(Above - Social media platforms such as Facebook can be used to spread positive messages about the dog fancy - Photo by Dan Sayers )
Dog fanciers have embraced social media with the kind of fervor usually reserved for an evangelical revival — or the conformation arena. And just like the competition that takes place in the show ring, things can get heated pretty quickly online. Through text messages and Tweets, instant messaging and Instagram, comments both innocent and inane can lead to all-out war between factions sitting at keyboards a world apart. Virtual battle lines can be drawn following a single post, and social media consumers everywhere frequently join the melee with a few choice comments of their own — in 140 characters or less. The result is often a disintegration of civility where opinions matter more than principle. Although some things can be learned by following an explosive thread, the “conversation” inevitably leads to misgivings and distrust among some participants. When it comes to following Tweets and Facebook posts, there’s often not that much for followers to “like.”
Thankfully, all is not lost. For every post that skewers a judge or satirizes an exhibitor, another will acknowledge the hard work of a show chair or the sacrifices made by a dedicated breeder. The Golden Rule is alive and well in the virtual world. On Snapchat and in chat rooms, it’s not impossible to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Some fanciers have found it’s just as easy to be kind as it is to be critical, and a “thank you” can go a long way toward establishing some much needed goodwill. The same is also true when posting pictures. Although a win photo is certainly cause for celebration for everyone involved, nothing that’s posted online could be better PR for the sport of dogs than the perfect puppy picture or ode to an old dog — shared again and again and again. Dog lovers the world over will “like” a photo of a seven-week-old litter in a basket in far greater numbers than they will a newly-finished champion. The show dog, it must be noted, will have its detracters. The precious pups, on the other hand, will be off limits to chronic complainers and killjoys — or at least they should be!
If each of us with a Twitter or Facebook account chose to celebrate the dog sport instead of pontificate about its woes when we sat down to our keyboard or opened the app on our phone, we might realize just how much admiration we still have for it — and for each other. A positive post may not remove the negative comments, but it will go a long way to remind us all why we chose to breed and show dogs in the first place.
With this hopefulness in mind, I reached out to a few Facebook friends with a simple question: If you could thank three people, one from your past, another in your life today, and the person to whom you’d entrust the future of your breed(s), what would you say to each to show your gratitude? The responses that follow demonstrate how we are all in this together, and only a careless comment at a keyboard can tear us apart.
Richard Reynolds - Tenafly, New Jersey
The Past – Thank you, Anna Katherine Nicholas, for always seeing the good in every dog and teaching me to judge not its faults, but its virtues. Your grace in the ring (and grand sense of humor) were an inspiration to me and many other judges entering the game when many breeds (and breeders) were rough around the edges. To this day, I try never to disparage any dog, but to recognize its strong points, even if there are but a few.
Thanks too to Roger Caras, voice of Westminster, prolific author, TV personality, Bloodhound owner and any handler’s dream client. You taught me to realize that a dog show — even the Garden — is but a small part of our life with dogs and there is a compelling need to understand and become a part of our dogs’ lives. You introduced me to dogs in art and inspired my fascination with putting hounds and terriers to work at their historic vocations. You opened so many doors to this dog game of ours.
The Present – It seems as though I never get around to thanking Stephen Hubbell for the wealth of knowledge about dogs he has passed along and the enduring inspiration of his art, a bounty of which hangs on my walls. I’ve taken photos of dogs for his commissioned paintings and the finished product always casts light on attributes of the dog that I had missed when looking at the photos. How wonderful to be able to translate the written word into an enduring image of excellence and personality. I can’t even draw a straight line, but sometimes when I judge I try to see a dog as Steve would paint it. With the good ones that’s easy. (Thanks too Steve for always letting me know, in the nicest possible way, when I misinterpret a standard. He knows them all.)
The Future – Thanks! I’m sorry I don’t know your names, but you are the Junior Handlers, the AKC/PHA Apprentices, the dedicated owner-handlers and those who have bred a litter or two of your chosen breed. You’ll earn my gratitude if you soak up every bit of knowledge about your breed and put it to use in producing better, healthier dogs that excel at their intended purpose. You will breed and show based on your knowledge and perception of what is right for the breed. Some of you may build on the foundation that I have laid in a couple of breeds and I am grateful that you would continue on that path.
Billy Miller - Felton, Pennsylvania
The Past – The late AKC Judge Jane G. Kay taught me so much about breeding dogs and animal husbandry. She always stressed the importance of putting dogs first. They mattered. Being an old-timer, she was very particular about a person’s word choice. When someone would say that their stud dog had produced a number of champion get, she was quick to point out that a dog sires a litter and the bitch is the producer of the litter. She was always encouraging me to do my best.
The Present – Kenny Saenz works hard to promote the sport. He is a firm believer that everyone needs to be part of the effort to preserve our fancy. He’s my real-life hero.
The Future – There are a few very clever ladies breeding Chihuahuas. I believe that my breed is in safe hands. Overseas, there are some very clever breeders who are helping to preserve health and the essentials of breed type.
Oscar Quiros - Los Angeles, California
The Past – My parents were the people to introduce me to the sport. They started in Dobermans, but have had many other breeds at their Sanluis Kennel in Alajuela, Costa Rica. They have bred over 100 Miniature Schnauzer champions. Thank you, mom and dad.
The Present – In my life there are many important people today, including my clients, judges, breeders, fellow handlers and anyone who is involved in the sport. But the most important person is my wife, Vanessa. She is the one who makes everything possible.
The Future – I hope the people I’ll entrust with our breeds are my kids. I hope at some point in their lives they get interested in the sport. For the past, present and future, the most important thanks goes to God who let’s us enjoy this privilege we have.
Jerry Berkowitz - Davenport, Florida
The Past - Marion Daniel was my first mentor and owner of Ch. Brafci’s True Colors, Westminster Breed winner, 2x National Specialty winner, and the foundation stud dog of my kennel, Jerilee. Also, Connie Christie of Killagay who owned the most-titled Welsh Springer Spaniel in the U.S. for more than 20 years.
The Present – Beth Holmes of Fairwinds and Joe Cowdrick, Connie’s kennel manager and owner of top-winning Killagay Tudur Welsh Springers, both imports as well as domestic breeding stock.
The Future – My co-owner and the future of Jerilee, Carrie Morris, who already has very nice pointed puppies from our first joint breeding. It does take a family to continue the future of the wonderful Welsh Springer Spaniel!
Carissa Shimpeno - Downingtown, Pennsylvania
The Past – I would thank my Grandmother, Joanna Satalino. She started our family in dogs. She immersed herself with the most knowledgeable people in Dobermans and really took to learning the breed. Her teachers were Peggy Adamson and Carol Petruzzo, among others. She fostered that same passion for learning in my mother, Gwen DeMilta, and myself. She taught us how to be passionate and honest in everything we do and I am so grateful for the moral compass she instilled in both of us.
The Present – I would thank my mom. She is single-handedly the most knowledgeable Doberman person I know. What makes her the best is that even with 40-plus years in the breed and well over 200 champions she is still a student of our breed and our sport. She is never too proud to ask advice, even from someone younger than herself. Her passion for the sport is unparalleled. She, like her mother before her, has given me a strong sense of self and I am so grateful for the knowledge they have passed down. More important than the knowledge is the moral compass they gave me. Family is always first and being able to do this sport with the people I cherish most in this world is such a gift.
The Future – I am still young myself and I don't feel ready to carry on the breed without my mentors. That being said, there are several young people I am so incredibly proud to be teaching. Leah Ramsey has been helping me since she was about 13. She is a young, dedicated handler and breeder. She breeds along with her mother and it is so much fun to watch her set and accomplish her goals. Even now at the age of 22, as she is starting to spread her wings and go out on her own, she will give up weekends being a handler to help me when I'm in need. She is a special young lady. I am also proud to be working with the Rogers family, Sophia, Faith, Emma and Julia. They are all wonderful young Junior Handlers that work very hard for me. They are true students of our sport and are amazing young ladies. Faith and I own dogs together and when she is at the shows she always has one of our Dobermans out of the crate teaching them how to be show dogs or cute little pet tricks. It's wonderful to watch.
If you wish to show your appreciation to someone in the dog sport — past, present or future — consider posting a message of thanks on your social media platforms, or share your words of gratitude with our readers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Below - ShowSight's Web Development Office Dog Phantom checks out some of his friends online - Photo by Daniel Cartier.)