Published in the The Royal Spaniels Magazine (2016), by Leila Grandemange
Years ago, a typical school day in America began by placing our right hand over our heart and pledging allegiance to the flag. It was a moment to stop what we were doing, and for every child regardless of race or color, or even the morning dispute with their best friend, to focus on a greater cause.
But do you think each child knew that he was expressing his utmost loyalty and devotion to the “Red, White, and Blue?”
I’d like to think so, but I can fully understand how “pledging allegiance” can be a lofty concept in a world that’s often riddled with the struggle for self gain and promotion. But it’s still a beautiful ideal to strive for—unity of purpose, focus, and commitment to a greater cause.
What if those of us who love the sport of purebred dogs had a “flag” (a pledge) to focus on?
How would it affect the way we think, interact with others, and pursue our goals?
Early one morning at a dog show, all these thoughts hit home while singing the national anthem…
I rolled out of bed at the crack of dawn to pack my things and to ensure the dogs were immaculately clean and groomed before leaving for the show. I was scheduled to be in the ring at 8:30 AM, right when the show began. I’ll never forget that day. It was actually the first time I’d heard the national anthem played at a dog show. It was a bit hazy, the grass was still wet with the morning dew, and despite all the hustle and bustle of exhibitors setting up and the noise of blow dryers and dogs barking, I lost myself in my own world . . . it was just me and my dog.
I love brushing the silky fur of my Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and connecting with her before the show begins. Suddenly, a voice came on the loud-speaker:
“Please stop what you’re doing and face the flag for our national anthem.”
I put my brush down, held my hand to my heart, and sang along with the words of The Star Spangled Banner— “Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming . . .”
While I was singing I couldn’t help but recall the school days with my hand over my heart pledging allegiance to the flag. It was almost as if I was standing in the classroom again, with every child (now adult) focused on the flag. I looked around . . . It was such a beautiful sight, to see all the exhibitors, who despite any possible conflict, ego, jealousy, and self-interest, come together for a brief moment, united by the flag and all that it represents—pride in our beautiful country, its rich history, freedom, liberty, equality, and justice for all.
When the song came to an end, I got to thinking . . .
Was it possible to have this same unity and focus within the sport of purebred dogs? What if our dogs (what they represent for us) became the “flag” to which we pledged our allegiance?
The liege in allegiance comes from the Old French word meaning “lord and master.” Centuries ago, that was the person to whom you would pledge (promise or commit) allegiance (loyalty, devotion) if you’d been a servant in France. I have a plaque at my entry door that says, “The dog and its housekeeper live here.” Many of you can relate—we certainly are committed to serving our dogs and caring for all their needs.
As fanciers of the sport of purebred dogs, this responsibility includes understanding our unique purpose and mission as breeders, judges, and exhibitors.
The AKC has a mission statement which is worth noting. In sum, it is dedicated to promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function, advocating for the purebred dog as a family companion, the advancement of canine health and well-being, protecting the rights of all dog owners, and promoting responsible dog ownership.
Another noteworthy mission statement, which I’ve always loved, comes from the first line of the code of ethics of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, USA. It helps us to stay focused on what it truly important— “I believe that the welfare of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed is of paramount importance. It supersedes any other commitment to Cavaliers whether that be personal, competitive, or financial.” Short and sweet, and touches the heart!
Can you imagine every exhibitor looking at their dog, placing their right hand on their heart, and declaring a pledge to the welfare of their dog and to the mission of purebred dogs?
How would such a pledge affect our daily interactions with our dogs, our breeding decisions, how we train and prepare a dog for show, our sportsmanship in and out of the ring, and even our interactions with those who disagree with our mission?
A pledge is a beautiful thing, if taken to heart. It calls for unity of purpose, and strengthens the cause or mission to which one pledges. It also honors the hard work of those who’ve gone before and dedicated their lives to the study, breeding, exhibiting, running and maintenance of purebred dogs. Reminding ourselves of our mission, objectives, and core values helps us to stay focused on the bigger picture. In other words—why we do what we do! It’s this very focus that unifies, rather than divides. But it’s also normal to lose our way at times, after all we are only human.
So I’ve come up with a “Pledge” to help us remember our commitment to our dogs and the sport we love. Imagine arriving at a dog show early in the morning, singing the national anthem, and then hearing the announcer say—“Now please face your beloved dogs, and join with me in saying the Pledge Of Allegiance To Our Dogs”:
I truly believe that once we learn to focus on the things that unite us, our differences will fall into proper perspective and we will work towards achieving our collective goals with humility, integrity, compassion, and kindness.
Let’s never forget also all the inner qualities about dogs that got us hooked in the first place—companionship, comfort, service, devotion, and unconditional love. Certainly these are the most noble reasons under which to unite, in honor of “man’s best friend.”
Ever since that early morning show, being scheduled first in the ring is always a treat. I get to sing the national anthem and take pride in my country. I also get to remind myself of the pledge to my dogs, and take pride in the mission of purebred dogs and the sport I love. Apart from that, the ribbons lose their meaning and the beautiful dogs we’ve bred simply become trophies to admire . I wish every dog enthusiast, exhibitor, judge, and breeder success and a rainbow of winning ribbons. But mostly, my earnest wish is that we all would simply enjoy our sport, each other, and the cherished canine companions that represent the WONDERFUL WORLD OF PUREBRED DOGS!
I pledge allegiance to my dog.
How about you?
Leila is the recipient of the AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Public Service Award. She writes to inspire love, care, and compassion for dogs. About the Author.
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