As we dealt with one of the hardest years for our sport and as a nation in 2020, I believe there are many lessons to be learned from what we have experienced. Whether we wanted it or not, we were forced to spend more time at home and more time with family. Many people who did not normally cook found themselves cooking dinners and doing a lot more baking than normal. People who could, worked from home. Companies adapted to the “new normal” of operating remotely. Many lost their jobs and had to find news ways of generating income. So many people have been sick and many have lost loved ones. People are on edge and emotions are running high.
Our sport was hurt in multiple, different ways. Handlers, groomers, superintendents, and AKC reps were out of work for a long time and some even chose not to return to the sport. Clubs lost income, volunteers, and members. Meanwhile, we are attacking our own. In several meetings, I have referred to people in our sport as cannibals. If you are on social media, you have certainly seen how—as shows were cancelled—people attacked the clubs, the show chairs, and even the venues. The attacks came from exhibitors, breeders, and handlers. It was a diverse group of people who were upset with the decisions that were made.
It is important for people to understand that the shows they attend are being put on by volunteers who are giving many hours of their time and are working very hard to make sure you have a show to attend. Without the volunteers (who work not only the two days of the show, but throughout the year to prepare for that show), the handlers would not have jobs, the breeders would have no place to show off their breeding stock, and many people would be without a hobby to enjoy with their dogs.
How many more years are these people who are working hard (for free) going to put up with the attacks before they quit? Run enough people off from working at these shows and the clubs will not be putting them on.
We worry so much about the animal rights people attacking us and trying to take away our sport, but we are far more dangerous to ourselves. Do not get me wrong, the animal rights movement has an agenda and the money to support it, so we need to be diligent in our defense. Nevertheless, they will have nothing to worry about if we kill our own sport from within.
The next time you attend a show, remember a few key things. Be gracious, be kind, and be respectful of the rules, the club, and fellow exhibitors. Taking it one step further, I challenge you to find a club member working the show and simply say, “Thank You.” It may be the only time they will hear it that day!