I am a baby boomer, a 49er, born in 1949. My seminal year was my freshman year in college, fall of 1967/spring of 1968. It was a memorable year. The big film of the year was The Graduate with a sound track by Simon and Garfunkle. Their big album of the year was Bookends which put a lifetime on to the two sides of a 33&1/3 LP vinyl disk. The album was one of the first to tell a complete story of a man from youth to old age. One of the cuts is At the Zoo which divides people up into categories by their animal counterparts. The one line with which I always identified was, “Orangutans are skeptical of changes in their cage…” I always thought that was why I clung to my dog show culture. It was grounded in tradition. There were rules and conventions and one knew what to expect. It was safe.
However, I have become somewhat more adventurous in my old age. It’s really a kind of survival instinct. If you can’t change, you can’t survive. Today I was reading a piece about how the Los Angeles mayor is all panicked about losing the film industry. Well, hello, the film industry is a business and any business that stays in California has a death wish. I went to California in 1976 and like Odysseus in the land of the lotus eaters, we were posed to stay forever in the make believe world of beautiful weather and never ending easy living.
We worked for the US Navy at the time and when the Navy decided to abandon the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 90s, we told them, “You can’t. You will lose the California brain trust, one of the military’s most critical assets.” And they told us, “We can replace those who won’t go with us.” Well, in case you don’t know it. The Navy left San Francisco 15 years ago and is still commands the oceans. The US military is the most formidable, most forward thinking, most effective machine on the planet. No matter what your political stripes, don’t doubt it. We knew it at every level and it is true.
Well, California Governor Jerry Brown thinks that the movie industry can’t leave Los Angles. Check back with them in a decade and see where most of the US’ films and TV shows are being made. So how does all of this relate to our dog world? AKC has been and still is the world’s most influential pure bred canine registry. However, to think it is invulnerable, is suicidal. AKC must undertake an aggressive campaign to protect the pure bred dog. We see several issues that must be addressed:
- AKC must insure that every American has the right to live with a dog. AKC needs to lobby federal, state, and local governments to guarantee the right of citizens to keep a dog. The emotional and medical benefits of keeping a dog are well documented. Dog owners live longer. Dog owners are healthier. A citizen who owns a dog learns responsibility. The higher the level of dog ownership, the healthier the economy. We can’t prove that last one, but we defy anyone to disprove it.
- AKC must challenge the popular opinion that shelter dogs are better pets than AKC registered, pure bred dogs. The problem of abandoned pets is nowhere near as critical as it was two decades ago. While we must continue to be empathetic to shelter dogs, out focus should be on convincing the US population that a well-bred, pure bred is always a better option for a family. It’s not difficult. Prospective dog owners have expectations and only with a pure bred can those expectations be predictably met.
- AKC should focus the white hot spot light on the unbridled greed of the so called animal rights movement. It’s really simple math. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) are tax exempt, charitable organizations and as such have books available via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). A simple review of their books will reveal that only a fraction of their budget goes to the animals. Most goes into the pockets of high paid executives and high cost fund raising operations.
- Finally, there is a battle going on for the minds of our young people. Our public education system is already in the hands of PETA and HSUS sympathizers. Our only advantage is that most young people grew up in a house with a dog. Our only defense is to convince those young people that the animal rights crazies will deny the next generation the right to keep a pet. AKC should take a look at the current crop of celebrities and determine which own purebred dogs. Then figure out which of those that might be amenable to doing a Public Service Announcement promoting the pure bred dog. We had once suggested Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps, who had a Bulldog, might be a candidate. The key factor is how do we get the youth of America to identify with us dog show geeks?
As big a movie fan as we are, we won’t really mourn California’s loss of the film industry. However, we are sure that the demise of the American Kennel Club as the primary advocate for the pure bred dog, would alter our world irrevocably. And that’s today’s Back Story.