The Gallatin Dog Club is an AKC all-breed club serving southwest Montana, primarily Gallatin and Park counties. The GDC hosts conformation shows, obedience and rally trials, and agility trials. We also host conformation and obedience practice sessions and other events serving to educate the public on responsible dog ownership.
Gallatin Dog Club History 1955 to 2002
Compiled from Correspondence, Minutes & Newsletters
by Judy Shaffer, GDC Secretary, 2003
The idea for the Gallatin Dog Club was conceived in 1955 by a group of collie owners, but the actual organizational meeting for the Club was held September 13, 1956. The original purpose was to: further the community’s understanding of dogs and their acceptance into the community by means of dog obedience training, sponsor dog obedience training classes, sponsor dog obedience trials and sanctioned matches under the rules of the American Kennel Club, and sponsor other related events. Basically it was an obedience club. A seven member Executive Board was elected by those present to organize the club.
Chaired by Samuel Smyrl, the Executive Board proposed names for the club (all of which included “obedience”) but members selected “Gallatin Dog Club as the official name. The Board developed a Constitution & By-Laws and brought forth the first slate of officers which were duly elected in 1956: President Karl Swingle, Vice-President Mrs Walter Storey, Secretary Charlotte Koch & Treasurer Oral L. Jones. Membership dues were $4, $2.67 and $1.33, for Senior member, 2nd Family member and Junior members, respectively. In 2002 the dues are $25, $15 and $10, for Family, Single & Junior memberships, respectively.
February 1957 it was decided to proceed with AKC affiliation, and Secretary Charlotte Koch was directed to compile the information required. AKC approval for the first Sanctioned Show & Obedience Match was received in July 1957.
The first Club newsletter was called the “Bulletin” and it contained a calendar of events, dog related articles by various authors, club gossip (babies born & puppies whelped), litter announcements and much news from other Montana dog clubs. The name of the newsletter was “Canicula” in 1979 through the early 1980s, and most recently simply “Gallatin Dog Club.” In the early newsletters there were obedience class results and reports about local dogs/owners & their winnings in various competitions, and the Club secretary was generally in charge of writing, and disseminating the newsletter. At one time the Club had a paid Executive Secretary as well as a Recording Secretary, as the duties involving newsletter, correspondence, membership, typing premium lists and advertising were so time consuming. Later, the Club paid the newsletter editor $2.50/hr. The newsletter was available free of charge to whoever asked to be placed on the mailing list until 1975, when budget problems ended that policy & the newsletter became available only to members. /p>
The First Sanctioned All-Breed Dog Show and Obedience Trial Match was held at Williams Field August 18, 1957. BIS was German Shepherd #23, Oldeheyde Von Klug Idee. There were 56 dogs & 66 entries with 19 different breeds represented. The Second Sanctioned Match was held March 9, 1958. There were 69 dogs & 80 entries. BIS was a collie, Hunt’s Royal Tudor.
After the second sanction show, the Club was eligible to sponsor a licensed show, and the first Licensed Dog Show and Obedience Trial on May 1, 1959 at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. For many years there were Spring and Fall shows, so by 2002 the Club has probably held more than 50 shows, despite recent show catalogs which indicate otherwise.
The Constitution and By-Laws were adopted October 4, 1956, and Amended January 1, 1956 and September 1, 1970. A safe deposit box was obtained in 1974 to store the Club important papers. The 1956 document held until 1976 when amended & revised By-Laws were formally adopted. This coincided with the Club’s incorporation with the State of Montana as a non-profit organization. The Club had decided to incorporate in 1975. Club member, Bill Butler, spearheaded the effort to incorporate, and his personal home address on Cottonwood Road appears on the incorporation papers filed with the state. The corporation documents require an agent & street address, and this has often been the Club President or Secretary. Following incorporation, the Club got a Federal tax ID number & had an “emblem” designed. Over the years, as membership rotated & the Club’s focus shifted, review & revision or amendments to the By-Laws have been discussed & proposals made, but to date the 1976 document holds. In 1992 a serious effort to revise the Club’s documents was initiated by President Ron Stolba, but did not come to fruition. In 1994 a committee developed & proposed a Code of Ethics, but this was never adopted. In 2002 another Constitution/By-Laws Committee was appointed by President Dick Vincent, to update the 1976 document .
In 1958 there were 13 Club members. The Club rented Post Office Box #454 in Bozeman for its official address, had membership cards made (designating “Charter” for the original members), and started hunting dog training classes. In 1971 the Club got letterhead stationery, after reaching a consensus on design. By the mid-1970s membership was fairly equally divided between Bozeman and Livingston and remained that way until at least 1992. Club meetings were held alternately each month between the two towns for many years. Meeting locations were varied including restaurants, businesses, & municipal buildings. In the early days various members hosted the meetings in their homes followed by “pot luck” dinners and piano or organ playing for entertainment.
The Club started a library of books which could be loaned to members, and over the years added videos. By 1962 the Club even offered books for sale to its members, with a percentage of sale monies going to the Club. Ten years later, in 1972, it was necessary to appoint a “librarian” to keep all the pictures, AKC Gazettes & books “in order.” President Bob Lord in 1973 volunteered to make a scrapbook of show photos from the previous six years. In that same year the Club decided to give its AKC Gazettes to the MSU Library where they could be housed, and bound for safe-keeping. By 1985 the Club was providing subscriptions to both the Livingston and Bozeman public libraries rather than the MSU Library.
In 1977 the Club held an honorary dinner for members Herb & Margaret Moore, Pat Wright and Jo Sykes at the Yellowstone Motor Inn, and passed a Resolution to bestow Lifetime Memberships on the four original remaining members of the Club. These four members contributed consistently to the Club throughout the years as officers, training directors, show chairs and volunteers in general. Their names regularly appeared in meeting attendance records. It must have been quite a nice affair, as the Treasurer’s report revealed a cost of $620.
By 1987 there were 48 Club members, however the April newsletter contained an admonishment to the membership that meeting attendance was poor, volunteers were non-existent and morale was low at the core of the Club. In short there were just too few active members to keep the Club afloat. Throughout the years, regardless of the total number of members, a small percentage have been “active participants,” and this on-going problem has been mentioned routinely in the minutes & newsletters. Several husband/wife members have been prominent in the Club’s records as active members serving as obedience instructors, officers, show chairs, and volunteers: Sam & Myra Smyrl; Herb & Margaret Moore; Larry & Sue Clinton; Bob & Corky Lord; Giles & Sally Cokelet; Ron & Joelene Stolba; and Dick & Twyla Vincent. In 2003 there are 17 Club members & about half are “active.”
The formation of the Montana Kennel Club Association was announced in 1958. The Club joined this association & sent delegates to attend the first meeting on June 15, 1958. The purpose of the association was the “promotion, correlation and organization of dog activities throughout the state of Montana.” The Show & Trial Committee which consisted of one member from each Montana dog club had the duty of coordinating show & trial dates and judge selection throughout the state. The individual clubs paid dues of 25 cents per member; with 13 members, it cost the Gallatin Dog Club $3.25 to belong in 1958.The Montana Kennel Club Association established “The Copper Circuit” of shows which included Yellowstone Valley KC, Gallatin Dog Club, Electric City KC and the Five Valley KC, as well as the Central Wyoming KC in Casper, WY. , and the various member clubs worked cooperatively to plan & execute the dog shows, sharing judges and sometimes show sites. The Gallatin Dog Club has hosted shows at Sacajewea Park (Livingston), the MSU Fieldhouse & Football Stadium, Bozeman High School, the KOA Campgrounds (SW of Bozeman), Helena, MT & Big Sky, MT and the Gallatin County Fairgrounds.
At the early shows, the judges were entertained with trips to Yellowstone Park, rodeo tickets, catered dinners at Club member’s homes & other social events. They were given corsages and other complimentary gifts for their participation. There was much socializing & personal attention given to the comfort of the judges who traveled often from great distances to participate. At the 1975 show a “mobile unit” was rented to serve as a Judges’ Lounge. The Gallatin Dog Club became known for its hospitality and often received letters of compliment from both exhibitors & judges.
Interestingly for an AKC affiliated club, correspondence in 1965 from the Vice-President and Show Chair, Myra Smyrl, indicated dogs must be purebred but need not be AKC registered to enter & compete in the All-Breed Show & Obedience Trial. And, the newsletter in December of 1979 said “We welcome anyone who is interested in promoting the cause, sport and fancy of dogs, purebred or otherwise.”
The first dog training classes began in October 1956, and graduation was held in the Montana State College Livestock Judging Pavilion. In the 50s when the Club used the old livestock pavilion, it employed a student living there to set up, sweep up & dampen the floors for the classes. Sam Smyrl, an MSU grad student at the time, instructed the first classes. A 30-cup coffee pot was purchased so that Club members could enjoy coffee while at dog training classes. Revenue derived from the obedience classes helped to defray the costs of the conformation shows. Dog training (obedience) classes have been a very large part of the Club’s activities until the late-1990s. Classes were held both in Livingston & Bozeman, spring and fall, with graduation exercises. Those who enrolled in the training classes were given free membership in the Club for a year, and automatically placed on the newsletter mailing list.
A German Shepherd, CH Ulk Wikingerblut, was back-to-back BIS in 1961 & 1962 at the Club shows. At the June 1970 show CH Hundred Dollar Bill, a Smooth Fox Terrier won BOB. This is significant as he was bred by Lifetime Club member Jo Sykes and was the second locally bred dog to achieve his championship since the club started. Dorothy Kenck (Treasurer from 1959/60 to 1969/70 & a miniature poodle breeder & exhibitor) bred & owned the Club’s first BIS winner: CH Dorals Viking the Magician. He competed at Westminster in 1972, handled by Robert Peebles of Houston, TX.
In 1975, after almost 20 years of cooperative participation in the Montana Kennel Club Association, the Club delegates were dismayed to learn at the July meeting that the other Montana clubs had already chosen dates for the shows & begun hiring judges. Proposals were brought forth for a one-site show for all the clubs in 1977, but Five Valley KC (Missoula) & Electric City (Great Falls) were adamantly opposed. Yellowstone Valley (Billings) invited Gallatin Dog Club (Bozeman/Livingston) to share a site there, but would not reciprocate. The Gallatin Dog Club members were so upset, there was even a suggestion to not hold a show at all in 1976 to display their unhappiness, but that did not happen. After 1996, however, there is no further mention of Gallatin Dog Club’s participation in the Montana Kennel Club Association.
1976 was the year of the Bicentennial Celebration in Montana and the United States. The Gallatin Dog Club was designated as the official sponsor of the Montana State Bicentennial Dog Show which was held in Billings, MT. For BIS, there was a Governor’s Trophy, a 20th Century Coin set, framed & set in a trophy base; other trophies were 24K plated Bicentennial Coin sets. Trophies for the shows were often purchased locally and sometimes a local shop owner would do a “window display” of the trophies which promoted the up-coming show. Donor “decals” were presented to businesses who supported the Club by advertising or donating trophies. Bozeman artist Ray Campeau provided trophies for the shows many years. In 1970 the trophies were mostly copper to reflect the “Copper Circuit,” and were purchased from the Gift House on Main St. in Bozeman. In 1977 the trophies had a coffee/tea theme: BIS – coffee pot, sugar & creamer; Group winners – teapot; BOB & BOW – mugs. The Club had a die struck to make medallions for trophies, which was lost, so another was re-struck in 1982 and it was decided this time to keep it in the Club’s safe deposit box.
The first mention in the minutes of a Club-owned trailer was in 1978, regarding moving it from President Jorgen Embreus’ Livingston property to Bozeman, following his resignation as Club President. Club show equipment was stored in the trailer, as the hired show superintendents in those days did not provide equipment & set up for the shows. In fact, for many years Club member Jo Sykes contracted with the Club for equipment set up & tear down at the shows. In July 1981 there was a pot luck “trailer cleaning party” at Bogart Park, but only Livingston members showed up! New tires were bought, and it was re-licensed (after a 2-year lapse) and parked at Dr. Tombre’s lot for a $50 donation. In 1987 the Club decided that the trailer was too small, and appointed a committee to find a bigger one. With the employment of show superintendents who supplied the show ring fencing and other show necessities, the need for a trailer to haul the Club’s show equipment diminished, and it was used simply for storage. In the late 1990s the trailer was parked at Secretary Karyn Conner’s ranch in Three Forks. The Club rented a storage unit in Bozeman & decided in 2003 to inventory its property, and determine what should be sold or discarded.
The Club’s financial fortunes have risen and fallen over its history. In the early years, the club simply broke even annually. By October 1978 Club Treasurer Laura VanDiest reported a bank balance of roughly $5,400, but the checkbook had not been balanced so it was decided to have an audit done by Charlie Fox. However, in April of 1979 it was revealed that there were no books to audit. President Jorgen Embreus and Treasurer Laura VanDiest resigned their positions, but were re-elected the next year in a vote of confidence from the Club. Mr. Fox helped the Club set up a bookkeeping system. It was decided that Robert’s Rules would be followed “diligently.” The Club worried about its non-profit status in the late 1970s, thus began a philanthropic phase. The Club paid for the dinners of members attending the monthly meetings. The Club placed monies in interest-bearing Certificates of Deposit. In 1978, the Club was financially so flush that a Special Meeting of the Board was called for the purpose of discussing spending the Club’s “excess” money. In 1980 another audit was performed by Jim Lee, CPA. Expenditures which followed in the 1980s to mid-1990s included: donations to the Humane Society; donations to two Montana girls participating in Jr. Showmanship at Westminster; equipment purchases (3, 12×12 canopies, a TV/VCR, a camcorder, show equipment, 5 grooming tables ($300), a microchip scanner ); annual $500 scholarships to veterinary students at Colorado State Univ., Ft. Collins and Washington State Univ., Pullman were set up and a $5,000 Scholarship Endowment Fund was created; $1,000 donation was made for park maintenance to the dog show friendly City of Livingston. In August 1981 three Club members resigned, including the show chair. A poignant observation was made by Secretary Eunice Nelson, “A small group of people can’t work together in harmony and with understanding but we expect nations to. It gives one pause for thought.”
By the late 1990s, declining revenue from the shows & obedience classes caused the Club to dip into its CDs to fund events & activities. An August 1997 letter from the president of the Helena M KC implores all the Montana dog clubs to meet & get together to work for the benefit of all, and states that the failure of any one club will hurt all the clubs in the state. It appears lean finances were a concern in the dog club community statewide. The Gallatin Dog Club’s withdrawal from the cluster in 1996 was criticized for hurting the revenues of the remaining participating clubs. Then in September 1998 correspondence between Club member Jan Reilly & President Ron Stolba revealed discord within the membership involving the Club’s finances & accounting, and the perception that some members were profiting from their association with the Club. A Special Board meeting was called to bring a motion to dissolve the Club. The motion did not pass. President Stolba resigned from the Club, as did other members. During the late 1990s the Club was under criticism from within & without. By 2000, the Club had only a couple of hundred dollars in its checkbook, was in debt to MSU for approximately $500, and was being held together by a skeletal loyal membership. In early 2002 Club member Nancy Creel amicably withdrew her agility activities from the Club. The Club’s finances (or lack thereof) and expenditures have been a source of friction within the Club since the mid-1970s. A change in financial fortune came in 2002 with a very successful fall conformation show, which netted the Club over $10,000. It was decided to do some long-term financial planning for Club to prevent a recurrence of the financial woes of the late 1990s.
SOME THINGS NEVER CHANGE: In 1958 only three Bozeman hotels did not allow dogs; 44 years later in 2002, six hotels do not allow dogs – the Bozeman hoteliers remain dog friendly. July 1970 newsletter noted that the Club has an on-going problem in keeping new members – which “the Club needs for their enthusiasm, ideas & efforts.” September 1974 minutes said “…if you are planning to show and dislike a particular judge, please contact your Editor or any club officer soon.”In a program presentation by AKC licensed judge Barbara Loeb of Helena on dog shows & breeders in England, she said characterized England as a place “…where pressure to win is not so great & pro handlers are rare…apparently much more sporting.” February 1975 minutes told that members Herb & Margaret Moore were babysitting 8 Norwegian Elkhound puppies, bred by Susan Ellis from Pat Craige’s Vin-Melca line “but their house manners are no better than any other six week old puppies.” In January 1976 the Club meeting was cancelled because of “deep snow and cold temperatures,” and later that same year Show Chair Jorgen Embreus recommended no more outdoor shows because of “what appears to be consistently bad weather in the state.” In 1976, concluding a Club program on responsible breeding practices & the pet population explosion, member Bill Butler said “Puppy mill breeders and careless owners of unspayed bitches must become a thing of the past. It is later than we think.” A 1997 comment in the minutes, “At the Winter Fair, most residents had little knowledge of the dog club & its function” holds true in 2002, as Club members discussed developing a Mission Statement as some were uncertain themselves of the purpose and function of the Club.
As the Club begins its 48th year, with an understanding of the past and a view to the future, the words of former Secretary Eunice Nelson echo “…it gives one pause for thought.”