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Perfection - in baby steps... I think one of the things that a lot of people and breeders in particular struggle with is the perceived need to do things perfectly. Perfect test scores, perfect coloration, perfect temperament, perfectly trained. It can get to be overwhelming. Honestly, perfection paralysis is a real thing, and so are the feelings of inadequacy we confront ourselves with on a daily basis.

In the world of breeding, this concept is reinforced by so many breeders absolutely being ruthless with each other trying to prove the other is not being responsible. Everyone knows that there are very real and unethically operating puppy mills, places with awful conditions. We all need to unite against breeding done this way. It is such a powerful wrong in the world that breeders and anti-breeders alike feel so free to throw words around to their fellow breeders and say someone else is doing it wrong when maybe it is only different. It is a very disheartening name-calling mess. Please don't confuse being responsible with doing things the way they have traditionally been done. I personally like to occasionally ask myself "but why do we do it that way?" That doesn't make me ignorant and unethical, it makes me an innovator.

By YANCEY STRICKLER he talks about examining the hidden defaults, the why behind the what that you do. It was very empowering. It made me re-think my very concept as a human. I felt able to change so many things for the better because of that, but just one at a time.

What are the traditional "this is how things are done" rules have you been following without knowing why? I think that it can be proposed that some of the testing standards breeders set for themselves and others are contributing to the lack of diversity in dogs. In fact, geneticists at embark and other places have said that very thing. My Mom called that 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater".

The following sounds crazy and is said a bit tongue-in-cheek, but do we actually need to thank the "backyard breeders" for maintaining some diversity when "strict standards" purebred breeders were discarding too many animals and causing bottlenecks in the gene pool? What does it mean to be a "preservation breeder"? Do we need to redefine the terminology?

I recently joined a group called the functional dog collaborative who discuss some of the structural and temperamental whys in the breeding of pet and working dogs. I have explored concepts to help me to improve my breeding focus and program. They are open as a group for the creation of new breeds to meet the requirements for the pet dogs of today.

People come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, genders, and motivations, it is ok that our pets do the same. There is absolutely no one size fits all pet dog. I feel perfectly justified in breeding healthy, diverse, family pets that will be described as "the best dog we ever had" even though I have been called many names because of it I am convinced that this is really necessary as the way we live, work, and interact with our fellow humans' changes and evolves in society today.

Striving for perfection is a struggle in the breeding world but also in all of the things we do.

Am I doing enough as a parent?

Does my front yard represent what my values are?

How can I beat myself up today?

Start by being kind to yourself, I promise you if you put your heart into the things you do, and even take baby steps at improving and getting where you want it will make an incredible difference in your life.

Don't compare yourself to others, compare yourself to your yesterday self, and just do a little better. Don't get stuck behind the roadblock you made for yourself. Make a better future for yourself.

What are some of the baby steps you want to take in your life?

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Boxer Rottweiler mix female dog in purple collar
Callandra "Callie" the Boxweiler

Always Dogs: Questions I never asked my parents and Answers I didn't realize I had found.

The first dog I remember having was a Poodle-mix or Cocker Spaniel (I know, huge difference, but I was in Elementary school and not very observant) and her name was Toddles. I have no idea where my parents got her from, but I distinctly remember scooping and burying her poop in the unplanted flower beds in the back yard with my sister on lawn-mowing day. One day Toddles magically had two puppies, a boy and a girl. I remember my parents being very surprised about this because we had a fully-fenced backyard. The girl puppy, named Buttons, stayed with us. I have no clue how these two left our lives, but they have just moved out of my memory.

The next dog I remember was from my sixth grade or Junior High school years named Samantha, I remember calling her Semuthada. She was a Terrier-mix with a fun-colored coat of apricot and white (that I can now identify as Piebald). I remember my Dad being mad at us for getting her and am kinda fuzzy on that one, because my Mom didn't really like dogs, so I think maybe my older sister just brought her home. She did not live with us for long as she was hit and killed by a car and I remember the neighbor across the street came to tell us she found her. That is one of the only times I saw my Dad cry. He buried her on the lot that the workshop he built was on. He wouldn't let me go with him.

Judd was my High School dog. He was a curly little boy who I got to name, so of course, he was named after the cutest boy in my school who I had a major crush on. When my sister moved out she took him with her when she moved. We, of course, did get updates on how he was doing, and how he always seemed to find lotion bottles to chew open and eat. The mystery of where he was getting it from was solved when one day the security guard from the local grocery store followed him home and it was discovered that he had learned to steal lotion from the bottom shelf of the grocery store and take it home to eat.

It was years before I had another dog. I was 27 or 28 and I went to get Raisin-Pigmented lipstick from my Mary Kay lady. She had an adorable litter of Rottweiler/Boxer mix puppies ready to go home. The two smallest had been bottle fed because there were so many in the litter. One of those was destined to be ours. I wrote a check and put lipstick puppy in the memo line. Callandra, or Callie, was one of the sweetest and smartest dogs ever. She is pictured above. I don't think I really appreciated how easy she was to parent until many years later. We took her to puppy kindergarten and she did so well and was the star pupil of the class. We bought a VHS recording on How To Train Your Dog and Eric went through all the lessons with her.

After we bought our first house, we decided that Callie needed a sibling and so we bought Casey from a breeder about an hour away. She was a purebred German Shepherd, but didn't come with papers. She had a loving and sweet temperament, but had genetically-terrible hips, something I didn't know anything about. She tore her ACL jumping out of the truck and the treatment included her not being able to get out of the kennel to use that leg for over 3 months. The healing was really incomplete, but was all that could be done for her. One day the toddler of a friend who was visiting our house stumbled and fell on Casey's leg. It was so quick, but Casey turned and bit her on the face. It wasn't a full bite, just a "Stay off of me" bite, but the girl had a puncture above her eyebrow. She was fine, no permanent damage, but it was a risk we couldn't take again. After talking to the Vet about the bite and her quality of life due to the constant pain in her leg, the decision was made to put her down. I knew that the pain in her leg must have been awful for her to actually bite someone.

Callie really slowed down after her sister was gone, and we just thought she was getting old. Until one day I was following her up the stairs and noticed that she was leaking a bit of urine on every step. The Vet found a mass in her bladder, and after an attempt to extract some fluid she began to fade quickly. We just had time to get our kids there to say good-bye before she passed away. I learned later that Boxers are prone to Cancer.

The next time we got a dog was nearly 8 years later. Sometimes you aren't ready right away and sometimes you are. It is a very personal decision that no one should try and make for anyone else. After a short search we found a Christmas-Ready Labrador Retriever from a family who wanted their dog, Lucy, to have one litter of puppies to "settle her down". We asked about her parent's hips and got Papers before paying for her. We first named her Christmas Cricket and then Jingle Belle for about one day each. Then someone said she is so hyper. Piper just seemed to be her right name and that finally stuck. When we registered her with the AKC we added her mom's name, Lucy, and then, because it seemed like she needed a third name, we added Belle.

Piper Lucy Belle

This was really more of a rambling tale than anything productive or informative. I did learn some things along the way, but actually didn't discover my true passion for dogs in a real way for another 5 or 6 years. But that is another story...

Thinking back on my experiences since childhood, I see that dog-ownership has changed over the years. There wasn't a real push to spay/neuter your pets and lots of unexpected litters. I remember having my dog running around all day with us and returning home at dinner time. I am wondering how unique my story is? I would love to hear what your experiences were like as a child and growing up with your pups! Please leave a Comment below.

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I have always loved Labs. We've had a lot of different breeds of dogs growing up, but I've always wanted a Lab. Around Christmas of 2011 my wife, Laura, and I decided to buy a Yellow Lab and have Santa deliver her on Christmas morning to our kids (but really she was for me). I went on Christmas Eve to pick her up.

The new monster on the way Home

* Piper Lucy Belle

She was everything I had always wanted in a puppy: fun, loyal, great with the kids and a very fast learner. She had many names the first couple of days - Christmas Cricket and Jingle Belle to name a couple - but we finally landed on Piper (because she was hyper). We registered with the AKC as Piper Lucy (after her Mom) Belle.

* To Breed Or Not To Breed

We had decided that we wanted her to have a litter so that we could keep one of her puppies, because she has such a great Pedigree and is an awesome dog. The years passed quickly (mainly due to the chaos surrounding child-rearing) and the day came that we decided that now was the time for that litter. I have a buddy who has a big, black Lab and we had spoken over the years about getting our dogs together. When I finally told him we were ready he apologized profusely saying he had just had his boy fixed. Well, that was that. I called Laura and let her know that Oscar wasn't going to work and we should just consider taking Piper in to get fixed. When I got home that night, Laura announced that Piper was pregnant.

My Girl, Piper

* A Labradoodle???

What? How? Who? She said that she and our daughter had found a local breeder who has a Poodle. WHAT?!? I asked why in the world she would breed our Lab to a Poodle. Our daughter informed me that she had looked into it and found that Labradoodles were very popular. "What in the world is a Labradoodle?", I, not so quietly, asked. They sat me down, tried to calm me down and explain what they had done. After realizing that the deed had been done and there was nothing I could do about it, I decided to listen and try to understand.

* Piper's Pups

Well, nature took it's course and Piper's pups finally came. And they were the sweetest things I had ever seen (well, besides my wife...and know what I mean)! I had never been around a litter of puppies before and I fell in love. Piper was a perfect Mom and has had many beautiful pups over her career.

Piper's First Litter - Labradoodles...Who knew!

* The End of an Era

Piper has had some beautiful pups and is now "retired", though we still have one her pups, River, a Labradoodle, here with us. Just as I had always wanted...well, kind of.

We would love to hear about your experiences with your dogs, whether expected or not. Please Comment below.

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