By now the picture of three Bedlingtons, taken by a stringer for Getty Press, has gone viral as they say. People world-wide are smiling and sharing it via Facebook and email with friends and fellow dog lovers. It was taken at New York City’s Javits Center during the AKC’s showcase event promoting purebred dogs, Meet the Breeds. From the picture it is obvious the Bedlingtons in attendance were a hit. The sparse booth probably looked thrown together in a last-minute rush to take part, but the strangely odd, compelling faces of our beloved lamb dogs were still a draw. By the end of the event, the three tired Bedlingtons and their escort, drove home to Pennsylvania and their warm beds. They were richer in experience, and richer also by $300.00 given to the participating booths. The money, admitedly, was given to most of the booths as a donation to the parent clubs by the AKC’s governing body. Each booth also received an extra $80.00 each day to help pay for parking and food for the participants. The love and adoration heaped upon all the dogs present were free.
Like most events in life, good or bad, there is a back story. It is the story of how a self-centered parent club, the Bedlington Terrier Club of America, failed to take part by choosing not to send a single club member to man the booth, deeming it too much effort and expense. It is the story of how one person, denied entry into this club, ended up representing the breed she loves to the throngs that filed through the doors of the Javits center and thanks to this photo to the world. It is irony than the BTCA membership may be incapable of grasping that they lost out on the $300.00 donation with the AKC’s blessing and once again received a black mark on the reputation of the organization. It’s a good story.
Last year, in fact, nearly exactly on this date, the President of the BTCA wrote one of the club’s usual self-congratulatory posts about the club’s participation in the 2009 Meet the Breeds event. It was praised as a wonderful opportunity and to quote the President’s email, dated October 25, 2009, ” There has been quite a bit of discussion concerning the Meet the Breeds on the AKC Parent Club list this past week. It has been so fun hearing about the experiences of all of the other clubs who attended. Everyone seemed overwhelmed by what they felt was an unbelievably positive experience.” Flash forward to 2010 and the topic of participation in this event came up again. Unlike 2009, the club members who posted to the list, and reasonably could have attended, felt it was too arduous a task. The whining was impressive. Too expensive to park, too expensive time-wise, too much wear and tear on the people and the dogs. It was very clear there would be no Bedlingtons belonging to BTCA club members in attendance. Clear also to the AKC.
During this year’s Montgomery weekend, Michael Canalizo, the AKC’s mover and shaker behind Meet the Breeds, approached Joan Weiskopf, a long-time Bedlington breeder/owner to ask if she would help them out and attend their event in New York City. Ms Weiskopf lives two and a half hours from the Javits Center. At first she refused, due to the distance and the same difficulties the club members had complained about on their email list. After a little more persuasion, she agreed to help out. The irony of this is inescapable. Ms Weiskopf is not a member of the BTCA. At this point it is a somewhat mutual decision. She agrees not to apply and they agree not to accept her. Furthermore, years ago, Ms Weiskopf had sued the AKC in an acrimonious dispute lasting six years. Michael Canalizo was informed his chosen Bedlington representative was not a BTCA member, but he didn’t care. His mission was to cover the Bedlington booth and he had done that.
Just as in 2009, the experience was wonderful for the lone participant and her dogs. Sure, it cost more than $50.00 to park, food was prohibitively expensive and the swarms who filed by the breed club booths exhausted the dogs and people, but it was all worth it. The three dogs, Nora, Dice and Player, a blue mother and her two liver sons, are now, to many, icons of our breed. An exciting chance to pass on breed knowledge and truly educate the public about how good a family pet a Bedlington can be was missed by people who breed litters of puppies they cannot place in suitable homes. People who fight each other in stony silence in the show ring every weekend missed the opportunity to become figureheads of the breed, for the weekend, by not attending. Instead, all this, and the $300.00 the AKC gave to every participating booth, was lost to the BTCA, because so many in our club failed to put the dogs first and see the bigger picture.
The AKC shouldn’t have to bribe parent clubs with cash in envelopes, handed out on the sly the last day of the event, in order to solicit participation. Parent clubs should jump at the chance. The AKC Board is well aware that the dog fancy is in crisis. It is no longer falling registrations that are driving the sport’s governing body, but the perceived future of the purebred dog. Calling oneself a breeder is for many, no longer a source of pride. Certainly not if you live in an urban area. Media campaigns supporting the “adoption” of shelter dogs, often imported from other countries, instead of “buying” a purebred puppy have gone a long way toward hastening the extinction of purebreds. In our efforts to promote the production of healthy pets, we have aired our dirty laundry along with our little secrets about rare and not so rare genetic disorders, making it seem as if our dogs are less healthy than mixed breeds. We ostracize those among us who admit to producing puppies with certain “defects” and many others do their best to drive potential buyers away from rivals in the ring. People seeking family pets don’t understand the ins and outs of our polarized world and are turned off to purebred dogs in general. The importance of participation in an event like Meet the Breeds should be self-evident.
Since the publication of the photo of the three Bedlingtons, there has been no response from the BTCA club list. This year’s President has issued no thank you to Ms Weiskopf or admitted the club threw away an opportunity to promote themselves, the breed and pick up a little cash. In 2009, it was posted on the BTCA list that the club had purchased a banner for $400.00. This has been used only once I am aware of. It wasn’t used this year. What has been on the club list during this time has been an ongoing debate about whether to chance the BTCA’s logo. This frivolous expense, and attempt by one particular breeder to leave an ill-conceived legacy, will benefit no one. It has been a contentious, divisive struggle that refuses to die. Not one club member will profit from the adoption of a new club symbol. Not one potential puppy buyer will be excited about taking a Bedlington into their home by seeing a newly revamped logo.
As forces outside the fancy organize and attack those of us who have devoted our lives to breeding better, healthier, more competitive dogs we continue to fight each other from within. As Abraham Lincoln said, ” A house divided against itself cannot stand”. The BTCA must come together for the greater good and promote our special breed to the public.