Committed to the improvement of the breed by breeding for health, temperament and better structure in dogs that have the ability to herd.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Campbell's Best In Sweeps photo

Here is Ebonwald Merrymoon Collateral Damage "Campbell". She is by CH Cerridwen Davenitch Believe In Him "Levi", out of Merrymoon Pluperfect Panache "Daisy". She won Best in Sweepstakes at the North Star Herding Group Club Specialty in St. Paul, MN. Thank you Pembroke breeder/judge Sara Houle for this first and exciting win for me :)

Campbell was bred by myself, Barb Hoffman and Jon Kimes and is owned by me. She was just over 8 months old in this photo. I just think she oozes breed type and I love this style of dog. She'll be slower to mature (which is fine by me) and moderate in size (under 30 pounds) when fully mature. She's currently around 22 pounds. She's a fantastic mover and I love everything about her, but I wish for a larger, rounder ear but now I'm being picky :)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Learning......always learning

I hope to some day have half as much knowledge about breeding dogs as my mentor Barb. . Just when I think I'm starting to figure it out, I'm brought back down to earth by a good talk, chat or email with my mentor Barb. She never tells me what I'm doing wrong, but really gets me to think about things. From many angles. Angles I hadn't thought about before. Things that I was fairly confident in, only to realize I have had no idea the entire time and need to rethink and reevaluate what the heck I'm doing. While this discussion was going several things came to mind:

1. There are people who line breed on pedigree alone. They do not realize that just because dog A is the grand sire on both sides, or whatever combination you can think of....does that make it a 'good' line breeding. Do the parents both have what you want to get from that line breeding on the grand sire? Or are you only breeding for whats on the piece of paper?? Not all line breeding is a good idea but people truly believe that if the g-g-g-grand sire was awesome, this progeny will be too because he is in the pedigree 8 times. Bad idea.

2. People breed for dogs to compliment each other. I've been guilty of this as well. But I REALLY want is a breeding to improve upon the bitch I have (since that's all I have in my home). If you are only complimenting each other, you are going to end up with average and mediocre dogs that do not have any huge faults, or any virtues either! Ho-hum dogs that are faultless, but also very boring and average.

3. Solidifying GOOD traits before going 'out' again. This was something I do in my pigeons, sheep and cattle. I hadn't really put it in to perspective in the dogs before. This hit home. I do not want to keep breeding to what I think are great dogs to improve my bitches but have no consistency in the litter because everything is out crossed.

4. Line breeding on dogs that are 4 or more generations back........Its highly unlikely that that dog 4 generations back will contribute the 6% of it that you really wanting from him, especially if his get don't have it. Enough said.

I am always so willing to explain my experiences in livestock and birds. But I never stop learning. Each day I find something new I didn't know about in regards to something animal related. I am amazed at the amount of people, who have been in dogs less than I have (or longer even), and have had no other knowledge with breeding anything....and think they know everything. Really? The day I stop learning is the day I die. I may have strong opinions on subjects (like what I'm talking about on my blog) but I don't expect anyone to listen to me. I may not be right, but in my experience with several species of livestock, those who know it all don't seem to last they are too proud or ignorant to ask for help.

 I'm not saying get it from me......but find a mentor who has left their mark on their breed (doesn't even have to be cardigans), ask tons of questions and don't always expect answers....because mine just ask me more......:) And I'm good with that, 'cuz I keep learning

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Upcoming Events

2012 will be a year of continued progress in the realm of health testing, as well as hopefully moving forward with my breeding program, and my involvement with the CWCCA (our parent club).

In February Ell will be due with puppies. This will be her 2nd litter and I'm cautiously optimistic about this breeding. Pups will be brindles or possibly blacks.

In March when Brewer, Ballantyne and Bolin turn two, I will have their hips/elbows done. Ava will also be done as when she turned two she was in standing heat. Four dogs to have tested at the same time?! $$$ I am going to be paying for that for awhile! But it is very important to me and for the health of my dogs. Im not anxious to breed any of them yet, as I will hopefully have an Ell pup to grow on, as well as a pup out of Minnie that should be coming this way if all goes well sometime this summer.

In April the Cardigan National is going to be happening in Ohio. Since I missed last years in Texas (the first I've missed since I started going in 2008) I told myself I'd never miss another one. Its the chance once a year I get to see some of my Cardi friends! Aside from email or facebook, it is the only face to face opportunity I would get to see my friends!

In May I will be frantically finalizing the CWCCA Supported Entry at the FMKC shows June 1, 2 and 3 in Fargo, ND. I am member in charge but have delegated much to others so I am not running around the show site trying to help the FMKC AND the Supported Entry at the same time. Margot the Briard will also be showing there with her half sister and full sister hopefully so that should be fun to catch up with the Briarders.

I will not be going to the Western Reserve this year as Jon Kimes, one of my mentors will be judging one day. Since he and Barb and I co-bred a litter I am unable to show under him, which is totally fine. He's hard on my dogs without showing under him ;) ha ha ha!!

The rest of the year is up in the air. I'm not sure which shows i will be able to show at or go to. Will depend on my work schedule and the judges I guess, and where the majors may or may not be.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Why I breed

I was going to post something similar to this but Cindy McDonald beat me to the punch :)

I think its always important to check your own goals, long term and short term. And why we do it anyway.

While I agree with Cindy that I do not breed to: fill a market, for other people to have show dogs, or pets, it is important to understand that while I do breed for myself, and for the improvement of the breed I cannot keep an entire litter for their entire life. I do need to have homes for these pups that I personally cannot see myself moving forward with in the breed. That doesn't mean someone else wouldn't mind using them in their breeding program, and it doesn't make any of them less lovable. And if I had the same first three litters again now, I may have kept something different based on what else I have in my house currently. So my 'show pick' isn't necessarily someone else's pick, or would it be mine in the future.

I am honored that most of my pet homes that contact me are looking for something quite specific. Usually health wise. I believe in using health tested dogs for all tests possible. Some say I test too much. I feel that no matter what, I want to give these new puppy buyers the most information about the pups' parents and lineage as I can. I've had numerous people want dogs that will never be at risk for DM as they've lost dogs to DM. I've had people inquire about pups that would hopefully be free of hip dysplasia. I cannot guarantee that, but if we continue to breed passing hips together the rate at which HD pups would come out of those passing parents would diminish. Why do people ask about this stuff? Because they've seen it in their own dogs that have died or had to been put down. They don't want to have to deal with it again.

There are things that we cannot control, but we (at least ME), tries to use every test as a tool to better my dogs. And while perhaps in 10 years when more tests are available I will have to prioritize my testing and that is all I can do, my best.

So if puppy buyers and prospective owners contact me in regards to health, or herding instinct, or whatever it may be, I am honored that they find me, and happy to share a pup with them that will not have the same conditions as one of their past loved ones. Its something simple. And something that I can live with.

And so even though I breed for myself, and for the betterment of the doing just that, I am able to have pet homes have their dogs around longer because I made it a priority of mine to health test. And in the end we all win. I have my show pup to to love and forward my breeding goals with, and they have their companion dog to love forever, as healthy as I could make them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

North Star Herding Group Club Specialty

This is the Naugthy Ballantyne :) Kind of naked (she blew her coat as it was coming in due to her coming in to season....sigh). She was BOS for a 5 point GrCh major here. Overall she has been shown as a special 5 times and earned a GrCh major each time for a total of 21 points I believe (still learning the GCH pts scale). I'm so glad my mentor Barb and Joanne told me to hang on this girl :)

She is 22 months old in the photo and 25 pounds. I look forward to seeing how she continues to mature and perhaps down the road will get her out to special her more. Equally as excited for her as a brood bitch!

Campbell's Best In Sweeps photo didn't accompany this one in the mail so hopefully tomorrow I will post that :)

Popular sire syndrome

I swear I have no idea where all these thoughts have been festering ;)

In beef and more specifically dairy breeds of cattle where there is a hugely large portion of the national herd bred via artificial insemination with frozen semen...... popular sire syndrome is a huge topic. With as many cows in the registered herd (not to mention 2x as many that are unregistered, but 'grade' (purebred but no papers), the population should have 2% or less inbreeding coefficient. Holsteins in particular last time I checked had a 9% inbreeding coefficient. WHY? Many farmers tend to buy the most popular bull at the time in hopes of capitalizing on its milk, protein or API numbers, and beef farmers breed to popular bulls in hopes of getting offspring worthy of showing or selling as seed stock to other farmers who do not do AI.

This leads to several things. First thing is the quality of the breed (if that bull is a good producer) is increased. This also goes to prove the bull as a long term producer, the quality of his replacement females, and long term 'family' line in the breed. The second thing it does is brings up ugly recessive things to the surface. In a way its good to get it out in the open, but because of the use of Angus in the Simmental breed to get the polled (lack of horns) and solid black color, they were used. This brought in several diseases that should only have been genetically expressed in the Angus breed.

Down the road so many people have used these bulls that they are screaming for out crosses to go to. Something to open their lines back up. Some of us, who don't typically use the popular sires for many of the above reasons keep plugging away doing our own thing. We are the seed stock producers that the AI companies look for....hoping to find something unrelated to the bulls they have been advertising and promoting. And then that bull becomes popular and the circle continues.

One of the first things I saw in the Cardigans is the overall lack of breed uniformity. Sure they all looked long and low from a distance but head pieces, fronts, rears, coat texture its all over the board. Coming from a livestock perspective the quickest way to fix that lack of uniformity is to breed to the same sire. And I see this alot and yet it seems as though overall the highly used dogs still do not stamp themselves on their get in every instance. I understand that one calf is easier to get to uniformity than 8 puppies but farmers usually have 50-500 cows and all their calves look identical when using the same bull. That is what buyers at the auctions love....the uniformity in look, size, color and pattern (or lack of i guess).

I've watched many people's breeding practices in the past. Some breed to every top 10 or 20 dog available. Some to every old 'great' dog that still has frozen semen available. Others only breed to what is local or in the own home. And others yet find dogs that no one is using to keep the diversity open in the breed (amongst other reasons of course). I like to take gambles. I have used dogs that haven't had many litters. I use young dogs. Does that mean I don't like the top dog or heavily used stud dog? No. But I also don't want my dogs to be exactly what everyone else is breeding for either. Sure that might say 'breed uniformity' but I truly believe that with a small gene pool already we need to not all be using the same dogs.

So how does one go about breed uniformity when everyone prefers a different look, and popular sires may or may not stamp themselves on to their get?

I find it so odd that a breed that is so small in numbers has so little uniformity. Surely regional areas or kennels themselves have uniformity but how do we get to overall breed uniformity without sacrificing our genetic diversity that we have by not using the same 5 dogs?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Do Not Show List and Judge Accountability

Since the beginning of my showing of animals (pigeons, sheep, dogs, dairy cattle, etc) I've always heard people say things after losing for various reasons "Well I will not show to that judge ever" or something like "He won't get my entry again". Many times I felt like asking the person WHY they will not bring a bird, cow or dog to that judge again but usually I keep my mouth shut.

In my seven years of dog showing I have never come across a judge that I would never show to again. Until recently. Sure I have shown to judges several times and never won anything. They didn't like my dog on that day, or didn't like the type of dog that I was showing at that show, or maybe their condition, maturity, lack of grooming etc etc. The list could almost be endless.

I've shown and lost to these judges numerous times. Every time I would say, 'well they didn't like my dog today'. And in the first 5 years of so I did have many different types of Cardigans in the ring. Every time it was a different style of dog, and different age if I showed the dog several times to that judge. Never did I say I wouldn't show them again. Stupid? Perhaps.

Things I need to remember:

1. My dogs' merit based on what else was at the show that day. The next time my dog could be the best dog in the ring and maybe the judge will see it.
2. My dogs' age. A judge may not like it as a puppy but later, when mature love it. sometimes the other way around.
3. My ability to show the dog to the best of its ability. This includes training, grooming and everything about presentation. It may have been a wild child in the ring and again later could be better trained.

In livestock and pigeon judging, which I've been certified to do both for over a decade, we have to give oral reasons for why we placed animal 1 before 2 and why 2 was where it was over 3, even though 3 may have had something nicer and more obvious to the public watching. By the end of the reasons and judging everyone knew why I placed a class the way I did, and fully understood it and respected my reasoning (for the most part). In dog shows we get no critique (at least in AKC). We the exhibitors get to go on a huge Assumption Hunt and decide to say things like "he's a blue judge, she's a movement judge, she doesn't like puppies, he loves puppies, he only puts up a familiar face or she only puts up handlers".....the list could be extensive. And then we talk about it to each other. A lot. And online. Over the phone. At puppy parties or even ringside.

I was raised a very strict and traditional Lutheran Missouri Synod boy. We did not talk ill of people. And most importantly we would make our own judgement on a person (be it a teacher, friend, judge or whomever) on our own time and in our own dealings. Just because 90% of the population hates someone or won't show to someone, if I haven't met the person, or in this case, shown to the judge I will still enter until that judge proves me the idiot for entering under them.

I haven't had a special before. I have never followed a judge that gave me a group placement (because I've never had one yet). I've never followed a judge to shows because they put my dog up before. I HAVE entered shows where the judge put me up before, but I will not go out of my way for it. I also have never made friends with the judges and then bring my dogs to them in hopes of winning because of being their friend versus the merits of my dogs. Can other people do it? Certainly. And a lot of people do. Will I ever do it? Its hard to say today, but my thoughts in my mind are NO, i will not do that. If a judge happens to come back to this neck of the woods and has put my dog up before, I will certainly enter but that does not guarantee I will win or that my dog was the best dog there that day. And I can live with that.

The past few years the style of dogs in my home have narrowed in on two types for lack of a better description (yes the obvious Briard vs. Cardigan for you funny types reading this) but two 'styles' of Cardigans rather. And I do not remember judges well enough (names or faces for that matter) to remember showing under certain ones before. So now if a judge would not like my dogs, I would understand why (perhaps they don't like the style of cardigan I am showing to them, or the slow developing lines or whatever it may be). Because we don't have oral reasons we are not holding our judges to accountability

Again I don't mind losing to dogs that are better. Mine are not perfect. When the entire ringside group of CWC breeders stand there in shocked disbelief (myself included) I would think that none of us will be showing to that judge again. And maybe, next time the kennel club brings them around to judge, with little to no entries....well....they'll figure it out.

I myself being a judge, (all bred pigeon judge, which the National Pigeon Association recognizes over 1,000 breeds) it is difficult to know every standard for every breed. Luckily we are able to have a 'book of standards' available to use at all times. We still have to discuss orally our reasoning for placing birds the way we think they should be, and then usually spend time after the judging talking to the exhibitors about what to improve on, what I did right, and how far off base I was to the interpretation of the standard. Fortunately for many breed specific shows you must be qualified and passed to judge larger shows, and if you screw up a big show, you go back for more 'shadowing' and tutoring to be the best judge you can be. I'd hope AKC has something like that in place for judges and when complaints are filed, that the judges heed the criticism just like a pigeon judge would and want to be a better judge for the betterment of the breed.

I"m sure this is just ranting to some of you, but I appreciate all of the private emails and phone calls as of late in regards to my posts. Its comforting to know I am not alone in these thoughts and welcome feedback to my thoughts. I'm not saying I'm right, I'm just glad to be able to 'work things out' as I get them off my chest.

Who knew 2012 would be so insightful for me? :)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Having vs Wanting

It is indeed human nature to always want what we can't have. A nicer house, a better paying job, happy love life, a newer car........our society has done well with feeding us the notions that we can never be satisfied.

I have learned in the past few years that that is not always BETTER. I am quite content with my life and my direction, although there are days (or weeks) where I longed for a job that didn't depend on the weather, or a life that didn't have to care for the livestock and dogs and just be a 'city folk' who could go home after work, make supper (or order in) and watch TV all night. Those days are far and few between, as I do like to stay active, and productive, but I still wish for that sometimes.

Breeding dogs to a standard is also a having vs wanting. Dog and livestock really are quite similar and I take my knowledge from livestock and use it on the dogs as well.

A few questions I always find myself asking about my dogs:

1. What are this dogs virtues and what do all my dogs collectively have that are nice?
2. What of those things MUST i never lose and always try to keep?
3. What things would I like to improve on my dogs
4. How do I go about selecting a stud dog to improve what my bitch needs but hopefully not lose what my bitch has?

Awhile back there was a great thread on one of my Facebook statuses regarding stud dogs and how difficult it was for me to find a dog that A) was health tested, B) was of the bloodlines I was willing/wanting to work with, C) structurally had (and was producing) what I wanted to improve in my bitch(es).

Certainly there are many more health tested stud dogs now in Cardigans than ever before. Color was not a sticky point (except I couldn't use blue). Pedigree ....there just some lines I would rather not work with, or have no idea about anything about them and was happy to continue working with lines I was familiar with (mostly old English lines is my preference). I also wanted a dog with a happy and biddable temperament, and had the construction that I was hoping to improve upon.

Many of my kennel club friends who have other breeds cannot believe I would try to breed Cardigans. They say they are nearly impossible to get right and there is much to think of and hope for when breeding. Many litters of Viszlas, Briards, GSPs, or others can tell show pups at young ages and they do not normally go through stages or phases and they are what they are. Sometimes close to entire litters are shown and finished quickly (and that is different than kennel blindness where CWC breeders will show entire litters (IMHO).

When I bred Ell to Pilot I was looking for numerous things. Health tests were a must. A similar pedigree (Merrymoon Hunter is Pie's sire) and I had fallen in love with Pie's dam Alice and was interested in her pedigree. On top of that Pie has a very sweet temperament, and there were things I was looking for out of that litter. In no particular order: rounder feet, more fill of muzzle more substance (overall, not just in bone), longer ribbing and depth of chest, stronger rear. My mentor Barb, said (and i will never forget this) "No matter how much you try and pick the right mate for your bitch, and hope all the starts align, in the end you are just hoping that you get lucky and get something worth keeping". I think of that often. In the end it really is a crap shoot and hopefully a pup or two will catch my eye and be nice enough to keep.

Ell produced surprisingly consistent in the litter. All had nice bone for their size, pretty heads, nice round ears, lovely top lines and necks, length of upper arms etc. Of course each puppy isn't perfect and each has a few faults I would like to see corrected but their virtues, in my opinion outweigh their faults. Are the pups better than their mother? In most instances yes. And that is really what its all about is improvement in each generation.

So even though the dogs HAVE things I want to keep and got things I wanted to HAVE, I still WANT them to be better. Closer to perfection. YES they are my dogs and pets first, but there is not a day that goes by that I do not stare at their faults and wish they were better.  And it will come. I believe I have an eye for finding the faults, and improving on them. I just hope that I continue to be of that mindset in the future.

The WANTING will never go away. And I need to REMIND MYSELF that many of my dogs HAVE many virtues and things that other people want. The grass is always greener on the other side right?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Dealing with What we have

In all the species of livestock I have worked with, judged, bred and shown (including dogs), I have found some huge stereotypes based on life experiences, more than on assumption. Can it be safe to say that ALL people with the SAME issue are going to respond and react the same way? Absolutely not, but in the same breathe, I dare say that for the most part, people do fit these scenarios.

Let's play a few out. Again, this may or may be true of every breeder but it seems that more times than not, these people are exactly as described below. Please take no offense. For this blog entry I will keep it pertaining to dogs as that is who mostly reads this blog anyway.

Size. Different 'lines' in Cardigans tend to grow at different speeds,  mature at different ages and tend to 'finish out' at different weights. I have found that Ava, my blue bitch grew quite fast and was as large as her mother by 8 months of age (28 pounds). She grew quickly and topped out at 34 pounds, which is what our standard states as being the largest a bitch should weigh. She just turned two in November and I can say she has weighed the same for about 12 months, with maybe a pound lost here or gained there.

All the other bitches in my home are 24-26 pounds soaking wet. Our standard states 25 pounds to be the least a bitch should way. Could these girls stand to gain a pound? Certainly. But what I find also with these lines is that they take 3-4 years to mature, grow slowly and either get recognized in the ring as pups, or not until they are older.Do I have concern of this that my bitches are so different yes. So what's the big deal?

I find more and more dogs (males especially) in the breed ring that at 12 or 16 months of age are 38-40+ pounds. Adults are 45+ (males). But most every single person I've talked to about this says that that is their only dog that got that big. And they breed it. I would like to gander a guess that large begets large,and my bitches who are moderate in size will produce moderate size offspring.

Am i way off base? People who have the large dogs defend them, and those with smaller dogs defend them as well? i get tired of other Cardigan breeders and friends tell me that "well she is too small" or "she needs more bone", when I think that my bitches have adequate bone for their size and their size is within standard limits. For some reason Americans think "bigger is better' with everything. The servings of food we eat, the vehicles we drive (well until gas spiked the last few years in price) and bigger dogs.

If size only happened as an anomaly (you can bet that Ava won't be bred to a large dog!!), then I wouldn't think twice about it. but several breeders who's dogs I've seen ever year since I got in to Cardigans still have large dogs. And they are producing large offspring. And they are defending their large dogs just like I am defending my moderate size dogs. Do i want to have larger bitches? I would think 28 or 29 pounds would be ideal, but my girls seem to be none the worse for wear when in the all breed rings.

HIP DYSPLASIA. I"ll probably get angry comments to this but everyone believes what they believe with OFA, PennHIP, OVC or not testing at all. But why? Do you think that there are those like me, who had trusted OFA and found out my 9 month old imported dog (with no guarantees, health or otherwise, not even a contract) would come back with MILD HD? I had to make a decision. Believe OFA and come to terms with an HD dog, or shrug it off, retest him and hope for better results the next time or stop testing all together say I don't believe in testing hips.

Some breeders will have long drawn out discussions with me about why they don't believe Cardigans have HD, why they don't test their dogs and why I shouldn't be either. Others will say they test but they will use a dog that doesn't pass if they have a bitch that passes or vice versa. OFA is a tool and they will use the results with caution. Others yet will only use dogs that pass their hips and stick firmly to the belief that OFA and Pennhip are doing all they can. Some yet will test Pennhip or OFA and if they don't like the result  with try the other for a passing result.  Why?

And isn't it funny that those that typically do NOT pass hips are the ones that usually stop testing or don't believe in OFA results any longer?

DEGENERATIVE MYELOPATHY- This is a newer health concern we have a test for. And again, many who have N/N dogs will say that everyone should test and we can get rid of this disease. Those with A/A dogs seem to say that the test is not conclusive because we haven't found the trigger to the disease and refuse to share results or test any further dogs. Since I've only had N/N or N/A dogs I'm in the middle of the road. I would use an A/A dog if my bitch was N/N and my carrier bitches i would ultimately want N/N dogs to breed to them. But why is this?

TURN OUT - some will argue we need to have dogs turn out at 10 and 2 (if looking at a clock) while others say the standard does not indicate any turn out is needed or necessary. Those with dogs with turn out seem to be of the camp that yes 10 and 2 are mandatory. Why? Why can't someone like me say....yes my dog "XYZ" has too much turn out and next breeding will try and rectify this. Or maybe some people do and just aren't public about it.

Why do we tend to stand behind and believe so strongly these things that affect our dogs? I realize that this is making huge assumptions about everyone, myself included and there are ALWAYS exceptions to the rule. I know there is a new group of breeders who share all results, good, bad or ugly and hopefully, others can learn from our pains, experiences and heartbreak.

I'm not sure the purpose of this post only to write down my thoughts I've had in my mind for years, long before dogs. Why do we as humans do this? Is this the reason for so many debates and friendships ruined (or gained) by having similar experiences?

I just wish that everyone could be upfront and regardless of their dogs tests, their size, their temperament or whatever it could be, we could all stand united and move forward all learning from each as we go. If we wouldn't come down on a fellow person because of their dogs size, and perhaps offer a moderate bitch to be leased so their dogs didn't continue to get larger? Or maybe help to educate new people about the importance of health testing and regardless of the results to no chastise each other's dogs for being A/A, or having HD or whatever the situation.

It really is about the betterment of the breed, not our own ego, agenda or livelihood. Its about the dogs and we are to be good stewards of the breed for them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winning vs Improvement

This is first and foremost a personal opinion not meant to offend anyone. Everyone has dogs for different reasons, we approach breeding and showing at different angles and there is nothing wrong with that. I believe eventually we will all end up in the same place.....but by different roads....may take longer for some than others.

In the past year I have been very fortunate enough to have done well in the show ring with my dogs. Dog showing is a sport and everyone likes to win. However I have come to realize that in the past year or so, everyone seems to have a different take on showing dogs. I am NO expert at showing or grooming so like to think that my dogs win on their own merits and not who is showing them, who I know or how well my dog is trained or groomed.

That being said I don't feel those avenues to winning are bad for anyone to follow, but they are not for me.

When I first started in Cardigans it was because I wanted a farm dog that could do what it was bred to do: herd cattle. I soon started researching breeds of herding dogs and I wanted something without the long lustrous coat of most herding breeds (we had collies, border collies, English shepherds in the past) and wanted somethings a bit more easy to manage (like our GSDs and ACDs of the past). Soon after finding the Cardigan I found the only breeder in MN at the time that I could find on the CWCCA website and she had a litter of pups that had just been born. The girl was a show prospect and since I had shown poultry and pigeons and sheep in the past, how hard could dog showing be? My entire purpose was to have a dog that could work the animals, show in the conformation ring and be my house companion.

Things very quickly escalated to full out show fever and I tried my best to learn how to show, purchase the proper clothes, equipment and everything else associated with showing dogs. It was bug i had hard.

I imported a dog from Europe with huge dreams with my firs two dogs. We did it all. Rally. Obedience, Agility, Herding, Conformation. We drove all over the state and took lessons from different kennel clubs. I enjoyed my dogs thoroughly, but loved it even more when they won or when we had a qualifying score.

As the years progressed and I researched pedigrees, bloodlines, temperaments, health issues, and the breed itself I became even more in love with the breed. I painstakingly went over stud dogs for my bitches and with the help of their breeders tried to find something that would best suit the girls. I was a nervous wreck during their pregnancy. Did I do the right thing? Am I ready for a litter? Am I ready to be responsible for the life of the puppies? Did I breed to the right dog? All these things raced through my head. It was never about making money on the litter. It was about finding my next show dog and moving forward with those puppies genetically in my breeding program.

After having hit and miss wins randomly throughout the years, this past year really made me think long and hard. Was I just being lucky? Had I really been fortunate enough to have some quality pups from these litters that judges and fellow breeders alike found to be worthy of their wins? To be closer to the Standard of perfection?

No one is harder on my own dogs than myself. I've placed dogs because I couldn't stand to look at them, only to have others tell me they were certainly capable of finishing. I've kept dogs longer than I thought because I hoped they'd turn out. Each litter has been so different in terms of growing that I enjoyed being able to see how each progressed (or didn't) and how similar yet different they could be from their parents or siblings.

I was asked by my mentors Barb and Jon numerous times about what I wanted to have as goals with the breed. What do you want to eventually do with them? Be known for? 5 year goal, 10 year goal. Lifetime goal. Such serious questions but ones I answered as honestly and truthfully as I could. My answer was never to have a BIS dog, a #1 in the breed Cardigan, or anything related to showing. While all of those things would be nice, I wanted to be known for other reasons.

I am now, after a year of showing and being blessed enough to win at nearly every weekend I was out showing.....have reaffirmed my commitment to the breed. To their health. To their temperament. To their improved structure, and to the breed as a whole. If I don't win at shows, that isn't going to change what I have in my house for dogs. It isn't going to change my breeding goals or long term plans.

I want to be looked back on at the end of my life with Cardigans as being a good steward of the breed by health testing all of my stock, by improving them conformationally (no dog is perfect but we can all try) and that I will have a distinctive bloodline my dogs can be recognizable as (what I think the ideal cardigan looks like from my interpretation of the breed standard).

I do not follow judges around. I do not know all the big handlers or their names. I do not know any all breed judges and do not show under them for that reason solely. Do I know BREEDER judges? Absolutely. Will I show to breeder judges? Yes again. Our breed is so small in numbers that I do know most of the breeder judges. I do not think any of them at a specialty or supported entry would ever put up their long time friends over a better Cardigan. I think we all hold each other accountable for that.

I am also still learning about grooming for each specific dog. The standard says only whiskers and pads on feet should be trimmed but who doesn't bathe, chalk, brush or manipulate the coat in some manner? That doesn't make it right, but learning these tricks of the trade may give dogs the advantage.

I also need to become a better handler. Having two girls I feel are worthy of specialing locally means that they need more ring time, more practices with dad and to become the stoic show dogs instead of the super naughty pups they were at St Paul (ahem Ballantyne).

So what does this mean to anyone else, showing or anyone reading it? To those who show, probably not much. I will still lose to dogs that are better trained, shown by a big name, or out handled by me, or because a judge knows the person showing the dog. Such is life. That part I cannot change. It is a 'game' and those that are hell bent on winning any way possible will do so, because they have learned how to. Will that make me do the same? Absolutely not. What I do think this means is that I am ever eager to continue improving my dogs so that regardless of my shortcomings, my dogs will outshine others in their quality and breed type (amongst other items), when my dogs of course are better than the others. And depending on the show, this may not be the case, or it might.

What does this mean to those readers who have gotten dogs from me, or are thinking about it? Know that I am not kennel blind. I will not sell something that is not from health tested stock, that has severe structural issues or that I sell dogs just to make money. None of those things could be further from the truth.

I care so much about this breed that if I never won another show, it wouldn't matter. I would still be committed to the long term future of this breed in all aspects...instinct, health, structure, temperament. And after those who get tired of playing the game to win are gone, I will still be here, and my dogs will be better and healthier, living long healthy lives.

And as for the title: Winning vs. Improvement, I believe that by focusing on the latter, and not the former, I will attain both :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Land O' Lakes weekend

it seems that no matter the dog show, the day before the first day of showing is another day of dog readying.

I spent most of Thursday bathing and grooming dogs, packing the Volvo and asking Mary again to haul half of my stuff. I swear I'm never showing 6 dogs in one weekend again unless I'm driving WITH her in her extended cargo van :) Many thanks to Mary for hauling my stuff and helping show Ava for me all weekend as well as take dogs back in for winners or sweeps.

Friday was the North Star Herding Group Club Specialty. In a frantic unload Thursday evening I was a nervous wreck in the morning as I had opted to leave my dogs at the show site (I will never do that again BTW...too stressful on ME). An early ring time and we are grooming like maniacs in our half sized grooming area that Teresa and I were set up in. Between Mary, Teresa and myself we managed to make it to ring 5 minutes early......only to realize the rings didn't start for another 30 min (insert large sigh and groan).

Cass ended up being the first and only dog in his class, and Mary had to show him as I had a ring conflict and showed Margot in her sweeps class in another ring. I was running like a fool and more than one person told me to slow down and relax (a slap across the face would have been totally appreciated as well Mary, Teresa, Diana or anyone else who told me to settle down!)

I was able to show Campbell in her class and back in the ring for Best in Sweeps....which by the way Campbell was fortunate enough to WIN considering her bouncy self and naughty antics. I do like those sassy Cardigan bitches. lol. What a thrill and honor and my first Best in Sweeps win!

In regular classes Campbell was 2nd in her class and Cass was again a lone entry in his class. Bolin in BBE didn't fare as well (5/5) but hey the rest of her weekend went well. :) Ava and Ballantyne were both entered in Breed in hopes of more major wins for their Grand Champion majors. Ava didn't need them but it would be a great thing if her grand champion was all majors!  Mary showed Ava for me (first time I've ever let anyone show Ava other than myself), and I showed Ballantyne. Both girls showed well and I was happy with Ballantyne going Best of Opposite Sex and Ava Select Bitch!!! Ballantyne earned a 5 pt major for her ribbon and Ava 4 point! I again had a ring conflict with Margot so I asked my Briard friends if one of them could show her for me. With only minutes of knowing Jackie, Margot did ok, but no points for her, which is fine. Her time will come! The Briarders LOVED her and had so many wonderful things to say about her I was beginning to blush :)

After the show I waited for photos forEVER and missed my Cosetta's annual lunch date with the Briard folk, but they were again complimentary on Margot and I was able to have Teresa try out the restaurant which she did like! The evening called for catching up with college buddies over beers and reliving a good Specialty day of showing.

Saturday was not as early and I didn't have Margot entered the rest of the weekend due to funds (re: no snow yet this winter for snow removal business). The judge was a woman who is well respectedd in Cardigans and has judged the Briard National. I had never shown to her before but she was wonderful with the pups and was very complimentary on my kids :)

Campbell won her class, as did Bolin (after being 5/5 the day before!) and Both girls showed well in the ring for Winner's Bitch. Bolin was considered hard for Winner's Bitch but in the end went to a more mature bitch and Bolin was RWB. Can't complain it was THAT close!

Ballantyne was BOS sex again and she was on the move. The judge pulled her first in the specials line up and I heard from many ringside that the judge couldn't take her eyes off of her. Ballantyne showed really well for me and went BOS over 5 bitch specials and all the class bitches for a 5 pt gch major again! wohoo!! I heard several thought she was going to get the breed and that meant a lot to me that others thought highly of my moderate sized girl. Ava was completely absent mentally in the ring and Mary had a workout keeping her in the game.

I met up with some good friends downtown Minneapolis for supper and then off to the bars with them for a few more drinks in St Paul after I pottied dogs back at the show site. Again a wonderful evening meeting up with old college friends!

Sunday we didn't show until after 2 pm and were honestly one of the very last breeds to be judged. Another good day with Cass being RWD, Bolin again RWB in another tight race for the Winner's ribbon, and Ballantyne was Select bitch for a 4 pt gch major!

After saying goodbye to all my friends....which there is NEVER enough time it seems to talk and catch up adequately, we loaded up the grooming area, packed up the car and I was finally on the road just before SIX pm. Unreal....

Overall it was a great weekend. Best in Sweeps with Campbell, Bolin two RWBs, Cass RWD (all to majors), Ballantyne three Grand CH majors (2 five points and a four point) and Ava one more four point major). Ballantyne now has 21 GrCh major points with ALL majors (5 shows, 5 days) and Ava has 23 GrCh major points with ALL majors (6 shows, 6 days). Before you know it they will have their Grand CH titles! Unfortunately for them, our next show will probably be the National or Fargo as with the lack of snow removal this winter I am a little cramped for extra funds :)

I wanted to thank everyone ringside for their help switching dogs, keeping the dogs quiet (ahem, LOL) and for the laughs and congratulations and hugs all around. It really is a fun thing, this dog showing thing ;)

Congratulations to all the winners this weekend on a strong entry of Cardigans! Always good wins when the quality is high!