Who let the dogs out?


Any one who knows me know how crazy I am about dogs – training them, playing with them, and taking them to dog shows. In college, my ambition was to become a handler full-time.  I have lost count of how many times I have sneaked out of lectures and labs to go to dog shows all over India. Almost every one in my family thought that I will drop out of college and ” go to dogs”.  Well,  that did not happen – thanks to my dad’s cousin.

Uncle R was a retired business man – and an international all breeds judge.  He talked me out of my plan. His point was “Finish your engineering degree and get a job – you will be able to buy better dogs that way”. It was not easy, but I was convinced. So I finished my degree, went on to do my MBA and got a job. Next thing I know, I got assigned to USA . First thing I did before I left India was to find out the best German Shepherd kennels to get a puppy from. I found one in Germany, and used my first salary to buy a 6 month old pup.

I was generally happy that I followed uncle R’s advice. I could afford to buy the dogs I liked – and good dogs win at more shows.  After spending a lot of money and time buying dogs and sending them to handlers and trainers, and winning my fair share of shows – I realized one thing. It was not fun any more – I was just kidding myself that it iwas fun. Where is the fun when I pick a dog, and a handler finishes it for me and I hardly get to see the dog? I missed out on going into the ring and the fun of chatting with old friends at ring side.

Pendulum swung the other way – I stopped it altogether. No dogs with friends and handlers (well almost). My next dog had to stay with me home, and if a handler is showing him, I want to be there most of the times to see him in the ring. And since my wife didn’t like German Shepherds, we bought a Golden, and then a Lab. I have no qualms about using a handler to finish a title and some of my best friends are handlers – in India, Germany and USA. 

In the mean time, my career became more demanding and I am on the road a lot more than I used to. It is virtually impossible to attend several dog shows. I would rather spend a weekend with my wife and daughter than drive to a show. So I get to go to only a handful of shows these days, and that too mostly without a dog.  But I still get some time to play with dogs and train them when I am home, but not to the high degree that I could do earlier. In college days, my dog used to beat the top dogs in India in obedience and now, I don’t do anything with them beyond very basic obedience. 

My little Lab guy is 14 months now, and next weekend is his debut in show ring. He is not trained for the ring – and I am pretty sure he and I will make total fools in the ring.  Totally my fault – I dropped out of handling class, and his socializing is restricted to walks around the neighborhood. If I hand stack him, he will do it with a face that will make people think that he is expecting to be hit with a stick. If I free stack him, he will stay focussed for about 10 seconds at most, and then prefers to leap than stand. He hates showing his teeth, and since he is not conditioned like he should be (except for swimming  in our pool), he tires easily. 

Just yesterday I realized that he has not been around many dogs really – and my short cut solution was to drive to the bark park in Snedigar Park.  I expected him to either get bullied by other dogs, or bully someone himself. Instead he was a cool customer – he went and played with dogs of every size, and allowed himself to be petted by every one there. And he chased a frisbee for 30 minutes (not his toy, he just was faster than the dog it was thrown for). And when he was tired, he came to me and flopped on the ground. I am much relieved – he will do just fine in the ring with other dogs.

He is an independent spirit and a happy puppy. So my strategy in the ring will be to take a chance that judge will forgive him for his goofiness, but will like to see a happy dog, who will move well and do a great stack for a few seconds.  Far too many dogs look like mechanical dogs in the ring, and he will stand out. I am fully aware that this has only a 10% chance of working, and 90% chance exist for him to be the one that makes every one crack up and get me kicked out of the ring.  Either way – I have no complaints. I have lost plenty of dog shows with well-behaved dogs – way more than I have won. And while I am a fiercely competitive guy in general, I don’t feel that way about dog shows any more. (probably because I am well aware of my own limitations compared to others in the ring ).  However, we are going in there to win – and if we lose, it won’t be because we didn’t try.

And I still dream of my five-year old taking up junior handling (in addition to becoming an engineer, doctor, lawyer and a consultant). So far there are no indications of that.  But then if dreams were horses, fathers of five-year olds would fly !

In India, is innocence only found in villages?


From the time I started to read books and watch movies by Indian authors in my childhood, I have noticed that the innocent victim in the story has to be from a village. Village always has a villain – but just one guy, or just one family. Rest are all good guys. The villager then gets to go to the big city in search of better prospects – and guess what, it is the exact opposite in the City. There is only one good guy there in the city, or one family, or one group of friends. Every one else in the city is out to get the innocent guy. It makes me ask – How do you people in the city sleep at night?

I feel like screaming from the roof – who are you literary giants trying to kid here? Isn’t this a clear indication of widespread lack of imagination and creativity on your part?

In earlier books and movies, the villain had to be a landlord or business man. If you are rich, you must be bad. Then some creativity apparently kicked in – the rich villain had to originate from India, but earned his money from abroad. And he has to constantly be drinking whiskey, and smoking and womanizing.  He also has to ill treat his parents, wife and in-laws. He usually has a big dog that sits by his side.

Really? is that how the average dude who returns to India behaves?

Then came the craze with Europe and America – the average story being – young Joe argues with dad over a silly issue, and leaves for Europe. Next thing – he is driving around in a red convertible, wearing Armani suits and meets a beautiful woman. And then they return to India to complete the story.

One thing this story line does is give a real bad impression to people in India who have not traveled abroad. This makes them believe that if they somehow find a way to land in a western country, life is a bed of roses, and riches are yours for the asking. To further damage the reputation of Indians living abroad,  these movies invariably have dance sequences in railway stations and downtown areas. These actors and actresses must have really thick skin.

I readily admit that a few movies and books that follow this theme have some merit – but they are an exception. But the majority do not belong in the merit list – which makes me believe, are we that gullible?

I have a strong urge to bitch about the umpteen “crying woman” series that come on regional TV, but I have to get back to start my day.

If you have read till here – thanks for listening, and sorry for venting on you. Next time, stop at the first sign of trouble and turn on your heels.

One breed or many breeds?


I am the guy who used to tell others “There are just two types of dogs – German Shepherds, and those who want to be German Shepherds”. And for the last few years, I don’t have a German Shepherd – not one. Instead, I have a Golden Retriever and now a one year old labrador male.  These two breeds are totally different from shepherds, and also somewhat different to each other.  And guess what –  I love them and think they are also great dogs to have, as long as I recognize they are unique and dissimilar to shepherds.

At the height of my craze for German shepherds – I knew pedigrees of  hundreds of dogs, and had videos of every big show that happened in the GSD world. I had way more dogs than I should have had.  I knew most top breeders – and knew all top dogs, and up coming stars. I also spent a large part of my disposable income in doing all this. And I totally understood how little I knew even with that kind of commitment.

For a variety of reasons, I bought a Golden and then a Lab . Thanks to the experience in Shepherds – I don’t worry at all any more if my dogs don’t end up as succesful show dogs .  They can still stay home and play and cuddle with us if they don’t make a career in show ring.  However, I still only buy pups which are of show potential, and that too from breeders I like, and blood lines i like.  I think it is a great investment even if the dog turns out not so good in looks when he matures – and so far I have had no regrets.

It is kind of funny when you get into a new breed. Despite not being a newbie to purebred dogs, and despite handling and winning with a variety of breeds for friends – I have to start similar to a newbie all over again. To begin with, I buy books and videos and research internet. But that is just a small step. Unless I see several good dogs at different ages , I cannot appreciate the breed at all. So I go out and get introduced to breeders and handlers.  It is not really a slow process – there is a lot of stuff that you know from other breeds that can be applied to your new breed. 

However, I learned the hard way that this can be awkward too in some cases.  I did not like the movement in a lot of goldens I saw at the national show in Malibu,CA a few years ago. So I got in touch with a judge over email, and asked him. After a few back and forth emails – I got it. I didn’t like some goldens because I was expecting them to move like German Shepherds. The scary part was that I was actually liking a few who did move the way I liked, and hence my “eye” was developing an appreciation for a wrong type of Goldens.  

Life is a bit more easier with labs – since I have owned and shown labs when I was in school, and hence have a decent foundation. But I don’t know them like I know shepherds – which means I still need lots of time invested to learn, and find some mentors to guide me when I get stuck on something. Thankfully – as with Goldens, the lab people are also a friendly crowd. I have met very few who wouldn’t answer my questions – however silly they are.  Another advantage was that I worked in UK before, and they have some great labs. So I have some exposure to good dogs. Couple of trips more to Potomac, and I will have enough to have my basics covered.

I don’t think I will ever become a “breeder” – due to the lack of time and inability to suffer like my many friends who do breed. It is not for a part timer like me – I would much rather make use of the work put in by the dedicated folks who put their hearts and souls into it, by buying from them. A good part of my education in dogs will remain incomplete since I don’t breed – maybe I will try it at retirement. Maybe not. Most probably not. But then again – if I can buy a dog that is not a German Shepherd, I suppose I can breed too someday.

It makes me wonder – when I get my next dog, what breed will he be? Will I buy a German Shepherd, a Golden or a Lab? Or will I buy something else – I also like Irish Setters, Dobes and Boxers. I don’t quite know.  A good dog of any large breed gives me goose bumps.  Maybe next time, I should buy a dog that fits Arizona climate – so may be a Saluki? If I am buying a Saluki – I need to hire a skinny handler. I cannot even imagine what ringsiders will say if I walk into a ring with a Saluki with its 3 ribs showing !

Are you an expert?


Experts come in many flavors.

A couple of weeks ago, my 4-year-old daughter made a statement that warmed my heart…”My daddy works for IBM, and My uncle works for HP..guess what, IBM is bigger than HP !”. My euphoria  didn’t last long – pretty soon I figured out that she didn’t have any grandiose ideas of comparing IBM with HP – all she meant was IBM has 3 letters, while HP has only 2. But that was enough in her mind to reach the conclusion that her daddy worked for the bigger company.

Then it dawned on me that I too make plenty of such conclusions – and probably a lot many others too. Human mind apparently likes simple answers – and as long as the simple answer is not disproved, we won’t go much farther to find another answer. Over the holidays, I got to catch up on a lot of reading , mostly on two topics very close to my heart – Dogs and Management. And on both topics – I can see plenty of examples of this.

I think that once  you are an expert on something – like say stock market, dog shows or horse racing –  you feel compelled to give an explanation for anything that happens in your field. Keeping quiet is apparently not an option.  Being logical or being fact based in your argument is not a necessary quality of such experts either.

Take dog shows – you will keep hearing that “this breed is doomed..it no longer resembles the great dogs of a 100 years ago…and does not resemble the third sentence in the breed standard..” . Except – the standard was written by people who were no more smarter than the people who live and breed today. Also, while they created the breed, and knew the function the breed was supposed to do – those folks did not have the benefit of health and genetics studies that happened in last few years. So – we still hold on to a standard that was written a century ago and think god wrote it.  Also, over a period of time – context is lost. If a standard says ” the dog should look like a clever hunter” – how will the dude living in an apartment in NYC know what a clever hunter is? ..Same with eye color in some breeds..”darker the better” – although no one knows why darker eyes are better.  And it is easier to create a time machine than to revise a breed standard.

it is worser with business management – where there is always an explanation on why something has happened, and it is always after the fact – never ahead of time. When I was doing my MBA in the nineties, Cisco was the cult. Every one wanted to be like John Chambers. Cisco did everything right – I have lost count of the Harvard Case studies I have read on Cisco – from supply chain management, to mergers and acquisitions, to raising employee morale. Cisco could do no wrong. Every business magazine – business week, Fortune etc – wrote cover stories on Cisco every few months. And then tech bubble crashed, and Cisco went down. The pundits at these magazines  didn’t skip a heartbeat – they wrote cover stories immediately on how Cisco did everything wrong. How they never listened to customers, how they did Mergers in cowboy fashion, and so on. I don’t remember having seen “We were dead wrong about Cisco in our prior analysis” from any pundit.

The ecosystem in which we live constantly evolves – and possibly, there are no black and white answers to every question any more. But do we need this compulsive obsession to find a simple answer to every thing?  Einstein said something along the lines of “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler” . I think the man had a point.

The one field that hates simple answers that I know of is  horse racing – have you ever read that a horse failed just because he was slow? The horse failed because he didn’t like the surface he ran on, or because his jockey was no good, or because his trainer didn’t put him in the right race – but never because he was simply  slow !!

Maybe there is a middle ground between where the management gurus stand and where the horse racing pundits stand – but then, how would I know – I am no expert.

Stop making new year resolutions


Like every one else I know, and don’t know, I have had my fair share of new year resolutions over the years – but looking back – I DO NOT REMEMBER EVEN ONE such resolution in any great detail.  I also DO NOT REMEMBER even one time when I cried “Eureka, I made good on my new year resolution”.So what is with people (I am part of the “people” too? Why do we keep doing it?

There are a bunch of reasons why I think it is a bad idea to begin with. Weight loss is, I suspect , every living and dead man’s and woman’s and animal’s  usual resolution come January the 1st.. So let us see how well this goes.

It is December 12th – and I start my vacation. I already know that my new year resolution is to lose a hundred pounds off me. But new year is 3 weeks away – so I don’t have to worry about it quite yet. So I could still have all the meat and rice and potatoes and cream and so on, and not feel bad about it. So by the time new year’s land – I am heavier by few more pounds, and have practically ensured that I will never make good on the resolution.

What the heck? I still make the resolution. I start paying a hundred bucks every month to the best gym in town – believing that if I am paying for it, I surely will be doing it. And I do start strong – I take the private lessons, I religiously do 30 mins of cardio and 30 mins of weights for four days a week and so on.  And the 100 bucks covers my wife (if we do it together, we should have higher chance of making it succesful) and child care for my kiddo. So I am set up for success.

This goes well for a few weeks…and then . Yes, you guessed it right – I still like rice and meat, and I still hate exercise. I go to the hotel gym to find the lone treadmill in use. Ah well..I could walk a mile and get the same exercise. Except I don’t want to walk – it is too hot, too cold, too windy, too dark – if only mother nature gave me a break. Not to despair – I go back home in a couple of days, and can always make up.

So there I am at the gym – only to learn that my body does not respond kindly when I switch to greater weights and longer times. So, I don’t push it – and by february – I go to the gym twice a month, but still pay them a hundred bucks every month.

Oh but stop – you have to cut down on your food too. You have to take a holistic ( who made this word? it rings true with hole…not Whole..) view to weight loss, according to the Rambo like guy on TV who inspired me. You also need special blenders to make you healthy smoothies.

I can buy that – it is pretty logical. So I measure calories on every darn edible thing I dare to even look at. I stick to portion control religiously – to the extent that I dread lunch and dinner time.  Lets cut the miserable story short – you guessed right again, it does not work. I fall back to larger portions of the stuff i like.

As part of the weight loss campaign – I also bought a new weighing scale. And every week on Saturdays, I weigh myself and write it down. This is a very depressing way of starting my weekend most times. occasionally, it brings a smile to me – when I have lost 2 pounds. Although my head says that it is because I didn’t have much fluids on friday – my heart makes me believe that it is because of 10 minutes of extra cycling I did at the Gym.

Weight loss resolution at new year’s time is just an example of such bad ideas – weight loss by best friend’s marriage, training puppy to make it a canine good citizen in 3 weeks, running boston marathon next year – so on and so forth, are all in the same boat.

I have some theories about this, and  I am going to try these for myself.

1. Aim small – Miss small : You can probably lose 1 pound a week for next 3 weeks. But this is not a scalable goal – so do this 3 week thing and reset your goal, rather than aiming for 50 pounds in a year.

2. Our strengths are in different areas. The gal who cannot lose enough weight to run the Boston Marathon, might have sufficient strength to get through college in the next year or two. Find out what your strength is – and achieve that goal. Success breeds success – so if you are succesful in something you are good at, then you can use that adrenalin rush to help you with succeeding in something that you are not all that good at.

3. Variety is the spice of life – so do a variety of things in life. This is the hardest to do. We all have an inertia to stay with status quo. Try to get over it, and try something new – cook something new, walk a trail you have not tried before or teach your dog a new trick. And don’t worry about success – this is just to break the monotony of daily life. Success is just having the ability to try. I am particularly bad at this – so this is something I am seriously going to challenge myself .

So let’s do ourselves a favor – and make a new year resolution that “We won’t make any new year resolution”  !

Do you live to eat or eat to live?


Those who know me well, surely know the answer to this – and knowing most of the “those who know me” and others, I know that I don’t stand-alone in my conviction.

Now, most of us who live to eat, do not live “only” to eat – we do other things too. Just that we love good food, and gluttony is a virtue in our holy book.

Like everything else in life, we can categorize the “live to eat” people into a few types.

1. Those who live to eat a specific item

For me – it is rice. I need rice like I need oxygen. If I don’t get some rice every day, I cease to be me. I have paid 50 Euros in Germany to get a cab to go eat some rice at a restaurant, where the meal costed me 10 Euros.  Although I have a marked preference for Indian food, I love rice in all forms. I love Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, pretty much any form of rice.

Same goes for drinks – If it is warm – 90% of the time, I will order a Mojito. If it is cold – 90% of the time, i stick to a Bloody Mary. If I have to drive, I have just a bloody mary mix – which can also be called a bloody shame.

2. Those who live to enjoy a specific taste/flavor

For my wife – it is “anything” sweet. She can eat honey flavored cereal for 3 meals a day for several days a week. Her mom puts several spoons of sugar into her tea. If I bring home half a bag of European Chocolate, it will be gone in 2 days flat.

3. Those who live to enjoy a specific cuisine

I am a road warrior due to my job as a consultant. restaurant food is what I have to it – whether I like it or not. While I have favorites in every place I have had to work, I try to mix it up. Specifically, despite my love for Indian food – there is hardly a week where I have eaten twice at an Indian eatery. But earlier this year – I was assigned to a gig in East Germany, in Dresden.  Dresden is a very touristy place – and has every cuisine you can think of. There are 5 Indian restaurants there. Over a period of 9 months, I would have spent about 3 months time there – and I ate Indian food almost every single day – most days for lunch and dinner, and usually at the same restaurant called Agra. 

When I think about it – why did I do that? The answer is “comfort”. We had a large team from India, most of whom were out of the country for the first time.  For them, Indian food was the closest to being back home. And although I live in USA, I am as much an Indian in my food habits as the next guy. So as a group – we flocked to this Indian restaurant.

There are two more reasons – one, apart from Indian restaurants, it is hard for Indians to find vegetarian food that they like.  And two, it was a stress buster to have a routine where every one went to this place every night and had a beer, or salt lassy and talked about everything that affected them that day.

4. Those who live to enjoy a variety of cuisines

This is the exact opposite of the above. I have a few friends who are open to try anything and everything – including  uncooked fish,  and monkey’s brains. They have favorite cuisines too, but generally they are driven by the need for variety.  And now that I think about it – all these friends are Europeans. Is it a European thing?

So, what about our brethren (should I add “and sistren”?)  who eat to live? For the rest of us – we don’t comprehend these people at all.  They also can be divided into some classifications…well heck, every thing can be classified into atleast two.

1. Health junkies

You know them – soymilk, half a splenda , “can I get more raw spinach for lunch?” types.  These guys make me want to ask them ” if you are doing this to lengthen your life, can you explain one more time why you want to live an extra year munching on spinach and lettuce?”.

2. Too busy to eat

Well – I do feel sorry for them. These people survive on granola bar and diet soda. Talking of diet soda – does any one know the difference between Coke Zero and Diet Coke?

3. Speedy Converts

Nothing to do with religion at all- these are folks who went too far down the “eat to live” path and want to swing the pendulum the opposite way in one sweep. From one pint of ice cream a day, they go to one granola bar a day. I feel bad for them – most of them get threatened by doctors and spouses – usually rightfully so – to change their diets to save their lives. It is a huge sacrifice. And there usually isn’t sufficient time to ease into it. If this happens to me – I will probably be convinced that I was a big sinner in my past life.

Striking is a happy medium is admittedly difficult – but I do believe that such a thing exists. How else would Atkins and Bowflex and all these other things survive for so long despite individuals giving up on it all the time? Or are we all suckers of the highest order?And why do I not see some one my size doing them in the TV ad, instead of a Rambo figure guy ? “Before and After” pictures don’t cut it for me – I refuse to believe them.

Damned if you do …damned if you don’t


You have your priorities all wrong.messed up.and why not?  What is more important to you? Family? Job? Riches? Having fun? daughter’s dance class? poker night?

This is not a question that can be answered without additional information. And the word we need to add is “now” – making it  “What is more important to you NOW?”

The whole priority thing is a “point in time” view…Which means, what is a priority now might not have been a priority yesterday and so on.

This leads to the next issue – how long will your prioroties last? By the time you have sorted all your prioroties, time has moved on – and what can you do? You get back to sorting the darn priorities….rinse and repeat.

This makes priorotizing a stressful task – and the last thing we want at holiday time is more stress…so how do we avoid stressing out? We can decide NOT to prioritize at all, at least for some time.

Phew – no priorities to worry out. Just curl up on couch and order in pizza and watch a movie. Isn’t that heaven? Well – there is one small problem. We need to buy presents, put up the tree, light it up , cook and clean for the family and friends…and there isn’t enough time.

Oh but there is – if only we could prioritize and figure out what we need to do first and second and third and ….heck we need to prioritize…

Damned if you do …damned if you don’t

you can NEVER prioritize…got that? NEVER EVER

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