kate’s mundania, valentine, and “dog celebrity,” oh my.

I haven’t been blogging lately because I have too much to say.  I don’t want to get started, as it feels like trying to empty the sea with a teaspoon. Why bother.  I commit what may be an unhealthy percentage of my cognitive capacity to composing the things I wish I had the ability to write down.  Ability = time.  I could not possibly sit down and type or hand write it all; there is so much of it, always racing.  I may not be able to remember not to burn the lentils (every FUCKING time), or focus long enough not to leave the ring without collecting my ribbons (when someone asks I say, “Yes.  It is my first dog show.”), but I CAN remember – almost verbatim – everything I have ever composed for a blog post, a letter, an article, or a scene in The Book.

It’s easier to be active on Facebook, so I’m present there.  I can do that a little at a time, here and there throughout the day, whereas a blog post eats up hours – because that is generally what it takes for me to get one the way I want it.  I usually have a “thought purge” at the end of the day while I wind down from work and get ready for bed, between catching up on emails/chatting with what friends are still up/spending time with Ella/working on whatever Sculpey piece I have going.  I love Facebook.  I think it is genius.  [Also insidious and probably evil, but nevermind!]  I don’t know what the platform is like for normal people, but I think it is an invaluable resource for dog people.  It is a tool for us get to know our peers, some of whom we would never have the opportunity to meet otherwise.  Often, now, when we go to a National we are already friends with people we’ve never seen face-to-face.  It is wonderful to be able to see others’ dogs, share in their wins, console their losses, and….well…have fodder for gossip.  [But you didn’t hear that from me.]

I will try to be better about maintaining the blog, because it is nice to explore expanded ideas and tell longer stories from time to time.


I am happy to report that my life is fairly settled.  For now.  For me.  My life has felt like a big dead spot for…for pretty much forever.  I have always struggled with horrible self-esteem.  Nothing I do or am is ever good enough, and no matter how people act towards me or tell me otherwise, I’m sure everyone hates me.  It’s the emotional equivalent of anorexia, I guess.

This hasn’t gone away, but I’ve finally learned to ignore it.  I’ve seen plenty of enormous assholes go about their lives like King Tut – many of them successful and (for some reason) with friends – so I have decided that I can’t be as bad as all that.  Instead of wringing my hands and hiding in the corner I’m trying to learn to art of self-deprecating humor (because that’s the easiest way for me to cope), and I’m trying not worry so much about what other people think.  Basically, all I have ever done is worry about what other people think, and that’s a miserable way to live because you judge everything you say and do.  It’s exhausting and depressing.  So.  Fuck it.

In regard to The Book, I haven’t been writing much (besides the in-my-head way), but I have been reading a ton, and analyzing the style and technique of authors I respect.   A problem that I’ve encountered over and over again is that – because I take so long to get this monster out – 200 or 300 pages in I have matured so much as a writer that what I have recorded is basically garbage.  I felt as though what I had going this last round was what it would be, but as I enter this next stage in my life (in which I am becoming all woo-woo and touchy-feely) I feel like the story is beginning to shift from two dimensions into three.  Well, from three into four, actually, but that is a hard feeling to describe to someone who has never felt it, like trying to explain what “love” feels like.  Anyway, I feel as though what I was writing before was surface (and very adolescent), and now I am dipping into what it feels like to inhabit these characters.  The difference is that now – for whatever reason – I can actually step inside of them, where as before I was watching.  Instead of seeing them pick up a glass, now I feel the condensation on the outside of it.

I think this may be a product of me spending so much time thinking about what it’s like to be series’ protagonist, Jhanes.

When I was learning to write in school, we were asked:  “What makes the day this story starts on different from any other day?”  The direction I chose to take was:  “What makes this character different from any other character?”

The difference is that Jhanes can feel/see/perceive living things in their entirety, and manipulate them; he’s the only one of his race who can do this.  When he is young (when the story starts), he can first change himself, then heal others.  Later, he learns to manipulate DNA – and he keeps learning for his entire life…which (sorry to give a spoiler) turns out to be endless, through no choice of his own.  When he’s young, he’s arrogant and foolish – as the young are prone to be!  As he matures, he is burdened by the magnitude of his ability and power and is obsessed with governing it, and not causing harm to the world.

I want this series to be good.  I am positive it will be the only thing I ever write.  I want it to feel real, the way all of my favorite books feel real – as if you could puncture some membrane and step into that other reality.  I think that is what defines a truly great book.  I want it to be Middle-Earth, or Maguire’s Oz, or Hogwarts.  Will it be?  If I live long enough I’ll find out.

Now… I am trying to take the approach of not inducing this baby before it’s ready.  I’m letting it gestate.  It’s not a thing you can rush.  When it’s done, it will be ready for the page.  And if it’s never done, oh well.  There’s nothing I can do about that.  I’m investing my apprenticeship as a storyteller in walking around inside of Jhanes’s life:  loving the people he loves, regretting the things he wishes he’d done differently, reaching out with this alien perception into the bodies and cells of other living things.  THAT PART feels pretty cool, I’ll admit.  I love creating worlds, and there’s a lot of potential for that in this one, as the country is expansive.  After sixteen years as a tourist in this world, I’m beginning to feel like a native. I can answer about question about the place that you could think of.  Ecology? Economy? History?  Culture?  It’s all in my brain… apparently pushing out all valuable life skills and social graces.

I love two things more than anything:  my dogs and this book.  Every day I fall more deeply in love with both of them.  Each day, I see and understand both more fully.

I chopped my expository introduction, which I have been trying to talk myself into killing for years.  It felt clunky and lifeless and bogged down the whole thing, but I didn’t trust people to be able to slip into the alien place well enough without a guide (in the form of a human to explain it all). After studying how a couple of very talented authors did it, I feel more comfortable and am taking the leap.  I kept the first paragraph from the old story (it always felt correct), but the rest has been going in a different direction.  Same story, written differently.  There are existing bits I will keep (the ::snort:: well-written stuff), but I think I will have to cut almost everything I have.

Here is a little of the new stuff, though it’s rough and unedited – hot off the word processor.  Disclaimer: My spelling and grammar and usage aren’t always the best – I know this and apologize for it; [[hopefully]] I will make some editor insane one day.  If you aren’t interested in reading it, skip down past the indented text and go on reading about dogs and dog figurines.

Jhanes rarely dreamed. When he did it was in sensations rather than imagery: in electricity and coursing fluids and heat. He dreamed of others’ dreaming: of the shuffling and reordering of their brains. He dreamed of light: of the foreign cells in his skin that collected the sun and fed energy into his blood, or of the creatures inside his gut which aided digestion. He dreamed of their curve and volume and slept quietly, for in spite of their complexity his dreams were pleasant.

Jhanes dreamed of the cold wasps in the attic. He dreamed of the crows on the roof – their dead feathers bristled around their vibrant forms. When the old Speaker, Mas, entered the house to join Jhanes’s father in front of the fire, Jhanes dreamed of him: of the tissue of his fingers and toes warming and of the surface of his shins, which burned as he sat close to the fire.

Jhanes had slept so deeply that the sunlight hadn’t stirred him. The sun was well up and filtering through the wooden slats of his shutters, passing through the dust motes and spreading in lines across his wool blanket. The shutters weren’t air-tight, and the room was as frigid. It was well past time to board up the window from both sides and stuff straw in between. Jhanes’s father had been at him to do so for the better part of the month, but Jhanes had been waiting for this – for the cold to become intolerable. He hated the winter stuffiness of the small, closed-in room.

Jhanes balled more tightly into the warmth of his blankets, and inhaled deeply, absently watching the gas exchange in his lungs with one corner of his attention while the rest of him turned outward to feel into the hearthroom.

The hearthroom was warm. He felt this on the skin of the two figures in front of the fire. Jhanes’s father was heating water for the morning tea and talking with Mas in subdued tones. Jhanes eavesdropped briefly – listening to the vibration of bones in ears, the flex of tongues, the slap of vocal cords. Their conversation was nothing worth overhearing: town gossip, none of it even new. Often Jhanes heard the sound of their soft laughter, muffled by the wall and door of his room.

Jhanes had known it would be cold this morning when he’d gone to bed. The way the animals and plants had settled in had told him, and for the first time there had been an edge to the air after the sun had gone down.  He had not undressed, though he hated the way his long shift tangled his legs when he slept. He had not wanted to slide into chilly clothes this morning. He’d let the fire in the main room warm up his blood and his belongings first.

Maeter and Mas did not notice him as he joined them in the hearthroom. The hinges of his door were fairly new and recently oiled, so there was no noise to alert them. Himself, Jhanes moved silently: as if he weighed nothing; as if he weren’t there. It was not something he attempted to do; it seemed to a product of whatever he was. Mas and Maeter might never have commented on this unnerving quality, but others had. Jhanes knew it unsettled the Speaker and his father, at least a little. He could read it the lingering tension across their shoulders every time he accidentally snuck up on them.

Jhanes waited.  His father, Maeter, and the Speaker were almost identically stooped, though from drastically different lives. Maeter had worked over the hoe, while Mas had leaned over papers, his spine curling more and more as his vision degraded from years of printing text in poor light. When they were in public they stood tall and straight. Here they let their long careers weigh them down – a relaxed moment between old friends.

Mas couldn’t feel Jhanes the way he could other Baastylle, but Jhanes’s silence swept at the edge of the Speaker’s perception. Mas cocked his head almost imperceptibly. Jhanes didn’t see it, but felt it in the crackle of well-used vertebrae. Mas turned his head a fraction, enough to capture Jhanes in his peripheral vision. 

You’re lurking,” Mas said.

Jhanes looked down guiltily. He stopped himself from clutching the front of his shift and twisting the fabric: a compulsion he was trying to break himself of, because he hated how timid it made him look. He saw himself through Mas, shadowy in the corner of the Speaker’s vision, then echoed and sharpened as Maeter turned to look at Jhanes directly.

Mas had meant it as a joke, Jhanes knew, so he painstakingly erased the guilty expression, watching himself as he did so, crafting his face into a grimace of embarrassment instead, as if to say, “You caught me!”  He didn’t think he’d ever stop feeling guilty when he did something strange, but he was getting better at hiding the guilt.

He was getting very good, actually. And very good at shaping the way others perceived him. He’d been learning to walk with a heavier footfall, though he forgot sometimes, as he had this morning. He changed the curve of his smile and the cast of his eyes, altering his expression fraction by fraction until he felt Mas melt a little at the charm of it. Jhanes forced people to like him. He’d changed his body gradually as he’d grown, until he was pretty, because people appreciated beautiful things. He’d changed his voice until people turned their heads, to catch the downy sound of it. He watched their reactions to what he did, and remembered, and used whatever smile or gesture had affected them over and over again until his behaviors were so well-honed that his mere presence was disarming.

He could use this skill almost effortlessly now, to the point that he often forgot that this made-up person was not who he actually was. But Maeter knew. Even as Mas – the mind-reader – was fooled, Maeter was not.  He gave Jhanes such a stern frown that Jhanes felt freshly guilty, and deservedly so this time.

He dropped the act.

Sorry,” Jhanes said to Maeter, though Mas smiled, thinking that Jhanes had addressed him.

Maeter returned to the tea, dipping a ladle-full to test the potency. It had grown strong and Maeter pulled the filter from the water before it became bitter. He dumped the steepings on top of the fire, where they sizzled and popped.

Jhanes went to the water basin in the corner of the hearthroom to wash up. Wetting a cloth, he scrubbed his face and his short hair while Maeter brought the tea and the warm goat’s cream to the table. Today Maeter had shaved a few curls of cinnamon bark onto the cream before heating it. The cinnamon had been imported from the South. It was not an item Maeter could have afforded, but Mas gifted it to him annually – because Mas knew how much Maeter loved the spice, and because Mas loved Maeter.

They didn’t talk about their love, these two. They never would have in Jhanes’s presence, Jhanes knew, but they hadn’t outside of his presence, either.  Jhanes was certain of this. He didn’t know how he was certain, just as he didn’t know how he was able to feel the pressure against Mas’s skin as the Speaker grasped the ladle and served out the tea, moving quickly before the heat penetrated the thin walls of the ceramic cup and burned his fingertips.

Mas set the cup down at Jhanes’s place, and Jhanes took his chair.  He leaned over the cup to draw the steam into his mouth, to smell and taste the flavor of the amber liquid. He dwelt for a moment on this peculiarity of his anatomy. Lately, he could not help but to tumble into things  – to get lost inside the architecture of life.  Warm-blooded things scented the air with their nostrils. They smelled where they breathed. A Baastylle was warm-blooded, but he breathed where he heard – through passages that lead from his ears to his throat – and smelled where he tasted – with his tongue and the roof of his mouth. There was no separate landmark for breathing, no muzzle or a wet nose to flex, the way a cat or a deer would, to test the news on the wind. His race shared this “tasting” with reptiles, Jhanes supposed (he loved the dancing, forked ribbon-tongues of the little garter snakes that sunned themselves on the forest paths outside of town), but Baastylle and snakes had nothing else in common.  Nor were other animals as nearly hairless and bipedal as his kind. And birds stood on two legs, but they has wings, and there were hundreds of different kinds of birds. There was only one kind of Baastylle.

The unusualness of his race had been nagging him, like a cheat-grass seed lodged in his clothing.  He could not ignore the prick of it, but neither could he find it to dislodge it.

He must adopt a certain expression when he fell into looking, Jhanes thought, because when he came back Mas and his father were watching him with particular keenness. Jhanes smiled an easy smile, and poured the warm cream from the kettle into his own cup, watching the inert liquids swirl together in patterns like the conjuring of magic.

Magic, Jhanes thought.

As long as he could remember, Jhanes had possessed this extra sense, this seeing into living things. Is it magic? Jhanes asked himself, and tried not to puff himself up at the thrill of it. No one else had ever been known to do it. Mas and Maeter were the only two creatures in the world that knew Jhanes could, though, so maybe others had kept the secret close as well. Jhanes could not feel stone, or water, or air, or the tea – except for some echo of the essence of the goat who had given the fresh milk, yesterday or the day before. The tea leaves were too long dead for there to be anything left of life in them. Non-living things were as solid or as un-graspable or as invisible to him as they were to everyone else. …


As I said in one of my more recent posts, the Magic Fox figurines have been kind of a ride.  I have a way to go with my skill set (I tell people I’m still in apprenticeship with myself ), but I was pleased with the last three dogs I did, and the last dragon – and I am never pleased with anything I do.

The surreal thing is that I’m not entirely sure how I make them.  I just finished a book called Pegasus, by Robin McKinley, and in it one of the characters says, “Sculptors don’t sculpt, you know.  They set things free.”  I dog-eared the page, because that is what it feels like.  I sit down with no idea what I’m going to do, or how (I feel like I forget how to do it every time, and always have a period of panic, during which I’m afraid I won’t remember how), yet at the end of eight or ten or twelve hours I have this thing that actually looks kind of cool, which people seem to  love when it arrives in the mail…with any luck in one piece.

When I was a kid, I used to make about a billion little lizards – skinks, I called, them – by taking this cheap oil-based clay that my grandma brought home from the local grocery store, twisting the four colors together (in different combinations) to make it candycane-striped, and giving them legs and tails and eyes.  They stayed flexible for months, and could have many adventures, played out by a child whose guardians didn’t want her out around people because she might – oh, I don’t know – get raped or killed or learn how to function in the presence of other human beings.  [Side note:  I have started calling my upbringing “The Veal Cage,” which neatly sums up what it was like.]  I haven’t sculpted much, so I’m still kind of surprised that I can do this.  But I have always been an artist, and usually very good at a medium when I try it for the first time.  I once picked up a set of wood-carving tools, carved a dragon into a basswood lid (it looked great) and then never did it again.  I get bored easily, and often only do something once.  I am good, but I don’t stick with anything long enough to master it.

My family has been on my ass my entire life to do something with my art, but I always resented the art, because I wanted to be a writer.  It is easier to be an artist.  It is immediate, at least when it comes to sharing it with other.  People can just look at what you have made and “ooooo” and “awww” and be done with it in a few minutes.  They don’t have to sit down and read it for hours and then talk about it – something that was impossible for my grandparents, with their third and eighth grade educations, who survived the depression and wondered why I wasted all that paper.  They were not cruel.  For them, I hung the moon, and they saved me from my god-awful, irresponsible parents.  They were just from a different world, and they had no idea what to do with the overly-imaginative, alien child that had been dumped in their laps.

I have been on hiatus for a few weeks.  I have a lot of work to do, and a lot more people who have contacted me, but I have stopped taking orders until I catch up.  I was feeling burned out, so I took a break, but am about to head back in again.  I’ve spent my break thinking about how to do it, though, and for me this is often as good as actually doing it.  I hope this will translate into my pieces being exponentially better than they were before.

I love when people get the piece they ordered.  I love when they talk about the detail, how the photos do them no justice [And they don’t! The photos don’t show the hours with the tiny paintbrush, the play of color, the way the paint job it works with the physical shape of the piece…], and say that I have captured the soul of their dog – because I am all about the dog souls these past few years.  I don’t feel like every piece is a success, but I am continuing to do this for the pieces that are, because those successes do feel like magic to me.


When I started writing this post a few DAYs ago [See!  This is why I hate to post!], I had intended to talk about Ollie and Ella and others in the same breath, but for now I will settle for Valentine, and transition into a subject I have wanted to talk about for some time.

Valentine just went home from two weeks at Camp Granny.  She was here for the duration of her first heat, so that we didn’t end up with a litter of very inbred black and white dogs.  I have had Ollie by himself a couple of times, but this is the first time I’ve had Valentine by herself.

I think it is pretty obvious that she is my favorite of the Rush x Ella babies.  Conformation-wise she is in the middle of the pack between the “pets” (Leeloo and Rook) and the “show” puppies (Ollie and Caity), but she is at the top of the pile when it comes to brains and personality and the “X” factor.

Valentine is spooky-smart.  She isn’t hyper, but she needs to be entertained all the time or she gets bored and makes trouble.   And the trouble is usually creative.  Kathy said while we were down there this weekend that having Valentine is more like having a child than a dog.

“Or a monkey?” I asked.

You see, Valentine is an enormous pain in the ass.

We have a motion-sensitive talking dog ball that ended up on the other side of the wall one night – the wall against my bed.  She figured out that she could go under my bed and scratch at the wall and make it go off, so scratch she did.  And once she gets under there she is impossible to extricate.  And – she has selective hearing.

I had a jar of peanut butter on top of a crate to stuff her Kong with, because she’s used to getting a peanut butter Kong for her bedtime snack. One day, when I was occupied with the interwebs, she got the jar down and unscrewed the lid.  Ever since she was a baby, when someone finished a drink she begged for the bottle.  She loves to unscrew lids.  Well, she opened the peanut butter, but her mother took it from her and ate most of the contents… and immediately grew enormously fat.

These are two examples of Valentine’s many fun “tricks.”

Good thing she’s cute.  And, WOW, is she cute…  This bitch sparkles.

This leads me to my next point:  the “X” factor.

One of the reasons I have put off talking about this for so long is that I’m pretty sure everyone is going to think I’m bat-shit insane.  I hope the fact that I am paranoid about this disqualifies me from actually being so.

Bear with me.  It will take more than one post for me to explain all of this nonsense.

Ready?  Okay.

It is hard to convey “Valentine” as a dog-person, just as it is hard to convey Ella.  They are both dogs you have to experience to understand the scope of them – their spirit, their magnitude, their magic.  I feel like part of them comes across in the photos I take.  People say, “You capture their personalities so well!”  In my opinion, it’s not my skill, but that the subjects are so strong that they glow out of the image.  If I have a skill, I would like to think that it’s in seeing which dogs have that “something extra” and choosing those dogs as subjects.

When I have stayed down in Boston, I keep having the experience of walking down the street with Valentine, and having people come up to me and ask, “That’s Valentine, isn’t it?”  They don’t recognize me, but they recognize her, and everyone in the neighborhood knows her by name and wants to approach her and engage her.  Kathy told me that when they take Val and Ollie out, everyone comes to see Val.  When they had Ollie by himself these past two weeks, almost no one noticed him.

When I was blogging a lot when Ella was younger, I often had strangers approach me at dog functions and ask, “Excuse me…but is that Ella?”  It was so bizarre.

This is dog celebrity.  This is, as so Wiccan termed it, “Presence.”

I am obsessed with Presence.  It is so intangible, so difficult to define, but you know it when you see it.  The reason human-people become stars (the fact that Wiccan – as quoted later in this post – said pretty much the same thing after I had written this is very consoling!!!) is not entirely because of their skill at acting – it is something else, something extra that makes people want to watch them, want to like them.  Star-power.

Whiskey is a star…

“I coulda played Queen Elizabeth…”

…though Whiskey is more a Cate Blanchett to Valentine’s Sarah Silverman.  Whiskey is refined and regal.  Val is a stand-up comic.  People (and judges, from the looks of it) flock to her.

Magnum is one, too.  He’s Ben Stiller in Zoolander.

“I call thith ‘Blue Steel,’ ladieth.”

And Ella?  Well, you know she’s a star!  She knows it, too.  She announces it to every human she approaches on the street – bark-talks to them, and wags her whole body, and looks them in the eye, and they fall all over her.

“That’s right! Ah’m tha Queen ov tha Mutha-f*@&ing Universe.” (Sorry, she swears a lot…uh, in a strong Oklahoma accent……)

You can see and feel “presence” almost from birth.  This is the puppy that stands out, that is everyone’s favorite, long before you know who is going to be the show dog and who is going to be the pet.  When I had the litter Ella was born into, everyone who wrote to ask for a puppy wanted her – and wanted her badly.

I once had to report someone to Dogster because they had stolen photos of her off my old blog and posted them as their own, claiming that she was their dog.  They had written a whole back-story for her.  She had come from a farm and died of a twisted stomach.  Not only did they fake-own my real dog, but their fake dog was dead…

Seriously, WTF??? 

I have had the pleasure of being able to chat with Wiccan York-Patten a number of times in the last few months, on a variety of topics.  You may know her from a little movie called, “Winning the Cardigan National Photo Contest, Always.”  Great photographer, awesome person – kind and unique and talented and so interesting.

Wiccan has a dog, Simon (he’s the blue merle figurine shown above), who is also a dog celebrity.  She takes pictures of him because he is the kind of dog (like Ella) who NEEDS to have photos taken of him, like the paparazzi trailing after Johnny Depp.  When I asked her if I could talk about him in this post, I also asked her if she could explain to me why she thought this was.

“He’s totally got… presence. Which is funny – I can’t describe it, but people come to us when we’re walking down the street in Seattle. They stop cars to look at him, to ask me what he is, they come to talk to me. 

“He has a wicked sense of humor – when we’re posing somewhere (like the shots in Pike Place market and the unicorn coin operated ride) he totally works the crowd; he’ll stand there and bark and grin at people while he’s doing it. He swaggers – he just sort of operates on a different level than the other dogs here. 

“I think it’s because he tends to look people in the eye – unlike Caleb, and even Tempe – he gives direct eye contact all the time (camera and people.) 

“Honestly, I have people who love the pictures of the dogs, but 90 percent of the time, if someone messages me about wanting a dog, it’s because of him. His personality shows in pictures, and he likes what he does – so really, it’s him that gave me the learning curve on the camera, I got better and better because he was willing to work and likes to show off.”  

[Kate jumping in here:  I so feel this way about Ella, too.]  

“I just say – presence – some folks have it, and like to be on stage, and some folks don’t! … I bet you know what I mean, when you take out a group of dogs, there’s always one dog people are drawn to. Presence.”

My favorite dog celebrity?  Checkers.

OMG.  I love Checkers.  And it’s nice that some other lunatic knows what their dog is saying!  ;)

I discovered Checkers via friends who owned his litter sister, and hold him up as an example of what I am talking about when I talk about a dog being “something more” because it is SO easy to see it in him.  He and his personal assistant (because Checkers cannot operate a keyboard, nor a camera), Tom Kochheiser, had – lately – a blog, and now a Facebook page where Checkers shares his take on the world.

Now…  tell me this dog doesn’t have Capitol “P” Personality.

(All captions and photos from “Checker’s World“.)

“What do you think I am thinking about now?”
“AN ENTIRE SLICE OF SALAMI!!! Steady now…come closer…”
“I know that smiles are the gift that keeps on giving, so here’s one for you!”
“Yes, you squirrels, I possess the magic tennis ball, which increases my Cardigan powers tenfold. Be afraid, be very afraid!”
“We went flower picking today in our garden. Nash and I can verify that these flowers are 100% squirrel free!”

What’s my point, you ask?

Well, I want to breed that kind of dog.

Uh.  That’s insane, you say.

Maybe.  I have no idea.  I’ll tell yah in ten or fifteen years.

I don’t know if it’s a heritable trait.  I don’t know if it’s genetics or how they are raised or just a random thing that happens, but I intend to find out.

I think that dogs have a lot of potential that isn’t utilized, and I am against the kind of dogs that “show breeding” produces.  Yes, I think we should endeavor to produce correct dogs, but not at the expense of what makes a really GREAT dog so amazing.  I think we should focus as much of our energies on producing smart dogs, dogs with big personalities, dogs people can enjoy on an elevated level.  I feel that these things often get lost in the shuffle of trying to produce a dog who can bring home a 25¢ ribbon.

If you want my opinion, I think dog shows have a clock on them.  They are a hold-over from a Victorian mindset, and in my heart of hearts I believe that the world economy is becoming such that only the very wealthy will be able to compete in conformation in the coming years.  We’re using up our easy-to-obtain resources at a staggering rate.  The cheap and easy times are behind us.  It isn’t the end of the world (unless we are idiots and don’t change our ways), but we are going to have to change how we live our lives.  I think there is going to have to be an end to excess, and I think money spent to run a dog around on a lead for a few minutes for no material gain qualifies as excess.

I think the future of the dog is as a companion – but not just as a companion.  They have the capacity to be more.   They want to be more.  Dogs have been bred, for thousands of years, to want to form a bond with humans.  They have been domesticated longer than any other animal, and that makes them different from any other living thing on Earth.

I talked to Dawn about this once, handed over about 5000 pounds of bullshit in a ten pound sack, because I am very bad at communicating my very convoluted thoughts in a concise way.  I thrown 50 different angles of explanation at the wall and hope that, from all of them, people can figure out what I’m trying to say.  When I stopped talking Dawn said, “Oh.  You mean they’ll become X,”  which was exactly what I meant.  Of course I can’t remember what she said now, and I’m betting she won’t be able to either, so I’ll just have to go back to the 5000 pounds of bullshit.

I have spent years thinking about this – and thinking hard about it.  Watching dogs interact with people, with other dogs; watching puppies I have bred grow, and tracking how they’ve developed.  I am willing to admit that it may just be New Age bullroar (to borrow the term from my hero, John Hodgman), but I am going to play with it for a few years before I admit defeat.

Anyone who has had a truly great dog knows what I’m talking about.  Everyone has heart dogs, but when you have a soul dog it is something almost spiritual.  I had lots of dogs I loved.  Then came Ella, and my perception was changed.  Some people may see the excess of commentary on this dog and say, “Wow, she sure is obsessed with that animal,” but to me it just feels like being in love.  It feels like finding that mythical soul mate the movies and TV shows and the books swear is out there.  Except most people don’t find theirs, because humans are damaged, nasty, selfish things. Dogs?  Dogs are the opposite of selfish.  And if they’re broken, it’s because you broke them, and then – intentional or not – that’s YOUR FAULT.

All dogs have the capacity to bond, but I say, “Why not focus on breed on that bonding ability?”  Why not try to intensify it?

This is a dangerous kind of dog to breed, though, because they are a huge responsibility.  A high-bonding dog, in a situation with an owner who doesn’t feed its need to bond and be nurtured, is a poor thing indeed.  I saw it happen with a dog that I bred, and I am watching how hard it has been to get him back.  It isn’t so much that he was abused; he just wasn’t spiritually fed, and he shut down.  He was damaged by things that wouldn’t have phased a “harder” dog, but because he wanted more from his person, he was hurt by the absence of someone to connect to.  He’s coming back, but it’s a slow and difficult process, and I will never forgive myself for placing him erroneously, because it was the easier thing to do.  For this reason, I am being EXTREMELY careful how I place anything I breed from now on.  But that’s a ramble for another day.

It is so hard to explain my theories on this, and this post has been being stitched together for days, and I am so fucking tired of it, so I will wrap this up now and return to this topic in more detail and – hopefully – more clarity in days to come.

The gist:

What I see in dogs with Presence is a step toward a new kind of dog.  The modern world has taken the thing that made dogs valuable to us – that they had jobs, that they could work for us – away from them.  We no longer need herders, or draft dogs, or dogs to chase game.  If dogs are to survive they must find a new niche – a new job.  And the new job of dogs is to be present for humans – to be a connection, to be a companion to our souls, to be a bond in a world where we are increasingly separated from each other by technology.

I told Kathy I was writing this post, and asked her why she wanted Valentine, when she came down to meet the puppies expecting to get Ollie.

“You know, she just drew my attention.  I actually had been watching her on the cam but tried not to get attached, as I knew she was taken.  She seemed to attach to us, just be more connected when we visited, and I think that is what got us.”

I feel that this type of dog is what future of the species should be.

I will end on a small brag about Caity.  Caity is the Rush x Ella baby that Heidi Spradling (Rush’s owner) took home with her to Alabama.   Heidi says she is both cute AND sweet, and she has been doing pretty well in the ring, too!  She hasn’t been out many times, but has several Reserve wins, and two majors under her belt.

Checking up on her momma!

Caity is another one that I always felt was special.  As with all dogs of Presence, you can see it in photos.  I hope to be able to meet her again one day.  My puppies are all very important to me, and she’s the one I haven’t seen since she left at eight weeks.  She seems like a really cool little dog. She was when she was wee, and now she’s grown into a kind, funny little lady.

Heidi says that at night Caity comes over and puts her head on Heidi’s lap and watches the computer screen as she works or plays games, and after 20 or 30 minutes falls asleep.

Maybe I am biased, but I think that is pretty cool…


3 thoughts on “kate’s mundania, valentine, and “dog celebrity,” oh my.

  1. You’re right, I don’t remember exactly, but wasn’t that the “You mean they’ll become dragons” conversation?

    As I’ve been mulling all this over, I’ve been picturing them as the Jungian archetypes they most feel like. These are what I’ll want their Magic Fox Originals to look like — not the outside dog, but the spirit underneath. (Gee, I don’t want much, do I?)

    We talk about dogs being dragons, but not all actually are. Magnum is; he’s a playful, mischievous, blue water dragon, splashing and laughing. Whiskey is most definitely a fairy. When I look with my heart and soul instead of my eyes, I can see her gossamer wings, glittering bronze and copper in the sunlight. Ian is a breast-plated knight, serious and stalwart, ever on guard to make sure everyone is safe and is “acting right.”

    And Elli… I don’t know. It’s not that she lacks presence — far from it. She is the smartest dog in the house, bar none, and she has personality and Presence in spades. But is she a dragon? I think perhaps she is, but she is not MY dragon. She’s has always been more Nate’s dog since she got here. I guess it’s up to him to figure out who she really is.

  2. I heart you. I heart you so much, it’s like I know you from some place other than the land of interwebs. I promise that isn’t a creepy stalker statement, I just don’t know how else to describe it.

    Before we get to dogs, let’s discuss writing…Please, PLEASE, keep writing. I read your excerpt. And I want to read more. You have something there. You have THAT SOMETHING. I promise you, it’s there. It may be hard for you to see it, because you’re so close to it, but I can see it, and I’m just some idiot who stumbled upon you through facebook. You will have an editor to drive crazy one day.

    And now to dog figurines… without even knowing Caleb from anything other than photos, you captured his soul. It’s in the eyes. I look at his sculpture and my heart breaks a little. He is such a good dog…but such a fragile dog in some respects. He is so blessedly insecure. He wants nothing more than to let his soul be free, but there is always something that stops him. I don’t know what it is, or where it came from, but it’s been there for as long as I’ve had them. Some of it is medical, and we’re using chiro, acupuncture, and herbal medications for the disk malformation in his back, but there’s something else. I’m always trying to tease it out of him. We’ve made significant progress, but it’s never enough in my mind. Not because I have some expectation from him (He brightens my soul with his presence, I can’t ask for more), but because I know there’s more I could do for him…if that makes any sense.

    And now to PUPPIES, OMG! I want one of your puppies like I want to breathe, one with that special “oomph!”. Every fiber of my being says this is where my puppy should come from. I just waffle daily when it comes to whether or not that’s the best thing for Caleb. He had a buddy (Another pem) growing up…he got along great with my mom’s older boxer before he died…but other dogs…it’s been hit or miss. The only pattern I can discern is that when he’s with puppies, he great. When he’s with older very secure dogs, he’s great. But get him around any adolescent or fellow insecure dogs…not so much. He just can’t deal with that much insecurity and need to test the waters. It’s like if he can’t figure a dog out in 45 seconds, he’s not going to figure him out and he’s going to be upset about it.

    Sometimes, I think it’s best to wait. To just be content with my one dog household, because that may very well be the most comfortable thing for Caleb.

    But then the other part of me wonders if he misses having that buddy that he had growing up, and that he had when I first adopted him. There’s something about dogs together that makes my heart glad. That they can communicate with one another on a level I can only try to. And I so desperately want a dog to compete in nosework with (Caleb and I train in nosework, we don’t compete right now…he is also environmentally sensitive).

    And thus concludeth my 5000 pounds of bs in a 10 pound sack. Key takeaways: I want to read your book and I want one of your puppies. Whether or not Caleb can deal is another matter I’m trying, desperately, to figure out, and I’m terrified of making the wrong decision for him and any future puppy. The end.

    1. Yes, Julie, I feel the same about you, which is why I sought you out. This is why I am SOOO obsessed with Facebook. For the people who use it actively (and better yet if they also blog) you get a very clear impression of who that person is, and if you would like them if you met them. The people I’ve made friends with online have mostly all turned out to be great friends when I met them in person. I met Dawn online, and she and I were pretty much made for each other. You just get a feeling about who you will click with.

      Facebook also seems to water down people’s filter, for some reason, and you get an undiluted view of their personality. Cool, cocky, crazy, an asshole… believe me, it has helped me figure out who to avoid as much as it has who to seek out. I collect dog personalities, but I collect people, too – and I am blessed to have a basket-load of them lately, thanks to the interwebs. I love studying people via Facebook – it’s the blind I sit in, taking notes about the behavior of the ducks interacting out on the pond. ;)

      The internet is an amazing tool. As a time waster (which it can be) I think it is bad for our society, but as a means to communicate with each other it is invaluable. We now have access to people all over the world. For those of us who are on the fringe – the freaks, the geeks, the smarties, the weirdos – the one’s who don’t fit into the common mold – it allows us to find contemporaries, where as before we would have had to settle with a handful of people who “got” us.

      You comment on the book = wow. Best encouragement I’ve even gotten, and thank you so much. Maybe I can accept it because you don’t know me and if you didn’t think what you said you wouldn’t have wasted the time to say so. ;) I don’t easily accept compliments. I started writing when I was eleven, and always felt that writing was what I would do. Twenty years later I would have figured I’d have done it by now, but for assorted reasons (all associated either with my neurosi or my laziness) it hasn’t happened. I probably shouldn’t expect a certain time table, as such a thing does not exist. It will happen when it’s time for it to happen, when all the things that had to happen to me first have happened. EXPERIENCE! This does actually feel like the beginning of it happening, though, which kind of makes me sad that I have so many other things going on now, so that it leaves less time to do that. But it is only one series, 4 or 5 books depending on how I end up deciding how to break the story up (Probably 5, because 5 seems to be a number that keeps poking at me in my life and I am superstitious about numbers…GoGo was the fifth puppy, Ella was the fifth puppy, there were 5 puppies in the Astronomy litter – and my experience with them [a story for another day] has completely changed my life.), so I guess if I can’t manage that in the 40 or 50 years that I hope are left to me then it probably wasn’t worth doing.

      Mainly, I need other people in our world to know the people in that world. Jhanes is the big one, but the people surrounding him are just as special…they just don’t get to live as long as he does, and weren’t forced into changing the course of their world the way he (reluctantly) is. I am of the camp that writing – art and music, too – come from somewhere else. The Muse, the Universe, whatever it is. The great, inspired stuff, I mean. Justin Bieber….not so much. The people in this story are so outside of me, so themselves, that I could not have made them up. I think that we’re all part of someone’s story, too. It’s like Oz and Dorothy’s world in Maguire’s books. The people in Oz call Dorothy’s world “the other land,” and Elphaba muses sadly about the other land which is the afterlife. Every story is just some other land we could visit if a twister or an earthquake would only take us there in a house or an elevator cage.

      When I do the dog figurines, I spend some time trying to figure out who the dog is before I start. If the owner has talked about them online, I use that. I look at the pictures, at their eyes and faces and body language. This is why some figurines turn out much better than others. I can’t do much with photos where I can’t see who the dog is, because then the piece is just a figurine of a dog – not a figurine of who the dog is. The Caleb one is one that I loved when it was done because it was one of a dog I felt I knew. I could see him in the photos (and there were lots to work from, so THANK YOU), and you describe him so well that I felt I knew him. Ditto for Ranger and Simon. I liked Sedona, too, and while I don’t feel like I know her as well, I did own two of her siblings, and my whole line comes down from those Carbon x Phoebe litters, so in my heart I did know her. The dogs of Presence always come out nice. Ticks and fits and all, I think Caleb is definitely a Present dog.

      About a puppy – I’ll email you privately. It does flatter me greatly that you want a puppy from me. I think what a dog becomes has a lot to do with the kind of person they go to. Dogs are vessels, filled with the soul of the human they bond to. In my opinion. You friended a lot of Cardi people (including me) because you were considering getting a Cardi puppy and – I’m assuming – wanted to figure out they lay of the land. I observed you for a month or two, saw that you were smart, witty, and cared deeply for your dog – a dog that did not seem to be particularly easy to live with. That was when I said to myself, “Oh, I HAVE to have HER” and gave you the Uncle Sam point.

      I am very happy with my puppy people so far. I mean VERY happy. I will talk about them later, in some over-long post, but including you I have 5 people that I am just over the moon about. All want something specific, so I don’t know if I will have something this litter, but I think (hope) that they will all stick with me until I do have something perfect for them. Not every puppy in my litter is a Presence dog. I do want to send the special puppies to the special people, however.

      I decided several months ago that when I sell puppies, I want it to be not to people who want a Cardigan, but to people who want a CARDIGAN FROM ME. This sounds a little lofty and ego-ridden, even to me, but the fact of the matter is that I decided to, and am working towards, breeding a certain type of dog. If you want to buy a dog from me, it should be because you want that kind of dog. A Companion Dog. If you want an excellent guide dog, you don’t just go to anyone. You go to Guide Dogs for the Blind. I didn’t set out intending to do this, but this is what I happened upon, what the Higher Power, the Universe, whoever or whatever guides things told me I might like to do with my life. So I’ll try it! Cardigans, because of their breeds qualities, feel like a perfect fit for what I want to do.

      Apparently I am only capable of being verbose. Sorry!

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