16 June, 2008

My Dog World War! (part 1 ???)

In last Friday's edition of Dog World, one of two (can you imagine) UK weekly newspapers entirely devoted to dog showing and other canine competitions, Andrew Brace, a judge in the upper echelons of the dog showing world, expressed in his regular column his bad opinion of infirm people who use another handler to move their dogs in the ring: "Personally I dislike this intensely" and finds it "just an insult to the judge." To read his full two paragraphs on the subject, follow this link:

Dog World June 13th

(you'll have to select "View Editions" from the top left, select 13/06/2008, navigate to page 8 and skip to halfway down the third column near the end of the article, zoom in). I will quote the lot directly after I have obtained permission from Dog World.

Naturally, Finuala and I found this opinion pretty offensive. As (full disclosure) she writes a semi-regular Gardening column for the paper, she felt less in a position to respond. So, I have taken up the cudgel, which I have emailed to the letters editor of Dog World:

Letters Page: Runners in the Show Ring (response to Andrew
Brace's June 13th column)

In his "Going Around" column in Dog World, June 13th, Andrew Brace rails against the possibly rising practice of "employing 'runners' when they presumably feel they are not fit enough to gait their dogs."

Mr. Brace's limited and cynical imagination can find only one motive for this: "...the exhibitor does not trust the judge to find their dog without their face behind it." This ignores the fact that not every exhibitor is a "face" in their given breed; many successfully show only one or two animals at a time who are primarily their pets, without joining some cliquey coterie of breeders with many champions. Many owners feel that their animals are most comfortable with their handling, and, perhaps a newsflash to Mr. Brace, take pleasure and pride in their display in the ring as a result of their effort, time and expense.

My wife, for example, suffered increasingly appalling arthritis in one of her hips whilst waiting for diagnosis and a subsequent operation. During this time she tried to continue enjoying showing our dog to the best of her ability and felt most qualified to stack the animal, and confident that he would move like a dream alongside someone who could actually move, not hobbled by pain. If she was having an off day, she would ask a friend to run the dog in the ring.

With the increasingly average age of the general population, and inevitably of the showing community (not to mention waiting lists for treatment), the practice of using runners cannot help but rise. I would hope that we can expect judges to look at what they should be looking at, the animal, it's confirmation and performance, not who happens to be standing behind, or along side it. Strangely this seems to be something that Mr. Brace may not be willing to do as he vents his "intense" dislike.

We can only hope that Mr. Brace can swallow his pride, look past what he sees as an "insult to the judge", and not penalize the animal or exhibitor for what is a completely irrelevant factor. Otherwise all his prejudices should be published on any schedule that lists his future judging appointments. Let's also wish him continued good health so that he should never know where his true insult lies.

Brian Tarnoff

I will of course update here should this letter be published. And follow any possible repercussions.

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