TARHEEL (NC) CIRCUIT REFLECTIONS
The Raleigh cluster has great location, judging panels, and RV parking, but grooming and ringside space was minimal despite much lower entries. What’s going on at the Tar Heel?
Barbara "BJ" Andrews © TheDogPress 04|01|10 - Easy to get to with a great venue (even a flea market for diversion), Raleigh’s spring shows are steeped in tradition. Buoyed by knowledgeable members, dog washing facilities, public showers, plenty of hookups, a good cafeteria, and breed seminars, the Tarheel shows shouldn’t be struggling with a precipitous drop in entries.
Dog show parking is never easy but for the last couple of years a pretty, very competent fairgrounds lady has handled fees collection and any minor problems. Moss Bow’s efficiency was also appreciated, including the ability to project completion of breed schedules so as to set a reliable Group order. Bob Busby, a professional handler, club president, and now a popular judge, remarked that such attention to detail makes everyone's job easier.
There were complaints on the obstructive ringside crating / chair rules. With lower entries, there should have been ample room. Working breeds with the most both-sex majors (5 breeds) were the most adversely affected. Ringside grooming was all but impossible due to restricted aisles and grooming area traffic. In order to observe classes, handlers had to stand or hurry to center aisle if a chair became available. After long days on hard concrete, feet, legs, and backs were feeling the strain.
A few years back there was a big ruckus at the Pom/Peke/Maltese ring when someone decided exhibitors could not crate or groom at ringside. I had no stake in the matter but understood the frustration of trying to push through the crowds to get back and forth to switch dogs, only to arrive back at ringside in total disarray. I found the Cluster Chairperson (Babbins) in the cafeteria and we talked about "fire marshal" regulations. I observed that the fire marshals must be discriminating against the dog show (there were no such rules in the adjacent flea market) and suggested we talk to the fire department… I don't know how she did it but within the hour, she arranged a small ringside grooming area for coated breeds and all breeds were allowed to crate ringside while being judged.
Someone said Dennis McCoy is now the cluster chairperson. With a Master’s in Manipulation and many successful handling years, perhaps next year's arrangements will improve although if entries keep dropping, it won't matter. Friday’s group was like the old Monday show when the building was virtually empty by group time. Linn Vandiver, who was also there last year said it was really a shame. She’s right, the Tarheel was once rivaled only by the Florida and Cherry Blossom circuits in the SE.
When they announced a 30 minute delay in 8:00 judging due to local traffic events, one glamorous handler remarked that it was "cheap and uncivil" to start any show at 8 A.M. When I nodded agreement, she winked and said "it doesn't matter if you have coated or smooth breeds, WE still have hair and makeup to do!" I was still laughing when she said "BJ, the sport as we knew it is gasping its last breath. When I apprenticed for ___, we stayed with friends or clients, motels when we had to. We made a good living working out of her maxi-van. I have wonderful clients but I'm at a break-even point. It’s either fill up my motor home with dogs and hire another assistant, or go back to a van. My home is paid for but now I am mortgaged to show site parking and coach payments! Clubs may survive by raising fees, hiring fewer judges and working them longer hours, but we don't have that option."
As I walked out to my motor home, I thought of Tommy Glassford, Jeff Brucker, Carlos Rojas, George Ward, Vicki Fillinger, Bobby Barlow and other legendary handlers who worked out of a van while bringing honor to the sport with just a handful of carefully selected dogs. I marveled at the number of big RVs and the amount of space needed to accommodate them. The day of small shows, modest facilities, and time to kick back and “talk dogs” is all but over. In order to survive, clubs have to cluster to afford the big sites for big rigs and big handlers with big strings that bring big entries to support the shows. It’s like being caught on a hamster wheel.
Enjoyed seeing old friends and marveling at how little they have changed. Peter Baines was judging on Wednesday and is fit and well after his cancer scare. Damara Bolte is still handling but can no longer run with her basenjis and mastiff days are far behind her. She should be judging soon and sharing her knowledge with others. David Rich doing well for his Russian Terrier clients, just back from another trip to Russia. Burt Halsey as good natured and ring agile as always. Jane Forsythe and the Moore County KC table easy to find in center aisle. With Bob and Jane at the helm, the club has really grown and the golfing is as much fun as the show. Sioux and family doing well between swimming, lifeguarding, and karate. Jimmy Moses, as suave as ever, still on top of the game in GSD. A bear hug from X-heavyweight boxer Ed Finnegan who is still in good shape and more organized than ever before, thanks to Kay. Owner handler Gloria Johnson took an exciting Best In Show on Friday with her scrumptious Smooth Chihuahua. Watched Akitas with Jo Ann Charnik and Brenda VanCamp also came over to say hello. The Breen’s shinola-black bitch took BB that day, exemplifying the great job breeders have done on improving movement.
All in all, a good week at Raleigh but one that has many wondering if we are better off today. I remember a sport that allowed me to finish my first Rottie with all majors and years later, fall on my face at Lang Skarda’s feet and still take Winner's Bitch in Akitas. Sure, there were politics. An owner handler expected to be out-handled and out-maneuvered by the professionals but there were plenty of judges who knew dogs, loved dogs, and judged dogs. After observing six days of “face and favor judging,” it is obvious that novice owner-handlers with exceptional dogs face an uphill run today. A number of real handlers (everyone’s an agent y’know) said the same thing, and with genuine sadness, so it’s not just a matter of perspective.Has the sport grown beyond its capacity to survive? I'll leave that to you to decide. Gee, I remember when the older generation thought Elvis would be the end of all decorum! Hmm, come to think of it, they were right but we all survived. Let’s hope dog shows do likewise as we work our way through a new age of dog shows.