Monday, September 21, 2009

Recipe for the Perfect Afternoon

1 beautiful lakeside location
1 vintage Maine early fall day
7 great friends and Cardi breeders
11 lovely Cardigan Welsh Corgis of all ages
2 yummy appetizers
1 grilled prime rib
Several great side dishes
3 amazing desserts
Split one 8-hour work shift. Combine the above ingredients, sprinkle liberally with fun, witty and educational conversation, and serve next to a cozy fire in the fireplace.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to attend a Cardi get-together at Paula O'Donnell's summer camp in Holden, Maine. It meant splitting my normal work shift of 3:00-11:00 into two pieces: 7:00-10:00 and then 6:00-11:00, but OH was it worth it.

For one thing, the weather was perfect. Sunny and in the 60's, giving it that crisp tang of fall. The drive up Route 1 was, if not the Autobahn, at least tolerable compared to the near-crawl it becomes in July and August. Once I turned onto Paula's road, I met up with Gail and Lucybell, so we rolled down the dirt lane parade-style. And rolled. And rolled. We finally hit a little single lane causeway across a narrow point in the pond, and came up to Paula's gate. Being in the lead, I got out to open the gate. Misjudged my distance from the gate and how wide it was, and had to back up a little to swing it open. Rolled through and continued to the end where Paula's camp is. A pack of Cardis (I think I counted 7 or 8) formed the welcoming party, along with Paula's husband.

Dotty, Nancy and Nola were already there, and Amanda arrived shortly thereafter. There was a fire crackling in the fireplace, just perfect for a fall day. We greeted and were greeted by the corgwyn delegation, who were every bit as pretty as they are in their photos. It was so cool to meet the "dogs in the magazines" and to see them in action. I'm glad to know that even centerfolds will occasionally take the opportunity presented by chicken left unattended, just like my own, less flashy heathens.

Over shrimp cocktail and crackers with a cream cheese & chutney spread, we got caught up on who's showing whom; who's been bred or will be bred; who has puppies on the ground and potential puppy buyers for said puppies; and some harrowing tales of sperm shipments and road construction (bad combo).

As we moved on to grilled chicken and prime rib, homemade applesauce and biscuits, a truly revelatory sweet potato dish, pasta salad, curried chicken salad, fresh garden veggies, etc., Nancy talked to us about trends she's seen in the ring in various parts of the country where she has judged. As someone who is new to the breed and to conformation in general, it was very valuable to me to hear about where the breed was several years ago and where we've come since then. And also the differences in what's being shown in the east versus the midwest vs. the northwest. Talk turned to judging and people's experiences under different judges, then to the virtues of different dog foods and feeding plans, then to veterinary experiences -- basically all the stuff that comes up anytime you get two or more show people within a few feet of one another. I tried to keep my ears open and my mouth shut as much as possible, and soak in the combined knowledge and experience in the room. I can't think of a better way to learn.

We enjoyed some lemon cake, pumpkin squares and turtle cheesecake for dessert, and then we went outside to go over some of Paula's dogs. Smarty was first on the table (and quite eager to be there after some recent donations of "Instant Puppy"), followed by two bitch puppies that Paula is growing out. I appreciated the opportunity to go over them and learn what to feel for as well as what to look for. We also watched them move, and I learned some great stuff about how what I had just felt on the table affected what I saw on the ground. All the videos and illustrated standards in the world are not as useful as that tactile and visual experience up close.

The afternoon ended all too soon and I headed back down the winding lane and to work, but I can't thank all of these ladies enough for the perfect afternoon of fun, laughter, conversation, and learning. I'll remember this experience for a long time.

Can't wait for next year!!


  1. That sounds like a super way to spend the day!

  2. I am awash with jealousy -- what a grand experience both dogwise and foodwise.