Connecting the dots of past and future
“As the dog world loses yet another stalwart, Simon Parsons reflects on the need to look beyond the here and now
The recent death of Jean Lanning made me think about various aspects of our world and especially about the continuity that is so important to all aspects of breeding and showing dogs.
I never understand those people who are interested only in the ‘here and now’ of our hobby. Even more important is the future – what direction are our breeds headed in and how can we as breeders, judges or commentators have an influence on that direction. Indeed, the true dog person tends to wish their life away as they plan the next mating, look forward to the puppies, nurture them and watch how they develop, plan their show campaign, and so on for generation to come. And you cannot understand the present or plan for the future unless you appreciate the past, how and why the breeds are established an how the have developed over the decades.
Online pedigree resources bave made the act of connecting the past. with the present and beyond so much easier, especially if there are also archives or publications that illustrate this progression. Personal memories, too, have their part to play, but how often do they survive the death of those whose recollections go back so far?
Jean was 91
Jean was 91 when she died peacefully, and had been passionately involved with the show ancl breeding worlds since she wasa young girl, encouraged by supportive parents. Over that time she had seen many changes, about some of whicb she had strong views that characteristically she was never afraid to express. At times it was tempting to dismiss some of these views as rooted in the past and out of kilter with modern ideas.
Perhaps in certain cases they were, but she and others of the generation who lived through the dramatic post-war expansion of the pedigree dog world and then the more recent contraction in the show scene could take a long view, and it was always worth listening, even if one couldn’t always agree.
Over the years, I’ve interviewed leading dog people, especially the outstanding breeders, for Dog World and for breed club publications,
So much wisdom is lost forever
But when you consider the memories that people like Jean and her generation had of the great dogs and clog people of years gone by, it makes me wish I had done more of them, and in more detail than was normally possible. So much wisdom is lost forever each time we say goodbye to great dog people, be they top breed specialists or those with a wider perspective. Perhaps this is something that breed clubs should encourage – many do include such interviews in their publications and it would be great if more did so.
One of the consolations of lockdown has been that both social media and the dog publications have included more of this sort of thing – let’s hope this can continue even when the show scene gets going again.
Mentioning Jean also reminds me that she was a classic example of how a deep, lifetime interest in a subject like ours can keep one young at heart. lt certainly did in her case, and she still had judging engagementsbooked, where she would no doubt have turned up in her Mini Cooper, which must have been a familiar sight to many as she sped down the Hampshire lanes.
A deep and abiding love for the Kennel Club
Jean also had a deep and abiding love for The Kennel Club, which she served for years as a member of various committees. She did not allow reaching the retirement age to dim her enthusiasrn for keeping abreast of what was going on in Kennel Club circles, as I’m sure the subsequent chairmen can testify. She could be guaranteed to speak on at least one topic at every annual meeting and I’m sure her presence will have been much missed at the virtual AGM in June.
Also clone and dusted by now should (touching wood as I write) be the first of the post-Covid general championship shows. Let’s hope they went well, with no extremes of weather. At some stage, when things are back towards some sort of normal,
it would be good to celebrate the Jives of those wonderful characters we have lost in the period since Crufts 2020 – not with solemnity or sadness but in gratitude forwhat they contributed.”
From: The Kennel Gazette, August 2021, p. 34