For those dog show novices among us, as well as us old timers, it is good to remember why we honor our Veteran Class entries as we do (or should do). So, please laud and applaud all our Veterans when they are presented so they may enjoy “a day in the sun” once again.
PS: Have a tissue handy as you read this, you will need it.
Veterans in the Show Ring
"I see that the “Smiths” have entered their dog in the Veterans Class. Apparently there is no one in this Club who knows that it is customary to offer a round of applause for those that are entered. Six months ago, at this same show, I entered my Veteran Dog in this same class. Not one person applauded. Not one person came up and said anything. Not one person came over to give him a kind word or a pat. Not one person made him feel he belonged again.
He was no threat to anyone. He wasn't going to beat anyone, take any points, or win anything. He was just an old dog who thought he was special again - back in the ring for the first time in many years. Maybe he even recalled his "Glory Days". He would have loved to have met anyone there. He would have welcomed you like an old friend. You didn't have to say anything nice about him if you didn't want to. But just in case you can't think of anything to say about a Veteran Dog, here are some suggestions: "It was nice to see him out there". Or go up to him and tell him he's a "Good Boy". Or tell his owner that you are glad that they brought him. Those aren't exactly compliments, but they will please his owner and make him glad that they brought him. I don't think that's asking too much.
One day, all too soon, all your beautiful young dogs will be old dogs too. Maybe one day you'll enter them in Veterans Class. And I hope that you do. Or, like many of us, you remember that old friend, now gone, and wish you still had the chance. They deserve it. It may be their final time in the sun - their last time out in front of people - their last time to ever be in the ring. My old dog is a Fool. He thought he was wonderful that day. He thought he belonged. Instead, he was ignored. I have thought about this for 6 months now, and wasn't going to say anything. But on his behalf, and that of any other Veteran, I hope that something like this never occurs again. As a Club of (Breed) Fanciers, you should feel ashamed. Even if you dislike the dog or his owner, at least show Good Sportsmanship and do the Right Thing. Show others that you have respect for your breed. Make that Veteran Dog feel wanted and special again. Let him know that you are glad to see him. It will make his day. You may never get the chance again. Thank you."
As Lynda began reading it, the hush that fell over the room was incredible. Bless her heart, my friend Lynda broke into tears as she struggled through reading this. EVERYONE in the room lowered their heads, and many of them began to cry also, including the President (who is a man). I tried my best to hold my head up and refrain from tears, again. The President strode over to where I was sitting and in a broken voice said "Terry........I am SO sorry. He is such a wonderful dog. There is no excuse for what happened to you. And to him." As I started to say that I "wasn't going to say anything" again, the room nearly burst with everyone trying to talk at once. The discussion that followed was both eye-opening and of valuable purpose. Many came up to me in tears, with hugs and apologies. I am a very private and shy person, not given to sharing my deepest feelings easily. This had been an incredibly difficult thing for me to do, but in honor of my Veteran and all the others out there, I felt it must be done. Was it worth it?
When “Mr. Smith” took his lovely 12 1/2 year old dog (neutered due to testicular cancer) into the ring, our entire membership remained - and applauded and "whooped and hollered" him with every move. The Judge moved to the center of the ring on his final go round and applauded, as did her ring stewards. Others nearby, watching other breeds, came over and remarked on how wonderful it was to see a Veteran being treated like that. Many (including me) asked to take his picture. Everyone complimented him and his owners. If only my old dog had enjoyed such a day... Was it worth it? You tell me... Sorry for the length of this, but so many in other breeds who heard about what happened have already asked me for a copy of my written paper that I thought perhaps it was something that needed to be shared. Amazing how quickly word spreads amongst us dog people. It's often said "You can't teach an old dog new tricks". But I know one old dog who taught something of great value."
[Complete permission to post. Terry Russo]