Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What dog showing should be about

The following was sent to me by Ann Key. I thought that it was a particularly nice story. It may be true or not, but it gives a good feeling to me as it indicates how the sport of showing dogs is supposed to be.

"Yesterday, I experienced a very unusual thing indeed. It might restore someone's faith in humanity! I know it did mine.

As with all forms of competition, there comes a certain amount of ambition, goal grabbing, disappointment, anger and even revenge in extreme cases. Some of it, is just the nature of competition, the majority of it is just malice. Dog showing is no exemption.

Unfortunately, all too often I have stood at ringside and heard malicious comments, bitching and bickering. Dog show people can be very cruel to each other sometimes. I have on occasion been the brunt of these comments, but that's another story.

Well, yesterday I had a breath of fresh air, as it were. I was stewarding at the Rough Collie Club of Ireland's Championship show. It's a relatively popular breed here in Ireland. Always a big entry. They had a wonderful judge from the U.K. This lady has been in the breed since 1949. So, it goes without saying, I was pretty privileged to steward for her.

Anyway, just before the Novice class, one of the club official's came into the ring and, I overheard her tell the judge about the one entry in the class. I thought it was unusual that there was only one entry in the class, but later found out the reason why!

I called the class, and, in walked an old man and his Rough Collie. I've only ever seen this man at our St. Patrick's Day show. He's an old man, rough around the edges and, well, his dog, is really unkempt by show standards. He marched proudly into the ring with the dog on a great big thick rope lead!

While the judge was going over the dog, I was filled in on his story. I was told that he lives in an old folks home in Galway. (The other side of Ireland.) He has no family left living and no visitors at the old folks home. He's been showing this dog for eight years only ever on St. Patrick's Day or the Club show. He'd traveled 150 miles on a bus yesterday morning. Which takes about 5 hours in Ireland. The nurses in his home, usually phone the club to tell of his departure, and the club usually phone back when they spot this old man at the show. He has only ever shown the dog in Novice, and people over the years never compete against him.

The nurses told the club officials that when he wins a rosette at a show he wears it for weeks at home in the old folks home. The dog lives with him at the home and, is quite a celebrity "Show dog" with all the residents. The pride and joy of this man's life. He spends half the year, telling people about the last dog show and the other half of the year, looking forward to the next one!

Anyway, the judge was so considerate to this man. And, boy was he proud to show his dog off. When the judge asked could she look at the dog's teeth, "Oh yes," the man replied and instructed the dog to "Smile." With that the dog showed off a perfect set of choppers! The judge replied "Aren't you a clever dog?" With that the man said "Oh, he is very clever, he'll shake your hand too if you like!" I couldn't help smiling when I heard this, and full credit to the judge, she shook hands with the dog.

The dog won first in the class and every exhibitor at the show, gave this old man and his dog a standing ovation. He was cheered and clapped as he did his own lap around the ring. People came over to the ringside to congratulate and pat the man on the back as he left the ring. Talk about Elvis leaving the building, this man was certainly the king when he won his class. He was just so proud of his accomplishment. He lapped up every minute of it.

It was the first time I'm sad to say that I've seen people being genuinely nice at a dog show. They really made this old man's day. Possibly his year! Heaven help the residents at the old folks home when he returned home last night. Not only did he win a rosette but also won a great big trophy. I'm sure it will take pride of place on the mantle piece.

Isn't this what dog showing SHOULD be about?? Giving people like this old man a day out to enjoy the only family he has. His best pal, his dog. A memory for an old man to hold on to, to brighten his day, something to share with his friends at the old folk's home? Something to be proud of, however small the achievement?

Anyway, that's the story, just a thought, an observation and possibly an inspiration to us all? I know it's one of the happiest memories I have of a dog show." Author Unknown

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Catching Up

I don't know where the time has gone but it has flown by. A lot has happened since my last post about dear Belle. Since then, I've added another greyhound which is a unique story.

I've had Hoffa since January. She was adopted through Greyhound Crossroads. I really like her personality. She loves other dogs and people and gets along with the cats too. So I wrote to the kennel where she came from to ask if there were any of her siblings available for adoption. I found the information about the kennel on the Greyhound Database. I knew that a couple of her siblings had been adopted. I didn't hear anything for a while but then an email arrived from Joanne at Greyhound Crossroads. She told me that Hoffa's littermate, Moose Traks, was available for adoption.

So I drove up to Clinton Animal Hospital to meet Dr. Dixon and pick up Moose Traks. He had been neutered and had been in recovery from his surgery until I could come get him. He is just like Hoffa--friendly, happy, like cats, and enjoys meeting people and other dogs. So far there is nothing about him that isn't great. He enjoys staying with Tilly during the day while we are away from the house. He loves the other Labradors and ignores his sister! I'll be posting more photos of Mr. Moose here soon.

The great news is that all of Hoffa and Moose's littermates have now been adopted. And their dam, Tycam Lebatts has also been adopted. That's a happy story.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Some things are hard to talk about

I've avoided writing about this topic because it has been too difficult to do so. I received word about a month ago that Surry's Division Belle, a daughter of Ch. Surry's Interstellar Overdrive, was attacked by other Labradors and died from her injuries.

Belle's story is one that has haunted me for a long time. It started when she was sold to a couple who wanted to show her. I won't go into the specifics here, but the situation proved to be one in which Belle was not what the couple wanted. I co-owned Belle and after much discussion with the couple, it was agreed that she would go to a friend of theirs who trained dogs and promised to give Belle a good home.

And this is where I am at fault. Rather than buy Belle back from the couple, I talked to the lady who wanted Belle, and agreed that it was best that she go to this new home. All seemed to be going well until I heard that she had been attacked by her dogs, was severely injured, and subsequently died.

I am convinced that the lady who had Belle is indeed heartbroken about this. But I am also convinced that such a tragedy could have been prevented--if I had bought Belle back and brought her to Surry to live out her life.

Over my years as a breeder, I have only had a few bad experiences. And the ones that weigh heavy on me are with those individuals to whom I've sold a dog to "show". No bad experiences have been had with those friends of mine who were showing and got a puppy from me. The problems were with individuals who I didn't know personally but who wanted to get started in the breed.

I know now that wise words told to me by an old timer years ago ring true--Never sell a puppy for show, unless you know the individual well and count them as your friend. Even then, be cautious and have everything in writing.

Poor Belle--you deserved a lot better.