Saturday, July 12, 2014

Back to "Normal" or Whatever

Back to “Normal” or Whatever

Since our pole barn is done except for the wiring and some cement work, we are breathing a sigh of relief.  Our equipment is back under cover that’s not tarps and the shelves are going back up, so we’re heading in the right direction.  Phyllis and I are still trying to figure out what “normal” is for us.  Assuredly it’s different than what most people might attribute to the word, but that’s our choice.

Just looking thru the latest CC of A Bulletin which is full of photos from the National.  Some nice looking dogs and some not quite as you might wish, but we all know pictures may be a bit deceiving.  I learned years ago not to form opinions of Collies I haven’t actually seen and/or judged.  If you don’t have a really flattering picture, it’s better not to use one at all.  It would be nice to see more shots of Collies showing on a loose lead without being stacked up and held in place.

Interesting article in the Bulletin from Kathy Moll relating to our breed’s fall from popularity with the public.  The reasons are many and complex as I’ve noted before.  Collies were once one of the breeds of choice as a family dog and many of us can remember that.  The slow, but sure sliding down the list has largely been aided by not thinking what the public wants and consequently shooting ourselves in the foot.  We can’t bring Albert Payson Terhune back and Lassie has likewise faded into history.  If we want our breed to only fit into the niche of show dogs with glued up ears, coat to the ground, and make up kits that go with each puppy, then continue to watch the slide.  Perhaps in today’s world we’ll see Pit Bulls as the breed of choice.

The Bulletin also highlighted the many different activities that are offered for our Collies.  The days of a National that focused on conformation seem to be over.  In perfect honesty there are competitions that are offered that I have no idea of what the requirements or guidelines might be.  Some of these activities surely highlight the versatility of our breed, but the show keeps growing and growing.  Years ago we had national symposiums which were held in the summer when dogs were basically out of coat.  Having some of the performance events at that time made sense and cold weather problems were no longer an obstacle.  The allure of having a “big” National that lasts for a week or more seems to have prevailed and I suppose you only have to show up for what interests you.

The cost of putting on the National and the difficulty of finding a suitable and affordable venue continue to be an issue.  Most clubs find such an undertaking beyond their capabilities.  Many clubs that used to be considered “powerhouse” groups have seen memberships decline and age to the point that they struggle just to put on an annual specialty let alone tackle the National.  This trend would seem to parallel the declining interest in our breed.  The yardstick used to be that most new people would just last a few years, but today we see less new people and many other activities competing for their time.

Given the enormous effort required by host clubs for the National it’s always amazed me that they really have so little say in things like picking judges.  The host club selects a panel and then it’s off to the races.  The final choices seldom resemble the host club preferences.  With all due respect to the Executive Committee, I’ve never understood why they are more fit to select the judges for the National.  In many cases most of them don’t even compete in conformation.  Years ago Jim Mangels wrote an article about criteria for picking judges for the National.  It included things like champions bred, shows judged, and success competing at high level events.  Interesting idea.

If the stars align themselves and I stay healthy the old dinosaur will judge his last show for the Nebraska CC in October.  A few nagging health issues and a distaste for the way airlines treat travelers nowadays have had me declining assignments for several years.  This will be their 100th specialty and it’s the club that Steve Field was connected with for years.  I’ve judged this show often and used to think Steve put my name up so we could visit after the show.  Steve will not be there this time, but I hope to see his daughter, Karen, and a few other old friends.  The date in early October is surely early for Collie coats, but the Keystone CC used to hold a show with Devon each fall at the same time and it was great.  I’m long past worrying about the size of my entries, but did get 100 dogs a few assignments back which is pretty good nowadays.

My hope for Nebraska has little to do with numbers and more to do with content.  If I have some quality Collies, well groomed, properly shown on loose leads standing on their own God-given four legs, I’ll be a happy camper.  Bigger isn’t always better, but better always is. 

Think about it!

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