Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Blue Christmas

More like a blue spring, actually, but it's my Christmas Wish so we'll go with it.

Most of you probably read Joanna's blog so you know already that her Clue is pregnant by Ch. Pecan Valley Draco. Much happy dancing here as I am crossing my fingers hardcore that Clue will have a special little blue kid for me when all is born, counted, weaned and evaluated.

Despite my own admonishments to myself about not getting my hopes up sky-high, I've already circled the Maine shows in Union as her (or slightly less preferably his?) show debut, and I have eight possible names jotted down on a growing list, along with another list of items I'll need for the new baby. I've weighed rearranging the bedroom based on the need for a baby crate, and casually mentioned that maybe we could forego the dining table in favor of an ex-pen in that kitchen corner. This last was met with a gimlet stare from the hubby. I may need a Plan B. I stood in Pet Quarters staring at the baby collars and debated which color would look best on a blue merle. (Is pink too girly?) And convinced myself that whatever I get I'll need a matching leash, because color coordination is important.

I've so far managed to not email Joanna for hourly updates; cyber-stalking is not attractive. 'Til the due date anyway... (I kid!! kinda...)

*ahem* As I believe I've mentioned, I have Issues.

Please, Santa? I've been a very good girl this year...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

I have Issues

Issue #1:
It started innocently enough. I decided I would bake Christmas cookies for folks this year rather than going the cheesecake route. This necessitated expanding my cookie collection beyond one Scottish Terrier and one dog biscuit shape because, while cute, they didn't so much shout "Christmas." So I bought a three-pack of holiday cutters. Then I found a package with 6 mini holiday-themed cutters, and I bought that too. Then I decided that I need big ones and small ones of each shape so I could make those cook jam-filled cookies with the cut out top, so I wandered into the cooking store downtown, and

Yahtzee!! LOTS of cookie cutters. Typical holiday shapes, tourist-trap-buy-this-stupid-thing-for-someone-at-home stuff like lobsters and moose. And also, a Labrador Retriever. Which gave me the idea to do a cookie-themed bag for the kennel club Christmas party and Yankee swap. (Cookie mixes, biscuit and lab-shaped cutters, dog cookies, a little booklet on baking your own dog biscuits, and two Yankee Candle holiday votives in the Christmas Cookie scent.)

Then the next day, I decided that I needed to add a Lab to my own collection, so I went back for another. And then I got to wondering if I might find more dog breed cookie cutters on line. And boy DID I! All of which leads me to...

Issue #2:
I am clearly a conformation snob. Because, when I saw this corgi cookie cutter?

The ONLY thing I could think of was: "Oh my God!! What a HORRIBLE top line!!"

Yeah. Issues.

Another Cardi Claus sighting

Cardi Claus made a stop at my house yesterday, courtesy of Cindy McDonald from Foggy Bottom Cardigan Welsh Corgis. How cute is this?



The "body" of the reindeer is a jar that contained dog cookies that were, if the canine delirium was any indication, completely delicious. There was a cute ornament for the tree, and some also-delicious chocolates. There are several more dog cookies remaining this morning than there are chocolates, I'm compelled to admit.


Since I had the camera out, I decided to get some pics of the critters. This one is my favorite:


This seems to be the season for running around like a chicken with its head cut off, hence no posting in the last couple of weeks. Bad blogger!! Still have a few little gifts to pick up, and a marathon baking session planned for this Saturday, followed by hubby's office Christmas party. Frigging whoopie. But I suppose that means I don't have to cook dinner.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Aw, HELL no, sista!

Don't you love reading some of the articles by so-called "behaviorists" who claim things like "dogs don't feel guilt" and "they are not anticipating consequences, just reacting to your body language," and stuff like that? I wonder sometimes when I read these things if the writer has even a passing acquaintance with dogs.

Case in point: About half the time, Elli will come into the bathroom when I turn off the shower and pull back the curtain. She's convinced that corgi tongue is a much more effective drying method than a towel. (Yeah, not so much.) But it's an on-again, off-again kind of thing. Ian, on the other hand, never comes into the bathroom when I'm showering. Because he just never knows when I might snag him and decide to bathe him. Best not to take chances.

But yesterday, when I pulled back the curtain, Ian came strutting into the bathroom. He walked over, stood with his front paws on the tub, and looked up at me. And I immediately asked, "What heinous thing has your sister done?"

Because it could not have been ANY clearer if he had suddenly started speaking English. That look plainly said, "Mom, Elli's doing something she's not supposed to, and I want no part in any of that. You need to address this situation." Good corgi!

Sure enough, I towel off and go out to the livingroom, to find Elli chewing on one of the Christmas decorations that I had apparently placed too low on the shelves. Bad corgi! True to character, SHE didn't feel any guilt over what she was doing, but Ian anticipated the scolding to come and wanted to make sure that I knew he was not a party to the destruction.

Yeah. He was clearly "just reacting to my body language." Uh huh.

What other gems have people read from some of these articles?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I hit the road (and the road hit back)

Sorry no further updates from Springfield, but at $7.99 per day I only sprang for one day of wireless internet service at the hotel.

So, Friday: We awoke to pouring rain and proceeded to get drenched taking the dogs out to potty. I decided I'd wear my jeans and take my show skirt with me to avoid it getting soaked. Naturally, I forgot to take the skirt with me, so I had to show Elli in jeans. Gee, way to impress, Dawn. Elli was the only 12-18 bitch again so she went to Winner's, but no luck there, which was no surprise. The judge commented that she'd be a nice bitch when she matured, and said, "She definitely wins the 'perky award.' I would kill for that attitude." So that was nice to hear. I also got to meet Holly and Jules in person, which was really cool. :-D

Ian was in Open A around 1:00 or 1:30, I think. Nancy Withers was judging, and she's a Pem person, so she was happy to have a corgi in the ring, even if it was the "wrong" kind. She also asked if he did agility since he's in such good shape. Score one for the green beans and low fat Evo! Ian was up and happy, and his heeling was... well, no worse than usual. We survived the Figure 8 intact. He did his drop on recall just fine, and this time I remembered to give him a voice command instead of a hand signal. Yay me. On the retrieve on the flat, he again played with his dumbbell once he brought it in, but that amounted to lost points, not an NQ. Then came the retrieve over the high jump. In retrospect, I think I should have thrown it further. He went over the jump and got it, but since it was relatively close to the jump, when he made his turn radius and headed back, he came around the jump instead of over, which disqualified us. He at least held the dumbbell and presented it to me nicely that time, so... good, I guess? Broad jump was fine, and he did his stays. Rats!!

Saturday: Wow, lots of Cardis!! We were about 20 minutes late getting started for Sweeps because our Sweeps judge never materialized. One of our Cardi club members found someone to judge. I think someone said she was a Terv person, but I'm not sure. Anyway, we finally got started. Elli had company in 12-18 this time -- there were four in her class. Since she was the second one in, I had time to stack her properly on the table before the judge came to look at her, and that whole table thing went a LOT better. She also did a nice down and back, and only went bait-diving a couple of times going around the ring. When we all went around together, she did nicely since the dog in front of her was more interesting than the fuzzies on the floor. We ended up 3rd of 4 in Sweeps. She behaved well again in the regular class, but went 4th of 4.

Ian's attitude was decidedly NOT perky when it came time for obedience. He was happy enough to work outside beforehand, but when we got into the ring he was pretty distracted on the heel free. The ring on Saturday was also right between the main aisle down to the agility area, and a Rally ring, so there were more distractions than there were in the far corner where we were the first two days. It's no excuse, it just is what it is. So anyway, heeling and figure 8 were a little lackluster, but he Q'd and he did his drop on recall. AGAIN he played with his dumbbell on the flat, and again on the retrieve over the jump, but the judge passed him. He also did his broad jump, so when we left the ring we were still in the hunt. He stayed up for his sit stay, so I figured we were home free, because he NEVER breaks his down stay. Oh yeah, you guessed it. He got up to sniff a spot in front of him before I even left the ring! And he looked at me the whole time he was doing it. I definitely think I got the middle finger there.

Sunday: Sweeps again. I have no idea who drafted this particular Sweeps judge, and I don't know what breed his background is in, but suffice it to say it's not Cardigans. We started out with 5 bitches in the 12-18 class. The first bitch up was a little leery of the table. Which was not helped at all when the "judge" fricking MOVED THE TABLE WITH THE BITCH ON IT!!!!! I didn't see what went down, but I was told later that the pup snapped at him when he did that, and he excused her from the ring. What. An. Asshole. He needed a good, swift kick in the jimmies. Seriously.

Anywho, Elli ended up going 3rd of the 4 remaining. Which was just ridiculous, as the dog that he placed in 4th behind her was the previous day's Winners Bitch (of a 5-point major) and BOS. I mean yeah, it feels good not to be dead last, but come on! Elli then went 2nd in the regular class, and the poor girl who had been excused from Sweeps won the class, after the judge was very patient with her on the table.

And Ian.... hoo boy. Okay. You know how I said he gave me the finger on Saturday? Well, on Sunday, he gave me both middle fingers, with a triple fist-pump for emphasis. We NQ'd on the heel free. Figure 8 sucked, he didn't do his drop on the recall, he effed around with his dumbbell, refused to finish, and then refused the broad jump just for good measure. The one good thing I can take out of Sunday is that, when we were told to sit our dogs for the long sit, Ian put his head down to sniff again and, since we had already NQ'd (rather spectacularly at that), I took the opportunity to give him a good correction before I told him to stay and left. He at least did the stays after that.

So, we left the show grounds around 3:30 or so. I got home at 8:00. When I got up yesterday morning and went out to make a grocery run, I discovered that I had a flat tire. Further inspection showed that it is almost certainly the rim and not the tire itself, if the big dimple in it is any indication. I'm now driving around on a donut until I can get up to the dealership tomorrow to get a new rim.

I did say I'd be happy if I came home from the weekend with one green qualifying ribbon. I apparently lied. But I learned lots of good information, so it's not a total loss (well, except to the tire rim). I think I am going to hold off showing Elli for a while and pray that she at least grows some hair and starts to look like a grown-up. I may enter Ian in conformation in January at the Fitchburg shows to try and pick up the last two singles he needs, but we'll see how things go. We clearly need to do a little more work with this obedience thing.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Leg to Stand On

Well, we didn't do it in style, but Ian earned his first CDX leg today. I think the judge must have been in a good mood. :-)

Heeling was about like I expected: a little wide, a lag here and there. On the recall, I went temporarily retarded and gave a hand signal to drop instead of a voice command. Ian looked at me oddly and continued on for a few steps, but he did eventually drop, just in time to lose points but not NQ altogether.

Then, it's about the retrieves... He did go out and get the dumbbell and brought it back, so he completed the principle portion of the exercise. However, when he came back he stopped a little far out in front of me, dropped into a crouch, and mouthed the dumbbell until the judge told me to take it. I didn't move my feet, but I think I had to dislocate a couple of vertebrae and a shoulder to do so. Same thing for the high jump, only he went kind of to the side this time and played with the dumbbell. He also didn't really do a front on the broad jump, just circled around me and lost focus. But again, he performed the principle portion of the exercise, so we squeaked by.

Bottom line: A 174.5, which is about 4.5 points more than I thought we had. In all honesty, I wouldn't have been at all upset if the judge had NQ'd us, as this was NOT a good performance. We'll be practicing the retrieve tomorrow before ring time!!

As for Elli: there were three bitches of the five entered who showed up today for conformation. Elli got neither WB nor Reserve, so do the math. About what I expected. She did a nice down and back, and wasn't too bad on the table. Her trip around the ring wasn't very impressive, though, what with the sniffing and so forth.

I had said that if I went home from the weekend with 1 green qualifying ribbon I'd be happy, so if we get anything else this weekend, it'll be gravy as far as I'm concerned.

:-D

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Close quarters

Last night I dubbed around with the writing blog, and after a while I noticed that my feet felt suspiciously weightless -- normally I have a corgi head on each foot. I glanced around the living room; no corgis. Didn't see either one on the kitchen floor on my way through, nor were they in the bathroom. The bedrooms were all closed off. Then I heard rustling coming from the crate that's tucked between the table and the stairs to the basement. Here's what I found:


This is only a 300 size crate, so what possessed them to scrunch in there together, I don't know. Doesn't look very comfy!

Tonight I've got a trip to Walmart to make, two dogs to bathe, three loads of laundry to wash, a car to pack, and Lord knows how many shows to set up on the DVR.

Tomorrow? Springfield, here we come!!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

This and That

As I'm sure most of you know from reading Joanna's blog, Clue finally came into season!!!! I am now commencing with the cautiously optimistic but hopefully not obnoxiously obsessive spazzing. I reserve the right to go into full-on optimistic freakitude if (When! Think positively!!) the future ultrasound comes back with images of multiple puplets. Say it with me: lots of blue girls... lots of blue girls...

Got the judging schedule for Springfield last night, and it looks like the only day I'll have a conflict is Thursday, which should be easy enough to fix if the obedience judge will let me go to the end of the class. Cardis are on early to mid-morning every day except Sunday, when Sweeps is at 12:15 and breed is at 1:15. Naturally. Because we wouldn't want to get a jump on the drive home or anything.

Ian did each of the Open elements correctly on the first try at class last night, so fingers crossed. It seems to be the second or third pass he'll mess up, and since you only get one shot in the ring, we may be all right. He's still heeling wide and sitting crookedly, but I'll cope.

As for Elli in conformation gaiting, and stacking on the table... um, yeah. She'll make a great obedience and agility dog. :-/

For any of you out in blogland who will be in Springfield, I'm staying at the Red Roof over in Enfield, and there are a lot of restaurants huddled around the hotels. We could plan on an informal Cardi and/or blogger dinner get-together thingy, if anyone is interested.

On the writing front, I've been wrestling with the finer points of plot progression; since the second half of the scene I posted over on the other blog is going to be important in kicking off that plot, I kinda need to have some stuff figured out. Must. Flesh out. Outline. So, more soon. For realz!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Keep 'em separated... ya ya ya...

Yeah, there aren't any musical symbols I can insert into the title line, so you'll have to imagine.

A couple of you said you'd like to give my foolishness (AKA writing) a try. Rather than clutter up this blog with it, I've created a separate blog for that. I'm only going to open it to readers I've invited, rather than having it open for just anyone to wander into. If you are interested, please email me at smalltymecardigans@yahoo.com I will send you an invite. The blog is called Bartered Goods; if I ever attempt to publish anything --

*ha. hehehe. hehehehehehehe. hehehe-snort-hhehehehe*

Sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah. I write under the name Dayna Barter (my first name plus my grandmother's maiden name. Yeah, I don't know either. Just go with it.).

Jules and Marie, I didn't have your email addresses handy, but if you email me I'll get an invite out to you.

Springfield entries

Holy crap!! Check out the Saturday/Sunday entries!!

Thursday: 3-5 (2-1) 0
Friday: 6-8 (2-1) 2
Saturday: 11-18 (3-1) 3 SWEEPS: 8-9 (0-0) 0
Sunday: 11-17 (3-2) 0 SWEEPS: 9-8 (0-0) 0

That is going to be SO COOL to see that many Cardis gathered in one spot. And Elli is SO not coming home with any points.

Anyone want to place wagers on how many days out of four I will have a conflict between conformation and obedience?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Brain hijacking

Saturday night, disaster at work: I finished the book I was reading when I was only halfway through my shift! Noooooo!! I had no back-up book, and no cross-stitch project to work on. Four agonizingly slow hours with nothing to occupy my time. What to do, what to do....

I've been playing at fiction writing for years now. I say "playing" because I possess absolutely nothing that even remotely resembles anything like ambition. I make up character sheets, I research locations and various subjects, I write out a full-fledged outline, I get a few chapters in, and then... I drift off to something else and leave it all unfinished. Sure, my characters get pissed off and yell at me in my head for a while, but I've gotten good at tuning them out over the years. They generally subside after a while and go off to some dark corner of my brain to sulk, leaving me to my other pursuits. Some like to sneak up on me in the shower and whisper dialogue, or make themselves their own playlist in my iTunes library (because it sure as hell wasn't ME who downloaded three Dragonforce albums), but they've been fairly low-key overall.

But one particularly insistent protagonist seized the opportunity my idle mind presented and decided it was time I did some more work on her story. Because I don't, you know, have enough to do, what with the working 7 days a week and training two dogs for competition. She very cannily pointed out that I've got loads of down time at my security job, though, and Gee! Isn't it handy that she's been a security consultant these last three years that I've kept her languishing in my work-in-progress file? (Not that that's her real job, but anyway...)

So it looks like I've got a new project to work on at work when I'm not, um, working. If anyone likes to nag, I hereby grant permission to nag me about how many words I've written per weekend, as doG knows it generally takes nothing short of cannon-fire to overcome the static co-efficient of friction and get me moving on a project. If anyone is interested once I get stuff to the point where it's suitable for eyes other than mine, let me know. Feedback is good, especially the constructive kind. This WIP sits firmly in the contemporary fantasy sub-genre, if that's anyone's cuppa tea.

Friday, November 6, 2009

I was planning to sign in today to regale you with funny tales of last night's utter humiliation at the paws of my youngest but, as is par for the course with Elli, she didn't oblige me.

It's been over a month since our last handling class, and Elli has had only sporadic training at outside locations since then. Our handling and table session at the public landing was not a resounding success; she was very focused on her Beagle buddy Mia (not to be confused with Ian's Beagle buddy, Becca), and focused little or none on me. I had a hard time keeping her gaiting in a straight line, and she was bound and determined to sniff every couple of steps. A subsequent work session at the Wag It training center yielded much the same results. Her gaiting is atrocious, her table stacking isn't much better, and she is apparently never going to have the plush coat I would like her to have. I do not anticipate her doing much of anything at the Springfield shows, frankly, other than helping to up the point count.

But I do expect her to eventually do, if not great things, then at least very good things in the obedience and agility rings in the future. So, to start working on those skill sets, I started Elli in a heeling class last night.

Ian and I have been training with Thom Lambert at Canine Connection for over a year and a half now, and I think it would be fair to say that I've gotten quite spoiled with my boy. Arguably the best-behaved and most consistent dog in his class, it's hard for me to remember that, when we started out, he didn't know how to do anything other than stand there and look pretty. It took WEEKS of daily, evening crate pad/clicker/treat sessions for him to get the concept of "down." He forged horribly when heeling, he would lie down on the sit stay every. damn. time, and he was bound to go visiting on the recall or during agility work.

In that year and a half, though, he's gone from there to being completely off-lead the entire class, including coming into and going out of the building. He's earned a CD and is ready (I hope!) to start competing in Open. He focuses, he stays with me, and while he'll never be a sharp, precise worker, he's a happy worker and he really, really wants to please me.

Little Miss Elli, on the other paw, really, really wants to please herself.

So when I headed into class last night, I was fully expecting to be humbled by the little, black, hairless whirlwind. The outings with Mia had prepared me for her total disinterest in my end of the leash; I was sure she'd be tearing to go play with the other dogs, I just knew there was no way in hell she was going to do a sit or down stay, and I was prepared for her to bark three-quarters of the time or more.

But Elli is loath to do the expected. She was excited to be there, to be sure, but as soon as we took our place in the room and I put her in heel position, she whipped her little head up and focused on me. I reinforced that liberally. Then we worked on having her sit in front and keep her focus on me, also with lots of treats for eye contact. (I swear to doG that my head is going to start flipping backwards -- for I am my dog's PEZ dispenser.) We played the Leave It game with good success, then did some sits and downs. Even with Thom knocking on the door, pounding on the heat duct, and twirling a weave pole, she stayed in her sit and/or down. The ONLY time she got up was when a huge, hyper Yellow Lab (is there any other kind?) got loose and pounced on her. I really couldn't blame her for getting up out of a down position for that, and I was sort of impressed with the fact that she didn't nail him for his rudeness. Actually, I kind of wish she had, because it might have done the Lab some good to have someone put him in his place, but anyway...

For the recall, I left her and went about halfway across the room. Elli waited until called, came running in, and gave me an awesome front, then a nice, straight finish. I may be a little biased, but I'd say she was easily the little star of her class.

As is almost always the case, I learned way more from the session than she did. I learned that she is very high drive, very motivated to work for reward, and more precise with her positioning and movement than her brother will ever be. She's also whip-smart, which is a double-edged sword; she picks things up very quickly, and she also gets bored very quickly. When Thom told us to take breaks and just play with our dogs, I had to restrict "play" to some touch games, some hand signal work, and some tricks, because any loosening of focus on my part meant she was whining, barking, and jumping to go play with the blue merle collie a few feet away.

Next week we will start doing some Choose To Heel exercises, and do some heeling as a group, which I suspect will erode some of her focus -- dogs moving in front and away from her mean the prey drive (or is that the Play drive?) is triggered, so I'll need to be prepared to "treat on the move." She does a good job heeling off lead at home, though, so I know she understands the concept. We just need to carry that over with the distraction of the other dogs.

So, this isn't at all the funny and self-deprecating little post I was expecting to write this morning. Which is good for my training program and for Elli's future obedience career, but not so much for your entertainment. Sorry, guys!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Off the soapbox and onto the Boob Tube

***The following typed with tongue planted FIRMLY in cheek. It's a total waste of everyone's time. No redeeming qualities whatsoever. You probably shouldn't even read it.***

I know it seems as though I've been writing about everything BUT the dogs lately. That's because we really don't have a whole lot going on right now, other than trying to get Ian ready for the trials in two weeks, and praying against all odds that Elli grows some, you know, HAIR between now and then. So, while that's keeping us busy, it doesn't make for real scintillating reading. Hence the climbing on of soapboxes and, now, the rambling on about my second greatest passion in life, the television.

[Hey, I live in Maine. It's coming up on winter. There's not a whole lot to do, okay? Don't judge.]

There has been a long-running joke at my house about my "TV boyfriends." Yeah, plural. I mean, it's not like I won't watch a show if it doesn't have a cute guy in it or anything, but hey! It doesn't hurt matters any. I even at one point had a "TV husband," but then he got old and puffy, and started taking roles in really bad Syfy channel movies (like there are any other kind of Syfy channel movies), so we divorced. The break-up was long and painful, and spanned several seasons.

Since then, I've been cultivating a harem (hisem?) of TV beaus. It's true: I'm a big ole TV 'ho. I know these polyamorous situations can sometimes be tense and rife with jealousy, but we've all been getting on pretty well. Nathan Fillion has me on Mondays; Jensen Ackles and Simon Baker share Thursday nights. Alexander Skaarsgard steamed up the hot summer Sunday nights, while Tahmoh Penikett keeps me entertained on Fridays. (Though honesty compels me to admit that Tahmoh and I are flirting with having a Friday menage-a-trois with Amanda Tapping. Because she is magical and made of awesome.) I regularly have dinner with Joe Flanigan and Jason Momoa as Stargate: Atlantis airs on Syfy at 5:00. It's all been very fair and democratic.

But lately, a fox has stolen into the hen... uh, rooster house. A fox who does not appear to be content with the status quo. Rather than respecting my time with the others, he insinuates himself with Youtube videos of panel discussions from Cons and behind-the-scenes DVD footage. He has me Gogling (defined by Websters as ogling photos dug up through Google) non-stop. This upstart is jockeying for the alpha position in the pack, and I fear he may be winning.

I said I would never get TV-married again after the long, downward spiral I found myself in with TV-hubby number one. It's too painful to watch their looks go as they languish in a stale series, then fade ignominiously into oblivion, only to re-emerge with a bad, fake accent and dialogue a retarded three-year-old would find inane. No more worrying over series renewal, wondering what he would move onto next and how it would change our relationship. I was to remain footloose and fancy-free, at liberty to seek enjoyment where I may.

But how, I ask, am I supposed to say no to THIS?





Tall, dark, handsome... a younger man at 25, so while I may feel a tad cougarish I at least need not worry about the bloom fading too soon from the rose... A gorgeous Irish accent that would make the stupidest piece of dialogue sound like poetry -- not that he's had any stupid dialogue because, unlike my ex, HE has landed a role in an awesome BBC series. He even has cute, awesome friends (okay, co-stars). And his smile is 1000 watts.

Yes, I fear it's true: I am deeply and irrevocably in lust with Aidan Turner.*

So what is a modern, harem-having gal to do? I don't know that I can be monogamous; so many pretty, pretty boys... But, Irish! And gorgeous!

Gah.

Hey, I wonder if there are any new web photos...

*NOT the Aiden-with-an-e Turner of All My Children fame. That Aiden is just male model-type skeevy. Those bathtub photos? Ew.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Apologies

I would like to officially apologize, to the country and to humanity in general, for the State of Maine.

Due in large part to a blatantly false ad campaign that amounted to nothing more than a cheap scare tactic aimed at the uneducated and the willfully ignorant, Maine's Referendum Question 1 passed, allowing a People's Veto of the previously passed law allowing for gay marriage in Maine. According to the Vote Yes campaign, a No vote meant that, basically, all Maine elementary schools would IMMEDIATELY cease any teaching of math, reading, science, etc. and focus singularly and with laser-like precision on teaching Maine's school-age children How To Be Gay.

Laughable as that sounds, it apparently convinced enough fence-sitters to vote yes. The ignorant, intolerant, homophobic a-holes were always going to vote that way, but I am bitterly disappointed that a majority of Maine voters couldn't see through that smoke screen to the real issue, which is that some people feel that it is their God-given right to tell other people whom they may love and how they may live their lives -- even when it affects there own lives NOT. AT. ALL.

"Save traditional marriage!" was their battle cry. Save it from what?! Other people being able to file their taxes a certain way? Which, again, affects them NOT AT ALL. "Oh," they say, "those people are promiscuous, they don't have monogamous, committed relationships." Hmm, a monogamous and committed relationship.... kinda like a, you know, marriage? I shit you not, this was one of the 'arguments' presented. Because, I suppose, straight people are NEVER promiscuous or anything.

"Our children will learn about gay marriage in school!" *insert outraged pearl-clutching here* Yes, heaven forbid we inform children that there are more ways than one to live. We wouldn't want them getting all tolerant and shit. Gotta grow up to be just like their faggot-hating moms and dads!! Bigotry, discrimination, unfounded hate -- these are good, traditional family values!!

But hey, there is a positive thing that we can take away from this: The Power of the People's Veto! So, for the 2010 election, I am starting a petition drive to repeal the right of blonds to marry brunettes. Blonds shall therefore be forced to marry only other blonds, and brunettes only other brunettes (redheads do not in fact exist as actual human beings; therefore they will not be referred to in any way in this petition, as sub-humans are not allowed to marry anyhow). This will lead to two distinct and separate classes of people, which is clearly how God (and Hitler) intended for it to be.

It makes exactly as much sense as denying homosexuals the right to marry.

Who wants to sign my petition?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Singing the Blues

...or the lack thereof. Joanna's Clue is playing coy with the whole heat thing, so it looks like she may be skipping this cycle altogether. Bummer. On the other hand, summer/fall puppies are way better than winter puppies, so there's that. *patience is a virtue... patience is a virtue...*

Friday, October 30, 2009

Sneak Peek

...at Adam Lambert's new single, "For Your Entertainment." Catchy, pop-electronica-dance type of music. Sounds very radio-friendly, and will fit in well with what's currently on the Top 40. Since this is my blog and not a squealy, "omigod-ur-so-hawt-Adam!!" type of scary fan-board, I'll leave it at that.

http://randomizeme.wordpress.com/2009/10/30/world-premiere-adam-lamberts-for-your-entertainment-single/

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Picking up the Group thing...

Picking this up from Jules, who picked it up from Amanda in turn:

If you HAD to choose a dog from each CKC/AKC "Group," what would you choose and why? (excluding your own breeds)

Group 1- Sporting
Group 2- Hound
Group 3- Working
Group 4- Terriers
Group 5- Toys
Group 6- Non Sporting
Group 7- Herding

This will be a really fun exercise for me considering that, at any given moment, I own at least a half dozen imaginary dogs in addition to the actual, flesh-and-blood variety that live in my house.

1. SPORTING: Nostalgia urges me to take a Golden or a Lab, although they're a little more dog than I want to handle. That size issue leads me toward the English Cocker, but I can't get on board with the whole tail-docking thing. A delusion of me someday becoming flashy and stylish (try not to kill yourselves when you fall out of the chair laughing) argues for a groomed-to-the-hilt show quality Irish Setter. FINAL ANSWER: The Golden. They make great obedience dogs, they have pretty, "girly" hair that I already know how to groom, and they generally play well with others.

2. HOUND: After the Herding group, this is probably the group I can find the second largest number of dogs I would actually consider owning (and not just at gunpoint). Which is mildly disturbing to me on a number of levels. I have an on-going fascination with sight hounds that refuses to be deterred by any number of arguments that they are, shall we say, not the most obvious choice for competitive obedience. Independence and aloofness notwithstanding, I would happily have a Pharoah Hound or an Ibizan. I adore the Borzoi and I debated adopting a rescue Greyhound; that I don't have a 6-foot fence, and my house is a mere 1,200 sq. ft. ranch, are the only reasons there is not currently a 50-mph couch potato in my home. Whippets are the obvious size alternative. I prefer something with more hair, but since the long-haired whippet isn't apt to make an appearance in the AKC register anytime soon (read: NEVER), I'd have to forego the coat. On the other end of the size spectrum, I love me some long-haired Dachshunds, either standard or miniature-sized. Ever see a mini Dachshund on an agility course? Cutest. Thing. Ever. FINAL ANSWER: I WILL have a Whippet amongst all the corgis someday, and its name WILL be Devo. 'Cause, Whip It? Yes, I really am that lame. And if I get my addition and my 6-foot fence, or if we buy a bigger house, bring on the Borzoi.

3. WORKING: My husband would really like to have a Newfoundland. And I speak the truth when I say that I have NEVER met a Newfoundland whose personality I didn't love. But my GAWD, the drool!!! And the hair!!! And the drool!!! That is one big dog to be depositing hair and slobber all over my floor (and walls, and ceiling...). One of our kennel club members has Newfs and has offered to let Nathan test-drive one for a weekend to see if it changes his mind. I can't see it changing mine. I like the looks of a nice, show-quality Doberman -- a lot. But then there are the tail-docking and ear-cropping issues. I like the looks of the spitz breeds, but the feistiness with other dogs? Not so much. PWDs are great working dog and a good size, but I'm not wild about their looks, either lion-clipped or natural. I'm just not into curly-coated dogs. FINAL ANSWER: If forced at gunpoint, I guess I would settle on an Alaskan Malamute. They're pretty, they have the hair issue but not the drool issue, they are bred to work in packs and should get along with other dogs if socialized well while young. And I've been trying to get one of my dogs to howl with me since I've HAD dogs; I bet a Malamute would oblige.

4. TERRIERS: Okay, this one is easy. (In truth, it would take the actual, physical gun to make me take a terrier, but since this is all fantasy anyway...) I've said for years that, when I turn into a crotchety old woman (notice I didn't say "if") I will get a nasty little Scottish terrier to sit on my lap, growl at people, and bark at those pesky kids playing their music too loud and trespassing on my lawn. I have full commitment to the stereotype. Cuz that's just how I roll.

5. TOYS: It's a close toss-up between the Cavalier and the Papillon. I've seen a lot of great working Papillons, and they have that whole cute butterfly ear thing going on. The Cavalier has an expression that could melt the entire continent of Antarctica and is the ultimate brush-its-hair-and-go-totally-girly-on-its-ass toy dog. But it also has the long hair on the feet, and as my Corgis will attest, I am known in my house as The Foot Nazi. FINAL CHOICE: The Papillon, by a (foot)hair.

6. NON-SPORTING: Yeah, not really my group. I think the Frenchies are cute, especially after seeing "Monster" on the short-lived series Threshold, but their reputation when it comes to training and housebreaking is not a good one. The Tibetan Spaniel is smaller and is cute, but hard to come by. I really like the Standard Poodle personality and temperament, but there's that whole curly-haired thing, and the grooming. FINAL ANSWER: The Standard Poodle. I'd just have to have a really good groomer on speed-dial to keep its sporting clip in tip-top shape.

7. HERDING: Yay, my favorite group!! I've seriously considered a number of these dogs. I love the Rough Collies, particularly the blue merles. Drawbacks are the hair, the fact that they're always bigger than my brain expects them to be, and the barkiness that I've seen with a lot of Collies. Love the looks of the Aussies, again especially the blues, but I've seen SO many Aussies who are dog aggressive, and they are probably a higher-drive dog than I want to live with full-time. I've known some really cool Belgian Terverens, I'm a little flirty with the notion of a Canaan Dog, I've owned a Pembroke in the past... and then there are the Shelties. I don't think there's ever been a time in my life when I didn't know at least one person with a Sheltie. I know, I know -- the hair, the barking (Oh! the barking...), but they are the neatest, weirdest... Okay, you know how they have the different character alignments in D&D? You don't? You weren't one of those odd, geeky, role-playing freaks in high school? Oh, me neither. I'm just going by what I've heard... oh, alright. I was totally one of those odd, geeky, role-playing freaks in high school. ANYway... one of the alignments is Lawful Evil. Characters of this alignment are highly self-motivated and not out for the greater good, but they are very organized and revere order over chaos in their pursuits. This is the Sheltie in a nutshell. There is a whole worldwide, underground, coalition of Shetland Sheepdogs out there and, believe you me, if only they had opposable thumbs they would have taken over the world a LONG time ago. The lack of that one, all-important digit has forced them to play the long game, using the stupid man-apes as pawns in their struggle to subdue the universe. When they are whirling around and barking their heads off at someone sneezing? Don't buy the act. It's all a diversionary tactic to keep us mere homo sapiens from tumbling to what's really going on. Seriously! FINAL ANSWER: Yeah, a Sheltie. They've got mind-control powers, yo.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Adding = Bad

Hotel room for 4 nights: $383.00
Entry fees for obedience, conformation and Sweepstakes: $254.00
Gas to Springfield and back: $60.00
Parking for 4 shows: $20.00
Food for the weekend: $150.00, give or take

The opportunity to disqualify when my dog tip-toes through the broad jump, goes down on the long sit, or comes back around the high-jump: priceless.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Castle / Nathan Fillion

I don't know if anyone else out there in Cardi Blogland watches Castle on Monday nights, but last night's episode saw the perfect homage paid to Fillion's former character, Captain Malcolm Reynolds, from Firefly. 1) Awwwww; 2) Squee!; and 3) *regretful sigh* that FOX pulled the plug on one of the best sci-fi TV series ever before its audience had had the chance to find it.

May you live forever in my DVD collection, Mal!

But it's cuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuute!

Why is it that when you shrink something down from it's usual size, it's unbelievably cute? Not to mention tasty. Haagen-Daz, Ben & Jerry's, and Edy's all make these tiny little single serve ice creams now. I get to eat a whole container for 180 calories and 7 grams of fat. Life is good!

When ice cream has babies. Coffee mug for size comparison.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Lost and Found

Last Tuesday when I got weighed, I'd lost a total of 27 pounds. When I stopped at the vet's office on my way home to do a weight check on the dogs, I found the 27 pounds -- that's what Elli weighs.

I lost an Elli!

"It's not behind here, Mom. I checked."

Friday, October 23, 2009

Playing the Game

My mom and I have an on-going... let's call it a debate about showing dogs. Don't get me wrong -- she's very supportive; she goes to shows with me, dogsits, walks the dogs, performs bucket-b*tch duties, etc. I don't even remember how old I was when she packed me into the car and drove off to that first dog show, but it wasn't very.

But for her, a "dog show" actually meant an obedience trial. Sure, there was a conformation show there too, but mom and her cohorts paid no heed to "that stupid breed stuff" as they worked last minute recalls and offered up a prayer to the Gods of Obedience that this time the dog didn't tiptoe through the broad jump or creep on the long down. "Breed dogs" were "dumb", and the "real" dogs did obedience. (Where she and said cohorts would have gotten their smart obedience dogs without the breeders breeding the "dumb breed dogs" was a question never addressed, natch.) Conformation was simply never something on her radar. Consequently, it wasn't something on mine.

Right out of college, my first order of business was to get my own dog. What, you thought I was going to say a job? Ha! No. Mom -- she of the Golden Retrievers -- strongly urged me to get (and, by "strongly urged", I mean "forbade me to get anything other than") a sporting dog; preferably a Golden but, if not, then something out of the sporting group. Since at that point I was still living at home, a sporting dog it was. So, along came my Labrador, Tara.

Tara's registered name was "Aurora's Wholly Tara," and she dedicated every day of her life to living up to that play on words. Recipe for NOT having a successful first obedience dog: Go to, if not a backyard breeder, the very smallest step up. Pick THE alpha puppy out of the litter. Get a new job located an hour away one week before the puppy comes home. Stir in a small yard, two adult Goldens, no puppy kindergarten to speak of, and mix liberally with a completely green handler/trainer. In Tara's very short obedience career, she managed to be excused from the ring for limping; threatened the judge's standard poodle who was sitting ringside with the judge's husband; and left my ring altogether to run into the Open ring and retrieve the dumbbell. Thank Dog it was mom in the other ring and not some stranger! I believe it was after that experience that we retired ignominiously and took up playing frisbee, a much more agreeable activity for Tara.

I adored that dog. And she taught me more than I ever taught her.

While I was suffering every obedience indignity imaginable at the paws of my own dog, I was also learning about conformation from a German Shepherd breeder who patiently sat ringside with me, catalog open, and explained the whole process to me -- how the classes worked, how to figure points, the distinction between class dogs and specials, the whole shebang. And once I knew what was going with "that stupid breed stuff," it was very interesting. I had a brief affair with a Pembroke that was supposed to be a show pup but didn't turn out, and I placed him in a wonderful home with a professor at the college where I worked. As of last summer, that Pem was still going strong at 14.

Alas, the life of a long-term renter is not conducive to involvement in the dog show fancy, and I was away from it for several years until my husband and I were finally able to purchase a house. We closed on a Friday; I was at a match that Sunday, starting the process of choosing a breed and getting a dog. I had plans for another Pembroke, but a certain dark brindle Cardigan's photo leapt off of the computer screen at me, and the rest, as they say, is history.

I wasn't looking for a show prospect per se, but Ian's breeder felt that he was finishable, so off I embarked on the show handling thing. Totally clueless as far as handling, even MORE totally clueless on how to show-groom a Cardi, I think I've posted before about the total disaster I was in the ring, and how poor Ian managed to go WD two days out of three that first weekend despite - not because of - me. Even with those wins, I didn't think I'd ever get past the nerves, and I was determined to have someone else handle Ian for conformation. Ariel, who had somehow grown up from a tween to a 25 year-old in the time I was away, handled Ian at the next weekend of shows I entered.

And a funny thing happened: As I stood there watching furtively from behind the crowd so as not to distract my dog from his handler, I realized that I was once again just a spectator. I didn't want to be a spectator to my own dog. He was mine, and I was going to learn how to show him. I've learned a ton over the last year and a half; I expect I'll learn a ton over the next year and a half too, and I hope I never reach a point where I think I've learned all there is to know, because that will only prove that I haven't learned anything.

Is there a point to this never-ending, stream of consciousness, Queen of Babble-On routine?

Well, lately, my husband has echoed mom somewhat; he finds the subjectivity of conformation showing to be very frustrating. He likes things clear-cut: did you win or didn't you? If you add A + B, you should get C, right? Well, not in conformation. Sometimes A + B = H. Or F. Or Z. Who knows? Pick a letter. Why does one dog win one day and get dumped the next? His logical mind can't wrap itself around the whole thing, and he too prefers obedience or agility, where either the dog does what it is supposed to or not, qualifies or not, places or not. For once, on this particular point, he agrees with my mom.

I think a lot of people new to the dog-showing experience become frustrated for the same reason. Some days they're up, some days they're down, and being new, they often have no idea why. The dog that "should" win didn't. A dog that never should have won did. People talk about this judge or that handler, and the information coming at them is a morass of conflicting advice, gossip, information, gossip, and - oh yeah! - gossip. For the newly initiated, it can truly be a confusing and, yes, an unpleasant experience.

But tell them to hang in there. Does the "wrong" dog sometimes win? Sure. Are there politics involved? Yes. Are there unscrupulous exhibitors who illegally cover up faults, trim dogs, fix teeth, etc.? Yup. Are these things in the majority? No.

Despite the deadly earnestness with which some people approach showing dogs, it is a sport. And by definition, a sport is a game. Some days you win, some days you lose. Sometimes a lesser dog will take the points from you because another dog in the ring has a well known breeder or handler on the other end of its leash. It's called paying your dues. Someday, if you keep at it, if you consistently behave with good sportsmanship and integrity, if you continually strive to better the quality of the dogs you bring to the judge, then you'll be the one accumulating the points and the ribbons -- sometimes when you shouldn't.

And even now, when you are new, sometimes you will win when you shouldn't; I was delighted when Ian went Best of Breed over specials, but looking back at it now, he in NO way should have. It's a tribute to our sport, and to the wonderful breeders with whom I was competing, that no one pointed it out to me on that day, elated with my win. Some lessons are best learned organically.

So keep going out there. Keep competing. Watch Group and look at what the professionals do -- there's a wealth of free education there if you look for it. Don't be deterred by messing up the judge's ring pattern, or inadvertently bonking your dog's head on the grooming table, or having a wardrobe malfunction in the ring. Learn from it, and consider it another check deposited into the Dues account. "Another day, another dog show". Be a good sport, even when it hurts, and remember:

It's only a game.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Happy Birthday, Elli

Today's the day. It seems like it has only been minutes since Elli was a tiny pup, and forever that she's been a part of my life. I can't imagine not having her there to make me laugh with her crazy antics, her constant chattiness, and an irrespressible sense of joie de vive. Happy birthday, Baby Girl! You get your very first McDonald's birthday burger tonight.

Elli at about 9 weeks, lying in the toy basket. "Mine!! They're all mine!!!"

Baby Elli at the bottom. Notice how the white mark on her neck looks like a devil's tail? That's from the devil that sits on her right shoulder. The angel on the left gave up and flew the coop.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Elli's One Year Photos

Elli will be one year old tomorrow, so my friend Ashley came over to help me with a photo shoot yesterday. Elli wasn't at her most cooperative (Ian was clearly having WAY more fun than she was), but I got a few shots. Front comparisons:
Front, 1 year old

Front, 8.5 months old

Front, 6 months old
Show side comparison:

Show side, 1 year

Show side, 8.5 m onths

Show side, 6 months
Off side comparison:

Off side, 1 year

Off side, 8.5 months

Off side, 6 months

Friday, October 16, 2009

A breeding that shouldn't have happened, but...

...OMIGOD they're cute!! These two-year-old Beagle/Pekingnese (Beaglenese?) are available for adoption at one of the area animal shelters. I'm not going to run out and adopt one or anything, but they're more adorable than they have any right to be.


"You know you want us!"


Must have been a really good joke.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Do what at the where now?

While we were stewarding in the obedience ring back in August, my friend Donna (Sheltie and AKC Rally Judge Donna, not Labs and Beagles Donna) were discussing how many exhibitors in Novice A and even Open A looked as though they had no clue what they were supposed to do in the ring, what they were allowed/not allowed to do, ringside etiquette, etc. People were removing leashes before they stepped into the ring or leaving the ring without having clipped the leash on their dog. Some gave both hand and voice commands at times when they were only allowed one or the other. Some Novice A competitors had obviously not had it explained to them that there are major differences between what is allowed in Rally and what is allowed in obedience. (And that's probably all I should say about that.)

We've seen the same thing with new conformation exhibitors (hey, I was one of those not that long ago!). Some of the new folks didn't know how the classes progress, when they had to go back in the ring, when they should show up at the ring, etc.

So, we started talking about why that might be.

Let me take an informal survey here: How many of you have trainers in your area who offer competitive obedience classes? If the obedience classes you take are not geared toward competition, does the instructor have experience competing? Does he/she talk about competitive obedience at all?

For your handling classes, does the instructor ever talk about class progression, ring etiquette, counting points, how Reserve works, etc.? What about all of the unwritten rules that seem perfectly obvious once you've been at it for a while, but are totally unknown when you start out?

My theory is that many of the folks who were having the most trouble had attended some classes to learn basic obedience and/or how to best handle their dog in the show ring, but no one had talked to them about the other stuff that you really need to know before you step through the ring gate for the first time.

We've been thinking about offering an afternoon seminar on these things, kind of a what-to-expect-when-you're-exhibiting sort of thing. I would like to see new exhibitors have a positive experience their first time out, not feel like they got blindsided by a bunch of things no one ever explained.

What are some suggestions for topics you think we should cover? Is this something that you think new folks might attend if they are thinking about showing or competing?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!

Last night I took the dogs over to Damarascotta Village for a walk, a stop at the Animal House, etc. The town had its Pumpkin Festival over the weekend, which included a pumpkin carving contest between the village businesses. Here are some of the entries:


I liked this one. It doesn't show well in the photo, but there are a bunch of musical symbols carved on the pumpkin itself.

Um, yeah. I don't know either.

dat wascally wabbit!!

Again, the photo doesn't really show the detail.

Very Halloweeny

And, the village itself:

Views from the municipal parking lot.

View from one side of bridge
View from other side of bridge

We topped the outing off by sharing a small order of McDonald's fries on the way home. There are no calories if you share with corgis.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Shopping!

I'm meeting my sister for a whirlwind shopping trip this Saturday. Whirlwind because the mall is two hours away, and I have to be at work at 3:00 to earn money, to pay for the things I'm going to buy on my whirlwind shopping trip. It's a vicious cycle. My Holy Grail:


Famous Footwear has these totally squee-worthy boots on their website, and I'm hoping against hope that they have them in stores as well. I hate to order shoes online when I haven't been able to try them on. Must. Feed. Boot. Fetish.

I also need new slacks and jeans. I've shrunk out of most of mine now. I'd like to be able to hold off until I reach my target weight, but since wrapping myself toga-style in a sheet until I get there isn't really a viable option, I'll need some in-betweeners. Way more fun to buy smaller pants than bigger pants, though!

Julie, if you're reading, I have to thank you for the motivation. I found your blog a while back and watched a video of you showing Bug down in Springfield back in April. I was looking at the fat woman behind you, trying to figure out if it was someone I knew. And then the horrifying realization dawned on me: "That fat woman" was me!

o_O

So thank you! Twenty-three pounds and counting!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Treatment of the symptoms, if not a cure

My cupboard. What's left of it.

I guess Elli wanted to help me out with the whole puppy fever thing. This is what I came home to tonight. The hole goes in about 3 inches deep.

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand, we're back in the crate when we can't be supervised.

o_O


Fever Pitch

Puppy Fever, that is. Seriously, is this some rampant, mutant, species-shifted version of my biological time clock revving into overdrive? I mean, I'm 39, don't have kids, have never wanted to have kids. Love my stepson, adore my niece and nephew, have no desire to actually give birth to one of those strange, hairless, human puppies. Frankly, the whole idea of another sentient being living in my body completely freaks me out. Total wiggins.

But puppies!! Soft, fuzzy, adorable puppies. Tiny, padded paws; puppy breath; the funny little yips they make; the way they look so surprised when they chomp onto a tail and discover it's their own. The way they are racing at full speed one minute, then dead-to-the-world sound asleep the next. All of the untapped potential in that little bundle of fur, just waiting for the proper environment and motivation to bring it to the fore. I can't get enough of the wee little devils.

You'd think that all of the wonderful pictures along the daily tour of the blogosphere would be enough to hold me over. Puppies, puppies everywhere - tiny babies; roly-poly, ready-to-go-home, floppy-eared fuzzballs; 3 and 4 month-old growing-into-legs kids; 6 month-olds starting their show careers... there are new photos daily. I should be content with that. Photos don't chew my woodwork or pee on the carpet two minutes after they come in from the yard. They don't wake me up and force me to stagger outside, bathrobe clutched tightly, at 2:00 in the morning. But no. The fever rages unabated.

And it's not like it has been that long since I was on this ride. Elli came home a few days before Christmas last December. Ian came (albeit not as a puppy) the December before. And December? NOT the best time to housebreak a puppy. Especially when the puppy's arrival is followed by THREE FREAKING FEET of snow. Hmm. Legs a few inches long... three FEET of snow. Yeah. Definitely need to shovel a pee spot. Oh, and those below zero temperatures? Those are fun.

Yet, does any of this deter me from wanting a puppy, like, yesterday? Nope. Especially now, when the bitch I'm waiting on to be bred is ready to go into season any second. If there is any sort of arcane, make-lots-of-puppies rituals in any world culture out there, I will find it. Easy pregnancy, lots of girl babies... easy pregnancy, lots of girl babies...

And then throw in the added challenge of not being such a total, spazzed-out, puppy-hungry freak that Joanna runs screaming in the other direction when she sees my email addy in her in-box. Because needy and overzealous? SO not attractive.

So: take a deep breath. Take a couple aspirin. Take a couple bottles of valium if necessary. When the time is right, the right puppy will come along. Until then, get Ian ready for the November trials, and get Elli steady on the table. Rent a steam cleaner and start off with a newly shampooed carpet for the baby to pee on. Get some paint and repair the woodwork from the last onslaught of little needle puppy teeth. Get a grip.
o_o


*easy pregnancy, lots of girl babies... easy pregnancy, lots of girl babies...*


Baby Elli is in there somewhere...

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Premium List!

I just got email notification that the premium list for the Thanksgiving Cluster is available. I am unreasonably excited about going this year. (That may have something to do with the fact that, since I work seven days a week, it will be the next time I have a day off. But anyway...) There are eye clinics offered on the Saturday and Sunday, and a microchip clinic on Friday. I can probably find a cheaper microchip clinic locally, but the eye clinic might be a good idea. But, scheduling could prove tricky, what with showing in both conformation and obedience. There will also be a Yankee CWC Club meeting at some point during the weekend, which will be good to attend.

I'm going to take a leap of faith and enter Ian in Open A all four days. I *think* he's close to ready, but they don't call Open "the heartbreaker" for nothing. I learned last night that I need to try and toss the dumbbell more to the left when we do the retrieve over the high jump; since he turns to the right after picking it up, he has a tendency to come around the jump on the way back. When I can land it more toward the left, the jump is still in front of him when he turns around, and he'll take the jump on the return. The trick will be to not send it TOO far to the left, prompting him to go around the jump going out. Hmm... bouncy plastic dumbbell, cement floor with mats over the top... nerves... um, yeah. I like my chances of accomplishing that. :-/

Drop on recall was perfect last night, except for the crooked front which we are just going to have to live with. I think I'm getting a straighter finish with a swing finish these days, believe it or not, than I am with the around. Go figure. We need to tighten up on heeling again. Ian's with me and does pay attention, but he has a tendency to go wide, and I'd like him closer. Attentive but sloppy, in other words. Broad jump was good both attempts last night. Yay! Stays were solid. Also yay! Maybe we can qualify at least one day...

Miss Elli will be entered in conformation, 12-18 mos., all four days, plus Sweeps on Saturday and Sunday. Which gives me six opportunities to embarrass myself. Granted, I've come a long way from the total disaster (and I mean TOTAL disaster) of my first weekend in the conformation ring, but I remain confident in my ability to occasion utter mortification given the right set of circumstances.

Two-hundred and fifty-four dollars in entries later...

Operation "Elli-On-The-Table, Anytime, Anywhere" will get underway this weekend. I'm thinking Day One will be the public landing, if the weather is good. If not, we'll go to the Walmart parking lot. Have table/cheese/handiwipes, will travel.

We had our last handling class for the foreseeable future on Tuesday. Things went well until a neighborhood cat invited itself to the party, spawning generalized chaos and prompting the young Aussie to pull away from his owner and go chasing after it. Thankfully the cat went up a tree and not down the steep enbankment to the river. Undaunted by the brief pursuit, the cat strolled on back once the Aussie was again under control. What We Learned: a cat at the dog shows will derail all attempts to get a nice table stack. Also, a cat at a dog show would be well and truly ****ed.

Six more weeks. Squee!!!!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Being Ambassadors for Our Sport

Joanna Kimball put up a wonderful post on her blog, http://blacksheepcardigans.com/ruff/ , and since I had more to say about it than was appropriate for the comments section, I decided to take the ball and run with it here.

In that post, Joanna relates an experience a new exhibitor had at a dog show, and she mentions that "the way things work" sometimes does new exhibitors in the sport a disservice. I couldn't agree more.

When members of the dog fancy write those helpful articles telling John Q. Public where to look for a good dog, we tell him to visit a dog show to see different breeds and to talk to breeders. But let's think about what John Q. finds when he gets there. There are endless people with a rainbow of breeds running to and from rings. Dogs go in and out of rings; handlers go in and out of rings, sometimes with the same dog and sometimes with a different dog; the judge standing in the ring grunts and points in a pre-verbal, simian manner; there are dogs being groomed with enough product to make Tammy Faye Baker say, "Whoa, take it down a notch!" Some exhibitors have a huge string of dogs of different breeds, others have a slew of dogs of the same breed. Some are wearing business suits, others are lumbering around the ring in outfits one step up from a muumuu. They are gathered in little cliques, often talking behind their hands about another exhibitor who does this or doesn't do that or, more to the point, beats their own dogs 9 times out of 10 and is therefore the object of jealousy and resentment.

When John Q. tries to actually talk to one of these people, he can be met with behaviors ranging from borderline civil to out-and-out rude. People don't want their dogs touched, distracted, etc., and they often can't be bothered to answer questions. "Dumb" questions are met with an eyeroll and sometimes a snicker with a comrade at John Q.'s expense.

Exaggeration? Maybe, but only a little. A very little.

Now, you and I understand that there is often tight timing between getting one dog into the ring and another out of it. We know what we've put into grooming this dog for the show ring and, yes, the thought of Cheeto-covered fingers touching that carefully chalked rough gives us hives the size of Volkswagens. We've been at this for a while, and we understand when it's okay to talk to breeders and/or handlers (i.e. AFTER they're done in the ring), and we know not to touch other peoples' dogs without asking, etc.

And, you and I know that an object of derision may be one because they've illegally trimmed their dogs, or numbed a "happy" tail, or had teeth fixed -- because they have essentially cheated. Maybe he/she knowingly sold a puppy with a health problem to a pet buyer without full disclosure, and then refused to replace the puppy. Hell, maybe he lied about a pedigree.

But John Q. doesn't know any of this -- not because he's dumb, but because this is his first time at the controlled chaos that is a dog show. And why did he go there? Because we TOLD him to.

Fact: Dog show entries and AKC registrations are on the decline. Fact: the dog fancy, and breeders in particular, are increasingly under attack by animal rights groups. Fact: there is an ever-growing number of venues that provide performance events for mixed-breed dogs, removing the old argument that you need a purebred dog to be able to "do something" with it. Given these things, those of us in the fancy need to do everything in our power to be ambassadors for our sport.

So how do we be good ambassadors:
  • When approached by someone looking lost, interested, hopeful, enthusiastic -- be polite. Smile. If it's not a good time to talk, tell them why and then tell them you'd be happy to talk with them after you do x, y and z.
  • If they're interested in your breed, tell them more about it, including both its good points and its challenges, health issues, etc. Ask them why your breed appeals to them and how they would envision it fitting into their lifestyle. If your breed is not the appropriate one for them, tell them about some other breeds that may be more what they are looking for.
  • If John Q. wants to know what all that business in the ring is about, and you have the time, go stand ringside with him. Take your catalog and show him how the classes progress; explain why that dog went back into the ring, and what that ribbon that the judge just handed out means. Because I assure you, if someone does not explain it to him, he will NEVER figure it out.
  • If poor John is not daunted by all of the chaos and the displays of bad (human) temperament he has seen, if his eyes are beginning to take on the zealous glow of a true religious convert, tell him how to go about finding an all-breed kennel club in his area so he can continue to learn and to network. Tell him how to narrow down his choice of breed, and how to find good breeders once he is sure of what he wants.
  • If your breed is the one John is interested in, give him some contact information and keep in touch. Let him know of your breed club's activities, keep him in the loop. Give him the names of some fellow breeders and encourage him to seek out all the information and contacts he can. You may or may not have the perfect dog for him, but don't give the impression that you are the be-all and end-all resource for him. Encourage him to shop around.
  • If John asks you how much a puppy costs, or how much showing a dog costs, be frank. You don't need to whip out your check book register and show him line item for line item, but give him a realistic expectation of what it costs to buy, register, condition, feed, care for, and show a dog.
  • Avoid standing ringside and/or in a clique in the grooming area and badmouthing other people or their dogs. When one person speaks ill of another, it is generally the speaker, and not the spoken of, who ends up looking bad.
  • And, because it can't be said enough: SMILE. And be polite.

I had the good fortune to grow up beside an obedience ring. I knew what a perfect recall looked like by age 8, could tell you what the scent article exercise was, could steward better than some adults do now. But conformation was just something with a bunch of dogs that happened under "the big tent." It wasn't until a breeder sat next to the ring with me one day, catalog open to the breed being shown, and told me step by step what was happening and why, that I understood how conformation worked. I could see it in front if me, ask questions as different situations arose, and all of the little pictures that make up the big picture were suddenly clear. Without that kind of mentoring, I would probably still be trying to figure it out. I suspect that many of us first learned in much the same way.

So pay it forward. Be that person who patiently explains what is going on. Show John what we know to be true: that dog people are some of the best people in the world -- to those who are IN that world. Be an ambassador. Invite John in. Make him want to belong, not run screaming with horror stories about the weird, stuck-up dog people. Be a good example, not an object lesson.

And who knows? You may just have met your new best friend and future breeding partner. Pretty neat, huh?

Friday, October 2, 2009

RIP, Stefani

Today I will be attending a funeral for a friend's 22 year-old daughter. Stefani suffered from Cystic Fibrosis and endured a lot in her short life, including two lung transplant surgeries. Despite her disease and all that it entailed, she was one of the most charming, sunny, and positive people I have ever had the privilege of meeting. She always had a ready smile, a joke to share, and a zest for life that we could all take a lesson from.

From her obituary:
Living life to the fullest was most important to Stefani, proven by these words she recently penned in her journal: “Live a good life and in the end, it’s not the years in a life; it’s the life in the years.”

Rest in peace, Stef.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Inching toward Greatness

Baby Ian: Even then, he had that little worried look


...or, you know, adequacy.


Ian's obedience class last night:

Heeling - We didn't do this as a class last night, but I did some during the "work on what you want to" period. Ian was attentive, and pretty quick to sit when I stopped. However, he will never be an OTCH dog with his tendency to swing wide on the about-turns and to roll onto one hip when he sits, thereby sitting crooked. Fortunately, it's not my intention to make him an OTCH dog. He was bright-eyed, enthusiastic, and his tail was wagging, so I'll take that.

Sit Stay - Perfect. I always have my instructor correct him if he goes down on the sit, and there was no correction necessary last night. Yay!

Down Stay - Ian's favorite exercise. It's going to take dynamite, nuclear holocaust, or a bitch in heat to make him break the down stay.

Recall, 1st attempt - He came on the first voice command! No second command necessary! Sit in front was acceptable. Again, he'll never sit straight in front with that tendency to roll on his hip, but I'm not going to fuss too much about that because I want an enthusiastic recall. Also, I want him to actually SIT and not just go straight to heel position.

Recall, 2nd attemp with a Drop - Came on first command, dropped, came in and sat (albeit crookedly).

Retrieve on the flat - 1) This was another one of those things we worked on during free time. There were lots of dogs doing lots of different things, but Ian went on the first signal and retrieved. He picked the dumbbell up by the end instead of around the middle, but he held it instead of dropping it at my feet, so minor deduction. 2) Went out and retrieved it correctly, front and finish decent.

High jump - This is the first time we've attempted the jump since Ian's injury. 1) Ian went right out and got the dumbbell, then got distracted by his mini-Dachshund girlfriend and came around the jump on the way back. 2) Ian failed to wait and went out after the dumbbell when I threw it. 3) Went right out over, then went to visit Callie again. 4) Out and over, back over the jump, crooked sit but he held the dumbbell till I took it. Finished and called it good for the night on the high jump.

Broad jump - Two attempts, both correct if sloppy on the sit. Since that was one of his bugaboos before, yay!

In between exercises, Ian was relaxed and happy. He even played the "stand on his head and make funny talking noises while I lightly spank his bottom" game. One of my classmates commented that its the first time she's heard him make noise in class.

All in all, I felt pretty good after the class. We'll be doing some more work at home on the high jump (if the decrepit, 25 year-old, falling-apart jump I have will remain upright), and barring any unforeseen complications, I'll be entering him in Open A at the Springfield shows. Thereby virtually guaranteeing that Cardis will conflict with that class. And I don't think anyone else is going to want to take my little Welsh jumping bean into conformation for me.

Maybe Mr. Murphy could bother someone else this time?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

That Weird Dog Lady...

...will most likely become my moniker about town as I attempt to make Elli bomb-proof on the table. Handling classes aren't really effective anymore, because she's gotten completely comfortable with the dogs there and with the instructor examining her on the table. Which is good in that it shows me that she CAN get comfortable with it, but I'm reaching the point of diminishing returns with going to the same class all the time.

And it's not like Elli is shy of people or strangers, at all! She will run out to the end of her leash to kiss up to absolutely anyone -- jump up on them, lick their hands, try to lick their faces, flop on her belly for scritchings, talk up a storm... she is NOT the more properly-temperamented, reserved type. (Which is more than a little embarrassing when I've just told said unsuspecting stranger that I do competitive obedience with my dogs. I'm sure they are terribly impressed.)

Ian, my properly reserved boy, has tried to explain to her that strangers may in fact be ax murderers. He has shown her by example time and again that, if offered goodies from a stranger's hands, she should take it to be polite and then surreptitiously deposit it on the ground, because god only knows where it came from. But no, Little Miss Love Me! continues her coquettish ways, oblivious to any possible danger from People She Doesn't Know.

When she's on the ground.

On the table, though, she's much more skittish. I don't know if it's the height issue, or if she feels like the table isn't secure underfoot, or if she just objects to people grabbing her face to look at her bite. She's slow to stand up straight, assuming a semi-crouch when I first put her on the table until I can coax her up and forward with some bait. I can't get her feet placed properly until she relaxes a bit and, unfortunately, you don't get that kind of time in the ring. If approached before I can get squared away, she's very difficult to see the bite on, and we won't even talk about what the scrunching does to her topline. (Can we say "camel?")

Sooooooooo, I think I'll be loading my grooming table into the car and setting out to lure unsuspecting strangers in public places into petting my dog on the table and feeding her string cheese. First we'll practice gaiting with distractions and speeding up the stacking process, then add in strangers: first just feeding her, then touching down her back, then looking at the bite as she becomes more comfortable. I will no doubt be labelled as strange, but I think that's a perfectly acceptable trade-off for a bomb-proof table dog.

8 more weeks till Springfield. 8 more weeks till Springfield...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Topsham Shows

Saturday: The clock went off around 6:00 a.m. Which was early after working until 11:00 the night before, but not as early as it would have been if we'd had an 8:00 a.m. ring time or something gross like that. I got Elli's feet done, gave her a bath, and blow-dried her with a little bit of mousse and Plush Puppy spray to froof her out. (I would like to have done the blow-out right before ring time, but I wasn't sure if there would be electrical access, and I haven't picked up a generator yet.) A little bit of chalk on her feet and chest, and off we went.

My hubby came with me this time to watch this crazy dog show business I've become psycho about. He also proved to be great kennel help, setting up the ex-pen, water, etc. while I went to scope out the rings and get my number. When I came back and saw Elli there in the pen, with the sun shining off of her very black, shiny coat and level topline, it hit me: she really DID look like a show dog. Sure, she has her faults, but the perfect dog hasn't yet been born.

There were four rings in a big pulling shed, which unfortunately (for nicely shampooed and chalked white feet and chest, anyway) meant a packed dirt floor. It also meant that there were LOTS of interesting smells. It was pretty close quarters outside of the rings, and the near proximity to so many new dogs was all very exciting for Elli, so she wasn't exactly a model of decorum.

Ell was the only one in her class (9-12 mos.). The judge (David McIntyre) had me take her around the ring and then put her on the table. Elli is not the fastest dog to stack on the table, and I never really got her set before Mr. McIntyre came over to examine her, which meant that: a) she didn't look great from the side; and b) she didn't stand very well to have her bite examined. We clearly have some more work to do on the table!! The down and back was nothing to write home about either. The smells were too, too tempting, so we were, to understate things, NOT smooth. But hey, we were the only one in the class, so on to Winners.

Elli did stand and stack herself nicely when we went back in for winners. She did well on the go around because the dog in front of her was more interesting than the smells on the dirt, and she kept her gait rather than galloping. She looks like she has delusions of being a German Shepherd in the group ring out ahead of me like that but hey, I'll take it. When he had each dog do a down and back for him, though, Elli's nose hit the ground again and she did not show well. WB went to the Open bitch, which was an, um... interesting choice. Reserve went to Paula O'Donnell's blue bitch, whom I (and an unofficial public opinion poll) thought SHOULD have been WB.

After the judging, Paula gave me some great advice and a little demo about how I was baiting Elli into her free-stack, which was much appreciated. I swear, if I somehow manage to squeak into heaven when I die, handling classes there will be held in a dance studio, so there is an entire wall of mirrors to practice in front of. Little things can make a huge difference. I also saw the two puppies that Cheryl and Dotty are keeping out of their Meg-Smarty litter. Gorgeous puppies! A ton of bone, beautifully marked... I'll enjoy watching them mature.

Sunday: Ring time wasn't until 1:15, which meant closer to 2:30 since Cardis were at the very tail end of their group, and I believe the last breed judged before groups commenced. I spritzed Elli and blew her out again before going, but we didn't leave until about noon. Had the weather been nice I would have gone earlier to watch some of the show, but with the rain I couldn't set Ell up in her ex-pen, and I didn't want to leave her crated for hours.

Elli was once again a little over-excited outside the ring waiting to go in. I was asked if I had tried herding with her yet and told that she would probably be great at it. I think this was a polite way of saying, "Your dog is a total spaz case," which, yeah.

This judge (Robert Slay) had me start by putting Elli on the table. She landed a little better this time, but I still didn't really get her set like I wanted before the judge had his hands in her mouth. The down and back were definitely better than Saturday, as was the around, so I was pleased with the improvement.

Elli again did well with the others in the Winners class, and she hopefully looked better free-stacked since I took Paula's advice and baited her much lower. She again did the German Shepherd thing when we all went around, but she at least looks showy that way. WB went to Paula's bitch this time, with Reserve going to Pixie's bred-by bitch.

The weekend all in all: It was a good learning experience for both of us, probably for me more than for Elli. It gave me the opportunity to see what we need to work on, and a little confidence in how she looks stacked up against other competition in the ring. At no time did I feel like she had no business in a show ring; I think she can hold her own, and as she matures more I think we will find some judges who like her. We need to do lots of work on the table thing before the Thanksgiving shows down in Springfield. I also need to come up with some focus games to play while we wait ringside, and some more "no sniff!" training, but overall I got what I wanted out of the weekend.

Eight weeks until the next show!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fiesta!

No dog classes, no second job to go to -- I finally had a chance to do some cooking tonight! I made a pot of pork and cabbage soup to have through the weekend, and some Fiesta Peppers.


Yeah, I went a little Martha Stewart on the presentation, but that's fun to do sometimes. Full belly, clean kitchen -- time for some serious relaxation.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is that my uppance I hear coming?

Elli, Ian and Tessa - The Three Musketeers

After the last few handling classes, I've been feeling pretty cocky about Elli at least showing herself nicely this weekend, even if I don't expect her to win. So I took her to Ian's class to have multiples people handle her on the table during the sit and down stays. Cocky now? Not so much.

I thought she had gotten better about being examined on the table, but it turns out she's only gotten better about DONNA examining her on the table. I guess I've got more work to do with keeping her still to have her bite examined. Nothing like an 11-month old puppy to keep you humble!

On the ground, she's obviously having delusions of grandeur: she thinks she's a German Shepherd, and a group dog. Before the down and back, she glances over at the line as if to say, "Are you ready? Are you all watching this?" She flies out to the end of her lead -- the picture of Little Miss Confidence. And boy, you should see the strut she puts on when she hears applause! If the judging were based on attitude, she'd have it in the bag.

Ah, well. Whatever happens, it'll be a learning experience. For both of us.

Ian was such a happy, happy worker at class, other than having to hold that pesky glove in his mouth. He came the first time I called him on both recalls, and he's doing better on his pivots and his get-backs, but I can see the effects of his injury on his rear-end coordination when he backs up in a straight line: before, I could back him all the way across the room at pretty much full speed; his steps are slower and sloppier now, like either he isn't completely sure where his feet are, or he's telling them to move but they're not going exactly where he wants them. It won't effect his ability to work in the obedience ring as long as he's able to jump, but I'm not even going to try him on the jumps for a while. As to whether his gait will come back to the point where I can finish him... time will tell.

*yawn* Long day. Time to crash.