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Dog Clubs According to Groucho
Do you know the purpose of dog clubs? Does your club meet the definition or are you in denial about your membership? Bark back comments are welcome!
Joseph Byer, Jr., Research Editor
Q: “What do you get when you cross an insomniac, an agnostic, and a dyslexic?
A: “Someone who stays up all night wondering if there is a Dog." — Groucho Marx
We, the significant other and myself, came together because of dogs. We moved out of the city to the country specifically for our dogs. So, when we considered joining our first dog club it was with great anticipation of things to come; we were advancing into the world of dogs, for our dog's sake.
Several prominent breeders and at least one AKC judge were members in our first club. It typically held several matches and shows throughout the year, conducted classes and in general represented to us the essence of becoming true blue dog enthusiasts. We thought this was a move up in the world of dogs for us; so we joined.
Groucho Marx said, "I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member."
We attended every meeting and volunteered for every club project that came along. I helped at their classes and was given many of the more difficult dogs in class. At club matches I was assigned to setting up the rings and other related obedience equipment. My significant other's forte is art, she studied commercial art in college and she used that talent to create posters, flyers and other supporting club literature. She even designed a logo for the club to be put on T-shirts and other advertising media and donated her creation to the club. The old-timers were very encouraging of our collective efforts and expressed their appreciation often. We were indeed moving up in the dog world.
After about a year the powers that ruled the club decided to appoint the significant other as "Hospitality Chair" and she took to it with a desire to make it better than ever. Refreshments for the club meeting attendees was paramount to conducting club business it seemed. The responsibility was portrayed as important, perhaps a step to greater things in the future. Basically she was the donut and coffee girl at the meetings but it meant our doggie careers were definitely on the upswing.
At the community building where our monthly meetings were held, my significant other would be responsible for setting up before each club meeting, cleaning up after and tearing down and transporting and storing the supplies until the next meeting. The night of a meeting meant transporting from home all the supplies to the 2nd floor meeting room and set it all up. (NOTE: two flights of wooden stairs with no elevator.) It was also her responsibility to pass the hat for money to pay for the supplies, etc. used in the performance of her "Hospitality Chair" duties. At the conclusion of the meeting the cleanup and tear down reversed the setup procedure, all on two flights of wooden stair with no elevator assist!
"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." — Groucho Marx
It is important to point out a fact that was clearly evident to the entire club. They had for some time now seen me carrying her up those stairs and after the meeting, down again. My significant other has a debilitating muscle disease that prevents her from carrying anything. She is not able to walk without assistance and steps were an impassable barrier. Why these club members found it appropriate to "honor" her with the appointment to this position is beyond my comprehension, but they were continually expressing their appreciation for our help. I chose to do everything I could to support her in the new role because our doggie careers might benefit from the task.
Now that you have the whole picture; that a disabled person was put in charge of providing coffee and donuts plus all the accoutrements at the club's monthly meetings. A person who had to be carried to the second floor because there was no elevator. It seem to defy reason that the club officers could see the physical difficulty my significant other was dealing with and still select her for "Hospitality Chair". But they did.
Groucho Marx famously remarked, “I have a mind to join a club and beat you over the head with it.”
I assumed the role of "beast of burden" and carried the significant other, the coffee urns (2), coffee, cream, sugar, stirrers, napkins, donuts, or other sweets, etc. up two flights of stairs, set up and tore down at the end, plus whatever cleanup was necessary, including taking the garbage out, which I did as well.
My wife had a most intense desire to do a "bang-up" job and in that spirit provided some home-made treats on club meeting nights. We did these things with a desire to be the best and were encouraged by the club President and some other high ranking members. We felt that we were doing everything right in our quest to elevate our dog knowledge.
The meetings were a smoky-affair since most of the club matrons were chain-smokers. The two hour meetings were about all we could stand as adequate ventilation was lacking and the smoke just hung in the unventilated room. It was these same people who enjoyed the home-baked sweets and coffee but complained every time we asked for donations for the "coffee fund". They would say, "We paid last month" and ask us why we are again asking for money.
"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." — Groucho Marx
Then came club elections and I was nominated to be on the board. The nomination came from my significant other feeling that we had come through our probationary period with flying colors and wanting to contribute even more to this dog club. Despite the compliments on the many volunteer projects we had worked on, many of the long-time, chain-smoking club veterans questioned this nomination saying it was premature, that I might need more time in the club.
On the night of the elections, in addition to the regular meeting goers, we saw 20 or more people come to vote who were identified to us as members. These were total strangers that never came to the meetings, never volunteered for the work, and never served on the board and were never seen by us even coming to club events. When the voting was finished it may be no surprise that my bid for a seat on the board was quickly voted down and a relatively unknown, at least to us, was voted into the board.
"I have had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn't it." — Groucho Marx
It is that experience that forms my collective opinion of clubs. We learned that the inner circles in clubs are not welcoming to outsiders, even those who serve honorably and generously. A dog club is a human organization that is plagued with the many failings associated with our species.
A dog club codifies a set of rules that are directed towards the humans who form it and have little to do with the dogs the club was originally formed to protect and promote. In the end valuable time is wasted waging political war on human events and taking time away from the very object of our club's founding, our dogs.
"Quote me as saying I was mis-quoted." — Groucho Marx
So my message to you is to quit the clubs that are sucking the air out of the room and just spend that time with your dogs. Time spent with your canine companion will provide you with a no-holds barred experience that passes no judgments and delivers unconditional love which I'm sure you'll agree it is a much more enjoyable social experience!
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CLOSED, thanks to our readers for their replies, please see below.
(May 3, 2015) C
Shuping : Who puts on dog shows? How many dog shows do you attend each year?
Do you teach, volunteer, or work ACTIVELY at your show or at any shows? How many
of YOUR friends are ACTIVE kennel club members? Quitting is easy. Not joining is
even easier. Staying in a dysfunctional club as was described is a trial. New
members get discouraged at the strife. Some people want to join for the title KC
member, never lift a finger to keep it functioning and take advantage of the
people who do the work. Look in a mirror before you attend the next dog
show/class/trial/meeting and decide who you are. Getting old and not healthy?
Hug your dog and try to remember when KC's were fun.
(Apr 30, 2015)
Felicia Luburich : I once belonged to a state breed club. They elected me
the Secretary & then had all mail sent to their address?? I decided to find out
why. I had a friend write a letter stating she lived in a NYC apartment, worked
all day, did not own a car, owned a female of the breed & wanted to breed her.
So the member who received the letter, ADDRESSED to me, answered it, offering
her male at stud,. I NEVER owned a stud dog in that breed. Part of the club
rules was that no one should breed their stud to someone's bitch if the owner
was unsuited to raising a litter. When I brought the truth out, including the
answering letter, the person who wrote it put her head down on the table. The
club did not chastise her & all went on as usual. I quit that club. It was a
waste of time & money, both of which were in very short supply for me. I went on
to breed a TOP TOP TOP bitch & a 3X BIS winner of a color that never before or
since has had a BIS. Both of those dogs were wasted to the breed as they were
owned by people who did not deserve them. Neither of the dogs became a force in
the breed because of the TERRIBLE people who owned them. The clubs do not
further the breed. The BREEDERS who sacrifice everything for the dogs (unless
they are wealthy) are the ones who make or break a breed. There are few willing
to do so. While I was in CA for two years I saw a kennel ad & looked it up on
the web. It is not a breed I ever was involved in but I know what good ones look
like. The dogs on the web page were ABYSMAL. I can't imagine how any of them
were given CH title. When I was showing heavily in the 60s, 70s & 80s not one of
those dogs would have gotten a placement in a class of 1. My own major breed is
in a sad state. All of the breeders of my time agree ( inc. a Dog Show Judge I
spoke to in CA) thinks there is a dearth of good ones in the ring today. I went
to a Specialty & the WB was a travesty. I had to shake my head & look away.
(Apr 29, 2015) Linda
Fitzmaurice : If everyone quits, then we will have no dog shows. If people
don't volunteer, there will be no dog shows. If people don't support their Clubs
with trophy sponsorships, there will be no dog shows. There are only so many
positions on a board. If it's that important to your ego to be a leader, start
your own Club!
(Apr 29, 2015) RP
: Why didn't you hold the meetings downstairs? Why didn't you enlist others to
help you, & develop your own majority for the elections? This whole story sounds
bogus to me, or at the least, a "sour grapes" tale by a disgruntled ex-club
(Apr 29, 2015) J.E.
: Well! Many clubs now seem to be about social gossip and not the dogs. If a
meeting doesn't involve "working" dogs at some point, it's a red flag. IMHO, the
successful clubs are the ones that are centered on the dogs and not the social
aspect of the members. The y key is to find a club that you like. If there isn't
one, then start one with like-minded people!
(Apr 29, 2015) Deb
Franklin : While these scenarios do exist in some clubs, quitting and
walking away is NEVER the answer. Hang in there, figure out a way to make it
better. There are always ways to improve every situation. Clubs can get "stale"
and stuck on doing things only one way. New voices and fresh ideas are always
needed. While our dog shows and sport is surely dying a slow death, quitting and
walking away is definitely not the answer.
(Apr 29, 2015) Jen P
: Giving up is not the answer! Giving up on the dog clubs is the same as giving
up on dog shows (no entries- no money- no show) and therefore giving up on your
dogs too. Dog showing is in a precarious position because there are not new
people coming into the sport as in years past; given how busy the average family
is these days. The AROs want us to quit; to give up on the sport of dogs; to
give up breeding; to give up our pets. Those that love their dogs, who wants to
feed into that?
And as far as the clubs having rotating BODs- well perhaps their membership
isn't large? I must say, that even though most of my breed's PC BOD members are
all long time to the club (and breed) people- they should have experience with
the club- which only comes with being around a certain amount of time. Perhaps
that's what is meant by newbies needing to "pay their dues" so to speak. I
suppose it is only fair for the nominee to be proven and dedicated to the
workings of the club. That, it's not like it takes being in the club 30 years or
more either! My PC has quite a few important committee leaders who are younger
people- all of whom do excellent jobs for the club! Heck- even I got appointed
to a national committee position and I'm basically a no body on the big scene...
Just a lowly amateur handler even!
(Apr 29, 2015) Jan
Jeske : This kind of exclusionist politics is, indeed, rampant in both the
shows and the clubs that put them on. We need to address and correct this, or
dog shows will quickly become a thing of the past. My other complaint is with
the cheating that goes on at the shows, and the political will to SUPPORT it in
the clubs. I recently started a National breed club, and within days of
attaining recognition from the Canadian Kennel Club, I was hounded out of the
club I'd founded and brought to accreditation single-handedly. Why? Because I
would not support the dyeing being done on a brand-new member's big winning dog.
Everyone chose to support this 'personality' instead of the ethics the club was
supposed to have been built upon. I am THIS close to giving up on dog shows
(Apr 29, 2015)
Anonymous : Patti Kilcullen While this may be true in some clubs, it is not
in ours, maybe because our primarily role is as an obedience training clubs. We
welcome new members, put them to work and routinely elect them to Board
positions if they are interested.
(Apr 29, 2015)
Jennifer Young-Johnson : If you quit the clubs you continue the downward
spiral of dog shows and dog breeding in general. MAKE your club more enjoyable.
DON'T take on roles that are clearly unsuited to you. If you are unable to
easily and happily perform the duties of a committee, either say NO (thank you)
and/or add some other committee members to help you. Just throwing your hands up
and saying quit all clubs is what the AR people would like to see us all do.
(Apr 29, 2015) Corey
: Well. We don't just see this in all breed clubs or regional breed clubs, but
even at the national breed club level....it's the rotating group of 18-20 people
exchanging deck chairs, never allowing new/younger people to have any REAL
responsibility until they've "paid their dues," which means they've acquired
gray hair, bemoaning that membership is falling and that new members who join
rarely stay more than a year or two. These 18-20 people have a choke hold on
every aspect of the club and committee to insure that the status quo
remains...new ideas need not apply. When I joined my national breed club 20
years ago, the median age on the Board was in the 40s. It is now in the 70s.
They want "worker bees" to do their bidding but heaven forbid any of those
"bees" aspire to move up and effect change.
(Apr 28, 2015) Stella
: I don't think that many people will remember Groucho but he was famous as a
quip-quote comedian. Great article, enjoyed it.
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