written and submitted by Bill Garnett
Back in December, I was watching the confirmation hearings for Dr. Robert Gates regarding his becoming the next Secretary of Defence for the United States. During that hearing, a chord was struck, or if you will, a question was asked, and I paraphrase, “When does one stop thinking of their own accomplishments and center their concerns around the well-being of those they serve, protect and promote?” At that point, I couldn’t help but reflect on the words of our late President John F. Kennedy when he said, “ask not what your country can do for you . . . ask what you can do for your country.” At the risk of being overly dramatic, but also being as serious as I can be, a question arose in my mind. As Doberman fanciers when do we begin to think of the Doberman in terms of . . . not what the Breed can do for us . . . but what we can do for the Breed? As I began to dwell on that sentiment, I thought of myself and reminisced about the path that I had taken regarding my involvement in the sport of pure bred dogs and Dobermans in particular. I thought of how that involvement not only affected me, but in the long run, how had it affected the Doberman and its heritage . . . if at all.
As a young college student attending my first dog show in Richmond, Virginia, I was drawn to the Doberman ring. With its magnificent presence, beauty, grace and athleticism, it was only natural, being somewhat of a hot shot athlete, that I would find the Doberman to be my kind of dog. Not too long after that, I purchased a back yard pet named Max, and so began almost a half century love affair between me and the Doberman Pinscher. According to a “local expert”, Max was show-able, whatever that meant, so I entered him in a few shows in the American Bred class. My reasoning for entering him in the American Bred class was that I had purchased Max in America. That tells you how much I knew in those early days. However, being of a very competitive nature, I found the dog show ring to be right up my alley, and it helped that Max even won a class or two which peaked my enthusiasm even more.
At a show in Virginia Beach, I met a man by the name of Monroe Stebbins. Mr. Stebbins was a man of athletic build, a broad smile, Hollywood handsome and an impeccable dresser. Monroe, as he later asked me to call him, was showing a big winning dog by the name of Ch. Ebonaire’s (sic) Touchdown. As I recall, a smooth standard sized dog of balanced proportions. I was hooked . . . hook, line and sinker . . . I was hooked! And for the next twenty years, I pursued the art of winning like nobody you’ve ever known. I devoured everything and anything related to the art of showing dogs. I watched handlers and picked their brains whenever one would talk to me. I became obsessed with winning until one day, years later, after “I” had won everything one could win at a dog show, it finally hit me . . . it was all about me . . . it had nothing to do with my dog. The dog just got me into the game. That’s when I began to realize that there was more to the sport of pure bred dogs than winning a red, white and blue ribbon. I then asked myself what could I do for the Doberman besides using it just to get into the game. That’s when the three Ps kicked in and completely changed my whole outlook on the sport of pure bred dogs. That was the moment that I realized that our function, as Doberman purists, was to Preserve, Protect and Promote the Doberman, not just satisfy an insatiable appetite for winning.
In order to Preserve, Protect and Promote the Doberman Pinscher, for the next twenty-some years, I studied and read everything and anything regarding the Doberman’s standard that I could get my hands on. I have studied the standard backwards and forwards until I am blue in the face. I picked the brains of every knowledgeable Doberman person that would talk to me (many turned out to be not that knowledgeable, but that’s a whole other story) until I had become as knowledgeable regarding the Doberman and its standard as anyone who might challenge that statement. Granted, some may not like my black and white objectivity . . . some might not like my outspokenness . . . and some may think I’m far too literal in my interpretation of the standard. But what you must understand is that I live in a black and white world . . . no shades of grey . . . totally devoid of subjectiveness and personal ego, and because of that, it is my firm belief that an objective interpretation of the standard would serve breeders and judges well in their pursuit of getting it right.
But enough talking about me. I did so because I needed someone to play off of by which to make my point. And what is that point? I sense a large segment of the fancy is more hung up on winning, more so than I ever was. So much so that only a few people are paying attention to what’s happening to the Doberman. For instance, most people don’t see or understand the slide in temperament. Few people recognize the loss of balance, the lack of compactness and squareness, and even less people seem to understand the importance of proper size. And finally, the loss of soundness of mind, body and joints doesn’t seem to be of concern to a majority of Doberman people. My question is: How can that be, when those attributes are the very essence of what makes up a standard conforming Doberman? Few, if any, seem to care or give a damn as long as what they are showing is winning. They live by that mentality . . . if it wins, it must be right. Unfortunately, anymore, it may be more accurate to say . . . if it wins, it most likely is wrong.
In life, we all play the hand we’re dealt. Likewise, in the sport of pure bred dogs, we do the same. By that, I mean we buy or breed a dog to show hoping that it turns out to be a nice standard conforming example of the breed. But what if it doesn’t? In poker, we fold a bad hand, but in dogs, it’s not that simple. If we are any kind of people at all, that dog we bought or bred, whether it’s a good or bad example of the breed, is with us as our buddy for hopefully ten or twelve years. You just can’t throw it away like a bad poker hand and draw another, as some actually do. So what do we do? We start looking at our dog through rose colored glasses and before long we say . . . it looks like a Doberman . . . it eats like a Doberman . . . it barks like a Doberman . . . it acts like a Doberman . . . so it must be a Doberman, and before we know it, we have convinced ourselves that . . . it is a good Doberman.
So good or bad, we’re off to the shows. And, all too often, like some poker players who bluff a bad hand, we huff and puff and bluff until we find enough people who buy into our bluff, and before we know it, we have a Champion on our hands … we are looked upon as breed experts, and our expertise is sought far and wide. And that, my friend, is how some breed experts are made. And not one of you reading this article can tell me that has not happened.
Now the question that I put before you today is this: Who among the following breeders and exhibitors, in years to come, will one day ask themselves the question, “What can I do for the Doberman?” and turn their whole approach or outlook one-hundred and eighty degrees to the Preservation, Protection and Promotion of the Doberman? Who will downplay the pursuit of winning and become more of an expert in their understanding of the standard? Who will stand up and turn down the “fad of the moment”? I ask you who will suffer the slings and arrows and stand strong and tall and not be intimidated? Will it be the Santanas, the Carys, the Claggets, the Martins, the Lucoffs, the Auchs, the Smiths, the Sparagnas, the Blooms, the Lewises, the Krukars, the Kosters, the Cuzzolinos, the Wentzels, the Mattsons, the Irvines, the Witts, the Dezerns, the Teagues, the Caseys, the Van Ormans, the Moores, the Greens or the Jameses? The list goes on and on. Who will step forward and lead by their example by saying, “What can I do for the Doberman?” Who will control the destiny of the Doberman Pincher a
s we know it and as the standard describes it? Who will become the givers? Who will Preserve, Protect and Promote? It’s crunch time my friends . . . critical mass time . . . the clock is ticking . . . and the speed of geometric progression is about to set in.
Now to my last and, perhaps, my most important observation. Who is most responsible for the mess we find our breed in today . . . Loss of balance . . . lack of compactness . . . long bodies . . . improper size? And finally, the loss of soundness of mind, body and joints. You tell me, who’s responsible? The judges? The breeders? The handlers? Some say it’s the breeders. Some say it’s the judges and some even blame it on the handlers. Well here’s the way I see it. In my narrow little world of objectivity, it’s clear as a bell to me that the answer to that question is . . . WE THE JUDGES.
If we judges knew and understood the standard and judged to that understanding, you would be amazed at how fast breeders would start breeding standard conforming Dobermans. It’s not rocket science. Water seeks its own level and takes the path of least resistance. But water driven by politics, cronyism, incompetence and a win-at-any-cost mentality will soon flood its banks and drown out any and all vestiges of what our forbearers had in mind when they left us their legacy. Is that how we want to be remembered? I think, and should hope, not.
Remember: Your Doberman loves you unconditionally . . . more than you’ll ever know. Return that love . . . for you are all that it has.
“The DOBERMAN PINSCHER is a SQUARE, COMPACT, MEDIUM size dog of BALANCED PROPORTIONS, NOBLE in its carriage, COURAGEOUS by nature, keenly INTELLIGENT and SOUND of MIND, BODY and JOINTS” . . . Bill Garnett