Monthly Archives

July 2011


Parent site back up and updated

After letting the site languish for weeks, I finally had an editing job SO pressing and SO dreaded that I had a reason to avoid it and get my Cardigan parent site back up. You can see it here.

It’s now pared down to very minimal, to encourage traffic to come here (where all the updates are) but it’s where you’d download a puppy application and so on. I plan on letting it remain small – I realized how much I was repeating myself as I took down about six pages that all said “Don’t buy a puppy from me! Go rescue a dog, you losers!”

Now that blacksheepcardigans is done-ish, I will hope for another big gnarly assignment that sends me fleeing to my e-books to get them done.

Godric, Sammy

So here’s the deal –

1) Godric – amazing. Must get pictures of him somehow. He is driving to touch on command, he’s tugged since the day he arrived, he’s about 90% on “pull me out of the chair” (which is a pretty big one – he has to set his teeth on my finger and pull until I stand up, without actually biting down) and he’s learning the difference between biting and kisses.

He’s being trained a completely different way than I usually train puppies, because he’s not being discouraged from biting at all – in fact, he’s being encouraged. He’s never heard “no bite” or “leave it” or “drop it.” We want him offering biting and carrying and scratching and pushing behaviors as a default, rather than offering the more submissive sits and downs and bows and so on that you usually get after you’ve trained a puppy to keep his mouth shut.

As a result, we started with a confident but pretty calm puppy and now have a MONSTER. I love it – he’s turbo charged. Put him on the bed and he’ll offer to move the blankets, grab your hair, grab your hands, bring you a pillow. Put him on the floor and he’ll take paper out of the printer, move shoes around, shove chairs over, anything.

Our job right now is just to capture and encourage all those behaviors, basically to tell him a thousand things are good; later we’ll chose ten or twenty of those to further develop. But he is going to be drop-dead awesome.

2) Sammy – everyone’s favorite. I asked Honour to tell me the difference between the dogs and she said “Godric is such a great dog – I know all the things he’s going to do for me and he distracts me and he’s always fun and fat and wonderful. But he doesn’t really care about me as being different from anyone else… which is fine. He’s not supposed to yet. But Sammy cares about ME. She comes and finds me when I am feeling bad.”

Sammy is just the most gracious, lovely dog. She’s like having Queen Elizabeth in the house, if every afternoon Liz let her hair down and rolled around on a bed and made snurfling noises and threw things around her own head for ten minutes, and then sat up and patted her bun back into place and ruled once more.

Sammy is gorgeous and tidy and quiet and a huge snuggler. Three times a day she asks to go out, efficiently does her business, comes back in and hops back up on a bed. She’s always touching somebody, even when she’s asleep.

She won’t eat her chicken upstairs until Honour has gone to sleep – I think this is because the first time it got Honour really upset to have the raw food in her room (one of the times when even though she knows it’s fine and even initiated it, the reality can be crushing for someone with dirt issues because yes, it is pretty gross). But Sammy is a slow eater and has to be separated from the others, so the bedroom it is. Now Sammy waits until Honour goes to sleep, eats very slowly and crunchily for a couple of hours, then back up on the bed to sleep against Honour’s neck. Honour wipes the floor in the morning and can tell herself that she has no idea what just went on. Those are the kind of routines Sammy is offering on her own, and they make me very happy.

And of course there’s that every-afternoon off-the-hizzle snarfle dance.

3) School for Joanna – Yes. and NO. And Yes. And Hmmm.

Here’s what happened – I got a very flattering scholarship and grants offer from the School at the Museum of Fine Arts, one that would cover over a third of tuition. This was TOTALLY GREAT until I had a conversation with financial aid where they said “OK, since you’re an independent student, we estimate your total cost of attendance for one year to be…” and I said “I’m sorry, I must have misunderstood because I could have sworn you said fifty-six thousand dollars.” And she said, “Yes, you’re right, I did say that wrong – it’s actually closer to fifty-seven, so you should round it up.”

After my mouth closed, I said, “And what are my options for that?” and she cheerily told me that since for tax purposes they prefer to keep the post-bac certificate program in the undergrad category, my government loans would max out at eleven thousand. “Fortunately,” she said, “Most students can get a private loan if they need more. We suggest you check out the Discover Card deals!”

At this point Doug, who had been listening in, made a sound like large rocks falling off a cliff, and I had to shove him out of the room so his spleen could burst into flames out of range of the receiver.

The reality turned out to be not QUITE that dire – turns out that Discover does indeed have private student loans – but a personal loan for thirty thousand dollars is just not a possibility. JUST NOT. Paying back Staffords or PLUS loans is designed to be easy and there are tons of protections in place and deferral schedules and so on. The private loans are structured like low-interest credit card loans, which is something we want to avoid at all cost (pun very much intended).

That night, after hours of talking, Doug said “Are you very, very sad? I’m so sorry.” And I said, “You know, I thought I’d be just crushed. But a year in Boston – it’s amazing, but it’s not FIFTY-SEVEN THOUSAND DOLLARS amazing!”

So plan B rolls into place – I spend this year in photography school, but I do part-time at the community college down the road instead of the glorious airy halls of the SMFA. I learn darkroom in a smelly closet instead of in a four-hundred-square-foot lab with dedicated ventilation systems and recycled paper. I keep working, at the job I may rail about because I am just so TIRED of never sleeping or eating at normal hours, but which has blessed us with the ability to have me at home with the kids.

And I dig down and I give myself an education. I’m a smart girl, I keep telling myself. School is books and research and practice. You can do that anywhere. So I have been gathering curricula and book lists from the classes I would have taken. I’ll order the books on my own and dedicate one day a week to shooting. I’ll get a film camera at goodwill instead of at B+H, and I’ll get out the moderate amount of loans we know we can afford and set them toward upgrading my digital system.

An aside: Which is now an absolute must, because my camera is yelling at me that no matter how long I spend with a q-tip and solvent, it’s not going to release that shutter anymore without screaming and did you notice that I’m blinking a red light now? DID YOU? Do I have to be more plain with you, woman? Here! Let me click really loudly as I focus! We got those pictures of Shade and Juno and Clue by putting it on “Auto” and wincing as the flangerdoodles inside went whack! sweeeq! rrrrrrrrrr! and then FINE, I’LL TAKE A PICTURE, BITCH. THAT HURT A LOT. ARE YOU HAPPY? I HOPE THE DOG WAS LOOKING IN A DIFFERENT DIRECTION BY THE TIME I LET THIS HAPPEN.

back to non-aside: I’m not going to let this dream die – I just have to be clever about it and considerate of my family and the sacrifices they’ll have to make.

4) Standardized testing: Meriwether – 99th percentile. Honour – 99th percentile. Tabitha – 99th percentile. Zuzu – was ticked off that she didn’t get an envelope too. Those certificates were just what I needed, wow, to validate a bit of the total chaos that our lives usually take the form of. Since we do virtually no testing during the school year and our days and weeks are fluid and the kids are largely self-directed, it’s awfully nice to have the assurance that the school district is off our backs for one more year. Meri starts high school in the fall – and yes, she’s staying home. She had to write an essay to the state for the application to be home educated – because we’ll be taking advantage of a few of the state’s online resources for languages and so on – and when she came to me and said “Does this sentence end better with et cetera or et al?” I knew we were going to be fine.

5) Puppies. Oh my heck, puppies on the way. Suddenly it’s very real and requires me to DO STUFF. Up until 28 days I don’t change any food or amounts; after that (in other words, for the final five weeks of the pregnancy) I will be feeding more and making sure my calcium levels are appropriate. Right now I’m letting them eat about a third more than they usually do, but still once a day. In a couple of weeks we worm the heck out of them (to help prevent transmission of the larval worms to the puppies through the placenta and milk) and divide the food into two or three meals. By the end I am usually feeding them as much as they want in many small meals. They’ll continue to exercise as they like.

This time Clue is so much happier; it’s lovely. Her first litter she was incredibly sick – acted nauseous and miserable – the entire nine weeks. This time if it weren’t for the fact that she’s already losing her tuckup and her mammary glands are the color of cherry Fanta I’d think that she was just faking it. She feels GREAT. She feels so good she killed a chicken today (also – oops. Don’t assume that two-inch wire spacing is good enough when a mom dog decides that she has a craving). Juno, on the other hand, while she’s been happy and cuddly, barely ate and threw up a ton from the day after her final breeding until now. Must be a familial curse on first pregnancies! Juno is going on a good kibble from here to the end because she seems to be much happier eating it and she shouldn’t lose any weight if we can stop it.

Can’t promise a puppy cam but if I can make it happen I will. You all need to understand that we live in a 1,500 sq ft 3-bedroom house with four kids and six dogs and three cats. There is not a warm dark corner where I can just set up a webcam and you can watch babies quietly nurse. If there was, I WOULD BE IN IT. And I’d be sleeping. And hoarding chocolate. And reading The Millionaire Pirate’s Secret Greek Mistress. And all of that would be embarrassing on a webcam.

6) Blogging. Will happen. A lot. I know. Yell at me now, because I’ve sucked at it lately. After Ginny died, I was just so SAD. I’d open up a new window and start typing and just stop and look away. And then I had two months of living at EMERGENCY CRITICAL EMERGENCY state because Honour was falling apart and I had to work and we had no money and Zuzu never put clothes on and all my mugs broke and I drank coffee out of a creamer vase once because the last mug with no handle left was dirty and the roof leaked and I cried a lot and Doug brought me desperation sushi even though we couldn’t afford it because he knows that raw salmon makes it better.

Zuzu still won’t put clothes on, and we’ve still got no money, but Honour is so much better – and she is, she really is; for her having those dogs is like being on medication. Nothing goes away but a lot of it gets blunted and shortened and eased. Many, many more happy moments and good conversations. So instead of staring at the wall I am writing posts in my head again. And hopefully you forgive me for writing so little and I can get back to writing two thousand words every night or two and bossing you around again.

Love – and LOVE – to all.


puppy mills

Facebook ads for puppies and kennels

I’m seeing a rather discouraging trend lately – lots of facebook sidebar ads for puppy mills and for-profit breeders.

As much as I’d love for facebook ads to have the same commenting feature as the rest of facebook (because wow, a few choice words would be nice), the best way to get rid of these advertisers is the one you probably aren’t doing.


Facebook ads from small businesses (like breeders) are usually billed per-click. The person who placed the ad has allocated a certain amount of money per day to facebook. Each click from a real person costs them between fifty cents and two dollars. Once the number of clicks on the ad reaches the maximum per-day limit set by the advertiser, facebook pulls the ad for the day.

So if you faithfully click on those bad ads, you’re actually taking a dollar from the bad breeder every single time. The advertiser is going to get many fewer legitimate views and the advertising will have a lower return on their investment – hopefully low enough that he or she will stop advertising on facebook entirely.

So close your eyes, back-button really fast, but click-click-click!

clue, General, Juno

And this is the post where you will understand why my head is going to explode.


Blacksheep Cardigans and Wolfwood Cardigans are thrilled to announce the following co-breeding – puppies confirmed! Due around August 22:

Sunkissed Tricks or Treats (Shade) x Blacksheep She Who Warns (Juno)

Pedigree HERE.

We want to give a huge thanks to Sarah for making this work – puppies will be whelped here but she has been my partner and Plush Puppy wielder and encouraging buddy through the whole process. This really is a co-breeding. We’ve been planning to do Juno-Shade since Juno was a wee one, as soon as we saw how well their conformational strengths matched.

Juno is a tiny (24 lb), unbelievably athletic, sound, pretty bitch with an outstanding rear (huge angles) and flawless topline. She has a pretty, feminine head with correct proportions and angles and a scissors bite. She is a bit straight in front, a bit up on leg, and has a tailset that is too high. She has not been shown because she’s Honour’s dog. When and if Honour recovers enough to be able to handle her we are confident she’ll finish easily. Until then she herds everything that moves and can climb anything and everything.

Shade, who has been shown only a few times and is AKC pointed, brings the body depth and wrap in front that we have been looking for. He excels in bone and in shape of ribbing and tailset, exactly what we need for Juno. He has the typical huge sidegait of his pedigree.

Both dogs are health tested for PRA, hips, and heart.

This breeding will produce blacks and tris and we are looking for PERFORMANCE and WORKING homes. Juno is probably the highest-drive Cardi I have ever known; she goes all day long and never loses focus. We’re hoping Shade tones that down a little, but this is going to produce small, drivey, sound, pushy, workmanlike dogs with not a spooky bone in their bodies. These babies will need a job. Terms can be arranged for service dog homes (in English, we’ll give you a big fat price break). We hope there will be fluffs in this litter.


Clue is thrilled to announce the following rebellious solo breeding – puppies confirmed! Due around August 22 (yes, you read that right).

Sunkissed Tricks or Treats (Shade) x Ch. Pecan Valley A Blue Clue (Clue)

Pedigree HERE.

Clue wants to give a huge thanks to her ability to have completely silent heats, and gives a special shout-out to Doug for letting her into the yard to pee that evening. She has been planning this breeding with Shade since approximately five minutes before it happened, as Joanna was running down the stairs toward them yelling “Hey! What the… NOOOOOO!”

Obviously, this was not a breeding we had planned but Clue had her own ideas. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the pairing–Shade is the son of the dog I wanted to breed her to last year–and the pedigree is pretty however you look at it. It’s not the timing I would have chosen (Clue was supposed to be spayed this summer), but I actually think we’re going to get some nice puppies thanks to Clue managing to ovulate without showing any signs thereof. After four weeks of hoping she’d just stood for no reason (or maybe Shade had gotten mixed up because Juno was in standing heat) we confirmed today that she knew what she was doing after all – looking at the picture we got it’s obvious that she’s already losing her tuckup; she’s only on day 29 so this may be another big litter (last time was nine).

This breeding will produce merles and blacks. I don’t want to promise show potential puppies before eight weeks but we MAY have one or two available. We believe that this litter will be a a lovely combination of happy happy Clue, who never met a stranger (heck, she never met someone who was not a best friend!) and gentle, goofy Shade, who is so easy to get along with. We don’t think there will be fluffs (Clue has not been tested but did not produce fluffs last time when bred to a known fluff carrier).

Both parents are PRA, hip, and heart tested. Clue is CERF normal.

Both litters will follow a variation on the pricing scheme from last time: Puppies are $1100, regardless of show/pet grading, with $100 off if you have registered for puppy kindergarten at the time of sale. In other words, we’re paying for your puppy k, so take us up on it!  Puppies come with my lifetime support, end-of-life care if desired, health warranty, and exhaustive socialization. Pet-quality females must be spayed but we prefer to have you wait until after the first heat to do so. Males will be sold on a no-breeding contract but we do not require neuter because of recent research on the protective effect of leaving males intact. THESE PUPPIES WILL KEEP THEIR DEWCLAWS.

And now I am going to go drink something very, very bad for me and stare at the wall for a little while hoping that I just imagined it and I don’t have two bitches due the same day.

General, Godric, Sammy

Most likely RIP, Nikon D5000, 2010-2011

It is kaput. I will keep trying; maybe a cleaning will work – but it’s overexposing everything and refusing to use the motor drive properly. Forgive me for not giving you pictures for a few days while I fiddle with cleaning fluid and curse at dog hair in the gears. The good thing is that it gave its all until the right time – I would love for it to have lived another two months, and maybe we can limp along taking snapshots until school starts, but either way once I am taking classes I’ll have been forced to invest in a different camera and then you’ll be inundated again.

Meanwhile, everything is going well here. It’s four million degrees out and my house looks like it needs to be cleaned with a bulldozer because I can’t stand to be out there for longer than it takes to visit the bathroom and scurry back to our bedroom, which is the one room that has air conditioning. In fact, everybody feels that way, so we have a TV, the Wii, dog beds, and two computers crammed in here so we can all lie around panting and moaning about how hot it is.

Sammy is settling in and showing some really encouraging instincts. She hates it when Honour cries, for example, and rushes over to her and howls at her. She’s still feeling her way through the household routine and we’re just loving her up constantly and getting our foreheads washed a lot. In a few weeks we’ll start some simple commands and see if she likes public access training. Godric is pretty much the worst puppy ever in the history of earth, which means he’s the best puppy in the history of earth. I am thrilled at the prospect of him as a service dog once we can harness his confidence and drive, and SO THANKFUL we won’t have to take him out to do public work for a while! Right now I am pretty sure he’d drag most of the contents of Target out the door with him.

That’s it from here for now – if you see a sudden influx of color pictures it means I got the camera going again (the horrible exposures it’s taking right now can be somewhat mitigated by changing them to black and white, which is why everything’s been monotone on here this week). Otherwise look for a bunch of text-only posts for a while!

Kisses to all from the broiling glacial plains of New Hampshire,


Godric, Sammy

The dream team

 Get used to this view! Today we went and picked up Ch. Kndrd Sprt Shot O Sambuca, now forever known as Sammy. She is a retired Tibetan Spaniel who was a staggeringly amazing gift from her wonderful breeders/owners. They NEVER place retired dogs, so we know how very special this is.

My habit when picking up a new dog has always been to stop on the way home and take a good walk. I have found over a lot of dogs that taking a break and talking and walking settles the excitement and helps us set the right tone for the whole bonding experience. You start to get into a good pace, everybody’s muscles get stretched, and the nerves calm down and you begin to feel like a team. Since Honour had to spend a couple of hours at the dog show today and was pretty much ripped to shreds after that long of having people brush against her, there was great relief as we all fell out of the car and ran the paths and threw pebbles into the stream and did cartwheels until we fell down and rolled around on the grass. Godric just got his 12-week shots and is therefore safe for public consumption, so this was his first experience with woods walking as well.

Yes, he’s still super cute. And still only twice the height of the grass.

And then, sleepy and happy, we walked off into the sunset, home to baths and bread and bed.








More pictures for your pleasure

I took these yesterday but it took me longer to edit them because (SOB!) I think my camera is dying. I bought it refurbished and 18 months of almost daily shooting in all conditions has it to almost 100,000 actuations and that’s the end of its tested life. I had hoped it would make it past that mark but I am fighting with it now; it doesn’t want to release easily anymore and the autofocus servo is slow and angry with me. I had to sharpen these like crazy because the camera wouldn’t release at over 1/30 second exposure and everything was blurry.

But hey – cute puppy!

Very, VERY mouthy puppy. He carries and manipulates everything. We’re rewarding it like crazy, which makes him a MONSTER. He can’t go anywhere without dragging something with him, usually something bigger than he is. Here he reached up and grabbed that ivy stem and then held it for a good ten seconds, enjoying it while we praised him.

He also knows that when kissed he needs to look outward and flare his ears, thus causing the entire world to make squeaking noises and fall over in a cute-induced fit.

His color is called sable and white – you can see how much red he has under the black. As he grows that black will fade and disappear, leaving him with a red head and lots of black soot and shading on his ears and a bit on his face where the edges of his mask are visible above his blaze. He only has three little body spots – a heart on his back, a little spot above his tail, and a patch on his non-show side. When all his coat comes in he’s going to be very gorgeous.

Of course somebody thinks he’s gorgeous already.



Family, Godric

The eagle has landed!

I’m pretty sure he drifted in on his own ears, too!

YES, WE HAVE A SERVICE PROSPECT PUPPY! It was rather shockingly sudden and very happy. I will tell you all about him tomorrow – the short story is that yes, he’s a HE, for one thing, and a Papillon, eleven weeks old, and his name is Godric. We had a whole list of girl names, but boy names required some scrambling. He’s named after Godric Gryffindor in Harry Potter, of course; a G-name for Ginny (who was Ginny Weasley); and primarily for St. Godric of Finchale, who loved animals.

More pictures and words on Saturday. We are picking up our much-anticipated older Tibbie on that day and we need to get everyone home and settled and I need to LIE THE HECK DOWN and finally be able to not worry so much. Two new dogs at once is a bit much, even for me – but this will be the end of such a very long and stressful road that I can hardly wait.

And yes, he is even more adorable than he looks here. He’s a complete squidge. Lots more soon, I promise.


WordPress 3.2 is out, so expect the blog to go through a little turbulence as I make sure plugins and so on are working. Then HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN and I am dog-posting like crazy!