Fri, 06/26/2020 - 7:33pm

Craving Connection

In quarantine, a dog-show handler learns a big lesson from her little girl

Last weekend, I drove to pick up my daughter Gabrielle from her dad’s home. When I arrived, Gabrielle told me she bought presents for her friends and was hoping we could deliver them to their homes the next day. 

I love this about my daughter: When she loves someone, she wants to show them. She’s almost twelve, and at that age, her whole world is about her friends and how they shape her world. She understands the importance of friendship and nurtures those friendships.

Quarantine has been especially challenging for kids in this age group because this is when they begin to emotionally separate themselves from their parents. Feeling a sense of belonging with their peers is of the utmost importance.

I was so proud of her, her big heart, and how she takes initiative. It also made me feel good as a mom because I know part of the reason she walks through life so uniquely is because I have fostered that in her. Moments like that fill my heart and make me think, “See, you are making a positive difference in the world.”

After texting her friends’ moms so we could coordinate our social distancing, we set out to deliver Gabrielle’s friendship packages. Ana was playing basketball when we pulled into her driveway.

Cradling Dove, her Miniature Wired-Haired Dachshund in her arms, Gabrielle carried the gift toward her friend. She placed the gift on the ground in the middle of the driveway and then stepped back, placing distance between the gift so her friend could retrieve it. It was important to her to honor the minimum six-foot social-distancing rule.

As I sat in the car witnessing the exchange, the two girls stood motionless, completely transfixed in each other’s gaze. It felt like time stopped as I watched them. 

“Wow! That’s what life is really about,” I thought to myself. “Connection. Deep connection.”

From ten feet away, the girls drank in each other’s presence and I could literally see when they had gotten their fill. Their chests both seemed to expand and then their energy settled. Their connection felt complete. 

Gabrielle turned around and walked back to the car. Tears were pouring down her face, but I knew they were happy tears. She got in the car, closed the door and said, “Thanks, Mom.”

I was so grateful for that moment. Good times with people we care about are what life is really about. I can get so caught up in the next thing to do that I often lose sight of that.

When I would leave for dog shows, I used to say I was going to work. What I have learned during COVID-19 is that it’s not just work. It is so much more. 

During my COVID-19 downtime, I am dedicating time to writing my first book, Behind the Scenes of Best in Show. I have been interviewing handlers across the country because I want to share our stories about the heart and soul we put into our dogs, our clients and the work we do. 

Just last week, I interviewed Greg Strong. He described the profession of dog handling to be a “lifestyle.” I was really hit by that word choice. For dog-show people, dog showing is not a job, or a hobby – it is a lifestyle. Our whole lives are framed around dog shows and the dog-show schedule. It’s not just work, or a paycheck we are missing. We miss our way of life.

I assume there are many others like me, who live hundreds of miles away from their best friends. I’m not really friends with my neighbors. My friends are at dog shows. Dog shows are my local community. They are where I grew up. So, in a sense, while we are away from dog shows, many of us are missing our sense of community.

There are many tragic results of the coronavirus, and there are still more to come. The pandemic is affecting people in so many terrible and negative ways. It makes us aware of how powerless we truly are. 

But perhaps in the state of powerlessness, we can be reminded of what truly matters in life – people and relationships. We miss seeing our peers, our clients, judges we’ve known over the years. There are so many deep relationships that have been forged over time. 

We sometimes overlook this basic human to feel connected. As a parent at home trying to recognize and support the needs of my daughter, it has been a struggle watching her cry weekly over missing her friends. When COVID-19 began and the kids were informed they wouldn’t be going to school and wouldn’t be allowed to see and interact with their friends, Gabrielle cried out, “I hate COVID-19. I would rather be dead than not be able to see my friends!” Gabby is such an emotional creature, so in tune with her feelings. 

I am so grateful for her. Just watching her navigate her life keeps me mindful of my own needs. As human beings, we are biologically wired to seek connection. Through our connections we feel a sense of belonging to a greater whole. May we return to work and dog shows with a whole new perspective as to what it means to belong and to be able to honor one another with a whole new level of appreciation.

Kelly Lyn Marquis has been handling dogs professionally for more than 25 years. A CTA Certified Life Coach, she is offering her coaching services for free to anyone in the fancy who is struggling to cope. In lieu of payment, she requests that anyone who receives a session consider making a donation to Take the Lead, or another charity that is meaningful to them. To schedule a totally confidential free session, please text or call 603-770-5607 or email


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