Becoming BY JACQUELYN FOGEL Encouraging Young People to Join Clubs and Compete In Conformation
Everybody knows that dog shows are getting smaller. Twenty years ago an average sized show drew 1500 - 2000 entries while large or prestigious shows drew entries of 2500 – 3000. I belonged to a Wisconsin club that hosted two shows every year. The winter show was in a metropolitan indoor location, and had an entry of nearly three thousand and a spectator gate of nearly $10,000.
A Combined Specialty club with 14 breeds joined us on Saturday. The smaller summer show was held out- doors with no spectator gate and entries of only 1500. These were the days before the AKC allowed clubs to do back-to-back shows. Club membership included at least twenty active volunteers of all ages, and it had a large treasury. We didn’t have Owner-Handler series, Grand Champions, reserved grooming or Best Anything competitions. The indoor show sometimes offered a weight-pull exhibition, but no other perfor- mance events. The outdoor show didn’t charge for parking and hosted no events to draw in spectators. This club was a money-generating machine, but it also had a very dark side to it. For most of the years I was a member we had a strong dictator-like president and vice-president, and a weak Treasurer who never asked questions. Our vice-president who was also the Treasurer of the Combined Specialty Clubs was caught stealing thousands of dollars from the Combined one year, and they successfully prosecuted him. However, even though I could document a shortage of around $9,000 in vendor revenue from the year before I took over that committee, the club didn’t want to create waves, so the President never told the rest of the mem- bership, and I was severely ostracized for trying to dis- credit one of our Founding Fathers. This man probably stole more than $12,000/year from the two clubs, and nobody was allowed to ask questions. People might want to blame the Treasurer, and to some extent it was his fault because he never asked for back-up data. He only counted what came in and never asked about why more wasn’t being documented. He trusted the Founding Father dictatorship to tell him what he need- ed to know. He was a pharmacist who was a good per- son but knew nothing about commonly accepted accounting practices. I was a young, naive, and an eas- ily vilified trouble-maker. I look back on those years and wonder what kept
me going in a top-heavy system rigged to keep the newcomers in their place. The club meetings weren’t fun, but they were short. Most of us just listened to the Old Boys and their wives tell us what was going to happen at the shows. We were told what we could vol- unteer to do, and we were expected to show up, shut up and do what we were told. I joined the club along with another young woman about my same age. We played the game differently. She nudged her way into the Old Boy Club with stories and promises she never intended to keep, while I was a staunch know-it-all, we-can-make-this-better irritant who demanded accountability and professionalism. She advanced through the leadership structure a lot faster than I did, and became show chair for the large winter show after only a few years’ membership. It took me 10 years to finally get the chairmanship of the summer show – after nobody else wanted it, and I had chaired every other sub-committee. She had no trouble getting vol- unteers to work, while I struggled to get my subcom- mittees filled. Thankfully the summer show was held with another all-breed club, and they handled most set-up and take down duties. That was one highlight of my learning experience – learning to negotiate with another club over responsibilities and hiring judges and logistical issues both club had to accept. Mostly I remember struggling to get work done and be accept- ed by the Old Boy Club. The acceptance never hap- pened – the Old Boys just gradually moved away, died or went to jail. And yet, I remember those years somewhat nostal- gically. I learned a lot about the inner workings of dog clubs, dog shows and dog breeders. I wanted to be accepted, even if the Old Boy Club never embraced my abilities. I just worked harder. I wanted to advance in a merit system – by breeding great dogs and exhibiting them in the best manner possible, and doing great work within the club structure. I am still not sure I
64 • S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , D ECEMBER 2017
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