VOLUNTEERS THE BACKBONE OF OUR SPORT by Walter J. Sommerfelt
M uch is often written and dis- cussed about this great sport and our world of pure-bred dogs. These discussions range from Judges, to breed Standards, to the rules and regulations, to the top dogs, professional and owner han- dlers, and of course the American Kennel Club itself. What is rarely discussed or consid- ered outside of the delegate body is the important role of the Local Ken- nel Club and the numerous volunteers it takes to keep them operating and providing quality competitive shows and trials for dog loving enthusiasts to compete in. Just think about for a minute. If there were no clubs would we still have shows and trials? Could clubs survive and thrive if they had to pay every- one that worked to put on their show? Would the AKC step in a start putting on the shows by themselves? I think not. There is no doubt inmymind that the many Volunteers throughout our country and the club they represent are truly the life blood of the sport. Now I ask you, Are you a Contribut- ing volunteer member of your local kennel club? Or are you one of those people that just take for granted that everything will be done, and you do not need to give back or contribute to your local kennel club and the sport in general. Volunteerism is generally considered an altruistic activity where an indi- vidual or group provides service for
no financial or social gain but rather to “benefit another person, group, or organization.” When I first started in the sport, I was very fortunate to have mentors that guided me to membership in my first All-Breed and breed specific clubs. Fortunately for me that first club was the Western Reserve Kennel Club in Cleveland, Ohio. In the early 1970’s it was considered one of the premier clubs in the country and hosted two of our largest shows, one in the Sum- mer at the Metropolitan Polo Field and one in Downtown Cleveland in December at the Convention cen- ter. I learned so much by belonging to the club. WRKC was at that time comprised of a membership with many of the Icons in the sport at that time. The club was a huge presence in the Greater Cleveland area and also made significant contributions to the Cleveland Public Library system with donations of a huge numbers of canine related books as well as hous- ing a complete library of the various stud books from not only AKC but many other registries throughout the world. Back before the internet, if one chose, he could go to the library and research those stud books to build a pedigree going back as many genera- tions as one wished to search. It was a club filled with great breeders, ex- hibitors, judges, and handlers. The meetings were held in downtown Cleveland at the YMCA right next to the old Cleveland Arena and the
meetings were always well attended and thanks to the efforts of the late Max Riddle and others we always had interesting and educational programs on a monthly basis. Part of your responsibilities as a member of this great organization was that you were expected to volun- teer and work at the two shows put on by the club. We were introduced to the concept that throughout the year you attended shows put on by other clubs and giving up showing at the local shows was your way of “giving back” to the sport. Volunteering was just a small part of the big picture of helping our sport to continue to grow and succeed. Throughout my career in this sport I have never lost sight of the concepts I was taught by the WRKC. Serving in some type of capacity at the local club level has always been a part of my life in every place I have ever lived. Throughout that time what I have observed is a tremendous change in attitude amongst the many people involved in our sport. While a great number of today’s exhibitors, judges and handlers will not join a club. These individuals are often amongst the first to complain about the judg- ing panel, the venue, the parking, and a multitude of issues without ever considering the fact that the show is being put on for their enjoyment by a number of volunteers that are not being compensated in any way for all they do to make it happen.
36 • T op N otch T oys , S eptember 2021
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