Thursday, March 31, 2011

Dead Calm

While I know everyone would love for me to announce the blowing in of the gales of heat for Leeloo, such is not so. She is, ever so slowly, coming into heat. I checked back to her last heat and she did take a very long time to come in and then suddenly BAM ... she was in heat. Raimi is obsessing over her bottom (more than is standard) but not to the point where I am sure she is actually in what we 'experts' like to call estrus. That only happens when the bitch is actually spotting. I'll let that terminology speak for itself.

I gave Leeloo a deadline. She has to be bred before April 13 otherwise I will have to miss a dog show on Prince Edward Island that I really wanted to attend this year. It's the first year the show is being held and it's near Cavendish where you will find the location of Green Gables, of Anne Shirley fame. I *really* want to take an extra day and go see the highlights, do the little tourist thing and enjoy The Gentle Island.  If Leeloo delays anymore I will not be able to do any of those things and while I will not lament darling puppies, should any arrive, I will have to wait a whole year before being able to go to the dog show near Green Gables.

So wait we must and in the meantime I have to try to prevent an almost in heat Leeloo from disappearing into the bushes after doG knows what with her stud hot on her heels. Deer, rabbits, squirrels ... whatever, they are far too tempting to my little huntress!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Father of the Bride

Since I know there are people with baited breath waiting to hear news of Leeloo coming into heat I'll put you out of your misery. She is *almost* in heat. It's like, a preview to the preview. She has spent the last 3 weeks making a meal out the process of estrus. I tell you I have never looked so often at the hind end of a dog - not exactly an exciting way to spend your time but thankfully the Universe was listening and finally decided to just accept that I was not going to let up on this obsession.

Leeloo has grudgingly put up with me checking her bottom everyday and now that she is moments away from full blown heat she will have to contend with Raimi's attention. he is welcome to it I have to say. Fortunately Leeloo is the epitome of slut when she is in heat so everyone will be happy.

I won't pretend to understand the hormonal workings and the alpha, beta nonsense with dogs - if such a thing exists - but I am going to take a stab and guess that the reason Leeloo has not only delayed her heat by 4 weeks, but added another 2 to 3 weeks to the process is because of Esme. Don't let her size fool you, Esme is a powerhouse under this roof. Leeloo may think she has Esme's number but when it comes to laying down the law - don't mess with Tiny. Her heat back in January seems to have upset the balance of hormones in the vicinity and thus we have been not so patiently waiting for Leeloo to grace us with this disgusting process.

Breeding dogs is not pretty. It is purely hormonal. The loving Boy who thinks the world of me turns into a slathering, whining, pacing, love-starved, testosterone injected, 110lb monstrosity who's only mission in life is to jam his schnoz into Leeloo's hoo-hoo and have his way with her. No drinks, no dinner, no movie ... just action.

The gal on the receiving end is no better. I guess some bitches are more demure, some want the dinner and a movie, some think they are being molested - it's all individual. Leeloo ... well, Leeloo is like a burlesque girl on acid. Even when she is not actually ready to be bred if she could have her way with Boy she would. She all about the action baby and right now. Little tramp.

And then there's another small issue which gives me no small amount of concern. Both of these dogs are, ahem, virgins. Cast your mind back to your youth ... wasn't pretty was it? Well, imagine two dogs, both insane with hormonal desire, completely uninhibited, and with a combined weight of 200 pounds. I predict some false starts and perhaps some 'prematurity' in their future.

And, I do hope you are sitting down for this next bit. Every good fiasco ... I mean, adventure ... needs a co-pilot. The most learned and reliable source of my knowledge, the bedrock of my foundation of (almost) everything I know about dogs, the anchor for my little daliance with dog sex will be ... my parents - more specifically my Dad.  Imagine, if you can, spending an afternoon with your father breeding two hot and heavy dogs. It's quite a prospect no?

"Cup of tea?"
"RAIMI! You're humping the wrong end!"
"Do you take sugar? I can't remember."
"Leeloo, STAND UP!"
"What do you want for lunch?"
"He missed again, get him off her."
"We need to pick a weekend to refinish this floor."
"Hold her head! Hold her head!"
"So you are going to the new PEI shows right?"
"Ugh, Raimi is drooling all over her shoulders"

Yes ... I foresee some real quality father/daughter bonding time in our near future.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Bee Movie

Today is a special day for the 7 Ridgebacks of the 2009 'B' Litter and Halo's last stint as a Momma. On this day 2 years ago Archer, Rio, Gracie, Ella, Hunter and Tikka all made it safely to earth in short order and although Odin had to be assisted into the world he was no worse for wear.

Halo was a very good Momma for this litter and 7 seemed to be a little more manageable than her previous 12! However; this litter was *loud* and raucous ... I will never forget the 4:30am wake up calls and I don't think my neighbours will either!

The trip to the vet was a new experience for me in breeding and frankly not one I wish to repeat. I am sure Odin would have made it out eventually but he was sure taking his time about it. Never mind, he is here now and as his size in the womb suggested he has grown into a tall Ridgeback! This is Halo recovering from her Odin c-section and all the puppies safe in the warming box.

Archer - shining,wet, brand new - recently a new Champion too! It's hard to imagine they start out as small as your hand and become 90 pound lapdogs. Soon Leeloo will quit dawdling about coming into heat and hopefully oblige us with a new puppy experience to write about. For now though Happy Birthday to all those beautiful Ridgebacks who make their families so happy ... thank you for spoiling them and for being such great homes!

Monday, March 21, 2011

He Got Game

Because Archer's mom and dad took photos from the weekend I have some to share. My camera is still without a charger so until it arrives we will have to make do with highjacked photos from various Facebook profiles. Here's Archer before the competition getting his game face on - he was a little stressed out, was shedding to beat the band (with dandruff) and his sweet big eyes were saying "Dis is my game face."

Even though we practised he still ended up in a half sit a couple times. Now, I can't really blame his owners for teaching him the sit because I didn't actually tell them not to. This became his go-to move when he was feeling unsure about what he was being asked to do ... attractive isn't it?

This is in the Breed class where he finally clued in to what was required. He tried very hard to be a good boy and do the right thing ... he just wasn't always sure what the Right Thing was. After seeing these photos I realize he actually looked a lot better than he felt while at the end of the lead ... phew.

In between the Breed judging and the Hound group he started to fade pretty fast. It had already been a Very Big Day for him and all he wanted to do was go to sleep on Sandra's lap. Doesn't he look like the sweetest dog in the whole world? "I'm with my Mommy and she loves me."

We ended up in the Hound group with some less than perfect behaviour; he was tired, bored, annoyed and just sick to death of this nonsense. Not exactly a seasoned show dog is Archer. No matter, we got what we came for ...

A new Champion photo! The judge, Richard Fehler, was marvelous, jovial, interested and extremely pleasant. It is so much nicer to win under someone who obviously likes the dogs and what he's doing and I certainly would enter under him again. I think that actually goes without saying.

All packed up and ready to hit the road. Archer is the last Invictus Champion for some time to come as we wait for Leeloo and Raimi to create the next generation. Once that happens the whole cycle will start again; new babies, new shows, new people to meet - see you there! Or at the very least ... here!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Blood Diamond

Being right is a real headache. Being right and still winning is *awesome*. See, I said Archer wouldn't really remember how to be a show dog because it's been so long. The truth is ... he didn't really remember how to be a show dog but he won anyway. Chances are he won on movement and type (and his front structure which is amazing by the way) because there is no way his stacked self could win its way out of a paper bag.

He was roachy, worried, fussy, wouldn't bait, bored, tired, and generally just didn't think there was any point in working hard to get the yummiest liver treats in the world ... until he was outside the ring. Then it was the greatest food on the planet.

Also, someone, who shall remain nameless, taught him to sit for treats. I spent some time working with him to get him to stop sitting everytime we stopped moving. Down and back. Sit. Gait around. Sit. We got to the point where I would tell him "Stand. Stay." after moving and he'd do a sort of half-sit think think think and then end up standing with his hind feet mostly under his body. It was a compromise between the automatic sit and wanting to do what I asked. Such a darling little guy.

Anyway, he won. He won when it counted, when he needed it most and when I didn't really think he would. His movement was his saviour - lovely, floating, free, effortless, clean, and correct. The judge stood back to have a final look at all three entries (me, a female special and a male special) and while Archer and I dicked around trying to get a decent stack, the judge simply walked up and pointed at us for Best of Breed. This meant 2 points on top of the 8 he'd already earned in 2010 and we were done his Canadian Championship.

We had to go into group in order to keep those points and although he was game, Archer faded at the end and just got sick and tired of even trying anymore. He didn't bring the house down in behaviour. You can hardly blame him, this isn't exactly his weekly gig - mostly he spends time rough-housing with his buddy Tyson and being naughty at home. Asking him to perform in the show ring after all this time was a lot to expect and still he came up aces. What a good boy.

For the record this is the 7th Champion for Invictus, being Halo's 7th Champion as well, and the final show puppy from Halo's litters to complete this title. It's a load off my mind let me tell you!

So here's to Canadian Champion Invictus Blood Diamond - you are now among the elite, the adorned, the recorded, the exhausted. Sleep well little Buddy ... you earned it.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

City of Angels

Today Archer meets his maker. Or rather ... he meets another judge who will hopefully like him enough to give him his last two points to make him a Canadian Champion. I have no idea how he'll do actually, as far as I can tell dog show judging is a total shot in the dark and as in any other gamble 'you pays your money you takes your chances.' The last show Archer attended was in May of 2010. That is a long time for him to forget what to do. I can easily forgive him for being rusty and perhaps this show will be his warm up to get his brain back in gear. Either way he looks fabulous, he's game to try anything and I need a day out.

In other news, it is a sad day here in Pictou County. My friends Bill and Donna were my first taste of Nova Scotians who live in the province. All my experience was with Maritimers who had moved from here to Alberta and although they all talked about how the wonderful the east coast and how much they missed it - they were all living in the west.

When I came to New Glasgow to buy my house in 2008 I stayed with Bill and Donna as they had known my parents through the Pulis for several years, owned a young male named Trevor from my mom's kennel, and also showed and bred NS Duck Tolling Retrievers. It was a very generous offer since I had never talked to them and never met them before - they simply took it on faith that people who would sell them a nice Puli wouldn't have a psychopath for a daughter. I tell you; two nicer, more giving, helpful, and wonderful representatives of Nova Scotia cannot be found anywhere in this province.

I knew before arriving that Bill had been fighting with MS for about 15 years but the symptoms were under control and he was still very mobile. Once the Liberation surgery became available in the US Donna booked him in to help ease the symptoms of the disease. The surgery was scheduled for this spring but in the past year Bill's condition declined rapidly due to high levels of stress; he had to quit his job, Donna had to retire to take care of him and in February he was admitted to the hospital in a rapidly declining condition.

Today I learned that Bill died in the early hours of the morning. It is a tragic day for all who knew him and a desperate day for Donna who's best friend for life had to leave her far too early. My deepest condolences and sympathies to Donna who comes as close to a saint as a person is ever likely to meet. Bill laughed easily, smiled often, loved great food, and was a kind, gentle person - he left this earth far to soon.

Bill now walks with ease to meet his beloved dogs at The Bridge. Good bye Bill Peart - it was a pleasure to have known you.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Special Delivery

Four years doesn't seem like that long but to a dog it can be literally half a lifetime. I hope that is not the case with Boy as he turns 4 years old today and I want him to live forever ... much less 8 years. He got a special treat today because I was sent home early from work due to a security issue with the building so we hung out for the afternoon and evening and had lots of cuddles. I did remember to pick up a special treat for his Big Day, not marshmallow bunnies like last year (although not for lack of looking - they do still make them don't they??) but something he liked almost as much. "Gimme de bown Mommy - it's mai birfday."

He was a bit annoyed at me, much as I think a child would be annoyed while you told them to wait so you could get a nice photo of them with their birthday cake before it gets mashed into a giant clump of icing and Betty Crocker goodness. When I finally relinquished the bone he was determined I not take it away and settled himself to consume it on the dog bed in the livingroom. "Dis is mai bown."

So forgive me for once again anthropomorphizing my dogs (and making you read LOL-Speak) but frankly, it's my blog about the Boy's 4th Birthday and we can do whatever we want.  Happee Birfday Boy!

"It's my birfday. I am 4. Mai Mommy caym howm erlee speshul frum wurk an brot me dis treet. I luvs my Mommy."

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Chasing Liberty

I'd say at least half the dog poop in the backyard is now cleaned up - fortunately I started it this morning before the sideways rain began at about 10:30am and continued unabated for at least 2 hours. Now that the yard is a swamp mixture of dog poop, mud and grass I think I'll be taking the dogs in and out of the house through the front door for a few days.

The rain delay moved our walk to about 1:30pm and had to tell Leeloo to hold her horses in between grumbling whines and demands to go out NOW. That is, until I opened the door and showed her the downpour we'd be walking in if I complied with her requests. 

As often happens here the sun came out, the wind dropped, and the day was now inviting a nice walk in the woods - wet and muddy were certainies but in most respects it promised to be a welcome adventure. Adventure is right ... welcome ... not so much.

The walk started out just fine, we were enjoying being able to squelch along on the ground instead of snow. We kept to the fields and meandered along the exposed grass and occasionally waded through ankle deep run off as we did a large loop. I had just decided that we'd head back to the regular path to the truck when Leeloo, who was about 50 feet to my left caught the scent of something.

From her body language I could tell it was an Important Something but figured it was a squirrel in one of the trees to the south of us. Raimi was ahead of me to my right and he hadn't picked up on Leeloo's alert. He did a large circle and then spotted Leeloo intent on her hunt. Being a follower he beelined toward her and then also caught the same scent. Leeloo stopped for a moment or two and contemplated the winds. This is what I like to refer to the Golden Moment - that moment in which disaster hasn't struck and your life hasn't suddenly been thrust into the vise of uncertainty.

Suddenly both dogs were off, headed south toward the town. I yelled for them to come back but knew, as soon as I saw what they were after, it was a lost cause. Through the bushes and trees flashes of white and brown bodies were moving very rapidly to the east. An entire herd of white tailed deer - at least 9 or 10 of them - were streaking away with the dogs no more than 30 feet behind. Since we were downwind the dogs were practically on top of the deer before they bolted thus giving the dogs ample time to not only scent them but to actually see them and give chase.

I yelled one more time and then decided to save my breath for slogging through slush and snow. I knew from past experience that chances were good the deer would lose the dogs in the heavy brush at the bottom of the hill, territory the dogs are unfamiliar with because we never go down there. Esme bounced along at my side, not knowing where her Ridgebacks were and sticking to me like glue - this was obviously good but I was determined I wouldn't be going home with only 33% of the dogs I left home with!

Esme and I reached to top of the hill the deer had gone down and I stumbled along one of the paths. I listened for a moment and to my surprise I could hear the bear bells on both collars jingling in the woods. If I can hear them they can hear me so I yelled "RAIMI! LEELOO! COME!" and come they did. Not from the direction I expected but they came nonetheless.

They raced up the hill toward me and - if I can anthropomorphise for a moment - they were extremely proud, happy, expecting praise and very self-satisfied. "Did you see that Mommy? Did you see what we did? We chased those deer and they ran. Did you see how fast we ran Mommy? Did you see how I smelled them waaaaaaay before they knew we were coming? Oh yes Mommy, we had a lovely time!" They then turned their attention to the area where the deer had initially been disturbed and insisted on taking a few moments to make sure there were no stragglers.

Not taking any chances I put their leads on and we headed for home. I told them I was very proud of them (for coming back) and very impressed with their hunting ability. I do have to thank the inventor of the bear bell because I believe it gave the deer sufficient warning since without the noise, given the strength of the wind blowing, the dogs could have been almost on top of the deer before they could bolt. This gave them enough of a head start to lose the dogs and ensure they gave up before getting truly lost in the woods.

And so, another important lesson in watching your dog's body language. Leeloo was on those deer at least a 1/4 mile from their actual location. Maybe I could have called her off them, maybe not, but knowing what to watch for is critically important to ensuring you come home with 100% of your dogs. The bells help but they don't stop the chase. Training a fantastic recall for when the excitement is over - also very handy. But the more important lesson: this is a hunting breed that follows its nose and eyes ... if you are not prepared to deal with that trait this is not the dog for you. You can't train it out of them and you can't will them to not do what is in their DNA. Your have alternatives in shock collars (but I'm not really loving that idea) and GPS but the bottom line is ... this is what they do, deal with it or get a different breed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

What Lies Beneath

A couple days ago it poured and was about 5 degrees above zero - the result being a swift reduction in snow, a large amount of water moving very quickly toward the ocean using the roads as the most direct means of travel, and a back yard that looks like it was the solitary victim of a dog shit-storm.
That the temperature plummeted to below zero and it snowed a little in the night is to basically say all plans to remove said soggy shit-storm are effectively halted. Huzzah. My clever plan to remove all the mooshy presents from the backyard has been foiled due to the now frozen poopsicles trapped in time like so many little brown mastodons. The Ice Age has returned to Oak Street.

The exposure of said frozen delights is a problem in a few ways. Fortunately the lack of heat and flies reduces the gross factor to almost nil (unless you are looking directly at the mayhem). Neighborly embarrassment aside the main issue is that the dogs now realize that there is poop like ... everywhere. They can't turn around without encountering a delightful surprise. Raimi especially finds this most unacceptable. This means he is rarely, if ever, found anywhere but on the deck. To get to the back gate, which they can now reach since the snow has melted, he very delicately tip toes down the side of the house - his over-large schnoz pointed delicately away from the offending piles of poop.
The reason we have reached epic proportions of fecal matter is that in the months of January and February I would say it snowed every single day. Snowing every single day means that there were successive layers of snow and poop gathering like a particularly un-appetizing cake. And when it snowed it didn't do it half-heartedly ... it usually donated an inch or two of icing to this masterpiecece. The dogs didn't poop half-heartedly either - they are large dogs and thus their contributions to the cause are also large - Esme made up for her lack of size by simply increasing her frequency. The yard was so pretty for so many weeks, gentle drifts of bright white icing ... but I knew there was an evil presence lurking just below the surface.

So, until the weather sees fit to grant me a few days of uninterrupted warmth in order to shift the shit(so to speak), the neighbours will just have to follow Boy's example and turn their gaze from the horror and pray for sun ... lots and lots of sun.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Little Rascals

We met Archer again on the weekend for a lovely romp in the snow. Leeloo was delighted to have someone new to roar at and bounce on. They wasted little time with introductions and headed straight into the rabble-rousing portion of the walk.

Like many boys Archer needs to stop and pee on anything upright. However, lifting your leg this high is probably a bit of overkill. No matter how high you lift that leg Archer, your 'mark' will never get as high as Raimi's - I am glad to see you are still game to try.

Raimi, for his part, was more interested in what was under the snow than peeing on things above it.

Brotherly love, according to Raimi, only extends so far. Unfortunately the more Raimi grumbled the more Archer felt the need to show how much he respected The Boy. To give Raimi credit he was very tolerant of Archer's attention, and really, he didn't have to be!

Family portrait. Archer isn't really that small, it's an optical illusion because of where he's standing. He's actually about 85 pounds and probably 26 or 27 inches tall. Not exactly tiny but compared to Boy he does look a bit demure. Even compared to Leeloo actually! Esme obviously in front because that is exactly where Esme thinks she should be 100% of the time!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Upper Crust

Snow upon snow upon snow ... each layer builds up until we are walking 2 to 3 feet above the ground. Sometimes we break through and fall for about a foot, then struggle to extricate ourselves. We can sometimes walk on the upper crust of the snow but it is treacherous going, never knowing when you are going to plunge into a soft spot. Recently though, a day occurred where we were able to set out across the frozen landscape fairly safely.

This opens up a lot of extra running space for the dogs. They are restricted often times because they can't easily get through deep snow, nor do they want to - Boy especially does not like it but I suspect it mostly has to do with the icy chill on his twig and berries. When they realized they could gallop across the snow it was no holds barred.

I have to say it was a glorious morning. Still, calm, bright and beautiful; the day was open wide to possibilities of fun on the walk. The sun was just coming up and once it decided to stick around it was hard not to relish in the golden warmth. Leeloo made sure to take full advantage.

Looking across the drift covered fields it was hard not to want to just stand and take it in - even the dogs were not immune to the temptation to stop and enjoy the peace of the new day. It's so strange to look across this field and know what it looks like in summer because in winter it is a completely different place.

All three dogs taking in the day. I am so glad to be able to offer them this opportunity and am disappointed  more people don't allow their dogs a chance to be, well ... dogs. Trusting a dog off lead is easy as long as you give them a chance to enjoy it. Smothering them is not the same as making sure they are safe. These dogs are safe with me and they know it because I have proven it time and again.  

Then again, no one is safe from the Leeloo Bounce Attack.There is nothing I can do to stop it so Boy and Esme are on their own! 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Raise Your Hand

Today was unusually cold out so I put the dog's coats on and we headed out. It was about -14 and sunny, no wind and easily a beautiful day. We got about 40 feet into our walk when things took a turn. Boy was sad. His toes were cold and he was standing on three legs, limping along carefully like the ground was biting his feet. Never mind that Leeloo was going gangbusters in circles around him, trouncing on Esme, racing up and down the path and generally behaving like a 6 month old puppy. Her feet weren't cold but then ... Leeloo is kind of hardcore. I'm not sure Esme has even realized it is winter.
So there's Boy, throwing me the soppy sad eyes and I am feeling very guilty. I didn't bring his booties because I didn't think it was cold enough to need them, clearly Leeloo didn't. So I picked up his foot to warm it in my begloved hand whereupon he promptly attempted to use me as a crutch and stand on 2 legs.  This was not going to work.

And now may I introduce myself: The Selfless (and Clever) Mommy. I was wearing a pair of those little stretchy gloves, you know the kind, one size fits most and knowing how big his feet are I figured they would be pretty snug. I was right. The glove slid over his foot no problem and off he went cavorting through the snow with the empty fingers flying. Unfortunately for him I only have two hands but his back feet didn't seem to need the gloves, just the front ones. Fortunately I had my mittens so I put those on my hands instead and we carried on the walk with Leeloo still gamboling and Esme working hard to keep up.

Boy lost the gloves once so I left them off until the sad eyes came out again and on they went to protect his delicate feet. I didn't have my camera with me on the walk so I took a photo of him in the kitchen with one on. Isn't he darling?  

Fortunately the gloves are only 69 cents at Walmart so no big deal but it got me thinking, why not just get a pair of children's socks? Dog booties don't stay on anyway and you can get really cool colors and themes! I think next Walmart trip I'll be cruising the baby aisle looking for some Boy socks ... although, now that he has thumbs I bet I could get him to do all kinds of useful things ...