I am what is known as a first generation dog person. During the summer before I entered the fifth grade, I earned money by working odd jobs for my parents. I took that money and bought myself a purebred dog, a dachshund I named Jasmine (Not after the flower, but because I thought Jasmine from Disney’s® Aladdin was incredibly beautiful) Through a series of almost lucky accidents, my parents and I found a local owner/breeder/handler who was willing to train me, a 110% novice, about dogs, dog shows, and AKC. Ten months later I went to my first dog show and I was hooked. Eleven years later, the dog world is the single most influential item in my life, save my parents, who were and continue to be incredibly supportive of my hobby. When I left for college, my parents gave me a poster which was headlined “Everything I Need to Learn I Learned From My Dog.” That poster, which now hangs in my tiny living room in my tiny apartment, contains lessons that we all learn sometime in life, and which I learned from my dogs, dog shows, and dog people. The influence of dogs on my life has shaped who I am and who I will become.
Lesson 1: Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your
face to be pure ecstasy.
Lesson 2: If you want what lies buried, dig until you find it.
This new found work ethic did not end at the show’s borders. I wanted good grades, so I worked hard and made it happen. I joined my high school’s speech team, and while I fumbled in competition for the first two years, by my senior year I had placed 4th at the state competition. Yes, there are some things that I wished to do or be good at where I failed miserably, such as skateboarding. Or singing. Especially singing. But at least I know I can’t skateboard or sing and I know longer have to wonder if I can or cannot. I wanted something that was buried, so I dug.
Lesson 3: When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close
by and nuzzle them gently.
Even outside of the ring, everyone has a bad day. I have a motto that I write on every page of my daily planner; “Think Positive, Be Positive.” When you are having a bad day, whether because you lost with your top ranked poodle, didn’t do so well at that history test, or perhaps lost your job, one must keep their chin up. At times though, everyone needs help keeping perspective. This lesson has taught me that sometimes you are the one doing the nuzzling, and at others you are the one that needs nuzzled.
There are many other lessons on that poster that I have learned from dogs, such as Lesson 13, Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do. More often than not something is a misunderstanding, not an attack on your character. There are others, such as Lesson 24, Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough, that I still need to learn. I certainly eat with gusto and enthusiasm; it’s the stopping that I find so difficult. There is little doubt that my continuation in the fancy will present me with the opportunity to learn many, many more lessons.
So what is my future in the sport? It seems every year when I am presented with this question, my answer has changed. At this point, I do not know what my official capacity in the sport will be. For a while, it was my goal to be a professional handler. I no longer wish to do that, though I do have great respect for the handlers, because after working for numerous handlers over a period of seven years, I have learned that it isn’t always an easy life. What I do know is that I will continue to be active in the local dog club to which I belong. Once I have graduated college and can live in an area that allows me to have dogs, I will reconstitute my suspended breeding program. I will also stay active in the juniors ring by continue to judge. This summer, if all goes according to plan, I will finally finish my provisional assignments for judging junior showmanship. I continue to work with the few interested juniors in my area, to pass along what I have learned. I think Lesson 99 sums it all up; The future comes one day at a time; make time everyday to romp, play, and wag your tail.