The art of losing goes unnoticed in my life. I have been showing dogs for more than seven years, and in those seven years I have both exceeded my own expectations and experienced devastating loss. My national rankings in Junior Showmanship concluded as the No. 1 Dachshund Junior Handler for five consecutive years and the No. 2 Hound Handler for three consecutive years. I won Best of Variety with my Longhaired Dachshund at the prestigious Dachshund Club of America National Specialty show in 2011 — making history as the youngest person to have handled a dog to such an award. The moment the judge pointed to declare us Best of Variety was an unforgettable moment that I’ll cherish forever. My hard work has paid off over the years because I’ve won scholarships, have been featured in magazines and been mentored by some of the most highly respected people in the sport of showing dogs. Though these accomplishments are great, they’re overshadowed by my ability to cope with loss and defeat in the ring.
By nature we want to win, but showing dogs is as much about losing as it is winning. I have learned a lot about being a graceful loser in the ring, which has translated to my everyday life. Having good sportsmanship along with a positive outlook on life is so crucial, and in my opinion, a neglected and lost practice in our society. I have witnessed many people getting caught up in chasing a win. Losing is viewed with extreme negativity, and feelings of jealousy, hatred and revenge take over. As a result, competitors often lose sight of what is truly important. I see exhibitors resisting loss, as opposed to embracing it, and they channel their emotions into an unhealthy reaction toward themselves, their dogs, other exhibitors, judges and more. Chasing that Best in Show ribbon, feeding off the praise of others and feeling the high of winning is great, but it fizzles quickly. Enjoying time spent with my dog doing what I love is long-lasting and more valuable to me than any award.
I have learned that some of the most important life lessons are hidden in the losses. Losing is an essential part of being a genuine winner every day in life and in the ring. Coming home from a show without a single ribbon has given me the opportunity to unearth ways I can improve; it’s an extra challenge and incentive to work even harder toward my goals.
For me, it isn’t always about winning first place, but maintaining a positive outlook on life no matter the outcome. Simple unsolicited compliments from bystanders outside the ring or swallowing my pride and congratulating the dog show winner regardless of my opinion are among countless examples of my “wins,” besides the ones that are officially recorded by AKC. At times, nothing feels more humiliating and discouraging than walking out of a Junior Showmanship class of five without a ribbon. Naturally we tend to blow up a situation and weigh it with more significance than it really has at face value, even though virtually everyone has endured the dreaded last place before. I’ve realized if I can say I presented the best possible version of myself and my dog, then that is the ultimate win, a type of win that doesn’t require a ribbon to prove.
Viewing competition with optimism has been the primary key to my own successes, although this has been a difficult pill to swallow at times. How an individual copes with walking out of the ring empty-handed truly attests to one’s strength. My personal goal each time I enter the ring is to outperform myself as opposed to defeating others. Being “Best in Show” is momentary, but supporting each other through life’s little moments add up over time. Living with integrity means that I have done the best I could regardless of winning or losing. Life is too short to entertain toxic thoughts and to bring others down in attempts of counteracting my “loss,” especially when there are much larger losses we will eventually suffer in our lives.
There aren’t wins without losses; individuals who possess the ability to take positives from a loss deserve some recognition too. Even when you have technically lost, you must never abandon the confidence that you can still emerge with winning colors.
From the February 2014 issue of Dogs in Review magazine. Purchase the February 2014 digital back issue with the DIR app or subscribe to receive 12 months of Dogs in Review magazine (print and digital versions).
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