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The Second Time Around In The Dog World

The Second Time Pat Bullard holding Maltese DogAround In The Dog World

What would you change if you could go second time in the dog world? I imagine I’m not the only one who has been given a second chance. Life takes us away from our passion and sometimes brings us back again. Sometimes other responsibilities or unexpected changes take us away, and sometimes tragedy. In my case, it was a tragic car accident on our way home from the Ravenna, Ohio, shows in August of 1991. Up to that point, I had been campaigning Maltese specials and had just begun my breeding program, but after the accident I left the sport for many years.

In 2012, when the last of my old line was geriatric, I put a post on social media asking if any of my Maltese friends could help me find a puppy. Fortunately, I got an answer right away from my most trusted and respected friends in the breed, Tara Martin Rowell and Vicki Abbott of Scylla Maltese. All I asked for was a pet puppy since I’d never had the courage to go in the ring myself in the old days. The puppy they sent me was a joyful little guy and he awakened my passion for the show world again. I asked if I might learn to show by showing him, and off we went to training class.

Even though I had a history of success in our breed from the past, it didn’t change that, as a handler, I was a rank novice. So much has changed in the grooming world since my old days. New products and new methods have had to be mastered but, most of all, overcoming the anxiety and nervousness of being an exhibitor has been a huge challenge. Standing beside me and behind me with untold support are my mentors, Tara and Vicki. I should also add that I was 60 years old when I began my second time in the dog world, and I can no longer hear.

Our first show was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and a fellow exhibitor agreed to meet me the night before to show me how to put up 21st century style topknots. My little guy took second in his class the first day, and I was so nervous I missed going back into the ring for Reserve. We had better luck at our next show and picked up a couple of single points. That first boy finished with three majors, the last being five points, and I’d already begun dreaming of coming back to breeding by that time.

I’ve already said how much I respect and treasure my mentors, but it was at this point that I did some hard thinking about how I wanted to change from the first time around, how much time I have left to be a productive contributor to the Maltese through breeding, and what would happen to the program when I am no longer able to continue. That is when I “saw the light” and realized the best contribution I could make would be to join forces with those I respect so highly and do my best to protect our breed and their line. At that point, we found our foundation bitch in Germany and laid plans and dreamed dreams of our future together.

As I write, I’ve finished five champions, put two grand championships on our dogs, and our first litter of two are both grand champions and all three of the Maltese I showed in 2016 were ranked in the top 15 NOHS Maltese. At this point, I became very interested in competing in the NOHS and started the year with a BIS that took our girl to NOHS #1 Maltese.

Now I look for shows offering NOHS, but this is all that’s changed. We still average one show weekend a month. I mentioned earlier that I am deaf, but I also have many old nagging injuries, and who doesn’t when approaching the age of 65? My dear husband makes it possible for me to live my passion, and for that and so many other things I am eternally grateful. I am also grateful for the stewards and judges of our sport who make accommodations for all of us with disabilities. I learned right away from the stewards that they will always be happy to inform the judge of any exhibitor’s disabilities. I let the steward know when I pick up my armband. After a while, most of the stewards and judges know without a reminder. It’s also very helpful to watch the judge’s ring procedure in other breeds before your own judging time.

One thing that hasn’t changed from my first trip around the block is my support of our breed club, The American Maltese Association.

Since I’ve been given a chance to go second time in the dog world my heart feels differently, too. In the old days, I was ferociously competitive and it was hard to lose. None of us likes losing, but now, I
realize I am competing with others who have dreams just as important as mine. Their passions run just as deep and their wins are their dreams come true. My comrades are trying as hard as I am and are as tired as I am on Sunday morning. I’m sure we all say the same thing to ourselves, “I made it!” It’s hard to keep showing once we know where we stand with our competition at a show, but continuing to show up when we know we don’t stand a chance of winning is the true test of sportsmanship. An honest and sincere congratulations to the winners will be something none of us ever regrets. Don’t be discouraged if no one is there to congratulate your win. Pat yourself on the back and be kinder than ever to your comrades. They are disappointed and will recover given a bit of time. Monday always feels better than Sunday afternoon.

One thing that hasn’t changed from my first trip around the block is my support of our breed club, The American Maltese Association. I can’t do the same jobs I did in the old days without my hearing, but there are still many contributions I can make to our club. I’ve been one of the administrators for our social media page for the past three years and it’s been a good marketing tool for our club. It’s also given me the opportunity to communicate with others in our breed in a forum where I can read every word and not have to hear or read lips.

The second time in the dog world  is even better than the first. Having a lifetime to ponder and make mistakes, I’ve come to a place that is rewarding. Striving for something keeps our hopes and dreams alive. Loving our dogs and our breed gives comfort to our hearts. Mentoring others gives us hope for the future. Knowing our history and pedigrees gives a better insight into making breeding decisions. Knowing what we want gives us the courage to stand for what we believe even if we stand alone. Being a novice owner handler isn’t a bad thing. Instead, it is an admission that we are students each day of our lives.