Friday, July 30, 2010

Adventures in Tubing

As you know, Camp Berner starts on Wednesday. We planned this Camp last November and at the time, tubing on the Bitterroot River seemed like such a great thing to do in the afternoon when it was too hot to train dogs. It sounds so simple - get an inner tube, plop it in the river on a hot day and float - but as is true with most things in life, tubing is not really as simple as it seems.

I thought it important to "test drive" the tubing route to make sure it was suitable for our Campers. I asked around and based on input, decided on a route that I was told would take two hours and not be too scary. Jake and Cassie were here last weekend and they were willing to be pretend Campers so we figured out where to get tubes (Les Schwab Tire Store), left a car at the end point and had Dear Husband drive us to the launching site.

We were so excited!!! The water was not too cold and not deep and it was a lovely day last Saturday -- but we started to suspect we might be in trouble when it took about three days for us to float far enough to lose sight of where we put the tubes in the river -- sigh.

Four hours and twenty minutes later we arrived at the Stevensville Bridge where we had left the car -- only Cassie continued to say fun things about tubing at that point. As Jake correctly noted, it was a good thing we had done the test drive or we would have had a bunch of Unhappy Campers...

Back to the Drawing Board -- I asked around and decided on another, shorter route and so today Dear Husband and I did the test drive -- sigh. Again, it started off so pleasant and lovely -- the scenery is amazing from the river. When I went with Jake and Cassie we all regretted not having a camera so this time I was prepared -- I carefully wrapped my Blackberry in two zip lock bags and stuck it in my bra -- yes, I know that is strange but that part of me is above the water and it made the phone accessible!

Okay, so off we went floating gently on the Bitterroot River. I snapped some pictures and emailed them, and carefully wrapped the phone and put it away. We floated and floated and floated -- well, except when Kim crashed into a log snag and fell in, losing his sunglasses and banging his elbow, which just had the stitches out from his surgery three weeks ago. Oh well -- he recovered nicely and we continued on and on and on and on.

Tubing is very fun for the first 90 minutes and after that it is annoying -- this trip lasted 3.5 hours!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! UGH -- you know what this means? I have to find another route and test drive that -- or just buy a wading pool and let the Campers float in that!!!!

In spite of the excessive duration, we had fun and we saw two bald eagles! One was an adolescent and so not in full uniform (so to speak), and he caught a fish right in front of us! He was munching on it on a shallow sand bar in the middle of the river as we floated towards him, and literally I was maybe ten feet away before he tried to fly away with the fish, dropped it and went on.

Okay -- did you know I have a fish phobia? Like SERIOUS fish phobia -- worse then flying. Nobody who floated with me this week was allowed to even hint about fish in the river, because there aren't any I am certain. So, to have a very large fish (seven feet long I think) with pieces chomped out drop about eight feet away from me -- well, I imagine I will need some therapy about this... but the eagle was amazing.

And then we saw a pelican!!!!!!!! And of course I had to get out the camera/phone again, and I got some pictures of him and suddenly the water was going faster so I had to quickly stuff the phone back in the bag and into my bra.

And then we were at the bridge (FINALLY) and I went to get out -- and well, here are the pictures of the view, Dear Husband and I in our tubes, the bald eagle, and the pelican:

Yes, after floating without incident for what felt like four days, I fell in as I was getting to shore (in about three feet of water) -- and because I had hurriedly stuffed the phone in the unusual pocket without securing the bag -- well, tomorrow we will all need to pray that my phone recovers from a near drowning experience...


Dear Husband agrees that tubing is quite fun -- but not for 3.5 hours or when trying to outrun (outfloat) a thunderstorm. But other than all that -- we had a great time and I am sure the Campers will love the wading pool!

We came home and guess who came to visit???? GEORGE!!!!!

I am sure you will agree that he is the cutest fawn ever!!!! And the most curious :)

Life is not unlike tubing -- mostly kind of pleasant, occasional disasters, rare amazing wonders, and all just one big test drive with no idea of exactly how long it is going to last. Enjoy your float :)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Imperfections = Need for Forgiveness All Around

All of us are children, all of us have parents, and some of us have children and are parents but what we all have in common is the need for forgiveness. Indeed, I think perhaps the greatest thing we can teach our children and offer our parents is forgiveness.

When my daughter was a teenager, I was convinced that she would hate me for the rest of her life. I just knew that my mother's curse ("I hope you have a daughter just like you") had come true, and I was destined to live forever with a broken heart and an angry child.

But maybe it was not a curse after all. Although I thought my mother was useless when I was a teenager, I did not feel that way in the few years I had between the end of my teenage years and her early death when I was 24. In fact, I love my mother so very much and appreciate her -- and that is the gift my own daughter gives me every day. I do have a daughter who is just like me -- maybe it was not a curse but rather -- a gift.

My mother was so far from perfect. I remember standing in her kitchen telling her that I -- a high school failure and seven month pregnant with my second child at the age of 20 -- was going to take three classes at the community college; her response was, "why are you doing that? You never finish anything." OUCH but what a good motivator -- I love proving people wrong ;)

I don't know why I so easily forgive my mother for not being the perfect mother, but I did and I do. Maybe it is because I am a mother, and know well that forgiveness is what I need from my own children, or maybe it is that I recognize that I was not a perfect daughter and therefore required forgiveness. But whatever the reason, I have found forgiveness to be easier on the heart than disappointment...

As children, we fail our parents. I wanted my daughter to be taller than me and play basketball for Stanford -- and she had the nerve to stop growing at a measly 5'7 and did not play basketball in college. All of us have idealized children who are quite different from the ones that show up in our lives.

The challenge with our children and our parents is to let go of what we think *should* be, and embrace what is. You are right -- you did not get perfect parents, and your mom let you down -- well, guess what? Your parents did not get a perfect child, and you let them down -- let's all get over it.

It is a waste of time to try and change our kids or our parents -- what is required is forgiveness, and that is most definitely a choice we can make -- or not. We need to forgive our parents for being human, for not being perfect, and for all the zillions of mistakes they made -- after all, you did not arrive with an instruction manual!

And we need to forgive our children for being human, for not being perfect, and for the zillions of mistake they have already made and will make in the future -- after all, they did not have perfect parents to guide them!

Forgiveness means not hoarding anger and resentment, or storing up slights to throw in the face of the one who blessed us with life -- or blessed our life. No, forgiveness means letting go -- it means you let things go through you rather than grabbing them and wasting energy holding on to nastiness. Forgiveness means loving without a requirement that anyone -- including yourself -- is perfect.

But forgiveness does not mean that we must remain in the line of fire when a parent or child struggles to be loving and forgiving of YOUR imperfections. I am a big believer in the importance and value of compassionate detachment -- walking away from relationships that hurt us, but in a gentle way and not with feet stomping anger and a slammed (and locked) door. We can forgive without being engaged -- remember not to hug a rattlesnake but don't beat him or her with a stick for being who and what they are.

We should not chase the one who hurts us -- that is like poking a stick at a rattlesnake and then complaining when we get bitten. Instead, reflect on the importance of forgiving everyone involved -- including yourself. All of us do the best we can at the time, and it falls short -- welcome to life as a human being. If you want to learn how to forgive and love without condition, hang around with dogs.

Galen, who did not realize that others had solved the cow code, posted the correct answer -- and wins a few months of rent-free life in Montana -- I hope he comes up soon to collect his prize (but I suspect he won't -- darn it)!! In the meantime, he wants pictures of Sydney so here we go...

Syd says she is looking forward to seeing Galen AND her Aunt Lisa!

Syd wanted to help get ready for Camp Berner next week so she is doing some pruning...

She got Asia to help out...

Zoey kept a watchful eye on Karma -- if she can't chase her ball, Karma is a nice second choice...

Karma actually quite enjoys playing with Zoey, and they are fun to watch...

Zoey is very happy to have her dad up here!

Good-night Moon

I have been just waiting to introduce you to George but cannot get a decent picture. One morning I came back from a bike ride to find an adorable fawn watching me!!! I was enthralled as he just stood there watching me as I rode down the driveway. I said to him, "you are very curious" and then knew his name is George!! Look closely and you can see his little head...

George will not always think his mom is perfect, but that is okay because neither is he! Who do you need to forgive today -- well, besides yourself?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Another Birthday, A Winner, and So On...

Let's start with the birthday! Three years ago today Halo had her first litter -- we call them the East Litter. It was our "E" Litter and so all of the puppies have "East" in their names in honor of their grandma, who died when they were small (Abra was Pinnacle's East of Eden -- plus her assorted titles, of course!).

So our Plus-Size Model, Asia, is CH Kaibab's Enter from the East TDX, CD, DD, CGC and she is three years old today! Something fun about her name -- I named her after a song written/sung by Jewel, who is one of my favorites. Lisa Ebnet, who owned Asia's dad, is friends with Jewel and when she heard Asia's registered name, she shared that she was actually one of the first to hear that song after Jewel wrote it! How ironic is that?! And I picked "Asia" as a call name because it starts and ends with an "a" and has four letters -- like Abra.

I LOVE Asia!!!! I love how big she is, and how she just wants to do whatever she thinks I want her to do. She is sweet, happy, fun, and LOVES to work. As you know, Asia is getting ready for Variable Surface Tracking tests -- she is entered in two -- keep your paws crossed that she gets in as they will be drawing for tracks since more enter than they have tracks to run.

Asia is a great tracking dog but that VST is HARD work -- it typically takes a dog 45 - 60 minutes (or more) to run a full length VST track, and the dog is really working the whole time. And so Asia doesn't just need training, but she also needs to be in shape to do her job. I am BIG believer in exercise -- for people and dogs -- and so Asia just did her second 4+ mile walk of the week -- well, Zoey and I went with her, of course. I was going to take a lovely picture of her with the birthday crown but decided to just show you what my dogs REALLY look like -- I took this on our walk with my phone so not the best but you get the idea:

But she cleans up well -- here is the "other" Asia -- the Plus-Size Model...

And Sharon sent these pictures of Asia's littermate, Jemie -- Happy Birthday to cute Jemie!!!!! Now this is a dog with a great life -- Sharon is WONDERFUL :)

I think that ends the birthdays for the month, and speaking of birthdays -- we have a winner in the cow code contest! But first -- I also love the cute cow toupees -- they are adorable!! Second -- how many lawyers does it take to post a comment to the Blog?! More than one apparently because The Good Sister had to send the cow code contest answer via email since she cannot figure out how to post in the comment section :)

The Good Sister, who is just ten months and 26 days younger than me, lives in Santa Barbara and has -- without any intention or malice -- managed to make all of her siblings look just "less" by comparison. However, she is too darn nice to be mad at for being so darn nice and good -- sigh. So she is universally loved and extra smart, and therefore was able to crack the cow code (but not figure out how to post it as a comment) -- she writes:

"I know the answer! The tag in each cow's left ear shows its birth date! Christine was born on April 20th, just like me!

Do I win a bagel???"

This is basically the correct answer -- Cow 420 is Christine because Christine (aka The Good Sister) was born on 4/20. Cow 424 is Kim because Kim was born on 4/24 -- but Kim notes that Cow 424 could have other names -- that is because Kim is a twin, and his younger sister has the same birthday! Cow 410 is clearly Jim-Bill because that is the birthday of my dad, Jim, and his identical twin, Bill. And Cow 400 -- well, what else besides Fool???

Christine the Good Sister does not win a bagel -- although I always have a good supply in my freezer and would share if she would visit. No, I am going to send her a slightly used CAT named Karma who will handle any rodent problem in the neighborhood!!!! Isn't that a great prize????

And speaking of rodents -- I wanted you to see how happy it makes Chippy that I understand his request for nuts...

And speaking of happy, I was THRILLED with the Old Ladies today. I was on a walk with Maize and Halo (after walking Asia and Zoey 4+ miles) and Halo spotted a deer, which she wanted to chase but I had her on a leash so no luck with that. But two seconds later we spotted the doe's extra cute fawn stuck in the fence -- YIKES!!!!! Dogs - fawn -- dogs -- fawn -- what could I do?! I told those girls to stay and went and got the fawn free from the fence, and that fawn then ran down the road in front of the dogs -- less than ten feet from them!!!!! And what did my girls do????!!! They stayed :) Oh my gosh -- if I would have been wearing buttons, they would have popped right off my shirt because I was SO proud of them :)

And now we all need to do something that we can be proud about -- I am going to take an allergy pill and spend the next 3+ hours mowing the lawns -- sigh...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Exciting News!!!!! And a Contest!!!!

Guess what?! THEY'RE BACK!!!!!! The Steves!!!!! I guess they did just go on a vacation after all - I think it must have been to a spa because they are definitely smaller. And guess what else???? They brought back friends -- GIRLfriends!!!!! How cute is that?!

And there is more -- apparently they are not all named Steve. I know this because I observed that they seem to be wearing a secret code, and I cleverly deduced it was a way to tell me their real names (see how useful a Berkeley Ph.D. really is!!!). Not all of them have a name code and some have one but I have not cracked it yet -- but here are the ones I have figured out:

This one is Fool -- hey, I am just telling you the name -- I did not make it up. Don't try this at home -- well, better at home than in public but best not at all...

This is Kim -- hopefully Kim does not really have rabies!

This one is Christine -- isn't she pretty? She is obviously quite a talker!

And this one is Jim-Bill -- very handsome and intelligent!

This one is not coded so apparently is really Steve -- he likes my lilac bush.

A prize to the first one who can tell us how I know their real names!

Monday, July 19, 2010


You are likely wondering, "Julie?! Who is Julie? Did she get a new dog??" No, Julie is my youngest sister and today is her birthday! Julie is four years and two months younger than me, but there are three other siblings between us! She was the fifth child -- born exactly on my parents' fifth anniversary. She lives in Davis, California with her VERY old cat, Auntie Mary (sigh -- funny animal nicknames run in the family). Here is a picture of Auntie Mary with my daughter, Nicole...

There are some funny things you should know about Julie. First of all, when you go to her house you might think she is very religious! However, the truth is that she simply collects religious things and that Holy Water bottle is likely to have lotion in it! For her sake, I sure hope God has an excellent sense of humor ;)

Julie is also responsible for years of funny pictures in our family. She is the Garage Sale Queen and has picked up some interesting items over the years and coerced most of us into having our pictures taken with some of these things. Here are some examples of her excellent coercion skills -- these are Tanner (with niece, Elizabeth), Galen, and Nicole...

Julie has many unusual talents and skills but she is quite well known for her most excellent musical abilities -- on the accordion!!! Who decides one day to learn to play the accordion??? Answer: Julie!

Julie would have preferred to name herself and so when we go to restaurants she likes to test drive names -- they are always exotic and so you think you are sitting with Julie, but then they call "Rula" and the sister formerly known as Julie runs off to get our table or pick up her food.

I never laugh so hard as when I am with Julie -- she is a LOT of fun and I do not get to see her enough but when I do, it is like no time has passed at all. A sister shares our past like nobody else, and I am very, very grateful that I have two very wonderful sisters. I hope I am soon sitting across from Julie at Dos Coyotes, laughing until I am crying at some funny memory or enjoying a well embellished story we are telling about another family member (the danger of not attending family gatherings -- we talk about you :)

Zoey Rosebud is waiting for the birthday cake to be served -- sigh....this is my kitchen table...

Chippy says to keep the cake (and the evil cat) but could he please have some nuts?

HAPPY BIRTHDAY JULIE!!!!!!!!! And happy day to the rest of us...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Little Bits of Life

I decided to enter Zoey in the Coeur d'Alene show after there was a judge change in Missoula. I had only entered Zoey with women judges since it had been a man judge that started her scary judge reaction last fall, but the judge change in Missoula had been to a man and Zoey's reaction was, "whatever" so I felt confident in entering her in Coeur d'Alene with two male judges.

Coeur d'Alene is usually about 2.5 hours away, and it seems like a lot of driving just to show a dog but shows are far and few between so I had to take advantage of this relatively close opportunity. I did not have a readily available dog nanny (that traitor Galen) so I did the round trip both days. Well, I forgot that in the summer they take those orange things out of storage -- you know -- the road construction orange things??? In the winter they are hidden away someplace but in the summer they save money on the storage costs by storing them on highways.

And so the drive was even longer because they had to try and pretend the oranges things were really doing something -- so lanes were closed for MILES, blocked by the orange things, and the speed limit was not Montana Fast by any means. All of this is to say that it was over three hours -- each way!!! This made for a long day for the other dogs :(

But let me start at the beginning of the day... Six dogs is probably too many for most people, but I am not sure it is too many for me. Knowing I would be gone for over eight hours, I got up early and made sure every dog did something. Maize and I started by heading to the arena to get it ready to train and water the half that has new grass seed growing -- and guess who was there?! HEIDI MARIE!!!! Yes, there she was munching on my new grass not at all concerned by my presence, or my indignant, "HEIDI MARIE - what are you doing?!" However, she took off when Maize made her presence known and Maize got to feel all smug and important from having chased off the intruder :)

And so I went back and forth with various dogs between the house and the arena so everyone was trained and exercised, and during one of the trips little Chippy caught me and said, "excuse me but could I please have some of those yummy unsalted peanuts you got from Costco?" He did this by waiting on the stump and looking very cute and expectant :)

And so I delivered Chippy's nuts, trained dogs, scolded Heidi Marie, and watered the new lawn -- and then it was 7:45 a.m. and time to drive to Coeur d'Alene with Zoey.

We made the long drive, shifting lanes here and there as directed by the stupid orange things. I gave Zoey a quick bath when we arrived -- it was a small show at a very nice fairground and everything was easy and convenient. Zoey looked beautiful, as usual, and we went over to hang out by the ring.

As we were waiting we made friends with a little girl named Kinzie. I asked her if she had driven a long way to the show and she told me, "no, my mom did" -- I love four year olds!!!! So I had fun visiting with her and she admired Zoey's pink bling bling breast cancer awareness leash, and wanted to learn the names of all of my dogs, and all of Zoey's nicknames and and my middle name, which happened to be the same as hers to her great delight -- and so on -- four year olds are quite entertaining :)

It was finally time for us to show and I told her to make sure and cheer for Zoey -- how cute was it that we heard her yelling, "YAY ZOEY" as we were in the ring?! :) And when Zoey won, she gave us a big thumbs up :)

And so ends Zoey's six days of showing -- her coat is coming out so we will be waiting a bit before going after her majors. Zoey showed six times in the past month in three states at four different show venues -- she won every time she was shown. Those of you who show dogs can attest that this is unusual consistency, even with a nice dog! Zoey is a very, very good show dog -- well trained, flashy and best of all -- happy :) I am REALLY proud of her :)

But Beauty Queen Zoey is still Air Zoey -- she came home, got her ball, and played some fetch...

In the words of our new four year old friend: YAY ZOEY!!!!

I hope that you have had an excellent weekend, full of success -- and I hope you are looking forward to the promise of a new week :)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Breeding Champions -- Is It Necessary?

Each day wonderful dogs are euthanized because there are not enough homes for them, and because people carelessly breed their dogs. This reality must serve as a backdrop for any discussion about breeding Bernese Mountain Dogs. People who want a well-bred Bernese Mountain Dog are typically not the same people who would want to adopt from the shelter. And should people who want to breed very, very well be prevented from doing so simply because irresponsible people have created too many poorly bred dogs? But all this is a different discussion -- what I want to talk about today is the breeding of Bernese Mountain Dogs, and the place that a championship has in that practice.

A dog earns an AKC "breed" championship based on structure and to some extent, temperament. In other words, the dog is judged based on how well she meets the established Breed Standard, which describes the ideal dog for that breed. The Standard is really not that complicated -- there are descriptions of ideal for such things as Substance, Head, Neck, Topline, Body, Coat, Gait, and Temperament. (You can read the Standard at:

There certainly is some interpretation that is required -- for example, the Standard states that, "sturdy bone is of great importance" -- but what does "sturdy bone" look like? Can a berner be "too sturdy"? Other parts of the Standard are quite specific -- for example, it states that, "the nose is always black" -- this is pretty straightforward. Of course, some will bend this -- after all, a nose colored with a magic marker is black, isn't it??! Cheater, cheater -- and seriously -- why would you color a dog's nose?! Those markers stink and a dog's nose is SO sensitive -- that is not only against the rules, unethical, and stupid -- but it is flat out MEAN -- and I saw it done AT RINGSIDE on a berner in Idaho -- DUH. The dog did not win, in spite of a black (and stinky) nose.

But as usual -- I digress... At a beauty pageant dog show the judge is deciding which of the dogs -- in his or her opinion -- best meets the Standard and in the most ways on that day (in other words, it takes more than a black nose). And so theoretically, a champion is a dog that has been evaluated multiple times and found to be congruent with the Breed Standard by several experts (i.e., judges).

People will whine and complain that dog shows are political and it is all about professional handlers and blah blah blah -- and a championship doesn't mean anything. Well, sour grapes to you, friend -- the vast majority of judges are good, ethical people and professional handlers just do a better job than most of us so get over it -- and get better.

There are at least three reasons that I have come to think that only champions should be bred (with a very rare exception). First, although no guarantee, it helps assure that dogs with decent structure are being bred. Performance people who think this does not matter need a serious reality check -- it should matter MORE to those of us who ask our dogs to be athletes. Correct structure (and sound orthopedics -- do not even get me started on THAT subject) are the very foundation of all work -- what good is a great working attitude when a dog is unsound or cannot hold up over time because of poor structure?! And so we should want -- demand, really -- that our canine athletes come from the very best parents, and a championship is one measure of this.

This brings us to the second reason I think a championship should be a prerequisite for breeding -- breeders will say, "oh, I have enough experience to evaluate my own dogs." PUH-LEEZE -- don't fall for that. If that were true, said breeder would evaluate that gosh -- this one is stunning so let's show her!

Everyone thinks their dog is "special" and "beautiful" -- and they are -- but owners and breeders are way too biased to be good evaluators of their dogs. And so we need judges and championships to help us see reality and not just that special, beautiful dog that exists in our rose-colored glasses.

Now, this third reason is related to the second reason and bound to step on toes -- oh well. What I love about having standards is that they hold up The Ideal -- they give us a target to shoot for, a direction or goal that represents what is very, very excellent -- and championships are one way to tell if we are aiming in the right direction. Good breeders who really care about trying hard to be objective and honest know this -- and they show their dogs to get outside feedback about how well they are doing relative to the target. Of course, some people do not really care about the target and are content to shoot at whatever -- no comment...

I think the bottom line for me is that a championship is one reflection of trying to breed dogs as well as possible. It is not the only measure but really -- to me, it has become one of the minimum standards. I will only breed girls who are champions, have working titles, all health clearances, and who have a decent temperament (and healthy relatives, etc.) -- and my goal will be to produce something even better, something that meets even more of the Breed Standard, and not just a litter of "nice" puppies. There are "nice" puppies dying today at the shelter so really -- we do not need more of those...

We have a breeding planned -- and it is not for people who just want a nice puppy (see above regarding the shelter). In 6 - 8 months Cadi will be in season again (she is in now), and she will be bred at that time. This will allow us to have orthopedic data for her first litter when they turn two in November, and that information will help inform the final choice of her husband. Cadi's litter with Jed are lovely puppies with excellent temperaments and they are very, very smart -- I want the puppies from her second and last litter to go to people who value working ability AND who also value the importance of breed type/structure. Some of you are already waiting for a Cadi puppy but I mention this planned breeding in case anyone else wants to be considered for what will be a very, very special litter -- bred with the minimum amount of compromising that is possible. When one breeds infrequently, one must do it very, very well...

In other and somewhat related news -- today I showed Zoey in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho -- this was the fifth time I have shown her in the past four weeks and she won for the fifth time, earning two more points towards her championship. I will show her again tomorrow, and then we take a break from the beauty pageant as both puppies (Zoey and Syd) are starting to blow coat.

Beware of people with black markers and have a champion quality weekend.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Zoey Beauty Queen!

I got my picture of Zoey from the Idaho show today and wanted to share it with you -- what do you think??

Hope you are having a picture perfect day!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Maize's Littermate: Aspen Green Beauty Queen!

The tenth birthday celebration continues!!!! Patrick and Tiffany were planning their wedding ten years ago and wanted to start right off with a berner. They are wonderful people and I was delighted to place a puppy with them. It turned out that the puppy they loved was a very lovely, typey girl, and it worked out for her to be their first baby (they have since added two adorable human ones). We showed Aspen to her championship and Patrick and Tiffany's last name is Green, and so we started calling that cute girl "Aspen Green Beauty Queen" :) Since her primary role in life was to be a companion, she was spayed after her championship and lives a wonderful life in Ft. Collins, Colorado.

Patrick shares, "Tiffany & I celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary later this summer...our wedding photos include baby Aspen whom we had just brought home from Utah. We can't image life without her. Everything you said about Maize's personality is certainly true for Aspen as well. She is so loving and gentle. She's never met a person she didn't like (most dogs too though there are a couple in the neighborhood she could take or leave)."

One of the best things about being a breeder is getting to know such good and caring people -- we are so appreciative of Patrick and Tiffany, whose love for each other and Aspen Green Beauty Queen has provided her with a wonderful home and a great life.

Have a day fit for a Beauty Queen!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

At Long Last...

I have waited a long time to write this and did not start one day early because with a berner, you cannot take one day for granted. And so all these pictures and all these words are from today -- a day that is very, very special -- it is Maize's TENTH birthday.

Ten years ago Maize arrived in this world on an x-ray table, the last of nine puppies born to Abra and Mace. We had taken Abra to the vet when there was a big time lag between puppy seven and puppy eight, and when Abra saw she was at the vet's office she popped out #8 in the backseat of Dear Husband's patrol car -- that puppy was named Cruiser. And when we x-rayed to see if there were more, out came #9 on the table -- Eden Jonas named her Gamma Ray.

Although my primary love is performance events, I am cognizant of the importance and obligation of breeding to the Breed Standard and so with six lovely girls to pick from, I selected the one that I thought best met the most elements of the Breed Standard, confident that the natural working ability of the breed and close relatives would come through in my puppy -- and so little Gamma Ray became Maize, and we began our journey together.

What is the measure of greatness in a dog? Is it titles? Statistics? We have those -- Maize passed all health clearances -- hips, elbows, eyes, thyroid, cardiac, vWD. Every littermate in Maize's litter cleared elbows -- yes, we check whole litters and all nine cleared elbows and eight of nine cleared hips.

Titles? Is there a berner with more? Maize is a champion but she also has TWENTY-FOUR working titles, including the Utility Dog (UD) title, both excellent agility titles (AX, AXJ), and all four original draft titles, including the very challenging Open Brace Draft Dog. In fact, she remains the only berner to have the combination of UD, AX, AXJ, and BDD.

Maize is a fourth generation BMDCA Versatility Dog, and she is a second generation Working Dog Excellent and Versatile Companion Dog 2 (VCD2); she is also a Top Producer of Working Titled Dogs. In addition, Maize has earned an obedience High in Trial, and multiple Top Dog awards from the BMDCA.

Miss Maize transformed into Mrs. Maize after she became a mother, producing the first of two litters just five years ago. She had just ten puppies but let's add those puppies to her list of accomplishments -- all ten cleared hips and eight of ten cleared elbows (yes, my friends, it is possible and important to collect whole litter data -- and don't be fooled -- hip/elbow dysplasia are genetic and it is not cool for anyone). So far, six of her ten children have at least one working title with a couple more in the works.

So yes, if one measures greatness with numbers -- well, bring 'em on because she can compete with anyone. But really, I am not sure that is the best method of sharing what is amaizing about Mrs. Maize because what is amaizing is her heart and her spirit.

Mrs. Maize was certified as a Therapy Dog through the Delta Society, and became a staple in my work with bereaved children, both with individual children and in groups. She heard stories of loss that would bring you to tears, as they often did me -- families killed, parents dead, siblings lost -- and she was there with her gentle soul, to soak up sorrow and provide unconditional regard for each broken heart.

Maize has never met a stranger, and took it upon herself to be Mrs. Congeniality wherever she was -- a show, a hospital, or just a park. She would sit gently next to a wheelchair while awkward attempts to pet her were made, and had no trouble with being surrounded by a pack of small children, all anxious to pet her. Nothing scares her, nothing worries her -- there is not a more solid, stable temperament in a dog than Maize -- or a bigger heart.

When Galen was a teenager and thinking about what he would like in a girlfriend, he shared that he wanted someone nice, someone he could talk to and sit and watch tv with, and so on -- and he ended it with, "someone like Maize."

Mrs. Maize is an example of what it means to love everyone, and to be kind and gentle in the world. She reminds us that it is possible to be very, very accomplished -- and very, very nice. And now -- in addition to all her titles and awards, and her excellent and endearing temperament -- Mrs. Maize has achieved another amaizing milestone -- she is ten years old and (please knock on wood) extremely healthy.

And we are so blessed and grateful.

As I mentioned, I did not start this Blog entry until it was really and truly Maize's tenth birthday, and so let me share pictures now that I just took in the past two hours...

I think luck is a big part of longevity in a berner, but I also think that it is really important for berners of all ages to be active and have meaningful lives. This morning Mrs. Maize and her half-sister, Halo, hauled the garbage down the long driveway to the can at the street -- a one-half mile round trip. Mrs. Maize has the maroon harness on...

We had to do official Birthday Portraits, much to Maize's dismay -- I call this one, "REALLY?!" because that is what Maize seemed to be thinking...

Another one -- too bad you can't see the blinking lights :)

Maize doesn't compete much anymore but she still trains to stay in shape...

And she still loves to retrieve her dumbbell...

Maize's legacy includes her wonderful family -- here is a three generation picture of Maize, her daughter Cadi, and her granddaughter, Sydney...

Maize and Cadi...

Maize and her granddaughter/Mini-Me, Sydney...

After pictures and work and etc. it was time for Butter Pecan ice cream...

Apparently pretty darn yummy stuff!

And then it was off to the yard by herself to chew on a birthday bone!

Thank you for letting me share Mrs. Maize with you, and special thanks to all of you who have loved and appreciated Maize through the years -- you know who you are. And thank you to each person who has a Maize puppy for treasuring your piece of this great dog. And we remember -- with love and sorrow -- her five littermates who have left this earth but who share this birthday with her.

Happy Tenth Birthday to our (all of us) amaizing Mrs. Maize -- now I need to go and find some kleenex...

Please have a wonderful day in honor our sweet girl!