What a way to start 2020.
The Coronavirus pandemic has, for now, stopped us in our tracks. Coming off the high of Westminster and the excitement of Crufts, it was a shock to have our shows and performance events cancelled, and our lives put on hold as we were directed to self isolate.
The thing to remember, as we all search for reassurance, is that we in the dog community will get through this. We are a strong, resilient bunch, and never stronger than when we face challenges that put us to the test.
Longtime fanciers will remember when Canine Parvovirus appeared in the late 1970s. It was first recognized in 1978 and spread worldwide within a year or two. It wiped out litters everywhere, and left breeder-exhibitors discouraged and wondering if they could ever continue. Eventually a vaccination was found and this scourge was brought under control.
The terror attacks of 9/11 brought fear of a different kind. Could we as a nation ever return to enjoying our sport and passion in safety? Eventually, we healed, and again began to participate, appreciating the company of our friends, two- and four-legged.
In recent times, Canine Influenza reared its ugly head. It spread quickly, making us rightly fearful of attending shows. The stress was palpable. We consoled one another, consulted our veterinarians, and tried to make the smartest decisions possible when it came to attending dog shows.
Coronavirus has targeted the humans, not our dogs, as we are warned to stay home and stay safe. For a sport that is so dependent upon unrestricted travel—from judges flying across the country, to exhibitors driving long distances with their show dogs, to buyers travelling to breeders for a new puppy—that is a difficult pill to swallow. Intellectually, we understand that is the only way to get the pandemic under control, yet emotionally, it’s natural to feel angry, frustrated, sad and isolated. But once those feelings subside, let’s remember how empowered we are today, by the Internet and social media, to stay in touch with our dog community and draw inspiration from one another.
Every day, I am amazed at how imaginative and resourceful our friends in the sport are. Photographers and designers offer their services to create logos. Professional handlers whose livelihood has been so severely affected are giving classes online, as are many groomers. People are organizing virtual dog shows, and safely Skyping with their friends to enjoy Happy Hour.
AKC is doing its part to continue Judges Education during this period of no dog shows by organizing regular webinars given by parent club-approved mentors.
This should also be a time of self-reflection for all of us who participate. As we read about the cancellation of dog shows and think of our many aging club members, stewards and judges, what can each of us do to help ensure that our sport will rebound and prosper after the pandemic? The message during this time has surely rung out that dog shows don’t just magically happen. We can’t take them for granted. It’s easy to fall into a routine after many years, travel to dog shows every week, collect points, have your win photo taken, rinse and repeat. If you’re homebound and missing the shows, now would be an excellent time to join your local all-breed kennel club, whether you are a professional handler, judge, or breeder-exhibitor. As clubs scramble to find fall dates for their spring and summer shows or regroup for 2021, they would be thrilled to hear from you with an offer to volunteer.
Let’s put our down time to good use. Read a good book—we have many great dog classics to choose from. Phone mentors and dog friends who live alone to check in on them. Spend more time training our young puppies and our precious older dogs, which isn’t always possible during our typical hectic lives.
Be positive, be safe, don’t despair, and draw strength from the collective determination the dog fancy has always shown in trying times.
What joy there will be when we finally get together again.