The Sport in "The Old Days"

February/March 2007 Editor's Page

By Christi McDonald | February 1, 2007

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The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. — Abraham Lincoln

How have you felt the past few years about the state of the sport of showing purebred dogs? In dogs, just as in life, it is often said when discussing one topic or another that things were better in "the old days." While it is true that in some areas the sport was perhaps better 20 or 30 years ago, overall the progress that's been made in many areas outweighs any negatives that we're forced to accept. The sport of dogs is a microcosm of our larger world and in both, times change, whether we like it or not. Change ultimately brings progress, and progress benefits us and our dogs; advances in veterinary medicine, in genetic and health testing, in communication methods that have brought fanciers and breeders around the world in closer touch with one another — these are all to our advantage.

Still, change also brings challenges. Things aren't perfect, and certainly there are areas in which those of us with dogs as our common interest must be diligent. Threats of anti-dog legislation seem to increase daily, and it is our responsibility to remain aware of these threats and to support the organizations that fight poor legislation on our behalf. With the increased attention the sport and "good breeders" receive today, thanks to massively increased media attention, comes the responsibility of those who are dedicated to the sport to breed responsibly, aid in educating others about responsible dog ownership and breeding, and also to be welcoming to newcomers to the sport. More families and individuals today have households that include a dog, and with the increased demand for pets comes greater difficulty in assuring that the demand is filled responsibly and humanely. Our registering body, the American Kennel Club, is facing challenges that have been brought glaringly to light over the past several years. As a collective body, we are faced today with many questions and challenges.

I believe that the time has come for our collective body — breeders and other fanciers — to become more proactive in finding solutions to the challenges that face our sport, our dogs and our American Kennel Club. Consider for a moment the wide variety of individuals who are intimately involved in our sport, and in breeding purebred dogs; our collective group encompasses an amazing range of experience, talent and brainpower, and we would be wise to utilize those assets.

We are quick to criticize when governments or the AKC make decisions that are not to our liking, which proves that we're passionate about our dogs and our sport; at the same time, if we aren't satisfied with the decisions that are made, we must all, then, give serious attention to alternative solutions to those looming challenges. Grassroots efforts across the nation have been successful at stopping legislation unfavorable to dogs. Other sports involving purebred animals have faced challenges similar to those we see in our sport, such as declining participation in shows and decreased registrations. In the Arabian horse world breeders and fanciers took it upon themselves to create committees and organizations to seek solutions to the difficulties their organizations faced, and they are making progress toward viable solutions. We would be well-advised to do the same.

This is "our" sport, and with the wide range of talent our members possess, we are certainly capable as a group of coming up with new ideas and potential solutions among ourselves, which we can then pass on to our delegates and to AKC.

On the bright side, if you've wondered at all recently whether the sport is in capable hands, if you've wondered whether it's all worthwhile, spending some time reading this issue of Dogs in Review will no doubt persuade you of the good in our sport. Among the great reading in this issue are the interviews that DR Editor-at-Large Bo Bengtson conducted with two icons of our sport — AKC President Dennis Sprung and judge Maxine Beam; one illuminating, the other heartwarming, both truly wonderful. Sue LeMieux brings us along on her visit to what is inarguably one of the sport's most valuable treasures, the AKC Museum of the Dog, and Kerrin Winter-Churchill once again delivers a treasure of her own with the latest addition to her Great Ones series — this one of particular interest to me because Ch. Gretchenhof Columbia River was the dog I watched win Best in Show at my first-ever visit to Westminster. Our kennel visit with Bev Wanjon's Russet Leather Vizslas, a look at the past 10 years in the sport as we celebrate DR's 10th Anniversary, our coverage of the World Show in Poland and the AKC/Eukanuba National show in December, along with the always worthwhile contributions of all of our talented writers complete our 2007 Annual offering.

Mrs. Clark
The loss just before Christmas of Mrs. Clark, perhaps the most venerated individual in our sport and a very special person to Dogs in Review, is of course immeasurable. We will continue to strive to bring out the best of the sport she so loved. We look forward to a new year and to opportunities to be a forum for positive change and positive solutions for our sport.

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