Monday, January 3, 2011

A new year. A new blog. 2011... here I come!

For those of you who have been following me and the pups on Facebook and Twitter, you know that 2010 was quite a year! Here's a monthly summary of events:

January - The dog show year started and I prepared for February.
February - I drove cross-country to meet up with my then-boyfriend Rod in Indianapolis for a dog show. We got engaged.
March - I turned 35.
April - I traveled to Houston to sing the National Anthem at my first National Rotating Scottish Terrier Specialty.
May - Rod met my brother and sister-in-law at my brother's annual (and delayed so we could attend) Crawfish Boil
June - Rod and I met up in Boston for an intense weekend of pre-marital counseling.
July - Rod moved from Ohio to California. In one night I went from being single with one dog to having a permanent roommate and 4 dogs. Our friend showed up for a dog show and we then had 6 dogs and 3 humans. It was "no longer single" baptism by fire, so to speak. And life has never been the same since. And for the better! I also went back to work at AMCI for 2 week contracts at a time for 2 1/2 months.
August - Wedding crunch time. And I worked.
September - Major wedding crunch time. Garrison earned his Grand Championship and solidified his invitation to the Eukanuba National Championship. And I worked.
October - we got married. (See previous blog)
November - we honeymooned in Cabo and we got another Bouvier puppy. (See previous blog)
December - Eukanuba Dog Show, local wedding reception, I worked as the hostess and emcee at in San Fran while we had a house guest and her 2 dogs and Rod finished Nickel. He's now a Champion and Rod's first champion finished from the bred-by-exhibitor class. Rod asked for help to seek Gov. Schwarzenegger's nomination to the California Medical Board. Christmas was spent at my parents' house in San Ramon. And New Year's Eve and Day was spent at Casa Fairview with our pups. WHEW!!!

And now we're in 2011. So buckle up.

What does this year hold in store for the Kuhn/Ott Clan?

Rod's working. And we're continuously grateful for his job and that his boss allowed him to keep his job and work remotely from California.

Rod's also focusing on finishing Lara. She'll be 2 years old in March, has 5 points toward her championship, and some good judges are coming up in the first quarter of this year. We're hoping to finish her by June or July so that we can breed her in the fall. We've been looking at some stud dogs for her and we'll let the world know who the lucky guy is once we know we have pups on the way. But that isn't until the end of 2011!

Rod will also step into the Bouvier show ring this year with Danica. It'll be fun to watch the two of them out there as newbies together. :-)

Garrison and I start our show year off this coming weekend in Palm Springs. Rod and I have planned out various shows we would like to attend through March and are awaiting judging panels to determine what we do after the first quarter of this year. Our goal is to have Garrison in the Top 20 Competition at our Bouvier National and also to stay in the top 20 nationally to get another invitation to Eukanuba. Depending on the judging panel for Westminster, we might plan that journey for February 2012. It's hopefully going to be a full year of campaigning the boy. And... I can't believe my baby boy will be 4 in March. WOW time flies!!!

Sportz Dawgz - what am I going to do with my dog toys that have been sitting idly while our economy has been in a major recession?

I'll continue to try to sell the toys to individuals and vendors alike. I'd like to be able to order smaller and more durable toys and some slightly different designs, but it all takes $$$. We could apply to get some colleges and universities licensing that are free (they are the smaller schools) but then we'd have to have money to get products made that are branded with those schools' logos. The business plan has never changed. The goal has never changed. I don't quit easily. I hope our economy continues to recover and this biz can start up again.

Emilie's Musical Journeys - what's up with Episode 1? Will there be more episodes?

With new media outlets taking off all over, things look better and better to get EMJ out there and available to more people once we have Episode 1 completed. It's lacking the animation segment. I've been exploring some "alternative" methods to animation and it's on my list of Things To Do in 2011. I've been contemplating doing some basic podcasts or webcasts regarding music and culture surrounding episode content ideas as another way to get the show "out there". We'll see. But I'm still at it. And 2011 could be a banner year for EMJ!

La la la... is that me singing? Why yes! It is!

My friend Duke Guillaume and I have been talking for the past year about doing a collaborative album of American Jazz Standards. Well... now is the time. Rod's move and our wedding/honeymoon/reception took up half the year and required a lot of focus. I confess. But now that we're in 2011, it's time to start on a new album project. I haven't done an album project since "Gershwin, Porter & Pilar" 10 years ago. Tooooooo long. We're going about this project in a new way and we hope it works. We're going to post our project on and anyone who donates a minimum of $10 will get a free download of the album once it's completed. Basically... it's like pre-selling our album.

Who is Duke Guillaume? He is an incredible saxophonist who leads the Metropolitan Big Band in NYC. He and his family have been musicians their whole lives. So Duke will co-produce the album. He'll be in charge of getting all the tracks laid down with the musicians he knows can bang these out (and bang them out EXTREMELY WELL!) in no time and then I'll travel to NYC to record the vocals. He'll master the tracks and... voila. We're gonna have our first collaboration album! Want to know more or pre-buy an album? I'll post a separate blog about how to go about donating to our project.

I am also hoping to re-join the Angel City Chorale for the spring session. I had to withdraw last year due to too many life conflicts, but hopefully this year will work out for me to sing with them again.

Anything else?

Yeah. There is.

I am planning on working with John Ruby on commercial auditions and techniques more in hopes of getting more auditions and representation and, of course, BOOKING on-camera commercials. I'm also hoping to get a voiceover agent again. I've been submitting myself for various auditions (again, we didn't have these kind of tools available to us artists when I first got started in this wacky world of entertaiment), but more ways to get more auditions to book more gigs is always preferred!

I'm considering starting a new podcast/webcast regarding "normal people" questions about dogs and dog shows and stuff. I realize many times that friends of mine that aren't involved in the dog show world don't know what the heck I'm talking about half the time. So... why not use my sense of humor to try to bring a little "normal" light to the wacky world that is not far from the portrayal in the comedy "Best In Show"? If you like this idea, post a question and I'll put it in a podcast!

Can we possibly put anything more into planning for 2011? I'm sure we can... but don't get any hopes up about news of 2-legged additions or anything. Rod and I agreed to wait at least a year after we got married before we started trying to have some critters of the human kind. Remember... one can always sell or place puppies... but kids? They're like boogers. Once ya get 'em on your finger, it's impossible to flick 'em off. ;-)

The short version of this blog (too late) is that I'm excited about all of the potential this year brings about. And I hope that it's a great year for you and yours and thank you for reading and following the happenings of our wacky lives!



Monday, November 22, 2010

My first post as a married woman!

Quite a lot has happened since my last post which was 28 days before I was married.

Well... now I've been married for 43 days. And being married ROCKS! At least... my being married to Rod ROCKS!!!! When we got the link to the plethora of pictures our amazing and awesome photographer Mike Shuaib (Michael Lawrence Photography) sent us, we had to share with as many of our friends and family as possible.

Our wedding was blessed with talented people - including multiple photographers. I can't thank John Stamatakos and Bruce Crouch (Bruce Allen Photography) enough for not only taking photos, but for sharing them with us and our friends and family! I laughed when someone commented, "Wow, that John guy sure took a lot of photos of your maid of honor. I bet he had the hots for her!" Well, uh... yeah. She's his fiance. :-)

I'm not sure what all to detail in this particular blog, so I'll try to highlight the massive events over the past few months.

Our wedding was incredible and everything that I'd always dreamed of. Getting married on the Farm was a lifetime dream of mine - but it wasn't just about the location. It was about the love and family and down-to-earth-ness that I've always loved about my time spent at the Farm. And we had that.

The weather was amazing. Our friends and family ARE amazing. We had the best time EVER getting ready for our wedding. We even had a few hours "free" to bathe dogs before the BBQ on Friday night. I didn't get to groom Garrison like I would have if we were going into the show ring and without any Bouvier show people present at our wedding, I couldn't rely upon anyone to "show prep" him so he would be "photo ready" the way I like him to be photographed, but he was a happy boy and was enthralled with the sheep in the pastures and the fields of cows. And Nickel just LOVED running with Garrison and acted as a happy and carefree Scottie - it was awesome and so much fun!!!

I loved spending time with Rod's mom Marilyn during the weekend. How could I not? She gave birth to 7 boys... one of them being my husband... and a mother's love of her son runs deep. Only once when I said, "Hey Marilyn! I'm marrying your son Rod and I'm terribly excited about being his wife," did she say, "You better be!" We had a short conversation about his first marriage and I'm thankful that she told me that she sees how happy we are and how much I genuinely love him and that makes her happy.

Our wedding day was just lovely. The weather was gorgeous. I had to "just be" and not produce my wedding any more and trust the people who were "in charge" of making sure things were as we discussed... or made their own executive decisions about where things should go or what should be done with such-and-such. And I had already said, "I trust you all. I'm going to be a bride on Sunday, so do what you all think is best. You are all smart and capable and I've given the parameters... so fill 'em in."

And WOW! The Walton Farm looked stunning. It was as if I'd always dreamed of and imagined. It was down home yet classy. It was elegant but not pretentious. The food was top notch. The wine... well... we knew the wine would be amazing because we bought it from the Rabbit Ridge Winery! Our audio and lighting guys did a nice job. The DJ was OK. Fair is fair - if someone had given me a list of songs preferred, I would have worked them around my schedule of "what to do during a reception". I did perform a "Voice of God" announcement about the bride and groom's first dance at my own wedding... and what made me laugh even more is that no one except my (new) husband, maid of honor and the best man Rodger knew it was me. People thought, "Wow... that DJ has a great pre-recorded voice to announce the first dance!" (Ahem... to all of those reading who hire voiceover talent - take note!)

What made both me and Rod laugh and smile the most were the gaggle of kids that were like our viewing entourage. When our first dance was announced, they all grabbed chairs and hauled them over to the dance floor to watch. And... later in the evening after I sang Happy Birthday to several birthday folks - one including my father... who gave his only daughter away on his 69th birthday - we danced to "C is for Cookie" with all of the kiddos. Rod and I had a blast!

We got to say goodbye to our pups before we left for our wedding night. They were all happy to see us... and I had changed out of my wedding dress so I wasn't worried about paw prints. My maid of honor Katina and her fiance John gave us great peace of mind knowing they were taking care of our beloved 4 legged critters until we showed up to the Davie School Inn the next morning.

Our wedding night B&B cabin wasn't far from the farm at all. And the most meaningful thing about our wedding night was the moment when we got down on our knees and prayed to God to thank Him for our marriage... for the gift of marriage... and to honor our lives and bodies together as we went forward as man and wife. And that's it for the details that I'm gonna share about our wedding night. :-)

For those of you that saw pictures from Shuaib, you know that the day after our wedding took some time, but well deserved with photos that captured us, our love, our recent nuptials and.... our dogs.

Our schlep back to California wasn't too shabby. We chose to stop in different cities on the way back so that Rod could work from the car and we could spend a few hours at the Grand Canyon before we returned since Rod had never been to the Grand Canyon. He has now! And we took a lot of pictures of Fuzzy Gman along the South Rim Trail path where Emilie and I traversed 3 1/2 years prior when Garrison was born.

Since our return, we realized we slept a total of 5 nights in our own bed in the month of October.

We went to the Cabrillo dog shows in Del Mar, CA as soon as we got back. Nickel picked up 2 more points toward his championship but that was all that really stuck out for us there. Then we drove up north to the Del Valle shows. Lara picked up 4 points by going Winner's Bitch at a Specialty on Saturday and an all-breed show on Sunday. Rod showed her at the specialty and I showed her the next day and it was a really good feeling to beat Bergit Coady Kabel and Amy Rutherford with our girl. Lara is starting to come into her own and they were nice wins. Pretty much as nice as winning breed in the Bouvier ring over top handlers and dogs. Especially since I haven't been showing Scotties very long. My first "trial by fire" was Indianapolis the weekend Rod and I got engaged - February 2010.

I had to fly home to work my last year as the Voice of Goddess for Maria Shriver's Women's Conference in Long Beach - a gig I have enjoyed for the last 5-6 years. The most frustrating part about this year's event, however, was that Michelle Obama was a speaker during the morning and we were in total lock-down for hours. I couldn't go to the bathroom without having to go all the way around the auditorium, go through metal detectors, and work my way through the audience to get back stage again. I posted to Twitter that I should have packed my lunch and worn Depends. As soon as she left... I could pee as often as I liked. I preferred to pee as often as I liked IN the restroom. Just saying.

I then flew back up to NoCal and Rod and I drove up to Portland for the National Bouvier Specialty. Lord have mercy... Garrison was more than full of pent up energy. Rain didn't allow him to run at the park and chase his ball in San Ramon. I flew back to SoCal and Rod had to work during the day and he didn't take Gman to the park after he was done working. I had an overzealous boy puppy. And he forgot that he's won groups and that we've beaten top dogs and handlers around the country on the day of our National Specialty. Yup. He thought we were doing our best impression of the Calgary Stampede. Romping. Jumping. Galloping. Nipping at my jacket. Rolling around on his back. Total embarrassment. His sister, on the other hand, went Best Opposite for her 2nd time at our National Specialty. We were proud of family. I just wasn't wanting to be dubbed "Comic Relief" but Garrison obviously felt that we needed it. He was probably right in the long term and in hindsight.

So we got back to SoCal. And we had (wait for it....... ) a full week before we left again!!!! Yes... it's true. We were home for a full week before we left for our honeymoon to the Baja peninsula and spent 8 nights/9 days at the Coral Baja resort near San Jose del Cabo - north of Cabo San Lucas.

But we had to throw in a dog show before we left. Oh yes. We did.

Garrison showed the best he's shown all year long - no joke. He went Best Opposite to his sister on Saturday and thankfully he won the breed on Sunday. We didn't get a group placing, but we weren't expecting to given the group judge and inside word we received. I just wanted him to show well... and he did. That's all that mattered. And a breed win after months of a dry spell!

Honeymoon. This warrants a blog of its own. However, here are some pictures of fun times as newlyweds. :-)

And we got home from an amazing honeymoon. Our dogs were MORE than happy to see us. We were MORE than happy to see them! And then we went off and looked at a puppy that we had been approached about while up in Portland.

She's nice. She's sweet. She has qualities that we want to incorporate into our Bouvier breeding program.

So we have a new puppy. Her registered name is Vanleighof's Victory Lap. Her call name is Danica (for Danica Patrick). I think we're certifiably crazy to bring a new puppy into our house right after we get back from getting married and having our honeymoon... but at the same time... is there ever a good time to bring in a new dog to a house or to have a baby? No there is not.

We just hope that Rod can sell his house sooner than later so that we can buy a place while it is still a buyer's market. Our pups all enjoy the day with us and it takes time, but we make it work, so that they all get individual time and love and attention and training... but we need a little more space. Including closet space!

So Husband-o-mine and I are spending our first Thanksgiving as a married couple at Casa Fairview with our pups. Then we greet canine and human friends for Eukanuba weekend... and... OH YEAH...

We're having a wedding reception for local friends on Friday, December 3rd. I confess I laughed when a dear girlfriend asked if we were staying somewhere on Friday night and if she needed to take care of all of the dogs that night.

Nope. We spent enough time away from our pups on our wedding night and during our honeymoon. We aren't imposing that on anyone! We're heading home afterward... and happily, mind you.

I love being married and I'm glad that events of my life (and Rod's) happened as they did so that when our relationship developed as it did... we were open, willing, and ready to be married. I've had a few friends ask me if I'm scared being married and I laughed out loud. This is the first time in my life that I've never felt a twinge of fear about being married... but not just being married. Being married to Rod. When it's the right relationship... there is no fear. We made a commitment to God and to one another and we intend on keeping that. And that means being real... communicating... and working at our relationship until we're dead. I didn't go through all that I have endured just to go through the motions of getting married. Why do that? It's easier to stay single!

When I met Rod... being single and living my life all by myself suddenly didn't make sense anymore. And to be emotionally open, malleable and willing to share my life as is is one of the hardest things I thought I'd ever do until I met Rod. He respects and appreciates me for me... and I feel the same way about him. Every day is a joy and feels like "home" when we're together.

It is an honor and a privilege to be Rod's wife.

And we have a new Bouvier puppy.

And all of it makes me laugh and get happy warm tingly butterflies of happiness. :-)

Sunday, September 12, 2010

How life changes

We're now 28 days away from getting married and wow, how life changes. Two and a half months ago I didn't think I'd end up writing this blog and yet I find myself saying silently, "Really? Truly? You didn't? Yeah, right."

You see... Rod flew off to New Jersey today for the AKC Fall Delegate meeting today. He'll be gone until Tuesday. It's a short time for him to be gone. No big deal. But I must say that I have gotten very used to having him around all the time.

There are certain perks that will come about from our relationship after we're married, so I don't want some of you to think that I'm missing something basic and animalistic - I miss the sheer presence and companionship of this wonderful man I look forward to calling "husband" in 4 weeks.

One of the things I find comical with Rod not being around for less than 24 hours is that all 4 dogs don't seem to mess around with me. They have a total blast. They are all cuddly and cozy and they actually get super goofy and play. And this isn't actually abnormal behavior when Rod's around. But I truly think we're prepared for having 2-legged children because I find that our dogs know they can be goofy and silly and non-serious with Rod and with me? I have rules and regulations and they must be kept or you will not be happy. If you abide by the simplest of rules (for dogs it's called not peeing or pooping in my house and being polite and not biting off fingers when getting a cookie) then life is awesome all the time.

Don't get me wrong, folks. Rod doesn't put up with crap behavior either. But with the two of us in a house, it's a different dynamic. And I find that our dogs run to Rod as if he'll be the same goofy and "I didn't realize I was doing it wrong" sorta partner in crime. Except he's not. The few times some events have happened either from the Bouvier or the Scotties or both, Rod has put his foot down.

There's just something about his demeanor that makes them think he might be more willing to play than to discipline.

No matter what, I loved having Nickel Pickle (aka the Piddler and the ONLY dog not on my black list today) curl up on my lap or by my feet multiple times today. Yes, he barked at Grandmommy every time she made a weird noise or coughed or sneezed, but I guess he is alerting us all to that foreign noise. When I make noises like that now, he gives me a half-cocked look as if to say, "Seriously? I know it's you! But if you tell me it isn't, I'll get 'em!"

Every day I fall more and more in love with our Scotties - even when they "try" me. Every day I appreciate the personality of the herding breeds and especially the Bouvier that reasons out things.

And with every passing minute I fall more and more in love with the man I'm going to marry in 28 days because I never thought I'd find someone who was as passionate about the same things in life with a similar sense of humor and the same commitment to communication so that we can work - and all I hear is that successful relationships are WORK - on our marriage and family life. But man it makes things easier when you both step out with a similar ideology and are just as excited to be partners and parents because of recognizing that the mindsets toward all of life are like-minded.

Enough for now. I don't know if I'll get more written before I get married, but let this be known - I am soooooooooo excited to be getting married next month! I NEVER thought I'd be getting married. It always freaked me out and made me wonder if I could actually go through with it. And now? I have never doubted being married to Rod, being his wife and a mother to our children.

It's a new journey. Totally untraveled by both of us. But equally exciting. WOWZA!!!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Do you know the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is a terrorist group?

The Animal Liberation Front (ALF) is an extreme animal rights organization that is classified as a terrorist group by the FBI. ALF identifies its main bases of operation as Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States; all told, it is currently active in about twenty countries worldwide. ALF's self-defined mission is "to effectively allocate resources (time and money) to reduce animal suffering in the world." Toward this end, ALF states that it "carries out direct action against animal abuse in the form of rescuing animals and causing financial loss to animal exploiters, usually through the damage and destruction of property." Counted among these "exploiters" are hunters, fishers, butchers, factory farmers, restaurateurs, and those who use animals to entertain the public (in zoos, circuses, and rodeos). The fur, meat, egg, and dairy industries are also viewed as major offenders, as are scientists and technicians involved in laboratory animal testing. All of these pursuits, charges ALF, "profit from the misery and exploitation of animals." In ALF's estimation, the use of animals as sources of food, clothing, entertainment, or scientific knowledge is immoral and should be prevented by any means necessary.

ALF candidly acknowledges that in its quest to force "animal abuse companies" out of business, it takes "illegal actions ... to bring about animal liberation." Adds ALF, "These are usually one of two things: rescuing animals from laboratories or other places of abuse, or inflicting economic damage on animal abusers." Economic damage is generally inflicted by means of theft, vandalism, arson, and sabotage. Because these activities are unlawful, ALF activists work anonymously, generally in cells of two to five people but sometimes alone. ALF has no formal hierarchy, central organization, leaders, newsletter, or official membership rolls. "Anyone who carries out direct action according to ALF guidelines," its website explains, "is a member of the ALF." The lone lifestyle stipulation is that in order to be recognized and supported by ALF, an individual must be either a vegetarian or a vegan.

And very recently...

Colorado & Denver News

GLENDALE, Colo. (CBS4) ― Authorities are investigating whether a fire at The Sheepskin Factory in Glendale is tied to an animal rights group

The fire gutted the business causing $500,000 in damage in late April. The building was located along Colorado Boulevard. It didn't take long for investigators to label this arson, but now, more than a month after the blaze, a claim of responsibility came from someone calling himself ALF Lone Wolf.

"… was done in defense and retaliation for all the innocent animals that have died cruelly at the hands of human oppressors," ALF Lone Wolf posted on a website called Bite Back, which is aligned with the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

"They're already blaming themselves," Israel Dominguez with The Sheepskin Factory said.

The store is now operating in temporary quarters. Dominguez strongly denied the business is involved in cruelty to animals.

"They're grown, they're fed, they're well taken care of. I think they are eventually going to die for edible reasons," Dominguez said.

The posing was the latest in a long string of actions listed involving attacks against businesses around the world.

Police are taking the claim of responsibility very seriously.

"I consider it to be a very solid lead that we are going to follow up very closely; probably one of our more serious leads in the case thus far," Glendale Police Chief Victor Ross said.

The person they believe was responsible was caught on a security camera just before the fire broke out and now the Animal Liberation Front claims it was involved.

"We've enlisted the assistance of the ATF and federal agencies, and we have not stopped investigating the case," Ross said.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) investigated the fire scene and has offered a $10,000 reward in this case.

"We've just received that information recently so what we have is we're looking into that to corroborate that information," ATF Special Agent in Charge Marvin Richardson said.

"From the beginning that's kind of our initial thoughts of who was responsible for this," said Helena Livaditis, the owner's daughter. "I've always been hoping we could find some type of information on someone who would want to destroy a family business of 30 years."

ALF is aligned with the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) whose members were convicted in the 1998 Vail lodge arson.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

My rant against puppy mills

In response to a posting on Facebook by Humane Watch regarding a news report about Puppy Mill legislation being postponed until 2011 and one woman's comment that she hated puppy mills, this is what I posted:

The best way to put an end to puppy mills is to educate people about the various breeds and their personalities and jobs and not try to increase demand to reduce supplies.

A responsible breeder breeds no more than 1-2 litters a year and makes sure the puppy buyers understand what it truly means to own one of those puppies. And they try to stay in touch with the buyers and be willing and able to take the puppies back if the home doesn't work out no matter what the age of the pup.

If the breeder has a breed that is more easily placed in homes (say a labrador breeder or yorkie breeder), I feel that the same ethics should apply. I know many who breed those breeds and they are just as strict and adhere to ethics as my Scottie and Bouvier household. Unfortunately, there are many out there that give "popular breeds" and breeders a very bad rep.

We should try to re-direct the "CostCo Mentality" of "Same or similar product for Less" or "Craigslist Mentality" of "Sorta Like what I wanted but for less" ideology behind getting pets if we want to make sure we have healthy pets and the Lifetime Guarantee Terms and Conditions are in the animal's favor. "I want a Lab but I don't want to pay x-amount of dollars for one" is what keeps puppy mills in business. Shame on us humans for being cheap and looking for a bargain on living beings!!!!

I detest puppy mills, as well. The biggest challenge is when we have to fight for the right to have successful breeding programs that might, at times, have the same # of animals that define "puppy mill" when it may be a responsible breeder's home or kennel. I won't go into the mathematics, but a responsible breeder could fringe on "puppy mill" definition one or two times a year based on when females in the same pack come into season. Are you a woman? Work or live around other women? Ever experience the timing of menstruation with your colleagues? The same happens in dogs and cats.

That is why we fight for the laws that the HSUS tries to push ahead and put limitations on the # of animals on property. A couple bitches that came into season near each other and had healthy litters at the same time, a few horses, cats, a few male dogs... suddenly without ever harming one animal's life, you're now breaking the law if the HSUS passes laws in your state and the local authorities could seize your lactating bitch, puppies, and every critter on your property. No thanks. Make folks adhere to already-in-place-local-laws to insure that we reduce the # of puppy mills and breeding of unwanted pets in our country.

I, too, detest puppy mills. But I do support responsible breeders if we're to continue to have pets in the United States.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

"All of the above"

Well, I realized that today encompassed just about every aspect of why I created this blog to begin with. So? Yes... I'm blogging about it! WHOO HOOO!!

I woke up this morning at 5am to get ready for the 2nd day at the Kennel Club of Pasadena dog show. My friend Danielle and I hit the hay early because we had enjoyed some red wine with dinner last night at the Overland Café and her Parson Russell Terrier Indy slept with me last night. It was really sweet having a little bed buddy to curl up in the curve of my knee while Gman the Bouvier slept in his favorite corner.

Danielle's English Springer Spaniel bitch Maddie slept with Danielle. Gotta share the doggie night time sleeping love!

It all felt way too early (probably because it was!) but it was a Dog Show Morning.

Thankfully it was nice and cool for showing Bouviers in the morning. Garrison showed well, but we walked from the ring with nothing to flaunt except for our good sportsmanship and team work. While we were in the ring, however, the sun broke through the clouds and the day started to get hotter than yesterday. We went back to our tent/set-up area. And I got a text message.

My friend Amy asked if I could help show a Belgian Tervuren today. I didn't have anything else do to, so I said, "Yes."

A very sweet, but nervous boy, Odie and I worked together for a short while before he had to show and I loved watching his eyes go from nervous and a little wider than usual to softening and settling. He and I went into the ring and won his class and it was also automatically Winners Dog - there were only 2 dogs in the "Open" class today. So we waited for the Breed class. Before we went into the Breed class to compete for Best of Winners, one of the gals that cares for Odie said, "If he goes Best of Winners he'll get a cross over major - no pressure." I said, "Nope... none." Because that's the last thing this dog would need is to feel any pressure at all. He needed to have fun, enjoy his time out there and be at ease.

He did a really nice job, gave me great ears as I baited him from my pretend pocket and freestacked beautifully. And my new friend Odie was awarded Best of Winners and got a cross-over major today! He got 3 ribbons, a major and a picture to prove it! Whoo hooo!!!

After our picture was taken, I offered to walk him back to his set up and make sure he had nice shade and ample water. I squatted down to say goodbye and sweet Odie gave me one kiss on my face. Yes... this boy had a good dog show experience today that that, much more than the ribbons and points, was the best outcome of all.

I went over to the Scottie ring to watch my second breed. Things didn't go quite as hoped for Susan and her dog McCartney. She got Best Opposite to Gabriel's "special"... and I went back over to my set up to get cash because my stomach was rumbling. I hadn't eaten all morning and the coffee from AM/PM was long, long gone from my tummy. I grabbed my cash, my chair, and my water and headed off to ring 1 & 2 to watch Old English Sheepdogs (OES) and eat my beef kabob plate.

The food vendor at this show had food that was worthy of the $7.00. Truly. And a rare find when you end the day and feel satiated and don't have buyers remorse later... both in your wallet and in your restroom. :-D

I sat and watched my friend Amy show her cute OES bitch Abby and win Best Opposite. Yippee!!! And I stayed to watch German Shepherds.

My colleague JR Alcantar and I visited shortly about what happened earlier in the day with Bouviers and then he had to get his German Shepherd Dogs (GSD) ready for their ring.

Biding my time and enjoying the shade, I heard JR call my name. Apparently he had 2 class bitches and needed me to go in on a bitch I helped him show in Apple Valley back in early March. With a tummy full of beef kabob and sunglasses on my face, I said, "OK." I got the armband number from JR, picked up a few more rubber bands, put on the armband and walked over to Chola's owners. They handed over their dog and trusted me with her care and performance in the ring because JR told them to.

Now then... folks... showing German Shepherds vs. any other breed is a world apart. I have a huge appreciation for this breed now that I've spent more time around them and moved with them in an open field and in a show ring. HOLY COW! They are stunning and beautiful and they truly float around the ring and they MOVE. In fact... you would probably be better off putting on in-line skates and a safety helmet when showing them.

It was a tough class today for Best of Breed and competition for Best of Winners. Yesterday, Steve Cabral's GSD special won the breed AND won the group. A very nice boy and it's wonderful being in a ring of truly nice dogs. The judge had both Winners Dog and Winners Bitch (me and Chola) move together. I loved moving with Chola around the ring. She was light in my hand and floating across the ground. Her owners could be proud of her performance regardless of the outcome. And then... the judge went back and forth between the two male specials. They both moved beautifully. Then the judge pointed to JR and pulled him out front. Then she pointed to me with Chola and pulled us out as Best of Winners and Best Opposite Sex. The Group 1 winner from yesterday got the Dog Select.

And that was that.

I got to hand over 2 ribbons and a medallion to Chola's owner Mary who was just as happy as a clam (but not a clam in the Gulf of Mexico... I'll spare you my own thoughts about the oil spill right now)... and what a day!

And it was soooooooo hot. I had to muster up the energy to pack up and head home. It was rough. Truly. I had two kool koat type blankets on Garrison who was sitting in front of my friend's fan as I packed up our tent and dog show gack. I knew the pathway would be hot to our car, but fortunately we were really close to the entry of the show area.

We had the air blasting all the way home. And I exited La Brea Ave. South... and went, "Oh! Tonight I have to take La Brea North to the Next Stage because I'm in the 9:30pm performance of 'Dark Side of the Moon'!"

So the dog show day was over. Garrison was exhausted and happy to be in his house and in front of another fan. He filled his tummy up with yummy kibble and cottage cheese and venison and sweet potato... and I took a short nap because I needed to recharge before putting on my actress hat.

Earlier this week, Chris Berube contacted me and asked if I could fill in for my role of "Mom" in "Dark Side of the Moon" and being in town... and having the time... and itching to be back on stage... I had said, "YES!" And tonight was the night.

I watched the Celtics beat the Lakers, grabbed my make-up and my dress and took off for the theater so I could watch some of the 8pm show. I hadn't performed "Dark Side" since last fall... and I don't forget things easily, but I would feel better knowing that I had watched the show and refreshed my memory.

The 8pm cast did a FANTASTIC JOB!!!! I was really impressed with them and I found myself missing my own cast. I made such wonderful friends doing that show and now here I was again at the Next Stage... that same familiar smell... the same excitement from fellow actors performing one of the most original stage productions EVER... and I was about to be on that stage, too.

It felt like home. And that felt awesome.

I was so proud of the 8pm cast and their show was over and I had to get ready for the 9:30 show. My friend Lemar Harris would be my Magistrate... and I was so excited. Lemar is the kind of guy that takes his job seriously with the best sense of humor... and working with him is never work. It's a pleasure and a delight and a privilege.

And Chris... my dear director Chris... knows how to put together amazing shows and brings out the best in casts that care about performing. He doesn't mess around. If you don't want to be a part of something he's producing and directing.... fare thee well and best of luck to you. But if you put in what you SHOULD when he gives you a shot at doing SOMETHING in this town? You'll get more out of it than you could ever imagine.

The Next Stage isn't a large theater, but it's intimate and it's FUN. Chris knows how to use the space and I find that he allows his audiences to use their own imaginations rather than telling them what they have to see and think about what's being performed in his theater space.

And we use ALL the space. Front, back, above and below.

It was opening night for this cast. NO PRESSURE. Sheesh. And they did a great job. A really wonderful and great job. And I had a blast. And I felt my heart swell with pride and happiness because it's been a year since I first auditioned for Chris at The Next Stage... and I consider myself incredibly lucky to be a part of a theater company that is always working... always busy... and always giving actors a shot in this wacky town.

Driving home, I called my parents and my father answered. He loves Pink Floyd and loved the performance of "Dark Side" he saw last fall. We chatted about my love of theater... my excitement about the next stage production Chris and I talked about last weekend and tonight... and then the dog show results... and then.... wedding stuff. My father and I talked about all of the major life changes that are barreling toward me and Rod and I once again felt my heart swell because they are such good and wonderful changes.

I am so impressed with the man I am marrying. He is a good, honest and hard working man and none of what we're going through is easy, but somehow it feels easy because we're a team. Rod and I have been a team since our relationship really solidified last year and we knew this wasn't a "fly by night" relationship. This was something real and solid and with every passing day we talk about what we're facing and we're constantly in agreement with how we want to tackle life's challenges. Knowing that we are teammates in this thing called LIFE is really incredible. The things we're dealing with - the life stresses - are seemingly easier because we're supportive of each other. I always hoped and prayed that's how my relationship with my spouse would be... but to see how God has blessed us and put us in each others lives at this juncture and how we are supportive of each other.... WOW. And I think that's where I'll leave all of this. WOW.

In order to wrap up this blog that encompasses dogs, dog showing, performing and my wedding (which is 125 days away), I've poured a glass of red wine. And I'll probably pour another before I go to sleep, but before that 2nd glass is poured... thank you for reading because I'm enjoying my post-performance high - no drug can ever re-create the on-stage rush.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bridezilla? Not really...

Well... the wedding is 138 days away. That basically means it's 4 months and about a week and some change away. And all is on track. With a tiny hiccup yesterday that felt like a severe case of heart burn for about half an hour.

Getting married this fall wasn't "out of the blue". Rod and I had been talking about our futures for quite some time, but I had said I would not do any wedding planning at all until it was official and the ring was on the finger. We know... February 11th it was all official. BUT... working in the special events world since I was in college had my producer brain in a bit of a state of quandry.

October is a very popular month... and southern Illinois is quite busy at that time of year, too. I didn't want to lose out on holding rooms for wedding guests just because I wasn't sure WHEN we'd be officially engaged.

Just so you guys know... Rod and I spoke and agreed that I would make room reservations right after the beginning of the year. So the pending engagement wasn't a surprise - I knew it was coming - but I didn't know WHEN or HOW Rod would propose. If you're reading this blog, you have quite possibly read the "engagement" blog. I'll spare you any more details. Besides... with the mention of Bridezilla in the title of this blog, you are probably reading and wondering, "WHERE IS BRIDEZILLA?!?!?"

In January when I called the various Bed and Breakfasts in southern Illinois, I had one credit card my father had told me to use to make the reservations. And this card expires in August of this year - 08/10 - as one would tell any vendor asking for the expiration date.

No problem. Or so I thought.

I had one B&B email me and say that the card I gave them expired before our wedding date, so she wanted another card to keep the rooms for us. I emailed back and said I wouldn't have another card until about a month before the current one expires (which is normal practice for all credit card companies and banks to do, right?) and that was that. All the other B&Bs were fine with me calling as we got closer to that expiration date to update info. I thought this one was, too.

In February or March, I received an email from our Wedding Central B&B The Davie School Inn and Andrea the owner mentioned that at one of their association meetings some of the folks had mentioned the same concern - we had used a card that would expire before our wedding date... what should they do? Thankfully I've known Andrea for quite some time and she said that it shouldn't be a problem... we'd be traveling out to Anna this summer for tastings and I had promised to update them with a new card as that date approached. Thank you advocate Andrea!

But I had mentioned this to my father and he decided that I should use a different credit card for "all things wedding". The card arrives. It expires June 2011. WAY past our wedding date. No problem-o.

So yesterday I started calling the B&Bs that I had posted on our wedding website to update the credit card information like I had promised. I don't know why I chose to start with this one particular B&B... but I did. And I was told that our rooms had not been held because I had used an expired credit card to hold the rooms and that she had never heard back from me with an updated card.

I confess that I felt my blood boil more rapidly than lava spewing out of the Icelandic volcano that no one knows how to pronounce unless you're FROM Iceland. And I let the proprietor know my displeasure. Extreme displeasure. Anger. Livid, blood boiling, major disappointment and ready to suck the marrow out of her bones displeasure.

Anna's a small town. Maybe 5,000 people total. And I am excited to be helping out the local economy by having our wedding there and encouraging our guests to spend a delightful weekend there at the B&Bs and hoping they enjoy the experience of traveling to southern Illinois for our wedding.

This B&B had 4 rooms available. Now there was only 1 room available. I said I would not encourage my guests to call and ask for the ONE room. We haven't even sent out the official invitations yet! But several of our friends and family have made reservations for October. How fortunate are those B&B owners?

When I was told AGAIN that I had used an invalid credit card to make my reservation, my fact drilling brain kicked into high gear.

1) Is a card that expires in August of this year invalid in January of this year - 8 months prior to the expiration date? NO IT IS NOT.

2) If I took the time to reserve rooms in January for an October wedding when I wasn't even officially engaged yet, do you think that I would want to use a card that was invalid? NO I WOULD NOT.

3) Could I still be using that card to charge things for the wedding as of today? YES. How about up to August 31, 2010? YOU BET YOUR SWEET BIPPY!

4) Do credit card companies send out replacement cards 8 months before they expire? NO THEY DO NOT.

So when I was apologized to again, I said, "What would make this right for me is to let those people know who you gave MY rooms to that you made a mistake and you give me my rooms back."

No... she couldn't do that... because they had used valid credit cards.

That was it. I was DONE with this conversation. Almost.

"If you aren't willing to honor what we had agreed upon on January 8th of this year and you insist on telling me that my VALID credit card was INVALID, I hope that you remember this situation the next time someone chooses to have a wedding in southern Illinois and has people traveling from all over the world and takes the time and effort and due diligence to hold rooms for guests WAY in advance KNOWING that the card will expire and KNOWING that there are cancellation policies that we agreed to and you don't make another wedding party have to deal with this kind of unprofessional situation. As a small business owner, shame on you. Good bye."

Then I called the remaining B&Bs and everyone else was surprised I was calling in May with an updated card. They had held my rooms. They knew I'd be calling them. They are excited for our wedding. And they knew exactly who I had dealt with regarding my situation on the first call.


My steaming nostrils cooled down and my gnashing teeth and scratching nails retracted.

I wasn't asking for something off-the-charts obnoxious or demanding unrealistic expectations of this B&B. I was merely expecting that our agreement was honored. And it wasn't. And I was upset. Obviously.

Bridezilla? No. Not really. But we still have 138 days to go. Heh heh heh...