Archive for September 2015

Should a Reserve Challenge Certificate have more value

September 14, 2015

The Animal Care College – caring for people caring for animals


Men are apt to mistake the strength of their feeling for the strength of their argument. The heated mind resents the chill touch and relentless scrutiny of logic. – Gladstone

One of the highlights of our visit to San Francisco three years ago was having a meal at the iconic’ Johns Grill’. You are not likely to have heard of it unless you are a fan of American crime fiction but it features in a number of novels by Dashiell Hammett. Probably the best-known is The Maltese Falcon which became one of the best crime films ever made. It was directed by John Huston and featured Humphrey Bogart and Mary Astor (a good quiz night question – most people make the assumption it was Lauren Bacall – but although she starred with Bogart in Howard Hawks version of Raymond Chander’s The Big Sleep and several other films it was Mary Astor who was the femme fatale in The Maltese Falcon). The detective in the book was Sam Spade and he regularly ate at Johns Grill – which was a real place then and which still exists.

I was reminded of the Hammett novels recently when I was rereading The Maltese Falcon and was struck by the style, usually referred to by critics as ‘hard-boiled’ – a style used very effectively by Lee Child who writes the Jack Reacher novels one of which has also recently made it onto the big screen. Their styles are all similar in that their prose is sparse, their sentences are short and take enormous liberties with the English language. The Maltese Falcon is dated, it is true, but it remains a real page turner and is recognised as one of the most influential novels of the genre, having a clear impact on the work of other writers of time including Mickey Spillane, Raymond Chandler (my own favourite) and Peter Cheyney (one of the few English writers – until Child – to successfully write American style crime thrillers).

All this has come into my mind, rather bizarrely, as a result of the recent Kennel Club press briefing about the work of Keith Young’s committee looking at the future development of dog shows following a meeting to which the canine press were invited. Our Dogs sent along young Kerry Rushby who has been with us in various roles virtually since she left school. She has been involved with dogs and dog shows since she was small and, with her family, is an enthusiastic (and successful) breeder and exhibitor. It seemed to us, with her youth and dedication, that she was an ideal candidate to represent the views of those who would be most affected by any changes put in place by the Kennel Club as a result of the work of this working party. The release has plenty of ideas and sets out the problems and alternatives clearly – although the single and most sensible reform was not discussed at that particular meeting.

Do not hesitate

Incidentally, anyone may put forward ideas and suggestions to the Working Party and if our letters pages and Facebook is any guide, the committee should be swamped with ideas. Please do not hesitate: I know that Keith Young is anxious to analyse every aspect of showing. It need not take long: keep it brief, keep it clear, set out the advantages of your ideas while at the same time anticipate difficulties and objections and show how they might be overcome. Just send them to him at the Kennel Club.

Over the next few weeks I will be putting forward my own views through Speakers’ Corner and, as always, I will welcome your input. But given the number of issues involved I will have to be brief, succinct and make use of the ‘hard-boiled’ approach of those American thriller writers which I have read with such pleasure over the years. This will be hard: I tend towards the loquacious as my regular readers well know!

Over the years I have espoused a number of changes, very few of which have been accepted by Clarges Street: although some have been slipped in under the radar later when it was clear that they were sensible. In the interests of brevity I will not go into them now but I do want to spend a little time on the one single change which I genuinely believe would have a significant and very positive effect. Here we go with the ‘brevity’ approach:

It is simple. It is easy. Almost no change will have to be made to show regulations. Most exhibitors will be delighted. Judges will be happy. It will not degrade or diminish the status of the title ‘Champion’. A real and persistent ‘moan’ will disappear at a stroke. It is likely to increase entries. It requires virtually no extra administration. Takes no more time in the ring. It costs virtually nothing. It does not interfere with the decision making process in the ring. What’s not to like? It is difficult to find a sound, logical and rational reason to object it. In fact, logic and common sense demand that this particular change is implemented as soon as possible.

Is there a downside? Is there anything that it does not do? It does nothing directly for open shows. But on the other hand greater participation and increased numbers of exhibitors overall (which is likely) will almost certainly have a ‘knock-on’ effect.

Patently ridiculous

Most of you will have now realised my suggestion is that if a judge is prepared to sign a certificate which clearly states that dog is worthy to be a Champion then there should be a mechanism whereby, given the agreement of a number of other judges, that dog can become a Champion. There is a mechanism in place for the dog which is the Best of Sex – if it gets three certificates it joins those elite dogs. But a dog can get any number of Reserve Best of Sex awards (on which the wording is precisely the same as that of the CC) but never hold the title. This is patently ridiculous when if the dog who was Best of Sex is for any reason disqualified the reserve automatically gets the ticket: the Kennel Club does not return to the judge to ask whether they were sure – the dog simply moves up into the vacant position. Those who defend the current procedure must be doing so entirely in line with Gladstone’s view as quoted at the beginning of this article.

There are two matters which remain to be resolved and which are likely to fuel debate. The first is relatively easy: how many Reserve Challenge Certificates equal one full certificate? To me the answer is obvious. If three tickets entitle the dog to be a Champion then I see no reason why three Reserve tickets should not equal a full Challenge Certificate (with the usual provisos regarding different judges and the maturity of the dog).

The second matter is whether one should take into account Reserve tickets which are already held by particular dogs. The easiest solution is to start from scratch at the point at which the regulations change but my own view is that there is a more exciting approach ( Excitement? Wow! – careful David!). This would be to take into account the Reserve tickets that any specific dog had won prior to the regulation taking effect. So Reserve tickets won in the past cannot be considered unless a dog gains a Reserve CC after the regulation is put in place. This would mean that a dog shown after, say, 1st January 2015 with Reserve CCs would have them counted when it got its next Reserve ticket. It would not just provide a reasonable cut-off point but would encourage entries and we might see many mature dogs being brought out to challenge for that further Reserve ticket.

There will be some, with dogs long retired or no longer with us, who may suggest that such regulation should be entirely retrospective but, personally, I do not think this would be feasible. Though, come to think of it, if the Kennel Club was going to charge for the administration there could be some profit in it!