The Right Man For The Job

My husband, Spousal Unit 2.0, is one hell of an upgrade.  Richard is a quietly driven person with some strong values and an outstanding work ethic.  He is also very nearly painfully modest and is going to blush seven shades of magenta knowing he’s my writing subject today.

richard at wedding
the guy worth waiting for

Get over it babe.

I was a few years out of The Great and Terrible Marriage.  Every couple has their problems.   You iron them out when you can.  But when the wrinkle in question is discovering your spouse has very successfully hidden a serious mental illness from the public for a very long time- and when you make this discovery in the middle of a psychotic break where YOU are the Enemy and must be destroyed by any means possible, there isn’t  much you can do. I tried.  I grew up Catholic and the guilt instilled from a very young age is a powerful force; you made a vow, you keep it, no matter what. Even when your partner doesn’t want help. Even when he stops taking his medications. Even when he has repetitive crises and does some extremely frightening things.  And so many people tell you, “Leave. Just go” but how can they possibly understand? You have a child together. You made a commitment for better or worse. You should make this better.

You can’t. And when The Big Snap comes and you almost lose your life during it, as scary as striking out on your own and accepting the stigma from friends and family who tell you its your duty to stay can be, it has to be done.

I spent a considerable amount of time moving frequently to avoid him.  Jumping at bumps in the night.  It took me a lot of effort to realize I deserved to be safe. And happy.  Don’t ask me to explain why that’s a difficult concept to understand.   I’m still not sure I get the hows and whys myself.

Fast forward to making myself available again.   One of the hardest things about getting “back out there” was allowing anyone to get close, emotionally or physically.  I would get scared. I’d bolt.  I fell back on that lame excuse “it’s not you it’s me….” It was easier than saying I couldn’t handle someone leaning in to kiss me without being scared to death of suffocating.

Richard was different right from the start.  I felt a level of comfort around him I hadn’t in more years than I wanted to count.   First dates were public events. Out in the open, where I felt safer.  And though most guys are pushing for intimacy sooner than I knew I’d be ready, he took 45 minutes to even kiss me goodnight.  For once, it wasn’t scary.

When I finally let him come to my home for dinner (we had plans to go out but decided to stay in) he fell asleep against me watching a movie. I didn’t have the heart to wake him. I laid there all night, just watching him breathe with an arm wrapped around me. I had to eventually get him up so he could travel the hour plus home and get ready for work.  He was a little embarrassed and texted me later in the day to apologize. Like I said- different from minute one.

We continued seeing one another, and the relationship blossomed at a rate that sometimes I wasn’t sure I could handle.  It was time to introduce him to my daughter. When you’re a parent, the dating issue is much larger than just you.   Richard took everything in stride.    As he said once in a discussion on the dating scene, “I only date single moms- the married ones are too complicated”.  Yeah, ten thousand comedians outta work and I get this one 🙂 …..

Bri wasn’t sure what to think at first.  An expected reaction. Richard brought Keisha, his senior mixed breed dog (we called her a Sibaskan Huskamute if anyone asked).  That helped break the ice between them; Bri loves all animals. He talked to her like a real person. He was patient with some of the challenges a child like her presented.  Eventually it was clear to us both that this was going to be permanent and Bri accepted this- but until the day we married, she wouldn’t call him Dad.  Since then, she’s never called him anything else.

He didn’t have to take on the title. And yet he did, with all the accompanying duties and responsibilities that followed.  He put her up in front of him on the bike to show her what it was like. He carefully chose which magnets to use on the fridge to display her art. He held a funeral- complete with grave digging services and a eulogy – for a stuffed animal. You read that right. Bri is very rule bound and set in schedules, order and routines.  Every stuffed animal she had not only had a name, but a backstory. And one day, shortly after the not unexpected but still heavily mourned loss of Keisha, she walked into the room, quietly crying, and announced a terrible thing had happened- Gloria was dead. Gloria, a stuffed hippopotamus, apparently contracted a fast acting and fatal disease and was lost before Mom could perform any stuffie saving first aid.

Richard didn’t crack a smile. He didn’t wave her off. He didn’t say this was stupid.  He hugged her and when she expressed a desire to bury her friend, he retrieved a shovel and got to work.  Complete with a solemn prayer for her journey to wherever she was going.

After that he continued to do the day to day things that the job required. He helped with homework. He kissed skinned knees.  He taught her to ride a bike and took her for trips around the neighborhood. They carved pumpkins at Halloween and made salt dough ornaments at Christmas and conspired together on my birthday to get me a gift in secret.  They sneak out for fast food when I’m not around and make sure to get rid of the cardboard ice cream containers before I get home to hide the evidence. Now that she is a teenager and she and I have our inevitable head butting sessions with one another, he’s the referee and translates mom-speak to teen brain.    I’m fairly certain it requires the use of a Rosetta Stone.

Any guy can be a friend. A lover. Even a husband. But it takes an incredible man to pick up the mantle of “Daddy” and all it entails.  This is not a position for the weak of spirit or faint of heart, and woe betide the first youngster to show up on our doorstep to ask her out. That’s HIS little girl.   Their bond wasn’t forged in blood but in something deeper.  They chose one another.

He didn’t need to take the job but I am thankful and blessed, every day, that he did and that his qualifications were beyond compare.


The Most Fun You Can Have With Your Clothes On

So here I was-  single mom, self employed, with more weeks on the road than home, a load of four footed beasties about that acted like cranky toddlers in fur coats more often than not, and after spending a couple of years post divorce learning how to allow myself to be happy, I began dating again. And looking to broaden my horizons on life in general.

Getting back into the crazy, upside down world of The Dating Scene (bahm duhm dahhhhh!) is a story bigger than these pages.  The condensed version reads that I had a lot of first and even second or third dates stretching out my wings a little, remembering what it was like to be free.  I was looking for new experiences as much as new faces and gave more attention to those who were offering exciting new things to try.  Film noir.  Vintage cars. Wine collecting and rare Scotch tastings.  Skiing.  Art exhibitions. This was a fine opportunity to meet interesting new people and try things I didn’t know much about before.

Like motorcycles.

my scuffed leather  knight
I’ll take scuffed leathers over    shining armor any day

I briefly dated  someone really into them. Riding, racing, and track days.  While that association didn’t last very long, my enthusiasm for the sport did. I began making new relationships in the sport bike community, joining forums, going to meets, reading everything I could get my hands on so that once I was ready to throw a leg over, I would truly be prepared.  It also eventually led me to the Guy Worth Waiting For.   You’ll read about him in another post (lots of them).

Buying my first bike was one part elation, one part trepidation, and a whole lot of OHMYGAWDWHATAMIDOING?  Most “newbs” start on the training wheels of all sport bikes, the Ninja “two fiddy”.   The problem I had with this was my height; these aren’t ideal bikes for a six foot tall beginner.  I don’t dance for a reason- I’m not the most graceful creature out there. The extreme forward position of most modern sport bikes wasn’t something I was ready for right off the bat. I eventually settled on a solid, mechanically sound if a little rough around the fairings Suzuki Katana 600. The more upright position helped me transition from 4 to 2 wheels much faster.

A few parking lot practice sessions and increasingly longer short rides about town later, I found myself answering posts for “anyone up for a Berryessa run?”  and “group ride to Preston Castle, who’s in?”.   Invariably these rides included stops to see scenic vistas, historic places, and more coffee shops than you can imagine.  They also included laughter, hugs, tips and tricks and incredible bonds forged over miles of pavement.

preston castle ride
Preston Castle ride with SCR- yes we saw ghosts!

I finally took the plunge and signed up for my first track day.  Track days are events where the host company rents an entire race track for the day or weekend. breaks riders into groups based on their proficiency, and provides classroom and on track instruction on how to be a better rider. “Slow is smooth, smooth is fast” is a phrase often heard at track days. It isn’t about opening the throttle as wide as you for as long as you can, its about perfecting your techniques and having a blast doing it.

That short lived dating scenario mentioned before? Something he said stuck with me; he was speaking of track days and called it “the most fun you can have with your clothes on”.  He never spoke truer words to me.

From my first session, I couldn’t wait for more.  Everyone is their own worst critic and I was no exception, constantly worried that I wasn’t doing enough right out there. My instructors were there for me every step of the way, assuring me that everyone starts somewhere, swooping in and tapping their tail to tell me to follow them to find the right line, giving me encouragement to go ahead and move a little faster,  to get my ass off the seat more and let physics work for me not against me.  One of the best compliments I received was when one instructor was riding on her own at a much faster pace and made a very close pass in a very tight turn.  After the session, she came to our set up in the paddock, gave me a hug and apologized for “stuffing” me into a corner.  “I came up on you realized what I was doing and said OH S&%$, and then I realized, oh, its Danni, it’s ok!”.    She went to explain that by her observations of my riding that I didn’t choke under pressure or seize up in a situation, I just stuck to my line and stayed focused. I was thrilled at this praise! A month later at another day on a different track, my instructor worked with me on several laps and as the session was nearing a close, pulled into the pits, jumped off her bike and gave me a huge hug telling me “That was AWESOME! You’ve come so far!”

I couldn’t have been happier if I’d won the lottery.

You not only wear all your clothes to have this incredible of a time, you wear extra. Specific safety gear is required- one piece leathers or two piece that zip together, a full helmet with a set safety rating, gloves, proper boots, spine protector….  Of course, you end up getting more and better gear the more you ride; my street boots and my track boots were two completely different things!

You get some odd looks when people say “What do you do for fun?” and you answer “Well first, I put on a full leather suit….” But it’s worth it.







Can we talk?

You’re the guy or girl who says there’s no reason for anyone but a cop to have a gun.  You want to ban firearms, or at least make them so difficult for anyone to lawfully obtain as to be impossible, because you say “something has to be done”. You’re upset because certain establishments allow firearms to be carried on the premises in accordance with existing laws. You claim this is somehow inherently unsafe, even though the persons doing so are acting in a law abiding manner and have harmed no one. The mere presence of a weapon somehow makes the situation “dangerous”.  You can’t stand me, and you don’t even know me.

I’m the shopper with the full cart of groceries who smiled and offered to let you jump the line with three items so you could get home to your family faster. I’m the PTA member you called to pick your kids up at school when you got stuck in traffic. I’m the neighbor who brought a couple extra dozen cupcakes to the bake sale at your church. I’m the spectator you high-fived at the soccer game when your youngest scored his first goal.  I’m the lady who held a door open for you when your hands were full of packages. I’m the fellow mother who complimented your infant’s beautiful eyes. I sat down next to you on the bus. I shared an elevator with you this morning. I shopped at your yard sale. I wave when I see you on the same jogging path.  I bought candy bars from your kids when they went door to door for a school fund raiser even though my hips sure didn’t need the calories.

I’m not alone. Across America, every day, there are hundreds of thousands of people just like me. Your neighbors. You see us every day and never blinked an eye.  And every single time you saw me- saw us- I was carrying a firearm.  You walk right past us every day and don’t even know it.

I don’t carry a firearm to feel tough or be mean. I’m not “compensating for something” and find the suggestion distasteful.  I personally hope that I never, ever have to use it on another human being. But the truth is that I value my life and the life of my family, and the lives of my friends (people like YOU) more than the life of the person who seeks to take mine away from me. Please don’t try to tell me that the chances of being in a dangerous situation are so slim as to be nonexistent; I have been in a life-or-death situation and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I personally know that when the police leave you with nothing more than a piece of paper it isn’t going to stop the guy determined to kill you from coming back.   I personally know that when he is in the house, breaking in the door you are hiding behind while the dispatcher assures you that help is coming that the Good Guys With A Gun are too far away. In my own case, if it hadn’t been for the heroic actions of a very brave dog, they would have been there just in time to string up crime tape and write me up as another domestic violence homicide. I was lucky.  Sadly, so many others are not. I am a survivor, and they are statistics.

mom and bri beach
a mother’s first duty is to love and protect her child

I practice for accuracy and comfort of movement. I researched models of weapons and spent time with several to learn what I would feel best having by my side every day. I don’t leave home without it. I got educated and informed and responsible for my own safety, because I know from experience that I cannot rely on someone else to save me.

You have the right to disarm yourself if it makes you feel better but I cannot and will not allow you to do the same to me. Knee jerk reactions to senseless tragedies executed by people with no regard for the value of human life, whether by their mental status or other factors, do nothing to protect me. Or you. There is no background check for evil, and you can’t save your flock from hungry wolves by firing the sheepdogs and posting “no biting!” signs.

Celebrities and politicians vehemently calling for ever more restrictive regulations have the resources to hire professional bodyguards,-often armed- for their personal safety.  They haven’t dismissed them before making their tear filled pleas. They didn’t swap their guns for slingshots and whistles.  Why should I or my family or others in my station in life be considered expendable for their cause? Why should we not have the same protection available, especially when we are wiling to learn and provide it for ourselves?

Individuals need to remain in charge of their own safety, to receive appropriate training in the use and handling of firearms and to confidently assert their birthright to self defense in the best means possible. We need to teach our children that these rights are ours, and that they comes with responsibilities. We need to instill in them empathy, compassion, and courtesy to others so that we can confront and defeat the underlying causes of the wrongs that plague our society.

range targets
If you’d like some range time, let me know, I’ll be happy to help you, or to put you in touch with a qualified instructor who can.

Ex Libris, Libertatum

I have a shameless love affair with the written word.  It’s a stress coping mechanism, a happy place, and alternate reality I can lose myself in for a few hours and forget the rest of the world, in all its horrifying splendor, exists.   Even when it doesn’t all end with a ride into the sunset.

I am the Hermione Granger of my circle of friends. I’ll pick up technical manuals of thousands of pages for “a bit of light reading”.  I’ll also stretch out under a tree with a regency bodice ripper when the mood strikes.  If it has words, bring it on.  I absorb pages; give me a few minutes and I can flip through the volumes in my memory and tell you exactly what occurred, and when, in nearly everything I’ve ever read. This has been an enormous benefit in both my personal and professional life. And makes for interesting rounds of Trivia Wednesday at Sharkey’s over all-you-care-to-consume wings and pitchers of cold microbrews.  It’s also put me in the Top Five picks for Zombie Apocalypse Team members with everyone I know.   “How you you know that?” they ask, looks of wonder on their faces.  It just sticks with me.

I write columns for The Dog Press, contribute to various other publications and on occasion, proofread for a select group of authors.  The work is rewarding; I get to wrap my greedy little paws around a body of work that few others have yet seen. Bwaaahahahahaha! I reel in the power that affords me, drunk on the feeling of positive energy. I have been entrusted with the care and feeding of someone’s baby, the lovely, turbulent mass of ideas they’ve managed to put into words. I wield the Red Pen.   It’s practically indescribable.  And I get BOOKS! Yahoo!

Like many other dedicated readers, I have my favorites. Preston & Child as collaborators, and their independent works. I adore their use of historic events wrapped neatly in a blanket of plausible fiction.  And who couldn’t love the enigmatic very Special Agent A.X.L Pendergast? Though I admit that an unrelated novel, Riptide,  is my favorite.

Vince Flynn; wherever his spirit may be. Taken from the world much too soon, his work lives on. My sweet, wonderful Flynn, an American Akita and stalwart guardian, is named in his honor (CH Orients Pride Transfer of Power at BK). His premier character Mitch Rapp is a man I can respect and admire. And how many people can say they become so emotionally involved with a character?  The talent it takes to manage such a marvel is tremendous.

But oh, my darling, my sweetheart, my bedside companion on so many nights and couch companion on more days than I care to admit- Repairman Jack.  The character construct of F. Paul Wilson (that’s Dr. Wilson to you- no it’s not- Paul just isn’t that formal).  I came across Jack years back in a worn out paperback copy of The Tomb. I just couldn’t put it down. Over many years, I’d lend a copy to a friend, never to see it again, and hunt for another, eventually locating one with dog eared and much worn pages.  When I  learned that, due to popular demand, Jack had returned with a stand alone series of books, I couldn’t resist. Instant addiction ensued.   As it turned out, Paul has an online forum where fans discuss the topics of the books, plot lines, upcoming appearances and even day to day meanderings of their lives.  The author, in atypical fashion, contributes and keeps a running dialogue with the forum users. In current parlance, how cool is that?

And that, boys and girls, is how Paul and I began to talk with one another. He noticed I had a knack for catching continuity errors.  It’s also how I began being offered the opportunity to proofread his work, and before you can say Barnes & Noble, I received the first electronic copy of an upcoming novel.   I’m happy to say I’ve received many since then, and had the chance to discus WWJD (What Would Jack Do?) in numerous situations.  It’s a heady feeling to be granted inside access and have your voice heard 🙂

RJ prequel acknowledgements

Being able to hang out personally with him and other extremely talented people has been a wonderful experience 🙂 I’ve begun proofing for a few of them too, entering the worlds of Thomas Monteleone through his personal work and collaborations,(you still owe me a drink- but the signed copy of Submerged will do til we meet again!) Tracy Carbone (loved The Proteus Cure and Hope House) and Susan Pinborough (I can’t recommend A Necessary End highly enough). Paul introduced me to another long time favorite, David Morrell at a writer’s event in Manhattan two years ago; Brotherhood of the Rose remains one of my all time favorite reads.  Of course, Paul had to photobomb the picture! 🙂 It was an honor to meet someone whose work I always admired.

thrillerfest david morrel and paul
The man with two heads? Photobomb!

My latest read, Panacea, is going to be worth waiting for in print (expected release July 2016), I won’t share any spoilers, but for those of you who are feeling a bit empty since the RJ series came to a stunning conclusion, you’re going to adore Rick Hayden.

dannielle and paul
F Paul Wilson and Dannielle-  Manhattan NY


Enough writing for me. Bring me a book!


Kitchen witch

That’s what I’ve been called on occasion by my oldest friend in the world, Evelyn.  We’ve known each other for 42 years and she still likes me 🙂   Connie, my bestie from my days living in California, says I’m a ‘clever monkey’. I smile at both descriptions.

How do I come by such nicknames?  They say I can perform magic in the kitchen. I walk in, wave my hands around a bit and TADAAAAAAA! Delicious things appear.  Its a gift, and one I gladly put to good use. They say music tames the savage beast, but I guarantee you that good food is the key to anyone’s heart.

It’s a talent that confuses some especially when it comes to baking. I can’t recall how many times I have been told that I cannot possibly just assemble cakes, cookies and various other pastry delights without use of a measuring device.  “Baking is chemistry,” my brother in law told me, shaking his head in disbelief, “You can’t bake without exact measurements”   Au contraire, mon frere.  I have intuitive skills that apply directly to the kitchen that allow me to conjure up just about any dish. I love trying something during a night out and replicating it at home.  My fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants approach is certainly unorthodox but I do much better on instinct alone than many others do with precise instruments and the latest gadgets.

Yesterday, perusing my pantry, I came across come canned plums. I love plums and most other stone fruits and have used them for a variety of sweet and savory recipes.   And it occurred to me that I have never made a plum pudding.

I’m not talking about a custard- real English plum pudding, hailed in holiday song for generations. I mean really- have you ever seen a plum pudding much less eaten one?  I realized the answer was No.  Challenge accepted!

Having a basic understanding that plum pudding, much like its’ famous friend figgy pudding, is a steamed cake set my mind into motion.   I brought down my canning pot, a large black enamel behemoth which conveniently already sported a jar rack. This pot sees a lot of use when I harvest my garden .   I flipped the jar rack to create a stable steaming surface and filled to topmost part of the rack with water and set it to boil.   I then pitted the fruit and put it into my Ninja blender for a quick pulse, with juice, just to break up the pieces a bit. I wasn’t going for smoothies, just a little smaller, and could have accomplished this with a rough chop and pressing the pieces with the flat of my chef’s knife.   Some sugar went in next, a splash of canola oil, squirt of lemon juice,  dash of salt, a little baking soda and baking powder,  a few handfuls of flour and some milk. I whisked all until it was just together and about the consistency of a thick pancake or waffle batter. It had a light lavender color.  Interesting. Photos always depict it much darker.    I poured it into a greased corningware round french white casserole and went looking for some cheececloth to wrap it. Uh oh- I think my daughter swiped it for an art project.    Hmmm, what to do?   Ah ha! A glass lid from my  stainless pans set should do the trick.  I turned down the heat on the pot to keep the water just below a boil, and carefully set the dish onto the rack, covered the pot and waited three hours- peeking occasionally.

I removed the dish from the pot and set it aside to cool. I took off the lid immediately. A bit of cake came away on the glass and it got a quick taste test- and passed!   Fifteen minutes later I ran a knife around the edges, which pulled away easily, and flipped onto a plate.  The color was the darker caramel tones I was looking for, surprising considering the cake had been steamed and not baked.    These are traditionally served with hard sauce or clotted cream. I had left over buttercream from another dessert still in the fridge so I warmed the container slightly in the microwave and added a generous splash of rum, stirring to incorporate the liquor and making instant hard sauce (its really just creamed butter, powdered sugar and alcohol- how easy is that to mix?).

The moment of truth had arrived.  My husband Richard has a sweet tooth rivaled only by a former boss who couldn’t live without dessert. At nine in the morning. I still cant figure out how he stayed that skinny…   I cut a thick slice, poured the sauce over the warm cake, watched it perform its’ own melty magic, and handed it to the man of the house.

Once he got done removing every last crumb from the plate, he held it aloft with a request for a real slice. I was happy to oblige 🙂    Half an hour after that disappeared,  he turned up with a third, explaining to me most solemnly that there had been an accident in the kitchen, and this piece fell onto his plate.   “Snackcidants” have a way of happening around here.

Don’t be afraid to experiment a little.  What’s the worst that can happen? You’ll fail. It isn’t the end of the world. Even I once burned a simple grilled cheese sandwich- Brianna will never let me live it down but aren’t those the moments we treasure with our families?  And if you succeed?  The rewards are delicious 🙂





Look before you leap into dog breeding

Note out there to the “I’m gonna do it and you can’t stop me” inexperienced puppy producers:  Just getting a couple of dogs and making puppies is not where good breeders “start out”- having a good mentor is the most important thing when getting a start as an exhibitor/breeder.

How we start out is with a love of the breed and ownership of our first dogs. We learn, educate ourselves and put ourselves out to the knowledgeable breed community and say-” I want to do this for life. Will you help me?”   We study genetics and pedigrees and choose potential breeding dogs based on sound lines and sound temperaments, not on what just happens to be available. We work to become lifetime students of the breed, always learning, and applying what we know in the most responsible manner possible, such as conducting health certifications, seeking titles in conformation, agility, obedience or other working events, screening applicants for future litters and being willing to take back a dog for life.

When we do plan a breeding for ourselves, we know the sad truth out there about all your “friends and family” who say they want a puppy so you need to breed. Experience has taught us that not only do a lot of these folks who encourage you to put puppies on the ground fall through when it’s time to place them, but that if you are being honest with yourself, many of those people aren’t fully prepared to own your specific breed.

If you don’t know, intimately, the ins and outs of breeding, you shouldn’t BE breeding. If you’re dead set on it, GET A MENTOR and do it right, otherwise, expect those of us out here who end up cleaning up the problems irresponsible people cause to speak up and try to talk you out of it- at least until you know what the heck you’re doing.

Ask yourself- are you only planning this breeding because that’s what’s convenient? What traits do the dogs have that need improvement? What traits do they have that you would like to keep or enhance? How do you think these two dogs will compliment each other and what are the potential liabilities in structure from the breeding? Can you afford a possible c-section if there’s complications? Can you afford the time off work to bottle raise a litter if your bitch won’t lactate? Do you know the warning signs for eclampsia, dystocia or other problems during whelp? How do you intend to place the puppies? Do you have a contract? Will you require spaying and neutering of pet quality puppies? Do you know how to evaluate pups for deformities, conditions or issues which should not be passed onto future generations? Do you have an application process that helps you determine whether or not the potential owners are ready, willing and able to care for a puppy, or is it pay me and be on your way? Do you care about the pups for their entire life, and if so, what’s your plan to follow through with contractual obligations?

It takes more than an intact bitch and an intact dog to be a Breeder. You can get all huffy and yell and scream and say no one can stop you and you’re right. But I want you to think about WHY some of us are telling you to rethink your choices. If you knew nothing about auto repair would you attempt a complete engine rebuild, without even consulting a manual? If you knew nothing about medicine would you attempt surgery at home? If you knew nothing about engineering would you construct your own home without help or the right tools? Of course not- it’s ridiculous to think you could do so without causing more problems than you already have. So TRY to listen to the voices of experience. Get a mechanic, get a doctor, get a contractor- GET A MENTOR because winging it is a plan destined for failure, and the dogs deserve better than that.

Need help finding a mentor? Try your breed’s national parent club. A full directory can be found at this link  

blush puppy

Womb to Tomb- responsible placements

Ways to check potential  homes out and how to identify- and prevent- problem placements. Getting your puppy the best start in life is an excellent way to avoid having to bail them out of a bad situation later.

Require personal references and veterinary reference on applications- check with references to see if info given on application matches what potential family stated ie: ever owned a dog before? example answer- “yes, we had a GSD but she died last year”.   A personal reference who they have known for at least two years would have known about the dog, whether they had one, how it died.  So will their vet.

Vet references- ask how long they have been treating the person’s animals, how many they have on file there, up to date on shots and recommended services, in good health, etc. don’t be afraid to ask, “Would YOU sell this person a dog?”

Run all phone numbers- potentials and their references, through a source like  Use the reverse directory to confirm who you are speaking with. Make no placements without a land line, whether it be home or a verifiable business/employer.   Anyone on a cell only will be in the wind if you need to take action at a later date to recover your dog.

Use reverse directories to check out addresses listed on application- use Zillow or similar sites to determine home status  (ie: one well known problem buyer I’m aware of sent photos of a home he used to live in to show what a lovely house and yard he had for dogs- it had been sold and he’d moved to a very inappropriate environment). if it’s listed for sale, it may be a fake address.  Last sale date will also tell you how long they have lived there and help confirm rent vs. own.  This goes to the honesty of application.  County tax assessors offices will often list their records online;  search for the county + tax assessor + property records.  You want to know exactly where your dog is.

Google is your friend. search name and city of potential buyers, then their email address.  This will often return online groups they belong to, civic organizations,  interests that can help you make a stronger placement.

Spokeo the name. Facebook it. You may be surprised what kind of chat groups, message boards and other locations your potential home shows up on.

Use the city and state to determine county, then google county name + state +clerk of court.  Many cities and counties have online searchable databases of criminal and civil cases, searchable by name. Use them. Confirm with local animal control officers that any pets currently owned are licensed and that there is no record of citations at the address. This may also turn up criminal records for abuse, neglect, sex offender registries and more that would influence your decision.

Ask on your application if they are speaking with any other kennels. If you turn up questionable info SHARE IT with the other kennels, call and give a heads up that something isn’t checking out, and to be cautious, to look further and determine whether or not the placement should be made.  If you come across something serious, post it publicly with a heads up notice.  Stick to facts you can prove from personal experience or publicly available records- it’s perfectly legal to do and serves a lawful purpose (preventing potential harm to the animals).  Buyers frequently talk to the closest kennels to them geographically.  Makes some calls, see if your buyer has talked to anyone in their area first and compare notes.  There’s no logical reason for them not to tell you about making other kennel contacts.  And it may turn out that the best match for this particular person or family is going to be from someone else.

Refusal of a home check or balking at conditions set forth in the contract for care standards. and spay and neuter if a pet home, are a big red flag.   Opposing these terms is a warning that they are looking for ways out of those requirements at a later date.  be fair though- read your contracts from a buyer’s point of view and be sure that they are not shouldering every responsibility on their own.  A one sided agreement isn’t going to benefit you, either.

Always independently verify information. Never give anyone your home address without confirming their identity for your safety and the safety of your dogs. These methods take a bit of time and some leg work but the payoff is knowing your dogs are in capable hands.

When you want to buy a puppy

To me, Breeder should be spelled with a capital “B”. It’s a proper noun, a title earned through years of dedication, education and respect. Anyone can breed a dog, but not everyone can be a Breeder.

So how do you tell the difference? And if you have your heart set on purchasing a puppy, how do you find one?

Your first stop should be the parent breed club. For the Akita, you can find their website at You don’t need to be a member to access the resources available there. Breeder referrals are available, based on members who conform to the club’s Code of Ethics.  There are also contacts on the page for members throughout the US who may be able to refer you to a Breeder who is not currently a member, but whose ethics are in concert with the club’s COE. Perhaps life got busy for them with a new job, a new baby, and their membership lapsed.  If a Breeder you are considering is not a member of the ACA or another all breed or specialty breed club, don’t be afraid to ask why. Determine whether or not any disciplinary action has ever been brought against your Breeder and the outcome. The ACA maintains a list of suspended breeders- persons whose privileges have been revoked by the American Kennel Club. Check for their name.

How many puppies does the Breeder produce in a year? A person who constantly has puppies available may not be able to follow through on all the pups they have produced. A good Breeder knows where their dogs are for life and keeps in touch with a new owner. If they are producing dozens or even hundreds of pups a year, how important could you or your new Akita be to them?  High volume kennels can serve a distinct need for pet production, however buyers should exercise caution if sourcing from such a location- do the animals have enough hands on care and interaction daily to be healthy and social? What do the facilities look like?  Do they have any citations or violations and what was the outcome of them?  Discover too if they have more than one breed and if so, how many? One, two or even three breeds isn’t at all unusual, especially if they are low volume producers but five, six, ten or more? You’ve come across a commercial producer, where you’re only as good as your wallet.

Quality of advertising matters, not location. Good Breeders and poor imitations alike can be found on site like A good Breeder will be open and clear about the registered names and numbers of the sire and dam. They will list the health certifications performed, dates, and associated file numbers (ie: an OFA hip score will be listed on under the dog’s registration number and name). If you don’t know how to read health certifications or a pedigree, ask someone from the parent club or a local all breed club, they are there to help you! Unethical producers will not disclose the parentage of their dogs and often use terms such as “champions in the pedigree” (usually somewhere in their ancient history) though they have no intention of showing themselves, ever.  Please note that some Breeders do conduct mating between dogs that have not completed a championship. Talk to them about their reasons for this. If you hear “oh showing is just for suckers” or “you don’t need to buy from a show breeder when all you want is a pet”, there’s your warning flag.

Quality Breeders do not have a “buy now” option on their websites. They will require an application process that helps determine whether or not you and the puppy will be a lifetime match. They don’t take credit cards- anyone who does is waving a huge red flag in your face! Understand that you may have to travel some distance to find the right puppy, or that the Breeder may turn you down. Ask why- it may be something you can correct, or perhaps they felt they just didn’t have the perfect dog for you. Good Breeders will always be willing to give you the contact information for other reputable friends in the breed. That’s because they HAVE friends. This means more resources for you, someone near by who can help you if there’s a problem and you can’t reach your Breeder immediately. A good Breeder wants to stay in touch and doesn’t mind if the phone rings at 3am with an emergency. They are willing to connect you with the rest of the breed community so you have resources at hand. You may have to wait for a  litter to be born. Breeders aren’t puppy marts where you can browse and shop. Quality takes time and effort. Be willing to wait if necessary. Get the RIGHT puppy, not the RIGHT NOW puppy.

Breeders require a contract and they will likely ask for your cooperation, if acquiring a companion puppy, that the pet be spayed or neutered at an appropriate age (after consult with your veterinarian). Why? Because the Breeder has thoroughly evaluated your puppy and sees traits that should not be passed to successive generations if their goal is improvement- which it should be. Most structural faults or aesthetic issues that determine whether or not a puppy is show or pet quality will not impact the ability of the dog to be a great pet. Really, does an overbite matter while you’re playing ball in the yard? Ask why your puppy is “pet quality”; you should receive a clear answer about what fault was present that didn’t conform to the breed standard. The breed standard is the ideal dog, the blueprint of structure and traits to which Breeders aspire. Mating dogs with major faults isn’t going to help lead to healthier, happier generations. If acquiring a show prospect, expect to live up to a different set of requirements, including proper training, nutrition and reasonable restrictions on reproduction such as mandates to perform hp radiographs or specific genetic marker tests that the Breeder themselves follows. Breeders should practice what they preach!

What happens if you can’t keep your dog? Breeders are willing to take back their animals for life. Despite any feelings you may have about your reasons for surrendering the dog, they want you to call and bring the dog back. Quality breeders do NOT contribute to the shelter dog problem by allowing their dogs to be sent to public facilities. If you need help getting a dog back to its Breeder, there is help available for the asking.

Quality Breeders never, ever sell their dogs through a third party broker or a pet shop. They are directly involved with placements and by extension, with you. Think- if you have a question about your puppy, who are you going to call? The store?

Ask for references, because your Breeder is going to be checking yours, too. Puppies should be registered AKC, and possibly, cross registered with FCI (imported or for export)  or UKC. Registry only with UKC or with any other registry is a red flag. This may be a person who is suspended or whose pedigrees cannot be confirmed. Honesty in a Breeder matters- if they will lie to a registry, they will lie to you. Insist on AKC or AKC+FCI/UKC dogs only. Any Joe with a computer and printer can create a “registry” where, for the right amount of money, you can even make up new ‘breeds’. These registrations aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.

Not everyone gets along out there. You’ve probably got people you’re not friends with either. If one Breeder doesn’t care for another, it’s not necessarily a reason to turn down a puppy. Ask for the names of other Breeders they know, and see what they think of them. If they can’t name anyone easily, or have only contacts overseas, or the listings they give you come back to any of the flags mentioned above, walk away. If you get a bad review when giving out a name or kennel name, ask for independently verifiable information about why you should avoid this kennel, such as a record of animal control violations or convictions for fraud in sales or cruelty. Check your facts!  Bad apples can come across smooth as silk- swindlers didn’t get the name “confidence men” for nothing.  Do they show? Ask what events they will be present at and if you can come visit them ringside or at their set up. Its a fantastic place to get to know them and their dogs.

Ultimately, the only person responsible for placing a healthy, happy puppy into your home is YOU. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Check your sources. If you don’t know how, get a member of the parent club to help you and mentor you through it.And above all, wherever you decide to get your new best friend, please- love them for life.


Bri and puppy

The real Dannielle Romeo

Wife. mother, sister, aunt, friend, writer, baker, trainer, teacher, shooter, community volunteer, breeder, rescuer, activist…the things we do are not who we are but a window into the individual.

So take a peek inside and get to know me a little better; accomplishments I’ve achieved, the dreams I’d still like to see come true, the work I put into each endeavor I undertake.

Welcome to my world.

james 14 months