STAYING THE COURSE - by Jean Pennel
When I was a little girl my mother or my big brother took me to every dog show available.  Every nickel I had went towards buying all the old dog magazines and books I could find to read about showing dogs.

All of this was interrupted when I entered my freshman year of college in 1936.  The late great judge, Ed Tipton, was a freshman too.  Little did we dream he would be judging and I would be exhibiting in San Antonio, TX.

World War 11 raised it's ugly head.  But in 1946 at the old auditorium in Houston, TX, there I was -- young, brash and thought I knew it all.  Hadn't I been reading and going to dog shows all those years?  Didn't take me long to wake up to the truth.
But fortunately, this was a gentler time, and people overall were great about helping the newcomer, including judges, breeders and the rare handler.  Back then judges did not have such a rigid time schedule.  It was a more relaxed atmosphere.

Great handlers like Alva Rosenberg, Joe Gregory and yes, Ric Chashoudian, taught us the tricks of the handlers to help us win.  We laughed, we joked and we learned.

We were competitive.  We wanted to win, but there was little rancor or real animosity.  We didn't have to fight for # 1 dog in the country.  We were happy to be in the top 10 of our breed.

But back then we had to cope with some miserable show sites.  Here in Houston, until the Astrodome was built, we had quite an array of unpleasant places to show in.  I will never forget the last show at Pin Oaks Stables.  Horrible rain and resulting mud.

We did not have summer shows then.  Heaven forbid in Houston.  But all over the country it was basically on hiatus.  And of course, there were not so many shows either.

One thing that has changed is having judging start on time.  And we know the pressure put on a judge today for allotted time.  I well remember having a judging time of 4:00 PM and it was 7 when we finally went in.  But Mr. Van Dyke was judging and no way were we Collie folk going to miss him.  So all was not perfect then either.

But I think we were sincerely a friendlier, helpful group of people overall.
One thing that has changed that I find very disturbing is the way so many exhibitors have lowered their standard of dress.  Frankly, the men have done better than the ladies.  Why women think short skirts, low cut dresses or short shorts will impress a judge so she may win, I'll never understand.

When women started wearing pants, AKC mandated that only pants suits could be worn.  More tasteful than I see today.  AKC never intended dog shows to be an "Easter Parade", but never meant them to be "down and dirty" either.

With the increase of more and more show giving clubs and better facilities, the dog show world grew and grew.  Then the Rating Systems took off.  It is exhilarating to have a number 1 dog.  It is exciting to breed a great dog.  I know.  I have been there.  But I have seen the vicious attacks made orally and in writing on dog, handler and owner.

The old saying that you are never successful until you have enemies has never been truer than in the dog show world.  I have watched this change from people who were happy for your success, to people who can only trash you.  This is the bad and the ugly today, as compared to yesterday.

There was a time when your breed clubs, all breed clubs and your parent clubs were greatly respected.  The people in these clubs who worked so hard to promote the breed, to put on better shows, were greatly appreciated.

Gradually over the years many of these hard workers either got too old, too physically unable or for what ever reason, were no longer in the mainstream.  And the new powers to be have had a new approach.  I have found the lack of democracy in many clubs depressing.  I have found in many clubs the purpose of the club, whether it be breed, all breed or parent, falling short of its original function.  I have found many who do not put the welfare of their breeds first.  Rather the dog is a commodity and the owner's ego is more important.

There are many more dedicated people than not.  But this problem I'm referring to does exist more today than when I began.

Most judges today are fair.  Most are honest.  But I do feel many are not as knowledgeable of the breeds they judge as they should be.  I often think, where are the Alva Rosenbergs? The Derek Raynes?  The Ed Tiptons, the Heydon Martins, the Albert Van Courts? The Billy Kendricks, etc.?  There are many good, honest judges today, and as an AKC rep told me years ago, if you don't like the judge don't show under him/her, even in your back yard.
We are all seeing dogs of mediocre quality of many breeds in the ring.  This presents a problem for the judge and the future neophytes in the breed.  Breeders alone can correct this problem.  It takes time, studying pedigrees going back 10 years if possible, to see what these background dogs have produced.  And are there health or temperament problems that have been passed on?  The days of only showing the very best you can breed does not seem to apply.

Unfortunately, we do not have as many matches as we once did.  All breed matches were great for training your puppy hopeful.  There are training classes being given.  Just make sure it is the right one for your breed.

Above all, take care of your dog.  Do not expect a great show dog to thrive on poor quality food.  Do give affection.  In many cases this factor is lacking from what we had all those years ago.

I have had 58 successful years.  I have made many friends and gathered a few enemies along the way.  But I have found honesty does pay off.

There will be more changes.  It is inevitable.  Some will be better, some not so good.  But if you stay the course, it is a wonderful world out there.

Jean Pennell
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