This and That
Ever since I retired from a “real job,” I have too much time on my hands, and so I probably think too much (yes, there is such a thing?) about this and that. And you are who I choose to share these thoughts with. (OMG, I ended that sentence in a preposition.) So, for good or bad, here go some more random thoughts.
As I get older, it becomes more commonplace to hear of the passing of my peers. We recently lost a couple of real icons in our community, and they will surely be missed. But when we lose a young, energetic, always-smiling young woman, it hits us even harder, because it is so difficult to understand.
It made me think — and I am not saying this was the cause of the much-too-early passing of this young woman — but if someone is self-employed, as in the case of a professional handler, health insurance costs can be prohibitive. According to Ehealth, in 2020 the average national cost for health insurance was $456 for an individual and $1,152 for a family per month. Instead of the very many unsuccessful financial ventures made by the AKC, couldn’t they find a way to offer group insurance to professional handlers, judges and, perhaps, even breeders and exhibitors? Wouldn’t this be a real benefit for those who support the AKC (and without our community there is no AKC), and something to at least explore? Thank you to the pink and pearls.
Those who sometimes read my articles may remember that I was considering whether I should — or could — show my dog as a “special.” This morning, one of the “talking heads” on a sports show was talking about an old quarterback (considered by many — but not me — to be the best ever) who is not playing up to his usual standards. His comment was, “Sometimes the greats have to be dragged off the field before they are convinced that their careers are over.” All of a sudden, I thought he was talking about me and my “career” as a handler.
No, I was never the greatest, but I was pretty successful showing Irish Setters, and maybe this last trip around the ring with my own Irish was my final swan song. Trace finished his championship easily enough — in spite of this hobbling old man being at the other end of the lead for his final points. Since it is now a little more than three weeks since my last time showing him — and I can still barely walk — I think the dog gods are telling me to turn in my show lead. I remember the great Willie Mays — playing for the Mets long after he should have retired — falling and stumbling in the outfield as he ran after a ball, and definitely looking like a bumbling old man rather than one of the greatest who ever played. That was probably me during my last trip around the ring – and I was not the greatest by far. Father Time is indeed still undefeated.
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I recently judged at some shows that offered classes for Bred-by Adult and Bred-by Puppy. It made me think how important the Bred-by class used to be, and maybe this is a way to return it to prominence. In recent years, those classes have not always included the best breed representatives in the show.
A Sporting dog friend reached out with her concern and a question: “Are breeders sending their best into rings?” I quote some of her comments — and my thoughts — here.
“A comment was made to me by a long-time respected breeder that we have terrible breeders!” (I believe she was talking about one specific breed. Across the board, I think it is like anything: We have a very few excellent breeders, a decent number of fairly good breeders, and a plethora of those who put a dog and bitch together but really shouldn’t be called breeders. I think we have increased the last of these while losing the fairly good breeders because of the instant-expert syndrome.). She continued, “On further inquiry … breeders not only do not understand correct type, they also breed (only) for color.” (I would add: for coat or showmanship or improper angulation.) “Some breed to boost their champion numbers! And that is most likely why they are putting as many in the ring as they can, regardless of the quality! These days much is hidden with an over-abundance of coat! The newer breeders don’t have the mentorship or understanding of basic dog structure!” (I agree that we have more exhibitors today that do not understand their own breed’s standard, and just don’t seem to want to learn. That is why so many leave our community, blaming it all on poor judging.) “Today, we are seeing tall, rangy, slab-sided dogs! That’s not to say we don’t have some great breeders, too. Each [geographic] area seems to have different flaws and virtues. Back East, finer-boned, smaller dogs. Out West, taller and slab sides. It is, in my opinion, a breeder’s responsibility to only put the very best to the judges and for other breeders. If we don’t do this when does a breed decline?”
Although I don’t completely agree with her negative viewpoint, I do appreciate a breeder who is concerned about the direction of her breed. We all need to look into that philosophical mirror and consider her concerns. There are some kernels of truth there. Unfortunately, a respected breeder-judge said, “BBE has just become another class.”
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Are we seeing the demise of free-standing group or all-breed shows? I certainly think some of the all-breed shows that are not part of a cluster are finding it difficult to be successful or just stay afloat — and many of these are very good shows run by good people. Too many exhibitors are looking for clusters where they can show their dog five or six times for the weekend. Does anyone think about what is best for the dogs?
Yes, I have heard it said that the owner does not have to enter all the shows in the cluster. We are in an age of no self-responsibility or accountability, so too many owners think the next show is the winner, and can’t stand the thought of not having their dog in the ring. Do you think the professionals are going to leave a dog on the truck rather than show him and earn a fee? Actually, I do know some true professionals who have done exactly that, because they felt the dog needed some downtime. Kudos to them — they are the true professionals.
It is apparent that the AKC does not have the courage to do something to limit the number of shows and protect the dogs they profess to champion, so I guess we need to find a way to simply police ourselves. I encourage some of the clubs who are struggling to reach out to other clubs that are somewhat in their geographic area and try to work out a partnership. The approval of shows at the Big E proves that AKC will allow shows to be held out of the club’s assigned area.
By the way, it is not the grooming and the primping that win — that just makes it easier to judge, but we are still judging what’s under the hair and how all the parts fit in balance.
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It is well past time for the AKC to change its rule about judging approval based on distance between shows. AKC’s Rules, Policies and Guidelines for Conformation Dog Show Judges says, “You will not be approved to judge the same breed, Group or Best in Show at events within 30 days and 200 straight-line miles of each other. This conflict Policy does not apply to special attractions.” Straight-line miles is commonly referred to “as the crow flies.”
Let’s look at a hypothetical example. I don’t believe a judge would be approved to judge at a show in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and then in Kenosha, Wisconsin, within 30 days considering that these two cities are considered to be only 118 miles apart as the crow flies. Except that crow would have to fly directly across Lake Michigan. (Can crows fly that far without rest?) I don’t know how many exhibitors have motor homes or other vehicles that could go straight across that lake, and there is not a ferry. Driving around the lake, the distance would be 219 miles, so would allow the judge to be approved. It is time to update this rule to reflect how we actually live.
What do you think?