Which Sort Are You? Posted on 30 Sep 13:48 , 0 comments

 Saudjie Cross-Crook
 Weathertop 2011


Labradors are my companions of choice. I keep them because of their temperaments. It’s what draws me to them and makes me love them. I’m not referring to their working ability. I’m talking about the way they live their lives.


They are steadfast in their loyalty, never mind how I look or feel or what I’ve accomplished lately. I love them and treat them with respect and they respond with great affection.


Labradors live their lives with joie de vivre…life is good, every day is an adventure. If someone starts a fight a good Lab will take itself off and have a wonderful time doing something else. It isn’t lack of courage but good breeding that makes it choose another option.


Fun loving, kind and biddable by nature, showing no signs of aggression…a brave heart with a sensitive soul. These are traits that I prize above all others in my Labs. I can place a dog if it’s ugly or lame, but if it’s mean-spirited it isn’t a decent companion for anyone.


I have a theory about people who keep Labs. There are two sorts. One has a Labrador personality and the other has a personality that only a Labrador would put up with.


Each morning at sunrise I walk my dogs in the forest. They frolic in the meadows and play tag among the trees with ears flying and tails wagging. And each morning I make a wish…let me live this day with the heart and soul of a Labrador…and I give it a go.



Saudjie Cross-Crook
Written in 1990



Several of my best friends have taken a beating in the past few years either by people they thought were friends or by people posting anonymously on the internet. When this happens I shake my head and say, This is a sport, not a war, isn’t it? Hmm.


Nearly all of my friends are dog people now; most everyone else has gone away.  I am up to my eyebrows in dogs; they are my life. But friendship is more important to me than any individual dog. Dogs come and go; sadly they don’t live as long as we do. A friendship is something to be tended and treasured and with a bit of effort a friendship can last a lifetime. I never want a dog to get in the way of a friendship, and I have worked hard to not let that happen. Over the years I’ve had a couple of very important “friendships” fall by the wayside but I didn’t let them go without trying very hard to sort things out.


I’ve watched dog people interact for almost a quarter of a century. While there are as many different kinds of people and relationships as kinds of liquorice in a box of Bassett's Allsorts there are a few sorts that seem to crop up  over and over.


The Monkees: I had a favourite song when I was young called I’m Not Your Stepping Stone. I can’t bear people who are Users and I can smell them a mile away.


The Mentor: If you’re lucky you learned some of what you know from a mentor. Someone who shared their knowledge, nurtured you and then pushed you from the nest. Some mentors can’t let go…they don’t realize that their protégé's success is a jewel in their crown.


I’m a Mother Hen mentor. I spread my wings if someone goes for one of my chicks. Once the problem is sorted I’m happy to have them out on their own. I celebrate their every success. With champagne if possible.  


The Pack Leader: Dog people tend to run in packs…not unlike their dogs. As anyone with a large kennel knows there are two kinds of Pack Leaders.


The Kind & Gentle Pack Leader: It may take a while but if you keep watching you will notice that the young dogs run after this one cavorting about, licking the Leader’s mouth and generally making a fuss. This Pack Leader rules with kindness. The dogs follow along happily because they love their Leader.


The Evil Pack Leader: Rip and tear, conquer and divide. It makes for a very unhappy pack. The dogs will follow along because the Evil Pack Leader has beaten them into submission. But this dog’s days are numbered. Life’s too short.


The Best Friend: Very few things are as painful as finding out that

someone you love and trust has betrayed your friendship. They aren’t a friend after all. 


Loyalty is more important to me than anything else in friendship. I’ll forgive any number of stupid mistakes as long as I know a friend’s heart is in the right place. But God help you if you speak to me with a forked tongue.


It can get very complicated and messy if you and your Best Friend own dogs together. There are ethics to agree upon, puppies to sort out and stud fees to split…and beware The Green Eyed Monster.


It is in my nature to love with all of my heart, but I’ve learned the hard way that not everyone is like that.  I was told something once that has helped me make sense of “friendships” in the dog world. “Some people only love you when you’re winning. Some people only love you when you’re losing. A real friend loves you no matter what you’re doing in the ring.” …including judging their dog.


The Judge: Being a judge can be difficult on two points when friendships are involved but normally only one of them is considered.


When a friend is in the ring and I am judging, if I don’t like the dog I throw it out. I expect my friends to accept that. And my friends do, just as I accept their opinion of my dogs if they are judging. I don’t base friendships on whether or not I happen to like what someone is showing.


But there is another side to this. When I’m judging and a friend  is in the ring with a really good dog the pressure on me is even greater. If I put the dog up people will say the dog won because of our friendship.



The truth of the matter is that if I don’t put up what I consider to be the BEST dog on the day I’m being dishonest.


People wouldn’t think I was dishonest if I didn’t put up my friend even if my friend had the best dog.  They would only think I was dishonest if I did put up my friend. In fact, I would be committing a worse offence in failing to put up the best dog simply because I was afraid of what people would say. That would show lack of courage as well as dishonesty.


This brings to my mind the subject of anonymous posting on the internet.


The Troll: Twenty-something years ago I was a very active member on the California based Lab-L forum. We all signed our posts and everyone was civil. I learned a lot and made a number of life long friends. Then anonymous posting became acceptable on other sites.  I quickly discovered that anonymous posting allows people to say things that they would never say if they had to sign their name. One might argue that it allows one the freedom to disclose useful information that might otherwise be kept secret. There is that, but over the years I have found that the harm done far outweighs any benefit.


After many years of staying away I ventured onto one of these sites. Nothing had changed. I made one last post…


I think of the World Labrador Community as a big family. My family .We fight sometimes but when the going gets tough we're there for each other. But...you can't get close to people if you don't know who they are. If you post anonymously I can't go up to you at Potomac, give you a hug and tell you how happy I am to finally meet you in person.


But of course that isn’t the worst of it. Anonymous posting allows interaction without responsibility, repercussions or commitment.


People have had their reputations ruined by accusations made in anonymous posts by people who don’t even have the guts to sign their name. Never mind if the accusation is true or not, once it has been read by thousands of people it takes on a life of its own. The water flows under the bridge.


Every now and then I come across Which Sort Are You?  I wrote it more than 20 years ago but it feels to me as true today as the day I wrote it. 

We all have role models…people we admire and emulate. I only need to look out my window to see some of the best role models around. They are steadfast in their loyalty, never mind how I look or feel or what I’ve accomplished lately. I love them and treat them with respect and they respond with great affection.


Would your favourite Labrador bite you as you stroked its head? If so you might want to rethink your breeding program. 


I was brought up with a golden rule…Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. To which I add … Try to live each day with the heart and soul of a Labrador… at least give it a go.