Santos: Amateurs and Professionals


IF YOU are new to the dog sport, you would actually believe that it is one of the few arenas of competition where the amateurs may compete with the professionals. After all, all you will ever need is a dog with no faults and with a structure good enough to show. But other than that requirement, it seems that the odds of the amateurs and professionals winning in the ring are almost equally the same. More so, the conformation ring is still a subjective contest, a judge’s interpretation of “quality” may actually veer away from what is ideal.

In my early years in exhibiting golden retrievers, I actually believed that my dog earning championship points, beating a dog bred by long-time breeders that is, was just part luck and part quality. That experience led me to think, in fact, that my dog gaining a Philippine Champion title meant that I was as good as those who have been with the breed for a long time. That thinking emboldened me to go into breeding even if I was only more than two years into the breed. I reasoned that my dog was already a champion and thus, worthy to be bred. Now I know better, my inexperience led me to disregard the primary responsibility of dog breeders: they are the guardians of their respective breed/s of dogs and their only motivation for breeding is to improve on them. These “breed” of breeders are usually referred to as “master breeders”, these are dog enthusiasts who could actually look beyond the titles of dogs and their breeding decisions consider the long term impact to the gene pool of generations that will be produced.

The master breeder should have an in-depth knowledge of the breed standard. This substantial understanding gives him or her the ability to identify the best puppy in terms of structure, movement and temperament as early as eight weeks. He or she is must also be aware of the hereditary predisposition of the bloodlines. The master breeder must also compete in the conformation ring to have an independent evaluation of the dogs. When the master breeder has already established the soundness of the dogs, they will then be subjected for health testing. Only when the dogs are cleared of debilitating hereditary disease such as hip and elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and subvalvular aortic stenosis, among others, will the master breeder make the decision to breed.

A couple of days ago, a friend of mine called me to inquire about accommodations in Singapore. I was there for about four years and my friend surmised I may know of nice and affordable lodgings. They were thinking of staying at Johor Bahru, Malaysia, which was about 46 minutes away from Singapore but have cheaper lodgings. I felt that it may be tedious to go in and out of Singapore’s immigration requirements every time they go home (they may actually end up spending 2-3 hours queuing to process their respective visas). I suggested to just stay in Singapore but consider those accommodations away from the business district which most likely will cost less. YMCA is another choice, near the city center but I recall is very affordable. Our conversation drifted to the present crop of those running for the senate and congress. My friend said in frustration, “What made these people run for the senate and congress? As senators and congressmen with their inexperience and the kind of motivation that they apparently have, what kind of laws and moral code will they make and how will these impact the next generation? She ended with a tone of resignation, “I shudder at the thought.”

Indeed, like the dog sport, politics is another arena where the amateurs may compete with the professionals. But unlike in the dog sport, your chances of winning do not rest with the subjectivity of the judge or the smile of lady luck. All you need is a family name and ability to finance your campaign. Sometimes all you need is a semblance of popularity or kinship to the powers that be. In fact, sometimes, all you need is sheer overconfidence. It does not matter if you have the competency and/or the experience.

I know that it is a wishful thinking to expect but I still hope that these “political amateurs” realize that becoming a senator, or a congressman, entails a substantial knowledge of the Constitution and the Law, management and people skills, business administration, and legislation, among others. That such knowledge will help them become effective senators or congressmen. That their prime motivation on running is the welfare of the nation. And only then when they are able to satisfy these requirements that they decide to seek a public office.

Although there is a nice ring to it when people call me a master breeder, I am quick to dismiss them that I am not one. I still need more experience and knowledge as a breeder. It would be a great disservice to the master breeders and an injustice to the golden retrievers I will be bringing into this world if I made a wrong breeding decision. That is the reason why my last breeding was more than five years ago.

Indeed, like my friend, I, too, shudder at the thought. For the future of the golden retrievers bred indiscriminately in the country. And for the future of the nation’s next generation whose leaders run and are voted into office indiscriminately.

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