Sunday, March 30, 2008

Eight Below

I am cozied up in my house, my toes are warm, my fingers now flex, and my nose isn't running. The dogs are snoring on the couch and I'm just about to put a movie on. Ah March. What would you be without a little kick in the pants? In like a lamb out like a lion ... ? If that' s backwards then Mother Nature and I have something to discuss.

For the one year birthday celebration of Raimi, Kenya and Tucker we had about 9 dogs arrive to run around in the snow and get wet while we shivered. The sun graced us a few times and there was a few little flurries but otherwise almost everyone made it out to enjoy the dogs and listen to me yell at Raimi most of the time for being an irritating moron.

I got a cupcake cake with the Madagascar theme as it's an African theme and while there was a lion cake it just didn't look quite right so I went for little plastic lions and zebras etc. It is a good way to ensure everyone gets a piece without having to cut, slice, napkin or fork your way through the clebrations. Tucker's Dad Davidkindly supplied the sparkly "1" which didn't come out in the picture very well.

From the last litter there was Shane, Zero, Rory and Ramsey. Ramsey was a little shy so he stayed by the picnic bench for some time before working up the courage to play with a dog larger than a pug. Deuce the pug was in his glory amongst all those legs and he had possibly the best time of all.

Here is Deuce playing with Raimi and Ramsey - I won't ever say Raimi has a plethora of brains and today he proved my oft repeated opinion that he is just a pretty face. Right at the end of the party Raimi suddenly noticed that there was a Pug 'in the house'. His face wrinkled in delight and those wrinkles said 'Did anyone else notice the little pug thing? The little cream colored dog the size of one of my toys? When did he arrive?" And so began the love affair of Raimi and Deuce. Fortunately Deuce loves big dogs and was in his element and didn't mind Raimi poking him in the back - possibly trying to make the squeaker work.

The two big brothers - Raimi and Tucker played like the dickens. We turned to look for them and discovered that they were about 500 yards away and heading in the opposite direction. Fortunately they both have a good recall but they we having the time of their lives. This photo is zoomed in because they were teeny tiny specs - this is milliseconds before Raimi went SPLOOSH into icy water and did an immediate about face. Tucker was a few feet behind so was spared the dip.

While Raimi, Tucker and Kenya were the celebrated three we did not manage to get all of them together in one picture - no one would sit still and it was a bit of a gong show as there were too many exciting things to do than sit for a photo. The best we could do was Kenya and Halo together - like good girls they sat still but did not appreciate the cold bottoms they got out of the deal.

Oh look, there's Raimi being told AGAIN to eff off by Ryder who Raimi thought was a great delight to bug, harrass bother, irritate and generally make himself the most disciplined undisciplined dog there. I'd like to think it's because of his testicles but sadly it's more likely a result of being completely spoiled. He also managed to tick off Seth right at the beginning but once Ryder arrived Seth was old hat.

And here's the 5 adult dogs - less Seth - who were having a grand ol' time. Ryder, Halo, Tucker, Kenya, & Raimi on their way back from a romp in the field.
Petal deserves an honorable mention as she stoicly put up with the Ridgeback nonsense once again.
The next time I do this I hope the weather is better and more people are able to come - I know the snow is a daunting thing when you're comfy and warm on your couch! I'll keep you posted for when I can plan another fun day out with the Ridgebacks!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

A Walk to Remember

Just a reminder that this Sunday March 30th at 1pm there will be a Ridgeback party for Invictus dogs born in March. This includes Raimi, Kenya, Tucker, Zoe (who is a friend of Invictus) and I think a couple others I’ve forgotten.

Anyone with a Ridgeback is welcome to join us and also anyone interested in meeting the Ridgebacks is also welcome.

We are meeting at Lloyd Park which is just south of Red Deer Lake School a few kms west of Spruce Meadows on Hwy 22x.

Remember it’s rain or shine so if I’m out there by myself in a snowstorm I’ll know why!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Cold Mountain

This past weekend we headed west to the mountains for a good romp in unsurpassed beauty. Canmore is such a pretty town and while we didn’t stop to do any shopping I definitely will next time as there are lots of neat little overpriced stores to visit while the dogs sleep after a good walk.

In the back of the truck we had Halo, Raimi, Petal, Zero, Telly and Jackson. Telly is a Pitbull who looks like a little pig. Jackson is a Min Pin x Pitbull and he’s a little spitfire. The picture of them is from last year but you get the idea.

We eventually found the park despite my poor memory. Jackson was on a flexi lead because his recall is less than perfect and half a minute in he yanked the flexi out of Liana’s hand. Liana started chasing him and yells ‘Jackson you’re not going to like this!’ referencing the handle of the lead chasing him. I was laughing too hard to help. He stopped to sniff something and she caught him. Ten minutes later he did the same thing. Liana had a death grip on the lead after that.

Halo, Raimi and Telly spent the entire time absorbing every smell they could. Zero followed everyone he into whatever they were doing. Jackson spent his time at the end of the lead wishing his recall was better. Petal stayed right behind me as always. The pack operated very smoothly the entire walk. It’s a credit to all of their temperaments.

About 45 minutes in Zero stopped sniffing and stuck pretty close as if to say ‘Are we there yet?” Petal was lagging behind so I carried her a little way to give her a break. Zero is just too heavy for that! By then we were close to the truck so we headed back and everyone had a couple cookies to tide them over and while Liana and I had a picnic.

The dogs all slept like the dead on the way home and I couldn’t see them in my rear view because they were all lying down. It was a good day and well worth it for a change of pace.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Big Sleep

Growing up the dogs were allowed everywhere. They were truly a part of the household and this carried into my adulthood but I have tempered it a little with some rules given the size of the dogs.

Petal is always allowed on the bed. She sleeps on my legs or curled against them. If I wake up and she’s not against my legs I move until she is. It’s a comfort thing. My ex boyfriend did not like the idea ofPetal on the bed but it was non-negotiable.

The Ridgebacks are allowed on the bed in certain circumstances such as road trips and sleeping on the hotel bed. Usually this means they are stretched out sideways taking up as much room as possible. If I wake up with 6 inches of bed I’m lucky. Someone once called them icebergs – they slowly and methodically push you across the mattress.

We all start out going to sleep in our own beds. Dogs on the floor and me in mine with Petal at my feet, Ceilidh on the other side of my legs and Mallaig on the pillow. Weekdays when I get up at 7am this is usually how we wake up except one or both of the cats has made their way elsewhere in the house.

Weekend mornings are the exception. They are allowed on the bed from about 6 am onward. Some mornings this means that I had Petal at my feet, Halo curled in a ball, Raimi stretched the length of me and Zero by my pillow with his head draped over my neck. This ensures I get a few more minutes of sleep and they are in a blissful state of happiness when I let them do this.

My dogs never sleep under the covers. I don’t like the idea of dog hair in my bed. I pass no judgement on those who allow it but it’s not something I let them do.

They like sleeping together and will take that in a pinch but sleeping next to me is something they all want to do. Sadly this is not possible given their size!

Whenever I watch a show or hear about someone who was murdered in their bed I think that will never happen to me - you have to get through almost 200 pounds of dog in my room - much less get through the house un-noticed.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Lorenzo's Oil

The first page of my website states I breed for temperament, health and structure. You can see structure, you can meet temperament but you can’t do either with health. For that you must trust my word that I have done the research and checked the lines of my dogs to see what, if anything, is lurking in their DNA.

It's easy to decide to breed two healthy dogs but there’s a fine line between breeding to prevent life threatening problems and deciding to breed problems that can be managed with medication or surgery. As a breeder I also need to decide whether the problem is inherited or if it’s a anomaly of dealing with living creatures who’s growth is affected by environment and circumstances beyond our control.

OFA is one of the primary canine health data recording centres in North America – it is almost universally used to record and track the health of all breeds of dogs. It’s database is a goliath of information. I use it because the information is publicly posted and my hands are clean – anyone is welcome to see what’s behind my dogs.

If you look down the direct lines of some dogs it’s easy to tell where a health issue has come from. If you end up with a litter presenting the same problem in 3 or 4 of a litter of 8 then you need to question the direction of your program – regardless of the seriousness of the problem. Some breeders have had to start over again rather than chance a health issue in their lines because once it’s in you have the devil to manage getting it out.

There is a problem of sorts using something like the OFA – if your dogs fails you have the option to not publish the information. Many breeders choose to withold the information because a dog that has failed their hip test may have had extenuating circumstances that resulted in the fail. There is no option for a ‘I have an explanation why my dog failed’ - it’s the rating and that’s it. Some tests are offered a breeder’s option code where it will state precisely why the dog failed.

There is another problem with the system when it comes to researching lines using current databases. Not all of them are online so a dog you think has not been tested for something actually has but the breeder chose to use a different data recording body. These results should be immediately available to you through the breeder - just ask.

What tests does a Ridgeback need?

The obvious ones are hips and elbows for dysplasia – you really want to see a good or better on the sire and dam and elbows are generally a simple pass or fail.

Thyroid tests should be done approximately every two years as thyroid problems can be late onset so a dog should be tested at least to age 8 or 9. Halo’s dam Kinley was tested clear evey couple years til she was 9 1/2 and was clear every time.

While there are not many heart problems in Ridgebacks they are not unheard of so we do it as a precauction.

Canine Eye Registration Foundation CERF tests for eye problems. Ridgebacks are generally clear of eye problems but I do know some lines have inherited problems and continue to breed them. The problems are not life threatening but certainly can result in vet bills and aggravation that could be easily avoided by not breeding to it or from it.

Also, some breeders test hearing in their Ridgebacks. Breeders who have bred to known deaf producers(and their relatives) will test hearing. I do not test for deafness because I know my lines are clear of it.

Things like epilepsy can crop up in Ridgbacks, as in people it is not necessarily inherited and certainly can be caused by head trauma or some other health issue. If it does come up call your bnreeder immediately. There is no test for epilepsy as yet but the advances in medicine certainly make it a possibility in the future.

Remember, your breeder, if responsible, will tell you everything you need to know about your puppy’s parental health concerns. My line can be allergic to certain things. I know Halo has a contact allergy to pine needles and the heavy pollen of spring. If you encounter a health issue with your dog let the breeder know immediately.

Your breeder should do their level best to ensure you have a healthy puppy but remember, they only had the dog for 8 weeks – from then on YOU are responsible for everything the dog comes in contact with. Inherited health issues are tricky but environment is also a major player when it comes to health. All things being equal you should have your Ridgeback for a good long while yet.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Kinley 1998-2008

Not many here will know who Kinley was, but most people reading this blog own a dog directly related to her. She is Halo's mom, Raimi's grandma and yesterday her owner Erin made the difficult decision to say goodbye to Kinley with diginity.

Recently Kinley had been suffering what they suspect was a brain tumor. It had affected her temperament and personality and while she was still 'living' she just did not seem alive. She was not who everyone knew her to be and she did not recognize people she'd known her whole life. When a dog is to that point you must do the right thing and send them to wait for you at the Rainbow Bridge.

Here she is napping with a 5 day old Halo. I met Kinley for the first time when I went to pick up a 9 week old Halo in Great Falls in 2004. She was one fat momma! She was friendly and food driven! She didn't mind that I was taking a puppy away and certainly if she was anything like Halo she'd ask 'You're only taking one? Today is a twofer deal! Take them away!" I met Kinley again about a year ago when Erin brought her to pick up Halo and take her to California. Halo spent the bulk of her time bossing Kinley around at Erin's house.

Kinley achieved some pretty spectacular things her her life. Out of only two litters produced Kinley has produced 8 American champions which also include 2 Canadian Champions. In 2006 she was the 2nd ranked brood bitch in the USA by producing 4 champions of record in a single year, one of whom was Halo. She also had her Register of Merit which means she has a minimum of 5 champion puppies to her name.

Kinley was the start of it for me, I happened to catch Erin at the perfect time just prior to the birth of Halo's litter and she was kind enough to allow me to take one of the puppies. I'm quite sure she could have found Halo a different home closer to Utah but she had enough confidence in me for Halo to be the start of my breeding program. A better, kinder and more helpful breeder I could not have been blessed with.

doGspeed Kinley.

The Rainbow Bridge
Animal lovers believe that when an animal lets go of it's earthly ties it stops before crossing the Rainbow Bridge to Heaven to wait for the person it loved the most on Earth. If on Earth the animal was lame, or old, or sick the moment it gets to the Bridge it is whole and young again. There it will find lots of friends with which to play, big fields to run in, shadey trees to nap under, clear creeks to drink from and splash in (but not the Ridgebacks), comfy couches to lie on (for the Ridgebacks) and warm sun to bask in. But every once in a while a dog will suddenly stop it's playing, look up with it's head cocked, ears pricked and nose twitching. Full tilt it will run with glee toward its person who has finally come to join it. Such a reunion as never seen on Earth. You know your dog, and your dog knows you, and once the reunion is complete, side by side, you will walk across the Rainbow Bridge and never again be parted.

Rena, Katie, Style, Jaffa, and Nike all wait patiently for me at the Bridge with Kinley who now waits for Erin.

Friday, March 14, 2008

New website for those who are interested!

Really disliked the one I had so I moved ...


It's March 14th today and this is the first anniversary fo the birth of Halo's first litter. Happy birthday to all the puppies who were born a year ago this evening.
This picture is of Halo on day 63 - 24 hours before the puppies made their appearance.

It was a Wendesday. Labour started at about 9:30pm which is how it always seems to go so that they take you into the wee hours before they're done.
This is Halo's "These are mine' when they are but a few hours old. She didn't do that so much with this last litter but for her first she was very conscious of keeping them safe and surrounded.

Now we have 7 big beautiful dogs who are growing like weeds and thriving in their new homes. Gracie in Alaska is doing her pogo stick impression. She's so happy to be one year old!

And here's Riami doing what he does best ... being a Momma's boy ...
Happy Birthday everyone and don't forget to come to our birthday party on March 30!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Clockwork Orange

It’s been a few days. I have managed to recover from my weekend. People who know me know I HATE being ‘busy’. I think society’s almost universal obsession with appearing, or actually being, busy is ridiculous. I love nothing better than snuggling into my couch in pajamas with my down throws wrapped around me, a good movie or tv show on, the dogs napping nearby, popcorn, candy and a coca cola(with ice) close at hand.

What am I busy doing? Adding another redhead to roll call. Mallaig (mal-eg - stress the mal, shorten the eg) is an 8 month old orange tabby who was abandoned by the side of the road in January. I got her from Happy Cat Sanctuary in Strathmore (which, by the way, is further from the city than you think). She used to be called Sunshine but I changed it to Mallaig which is a town on the west coast of Scotland. I spent a day out there with one of my best friends and if you travel down the coast a little to Morar you will find beach with sand so soft it’s like you can’t feel it. Mallaig is where I acquired the sheep stuffie that Raimi obsesses about.

Why did I add yet another creature to my comfort? Ceilidh likes company and oddly for a cat she doesn’t like it when I go away for a weekend. I come home and she’s right there with ‘Where have you BEEN?” I have a few shows I’m going away for this year and she needed company so the house doesn’t feel SO empty. It’s normally full of activity so when we go away it must seem incredibly quiet.

Mallaig was in the bathroom the first couple days and last night was the first night she slept in my room with the dogs and Ceilidh. She spent most of the night on the pillow next to me and then made her way into the livingroom where she found the perfect hiding spot behind the couch. I know Ceilidh is excited to have a friend because she spent from 5am to 7am running up and down the hall and being silly. They have been very good together and Mallaig keeps trying to get Ceilidh to play. Little hissing, even less growling and a lot of staring.

The dogs are interested but not pushy; it was all wrinkles, big eyes and ears and head twisting. They will learn in a hurry that this cat is sharp. Zero got a smack on the nose from Mallaig when he got too close. I’m hoping that because the cats are the same color they will back off Ceilidh because they won’t remember which one is sharp. Ceilidh has had a few incidents requiring rescue because she teases them into a frenzy and then gets trapped. Her life has never been in danger but Raimi could accidentally hurt her in play.

Mallaig is interested in the dogs and not fearful, just cautious. She is still a kitten at heart and recovers quickly from a dog inspection. She just gets out of the way and when the dog loses interest she pops out to look at them again. I think she’ll settle in fine as there are lots of places to hide and places the dogs can’t get to. Once she realizes the dogs are not actually that interested in her she’ll come out more.

I find it hard to believe that this cat was not part of someone’s life at least for a short time. She is incredibly personable, comes when you call and is extremely cheerful. She either wandered too far from home and got lost or was just left by the side of the road. Despite her hard start she has now found a forever home in a house full of redheads and a Petal.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Little Miss Sunshine

Another weekend another dog show. On Saturday Raimi won the points with Best of Winners and is now on 5 points total. Halfway there! We didn't get a chance to go into puppy group because an absolutely gorgeous Irish Wolfhound puppy won 2nd in group along with the puppy group and then went on to win Best Puppy In Show. A nice win for a very nice breed resresentative that does not get recognized much in group.

It's ALWAYS a good idea to watch other breeds when you show and to be able to recognize quality in a dog even if it's not the breed you choose. If you don't know a good dog of another breed then you can't begin to know how to win or why you lost on any given day.

And today ... well, if the judge needed to make it more apparent he didn't like Raimi he would have put out a neon sign! It couldn't have been more obvious he did not like Raimi's type. Every single thing he could put us last in he did and I do believe if he there was a way to make us more last than last he would have. In other words it was a typical dog show.

The perpetrator of this disgust is currently napping on the couch next to me curled into a comfy little ball in his Happy Place. I wouldn't have it any other way.


Having all the puppies as a unit made them seem larger than they really were next to Halo and Raimi but now the size difference is glaringly apparent. I did not expect Raimi’s size but in using a California stud dog I did anticipate a good sized dog. But Raimi was not the largest puppy ... he even had sisters larger than him at 8 weeks old. Everyone thought Tucker would be a monster dog … he was the heaviest puppy 8 weeks and is now 20 pounds lighter than Raimi.

However Raimi is not fat – he is in exceptional shape with long, flat muscles that you can easily see - which is what you want an endurance working dog. He moves like a puppy still but he has gained more control over his limbs of late. His weight comes from his bone mass. He has incredible bone for a Ridgeback but he cannot be compared to a bullmastiff because he does not move like one … he floats over the ground easily without showing heaviness of limb or structure. Completely correct for a Ridgeback. He is just over 28 inches tall and while that is larger than we expect to see here it’s a typical size for a lot of US areas.

Halo is the correct size for a bitch. She is almost 26 inches tall, pretty well right on the money for the standard. She has been shown against larger bitches and done very well. She is more agile than Raimi given her size but there again The Boy is still a goofy puppy and will not have full limb control til he’s at least 2 or so. Halo’s bitch puppies should not get much bigger than her except the ones with more bone. Rifka in Edmonton and Bella in Victoria may be bigger than Halo because of their bone mass, the rest of the girls should be average sized bitches.

When it comes to size bigger is not better. These dogs were NOT bred to attack so mass was irrelevant. It was agility that kept them alive. Halo’s agility is exceptional and she sure likes to show it off. I’ll get video of Halo “baying” Raimi. It’s amazing. She darts in and out pouncing, leaping back, twisting, biting, snapping, grabbing … and he is helpless because he never knows where the next attack is coming from. Eventually she relents to let him up and then knocks him down again.

Could Giant Raimi do the purpose for which he was bred? Well I’m inclined to say yes for a couple reasons. He does not lack agility given his size and if you watch him move you can see that. Also it was the bitches who were the huntress. The dogs hung back and cued off the bitches so they did not need the lighter bone the bitches possess. They can track and chase as well as a bitch but they are not the brains of the operation. Anyone who has owned a bitch knows how sneaky they are and how friggin’ intelligent. Could Raimi track and bay a lion? The next time I see a lion in my neighbourhood I’ll find out. I guess it’s easy to ask a philosophical question when you can never be proved wrong.