Monday, January 31, 2011

Brothers and Sisters

After Archer's visit yesterday thoughts turn to his siblings. Halo's last litter of puppies was a passel of seven yowling and howling monsters - just like her first seven. The twelve in between were perfect little angels. Why? Who knows. What I do know is now the seven are almost 2 years old they are, to their families, little angels ... most of the time.

Way over on the other side of the country live Tikka and Hunter. Not together, they each have their own family to adore, but they both get to enjoy the wonders of British Columbia. Here's Hunter doing what hunter's do best, looking for something to hunt. He is a very handsome fellow, kept in immaculate condition and is credit to his family in Kelowna. He is a very serious outdoor dog, doing all the important outdoor dog things like hiking, mountain biking and whatever else people do with their dogs in the Rockies. When not kicking the mountain's butt he is best bud to his family and spoiled within an inch of his life.

Tikka lives way up in Kitimat which is a pretty secluded spot to live. Living there she gets to enjoy both the ocean and the mountains. Of course, being this pretty you should be able to get pretty much anything you want. She too is in amazing condition; the perfect weight, shiny coat, bright eyed and beautiful.

Just like her brother Hunter she is on the prowl, I'm sure not much gets past this piercing gaze. Despite this Huntress facade she is a happy, joyful girl who loves people when she stops long enough to get some attention, that sounds familiar! She is lovingly spoiled by a fabulous family ... just as she should be. These aren't the only Archer siblings out there though, if you have photos send them along and I'll post them - that includes the other litters too ... we want to see how you are all doing!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Coyote Ugly

It was bright sunny today, just like Archer who we met at noon for a nice walk in the woods. As usual he was all bounce and no brains which is just how we like them here at Invictus. Well, the boys anyway. There's happy Archer. I certainly didn't teach him that ... cough.

They all ran like maniacs and Archer made the mistake of trying to outwit Leeloo by running into the snow off the path ... that is what happens when you try to outsmart a girl. Just sayin'.

Part way along the walk Sandra glanced ahead and noticed a canine cross the path and pointed it out asking if it was a dog. I looked up just in time to see a coyote do a weird little spin of indecision on the path and then jump into the woods. Phew, at least the dogs didn't see it or we'd be slogging through the forest up to our knees in snow trying to find them. As we carried on another coyote crossed the path, realized we were there and also bolted, and then right behind it yet another coyote did an about face and ran back the way they'd all come. Realizing the third time is usually the charm we grabbed the dogs and turned back to give the pack some time to get to wherever they intended to go.

We waited a few minutes and then headed back down the path. As we approached the spot where the coytoes were last seen a fat black Lab popped out onto the path and this time our dogs spotted it. They did what I suspect they'd have done if they saw the coyotes, they ran full speed toward it. As it stood there three little Shih Tzu dogs came out onto the path closely followed by their owners. Our dogs and their dogs had a moment of introduction and then our dogs, realizing we were unusually far away, came racing back. What a bunch of idiots.  

So we headed into the cut where we'd seen the coyotes emerge thinking that since this is the direction they came from it was unlikely we'd run into them again. We met the Shih Tzu - Lab people again on a loop and mentioned the coyotes and to be careful with their little coyote bait dogs. They knew about the coyotes but didn't know there were at least three in the pack.

Leeloo was most interested in the tracks the coyotes made. She stuck her face into each paw hole and had a good sniff. She didn't let herself get too distracted, a hunter tracking a hunter can't be too careful you know? Whassat?

Raimi was also determined to have a good track and followed the scent even further into the woods. The snow got a little too deep for him but he tells me that if it hadn't he'd totally have a coyote sweater by now. Totally.

I'm not sure Archer even realized there was anything to track except Esme's bottom. He kept harrassing her until she finally told him off but good. She went for the jugular this time. No joke. She's a tough little cookie.

They always know when it's the trail home and like good hunting dogs they took point all the way to the truck. It's hard to be worried about being set upon by coyotes when this team has your back, then again, I'd rather not find out.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Snow means that the dogs expend more energy in less time which is good for me because slogging through snow drifts is exhausting let me tell you. Both they and I stick to the paths as much as possible and their joyful romps, while limited by space, are no less boisterous. 

Round and round they go with their Ridgeback body slams and raucous Ridgeback noises with Esme hot on their heels barking, nipping at their hocks and puffed up with importance while she fulfills her Puli duty.

Here comes Leeloo and Esme down the trail ready to tackle Raimi who is preparing to nab one of them as they streak past. Standing where I was isn't generally considered a good idea since Boy has long since forgotten I am there and an about-face usually ends up with him embedded in my knees.

This is one of my favorites for some reason. Leeloo dashing ... 'nuff said.

And who couldn't love this? Someone's been busy in the snow drifts.

Friday, January 28, 2011

In Too Deep

After a brief but dedicated blizzard yesterday we woke up to glorious sunshine today with a pristine snow covered landscape except the roads which are just crap to drive. Hooray for 4x4 and off we go to enjoy a romp in the snow. The dogs had a marvelous time as usual but there is a generally limit to how much fun snow can be. While the snowy path, which has conveniently been packed down by snowmobilers, is probably a foot deep, leaving it means you are up to your knees in seconds because the rest of the field is under at least 2 feet of snow. A short time into our walk The Boy realized that straying from the path is probably not a good idea for a dog his size.

He felt a little silly and spent the rest of the walk sticking to the path and walking as though at any second he'd fall through again. It was very cute.

Leeloo didn't fair much better but she did attempt a bound of sorts. This quickly resolved into sticking to the path as best she could.

The problem is that there have been so many layers of snow, freezing and packing that in one spot you only sink about 6 inches and in others you drop much further. It certainly doesn't lend itself to elegant carriage as you wade through the drifts.

Esme found the snow to be somewhat of a challenge but as usual, she is up for pretty much whatever you throw at her. She promptly lost one of her boots at the start of the walk (they are to prevent giant snow balls collecting on her legs) and generally stuck to the snowmobile paths unless someone else broke trail for her. See Raimi's above photo.

Despite the sometimes embarrassing trials of going for walks in the snow the dogs seem to enjoy themselves immensely and although I do as well, I am quite sure I wouldn't have such a good time if it weren't for the snowmobilers who routinely travel the same paths I do ... breaking trail through 2 feet of snow for the dogs is definitely not on my to-do list!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cabin Fever

After two whole days of not being able to go for a walk because of minus 20 weather, we finally managed to get out for a romp today. Leeloo was suffering a bit from cabin fever so when we did finally get out she is ever so grateful. Snow is yummy Mommy.

Raimi and Esme spent some time digging in the snow trying to find something Raimi thought he heard under the snow. Esme is only helping in case he unearths some deer poop.

Then, obviously, the thing to do is mash Esme into the snow. Not to worry though, she loves it. No really ... she does.

See? She's fine. Giving almost as good as she gets. If it wasn't for the 60 pounds of weight difference I'm sure she'd take Leeloo down no problem. To Esme it is of no great concern, she just keeps going back for more.

Remember the Aesop fable of the lion and the gnat? Raimi and Esme remind me of that quite often, fortunately Esme never flies into a spider web but I can see her doing something equally as careless - she is quite the little show-boater on occasion. 

I think this expression says it all. Happy Leeloo bounding through the snow, flakes adorning her nose and lips, ears flapping, tail wagging, feet flying, heart bursting with joy, and a grin as wide as her head. Yes Leeloo ... I like going for walks with you too.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Leaving Normal

Today I'm off to my parent's house to enjoy some roast beef dinner and do some research and planning with my mom for our trip to New York. Oh ya ...and to hopefully catch Zero on TV during the ABC broadcast of the Eukanuba show! I hear this is an edited version of the show so there is no guarantee we will see him being shown but keep a weather eye out!

Yesterday I had a very nice couple come to visit the dogs to get an idea of whether the Ridgeback is the right breed for them. I have my standard run down of what the breed is like to live with, what I offer as a breeder and general information on the dogs and what Invictus is all about. I don't pressure people or grill them, I try to hold a normal conversation and allow them to ask questions as they arise.

The dogs, for their part, were super star examples of sound stable Ridgebacks. I had taken them for a walk and they were feeling nappy so after their usual effusive greeting at the door they settled into slumber on the couch and the dog bed. While curled into a little ball on the couch Leeloo demonstrated her ridiculously good temperament by allowing Carolyne to squeeze and manipulate her toes, play with her tail, tug on her ears and stroke her face ... and Carolyne is a grown woman. A girl after my own heart since I routinely harrass the dogs while they are sleeping. Her husband demonstrated his extreme patience by putting up with Ceilidh who is by far the most persistent and friendly cat I have ever known.

Raimi, as always, was a hit. Of course, the first thing anyone ever says is "Wow. He is so big." Well, yes. He is also a marshmallow, despite the significant muscling evident on his large bulk, and he quickly relaxed into napping at my feet. People are always a little in awe of him and I have to admit he does make my livingroom seem a little smaller, but he is a gentle soul and gives people a good idea what a boy Ridgeback is all about - simple, adoring and impressive.

The most interesting aspect of my conversation with this nice couple ocurred just before they were heading out when they mentioned they'd been to see a few other purebred dog breeders. This is not unusual and in fact I take it as a good sign that they'd make the effort to visit breeders to really see what those particular breeds are all about. The interesting point came when they told me that so far I was the most normal of all the breeders they'd met.

Oh. Now, I know I don't have a lock on koo-koo-banana when it comes to the dog fancy but I've often been called the crazy dog lady by friends who are not in dogs. What concerns me is that I know how 'into' the dogs I am and yet these people made a note of how 'not crazy' I seem to be. To be honest I try to down play the super serious breeder information when I talk to people who are interested in a companion dog simply because they don't need to know all the technical breeder stuff. I almost never go into show win details or any records except straight up championships and health testing - show records are largely immaterial to companion homes.

What also concerns me? That the other breeders these people were referring to are the purebred dog fancy's worst enemy. Why do people turn to pet stores, backyard breeders, internet Paypal puppy purchases and the like? Because crazy purebred dog breeders make buying a puppy such an insane and scary prospect that normal people are driven anywhere but to them.

You want more people to do their research and buy a healthy purebred dog? Stop being so whacko when normal people want to know about your obsession. The dogs might be your life, but they are dogs. You have chosen to entrust yourself with the care and management of the breed of your choice, but they are still dogs. They fill your life with joy and make you feel like being a human is worthwhile, but they are simply dogs. They eat deer poop, lick themselves and each other, would kill squirrels(or any other vermin) given half a chance, roll in dead things, poke you in the crotch every chance they get, would gorge themselves until they were sick, and destroy your possessions. All people really want to know is what are they like to live with because they are looking for a dog that is designed to suit their lifestyle.

Crazy is as crazy does and people want to know your dogs are normal and will act like real dogs. They also want to know that you are not going to be in their backyard monitoring how they raise their dog. Go ahead and be obsessive with other obsessive people but when perfectly sane people enter your house to visit with you and your dogs, put the Normal Suit on and for an afternoon pretend like you didn't just spend the last hour smashing out a blog to rant about crazy dog people.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Out of Time

I'm surprised how long it's been since I updated the blog, I've been busy accomplishing almost nothing of note. It's funny how time gets away from you when you're not looking. Things have settled into almost normal in the house with Raimi finally convinced that Esme is not the love of his life. Soon his amour will trend toward Leeloo and the fun will renew. I am hopeful that Leeloo obliges my timeline and waits until after our Westminster trip to come into heat so that my Dad, who has generously agreed to care for the three hooligans, does not have to deal with a Trampy Leeloo on his own.

The other night I noticed the girls were being all sisterly together while they each enjoyed a treat. This was before Raimi was allowed back into the livingroom. Looks peaceful doesn't it? Add an audio loop of incessant whining from vicinity of the french door and you will have it about right.

Only three more weeks until my mom and I make our trip to Westminster. I'm so excited! We have our US cash, tickets are all paid for, and now we just have to wait. I am pleading with the weather doGs to allow us a 12 hour window in which to get off the ground and to New York. The idea is to explore the city for two days and then spend Monday at the show. Jillyn, who is Erin's co-breeder at Aegis, is arriving on Saturday and Erin is arriving Sunday morning with Zero. For our part, my mom and I are planning to go to the Empire State Building, Ground Zero Museum, William Secord Art Gallery, Central Park, Times Square and a couple other places. Hopefully I can get some nice photos of Zero in the Big Apple but it will depend on the weather and timing - I will obviously be getting some of him in The Garden.  Win or lose at the show though, this is going to be a great experience!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Crazy Heart

It's a good thing my last post has a caveat on it that clarifies that Boy isn't perfect. For the last 4 days he's been making himself and the rest of us absolutely crazy. Next heat Esme gets to go stay with her Grand-Mommy and Daddy to spare us all the suffering. He's spent 3 nights in the expen whining all night, and I do mean all night. He is now condemned to stand with his head through the hole in the French door whining intermittently and gazing longingly at Esme.

Esme, for her part, is not making his life any easier, she sometimes sidles up to the door and lays on her back, just out of reach of Boy's snuffling nose. Other times she pulls the Real Bitch routine and snarls up into his face, something I have also done a few times out of sheer irritation. She doesn't really understand what all the fuss is about and fortunately is not following the Ridgeback Disgusting Tramp habit. He once managed to get his foot and head through the door which I nipped in the bud pretty quick; the only thing worse than a Ridgeback stuck in a French door is a horny Ridgeback stuck in a French door. And no, he is never allowed at the door unless I am sitting 18 inches away.  

Only a day or so more of this nonsense and it will all be over, only to begin again in a few short weeks when Leeloo comes into heat. At least when that happens Raimi will be able to satisfy his most desperate desire and plant the seed of his love exactly where it's supposed to go.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

About a Boy

It's my opinion that Boy is very handsome. I'm pretty sure I've mentioned this once or twice. I know he's a bit too much dog for most people; he's got this great clunky head that weighs about 20 pounds (which is surprising because it seems to be stuffed with fluff), he's over sized and imperfect. He's not exactly the Ridgeback Ideal. I, however, adore him. I just love him because he's Boy. I don't love him because he loves me or for any reason except that something about him speaks to something within me. 

Not that he doesn't occasionally get on my very last nerve. He spends a ridiculous amount of time circling on the bed to get 'comfy', is forever underfoot, is picky about his food, and can sometimes suffer seperation anxiety intense enough to damage my property. Despite these minor failings what I love is that he looks for me in almost every moment that doesn't involve thought of squirrels (because squirrel thoughts are big and crowd everything else out) or a bitch in heat (because hormones are over-whelming and I forgive him this masculine failing).  He can't open a stubborn jam jar or help me carry in bags of dog food, but standing behind this ever watchful presence of muscle, sinew and love gives me a sense of security you just can't beat.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever

After disclosing my negligence in caring for the darling Leeloo toes and subsequent emergency surgery, I thought I'd take us all back to a happier time when I was a responsible dog owner. My dedication to their mental well-being clearly outstrips their physical since I routinely drag myself out into various types of wilderness to offer my canine companions a smorgasbord of smells, experiences and landscapes. 

They never tire of gazing into the horizon, noses a-twitch and bright eyes sharp for any movement which might disclose the location of a squirrel, cat, squirrel, deer, raccoon, porcupine, squirrel, bird ... you get the idea.

Even the odd snowmobile in the distance is no match for this far reaching gaze. Leeloo was entranced by the tiny machine making a ridiculous racket along the road and disturbing the quiet snowfall. In these cases I often repeat the mantra "Looking only Leeloo" since bolting toward said movement is usually next on her agenda.

Esme never spots anything to chase except a Ridgeback. This is strictly because she is not a sight driven dog, she is a herding dog who's only goal in life is to round everyone up and bark. Ad nauseum.

The Boy knows the top of this sand dune offers a good view across the fields and he often heads up there to get a good handle on the lay of the land. And to check for squirrels. He blends very nicely with the drift wood and that I suppose, is the point when you're hunting squirrels. I never tire of watching them watch the world; I don't think I ever will and they, in their turn, will never tire of looking toward forever.   

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Thorn Birds

I'm not often wrong, ask anyone who knows me, but sometimes a person has to own up to when they made an incorrect judgement call. I guess you could say it happens so rarely with me that it's noteworthy enough to mention. As we know Leeloo has been lame on and off since the holidays. I can't actually pinpoint when she came up lame, but what I do know is that during the initial onset of lameness I checked her foot, the pads, between her toes, up her leg ... pretty much scoured the area to see what was causing Hop-Along Leeloo. Finding nothing external I assumed it was a twisted toe or two and decided to give it time to heal.

Days off from the daily walk seemed to improve the situation but as soon as we'd go for a run she'd be lame again. I was constantly feeling her toes, flexing them, trying to pinpoint the cause of the problem. Then, this past Saturday, things came to a head, quite literally. She was fussing with her foot enough for me to take a look and there it was, an abscess. Well, the catalyst to an abscess is usually a foreign body.

Now, don't judge, but it was Saturday night at about 9pm, there was a blizzard raging on my doorstep, my dog has an abscess on her pad which is obviously quite painful, and I need to get that pus out. So, I did what any failed Brownie would do, I held a flashlight between my teeth, pinned Leeloo down (handy since she was already on the couch), I got a sharp clean instrument and slit the abscess. Voila! The pus escaped offering Leeloo immediate relief. So, what was causing this issue?

Just about a centimeter away from the abscess was a teeny tiny hole. The hole was invisible on previous inspections probably because the object had snapped off below the line of her skin and then the roughness of the pad hid the entry. The swelling of the abscess caused the entry to the hole to stretch thus making it more visible. I shone the flashlight in there and could almost see the very end of something. I used tweezers to try and extract it but only succeeded in pushing it further in. I decided to leave it for a moment and emailed Nurse Kim for advice. She recommended I soak the foot for 10 minutes twice a day and the foreign body just might start to come out on its own. I wasn't sure why this would work but I thought I'd give it a shot.

For all my surgical inexperience Leeloo had sat extremely still and waited patiently while I'd slit her foot open, squeezed pus out of an abscess, and attempted to extract an object from her toe ... but hold her foot in warm water? Forget it. I had a death grip on her leg while I stared her down over a warm tub of water. We didn't ever make the 10 minute mark but softening up the foot seemed to help the abscess, if nothing else.

After, thankfully, just 3 sessions of foot soaking I thought my eyes were deceiving me, but no, there it was, the very tip of the object was working its way to the surface of her toe. Not wanting her to walk on it and push it back in, I knew now was my chance. The rough pad around the abscess had sloughed off and with another soak, and a little gentle persuasion I managed to remove some more pad, got down to the level of the object and used tweezers to extract, what else, a thorn. It came out very easily, I rubbed some polysporin into the wounds and now her foot is a nice healthy healing pink, her lameness is gone and life is back on track.

Now, do I recommend that you attempt veterinary care of this nature on your own dogs? No. Clearly I am not a person to go running to the vet at every cough, cut or vomit. I go when I think the situation is beyond what I know I can handle - pooping blood means vet.  Lameness on and off means play it by ear. But that's just me.  What I recommend when your dog is lame is to just take it to the vet and find out why. My ad hoc veterinary skills are a bit archaic but hey, I'm kind of old school that way.

Nurse Kim wanted to know if the thorn was all mushy and gross from being in Leeloo's foot for an excess of 2 weeks and the answer is no. The thorn was stubbornly just as hard as the day it embedded itself in that lovely white toe. 

Monday, January 10, 2011

Fever Pitch

Now that winter has arrived and looks to be staying awhile there is no end to the beautiful photographs one can get of the dogs posing in the glittering landcape.

Then again, there is also ample opportunity for them to show off a little of their ridiculous side.

Catching snow is one of Leeloo's very favorite things to do ... besides eat. And since catching snow involves the consumption of it I guess that elevates it even higher in the ranks. In fact, I'm not sure how much higher she would want it to go.

Not to be left out in the cold when it comes to snow catching, Raimi had a couple leaps of his own. He's certainly not on a par with Leeloo who gets much more practice, but he gives it the ol' college try just the same. He reminds me of a baby bird ... only bigger.

No one can hold a candle to Leeloo's leaps of effort. It's important to her to win; be it stick retrieval, eating the fastest, catching snow, or getting the best spot on the couch. Leeloo's makes winning a priority.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Winter Sea

Farmer's Almanac is promising a mild but wet winter and so far they are right on track. Today, despite questionable road conditions I decided we'd make the trek to the beach . As usual the effort was worth it.

The dogs love the snow. Who knows why, probably because it's so mysterious and completely changes the way things look and smell, plus I like to think they also appreciate the simple beauty of it, how it effortlessly scrubs the landscape clean.

Esme had some rough going because I completely forgot her booties at home and so with balls of snow dragging her down a bit she hung back and spent more time watching than playing. Makes a nice change!

The Ridgebacks accepted the invitation of the untouched blanket that stretched before them and marked it with their gleeful passing. A wide white open beach fairly begs to be galloped along.

Breaking trail on the boardwalk back to the truck, all three are ready for a steaming hot cup of cocoa and a roaring fire. Can't say that it doesn't sound pretty good to me too.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Between the Folds

Leeloo's ears will forever be a source of amusement. They seem to do whatever they want and she doesn't appear to mind. Usually her origami ears are a result of a head shake but sometimes they take on a life of their own and end up in contorted designs they're able to maintain for disturbingly long periods. One folded forward, one folded back. Very balanced Leeloo.

She was enjoying a Christmas cow hoof and even as she gnawed, chewed and licked, those ears refused to budge from their delicate position.

I took the hoof away so I could get a better angle on the ears whereupon she said "THAT'S MINE" and quickly retrieved it from my thieving fingers. Her ears were also very offended as you see. I wouldn't change a thing about Leeloo's ears for all I jest, they are darling, they make her who she is and there is no better Leeloo than this one. Don't you just want to kiss her demanding nose?  

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hungry Hearts

Boy is suffering from what a person might refer to as a hungry heart. Esme came into heat on New Year's Eve and because both girls were in a race to see who could come in first, they are currently both sporting delicious smelling bottoms. Leeloo is not actually in heat yet, technically she is not due until at least February but because of the continual Alpha bitch struggle between them, the hormones are raging and Leeloo is doing her best not to be left behind, as it were. This has caused Boy to stop eating and start pining. If things get out of hand I may have to send Esme to my parents so that Raimi doesn't hassle her too much, he is, after all, about 90 pounds heavier than her and amorous attention could take a turn for the worse.

So, on our walks he is spending his time not running around looking for squirrels, but sniffing Esme's bottom, moping, checking Leeloo's bottom just to be sure, moping, sniffing both girl's pee, and moping. He took a moment to 'mark' this incredibly beautiful white oak (which is inexplicably located in the heart of the orchard and has a death grip on its leaves - it has a little white oak baby nearby which I intend to steal ... ssshhhhh ...) and then stood gazing into the sunrise hoping that some beautiful horny Ridgeback bitch would walk out of it and into his life. No such luck Boy ...