“Breeders” and profit margins

It started a few months ago, when we were visiting the local nursing home with our dogs and a puppy (the nursing home is a great place to socialize the young pups– it is safe and clean, and our dogs are the only visiting dogs).

One of the nurses asked my mom if she knew how young a girl dog could have puppies. My mom shrugged and told her that a female dog *could* have puppies as early as 9 weeks after her first heat cycle… why?

Wellll…. nurse hadn’t “gotten around” to spaying her six month old Chihuahua. Understandable– I’m not a fan of early spays myself, but then again, my breeds don’t usually come into their first season until they are 10 to 11 months old or sometimes even 14 months.

The problem?

She also had never “gotten around” to neutering her male Maltese. My mom grimaced and asked the dogs’ sizes. The nurse wanted to know what my mom meant. My mother asked for the dogs’ weights… is the male much bigger than the female??

“No,” she said, “he’s only about 15 pounds, before his haircut. And she’s a big chihuahua, almost five pounds already.”

*slams head on desk* *also your Maltese is huge*

Well, the deed was done, and my mom begged the woman to have her little dog spayed NOW. But it was too much to think any sort of responsibility would come from this, and nine weeks later, the bitch MIRACULOUSLY delivered five healthy puppies.

In a similar miraculous fashion, they all, mom included, survived to six weeks. The nurse had more questions:

“Where do I advertise them?”


“Where do YOU advertise your puppies?”

“Well, we have a website, but our puppies are typically spoken for BEFORE they are conceived… occasionally we keep a couple back for training, and there might be the odd puppy whose owners backed out, but…”

“Oh. Do you think Craigslist is a good option?”

“Noooo… Craigslist doesn’t allow breeders to list.”

“Oh, but I’m not a breeder… I’ve only had this one litter. Not like you guys.”

“Well, um, Craigslist doesn’t seem like good option.”

“Well I saw Malted Cheese on there before, and they were TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS A PIECE!”

(this is where my ears perked up… Malted Cheese??? Turns out she was saying “MaltiChis”)

My mom did her I-can’t-believe-I-am-engaged-in-this-conversation-smile.

“Well, just be really careful when finding them homes… and they have to be eight weeks old, by law, before you sell them, and be sure they get vet checked before they go to their new homes… shots… dewormings…” She and the lady had a nice chat about where to go for “cheap” health checks (PS– we don’t know). I went on playing with Janie and handing toys to the residents to throw for her.

Eventually, our visit is over and we get in the car. Before we get out of the driveway, we erupt into a cloud of anger and disbelief. Strangely, we each have a different pet peeve that surfaced in that conversation.

Mine? the term “breeder.”

Mom’s? The price of her puppies, and mostly her profit margin.

Obviously we live in a time where it is en vogue to rescue a mixed breed dog. (and the disclaimer– I love mixed breeds, I have two myself, both rescues, one was a street dog who showed up and decided to join the family, one was an owner-surrender because he is the world’s worst dog and somehow we just can’t not like him.)

I always thought the general perspective on purebred dogs went something like this: If you *must* buy a purebred dog, then get one from a responsible breeder.

Apparently that is no longer the case. More and more, I am hearing conversations such as this:

“We have a Golden Retriever. Yes, he is a purebred…. no, not from a breeder… our neighbor has two WONDERFUL DOGS and they had ONE LITTER of WONDERFUL PUPPIES. I don’t agree with supporting breeders.”

So, let’s just skip the semantics (Really, people, what do you think “breeder” means? Apparently it means more than one litter?).

At some point it became acceptable to just toss two dogs together, have a litter of puppies, and be free of all responsibility because, well, you aren’t a “breeder.”

If you take the time to carefully select a bitch and a stud, pursue all avenues of health testing, and HEAVEN FORBID have more than one litter? Well, you are nothing but a “breeder.”

I asked a friend once if he knew the hip and knee history on the parents of his limping large breed (purebred) dog. Well, no, he didn’t… because he didn’t get her from a breeder, he got her from friends of his parents’. But their dogs were perfectly healthy. They’ve been to the vet a lot of times. You know, they aren’t in it for the money, they just had a litter of puppies because their dogs are so wonderful.

Okay. My soapbox– I don’t care if you are planning on your two WONDERFUL dogs to have ONE singleton litter, and you are planning to keep Baby George for the rest of his life. You are planning to bring a life into this world. We have SO MUCH amazing testing available. You owe it to that one life (and really, as soon as you count on a small litter, you will be blessed with fifteen bouncing babies) to do everything in your power to ensure he is as absolutely healthy as he can be. I don’t care if you aren’t a “breeder.”

Sure, it costs a lot of money to get the parents tested. It might seem like the testing is going to eat up all your profit!! Well, it probably will. That isn’t the point. You aren’t in this to make money, remember?

This leads right into my mother’s biggest issue– the profit margin.

Think back to the original story of the Malted Cheese puppies. Two hundred dollars each, times 5. One thousand dollars!

Then let’s take a litter from a larger breed– say, eight hundred dollars each, times 6. FORTY-EIGHT HUNDRED DOLLARS.

Who made more money??

This is where most people stop. Obviously, the people charging $800 a puppy are making way more money. So, either the puppy shoppers get pissed because they think the “breeder” is a money-grubbing SOB (and we all know in these days, it is cardinal sin to make a profit), OR they never look for the value in either set of puppies and immediately go to purchase the cheaper pups.

But the question should be, who had the bigger profit margin?

It may not be the people who “made” $4,800.

Let’s not even look at the initial costs of raising a quality bitch up to breeding age (but briefly think of purchase price, vet care, a quality food, training/competition/somehow prove her worth, and health clearances. One time I penciled it out and came up with $25,000, assumed I was wrong, tried again, and got $28,000. I stopped trying.)

For a single litter, you must consider:
Stud fee (or hey, maybe you have your own male! Great… see above for how much THAT will cost)
Increased dietary needs during gestation and lactation
Vet visits
Missed work during the whelping and at least several days after… or hire a whelp-sitter…
Blankets, toys, MORE feed, supplements, etc. to raise the pups up to eight weeks
Puppy dewormer
Puppy shots
Vet visits
Oodles of stuff to put in their puppy care kits, food to take home
Registration costs

It adds up. Quickly.

In our program, vet visits drive our costs up. Our puppies see a minimum of two veterinarians before they go home. Fortunately, our local vet is 15 minutes away. The other vets? The opthamalogist and the hearing doctor are an hour and a half away. So is the cardiologist, who we recently had to employ (and a single visit to see her eats up more than one-half the cost of a puppy). The vet we know and trust for our large breed puppies? Three hours away.

Our profit margin is very, very small, and on some litters, non-existant. We do occasionally make a profit. It goes right back into the dogs, usually to entry fees.

Obviously this post is nothing more than a rant, but I wanted to get it out there. Feel free to share and comment and discuss. Yes, well-bred puppy DOES cost more. NO, the owner is not trying to make a quick buck. Hardly.

I also understand that there are poor breeders out there who charge hundreds for their pups, but have invested very little time and effort, so it is important to remember: Cost is not directly proportional to quality.

Do your research. Lots of it.

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Castlewood and Babler State Parks– First Day Hikes

Whoops! It’s been almost a month and a half since I last updated, and a lot has happened! I’ll start with January 1st, 2013. Happy New Year!!

You might have heard of First Hike– a national movement to get people up and out in nature. It is held at various parks across the nation on January first of each year. The hikes are led by interpreters or other park staff, and are of various length.

I wanted to do a First Hike last year (2012) but was unable to do so. This year, I was determined to give it a try. The closest First Hikes to use were at Babler SP or Montauk SP. Montauk’s was early in the morning, though, so we settled on Babler. The best part? I got the whole family on board!

So on January 1st, 2013, we pulled on any attire we thought appropriate for the 20 degree weather. We packed up Nike, Uli, Raven, and our newest baby, Oliver. I thought he might get tired, but the trail was just over a mile and hhe was then light enough to carry.

As we were driving down the road, I looked to my left and saw that Dite, my sister’s Nubian doe, had kidded right in the snow. I jumped out, hopped the fence, and wrapped him my jacket. Mom and Teri decided to stay home and get the new guy settled in. I was sad we weren’t all going, but at least the new baby was cute:


We named him Poseidon.

Dad, Nike, Uli, and I continued on to Babler. Unfortunately, we missed the hike by just a few minutes, but we headed down the trail anyway. The Hawthorne Trail is 1.25 miles and runs down both sides of a narrow ridge. The far end of the loop offered a pretty view of Wild Horse Creek valley. We finished the trail in short order, but we weren’t done yet! We stopped at the entrance for an awesome picture:


And then we headed to Castlewood State Park. We decided on the River Scene trail (3.25 miles but with an option to cut it nearly in half), which borders the Meramec. Nike loves this river more than just about anything, and I think she knew it was “her” river. The trail was lovely and quiet. We explored the ruins of the resort that once stood on the property, inspected the river, and just had a nice time.


Uli climbs up on anything.


Nike wanted to get IN the river, but since it was only 20 degrees… they just got really close.

We spend about two miles on the trail before turning back and heading to the Jeep. We stopped for a quick pic:


It was a really fun day, and everyone had a great time. NIke and Uli logged a few miles under their packs, and it was a great start to the new year.


Happy active New Year! Check out a local First Hike location for 2014. We’re excited to make this a New Year’s tradition.

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A little bit of everything

Well, Merry Christmas!

It’s been awhile, and so much has happened. I am FINALLY done with school. Sort of. Just for the holidays. Two and a half more years to go.

I am not even sure where I am going with this post; it will probably end up a list of updates and ramblings.

The holidays are a great time to get fat and think a lot. Check, check. Looking back over my year: I am astounded. So much happened. 2012 was one for the record books.

But since this is Nike’s blog, we’ll stick with the dog news ;-).

So let’s see:

We… got back into dog sports!!! WOO HOO. I finally got a building membership to a facility, and at one point during the summer, theh girls and I were attending dog class every. single. night. of the week. Not to mention our frequent hikes and explorations.

We… earned six titles since July. Not as good as I’d hoped, but not bad considering a.) I am a poor vet student, and b.) I haven’t titled a dog since 2006. Although I’ve been seeing more and more disgust for titles and titling organizations in general… I LIKE it. And my dogs like it, so… we’ll keep collecting.

We… got serious about herding. I know, I know, two test-level titles is hardly “serious,” but *I* am serious about doing more next summer. I would lovelovelove to get Uli to USBCHA (Border Collie Handlers’) trials, but they are pretty big and pretty scary. I am planning to go watch and learn at a few trials. Unfortunately, the USBCHA abhors AKC, but oh well. Worry about that later. I am looking forward to more lessons and the improvement I know we will all make.

We… hiked nearly 100 miles this year. I am excited about that! Forty-nine of those miles, for Nike, were under pack… one mile short of her 50 miles towards her PD title…lol. I am actually hoping to get that finished before January 1st, but it might not happen. I love hiking with the girls and I am looking forward to many more miles. Our goal for 2013 is to go on an overnight trip!

We… lost one member of the pack, and gained another. You probably know that I had to make the ugly decision to have Tippy euthanized on October 30th. It was tough and I hated myself for it at the time, but I know it was the right thing to do. Part of me– a huge part of me– never ever ever wants to go through that again. And then I look around and realize…. too late. I’ve already fallen in love with more, and just brought baby Uli into our lives. So I snuggle and spend more time with them than I do human beings, and shove that uncomfortable truth far, far into the future.

And that is it for now, and that is enough. I can’t wait for 2013 to roll round. For me and the dogs, I can only plan until October, when I go into clinics. Past October, I have no idea what my schedule will be. So I hope to cram as much goodness into the first 10 months as I possibly can.

Next up on the docket is an AKC obedience trial for Nike. We’ll finish/send off the paperwork for Nike’s PD title. ASCA has their Chill Chaser (obedience, rally, and agilty) in February, where Nike and Uli will hopefully earn their ASCA-RA/X titles. We’ll do that overnight backpacking trip, and I want to attend a tracking workshop soon.

And then who knows????

Not me– but I can’t wait to find out 😉

Happy Holidays, best wishes for the new year!!

Tora, Nike, and Uli

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Nike’s AKC PT Test

Nike passed her PT! For those who don’t know, AKC offers two test-level herding classes, the HT and the PT. For the HT, the dog and handler move the sheep from cone to cone and back again. The handler can walk with the sheep, but the dog needs to be pressuring the sheep and doing most of the work. He also needs to have a good stop and recall off the sheep.

The PT is a little more in-depth– the dog must show a good wait while the leash is removed, then he is sent to stock. The dog should gather the sheep to the handler, then the dog, handler, and sheep move along the fence, behind two panels, turn around, head behind the panels again, and finally to the pen. The dog should wait quietly while the sheep are re-penned. Additionally, the dog, handler, and sheep must come to a complete pause somewhere along the course.

It doesn’t sound hard, and for some dogs, it isn’t. Nike did very well, although she reaaalllllyyy wants to work the heads by swinging around in front of the sheep to control them. That is fine, really, and it means she will not let the sheep run over me, or run away. But sometimes she gets sticky and won’t let them move at all. That wasn’t a problem this weekend!! Nike wowed the crowd by working the heads– facing the sheep while we tried to move forward. She did give ground and let them move forward, though… by running backwards. She kept a very close eye on them! The neat thing about Nike is her ability to turn on and off her control. She can sneak quietly past a flock, then “turn on” and drive them where she needs.

Anyway, the test wasn’t hard for her, but I was sure I would mess up!!! I didn’t, though, and she passed the test twice, earning her PT (pre-trial tested) title.

Next stop is her PD (PackDog) title with DSA and her JHD with AHBA. Hopefully both will happen next month! I am really looking forward to more herding, both arena trials and sheepdog trials. The sheepdog trials will be a long time coming and may be more suited for Uli, but I am excited nontheless!


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The Canine Games and an AKC rant

First of all: the Canine Games!!

If you live in the St. Louis area, I *highly* recommend that you attend this annual event (if you are reading this, I assume you are at very least mildly interested in dogs).

The Canine Games is an event for dogs and their owners, put on by the Spirit of St. Louis Samoyed Club to raise money for Samoyed rescue.

Vendors, local rescue groups, and local dog clubs all set up shop for a fun-filled day at Purina Farms in Gray Summit, MO.

There are plenty of fun events for rescue dogs (a rescue parade, costume contest, etc.), but there are TONS of fun events for all dogs! Training clubs set up in various rings to let dogs give many sports a try.

I think this is a complete list, but I am really not sure:
Dog Park
Lure Coursing
Conformation/Jr. Handling
Disc Dog
Canine Einstein (an IQ test)
A Novice obedience show-n-go
Canine Good Citizen testing
Race the Wind (see how fast your dog can run!)
Earthdog events

All events are non-competitive and at a beginner level. The cost is quite fair, $15/5 events prepaid or $15/4 events day-of. Not bad for a day of fun and lots of socialization! Plus you can be like us and run the rally course a couple of times…like a show-n-go for $3.

Sadie, Raven, Nike, Uli, and Rebel all got to attend this year, along with Sophie, a friend’s Jack Russell Terrier. Rebel was handled by the famous Allysun, our four-year-old charge. Too cute.

Sadie lives for two things: herding and lure coursing. Unfortunately there were no sheepies for her, but there was a lure and BOY does she love it. She loves it so much that we indulge her fancy and attend as many fun runs as are available. She’s going to one next weekend.

Raven’s big event for the day was disc. Teri laughed and said she knew Raven was good when the man watched silently, then sidled up to Teri and asked, “Are you local?” He gave Teri his card and invited her to at least come watch a competition the end of the month. He really encouraged Teri to give it a try.

** Side note– HOW did Uli not inherit one drop of Disc Dog gene?? Between Raven’s drive and Hammie’s (Uli’s sire) disc background, you would think she would be a disc fool. But no.

Uli gave a VERY good run in the rally ring, despite being so hyped up over all the excitement for the day. She settled down perfectly and was ready to work the moment we stepped in the ring. That in itself was worth the whole day to me. I love how she knows when to work!

When we left the ring, the teenager manning it said “Wow, she does really well. You guys should think about competing!” Thanks, from me and my newly-branded RN 🙂

Uli also played agility, Canine Einstein, and harnessing. I guess from all our backpacking– she wasn’t fazed by the sled at all. The helper wanted to put Allysun in the sled… NO! Uli is just a baby!

ANNDDDD… Uli passed her CGC! Not surprised there, but I am just so pleased with her. I really like the way they do the CGC at the Canine Games. The evaluator keeps an eye on the dogs as they interact with people and dogs throughout the day, so when it comes time to test, you only have to demonstrate a recall and a stay and a few other steps she might not have seen yet.

Nike was pretty ho-hum about the day, but she goes every year and is probably bored by now. She carried all our stuff with grace and was VERY helpful.

All in all it was a very good day. Once I get some pictures I will add them.

And now for my mini-rant about the AKC:

This is not a Border Collie-based rant. This is not a quality-of-AKC-dogs rant. This is a title and money rant.

Obviously AKC needs money. They are not only the largest dog registration organization in the USA, they are also a partner in the Canine Health Foundation and donate plenty of money to health research. They are also the dog fancier’s face to the political side of things.

But the money grubbing is getting a little ridiculous.

I just received an email about the CGC and its new status as a title. This is not the first I have heard of this, but this email got me all flustered again.

Historically, the CGC was considered a certificate, not a title, and did not show up on a dog’s registration papers, subsequent title certificates, or in show catalogs. Most people treated it as a title, however, and tacked it, pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey style, to the veerrrryyyy end of a dog’s name. Done.

But wait!! Now the CGC really CAN be a title! Show up in catalogs! On registration papers! Previous CGCs will be grandfathered in, and their CGC can turn into a title just as easily as the new kids’.

For the low, low price of $20.


The test does’t change. The certificate itself probably changes very little. But you can tack it onto the end of your dog’s name!

Except… most people already do that.

So really, nothing changes except AKC is $20 richer.

The ridiculousness of it all baffles me. Part of me says “Great, cool…”

Part of me could care less. My dogs are titled in AKC, ASCA, DSA, soon-to-be UKC, maybe APDT, maybe AHBA at some point. No one piece of paper is going to include all their titles unless I type it myself.

Paying $20 to AKC to pad their pockets seems a little dumb.

Perhaps I wouldn’t be so peeved if AKC charges a flat fee of $20. But they don’t… you can opt to NOT have the CGC be a title. For the same $8 it has always been.

So is it a title, or isn’t it? Seems the difference between a “certificate” and a “title” is $12.

Same thing with the ThD title– the therapy dog title. For a fee, you can turn over your visit log and proof of certification and AKC will slap a ThD on your dog. That’s nice, except some of the organizations, like TDI, ALREADY give titles, equivalent or beyond the ThD title. For nothing more than your hard work and dedication. Besides, therapy work should be done from the heart, not in pursuit of titles. But anyway.

And then the AKC began accepting parent club titles– at first, I thought this was a neat idea. I suppose it can be helpful to people researching working dog bloodlines. However- in this day of internet and websites, it is easier than ever to find a profile on a dog that includes his WHOLE name– AKC titles, parent club titles, rival organization titles, and all. If AKC isn’t overseeing the acheivement of the title, why are they claiming it?

There are several more examples of AKC’s money hunt, but this is the one that gets under my skin more than anything. And I am not even sure why it bothers me so much… if someone wants to pay the money, it is none of my business. I guess I just feel like this leads to the idea of “buying titles.”

Got $8? Buy a certificate. Got $20? Buy a title.

No worries, I am still going to play in AKC, but I have been considering dropping everything but obedience and agility. Border Collies and AKC herding don’t really mix well, although I am going to give it a go just this once. I am becoming more enchanted with ASCA’s rally program… AKC’s seems so boring in comparison.

And our next adventure shall leave me feeling like a total hypocrite, as it is Nike’s AKC PT test. Oops.

Wish us luck anyway??

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ASCA Trial 9/29-30/12

This weekend was one for the history book! Nike, Uli, and Nike’s other daughter, Raven (owned by my sister, Teri) all competed in Rally Novice B at the ASCA trial this weekend. We rocked it!

Backing up– for those of you who aren’t familiar with dog sports.

ASCA stands for the Australian Shepherd Club of America, which is the largest single-breed organization in the United States. They are an awesome group, and allow other breeds– and mixed-breeds– to compete in their performance events. Their entry fees are cheaper, and the trials have a more family, homey atmosphere than do AKC events (at least to me!). They also LOVE Juniors, and those lucky ducks have severely reduced entry fees (great for Teri!).

Rally is a fairly new dog sport that was orginally advertised as a cross between obedience and agility. It really isn’t much of either; it is definitely its own critter. Across all venues, the dog and handler team works their way through a course laid out by the judge. The couse is marked by signs, which the handler reads (although we like to play that the dog is reading them!). The team then executes the exercise explained (say THAT three times fast!) on the sign before moving on. Typically, at least in the lower levels, the handler can speak to the dog, give multiple commands, and clap their hands. The exercises get harder as the team advances through the levels. The exercises are modified obedience movements.

The first and most basic Rally title from ASCA is the RN– Rally Novice. An RN require three “legs,” or qualifying rounds of 170/200 points. If you happen to score a 195/200 or higher, you receive an “X” qualifying leg. Three “X” legs, and you get an RNX. Basically, an RNX tells everyone your dog was an “A” student, as compared to simply passing the class.

Before this weekend, Uli was acting like a total rock star and Nike was being a slug. I pictured both dogs earning their RN, with perhaps an RNX leg or two.

Teri brought Raven up on Friday afternoon and we went over to the show site to set up our crates and rent a few minutes in the rally ring.

The dogs were AWFUL. The rally ring was really the area for the Dog Playcare that was housed in the sports center. Smells smells smells, sniff sniff sniff. Discouraged, we left and went home.

The next morning, we arrived bright and early. Teri also “competed” in FEO (for exhibition only) agility with Raven just to gain experience, and we wanted to be sure that we didn’t miss anything.

Rally didn’t start until 9:00 AM, and they began with the Masters class (the top level). Hurry up and wait is the name of the game.

Finally, it was our turn. We picked up a course map and went to walk the course, sans dog. Unfortunately, I forgot that ASCA requires an Honor exercise at the end of the Novice course, where the dog must sit or lay quietly while the next dog has their turn. Oops.

Uli was first in, so the last dog Honored for us. Uli rocked right through the course, executing every turn and and finish perfectly. Woohoo!!

And then it was time for the Honor… Uli had to Honor for her sister, Raven. Uli loves Raven very much, so it was hard for her. She did so good, right up until the very end. Raven was heeling toward us, and Uli popped up for about 3/10 of a second. It was enough, though, and we lost 20 points right there.

Nike was the last of our dogs to go, and we had a pretty good run. I thought we did well.

The nice part of Rally trials is almost-instant gratification. Your scores are posted ringside as soon as the judge turns them over.

I was dismayed when I saw Uli’s score– 178. It would have been a 198!!! For her first time at a trial. Oh well. Raven’s score was higher, but still not that elusive 195 or higher.

And then the steward came over, grinned, and said, “Hold your breath…” as she wrote our score.



We all shuffled back in the ring to get our ribbons. Nike won first place and an X qualifying ribbon, Raven placed third and received a reglar qualifying ribbon, and Uli placed fourth with a regular qualifying ribbon.

Nike was called back into the ring– High in Trial!!! Only my second HIT in my career, Nike’s first. YAYAYAYAY.

Our parents and my friends, Stacy and Amanda, showed up to cheer us on and be Official Dog Holders. Thanks girls!

The next trial went a little better for everyone but Nike. All three gals ended up with X qualifying ribbons, and Raven and Nike tied for first place with a score of 197. Nike was a smidge faster, so we won by time. First was Nike; second, Raven; third, Uli.

Teri was called back in the ring this time for High Junior in Trial! You go girls!

The day was far from over, as Teri still had to run Raven in agility. They both had lots of fun, both need lots of work. A picture for your viewing pleasure:


Tired but happy, we started packing up for home.

Saturday’s wins for Nike and Uli:


Raven’s wins:


Unfortunately, after a good day like that, you can only hope to remain the same. Much more likely to go downhill from there.

Things moved a lot faster on Sunday because there were less dogs. I was nervous about running my dogs because I would be nearly back-to-back– Uli in, Uli honor for Raven, Raven honor for Nike– who holds Uli and Nike?? Our crates were clear across the building.

Thank goodness for Bree, one of our biggest fans. She showed up in just the nick of time to be the Official Dog Holder and Snuggler, and Treat Holder, and Picture Taker. Whew.

Nike, although distracted, still managed to come out on top, AGAIN, for another first AND a score of 195– barely squeaking by for our final X qualifying score. RNX title in just three tries!

Baby Uli ran the first half of her trial with precision and speed, then fell apart halfway through. She simply forgot how to sit. She wasn’t distracted or not paying attention; she just couldn’t sit.


To make matters worse– no one caught on to the fact that there was no dog Honoring for us. Sooo we got to repeat that little performance after the Honor dog was secured. I was frustrated because I was sure she was going to blow every sit, not just the few at the end of the last run.

Strangely, the second run was identical to the first. She was perfect until the far wall, then forgot how to sit.

Her Honor was perfect, though, so we still qualified and placed second, although it wasn’t the score I had wished for. RN for Baby Uli at just 7 months, her very first title!

Raven was extremely distracted and Teri accrued some handler errors. The final nail was put in the coffin when Raven sat up to scratch on her Honor; she did not qualify

Teri was upset, but that is the breaks sometimes. Better luck next time. The overall experience was great for Raven and Uli, as it was a fun, yet laid-back show.

When all was said and done, Nike ended up with her RNX title with all first places and an HIT, Uli ended up with her RN with all placements and one X leg, and Raven has two legs towards her RN with placements and an X leg. Nothing to sneeze at, really. Unfortunately for Raven, the next ASCA rally trial isn’t until next year sometime.


Next goals– finish Nike’s AKC RN and Janie’s AKC RE, start Uli’s AKC RN and Nike’s AKC CD, and have Nike ready for Novice Agility by February.

Wish us luck!

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Finger Lakes State Park

Two parks in one week! Go us.

Today we got up early, tested the weather, and hopped in the Jeep to go check out Finger Lakes SP. I was a little apprehensive for a few reasons:

Finger Lakes is one of two parks dedicated to motor sports (St. Joe is the other). I didn’t know if there was an event this weekend, or even where to look for information, since that isn’t really my scene, ya know?

So I looked online a couple of places, found nothing, and decided to risk it.

The other reason I was nervous was entirely my fault. See, I visited Finger Lakes last fall, looking for a nice, relaxing jaunt through the woods.

Kelley Branch Trail= not relaxing. Not a jaunt.

When you see the words “Mountain Bike Trail,” take note. Not a simple hike.

Now, last time I went, it still could have been enjoyable, except I took Tippy. Stupid, stupid, stupid. Tippy’s my diabetic old gal, if you don’t remember. She normally likes going for hikes. She didn’t like it this time.

She wasn’t happy about halfway through, and I wasn’t happy to carry her the rest of the trail. But I did, and we all lived. Barely.

The trickiest part about this trail: the sign says it is 2.25 miles. Not entirely true. The South loop is 2.25. The entire trail is 2.75 miles. So picture me, carrying my 45 lb Border Collie, trying to lead a slow Great Pyrenees and a very excited BC mix. I’d been carrying her for about 0.75 miles so far when we came up on the 2.25 mile marker.


Except… The trail keeps going. And going. And at this point, my mind starts wandering and I start thinking, “If the trail is not actually 2.25 miles, what keeps it from being 22 miles?”

Luckily, it is 2.75 and it does eventually end.

So after all that, I had mental thing going on about this trail, and I wanted to conquer it.

We arrived at the park at about 8:30. It was only about 80 degrees but very, very humid. We saddled up and headed out.


The trail has some steep ups and downs, and lots of tight curves. Fortunately, the steeps are rather short, so they aren’t that bad. Eventually, it snakes around and follows the Kelley Banch Creek.


As you can see, the drought has exchanged our creek for a dry bed.

The first part of the trail is, in my experience, the easier part of the trail. Just lots of loops and turns, with some moderate hills.


Between the 1.5 and 1.75 mile markers, you’ll find a nice bench. Uli loves benches.


Below the bench is what I believe are the remains of part of the mining operation. Across from the bench is the larger ORV trail, separated from the mountain bike trail by a guard rail.

From here on, trail seems to go up. Short, steep inclines, then a little area of flat, then more up. Some of the inclines are quite steep, but those loveable SPYCs have carved steps into the hill, alongside the incline. Uli prefers scrambling up the steep part. I let her. Borders are good climbers.

Finally, you pass that infamous and misleading 2.25 mile marker. I think that if you take the white connector trail, near the beginning, you cut off part of the trail, and it is really 2.25 miles. However, there is another trailhead on the other side of the parking lot, so who knows. I’d like to check it all out once winter rolls in. (Ha! If that ever happens!).

2.5 miles, 2.75 miles, and finally, you are back to the parking lot, where there are a set of restrooms (pit toilets, I’m sure, although I didn’t check!) and a few seed tick-infested picnic tables.

We all had a good time. The trail was far nicer than my memory, the girls had a great time, and the weather really wasn’t too bad.

The nicest thing about this trail is that it is a loop. We saw several people at the trailhead, let them get a head start, and never saw them again. We caught a glimpse of a biker at one time, but he wasn’t even one we saw at the trailhead. Sometimes, it is so nice to just get out and not see people.

And that’s all I have, folks. The hike took us just at one hour, much less than the projected two hours. And don’t let the sign fool you!! 2.75 miles. Trust me.

Happy Trails!




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Graham Cave State Park

Woof. So long since my last post. If you didn’t already hear:


Uli! Uli is Nike’s pup and my newest project. She is five months old now and quite the little dynamo. She accompanies us EVERYWHERE.

I have been working on Nike’s PackDog title (PD) from Dog Scouts. We are only about 20 miles in, with 30 more to go. I hoped to get this finished by August 20 (school starts!) but we will have to see.

A couple of days ago, I got another pack for miss Uli Jane. It is also a RuffWear Approach pack, but it is the old style. I like Nike’s better! Uli’s was secondhand and a great deal, and it does the job. She wears it empty since she is just a baby. I want her to get used to wearing it AND realize she is very wiiiiidddeeee with it on. Soon I will fill it with empty water bottles to make it really wide.

So this morning, July 30, I decided it was about time for a new SP and a good hike. I chose Graham Cave SP since it is somewhat far away (almost an hour). I had time to kill and gas in the Jeep, so why not?

It’s been awhile since I went to Graham Cave and I certainly didn’t hit all the trails, so I was excited!

The nice thing about Graham Cave SP is the loop trails. The bad thing about Graham Cave SP is the loop trails.

It is hard to walk all the trails when they are sort-of loop and sort-of not. We actually ended up on each of the five trails, but some (Graham Cave Trail) saw less of us than others.

We started out on the Woodland Way Trail.


Shorty-but-goody. Basically just to take us to the next trail, the Indian Glade Trail:


Indian Glade was my favorite by far. A nice, moderate trail with lots of wildlife. We scared up a trio of whitetail almost immediately. The trail itself was well-maintained (as were all the trails) with lovely footbridges.


Tell me if she is not the prettiest dog ever?

Uli and Nike found a neat karsty feature of the trail. Fearless, they be.


Along Indian Glade, we found more of the local fauna. See it??


If not:

There he is!

We had to search a bit through the campground to find the next trail, the Loutre River trail.


It was a nice trail, and the longest, and I wish we had more time to peruse it. We were crunched for time, trying to beat the heat, so we didn’t get to do the entire trail (2+ miles). We did the outer section of it that actually follows the river. We rustled up more (or, I believe, the same) whitetails. They were swimming in the river!

We finished up that trail and walked across another parking lot to hit the Fern Ridge Trail.


At this point, I gave up trying to get pictures of the dogs.

This trail was short and to the point. It had some steps, which we weren’t expecting, and they were kinda tall for little Uli. But she made it like a champ. We also ran into some SPYC kids, who are near and dear to my heart (but didn’t know it). More on the SPYCs laters.

The Fern Ridge Trail spits you out onto the Graham Cave Trail, which in turn spits you out at Graham Cave:


Ta-da! That’s it, the namesake. It is, or was, a really neat cave. I mean, the mouth looks neat. The innards are all gated and graveled due to excavation and abuse. Which leads us to our next photo:


It is really dumb these signs were needed in the first place, but I am glad they are there. This was the first time I had seen these signs; maybe they are old news but I still loved them. Unfortunately, we saw a LOT of these. Stay on the trail, peeps. Same for your doggies. And children.

On a happier note: This was the ONLY piece of trash we saw!


Which means: Either people have a clue, or those SPYCs were doing their jobs. Both are fantastic. By the way: SPYCs. State Park Youth Corp, and one of the reasons I love SPs and SHSs so much. I was a SPYC (“spicy” in real tongue) back at Onondaga. It is a great program. Basically, youth get jobs, state parks and historic sites get “volunteers,” since the money isn’t directly from the state. Win-win.

And finally, we took the Indian Glade Trail back to the Woodland Way and back to our Jeep. Tired in a good way, we removed packs and all had a snack. And logged 3.5 miles onto Nike’s mile log. Yeah!

Here are some more pictures from our excursion:

We saw lotsa wildlife. Like this wee turtle:


And this one:


Also, a curious tree:


And that’s all, folks!! Stay safe and keep on the trail.


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Kurgo TruFit Harness with Metal Nesting Buckles

So I promised that I would get this review of the Kurgo TruFit Harnesses done, and look here: It’s Tuesday night and I am just getting around to it. Gah. Additionally, I don’t have all the information I thought I would. Double gah.

(I do not know who or what Gah is, I just use it a lot to proclaim my discontent.)

So without further ado:

I purchased five Kurgo TruFit safety harnesses with metal nesting buckles from Kurgo last week. I received them four days later.

Each is new and shiny and comes with a size-specific strap/leash/tether.

The harnesses are well-crafted and seem pretty strong. They are easy to adjust while on and off the dog.

Basically, the harness goes over their head, with the flat padded part on their chest. Then the strap goes between their legs and the other straps hook into the top.

I love the metal nesting buckles. I haven’t actually seen the plastic ones, but take my advice: Don’t buy plastic. When force is applied on these straps, the “buckle” can’t pull apart.

All in all, I like them. The straps seemed thin, but then again, human seatbelt straps aren’t that thick compared to humans.

I also ordered three zip line/tether combos.

I emailed Kurgo and had a reply in less than an hour. My question was about hooking more than one dog to the zip line. The employee did not suggest it, but said that two should be able to be safely attached to one zip line. He suggested using as many actual seat belts as possible, and then just one zip line (my original question state that we have four dogs and only three seat belts in the backseat).

He also said that you can hook two zip lines up, running parallel to each other. Like this:


I DO NOT suggest hooking the zip line up high. It just seems silly and dangerous. I ran my along the bottom of the back seat. I hooked it into the posts that hold the seat. The zip line itself is a lot narrower than I thought it would be– maybe 1.5″?? Maybe 2″?? It is definitely easy to adjust.

The tethers are nice, but I think you could also buy a strong climbing carabiner and just use the leads that come with the harnesses.

I like the fact that you can use the lead/tether to clip them up to the seatbelt, or run the seatbelt directly through the harness. I use the direct-harness method with Tippy in the front seat.

So, on to sizing. Here is the Kurgo chart:


And here is what I found (this is where I get sad because I couldn’t do what I orginally planned and measure EVERYONE/THING):

The XS fit our Pomeranian, Rebel, just fine, but I wouldn’t go smaller than him. It definitely had room (a couple inches) to go bigger. His measurements are:
9.5″ neck
14.5″ chest
6.14 lbs.

The small fit our large Min Pin, Sarabi. I didn’t get her measurements because I am a loser. She weighs about 14 pounds and is far bigger than you expect her to be. Sorry for this hole.

The medium fits most of my Border Collies perfectly, but in my opinion, it runs on the small side. The dogs are mostly 40-ish pounds, and it has to be run out pretty far.

Fortunately, the Large sizes down to fit most of them, as well. It also fits Ben, my biggest Border Collie, well. He weighs 54 lbs and measures 17″ neck and 29″ chest.

The Extra-Large fits Honor, the 108 lb Great Pyrenees fine, but is extended out all the way. Not sure what to do for bigger dogs. His fluff may have something to do with the size issue. I do not have measurements for him, but I will get them.

Overall, I like the harnesses. The dogs don’t mind them too much. I suggest the Large for everyday Aussies and a Large or Medium for average BCs, but you could probably get away with either. I am going to order two more Larges, since they can be sized down to fit most of my BCs, and one more Medium. I am not Going to mess with anymore zip lines. One should be more than enough in each car, since I plan to use seatbelts when available.

Nike and Honor modeling. They seem so thrilled.


Happy trails!! Feel free to comment with any questions or suggestions for future reviews.

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“Just a Dog”

I found this poem on the internet while browsing today, and although I’ve seen it before, today it seemed to take on a new meaning. I decided to illustrate it with pictures of my dogs that I felt most exemplified the lines.

“‘From time to time, people tell me, “lighten up, it’s just a dog,” or, “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.”


They don’t understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for “just a dog.”


Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.”


Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a dog,” but I did not once feel slighted.


Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog,” and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.


If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,” then you will probably understand phases like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”


“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy.


“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person.


Because of “just a dog” I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future.


So for me and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog” but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams
of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.


“Just a dog” brings out what’s good in me and diverts my thoughts away from myself and the
worries of the day.


I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a dog” but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a man.”


So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog,” just smile, because they “just don’t understand.”‘


Sandra Dee Adopted Shepherd Mix, Born May 2004.

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