Being a Methodist Minister, people are often surprised that I show dogs. Dog show people are surprised because dog shows take place on the weekends and, well, I work on weekends. That takes out almost all Sunday shows. I might take a weekend off here or there and go to a Sunday show but not very often. Not showing on Sundays takes out almost half of the shows automatically. The other thing is that I can’t travel farther than I am willing to drive home on Saturday night before leading worship on Sunday morning. That means that Angie and I don’t go to more than one cluster a month. We look for nearby shows where we can show on Friday and Saturday. We don’t have the luxury or care to figure out what judges to show to, we just go to the shows we can.
While it seems like a unique thing for a Minister to show dogs, the truth is that clergy participating in dog shows and dog sports is nothing new. Rev. John Russell, who lived from 1795-1883, was a founding member of The Kennel Club in England and through his love of hunting, created the dog breed, the Jack Russell Terrier, named in his honor. Like many of us, Rev. Russell had trouble keeping dogs in proper balance with the rest of his life. One of his Bishops said he would have had a more successful career if he hadn’t spent so much time with his dogs. After a long career and at his death, Rev. John Russell’s funeral was well attended by church and dog people alike.
A Minister who Shows Dogs?
In the late 1800s the Rev. J. W. Mellor was, “closely associated with good specimens,” of Italian Greyhounds (as referenced by Vero Shaw, The Illustrated Book Of The Dog, 1879). His interest went beyond the Italian Greyhound and included many breeds of dogs including Mastiffs and Fox Terriers. During his time as an I.G. breeder and exhibitor there were many ministers in the Church of England who bred and/or showed dogs as well. More recently, catholic priest Father Robert Watson, showed dog under the name of Padre Kennels. He showed Italian Greyhounds in the 1960s and 1970s. Father Watson was known for his kindness and sense of humor. He even served as the President of the Italian Greyhound Club of America. I want to thank Serena Galloway for sending me a picture of him and alerting me to his presence in our breed’s history.
I can’t say why these other Ministers decided that they wanted to be so deeply involved with dogs. There is helpful language in the church to describe how I feel about it. The church talks about our vocation as what we do with our life in light of our gifts and the needs of
the world. More specifically, where the gifts of our lives and the needs of the world meet, there we find our vocation, our life work. That is why I am in the ministry and why my wife, Angie, is an educator, and someone else a computer tech. There is another word that is similar. That word is avocation. Avocation draws from the words “amateur” which describes the person who does something for the love of it. My vocation (or work) is what I do in ministry and my avocation (what I love) is what we do with our Italian Greyhounds and is what I do to go with my vocation. Because of what I do in ministry I know that a dog show is not life or death. Don’t get me wrong I like to win and will compete hard to win. However, helping a family get food to feed everyone, working with a couple who is struggling to stay together, encouraging a young man in his battle with addiction, and helping someone who is well to do to find peace in their lives puts purple, blue and red ribbons into perspective. I show Italian Greyhounds for the love of it. Above all else it should bring us fun. It is not who we are, it is one part of what we do.