I thought last year was my last Pet Parade. Lisa Hightower, the person who got me involved in the first place, was stepping down as coordinator along with her associate Lesa West, whom-I refer to as Lisa-with-an-E. That way, I don’t get their names mixed up.
I was tapped to be to be the emcee for four years running, and Big Al was chosen to be one of the judges during the same stint. Al is a good judge, but I never thought myself qualified as an emcee of a Pet Parade, ‘cause I’ve never had pet. I never wanted a pet. Pets are a responsibility. I’ve got enough pressure just being responsible for me.
But, apparently, Lisa thought I’d be a good choice since I was unbiased when dealing with pets and their owners. You see, the Pet Parade is not really a parade. It’s called a parade ‘cause it sounds better. It’s really a contest that gives kids, eight and under, a chance to show off their pets. They do that by walking their dog or rabbit or goose across the stage, stopping long enough to chat with me. The kid can talk, too. In fact, it’s preferred.
The pets are judged for things like not biting, not dragging the owner across the stage, and not going ape… unless it is one. Attentiveness is a good sign. If the pet is a dog, we might throw a rubber squirrel on the stage, just to see if the canine breaks character. If it’s a cat, well, you don’t need to do anything with a cat. Cats only do stuff when they think you don’t want ‘em to.
Appearance means a lot, too. Sometimes the pets are dressed up to look like… uh, anything. I’ve seen several wiener dogs walking around in the middle of a giant bun. Not the same bun, mind you.
There have been Totos with their Dorothy owners, and Marys with “Little Lamb” dogs following ‘em. We’ve had snakes, goldfish, sand crabs and turtles. The turtles are usually no trouble at all. The sand crabs are a whole ‘nother story.
I’ve seen a black fluffy dog dressed up like a spider. I saw a rooster dressed up like a cowboy. I’ve seen attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. (I’m sorry. I seldom get an opportunity to deliver my favorite line from “Blade Runner.”
Oh, just so you know, pets are not allowed to eat other pets. Oh, it could and does happen, but when it does, it’s considered a foul. The animal will likely lose a few points for rude behavior. The judges are usually fairly strict on that.
There are three categories for pets. Large dogs, small dogs and all other creatures great and small. You ask me, there should be some limitations on that. I consider a pet to be a creature that can be controlled without a whip, gun, or a gaff. Granted, that would eliminate all cats, but my vote counted for nothing.
Fortunately, there is an age limit on Pet Parade entries. Remember? Must be under eight years old? The kid not the animal. It doesn’t matter how old the creature is as long as it’s from Earth.
The kid showing the pet is also being judged on stuff. Cuteness, good behavior, personality, not a lot of crying, knowledgeable about his/her pet.… that kind of stuff. If judges see a cool-looking St Bernard wearing a saddle, escorted on stage by a six-year-old chewing tobacco and wearing a cowboy hat, well, the kid stands a good chance of getting a blue ribbon in the large dog category
That brings up a very interesting point. The Pet Parade is not an official competition. It’s against the law to get mad at the judges… OR the emcee. None of us will be lifting an animal’s tail for a better look, nor will be peeking up its nose or at its teeth. We know these three places on an animal’s body, but we’re not professional enough to know what constitutes a good, uh… any one of those things. Besides, I don’t want anyone doing that to me, so I’ll not do it to anyone… or anything.
By the way, the fact that the kids have to be under eight-years-old seems to be a point contention among some parents. In every show I’ve, noticed kids who are obviously not the owner of the animal they’re escorting. Perhaps a neighbor or uncle or mafia figure has urged that they show a certain pet. It takes a shrewd kid to fool our judges. -- What’s your doggie’s name? – “I don’t remember.” – Okay, says here his name is Brussels. What do you feed Brussels? – “Food” – I see. How long have you had him?” – “What time ya got?”
It’s up to the judges to deduct points for that. I’m not going to intentionally embarrass any kid. For all I know, they’re just scared and can’t think in front of the old guy asking the questions.
Without question, one thing is going to be better about this Pet Parade than the others. Big Al is going to join me on stage to help with the names of the pets and kids and to keep me from stepping off stage like last year. It was an incident involving a leash tangled around my knees. Al can take care of that kind stuff.
So, don’t be the only one who misses the Pet Parade this Tuesday (April 14) at 6:00 p.m. at the Montgomery County Fair grounds. If your child has a pet to enter, you might show up 45 minutes early. Oh, and I’ll get Big Al to stay late for autographs.