Grooming Matters

Fontana is a gorgeous dog, and she only gets better as she matures. Yesterday I “show” groomed her. I thought it might be fun to compare photos taken before trimming, after trimming, and after both trimming and blow drying.

First, here she is early in the day on a walk:

She looks ruggedly beautiful to me in the above picture. However, grooming makes a difference, especially in real life. Setting up or stacking does too.

Here she is set up, brushed, but not bathed or trimmed (feet, pasterns, ears, tail) for a few weeks:

Now, here she is the very next day (yesterday) trimmed, but not bathed yet:

And here she is a few hours later, bathed and fluff dried:

Here are more, with the flash:

Remember that whether you are calling a show dog overdone, or a working/pet dog weedy and bald, that grooming blurs the lines at times. I have a great time grooming my dogs, and I love them in fluffy or rugged form.


Growing Up; Fontana and Willow

Our Fontana had her first heat cycle at 11 months of age. Now, at almost 14 months old, she is rapidly maturing. Her chest has dropped, and she has the toned and sleek body of a true athlete. Her rear, shoulders, and loin are powerfully muscular, and she suddenly has the look of an adult and truly fit and conditioned dog. This is certainly as strong a case as any for not altering any dog before full maturity, though that is another discussion for another post.

We are very pleased with Fontana and her outstanding temperament, biddable nature, gentle kindness, retrieving and swimming drive, and of course, her type and structure.

My little Willow (and she truly is tiny!) is also maturing into such an amazing dog. She is only six months old, but I do not believe I have ever had a puppy who was such a quick study. I am incredibly proud of and delighted with these girls.

In recent days I was able to get quite a few nice pictures of them. Both girls are turning out so lovely and agile on top of easy to live with and fun to train and work.

All The Good Dogs


Today I let Flirt go on a journey to a new life full of new adventures.

I’m raw and numb all at once. I can’t believe I really did it, even though given current life circumstances, it’s the obvious and most selfless choice. The home in question will do all of the things Flirt most loves and needs. It benefits her, her new handler/owner, and also us, as we will remain co-owners and enjoy seeing my training pay off as she earns titles and awards. I’m currently between homes, and it’s the responsible choice for everyone in my life, too. But, it’s still hard.

In the course of a life of a dog trainer, handler, rescuer, and breeder (and I’ve been all of these things), one will see, know, learn from, and love many dogs. There will always be the special ones, though.

First, there was the neighbor’s Golden Retriever that is why you love the breed to this day. He wasn’t yours, but you were absolutely his. You walked him every day, and became his pet-sitter, groomer, and trainer. He lived and breathed for 4PM every day, and so did you. You can’t think about him without tears, and even his owners wished they could have let you have him.

There was the show dog that belonged to your handler boyfriend’s mom when you were an older teenager, but adored you too. She was never yours, but you remember crying into her warm soft velvet ears when you and the boy had your first real argument, and you always wished you could have bought her.

There were the three Greyhounds (out of the thousands you handled in race kennels and doing adoption) that were never yours, but you were absolutely theirs. You won’t forget them, their warm brown eyes, and even many years later, you’ll recall their race names and little quirks. If you’re lucky, you’ll find out where they landed when they retired, and cry with their owners when they pass away.

Then there was pit bull foster that wanted to slay all nine of your other dogs when you were running your own rescue out in the country in your 20s, but was so kind and loving and loyal to you. He was such a damn good dog that you actually asked yourself if you could live with a crate and rotate situation for the next decade. He was never meant to be yours, but you were his.

Then the little golden who gave you everything, not the least of which is your kennel’s future, your new service prospect that’s even more suited to your needs than she is, a load of amazing experience training and whelping, and a lot of laughs and good times and love. You thought she was yours, but she has better things to do now. You’ll always be hers, either way.

Yes, if yours is a life like mine, there will be all these dogs, and more. There’s so many I didn’t even mention here, from elegant Salukis to the most unlikely street mutts. Every one of them shaped me, and my life.

My world has been so full of all the best good dogs, and when they move on, be it by my choice or not, I like to think we made a difference to each other. I like to believe that when I send one off to the next stage of his life, he takes a piece of the best part of me and shares it with whichever human is lucky enough to be the next one in his life.

On that note, I’m sharing a bacon cheeseburger with my Whippet, watching Willow and Fontana snooze after a long snowy run, and remembering that with any luck, I have a long life of dogs ahead of me, ready to make me theirs and teach me more about myself, and dogs, than I can imagine.

Good dog, Flirt. See you in the ribbons.

Surprise Gift

I woke this morning and stumbled down the steps, through the breezeway, and to the back sliding door. It was stuck. I yanked it open only to be shocked by a snow drift. My dogs leaped over it and into literal Golden Retriever paradise. Thick, powdery, dry snow, and a gorgeous sun rising gave way to a lovely morning romp. Although I wasn’t dressed for it, I couldn’t help but join them in their pure happiness and joy. One just never knows what can happen in life, and today I am thankful for the safety and life of those I love most, and I have a heart full of gratitude for the simple pleasures in life.

Goodbye is not Forever

Andi has been placed in a wonderful breeding/working/companion home. She will be residing in West Virginia with Veronica and family. Her new “sister” is a Golden close in age who, due to a genetic condition, can no longer be trained as a working dog. Andi will have big paw prints to fill, but we think she can do it! Later, I will get two puppies back from Andi, so I have not lost her gorgeous structure and type in my breeding program. I feel sad, but it’s bittersweet. Sending a wonderful home-bred puppy off to a great home is an amazing feeling. I will be pet sitting her in May and June, so look for pictures and updates both then and before then from her new family. Congrats Veronica, and welcome to the Windridge family! Here is the meeting between Andi (left) and her new sister Sailor (sitting, right).


Meanwhile, I will be focusing a lot on Willow and her training. She is simply amazing.

She’s Got “It”

Willow is a very special puppy. Now, it’s not a secret that I suffer from some significant mental health issues. I don’t hide it. For one, I’m sick and tired of the world’s stigma against the mentally ill. We shouldn’t be ashamed. We aren’t at fault. We can’t control it any more than a diabetic can control having diabetes. That said, I’m going to explain what this magical puppy did for me recently.

Recently, though my life is vastly improved in many ways, I have had some difficult things to deal with. My BPD has flared, among other issues. A few days ago, this looked like me lashing out at someone who definitely did NOT deserve it, and the resulting guilt and self hatred I had. Soon, a full fledged break-down followed. The entire time, sweet five month old Willow kept her self wrapped around my back, with her head on my shoulder, pressed into my tear-stained face. She watched me with concern and love. I didn’t notice at the time, but a friend witnessed the whole thing.

The episode grew worse, and I was reduced to sobbing incoherently, and Willow laid across me, on me, and beside me, 100% by her own choice. My crying and panic did not frighten her. She remained intuitive yet perfectly calm and attentive. This dog is everything I would want in a prospect for psychiatric service work. I couldn’t be more proud or thankful that she is in our lives. I don’t  know what our plans for her will ultimately end up being, but I can tell you that she isn’t going anywhere!