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As The Wheels Turn…

We Are Family…

“Some of my peeps may not understand my world. I live sort of like a gypsy. I travel ungodly miles and keep ungodly hours and have an ungodly uproar in my home most of the time. I have a truly wild assortment of friends, acquaintances, frienemies and besties….. I spend 90% of my time with dogs and the people who love them. I am incredibly blessed.

In this crazy, upsidedown, slightly insane, sometimes manic, sometimes depressive, totally pathologic, completely dysfunctional world in which I live are some of the best people I have ever known. These are my family. And I love them as much or more than any blood relative.

I truly never cease to be amazed at the kindness, the sincere caring, the generosity of spirit and the sheer cohesiveness of our family in an emergency. I have seen it time and time and time again. In large ways and in small. Plastered across the front page or simply a footnote. We take care of our own.

And so, a tribute to my people, my tribe, my world. I love you all.”

This is an excerpt from a Facebook post I made at the time of Don and Pat Rodgers’ accident early last year. If there is to be a flavor to this new column, I want it to be this. We might not feel compelled to sing “Koom ba yah,” but I do believe we need to celebrate the community spirit that this sport, at its best, exemplifies. The “we” here includes professional handlers, judges, breeders, owner-handlers, junior handlers, newbies and crusty old farts. We all love this sport or we would spend our entry fee money and free time going on cruises or buying diamond tiaras. We all started somewhere, most of us with a pet quality purebred, and it morphed from there.

Part of the atmosphere of “we” is the concept of learning, always learning. Learning from a breed mentor, from a handling mentor, from a judging mentor. None of you know everything. For sure, I don’t know everything. I learn something new every single day I’m at a dog show, literally. I learn by watching and listening. I might learn more about a breed, a grooming technique, a handling tip, a medical fact to file away, or simply be reminded about compassion or keeping my mouth shut — an area in which I struggle mightily. I also try to teach something every day, whether to a new person in my breed, or an assistant, or a competitor who is having a difficulty.

“Help a competitor? Are you nuts?” Well, actually, no, I’m not. True, I have a job to do, but I lose nothing by helping someone else succeed. Win or lose, I still have the responsibility of conditioning, training, grooming and presenting my charges to the very best of my ability. This is true for any handler — professional or amateur — at any level. As with all aspects of life, differences in experience, commitment and innate skill show in the finished product. And, as with any collection of humans, the good, the bad and the ugly are always with us. Whether they participate in the sport for fun or profit frankly makes no difference in the ratio.

I am routinely dismayed, particularly of late, by the bitter, nearly violent denunciation of professional handlers as a group. The rise of the “us vs them” mentality serves no purpose and I am reminded of the house divided. Many factors play into this phenomena, I believe, including the advent of the internet and social media and the many good and evil uses to which they are put.

With all of this said, I hope to offer some insight, some nostalgia, hopefully a touch of humor, some thought-provoking, some needling or noodling, as the case may be.

If anyone has a question or would like to offer a topic for discussion, by all means, email me at scotiadawgs@gmail.com

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.
  • Karyn Cowdrey April 9, 2014 at 12:22 PM

    Great new column, looking forward to reading it regularly ya crusty ol…. ;)

    When I started I was greener than grass pastures on a spring day but many many different handlers took the time to answer my questions about “why did you do stretch that rear back further” or “what is the best way to positively get judges to start remembering me?” etc… I was smart enough to wait until they were not frantically trying to get 20 dogs into the ring at once and also smart enough to volunteer to literally grab a bucket and help hold a dog or something in exchange for a bit of their time.

    Perhaps because I too am now a crusty ol…. It seems like fewer newer amateurs are willing to politely seek out help but also fewer experienced people including good pros are less willing to dispense it. I think it is important to remember that everyone’s time is valuable and everyone was new once and we all have a lot of offer one another in the scheme of things.. That Newbie might end up being a life long client, that Pro might give you just the right advice about how to gait your dog and you finish your first Bred By Champion and that compels you to dive deeper into the sport and eventually become a breeder/judge. At the end of the day, the judges decide who walks out with what ribbon but YOU get to decide if you walk out the winner :)

    Thanks for reminding us we all NEED one another in this sport if this sport is to survive and thrive Laura!

  • Lynda Beam April 9, 2014 at 2:46 PM


  • Al DeVos April 9, 2014 at 8:52 PM

    Riley was one of the lucky young handlers that you and many other professional & owner handlers took under their wing and helped become not just great handlers but great young adults who are responsible, trustworthy & caring. There really is something special about dog show people. Riley was 15 when she started in dog shows. I friend of the family got her started by bringing her to a local dog show and having her help out. It took off from there and she became a very accomplished handler because of people like you. Many times Riley has traveled to shows through out the USA with you and other handlers and not once did I truly worry about if she would be ok because the dog show world is one big family and I knew there were many great people like yourself watching out for her.
    So Thank You again for all the great things you have done! We miss you in the Midwest.

  • Joanna de Assis April 10, 2014 at 2:40 AM

    I run a group in Facebook called Cocker Spaniel Lovers!, and the thing I most hear over there is the beginners complaining about how hard is to compete in the sport and to find a good mentor. I am in dogs since I am 8 years old, and in dog shows since I was 15, and I can remember myself how hard it was. I begun with English Cockers and now I breed American Cockers. To survive in this world needs persistence, courage and trust. I saw many people giving up because of wrong advices or choices, but also saw many people that are still here and willing to carry on. I am one of them, almost 40 years old now, always ready to learn and teach, with so much love in my heart as when I first begin! We are brave, some people may say eccentric, but we are loyal to our soul. Welcome to the Dog World!

  • Fran Stephens April 12, 2014 at 10:02 AM

    Great article, Laura. Promise says hello.

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