Owls weren’t always used as umpires, as you call them. Fellow dogs used to serve in this capacity. However, conflicts were common. We dogs, by our very nature, were pack animals and therefore loyal. Real and imagined favoritism happened all the time. We just couldn’t call the game objectively, and the barking that resulted took away from it.
After the owls took over things calmed down. Though most of them were nocturnal, we were able to coax a few of them out into the daylight. No respectable owl would ever admit it, but they enjoyed watching and owling our games, even though they couldn’t play.
The barter arrangement with the owls was a complicated one. There wasn’t an agreed upon trade before any game, but rather, each team would tip at the conclusion. Tips consisted of bugs, reptiles and birds, which were particularly treasured. Yes, the winning packs tended to tip better than the losers, and some of them developed reputations. Do I think the better tippers got the benefit of the doubt on close calls? Yes, however, our arrangement with the owls was far better than relying on some dog’s mother.