Monday, January 11, 2010

Twice the fun, twice the work

   I received an interesting phone call from my wife on Saturday informing me that we may be bringing home 6-month-old twins. Twins is not something I thought we would ever have, nor is it something we have ever aspired too.
   The two brothers, she informed me, were rambunctious and playing in the holding room while their parents filled out paperwork to put them up for adoption. My wife knew from the moment she saw the young boys they would be coming home with us — at least as fosters.
   Because of the processing and paperwork involved, the pair were not available at all Saturday. This gave us a day or so to prepare for their arrival and think of new names to call them, as they didn’t seem to respond to the names they had been given.
   Sunday evening my wife pulled into the driveway, and I went out to meet her. The boys were in their car carriers in the back seat and I couldn’t wait to see them.
   I opened the door, and their eyes lit up with excitement. A smile could be seen on both their faces as their tongues licked excitedly and their tails began to wag. One gave a quick bark of hello and was rapidly followed by the other also yipping hello.
   The border collie brothers are adorable. With more black on their faces than traditional black and white border collies, and a good think coat of hair already, the little fuzzballs bounded out of the back of our Jeep to explore the yard — at the end of the leash I had managed to slip around their necks as they were exiting, of course.
   I sat on the frozen ground that has been our yard for the last few days and both bounded over to me and clamored for attention by climbing in my lap and licking me, their tails wagging at a speed that approached blinding.
   We decided to take the fun party to the backyard where we could let the pair run, play, tumble and discover new things without being bound by a leash. This would also give me a good glimpse into what each of the brothers personalities might be like.
   Having evaluated hundreds of litters of puppies, I have learned many things and can usually tell within a few minutes what personality a puppy may have. With pups 5-6 months old, it is usually easier because their personalty is normally set by then and traits are easier to pick out.
   One of the pups, Tripp, is more adventurous than his brother, and was probably one of the first in the litter. He is the more dominant of the two. Roadie is the more laid back — at least as laid back as a border collie can be — and is a bit of a “love bug,” preferring to walk, play and discover things from next to a person. Both are sound and will make excellent dogs for an active owner or family.
   Our pool, was something they may not have seen before. In went both pair of front feet onto the first step in the shallow end. Out came both pair of feet.
   A small bowl we use as an additional water bowl had a large piece of ice floating in it, and the boys had great fun trying to bob for it while getting a drink.
   Puppies are fun because you get to see them grow and explore. Border collie pups are sometimes too much for most people to handle as they are really just a bundle of energy wrapped in a fur suit. To take on twins, I was told, we must be crazy.
   But, it’s all part of what I do as part of my life outside of newspapers. Border collies are smart, high-drive dogs that need a special kind of owner. Sure, it may be a lot of work, but by fostering dogs through Border Collie Rescue Texas, we help get dogs to a great forever home, and get to enjoy special moments, like bringing home the twins, in the process.

Blake Ovard is a professional dog trainer and a top-three finalist in the Extreme Mutt Makeover. He can be reached via e-mail at

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A writer's meme

   A writer’s meme I stole from The bookshelf muse who probably stole it from someone else that’s also great, but not nearly as cool. And, by stole, I mean borrowed with the intent to back-link. I don't typically do these, but I thought this one was interesting.
What’s the last thing you wrote?
    An editorial piece and a column for each of the six papers I am managing editor over. I just finished another chapter in the thriller/mystery I am writing — working title, "Paws for Silence." Technically, the last thing I wrote was this.
Was it any good?
    The editorial content is ALWAYS good. After all, my opinion is always right about whatever the subject is. Who would dare argue that point?! All joking aside, I think the editorials I have written lately have been better than average, and my columns have been good. Paws for Silence is some of the best fiction I have written, and it will be interesting to see how it is received when it hits the shelves.
What’s the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
    I still have some pretty dark poetry I wrote during a particularly rough spot in my life. Some was written as a release, some just to get a handle on a certain emotion and some were written as lyrics for song. I think this will fall into the next couple of questions.
Write poetry?
   Poetry, like the pumpkin pie that slowly cools and the whipped cream that slowly melts, there poetry sits, waiting, poised for it's place among or forms of the written narrative.
Angsty poetry? 
   Didn't I cover this a couple questions ago?
Favourite genre of writing?
    What I would choose might largely depend on my mood. When writing for daily, weekly or monthly non-fiction publication, I would probably choose a column or a feature. For fiction, I would usually choose mystery, thriller, SF, fantasy or YA.
Most fun character you ever wrote?
   Villains are always fun though, aren’t they?  The kind of person you love to hate and hate to love is always fun writing. You can take so many liberties with them. The other fun character is the main character in Paws for Silence, Dallas Townsend. I really plan on running him through the ringer in books after this one, so knowing what is coming makes writing him now fun. Most annoying character you ever wrote?
    I once wrote a character who had many character traits I personally despise. It made the character so annoying to me that I stopped writing his storyline, and eventually rewrote everything so he didn't exist at all.
How often do you get writer’s block?
    Surprisingly rarely. Most of the time I have a specific goal in mind when I sit down to write, whether it be for the paper, a magazine of a book. Now, for the blog? We'll have to wait and see.
How do you fix it?
    Various ways seem to work best. From reading news sites to surfing youtube. One sure-fire way to get rid of teh block — when writing about dogs — is just to watch mine or go out and play with them for a few minutes.
Write fan fiction?
    Never really saw the point of it.
Do you type or write by hand?
    Type. If one isn't handy, I'll pull out my recorder and get the idea into it. Failing that I may text an idea to my e-mail or write it on a napkin.
Do you save everything you write?
    Not with the intention of saving it. Though I can pull you anything I've written for the past decade off one of our external harddrives.
Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
   It depends on why I abandoned the idea. If I abandoned because the idea turned to nothing, then it stays as nothing. If left because it was written poorly, I may go back and try to rescue with editing and revision. I may not revive an idea at all, but merely nibble at it, stealing little chunks here and there to make them fit scenes I am working on now.
What’s your favourite thing that you’ve written?
   There area couple or particularly strong columns I have written that tend to be on my list of favorites. For fiction, any thing I am currently working on — as it should be, or why work on it? My children's book, "Who's Feet Are Those" still ranks among my favorites.
What’s everyone else’s favourite thing that you’ve written?
   I get a lot of letters to the editor when I write about a "touchy" local topic. Other than that, Who's Feet seemed to get a lot of attention. Stores still re-order it, so I guess that's a good sign.
What’s your favourite setting for your characters?
   I tend to globe hop, though the bulk most of my stories take place in the U.S.
What’s one genre you have never written, and probably never will?
How many writing projects are you working on right now?
   Always working on a couple of columns and editorials. Usually working on a feature or two, and currently on three novels and a script for a four-part comic book.
Do you want to write for a living?
   You mean more thn I already do? Geez, that would be a lot of writing...
Have you ever written something for a magazine or newspaper?
   All the time. It is where the majority of the small pittance I call pay comes from.
Have you ever won an award for your writing?
   Yep, lots. In regional newspaper association contests and Associated Press contests. In addition I have won numerous awards from other literary bodies.
Ever written something in script or play format?
   Funny this question should come up as I am currently working on a four-part comic book. Comics are written in script format.
What are your five favourite words?
   The ones I put down on the page and get paid for. Whatever those words may be, they are my favorite.
What character that you’ve written most resembles yourself?
   I would venture that there is a part of an author in every character they write. Whether the charter be "good" or "bad" most writers can identify with at least a portion of that character's character and personality.
Where do you get ideas for your other characters?
   Most of my primary characters I work up a whole bio on. And, I do mean a bio, like their life's story. I need to know as much about them and why they do what they do as I do about myself and any other real people I know. A lot of my secondary characters come about out of need, though I still write a bio on them so I can have basic information and understand why they do what they do. Any others from that point arrive without much fanfare and are primarily utilitarian. The lady on the bus whose knee-high stockings have dropped to her ankles, wearing an old overcoat and clutching a small paper bag of groceries might not need a lot of background as a main character may only take a cursory glance at her. BUT then again, that lady might make another appearance later, so having a working knowledge of her background and character traits becomes important.
Do you ever write based on your dreams?
   Editorialy, no. There have been scenes in my fiction that have been loosely based on a dream I might have had.
Do you favour happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
   All three have their place. I can't say I favor one over the other, unless of course we are talking about stories about rescue dogs. I ALWAYS want a happy ending there. It doesn't always happen, but I always prefer it.
Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
   Sometimes, but it depends on the setting. I rely heavily on spellcheck, and editing.
Does music help you write?
   Music helps with most things in life. I like having a soundtrack to go with the things I do. Music sometimes helps me set a tone for a scene I am trying to get down. When writing editorial copy, I like music, but it doesn't have much of an influence.
Quote something you’ve written. The first thing to pop into your mind.
   Besides the question above or one of the other questions here? How about an excerpt from Paws for Silence:
   Shopping. Shopping was something she did instinctively. Like a mother whale that instinctively stays with her calf on a northern migration, the trout that swims upstream or the bear that hibernates in the winter, shopping was part of her DNA. A sale at Macy’s or Lord and Taylor sometimes had a stronger pull on her than that of self preservation. Scores of women flocking to the shoe department to square off like gladiators in the arena over the last pair of black patent leather Jimmy Choo Mary Janes in size 7, or black ostrich leather with black lace, silver hardware and a crescent cap toe from Christian Louboutin, were battles she had long been pat of — and in many instances had come out triumphant, clutching her prize much like Spartacus may have held his weapon high in the air.

Friday, January 8, 2010

So cold it freezes before it hits the ground

   Winter usually brings something expected with it ­— colder weather. But, this year it seems that even the colder weather may be colder.
   Sure, I know there are still some out there who think the colder than normal temperatures are a fluke and that global warming means everything is getting warmer, not colder. Those same folks insist the debate is over, but I think mother nature has weighed in on the subject and opened everything back up.
   I can remember at the start of the global warming debate — before one side declared itself the victor and said the discussion was over — there was a large group of climate scientists who said the world was not going to get warmer, but would instead enter into another ice age.
   Since I’m not a scientist, at least by profession — though I do have more than a few science classes under my belt, I can only state my observations. I think the ice age group may be on to something.
   Granted, I’m in Texas where winters are typically moderate, but with each storm comes colder temps. No, it’s not the first time we Texans have seen storms, cold fronts and weather like this. When I was a lot younger, in the early 80s there were times of dramatically hot summer followed by brutally cold winters with prolonged dipping temperatures.
   But, being in Texas, or any other “warmer” state, and seeing these cold spells dip to lower latitudes is a better indication of what global weather patterns may be heading toward than watching the summer mercury. When iguanas are falling off the tress in Florida because the lizards are so cold they can’t move, I think that’s an indication of something.
   I know most of you don’t tune in to get a weather report from me, you can look out your window to find out what is going on in your neck of the woods, so let me get straight to my point.
   It’s cold. Freaking cold.
   All of our dogs have kennel boxes in the house that they sleep in and spend time in when we are not at home. Most of you know I am a believer in crate training and that it works. You’re away, the dog stays in the kennel so nothing bad can happen to it. Obviously, there are exceptions and dogs trained to be out unsupervised are one of those.
   At our house only two of our crew fall into the “we can stay out and be good because we aren’t going to get into anything we shouldn’t” category. One of them is Maxx, our border collie.
   With the recent cold spell of wind chill dipping below the zero mark, I don’t like holding the door open too long waiting for the dogs to go out. The first morning of sub-freezing temperatures the dogs were game. I opened the door, out they ran.
   “Oh look it’s cold and we are going to be frisky because we have these fur coats on,” was what they might have said if they were able to communicate in English to me, while they scampered around the back yard. I love watching them play chase, tug and follow-me-because-I-have-the-toy games. It’s also fun to watch them all play, “Hey Bizzy saw a squirrel, let’s all try to see where it went. Everyone stand in a line over here and look up at the trees.”
   During the lunch outside time and afternoon outside time, they were all moderately frisky and playing the same games — but adding the game, “hey, our water is frozen, here comes dad with fresh, warmer water, let’s make sure we stick our whiskers and noses in it and rush up to get the back of his legs wet before he can make it back into the house.” Such a wonderful game.
   By the late night outside time, most were ready to come back inside in a relatively short amount of time. Taking away the refill water game by dong that task before the dogs went out probably had something to do with it.
   This morning, the normal pattern was broken.
   I had Maxx walking beside me at his normal pace, and we reached the back door. I opened the door, and told him to go out. He looked at me, looked outside and back at me again. His eyes said it all.
“It’s freaking cold out there, and you want me to do what?”
   Reluctantly, after the third time of telling him to get outside because it was cold standing with an open door, he went. I got the other dogs and they followed suit — with me being the evil meanie for making them go out to do their business.
   Maxx wandered over to his favorite bush to water and lifted his leg. He then put it back down.
My mind immediately jumped to wondering what medical problems my senior boy may be having out in the single digit weather.
   Then, he lifted his leg again, and all was fine. He did turn to look as if he thought his business might freeze before it hit the ground. Maybe he thought he would see a peesicle arching from the ground to where he was standing. Ditto and Scoop both had the same look and reaction from their time out.
As quick as a bullet, they were all huddled at the back door waiting to come in, their muffled cries penetrating the door — except Bizzy. She was busy scouring the yard for squirrels.
   If she could find a frozen squirrel, she would be happy, but that morning the squirrels were smart and stayed in their warm little squirrel beds.
   Maybe she would have better luck if we moved to Florida. At least there, the iguanas are falling out of the trees and would be an easy catch. Now that’s global warming in action.

Blake Ovard is a professional dog trainer and a top-three finalist in the Extreme Mutt Makeover. He can be reached via e-mail at

Monday, January 4, 2010

Walking in the parade

   New Year's Day was Saturday and we had the great fortune to be invited to participate in the Comerica New Year's Day Parade in Dallas. This used to be known as the Cotton Bowl Parade. But, since the Cotton Bowl is no longer held in the Cotton Bowl and has been moved not only away from the historic stadium, but out of Dallas to Arlington and the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium, the parade is simply the New Year's Day Parade.
   It wasn't just us that were invited to wave at folks along the parade route, it was all of the Border Collie Rescue Texas, of which we are members.
   It was a real honor to be asked to participate, as the only other dog organization ever asked to take part is the Golden Retriever Rescue. In addition to securing an invitation, a sponsor is needed to take part, and a local radio station came through for us. That station is KRLD 1080 AM.
   The day started off well, with various members of of BC rescue meeting in the parkinglot of the American Airlines Center for visiting time before the parade started. While that might not sound like that big of a deal, keep in mind that members of Border Collie Rescue Texas live all over the state, plus one who lives in Oklahoma and one in Louisiana. And, for those who don't remember, Texas is a big state.
   In all, more than 25 members of our rescue group came to enjoy the festivities.
   With the temperatures in the low 50s, standing in the sun in the parking lot was pleasant, and I wondered if the matching sweatshirts we were all wearing might be just a little on the warm side. Then we rode the shuttle to the staging area.
   At the staging area, the tall downton buildings cast large shadows and made areas of sunshine few and far between. The shaded area of the staging area soon became chilly, and participants from floats, to marching bands and others sought the slivers of warm sunshine.
   As the sun moved through the sky while we all waited, waiting participants did what might have appeared to be a coreographed slow dance migrating with the areas of sunshine. People and dogs milled about, visiting, moving, visiting, moving.
   Soon it was time to line up. As each float got into position, the anticipation built — in both our people and their dogs.
   Our banner was there, the parade director ws telling us it was time to go, and we did. Out into the sun, which shown straight down the street, with throngs of people lining the sidewalks. Those sidewalks were also in the sun.
   All of our dogs tugged their leashes, and perked up with the cheers and waves from the crowd. Our 12-year-old BC, Maxx, was loving the limelight. Younger dogs in the group veerd to the sides, seeking attention from the crowd, and were rewarded with pettings along the entire route.
   Then, before we knew it, it was all over. We had covered the almost two miles of the parade route, people were tired and dogs were looking for water. Smiles adorned every face — on people and dogs.
Maxx slept the whole way home, and after taking a trip out to the backyard when we got there, he crashed on his bed in front of the TV.
   It was a good day.

Blake Ovard is a professional dog trainer and a top-three finalist in the Extreme Mutt Makeover. He can be reached via e-mail at