Dog Sport | What a Wonderful World!

Dog Sport

 

Dog Sport | How do you feel about the world we are living in? How much influence do you think the global happenings affect you and our sport of purebred dogs? What about change and technology?

I thought about this question and how much has changed—and how many things have remained the same—during my lifetime.

I am a Baby Boomer who was born while America was in the middle of a “Cold War” with the old Soviet Union. While growing up, I remember having “bomb shelter drills” which were supposed to protect me from a possible nuclear attack. Thankfully, the world has not seen anything like that since the end of World War II. However, it is unfortunate that there seems to always be some type of conflict happening in our world at all times. In 1967, the United States was involved in the Vietnam War and tensions were high here in the United States as well as in other parts of the world.

In 1967, two songwriters, Bob Thiele and Gregory David Weiss, teamed up with jazz singer Louis Armstrong to write and record a song that was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.

That song is “What a Wonderful World.” It was written to remind us of all the beauty in the world, even during times of unrest. Much is going on in our world today and, maybe, if we all listen to those words we can know that there is much to be grateful for:

I see trees of green, red roses too

I see them bloom, for me and for you

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

I see Skies of blue, and clouds of white

The bright blessed days, dark sacred nights

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky

Are also on the faces of people going by

I see friends shaking hands sayin’ how do you do

They’re really sayin’ I love you

I hear babies cry, I watch them grow

They’ll learn much more than I’ll never know

And I think to myself

What a wonderful world

Yes, I think to myself

What a wonderful world

Such a beautiful way to describe our world. It was timely in 1967 and it is still timely today.

So Many Changes

So many things have changed since 1967, and although we take things for granted, many of the changes have enriched not only our lives but also our sport.

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first man-made satellite into orbit. The satellite was known as Sputnik. The satellite itself was not capable of much as it circled the earth. What it did, however, was send an alarming message to America that while our scientists and engineers were designing bigger, better cars, TV sets, and other things, the Soviet Union had been focusing on less frivolous material things—and they were planning on winning the Cold War because of it.

The result was the start of the Space Race, where science and technology would be developed to benefit man in so many ways.

During the Space Race, President John F. Kennedy proclaimed in the early 1960s that America would send a man to walk on the moon in that decade. On July 20, 1969, the prophecy was completed as Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon. The results of those efforts are still being felt, because the technology developed from the space program continues to make a huge impact on our lives.

For those of us who have been showing dogs for many years, we remember buying the Rand McNally Atlas so that we could have the most up-to-date maps to assist us in finding various show sites throughout the country. There was no doubt that many arguments occurred between drivers and passenger-navigators as we went in search of those fairgrounds and other sites in small-town America. You had better have your judging program with the directions to some of those sites or you may have never made it!

The Global Positioning System

Did you know that research for the Global Positioning System (GPS) started way back in 1962 when a group of scientists from M.I.T. and other institutions proposed a “Galactic Network” of computers that could talk to each other? They felt such a network of computers would enable various government leaders the ability to communicate even if the Soviets destroyed the traditional telephone system.

In October of 1969, the system delivered its first computer message from one computer at a research lab at UCLA to a second one at Stanford University. Those computers of the day were said to be the size of a small house. During the rest of 1969 and throughout the 1970s, the systems and technology grew.

The GPS is a satellite-based radionavigation system owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Space Force. Today’s GPS was started by the U.S. Department of Defense in 1973 and is now said to have an accuracy of about 16 feet.

The Cold War and the Space Race are part of the reason we have GPS today and no longer need all those maps, and why we can generally find just about any place on earth with just our phones. It is also noted that much of this same technology was used to develop and improve our cell phone service and our ability to be instantly connected to the world.

Dog Sport – A World of Change

A world of change also opened up the world of purebred dogs. There are many large and great countries in our world, and many of these countries have embraced our sport of purebred dogs. We are all familiar with the AKC and The Kennel Club in England, as well as other registries, but did you know that the FCI was founded in 1911 under the auspices of the kennel clubs of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and The Netherlands? It is now the governing body for numerous kennel clubs throughout the world.

We are all familiar with the AKC and The Kennel Club in England, as well as other registries, but did you know that the FCI was founded in 1911 under the auspices of the kennel clubs of Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, and The Netherlands?

In 1978, China decided to reform its national economic setup and opened its doors to the rest of the world, and is now a major player in all phases of global trade. China has also become very involved in our growing dog-related sport and has two governing kennel clubs; the Chinese Kennel Union, which is an FCI club, and the NGKC, which is based on a system very similar to that of the AKC.

On December 25, 1991, the old Soviet Union was dissolved into 15 independent states. Since the break-up, many of these states/countries have also become members of the FCI.

The Ukrainian Kennel Club became an FCI member in 1991 and has over 100 local clubs with approximately 300,000 dogs registered across some 260 different breeds, with the Ukrainian studbook registering about 40,000 dogs annually.

In 2017, Kyiv, in Ukraine, hosted the Euro Show 2017 where over 20,000 dogs were exhibited.

Just like Ukraine, the Russian Kennel Federation (RKF) was established in 1991 and became an FCI member in 2003. The RKF has approximately 5.5 million registered dogs and over 1,400 dog clubs.

Numerous breeds trace their origins to the countries of the old Soviet Bloc countries. For example, the Black Russian Terrier was developed at the Red Star Kennels in Moscow during the 1930s. Other breeds with deep roots in the region are the Borzoi, Russian Toy, Samoyed, and Siberian Husky.

With the expansion of clubs throughout Europe and the rest of the world, our sport today is truly universal.

Technology in reproduction has allowed for the shipment of semen between breeders from all countries. Likewise, with the Internet and other improved communication systems between breeders, the importing and exporting of dogs has become a valuable asset to the sport.

Many breeders both here in the United States and in countries throughout the world have enjoyed the opportunity to expand their dogs’ gene pools by importing and exporting breeding animals across the globe.

I had requested from the AKC some statistics for this article regarding the numbers of foreign registrations from all sources, including Russia and Ukraine, but I never received a response. So, I cannot give you the actual numbers of imports to our country.

Dog Sport – Will War Change our Sport?

We are all bearing witness to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. Both of these countries have an active dog breeder/show population of enthusiasts. Just like all of us, they care a great deal about their dogs and their counterparts throughout the world.

For many years, the exchange of judges, dogs, and information between countries throughout the world has not been limited or restricted. However, the recent events have led to the banning of Russian judges and exhibitors from partaking in any dog events outside their own country. I have fond memories of judging in Ukraine, and meeting dog breeders and enthusiasts from that country, and it is heartbreaking to see what is going on in the country. I pray that, somehow, peace will come to the region and our dog-loving counterparts can rebuild and return to competition sooner rather than later.

Dog Sport – Inflation and Its Effect on our Sport

Here in America, just as in other parts of the world, our sport appears to have survived the COVID phase for the moment and things are slowly returning to a somewhat normal situation.

However, growing inflation will no doubt have a huge effect on our sport moving forward. Most of us use our discretionary income as our source of funds for our habit or addiction to showing dogs. Unfortunately, due to inflation and other things outside of our control, it is expected that our available discretionary income may decline for the foreseeable future due to higher costs of goods and services.

According to U.S. Government statistics from 2020, the average American family income is $67,463 per year BEFORE TAXES. The average family expenses listed were housing at $1,710 per month, transportation (including car payments) at $813 per month, healthcare at $500 per month (I don’t know many families that can cover their healthcare for that), $660 per month for groceries, $237 for various subscriptions, $155 for clothing, $100 for phone service, and $58 for other monthly services.

As you can see, this does not leave a lot of discretionary income for pet food, veterinary care, entry fees, hotels, meals, and the many other things needed to be involved in the sport of purebred dogs.

Economists are predicting that the average family will see the cost of gasoline alone increase between $2,000 and $3,000 this year. This is for the average family. For those of us who travel to shows, I imagine it will be higher.

Just remember that these figures from the government are based on the “median” income, which means there are 50% of the people with higher income levels as well as 50% with lower levels.

Dog Sport – What About the Show-Giving Clubs?

There is no doubt that inflation may create problems for exhibitors, but will it also be an area of concern for the show-giving clubs? The expenses for judges will increase just from the higher costs of airline tickets and fuel. For example, I was scheduled to judge for a specialty club this summer, and when I went to purchase the airline ticket, the fare (which is normally in the $300-$400 range) was running between $800-$1100. Needless to say, I contacted the club and suggested that they find a judge more local to the area, as I just could not see a local specialty club being able to absorb those costs and still at least break even for their show. They reluctantly agreed that it was the proper, fiscal thing to do.

We are seeing a rise in motel and meal costs too. Some venues have installed COVID sanitation protocols and have also raised their rental prices.

Due to the inflation factor, some exhibitors may cut down on the number of shows they attend. Some handlers may lose clients because of the clients’ lack of discretionary income. Clubs will spend more for judges or will look for those living close to their show to keep costs down. This, of course, will be depriving exhibitors of a variety of available judges under whom they may have to exhibit.

Ribbons, trophies, volunteer meals, superintendent fees, and other related expenses will all affect a club’s ability to continue to put on shows without losing money.

Dog Sport – What a Wonderful World

Although it may seem like we are in a sort of doomsday scenario at times, it is comforting to know that we have survived difficult times in the past.

As you can see, our world has undergone so many changes in just the last 50 years and no one can predict where we will be 50 years from now.

Change, both good and bad, has been a part of man’s existence since the beginning of time.

But as the song says, we still see trees of green, the red roses bloom, the skies of blue, and the clouds are white, the sun shines during the day and the moon is up there at night. We still have the colors of the rainbow and people shaking hands, babies still cry and we watch them grow.

Amazingly, life goes on and we somehow survive. Through pandemics, war, weather, and other disasters, man always seems to work things out. Those of us who love our faithful four-legged friends will always be there for them, just as they are always here for us.

Look at these times as one of opportunity. Join a local club, get more involved, and help the sport wherever you can as a volunteer. Don’t give up just because times are hard. By working together, and not against each other, we may become stronger than before when this difficult period ends.

My hope for each of you is that even though things in the world don’t always seem right or fair, you can still see the beauty of our wonderful world.

 

Dog Sport | What a Wonderful World! – Don’t Give Up Just Because Times Are Hard
By Walter J. Sommerfelt

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  • Walter Sommerfelt of Lenoir City, TN has been involved in the sport of purebred dogs since acquiring his first Old English Sheepdog in 1972. He is a former professional handler as well as a breeder, and exhibitor of breeds in all seven groups, most notably Vizslas, OES, Pointers, Bearded Collies and Weimaraners. Judging since 1985 he is approved for All Sporting, Working, and Herding breeds and groups, Junior Showmanship and Best in Show and has had the honor of judging on four different continents. Mr. Sommerfelt has judged many of the most prestigious shows in the United States including the herding group at the 2014 Westminster Dog Show in New York City where he has judged on three separate occasions. Mr. Sommerfelt was the founder and chairman for the St. Jude Showcase of Dogs from 1993 until 2009, a unique event showcasing the world of purebred dogs. This special event was the largest collection of various dog events in one location, featuring an AKC all Breed Dog Show, AKC Obedience and Rally Trials, AKC Agility trials, (prior to AKC adding agility NADAC trials ) One of the largest Fly ball tournaments in the U.S.A., Herding and go to ground demonstrations, A main stage featuring performances by Canines from Television and the Movies, Freestyle, Demos by drug and various therapy dogs, A full room of booths for meet the breeds, over 50 AKC judges seminars annually, Lure coursing, A fun Zone for Children, and other dog related fun activities for the general public and their dogs. Over the years the event not only raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the world-renowned St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN, but also raised awareness of the many activities for people with their dogs as well establishing a voice for dog people in the Memphis area with regard to legislation. Many aspects of today’s AKC Royal Canin show can be traced back to the St. Jude event. Along with Carol his wife of 36 years they have bred well over 90 AKC Champions including Group, Best in Show and Specialty Winners, dual Champions and multiple performance titled dogs. During the past 40 years Mr. Sommerfelt has been active in a number of dog clubs and is currently the President of the Tennessee Valley Kennel Club. He is recipient of the AKC outstanding Sportsmanship Award and is also a career agent and financial planning specialist with Nationwide Insurance. The Sommerfelts’ have two grown children, both former Junior Handlers and they are still active breeders and exhibitors of the Vizsla breed.

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