Monday, November 29, 2010

The Stand

Since I know people are waiting with baited breath to find out what has happened with the raging diarrhea that has run through my house this past weekend I thought I'd give a quick update before I fall into bed.

Things from Friday went from bad to worse with Leeloo vomiting and having diarrhea (fortunately not in the house) and although Raimi showed improvement on Friday during the day, he took a turn which culminated into vomiting up blood clots Sunday morning at 1am and having blood in his stool. By Sunday afternoon Leeloo was already on the mend but Raimi was still plateau-ed in a funk, not eating, not drinking and sleeping between requests to go outside *now*. Despite the blood that was appearing in ghastly places he was still pretty cheerful and I spent a lot of time syringing water into him which improved his outlook on life considerably. How to decide whether this was an 'emergency' was my main concern. After phone consultations with my parents I decided that I'd get water into him and see how he went. There is a distinct shortage of vets open on Sunday (pretty much in the entire world) and emergency vet care here is not exactly encouraged. Vet are not usually eager to have you call them on a Sunday evening particularly when the dog isn't actually at Death's Door. So I gave him until this morning and then called first thing to get him into the vet.

The vet and I discussed symptoms and possibilities. I was rooting for coccidia which is super easy to treat but to cover all our bases we also tested for giardia. Both those were negative and since I am planning a litter in the spring we decided to do a parvo test just to rule it out - that way we'd know for sure it was *not* parvo and I wouldn't have to bleach the house top to bottom(something I think I'd like even less than painting ceilings).

No such luck. It is parvo virus and although it doesn't happen often in adult dogs, they do get it. They are able to fight it off more easily thatn a baby puppy since their immune systems are mature but Raimi is having a particularly tough go.

Leeloo had it too but she kicked parvo's ass. She has always had an incredible constitution and it would take more than some measly parvo to get her down. Also, dogs, just like people, are affected differently by the same strain of virus - one person with the flu can be down for days or weeks and another hardly gets a chill - it's totally individual. The worst that will happen with Leeloo is that I will probably have to delay getting her thyroid test because her blood levels will be out of whack while her immune system rages against the virus.

Raimi is a very sensitive guy and has forever been my sweet delicate Boy. He has not been able to knock this virus down and needs a little extra support. He is on anti-biotics to prevent secondary infection, he was given a penicillin boost today and will spend the next 10 days getting giant pills to ensure that his immune system does not have to fight more than one battle at a time. I also have to make sure to keep him hydrated and rested - something that will not sit well with Leeloo or Esme.

Speaking of ... little Esme, who has been living in a literal shit stew of parvo virus, has barely taken a breath between chasing the cats, removing all the toys from the toy box, destroying perfectly recyclable bottles and pinging off the walls.  She doesn't seem to have noticed that a deadly virus is loose in the house and I hope it stays that way.

Parvo is a wicked disease and kills puppies easily - which is why for the next 3 months there will be much bleaching and cleaning. Fortunately Leeloo will be immune to the strain by the time the puppies are born and will pass that immunity straight to her puppies. She will also get a boost before the litter and I will be maintaining a strict no fly zone for strange people in the house while the puppies grow up. It's not the way I prefer to do it, I like people to visit and handle the puppies, but there is just no messing around with parvo.  In short, there was absolutely no way for me to even suspect Raimi had parvo - I thought it was just some damn bacteria running through them ... one thing is for sure, I'll never stop being surprised by what the dogs bring home.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Sleepless in Seattle

You'll have to pardon me if the post today lacks its usual luster. I have spent the last 2 nights getting up several times to let Raimi out since he is experiencing yet another run of what I believe is a cocci bacteria or something similar. He has a slightly more sensitive stomach than Leeloo (who has a stomach of iron - on her sickest day ever she'd still eat) which is why I think it often affects him first and sometimes not her. Cocci is just a nasty bug that gives them diarrhea and sometimes vomiting (but that's usually caused by an empty tummy - RRs tend to vomit when they get really hungry) but that doesn't make its appearance any less unwelcome, particularly when it affects my sleep pattern.

I came home on Wednesday evening to an absolute shit show and I am not kidding. The dogs had escaped their pen to get away from the explosive diarrhea Raimi had spread pretty much everywhere although he was kind enough to not get any at all on the dog beds. Things pretty much went downhill from there.

That night he had me up 4 or 5 times to let him out, once we didn't make it in time and I was cleaning up at the back door at 4am. I had to go out to run errands for about 3 hours during the day (I was off for American Thanksgiving since the client at work is US based) and came home to almost the same scene as Wednesday but with less volume. After I got home I was given the Big Sad Eyes about every hour or so and we rushed to the back door so he could go out. The backyard is an absolute disaster and  there is almost no way for the other dogs to avoid getting whatever bug he has.

Leeloo is showing signs of runny poop and now vomiting so I have now taken her off regular food and she will be on the same rice and milk diet Raimi is on. Raimi is less jazzed about the rice than the milk but he is not drinking water and if milk is what he wants to 'eat' fine by me. I water the milk down so he gets more water and since milk is a nice anti-acid it will calm his tummy (I need to get goat's milk since it's not pasteurized but last night we just made do with what we had) and I also need to stock up on more rice and yogurt to get their pro-biotics back on track.

This seems to happen every three months or so and I have been marking down what and when they get sick. This didn't happen in Calgary and has only started since we moved here, I am trying to think what might be causing it. We never ran into the amount of deer droppings Calgary that we do here and that might be the culprit. I can't think that eating deer poop is exactly good for them but there is no way to stop it short of not walking in the woods ... or anywhere. So it will be yet another few days of constant laundry, floor washing, and midnight stumbles to the back door ... the shining joy of owning dogs sometimes grows dim.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Best in Show

It's official. Zero has been invited to the Westminster Kennel Club show for ranking in the top 5 of Rhodesian Ridgeback breed points up to October 31, 2010. The list was posted on November 16 on the WKC website and his invitation arrived at Erin's house a couple days ago. It is now a real and exciting prospect to be making arrangements to go to Madison Square Garden in February. Zero's entry still has to get there before closing but as long as it does he is officially entered in the show. No waiting in line for VIPs!! Erin took a quick photo of the invite and sent it to me, it's a pretty cool thing to see.

According to Erin, the pre-filled entry form had my name spelt right and everything, something I am always on the lookout for because my name, as simple as it is, gives people a lot of trouble. Now we just wait to make sure Zero's entry made it to New York. Assuming it does we then we sit through a long winter before heading to New York to watch Zero and Juliet show in the breed class. Some people are a little confused about how it works and are asking if Zero will be on TV - in order for that to happen he would have to win Best of Breed because only the groups are shown on television, however, WKC does have breed videos of the judging throughout the day and if you want to see Zero show you can watch it online at the end of the day on Monday, February 14 - assuming you aren't out enjoying dinner and a movie with your sweetheart! I'm not making any predictions about how Zero will do because it's just like any other dog show and anything can happen. Regardless of how he does it's going to be an exhausting and exciting weekend and I can't wait to see Zero and Juliet show at The Garden!  

Monday, November 22, 2010


Yesterday we met up with Archer for a romp in the woods. He was sporting the brand new winter coat his Mommy bought to keep him snug and warm. Once he was kitted out it was down to business right away for Leeloo when she realized who it was. Leeloo is 'play hard pay later' kind of girl and demure introductions aren't her style. After a few moments of concerned back pedalling Archer threw himself into play with his usual glee. Esme did her level best to keep up, emitting frustrated barks when the big dogs got too far away!

Archer did manage to stop for a millisecond to pose for me but that was pretty much as long as he stood still. Then is was off to do more damage in the woods.

Leeloo took a breather and found a very convenient branch to gnaw on for a moment. I'm not precisely sure what possessed her but the effect was pretty cute.

Archer tends to be a little more careful in playing with Boy since Boy is a boy and out weighs Archer by almost 40 pounds. Of course, once in a while we all lose our heads in the heat of the moment. This photo was quickly followed by some roaring from Raimi and then some more roaring from me which halted all of the previous roaring and turned it into profound apologies by everyone to everyone. Except me obviously, apologies don't roll downhill. 

I'll leave things for today with an interesting photo caught by accident, likely my forefinger experienced a brief moment of panic as Naughty Leeloo rose up toward my face in an attempt to grab the stick I was holding. Good Archer, four on the floor! See you soon Little Buddy!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Back in the Habit

No photos yet of the snow we have had for the last three days, winter sure didn't buy us dinner and a movie first. The dogs are ancy because we stayed in all day yesterday, Raimi is nursing a sore leg and rather than have him continually re-injure it I thought we'd give it a day's rest. Well, that didn't really fly with Leeloo or Esme who fussed about most of the day chasing the cats and wrestling with each other and then resigned themselves to a lay-about on the couch.

Goodness knows what that squirrel might be up to without Leeloo's supervision but a lot of the fussing, I suspect, comes down to Pavlov's Dog in her. Make no mistake ... she wants to be doing THIS:

Or something along the lines of stalking The Boy and Esme who were happy to oblige her in the 'Eyeball Game'. The tension is palpable when this game is broadcast, the air practically sparks with anticipation and the stakes are very high.

Suddenly the moment snaps like a dried twig and they are off on some manic chase through the brush. Don't be fooled by Esme's caboose position, she is a cheater and will cut through the bushes instead of following the Big Browns on their path. She just has to listen for them since they aren't exactly Ninja Ridgebacks.

And then the circle back and tackle which Esme has been a victim of more than once. She's pretty quick on her feet though and Leeloo has to be on the ball to catch her.  It's the expenditure of this kind of energy which makes the walks so important in their daily lives, that plus maintaining my sanity and saving my possessions from unwanted attention.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Into the Wild

Finally managed to convince my camera that it does really want to let me put my photos onto the computer. After all that fight with the USB cable I realized that I can just take the memory card out and put it directly into the computer. Well ... duh. I think the camera has been dragged out into the rain one too many times and the connection is a little fried. Poor thing.

A few days ago we were not in a winter wonderland(as presents itself outside my front door today). It was misty and rather warm, pushing almost 10 degrees above zero and made it hard to drag myself back home to get ready for work. Especially when the dogs were clearly having a wonderful time looking for That Darn Squirrel. Leeloo in particular made note of previous squirrel locations and made sure to check them all. 

This is the tree it eventually ran to the other day and that has made it Ground Zero for inspection for every walk since. Esme thinks Leeloo is just exploring and doesn't realize this is Serious Business and usually just snorts around the base of the tree looking for deer poop. But I mean really, if you were a Squirrel wouldn't you want to live in this tangle of trunks and branches? It's a veritable penthouse suite of comfort.

Raimi, for all his good looks and sweet personality, is not exactly reliable on his squirrel hunts and it still hasn't occurred to him that the squirrel will almost always be up. Leeloo knows this, but Boy generally gazes into the distance to look for woodland critters, the only time he looks up is if something actually catches his eye or if the squirrel chatters at him.

But we can't spend all day craning our necks at the sky and all the treasures hidden there, eventually we must move on. Sometimes I have to continue walking up the path and call repeatedly to encourage them to follow; however, I am never ahead for long ...

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Old College Try

My camera is seriously not cooperating with me when it comes to downloading photos so I'll just have to make do with word pictures.

Yesterday morning we started the day heavily shrouded in mist and it felt just like I remember England felt when I was last there. Nova Scotia has a very Soggy Little Island atmosphere some days and I can understand why immigrants not only wanted to stay but encouraged their friends and family to take the chance on a dangerous Atlantic crossing. It really must have felt like home away from home for a lot of displaced Brits. Everything smells damp and aged and it really takes me back to my 'roots' since my parents are British. For them I suspect it awakens long dormant pining for the Old Country.

The dog's senses are obviously awakened on mornings like that, the damp brings out the smells in the woods and brush so much so that they are yanked into the undergrowth as though pulled by an invisible tether.  The misty mornings in particular have something special about them.

On Wednesday, The Squirrel, in his little scolding squirrel suit, saw fit to not only make his presence known but to taunt with circus inspired acrobatics across the canopy of the woods. Raimi spied him easily and followed his progress from tree to tree, smashing and crashing his merry way to nowhere. The leafless trees offered no cover but apparently the squirrel thought this disadvantage immaterial. He has clearly realized that the dogs cannot climb trees.

Leeloo didn't immediately spot him but when she did, Raimi lost track of him because he is Not Very Clever. Good thing too - having two Ridgebacks on your 20 would be un-nerving, even if you are Very High in a tree. Leeloo followed Squirrel across several spans of trees, up branches and down until finally he settled inside the high trunk she could not get close enough to worry him. I allowed them a few minutes of fussing about the base of the tree and then insisted we move on. The dogs all reluctantly followed when I promised we'd return to check on Squirrel on the way back.

And so we did, Leeloo realized we were approaching The Tree and shot down the path to get there first - something she thinks is Very Important. She doesn't know or care that Raimi had basically forgotten about Squirrel and Esme never did know it was there anyway so Leeloo's first was mostly an only.

Once at the tree Leeloo put on her very intense and serious face and set about trying to see where the Squirrel had gone. I stood and watched her a moment, lamenting the absence of my camera, when what do I spy? The squirrel was sitting on a branch in a classic Squirrel Eating Food position, glancing down at frustrated Leeloo every few seconds but otherwise plainly snubbing her. He couldn't care less that she was scrabbling around the base of his tree and moreover, she didn't know he was there. Since he hadn't really moved, she didn't see him, all she knew was that this tree is where she saw him last. 

After I amused myself with this little scene for a few minutes I decided it was time to head home, walks are all well and good but my coffee was waiting and my hands were damp and cold. Now though, that Squirrel is Enemy #1 in Leeloo's books and we cannot go for a walk without galloping into the trees to make as much noise as possible and scare us up some teeny tiny squirrel who has had the upper hand since the beginning of time. That won't stop Leeloo trying though ... and I hope it never does.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bedtime Stories

Quick post tonight, I must get to bed because The Poisonwood Bible is waiting for me and athough I have read it before I am anxious to relive the journey. Plus Raimi is snoring pointedly on the couch and smothering Leeloo with his Boy love.

I forgot to mention, in case you don't read the Twitter Tweets to the left there, that Raimi's health testing came back fine and I am going to get Leeloo done in about 3 weeks when she is smack dab between heats. Probably an unnecessary precaution but why take chances? Then we wait for her results, which I am not worried about and then we wait again for her to come into heat and then we wait again to see if she is pregnant and then we wait again to see what she has. Wait wait wait.

And prepare yourselves ... I recently got word that Zero, who by now I am sure everyone is just sick to death of hearing about, is the #4 RR in the US having defeated over 500 dogs to get to that ranking. What is significant is that his #4 spot ensures him an invitation to Westminster Kennel Club show in February. If you haven't seen Westminster you almost certainly have heard about it. Every year, for decades now, they have televised this show on USA channel - any Champion dog can enter but invitations are limited. To have a dog be *invited* to Westminster is something I will admit, I have never even considered because your dog has to be top 5 in their breed standings. Living in Canada makes that a difficult task unless you co-own him with one of the most dedicated Ridgeback breeders on the planet. So there may be a trip to New York in February if he is entered (no pressure Erin). Certainly my bank account won't like it but to pass up the opportunity to watch a dog I bred be shown at WKC is unthinkable so if Zero can go, I am going. Westminster is the pinnacle of purebred dog showing in North America and make no mistake, to be invited to attend is an incredible achievement only made possible by Erin at Aegis - his Mommy - and Juliet - his Handler Mommy. You guys are the greatest and there is just no way I could ever thank you enough.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Every Second Counts

Frosty mornings are becoming the norm these days. If I want to catch the frost though I have to be quick about it because once the sun touches that ice tipped landscape, the bejewelled bracken turns back into a gentle wash of orange, brown and yellow.

The dogs don't seem to notice the frosted landscape although there is less sniffing and more gazing into the distance than happens on mornings that are not heavily laden with crisp dew.

There is, and always will be, a singular joy in bounding through grass, whether it is covered in frozen water or not. I will say, however, they are much easier to spot on mornings enchanted with a backdrop of white.

It's hard not to love the serenity of these moments that I know very few people are willing to appreciate on a regular basis. They miss the waking sun, the still apprehension of a day not quite born, and the innocent exploration of your friends as they welcome another day of life like they didn't know it was coming.

Chances are though, they didn't, and don't know about tomorrow either. I guess that's why they don't hurry past interesting smells, or ignore an unusual noise, or turn a blind eye when something bends a branch in the distance. Those are the things that make them dance with joy when I get their collars out, race for the door, stomp impatiently at the side gate, and throw themselves into the truck ... as far as they are concerned the walk today is the only walk that counts.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Learning Tree

The rain has finally stopped although the wind has stayed but at least it's drying up the wet reasonably fast. We actually didn't go for a walk yesterday since it was like standing in a car wash but today we braved the blustery gusts and got the wiggles out.

No photos from today but from a few days ago where Raimi and Leeloo spent a few moments dashing round and round a tree. You can see Raimi just on the other side by the trunk of the tree, eyeballing Leeloo who is frozen in the 'I'm gonna get you' pose. Esme is also in the pose but it's harder to tell with her. This is the stare down phase.

Raimi's drops into a half playbow, I know you can't see it very well, but that is what he's doing. Leeloo is willing him to run and Esme is very reliable back up.

And they're off! Raimi's bottom is just disappearing around the tree beyond Esme, this is actually round two.

And away they go into the silly run with Esme keeping impressively close. I am always amazed how she is able to keep up with the Ridgebacks and now even more easily since brush and branches don't catch on the suit as they would on her coat.  It's worth it every morning to get up and give them such pleasure ... except in torrential downpours ... then no one wants to go!

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Paper Chase

Another damp morning but at least it wasn't actively raining. Esme's coat is making life a lot more livable and although her feet and head get wet the rest of her stays relatively dry (unless she stands in the middle of a deep puddle) which is a blessing. I'm not sure why but I had a premonition this morning that something was going to happen and frankly I think premonitions should just keep themselves to themselves.

We were heading down a little hill, from the top of which I could see a few hundred metres until the treeline obscured the view. The field has a waist high growth of now dead weeds and grass, a smattering of bushes and a few trees. The field has two paths cut into it, the dogs raced down one and I stopped at the divergence, watching them race headlong down the hill. A panicked flash of big brown movement crossed the path about 50 yards in front of the dogs and had they not been already at top speed I imagine they'd have lost the deer fairly quickly.

As it was I stood motionless in exasperation as the deer took great leaping bounds through the grass, flashing its white tail with every stride, like a beacon of light directing the dogs straight to it. And they obliged. I didn't immediately realize how close they were to the deer because I lost sight of them briefly, but when I saw the rustle of the grass a mere 20 yards behind the deer I started to get worried.

The deer beelined for the wooded area and disappeared from view. Crap. I jogged down the path the dogs had taken knowing that there was no way I'd be able to track them or the deer. My main thought, at that point, was to get the dog back I knew I could find, and that was Esme. She would not have been able to keep up with the hell bent for leather dash and I knew she'd be at the bottom of the hill looking for the Ridgebacks. I called her a couple times and who should appear? Raimi. He came smashing back toward me with Leeloo not far behind and Esme close on her heels. My relief, I can tell you, was extreme.

They spent a few more minutes snuffling in the grass, Raimi headed back to where he'd last seen the deer but recalled right away when I said we were going. I had enough excitement for one day. I think the dogs lost the deer when it hit the treeline and once out of sight they are not versed enough in tracking to be able to pick up the scent and follow. Deer are able to move fairly silently through the woods and the dogs were making so much noise in the underbrush that listening for deer would have been impossible. It was a great moment in the dog's lives, chasing that deer, but I'd rather have skipped it.

Now they were on high alert and scanning the distance for any other wayward deer but they had to settle for their old nemesis, The Squirrel. Once it was successfully scared into the branches we headed home for a well deserved nap where they can dream of chasing deer and finally nabbing that evil little squirrel.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Noah's Ark

First off I wanted to post about some amazing wins in the Invictus family this weekend. Adine at Charisma Ridgebacks, way over in Alberta, is experiencing an almost unheard of weekend with two puppies from her first litter, Atlas and Zuri. The puppies are out of Karma, who is from my Christmas 2007 litter out of Halo. Atlas is the puppy who fought and won against parvo 6 weeks ago (can you believe it's been that long ...?). Anyway, on Friday only Zuri was competing against a Champion (Specials) bitch and at 6 months and 1 day old Zuri not only won Best of Breed, she also won a second placing in the Hound group! That win put her on 5 points, halfway to her Championship. Then yesterday she won Best of Winners for another 2 points! The judge then pulled her handler aside and said that he would have given her breed if she'd behaved a little better ... ah puppies, they keep you on your toes. Speaking of which, naughty Atlas, who has been having an issue with his teeth exam, didn't win anything but Adine was told that had *he* behaved he'd have done better too. So today, they will both behave and both will win.  Are you listening puppies?

Also, Zero continues his Reign of Fire racking up breed wins. As of shows to date he is sitting in the #4 spot in Ridgebacks in the US and he's still got a few weekends to go. He has over 500 breed points to his name which is amazing for a dog who was not supposed to explode onto the scene this year. He was supposed to just get some experience under his belt, work out the kinks in his showing style and then hit 'em hard in the next year or two. He has surprised everyone, except those who know him, with his multiple group placements and even more multiple breed wins. I couldn't not be prouder of this handsome boy and am ever grateful for the dedication and hard work put into him by his adoring Mommy Erin and his adoring Handler-Mommy Juliet. You guys rock! Can't wait to see what he and Leeloo produce together!

Over here on the east coast we are having what I would describe as Biblical Rain. It has been pretty well pouring for 3 days straight. I'm thinking I'll need to get the boat out to row to work. Yesterday we braved the wet to walk in the woods but today everyone is holed up under their down throws, I had to PUSH Raimi out the door to go pee and even then I think he just stood at the door and looked forlorn which means he hasn't peed in about 15 hours. Leeloo does go potty in the rain but she has to think very hard about it and Esme doesn't appear to notice that it's raining except to come in and shake water all over my house. So I rather think today is a sit-in day where we catch up on some TV, enjoy some popcorn and pretend that we don't see the fish swimming past the windows. Oh, and wait to hear how our extended family is doing across the continent!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Play For Me

It's cute to see Leeloo and Esme playing. Leeloo does this crazy 'bulldoze' move where she plows with her head down toward Esme, shoves her nose under her and grabs at Esme's legs. Esme rears up and grabs at Leeloo's ears and head and then Esme collapses onto her back and smacks Leeloo in the face with her feet. Adorable if you know what's happening - scary if all you are seeing is a large dog 'beating up' a small dog.

Leeloo favorite move, besides The Bulldoze, is The Hug. This involves Esme being pinned between Leeloo's head and her grabby paws. Esme usually has to back through Leeloo's legs to get out of this one. It's safe to say that Esme is at a disadvantage in these scuffles but she never gives up, she just keeps going back for more.

Leeloo uses her front feet for a lot of her play moves. They are also used to smack Raimi on the head, scrape my down duvet into a ball, break my silver necklace chain, and bang on the back door to remind me I'm not getting her dinner ready fast enough.

It does a body good to see the dogs enoying each other's company so much. I have been very lucky with my house full of dogs, everyone has always gotten along and although there are minor tiffs they are quickly resolved and I have never worried about dog fights. This is a blessing which is hard to express but anyone who has ever lived with dogs that do not get along can attest to the turmoil it causes in a house.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Emperor's New Groove

As I mentioned in a previous post I had ordered a full body suit for Esme to protect her hair from the bushes and to keep her clean and dry on our morning constitutional. I got the suit in the mail yesterday and am still marvelling at the workmanship. It is by far the best made dog coat I have ever seen. Esme was less than impressed during her fitting last night but this morning, after surrendering to the inevitable, she realized that it's not as bad as she originally thought.

As you can see it completely covers her entire body with only her tail and head sticking out, but even her tail can be tucked inside if we so choose. The coat has a heavy duty zipper along the back with a removable panel along the spine (to allow for coat growth) and elastics for the legs, I requested no velcro because it tends to stick to Puli cords. Her entire underside is covered but there is ample room at the back for her to go potty and not soil the suit. It also has reflective tape along the side and is made of an extremely durable material - important when it's main use is to allow her to bushwhack.

It didn't take Esme long to realize that smashing your way through the bushes is far easier if you don't have hair catching on the undergrowth - this meant that she spent a lot more time in the brush than usual. It also cuts down on the amount of junk her coat tends to collect, something which annoyed her a lot. Many was the time she'd stop to try and remove some twig or branch that had caught in her cords, I'd usually have to catch her to remove the offending object and then off she'd race.

I wondered if the coat would slow her down at all. Well, no. She spent a lot of time racing around, chasing the Ridgebacks, leaping through the fields, and generally behaving as though the coat didn't exist. You can get them with fleece lining, in different styles and colors, each coat is custom made for the dog and they are very reasonably priced compared to store bought dog coats. Esme's newest wardrobe addition was worth every penny and if you are interested in getting one made, let me know I can send you the maker's contact information - you will not regret it.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hunt the Man Down

I don't often get to see the intensity of the hunting instinct in the Ridgebacks. I am largely amused by the headlong dashes into the woods, the earnest crashing about in the bushes, and the self-satisfied strut after they've put those squirrels in their place.

But today I caught a glimpse of the real working dog buried in Leeloo and Raimi's psyche. There is a squirrel of particular note who lives in a copse of trees that runs parallel to the path and it tends to scold us as we walk. The dogs will never be accused of taking squirrel taunts lying down and both dogs have often beelined toward the noise to have a snort in the undergrowth. They are terminally convinced that one day the squirrel is going to surrender to their wily ways.

Today some noise or other set them off and although I missed the catalyst the result was interesting. Both Leeloo and Raimi shot into the brush, crashed around for a moment or two and then concentrated all their efforts on one tree in particular. I have never seen such intensity in either of them and although I couldn't see the squirrel, and wasn't convinced it was anywhere near the tree, they were absolutely certain.

The tree has two live trunks and one dead trunk sprouting from the centre. Leeloo was concentrating all her efforts on that trunk and I could hear that it was hollow as she dug at it.  She ripped and tore at the bark with nails and teeth and then spent a moment jamming her nose against a crack, sniffing deeply and snorting into the wood. Then she continued scratching, digging and biting at the wood, sometimes jumping up the tree in frustration, and then back to worrying the crack.

Raimi was on the other side of the tree leaping up to the entrance of the hollow, scrambling with his front feet and trying to get close enough to stick his nose in. Never mind that it was abut 4 feet above his head, he was going to try. Then he'd move around to where Leeloo was working the trunk and I realized how serious this 'game' was when he got in her way and she flashed teeth and snarled at him to back off so she could concentrate. She did this a couple times and Raimi, knowing it's best not to mess with bitches, returned to  his side of the tree.

Esme and I stood and watched, me totally unconvinced a squirrel would be hiding in that hollow trunk, Esme baffled at their activity. Imagine my surprise when there was a flash of fur and the squirrel, who had been inside the trunk the whole time, shot out of the hole Raimi was guarding, streaked past his nose, up over the branches of the tree and disappeared. Both dogs saw it go and were off like a shot to retrieve it. They spent several more minutes gazing up into the canopy and it took me some time to call them off so we could continue our walk(plus my feet were getting cold).

The intensity of their hunt, as pitiful a hunt as as it may seem to true hunters, was deadly serious business to them. Had that squirrel been accessible Leeloo would have certainly dispatched it. She comes by her hunting instinct honestly, let's not forget the rabbit her dam Taylor caught on New Year's Day and her half sister Kylie, who lives with Taylor, has been taught to catch and kill gophers. Raimi is useful for tracking down the culprit because he loves to track but once found Leeloo steps in to take care of business.

I'm fortunate to have caught a glimpse of their deepest instinct; it was not play, it was not done in fun, the intent was to catch and kill and although I am thankful I didn't have to rescue a squirrel from Leeloo's jaws, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The squirrel might disagree with my sentiment ...

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Friends Forever

Having Esme back in the house has Leeloo pretty happy. When Esme wasn't here Leeloo didn't seem to miss her, she just carried on with life as a dog; napping on the couch, eating as fast as she could, chasing kitties when the mood struck her and snuffling through the bushes on our walks. She didn't play much but I put that down to her being a matronly two years old.

Esme, it seems, was the spark of mischief in all our lives and her presence in the house again makes me realize I was not the only one who felt a light was doused by her absence. Leeloo has made it quite clear that Esme is critically important to her amusement. In the morning the two of them spend a few minutes on the bed rolling around, waving feet at each other and generally being annoying enough to expedite my exit from the bed.

Once on our walk Leeloo is the only one of the two Ridgebacks who reacts to Esme's goading.  Raimi carefully ignores the black furry gnat who relentlessly throws herself at his neck, his remarkable tolerance is a credit to his temperament.  Leeloo, however, is easily drawn into a chase or a momentary wrestle. When Esme throws herself at The Boy he just lifts his head and turns away with an eminently patient sigh, but when Leeloo gets the attention she invariably raises a swatting foot and then leaps after the instigator to show her who's boss.

I watched them this morning as Esme raced down the path with Leeloo close at her side, every three steps Leeloo struck out at Esme with a flashing white paw and Esme threw herself up at Leeloo's neck in an attempt to direct her movement. A sheep Leeloo is not and she is extremely difficult to herd, but such trivial things do not enter Esme's little Puli brain. It's the enjoyment of each other's company that counts in the long run and dogs instinctively know this universal truth.