What is Mentorship?
However, for me a newbie in this showing and breeding arena I was completely lost. I wanted a matched pedigreed breeding pair. I did a great deal of research to purchase show quality kittens, to learn how to groom for show and how to breed and help give birth. I read the CFA site, magazines, books, went to CFA shows, went to local CFA Club meeting, veterinarian, and emailed CFA breeders from the referral list. I still came away feeling I knew nothing and no one was willing to help me. I did not have a definitive answer to any of my questions. To understand what I mean I will give you a few examples. Purchasing kittens was a yearlong task with only my personal direction and instincts of trust with breeders that I did not know and had never seen. I had no idea what I was looking for only knew I wanted the Fancy Feast commercial cat (Silver Shaded Persian). When my kittens arrived at the airport I was excited and lost all at the same time. What do I feed them? How do I bathe them, how often and with what products? I went to local pet supply stores and bought what I thought was good, safe and healthy. The $200 blow dryer that was recommended to me put my kitten on the ceiling and claw marks all over me. I have many items today based on recommendations of experienced and inexperienced people that do not work or at least not for my Silvers. It truly was a trial and error process in the beginning in every aspect. Then I went to my first show and met Shirley Crawford of Sanmars cattery she was benched right across from me and from that moment on she has been a great mentor, coach and friend. She never critized my techniques which weren’t much in the beginning at all. My kittens were clean and combed for their first show. However, the shaving of the tip of the nose, powder for the eyes, rounding the ear hair, and many other grooming procedures/techniques were not done and I had no clue. Shirley came over and helped me to do what we could at the show.
Yes, my cats did look like well taken care of but not show quality groomed. Shirley gave me names of degreasers, shampoos, powders, sprays, combs, magazines, etc... and where to get them by the end of that show. She even taught me how to read the show guide, the point system, introduced me to other Silver breeders, and was always interested in how I was doing with my cats. I was fortunate Shirley was at almost every show I went to and every time I learned valuable, practical and useable information. She also gave me her phone number and email address so I could contact her with any questions or concerns. Whenever I have had a question I call her, she is never to busy or critical, nor does she make me feel like my question is stupid.
Now I am actually breeding for my first time and I was very ignorant. I never realized what a breeder might have to do to help the female cat to give birth. I had everything set up or as I thought so. My first litter (2 kittens which I believe were healthy) I lost. I made mistakes. I called Shirley she was a shoulder and explained to me where I went wrong and what to do next time very detailed with a follow up email step by step explanation, (setting up the birthing area, articles possibly needed for birthing kittens and exactly what I needed to do and expect).
The next time I scheduled the breeding, which was the first step to know exactly or at least close to when, the kittens would be born. When the due date got close I was on the phone to Shirley and she walked me through what I needed to do right up to delivery. My cat had to have an emergency c-section and I have one kitten that started off with tube feeding, bottle and then working to get it back with its mother. They are both doing fine now. During those first two days I called Shirley probably a dozen times and she was always there to instruct me encourage me and to help me or just someone to talk to that understood. Also, during this time she had her own tribulations with kittens herself.
This is what I believe is the true meaning of mentorship; someone like Shirley Crawford who has always been there for me. It is very rare and special to find someone like her.
One thing all the people reading this article should know is I did not and never have purchased any kittens/cats from Shirley. Her only interest in helping me is the type of person and breeder and her love of cats that she is and pursues to instill in others that have an interest.
Thus, I would hope anyone that would ever need a mentor would be lucky enough to find someone like Shirley Crawford.
Mentorship has many different definitions and meanings depending on what reference you use; dictionary, CFA website, magazines, journals, and/or current breeders. To me (Venus DeVoe, Dynamicat cattery) it means more than written or spoken words it is the actions of the mentor. Keep in mind that utilization of all reference sources are needed to do well in the selection, showing and breeding arena.
The dictionary’s definition is; 1. A wise and trusted counselor or teacher. 2. Mentor Greek Mythology. Odysseus's trusted counselor, in whose guise Athena became the guardian and teacher of Telemachus. 3. One who advises another, especially officially or professionally.
CFA website explains a mentor as used in their article a Mentor Program Overview, “…the mentor program is to attract and retain breeders to the pedigreed breeds by establishing a program that provides education, guidance, assistance and nurturing. Our Vision is to provide a resource for the dissemination about the acquisition, breeding and showing of pedigreed cats.