All posts by idontdotrix

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