Quit Your Complaining

A Complaint Is Only a First Step

From the August 2018 Issue of ShowSight. Click to subscribe.

“To complain is always nonacceptance of what is. It invariably carries an unconscious negative charge. When you complain, you make yourself into a victim. When you speak out, you are in your power. So change the situation by taking action or by speaking out if necessary or possible; leave the situation or accept it. All else is madness.” Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment.

Everyone complains about something. Single people complain about being single, married people complain about being married, and everybody complains about the weather—and dog shows. When it comes to the five-day forecast and last week’s show cluster, few people have a neutral opinion. In fact, most folks are only too happy to voice their concerns about the current temperature or a judge’s ring procedure. Their objections are freely spoken ringside and shared with ease online. However, no matter how justified, these complaints are only a first step for anyone who wants to make a difference in their day or in the dog sport.

As Americans, we feel especially justified in our complaining. You might even say it’s a national pastime that goes back to the founding of our nation. When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776, the distinguished signers were essentially exclaiming, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” From that day forward, we’ve been encouraged to voice our discontent for the way things are. But with this privilege to speak freely comes a responsibility to take our negative opinions and turn them into a call for action that’s positive, even hopeful. After all, complaining is just a way of saying that we want things to be better. But it’s simply not enough to state how awful things are—or seem to be. Anyone can do that. What’s essential to turning things around is a willingness to consider alternatives, offer suggestions and put in the hard work to bring about a desirable outcome. The Founding Fathers, it should be remembered, risked everything to secure certain unalienable rights for 
all Americans.

Today, many people seem to lament a past that no longer exists. This is true among some members of the fancy who complain that the glory days of dog shows are long gone and that its future is uncertain at best. “The end is near,” they cry as they make yet more entries for Palm Springs, Brooksville, Westminster, Woodstock, Montgomery, Philadelphia, Orlando or any number of all-breed and limited breed shows that have experienced a rise in entries in recent years. They whine about the lack of majors as they drive across seven states with four dogs to attend a regional specialty. Too many exhibitors condemn the professionals for showing up ringside with dogs that are clean, trained and ready to be examined. (Not to mention relieved of this morning’s breakfast. Clean-up in Ring Three!) And when professionals and amateurs walk out of the ring empty-handed, some sore losers bellyache about “politics” and “paybacks” without any regard for the merits of their dog or the quality of the competition. These naysayers always have something to gripe about. However, these same folks rarely—if ever—assess their own shortcomings or change the way they do things. They simply lodge yet 
another complaint.

Chronic complainers never seem to recognize their own pessimism. Their habit for speaking in the negative is normalized because the company they keep is typically other complainers. Misery does love company, and the people who bitch and moan with regularity are never alone in their protestations. Their complaining only reinforces the kind of negativity that attracts others complainers. The exhibitor who posts an online criticism of a judge quickly finds support from comparable keyboard complainers who have their own story to tell about how a judge manhandled their dog or didn’t touch it at all. Although replies to these kinds of posts may attempt to refute the original message by offering an opposing viewpoint, they are typically ignored in favor of more fatalistic storytelling. Eventually, another pessimistic post targets a new subject and the complainers move on.

People who choose to complain do so because the attention they receive provides validation for their belief. “If so many people have similar stories to share about the judge I don’t like, then I must be right,” says the critic to him or herself. Habitual complainers who find support for their negative opinions have little reason to move into action. Instead, they become procrastinators who never achieve their goals because 
they never move past the complaining. If the goal is to put that final major on a dog, the way to do it is not to complain about the dog’s breeder, its handler, the other exhibitors, the judge, the show committee, the superintendent, the AKC or the fact that Mercury is in retrograde! No amount of complaining will put the Championship title in front of a dog’s name—no  matter how the planets are aligned. The only way to achieve this goal is to make a declaration to become independent of the complaints and take responsibility for present circumstances. Complaining about a lack of majors is only a first step. The most important step for the complainer is always the next step. 


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