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Life with dogs rewarded

Pat Dance of Featherston is made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to the New Zealand Kennel Club in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. PHOTO/EMMA BROWN

Patricia (Pat) Jane Dance – Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the New Zealand Kennel Club

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Pat Dance of Featherston was absolutely mortified to be contacted about becoming a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to the New Zealand Kennel Club.

“It took me ages to say ‘yes’ because there are so many other people, always aren’t there that do things – masses of people who have done lots of things.

“The thing that swayed me is I believe this is the first time our sport has ever been acknowledged in this way.

“It puts our sport on a level with rugby, hockey, and netball,” she says.

Dance has held numerous leadership positions in the kennel club since joining in 1971, supporting educational activities for judges and stewards, and becoming the first woman to manage the National Dog Show.

She was a mediator of disputes between clubs and members throughout the country and played key roles when the national organisation went through a difficult time.

Last year, she formed Pedigree Dogs New Zealand to educate people about pedigree dogs.

It’s been a life of loving dogs.

“I think I showed my first dog when I was six, that would have been in 1956,” she says.

It was in England and the dog was a Cairn Terrier, a breed she still has today.

She came to New Zealand in 1971, living first in Dunedin.

Showing dogs in New Zealand was really enjoyable because it was smaller, and it was something that everyone could compete in.

“It was more expensive in England. It was very much a welcoming family situation here.”

She lived for many years in Wellington and moved to Featherston recently.

During her show career she achieved two to three Best of Show awards with Cairn Terriers.

“It was amazing then because it was a breed that seldom won, and it was quite exciting”.

She had to give up dog showing and judging after back surgery in about 1990 but continued with the sport as an administrator.

“I had a judging appointment in Australia and all I could think about was my back, so I thought pack it in.”

She judged shows for about 10 years, including several appointments in Australia.

So, why did she form Pedigree Dogs New Zealand?

She says the New Zealand Kennel Club is for all dogs and encompasses agility, obedience and confirmation, which is dog showing.

“I formed pedigree dogs because I wanted to assist Dogs NZ to look after our breeds. It is not working with them, not against them.”

She says there is so much bad publicity about pedigree dogs.

“We need to show the public there are a lot of really good breeders doing wonderful health testing and making the breed really fit and healthy and that is my mission in life.”

The organisation does pet expos and has handouts to explain about pedigree dogs.

Dance says a pedigree dog should be a first choice.

“If not then rescue, rescue, rescue.”

She says crossbreed dogs often, but not always, come from puppy farms which should not be encouraged.

“We say these are the reasons pedigrees are good, and if not, there are masses of dogs to rescue. I work quite closely with HUHA [Helping You Help Animals].”

She says dog showing in New Zealand is nothing like it was.

While there are no professional handlers as in other countries people have become more professional in their approach, partly because so much money is at stake. It can cost $25,000 to import a pedigree dog.

If you spend that much you want a dog to do well at a show.

“It has changed but life has changed in most things,” she says.

She enjoyed her time as a mediator of disputes. “In the kennel club there is always a fight,” she says with a laugh.

“I liked it. I am a nurse, so I am quite good at mediating.”

Her wish is that young people keep coming into dog showing.

She says, “youngsters have so many choices now” and “you can’t stick a dog in a cupboard like golf clubs”.

There are an awful lot of people doing a lot of work behind the scenes to keep dog showing going and the sport needs administrators to come through as well as competitors.

“I like to think the children sit there and look, and think ‘I’ll have a go’.”


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