Can We Meet In The Middle?

Our publisher posed a question having to do with the age gap in our sport and that made me think about how we closed the culture gap. I don’t go to dog shows since losing Bill but I can see there is a problem.

How sweet it was when parents only worried about bobby sox—before there were mini-skirts. My husband grew up with Coon dogs and a mutt they called Diddybitecha. (Yeah, there was a reason…) I grew up with bird dogs because my half-Comanche father was an avid hunter and by the time I could follow him into the Florida woods, birds were just about the only game left. <sigh>

In the 50s we learned about “bloodlines.” There was no mentoring program, no age gap. You learned from your Elders. You checked out books from the public library. I read all of Walter Farley’s books and discovered “breed” temperament which came in handy when I was doing a little horse trading. I dreamed of Arabians but Quarter Horse tractability, conformation, and working ability was in demand. Today I expect it in my Toy Fox Terriers.

In the early the 60s we bought a Doberman, daughter of Ch. Borong The Warlock. We soon found Dorothy Gooch and her husband Wayne who was the DPCA (Doberman Pinscher Club Of America) Delegate to the AKC. I sat at Dorothy’s feet, literally, and began to learn canine genetics. When their Ch. Skyraider’s The Carousel (handled by George Rood) won BOS at Westminster I was privileged to share in their joy. Actually, I was just about the only person who could… there was no internet and “long distance” phone calls cost a fortune.

Rottweilers were delivered to Paul and Norma Harris by Fredrick Berger, the German Breed Warden. I managed their racing Greyhound kennel and fell for their Schutzhund imports. Bred to one.
In 1968 I owner-handled my beloved Ch. Asgard Anna vom Kongslein, CD to her title in five shows.

Bill and I discovered the Akita and Japanese culture in the 70s. For the second time in our history, the shared love for purebred dogs brought enemies together on common ground.

So what has changed in our culture? More to the point, as our publisher suggests, what has changed in the dog sport? Is the dog-owning/dog breeding tradition we brought with us from England fading away?

AJ mentioned our communication problem. Communication? Most of us would think “you gotta be kidding” as our brain instantly lists phone, Facebook, internet, television but wait, he’s right.

We are losing the verbal skills that “once upon a time” were taught in school and our writings are limited to characters instead of pages. What passes for art today is incomprehensible. So is it any wonder that we are also losing the art of communication in the
dog world?

Is there a middle ground? Not so long ago dog show competitors fought for ribbons and then went to dinner together.

When was the last time you asked a potential mentor about complex issues having to do with maintaining breed type? Like why your Newfie won’t swim or why your terrier is so disinterested in a squeaky toy? I’ll bet some long-time breeder knows how heart problems became associated with your breed (and how to avoid them!)

A couple of decades ago a judge might tell you how to improve topline in your bloodline. Do today’s judges not bother because they don’t know or because they no longer care about genetics? Are they too rushed or has offering insight based on decades of experience become politically incorrect?

Do you spend more time on your mobile device than you do at the library? Dinner conversation—what’s that? Are you checking your phone or the desert menu? Is there a middle ground where you can meet to learn more about your breed or do you distance yourself from people you want to “beat”?

Do you lecture your teenagers more often than you teach them how to waltz or fix the carburetor? Does any of that matter as long as you know who won the National, whose dog failed its eye test, or which judge hates over-grooming?

Probably not. 

  • Barbara Andrews

    Barbara “BJ” Andrews is the breeder of over 300 AKC Champions including over a dozen All-Time record holders. She is the author of 8 breed books and founder of 3 AKC Breed Clubs. In 1998 she launched the world’s first public website (TheDogPlace.org) followed by TheDogPress.com and TheJudgesPlace.com which, as part of the NetPlaces Network, serves all facets of dog ownership and exhibition. She and husband Bill pioneered the Akita, Miniature Bull Terrier, and Toy Fox Terrier to AKC recognition and BJ served on the board of each Parent Club. She has judged in England and AKC Specialty Sweeps. She was awarded UKC All Breeds approval but has never applied for an AKC judges license because it could interfere with objective reporting on the sport.

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