Sunday, February 27, 2011


I gave Cadi a bath in preparation for her upcoming trip -- here are some pictures of her that I just took -- she is still a little wet but isn't she pretty?

And in spite of snow and with the Specialty in five weeks -- well, see for yourself...this is Zoey...

After practicing, Zoey had fun playing with the floppy frisbee thingee...

We call her Air Zoey for a reason :)

Athletic, smart -- and pretty -- we love our Zoe-Bean...

And we are excited to make more smart, athletic and pretty baby berners with the H Litter!

Puppy Back & H Litter Update

The simple reason that I do not participate in a contract that requires a stud fee puppy is because I intend to control certain things about the puppies I create, and when one gives up a puppy for a stud fee -- well, you have zero control. That puppy can be sold, placed, bred -- whatever -- and there is nothing to be said about it.

I know it is not really fair since the stud dog is half of the equation, but there it is -- I want certain kinds of homes for the puppies and I want to decide what those look like.

I am so glad that there are people who are more open than I am, and who have stud dogs available for the rest of us -- but likely I will never have one :)

I wanted to mention a few things about this massive search for Mr. Right -- maybe call it advice for Stud Dog owners....

1. No excuse not to have a DM status on your stud dog -- none at all. This is a nasty disease that we can eliminate with simple cheek swabs -- get with the program...

2. Letting your male breed to anyone with the $$$$ cheapens your dog and turns people -- like me -- off. I did not explore certain dogs because of who the owners were willing to do business with -- that may seem silly but I do not want to be part of a "family" that includes what I consider -- well, you know what I mean...

3. Respond in a timely, articulate way -- enough said about that.

We cannot find perfect dogs or perfect owners because none of us are that -- but some basic level of ethics and communication skills does not seem like too much ask -- does it??!

H Litter is a go -- contract is agreed upon, key people have been consulted about the choice and are in agreement, and Dear Husband is ready, willing, able -- and retired -- so he will get Cadi to her honeymoon.

WOW! Puppies in nine weeks (paws crossed and we hope)!!!!

More about Breeding

In answer to the question (thanks for posting your question!), Day 0 is when the progesterone goes over 0.9 -- for Cadi that was Friday.

So Friday was Day 0, Saturday Day 1, Sunday Day 2 (probable ovulation day).

The eggs take some time to "ripen" and so cannot be fertilized for an addition 1 - 2 days. So the soonest that fertilization can begin is on Day 3, which is Monday but more likely is that everything is in the right place on Day 4, which is Tuesday. By Day 5 things are starting to wind down, although available eggs remain -- this is all according to the Concannon article, by the way.

And so I want Cadi bred on Day 4 (Tuesday) for sure, and also on Wednesday. If she is bred on those two days, we should have a pregnant girl.

Last night I received the contract from the stud dog owner, and I just need to verify that she will remove the wording that gives her the option of a puppy instead of a stud fee. Although I understand why a stud dog owner would want the option of a puppy, that just doesn't work for me and so such language is a Dealbreaker -- but I am hopeful that it was left in by mistake as we had already discussed this and she agreed to just take a stud fee.

So still ironing out details -- yikes! But Dear Husband and Cadi will leave tomorrow morning and find a Puppy Daddy someplace ;)

Friday, February 25, 2011

It is All About Timing...

One thing I have learned in raising dogs is not to trust everything I hear -- even from experts. It is helpful to have a background in research, because I know how to find and evaluate evidence -- a very useful technique in the world of dogs where anecdotal information seems to rule.

But this means I am sometimes at odds with prevailing "wisdom" and this is very true in the area of breeding. I found this great article by a Cornell researcher (Concannon) when I was breeding our second litter. I based the timing of the breedings on it and was told by experienced breeders that I had been too early. Confused, I tracked down the author and conferred with him, explaining what we did -- he said I had done it perfectly and ten puppies suggested he was right.

I worked with a repro vet when breeding Cadi last time -- it was to be a fresh chilled litter with "fish" from eastern Canada. The vet said Tuesday for the surgical implant -- I said Saturday based on my trusted Concannon article -- as you know, the G Litter had eight puppies, a large litter for a fresh chilled experience.

I figure I pay the bills, I take the risk, I am a smart person, and so we do it my way. Sure, it might not work but it hasn't failed us yet :)

I thought you might enjoy seeing the time table from the article so here it is, with the reference -- double click to enlarge...

Title: Canine Pregnancy: Predicting Parturition and Timing Events of Gestation (9 May 2000)
Author: P.W. Concannon
In: Recent Advances in Small Animal Reproduction, Concannon P.W., England E.and
Verstegen J. (Eds.) Publisher: International Veterinary Information Service (

Cute, Cuddly, and Progesterone

There seriously cannot be a more cuddly dog than Zoey -- and she is not too picky about the targets of her cuddle-fests. Just now she waltzed over and plopped down on her mom, Halo -- I grabbed the camera and got these pictures...

Seriously -- how cute is that?!

But Halo quickly tired of her daughter's attention and so Zoey zeroed in on her favorite cuddling victim -- Big Sister Asia, who had just arrived on scene after stealing my slipper.

But even Asia got a little sick of having to share space with her cuddle-bug sister and so she left, leaving Zoey to cuddle with my slipper...

...which I swiped back from her, leaving her to run off in search of someone or something else...

Such is five minutes in the Life of Zoey :)

Progesterone = 0.95 so breeding on Tuesday, due date of H Litter will be May 1 :)


Love Dear Husband's camera! The frozen fingers from taking pictures in zero degree weather -- not so much :)

Montana Mac

The view from our house

Zoey saw the camera and you know what that means -- time to play fetch! Unfortunately her red ball was in the house so she searched the yard until she found her orange one :)


Hope your day is well -- and warm!

More on the H Litter & Fun Pics

Breeding, like Blackjack, is all about combinations. By itself, the ace of diamonds is nothing special but when combined with the king of diamonds -- well, you have a winner. And like playing cards, breeding involves luck, thought, and a good deck.

Cadi has a lot of strengths -- she is very pretty, sound, smart, etc. and etc. Like all dogs, she is not perfect, and so breeding choices have to be made around both her strengths and limitations. In addition, breeding choices have to be made with an awareness that puppies will need to thrive in a variety of homes -- some experienced and some starting out with a first berner.

Cadi's parents are two of the nicest dogs you would ever want to meet -- I am talking about personality here. But we also know that her dad produces high energy puppies, and Cadi definitely has that super charged personality. I love it and appreciate her enthusiasm for EVERYTHING and EVERYONE, but I also recognize that we probably do not want to create even more amped up puppies :)

I know people expected us to breed Cadi to Montana Mac, but reluctantly we decided that is not the best combination -- but not because of anything bad in either dog! Montana Mac has so many great things -- he is smart, extremely biddable, has a great pedigree with low incidence of cancer and so on -- he will make perfect puppies with girls who are perfect for him -- it is all about combinations and which one is right.

So, Puppy Daddy Choice A has the DM gene so he is not a possibility, generating much sadness as that would have been a loose linebreeding on the Pinnacle's E litter, which included our beloved Abra. Big Bummer on that.

We considered using Zed (from the F Litter) -- although related to Cadi, the inbreeding coefficient is 7.4% (breed average is 18%) so quite reasonable. However, we want to create a little more space between dogs with Lymphoma in the pedigree so decided against that.

We had a back-up boy but Cadi's progesterone is moving slowly and the boy is leaving town! He has not had great success with fresh chilled litters so we wanted to avoid that with him, and since he will not be at home (he lives in another state) we had to thank his wonderful, nice owner and hope we have another chance with them at some point.


But another boy has emerged as a serious contender and we are liking him a lot -- and his owner is nice, honest, and articulate, all of which is also required. There is the slight problem of him being in another state and my back being too bad for a long drive but those are just tiny details to work out -- the hardest part is in the picking...

Cadi's progesterone was .3 yesterday -- once it hits 1.0 she will need to be bred four days later so I am thinking Tuesday or Wednesday will be B for Breeding Days; we test again today. I will post info on the Puppy Daddy and the plans soon...

In the meantime, here is Levi enjoying a rare San Francisco bay area snow -- Levi is Asia's littermate (E for East Litter):

And here is Brighton from the D Litter doing her best Elton John imitation -- or maybe Lady GaGa?????

Please think good thoughts for our H Litter -- we have wonderful people waiting and need perfect puppies for all those perfect homes :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Solution-focused Self Therapy

At the risk of getting more grumpy faces from Heidi, I admit to still being without my sunshine. The car accident took out both my back and that sunny disposition I usually possess, and the endless Winter Wonderland is not helpful. I am even on House Arrest this week -- okay, really it is just "rest" but it feels like House Arrest...

The back got bad enough that I had to get a very loud MRI on Tuesday -- I suspect my poor doctor felt like she had to do something since I cried through the entire appointment on Tuesday morning! It hurts and I am discouraged -- bad combination! Anyway, I am still going to physical therapy, which helps, but if you see the magic wand I could really use it!!!

So, I decided to practice some therapy on myself -- and I asked myself what things I do when I am in a sunshine-y mood. After some grumbling, I generated a list of things that I could do given the limitations of back and weather.

So, first I put on some music -- that helped. Then I started some bagels -- I love making bagels and eating a fresh one when I take them out of the oven. And I love taking pictures so since my camera is dead, I found Dear Husband's (he is in Utah this week -- not helpful for my mood, as you can imagine) and I took some pictures. And I love sharing my pictures on the Blog -- so here is some of my therapy for you :)

I think Zoey is very photogenic -- I suspect it is all that white but she also just exudes joy and excitement...

Zoey thinks the camera means we are playing with the ball -- sigh... Here she is chasing it with Syd in hot pursuit...

I love this picture!!! Zoey, of course...

More Zoey with her ball...

I call this picture, "Ball Bliss"

This is Halo -- she is NOT photogenic so I appreciate the rare picture that she actually looks nice :)

Halo again...

Syd and Asia working on the pruning -- an endless job!

And I bet you will be happy to see the Chief of the Fun Police looking so well! Maize's shoulder mass is about 1/4 of the size it was and she feels very barky :)

Mrs. Maize again -- isn't she lovely?

In H Litter news -- Plan A is out because of DM status so working on Plan X, Y, and Z... Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Kaibab's Here We Go

Wouldn't that be a great name for an H Litter puppy -- Kaibab's Here We Go? And that is my way of sharing that we are getting ready to make the H Litter (cross all paws and fingers and toes).

Cadi came in season on Wednesday. As usual with us, nothing is simple.

The choice of husbands is one that should be carefully considered, and unlike humans who choose with their fickle hearts instead of sensible brains, dogs have the advantage of matchmaker services -- in this case, that would be me, with poor Dear Husband as the Assistant.

I glare angrily at all those who just put two convenient dogs together because -- oh my heck, as they say in Utah -- this Matchmaker business is a really difficult one.

Playing Matchmaker is a game of Compromise -- and oh how I hate compromises!!!!! Cadi has a lot of strengths and that helps but there are a few things -- for example, we want to avoid Lymphoma. While we do not know if it is inherited or genetic, her littermate died of it and other family members have also had it. Therefore, even though it is a relatively common canine cancer, it seems prudent to avoid breeding to a boy with close relatives who had Lymphoma.

So that eliminated candidates, and then there is the longevity thing -- one boy we looked at had a grandmother the same age as Cadi!!! WTH?! (That would be "what the heck"?). If three generations of a pedigree are young, how are we supposed to know important info such as age at death, cause of death, etc.?!

And guess what? They all die! And they all die of something! So, we cannot eliminate a dog because of dead relatives or because an 11 year old berner died of cancer -- but we still have to stack the deck as well as we can, and that is not an easy task.

So hopefully you get a sense of the balancing act that is -- or should be -- breeding Bernese Mountain Dogs. And this, combined with my feelings about compromise, is why Dear Husband is presently Poor Dear Husband!

So, long story short -- Cadi will be bred soon. On Wednesday we will start checking progesterone and once it goes over 1.0 we will start counting days and breed on the fourth and fifth days after that magic number.

And who is the husband, you ask? We have two good candidates and will be letting a DNA test make the choice. Cadi is a carrier for Degenerative Myelopathy (DM). This is not a big deal since you need two carrier parents to have a chance of being affected, but I will not risk producing affected dogs so will only breed her to a DM clear male.

Lots and lots of boys are not even tested -- this reality is problematic for me and I won't take a chance since there are MANY DM carriers in the breed. So, you eliminate all those DM carriers and unknown DM status dogs, and dogs with less than perfect structure/type and pedigrees with problematic longevity, orthopedics, cancer, etc. and etc. and pretty soon there is nobody left -- so you have to start over with a less idealistic sorting method :)

After trying on about 50 sorting methods -- and faced with a deadline -- I believe we have a plan. If Dog A tests clear -- and we will know later this week -- he will be the husband. If he is a DM carrier, then Dog B will be the husband. Both are excellent candidates, with known strengths and weaknesses that we have weighed out over and over and over and over -- you get the idea.

I know you will want to make your puppy visiting plans so I can tell you now that we expect bouncing baby berners on/about May 2 - 4, if all goes according to plan (everything crossed please).

This means the babies would be ready to head to their new homes right after the planned Camp Kaibab (June 23 - 25)! WOW -- how perfect is that? You can come to Camp and visit baby berners -- and then take yours home if you are one of the lucky new families :)

Now we will all await the DM test results and then we will announce the name of the husband -- and describe what we are hoping to accomplish with the breeding, including perceived strengths and (that hateful word) compromises...

Stay tuned, H Litter fans... and I hope you are having a GREAT weekend!!!!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Your Vote Counts!

Okay Team -- our poodle cousin (see above) needs our help! Elizabethanne, Ace Puppy Namer and friend to all berner-kind, did an amazing thing -- she taught her poodle to match objects and she did a video of it -- that video needs our votes!!! Here is the scoop from Elizabethanne:

Chase's video on teaching a dog how to match a visual sample is a finalist in Karen Pryor's Canis Film Festival. This year, for the first time ever, they have decided to allow the public to vote. If you have a spare moment, would you vote for us? The video is entitled, "What is This?" (Teaching A Visual Match to Sample), and it is available for viewing on the same page on which you cast your vote. Convenient, right? ;-)

So Team -- on your mark, get set -- VOTE!

A Valentine...

Someone got a Valentine :)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Changing Behavior: Baby Steps

Hopefully recent posts have helped steer you away from labeling your dog (or partner or anyone!), and you are now thinking in terms of specific behaviors that you would like changed. How do we do that?? And how do we do it with a species that doesn't even speak the same language (I am talking about dogs -- not members of the opposite sex)??!

I believe the first step is to be very clear and specific about the behavior we want to change. It is not enough to say, "I want my dog to be more outgoing and friendly" because that really does not offer enough information to suggest needed changes.

We need specificity -- "I want my dog to approach strange people with a wagging tail" or "I want my dog to be silent when approached by a strange person".

I intentionally used these two goal statements to illustrate a very important point -- goals must be realistic. We must honestly and realistically set goals -- not based on our own magical thinking -- but on the realities of our training abilities and the dog's hard wiring. Not all dogs love all people -- that is perfectly okay -- but it does mean the goals need to be individualized.

All new parents have an image in their head of their perfect child, who will grow up to be the best and most amazing person ever! This idealized view quickly collides with reality, and (usually) parents learn to love and accept the child they have -- but they secretly grieve for the idealized child that isn't.

It doesn't make anyone "bad" to admit that what we imagined in our head isn't reality, and it is a necessary step for all of us in all of our relationships. I still wish my daughter would have played college basketball and gone to vet school but darn it anyway -- she thinks differently about her life than I do!

Our dogs are the same -- they will not be the ideal dog we envisioned in our head. The first training challenge for all of us is wrapping our minds around the fact that magical thinking doesn't really work, and we have to let go of the disappointment and train the dog that is -- not the perfect one in our head.

So, we look realistically at the dog and at ourselves, and set a specific, realistic goal that is measurable. In other words, I can tell you how I will know when I have achieved the goal.

Some people have the idea that I have perfect dogs -- I don't. I want to share an example of something I wish would change -- but I know it is unrealistic and so I don't even bother. When Cadi runs agility she barks basically the whole time -- it drives me nuts. I wish she would just SHUT UP and pay attention but she is having fun and so she barks about it -- ugh...

Could I train that barking away? Maybe -- but it would take a lot and the truth is that the barking is just Cadi's natural exuberance leaking all over the place, as usual. Making her be quiet while she is in high drive would be asking a lot -- probably more than I should ask, and so I just live with her LOUD agility runs.

You must choose your battles, honoring the dog that is -- not the perfect one in your head. And sometimes the one that needs to adjust is YOU -- so maybe I need ear plugs :)

So, you have a goal -- it is realistic, specific, and measurable -- excellent! Now what? Here is what needs to happen: Break that end behavior (i.e., your goal) into the smallest pieces and start training in a series of very tiny steps, not moving forward to the next one until the place you are is perfect.

I want Zoey to be in the close presence of larger (non-berner) dogs and be able to stay relaxed and calm as determined by her behavior. I believe this is realistic and specific, and that I will know when I have achieved it.

Imagine there is a large dog in the park -- I will not simply walk Zoey up to it so she can see there is nothing to be concerned about -- that is a "DUH" training tactic. Instead, I will start with the smallest of steps -- I will stay far away and every time Zoey looks at the large dog I will click/treat. I will make sure to be far enough away that I am not reinforcing anxiety but rather reinforcing calm looks at the large dog.

And that will be it for that session and maybe even a few more.

Over time, I will take the smallest of incremental steps, always making sure each one is basically perfect before stepping gently to the next one. If she "fails" at a step, I will know the failure is mine -- because I pushed her too quickly.

Every journey - or goal -- is made up of small steps that must be accomplished before we move on. My college education took over 13 years -- but that Ph.D. was earned one class session at a time, one assignment at a time. If we keep our gaze only on the end result, we risk discouragement -- and we risk skipping important steps.

So we have to have a dual vision -- we need to clearly have the end result in our head but the focus needs to be on the steps that are required to get there. And our progress on those steps needs to be slow and methodical, ensuring perfection in the pieces so that the final product is a good one.

I am a big fan of schedules, lists, and charts to keep me focused on what needs to happen right now in order to achieve a goal. It is easy for me to get lost in all my goals, and I have found that it helps me to consciously and intentionally create the baby steps along the way.

I hope that you have lofty goals -- and tiny, realistic steps so that you can get there. And I hope that you are having an excellent weekend plotting fun things for Valentine's Day...

Friday, February 11, 2011

An Early Valentine

What we choose to focus on -- in any aspect of our lives -- communicates things about us. Very few aspects of life have absolute value -- all is subjective -- and so we assign value, and in doing so, we communicate things about ourselves.

Just something to think about...

I value giving my dogs interesting lives, and respecting the strengths and limitations each brings as a unique being. I believe all of us -- dogs and people -- have "hard wiring" that influence our lives, our choices, and what things we do well.

Mrs. Maize came hard wired to be a Therapy Dog. Her gentle demeanor and friendly temperament is just who she is -- it was not trained or shaped -- she was born this way. And it means that she has never met anyone not deserving of her kind regard, unconditional warmth, and gentle berner lean.

As a Therapy Dog with bereaved children, she was exceptional. Maize was born with a full set of excellent manners, and an awareness of her size -- and so she has always known how to manage herself, no matter the size of a person. She does not take offense, and this makes her safe with all ages. Maize has now worked her magic with all age groups, lifting spirits as only a completely decent and good being can.

Recognizing Maize's calling, and with a commitment to ensuring that each of my dogs has a fulfilling life, I look for opportunities for Maize to serve her life's purpose. Maize visits a nursing home nearby every so often, and also makes frequent trips to work with me; students always seem in need of a dog fix.

Earlier this week a student asked if I was bringing a dog soon, and I recognized a veiled request when I heard one -- and so I said yes, I would bring one on Thursday and so I did. Yesterday when I came back from lunch, the student was waiting and she enjoyed a warm visit with Maize, and in the process confided that just the day before the dog of her childhood had died. I am reminded of the importance of being open to the whisperings of need in others...

I took my camera, which seems to work only when it wants to, and got some pictures of Maize's day. The first visit is always to Aunt Heidi...

Maize thought she should spend the whole day being Aunt Heidi's assistant so hopped on an empty chair and tried to will the computer on -- without success...

So we went upstairs and posted a sign to attract customers...

Maize would wait patiently, alerting when she heard people walking by...

She had many customers but the camera only liked some of them...

And much to Maize's amaizement -- guess who showed up?! Her favorite boy: Galen!!!

She did not realize he is a student at the university again and was quite delighted by this. Unfortunately, Galen embraced his inner (rebellious) teenager and invited Maize to sit on my white chairs while I was teaching -- now they are covered in black hair -- sigh...

But let me give you an example of what I mean by the mental kaleidoscope: How blessed I am to have Maize here to cover my white chairs with her black hair -- I am so grateful that she exists, that she has the perfect therapy dog disposition, and that she is alive and well enough at age 10.5 years to jump on my office chairs and shed (and that those sticky hair remover rollers exists and that I have one -- someplace)!

My wish for you today is that you encounter someone as kind as Maize, who will reach out and give you exactly what your heart needs...

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


My cute little lap dog, Zoey (aka Licky Lou), happy to see her dad (aka Montana Mountain Man) get out of bed this morning...

The Trouble with Labels & A Challenge

This is a follow-up from yesterday, and in response to a thoughtful comment that was posted.

Consider this: My stubborn dog. What does that mean to you? "Stubborn" is a label, and it will mean different things to different people.

To the owner, it might be a way to convey this message: "The reason I cannot get my dog to do what I want is because she is stubborn."

I have a different perception when I hear that a dog is stubborn -- I think the owner is an ineffective trainer for that dog.

And so the first problem with a label is that it lacks precision -- it tells each of us something different. The second problem (related to the first) is that a label provides no guidance about what to do next.

It seems to me that what matters is not what a dog supposedly "is" -- it is what a dog "does" and this is a critical distinction. We cannot know the mind of the dog -- you can guess what a dog is experiencing but it remain a guess, no matter how much you believe you know.

In contrast, we can observe behavior -- we know what a dog does. And so think of a label as our best guess about what a dog "is", knowing that you could have picked any number of labels because no dog is one thing, but you picked that -- why?

And now that you decided to focus on that, what next? What do you do with a "stubborn dog" besides wring your hands and feel sorry for yourself and join some club of people with "stubborn dogs"? None of that sounds remotely beneficial for the dog...

But when we shift our thinking and focus on observable behaviors, we can make changes. I will give you an example -- a real one. Recently Zoey met a Newfie -- her reaction was to pee. In other words, the presence of the Newfie caused her to do submissive urination and then she tucked her tail and wanted to avoid him. This is consistent with her reactions in the group ring -- bigger dogs seem to cause her to show signs of stress or anxiety or something -- who knows how she feels?? But I can describe her behavior.

You can label it whatever you want, but that is not useful to me. Further, I am not attaching emotion to it -- you will not see me crying and carrying on about it -- "oh woe is me!! My perfect show dog cannot go to the group ring EVER because she is afraid of bigger dogs... woe is me...yada yada yada..."

Dogs are experts at nonverbal behavior, and pick up on our emotional states better than we do. Owners who get anxious and upset escalate undesirable behavior -- sure, we would rather blame the dog but where does that get you?? Oh, a membership in the Bad Dog Club -- I am not interested in that.

So my cute dog has observable reactions to larger dogs -- now what? I do not care how/why we got here -- here we are. I am not labeling her or freaking out about it or ignoring it -- I am simply planning interventions that will transform her view of larger dogs.

Labeling is not useful -- it lacks precision, is completely subjective, and offers judgment, none of which is helpful. If what we want is to create change, we have to clearly describe behavior and create a plan for change -- and implement it.

Some traits are what they are, and we can manage them but not erase them. Again, labeling a dog based on a single trait tells others what you think is most important to know about your dog, and really -- is the best thing about your dog that she is "shy" or "stubborn"? How sad :(

But like I said yesterday -- some people like a problem-saturated story and so they use problem-saturated language. Since I believe our thoughts guide our feelings, I prefer to not use problem saturated language in my thinking.

This is not to say that I do not acknowledge areas that need improvement in my dogs (and myself) -- I absolutely see issues as well as strengths -- but my focus as a trainer is not labels or problem-saturated stories about my dogs, but behavior and training strategies.

As a breeder, I am keenly aware of areas in my puppies that I want to improve and/or keep the same. Anyone that knows me well -- ask Jennifer G. for example -- will tell you that I am obsessive about the tiniest details, always trying to balance the strengths with the inevitable compromises. And really -- I HATE COMPROMISES.

I am not blind to realities -- I am acutely and painfully aware that perfection is elusive -- including in puppy owners/buyers. I know my standards are high -- this is one of my strengths and one of my limitations. But I think my high standards are balanced with compassionate understanding, always considering that my dogs - and my puppy owners -- are imperfect but doing their best.

As we wait for Cadi to come in season and create new little lives, my hope for them is that they will go to homes that will love and accept them -- and never label them with any word except "perfect" (even when they chew the remote control). Please consider that a perfect dog might well want a perfect owner -- until we are that, I suggest we embrace and love and work with the imperfect dog we were blessed with...

In fact, one of my friends just sent me this in an email -- it fits today's Blog perfectly: "None of us are nearly as perfect as the most imperfect dog..."

That said, here are some of the labels I use for each of my dogs...

Mrs. Maize is Perfect... and good-natured and kind...

Yes, she likes to bark but that helps her be the Perfect Chief of the Fun Police...

Halo deVil is Perfect -- and excessively clever and devoted and yes, sometimes she puts her cleverness to what I consider unfortunate choices (which is why the door to the garbage has a child-proof lock -- more on that in a minute)...

Cadi is Perfect -- and bombproof and friendly and well, yes, sometimes her friendliness is a bit over the top and energetic :)

Asia is Perfect -- and clever like her mom, but she is also strong and so she busts through the child-proof lock on the garbage can door on a regular basis...sigh... She is still, however, Perfect...

Zoey is Perfect -- and amazingly athletic, smart, and in tune to me -- and she asks that if you are a stranger, please do not stare in her eyes, even though she knows she is lovely to look at, because that will cause her to bark at you...however, she is still Perfect...

And what a Perfect tree pruner she is!

Syd is Perfect -- she is also bombproof and friendly like her mom, Cadi, but she has the advantage of being smaller so when she excitedly goes through your legs she is less likely to lift you off the ground and her tail does not hurt as much when she wags it against you...

Our Guest, Mac, is also Perfect -- and very smart and biddable -- and yes, he does like to bark but only because he has so many good things to say!

So go ahead and join that yahoo group for the Thorn Bushes -- I will join the one for the Rose Bushes :) I won't pretend the roses do not have thorns and I will make appropriate choices based on the reality, but life is too short to have thorns in the cross hairs of my mind. I know they are there but I refuse to give them the center stage.

A collective challenge -- let's just try -- for today -- noticing what is wonderful and good in everyone and everything we encounter.