Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Small Gifts

So this past weekend, of course, I was at a dog show in Canning where Esme did great and I have the photos back. I know this is a Ridgeback blog really but since Esme actually thinks she is a Ridgeback I am sure she would be offended if I left her out. Here is her photo at 6 months and 2 days old winning her first two points and a Best Puppy in the Herding group (something that doesn't happen very often for the Puli). Isn't she an absolute doll? Imagine ... this little piece of black fluff kicks Ridgeback butt on a regular basis.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Grudge

As mentioned yesterday I had been discussing the other Ridgeback entries with my mom at ringside after I'd lost breed with Raimi. As the specials bitch was moving in the ring I was talking about how if I was an impartial observer and judging the dogs chances are I'd have put her up over Raimi as well. I'm aware he is not entirely correct and have made peace with it.

While discussing this with my mom I also mentioned that the bitch carried her tail a little high and gay sometimes and I was not a huge fan of her head type but otherwise she was not a bad bitch. Nothing I said was intended to slag the other breeder or the dog, it was just simple observations. (My dogs have been on the receiving end of ill willed critisism so I'm no stranger to that kind of talk - the difference is I just don't care.) I was certainly not derogatory or demeaning to the dog or the handler. Earlier in the day I had also discussed with someone else how the class male had grown and I believed he was now taller than Raimi thus making both dogs out of standard. 

It is not unknown for people at dog shows to stand at ringside and discuss the dogs in the ring. In fact, if you are not talking about dogs at a dog show I'm not sure why you would even be there. If you want to learn it's a good idea to go to a show, look at dogs move, at types, see grooming techniques, watch handling and discuss the various virtues and faults of dogs in your and other breeds. This offers really nice checks and balances for where your own breeding is going or needs to go. Certainly there is no crime in chatting about the dogs in the ring, particularly if you are allowing the good with the bad and are not slandering or lying about the dogs.  Go to a National Specialty sometime, not only are people talking about the dogs in the ring, they are usually making actual notes in their catalogues about them ... gasp!

So the point of the previous paragraphs is this - the owner of the specials bitch had a friend at ringside who over heard my private discussion with my mom and repeated parts of it to the bitch's owner who then felt compelled to come and tell me that she does not talk about my dogs and that I shouldn't talk about hers. She then stormed off leaving me bewildered. I had no defense because I sincerely had no idea why it would ever come as a surprise to her that people are standing at ringside talking about the dogs in the ring, hers or anyone else's. I can imagine perhaps she thought I was critisizing her dogs and belittling them ... or so she was led to believe.

Let's be clear - I actually said I would choose her bitch over Raimi as an impartial observer. I really did - my mom can vouch for me. I cannot imagine that anyone would get into such a high state of offense if that is what had been repeated to her. Except we all know it was not. Chances are *very* high that the only things repeated were the negative things and those comments were almost certainly exaggerated by the 'friend' for dramatic effect.

So we all know that it was not the *talking about* which set off the 'talking to', it was the negative comments. Someone complimenting your dog doesn't get a strip taken off them ... they get invited in for tea. Someone getting only part of the information and assuming the worst flies off the handle. I know because I've done it. I think we all have.

What gets me actually, is that someone would try to tell me (or anyone) what I can and cannot talk about. Free speech is a federally mandated right and if I want to talk about dogs at a dog show just try and stop me. In fact, the next day not only did I continue to talk about the Ridgebacks but I also talked about other breeds too. Bless me ... I'm a rebel aren't I?

In my opinion if a 'friend' is insensitive enough to knowingly repeat information designed to upset you they are not a very good friend. If the intent was to make me follow these special Nova Scotia dog show rules where everyone *pretends* to have a big Love In, good luck with that. I don't need to be best buds with everyone in Ridgebacks or dogs and doG knows I have stuck my foot in it enough times! Will I learn to keep my mouth shut ... probably not, I'll just make a quick sweep to see who is listening.

Monday, June 28, 2010

The Wizard of Oz

In Canning we had a reasonably good weekend despite a rough start Friday night fighting with the air mattress. I managed to time my arrival at the show grounds so that my tent and mattress assembly occurred in the dark, something I highly recommend if you want things to go badly. My dad and I spent the better part of half an hour trying to pump air into the mattress to no avail … the air kept leaking out. I was contemplating sleeping on the dog beds in the truck when my Dad had the bright idea to read the instructions properly. Turns out we were trying to pump air into a mattress that had a large hole in it … the hole the air is designed to leak out of when you are done using the bed. So, with that hole plugged the mattress was a success.

After a night of restless sleep with the dogs stomping all over the place and me waking up to swear at them every couple hours, we started the show with Esme, Parker, Dixie and Esme’s sire Holmes. At 6 months and 2 days old Esme showed like a seasoned pro. She had people at ringside completely mesmerized and open mouthed. She was a superstar and to prove it she won Winners bitch and Best of Winners for her first 2 points. This over two adult Pulis with proper cords instead of fluff! Holmes won breed of course and then proceeded to win a second in group. Now, try to keep up: because the Sheltie that placed third in group was a puppy, Esme was the only puppy undefeated as yet by a puppy in the Herding group. This meant that only Esme and the Sheltie were required to go into the Puppy group competition. I took little Esme in expecting the Sheltie to win but Esme showed her little heart out and won the puppy group! What a great start to little Esme’s show career … and with scratched out coat to boot!

Raimi didn’t have as good a weekend as Esme. He won Best of Opposite in both shows on Saturday and on Sunday he didn’t even get that! That morning he didn’t behave very well (whereupon the judge did a terrible job of hiding how annoyed she was) and in the afternoon he was *so hot* he just would not show. He is also quite different from the dogs he is competing against – if you have ever met Raimi you may simply remember that he is ‘a lot of dog’; probably a bit too much dog to be correct, particularly in these parts. I was chatting with my mom at ringside and saying that if I was not The Boy’s owner and only an impartial observer, I too would probably put the bitch up over him as the more correct Ridgeback (this comment got me in ‘trouble’ later but that is a story for another day). As much as I love my most handsome Boy I suspect a show career is not in the cards … we are going to concentrate on tracking – something that doesn’t care what he or I look like!

Esme, on the other hand, did well again on Sunday although I could tell she was very tired in the ring. This has been a big weekend for her. She took Winners Bitch again but not Best of Winners so she is now on 3 whole points her first weekend out. We didn’t get to go into the puppy group ring because a Sheltie puppy placed ahead of the Puli so we sat on the sidelines. It was a great weekend for Esme, and maybe a not so great weekend for Raimi; however, any weekend spent with my dogs, regardless of results, is a pot of gold at the end of a perfect rainbow. (Photo taken June 27, 2010 just outsideWindsor NS - a perfect rainbow) 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Ciderhouse Rules

When you are planning for a dog show several things can happen that may result in your not being able to show a dog. These are known as the Rules of Dog shows and are including, but not limited to,:

1) The dog you are planning to show comes up lame. This is the primary Rule of Dog Shows. Lameness can be for any reason, real or imagined. Remember Archer's pano? Remember Leeloo's cut foot? All occurred just prior to a dog show. Fortunately recovery was swift and they were able to be shown but there have been instances where a dog has injured itself while at a dog show resulting in it not being able to be taken in the ring. You are never safe from this rule until the class is over.

2) The dog will experience loss of coat. This is the Secondary Rule of Dog Shows. Coat loss has many causes including, but not limited to, seasonal changes, removal by 'dog pals', coming into heat, scratching, chewing and stuffing themselves under furniture they no longer fit beneath. This rule primarily applies to breeds of dogs with double or long coats but smooth coated breeds have been know to lose large amounts of hair resulting in their show entry being revoked. It is important to note that coat loss is possible the night before a dog show so don't be fooled ... a night spent worrying off the coat of a front leg is a deal breaker for sure. It has happened.

3) The dog will lose weight to such a degree that it is no longer in show condition. The Tertiary Rule of Dog Shows is most often experienced by male dogs who, in the throes of lust and love, stop eating. This causes moderate weight loss and in combination with excessive whining and worrying the state of the dog rapidly deteriorates.

There are more rules but these are the three that you most need to watch out for. It's important to note that it is possible for all these rules to enter into play at one time and that is when you just pack up and head home or don't even bother going in the first place. Which rule applies to me this weekend? Why, rule #2 ... Esme has scratched her coat to such a degree in the last 48 hours to require some fancy trimming to hide the now much shorter coat on her shoulders. Of course she did.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Not a lot of time to post in the next couple days and this weekend I'm not sure I'll get to post at all because I'll be at a show in Canning that may or may not offer the ability to use the internet. I only have Raimi and Esme entered, Archer is getting a break from showing for a few months (even though he's on 8 points) and Leeloo is finished and doesn't need to be shown anymore. She thought it was stupid anyway so she's happy with this arrangement.

The last time I showed Raimi was a year ago at this very show. It has actually been an entire year since he has been in the ring and I don't expect much good behaviour from him. It could be our undoing actually. He is *so* excited to be shown he kind of turns into the Yo-Yo of Glee. He shows well when he's not beside himself with joy but we fluctuate between insane happiness, a correction from me, then Sad Boy, then I say it's okay to be a little happy Raimi, then he is over the moon because I love him again. Sigh. Just ... avert your eyes ... it's so embarrassing to show him sometimes. All I want from him this weekend is to get his show brain back in gear - this show was kind to me last year with a Best Puppy in Show for Leeloo and a group placement for Raimi but different judges mean different results. He's also competing against the #5 Ridgeback in Canada who shows *perfectly* so even a breed win would be a nice kudos. We'll see, my expectations are a bit low but at least I know I'll still be the best dressed loser ... must keep up appearances don't you know?

Now Esme I'm really looking forward to showing. I'm not sure how she'll do against other breeds in the puppy group ring, which I know will happen because she's the only Puli puppy, but it will be nice to know she will definitely get a little extra ring time for practice. I don't expect her to win points this weekend because my mom's two class dogs have lots of 'proper' coat instead of fluff but I do hope she behaves well and enjoys herself. She is a little spit fire to show (in the backyard) but we'll see how she does (in an actual ring). She is only entered in 2 of the 4 available shows because I didn't want to overwhelm her on her first weekend out. Nothing like burning out a puppy you want to special in later years!

I have to admit that Pulis are my comfort-zone breed. Let's face it, I grew up showing these dogs, I competed in junior handling with them, I've trained and groomed them my whole life - showing a Puli is second nature for me. I can grandstand with a Puli and not feel awkward, I know exactly how to present them, and I know that when I show Esme the judge is going to have to look pretty darn hard to find a fault.

So if, after tomorrow, you don't see a new post it will mean that I cannot get internet access and therefore won't be posting until Monday evening. Tragic I know. But let's hope that whatever I post will be good news about the dog show!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Mist

I think I've mentioned how much I like to walk in the mist. It's a surreal experience sometimes, especially when you're walking next to a graveyard and through large fields.  Here is the graveyard with the Great White Jesus ... the cemetery is called Stella Maris and that white beacon (which is highly visible in the dark by the way) is called Stella Maris ... strange enough to be sure.

Raimi and Esme catch the scent of something in the grass but dare not venture any further. Try not to look too hard at the state of Esme's coat.

Fortunately here she is too far away for you to see the red sand embededed in her coat. It is unreal. I have to wash her when she gets home - she's not even allowed to touch the floor, I just carry her to the bathroom. I am devising a plastic coat to cut down on the amount of crap she picks up.

Archer stops to wait for his buddies to catch up. The mist shrouding the soccer field behind him is a bit eerie to be sure.

Leeloo heard, I believe the for the very first time, a duck quacking in the distance. It caused no small amount of consternation.

I will find that quacker!

Is it in here? This is the area where the grass and bush are about 10 feet deep and then stop at an 8 foot chainlink fence.

Archer also heard the duck and was quite sure it was Very Fascinating. Although, when you are young and life is a carnival ride ... everything is Very Fascinating!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Pet Cemetery

In my quest to find somewhere to walk the dogs(that doesn't involve them seeing another dog 500 feet away and taking off toward it to say hello thereby freaking it out and causing it to set off across the countryside at high speed with 50% of my dogs in close pursuit wondering why their hell bent for leather approach resulted in a panicked bolt) I have settled upon the middle school down the road which is located is next to a graveyard.

I load up the dogs, drive about 300 metres and park, yes this feels like overkill but I cannot walk all 4 together ... wait ... I *could* walk all 4 together but if they saw a cat or bird or deer or rabbit I'd end up with road rash. One or two I could man-handle but three Ridgebacks with a Puli to trip me ... no way. There is a little service road that is about 150 metres long and I park at the end of it and walk directly toward the graveyard. When I open the back of the truck everyone piles out and takes off down the road. By the time I am walking toward them they have arrived at the graveyard and turned around to see what's taking me so long.

They come barrelling back and we carry on toward the cemetery and then make a sharp left on the service road toward the school field. To our left, on this service road, is a lovely field with 4 foot high grass that is lots of fun to bound through according to Leeloo and that is what she did this morning .... boing boing boing! Wheeee!  Esme followed but not too far in and Archer stopped to pee on a tree that bordered the graveyard. I'm not sure how offensive this is but it's not near the gravestones and he was discreet about it - it was a remarkably long pee too.

I am pretty particular about the dogs not going in between the gravestones. They do run in because they are dogs but I immediately call them out because I don't want to take a chance on a boy lifting his leg on a marker or anything equally disrespectful. Besides which there is a rather imposing grave stone that is a white marble Jesus staked on a cross at least 15 feet high and 10 feet wide looking down upon part of the cemetery ... his baleful stare is enough to instill a modicum of penance in any heretic.

That being said I only have one set of eyes. I was watching Leeloo boing happily in the grass with Esme attempting to follow. Archer was peeing on a tree and Raimi was just a few feet away. Suddenly Raimi bolted, with purpose, into the cemetery and I started calling him back. But Raimi was task driven enough to ignore me. He headed straight for a grave and I yelled at him to stop, but no, he was in 'go' mode and he wasn't going to pee on the grave, he was squatting to poop! I was mortified. Horrified. Embarrassed. Humiliated. Angry. And running toward him with murderous intent. NooOOOoooOOOoooOOO! The expression on his face was utter confusion. "Mommy, I am only pooping."

He shot away from me mid-poop and ran to the service road to stare in contrition and confusion. Mommy has never yelled at him for pooping. I looked down at the offensive leavings, planted with so little ceremony, next to a sadly wilting wreath which had been placed with care on a freshly dug grave. Of course it is. I removed a baggy from my pocket and picked up the evidence of our offense. I apologized to Mr Murray MacDonald and hustled out of the cemetery hoping no one but the (probably now completely disgusted) white marble Jesus saw the event.

We then had the opportunity to walk in the school field. Unlike in Calgary the school yards here do not restrict dog access, something I have had to untrain in myself. I make an absolute point of cleaning up any poop and watch them carefully for any deposits. This school yard is strange and awesome since it is entirely bordered by a chainlink fence but the mown portion of the field stops about 10 feet before the fence and allowed bushes and trees to grow up in that 10 feet. It's perfect exploration for the dogs and offers the best of both worlds - the opportunity to run like the dickens on flat mown grass and the brain teasing delights of being able to explore the bush and long grass. Archer is dead reliable about pooping in the bushes and if anyone poops on the field I can see it right away. There are also three ball diamonds which get the gears shifting in the Ridgebacks. I'm not sure why but hitting that sand diamond pushes the over drive button but it does int eh worst way. This morning after our walk I had to wash Esme because she was red from head to toe.

So now I have a place to walk them where it is fenced, we are unlikely to run into other people, and gives them a variety of interest during each walk to stimulate them. If only I could get Raimi to choose his toilet with a little more discretion.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Somewhere I'll Find You

Today I was up at 7am, walked the dogs, and by 8am I had hit the road to take Raimi to a tracking seminar in Truro. Raimi has always been a real scent hound - following his nose where ever it would take him. It was supposed to be quite hot today but fortunately in the morning it stayed nice and cool, overcast and there was a light breeze blowing so for the first part of the seminar I could leave him in the truck. He was a bit baffled as to what was going on because he usually travels with the other dogs. To be on his own was a bit of a brain teaser for Boy.  He had to wait in the truck for about 90 minutes.

Raimi doesn't like being left in the truck on his own. We were inside a building and since the door was open I could hear his pitiful barks and howls. I went to check on him once to make sure he wasn't doing anything stupid, not a stretch for him, but his exuberant greetings were enough to convince me I simply own the world's greatest Momma's Boy.

We learned how to lay a track and then just before lunch we prepared a short track for the dogs to follow. What is strange to me is that we are asking the dogs to track their owners, the person standing next to them. You lay a track, pepper it with treats and then ask the dog to follow the track with you at their side gradually moving to several feet behind them over several lessons. Eventually you remove the treats until the dog is only tracking your scent. Once he is reliable on your scent you ask him to blind track someone else that you trust to make their path and know where they were, so you know the dog is on the right scent.

It seems like fun, although I am going to change up the method a bit because Raimi would simply move from treat to treat and I am not entirely convinced he was even aware that there was a scent to follow other than the Rollover. I'm sure at some point they do eventually learn just to follow the scent but even the demonstration dog was just going from treat to treat, as far as I could tell. He also needs to learn to indicate an article(a glove), which he so far just blows by because there is nothing to recommend it. I also want to either start him on concrete or short grass because the pieces of Rollover would fall to the ground between the blades and by the time he had snorted about to found the piece he'd forgotten what we were doing! I put that down to brains ...

The method I started with Halo, which seemed to work quite well, was to use a mesh bag, fill it with Rollover, and drag it on the ground behind me. She followed the scent like a charm until she got to the bonus reward pile of treats. Then we'd continue the track. This encourages the dog to continue moving forward and with the Ridgebacks I find that given too much 'lag time' they lose focus. If they are concentrating on "Where is that bonus pile of food?" then at least they are continually moving forward. Gradually you move the piles further apart, make them smaller and start to only sporadically offer the scent and then phase that out too. The big push was to get the dog to go from footstep to footstep instead of air scenting, which I understand, except Raimi's attention span is so short I can't imagine him being enthusiastic about tracking for long if the pace is that slow.

We'll play with the techniques and see what works best for us. We have lots of time, summer is upon us and I want to try and get him out tracking at least three times a week to start. I'm excited to be able to do something with him that uses one of the elements of his skillset, lord knows the list is short! Although if there was a CKC title for adoring mommies he'd be a Adoring Mommy Champion. 

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Father's Day

Out to Malagash once again for a day of leisure with the dogs and to celebrate Father's Day a day early since tomorrow Raimi and I are headed out to a tracking seminar all day. It is hot. Hot hot hot. I took the dogs for a quick romp but after just a few minutes it was obvious they had no intention of doing anymore running about than absolutely necessary( ie; chattering of squirrels in woods).  Then it's high alert for about 15 seconds and perhaps a brief burst through the woods but it rarely bears any fruit.

Now that we've had a ton of rain followed by sunshine the greenery has exploded and covered everything in a thick mat of twisted weeds, little trees, grass, flowers and reeds. So tall in fact you could lose a Ridgeback ...

And even a Puli! Esme is actually jumping in this photo - otherwise all you'd be able to see is the top of her fuzzy little head.

This is the return trip from some imagined squirrel transgression in the Deep Dark Woods. You can see they are looking around for me because I'm hiding behind the lupines. Except Leeloo of course, she rarely cares where I am.

Remember the frogs and tadpoles from the other week? Well, they are all grown up and bright green! They do blend though I did manage to capture this frog peeking out between the grass.

Did I mention it was hot today? Archer's tongue thinks it was *very* hot.

Friday, June 18, 2010


A friend of mine has been anticipating a new puppy for several weeks now. She has been on the hunt for her own 'Boy' for months and it looked like everything was lining up for her to head out to pick him up in just a couple weeks. Last night: devasating news. The entire litter has contracted parvo at 6 1/2 weeks. One puppy has already succumbed to this awful virus and the rest of the litter are now fighting for their lives.

For those who are unfamiliar with parvo it cannot be stressed enough how seriously a diagnosis must be taken. The instant a litter, or any puppy regardless of age, starts with vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy it is not too soon to act. It could be a simple cocchi infection but it is literally the difference between life and death if you do not act or wait too long to act. Parvo has a very distinct odor and having had a childhood with litters of puppies who had it and died from it those are memories not soon forgotten by a 10 year old.

Parvo is not what actually kills, it's the secondary symptoms of dehydration and infection that ultimately causes death. The intravenous struggle to keep a puppy hydrated and loaded with antibiotics is how the battle is generally fought.  Only bleach can kill it, it can live dormant for over a year, it can withstand minus 30 to plus whatever temperatures, it is extremely contagious and it's mortality rate is over 90%. If you want to read more about it you can research it here.

In the 1980's parvo made the rounds throughout dogdom - breeders, handlers, vets, groomers, and Joe Public were faced with a barely understood pandemic. I remember that my mom had two litters of puppies, a few weeks apart, and after the siblings left we only had the puppies we intended to keep and somehow they got parvo. I believe one died (forgive a 25 year memory) and two survived. Dundee made the faster recovery and lived to be one of my parent's best sires. The other puppy, Allie, did not fare so well. Thankfully she lived (and became the dam to my own Precious Petal) but she lost almost all her hair and her previously perfect scissor bite turned into an undershot bite as her adult teeth came in. Her coat grew back but since her teeth would never correct she became my mom's obedience dog and produced some lovely puppies. I remember Radar, a puppy we lost to parvo when he was about 12 weeks old, and his cries in the night still haunt my 12 year old self at any mention of parvo.

As a child I didn't understand how serious parvo was and perhaps no one did really. It was a relatively new virus, being only first diagnosed in the late 1970's and without the internet to research and network with other breeders, it got a foothold in many breeder programmes and wiped out entire litters as easy as you please.

My heart goes out to the breeder who has to deal with this in 7 week old puppies. I am sorry that there is nothing but time, intravenous fluids, antibiotics and the will of a brand new life to carry you forward. To a very good friend I am sorry this has happened, you do not deserve such a rotten deal and although it is no consolation today, know that at any point it would be an honor to place one of my dogs in your home.  Best to you and baby Draco ... fight to live little 'Boy'.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


Just like a dog to prove you wrong. I bought some different dog food yesterday, soaked it, mixed it with oatmal and force fed it to Raimi - force feeding is loads of fun let me tell you. Soak the food until it's all mushy, then scoop out a small handful and shape it into a sort of tube. Grab the dog's top jaw, pull upwards and they will open their mouth, slide the food in from the near corner of their mouth and press it gently to the back of the throat. Tip their head up and gently hold their mouth closed until they swallow. Don't tip their head too far back because it can close their throat and they can't swallow or breathe ... kind of counter productive. Raimi is very good about this procedure, he doesn't like it but he puts up with it. Often if I do it to start he will continue to eat the rest of the food on his own. I always offer him the option after every couple mouthfuls to eat on his own because obviously I would prefer he eat that way. As you have guessed I have had to do this a few times since Raimi can be fussy, it just takes one thing for him to go off something. I tested him with some chunks of Rollover to see if he was off food altogether or just off the kibble. He ate the Rollover and asked for more so I knew it was not his appetite that was waning!

A couple hours later I prepared more food but put Rollover on it and he ate it up quick as you please. I also noticed Archer has not been eating with his usual gusto this morning so I offered him some of Raimi's new food and voila ... yummy! Now everyone is eating no problem and Leeloo is left to finish off the original bag that no one else likes ... she is happy to oblige, she's never known a single day of refusing food. If she ever did I'd know something was seriously wrong !

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Eat Your Heart Out

What do you do with a picky Boy? I don't know. Raimi won't eat kibble food anymore. I may have to resort to raw for him. I hate feeding raw. It's messy, you have to be careful about handling it, it doesn't travel well and it's just a plain pain in the ass. I fed raw years ago and one Unfortunate Incident put me off it for the long haul. That's a story for another day. Right now I am force feeding Raimi because he just will not eat kibble. He has a show in less than two weeks and he will start to lose weight and look terrible. Rollover? Yes. Candy? Yes. Potato skins? Yes. Kibble ... POISON!

In all respects Raimi is healthy, fit, and full of life with totally normal and regular, uh ... activities. He just won't eat kibble. I'm hoping it's just a phase but I suspect it was brought on by the bug they all had about 2 weeks ago and he now associates not feeling well with dog food. Great. I also put some of the issue down to anxiety about me working full time. It has had the greatest impact on Raimi and I think he is having a hard time coming to terms with it. There is nothing for it ... I must work and he must get used to it. Anyway, until I find a better solution he is being hand fed and at the very least he is getting a little extra attention as a result ... perhaps that is part of his master plan. Doesn't he look sad?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Stranger Than Fiction

I have a funny story to relate about this morning's walk. In the morning I get up, feed the dogs a few kibbles, put on a hat and coat and head out the door. I also often wear sunglasses because if it's not cloudy the sun is up and shining brightly.

As we head down the now over grown paths of bushes and trees, often I must push the low hanging branches out of the way to get by. Well, today Leeloo happened to be trotting toward me as I was bent double to get under the thorny fingers of some bushes and she stopped to stare.

Now, you may not know this about me but I love to freak the dogs out. It just tickles me to get them all riled up about something stupid. If they're sleeping I bug them with 'Whos that? Who's there?" and they go from a dead sleep to high alert in 1.2 seconds. Sometimes I put hair accessories on them or stick tape to their noses, tie a string around their tail or cover them with a blanket so they can't see. Cruel I know but it's cute to watch them figure out the problems. It never hurts them and it teaches them to not freak out plus there's the added bonus of amusing me. Often they get the joke because when they remove the tape or string or blanket I praise them and they get all goofy.

So today, when Leeloo stopped in consternation while I was bent over and emerging from the bushes I froze and gave her the challenge stance. You know the one, you fake a little toward them and then stop. She looked at me with bright curious eyes but I could see the doubt crawling in. I didn't say anything, I just ducked a little to the side and then started toward her and stopped again.

She definitely knew something was not right. Who *are* you? Of course, we have been on this walk dozens of times and the only person ever with them is me so it's not like she couldn't cast back to previous walks and go, "I know it's you Mommy. Duh." Nope. This time she stood stock still, practically vibrating with concern. Archer, who up until this point had been ignoring the exchange looked at me, looked at Leeloo and thought "Leeloo is concerned so I should be too." So he started the worry face and braced stance.

I hopped toward them and raised my hands. Leeloo's eyes bugged out of her head, she did an immediate about face and took off. She didn't even wait to see if Archer was following (which of course he was), she just shot as fast as she could down the path. I have never seen her move so fast.

She must have passed Raimi on the way because he came up the path a moment later to see what the Big Damn Deal was and although I froze into the 'boo stance' for him he just barrelled toward me and leaped about happily, "You're playing Mommy! I love you!" Bounce bounce bounce.

A few seconds later Leeloo galloped back up the path with Archer close behind and when she saw Raimi 'talking' to the Stranger Danger she came up to me and just had a fit of the Happies. "Oh! It's YOU! I knew that." She was wagging, smiling, leaping, playing, biting ... anything she could think of to convince me she knew the whole time that I was just playing.

So that is Leeloo's blonde moment. We all have those moments and I know I shouldn't tease them so badly but when they offer the opportunity on a platter it's really hard to resist!

Monday, June 14, 2010

No Way Out

If you have sent or intend to send an email to my Eastlink account ... don't bother. I can get the emails, I can open them, I can read them but I can't move them, delete them, reply or otherwise modify them. Something bad bad bad has happened to my Outlook and it's just so frustrating. So instead of facing the problem head on I have simply created a gmail account until Outlook can be Inlooked. If you need to email me my new address is: invictushounds ( @ ) gmail (dot) com.

To distract us all from this unbearable tragedy here is Super Archer coming to save the day! He forgot his cape at home but his super powers are at full capacity anyway.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

The Gene Generation

Yesterday I spent sometime on Skype with Adine at Charisma in Alberta going over the almost 6 week old puppies she has out of Karma. This was Karma's first litter and we had some pretty particular outcomes we were hoping for - there were things about Karma we knew we wanted to correct and things we knew we wanted to keep. Of course, being her first litter, it was a bit of a guess as to what traits she would retain and what she would lose to the sire. This being my first long distance evaluation I wasn't sure how it would go but in all it was a very good experience. Ridgebacks are a smooth coated breed so not being able to put my hands on them is not a tragedy, it's just inconvenient. You can get a very good idea of overall structure and balance simply by looking at them from the front, the rear and the side.

At 6 weeks old you cannot finalize any decisions because it's the 8 week evaluations you are most interested in since that is the time they are more representative of what they will look like at 2 1/2 years old. However,  if you don't look where you have been you can't compare future litters and how they will develop. The 6 week evaluation, to me anyway, is simply a way to be able to mark stages in the growth of the litter. Some breeders say not to look at them as they develop from birth, to only look at the 8 week old puppies, but my opinion is that in watching them develop you begin to get an 'eye' for how your dogs grow. Whatever they end up being at 8 weeks is important but that too is fallible.

It's so critical that the dogs be allowed to develop as they are meant; this means not allowing them to get over weight, not over exercising, not keeping them too thin, and making sure they have good mental stimulation. Any one of these out of balance and the dog you saw at 8 weeks may not develop to its full potential. You can also be wrong in your evaluation and end up with a dog that doesn't meet your expectations, it happens and it's not terrible, take that knowledge and apply it to the next litter.

That all said, I was very pleased with the whole of the litter in Alberta. Lovely balance throughout, the heads we wanted, the bone we wanted and extremely promising strides toward what they will be at 8 weeks. I believe in this litter we have accomplished exactly what we intended and that in itself is rare enough. Usually  there is a lot of hype surrounding the breeding of top winning dogs and bitches but they sometimes produce mediocre puppies. I wonder if this is because when you have something 'so good' there is no where left to go? 

Now - using a dog as well known and titled as Argos on a relatively unknown bitch can be a gamble but Karma had to start somewhere - might as well shoot for the stars right?  You are combining proven winning genes with a bitch who has no breeding history - what she produces is a total guess and it's a brave stud owner who takes a chance with his boy on an unknown girl. The sire's reputation is taken into consideration because in order to maintain his popularity as a sire he must produce well with whatever he is bred to. The stud owner must evaluate the bitch and then be honest about what his boy can offer and what his faults are and be willing to take a chance that the two dogs will balance each other and the majority of puppies will end up with the best of each parent.

Remember, the genetic component of every puppy is 50/50 ... DNA doesn't care how many awards have been won it simply mixes the ingredients and bakes a Ridgeback. Breeders often forget how much a bitch contributes to the puppies because top winning sires are capable of producing dozens of litters in their lifetime. Studs are also specialed/advertised more since once they have contributed the sperm their job is done. A bitch can be out a half a year to whelp and then raise a litter plus the time it takes to get back into shape - being a working mom is hard for a dog!  Since an average bitch produces 3 or 4 litters in her lifetime and the best age to whelp is between 2 and 5, the prime show circuit years are taken up raising puppies.

I almost prefer to start with a dog that needs to be tweaked here and there; it gives you a little breathing room, takes the pressure off perfection, and allows you to check and balance your breeding program. I will never say any of my dogs are perfect, but it looks like the old adage that a truly exceptional broodbitch produces better than herself has been proven once again. Halo proved it and her daughter is proving it ... bred to the right sire of course! I'd hate to be accused of puffing up my girls now wouldn't I ...?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Art School Confidential

I am now dealing with a glut of photographs taken in the morning sunlight that are very hard to edit. I am so blessed to have such a beautiful location as a backdrop to the dogs. I've been thinking, lately, of creating a sort of Ridgeback Photographic Art Exhibit - remember that photographs are art and although they are now so easy to take ... that doesn't mean a good photo is the result! Not everyone can take a good photos, just check out Facebook albums. Of course, for every beautiful photo I take I have at least 3 or 4 discards that I simply delete and I am no Ansel Adams to be sure. One day soon I'll get a DSLR back in my hand and be able to show you what can be done with correct exposure, focus and a high quality lens. Until then though we must content ourselves with what my little Canon Elph can manage ... which, judging by the following, is not a tragic way to take a photo by any means.

Leeloo sniffing the lupines for which Nova Scotia is well known. These 'weeds' dot the ditches and fields of the province for about 3 weeks in June ... it's a intriguing splash of color anywhere you drive or walk.

Leeloo looks good in purple and sunlight.

What's this? Leeloo again? Well, yes, I can't seem to stop taking photos of her. She happily obliged by posing backlit to the morning sun in amongst the trunks - her beautiful white tipped legs echoing the long shadows of the trees.  

Sick of Leeloo? Never  - but who I can't leave out this ridiculous face. That bright mischievous eye never misses a trick.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Kings in Grass Castles

Carrying over from yesterday, I just love it when the dogs are lost in the grass and trees. Unfortunately taking photos of them in said foliage is a little difficult, and not only because they often blend almost completely into the background.  I dont' like fighting bushes and bugs for that perfect shot and often the light level in the woods is quite low so good photos are often blurry and useless.

Leeloo is not blurry and useless, Leeloo is sharp as a tack and naughty as hell. She is also threatening to come into heat just when I have entered Raimi in his first show in a year ... he will not eat, lose weight, look terrible and show worse. Thanks Leeloo.

Oh, there's The Boy. He looks pretty darn good right now but just you wait, in two weeks I'll be stuffing food down his gullet to try and keep the weight on. It's hard to tell but since he is in Stealth Mode but he is the perfect show weight and fit as a fiddle. 

This is Archer's Eating-Grass-So-I-Can-Barf-It-Up-While-Mommy-is-at-Work Mode.

Leeloo and Archer on their way to catch up with me, Raimi and Esme.  The grass here grows so fast it's hard to imagine just a few short weeks ago this was barely ankle height.

And of course Esme is soaking wet all the time. She spends her days in the laundry room getting dry. This new morning-walk arrangement suits me perfectly because by the time I get home she's dry and not getting her wet dog smell all over the furniture!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Beyond Therapy

After the seriousness of yesterday's post I figured we could all use a little relaxation therapy. My mornings  now begin with the sunrise and having never actually had this routine before I wasn't sure how I'd like it. So far it is really a great start to the day. How could it not be with this to sooth the soul?

Raimi in a moment of contemplation amongst the dewdrops. It's strange how the dew on the grass doesn't bother them when they are out for a walk but heaven forbid the lawn be wet in the backyard when they are let out to pee.

Leeloo closes her eyes and absorbs the golden rays of the first light of day. She becomes one with the landscape ... totally awesome. Don't you feel more relaxed just looking at this photo?

And here's a cute happenstance. I didn't realize the image would come out this way but it gives new meaning to Archer thinking the sun shines out of his ass.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Final Cut

The point in any breeding program is of course to produce the next generation and each generation you produce is always with an eye to the future. Puppies are awesome and that is undeniable but they need homes and homes are not to be chosen or taken lightly - that is why most breeders insist on some screening process. It can be hard to choose homes, it can be heart-breaking to say no to someone who doesn't understand the breed or isn't currently in a position to offer a home to one of your puppies. We don't just sell to anyone, we sell to the right home, the forever home.

I think Adine over at Charisma put it best with this paragraph in her blog:

"Very recently, a breeder told me that puppy homes were a dime a dozen. I think that this statement grossly undervalues the extremely important role pet puppy homes have in a breeder’s program. After all, what predicament would breeders be in if we bred to produce a certain type of dog to keep for our breeding programs but then also had to keep the ten that accompanied it? The only two choices would be to keep all the puppies and breed once every 10 years, or alternatively cull those that we didn’t feel worthy of life. My opinion? I feel privileged to be able to provide the incredible experience that sharing your life with a Ridgeback can bring to the right family. It has been awesome to meet people that are eager to embark on this adventure with us. Out of a list of breeders, you chose us. I want you all to know just how appreciated you are and we will do our utmost to support you in every way we can!"

You know ... she's right. Pet homes are the backbone of a breeding program because they take the dogs we don't want to keep. Breeders breed to keep the best of the best but must be as ruthless when choosing pet homes as when choosing to keep the next Great One. Every puppy deserves the best home and the best chance at a life with a family. For any breeder to belittle or shrug away the responsibility of finding good 'pet' homes is a sad commentary on that breeder's opinion of the people they sell to and additionally their opinion of the puppies who are placed in those homes. Suffice it to say I know I have chosen the most *awesome* homes out there and you all know who you are!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Grand Larceny

Big big day for Invictus yesterday! Zero, who is from Halo's second litter, is now an American Grand Champion - a new title that was recently introduced to the American Kennel Club show system. It is a way for dogs who are already champions to continue to compete for another title - a harder title than a regular Championship in some respects since you are required to win more points under more judges and only champion dogs can accumulate these points. In just over 4 weeks Zero obtained more than the required points and is now Am. Gr. Ch. Invictus Nightmare Before Xmas JC. Here he is at home being a regular dog with regular kids. What a lucky guy.

Zero started out as a stand out in his litter. It's not hard to see why. Here he is at just 7 1/2 weeks showing off his little 15 pound body of promise.

And here's the Z-boy at just over two years old in an ad that Erin, his owner, put in a breed magazine called the Ridgeback Register. It's easy to see that the 7 weeks puppy lived up to his potential!

I kept Zero until he was 4 months old and done all his vaccinations because Erin had acquired a rescue puppy who unfortunately died of parvo virus. Zero spent his time lazing on the couch and harassing his big brother Raimi. Zero says "Hey! You are wearing my collar!"

Who could say no to that face? Apparently a lot of judges said yes to that face because is he now only one of two Ridgebacks in the USA to complete his Grand Championship title, plus he is also the very first Canadian bred and owned Ridgeback to do so. We at Invictus are so proud and so grateful to Erin Coogan at Aegis and Juliette Clendenon, his handler, for doing such a great job with this guy ... more things to come in his future I'm sure! 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Enter the Dragon

I have never entered a photo contest. Crazy right, since I take so many photos. But it never really occurs to me to actually enter anything, even when I see a contest I think a photo I've taken would be good for I just never commit to an entry. I was determined this year to not forget to enter a contest that Dogs in Canada has every year. If you don't enter you can't win right? Part of the problem is that I take so many photos and love so many of them that it's super hard for me to actually choose a photo to enter, and if the contest only allows one entry per person per category then I am even more at a loss. So this year with the categories in mind, I have submitted two photos and now leave the choosing up to the photo doGs at Dogs in Canada.

I only entered two categories because one was for old dogs and I don't have any photos really that would apply to that category since my dogs are all under 4 years old. However, the categories that they do have are not defined and without clear parameters it makes it even harder to choose photos. I finally did though and here are the photos I tossed into the ring:

Peaceful Moments - defining this one seems pretty simple but it can encompass a quite lot of different photo settings.  Most people who have been reading this blog for a while would be quite familiar with this photo since it sticks out in your brain once you've seen it. This is 4 month old Leeloo with 18 month old Raimi, lying together on my couch back in Calgary. I love the color, how soft the focus is and how utterly peaceful they are together. Leeloo is obviously feeling very safe and secure with this monstrous Boy by her side. 

Portraits in Nature - this category was much harder to define since to me a portrait is a posed shot but the word nature leads you to believe that the dog should be in nature and unaware of the photographer. I will admit, I do not like posed photographs. I pose the dogs for their 'group photos' and am never completely satisfied with the result because to me they don't look in those photos like they do when I capture them in unconscious moments. I'm not 100% certain this photo applies but I love the way Halo is highlighted by the sun, the detail in the shadows, the curve of her body to define her against the straight trunks of the trees but at the same time she seems like she is part of the forest, you can the interested expression on Halo's face, she is unaware I am there (well, she is but she isn't if you know what I mean) ... it is a portrait of a dog taking in a moment with nature. This is my very favorite kind of photograph and even if we don't come out of this contest with any prizes I know this is truly one of the very best photos I have ever taken of Halo.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dog Day Afternoon

As mentioned yesterday I was at the schoolyard with the dogs to meet my neighbour who has a little German Shepherd mix puppy and I have suggested she let him off lead so he can burn off some of that crazy excessive puppy energy. While we waited at the park, after the dodgeball pole incident, I took some photos of the dogs being dogs. It is quite humid now with summer pretty well upon us and bucketloads of rain to boot so they get pretty hot pretty fast as evidenced by the matching tongues in this photo.

Raimi spent a lot of his time with his nose in the grass snorting up whatever lovely smells a school field has to offer. In a couple weeks he can put that sniffer to good use at a tracking seminar.

Esme's fluffy bum and tongue. She hasn't reached the 'buffalo' stage of Puli coat development and I'm keeping a close eye on it to try and prevent that often inevitable event.

Raimi loves to roll in the grass, it's his thing. He then looks at me with happy eyes and smiles and I can practically hear him say "Rub my tummy Mummy."

He then proceeds to lounge on the grass while the 'kids' run around like maniacs. For some reason I think this photo is dead cool although it seems to have erased his ridge! 

Eventually Max and his mom Agnes arrived and my dogs went batshit. They don't often meet another dog on their walks so the socialization is good for them as well as Max. He was pretty good, did the proper puppy roll when met by three adult dogs and everyone got along just fine.

He's actually a pretty cute dog, well behaved, listens to his mom and is a friendly little guy who will hopefully, with proper guidance, mature into a well behaved adult dog. His eyes are quite cool because they are blue but one of his pupils sort of 'bleeds' out of the centre of his eye. I had a close look and actually, that eye is both brown and blue (the brown is the lower half of the right eye) which gives the pupil the appearance of 'bleeding'. Even so ... it's still a bit freaky. He looks like he was knocked about the head and when his eyes went all googly they stayed that way!


Not being a mom, rather a 'dog mom', I cannot claim the maternal bond with my dogs that parents have with their children. However, when something happens to threaten their safety or well being I can turn into Worried Momma with the best of them. Today I experienced just such a event when all else ceases to exist and nothing in the world is more important than kissing a boo-boo better or worst case: driving to the vet like a crazy person.

I arrived at our normal dog walking area and let the dogs go, they ran around like mad hatters for a few minutes and we approached the school yard where I was meant to meet my neighbour so she could let her dog off lead and socialize in relative safety. My dogs ran amuk for a few moments around the basketball court where there are also a couple of dodgeball poles set into the ground about 30 feet apart. They are simple non-descript poles, metal, gray, and smooth. I had a moment of concern when Raimi ran toward one while looking back at Archer who was chasing him. Raimi ran past the pole and missed it by about a foot or so and I breathed a sigh of relief just as Leeloo followed the boys at high speed and hit her stifle on the unyielding pole. CLANG. YIPE! And a dead lame, totally distraught Leeloo hobbled away yelping and whining and looking at me clearly in pain. I dropped my back pack and ran to her to stop her moving around, assess the damage, tot up the vet bills and figure out how to get her to said vet.

I was *sure* her leg was broken. She hit so hard, was going so fast and now her leg was dangling uselessly. There was a little cut on her stifle that gave me pause but as I felt up and down her leg I could feel no break, no looseness in the joint, no flinch of pain as I manipulated the limb. I put her on lead while we re-grouped with the other dogs (who had been amusing themselves with no concern at all for broken Leeloo) and I checked the pole for what might have been cut her... which was nothing. The pole is just that, a smooth regular everyday pole. Shrug. She limped a little to start but by the time we entered the school field she was totally sound and wanting to go off and run with the other dogs. I gave her a few more minutes of rest before letting her go and watching carefully for any sign of lameness. Not a stitch. She's one tough cookie that bitch. 

Once we got home I cleaned off her leg and had a look. Apparently, if you hit skin hard enough, it simply splits which is what hers did. It's almost like the skin was simply parted, so I cleaned it out really well, pressed the flap down and slathered it with liquid bandage. So far it seems to be holding quite well and once healed should show no scar at all. It doesn't look that impressive but let me just say, when you see your dog injure itself to such a degree that you think their leg has snapped ... this little cut being the only result is an impressive demonstration of how lucky a gal can get. Her and me both.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Quality Street

The following is an announcement from the blog administrator (that's me) and author (that's me too) regarding our quality control protocol:


I want everyone to know that this blog is a real labour of love. I do try to post *every day*. I know people read it religiously(thank you for that), some read because they genuinely care about me and the dogs, some people think I'm funny and a good writer, some like to look at the photos, some are just interested in the Ridgeback as a breed and some read it to spy on me and see what I'm up to as a breeder so they can judge me (you know who you are). I won't lie and say I want to write every day because some days, like today, I just don't. That's where the labour part comes in.

This past week has been great, really, I am actually enjoying my new job, but it comes at a price. Long days, a brain over flowing with new information, and trying to establish a routine - something I haven't had to do in over a year. It's hard to describe but by the time I get home all I want to do is eat and sleep. It's definitely something that will improve with time but right now it's a rough go so I apologize if the entries are short, lack my usual rapier wit or are otherwise not up to the standards which you may have come to expect. I promise to improve and with the weekend upon us and blessed blessed sleep I'm sure I will feel more up to my usual standards.

One of the best things about having the dogs is the knowledge that they are natural stress relievers. I took a few moments yesterday to de-stress with Raimi. I picked a time when the other dogs weren't around, he lay down and I sat with him, just petting his side, stroking his head, feeling his heart beat, listening to his breathing, and letting the absolute calm he projected wash over me. I won't deny, Raimi makes me feel safe, and spending a few moments with him before bedtime muffles the noise of the day and put me in the right frame of mind for a good sound sleep. We should all be so lucky to have a Boy in our lives.