Monday, August 30, 2010

Pictures to Share!

Happy Monday, Friends -- and it is about as happy as you make it so might as well have a nice one :)

Tara Geneva from the Glitterati enjoys life in Salt Lake City with her parents and her brother the pug -- thanks to Liz for sending this picture :) Isn't she CUTE?!

Zed Dawson, Zoey's littermate so Halo's son, lives in Washington with Terri Z. He is doing well in beauty pageants, which will no doubt cause the other boys to tease him. This is a picture Terri sent from this past weekend -- thanks, Terri!

Here is that Alpenhorn ad I mentioned -- check out all those cute pictures :) Is your dog's BernerGarde record up to date???

Maize takes her position as Chief of the Fun Police very seriously, and makes sure to enforce the "No Fun" zone that exists around her at all times, barking at the other dogs if they forget...

Does this look comfortable?? Asia reminding me why I prefer a softer pillow.

Sigh -- Scenes from the upcoming miniseries, "The Dog Who Loves Too Much", starring Zoey and her beloved sister, Asia (who can't decide whether to tolerate, bite, or lick -- so she does all).

Have a wonderful day and an even better week!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Looking Back, Looking Ahead, Living Today

Last Sunday, as I mentioned, I was in Bellingham, Washington running a VST track with Asia. We didn't pass and it would have been easy to spend the week ruminating and being disappointed, but why? What good does that do?? Remember -- we can't change what we had for breakfast!

However, we can say to ourselves, "Self -- since frosted flakes with garlic and liver chunks coated with chocolate syrup and served with yak milk was not a good breakfast this morning, how about if we skip that in the future?" While we cannot change what is done, we don't have to keep doing it in the future!

So, I came home from the VST and thought -- not about how sad it was that we did not earn the title -- but rather about what went well (a lot!) and what I need to do differently. The dog did a great job but needs more work on transitions (i.e., grass - mulch) and being committed when her handler is not sure; that said, Asia came in season two days after the test so who knows how that influenced her work.

I need to work on reading the dog better -- and that will require that I lay my own tracks more often. A training partner/blind tracks are critical for VST -- but I forgot how important it is to lay one's own tracks as well.

Once again, life with dogs offers an important life lesson. We have a choice -- we can spend our energy beating ourselves up for being human and not knowing everything/doing everything right or we can just learn the lesson and move forward, doing things differently in the future. Here is the take home message: the past can be informative but really is not a place we should set up residence.

I spent months focused on VST, and now I find myself in the inevitable state of, "now what?" This always follows the attainment of something -- we got in the tests, we did them, and now what should the focus be??

Well, school is starting up so that certainly is a focus. I am sad that the wonderful summer is ending but looking forward to what fall is bringing. And there are a few things that we need to gear up for...

First, Halo has a couple of shows in September to try for that last UD leg. We have been diligently practicing so hopefully she will soon have that very difficult obedience title. The irony of Halo deVil being considered an excellent obedience dog is not lost on me, especially after this morning when she was sitting under the table with a small box of cereal in her mouth -- unchewed -- that she had gotten by opening a cabinet (without knobs) to retrieve.

Second, Zoey Rosebud is working on draft. In October we are traveling back east because I am presenting (with Dear Friend and Rainey Toronto's mom, Joan) at the Children's Hospice International conference in Washington DC. Who would fly to DC when one could drive?! Well, everyone -- except me. And so I devised a scheme to make it seem a tiny bit sensible to drive -- fall colors! Draft test! Do-nuts!!!!! (Rumor has it that we might be treated to some very special handmade yummy do-nuts :)

And so we will present and then go to Rhode Island for a draft test, and to visit with our friends from that part of the world. This means that Zoey is busy with draft -- well, and learning to stay, which is not easy for her

The third dog related thing that is happening is with Cadi -- tracking is now shifting gears back to TDX training and so Cadi will be doing that. Cadi is also working on open obedience and should be ready to show in November, when we are planning a trip to Washington -- this year we will be prepared to spend the night snowbound in a rest stop (as opposed to last year when we were ill-prepared and used dog bed blankets to stay warm -- sigh).

And the fourth thing is beauty pageant stuff -- there is a show in Helena, Montana in September and we had so much fun with Cooper Whitby and his mom in Idaho that we are going to Helena together -- but she has agreed to show in TWO things per day!!!! Progress :) Zoey is bald so Sydney will get to compete in that show -- and that is also where Halo will do obedience if she needs that third leg still...

So a busy fall -- dogs, work, moving Dear Husband up here, the Mystery Event that we are still plotting, etc. It is fun to have things to look forward to and to work towards goals -- always mindful that what really matters is what we do today.

I caught Asia and Karma having another conversation...

It went like this:

Karma: So you went all the way to Washington and flunked?
Asia: Shut up -- I had PMS and a bad handler. And I thought you were going to take down George -- obviously that has not happened...

Karma: You shut up -- George got too big and you won't help me catch him. But what about that mouse I had the other day?! I don't see you bringing home a mouse...
Asia: Really?! That thing was puny -- I don't think you should be bragging about that!!! And it was probably dead before you found it...
Karma: You are being bitchy -- I will ignore it because of your PMS but I hope you get over it soon.
Asia: DUH -- I am a bitch. You, on the other paw, are a cat!!!
Karma: That is rude -- I'm telling mom that you are being mean!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is a picture of Grandma Maize and her granddaughter, Sydney -- don't they look alike????

Galen wants more pictures of Sydney on the Blog so here she is, curled up like a cat.

Halo, the excellent thief/obedience dog (!)

I hope you do not have a permanent dwelling in your past, have exciting things to look forward to in the future, and are relishing a wonderful today :)

Monday, August 23, 2010


If you get the Alpenhorn, check out the BernerGarde ad on page 74 -- recognize all those pictures? Yes indeed, our friend, Daniel, at Best in Show Marketing used Blog pictures for that ad -- Asia, Zoey and one of Syd :)

I am happy to contribute pictures to such a good cause!

Peak Experiences and So On

Thank you very much for your input/encouragement about the website -- your comments made it better and are very appreciated :) I have to run it by the University attorney and then work on a press release -- I hope it is ready to launch next week!

VST -- Asia is looking for a new handler as hers is a slow learner. Here is the bottom line -- the dog was AWESOME and the handler was...well, human... As I said, it is a learning process and I am learning so it was very successful. And I LOVE that Asia -- what an amazingly great dog she is :)

As I drove home (nine hours) I was listening to a show on NPR where they interviewed people at a New York rest stop -- it was hilarious and the perfect thing for me to listen to as I drove. One person from West Virginia talked about how that rest stop in New York was the farthest she had ever been in her life!!!

That got me thinking about how what I do with all my various travels probably seems really odd to people. There I was zipping through Washington and Idaho -- 18 hours in the car to run a track with a dog. Some people plan vacations to Seattle -- I just drove over for the night.

I am not sure why I find it so easy and normal to jump in the car and drive -- by myself, no less -- but I do. I enjoy seeing new places, meeting new people, and having new adventures. And then I had an insight...

A new song came on -- "If I Die Young" -- and suddenly a slide show was playing in my head. There was the mom with her haunted eyes -- her baby had died and she asking me what to do about her breasts that were still making milk, and then I was catching the mom who was falling to the floor because the doctor had just told her that her son did not make it and it went on and on and on, and I was crying as I drove as I relived all those deaths and all that grief and all those shattered lives.

And I decided that yes, I am rather strange -- not special, just strange. And that the ability to stay present as a parent's soul shatters and the ability to drive to Seattle for the night just to run a track that one will "flunk" are, in fact, related in more than one way.

For over five years I worked directly with bereaved parents and dying/sick children. People always asked me how I could do it and I do not have a good answer, but I can tell you WHY I did/do it: because I appreciate "real".

Death and dying strips away everything pretend, everything extra -- and people are real. It is like you get to exist with them in a sacred, private space and I have never lost that feeling of honor and privilege when I am allowed there with a person. Yes, it is hard to stand so close to a fire and yes, it hurts -- but it is real, and I do it because for whatever reason, I can and it seems to help.

I am reminded of something I read a long time ago and have never forgotten -- it is from the Velveteen Rabbit:

""What is REAL?" asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. "Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?"

"Real isn't how you are made," said the Skin Horse. "It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real."

"Does it hurt?" asked the Rabbit.

"Sometimes," said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. "When you are Real you don't mind being hurt."

"Does it happen all at once, like being wound up," he asked, "or bit by bit?"

"It doesn't happen all at once," said the Skin Horse. "You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.""

When it is just me and the dog and a track -- it is real. The world fades back and I do not even notice the people or the place -- it is peak experience, no matter the outcome.

Peak experiences are hard in so many ways -- I understand why people avoid them. Peak experiences come flooding back at you when a song plays and suddenly you are trying to drive through tears. Peak experiences open you up to feelings of disappointment and failure, if you let them. But peak experiences let you feel Real -- and I am hooked, and that is why I spent 18+ total hours in a car to run a one hour track with a dog...

Strange, but real -- and I am glad we all get to decide for ourselves what we seek after. A timid life has never interested me, and after working so closely with death and sorrow -- well, it seems to me that if I failed to learn about the need to live fully and without regrets then I have missed the opportunity to give some meaning to all that meaningless sorrow and loss.

So go boldly in to your life, seeking after whatever makes you real -- but don't forget to stop and smell the flowers -- or rather, to take their pictures. Western Washington University is a lovely campus and had a rose garden -- I love roses, maybe because they make me think of my mom...

Wildflowers are more like me -- kind of an interesting chaotic but colorful mess.

And coming home I took this from the car -- it is the Columbia River. I do not want to live a timid life but I also would not enjoy being on this river -- it is HUGE. I think my inner tube and I will stick to the Bitterroot...

This was in Montana -- I love Montana :)

And this is from the other day -- Chippy hoping to have a peak experience of his own involving peanuts :)

Have a wonderful, real week -- and thanks again for the excellent website comments!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lots of Stuff -- Sort of!

Greetings Friends!

I hope you had an excellent week. Summer is winding down here and the start of school is right around the corner. I have so enjoyed this summer and it has been a productive one on many fronts.

Did you catch the post on the Berner Working List in which Kris O., our Camp Berner Co-Director/Agility Instructor, raved about the beginner agility group at Camp Berner? She said that she had never had a group of dogs -- in any breed -- progress so quickly and do so well -- do you realize that the beginner group was almost all Kaibab dogs?? Good job Team Kaibab!!! Way to make us all look good :)

Speaking of Camps -- Camp Kaibab, Our Place, June 23 - 25, Kaibab Campers and close relatives only, cheap, fun, tubing, training, three days of breed/obedience/rally shows in Missoula following Camp. Contact me for more details and/or to get on the Camper List.

Speaking of training and fun, this afternoon Asia and I will head for Bellingham, Washington -- Zoey is coming along for the ride, which is LONG. Tomorrow morning we will be in our second VST test. Kim is back in Utah until Wednesday so thanks to Heidi for staying the night with the other dogs! There are scones in the freezer for her and Dr. Pepper to keep her awake and happy ;)

The way I look at this VST stuff is that we really need practice on tracks in test conditions -- and one can only get that in a test. Once you flunk, they let you finish your track with the tracklayer behind you giving as much -- or little -- input as you want. Last weekend I specifically said that I wanted no input unless I asked (and I never had to ask :) because I knew that I had a great opportunity to gain experience and build confidence - and we need those things to someday pass a VST. So no matter what happens tomorrow, it will be a good thing :)

Website -- I mentioned that we were working on a website and now I have a favor to ask of you. I have long wanted to develop a grief website both as a way to "give back" and because I want to provide service to those who live in rural communities where grief support services are lacking. I think the website is self-explanatory so I will stop there -- I could go on and on because I am so excited about it :)

My favor is this: will you look at the website and tell me if you see any errors and/or places that are awkward and/or do not read well? Also, let me know if you think it is user friendly, easy on the eyes, needs more of something or less of something, whatever feedback -- I want it to be perfect.

The website is not officially ready -- we have a couple more articles to post, two more pictures to add, and we need to proof it, which is what I am asking for help with so please do not share the link at this time -- I will let you know when it is available for public use. Big thanks to Galen, who is the website designer and tech person, Cassie for her pictures, and special heartfelt thanks to those who shared their stories for the site.

Please send comments to me: and thank you, in advance, for any and all help you can offer :)

The website:

Choose to have a wonderful, terrific, delightfully happy weekend!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Camp Berner Pics

These Camp Berner pictures are courtesy of photographer/Camper/Nice Guy Randy Gaines:

Sunday, August 15, 2010

VST Report

Here is Asia's Report:

Easy start on wet grass, easy first turn, harder second turn -- told mom it went right twice but she was not convinced so I meandered down a parking lot, got a whistle telling mom she is a dork, got to go the way I wanted in the first place, found a plastic lid, made a left turn in the middle of a parking lot, went straight, right turn in the next parking lot, found the metal article, kept going and made a left turn at the end of the parking lot, crossed some grass and into another parking lot where I found a piece of leather with a #4 on it. What the heck?! I had to wait until we got to the car to get my Sausage Muffin?!

Mary-Ann's Report:

Great start, made the first turn easily, got to a second turn that was a transition back to grass -- you would think that would be easy but it isn't. However, if I had paid attention I would have seen the WHITE article on GREEN grass just ahead of where Asia wanted to go -- SIGH. Wandered off through the parking lot without much commitment but last year's track went there so it was in my head. Got the whistle and did not even have to ask/get directions -- went right back to that grass where she went in the first place, she immediately picked up the track, found the article and was off. I did not get one bit of help from the tracklayer (per my request) -- she finished the track all by herself (with me being more agreeable). That dog is amazing -- her handler is less so :)

Disappointed???? That would be inappropriate -- I am thrilled that my dog is barely three and capable of doing a VST track. And I am very happy to have had the opportunity to learn more about what I need to do in order to help us pass someday. Asia rocked -- nothing to be disappointed about at all.

And Nara did a great job also!!! She also had trouble with the second turn that was a transition but did great on the rest of her track -- Teressa and I see a hole in our training: transitions. No problem!!! We can work on that :)

You may think I am recycling pictures but no -- this is a new one:

Carol nicely illustrates what it means to reframe something -- while Terri thinks my dog is very naughty, Carol writes, "Zoey has some interesting table manners but then again the table does give a view out the window! Maybe she just wants to perch next to the flag 'look a like'!"

When you cannot change something, you just need to change how you see it!!

Nobody has ever passed at the VST Test next weekend -- but I will go anyway because we are on a journey and have to make stops at tests along the way in order to one day achieve that VST title, which will make Asia a Champion Tracker -- I know she can do it.

Hope your weekend is right on track for greatness!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

VST Test Eve

Greetings from Western Montana where the weather could not be better and the sky is a stunning blue. I did a mountain bike ride that I had wanted to do for a long time this morning, and also worked more on an exciting website that I am doing with Galen and Cassie (and others) -- more on that soon.

I am waiting for Vicky Whitney to arrive -- she volunteered to lay tracks for the VST test tomorrow and so I am hosting her for the night.

Yes, tomorrow is the Big Day -- Asia and I will be doing our first VST test. I am looking forward to it very much, and just having a dog ready to enter is an amazing accomplishment -- I am very proud of her :)

We have worked consistently and with commitment for months, training at least weekly with Teressa and Nara, our training partners. Teressa and I scheduled our sessions weeks in advance and not once did we cancel a session -- I am as excited for Nara as I am for Asia.

And something else that is just as important as training is conditioning. It can take well over an hour to run these tracks and it is hard physical and mental work. Asia is as fit as she has ever been, and yesterday we did her last conditioning 4+ mile hike -- today she is resting :)

Later today I will give the plus-size model a bath -- you know our motto: look good, feel good, do good. Her tracking line is in the wash and the Lucky Hanukkah socks are clean and ready. Tomorrow morning at 4:30 we will leave for campus and I will try not to cry when it is our turn in the test, because just being able to do this with her is such a privilege and accomplishment and I feel emotional just thinking about it.

Lisa gave the girls a great tug toy -- here are four of them playing with it -- that is Asia in the middle.

Cadi scared everyone off except Zoey, who told her, "growl all you want -- I am the girl who loves too much so I am used to it."

Cadi and Zoey...

I hope your weekend is a wonderful one. Think good thoughts for us tomorrow -- and remember that each journey has success all along the way -- all we have to do is notice...

Friday, August 13, 2010


Just found out that Asia is in yet a second VST test -- August 22 in Bellingham, Washington. WOW -- we are having good luck with the draws as these are not easy tests to get in...

Zoey just jumped on my table again -- where is that camera...

Okay, live time blogging -- here you go...

Apparently she wanted Carol to see where we have her flag now -- sigh. Terri Z. says I need to send Zoey to her and she will send Zed Dawson to me -- and then Zed will heel and Zoey won't get on furniture :)

Hope you are having a grand day!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Just Shoot Me...

One of two things has happened -- either I am recovering OR the cold sore virus has gone to my brain. Today I decided that we needed to have Camp Kaibab next June -- is that stunned silence I hear???! And Cindy laughing????!!! Marti groaning????? Barb L. getting her water wings ready??? Alex cheering???

If we do Camp Berner again next year it will be in Minnesota later in the summer so no conflict there -- and I really want to do something just for our Kaibab family -- so Camp Kaibab, next June -- before the Missoula shows. Be there -- or be untrained and lacking in fun. Special adopted Kaibab family members can audit, help, or lie about the origins of their dogs -- we'll talk...

I am sure all future Kaibab Campers want a dog as well trained as Zoey -- she helps with kitchen clean-up!

Camp Kaibab 2011 -- here we come!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Camp Berner Wrap-Up, Make Way for Ducklings, You Know You Are a Narcissist When..., Trust, Facebook & Etc. (Whew)

It is a sign that I am starting to recover when I can write about it. Camp Berner was GREAT fun but maybe the best way to share the (fun) strain of the last couple of weeks is to say that I have the worst cold sore I have had in years and that today I simply had to go to bed in the middle of the day because I was just exhausted and feeling sick -- and I NEVER take naps. However, exhaustion and a nasty cold sore are small prices to pay for an excellent adventure in camping!

Dear Husband was a huge help as we got our place ready to host Camp Berner 2010 -- and we had help from all over -- here is the flag that Carol sent from Iowa, ready to welcome Campers...

In Oregon, Ralph made special Camp Berner 2010 jumps -- they sold like hotcakes so guess who didn't get one???? Oh well -- I am sure Ralph can make more :)

I tried VERY hard not to show preference to Kaibab Campers, and between that and being so busy I never got any of the group pictures I wanted -- we had FIVE of the eight Glitterati in one place and not a single group shot :( But with about half of the Campers having a Kaibab dog, I got to see that yes -- we are achieving our goal of breeding typey berners with a strong work ethic -- that was wonderful!

Here is Zaida Jamaica

Alex (from Jennifer and Ralph's "A" Litter ;) was a big help at Camp, and got to practice agility each day with Mrs. Maize -- I believe that is Cooper Whitby with him...

Happy Campers...

Each morning I got up before 4:30 and started baking -- I took this just for my daughter, Nicole, who thinks I am unsafe living alone and should have one of those panic buttons -- why?! Just because I set the oven bottom on fire and then my first reaction was not to grab the baking soda and put it out???

The Camp Berner arena...

Camp Directors -- me and Kris...

One of the events in the first ever Berner Pentathlon was to put a draft harness on the dog -- here is Camper John with Mika Ireland...

Barb with Zaida Jamaica...

We tracked, we did obedience, we drafted, we tubed, we ate, we did agility, we groomed berners -- but most importantly, we had fun and helped to create community and so I rate Camp Berner as a huge success :)

Moving on to ducklings... A few weeks ago Carol (of flag fame) shared that when a flock of ducklings are "attacked" they split into groups as they flee, thereby confusing the predator who cannot decide which group to pursue, and making it easier to get away. Wow -- what a great life lesson!!!

At Camp Berner I talked about goal setting, and I could not stop thinking about ducklings. Our goals are like ducklings -- we all have too many things we want to pursue, and like ducklings, when we try to pursue all of them at once we are left with nothing but frustration and lost dreams (i.e., no ducklings).

All of us would do better to set our sights on one group of ducklings and go for that, ignoring the ducklings that are swimming out of sight. We cannot catch all of our dreams at once, but if we stay focused and determined, we can achieve much more than if we try to chase all of the ducklings in the pond at once. Which ducklings will you set your sights on?

My dear friends -- a true and sincere compliment involves another person. It is focused on that person and her achievements -- and does not include ME, ME, ME and MINE. In other words, a compliment is not an excuse to talk about yourself!!!!! Think about it, friends...

Moving on yet again -- trust is a key ingredient in all good relationships. We need to trust that those we care about will be honest with us -- in fact, I think trust and honesty go hand in hand. If one is less than honest, one robs relationships of trust -- and that causes much pain and erodes connections between people. When trust is damaged and honesty has been absent -- well, that makes for a seriously Unhappy Camper -- worse than tubing for nearly 4.5 hours.

How does one forgive for a violation of trust that has generated a product? In other words, if something is created in less than optimal and honest circumstances -- how can one forgive and move on in the face of a continued reminder of the cause of Great Unhappiness? I have not figured that one out. Some things cannot be undone -- should we just have faith that Karma is at work in the universe (not the cat, although she is...) and that seeds planted in untrustworthy ground will -- well, you know. I cannot wish bad things or poor outcomes -- but I do believe that good things do not come from bad starts...

Facebook -- unlike people who seem to collect Facebook "friends" as if there is some contest I do not know about, I am pretty selective with my friends. I regularly unfriend people who are not interactive with me and/or whose postings do not help me to have positive feelings for them. I am always amazed at what people will post, and if I say to myself, "really? Did she really just post that?!" too often I will unfriend during one of my Facebook Friend Pruning sessions. It isn't meant to insult -- I just do not want Facebook to influence me in thinking poorly of someone nor do I want to have "friends" who do not seem to notice I exist.

So if you have been unfriended by me, take it as a sign that, a) I want to like you more than Facebook allows; and/or b) you didn't seem to notice me until I unfriended you; and/or c) you might want to try using a filter when you post -- as in a filter between your head and your typing.

George and the rest of my deer friends stayed away during Camp Berner (gee -- wonder why?!) but today they came calling, indicating that -- like me -- life is returning to normal here in Montana.

Soon my dreadful cold sore will heal, I will have caught up on my sleep, and it will be time to set my sights on a new bunch of ducklings...

I hope you are a Happy Camper -- honest, trustworthy, and kind in your pursuit of ducklings.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Camp Berner Tubers (minus me -- the photographer)

I know Ralph is envious that he did not get to go on our AMAZING and INCREDIBLY FUN Camp Berner tubing adventure -- here are the Happy Campers after our float!!!! See all those smiles??? I think we have this tubing thing figured out FINALLY :)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Good News!!!!

Asia and our training partner, Nara (and Teressa), got in the U of Montana VST test on August 15th -- woohoo!!!!!!!


The Official Camp Berner Photo!!! Things are going great!!! Wish you were here :)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Easter in August!

Brothers and Sisters!!

We have a resurrection to report! Here is the evidence:

Yes indeed -- the Blackberry has come back to life after the unfortunate drowning experience -- I believe we have a miracle!!!!

Preparations for Camp Berner are at a frenzied pace -- thanks to Carol for this great Camp Berner flag!!! We all think it looks like Zoey :)

Please send chocolate -- or at least good thoughts!