It all started as a game. Sabra was showing off her acrobatic skills, after a big Sunday lunch at Terre di Conca.
As usual, a small group of people had gathered to watch her. A little man pushed his way forward and insisted that I enroll her in the upcoming dog show at Roccamonfina. (This event was part of the inaugural festivities of the Regional Park and was being held to raise money -and awareness- for a sterilization campaign in the area. Stray dogs are a major problem in Campania where they are often hit by cars, leaving them both homeless and crippled)
“But she’s not even a pure breed” I protested, secretly beaming that someone was so impressed with her.
“Non importa” he interrupted, “Nobody here has ever seen anything like this!”
You must know that Sabra loves to perform and will do just about anything for her pallina (little ball). She sits and lies down; she jumps on command, she twists, rolls over and comes to heal; she slaloms like a down-hill racer; she throws herself down slides in the playground; she will sit up and beg like a chihuahua; so long as you have her little ball in hand.
So I enrolled her in the contest and on the day of the show, as we left the villa, chef Berardino Lombardo’s parting words were: “If Sabra wins a prize I’m going to cook her a steak!” and off we went. The town’s central square had been cordoned off and a raised platform constructed for the judges. On a table to the left were the trophies, medals and statues. I pointed to a sculpture of a german shepherd that looked like Sabra and told Chiara, Berardino’s 12 year old daughter, “We’re going to win that one”.
There were alot of dogs. Pure breeds, mixed breeds and a couple of alien breeds, pathetically dressed as ballerinas, quivering in their bows and tutus. In the initial round Sabra behaved beautifully, trotting elegantly by my side and seating herself in the center of the piazza. She performed two or three commands, received her pallina and trotted back to our group. She was chosen as one of the 10 finalists.
On the second round we managed to present an “orsetto” (always a favourite, meaning ‘little bear’, where she sits up on her back haunches looking absolutely adorable, and a “rollover” which were with received many “ooh’s” and “ah’s” from the crowd.
It took the judges another half hour to make their decisions. They announced the “Best of Breed” winners and the dogs and owners were duly photographed with their trophies. Then came “Il Più Grande” (the biggest), “Il Più Piccolo” (the smallest), “il Più Carino” (the cutest), “Il Più Simpatico” (the most endearing), “Il Più Buffo” (the funniest)… It was getting dark and we had to admit that Sabra had probably not won over any hearts.
Then, just as we were starting to head back to the car, the judge announced, “And last but not least, we award the prize for “Best Show” to Sabra and her owner Signora Goldfinger!” (it’s the closest they ever get to Goldfield)
What a rush! I started to scream and jump up and down like one of those crazy ballroom-dance moms. We ran to the stage, Sabra prancing like a princess, where we recieved our prize: lo and behold, it was that german shepherd statue mounted on a thick slab of marble…
…and when Sabra got home, there was a huge steak waiting for her.