My friend Amy Vanderryn holds an incomprehensible, heathen attitude that I have asked her to explain. Picture me clutching the pearls for the duration of this post. Welcome Amy.
Earlier this year Katherine saw this picture, showing one of my dogs and a big ribbon. She asked if I would explain what it meant, which in turn led to a short conversation about our differing views on ribbons and swag.
What The Letters Mean
To start with, the dog is XO a 7-year-old Australian Shepherd and the middle dog of my three. In the picture with the orange ribbon (March), he had just earned his FGDCH 50K or Flyball Grand Champion 50,000 point title.
Flyball is a unique dog sport in that there’s a team of dogs and people involved and you race other teams. Four dogs run a heat where they run down a lane of 4 jumps, hit a box with a spring-loaded ball at the end, catch the ball, and jump the jumps back. As one dog is returning, the next dog is going out at full speed with the returning dog having break through the infrared light barrier before the outgoing dog. It’s a fast sport for all kinds of dogs and they love it. Winners of the heats earn points for the race weekend and placements are given within divisions. But it’s unique in that in addition, points are given to each dog for each completed heat based on the total team time (25 points for a run under 24 seconds, 5 points for a run 24-27.99 seconds, 1 point for 28-31.99 seconds). Those points accumulate for each individual dog over time. So in this picture, XO had just finished accumulating 50k points over his flyball career.
In the picture with the red and black ribbon (February), XO had just earned his ATCH or Agility Trial Champion title under the Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA). In order to do this, he had to finish the highest level (ASCA calls this level ‘elite’) titles in three different classes – regular, jumpers, and gamblers. After that, he had to earn 10 more qualifying scores in elite jumpers, 10 in elite gamblers and 20 in elite regular to earn the ATCH. Almost all dog sports have a standard as to what performance is qualifying.
Once you earn a higher level title in the same class, you drop the lower level title out of the name when you write it out. So because XO earned his ATCH, he no longer has the titles for elite jumpers/regular/gamblers after his name. Or if he had an advanced title in something, then the novice title would no longer be written as it’s understood. Championship titles go in front of the dog’s name and the rest go behind.
The Tangible Awards that Come with Qualifying
Now on to what I do about ribbons and other swag. Those of you who read this blog will probably gasp at what come next. Or if you don’t, at least know Katherine will.
I almost never take ribbons of any kind. (Gasp!) If they are given out in public, I take them and then quietly return them to the club before I leave unless they are dated. Most dog sports ribbons are no longer dated so they can be used at more than one show since they don’t always know how many they will give out. I’m a big fan of this. If it’s swag, then most often I will give it away before I leave the trial or find someone to give it to later if I don’t give it back to the host club. Dog treats get used at home if that’s the award but mostly I don’t need or want anything. It’s probably clear to you by now that I’m not a ‘stuff’ person.
When I first started competing with my dogs I took ribbons just like everyone else. I took qualifying ribbons and placement ribbons and whatever else came my way. I started competing with my first Aussie in the early 90s and then added another dog and another until I was competing with three dogs at once (there was a Brittany Spaniel in there in the early days too). Over time I added multiple dog sports and venues to my repertoire.
Since those days, I have continued to compete with 2-3 dogs in multiple sports and I probably compete at least 2/3 of the weekends of the year and some weekdays. That makes for a LOT of ribbons. So somewhere along the way many years ago, I stopped taking them. I didn’t know what to do with them all and they didn’t mean much to me after the early years.
A few years ago, I went through much of what I had and donated them via a flyball team to an organization that repurposes them. I know people who compete similarly to what I do and take ribbons, and I know those who only take blue ones, or don’t take them either. I do generally take the big ones that take a lot of time and accomplishments to earn such as the ones in the pictures. But even then, I don’t take them all. Sometimes I’ll just take a picture and then give the ribbon back if I even go that far.
What I find amusing is that how offended that some people are that I don’t take some of the big ribbons. I had a friend bring one to me after I left a trial specifically after I told her that I didn’t want it. I returned it to the club later. I have no issue with people taking their ribbons, but leave me to my own decisions please.
So what is it that I’m going after if I don’t want the ribbons? Of course I’m going to go have fun with my dog(s) and to enjoy time with like-minded people. If it weren’t for those, I wouldn’t continue to do these things. But I’m not averse to bragging rights and while I like to fool myself that I’m not competitive, there’s definitely some of that in me. What I am really after aside from all of the rest is titles. I like letters in front of and after my dogs’ names. I like to think about the levels that we’ve gotten to and the numbers of sports and the accomplishments that we’ve made in them. Some of the titles have been earned through a lot of training and some of them with none and all of the variations in between.
In dog sports unlike horse sports (the best that I can tell), there are titles to be earned everywhere. There is a set of criteria that has to be met to earn a qualifying score in that sport, in that class or division and at that level. In most sports, you have to qualify a certain amount of times to earn the title. Sure the ribbons show the journey to the title and I love the journey, but I love it for the actual journey and not the stuff. I keep written records of our qualifiers and let the clubs keep the ribbons and conserve their money as well. We often ‘fail’ or don’t qualify depending on the sport but are still out having fun.
I know I’m a ‘title ho’. I’ve always said so. If forced to dig into my internal mental picture about why I like titles, I think really it is about the sense of accomplishment and bragging rights.
How could I not want to brag about my boys?
From left to right,
Quiver (2 years old): ARCH Fair Dinkum All A Quiver, CGCA, TKA, RL3, RN (ASCA), RE (AKC), GS-O, JS-O, RS-N, OA, OAJ, OF, BCAT
Whist (12 years old): MACH ATCH ARCHEX Windsor’s Grand Slam, STDcd, MXS, MJB, MXF, T2B2, JS-E-SP, RS-E-SP, AAD, RL3X, RE (AKC & ASCA), CGC, MBMCH, HOBBES, CW-SD, SCN, SIN, NW1
XO (7 years old): ATCH ARCHX Rijn’s Executive Officer, MX, MJB, MXF, T2B2, JS-E-SP, RS-E, REX (ASCA), RE (AKC), MBCH, FGDCH 50k, RL3, CW-SP, NW1