I’m an average Jo and I’m worried about the future of my favorite hobby – showing and breeding dogs. I want to do something to help turn the tide of the declining number of show and trial entries, the number of purebred dogs registered, and the declining membership in our dog clubs. A decline that has sometimes been the cause of local specialty clubs that have gone extinct.
Yes, I’m just an average Jo. I get to call myself a Jo because it’s my middle name. I’ll never understand what my mother was thinking, but that’s my name. I’m not “what’s his face” the plumber or electrician or cable guy or whoever that dude was they talked about during the last election. I’m just an average Jo who has what I think is a funny name. It was a great name back in the day, when I was learning to read and Sally was a main character in the books they taught us from. Back then I thought I was pretty darn special. That specialness has faded though, and now I’m just an average Jo. But I’m an average Jo who has a cause that won’t make world headlines, but my cause has given me much pleasure and I’d like see it stick around for new Jo’s to enjoy.
There are many and various reasons why this decline is taking place, but for today, let’s talk just about the personal enjoyment we’d like others to experience when they join our sport as opposed to the bullying that sometimes occurs. Whether we want to admit it or not, whether we believe it or not (and most who do bully others will not believe it) sometimes, just like a group of school kids, there are those in our sport who engage in bullying, and that behavior will drive the hardiest exhibitor away from our midst in a heartbeat. It adds to the declining numbers and accomplishes absolutely nothing positive.
Dog show people are a mixed bunch and I’ve met my fair share of wonderful people who are my life long friends. They’ve dried my tears, cheered me on, offered advice or consolation, they’ve been my best friends, and many of them have a wacky sense of humor that just sucks me right in! Who doesn’t love a good laugh and I have shared so very many with my doggy crowd!
I firmly believe that there are many wonderful people involved in dog shows. And I wonder sometimes, do we forget about those wonderful people when the stories we hear mostly pertain to bad behavior? When was the last time you heard someone spontaneously share a wonderful story about how another person helped them, encouraged them, boosted their morale etc. at the ring, at a show, in their club? It’s easy to take those actions for granted, that people will be nice and act in a caring manner toward each other, and why shouldn’t we expect that from each other? But, the drama of a person or a group of people acting out badly is so riveting to behold, that we may lose those other acts of kindness in the shuffle. It’s like watching the News – how many good stories do you find there? What draws the masses is drama and drama we remember. As a group can we try to maintain focus on letting “the good times roll” while we police our actions for the bad behavior that turns people off from our sport?
Besides for that, do I think there are other less likeable people in the sport? Yes unfortunately, and I’d have to add that I’ve also met a few truly awful bullies among the crowd. But, and this must be said with force, they are not only the professional handlers as some might imply. Can we all agree or have we had personal experience with bullies among all ranks in the doggy crowd? Are bullies also found among the breeders, owner handlers, exhibitors, dog show superintendents, judges, vendors, the club members hosting a show, your fellow club members or the Officers & Directors of your dog club? Have you ever felt bullied and if so who was that bully, another exhibitor, a club member, a group of people? What “group” did they belong to? And, what would you tell them (or the rest of us here) about how that impacted you and whether you will continue to stay in the sport or simply walk away from it thus adding to those declining numbers that I mentioned in the beginning?
So what’s the solution? Is there a solution? Would it help if we were all more proactive, following the advice that is currently pointed toward our kids – “Stop Bullying”? Would you be willing or would you be afraid to band with the person being bullied to make the bullying behavior stop? What if that meant taking a stance against someone who, in the sport, considers themselves “important”” or is recognized as a “top dog” by virtue of being a handler, experienced breeder, or club officer?
Bullying. Where does it start? Where does it end? Do you believe it has had, or is having an impact on the decreasing numbers pertaining to our breed – Gordon Setters? Is it impacting our National club? Our Regional clubs? And if so, what would you do to put a stop to it? What needs to be changed?
The article that started this one on the topic of Bullies can be read at this link: Are There Dog Show Bullies?
Feel free to share your thoughts, comments, suggestions and the like in the comments section. If you would prefer to withhold your name so as not to call out anyone specific, you may share by sending an email to email@example.com and I will post for you without your name. That’s what we’re here for, to share and to make a difference in the sport of purebred dogs!
Sally Jo Gift Mesa, AZ
Photos by Susan Roy Nelson, WY