BOOM OR BOOMER? The Sport of Dogs Cannot Go Back to the Future

Here’s a question for the Baby Boomer generation: If you had a time machine, would you go back and relive your high school years?

The answer given in response to this enigmatic question is most often, “No, but…” (Ah, there’s always a proviso when it comes to matters of the hypothetical.) Most people indicate that, if given the chance, they’d only go back to high school if they could bring with them all the experience and wisdom they’d accumulated in life since graduation. Of course, even without the constraints of time, life doesn’t work this way. In fact, it’s the lessons learned from mistakes made that make life worth living. Solving problems allows us to move confidently towards the future. And although it may be helpful throughout this journey called “life” to look back on occasion, it is not actually possible to “live” in the past. Try as we might, those of us who are Baby Boomers cannot relive our glory days. Though we may not want to admit it, the future—including the future of the dog sport—belongs to today’s high school students. BOOM!

In the 1985 blockbuster film, Back to the Future, director Robert Zemeckis allows viewers to travel back in time with Marty McFly, a skateboarding teen played by Michael J. Fox. The film’s protagonist is a “red-blooded American teenager” who accidentally finds himself at this high school—30 years earlier—where he meets his future parents, inadvertently prevents their meeting, reconciles the couple’s relationship and, ultimately, travels in a time-traveling Delorean back to the future. The Academy Award-nominated picture gave movie-goers a chance to escape back to a simpler time when suburban life was predictably safe—and preternaturally boring. So powerful was the pull in the 1980s to return to the post-war boom years of the 1950s that worldwide audiences spent more than $380 million in theater tickets. For $3.55, the decadence and disasters of the present could be forgotten—if only temporarily—by returning to a place framed in white picket fences and peopled with nice girls wearing Poodle skirts.

Now, more than 35 years since Back to the Future was originally released, many Americans are finding themselves, yet again, looking back to simpler times—the 1980s! Who knew that we would one day be nostalgic for punk rock and spandex? Well, maybe Ray-Bans? The lesson to be learned here is a simple one: The past only “seems” kinder, sweeter, simpler… better than the present—and the future. In reality, all we really have is now. Despite the trials that we are all living through at the moment, the truth is that 35 years from now these will be the “good ol’ days” for a generation of Americans.

Following are a few thoughts that may encourage Baby Boomer breeders, exhibitors, and judges to enjoy the present as we daydream about being behind the wheel of a time-traveling Tesla.

Enjoy the Show

A Zoom meeting is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family, but it’s a poor substitute for a legitimate Meet and Greet. Social greetings that are dependant on social cues aren’t quite the same when they’re experienced on a screen where the participants resemble the celebrities from Hollywood Squares or the cast of The Brady Bunch. Though handshakes, hand-waving, and hugs may be in short supply now, their reemergence in a post-pandemic world is all but assured.

Breed This!

Slowing down isn’t always easy to do, especially when the momentum of your life has had you functioning at breakneck speed for the last 35 years. However, with nowhere to go and all the time in the world to get there, tasks that once seemed like chores can become reliable stress relievers; cleaning, making household repairs, and gardening can stave off those feelings of doom and gloom. (It really is a good idea to stop and smell the roses.) When all else fails, there’s always the transformative power of aerobic exercise or opening a bottle of wine.

Specialties Are Special

There are some skills in life that do, in fact, need to be relearned. Who knew that driving would be one of them? With so many family cars and RVs sheltering in place, countless drivers have very likely lost the ability to parallel park or back out of the driveway with confidence. Despite the millions of valid driver’s licenses issued, the return to the open road requires that every motorist proceed with extreme caution. (Or maybe it’s time to dust-off that old bicycle—again.)

High Performance

What is it they say about opinions? Oh right, everybody has one. For many stay-at-home fanciers, mixing social distancing with social media has only proven a point your mother likely impressed upon you when you were a teenager: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Oversharing—and opining—in the digital age can be ruinous to friendships as well as reputations. Before hitting the “send” button, it’s best to remember another piece of advice your mother probably gave you: Keep your opinions to yourself.

Fashion Forward

For dog people, “family” often includes a small circle of friends who share our breed devotion and our commitment to the sport. These are the people who remind us who we are. But in a world where everyone has been disconnected physically, if not technologically, the relationships we share with the people we care about most have become even more important to our sense of personal well-being. Whenever we all eventually return to showing dogs again, the experience will likely be akin to a very significant family reunion; a purebred pow wow.

Back to Basics

The real reason that today’s Baby Boomers have a tendency to view the past through rose-colored glasses is pretty basic. Like it or not, we’re all running out of time. There is no going backwards and, just like watching a classic film, the desire to time-travel “back to the future” only offers a pleasant escape from the trials and tribulations of today. (And nobody needs to be reminded of how challenging the last year has been!) The past doesn’t really exist anymore—for anyone. It exists only in our memories and on old VCR tapes. We can’t go back; we can only press “forward.”

The best that any of us can hope to do is to take what we’ve learned from the past year, and make a difference today—for a better tomorrow. There’s absolutely no reason why the future can’t be bright. Just ask Marty McFly.

  • Dan Sayers covers the sport of dogs with a particular interest in purebred dog history and breed preservation. His articles feature notable icons of the past as well as individuals who work tirelessly to promote purebred dogs today. A self-taught artist, Dan’s work is represented in collections worldwide and his illustrations appear in the award-winning Encyclopedia of K-9 Terminology by Ed and Pat Gilbert. Since 1981, Dan has been an exhibitor of several Sporting and Hound breeds. He’s bred Irish Water Spaniels under the Quiet Storm prefix and judged Sweepstakes at the parent club’s National Specialty twice. Dan is a member of the Irish Water Spaniel Club of America and the Morris and Essex Kennel Club.

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