Thursday, December 31, 2009

Age of Innocence

I get questions about the cats often when people find out I have the Ridgebacks and three naughty kitties. I always tell people that if they are raised together they will usually be just fine. Do not expect them to be best of friends since cats are by nature quite aloof, although there are exceptions. If the cat runs sometimes the dogs give chase but usually that ends in the cat leaping to high ground or getting somewhere the dog can't. If the cat gets trapped the dogs will just stand and poke at it and, my cats anyway, will take their chances and zip between the dog's legs to escape.

The exception in this case is Weasley. Remember the little kitten I got from my brother in 2008? He'll be two in March and was born the same day as Raimi only a year later. He was a little charmer right from the start and the dog he wrapped most quickly around his little kitten paw was The Boy.
Who can forget the moments that make your heart melt? Weasley seemed instinctively drawn to Raimi as the dog most likely to help him feel secure.
He grew up in a house full of little boys and activity so he seemed pre-programmed to put up with a lot of man-handling. Good thing too. Halo had her fair share of Weasley moments but she was less inclined to reciprocate. As he aged into adulthood he was less inclined to play with the dogs. All that silliness was for kittens, not grown up cats who are supposed to be dignified. And yet ... that distinctive relationship between Raimi and Weasley continues. It's hard to tell in this photo but Weasley is head bumping Raimi's jaw.
Raimi returns the affection by nibbling on Weasley's neck and back and poking him while the cat rubs up against his head and neck. Weasely almost exclusively chooses Raimi to rub against when he feels the need to demonstrate attachment.

Weasley doesn't reserve his attention for Raimi alone, sometimes he lavishes Archer with some snuggles. In case it's hard to tell, Archer is mostly on the floor with his hind legs still on the couch. Weasley is on the floor between Archer and the couch.
Those days of innocent youth saw the unlikely alliance between a precocious orange kitten and a gentle giant Boy and that trust and affection remains to this day. We should all be so lucky.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Repeat Offenders

Last night the weather deteriorated into a white out blizzard and that continued into the morning. It's a pity the dogs can't look out a window and know that when I open the door what they saw through the window will correspond to what they are expected to walk out into. They seem to go through the 5 stages of grief; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

Denial occurs immediately when I open the door. They stare for a brief second, back up quickly and attempt to look away from the white horror as though it did not exist.

Anger comes when they are forced to face the incoming gusts, the snow on the deck and my voice demanding they exit the house. They sometimes try to duck sideways at the last second but I've gotten wise to their tactics.

Bargaining involves wagging apologetic tails, concerned wrinkles and anxious dancing feet. Fortunately I am immune to these ploys.

Depression hits when they realize I will not relent and the head goes down, the tail tucks and the back roaches in preparation for the trauma that awaits.

And finally acceptance as they tread carefully into the bastard snow and wind. They sigh and resign themselves to the inevitable cold and 4 minutes later, when I check on them, they are running amok through the drifts with gleeful abandon.

A few hours later though, all that fun will be forgotten and we will cycle through the stages once again. My life and theirs occasionally takes on a bit of a broken record theme ... which is to be expected I suppose.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Man with One Red Shoe

I have occasionally been asked by new puppy owners, and people who have owned their Ridgeback for quite some time, how long it takes to be able to trust the dog to not chew on or wreck things. The short answer is never. Ever ever. Give up the dream of a well behaved dog who turns a blind eye to those shoes you left out, who doesn't dream of taking advantage of the unblocked-off litter box, who would never think to dip a tongue into the glass of milk on the coffee table, who recalls unfailingly on a walk in the woods. Let the dream die. Really.

Recently I started working at a retail store. Yes, I am employed. Fortunately it's part time and thankfully my new manager is easing me into the work force very slowly, allowing me to get used to using my brain for extended periods and speaking to real people during the day instead of just my dogs and cats. It also helps that the dogs, accustomed to being with me 24/7, will also be weaned onto a work schedule so that they are not traumatized by a 9 hour day 5 days a week. Honestly I just don't think I could handle that either!

So what do the two above paragraphs have in common?

Well, while taking a shower this morning I failed to recall that after returning from work yesterday I had left my shoes out. Shoes which are normally stowed in the closet. After preparing for work I spotted a shoe on the dog bed in the livingroom and, irate, I picked it up to find the heel a little chewed. Not awful but salvageable. I glanced up to retrieve the other shoe and found it ... missing. A brief, but resigned, hunt, found it in the expen. Totally beyond rescue. So there I stood, with one shoe in critical but stable condition and the other shoe ... terminal. Both into the trash. I looked down at the innocent faces (upon which benign apology was writ large) and said "You guys are LUCKY I work in a shoe store!"

Monday, December 28, 2009

Dead Calm

Sometimes when I'm working on the computer the dogs are vying for my attention by staring hard at the back of my head, whining, yowling on the bed, wrestling in the livingroom (and knocking down the tree), waving their feet at me(Leeloo), barking at me(Leeloo), crawling into my lap(Archer), or poking me in the side of the face(Raimi). All these tactics, as you an imagine, are incredibly annoying and endearing at the same time. If I pay the slightest bit of attention to their prying it's so exciting and winds them up to even greater feats of attention grabbing antics. But sometimes, if I'm really lucky, or ignore them long enough they will default into sleep mode. It's such a rare occurrence that when it happens I have to take a photo as proof of the calm. Since they often insist on being able to see me at all times(if they can't be touching me) they occasionally nap in the expen and as luck would have it they also got to enjoy a little afternoon sunlight. It doesn't take much to rouse them out of this little scene ... but they are sure cute aren't they?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Secret

Sometimes ... most times ... I wish I could possess the abandon of our canine friends. They live in the moment, act on impulse 99% of the time, and are blessed with the gift of a clear conscience. I live vicariously through the dogs because I do not possess the gifts of speed, agility, power, sight and scent that bless their lives. I am privileged to be privy to their world and I can only hope, in my flawed way, that whatever I offer them; a roof, a warm place to sleep, regular meals, treats, stimulated play time, trust, safety, leadership and unconditional love ... is enough to thank them for the wonder they bring me every day.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

It's A Wonderful Life

Ah Christmas. A time of family, friends and food. A roaring fire on Christmas Eve meant the dogs had their first real taste of wood heat and all the glorious things that come with it. It didn't take them long to gravitate to the fireside once I put their beds near the hearth. Archer made sure he was closest to the flames but everyone got a taste. One day in the future I'll have a fireplace or at least a wood stove and they can bask in its glow at home instead of just as guests at my parent's house. On Christmas morning they got their new collars and toys and treats and we enjoyed a lovely walk around the acreage while the turkey was cooking. Lovely being relative to how much you get to beat up on each other. Or how much deer poop you can consume within a given amount of time; that would be from the time you discover the pile of poop to the time Mommy insists 'enough already'.
After the walk they snuggled down on their beds again and had some quiet time with their new toys. Well, the ones they couldn't immediately consume. These toys will meet a sad and bitter end but for now are enjoying a reprieve in the toy box while the dogs nap. No Christmas is complete without a turkey and all the fixings. The Ridgebacks were very helpful in the kitchen. Leeloo kept a very close eye on how my Dad prepared the turkey.
Leeloo was very concerned whenever my Dad abandoned the turkey to accomplish some other cooking related activity. Good thing she was there to make sure it didn't try to escape.
And they all wanted to be sure when my mom set out the plates that there was one for each of them. They didn't get their own plate but were treated to some fatty bits of leftover turkey and some gravy on their food. It was a wonderful Christmas and the first of many more yet to come in this glorious place called Nova Scotia

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Christmas Story

It's Christmas Eve as we all know and while people are rushing about picking up last minute gifts and supplies for tomorrow's festivities I am doing chores, listening to dogs yowl and play on my bed(which I *just* made BTW) and drinking a cuppa joe. In a short time we will be leaving for Malagash to spend Christmas at my parent's house. Our first Christmas in Nova Scotia. It may or may not be a white Christmas, depends on the next 12 hours I guess but the forecast is for some flurries and rain. Either way Christmas this year will not be spent whelping a litter. For me that is. See, my mom has a litter due about ... yesterday ... so like I was 2 years ago, she is patiently waiting for Leah to decide when to have her babies. Maybe she will be so lucky to also have a Christmas dozen ... okay, maybe not, Pulis rarely have litters that large!

My Christmas Eve litter, wow, is now two years old. I find it hard to believe that they are already two. It was quite the experience to have puppies delivered on the day before Christmas, you'd think the Stork would have better things to do. This was Halo's second litter and was due on Boxing Day but since there was an even dozen in there crowding each other I guess they decided enough was enough.

She started whelping at 8am and when she got to nine at about 2pm and took a brief break I was sure she was done. I popped her into the tub to wash off the green goo and settled her back in. And then she proceeded to have three more. I was practically pleading with her to stop. Enough already. No more.

But here we are two years later and they have all grown into beautiful dogs who are a credit to the breed, to their parents and most importantly to their owners, who for the last 22 months have done such a great job raising them(Halo and I handled the first 8 weeks).

So to my darling Christmas Eve litter; Zero, Rifka, Karma, Shane, Mungo, Lulu, Mya, Bella, Rory, Ramsay, Kona and Isis ... happy birthday and a Very Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea

It can be hard to get a nice photo of the dogs when they are exploring. Unless, of course, you like this view:
That was Leeloo. Here's Raimi doing almost the same thing but with less gusto. They are sniffing out critters that probably find it safer to travel under a snow ceiling. It almost seems like I am the owner of headless dogs, although brainless is often accurate.
Leeloo was the dog found most often in a compromising position. Her concentration and determination was admirable.
Archer was a bit of a sissy about sticking his head into the snow and even when he did Leeloo was right there to supervise and ultimately take over.
She would shoulder him out of the way, roll up her sleeves and show him how to do the job the right way. Just like any woman really.
Because when it comes to something as important as sniffing out critters under the snow, Leeloo couldn't possibly leave it to an amateur.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Me, Myself and Irene

Just a quick post today as I am running a bit late this morning. I also forgot to post yesterday but I'm not sure why or how. I don't have many photos of me and the dogs together, mostly because I'm the one taking the photos, so sometimes I try to get the kids to pose with me while I snap off a shot. They aren't very helpful because when I'm trying to get a photo taken they are distracted since they are being prevented from playing. Here's Archer watching Leeloo play with the Greatest Stick in the World while I am trying to pose with him. It was not an easy photo for either of us. Raimi was a little better but this was just a lucky shot. I love this photo though and it's now on my website.
There was absolutely no hope with Leeloo. I couldn't get her to stand still at all, she was twisting around to see what Archer was doing with The Greatest Stick in the World and she almost pulled me over a couple times so I let her be. I have to say though; I love my wool hat, it's so cute and with the earmuffs ... I do believe I am adorable. This is the first pair of earmuffs I've ever owned and I must say I *love* them.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Black Cloud

Yesterday I took some photos at the beach but have decided some are less of the dogs and more of the location. It's just beautiful pretty much wherever we go. Leeloo stops along the boardwalk to check and make sure this is the direction we are supposed to be going. The beach is just over the rise ahead of her.
Raimi and Archer heading up to the beach, I am now standing where Leeloo is located in the above photo. The clouds just amaze me - they are so much more varied and alive than the clouds were in Alberta ... I never would have believed it. They look close enough to touch.
Raimi snow blazing to follow a scent on the wind. Some of the scents they catch must come from quite a distance away. The air here is so clear and crisp I bet tracking is child's play. Raimi's air scenting ability continues to impress me and I hope next summer to be able to put that nose to work!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Under the Boardwalk

I needed to get to the beach today to get some sand and stones for a project I'm working on and since the wind was low today I thought I'd chance it. It's icy and pretty cold so we didn't stay too long but I did get some interesting photos of the dogs. I am starting at the end of the walk because something as funny as this just cannot be delayed.

Here we see the dogs heading back to the parking lot where the truck waits patiently for us. Archer is in the lead, then Leeloo and Raimi is bringing up the rear.
I glance away for a second and the next thing I know a puff off snow explodes up there to the left. Archer, for whatever reason, stepped right off the edge of the boardwalk and dropped about 4 feet into reeds and snow. You can see his face peeking out of the snow drift and Raimi and Leeloo stopped to stare in wonder ... they just looked, well, baffled. I was stricken with uncontrollable giggles but managed to snap a couple shots.
He scrambled back up onto the boardwalk with no trouble, which surprised me because look how far down he is on extremely unstable ground(grass, reeds, partially frozen water and snow). The only thing injured was his pride. Raimi and Leeloo managed to not spend the rest of the time making fun of him ... but my standards aren't that high. I'm not sure why he fell off, we've been coming to this boardwalk for 6 months now ... you'd think he'd know.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Dog Tired

Despite my promises to Leeloo this morning that no matter how much she annoyed me we weren't going for a walk in the negative temperatures with horrible blowing winds ... I decided to indulge her just this once. I'm actually glad I did. When I walk the dogs in the forest it means there is not much wind blowing and it makes it quite pleasant despite the temperature. This is something I have had to train my brain to accept since a walk in Calgary always meant wind and more wind because of the lack of trees. The worst part about the walk is getting prepared. I'm glad I do take the time to put on my layers and kit out the dogs in their coats as it gives me peace of mind knowing they are warm and dry. It means they will expend more energy while out walking. Today I was toasty warm and the only reason we left when we did was because I was getting hungry and my hip joints started hurting(long story).

I forgot the camera but did snap a couple photos of a post-walk satisfaction. Leeloo looks annoyed because I kept lifting the blankets and letting in cold air.
This is what the blanket looks like from above. You'd never guess beneath that fluffy down surface lurks about 230 pounds of pure muscle and silliness.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Ice Age

Today was the coldest day we've had in Nova Scotia. It seems winter has officially arrived. I'm not sure how long it plans to stick around though because next week are more forecasts of above zero and rain so who knows what the future holds. Despite the sub-zero temperatures we ventured out anyway because if we don't I get scolded almost non-stop by Leeloo, Raimi stares at me and whines and Archer finds amusing ways to entertain himself. No coats required today as it was not snowing and I certainly did not plan to be out long! Because it was 12 below zero today was the day that Leeloo and Raimi decided to take off into the wilderness and force me to imagine myself stomping through forest and field with visions of finding them frozen to death at the base of some tree. I'm not sure what they thought they were doing but they did not seem to be able to hone in on my location even though I stayed in one spot to call them. For the rest of the walk I insisted they stay close and on the path where I could see them. Archer being the insecure puppy he is stayed close at all times anyway. Leeloo believes she found a stronghold of chipmunks in a fallen log. Given the amount of noise she made I'm sure they've already packed up and moved. Archer felt this stick needed a good trimming and set about chewing his way through it. I'm not sure how good it is for his teeth or intestines but it makes him happy and that makes me happy. That's Leeloo: two parts elegant, two parts awkward and one part just plain weird.
The Boy did what he does best, stand around wishing like heck he could go galloping through the woods to finally discover the source of that most intriguing smell. Leeloo has finally embraced the 'pose' which has been a long time coming. If I can catch her in these moments of stillness she turns out a nice photo but you have to be quick with the shutter. Archer loves his Leeloo and Leeloo loves her Archer ... it's win win for everyone.
Something about this photo is very calming. Raimi and Leeloo share a quiet moment together listening to a voice that calls only them. (Fortunately I yell loud enough to drown it out ...most times.)

Snow Falling on Cedars

What a difference a day makes. Want to guess why ...? The snow started at about 8am and by the time we got moving it was pretty much a full blown blizzard. I am lucky that where I walk the dogs is literally about 500 meters from my house ... if that even. They didn't really need their coats for warmth since it was not that cold but the snow here is heavy and I didn't want them to get too wet otherwise they'd get cold really fast. Archer started us off down the service road into the forest where he made an about turn and promptly discovered tracks on the ground. His tracks. Remember Winnie-the-Pooh and Piglet following their footsteps encircling a copse of trees?
Raimi takes point and watches for marauding deer. Fortunately we were the only crazies out in a blizzard today.
Archer was having the time of his life and seems to have taken to snow like a trooper. That coat was generously lent to us by Sara(Po and Kiki's owner), he was too small for it the last time he tried it on; now it fits perfectly but I think he'll outgrow it before the end of winter!
I guess the walk today made me realize what I'd be missing if I didn't have the dogs. I'd never have gone out in a blizzard, never witnessed the stark contrast of snow against wet bark, never heard the wind rush past overhead like a freight train(scaring me of course!), never seen the 60 foot trees swaying and bowing overhead, and never be part of the company of three dogs whose simple enjoyment of these moments together make the cold fingers, chilled cheeks and runny nose worth every second.