When I, along with other breeder judges, were asked to briefly speak on The State of the Stafford for an upcoming Zoom meeting. I originally wanted to discuss what has changed visually, structurally, temperamentally and health-wise. After some thought I figured others would be addressing their thoughts on this topic in that manner so I began to think more about the state of the Stafford community instead.
Many years ago when I first became a part of the Stafford world I was excited to join a community of like minded individuals. As many new people to the breed will do, I wanted to learn as much as possible and I put in the time and work to do just that. I became quickly immersed in SBTCA and I joined committees, I started a company dedicated to the breed, I volunteered for MTB booths, RDO days – I built websites, published a magazine, edited books and I wrote articles, designed graphics and sold merchandise to help rescue. I am not alone in my efforts. There are others doing what I was doing across the world, but it felt as though I was alone. There just did not exist a lot of organization.
It is naive to think that any group of individuals will agree on everything, but it’s mature to hope that they could work together despite having differing opinions and interpretations of the Standard. We do not have to live with, breed or even judge the same way to still be a strong supportive community to help grow the breed in positive directions. If we learn to control our ‘terrier tenacity’ we are far more likely to be successful. The saying “United we stand, divided we fall” comes to mind in this case. We need to support one another, create a community and work together. And this goes for support in mentoring new people, support in physically helping other Stafford owners and breeders, support financially for rescue or show fundraising when possible or even in emergency situations. Offering a little bit of your time to help is far more important than simply serving on a committee or making champions.
There are many many Stafford people doing exactly what I was doing but we were not united or organized yet. For a few years it seemed there was a group of enthusiasts working together to help unite the breed, promote the breed and preserve the breed. We had some good ideas and lofty goals to bring the Stafford community together and to improve the dogs in this country. It was not only about winning shows and selling puppies (all nice things) – but it was also a united push to get updated information out to the public, to judges, to breed enthusiasts, to improve health decisions, to help each other evaluate litters, to get more owners to join the club, etc.
It does not matter at all how many years you have owned, shown or bred Staffords. It does not matter how long you have been a judge, how many champions you have produced (or bought) but what matters is how you can do something positive for the Stafford community to actually – preserve, promote, protect the breed. We are all busy and we all have other important events happening in our lives, but when we decided to join the Stafford community I feel we should devote a little of our time to helping the breed together.
We all share the same passion. There is no ‘conflict of interest’ when people of all opinions share this passion and work together instead of beating each other down. It is the same interest – The preservation of the Staffordshire Bull Terrier. Instead of dividing we must come together as community members. We must partially remove ourselves from individualism and place that emotional energy squarely on promoting this breed together. You do not have to like everything about the dogs I live with and you do not have to like everything about my judging or breeding decisions. I don’t have to like yours either – but we DO have to be supportive of the commonality, of the community, of the breed. We need to respect our differences and our sameness alike. We need to be kind and respectful to one another for the future of this breed. We need to set an example for people coming into the breed, for people in other breeds and for the general public.
The State of the Stafford should include the State of the Stafford Enthusiasts. Take advantage of every bit of information you can find. Listen to, ask questions of and talk with Stafford owners and breeders of all types. Everyone has something to offer. Everyone!
Every book, magazine, piece of artwork, and kennel has something valuable but we must be willing to drop our egos and look for and accept all of this as a collection of like minded groups of people with passion for the breed. I am not being naive in saying this as I am well aware of parts of the Stafford world which on the surface appears not to have anything but destruction to offer. We all know at least someone in Staffords who has been a constant thorn, troublemaker, disingenuous person – BUT there is value in there someplace. In saying that, there does also exist ‘negative value’ – thats still value. Negative value offers us the opportunity of learning from the decisions and mistakes of others (and our own mistakes as well). Be willing to recognize negative value and be a reason to choose positive value. Look for virtues. You can influence others in this way. I know because I have seen this firsthand! Your positive hard work and dedication can and will influence others. Not all, but some. Some are lost for sure, but the future of this wonderful addictive breed needs all of us to do our best to set aside a few minutes a week to support the breed and its enthusiasts.
I have finally learned that it is far more important to find value rather than simply judge and dismiss. So in closing my take on The State of the Stafford is – we MUST join as a community if we are to move forward as a breed. It’s not just the car, it’s the driver!
It works best if we work together – which in my opinion also means working with other bull breeds.