Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Balancing Two Hobbies (Two Obsessions?)

When I was getting burned out in dog shows some years back (after 35 years) I went back to fishkeeping thinking I could do it in a small way, forgetting that I never do anything in a small way. I had been one of the 1960s fishkeepers with a metal frame tank and hang on the back filter full of angel floss and charcoal that replaced my fish bowl full of guppies. Got my tank for Christmas from my dad, and we set it up right away and added black mollies, moon fish (platies), zebra fish and some catfish that were presumably bronze cories. Angel fish too later, and Kuhli loaches. They never lived very long but I enjoyed them. No one knew about cycling a tank or doing regular water changes, and everyone said that "old water was good water". When we did massive water changes or scrubbed the tank, all the fish died from shock because we replaced the water they were slowly pickling in with fresh. I kept fish off and on for the next 35 years, sometimes tropicals, sometimes gold fish, never taking the time to learn much about the hobby.

When I got back into fish I purchased a betta at WalMart and put him in a vase with a plant (argh!), kept him on the kitchen counter, started reading about bettas and discovered websites full of wonderful show type Bettas. Soon set up a small tank with Dalmatian mollies (white with black spots) and albino corys, and started reading and learning. THEN I joined the Minnesota Aquarium Society, went to my first fish show and was HOOKED. My one gallon betta tanks soon lead to an upstairs bedroom full of betta containers and an increasing number of aquariums. A water spill (they go with fishkeeping) would have been a real problem upstairs, so I eventually built a fishroom in the basement. So much for doing it on a small scale. . . (pun)

I was not destined to get out of dogs either, really missed dogs shows and dog people, and tried to balance fishkeeping and dogs. When Argus came to stay my life got even busier. Although he was a wonderful pup I explained to his breeder my good friend Carrie that I did NOT want to campaign another dog, no matter how good he turned out to be, but I might be willing to let someone else do it if they wanted to. I was still grieving for my beloved Rob and did not plan to get too attached to Argus. We did dog shows only on weekends where we could also party with friends, and I started to enjoy shows again. Argus turned out even better than I had expected, and also won my heart and I knew that if he were to have a Specials career I would be the one to campaign him. Having campaigned Morris to a wonderful record, I knew how much time, work, and money Specialing entailed, BUT such a nice dog deserved to be campaigned, and as a handler friend once said, "How will the judges know what a really good dog looks like, if he sits at home?". My friends Mark & Ginger came on as co-owners, we gave it a try, and what a year we had! Winning the National and a couple of all breed Bests in Show, always owner-handled by me, #4 Dal over all shown only part of the year and never professionally handled. It was quite a ride!

The fish survived the year, although my fish club activities suffered. I missed the club's show last year and will miss it again this year, leaving for the Dal National the first day of the fish show. I won a Best Of Show with a betta several years ago, and attended the betta national too. Argus will be the last dog I campaign, and when he retires I will be able to spend more time on my fishy hobby. I still have almost 40 tanks up and running, but rarely purchase new fish as many of my tanks contain older "pet" fish. I've bred quite a few species of fish and really enjoy that part of the hobby, but have cut way back on that for now, as raising fry can be very time consuming.

Maybe next year I will be able to balance both hobbies a bit better! We'll see!