Monday, December 31, 2007

So Last Year

A few people have asked what my New Year's plans are. Likely tonight I'll be doing the same thing all night I was doing all last night - midnight will come and go regardless. Getting up every two hours to force Halo to feed her puppies instead of sleeping dead to the world in her bed in my room. The puppies would wake ME with their hungry noises every two hours and I'd tell Halo to get up, get into the whelping box, lie down, and forcably turn her on her side so that more than 4 nipples were exposed. She is so over the puppy thing. It is so last year. As evidenced by this expression ... which seems to be half annoyance and half resignation.

The milk bar is getting smaller or the puppies are getting bigger ... everyone is at least 1.5 pounds now, the largest is almost 2 pounds. That's black boy - he's a porker. I never feel bad about pulling him off a nipple to feed a smaller puppy.

It's official - there is only one true black mask in the litter. Everyone else has a small mask which will fade to dark pigment and some black hair around the nose only. I thought there'd be more black as Halo has a pretty distinctive black mask ... ah well. I didn't expect 3 light wheatons either. Genetics is a marvelous mystery. I was watching a commercial the other day which informed me that if my DNA was unravelled it would reach the moon - no wonder it's so hard to predict genetics ... and such a danger to mess with.

We went to the park again with Riami and Petal; Ryder joined us there for the last romp of the year. It was a decent sort of day, bright sun, not too cold and lots of dogs at the park. Petal was wearing her new Christmas boots - two of which she lost in the first 10 minutes - we managed to recover them tho and hopefully we don't lose them entirely. Halo had to stay home again and watch over the family - and also do a little interior decorating while I was away. Notice anything amiss in this picture? Maybe compare it to the one above.

It would seem that Halo is incapable of not doing something stupid while I'm out. I shudder to think what I'll come home to on Wednesday as my first day back at work - she'll be alone for 4 whole hours ... gawd knows what she'll get up to. As long as she doesn't lie on a puppy she can wreck whatever she wants.
The stupid thing is there was a perfectly comfortable futon AND brand new dog bed in the room with her that she could have lay on. But no. She had to try and make the whelping box more comfy to feed babies in. Oh yes yes I COULD put a towel or a blanket in there but I did that and here's what happened; I was out for two hours - buying dog food and treats and new dog beds - and she buried the puppies in the blanket and lay on them because she couldn't see them. She didn't managed to suffocate any but I won't take that chance again - the blanket had been in there before but she was still in "instinct mom" stage and not as concerned about her own comfort as she is now. You may think, and rightly so, that she is trying to hide the babies so no one else can see them. That would make perfect sense to most people, except I know this dog and I know what she's thinking, in fact, once I watched her thought process and the execution of the plan.
Picture this: a whelping box with 7 puppies in a pile on a flat towel. Halo wants to sleep so she starts pulling and digging at the towel til it's in a scrunchy ball away from the puppies and then she lays on it in a tight little pretzel and goes to sleep. In the process of course she's upset the puppy pile and they are scattered hither and yon and yelling their heads off but she doesn't care - she's already asleep on her comfy towel. The pretzel position means they can't nurse. Oh my Halo, so maternal. She'll pop 'em out no problemo but the care after day 3 is negotiable. THAT is what she tried to do with the foam base only it doesn't scrunch, it shreds. So now it's in the garbage. I told her she can lie on the hardwood if she wants but the foam would have been more comfortable.
Those foam pieces are so cool - they are children's flooring puzzle pieces and wipe up quick as you please and are a soft and clean alternative to towels. Now we have 3 - we'll see how long they last. Thank gawd they are only $13 a set. I'm sure I'll come home Wednesday at lunch to find little blue, yellow or green peices of foam everywhere.

Discovery Needs to Make a Show These Sharks

The puppies continue to grow and get rolly polly, so much so they are continually rolling away from the pile and finding themselves alone in a corner ... yelling. I supplemented this morning a little because Halo hadn't fed them for a couple hours and when she went in to feed them(I had to make her) it was a knock 'em down, duke 'em out feeding frenzy. I eased the hysteria by feeding a couple so they were satisfied and everyone else had a meal. Space is at a premium because of their increased size and it's a real squeeze now to get in there to eat.

Today they have started making real dog noises; when they are annoyed they have a little tiny growl, and they sometimes bark, especially if they are caught in a corner. There are a couple who are more vocal than others - both light wheatons are very vocal and their bird-like chirp has finally changed to a puppy sound. They make the most noise when Momma is in to feed them and I now know where the Ridgeback gets it's appetite from ... extreme competition. Of course, when you're sated you're sated and you can sleep comfortably ... one assumes. Yoga anyone?

The puppies who have been bottle fed react completely differently to being picked up. They immediately starting sucking on a finger looking for the bottle. The ones who haven't had any bottle feeding squirm to get loose and aren't interested in being held. It's also easier to plac a bottle fed puppy on Halo as they know hands mean food and will suck on whatever's put in front of them; the other ones have to have it spelled out sometimes because they are so hell bent on finding food they are missing the obvious.

We went to the park with Seth (and his people) who is 9 and Raimi who is 9 months. We had a bit of a debate about how heavy Raimi is. I needed to get more dog food so I took Raimi to the vet to weigh him. Well, I was quite sure he was over 90 pounds but not by how much. He's 107 pounds. I really didn't breed for this size. His mom is 30 pounds lighter than him and his sire is a big California dude but I didn't expect his size out of the litter. Last night they insisted on squishing on the futon ...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Do the Dew

This litter I decided not to remove the front dew claws. Last litter I did but it just seemed a lot of effort for something really un-important. These aren't working dogs, they won't be in the bush tracking large game, they won't be coursing dogs, you can see the dewclaw and will likely remember to cut it(not like breeds with hair) ... all these things combined plus the ugly scar you end up with made me decide against removing them. The rear dewclaws however must come off cuz they're gross. Only 4 of the puppies had them out of this litter - the ratio was higher in the last so I was surprised. Off they came and they are all healing just fine. The puppies barely notice as it's a quick pinch and they fall back asleep.

As a side note ... some people think that docking tails on some breeds is okay because the puppies nervous sytem is not completely developed. Tell that to the puppy who had it's tail stood upon by Halo who didn't notice the screaming and I had to tell her to move.

So now it's come down to me telling Halo she HAS to stay with the puppies. Not only that - she has to lie DOWN. We had an incident at 6am where the puppies were crying and hungry and Halo thought it would be more comfy to sleep in my room and not with the puppies. This happened last litter. They are boring - I get it - they are little lumps of puppy and they are not that interesting. The couch is soooooo much more comfy than the whelping box. Right now she is napping on the couch. This is why I have to sit in the room with her to make sure she bloody stays there. It's more important now because there are so many that need to eat.

Despite this they are all still gaining - orange boy who I'm most worried about actually gained 2 ounces last night so and everyone is creeping up the scale. It's good to see. I'm still supplementing the ones who seem to need it and definitely supplementing orange.

Black boy sharing a moment with Mom ...

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Troop

Quite by accident the troops all lined up - like something out of The Sound of Music- I'll need to get a whistle and give them all their own signal.

So far everyone is doing well. Last night everybody gained at least 2 ounces and one puppy gained 7! I'm still supplementing the ones who didn't gain more than 2 ounces - white boy, orange boy and no ribbon boy as they are small and need a little extra push to complete with puppies who weigh several ounces more than they do. White and orange were the smallest when they were born, both not much more than 12 ounces so I'm not surprised they need a little kick. The girls are the most consistent, they are all gaining steadily and none of them are cause for worry.

They are much quieter now that they are getting full tummies and Halo seems much more reaaxed about them - she was probably stressed by the hungry noises they were making all the time. Now it's all plumpness and sleep so she's feeling a little more confident about them. I won't sleep well til they are too big to lie on ... that will be another week or so.

We went to the park this morning with Raimi and Petal and Halo wanted to come. She doesn't understand that she can't. Poor girl. She is spending less time with the puppies too - she wants all the comforts of the couch instead. The novelty has worn off much sooner than the last litter, last time it took her til day 7 before she was bored. She was making the futon in her room comfy at about 3 am and I told her she could lie there to sleep but she wasn't to move the puppies to the futon ... I am generally staying in the room most of the time because now she wants to be where I am so I move with my laptop into the puppy room and Raimi and Petal chillax in there with me whiel I watch movies and some tv shows.
They ARE awfully cute I must say.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Dinner

A good friend of mine was thoughtful enough to bring me some Christmas dinner last night as I was not able to leave Halo and a dozen babies to go to my parent's house this year. I didn't really notice it was Christmas Day except the over-riding knowledge that if anything went wrong I had to depend on an on-call vet. Sure they are on-call but how "on-call" is on-call really? Emergencies don't differentiate Christmas Day from any other day ... but who's to know how quick someone will jump up from their Christmas dinner to meet me and my baker's dozen of dogs at the clinic? It weighed on me heavily yesterday, I'm just glad today is today.

It didn't matter anyhow as everyone is just fine. For now. We did have a crushing incident yesterday but I managed to cheat death. Halo lay on the first puppy that was born - light wheaton boy - he was foaming a bit and generally having trouble breathing with 75 pounds of Halo on him. Here's a picture of him napping on Momma's foot all recovered from her attentions. To me that Halo look says "So you're still here huh?"

I gave it a lot of thought last night - not sure why it was such a quandry for me - and decided it was time to supplement. I was weighing my options of whether I'd take a chance and see if they improved today or just forestall the possibility they wouldn't. A few of them just seemed lethargic and that's a slippery slope when you're a fragile 24 hour old puppy. I had expressed milk from Halo's last litter because she was suffering so much from the unrelieved pressure when she was weaning. It may be weird to imagine someone effectively "milking" a dog but I am 100% glad I did it and will do it again this time if I can. So last night there I was at midnight feeding several puppies who just didn't seem quite as vigorous as I'd like to see. I used up all the Halo reserves this morning and then went out to buy goat's milk. Apparently it's the universal wonder product that cures what ails you. Several of the puppies got the benefit of this miracle milk today and are doing very well indeed.
Halo is producing an astounding amount of milk but the puppies seemed not to be getting the benefit of her efforts. I think they would start to nurse, get halfway full, someone would push them off and the cycle would start again. Effectively none of the puppies would ever get a full tummy. They were also very noisy - usually this means distress so as soon as tummies were full of milky goodness they were silent and sleeping. Best sound ever that occasional grunt and the little twitchy bodies in a tidy row all warm and snug.
Halo gave me a couple scares in the night, I heard her walking around and then that familiar "BLECH" and more wandering. I got up and found her looking forlorn and vomit in the hall. She did this at 2am and 3am and then wouldn't touch her breakfast, This opened up a whole new kettle of worry. For whatever reason she did eventually eat her food and also her lunch too. She is fine now so maybe this morning she was just a little nauseous. I guess that comes with eating 12 placentas ...
I will continue to supplement until I see fatness occurring and just keep weighing everyone to make sure they are gaining. I didn't really worry about it last litter because there was never any doubt about them getting enough food ... they were rolly little sausages in no time.
We just have to survive tonight and live to the excitement of tomorrow when they will have their rear dewclaws removed. What fun.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Flip Side

Here we are on the flip side of 18 hours of labour and delivery. December 23rd saw Halo go in stage one labour at about 10pm - panting, restless, digging, etc. Christmas Eve she started at 8am with puppy number one. She completed her long and arduous journey into motherhood at 3:45pm with puppy number 12. There are 6 boys and 6 girls, a much better ratio than last time, having a puppy every half hour more or less. They are all show ridged, no dermoid detected, no kinks, no cleft palates. Everyone arrived kicking and screaming except one ...

Puppy number 9 was a hard fought battle against the odds. This is him at left with Momma after my rescue efforts. Halo had been contracting for about an hour and he finally arrived completely lifeless. He came out in his sac with placenta and everything still intact; all the other puppies had come out seperated or mostly seperated. I thought he was a goner and suspected that he had died prior to birth and was perhaps partially decomposed so I didn't let Halo touch him and went to pick him up and wrap him for disposal. My finger just happened to touch his ribcage above his heart and lo and behold there was a tiny little flutter. I immediately ripped him out of the sac(which is hard to do in a hurry you know - they are very slippery) and started CPR. His tongue was blue and he was limp and lifeless except that little fluttering heart that wouldn't give up. It took about 10 minutes to get a gasp and another hour to get him completely normal. Today he is a beautiful big boy now christened green ribbon. We just can't have anyone die on Christmas Eve!

Halo is being the stellar mom again, very attentive, but much calmer and less manic about it than last time. She was whining when she had 11 at the milk bar but one was stuck in a corner - she whined til I came to see what the problem was and rescued the puppy from it's lonely crying.

I added a couple examples of the ridges we got in this litter - they are all just great, really against the odds in this breed to have all 12 ridged and with no extra or missing crowns. I think one is a little short and there may be a couple slightly offset crowns but otherwise this is such a good result.

We just have to get through the next couple weeks with no losses and I have to mentally prepare for the care of one dozen puppies in the middle of winter.

One last look at proud Halo doing her "These are mine".

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Going the Distance

Today I'm going to diverge a little from news of puppies and talk about ... puppies; but in a different regard.

As a show breeder - meaning someone who breeds their dog with the intention to show the offspring - I will obviously end up showing the puppies while they are still puppies. This is a good way to introduce them to the show ring and get them used to the noise, smells, ring procedure, people, and travel. There are puppy classes in showing, usually split by sex and then by age; 6-9 month and 9-12 month puppy. All the puppies in the breed compete for best puppy in breed and then those puppies go on to compete for best puppy in group and onward to best puppy in show. A puppy can win Best of Breed and therefor head into regular group etc. There's a lot for a nice puppy to win.

However, when it comes to puppies achieving champion status, winning hither and yon with puppy groups and shows and even regular group placements all before the age of 9 months old I'm a bit torn. Oh really ... I'm not torn at all ... those puppies disappear and you never see them again. What you do see is their offsprings a couple years later - offspring from dogs you haven't seen as adults and suddenly they are producing winning puppies. What do the parent's look like now? It's all well and good to win win win but can the dog prove itself in the big picture - can it go the distance - and I'm not just talking show career. Can it compete in other venues successfully? Agility, tracking, herding, drafting ... ?

Many many many a puppy has looked just outstanding but falls apart when it matures. Stucture is not just about bones; muscle, ligaments, and tendons all combine to produce a sound dog. In a puppy, just as in any baby, everything is soft, supple and incomplete. As the dog matures those elements harden into a solid dog, especially in a large breed. How often do we tell our puppy buyers not to work the dog hard because there's too much strain on joints and it's not mature til it's 2? And yet we are all thrilled when an "incomplete" dog wins at a show and we make big noise and brag about it? We are putting pressure on young dogs to win when they should just be allowed to be puppies.

Why is a puppy career so important to some breeders? In the USA puppy group is a "fun" experience for the puppies. Not all shows offer it and it's not really taken seriously. Why? Because these dogs are not mature and shows are a venue for evaluating breeding stock. No responsible breeder is going to take their 9 month old finished puppy and breed it - validating their decision by saying "Well, the judges awarded this puppy its championship and that means it's breeding stock." This is why in the US - particularily in Ridgebacks - very rarely do you see puppies awarded majors - because against mature dogs they are not competitive. So in a breed that can take up to 3 years to mature ... why the pressure in Canada to finish as a puppy? What's the hurry?

Why do I think the way I do? I grew up in a breed where it was basically unheard of for a puppy group placement. Last year my mom won a puppy group and I thought "Was she showing a Puli?" because I think in Canada there's been about 3 or 4 puppy group placements by a Puli. I am accustomed to little or no pressure of a puppy to place in group or even contemplate it - I grew up knowing that a mature dog win is more important to the breed than a puppy win. And for a Puli to be competitive as a special means it needs to be at least 4 or 5 years old. Puppies go to shows to play, maybe get a point or two, but the expectation of anything else was just a bonus. Some people now advertise these wins as the dogs grandest acheivement.

I can tell this - there is no way on earth Raimi is going to finish as a puppy, much less place in any group. He is a train wreck in the ring. Last time he was in the 6-9 month puppy class, his next show will be in the 9-12 month class. Do I imagine that some miracle will occur and he will suddenly stop acting like a puppy in the ring? Why would I want him to behave like an adult dog when he's not? Mentally the poor guy is still agoggle with life in general ...

Halo was 18 months old when she finished her Canadian championship, 2 1/2 for her American one, and had her first litter at 3. By that time as an adult she'd been evaluated by at least a dozen judges, several independent breeders and handlers and determined to be of breeding quality. It took her til 2 1/2 to really be able to evaluate her properly - until that point she was still maturing. Two years after her very first show as a puppy it was finally apparent what I had in Halo.

The slumbering giant on the couch next to me will likely not win a puppy group, a puppy show, or any other accolades other than a having a positive show experience as a puppy. He doesn't care; all he wants is to be with me, have fun and get treats. And that's all I want too ... except the treat part ... he can have all those.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Boy Scout Motto

One of my favorite sayings is "Be Prepared". So here we are all prepared. Not that I don't procrastinate. Today I finally bought a new futon mattress for the futon frame I've had for years but always had a regular mattress on it because I never used it as a couch. Ikea is a wonderous and magical place which also provided me with the new curtains for this room ... finally.

In the spirit of the season I've got my list and I'm checking it twice ... clock, lamp, papertowel, warming box, regular towels, newspaper, camera, scissors, notebook and pen plus a bunch of stuff I probably won't use.

Here's the whelping box with pigrails that I built myself thank you very much. Gosh I'm handy.
I had help from Phil because I couldn't cut the rails to the right length with my chicken arms. It came together quite well and I'm rather pleased with it. I hope that the pigrails prevent any more mishaps with puppies and that everyone grows up safe from their clumsy mom. The base is actually pieces of soft foam for Halo's comfort, then paper then towels. The cat was all aswither about the newpaper and pounced around there to mess it all up. Halo won't care, she's going to rip it to shreds anyway. She's already scraping her bedding together for a few minutes at night and she normally doesn't do that so I know we're both physically and phsychologically getting down the the wire. She will be come even more clingy in the next few days.
Why are we prepared? Well, here's Halo day 58 ... suffering from what I would call self pity. She is snoring quite a bit now and there's a lot of shallow breathing. I can imagine the puppies are pressing against her diaphram and making her lungs compress slightly, especially when she is scrunched into a little ball of sleep. Currently she is recovering for a leisurely walk at the park - it takes a lot out of her to go for a walk but I think it's important for her to get out and stretch her legs a bit. The Boy just does laps around us anyway so I walk slowly and Halo and Petal trundle along; finally they are both moving at the same pace. Tomorrow will be our last walk before puppies as her size is pretty substantial and I don't want to stress her body too much.

We have plans to go to my friend Tanja's house for Christmas Eve and I'm supposed to go to my parent's for Christmas Day. I'm diligently checking Halo's temperature watching for a drop so once that happens plans may change. Right now she's bang on 37.9 Celcius in the evening and between 37.4 - .6 in the morning. Last time her temperature dropped quite markedly so I knew things were imminent. She has always been a very reliable dog in all regards.
Puppies aren't due til Boxing Day which is day 63 but I'm thinking that given her size and her accelerated nesting behaviour we might be looking at a day or so sooner. Christmas babies!

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Max Can't Catch A Break

Ceilidh was robbed of her opportunity to vent her frustration on The Grinch so she turned to Max.

Here she is thinking about touching Max.

Just a wee touch.

Liberating Max from the tree.

Showing him who's in charge here.

I think he's trying to get away.

Eventually she took pity on Max as everyone does in the end and let him be.
She looks innocent enough right?
But remember ... this cat is a killing machine ... seriously.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

How the Grinch Met His End

Like any child of the '70's I have a special place in my heart for How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The real one, not the studio made abonimation that children today will reference in a quarter century. Of course, with a studio release also comes the release of propaganda. I only succumbed to a small purchase because they were cute.
Today the cat took it into her own paws to even the score. I guess it was a lot to expect her to completely ignore the tree but since I saw her make her decision to single out The Grinch I wondered if she'd been watching the dvd while I was at work. She is a pretty smart cat ... here she is knawing on a limb.

Carrying him into the dark hallway to enjoy the spoils of her theft.

The crime scene in the hallway.

Fortunately Raimi thought The Grinch was being harshly judged and didn't deserve such an evil end so he took it upon himself to rescue the green guy. Here he is administering medical care, I think that's nose to chest compressions:

However it quickly degraded into a malpractice suit and The Grinch ended up on his head with his feet getting the worst of Raimi's attention. I bet those feet stink. Since The Grinch did have a change of heart in the end, I rescued him and put him back where he belongs on the Christmas tree. Next blog we will visit what happened to Max. Poor sad little Max who just couldn't catch a break. Still.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Family Portrait

Ah Christmas - wouldn't be complete without a "family" portrait. There's always got to be someone in the picture who refuses to cooperate and as it turns out it was the cat. I managed to get a good one or two with her in it - there are also a couple with her either exiting or gone entirely. In the end it took bribes and endless patience(which I'm known for - as if) to get a decent picture that didn't look like I was torturing them and had a cat in it.

Petal is on the table and so is the cat if you look carefully.

I love my tree. It is but 3 feet high and sits on the table because it's safest there. This year I have themed it red with some pretty balls and tinsel plus the Ridgeback ornaments I have collected.

I shudder to think what would happen to the tree and it's glory if The Boy had access to it. Given his interest in he general tree trimming proceedings I suspect it would hold some pretty serious puppy fascination. That sort of interest never ends well. There was some theft of stockings, tinsel, wrapping paper and various other objects that almost met their end on the floor on the livingroom. I managed to save most of it.

Isn't Raimi handsome in his bow?

Halo is wearing tinsel AND her halo. It's hard to see but it's there. You can also see the immense nipples and giant tummy of The Momma ... she was patient but in fact a cookie bribe goes far in her world.

Today we were at the park and I was eating Nibs. Given that most people carry dog treats to the park seeing me eating something out of my pocket gave a few people pause. Add to that the occassional sharing I did with Halo and the effect was complete. She seems to really like Nibs.

Alos, it was cold a few days ago, so this was the result ...

... they are so easy to photograph when asleep. Halo hates it when The Boy cuddles but she doesn't have much choice. This is their couch, When I have people over to visit I'm never quite sure where to tell them to sit ...

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Big ... Fat ... Momma

We've reached a new level in Halo behaviour. We've gone from penitent and worrisome to clingy and naughty.

Last night she peed a huge lake in the kitchen in the middle of the night, Why? Well, when it's minus 20 and you are Halo and you don't WANT to pee when you're let out before bed then you want til it's desperate times, wander around at 3am and leave a puddle of pee for Tamzin to step in at 7:15am. Which I did. I could not figure out what it was at first, I thought something was leaking ... pipes or something that could explain the volume of pee. Nope. It was pee. Unreal.

So I get it all right? I get it. When you look like this ...

... and you used to look like this:

I guess you have an excuse.

Pregnant, puppies moving, pressing on bladder etc can be a likely cause of such naughtiness. However, NOT peeing when you have the chance is just not okay. Ya, it's cold I know ... but pee outside for gawd's sake. That was this morning.

This evening we added thievery to our pregs behaviour. I get their toys ready for the next day and put them in the dog room. Tonight I left them in the kitchen on the dog bins for whatever reason and the next thing I know Halo is rolling around the food toy madly eating as fast as she can. AND she'd just been fed. I took it away and told her she was very bad. I swear the look on her face was "So what? I'm starving." She's totally not, she's gained more excess weight this pregs than the last because she just refuses to run at all on the walks anymore.
Only three more weeks of this ... I am counting the days. Silly bitch.

Ceilidh and Petal Pretzel

Last blog I made allusions to some sort of relationship Petal and the cat have. Well, caught in the act. Now, you can't really see Petal's expression but in person it's really saying "This is not my idea but what's a girl to do?"

I think the cat legitimately likes Petal. Actually I think she likes the Ridgebacks too but they can be a bit much for an 8 pound cat.

Either way, I'm sure during the day Petal is the subject of much cuddling by the cat ... I also think the cat skids down the hallway onto the doormat because every day I leave and it's where it's supposed to be ... but when I come home it's scrunched up against the door. She's a character and I love that cat. I'm so glad she came into my life.