REFLECTING ON MILESTONES
“FOR 30 YEARS, SHOWSIGHT HAS BEEN THERE FOR ALL OF THE HIGHS AND THE LOWS IN THE SPORT, WHILE COVERING THE CONTINUED EVOLUTION OF OUR SPORT AS IT TAKES PLACE.”
For 30 years, SHOWSIGHT has been there for all of the highs and the lows in the sport, while covering the continued evolution of our sport as it takes place. Do you realize that 30 years ago we did not have the Grand Champion Program or the National Owner-Handled Series? Even if you personally don’t like them, there is no doubt that they have been good for the sport. By adding the various levels to the Grand Champion title, many exhibitors who might have simply quit showing now continue to exhibit in pursuit of higher lev- els of achievement. In some cases, exhibi- tors live in an area that has restrictions on the number of dogs they may have on their premises. So, some may have faded away or may have had to wait for their older dogs to pass on before getting another. Although I come from a time when no one thought twice about the owner vs. the professional handler, the NOHS seems to be growing, and for some exhibitors, it is a deciding factor on whether or not to attend some of the shows. Many of these individuals take the program seriously and work hard to achieve a top owner-handler ranking in their respective breeds. Thirty years ago, we only had Confor- mation, Obedience, and Field Trials. Here we are today with AKC titles available in Agility, Lure Coursing, Scent Work, Herding, Dock Diving, Therapy, Farm Dog, CGC, Trick Dogs, and a variety of other competitions. Looking at today’s dog in the catalog or on a pedigree you will see an “alphabet soup” of letters both before and after the dog’s name, signifying all of the titles they have earned. Thinking back to the mid-1990s when I started the St. Jude Showcase of Dogs in Memphis, Tennessee, part of our mission was to show the public everything they could do with their dogs. I would like to think the success of that event was instru- mental in the AKC adopting many of those same competitions into their organiza- tion. When you look at the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin, the entire concept is a replica of the 16 highly successful years the St. Jude event had, along with contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Through that event, therapy programs were developed at the hospital, and today, therapy dogs are a big part of our society. Look at the growth of “Take the Lead” over the past 30 years and the difference that organization has made in the lives of
our officials has deteriorated. Disgruntled exhibitors are often complaining about many of our judges. As a result, the AKC is trying to legislate integrity with rules and guidelines for judges that, in my opin- ion, are not necessary but are being done to give credibility to the complaints from unhappy exhibitors who find it easier to find fault with judges and handlers rather than taking a good, long look at what they are exhibiting. Back when I started in the sport, you did not complain about the judges; you just got better dogs and did not show to those whom you thought lacked integrity. As mentioned, change is constant— and will be forever. With each change, there will be those who approve while others will be dragged along kicking and screaming. Hopefully, each change will provide new opportunities for future mile- stone moments to cherish and remember. What does the future of our sport look like? I don’t think any of us knows. Since COVID, we have seen more issues with club and show facilities, a decrease in the reliability of show superintendents, vir- tual competitions for titles, and numerous other issues. For our sport to succeed, we need to find ways to satisfy the needs of clubs, exhibitors, breeders, and judges. These needs must be satisfied in a practical, eco- nomical, and safe way for both humans and canines. It may be time for the Ameri- can Kennel Club to look into a change within the Bylaws, to update the over 100-year-old model into one that fits the 21st century and beyond. SHOWSIGHT has been here for 30 years, and hopefully, AJ and everyone at SHOWSIGHT will be here in 2031 to reach another milestone. Congratulations to SHOWSIGHT and the staff for continuing to meet and exceed the needs of our ever-changing sport. In closing, I hope that each person in our sport can reach the goals and milestones they look forward to with their version of Man’s Best Friend.
many in our sport who have dealt with difficult times. During the past 30 years, the landscape of the breeds themselves has changed. In my breed, the Vizsla, we have grown in popularity and competition from being one of the lower entry breeds into one in which (in some areas) our point scale is higher than that of Dobermans and Box- ers. At the same time, there has been a huge decline in what I call the “hard work required” breeds; those with coats that demand work and dedication. Thirty years ago, Irish Setters, Afghan Hounds, Old English Sheepdogs, Bearded Collies, and others would garner entries of over 35-50 regularly. Now, at many shows, they rarely even reach double-digit entries. Even the Terrier Group, once full of high quality and sizeable entries, has seen a huge decline in entries. This is probably because of the demanding effort needed to condi- tion and maintain the coats for competition. CHANGE IS CONSTANT The number of breeds continues to increase. The Herding Group itself has grown from the initial 16 breeds to 31 breeds today. Every Group has seen some type of growth over the past three decades, and the AKC continues to add more new breeds to the registry. Over the past 30 years, we have lost many ICONS of the sport, yet there have always been highly competent individuals to step up and fill those roles. Unfortunately, over the past 30 years, we have seen a huge decline in the “true” dog men and women involved in our sport. Nowhere has this become more evident than within the ranks of today’s judges. The number of individuals approved not only as Breed Judges, but also as Multiple Group Judges, has grown by leaps and bounds. This meteoric rise in the ranks has also, unfortunately, brought about a dilution of talent in the quality of today’s judging. The American Kennel Club has made many changes over the years, but in some circles, the perception of our shows and
138 | SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, DECEMBER 2021
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