The Importance of Mentors
Before I hold forth on mentors and their importance to serious breeders, here’s a personal update. Since December 2, 2015 our lives have been consumed by treatment for my bladder cancer. Starting with surgery, then chemo and radiation therapy, it’s been a difficult grind. In late Sept. 2016 we’ll do a PET scan to find out our success or lack thereof. Meanwhile I’m feeling much better as the side effects subside and Phyllis and I are trying to live a relatively normal life. Our friends locally and dog friends around the country continue to inspire us with prayers and best wishes.
A mentor is a teacher, a cheerleader, and hopefully a friend. As people start into any new endeavor, dog breeding included, they must gather knowledge if they expect to achieve success. The amount of information they can accumulate and their ability to understand and store it for future processing reminds us of the importance of the pupil’s ability as well as that of the mentor. Some people can be in dogs for years and be exposed to paragons of knowledge without showing any significant improvement.
So how does the budding fancier select someone that they would like to call a mentor? There are many criteria to examine before you make this decision. What qualifies someone to serve as a mentor? You might consider success as a breeder, as an exhibitor, as a judge, as a speaker, and as a writer. All of these areas can affect the success or lack thereof of your selection of a mentor. A person can be imminently successful in the first three areas, but if they cannot pass the secrets of their success along, then they fall short as a mentor.
I consider myself fortunate to have had several mentors and though they played different roles they all played important parts in my life as a Collie fancier. Albert Payson Terhune and his writings created in me, as a child, the thirst to understand the Collie and the terms to describe a good one. Also in my early days as a youngster I was blessed with a mother who encouraged her only child to excel at every interest he had, including Collies.
Because my mother was willing to drive me to Honeybrook Kennels of W.R. Van Dyck I was exposed at an early age to someone who had the knowledge for which I thirsted. She also paid most of the bills to buy puppies or dogs who did not cover themselves with glory, but added to my understanding of how puppies develop and what a good dog looked like. As her knowledge increased she also bought the blue puppy who would become our first champion.
Terhune and my mother played important parts in my beginnings as a Collie fancier, but the big three were W.R. Van Dyck of Honeybrook, Gus Sigritz of Cherrivale and Steve Field of Parader. Each one played important parts in my life in Collies and each one was very much entwined with each other’s success. All three had qualities which would make them imminently qualified to be mentors. Each bred dogs which won the CC of A Specialty. Each judged that same show and many others of some note. They each were excellent writers and speakers and proof of their abilities as mentors were reflected in the success of others who they advised and inspired.
If we start with the senior member of the trio, W.R. Van Dyck who owned Ch. Honeybrook Big Parade who not only won the CC of A three times but also was tied for top sire in the breed for some years. A prolific writer, his column in Dog News was full of thought provoking information. Steve Field whose Parader Collies were established on the feats of Ch. Silver Ho Parader as a sire. This dog just happened to be sired by one of Honeybrook Big Parade’s best sons. As I recall this dog was recommended to Steve by one of his mentors, Ed Pickardt of Sterling fame.
Gus Sigritz of Cherrivale got a start with a grand bitch from Parader named Ch. Cherrivale Parader’s Portrait. When bred to Steve’s Ch. Silver Ho Parader she produced the CC of A futurity winner, Ch. Cherrivale Checkmate. Further down the road Gus on Van Dyck’s advice bred to Ch. Gaylord’s Mr. Scalawag and got the multiple CC of A winner Ch. Cherrivale Darn Minute. Interesting side note is that Steve Field put Mr. Scalawag BB at the CC of A and Van Dyck put Darn Minute up for his first CC of A Best of Breed.
Each of these three men were my mentors and friends. My progress as a fancier was aided immeasurably by their ability to pass along what they had learned from others. Van Dyck learned from Charles Wernsman of Arken among others. Steve Field learned from Van Dyck and Pickhardt among others. Gus Sigritz learned from Steve field and Van Dyck among others.
My first champion, who I co-owned with my mother, was sired by Ch. Cherrivale Darn Minute and bought on Van Dyck’s recommendation. The stud dog who became a huge part of my success, Ch. Gingeor Bellbrooke’s Choice was discovered when looking for a bitch to breed to that first champion. He just happened to be strongly line bred to Steve’s Ch. Silver Ho Parader. Thank goodness for mentors and how they affect your progress.
I learned from all three and many others, but they were my big three. I can only hope that all who read this share my good fortune in knowing such mentors. If you do find yourself so blessed, be sure to give credit to the mentors who paved the way for your success.