Bo Bengtson At Large

Will FCI Rule the World?

On my bedside table right now is a book titled The Post-American World, by TV news host and Newsweek international editor Fareed Zakaria. He argues that the future global role of the United States will be diminished, but not irrelevant, because economic power is rising in the rest of the world, a phenomenon he calls the “Rise of the Rest.” He says that the current worry for the U.S. is not the rise of other countries, but the politics of stagnation and partisanship that have pervaded U.S. government over the past decades.

You can’t draw immediate parallels with our small and sometimes insulated dog world, but the similarities are obvious. We’re still leading the world in many respects, but other countries are catching up: decades of mismanagement of our sport and the failure to capitalize on the powerful love that we Americans have for our dogs means that while we will no doubt remain a major force in dogs, we may have to share that position with other countries.

This isn’t necessarily bad, as Zakaria also points out. The fact that other parts of the world are advancing means that we’ll be able to benefit from their activities. Perhaps later generations of fanciers will look to countries like India, China and Russia for inspiration, the way we today travel to Crufts or the World Show in Europe to broaden our horizons.

That won’t happen soon, of course, but the problems that the national kennel clubs in England and America are experiencing at the moment, although mostly unrelated, clearly indicate a shift in power.

Fédération Cynologique Internationale
The organization best positioned to benefit from future change is no doubt the FCI. Most American dog people recognize the acronym, which stands for Fédération Cynologique Internationale (preferably pronounced with a little Gallic flair), but few know much about it. The FCI has headquarters in Belgium, was founded in 1911 and governs international dog affairs in over 80 countries in Europe, South America and Asia. The major English-speaking dog countries — U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand — are not FCI members, however.

AKC has so far had a good relationship with the FCI — some say almost too good, in so far as AKC eagerly seeks FCI’s participation in its flagship AKC/Eukanuba show. Without FCI assistance, would there be a “World Challenge” in Long Beach, Calif., for instance? — and this competition is crucial for the show’s TV appeal and financial success.

The AKC/FCI relationship is likely to be sorely tested over China, an emerging dog country with warring factions, some of which favor the FCI system, some AKC’s. Certainly a country with 1.3 billion people ought to be allowed to decide what they want for themselves, even if it means maintaining two parallel organizations, but the FCI is not likely to accept that. Will AKC pull out and desert the Chinese supporters with whom they have initiated a productive (and lucrative) professional relationship? AKC’s Ron Menaker and David Merriam are visiting China in November; it will be interesting to hear what they have to say.

Some concern has been raised about a future in which we are dependent on the good will of the FCI. I’m not sure if this has entered anyone’s consciousness yet, but if FCI is not happy with AKC they are quite capable of prohibiting all exchange of dogs and judges between its member countries and the U.S. If you think that’s unlikely, remember what happened to Canada when FCI was not satisfied with the cooperation of the Canadian Kennel Club a while ago? (A notice on the FCI web site informs us that their ban against CKC judges is now “temporarily” lifted until Dec. 31, 2008, when it will be reconsidered.)

Unlike some others I believe that the FCI is necessary. Without them, international co-operation in dogs would be even more chaotic than it is today. However, a balance of power between a united bloc of English-speaking countries on one side and the FCI on the other would be a very sensible idea.

Of course, whether the authorities in the U.S., Canada, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand would be able to unite is a different matter...

It must mean something, and it’s probably good: four movies featuring dogs — mostly purebred dogs — will be released between now and the New Year.

“Beverly Hills Chihuahua” is already a huge box office success, having made almost $100 million in its first few weeks since opening in October. Maybe the dogs aren’t exactly show quality, but the human stars are big — Drew Barrymore, Andy Garcia, Edward James Olmos, Jamie Lee Curtis, even Plácido Domingo. It is feared that all the hype will result in more Chihuahuas at the shelters, however.

Then there’s “Bolt,” an animated family comedy about a German Shepherd on the set of his action TV show. It’s opening on Nov. 21. The much anticipated big-screen adaptation of John Grogan’s best-selling memoir “Marley & Me” opens on Christmas Day, starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson. The story is about a couple who decide to adopt a Labrador Retriever puppy to see how they might do as parents before they have children.

And coming on Jan. 13 is “Hotel for Dogs,” a family film about a pair of orphaned siblings who are forced to give up their beloved dog and turn a closed hotel into a home for strays.

The American love affair with dogs — be they Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, Labradors or whatever — continues...



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