Several years ago, I wrote a column for The Barker, the magazine of The Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America under the title of The Curmudgeon's Corner. I've decided to revive the title and use it as the title for a series of ramblings on the web page of Let'sDiscussJudging. I'm not sure that there will be any musings of great note but there will be some observations that a few may agree with; many will disagree with.hopefully, not too violently!
My time in the show ring is now spent in the center of the ring as a judge. While I co-own a couple of Collies and remain interested in breeding, my age, physical condition, living arrangements, and income have all combined to put the active exhibiting of dogs behind me. Do I miss it? More than I would like to admit. Do I miss the work and responsibility of having several dogs and the constant planning and responsibility for future generations? Not really. In my old age I have become lazy. I enjoy the judging as I get to enjoy the dogs and permit others to engage in the work!
Where are we on today's show scene? In the U.S.A., we have an abundance of shows. It is not uncommon, if you live in or near one of the population centers of this country, to have you choice of up to a half dozen shows on a given weekend. All of the half dozen or so shows are within "reasonable" driving distances from the population centers. I place reasonable in quotes because what is reasonable in one section of the USA may be outlandish in other regions. For example, in the Southwestern and Mountain States of the West, a six-hour drive to a show is often considered almost a local show. In the populous East Coast or much of the Mid-West, six hours is pushing the limit. If you live in the Miami-Ft. Lauderdale area of Florida, it'll take you about five hours just to get out of the State. So what's reasonable in one State could well be outlandish in another State.
But with the proliferation of shows, we have seen entries drop, particularly in Specialty Shows. In Collies, for example, I can remember Specialty Shows often reaching the 100+ mark. Today if we get 50 entries, it is considered a successful show. There have been some Collie Specialties in the last couple of years where the total entry may have been only one or two points in one sex and the only hope for a major is by going Best of Winners. It's not uncommon for an exhibitor to have their choice of two or three Specialty shows on a given weekend. With the resulting dilution of entries in all of the shows.
What should we do about this situation? Should we limit the number of shows permitted under AKC Rules? Is the 200-mile limit a reasonable limit in today's transportation world? Should we extend the limit so that no shows may be held closer than 400 or 500 miles on the same weekend? Should we say to the clubs that they might have only one show per year? Should the Clubs be required to hold one show and one match each year rather than two shows?
I don't have an answer that I can readily offer, but I would like you to think about it and offer your opinion on Let'sDiscussJudging.
And while we're discussing matches, it is becoming increasingly difficult in some parts of the country to find matches. They're sure money losers for most clubs. But how are we supposed to train puppies, socialize them, get them used to the show scene? [We won't even discuss at this point the attitude of some judges towards "untrained" puppies.] Sure, there are "training classes" available in some areas but certainly not in all areas. And how are we supposed to train future judges if they can't have successful match experiences?
Think about the points made. What suggestions do you have to help overcome some of the difficulties we now face with shows and low entries? It there a way out? Can the problem be corrected or is it simply a new condition with which we must live?
If you practice one of "The Professions", be it physician, attorney, accountant, or teacher you face a requirement of "continuing education" to stay current in your field and maintain license requirements. The same is true in many other occupations. It's a requirement for real estate brokers, salesmen, appraisers, as well as insurance agents, underwriters, and a host of other occupations.
Should "continuing education" be required for judges? Not a new question and many exhibitors will be surprised to learn that many, if not most, judges continue their education well after they are granted their approval to adjudicate in the ring. Many attend National Club Shows and the Judges' Education Seminars for other then their own breed, read books on their own and other breeds, attend AKC seminars, and many attend monthly judge's association meetings where various breeds are spotlighted. Truly for many judges education never ceases.
But what about breeder/exhibitors? How many maintain a program of continuing education in their breeds and/or dogs in general? Is the extent of your on-going education attendance at a monthly Kennel Club meeting? Do you read your National Clubs publications? What was the last book you read that dealt with some aspect of the sport of dogs? Have you searched the Internet for specific subjects such as genetics, canine diseases, or structure?
Are you aware of what is available on the Internet? What a source of information! Use Google or one of the other search engines and just type in the name of your breed. Mostly likely hundreds of hits will come up. Go through the list and open those sites that look interesting. But remember if you open breeder web pages, you may want to use a grain of salt on what is said. But most, or at least, many breeder web pages will have links..and what a treasure some of the lists of links turn out to be!
For example, I found an interesting page on Cornell University's web site. Take the time to look at what they offer for pet owners..and it's free! Go to: http://www.vet.cornell.edu/services/owners.htm
When I went to Google and typed in the word "Collies", I had 2,370,000 hits! Have by no means gone through them all, but certainly have gone through many. Some excellent sites and what a great way to bring myself up to date on the latest developments within the breed both from what is happening with exhibitors to what is happening in the scientific community. Again, a caution, some of the breeder pages are flashy but without much substance and some give actual misinformation. But there are some that give links that are worth their weight in gold. One of the Collie breeders' WebPages that I highly recommend is Gayle Kaye's Chelsea Collie site. It gives a wealth of information and the links are wonderful. You can reach this site at www.chelseacollies.com
Each of you has access to the Internet (or you wouldn't be reading this!). When I typed in "Books on Dogs" at Google, I had 14,300,000 hits! Azawakh Hounds returned 61,800 hits! Good Folks there is a wealth of information available to you if you look for it.
Obviously, none of us can afford to buy all of the books we want and/or should read. So, a couple of suggestions. One, try a book exchange that will permit you to exchange a book you have read and feel no need to keep in your library for a book you wish to read. They, too, are available on Google. Or find a book you want to read and go to your public library and ask for it. Okay, so you live in a small town and the library is limited. But I'm willing to bet that your library belongs to an association that permits interlibrary borrowings. Most libraries can borrow books from other libraries and in turn lend them to you. And it doesn't cost you anything or perhaps no more than the postage to receive and return the book. Some of us are lucky and can go to major libraries (I have the Library of Congress available to me!)
Do you attend seminars that are offered in your area or at show you may attend. An excellent way to receive information. From handling information to breeding information to grooming information. And usually at a minimum or no cost.
If you are to be successful in the sport of dogs, you MUST continue your education. To stop growing in your knowledge is a sure method of failing in the sport. So many folks will tell you that they feel an obligation to protect their breed of choice; to breed better dogs. Great goals. But can you reach those goals if you fail to continue to educate yourself on how to do so?
And so, Good Readers, my challenge to you! I challenge each and every one of you to read at least one book on any aspect of the dog show game: handling, breeding, structure, movement, coat color. Any subject you desire and read it within the next six (6) months. And once you have read your book, share your thoughts on the book and what you learned with the list members of LetsDiscussJudging.
Continue your education!
This month's column takes the form of an e-mail The Curmudgeon received after judging the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of Raritan Valley at the Meadowsland Exposition Center in Secaucus, NJ on Sunday, February 13, 2005. The signature of the writer of The Communication has been removed as it is not my intent to neither embarrass nor call attention to the sender of The Communication.
As background, I posted response to a message to Lets Discuss Judging concerning politics in the ring. As an example I mentioned that in a large Specials class I had both BIS and BISS winners along with a winner of the National Specialty. That post brought forth the following communication.
I've read this post several times and tried and tried to resist the urge to respond but in the end I just felt I had to although you might wish I hadn't
From my standpoint as an exhibitor I truly wish with all my heart that you did not know who had won what and at the very least did not tout that so and so had won such and such. For the record your BOS won the 2003 Nationals not Nationals this year -- this year's National winner was not even given an AOM but to me that should point out all that much more clearly that what a dog won should not matter on the day it is shown and judged. My bitch was given BOB over your BOS winner at a fairly good size show by a well known all-breed judge with me showing her and when I thanked her for the nice win she said it was an easy decision. Again all of this to me points to it being a good idea for judges to judges the dogs on the day they are shown and not based on their previous wins.
And here I come to the part that I'm really reluctant to share but sometimes sharing other perspectives can be helpful. The feedback I heard from exhibitors at the show was that you were very very consistent in your choices prior to the judging of best of breed -- judging the dogs not who was on the end of the lead and being consistent in your selections. I [sic] have to admit there was a bitch special (not mine ;-) that given your comments on the list and your selections in the classes I was certain you would have awarded at least an AOM or a good look..but again judging dogs on the day you have them ;-)
Personally I do not feel your BOB is representative of the breed standard. The dog has done a lot of winning but for me he is not what I strive for in my breeding program but again that is one of those things about dog showing -- it truly is a personal interpretation of the breed standard and that particular dog on that particular day.
Anyway hope you won't feel like tarring and feathering me for my feedback -- just thought I'd share a few thoughts as an owner/handler/breeder who sometimes struggles in the battle to encourage judges to look at the dogs and judge them on that day not based on who is on the end of the leash or what they have won.
[Signature Eliminated By The Curmudgeon]
The Response by The Curmudgeon
Thanks for your e-mail. No need to even consider "tar and feathers". You know, you raise some interesting points. But when you say, "...From my standpoint as an exhibitor I truly wish with all my heart that you did not know who had won what and at the very least did not tout that so and so had won such and such..." a point comes to mind. If the judge is not aware of what is happening in the breed how effectively can he evaluate the breed. After all, if one reads The Barker, you will pretty much know what is happening in the Shar-Pei world. And if you belong to one or more breed lists on the Internet, you will certainly be aware of what is happening. Judges do not live in a vacuum.
At every show I attend, I try to get to the Shar-Pei ring. Not to see what other judges are putting up but see representatives of the breed. How else does one stay current since I no longer have a Shar-Pei living in my house?
I knew who "Bailey" was when she entered the ring. One would have to be totally disassociated from the breed not to know her. But her past record was not at issue; I felt that the dog I went with was the better of the entries on that given day. And by the way, if you reread my post you will see that I said that Bailey won the National ... I did not say that she won it this year. My statement, as confirmed by your post, was accurate.
I was engaged to render my opinion. I did so. Freely and without outside influences. I took as much time as I needed; I considered those things that I thought were important to consider. I gave each entry the time I felt necessary for me to evaluate it; some received more time than others because some needed more time than others to be evaluated in my opinion. And contrary to your insinuation, there was not an entry, class or special, who was not given a good look! That is probably one of two statements in your post that I find offensive.
The other was "The feedback I heard from exhibitors at the show was that you were very consistent in your choices prior to the judging of best of breed -- judging the dogs not who was on the end of the lead and being consistent in your selections. I have to admit there was a bitch special (not mine ;-) that given your comments on the list and your selections in the classes I was certain you would have awarded at least an AOM or a good look..." I was not aware of who was on the lead at any time during the judging. To my knowledge there were only two people in the ring for the Specials class that had shown to me before and both were owner handlers. Neither of the gentlemen handled the BOB or BOS had ever been in my ring before, so I certainly had no need to consider who they were. You may feel that you represent ringside with your comments, but I would point out that neither you nor ringside were actually in the ring and actually evaluated. I made my selections based on my evaluation of the breed standard. If you didn't like my pick for BOB, so be it. It was not your opinion which was requested.
While I am in no manner attempting to justify my choices, there were a number of things that disturbed me in the entry I judged. First, and most glaring, was the poor quality of coats. Coats were too soft. In going over dogs, I wondered time and again, are these people using coat conditions? If the entry I had was representative, the Shar-Pei is in danger of loosing a distinctive breed characteristic.
The standard calls for moderate angulation. I saw too many entries that were straight in rear, some moving almost as though they were Chows ... and stacked incorrectly which simply emphasized the lack of angulation.
And, finally, we come to temperaments. I remember the days when judges would refuse to accept assignments for Shar-Pei because of the aggressive nature of the breed. Well, the pendulum has certainly swung. I was horrified at the number of shy/timid dogs that were in the ring. Dogs that sometimes took two or three attempts before they could be gone over. A sad state for a proud breed.
I continue to be an unabashed fan of the Chinese Shar-Pei. It is the smartest breed I have come across. But it, as every other breed, has problems that must be faced by the breeders. As a judge, I shall continue to study the breed; I shall continue to observe the breed; I shall continue to judge the breed when asked.
And, perhaps most important, I shall continue to judge the breed based on what I have in the ring that day and without undue influence from outside sources be they advertisements, reputations, or whatever.
I do not expect to please all of the people all of the time. I do, however, expect to please myself. Whether or not you approve of my BOB is really unimportant to me for I approve of him and it was my opinion which was required. Each and every animal which entered into the ring to be judged was considered not only for its class but as a possibility as the eventual winner of BOB.
From Community College To Town Square Gossip
In an on-line conversation with one of our Co-moderators concerning e-lists, he used the phrase "From Community College to Town Square Gossip." That phrase struck home and I began to wonder how most people see the various e-lists to which they belong.
Personally, I belong to a number of lists, some dog related, some neighborhood related, some local government related. Some impart useful information, some convey semi-useful information and a goodly number are just "fluff".
On our LetsDiscussJudging list, we certainly have the full range! We have a number of truly knowledgeable, experienced dog people, not only from the United States and Canada but from around the world: Australia, The United Kingdom, India, Ireland, Europe, and the Middle East. Some of these folks offer many years of experience in "the dog game". Many are recognized as judges of international note; many are truly respected as judges in their homeland. The level of knowledge available to us from these sources is almost unbelievable! Some are active participants; some chime in when they feel strongly about a particular subject.
On the other hand, we have folks who are just beginning to exhibit dogs, some of whom have yet to breed a litter, and a few who have not yet set foot in the show ring.. And we have all levels of experience between the extremes. While we all acknowledge that we can learn from the "experts" can we also learn from the folks who are new to the sport?
I'm a strong believer that those who are new to the sport are a major contributing factor to our list. The often ask questions that some of the more experienced folks have not thought of, or at least have not thought of for several years. Their thirst for knowledge and information permits all of us to gain further insight into the dog show world based on the questions asked as well as the answers that might be received.
And, of course, we have those folks who may have been in dogs for 10, 20, or more years but have, regretfully, had one year's experience 10, 20, or more times without progressing beyond that point. But even these folks are important to the list for their questions are often valuable to the general membership. We also have those folks who are more interested in letting everyone know they are present, who question nearly every posted message, who wish to see the list changed to the image they have in mind for the list rather than truly participating in an effort to extend their level of knowledge and that of others. These folks are rapidly recognized by the membership and are helpful in keeping our fingers flexible as we reach for the delete button as we see messages from them.
The "Community College" approach comes not only from the viewpoints and opinions expressed by the knowledgeable but often from the links pertaining to certain subjects that are exchanged freely. Over the last three years, I have built an enviable file of topics that can be researched over the Internet dealing not only with specific breeds but on various conditions and concerns that are found in the general dog world. The file contains photos of proper and/or improper movement of specific breeds; illustrated standards; articles on history of breeds; evaluation techniques for both in the ring and selecting puppies. Discussions of the relationship of closely related breeds, similarities and differences. There have been some good comments on kennel management, on grooming, on conditioning, and a host of topics all of which are of interest to a large number of our members. Information is available which would take a great deal of searching to find if it was not on the Internet. In a day when the number of folks willing to act as "mentors" appears to be diminishing, the e-list can be an alternative. There are a few breeds in which I have a great interest since I will be applying for approval to judge these breeds in the not too distant future. I have been able to correspond with reputable breeders, gain insight into the breeds, discuss topics that may not be of general interest to the group but are of vital importance to me as I seek to extend my knowledge. In other words, I have found "on line" mentors who have extended my knowledge by patiently answering my questions and taking the time to discuss the strong points and the weak points of their breeds. And I have been able to discuss the same breed with folks from around the Country as well as other parts of the world in order to get a balanced view.
For example, from my "Genetics" file, there are articles on such topics as The Structure of the Canine Eye; Dog Coat Color Genetics; Purebred Animal Genetics, Canine Diversity; Rare Sight Hounds and a host of other subjects. My "specific breed file" contains information on The Chow Chow; The Pyrenean Shepherd; The Shibu Inu; The American Toy Fox Terrier; The Rat Terrier; The German Shepherd Dog; The Boxer; The Boston Terrier, The Irish Water Spaniel and a host of other breeds. Some of these breeds have only a passing interest, others I wish to study in depth so that the information on these and other breeds will vary in the amount of material available..
One of the most important group of sources available is that of Cornell University's Vet School which offers an unusual amount of information for the breeder ( www.vet.cornell.edu/index.asp ). The University of Missouri offers links for information ( www.cvm.missousi.edu/vetlib/iresources.htm ) that can be very valuable. And then there is the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine which offers a number of excellent fact sheets for the breeder. These may be found at: www.vth.vt.edu/clientsvisitors/sa-factsheets/safactsheets.asp . A list of Veterinary Schools in the US and Canada can be found at the following www.avma.org/careforanimals/animatedjourneys/aboutvets/vetschools.asp#virginia
The information available to those who seek it is almost limitless. I have found that I can better help my Vet work with my animals if I have taken the time to study possible problems. On more than one occasion, I have been able to direct a Vet to a specific source of information which made the treatment of a dog easier, faster, and more reliable.
Through the Internet it is quite possible to become as knowledgeable as many of the Vet technicians you will encounter. You can protect your dog (and your pocketbook) if you are truly a knowledgeable breeder.
As for the Town Square Gossip, we have all encountered them both on the list and in person. These are the folks who manage to find fault with every dog that wins, and some that don't. They know that most, if not all, judges are political. They know what problem every breeder in their particular breed is hiding. They seldom have anything good to say about anything . unless, of course, it is their dog or their kennel.
Our list and our website can be of great service to the serious exhibitor/breeder/judge. Not all of the information that gets posted on the list will be accurate. Not all of it will be helpful. But it is incumbent upon each of us to educate ourselves so that we have a frame of reference in deciding what is accurate and what can be of value to us and our dogs.
Enjoy the list . and enjoy learning!
"The judge wasn't at all consistent!"
"The judge that day was totally consistent!"
These are phrases we hear over and over on our list and at shows. What do we really mean? Is it important that a judge be consistent in his/her selections? Does "being consistent" means that a judge who shows "consistency" is a better judge than one who does not?
First of all, I think we can all agree that a judge can only be as consistent as the entry permits. In a small entry, there may not be two entries that are both of qual-ity and of similar style. At a large show, perhaps the National Specialty, there will probably be entries from different "families" or kennel lines that may or may not be similar in style.
How do we describe the judge who picks excellent specimens but are totally dif-ferent in style? If he made awards to exhibits that were structurally sound, but perhaps with a "different look" was he/she being inconsistent? If he/she was searching for specific virtues that were felt to be particularly important at this stage of the breed's development and he/she found them in a range of entries that obviously had good type but great difference in style, how consistent was he/she?
It is often more accurate to review the catalogue to determine how consistent was the judge rather than watch him in the actual ring selections. In the cata-logue you can readily note that closely bred relatives were rewarded in the judg-ing. You may or may not be able to tell so from watching the judging without ref-erence to a catalogue. I recall some time ago I was judging a Specialty; the BOV Rough and the BOV Smooth sired by the same dog and the dams were half-sisters, having been sired by a well known stud of his day. In short, we had half-brothers out of half-sisters. Ringside, with catalogues in hand, pronounced me to be a study in consistency!
The only problem was that neither of the dogs looked anything alike. They were two totally different styles each resembling their dams in style but each imprinted with the virtue of the sire; the heads on each was outstanding and each could move in a manner that would be acceptable in any herding group ring in this country. Each was correct but they were at opposite ends of the scale in style. To ringside with their catalogues it made perfect sense; to exhibitors in the ring, they couldn't figure out what I was doing.
After a Shar-Pei Specialty I was taken to task for being "consistent up until breed" and then departing from such consistency in my best of breed. Perhaps from ei-ther ringside or exhibitor's point of view, this was obvious. But to me, the judge, I was totally consistent in that for which I was searching. Two major problems in the breed (in my opinion) are the lack of a proper top line and proper rear angula-tion. That day both my BOB and my BOS had good toplines and good rear angu-lation. The CSP standard calls for moderate angulation. All too many of the Shar-Pei I see have little angulation and they are often "stretched" when stacked to a point where they show no angulation. Since my Specials ring was deep in both type and quality, from my Winners to every Special, I had the luxury of selecting exhibits that presented virtue that I felt is needed in the breed. Nor am I saying that only the BOB and BOS presented such virtue but in my opinion (and it is for my opinion that I was engaged to judge), my selections were rewarded for their virtue. For those that came close, I was able to present Awards of Merit.
Let us return to National Specialties for a moment. Here where we have possibly hundreds of dogs entered, the judge should be able to remain consistent, right? But I have been to Nationals where judges found that for which they were they were seeking and were all of one style . and the complaint then became that they were not judging the entire entry but selecting on personal preference! Or (in Collies) we often hear the complaint that judge so and so didn't pay any atten-tion to movement but picked strictly on heads. He/She therefore becomes a "head judge!" Or if a judge insists on some semblance of proper movement, he/she becomes a movement judge and doesn't care about heads.
A number of years ago one of the judges whom I most respect was doing class dogs. He selected a dog that I would not have chosen; one who had great type but was anything but a great mover. This particular judge is known world wide as a true "dog man." He has judged literally, "round the world" from Russia to Europe and the United Kingdom, from Africa to the Far East, and in both North and South America.
The complaint from ringside (and one I heard again restated this week in a pri-vate conversation) was that he didn't select what he thought was the best dog, he selected the dog with the most type from the family (line) in which he bred. Nonsense, he selected what was to him the best dog of that day taking into con-sideration all that he felt was important to be judged on that day .. and, again, it was his opinion for which he was engaged.
Before we condemn a judge for not being consistent or praise him for being con-sistent, determine the facts. Was there something in the way of virtue that the winners had in common other than style? Did he select only from a single family (line) because the entries all looked similar or was there another common thread to the choices, perhaps head quality, perhaps particularly good fronts or rears .even down to proper coat textures. When mentioning coat type, I think of two beautiful Giant Schnauzers, both with great type but one with a soft, open coat and one with a harsh, almost wiry coat that would protect him in bad weather and would permit him to accomplish that for which the breed was developed. The single factor of coat, given the quality of the two dogs, would be the turning point were I to judge the breed.
So then, should a judge be consistent. The obvious answer is "Yes, of course." But that immediately raises another question . "What is consistency?"
Enjoy the shows. You'll enjoy them more if you win!
Did AKC manage to shoot itself in the foot with its stand on PAWS?
There are many of us who can not understand AKC supporting the Pet Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS) introduced in the Senate by Senator Santorum of Penn-sylvania, the same Senator who last go 'round introduced the Puppy Protection Act.
AKC claims that it is offering such support for the good of the dog world but one has to wonder why such action was taken without a vote of the Delegates. AKC claims that it is speaking for the fancy but many of the parent breed clubs, some of the individual Kennel Clubs, and some of the federations have voted to oppose the bill and have so notified Members of Congress of their opposition. So much for AKC's united front! With individual organizations that are, supposedly, under the AKC umbrella notifying Congress that they do not support AKC on this issue how effective will AKC be in the future when it puffs out its chest and says, "We represent the pure breed dog fancy"?
Given the fact that the United Kennel Club, Cat Fanciers, several Sporting Breed Associations and individual kennel clubs have risen in opposition to a bill that is being pressed on us by organizations such as The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) one must wonder what the Board Members of AKC were thinking when they entered this arena. Four members of the Board voted against the action to support PAWS. To those four I offer my thanks and wonder what they saw that the others could not see.
For many years I offered almost blind allegiance to AKC . after all, it was run by knowledgeable folks who knew what was best for pure bred dogs and thus for those of us engaged in the sport of pure bred dogs. As I have watched them over the past few years make, what in my opinion, was blunder after blunder, I now offer an almost reluctant allegiance. Given their support of PAWS, their new wa-tered down "Mission Statement", their support of volume breeders (millers?), their failure to reach out to the public in condemnation of BSL by advertising in the general media and the steady decline of entries in their shows, one must also wonder how long it will take AKC to become a "secondary registry".
And there then comes the actual composition of AKC. In this 21st century, it is not time to look at the structure of AKC? It is it not time to consider changing the membership pattern so that individuals become members and have the ability to vote for Board members as is done with most Corporations? Individual member-ship works for the Canadian Kennel Club and it works for most membership non-profit organizations who operate under §503(c)3 regulations of the Department of the Treasury. Why would it not work for AKC? Perhaps through such a change we would find ourselves with an organization that was responsive to the fancy . something I haven't seen in The American Kennel Club recently.
A General Membership Thank You!
It's 4:30 a.m. and I'm awake ... not by choice but awake nonetheless. So I made a pot of coffee, added a bit of cinnamon to the brew and decided to do what I normally do when I get up at an unreasonable hour .... check the list mail.
As most of you know, this list was founded on June 16, 2001 in a fit of pique. I was highly annoyed at the rudeness, name calling, brashness on another list and thought that there should be some others in the dog game who felt as I did: civility makes the show world a great deal more fun. I had expected , in my wildest hopes, that the list would grow to 200 members eventually.
Well, we're now over 1,400 members and still are growing. I could go on and on concerning the statistics dealing with this list, but statistics is not what the list is about.
I'd like to thank each and every one of you for joining this list. I would like to thank each and everyone of you for the civility you have exhibited. But most of all, I would like to thank each and every one of you for the sharing of the knowledge you have and for helping me to grow over these past four and a half years.
We have an outstanding web page [Thank you, Sanjaya] and have noticed that some other lists have subsequently begun web pages after we did. We have some of the most knowledgeable "dog people" in the world on this list ... not just in the US but in Canada, the UK, Australia, India, Finland, Croatia, Germany, and Sweden. Folks who are new to the sport; folks who have been around a while; folks who are in their later years [yours truly included]. These diverse groups have shared their knowledge freely and with civility.
When I see names such as Joan Graber, Hugh Jones, Robert Dore, Peggy Mickelson, Sierra Milton and a host of others appear, I know that I'm about to learn something that I should have been exposed to a long ago but will finally get a chance to have it explained to me.
And when someone who has recently entered the sport asks a question, it often receives an answer that I have long since forgotten, so I am able to add to my current store of knowledge. And as in all situations, we have that great center of exhibitors who are still learning but are so knowledgeable and are willing to share.
I have learned so much on this list concerning breeds other than my beloved Collies [and I learned much about Collies as well!]. I feel comfortable with certain breeds and my knowledge of those breeds as a result of what I have learned on this list and then applying that knowledge by examining good [and poor] specimens.
So having taken from you for the past four and a half years, I decided it was time to say "Thank you." With the quality of membership we have, is it any question that we have been noted in National magazines and recommended to those who are just starting as well as established breeders/exhitors/owners.
Again, my thanks to each of you. May you continue to enjoy the list and may we all continue to grow in our knowledge and comfort found in the dog world.
And, not as an afterthought, may I wish each of you a Happy Holiday whether you celebrate Christmas, Channukkah, Kwanzaa, or another holiday. And may the New Year bring you joy and happiness; may this coming year be the best that you have experienced to date and may it be the worst of those to come in the future.
Greg AKA The Curmudgeon
Rules Of The Road
With the advent of the internet, e-mail, e-lists, web sites, and the rest of the wonderful world of communication that has come about over the recent past decades, we have all had to learn some new Rules of The Road.
Two recent incidents come to mind. The first was a list member on LetsDiscussJudging posted an announcement of a new list and an invitation to join the new list. She was unaware of the Rules of the Road or Netiquette, if you so wish concerning the situation. After having the proper procedure explained to her [by private e-mail], she apologized to the list and to the owner/moderator of the list. (For those of you who may not understand, it is considered a breech of Netiquette not to check with the list owner/moderator prior to placing an announcement for a potentially competing list without the permission of the owner/moderator of the list on which the announcement was made.)
Now, from my point of view, once the transgressor admitted the error and apologized for it, the incident was ended. The moderator accepted the apology and life should have moved on!
However, some members of the list continued to berate [I know of no other word to use] the offender. While the moderator was pleased with the support shown for his efforts on the list, he was horrified that an admission of error and apology for the error was not accepted by all and forgotten. The failure to offer acceptance for a mistake and subsequent apology to me is a much more grievous than the original breech of "Netiquette."
We have all pledged ourselves to The Rule of Civility on LDJ. Not to forgive and forget appears to me to be a breech of that rule. To continue to harass [again, I know of no other word to fit the situation] someone who has admitted a mistake and apologized is, in my mind, hardly the behavior of one who is civilized and if one is not civil, one is not civilized!
The other situation appeared on another list and obviously not subject to the LDJ Rule of Civility. A member of the list was disappointed, annoyed, enraged [take your pick!] that a Group Winner did not remain at the show and exhibit in BIS. The writer of the message went second in the Group, and without knowing any of the reasons for the failure to show in the Group, considered it an insult to the judge and to the other Group exhibitors.
The Group winner posted her reason for not showing which, although I'm not sure I agree, should have ended the discussion. It did not.
Good Folks, I see lists as an opportunity to learn, exchange information, and get to know your fellow exhibitors. I do not see it as a convenient place to castigate your opposition; to belittle other exhibitors; to engage in internet rage!
The new Rules of The Road are not all that new. Although we are hidden from face to face contact, there is no reason why the common courtesies, politeness, and civility should not be observed. On the various e-lists to which you may belong, feel free to disagree. Feel free to object to behavior that you deem not in the best interests of your breed, showing of dogs, or whatever . but please observe common courtesy while doing it. Objecting to ideas need never be phrased as to object to the individuals involved. The internet and the lists to which you may belong has no place for the attitude of "Do unto them before they do unto me."
Because we do not meet face to face and voice inflections and facial expressions are not available for observation, perhaps it is all the more important that we look carefully at the words we use and how we use them. One of the most important of the Rules of The Road is to read your message before you hit the "send" button. In the re-reading ask yourself how you would respond to receiving the message about to be sent.
In a conversation some days ago, the question was raised as to whether or not the folks who show dogs comprise a community. This struck me as an interesting question.
Having decided that I wasn't absolutely sure of the definition of "community" I decided to check my dictionary. First step was to find the dictionary. I succeeded in locating it but before I got to the definition, I had proven several other points. First the walk-in closet in which I keep many of my books (I have a small apartment!) needs to be cleaned out! And in looking for the dictionary, I found many books that I had forgotten that I had (and for some of them forgetfulness is probably their highest recommendation!).
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "community" as: (1) a unified body of individuals: as a: State, Commonwealth b: the people with common interests living in a particular area: broadly: the area itself (the problems of a large community c: an interacting population of various kinds of individuals (as species) in a common location d: a group of people with a common characteristics or interest living together within a larger society (a community of retired persons e: a group linked by common policy f: a body of persons or nations having a common history or common social, economic, and political interests (the international community) g: a body of persons of common and especially professional interests scattered through a larger society (the academy community)
Well, as I look through the above definitions bits and parts of the definitions b, c, d, f, and g all apply to the dog show world but section g appears to hit the nail squarely on the head.
Okay, the formal definition is now out of the way. Let's look at the actions we find within the dog show community. First let's look at the group, "Take the Lead", which was formed specifically to help those involved in the dog show scene: breeders, exhibitors, judges, handlers. It exists totally on private donations and has been of immense aid to members of our community. From helping dog show folk cope with emergencies to helping with the support of some of our most senior members.
One only has to look at a disaster such as the recent hurricanes and you will find a common bond. Take The Lead was immediately active. Homes and kennels were offered to evacuees by fellow members of the community. Lists were posted on the internet to match evacuee with potential housing (including kennel space). E-lists and chat groups had word go out to evacuees and their friends of housing available. Those who were not affected directly by the storms reached out a helping hand to those who were.
Donations from individuals and both local and national clubs poured into the AKC fund and Take The Lead as well as The Red Cross and other groups. (Not sure that PETA or HSUS got much support but so be it!!!)
At a much more local level, folks respond to each other at shows. While many would never think of speaking to a stranger in a restaurant or a motel lobby, if a conversation on dogs is overheard, the inhibitions seem to melt and a new friendship may be immediately formed. Exercise a dog late at night or early in the morning near a show site and you will have people speak to you that you have never seen before. At one show in Detroit, I saw two younger ladies exercising their dogs at a late hour . not always a wise choice but then I saw that two gentlemen, one with a Ridgeback and one with a German Shepherd had "attached" themselves to the young ladies and were walking a few feet behind them. The next day I asked one of the two young ladies who the men were. She responded that she did not know but each had lectured her and her friend on the dangers of two young ladies out walking late at night and decided to join them. She had seen neither after the walk until the next day they arrived at the show.
How many stories have we heard of auto accidents and unknown dog people stopping to be of aid because they were "dog people". How many breeders/exhibitors have offered kennel space to someone they knew only slightly because the acquaintance was sick or hospitalized? How many people do you know that have stepped forward to help with a sick dog at a show site? How many times have you heard about someone offering to help transport dogs from one area to another, perhaps rescue dogs, perhaps dogs going to new owners, perhaps bitches being transported to a stud dog?
In many respects we are like large families. We don't all like each other; we don't all have the same values or modes of behavior. Sometimes we stand together on an issue; sometimes we disagree almost violently on an issue. We gossip; we carry tales, sometimes even inventing the tales. We always seem to know what someone else is doing and are not hesitant to voice our opinion on the behavior of others whether or not we know the facts surrounding such behavior! But let an "outsider" threaten a member of our community and the rest rally around with support.
The "outsider" may be a government looking at Breed Specific Legislation or an Animal Rights Group seeking to penalize or harm local breeders. The community marshals the strength to stop the process or works hard to stop it . in some cases where such legislation passes, they continue to work to overturn BSL.
Yes, in my opinion, we are a COMMUNITY. And one, I must admit, to which I am damn proud to be a member. Some of the greatest people I have met over the 50+ years as a member of the community rank as truly unique and outstanding individuals; some have become my closest friends.
Where, Oh Where, Have All
Our Mentors Gone?
Over and over again, we hear the refrain, "People don't mentor as they did in the old days." Newcomers to the sport ask, "Where can I find a mentor?" Old timers bemoan the fact that the "newbie" doesn't want to learn, they want to be spoon fed.
The answer, my friends, is that the "mentor" has gone the way of ladies in flowered hats and white gloves, benched shows, singleton shows held by local clubs in their own back yards, and the AKC as a helpful dog oriented organization rather than a business behemoth!
Each of the examples in the preceding paragraph has had a part to play in the lack of mentors as we used to know them. The "ladies in the flowered hats and white gloves" represents a degree of gentility that we lost after World War II when "dog showing" became a family sport and not the purview of the wealthier. As "the masses" became part of the show scene, the purpose of the shows began to change from the exhibition of breeding stock to "competition" where winning became the important thing. The days of arriving at the shows in early morning and remaining a ringside through the selection of Best In Show have gone for most exhibitors. Today it is arrive at the show in time for the final grooming, show you dog and if you win stay for the next level of judging. If you lose, pack up and go home after all ".it's a long drive home."
The demise of the benched show was the demise of a valuable learning experience for it was at the benched show that so many newer faces in the sport learned how to groom, the basics of genetics, what influenced coat colors, and the host of other topics that were discussed as one spent the entire day in a dog "milieu". It was almost impossible not to learn unless one was deaf and couldn't hear the surrounding conversations. Inevitably, the newer folks were brought into the conversations if for no other reason than they were present. Outright rudeness was discouraged, so one did not ignore the person at the next bench. You simply introduced yourself and they became part of the conversations. Hard not to lean in such a situation .. and whether realized it or not, they were suddenly being "mentored"! The friendships gained at the benched shows often carried over and the mentoring continued over many years to come. Personally, my first mentor was gained in such a manner and this year celebrates our 50th year of friendship . that's half a century, Good Folks! Due to age and distance, we seldom see each other as often as we once did, but the friendship remains strong!
After World War II, we saw the demise of the large "breeding kennels". These kennels died out for any number of reasons. The expense of maintaining them was certainly a factor. The advancement of "suburbia" with its land grabbing subdivisions, zoning laws, the "sprawl" of the center cities into shopping malls, and even more housing doomed the "estates" upon which one usually found a large breeding kennel. Rather than fifty to one hundred brood bitches with a full staff under the guidance of a kennel manager, we now had a "breeder" who, by zoning and neighbors, might well be limited to two or three bitches. Instead of running a number of stud dogs within the kennel's breeding program, one now relied on "outside" studs . all too often on those with a winning record and well known through major advertising.
Thus, the opportunity for someone new to the breed and to breeding was deprived of the opportunity to visit such kennels. To see four or five or more generations at a single sight. To be able to compare each generation for progress made and to discuss finer points of the matings which produced the animals. No longer was it possible to "pick the minds" of the great kennel managers or, in many cases, the minds of breeders who instructed the kennel managers.
Suburbanites sought pets, not show dogs. Show dogs were for the wealthy; show dogs were nervous, spoiled animals that lived a life not consistent with "normal people". As a few dogs of quality found their way into homes that developed an interest in showing, the sociology of the dog world changed. One dog became two. Two dogs became four. The suburbanite moved from the suburbs to a more rural setting and the dog show world began to increase in numbers.
No longer was this a sport of the wealthy .. No, it was soon to become a sport of "Every Man". Joe The Plumber had a new outlet and, with it, a new social standing in many ways.
For many, the "dog show scene" ceased to remain appealing by the beginning of the 1960s for it has become "common'. For many more, the Sport of Pure Bred Dogs became an exciting sport within their financial reach and one that did not need end with advancing age. Forty year olds could compete with 20 year olds; seniors retained their youth and recognition and were not "put out to pasture" due to advancing age. As a matter of fact, that advancing age and the experience gained permitted a whole new avenue of the sport to open . Joe the Plumber could become a dog show judge and gain recognition that previous generations gave only to the wealthy!
But what of the relationship of the newer dog sportsman to the more experienced mentors? Is that relationship a thing of the past? Does the newer dog sportsman have no place to turn for advice and suggestions?
Just as the dog shows have changed so, too, has the act of mentoring has changed. There are mentors available; advice and suggestions are readily available to those who seek information. Often the information previously available at the benched shows is now available in the comfort of your home!
Turn on your computer and open your favorite electronic list dealing with the sport. There are several from which to choose, all breed lists, judging lists, specific breed lists . even lists dealing with structure and conformation.
As with a personal mentor, not all of the information given is correct but normally a consensus builds around the "correct" information. But one must weigh carefully the information given to determine the accuracy.
Have a question on International Shows? There are a number of FCI, Kennel Club, CKC, and American judges willing to share information with you. Breed specific questions? Folks with over half a century of experience are there to discuss your questions and your points of view.
Have a rare breed? You can bet you're not alone and there are others with whom you can share experiences and ask questions.
Questions on whelping your first litter? Nervous because of the things that can go wrong? Comfort is just a keyboard away as breeders who have whelped large numbers of litters can help you prepare for the big day.
Almost any subject relating to dogs can be, and is, discussed on e-lists. Some are more valuable than others and these tend to offer great "mentoring tips". The discussions sometimes go on for days with many people from all parts of the world coming forward to offer opinions and information.
Have a question? Ask it on an e-list and you'll find that mentoring is alive and well! Just that mentoring has also moved into the 21st Century and the "Age of Information". Look at any of the reputable e-lists and you find mentors passing on their experience. These lists will give you access to experiences and knowledge that the "old days" mentoring could only imagine in their dreams.