IT'S NOT POLITICS................IT'S PASSION
First published at National Animal Interest Alliance
Reprinted with the permission of the author
by Pat Hastings
“Dog shows are so political.”
How many times have you heard someone say that? How many exhibitors have taken
the easy way out by attributing a missed win to politics?
The fundamental truth is that dog show judging is subjective. Breed standards
can provide some guidance; however, each judge, like each dog that is judged,
is an individual. Each has only his or her own perceptions, impressions, and
interpretation of the standard on which to base decisions made in a very short
amount of time. But that isn’t politics, that is the diversity of our own species
and the conditions of the moment.
Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Yeah, but . . .”
Still think it’s politics? Still think it takes big money? Still think you
can’t win over big-name handlers? Well, think again.
Last year when I was show chairman for our local Doberman club’s winter specialty,
I crossed paths with what some of you might consider a fluke. I consider it
a glimpse at the best face of our sort.
A woman had faxed me her entries for her six-to-nine-month puppy bitch, not
only for the specialty but for the three all-breed shows that were to follow.
I was out of town, and by the time I returned home and found her entries in
my stack of faxes, the entry deadline for our specialty had passed and I was
not a show superintendent or secretary. So I called the woman to explain the
situation. A pleasant, cheerful voice thanked me for my call and informed me
that someone had already brought the mistake to her attention. Being a novice
to the show world, her error was certainly understandable. By the time we spoke,
she had already sent the entries to the appropriate authorities.
I gave the incident no other thought since I was busy with the specialty, and
my husband and I were co-chairing a benefit for Take the Lead scheduled for
the weekend of the shows here in Portland. Our preparation for that event included
publicizing the benefit at the specialties and four all-breed shows in Washington
the weekend prior. Immediately following the weekend, I received a phone call.
It was the same pleasant voice I had spoken to about the misdirected entries.
The woman heard about the benefit while at the Washington shows and wanted to
After we discussed the benefit, I inquired about how she did at the Washington
shows. She said she had a great time and her puppy had won two majors as well
as going reserve to a five-point major. They hadn’t entered the sweepstakes
at the specialty because she didn’t know what a sweepstakes was.
I’m sure anyone who shows dogs, particularly anyone who shows Dobermans, would
have been as happily surprised as I was with this report. If you are not involved
in showing Dobermans, I should note here how difficult it is to finish a champion.
When you factor in the numbers showing, the numbers needed (up to 59 entries
for a five-point major) and the overall quality that is seen in the ring, you
can understand the challenge.
My curiosity was piqued. All of the top Dobe handlers on the west coast had
been at those shows, so I asked her who had shown her puppy.
“I did,” she replied.
I asked her where she had gotten the puppy.
“I bred her,” she said.
I asked her who her bitch was that she had used.
“Her name is Ima Lovely Lady,” she answered proudly.
She had bred her bitch to a very nice-producing local stud dog to which her
veterinarian had directed her. The puppy was out of a repeat breeding of her
very first litter. I thanked her for sharing her news with me, hung up the phone,
and promptly relayed the story to my husband. We both sat back with smiles on
our faces, happy to know good things do still happen.
A couple of days later at our specialty, I finally got the opportunity to meet
this novice exhibitor and her gorgeous puppy. (This time, she had not only entered
the sweepstakes, but she also won it.) Upon further conversation about her Washington
shows and her first experience handling, I came to find out they were her first
shows and her first experiences handling. Everyone had gotten behind her in
her efforts. Every day when she came out of the ring, all of the top breeders
and handlers (whom she had just beaten) were there to congratulate her and offer
tips on how to improve her handling the next day. Not once was anyone less than
supportive and encouraging.
I neglected to ask who the judges were, but from all of the grass-roots exhibitors
in our world (and all of us who love to hear how passion pays off), thank you.
As of this writing, the puppy needs four singles to finish. The owner is scheduled
for back surgery, so a handler will take her puppy on to the championship. A
littermate is already out with a handler and looks to finish easily; another
littermate is being shown in Canada and is doing very well.
Who wins? All of us! Congratulations.