Top Notch Toys August 2018


by Michael and Cathy Dugan

SO, YOU’VE DECIDED TO MAKE THE LEAP… By the time you have decided to compete at a high level at the big dog shows, you’ve already abandoned logic and reason and have drunk the kool-aid of the lure of competition. Ok, maybe a little dramatic, but not much. All of us started at some point on a fairly basic level. We loved our dogs, had fun with them, played with them, perhaps watched a dog show on television and sensed there was a whole other world out there that had to do with dogs. One of the many great positive ele- ments of purebred dogs and the shows is that everyone can find their own level of involvement and enjoyment. There are thousands of owners of purebred dogs who never compete with their dogs and are very comfortable and happy to live with their wonderful creatures. We never call our dogs “dogs”; we refer to them as fur-people and talk to them in sentences because we believe that PWDs are that smart. We work as hard to communicate that belief with our pet owners as we do our show homes because we want to owners to have a fabulous experience, no matter what level they have decided to play. Formany owners, showing their own dogs and competing just enough to get a championship ismore than enough. The dog world is a big tent with an activity suited to every desire and need. Wheth- er it’s conformation, agility, water trials, obedience, tracking, field trials, carting;

you name it, it’s all there for the new enthusiast. Even when you have made the personal commitment necessary to succeed at a high level in dog shows, you know it’s not going to last forever. After awild ridewithLadybug for three years, the existen- tial questions loomed: “Now

what!” Because we’ve had the chance to be involved in dog breeding and shows for over 30 years, we nowhave an oppor- tunity to continue to be involved in other ways. While we continue to breed dogs and compete, the AKC provides many opportunities for judging, ring stew- arding, involvement with breed and all-breed clubs, writing, being men- tors to our owners and others in the business and building a positive legacy from the success we have enjoyed. An important part of the commitment to participant in dog shows is an under- standing that the sport cannot survive unless we recruit, retain and mentor new owners. “LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, WELCOME TO THE GREAT- EST SHOW ON EARTH! IN THE CENTER RING…” The world of dog shows is a commu- nity much like the circus. Every week a collection of performers from the AKC, dogs, dog clubs, breeders, pet and show owners, judges, professional handlers,

show superintendents, the media, and dog food and product producers per- form. It is part of a $50 billion industry, but ultimately it is the circus. Every weekend, the performers break down the tents, put the animals into trucks and travel to the next show. Like the circus, this traveling show becomes tight-knit and protective of the world they produce week after week. For new owners, this carnival atmosphere can seem unfriendly and hard to penetrate. One of the problems of our sport is that new owners are not always welcomed as much as they should be, even though they are the lifeblood of the future of our sport. When you attend a major dog show it really does have the atmosphere of a three-ring circus. At any time, dogs are in the conformation ring, running through agility courses, doing obe- dience, tracking or whatever, while handlers and assistants are fever- ishly running back and forth to the rings. The ringmaster (the super- intendent) tries to keep everything happening simultaneously.

40 • T op N otch T oys , A ugust 2018

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