Friday, January 31, 2014

Take the Lead

While in Ocala last weekend, RK and I spent Saturday night at a fund raiser for Take the Lead. This non-profit organization "provides direct services, support and care for people in the sport of purebred dogs who suffer the devastation of life-threatening or terminal illness." I had never heard of the organization, but our conformation teacher told us "anyone who is anyone in the Florida dog show world will be there." He also said that there would be good food, entertainment and an open bar. We paid the $25 entry fee/donation and went. It was a trip!
The party was held at a beautiful horse farm in Ocala. The house was gorgeous! The backyard was exquisitely landscaped. Twinkling lights hung from the trees. Jugglers and stilt walkers wandered among the guests. A DJ was setup on the balcony playing dance music. Acrobats gave a breath-taking performance. There was a prom theme and we watched the winners get crowned. The buffet was very nice and I probably ate too much shrimp.
It seemed that everybody knew everybody and people were grouped up, deep in conversation. I was waaaay out of my comfort zone. Fortunately, RK is much more outgoing than I am. I was glad to have her there for moral support, especially since the wine (aka liquid courage) from the open bar was awful. I enjoyed people watching. As the night went on the crowd got louder and wilder, no doubt due to the open bar. RK and I chatted and mingled for a couple hours then went back to the hotel to tend to the dogs.
Here's the funny thing. The next day people were a lot nicer to us. Professional handlers said "hi" first, wealthy dog owners came over to exchange pleasantries. RK thinks it's because they appreciated us supporting a cause near and dear to them. I -- being much more cynical -- think it's because nobody knows who the hell we are and it confuses them. Either way, it was an interesting party. Sometimes it's good to get out of my comfort zone. -- K
Below are pictures of the acrobat (the upper body strength on this guy was amazing) and stilt walkers performing from the musical Grease. RK took a lot more pictures, but I don't like to post people's faces without permission.  


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

I took this picture in Ocala last week.

The picture below was taken 365 days earlier. What a difference.

Look at those ears!

This is a blog hop. Click on the various pictures below to see what other pet bloggers are thinking about today. -- K

Tuesday, January 28, 2014


Chili gets a bath
Preparing Chili and Jedi for a dog show is quite the chore. The dogs need to be washed (conditioner too!) and blown dry and fluffy. Usually RK and I do this on a make-shift grooming table in her front yard. However, the temperature was in the 30's last week and we needed a Plan B -- preferably one that didn't kill our backs!

RK found a boarding kennel near her house that was willing to help. The business has a small grooming room connected to the boarding kennel. The room has a tub with hot water and a grooming table which the owner, Marcia, agreed to let us use for next to nothing. What a lifesaver! We brought our own towels, brushes, shampoo, conditioner and a doggie dryer. Marcia even let us use an open kennel to hold the dogs when they weren't being groomed. Thanks to the proper tools, we were able to wash and blow out both dogs in less than 3 hours. Marcia was kind and helpful -- and even invited us out to wash the dogs before the next show.
I want to give a big shout out to Marcia and McKendree Kennels! Marcia has a nice set-up with reasonable rates, and is conveniently located by the airport. If you're in Jacksonville and you need to board your dog, check her out!
Anyway, washing and drying is just the tip of the iceberg. When you have a show dog, you groom a lot! I'm constantly brushing, combing, cleaning ears, brushing teeth, clipping nails and trimming stray hairs. Just before going in the ring Jedi gets a spritz and fluff, along with a finishing spray to shine up the black in his saddle. He's just a German shepherd! Can you imagine all the clipping, teasing, fluffing and chalking going on over in the poodle section?!

At 90 pounds, Jedi is the second largest dog I've ever had -- and he's not done growing. (FYI, Pepper was about 110 pounds). Fortunately, he's also the easiest dog I've ever groomed. I can wash him by myself without any problems. (By comparison, it takes at least two grown people to bathe 65 pound Roxy, and there are lots of problems!) So on this Training Tips Tuesday, I'd like to share some of the things I actually did right when it comes to teaching a dog to tolerate grooming. Hope it helps!
  • Be positive: Use a soft, happy voice and provide lots of treats. You want your dog to think this is a good thing. Make sure you smile; dogs pick up on that.
  • Go slow: Let your dog smell the brush or hear the clippers before using them. Hair dryers are loud and scary, especially the forced air blower. We let Jedi just listen to it while feeding him bits of chicken several times before we actually touched him with it. Stop grooming when the dog gets anxious. Sometimes you can spread things out to make the dog more comfortable. For example: Do you really need to clip all the toenails on the same day? Can teeth and ears be cleaned at different times?
  • Timing: Wait until your dog is tired and relaxed before you start grooming. Add in some massaging and belly rubbing. Jedi has actually fall asleep while I was brushing him. 
  • Touch your dog: You should give your dog a once-over regularly -- touch his feet, play with his toes, stick your finger in his ears, open his mouth, wipe his eyes, lift up his tail, check his pits, stroke his hair backwards, etc. Not only are you desensitizing him to touching, you can check for fleas, ticks, and hot spots. (BTW, your vet will love you for this!)
  • For ears: Float the bottle of ear cleaner in a bowl of warm water before using it. (Don't forget to test it before using. You don't want it too hot.) Put the warm cleaner on a cotton ball to clean out the ears, then take a dry cotton ball and wipe out any excess cleaner. A Q-tip can be used to remove any dirt you see stuck in the folds, but NEVER stick a Q-tip into your dog's ear canal.
  • For teeth: Experiment with different toothpastes until you find one your dog likes (Jedi prefers vanilla to chicken). If your dog doesn't like the toothbrush, try a finger brush instead. I have a friend who just uses a wet washcloth. It gets the job done! Try to clean your dog's teeth at least twice a week. (For me, daily is just not possible.)
  • Finally, don't be afraid to seek professional help. I'm squeamish about toenails and am always afraid I'm going to hit the quick. I'll trim the dogs' nails a little bit each week, but never seem to get them short enough. About once a month I take the dogs to visit Kathleen at Petsmart. She does a great job; but on the off chance she gets too close I'm not the bad guy. It's worth the $20.
How about you? Do you have any great grooming tips? -- K

P.S. This was suppose to be part of a blog hop, but it appears that the hop isn't happening today. Too bad, because I really need some good tips on teaching a dog not to pull on the leash. Jedi nearly ripped my arm out of its socket this weekend going through the hotel. If you have any ideas, please share. Please!

Monday, January 27, 2014

We're Back!

Jedi ringside
Ocala was tough. And cold. Our ring times for Friday and Saturday were 8:30 and 8 AM respectively. The temperatures were high 30's to low 40's both days. We ended up just staging from the SUV. The weather finally cooperated on Sunday. It was a nicer day. Ring time wasn't until 12:45 and the temperature was in the high 60's. Unfortunately we were all tired by then and ready to come home.

We did well despite the crappy weather. RK got into the ring for the first time this weekend. Her dog, Chili (Jedi's brother) did great. RK is hooked! After her first run in the ring she came out grinning and asked "When we can do this again?" I suspect we'll be showing a lot more this year. RK showed in the bred by class and won all three days, making it to the winners dog round. The same gorgeous dog won Winners Dog all weekend, but RK and Chili held their own against several professional handlers. I was so proud!

Big(ish) win on Day 1
Jedi and I didn't do too bad either. On the first day we won our class (12-18 months) even beating out a professional handler. We made it to the winners dog round and were beaten by the gorgeous dog mentioned above. However, we did pick up Reserve, which is the equivalent of first runner-up. (Should Gorgeous Dog be disqualified for any reason, Jedi gets the points.) The last two days we were second in our class, earning red ribbons.

I'm rethinking showing three days in a row. By the third day we were spent. Two grown women with two adolescent dogs in one hotel room can get a bit crowded. Jedi and Chili may be brothers, but they aren't sure how they feel about each other. They seem to have a love/hate thing going on, which gets tiring very quickly. One minute they want to play and the next minute they're growling at each other. And heaven forbid one is getting more attention or treats in the other! We didn't trust the two of them alone together so when we weren't with them they had to be crated. They seemed more comfortable with each other by the end of the weekend, so maybe they'll be better next time. RK is already looking at upcoming shows on Infodog, so "next time" might be rather soon. Until then we'll be at a conformation class every week and will definitely be practicing more consistently. Don't tell RK, but I think I'm hooked too. -- K

P.S. I can't believe I took a camera and a smart phone this weekend and didn't take any pictures of us in the ring! Hopefully RK got a couple. If so, I'll share them with you later.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Time's Up

Ready or Not, Here We Go!

"Quit stressing Mom, we got this!"

Jedi and I leave for Ocala tomorrow morning. We're getting back in the show ring. At 15 months old Jedi is no longer considered a puppy. We're competing with the big dogs now! I'm excited.  And extremely nervous. I'm still recovering from pneumonia and it's going to be bitter cold -- low for Friday is 28 degrees (in Florida!) -- and I haven't been practicing like I should. Fortunately, Jedi says he's good to go!

Wish us luck! -- K

P.S. It's Wednesday! Hop around and see what others are doing.

Monday, January 20, 2014

I'm Not Dead

See? Not dead.
I just looked at my blog and realized it's been 10 days since my last post. TEN DAYS! This isn't helping my 15-posts-a-month resolution! But I have an excuse: I have (had?) pneumonia. It sucks. Fortunately, I've got good health insurance and plenty of sick time on the books to stay home and recuperate. I've spent most of the last week sleeping and drinking fluids.

I'm trying really hard to get better because Jedi and I are back in the ring on Friday -- as in 3 days and a wake up. I'm nervous. We braved the cold and went to conformation class (before I got really sick). And we've practiced stacking at home. It's working, albeit slowly. Now when I run my hand down Jedi's back he'll shift his weight to his right leg so I can extend the left. Baby steps! I'm nowhere near where I want to be. I stress too much.

I've been too exhausted to practice our gaiting. Some days it's all I can do to fold laundry. I guess we'll just have to go with what we've got. Ideally Jedi will be so mesmerizing that the judges won't even notice I'm there. (That might be the Nyquil talking.)

Sickness be damned, RK and I are bathing our dogs, packing the SUV and heading to Ocala on Thursday. Wish me luck. If you happen to be in the area, stop by and say hi. I could use the moral support. I'll keep you posted on our adventures! -- K

Friday, January 10, 2014

Pet Blogger Challenge

Today is the fourth annual Pet Blogger Challenge. This hop is hosted by Amy at Go Pet Friendly (one of my favorite pet blogs) and Edie at Will My Dog Hate Me? (a blog in transition after the passing of her dog, Frankie). This hop is a fun way for pet bloggers worldwide to share their thoughts on blogging -- What works? What doesn't? What would you like to do better? It's also a great follow-up to last month's Meet the Blogger hop.

Last year I entered the third annual Pet Blogger Challenge. It was my very first blog hop. My answers to that one are here. It's exciting to see how things have changed over the past year! Like last year I'm going to read every single post in this hop and share my favorites with you later. And now on to the questions:

Logan, the reason
this blog exists
  • How long have you been blogging?  I've been blogging since July of 2012. I started blogging after losing my heart dog, Logan. He was a great dog. I found him dying of heartworms in the shelter where I was working, called in every favor I had and got him treated. I only had him seven years, but he stole my heart. I had a hard time dealing with his death and started blogging to work through the grief. I still miss him. Fortunately the blog quickly morphed into a celebration of dogs -- because reading morose stories about a dead dog gets old quickly! Six months after Logan's passing I got Jedi and have been writing about the joys and trials of raising a new puppy. I've also been trying to fulfill my childhood dream of showing dogs. It's not as easy as it looks on TV. Especially when you're old, out of shape, uncoordinated and a big fat chicken. Lucky for you though: it makes for entertaining reading. Seriously, who wants to follow someone who gets it right all the time? Boring!
  • Give us a quick description of what your blog is about.  My blog is an eclectic collection of my thoughts and experiences with dogs. (And cats, and birds, and crazy people. There's even an alligator.) As I've stated in the past, this blog is a strange glimpse into the life of a crazy dog lady and her dogs. I'm an animal control officer, an avid reader, a wife, a mother, a dog lover and an active member of the community. I try to juggle it all. I suck at it. I've also admitted to neurotic tendencies and/or good-natured homicidal fantasies. Fortunately, blogging is cheaper than therapy!
  • Name one blogging goal that you accomplished during 2013, that made you most proud.  I wanted to find a blog about being a newbie in the show ring thinking "surely there are other clueless wannabes out there." I looked and looked for a blog like that and couldn't find one, so I decided I'd have to try to write one myself. Well, it took waaaaay to long (refer to the "big fat chicken" statement above) but I finally got into the ring. Lookie! 
And to my surprise, other show people have come forward to offer support and advice. Good thing too because I've got A LOT to learn. [Insert a big shout out to Kathryn with Dog Mammas here.]
  • When you look at the post you wrote for last year’s Pet Blogger Challenge, what about blogging has changed the most for you?  Well, people actually read my blog now, so that's a plus! And I put an index in the side bar so it's easier for readers to choose specific topics. That was a suggestion from last year's hop. Thanks!
  • What lessons have you learned this year -- from other blogs, or through your own experience -- that could help us all with our own sites?  1) Be real. My favorite bloggers share who they are, warts and all. I really do care that someone's cat is sick, I understand the "do I blog or cook dinner?" dilemma, and empathize with the clutter queens. 2) Engage. Leave comments on other blogs and answer comments left on your blog, preferably with no ulterior motives. Pamela at Something Wagging This Way Comes always has a "Your Turn" prompt to open the conversation (I LOVE that). And finally, make sure there is an easy way for people to contact you or leave comments.
  • If you could ask the pet blogging community for help with one challenge you’re having with your blog, what would it be?  How do I increase traffic? And WTH is a raffle copter?
  • What have you found to be the best ways to bring more traffic to your blog, other than by writing great content?  Blog hops may bring people once, but I think being authentic and engaging (see above) brings them back.
  • How much time to do you spend publicizing your blog, and do you think you should spend more or less in the coming year?  I have business cards that I try remember to pass out when my blog comes up in conversation, and I post links to both Facebook and Google+. Other than that, I do nothing. OMG, should I be doing something?!   
(Cool Card, hunh? Kimberly over at Keep the Tail Wagging told me about Fiverr, a place where incredibly talented people will do all kinds of things -- including designing unique business cards -- for only $5. That's Jedi on the card, by the way.)
  • How do you gauge whether or not what you’re writing is appealing to your audience?  I try not to look at the stats. I fail. It drives me nuts. I really appreciate the comments. A simple "Wow, nice job" can have me over the moon. Apparently I'm a praise whore. Who knew?
  • When you’re visiting other blogs, what inspires you to comment on a post rather than just reading and moving on?  First of all, it needs to be easy. If I have to spend five minutes hunting down a "leave comment" button I'll probably just move on. Sorry. When commenting, I prefer to have something meaningful to add to the conversation, but if it's one of those incredible, blow-me-away posts I'll definitely post a "WOW" -- and then I'll forward it on Facebook and Google+.
  • Do you do product reviews and/or giveaways?  I do review things but haven't for compensation. I have no affiliation with any of the products I review. It's just me sharing my opinions, regardless of who cares what I think (as usual). The only things I give away are sarcasm and snarky comments. I'm not opposed to reviews and giveaways for compensation, however it would have to be something I believe in. And I think I would want to limit my advertising. I see some blogs that look NASCAR racers with all their banners. It makes me question their integrity -- does the blogger really use all that stuff or is she just after a quick buck? Also, ad-crammed blogs take forever to load so I usually don't return to them.
  • When writer’s block strikes and you’re feeling dog-tired, how do you recharge?  I like to visit other blogs and see what others are saying. Sometimes it sparks an idea. I also like to step away from the computer completely. A walk in the woods or a good game of cards with friends can do wonders. 
  • Have you ever taken a break from your blog? How did that go?  Yes. My computer crashed last summer. It sucked.
  • What goals do you have for your blog in 2014?  How funny you should ask! I actually added a blogging goal to my New Years Resolutions this year. I want to post a minimum of 15 times a month. I'd also like to have more consistency. My posts -- like my thoughts -- tend to be all over the place and that's how I've been writing. As a reader, however, I like to have an idea of what to expect. I think Jodi over at Kol's Notes does a nice job of keeping things organized, which is one of the reasons I follow her.
So, are you tired of hearing about me yet? I am! Thankfully this is a blog hop. Let's go see what others have to say. Later, -- K

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Wordless Wednesday (shhh)

 Good thing it's "Wordless" Wednesday because Gucci is sleeping. Doesn't she look comfortable?
It's a cold and dreary day, I might just join her. She'll be here for a while, so you might as well hop around and see what others are up to today. Gucci is the Queen of Cat Naps. -- K

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Clicker Conformation Training

Jedi's gorgeous father, Champion Mar Haven's
Last Cowboy Song, perfectly stacked
I'm having trouble training Jedi for the ring. His poor gaiting is all me -- I'm out of shape and uncoordinated. I'm trying to walk more to build endurance. I'm even doing a tiny bit of sprinting during our walks. Seriously, Jedi would look better in the ring if I could move my ass and not trip over my own feet. At least I know what my problem is here.

Stacking is a more difficult issue. Jedi is a German shepherd, which stacks differently than every other dog in the AKC. All other dogs stack with their legs squared underneath them; GSDs have their front feet and one back foot squared, but the other rear leg is elongated, producing the signature slope. I have watched dogs walk into a perfect stack in the ring and it's very impressive. I have seen others set into a beautiful stack with little effort from the handler. And then there's me and Jedi, looking as graceful as a couple manatees playing Twister. I'll set the front and he'll wiggle around while I'm trying to set the back, sometimes even licking my face. Endearing yes, but not the stuff that wins ribbons.

In frustration, I bought another book: Positive Training for Show Dogs by Vicki Ronchette. I wish I had found this a year ago! I'm only halfway through the book but it's already proven to be useful. I think I know what I've doing wrong: First of all, I was trying to do too much too fast and confused the poor boy. Then I tried holding bait in front of his nose. It was great when I was in front of him, but when I would work on the back feet he was wiggling around to find the goodies. Jedi is a food whore.

So now I'm trying to fix my mistakes. Unfortunately it means going back to square one. We are using the clicker now. I'm a horrible clicker clicker, so I have Hubby click while I set and so far it's working. Jedi likes the clicker because it means "food's a comin'." (Remember, he's a food whore.) We started out slowly, just clicking for standing still. Now we're working on the front feet. When they are square, he gets a click/treat. Then we'll increase duration before moving to the back feet. Eventually (hopefully soon, but I don't want to rush it) he'll understand the picture I'm looking for. THEN we'll add distractions. Ideally he'll develop muscle memory and be able to walk into the stack with little (if any) need for adjustments. Will it work? I hope so! I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, Jedi and I have increased our walking in preparation for the Chariots of Fur 5K next month. NEXT MONTH! I'm a bit anxious. Hopefully this will help with our gaiting as well.

I'm thrilled be able to include this post in the inaugural Training Tips Tuesday blog hop because:
  1. I need help! I can't wait to see what other (and more experienced) dog owners have to share; and
  2. I want to help. If my bumbling and fumbling is able to help somebody else -- especially a newbie in the ring like me -- then maybe my mistakes won't seem so bad.
We'll have to revisit this in December and see how far we've come. Until then, check out the other posts in the hop. And please share what you've learned. You know I will! -- K

Monday, January 6, 2014

Back in the Ring

Jedi and I are getting back in the show ring! RK and I entered our boys in three of the four Gator Classic shows in Ocala at the end of the month. It's a little sooner than I wanted, but they're the last shows within a 2 1/2 hour drive for a while. I would have liked a little more time to prepare. (But honestly, that would have just been more time to stress.) RK and I sent in the paperwork this weekend and now we're trying to figure out how to do this on a budget. Any suggestions?

Meanwhile, Jedi and I are having marginal success with stacking. And I still run like a girl -- an out of shape, uncoordinated girl at that. UGH. Good news is that conformation classes at K-9 Obedience Club start back up on Wednesday. There's also a class on the other side of town on Tuesdays. It can be a 45 minute drive during rush hour. But it's a different teacher and a different group of dogs, so we should probably try to hit that one a couple times a month too. At $8 a class, this is going to add up quickly! Too bad dog showing isn't like NASCAR and I could pay for my hobby by selling advertising space on my dog. OMG, wouldn't that be funny! I guess I can save a little money by packing my lunch instead of eating out. Who knows, maybe I'll lose a little weight while I'm at it. In the meantime I'm going to work on that NASCAR thing. -- K

NASDOG (Needed Assistance for Show Dog Owners Group)
Think it'll work?

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Jedi's Journal

The real Jedi Journal
Last week I posted a picture of my beautiful boy on the cover of the Jedi Journal. It was super cute, but that magazine doesn't exist (yet). Truth is, there's a real Jedi Journal, though it's not nearly as fancy. This journal was given to me to my breeder and dear friend, RK. For Christmas she got us each a journal to record all our training efforts -- the good, the bad and the ugly. So far we're stuck in "bad' and "ugly."

Jedi's "cover photo." He's so handsome!
This all started when we went to the Eukanuba Dog Show last month. RK and I were ringside watching the German shepherds when she suddenly turned to me and said "We're going to do this next year." She may have even made me pinky swear. On the way home she was very adamant about working our dogs up (she has Jedi's brother, Chili) and showing at Eukanuba next December. Now that Eukanuba is an open show (up until last year it was invitation only) the only things holding us back are nerves and the higher than usual entry fee. I think the entry fee was near $100 this year.

RK has researched the local and not-so-local conformation classes and is already sending me reminders. She is a woman with mission, and it looks like I'm training for Eukanuba! I guess I'd better start saving my pennies.

I'm excited. In all seriousness, I want need to step up my training if I'm going to make my goal of 10 AKC shows this year. It's nice to have a training buddy to help keep me on track. So my friends, expect to hear lots of training and showing news this year. You and I both know that this blog is the ultimate Jedi Journal. TTFN, -- K

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Old Tyme Jedi

I've been playing with sepia again. This one reminds me of Strongheart and Rin Tin Tin from the silent films. What do you think? -- K

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Cover Model

It's been cold and raining ALL YEAR and that has really cut into my plans. (OK, it is only January 2nd, but still . . . I live in Florida for a reason!) It's too wet to walk, conformation class was cancelled, and I've seen all the reruns on TV. I've spent the last couple days just catching up on my favorite blogs and surfing the internet. I found a place online where you can make pretend magazine covers. I had way too much fun! See?
Do you want to make one too? Click here for the site. It's free! And if you do make one send me a link (or leave a link in the comments) so I can ohh and ahh at your creativity. Have fun. -- K

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Wordless Wednesday

Happy New Year!
Jedi and I look forward to seeing what comes our way in 2014.
We posted our resolutions for the new year yesterday. How about you?

Word Art

For the Pet Blogger's Gift Exchange last month bloggers got to know each other and then shared their new friends with everybody. It was great! I had the privilege of being paired up with Jozi the Corgi and the Pussycats. I wrote a Top 10 post that encouraged everybody to meet them here. If you haven't checked them out, do it now. I'll wait.
Wasn't that fun? I enjoyed Jozi's pictures so much that I shared them again here. Seriously, isn't Jozi in the Santa hat just the cutest thing you've ever seen?
Cat wrote a really nice post about me here. It's interesting to see what somebody else gets out of your blog. Kind of scary too. I was touched by her kind words. But then she sent this:

OMG! How awesome is this?! I'm speechless. I love it. And I had to share it -- but not before I sent it to Walgreens to have it blown up, printed on glossy paper and framed. I might even turn it into a mouse pad. Or a coffee mug. Or both! I'm so overwhelmed. What creative things would you do with it? -- K