The 2021 End-of-Year Rant
As we begin to close in on the end of 2021, there are some things I want to get off my chest. Let’s start with the question, “Are we shooting ourselves in the foot with the expense of dog shows?”
An upcoming cluster charges more than $500 for almost a week of RV parking. Motorhome fans will say this is less than paying more than $100 per night at a motel. Of course, you would also have to factor in the cost of the motorhome. At any event, it is an expensive proposition just to be at these shows. Entry fees are now almost always more than $30. Add in the cost of travel, food, etc., and is it any wonder that many “outsiders” think of us as catering to the elite? Of course, we would be on the very low end of those who compete at horse shows.
I know there are many clubs that don’t want to hear this, but we simply have too many shows. How can a club exist with entries under 300 dogs – sometimes under 250? What kind of show is that? In the olden days (get off my lawn), we would have match shows this size. I am not saying that there can’t be some real quality dogs at these smaller shows – there certainly are – but wouldn’t everyone be better served if these clubs found a way to join up with another club that might result in better entries for both clubs? At the very least, there would be more helpers available.
For those who feel that judges always lean toward professional handlers (you know who you are), who are clubs attracting when they hold shows during the week? How many amateur owners can afford to take off from work to show on a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday? Yes, some people still have to live in what many consider to be the “real world.”
It gets tiring to hear judges denounced because “She put up a dog that really didn’t move well” (meaning “as well as mine”) or “The dog he put up didn’t show well at all.” When I hear things like this, I am reminded of Billy Gilbert. He was a dog photographer and a Great Dane breeder. He was asked to judge a good-size Great Dane match show. At that time the Great Dane standard assigned point values for the various aspects of the dog – so many points for the head, so many for the body, etc. – and Bill decided to judge the dogs according to the point schedule. When he got done, he said he had the worst collection of Great Danes imaginable!
Remember: We are judging the WHOLE dog – not pieces. Certainly, movement is one of those things, and it is important to show soundness, balance, proper tempo, coordination, topline and outline, but it is not the entire or only picture of the dog.
You are probably tired of hearing me say that “judging is a trade-off of many things,” but it is the truth and should be that way. I also think that trade-offs are different if the breed I am judging is one of my own. For example, I might put more weight on a strong underjaw on a retriever than someone who has not worked with – or grown up with – retrievers. “Breed judges” look more at nuances – which are very important in distinguishing the quality in a breed – than do all-breed or group judges. Learn your judges to know which dog to show that judge.
As I write this, I am preparing to have a minor surgical procedure done. By the way, do you know what a “minor” surgical procedure is? It is something that is done to someone else – not me! Anyway, as with The Man of La Mancha, these are the times that makes us look into the mirror and come face to face with our mortality. This once again drove home the point of how many wonderful people I have in my life who would not be there if it had not been for my dogs. I have visited countries that I never would have seen without the international dog-show community. I have met people who have become my friends – many of whom I love – who I would not have even known if not for our dog shows. I have learned – and continue to learn – anatomy, structure and balance (in life and in our dogs), which would not have been part of my life without our dog-show community.
Most of all, I have had the true privilege of living my life with dogs as a major part of it. Who could ask for more than that? Each dog has his own personality, and yet, in toto all have shown what love and devotion is all about. And one by one I have learned the pain of losing one I love, and how their memory often haunts me. I have learned to appreciate and love our dogs while we are together.
During the past few years, the morality of our country seems to have fallen to a new low. For too many, hate and the desire for power have infiltrated the very fiber of the American psyche. Health and lives have been threatened – and continue to be – by politics and ignorance. And there is no such thing as taking personal responsibility.
Although the dog-show community has been able to remain apart from most of this, the question of personal responsibility sometimes rears its head even in our lives. It is easier to just blame the judge for so many reasons: “He only puts up professionals, doesn’t like owner-handlers, doesn’t watch movement, only wants movement, doesn’t know the standard, etc.,” when your dog does not win. How many people can – and do – look at their own dog and the competition with a critical, unbiased eye? How many really understand the standard of their breed and can interpret it in a living specimen? Heck, how many have even read the standard? How many care? How many want the best breed representative to win – or is it just their own dog that should win? Does what is best for our breed ever enter their thoughts?
Yes, in many ways we are “a breed apart,” but sometimes desire and ambition override sacrifice, common sense and what is best for all of us – and our dogs. There may be those who simply are “Me People,” but, thankfully, there are many more who care about what is right, look out for each other, care about our community and the betterment of our dogs. I am privileged to know many who can – and do – look at the competition with clear eyes, and want the best dog to win. This is what keeps us above the fray. It is these people who desire to raise the bar rather than have us lower it to the least common denominator. These are the people who will keep our community together. Are you one of them?
What do you think?