A week ago I was looking forward to my first agility judging assignment, the National Specialty that I have worked on for the past two years, a terrific group of dogs and students that I get the pleasure of working with every week, and the start of the spring trial season with my dogs. Over the past few days, one thing after another seems to have slipped away and coming to terms with all of that has been difficult.
First the business part. All in-person Clever Hound LLC activities have been suspended until at least March 30. All classes held at Rocky Creek are suspended until at least April 20. Students, please keep practicing. I know many of you suddenly have a lot of time of your hands, so let’s keep those clever dogs working. Scent Work is pretty easy to practice at home, but everything including agility foundation skills can be done in small spaces. Training at home is a great time to work off leash and to practice staging distractions to help your dog learn to focus on his job. Don’t forget to video your work. If you run into trouble, I am happy to review videos from current students to offer pointers. Private lesson students will have the option of rescheduling or meeting virtually through Skype or FaceTime. My April schedule is very much in flux right now (more on that later), but I will do my best to accommodate everyone as soon as possible.
I debated to even bring this part up, but feel it’s reasonable to weigh in. Any opinions expressed are mine alone and not necessarily those of the PBGVCA. Many dog shows have been cancelled or rescheduled in the coming weeks. Sometimes this has been a club decision, often it has been dictated by local policy or the facility that was to hold the show. In the state of Ohio, where the PBGV National is to be held from April 14-21, gatherings of more than 100 are currently not allowed until April 3. Yes, this restriction may be extended. Also, it might not be extended if the mass closures over the next two weeks work as expected. Yes, postponing could be an option. It also might not be- popular show locations typically book 1-2 years in advance and we are not the only club hoping to postpone an event. If postponing happens, we will probably have to take whatever dates are offered. These dates won’t work for everybody and may not work for every event. Sending me a list of dates that would be convenient for you is not useful- none of us are going to be able to dictate when the venue is available. Schedule and judging panel changes are also very likely and not everyone will be happy with those either. No matter what happens, the show I’ve dreamed about and planned for the past 2 years is not going to be exactly what I had hoped for, but the club board and show committee are working to allow the show to happen in some form. None of this can be done instantaneously. In my experience, decisions made in a hurry are rarely good decisions. The club board has announced that a decision will be made by March 22. If everyone could calm the $%&^* down and allow those in a decision making position to gather information about the current situations and all of the options available, we have the best chance of saving the national.
I will weigh in on one of the alternatives that was suggested, which was to declare the December Florida specialty as the national. This would only be a conformation show and would completely exclude all of the performance events and the members who attend for that reason. I feel very, very strongly that a national specialty that is only a breed show is not in the best interest of the breed. Some of you may be aware that this is the exact reason that I am no longer associated with the GBGV Club. My feelings about the validity of breed shows as a legitimate means of selecting breeding stock are well known, but even if you feel differently, our breed needs to be valued for more that its appearance in the show ring. I would rather not have a National Specialty than have one that is only a dog show.
This is a very difficult time for every one and we each have our own reasons for that. For some of you a dog show is “only a dog show”. For others, involvement in the dog world may be their livelihood. Without getting into the psychology of why our sport attracts a lot of self employed people, I’ll just remind you that we are out there and that every cancelled event is probably affecting someone’s ability to pay their bills. Anyone who has been in the dog world for any length of time should also realize that for a lot of people, dog events are their only social circle and support system. Dog events may be a once in a while casual hobby for you, but please don’t be so quick to tell others what their priorities and feeling should be.
I’d like to end on happier note by thanking all of the clubs who have given full or partial refunds of entry fees for cancelled events. Clubs don’t have to do this, but many have chosen to bear the financial burden for this crisis instead of passing it on to exhibitors. I will personally go out of my way to enter these club’s events in the future.