The Portable Library

From the July 2018 Issue of ShowSight. Click To Subscribe.

Pictured above: A plastic storage container  makes the perfect portable library. Each recognized breed, designer dog and wild canid is identified alphabetically. Photos by Dan Sayers

Storage Tubs Keep Everything Organized

“A place for everything and everything in its place,” was one of my father’s mantras. Dad didn’t especially like it when he discovered his favorite screwdriver wasn’t where he’d left it. Like him, I too get driven to distraction whenever my wallet or car keys go missing. I also get a bit miffed when I’m unable to locate a reference photo or newspaper clipping when I need it. So, to avoid the stresses of the disorganized life, I followed my father’s example and got organized. My wallet belongs on top of the dresser and my car keys reside on the hook by the door. And when my dog publications outgrew the available shelf space, I needed to find an annex. My solution to the growing mountain of magazines was to create a portable library that organized articles in a way that allowed them to be quickly and easily referenced.

By 1996, after more than a decade in dogs, I’d amassed a pile of magazines that only attracted attention from a dust rag. Although I’d read each one cover-to-cover when they’d arrived in the mail, I could never locate an article I’d seen when I wanted to reread it. What good was all that information if I couldn’t find it again? To solve the problem, I chose a rather radical solution for a bibliophile. I decided that the best use of all that information was to tear the periodicals apart and keep only the most authoritative papers in breed-specific files stored in portable tubs. In this way, I’d avoid spending hours poring through dozens of magazines in search of a quote or the name of a dog’s breeder or owner. Of course, the use of storage boxes and paper folders may seem primitive when compared to the speed with which information can be retrieved from the Web, but this system continues to work well despite the miracle of Wi-Fi.

My paper files are organized alphabetically by breed. Each breed has its own letter-sized hanging file folder and a clear plastic tab with a white insert that identifies the breed by its familiar name. Articles, papers and photographs are stored in separate manila folders that fit neatly into the hanging files. These files are suspended in plastic tubs designed for this purpose. My cropped and clipped collection of newsprint and glossy paper initially required four tubs. Today, I have 12 storage containers that stack neatly wherever I choose to keep them. Each tub has a tight-fitting lid that keeps its contents dry and dust-free. The only drawback to their use is their considerable weight when filled to near capacity. Then again, who needs a gym membership when you’re a dog writer?

When I initially organized magazine articles in this way, I hadn’t anticipated the speed with which the American Kennel Club would begin to recognize breeds. Thankfully, the storage tub system allows the collection to expand to include any breed recognized by the AKC, KC of England or the FCI. There’s even space for unrecognized breeds, designer dogs and wild canids thanks to the hanging folders’ design. Each is fitted with a series of slots where the plastic tabs can be inserted in nine different positions. This allows the name tag for every breed to be arranged in rows by Group—Sporting through Herding—from left to right. The eighth row accommodates all Miscellaneous and FSS breeds, and the ninth is reserved for every other domestic and wild dog. Whenever a breed is accepted into one of the regular Groups, I simply move its plastic tab into the correct row, thus making it easy to find reference material for a breed when needed.

Although my files contain articles gleaned largely from dog magazines both old and new, some consist of material gathered from publications unrelated to the dog sport. National Geographic frequently features articles of interest to dog breeders and exhibitors. For example, a widely read article in the February 2012 issue titled, “Mix Match Morph: How to Build a Dog,” introduced readers to a project called CanMap that gathered DNA from more than 900 dogs representing 80 different breeds, as well as gray wolves and coyotes. Smithsonian Magazine and Sports Illustrated have also published features about dogs and dog shows. Even the fashion rags have printed campaigns with Borzoi and Standard Poodles as models, shot by some of the world’s leading fashion photographers. Newspapers too can be a reliable source of dog-related material, particularly the New York Timesand those papers that continue to cover local all-breed shows. Though once a reliable source of dog show reporting, the best newspaper columns on the subject can now be sourced through online archives.

Of course, there isn’t a writer, researcher or reporter working today who can do the job without Internet access. After all, the virtual library contains enough volumes to fill an infinite number of file folders and plastic tubs. Nearly every interview, profile and feature that has ever been printed is preserved online where it can be referenced for the price of an Internet connection. (And the occasional online subscription rate.) Yet despite the miracle of a paperless filing system, nothing can replace the convenience of having an original paper copy in hand before the laptop has even prompted its user for a password. Some things, like a first edition signed copy of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild or a kennel’s immortal foundation dam, can never be replaced and will never go out of style.

Good organizational skills are timeless as well. A tidy office and a 
well-regulated filing system can be a writer’s best friend whenever inspiration strikes or a deadline looms. Likewise, excellent record keeping can work in favor for the aspiring dog breeder or professional handler. After all, utilizing the merits of any dog in a pedigree or managing a kennel full of show dogs cannot be left to chance. The key to success in these endeavors requires some serious organization. To breed the best dog possible, that prepotent sire needs to appear predictably in a pedigree—generally more than once. And to achieve the desired result for a promising young dog in the show ring, a campaign must be carefully planned a year—or two—in advance. There are no shortcuts for success, so it pays to stay organized. This is true for the dog writer just as it is for the breeder or exhibitor. Just ask my dad who raised this dog writer and knows exactly where his favorite screwdriver ought to be. 

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