**A little disclaimer: This post might touch on some sticky topics in the dog world. All remarks are my opinion only and are brought up because they, in my eyes, are relevant to the discussion of the AKC Canine Partners Program. If you'd like, you can ignore my ramblings, and just look at the cute photos. :)**
It didn't really feel like Marge, as a mixed breed, was any different from the other dogs there. That's how I hoped it would be. Perhaps I'm biased as the owner of a mixed breed, but I see no reason why there is an issue with having all dogs compete in Obedience, Agility, and Rally competitions in the AKC. In those events, a dog is a dog.
Some people - mixed breed and purebred owners alike - have said that this is just another way for the AKC to make money. To that, I say, who cares? They are giving me an opportunity to compete locally that I otherwise would not have had. I couldn't care less about the corporate reasons for the decision. What matters is for me to be accepted and welcomed by the majority of my fellow competitors. I hope that the AKC makes a million bucks from it.
I'm a little sad to go to the American Kennel Club's Facebook group to find some negative comments among the many positive ones. One woman said (I'm paraphrasing, the comment was deleted) that she was angry that she would have to "wait in line behind mutts" to get her paperwork filed. Not every person is going to support the Canine Partners program - I completely understand that, and respect opinions that differ from my own. But, in my opinion, a comment such as this gives absolutely no valid reason for disliking the new program, and I think it sends an awful message to mixed breed owners like me who are trying to do something productive with their dogs: You don't belong here.
Another argument advocating against this program is that it gives people an incentive to breed mixed breed dogs, since they will now have AKC titles. In general, I do not support the intentional breeding of mixed breeds. However, I don't think this program really benefits "breeders" of mixed breeds, or at least it shouldn't; dogs listed as Mixed Breeds with the AKC are required to be spayed or neutered. Of course, not every dog can be checked to find out if it has been altered, but I'm sure the AKC will not hesitate to revoke a particular dog's listing number if it is being used for breeding when it shouldn't be.
Besides, as I've found, the world of dog shows is generally all about protecting those who haven't done anything wrong. The reason why no one likes BSL, for example, is that it punishes good owners and dogs for the actions of a select few. Many people do not like mandatory spay/neuter laws because it complicates the work of reputable hobby breeders who place their puppies in proper homes and remain responsible for them for the entirety of their lives. So, how should this be different? Perhaps some will exploit this program for the wrong reasons, but should it not be implemented at all just so those corrupt few can be stopped? (I don't think it will stop them, anyway.) What about the responsible mixed breed owners who don't want to breed, and just want to have fun? What about the rescue dogs like Marge, who want an opportunity to compete close to home? - doG knows, without that opportunity, we wouldn't be able to attend very many trials at all.
Over all, I think this program can do a lot of good. The American Kennel Club is, and always will be, a registry for purebred dogs. This was their original purpose, and it should remain as such. They oversee a great deal of things that uphold the integrity of the purebred dog fancy, something I, one day, will benefit from (I'm sure I'll have both mutty-mutts and purebreds in my life). This decision to allow mixed breed dogs to compete does not undermine the importance of good purebred breeding practices - it only opens a larger population of people to the world of dog training, dog sports, and, most importantly, responsible dog ownership. How can that possibly be a bad thing?
(PS - I ordered the first and third of these photos. Can't wait to get them!)