Monday, August 31, 2009

How Can You Give Them Up?

"How can you do it?" people ask me. And often I ask myself, "How can I do it? How can I give her up?"

What I am talking about of course is giving up for adoption our retired champions. It is not easy. It is not fun. It is necessary.

Nearly every dog in my house was born here. I touched them as they were born; I tore open the sac that held them; I wiped their faces and dried their bodies – sometimes even before their mothers touched them. I fussed and fretted over them as they grew. I watched them with careful eyes to make sure they were eating, that their development was normal, that they were not getting ill. I proudly watched eyes open. "Welcome to the world little one," I always say. I proudly watched first steps, first tail wags, first bites of food, first attempts at playing with toys, first puppy battles. I evaluated as I watched. Which one will it be? Who's going to be the next Joyslyn's show prospect?

I learned very early that "you can't keep them all." You absolutely cannot keep them all, no matter how much you love them, no matter how precious they seem. I've seen what happens to people who try. They become overwhelmed. They cannot care for all the dogs. They feel guilty. The dogs feel ignored. The show prospects that just HAD to be kept end up sitting around in a kennel, clipped down because the breeder is simply out of time and over her head. The numbers grow and grow. You can't keep them all. Because I'd witnessed many of my acquaintances who ended up keeping too many dogs, I determined early in my dog showing/breeding career that I could not be one of them.

So we let them go, starting with the puppies. Many a show prospect has left my home because I can't keep them all. I've met many wonderful people who have come into my home to buy puppies over the years. Some kept in touch for a year or so. Others still do after many, many years. I am so grateful for the stories they write me about their Lhasa, his/her antics and personality. I am so grateful for the "thank you" they write, even after many years.

As hard as it might be to let the puppies go, the heartbreakers are the adults, the champions I have slaved over to train, to groom, to take to shows. I've sat with them as they whelped puppies and calmed them far into the night as they labored to bring me my next champion.

And thus a bond is forged. It's a bond that is different from the bond between pet and owner. Not a better bond, just a different one.

My females generally have two or three litters and then I place them for adoption. That means their ages tend to be 5 or 6 years old. How can I let them go? Do I love them less for letting them go? No! I let them go because I love them. I let them go so they can experience being an only dog or one of two dogs in a home where they will get more attention than they get being one of many at my house. I let them go because after I steeled myself in the early years to give up the first few, and after I saw how well they adjusted and how they continued to flourish in their new home environments, and how much their new owners loved and appreciated them, I knew that, as hard as it was to let them go, it was best for them.

So yesterday I experienced one of those heart-wrenching bittersweet moments when my 2-year old Davy, Ch. Joyslyn's Heartthrob, left our house with his new owner. (Note: Davy is pictured at the top of this entry.)

Davy and I had an interesting history. My pick of the litter was his sister, Flame, Ch. Joyslyn Winds of Fire. She was what I had hoped for when we did the breeding. I never intended to keep a boy. Davy was purchased by a family when he was about 10 weeks old, but he never saw the inside of their home. I was uncomfortable with letting him go to them. The husband was so nice, as were the two young boys. The wife was a different story – and it's too long a story to tell here. The woman was wacko. But, I let the family take Davy. About an hour after they left, the doorbell rang. The husband handed me the dog with an apology and I handed him his money. His wife just couldn't bring herself to take the dog home. I was so relieved! Saved from being raised by a wacko! No other buyers came along who wanted a male, so Davy stayed. Never happy about having a lead on (Yes, he is related to Belle! She's his niece!!!), Davy nevertheless won frequently. He took a Non-Sporting Puppy Group 1. He even took Best of Breed over a special before he was 11 months old. And then he sort of quit on me.

According to the animal communicator I met at a show in Des Moines, IA in September 2008, when Davy was totally shutting down on me in the ring and I was ready to throw in the towel, Davy "just wanted to be a dog." He saw no reason to go to shows, and he was upset because he knew he was disappointing me. Davy was to the point of just needing his majors, so I promised him if he'd just cooperate and stick with it a while longer I'd find a way to let him be "just a dog!" He finished in December 2008 after my friend Jane took over from me as his handler and put both majors on him. Bless her for that.

Champion or not, I decided Davy did not need to sit around as one of many dogs. I have his sire and did not need another male. About that time, a man who'd purchased a dog from us 13 years ago, wrote to let us know the dog died. He was lonesome without a Lhasa and wanted to know when we were going to have puppies. We had none available and only had plans for a future breeding, so I mentioned that Davy was available and sent him pictures of Davy. He responded that he wanted to adopt Davy! However, he'd fallen and damaged his rotator cuff. Surgery was a few weeks away and recovery would take months. Yesterday, happy day for him, he came to pick up his Lhasa at last.

As for Davy, he took to the man immediately, wagging his tail, rubbing against him, licking his hand, laying beside him on our sofa within a couple minutes of meeting him. (Davy had not read the standard to know he was supposed to be "chary of strangers.") When the two drove away in the car, I wanted to cry. I'll miss Davy but I know I made the best decision for him.

About 9:00 last night, Davy's new owner called to tell me they'd made it home just fine and that Davy was as happy as could be, playing with his toys and investigating his new home.

How can I be sad when a dog I love is so happy? I am though. I'll miss him. But I'm glad his wish to be "just a dog" will come true.

For those of you thinking about buying a Lhasa, never be afraid to ask a breeder if she has a retired champion available. Puppies are wonderful of course, no one will deny that. But don't discount one of the older dogs. They have much love to offer – as those of you who have adopted Tessa, Piper, Paisley, and Ahna from us over the past 3 years can confirm. I know you are grateful for them, and I am grateful to you for loving them and caring for them as you do.

Life is good when you have a Lhasa Apso to love you.


Friday, August 28, 2009

I Found A Treasure!

Last night I pulled a great many of my old Lhasa magazines off the shelf of the bookcase. I was on a hunt for some information and intended to dig through the stacks of history to find what I was looking for. Someday when I retire and have a lot of time on my hands I intend to read through all those past issues of ALAC Bulletins, Lhasa Apso Reporters, Lhasa Tales, and Lhasa Unlimiteds. The photos alone are wonderful.

But I was on a quest last night and had no time for reminiscing.

Luckily, I found the information that I needed right away – just where I thought it was. That in itself is a miracle! Then, as I was organizing the piles of periodicals to put back on the shelf, I unearthed The National Geographic Magazine from January 1954. "Now why do I have this?" I asked myself. So I started to flip through the pages and noticed some dog pictures. Okay…dogs. Makes sense since that entire section of the bookcase is devoted to books and magazines about dogs. But why would I have such an old copy of a National Geographic?

Tucked among articles about the "Mighty Walls of Zion," the "Friendly Atom," and the discovery of a 2,200 year old Greek ship, I found the article by John W. Cross, Jr. containing the dog photos: "Westminster, World Series of Dogdom." Then I found the treasure. The bottom right hand corner of page 101 contains a color photo of a Lhasa! The caption read, "Hamilton Pehma once trailed the Dalai Lama in his palace. House guard to Tibetan aristocracy for nearly 800 years, the Lhasa Apso is rarely sentimental about man. Champion Pehma, one of a few hundred 'lion dogs' outside Tibet, came to America as a gift from the Dalai Lama to explorer C. Suydam Cutting."

The National Geographic color picture shows Pehma in full coat, a gold Lhasa without dark tippings, looking rather unkempt, as Lhasas tended to look 55 years ago before grooming became so crucial for show dogs.

The article is a good read too! It contains 38 photos of people and dogs that I am sure would also be historical treasures to people involved in the breeds pictured.

Life is good when you have a Lhasa to love you!


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Twin Cities Lhasa Apso Club Specialty

Eleven or twelve years ago I started driving the 7-8 hour trip to the Twin Cities Lhasa Apso Club August specialty. My good friend JoAnne Hays (see photo) lived in the Twin Cities area and encouraged me to join the fun at specialty time. She loved that weekend, with the TCLAC specialty associated with the St. Croix Valley all breed shows. We had three and eventually 4 days of shows once the TCLAC decided to have specialty shows on both Thursday and Friday. JoAnne would invite her out-of-state friends to stay at her house. Her hubby took off for a golf outing that weekend and we "girls" had the house to ourselves. Lhasa friends from the Twin Cities area would join us in the evenings at JoAnne's where we'd have some pizza and margaritas, play with and evaluate puppies, and watch videos of previous national specialties. Good times. Good memories.

JoAnne died in December 2008 and, in the 3 years prior to her death, lived in Texas so she could be near her daughters and grandchildren after her husband died. The TCLAC specialties lost some of their "spark" for me after she left. She loved those specialties and was always so excited about them and the people who attended from nearby states and sometimes from as far away as Texas and California. As fun as the specialties still are and as welcoming and hospitable as the club members remain, each time I go, I miss my friend JoAnne.

I returned home about 9:00 tonight from the annual trek to the TCLAC Specialties and St. Croix Valley all breed show. It was a fun weekend! It was great to see friends that I hadn't seen for months, especially Marsha from ND who has been hospitalized recently and whose health I've been very concerned about. She drove down to see every one. It was her first trip since she got home from the hospital. As is our habit since JoAnne left the area, we stayed together at the Red Roof Inn. Not quite the "party time" we once had at JoAnne's but a good way to reconnect after not seeing each other since last October!

My weekend was exciting! Breaker took Best of Winners on Thursday under judge Gary Dunlop for a 4 point major, upping his point total to 10, including both major wins he needs. Friday he took 2nd place in the Bred By Exhibitor class under Carolyn Herbel. Saturday he took Winners Dog for a 3 point major (Hurray!!) under William Bergum. Today he placed 4th in his class (4th out of 4 – ouch!!!) under Wanda Spediacci. Too bad…I hate to be greedy but I was hoping he would win again today so I could bring home a new champion. Still…it was a super weekend for him. He only needs 2 points to finish. The problem is that I have no shows scheduled for the rest of the year. I was not planning to take him to the national specialty but may have to change my mind.

Now, Mira is another story. She flopped this weekend. Oh my. First, she is in season – full bloom and swollen like an egg. Every few steps, she would spin around once or twice and chase her tail trying to "get" whatever that "thing" was on her rear end that was bugging her. The crowd and the judges, especially Mrs. Herbel, seemed amused by it all. The best Mira did all weekend was a 4th place, but with the way she was behaving in the ring, I really was not expecting anything. As a matter of fact, I was sort of wishing I'd left her at home!

Dancer came back home with us. She was in Wisconsin at my friend Karen's house being bred to Karen's champion Alvin. Is she pregnant? Only time will tell. I'm thinking positive thoughts!

The only thing to mar the weekend was my disappointment that the Twin Cities Lhasa Apso Club failed to dedicate this specialty show to JoAnne Hays. JoAnne was friend to all and an eager, hard working TCLAC member. Many of the dogs being shown by club members have her MiToya dogs in their ancestry. How the members could forget her so soon after her death wounds me deeply. When I asked a couple members about it, they got shocked looks on their faces. They had indeed forgotten. JoAnne would have been so proud to have had a specialty dedicated to her memory. I wish just one of them would have thought to do it.

Life is good when you have a Lhasa to love you.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

A Great Birthday Surprise!

I want to begin by saying that my birthday has always been a special day – thanks to my parents and grandparents. I always knew I was well-loved, but that love was especially obvious at birthday time. I am sure there were gifts, but more importantly, there were stories of the night I was born and recollections of incidents from my infancy. The keeping and telling of those memories were great gifts and I treasure those stories still. As old as I am getting, my birthday began in a similar way this year with a call from Mom that included a description of my first steps and a competition between her and friend as to which of them would be first to deliver their babies. (Mom beat her by a few hours!)

This birthday was no different. It was a very special birthday. I went to a dog show in Burlington, IA, about 55 minutes from here. I'd debated about entering the show, mostly because Lhasa entries have been very low in this area recently. Like others in this stressed economy, my account is hurting and I did not want to waste entry money if there was no hope for points. I knew I could not enter Mira. She just needs a major win. No one I emailed responded that they would enter. I hated not to support that show. It’s a nice venue and the club members are hard workers and always pleasant and welcoming. What to do?

I finally decided to enter one of my Champions – Ch. Joyslyn MiToya Wind Walker. Walker will be 7 years old in another month, but I keep him in full show coat since he is so easy to take care of.) He loves to go to shows and I’d take him more often if he was not such a PITA when it comes to staying in a hotel. He fusses all night and no one gets any sleep. Yest he is always so disappointed when I leave for shows with the younger dogs. I can clearly see the "Why not me?" look on his face.

So, Walker was entered. He was very excited to be going – and to be the only one! For once he had all of my attention for a whole day!

The entry was small, as expected. Two male specials, one bitch special were entered. The bitch did not show up. Walker took the Breed under Mrs. Muthard. On to the Group – where he took a Group 1 under Mrs. Herbel. (This was his third group 1 win.) He showed like the champion he is and got his full share of the crowd's applause! On to Best in Show…. I wish I could say he won. He did not. But we had a great time in that ring and got oh so many compliments afterwards from people I did not even know.

It was a great day -- Walker and I in the ring together again after a year's hiatus and a nice big blue rosette to add to his many other group placement ribbons. What a nice birthday gift!

Life is good when you have a Lhasa to love you!


Sunday, August 9, 2009

A Trip to Southern Illinois

The first weekend in August my Shiba Inu friends and I trekked to Marion, located in southern Illinois. All in all it was a successful weekend, although I think we go to Marion as much for the hotel (the Drury Inn) as we do for the dog show. As dog show hotels go, the Drury Inn ranks way up there!

The trip home was a happy one because we all won. Each of my friends had a Shiba bitch special. One won Saturday, the other won Sunday. Mira, of course, was absent since she just needs a three point major to finish. It was nice to have only two dogs to take care of on this trip!

Breaker was the only male Lhasa so, in order to get points, he had to take Best of Winners each day, which (I am pleased to tell you) he did. So now he has 6 points toward his championship, including one of those important majors.

Belle went also and surprised the heck out of me on Saturday by walking around the ring and totally behaving herself. Of course, the danger in that was my thinking her "I'm not doing this" problem had ended. Not so. These Lhasas keep me humble. On Sunday she pulled her "I'm not doing this" antics again. Maybe someday...

Mira's picture from the Waukesha weekend arrived Saturday. UGH. That one is going back to the photographer -- and I am NOT a person who normally sends back photos. Her coat looks gorgeous, long and shiny black. For once, even I took a decent picture! But she had her head forward and down and looked totally dumpy. UGH. That is something that photographer should have seen and had me correct!

I am home this weekend for the first weekend in what seems like AGES! How nice to be able to get chores done and even relax a bit and watch a couple of movies on STARS. Lynn was in Louisville at the Street Rod Nationals so I had no one to worry about but myself....and all the dogs of course!

Life is good when you have a Lhasa to love you!