The Canine Collection of Poems

The Veteran Dog

In the 24 hours since the following occurred, I can hardly believe the outpouring of comments and feelings that it has evoked.

It all began 6 months ago and came to a head when I attended yesterday's meeting of our local breed club. This incident caused me much heartfelt pain that it made me wonder why I should "even bother."

I came close to not renewing my membership - and I am a founding member of this club. To be perfectly honest, the ONLY reason I renewed was because I am the Rescue Coordinator for the club. And I had not attended a meeting since "what happened" happened.

I wasn't even going to attend the meeting until I noticed when checking the entries on-line that there was a certain lone entry listed... I knew then that I must attend and I must finally speak my mind...and my heart.

I sat down at my computer and carefully composed my thoughts. Tears came to my eyes as I wrote it and I feared that I could not read it aloud to the membership. And that was the case. As the President called out a request for "meeting adjourned," I stood up and said "I have one more thing" and handed the copy to a good friend who was seated next to me. "I'm afraid I won't be able to read this to you all, but if Lynda would, I'd appreciate it".

As they say: "All names and breed have been changed to protect the innocent".. I can't honestly say that anyone concerned in this incident is innocent, but the purpose of this is not to further embarrass anyone involved. This, BTW, did not occur at a Specialty, just at an All-Breed Show, in a non-regular class.

The following is what I wrote:

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 a 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 tome 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.

~author unknown

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