The Zebie Show
"Hey, Sulza!" the blue Ixi called. Sulza jumped; she had been preoccupied with the field full of Zebies in front of her.
"Hi, Victorie," Sulza said, smiling at the Meridell Petpet shop-owner.
"How have you been?" Victorie leaned against the fence and gazed over her herd of grazing petpets.
"I've been great! What about you?"
"I'm good. How's little Vlad?" Victorie asked, referring to Sulza's own Zebie.
"Oh, he's the sweetest thing. Such a cutie. But he's getting so big!" Sulza spotted Brandon, then: Victorie's Tyrannian Zebie. "Still not as big as Brandon, though."
Victorie laughed. "It'll be a while before he's that big, hopefully."
Brandon saw his owner then and plodded over to the fence; Victorie reached to scratch his face.
"So what did you want to see me about today?" Sulza asked.
"Well, I know how much you like Zebies, and I wanted to tell you that there is a Zebie show coming up. I thought you might like to enter your own Zebie."
"A Zebie show?" Sulza repeated.
Victorie nodded. "Yup. It's going to be right here, in Meridell. I thought, if you were interested, I could show you everything you need to know and help you practice."
"Yeah!" Sulza said. "That'd be great! I'd love to show Vladimir."
"Excellent!" Victorie said. "How about you bring him over here tomorrow, and I'll show you how to get him ready?"
"Sure! I'll see you tomorrow!"
Sulza waved goodbye, wandering through Meridell and back towards Neopia Central.
Her Cloud Zebie, Vladimir, was waiting for her at the edge of the yard. He bleated happily when he spotted her, his little tail wagging in excitement. Sulza knelt down and opened her arms, and Vlad nearly charged into them.
"What a good boy," Sulza cooed. "Guess what? You're going to be in a show!"
Vlad bleated again, and Sulza giggled, rubbing his head. "Come on, then, let's get some dinner." She walked into the house, grabbing a slice of hay to put in the petpet room for Vlad to munch on. "You need to have lots of energy for tomorrow," Sulza told him.
The next morning, Sulza put a leash on Vlad, and after saying goodbye to her owner, Lina, they started out towards Meridell. Vlad kept on stopping to nibble at different plants, or to stare at passing Neopets and petpets, but soon, Victorie's Petpet shop was in sight.
"Hey, Victorie," Sulza called into it. "We're here."
"I'll be right out," she replied, looking over the shoulder of a customer. "You can just put Vlad in with the other Zebies, if you want."
Sulza nodded, leading Vlad out back and along the thin path. The field full of Zebies was visible just past the trees, and they all lifted their heads to look at the new petpet.
"There you go, Vlad," Sulza said, opening the gate so he could go in. The Cloud Zebie sniffed a Fire Zebie next to him, and after a moment, the two started head butting and playing.
"Well, he likes the company," Victorie said, appearing next to her.
Sulza nodded. "So, what are we going to do today?"
"I'm going to show you how to show and walk him. Here," Victorie opened the gate again, gesturing for Sulza to follow her in.
"Why don't you start with one of the trained Zebies?" Victorie said. "Then, once you get the hang of it, you can practice with your own."
Victorie led a patient Yellow Zebie over to her; the old doe blinked her beautiful eyes at Sulza. Victorie, however, took hold of Brandon.
"You'll want to hold your Zebie's collar like this, under their neck," Victorie said, demonstrating with Brandon. "You don't want to hold them too tight, but you also don't want to let their collar slip too far down. If you practice with Vlad enough, he'll get to know what you want him to do just by adding slight pressure to the collar."
She walked the Tyrannian Zebie in a quick circle, and he stopped when she gently pulled back on his collar.
"Go nice and slow, at an even pace. That will make your Zebie look more graceful. And if the judge says to stop, you can bend down and line up your Zebie's feet, like this, so that they're in a boxed formation." Again, Victorie demonstrated. "Got that?"
Sulza nodded. "I think so."
"Good. How about you try it with Angel Cake?"
Sulza pulled on the yellow Zebie's collar, and she started walking.
"Good. A little slower," Victorie instructed.
Sulza slowed down their pacing a little bit, and Angel Cake obliged.
"Now why don't you stop and set up her feet?"
Sulza bent down and did so, lining up her front and back legs.
"Set her back legs a little bit farther; that way her back doesn't look so arched."
Sulza and Victorie went over a couple more show maneuvers, and finally Victorie said, "Alright, do you want to try with Vladimir now?"
"Yes!" Sulza said. She let go of Angel Cake's collar before going to get Vlad, who was still playing with the other Zebies. She tugged on his collar, and after a moment of protest, he came with her.
Victorie watched the pair of them as they walked in a slow circle. "He's already collar trained; that's good."
"Yeah. I like taking him for walks," Sulza said.
"Try setting up his feet."
Sulza did so, and Vlad very gently put his feet back. Sulza tried setting them up again, and Vlad kicked one foot back out of position.
"Don't worry. He'll get used to you touching his feet," Victorie said.
They continued to practice for the rest of the morning, until it was obvious that Vlad didn't want to do it anymore. Sulza let go of his color and he ran off to graze.
"How about you bring him back tomorrow? I'll show you how to groom him for the show."
"Sounds good to me," Sulza said. "See you tomorrow!"
When Sulza and Vlad came back the next day, it was to a wave of Zebie hair flying in the breeze.
"What's going on?" Sulza asked.
Victorie appeared, some clippers in one hand. "I'm giving my Zebies haircuts."
"Why?" Sulza looked at the herd. Some of the Zebie's still had normal hair, but the others had shorter coats; they looked sleeker and shinier than they did yesterday.
"It allows the judge to see their conformation better. Plus, it's a good way to keep them cool during the summer heat." She started trimming again. The Zebie she was working on squirmed in annoyance, but Victorie offered it some more grain and it stayed still to eat. "We have a week until the show, so if we cut their hair now, it'll grow out slightly and appear more even on show day."
"Oh, cool! I've never even thought about giving Vlad a haircut."
"Here," Victorie said, gesturing Sulza closer. "I'll finish up this one here and show you what to do, and then you can work on Vlad."
Victorie trimmed around the Zebie's hooves and along her back. She paused when she got to her face. "Now, for the bucks, you'll want to leave the beard; it makes them look more masculine. But you shave the beards off for the does, so that they look more feminine." She carefully trimmed the beard off, and then let the Zebie go. She shook her new, shorter coat before trotting off to get a drink of water.
Sulza took the trimmers from Victorie and gave Vlad some grain to keep him still. She started trimming along his back; he cocked his head to look at her, but then continued eating grain.
"He's never had this done before, so he probably won't stand still once you get to his legs," Victorie warned.
Sulza finished the back and, very slowly, started trimming one leg. Vlad shifted away from her, and Sulza moved to adjust. After a few moments, Vlad kicked out his leg, but Sulza held it still and finished trimming. Despite his protests, Vladimir kept on eating grain.
"He's actually doing pretty well," Victorie observed. "I'll let you work on him while I take care of things in the shop. Just run and get me if you need anything."
Sulza nodded, carefully trimming away at Vlad's hair. She quickly finished his legs just as he was about done with the grain, and then she was able to convince him to stand still for the rest. Finally, she couldn't spot anywhere she hadn't trimmed, and she let him run off.
"Wow, Vlad, you're so handsome!" She squealed. "You're short coat is so cute!" She quickly brushed the stray blue-and-white Zebie fur from her arms, before going to let Victorie know that she was done.
"Good," Victorie said, standing up after attending to some Ganuthors. "I think that's pretty much everything you need to do then. Just keep practicing with Vlad at home, and it wouldn't hurt to give him a bath the night before the show. And I'll see you there!"
"That sounds great!" Sulza said. "Thanks so much!"
Sulza and Vlad went back home, and Lina looked up from something she was typing when they came in. "Welcome back! Vlad looks nice."
"Doesn't he?" Sulza gushed, picking him up. "Victorie said it'll help him in the show. And that it's good to keep him cool."
"I'm sure he'll do great," Lina replied, wiping her hair out of her face before going back to her work.
Sulza spent the rest of the week working with Vlad, training him to walk easier and handle better. The night before the show, she actually did give him a bath. Vlad jumped right into the tub; baths had been one of his favorite things ever since he was a baby. He liked the warm water and the bubbles. Sulza made sure to clean his ears and scrub the dirt off of his hooves.
The morning of the big day, Sulza and Vlad got up extra early. Sulza didn't want Vlad to get tired out or to get his hooves too dirty, so she carried him all the way to Meridell. Victorie was waiting at the entrance to her pet shop, five of her Zebies, including Brandon, on lead ropes.
"Ready to go?" Sulza asked.
"Yup!" Victorie led them to a small tent, set up near the edge of Meri Acres Farms, where other Zebies were waiting in pens. Victorie put her own in one of the corner pens, and Sulza put Vlad in a pen next to them.
"Let's go sign in," Victorie said. The judge and show secretary were at the sign-up table. Victorie entered the names of her five Zebies, and then Sulza entered Vladimir's name.
"Would you like to do Showmanship?" The show secretary asked her. Sulza looked to Victorie.
"Go ahead! It's fun. Instead of judging the Zebie, they'll judge you on how well you've cleaned your petpet and how well you show."
"Okay!" Sulza said, signing up for Showmanship as well.
"You'll want to get ready for that," Victorie said. "Showmanship is first."
Sulza nodded and ran off to check Vlad, making sure he had enough water and hay. Then she got out a brush she had brought and ran it over his coat, removing any speck of hay or dandruff she could find. Finally, they called for the Showmanship class, and Sulza led Vlad out of the pen.
At the ring, other Neopets stood, holding their Zebies by the collar. The judge, a Blue Kau, was talking to the show secretary, but finally he nodded and entered the ring, motioning for them to start doing the same.
Sulza took a deep breath and put on a smile, entering the ring with her Zebie. There were six other pets in showmanship, and Sulza worked hard to remember everything she had practiced.
The judge ran his hand over the coats of the Zebies. He picked up their hooves to check how well trimmed they were. He had them walk around the ring and stop and set up their animals.
Finally, the judge started lining them up. After he picked two Zebies, he came to Sulza.
"Bring your Zebie next in line, please," he asked.
Sulza did so, moving Vlad so that he was behind the first two. She reached down to set his feet up, and then stood straight. The judge placed the remaining pets and then stood back, examining the lineup.
After a moment, he walked forward again. "Switch these two, please," he said, pointing to Vlad and to the Zebie in front of him; Sulza and the other pet obliged, switching so that Sulza and Vlad where in second place.
The judge nodded, then went to the show secretary and took a microphone from her.
"A lovely lineup of young showmen here today. All of the animals are in great condition. In first place, the Electric Chomby with her Royal Zebie. This Zebie is just superbly groomed. There isn't a hair out of place, not in its ears or between its hooves. Furthermore, she was the quickest at setting up her animal, and the most sure in her movements. In second place, the Red Aisha with her Cloud Zebie. This Aisha was smiling nearly the whole time she was in the ring, showing a great attitude about being here today. She did all the movements correctly and has a very well groomed petpet. It was a close placing between second and third, but I moved the Cloud Zebie up one because the Normal Zebie in third had a leg out of line in that final setup..."
Sulza let out a sigh of relief – second place! And on her first show! She gave Vlad a quick affectionate pat and waited while the judge explained the rest of his placing. The show steward went down the lineup, passing out ribbons, and handed a red one to Sulza. Finally, the judge went to hand the microphone back to the show secretary and Sulza led Vladimir back out of the ring.
"Good job!" Victorie said, coming to stand next to her. "I watched the whole thing; you were great!"
"Thanks!" Sulza said. "So what happens now?"
"Now the conformation show begins. It's separated by gender and then by age. The does will go first, and then the bucks. They'll start each gender with the youngest, and then they'll bring back the first and second place winners of each gender to choose the reserve champion and grand champion. And then they'll bring in the best buck and best doe for best Zebie in show."
"So I won't have to show Vlad for a while still?" Sulza asked.
Victorie nodded. "That's right. You can put him back in his pen so he can rest. But I'm showing some does; if you want, you can help me."
"Sure!" Sulza led Vlad back to his pen, where he took a drink of water and then started eating some hay. Victorie went to her pen and brought out four of her Zebies, leaving Brandon in there alone.
"You only brought one male?" Sulza asked, taking two of the lead ropes from Victorie.
"Yup. I have yet to see a buck who has better conformation than Brandon. But with the does, it's a little more uncertain."
Victorie and Sulza waited near the edge of the ring while the judge and show secretary sorted everything out. Finally, the show secretary spoke into the microphone: "Doe kids 6 months old or younger."
Victorie tied two of the ropes to a pole. "Will you show Tuppence for me?" she asked, referring to the normal baby Zebie.
"Okay." Sulza led Tuppence into the ring while Victorie led a Custard Zebie.
The Zebie kids did not behave very well; they bleated and twisted under their owners' grips, still being young and untrained. Tuppence stood up on her hind legs twice, and Sulza did her best to keep her under control.
The judge finally lined the Zebies up; Victorie and her Custard Zebie were in first place, while Sulza and Tuppence were in fourth. They walked out of the ring, and Victorie tied the Custard Zebie to one of the ropes.
"Could you bring Tuppence back to the pen? She won't need to be shown again."
"Okay," Sulza answered. She picked up the little Zebie and carried her; it was easier than trying to walk her all that distance. Very gently, she placed her in the pen with Brandon.
Vlad saw her and bleated hello, his little tail wagging. "Hi Vlad!" she said, scratching his ears, before going back to stand with Victorie.
"My other two Zebies are in different age classes, so I don't think I need your help showing again. But I might if another one wins first," Victorie told her.
"Okay. I'm going to go sit with Vlad then." Sulza went back to the pen and climbed in, settling down next to her Cloud Zebie in the hay. It was a rather warm day, but there was a nice breeze going through the tent.
Sulza listened to the judge's announcements, which she could hear from the pen, and got up again when it was time to pick the grand and reserve champions. Victorie was standing where she had left her.
"Oh, good, I was just about to come and get you," the Blue Ixi said. "Could you show the doe kid for me? My three-year old Zebie got first in her class as well."
"Okay." Sulza took the Custard Zebie by the collar and walked into the ring. All the first-place winners from the different classes were lined up, with the second-place winners behind them. The judge circled them, then had the first-place winners walk around the ring once.
He took the microphone, and Sulza held her breath, hoping that one of Victorie's two Zebies in the lineup would win.
"For my Grand Champion Zebie doe today, I'm going with this two-year old milker," the Judge said, pointing to a very graceful Zebie Doe. "Her mammary system excels those of the other milkers in the lineup, and her topline is up-hill and smooth. If we can bring her out of line and bring the second-place two-year old forward..." the Judge motioned for the Kiko leading the petpet to stand next to him, and after a moment, the judge continued. "For my Reserve today, I'm going to have to go with the five-year old Zebie. Her general appearance is the best in the class, and her mammary system is holding up well for the number of kiddings that she has had. I applaud the rest in the line-up."
Sulza led the Custard Zebie out of the ring, and Victorie gathered the lead-ropes and led her Zebies back to the pen. "Well, two first-place ribbons. That's very good. Now it's time for the bucks."
"Should I get Vlad out now?" Sulza asked.
"I think so. His class should come up pretty quickly."
Sulza nodded and opened the pen, leading Vlad out by the collar. He gazed about at the other Zebies curiously, and Sulza brushed off some hay that had accumulated on his coat while he had been eating.
When it was time for his class, Sulza led him into the pen; three other Zebies were in as well. The Judge had them walk around the ring, then stop and set up their animals. He walked up to each petpet and ran his hand along their backs. Sulza felt a nervous rush of excitement; wouldn't it be great if she won?
Her heart jolted when the judge gestured for her and Vlad to be first in the line-up; very slowly, she led him there, then set up his feet as quickly as she could. The judge picked the second, third, and fourth places before going to get the microphone. Sulza listened intently while the show steward handed her a blue ribbon for winning first.
"Pretty easy placing here. The cloud Zebie in first has the best dairy character in the class: a nice, smooth neckline, loose and pliable skin, open ribs. He lacks in depth and width, which the second in the class has, but still being a young buck there is room for improvement in the future. Now we go to the second-in line..."
"Good job Vlad!" Sulza whispered, showing him the blue ribbon. Vlad sniffed it and opened his mouth to try and nibble on it, but Sulza kept it out of his reach.
When the class ended, Sulza waited with Vlad near the edge with Victorie and Brandon. Victorie gave her a congratulatory smile, and went back to studying the show.
Brandon's class was the very last one, and there was only one other Zebie in it. After a relatively quick round, the judge placed Brandon and Victorie first.
Then it was time for the buck-line up. Sulza led Vladimir into his first-place standing, gazing around at the other first-place Zebies.
Again, the judge circled the lineup and had the first-place winners walk around the ring. Finally, he got the microphone, and Sulza bit her lip. It would be so exciting if Vlad won champion!
"For our Grand Champion Zebie buck today, I'm going to go with this lovely Tyrannian buck at the end of the line. Just overall a very correct petpet, excellent masculinity, great dairy character and general appearance. He'll be the Grand Champion today." Victorie led Brandon forward, and the judge went on to pick the Reserve Champion. "For the Reserve, I'm going to stay in the same age class. This Glowing Zebie Buck has good General appearance, very correct feet and legs, good top-line, and he'll be the Reserve. I applaud the rest of the lineup."
Sulza felt a small trace of disappointment, but it was overwhelmed in a matter of seconds: Victorie won grand! And she herself won a blue ribbon! She hugged Vladimir and led him back to the pen, but hurried to the ring to see who would win Best Zebie in Show: the winning doe, or Brandon?
The judge took a relatively long time in this class, Sulza thought, considering there were only two Zebies in it. Victorie had a look of complete concentration on her face; her eyes never left the judge. His eyes, however, never left the two Zebies.
When he reached for the microphone, again Sulza felt a thrill of excitement. He hadn't placed them in any apparent order: either one of them could win.
"It was a wonderful opportunity to judge this show today," the Blue Kau began. "There were lots of wonderful Zebies here and it has been a pleasure to see them. However, it is time to pick the Best Zebie in Show."
He paused, and Sulza held her hands up to her face, waiting.
"Today, the Best Zebie in Show award will go to... the Tyrannian Zebie Buck!"
Sulza let out a cheer, and Victorie broke into a wide smile, patting Brandon on the back. Brandon himself watched the scene with his knowing eyes, patient and calm as ever even though all this excitement was happening around him.
The judge handed Victorie a huge purple rosette with the words "Best Zebie in Show" blazing across it. She thanked him and held the rosette next to Brandon for a few pictures.
"Congrats!" Sulza cheered when Victorie made her way towards her, and they walked back towards the pens together.
"Thanks! That was a great show."
Sulza nodded, reaching forward to pat Vladimir on the head. "Yes. It was."