Last week, a dear friend, KIM HAUPT, posted an old photograph on FACEBOOK. The photograph was a picture of myself and my late partner DAVID E. WHITE, along with this caption: “A blast from the past … two of my favorite people.”
The post coincided with the 25th anniversary of DAVID’s passing from brain cancer, stirring memories, emotions and many wonderful reflections from several individuals who had the pleasure of knowing DAVID.
“Oh the great time we had … David my dear I miss you every day.” (double hearts) KYLE ROBINSON
“I Remember him well (heart).” KELLIE FITZGERALD
“What a great photo. Miss DAVID!” ANNE MARIE KUBACZ
“DAVID was always so encouraging to me.” MARY MERLO
“DAVID was a very special person. Can’t believe it has been 25 years.” TAMMY TOMLINSON
“DAVID was the best!” ROBIN NOVACK
“Awwwww … loved DAVID.” LAURIN HOWARD
“I can’t believe it has been that long! Both of you were wonderful to me all those years ago when I restarted to show dogs.” GARNETT PRESTON PERSINGER
“DAVID graded my litter out of Kinsman. Said I could NOT call pick bitch CRUSHER (orange collar bitch, orange crush … become CRUSHER) and renamed her Louise. Great memories.” JAN ZIECH
“OMG how BEAUTIFUL. He would be so proud of who you are MICHAEL. As I’m sure he was then. This photo made my heart thump, what great memories.” JOSEPH VERGNETTI
“My beginnings were very much influenced by these two wonderful and intelligent gentlemen.” JERRY MARDER
“Quality People!!! I remember just starting in Dogs and watching their talent.” DANIEL LEWITZKE
Each of these comments, along with many others not listed, blessed me with the opportunity to stop, reflect and relive special moments that defined our time together as breeders, professional handlers, partners and friends. It also brought into perspective a time when communication was valued, relationships mattered, research was rewarded, and patience was appreciated as a virtue.
The current DOG SHOW ENVIRONMENT, like so much of society today, revolves around sound bites of information that promote immediate responses that are all too often inappropriate and not beneficial to anyone or anything. Not to mention the need to know who won what, where they won it and what they won, immediately after the win. Yes, I said immediately. Not 10 minutes later … instantly.
Vividly, I recall dog shows that fostered relationship building on multiple levels and dog shows that required respect, stamina and fortitude.
You might be asking, “What does he mean?”
Here is what I mean: When DAVID and I were showing dogs professionally, there were no cell phones, no computers and no GPS systems to guide you to and from. You valued meaningful communication and close relationships as your guide, along with respect for each other’s strengths, and a clear definition of our roles.
DAVID: Driver, groomer of spaniels and setters, newsletter creator, managed the books, cleaned and loaded the truck, conditioned dogs, entries / dog show logistics, bartender, managed the cattle and goats, laundry.
MICHAEL: Groomed all other breeds, bathed all dogs, cleaned the kennel, fed dogs, conditioned dogs, cleaned the house, chef, gardener, communicated with clients, packed food and coolers, grocery shopping, driver – only when necessary.
We managed to navigate the country using a map and a large flashlight to find dog-show hotels and show sites at early-morning hours. We would sit down and plan our trips together, discuss which routes would be the best, and what, if any, side excursions we wanted to explore along the way.
We would phone weeks ahead of time to find out which of our friends would be attending the shows. The list usually included KIM & NANCY HAUPT, KYLE ROBINSON, BRYAN & NANCY MARTIN, CRAIG WESTERGAARD, JULIE HOWARD, ROBYN & JOHN STIRRAT, and JIM MARTIN & BOB DOUBLE. Whoever arrived first always saved space for the others.
There was a mutual understanding among the crew to support each camp whenever needed and whenever free. This included grooming dogs, holding dogs, exercising dogs, feeding dogs, and, often, showing dogs. To this day, I cannot suppress deep laughter when I see BRYAN & NANCY MARTIN and relive the first time I showed a Basset Hound. Let’s just say it was a total disaster and BRYAN can fill you in on the details. (JUST ASK.)
After a full day of showing, the first thing DAVID did was feed and exercise the dogs. My task was to hit up anyone and everyone who would provide me with necessary tear sheets from their catalogs. These extra sheets allowed us to immediately mail out the results and ribbons to the clients. There was an obvious strategy behind my approach. I had to make sure that I approached only those handlers or individuals who did not exhibit like breeds, allowing me to cultivate many new friends through the process. The usual daily tear-sheet count looked something like 10 Golden Retriever, 4 Labrador, 3 Springer Spaniel, 2 Irish Setter, 1 German Shorthaired Pointer, 1 Kuvasz, 3 Pug, 1 Irish Wolfhound, 1 Bullmastiff, 1 Newfoundland, 1 Field Spaniel, 1 Silky Terrier and 1 Greyhound.
Once the various sets of pages had been collected, I would return to the setup, mark the pages, attach the ribbon, insert the aforementioned in addressed / stamped envelopes to drop in a mailbox on the way to dinner or to the next show site. However, prior to leaving, I would wait in line at the phone booth to call each client to share the results of the day. This often required several rotations in line to be respectful to those waiting. Today, with live streaming and social media, communicating on a deep level with clients is no longer required – they know what happened in the ring before you have a chance to exit.
Multiple, consecutive dog shows in one air-conditioned building were few and far between. Other than the Tarheel Circuit and Louisville Cluster, most shows required packing up afterward, driving to the next location, and often outdoors. No one bitched and complained – we forged ahead with gratitude, map in hand and made sure that our friends caravanned along. And, if your truck/van was loaded first, you assisted your friends so everyone could travel together.
DAVID passed away in September 1995. KIM HAUPT’s Facebook post energized the spirit and provided the stimulus to stop, reflect and remember. DAVID would have been 70 this past July. He lived long enough to experience our first cell phone, the size of a small piece of luggage, and our first computer (IMB DOS). I wonder what he would have thought about smart phones, the internet, social media, GPS, GRUBHUB, Tripadvisor, Amazon, online entries, the immediate circulation of dog-show wins, social-media forums that rate dog-show judges, text messaging, Twitter, Instagram, etc.?
DAVID was extremely private, very introspective, dry witted, and did not suffer fools. Loyal to a fault, kind, thoughtful, polite, intelligent and a connoisseur of fine bourbon, National Public Radio and nature. Other than GPS, which would have saved him from my disastrous map-reading skills, he is not looking down in envy, wishing he was part of this simple, sound-bite, immediate-gratification, self-promoting, all-or-nothing existence.
He’s looking down wishing he had just another day with KYLE, NANCY, BRYAN, KIM, NANCY, BOB, JIM, CRAIG, JULIE, ROBYN, JOHN and many others. Because, in the end – your dog-show rating, your number of Facebook / Twitter / Instagram friends, the number of shows you judge, or how many replies you receive to one of your social-media posts becomes insignificant.
Thank you, my friend, for continuing to bless me with memories.