Fall in Philadelphia Just Won’t Be the Same This Year
If there’s one thing that’s certain in dog shows, it’s the unpredictability of the weather in Philadelphia during the first weekend of October. On any given year, this uncertainty would require exhibitors, handlers and judges with plans to attend the Montgomery County Kennel Club show in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania, to pack for unseasonably warm weather as well as torrential downpours. However, this year (as we all know too well) the sun will shine or the rain will fall without benefit of an audience of 1,500 Terriers and hundreds of their adoring human caretakers. This year, Terrier aficionados from around the world will all be missing Montgomery.
When the announcement was made this summer that “Montgomery” would be canceled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many in the fancy felt a collective sense of loss. As shows around the country were being cancelled, many in the community were hoping that Montgomery, Devon, and Hatboro would manage to go on as planned. Unfortunately, the cancelation of Hatboro’s two shows (due to the loss of that club’s site in Wrightstown, Pennsylvania) was followed by word that Devon (located in Ludwig’s Corner, Pennsylvania) would not take place this year—and neither would Montgomery. All hope was hanging onto Morris and Essex taking place as scheduled, but even this organization’s experienced show committee was—temporarily—defeated by the Coronavirus. (M&Es 2020 show was canceled in June, but has been rescheduled to take place at Colonial Park in Somerset, New Jersey, on October 6, 2021.)
Thankfully, not every club’s event has been cancelled this year. Through the effort of several dedicated and driven show chairs and their committees, exhibitors from around the country have been able to travel to attend shows in Alaska, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Ohio, and other states where local officials could be convinced that a dog show can take place during a pandemic with every precaution taken to ensure the safety of all involved. These clubs have managed to keep hope alive for countless breeders and exhibitors in the US and, no doubt, for the AKC and the superintendents that depends on the revenue generated by registrations and dog show entries.
For Montgomery’s tenacious team of Terrier promoters, finding a reliable alternate show site to the area’s community college campus proved impossible. Disappointment from fanciers was palpable on social media where many exhibitors expressed their condolences to the club’s membership. The general disappointment at the news of the show’s cancellation was expressed most sincerely by one Facebook post which read, “So very heartbreaking. I have only missed your show once in just over 20 years of being involved. I completely understand your decision and I look forward to attending your show in 2021. Thank you for all that you and your club does for the sport of purebred dogs and for the Terrier Fancy specifically.”
Support for the club’s decision came from many Terrier people, but it should be emphasized that you don’t have to be a breeder/owner-handler of Terriers to appreciate the disappointment—and devotion—expressed in that Facebook post. In fact, Montgomery is one of the few remaining stand-alone shows that speaks to the passions of every dedicated preservation breeder and 21st-century exhibitor. Montgomery remains a dog show as dog shows were intended; fiercely competitive with a focus on breeding better dogs. This show attracts breeders of hounds and hunting dogs just as it welcomes those who are securing a future for the Terrier breeds. International visitors attend in numbers matched only, perhaps, by Westminster.
Few contemporary shows are able to elicit the kind of excitement and enthusiasm that Montgomery can. Dog shows of this caliber are what’s needed most in a sport that some view as in precipitous decline. (Entries at the shows that have taken place this summer, however, prove that interest in the exhibition of purebred dogs is still strong among America’s preservation breeders.) Who knows, maybe the dearth of dog shows this year will be what actually saves the sport—and many of our breeds—from extinction?
No one will ever know how big this year’s Montgomery entry could have been had the show been able to go on as planned. There’s no way of knowing what could have been. However, what can be assured is that 2020’s unforeseen “reset” will ultimately have a positive impact on the future of the sport. The cancellation of so many shows has reawakened the doggy devotion of many who had begun to grow weary of the grind. Several show organizers have, despite the odds, managed to put on successful events that have provided a blueprint for what shows will look like in the future.
Next year’s Montgomery could be a show the likes of which hasn’t been seen in decades—if ever. So if you’re making plans to attend next year’s show, you certainly won’t be disappointed. Just please remember to pack a mask along with your sunscreen and rain gear.
by Dan Sayers