Wednesday, June 30, 2010

New Visitor

Kay, Sue, and Ruben left this morning -- and we had a huge temperature drop as they took the heat with them back to Arizona! We will miss them but they will be back for Camp Berner in early August -- but we all would appreciate it if they would leave that heat in Phoenix where it belongs when they come back!

In the meantime, I had another visitor this morning who prefers our leaves to the freshly baked chocolate chip scones that Kay and Sue enjoyed during their visit, and thinks resting under a pine tree is better than the guest rooms :)

Hope your week is going well!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Rube(n) Tuesday

Okay, let us start with the news that *could* be viewed as disappointing, although I choose not to see it that way. After a LONG, HOT day it was 4:15 and finally Halo's turn in utility. She was stunningly good -- happy, excited, accurate. But I had made the mistake of saying -- right before I went in -- that I preferred to flunk early and get it over with, as that makes the rest of the run more relaxed.

Halo, being Halo, instead flunked the LAST thing -- the second jump on the last exercise. She did the go out perfectly, turned and sat perfectly, and was so excited that she anticipated my command and took the same jump again. The crowd did the whole "ohhhhhhhhhhhh" thing but I celebrated an excellent run and an excited, happy dog. And although inside I was hurting, Halo never knew that and by the time I got home I had realized how wonderful it is that I get to do utility with Halo again :) :) She is a super fun utility dog and I got LOTS of compliments on her great attitude. Here is a picture of our super cute, happy Halo deVil, Head Contrarian.

Okay, moving on...

We arrived at 9:45 because we had a 11:30ish ring time -- or so we thought. Instead, we had a judge change and a time change -- sigh. I gave Ruben a bath and then Zoey a bath and etc. and it got hotter and hotter but finally it was time. I remembered to change my shoes, went to the correct bathroom, and off we went.

Ruben and I were in first, and he was the only one in his class so he was a winner -- and then he won the Winner's class, making him Winner's Dog.

Zoey apparently scared off the competition. She was again the only one in her class so that made her a winner but there were no other girls -- until a handler showed up literally at the last minute to show his girl. Zoey and the other girl went into the Winner's class, which Zoey won so she was Winner's Bitch. However, the judge did make it a point to tell me he did not care for Zoey's muzzle -- he said, "it is too snippy for me"!!!!!!! WHAT??????? Look at this muzzle -- do you see a snip????

And here is just a shot of her after we got home...

The male champion who had taken Best of Breed every day did not show up so Zoey (aka Snippy) and Ruben went in the ring to battle it out. Ruben, not having been christened with a snippy muzzle, won Best of Winner's and BEST of BREED!!!! Woo Hoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Look at how nice the Best of Breed dog looked today:

Okay, so much celebrating and then we realized what it meant -- GROUP. And at the same time as utility -- ugh. So we moved Halo to the end of the utility class and got ready for the Working Group -- that is where all the Best of Breed winners from all the breeds in the Working Group compete. We waited -- and waited -- and waited as it got hotter and hotter...

But finally there we were -- Ruben and I in Group! He did a great job but of course is not quite ready for that level of competition so we did not place but how fun and what a good experience for both of us :)

And then we raced over to obedience and waited some more, but it was air conditioned so that was very nice and made the waiting bearable. Finally it was Halo's turn and I started this entry with that story so we have come full circle :)

And so ends the Eight Days of Dog Shows in June.

Ruben came to Montana and showed for three days -- he was Winner's Dog and Best of Winner's twice, Reserve once, and Best of Breed once.

Cooper showed twice and was Winner's Dog once and Reserve once -- I cannot remember if he was also Best of Winners????

The girls and I showed for all eight days. Sydney showed four times and was Winner's Bitch twice (50%). Zoey showed four times and was Winner's Bitch and Best of Opposite all four times (100%) and Best of Winner's three of those four times. Asia earned her CD in three tries, and was Best of Opposite the one time she was shown in breed. Halo was shown three times in utility and got one leg, and flunked just one thing in the other two runs. Although the shows were small this year, I would say it has been quite a successful run for the Kaibab dogs :) And what a great end to Kay/Sue/Ruben's adventure to Montana!

I hope your Tuesday is going half as well as Ruben's!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Monday, Monday

Kay and Sue brought Arizona weather with them -- mid-90's here today!!!!! Yikes!!!!!!!!! Perhaps it is the heat that explains why I walked into the men's restroom when I went to change my clothes, and why I forgot to change from my dirty sandals to my show shoes -- yes indeed, I showed the dogs in my nice skirt and Teva's -- sigh...

As you can see by this picture, the sandals did not seem to hurt too much:

So today Ruben won the Bred-by class, making him a winner but he did not win the special Winner's class -- he was "second" so he was Reserve Winner's Dog.

Extra cute Zoey was the only one in her class so that made her a winner, and then she won the special Winner's class, making her Winner's Bitch -- and then she beat Winner's Dog, making her Best of Winner's -- and she was Best of Opposite Sex as well. What a good girl -- and look how pretty she is...

On Friday in Great Falls I showed Halo for the second time in Utility -- she missed the down signal and passed everything else. Today I showed Halo for the third time in Utility and unbelievable -- she got a second leg!!!

WOW!!!!!!!!! This is a Really Big Deal :) :) I am very proud of that Halo deVil -- and thanks to Carol for those Lucky Socks -- I had them on again!

Tomorrow is the last day of these eight show days in June -- should be fun no matter what happens :)

Hope you are having a great day!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Good Judge, Bad Judge

Okay Blog Friends -- here are pictures, the scoop and a quiz...

Today in the Missoula show, Ruben Hudson (aka Rock Star) won his class, and then went back into the special Winner's Class and won that -- what did that make him?

Sydney won her class, and then got nada/nothing in the special winner's class. What does that make her? A loser. How can that be -- look at how cute she is:

We would complain about the judge but Ruben won so instead we just say he is inconsistent :)

So Ruben went in again to compete against the Winner Girl/Bitch and he beat her - what did that make him???

Here is a picture of the Loser Sibling and the Winner Sibling:

And here is the Winner Sibling...

And the Loser Sibling...

The siblings had fun playing together in our training arena..

And here is Syd begging Kay for ice cream -- she should have tried this trick with the judge!

Tonight we will enjoy a celebratory dinner and then tomorrow we will be showing Ruben and Zoey, trying to earn yet another reason to celebrate -- oh, and Halo will be in utility, trying to give me a headache, no doubt :)

Hope your weekend is going well!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Dog Shows Explained

Let's pretend that we want to have a contest to find out who makes the best chocolate chip bagels in a high school. There are four grades and we are going to separate the boys and the girls, since we know that those poor boys cannot really compete with the girls :)

So, the freshgirls (9th grade) bring bagels and we pick the winner of that grade. The freshboys also bring their bagels and we pick the winner of the 9th grade boys. So now we have a 9th grade boy and girl who won their class, so to speak, in bagel making.

We do the same for the other grades -- each grade has a boy winner and a girl winner.

And then we have the finals! The four girl winners (one from each grade) bring their best effort in bagel making and we pick one to be the WINNER of the girls.

The four boys get their sisters to help and they bring their best effort and we pick one to be the WINNER of the boys.

Winner Girl and Winner Boy each get a prize -- a shiny new Kitchen Aid mixer!!!! But there is more -- we have to figure out the Grand Prize, which is a lifetime supply of yeast. So Winner Girl and Winner Boy each come back with their best bagels and we pick the Best of the Winners -- and he or she gets that great Grand Prize (what high school student wouldn't LOVE a lifetime supply of yeast?!)!

A dog show is not unlike a high school bagel making contest, except that dog shows happen all the time and high school bagel making contests -- not so much.

The purpose of taking your non-champion dog to a show is to get points towards a championship. Competing against others of the same breed, only one boy and one girl can get points for that day -- Winner's Bitch and Winner's Dog. Points are determined by the number of dogs beaten based on a schedule established by the AKC, and it varies between regions and states.

So anyway, like the bagel contest, there are classes -- and in these classes the girls only compete against girls and the boys against boys. Owners decide which class to enter -- I show my girls in a class called "Bred-by Exhibitor" which means the person showing the dog is also the breeder of the dog. There are classes for puppies that are divided by age, and there are a few other classes as well. Most of the time there are not dogs in all classes -- but there can be.

So each class has a winner -- small "w" winner. The dog does not get points for being a winner -- she just gets a nice blue ribbon and the chance to go to the special class for all the class winners of the same sex. So, all the girl winners go to the special class together and one of the winners is picked to be Winner with a "W" and she gets the points and is called Winner's Bitch. The judge picks her/his second favorite girl and that girl is Reserve Winner's Bitch

They do the same thing with the boys except they call them Dogs and not Bitches :)

But then you have a Boy Winner and a Girl Winner -- who is the best of those??? Well, the judge decides that as well -- and that dog is called Best of Winners because s/he is considered the best of all the class winners of both sexes.

This gets confusing -- let's say there are enough girls so that Winner's Bitch gets two points but there is not enough boys and so it is only one point for Winner's Dog. Well, if he beats Winner's Bitch, becoming Best of Winners, he also gets two points (but she keeps her points).

It takes 15 points to make a champion but included in that total has to be two wins that are worth 3, 4, or 5 points; a win with any of those point values is called a major. So a dog has to have two majors to be a champion -- she can have more but not less. Depending on where the show is, it could easily require nine or more dogs of the same sex to make up a three point major.

There is more but that should get you started on this -- we will have a test soon! To practice for that, let me share what we did today -- Zoey won her class (we went to Great Falls just for today) so she got a blue ribbon and the chance to compete against the winner of the other class. The judge picked Zoey as Winner's Bitch and she earned one point. No boys showed today so she was also Best of Winners.

Kay and Sue arrive tomorrow with Ruben -- I will be showing Ruben and one of my girls for three days in Missoula starting on Sunday (Syd on Sunday and Zoey on Monday and Tuesday). Let's start our test early -- boys and girls show separately so I will show each in their separate classes and that will be fine. But there is a situation which could happen and would require both dogs to be in the ring at the same time -- under what circumstance would both dogs have to be in the ring at the same time?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Most Excellent Idaho Adventure

I am sure Karen is not alone in wondering how we survived our Camping/Dog Show Adventure -- well, wonder no more because here is the true, unabridged story of The Excellent Idaho Adventure...

It started before I left -- Dear Husband clucked like a worried hen: "will you be warm enough? Shouldn't you take more blankets? Shouldn't you take your heavy coat?"

Oh no, I reassured him -- temperatures would be in the 70's so I would be fine. And when Ralph and Jennifer offered me a sleeping bag that first night, I repeated my reassurances -- and froze my #$% off as Blackfoot suffered under a late frost.

I am not sure what was worse -- freezing all night or having to tell Dear Husband he was right. At any rate, I did (gratefully) take the sleeping bag for the other nights -- here is a picture of my heroes:

Okay, so back to the story -- we arrived and set up the tent (aka my imaginary trailer) next to Jennifer, Ralph and their son Alex; they have Syd's littermate, Cooper Whitby (I have made a unilateral decision that from now on all Kaibab dogs have their litter name as their middle name). In addition to Cooper, they have a berner girl named Britta and a real trailer (named Arctic Fox).

I have always wanted to stay at a show site and so this was my big chance to see if I like it. I figured that being a somewhat experienced camper, I would be fine in my little tent with four large, furry dogs. When I was a kid we camped every summer and I had to share a tent with my four siblings and so four dogs is kind of like four siblings, right?

So this is what our camp looked like (note the difference between a real trailer and an imaginary one):

And I creatively used xpens and crates to create a safety zone inside the tent to prevent any escapes:

Zoey took advantage of the close confines to get even closer to her beloved sister, squeezing into a crate with her that is really a little small for one plus-size model let alone the plus-size model and her baby sister...

In addition to the small problem of hypothermia the first night, there were some other glitches. First of all, when tent camping one has to decide if one would rather be dehydrated or take a dark, lonely, cold walk to the bathroom at 2 a.m. Unlike real trailers, imaginary ones only have imaginary bathrooms -- darn it. Second, it is hard to plan/manage food when tent camping with four dogs who would happily raid the imaginary cupboards -- so I ate from my supply of pumpkin bread and bagels, bummed meals from Jennifer and Ralph, and worked agility classes to earn tickets so that I could have real food like hot fudge sundaes and trail mix. Well, and there was also the small problem of sleeping on the floor with four dogs, including one who loves too much but over all, it was actually just fine. I admit to having trailer/RV envy now but do not envy the payments so my envy is actually balanced for the time being.

I stayed at the show site for two reasons -- it was cheap and easy (not unlike some of my dear friends), and I wanted to see what it was like -- well, I loved it!!! Dog shows after the dog show are really fun! It was like being ten again and on a camping trip, where a group of relative strangers come together and form a little community for a few days and then disbands and goes back to real life (except when I was ten camping involved Lake Tahoe and s'mores). And I had a GREAT time with Jennifer, Ralph and Alex -- and I am not just saying that because they lent me a sleeping bag!

Okay, so that is my report on what it was like to camp -- no problem! And now let's move on to the dog part of this adventure...

We will start with Cadi -- she has decided that 24 inch jumps are not for her so sent bars flying in every run and will be moving down to preferred agility (20 inches) -- more on that in a future Blog. But what AWESOME weave poles she has (credit to Elizabethanne, who taught Cadi to weave)!!! And what a perfectly lovely disposition that dog has -- so big success with Cadi since just being able to do something with her is a gift.

FYI: we found a park and went there for romping time twice -- and the pictures are fun so I am including them but wanted to mention they are from the park so you do not imagine that dog shows after hours is a big free-for-all! In this picture you can see that Cadi noted there were no bars to send flying so she gathered the troops and plotted to send a human through the air...

Okay -- let's review who was being shown -- we have Asia:

And we have Zoey:

And Sydney:

And Sydney's littermate, Cooper Whitby (serving in the first picture as a pillow for Alex):

So here are the results!!!

On Thursday Asia was entered in Best of Breed and Novice B obedience -- she went Best of Opposite (Yea!) and got Leg #2 with a placement (Leg # 1 was at the Specialty). I attribute this to the special socks that Carol gave me -- I wore them the first time I showed Asia in obedience, and of course had to wear them again for Leg #2!

Jennifer showed Cooper and he was Reserve, and Syd won the Bred-by class but didn't do anything else.

Friday started with Cadi sending more bars flying. Ralph and Alex went to play golf and Jennifer was left to face my incredulity that she had not entered Cooper in Breed -- why??? Because she wanted to do obedience with Britta -- huh?????????!!!!!!!! Being the Queen of Multi-Tasking, you can imagine that I had a hard time understanding why she could not do two classes in one day but she is a beginner at this making yourself nuts at a dog show thing -- she will learn :) And she did a great job with Britta -- they earned Britta's first Novice B obedience leg :) :)

So, in between giving poor Jennifer a bad time about being a dog show wimp and helping Cadi send bars flying in agility, I showed Sydney in Breed -- and she went Winner's Bitch :)

Okay, now it was Saturday and because we had nothing better to do (than send more bars flying and run all around the show site keeping track of when/where we showed, when we worked what class in agility, and so on), we decided to give the (clean) dogs a bath -- Cooper was not amused...

However, you know what Joan says: Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good!!!! And it worked -- with Jennifer showing Cooper, he went Winner's Dog and Best of Winners!!! And not to be outdone by her brother, Sydney was Winner's Bitch, giving the Glitterati littermates a sweep of the points :)

Sunday morning was The Abandonment -- Jennifer and Ralph packed up the Real Trailer and left me all alone with my imaginary one. Sadly I took down my imaginary trailer and managed to cram everything back into the van so that I could leave as soon as I was done showing. It was a tight schedule and I knew it would be a challenge to get to everything and so I pulled out the Big Guns -- I put on the Lucky Hanukkah socks.

Yes, I know it is not Hanukkah and yes, I know I am not Jewish but I support all faith groups and I am a firm believer in Lucky Socks and those Lucky Hanukkah socks have seen us through some very excellent titles -- and so I put them on with full confidence that in spite of having been abandoned by my trailer park friends, I was going to have a good day.

The Lucky Hanukkah socks do not work for agility -- oh well. After Cadi and I knocked some more bars, I put her away and got out Zoey -- it was to be her Big Day!!!! Now, remember that Zoey had some Stranger Danger issues with judges last fall and so I have worked diligently to get her over that -- okay, that is a big, fat lie -- I let her grow up some more, taught her to lean on people, and put on the Super Lucky Socks and that was the extent of my diligence -- sigh....

But you know what Joan says -- Look Good, Feel Good, Do Good -- and so Zoey got beautified in preparation for her Big Day. That done, I raced over to obedience -- well, I drove slowly through the showgrounds so as not to run over any person or dog but I had a racing mentality so it felt like I was racing -- remember -- it is all about perspective.

Obedience started at 10:50 and Zoey's Breed ring time was 11:10 but there were some dogs ahead of berners so I decided to just go for it (as in -- just show Asia). There were only three in Asia's class and it finished right at 11:10 -- how is that for perfect?! (hint, hint -- Lucky Hanukkah socks).

It was hot and right as we were going into the ring a person said, "what a nice looking BOY" or something to that effect!!!!!! So being both hot and insulted, Asia was not at her most attentive but it was good enough for second place and her CD title!!!!!!!!! That makes her a BMDCA Working Dog :) :) Can you tell I am a little excited about that??? :) :) :) Not even three and she is already CH Kaibab's Enter from the East TDX, CD, DD, CGC -- a Versatility Dog and now a Working Dog :) :) We might have to chat with our favorite advertising person, Daniel Sernicola (Best in Showing Marketing:, about an ad for our Plus-Size Model who does NOT look like a boy!!!!

Okay -- enough obedience! I put Asia in her crate, gave her water, and got Zoey out with her Bling Bling pink breast cancer awareness show leash and off we went -- to wait. Sigh.... We stood in the shade of a vendor booth and watched the ring until finally the berners were showing -- I started to feel as if I might just throw up from nervousness. Would Zoey stand for the judge??? Would she be stressed????? Would I ruin the leash if I threw up on it??????!!!!

Ye of little faith!!!! Zoey was rock solid and even more -- she won! Yes indeed -- our cute Zoey was Winner's Bitch, Best of Winners, and Best of Opposite. And the judge said and I quote, "she is very nice" (referring to, of course, Zoey :).

So, Cadi was a champion bar knocker, Syd won two of the three days she was shown, Cooper won one of the two days he was shown, Zoey won the only day she was shown, and Asia qualified in obedience both times she was shown, earning her title. I survived the tent experience and had a great time with Jennifer, Ralph and Alex.

Zoey got a new ball but Cooper, not understanding that pink is a girl color, stalked Zoey for it...

And when he got too close to her new ball, Zoey scared him right into the air!

However, Cooper touched the ball and Zoey rejected it as having boy cooties on it...

And so ends a perfectly lovely weekend -- I can hardly wait for the next one!!!!! I hope yours was also a success, no matter what happened :)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


We all need to send Kay and Sue a big collective hug -- yesterday their sweet boy, Dillon, died. Dillon, Kaibab's Cruising Together CD, RE, CGC is Cadi's littermate and he died from Lymphoma. The death of any dog is a heartbreak, but to lose one not yet five years old and so close to losing Riley -- well, if it weren't for bad luck, Kay and Sue wouldn't have any luck at all :(

Dillon was a sweet, sweet boy who never got to achieve all that was planned for him because his life took a different path than any of us wanted in January when he was diagnosed. Kay and Sue did what could be done to extend his life and to fill his time with love and joy, but Dillon's body couldn't contain his spirit any longer and so he is running free with his Uncle Riley at the Rainbow Bridge. I am sad for Dillon, and I am especially sad for Kay and Sue -- please send them your thoughts and hugs as they learn to live without two friends they have loved so much. Ruben (Hudson from the Glittarati) has some big paws to fill, but I know he is up for it and that his uncles' love for Kay and Sue will continue through Ruben.

Part of Dillon's legacy is perspective -- a reminder that what really matters is enjoying the time we have together no matter what we are doing. This is a lesson I will take with me as I head for Blackfoot, Idaho today for four days of agility, conformation, and two days of obedience. If Cadi flunks every agility run -- at least I had the chance to run with her. If Sydney and Zoey get dumped every day (Syd shows three days, Zoey just one) -- at least I had the chance to show them. If Asia flunks obedience each time I show her -- so what? At least I have her with me.

Dillon will be on my mind this weekend, reminding me of what really matters -- I invite you to let him remind you about perspective as well...

Kim is here to stay with Maize and Halo while I head out -- Zoey was very happy to have someone else to cuddle with...

I will be camping and showing with Cooper (Whitby from the Glitterati) and his family, and then next week Kay and Sue and Ruben are coming to Montana to show in the Missoula shows. Lots to look forward to and a heavy heart about Dillon (and Kay and Sue) -- life is always so bittersweet.

Word of the Day: Perspective.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Ode to Asia by Zoey (with apologies to the Carpenters)

Why do birds suddenly appear
Every time you are near?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you.

Why do stars fall down from the sky
Every time you walk by?
Just like me, they long to be
Close to you.

On the day that you were born
The angels got together
And decided to create a dream come true
So they sprinkled moon dust in your hair of black, rust and white
And starlight in your eyes of brown.

GRRRRRRRRRRRR, close to you.
GRRRRRRRRRRRR, close to you.
GRRRRRRRRRRRR, close to you.
GRRRRRRRRRRRR, close to you.

Hope you have a Cuddle-Bug who wants to be close to you! Have a GREAT weekend :)

Sunday, June 6, 2010


Brace yourself Blog Friends, because this may not be pretty. Is it related to dogs? Isn't everything?!

Dear Husband would sometimes like to send Halo off to live on a deserted island, and that is understandable because like a geeky, pimpled, teenage hacker, she prefers to use her brilliance towards evil and chaos at times. Indeed, instead of working towards world peace she is more apt to find the one piece of hard candy Dear Husband left in an accessible bag (no comment) -- after taking out all other contents, of course. Her misdeeds are legendary - let's just leave it at that.

But Halo has taught me something really, really important -- a lesson that has broad application -- and that is the importance of accepting a dog (person) for who and what s/he is.

Like all of us, Halo is a combination of excellence and REALLY?! (as in, "did you REALLY just do that?!"). For a while I tried to change her but she was persistent in her schooling of me and I finally saw the light -- Halo is Halo and that is not going to change. If she did, she wouldn't be Halo, would she?

And so rather than make her change to fit me, I not only accepted Halo but I embraced her Halo-ness. That means I have childproof locks on cabinets, put up with crazed barking on road trips when I dare to step away from the car, and when I leave the house, she is confined to the bedroom to keep her from doing who-knows-what (she can open the frig in the Utah house -- enough said). And it means I have a dog that got a utility leg her first time in the ring without having practiced anywhere but home -- seriously -- who does that?! Answer: Halo.

So what is the take home message here?? That Halo is a pain in the backside? No, she is not -- she is Halo -- and the lesson is that dogs and people deserve to be loved and honored and respected for exactly who and what they are. And if we cannot do that, then we need to leave their lives -- plain and simple.

Bear with me -- this is all related...

I am one of those people who likes religion and even church. I do not talk about it much because I hate the stereotypes that follow but yes, I like church, religion, spirituality, and that kind of stuff. But I am having a real hard time lately with the whole church thing and it is related to what I said about Halo.

Recently one of my very good friends came out to me -- not as in came out as a debutante but rather shared that she is in love with a woman. This news -- and our discussion -- shook me, but not in the way you might imagine -- and yes, this is related to Halo and religion.

What struck me was how this wonderful, beautiful, intelligent woman had for years felt that she could not be who she was -- that if she were true to herself she would not be loved, honored, or respected. I have thought about the men she tried to love and make happy, and I have thought about the sorrow and pain of trying so hard to be someone different than you really are -- and truly my heart has felt broken for her, and for all the others who try so hard to be someone else.

And that has caused me to be mad at religion because most of them seem to forget that whole greatest commandment thing -- you know, the love your neighbor one? I am pretty sure it was not love the neighbors you approve of, the ones who are like you, and certainly only love your heterosexual neighbors. No, I am pretty sure that was not the intention of the greatest commandment -- I think Jesus was a bit more inclusive.

I know the rhetoric -- love the sinner, hate the sin -- but I am sorry, condemning people as sinners for who and what they are is not loving in any way, shape, or form. And I am thinking that maybe it is God's job to decide about sins anyway -- I feel lucky if I remember to take out the garbage let alone try to separate everyone into sheep and goat categories.

Moving on -- so, Halo reminds me to love the person (well, dog in her case -- or more accurately in more ways than one -- the bitch) that is in front of me, not the one I want to create. And my friend's experience -- and others like her that I love -- remind me of the deep pain we inflict when we insist on trying to change people and/or force them to conform. And I am not sure right now where religion fits in -- I am currently on strike and mowing my lawn, training dogs, and riding my bike instead of going to church.

But then I realized something more -- and this is personal -- and universal -- and that is that all of us are pressured to be what we are not, and I am really annoyed about this!!

Doesn't it get really old trying to conform to what others want? And how confusing because everyone wants something different. And who died and left those people in charge of changing us anyway?!

I could write a book on all the ways people have tried to change me, and all the "error messages" I have received -- I bet you can also. They are so painful and they make us not trust ourselves -- at least that is what happens to me. And those "error messages" also convey to us that we are not okay the way we are, and so they hurt and make us tentative.

Let's see -- someone once told me I was too intense, and I certainly have gotten flack and consequences for being very direct and honest with how I feel. I have been criticized for being too forceful in trying to get my way, and too free with my thoughts and opinions. Whatever. Okay -- age and experience has definitely taught me some diplomacy but really -- isn't that really all about other people and their discomfort?

It seems to me that if people have a tough time with anger or other honest, strong emotions -- well, whose problem is that? And gosh -- I should apologize for having a forceful, intense personality? I am thinking that was the same personality that allowed a high school dropout teenage mom to get a Ph.D. from Berkeley so don't hold your breath for the apology or change.

I like approval as much as anyone but it really gets both old and confusing trying to be what other people want, and so I will forgo approval in exchange for authenticity -- and I think you should also. I care a lot about other people, but doesn't it seem like those worth caring about should honor, respect, and love who and what we are?

Yes, I know there is balance -- we need to be flexible and get along and all that -- but really, isn't that sometimes just used to control us?

And so we have to learn to distinguish helpful feedback from someone who is trying to control his/her own discomfort by controlling us, and we have to find people who will help us be more of what we are -- not less. And perhaps most important -- we have to work harder at being true to who we are -- and embracing that truth in others so that they will not spend years hiding, hating, and feeling shame.

I know Halo is not perfect, and I know it is not normal to have a dog who was opening drawers just because she could at four months old -- but Halo is Halo, and I love that. I am not going to be disappointed because she sometimes prefers to be a hacker to a Nobel Peace prize winner -- rather I am happy to love her for who and what she is, and guess what? She does the same back to me.

People are harder -- probably because they are not as cute and fuzzy, and they can talk, which is a problem -- but we have to make the same effort, and stop trying to make people feel badly for being who and what they are. And we have to start with ourselves -- and that means you have to strip away the layers like the skin on an onion and answer that question my dad asked me so long ago: who were you before you were socialized?

Let's get busy...