Carroll County Times

Bentley the dog does 'Selfie Day'

I am writing this on the morning of "Selfie Day."

At least it is Selfie Day for all but teenagers with phones to whom every day is Selfie Day. I do not do selfies for several very good reasons but, in the spirit of the thing, I did post a photo of my dog, Bentley on my Facebook page. Bentley has a problem with the camera. When he sees the camera he becomes shifty-eyed and refuses to look at it straight on. It may have something to do with an ancestral Dingo-based fear that I am trying to steal his soul — he is after all an Australian Cattle Dog and his lineage does go back to the Dingoes of that land.


Whatever the reason the outcome is the same; I have to assure people that, no, I do NOT beat my dog.

I also had a pretty good laugh today. There are four major Kennel Clubs that are having dog shows at Frederick Fairgrounds coming up in the first week of July. I checked it out and was going to brave whatever heat there might be to go down and take pictures for my burgeoning pet portrait business but at the last minute I talked myself out of it. And I will tell you why, too.


I checked out the newsletters of those associations and one of them, I won't say which, had a long letter from a young person that gave reasons why the dog shows are said to be "dying" — that person's description, not mine as I have no information on the health or non-health of dog shows at all. In the letter the young person said that their generation was a very "sensitive generation" — that person's term entirely — and would not be able to stand the, shall we say, rough and tumble attitudes of the older, tougher and more experience professional and semi-professional persons who are already showing.

That young person gave a couple of examples of competitors who were less than sweetly patient with having an avowed new handler on the grounds.

I had to laugh. I tried not to, really I did, but I couldn't help it. What that young person was complaining about was essentially simply life in microcosm. When I was in my 20's I took riding lessons from some male teachers who could leave you with your aspirations shattered and your dreams lying in bits and pieces in the riding ring with smoke coming from any of the pieces still big enough to burn.

It wasn't personal. They did it to everyone.

On a bad day you could finish a lesson that you had paid good money for and leave the ring feeling small enough to walk under a closed door standing upright. I worked for some folks that were pretty much like that even on a good day. The thing that made you stay or go was whether you were learning from them or simply having a miserable life without forward momentum.

Riding in a flat class in a show could be tough and people did, whether they meant to or not, cut you off or ride you into a corner. This was in the bad old days, remember, and in classes of adults. And then there was the simply stupid or self-centered person who was in there like a loose cannon and had to be watched out for.

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I remember collaring a ring steward at a show and telling him that he needed to get a miscreant out of the warm-up ring after he had cut one of my junior riders off for the second time. I remember having the steward tell me earnestly, "It's not personal you know ... he really does that to everyone!"

I remember insisting that it didn't matter and threatening to get a rope. But what I did was call the junior over and tell her to ride with one eye over her shoulder for "that idiot."


In effect I was telling her to get tough or get out and she didn't need that right then but she took it in good spirit and made it work for her on that day and for the rest of the season. It made her better at what she did, too.

So if what the "sensitive generation" dog handler says is true and the dog shows are dying — which I have no proof of — I suppose that they need to run sensitivity classes for the long time dog handlers and the semi pros of that world. I sure would love to be a fly on the wall if they do that. It could be really fun to watch and listen to but I don't think it would change anything in the long run.

Life like that. Get tough or go home.