Friday, April 24, 2009

Never Say 'Can't'

Never say 'can't', because if you say that to or about yourself, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, whether it's true or not. Even more so, never tell someone else they 'can't'. I pretty much did. And I ate my words. This week.

My son, 'Fritz' (again, not his real name, but there's a story behind that which I may or may not tell you all some day), decided in 7th grade he wanted to be a distance runner. Despite having the right build, the never-quit attitude, the work ethic and the genes to make him into a better-than-average runner, it never quite happened. He was stuck in one gear, finishing in the middle of the pack. In 8th grade, after a bout of whooping cough, we learned he had exercise-induced asthma (EIA), plus something called vocal cord dysfunction (VCD). Most of you have probably known someone who's challenged by asthma, but imagine if you will that person, who's already having a hard time breathing, audibly gasping for air and unable to open their throat enough to inhale properly. He sounded like a walrus, wore a look of unbearable pain and usually collapsed after each race. A hundred times, I wished he'd find something else to do. But still, he insisted on running, having also inherited my stubborn-streak.

We tried a dozen medications, combinations of them and diet alterations. Many helped, but none ever seemed to be the magic pill. While he trained harder than anyone else, he was continually hampered by his condition, often being passed by teammates. At his last doctor's visit, the pulmonologist suggested he try taking Singulair - an allergy medication. We knew he had some very mild allergies and he'd taken the drug before, to no effect, but we thought 'Sure, why not?'. This time, however, the instructions on when to take it were more specific.

Before his track meet last week, I asked my son what his goal time for the 2-mile run was. He said "11:30". Mind you, his fastest time on the track last year was 12 minutes and 20-some seconds. To cut nearly a minute off, I was sure, given his asthma, would be impossible. So I told him, "Don't you think you should just try to break 12, first?" I got a sideways leer for that.

He took his medicine, warmed up and reported in for the race. His pace started off fast and I thought for sure we'd be scooping him up off the ground yet again. Lo and behold, he held the pace and beat his goal by one skinny second. Not only that, but three days later he repeated the performance again, this time under horrible weather conditions.

I have never been so wrong in my life. So never tell anyone they 'can't' do something. If there's a will and a way, they may just prove you wrong.

Until later,


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Word on Recycled Dogs (or Bo Obama gets a new home)

I’m normally not a politically outspoken person or even one who gets tied up in knots over current events, but this past week a couple of news items have ruffled my fur. Recently, Vice President Joe Biden selected a young German Shepherd pup, named Champ, from a breeder, and President Obama’s family is adopting a six-month old Portuguese Water Dog called Bo. The Obamas needed a non-shedding breed because one of their daughters has allergies. When Senator Ted Kennedy learned that a Portie pup was being returned to his breeder because the dog was not a good fit in his first home, he informed the Obamas, they met the dog and the happy result is that Bo moves into the White House today. He has a family – yay!

But what should be a joyous event has made some people upset, even highly
critical. Both the Obamas and the Bidens have been criticized for not adopting from a shelter or rescue organization. PETA, in particular, has long blamed the overflow in shelters to breeders of purebred dogs. Excuse me, but there are responsible and irresponsible breeders and Bo Obama’s breeders should be lauded for their care in placing dogs, not raked over the coals. They PREVENT dogs from ending up in shelters by re-homing their own, requiring spay/neuter agreements (Bo is already neutered), screening potential buyers and counseling owners throughout the lifetime of the dog. The Obamas’ choice was well thought out and a good fit for their situation.

The breeder of the BidensGSD has been
harassed by animal rights activists and forced to hire a lawyer. Instead of a source of pride, it has become a source of grief for this particular breeder. Rest assured, if I ever place a dog with someone famous I am not telling anyone.

My husband and I have bred Australian Shepherds for over twenty years. On average, I can count on having at least one pup in about every other litter returned. Sometimes, they are several years old when I get that dreaded call, but I would much rather take them back and get them in the right situation, than know they are unhappy or unwanted. Most are well-adjusted, but I normally keep the dog with us for at least a month to see how it behaves both in the house and out in public. Once I feel I have a good idea of the dog’s personality, I then offer them for placement. Aussies are not for everyone and not everyone who inquires, I feel, is qualified to own one. For some people, however, they are perfect. They are loyal, energetic and make great watchdogs. Purebred dogs were bred with specific traits in mind and some even to serve a purpose. We use ours to move sheep from pasture to pasture.

I’ve owned many a rescued cat or dog from the shelter in my lifetime, but I’m also wholly devoted to my chosen breed. So give the Bidens and Obamas a break, people. They didn’t buy from a puppy mill or backyard breeder, but from responsible breeders. They made intelligent decisions based on specific needs. If more people followed their lead, there would be fewer dogs in shelters, not more. Perhaps the animal rights groups need to focus more of their energies on supporting rescue groups and shelters, prosecuting animal abusers, shutting down puppy mills and educating the general public about the benefits of spaying and neutering, and less on giving puppy buyers and conscientious breeders a hard time?
(Pictured above is a pup, Dust, who was returned to us because her first owner had deemed her as troublesome and untrainable. Placed in her second home, she later became a multi-titled, national agility champion.)

Until later,

Monday, April 6, 2009

Simple rewards

(Note: Henceforth, my progeny will be known as ‘Fritz’ and ‘Donna’. These, of course, are not their real names, but their chosen pseudonyms, so that their mother may blog about them without their names popping up on Google one trillion times. The deal is I can only say things that are true and I must keep the mention of embarrassing incidents to a minimum – which is not to say they would ever do anything to embarrass themselves or their fine parents. They are, after all, perfect children, by sole virtue of the fact that they’re mine.)

Kids. They eat a lot. They cost money. They’re a LOT of work. Nowadays, mine are both taller than me – and they’re better at a lot of things than I am. I would not dare challenge ‘Fritz’ (still trying to get used to that) to any sort of memory game. The kid can store 80 gazillion gigabytes of data in his brain, alongside five entire play scripts written in Shakespearean English. I would not challenge ‘Donna’ to a racewalking competition because she would scorch my butt and all I’d have to show for it would be shin splints. I would not dance in public next to either of them, because they are Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers graceful and I dance like Elaine from Seinfeld.

How many thousands of hours did I spend driving them to the studio or theater, to races or soccer games? Or standing in the wings during a performance, costume change in hand? Or shivering in the stadium stands during a track meet while being pelted with sleet, when their first race was at 9 a.m. and the second one not until 3 p.m.?

In truth, it doesn’t really matter. It’s what my parents did for me, and theirs for them. It doesn’t matter if the kids remember to say ‘thanks’ every time I do something for them. Sometimes in life, it should just be the doing that gives us joy.

“The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)
Until later,

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

'Friend' is a verb

Remember the days when we used to actually talk to people - in person? Face to face. In the flesh. Then for the better part of a century we had this wonder called the telephone. When I was a youngster, we had one phone in the house. One. Smack dab in the middle of the traffic flow. There was no such thing as privacy and heaven forbid I should spend more than half an hour talking to someone - my parents would be hollering that I was tying up the line. What if someone had an emergency and needed to reach us??? So if I wanted to have an intimate conversation with anyone, the only way to do that was in person. That required getting in the car and going somewhere.

Then along came computers and e-mail and cell phones and how people communicated began to change rapidly. For the better? In many ways, yes. If someone has a non-urgent question or request for me, they can just e-mail me and I can answer at my leisure. That is soooo liberating. It's like passing Post-It notes back and forth, rather than having a corporate meeting. E-mail also makes it easier to stay in touch with people far, far away, even in different time zones and on different continents.

A couple years ago we finally joined the 21st century at our house and got wireless internet. I knew everybody else in the civilized world had it and I didn't when I kept getting attachments (usually pictures of dogs) that would clog up my connection and kick me off. It was like trying to cram a school bus through a dog door. So when we got the wireless my kids were beside themselves with glee. They could download music, hop around on websites without falling asleep waiting for a page to download, AND... they discovered Facebook. I used to chastise them for 'wasting time' on it when they could be hanging out with living, breathing human beings.

My husband was the first to succumb to the siren call of Facebook. Months later I followed. I'm not into posting on my wall when I change my haircolor, or the dog vomits on the carpet, or if the consistency of my snot has changed during the course of my headcold, but I'm now in touch with old schoolmates, can check up on the nieces and nephews, browse through people's photos at leisure and if, if, IF something slightly exciting happens in my drowsy life, I can let a lot of folks know all at once.

Kind of cool, now that I got the hang of it. What next - Twitter? Oh dear, I don't think I have that much to say.

Last fall, during the Great Windstorm of 2008, our power went out for almost four days. No phone, no electricity or running water and NO INTERNET. I nearly went mad. But I also enjoyed the peace - reading books by kerosene lamplight, talking with my hubby by the chimnea fire under the starlight, and attending to yardwork without any interruptions. The moment the power came back on I was downloading and returning e-mails. I am hopeless.

Until later,