Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Familiar Stranger

This past weekend, while sharing a hotel room with dear friends, I said aloud something that has been bugging me for at least a year.

Now I understand why people dye their hair and have plastic surgery. The face in the mirror every morning doesn't match the picture of myself in my head.

Or, put more bluntly:

Who the hell is that old hag? And why is she looking at me with knowing eyes?

I can honestly say I earned every wrinkle and grey hair. I wouldn't go back to my 20's for anything, and I mean, not for nothing. I learned a lot in my 30's, hit my stride in my 40's. Now, in my 50's, I acknowledge that I've probably got more years behind me than ahead. Hopefully I'm just now at the half-way point, as it would be a pity I think to waste all the learning - is this wisdom? - by not having as much time to use it as I spent acquiring it.

I have never been particularly vain, so it is uncomfortable to feel a jolt every morning in the bathroom mirror - that's me? Well yes, of course it is. Lift the chin and smile a little, and the reflection is more comfortable. Less... well, less old.

It does not help that my husband, a decade older than I, still has the skin of a baby and gets carded at least once a year. Yes, it's typically at a sporting event and while wearing a baseball cap, but still... He is ageless, inside and out. I married Peter Pan.

So I wonder if I should consider getting my hair dyed... no, I would never spend that much money getting my hair done once a month. What a colossal waste of time - I can barely be bothered to get it cut more than three times a year. It is farce to think I would spend my weekends with coloring bottles and wearing a plastic cape. My mother has dyed her hair since she was 16, when it came in winter-white, I know what is involved. I would not pay for botox or a facelift.

I just wonder why I don't look like I feel.

Maybe it's the high desert - too much sun, not enough humidity. Maybe it's the mileage I've put on this body. Maybe it's the mis-spent youth, the abused metabolism, the years of diet Pepsi and Cheetos (breakfast of champions!) Maybe it's taking for granted the gifts of DNA - good bones, good skin, good weight - for a lot of years.

Choices have consequences. And they are staring me in the face, every day.


Wednesday, 7 January 2015

New Year and Resolve

It's 2015. How did that happen? *Pouf* another year gone. It's true - the older I get, the faster the pages turn.

2014 was, on the whole, a pretty good year. There were some tough losses (RIP Jake & Boomer), some very bad days. More of those to come, no doubt. Good days come come at a price, and we paid in spades last year.

It was the first year I made a new year's resolution and really made a regular, conscious effort, to keep to it. I'm pretty pleased with how that turned out. 

So this year, I'm going to try it again. A resolution more public and easy to quantify. Write a blog post at least twice a month.

And yes, this counts as one ;-)

Monday, 22 September 2014

Perception is Reality

Flying back from Texas this weekend, I had an enlightening and disturbing conversation with a seatmate.

Enlightening in that how breeders are (sometimes? frequently? always?) percieved by rescue groups; and disturbing in that, well, her view was utterly toxic.

After a little "hi, whatcha reading" chit-chat, she mentioned that she volunteers with a local breed rescue group - and that she hates breeders. Hm, I said. I'm a breeder.

Awkward silence.

She's involved with a very popular breed, and no doubt sees more dogs in a year locally than I do borzoi at Nationals. But, still...

As we chatted over the next hour, we traded stories, the way strangers do when looking for common ground. She told me a sad story about a friend who paid a fortune for a puppy from a breeder and wound up with a health problem - must be a terrible breeder, she said. Well, I said, maybe. But sometimes we do all the health testing available, generation after generation, and mother nature will take you out for a spin. I told her about Bruno, and showed her the OFA database listing his ancestors' clearances - she didn't know such a thing even existed! 

She told me about her daughter's new SUV, and how they go on home visits together. Ah! I said. Yes, I require that too. And told her about a buyer that didn't get a dog from me due to inadequate fencing and an unwillingness to improve his fence.

Wow, she said. I didn't think breeders cared where their puppies went. They just want to make money.

::speechless::  I mean - really, how does one respond to that? I know it wasn't intended as an insult... It's just her perception - her reality - based on what she sees in rescue.

Well, I said, you may not believe this, but I know, right now, at this very instant, where EVERY puppy ever born in my house is. Right now. 

She looked shocked. 

And, yes, I charge for my puppies. Does your rescue group charge for the dogs you place?

She squirmed. Yes, she said, there's an adoption fee - but, she hastened to add, we lose money on every dog.

Me too, I said. Calling it an adoption fee is just marketing, I smiled. You sell dogs, I sell dogs. And we're all losing money. I haven't figured out how to make a profit. I've easily got five figures invested, once you factor the health testing on the parents, and on the puppies, and the costs of a few years campaigning before doing a breeding. Forget initial purchase price, food, and regular vet care. I lose a fortune on every litter. But - money changes hands - it's a sale.

I also told her how every good breeder I know is also involved in breed rescue, and that the purpose of rescue is to reunite the dog with its owner, or breeder; and only if neither can take back the dog, is it then made available to a new owner. At first she didn't believe me, so I told her a couple of stories of owners that had become very ill, or a breeder that died, and how we all pulled together to get those dogs back home. 

We did not talk about Piper. It is the nightmare scenario that every breeder has been losing sleep over for more than two months now: a wayward dog picked up by ACO and turned over to breed rescue, and breed rescue refusing to return the dog to the rightful owner, co-owner, and breeder. But the conversation made me think - we need to find ways to educate people in rescue, people like my well-intentioned traveling companion who has a negative view of all breeders.

I told her, nobody hates bad breeders as much as good breeders. NOBODY. Because we understand that JQP paints us all with the same muck-covered brush. It's easier, I told her, to blame breeders and not owners; to lump all breeders into the same barrel of bad apples. But that it's not right, it's not fair. Come to a dog show I told her (giving her the date and location of one next month). Talk to people, ask breeders how they screen their homes and what's in their contracts. Ask them if they've ever had a dog returned. Listen to their stories.

I'm not special. I'm not better. I am lucky to have mentors with decades of experience, and incorporated their values into my own. In my circle of friends, there are more good breeders than bad ones. 

I don't think that's unique to me. I do think we aren't getting the word out. We need to find ways to educate those focused on rescue what the truth is about breeders, and partner with the good ones. 

As we deplaned, she said, well, good luck with your dogs. Thank you, I said. Hope to see you next month. Your breed always has a huge entry, there will be lots of people for you to meet.

Wonder if she'll make the effort. For the sake of the dogs, I sure hope so.
  

Monday, 31 March 2014

Standing Ovation

Finally, a good reason to move to Canada. And I've been to Calgary, there's lots of Chinese take-out and it's close to Jasper...

http://redstarcafe.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/the-calgary-model/

http://www.toledoblade.com/local/2010/02/28/Canadian-city-changes-tack-to-cut-dog-deaths.html


Monday, 24 February 2014

An Open Letter to AKC's VP of Performance

Note - AKC's BOD rescinded the age lowering - restoring it to 12 mos - at the March 2014 meeting. Kudos to AKC for responding so quickly to correct this.

24 February 2014

to: Doug Ljungren, VP of Performance and Companion Events

re: AKC Board Minutes 2/7/14 - CAT rule change - minimum age reduction

Dear Mr. Ljungren -

I am writing to ensure you are aware of my acute dismay at the recently published AKC Board Minutes, dated 7 February 2014 in which the following change is announced on page 10: "The Board VOTED to amend the Regulations for Coursing Ability Tests, Chapter XV, Sections 3 and 9, to open the Coursing Ability Test (CAT) up to a wider range of dogs by (1) lowering the minimum age for a dog to participate to 6 months..."

I must express to you my most strenuous objection to this change, and to the manner in which it was carried out. As the immediate past-Secretary, previous President, and current Director on the Board for Albuquerque Whippet Fanciers Association/Lobo Lure Coursing Club, we were not allowed the opportunity to provide feedback on this proposal. Neither were current active Lure Coursing Judges asked to weigh in.

As you are aware, lure coursing is a Performance event, not a Companion event. As an agility competitor since 2001 and a lure coursing participant and judge, I am keenly aware of the distinction between the two categories. Your own involvement in field trials no doubt gives you a similar appreciation.


As you can see from this chart the average age for growth plate closure of the critical tibial crest (stifles being the last joint in which growth plates close, and in all canines the joint most prone to injury) is 11 months, with the range being up to 14 months (the study used beagles and greyhounds). In my own borzoi, I have seen (via digital radiograph) some males' growth plates still open at 18 months of age.


It is therefore my considered opinion - as owner, breeder, and judge - that the 12 month age MINIMUM for entry into any lure coursing activity is an essential safety rule. I find it unconscionable that AKC would enable entry in a performance event by immature animals.


It has been brought to my attention that several clubs will be dropping CAT events from their hosting activities; countless judges have stated that they will decline CAT assignments; and the NM club has lost its FTS for future CAT events. Please work with the AKC BOD to rescind this rule change before dogs are needlessly put at risk of suffering career-ending injurys.


Thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.


- Leonore
AKC LC Judge
AKC Breeder of Merit

cc:

AKC LC Field Rep

and the following AKC clubs, of which I am a member in good standing:

Albuquerque Whippet Fanciers Association / Lobo Lure Coursing Club - President
Rocky Mountain Borzoi Club - Performance Chairman
Borzoi Club of America - AKC Delegate


Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Scent of a Memory

It started at the grocery store, but it wasn't until I had a knife in my hand that the flashback became physical time travel.

My family here in New Mexico has made an effort to gather not just at the holidays, but once in the summer as well. Location moves around a bit, and the host/ess plots the entrée and everyone brings an accompanying dish. It's not quite "pot luck" as the options are divvied up, first dibs first taken. Vegetables, soup, potatoes, sweets, beverages, etc. As we had a 3+ hour drive to my aunt's home well north of here, I claimed the fruit option, knowing I could prepare it in advance and it would travel well.

I stopped at the grocery with my list, hoping my master plan for colors, textures, sweet and tart would be possible. No apples or bananas; nothing that would turn color exposed to air. I needed berries, melons, and grapes. Luck was with me, and blackberries, raspberries, green, red and black grapes made their way into my basket. A couple of cans of cubed pineapple were tucked into a corner. 

Then I surveyed the melons. As my grandfather taught me, I rapped each with my knuckle, seeking that specific sound, deep and hollow, which reflects the ripeness beneath the rind. I heard his smile, that one, yep, and that one. 

My grandfather was born in 1898; he was in his mid 60's when I was born. He was a towering figure, with the jet-black hair and broad cheekbones of his Indian mother (his hair was still black when he passed at 97) and ice-blue eyes. He was from a time that viewed children as labor, and all us grandkids spent summers working the fields - moving irrigation pipe, picking chile - 40# a sack (we were grateful it wasn't cotton, as the bolls cut like razors), picking and shucking pecans ("PEE-kahns"). We'd jump in the ditch to cool off, drink sweet tea to slake our thirst, and get back to work. I learned to change oil in a tractor and a version of Spanish used by migrant workers. We'd never heard of sunscreen, defying the heat in borrowed hats, our shorts and bare feet.

The smell of roasting green chile - in big barrels over open fire - transports me into my grandmother's kitchen. It's about a thousand degrees, the chiles still warm from the roasters, having to be peeled quickly. The wet, slippery flesh rinsed and dropped into the endless rows of waiting Mason jars. The pressure cookers on the stove steaming and clacking in harmony. Apron-clade women, hands covered in lard to keep the chile's fire out of our skin. Sweaty brows and laughter. 

I was in the very fortunate position, as eldest, to go on ride-alongs with my grandfather. I can't say I was his favorite, but I worshiped him. We'd walk in a field, and pick out a few cantaloupes or honeydews to take home for dessert. Taptaptap, taptaptap, hear it? That one. Taptaptap...

As I stood in my kitchen, knife in hand, I went taptaptap before cutting, just to make sure. The rind resisted the blade for an instant, then parted with a dry sound, deep and hollow and echoing across the decades. As knife met cutting board, a faint glistening of juice rolled down and I saw the seeds well separated from the walls, clinging together. The color of the fruit went all the way to the rind. As the sweet smell rose up, I heard him say yep, that one, and smiled.
  

Monday, 16 December 2013

Mean Girls

I was not popular in high school. I was tiny, smart-mouthed, and battling my own demons. There were probably plenty of people that were nasty, but I was oblivious. I didn't care, I was much too busy taking too many classes and listening to what is now referred to as "classic" rock. The people who were my friends then are, 35 years later, friends still. It was a time of computers the size of small buildings run by punch cards, and the coolest rotary phone around was the princess; it was easy to be clueless of what others were saying about one. 

No longer.

Now, thanks to the ubiquitous-ness of recording devices, internet connectivity, and sharing platforms, secrets and privacy have become fiercely guarded rarities. I have a colleague whose daughter has been subjected to cyber-bullying; no parent likes to feel powerless to protect a child, and the anonymity and relentless onslaught of over-connectedness is difficult to combat.

One mis-step and the veil of civility can be shattered forever. Reputations carefully cultivated over years are wiped away as easily as a spider's web. So we watch what we say, where, in front of whom; what we post, the background of photos, our choice of adjectives. Too Much Information (TMI) is rampant when poor judgement is exercised; we have lost our sense not just of propriety but of discretion.

It has always been easier to destroy than to create. Why take delight in something that takes so little effort? And trust me, someone will notice your snide comment and repeat it; gossiping is like breathing. As the great wit Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth quipped, "If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me." Little gives more wicked delight than hearing about the foolishness of others.

A number of recent incidents have me scratching my head over what to do. The bottom line is that we, in borzoi, aren't very nice to each other. Oh sure, we behave well in public, sheathing our knives and presenting a sweet face to outsiders. And we, like all dog people, have a superlative gift for pulling together in a crisis - the shorter lived the better, lest the fissures surface. Woe unto anyone that says something against our breed of choice, our packing instincts are well honed. 

But all too often our favorite hobby is feasting on the flesh of each other. I used to say that borzoi people are opinionated and outspoken. That's true, but that's not all of it. We are mean to each other, and really should stop. It's important that we stop. And each of us must do our part, and support each other.

Over the weekend someone (accidentally, I'm sure) posted to a 1000+ person e-mail list a critique of how someone else describes her dogs and spends her money. I know this person slightly, having corresponded by e-mail some years ago. I can only imagine how hurtful it was for her to read, no matter how accurate (or not, I have no idea) the comments were. We all have a lot to learn. I don't care if you've been in the breed 5 minutes or 5 decades, we all have a lot to learn. Particularly about being nice - not just in public.

As C.S. Lewis said, "Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no no one is watching." The thing is, everybody is watching now.