On the Safe Side
The National Safety Council is a “non-profit public service organization promoting health and safety in the United States.” I think it is past time that we make a concentrated effort in our “dog community” to promote the same things for each other.
There is no denying that when one of us is in trouble, there is an outpouring of help and concern from others in our community. It has happened again and again. Now we need to take it a step above, and be proactive rather than reactive.
Judges, professional handlers, exhibitors and breeders often travel to shows – sometimes we go great distances – by ourselves. A fact of life is that none of us is getting younger – I certainly know that to be true – and as we get older, the possibility of injury or illness is much greater. We need to look out for each other. There have been times that a judge or exhibitor has been late or not shown up for a show, and it took a long time to find out the problem. Almost all hotels or motels will not allow anyone else into a guest’s motel room for security purposes. This is to protect privacy, but can be dangerous.
Now when I check into a hotel for a judging assignment, I have started telling the front-desk clerk to put in my record to allow the show chair (by name) into my room if there is a health concern. I also make sure that I leave information on my flights, the hotel phone number, and the show-chair phone number with my wife at home.
There was a time not long ago that another judge was not on the shuttle that was taking judges to the show. I made sure that the shuttle waited while I had the front desk call that judge’s hotel room. There was no answer. Since hotels are not supposed to give out hotel-room numbers (please make sure your friends know your room number), I finally got the desk clerk to go knock on the door. It turns out that the judge in question had not taken the shuttle because she did not start until later, and she had been in the shower when the phone rang. So, everything was fine, but it might not have been.
I suggest that our judges’ groups, or the American Kennel Club, or maybe even each individual club design a form that could be left with each hotel at check-in to allow show chairs or AKC personnel to check on a person who is late or where there is a concern. Delegates – consider bringing this to your various committees.
I am very appreciative of how well our dog-show family has responded to safety measures in view of the Covid situation. Almost without fail, everyone I have seen at shows properly wears a mask when required, and is considerate of others. I would still remind all of us that this is not over, and to please try to maintain some sensible distancing. I would also recommend that, whenever possible, each of us gets a Covid test a few days after returning from a show, and if, unfortunately, the test is positive, please notify the show chairperson so others at the show can be made aware of possible contact. And, without politicizing it, we should all be vaccinated.
Like all of you, we are also concerned with the safety of our dogs. We have a note on each of our dog’s crates stating the dog’s name, and a request that – in the event of an accident – the dog is not taken to the “pound,” but instead we give the name and phone number of someone who has agreed to be responsible if necessary. We also list the dog’s name, date of birth, and what food he has been fed. I also recommend – although I am not an attorney nor giving legal advice – that you indicate what is to be done with your dogs in the event something happens to you. This certainly should be done in your will.
I am sure we all know – and, hopefully, adhere to – the basics, such as never leave a dog unattended in a car. However, I remember a show in Texas a few years ago where an exhibitor left her dog in a van with the air conditioner going, and thought that was safe. Well, the car stalled out, and the a/c stopped. Thanks to the quick action of other exhibitors – and a great response by one who shows German Shorthairs and Dachshunds and is a veterinarian – the dog was saved … barely and luckily. Thank you, Renee. We must always be alert.
One other area concerning dog safety is simply the way we walk or hold our dogs at shows. Please do not allow your dog to sniff other dogs – not all dogs like this, nor will all react favorably. Unfortunately, the aisles between rings are often congested, so please be sure to keep your dog close and under control. Better yet, there is no need to congregate in the aisles. I understand that there is limited space when superintendents set up rings, and a little more thought to wider aisles would be a good thing. Considering the number of shows multiplied by the number of dogs shown, it is a testament to the good temperaments our breeders are producing that we do not have more incidents, but even one fight is one too many. Please be alert and never assume everything will be perfect and every other dog is as friendly as is yours.
Here’s another example of how we can look out for each other. A good friend was kind enough to send me this instance:
“At a downtown show site with a big, dark parking structure, an exhibitor was mugged. Later in the day a (brilliant) Doberman exhibitor was offering the chance to borrow a dog if you needed to walk out there. (Another) woman heard the offer and went back to get one of her own Great Danes to walk with her out to her van. Criminals don't like big dogs very much, and we can help each other.”
As is the way in the natural order of things, each year we lose judges, exhibitors or breeders who were stalwarts in our community. There is no replacing these people – some of them were definitely one-of-a-kind icons. For the health and survival of our community, others must be prepared to be our future leaders.
Is this being done? As I look at the condition of our community, I think there are a number of potential mentors available in most breeds, but the students are lacking. I do believe that “when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” So, students … show that you are ready. Find a mentor and ask to learn.
Are you truly committed to your breed? Besides showing your dog, what are you doing to “give back” to your breed and our community? If we do not have people who are willing to put in the time and effort to learn and move forward, how will our community continue? Hopefully, some day you will be the mentor. When that time comes, will you be looking for someone to whom you can pass your knowledge and passion for your breed?
There is a saying, “We cannot force someone to hear a message they are not ready to receive, but we must never underestimate the power of planting a seed.” And I think it is time for all of us to plant a seed.
However, it is not always easy – or welcomed – to plant that seed. A very successful breeder gives this example:
“… so many times, I want to approach someone with helpful knowledge, but I always stop and tell myself, shut up … they will not like you telling them they do not know what they are doing, etc. This has happened many times. Sometimes, I will be approached and asked for my help, which usually (winds up with) that person defending why they do what they do. So, what good has come of this? I have always been of the mindset [to] copy off some else's paper that is successful. Remember when we were in school, and someone would try to look over your shoulder and copy your answers because you were the smart one in the class?”
Now, how did she know I was the smart one?
“As far as keeping the dogs safe,” she continues, “I see many times, people at shows socializing rather than FOCUSING their attention on the dogs! Hey, [what is] the reason we are here? The DOGS.”
What do you think?