For most active breeders-exhibitors, it’s hard to find enough hours in the day. Between juggling work, family, and the many responsibilities associated with raising show dogs, downtime is a luxury. The Christmas/Hanukkah/New Year’s break thankfully allows us to pause and reflect on the year that has passed, and where we want to set our sights in 2018. We won’t call these resolutions, as everyone assumes those will fail. However, in the spirit of the season, here are 12 totally doable goals we might want to consider in the 12 months ahead.
Giving Back to Fellow Fanciers
Join a dog club. Your local all-breed kennel club and regional specialty club need you now more than ever. Many are struggling to stay afloat. If you exhibit regularly, remember that shows don’t magically organize themselves. If you’re one of those who consider your national parent club dysfunctional or bogged down by a “country club mentality,” become a stakeholder, and a part of the change you seek.
Volunteer at your next show. Whether it’s stewarding, running the raffle, or selling catalogs, offer your services to the show committee. You will be welcomed with open arms. It’s easier than you think.
Do you have decades worth of old dog magazines collecting dust in your attic? They are a treasure trove of pedigrees and breed history that helped you learn the sport. Why not share them with a sincere newcomer? Those magazines will never be reprinted, so give the gift of learning. Many out-of-print dog books, including hardcover breed classics published by the venerable Howell Book House, are offered for sale on eBay at virtually giveaway prices. Purchase a few and donate them to new people in your breed or to your club historian.
Back in the 1960s when I entered the sport, Dog World magazine published a monthly column for juniors written by the late Paul Nigro. Nigro ran letters from young people who yearned to show a dog, and he matched them up with breeders who were willing to give a puppy or dog to a deserving junior and guide them as they learned the sport. It was mentoring one-half century before that term came into being in our sport. Is there a junior who hangs around your setup at shows, displaying interest in your breed? Why not offer him or her a co-ownership on a promising young dog (subject to the parents’ agreement, of course)? It’s amazing how many kids who rebel against their parents dragging them to shows as “cheap labor” suddenly get excited about going to shows with their own dog of a different breed, one they have always admired. Ideally, the dog lives with the junior, but even if that isn’t feasible and the dog continues to reside with you, encouraging a junior to show and learn on his own dog is an investment that will pay a lifetime of dividends.
Giving Back to Your Community
Help at your local breed rescue. Perhaps it’s bathing and grooming, evaluating a new arrival, or temporarily fostering a dog in need. The time and knowledge you can spare will be enormously appreciated.
Instead of yelling at your neighbors who let their dog run loose or fail to correct nuisance barking, why not look into nearby obedience classes to tell them about, or even organize a class yourself with a few of them? Find a church basement to use, or do it outdoors at a local park or in your backyard. Chances are those neighbors have never heard of a training collar, a crate, or the Canine Good Citizen program. Empower your neighbors, help civilize their dogs, and start enjoying a good night’s sleep.
Spread some much needed knowledge about the value of purebred dogs by giving a presentation at the local elementary school. Spice up a geography class by talking about what part of the world your breed came from. Career Day can be greatly enhanced by informing students and teachers about the opportunities that exist for groomers, trainers, professional handlers, behaviorists, and veterinarians.
Reach out to your local newspaper and TV station to help promote the upcoming dog show or obedience trial with some live demo dogs and your expert knowledge on the subject.
Giving Back to Your Own Dogs
Try a new activity to give yourself a break and your dogs a little stimulation. Whether it is barn hunt, dock diving, or tracking, these activities offer a welcome change of pace for seasoned show dogs and conformation exhibitors, alike. Dressing for competition in sweatshirt and jeans and leaving your tack box at home can be very liberating!
Clip down a retired show dog and watch the renewed spring in her step. Depending upon how many dogs you have, it’s easy to overlook one of the old guys in the kennel if you are focusing all your attention on the hot new show prospect.
Make this the year you place a dog or two in a great retirement home. If they’ve had their time in the spotlight and produced beautiful kids and grandkids for you to move forward with, treat them to a sofa of their own and an adoring family to spoil them.
Step away from the computer and bake a batch of dog biscuits. It’s soothing, therapeutic, and your dogs will appreciate this simple show of affection to them. Facebook will still be there when you return to your desk.
Allan Reznik has been an Afghan Hound fancier since the early 1970s and also owns and exhibits Tibetan Spaniels. He is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster who has served as editor-in-chief of several national dog publications. He appears regularly on radio and TV discussing all aspects of responsible animal ownership. Allan is an AKC permit judge of Afghan Hounds, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and Tibetan Spaniels.