Thursday, 31 October 2013

The accidental dog breeder (Part 2)

Sass certainly had a wonderful temperament for showing. She’d strut out and do her thing, make friends with the judge and run around with me. There was just one problem if she made it through to the next round of judging. In her mind she had done her thing, won a ribbon that said “Best of Breed” and it was time to go home not go through the whole thing again. 

I’d lead her out, do the required circle with the other dogs and stand in ‘show pose’ while the judge sent each dog for it’s up and back and look it over again. This part of the judging was for ‘Group’, in our case judging the best working dog on the day. 

The breeds were judged alphabetically so being a Belgian Shepherd we were not too far down the row. The judge would get to Sass, we’d do our up and back and stand while the judge took another look at her before passing onto the next dog. 

So far so good. The judge went through the procedure with all the other dogs then proceeded to walk up and down the row of dogs, occasionally asking one or two to do another up and back while he/she made their decision.

This is when my dear girl got bored. After the judge had finished with her she would stand there staring at me with one leg stuck out to the side. It reminded me of an impatient person with one hand on their hips and leg out to one side.  

Needless to say we rarely got a Group award but she finally got enough points to be called an Australian Champion.

It didn’t matter. We were having fun and exercise and got to know other Belgian Shepherd people which gave us an opportunity to learn about our breed. 

When Sass was about 12 months old we were offered a male Belgian a little over 3 month old Shepherd. We were told he had already started show training and had a lot of promise. Because we were enjoying showing and had come to love the breed generally we made arrangements to meet the puppy.

How could anyone not fall in love with this lovely boy
When we got to the breeder’s house we were greeted by the cutest bundle of black fluff you could imagine. We got to spend plenty of time with him and the breeder took us through what he had learnt in relation to both house and show training. There was no way I was going home without that beautiful boy aptly named Beau.

More about Beau next time.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Is the ANZAC spirit dead? I don’t think so.

I have often heard it said that the ANZAC spirit is dead but what is the ANZAC spirit? I believe it is still alive. In particular it is manifested in the men and women of our volunteer fire brigades who put their lives at risk every summer to protect lives and property.

As I write this I sit at home with a bushfire just 16 klm away, keeping alert for any change in the situation; my son, family friends and work colleagues are among those trained volunteers fighting the fires with their respective Rural Fire Service Brigades.

I recalled reading from CEW Bean’s official history of Australia’s role in WWI that he believed the motive that sustained the ANZACs at Gallipoli was not love of a fight or hatred of the enemy. Nor was it patriotism or loyalty to Great Britain and it wasn’t the desire for fame.

Bean wrote “It lay in the mettle of the men themselves. To be the sort of man who would give way when his mates were trusting to his firmness; to be the sort of man who would fail when the line, the whole force and the Allied cause required his endurance; to have made it necessary for another unit to do his own units work; to live the rest of his life haunted by the knowledge that he had set his hand to a soldier’s task and had lacked the grit to carry it through – that was the prospect that these men could not face. Life was very dear, but life was not worth living unless they could be true to their idea of Australian manhood. Standing upon that alone, when help failed and hope faded, when the end loomed clear in front of them, when the whole world seemed to crumble and the heaven to fall in, they faced its ruin undismayed.”

There is a quality in Australians that never fails in times of disaster be it during fire or flood; by organised and trained volunteers, professional emergency workers or just neighbours supporting each other. 

This is the ANZAC spirit that has endured.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

The accidental dog breeder (Part 1)

Sassy came to us because Fred needed a companion. Fred is a boxer shepherd cross we bought because our other dog, Billy, a Maltese poodle cross was getting very old.

They got on surprisingly well and cranky Billy even let the little pup sleep in his basket.

When Billy passed away Fred was about 12 months old and still very puppy like in his play and general outlook on life. Fred changed overnight. It was as though Billy had said to him, “I have to leave now and you’re in charge”.

Fred grew up and matured quickly but he missed his old friend badly. We worked from home and the dogs were always restricted to the living area. Fred would sit in the kitchen and cry endlessly. He wasn’t happy if one of us was there, he wanted both of us with him all the time!

This wasn’t going to get our work done and we agreed he needed a companion and found a local Belgian Shepherd breeder that had a litter of puppies ready for new homes.

Sassy at 6 weeks
Although we knew nothing about the breed, we fell in love with the black ball of fluff and her bright eyes. Fred was in heaven and Sassy became his shadow. He was also her favourite toy!

Our fluff ball grows into a beautiful girl
 About 12 months later the breeder suggested we show our girl and invited me to attend a show with her to see what Sass’s temperament was like. It was a dog show held in conjunction with an agricultural show. I walked her around through the crowds with all the noise of the carnival rides. She looked around with interest taking in all the sights, sounds and smells but never concerned or worried.

“With a temperament like that, you’re crazy if you don’t put her in the show ring”’ I was told. “What! Me run around the ring like that?” I was assured by everyone that it was easy.

So we decided to give it a go. 

I got conflicting advice from all and sundry on how to show my dog, confusing explanations about how the judging works and no one would let me into the ‘secrets’ of grooming. But that wasn’t the hardest part.

We always taught our dogs to sit when they were getting any food. They were quick and eager to learn. Sass was particularly smart.

A common practice in the show ring is to ‘bait’ a dog. This means standing in front of the dog with some tasty morsel. The dog is expected to stay in a ‘show’ (stand) position until the judge passes-by, and then they get their reward. Our challenge was teaching our smart girl NOT to sit for food but to stand.

Poor Sass was so confused. We’d be sitting at the table and they’d both sit next to us waiting expectantly. I’d stand up in front of her, slowly take a step back and gently telling her to “stand”; hoping she would step forward for her treat and that I would be able to give it to her before her bum hit the floor again. It took several goes but she finally got the idea.

It amuses us that when a friend or acquaintance wants to give one of our dogs a treat they naturally tell the dog to sit. Our show trained dogs just stand there with all four legs square in a perfect ‘show’ position and a quizzical look on their face as if to say “why won’t you give it to me?”

The other funny thing is that when dogs are given the command to stand, Fred parks his bum on the ground – he was never taught to stand.

More about how we progressed from dog shows to breeding soon.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

My experience as a first time author, so far

I have recently completed my first ever book, Angel with Drumsticks. 

Written under my maiden name Pamela King, it is a biography of the Italian rock band Angels and the Brains. 

Now that may not seem of interest to people outside Italy or even Italians who did live through the rock era of the 60s, but it is a story that needed to be told.

My husband Angelo was the band leader and the story tells how they were invited by the Catholic Church to perform in the first rock mass held in Rome in 1966.

The immediate reaction by young people would be considered an overnight success as the band was immediately sought to perform in towns the length and breadth of Italy. Then there was the promise of a world tour performing the mass in the world's top venues.

But it was not to be. A vicious debate about the style of music played  broke out in the media and within the Catholic Church. To appease those against the concept the Vatican took steps that resulted in the band's ruin.

The writing of the book was important to me in many ways. Having met my husband when I was in my 40s we had not grown up together and his experience in the 1960s was something he talked little about. 

Gradually the story came out over the years. When I heard about his experience of excommunication, pressure put on promoters not too book the band as well as the cancelled world tour (which even today several websites and books say happened) I convinced him that the story should be written and the truth told.

As we talked over his sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet memories spanning six years I came to understand him so much more.

The next step was to convince someone to publish the book. Emails and manuscripts were sent to publishers. We followed that up by contacting reviewers and agents. To date we have not had any success except for publishing houses who want to sign us up for a costly self publishing service without any guarantees.

We have not lost hope that one day it will be out there in hard copy but in the meanwhile Angelo's son, Carlo, has produced an eBook version which is available from several sources. 

Check the website for details and more information about the band.