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As the Wheels Turn


You’ve heard the old standard about putting the emPHAsis on the wrong sylLAble? It seems a significant percentage of our sport suffers from this ailment.

“We make our living off other people’s egos…..”

This sage advice was imparted to me by one of the handlers I worked for back in the day. Certainly, this somewhat cynical observation has some level of truth. Ego plays a far larger role in our sport than most anyone would be willing to admit.

“Thank you! Oh my God, thank you! You just made my dreams come true!”

Said to me by a sobbing 70something client who bred and owned the dog I had just piloted to best in show. Her body was twisted and gnarled from the results of a drunk driver crashing into her and the effects of crippling arthritis. She could no more run around the ring than I could fly to the moon. She had been involved in her breed since it’s acceptance into the AKC’s registry and dreams of that moment had sustained her through a great many personal hardships.

So, I’ve chosen to think of my job, instead of serving outsized egos, as fulfilling dreams. It’s a personal choice of perspective. Life is just too short.

Misplaced emphasis and upside down priorities in this sport impact not just the show ring, but many whelping boxes and dog clubs. Breeding to a top winner simply because it wins, with no clue about pedigree research; chasing the almighty rankings & ribbons at the expense of the dog’s and handler’s well being; “all-about me” mind sets that gridlock our clubs…. These are all examples of focusing on the wrong things.

Ours is a sport, or should be, of aesthetics, yes, but ethics as well. A place to venerate beauty while simultaneously seeking to produce, present and promote dogs which truly represent the very best of everything in their breeds.

I encourage each of you to dream big, aim high and choose to place your emphasis where it counts… not on yourself, but on doing the right thing — for the dogs in your care, for your breed, your peers, your clubs and the sport.

Just imagine.

As always, this is JMHO….

Written by

Our family always had dogs. Mutt dogs, purebred dogs, but always dogs. I grew up with dogs everywhere. My mother eventually enrolled me in dog care 4-H because I was “shy and retiring and lacked people skills”….. I am the living testimonial to the success of the 4-H program! I continued into AKC shows as my family transitioned from “dogs” to the wonderful world of Purebred Dogs. I showed all of our family dogs in conformation and participated in Junior Showmanship competition. I went to college, earned a degree and worked as a newspaper reporter and freelance writer. Today, I am an AKC Breeder of Merit and a member of the Professional Handlers Association.
  • Leonore April 23, 2014 at 9:16 AM

    hear, hear!!

  • Kellie Miller April 23, 2014 at 9:23 AM


    Now I know why you and I get along so well…….

    Cheers Friend!!


  • Linda G. April 23, 2014 at 10:06 AM

    My philosphy exactly. I find too many with the $$ are only interested in feeding the ego, but they often pay for the rest of us to chase the dream.

  • francee & hollie April 23, 2014 at 11:11 AM

    very well said! it should always be about dreams….hopes and dreams!

  • MIchelle Koban April 23, 2014 at 7:17 PM

    What a nicely written, well thought out piece! Kudo’s to you!

  • Karen April 26, 2014 at 10:47 AM

    I do not find poor sportsmanship at the shows but in the folks putting together a panel for the next show. Someone wants a certain judge because they can win under that judge. Nothing to do with the best dog or the handler owns that judge and that is their handler. Really! I believe that the owner handler has the best dogs in the classes and mostly as a special. The owner handler mostly is not as well versed in handling and it is much easier when you are not emotionally involved with the dog, so the handler has the advantage, also because they go to many more shows than the owners. I for one with not show to judges that I do not respect. Like in my breed there are dogs all over the place in size, the handler can take a over or undersized dog and finish it or special it, or one with a fault that the owner does not want to show. I understand that the handler is making a living at this but why? A sport where the owner and the pro have to compete together, I know that the AKC has made all these classes for the owner but the owner that chooses to or can’t go into the ring find a way to get their pro in these classes. Its too bad that people have to cheat for a win, or its all about winning not for the good of pure bred dogs.

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