Had a great time at Nationals: learned a lot, saw some amazing dogs and even more amazing friends. Someone even took a picture of Kunga and me in the ring!
But one thing marred the whole experience: the general level of viciousness among some attendees. As I stood/sat ringside, I heard astonishingly mean comments about dogs in the ring; as I walked around the vendors I got an earful of ugly gossip about people. I overheard a nasty comment about my dog, and had one brazen person say something really horrific (and untrue) about my dog to my face: all before Kunga had even had the chance to show! I’m not alone in having that kind of vitriol spat at them or about them. I stood next to someone whose bitch was in the conformation ring and heard malign comments about her from a person nearby. Funny how that commentator didn’t mention the fact that the bitch had done spectacularly well in rally a few days earlier.
Make a stupid, cutting remark at ringside and Sod’s Law says that the person it’s aimed at is standing unseen behind you. It can be devastating even if you don’t intend to hurt. This is exactly the kind of thing that puts newcomers off our sport when they experience it themselves.
Anyone who lives in the real world knows that mean-spirited, small-minded gossip is an epidemic. At the office, at the grocery store, in the PTA, in the park, even at church or temple (!) you can hear people attack others’ reputation, appearance, or actions. The dog show world isn’t uniquely bad in this way, it’s just like any other gathering of people engaged in an activity they care about. And when we care about something, our egos get involved and somehow interfere with the brakes between thought and tongue. I suppose it’s normal to bolster the sense of self by putting others down, and to ingratiate ourselves with an “in” group by agreeing with their opinions and making even more cruel remarks about someone outside.
Most dog shows are not invitationals: everyone’s paid the same price to bring their dog to the ring to get an opinion on it or give it the chance to perform. I think we ought to let the judge do the job of passing judgment.
I guess it’s useless to plead, with Rodney King, “Why can’t we all just get along?” I’m not going to change other people’s behavior or human nature. But this is a pledge to myself that I will try to act differently. I want to be the kindest person at the ring, not the most evil. I hope my friends and club members will pull me up if they hear me going off the rails, and remind me that all of us adore our dogs and don’t deserve officious or vile remarks about them in any context.