Monday, May 2, 2011

Sami's Story

I am writing an article about an amazing dog breed, the Basenji.  Basenjis don’t bark.  They have a physical structure in the voice box which is different from other dogs.  But Basenjis can growl, whine, whimper, and yodel—sort of a warbling effect. 

Basenji puppy photo by Cooperfeesh
The angle of the article:   the training of a Basenji puppy named Sami as she prepares for her first dog show.  I researched the breed by reading books, newspapers, and journals.  I discovered even more about the breed when I interviewed Sami’s co-owner, Carole.  From my interviews, I learned that Basenjis are not the easiest dogs to train to be show dogs.  They are independent thinkers.   Carole told me once that on the down and back (trotting in a straight line so that the judge can critique movement) Sami’s great grandpa decided to lie down in the ring and roll on his back. 

After completing my research, I landed an interview with the president of the American Kennel Club!  Then, the personal relations director connected with me an AKC judge.  She firmly suggested that I focus on Junior Showmanship since I was writing for children.  I listened and thanked her for her suggestion.  Then I discussed why I wanted to write this story—I had met Sami’s great, great, grandmother.  I had a personal connection.  But no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t convince her of my story.  Nonetheless, she begrudgingly agreed to answer my questions for the piece.   

When I hung up the phone, I felt that I was making a big mistake.  I was full of self-doubt.  Was she correct?  Was I taking the wrong angle for kids?  I considered re-writing a completely different story.

In the meantime, I stayed in touch with Carole.  Her puppy was about to enter her first show.  And then I realized that I cared about Carole and her dog.  I was rooting for Sami.  I wanted her to do well in the ring.  In the end, I silenced my self-doubt and listened to my heart, to my passion.  As it turned out, the AKC judge never answered my questionnaire.  Yet, I had the opportunity to interview a judge in person at a local dog show.  I had great research, great quotes, and more, I had a great story.  Regardless of what had been suggested to me, I stood my ground.  And I’m glad that I did.  I will have an amazing story to share with kids. 

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