I must have started in the breed when it was a gentler, kinder time. I got my first AKC registered German Shepherd back in 1972. In a couple of years I bought my very first show dog. I subscribed to the Review and started placing ads in it. It was one of my favorite things about belonging to the German Shepherd Dog Club of America. Lots of ads of beautiful dogs, lots of informative articles, just lots and lots of everything. I guess you could call those times, “times of abundance.” Although I do remember a gas shortage and waiting in lines for a limited amount of fuel for my car. But otherwise, things were good and I went to lots of shows and showed at plenty of puppy matches. I belonged to two specialty clubs and was the newsletter editor for both of them.
Clubs were always a place to socialize with your friends and catch up on the latest “gossip” in the German Shepherd Dog world. Members brought their puppies out to socialize them. Many brought their adult dogs as well. There were interesting educational programs with some great guest speakers. Someone would bring the coffeepot each month and someone else made sure Dunkin Donuts made their umpteenth million sales for the day. We’d pour ourselves a cup of coffee, grab ourselves a donut and sit down with our friends and brag about our newest litter. Oh we’d do those things that were necessary to running a club as well. We’d talk about the “health” of the treasury, the voting of judges for our spring specialty show and where we were going to hold our Christmas party. This was what going to a specialty club meeting every month was all about. We got things done but at the same time we were having fun doing it.
Just what is a specialty club anyway? A specialty club is for one breed of dog and the people that own and love them. They put on AKC specialty shows and matches. The club is there to promote the welfare of the German Shepherd Dog. Its doors are open to all that love the breed. There is nothing nicer than when a young couple joins their local specialty club. Ever watch how they come through the doors at their first meeting? Some of them are a little shy and hesitant at first. They may feel a little uncomfortable not wanting to stand out as the novice person in the group. As the months go by, that shyness is substituted for active, eager members of the group.
The problems begin to arise when the same people do all the work to make the club function and to make money to keep the club strong. Time and time again, I learn about one specialty club after another folding. Why is that we may ask? It could be for any number of reasons. Many point a finger at the economy. Others say that no one shows up at the meetings anymore. Then there are others that say the club’s meetings have become boring. Then there are those others that say there just was no “welcome” feeling when they walked through the doors of the club. People were ignored. Newbie’s were alienated. Not many were friendly or approachable. No one wanted to work and help the club grow. Who wants to give up their personal time to walk into an atmosphere like that?
Then there are those who had other reasons to complain. Like two of my friends that belong to specialty clubs on either side of the United States. Both complained to me about the very same thing and they don’t even know one another. Both are successful breeders. Both own show winning champions, one owning Select champions and the other owning Group winning champions. Well you would think that they have lots to be grateful for and lots to brag about. Sure they’re both grateful, but their brags fell on deaf ears I’m told.
Picture if you will, your boy just took a Select at this years National Specialty show. You’re elated as you should be. A couple of weeks later you go to your clubs meeting. Not one person acknowledges your dogs win. Not one person comes over to congratulate and shake your hand. The president of the club before starting the business for that night doesn’t even make a special announcement about a member of their club doing so well. Yup, this member really wants to come back and do it all over again next month.
I don’t know about the club that you belong to, but I know when our clubs did a newsletter and a member’s dog did some winning, their brags would be on those pages. They would be congratulated in that newsletter. They would be recognized at the club meetings. At the annual Christmas dinner, we gave out awards to the workers of the club and to the top breeders. This was just the way it was……members extending good will and cheer to their fellow members. How much is this done anymore? When you expect people to give up their free time to come out to a meeting on a Tuesday night and volunteer for committees only to be met with a sour face, and a grunt for a greeting, you might have your answer to part of the reason that some clubs are falling.
Clubs are made up totally of volunteers. They are the backbone of any club. Without them, there is no club. I don’t know maybe it’s the overall attitude in the world today. Many people just don’t feel too cheerful. Going to clubs should be a fun thing even if you are volunteering your time to work for the club. You’re around friends. You’re discussing dogs. Life should be better than it is. I’m not out to change the world. I don’t have any magic wand that’s going to make people happier and friendlier with one another. So you go to the club with good intentions and you come home wishing you didn’t give up another one of your nights when you could have been home helping little Johnny with his school work. You vowed to yourself that you’re not going back again. Come next month, you find yourself making that one and a half hour trip all over again. Why? Because you love the breed. You want to be involved in everything about it that you can. Yes, you give a damn. But even your best intentions can’t hold up a whole club that is heavily burdened with lack of participation and lack of finances.
Little Johnny is going to get a lot better grades now. Mommy will be home one more night a month to insure that he does. And as for the German Shepherd Dog breed? Perhaps we’ll have to find another way to promote it. The breed hasn’t lost its popularity. It always will remain the noble breed it was meant to be. Perhaps it’s us that have stumbled a little bit. But because most of us have the same courage as the breed we love, I’m convinced that we won’t stay down for very long.
The club's meeting will be next Tuesday. What happens if nobody shows up?