Wednesday, 17 February 2010

When The Message Gets Lost

I am a huge fan of dog shows. I realize that this passion is a bit off the wall and I know that many of you would rather watch paint dry then tune into a canine convention, but it is a love that permeates to the deepest regions of my soul. I believe that it comes from my childhood and a unique experience afforded me by my Other Father.

When I was a kid, my Other Father and Other Mother owned and operated a small breeding kennel that raised Miniature Schnauzers and Bichon Frises. They ran this business out of their home, so it was inevitable that the 4 of us younguns would be drafted into service to do whatever needed to be done. While we fought vehemently against cleaning the pen, (I still maintain that gloves are better than shovels!!) we loved the care, feeding, playing with, and training of the multitude of puppies and young adult dogs that passed through. (Some were so beloved that they never left!) My mother the nurse, and thus the closest thing we had to a vet, was in charge of whelping, and Other Father became an expert in all things American and Canadian Kennel Club.

It became obvious early on that in order to make a good name for the kennel, showing the animals was a necessity. Customers love the title of show champion on their pets, and they scrupulously research lineages. Showing provided all of that and it enabled the kennel to raise its profile in the doggie world. I was the child who showed the most interest in the process, so I was allowed to tag along from time to time to such far-flung locales as Cobourg and Peterborough, and when my Bichon Alfie was in the circuit, I was even permitted on occasion to take him through his paces. Oh the excitement. Seriously. I loved it.

The dog world is comprised of a truly unique group of souls. There are a lot of women clad in cheap polyester suits and sensible shoes. At the major competitions, the judges come decked out in evening wear. Behind the scenes, there are more hair care, nail, and teeth whitening products than can be found in the finest salons and spas. But, this is a community of true and committed animal lovers. Nobody can ever doubt their passion for the dogs, nor should anybody question their love and concern for animals.

Which made the ridiculous protest by two misguided PETA supporters at The Westminster Kennel Club dog show all the more irritating. As the Best in Show competition was just getting underway, two well-dressed women made their way to the centre of the show ring and help aloft signs that said ""Mutts Rule" and "Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs' Chances". The sold-out crowd gasped in disbelief and proceeded to boo the women off the floor as security removed them. What was truly sad about the display, is that Westminster and the American Kennel Club have been tremendous supporters of the efforts to adopt shelter dogs. Every commercial break on USA Network featured at least one ad advocating the practice. The crowd was filled with well-heeled and celebrity dog lovers. Bernadette Peters was in attendance. She is one of the driving forces behind Broadway Barks, a New York program that actively pursues these adoptions. Last summer The Husband and I were fortunate enough to attend the street adoption fair that she hosts every year on Shubert Alley, and we witnessed many dogs find new homes. The idea that PETA thought that this show was the ideal location to launch yet another misguided protest, demonstrates to me how irrelevant and fringe they have become. Their messages are getting lost in the stupidity and poor timing of their activism. It seems to me that there might be better ways and means of advocating for animals without alienating the very people who purport to support you.

I am an animal lover and more specifically a dog devotee. This stretch of five years is the longest I have gone without a canine companion since the age of six, and believe me I miss it every single day. When the time comes to bring another four-legged friend into my home, I will seriously consider a shelter dog, but I do not need nor do I want PETA to garner any of the credit for my decision. They need to re-think their strategies.

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