I am not a newcomer to the world of dogs and dog showing--- it has been over fifteen years since my first Skye, Ethel, came to live with me. But, in many ways, I still feel like the new kid on the block. With years spent in college, graduate school, and the demands of a new career and starting a full-grown life, it has taken a while to finally have the time and “enough” resources to begin participating more fully in the dog game. While my face at ringside is not a new one, it has only recently become a more frequent presence.
Though I just turned thirty-five, many of the more experienced breeders and exhibitors still comment to me how nice it is to see young people getting involved with the sport. While at times I flatter myself into thinking that perhaps it is my youthful appearance that is deceiving, the crow’s feet forming around the corners of my eyes underscore for me that this is most certainly not the case. While age is relative, and I am younger than many veteran breeders, I have begun to think that age isn’t always the standard for youth.
As I have reflected on this question, “Why do I almost always feel like a nineteen year-old upstart when rolling with the dog show crowd,” I have begun to think that youthfulness really is a state-of-mind. Unlike at my day job, when I’m usually expected to be an “expert,” among the dog show set I give myself permission to ask questions, listen more than I speak, and freely admit that I do not always know the answer. Perhaps it is curiosity, not appearance, which we associate with youthfulness. It may also my be why at work I may sometimes seem like a “cranky old professor,” but on my dog show weekends I get to be the new guy about town.
Embracing the possibilities of curiosity has been incredibly liberating!
I often find that I am beginning to understand many of the things that I thought I already knew. Increasingly, I hope that I am getting better at discerning the difference between good and better information. Mondays after dog show weekends, I find that this curious disposition is bleeding into my day job, and is helping me to see more opportunities for growth in areas of my professional-life where I usually feel more fully-baked.
As one who has achieved very little status in the dog show scene, I do not feel expected to be an expert-- yet. Questions are easy ways to participate in the conversation, as no one is asking me what I think. But, I am hopeful that one day I will have something to offer. And, I am beginning to fear the day when folks may begin to think I have it all figured out. As a dog show “expert,” I’ll be asked to speak from certainty rather than curiosity. I am finding that it is difficult to listen when speaking, and harder to unlearn than learn.