Woof Wednesday: Putting On the Dog at Dog Shows

Last week, I’m sure a number of readers watched the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show on television. I’ve attended this event several times–I shot most of the pictures in today’s blog at Westminster–and it’s even more exciting and impressive in person.

In an email communication that mentioned the show, though, one passionate pet advocate expressed the hope that folks NOT watch the show. A finger was pointed at shows for promoting the sale of pets for profit, labeling the practice to be cruelty to animals that created the need for rescue organizations and shelters to deal with the cast offs.

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”431″ caption=”This Standard Poodle is not yet ready for his close-up! Again, taken in the benching area at Westminster.” White poodle in show wraps

”Yorkshire

Wow. I have to applaud the passion, and I actually agree with some of the comments. I also would like to see an end to the need for rescue and shelters, but I don’t believe banning dog shows (or cat shows) would stop indiscriminate breeding. Just take a look in the paper at the “free puppies” section—those are not dog show animals being bred for profit. Punishing the folks who research pedigrees, perform expensive genetic and other health tests before doggy match-making, fund ultrasounds, support research to improve health of all dogs (or cats) doesn’t account for numbers found in rescue, foster and shelter organizations. I know many breeders who include in their contract that should your circumstances change THEY will take back the dog or cat.

The only folks who actually make money breeding dogs and cats would never get one of their dogs into Westminster or a comparable show. If you heard my colleague David Frei comment during the broadcast, you learned that a majority of the exhibitors at these high-venue events are ALSO into rescue work, support shelters, do therapy dog work, visit prisons, are hunting dogs or SAR emergency teams, and help fund health studies that benefit all dogs and cats including shelter animals.

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”432″ caption=”Corded coats as on this Komondor served to protect the dogs as herders, but critics suggest the emphasis on appearance may not be good for the dogs.” komondor

”Notice

What’s the deal with showing dogs, anyway? The earliest record of a dog show dates to June 1859 in England and featured hunting dogs, while today the show world has expanded to include a much greater variety of breeds, types, and fun canine sports.

Conformation dog shows are the beauty contest of the dog world, like the Westminster show. But conformation goes beyond simple looks. Show judges must know what constitutes the breed “ideal” and measure each competing canine against that mind’s eye image to select the winner that comes closest. Besides looks, the dog’s health, ability to move, and even personality must be up to snuff.

”Appearance

Interestingly, after the 2012 Westminster winning Pekingese Malachy was crowned, quite a bit of outcry resulted not only from folks like rescue and shelter organizations, but also from those in the “show” world. You see, dog shows have a public relations problem—as evidenced by the comments that prompted this column. The breeding of some dogs to extravagant extremes that meets a “show” standard but may impact the health and well- being of the dog has been in question for years, from veterinarians and forward-thinking dog lovers. While the Peke breed was developed to be a lap dog/pet in ancient China, and the winner certainly fit today’s standard, the little guy epitomized all the complaints about purebred dog breeding favoring form over function. The coat alone would be crippling and lethal in a Texas summer!

Thank you to everyone who does their part for companion pets everywhere. It shouldn’t be an “us against them” mentality. I just wish that all the “good guys” from every arena—show, shelter, rescue, feral TNR, foster and more—worked together for the mutual benefit and against the common enemy—abuse, neglect, and more.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Tuesday Tips: Reverse, Reveal, Surprise

”Writing

Some of y’all who “like” me on Facebook know I’m deep into edits on a thriller WIP. Yes, I’m channeling my inner child to try my paw at some fiction writer-icity. Only time will tell whether readers will lap it up or howl and bare their teeth but it’s great fun for me all the same. Sort of like brain-candy as a break from some of the more serious nonfiction topics of daily work such as expressing puppy anal glands (EW!) or de-skunking your pet (double EW!). Actually some of that could make its way into my fiction since one of the viewpoint characters is a service dog. Hey man, it’s what I do!

DANGER! KNOWING TOO MUCH?

New writers are often told to write what you know. But there’s danger in that, too. When the author knows so much about a particular topic, info-dump-itis becomes a huge risk. (Guilty.) So in a way, writing about what you DON’T know might make more sense, and indulging in research only to the point needed to move the story forward. I really could care less how bullets are made, or why this gun sounds differently than that one. When I read a thriller I just want the gun to shoot when it’s supposed to.

BAD RESEARCH KILLS STORIES

But I also know readers who become distracted and jarred out of the story if the cop-hero carries the wrong firearm. I wouldn’t know or care. But I’m offended by authors who get dog/cat facts wrong in their novels–I’ve stopped reading at least one BSA for that reason when the hero/vet-tech gave her SAR dog Tylenol for muscle aches.

CHOOSING THE “WRITE” WORDS

How much is too much? What’s not enough? Just show the tip of the iceberg instead of dropping the whole lump-‘0-ice into the brew that takes the steam out of the story.

At least that’s what I believe Mr. Finder says in the latest video, below. I plan to take a page from his pacing playbook, too, and tape these three words above my computer: reverse, reveal, surprise.

JOSEPH FINDER SPEAKS

The past several Tuesday Tips have featured a series of video tips from Thrillerfest and best-selling authors. These include tips from Karin Slaughter,  a video of Michael & Daniel Palmer’s Thrillerfest Song,interview with master author R.L. Stine, Ken Follett, and  John Sanford.  Last week’s video featured pacing tips from Andrew Peterson and Jeffery Deaver.

Today I’ve got the next installment of that panel.  You can check out a boatload of Thrillerfest pictures here.  Where else but Thrillerfest could you get so much bang-for-your-buck with James Rollins interviewing a whole panel of best-selling-authors! Today the video offers tips on pacing and character from best-selling author Joseph Finder.

How do you manage characterization in your novel without resorting to the dreaded info-dump-icity? Do you season in details like salt and pepper–or do you throw everything in the pot to boil and worry about diluting the broth later? Is it important for the author to know all of that backstory to write valid, compelling characters? What’s YOUR biggest hurdle in the fictioning process? (Hey, I’m a writer–I can make up words if I want to!). Please share!

This video is only a small taste, of course. You can get the full deal recording (and those of the other panels) of CDs, MP3s and DVDs of Thrillerfest here.

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Do “Breastfeeding Baby Dolls” Suck?

”Snuggle

Now from time to time my writing certainly scores pretty dang high on the suck-icity meter, but today’s blog may just send you into the screaming into the OH-MY-GOLLY-WOMPERS heebie jeebies. We’ve had “nursing” baby dolls for kids for years, of course. I’m old enough to remember the “Betsy Wetsie” doll Grandma wrapped up for me one Christmas.

Aside: After having two sons, Grandma was delighted to have me to dress up in frills and spoil with dolls. Sad for her, I hated playing with dolls and even as a youngster, preferred stuffed animals when the real thing wasn’t around. That said, I inherited Grandma’s taste in bling!

Back to the subject at hand–I was delighted some year’s ago to discover the Snuggle Pets when I lectured at Tufts Animal Expo and I still have the Snuggle Kittie. There’s still a Snuggle Puppy available, but at the time the company even offered Snuggle Ferrets and bunnies and parrots. These plush toys include a battery powered heartbeat, heat element, and pocket for a nurser and serve as surrogate mom-objects to very young kittens and puppies. The idea isn’t new. Orphaned critters often “adopt” stuffed toys. Heck, the Magical-Dawg still uses his “bears” as doggy pacifiers (yuck! soggy misshapen heads on the things…)

As someone who adored playing make-believe with stuffed animals as a kid–hey, I had a flying cat named Snowball and a talking dog named Fluff–I can understand the appeal for children to use their imagination. And I suppose this first video might be a nice alternative to parents wanting kids to experience the fun of newborn puppies without the mess or hassle of poopy pick up or (horrors!) death. After all, a dead puppy just ain’t a fun gift. But what do you think about having a toy dog that actually NURSES the toy puppies? Check out that first video.

It sorta kinda made me go “ewww” but then I thought–people in my field constantly preach to the choir (and wish the rest would listen!) to spay/neuter, don’t breed, too many pups and kittens are born . . . so heck. Would this be a good alternative? Or should they also create a toy doggy that gives birth or a toy kitty that brings headless mice to your pillow? Hmnn.

So what sparked this deep thinking? Well, the Twitter-verse is a wondrous place, filled with amazing flotsam and jetsam and Wednesday I happened upon a Sweet Tweet with a link from CNN about a new doll for little girls. WordPress would let me embed that video so I searched YouTube and found another covering the subject. The doll comes with a little vest that allows children to mimic breast feeding.

Does that go off the scale in the OOOOK factor? Or is it a natural thing for little girls to mimic their moms and want to play-pretend this normal function? Heck, we encourage them to diaper babydolls or fill ’em full of water until they turn into leaky faucets. Is this so different? I’m asking y’all, because I only have the 4-legged kind of kids.

Great fiction writers have the ability to put in just enough reality to tell the story and create worlds of entertainment. Too much detail gets in the way. Is that what’s happening with these kinds of kid toys? Or is a six-year-old play-nursing her dolly more healthy than the kids killing zombies with transformers (or whatever the hell it takes to nullify the undead). What do you think?

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions. Do you have an ASK AMY question you’d like answered? I’m nearly ready to record a bunch of new ones, so be sure to get your requests in the comments. Stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, check out weekly FREE PUPPY CARE newsletter, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Playing Catch-Up…NOT!

It’s been a week from hell, frankly, and an emotional roller coaster for any number of reasons. Have you ever had a week where you could see NO progress made at all? As my dad would say,

Quelle frustration!

Most of the angst has to do with the death of my laptop, purchase of a new one, set up of the latter and rescue/recreation of files from the former. Today–finally–I’m back at square one and ready to forge ahead. I ended up losing (permanently) some dog/cat images and videos, but managed to find a backup of all the Ebook docs, yay!

And yes, next Tuesday Tips Kindle-ization Journey will return. I again purchased the video editing software (locked up on the DOA laptop) and should have the next Ask Amy video posted tomorrow.

When I look back, quite a lot did get done. I now have a better furry handle on content/topics needed with an updated to-do list. After months of hard work with my co-author, the orchestration, printing of music and script, and first read-thru with the cast last Tuesday night was both scary and exciting. And yesterday’s acting gig in Ft Worth added another credit to the resume. Now that the “must do” stuff on the acting side of things have been done, I can turn attention back to the “gotta-write” stuff.

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”500″ caption=”Just "leaf" me alone!” .

”"Excuse

I always feel like I play catch-up. Why is that? This week I failed to create my to-do list, and that leaves me feeling adrift without a map. My feelings of accomplishment seem inexorably tied to highlighting and crossing off little boxes on my calendar or notepad. And yes, it’s got to be pen-and-paper…physical list. Generating “to-do” lists on a computer isn’t the same.

Why is that? Do you feel like you lag behind the curve? Where’s that feeling of FINISHED!!! that’s so satisfying? I find that being my own boss and having no set work hours keeps me at the keyboard longer hours with always something–one more thing–left to address before I can shut down the work of the day. Is that common to our modern world or is it just me–or other self-employed folks? How do you get past the frustration?

Each time I start a book, I feel the overwhelming excitement closely followed by horrible realization that NOW I GOTTA WRITE THE @#$%^! THING! The only way to manage the angst is break it into manageable bites. That’s what my to-do lists offer. Losing the laptop threw me off my schedule and derailed that list, and so I flail and fail and feel fruitless (say that fast five times!).

But I can fix this. Chocolate helps. And a very specific to-do list. With lots of bright highlighters, so it looks like  a peacock spit up on the paper. Ahhhhhh….that’s MUCH better!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!

Thoughty Thursday: Procrastination, Backups & Thpbpbpbpb

I missed posting Tuesday Tips, the next in the Kindle-ization series, and I’m HISSED OFF! You see, I have most all of that series done, and ready to go. They’re all on my laptop.

The laptop that DIED this week. Thpbpbpbpbpbpb! (that’s a virtual raspberry)

Actually, we suspect the battery ran dry–and it won’t run on just the plug. I’ve ordered a new battery, and hope for the best–but prepare for the worst.  I guess the old laptop served well–letters on the keyboard had worn off and a couple of books were written on it including all the updates to the newly Kindle-ized titles. Come to think of it, that’s where I kept the final versions of the updated manuscripts.

THPBPBPBPBPB!!!

I’m the person who always arrives early for meetings and circles the block until it’s not embarrassing to show up. With few exceptions, I meet or beat deadlines. And I angst and grow gray hairs and sprout crow’s feet lines when I can’t cross off each item as finished.  These days, though, with 5-10 blogs a week plus two weekly columns and the puppies.About.com stuff–oh, and a co-written musical play to produce, fiction WIP, acting gigs– keeping all the eggs in the air without scrambling them on impact takes a toll.

[caption id=”” align=”aligncenter” width=”237″ caption=”Scratch THIS!” seren scratching 1

”Some

So my blog schedule and backing up files fell to the bottom of the to-do list. Often I can get a few done early on weekends, but–well, over Memorial Day I actually shut off work and played with the Magical-Dawg and Seren-kitty! So I planned to post Tuesday’s blog on Tuesday morning (instead of days or at least the night before). Fortunately I had edited and uploaded the Ask Amy youtube videos for this week so yesterday’s Woof Wednesday and tomorrow’s Feline Friday are ready.

Just a week or so ago, one of my colleagues lamented the crash of her entire computer and loss of files. That was a wake-up call. I nearly subscribed to an online backup service but was instead convinced by my tech-guy husband to use thumb drives. So nearly all of the work on the !@#$%^&! laptop had been saved just a few days ago–but not the Ebooks and not the blog notes and content.

”Strawberries

I can re-created it but at the moment the pity-party-whine-fest is much more satisfying. Oh, I quick-like-a-bunny bought a new laptop with higher speed, larger storage, and updated software.  And I’ll get a few more of those thumb-drives and put it on my schedule for backups with more religious fervor.

How do you procrastinate? Has it ever bitten you in the ass-ets? What are your top reasons to THPBPBPB? Don’t be shy–vent away. And bookmark this blog to remind you what crappiocca can happen to derail even A-type go-go-go plan-ahead people like you and me!

I love hearing from you, so please share comments and questions–and to stay up to date on all the latest just subscribe the blog, “like” me on Facebook, listen to the weekly radio show, and sign up for Pet Peeves newsletter with pet book give-aways!