I have learned a lesson from every avenue of employment I have pursued. I have excelled beyond expectations as a pharmaceutical sales person. I have been humbled as a pantry preparation person in the kitchen of a high end resort in the Pocono Mountains. I was fortunate to work as the residential manager of a dormitory at college, a position of great social fun and very little pressure. One of my very first jobs taught me a life lesson I will never forget.
When I was thirteen, I found a job working with show dogs. I had always loved animals and I was so excited to work with dogs. The dogs were AKC Bouvier des Flandres. These animals were handsome and intelligent. I could barely sleep the night before I was scheduled to start. I pictured myself standing on a podium in a fancy pants outfit and whistling to the dogs in a ring as everyone applauded. Somehow that just never gets old for me – the applause part. So off to work I went at 7 am. As a supreme exhibition of friendship, a friend of mine, age 16, arose an hour before he needed to that summer to drive me to work, and then continue to his own job. Brent is no longer here on this earth with us, but as a neighbor and friend, he is unsurpassed.
I was so deflated. It was demeaning and my pride was stung. I started my day cleaning the cages. It took a good 4 hours, then I reported back for afternoon duties. The afternoon changed my mind. I got to take each dog out on a tether to a huge fenced in area in the back. They would run and play and just watching them was a joy. These animals, whose success depended on holding themselves calmly with complete control, just went all out in this huge field. There were certain dogs on the master list that could play with one another and some preferred to run alone. It was entertaining and interesting to watch. The next 4 hours flew by as I exercised the dogs and began to see the different personalities. I knew this was for me. Now I had a decision, could I stand the first part of the day to make it to the second?
I did. I convinced myself that if I could shovel, scrape and pick up dog feces, well then I could do just about anything. As the summer went on, the dogs began to know me and respond to me. I built relationships and recognized how to handle different temperaments. I learned more about human nature from those Bouviers than I did from humans. The dogs knew when to stand tall. They knew when to let loose. The dogs realized the weaker and older dogs and had mercy on them. The dogs did not all like one another, but they did respect one another.
The largest most impressive of the entire kennel was a stud, Luteur, who was massive and proud and kept to himself. He was not the typical black color, but deep silver gray. One of the most magnificent animals I have ever known. It took weeks before he responded to me. It was an insult to put the tether on his neck to walk him to the field. His regal manner commanded respect. He did not bark, not once. Not the entire time I worked there. But you knew who was king of the place. You knew.
I learned that summer that once in a while in life, you need to stand in a pile of excrement. You need to stand there as a bridge to the best part where you get to run with the big dogs as if you don’t have a care in the world.
I wish more people would take a page from the book of Luteur. Carry yourself in a way you can be proud. There is no need to announce to all your importance. They will figure it out. And if they do not, does it matter to you anyway. Don’t look down. Look forward and up. Hopefully that is the direction you are moving in. So many times, we are paralyzed by a criticism or perceived slight. I have taught myself to continue looking forward. I will not waste time with negatives. I keep my head high and my hopes high. It is the only way to live in my opinion. I try to live the way I need to live to bring joy to myself and loved ones. My wish for you is twofold. May you never have to clean a dog pen full of 18 puppies on a 100 degree day. May you always have love in your heart, family by your side and friends you can romp with - forever.
– Natalia Kilkenny