|By Michael H. Faulkner
The weekend of March 13 through 15, I was judging in York, Pennsylvania. The York Kennel Club and Delaware County Kennel Club shows were the last shows prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the course of that weekend, and, not unlike today, there were exhibitors, judges, AKC staff, superintendents, photographers, vendors and exhibitors with mixed emotions – those who took the threat seriously and those who brushed it off as a Chinese conspiracy ... or both. On my return home, and my return to running a regional health clinic, I was immediately consumed with updates, and meetings and conferences related to the pending health crisis – Corona Virus Networking call – Slowing the Spread of Corona Virus – New Patient Paperwork During Crisis – Relief for Hospitals During Corona – COVID-19 Crisis Response Workshop – Important Housing Response for Those Impacted by Corona Virus – and in addition – my weekly Corona Virus Networking Calls.
The past five weeks have felt much more like five years. Not because I have not been able to judge a dog show or exhibit our dogs. Rather, because I have gotten up every morning – including some weekends – and gone to work in protective gear to serve those less fortunate, witnessing firsthand the seriousness of the situation. Quick to realize that without the extreme protective measures taken by local and state governments the profound effects this virus could have on our society would be devastating and perhaps everlasting. Not to mention shutting down our sport – indefinitely.
COVID-19 has impacted the sport of purebred dogs on so many levels, disrupting the lives of many who rely on the circulations of funds for survival. Whether you are a handler, dog-show photographer, superintendent, travel agent, publisher, vendor, kennel owner, groomer, AKC staff or to some extent a judge, the lack of revenue has been devastating. And when all is said and done, the recovery process will be long.
With that said, we shall recover, and to some extent, I am hopeful that we will come out of this pandemic stronger and better.
Prior to the coronavirus, the majority of us never imagined that something like this would ever take place. Nothing would singlehandedly force a shutdown across the nation. We took for granted the vast number of shows on any given weekend that filled the needs of the fancy and filled the need to frantically strive for “number one.” The end result – achieving the ultimate goal of number one in a specific breed – has been made so overpowering in each step along the way that the importance of an individual show is trivialized due to the all-consuming goal of winning points for national ratings.
It is my hope that this major shift in our lives has inspired each and every one of us to evaluate and appreciate why we breed dogs, why we show dogs, why we judge dogs. And, maybe, just maybe, during this time of quarantine, breeders will take the extra time to seriously and professionally look at their dogs, their breeding programs, and go back and study pedigrees and plan effectively for the future generations.
Judges should seriously ask themselves: Why they are doing this? And come to the realization that it is to evaluate breeding stock for the next generations, and not to judge based where an exhibit currently stands on a rating system.
Handlers commit to appreciating the sport that feeds them, and the clients who, during this crisis, made sure they were not forgotten. Superintendents treat each exhibitor and every entry with grace and respect, and everyone affiliated with AKC comes to the realization that without the knowledgeable, committed breeders we have nothing!
The future – our future – lies within them.
In the meantime, I have yet another patient for whom we can do nothing – no test is available. Go home, isolate, we will monitor you via telehealth. And if your symptoms become serious enough, we can send you to the emergency room ... along with a prayer.