“When I first started, I was amazed by the ‘trading favors’ system,” said a young handler friend this weekend. Her comment sort of startled me, and got me thinking about this unique and worthy tradition in the sport. “I mean, wait, what? You show my dog and I get paid? What’s that about? What other job is that a thing? I mean I can’t just go sing somebody else’s concert.”
This is not a secret, by any means, in the tribe of professional handlers, but it is a quiet reality. We all help each other. It’s part of our unwritten code of ethics. Conflicts frequently require covering and an assistant is not always available or the right person for the job.
Enter the world of handlers and their network of friends and acquaintances trusted to help show the dogs on their string. The “hat in hand” look when somebody shows up at your setup at 7:15… “What do YOU have at 8 (or 9:15 or 10:30)?” Or the frantic arm wave from a ring that’s running long as you stroll by, “Can you go take that dog in? I’ll try to make it.” And if you are able, you do it, gladly, so that when YOU have a giant cluster the next day, or the next week or the next month, you have favors “in the bank” so to speak.
Additional unwritten rules:
Don’t hand off a problem dog. I once, as a young handler, had somebody hand me a very spooky Dalmation and say, “Here, go show this.” I did, the dog freaked on the exam and was excused. This makes me look bad and is not the way to “win friends and influence people.”
Give fair value. If you need help, be sure to offer help to others. What goes around really does come back around — either good or bad!
Don’t hustle your friends’ clients! And, on the flip side, be aware that if you hand their dogs off too often, your clients may go looking for a new handler…
For the clients, try to be fair and reasonable with your handler. You have hired them to do the best for your dog. Trust their knowledge and experience and let them do their job. As much as most of us have longed to be cloned, it hasn’t happened yet and we can only be in one place at a time.
Meanwhile, in the land of peace and love, Woofstock again drew an enormous entry (pushing 3,000) of top quality dogs from all over the country. What a series of beautiful lineups we saw in every ring, from the breeds right up through Best in Show! The host clubs are well-organized, handle every detail beautifully and sincerely work to make this an over-the-top *event.* I spoke with many folks who were attending for the first time and were just in awe. And, as the silly outfits, groovy music and outrageous decorations lowered people’s angst, there really was a more relaxed and relaxing environment. Judges were all in good moods, laughing and joking, which, in turn, helped the exhibitors have more fun.
It really is a testament to the power of music, to the dedication of a small group of people and the sport as a whole. How many people said this weekend, “I wish *every* dog show could be this much fun…”? I personally heard it more than a dozen times.
In the Year of Living Well, peace out dude.
As always, this is JMHO.