dog shows

Radio Silence

Wow! I just realized that I haven’t posted anything in this blog for 3 years. I did get busy with other things and haven’t shown since RoRo finished her CH in early 2014, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t still go to shows or have opinions.

This excerpt comes from a rant I shared with a very patient friend in Texas who was musing about the decline in dog show entries, and who was wondering whether our aging demographic was a factor. I include it here, since it seems I had something to say after all.

We are part of a graying sport —- no doubt about that. Some people are retiring from breeding, but the pool of volunteers available to help put on shows is also shrinking — and along with it, it seems that AKC is demanding that clubs do more and more to attract new people without offering much support for the shrinking populations of those same clubs. (They really just care about revenue streams, but they cloak their caring in all sorts of “novice-friendly” ways.) Small local shows are going the way of the dinosaur; clubs are now forced to cluster together in order to have enough people to keep things going, and at venues that aren’t local to most of the club members.

On the other end, we have lost many new members to Xbox; dog showing is just not as interesting to younger people nowadays, especially if they don’t have a chance to get exposed to the sport through 4H or junior showmanship. It takes a commitment from parents and from kids to find (or be) mentors, keep dogs in condition, and show lots of weekends in different places — as opposed to spending them at soccer, T-ball, dance lessons, etc.

Fewer people even want to go there these days. If they do, they want to do the fun sports, like agility, where your own performance determines whether you “win” —- you can get legs and finish titles without a placement, and the judging is more objective.

Not only that, but when a single entry costs upwards of $30, people are more selective with where that $30 goes than they did when entries were $10 or less. Everything costs more, so clubs would be hard pressed to cut entry fees in order to attract people —- and you don’t see AKC turning down its cut to help stimulate the local economy.

So many of the articles critiquing dog shows and the shrinking of the sport just fall short of understanding what’s really going on. “We have to be nicer to new people!”, the headlines proclaim. “Dog show people are so snobby/mean/insular.” The truth is that there aren’t that many new people coming into the sport to be nice to (or not) — see $30 and Xbox above. Do show people have attitude problems? Some do, but there are a-holes everywhere you look, not just at dog shows. Also, with fewer people to work at shows, the folks who would normally spend time with potential new members are so flat-out busy running the show and complying with AKC’s burden of mandates that few have leisure time to talk to those mythical newbies.

“Dog shows aren’t inclusive/fun enough! You don’t offer OB/rally/agility/whatever!” is another common complaint — again, not generally coming from people who are busy volunteering. The pools of volunteers for those events are likewise shrinking, and especially among members who not only do conformation, but also do OB/rally/whatever and who are willing to give up days of showing to help run those events. The more events AKC mandates, the more people are needed to keep things running at shows, and the “extras” (such as obedience) start falling by the wayside. (Do NOT get me started about the National Owner-Handler Series and the logistics of finding enough warm bodies to run it at small shows.)

I’m happy to report that our little local cluster show in May had a slight uptick in entries this year. We offer a 4-6 Puppy special event plus the usual Best BBE/Best Veteran-type attractions, and the Golden Retrievers hold a match on one day after Best In Show. We do attract new people, and some are even brave enough to inquire after club membership — but most of them fade away when they realize that putting on an event involves WORK. People are already busy, and many just can’t/won’t commit the time and energy to helping out instead of just having fun. This spreads the work among the existing volunteers, who eventually have to drop out due to age or burnout. It’s a vicious cycle.

Dispatches from the Frickin’ Serengeti

Bearded Collie Club of Maine Regional Specialty/Supported Entry
(Ladies’ Dog Club shows)
June 1 & 2, 2013
Sweeps: 1st in 6-9. Regular Classes: 2nd  in 6-9 (Sat.) and 1st in 6-9 (Sun.)

Rowan's breeder, Laura, showed her in her 6-9 debut.

Rowan’s breeder, Laura, showed her in her 6-9 debut.

Seriously, the weather gods need to cut the good people in the Ladies’ Dog Club a break. Last year, their show took place in the midst of a monsoon. This year, the temperatures reached well into the 90s — which we haven’t seen in a regional weather forecast before or since. With the help of bazillions of bags of ice, fans, cool beds, big honkin’ tents with lots of shade, and Gatorade, we persevered…

Rowan’s breeder offered to show her in her 6-9 debut. The baby acquitted herself pretty well, for all that she was just 6 months and 4 days old on the day of the Regional. She behaved, mostly moved in one direction at a given time, and heartily enjoyed the fleece toy she won in her Sweeps class. (She also brought home a check for nine whole dollars. Now, when people ask me if we’ve ever made money at dog showing…) Her classmates in handling class and their owners would scarcely believe that the beautiful, reasonably well-behaved young lady at the shows was in any way related to the red-haired hooligan who appears in class every Thursday and navigates the ring without once touching the ground.

The kid cleans up good!

The kid cleans up good!

My friend Linda had her Havanese at the show: her newly-minted champion dog and her class bitch, and she needed an extra pair of hands in the Best of Breed ring when the girlie went WB. I ended up graduating from Havanese holder to Havanese handler. All credit is due to the dog for going BOS and BOW; I just did my part by staying upright on the other end of the lead.

Much later on, a bunch of us gathered in one room at the hotel and ordered take-out from a local Italian place. The food arrived, but without napkins, utensils, or anything else we might have used with the meal. The person who placed the order called the restaurant asking about the utensils (under the assumption that since the restaurant made plenty of deliveries to the hotel, they might bring some on the next trip). The person on the other end shouted, “BITCH!” and hung up the phone. Two hours later, a knock came on the door. It was the restaurant’s delivery guy, bearing a bag with three plastic forks inside. (There were five of us.) Can’t win ’em all, I guess. If you’re ever staying in Foxboro, call the Chinese take-out place instead. The food is great, the portions generous, and they can keep an order straight.

Regional Specialties are part dog show, part family reunion. The best part of such a show is seeing all the dogs’ family members together — puppies and their parents, littermates and half-siblings, little ones growing up, adolescents changing color, and the wonderful veterans. (I wanted to put Dinah in Veterans for the very first time, but she wasn’t in condition. Her boyfriend Traveler was there, though. His daughter Bonnie took the 5-point bitch major on Sunday. Traveler’s son Brae, who is Bonnie’s full brother from a different litter, went BOS both days.)

Thanks to everyone who came, showed, sweated, hugged their hotel-room air conditioners, and braved the local food delivery to come play with us. Particular thanks go to the kind folks who manned the club tent, the lunch buffet, and the raffle.

Now that this year’s shows are done, could we put in a requisition for partly-sunny, 65-degree weather for next year’s shows?

And… We’re Off!

York County KC of Maine (Southern Maine Coastal Classic Cluster)
May 19, 2013
Best of Breed, Beginner Puppy

rowan-gaiting-cropped

Little Rowan made her debut in the Beginner Puppy (4-Under 6 Months) ring last weekend at the local show cluster. This is my local club’s show weekend, and I was too crazy busy playing chief steward to be able to show her myself. Val offered to take her around the ring for me. (Rowan loves Auntie Val. She remembers that we’re all road-trip buddies.)

Rowan was the only Bearded Collie there, so all she really needed to do was show up and not go for anybody’s jugular — but we can now truthfully state that she went BOB her first time in the ring. She might have fared better than 5th in the Herding Group had she decided to go in one direction instead of heading toward all of the 16 compass points while gaiting… but it was her first show. We can cut her a break, and keep working in handling class. The judge got a kick out of her, Val got a kick out of her, and her buddies Storme the GSD and Darla the OES went on to get group placements (4th and 2nd), respectively. Rowan even brought her own cheering section!

Rowan even had her own cheering section!

Because Rowan will be all of 6 months and 4 days at her second dog show, this was her first and last appearance in Beginner Puppy at a show. She makes her “for reals” debut in the 6-9 Month class at Ladies’ next weekend.

A Quick PSA

Penny Cary’s Petiquette website is down, but she is about to start a new session of handling classes in Saco. Come be classmates with about half of the York County Kennel Club! Contact Penny for more information.

Return of the Newbie

It’s said — mothers of small children will have to help me with this part — that after you give birth, you gradually forget about the pain you went through. Otherwise, every mother would have only one child. I’ve felt that way about finishing Dinah sometimes — but even through the fifteen gazillion broken majors, the terrible coffee, rain, snow, dark of night, and pre-dawn alarm clock settings, we’ve had ourselves some fun. Haven’t we?

This spring, I found myself with some time at home after completing a contract assignment at the end of February. It seemed like the perfect time to stay home and raise a puppy, soooooo… before I had really grasped what was happening, it was St. Paddy’s Day, and Val and I were squinting through a snowstorm as we drove past Erie, PA with no other company but the “Les Mis” soundtrack.

P1020104

Meet Rowan (Burlesque Doing It Her Way)! She comes from our friend Laura, and was born at Laura’s mom’s house. I’ve been a fan of Rowan’s dad Bean since I saw his first show photos, and I’ve admired Rowan’s mom Leeza’s parents for ages. (Beanie also goes back to Dylan — Am/Can CH Breaksea Gone West — so he’s distantly related to Dinah and Badger.)

Rowan is currently 5 months old, and she’ll be making her ring debut in the 4-6 Month (Beginner) Puppy ring at our local cluster shows, the Southern Maine Coastal Classic. She becomes an honest-to-goodness class bitch at BCCME’s Regional Specialty on June 1, when she’ll be exactly 6 months and 4 days of age.

We’re currently practicing our ringcraft on Thursday nights with Penny Cary, the trainer and handler who helped finish Dinah’s CKC championship. We’re in good company over there; a number of my kennel-club compadres and their class dogs have joined in the fun.

Come by the show on May 19 and look for Rowan in the 4-6 Puppy ring! Auntie Val will show Rowan while I’m off playing at being Chief Steward.

About the New Newbie

We were waaaaay overdue for a move from Blogger and a site redesign. A thousand thanks go to cartoonist Michele Trifiro of Kabuki Cartoons for allowing us to use one of her hilarious works as our new site header.

If you’re on Facebook, you can visit Kabuki Cartoons’ Facebook page to see more of Michele’s works. Tell her Dog Show Newbie sent ya.

If you find that a particular cartoon really describes your dog-show experience, you can always visit Michele’s Zazzle store and order a copy of your very own, printed on apparel, drinkware or other goodies.

Every Dog is a Journey

[youtube http://youtu.be/ll1U-dpQbyU]

Couldn’t have said it any better myself. Every dog is a journey. Every ribbon is a story — even the ones the new puppy chewed up.

I hope this junior got an A+++ on this essay.

Memory Lane

Talkin’ ’bout