Jun 082015

by Doranna

0711.connery.teeter.LJTell you what. I am so sick of other people being all up in my business. Trying to control my personal decisions about my dogs when it comes to spay/neuter, collars, car crating…

For one thing, no matter how much outside micromanagement occurs, the irresponsible people who inspire the micromanagement are still irresponsible, while the rest of us pay the price.

For another, to manage our dogs to their best benefit it takes thoughtful understanding of the individual circumstances–and the ability to make choices accordingly.

Something we’re allowed in increasingly short supply these days.

My Beagles are pro-choice boys when it comes to neutering. That doesn’t mean being fervently on one side or the other…it means understanding the pros and cons of the choices and factoring in our household, our resources, and the individual dogs. And then doing what’s best for them.

Most of my online friends know that I never had any intention of neutering 5yo Dart. I mean, why would I even consider it, when there are so many studies pointing to the health consequences?*

*(That’s the usual discussion for another time. Or go Google for studies rather than opinions. It’s not hard to find the information. Here’s a brief but far from complete start.)

Anyway, this choice thing goes both ways, so I respect that circumstances sometimes make neutering seem the most responsible decision in spite of the health consequences. But for us it very much isn’t.


Things do change.

In Dart’s life, too much changed, too persistently. He lost his older sister Belle Cardigan. He gained a new older sister in Rena Beagle who turned out to have escalating, chronic health issues. Then after a series of struggles, he lost that sister, too. He gained a younger brother in Mickey Cat, who was as much a part of his life as any of us. Then Mickey Cat was badly injured; the stress and recovery affected them all. Then–and all this as Dart was heading for his prime while older brother Connery aged into graceful Unclehood–he gained his younger brother Tristan Beagle. And then, finally, almost a year after losing Rena…

He lost his beloved Mickey Cat. Sad and sudden.

Dart was born a hyper-vigilant and over-stimulated dog. He was struggling even before we lost Mickey–too many changes, too much assumed responsibility on the shoulders of the pack’s only intact adult male.

Mickey’s loss pushed things over the edge. By early spring, Dart was constantly hackled, walking around on his toes with a growl in his throat. Suddenly we were actively managing to prevent an always-imminent explosion. And the worst part?

Dart knew it. Knew he was acting out, knew he was causing trouble, and was miserable with it.   Herbal calming options didn’t work. GABA-based options didn’t work. Valerian put him to sleep, which I suppose worked in its way, but not in a quality-of-life way.

So we had a family discussion and then I talked to his breeder, who is wonderful for all the right reasons and knows exactly the oddity that is Dart, and within moments the decision was made.

dart.vulture.220Within a week, the deed was done.

Because while neutering most certainly won’t change ill-manners or learned behaviors, it can help an over-reactive dog. And while I did consider medication–in fact, the $$amitriptyline$$ still sits unused on my counter–I wasn’t quite ready to try it without exploring all other options.

It’ll take six months from surgery for Dart to settle into his new steady state, but the changes are already obvious. The pack runs together again, needing no special management at meal times, bed times, or transition times. Dart and Tristan play together with abandon, and Dart doesn’t flail into reactivity when they do.

For this dog, this time of his life, it was the right thing to do.

dart.heel.313It’s up to all of us to make the best possible decisions as we go along, factoring in not the shame culture that now imbues the spay/neuter discussion and not the fact that Family Smith down the road isn’t able or interested in responsibly handling an intact dog, but based on what we know and actively continue learning about dog health/behavior, and on our own individual dogs.

Along the way, people who aren’t us need to stop thinking that they are, and need to stop trying to force and shame us into decisions that aren’t in the best interests of our specific circumstances. They should make the best decisions for them.

As for me, I’ll go on supporting everyone’s ability to make their own choice. That includes spreading the word about the health consequences of neutering, talking up sterilization instead of neuter, and yes, supporting low-cost S/N. And then I’ll stay out of other people’s business while they make their choices, and thank them to stay out of mine.

Feb 232015
Not your average glamour shot.  (Stacy Keach with Miss P, from the Westminster site.)

Not your average glamour shot. (Stacy Keach with Miss P, from the Westminster site.)

So, hey!  Miss P, Beagle Beautiful, won the Westminster last week!

Beagle Beagle Beagle!

She is a lovely bitch, with personality and elegance and the most beautiful expression.  And Beagle owners everywhere are bouncing around in the Land of SQUEEE!  Including me!

However. Continue reading »

Jan 122015

By Doranna

tris.howl.0052Sometimes choice isn’t choice no matter how hard you try.  Sometimes, it’s all you can do to get close.

Sometimes it’s all about the brick wall.

Last time out with the blog, I’d just spent weeks researching and making choices about and preparing for the best way to vaccinate young Tristan Beagle.  Then I called my vet’s office and had a conversation with the front desk.  This was weeks prior to the actual appointment, so there’d be time to sort out any issues.

In this conversation I defined the vaccine I was looking for (ad naseum), made the desk staff person repeat it back to me (ad nauseum).  Then I had her check with the office manager as to whether the vaccine was on hand or would need to be acquired specially, although they’d had it on hand a couple years earlier when Connery got it for [reasons].  Not making any assumptions, me! Continue reading »

Dec 032014

by Doranna

_DSC3932-(ZF-4919-11231-2-001).SM“The emperor has no clothes” has never been a popular (or easy phrase) to utter.  Not even in agility.

So we’re talking about continuing education (training) in this blog event, but first…let’s talk about those courses.  I promise this leads straight to training!

Anyway, you know the courses I mean.  During walk-through half the handlers are grimly unhappy and the other half are quite blithely and vocally certain that those who are unhappy would in fact be happy if they had only trained properly (or completely, or with the right system, or…). Continue reading »

Jul 302013

by Doranna

hear-ye-heay-ye1Okay, you know how once a quarter or so I write up a blog in which, after some sort of unpleasant or dangerous encounter, I rant (in a decorously restrained fashion) about people and their rude and uncontrolled and usually off-leash dogs?

The “my dog is friendly so you should just tolerate him/ make your dog tolerate him/ welcome him/ admire him/ endure him so I’m not inconvenienced by taking responsibility for him” (decorous) rant of fury?

The Dog Snobs do it so much better than I do.

Jul 282013

by Doranna

“Read the reviews!”

“Ignore all reviews!”

“Don’t let them get to you!”

Well, bother.si-s-five-star-md

It used to be easier to ignore reviews, but I think we all know that reader reviews have become an important part of discoverability for all books, but especially for ebooks.  It’s important to keep track of them–to pluck out the awesome phrase of praise, or to pluck out critical information.  I recently learned about an embarrassing formatting error via a reader review, for instance.  (Yes, it’s fixed!)

And if I care deeply about what I’m doing, how could reviews not get to me?

But some are harder than others.

A Feral DarknessI talked about the review of A Feral Darkness, where the reader really, really, REALLY didn’t like the book.  I wasn’t sure she was reading the book I wrote, but nonetheless…that was her feeling about it.  Those are a little hard to take when the review responds with such viciousness, because, wow…who needs to deal with that?

But in another way, that makes it easier to step back from the sting of it.  “Well, this book quite clearly isn’t for this reader.  It happens.”  It’s happened to me, too–where I pick up a book and am utterly taken aback by it, but also know it’s not due to craft issues…it’s just because that particular book isn’t sympatico with me.  Different strokes and all that.  Or sometimes when a book pushes all the wrong buttons, as clearly happened with the A Feral Darkness reader.  Whether she likes it or not, that book reached out to her on some level.  She just wasn’t happy about it.

c.e.barrenlands.200Then there are reviews like this one-star that BARRENLANDS recently received:

“I have downloaded many books recently and have not had a chance to read this book so i(sic) am unable to rate at this time.”

Well, okay.  Thanks for sharing that.  But why, oh why, drag the book down with a one-star rating?

So those are frustrating, but don’t have any particular emotional impact.

Here’s another frustration:

“Heart pounding saga–a great read. Captivating from start to finish. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. If you like action this is the book for you.”

“Wait!” you cry.  “What’s your problem with that?  What more could you want, you darned prima dona author?”

Well, I’d like to know why that wonderful review came with a low-star rating.  *sob*

But that’s still not the hardest review to read.  I can marinate in the review’s praise–it’s wonderful to have someone say such nice things about a book–and hope to heck I get enough good ratings to offset the stars.

Nope, the hardest comes with the low star reviews where the reader is perfectly literate, has clearly read the book…and just didn’t like it.  And says so quite effectively.

I can’t step aside from that one.  There’s no ax being ground, no obvious buttons being pushed.  It was a book the reader hoped to like, but didn’t.  And those are the reviews that make me stop and worry and wonder and second-guess myself.

A certain amount of that is healthy…it helps keeps the writing fresh.  Too much of it…stops you in your tracks.

(One reason I’m writing this blog today instead of writing pages, eh?)

c.e.dun.ladys.jess.200The truth is, reader reviews have always had power.  Now they have more power than ever, and for that reason I appreciate any reader review with thought behind it, even the ones that make me doubt myself.

(In order to remain uber-PC, I should say I appreciate all reader reviews, but…nahhh, I’m not a saint.  I don’t in fact appreciate one-star “I haven’t read the book yet” reviews.)

But I know it takes time to post such reviews, and I like it that people are invested enough in their books to bother.  I like it that they’re invested enough in my books to bother.  That’s the whole reason I started writing, after all.  To create stories that people care about as much as I do.


Jun 192013

by Doranna

It should be, in some fashion, totally illegal for a sky to taunt the way ours has of late.  Especially when we’re going on three years of drought, with no measurable precipitation in the past 8 months.

(That means it might threaten and it might spit random drops, but those dry up pretty much before they even hit the ground.  Even now, it’s rumbling thunder in the background of a dark, dramatic sky, but that only means chances for lightning-strike fires.)


Well, Mother Nature being who she is, we’ve seen plenty of drama skies and nothing by way of…you know…rain. Damaging wind storms, yes; amazingly unseasonal cold snaps (12F in early May), yes.  But the wet stuff, no.

I know that other parts of the country are moldering away, overflowing, and aching for sunshine…but after three years, we’re drying up and heading toward blowing away.

It’s not a case of discomfort or inconvenience.  It’s trees weakened and dying, forests vulnerable to beetle damage, flowers losing permanent ground to invading foreign species…birds no longer seen and bears moving in on people.  It’s loss of variety, loss of species, loss of grassland–and for ranchers, potential loss of a way of life.

And if you think that doesn’t matter to you, you’d be wrong.  It all matters.  The world is robust and resilient, but once it reaches the point of going past resilience, it just plain breaks.  And since we live in the world, that matters to all of us.

(Another way it matters to us, for anyone who did not mourn the passing of predators from our land, or the imbalances we’ve created in nature?  Check this out:

According to parasitologists, 2013 will see an explosion of tick populations in many areas of the U.S…Two types of ticks are especially problematic: the deer tick, also called the black-legged tick, and the Lone Star tick. These ticks have now invaded about half the U.S., and in many states both are present. Together, these species are associated with nearly a dozen tick-borne illnesses, including Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, anaplasmosis, and babesiosis.”

Irony for me, as I try to deal with the long-term-unto-chronic Lyme disease already in my life.

I hope those of you getting all those rains, and all those awful storms, find relief in your weather, too.  But if you’re like me–even if you’ve been a flower child all along–you’re finding yourself more and more inclined to make resource management decisions as if they matter in the big picture.

Coincidentally, in my email today:



The front edge of the storm.  Virga at the right edge (a column fierce rain that doesn't make it all the way to the ground).

The front edge of the most recent storm. Virga at the right edge (a column fierce rain that doesn’t make it all the way to the ground).


A scary moment when the dry storm front hits, bringing a ground-level cloud through at high speeds.

A scary moment when the dry storm front hits, bringing a ground-level cloud through at high speeds, with more virga to the right.

Still blowing.  Didn't leave any wet stuff behind, though.

Still blowing. Didn’t leave any wet stuff behind, though.

After which it just got dark and threatening.

After which it just got dark and threatening.  With more virga.

Well done, Mother Nature.  Well done.

Well done, Mother Nature. Well done.  Now.  About that rain…





Jun 152013

by Doranna

This is for the vibrant little Papillion named Java (Black Mtn Cup Of Joe RA MX MXB MXJ MJS), who should still be here.

leash.559Every so often, it’s time to blog about the subject of safe petting.

I should string that along, maybe–hey, I do write romance!–but I’ll be good.  Of course I’m talking about dogs.

Here’s something I found myself saying in a conversation elsewhere this past week:

…Because I’m so active with my dogs away from home (trialing, training, exercising, and Dart’s modest service role…), my chances of encountering inexcusably uncontrolled not-my-dogs runs pretty high, as do my chances of running into people who think the doggies are cute but don’t consider that the doggies might not feel the same way about them.

The conversation had been triggered, of course, by yet another …encounter… out in our neighborhood.

Picture, if you will, three Beagles running alongside a bike, neatly placed to heel and at the end of a brisk exercise session.  Picture a quiet rural street in high desert grasslands and the end of a hot day with the sun just down, bringing coolness and a nice breeze.

Now picture the bike rider as she hears that ominous sound from behind–the charging footfalls of a large, loose dog, punctuated by grunts of sincere effort.  I AM COMING TO GET YOU.

This is not a time for playing nice.

In general, I find I’m done playing nice.

Dear World at Large:

Leash your dog.  Contain your dog.  Take responsibility for your dog.  Keep your dog away from me and mine.  You are not special snowflake and your dog is not a special snowflake–no, he isn’t–and the rules, both legal and moral, apply to you, too.

Because one day, your dog will come home broken, and I will be the one who did it.  I am prepared to do it.  I have the means to do it.  And even though I’ll probably go home and throw up afterward, it won’t be my fault that it happened.

It’ll be your fault.

flags.567  (Special shout-out to the young man on UNM campus who, after all four of his large, unleashed dogs had uncontrollably charged a canine friend of mine, carried on extensively at volume.  “Wahh!  You scared the %$#! out of my dogs!”  Because my response is this:  “GOOD.  Then I did it right.”  My defense tool that day?  A batch of waving utility marker flags.)

Prevention, it seems, is everything.  When it comes to managing dogs at home, or greeting dogs in public.  It’s all too cute for me to say we should all practice safe petting, but you know what?  We all should.

So do not pet my dog (or any dog) without asking; do not bend close and loom over him or stick your hand in his face.   What are you, three years old?  Be nice!


(And don’t be surprised, if you do ask to pet, should I smile and say not now, thanks.  There are often things going on in their world that you may not have noticed–such as the fact that we’re actively training.)

While we’re at it, practice safe pettiquete in general.  Do not let your dog get close to mine, or sniff mine, or offer an unyielding stare and stiff tail from up close and personal.  I don’t care if your dog wants to be friends.  Mine are busy being with me.  When it’s time for them to play, I’ll arrange a playdate with their beloved pals–dogs I know and trust and love.

If you or your dog are in my space, you or your dog are the problem.  I’m not going to take chances with my dogs in order to spare yours.


In this most recent case, the charging behemoth in question had an abrupt change of heart when he saw my reaction, which is practiced and unequivocal and very, very fierce.

Not that it’s always possible to stop tragedy, and I know that.  I don’t go out without some way to protect us, but sometimes things just happen too fast when people think the laws don’t apply to them or their dogs; sometimes the dogs are just too big, and too aggressive.

As Java’s grieving family well knows.