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“Learning” a Breed… the True Mentoring Process

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62 – May, 2020

By Amy Fernandez

Lately, there’s lots of talk about the AKC’s judges’ approval process. What else is new? They’re constantly revamping and debugging the system. Even people going through it admit they can’t keep up with the endless barrage of policy changes. But we can agree that for awhile now mentoring has been a major aspect of it. Theoretically, nothing beats learning a breed directly from an acknowledged expert. So the real issue here comes down to A) what constitutes “learning” a breed, and B) what constitutes a genuine “expert”. I mean does someone qualify as an expert simply because they somehow survived a decade of dog club politics? Does hanging about and having a bunch of dogs automatically qualify as expert credentials at the ten year milestone? Both are very ambiguous terms and therefore touchy subjects we will not explore right now. Even so, you can’t deny that mentoring, per se, has been the primary educational channel for most of purebred history. There’s really no other way to truly master such a vast and complex subject.

So I thought it might be interesting to describe a real life mentoring experience back in the old days…before AKC started setting the parameters.

“I got my first Dachshunds in the early ‘60s” Jane Fowler, noted breeder/judge, and for many years the better half of that iconic, colorful pro handler Bobby Fowler was lucky enough to learn her breed from the best. And the Dachshund world was brimming with living legends back then.

“I was out in Colorado at the time and my original Smooths came from a woman in Denver,” Jane recalls. “Her name was Thelma Louise Beeler. Thelma’s husband, Jack, showed the dogs they bred and they had several BIS and group winners, which was [and still is] a feat for an amateur handler. Thelma took me under her wing; she was very knowledgeable. She was a hard taskmaster but I learned a lot from her. She knew what she liked and she understood the importance of pedigrees. Her breeding program was based on the California stock.” In contrast to many breeds at that time, the West Coast was a goldmine of Dachshund quality that remains unsurpassed to this day. Jane says, “Thelma was a very good friend of the Heyings and Ray and Gene Shultis. They were my first mentors in the breed and some of those old dogs were still being shown, so I remember them.”

The thing is that dogs of that caliber do not come along that often. Imagine having the chance to see Bang Away of Sirrah Crest or Ch. Puttencove Promise, for example. Yes, there’s pictures, historical records, but based on personal experience, no amount of secondhand research surpasses that upfront learning opportunity. I saw Kojak Kavalier, Moonswift Captain Christy, and those dogs truly were jaw dropping. As far as ideal Chinese Crested type, I have seen it firsthand. That stuff instantly recalibrates whatever you think you know about your breed.

Click here to read the complete article
62 – May, 2020

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Posted by on May 16 2020. Filed under Current Articles, Featured. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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