A Time to Give Thanks
2021 marks the 400th anniversary of our Thanksgiving tradition. Collectively we give thanks to all the dogs and their people who have brought so much joy to our lives over the centuries and decades.
Thanksgiving represented survival to those who first celebrated it in 1621 in the New World. Half of their original numbers had either died at sea on the Mayflower or passed during the previous winter of disease and starvation. The 53 Pilgrims who survived at Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts were joined by an estimated 90 Wampanoag Indians who had assisted in their survival 400 years ago.
In our world of the dog show, the Wampanoag Kennel Club keeps the tribal name alive in its native area of Massachusetts and Rhode Island and to those of us in dogs who have enjoyed their delightful shows over the years. Because the tribe had one individual who had been captured previously and lived in Europe as a slave, Squanto spoke English. Thus, communication was possible at the first Thanksgiving celebration in America.
It is estimated that the Wampanoag people dwelled in the New England area for 12,000 years. In 1863 President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday in hopes that it would encourage Americans to come together during the terrible Civil War years. Today we still pray for that miracle to happen.
We have witnessed the miracle of surviving COVID even as we mourned the loss of loved ones in our world of dogs. We have seen dog people come together in their struggles to keep dog shows and breeding programs alive as they overcame the hardships of jumping through all the hoops to obtain venues, government approvals and support for dog shows. Just surviving the pandemic both personally and with your breeding programs speaks well for the inner strength of those in our world of the dog community.
How could we not give thanks for the remarkable efforts made by the members of the Westminster Kennel Club in 2021? Or all the dog clubs in Florida and elsewhere that revived dog shows early on in late 2020? In November of last year the shows in Doswell, Virginia, handled social distancing and COVID protocols with great aplomb. As dog show goers continue to respect mask mandates and vaccination requirements, we seem aimed in the right direction as we hopefully return to a more normal life.
How wonderful was it to see large class entries in Brooksville, Morris & Essex and the Montgomery weekend shows as well as those in Texas, Oklahoma and all over our beloved country in 2021? The recent Woofstock shows with huge quality entries for both judges and spectators to enjoy are proof of the spirit of those in dogs.
Speaking of spirit, what could be more inspiring than youth? In the case of dogs, the young Smooth Fox Terrier bitch that finished her title over Montgomery weekend is absolutely breathtaking. Another to watch as we look forward to even more accomplishments for which to give thanks is the young CA Briard. These lovely youngsters are the product of outstanding breeding programs for which we all give thanks. As the degree of difficulty continues to expand in the breeding of purebred dogs, the more we appreciate those who persevere.
And what about the young people as well as the young dogs? We all wish for more young people to participate in the ongoing work in orchestrating dog shows as well as breeding fabulous dogs to showcase at them. How about the energizing Cully Leck – a young man whose ring stewarding skills were appreciated at the recent Salisbury Maryland Kennel Club shows where he was chief ring steward on Saturday? Cully’s positive and gregarious attitude in his jobs is a joy to behold as even the dogs seem energized. Young people like him, Elliott Wentzel and others give us hope for the future.
Putting aside all the seduction of technology and events on the screen gadgets and becoming part of the actual production of these events is indeed a goal for all of us to encourage young people to seek. Afterall, the greying of the movers and shakers in kennel clubs who have toiled for years to make their dog shows and other doggy events available to the public is of concern to us all. Even as we appreciate all they have done, it behooves us to encourage more young people to become members of these clubs to protect the future.
As a kid living in Virginia, I became a member of the Tidewater Kennel Club at 14 and did a lot of small jobs on a continuing basis. By the time I graduated from college and was teaching school, my school became the site of a TKC show and yours truly a show chairman at age 23. This experience was truly valuable to my growth as a dog person. Upon moving to California, I continued my involvement in kennel clubs that lasted for decades and greatly contributed to my maturity as a dog person.
Families such as the Irish Wolfhound Souzas in California and the Norwegian Elkhound Hall family in New Hampshire are truly our first families of dogs for which we give thanks. Multi-generational dog lovers whose passion appears to be hereditary are amongst our blessings at this time of the year. There are several such familial folks out there to appreciate.
Even as we mourn cherished people and things lost to us in the past two years, it is indeed the time of the year to give thanks for what does remain and what we hope will even be more of a blessing as time goes on. Like the Pilgrims themselves, we give thanks for surviving, and at the same time honor those no longer with us by carrying on. Happy Thanksgiving to all!