I don’t like the idea of a formal mentor-mentee relationship as I have seen it go wrong so many times, and even when it doesn’t end up in a relationship breakdown, it often ends awkwardly. If you are creating a formal mentor relationship, you are creating an expectation – the expectation that the mentor will give to the mentee a certain amount of time and effort and often rats, and quite often their name as almost a “shield” to wear. In return, the mentee will probably be following the advice given to them – the way they feed, their husbandry, their methods and the ethics of their mentor. When the mentee develops their own methods and ideas, do they need to ask for permission to “formally end” the relationship? What if the mentor doesn’t think they’re ready? Minefield!
Probably the one thing I am entirely confident on with rats is that there are as many different and equally correct ways to do things as there are rat breeders. I am always happy to have people over to just come and chat about rat breeding – come and see my setup, talk about how I do things. But I’d also encourage them to go and visit other breeders too and find out how they do things. My way isn’t the best way – but it’s the best way for me and my rats. Your way isn’t the best either, it’s just the best way for you and yours.
The best new rat breeders aren’t the one who had the best/most prestigious mentors – they’re the ones who felt most supported in their journey, who have been given the information and help they need to feel confident in the decisions they’re making (and why). Supporting new breeders is the job of every other breeder they come into contact with in the fancy. I do always feel thrilled and like I’ve done my job as a rat breeder when new breeders thank me or give me some credit towards their success, there is no better ego boost to your heart than to see someone doing something awesome and tell you that you had a hand in it!