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The Big E – Education, Education, Education!

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110 – November/December, 2017

BY ELAINE LESSIG

In my last semester as an undergraduate, I was a student teacher. On late Wednesday afternoons, I attended my last required course, Philosophy of Education. There on the blackboard on the first day of class was written this question, “What is an education?” The answer was just below: “Education is the acquisition of knowledge and the ability to use it productively.”

Now, all these years later, I under- stand how prophetic those words were. Whether an owner, exhibitor, breeder, handler, or judge, what we need in our dog lives is education. We want to know what to do and how to do it. The “golden ring” is finding the great mentors who can infuse us with their knowledge, guide us along the way, and, eventually, become our col- leagues and friends.

Mentors have a huge responsibility to encourage, support and to provide their time. These are their gifts, pay- backs, for the help they received along the way. Yet, just like in any ed- ucational situation, not everyone wants to learn. Typically, students divide themselves into three types: users, misusers, and abusers. How are they different? “Users” absorb and apply what they learn. “Misusers” fail to understand or are too disinterested to learn. “Abusers” dispute their mentor rather than learn from them.

Personally, in my thirty years of owning, exhibiting, and breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, I have encountered many of each type of student. The same is true of my mentorships with fellow judges. Among my most rewarding experiences is a recent breeder mentorship. Through a genuine give and take, written materials, endless emails, texts, and phone calls, a fellow breeder realized she needed to incorporate two new DNA tests. Benefitting from the test results, she now knows how to manage future breedings, to safeguard and improve her breeding program, and to preserve our breed.

Often, fellow judges elect to do a kennel visit as one of their enriching components for a judging application. One judge arrived at the agreed upon hour. As the judge marched through the courtyard toward the house, the Cavaliers offered an enthusiastic greeting. The judge commanded, “One dog at a time inside.” I had my Breed Priorities for Judges sheet ready to hand over. Summarily, the sheet went from my hand into a folder. Normally, I start with a puppy and finish with the champions, using dogs of all four colors and both sexes, six dogs in total. After tabling each dog, I then move the champions in the courtyard one at a time. Instead, all that was “re- quired” was one champion of each sex on the table and quickly moved outside. There was no conversation, no questioning, twenty quick minutes, NO interest. This “user” now judges the breed with the same disin- terest and lack of knowledge exhib- ited at the kennel visit.

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110 – November/December, 2017

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