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Aside from Goofy, and Pluto, there are no dogs allowed at the “Big Mouse House,” in Orlando, Florida. So, for the first time in her life, Hooper experienced her first boarding, but not before enjoying a romp on St. Augustine Beach, and treats at a downtown cafe.
My visit to Disney World’s Magic Kingdom came about when my husband learned I had never been there. I went reluctantly, but, as an artist, I have come away amazed by the attention to detail those “imagin-eers” employ in the creation of all those attractions. Also, as a former Human Resources Recruiter, I am in awe at the number of people that theme park must hire every year.
The day was sunny and warm, and the crowds not as bad as I had anticipated. By mid-morning, however, my husband commented he felt like a big mouse himself, on those long lines, like a mouse going through a maze for a treat. Very fitting, I thought. By mid-afternoon, just after the Small World attraction, I found myself wishing for one called Davey Jones’s Liqour Locker, or Wine Country:A Napa Valley Adventure. By early evening, we were looking forward to escaping the crowds, strollers, and kids experiencing melt downs due to sensory overload!
One of the quieter attractions I enjoyed at the park was Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progression where an automaton narrates about the way times have changed since the turn of the century, taking the audience from the days before electric lights, to our modern Wi-Fi universe. But what struck me most, was that in each new scenario, a robotic, but life-like dog named Rover never moved from his master’s feet, steadfast in his role as Man’s Best Friend. Times may change, but the dog remains beautifully, and dutifully, the same, something exemplified by National Dog Week.
Hooper survived her time away from us, staying at the Preppy Pet Suites in Orlando, a growing dog-care franchise. Owner, Pat Shriver informed me that Hooper even played with other dogs for an hour! Despite her doggy fun, Hooper was sure glad to see us. I heard a woman who ran a dog shelter once say, dogs who find themselves removed from their owner’s, even temporarily, respect and appreciate their care from whatever source, living in the moment. However, when reuinted with their people, they rejoice, honoring that strong bond that exists between dogs and their “special” humans.
Hooper settled down quickly, happy to be back on the road with us. Due to computer problems, postings will be sporadic, stay tuned….
Traveling with dog in tow can be a challenging task for some. Hooper knows what’s in store when she sees the suitcases hauled out, piling up with clothes. On occasion, I have found her napping inside an open suitcase as if to say, “don’t forget to pack me!” Travel for Hooper is routine, as she has made the trip to Florida five times now.
Fortunately, over the years most motel chains along Route 95 have become pet-friendly. We used to just wing it, picking up tourist pamphlets at visitor centers, scoping out the dog friendly places. But when checking in late at night, or during a thunderstorm, it is not always easy. This time, using the Expedia site, we booked in advance. One of the benefits of this is that their site allows us to see what the pet friendly charges are beforehand. They can range from nothing at all to ten or twenty-five dollars a night, or a one-time fifty dollar charge, even if its just for one night. This can really add up! I generally find the Days Inn, Red Roof Inn, and some Best Western chains to welcome Man’s Best Friend.
On the road, I keep Hooper well-hydrated, and of course make frequent pit stops. At one stop in North Carolina, we were greeted by three beautiful “rest-stop” cats. I had read about these cats that have abandoned by their owners along the highway. These poor cats rely on tourists and volunteers who keep them fed, and try to regulate their population. Although wary of us humans, they seemed to look well-fed and healthy.
At most of these rest areas, I am also upset to by the number of dog owners who refuse to clean up after their dogs, leaving a disgusting mess in their wake. Walking your dogs in these areas can be dangerous to them as they are often exposed to parasites, and worms. For the love of God people, scoop up the poop wherever you are!
One of the primary objectives of Will Judy’s National Dog Week Movement, and its current sponsor, the American Dog Owners Association, is to make people responsible dog owners, and to extend courtesy to other dog owners, and those who may not particularly care for them (Gasp, yes, they do exist). Unfortunately, when dog owners get lazy, it makes it hard for the rest of us who are not.
After a long day of driving is over, we all look forward to lounging in front of the TV, and of course, watching the Olympic action while Hooper has her doggy dreams, twitching in her sleep, making funny chirping sounds. Does anyone know what dogs dream about? Special congratulations are in order for some of the US athletes we often don’t hear enough about, like men’s figure-skater Evan Lysacek, and men’s speed skater, gold medalist Shani Davis. Both champs are unpretentious class acts, reminding us all of what the games are really about.
Evan went into his event as an underdog, saddled with the “World Champion curse.” If a skater is the current winner of the World Championship, he is not historically favored for an Olympic Gold Medal. But Evan proved that only a myth, beating out the favored Russian champ, Evgeni Plushenko for the gold! That was quite a victory. In an interview the following day, Evan confessed that his first attempts at skating were nothing special, calling himself a lousy skater. As a lifelong ice-skater myself, and skating instructor, I have worked with and seen a lot of lousy kid skaters. But I always encourage them. If they are enjoying themselves, learning a skill, and getting exercise, isn’t that the point. And who knows, just like Evan, that little “under dog” of the rink might just be the the Olympic star of the future. Let’s hear it for those underdogs!
Well, we’ve arrived in one of Hooper’s favorite spots, St. “Dog-astine,” in Florida. We’re hoping to hit one of her favorite “watering bowls,” very soon, or at least her humans are!
Tomorrow, before the sun comes up, the three of us, dog, husband, and me, will be making our way down to Florida. We have made this trek at least a half dozen times. To entertain ourselves, we sing to Hooper, and last time, as I drove, I made Rich write down all the words from those cheesy billboards for the South of the Border attraction in South Carolina. Anyone who has made that trip knows what I’m talking about.
I intend to continue posting as much as possible, but for those who are just beginning to read my posts, I would just like to take a momemt to define what it is I am trying to do here. The other day, a reader at a publishing house wrote a perfect synopsis for my book. Respecting the privacy of the house, and without giving too much away, he understood what I was trying to do by writing a book about National Dog Week. Now, as I travel, free from household burdens, and trying to eak out a living, that understanding will help to give me incentive as I finish this daunting project hopefully by late April or early May. (If you go to the posting of January 4,you can read more about it).
Last night, I drove Rich crazy trying to watch the Olympics, Amercian Idol, and of course the Westminster show. It occured to me that each show was all about competition, be it a gold medal, the Best in Breed designation, or the title of American Idol. All parties involved, human or otherwise, had arrived at their respective events, after a long period of trials and tribulations, but to paraphrase Dick Button, it really came down to all of them showing up on that particular day, and doing their best at that particular moment. That’s a good way to approach everyday of life, actually.
It’s unfortunate that some PETA protestors tried to mar the festivities at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. It seems that just before the “Best in Show” title was about to be announced, a few irate people holding signs that read “Breeders Kill Shelter Dogs Chances,” and “Mutts Rule,” tried to disprupt the ceremony. Didn’t they know that throughout the entire event, Pedigree, and the American Kennel Club, were raising money for animal shelters, and encouraging pet adoptions of all dogs, purebred and otherwise?
When Rich went in to New York City to retrieve DJ (registered show name CH De Ja Blu Deal Me In) he was excited to see some of the dogs that were among the seven finalists. He said it was like sighting celebrities. DJ seemed to take his “losses” in stride, nuzzling Rich’s ear as they drove toward home. I do have one correction about my earlier posting. Gail Bodisch is DJ’s breeder, not his Handler. That role goes to Rebecca L. Carner. If you search “Photos from the Star-Ledger-NJ.com,” you’ll see a beautiful photo of Rebecca in a red dress showing DJ on February 15. It’s a fantastic image. DJ and Rebecca have been working together for a year and a half.
Well, it’s off to another night of competitive TV watching, but the only thing I’ll be competing for is the Clicker. In all these competitive scenarios, where everyone wants to be the best, I feel bad for those who don’t make the cut, but to me, any person, or animal, that gets this far is a winner in my book.
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On Saturday, my husband, Rich, had the honor of transporting Old English sheepdog, DJ, and his owner, Beverly Barbaz, of Point Pleasant, New Jersey, to Manhattan for DJ’s debut at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.
Rich drove DJ, and his “Mom,” to their hotel just a few blocks away from Madison Square Garden. According to him, dogs had invaded the sidewalks, and hotel lobbies of New York City. All kinds of dogs greeted him upon his arrival, including a “party-mix” Portuguese water dog that sashayed right past him. Hooper’s snout was out of joint because her dad didn’t get its “pawtagraph.”
On the official website for the Westminster event, there is a beautiful watercolor that has been made into a poster for this year’s event. In it, a woman in a car (circa the 1940s), transports her dog past a back drop of several others, including to my pleasure, a big black and white Portuguese water dog, complete with its big goofy expression.
This week marks the 134th annual occurence of this prestigious dog show. This year, 170 different breeds will be judged. Officially, there are seven Breed Groups judged at the Westminster show, however, there is also a group of “dogs in waiting” that occupy an eighth group knows as “Miscellaneous.” Even if DJ is deemed best in his breed, he is up against unusually stiff competition in the Herding Group. This year, two new breeds were welcomed into this group, the Norwegian Buhund, and the Pyrenean Shepherd. Also making its debut, is the Irish Red and White Setter, in the Non-Sporting Group.
DJ’s handler is Gail Bodisch, of Deja Blu Old English Sheepdogs in Poughquag, New York. Hopefully, after Gail is finished with her hard work at this event, I can talk to her about the crucial bond that exists between a dog and its handler. Rich related to me how excited, and happy, DJ was to see Gail in New York City.
On the subject of dog handling, an item in a Spartanburg, South Carolina newspaper, written by Lee G. Healy, tells how a local boy from that area, 12-year old Zakery Slater, will become the youngest handler in the junior category to ever appear at the Westminster Show. Zak will be showing his Bernese mountain dog, Kaz, tomorrow. Zak qualified for this honor by achieving 10 first-place wins in one year’s time. Will Judy, the founder of National Dog Week, would have been proud of this young man. Captain Judy, and much later, Captain Arthur Haggerty knew that by working together, a young person, and their dog, can learn the importance of team work, discipline, and even, as in this case, lead youths to consider career options that involve animals, and their care.
Another way to honor dogs is to celebrate them in art. Our “seasonal neighbors,” down in Big Pine Key, Florida, Rick and Diane, recently sent the above photo of a portrait of their dogs, Koda, and Logan. Logan was recently adopted by Diane and Rick, after the passing of their beloved shepherd, Dugan. Koda, also an adoptee, is now five years old. Their friend, artist, Steven Hall, presented them with this beautiful portrait just the other day.
And we look forward to meeting Logan, soon, as we will be traveling down that way on Thursday. Posting will continue as we journey south, through St. Augustine, Orlando, Port Charlotte, Weston, and finally to the Keys. Last year I was informed that more best selling books were written in the Florida Keys than anywhere else. I sure hope that’s true, because I hope to be completing most of my National Dog Week book while I am down there….Stay tuned while I get those “ruff” drafts in shape!
I’ll let you know how sweet “little” DJ made out in New York.
After a series of snowstorms have paralyzed my beloved Garden State, I am really looking forward to a weekend filled with some fun distractions.
I love the Olympics, and always enjoy the Opening Ceremonies. And now it seems the Olympics are not just for humans, for those dogs sure seem to love their fun in the white stuff, too, and can be very good winter sportsters. A recent item on AOL showed Tillman, a four-year old Bulldog, showing off his snowboarding technique at the site of the Winter Games. And for those focused on Love, Sunday may be more your thing when Valentine’s Day rolls around. Dogs make very good matchmakers, too. Another article, I believe posted on Paw Nation, told stories about how dogs bring couples together. The article quoted Mary Lee Nitschke of Linfield College in Oregon as saying, “Pets attract comments and that opens the door for conversation.” I always advise single friends to get, or borrow, a cute pooch to help them get out and socialize.
And of course, don’t forget that Big Dog Show over at Madison Garden in New York City. DJ is groomed, and ready to show, and we wish him luck. Details will follow, as we keep an eye on our shaggy boy from the Jersey Shore.
The photo top left shows another dog enjoying the extreme winter sport of canine free flying. My nephew, Zac, and his girlfriend, Masha adopted Cooper (not to be confused with Hooper), a Lab-Pit mix over a year ago. I can’t believe the Christmas before last, I could hold Cooper in one hand.
Okay, the answer to that trivia question asked a few days ago: What dog, called a terrier, is actually a member of the Herding Group? Answer: The Tibetan Terrier.
Do you know how many breed groups are judged at the Westminster show? Also, bonus question. What is the registered AKC name of President Obama’s Portuguese water dog, ”Bo?” Anyone who answers one of these questions correctly, or subscribes to this Blog, can submit a photo of their dog, and your personal “dog tale” to be presented in an upcoming Blog.
Have a great weekend, and Happy Valentine’s Day!
When Income Tax preparation time comes around, a yearly accounting of household and business expenditures is inevitable. We clearly see where our hard earned money is spent.
Just for “fun,” I recently tallied up all the canine related expenditures doled out over the past twelve years for our beloved dog, Hooper. During a typical year, I find that we “ruffly” spend upwards of $1,500 for her care. Costs include visits to the vet, and groomer, food, and other miscellaneous items. That means that we have probably spent about $12,000 on our furry friend since her inclusion in our family, which I think, probably isn’t as much as some people do, especially if they have more than one dog taking up residency in their home, or if the dog, or dogs, are extremely pampered.
First let me say, not having any children of my own (through marriage I’ve inherited a grown son with three children, so technically, I just skipped to “grand-dom”), these expenditures are nowhere near what parents of humans must dole out for their kids over a lifetime. Secondly, I know that not all dogs require professional grooming (like mine), and in some places, the only time a dog makes a visit to the vet, or clinic, is to be spayed or neutered (if they are lucky) or to get their rabies vaccinations.
Interestingly, when I travel through regions of the nation, away from large cities, I cannot get over how many dogs roam, unleashed, along busy roads. The number of abandoned dogs that end up in shelters, or worse, mortally wounded, dying alone on back roads and major highways is startling. You wonder if anyone knew they were even missing.
Back in 1938, the seven objectives of National Dog Week were announced in the newspaper of a major city. Among them were the elimination of strays from the street, and the education of the public of the “actual truth” about rabies. We may have come a long way with the latter, but due to economic factors of late, we still have a ways to go with the first.
It seems, dogs, like people, are born into different life paths. Some have the good fortune of enjoying the benefits of a happy and safe home, a lifetime of love and care. Others travel a harder path, their fortunes go up and down with life’s circumstances. Some land on their feet, or paws, good fortune and timing coming to their rescue, others suffer quietly, living day by day, their future uncertain.
This week, the Westminster Dog Show will take place in New York City. There, among a multitude of champions, one special canine will be deemed “top dog.” On Saturday, my husband Rich, will be employed by the owner of a show dog, to transport local champ, DJ, his owner, and handler, to Madison Square Garden. But first, DJ, an Old English sheepdog will be groomed, and then professionally trimmed, so that he will shine and shimmy as he competes with 19 others of his breed. As his owner jokes, her dog has a one in twenty chance of winning. If Dj wins, he will then move on to compete with the other dogs from the Herding Group.
In my heart of hearts, I believe that underneath all that puff and fluff, is a dog that drinks out of the toilet bowl, and brings home squirrel carcasses. Hey, a dog is a dog, right?
Whatever you may think of the spectacle of the Westminster Dog Show, you cannot deny that it is fascinating. Hooper, and I will watch it together (well I watch and Hooper usually falls asleep, drooling and snoring) and we will cheer for the Portuguese water dogs (and DJ of course). These show dogs are spared no expense, and I know personally, to the humans involved, the art of showing dogs can bring purpose and pride to all involved, owner, handler, and groomer. It really is quite an amazing industry.
But in these hard economic times, I think I will just skip the tallying up of the cost of my canine at this year’s end, and just concentrate on all the love she brings into our lives. Like that commercial for a major credit card says, the rewards are well, ”priceless.”
As my husband reports back to me from behind the scenes of Westminster, I will try to give a little insight on the intricacies of dog shows as seen from an outsider. In the meantime, I’ll be having Hooper groomed, and then, when no one is looking, I’ll pretend I’m a handler, trotting her around the yard, and I’ll know that my dog is the real “Best in Show.”
Have you ever been to the Westminster show, or do you know anyone whose dog has made that journey? If so, please feel free to share your experiences!
Instead of exhibiting and circulating at the Christian Brothers Art Show, I am snowed in once again here at the Jersey shore, a place not usually hit with so much of the white stuff. Ironically, family and friends up north are getting not a flake!
At home, getting some writing done, lots of good dog stuff is coming my way. My sister just called to tell me that the Smithsonian Channel’s dogumentary, “Unleashed,” was on-its the story of the famous dog parades held in Santa Barbara, California, a friend just gave me a heads up about a Dogs 101 episode on Animal Planet featuring Portuguese water dogs, and another friend just told me about being thrown out of a friend’s apartment building in Washington, DC, because their dog, Molly, a small lab mix, exceeded the building’s 25 pound weight limit for all resident and visiting canines! Apparently, a new building manager bent on enforcing all rules literally demanded their departure during the advent of the “Snow-pocolypse” as the weather forecasters are calling it. That building, and its management, apparently are not counted among “Man’s Best Friends.”
Last night, while enjoying the wine and food at the CBA Art Show, another friend and I chatted about my National Dog Week project and Blog. She got quiet, and sheepishly asked, “I’m not so sure what a Blog is, and why are you writing one?” Well, I explained that a writer needs to reach out to the public to elicit excitement for the projects they are working on. When I reminded her that mine was about dogs, she was hooked. Especially when I asked her to tell me about her personal experiences of adopting two greyhounds. Although her beloved dogs passed last year, I think there is probably another dog in her future. I will share that story soon.
So, to all who do not have a foggy notion about Blogging, you are not alone. I like to think of it as my “column,” filled with some interesting facts, touching on little known American “tails” of history, current events, and stories that connect dog lovers to a place in history, and to each other.
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION: According to the Jack Russell Club of America, the populr Jack Russel terrier is in no way associated with the American Kennel Club!
Next week I will be writing about a local Old English sheepdog that will be making its first journey to New York City to compete at the Westminster Dog Show. I may call that series, “The Real Jersey Dogs of the American Kennel Club.” Enjoy the “Hooper Bowl” as my dog calls it, or the Puppy Bowl on Animal Planet if football is not your thing.
Next question: Which dog breed that is officially called a Terrier is actually not in the Terrier group?
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According to John Kremer’s newsletter, today is American Painter Day. Most writers know that John Kremer is somewhat of a book promotion guru, helping authors obtain publicity for their projects. With each e-mailed newsletter comes a summary of some little known days of observation. My favorites have been Bon Fires can be Dangerous to your Health Day, and Starting Over Day, which conveniently falls just around my birthday.
Today, as I prepare for the upcoming 35th Annual Christian Brothers Academy Art Show, I am truly pleased that it is American Painter Day (I think that this should include house painters, too).
For local art lovers, the show (in Monmouth Co., NJ) is what makes this coming weekend extra “Super,” as many enjoy the art exhibition as a warm up to that other big event on Sunday. The show, a major fundraiser for the school, begins Friday evening with a classy wine and casual dinner reception for patrons and artists, and is open to the public for a nominal fee through Sunday afternoon. For my fellow artists, and I, it is the first show of the year, a way to reconnect with the public.
When I created my first antique postcard painting in 1989 I never thought I would be doing this for so long. My work employs the use of vintage postcards, which after being matted, are embellished with an extension painting that continues onto the mat. Postcards can be anywhere from 50 to 100 years old. The finished piece can be viewed from the back, showing postmarks, stamps and messages, they are the equivalent of our modern day e-mails. I am happy to say that my work hangs on walls around the world!
In my research for my National Dog Week book, I have taken to collecting old postcards that feature dogs circa 1905-1940. Some are cute, some sweet and sad, others beautiful, but all show me that even back then, dogs ruled! These cards have been a welcome addition to my growing collection.
In honor of American Painter Day, I would like to give a shout out to my sister-in-law, a Fashion Institute of Technology grad, turned “country girl” and mother of four, Gigi Begin. Gigi is a gifted painter who recently presented me with a portrait of our dog, Hooper, painted on old barn wood. It is truly beautiful. Gigi’s paintings are on display in several venues in and around Cambridge, and Saratogoa Springs, New York.
And a shout out to my “top dog” and husband, Rich, who is celebrating a birthday tomorrow. Shhh…he told me if I wrote about him on my “Blag” (ryhmes with Blab) he would sabbotage my posts! But I can only say good things about a guy who is patient and supportive, always there, a true friend to all, always looking out for everyone, always unpredictable, refreshingly honest, and very funny.
These days when I tell people I am concentrating on my writing, they mostly ask if I will illustrate my books, and if I’ll keep up with the painting.
In answer to those questions about my future plans, I really can’t answer them for I’ve always made my plans up as I go along….I’ll just have to consult the cards (postcards, that is).
Dog Trivia Question: Which very popular dog from the Terrier Group is not recognized by the AKC?
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Last night, I watched the Grammys because they are just so entertaining. It was worth it just to see the Dave Matthews Band perform, and I happen to really like Fergie.
Musicians, like fine artists, and writers “choose” a precarious career path when they strive to make their mark on the world with their own brand of creativity, or just to make a living. Whether you like the work of a particular performer, or not, in occupations that call for a measure of talent, practicality, and some luck, just the fact that people know they exist is quite an accomplishment. Along the way, you can be sure they have all faced their own personal “dream squasher.”
My father, a retired football, and wrestling coach in Bergen County, NJ, was never one of those, with his own family, or with any other. Early in his career, he had the opportunity to coach Bill Parcells. What ever you think of the Big Tuna, there is no denying he has had a successful career. A few years back, when we met him at a local restaurant, he told me half jokingly that he hadn’t gotten over the fact that my father missed a football game to get married. My parents had been married for over 40 years at the time!
As a young teacher in Bergenfield, my dad recalls the parents of Bob Gaudio urging him to talk their son out of leaving school to become a musician. He didn’t, and Bob went on to make a nice career for himself as a member of the Four Seasons, and with his later musical accomplishments. In the late 1970s, my brother John, a member of the Hackensack HS Wresting Team, came home after practice one day to tell my parents that his team mate, Guy O’Brien, was leaving the team to pursue a muscial opportunity. Guy joined the Sugar Hill Gang, and has done nicely for himself, to say the least.
As a former recruiter for Home Box Office, I was surrounded by dreamers, actors, producers, musicians, working nine to five jobs just to pay the bills until their big break. I hired them everyday, and followed their dreams. One of them, friend and former co-worker, Julie Gold comes to mind. As I watched the Grammys last night, I recalled watching Julie accept her Grammy Award for writing the song, “From a Distance,” that went on to become an international hit. Julie, one of the funniest people I’ve ever met, is no longer making coffee for staff meetings, fixing the copier, or answering phones! Before she left HBO, she told me to always dream big and not to hide my light under a barrel, something I’ll never forget.
Not long after, I left the cushy comfort of the corporate world to pursue a career in art. It has not always been an easy path, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Now, as I embark on a writing career, I find myself starting anew. Gustav Mahler, the Austrian composer, once described himself as being “everlastingly” a beginner. As successful as he was, he took risks, blending genres, facing his critics, not unlike successful artists today.
In a well-known guide to literary agents, I read recently about how one agent described herself as a “dream squasher.” Granted, a Literary Agent can receive up to 300 plus queries, and submissions per month, some of them probably horrible, but I think it is quite grandiose to give one’s self such powers over the fates of others.
So let’s bring it back to the dogs. Whether you are a young Purebred experiencing its first appearance at the big show in New York City this month, or someone just starting out on a new endeavor, we all really are everlastingly beginners, and that is what keeps creativity alive, and makes dreams come true.
Remember to call upon some of your own personal creative abilities when you make your plans for National Dog Week this September…