It’s easy to say that a breed club fell apart because of the economy. Gas prices have skyrocketed and the expenses to keep that car running smoothly have followed their lead. But that would only be telling you a half truth. Yes, the economy has taken its toll on most of us and we have to re-train ourselves to handle our finances differently because of it. But is it really true that the club fell apart solely because of the economy? How was the club doing a few years ago when people weren’t as concerned about their financial future? Was it thriving or was it on its way out?
A breed club is a place for like minded people who love their dogs to gather and meet and discuss all things related to their breed. It’s a place to talk about breeding, training, and the health of their dogs. It’s a place to exchange ideas. It’s a place to vote in new officers to run the club and help to insure that things run smoothly. It’s a place to talk about how to generate revenue for the club to help make it prosper so it can put on AKC sanctioned dog shows. It’s a place to invite guest speakers to come and give your club a lecture. It’s a place to learn, to share and to socialize among your peers. But like any other organization, it is also a place to work. Unlike a job, it is not something that you do to get paid. But the rewards that you reap sharing in a hobby that you love can be all the payment that you need. However, when it’s the same few people doing all the work, that’s when you may see a club begin to shift and the walls of its foundation begin to crack. In many cases, this can be the beginning of the end.
A lot of hard work, determination, dedication and passion go into making a successful club. You have your governing body of people who are elected to office to run the club. This normally consists of a President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary, and a board of a few people. These people are the back bone of any club. Then you will have other volunteers for different functions in the club. You might have people that volunteer to bring refreshments, a coffee pot, etc. and maybe you’ll have someone willing to devote many hours of their time writing and putting together a newsletter about the club. There are people who set up the dog show rings and then take them back down again.
Just why do people belong to a club anyway? What do they get out of it? Why should they leave the comforts of their home to go sit on a cold hard chair instead? Why should they go and listen to people bicker about who should judge their upcoming specialty when they can stay home and argue with their kids instead? What brings these same people month after month back to the club and the “same old, same old?” Is it because of their love and passion that they feel for their breed? Is it because they want to brag about their newest litter that was just born? Is it because they want to show you a picture of their stud dog winning Best of Breed just last week-end? Yes, yes, and yes to all of the above. It is a gathering place where like minded people meet up and talk “dogs.” And that is the key…..LIKE MINDED PEOPLE!
You don’t normally converse with like minded people where you work. Your relatives for the most part couldn’t care less about the up coming spring dog shows. Your kids are tired of hearing about bloodlines and breeding all the time. Your neighbors don’t care where the next National Specialty dog show will be held. Only other like minded people enthusiastically look forward to talking “dogs” with you. You can talk with these people on the telephone and communicate with them on the internet. But it’s a whole lot of fun seeing these people in person and sharing pedigrees, showing pictures of your dogs and strutting yourself proud when you brag about your newest litters and show wins. You have a captured audience at a dog club.
Breed clubs should not only be all about work. It should and needs to be a place that is fun to go to. Some of the clubs also offer breed and obedience classes. This is a wonderful place to get puppies and youngsters out for training and socializing. It’s also another excuse for LIKE MINDED PEOPLE to gather.
One of the most important things that a club should do (in this writer’s opinion) is to make sure that it WELCOMES its newcomers! Some of the clubs that have been in existence for a long time may have in its membership some long standing members. A club MUST be a friendly and welcoming place to come to or what is the point? I think that the President of the club should make an effort to greet and welcome every new member that comes to his club. If a club wants its doors to remain open, it must open its doors to the “newbie’s” with open arms and acceptance. They must not be made to feel unwelcome but instead should be recognized as the FUTURE of the breed. What we do now will either ensure the future of our breed or see the demise of it.
There’s nothing sadder then to see a club that was in existence for many years that crumbles and goes into its grave with the other “used to be” clubs. I see a picture in my mind of the long ago members that are no longer with us but who were the backbone of these clubs. I can see them standing up offering a suggestion. I can hear their laughter when they told a joke or two. I can see them standing in one of the corners sharing a coffee with another member and eating someone’s chocolate chip cookies. I can see them getting up and shaking hands after accepting their vote in as President of the club. I see William Goldbecker standing over there sharing his knowledge with a newcomer and I hear Marge Dolan on the other side of the room telling someone about her newest litter. I hear Connie Beckhardt’s friendly laughter when she would come to judge our shows. I remember hanging on every word LaMar Kuhns would say when he came to give a speech at our club. These are the shadows and echoes that are left behind by those we should never forget……for these are the people that made the clubs great. We owe it to them but more importantly to ourselves and to our breed to make sure that what they did for our breed clubs by giving it structure and purpose was not done in vain. They set an example or just how great our breed is. We can chose to follow in the footprints that they left behind by continuing a tradition that is rich in history and by leaving our own footprints for the next generations to come. Or we can watch as another club is put to sleep. And the more clubs put to sleep, the more dog shows that get buried along with it. No clubs……no dog shows. You have to have a club to put on a dog show. No dog shows……no new champions and no new obedience title holders.
The days of “Ask not what your club can do for you, but what you can do for your club” have sadly being replaced with a complacent society raised unfortunately with the attitude of “What’s in it for me?” Now days, “instant gratification and I want it now” has for the most part replaced the old school of thinking that a lot of hard work, sweat and tears will reap the rewards of your hard labor. Then what’s the answer? Can these two ways of thinking co-exist side by side in a breed club and be successful? Sure they can. If the “old timers” set the example and share some of their wise wisdom with the newcomers than the newcomers can show us a newer and maybe a better way of doing something. It should never be an “either my way or the highway” type of attitude. It should be about acceptance and respect from both parties ideas and contributions. And while the old timers might listen to what the newbie has to offer, the newbie needs to understand that these are the people that made this club what it is and respect the need to continue their ethics of working hard to make the club successful.
Because showing dogs is a hobby, it should be fun. Breed clubs should be a fun atmosphere. Although it takes a lot of work to make it successful, never forget the real reasons people go to dog clubs to begin with……to learn, to contribute, to share and to enjoy their hobby. All work and no play will play itself out fast. I can hear some of you saying right about now, “But it’s always the same ones doing all the work.” Then in my opinion, don’t ask for people to raise their hands and volunteer because the same ones will sit back and let everyone else raise their hands like usual. The President and officers need to approach each person individually and ask for the help that they need. Sometimes certain people need to be approached and “put on the spot” if you will. It’s a lot harder to refuse when you are signaled out. It won’t always work…..you’ll hear the same excuses of why they can’t, but I bet you’ll get a lot more yeses than when you asked for a show of hands for help. We must come from an attitude of “If I ask they won’t deny me” instead of “Oh, I just know that they will refuse me.” You just might be pleasantly surprised. People need to know that they are important and what they have to contribute matters. This might be known as using reverse psychology but many times it can work. Let people know how important they are and many times they’ll give you more than what you asked for. Try it. You got nothing to lose but your club!
Make your club a friendly place to come to. We sometimes get caught up with our friends and save them a seat next to us at the table. How about offering a seat to a newcomer when he comes in the door? Wouldn’t it be nice to see that you just put a smile on their face rather than the usual “head held down look” they normally display for fear that no one will say hello to them? Make your club a place of warmth and acceptance and friendliness and instead of closing your doors for the final time you may just see a whole lot of new people looking forward to opening them. Is your club a friendly place to come to? If you were just starting out, is it a place you would want to go?
My rating: Breed Clubs: (4), Dog Shows: (4), unfriendly, unwelcoming atmosphere: (0)