Saturday, April 30, 2011

A Leg!

Montana Mac had a clean run today for his first Jumpers leg and even got second place! Here is a link to a video that has his first run two weeks ago and then today's run...

Friday, April 29, 2011

Divine Inspiration

I am so excited to share this story!!! This is the story about Michael Jackson, God, a beautiful young woman, and a puppy -- with characters like that -- well, how could it be anything but grand?

Part One
I was working at the pediatric hospital in Utah with my wonderful colleagues that I still miss every day, including our hospital chaplain whose name happens to be Michael Jackson -- he is, in fact, the original Michael Jackson.

I have to say this about Michael -- he made me want to be a better person. In another life I suspect he was a dog because I am not sure I ever met a human being so capable of giving unconditional positive regard to another -- his abilities to authentically show warmth and regard are positively dog-like! So I guess it is not a surprise that he is a Man of God -- dogs and God's special people have much in common, but that is a post for another day.

So back to the story -- Michael happened to walk in my office as I was sharing ultrasound pictures and I excitedly handed a couple to him. He looked at them and said, "I know what these are" and then looked at me, back at the pictures and struggled with looks of wonder and horror that I immediately understood and I quickly reassured him that no -- those were not MY ultrasound pictures but my dog's. Indeed, they were ultrasound pictures of D Litter puppies -- Maize's second litter that turned five recently.

It was pretty darn funny -- I will never forget that little scene :)

Part Two
Fast forward to the puppies' arrival. You know how I always name my puppies -- I hate calling them by colors as if they do not have an identity except the one defined by the color of ribbon around their necks. And for some reason, I named a girl Ashlee -- spelled just like that -- Ashlee.

Part Three
Kathy LaPine is one of my dear Utah friends, and she is a special friend to Maize and Cadi. Kathy has two berners of her own, and her younger daughter decided that she wanted one of her own -- love those multi-generational berner families :)

Kathy's daughter was about to start graduate school but I knew she was reliable and more importantly, I knew that Kathy would never let anything bad happen to Maize's puppy and so it was decided that Ashlee would get Ashlee. Did you follow that? Kathy's daughter's name is Ashlee -- spelled the same way as the puppy, Ashlee -- a fact I did not know when I named the puppy.

Part Four
Of course my poor colleagues had to endure all manner of puppy stories/pictures and I had to share that one -- the Ashlee going to Ashlee story -- with my colleagues, including the aforementioned Michael Jackson. And do you know what he said? He said it was clearly Divine Inspiration -- and what litter was it? The D Litter! And so little Ashlee went to big Ashlee with the name bestowed on her -- unknowingly -- by Michael Jackson: Kaibab's Divine Inspiration.

Part Five
Little Ashlee got a new name, as all those Ashlees could be confusing -- her new call name became Joy. Together, Joy and Ashlee went off to graduate school where they earned Ashlee's MFA and along the way had many adventures, including meeting a man that they both fell in love with (insert little heart :).

Part Six
Do you hear wedding bells? Yes, Ashlee is getting married in May, and Joy is part of the wedding party! And guess who is marrying them?

The Very Reverend Michael Jackson (insert big smile :) -- and no, they did not know each other until recently. Divine Inspiration indeed...

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Backstory and Show Plans

It has now been over three months since I had the minor but life-altering car accident. Who knew how much damage and drama could be caused by a relatively low-speed collusion?! Not me.

I don't like to whine too much or give extra energy/attention to those three herniated disks in my lower back, but they do speak to me every day, and impact my plans and goals. I know life is not fair and that it could be worse and so on -- but I also know that it could be better and more fair and I wish it were both!

I have paid dearly for the drive home from the Specialty -- my back hates that whole sitting still/driving thing and has been quite mad about that drive, punishing me with new and different pain; Alleve is my new best friend.

And so -- not wanting to piss off those nerves again -- I have revised my dog show plans AGAIN because of Galen's laundry/the car accident.

I have four dogs who are trained in agility and could be running at trials but because of my back, I am limiting myself to no more than two dogs per trial and spacing out the trials.

I have multiple dogs who could be training for the June Montana tracking test -- but I will just work with one because of my back.

I would love to go to the California Regional in June and visit family at the same time -- but the drive is too long for those touchy nerves.

And so on -- you get the picture.

So what are we doing? Since hopes and goals keep me happy, I cannot give up everything and so yes, we have hopes and goals -- since people have asked, here they are :)

Mac is cross training -- draft, obedience, and agility. He has three different agility weekends between now and the end of June, with a total of eight runs, and so my hope is that he will get his NJP. We are entering the Oregon draft test on June 3 - 4 so hope to earn his NDD at that test. Finally, he is doing obedience training, with the goal of showing him in Novice at the Missoula shows in late June.

Zoey will be back in action in May doing the same agility trial in Logan, Utah as Mac and also one day in Best of Breed at the same show. She will be entered in the Oregon draft test as well, and do four days of agility and breed in Blackfoot, Idaho in June.

By the end of June, my hope is that both Zoey and Mac will be new Versatility Dogs, and that Zoey will also be a BMDCA Working Dog, and have more points towards her Grand Championship.

Halo will run in the agility trial this weekend, and not in the May trial because of my back-imposed two dog limit.

Cadi is taking an agility break for the same reason, and instead I am hoping to get her CDX this summer.

Asia will be training for the late summer and fall VST tests once this semester is over, which is thankfully very soon.

Sydney is mostly just training but I will show her in conformation if she stays in coat, but only at the shows I am already planning. I had hoped to take her to more but the back...

Maize is successfully achieving her goal of staying alive and having fun :)

And so I have just a short-term plan at this point -- through June -- and then we will see what we have accomplished/what is possible and go from there. As you may recall, I always make New Year's Goals, and in spite of the limitations, I have already completed three:

Halo will earn her NFP.
Asia will earn her BNDD.
Zoey will complete her CH.

In addition to completing those, we have made progress on others and so I take comfort in all of that :)

So that is what we are up to -- Helena agility on Saturday, Logan, Utah on May 20 - 22 for agility and breed (and visit with my daughter :), Oregon draft tests on June 3 - 4, Blackfoot, Idaho on June 16 - 19 for agility and breed, CAMP KAIBAB on June 24 - 25 for serious fun and training, and the Missoula shows on June 26 - 28 for obedience and breed.

I hope you have some excellent hopes and goals -- and would love to hear them!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Show Photo

This is Ruben Hudson's show photo from the Specialty :)

Laundry and Birthday

I am doing Galen's laundry this morning -- as you may recall, Galen (aka The Puppy Nanny) is now a student at the University of Montana and he lives in a campus studio apartment. Yes, they have laundry facilities there and you may wonder why I am doing his laundry, especially because doing his laundry caused my car accident in January. Good question and here is the answer -- because doing Galen's laundry reminds me of my mom.

When I was a young mother, I lived a mile or so from my mom. She LOVED my two kids more than anything in the world -- more than Fenton's ice cream or Aggie hot dogs or the desert or her own kids -- I am convinced the only reason I had two kids before I was 21 is because my mom needed them before she died.

Anyway, she did our laundry!!! I would just go over with the kids and somehow the laundry got done -- like magic! And for an overwhelmed young mom with two kids in diapers -- well, it was a gift and a way she took care of me and did I ever need someone to take care of me!!!

Galen never got to meet his grandmother -- she died at age 45 when my older kids were just 4 and 3 -- but she reaches through me and touches him when I do his laundry. And I get to remember what it felt like to be cared for by my own mom when I do this for Galen -- and he get clean clothes so it is a win-win-win situation.

But his laundry scares me!! You see, I was only at that intersection at that exact time because his clothes took too long to dry so I was running later than I usually would have been -- hence, his laundry caused the car accident. I like to say that I have a laundry injury because it generates guilt in Galen, and a child can never have too much guilt ;)

The D Litter (Zack and Maize) had a birthday and I am still waiting for more pictures but here are four of them at age five...

Gracie lives with our wonderful and perfect friends, the Heitzbergers, in California. If Cindy were my real sister, I would have to say that I had TWO Perfect Sisters, which would really be too much -- so good thing she is "just" my friend ;)

Fiona lives in California also -- she is loved and owned by almost 16 year old Molly (and Marti, her mom). We love Fiona and the whole "M" family!!!

Brighton started life with one family but when the dad was deployed they had to give her up rather than take her to Japan with them -- much sadness ensued but it ended with good things as Brighton now lives with Carol and Sharon (and Fannie) in Iowa, and we gained not only a great home for Brighton but a terrific friend in Carol -- we have not met Sharon yet but I am sure we love her also :)

And now one of the boys -- Milo. He lives in New Hampshire with more amazingly good people -- Jeff and Sue Nowak. As I write all this, I am really struck by all the great people who have one of our puppies -- in my dog family, I am surrounded by such wonderfully decent and good people -- how lucky I am :) :) Dear Husband and I LOVE the Nowaks -- seriously -- and including Milo Nowak :)

So glad to have these five year old pictures of these sweet Maize kids, and looking forward to getting the rest of the litter's pictures so we can enjoy and celebrate together :)

Regarding the laundry -- no good deed goes unpunished. Regarding the birthday -- YEA! Regarding your day -- hope it is spectacular!!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Goodness, Good Deeds, and a Tolerant, Perfect Sister

As you know, I have a Perfect Sister. It is not her fault -- she was blessed with the perfect temperament, an undying positive and cheerful attitude, keen intelligence, and just all around goodness. I think I also contributed to her perfection by providing a very nice example of how not to be and how not to act, and so I have to take some credit for how she turned out.

Anyway, recent events have caused me to ponder what makes a person a "good" one, and how to tell when someone is genuinely good and when someone is just lying about being good. Does it seem cynical to suggest that there are fake good people? Hmmm... I don't think I am being cynical -- I am being realistic: there are wolves in sheep's clothing out there (and wolves in cheap clothing, but that is another post).

One thing about being a professional in my field -- you assess all the time. It is not like I separate out my personal self from my professional self -- I am a mental health/people kind of professional and a researcher, and so my mind is always collecting data, analyzing it, collecting more, and trying to objectively figure out what it means.

People who are not quite right do not appreciate this part of me because they do not want anyone looking too hard or too critically at them. And darn it anyway -- it means I am a bad pretender because I cannot lie about what the data suggests -- it is just wrong to misrepresent data. So I can totally set off people who are not right just because I look, I see, and I refuse to pretend I don't.

And so I see the whacky ones -- and they know it -- but I also see the really good ones. And I think it is very interesting to consider what makes a person "good" because it gives me ideas for how I want to be in the world.

I think if I had to sum up what tells us that a person is "good" it would be humility. Really good people do not know how darn good they are, and this means they do not talk about it -- they just do it. My sister does not send emails to the family to announce her every good deed -- "hey family, I sent a thank note!" or "hey family, I volunteered at Elizabeth's school today". If she did that, she would lose her status as Perfect Child and be demoted to simply "Most Annoying Child".

Humility means those extra good among us go about their goodness without calling attention to it -- because calling attention to it says that the point of the good deed was the attention it would bring. I don't think attention-seeking good deeds really qualify as true good deeds because the main point is self-serving, and good deeds are about serving others.

Dear Husband and I have gone round about this -- I say that donating money so that one can have one's name on a building is not a good deed because it is self-serving. He has a slightly different (i.e., wrong ;) opinion about this, and thinks it is okay and still a good deed. I think if the point is to do a good deed, then one does it with less fanfare than having one's name scrawled for time and eternity in cement on a building!

So much the better to do it in a quieter, less garish way -- like in honor of someone besides one's self. Maybe if I win the lottery I will donate money to have a building on campus dedicated as the, "Mrs. Maize Building"... or "The Dear Husband Building" -- how funny it would be to hear students say to each other, "hey -- where is your next class? "It is in the Mrs. Maize building" :)

If we do not think about what makes a person "good", it is less likely that we will hit our target -- if being "good" is indeed our goal. I am fortunate to have really good people in my life, and appreciate their examples. As evidence of my Perfect Sister's goodness, she puts up with me talking/writing about her -- since she is perfect and good and therefore doesn't know she is (humility), she gets embarrassed BUT since she is so good and perfect, she doesn't hit me or send me nasty emails :)

Good deeds all around today -- let's get busy being good :)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

More Easter Berners

Thanks for these Easter Berner pictures!!! First we have extra cute Zaida Jamaica from the Glitterati -- she and Syd sure look alike!

And speaking of looking alike -- guess who this is?? Clearly a Halo puppy since she takes the same kind of picture -- can you guess???????

It is FAITH :)

I hope you had a wonderful Easter!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Happy Easter!

The Easter Berners want to wish all of you a very Happy Easter!


Zoey says: If I close my eyes, nobody will see me with this dumb thing on my head!


Mac warns Zed not to utter a peep -- he suggests that since it is Easter, Zed should eats some peeps instead...

Cadi has one word for this: "REALLY?!"

Halo is like the kid who won't stop making stupid faces when the camera comes out -- fine Halo -- here is what happens when you refuse to just smile and look pretty...

Maize had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction....

...and was not especially happy that we were able to recover from it...

And guess what else today is?! Dear Husband's BIRTHDAY!!!! Happy Birthday to my wonderful Dear Husband -- I am very glad he was born :)

Bath and Picture Day

The dogs that did not go to the Specialty were looking positively scruffy so since it warmed up to a whole 60 degrees, it seemed like a good day for some baths.

Boys have A LOT of hair!!! Way more than girls! Here is Mac after his bath...

Mac playing with newly fluffy Sydney...

Mac running up the hill...

Just see for yourself how wonderful Maize looks!!!!

Maize is SO not ready to retire from her position as Chief of the Fun Police :)

And wow -- Sydney has grown up!!!! She is almost 2.5 years now and I took these pictures without any help at all since Dear Husband is gone for today -- so not only is she pretty, but she knows a stay :)

Cadi was not scruffy enough to do a fourth bath -- maybe tomorrow :)

I hope your weekend is going well!


I have been learning about Passover and while my knowledge is pretty rudimentary, I gather that it is a time to commemorate the Exodus -- when the Israelites were released from slavery in Egypt following all those nasty plagues God sent down on the Egyptians. The Israelites did not have time to do anything but flee, as they apparently were not given notice that their slavery was coming to an end -- so off they went into the desert.

I already know a lot about Easter -- we are commemorating that Christ died and rose from the dead. He was crucified unjustly and put in the grave, but the pain and injustice resulted in transformation as Jesus Christ took on a new life -- a better life.

I believe in redemption. I believe that each of us is capable of shedding our past and becoming a new and better version of ourselves. And I believe that we can free ourselves from the things that hold us captive, and find a new and better life.

As we celebrate Passover and Easter -- and likely some additional holidays of which I am unaware and do not have appropriate socks to celebrate -- I have been thinking a lot about redemption and new beginnings. And I have been thinking about redemption within community -- that is, how other people support or impede redemptive efforts.

Recently on Facebook something was going around that was basically a "string up and tar and feather and etc. Michael Vick" kind of petition thing. You will recall that he is the football player convicted of abusing/killing dogs -- and you might imagine that I was all over that Facebook movement -- but I wasn't.

Instead I reflected about how a person can ever redeem him or herself when other people will not stop punishing the sinner.

I am a fan of accountability and justice, but not revenge. What is the difference? Actions have consequences -- a crime carries with it a sentence, and justice and accountability require that a person "pay" for the crime, but once paid any additional consequence is nothing but revenge -- and that is not cool.

But I think one cannot start the process of redemption or new life until one acknowledges the old self or the old state or the old sin -- could God save the Israelites from slavery if they did not believe they were slaves? No, there has to be recognition that change is needed.

And so I think there has to be some kind of acknowledgment and/or accountability as part of the redemption process. This might be a prison sentence or a fine -- or a simple and heartfelt apology. But I think redemption involves something from which we are being redeemed -- and if we cannot think and deal with what that is -- well, we don't get redeemed, I guess.

So back to community and redemption -- we have the opportunity to support each other in our redemptive efforts. Once justice has been served -- as decided by those with the power to decide what is just -- our challenge is to accept that the debt is paid, and that redemption is both possible and underway.

And so during this season of new beginnings, I hope we will extend support to those who want to change -- including ourselves. Each of us has the ability to escape our personal slavery and I think the Israelites had it right -- Just Do It. Don't waste time dwelling on the unfortunate state -- just make the change and move ahead without waiting for the bread to rise.

Yes, the new terrain is scary but leap forward in history and see that endings are also new beginnings, and that what feels like torture and death is a transformation to something better.

So offer up those sins, seek forgiveness, be willing to be held accountable and make things right -- and in doing these things you will be redeeming yourself, along with the other imperfect, humble and self-aware people who are doing the same thing.

I guess we are all on an exodus of sorts, aren't we? Please pass the matzo...

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Random Picture

Thanks to Dawn Weber -- another picture from the Specialty. This is Zoey getting groomed and snuggling for cookies from Uncle Jeff...

Defense Mechanisms

As a rule, I am not a clinician that utilizes psychodynamic -- or Freudian -- theories when working with people as I am more of a "now what" person/professional. As my dad says, you can't change what you had for breakfast so I am not sure going over and over what is done is all that useful.

And therefore I am not a huge fan of defense mechanisms, which reflect psychodynamic theory -- but when you see one in action, it is hard not to be a believer.

Consider, if you will, a person whose behavior is contrary to the image that she would like people to believe. Let's keep this dog-related, although there is wide applicability -- so think about someone who wants people to believe she is good and smart and kind but who also takes every advantage, including breaking rules and lying to people. The problem is that you cannot be both a cheater/liar -- and a nice, good person -- it just doesn't work that way.

One function of defense mechanisms is to help people mediate the anxiety that is generated by the incongruence between the inside and outside self, and one that I have recently watched in full bloom -- making me think that maybe Freud was on to something -- is called Reaction Formation.

Here is a simple definition of this defense mechanism (from

"Reaction Formation occurs when a person feels an urge to do or say something and then actually does or says something that is effectively the opposite of what they really want. It also appears as a defense against a feared social punishment. If I fear that I will be criticized for something, I very visibly act in a way that shows I am personally a long way from the feared position.

A common pattern in Reaction Formation is where the person uses ‘excessive behavior’, for example using exaggerated friendliness when the person is actually feeling unfriendly."

So if someone fears being exposed (to self/others), s/he will go to extreme measures to demonstrate that s/he is actually none of the undesired things. Unfortunately, what s/he does not realize is that the frenzy of defensiveness is simply additional evidence that something is not right.

People who are congruent (i.e., insides match their outsides) do not need to continually "tell" others who/what they are because it is obvious in their being, while incongruent people have to "sell" us on their facade.

All that selling and convincing and pretending seems like a lot of work! So much better just to be who and what you are, and if that doesn't fit with the image you have of yourself -- change. Yes, it is hard and scary -- but people can -- and do -- change.

I end this with my favorite quote 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."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Just Pictures

Sisters -- Asia and Zoey

Look who is doing just fine: Mrs. Maize, Chief of the Fun Police

Mrs. Maize's granddaughter, Syd, looking naughty :)

The cat known as Carlos to some, Ute to others, and Carlute to me -- but in a dream his real name was revealed as Rasta -- not sure what to think and he isn't talking...

Hope your day is picture perfect :)

Monday, April 18, 2011

Agility, Focus, and So On...

A long, busy weekend as I was in charge of Judge's Hospitality at the agility trial, which was fun because I know the judge -- she is a berner person.

I just got back from dropping her off at the Missoula airport (she had to be there at 6:20 a.m.!) and on the way home I heard a song with a great line:

"‘Cause if you don’t know where you’re going
You might end up somewhere else"

Isn't that wonderful? It reminded me of the need for focus, direction, and goals -- all of which seem a little absent for me right now -- but not for long! I think Spring is the perfect time to re-adjust and start with renewed energy and focus, and I am starting to believe that Spring might actually have arrived...

Agility was fun. Mac did a super great job in his first trial, and just made small beginner dog mistakes, taking down just one jump in each of his two runs. Halo took down one jump on the first day and otherwise had a great run, but yesterday forgot she knows how to weave and was just a little distracted -- maybe she thinks one run per weekend is enough?!

You can watch Mac's run from yesterday at:

Halo's run from yesterday is at:

I hope you are feeling a renewed sense of purpose with the arrival of Spring -- or if not, that you will be open to -- and invite -- the possibility :)

Friday, April 15, 2011

The New and Revised H Litter Plan and Weekend

As I have mentioned, we have a new plan for the H Litter. Here is a picture of sisters:

The fun part of that picture (which was taken by Tammy Hayden Porter - thanks to Tammy) is that the girls are sisters and the girl-dogs are sisters :) The first girl is Molly, age 15, with Fiona from the D Litter (Maize/Zack); Fiona is the girl we will be breeding soon. Behind them is a girl who looks just like the first girl, which makes sense since they are twins, and she is Megan with Asia (Halo/Zack).

We will refrain from mentioning that Megan, not realizing how much she had grown since she last put on her show suit, had a bit of a wardrobe malfunction in full (moon) view of the crowd when stacking Asia, much to the dismay of her mother -- and simply note how fortunate it is that the cute twins wear underwear!

Anyway, back to the H Litter -- Fiona will be the mom and we have a super exciting WOW YEA boy that is on the Short List but once again, we are awaiting DM test results -- one of the parents must be clear so keep your fingers crossed on this. Fiona is Maize 2.0 -- if all goes according to plan, we should have wonderful, sweet puppies by the end of the summer :)

In the meantime and following along with my current life story, If It Weren't For Bad Luck, I Would Have No Luck At All, we have one of the TWO local agility trials of the year this weekend! The good news is that Zoey did not come in season until the end of the Specialty -- the bad news is that Zoey came in season. This means she misses -- not one but two -- of the very few and far between Montana agility trials -- how is that for excellent timing?! The second trial she will miss, which is in two weeks, is in Helena -- "only" 2.5 hours away so practically local -- sigh...

But all is not lost (trying to see sunshine on a cloudy day ;) -- Montana Mac will be making his agility debut!!!! Check out his excellent weaving:

And cute Halo is also entered in a class each of the two days as well -- but Zoey....ugh....

Apparently I am in need of additional character building, which is the only explanation I can come up with for this long string of unfortunate events -- and how wonderful that the Universe/God cares about me enough to want to build my character (!). I know it will change soon -- and because I know I am due, I am going to start buying lottery tickets so I will be ready when my luck takes a turn.

In meantime, I truly hope YOU are enjoying all the good fortune that I am not. And congratulations on having enough character :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Masks, Rattlesnakes, and Warm Feet

It is not an easy thing to take a stand, and I understand why so many of us choose not to do it. Poking holes in carefully constructed facades sends people into frenzies of defensiveness, and the more important the facade is to maintain, the bigger the reaction to the hole poking.

What we present to the world is rarely completely congruent with our insides. Indeed, one of the tasks of development is to develop insight and self-awareness that helps us becomes congruent and comfortable in our own skins.

But some prefer an imaginary self to the real self, and so create an external persona that is not congruent with who and what the person really is. Why? I am not sure there is one answer but I wonder if perhaps it is easier to do some construction of a mask than to start the arduous task of reflection, self-awareness, and change.

I really do have a great imagination, but when it comes to people I just like the real thing. It is what I like about grief work -- crisis strips us all down to "real" and real people are my most favorite people.

Recently I caught some students who had plagiarized on papers in my class. One submitted a paper that was completely cut/pasted from a couple of websites! I met with the students and got versions of, "I didn't know that was wrong" -- sigh. But one -- the worst one -- came in and looked at me with tears in her eyes and said that yes, she had done it and she was sorry -- I wanted to hug her.

It takes courage to look your professor in the eye and just own up to what you did, knowing full well that such conduct can get one dismissed from a university. But that student showed more courage than many of us possess, and I respect and admire that kind of person -- it is a funny thing to say about someone who plagiarized a paper, but that young woman has integrity.

We all make unfortunate choices because we are human. It is not the mistakes we make that define our character -- it is how we handle our mistakes. Unfortunately, when our carefully constructed facade does not allow anyone to see our humanity and imperfections, we lose the opportunity to show courage and grace when we make the inevitable unfortunate choices.

And like the small boy in the story, sometimes we are presented with the chance to note that the king is actually not wearing any clothes -- and another opportunity is presented. Do we say something or follow the crowd and pretend that all is well? There is no right or easy answer that fits in all situations, but what matters is that we consciously make a choice.

If we decide to say something that reveals our awareness that the facade is just that, we have to be prepared for a defensive attack. The carefully constructed external persona is there for a reason, and it usually covers up a big, yucky mess that a person is trying desperately to keep hidden. Poking holes in the facade results in a rush of toxic waste, and I assure you -- it is not pleasant. But it is confirmation that one was correct -- that yes, it is a facade.

Beware of people who are not real, who do not strive for congruence between their inside self and their outside self. These are dangerous people, scary people because their very identity requires that their masks remain firmly in place and that we all pretend to think the masks are who they really are. When one dares to notice the inevitable leakage from inside or sees through the mask, expect fury and attack, and just know that this is more evidence that yes, you are indeed dealing with a very unfortunate person who is not as she appears.

But we cannot allow ourselves to be bullied into silence. Yes, sometimes the price of speaking out is painful but the price of pretending can be even steeper. Just be careful out there -- there are rattlesnakes hiding behind what appears to be a "perfect" person and you know this is true when they strike.

I have the image of the mom with a long hoe taking care of the rattlesnake -- was that you who shared that, Barb? It is a wonderful lesson -- keep your distance but don't be afraid to take care of the rattlesnake...

But most people are not hiding an inner snake and/or toxic waste dump -- most people are good and decent and doing their best. In the midst of my dark cloud of disillusionment and unfortunate events/luck, I went to work yesterday and found a package in my mail slot. I took it up to my office and opened it and what did I find?

Seriously -- this made my whole day!!!! My whole week!!!! These are socks that Kris from Massachusetts knitted for me from yarn made from her three berners: Nala, Moose, and Meg. She sent them -- with a wonderful card -- even though we have never met.

The idea that she rested her mind on me -- someone she knows only through this Blog -- and made/sent me such a wonderful and personal gift -- well, it is more touching than I can say. And it reminds me that acts of kindness are critical -- essential even -- in our lives. How did she know how much I needed the gift of support?

Today I will work hard to banish the nastiness of rattlesnake strikes, and instead rest my mind on a pair of socks and all that they mean. And I invite each of us to do the same -- and even more -- let's all extend support/kindness in some way to someone else who isn't expecting it. I speak from experience -- these acts of kindness and support mean so much.

Thank you, Kris -- I needed those socks more than you can know...

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Cheaters Never Prosper

At the Specialty, I personally observed an incident of cheating. The same person I observed cheating was observed by others doing unfortunate things that one could interpret as cheating.

Before I firmly established the behavior I observed as cheating, I contacted the AKC for an opinion and was given the actual section the violation falls under; therefore it was, in fact, cheating and not just my opinion.

I considered whether it was unintentional -- for about three seconds. The "unintentional defense" is not credible in this situation. I try hard to assume good intentions -- but a commitment to assuming good intentions does not mean one has to bury one's head in the sand. Sometimes intentions are not good, which is really sad and disappointing. And sometimes intentions simply do not matter -- "I intended to stop at the stop sign" does not make my back better or change the traffic violation committed by the nice woman who caused the car accident.

Three things about this cheating situation are problematic for me. First, I REALLY hate it when people try and gain an advantage over others. What is so hard about just following the rules? They are, after all, designed to create a level playing field.

I have been told that this kind of behavior is common in this type of competition -- can I just say that hearing that makes me want to quit showing my dogs?! But I do not believe it because I am aware that I am not alone in being upset about what happened. There are still ethical people who show dogs.

The second thing that upsets me is some of the reaction to me noting the violation -- "sour grapes" is what I got from some! Sour Grapes?! What are you smoking out there?!!! This is not about me -- this is about someone gaining an advantage by violating a rule!!!!! That is called C-H-E-A-T-I-N-G and there is no fruit involved in that.

My Blog friends are well aware that I went to this Specialty ill-prepared because of the injury I received in the January car accident. I had not trained much and therefore went with minimal expectations. Yes, this cheating violation may well have cost my dog -- so what? What may have been lost wasn't a goal of mine in the first place.

Further, years of Catholic school is probably to blame for my strong commitment to doing the right thing; it is insulting that anyone would think that my outrage about cheating is losing outrage rather than moral outrage.

But that is what we call a "red herring" -- something tossed in a conflict to detract from the main point, and remember -- I hate seafood. So whatever to the stupid red herring -- the central issue is that someone cheated.

The third thing that is problematic about this situation is how disillusioned it makes me feel. Yuck. What is wrong with people?!

Add all that to the gossip/backstabbing -- well, sometimes I am not sure that dog shows are good for one's soul.

Are there more important things in life than a dog show? Of course -- but a dog show gives the excellent opportunity to practice those more important things -- integrity, for example, and that is shown by being honest and fair, and treating others with respect -- all things that we can do in the most ordinary of places, including dog shows.

And you know what else matters? Taking a stand -- being willing to say that some things are just not okay. So here is mine: Cheating is never okay, and if you do it around me -- well, don't expect me to keep your little secret...

Oh -- and just a reminder: out of sight stays are done with the handler out of sight.

But in the dark cloud of disillusionment, yesterday I went to work and got something that brightened my whole outlook and reminded me that there is so much that is good -- I will tell you about that tomorrow...

In the meantime, here are the Rules for Today:

1. No cheating.
2. No lying.
3. Be Nice.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Draft Test Video

This is a video of Ruben Hudson and Kay's ring exercises at the Specialty draft test -- if you have never seen a test, here is your chance to see a good performance :)

More Pictures

Thanks to Sue for sending me some pictures of Zoey in the Best of Breed ring. Here is Zoey having her teeth checked by the judge...

Two shots of her free stacking -- she knows exactly where to put her feet :)

Home and enjoying one of her new toys...

Asia -- happy to be sleeping on her own bed again :)

More Halo Loot

My kitchen counters are covered with Specialty loot as I unpacked. Here is Halo modeling one of her prizes -- a cool coat made for Specialty agility prizes by the mom of one of Halo's puppies -- it is very nice!

1233 Miles Later

I drove 1233 miles in 18+ hours -- by myself (well, with Halo, Asia, and Zoey) -- arriving home late last night. Maize is just fine -- and so is everyone else :)

Len Bergstein from Arizona very kindly took pictures of my brace team on Friday and sent these to me -- isn't that so kind of him?! Since it is hard to both compete and take pictures, I rarely have pictures of myself ;)

Look closely -- this is a picture of two dogs heeling together...

An excellent and attentive wait on the recall. Notice that unlike most brace teams, mine are not "coupled" (connected with a short leash) -- I hate seeing one get dragged by the other so do not use one.

Halo wins the recall race!

Reminding them -- pay attention!

Success in the narrows...

Love my girls!!!!!

And just now I looked out the window and what did I see???? George and Karma regarding each other!!! How cute is that?!

Long trips are good for thinking -- I have missed that -- but I am glad to be home :)

Have an excellent week!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Specialty Thoughts/Finale

Kay and Ruben Hudson at our grooming area...

The berner cake provided by the judge!

What a nice Specialty!! This has been an exceptional Specialty for performance events -- all were very, very well-run and a pleasure to compete in. It takes so many to put on a Specialty, and I am so grateful that others have worked diligently so that we can all enjoy each other and our dogs.

But this has also been a strange Specialty for me. I did not feel as prepared as I normally do, and my back has really bothered/impeded me -- and that is seriously annoying. Not having Dear Husband here has been a drag, but I so appreciated everyone who has stepped up and helped me.

I hope you are having an excellent week -- and remember, if you can't say (or write) something nice -- well, you know the rest... :)