Years ago, we took a plunge and showed a barely out of puppyhood pied boy at Westminster. Everyone knew that pieds never won at Westminster, just as everyone knew that the top winning cream dog was a sure thing to win breed.
I’ll never forget the moment that the judge pointed to Rebel for Best of Breed. I instantly burst into tears, and just as instantly apologised to everyone around me for being such an idiot. The owner of Perry (the dog everyone was sure would win), congratulated me soundly, and told me to ‘go ahead and cry!’.
By contrast, a little later that afternoon I ran into the owner handler of another dog we’d beaten, who said to me scornfully ‘It’s amazing what some judges will put up, isn’t it?’. All these years later, and it’s their scornful dismissal of our win that I remember almost as clearly as I do the joy.
I almost never re forward things, but in a time when so many people complain about a lack of sportsmanship in conformation showing, these are really words to live by.
I’ve never forgotten what I was first told about showing – you can always find something to compliment in another person’s dog, and you can only hope that they’ll do the same for you.
DON’T YOU DARE STEAL MY JOY
by Connie Cleveland
On the occasion of my tenth anniversary, my husband asked me how I wanted to
celebrate. I asked that we take a very dear friend, my adopted grandmother
and one of the greatest of all the great southern ladies, out to dinner with
At dinner, my husband, Brian, presented me with a diamond ring. It was
gorgeous and I was speechless, but even as I thanked him, I worried about
the expense and extravagance of such a gift. As if he knew that the next
line belonged to my grandmother, my husband excused himself from the table.
He was barely out of sight when she reached across the table and grabbed me
by the shoulder, “I know what you’re thinking, I know you think he couldn’t
afford it and it’s too extravagant. I don’t care if he had to put a second
mortgage on the house to buy it, don’t you steal his joy! It’s beautiful.
Accept it as the token of his love that it is and say nothing about how he
shouldn’t have bought it for you.” Then she repeated, “Don’t you dare steal
That was the end of the conversation. She sat back in her seat, smiled at my
returning husband, and we had a lovely dinner. I took her advice and put my
reservations out of my mind. The ring has never come off my finger, but most
importantly, I learned a wonderfully important lesson, never to steal
another man’s joy.
Are you a joy stealer?
“You know if my dog hadn’t gone down on the sit, I would have won the
class”, said, unfeelingly, to the winner.
“I sure didn’t think your dog worked that high a score.”
“I can’t believe you placed, I thought Jane Oneup and her dog would beat
“I thought I had that class won! My dog had a great performance, ” said to
“Isn’t that judge an idiot? I can’t believe the dogs he put up!” said to the
“Boy, aren’t you glad Mrs Winallthetime wasn’t here today or you might not
“You passed that Master test because the water blind was so easy.”
“That was the stupidest set of water marks I’ve ever seen. No trial should
end that easily,” said to the winner.
Do you discourage or encourage fellow competitors? Do you tell them their
goals are too lofty and their dreams too big? Are you trying to be helpful
or trying to keep them from accomplishing something that you never had the
ability or perseverance to do yourself? It is equally as harmful to steal
joy by destroying the dream.
“No Basset Hounds get UD’s,” said to the owner of the Bassett in Utility
“I’ve never seen a Rottweiler that could do fronts and finishes”, said to
the owner of the Rottweiler practicing fronts and finishes.
“Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a UD and a Master Hunter? Do you
know how few people have ever done it?” said to the first time dog owner
setting out to do both.
When FC AFC OTCH Law Abiding Ezra had both his field championships and 65
OTCH points including all the necessary first places, someone had the guts
to come up to me, his owner, trainer and handler and say, “No dog will ever
be a field champion and an obedience champion.” My jaw drops when I think
about it. Isn’t it unfortunate that I remember this attempt at stealing my
joy much more than I remember all the cards and letters and congratulations
I received when those last 35 points were earned?
If you are willing to destroy someone’s dream, perhaps you don’t realize
that it is the JOY of pursuing the dream that keeps the dreamer motivated,
not just reaching the accomplishment.
My husband and I travel and compete together. I remember an event, early in
our relationship when I watched his Doberman fail articles. “Darn it, ” I
said, as he came out of the ring,” she didn’t even try to find the right
one!” “Oh”, he replied, “but, weren’t her heeling and signals wonderful?”
Unknowingly, I had almost stolen his joy. He was celebrating the improvement
on the exercise that had been giving him trouble, and I was focused on the
failure. Since that experience, Brian and I have learned that the best
response to a questionable performance, “What did you think?” That way, if
the handler is excited about some aspect of the performance, you can share
that excitement. If the handler is disappointed in another aspect, you can
share the disappointment. You are safely removed from being a joy stealer.
I hope you have a lot of dreams and goals for your dogs in (the coming
year). Undoubtedly there will be moments of disappointment as you venture
through the landmines of injury, failures and other setbacks. Remember that
the joy of the journey is worth the difficulties along the way and don’t let
anyone steal that joy. Guard it well and at he end of the road you can own
it and revel in it with all the other memories of the trip.