Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween! (and Some Notes About the National Specialty)

The witches fly across the sky,
The owls go, "Who? Who? Who?"
The black cats yowl and green ghosts howl,
"Scary Halloween to you!"
~Nina Willis Walter

Happy Halloween, everyone! Some people love Halloween; others hate it. I fall more into the "dislike" category. It's a holiday I could do without. I'm not a person who enjoys dressing up in a costume, probably because my childhood memories involve a lot of crying over costumes that just did not turn out to be as impressive as I imagined. Then I had to go through the same ordeals with my children. (Cosmic justice???) As I pointed out to them, "People are going to give you candy whether you like your costume or not." Nonetheless, I've had some dramatic/traumatic moments tied to Halloween.

My best memories are of trick or treating in my grandmother's neighborhood. The ladies across the street gave us huge popcorn balls and caramel apples. The couple who lived a block down the street were noted for making trick or treaters sign a guest book each year, but they gave us all big Snicker bars (still my favorite!) so the burden of signing in was worth it. Of course my trick or treating years came before the advent of mini and bite size candy bars—and before the era of having to worry about children getting homemade treats.

We are well prepared for tonight's onslaught of ghosts, goblins, pirates, and Disney princesses. Our healthy treats include small boxes of raisins and fruit snacks, bags of pretzels, and packets of instant hot chocolate. I was smart this year and bought no candy—because I always end up eating the leftovers! We have no idea how many children to expect since our neighborhood consists mostly of grandma-and-grandpa-aged people. However, as Robert Brault said, "I don't know that there are real ghosts and goblins, but there are always more trick-or-treaters than neighborhood kids." It is certainly true where we live!

I have some favorite bloggers and know how disheartening it is when they do not post for a while. My deepest apologies to all who have been checking this site and wondering what the heck is going on because I have not posted for nearly 3 weeks. I'll lay the blame on being sick and then packing for the National Specialty, attending the National Specialty, and recovering from the National Specialty!

The American Lhasa Apso Club's 2012 National Specialty week has come and gone. The days leading up to my trip to Mansfield, MA, were rather panicky at moments. I was quite ill with a monster of a cold that refused to go away. In desperation I went to the doctor, saying I would be traveling and sharing a ride to MA and a hotel room with a friend who I was sure did not want to listen to me coughing 24/7. Four prescriptions later, things were looking up. I finally took a sick day and allowed my body to rest and heal. By Friday, I was not over the cold but at least I could travel without coughing day and night (and risking Marsha either tossing me out of the van or making me ride in a crate on the top, as she casually mentioned perhaps doing).

The back of the loaded van
Marsha arrived from Fargo on the evening of the 12th. We loaded my things in her van in the dark. It was a miracle that everything fit! She spent the night then we took off for MA at 7:00 Saturday morning in the rain. We drove in drizzle, light rain, heavy rain…rain, rain, rain…all day. We almost made it to Buffalo when the rain got so heavy as we were going through a "no shoulder" construction zone that we decided to give it up for the night and find a motel. We were able to drive to Mansfield in mostly clear skies on Sunday, reaching our destination by mid-afternoon. Without the rain, the scenery was gorgeous. The trees were in full fall color.

Specialty week was great. The Merrimack Lhasa Apso Club was the host club, and its members did a wonderful job. If the behind-the-scenes activities were frantic, there was no evidence of it for those not involved in the crisis. One of the best things about attending National Specialty week is seeing people I have not seen since the last specialty or for ages because they haven't attended a specialty in a while. Our specialties move among three different regions of the country (east, middle, and west). While many ALAC members attend the National year after year, others opt to attend only when it is in their regions.
The side of the loaded van

This year, I was happy to see Dorothy Kendall (Orlane Lhasas) and Janet Whitman (Ja-Ma Lhasas), neither of whom I had seen for a while. Janet has not attended a National in many, many years. Janet was one of my early mentors, along with Marjorie Lewis. For many years the prefix Ja-Ma Joyslyn appeared in many of our Lhasas' names. Both Dorothy's and Janet's Lhasas have had a positive impact on the breed over the years. They are both indeed grand ladies in Lhasa history and in laying foundations for the future. I have been privileged to know them.

 ALAC mourned the passing of two  wonderful long-time members: Ann Burton and Ray Sledzik. Both loved the breed and served the club well in many capacities. Ann most recently as the Recording Secretary and Ray for 25 years as ALAC's AKC Delegate.

Janet and Dorothy with me

Janet with me before the banquet

Rafe on the bed for a tummy rub
Now to news about Rafe and Windy and their experiences during Specialty week. Neither had traveled that far in a crate before and they turned out to be excellent, uncomplaining travelers. Neither had stayed that long in a hotel before. Rafe was a good, quiet boy. Windy, thinking that her job was to listen intently and bark to warn us if someone outside our room was making noise, did her job only too well. Drunk, noisy people coming down the hall in the middle of the night certainly heard her voice, as did people in all the rooms around ours. Not a good thing. She's going to have to get over that!

Windy was entered in the MLAC Specialty and Sweepstakes as well as the ALAC Regional and National Specialties. Monday was her first time in the ring (also her 6th month "birthday," always a landmark occasion for show dogs). She was spooky and nervous, not too sure of herself but trusting me. She took 4th place (out of 5) in both the Sweeps and the Specialty. That was it for her placements for the week. The two ALAC specialty shows each had entries of ten 6-9 month old puppy bitches. Very impressive to see the up and coming females. By Friday, Windy was comfortable and more secure in the ring, as long as there were no unexpected noises. We had a very naughty puppy ahead of us each day in the ring. By Friday, Windy very much wanted to discipline her, so I had my work cut out for me. Windy has a distinct alpha personality, even at her young age! The photo below is of Windy on the table being examined by Sweepstakes judge Pat Martello.

Windy in the Sweepstakes ring
Rafe was shown three times in the Best of Breed class and, for the most part, I was happy with his performance. The rigor of Best of Breed judging at a National is hard on a 10-month old puppy who is not used to standing still for what seems like hours on end. It was hard on me too, trying to convince a bored, wiggly puppy that he had to stand, and stand, and stand! We have few Lhasas in our area so the dogs are not used to having to hold a stack for long periods of time. Even in Group judging, we all relax our dogs while the judge is examining the others. Not at a Specialty! By Friday, Rafe was ready to call it quits and I was glad when we did not make the cut and were able to leave the ring early. We were getting frustrated with each other. He needs to toughen up! That will come with experience.

Rafe was part of a photo shoot at the National, but he did not want to cooperate and was nearing a meltdown. The picture of him on the right was taken as the photographer's assistant attempted to soothe him. You can see that he appreciates her soft touch. Look at that expression on his face. Awww.....
Rafe at the photo shoot

Rafe getting some extra loving
One thing that made me very proud was Keke Kahn awarding Rafe an Award of Merit at the ALAC Regional Specialty on Thursday. Keke is a revered Lhasa Apso breeder judge. When she went over Rafe, she commented on the kink in his tail, reminding me that a kink was a sign of good luck. I told her that it certainly had been lucky for him so far. I'll post the photo taken with Keke and his Award of Merit ribbon when the photographer gets it to me. I'll also note here that as an exhibitor, a mentor, and co-chair of the Judges Education Committee, I was so pleased that Keke took the time as she was judging to allow the prospective Lhasa judges being mentored at ringside to get a good look at each dog being exhibited and to comment to those judges briefly about what they should be seeing as the dogs moved. At the seminar the next day, those who had attended on Thursday remarked on how much her doing that helped them to understand some of the finer points of Lhasa judging.
While the drive to MA took us 2 days, the trip home was faster. We were determined to drive through until we reached my house. We loaded the van in drizzly weather Friday night in the dark, left Saturday at 7:00 AM, and pulled into my driveway about 1:50 Sunday morning. For the majority of those hours we were driving in rain.

Since my return home, I've been unpacking, resting, and catching up at work and at home, especially with grooming. My husband had the house and dogs in great shape when I got home, but once we unloaded all my "stuff" the house no longer looked tidy.

Given Hurricane Sandy's devastating impact on so many people's lives, I should not complain about the problems we've had at home since I returned from MA, one of them being not having heat for four days because the furnace died and no part was to be had until yesterday. The dogs were comfy since their room has its own heat source. We hung out a lot in the family room and enjoyed the fireplace, so we did not suffer too badly. (I will say that I looked forward to going to work on Monday so I could enjoy my warm office!) We recently paid over $6000 to have all the copper water pipes (which were seeping) replaced. Now we have a definite leak coming from somewhere that has yet to be determined. Our new floor tile in the remodeled family room is fine, but the sealant is defective because it keeps coming up. The company that installed the tile has repaired it once. When it came loose again, they called the manufacturer (Congoleum) to come to determine what was wrong. It's been a month and two additional phone calls to Congoleum. No one has shown up yet to evaluate the problem! What impressive customer service (if you like negative impressions, that is)!

November should be a quiet month. We have no shows until the 30th when we go to Belleville, IL, for a 3-day show weekend. That will be it for shows until next spring. I'm not certain yet if Maggie is pregnant. She was bred to Rafe in early October. She's "gone off her feed" and that is usually an early sign of pregnancy in my dogs. I could have an ultrasound done but I'm thinking, "Why bother? She either is or she isn't and time will tell anyway." It would be nice if someone developed an early pregnancy test for dogs but I imagine there would be some humorous stories about trying to get the dog to pee on the stick!

I've been fortunate to receive some updates and photos from people who have our puppies. Loretta sent a lovely photo of Griffin II, Rafe's litter brother, as he was running through the grass. Mary sent a photo of their brother, Gabe, enjoying a bully stick. She referred to him as her "precious companion." Ellen sent a photo of Oliver (we called him Noah) and Sherri sent a photo of Libby (we called her Rainy). Oliver and Libby were two of the puppies from Breaker and Mira's litter. Stacey sent a nice email about Lola, who is evidently quite a character and a "big dog" in a little Lhasa body! Lola was born in 2011 and you can see photos & video of her in the archived blogs. Around here, she was known as "Dreamer." "Lola" is a more suitable name.

Along with all of you, my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims of Hurricane Sandy as they pull together to clean up their homes and communities and to rebuild their lives following the storm's wrath.

If you have not taken advantage of early voting in your area, please remember to vote on November 6th. Voting for our leaders, making our voices heard, and impacting the country's future is not only a right but also a responsibility of each American citizen. Don't take it lightly.

As always, life is good when you have a Lhasa to love you!

Griffin II




Monday, October 8, 2012


"Reflect upon your present blessings -- of which every man has many -- not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some." –Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol and Other Christmas Writings

When I last wrote, I was headed for Nebraska to visit family and to take part in the celebration of my mom's 80th birthday. My sister and I, assisted by other family members and some of Mom's friends, hosted an open house and dance to honor Mom. My mother is a young 80 in mind, body, and spirit and I hope that I will be so blessed when I am her age. So, yes, it was indeed a blessing to make the trip to and from Nebraska safely; to see my sister, brother-in-law, and nieces after a long time apart; to visit with aunts, uncles, cousins, members of their families, high school classmates, and other friends from my hometown.

Mom came back to Illinois with me to spend 8 days with my family. We had our own birthday celebration for her and she got a taste of life with the Johansons (boring). I had dog grooming to catch up on, so I'm sure that was exciting for her to watch. LOL! She got to spend time with her two grandsons, her granddaughter-in-law, and her great granddaughter. We Skyped with my daughter who lives in Florida. We spent some time shopping. She went with me to a workshop I had to facilitate. We didn't do anything exciting, but both of us realized that we had never in recent memory spent so much time alone with each other. During her other visits to Illinois, she was always accompanied by my dad, a friend, my sister, or my niece. It was nice to be able to relax and chat and just appreciate being with each other.

Since Mom left, I've been fighting a devil of a cold, trying hard to get well before Saturday when I'll be leaving for MA and the Lhasa Apso National Specialty. A person who has been bragging for at least the last four years that she "never gets sick," I have learned that the common cold can make a person's life miserable in short order. I missed a lot of work last week, and my co-workers are still looking askance at me if I happen to cough. Cold remedies, Tylenol, cough drops, and boxes of Kleenex seem to be a basic part of my life nowadays.

But, thinking positive…back to the specialty. Rafe and Windy are going with me. She will be 6 months old on the 15th and will make her show debut that day at the local club's specialty show. I'm excited about showing both her and Rafe. I've written a huge, long list to remind myself of all the things that I have to pack and now am praying that there will be room in Marsha's van for everything that right now seems so essential for the trip.

I've found four Lhasa photos that I want to enter in the Specialty's photo contest. Three will be entered in the "Best Head Study" competition. The fourth will be entered in the "Most Humorous" competition. As I looked through my print and digital photo albums, as well as the many packets of dog photos we've collected through the years, I again realized how blessed I've been with beautiful Lhasas and beautiful friends I've made because of my involvement with showing and with the American Lhasa Apso Club.

I don't have much to report regarding the dogs. I have not been to any shows since Rafe finished in August so I am certainly looking forward to participating in the specialty week events in MA next week. Some of you may be interested to know that, if the breeding last week was successful, we will have puppies in early December.

I feel blessed to receive emails like those that have come in the past few weeks from puppy buyers giving me updates, sending photos, and thanking me for their Lhasas. The following note was indeed a blessing. It's from Laurie, who is writing about Zeus (whose name when he lived with us was Zach). Zeus went to live with Laurie and her family a year ago. She wrote:
"Joyce: It's hard to believe that a year has gone by since we adopted our Zeus. He fit in so easily into the family, it feels like we have had him forever. We want to let you know that he is happy and thriving. Here are some things we learned about him the last year: He is a very quiet dog. So quiet that people sometimes do not notice him right away. But once you get to know him, you see that he is always observing those around him. If he were a person, he is the person you would talk to to find out what really happened. He is a lover, not a fighter. He approaches people, dogs, squirrels, cats, etc. with a friendly wag. He will fight if he has to, but it is to defend someone or something he loves. There are three squirrels who I swear wait for him to come out for his second walk of the morning and then taunt him. They wait til he gets close and then run up 8 feet up the tree and chirp at him. He falls for the same trap every morning. He doesn't bark, he just sits wagging his tail and waiting for them to come down. He loves girls. It must be the registered name that does it to him! (Note from me: His registered name is Ch. Joyslyn MLS Dakota Playboy At Heart.) He is extremely loyal to his family. I am fortunate to have been chosen as his primary person, and he likes to follow me around to see what I am doing. He is even loyal to his little loveable, but bratty to him, companion Zora. Believe me, if he wanted to take out any frustration, he would have plenty of justification since she is constantly bossing him around. Everything I need to know about not letting little things bug me, I can learn by watching him. He still looks very GQ even with his "I run in grass, leaves, through the Zora guantlet, etc." hair. All male dogs inherently love trees and fire hydrants. We have both on our front lawn, and he quickly figured out what to do to them on his walks. A Zeus lick makes everything better. 20 Zeus licks and you can take on the world. Life is really much better with a Lhasa to love and to love you back… Thank you so much for allowing us to adopt him. He is a perfect fit."

Well, I teared up when I read that! People often ask me how I can let my adults go to new homes after raising them, showing them, loving them. It is not easy but the rewards have been great over the years. The dogs are well-loved and the people are so generous to share episodes of their Lhasas' lives with me. Blessings indeed.

Judy wrote recently about Izzy, the Lhasa she is training for agility. Izzy has a mind of her own, as do all Lhasas, and her debut in the agility ring was a flop. She got loose on the grassy field and decided "to heck with that jump, I'm going exploring." Izzy has been designated as a healing dog. Judy explains, "She is still my sweet doctor who checks every morning on the condition of the nerve. Mayo Clinic is also keeping notes on these 'healing dogs'. Also, the Veteran's Administration is working on a study on dogs who can tell when their masters might suffer a PTSD attack. No one can explain this to date, but I am sure someone will come up with the answer. Izzy's picture and info have been entered into the University of Chicago's notes." Izzy was about a year old when Judy bought her. Yes, it was hard to let her go, but whenever I get a note from Judy that talks about the way Izzy cares for her, I know that Izzy was born to be a blessing for Judy.

Those are just two of the notes I've received recently from people telling me about the Lhasas, puppies and adults, they've purchased from us. I treasure each note, update, and photo I receive. One elderly man whose Lhasa is now 13, sends me a Christmas card every year with a little note of appreciation in it. Another couple celebrate their Lhasa's birthday each year and send us an invitation to the big party (all presents donated to an animal shelter). Those are just a few. Blessings indeed.

I'll let you know about the specialty week next time I write! Wish us safe travel and luck in the ring!

Life is good when you have a Lhasa to love you. May you all have Lhasa blessings each day of your lives.