Perfect Blue (Reissue of Taste of Perfection)
Fitzhenry & Whiteside - Middle GradeAmazon Barnes and Noble Indigo
The perfect show dog needs the perfect handler, and twelve-year-old Erin is ready for the challenge. But she needs a makeover, fast! An often funny, sometimes sad, story about a girl who discovers that growing up is never easy.
Recommended, New York City Public Library
Books for Teens, 2003 List
What People Are Saying
Dog lovers will learn a lot, and adolescent girls are sure to enjoy the makeover motif…the resolution is realistic and satisfying.
– School Library Journal
Sometimes I laughed and sometimes I cried. A book with a complete range of emotions!
– The Standard, St Catharines
“Assume your positions, please. Individual judging is about to begin.”
The line stretched out, with dogs and owners spaced neatly apart. The judge headed for the middle of the line - straight for Erin and Blue. He stopped in front of Blue. Blue wagged his tail but was quiet. Smiling, the judge turned to Erin. “Dog’s name, please?” he asked.
“Mr. Lavender Blue,” she answered swiftly. “From Dove Creek Kennels in Courtenay.” She knelt beside Blue. Her hand held the leash steady at his neck, and she kept her other hand behind his tail. Blue looked great! His front and hindquarters were perfectly placed, just like John had taught her. His head was forward; he held his position patiently.
The judge nodded approvingly, circled Blue and made a few comments in his book. “Very nice.” He patted Blue on the head and smiled. “I have a few questions for your handler now. You can relax for a few minutes.”
Blue wagged his tail again. Erin looked over, saw John grinning and forced herself to breathe.
“What group does Blue belong to?” the judge asked.
“The sporting group,” Erin answered promptly. “Which consists of Pointers and Setters, Retrievers and Spaniels.”
“And what are the main characteristics of your dog?”
Erin recited from memory.
“What is the difference between a golden Lab and a yellow Lab?” he asked.
Erin grinned. It was a trick question and she was prepared for it. “There’s no such thing as a golden Lab,” she replied swiftly. “There are yellow Labradors and golden Retrievers, but golden Retrievers are a separate breed.”
The judge flashed a smile. After a few more questions about breed history, temperament, and health problems, he said, “Let’s examine Blue, shall we?”
Erin bent down and the judge continued to question her. “Show me his hip, please.”
Too easy. Erin pointed again.
“How about his stifle?”
Erin hesitated. The stifle was on the leg somewhere. She ran her hand up from Blue’s foot and when she reached his hock, she remembered. “There,” she said, pointing to Blue’s knee.
“Good.” The judge nodded. “And where is his breastbone?”
His breastbone. Erin frowned. Dogs didn’t have breastbones. Or did they? She stared at Blue’s chest. What if she was wrong? “I don’t . . . ” she stopped. So she would be wrong. She had to take that chance. “Dogs don’t have breastbones,” she said.
“Well done!” the judge said with a satisfied look on his face. He turned his attention back to Blue. “Would you show me his bite, please?”
Erin froze. The mouth exam hadn’t been a sure thing. John had said some judges did it and some didn’t. Blue hated having his mouth touched. And no one could get him to open it if he didn’t want to - no one, not even John. Brushing his teeth every day had been torture.
She felt eyes on her: dogs’ eyes, peoples’ eyes, the judge’s eyes. They were waiting for her for her to issue the command. But Erin was afraid to. Blue might not obey. Then, the winning ribbon, the ribbon she and Blue had worked so hard for, wouldn’t go to him at all. It would go to some other dog.
“Well,” the judge said brightly. “Come on.”
“I. . . ” Erin opened her mouth to explain but stopped herself. John had told her over and over again that no matter what Blue did, she should never make excuses for him. Like Veronica had done for Sugar.
“Okay.” Taking a deep breath, Erin put one hand on top of Blue’s head and the other under his chin. The judge knelt down to take a close look.
Blue would not open his mouth.
Come on, Blue, Erin urged silently. We’ve come this far. Don’t blow it now! She worked his mouth with her hands.
Blue’s mouth wouldn’t still budge.
Oscar’s owner gave her a sympathetic look. Erin stared hard at Blue, willing him to open his mouth. The dog stared stubbornly back.
The judge glanced up at Erin. “Do you say something special to him?”
“Not really.” Erin squeezed the dog’s chin. “Open, Blue,” she said sternly.
Blue clenched his teeth.
Desperation powered Erin’s hands. She wedged her fingers into Blue’s mouth. “Open!” She pried his jaw apart.
Blue opened his mouth.
The judge nodded vigorously. “Very good.” He leaned over and gave his teeth a leisurely examination.
Hurry up, hurry up! Erin chanted under her breath. Before he snaps his jaw shut again.
Finally the judge straightened. “Thank you,” he said. “Walk Mr. Lavender Blue in an L pattern, please.”
Off they went. It wasn’t Blue’s best walk. He was tired. Erin was still shaking from the mouth examination. Blue went too fast in a few spots and Erin stumbled over a rock in front of the spectators.
She could squish him flat like a pancake.
Her skirt could fly into the air.
And everyone would know she was the same old klutz.
“Thank you.” The judge nodded when she returned.
She’d blown it. For sure! Erin watched the judge move on to Oscar and his owner. She paid little attention as the other dogs and their owners went through the routine of baiting, stacking, and answering questions. She was reviewing Blue’s performance. Her own performance. Maybe she hadn’t blown it. Maybe she still had a chance.
She worried over every single little detail.
She wondered where she would place.
“Please stand by,” the announcer said. “The winners will be revealed momentarily.”
Soon she would know.