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Understanding and Respect

Taken from the archives of The Canine Chronicle 72 – September, 2010

By Dr. Gareth Morgan-Jones


Recently some individuals were asked what they thought of the effect, if any, that the AKC Code of Sportsmanship is having upon how members of the Fancy conduct themselves and interact with each other nowadays. Quite obviously the intent was to find out, or get some idea, as to whether or not it is generally felt that a positive impact has been generated by its adoption. The overall tenor of the responses was, interestingly and perhaps not unsurprisingly, rather negative with opinions expressed that, in all likelihood, this has made very little difference in how people behave. Despite the fact that the Code now regularly appears in show catalogs one person even suggested that there may very well, in all probability, be many people out there who may not even be aware of its very existence, let alone have read its content and absorbed its principles. Then there is, of course, the vital matter of putting those principles into meaningful practice. As my very good friend and fellow writer, Gay Dunlap, alluded to in last month’s issue of this magazine some of us are seemingly oftentimes held captive within the jaded mores and values of our societal culture at large and this, unfortunately, spills over into our behavioral patterns within the sport. This is where benevolence and magnanimity are sometimes, regrettably, found to be in short measure. We are talking loftiness of spirit and the display of noble generosity here, or the dire lack of such attributes. Has there been a slow and steady change over time, barely noticeable while it is occurring, leading to a transformation? Has the whole ethos of the sport evolved and undergone modification? Are the distinguishing characteristics, sentiments, moral nature, and even guiding beliefs the same now as they were in years gone by? Or has the unseemly side of man’s nature, that not in keeping with standards of compassion, good taste, high mindedness, kindness of spirit, and proper form, always been in play because of the inherent character of competitiveness? Does the Code not remind us, however, that vigorous competition and civility are not necessarily inconsistent or incompatible and that true sportsmen win and lose with grace?

As an aside, let me briefly return to a theme discussed during my recent consideration of the Grand Championship program, before I go on to the central subject of this article; developing an appropriate understanding of, and respect for, the judging process. It seems worthwhile mentioning once again that since the information superhighway has made possible the extensive dissemination and widespread promulgation of material we are now, unfortunately, constantly inundated with an endless, undifferentiated stream of fact and fiction, opinion, and attitudinizing where things imagined and misinformation flourish equally and side by side with the truth. Moreover, the viral communities of the internet, and those of Lists in particular, make obvious falsehoods nearly impossible to extinguish and some people will apparently believe anything. This is one area of our activity where ethical values need to kick in, where reason needs to prevail, where discipline is required in order to keep on the straight and narrow and thereby exemplify virtuous conduct. The pace of modern life amplifies everything and if we continue to relentlessly abuse the present-day ease and openness of communication, coupled with a willful disregard for fact and the truth, we are doing the sport and the organization which governs it a significant, if not grave, disservice. Remember the bit about sportsmen refusing to embarrass the sport, the American Kennel Club, or themselves while taking part. This is why those who constantly purvey negativity out in cyberspace and elsewhere should examine their conscience once in a while and ask why they are saying what they are saying and doing what they are doing. Systemic dysfunctionality eventually takes its toll. Enough said on this matter for now.

The one area where abiding by the tenets and doctrine contained in the AKC Code of Sportmanship is at its most critical is in the relationship between exhibitors and judges. You know the bits about the sportsman judge or exhibitor accepting constructive criticism and sportsmen willing to share honest and open appraisal of both the strengths and weaknesses of their breeding stock. There is nothing in there, however, about sportsmen understanding the process of judging and respecting without question decisions rendered in regard to comparative merits of exhibits. If ever there is a revision a case can surely be made for the insertion of a clause to this effect. It might read something as follows, “Sportsmen respect the judging process and accept rendered decisions with grace and understanding.” The word respect appears in the Code twice already, upping it to three might not be at all a bad idea. Odd actually that something of this nature was not included by whomever drafted the wording, especially given the fact that this constitutes the one sensitive and vulnerable context, the one Achilles heel, so to speak, where oftentimes sportsmanship readily goes out the door. Perhaps it was felt that something along these lines might be a little too much for exhibitors to swallow. Or maybe it was an oversight. Willingness to share honest and open appraisals doesn’t quite cover it. As I have written previously, on more than one occasion, every exhibitor owes it to himself or herself, as well as to the judge, to look upon the judging process in proper light before reaching some spurious, ill-founded conclusion as to cause and effect.

Read more at 72 – September, 2010

Short URL: https://caninechronicle.com/?p=1431

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