You Win One You Lose a Bunch

Momservation: The only certainties in life are death, taxes and that your children will at some point embarrass you.

 ☺        ☺        ☺

You can teach a dog to fetch but you can’t make it bring it back if you’ve just thrown it in a park loaded with picnic crumbs.

This is not a fortune I pulled out of a cookie (although it should be), just a lesson I learned this weekend at our community’s Arden Bark Dog Show.

My kids were so excited to bring our 18 month old Yellow Lab, Darby, to this second annual fun-filled event with free dog toys and competitive categories like Best Tail Wagger and Best Dog Trick.

My kids ready to take the competition by storm

We had high hopes pinned to Darby’s adorableness, charm and ability to listen if you happen to have a pocket full of treats. The kids even dressed her up in anticipation of the Look Alike contest so they were all wearing one of Daddy’s blue Kyber Construction t-shirts.

At $5 a category, with my daughter Whitney, 10, as her handler, and with hopes of a blue ribbon and bragging rights Darby was entered in:

Best Tail Wagger

Owner/Dog Look Alike

Best Costume

Best Trick

Best Retriever


Whitney also entered an essay into the essay contest with the prompt: If Dogs Were Teachers, What Would They Teach?

Surveying the competition we weren’t too sure of Darby’s ability to outperform in the first four categories, but we were feeling good for her chances in the last category – she is a Labrador Retriever after all.

First, Darby was beat by a dog with no tail in the Best Tail Wagger competition. Logic would say it seemed like it should’ve been a disqualifier. But we are nothing if good sports.

Next, Darby was skunked in the Owner/Dog Look Alike. Adorable girl, adorable dog, wasn’t sure how they could lose, but the judges see what they want to see. And, apparently, a giant girl with a giant dog (Saint Bernard), both wearing tiny hats trumps cute.

Our neighbors Mark and Harley, robbed by a Saint Bernard in a silly costume in the Owner/Dog Look Alike Competition


Placed out of the ribbons in the Best Costume, but technically Darby wasn’t in a costume – it was more staging for the previous category. Plus it’s hard to beat a Great Dane in a sequined pink tutu.

Darby’s ability to sit and lay down on command was not enough to edge out a dog that could jump 7 feet into the crux of a tree for a Frisbee. Really, Border Collies should be considered professionals and not allowed to compete in amateur events.

So it came down to the Best Retriever category as our last hope for glory and to validate our invested $25.

With the competition loaded with retrievers, we planned to wow them with Darby’s training – following commands to sit, lay down, wait for throw, bring it straight back, sit and drop the ball.

The first inkling there might be a problem was the handler. On the Alpha Dog scale, Darby has always viewed Whitney as an Omega – loves her to pieces but, really, not worth listening to. Probably cause Whitney chooses to watch iCarly instead of feeding her. I offered to take over, but Whitney insisted on taking the lead.

As we waited on deck, last to go, it suddenly occurred to me this was not going to go well. I remembered the previous night we had been at Music in the Park and the grassy field had been covered with picnicking people. The retrieving ground had become a smorgasbord of dropped chips and dips.

I leaned into my friend whose Chuckit! we were going to borrow and whispered my fears, “Oh no! Darby’s going to ignore the ball and go for the food in the grass!”

She laughed the laugh of a winner, her retriever Wally just performing brilliantly. “Oh that would be great if she stopped to take a dump too!”

It was a nearly correct prediction.

Darby looking like she might actually shine in the Best Retriever competition - but doomed by snacks in the grass


Much to everyone’s entertainment, after ignoring the ball to run out and snack like a grazing cow Darby took a moment to squat – and pee. Ignoring all commands, I then had to send my son out to retrieve the ball.

Unfortunately, there was no Comic Relief category. Darby, apparently, has no prize worthy skills beyond being adorably inept.

Whitney though saved the family name and recouped our failed investment by winning first place and $50 bucks in the essay contest.

Who’s the Alpha Dog now, Darby?


  1. Chase McFadden says:

    Good job, Whitney. Must be the fab writing genes she inherited, right?

    “Really, Border Collies should be considered professionals and not allowed to compete in amateur events.” Great line.

    • kellimwheeler says:

      Thanks Chase. I like to think Whit inherited something from me besides my stubbornness.

      That dang border collie almost won the Best Retriever contest too, fetching on word commands specific toys laid out. But on the last item it retrieved a blow-up tick instead of the ball – I think he felt bad for all the actual retrievers and threw the match….

  2. says:

    Kelli, I understand the humiliation. Harry left me in the middle of the agility course to find the instructor…..clear across the park! Yes, it is about forgiveness:)

    • kellimwheeler says:

      Maybe Harry thought it was tag-team and you were supposed to finish. 🙂 A common phrase in our house for both dog and kids is, “you’re lucky you’re so cute…” Thanks for stopping by Marianne!

  3. stellaandwaffles says:

    Ah poor Darby! You can’t win them all. I, Waffles, am not very good at fetch either – so I can totally relate! But it sounds like you have a loving family and that’s what really counts.

    • kellimwheeler says:

      Thanks Waffles for the doggie support. Darby says, “If they had Best Smile, Biggest Spoiled Baby, or Best at Sniffing Out and Eating Cat Poo I would’ve walked away a winner for sure. Give Stella a high paw for me.”

Leave a Reply