Well for those of you who have been to Newfoundland & Labrador, there is one thing you already know. The folks of our beautiful province have incredible spirit and perseverance. We are the people that when someone says ‘It can’t be done’; we choose to prove otherwise. It is with great pride that I am pleased to announce that the Newfoundland (All Breed) Kennel Club (NKC) hosted one fabulous indoor show weekend from November 20th to the 22nd during the Covid-19 Pandemic. We hosted 6 All Breed Conformation Shows, 2 Obedience Trials, 2 Rally Obedience Trials, 2 Junior Conformation Handling Shows and 2 Junior Obedience Handling Trials in 3 days! In fact, there was close on 700 entries in total that were exhibited or competed in the 3 days. How you may ask? Well the answer is actually quite simple. Throw together an incredibly hard working executive and friends from near and afar and the impossible becomes possible. In essence, it comes down to belonging to the dog showing community. Of course the other significant piece involved a great deal of planning and adhering to all government rules and regulations surrounding Covid-19.
When we realized in September 2020 that we may be able to pull this off in a safe manner, the real planning and work commenced.
First we had to review all the government regulations surrounding Covid-19 and determine how we were going to screen entrants. All entrants had to complete the Covid-19 waiver and present it, otherwise they were not permitted in the building. They were also provided with a paper bracelet for the weekend to show they had signed the waiver. Hand sanitizer could be found everywhere and disinfecting wipes were present in the rings, bathrooms, front desk, secretary desk, and canteen. It was not uncommon to see me prowling around wiping down door handles and any surface I believed that could have been touched. If I could have worn a suit and sprayed everyone with hand sanitizer, I am sure I would have.
Next, we had to secure our indoor venue and ensure we would be able to adhere to the government regulations of not exceeding the maximum number of occupants (100). We knew this would be a challenging task. We were open to the Atlantic bubble, which meant exhibitors from away would be attending. So we decided that this set of shows would literally be a “show & go” style event. In essence, if you did not place group first in your group, then you were asked/encouraged to leave in the interim until your next ring time. This was for the benefit of everyone as to keep our total number under a 100.
The rings were designed with an entrance and an exit. The reason for this was to avoid clustering of people. There was a table placed by the exit with the winners ribbons. Exhibitors were advised to pick these up on the way out. If you didn’t wish to take the ribbon, we asked that you simply left it. Otherwise once a ribbon was touched, it could not be reused as it would have been considered contaminated.
Of course social distancing was extremely important. Hence our show chair constructed a map of the floor spaces and it was taped out for exhibitors who had requested grooming space, ensuring we were adhering to the 6 feet rule (grooming space had to be reserved in advance). At anytime when we noticed folks clustering, I became the party police and asked them to disperse and chat from afar. Masks were mandatory and worn at all times, even when running in the ring.
We even had a canteen ran by volunteers. We had a pre-set menu that folks could order from. They could simply text their order and then have it delivered to their pre-designated area. This ensured no crowding at the canteen area or unnecessary wandering of exhibitors.
Now don’t think this was all rainbows and unicorns (perhaps I should have said rainbows and puppies). We were unable to have the building the night before for set-up (which normally we would have), so we started at 7:00am sharp with the plan to start the shows at 10:30am! First our main mat layer did not show due to illness. Well that left us in a pickle. Nonetheless, the next thing we knew, the men and women had their sleeves rolled up and were laying these heavy mats down. Some volunteers who had been scheduled were unable to show, so it meant everyone lending a paw. Our Vice President stepped up and took over the canteen as needed. As President of the club, I did everything from wiping door handles, to sitting on the door, to yelling out “you don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here!” Everywhere you looked the executive were as busy as could be, all while trying to show their own dogs as well.
There was also timing challenges that we faced. Around lunch hour when we had juniors and some of the larger groups, (e.g.: Working Group) happening almost simultaneously, we neared our occupant capacity. This resulted in more people being on site, so we had to run a tight ship. In order to do this we hired an external security company to assist. They literally did the head counting and monitored both the entrance and exit doors. When we were approaching the maximum number, I would use my lovely vocals to tell folks to move along and thankfully folks were compliant and understanding.
When I say the phrase ‘dog showing community’, I really should say family. Our friends from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick came and stepped up to the plate. From baking homemade pies to sell at the canteen to ring stewarding, there wasn’t much they weren’t willing to do. Local exhibitors baked cookies and donated items to sell. Everything was individually packaged for sale and I should add it was all divine. This weekend would have not happened, if it wasn’t for so many wonderful people volunteering.
Perhaps the most important lesson that one can take away from this experience is that no matter how many months pass, you still belong to a united community of like minded folks. We don’t need to see each other every single day to be friends. Our dogs and our love for the sports bond us. Even during a pandemic with lots of planning and safety precautions put into place, you can still make a little magic happen. Given the difficult times we are all enduring, seeing a friend from afar across the gym brought smiles to one another’s faces. I choose to believe it gave us all a little hope. The hope that not all is lost and Covid-19 shall not define us. Take comfort in knowing one day, things will return to the world we once knew. You will be reunited with old friends and make new ones too. You and your dog will enter the ring and even though you may feel a little rusty, remember everyone is in the same situation. Last, but not least remember it will take more than a pandemic to destroy the competitions and sports we all love so dearly.
This piece is dedicated to the following people:
Special thanks to the absolute best executive a club could wish for: Mark Collins (Vice President), Deanne Sinnott (Show Chair/Trial), Wendy Anderson (Treasurer), Lesleigh Von Borziskowski (Secretary), Pamela Skanes (Director at Large), and Tony Moores (Past President). As well thank you to all our volunteers from here and from away who made the show weekend possible. A special thanks to our judges who travelled here from within the Atlantic Bubble to judge. Finally thank you to all exhibitors and competitors for working with us and adhering to all the rules we had in place.