Somewhere in Time
One of my favorite all-time movies was “Somewhere in Time” (Jane Seymour, Christopher Reeve and Christopher Plummer, released in 1980). In this romantic fantasy, a playwright becomes fascinated by a portrait of a turn-of-the-century actress and travels back in time – through self-hypnosis – to meet and fall in love with her.
Although panned by some critics at the time (they are wrong so many times), the movie was a financial success, and has maintained a cult of fans over the years. (Count me in.) Incorporated into the movie is beautiful, dramatic, haunting theme music (the 18th variation of Sergei Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”).
The possibility of time travel has tantalized scientists for decades, and was part of Einstein’s theory of relativity, although he believed we could only travel forward – not backward. So, time travel is possible according to physics (and Sheldon).
What if we could change this a little and consider the possibility of travelling back in time instead of just forward? What would you do differently if you could travel back in time? What would you do differently in your life with dogs? What would you have others and the AKC do differently?
One of the last questions asked by Will Alexander in his excellent blog/interviews is: “If you could go back and talk to your 21-year-old self, what advice would you give him?” That made me think about me at 21 years old, the beginning of my time in this wonderful community, and how things have changed. But have they changed for the better?
One of the things missing today is the availability of match shows. They were great opportunities to train young dogs, and practice our own skills. It has been well over two years since the Covid pandemic started, and judges still hear, “Sorry, he is a covid puppy,” when a dog appears to be shy or untrained in the ring. I have no doubt that part of that is true, and wouldn’t the opportunity of match shows now be of great help? When I mentioned this to a friend – a professional handler and trainer – she said, “Seriously, you had two years at home. That is the most time anyone has had with their dogs. What a missed opportunity to train.”
I guess the first thing I would tell my 21-year-old self would be, “You are not going to be young forever, and you are not infallible. Be sure to take time for yourself and take better care of yourself.” I am sure I felt invincible at that age, but not so much anymore. I just returned to judging after having major surgery, and it made me realize how important this dog community is to me. It took me a couple of classes to get back into my timing, rhythm and my “judging mode,” and then I felt comfortable again.
One of the things I would change if I could go back in time is to use the veterinary knowledge we have today – and maybe wave a magic wand – so that the Irish I had chosen to be my foundation bitch – Ch. Bayberry Sonnet – would not develop pyometra and have to be spayed.
I would make some changes in the AKC – or at least try to – concerning how dog shows are run. I would find a way to limit the number of dog shows so that there were basically just two shows a weekend in a region or within a reasonable geographic area. I believe the proliferation and explosion of the number of dog shows has hurt the quality of the product. The over-saturation of shows requires more judges, and we wind up with some who should not be – or maybe are just not ready – to be in the center of the ring. The number of shows reduces entries at a large percentage of shows, and correspondingly eventually reduces the point scale in that region, allowing for more championship points being awarded – whether they are worthy or not. I would have the AKC ensure that judges know it is perfectly correct – and in the best interest of the breeds – to withhold points and ribbons (or weigh or measure) when necessary, and that this does not make the judge a pariah or an ass! It is called judging for quality and the betterment of the breed!
Although I thoroughly enjoy judging groups and Best in Show, I would find a way for the AKC to provide support for shows that want to stop judging at the breed level. It is incumbent upon all of us the ensure that we never forget the importance of breed judging – it is (or should be) the very foundation of what we are about. Rankings are nice and give us fodder for competition, but it should be the breed judging that is the backbone of breeding programs.
I would add an addendum to the AKC bylaws that limits the number of shows a dog may attend in a year. I realize that today’s litigious society would have someone suing – saying that this inhibits his opportunity to earn a living – but if we are truly concerned about the health and well-being of our dogs, this has to be considered. I still remember seeing a well-known handler at the Cleveland shows in December slumped over a crate. When I asked if he was OK, he responded, “I’m exhausted. I’ve been to more than 100 shows this year.” My response was, “You had a choice in that. How do you think your dogs feel?” I have previously suggested two types of shows – a “championship show” and a “basic show” (where newer judges, handlers and dogs could get started). They did this in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association so that the very talented cowboys only hit the bigger rodeos with the higher prize money, and there is a place for the rookies to cut their teeth without competing against these top cowboys.
I would change the AKC bylaws to allow “professional” judges and handlers to become delegates. This would add some very knowledgeable people to the delegate body who I don’t think would just sit back and accept whatever is proposed by “staff.”
Another change I would make would require show superintendents to schedule groups to start no later than 2 p.m. Group judging can always be moved back, but it cannot be moved forward. There are a great many shows where judges – and exhibitors – stand around for hours waiting for the group time. That is unnecessary.
I would remind my 21-year-old self to keep better records and pay attention to my judging results. I am one of those who rarely looks at a catalog after a show to see what breeding I put up. When I am done with “that class,” I move on. I really am amazed by those iconic judges who remember which dogs they put up years ago, and the breeding behind the dogs.
I know that all show superintendents are working short-handed these days, but I would remind all of them how nice it was for exhibitors when the “Foley Boys” were at the shows. These were a group of four to five mature men who met the exhibitor when she pulled in, unloaded her equipment and crates – and put them in the place they had reserved for that exhibitor. Obviously, they knew the “regulars,” and took special care of them – and were tipped accordingly.
If I could go back in time, I would prohibit all music that was written – and performed – after the 1970s. As a matter of fact, I think the music of the ’50s and ’60s is all that should be played. And, yes, I am talking about the NINETEEN sixties.
By the way, for those who get upset with our judges on a regular basis: Have you watched the referees in the basketball playoffs or home-plate umpires in baseball? I think we get it “right” a whole lot more often than they do.
What do you think?