Friday, December 31, 2010

Turn Back the Clock

It is, surprisingly, December 31st and my first January to January year has passed in Nova Scotia. It is gratifying to know that I do not regret it one little bit. I have big plans for 2011, but for now I cast my mind back to the events of 2010 and think on how things change, the peaks and valleys of friendship, employment, dog shows, and decision-making.

This year started out with no real plan - it was a year I feel like I let just slide by, something which I regret because the previous 3 years I'd set out a plan to attack all 12 months with definite milestones and as they were reached I'd tick them off as yet another goal achieved. Not doing that for 2010 left me stumbling with no real direction. I believed this right up until a couple days ago when my insightful friend Kim told me "2010 wasn't a year you let slide by. You used the year and a bit since you moved to find your footing in a completely new life." This is a truth which I had never considered. I blithely assumed that life should just carry on without establishing some grounding, 'finding my place' as it were.

I did find employment in the middle of the year but it was certainly the easy road, I didn't feel up to attempting what I'd dreamed of doing when I planned to move here, so 2011 is the year I intend to shed the work-a-day job and really give my ideas a chance. When my two roads diverged in a wood I didn't take the one less travelled by, but given the words of my noted friend it wasn't a mistake, it was just the path you use familiarize yourself with the woods. The coming year will see me, at the very least, attempting something I want to do, instead of what I have to do.

When it comes to the dogs, the year has seen some serious ups and downs. I have learned, the hard way, when to speak, when to listen, how to communicate, how to interpret and when to say 'I'm done'. I won't lie, I considered getting right out of Ridgebacks part way through the year. I love the breed and will likely always own them, they suit me marvelously well. The decision to place Archer was based on several things and being unsure of whether I intended to carry on breeding was certainly a factor. In the end I decided to give breeding a chance but to step back from the insanity and gather close those I trust. I have shut my door to people I can't trust, who only look at the negative and people who live for upheaval, turmoil and conflict -and sadly there are many people like that. My life here is literally like a vacation everyday but the most stressful part of it is dealing with the insane people who own, show and breed purebred dogs. Good luck to those who are working toward theirr goal - you will succeed or fail whether I am there to see or not - we must all stand alone at some point.

One of the major highlights of the year is obviously Zero's success in the USA. There is little else I can add to what I have already said about this dog other than that he is a breeder's dream come true. That said there are probably dozens of dogs out there as good as Zero who do not get the notice or recognition that he has garnered. The difference between them is the unaccountable time, dedication, care, training and extreme love his owner and handler have put into him. Without Erin Coogan and Juliet Clendenon, Zero would be just another pretty face. Instead he is doing what he loves; to be shown, fussed over, primped, touched, admired, and adored. Plus he gets the well deserved adoration of Erin and Juliet's families - the best of both worlds! The next few weeks will see him at WKC in New York and however he does there is immaterial to me; he is, and always will be, the dog dreams are made of. After that who knows, Leeloo I'm sure would love to have his puppies!

This year saw changes of the guard in dogs; the addition of one naughty little Puli and the placement of one sweet darling Archer. For breeders the decision to add or subtract dogs in the home is often based on how the breeding program will proceed, or not as the case may be. In this case it was a multi-faceted decision and has worked out better than I could have imagined. Hopefully this new year will see Archer completing the last two points of his Championship so his owners can neuter him and he can become just a regular pet dog. We all hope for that I'm sure!

Esme coming into the house in February was like a storm in a teacup. She turned the house upside down and backwards and although we have had some frustrations, she has proven herself to be the toughest of the tough and given the Ridgebacks a run for their money. Her championship easily completed, she now waits for her coat to grow in and I'm still waiting for her battery to run low! This new year will see her entering the show ring again to keep her sharp and perhaps I'll even get her doing some obedience to use up a bit of that endless energy!

The last 12 months feels like a blur that never really happened. As I look back on everything that has taken place I find it hard to believe that each single memory feels like it just happened last week, or yesterday, or a minute ago. I wonder at the vagaries of time, the inexorable march, the intangible moments, the constant trundle of the sun across the heavens, and the two grey hairs I found the other week. I can keep wondering all I want, Father Time takes no account of me. So here's to the clock at midnight, the replacement of a zero with a one, and the coming next twelve months. Meet you right back here in the blink of an eye.

Thursday, December 30, 2010


What is that glowing orb is the sky? We woke up today to this bright light shining from the east and for a moment I was unable to identify it. Then, in a blinding moment of recognition, I realized the golden tendrils of dust laden beams were actually rays of direct sunlight. Those long absent purveyors of vitamin D were a welcome sight let me tell you. So it was with happy heart I attempted to let the dogs out the back door for their morning pee. This activity was brought up short by the realization that my back door would not open being frozen shut from melting snow freezing in the night. 

I geared up and took the dogs through the front door to the back yard, ever watchful for marauding cats, and since I was already dressed I just left them out and prepared the rest of my attire to take them for the long promised walk. We haven't been for several days what with the rain storm-cum-blizzard that has been battering the east coast for the last few days and also Leeloo's sore foot is exacerbated by smashing around in the woods.

We did end up going because they really needed an outing. Although it was brisk and chilly we soaked up brief, yet welcome, bursts of sunlight as their source rose like a Phoenix from the east. Much like Leeloo who wasted no time beating up her fellow housemates, and thus making her sprained toes worse I imagine.

Esme was suitless this morning, I forgot to put the coat on before I let her outside and then when I remembered I simply didn't feel like wrestling her into it in the blowing wind. Fortunately the temperature is just below zero so the snow is more granular than sticky.

Esme and Leeloo wasted no time tackling each other in glee, although once Leeloo had a few bounces in and remembered her two sprained toes, she limited the activity to allowing Esme to tackle her rather than chase Esme for a squash.

Raimi contented himself with a good run through the snow. He did spend some time trying to convince me to go into the woods but I told him no since the sun was making an appearance that we'd stay in the direct sunlight. Besides, it would be colder in the woods!

Esme sported the classic Puli 'snow face' most of the walk. She seemed to enjoy running through the drifts although I got the impression she was a little frustrated when she sank through and couldn't run as fast. It may be wrong but I can't tell you how grateful I am that the snow causes all the dogs to expend more energy and thus become tired in a shorter period of time!

However, if they are happy I am happy and that is generally the point of the walks. To make me happy and have a quiet house! That and allowing the dogs to remain fit, mentally healthy and satisfied. I know they appreciate it, even if they can't put it into words ... I just know.  

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

White Noise

For the past two days we haven't gone for a run in the woods and that has caused some serious walk constipation for the likes of Leeloo and Esme. Raimi is pretty happy to do whatever but I know he prefers to go for a walk than not. We didn't go yesterday because when we were at my parent's house on the weekend Leeloo, in smashing her way through the woods, twisted her toe(or something) and came up lame. Not wanting to exacerbate it we stayed in yesterday morning. Good thing too, the weather was atrocious with blowing pouring rain and wet heavy snow on the ground. Not fun to walk in that's for sure.

Today another skipped walk, mostly because of the blizzard raging against my window panes. I'd normally not let myself be bothered by such things but with Leeloo still on the mend it's a good excuse to stay in and keep dry. The dogs are fussing with toys, chasing cats and intermittently stopping to stare at me with expectant eyes. Hopefully tomorrow will see us heading out to burn off some excess energy but for today we are snuggled in and watching the winter wonderland arrive 3 days too late.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Christmas Box

Another Christmas over. Since the wind finally died down and it wasn't *quite* raining, the dogs and I headed out for our last walk at my parent's place before heading home to make sure the kitties were all still alive.

Raimi was quick to find the deer poop in the woods, closely followed by Esme and Leeloo. Needless to say this was part of their Christmas treat ... as such.

Once I managed to lure them away from the area where the poop seemed most concentrated, we headed up the cut in the woods where Leeloo quickly found lots to explore. There she is, peeking out from behind a tree. It's a bit disconcerting how well she blends but the giant bear bell she wears is a dead give-away as to her location most of the time.

Esme has a little trouble navigating the downed branches and tree trunks but she did her level best to keep up. Thank heavens for this suit because lord knows how much just she'd pick up in her coat if she didn't have it.

Let's not forget the squirrels. It is very important to note there is possibility of squirrels at all times and you must never let your guard down. Ever vigilant is Boy.  

It is not necessary to even mention Leeloo's squirrel obsession but I thought it was extra cute that this lone birch tree, the largest I have ever seen actually, was the focus of her intense scrutiny. Maybe at some point in this tree's lifetime there was a resident squirrel, but not today.

Our walk requirements sated, a delicious left-over turkey lunch safely stowed and a satisfying nap on the drive home (for the dogs) and here we are back safe in Pictou to give the cats their treats and open the balance of the dog gifts. That included some new toys and stuffed cow hooves. Leeloo went to town on her hoof like it was a ... a ... squirrel.

Esme took a slightly different pose and forgetting that she even had a back end, she devoured her hoof on the couch. Thank doG it's the dog couch.

And Boy lay down like the sweetheart he is on the dog bed in front of the space heater and had a little chew at his hoof. It's nice to have them all safely home, another Christmas in the bag and the coming year full of new plans and exciting changes. Can't wait for what's around the next corner.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Carol

I have heard that people born close to Christmas feel like they are getting the short end of the stick because often families will combine the celebrations into one event whereas most other people get to celebrate a birthday and a Christmas seperately. Fortunately, when you're a dog, you just don't know the difference. Everyday is a day to celebrate and extra treats, for whatever reason, are always welcome.

Today we are celebrating 13 birthdays. Twelve of them occurred in Calgary 3 years ago, the arrival of Halo's second litter 2 days early was a bit of a surprise but they were joyfully received just the same. Each one of those Ridgebacks is in a home who adores and spoils them. Those big brown eyes watch over a family who would do anything to protect them and lovingly gives them everything a dog deserves. The past year of your lives has been filled with rollercoaster rides of show campaign highs, mystery illness lows, litters born, litters not born, agility classes to enjoy, and of course the all important everyday joys of being well loved dogs. So to Zero, Mya, Shane, Karma, Mungo, Lulu, Kona, Bella, Ramsay, Rifka, Rory, and Isis all my very best this holiday season and may the coming year's cup runneth over.

Also, on this day a year ago, little Esme was born right here in this house (I'm at my parent's) and all the potential and future naughtiness was just 12 ounces of squirming shiny black puppy. Who knew she would take me, and the Ridgebacks, on such a whirlwind ride? She is the naughtiest, most obstinate, intelligent and busy little monster ever to set foot in my house and more than once today I have uttered the words "Do you want to *die* on your birthday??" She just looks at me with that infuriating little twinkle in her eye, knowing I don't mean it, and repeats whatever insane behaviour I just scolded her for.

To all the birthday boys and girls - hugs to you and may Mommy and Daddy bring you a birthday gift on your birthday and a Christmas gift tomorrow. That is just how it should be. Treats for everyone!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Purple Rain

It's just a couple days before Christmas and I am pretty well prepared for the coming holiday. I only have a few things left to pick up but am having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit. I'm not sure why specifically but 2010 is a year I could happily put behind me. It hasn't been a bad year as such, it just hasn't been a great year. I think it was a bit of a let down because 2009 was so monumental that 2010 had a lot to live up to. Also, I didn't have a Year Plan for 2010, as I have had in previous years, so I sort of wandered through the last 357 days without much direction. I have decided that my new Year's resolution will be to make sure I have a plan for the coming year!

The weather of late has been the least winter wonderland-like of all my Christmases of memory. It has been almost like a hurricane but because of the direction of the wind they call it a Nor'Easter. The winds come out of the north and the east (but mostly east in my short experience) and blow the crap out of your entire life. And then drown it. Everything is under water, the woods are now full of downed trees, broken branches, and garbage blown from yards. Part of my fence is now lying on the ground and the dogs carefully step from stone to stone when walking in the yard so they don't sink into the quagmire of the lawn.

Driving is a fight against the howling winds and the storm surge on Tuesday night was definitely a bit harrowing on the drive home - the water level was so high up the Causeway that the wind was blowing seawater onto my truck. The pilings where the cormorants make their home normally show at least 8 feet of the poles but that night you could only see about a foot above the water - fortunately the cormorants made tracks for their winter residences weeks ago. It's a bit disconcerting driving across a half kilometer land bridge when the ocean is trying to remove the road from under you.

Despite it all we still make tracks for our walks every morning. The dogs don't understand that it is seriously unpleasant to walk in this crazy weather, all they know is that when we get up we go for a walk and they are serious creatures of habit. Try to break that routine and there is no end to the pining. We walk in the forest to avoid the worst of the wind and Leeloo is in her glory staring up at the branches, rushing from tree to tree in the eternal hope that a squirrel will drop into her mouth. Raimi likes his walk but he mostly uses it for pooping since he doesn't like to poop in the backyard. Esme needs that walk to burn off at least a little of her Energizer energy otherwise who knows what she'd get up to in the course of the day.  

Hopefully the weather will improve in the next day or two although I am really happy that the temperature has remained above zero, if it had been a little colder we'd all have been socked in for the holidays and there'd be about 10 feet of snow out there!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Thing

Esme has a thing about her Thing. She has various Things but this thing is the Thing of all Things. It's a new Thing to replace the old Thing that she coveted to destruction. I love that she loves this Thing because it's basically a piece of garbage and frankly buying her toys to play with is totally pointless because she has never loved a toy like she loves this Thing. What is it?

It's the cap off my shaving cream container. Skin-timate brand I believe. She had another cap but eventually it was loved so much it ended up becoming bits of Thing instead of a whole Thing and had to be sent to the Recycling Bin in the Sky. It was a sad day until a New Thing came to pass. She says 'Don't touch my Thing.'

She likes to show off her Thing but it's only for looking at, not touching. You are not allowed to have or hold the Thing. Doing so gets it removed from your possession poste haste. By force if necessary.

Having the Thing seems to make her feel Very Important. I'm not sure why. Carrying around the discarded lid from a shaving cream container doesn't really seem like it would garner you a lot of street cred but it puffs her ego something terrible. And it's not as if Esme particularly needs more ego. She shows it off and dares the world to put down her Thing thereby demonstrating that sometimes Things are only as important as you make them.

Her favorite game, actually, is making me go get the Thing when she 'accidentally' knocks it under the chair or somewhere inaccessible to her naughty feet. She watches with barely contained glee as I scrabble around on the floor getting covered in dust bunnies and Ridgeback hair to rescue her Thing from dark places unknown. She is always extremely relieved to have it safely in her possession and shows her profound joy at having her Thing back by tossing it around for a play session. She'll then watch with bright eyes as it skids across the floor and ends up right back under the chair from which I just finished extracting it. Oh yes ... we all have our Thing.  

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Small Gifts

At this time of year we think a lot about family and friends. I am so glad to have met a new family who adores Archer just as much, and probably more, than I do.  Before the holidays got too hectic we planned an afternoon walk with Archer so the dogs could enjoy their own brand of Christmas cheer. Once Leeloo established her Bossiness everyone settled down for an explore and a good run across the fields. We'd just had a couple inches of snow and everyone was feeling pretty fast.  

It's good to see all four bums again heading down the trail. Archer settles easily back into his place in the pack and Esme is quick to resume gnawing on his hocks in a vain attempt to herd him or goad him into play - whichever is on her brain at the time.

It never fails that there is some display of teeth. Not angry teeth, as this erroneously portrays, but bravado teeth which look serious but are actually just sharp protrusions from the mouths of marshmallows.

Two brothers patiently waiting for us on the hillside. Esme ... not so patiently waiting. She was forever doing the hustle, round and round, her endless energy is simply exhausting.

And Archer's classic photo with his silly little tongue out. It's almost like he is perpetually ready to offer a kiss and knowing Archer that has a very high probability if you are in kissing range. Well, kisses right back at you this holiday season to my Little Buddy, I know Santa will be generous because you have been a very good boy this year and your stocking will be full of presents and treats and holiday cheer. All my best to you and your family this Christmas and into the coming year. 

Friday, December 17, 2010

Morning Glory

Fast Leeloo is fast. She thought Raimi had spotted a squirrel and wasted no time in offering Squirrel Patrol back-up. As if he needs her help, he's the one who has actually had a squirrel in his jaws whereas she has never known the pleasure. Perhaps that's why she's so determined ... she needs to prove herself.

Searching for squirrels among the treetops is top priority these days. It's definitely not a job for the easily distracted or those who lack persistence. Both dogs have never forgotten the merry chase a squirrel took them on that ended at this tree. The live in perpetual hope that the squirrel will leap out into their mouths.

When I do manage to drag them away from the woods Leeloo takes out the frustration of not being able to nab a squirrel by wrestling with Esme. Esme loves the attention and although her suit now has a substantial coating of Leeloo slobber on it, at least I can keep an eye on them more easily.

Bursting out of the morning sunrise - this is Raimi every day. Oh to welcome each day with such optimistic abandon ... or maybe he's just glad it's Friday. I know I am!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dangerous Liasons

Squirrels are quickly becoming an obsession for the dogs. They seem capable of finding squirrels no matter where I walk them. Not that I mind this activity as such, but the single-minded focus of the hunt can get a bit wearing, particularly when it takes them into areas from which I can't easily retrieve them.

Who knew squirrels lived at the beach? They do and their residences are in those trees there, among other places. Leeloo knows this and insists on hassling them.

Esme does not hunt squirrels. She does, however, have no problem at all with stomping on their roof. This hill is where a couple squirrels live. This is the front of the hill being eroded by the sands of time, the back of the hill has bushes growing up it where they are protected from the wind coming off the ocean.

And this is one of the squirrels. There were two but one shot into the burrow when it realized Leeloo had a bead on it. She followed it to no avail and it got away pretty easily. This one, however, was the cause of some pretty intense Ridgeback interest. For perspective, I am standing at the top of the hill and looking at the squirrel directly in front of me because the bush's roots are actually about 8 feet down the side of the hill. This means that when the dogs are next to me they can *see* the squirrel about 5 feet in front of their noses, but can't get to it. Imagine the mind-blowing distress of both parties.

Leeloo scanned the bushes for the squirrel who, when it stopped moving, looked just like a leaf or part of the branch. They couldn't see it unless it was moving. Jurassic Park anyone? Once it did move and they had a handle on it they had to keep looking at it or they lost track of it again.

Two sets of eye are better than one, but although the squirrel was right in front of Raimi's eyeline, he couldn't see it. I think he thought he could but wasn't entirely sure.

And then all hell broke loose when the squirrel moved and Raimi shot down the hill while keeping an eye on it.  He followed it through the branches until it stopped to consider its options. It's there up in the lefthand corner of the photo, it looks like a brown leaf. Raimi was so close but so far - it's enough to make a dog insane.

You can see it better here with Leeloo hot on it's furry little tail. It's in the top left again and she is looking right at it. This was the moment of truth when the squirrel decided to make a break for its burrow. See Esme's furry little head there ... she thinks the Ridgebacks are just racing about for her amusement.

I had a moment of panic because when the squirrel made its move to escape it leaped onto the ground and I knew that if the dogs were in the right place they would catch it and dispatch it before I could stop them. Forunately by the time I got down from the hill it was safely in its little home. It lives with its buddy in one of these holes on the side of the hill. No way the dogs could get to them now but not for want of trying.

Boy tried his best to get his head stuck though. I gave them a few minutes of snorting and snuffling but if I hadn't leashed them up and dragged them away they'd still be there waiting for the little critters to offer themselves up on a plate. Unlikely in the most extreme of circumstances. The squirrels will be there another day and no doubt these two Great Hunters will remember where to look.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


We never go for a walk that doesn't involve some kind of wrestling activity, or chasing, or tackling, or general fun and frolic. I missed posting this one from the other day with Esme tackling Raimi. He has actually lifted his foot to bat at her, not that she'd notice really.

And the race is on. Up and down the beach they go, on and on and on. Once they are way down the coast I start running in the opposite direction and when they realize I'm getting smaller and smaller they kick in the after-burners to come after me. Not that they could exactly 'lose' me on this beach but it's cute to watch them hustle to catch up.

And the play fighting. Oh the play fighting. It sometimes results in sand in the eye and play has to stop while I remove the offending particle, but then the nonsense resumes. Esme is never far behind on the action but behind is usually where she is. It's hard to keep up with legs like Leeloo's!

Boy is full of big bluffs and Leeloo has his number but will play along so that his tender Boy feelings don't get hurt. Sometimes you have to do that with the boys.

All happiness and racing about is the name of the game. No one gets left out or left behind. No one goes in the water either!

Just like with kids there's always some little tiff where they get on each other's nerves with feelings hurt and words said. It doesn't take long to blow over though and they are back to best friends again.

Esme better watch it. Boy doesn't need to be accidentally neutered!

This is hard to see but Leeloo was racing toward Boy and Boy was racing toward Leeloo and as they passed each other Leeloo did an about turn to make a grab at the Boy. I was very impressed by her agility and speed!

And with the bulk of their pent up energy sated they settle down to exploring the beach and looking for the naughty squirrels whose scent drifts down to them on the eastern breeze. Time to go catch us some squirrels!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

About a Boy

A Boy day. He loves to have his silly runs, as long as there is a large expanse to gallop he will take off in pretty much any direction and just run and run. Then he spies me at a distance and stampedes full bore toward me with this ridiculous grin on his face. Oh yes, it's a bit worrying. He always leaps to the side at the last second but part of me has a little twist of panic that he'll misjudge the timing. One hundred and fifteen pounds of this smashing into me will likely result in serious damage.

After expending excess energy he then proceeds to gaze wonderingly into the distance looking for the elusive squirrel. Yes, there are squirrels on this beach. They chatter at the dogs from a few trees that dot the area. Here he is actually looking at Leeloo who has taken herself into the grass to hunt for the squirrel she knows is there.

Atop the 'mountain' as it is known locally. From here the dogs can get a better view of the squirrels - too good a view in my never humble opinion. They were in the bushes just to the left there, that was a gong show if I ever saw one, but that is a blog best written for itself.

And the footprints in the sand. Esme above and Boy below - not that a person couldn't really guess that is who they belong to!