The Golden Gate Kennel Club dog show, one of the last remaining benched AKC shows has come and gone again, something like a major holiday for participants. We approach it with both anticipation and dread, memories of dogs and people past, either gone from this life or no longer able to come. Inevitably a few humans will be irritating while others rise to and above the occasion as we navigate the public gate walking the aisles with snack-dangling children, taking care of ourselves and dogs, almost forgetting there is still a dog show. Despite the sometimes claustrophobic, cramped conditions, this annual occasion — not just an event — has been a unique cultural fabric connecting people and dogs into a metaphoric banner stretching over decades. The increasingly multi-cultural gate, reflecting the changed demographics in the San Francisco bay area is both challenge and opportunity to the dog fancy to recognize the interest in dogs is universal.
Twenty years ago when the sting of prohibitive legislation was fresh, the GGKC entries twice the numbers now and gate jostling shoulder to shoulder throughout the cavernous spaces, we had a table in the “South Hall” loaded with clipboards holding petitions against the “San Mateo Pet Overpopulation Ordinance” that cast as much dread over the occasion as impending foreclosure on the family homestead. That we are still here is due to that universality of dog breeds as varied cultural expression that has endured direct and indirect challenges throughout history. A fact lost on the self-righteous folk who decided this year to make our occasion into their picketing opportunity, crowding across the public entrances on both Saturday and Sunday. However, the public did engage them in arguments or ignore them. Despite the agressive signs, their flyers — other than their message — merely had the contact information for local animal shelters and mainstream rescue organizations.
Meanwhile, the show did go on. The Dalmatian Club of Northern California won the best decorated bench award with their Facebook theme, which may portend more for how we go on than how we decorate.