Editor's Page: Catching Our Breath and counting Our Blessings

Has this year exhausted you? Have you sometimes hesitated to answer the phone, fearing there'd be yet more bad news at the other end? If so, you're not alone.

By Allan Reznik | December 18, 2013

Allan Reznik Editor

Has this year exhausted you? Have you sometimes hesitated to answer the phone, fearing there'd be yet more bad news at the other end? If so, you're not alone.

I can't remember a year in recent memory when the fancy has been bashed so mercilessly and has suffered such losses. The judges and breeder-exhibitors of towering stature who have been taken from us in 2013 leave us feeling sucker punched and terribly vulnerable. They will be missed by their families, colleagues and personal friends, but the collective knowledge of a Mike Billings, a Sandra Goose Allen, a Connie Barton, a Bill Bergum, to name four of many we've lost in a single year, weakens the fabric of our entire fancy. And recovery is slow.

People entering the sport today don't learn the way novices did a few decades ago. Back then, without personal computers, the Internet and social media, aspiring newcomers who were serious about learning the sport from the ground up found knowledgeable breeders to teach them. No one threw around terms like "mentoring," but everyone acknowledged the value of education obtained at a great breeder's knee. Benched shows facilitated the learning process. It was through this appreciation of senior breeders and the great dogs they produced, generation after generation, that novices hoped to develop an eye for a dog, a skill that would serve them well as they launched their own careers as breeders, exhibitors and, one day, perhaps as judges. It was by putting their hands on live dogs and having to explain to their teachers what they were feeling that taught them life lessons. Who could have dreamt of a time when sitting at a computer screen would be considered an acceptable substitute for hands-on examination?

Joining the local kennel club was a given. In return for the education received from more experienced club members and the social aspect of meeting fellow breeder-exhibitors, novices happily volunteered to work at their clubs' matches and shows: distributing flyers, rolling out mats, donating trophies, wielding a mop and bucket when needed, and in all ways possible trying to make club events a success.

As for their own first show dog, most accepted the concept of buying a puppy to learn on. It might be third pick from a lovely, consistent litter. After sincere novices trained and groomed that dog, made their mistakes on it and proved they were committed, they earned the right to acquire a better-quality show prospect, or perhaps a promising bitch that would produce their own first litter.

Sadly, no one apprentices anymore. I've heard too many people say they would rather be the fifth owner on a syndicated dog than "waste time" on a puppy that might or might not finish before a year of age. Forget rolling out mats. Forget matches. That only raises the question... "What matches?"

It has been a sad year of terrible losses and a bitter year of rancor directed at the AKC in particular, and the purebred dog fancy in general. We can only hope that the volatility of the judges' approval process is stabilized, for the good of the sport. In the meantime, let's be thankful for our health, our friends and most of all, our beloved dogs. It is they that make every day worthwhile.

 

From the 2014 Annual issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Purchase the 2014 Annual digital back issue with the DIR app or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine (print and digital versions).

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