Friday, May 31, 2013

The trouble boys

In just over a week Lark's current litter will be headed for the their new homes. I am thoroughly enjoying them but life will definitely be quieter and a lot less trouble after they have departed. Earlier this week Aristotle figured out how to climb out of a 24" ex-pen. He continued to repeat his feat over and over until this morning, when I replaced the 24" ex-pen with a 30" one. Fingers crossed, so far he remains contained. Plato also managed one up and over yesterday, but I believe he was extra motivated due to it being supper time.

I think this ability shows gumption and I confess I have an extra soft spot in my heart for any of our puppies who manage this feat. Grandma June was the first climber we ever produced, so these boys are simply following one of the (very odd) traditions here at Zephyr Kennel.

Today I took this picture of the trouble boys:

Then I realized I couldn't see their water dish. This is where there water dish usually is:

This is where it was:

Note to self. I really must put a puppy cam up for subsequent litters so I can see what actually transpires while I am away.

What will they come up with next?

When success breeds incivility

While I feel fortunate to be in a breed which can still be successfully owner-handled, and among fanciers who generally work together for the betterment of our breed both in regard to health and structure as well as building points at local shows; as in every breed we do have a subset of fanciers who only seem to consider their own perceived best interest.

I have both experienced and heard tales of being run up on or crowded in the ring and exhibitors who position their in-standing-heat bitches right up against the ring gates while class males are showing. I have witnessed an exhibitor smack the nose of another dog with a pin brush because the dog dared to sniff hers, after she had moved her dog into the other dog’s space. I have seen a handler in our breed storm off to the superintendent’s table after the dog she was showing was not put up by the judge. I have heard of exhibitors muttering very un-sportsman-like comments while either in the ring, or at ringside, close enough for other exhibitors and even the judge to hear. Happily, these events are relatively few and far between in our breed.

Based on my own observations, those most likely to exhibit these behaviors are either big winners or have an expectation of winning. Basic common denominators in regard to the perpetrators are an attitude of entitlement coupled with an aversion to accountability. It is unfortunate these exhibitors perceive success achieved by someone else as translating to their failure. I recognize to a degree this is a broader cultural failing. There is an unhealthy emphasis on winning that permeates down to all areas of our society, including children's sports. I also acknowledge there is an addictive component to winning that is very likely a contributing factor. Who hasn't experienced an adrenaline rush over a big win and longed to repeat the feeling? However, I still believe we should strive for civility, both for the benefit of our breed as well as ourselves.
Toller fanciers still comprise a relatively small circle and most of us at least know of each other if we do not know each other well. A good reputation is of great importance, but reputation is more than how many champions a breeder has produced or how many BIS awards a particular dog has won. Reputation has to do with how you treat people when you are winning, but even more importantly, how you treat people when you are not winning. The next time you are tempted to lash out in an uncivil manner, try following “Thumper's law”. “If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all”.
I recently came across a reference to the "Three Pillars of Civility" which I think are worth noting here. These pillars embody some life skills worth mastering, and are applicable to all areas of life, not just the pure bred dog hobby world:
  • The ability to be respectful of other people while expressing an opinion.
  • The ability to acknowledge and appreciate the fact that opinions differ among people.
  • The ability to engage with other people to constructively move discussion forward.
Those who have not yet mastered these skills should perhaps consider another less emotionally volatile hobby. As for those of you who have witnessed or borne the brunt of uncivil behavior in one form or another; it may be helpful to remember that those who appear most uncivil tend to be most insecure.

For more on a similar topic, check out: Are There Dog Show Bullies?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Looking good for a veteran

June finished her AKC Championship on May 4th by going WB/BOW for a 3pt major. This is an extra special accomplishment since some time ago I convinced myself she would never finish and pretty much stopped showing her except maybe once a year to help build points for an entry. When I did this last December the judge confounded all of my expectations by not only giving June BOW over the dog I was trying to build a crossover point for, he then proceeded to award her BOB over three male Specials! It was at that point I thought, well maybe… Of course June blew her coat soon after so any additional show plans were put on hold until recently. A few weeks ago she picked up 2pts by going WB/BOW at a show in Fond du Lac, WI. Still, that wasn’t the coveted second major we required to finish. When we entered the ring on Saturday I tried to empty myself of any expectations. I was confident she looked good, but the other class bitches were nice too, and it can be difficult to predict what a judge is looking for, and whether your dog embodies it. Happily for us, June did that day! When we had our win shot taken with the judge, he commented to me that "she had the cleanest movement both coming and going". His words meant a lot to me as a breeder because movement is something I tend to focus on, probably because in my younger days I was as stuck on horses as I am now stuck on dogs.

The championship completes June's requirements for the Rusty Jones award, an NSDTRC USA award which showcases the versatility of Tollers by requiring a breed championship, a CD (obedience title) and a WC (field title). In true June fashion the WC was the first title she earned, around 2 years of age.

What’s most amazing to me is that June will be turning 8 in less than a month, so has been eligible to show as a Veteran for almost a year. I've always thought Tollers are a slow maturing breed at their best, so it's pretty special to me that at an age when many breeders are retiring their bitches, June seems to be just hitting her stride in many ways.