Fri, 05/01/2020 - 12:59pm

Silver Lining

Can this coronavirus-induced period away from shows be a time of reflection?

Here we sit, like millions of others, trying to just get through this coronavirus pandemic. Once we sift through the panic that is partly driven by the media and partly by the facts, we envision how our lives will change going forward. Do you remember how drastically different airplane travel was before 9-11? Our lives changed at that time and we will never return to those days when travel was a little more relaxed and enjoyable. The way we think and act changed forever after 9-11 and I think the same thing will happen after the coronavirus is gone.

As Dr. Judson Brewer said in a New York Times article, "Scientists are racing to study the characteristics of the coronavirus so that we can know precisely how contagious and deadly it is — and act accordingly. Uncertainty abounds. Without accurate information, it is easy for our brains to spin stories of fear and dread. When we can’t control our anxiety, that emotional fever spikes into panic. Panic is defined as “sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behavior.” Overwhelmed by uncertainty and fear of the future, the rational parts of our brains go offline. Logically, we know that we don’t need a six-month supply of toilet paper, but when we see someone’s cart piled high, their anxiety infects us, and we go into survival mode."

Gaby Hinsliff, in London's The Guardian said, "... and although I stopped shaking hands with interviewees 10 days ago, to avoid any chance of passing on a virus I almost certainly don't have, even with Lady MacBeth-like levels of hand washing suddenly I don't feel quite socially responsible enough. Never mind 'dancing like nobody's watching,' ... 'living life as if an NHS contact tracer is counting how many people you're breathing germs over' suddenly seems a more appropriate motto." 

Everyone is affected by states of emergency, school closures, essentially every venue of sports stopped, and grocery stores in a state of panic. In my mind we are forever changed because we have been reminded that the world is not as controllable as we thought. And then comes our "dog community," and it hits us even closer to home. Shows are cancelled and judges lose assignments (and for some that most important observation of permit breeds), handlers lose money (and let's be honest, not all handlers have sufficient money for a fall-back position), and clubs are put in financial jeopardy. And for all of us, the loss of the enjoyment of our dog shows.

My wife will attest to the fact that I do not always look for the silver lining when problems arise, but I am trying to do that this time. Except for those inconsiderate few who have blasted clubs on Facebook about returning entry fees before giving everyone a chance to catch a breath, it is apparent that most of us miss the camaraderie and competition and - yes - the enjoyment of our dog shows. I wish we had never had to worry about this coronavirus, but maybe the silver lining is that we are reminded about how the little things are important to us and how we all started going to dog shows because we enjoyed them - and it was not treated like life or death if our dog got a ribbon or not. 

I hate to say this, but I think money got in the way of our fun. I am sorry if this offends you, but I care less about who I might offend and more about who I might inspire. I just saw a great post on FB that is labeled agility trial 101 by Loni Coleman:

Here is the one last great truth...
The time will come too quickly when you will gladly
give back every Q, every placement, and every title, just
to be able to take your dog to the start line one more time.
Enjoy the ride. Appreciate your partner. 
it's just a game.

And a handler (and breeder) posted, "Well, the boys don’t mind the shows being canceled. Some time relaxing on the couch, running the fields, a lot of road working, and swimming may be just what the doctor ordered!"

It is a terrible way to be forced to recognize some very basic things, but both of the above statements should always be remembered. If you are not involved with our community because you love your dogs and are happy to be part of our community, then by all means, find something else to do. We are here to love our dogs and to care about - and respect - each other. Our dogs are not machines. Showing a dog at over 200 shows a year is just plain too much, and for some dogs borders on cruelty. Some dogs cannot be campaigned every week, and others seem to enjoy it. But no dog needs the stress of 200 shows or more. 

People have asked why the AKC doesn't step in and cancel all shows during this pandemic, but the fact is that the AKC does not control individual clubs, and this is a decision to be arrived at by each club according to the safety issues and the local community rulings. Following this, I guess it is impossible for the AKC to regulate how many shows are too many for an individual dog. That, too, is an individual decision - and only your integrity and putting the love of your dogs above money and rankings should guide you in this decision.

Maybe this forced time away from shows can be a time of reflection. Exactly what do we want from our dog shows? If we want our shows to improve, what are we willing to do to help with that? Take time to consider what our dogs shows were designed to do, and is that your goal? Do you really want the best dog rewarded - or do you just want your dog rewarded? How is it that competitors in agility trials celebrate how well they and their dog worked together before they consider ribbons or placements? Want more enjoyment from shows - then make that your goal, not whether you won or lost.

Don't get me wrong - I am not naive, nor a Pollyanna. When I showed, I wanted to win because I believed I had the best dog, and sometimes it was difficult to accept when I felt an inferior dog won over mine. But I never took my disappointment out on my dog, nor did I use the internet to try to crucify the judge. If I thought the judge was honestly trying to be a good judge, I would usually give him two or three tries. After that, if I didn't like what the judge did, I just did not show to him again. I know that this is not the easiest thing to do in some geographical areas, but I have checked the AKC rulebook and I did not find a rule stating that I had to go to every show.

The powers-that-be at AKC could use this time to give serious consideration to finding a way to consolidate some shows. Reducing the number of shows would increase entries at the remaining shows and would then make a championship title more justly earned. No, I don't expect AKC to just tell some clubs they can't hold a show, but AKC could provide leadership to get some clubs together to discuss the value and process of consolidation.

Most of all, let's use this time to press our reset buttons and when the time comes, return to our show with a more positive attitude, and determined not to let a ribbon decide how I treated my dog, others, and what I thought of myself. Let's not let corona virus destroy our world; let's use it to make our own community better.

What do you think?

 

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