This crazy journey that we call dog show life is filled with many memories as well as numerous defining moments. For those of us who are involved in the sport of purebred dogs, we have traveled many roads and miles to and from the many events we have attended over the years. As Willie Nelson once wrote in a song, we are “on the road again.” For some, it is weekly, but for others it varies. For all of us, we have spent many hours traveling down the road again.
I am sure most of you on more than one occasion have found yourself, and your friends and family traveling with you, doing “Car Karaoke,” singing along with those wonderful tunes on your radio. It sure makes the time go faster and makes for happy moments traveling to and from your destination. The drive home after a great weekend is even better when you sing along with your favorites.
FROM AM RADIO TO BLUETOOTH
Entertainment systems in our vehicles have come a long way since the first car radio was introduced in 1930 when Paul and Joseph Galvin developed a vacuum tube radio which they named “Motorola” and was powered by a single battery. The new system was a luxury for an automobile and cost about $130.00; equivalent to about $1,500 in today’s dollars. That system only offered AM radio, but it was the start of what is now standard equipment on all of our vehicles.
The car radio had improvements, and in 1953, the first AM/FM radio was introduced. Of course, the reception was limited to the area you were driving in, but it was an advancement that provided more options to the family car.
Believe it or not, in 1956, Chrysler had the first and only in-car phonograph which played 7-inch vinyl records. As you can imagine, it did not last as the records would jump and skip while going over bumps and curves.
In the early 1960s, there was a brief 4-track system followed by an 8-track system which allowed drivers to bring their music along to listen to. It was in 1964 that Phillips developed the first compact cassette tape system which would be the hot option through the 1970s and ‘80s. I’m sure many of you remember those mixed tapes you might have made for a road trip or as a romantic gesture for that special someone.
During the 1980s, the compact disc was the new wave in music and dominated the scene well into the 2000s when the MP3 player came along. Now we have Bluetooth and commercial-free satellite radio for our karaoke singing while we are on the road.
DOG SHOW LIFE – LIFE’S JOURNEY THROUGH SONG
The relationship between man and music is well-documented throughout history, and I am truly amazed at the many talented songwriters who use music to tell a story. Great writers and musicians tell stories about all facets of life through song. Songs are out there which tell many stories of man’s journey through life from the cradle to the grave.
While driving down the road, an old favorite of mine came on the radio and it got me listening closely to the words and thoughts that went into its story. The song “My Way” was written by Paul Anka and was recorded by Frank Sinatra. The song, of course, is a reflection of a man as he ponders the ultimate end of his life. As I listened to the words, I began to think not only about my future but also of the many friends and mentors I have lost over the past several years.
To me, it seems like we are living in a world where someone or some group is telling us how we must do everything. The media tries to intimidate us with their opinions. The government is more involved than ever in telling us what we can and cannot do. Healthcare professionals are always telling us what is best for us. Plus, there are those who are constantly trying to be sure that we are all “politically correct” in every facet of our speech and our actions.
Even in this crazy sport we love called showing dogs, the AKC sets procedures to be followed, and rules and guidelines regarding behavior for judges and exhibitors alike. A person’s individuality to do things differently can often be a topic of judgment among the fancy.
When I began in this sport, we had many different people who could only be described as “colorful.” You never knew what they would do or say. There were very few magazines, and the advertising of dogs and show wins was minimal. Many of the judges in those days had their own individual procedures and processes. Some were known as “tooth fairies” while others would not tolerate a dog soiling their ring. Still others had reputations for liking “the ladies” or “the boys,” and some were well-known to “spread the wealth.” Although very different from each other, what they all had in common was a deep background in our sport, and they were well-respected.
I think they earned their monikers because they all did it their way.
DOG SHOW LIFE – THE JUDGE’S STORY—’MY WAY’
Let’s take a look at how the song “My Way” can tell the story of many of the judges of the past as well as a few of those who are current.
And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend, I’ll say it clear
I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I traveled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way
As someone who has been involved with dogs for half a century, I know I have lived a full life. And like many others in the sport, exhibitor, breeder, and judge, I have traveled each and every highway. Most of us who have achieved any success did it our way thanks to the great friends and mentors who allowed us to develop our thoughts and interpretations and apply them as we saw fit.
Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption
I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way.
All of us have had regrets, not only in judging but also in life. We are, after all, human. I have never met anyone who is perfect in either category, though I have met a few individuals who would like for you to think they are always right and never make mistakes.
In our lives and our careers in the sport, we chart a course that could be a breeding program, or possibly, a path toward accumulating various breeds and achieving various levels of judging. It is a long road and takes many years to achieve success.
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all, when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out
I faced it all, and I stood tall
And did it my way
This journey is never easy. We make mistakes along the way. Breedings that, although carefully thought out and planned, for some reason just don’t “click.” We acquire new breeds, and in those early assignments we may struggle with what we’ve learned and what we see standing in front of us—and we hope to get it right until we are comfortable with that breed.
I’ve loved, I’ve laughed and cried
I’ve had my fill, my share of losing
And now, as tears subside
I find it all so amusing
To think I did all that
And may I say, not in a shy way
Oh, no, oh, no, not me
I did it my way
We all have loved, laughed, and cried with our many friends and family. Our dog family is filled with so many people who have touched our lives. We enjoy their special moments together and we support them and cry with them when they suffer tragedy. We all have had our share of wins and losses in the ring and the amusement of observing all the drama along the way.
For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way
Yes, it was my way.
Although this song was originally thought of as sharing the sentiments expressed by an individual who is looking back on his life, I also view it as a way to look at our journey through the sport of dogs and especially the journey of a judge.
DOG SHOW LIFE – INTERPRETATION & PRIORITIES
You have heard the phrases “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” and “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” Both of these phrases can be applied to the judging of dogs. Each judge has his interpretation of the Standard and may also have his or her own set of priorities.
All too often in our sport, some critics find fault with our judges. Field Reps who don’t agree with their choice may give them a poor report. Handlers and exhibitors who lose can often be heard being critical of the outcome of the day. When the top-ranked or rated dog does not win, the cries go out even when the winner was an extremely deserving winner that was owner-handled or simply not being actively campaigned.
It is very easy for any of us sitting ringside to find ourselves judging the dogs. What you may not understand is that while you have dismissed in your mind those exhibits that you have eliminated ringside (as you focus on those that you see as the competition), the judge in the ring can only focus on each exhibit as it is presented to him or her.
Good judges have that true self-confidence which allows them to block out the outside influences and focus on the exhibits in front of them—on that day and at that moment. More often than not, they are getting it right even if you don’t agree.
I ask you, would you rather have a judge who always puts up the most advertised dog or the top handlers? Or maybe, you would like to see capable judges just do it THEIR WAY.
I know I can always look into a mirror at the end of the day because “I did it my way.”