My wife had been invited to judge at a championship show for dogs organized by a club for which I had been the founding chairman twenty years ago. As we drove up to the sports grounds where the show was to be held, the last thirty years of our life unfolded as a sudden flash in my mind. I had a brusque, crystal clear overview of what had happened to us since we, as dog lovers, became gradually but fully involved in the hobby of purebred dogs. Astonishingly, the flash left me with terrible questions: Had it all been worthwhile? Had we really achieved something? For a moment, my mind heaved away, and it occurred to me that the answer was "not really," and that the only way to reverse this feeling was to find out why, to analyze the matter in all objectivity, and to record my observations in writing in a down-to-earth manner. It would be of no purpose to beat about the bush. Open cards and an in-depth, objective inquisition might help to throw some light on the subject. I also realized that it would not suffice to carry out a thorough soul search into my wife's and my own involvement in canine matters. We would have to approach the problem in a holistic manner to discover the nature of the matters that were bothering me. I felt that somehow we had done our best. We certainly contributed our share to the hobby of purebred dogs, but altogether we were only one of the many links in a rattling chain of events.
My wife interrupted my dreaming and with suspicion in her voice asked, "What are you thinking?" "Well," I said, "I just had a flashback of our activities and the whereabouts with our dogs since it all started. Don't worry, park the car, go greet the organizers, and do a fine judging job. I will hang around, do some more thinking, and tell you the whole story tonight on our way back."
It was a beautiful spring day, and the morning sun gave credit to the venue. The grass was mowed short, and the rings in which the judging of the dogs was to take place were neatly set up and clearly defined by bunting advertising the food company that was sponsoring the show. Tens of colorful gazebos were lined up along the rings, and there was a hustle and bustle of people and dogs all getting prepared for the battle of the rosettes. I carefully observed the dogs. Some obviously looked bored, but yes, others gave the impression that they enjoyed the happening. As the show had not yet started, the majority of the dogs were being prepared for the great moment. Most of the gazebos, especially those around the rings where the so-called Utility and Toy groups were to be judged, had a grooming table placed in the middle. Miniature Schnauzers, Shih Tzus, Poodles in all sizes, little Pomeranians, Pekingese, and many others were frantically being blow dried, brushed, and combed.
Soon the loud speakers announced the commencement of the show, and the judges and stewards filled the arenas. The dogs were called in per breed and in their respective classes. It occurred to me that for the past thirty years I had been part of this strange-behaving crowd. I had zealously assisted my wife in preparing our dogs to present them in the best possible way to the judges. Now walking around as an objective observer, I realized that the more experienced the handlers were, the more they acted as if their future and reputation depended on the way in which their dog was behaving and showing itself in the ring. An extremely critical public was sitting all around the rings. With the eyes of so many connoisseurs, it observed the performance of the dogs, the handlers, and the judges. I imagined that the behavior of those directly involved in a dog show must seem very peculiar to the outsider. The visiting layman must have the impression that a dog show is not about dogs but rather about people. The dogs don't seem to give a damn when their handler is handed out a winner's rosette