Thu, 08/13/2020 - 12:18am

More Than Just a Dog Show

Our sport is not just what we do – it is who we are.

The romantics in our dog-show family – like me – inevitably talk about the importance of dog shows as a valuable resource to help breeders determine if their program is headed in the right direction. “Dog shows are still to judge breeding stock,” we say. After all, isn’t it the goal of every breeder to produce better dogs than the two that are now being bred, and we hope to demonstrate this at the shows. “This is the reason for the existence of dog shows,” we say.

At its essence, I believe that is still true, but I think recent events have proven that dog shows mean much more to our dog community now. The past few months have certainly proven the statement, “You don’t know what you have until it is gone.”

I have no intention of addressing the all-too-obvious politics of this terrible pandemic, and how differently we all respond to it, but it is very apparent that throughout our country opinions – both sane and not so much – range from “This is just a flu” to “It’s the end of the world.” If we get beyond the unending rhetoric, we all know what the truth is. In the face of this terrible pandemic that is claiming lives and causing personal and economic turmoil, how important are our dog shows?

In our “dog world,” it is certainly disheartening and discouraging to see show after show get canceled. There is absolutely no question that the decisions made by the clubs involved were intelligent and based on health concerns as well as financial and local government issues. Each cancellation brought its own heartaches for various reasons. How did these cancellations affect the various segments of our dog community?

For professional handlers it is pretty obvious that the majority of their income depends on shows being held. Some handlers were able to survive because of their boarding, grooming or training kennels. Others were forced to take whatever jobs were available. And some simply had to make a significant dip into whatever savings they had. As the shows slowly return, the AKC is able to rehire field representatives who were furloughed due to the pandemic, so shows are important to their finances. By the way, not all reps have as yet been rehired, and if you wish to contribute to a fund that is designed to help pay for their health insurance, the link is

There is no denying that a return to some income was of significance to the professionals, but I believe it was much more than that.

Many of our senior judges augment their incomes with their earnings from dog shows. For some, this is a significant boost to their funds. But so many of our judges are in the age group that is considered to be one of the most vulnerable to Covid-19. And yet, some chose to board a plane and go judge a show. Why?

There was no shortage of owner-handlers or breeders who wanted their dogs at a show, as could be seen by how quickly entry limits were filled, and the size of the shows that did not have a limit. Certainly economics were not a factor for this group, since shows for them are a cost and not added revenue.

Even those not directly affiliated with dog shows are impacted. Dog shows are a significant contributor to many local communities. As someone who has held the position of show chairperson said, “The roots go deep with the impact of Covid-19.”

We have seen people from every segment of our dog-show community volunteering to help a show succeed – offering to do whatever is needed. Very simply, without any shows we suffer from withdrawal. For our dog-show family, shows are where we share both camaraderie and competition. It is where we share our time – both good and bad – with our friends, peers and those we care about. For those who are not members of our dog-show family, shows seem like such an unimportant event. Consider this quote by one of my favorite judges, “As I walked in the ring I became teary eyed as did many of the exhibitors, professional handlers and spectators. It was like coming back to my family after a long absence.”

I even think many of our dogs are suffering. Yes, they may be happy that their “people” are home all the time, but some of our four-footed family members also have friends at shows. Certainly some dogs enjoy shows more than others, but almost all enjoy the partnership of working with “their people” at a show (or they don't last long as “show dogs.”).

Clubs and the AKC have gone to great lengths to make our shows as safe as possible, but we all know being around a group of people – even wearing masks and using sanitizer – is not as safe as staying at home. Travelling to shows also brings with it an additional modicum of danger, yet we do it.

Why? Very simply, dog-show activity is not just what we do – it is who we are. It is a significant part of our lives, and our lives are joined by our combined love of our dogs. Let us continue to do whatever is reasonable to continue holding shows – within proper local laws and maintaining enough concern for each other to do the right thing to keep all of us as safe as possible.

What do you think?




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