A year or so ago I encountered a very dear old friend, quite visibly upset. He wouldn’t talk about it. But his wife filled me in a bit. A “hot” young handler had “dissed” the very successful elder statesman and he was deeply hurt.
I was sad for my friend, but it wasn’t something I could fix. Until the young man, who happens to be someone I also know and generally like, started running his mouth at me on the topic.
My response went something like this: “Don’t! Just don’t open your mouth. You don’t have the chops for it. (Insert handler’s name) has been doing this for twice as long as you’ve been alive! Part of being professional is respecting your elders.”
“NO! I said don’t do it! Keep your mouth shut. You don’t have to like or agree with him, but you show respect where it is due.”
The young man’s eyes bugged out, but he quit yapping, at least to me.
I suppose part of the nature of our sport makes folks want to “take out” the competition…. Sort of like young animals vying for position as alpha in the pack, challenging the old “bull of the woods,” if you will. Nonetheless, it is disconcerting to watch established, successful breeders, handlers, club members, you name it, being baldly, even boldly, disrespected by younger, greener over-achievers.
Certainly, a changing of the guard takes place naturally as we all age and slow down. That is reality. My observation is more to do with a generational shift taking place in a far larger tableau than just our tiny tadpole puddle of pure-bred dogs.
I have tremendous admiration for the talented handlers who worked hard, did their time, learned from the masters and moved on. I don’t regret my college degree or my time at a “real” job, but I freely admit, there are days I envy those folks. I’ve learned an awful lot the hard way. I learned even more by the grace and generosity of people far wiser and longer on this Earth.
On the other hand, fewer young adults are being taught that success and respect are earned rather than bestowed. I am not enough of a sociologist to pinpoint where the “entitlement” mentality started. Nonetheless, serving an apprenticeship, which begins with dog walking and poop patrol, is more frequently eschewed in favor of the “glamour” of running around the ring.
Just by way of comparison, one of my first assistants worked for me for 6 years, from the time he barely outweighed the Akitas he was ex-ing. That young man graduated, joined the Marines, served over-seas and is now raising a family of his own. Another of the kids, back in the day, worked a four-day circuit, on concrete, running 20 dogs out of the setup, 18 hour days, with a broken foot. He never once complained. I didn’t even know he was hurt until the trip home, when he ‘fessed up.
Conversely, I had a young woman working for me (very, very briefly) a couple years ago. She dissolved in tears when I asked her to double-check water buckets and dry beds for the dogs in the truck on a cold, miserable January circuit. I was roundly denounced as a meany — that has actually been said more than once, just as a matter of full disclosure. That young woman, promptly upon turning 18, began billing herself as a “professional” handler.
Respect. It’s an extraordinarily rare commodity and should be valued accordingly. Demonstrate it. Earn it.
As always, this is JMHO……..