Of course, it’s all about money. It’s always about money. The bottom line. The best offer. Fans? Audience? Who cares? Not the Westminster Kennel Club. Moving from the relative convenience and general availability of USA to FS-1 and a secondary National Geographics outlet (and streaming outlets we don’t have), many (maybe most) people won’t be able to see the show.

NOTE: The Agility Masters finals were Sunday night. Tonight is the second and final night of the show, including Best In Show. Fox is doing a pathetic job of it, but Fox does sports poorly. The dogs are great, even if (other than one woman who actually knows what she’s talking about) the reporters and commentator (male) are bad. Fox has a long contract withe Westminster Kennel Club, so if you’re stuck with Fox for the duration. If you love the dogs, try to get past the awful production.

Over the past couple of decades, Westminster and dog show viewership in general has been climbing. No longer just for people who own or show purebred dogs, the show has given millions of dog fanciers the opportunity to see how the various breeds should look, and learn a little about them. Gain some appreciation for their elegance, beauty, history, and the jobs they did in the past and do in the present.


Other than the toy group, most dogs were bred to perform real tasks and many still do, although they may do different things than they did in past centuries.

Terriers hunt. Mostly vermin like rats and mice, but also badgers and other larger critters that were considered pests to farmers. They don’t do much of that anymore, although give your Cairn a shot at a mouse or two and you might be surprised at what efficient hunters they really are. Unlike cats, terriers absolute revel in killing vermin. They don’t eat it. They just love the hunting and killing.



Our first terrier, a little Norwich Terrier Champion named Divot, was a mighty huntress and while she was young enough, no mouse survived in our house. She’d kill them in a nanosecond and pile them like cord wood at my feet. Someone told me she did that because she felt I had insufficient hunting skills and needed to supply me with meat for the lean days. Personally, I think she was just letting me know how good she was.

She would also, when opportunity hopped, hunt frogs. She didn’t care for water, but she developed a real taste for frog and would brave the wet to catch and eat two or three wriggling frogs plucked from the shallows of a pond. There’s no accounting for taste.

Bishop, the Australian Shepherd

Bishop, the Australian Shepherd

Most of our “protector” dogs were originally herders. Sheep, mostly, but some cattle, too. Little dogs were and are used to herd cattle by nipping at their heels. The bigger herding breeds like collies, German and Belgian shepherds and many other similar breeds, are sheep herders. They are now used for many other things, like protecting their human flocks, and for the police and military. The big guarding breeds — Dobermans, , mastiffs and other mastiff breeds, including the much maligned pit bull varieties — were bred to guard. And guard they will, even without special training. It’s in their DNA.

Other breeds, like labs and Golden Retrievers, spaniels, pointers, and setters, were gun dogs and hunting companions. They retrieve that which the hunter shoots, or tell the hunter where (and what) to shoot … although these days, mostly, they hang out in front of the fire being among the most pettable and friendly of canines.

Griffin, the PBGV

Griffin, the PBGV — French scent hound specializing in peanut butter sandwiches — or rabbits.

Hounds are the nosiest dogs. Some, like bloodhounds, can follow even the faintest scent. Hounds are single-minded and shockingly smart. Some are sight hounds. Greyhounds and wolfhounds see their prey (they are far-sighted) and run it down. Others smaller hounds often live in packs — beagles, coonhounds, foxhounds, harriers.

Many are happy working alone. Some hounds will trail anything while others specialize in rabbits or vermin or whatever else they are trained to track. The thing they have in common is the instinct to chase or trail — or both. Even if it turns out they are tracking down your trash (they can always find it, trust me). They also do not object to a comfy sofa and anything you are willing to let them eat. Anything. At. All.

Toys dogs, were born for love. They adore people and want to be with them. While they may also retain guarding, herding, or hunting instincts, they are very good at one thing: loving you. You want love? They have love in abundance and are compact and seriously cute.

All of this is because I love watching the dog show. We aren’t looking to buy a dog or even adopt another one. The two Scottish Terriers — Bonnie and Gibbs — are plenty of dog for us. But I love watching these gorgeous dogs in perfect condition strut their stuff.

Bonnie the Brave

Bonnie the Brave

For all who believe show dogs are cruelly forced into the ring, you’re wrong.

A dog that doesn’t love being shown won’t be a good show dog. Great show dogs love the applause. They love attention. They are not shy. Divot had attitude. She knew she was The Best. She would tell you: “Just follow my lead and don’t get in my way.” She’d flirt with judges and strut her stuff … and win. Then she’d go home. hunt for mice and take a nice long nap on the sofa. One thing doesn’t exclude the other.

Westminster is the only major dog show in the U.S. that gets real TV coverage. By moving it to obscure cable channels not available to many people, they’ve effectively excluded a big chunk of their existing audience, and eliminated potential new viewers. Sounds self-defeating to me.

This was my Superbowl. How could they do this to me? To us? Unfair! Your honor, I object!


WARNING: The images in this post are graphic! They may be disturbing to … well … everybody.

I didn’t want to write this blog. But last week Garry posted MASSACRE AT FURRY TOY PASS.   It made me realize if he was brave enough to tell the truth, I guess I should do the same.

Dogs are Man’s Best Friends. We all know that. We love them. They love us back.

They help the blind.



They serve in the military.



They rescue us in times of disaster.



And they’re just so damn cute!



But there’s another side to this story. A dark side.  A side seen only by the victims. Yes, dogs are man’s best friend. But what if you’re not a man? What if you’re… a dog toy?



Our oldest dog, Lexi, has dozens of toys.

Only one is shown here

Only one is shown here

She’s had them for years. Then, about two months ago, we got Remy.



One of the first things she noticed was the big pile of doggie toys in the family room.


She took each one out and threw it in the air and chased after it.

She did this all day until they’d all been thrown and chased. They were all over the room. At the end of her first day she fell asleep surrounded by all of her new friends.


New friends

It was so damn cute.day-one-one

But then the next day came. I thought I’d heard odd sounds throughout the night. Ripping sounds. Tearing sounds. I assumed I was just imaging things. But then I went downstairs, there it was. The carnage!



They were everywhere. Strewn all over the floor.

More Carnage!

More Carnage!

Eviscerated husks lying there in limp testimony to an indifferent world, an uncaring universe. Victims of a monster who seems to take joy in vivisecting “animals of cloth”.

Carnage Close Up Shot

Carnage Close Up Shot

And the stuffing! God the stuffing! It was everywhere! The floor.

The Stuffing

The Stuffing

The couch.


More Stuffing

And places that made no sense!



How the hell did it get in the microwave? I put in a cup of coffee!


Ellin and I both tried to deny it. Ignore it. Pretend it didn’t happen. But like I said. It was everywhere!


In the end we had to face the horror.

In retrospect we should have seen it coming. Lexie left most of the toys alone except for one. Blue Dog.


It was her first toy and she took it with her everywhere. But as the months and years went by Blue Dog would lose a leg, or two legs. Or a nose.


Ellin would patiently sew them back on. We thought it an act of kindness. Looking back, maybe we were enablers.

Strangely, the massacre only lasted a couple of days. Then it stopped. I don’t know why. Maybe they realized what they had done. What the cost was to them and to humanity.


What Have I Done?

Who am I kidding? It’s probably because we haven’t bought them any new toys. We shouldn’t. They’re monsters. Slayers.


But they’re just so damn cute.


A Photo a Week Challenge: Just Missed

I know I’ve shown this picture before, but it my favorite one of Bishop photo-bombing a picture of Garry and the little ones. It means more now that two out of the three dogs in the picture have passed on. Happy trails to both Bishop and Nan. I hope to see you again at the bridge along with all the others we have loved so dearly.

dogs with bishop and gar

In memory of Bishop and Nan, gone but not forgotten.


We’ve had a run of gray, wet days. For Garry and I, that means we take a lot of medication that’s supposed to tell our arthritic bodies to shut up and stop complaining. Mostly, it doesn’t work very well, so these are slow-moving days.

We are listening to an audiobook by day, and deeply absorbed in the heart of post-Victorian British crime stories as the evening draws on. The dogs? They beg for whatever they think they have a chance of scoring … which is anything and everything that might be construed as edible … and sleeping. They are very good at both.

The mid morning rest. It will be followed by the early afternoon rest, segue into the mid-afternoon rest. Which will be interrupted by DINNER, the central event of the every day.

The mid morning rest. It will be followed by the early afternoon rest, segue into the mid-afternoon rest. Which will be interrupted by DINNER, the central event of the every day.

Gibbs looks thoughtful. He is thinking about lying down and taking a nap, so rudely interrupted by that Person With the Camera.

Gibbs looks thoughtful. He is thinking about lying down and taking a nap, so rudely interrupted by that Person With the Camera.

This is Bonnie's favorite daytime place. She can sleep, occasionally opening an eye to catch an overview of her domain.

This is Bonnie’s favorite daytime place. She can sleep, occasionally opening an eye to catch an overview of her domain.

Still hoping I'll go away and take the camera with me.

Still hoping I’ll go away and take the camera with me.


I have no doubt my dogs think. They have a short-term version of planning and will work together to accomplish a goal. Like opening a gate — or dismembering a toy. Surely they would hunt together if they had something to hunt. Dogs are, after all, pack animals.

They communicate. We watch them. They sit silently staring into each other’s eyes. Then they get up, together, and go out to bark, or to the kitchen to remind us they need to eat, now please. I suspect they believe we won’t remember to feed them unless they remind us.


What forms do their thoughts take? They don’t use words. Even though they understand some words if we use them, I doubt that’s how they form ideas. So they must employ their other senses. How much is visual? Do they also think in sound and scent? It’s obvious they know what they want. They can be remarkably clever and creative in getting it … but how can they plan with no words?

Now and again, I try to “think” without words. I always fail. Inevitably, anything in my head comes with narration, conversation, and a lot of subtext.


Dolphins and whales talk to each other in some version of language, but words used human-style is apparently species-specific. We can teach other creatures to understand and sometimes even use words, but it’s unnatural for them. Only people need words. It’s not only how we communicate, it’s inherent to our understanding of our world. It’s the way we categorize everything, remember anything.


Ideas and concepts can’t exist without words. Language has the hooks on which we hang everything, real and conceptual. We are the only species that needs a spoken language and the only one that writes. Along with the opposable thumb, it’s how we rule the earth.

If we were to lose our languages, we would probably lose it all. I don’t think thumbs would save us.


Garry was working weekends that decade, so whatever stuff happened on Sunday was part of his beat. This particular Sunday, mass at the old catholic cathedral near our condo in Roxbury was being conducted by His Eminence Bernard Francis Law, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston and cardinal of the Roman Catholic church. It was a big deal for the neighborhood’s shrinking Catholic population.


It was a grand dame amongst local churches.You could see her former grandeur, though she was currently in desperate need of restoration and repairs to just about everything. When the Archbishop says Mass anywhere, it’s an event. We lived a short block away from the old cathedral. The neighborhood was buzzing.

Roxbury was an almost entirely Black neighborhood. It had previously been a Jewish neighborhood which was red-lined by real estate brigands in the 1960s. We were among the first two or three middle class mixed-race couples to move back to Roxbury. We hoped we’d be the start of an upward swing for the neighborhood, including how it would be perceived by media and Bostonians. We had chosen it less out of sentimentality than because it was a wonderful location. Convenient to everything with lots of green space, lovely neighbors, and affordable, a combination almost impossible to find in Boston or any major city.

Despite rumors to the contrary, it was not crime central. You could leave your car unlocked on the street and no one would touch it. I know because my neighbor tried desperately to have his cars stolen, going so far as to leave the keys in the ignition for weeks. Not a chance. People watched out for each other in Roxbury. I never had better neighbors, or felt safer.


The morning on which Cardinal Law was due to visit, Garry called. “I was telling Bernie (Cardinal Law) that you used to live in Israel and are really interested in religion and stuff.”

“Uh huh.”

“So he’ll be dropping by for a visit.”


“I think he’s on the front steps. Yup, there he is. Gotta run. Love you. Have a great day.”

BING BONG said the doorbell. I looked at me. At least I was not still in my nightgown. The house was almost acceptable. Thanks for all the warning, Gar, I thought. Showtime! And in swept His Grace, His Eminence, wearing the red skull-cap and clothed in a long, black wool cloak. Impressive.

Big Guy stretched. Our Somali cat — the best cat in the world and certainly the smartest, sweetest, and gentlest — was our meeter and greeter.

Big Guy

Big Guy

I offered the Cardinal the best seat in the house, the blue velvet wing chair by the bay window. Big Guy promptly joined him. We chatted for almost an hour. Israel, the church, whether there was any hope the old church could raise enough funds to repair and upgrade the facilities.

We talked about the neighborhood. A bit of church politics. Although Bernard Cardinal Law was ultimately blamed for the long-standing and terribly wrong policy of the Church in concealing the misdeeds of child-molesting priests, this was years before that story came to light. The man I met was wonderfully intelligent, friendly, witty, and a pleasure to spend time around. Which was probably why Garry was so fond of him and considered him a friend.

When it was time for the Cardinal to depart, he stood up. Big Guy left his cozy spot on the warm lap of the Archbishop. That was when I realized the Cardinal was coated in cat hair. Big Guy’s hair.

Exactly what does one say or do in this odd circumstance?

“Wait a minute, your Eminence. Let me get the pet hair sticky roller and see if I can get some of that hair off your long black cape?” I was pretty sure the cloak needed more than a lint roller. It was going to need dry cleaning with muscles behind it.

So I shut up and we parted company. As he and his retinue swept out my door, I pondered how life’s journey takes strange side roads, unexpected twists, and turns.

“Meow?” questioned Big Guy. Clearly he liked the Cardinal and it had been mutual. I believe Big Guy came away from the experience with some special, secret understanding of Truth. I, on the other hand, felt obliged to call my husband and warn him that Cardinal Law was dressed in more than he realized.

“Oops,” said Garry, master of understatement. He fully understood the implications of Big Guy, cat hair, and black wool.

“Yup,” I said. I’d wrangled with Big Guy’s fur and knew how bad it could be.

Some weeks later, when Garry, in the course of work, again encountered the Cardinal, he called my husband to the side for a private word. The other reporters were stunned! What scoop was Garry Armstrong getting? Rumors ran rampant. Armstrong was getting the goods and they were out in the cold. Mumble, mumble, grouse, complain.

“Armstrong,” murmured the Cardinal.

“Yes sir?”

“You owe me. That was one gigantic dry cleaning bill!”

“Yes sir, Your Eminence,” Garry agreed. “Been there myself.”

“I bet you have!” said Bernard Cardinal Law. And the two men shook hands.

When the other reporters gathered round and wanted to know what private, inside information Garry had, he just smiled.

“I’ll never tell,” he said. “Never.”

But now … YOU know. The truth is finally revealed.


Our family consisted of two dogs and two humans. Then our 16-year-old dog, Lucky, died and we were down to three beings in the household. We had some anxieties about bringing another dog into our lives. We worried about finding the right dog. We feared the disruption and tension the wrong dog could cause.

Our worries are over. We lucked into the perfect dog to complete our foursome. The process was fairly smooth. Except for the fact that my husband wanted nothing to do with it! He hates the idea of choosing one dog out of the thousands of rescue dogs who desperately need homes. So I had to do all the ‘shopping’.


I zeroed in on local rescue groups because we needed to introduce our dog, Lexi, to any potential adoptee. We had to make sure two dogs got along. I chose to meet one dog, Remy, who was described as sweet and cuddly. That’s exactly what we need. We are couch potatoes and would be a bad fit for an athletic, highly energetic, outdoorsy dog.

We met Remy and she was very reserved. However, she went right over to Tom and sat down leaning up against him. That bonded Tom to her immediately. Then she said hello to me and lay down on a dog bed in the room. The dog trainer making the introduction said that Remy had never done that with anyone else. She said that meant that Remy was comfortable and relaxed with us. To Tom, that meant that she was choosing us as her new family.

I insisted on meeting another dog because I didn’t want to feel I had blindly gone with the first dog we met. The other dog was adorable but there was something about Remy.

Remy and Tom

Remy and Tom

So we arranged for the rescue people to bring Remy to the house to meet Lexi. At first it didn’t go very well. Remy was scared and overwhelmed in the new environment. She wanted nothing to do with the overly enthusiastic Lexi. The rescue trainer said that this might not be the right dog for us and we were heartbroken. But we decided to give Remy 48 hours to adjust and relax. The rescue trainer said that if things were still not going well, we could bring Remy back to the rescue shelter, no problem. He assured us that this happens all the time. However, for us, that would have been devastating. We were already invested in this delightful eight month old puppy.

Fortunately we didn’t have to wait too long for the two dogs to decide they liked playing together. Within hours they were chasing each other around the back yard and wrestling like old pals. We were so relieved! We had been instantly smitten with this sweet and goofy pup.


Each day has brought new levels of comfort and accommodation. Now I can feed the two dogs next to one another instead of in separate rooms. They can now both be on the bed without growling or any other territorial conversations. They play together, rest together and share our attention amicably. We’ve even noticed that Lexi is more relaxed and less clingy to me. That is a bonus we hadn’t even hoped for! And it hasn’t been a full week yet!

Remy & Lexi

Remy & Lexi

We hadn’t fully realized how down we were after the death of our Lucky. We weren’t aware how empty the house had felt with only one, not very happy dog. We are suddenly so upbeat and joyful. We are reveling in our newfound enthusiasm for each new day with our wonderful Remy. We are laughing all the time at her antics and smiling over the connection the two dogs are forging with each other. We couldn’t have asked for a happier ending for all of us.