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Very early in my adulthood I had the honor and privilege to attend a 4H leaders conference as representative of my home county Nottoway, Virginia.


November 30, 2021

Vickie Haywood, Dog Sports Editor, SAAB


I had a 4H dog group that had been very successful in district and state competition, garnering accolades in both Senior and Junior 1st place winners. I cannot remember the speaker's name but in the very first 10 minutes he had the entire conference in his hands. The Theme was "Building For Tomorrow". He began with this poem and spent the whole week building on it:


Princes & Kings


Isn't it strange how princes and kings,

and clowns that caper in sawdust rings,

and common people, like you and me,

are builders for eternity?


Each is given a list of rules;

a shapeless mass; a bag of tools.

And each must fashion, ere life is flown,

A stumbling block, or a Stepping-Stone.”

― R. Lee Sharpe



That poem has come to me over and over again, not just in working with 4H kids but also in teaching groomers and mentoring new dog breeders as a leader within my poodle club. Working from the image that each of us is a vessel or a cup if you will, we have the capacity to hold, sip, spill or even dump our contents at will.


Someone's kindness to us puts something into our vessel and throughout the day we dribble out kindness to others. No matter where we are in the learning process that we call life, we have wisdom to impart, love and kindness to share all the while gathering more of each into our own cup.


I am pretty sure, at some time, as club members and dog breeders, we have had an empty cup!


For whatever reason, dog clubs, dog shows, or other circumstances drain us dry and we are left as dust in the wind... Then along comes someone, a club member or an odd circumstance that begins to fill us once again. A compliment, a smile, someone holding a door, a phone call from a friend not heard from in some time. The simple words from your partner, friend or child " I love you" can add much volume to your vessel.


As people of the dog show world, let's look at that poem again. We too are builders but when you think about it, isn't it strange that princes and kings, the elite of the dog world, caper like clowns in sawdust rings? Think about it. Thankfully, common people like you and me, working in the trenches, are builders for eternity.



Each of us is given a list of rules, in dog breeders it is AKC rules, Robert's Rules of order, dog club rules, laws of common etiquette and of course, the rules of genetics. We also receive a bag of tools and that shapeless mass (a newbie dog owner at their first dog show or a kid with dreams) who has an infinity for learning something as complex as genetics and canine construction.


Those of us in the leadership role dip into our deep wells of knowledge and each must fashion, ere life has flown, a stumbling block or a steppingstone.


It is up to each of us, especially dog club members, to teach and help create a steppingstone to the next level as opposed to creating such difficulty that the newcomer’s passion disintegrates.


Our world has changed so much since early 2020 and COVID. Many of us have adapted and remained functional but some have not. We have lost too many brilliant dog men and women. I was given a hand up by some of the greatest dog people in the U.S. My body may be winding down but my mind is still sharp and I have much wisdom to impart.



Which will you be? The stumbling block, putting obstacles in the way of newly born passion, or the steppingstone that guides someone, one step at a time on the path to success?


That is how I see it “from my side of the fence” – how do you see it is up to you. EST 2002 © Nov 2021





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