Don’t lose your way

I have always been told cliches such as ‘The harder you work, the harder they work you” and “No good deed goes unpunished” but even so I have been the type person who not only has creative ideas but also follows through on those ideas and usually with great success. I am that person who volunteers for too much, works harder than asked to work, creates more work for myself as long as it benefits the common goal . . . and I have been disappointed most of the time as well. I take full responsibility for that.

For the past 15+ years I have tried to fill a void I saw and created an informational website that others could find helpful for most topics Stafford/dog related. I have kept a blog of some type with honest, from my heart dialog. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I do not pretend to have thick skin. I help people who ask without hesitation. Besides this website, I also created The Stafford Knot, Inc 501(c)(3) so that I could share information about this breed with the world. Many people volunteered their time and their words for TSK over the years. We worked hard and offered free publications, articles, videos, fund raisers, merchandise and sponsorships – all in the name of free easily accessible information about the Stafford and – along the way – raised many many thousands of dollars for SBT rescue. TSK is still archived and available for free. The wealth of knowledge we received permission to share is irreplaceable.

I spent 40-60+ hours a week at my desk volunteering in one capacity or another – it became my second full time job – between TSK, SBT Mentor, Wavemaker, the many regional clubs, international clubs and the parent club – I always spend my free time dedicated to the Stafford and those who also cherish the breed. I volunteered doing rescue, rehome services, fostering, transporting and fundraising for Stafford rescue – creating online presences for reaching out for homes and volunteers. Many times it felt exhaustive and thankless, but knowing I was helping the dogs kept me going. I suppose I always thought that one day my hard work would pay off. I mean, don’t get me wrong – being responsible for raising so much money for rescues worldwide is a great feeling – but I guess I wanted more than that.

Many times over the years I requested formal endorsement TSK and what it stands for. We always sent money to the clubs, sent donations, sponsorships, served on committees, created committees and served on the board of the parent club – I always tried to volunteer at shows no matter how far away they were. I spent thousands traveling to shows to judge sweepstakes anytime I have been asked. I make items as gifts for my winners and truly enjoy doing this. I have made items to sell and share and donate. And , along with Jason, Maurizio and many others created the Illustrated Breed Standard when none existed for the breed in this country. I even allowed the parent club to use the text from our book with only the request that the many people who donated their words received credit. That never happened and in fact they take full credit – not even crediting the artist they paid to do their drawings much less any work TSK is responsible for. I offered ideas, suggestions, the platform even for the clubs to share in what we have worked so hard to create. I sent a resume to the JEC and was turned down with no explanation given even after being told I was more than qualified.

The acknowledgement and endorsement I suppose I was seeking never came. I won’t lie. It does feel like I never existed some days. It can feel like nothing I did was appreciated except for the fact that now they are copying most of what I have created and using it for themselves. I have to ask – wouldn’t it have been so much easier had they simply endorsed TSK and my work years ago? I offered to put their publication online. I offered to sell merchandise for them. I have a reading suggestion list on this website and on TSK, like they now do with TSK’s book oddly missing. I have a free public library of 100’s of articles I share. I did the color version of their logo. I created the Sunshine committee, painted/sculpted/braided/designed items at my cost items to sell/give/donate for the club. I did many photos, logos and ads for the club and its members. Now they are doing all of this themselves. Good for them. I hope they finally are able to get out of debt. I am responsible in a way for that start too – raising and donating over $4000 from the KY show. . . the first time in the nearly 40 year history of the club they didn’t lose money at a National. You’re welcome.

Sometimes in this world the best one can do is to take ownership of all the positive actions they have taken and just accept that feeling as success. Another cliche have been told is “Do good things not for the acknowledgement, but rather simply to know you have done them”. I’ll have to chew on that for a bit. I think I will get there . . . but for now I needed to pat my own back.

I am super proud of what I have given to the Stafford world.

When rescue cant fix it

There is no shame to ask for help when it is truly needed.

I have known several breeders who have allowed their hobby to grow out of control. I don’t know if you would call this a hoarding situation, or if somehow keeping ‘just that one or two’ from each litter began to take over and soon the breeder found themselves with far too many dogs to properly care for…or if somehow it simply became habit. A bitch comes into season and they may think well let’s just try this and see what we get…or I miss having puppies around because they give me purpose…sometimes even a reason to get up in the mornings.

Whatever the reasons behind these situations may be, in my time in rescue (in particular Stafford rescue) I have seen breeders who needed help. Let me briefly describe the situations I have seen or known.

Several years back I received a call asking if we could please meet at a location about 3 hours away where the word was several Staffords needed actual rescuing from a hoarding situation. When we arrived we were led down an unkept driveway onto a property which looked to be almost abandoned…but it was not. There was a tiny mobile home surrounded by overgrown landscaping and garbage. We saw what appeared to be unused, long ago abandoned kennel panels in a field not far from the home. The roof panels were hanging in various stages of disrepair, grass, weeds and vines had taken over the kennels chain links and it seemed as though nothing would be inside. On the front porch of the home we saw crates and food bags and bins, cats, garbage, bikes, car parts, grills…just trash everywhere. It looked as though nothing was still living in this home or on this property.

Then a person came outside accompanied by a child holding a puppy. We were shown 8-12 Staffords led out to us on old tattered kennel leads. These dogs appeared to be experiencing new people, grass, and life outside a crate for the first time. Two more were seen in a small enclosure off one side of the home. All the dogs seems shell shocked, shy and filthy. It was impossible for us to get an actual count but the son of the ‘breeder’ was the person requesting help. His mother was unable to care for the dogs, yet continued breeding them. We requested all of them but sadly were only given eight. It was a start. These Stafford became known as The Georgia Eight and you can read the rest of this story in an article on The Stafford Knot website. (link will be added later). The bittersweet outcome was we found great homes for the 8 we took but sadly the breeder continued breeding with the ones she refused to give to us.

Another situation which was heartbreaking for me was the death of a close friend and breeder who had many Staffords when she became ill. We wanted to assist her by finding homes while she was still alive but were unable to do that so when she passed we did help her family find homes for many of them. This situation prompted me to write about the importance of knowing when to stop breeding and how to include a passage in our wills stating exactly what to do with any dogs living at the time of our deaths. Its a burden on our family and friends that can be avoided by prior planning. I place no blame upon my friend at all but now we know its best to plan ahead.

The situation which has prompted this blog entry this morning is a long time breeder who has been quite prolific over many many years whose family came to rescue years ago requesting assistance placing all of their dogs as the breeder was very ill. Rescue agreed and was able to find homes for what they assumed were all the Staffords living in their kennels at the time (approx a dozen or more Staffords). Rescue used volunteers and resources of their own to do this difficult project, relying upon the word of the breeders son that they were all gone except a couple oldies which they kept as pets. Sadly, honesty has escaped some folks and later we discovered all rescue had done was assist this breeder and her family in getting rid of dogs they had no need for. It seems they were less than honest and instead of needing this help due to illness, they were simply changing directions. This breeder and her family are currently breeding what they refer to as ‘a new strain of miniature Staffords’.

When kind hearted volunteers who have a passion for a pure breed of any type come together 24/7 making themselves and their finances available to assist those truly in need find themselves in a situation where they have been taken advantage of there are several things that occur. Sometimes these individuals say enough is enough and give up assisting with rescue. Others, continue on but hold that hardened chip of suspicion with each call for help. That chip, over time, festers and grows into resentment which is not good for anyone, including the innocent dogs needing help. And then there are those like myself – I have no fear of naming names. If I come across a dishonest person asking me to utilize my own free time, money, resources and asking others to trust me to join me in helping someone and their Stafford – and then I find myself betrayed – I have no problem with name and shame.

Ask me – I am happy to tell you what I know to be true. I will not slander, nor use hearsay – but if I truly was involved in a situation and I know it to be true –  I will speak out.

When I say I am happy to assist you in locating an honest breeder and you come to me and say I am buying a puppy from ‘so-n-so’ and I know that this person is not a reliable, reputable breeder – I will say so.

Just ask me.

“Send in the Clowns” (reposting from The Dog Press)

SEND IN THE CLOWNS, THE (DOG) SHOW IS OVER

 If you show dogs, judge or breed dogs, you may agree that the dog sport has turned into a political circus and this well-known fancier is right but…

September 7, 2017 | TheDogPress.com

Carol Hawke, Guest Columnist

As someone who wrote for the dog sport for well over two decades, I realize that what I am going to put into words is a virtual epitaph.

The sport of showing dogs, I mean breeder/exhibitor conformation, is dead. The grave marker has not been inscribed because no one has so far defined the cause of death. Multiple forces, both greedy and ignorant, combined to murder the victim formerly known as “the Sport of Dogs.” Among them, the politically correct pressure cooker, AKC’s creation of its current judging pool, whom I refer to with sorrow as “the clowns.” Add to the plot the lure of greed essential to commercialize dog shows and voila!

Prior to the year 2000, the dog sport was composed primarily of old guard breeders and judges who held a mutual tug of war over integrity within the sport through their individual breed efforts. They kept the essential checks and balances within the system that allowed it to function in good health. It wasn’t perfect by any means but at least it worked. Good (standard correct) dogs were bred, good (standard correct) dogs were recognized (won) and the sport thrived in those decades prior to 2000.

There was no incentive to win beyond a championship and the adventurous potential for breed, group and BIS rankings. Nobody in that old guard ever went to a dog show to be featured on television, get a check or win a new car. We all ventured to see if our idea of the breed standard matched up to the best eye of the best judges in this country.

That was the incentive and a win was the reward. The chintzy ribbon never did matter, it was the recognition by the experts. Today, it is an oddity when any breeder wins with a good dog on their own. The old guard is mostly dead or sitting around watching from the sidelines if they haven’t grown entirely disenchanted and moved on.

The only way a good (standard correct) dog can win in this era is if:

  1. The breeder comprehends the standard and breeds to it

  2. The standard is understood foundationally by the club members and is used to properly educate, not simply influence or confuse incoming judges

  3. The judge actually has an eye for a dog

  4. The judge is sufficiently honest to use that eye for a dog

  5. The judges in the above category are approved and promoted both in house (AKC) and in the sport (by clubs) through regular assignments

  6. The breeder can get the best dogs into the ring and finish them without a handler

There is no incentive for AKC to choose ethical and competent judges as long as breeders are willing to hire handlers instead of showing their own dogs.

The only way integrity can be maintained in the sport is if that alphabetical short list above is rigorously adhered to. Clearly, it is not. In fact, that short list does not exist in practice at this point in time. The old guard judges as a generation – are – with a few notable exceptions, dead or retired.

The era of competency in American dog shows also died. The only thing remaining was to “send in the clowns,” so AKC did just that. For the most part, this is your modern judging field. The clowns, overall, do not realize they are clowns but the few judges with an eye for a dog do and so do the remaining breeders of integrity.

What you actually have is a ‘handler show.’ Every AKC dog show from the most inconsequential 300 dog entry to Westminster is a handler show. Buy your ticket, get your popcorn, hoist your drink and let the handlers great and small, duke it out.

There should be a new ribbon category at every AKC dog show, “Best Clown in Show,” for the judge that sends the most longtime breeders out of the ring without points while putting up the most handlers – that includes the handler wannabe’s or weekend warriors who don’t even groom or train their entries drag them in and win anyway.

Special recognition should be given for the clowns that put up lame dogs or those with obvious DQ’s because a familiar face drug it into their ring. Every show today, from the most inconsequential 300 dog entry to Specialties, is an incentive show. What incentive will bring the most handlers to that show? That seems to be the primary objective of every dog show committee. Not breeder/exhibitors, handlers. Every detail of the show is geared for handlers.

I began breeding and exhibiting (again) five years ago. In those five years it has taken to acquire breeding stock and recreate a bloodline, I have discovered it doesn’t do a lick of good to breed quality dogs that fit the breed standard. The new generation judges cannot find them. I mean they could find them if I paid a handler to show the dogs to them. However, that defeats the purpose of showing dogs. I expect the judges to have studied their standards and mentored with old timer’s long enough to actually recognize good dogs.

I expect judges to have an eye for a dog and not require the help of a handler to enable them to find breed type and reward soundness.

AKC, I place the blame squarely on your shoulders. You committed sport suicide by courting breeders and puppy millers simultaneously and not putting people in charge of the judging pool that actually knew what they were doing. Your field reps were nearly all former handlers…what did you think they were gonna do? They had buddies and they had enemies but what they usually didn’t possess was objectivity.

The AKC Board deserves to take the deepest impact, however, because they made the final calls. The exploitation of the sport through commercialization was the product of greed and it took away the moral incentive to show dogs. Gone is that precious integrity factor that made it all worthwhile. Each of you in charge and influence; from AKC to member clubs to the magazines deserve equal blame for killing this sport.

It takes courage to admit the truth in order to change the course of this game back into a sport for the future. It all depends on who is at the helm and whether anybody left actually cares enough to admit this is a pathetic game nobody really admires anymore. Just so you remember or perhaps need to hear it for the first time; showing dogs is about choosing the breeding stock that best fits the breed standard!

Today’s breed standards express modern trending instead of breed foundation and purpose.

The clubs don’t care because the members would rather win than breed to the standard anyway.

Handlers are the only consistent way of winning at AKC dog shows today.

The illusive eye for a dog has been exchanged for an eye for familiar faces.

Dog shows are now a politically charged game, not a sport. So go ahead, “send in the clowns!” because that is all you’ve got left in this circus.

1708 http://www.thedogpress.com/Columns/send-in-the-clowns-1709ch.asp

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SBT Mentor & TSK Books

If you live under a rock or dont have a FB or IG account you may not know about some very exciting new projects we have been working on for Stafford owners, breeders, lovers – The Stafford Knot has produced a set of new books which are selling wonderfully all over the world! The proceeds from the books go into the TSK rescue funds just like everything else we do with The Stafford Knot, Inc. 501(c)(3). If you are interested in these books please visit  www.thestaffordknot.com.

Speaking of The Stafford Knot – we recently moved our website to a new host and redesigned the entire site.

Continue reading “SBT Mentor & TSK Books”