I am normally a pretty stress free guy.  Since my by-pass surgery in 2005, I have made a conscious attempt to avoid stress.  As a retiree, who dabbles in dogs, that’s normally a pretty easy thing to do.  However, after returning from Colorado, I found myself with 30 shows to report out on, a stack of e-mails to go through, and full week of numbers to tabulate.   While plowing through all my tasks, I began to wonder how those who are campaigning a top ranked dog are dealing with the stress of surviving down the stretch.

There were signs of seasonal stress everywhere.  There was a nasty infestation of trolls in my Dog Show Poop inbox. For those unfamiliar with my DSP site (and I do hope there are only a few of you out there), I have a “No Trolls” policy on DSP. I do not allow anyone to trash talk on my site. There is no bashing of your fellow competitors allowed. Questioning the parentage of AKC officials is frowned upon. Asking a judge where he got the new car is strictly verboten. However, in the spirit of free speech, I do encourage readers to write me and tell me how I am doing and, bless them, they do.

It happens every year about this time. Campaigners are starting to feel exhausted. Bank statements are starting to have more entries than a cell phone bill. Spouses and families are starting to plan interventions for their dog show-addicted relative. In any sport, the weekend warrior’s experience is very different than the full-time competitor’s. My brother-in-law was a professional athlete. Despite the fame and fortune, the game grinds lives into the turf. It is hard to comprehend the stresses visited upon those who show dogs in the Top 100 All Breeds. These people have worked for years to get to that level. They often have a substantial portion of their savings invested in a season’s campaigning. Many find their dreams slipping away by the end of August. It can be overwhelming.

I recently read an article by Jodie Foster about how the fans were attacking Kristen Stewart for her youthful indiscretions. (OK, I don’t always listen to opera and watch the History Channel.) Foster really laid it out. Famous people are, surprise, people.  Living, breathing, and feeling people. No one has the right to destroy another person. Fans can be really unkind. All of our Top Dogs have their fan clubs, and many of the fans are young people who are very enthusiastic about our sport. Unfortunately, many have been given the impression that trashing your opponent is acceptable in our sport. I like to think that this is a game for ladies and gentlemen. We like to see men in a jacket and tie, and ladies in a dress or skirt in the ring. It’s emblematic of the behavior we expect from those in the dog game.

So ask yourself: are you modeling the behavior you want to see in the game? Good role models are the best preventive for trolls. They’re harder to get rid of than fleas. Root for your favorites, but be kind to your competitors. For all of you out there who have entertained us all year, we appreciate your dedication and sacrifice. Ignore the trolls. They feed on attention. Starve the little buggers. Rankings and records come and go. Friends last forever. And that’s today’s Back Story.