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An Unexpected Trip

Ricky and Susan

An Unexpected Trip

I fell. Mortified, embarrassed, and looking around to see who had watched, I assessed myself. It didn’t feel like I had broken any bones. I had landed on my tail bone and had cradled my Toy Manchester in my arms till the moment of impact. It happened so fast, I didn’t have time to react except to try to protect my dog. As I began the process of painfully standing back up, I heard a voice from behind me, full of concern, ask if I was alright and did I want help getting up. Another person saw me getting to my feet and then asked if I needed any assistance. I had slipped in a puddle of water between a ring and the door. Someone had spilled the water and just left it—leaving it for me to slip on and fall.

It’s not the first time I’ve fallen at a show. A few years ago, I stepped on a raw hot dog and face planted on the floor. The fat in the uncooked hotdog on the concrete floor made my foot slide out from under me like I’d stepped on a sheet of ice.

According to data from OSHA and the Bureau of Labor Statistics, slips, trips, and falls are the most common causes of injuries in workplaces. While dog shows are a hobby for most of us, the same potential for these accidents exist at any event. Slick floors, mats that aren’t taped down or have wrinkles, uneven ground when running outdoors, tent pegs and ropes at outdoor shows, and other hazards exist for us to find them.

Slips happen because of a lack of friction or traction between your footwear and the walking surface. Trips occur when your foot strikes or hits an object, causing you to lose your balance, and falls result from a slip or a trip when a person’s center of gravity is shifted and balance is lost.

One of the most common hazards at dog shows is a wet floor. Whether a spill someone chose to walk away from instead of getting it cleaned up, a urine puddle from a dog, water dripped from bathing dogs in the tubs or sloshed over as people carry plastic tubs of water to wash their dogs on their grooming table, wet floors are a common occurrence at dog shows.

Another common hazard in grooming areas are power cords and clutter. Keep aisleways clear, and if your power cords cross an aisle they should be taped down so as not to become a tripping hazard.

The dogs themselves can also be a hazard. I was showing a brace of Vizslas once when they spied some birds and suddenly turned and lunged at them, causing me to trip over them and bust and scrape my knees. We’ve all seen dogs get under foot, tangle leashes around legs, and jump on us unexpectedly. It behooves us to keep them under control, and dogs’ leads should be kept short enough to avoid entanglement.

The most obvious problems should be the easiest to avoid, but we’ve all seen at shows how people won’t clean up behind themselves. Spilled drinks, water, dropped bait, and piles of dog poop should all be quickly cleaned up and a sign or chair placed in the way to keep people from stepping where the floor is wet. Stewards have rolls of paper towels for people to use. They also have walkie talkies to call for a clean up if a mop is needed.

To help avoid slips and falls, it is recommended that shoes with non-slip soles be worn. Many nice-looking shoes have very smooth soles and no traction or grip. When exhibiting dogs or rushing to a ring, they can be hazardous on certain surfaces. Running outside the ring should be discouraged as a person moving quickly around dogs and people might not see the hazards on the floor or obstacles in their path. When moving your dog in the ring at an indoor show, make sure both you and the dog stay on the mats. When gaiting your dogs outdoors, plan your path to avoid tent pegs and ropes and other obstacles, and be aware of potential dips or unlevel ground.

Shoes that easily slip off your feet can be hazardous as well when walking fast or running with a dog. Years ago, I had some flat shoes I thought would be perfect for dog shows, until I was running with a Vizsla and the shoes kept falling off my heels. I finally kicked them off and ran barefoot with the dog.

We talk about the many safety issues that exist at dog shows but we rarely consider the most common that occur. A fall can result in broken bones, injured and strained backs, head injuries, and bumps and bruises. We can also injure or frighten our dogs if we fall. It is up to all of us to be mindful of the potential for slips, trips, and falls as we spend our days at dog shows. It is not just the facility or show officials’ responsibility—we all must cooperatively work together to ensure a safe show for ourselves and for the other participants.