Judging Puppies and a Work in Progress
This past weekend I had the distinct honor to judge the Collie Club of Alabama’s puppy match. I was honored to have hands on some lovely puppies. Even though I know the majority of the blood lines that these puppies come from and to a large extent know how these lines will develop as the puppies grow up and mature, I am obligated to judge those puppies in the ring as they are at that moment, gangly legs, knobby knees and all.
When I had my final line up in the ring for best in match, I had a smooth sable girl that I later learned had won her class a month or so before at the Collie Club of America, a rough puppy girl with lovely length of head, balance between muzzle and back skull, and a mature tri male who was in full glorious coat with such a clean head it was like touching glass when I ran my hands back on his head. I stood there and looked at these three animals and found myself wishing I could take all three animals home. I could have looked at them for hours. I finally had to pick one. I picked the lovely smooth girl.
Now, you may be asking what does judging puppies have to do with writing and a work in progress. As I said, I am obligated to judge the dogs in my ring as they are in my ring. I cannot tell myself that in another month, Puppy A’s back skull will fill in, and by the time Puppy B is eighteen months old, his muzzle will round and finish off. I have to pick what I consider to be the best puppy in the ring at that exact moment.
However, a work in progress is just that. It can be tweaked, worked around, and polished off. As a judge, there is only so much tweaking I can do with a puppy—perhaps move a foot or two so the legs are actually under the puppy, lay hands along the sides of the puppy’s skull to feel how the bone structure is under that fuzzy head—but I don’t have the luxury of a lot of time in the ring. As a writer, I know where that work should go. I have the luxury of knowing that with time and work, the plot will flesh out, the characters will round out and become finished products.
As a writer, I have the luxury of judging not only what I have produced up to this moment in a work in progress, but also what I can expect of that work in progress. Writing is a tough job, but after judging that puppy match, I think judging puppies is a lot harder.