When people find out that I’m quitting my job as assistant to pro handler Valerie Nunes-Atkinson, they usually assume that it’s because the work was too hard. Or they think I was homesick. Actually neither of those things are true. So why did I quit? Because I had an apocalyptic revelation!
A couple months ago if you had asked if I wanted to be a handler I would have said, “heck yeah!” But now that I’ve seen what life is like for the typical full-time handler I’m not so enthusiastic. In fact I’ve had an about-face and realized that this was not the career for me. What is life like?
First of all you miss out on the important moments in life since those events usually happen on or around show weekends. Weddings, Thanksgiving, birthdays, taking your kids to camp… You will sacrifice a LOT of your personal life.
Then there’s the fact that you don’t really work with dogs one-on-one. Most handlers have a big string of dogs, usually 15 at a minimum and up to 30 on important weekends or specialties. With that many dogs you don’t have time to get to know each one, their personality, and their needs.
The kicker is that dog shows aren’t even fun anymore, they’re your job. You’re so busy prepping dogs, checking rings, and showing dogs that you don’t have time to relax and enjoy just being at the show. I thought a job doing what you do for fun would rock, but it turns out that the thing you love becomes tarnished along the way.
Ultimately it all came down to an epiphany: this wasn’t what I wanted. I want to enjoy life with the people I care about! I want to help dogs one on one and enjoy getting to know them! And I want to have fun at dog shows! I quickly realized that my backup plan of starting a business conditioning and rehabilitating dogs was what I actually wanted to do. Which makes me think that maybe my backup plans should be the first place I look for what I’m actually passionate about…
I still want to hone my handling and grooming skills, working some weekends for a pro. It turns out that most people start as part-time assistants on weekends anyway, not as full-time live-in assistants. And I haven’t given up on the career entirely. One business model I did admire was that of Erin Roberts: have only one dog per AKC group, allowing you to work with each dog every day.
So as of Aug 1 I’m moving back to WA and starting down the path of building a business doing what I love. And I’ll get back to the business of loving dog shows with my friends!
Life lesson? I can’t say it any better than Danielle LaPorte:
You can be deeply certain,
and slightly doubtful. You can be scared,
and really, really ready.
In the end, do what makes you happy even if it’s a hard thing to do. Don’t compromise out of fear.