Connery is a breedist Beagle.
If he spots such an individual while we’re running an agility course, I can be pretty sure he’s going to bring down a bar or pop a weave, because he just can’t think beyond the worrisome presence of that dog. He tries so hard that it’s palpable but he just. Can. Not.
To be fair to Connery, he has reasons. Good ones. Like his objection to Boxers? The first dog who attacked him was a Mastiff—a huge creature with a head the size of Connery’s whole body. A big fawn dog with black points and a big squoosh face: close enough to a Boxer, if you’re Connery.
Obviously, if that Mastiff had closed his jaws around Connery, it would have killed him. But I screamed, and Connery screamed, and he fled a desperate circle at the end of his leash. Will I ever forget the sight of those massive jaws snapping closed against his tucked butt?
No. No, I will not.
Nor will I forget snatching up him, holding his still-screaming self up snugly against my chest, and turning my back on the Mastiff to brace for impact. And that’s when the handler caught up to his dog, grabbed him by the collar and hustled him away. Without a word.
(I sleuthed out who he was and reported him to the show committee, but that’s another adventure.)
Could be that Connery and I are both a little breedist on that account.
But at least we know it. And we know why. But even if I’m wary, I don’t trash talk the breed. I don’t begrudge anyone the desire to own one. So to the people who spew knee-jerk nastiness about any given breed just because it’s easy?
Oh, I get it. It’s a rewarding thing to do. Chances are, those within earshot will join in the trash-talk, providing that little rush of power. Of being right. Because Everyone Knows…
Even if they don’t.
As I waited my turn at Connery’s first NADAC trial, a woman standing behind me said clearly, “Oh look. A Beagle. And it’s intact. This should be fun.”
Well, guess what. It was.
At least, it was fun for us. But it was far from the last time I heard sneers directed our way when people didn’t know (or didn’t care) that they were standing right behind me. Or, say…right beside the person who happened to be recording our run.
So here’s the thing: Until someone embraces a particular breed, they don’t know crap about it.
That doesn’t mean owning the breed, but it does mean learning about it with an open mind. Watching it in action. Watching it in training. Seeing the good and seeing the challenging. It means accepting that different from what you prefer doesn’t mean inferior to what you prefer.
You know, I see this all the time in the genre writing world, too. We in this genre sneer at them in that genre. We have Stars on Thars and they don’t! Ultimately it’s a flawed attempt to justify the value of this genre, but…you know…it’s crap behavior. So we should stop it. All of us.
As it happens, I’ve written in SF/F, romance, mystery, and wow—tie-in writing. So when a colleague in one genre gleefully sneers some oft-repeated dismissive nastiness about another genre, they’re usually talking about me. To me.
They just don’t know it. They just feel free to sling ugliness with impunity, because Everyone knows.
But Everyone usually gets it wrong. Because just like the person who thinks Beagles are stupid because they’ve never actually paid any attention, the Everyones don’t read the genre at which they sneer, or they read one book that didn’t resonate with them or was of unfortunate quality, or they can’t seem to accept that just because Romance serves different reading needs than Science Fiction (or vice versa), each genre is an equally valid endeavor and pastime.
It’s okay for you to like what you like, and me to like what I like.
Really. It is.
And it’s okay to spurn the Everyones and their thoughtless ugliness and talk about our dogs, and our books, in terms of what we like about them–and not in terms that tear down what someone else likes. Even if it takes a little courage to simply say, “I like this!” on its own terms.
Our choices are, as it happens, valid all on their own.
Me? If it’s well written, I’ll read it. Period. And although I love hounds, I also love to watch the big leggy bird dogs, the feisty scamper of a Border Terrier, the fierce intensity of a Border Collie…the silly vocalizations of a personable Pug.