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Usual Suspects Show Up

Unless show societies can do something better than round up the tired old band of usual suspects when appointing judges, all the work put in by the Judges' Working Party (JWP) will have been a total waste of time.

There is no point in insisting that judges gain certain levels of experience, subject themselves to arduous training and show some level of interest in the breeds they intend to judge, unless those who have done none of these things, and whose past performance has been such as to lead to the need for the JWP and all its proposals, do not continue to enjoy their favoured status among show societies. There is certainly no point if judges whose past performances have been conspicuously below par continue to receive invitations to judge.

Now that the Judges' Sub Committee (JSC) is approving judges for 2002 and beyond it is becoming increasingly apparent that its members do not see eye to eye with the JWP. They continue to approve judges whose names do not appear on any club judging list, either because they have been removed or because they have never made the grade.

I can't claim to have undertaken a complete survey but such evidence as I have examined suggests that the situation may be getting worse rather than better.

Incomplete though my investigations undoubtedly are they may add a minim to the debate. How many mice did Robert Burns study before he decided that their best laid plans 'gang aft a-gley?' Of the judges who awarded CC's in my breed during the five years up to and including 1999, sixteen were not on the senior club's A1 or A2 lists. Two of these are no longer available, of the rest nine have received further invitations to judge and these include one judge whose performance was such as to bring him very close to the doors of the Kennel Club. Of the judges who have had no further appointments confirmed only one is a member of the Kennel Club. Readers may make what they will of that fact.

Of course, breed clubs themselves may not be without blame. Unless their lists contain a reasonable selection of names and unless these are distributed to every show with CC's for the breed they can have no cause for complaint if shows continue to rely on the usual suspects.

What is needed is for shows whose panjandrums also wield influence in Clarges Street to do themselves a favour by setting a good example. If they don't receive judging lists from clubs they should make the clubs aware of the fact. Having received the lists they should use them to appoint judges. If the lists prove inadequate to their purpose they should make both the club and the Kennel Club aware of their shortcomings.

It seems to me that the work put in by the JWP is being devalued in the first place by the reluctance of some breed clubs to formulate and circulate judging lists appropriate to the breed's needs, in the second place by the refusal of shows to abandon their discredited tendency to select principal judges on a favour for favour basis, and in the third place by the JSC's apparent willingness to support a blatant process of appointments based on self interest and the exchange of favours.

If we had spent as much on veterinary fees during the last forty or so years as we might have spent on insurance, our vet would not now be riding around in an elderly Saab. He would have something a bit newer and more upmarket.

The absolute essential of any successful insurance enterprise is no different from that of any other business which makes money out of playing the odds. If they want to stay in business they must take more off customers than they pay to them. If it were not so people who retire from the insurance business would not do so with several million £'s stuffed into their mattresses. I prefer to have my few bawbees in my pocket and not in the pockets of insurance companies or salesmen.

I make an exception in the case of third party insurance which provides protection against the possibility of huge claim should any of my dogs bite the vicar, cause him to fall from his motorcycle into the path of a passing vehicle which, in trying to avoid the good man, bursts into flames and swerves into the path of another carrying a load of medieval treasures. Even though I am not exactly poor the costs incurred would be far beyond my resources. That is why I regard third party insurance as essential to a good night's sleep.

The trouble is that insurance which was once available through breed clubs appears to have fallen by the way-side. Try as I may I can't find any companies which offer attractive Third Party cover. They must exist but they don't seem to want me to be aware of their existence.

And while I'm wittering on about insurance may I, just for the sake of pedantry, correct the notion that canine insurance is a recent concept. I have before me a battered copy of The Kennel Directory and Exhibitors Handbook, 1898 in which I find adverts placed by The Exhibitors' Supply Association of 69 to 70, Mark Lane, London, E.C. who, among an extensive catalogue of 'all requisites for dogs,' offer insurance for dogs.

Dog shows rely on the expression and receipt of opinions. The opinions expressed do not always carry the same authority but, with remarkably few exceptions, all are received with whatever degree of good grace we can muster.

The tantrums which seem to be part and parcel of the character of many of those who are laughably referred to as 'sportsmen' do not form a significant part of the response of exhibitors to opinions of doubtful quality. Exhibitors solicit opinions and judges deliver them. It doesn't say much for the judgement of an exhibitor who subsequently complains about the quality of a judge he or she has chosen to show under.

A few, more arrogant or more ignorant than the majority, might claim to have no interest in the opinions of others. Yet these very people are often the first to try to push their opinions down our throats. I was fascinated to hear Gore Vidal recently denying any interest in the opinions of others yet spending a large part of a radio interview attempting to refute unflattering opinions and repeating those which concurred with his own elevated opinion of himself. If people, especially writers, are not interested in the opinions of others why should anyone be interested in theirs?

Of course we may resent the expression of opinions which are not entirely laudatory or which do not wholly concur with our own views. Some may seek to hide behind claims to a lack of interest but for the majority the expression of contrary views adds interest and spice to what might otherwise be no more than humdrum.

I don't know about you but I have an abiding dread of humdrum. Let's have something that stirs up the phagocytes. Let's argue, disagree, debate, examine and assess. Let's do something which differentiates us from the brassica. Who ever heard of a cabbage which cared about the opinions of its fellows?

Dogs - This article has been reproduced courtesy of Frank Jackson

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