Backbone of the Sport

July 2012 Editor's Page

By Allan Reznik | July 1, 2012

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Everyone has heard the statistic that the average length of time someone remains in our sport is five years. During that period, they’ve dabbled in conformation, probably bred a litter, had difficulty selling the puppies and decided “I’d rather be sailing/golfing/bungee jumping” (insert your favorite bumper sticker slogan here). The rest of us are left to clean up the mess and we await the next wave of eager recruits, hoping someone of substance will stick around, give rather than take, and contribute to the sport beyond the cursed five-year mark.

In sharp contrast to the dabblers, the dilettantes, the drive-by breeder-exhibitors, we are blessed to have in our midst fanciers who are in it for the long haul. Affectionately referred to as the “lifers” by other lifers, these are the people who really do maintain an active, ongoing interest in their breeds and the sport. They remain members of their parent club, long after they’ve given up showing and breeding. They may no longer even own the breed but their interest in its welfare is as passionate as ever.

They take the time to help novices with grooming and breeding questions, in person or online through their websites, videos and posts. They accept sweepstakes assignments, work on rescue and take on club committee jobs, serving their breed and the sport at the very important grass-roots level.

Recently, in one of my breeds, we learned of the passing of a successful breeder-exhibitor, someone who rose to fame at a very young age. She was no longer active in dogs and I’m sure it’s been 20 years since most of us not in her area had heard her name. Yet when the news of her untimely death was announced, it was amazing to witness the outpouring of emotion, the sharing of memories, the quick scanning and posting online of photos depicting her dogs and wins of decades ago.

What a strong bond it is that unites us; one that makes geography, political leanings, chronological age and gender of partner instantly irrelevant. One of my favorite sayings is that I’ve reached the age when I can recite pedigrees by heart from 50 years ago, but don’t ask me if I had grapefruit for breakfast this morning or cantaloupe. All of us of that vintage, in that breed, shared a moment after hearing we’d lost one of our contemporaries.

After contributing to the sport for so many decades, it would be a wonderful thing if all these knowledgeable ladies and gentlemen chose to become judges, serving their breeds in yet another important, tangible way. We could certainly benefit from their collective expertise. Alas, not all do. Life can get in the way, or bureaucratic red tape. Not everyone chooses to judge, or write books, or travel the country giving seminars.

Many of these lifelong fanciers modestly refer to themselves as being “peripherally involved.” Smart dog people beg to differ. Dedication to the sport isn’t measured by the number of dogs you have entered in the latest show catalog. These advocates for the sport make up the fabric of our global dog-show family and help give it its remarkable strength.

 

From the July 2012 issue of Dogs In Review magazine. Purchase the July 2012 digital back issue or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs In Review magazine.

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