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 email@example.com