Tuesday, August 6, 2013

We All Have Heroes or Something

We All Have Heroes or Something

Most of us have heroes as we grow up and some continue to have them even as adults.  Qualifying as a hero to me requires not only requirements, but longevity of excellence in a given field.  There’s a tendency at present to jump to conclusions and label someone as a hero or superstar somewhat prematurely in my opinion.

My childhood heroes included General Douglas MacArthur who commanded our troops in the Far East in World War II.  A brilliant soldier with a great understanding of the people in that part of the world he was also something of an egotist.  My old grandpappy always said, “it ain’t braggin’ if you can do it!”, but MacArthur lost his job in the Korean “Police Action” because he couldn’t handle politicians telling him how to fight.

One of my other heroes was Joe DiMaggio who played for the New York Yankees.  I’ve been a Yankees fan all my life having been born in the Bronx, NY and Joe was the best all around player I ever saw.  He could hit for average and power, had a great arm, and was fast enough to make hard plays look easy.  He did all these things for years in spite of taking time off to be in the military, was an easy Hall of Fame pick, played sometimes in severe pain, and besides he married Marilyn Monroe.  What’s not to like?

In dogs there are several categories that one might explore to find our heroes.  Breeders, judges, handlers, and writers come to mind.  Obviously you can name more than one in each category but since we’re talking about my heroes, we’ll make one of each suffice.  Since I’m an old dinosaur you’ll find that these folks have all gone to their reward.  That fact will also preclude some jealousy that can arise when you deal with living people.

My hero as a breeder is hands down my old friend Steve Field of Parader fame.  There are folks today who have bred more champions but it’s like comparing apples to oranges with all the shows we have today and people who show year around.  Steve had the best stud dogs of his time, the best show dogs were owned or bred by him, he was in great demand as a judge, and though not given to a lot of writing, it always made sense.  He gave credit to the people who helped him attain his success such as Ed Pickhardt and Bill Van Dyck and he was the soul of modesty regarding his many accomplishments.  I miss him and the times we spent together talking dogs, wildlife, sports and politics more than I can say.

Though Steve was a great Collie judge, my hero as a judge falls to an all-rounder who judged shows almost every week and seemed to know the breeds very well.  Alva Rosenberg knew Collies and what made a good one better than many specialists.  He was in great demand, but always made time to say hello and often shared some ideas about different aspects of judging.  He also had a sense of humor as evidenced when he gaited the buxom ex-stripper showing a corgi over and over.  Each time she stopped and bent over he looked over at me and winked.  In those days they started an award given to the best judge in the country.  After Alva won it the first three years running they stipulated that you couldn’t win more than three times.  He like Steve Field taught me a lot.

My hero handler would have to be Bill Trainor.  I’d learned much from watching other handlers before I met Bill.  I first saw him showing StoneyKirk Reflection when the dog was still in the classes and owned by his breeder, Priscilla Alden, Bill had great success showing Reflection after he was purchased by John and Evelyn Honig.  The dog was always groomed immaculately and Bill was completely unflappable.  Over the years I saw Bill show many Collies and sometimes we competed.  Win or lose he was always the consummate professional.  His success in other breeds was also well known and he was admired and respected for his treatment of the dogs in his care and his skill in their presentation.

There are many people who have written well and served the dog press in general and Collies in particular.  Some have been doing it for years and achieved great success.  Gus Sigritz classic “The Degree of Fault” comes immediately to my mind.  My hero, however, comes to us from a different persuasion.  Albert Payson Terhune was an author of fiction about dogs, mostly Collies, and sometimes based on fact.  His writing drew me to this breed as well as legions of others.  His ability to describe dogs and their exploits made many friends for our breed and made him a household name.  Though he bred some fine dogs including some who finished their championships, it was not as a breeder that this man would carve his niche.  He was not incidentally beloved by all he encountered, but we all know that’s not a surprise in dogs.  Terhune was bigger than life, famous, wealthy, and a rather private person in many ways.  He had a close circle of friends whom he valued, but showed little liking for dog shows or impromptu visitors to his home.  It’s not surprising that his personality didn’t endear him to everyone, but his books made up for it.  There have been many fine dog novels written over the years including some about Collies, but no one comes close to the number or warmth of those by Terhune.

There you have my list of dog heroes.  I could include many others in each category, but then you dilute the final product.  It seems to me that heroes can be healthy in helping us to mold our own lives.

Think about it!!

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