Happiness is a Choice

Happiness is a Choice

Friday, March 20, 2015

Adventures of Sheldon: Acupuncture Saves The Day

It has been quite some time since an installment of The Adventures of Sheldon appeared here, but this week qualified as blog-worthy.  On Monday, March 16th, I noticed Sheldon was not his usual happy outgoing self. He was quiet, not moving around much and didn't have that spring in his step. He is aged seven, which technically makes him a "senior" in dog years, but this change in behavior was sudden. It wasn't until later that evening when I returned home from a dinner that I noticed Sheldon was breathing heavily, in a still position and did not want to go out for his nightly walk. I knew something was amiss. I watched, waited, spoke to him, gazing into his eyes in a desperate attempt to try to get a glimmer of insights to what was wrong. Dogs have an amazing tolerance for pain and adapt exceptionally well, out of necessity he kept his body stiff and still. 

Sometime around 9:45 pm I decided I couldn't wait any more, and brought Sheldon to an emergency after hours veterinary hospital. When I arrived, it was packed. No good things are happening at an emergency vet hospital. Virtually every dog or cat is in some sad situation, and their human parents are nearly always weepy, stressed and visibly concerned. I was intermittently in those states the entire 3 hours we waited for his turn to be seen. We waited in my car for most of the duration, where Sheldon would be more comfortable and not around all the other sad people and sick dogs in the waiting area. 

Midway through the waiting period, I asked the vet to just perform a quick X-Ray to ensure there was not internal blockage or life threatening risk, such as bloat where minutes matter. The X-Ray ruled out bloat or anything where an immediate surgery was obviously required. This was some consolation to me, and we continued to wait our turn. Eventually as the wee hours of the morning approached, I met with the Veterinarian who diagnosed Sheldon with back pain, due to narrowed disk space between several vertebrae. The pain he was suffering was very real, and was now limiting his movement. The Vet administered a dose of the narcotic Buprenex through IV to help with pain management. He was prescribed a series of other meds and anti-inflammatory pills, as well as Gabapentin to treat nerve pain. Sheldon was finally released with strict orders for two weeks of very limited movement-- no playing, walking, jumping and suggested confinement to a kennel or crate. I was mentally exhausted and drained from a long evening of waiting and worrying. Close to 2:30 am I brought my best friend home, carefully carrying him into the car. He was under slight sedation, drooling heavily from the meds and just out of it. He slumped into the back seat and barely moved.

Back at home, I placed Sheldon into a spot on the floor with a soft blanket (he could not go onto my bed as usual). Stroking his head and body, I wept for hours as I watched my best friend in the whole world lay helplessly in pain. I slept on the floor next to him all night long to be with him. For the next 24 hours Sheldon barely ate or drank much water. He took his meds but had no desire to do much else. I consulted his regular doctor, who advised getting Sheldon some acupuncture treatment as soon as possible. I did not know any acupuncture vets but decided to search for one in the next day or so. By an interesting happen-stance, that very evening, while having a glass of wine with a friend, I chatted with someone who mentioned in conversation--with no knowledge of Sheldon's situation that she had brought her cat to an acupuncturist earlier that day. Ah-ha! It would seem the Universe was bringing me what I needed. She shared the vet's name and contact info and the very next morning I managed to get a same-day appointment for Sheldon.
Taking Sheldon to a certified, Holistic Veterinarian seemed perfectly reasonable to me. I am a believer of a combination of Eastern and Western medicine practices, particularly Eastern methods for preventative care and wellness health programs. In this case, I felt that just treating Sheldon's back pain with drugs to manage pain were nothing more than a short-term solution and would be bad for his liver and kidneys long term. He certainly needed those to get relief and enable his body to rest and heal, but once he was past the severe pain, a holistic approach to address the nerve and vertebrae pain points made sense. Upon meeting the doctor, I immediately warmed to her bedside manner. After reviewing his X Rays and giving a physical exam, she explained the treatment he would need. Acupuncture, laser light therapy and a massage, with a bit of aromatherapy to relax him. He would also begin a regimen of herbal medicine to help his organ functions. We began treatment immediately, with some aromatherapy oils and a massage to relax him as much as possible.
A series of acupuncture needles were placed along the spine at specific intervals and along his head, neck, hips and hind quarters
The treatment went for 15 minutes, and Sheldon was totally calm and relaxed.
Relaxing music filled the treatment room, and Sheldon was very relaxed in a Zen-like mood. He didn't mind the needles at all. When the acupuncture treatment concluded, he then had the laser-light therapy which he also seemed to enjoy very much. Here is a quick video clip of Sheldon while he had the acupuncture needles in him. You can see how relaxed he was from this video...
Sheldon slept so well that night!
The holistic doctor explained that Sheldon would likely sleep well later and be very relaxed. When we returned home, that is exactly what he did! Sheldon's facial expression was very calm and happy,
he had a great night of sleep that day. He will have several more acupuncture and laser therapy treatments to help him heal, but he is definitely feeling and looking better. 

In the meantime he is not allowed to climb stairs, run or jump, just to be sure his back has a chance to heal. I've been supplementing his normal dog food with some home cooked ground turkey with pumpkin and green peas, just for love. Additionally, I started Sheldon on Cosequin D5, maximum strength for proper dose levels of Glucosamine/Chondroitin, to help lubricate his joints. To help boost his bodily functions, he is now on
These applicators make it easy to squeeze the correct dose!
Caninedophilus, a pharmaceutical grade refrigerated probiotics gel made by Natren, the probiotics experts. While the probiotics are not intended to help his back, I believe that proper gut and digestive health will ensure his organs function optimally, which will help his entire body's immune system and reduce toxins and ultimately be able to minimize inflammation. Sheldon is on the mend...he is benefiting from the great treatment by the regular vet and the holistic vet, along with proper diet and supplements to help boost his system. None of us- human or canine can live forever, but my hope is that we live our lives fully and as healthy as possible. That is what I intend to provide for my best friend in the world, Mr Sheldon Gryffindor. These Adventures of Sheldon were a bit more dramatic that I would have preferred, but looking back on this past week, it was indeed an adventure.

As a reminder, this is not a paid post, despite my product mentions here, I wrote this entirely of my own desire to share what I believe is helping Sheldon return to good health.

PS- I wish to thank all the pet bloggers, who shared positive energy with our #pawcircle prayers. It made a difference for Sheldon.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Power of Positive Thinking

When I was a kid, I read a biography of President Abraham Lincoln, who was something of a hero to me as early as 5th grade. I remember reading some quote attributed to him that was something like: "Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be". Even as a kid, that made an enormous impression upon me, and I understood from a young age the importance of choosing one's attitude, and the importance of having a positive outlook on life. 

While I was blessed with a very good family, my life was about as normal as most American kids growing up in New England during the 1970's. Yet that simple quote from President Lincoln was hugely instructive to me, and has helped me overcome every hurdle, set back or negative thing that has come my way in life.

About ten years ago I began studying Buddhism out of pure interest. I was not seeking to change my faith, merely to broaden my understanding of world cultures and other people. I am not a Buddhist by practice, but I remain a student, so to speak. Early on in my studies I learned the importance of positive thinking. The notion that: "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts, and with our thoughts we make our world" especially resonated with me. It reminded me of a similar lesson President Lincoln was giving from that quote. 

Whether one calls it the power or prayer, power of thoughts, or positive energy, it all stems from the same source in my opinion. These principles apply to personal life, business, career or family. If you dwell on what is wrong, or what could go wrong, or what went wrong, your mind--and world around you reflect that negative energy, and the laws of attraction tend to just bring more.

Like this sign reads above, "Once you replace negative thoughts with positive ones, you'll start having positive results". My life has been met with many similar challenges, disappointments, and sadness or loss as the next person, yet I have never-ever felt negative or as if life was unfair. In fact I've felt exactly the opposite. I consider myself truly blessed and the luckiest person in the world. Truly, most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be. I just made up my mind many years ago to be happy. And that positive thinking has made all the difference.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Morning Coffee Routines with Mr Sheldon

One of the things I've always appreciated about the similarity of humans to dogs is how we are both creatures of habit and like familiar routines. As a Standard Poodle, Sheldon is intelligent and studies every move I make. He knows my routines and how they affect him. In the mornings when I brew some coffee, he usually waits in the kitchen with me, and then the moment I pick up my mug, dashes out to the patio ahead of me, sits down by one of the chairs and waits for me. (Having four legs, he gets there several paces before me.) Usually I read the morning news from the usual websites, and Sheldon gets his news...so to speak. He hops up on one of the chairs-- or an ottoman, and scans the world from his vantage. All the comings and goings must be carefully observed and monitored. 

Sheldon is a good pal... he humors me when I read a headline or recant some story to him, particularly if it is a dog story. He turns his head toward me, listens intently and when he tires of my meaningless words he looks away in boredom, dismissing me ever-so-gently. Of course periodically he gets riled up about something and barks his opinion to tell off some dog, or to tell me that he smells another dog walking by.  He isn't one to bark often, so I let him blow off his steam and then circle back to me huffing and puffing a bit, until he settles back down by my feet.

Breakfast on the patio is a routine he also enjoys, as there is always the distinct possibility something could go flying off the table and require canine cleanup service. I always say it is a side business he runs called "Sheldon's Canine Clean Up Service" but it doesn't get much business in my home, as I'm not a sloppy eater. But its certainly reassuring to know that I never have to worry should I drop a piece of toast.

Sheldon also seems to know that I have two mugs of coffee, and no more. When I finish the second mug of coffee, he leaves his post and heads to the master bathroom, as he knows I'll shower and get dressed. I enjoy having my morning coffee with Mr Sheldon, he is my best friend and a perfect roommate.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

So you're an entrepreneur...now what?

Over the years I've met hundreds of people who describe themselves as an "entrepreneur" of some type.  It sounds exciting, doesn't it? The word is defined as "a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk". There some incredible success stories of people who made something out of nothing. Think of people like Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Mary Kay Ash, Ray Kroc, Sean Combs, Milton Hershey,  Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Caterina Fake, etc. Some of those people never went to college, and some never even graduated from high school. 

So what is it that makes an entrepreneur successful? Contributing factors include ambition, drive, determination, focus, willingness to take risk in the face of uncertainty, ability to dream, think conceptually, or "outside the box" challenge the norms, using a blend of art/science and gut instinct, creativity etc. By no means is this a complete list, and any one of these alone does not guarantee success. In my experience, the successful entrepreneur also does these other things correctly:

  • Finds innovation to meet the needs of others
  • Self Awareness of their own shortcomings and seek out people with skills and expertise to fill those gaps.
  • Recognize that there are things they do not know, and actively solicit feedback from others.
  • Networks extensively to fine tune concepts
  • Possesses an in-depth knowledge of their space 
  • Secures adequate financial resources to ensure development
  • Writes down their vision and sets multi-year goals
  • Develops a business plan and strategy
  • Knows how to create value for stakeholders/investors
  • Grooms leaders and bench strength for continuity
  • Defines the exit strategy for their involvement 

It is true that there are some entrepreneurs who achieved success as a result of being in the right place at the right time. Those instances are more often the result of being first to market or creating opportunity out of necessity or an urgent need. For everyone else-- and that is nearly all of us, being creative alone just isn't enough.

As a business consultant, I frequently meet with individuals with incredible passion, enthusiasm and creativity, yet lack business skills to monetize and execute their ideas. My advice to anyone who considers themselves an entrepreneur is to write a business plan, and let someone else read it. Seek out advice from people with experience and proven track record for success. The Golden Rule I happen to live by for Entrepreneurs, is "If it is too good to be true, it usually is". 

So you're an entrepreneur...before you run down the path of bringing your great idea to reality, step back, take the time to ask the tough questions and get someone to "punch holes" in your big idea. Then, and only then find an experienced business person to engage with on a project basis to get some professional advice. It could save you from burning through investor's money, or worse yet, your own life savings.

Rick Rockhill is Managing Partner and co-founder of Zarhill Partners Group, a retail brand and sales consulting group based in Burbank, Palm Springs and Los Angeles. They serve clients throughout the USA and Asia.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

A Whirlwind Coast to Coast Trip

Last week was one of those "coast to coast" trips where I was attending conferences, trade shows, client meetings and public marketplace events. A day meeting in Phoenix, AZ with a client, then it was off to Orlando, FL to attend the Global Pet Expo. As an 18 year veteran of the pet industry, the Global Pet Expo is an annual required ritual, and this year was no exception. Aside from having a few clients in the pet industry, it is also critical to remain current with new and emerging trends in the pet marketplace. I tend to be a creature of habit, and frequent the same hotels, restaurants and such. This year my usual hotel was booked solid, so I went to the Waldorf=Astoria Orlando, which is a lovely property.
Hilton Hotels, which owns the original Waldorf=Astoria New York, extended this luxury brand to other cities by building other Waldorf=Astoria properties. While no other location could match the magic of the historic Manhattan property, they have done an excellent job with this brand. The Waldorf Orlando is quite nice, with many familiar aspects of its NYC counterpart. For me, being at the Waldorf Orlando made being away form home--and in Orlando much more tolerable. The only way it could have been better was if I had my poodles with me. After a few days in Orlando, it was off to Las Vegas for a quick pit stop meeting, then back on the road again to Anaheim, California to attend another industry gathering.
Natural Products Expo West, or "ExpoWest" is an absolute juggernaut of trade shows for natural products. I have been attending this show for at least 10 years now, and truly enjoy this show. In addition to the trade show floor exhibits, there are a series of seminars and educational sessions to learn and network. I was still on EST when I was dragging my body through the ExpoWest event, with my brain still confused on zone zones. A few doses of strong coffee got me through client meetings and helped me shlep through the many trade show aisles. 
Somehow I squeezed in time to leave Anaheim to attend a charity luncheon and fashion show in Rancho Mirage, CA to benefit the Animal Samaritans of the Desert.  Before it was all over, I darted over to the Pasadena Rose Bowl Flea Market where I visited a new client who was exhibiting there. I enjoy these retail events, equally to observe the merchant vendors and consumers in action. Sunday brought the Daylight Savings Time time change, so losing an hour of sleep threw me off a bit. As I settled into the Burbank house this evening, I looked back on the last 7 days in awe. Somehow I got it all in, remarkably so. It was a whirlwind, indeed.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February Sure Flew By....

At a Buddhist temple in Hong Kong
With just 28 days, February is always a short month, yet time has seemed to whizz by even faster than usual. Back to back trips such as Hong Kong and NYC--among other several destinations have resulted in more than a few times when I was not entirely sure in which city I had awakened. All these travels have been for personal business and pleasure, so I am certainly not complaining in any way. 

Back at home, I have a collection of clocks, quite a few in fact, cuckoo, mantle, carriage and various other wind-up clocks. There was one week in particular when I could have sworn they all ran fast--meaning that it seemed to me that I was having to wind them more often, suggesting to me that time was going my more quickly than usual. I don't really think there was anything different happening, just my awareness of time appearing to be fleeting. If nothing else, it was the universe reminding me to appreciate every second.

With March upon us, and Spring just around the corner things are just kicking into high gear. 2015 is shaping up to be an exceptionally lucky and enjoyable year. I hope it brings you peace, prosperity and continued good health.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Few Days at the Charming Providence Biltmore Hotel

After spending a chilly week in New York City, I flew to Providence, Rhode Island for some colder weather and even more snow. Living in Southern California for the past 18 years I've grown accustomed our mild climate. My definition of winter includes "...the need to wear a sweater at night." Of course I knew what to expect being in the north east in February but nonetheless it was a shock to my system. NYC was cold. In Providence I encountered negative degrees on a few evenings...Brrr! Fortunately I had plenty of layers, including my long underwear, turtlenecks, multiple sweaters, a long heavy coat, scarf, gloves and hat. Yup. I looked like a fool. But at least this Southern California boy was warm. 

I have always found Providence to be a charming city. It was particularly interesting to go from a week in Manhattan to a week in Providence. Very different urban experiences, yet both enjoyable. Providence has some beautiful architecture, including a visually pleasant little skyline. In the photo above you can see part of the Biltmore Hotel, where I stayed. 

The Providence Biltmore is an historic property, built in 1922 in the
 neb-federal Beaux-arts style. Over the years it has gone through several iterations, including multiple changes in ownership. Through it all, it has retained much of its charm. Today it is part of the new Curio Collection, by Hilton. I am a fiercely loyal Hilton Honors member and cherish my Diamond Member status, so when the Biltmore became part of the Hilton Curio Collection I was elated. This is a true landmark, grand-daddy type hotel in the heart of downtown Providence. In fact it is registered as one of the Historic Hotels of America.
Throughout the hotel there are interesting and unique areas to discover. Growing up in Providence, I clearly recall coming to the Biltmore with my family for various special occasions. While I miss some of the more grand days this hotel has seen, I was delighted to find it in excellent condition, well maintained and very much in a phase of renewal. The ground floor has numerous photos of the hotel through its history- worth seeing if you have the time to check them all out. One fun find is the brass water mark level in the main lobby, indicating how high the flood waters rose during the devastating Hurricane of 1954. Look for that marker on one of columns near reception.
The Providence Biltmore also boasts having "...one of the most elegant Starbucks in America" including a fireplace in the Starbucks sitting area. The hotel also has a McCormick & Schmick's Steak and Seafood restaurant and bar, who also provide room service to the hotel. I didn't have time to check out The Spa at the hotel, but it looked very nice. It doesn't have a sauna or steam room, perhaps something they should consider adding at some point. The hotel does have a full fitness center, which is good. I felt the hotel needed some other things for guests, perhaps a gift and sundry shop, some high-end vending machines, and some music. I wanted to linger more in the common areas but it was so quiet.
I had a very nice suite, with two Queen beds, lavishly appointed. The beds were exceptionally comfortable, with nice linens and ultra-clean, crisp bed spread. The bedroom had a huge flat screen wall mounted TV. The suite had a comfortable sitting area, with another huge flat screen TV, sofa, desk, wing chair, etc. The suite was quite comfortable and I was pleased with my accommodations.

The bathroom was small, but adequate. The bathroom amenities (soap, shampoo, etc) were very nice. That being said, it was devoid of any other amenities, such as cotton swabs, cotton balls, etc, but I got by with my own fortunately. (Mind you, I had just spent a week at the Waldorf=Astoria in NYC so I was used to being spoiled). As a Hilton Honors Diamond member, I had various guest perks that were nice to have. I do think the Curio Collection should think about upgrading some of the in-room goodies, such as a Keruig coffee maker, mini bars, etc. Also the main lobby and mezzanine need more comfy chairs and areas to sit, gather and enjoy the common areas a bit more. All in all, the Providence Biltmore is a wonderful hotel that I highly recommend. I almost wish I had an occasion to rent out the Grand Ballroom or Garden Terrace someday. Maybe one of my nieces will get married when they grow up and I can host the reception there!
The view from my 15th floor window was over the Kennedy Plaza Ice Skating Rink. The view is stunning- looking toward the east side of Providence, with views of Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), among other historic buildings. Providence is a very nice little city, a gem of New England really. Lots of character, history, great restaurants and plenty to do. I had a great time visiting Providence. I just want to go back when it is warm next time!
One note: I wrote these remarks about the Biltmore on my own with no affiliation to compensation by the Biltmore, Curio, or Hilton. It is true that I am a loyal Hilton Honors guy, but this was written out of passion for the property and nothing else.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

A week in New York

My trip to NYC turned out to be both enjoyable and productive. Fortunately I was able to hold most of my meetings at the hotel, so it minimized the unnecessary travel through the freezing cold and snow. I limited any excursions to only what was strictly essential in nature-- seeing Broadway shows, dinners and trips to Brooks Brothers (ha!). As usual the Waldorf was exceptionally accommodating to my needs. Breakfast meetings, power lunches and nicely appointed meeting space. 

The Waldorf=Astoria is a truly a stunning and elegant hotel. Just being there makes you feel special. I've written about this previously, but I can't resist sharing it again. The famous clock tower in the main lobby of the Waldorf has the most delightful chime. Here is a quick clip of it chiming at midnight. Admittedly I am fascinated by clocks so I tend to stare in awe of this beautiful timepiece:

Whenever I needed to leave the hotel, I walked everywhere in the city, only taking a taxi when absolutely necessary. NYC was home to me may years ago so when I return it all just comes back to me as if it were 1985 again. Despite all the time I've spent in Manhattan the sight of skating at Rockefeller Center continues to captivate me. It is magical, exciting and surreal in many ways. It was over two decades ago when I last skated here, when I took a friend who had never been to NY and wanted the full experience. Initially I resisted, feeling as though it was "too touristy", yet when I acquiesced, rented ice skates and took to the rink, I had the best time. That night has remained with me and I have such fond memories of the Rockefeller Plaza ice skating.
New York is such a vibrant city on so many levels. I especially enjoy seeing how various buildings are illuminated in color depending on the season, holiday or special event. This most recent visit, I was there during Valentine's Day, so there were plenty of red, pink and purple buildings throughout the city were really fun to see. These days I tend to only get back to  Manhattan a few times per year, just long enough to soak up the energy of the city and always leave wanting more. Until the next time...

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Happy Chinese New Year

Just a quick post to say Happy Chinese New Year! I wish you health, peace and prosperity! If you see the hashtag #CNY on Twitter or social media, you will know what it is in reference to. Today marks the beginning of the Spring Festival; in the Lunar calendar,  according to the Chinese Zodiac, 2015 is the Year of the Goat (Or Sheep, or Ram depending on translation of the character). For of the 12 years in the Chinese Zodiac there is an animal associated with people born under the year. There is plenty more written about this topic than I could or would share here. Chinese New Year is all about family traditions. Since I am visiting family at the moment, I thought it would be fun to honor a few of the traditions of Chinese New Year. I'll share some photos here tomorrow. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Westminster Dog Show Day 2

Day 2 of the 139th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show was great fun as always. From the benching at the Piers to the live, televised event on Tuesday evening, it was the pinnacle of dog show sporting. Being a dog fancier myself, I have my personal favorites among the many breeds. Like any sport, there are always highs and lows when cheering on your favorites. The judges did a fine job in all seven of the groups. I was especially impressed by the gait of the standard poodle and the skye terrier, the Best In Show (BIS) judge had to make a tough call overlooking these two for the first place. 

That being said, the BIS Beagle "Miss P" was a crowd pleaser and a stunning dog. My guests at the show were beagle fans so they were thoroughly delighted.  I was reading the "history" section of the very handy new Westminster smartphone App, and found a few interesting stats about the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. This show pre-dates the invention of the light-bulb, the automobile, the zipper, the building of the Brooklyn Bridge and Washington Monument, and the establishment the World Series. Indeed, after the Kentucky Derby, the Westminster Dog Show is the oldest, longest running sporting event in the USA. It is a treat to continue to participate in this event every year. This was my 11th year attending Westminster, and it was as exciting as the first. Whether you are a dog fancier or not, it is educational and interesting to watch the dog show. They always share breed traits and information to the viewers to better understand each dog.  If you are ever considering bringing a dog into your life, be sure to research the various breed traits, and not just select on appearance. Many dogs have specific personalities, traits or inherent needs, so you should be certain to select a breed that suits your lifestyle.

Whether you buy/rescue or adopt...and regardless if it is a pure breed, mixed breed or mutt, having a dog is a big responsibility, so do your homework. Above all, please never buy a dog from a mall pet shop, they often procure their dogs from dreadful puppy mills where they overbreed, and keep the mother dogs in unpleasant conditions. Overbreeding leads to health issues, personality deviations, developmental problems, and is also very unhealthy for the poor female dog giving birth too often. Dog Show folks are responsible breeders, and follow a very specific code of conduct. If you prefer a specific breed, look online for a reputable breeder and do not buy from a retail store. 

Many pet stores do offer adoptions from various rescue partner associations. Those are also an excellent option if you want to rescue a dog (which I do recommend).

Well that's all for now from my soap-box. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Westminster Dog Show Day 1

Presently I'm in New York attending the 139th Annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Monday was the first of two nights of the formal group competitions, as well as the first of two televised broadcasts of the venerable Westminster Dog Show at Madison Square Garden.  I don't intend to provide a complete summary by breed or group here-- there are plenty of other blogs who will do a much better job than I would anyway. Although I am no longer actively working within the pet industry, Westminster has been my passion for the past 18 years, so I made the trip once again to enjoy all the festivities with the dog show community.

Over the past 18 years, some of my dear friends have been in either in dog rescue, shelter groups, dog show judges, groomers, dog handlers, trainers and responsible dog breeders who share the passion for various breeds. It is such fun to be around "pet people" and the actual dogs themselves, naturally. 

Additionally, I'm old friends with the folks at Purina Pro Plan brand dog food, who is now the title sponsor of the Westminster Dog Show, so it is nice to be back to cheer on the sport of show dogs once again this year. Sadly, we've lost a few of our old show dog friends over the years...time marches on I'm afraid, and such is life. But I remember all those we've lost fondly.  Being at Madison Square Garden this evening was a thoroughly enjoyable event. The event is always first class- well produced and organized to perfection. Everyone in the audience are passionate dog lovers, cheering on their favorite breeds and cordial to one another. It is an exhilarating experience I recommend to all dog lovers!

It was also fun to participate in the live social media conversation, from those in attendance to those at home. Using hashtags #WKCDogShow made it easy. I also added on the #PetChat hashtag to connect to my pals there as well. It made it more fun for everyone. One tip: the WKC has a really good smartphone app worth downloading to follow along the show.

If you are not familiar with the Dog Show world, each breed is classified into a type, and the breeds compete within their groups. You can learn all about dog shows from WKC by clicking here.

image credit:Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show social media post
The breed types, in the USA are defined and/or utilized by both the American Kennel Club and Westminster Kennel Club, and are as follows:
1. Working
2. Terrier
3. Hound
4. Toy
5. Sporting
6. Non-Sporting
7. Herding
As a proud poodle parent, I was cheering on the poodles Monday night at the show. There are three types of poodles: 1. Standard Poodle 2. Miniature Poodle and 3. Toy Poodle. Believe it or not, despite their size differences they are all considered the same breed type. My two poodles, Sheldon and Duncan are the "Standard Poodle" size, so naturally, I was very happy when the Standard Poodle won the Non-Sporting Group. Once all the other individual groups complete their judging, the Best in Show competition is the final judging event tomorrow night. I'll be rooting for the Standard Poodle to win Best in Show.  The Westminster Dog Show is televised live on the USA network and CNBC. For streaming and Broadcast info click here.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dame Helen Mirren in 'The Audience'

Saturday evening I attended the opening night performance of The Audience on Broadway. The Audience is a new play written by Peter Morgan and directed by Stephen Daldry. The play tells the story of the weekly private audiences Queen Elizabeth II has given to her 12 Prime Ministers over the past 60 years. The lead role of Queen Elizabeth is played by the acclaimed English actress of stage and screen, Dame Helen Mirren. She is no stranger to portraying Elizabeth Windsor, having done so on stage in 'The Queen', and of course the Academy Award and Golden Globe nominated film production of that play.

The play is a fictional representation of the weekly private audiences Queen Elizabeth II has given to her Prime Ministers, as no one truly knows what is discussed between the PM of the day and Her Majesty. However, over the years many British Prime Ministers have referenced the enormous value of having a trusted confidant with no political aspirations or motives in whom to seek advice or speak ones mind. It is a unique system unparalleled in modern government today. In particular, as the present queen's reign has spanned 60 years (and counting), there is virtually no one in government anywhere-- with such a unique perspective of time.  It is well known that the Queen takes genuine interest in matters of state and is exceptionally well informed regarding affairs of her British and Commonwealth nations. These private audiences, are the subject of this play.

The play masterfully crosses time of Elizabeth's reign, switching
back and forth between various ages of the Queen as she met with her Prime Ministers. The playwright does an excellent job imagining of how the newly ascended young Queen adapted and learned her role, asserting herself from the very start with Winston Churchill. While she had no experience in her first meeting, she was led by a deep belief in the sacred position as Sovereign.

Helen Mirren is superb; seamlessly shifting time, with remarkable full costume and wig changes--on stage, to emerge as a younger or older Queen before our eyes. The transitions between the various 12 PM's was far more than a mere change of supporting characters. Mirren takes the Broadway theatre audience into these private meetings with such skill, that you are drawn into the private meetings as if a fly on the wall.  Along some of the PM's conversations, at times there was a sense of desperation, baring their souls like school boys...a cathartic 20 minute meeting of sorts. It would have been unlike any other person in which they could confide with such sincerity. The Audience does a brilliant job with several PM's in particular-- those whose initial meetings were viewed with contempt, and later realized the enormous value and eventually grew fond of the Sovereign. Others remained cool and distant throughout. The author presents the viewer with the notion that Tony Blair was not one of Her Majesty's favorite ministers. A few subtle social commentaries may have been made by the author, but they did not distract from the play itself, and were quite amusing. While the Queen is constitutionally obligated to provide her support to all of her PM's she finds a way to make her views know without actually saying anything. It is a remarkable skill indeed.

Admittedly I am somewhat of an Anglophile and student of the British politics, so this play had enormous appeal to me. However, even without any knowledge of history of the 12 British Prime Ministers represented in this play, it is very entertaining. While Mirren is clearly the star of this production, it is truly an exceptionally talented ensemble cast who, in total make this a fine Broadway play of the day.

The PM's were from various parts of England and Scotland, and therefore the actors spoke with the appropriate accent, or played the  true person's manner of speaking flawlessly. The actors portraying Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill and Harold Wilson in particular seemed spot-on with the pitch, cadence of speaking and vocal style. The Broadway theatre was remarkably silent, as the largely American audience strained to understand some of the British accents. I overheard a few patrons saying they had trouble understanding some of the dialogue. Perhaps because I have spent a lot of time in the UK and watching the BBC that I had no difficulty whatsoever. 

This is a strictly limited engagement, so if you can get tickets to see The Audience, I highly recommend you do so while you can!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Skyline of Palm Springs

I took this photo with my iPhone 6
I've long had a love affair with the city of Palm Springs. The majestic San Jacinto mountain-- which looms large over the Village of downtown Palm Springs, is the backdrop of this entire city. It provides a sort of natural canvas upon which a virtual painting is created each day for residents and visitors to admire. No two days are alike when you view this virtual canvas; the position of the sun, temperature, atmosphere, the exact position from which you view the mountain, even the time of day can all affect how it looks. 

Last night I was struck by the intense beauty along North Palm Canyon Drive, just at twilight. It was an interesting combination of deep rich colors, appearing both dramatic and peaceful. The jagged edge of the mountain peaks, the deep cobalt blue sky, with stars twinkling, the hint of light still emerging from the west, and the yellow-orange glow of lights from Palm Canyon. It was captivating. The native indians here say these mountains have great energy and are grounding for ones soul. There are times when I can stare at these mountains and immediately feel more relaxed and reassured. It isn't something that can be explained easily, but you know it when you feel it. If you have ever visited or lived in Palm Springs, you will know just what I mean.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Zarhill Partners Group Expands

For 27 years, my professional career has been focused in retail and branded marketing companies. The past twelve years have been in senior executive leadership positions in sales, merchandising, innovation, product development, marketing and operations. I've been blessed to work with some talented individuals across a broad array of top companies. The most recent 18 years have been within the pet specialty industry. Over these years I've traveled to all fifty states in the USA, much of Asia, the EU & some Latin American markets. It has been a fantastic quarter-century of professional experience and hard work. 

About two years ago, I began looking to the future to think about the next 25 years. As a result, I co-founded Zarhill Partners with my business partner. 

Zarhill Partners Group is a consulting firm originally founded to assist small businesses and start-ups for success in their early years. Our mission is to share and cultivate best-in-class business practices, knowledge and expertise with emerging organizations to ensure their success. We assist companies and organizations with a range of services such as strategic business planning, brand management, retail sales development, e-commerce & digital marketing, international business platforms, and product development innovation. 
With more than 50 years combined experience working in the corporate business world, Zarhill Partners Group also owns and operates a small independent retail business: Memento Gift Shops which is a boutique retail experience located in Palm Springs, California. This keeps us true to our retail heritage and is fun too. 

During these past two years, I continued with my own professional corporate career full time, as Zarhill Partners Group gradually became established. While I was not able to dedicate much time or energy to this venture, the time finally arrived when I was able to make the decision to make a transition. 

After two years of planning and investing resources, I have joined my own consulting firm, full time. Zarhill Partners Group expands...and I couldn't be happier. 
Need business consulting services? Contact us at our website.


This blog is about life experiences & observations and stuff I am interested in. It is simply a side hobby and creative outlet; generally with a tongue-in-cheek tone. I don't take it too seriously, nor should you. I do not profess to represent every point of view. Nothing on this site is a paid post.

It is for entertainment purposes only it, so just lighten up and just enjoy it. Life is short, live in the moment.

As the author, thoughts/views have no affiliation to my clients or business colleagues.