"Why do you show your dogs?"
For interviewers from the "mainstream media," I've often sensed the question is tinged with a certain degree of puzzlement and cynicism. Our endeavors in the show ring appear curious to them, even ripe for satire. Indeed, what we do has been satirized to great success on film and television. But good satire is born of truth.
We all know that in its purest form, a dog show is meant to be an arena for evaluating breeding stock, and our best breeders and exhibitors still hold this as their primary motivation, even if the system does not at all times appear to be on the same wavelength in that regard. The satires usually miss that one, however. Instead they tend to focus on the now well-worn clichés — that for some of us the dogs are our surrogate children, or that the competition is more about satisfying our own ego-driven needs. And, I am sure, there are as many other motivations as there are people who show their dogs.
I have been asked the question so many times now that I have given it long and deep thought.
Yes, many of the above factors might contribute, consciously or not, to my own reasons for showing my dogs, but there is one overriding motivation for me: I like to spend "alone time" with my dogs. Yes, I could do this without going to a dog show, but in my busy life, that trip to the dog park often gets back-burnered while more pressing matters prevail. But once I commit to going to a dog show, pesky annoyances such as career and family obligations vanish.
There's a lot of downtime at a dog show, especially if you are fortunate enough to win Best of Breed and have a several-hours-long wait for the group. In the most extreme case, if you have a 9 A.M. ringtime for breed, and groups commence at 3 P.M., yours being the last of seven, well, you have the better part of a day to fill.
And fill it we do. I have the good fortune, by virtue of where I live, to have numerous local shows that are held on historic sites, arboretums, botanical gardens, and picturesque parks.
Once our few minutes in the breed ring are over, off we go to explore. The dogs love it. I love it. And for those shows held in less than picture-postcard settings, we hop into the car and find a place to play for a few hours.
And yes, sometimes we just all take a nap together.
I have often wondered what the dogs make of all of this. My best guess is that they think it's the dog park but with fussy rules and liver treats.
But unlike cynical interviewers, the dogs don't ask questions.
— Bruce Sussman, BLUEKAFKA@aol.com; Glen of Imaal Terrier Club of America
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