More Report Cards ...
Because the report-card game in social media pertaining to our dog-show world has been reported to me by multiple friends, this writer and former educator decided to issue report cards on those in our sport in addition to the “Judges Report Cards” already on the Internet. After all, I spent a large part of my life — 35 years —processing grades and report cards.
Thus, my attention turned to who might be the most under-appreciated individual at the dog show: the proficient ring steward. Such a person is the helpmate to the judges as well as the necessary cog in the wheel that keeps things running smoothly. Without these exceptional folks, dog shows would be totally dysfunctional.
How does the ring steward contribute so much? Let me count the ways. They can become the judge’s “new best friend” on the day simply because they get things done and enable the judge to concentrate on the dogs rather than other details of the dog show.
The A+ ring steward does it all —makes sure the right armband is on the exhibitor and in the right ring order; gets the dogs in the ring immediately; pulls the ribbons for the judge while giving out armbands and getting the next class ready; marks the steward’s book for placements and not only fishes a bottle of water out of the ice chest but wraps a paper towel around it with a rubber band!
Oh, did I mention the competent steward calls the photographer to the ring as well as clean-up when needed? No clean-up available? No problem, as the ring steward is already in action with disinfectant and paper towels and will sometimes hold the dog while the exhibitor joins the effort.
To prove just how able the great stewards are — the moving of ramps and tables back and forth is accomplished even if a ringsider is asked to provide some help. When a few absentees contribute to the judge finishing a few minutes early, the ring steward informs the adjudicator how much time they have to rest and/or take powder-room breaks.
How about when AKC contacts the judge in reference to a complaint that the book was not marked correctly? Because the ring steward left his or her card on the table, the judge can contact that helpful individual to get the markings right, as he or she had marked their steward’s book independently. Ring stewards that get frazzled in this process occasionally just copy the judge’s book —a no-no for A+ ring stewards. Bear in mind such skilled people are required to be at ringside early to get armbands out, check the ring for imperfections and put move-ups in their steward’s book.
What if an exhibitor is quite rude on the day and that individual’s bad behavior warrants a bench show committee? Or any other altercation that might take place in the ring? Ring stewards often see and/or hear more than the judge and therefore become very reliable witnesses if needed. More than one judge has thanked his/her lucky stars that the A+ ring steward was in their ring on the day something went very much wrong.
Ring stewards are also the best at telling you that you’re running late and holding up groups in such a polite and caring way, almost like family. Some of them know as much or more about dogs than the judges they are stewarding for on the day. Fact is, many have wondered why those who ring-steward at 25 or more shows a year aren’t allowed to judge some of the special-attraction groups. A fresh viewpoint is often sought by exhibitors if that special adjudicator on the day is a true dog person.
Matches once offered prospective judges opportunities to get valuable judge-training experience. In many ways, so does ring stewarding. In a column a year or so ago, I urged AKC to consider developing a method by which true dog people not interested in pursuing the rigorous requirements to become an AKC judge could be utilized.
Here are a few things that cause ring stewards to get somewhat lower grades on their report cards: Calling in classes out of order (example: calling BOB when WB hasn’t yet been judged); chatting with friends outside the ring when a class should be called in; expressing opinions in a rather loud voice about the dogs; making little effort to keep the ring clean, and in general not keeping on the job in a timely fashion.
What about shows in remote areas where Boy Scouts, PTA mothers and even prisoners have been utilized as ring stewards? Maybe for a few classes early in the morning these volunteers might be getting a D on their report card, but certainly not an F! After all, they showed up on time and displayed an eager willingness to get involved, even with some misgivings. Often by the end of the day their focus, desire to get it right and quick study abilities have moved most of them into the B area and a few even into A territory. Some have even returned the following year to willingly ring-steward again.
Life is an ongoing learning experience for all, as is ring-stewarding. Never have I known a ring steward who was a total failure. Fact is, most are definitely honor students! We need to be more appreciative of them.