Monday, October 25, 2010

The Incredible Egg

The Cardigan front is the hallmark of the breed.

It is also the most difficult to understand, for breeders, exhibitors and judges alike. It is also the most frustrating thing to breed for. In a single litter, your fronts can run the gamet from too close to too wide and everything in between. Breeders that are new to the breed often keep the puppy with what they think is the best front as 8 week-old puppies, only to end up with a dog with too much "crook" at a year old; or too wide/straight.

One common issue that I find is that there is a great deal of misconception regarding the shape of the chest. The correct Cardigan front is egg-shaped; the widest point of the egg at the top, tapering to a gentle point at the bottom. As we call it in Judges Ed; an Upside-Down Egg.

Without the proper shape of the chest, the entire front is going to be thrown off! You simply cannot have a pretty, sound, cradling correct Cardigan front, unless you have a properly shaped chest to begin with!

So... please go to your refrigerator, and grab an egg...

(I apologize for these photos; we buy organic eggs from free-range chickens and I did not realize until I embarked on this project that not all eggs were as clearly formed as others- so the differences may not be as obvious.)

The correct Cardigan front will cradle the properly shaped brisket "like an egg in an egg-cup". The moderately broad chest, egg-shaped brisket is well let down between the forelegs. The forelegs curve about the rib-cage. They have a prominent prosternum (forechest) The curve in the forearm makes the wrists appear somewhat closer than the close fitting elbows. Feet point slightly outwards, to a maximum of 30 degrees (11:00 & 1:00) The feet are forming a base for the "egg-cup" The curve of the forearm is cradling the properly shaped brisket. There is no "empty spaces"- no daylight showing between the elbows and the brisket. It all fits together like the well-designed puzzle that it is.

If you compare these two eggs, you notice that the egg on the left is more tapered, coming to a gentle point- more like the "upside down egg" that we want in our Cardigan chest. The egg on the right is flat at the bottom.

Take the egg in your hand, and turn up upside down- feel the point; turn it right side up- feel the flatness.

Lets talk about THE DOG

The shape of the chest can be felt at birth- and can be seen very early on. Many things will change, and certainly the shape of the brisket is not the sole reason for keeping- or not keeping a puppy! But- remember what I said earlier- you cannot have a proper Cardigan front without a properly shaped chest!

This 7 week old male exhibits a properly shaped brisket. Notice how the forearms curve around the chest, and the very noticeable point. Compare this to the photo of his littermate, below. The properly shaped brisket was present at birth. Unfortunately, there were some other virtues that were lacking in this puppy, so he was placed in a pet home.

This puppy exhibits a very flat brisket. Although he has curve to his forearms, they do not cradle the brisket. His front resembles a "staple" or box. This improperly shaped brisket was there at birth, and did not improve. Although he had other virtues that we liked, he was placed in a pet home. A male with an incorrect front has no place in a successful breeding program, or show home.

Evaluating Your Dogs

I cannot stress this enough. If you are not sure where your dogs virtues and faults lie- ask for help! Please --DO NOT use an all-breed (all-rounder) judges opinion of your dogs as a rating scale. The CWCCA has very excellent educational material available for breeders; visit the Ways and Means section on our website for more information. Visit the Cardigan Commentary website- MAKE the time to attend National and Regional Specialties. Move out of your comfort zone a little- instead of only talking to the people you know- instead of only working within your own local groups- try reaching out to breeders outside of your area! You might just be suprised at what you learn!

I have said this before- and at the risk of sounding like a broken record-I am going to say it again... If you want help- and you want to improve -- you need to ASK for help! No one is going to come up to you , and offer to mentor you! We have mentors available all over this country! We have good mentors available- who are more than willing to spend the time and effort! I know that I speak for all of us when I say that we ONLY want to do what is best for our breed!

Just ask!!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In The Pink of Things

At the risk of getting myself in hot water (so what else is new) I am going to make a public statement:

I feel it is time for the CWCCA to stop hiding its head in the sand about the "Pink", or ee Red issue.

I am not going to attempt to explain the genetics behind the pinks, or ee reds, here. There are other websites and blogs that are far better qualified and do a much better job than I could ever do on that subject. If you are interested in more information on exactly what an ee red is, I would suggest you visit Cathy Ochs-Cline's website (

The reality is that there are many truly lovely dogs and bitches being born that are ee reds. The misfortune in this is that they are not "really" red; ie- they don't breed true- a red bred to a red will produce red. A "pink" bred to a red will not always produce red. As a matter of fact, the owner of a pink may not know what color their puppy really is- since testing the puppy will only result in being told it is an ee red.

And then there is the ethical question:

I have personally never seen a pink with naturally black pigment (naturally being the key word here.) I am told that they exist- but I cannot attest to that. Every pink that I have ever seen has had some shade of brown or grey pigment. And... if the nose is brown in the winter- even if it turns black in the summer- its not normal- natural- black pigment.

Our standard is very clear on this. To quote: Nose black, except in blue merles where black noses are preferred but butterfly noses are tolerated. A nose other than solid black in any other color is a disqualification.

Do I feel that these stunningly beautiful Cardigans that are born pink should be DQ'd-- ABSOLUTELY NOT!!! -- but the way our standard reads-- they should be-- and showing them "au natural" risks a DQ under a judge that knows his stuff!

Of course, there are "ways" around the pigment issue-- anyone that has been around the grooming tent at any dog show knows that products abound to take care of a little color issue on some pigment... Right? But... how ethical is that? Really??

Lets see... The AKC Rules and Regulations for Dog Shows state that a judge may disqualify any dog that he feels has been changed by artificial means (pg 46-47). The judge may also excuse and/or withhold awards any dog he finds artificial substances in the dogs coat or skin (pg 49), and the owner/exhibitor may be liable for disciplinary action.

I am sure, right now, you are thinking that no judge is going to really bother with all of that... but let me assure you that there ARE judges that DO bother...

With brown noses being a DQ, and with so many lovely pink puppies being born, what are we to do? The current standard literally forces ethical breeder/exhibitors choose between violating AKC Regulations or placing their best puppies in pet homes.

A Possible Solution:

The following breeds allow for brown or liver noses within their reds or red merles and brown dogs:

Australian Shepherd; Bearded Collie; Border Collie; Canaan Dog; Polish Lowland Sheepdog

I propose, rather than throw away otherwise exceptional specimens of our breed, we open a new color variation of the breed- which would allow for the unique coat color, which is without black hair; as well as the lighter pigment.

This would eliminate the stigma that has been attached to these dogs, and allow for a greater understanding of the genetics. There have always been "pinks." This color didn't just suddenly appear in a random litter in the early 1980's in Texas~ The only reason we are seeing more of them and hearing more about them is we talk about it now. And that is a good thing!

Some of the best puppies I have seen of late have been pinks! Without question, the best overall puppies in my last litter were the 2 pinks! My choice to place them was one of the hardest decisions I have ever had to make!

We, as breeders, cannot ignore the ee Reds. They are not going to go away! Right now, the top 5 dogs in the country all carry pink! A new person to this breed would be hard put to try to find a line that does not have someone in the pedigree that doesn't have some ee Red in there.

There are FAR WORSE things in our breed, then puppies being born pink! We have many more serious structural and breed type faults to be worrying about! Its a crime to have to pet out an exceptional quality puppy because it has brown pigment!

Every breeder has to set their own standards, and their own comfort level. I don't fault anyone for making their choices to show, or not show, their ee Red dogs. My hope is that the CWCCA Board Members will consider appointing a committee to examine the issue, and perhaps, in time, we will see a standard revision that will allow these beautiful, sound, typey pinks to be shown "au natural"- and admired for all that they are.

Of course, this is just my opinion!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bugsy and I have something to celebrate!

Several months ago (the very end of May, to be exact) I injured my left shoulder while pulling a basket out of the top of my closet. Ultimately, I ended up with Rotator-cuff tendonitis and Adhesive capsulitis. As a result, I wasn't able (allowed) to work with the dogs, or even take them for walks on lead.
Bugsy was half way through his RAE, and doing beautifully on his Open Obedience training when I was injured. To say the least, this little vacation has been devastating. I don't know who has missed training more!! I have felt so bad for him!
The good news is that my Physical Therapy has been successful well beyond anyones expectations, and I can start training again! I am hoping that after a really short refreshment course, Bugsy and I can start back after his last few RAE legs!
Then, of course, there is his Open work, and Agility... and maybe even some more Herding in his future!
We can hardly wait to get started!
Hope to see you at an Obedience trial soon!!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Where are you going? Where have you been?

The educational world and the business world are full of tests to tell you what kind of person you are: What is your learning style? How strong are your organizational skills? How to be a better ~ insert career here ~ person. There are all sorts of standardized tests that you can take to improve your communication skills and thereby your chances of success in the business world.

Breeding dogs is a bit different: for the most part, our "tests" are made up of bone and flesh and fur... and sometimes we don't know if we got all the answers "right" until the "experiment is 2-3-4 years old... or older!

The experienced breeders keep copius records; something that has become so much easier with improvements in technology! For example:

In my first Cardigan litter, I took photographs of each puppy at birth, and then each week until they left home. I labeled each photo with the puppies birth number, and kept the entire mess in a big envelope, along with the birth records, pedigree, contracts, and photo's of the parents. In a separate envelope I have show pictures of the puppy that I kept from that litter, Shelby. I happened to find that envelope the other day and spent some time looking at those pictures.

Where have you been?

By and large, the entire litter lacked bone, had oval bone, had straight, wide fronts, and was without the angulation that I would expect. In short, if this litter were born today- I would put them all in pet homes.

At that time, I didn't have a clear idea of what a "correct" Cardigan Welsh Corgi was supposed to look like. I was too new in the breed. In truth- I should have never bred that litter. I had only been in the breed a few years! I didn't have the experience to select a stud dog for my bitch; let alone choose which puppies were worthy of moving forward. I was encouraged to breed my bitch because "She was OK"-- and my own male was a Champion-- and that was reason enough! I *thought* I knew what I was doing!

Where are you going?

Before you make the decision to breed that first litter, do you know where you are going? Do you have a clear understanding of the Standard of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi? I don't mean, can you recite the standard word for word-- can you put those words into action? Can you explain Why our breed has a wrap front? Why our height/lenght ration is 1:8-1? What breeds were instrumental in developing the Cardigan? And why does that matter?

Furthermore- can you correctly evaluate your bitch? Do you know, deep in your heart, what all of her virtues, and all of her faults are? Are you absolutely positive that her virtues far outweigh her faults? And, are those faults minor faults, that will not have consequence to the health and well-being to her offspring? It goes without saying that your bitch will not possess any disqualifications, and that all of the standard health testing is complete.

Before you prepare to breed your bitch, you should have a vision in your head (or soul) of the ideal Cardigan Welsh Corgi. There are no perfect dogs. But, hopefully you will have had your hands on enough high quality dogs to recognize the best of the best when you see them. Before you breed that first litter, you should have made the effort to attend several National and Regional Specialties, so that you have opened your mind to the quality that is out there. It is a disservice to yourself, and the breed, to only see local dogs, or to only see photographs. Do your homework, and investigate different bloodlines in order to find the right stud dog for your bitch. The best stud dog may well not be the most convenient, or the "cheapest". There is absolutely no benefit to the breed for anyone to breed for convenience; thats what back-yard breeders do! Serious, concientious breeders breed to improve the quality of the breed. With the advent of fresh-chilled semen breedings and frozen semen breedings, there is no reason not to breed to the best possible dog, since distance is no longer a consideration!

Think about where you have been- look at the dogs that you started out with. If your desire is to improve upon what you have, and move forward with a successful breeding program, you need to take advantage of the resources that are available to you.

The CWCCA Website and the Cardigan Commentary Website contain information that can help tremendously. Our breed has a wonderful Breeders Education program available to members.

The future of the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is in the hands of every single person who is contemplating breeding a litter.

Please handle our breed with care; it is precious to us!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sharing the Wealth ~ Letting Go

Tomorrow morning, we say goodbye to Arrow; Ch. Xtacee Cowboys- N- Indians. Arrow will be boarding a plane for a VERY long ride to Alaska and will become a cornerstone for their breeding programs.

It was not an easy decision to make, to send Arrow that far away. Lisa and I had decided that we were ok with placing him. And, we had decided that he was way-to-nice to put in a pet home! (Finishing his Championship undefeated in 5 shows with 4 majors had "something" to do with that...) Arrow needed more attention then he was getting here, and yet didn't have the personality or the attitude to "make it" as a special in our very competative East Coast dog shows!

But... There is more to this strange turn of events that led Arrow to be Alaska bound...

Just about the time Arrow was born, my dear friend and Mentor, Marieann Gladstone judged in Alaska. Following her assignment, we talked about the entry, and she commented about a conversation she had with one of the exhibitors up there, and that she had suggested Arrow's father, Nicky, for their bitch. That breeding never came to pass, but as soon as I posted that Arrow was available, lo and behold, an email came from Alaska. I can't help but think that Marieann had something to do with putting this all together!!

I am excited about the opportunities for Arrow! He is such a quiet, unassuming dog. He doesn't ask for much of anything except love (and food), and gets along well with just about everyone. He has an exceptional pedigree that will work well for our breeders to the far north, so I am looking forward to seeing the influence he has on their puppies. And, I am very happy to have made new friends in Alaska~ maybe now I will have an excuse to go visit there someday!!

I just wish he didn't have to be in a crate for 20 hours to get there! Thats a really long time for a little-bit-spoiled Arrow!

Best Wishes, Michieal and Eric-- and Arrow!

Monday, August 16, 2010

This is Why We Do This...

I am often asked why I breed and show dogs. I have to admit, sometimes I scratch my head and ask myself the same question!
Why do I spend the majority of my weekends, all of my discretionary income (and some of my not-so-discretionary funds) to have some person pass their opinion on my beloved dogs? Why do I lose hours of sleep and burn miles of rubber traveling to shows? How come I live in a house that has been modified for the comfort and convenience of my dogs, rather than myself?
This past weekend, I was reminded why I do this... in Spades!
At the Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club of the Western Reserve Specialty, I had the pleasure of watching one of my "puppy people", who has become a very dear friend, finish her very first conformation title on her very first Cardigan!
Terri Clingerman and "Cricket", aka Ch. Xtacee Over the Moon (Ch. Kimberwicke Domino Effect x Ch UlaMauna Xtacee YahooDoray RA, CGC) completed her championship under judge Janet Robinson on Saturday by being awarded Winners Bitch from the 12-18 class; and then topped it off with an Award of Merit. The following day Cricket was awarded Best in Sweepstakes!
Admittedly, Terri's home is a special home. Terri came to me looking for a multi-purpose Cardigan; her main focus was performance. She also wanted something that she could play with in the breed ring. Finishing Crickets championship was a goal, but not the primary goal. The fact that Cricket finished so quickly and well is an added bonus!
Terri trained and handled Cricket completely on her own. Because she had never shown in the breed ring, everything was a new experience. I enjoyed watching her grow as a handler, and am particularily proud of how much she has learned about Cardigans in the short time she has been part of our family.
Which brings me back to the question of why we do this. As a breeder of well over 20 years in Cardigans, I feel its my responsibility to be there for new Cardigan owners. I also feel I am obligated to only place in show homes those puppies that are truly worthy of being shown- in other words- nothing less than what I would show myself.
While at Western Reserve this weekend, I had a conversation with another Cardigan breeder/judge on this subject. There seems to be a multitude of new Cardigan owners out there; the majority of which seem to be floundering about with a lack of direction. What happened to their breeders? Where are their mentors? Its important that breeders understand that their responsibility does not end when the check clears!
I wanted to publicly congratulate Terri for a wonderful job with Cricket- and hope that she enjoyed her Western Reserve Specialty=-= as much as I enjoyed watching from the ringside!
Congratulations to a great team!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Its a Priority Thing

This should be called a Public-Self-Flogging Blog- or something of that sort.

I BLEW IT-- I mean- I REALLY Blew it this weekend, and I owe Bugsy a HUGE apology. But, being a dog- and a wonderful Cardigan, at that, he forgives me. Because he is just like that! He is perfect- he doesn't care that I pushed him and his needs to the side... wait... let me start at the beginning...

Bugsy is, first and foremost, a most AWESOME dog! He is a totally cool DUDE of a dog! He isn't always the easiest dog- because he has this wonderful BRAIN~ he actually thinks~ which has been known to get him in trouble! He hasn't always had the best life- but since he has been back home where he belongs, he has been my "Best Buddy". We have had an ongoing Training Date Night, where just the Bug Man and I went to training class, and he learned about Obedience and Rally- or Agility- but it was a PRIORITY in my life- and that special me and mom time was important to Bugsy.

This summer has been a bit rough. First of all- emotionally, I haven't been there. I lost two dogs, I lost a good friend, I can't find a job... its all been playing on my mind alot. And... Money has been really tight... And... School has been tough...And... its been so hot...And... And...

I made the decision to change Obedience Instructors, but hadn't committed to a new Instructor yet- so was sort of sitting in Limbo (which became really comfortable) No training fees to pay- one less worry- Blah Blah Blah

So along comes a three day trial, indoors and air conditioned, in which Bugsy is entered. I have no idea WHAT I thought. I haven't really worked with the poor dog in weeks! I mean- occasionally I would toss a collar on him and take him out in the yard and do some heeling- or I would toss him over some jumps or through a tunnel. But I ignored his longing gaze from the yard every evening... I ignored my training bag gathering dust on the shelf... and I ignored the fact that my performance dog was not getting any attention!

I deserved EVERYTHING I got, didn't I?? I didn't make Training A Priority!!! 1,000 lashes with a wet Noodle!!!

I KNOW better!! I know that Cardigans are too smart for this-- I know that, given the opportunity, they will devise their own way to occupy their brains, and their time! I also knew that I was in trouble the second that I attempted to step into the Rally ring on Friday!

Note: I said attempted!

Because, after over a month of leisure, Mr. Bugsy planted his feet and said "I don't have to do this- and you can't make me..." I did finally get him in the ring... only to have him bolt as soon as I told him to drop the toy on the Figure 8!

The total of the weekend??? Entered 6 classes; only 2 Q's-- Luckily, (I guess) he Q'd in both Rally Exc. B and Rally Adv B on the same day- so he did get 1 leg toward his RAE-- but he very badly NQ'd in both classes on Friday, and in Advanced on Sunday---

Oh- and Exc on Sunday-- I blew past a sign and NQ'd for him.---

So- on to the Public Self-Flogging! One Thousand Lashes- Let the punishment begin!

Its time to make training a priority- and to quit making excuses. My dog deserves a much more dedicated trainer because he is one heck of a great dog!

I'm sorry, Bugsy- I'll try to be better next time!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chicken or the egg...Where to begin?

My original lesson plan for today was "Evaluating Show Prospects". However, after talking to some friends, and looking at some other blogs this morning, thought that maybe I would start at the beginning. After all, show dogs all had to come from somewhere- lets take a look at planning a litter.
For the purposes of this particular blog entry, we are going to assume that the bitch that is being bred has completed her Championship, finishing easily. Her temperament is sound. She is in excellent health, and has passed her customary health clearances with flying colors. (We will discuss health clearances in a later Blog- I promise!) You, as the upcoming breeder-of-record, have set aside plenty of money to pay for stud service and Veterinary emergencies in advance, and have cleared your schedule so that you can be available to take care of the puppies when the time comes.
Now its time to discuss who we are breeding the princess to!
I have to tell you that I am frequently amazed (and often dismayed) at how some people go about choosing a stud dog. I have to really bite my tongue more often than not, and if you know me at all, you know that is really hard for me to do! :-)
There is REALLY only one thing to consider when choosing a stud dog- which dog is going to do the most for MY bitch?
Win records, location, amount of stud fee, convenience, your friendship with the dogs owner... none of these should really matter!
All too often, bitch owners choose stud dogs that are either A) near by- therefore eliminating the cost of shipping semen/bitches for breeding; B) Owned by friends- thereby perhaps saving on stud fee's, or at least showing a gesture of favoritism, or C) Big Winners- assuming that just because a dog is Winning Big it is going to Produce Well with every bitch.
The issue lies in that if dog A, B, or C does not possess the qualities needed to help your bitch, you are not going to be moving forward with your litter. At best, you will be treading water- at worst, you will be sliding down river!
The wise bitch owner must be highly critical of their bitch. You must know both your dogs virtues and faults. You should be familiar enough with her pedigree to have a good idea where those faults and virtues most likely came from. Any breeder that wants to move forward with their breeding program cannot afford to be kennel blind, or to look at their breeding stock with rose colored glasses.
But how to know which stud dog is really going to be the best dog for your bitch?
The first question I, as a stud dog owner, ask when someone calls to breed to my dog is "What do you want to fix in your bitch?" Now, obviously, we are not going to FIX your bitch- but what we are hoping to do is to produce puppies that do not have the same faults as your bitch! (and yes, I have had people tell me that there was nothing that they needed to fix in their bitch- and our conversation comes to a very quick end-- every bitch- and every dog- has faults!)
The second question I ask is "What do you like about your bitch?" This tells me a great deal about priorities, as much as it tells me about the bitch itself.
I always ask the bitch owner why they are interested in using my dog. I want to know! I need to know! If they want to use my dog because he has produced well with another bitch, that really doesn't mean that he is going to produce well with their bitch, and I need to let them know that! Maybe that other bitch is related differently, or compliments my dog better. If, on the other hand, they tell me that they feel that our dogs compliment each other, that gives me a better feeling.
With the advancements in shipping fresh-chilled semen and frozen semen, there is simply no excuse for breeding to a local dog- unless that dog is TRULY the best dog for your bitch! Yes- shipping semen is marginally more expensive, but isn't your litter worth it? Isn't your goal to produce the absolute best quality dogs possible, rather than another litter of mediocre dogs?
Choosing the right stud dog is not an easy task. While the people next door may be able to find a dog down the road to impregnate their Labradoodle- those of us who are breeding to improve our breed have a different outlook on the process.
It should not be an "any-dog-will-do" choice!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

When is a Champion Not a "Special"?

People show dogs in conformation for many reasons, and I applaud those that decide they want to learn to show their dogs! Showing dogs is a wonderful hobby and can bring you many joys. It's a great family activity, and a super social network!

Along the journey, many people decide that they want to have a "Specials" dog- they want the glory and the recognition that comes from having a Champion that competes at the Group and Best in Show level. A dog that can achieve national ranking on Breed and All-Breed levels.

So, then, the decision will be whether or not their dog is a "Specials" prospect. Or... When is a Champion worthy of being a Special?

Because, you see, there is a VAST difference between the two. There are a multitude of dogs who complete their championships in accordance with the AKC requirements every weekend. The majority of dogs who complete their titles will never see the inside of a show ring again, going on to be performance dogs, companions, or retiring to the whelping box. The smallest percentage of dogs go on to Fame and Glory as "Top Dogs"... Right?

Well... maybe??

How do you decide which of those Champions to run on and Special, and which to retire to the sofa? Is it a matter of win records coming through the classes? Money in the bank? Handler on the end of the lead? Attitude of the dog? Or... a magical combination of all of the above?

First of all... Specials Dogs (or bitches) must be SPECIAL! They must be of EXCEPTIONAL Breed Quality. That means no major breed type faults! That means without major structural faults. That means they don't require trimming (in our breed), dyeing, braces, corrective surgery, or pigment coloring in order to enter the ring!

Mediocre dogs- those dogs without MAJOR breed faults, but with several "niggly" faults- can be successful specials-- with the right attitude-- the right handler-- the right judges--- But you need to ask yourself what your really telling the Cardigan world when you show that dog. Is that dog really exceptional? Or... is it really just a great Generic Show Dog? And... which is more important to you? Are you in this for the Wins (ego) or for the breed recognition?

One big win in the classes, or finishing easily, doesn't make your dog a shoe-in for a Super Specials Career! For example: The photo on the top of this blog is my own Ch. Xtacee Cowboys-N-Indians (Arrow), taken at 4 months. Arrow had a most stellar show career in the classes. Shown a total of 6 times- he was at least WD/BOW 5 times and finished with 4 majors undefeated in the classes- except at the CWCCA National Specialty- where he placed 3rd in BBE at 9 months of age. Along the way, he was BOB over Specals 1 time, and earned a BBE Group I.

From his early start, you would have thought that Arrow was bound for the big time, but we have decided to place him. Because he has what I consider a major breed-type fault, I won't special him- Judges do not need to see Cardigans with major faults being shown. (They see enough of that in the classes.)

Ego plays a large part in the Dog Show world- perhaps too big of a part. Its much more fun to win than to lose. Campaigning a Special is a very expensive, time consuming, life encompassing endeavor. If you are going to ivest that amount of time and money and self into this, you must make sure that the dog is worthy of that investment. It is very hard to separate your emotions when trying to decide whether or not to special a dog, so I suggest taking the decision out of your hands.

We give younger hopefuls (those dogs that we are considering specialing) a trial run. I will enter a handful of local shows under judges that I know are at least knowledgeable and respectful of Cardigans. I make sure that my dog is in condition and at least trained well enough that he won't be overlooked on behavior. At the end of those shows, I will evaluate what our win/lose ratio was. Sometimes we are very pleasantly suprised (Sera- Herding Group I her first show- Specialty BOB /Group IV her second show) - other times we realize that this dog is not going to have what it takes, and the dog stays home- or may come out at a later date.

You do need to know your breed, and know how to evaluate your dogs before you can even begin to make the decision, When is Champion Not a "Special"!

I wish you all the best of luck and LOTS of Blue and Gold ribbons, as you chase those Rainbows!

I'll see you around the rings!


Friday, June 25, 2010

Competing in the Bred-By Exhibitor Class

Hi All!

I have to first apologize for my delay in posting the next chapter- my computer was at the Computer Doctor (that is really the name of the business...) and it took longer to repair than we anticipated! I am so relieved to have it back at home...

Today's subject is on my favorite- and least favorite- class at the dog show; The Bred-By Exhibitor Class.

BBE is my favorite class to compete in, when I can. It says to the world (and the judge) that I have bred this dog- that I am responsible for creating this dog- and that I am very proud of what I have created. Please keep that sentance in the back of your mind.

BBE is also one of my favorite classes to judge, when I have a good entry. The pride in the handlers; the quality of the entries; THIS is what judging should be about!

I want to share with you one of the most valuable lessons that Marieann taught me. (and at the time, it wasn't a lesson I felt I needed to learn...)

Why do YOU enter your dogs in Bred by?

Is it because of the reduced entry fee that is offered by some clubs? Is it because you want that imitation gold medallion that the AKC offers?

Maybe its because some judges will point to a dog out of Bred-by for the points...whether or not they deserve it?

OUCH!! That sounds pretty harsh, doesn't it?? Sorry- but its the truth! There are LOTS of reasons that people enter the Bred By class- and most of them are the wrong reason!

If you remember NOTHING ELSE from this blog- PLEASE remember this: There is a VAST difference between ELIGIBLE for Bred- By Exhibitor Class, and WORTHY of Bred-By Exhibitor classes.

The Bred By Exhibitor Class is the only place where breeders have the opportunity to show where their breeding program is going. The dogs they enter in BBE are the dogs of their future; dogs that they are proud to have their names on as Breeders and Owners and Exhibitors.

Many judges will hope to find their absolute best class dogs in the BBE class. Thats where they SHOULD find their best dogs! When we mentor new judges, we hope that we find great dogs in the BBE class to use as examples!

The BBE class is not the place for dogs with major breed type or structural faults; questionable temperaments, or poor movement!

Not every dog that you, as a breeder, regardless of your time or experience, will produce, is worthy of being finished out of the BBE class! They may be eligible to be shown in Bred-by, but are they really worthy?

Think about that for a minute... Think about the dogs you are currently showing...

It takes far more talent for a breeder to evaluate show prospects, and choose which ones are truly outstanding and worthy of that BBE Medallion- and which ones need to be shown in Puppy/Am Bred/Open (or not shown at all) than to toss everything in Bred-by and save a few bucks on the entry fees! Yes, eventually they will finish regardless of which class you enter, but what have you said about your breeding program, yourself, your standards... Your Breed???

Lets go back to what I said earlier...

"BBE is one of my favorite classes to compete in. It says to the world (and to the judge) that I have bred this dog, I am responsible for creating this dog, and I am very proud of what I have created."

If you are showing dogs in the Bred By Class that you are less than thrillled with, they are in the wrong class! The decision to enter BBE or not is a decision that only you can make; its a decision that ties into your standards, your ethics, and your goals.

The quality of the dogs you show speaks to the judges... and believe me...the judges remember!

If you are not proud of that puppy, and sure that it is something outstanding, maybe it doesn't belong in the Bred-By class! If that youngster that you have been showing in BBE isn't pretty darn close to your ideal= maybe you would be better off in Am Bred or Open!

Moving on, remember I said that the Bred-By Class is also my least-favorite class, at times?

From a judges standpoint, there is nothing more heartbreaking then to look out at your Bred-By entry and see entries with bad fronts, straight rears, freaky temperaments...etc. To be honest, the first time it happened to me I was shocked- then insulted- then downright MAD!! Unfortunately, I have gotten used to seeing some pretty mediocre dogs in the BBE class!

Bred By Exhibitor should be every judges strongest class. It should be the class from which most points are awarded! It should be the class which holds the greatest depth of quality!

I urge you to be critical of your own dogs, and before you enter the next dog show, decide "Is she/he TRULY worthy of being shown in Bred-By?"

Friday, June 4, 2010

Become a Student of the Breed

Student: One engaged in a course of study.

Study: The process of aquiring knowledge; examine thoroughly; apply the mind to learning.

In order to succeed in any venture, it makes sense that one must be prepared. In order to read and write, children go to school. Before they are allowed to drive, they attend drivers education. No one would expect a surgeon to pick up a scalpel without spending years in medical school, would they?

Why, then, do we expect that we can successfully breed and compete in dogs, without first learning everything about the history, purpose and structure of our breed?

Most people fall into showing dogs, and end up with their chosen breeds without a great deal of forethought. Novice owner/exhibitors have a "pass" on the education for awhile, as they have so many other things to learn about our very complicated hobby.

However, if your goal is to step beyond the perpetual novice status, you need to become a student of the breed.

Being a student of the breed is more than being able to recite the AKC standard. Can you put that standard in other terms? Do you understand the Whys and Wheres of the standard?

Lets think about this for a minute.

The Cardigan Welsh Corgi is related to which group of dogs? Which modern breed(s) are our closest relatives?

Our standard calls for a very different front end assembly than the Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Why? They are both Corgis... Whats the difference? Why do we have different colors? What about coat texture? What is the difference in their heads?

How many times have you had non-dog people ask you the difference between Pembrokes and Cardigans? I'm sure you know what the differences are-- but do you know WHY they are different? Do you understand what those differences mean in the way the dogs develop?

Lets go back to studying the breed...

How much do you know about early Cardigans? Do you know the names of the first male and female Cardigan Champions? Do you know who imported them to the US? What about some of the most influential bloodlines in the US? Canada? Great Britain?

As a student of the breed, you should be reading all of the great articles on our breed. I can't encourage you enough to visit the Cardigan Commentary website and read each and every one of the articles that is posted there; those articles are written by many of the icons in our breed.

Get your hands on as many Cardigans as you possibly can. Learn to find that "upside down egg" and prominent prosternum; correct wrap, moderate angulation, correct coat texture, sloping croup- all of those things that we talk about.

Attend the National Specialties! I cannot stress this enough! No where else will you see the depth of quality in Cardigans. No where else will you have the chance to pick the brains of so many experienced people. In addition, the CWCCA allows its members to attend the Judges Education seminar, so you have a fantastic learning opportunity in that!

As you become more experienced in Cardigans, branch out a bit. Start to watch our related breeds: Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, Skye Terriers, German Shepherds. By learning about our cousins, you can learn to appreciate our breeds finer points. *Note-Pembrokes are a Spitz breed and therefore not as closely related.

By becoming a student of the breed, you will hopefully ignite the same passion for the breed that inspired some of the great breeders and mentors. Its an education that never ends, and one that has such great study partners! Our breed needs people who love the breed for what it is, and what it was, and are willing to work very hard to educate the rest of the fancy on what a great breed the Cardigan Welsh Corgi is.

Best of luck to all of you! I hope you enjoy your education as much as I am enjoying mine!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Pay It Forward

The Cardigan world- no- the entire dog fancy- was dealt a cruel blow with the untimely death of Marieann Gladstone on Friday. I am sure that most of the people reading this have their own memories of Marieann, and share the immense sense of loss.

Personally, I cannot think of a single other person "in dogs" that had a greater influence on me- who I am- how I think- what my goals and aspirations are. Unfortunatly, I don't believe Marieann knew how much her influence meant to me. I know I never took the time to tell her- I always thought there would be another chance.

I was wrong.

Marieann was many things, to many people. She was more than my mentor; more than my friend. Although we might not always agree, I always respected her opinion. She taught me about dogs, yes; but more importantly, she taught me about myself. In her very quiet, but very firm way, she never let me get away with making excuses or accepting mediocrity. From Marieann I learned about ethics and standards and values; and I never had a chance to thank her.

I will always regret that.

While discussing the untimely loss of our mutual friend, and how badly I felt about never telling Marieann how I felt about her, another friend suggested that I "pay it forward." ~ that I share with others all the things that I learned from Marieann over the years.

So, over the next few weeks, in the pages of this blog, I will attempt to share with you all the things that Marieann taught me about. I don't have her wonderful way of gently getting the point across without stepping on anyone's toes, but hopefully no one will be unduly offended.

We have lost a great friend and a great asset to our breed. There is no way that I, or anyone, can make up for what she offered. In a large way, my sharing is a way for me to heal as much as it is a way to pay tribute to one of the finest people I have ever had the privelege of knowing, and being able to call a friend.

Blessings to all of you.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Size Does Matter

OK- I have to ask you all a question... when was the last time you read the Cardigan standard? Do you know what the recommended/suggested size of the ideal Cardigan is?

Next question... Do you think that the majority of the Cardigans being shown/bred today are within that size bracket?

Now- I assure you I am not on a witch hunt- and I have always been of the "balance is more important than absolute size" mind set- but- I am getting concerned about the size of some of the Cardigans I am seeing in the rings- and the comments I am hearing, both from exhibitors and breeders- and judges!

To quote our standard: "Ideally, dogs should be from 30 to 38 pounds; bitches from 25 to 34 pounds. Lack of overall balance, oversized or undersized are serious faults."

Think about the male dogs in your house, or the male Specials you have seen out in the last year. What do you think they weigh? What about the bitches?

Imagine what would happen if you took a 30 pound adult dog in the ring? Have you shown a 25 pound bitch?

The fact is, you will be far more successful with an OVERSIZED dog or bitch, then you will be with a correct sized Cardigan. I find that disturbing.

What I found even more disturbing is that I am catching myself looking at my own dogs and wondering... is he going to be big enough? Is she too small? I look at 38 pound dogs as being on the "moderate" size- when, in reality, they are at the top end of the standard. Where I used to say my "Big Boy", Nicky, was as big as I would ever want to have in my house- I realized at the Nationals that he was just average in size.

Size DOES Matter people! The Cardigan is NOT a Large Breed Dog with short legs. Our breed is "a handsome, powerful, small dog." We need to keep that in mind when making our breeding decisions. We need to remember that when choosing which dogs to show.

Bigger is not better- nor is it correct. Bigger may be more impressive to Group judges- but if the judge knows the breed, and is worthy of your respect, he or she should be able to find that correct, balanced, and sound dog of the proper size.

If the breeders don't make the effort to show the dogs of the proper size, how are the judges ever going to learn?

Next time you are evaluating that litter of puppies, please fight the urge to keep the biggest puppy in the litter; think moderate!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Choices and Priorities

Life is all about setting priorities and making choices. We learn that very early, when the decision is whether to play with our friends, or stay inside and finish our homework. It's a little bit depressing to discover that things don't change too much when you are an adult, isn't it? In fact, not only do you still have to make those tough decisions [Do I eat that chocolate cake, or do I go to the gym? Do I go to the office, or do I hang out at home with my spouse?] the consequences for our choices are so much more serious!

The same thing transfers down when you live in a multi-dog household, with multiple interests and venues.

Do you finish that championship first, or start on Agility/Obedience now? Should I breed my bitch NOW- or wait until after I finish her CD? Should I spend the money to go to that important dog show, or should I pay the credit card bill ["You get two notices-- TWO notices!!"]

Sometimes life- those Realities of Life- you know, the stuff that generally really Sucks--gets in the way of the things you really want to do. Things like JOBS- SCHOOL- MONEY--FAMILY-- all take us away from spending as much time as we would like to doing the things we want to do with our dogs.

Which- brings me back to my first line- Life is all about setting priorities and making choices.

I tend to go through this on a regular basis; this taking stock of where I am in my "dog life." Who do I have in the house- what am I doing with them- what do I want to do with them- what SHOULD I be doing with them that I am not able to do-- etc. I always end up with a "where do I go from here..." session...

I am a goal-setter, but unfortunatly, I tend to set somewhat unreasonable goals. I think it goes along with being "slightly" competative- Type A personality. As a result, I get frustrated when I haven't attained all of the goals I had set for each dog in the time period I had set aside! Inevitably, my frustration leads to a sense of disappointment with myself- never the dogs, for its never their fault!

However, in January I made only one New Years resolution- to not set unreasonable goals for myself- in any area of my life. I don't need to have the cleanest house, the best grades, spend every weekend with my grandchildren, and have the top obedience scores or the #1 Cardigan. Any of those would be wonderful- but I don't NEED any of them- and I don't need to make myself- or the people around me- insane while I try to reach unreachable goals.

Accepting that I have limitations is not easy- nor is lowing my personal bar a bit to allow for some breathing room. I have had to constantly remind myself that its all a matter of My Personal Choice...

My priorities have definitly changed! Whereas in the past I would be showing every weekend, I am enjoying the time I am spending at home with my husband and my family and the dogs. I am really enjoying working in Obedience and playing in Agility. My husband and I are looking forward to taking a vacation together, and we haven't done that in a long time!

Breeding and showing dogs is a very greedy hobby- it will quickly take up all of your available time and money. If I can offer one word of advice to a new person coming into our sport, it would be to go slow- take your time, and learn early on to set your priorities and make smart choices! Don't let dogs shows take over your life- and don't find yourself over run with dogs! Its not fair to the dogs- or to yourself- and especially not to your family!

And- no matter what- remember to have fun! It's all just a game!!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Home from the Nationals

We are home from the CWCCA National Specialty! PHEW!! What a week!!

We had a fabulous National Specialty! We brought home lots of Rosettes and coolers (trophies)! I think the count on Rosettes was 20 at my house, another 4 or 5 at Lisa's house, and then there are those that went to Mandy's house, and Terri's house, and Lisa Phillips' house....

We also brought home 2 new titles!! Yeah for Bugsy---aka--- the dog who could not be trained! Bugsy now has a CD and an RE behind his name~ with placements for each leg earned! He finished his RE with a first place and a score of 99, too! His CD scores were not quite that impressive, but it was good enough for a second place! Bugsy can now brag that he is a balanced dog-- Ch. Xtacee PV Bugsy Malone CD, RE, HIC--- now to get serious with that dumbell and drop on recall... and agility stuff!

Sera (Ch Xtacee Moonlight Serenade) won the 2010 CWCCA National Specialty Brood Bitch class, followed by her beautiful puppies, Morgan and Will-Smith-Jacob. For me, this was the biggest thrill of the National; this is the first time I have ever won this award. Sera also made it to the bitter end in Best of Breed~ but no AOM~ again. Maybe the 3rd time is the charm? Guess I will have to take her to another National to find out? Sera did win the Best Blue Bitch award in the Megan competition for the second time.

Jitterbug (Ch. Xtacee Lifes A Dance) won Best Black Bitch in the Megan- and by the end of the week, had somewhat learned to stand still and bait! Her show career is over; now we can have fun learning rally, and agility, which is her real love anyway!

The Veterans had a lot of fun! Granpa Nicky won the 11 +older class, both in the Sweeps and the regular classes! He really enjoyed being a show dog again- of course, it will take him a week to sleep off all the excitement!

George came back, almost 2 years post surgery, with style. He won the 7-9 Veterans class Sweeps and Regular classes, amid cheers and tears! He loved being in the ring, and moved out with almost the same beautiful foot timing. George was given an Award of Merit in Best of Breed- a fitting end to his show career! Now George can hang up his show lead, next to his AOM ribbon!

Terri Clingerman joined us for the week, with Cricket (Spotman x Dora). However, Cricket opted to leave her hair at home. None the less, Cricket placed in her Sweepstakes class and showed beautifully all week! I think we may have Terri almost converted... she is starting to think about a second cardigan, anyway!

Little LeeLoo (Xtacee the Fifth Element- Sera x Powell)- had a great time, too! She placed in all of her classes, and won her sweeps and her regular class on Sunday at the Del Val Specialty. She is quite the head turner! Such a sweetie!! Her owner, Lisa Phillips, is obviously head over heels in love with this girl!

Morgan did not learn to be a show dog over the week- but he certainly had fun trying! He placed second in a very large 6-9 sweepstakes class, and then I threw him to the wolves and showed him in Bred By Exhibitor against all the adult dogs. He was the youngest dog in the class (6 months, 3 days) and yet he placed Fourth!! Go Morgan!! On Sunday he won both his Sweepstakes class, and the Bred-By class!

And the, last but certainly not least, is Will-Smith-Jacob. Owned by myself and Mandy Bossi (and trained by Caitlyn, of course), WSJ strutted his stuff to win the 6-9 puppy dog class, and then on to Reserve Winners dog.... and BEST PUPPY IN SHOW at the CWCCA National Specialty 2010

I am already making plans for Texas-- and hope to see you all there!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

CWCCA National Time...

Are you getting excited yet? It's almost time for the CWCCA National Specialty!!


Two or three years ago, when I was asked to do the Juniors Program, and then a few minutes later, "Hey Kathy, you'll do RV Parking, right?"-- it didn't seem like such a big deal! After all- I was working full-time; my job was secure (or so I thought)- I would be on vacation- I would have lots of help(!!) and it WAS the local specialty!!

Fast forward to 2010... Perhaps I should have titled this Blog... My, how times have changed...

Less than a week until THE BIG EVENT...

1) I am unemployed~ However, instead of being on an unending vacation- I am in school full time, and our Nationals just happen to fall two weeks before Final Exams for Spring Semester. If you remember back to your college days, that means that our National falls during the LAST week of classes. The week I get back from the Nationals will be what they nicely call "Reading Week"~ which actually means your last ditch chance to get any and all assignments in to the professors in for grading...

What this has meant to preparation for the National has meant several bouts of absolute PANIC! Like- OMG- I am NEVER going to get all this CRAP done in time to leave- kind of panic!

Not to mention that I have been carrying 18 credits this semester; I mean- SERIOUSLY- only CRAZY people do that!!

2) The Good news is I have had quite a bit of help from other CWCCA Members and friends to pull this together- and I may actually survive this experience with some semblence of sanity.

That is, providing that nothing else goes wrong in the meantime...

Between school, my husband, my petsitter, my children, my car-- and the RV parking issues and the Juniors gifts and whatever else seems to not be cooperating... it does seem like there are forces bigger than me trying to keep me away from this years National Speciatly....

AT any rate... My intention is to have a GREAT time- see all my friends, enjoy all the wonderful Cardigans, and create wonderful memories to keep me going until the next CWCCA National Specialty!

I am looking forward to seeing everyone next week! Travel safely!!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Bugsy in Syracuse

I decided to take Bugsy to Syracuse for the Obedience and Rally Trials. I wanted to see just how much I needed to work on before the Nationals~ knowing full well that Bugsy really wasn't ready to compete in Novice B obedience, and that he still had some issues for Rally Excellent!

Besides, it was a great excuse to visit Terri Clingerman and Cricket (Spotman x Dora), who has become one of our absolute favorite puppy people and a great friend!

The original plan was that Lisa and I would only take George and Bugsy up for the weekend so that we could devote undivided attention to the "smart" dogs... but it didn't quite work out that way!

1) we forgot it was Easter weekend, which meant that Lisa didn't have a dog-sitter! Her daughters had "other plans" so would not watch her other dogs

2) Sera and Jitterbug both came in season- and while normally all of my dogs can go out together, and my hubby is wonderful about taking care of them when I am away- the two girls don't get along when they are in season, and naturally the intact boys can't go out with the in-season girls... so a quick calculation made it obvious that we were going to have to bring a few extra dogs along for the ride.

Friday evening we arrived at Terri's just in time to see a brand-new baby lamb! I wanted so badly to bring her home! So very cute! We walked the dogs and visited with everyone and settled in, then enjoyed an incredible dinner with Terri's family.

Saturday dawned as a beautiful, sunny day! Temps were in the low 80's~ a complete suprise in Syracuse, NY! We left the "extra" dogs at Terri's house, since she has such a wonderful set up and we weren't going to be gone all day.

Rally Excellent started walk-through at 8:30, and Bugsy was the first dog in A. It was a complicated course- the judge really liked those cross-ring angles! Mr. Bugs was AWESOME and right on target until we got to the "Back up 3 steps"~ I backed up... Bugsy sat down and watched me!... OOPS! So I circled him back out of the station, and we tried it again (3 points there!) The second attempt was only slightly better- Bugsy turned sideways and walked toward me instead of backing. ~

Our score in Rally Exc. A was an 89- we lost 10 pts on that Back up station, and a point on the pivot Left~ but it was good enough for a 2nd place!

We were not as fortunate in Novice B!

Focus was an issue in Obedience~ Bugsy must have felt my apprehension come down the lead! He lagged on lead and through the figure 8- Moved his feet on the Stand for exam (GASP-- he never does that in class...) then came the off lead heel...

Bugsy spied a dried leaf off to the left, so he went and picked that up as soon as we started the off lead heel. He carried that through the rest of his off lead heeling. He did all of his sits- most a bit crooked. Heeled very wide on his about turns- (making sure he was checking outside the ring, you know...) The good news was he stayed on his recall-- and he did his finish-- almost perfectly!! Final score was a depressing 174-- but at least he qualified!

Back to Terri's~ and some intensive training on focus and attention~ we even trained right next to the sheep pen!

Then we got to watch the amazing Cricket train on the sheep (I just love that little girl!! Just wait to see all that dog can do!) and had a scrumptious dinner and crashed for the night...

Sunday was a bit chilly and we were all tired... even the dogs seemed tired! Because we were leaving directly from the show, we had to load the van and bring all the dogs.

Once again, Rally was first. The class was smaller, probably because it was Easter Sunday (Good people were in Church). This course had better flow, and the stations were less challenging; Bugsy, however, was not as focused this morning. (or maybe it was me?) We finally clicked about 1/3 of the way into the course~ the last station was the Back up 3 steps== once again- I backed- Bugsy stood up on his hind legs, turned toward me and stood still. I circled him around and came back into the station, and the second time he did a beautiful back... I was THRILLED (this station has always been tough for us!)

We ended up with a 94 and 3rd place-- losing 3 pts on the back- a single pt on a 360 (sniffing), a single pt on his sit/stand/down (took 2 commands to down) and a single on his halt/call front/finish right/ (finish crooked).

On to Novice B-- without time to put him away for much of a break! I proofed him on his stand really quickly... did some play/release/quick sits first... and off we went. I was, frankly, worried- since he was not really into it in Rally.

So I worked really hard at being very cheerful in Obedience- I heeled him very quickly- smiled a lot- tried to maintain eye contact with him. In between exercises, I did a lot of physical "touch" - good dog- rah rah stuff (which I normally don't do except in training)

He "felt" good! I knew he heeled a bit wide a few times, but his sits were better- he was with me more- and he was connected. He stayed for his stand and his recall was great~ his finish could have been better (sat crooked) but it was acceptable.

On his stays he ended up on a steel grate covered with matting; I was so worried he was going to break; I could feel the grating shift when I left him and he was fidgeting. Thats the longest 1 and 3 minutes!!!

Final score was a 189--- AND a 4th place!!! For a dog that is really not ready~ I was THRILLED!!!

So~ the final tally for the weekend was 2 Rally Exc legs and 2 Novice Obedience legs going into the National~

AND~ a wonderful weekend with some great friends!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Website Woes

My old website is dead and buried. is forever gone. Gone with it is all the hours of work I put into it~ which makes me very sad! I had a lot of great stuff on that website, including a guest book that dated back 7 or 8 years!

I have purchased another domain name through GoDaddy- my new website will be

All I need is the time to upload photos and put this new website on the "map". Of course, Time is the one thing I just don't seem to have enough of these days!

However, I did decide that the format of the new website will be slightly different. My new website will contain the basics about Xtacee Cardigans; the photos of most of the dogs, and information on upcoming litters, and a little about my history in the breed.

But the "meat" of the website- all the writings about CHD and raising Cardigans and Raw Diets and positive training and discussions on the standard and breeding ethics-- and any other subjects that jump into my feeble brain- Iwill post on my blog. I will make sure there is a link to the blog from my new website, but people will have to look a little bit to find stuff!

Hopefully, it will make things a little easier for me to maintain, as well. I know that my website was not as timely as it could have been, and I also know that I don't "blog" as often as I should.

At any rate, look for the announcement on the new website being up and running sometime in the next few weeks.

Until then... just remember that Patience is a Virtue... or something like that!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Worth Bragging About

Morgan the "Wonder Puppy" aka Xtacee La Amistad.

Morgan is the baby boy that stayed here from my Powell x Sera litter, and is shown in this picture winning his THIRD-- yes, thats right---THIRD major match win; at 3 1/2 months of age. For the record, he's been shown at just 3 matches.

Hence... The wonder puppy...

Morgan's first match experience- and first time on a lead- was the Lehigh Valley Kennel Club Canine Learning Experience Puppy Sweepstakes- 3 months and 4 days of age- and Morgan came out of the ring with Herding Puppy Group I under jude Liz Muthard (OES breeder and AKC judge); total puppies defeated- 37. COOL!!! I was pleased~ He moved like a little trooper, sort of held a stack for a few seconds, and discovered that hot dogs were Gods Food! Thats a good way to start any little show hopeful!

Day 2 of Canine Learning Experience was going to be tougher! Judge was a GSD breeder/judge who admitted he knew NOTHING about Cardigans... "Oh Well" thought I "Its great experience for the puppy" Morgan learned more about stacking and baiting, and learned about waiting in a crate until time to play in the ring. He learned that its fun to have people pet you- and learned to go in the ring with all the BIGGER puppies and that was way cool!!! Color Me Shocked when the judge pulled my little baby Cardigan to the front of the line, and awarded Morgan Herding Group I-- Again! His comment as he handed me the ribbon... "Do all Cardigans move that well?" (Hmmm... shall I tell him the truth?)

So... on we go to the Very First Corgi-Mania! This event is co-sponsored by the Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of the Garden State, and the Garden State Cardigan Welsh Corgi Club, and was held on Valentines Day. Having nothing better to do... (see post on keeping my life in balance...) Morgan and I went to Corgi-Mania to support the event. I had planned on also taking Bugsy, and working him in Obedience, but a late night out with friends made an early morning pretty much not likely- so Bugsy stayed home.

By now, I have drug out the Stacking Stilts, and Morgan and I have had some remedial training on what STAND and STAY mean. >>> It didn't help much- but I did make the effort!<<<

Under Pembroke & Cardigan breeder Sherri Hurst, Morgan was awarded Best of Breed Cardigan- and then, to put the Icing on our Valentines Cake- was given Best Puppy in Match!

Needless to say-- I was Thrilled with my baby boy! He needs LOTS of training (how many days until the Nationals?) but he really LIKES to play show dog, and that is half the battle!

Now- confession time--

I wasn't "thrilled" with Morgan as an 8 week old puppy. He was the best male puppy in the litter~ but I wasn't convinced that I needed to keep him.

But then... I wasn't really "thrilled" with his mother, Sera, either. And look what she turned out to be??

Maybe I should always keep the dog I am really NOT all that thrilled with...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Life's Balancing Act

Have you seen the movie National Treasure, Book of Secrets?

There is a scene in the movie that perfectly illustrates what my life is like these days! The cast is in a cave- which isn't the important part- but somehow they all end up on this huge platfor which is teetering on the brink of an abyss. In order to prevent disaster they have to maintain this perfect balance- if they move just a tiny bit too far to one side or the other, the platform shifts and throws them all off balance- DISASTER!!

My life of late has become the same sort of balancing act! At each corner is another "responsibility" pulling at me- Family, School, Dogs, Kennel Club, Friends, Training, Housework-- all of the "shoulda-woulda-coulda's" If I spend too much time in one area, the platform tips- and I face inevitable disaster! Try as I might, I can't seem to make everyone happy, or fit it all into my schedule. There are just not enough hours in the day or days in the week!

Of course, I knew that this semester was going to be very intense; I have more credits this time around, and all of the classes are heavy on the assignments. I anticipated that I was going to have to spend more time studying and thought I had prepared my family that I was going to need more help around the house and with the dogs. 'Nuff Said on that one!

Of course, in perfect accordance with Murphy's Law- I have these beautiful puppies~ Morgan and Lucy. What was I thinking keeping not one, but TWO puppies? I don't have time for 2 puppies- I barely have time for the adult dogs....

And... speaking of the adult dogs... Bugsy is working so well in Rally and Obedience, and I miss training him in Agility. I really love taking him to class and working with him. Jitterbug just LOVES to train- in anything- she just likes to WORK!! "Mommy Mommy ask me anything and I will do it" She is so incredibly smart- and picks up everything so quickly; I feel guilty that I am not working with her more. And, of course, there is Sera, who, now that her Specials career is over, is ready to begin some serious performance training too!

You know that you have your priorities a bit off kilter when you spend a Sunday afternoon working on a project for the Kennel Club you belong to, instead of with your grandson, at his last cub scout Pinewood Derby, and his moving up [to Boy Scouts] ceremony. But... thats exactly how I spent last Sunday, I am ashamed to say. Hubby took the time to spend with our family- and I am thankful for that!

Of course, I do try to make time for my friends- probably more so than I should. But every girl needs her friends. I mean, seriously-- who else am I going to vent to when I am running from side to side on this platform thing of mine, trying to keep from falling into the abyss? My friends- whether it be the real life flesh and blood type, or my Facebook friends, or my friends from school, one way or another keep me sane! Friends are the only way I can keep in balance with everything that is going on!

Now, you will probably notice that in my grand balancing act the one thing I didn't mention is housework. On my list of priorities, it falls pretty far below less than important. When I do my 'to-do' list, somehow I never seem to get to the part that says dust, vaccum, scrub. There are so many more important {and fun!} ways to spend my time!

Life is really nothing more than a giant balancing act! I love my life; don't get me wrong! I can't imagine giving up any of the activities that keep me so busy, so I will have to continue to perfect my timing and ability to prioritize,

And pray for Balance in my life...

Friday, January 15, 2010

Bringing up Baby Part 1

All of our puppies go to their new homes with a packet of information on diet and early training, and the very strong recommendation that they enroll in a Kindergarten Puppy Training class as soon as the puppy has completed their vaccinations. When I talk to new puppy owners, whether my own, or clients, I stress the importance of early socialization for all breeds, but in particular, herding breeds. We talk alot about the intelligence of the herding breeds, and their ability to think through a situation; as fun as that makes them to live with, it can cause problems if the puppy is not socialized early on!

Just by virtue that the puppy has left its littermates, it has gone through a traumatic experience. I like to send my puppies home between 9 and 11 weeks of age, so this is a fairly pliable stage for them to make this transition. Its very important that the new family keep up with lots of positive reinforcement in the puppies life!

One of the things that I have adopted is a chart that I include in the New Puppy Packet, for the owners to hang on their refrigerator. This chart is divided into 1 week intervals, and there are 24 items on the list that I feel each puppy should be exposed to at least one time each week. I expect that each family member make a committment to helping the new baby have a positive exposure to the new experiences. Some of the items on the list include: Babies/Toddlers; Uniformed people; People in hats; bicycles; shopping carts; strollers; slippery floors; people with Loud voices. By the end of the 25 weeks, if the chart is followed properly, each puppy would have been exposed to all 24 items a minimum of 7 times. If the puppy is upset or unsettled by something, I advise the new owners to NOT comfort the puppy- but ignore the reaction, and either just stand or sit there and let the puppy think it through, or distract the puppy with something else. The worst thing you can do is to baby a puppy that has become frightened! This just reinforces the fear!

Another item that is in my New Puppy Packet is "5 Easy Tips for Training"- a simple guideline for teaching your puppy to enjoy walking on a leash. As a Vet Tech, and having taught KPT and Obedience classes for many years, I am amazed at how many dogs just do not know how to walk on a leash without pulling- and how many dogs just simply do not enjoy being put on a lead! This should be the most FUN thing for your dog! "Wow! Mom {or Dad} is putting on my special clothes to take me with THEM!! I can't wait" should be their attitude!! All too often I have been told that owners have had to drag their dog out from behind the sofa to put a collar on their dog so they could bring them to class! How Very Sad!!

Using my method, the puppies are introduced to light collars and a light lead from the day they go home to a fun game in the house! They learn the "dance" that we call leash walking! Its always positive- its always fun- and they learn that when they pay attention to mom and dad, there is praise and treats involved- and mom and dad are just the greatest things in the world!

I always insist that puppies go home on a weekend, and recommend that at least one family member plan on taking a few days off to stay home with the new baby. There is nothing that will set a new pet up for failure faster than rushing housebreaking. Young puppies have limited control over their bladders and bowels. It is simply cruel to expect them to remain clean and dry in a crate for more than a few hours at a time. In addition, puppies need food and water throughout the day!

I use a crate attached to an exercise pen for keeping a young puppy whenever I cannot be at home. In the crate, I will place the puppies' bedding, his water bowl and his food dish and favorite chew toys. At the very farthest end of the ex pen I will layer "pee pads" or newspaper. This allows the puppy the opportunity to "go" away from his bed; you don't ever want to force your puppy to have an accident in their crate.

However, when I am home, the ex pen is folded up- and I use the crate for naps and feeding. The rest of the time, the puppy is either in a small area with baby gates where I can watch them for the "signs" that they have to go potty, or on a 10 ft lead attached to my belt loop- so that I am always within sight of my puppy. I frequently take the puppy outside to the potty area, and repeat the magic words that I use to exercise the puppy- and praise them lavishly when they are successful- and take them instantly inside. I always take the puppy outside the same door, and have a cluster of sleigh bells hanging from the door handle, which I let the puppy touch with their nose or paw as I go through the door.

As the puppy develops control, they will soon learn to run to the door, ring the bells to go outside- but you need to listen for those bells!!

Most of Bringing up Baby is common sense! They are very smart; in fact, they have the mental capacity to learn everything they need to complete their Utility Degree training at 8 weeks~! The trainer just has to break it into small enough sessions for their reduced attention span! There is no such thing as a Cardi puppy that can't be house trained- or can't be trusted in the house. Most of the dogs with bad house manners are the result of sloppy training as a youngster.

By being diligent those first few days and weeks at home; by socializing your new puppy carefully, and by teaching your puppy to love being with you, you are building a foundation for a long and wonderful relationship!

Enjoy those first few weeks- its a lot of work- but its a magical bonding time!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Puppy Commencements

Remember that old Carpenters song... We've only just begun...A Kiss for luck and we're on our way...

Thats how it always feels when we send our baby puppies off to their new lives. They have only just begun to live- I kiss them on their little noses and send them off with a new family into a new world! It's pretty scary, I have to admit!

After probably a year or more of planning a breeding; 60 some-odd days of gestation {and lots of dreaming and praying along the way}; and the 10 weeks of watching those formless lumps turn into beautiful Cardigan babies, it's hard to let them walk out the door!

No matter how much screening I do {and I do screen my puppy-people very thoroughly} I never really KNOW them well enough. When I trust someone with one of my puppies, I am entrusting them with a big part of me! Thats really hard to do! Not only that, but I am letting this complete stranger take away a puppy that has become a little person! I know what each of my puppies likes, and doesn't like. I recognize each of their barks and whines- how they like to be held- what their favorite toy is. These puppies have pretty much been the main focus of my life for the past 20 weeks, at least; and all of a sudden its Puppy Party day.

A few litters ago, I had an idea that I would have one Puppy Commencement Day; a single Saturday event, where all the new families would come to my home to pick up their companion puppies. At the same time, they would get to meet the other families, have some constructive play with all the puppies, meet the parents of the puppies when possible, and I could do a mini-puppy kindergarten class. I generally put together a light lunch and a decorated cake {Welcome to the Xtacee Cardigans Family} and everyone spends the afternoon just enjoying Cardigans.

Today was the Sera x Powell and the Dora x Nicky puppies Commencement Day. Because of the time of year, I rented the training room where I go for my Agility classes- and everyone met there. We had a great time!! The puppies had so much fun running in the big room {we took the equipment down, except for a tunnel to play in} and the families had plenty of photo ops with Nicky, Sera and Dora playing and running with the puppies. At the end of the afternoon, puppies are tired and ready for a nice nap in the car, on their way off to their new lives. Several new friendships are formed, and plans are made to get together in April at the Nationals!

Now that I am home, however, its quiet. There are still four puppies here- one that is waiting for the weather to break for a flight to North Carolina; one that is going to New York when his new Mom gets done with some family obligations; and the two that are here to stay. Its still much quieter than it has been! Now my own puppies can have their own Commencements...

Its so exciting...

I'm Never Ready

I am never ready to let them go.

I am sitting in my "dog office" at 3:45 am. Laying at my feet is my old man, Chase. Born 5/20/95, son of Ch. Phi-Vestavia Embers of Xtacee, a littermate to Eng/Am Ch. Phi-Vestavia Evan Evans- and sired by Ch. Phi-Vestavia Oedipus Rex. Chase has always been a character- he has always had an opinion- it was his way or No Way!

Just 3 pts shy of finishing his Championship, on a very cold December day, Chase decided to take a short cut off our deck down to the ground to see the girls running below. He didn't bother with the steps- he climbed up onto the picnic table and jumped to the frozen ground. He ended up going down that night. Lots of prayer, Dexamethasone, Robaxin and crate rest and he was up and around in a few weeks, but it was over a year before he got that last major. We had nicknamed him "Chasing Majors" by that time!

Chase finished his CD in 3 trials- with decent scores- and each time, by making the judge snicker at least one time! Training class was always comical- my instructors would tell me to MAKE him be more precise...they just didn't understand that no one makes Chase do anything he doesn't want to do! Needless to say- Chase didn't WANT to learn dumbell- so we never went any farther than his CD!

But Chase always had personality! He knew when it was dinner time- and even as his eyesight began to fail, and he lost his hearing- his tummy had a perfect clock. All the other dogs in the house respect Chase- he has special priveleges- he is the first through every doorway- and he can have any bone he wants; no one argues with him. If Chase wants that bed- the other dogs move out of his way! Chase is "The Man"

Over the last year, we noticed that he was getting lost in the yard- barking at the back of his crate- sleeping more and more. We started him on Anipryl to try to improve his cognitive function. This winter, I stopped putting him outside with the younger corgi's- they just ran too fast and played too hard, and more often than not, Chase got bumped around. He had fallen a few times, and I didn't want to risk him being injured by their play. And... he really just wandered around the yard now anyway. So, Chase had his own yard time, and he was happy with that.

This afternoon, when I went to let him back in, he wasn't standing at the door waiting for me, as was his usual routine. He wasn't even in the nearer part of the yard- and he hadn't ventured away from that part of the yard for several weeks. As I ran to the house to get my coat and boots, I knew that something was wrong.

I found Chase in the very farthest back corner of our yard. The yard is about 500' x 450'- so thats quite a distance for a 100+ year old man to toddle in the snow. He had curled up under a bush, with his face pressed up against the privacy fence.

I brought him in and warmed him up; took his temperature, called my husband- of course, crying all the while. As Chase warmed up, he started wandering- in an endless circle to the left. Occasionally he would stumble and fall-then he would get back up and start circling again. I offered him water and food, which he ignored.

When Gus got home he examined Chase. His temp is still subnormal; his CRT is slow; his heart rate is very low. The endless circles have stopped, but Chase has sought out the darkest, farthest corner of the room to lie in.

I think it's time.

The rational, thinking part of me knows that Chase has most likely suffered a neurological incident. The selfish part of me wants God to take him; I don't want to make this decision. And in my heart, I know that I owe this wonderful old dog, who never asked me for anything but love, a peaceful and painless journey over the Bridge.

For now, he is sleeping comfortably- his head on my foot. In the morning, well, we'll see...

Friday, January 8, 2010

People are AMAZING!!

I am consistenly amazed at people- in general. Not always in a good way, mind you!

The end of last week, we x-rayed Splash, in preparation for the breeding to that Southern Gentleman; a breeding I had been looking forward to! I kind of got suspicious that all was not well when Hubby didn't call me and tell me how wonderful the x-rays looked by mid-day. When he didn't answer my text at 4:00, I started to get concerned- and my fears were realized when he came home and put the x-rays up to the light.

Yep- Splash is Dysplastic. Not your Very Typical Cardigan Chondrodysplastic Subluxated but no signs of DJD kind of Dysplastic-- Not even the shallow Acetabulum that we are seeing more and more of in our breed... Splash is bilaterally subluxated with marked orthapedic changes at 31 months of age.

Well SHIT!! Mom {Wednesday} has been spayed... Sis {Tosia- the dog that was SUPPOSED to be bred to Southern Gentleman} is dead... NOW what do I do???

Of Course, Splash is an incredibly Agile dog. She has never had a moments lameness- she runs and jumps and plays and sits up to beg! She has as much stamina in the back yard as Jitterbug- flies up the steps in nothing flat- and has the most fun jumping the obedience jumps in the yard! No muscle atrophy- not even any irregular muscle development. She is not a great moving dog- but she is straight in the stifle so her movement is quite stilted. Never ever did I or any of her co-owners hear any popping or snapping or any of those "typical" sounds of dysplastic dog.

But, being ethical, after many phone calls, emails, and sleepless nights, I decide that Splash is to be spayed and go to a forever home...

MEANWHILE... I recieve an email from a puppy person, who has a puppy from my March litter- puppy is just 8 1/2 months old:

"It is with much distress that I write to you today to let you know about our XXX. She has been diagnosed with moderate to severe bilateral hip dysplasia"

WTF??? Wait a minute!!! So I continued to read on-- popping sound--- no lameness--- original xrays by local Vet-- Sent to Cornell---

WAIT--- Vet is recommending :

TPO surgery IMMEDIATELY-- on both hips at 6 week intervals--- to give this dog ANY kind of normal mobility into adulthood???

To the tune of almost $8,000 bucks!!!!????


So- when I got done with my initial panic- and after talking to hubby AND pulling their contract {since naturally they are requesting a full refund of their purchase price etc. etc.} I sent them an email that said we would require a second opinion at our expense, and copies of all of their medical records to date on the dog.

The records came and so did the xrays. Now- if you aren't used to looking at chondrodysplastic hips, you may look at these and say- well- ok. But let me tell you- I WISH Splash's hips looked that good!!! Hell-- I wish MOST of my dogs hips looked that good!!! Yes, she is slightly subluxated!! There is absolutely NO evidence of DJD- the hips are well seated; the acetabula are well formed; these are good xrays!

I was fully expecting to see xrays MUCH WORSE than Splash's!

The medical records have NO MENTION of any lameness at any time in the dogs life. There is one reference to a slight popping noise in one rear leg on manipulation, which is why the owners brought the dog in to be seen.

Thats IT!!! Nothing Else!! No lameness at any time... No dislocation... No pain on palpation... No muscle atrophy... No irregular muscle development... No irregulararities in gait... NOTHING! Except a healthy young Cardigan with very typical, slightly subluxated hips and an over reactive owner, a Local Vet that isn't comfortable with orthapedics and Surgery Happy Cornell-God-Vets.

Now... Why would any ETHICAL Veterinarian suggest cutting up a perfectly functional hip, on a spayed, companion animal? What would make them jump to surgery FIRST, without ever recommending nutritional supplements, dietary management, exercise considerations, etc.?

Or more importantly, why would anyone consider putting this puppy through the pain of the surgery, the risk from the anesthesia- and the increased risk of osteosarcoma; the possibility of permanent lameness; the risk of nerve/muscle damage; the possibility of incontinence for the remainder of the dogs life-- if the dogs is not now- nor has it ever been- in any pain?

Had this puppy's xrays proven to show evidence of coxo-femoral dysplasia; had this puppy's records shown that the puppy was in pain; had suffered hip dislocation; had difficulty with mobility- anything at all that would have suggested that this puppy was not going to be able to live a normal COMPANION life- Gus would have done whatever treatments or surgeries were necessary to make this dog comfortable- at our cost.

I have a dog here, Chase, who the OFA failed at 2 years. He is this puppies great Uncle. His 2 year xrays are not nearly as nice as this puppies are. We never did a thing to Chase's hips, surgically. As are all of my dogs, he is on GlycoFlex. He was never allowed to get fat; he always gets lots of free run exercise. It's kind of ironic- he has never had a dislocation- or any hip lameness-or any major lameness at all. {Except when he jumped off the deck and went down in the back... but thats another story...} He has a little bit of trouble getting up and down stairs these days... but then... He will be 15 in a few weeks.

I think he's plenty of proof that just because a dog- particularily a chondrodysplastic breed, such as a Cardigan, is radiographically "dysplastic"- it doesn't require surgery to have normal mobility and a great quality of life- well into their senior years!

Chase- at 14.5 years-