OK, I’ll start of by saying that I’m not describing the “new normal” because I despise the term. Nothing about this is normal and I have to believe that it won’t be forever. But anyway, over the past two weeks we’ve attended dog events for the first time since March, so I thought I would share my impressions. In the case of both events, the expectations and social distance requirements were made clear in the premium list, which allowed exhibitors to make an informed choice about whether to enter.
Last week, we went to a C-Wags Scent Work Trial. Because the area was still in a yellow zone, the host club limited entries to 25 handlers. Scent work is a sport that fits well with social distancing since one dog works at a time and everyone tends to give dogs plenty of space, even at trials hosted by organizations that don’t specifically accommodate reactive dogs. Masks were worn in the building and crating was done in cars, but you could walk your dogs freely around the grounds. Instead of a regular check in board, a club member met you at the car and checked you in. In general, it didn’t feel like the modifications added a lot of time or changed the structure of the event much.
This week we are an AKC agility agility trials in an area that went from yellow to green over the course of the weekend. It’s a one ring trial and there are some changes from the norm, like more crating from cars (although indoor crating is allowed) and less seating space in the building. In general, people are hanging out outside and just staying in when it’s close to running time so the number of well spaced out chairs allowed inside has worked fine. Masks are being worn inside but can be removed while running. Workers are encouraged to wear gloves and hand sanitizer and cleaning products are available for those who wish to use them. Finding enough workers hasn’t seemed to be a problem. Walk through are divided into smaller groups, but the trials have run on time.
At the start of the weekend (today is Day 3), everyone was still somewhat hesitant. Most of us haven’t trialed since the lockdown and many of the rules of etiquette seem to have changed. (Is it rude to hold a door for someone or rude not to?). Things have definitely relaxed some as far as the touching of surfaces, but I think there’s still some variation in comfort levels and I’m sure that those who are really uncomfortable aren’t here. It seems like the best way to navigate the world is to let “You do you”. Not everyone has the same risk factors or comfort levels, but as the world opens up I hope that we can give each other the support that everyone deserves. I know the dog world loves a good witch hunt and one of my concerns was that people who are attending trials would be attacked by those not ready to start yet. Maybe we will. At the moment, it seems like people are poised to turn on each other in the world in general, so maybe the dog world can be a safe space. On the other hand, quality of life matters too and staying home until there is zero risk of a virus that will probably never go away doesn’t sit well with me either.
So for now- you do you. I’ll be playing with my dogs.