Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Monday - 2-13-12 Westminster - the day before!

Before I forget - here are two links you may want to go to:  this is a video of Delsin taken with his christmas toy on Jan 3 2012 (this year!)  this is the Westminster Kennel Club facebook page - and if you scroll down, you will see a photo of Delsin and I in the ring with a very nice story of us.


Ahhhh....the pre-show jitters are emerging! After a fairly sleepless night of listening to jackhammers, sirens,and  horns honking on the street below our hotel window(all night long!) combined with the adrenaline rushing through my body, my usually calm demeanor is taking a hit!

Today is all about figuring out the show - as we show tomorrow and I want to be prepared and know what I am getting myself into! But first Denise and I go for a walk with Delsin and Mick, to see if we can find any place - anyplace at all that is green, so the boys can pee or even poop.

It is going through the hotel and onto the streets that I begin to realize the size of this event. I am used to going to dog shows and have been showing for 30 some years. While I recognise that exhibitors are spending a lot of money to be at this NYC show, I have failed to realize that people come from all over the country to be a SPECTATOR! People are simply hanging out at the hotels that allow dogs - sitting and waiting for the dogs to walk by, or sitting by the inside poo and pee areas - just to see their favorite breeds or have a chance to pet them. Cameras and cell phones continually take pictures wherever Delsin and Mick go. I have to admit, it is a bit mind boggling for me.

Once on the street, there are times we can only take a few steps forward before a crowd descends upon us. Delsin loves it. Mick loves it. They eat up the attention, leaning against one person after another. Everyone knows that we are there for the big dog show. Some are tourists, some or simply folks that live or work in Manhattan. All ages, races, shapes and sizes of people come to see the dogs. All are supportive, friendly, interested. It is very cool!

Denise,Delsin and Mick hang out for a breather on a more quiet street corner.

Delsin out on the streets of NYC getting pets from his many admirers!

Mick looking for a place to pee in a planter that he was eventually kicked out of
by the building security. Oh, where is a boy to pee????

It takes us a good 1.5 hours to walk around 2 blocks with the dogs. People, people, people. The dogs still are lovin' it, Denise and I are hungry. We stop at a deli, and I hold the 2 boys while Denise goes in and gets us two breakfast sandwiches. The shop owner stare out the window, pointing at the two dogs, smiling. A guy walks by with his buddy, abruptly stops and says "my wife really wants one of these" in the direct east costs manner. He wants a picture, that is fine by me. What I didn't know is that HE wanted to be in the picture and he hands his buddy the cell phone camera, kneels down next to Delsin and wraps his arms around my dog in one fast, swift move. Good thing my dog has a stable this total stranger hugs my boy hard for the picture.

Denise emerges with the breakfast goods and we make haste to our hotel room to eat in peace. Man, GOOD breakfast sandwiches, made to order and on very fresh and tasty rolls. McDonald's has a long ways to go! :)

We leave the boys in the hotel room and head to Madison Square Gardens! My nerves are all "alive" as I go am here! I enter the exhibitor entrance so I know exactly where to come the next day when I have Delsin in tow: up the ramp, around the corner, up the freight elevator, down a hall and INTO CROWDS. Jammed packed immediately. We attempt to find the benching area, but I am confused, as I see no benches, see no breeds together - it looks like a regular dogs show, only much more crowded. I figure I must be in the handlers all-breed area and not think much of it. We go into the arena instead. It is the place everyone sees on TV. Green carpet and maroon ropes for ring barriers. It is just like TV only so, so much more intense. We have no dogs, so we are just one of the crowd and can navigate fairly easily. But to get to ring side?: Forget it!!! 4,5, or 6 people deep. I can see why it is recommended to allow 1/2 hour to get to your ring when showing a dog here.

This photo I am standing at one end of the arena looking down the center "aisle" -
 which obviously is no longer much of an aisle.

We head back to the benching area - I am determined to find the "bench". I grew up doing benched shows and knew what to expect: Elevated benches that exhibitors put their crated dogs on for the duration of the show. Of course, this being Westminster and all, the benches would have the Westminster colors and insignias. It would be classy!

We look at look. But it just is a typical grooming area for a regular dog show. Except for it being way more crowded and close together. What the heck?? I find the Westminster booth and tell them I am a new exhibitor and how to I go about finding out where I bench the next day - and ARE there benches?

I find out no, that this year, with the major reconstruction in MSG, there are no benches(due to lack of space), and as exhibitors arrive, they will be assigned a spot. Not assigned with their breed, but in whatever order they come in. Wow. That is a change - a very big change. But at least I know what to expect when I bring Delsins crate and grooming equipment over later that evening.

A corgi (Pembroke) passed out on top of his crate as spectators walk by.

We decide to go up into the stands to try and see the show and get a better perspective. We watch the afghans being judged for awhile:

From this angle, one can better appreciate how the spectators surrounded each ring.

And from this wider angle, that on the show floor, there is no room to move outside of the rings. The open areas is the inside of the ring - so once the exhibitor actually got into the ring,
there was room to breathe!!
Higher up into the stands, the 4 rings can be seen. During the day, there are plenty of seats left in the stand, but in the evening when the groups are judged, the seats all fill.

About 2:30 we head back to the hotel. Denise and I can tell that this show tomorrow is going to be crowded and intense. What have I gotten myself into? But I also feel pumped up. And I know Delsin very well: he will love the intensity, the attention, then marveling crowds.

I have a 3:00 pm appointment to give Delsin his final bath before the show. In our hotel (Pennsylvania,) in a room next to the dog pee area, for a fee, I could reserve a tub to wash Delsin. Excellent idea. A friend that had arrived to the Gardens on Thursday has reserved a time and the large bathtub for us....much to Delsin's dismay:

The last chance to get any mud (or worse) off from our farm lifestyle!!

After the bath, it was up on the groom table to blow out Delsins coat, put the final trim on his feet and ears. He looks and feel great and when we walk through the lobby after his bath, I am sure I hear extra ohhhs and aaahhhs....

Dinner was nothing extra special - a disappointment since we are in NY where there are a ton wonderful restaurants. But it was close, it fill us up and we could then get through the evening routine of the dogs to the indoor pee and and pray that they will go.

While at the pee area, there is a vendors booth set up with dog treadmills. Now Delsin has never been on a treadmill before, but he gets a ton of exercise and he could use a little now that we are on-leash in the Big City. Hmmm...I have a video of him on it, but having technical difficulties getting it to load. Check back for that....

Monday evening we head back to the Garden to see the groups. As I sat in my seat, over looking the group ring, thinking of being there, of showing in the morning......ahhhhh, all is fine in the world. It is great to be here!

There are 4 groups on, on Monday evening. We watch the first, then make a mad-dash back to the hotel to pick up Delsin's crate and grooming stuff, and head back to the Gardens with the Tuesday exhibitors can set up after 9:00 on Monday night. We arrive at the door about 9:30, the line isn't too long and we get in and set up. Cramped, cramped quarters, but it will be "home" for a day.

Back to see the last group of the evening - the herding group. It is fantastic to take it all in, feel the crowd, hear the applause, and see dogs that love the show. No surprise that the herding group winner is the German Shepherd: big name dog on big named handler.

Back to the room, another long walk down the hall (we are WAAAAY down at the end of the hall on the 14th floor) down the elevator, down another hall - to the pee area. While I am there, Delsin hops onto the treadmill for another few minutes. He watches his feet...confused that the sidewalk keeps moving, But he is cool with it, wags his tail...he likes new experiences. It keeps him young, it keeps him happy. 

 Tomorrow is the big day!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

2-21-12 - Westminster: I am back online!

Hello my followers and readers...despite m,y best laid plans to keep everyone up to date as the westminster journey unfolded... I was unable to. Beleive it or not the NY hotel we stayed in did not have wi-fi in the rooms, and to use their computers were $.20  MINUTE! I am a pretty SLOW typer, and time was very tight, so I had to bypass the blog until I got home.

For now, here is my blog entry I wrote in Word so I could cut and paste into the blog. More to come - including photos and videos! Stay tuned!

Sunday - 2-12-12.
HOLY   #@*&!!!! We are in Manhattan! The full range of emotions today. Phew…. Where to begin…...

First, this will go on the blog sometime after I write it. The hotel – even at $220/night, does not have wifi in the rooms. I can go down to the lobby and get it. But keep in mind, any thoughts of a quiet, relaxing lobby go out the window. It is anything but. This show is a huge deal and even here in the hotel, swarms of people wander everywhere – just to see what dogs are coming in and out. So tonight, at 10:30, I am peopled out for the day and we are in the relative quiet of the 14th floor – the constant honking of taxi’s horns at street level is faded. I can think, I can unwind.
The drive was overall better . Roads got better as we got closer to NY. But one 3 car accident while we were still in snow kept us on edge until we got out of the snow.
The show seemed to get more and more real as I approached the city. My adrenaline started soaring and I felt high anticipation as we drove the Lincoln tunnel and into Manhattan. We arrived around 3:00 pm and I was thrilled to get easily into the city, find my way to the hotel and look forward to getting unloaded and get the dogs out. My eagerness quickly faded as we sat in the car waiting to pull next to the hotel to unload. It was THREE HOURS before we were unloaded and the car handed off to the valets to park it! The dogs needed to be fed and walked, and that meant we would miss the banquet we were going to.  Oh well, it was a last minute addition anyhow and probably would have gone too late…
Oh where, oh where does a little dog pee, oh where, oh where do they pee????……. Our dogs looked at the cement city and saw nothing viable. They looked confused and pulled ahead looking for somewhere to go. We knew the hotel had set-up an indoor pee and poop area so we went in to see what it was. Wow. They covered half of a large ballroom with thick plastic, then put down a layer of saw dust and placed out fire hydrants for the boys. So there, among vendor booths, drapes and carpet, we asked our dogs to go to the bathroom. They looked at us as if we were nuts. We walked in circles, they tried not to sniff all the dogs pee – as it was visibly grossing both the dogs out. They are drooling, and holding up their feet. Finally both dogs peed and they wanted out then. Later, before bed, we brought them back. Both peed, but even though Mick really had to poo, he wouldn’t. If he could talk, he would say “YUCK!!!" I feel bad for both boys – very clean house dogs that never, ever go inside – asking them to step around in urine soaked wood shaving and take a shit. I doubt I will get Delsin to go unless I figure out a way to get him up to central park – which is many, many long blocks away. So, tonight as I type this, Mick lays on my bed, farting. It may be a stinky night.
After unpacking and feeding the dogs Denise and I go about finding our own dinner. One of the great appeals to me about NY is culture and experiencing things I may not get a chance to otherwise. Our hotel is close to Korea town and we head there. Having no idea what to look for, we just choose. We went up some stairs to a small restaurant where we were to only white folks in there the entire meal. I was in heaven and love immersing myself into "different". The meal was great although we certainly were confused about what to order and accidently ordered the same thing, although we aren’t entirely sure how that happened. And we ordered too much food! But very enjoyable.
A side note, but one that had an impact on me: on the way to the restaurant, there was a homeless guy curled up in his sleeping bag along the side of the sidewalk - sleeping on the dement. I guess that is usual and I have seen homeless before. Nobody paid attention to this figure on a cold sidewalk in 20 degree weather. But it bothered me. How can he survive? I understand how that happens in the summer, but how about winter? How did his life get so bad that he lives on the streets in this manner? Certainly no one as a child is striving to be a street bum in New York City.
As I finish my dinner and have large amounts of odong noodles (soup) left that I have no way to keep to eat in the future, I think of that man laying on the sidewalk, curled up in an old ratty sleeping bag. Would he be offended if I took my left overs to him? I knew he most likely dug through trash to eat and I could bring him something warm and reasonably fresh but would it insult him?

I took a chance and had the restaurant pack up 2 container’s of soup – both of our left overs. I walked up the street prepared just to set it along side the sleeping man as not to disturb him. But he was awake as we I walked towards him and was sitting up in his sleeping bag digging through some trash he had piled up besides him – I believe looking for food. I politely asked him if he would like some soup – and it was warm. He gently took it and politely thanked me. He looked sober. He looked sane. I told him to enjoy it and have a good evening and went about my way. While I didn’t end his hunger forever, I did prevent perfectly good food from getting tossed in the garbage when there was a very hungry man just down the street.
A far cry from what I came here to do: show in Westminster. But, it puts some things into perspective that I did not anticipate. I am going to a dog show. A very expensive dog show. And I am doing it just for fun and I realize I am “entitled” if you will, to have fun in life. I don’t feel “guilty” per say, but I do feel something…. That it is incredibly odd that huge amounts of money are spent on so many things from showing dogs to football games when there are so many people in our country, let alone the world that have no idea where their next meal will come from or even how they may stay warm if the weather goes below freezing.
I can see, that this trip to New York will touch upon things, that for me, will make me think and wonder about my own life, what I am doing with it and if I am doing enough. If that takes a trip to Westminster for me to take inventory, it is not a bad trip to take.
Tomorrow will be more about dogs perhaps J

Saturday, February 11, 2012

2-11-12 on the road to Wesminster - still!

Phew...another rough driving day due to weather. We got a late start due to the late night last night. It felt good to sleep in, but it ended up that today was worse driving than yesterday and we stopped 3.5 hours short of our destination. At one point, west bound I80  in Ohio was closed due to massive pile ups....I counted 20 cars and trucks in one place - all tangled up together, and that was one of three multi vehicles accidents we passed on the westbound lanes. East bound stayed open, but very slow. Daylight was running out and we just decided to stop and hope tomorrow is better.

Unfortunately it appears the storm continues all across PA tomorrow. Tomorrow nights reservations are in NY - the hotel right across the street from Madison Square Garden. We want to make sure we get there. So, up early tomorrow to get as many hours in the daylight as possible. I  also want to arrive in the big city during daylight hours.

Delsin got longer walks today in the snow and wind - which ofcourse he loved. Me, not-so-much. We left Minnesota with no snow, mild temps and foolishly thought the lack of winter would surely continue. I brought no boots, light gloves, and didn't allow enough clothes to change out of wet ones. Who would have thought?

So, send all the positive energy for us to get through safely tomorrow, so we can park the car and not see it again until we leave NY on Thursday!

Right now, Madison Square Garden and the events to come seem very far away.

Good night all, sleep well!

Friday, February 10, 2012

2-10-12 Westminster - on the road

Short entry tonight - sleep is needed! Travel was slower today than anticipated due to weather and traffic around Chicago. There was snow virtually all the ay today - although not large amounts...rather just enough to wonder if it was icy. Wind, wind ,wind. We have stopped in South Bend Indiana and off the tollway, the roads are solid ice. Looks like more snow all day tommorrow as well all alonmg the way to tomorrow destination.

Delsin is bored...way too little activity today! He wanted a long, long walk tonight, the high winds, cold temps and blowing snao kept it more realistic for me. Sorry Delsin.

Mick on the other hand had dinner and passed out on the bed.

Delsin finally gave in and decided to sleep:

And here I sit in the super 8 hotel room blogging away and trying to get warm!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

2-9-12 Westminster

I have 1/2 hour left of this day and to get this entry up!!! Long day getting all the "little" things that turn into "not-so-little" done....Scrape the little plaque on Delsin's canines off- his teeth look spectacular and in no way look like a 9.5 year old dog. I decided Westminster is no place to announce to the world that I have 1 or 2 (or 3 or 4...) grey hairs (Did I just admit that????) so out comes the handy dandy box of color to make sure at least my hair looks young! We brought Mick to his vet appointment to make sure he is all set in the health department and to keep on top of some on-going issues with him. He is slowly improving: the surgery he had in the summer for a perforated ulcer has left him very slow to recover. But he gained some more weight - that is a good thing - and while he needs to gain some strength, I believe he is going in the right direction.

Then this evening I sort through clothes...what to pack; pack light, pack heavy, pack for cold, pack for heat???????? Everything I hear it is hotter than heck at the Garden and dress accordingly. One of my show suits is wool - not much I can do about that, but my hang out clothes I go for lighter. I pack all of Delsins "summer" things to keep him cool: his coolie coat, his cooler crate pad, a fan.... keeping him cool enough is one area of concern for me.

Delsin's grooming stuff - table, drying, shampoo conditioner, the grooming box, extension cord, water, towels....I wonder what I am forgetting? I will fully bathe and then groom him Monday afternoon, and that will make grooming light on Tuesday. It sounds like grooming may be a challenge this year due to the renovation of MSG and I want to make sure he looks his best even if the electric isn't easily available at the Garden. There is grooming set up at the hotel we are staying - complete with bath tubs (that one pays for to use).

We have road snacks packed, coolers pack for dogs food (Delsin eats raw, Mick eats home cooked), supplements, dishes, crates, spray bottles, cameras, video cameras, laptops..... man, I have got to believe we have everything??????

House sitter is here tonight to sleep, so she will already be settled in and a part of the household when we leave in the morning. I am so grateful for her to be here and I can let go of some of the fear in leaving the rest of my dogs behind.

We will be up at 6 and out of here by 8 in the morning. Denise has made reservations for the next two nights, so we do have a destination. I just can't tell you where that may be. Somewhere between here and New York! Denise knows and that is all that matters.

The dogs being left behind are feeling it - Mick and Delsin seem to know that they will go. There will be some sad faces in the morning as I push them away from the door and take the 2 big boys. Not looking forward to seeing them rejected, but soon as we get on the road, it will be okay.

OH - before I forget - for those of you not local - or even the people reading this blog that are from outside of this country (It is an honor to have you follow!!!!) here is the link to the news broadcast of Delsin last night. Overall, they did a smashing job with the story! make sure to watch the video - not just read the story:

I must get some sleep - too short of a night as it is. I will plan to sleep in the car when Denise takes her shift driving...(verses sleeping when I am driving!). We will probably hit Chicago right at rush hour.... no way to really avoid that, we need to go that way. Oh well, not going to think about that, it is what it is....time to try and relax enough to go to sleep. BUT HOLY CRAP - I AM GOING TO WESTMINSTER TOMORROW!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WOOOOOOOOWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

2-8-12 Westminster

What I can say about this Westminster journey is that it is a group effort! First, I am not going alone - as this is something that needs to be experienced with someone. So, my good friend Denise will be going with as well as her dog Mick. Nope, Mick is not entered, he is just along for the ride. He is also a great traveler and like a true berner, wants to be with his person all the time. Since he needs fairly close monitoring for medical reasons, he won the lotto and got the extra seat in the car to come with :) While Mick is not my dog, he and I have had a really deep connection from the day I met him and whenever I see him I get his "happy dance" and am only 1 of three people that he readily "dances" for. And the dance includes vocals as well.

So that is the "group" that will be going with me. But this trip would not have been possible on any level if it wasn't for the help and support of so many friends. People that must believe in Delsin and me... as they have helped out on many levels. And there was even a fund raiser to help get Delsin and I there. What friends...what great friends I have. I would be so selfish in saying that it is only Delsin and I going to the show.... as so many people have helped us to this level and I carry them with as I head to the big apple. truly, going Westminster has been a group effort! So if you see us run around the ring either on TV or the internet, do know that there are a lot of people that helped me get there and they might as well be out there running too :)

Today was Delsin's last visit to the acupuncture-chiropractor vet before we head out. Del has regular "tune-ups" every 6-8 weeks, just to keep him at his best and feeling wonderful. That changed though when he was missing - as when I got him back he was visibly sore. The vet - Heather - and I will never really know what happened to him but I feel we are pretty certain two events happened to put him in the condition he was in when I bailed him out of the pound: Surely he marked and marked and marked as he wandered about sniffing everything. Massive amounts of "legs lifts" if you will. Heather said he was very sore and tight in the pelvis and we pegged that on the leg lifting. Next Delsin's back and shoulders were really sore and "out of whack". While his back generally needs regular work, his shoulders are never out or sore. It would only be speculation - but he was caught in a fence so tightly when he was lost, that animal control had to lift him up and over the top of a 4 foot fence. Then he would have had to be put into the impound truck - and again that is a high lift or shove or pull or???? Getting him out of the truck - my guess would be that they did not do what I do and take most of his front weight in my hands and guide him to the ground, but rather forced him from a higher height to jump out of the truck and onto cement. I do understand they they did not know my dog, did not know if they would be bitten, and I realize he is 100+ pounds and that is a lot of dog to handle, let alone if he would lash out. But my guess is that the handling of him of whatever sort it was, caused the large amount of soreness he had.

So, Delsin has gone every week since his wanderings. Both to get him back in shape for Westminster, but mostly to get him back to the level of health he had prior to his disappearance. And thankfully -THANKFULLY - Heather announced today when she saw him that he is indeed feeling very good chiropractically. She did some minor adjustments and then the acupuncture - just to make sure he remains good.

And did I mention, that from the dogs point of view - they think Heather has the "best hands" out there? Her adjusting technique is very calm and without force. Dogs love it. And their bodies respond. Heather can find areas many would miss - she is GREAT. Locally, most of the performance type people go to her with their dogs. Or at least try. Her waiting list to get in as a client is somewhere between 2-3 years.....

I knew Delsin was doing much better before we even went in. After 6 weeks in the cities and in circumstances that had stress, both Delsin and I felt it in our bodies. I finally got to go home for 5 days.... and what a difference that made for both of us. He ran and rolled and ran and dug and ran and ran. All the dogs did. I could see each time we went for a walk that his body came together more and the tightness I saw melted away. The fluid movement he normally possesses came back. It took almost 5 weeks to get him back to "health" since his "lost" status, but I am relieved and delighted to see him smile and feel great again.

Other prep today includes making up the check list for leaving, buying the last of the "little things" and starting to set aside the day to days clothes. Time is running short...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2-7-12 Westminster

Ahhhh... one week left. Actually less than one week. A week from today I will be in the ring at Westminster with Delsin. Phew...that sends some chills - not bad ones, but still chills, down my spine. I am excited to go, but admittedly a wee bit intimidated as well. Sleep didn't come very easily last night as I thought about the trip, all that needs to be done before I leave, as well as the ring itself.

 Today was another news event day. WCCO TV (Minneapolis MN) came out to do some more filming of Delsin and me for a Westminster story. They had come out and did one of the lost dog stories - and they were great to work with. Reported with integrity, got the facts straight, didn't I invited them back to do Westminster. This story will air on the 10:00 (central time) new tomorrow (Wednesday 1-8-12) night. For those out of the area, they will have it on their website as well, after it airs. I will also post the link once I get it.  Last Monday, the reporter and cameraman spent basically the better part of the day hanging with Delsin and me - even going to Delsin acupuncture/chiropractic appointment to film that. More on that in tomorrow's post as I go for Delsin's last visit prior to Westminster.

So last weeks press visit was while I was "in-town".Today's visit the cameraman came to the farm I live and work on to get the country dog footage - which is basically what Delsin is. While he loves people and the spotlight, he also loves the wide open space to run, chase, dig, sniff, roll.... you know, be a dog. That part of his life is the reason he is so healthy at his age; both the exercise and the ability to literally "run off" stress keeps him young. The vast majority of my life is the farm - so Delsin as well as my 3 other dogs have the luxury of 160 acres for us to go for walks on. It is good for the body and soul.

But I came back into town today to help with the final prep before leaving. My new show outfits are bought, as well as the new shoes - both the ring shows as well as the standing-all-day-at Madison Square-Garden -shoes. But I need the little things now that will complete the "picture" - things like nail polish (which I NEVER wear), hairspray (can't have messy hair!), breath mints (do I need to explain why about that one?).

Anyhow, the two days with these guys filming, interviewing - it has been a blast. Very enjoyable. Only downside is that when Delsin gets to be in the camera and limelight so much..... well, his head swells. A lot. Like really a lot.  I have to keep his ego in check, let him know that sometimes modesty is not a bad thing. But he still struts around, telling everyone that will listen that his s--- doesn't stink. He picks up a toy, parades around the house with it,  shoves it into the other dogs' faces - taunting them - ...ah, I can almost hear him saying "nay, nay - I get to go to Westminster and YOUUUUU don't!". Is that anthropomorphizing or what!!??? But really, that is what I hear him say!

The house sitters came this evening which will care for the dogs left behind. We needed to go over details, make sure everyone seemed comfortable about everything, etc. My last few house-sitting experiences were not, well, very good. Bad in fact. Really bad. Three different ones. That was 12 years ago. Haven't had one since. But they are known people to me, trusted, and they love this breed as much as I do. It will be fine, but hard to leave my dogs that I am never separate from.

Only two days left to pull the loose ends together... and it is already past my bedtime tonight, so I must sign off, hit the sack and hope I don't think  about the things I missed writing down in this blog :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

2-6-12 Westminster here we come!

Why Westminster one may ask? Hmmmm.... I guess I have always wanted to experience what is labeled as the "Greatest Dog Show" there is. Well, at least in this country. Crufts  in the UK certainly rivals Westminster and it would be a bit arrogant to suggest that Westminster is the only "great" one out there. But here, in the US, it is the show to go to.

My history with dogs started in 1976 (at age 14) when I got a cocker spaniel puppy and started to formally train her. We went on the get an utility dog title on her...a solid achievement - especially for a kid. My first Bernese Mountain Dog came in this marks the 30th year I have had the breed. It is a true love affair with this breed, but one that is also filled with many heartaches that this breed can bring (multiple health issues, short life spans, high incidents of inherited cancers, lack of vitality). When my first berner had severe hip AND elbow dysplasia by 6 months of age (Despite both parents and 3 out of 4 grandparents having hip certifications) - complete with significant arthritis - it set my course of seeking out and only breeding or buying sound healthy animals that has the same in their background.

Fast forward 30 Delsin. Delsin is my "third" generation of champion, group placing, clear hip, elbow and eyes dog. I had his father K'dar - a dog that changed my life with the impact he had on me - and Delsin's grandmother Hoshi.

Delsin is a nice dog conformationally. I don't like to brag and I'd rather be each of us that have dogs love them (or should love them) regardless. But Delsin has done some nice winning during his 9 years of life. I suppose one of the highlights came last summer (2011). I was going to a show - our first in 6 months. Since I live and work on a farm, before we left, my first task was to comb out burrs, mud and probably manure and wash him in icy well water up on a picnic table.  We went to the show and wham, we won Best in Show - and honor that neither Delsin or I had ever achieved before. Next day we took a group 4, the third day a group 1. A good weekend and I couldn't have believed that my almost 9 year old berner and I would have ever taken a best in show at that stage in his life. He became the oldest dog in the history of our breed to take an AKC all breed best in show. Wow.

That brings me to Westminster. I always thought it would be nice to go with Delsin, but each year came and went and I never seemed to be in the position to do it. With his age it became a "now or never" proposition. I started to seriously think about it and then I would talk myself out of it: "No, it is too much money, he is too old, I must be delusional". Then I would look at him...there was nothing old about him. I never called him "old" and in fact, would get mad at people that ever referred to him that way. He looked young, he acted young. I thought of the judge that gave me Best In Show - and the kind words she shared with me about my boy. I felt some courage grow. Yes, maybe, just maybe, I can do this. After all - wouldn't it simply be grand to experience a show like Westminster with my best friend that had been by my side for so many years?

Conformation shows do not consume me or my life. Showing is indeed a part of it, but having dogs in my life goes way, way beyond showing. It is all about the relationship I have with them. I don't "grow out" pups - waiting to see what they turn out like, if they will make the grade for a show dog or a breeding dog - and then getting rid of them if they aren't "right". My dogs stay - whether they are a show dog or breeding dog or not. They are my best friend first and foremost and I make a commitment from the get-go that they have a home here with me, for their entire life. It allows their heart as well as mine bond deeply, neither one of us have to hold back in case I decide to get rid of them because they didn't make the "cut".

Because of this, some will say I am not "very serious" about dogs or breeding good dogs. When I breed, I am adamant about breeding good, healthy, sound dogs. There is nothing "casual" about my process. I simply don't sacrifice my relationship with any of my dogs just in the name of doing dog shows. If there were no more shows tomorrow, I would be fine as I still have my dogs and the close bond that I have with each one of them.

I do dog shows because I have fun with them. It is one more place to go/thing to do with my dogs and we train a lot for either ring (conformation and/or obedience). Shows are something we can do together. Like anyone, I like winning and I prepare my dogs well to show well. But if we lose - and everyone loses at some time regardless  how great the dog is - oh well, life goes on and I never, ever let Delsin know that we lost. I never would want him to feel that I am disappointed in him at any level.

So, it is with that attitude we go to Westminster. It will be a GREAT show to experience, regardless. Do I want to win??? But, of course! And we are prepared. But I dare say, so are 1999 other dogs and their handlers. At the end of the day, whether win or lose, I get to go home with my 9.5 year old HEALTHY and HAPPY dog that will sleep on my bed that night, utterly content to be with me, and I will be beyond thankful that I have had yet another wonderful day with my boy Delsin.

The show is one week from tomorrow. Prep has started. Actually it has been a life time of prep, but the immediate prep before a show of this magnitude has begun. My goal is to share this experience with you - the readers of this blog. I hope you can be a part of our journey together - a fun journey from Minnesota to New York and back. I will endeavor to write something everyday, so you can feel informed and know what is happening. So, so many people have gathered together to make this trip possible, that I just want to share it with all. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions...I will answer as soon as I am able.

So, join me on a great journey with a wonderful soul by my side named Delsin!

Delsin the lost dog part 3

Around 9:00 the first searcher showed up. She never came inside, rather called to find out what the next area/level of search was and just got started. Around the same time the local newspaper called - Star Tribune - and wanted to interview me for a story. He was great, we did it over the phone and he was compassionate, caring and respectful. And even though I had sent the newspaper 2 emails during the night, he found out about Delsin all on his own: going through Since who ever posted Delsin on Petfinder mentioned he was going to Westminster - that is what caught the reporters eye, as he had done Westminster stories in the past. "Whatever is takes" is what I thought - as I knew I needed the press the really get the word out.

Then I had a series of calls from a lady that was in South Dakota, but her <adult> daughter was at a house fairly close to where I was. She said she thought that my dog had been stuck in their fence(stuck/squished between two fences) the day before. Went on to say that animal control was called and eventually responded (after a long delay) and that the daughter saw animal control get the dog unstuck, but they had lost control and the last she saw - they were chasing him and he was scared. The first call the lady made to me- she wasn't totally convinced it was "my dog" - more of "I think it may have been your dog" type thing. But we had a series of phone calls and each one she became more convinced it was my dog - because she was looking at his photo posted on someones facebook page and the dog her daughter described seemed to be Delsin. The daughter had taken a picture of the dog with her cell phone - when he was stuck in the fence. I asked her to send that to me and sometime mid-morning that photo came in via my cell phone. I hurriedly opened it. My heart sunk, raced, and twisted all around as I looked at the photo. It was Delsin and I could see how stuck and uncomfortable he was in the fence. AND this picture had been taken about 18 hours earlier. Where was he now? The photo left me in a frenzy...yes, someone had finally seen him, but what happened then? I called the lady back, pushed for every exact detail as to what happened, but I got little more. They didn't know what happened to Delsin once he got loose from the fence. Was he at animal control? Had he gotten away from them? If so, where was he now?

Meanwhile, I kept in touch with one of the animal communicators and while it seemed like she had a good connection with him, in hindsight the info she got back wasn't accurate. So my one searcher out there was taking directions from me based on the information I was getting from the communicator. But I would have to say, while animal communication is not 100%, I would utilize it again in a heartbeat...because it was a different animal communicator that told me the day before that it felt like Delsin "was stuck" a fence or something.

But once I had the info that he had been stuck and animal control had come out, I was all over that angle. The frustrating part was that animal control did not open until 12:00 noon, nor was anyone answering the phones. I called and left multiple messages. I kind of figured if I called enough maybe SOMEONE would answer the phone, figuring that someone actually had to be there. But no one ever answered. I called the police - as it is officers that pick up the dogs. I asked for the name of the officer that had responded to the call and boy, that wasn't well received at all with a "WHY DO YOU NEED THAT INFORMATION???" I explained that a witness saw the officer lose Delsin and he was chasing him and that I needed to find out if he indeed caught him or if he had gotten away. Well to say I had my head bitten off wasn't too far from the truth when I was loudly told that I would never ever get that information and I just needed to wait until someone was at the impound at noon. Without her saying it, I definitely got the vibe: "Lady, this is just a stupid dog you lost, what is the big deal??" It is so unfortunate that there is still a huge chunk of society that refuses to recognize that the bond that can occurs between people and their animals is as strong as any bond out there.

It was about 10:00 am at this point. I didn't know if Delsin was safely locked up at the impound, or if my arriving search crews needed to up the search and go further away, do more door to door knocking OR??? Another 100 posters were printed up, maps of the area were printed now so we could better track who went where, where posters were put up, what doors were knocked on. The large dining room table had become the central command post.

Things started to get rather nutty then and I lost all track of time. The emerging of more media. They were now picking up the story and wanted to talk to me. WCCO (CBS) was the first of many on the scene. Another great team of reporter/cameraman. Again, respectful. Asked pertinent questions, didn't try to sensationalize or dig for facts not relevant for the story. But, they took up time. Now the phone was again continually ringing, emails coming in, more people was getting chaotic once again with all the activity. My good friend took over the phones, answering the door bell, making a game plan on how to expand the search as I did that first interview. At times I left the interview to talk with someone on the phone that perhaps seemed like a stronger lead, but mostly I just did the interview. They followed my helpers around the house, taping everything that happened. They took their time to get a good story and I was grateful. Again, I felt desperate to get the word out anyway I could. I was feeling better knowing that having the word spread far and wide was going to be the way to get Delsin back to me.

Noon came and went without me even realizing it. It actually was the reporter that said "it is past 12:00 - don't you want to call animal control?" by this point, WCCO had been fully brought up to speed as to what had transpired.  It was somewhere between 12:15-12:30 that I called animal control. And FINALLY, someone answered!!!! I introduced myself and said I had left many messages...and he responded "Well, Yes you have!" But he was very nice about it. I asked him "Do you have my dog?" and he went on to respond that when he came into work at noon, he saw the color poster on the outside door of the impound - the one with Delsin's color photo on it - so he knew all about Delsin when he went inside. Once inside, he checked the log that dogs are checked into when they arrive and he saw that someone had checked in a ONE YEAR OLD, INTACT MALE, ST BERNARD! And that dog had come in the day before. He thought to himself "that must be the dog on the poster". So he went back in the kennels and sure enough, the "St Bernard" was indeed Delsin. So yes, Delsin was indeed in the impound.

The camera caught all of it on tape when I got off the phone. My knees wanted to buckle, my heart felt like it had temporarily stopped - just with the relief. I SO desperately wanted to sit down(collapse really) and cry - to release all the tension that this had brought. But I didn't. I now needed to get as quick as I could down to the impound. When I asked if "they" (WCCO) wanted to come - they looked at me like I was even nuts to ask they reponded with a "OOOOH YEEAH!!!!!".

With 3 friends, the reporter, the cameraman and 4 vehicles, we descended upon the impound. It is kind of funny - the officer that helped me, took the entourage all in stride and never did ask why they were all there. It was like people came and picked up their lost dogs all the time with the media following them. Very strange but he was also very nice.

I found out at that point, that Delsin had been so caught between the two yard fences (each yard had their own fence and the narrow space inbetween the two yard is where Delsin gut stuck), that they could not get him out via walking him forward or backwards. So, they had to lift the 100+ pound dog up and over a 4 foot fence. They said he was great during it all - that the only challenge was that he is big.

After the formality of paperwork, I rushed into the back where the kennels were to get Delsin. Outwardly he looked no worse for the wear. He was happy to see me, but he was also really pumped up. He pulled me out of there - not so much to leave the place, but to drag me to yet another tree to pee on. He seemed perfectly happy to continue where is journey had left off yesterday - that he could run amuck and pee on every tree, bush and fire hydrant as he could find. I think Delsin was a bit "high" from all the scents he took in on his wanderings around a very dog friendly neighborhood. It was an intact male dogs dream to go for an unescorted walk in a new area, to sniff every single place any other dog had peed (and there are A LOT of dogs in this neighborhood), mark a huge territory for as long as one would want. So, yes, he was happy to see me, but he had also appeared to be happy to have had a good chunk of exercise the day before.

WCCO finished up their report and we parted ways. I headed back to the house knowing that one other news station had planned to come out. But I was also feeling very drained. I no longer needed the adrenaline to keep going while I searched for Delsin and I was crashing. I just really wanted to go back to my brothers house and curl up in bed with my dog, cry, and sleep. That wasn't going to happen...

What news station came next, I can't recall. But like the first one, they took their time. And I gave it to them. I had needed the media, they responded, this was a story that started out sad but had a happy ending, and I was grateful that the media had come. I couldn't just send them away at this point.

The phones kept ringing, the doorbell kept friends kept all that under control as I did the interviews. My friends also immediately got the word out the "DELSIN WAS FOUND". I wished I could have called people myself, but there were times I was in an interview and my friend was on the phone telling people that Delsin was home and I could hear the cheering over the phone line in the other room. The support was beyond amazing.

Just as one interview would end and I would think"Ahhhh, I can eat and relax with Delsin", my friend Denise would say "don't relax yet, another station is coming..." And so it went on all afternoon. The last reporter left about 4:30. And the first reporter (WCCO) was desperately emailing me for photos I had promised, that would ad to the story. So, I now have to sit on email, getting things caught up on that end. I had promised photos to another station, but I could not find that email address..... phew, I gave up, I ran out of juice.... I could hardly talk anymore, certainly fatigue had set in, and such huge relief that I was all but wiped out.

Honestly, I don't rightly remember that evening. I know everyone finally went home. I still had to take care of my nephews - feed them, make sure they did their homework, get them to bed. My other 3 dogs had been lacking attention, so they needed some extra love from me. I know that Delsin finally crashed himself. He had been a "ham" in front of the TV cameras...loving every minute of all the attention...his head swollen from a huge ego that had developed, but he was exhausted as I was. By the time we both crawled into that tiny twin bed - he refusing to get off of it, but laying SMASHED against me - there was nothing left. Relief but numb. Neither one of us fell to sleep easily. Delsin would suddenly sit up and just stare at me. I could hear him say: "I am really happy to be back here with you". He kept doing it  throughout the night. He did that for three nights before he finally settled into his usual routine. But I do have to say, he does tend to sleep closer to me and check on me now more often.

I count my blessings: Delsin is back, Delsin was only gone for 24 hours, Delsin all in all was "okay" when he got back to me (he needed, continues to need lots of acupuncture and chiropractic because of perhaps the excessive marking, but probably because of getting lifted out of the fence he was caught in and having been dragged/pushed/shoved into a impound truck then forced to jump out of it from a high height onto concrete). I knew that this could have ended very differently, but I did my best not to dwell on that aspect when he was gone. I am thankful beyond words, that my wonderful, 9 year old berner boy, my true friend Delsin, has more time with me in this life...


Okay, to wrap up the lost dog part of Delsin, I would like to address a couple of things that repeatedly came up on comment boards on various media websites: No collar, no tags - Why?

For those of you that know me, virtually nothing I do or don't do for my dogs, is done in a casual manner. The same is true for lack of microchip. Before I go further, I do want to say that I am not against micro chips in any fashion. They save lives. There are so many documented reports of animals being reunited months, sometimes years later - with their owners, many times miles and miles away from where they first lost the animal. I recommend microchips.

So why is it then, none of my dogs (except for my rescue - and she came with one) have been chipped? To understand it, one needs to understand this breed and the health risks we face with them every day. This breeds average lifespan is only 7 years. That does not mean that the dog is "old" at 7 - most are not. They are vibrant looking, enjoying life, running around, etc. But we have so much cancer in this breed that at least 50% of them will die from it.There is not a pedigree around that does not have cancer in close relatives. If one chooses to have bernese in their life, one is most likely inviting heartbreak into it.

So I attempt to minimize that risk at every level I possibly can. What I do with the dogs, what I feed the dogs, the type of vet care.... I attempt to calculate how much additional risk it puts them at. At best it is very subjective but by and large my dogs have lived well over the average, with the exception of Delsins dad, K'dar - who died of cancer at 8 and Delsin brother Toltec- who died of lymes/anaplasmosis at 5.5 (all my dogs have had this and survived, but Toltecs body just seemed to give up and quit. Many Bernese immune systems just are not strong). All my other dogs have lived to around 10 or 11.

Microchips come into play here, because there is a risk - yes a very small risk, but it is still there - that it increases the chance of cancer. So I have had to weigh the risk of increase cancer due to a chip verses the possibility my dogs will get separated from me. Since I am with my dogs virtually all day, every day and generally very, very careful of any enclosure they are in and they are never left unattended outside even in a yard for more than a few minutes - I felt the risk of losing any of my dogs was very, very small. And that the risk of cancer in any of my dogs is very real.

Obviously any dog can get separated even if one takes the steps that I do. Have I thought about chipping since Delsin's incident? You bet! But I haven't done it. While maybe some people will think that irresponsible, until they have walked in the shoes of going through a horrific cancer with a soul they love more than anyone else, it should not be judged. I still see the risk of losing my dogs via getting "lose" less than losing them to cancer and I will continue to try and stack the cards in favor that my dogs either don't get cancer or get it way later in life.

On to lack of collar. Delsin as well as my other dogs, generally wear a collar with my phone number on it, but not always. I am back and forth with collars. If my young dogs go into a crate when I leave, their collars come off. Sometimes when I let them out of the crate, I don't put collars back on right away. If the dogs are playing - rough-housing - I take them off. Why? Because I had a friend that had one of her dogs strangle (to death) when two dogs were playing and one got their jaw hooked under the other dogs collar. Collars can get hooked onto objects as well. And even though the collars that my dogs wear are not "choke" collars - where they tighten down completely, virtually any collar can get caught, the dogs panics and they can strangle. So I am careful with collars, but generally my dogs do wear them.

Delsin had his collar off. I take it off to give him neck rubs, which I had done that morning that he was lost. With Westminster right around the corner, I kept it off to try and get his hair around his neck to "bounce back" and not leave a ring around the neck for when I showed him. But trust me, when I first saw he was gone, really gone, my heart I knew he had no collar on, and no chip.

Maybe for some there are easy answers: chip and collar. And in ways they are right and I support that. But we each travel through life making choices best for each of us due to our own experiences in life. All choices carry risk of some sort or another. And it is up to each of us to weigh those risks and not judge others who choose different risks than their own.