Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
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
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
When ice cream has babies. Coffee mug for size comparison.
Monday, October 26, 2009
"It's not behind here, Mom. I checked."
Friday, October 23, 2009
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
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
Front, 6 months old
Show side, 8.5 m onths
Off side, 8.5 months
Off side, 6 months
Friday, October 16, 2009
"You know you want us!"
Must have been a really good joke.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
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
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
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!
So thank you! Twenty-three pounds and counting!
Monday, October 12, 2009
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.
Baby Elli is in there somewhere...
Thursday, October 8, 2009
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
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
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.