon-blue and snowy-white colors, the square head and broad nose, bearlike behind and general cobby look. His fringe covered his eyes, but Serena said he has heavy, long eyelashes that can lift the hair up, allowing him to see by a sort of Venetian blind effect. Phoebe went gaiting across the ring. "Foolish Phoebe," said Serena fondly. "It's time for her to puddle on the judge's shoes like she did last year. Well, not bad for Phoebe."
The judge stopped for what seemed minutes, hand on chin. He made an almost imperceptible motion toward Andy. The crowd shrieked and applauded. Serena, still in her dusty smock, gave a long, indeterminate sighing sound and showed me her sopping wet palms. People crowded around to congratulate her, as Forsyth, Andy and the judge, standing by the blue-and-white disk marked No. 1, were photographed with the Old English Sheepdog Challenge Cup, a silver punch bowl. We went downstairs and back onto the benches. The trophy was placed alongside Andy for the duration of the show.
After midnight, when it was all over, the Van Rensselaers, who had spent a small fortune in vet, entry and handling fees, in hotel bills, garaging, traveling and care of their kennels in absentia, in equipment, preparation and—as a matter of pride—an expensive program ad, drove back to New Jersey bearing $2.90 worth of purple ribbon.