Once upon a time I showed dogs, bred champions, trained in obedience and agility, did all the proper health testing even if there wasn’t a problem in my breed, and even trained to be an AKC judge. I then went through a crisis and ended up letting it all go. So now, I enjoy my pets but they are not particularly trained.
Recently I spent a lot of time getting some scheduling moved around so that I could return to attending the meetings of our local kennel club. Why? Because I saw an old acquaintance coming out of Church and thought how much I had enjoyed the people I knew in the local kennel club. And now, I sit here typing away, missing the meeting I worked so hard to be able to attend because I am not sure that I actually want to go to kennel club meetings anymore. What is more, I find I am not sure why.
Did I only think I wanted to go because of nostalgia? I enjoyed my friends in the kennel club. I did not enjoy the infighting. I enjoyed interaction with and learning from my fellow dog breeders. I did not enjoy the nasty anti-breeding and animal rights infiltration. I enjoyed the beauty of the dogs. I did not enjoy the pressure to perform and the nastiness that was directed at me when I won. I enjoyed time with my dogs, but I did not enjoy grieving each one as their natural lives came to a close leaving me wishing for another day with them.
I am wondering if I am missing the good things and wanting to turn back the clock, but forgetting the other side, and forgetting that my life is further along and has taken other turns. I do not want to be going to a dog club because I want to turn back the clock to my younger self. If I attend, I want it to be because I still enjoy those good things and want to see if I can find more.
Yet, I don’t take my dog out to train. I let him run about and be ignorant of the many things I used to insist my dog understand. My relationship with him isn’t close as it would be if I had put a Companion Dog title on him. I am sorry for that but aware that I am not motivated to get out a leash and do the work. Why?
Is it because I am no longer willing to experience the grief I feel when a dog I have trained goes down the expected trail of old age to the inevitable goodbye. I am foolish in my avoidance because I will grieve anyway because he is a good dog in his own unique way. No two dogs are alike, no matter how carefully bred, no matter if nobody else can tell them apart, they are unique as snowflakes. Every loss is a knife in my heart.
There is more. My friends have moved on in their lives and most of them no longer live here. Most of my mentors have passed away and I will feel the lack of their presence so much more strongly when I go to a kennel club meeting and they are not there. These were good people. They loved their dogs and worked hard to preserve their breeds with healthy lineage. They taught me about health testing, temperament testing, training and showing. They taught me to think objectively even about a dog I loved so that my breeding decisions were good ones. They taught me that if I could not handle the inevitable grief that would come that I should not even try to be a breeder. It is not easy to do it right, but worth the effort to preserve what is good and beautiful about a particular breed of dog.
I have changed some too. No longer do I approve of refusing stud service. I have seen the gene pool of breeds shift toward the poorly bred because the breeders who are the preservers of the healthy genetics are refusing to spread the good genes around and thus causing the gene pool to skew away from the healthiest dogs! Oh, that pains me that I was once stingy with the healthy genetics I was called to conserve.
I am missing my kennel club meeting because I fear the grief. The grief of persons who have died and I miss them. The grief over the many dogs over the years that I have loved and who have died and I miss them. The grief over the lost opportunities to help my breed of dog, and I sorrow. I see the way the culture has moved to being hostile toward purebred dogs and those who love and preserve them, and a grieve the change.
I wonder. If I moved past the grief would I once more take up my favorite leash and take a dog to obedience classes? Do I need to return to kennel club to face that grief?
Right this moment it is questions without answers, or the answers are there but I am not yet able to see them. I just know that I didn’t go tonight and my heart is heavy.
Dear Lord, I don’t really know if I should have gone, or will go next month. Please help me do what is healthy and good. +Amen.