LR: Welcome to Pure Dog Talk. Becky Sumner, thank you so much for joining us.
BS: Thanks for having me
LR: So, Becky, you are the part owner BaRay Dog Show Superintendents, correct?
LR: And you purchased that business in 2014 and are working with Sheila Raymond, right?
BS: Yes, Sheila and I are partners. She was the principle from the start of the business, and her former partner retired. So, she called me, wanted to know if I was interested. I had a retail store at the time, retail’s not really where it’s at, so I jumped at that opportunity, so here I am.
LR: Excellent. And I know I’ve known you forever, and you started in dogs back in the early 80’s, correct?
BS: Yes. Started with Rottweilers, still have Rottweilers, and in the interim I have some Mini-wire and Mini-smooth Dachshunds, and Tibetan Spaniels, and Whippets, still have some Whippets.
LR: Excellent. And lovely Whippets, I have to say. Ok well Becky what we’re talking about today, we want people to know a little bit more about what does a dog show superintendent do, right? Because it’s sort of a Magical Mystery Tour of what happens at the dog shows, so could you kind of fill in the blanks for us a little bit?
BS: Sure. Ya because it doesn’t just happen automatically. There are 7 superintendents in the country, in the US. And we’re all licensed by AKC, AKC requires the superintendent to be licensed and they have pretty strict rules on that. They rely on experience, dog show experience, and your financial statement. And I’m sure the financials are because of, you know, the amount of money that we hold basically in escrow for the clubs. So, the clubs hire a superintendent and they tell us whether they want a package show or a full-service show. Full service is what most people are going to be familiar with, that’s like the group shows and they operate where we go set up equipment. Sometimes we have clubs that have their own equipment and that’s wonderful and saves them some money, but most of the time we set up the show, and are there in person. A show secretary can do what’s called a package show, for rather than have us be on site, we do everything but the on-site, and the show’s secretary doesn’t have to be licensed, and they can be named by the club and put in the premium list as the shows secretary. We send them what’s called a “show in the box” and they basically get to the show site, open their box, and they have everything that they need, their catalogs, their judge’s books, ribbons if they’ve ordered ribbons from us, arm bands, everything right down to the rubber bands.
LR: Awesome. Ok, so basically a show, and this is a good distinction because I’m not sure everybody understands, a show secretary is not a show superintendent because they are not licensed correct?
LR: And pretty much anybody could be a show secretary? How does that work?
BS: Anybody can be a show secretary. Obviously, the club that hires that person is gonna want some experience I would think, and a show secretary can actual do, and operate show or a group show. They are limited to one per year, and they have to be members of the club. For instance, if you were a member of an all-breed club, and said hey, I want to do this job, I want to be the one on site, you could do that once per year.
BS: Most clubs don’t do that because it’s a lot of work.
LR: It’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of work. So, let’s talk about what is it? Let’s start your day just at the dog show, never mind what you do behind the scenes. Let’s say you’re starting your first day at the dog show, how does your day go?
BS: Well our day starts the day before the dog show.
LR: There you go.
BS: Because we have to lug all the stuff that we need for that dog show there, and then pack and sort, and you know we do a certain amount in the office prior too. But, we come in, we set up an office for an all-breed show, we have our ribbons sorted, we do ring bags for the ring stewards, and they have their judge’s books, their steward’s books, their ribbons, their arm bands, their radios if they need radios, we give them a little cheat sheet, just basically all the supplies that they need for the ring for that day. And that goes out, we pick up sheets from the judge’s books during the course of the day, we check them for errors because it’s much easier to correct an error in a judge’s book that’s been marked while the judge is still there, rather than track them down after the fact.
LR: Right. So, tell me about what are some of the kind of errors that you might see in a judge’s book. What happens with that?
BS: Oh, they might mark, you know you might have a 1st place in a class, and a 1st and 2nd in a class, and they might mark the dog that was 1st winners, and maybe the dog that was 2nd, that wasn’t eligible for reserve. Sometimes, you know everybody has brain cramps once in a while, so you know you might have 5, 7 and 9 in your book, and 5 is 2nd, and 9 is 1st, and 7 is marked 7th, we see that a lot.
LR: Right, ok
BS: We see that a lot, we just watch for those kinds of things. The NOHS adds another level because, for best puppy, or best bred-by, you know once in a while a judge will make a mistake a 12-18 best puppy, and they’re not eligible so we just catch that. And then we mark our group books as the day goes on, and we try to get results in, cuz we try to put our results up, we strive real hard for the same day or within 24 hours of getting our results posted to the website. So, it’s a busy day, and you know, we deal with the Vets, and changes and juniors that are changing dogs cuz their junior dog doesn’t feel good, or
LR: Came in season
BS: Ya. We have girls in season, and for obedience and rally, and refunds, and you know there’s all kinds of business that goes on at the table all day long.
LR: Right. Ok, so I think one of the things that people don’t really fully appreciate with the superintendent, is the exhibitor sends you their entry form. So, lets step back, ok we’ve done the day at the dog show, let’s go back to when the entry’s open and when the entry’s closed. The exhibitors sent you their entry form, and talk about some of the things you see come through, and what are some of the common mistakes? What are some of the common mistakes, what are some of the things that you deal with at that point in time, 2 or 3 weeks ahead of the dog show?
BS: Well one of the things, I’ll go back even further. I think there’s a misconception that the superintendent makes decisions about classes offered, about NOHS being offered, about All-American dogs being allowed to be in obedience and rally. That’s all information and decisions that are made by the club. So, we’re employees of the club, they get their approval from AKC for their shows, they decide what the price is going to be for the entries, they decide what they’re gonna offer, what they’re not gonna offer. We once in a while get an angry call, most of our people are pretty happy for the most part, but they’ll say why are you offering HOHS? Well, that’s not our decision, that’s up to the club.
LR: So, separation of church and state happens at the dog show too.
BS: Happens at the dog show, yes. So, the clubs hire us to handle the administrative needs of their show, but we don’t make the decisions as to what goes into that show. We don’t hire judges, we don’t choose classes, we recommend a bit as far as like timing for the schedule. Typically, we do the schedules, that can be not a lot of fun because we try to accommodate requests as much as possible, but we’re human, there’s only so much a person can do. And, you know we’ll have every now and then, for instance, we just had an issue where we had a breed where we had 3 requests. One was for an 8:00 ring time, one was for an afternoon ring time, and then the club that hired us, asked for a mid or late morning ring time for one breed.
LR: And this is all request for the same breed?
BS: For the same breed, correct
LR: Oh jeez
BS: So, you know we go with what the club asked us to do, because the club is the boss in that situation. So, you can’t make everybody happy but we try. What happens then, once I send out contracts to the clubs they sign the contract, hire us, we put them on our timeline, put them on our calendar, provide them with deadlines for their premium list information to come back, the catalog information if they’re going to run ads for catalogs. We prepare a premium list, we post that premium list on our website, we provide links if the club wishes to their website, and then we do mailings. Sometimes we do electronic, most of the time we do a mailing or a postcard mailing just because we’ve found it to be a benefit for the exhibitor to have something tangible in their hand. Even if it’s not a premium, if it’s a postcard it’s something they can file, and have a reminder of the closing. We’re doing more and more e-mail reminders, which is I think effective for the clubs just to say “hey, you know this all-breed is gonna close on Wednesday.”
LR: Right. And so, you’re seeing a lot of sort of the wave of the future stuff, you’re seeing that be pretty much digital. You’re seeing a lot less, if you will, dead trees going into this.
BS: Well, we’d like to. I mean, ideally, we would like to see less dead trees and you know. Whenever we do either an electronic only or a postcard mailing, we also clearly state that if that exhibitor that’s reading that email, or reading the postcard, wants to receive a mailed copy all they’ve got to do is send us an email or pick up the phone. And in all-breed, that’s a good, let’s say 1500 all-breed on average, we probably only mail maybe 30 or 40 premium lists.
BS: One thing I’ve found statistically with us, I can’t speak for all the superintendents, but I know our entries that come in online typically, depending on the location of the show, but when you look at the entire entry statistics for a show, I would say on the West coast it’s a little less. The further East you go, and I don’t know what the reason is for that, we see a little north of 90% online.
BS: So, and quite frankly, the postal service is getting worse, a little low speed.
LR: Don’t go there, don’t go there.
BS: Well, we’re north of Seattle near Burlington, and there seems to be kind of a pattern of mail within, like if you mail me something I tend to get it in a couple days. If somebody from Olympia mails something, it takes a week, and figure that one out, ya. We haven’t been able to figure it out, so it’s a little risky for the exhibitors to mail unless they do it prior to a week out.
BS: And, because some of the mail we get is postmarked, it’s taken 7 or 8 days and it’s just crazy.
LR: So, we’re on the topic of timelines and deadlines, let’s talk about it. Noon Wednesday, everybody knows noon Wednesday, and so, you know I think that everybody has forgotten that closing. I have, good Lord knows I have, so how much of that comes into it? People calling you frantically at 11:59, oh my God!
BS: Oh, lots! Wednesdays are crazy, Wednesdays are wacko around here. I have a picture of Yoda on my wall that I’m looking at that says, “if late is your entry, entered you are not” And that is pretty much it, we cannot make exceptions, and we have people crying, and angry, and can’t you please just put it in? No. We can’t, and no superintendent can do that. You’re risking your life and breaking rules, that’s set-in stone.
LR: Talk about the rule. Why is the rule there? Is this sort of arbitrary, where did that come from? This is curiosity, I don’t even know the answer to this one.
BS: Well the entry closing can be set, it’s typically set by us and the club, ok. AKC requires you to have a closing. We go to 2 1/2 weeks, that’s standard, prior to the first day of the show for a couple reasons. We have to prepare, we have to get those entries in, we proof them, we post the breed count, and then we have to do a schedule. We prepare the schedule, we send that to the show chair, the club president, whoever’s designated to approve that. We don’t post and publish anything until the clubs approved that schedule. Then we have to print the schedule with the acknowledgments and get them in the mail, AKC requires us to mail them by 1st class mail so everybody gets their judging program and their acknowledgement so they know that they’re entered before the show. So, we couldn’t do it any later than that, and get the paperwork, the judging program, and the mailing taken care of.
LR: Right, so it’s just basic bottom line. This is why it has to be this way.
BS: That’s how it is, yep. And I can tell you, when we were talking about that 1500 dog show, that you know I sit here and look at numbers and watch entries come in, and typically on Monday, we’ll have about for a 1500 dog show, we’ll have maybe 600 or 700 entries.
LR: Oh my gosh
BS: And then the other 800-1000 come in between Tuesday at noon and Wednesday at noon.
LR: Oh my gosh. So, your best tip for the exhibitor is enter early!
BS: We do. We try to check, we proof the entries, we look them over as they come in. We try to, I just for instance, made a phone call to a lady who’s entered a puppy class and an amateur/owner/handler class. Perfectly legal for her to do that, I’m pretty sure her intent is to enter her puppy class which is less expensive at this particular show, and be NOHS eligible, National Owner Handler Series eligible. However, she’s confused, so she’s entered puppy and amateur/owner/handled, both classes. That’s gonna cost her 4 entries, not 2 entries, so I just made a phone call and said, you know send us an email and tell us if this is what you want. It’s legal, yes you can do it, it’s gonna cost you more money. If you don’t want to do that, tell us what you want to do. We need it in writing by fax or email, and then we make that adjustment to her entry and charge her the right amount.
LR: And that also goes back to the question, we’ve talked about this actually in another podcast, if you enter more than 1 class, you have to win them both in order to go forward into winner’s dog class.
BS: Correct. And so, we explained that, and it all takes time. To my mind, that’s all just providing customer service. The caveat to that, is if you enter at 11:00 on Wednesday and the entry’s closed, we have to process your entry and charge you for those 4 classes whether that’s what you wanted or not, because that’s what you’ve entered. So, if you wait until the last minute as an exhibitor, you’re losing the opportunity for us to help you correct problems.
LR: Right, right.
BS: Because we can’t process 800 entries in 4 hours and catch everything
LR: Nobody can
BS: So, it’s really a good idea to enter earlier, and you have until closing time until, you know your dog gets sick and you have to cancel. You can do that, there’s a processing and we charge 5 bucks, there’s a processing fee for that because it takes manpower and time to go in and make those adjustments and write a check back, and so on and so forth. But, it’s a better option because if you have made a mistake on your entry, we’re gonna try and catch it. No guarantee that we can catch all of them, but we definitely can’t catch the ones that come in on a closing morning when we’re looking at a printer that doesn’t stop running for hours on end.
LR: I can’t even imagine. So, changing subjects just a little bit. You were talking at the beginning at the show, we were talking about there are 7 superintendents that cover the Country, correct?
LR: And so, can you talk to us a little bit about the organization called The Dog Show Superintendent’s Association?
BS: The Dog Show Superintendent’s Association is a group of licensed superintendents that’s gotten together. We have an annually meeting with AKC to have a back and forth with them as far as what’s working, what does not work, what we would like to have changed, what they would like to have changed, meaning AKC. And we also have an agreement that if something drastic should happen to one of us, the other members of the organization will step in and help out.
LR: Well that’s pretty awesome
BS: During Hurricane Katrina, when Roger’s Dog Shows was in business, they were out of business obviously during that time, and we stepped in, NBS stepped in. Some of us did catalog work, some of us did catalog work, some of us processed entries, and we got their show going. We got them their arm bands, and their judges books and their deliverables, and kept them in business during that time. And that’s what we’ve all agreed to do for one another.
LR: I didn’t even know that. That is really actually pretty awesome Becky, I like that a lot.
BS: It is. Ya, it is. So, if we were to have you know, God forbid in this part of the world, a major earthquake or something, we could turn to the other superintendents and say help us, we’re out of commission for a few weeks, and they would do that, and we would do the same for them.
LR: That is very, very cool. Ok, so a final note, talking to our exhibitors, and I ask everybody this, every interview gets to answer this question so you’re not alone: What kinds of things can you think of, what are your recommendations with 30-40years in the sport and your involvement, how can we move forward? How do we improve our sport? What is it that we can all do, each one of us as exhibitors, to make this a better place to be?
BS: Well, one of my pet peeves is mentoring and I blame the internet. And I say that kind of jokingly, but, back in our day when somebody wanted a puppy, they would find a breeder that they wanted to work with. If they were novice, they would be brought along by that breeder and told how to, or shown how to make an entry. We have people come in the office that say I’d like to enter my dog, I’ve got this pure bred dog, comes from a recognizable to me, kennel, and nobody’s told them how to fill out an entry form. So, you know in my day I brought my first dog to show, and it was a Rottweiler so there wasn’t a lot of grooming to do, but I was told to keep it clean, and at the right weight, and you know do the toes and bring it to the show. And I sat on a chair and watched and was brought along that way. And now people buy a dog on the internet, they might ship it across the country. It’s like ok the check’s cashed and you’re on your own. I personally think in most breeds, we’ve got handlers, bless them, and we’ve got pretty serious breeders and exhibitors. And I always go back to this thought of, if I had a puppy that I brought from the East coast let’s say, and I took my 6 or 7-month-old dog to a dog show not having the faintest idea what I should do with it, and walked up to the Rottweiler ring, I’d probably go, oh my God! and run away. So, I think the thing that we can do, and you’re doing it quite well with this podcast, is to mentor. If you somebody that looks scared to death and looks confused, stop and take a minute and say hey, what’s up? Can I help? Give them the benefit of the doubt, give them 5 minutes, 10 minutes, you know be a little bit more welcoming. And I do see that, you know I see people on our social media outlets saying oh this person is new and ha, ha, ha and that kind of thing. No. If you see somebody that’s new, give them some time and help bring them along, and I think that’s probably the best thing that we could do.
LR: Ya. I think that’s awesome Becky, thank you so much. I really, really appreciate your time, I know you are super, crazy busy, and you were very gracious to give us 1/2 hour, and I look forward to working with you more in the future.
BS: Ok, sounds good, I appreciate the time.
LR: Alright, thanks so much
BS: Thanks so much Laura.
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