The “Grey Challenge” in Showing Dogs

Got your attention? You think I’m going to talk about a genetic issue having to do with canine coat color?

No, I’m talking about me turning grey. I’ve been showing dogs since 1966. I still have my first dog show trophy, from the German Shepherd Dog Club of Montreal in 1967. That’s a long time ago. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then.

How do we keep active in dogs when our bodies begin to slow down, and even fail? I can’t run around the ring any more. I use a cane for stability. I can’t lift a dog onto the table anymore; my back just won’t let me do that often.

So, am I relegated to the sidelines? Is it time for me to hang up the lead for the last time and turn to budgies or fish?

Truth is, I’m just not yet ready to do that. So I’ve had to be a bit more creative in figuring out ways to keep active. One way is to write, like this article. Or to comment on the standard, or begin to share memories of dogs and people I have known. It is important for people to learn from those who have gone before, and it is important for those of us who are older to share our knowledge with newcomers.

Not only do I write, but I also mentor—both new people interested in the breed, and new judges who want to know the breed well. There’s something really exciting about helping someone fall in love with a breed that I have loved for so long.

I teach—online, in person, in seminars, at specialties, and so on—these are all places where I can bring what I have learned over the past 50-plus years and pass it on.

What have you learned? Who benefits from the depth of your knowledge?

I use a handler now, and part of the joy involved in that is teaching the handler(s) about my breed. I’ve specialized in this breed for a long time, and helping the handler “get it” and learn how to show this breed correctly is very rewarding.

Do you teach your handler? Is there a really good junior handler you could help?

Is there a young breeder you would like to work with? Someone who could benefit from your wisdom and experience, someone who could help out with those 2 a.m. whelpings, or someone who just needs a little encouragement to get started? I had that when I started, and now it’s my turn to help someone else.

And finally, I judge. Not because I get some sort of thrill out of being in the middle, but because there is nothing more exciting that finding a new star, and nothing is more worthwhile than helping a breed stay focused on its goals.

I’ve slowed down a lot physically, but there’s nothing wrong with my brain now (at least that wasn’t always there); I want to use what I still have to keep going in dog shows. Maybe getting more grey isn’t a problem after all; it’s just a new opportunity, a new challenge in life.

What creative ways can you find to respond to the “grey challenge”? —P.O.

The Rev. Dr. C. Patrick Ormos is an AKC multi-breed judge who became hooked on dogs in the late 1950s when he went to his first dog show. Originally involved with German Shepherds, he handled semi-professionally for a few years, switching to Cardigan Welsh Corgis in 1980. Finishing his 100th homebred champion in August 2002, some may know Patrick for his “One Person’s Opinion” column in Cardigan Commentary International. In the “real” world, Patrick has been the rector (senior pastor) of several Episcopal congregations until his retirement in 2011.

Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of America breed column, June 2015 AKC Gazette