Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Santos: Our collective kennel blindness


AS I tap the first letter on the keyboard to start penning this piece, it took me two days to muster the energy just to turn on the computer. The moment I realized that all of those who made it to the twelve seats of the Senate were candidates of the present administration, it felt like I was with Cersei and Jamie Lannister when the full weight of the Red Keep came crashing down on them. Fortunately for the Lannister twins, in that final moment of affirming their incestuous love for each other, there was a semblance of choice. I, on the other hand, felt I was another victim of the choices of others - the multitude who have turned their backs from just even an iota of discernment.

Or was I?

Many years ago, when I decided I wanted to have a show dog and become a breeder, my knowledge of the breed standard of the golden retriever was wanting. In theory, I considered myself an expert. In practice, I had a hard time interpreting what the ideal golden retriever should be. But even with my little knowledge which I was fully aware of, I went on to look for a breeder, anyway. In no time, I was able to bring home a show puppy.

Perhaps, one of the most important attributes of a dog as far as the breed standard is concerned is “type”. Type is the combination of the various characteristics of the ideal dog: appearance of the head, adequate front and rear legs angulations, correct coat, musculature, appropriate proportion of height and length, and tail set. If your dog is lacking in type, genuine well-intentioned master breeders would advise you to just look for another dog that has type or you would end up spending much longer time (and money) to produce puppies with type.

And because I was stubborn, impatient and lacking of the real skills to assess a golden retriever, I ended up acquiring a dog that was mediocre. My first show dog lacked the appropriate angulations (the angulations do not only help in efficient movement but also contribute in correct appearance), coat and height to length proportion. Still, with the help of proper training, conditioning and grooming, I was able to have my dog earn her Philippine Grand Champion title. And soon enough, I started believing otherwise: my dog was way better than the other great golden retriever champions, and was worthy to be bred.

In the world of dog showing and breeding of purebreds, what happened to me was the “kennel blind” syndrome. I started to ignore the numerous faults of my dog and believe that it was better than the other dogs in the show ring. One reason was because my former mentor was also kennel blind herself. For another, mediocrity in the show ring enabled my dog to win. But for the most part, I knew that I refused to see the truth because of my own selfish motives – I had already spent a considerable amount of time and money.

There is a good reason why elected public officials have the “honorable” prefixed to their respective titles. Being a senator, congressman, governor or mayor, is to be honorable. And yes, if you are dishonest, there is no way you could be honorable. But being honorable also means being competent and independent. If you lack the skills to dispense your duties and are beholden to individual or groups other than the public’s interest, then you could not be honorable. I have always believed that individuals seeking an elective post should be measured by the electorate against the standard of being honorable. But as I have mentioned, the results of the midterm elections 2019 defy my assumptions.

It seems that blatant vote buying, corruption, dishonesty, contempt of human rights, grandstanding, incompetence, turncoatism, and political dynasties, are not considered unwanted traits among individuals seeking public positions by the majority of Filipinos. Is the majority of our fellowmen “kennel blind” as far as their political loyalties are concerned?

In dog showing, other than your own personal convictions and your mentor/s, dog judges, the canine organization you belong to, and other people wanting the puppies that you bred, may greatly influence your outlook towards the quality of your dogs.

In a way, our (blind) political beliefs may be greatly influenced by our present economic and political system. The lack of proper education and economic opportunities, near absence of meritocracy as a culture, prevalence of patronage politics, and the present electoral system, among others, have a strong influence on how we vote.

Or is there another explanation to the mind-boggling outcome of the 2019 midterm elections? Was it rigged? And even so, then it would still point to the fact that for these public servants who manipulated the tabulation, being honorable is no longer one of their ideals in public service.

It took me more than three years to realize and admit to myself that I was kennel blind. In the world of dog sport and breeding purebreds, that may have been veritably a long time. But I was fortunate that I found new mentors who were steadfast in their love for the breed and showed me the proper way and I was, luckily, open-minded enough to new ideas and see the truth.

So I did what I had to do even if it was difficult and the cost to my finances was great. I stopped breeding my mediocre Philippine Grand Champion, placed it to a loving home, and acquired a better puppy. Our pets are to be with us forever, but because I was committed to breeding outstanding dogs, I had to place her or I will not have enough resources to continue showing and breeding sound golden retrievers.

My commitment to the breed of golden retrievers is a reflection of my ideals when it comes to public servants, that they should be honorable.

As a nation, are we “kennel blind”? Or was massive fraud orchestrated in the recent midterm elections?

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