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Dog Behavior and Training, puppies, Responsible Breeding

How to socialize puppies – for three easy payments.


Sell toys. Sell whelping boxes. Sell your book. Sell your lectures. Do NOT claim that for a mere $69.99, a mysterious door will open and you are going to make us a better breeder than every other breeder – but you won’t tell us why or how… at least not until we give you our paypal. But once you HAVE the paypal, we can be SchmancyBreeders (TM) and SchmancyTrainers (R) that use InterestBoxes (TM) because InterestBoxes (TM) are so much better than a cardboard box and some empty water bottles.

Ian Dunbar has been giving this stuff away for years. Go read Dog Star Daily. Free yourself from (TM)s and (R)s. Introduce your puppies to at least fifty friendly strangers before they leave your house, and tell your buyers that they must meet fifty more before they’re twelve weeks old. STOP raising them in tiny bare x-pens. Make their world rich and interesting and include at least one new surface, challenge, smell, temperature, or other sense per day. Let them get away from their own feces, for pete’s sake. And get them the heck out of your house when they are puppies. Stop keeping half or the whole litter.

You do those things, and you are doing GREAT. If you want to pay a bunch of money to be in a club of people who discuss those things in greater depth, that is AWESOME. Go for it. But don’t think that a paywall makes you a better breeder, or $200 makes your puppies better puppies, than someone with an empty box, some water bottles, and a lap.


The Prohibition Litter at 6 weeks 5 days

Since I last posted, I’ve been busy every day of the week with these little monsters. Tragically, after I posted their intro pictures we lost Bessie, the little tri girl. It’s a long story that I can’t really tell without getting weepy, but the short version is that we tried very, very hard, and our vet tried even harder than we did, and lots of tears were shed when we couldn’t beat it in the end.

That’s a sad beginning, but what a very happy group we have now, at almost seven weeks. In order, these are Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, and Etta James.





















Announcing a really special litter


DSC00422 (2)

Once upon a time, we had a litter between two of our favorite dogs, Porter and Eva. And in that litter was a beautiful little girl puppy (above) with very angry eyebrows.

That little girl puppy went into a performance home, and started to do really well in agility and everything else she tried. She did so well, in fact, that we asked if she might be willing to have some babies before she started to work hard on her titles. She seemed OK with that, as did her owners, and when she had her health testing it looked absolutely perfect.

We looked long and hard for the right boy for Lilly, who is small and quick and silly. We wanted to make sure that the dog was moderate in size, with a pedigree that worked well with hers, and we wanted a beautiful temperament. We finally found Gryffin, Merrythought Gingher White Lightning, and we were over the moon.

Gryffin arrived (well, his genetic material did) in April in a white styrofoam box, and Lilly soon found herself in an embarrassing situation.

Lilly came to us in New Hampshire about a week before she was due. And, in short order, she presented us with four puppies, each more surprising than the last.


As you can see, they’ve got something to say about what kind of interesting colors Cardigans can come in.


The four of them: One tri girl,  one “funny” merle boy, one pretty weird merle girl, and one stunningly crazy merle boy.


Their colors are so unusual, in fact, that their DNA is going off to a lab to have their merle gene sequenced. The color geneticist that we are working with told me that their merle gene may be mutated, so instead of having silver between their black patches they have pure white. They also have big patches of a kind of badger-colored gray/brown, which is another feature of the mutation they may have.


Lilly is named after Lillian Gish, the silent film star. Since Gryffin is “White Lightning,” we decided to go with a speakeasy theme, and they are all named after important jazz artists.

This (and the picture above) are of CAB CALLOWAY. He’s a merle (harlequin/tweed/mutated) boy.


This is the normal tri girl, BESSIE SMITH.


Bessie again, with Percy the cat. Percy adores puppies and wants to rub against them and purringly stare at them all day long.



Bessie one more time.


Here is the big merle (harl/tweed/mutated) girl, ETTA JAMES. Her black patches have big swirls of badger color in them that get brighter by the day.



DSC_6443Etta’s beautiful head.


Last but by no means least came a boy who – when he was handed to me – made me gasp out loud. He is marked like a show-marked harlequin dane, and he’s the biggest reason we think we definitely have a mutated merle gene and not just “too much white” mismarking in this litter. His name is LOUIS ARMSTRONG, and he even has a registered name already, WHITE RAVEN HEEBIE JEEBIES.


Louis’ other side.


Louis still waiting for his eyes to open (in the two days since I took these, they have opened and it looks like his white side is going to be blue and the spotty eye will be blue or cracked).

When we announced this litter on Facebook, it caused quite a bit of (must be spoken in a fake poncy English accent) CONTROVERSY. I am thankful that most people were as excited to see them as we are, but there are more than a few of our fellow breeders who think that we should be anything BUT happy to have puppies arrive who are of an unusual shade. Instead of saying “Sadly, we had an entire litter of mismarks,” we said “Incredibly happily, we have an entire litter of something very interesting and we’re going to get their DNA studied and it’s going to be AWESOME.” This did not go over well.

Now that their eyes are open and we’re pretty sure they’re here to stay, I will be posting a LOT of these guys, and also keeping you updated on their testing (they will not only have the DNA done, they’ll have BAER and CERF testing). I honestly do think they are going to have a mutated merle gene; I’ve studied color genetics in dogs for twenty years now and they look exactly like the harlequin collies that already have the mutation established. However, it turns out that they don’t have interesting DNA and they’re in fact “just” mismarks, we will say “Incredibly happily, we have an entire litter of gorgeous mismarks and it’s going to be AWESOME.”

– Joanna (and Sarah, and Lilly’s wonderful owners, and Gryffin’s amazing owner)

PS: No, there are none available! Not right now, at least. After evaluations we’ll start the placement process. But the waiting list is like a mile long 🙂


More dog intros – Rooster, Sora, Lyra, Lash, Vita, and Indus

It’s been long enough since I did a dog roundup post that we’ve got a whole new crop of kiddos to show off. Don’t worry – nobody’s been lost or forgotten, and we still have all the beloved girls at home. But three years means some beautiful new members of the future generations.


This is Rooster, White Raven Wake Up Call. He’s a Juno kid, from last year’s lovely litter with Hoover (Ch. All Trade Dr Who, an import from Norway). He just turned a year old and he is super delicious. He’s got four points now in one weekend of showing, and he’s heading out for his second weekend with Sarah in Connecticut.


Rooster lives with and is loved by a fabulous family in Maine, and comes home for shows and vacations. He’s absolutely a delight – he is the kind of dog that makes you think you want more intact dogs!


This is Sora – Ch. White Raven Storm the Sorrows. He is just about at his second birthday, if I remember correctly – he’s a Porter/Eva kiddo. The Porter/Eva kids were co-bred by Sarah and me and born and raised at my house, so they have a very special place in my heart.


Sora is a Clue grandson, which means he inherited the Bad Dog gene in SPADES.  Look at his wicked intentions!


Sora also got to make some babies with Bella (GCH Aurigan Dunes Celestine Blue) this spring – this little insect is one of them. Lyra is her litter name, and she’s going to go out and live with a junior handler on the West Coast.


Look at those eyes and ears!


This is Lash – White Raven Angelfire. We had the opportunity to lease a bitch from our good friend Kate last year, and bred her to Ch. Pecan Valley Red White and Blue. We kept two girls – Vala, who you met in the last post, and Lash. Lash lives with Sarah, but she got to come home with me this weekend for a few weeks. What a SWEETHEART she is. She’s really won us over.


She’s also freakishly photogenic.


This little demonstration of exactly how big Cardigan ears can be is Vita, the result of Hoover and Luna (AKC Ch UKC GrCH Kingscourt Dragon Moon on the Moors). She’s an absolute darling and is heading out to her new home soon; she’ll be a therapy dog someday. And of course you get to see Honour, who still tolerates me dragging her everywhere dog-related with remarkable good grace.


Lyra’s big brother (another Sora/Bella kid) is Indus, who is one of the keeper puppies from that litter. He got to come home with us too, while Sarah was at the shows.


Isn’t he delicious?


Stacked shot of Lash – we absolutely love our Red kids.

So now you’ve gotten caught up or met a bunch of the Kimball/Davis house dogs: Juno, Vala, Rebel, Echo (who went home with Sarah this weekend to start her serious performance training – she loves it already), Rooster, Sora, Lash, and Indus. There’s more to come, and of course the kids are a foot taller than they were! Look for more pictures soon – and hugs from all of us.



The first sweet hot day.



It’s been so long in shoes that our feet are soft and pale, begging for the first barefoot day.


Mosquito bites are itchy for the first time this year, and long walks feel even longer.


But we are finally – FINALLY – warm. And the sun is pouring down and soaking our cells and stretching our knees and making us dance.

The dogs are dropping coat so fast that when they shake it looks like a sparkler.







Vala, here for a visit.



My dear good sweet Juno, who thinks the show ring is ridiculous but consented to stack for me just out of love. And maybe roast beef. But also love.


Happy 2013

Hello, my friends!

I know the blog has been woeful for 2012, but that’s honestly fine with me. 2012 can BITE ME ON THE WEEN. It was an incredibly sucktastic year and I am not sorry to see it go.

Let’s do a roundup-slash-Christmas-letter, and then I am going to leave aught-twelve behind like a bad habit.

Doug is still looking for work (he was laid off at the end of October, after 14 years at the same company), but we’re very hopeful and we’re working hard on getting him a new career direction.

I started a new job in September – I’ve always worked, and always worked full-time, but I’ve freelanced. This is my first job away from the family in many years. This has been a huge transition for our family and WOW was I exhausted for the first three months. It’s a REALLY REALLY good thing, though. I had forgotten what it was like to have weekends and sick days and vacations, a steady and predictable paycheck, and (bless God) health insurance.

Meriwether is a sophomore in high school, still homeschooled (as she has been for all her schooling). She’s the nicest teenager in the world, except when you tell her that she has to stop writing and get going on her algebra.

Honour is a freshman in high school, also homeschooled. She had a pretty heroically awful year as well, which is sort of a best-not-talked-about thing, but things are looking MUCH better for this year.

Tabitha turned eight this year. She and Honour form the team of awesomeness known as “the Reds” (for their hair) and are best friends.

Zuzu turned five and started to listen to the good angel on her shoulder at least a bit more than the bad one. I hope. There are still days… She still hates clothes, loves messes, and protects her spot in the family with fierceness.

OK – the ones you are actually here to find out about: DOGS!

CLUE: Will be a veteran this June. Can you believe it? She’s amazing. Still looks like a six-month-old puppy and acts like one too. She’s spayed and retired, though we may bring her out for some Veterans Sweeps.

DAISY POPPY: Retired and loving it. Oh my gosh, LOVING IT. Our sweet house dog who never goes outside except to use the bathroom and who is horrified by the craziness in the dog yard.

FRIDAY: Still gorgeous in every way. We tried to breed her in 2012 via chilled AI and she didn’t conceive; we’re going to give her another try this year naturally and hope it works better.

Juno: Clue’s daughter with Ch. Pecan Valley Draco. Gave us a beautiful litter of five in 2012, a litter where I made good on my promise to not announce litters. I loved the whole experience and plan to continue it. She’s now done with her job and is retiring.

Milo: Daisy Poppy’s gorgeous son, who we retained here with the goal of him being our next show/breeding prospect. Unfortunately when we did his prelim hip x-rays we decided that was not going to be his destiny. He’s on his way to an amazing family to be trained as a service dog, which I am so, so happy about.

Sammy: Honour’s Tibetan Spaniel service dog. The last crappy event of 2012 was finding out that she had nail bed cancer (a type of bone cancer) in one back toe. Thankfully she should be fine; I’ll update as soon as she has her surgery to remove that toe. Sammy was already in semi-retirement and, depending on how the surgery and recovery go, may need to move to full retirement (or, if a miracle happens, may come out of retirement a bit).

Godric: Honour’s Papillon service dog in training. We’re making the very painful decision to career-change Godric. He is a flawless SDIT who can be command-trained to do anything, and who will happily work all day long… who doesn’t want to independently alert to Honour’s metabolic or emotional needs. We’re considering a different service home where he can work with adults (he alerts to MY mood changes, the goof, but he is not concerned about Honour’s) or we may change him to a family dog either here or elsewhere. Stay tuned.

Bramble: Our Jack Russell – Dachshund rescue. Still THE WORST DOG IN THE WORLD. Happily awful and cuddly and hilarious. I can’t believe he’s been here for almost five years.

That means I get to introduce the newbie: SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSC

This is Rory (Blacksheep Wolfwood Heavens to Murgatroyd), Juno’s daughter and the first red ever born at our house. She’s Honour’s new service dog prospect; Honour was willing to try another Cardigan and she and this baby have bonded very tightly. I have high hopes that she’ll work; Rory is VERY bossy, very verbal, and is already insisting that Honour go to bed on time and that she sit and lie down when she gets stressed. These pics are a few weeks old, but they’re all you’re getting for a little while because she got UNBELIEVABLY UGLY. She’s about three feet tall and all easty-westy legs and ears right now and I have to keep reminding myself that she’s not my show puppy and it’s none of my concern if she doesn’t “turn out.” I really hope she does, though, because she did get (and has kept) the head and neck that I’ve been reaching for and working toward. I’d be willing to accept a little leg if she can consistently give me that :).

If you look at the list above, it should be obvious that if I want to keep breeding and showing we’re in for a huge transition year. We plan to bring in at least one show prospect puppy if Doug gets a job, and of course we’re going to be praying hard that Friday can conceive. Thankfully, I am not alone in this; one of the few really good things that happened in 2012 was that Sarah (Wolfwood) and Addy (Squirrel Ridge) and I have teamed up this year to expand our prospects and combine efforts. I also have a couple of amazing co-owners who will be bringing out puppies this year as part of the team. Being part of a like-minded group instead of trying to continue to make a go of it all by myself been an enormous, enormous blessing.

That’s it for the moment, and let’s send 2012 off with the giant raspberry it deserves.



I am happy

I am happy.

This is a statement I haven’t been able to make in months – it’s always been I am worried. I am overwhelmed. I am guilty. I am hiding.

In April – right as Daisy Poppy’s puppies were leaving – we got some bad jobs news. There was nothing to do but put our heads down and try to deal with it, and try to make ends meet. Everything else fell by the wayside. Making things work got harder and harder as time went on. It’s a boring stupid story, so I won’t bore you or stupid you with it. But there came a week, just a little while ago, where we fed the kids oatmeal and eggs until the oatmeal was gone, and then called my mom sobbing and she came over and filled my fridge and let me cry on her shoulder for a while. That sucked.

And then, hallelujah, in the worst jobs market since the 30s, I got a job. I GOT A JOB. Not just a job, a good job. A GREAT job. A job that was the one we were waiting for. It’s a huge change for us; I will be gone full-time. We haven’t done that since – well, ever. But it’s going to get our heads above water, slowly but surely, and it gives us a feeling of hope and happiness that we haven’t had in a long time.

I will be blogging more often now, though you will need to be patient while I ramp up at work. But I WILL, which is something I wasn’t sure about for a while there. We are feeling very, very blessed – we managed, just barely, to make it until now. We didn’t lose the house or have to rehome dogs, which were my two hugest fears. I’m not going to be out walking the streets throwing coins in the air anytime soon, but in the next months we should be able to get back to normal-frugal instead of terrifying-frugal, and maybe even show some dogs again.

Meanwhile, because I have amazing AMAZING friends and co-breeders, we were able to keep going with a tiny portion of our plans for the year, and I’ll write more about that soon. The dogs are all well and happy, the kids are well and happy, everybody survived and even thrived. We managed to feed the chickens too, and raise our flock for the year, which was its own little miracle.

And now I get to take a deep breath and feel the light at the end of the tunnel shining on my shoulders. Thank God.


Instead of complaining, look at naked babies!

I have not been posting because I’ve been in a big old funk. I mean nothing going right, don’t have any money, the world hates me, my kids are all sick, I don’t fit into my bathing suit, we’re out of coffee, drinking-orange-juice-after-brushing-your-teeth FUNK.

I was so funked out that I was not going to come on here and drag anybody into the funkterland under the Sea of Funklania down where the Funk-finned Funksharks live.

Most of the story is just FUNK, but there are a few things that really were going wrong, the biggest of them that we had a predator (best guess is coyote or a neighbor dog) get under our fence and kill fully half of our adult chickens last week. If you haven’t yet realized it from my constant writing about them, we LOVE our chickens and they are a big part of what we do as a family. They’re my feeble substitute for the horses and rabbits and geese and ducks and sheep and goats that I had the privilege of growing up with, because I wanted our kids to have the connection with living things that are used by humans for food. I am blessed enough that the kids jumped into it with both feet, and they are good little farm kids and work really hard to make those chickens’ lives wonderful.

Anyway, we had just finished setting concrete all around the edge of the little chicken barn, because we were worried that something was trying to get under the sills. Once that was done, we were about as night-tight as you can get and we hadn’t had a predator loss in over a year. Unfortunately, dog species don’t wait for night. Whatever this was, it came in under a heavy fence in broad daylight and it wreaked havoc. We came out to put the chickens in for the night and found our little bantam Cochin rooster gamely standing at the gate, badly bitten and half his feathers gone, his wives clustered behind him. It was obvious who hadn’t obeyed his alarm calls; all our young pullets (this year’s replacement stock) and most of the Serama hens were gone, and there was a big dug-out ditch under the back part of the fence.

The little hero rooster had some broken ribs and a punctured air sac, and his tail isn’t going to look OK for a while, but he’s going to pull through thanks to antibiotics and tight wrapping around his ribs. He’s already doing much better. But we lost 15 in a day, and there is nothing worse than having four kids weeping hysterically over little piles of feathers.   Then, the next day (seriously, the very next day) we were standing on the deck and saw a little sharp-shinned hawk plummet from the sky right onto one of the few remaining youngsters. We weren’t more than six feet away and that little bugger killed a baby rooster as big as he was. And THEN, just today, we had a horribly horribly hot day and we lost one of the growing-out babies, just a month old, to heat stroke, and we have five others looking pretty rocky and I’m trying to save them but who knows if I can pull them through.

Anyway, after that I went out and spent fifteen thousand dollars on gorgeous new fencing and electric wire, installed a misting system to cool them, and told my babies that nothing bad would ever get their sweet chickens again – oh, yeah, that is what I CAN’T do. I just keep dripping electrolytes down little beaks and try to fix the fence one more time with bits and pieces of stuff I can find in the basement. Hence the dive into the big old funk.

So MAN ALIVE, I needed some babies. Good thing I’ve got some.

My sister Dee was kind enough to give birth to a GORGEOUS baby two years ago, and even if he’s not a little boober anymore I can still count him. Isn’t Julian just breathtaking? They came up from Ohio for a few precious days and I got to see them at my mom’s house (please, you think that’s OUR lawn? HA!) and take pictures and tell stories and hear the latest from my sisters and it was generally the best time ever.

Then there’s Malachi, just a year old and all of a sudden he’s decided to be a person. He’s hysterical.

Malachi is my brother Jon’s son, and wow. He’s a super flirt and the funniest thing ever.

Hey, how you doin’?

And then he looks at you through those lashes and you get all squeally and give him gum. Of course.

Blake, the blondie, is my sister Missy’s son, meaning that these are all cousins, and obviously related in at least one way.

Poor bubbas. It’s so hard to be told to sit still! They look like I’ve been feeling this week.

So of course then they had to have a bubble bath in the biggest tub Geeba has, and that makes everything better.

(You can thank my own Meriwether for that nickname – she couldn’t say Grandma all those years ago, so my mom became Geeba to an entire generation of little-now-big kids, and it’s starting again with these beautiful boys.)

I told Delia that when they all get married and are each other’s groomsmen, these pictures are going to be blown up the size of a billboard.

There’s that beautiful smile!

 Hmmm – maybe I just need to go take a bubble bath. Good plan.
Family, General, Godric, Sammy

How to think of service dogs

Yesterday we had a blitz day with the service dogs, who worked a total of six hours and were being trained for two of those. It made me think, as it often does, of how we got here.

Many of you know that Ginny decided to be Honour’s service dog before we even knew there could be such a thing for kids with emotional disabilities. Ginny was really the catalyst for almost everything – the fact that she was alerting to and responding to specific behaviors pushed us to get a diagnosis change, giving us something more useful than the words that had been attached to Honour since toddlerhood, and Ginny brought Honour to a point where she could understand her own feelings and give them a name.

During that time, we went through a lot of factual and emotional searching, since we were very, very concerned that we not do anything wrong. We were considering, after all, using a very interesting object (a dog) in a very public way, one that would bring attention to both the family and Honour. We worked through hundreds of questions, but the most pernicious one always was (and I suspect always will be) “Are we doing this because we have no choice? Or are we doing this because we have a choice?” In other words, if she could in any way get along without a service dog, be it ever so unpleasant, whether it meant drugging her while she was still a growing child, whether it meant rearranging our entire lives as a family to avoid her triggers, did we have a responsibility to do so in order to not ever inconvenience anyone else or ever made anyone else take notice?

The advice out there on the web varies from useful to awful. More of it is incorrect or unhelpful than good, honestly. It’s an unfortunate fact that most service dog dialogue occurs because somebody has an axe to grind. Sometimes there’s perceived to be an epidemic of fake disabled people with fake service dogs and therefore there need to be tighter requirements on what dogs can be called service dogs (and the loudest voices in that complaint tend to be people with service dogs, believe it or not; sadly, the age-old “I’m more miserable than you, so you should stop complaining” argument doesn’t stop at that threshold). Other sources of information are only there to make money – any organization offering to certify, ID, or register a dog without having trained that dog or tested that dog is taking advantage of your fear that you might have to prove that your dog is a service dog – which is illegal.

Because there are so many unreliable voices out there, I wrote up a few simple rules that I am absolutely sure are correct. I don’t claim to be an authority on service dogs, but these things I DO know:

1) Please don’t presume to know whether or not someone has a disability. It’s not up to you.

The likelihood that any human would know enough, medically and legally, about every possible disability to be able to diagnose the correct one (or eliminate an incorrect one) on sight – or even with substantial experience with the disabled person – is incredibly small. The definition of disability has a lot to do with professional medical diagnoses, but it is a LEGAL term, not a medical one. And it’s a legal term with a very wide base and very broad applicability. If you see someone who is using assistance of any kind – a dog, a crutch, a helper, visible meds, whatever – no matter how else they may behave, no matter how “well” they seem, assume they have a legal disability. Don’t congratulate yourself on spotting a faker.

2) The ONLY applicable definition of disability is the ADA one.

There’s a service dog website that gets a lot of pageviews and claims to be an authority on what service dogs can be used for, but it gets this wildly (and illegally) wrong, especially when it comes to psychiatric service dogs. It tries to argue that people with mental illness do not qualify for a service dog unless they have a “severe” mental illness, or that there’s a legal difference between an “impairment” and a “disability.” That’s absolute hogwash.

If your condition is, OR if its effects will be, OR if people around you assume its effects will be, long-term, and if one or more major life activities are substantially impacted, then you are disabled. Period. The EEOC has a very useful, and very long, explanation of exactly what a disability is, and if you ever have a question that’s the place to go. Not anywhere else.

3) There are no gradations of disability. There’s not a difference between severe and mild, between extremely limiting and substantially limiting.

When someone asks me about Honour, I say the words “severe OCD” because OCD is a disorder that’s been used as a joke for years. It’s easier to say that than to say “This is not the sitcom situation where somebody really likes a clean toilet; this is a human being who cannot touch you and cannot touch anything she thinks you may have touched, and, if something about you strikes her a certain way, she can’t touch or use anything you’ve looked at. She’s trying as hard as she can to not dwell on whether you’ve THOUGHT about that object, because if she faces that fact she can’t touch or use it either.”

But “severe” is not a diagnosis. She doesn’t need those words added on to make it a disability. Either you’re protected by the ADA or you are not; there’s no degrees.

4) There’s no reward for having a disability and refusing to take advantage of the protections you are granted by the ADA.

I’ve heard objections to ADA protections (including the use of a service dog) that basically go “Well, I have XYZ problem, and I don’t insist that anybody do anything for ME.”

Personal decisions are for individuals. How you choose to address your disability, or how Honour chooses to address hers, don’t get anybody brownie points in the game of life. That’s why the legal status of disability protections is so vital; the entire gamut of protections MUST be there for everyone, whether or not everyone chooses to take advantage of them.

5) Mitigating the disability – whether with medication or tools or a dog or whatever – has no effect on whether or not the person is disabled.

When Honour has a dog and she’s in a grocery store, she looks like a happy kid with a little dog. You’re likely to notice the hair a lot more than you would any behavior. But that does not mean she isn’t disabled. If, someday, she chooses to take medication to help with her OCD, and it allows her to live a much more average life, she will still be disabled, and still protected.

6) The name of the condition (or lack of name) has no bearing on anything. One person may be disabled by a condition that does not disable another person.

In other words, “I have X and I’m fine, so I don’t know why you can’t deal with it too,” is not an answer. Neither is “I have Y and I take meds for it and so should you.”

7) You do not have to be completely unable to do a life activity to be substantially limited in that life activity.

For example, someone with a certain class of disability might be able to work a full-time job where they do not have any physical contact with others. They may, in fact, do so with enormous success and rise to a position of prominence. They are still substantially limited in the major activity of working, and are still legally disabled. A wheelchair athlete is still substantially limited in the major activity of walking, and is legally disabled.

If because of severe acrophobia (fear of heights) I cannot work in an office above the second floor, I am legally disabled. It doesn’t matter that there are sixteen million jobs that are on the ground or first or second floors of buildings. I am substantially limited from working anywhere that is above the second floor, so it is a disability.

8) Service dogs do work or perform tasks. These are two separate things.

Honour’s dogs do both – they work independently to address her disability and they obey commands and do tasks. But they are not required to do both in order to be service dogs. You do not need to see a dog obeying a command to assume it is a service dog. You do not need to see them on the ground to assume that they are service dogs. Sammy, in fact, does best when she is carried, so she can be near Honour’s face and can pat her and lick her and so on. Both dogs do tasking on the ground, but are frequently up in arms.

Maybe the best way I can put “work” is that when I take a Cardigan out and spend the day with them going from activity to activity, they come home excited and energized. They may snooze happily in the car, but they see the whole thing as a big fireworks festival and come bouncing out of their seats and run around with the other dogs and brag about where they went.

Similarly, when we socialize service dog prospects as puppies, they run and preen and jump and show off, ending the day even more excited than they begin it it.

That all changes when they begin to understand what the vest means. When we get in the car after working with a dog, they DROP. As soon as the vest is off, they’re barely able to keep their heads up. They’ll sleep all that evening and barely rouse to go to bed. It’s as exhausting to them as a full day of manual labor would be.

9) There is no legal definition of what must be included in service dog tasking or training.

Service dogs do not need to know sit, down, stay, or come. They don’t need an out-of-sight stay. They don’t need to behave well with a strange handler away from their owner, and they don’t need to heel. All of those are test elements from specific service dog organizations, and any or none may apply to the tasks a service dog needs to do to help an individual disabled person. Service dogs need to be in control in public and they need to toilet appropriately. That’s IT.

Remember that the definition of substantial limitation of a major life activity is finding difficult or impossible anything that an average person would find easy to do. That includes not just “stuff you do,” but “how your body works.” Life activities can be seeing, hearing, responding to germs appropriately, socializing, working, and a huge number of other things. That means your service dog’s jobs can be just as varied, and their required tasks are almost infinite. If your disability involves the major life activity of standing or walking, then your service dog may need exactly that above list of training elements (a perfect heel, stay, tug, and so on) in order to do the tasks you need for your disability. But if your disability involves the major life activity of being in crowds, then your service dog needs to work independently, often away from your body, very seldom in heel position. They should never let you out of their sight, and they should object rather strongly to being removed from you by a strange handler. If your disability involves the major life activity of moving blood around your body because you have hypertension, and your dog reminds you to take your meds, then the LAST thing you want is for him to be sleeping in the corner because you told him he was on a long down.

This once again comes back to never assuming that you know more than the handler-dog team. You’re not “spotting a fake” if a dog is lying on somebody’s feet or curled around their necks. You don’t get to feel superior if you see a dog apparently pulling a person down an aisle.

10) A person with a disability may not always need a service dog. It’s normal for them to sometimes arrive with one and sometimes not.

Think of a service dog the way you would pain medication for a bad knee (very appropriate, because a chronic bad knee fits the legal definition of a disability too). If you know you’re going to be doing a lot of stairs that day, you need it, and if you forget it you absolutely cannot function. On a day that you know you’re going to be relaxing at the beach, you feel comfortable leaving the meds at home or in your purse.

We’ll rarely leave the service dogs at home, but we’ll often bring one or more with us “undressed.” They know when they’re on regular collars they can goof off and be silly and not freak out every time Honour takes a breath. If they’re undressed they do NOT come in to grocery stores or restaurants. They are off duty and not performing a service. If Honour realizes she needs them working, she puts on their vests and they turn on.

Someday, when she is living independently, she may find that she can leave her dog back in her dorm room while she goes to chemistry class, but must bring him or her to anthropology. That doesn’t mean she’s faking it in anthropology class or not disabled when she’s in chemistry class. It just means that she can see that the lab tables and stools are clean and everything gets autoclaved after it is used, but the anthropology chairs are still warm from the last person’s rear end when she comes in and has to sit in one. One place feels clean and safe; the other feels like a sucking cave of contamination. So she’ll have a dog in her lap in one class and not in the other, or she’ll someday have a dog in her lap during the lunch hour but it can be sleeping in a crate during most of the work day. That’s entirely normal for people with a disability, and has no impact on whether they’re protected by the ADA.

If there’s one major overarching thing I can say, it is this: The protections that are put in place for people under the ADA are not there so you have to treat certain people like they have a disability. They are there so you have to treat people like they DON’T have a disability. When Honour walks into Stop and Shop, she doesn’t want life to stop. She just wants to get a yogurt, pay, and leave. She is allowed to have whatever accommodations she needs to let her do those things in as close to an “average” way as possible. That is really what it’s all about.

Note in 2015: If you are visiting this page in the years since I wrote it, I am happy to say that the statements remain true, and legally valid. A new guidance document was released very recently; it can be found HERE. It addresses things like whether service dogs can be carried (yes) and whether multiple service dogs can be used at the same time (yes). If you have any other questions on what service dogs have helped us with, feel free to contact me.

Oh, and yes, every single day of our lives is still made possible by service dogs. In fact, a year ago Meriwether (Honour’s older sister) was diagnosed with an unrelated disability, and Oswin the Standard Poodle joined the family. It’s been an adventure training a big dog, but she has been remarkable for Meri. Honour continues to work with Sammy, who is now mostly retired but still sharp as a whip, and with Zola the Tibetan Spaniel and Katniss the Cardigan.


Being a feather pillow and all those things

I have a confession: Several months ago I accidentally came across a reference to this blog (yes, this very blog) and somebody said “I used to read it, but all her good stuff is old.”

I was completely stricken by that, because dang it is true. I used to spend three or four days a week writing big dog rants that I spent days or weeks preparing, and they were good, man.

So I determined that I was not going to blog again until I was ready to knock the ball out of the park.

Three weeks later, I’m still weighing the ball in my hand trying to get up the motivation.

Some of this is just that I am tired. But I’ve blogged happily through tiredness before, and busyness, and all the other garbage. So I think most of it is this: There are times in your life that you can be really hard and really sharp, and there are times when you can’t. This is a season in my life where I think my most important job is being tender and yielding and loving to my dogs and kids and everyone around me, and every time I try to get all mad at people I feel like it’s just poisoning that. I’m in the mood to say “Dude, do whatever you want, just bring casserole.” I am working (slowly) on a post about color breeding, but it’s going very slow.

So I am going to continue to fail at posting good stuff, but if it’s OK I WILL post the pillowy stuff. And I am serious; this is STOMACH-SLEEPER pillow stuff, where the feathers are barely a quarter-inch thick and you can breathe right though ’em.

So I have to start with the most pillowy of all: Clue! I need to give an update on everybody, and Clue gets to go first.

She turns six this year and, after spending about five months acting like her brain and soul were removed along with her uterus, she’s finally pulled it together and is my old friend and the pack leader again. She’s a touch faded in the face and a little more prone to lie down instead of run around (you may be able to tell that this picture was taken as she was gracefully buckling forward on her way down to a lovely nap), but she still spends most of her time at a gleeful gallop.

Then there is Sammy. She turns NINE this year, and is still going full-time with Honour. When Honour isn’t eating her face off, that is. Sammy is fully immersed in her main role in life, which is being adored.

See? Put a blanket on the ground in the sun and three seconds after you step away she’s on her back baking herself and making horrible groaning noises as she scratches her shoulders. She’s more than earned those long slippers on her toes; I always think of them as the long fingernails worn by ladies to prove that they do absolutely no manual labor.

Clue’s new guard is coming up fast – Harper (who was here for a couple of weeks so I could take pictures) and Juno are two and a half now.

Harper inherited her mom’s constant smile and her absolute confidence in her own awesomeness. She is my herding hero; she hasn’t lived here for two years, but every time she visits I plunk her on the ground and ask her to put the chickens to bed. Even if it’s been months, she goes right to work, with a beautiful gentle lift where each bird is pushed just inches before she swings around in a steady trot to the other side of the flock. All I do is stand there, and ten minutes later there are thirty chickens in the barn, usually including ten or so who don’t actually live in the barn and are quite startled to find themselves there.

The third generation got to visit as well – you may recognize Moth, Juno’s daughter, who has turned into a gorgeous young girl with an amazing sense of humor. She’s gentler and funnier than her mom and aunt, which makes her a great favorite of the kids.

That is until Clue gets jealous and chews Honour’s arm off.

(not serious, don’t worry – just a funny pose!)

Bramble is still his terrible self; he nearly got himself thrown out of a moving train this week because he killed four half-grown chicks that had managed to get under the chicken gate. He went down the row, picking up each one and crunching it, then laying it down and killing the next. We lost them all without a sound and in the two minutes it took for me to get outside after a kid said “I think Bramble’s looking odd over by the fence.”

The truth, of course, is that I didn’t even discipline him. I may have WANTED to see him sent in a rocket to the moon, but it was my fault for not noticing that the rain had washed out a channel and not burying wire under the gate. And killing things is his job. So I just kicked a rock for a few minutes and then he slept on the bed that night like usual. Otherwise, he’s doing fantastic and we really do love him, horribleness and all.

And then there’s Godric. We are SO proud of Godric.

He’s still a baby, just over a year old. But he’s the loveliest baby ever. We’ve been asking more and more of him in terms of doing service work, and he’s really getting it.

He’s also being more intensively task-trained than we’ve ever done before, since we know he’s the service dog who will go with Honour to college and likely to her first job. One of his biggest tasks right now is indication (telling Honour which objects he thinks she should pick up – the goal of this is to have her be able to go grocery shopping or to a restaurant on her own, where she can get distressed thinking about all the other people who have touched an object). This is actually a really tough thing for a dog to do, because it isn’t really a command; it’s a request that they make a decision – and the entire group of things is new and nothing about them indicates which he should choose. So it’s been months of “Godric, pick one with your mouth. OK, now pick one with your hand,” but he really gets it! It’s one of his favorite games now and he’ll go slap or bite one of whatever you show him. Our next step is to move it further away from him and at different heights; I would guess in a year we’ll have a fake grocery shelf set up somewhere and he’s ordering people to bring him bottles of soda.

Meanwhile he will bait very prettily for grass.

On Memorial Day, I got to matchmake what I hope is a connection between a dog needing a home and a home needing a dog (I really really hope! Still waiting on the final word). The fabulous thing for me is that I should be able to keep taking photos of Bella.

I love this dog. She is so fun, so athletic, so BULLY.

There’s something about these dogs that is just like music – rock music, but you can dance to it.

I love how physical they are, how much they use their bodies, how instinctively they understand their own weight and balance. It’s very, very lovely to photograph a well put together bully breed.

I also love THIS. The fact that their entire body is built to pull. They get low and all those muscle groups suddenly get in a straight line and everything works. Look at how soft her face is when she’s pulling.

And OK, yes, kids too. Can’t do nothing but dogs! Over the last 18 months we got three nephews and a niece, and I get to see several of them all the time.

Look at that squishy boy! Just starting to walk and he’s so beautiful.

And we got a baby girl too (hooray!) – she’s a Leap Day baby and Doug keeps carrying her around and cooing to her and then hinting to me that I’d really like another baby. She’s a good advertisement, I gotta say that.

My own other kids are doing well – I don’t have super-recent pictures because they’re all in the throes of photographer’s kid syndrome and when I take the camera out either screech and run away or immediately dive into mud. Honour gets featured a lot not because I spend more time with her but because she can still be bribed, unlike the others! I am going to try to remedy that soon. But meanwhile, kisses to you all and I promise more blogging more of the time – as long as you can stand that it’s pretty soft and fuzzy.