Thursday, April 30, 2009

Good for Madison, not-so-good for me...

Blue Roan coloured English Cocker SpanielImage via Wikipedia

It's national specialty week for the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America (ECSCA), and I'm here in Milan OH at the national specialty. On Monday, Madison made her agility debut in FAST (did the send successfully and racked up 35 points before we made the critical mistake of retaking the A-frame...oops!) But she stayed in the same ring with me, worked the whole course, and didn't check out to do her own thing once.

Then on Wednesday, she put together a lovely run in Rally Novice B, tied for first place with a 98 and ended up in second place (Rally ties are decided by course time.) I was really happy I've kept her in Novice B, on lead, to get as much experience showing her as possible and let her work the kinks out of the whole thinking-dog thing. Best of all, co-owner Lisa got to see M's run, and she was happy and impressed. All wonderful.

But on Tuesday, I learned through email, phone calls and txt messages that the R&D division of my group based in Syracuse will be closing no later than end of 2010. I'll just be 55, so if I can hold onto my job until then, I should be okay. If my job is eliminated before the move, I'll be a year short of 55--and lose about two-thirds of my pension.

On one hand, I was philosophical about the announcement meeting when I left on Friday--I couldn't change the meeting, so I might as well enjoy my national, a show I've been planning on for months.
Today, though, philosophy lost out to figuring out how I could survive.

It's hard to think that the company didn't do this on purpose--evaluate the ages of the people at the site, and then select the closing date and job eliminations so that they could avoid paying full pensions to those who would hit 55 within a couple months of the relocations.

And knowing that the job front is in upheaval at home sure makes it tough to keep my head in the game on a dog show vacation.

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Thursday, April 16, 2009

The new 1st dog--and the public's right to comment

Portugese Water DogImage by mrs.McD via Flickr

The furor over Bo, the Portugese Water Dog puppy who has moved into the White House, continues in dog blogs across the internet. I read a number of dog blogs, but I've only permitted myself to comment on a couple, including Horst Hoefinger's posts at Dogster's For the Love of Dogs blog.

Yesterday, Hoefinger posted:

“However, when President, then Senator, Obama made the decision to announce at a public news conference that the family was looking at shelters it changes everything. Their private decision was no longer private, they invited the public in.”

The craziness of this statement takes everything I learned in journalism about public figures and the rights of the public and turns it on its ear. When I learned those things, the idea that the PUBLIC had a right-to-know was much more narrowly drawn than it is today--and the idea that the public had a right to vote on personal actions of public figures didn't even come up. Public opinion was important--but not definitive. Public figures could still preserve SOME privacy regarding solely private affairs. Hoefinger's post prompted my comment:

"Huh? How exactly? If the situation were reversed, would YOU let total strangers force your hand or narrow your choices in this decision? Would this furor even be happening if he’d promised the kids a gerbil or a goldfish?

"The US President is a public figure–which makes the public privy to a lot of stuff they normally wouldn’t know about the guy. Still, just because we are treated to a day-by-day of a lot of his moves doesn’t give us counselor status. Just because a public figure discusses a decision his family is considering does NOT ‘invite the public in’ to the decision-making process. We don’t get to vote on where he sends his kids to school, which color ties he picks…or what kind of family pet they choose and where that pet comes from.

"How incredibly presumptuous to think that public interest groups should even be invited into the discussion, much less that the president should listen to the viewpoints of thousands of strangers with their own agendas above the interests, needs and preferences of his own family regarding their family pet!"

In the previous day's blog, Hoefinger's post and the comments it generated (mainly) expressed their angst that the Obamas didn't select a shelter pet. But I'd like to highlight here one of the smartest comments I've seen about the entire discussion, from a person I've never met who signed herself PoundHoundMom. This comment was so sane that I'm going to quote it:

"My first dog was named Bo and I got him at a shelter. I loved him dearly and have missed him every day for nearly 4 years.

"That said … come on people, get over this Obama should have gotten a shelter dog. He promised his **daughters** a dog, not the entire country. This is a personal decision and for crying out loud, he’s the president of the United States. Exactly when is he supposed to go to a pound and pick out a dog? And think about it … even if he did choose shelter dog, can you imagine the people who would crawl out of the woodwork with lame ass stories about how it’s their dog?

"People, a dog has a home. Two little girls have their wish. Perhaps they will have many dogs in their lifetime and perhaps they’ll adopt from a shelter.

"But for now, two kids and a dog have begun a wonderful life together. Don’t take it away from them with stupid talk about how disappointed you are that the president didn’t adopt from a shelter."

He promised his daughters a dog, not the entire country. Man, I wish I'd said that! Very well done, PoundHoundMom.

For those who can't tell the difference--there are bits of info we receive each day which are FYIs, little things which we can use or disregard in our daily life but over which we have no decision-control-power. They will happen as noted without our input. There are also bits of info we receive which will not progress to the next stage unless we do something--vote, express an opinion, take action. When I shared with my parents that I'd bought a new car, I was giving them information so that they'd recognize me when I drove up in a green VW 412 instead of an old blue Monte Carlo. I wasn't asking them what they thought about VWs, 412s, or even whether I should buy a new car--I was merely giving them a bit of FYI about something that was going to happen regardless of their input.

President Obama was giving us all little FYIs in his announcements and updates about the choice of the family pet--this was something that was going to happen. It was not notice-of-need/right-to-vote, or even notice to express an opinion. Sure, the public expresses its opinions, all the time. But there's simply no right-to-vote--or even a legal right-to-comment--granted by the US Constitution regarding every little thing our President does, including his family's choice of a pet.

A blog? Well, that's different. We write, we put our bits of opinion and info out there, and if comments are permitted to the blog, then we're INVITING comment. So if Barack Obama blogged about his family's pet considerations, and asked for input, things would be different. Since I'm blogging about this, you're more than welcome to comment on *my* thoughts--as long as you're willing to leave your name and stand up for your opinions (no anonymous comments, please.)

It's high time we remember that an FYI from a public figure isn't an automatic invitation to comment on their actions, express our opinions or expect that we get a vote.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Comments to this blog

My weekend blog posts have generated a number of comments.
However, all but one of them were anonymous.
While I'm really interested in opinions, I'm a firm believer in saying what you mean and standing up to be counted for what you say. I'm putting my opinions out there attached to a name and a profile. I ask that those who comment on my blog posts do the same.

Short story--Thanks for reading. Thanks even more if you've got something to say or share in return. All I ask is that you stand up and be counted by attaching a name to your comment.

My blog comments are set to 'moderate all' to control spamming, which means I see and have to approve/publish or reject each one.

Anonymous comments are not accepted--you have to give yourself a name. No matter how insightful, appropriate, interesting or valuable, anonymous comments will not be published. If you want to be part of the conversation, it's simply rude not to introduce yourself.

As long as you spell my name right (and include that link-back)...

Yesterday, I blogged about the inappropriateness and intrusiveness of groups that think they are somehow entitled to a voice in the Obama family's selection of their family pet. And a couple of days ago, I blogged about an anti-pet-owner no-tail-docking NY state assembly amendment to the Agriculture and Markets bill called A07218.

Since those blog posts, five or six suspiciously animal-rights extremist profiles have shown up among my Twitter followers. I'm not trying to build a ginormous Twitter following out of everyone who clicks 'follow' on my account; I'm interested in content and good conversations--not sheer numbers. Often, I'll follow back--for awhile. But people whose tweets have a high noise -> signal ratio get unfollowed pretty quickly. And those who follow but don't have much of a profile or a website or any followers or updates of their own will get blocked. And for the record, animal rights activists will also get blocked from following me.

Then today, my blog about the new 1st puppy was quoted (and decried) by another blogger who calls himself AnimalRighter. By the goddess, I even got a blog link out of the man (for the record--never heard of him until his link-back showed up in my Google analytics summary.) Maybe he, too, is following Problogger's April exercise, "31 Days to a Better Blog." Darren Rouse, the author at, just included a blog improvement exercise that had participants link-back to another blog writing in their category.

So hey--as long as the blog spelled my name correctly ('Gaelen' is tough) AND it included a link back to my blog (which improves my online visibility) -- well, high-five, man! I'm not going to follow you on Twitter, nor let you follow me, and I'm for sure not going to subscribe to your blog--but I'm more than willing to be grateful for the extra boost to my site traffic.

Oh...and thanks for pointing out (by quoting it) the typo in my original upload. That's fixed now. ;)

Clinical Trials meet Social Media

You have cancer, and someone suggests you should consider clinical trials. But you have NO idea how to find a clinical trial for your cancer, or for your stage of illness. Through trial and error, you discover but, to be honest, you're just overwhelmed when you search the site. How do you begin? How do you sort? Which trials are right for you? Then you realize that is only one of a couple of dozen sites that index clinical trials. You'll never be able to sort through all of them--and your doctor(s) want an answer about your treatment, now.

TrialX at is moving the search for clinical trials onto social media sites like Twitter.

In this TrialX blog entry are the instructions you need to send a request (a QuTweet) to @trialx from your Twitter account. Use the format @trialx CT your health profile and send the qutweet as either a regular public update, or a private direct message (DM) to @trialx. Within a few minutes, you'll receive a targeted response with a tinyURL link to a list of clinical trials appropriate to your query.

For instance, my query was @trialx CT rectal cancer northeast US.
Within a minute, I received this response: @Gaelen2 Your Matching Clinical Trials
At the tinyURL link, I was able to further refine the list with my age, sex, and stage information, search among the listed trials for phase of trial information, and get a general run-down of each of the trials on my targeted list (including acceptance and exclusion criteria.)

Useful--and cool. The TrialX Twitter app puts a high-powered clinical trial search engine at the fingertips of anyone with a Twitter account--and the main website offers additional search options. Best of all, it's all for free.

This is the kind of information that makes having a computer a good thing.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Choosing the 1st dog

The subject of the Obamas' first family pet--the 1st dog--has gotten more press in the last four months and more newsbyte mentions than I can count. 'When is that puppy coming?' is the walkaway question that seems to pop up at least once a week. On April 11, several outlets in hard copy and online scooped the Washington Post story planned for April 12: the Obamas' have chosen a male six-month-old Portugese water dog. Senator Edward Kennedy is gifting the puppy to Malia and Sasha Obama.
Break in the 1st Dog story

Advocates for responsible dog ownership should be doing a happy dance; the Obamas did just about everything right in their search for a 1st dog. They did all of the things we have been teaching people to do when choosing a pet:
-- they did their research
-- they took their time
-- they scheduled when the dog would come into their lives (avoiding trips, vacations, holidays, etc.)
-- they asked friends for recommendations
-- they went to experienced dog owners for advice about breeds and breeders

But I fear that like any other presidential decision, the decision about the 1st dog will be seized upon by humaniacs who claim to represent the best interests of dogs. They'll ask why the Obamas didn't adopt a shelter dog, and they'll question their choice of a purebred. Behind all of those questions is their real agenda--why did the Obamas choose a dog at all.

Why? Because they wanted a dog, that's why! And it's high time that we stopped acting as if animal rights activists have the right to dictate to anyone, including the first family, what, where and how they should choose a new pet!

The Obamas did the right thing for their family, and they've taken a researched and responsible approach to their new relationship with a pet. Responsible dog owners and advocates out there, we need to reinforce that kind of approach to dog ownership. The Obamas need our support in this decision. Let's not permit anyone, including self-proclaimed 'animal rights' activists, to get away with attempts to make the first family feel guilty about their decision and their well-informed choice of the dog they feel is right for them.

It's long past time to stop apologizing for owning purebred dogs. Dog ownership advocates, let's help the Obamas by supporting their choice. Let's put animal rights activists--who do little for the welfare of domesticated animals, and are primarily focused on their own anti-pet-owning agendas--on notice: owning purebred dogs is a choice of which the Obamas, and everyone else who owns a purebred dog, can be proud.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

NY State Assembly puts anti-tail docking amendment on its agenda

Anti-tail docking legislation comes and goes in NY state; this year, it looks like the NY Assembly reps who want to attempt to pass this legislation have begun early and are making some headway.

The amendment currently in committee in the NY State Assembly is A07218, or Amd S365-a to the NY Agriculture and Markets Act. The
summary of A07218 and
full text of the amendment can be found at the NY State Assembly website. The amendment will make it a misdemeanor punishable by a $500 fine to dock the tails of dogs except by a licensed veterinarian, for medical or health reasons.

From the summary for the amendment:
"SUMMARY OF SPECIFIC PROVISIONS: Section 1. The agriculture and marketslaw is amended by adding a new section 365-a: Any person who cuts thetail of a dog for reasons other than to protect the life or health ofthe animal is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not morethan five hundred dollars. Any person who shows or exhibits a dog whosetail has been docked or altered, at a show or other exhibition, is guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable as above. Any dog owner who is injuredor damaged by a violation of these provisions may institute a privateright of action in the supreme court of this state, to obtain redressfor such injury or violation. The provisions shall not apply to any dogor person who is the owner of any dog whose tail has been certified asdocked, cut or altered prior to August 1, 2009."

However, the language of this bill falls short in several areas.
-- it does not describe how an owner is to be 'certified' that his dog's tail was appropriate docked prior to the effective date of the amendment
-- it places the burden of proof that the dog's tail was appropriately docked on the person in possession of the dog; instead, the burden of proof should rest on the state to show that the dog was INappropriately tail-docked. Effectively, owners of dogs with docked tails are, under this amendment, guilty until they prove themselves innocent.
-- the language is unclear whether the proposed $500 fine is for each occurrence, or for every dog with a docked tail found in the person's possession

In the summary, the authors/sponsors of the bill list fiscal impact on the state as 'none.' However, this bill will dramatically affect people who come into the state of NY (and spend money in the communities they visit) to show and exhibit and trial their dogs in conformation, obedience, agility, tracking, terrier trial and field events. Whether you have an opinion about the appropriateness of tail-docking or not, this restriction has the potential to seriously impact tourist and visitor revenue in those communities state-wide who host dog show and trial competitions.

Responsible pet owners and dog fanciers should express their opposition to this amendment directly to the members of the NY State Assembly Agriculture committee (contact information below.) Put "Oppose A07218" in the subject line of any emails you send to the committee members, or write those words on the envelope of any hard-copy communication you direct to the committee members. Remember--be direct, stay on point, and stand up for your dogs and your right to provide safe and informed care to them.

In order to directly contact a NY State Senator or State Assemblyperson on the Agriculture committees, check your representation on this list of committee members taken from the American Dog Owners Association site:

NY State Assembly Agriculture Committee – 2009
Committee Chair - William Magee
Assembly District - 111th
Counties Represented – Madison, Oneida, Otsego
Albany Office – LOB 828
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) – 518-455-5807
E-Mail –

Marc Alessi
Assembly District – 1st
Counties Represented – Suffolk
Albany Office – LOB 419
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) – 518-455 -5294
E-Mail –

George Amedor
Assembly District – 105th
Counties Represented – Montgomery, Schenedtady
Albany Office – LOB 426
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) – 518-455-5197
E-Mail -

Michael Benedetto
Assembly District – 82nd
Counties Represented – Bronx
Albany Office – LOB 919
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-5296
E-Mail –

Marc W. Butler
Assembly District – 117th
Counties Represented – Otsego, Herkimer, Fulton
Albany Office – LOB 318
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) – 518-455-5393
E-Mail -

Clifford W. Crouch
Assembly District – 107th
Counties Represented – Chenango, Broome, Delaware, Ulster
Albany Office – LOB 450
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-5741
E-Mail -

Francine Delmonte
Assembly District – 138th
Counties Represented – Niagara
Albany Office – LOB 553
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-5284
E-Mail -

RoAnn M. Destito
Assembly District – 116th
Counties Represented – Oneida
Albany Office – LOB 621
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-5454
E-Mail -

Gary D. Finch
Assembly District – 123rd
Counties Represented – Broome, Tioga, Chenango, Cayuga, Cortland
Albany Office – LOB 320
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-5878
E-Mail -

Tim Gordon
Assembly District – 108th
Counties Represented – Columbia, Rensselaer, Greene, Albany
Albany Office – LOB 529
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-5777
E-Mail -

Aileen M. Gunther
Assembly District – 98th
Counties Represented – Orange, Sullivan
Albany Office – LOB 435
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455- 5355
E-Mail -

Stephen Hawley
Assembly District – 139th
Counties Represented – Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Monroe
Albany Office – LOB 531
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-5811
E-Mail -

Barbara Lifton
Assembly District – 139th
Counties Represented – Cortland, Tompkins
Albany Office – LOB 555
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-5444
E-Mail -

Peter D. Lopez
Assembly District – 127th
Counties Represented – Greene, Otsego, Delaware, Schoharie, Ulster, Columbia, Chenango
Albany Office – LOB 429
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-5363
E-Mail -

Alan Maisel
Assembly District – 59th
Counties Represented – Kings
Albany Office – LOB 528
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-5211
E-Mail -

Margaret M. Markey
Assembly District – 30th
Counties Represented – Queens
Albany Office – LOB 654
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-4755
E-Mail -

John J. McEneny
Assembly District – 104th
Counties Represented – Albany
Albany Office – LOB 648
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-4178
E-Mail -

Bob Reilly
Assembly District – 109th
Counties Represented – Albany, Saratoga
Albany Office – LOB 452
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-5931
E-Mail -

Peter M. Rivera
Assembly District – 76th
Counties Represented – Bronx
Albany Office – LOB 826
Albany, NY 12248
Telephone (Albany) - 518-455-5102
E-Mail -

Linda B. Rosenthal
Assembly District – 67th
Counties Represented – New York

Darrel Aubertine - Chairman - email:
William Stachowski -
Catharine Young - does not appear to have email - Albany fax is (518) 426-6905
Velmanette Montgomery -
Neil Breslin -
David Valesky –
James Seward - does not appear to have email or a fax!
George Winner - does not appear to have email - Albany fax is (518) 426-6976
Michael Ranzenhofer - does not appear to have email or a fax!

Those STATE SENATORS without email addresses have a comment form on their web pages which can be accessed through the list of senators

Friday, April 03, 2009

Personal Inconvenient Truths

Maybe global warming is Al Gore's inconvenient truth--but for me, inconvenient truth is much more personal and immediate. Lately, life seems to be a series of small PITs--personal inconvenient truths.

At 2:30 a.m., the current PIT is that old dogs are as much work as puppies. Maybe more.
Puppies need a strict schedule, but they can usually go 3-4 hours without interrupting my sleep.
Casey is 14 1/2, and his PIT is that he lately he can no longer sleep through the night. Heart dog of mine, he loves to share--and so I am awake, too.

2:30 a.m., when I should be storing up zzz's to make it through tomorrow--instead, after not quite waking enough to get him outside in time, I have cleaned a crate, cleaned up an old dog, cuddled Madison and shooed her outside (as long as we're up, we're ALL going to be up!) Then after settling them both back down again, the PIT that I can't go back to sleep kicks into its own gear.

I'm borderline wide awake, blogging when I should be sleeping. PIT--once awake to a certain level, my body will only fall asleep on its own time. Too many chemo infusions, too many years of speeding through the night on a mix of Decadron and 5FU (say that out loud--yeah, now you're getting it--5FU can be some nightmare drug.) Even meditating didn't let me relax and go back to sleep. I know I should, though--the second shift of old-dog restlessness will kick in about 4:35 a.m. And even if I'm spared more old-dog wake-up calls, the PIT of morning will be here sooner than later.

Okay. If I fold up the netbook, I think I can try to go back to sleep again. And with any luck, maybe I'll catch a couple more hours before the next personal inconvenient truth--morning.