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Travel and You’ll Go Far
Posted on 09/22/2011 in Ringside Conversations.

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Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp
“Travel and you’ll go far.” I noticed it on the car’s bumper sticker ahead of me the other day and had to chuckle to myself - redundant on the one hand, but on the other there is little more valuable to one’s personal growth than that which is learned through travel. Speaking for myself, the great opportunities I’ve had to travel and judge around the world have shaped not only my understanding of dogs but, in truth, a good part of my philosophy of life.

One of the important lessons I’ve learned traveling from city to city, state to state and country to country is that as different as people are, and as varied, as their outlook might appear to be on the surface, all humans in the end are startlingly similar.

Residents of the east might believe their problems and difficulties are of an entirely different nature than those which westerners are forced to contend with. Americans of course are vastly different than people who live in the Orient or “Down Under,” or in the Latin countries - right? Perhaps. Perhaps not.

There are, of course, a few sectional differences and situations that exist because of geography. That said, I am still convinced that ultimately, dog game or real world, our major concerns regardless of where we live, are far more comparable than they are different.

I’m not talking about fads and petty differences. (But even in those, the mere fact that everyone has them makes us the same!) What I’m really addressing here are major concerns - our very human wonderment and questions - those that when dealt with properly, help us get along through life.

The “Generation Gap”
Surprising as it may be, that problem of the generation gap - you know, the one that exists in the dog game between the young and the … well, let’s not use the dread “O” word - let’s just say between the young and the mature (and how differently they each generally view the dog game) being discussed amongst dog folk in Des Moines, Iowa or Atlanta, Georgia is no different than the very same problem being dealt with in Perth, Australia or Berlin, Germany.

Veterans of the dog game feel their accumulated knowledge and experience does not earn the respect it deserves. Younger people feel they have knowledge, which surpasses what has already been learned in the past, and they become impatient to be given an opportunity to express it. This is not unique to the dog game, only a reflection of life itself.

The question these two positions create, even though it is a rhetorical one, is really which of the two is more important - what we know, or what has yet to be learned? Actually, it’s a variation on that “chicken or the egg” conundrum. In this case the only valid response one might offer is that the present relies upon the past to create a better future. The past must be fully understood, both its successes and its failures, if progress is to continue.

I must confess I am a product of the 60’s or at least in as much as I was just at that age in the 60’s where I was ready to easily embrace just about every cockamamie new wave concept that the flower children could possibly come up with. I remember buying the idea hook, line and sinker that no one beyond the age of 30 could be trusted. However, as time began to move along I readjusted that age barrier figure to 40, then 50, and I not too long ago realized that I’ve somehow totally eliminated mistrust of any age group! (I wonder why?)

Nothing To Do With Age Groups
Another concept we embraced with open arms back then was that old saw about the impossibility of teaching old dogs new tricks. I’ve since come to believe even that is not entirely true - or that if there is any truth in the statement at all, one must then be ready to accept the fact that it may be no more or less difficult than teaching new dogs tried and true old tricks.

Quite frankly, as I review my sixty-odd years in purebred dogs, most of what I carry around in my head came from the past masters of the dog game - many of which I had the good fortune to know personally. I grew up in Michigan - near Detroit - and to my good fortune, the Midwest and Midwestern Canada were a literal hot bed of great dog men and women and breeding kennels now considered hallmarks in their respective breeds - Long View Acres, Blue Bar, Longworth, Salilyn, Malagold, St. Aubrey-Elsdon and Wildweir, just to name a few. (If those names aren’t ringing bells for you and you don’t know what breed they were attached to, get out your history books. Your grasp of Dog History 101 is sadly lacking - or perhaps I should say, it really hasn’t begun.)

If the Midwest hadn’t itself provided the dogs and dog people of the moment, they came there to compete. Among them were Sunny Shay and her mighty Afghan Hound, Shirkhan; Lina Basquette with the Honey Hollow Danes; Bill Holt with the English Setter icon, CH Rock Falls Colonel; and Clara Alford with mighty Peke, Chik T’Sun.

All of the names mentioned were either from, or rooted in, old school philosophy. And what magnificent contributions they all have made. They obviously had clear-cut goals in mind and they came admirably close to achieving them. What they did and they way they did it worked. If you need proof of this simply look to the show rings of today and you will still see their unmistakable influence generations later.

A Dangerous Trend
Today there is a dangerous trend that I feel represents a serious threat to our current pursuit of the ideal. We all know there are variations within any breed that fall to one side or the other of the ideal - what most of us refer to as “correct type”.

I fear, however, that far too many are interpreting this accepted variance to mean that there is no true type; there is no bull’s eye to aim for. They seem to believe that in so long as an individual specimen has the general breed characteristics, has no disqualifying faults and is basically sound, the dog in question is just as good as the rest being shown. Success in the ring is then based entirely on an arbitrary interpretation of the standard by the judge.

At a recent show, a really mediocre example of a breed I have had considerable experience with entered the Group ring. My first thought was, “This is the best that was here today?”
With that, one of the two women sitting in front of me remarked to her partner, “Isn’t Ffarfle looking grand today?” (The name has been changed to protect the guilty). Her companion agreed enthusiastically. After determining that we were in fact all three looking at the same dog, I happily observed the judge in charge had sent “Ffarfle” out of the ring with the first cut, or as some of my less diplomatic British friends might say, “out with the rubbish!”

Immediately one of the ladies lamented, “I knew we wouldn’t have a chance! That judge never has liked our type. Someone should clue him in that there are other good dogs than the kind he bred!”

With all objectivity, I can honestly say the dog no more deserved a place in the Group line-up than it did to have won its championship. The remarks of the owners concerning injustice perpetrated are not unusual, however. This lack of discernment represents a complete distortion of the intelligent practice of providing a spectrum that allows for variance from the projected ideal.

I have no argument with those who ascribe to the theory that there are many expressions of the ideal (“styles”) within a breed. However, I will never accept the premise that any and all expressions of type are equally valid.

There are a number of breeds such as the American Pit Bull Terrier in which fanciers are strongly committed to an allowable spectrum within their breed. The spectrum pays tribute to both the Bulldog and the Terrier whose combined blood stands behind this hybrid breed. With that, I doubt I would find much argument with my belief that spectrum notwithstanding the projected “ideal” is not at opposite ends of the variation but somewhere very close to the middle. This results in the perfect Pit Bull having the stalwartness of its Bulldog ancestor along with the flexibility, speed and maneuverability of the Terrier.

There will always be room for argument as to how closely even the best of our outstanding dogs approach perfection. Yet I seldom find knowledgeable individuals who do not agree that our best have at least earned a permanent place of distinction. Beauty does indeed have its own hierarchy. The ability to see it and an uncompromising desire to reproduce it are absolute conditions for success.

And those abilities are best achieved through travel, if not in distance certainly through experience.

Richard G. (Rick) Beauchamp has been successfully involved in practically every facet of purebred dogs: breeding, exhibiting, publishing, writing. He is the author of numerous breed and all breed books including the best-selling Solving the Mysteries of Breed Type and Breeding Dogs for Dummies. He has judged all breeds throughout the world and was one of the United Kennel Club’s first all breed judges.

This article originally appeared in the August 2011 issue of BLOODLINES Dog Event News.