Breeders and The National

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The Gould Cup is awarded to the Best Of Breed winner at the St Bernard Club Of America National Show. Mr Gould, who donated this magnificent trophy to the club, was a multimillionaire fancier in the late 1800's. Over the decades, the annual winners' names have been added to the trophy and the cup has acquired historical significance. One can make the claim that there is no higher prize in the breed worldwide.

I submit that there is no higher honor for a breeder than to see one of their dog's name inscribed on this cup. Think of the odds. Over the past 100 years, there have been thousands of breeders, who have whelped hundreds of thousands of Saints and yet less than one hundred dogs have won this prize. 

Yes, there are other wonderful honors in the dog world, such as All Breed Best In Shows, but no other show provides the same level of breed competition. Each year, breeders and exhibitors from across the continent, and even from overseas, make the trek to the National with their best dogs. Happily, there are very few "pet quality" entries. Breeders are there to showcase their best efforts - "here is where I am in my program"- and to see what other breeders are doing with their programs. Where else can one see so many dogs from so far away at one time in one place? 

We discovered our first Nationals in the 1970s, when our son and daughter were still little goofballs. We would rent a motorhome and head off to strange lands, like Ohio or Tennessee. We were amazed. So many wonderful dogs! So many famous breeders! It was like a religious experience at first. Our eyes were opened; our brains were overloaded with new knowledge from the rings, the seminars, and the late-night conversations. What we had only been able to read about in books was suddenly there before us in the flesh. What a joy it was!

If one of our dogs even placed in a class, we were thrilled. Of course, in those days, many of the classes had 12 or more entries. We resolved then and there that some day we would show a dog of our own in that amazing Specials ring. For us it was a "I have a dream" kind of thing. As we drove happily exhausted back to Canada, we were full of ideas about how to take the next steps in the whelping box, and plans for next year's National.

A dog club is a virtual community. The National is an annual "gathering of the clan". It brings together hundreds of people who share a common passion in a unique way. There are so many people we have known over the years that we have never seen anywhere else but at the Nationals. Many we consider lovely friends. Some we see more in the role of competitors and we thank them for pushing us to breed a better dog. All are St Bernard fanciers and to the extent that they have done well by the breed, we admire and appreciate their good work.

Every new breeder must attend as many Nationals as soon as they can. The knowledge gained will save them years of disappointment and grief. Experienced breeders need to attend and compete at least every couple of years to get a reality check on their kennel progress. They have to step outside their comfort zone and meet the challenge of competition. How else are we going to avoid kennel blindness? Retired breeders should continue to attend so they can get a full measure of pleasure from the breed they love and from old friends, and to offer advice to the new generation of breeders.

The National is just not another dog show. For Saint fanciers, it is THE dog show. 

And if by chance and hard work, you should be so lucky as to win the Gould Trophy, please understand that it has an insurance value of over $100,000 and is irreplaceable. So look after it carefully. When our Yondo won it in 1986, for a year, Toni hid it under a pile of laundry every time we left the house!