Saturday, December 20, 2014

What Am I Missing?

What am I missing? I’m on a lot of writer groups on FB (okay, more like share your buy links groups) and I’ve been keeping track for the last week or so of what’s posted in these groups. The preponderance of these books are self-published, self-proclaimed erotica.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure there’s some really great erotica out there. I’ve found a few good ones…but those are truly in the minority. I can’t begin to tell you the books I’ve downloaded and returned via Kindle, and they were free to start with! The ones I’ve returned were so full of grammatical errors I felt as if my eye balls were bleeding and that I was reading more freshman comp papers in the developmental college comp classes I taught. (Yes, these “published” books were that bad.) And, please, don’t get me started on the plot—because there wasn’t one in any of the books I returned. No character development. No plot. Most definitely not even an attempt at proof reading the manuscript at least once before the “publish” button was hit. I could overlook the horrible covers, for the most part, because at least on my Kindle, when I open a book, the book opens to the first line of the “story.” I don’t have to deal with the front matter if I don’t want to. There’s zero romance in these horrible things, either, but I guess that goes along with cardboard characters and a lack of plot. It’s just a lot of sex. And, in a lot of them, a whole lot of dialogue. In several of them, I felt as if I was reading a screen play, rather than a novel. Except in a screen play or script, there is some stage direction. Two I returned didn’t even have that. And, honey, if you’re busy telling the guy what he’s doing to you—something ain’t right!

So, what am I missing? Is this the 50 Shades of Gray effect? Is this the natural progression of romance novels back to the days of the “bodice ripper” covers and the “hero” who forces the heroine to have sex with him and she still ends up falling in love him? I HOPE NOT! I’d like to think I’m not a prude. I write historical western romances, for heaven’s sake, and I’m not shy about leaving the bedroom door open for “THE” scene.

Or, is this the result of the instant gratification produced by Create Space, Smash Words, and several other self-publishing platforms? Don’t have to know the rules because in this electronic universe where everyone is a published author rules don’t apply. Most certainly the rules of grammar, character development, plotting, creating tension (and that includes SEXUAL tension, ladies and gentlemen, and hopping into bed by page two does not count!), and every other rule applying to writing apparently don’t apply.

Or is this phenomena stemming from a backlash against those guarded, protected ivory towers of traditional publishers? Suddenly, with the ability to self-publish, those last bastions of the old guard, “those people” who prevented all these self-published erotica authors from landing a contract can be circumvented. Just upload a document into Create Space and hit publish.

And, once it’s published, apparently these people have a lot of friends who are willing to write (again with little regard to grammar) 5 star reviews, just singing the praises of how “hot” the book was, how wonderful the story line was and how much they cared for the characters. On several of them, before I returned the book, I just wanted to put up a review asking if I had read the same book the other reviewers had. I refrained, though. If I can’t leave at least a 4 star review, I won’t leave a review at all.


So, I’m back to my original question. What am I missing?

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Destroyer of the World

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. There’s been a lot going on in my life—trying to find the funds to go play in New York City in February at Westminster Kennel Club, sending my third book to my editor, working on another book, training puppies to be show dogs. Usually I take this time to reflect on the year and look ahead to the next, but I’m not doing this for this post. Maybe before the end of the year, I will do that.

Rather, I cannot remain silent any longer. I watched with horror as a religious extremist took hostages in a mall in Sydney, Australia. My heart broke when I read the news that religious extremists within the same purported “religion of peace” invaded a school in Pakistan and killed more than 130 children. My heart aches for the families who have lost so very much. The Quran states that when you kill someone, you have destroyed the world. The world has been destroyed for so many families.

I do not claim—nor do I believe I can attempt—to understand the reasoning behind violence in the name of any god, whether that god is the god of Judaism, Christianity, or Islam. When you use religion and drape your violence and brutality and bloodshed within the precepts of ANY religion, you have destroyed any credibility for that religion you wish to force upon others. Conversion by sword point is not conversion; it is coercion and it is not a manner to gain followers to a “peaceful” religion.

When you chose to target those who cannot fight back, when you chose to target the weakest, the most defenseless, the most innocent among us—you have made the conscious choice to be nothing. YOU ARE NOT A WARRIOR. YOU ARE NOT A MARTYR. YOU ARE NOT AN EXAMPLE TO FOLLOW. You are no longer anything other than a coward, a murderer, and a heretic to what you claim to believe.

You are a coward because you fear what you do not understand and you fear to learn understanding. So, you attempt to destroy that which does not fit into your narrow-minded, frightened little world view. The thing any religious extremist fears is an educated mind. You are not enlightened in any manner what so ever. The most terrifying thing to you is not an army but rather a child with a book. 

You are a murderer of the lowest form. You seek out those who are innocent, those who are the weakest, those who cannot fight back. You throw around terms like “honor” as if you understand its meaning. You have no honor. The mangiest mongrel cur in the streets has more honor that you have ever had or ever will have. There is no room in Paradise for spineless, cowardly, honor less murderers of children. I would call you a son of a bitch, which I know is the worst insult I can offer to one of your religious persuasion, but I WILL NOT dishonor my dogs.

You are a heretic to the precepts of the religion you have chosen to drape your cowardice and dishonor in. Children are to be treasured. They are a gift and you have chosen to reject that gift. You have chosen to destroy the world.




Friday, November 14, 2014

Hell Without Heat

I’m a weather watcher. This winter is seemingly starting early, starting out viciously and unseasonably cold (it’s ONLY mid-November!), and appears to be headed to another long, cold, and snowy winter, thanks to “polar vortices” and “above average precipitation” and “la nina” (or is it el nino?) . When I was a kid, we used to call this kind of weather “winter.” Last winter started out much the same and it was devastating for the cattle industry in places like Wyoming, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Iowa. Because the snow came very early, the cattle hadn’t put on their winter coats, and the snow was followed by the first, hard blast of the polar vortex, many ranchers lost a considerable number of head to hypothermia. It wasn’t that the ranchers don’t do all they can to help their herds survive the winter with hay feeding and by moving them down into lower pastures in the late fall or that the cattle couldn’t handle the cold and the snow under normal conditions—it was that “normal” wasn’t in play in fall and early winter last year.


Last winter and this year’s early arrival of winter make those of us who are Western history buffs think of the “Great Die-Up” on the Western Plains in the winter of 1886-87. The losses that winter were staggering and ruined many ranches. “Normal” wasn’t in play that winter, either.

The winter of 1886-87 came on the heels on one of the worst droughts that the settlers and ranchers on the Great Plains had seen in their limited time there. Prior to that winter, for many years of the preceding three decades of settlement, rainfall in a usually semi-arid land had been well above normal, creating lush landscapes on which to graze cattle. After the American Civil War, land was basically free for the taking under the Homestead Act and the land they grazed their cattle on was owned by no one so these cattlemen established codes to govern the West and to protect it from outsiders. Principal among such codes was the Law of the Open Range, the unwritten rule of free access to grass and water. Most did not own the land on which their cattle grazed, and thus the Law of the Open Range secured their rights, by warning farmer-pioneers “not to stand in the cowman's route to the ranges, not to block his way with towns and fields--and of all things—fences.” The cattlemen had settled the West prior to the Civil War. It wasn’t until after the Civil War that their empire was built. After the Civil War the demand for beef reached unprecedented levels, driving the cattle to higher and higher values and more and more cattle were brought to graze the “free land” of the West.

Because of the railroads, that beef could be transported quickly and efficiently (either on the hoof or in rail cars specifically designed to transport meat kept cool with ice) to markets back East.
In the 1870s, barbed wire made its first appearance on the range, following the passage of The Homestead Act in the late 1860s. Now, smaller homesteaders could settle the Plains, keep their crops protected from ranging cattle and prevent access to water. The cattlemen were furious and range wars became the normal—but that’s a story for another day.


The rains dried up and the lush grasses that had first lured the cattlemen burnt in the summer sun. Two years of extreme drought was followed by one of the worst winters on record. The snows started in late October of 1886 and didn’t stop until the following May. There is a recorded period, from November 13, 1886 until December 24, that it snowed every single day. When it wasn’t snowing and would warm up to a few degrees above freezing, it rained. This rain created a cap of ice several inches thick on the snow cover. And when it would momentarily stop snowing or raining, the bitter cold would return.


In January of 1887, the blizzards came and with the blizzards came a kind of cold that locals call “freeze-eye cold”—a cold so intense and bitter it would freeze the moisture on eyelashes. Blizzards came howling over the plains, blasting the unsheltered herds. Some cattle, too weak to stand, were actually blown over. Others died frozen to the ground.


Starving cattle, already weakened by a lack of grazing fodder because of the drought, would attempt to paw through the ice and snow to what was left of the drought-blighted and sun-burnt grasses. “The cattle had the hair and hide wore off their legs to the knees and hocks. It was surely hell to see big four-year-old steers just able to stagger along” (Teddy Blue Abbott). The cattle would drift with the howling winds. Cattle won’t stop “drifting” until they run into an immovable object: a dead-end canyon, a rock face, a barbed wire fence. The results were horrific as one account states:

They moved “like grey ghosts” . . . icicles hanging from their muzzles, eyes, and ears," directly into the fences. There they were stalled; they could not go forward, and they would not go back. They stood stacked together against the wire, without food, water, warmth or shelter. The pressed close against each other in groups all along the fence line, and sometimes they gathered in bunches reaching as much as four hundred yards back from the fence. Still there was not enough warmth in their huddled forms to counteract the cold, and within a short time they either smothered or froze in their tracks (Hill, J.L.. The End of the Cattle Trail. Austin, Texas: The Pemberton Press, 1969).

The spring thaw of 1887 (in late May) revealed the extent of the devastation. More than fifty percent of the cattle herds died that winter from hypothermia and starvation. Some ranches lost upwards of seventy-five percent of their livestock. Dead cattle were found everywhere, observed bobbing in the streams as the ice broke up, and discovered in large groups dying where they stood.



It was a perfect storm of conditions: decades of unusually high rainfall in a semi-arid land, overgrazed land, a severe drought that ended the wet period, too many cattle and the open range cut-up and sectioned off with barbed wire. The “Great Die-Up” as cattlemen called it in a dark attempt at humor marked the end of open range ranching, that supposedly sure way to riches which Theodore Roosevelt called “the pleasantest, healthiest and most exciting phase of American existence.” And it proved again that nature can at any moment shatter all sense of human control.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Standing on My Soap Box

I’m getting on my soap box here. This topic has gnawed at me for a long time.

Back when I was a member of a group of romance writers that group had a critique group. It was a small group—both the main group and those who were members of the monthly critique group. Because of this, when I joined that romance writers group, they had already critiqued one another’s works and needed fresh blood—err, sorry, reading material.


I was asked if I would be interested in joining the critique group and if I was interested, could I bring a completed manuscript for the five members to the next meeting. I said I was interested and of course I could bring five copies of the manuscript. (Yeah, this was a few years ago.)

When the group got together for the critique of my manuscript, three members didn’t show up, but sent the MS back with friends and without a critique. One member said what I wrote wasn’t even a romance, and the other member said she couldn’t get through the whole MS. Needless to say, it was a short meeting.

I collected up the five copies of the MS, took the MS from the next person in the sights of the firing squad, and drove the two hours home. A week later, I opened up the printed MS and started to read. Head hopping, passive voice, no historical accuracy, a total lack of knowledge of horses and how to tack them up…all that being said, the story premise had quite a bit of potential and promise. I wrote a lot of smiley faces in the margins with the things that were good, made suggestions to change the problems, and three weeks later, went back to the next critique session.

All five other members were there and the four not being critiqued were just raving about what a wonderful story this author had written. I kept my mouth shut, but I was wondering if we had read the same MS. As I said, the story had potential but it had a lot of problems. At the end of that critique session, I gave my marked up copy of the MS back to the author and left.

A week later, at the regular meeting of the romance writers group, the program was changed to talk about how NOT to do a critique. If a suggestion is made to correct a problem, be sure to praise something else the author has done. Don’t be a negative Nellie. And, then, it was said that at the last critique meeting, one author had totally obliterated the author being critiqued, had returned an MS chock full of red ink, and crushed that author and that just wasn’t how things were done and if a new member was uncertain of how to do a critique, perhaps that new member should sit in a few sessions before critiquing. I felt as if a spotlight were shining on me because I was the ONLY new member in that romance writers group and critique group in over a year.


Seriously? I made it a point to note the things that were working, the things that I liked, the manner the author had in turning a phrase.

Needless to say, I didn’t go back to that group. I realized after that meeting that what this group was wasn’t a group of people trying to help each other become better writers, but a group for patting one another on the back and offering useless praise.

Imagine my surprise when six months later, I received a post card from the author I had critiqued announcing the publication of her first romance novel. And, then I did a web search for her publisher. It was self-published. Her publisher was a vanity press. Self-published in a time when that phrase meant vanity press and received zero respect.

And, all this brings me to our current state of publication and the world of self-publishing. For every single success story in the world of self-publishing, there are thousands of writers who continue to give the term self-published a bad name. Writers like that writer in that romance writers group who are so eager (desperate) to see their name printed on the cover of a book, so enamored with their own words that they cannot see their foibles.

To these people, I want to say a few things. First of all—LEARN THE BASICS! Learn how to avoid head-hopping. Do your damnedest to avoid passive voice. Avoid clich├ęs. A story written almost entirely in dialogue is fine, if you’re writing a movie script (sorry, that’s one of my biggest pet peeves!).

Secondly—HIRE A FREAKIN’ EDITOR! For the love of all that’s holy, hire an editor. At the least, ask a friend with more than rudimentary English skills to read your MS and find the grammatical and mechanical errors so you can fix them before you upload that novel. Even Microsoft Word has built in spell check and grammar check. Not that I would ever rely totally on Word to make any MS better, but running spell check and grammar check is a start, for heaven’s sake.

Lastly—if you’ve posted this masterpiece of yours on Amazon and you’re getting creamed by reviewers and they all have the same complain—you might want to think about what they’re saying and try to fix the problem. Don’t blast them on your Facebook page or your blog. Those people took the time to buy your novel (unless it’s one of those forever free deals and then I’m of the opinion that the reader got what he/she paid for), took the time to read it and post a review. Three or more reviews hammering you for grammatical errors might be a hint you need that editor I said you needed to hire.

Let the flames begin.




Sunday, October 26, 2014

What My Nightmares are Composed Of



It’s a Halloween Blog Hop, so of course this blog will be about one of the things that makes my skin crawl and haunts my dreams. And, this blog should give EVERY SINGLE pet owner nightmares.

Let me tell you a story and I will not change the names to protect the innocent because doing so will also provide cover to those people who are as guilty as original sin in creating this nightmare. The worst part to the story you're about the read is this: If I wrote this shit, no one would believe it. Fiction must be believable. Unfortunately, reality does not have to follow that rule.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful bi-black little Shetland Sheepdog. Her name was Piper. She became an American Kennel Club champion. She was and is loved deeply by her owners, Veronica Covatch and Michelle Wilson. Because Piper is a treasured member of their family, Piper was microchipped, in the event she ever got lost. (Please remember this information, because it plays a role later in the story.)

In April of 2014, Piper was with a friend in Ohio, near Columbus. Veronica was at the American Shetland Sheepdog Association (ASSA) national specialty show in St. Louis. Somehow, on Good Friday, Piper escaped a fenced yard and was subsequently picked up by the local animal control. Piper was scanned and the microchip was found. YEAH! Piper could go home. Not so fast…because here’s where things get a little dicey. The animal shelter where Piper was being held claims they tried to contact the owners on record. No answer. So, they contacted the veterinarian of record (the one who implanted the microchip) and didn’t get an answer. It was afternoon on Good Friday. Positive identification for Piper was established through the microchip and my understanding is that—by law—Piper should have been held for ten days. (Federal law requires the dog to have been held for five days.) Instead, she was surrendered to Central Ohio Sheltie Rescue (COSR), run by Penny Sanderbeck as a 501-c3, within less than 48 hours of being picked up.

As soon as Veronica learned that Piper was with COSR, she began making phone calls. Several of her friends called COSR, attempting to get Piper for Veronica until she could get to Ohio from St. Louis. COSR—or more exactly, Penny Sanderbeck—refused to relinquish Piper to Veronica’s friends. When Veronica got to Ohio, Sanderbeck refused to give her Piper. Sanderbeck claimed the dog was abused, that she had been bounced from home to home, and that she (Penny) was now the legal owner of Piper as per the paperwork from the animal shelter in Franklin County. (Is your head spinning like that kid from The Exorcist yet?)

Veronica had Piper’s microchip number. She offered to do DNA (at her expense) on Piper to prove Piper was Piper. She had show win photos, signed statements from Piper’s handler, and Sanderbeck kept refusing to return Piper to Veronica. The national parent club became involved, because COSR had received many monetary donations from the ASSA over the last few years. A mediator was agreed upon and Sanderbeck’s demands and accusations became greater and more bizarre. After several frustrating weeks, the mediator withdrew because there was no intent on Sanderbeck’s part to cooperate and attempt to mediate this dispute. The ASSA pulled ALL support from COSR. During this time, Sanderbeck alleged her home was burglarized by a person or persons whose sole intent was to try to find Piper. (Amazingly, there doesn’t seem to be a police record for this alleged break-in.) And while all this was going on, Sanderbeck was allegedly defrauding a dying woman (link here: http://www.bestinshowdaily.com/blog/abuse-allegations-trail-cosr-director/). I’ll bet your head is starting to spin now.

When Sanderbeck refused all attempts at mediation, the attorneys got involved. Veronica filed in Franklin County to get Piper back under a replevin. (Big legal term that basically says return the property or pay for it.) Veronica had to put up a $10,000 bond. Yep, 10 grand in cash. Because Sanderbeck was the respondent in this case, she could go to a bondsman, pay a paltry $200 to have her 10 grand bond posted. Sanderbeck was given ten days to respond to the replevin. Sanderbeck waited until the very last minute and demanded a trial. That court date was just a few days ago, and guess what…Sanderbeck asked for a continuance, which was granted. The new date is set for December 11th.

Though she won’t say, conservative estimates place Veronica’s legal bills in the ballpark of between $60,000 and $90,000. And, in all this time, NO ONE has seen Piper. Oh, there are a few Kool-Aid drinkers for COSR who claim they've seen Piper and that she’s alive and well, but I think I’d be demanding proof of life.

Is your skin crawling, now? Heart beating a little faster, imagining this to be you and your beloved pet? What has happened to Veronica and Michelle and their little dog, Piper, is wrong on so many levels I can’t even begin to count the ways it’s wrong. This is a breed specific rescue that will not return a positively identified dog to her rightful owners! COSR is claiming that Veronica is not Piper’s owner, and even though Sanderbeck isn’t disputing Veronica is Piper’s breeder, she is claiming that Veronica has no right to Piper because Veronica placed her with a friend. (Any reputable breeder has a contract with puppy buyers that states if at any time in the dog’s life, the new owners cannot keep that puppy, the puppy returns to the breeder.) Yet, at the same time, COSR’s “adoption” contract states the people adopting that rescue dog never own it, it will always remain the property of COSR for the rest of its natural life and COSR can reclaim the dog at any time. (Hypocrisy, anyone?)

You know, there is that Facebook meme that says I'm usually a very sane, nice person but if you mess with my dogs I will break out a level of crazy that will make your nightmares look like a happy place...yeah. Try to take my dog from me and watch how fast I can go from sane to toys in the attic crazy.

I can’t even imagine the nightmare that Veronica and Michelle are living.

For more reading on Piper’s story, here’s the link: http://www.bestinshowdaily.com/blog/breaking-news-piper-case-heads-to-trial/

On a lighter note, there is a rafflecopter give-away for this blog hop. There's a lot of ways to increase your odds of winning several gift cards, one of which is a $100 gift card to Amazon. Here’s that link: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/6832075a2/

And, lastly…there are more than 50 blogs for you to check out and have a shiver or two race up your spine. Check ‘em out.





Sunday, October 12, 2014

It's Okay if it's Free, Just Not on a Pirate Site

Excuse me. I need room to climb up onto my soapbox. I need room to get up here because I don’t want to step on toes with this post, but I also know that I am going to do that.

I work hard to write a compelling romance. I am certain that just about every author, whether traditionally published or self-published, will say the same thing. Writing isn’t easy, it damn sure isn’t for the thin-skinned or faint of heart, and it requires not only dedication but a certain level of insanity. For every J.K. Rowling and E.L. James out there, there are thousands of authors who will never be able to retire on their writing royalties.

And these thousands of authors whine, bitch, piss, moan, and complain about the bastards who steal published works and post those pilfered words on pirate sites. Before these authors come after me with torches and pitchforks, let me make one thing perfectly clear. THERE ISN’T A LEVEL OF HELL DEEP ENOUGH FOR INTERNET PIRATES. My preferred punishment for internet pirates is to gouge out their eyes, break every finger in their hands (in multiple places), cut out their tongues, and then burn them at the stake to prevent them from ever stealing so much as another word from an author. (I feel the same way about plagiarism and I think I used to scare the hell out of my students when I taught and told each and every class that if I had my way, that’s what I would do to anyone caught plagiarizing. However, I was forced by the university I worked at to only be able to fail them for the paper or the class, depending on the severity of the offense.)

Now that I’ve established how I feel about internet piracy, here’s where standing on the soap box comes into play.

So many of those same authors bemoaning how rotten it is when they find their work on a pirate site and the hassles involved with getting the work pulled down under the terms of DMCA and then find that their work has popped up on another pirate site and feeling as if they are playing an never ending game of Whack-a-Mole are the very same people who are offering many of their works permanently for free on sites like Amazon.

HUH?

I know the idea behind offering a freebie or two is to convince readers that they want to buy the rest of your books, but I don’t get it. Why is it okay to offer the book for free on Amazon and yet when the same book shows up on a pirate site for free downloading, it’s not okay?

When The Devil’s Own Desperado was first published, it was part of Amazon’s Kindle Direct Program and for ninety days, it was exclusive to Amazon. Okay, fine. During that ninety day period, it was offered for free for five days. I watched my rankings sky-rocket during that free period. I was elated. Until I realized I wasn’t making a single red cent on those “sales”. Neither was my publisher. And, shortly after that free period, I started playing Whack-a-Mole.

Pirates are smart. They’re good at what they do. They can strip the encoding out of a digital download (the stuff that’s supposed to protect the digital download from piracy) and have it posted on a pirate site pretty damn fast. I sent out fifteen DMCA notices before I stopped finding my book on pirate sites. I was told I was lucky. I had to send out ONLY fifteen notices.

Between the publication of Desperado and Smolder on a Slow Burn, my publisher decided to no longer participate in Amazon’s KDP. HALLELUJAH! One of the senior editors at my publisher has very strong feelings about the books listed as free, either temporarily or permanently. To her mind—and mine, I will add—an author who does that is selling themselves far short.

It’s one thing to buy copies and give them away for contests, to members of a street team, or to family members. It’s another animal entirely to have a book as forever free. And, I don’t want to make it easy for the pirates. Offering my book for free is the same as posting a huge sign on the cover begging a pirate to steal it and put it up on a pirate site. Because I have not offered either of my books for free, I’m not playing Whack-a-Mole. I still troll the internet looking for links where either might be offered for free, but I haven’t found one yet. That’s not to say it won’t happen, but pirates are also very cheap. They’d prefer not to buy something to put up on a pirate site when they're handed it for free.
 

And, that’s all the more reason I will never allow my books to be offered for free. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

We NEED to Talk

I am done struggling with how to write this blog post and I’m just going to write it. I apologize in advance for the length, but there is no way to succinctly state this.

Earlier this year, I was humbled and proud to be part of a community of people around the world who love dogs and contributed to the medical expenses of a collie that we all came to know as “Lad.” Sadly, Lad’s story didn’t have a happy ending. The end to Lad’s story was bitter, but the manner that collie (and dog) lovers around the world came together to help The Arrow Fund and Lad did soften the blow of losing such an angel.

Then, earlier this summer, I was again proud to be part of that community when it came to light that several (more than 12) collies were dead from starvation and lack of water and the survivors of the hellhole they had been condemned to were in a local animal shelter in Alabama. Once more, the collie community rallied, offered financial support, and other than one owner, all the co-owners and/or breeders were in attendance at the hearing in Alabama to get their dogs back. To that one owner, I say, “SHAME ON YOU! Your name just topped my list of people to NEVER place a dog with.”

Then, last month, a hoarding situation with collies in Texas began to scrawl across my newsfeed on Facebook. More than 90 dogs were seized, many of them pregnant. Within a week, that number being cared for by Houston Collie Rescue soared to well over one hundred. Once more, the collie community jumped in, offering financial support, sending doggie blankets, food, crates, and anything else that might be of use, offering foster homes, and I know of one veterinarian who flew to Texas on her own dime and gave much needed medical care to these dogs. How do you thank such an angel? How do you say thank you to the many clubs (not all collie clubs, either) who have pledged and gave much needed financial support?

And, shortly after that, there came the story of a hoarding situation involving Irish  Wolfhounds, again in Texas. Once more, the dog fancy has rallied and the support to help these animals is coming in.

All the help provided to these wonderful, sweet, beautiful souls restores my faith in humanity…until I really start to think about it.

I still have faith that when there is need, the fancy will rally to assist those unfortunate animals trapped in hoarding or abuse situations. But, I wish I didn’t have to have that kind of faith. I wish that these situations never arose. And, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride…

I ask myself—where did these dogs come from? In the case of the collies in Alabama, the dogs came from some of the top show kennels in the country. The breeders on the dogs involved that were on the pages of this person’s Facebook account and his web page reads like a Who’s Who of the collie world. And, this wasn’t the first time this person had been involved in a hoarding/abuse situation. I know for a fact that several people tried to warn many who sold this man dogs that this was not a good place. The people who placed dogs with this man can claim all they want that they didn’t know and I will call “BULL.”

The case in Texas also makes me ask where did all these dogs come from? Even accounting for unsupervised, indiscriminate breeding over the years, this person started with some quality stock. The quality is still evident in the pictures of the dogs I’ve seen and been told by people who have hands on these animals many of them are wonderful representations of the breed.

I don’t know a lot about Irish Wolfhounds, but they aren’t an extremely popular breed, so I’ll go out on a limb here and say this hoarder had to have started with some good stock, as well.

I wish I had the answer on how to stop hoarding and abuse like these dogs have suffered. I do know that part of the answer lies in open communication. Call people. I had one breeder call me when she had a litter of puppies and she asked about that person in Alabama. I said I wouldn’t do it. That was enough for her.  Another owner was being pressured into giving co-ownership of her champion male to this man. I’m good enough friends with this owner that when she asked my opinion about it, I told her that I would do bodily harm to her if she even considered that offer for more than three seconds and I would steal her dog before he’d go south. He didn’t end up in Alabama, either.

Open communication involves asking questions and answering honestly. The hard questions. The hardest question. “Would you place a dog there?” If you can’t answer, unequivocally, “Yes,” say so. Trust your gut. No more dogs should die and be left to lie in a kennel run (for days on end) or dumped in the woods because no one would take five minutes to ask others about the person you’re considering selling a dog to. Photographic evidence doesn’t lie and the even in this day of Photoshop, the vast majority of us aren’t good enough to doctor images. (Yeah, I heard that one, too.)

Another part of the answer to preventing these horrific stories from ever being repeated with more living, breathing, sentient creatures lies in being unafraid to take a stand and say “THIS IS WRONG!” Standing up and shouting that will probably cost you some friends. (It cost me—but then, I’m not sure the people who no longer want to associate with me were ever friends in the first place.) Show wins, pretty ribbons, and slick web sites do not equate to a loving, caring home where each dog is valued for more than bragging rights and what it can produce. Sorry, it just doesn’t. You can argue all you want that “respected judge So and So wouldn’t have put him/her up if he/she is such a terrible person and took such horrible care of the dogs.” Wanna bet? I’ve seen it happen, again and again and again. That’s how those show win photos with the pretty ribbons end up on those slick web sites.

Am I bitter? Not really. More like furious. We are so concerned with the daily attacks on the fancy by the animal rights activists and these cases just play us into their hands. These hoarders and abusers are held up as the poster children of what a “show breeder” is and how horrible “show breeders” are. We MUST start policing ourselves and preventing cases of hoarding and abuse like this from ever happening again, or someone else will be policing us. And, while that external policing will make my wish of never seeing cases like this come true, we won’t like the rest of what comes with it, because there won’t be companion animals, show dogs, and dog shows. And, wishing for my beloved collies to be a part of my life again isn’t a wish I want to be making.


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