Mom, Dad, and my grandparents, circa 1962
I don’t have a lot of pictures of my parents together – this is one of my favourites, because my mother still looked young and healthy. For those who don’t know, she was only 49 when she died (I was 13), she would have been about 41 or so here. I remember this trip clearly, going with my grandparents and parents down to Cincinnati for a cousins Bar Mitzvah, and I remember my grandfather telling me as we drove through the Detroit tunnel that if I was very quiet and listened hard I’d be able to hear the fish jumping and hitting the side of the car.
As Mother’s Day approaches (I know its already taken place in the UK) at least one media form runs a contest on Mommyisms – those things that your mother told you that you will never forget. My mother passed on a lot of wisdom to me during the very short time that we had together. Perhaps because our time together would be so short, my illness as a child was a blessing because it gave me extra time with her.
The one Mommyism that sticks with me though, more than anything else she passed on was “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all”. This was more of a response to the wars between me and my middle sister, but she didn’t want to hear anything negative said about anyone – and perhaps because of this she taught me to always try to look at the good side of people and build on that, rather than tearing others down to build myself up. I would like to think that I always try to find something good to say, and to take the side of the underdog in disputes if they are being wronged.
I think, though, that this particular Mommyism would be a really good one to apply to the dog show world.
I learned some very strong lessons about how the dog show world operates about 16 years ago. My clearest first vision, was watching a competitor across the ring, when one of my dogs won the puppy group (remember in Canada there is only ONE winner – not four placings like in the US). This person turned to the person next to them and stuck their finger down their throat in a gagging motion. Yet they made the effort to come over to where we were doing a photo, to hug me and say what a lovely puppy he was.
Years later, I would be told by potential puppy buyers, that this person told them that I had “genetic issues”, with my breeding stock. This was before the days of DNA testing, and the only testing that was done was hips which I have been doing for years, so I have no idea what issues they were referring to and explained that to people.
More recently, with the proliferation of Facebook, blogs and email, I see more and more of this type of poor sportsmanship. Did it always exist, but we were less aware of it because the messages didn’t get around to the person that was being discussed as easily, or has the dog show world sunk to a point where we cannot be at all happy with the successes of others, and must run them down in order to justify the quality of our own dogs. Either case is a sad scenario.
Recently I’ve seen posts denouncing the competition, and rather than reporting full results, people only brag on their own wins. What is wrong with saying “something nice” as my mother instructed about the competition? So we didn’t win – or we only got to a certain level of placement. Big deal!! There were other dogs that did win, and being able to appreciate their qualities can only improve our eye for what we need to fix in our own dogs.
Running down the competition, or making disparaging remarks about the judge or their ethics, only reflects poorly on the person who makes the remarks. Another one of my favourite Mommyisms is “Remember that when you point fingers, three point back at you” (try it to understand) For me there is nothing harder than sitting through a judging post-mortem where everything about the judge and their judging is dissected. I think, I lost, so I can either learn something about the quality of my dogs, or if I really disagree with the results, I can learn to not show to that judge again. Dolly showed a total of SIX weekends in Canada last year, because she had puppies which put her out of commission from May to October, and the remainder of the weekends there were few shows with judges who’s opinions I respected in Canada. Yet, she also showed at the CWCCA Nationals (Select Bitch), and Eukanuba (1st Judges Award of Excellence), and not so successfully at the CWCA show in the UK (where she was pretty naked).
And even with her successful career, being the only dual Grand Champion, and successful showings at the 2009 and 2010 Nationals, the rumour was brought to my attention that the only reason she won Select Bitch in 2011 was that the judge and I are “neighbours”. Yes, we live in the same province – 551 km (344 miles) apart. That is like living three states away in some parts of the U.S.!
This year, the only show Dolly and Dragoon have been to with me is Crufts, and even though they didn’t win big, I was thrilled with their placements, and was devastated to hear that the only reason they won was that the judge was going to be taking them home with him. (so I wonder who these two dogs are here?)
I am personally committed to trying to make a difference. If you read my account of my Crufts journey I have taken a first step, in that I want to acknowledge the achievements of others, and recognize that every loss does not mean that the competition has to be denigrated, just as every win does not mean it was unworthy. Maybe, if we can all start focusing on the positives, and cease trying to build up our own reputation at the expense of others, dog showing can once again become fun, and we can take pleasure in the achievements of others.
I think my Mom would have been proud.