Idea Buzzing!

At last I finally have a solution to a writing problem. I can’t believe how simple it really is. I was reading to my girls last night and suddenly the perfect picture book popped into my head. Not only that, but is also solves a work related issue. Not going to say too much here for a few reasons. The first is it is still buzzing, although got some down on paper last night – while having a steaming hot bath, always good to get the blood flowing right up to the brain. The second is I am about to start the Ultimate Blog Challenge – tomorrow. So I thought I’ll work on the book during the challenge and try to get a draft done during that time. That way I can get som awesome feedback. The third and final reason is quite simple. I need my girl’s help, it is after all a book for them, so they need to be involved.

Tasia, Tug, Rigger, Obi and Stitch ready to start work at Labs ‘n Life

Alright I will give you an hint. It involves the beautiful dogs above, my girls and an adventure through the alphabet. I think I’m going to call it “Maddy and Aijay’s Alphadog Adventure!” Should be fun!!! Now I need to go, have to find a dog starting with the letter V!!! Catch you all soon!

Stitch Says – Launching Soon

Hi everyone! Welcome to my new blog page. Stitch Says is now open for author interviews and reviews. It will be officially launched on October the 3rd! If you would like an interview or a book reviewed (especially children’s books, but open to other authors), then contact me at:

ashley@ahowland.org

Watch this space for the first exciting interview on the 3rd of October!

Until then stop Stitch from lazing around the house! Stitch Says – Get writing, Get Reading!!!!

Losing my marbles…

Okay so it’s probably not quite that bad. I’m just trying to get organised, not really my cup of tea! I have so much I want to do and feel really cluttered and have no idea where to start. I am sure I have completely lost my mind. So I have decided I need to have a clean out. It’s the only way. I’m keeping the husband, kids and dogs – so guess my life will still be cluttered, hahahah! However not much else is safe. My little one starts kindy next term, so I will be cleaning the whole house and getting rid of all the junk. I am also going to be writing – yeah!!!! Editing – mmmm not so yeah, but very essential! Illustrating – hahahahaha, sorry, we’ll see how it goes, the kids are going to help. Could be interesting, definitely be fun. Oh and yes I will be continuing my gym fixation. I am hoping that somewhere in all that I will actually find my marbles and become a much more organised mum, employee and of course writer. Wish me luck!

Ignorance is bliss!

I generally think the best of people, and try to see things both ways. This unfortunately leaves a sour taste when you come across people who are one-eyed and ignorant. The recent show final illustrated this completely. For those who don’t know the teams event is two-old. There is the conformation – the show dogs if you like. Which means you need to have four dogs from the same kennel that look and move alike. The second part is the presentation. So as a team you dress to represent your breed. For some this means going out and getting costumes, usually to represent where your dog comes from. For Labs ‘n Life it means on a very small budget (of $0) we get 7 teams (28 kids and dogs) wearing something neat. This year our three finalist teams were dressed in matching coloured bow ties (the brother and sister team), home made bandanas with the playful nature of the lab (Team Stitch) and bandanas with the popularity of yellow labradors (team Rigger). On top of this our students were dressed neatly and presented their dogs with pride and I must say the poise of professional dog handlers. We were able to celebrate a second placing for presentation! The kids, staff, volunteers and dogs were of course delighted. Our efforts were rewarded. However afterwards one of the other teams had a serious case of sour grapes. They were heard to comment “the labrador team didn’t put in any effort!” We were astounded. First of all this came from a team showing Australian Shepards – who originate from ranches in America. So the team were dressed in cow girl outfits??? Well that would have made sense, but no this team were all dressed as Pocahontas??? Nope, not getting the connection, that’s okay neither did we, or did the judges for that matter. Which would be why you didn’t win anything.

However back to the effort thing! If it was purely judged on effort we should have won all six prizes. Not only did we get these students, who come from severely disadvantaged backgrounds to the show, we had them performing like seasoned handlers. They were neat, happy, working together as a team and showing how much they loved their dogs. We as a group did two whole days at the show. The first included 34 dogs! We also had 7 teams. Which means our 28 students took all of their dogs in the ring at once. Not one dog mucked up, not one kid put a foot out of place. Our three finalists were even more impressive on saturday. However the effort has been years in progress for some of these kids. We are talking kids who won’t leave their homes, kids who never used to say a word, kids in care, kids shipped from home to home, kids who just don’t fit in, kids completely disengaged from society, kids who have failed everything at school and kids who in general have never experiences pride. Yep, we got these kids to dress nicely, be polite, be responsible and present themselves and their dogs with pride. So yeah Pocahontas girls the labrador teams were actually the pure definition of effort!!!!! The simple fact is our kids and dogs are so good people think they are professional handlers. Which means the comment was actually a compliment – thanks girls, we appreciate it!!!

The truth is we at Labs ‘n Life don’t feel the need to be patted on the back, so to speak. Seeing the kids is enough for us. We all had tears in our eyes for each and every kid we put in the show. Their journey has been our journey and to see them achieve such success is reward in itself. So to those who are living in a world of ignorance I have some gentle advice. Before you open your mouths, open your eyes. We were considerate enough to google your dog’s heritage in an attempt to understand your costumes. You could have googled Labs ‘n Life and found out a small bit about us before you bagged our teams. Who knows if you had, then maybe you too would have shared a bit our our joy and excitement. It might have made your trip to the show worthwhile. It certainly made it for us!

So congratulations to all the staff, volunteers, students (those who showed and those who helped), dogs and general public who took the time to share a piece of our journey. We appreciate your support!!!

Stitch

My Little Man!!!

Stitch is my special little man. Well okay as he is now two years old and possesses one of the biggest boof head’s in the labrador community he’s probably my special boofy man. However he is too sweet for that. Stitch had to start coming to school with me at the tender age of 11 weeks. I couldn’t leave him home alone, so he used to get piled into the car with the others (on the back seat between the girls, not in the boot with the big boys). He didn’t work though, he was far to little. Although it was hard to tell him that. He would bark while I was demonstrating with Obi. As if to say “I can do that!” Eventually I gave in and started doing my demonstrations with both of them. I  don’t think Obi was all that impressed to begin with, although now he loves to watch Stitch work and is happy to sit on the sidelines – supervising. So I knew very early on that Stitch was going to have to work. Which meant chosing his students carefully. He is completely convinced that he is actually training the students. To the point that he will now bark at them if they use the wrong hand signal or verbal command! The other day we were having a mock show for students to practice. The girl who had Stitch was a bit overawed and wasn’t giving him any commands. So he stacked himself and then trotted her around the ring when it was their turn. He’s a very clever boy!

Stitch is also one of the softest Labradors I have met. He is great with my girls, but very wary of other little kids. He will put up with anything, but will also avoid things if he is unsure. He’s my boy! This week we will get to work together at the Royal Adelaide Show. I have already blogged about my dislike of shows, but I am looking forward to being just with my boy! Who knows we might even fluke a ribbon, but if not we can always share and ice cream!

My next character – Stitch!

Dog Shows

I will never really understand dog shows and I’m pretty sure I don’t want too! It has to be the strangest thing out. You rock up at some park, usually before the sun has woken up, set up tents, cages, crates and tables. Find a long list of numbers to go with every dog – make sure all the entries ae complete and get your dog ready. Luckily it doesn’t take much to get a labrador ready. Grab a wet cloth and make sure they are basically clean. If you feel really special trim their tail so it has a nicely rounded end. Nothing compared to those standard poodle show handlers. Wow they look amazing, but really how long should you spend on your dogs fur????

Any way eventually you get to go in the ring, so you take your dog on the smallest lead you can find, trott them around a ring, with other dogs, that they can’t play with and wait for the judge. They then check out your dog, whiel you try to encourage them not to play with the judge. Can be difficult for the labradors and then it’s time to trott again. The judge eventually (can seem like hours at big shows) makes a decision based on the breed standard. Well that’s what is supposed to happen, but rarely does. It is of course the opinion of one person, who may have a certain bias. For example American judges like big labradors – scratch Stitch, although he is still filling out. European judges tend towards smaller, lighter labbys. Scratch Stitch – he’s going to be a boofy boy! Then there are Australian Judges who sit somewhere in the middle. Of course it doesn’t actually seem to have any consistency – you can put the same dogs in the same classes for two shows on the same day and get completely different results!!! How does this happen? Well, as I said “I don’t get shows!” I don’t understand any of it. What I do know is that it’s fun to be with your dog – who wouldn’t enjoy some one on one time with their best friend (even if you are being judged). I also know its a fantastic opportunity for the students of Labs ‘n Life to get dressed up and proudly show their dogs. These students often don’t have a lot of opportunities to be proud of themselves, showing is definitely great for them. The last thing I know is you always take the best dog home!!!!!

So I show Stitch on occasions – he now knows what to do in the ring and can be shown by anyone, so that’s pretty good. My girls loved their mini handler class last year and want to do it again, so maybe I can retire soon LOL! Anyway if you look at is as a fun chance to be with your dog, good friends and their dogs then it’s a good day. For those of you who show dogs more seriously do not be offended, I admire your dedication! It’s just not me! Of course the Royal Adleaide show is looming and at Labs ‘n Life we have 34 dogs entered, including 7 teams! Most of our dogs, all of the teams will be shown by our students. I will jump in the ring with Stitch and while of course I’d love to score a ribbon just getting a cuddle from my little man and seeing the smile on the faces of my girls when I run around the ring will be enough!