Monday, July 19, 2010

This looks like work

The Farmer, his brother and his dad combined oats and baled straw over the weekend. I think they filled six or seven hayracks before they were done. I filled water jugs, took pictures and stayed out of the way.

Thanks to everyone who shared their comments and e-mailed me about 4-H dog shows! I thought I was the only one who'd noticed a decline in the project since I was a young 'un. Without going postal on the 4-H system (I know it's run largely by volunteer leaders and they're usually someone's mom or dad and they probably don't have a clue about anything either but doG bless them because they're willing to give their time), but the trend these days seems to be for kids to dabble in everything without actually achieving in anything. Seeing how many trophies you collect at the fair seems to trump any actual knowledge or skill level.

A few years back when I still did a lot of 4-H dog show judging, I once withheld the trophies in the "advanced" classes at a county fair dog show. Oh yeah, that's me, the Wicked Evil Nazi Judge. Why? When the kids took their dogs off leash, the dogs ran out of the ring. Repeatedly. The only thing they could perform was the heel on leash and that was because they couldn't get away. That left 5 exercises (stand for exam, heel free, recall, long sit, long down) that they could not perform at any judgeable level all. Does that deserve a shiny trophy and grand champion ribbon? I didn't think so. Does it reflect a level of achievement beyond what they accomplished the previous year when the dog was tethered to them by the leash?

I talked to the kids in the Novice and Graduate Novice classes about why they were getting red ribbons that day. Honestly, they seemed fine with it. I think they were so embarrassed by their dogs' behavior they just wanted to leave. (Which is too bad. I wonder if they ever understood what they could have achieved with their dogs through regular training.)

Looking back, I was probably lucky to get out of that fairgrounds without having my tires slashed by angry parents. But 4-H is about setting goals and learning by doing. You can't just walk into the ring at fair with your animal and expect a trophy because you bothered to show up.

But enough griping and groaning. There are a million more things I could say about dogs and kids and learning how to train a dog and how to treat animals with respect and this post could go on way beyond any reasonable length so I'll shut up now. The 4-H program launched me into dogs 30+ years ago and it was wonderful and I am so appreciative of the leaders I had back then and all they did for me. And for parents who made sure I trained my dog, if not every day, at least regularly. And paid my entry fees and hauled me to "real" shows. Thank you!


  1. I've had the same exact experiences with the 4H dog kids here. Stood out in the 95 degree sunshine last summer to "judge" kids that were no where near ready to do what they did. It sucked, for kids, for dogs and for the judge (me) who really REALLY wanted to see them all succeed.

    That picture above is what our valley looks like right now - unfortunately, the FIRST cutting instead of the second they normally are on.

  2. We are due to judge 4-H again, gulp. It's been a couple of years. I will follow my previous advice. Park the car nose out and when handing out prizes/scoresheets have hubby get car started. Then run like hell. I have been increasingly dismayed by the lack of concern on presenting well by a lot of the kids. Not many seem to care about being there anymore.....sigh.