Years ago, a friend wanted to interview a global giant in her breed. Everyone who heard about the project was excited. She issued the invitation, and the great lady agreed. The two met at an important American show that the overseas breed authority would be attending. Over the course of a few days, their discussions filled many tapes with sage advice about breeding, showing, explaining the nuances of correct breed type, and her proven methods for evaluating and raising puppies to reach their full potential.
In time, the wise, old breeder passed away. She was missed terribly, but fanciers consoled themselves knowing there were those precious tapes waiting to be transcribed and then shared with breeder-exhibitors worldwide. My friend felt the pressure mounting, but sad to say, she was as disorganized as she was well-meaning. She rejected offers of help with the project, insisting she would get to it. Did I mention that she, too, had a host of health issues to deal with?
After months and years, and continued offers of help with the tapes to launch her monumental project, we lost her as well. No one was surprised that her personal affairs were left in a jumble, the tape recordings were never found, and the breed lost a great educational opportunity.
Making Breed Knowledge Accessible
While many of us are lucky enough to have had a great hardcover book written about our breed, perhaps even several books, they were no doubt produced decades ago by prestigious publishers like Howell Book House, and are long out of print. So many other breeds have no important book devoted to them that breeders can search for on Amazon.
Having spent my entire professional life working as a book, magazine, and newspaper editor, I know the ever-shrinking world of print publishing is a painful reality. Many all-breed, group, and single-breed magazines have ceased publication for economic reasons, and we even see more and more club newsletters moving from hard-copy to digital editions. Printing and postage costs continue to skyrocket.
Oral history has always been an important source of education in our sport. As the great breeders, exhibitors, and judges age and pass on, it becomes even more important to preserve their stories and contributions. They certainly haven’t all written books. Thankfully, these living icons have protégés and friends who look in on them and keep their names alive on social media. But to our newer breeder-exhibitors, their legacy is often inaccessible.
New Possibilities for Preservation
One way the digital world can connect the younger generation of dog people with these retired greats of the sport is with podcasts. Simply put, a podcast is a digital audio file made available on the Internet for downloading to a computer or mobile device. Unlike those aborted tapes I described earlier (which breed fanciers never got to access), availing ourselves of the current technology can accomplish that goal very effectively.
We even have Internet-savvy breeder-exhibitors who already know how to make it a reality. Surely every breed club in the country would welcome a library of podcasts that contained interviews with the great breeders, exhibitors, judges, and handlers who have left their indelible mark. Many newcomers who consider joining a club complain of being rebuffed by the old guard, who might feel threatened by new ideas. Well, here is an idea that older club members would embrace, although they are probably clueless about the execution.
But how about the older members identifying the breed icons who need to be interviewed, perhaps paving the way by reaching out to them personally, and then turning over the reins to younger fanciers who in all likelihood might already be serving as their club webmasters? Sounds like a win-win to me.
Let’s make it a priority to preserve the oral history of our breeds. Many of our most illustrious breeders and exhibitors are much too humble to tout their achievements over the decades. By giving them a little nudge, then allowing our younger, technically-minded fanciers to put the Internet to work for us, dog clubs can continue to make an important and lasting contribution to the sport.