The cancellation of swaths of AKC events as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has left many of us wistful and impatient for their return. With no shows to enter and plenty of absence to make the heart grow fonder, I found myself pondering what I got out of them in the first place.
1. I learned how to drive.
Where I’m from—New York—a car is a luxury, but it’s a necessity to get to dog events. Whether I was mastering the hills of San Francisco to get to the San Francisco Dog Training Club, cruising along Route 80 to Top Dog Obedience School, learning the back roads to Port Chester Obedience Training Club, or staving off white line fever on the way to a Specialty, AKC events made me into something of a road warrior. We really get our miles in for our dogs.
2. I learned how to be on time.
When it comes to AKC events, if you’re on time, you’re late. I learned how to build time into my departure plans to be sure I had ample time to warm up my dog and be ring ready without extra stress.
3. I learned persistence.
We lose more than we win in dogs. We have more NQs than Qs and placements. From every NQ in Obedience I gained a lesson for improvement. As they say, “there will always be another dog show.” Aways an opportunity to do better next time.
4. I learned patience.
Success in our events comes with a side of waiting around. Waiting for Best of Breed or Groups. Waiting for sits and downs. You’ve gotta be in it to win it, so stick around.
5. I learned how to be creative and resourceful.
Since I never had a yard for a practice ring, I set up jumps in Central Park. The long alley behind my building served well for down-and-backs. Flocks of pigeons stood in for Indian Runner Ducks.
6. I learned the downside of procrastinating.
Sure as the sun will rise tomorrow, entries will always close two weeks ahead. Waiting too long to enter adds the extra expense of online entry fees (now inevitable for those of us always out of stamps) and the risk of being shut out altogether. This is a rule that never changes, and yet, I still wait until nearly the last minute almost every time.
7. I learned how to get organized.
Have a full tank before setting out for a show, lest you miss your ring time or confuse your dog with the smell of fuel on his scent articles. Wash and dry those articles the night before a trial. Pick out your outfits and get your show gear packed up the night before, too. A frantic, last minute search for that lucky show lead could cancel out its good vibes. Load driving directions up ahead in case you lose your signal along the way. AKC events helped me pull myself together!
8. I learned the importance of setting goals and the joy that comes with achieving them.
While so much in life remains out of our control, our dog events give us wonderful opportunities to pursue challenging and fulfilling objectives while having fun along the way: a home-bred champion, an OTCH, a MACH, or any number of titles that reward instinct and breeding for purpose.
9. I learned the value of volunteering.
Being a ring steward, match secretary, parking attendant or any other seemingly thankless job is truly important. Without helpers to perform these tasks, the show can’t go on. It is satisfying to play a role in something bigger than yourself.
10. I learned that we humans can get along with everyone and anyone—no matter our differences—because we are all working toward similar goals.
Our sports build camaraderie between rich and poor, young and old, men and women, gay and straight, rural and urban. We build deep and lasting connections with others by training and showing our dogs. The dog show community sets a tremendous example to others by building strength through the diversity we celebrate in our clubs, events and friendships.
Till we meet again, ringside!