I generally think the best of people, and try to see things both ways. This unfortunately leaves a sour taste when you come across people who are one-eyed and ignorant. The recent show final illustrated this completely. For those who don’t know the teams event is two-old. There is the conformation – the show dogs if you like. Which means you need to have four dogs from the same kennel that look and move alike. The second part is the presentation. So as a team you dress to represent your breed. For some this means going out and getting costumes, usually to represent where your dog comes from. For Labs ‘n Life it means on a very small budget (of $0) we get 7 teams (28 kids and dogs) wearing something neat. This year our three finalist teams were dressed in matching coloured bow ties (the brother and sister team), home made bandanas with the playful nature of the lab (Team Stitch) and bandanas with the popularity of yellow labradors (team Rigger). On top of this our students were dressed neatly and presented their dogs with pride and I must say the poise of professional dog handlers. We were able to celebrate a second placing for presentation! The kids, staff, volunteers and dogs were of course delighted. Our efforts were rewarded. However afterwards one of the other teams had a serious case of sour grapes. They were heard to comment “the labrador team didn’t put in any effort!” We were astounded. First of all this came from a team showing Australian Shepards – who originate from ranches in America. So the team were dressed in cow girl outfits??? Well that would have made sense, but no this team were all dressed as Pocahontas??? Nope, not getting the connection, that’s okay neither did we, or did the judges for that matter. Which would be why you didn’t win anything.

However back to the effort thing! If it was purely judged on effort we should have won all six prizes. Not only did we get these students, who come from severely disadvantaged backgrounds to the show, we had them performing like seasoned handlers. They were neat, happy, working together as a team and showing how much they loved their dogs. We as a group did two whole days at the show. The first included 34 dogs! We also had 7 teams. Which means our 28 students took all of their dogs in the ring at once. Not one dog mucked up, not one kid put a foot out of place. Our three finalists were even more impressive on saturday. However the effort has been years in progress for some of these kids. We are talking kids who won’t leave their homes, kids who never used to say a word, kids in care, kids shipped from home to home, kids who just don’t fit in, kids completely disengaged from society, kids who have failed everything at school and kids who in general have never experiences pride. Yep, we got these kids to dress nicely, be polite, be responsible and present themselves and their dogs with pride. So yeah Pocahontas girls the labrador teams were actually the pure definition of effort!!!!! The simple fact is our kids and dogs are so good people think they are professional handlers. Which means the comment was actually a compliment – thanks girls, we appreciate it!!!

The truth is we at Labs ‘n Life don’t feel the need to be patted on the back, so to speak. Seeing the kids is enough for us. We all had tears in our eyes for each and every kid we put in the show. Their journey has been our journey and to see them achieve such success is reward in itself. So to those who are living in a world of ignorance I have some gentle advice. Before you open your mouths, open your eyes. We were considerate enough to google your dog’s heritage in an attempt to understand your costumes. You could have googled Labs ‘n Life and found out a small bit about us before you bagged our teams. Who knows if you had, then maybe you too would have shared a bit our our joy and excitement. It might have made your trip to the show worthwhile. It certainly made it for us!

So congratulations to all the staff, volunteers, students (those who showed and those who helped), dogs and general public who took the time to share a piece of our journey. We appreciate your support!!!