Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Why Do I Volunteer?

Dog clubs and the related dog sports are overflowing with opportunities to volunteer. Without a large corp of volunteers, dog events would simply cease to happen.

I have done a lot of volunteering over my years in dog sports, from becoming newsletter editor for the Ann Arbor Dog Training Club soon after I joined in the mid-1980's, to serving on various boards, to chairing numerous obedience trials, to working on hunt tests and other field-related activities. I'm co-chairing an eye clinic for one of my clubs that is happening next month, something new for me.

Why do I volunteer? Sometimes, volunteering can seem like a thankless job. People who rarely or never volunteer most likely have no concept of the amount of work that goes on to host an obedience trial. I can only imagine what chairing a large all-breed conformation show combined with obedience and/or agility must be like! The logistics boggle my mind. Same with chairing a National Specialty. I've had committee positions for several Nationals, but never attempted to chair one.

So, what makes me volunteer? I find I get a great deal of personal satisfaction in helping to organize and run efficient events. I like seeing what works and what doesn't, making note of both categories to try to tweak it for the next time to make it better.

I enjoy working with other like-minded club members. It is a simple joy to work as a well-oiled machine with a group of people. I recently stewarded in Utility at the AADTC trial, something I have only rarely done in my long years of exhibiting. I almost always either have a dog to show or there is a reason I am staying home.

There are a lot of little details that go into helping a judge run their ring efficiently. I enjoyed the simple challenge of being where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be. I've judged far more than I've stewarded, and I've mostly had the pleasure of working with excellent stewards. They really do make or break the day for everyone involved.

At Marshbanks hunt test this summer, I was working a gun station during the final series, and when teams finished, they had to walk back to the vehicles past our gun station. One pro in particular thanked us several times (he ran a bunch of dogs), and it was interesting how a simple and sincere thank you made it all seem worthwhile.

Volunteering to steward at an obedience trial can be a great way to get familiar with the ring routine of different classes before ever showing your own dog. I've had students who, after stewarding, tell me, "My dog can do that!" You get to know judges, and find out they aren't quite as scary as you thought.

If you can, volunteer to help in some way, however small. And if you can't help, please offer some sincere thanks to workers at all levels. It really does feel great to be appreciated and to know people are enjoying the event on which you've worked so hard.

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