Tuesday, January 31, 2012

On a Clear Winter's Day

This winter has been marvelous so far - this time last year we'd had at least 4 or 5 blizzards and there was about 3 feet of snow on the ground. We're already at the end of January and winter is about half over as far as snow fall and major cold are concerned. No one here is complaining that's for sure. The last few days the sun has come out and everything is gorgeous, sparkly, clean and pristine. Who better to sully the untouched landscape than my dogs?

Esme is in her 'still not new' coat the replacement for which I think is never actually coming despite all promises to the opposite. She doesn't mind that the legs are raggedy, that there are multiple holes and rips in it and that it's almost no longer fitting over her growing coat. All Esme knows is this coat makes it easier for her to smash through the wilderness.

Leeloo surveys her domain. Seriously, I am pretty sure Leeloo thinks she owns everything and the world is just on loan to the rest of us.

Esme and Cora like to play some smack-down whenever they have a chance. It's pretty cute with Esme and all those cords flying and Cora who is just barely coordinated. The winner is never clear cut.

Cora is finally big enough to wrestle with Leeloo who is not in play mode lately. Maybe she realized it's less fun when your opponent can beat you up back. However Cora still tends to show respect for Leeloo because when when Leeloo thinks you need schooling, she means it.

Obviously running and bouncing and being silly is all part of the great fun of being a dog and these two are no exception.

Raimi gets into the act once in a while and takes Cora on a merry chase through the saplings. Cora is game to keep up but she is going to have to grow a little more to even come close to The Boy's skill at high speed antics.

It doesn't look like Raimi is going very fast in this photo but he is by far the fastest dog I own. Leeloo has a pretty good turn of pace and can out corner The Boy because she's smaller and weighs less but on a straight away this boy can move. People who've been run into by Ridgebacks have had it compared to a line-backer tackle or being hit by a car ... so, I try to keep an eye on them when they turn on the turbo.

Cora doesn't take chase games that seriously, as you can tell. She thinks it's more fun at this age to wrestle but she leaps along in The Boy's wake just the same.

All four dogs did two fly-by's and although I was bracing for impact they missed by quite a large margin. I just know The Boy does this because he thinks it's fun to scare me a little. He keeps an eye on me and has a huge grin as he thunders past. If he ever did run into me I'd probably be writing the blog from a hospital bed.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Big Comfy Couch

I have a chair that is meant for me and only me. Lately Leeloo has been a bit clingy so she always wants to sit on the chair with me. Actually, everyone is clingy so everyone wants to sit on the chair with me although it's really a chair made only for one bottom. When I got the chair I made sure to mention this to all the animals in the house, not just the dogs. The cats didn't listen and really, no expected them to. You can see the chair demonstrating itself as the perfect size for two cats or one cat and one Tamzin or half a Tamzin and one Leeloo or Cora. Boy tries to sit on it behind me sometimes but I always end up with only about an inch on which to perch and end up having to move.

The other day I sat in my chair and Boy decided it was once again his turn to 'cuddle wif Mommy' and so I obliged. Leeloo stood and stared, moaned and whined and used her incredible powers of observation to note that while Boy was taking up most of the chair, he was leaning against some pillows which did not have a dog on them. She stomped her cute little white toes a moment and then leapt over Boy to land on the pillows. No room left for me, as you can see, but because I love them, and can't bear to make them move, I tossed a throw over Leeloo and grabbed the camera. It says something to the persistence of the dogs in insisting on their own comfort. It also speaks rather loudly to how easily I am played and just how spoiled they really are.

Friday, January 27, 2012

The Brave One

Now that everyone is out of heat life has returned to normal - as normal as it ever is around here anyway. As I typed the previous sentence Cora was looking out the window and when that got boring she turned away and her bum and tail got caught up in the curtain. I watched as she realized there was 'something' holding her and she grabbed the curtain and started to 'kill' it. I halted that little game in a hurry. Cora likes to 'kill' things - she believes she is very brave for a 7 month old puppy.

I saw a poster once of some Ridgeback puppies which said 'When your job is hunting lions you have to be tough'. And it's true, I'd wager anything that the second Raimi or Leeloo saw a lion (bear, cougar, bobcat, coyote, etc,) they'd be after it with no thought to their own safety. This is not an easy breed to own and anyone thinking of getting one should keep that quote in mind. That said, they are not a 'macho' breed, not in my opinion anyway. They are more elegant than 'macho' breeds like Rotties, pitbulls, mastiffs, etc - they are intended to be that perfect balance between power and elegance and it sets them apart from the stereotypical 'tough guys'. If you've ever seen a Ridgeback in action you'll know what I mean.

However, they are not always brave. There are some things that send them scurrying to hide in the darkest corners, to cling to each other, to tuck their tails and run. One is nail trimming time (although they do tough it out for a cookie reward), another is bath time and the last? The vacuum. I'm not sure where the fear of the vacuum came from except it might have been inherited from Halo. Halo was always scared of the vacuum although nothing bad ever happened to her at its hand. She taught Raimi to be afraid of the vacuum, Raimi taught Leeloo, and they both taught Esme and Cora. Where can you find the Big Brave Ridgebacks and one Puli when I'm busy sucking up all the hair they've distributed throughout my house? Why, hiding on the bed of course.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Wild Child

Cora, as I have constantly maintained, is an absolute darling. I love her to bits for so many reasons. One of them is how much she reminds me of her mother. Leeloo had a habit of sitting and lying on The Boy when she was a puppy and he put up with it because he is very patient and let's face it, Leeloo is hard not to love. The apple doesn't fall far and one of the things that Cora does on a routine basis is to lie on top of her parents with no apparent regard for their comfort. All I have to say is payback is your daughter squashing the air out of your lungs. Cora seems to be saying "This mattress is lumpy."

And as for that famous saying that a daughter will always be her Daddy's Little Girl ... Cora knows this to be true. He makes a good pillow too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Great Balls of Fire

Having three bitches in the house who are not altered means that multiple times in the year they come into heat. Having one Boy in the house who has testicles means that multiple times throughout the year he loses his mind. I feel very bad for him because he can't help that he is being driven almost mad by his hormones.

Knowing that doesn't really make me much more patient, or tolerant, with him but I do empathize. It's hard to describe the overwhelming, over-powering, single minded drive that a dog experiences when he is exposed to a bitch in heat. I watched an episode of Myth Busters once where they were trying to see what method worked best to get past a guard dog and one of the methods was to distract the (intact) dog with the urine of a bitch in heat. To me that's no gamble, it's a certainty.  Dogs have chewed through doors and walls, climbed fences, dug under fences, chewed their way out of crates, damaged themselves and a lot of property in order to get to that girl who smells oh so very good.

Leeloo came into heat and was quickly followed by Esme three days later. This meant that the period of time they made The Boy crazy was extended beyond what would be normal for either one of them individually. As Leeloo was finishing the time during which she smelled the best - ovulation - Esme was just starting. The Boy has been going on almost 10 days of torture, in a crate, behind a door, behind another door, outside alone, inside alone. Crying, crying, crying, howling, barking and generally making the quiet life I like to lead almost impossible. It's hard to relax when there is a dog on the other side of the door who sounds like his very soul is wasting away.

There is one very simple solution to this problem and one which I need to give some thought to over the next few months. Do I want to neuter The Boy? He is a Canadian Champion, he is not likely going to be shown again in Canada much, if at all, and my main consideration is whether I want to try to finish his American Championship. Mostly, how important is it to me to get that title weighed against the angst and torture he must experience every time a girl in the house comes into heat. Cora is due next and frankly, there isn't a chance in hell he is going to get a crack at that!

The trade off for losing his testicles will mean that the house will not erupt into utter mayhem every six to eight months. Listening to him right now in my bedroom, pacing behind the door, whining, occasionally digging, and generally fussing almost non-stop, makes it seem a small price to pay.

Monday, January 16, 2012

La Vita e Bella

Sometimes life throws you for a loop and the best thing to do is just roll with it. Just before Christmas I was thinking about all the things I wanted to do in the next year; have a litter of puppies, sell the house and buy something bigger (for the dogs, duh ... who else?), go to shows in places I hadn't been to yet, start to show in the US again, take a trip to the Caribbean ... you know, the plan was for a busy year.

Anyway, after excitedly planning my whole year I looked at the calendar and realised that Leeloo was not due in heat until at least the end of March which made the major event of the year, moving, not probable since you should really list in the Spring and also the selection of houses would be greater. With a breeding in March, puppies born in May and not placed until July, it meant that I'd miss the major house listing season. After giving this some thought and reconciling that although it would be nice to have more room for the dogs, it wouldn't be a tragedy to stay put if need be and wait to move until 2013. And for the record, it would take some kind of act of doG for me to list a house while a litter of puppies was growing up in it ... just never happen.

So what did I do? I took a moment with Leeloo just a couple days before Christmas. I sat on the bed next to her, put my arms around her, told her I loved her, hugged her, patted her head, scratched her bum, and whispered in her ear so only she could hear "Leeloo, I know it's a lot to ask but if you could come into heat earlier, we could have the litter, place the puppies and list the house. Then when it sells I can buy a larger house with a big yard for you that I can fence so that you will stay safe (because you know you're naughty sometimes) and you'll have lots of room to run and explore. I want this for you Leeloo." Then I hugged her, kissed her head and that was that. Christmas came and went in a hurry and then suddenly it was a New Year full of hope and promise and all things possible.

Then, Leeloo comes into heat on the second day of January, just because she's Leeloo. She beat Esme into heat by 3 days so I suspect it was more about beating Esme than complying with my wishes but hey, no one here is arguing with it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Rear Window

If you've ever been to my house you might have noticed one of the panes of the French door in my livingroom has been removed to allow the cats to go from the front of the house to the back without me needing to open and close the door. Since cats are perpetually on the wrong side of the door this works rather well in the grand scheme. Esme also uses the door because she is small enough and since she can largely be trusted in any area of the house I don't mind her using it. Clearly, Raimi can't get through the door although his head fits nicely.

When I had the puppies I was a little concerned they'd want to climb through but since they were pretty uncoordinated, and there was never anything on the other side of the door they needed to get to, they never tested it. That is, until Cora started using her brain. The first time I found her like this I had visions of having to break the glass and saw through the mullions to get her out but it was simply a case of a gentle, squeezy reverse. Her hips are too wide to get all the way through so she usually just stands there until I come rescue her. This is good because at least she doesn't panic and hurt herself trying to escape and for her parent's stable temperaments I am eternally grateful. What a face on her ...

Since her first foray into the cat hole I've found her like this several times when she has been relegated to the opposite side of the door she believes she should be on. Cora certainly thinks there is a design flaw with the door and that it needs to be rectified immediately. The cats are pretty sure there was nothing wrong with it to begin with except it is now jammed up with Ridgeback puppy.

I'll admit to being a little concerned about her efforts to get through since she is only 7 months old and still has a lot of growing to do. She has now figured out how to reverse on her own for the most part but one day, no doubt, she will attempt to get through but find that the hole has shrunk. I can only hope that when that day comes it is not at the expense of a French door.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Golden Hour

It's common knowledge, as far as I'm concerned, that the light at the beginning and the end of the day offer the best light for photographing. Since I'm not really a morning person I'm more inclined to take photos at the end of the day. You have to time it carefully because it's quite easy to miss the 'golden hour'. It can make exposures tricky but if you can manage it the fading light can soften the subject, give better highlights, and make silhouettes more striking. 

This is The Boy listening to a dog bark across the water. He's always confused by this because he can't see the dog, and can't get to it, but he knows it's there. I like the little glint in his eye and how the light picked up the detail of his puffy coat since it was a bit chilly out there.

Most of my photos are taken by 'planned chance'. When I have my camera I watch for moments that would frame up nicely and I don't often manipulate the dogs into poses. I like them to just being themselves. To me posed photos always look artificial and too often you lose the personality of the dog by making it feel self-conscious. Boy and Leeloo set themselves up nicely against the sun, water, and grass and although in a perfect photo Leeloo would be in front of Boy, I think this one came out quite well. I especially like how the sun outlines each of the dogs but you can still see detail in their faces.

Something about this photo says 'Baby' to me. Cora stopped for a moment to rest her chin on Boy's back. How darling is she with her sandy little nose, big soft ear and sweet brown eyes? Everything about this photo makes me want to squeeze her.

This shot quickly made it to the top of my all time favorites of photos of Leeloo. I'm not sure if it's the abstract nature, that it's a silhouette, or simply that I adore the subject so much, but there is something here  that strongly appeals to me. If I were to print it I'd clean up the lens flares a little but otherwise it's just as it should be, as is Leeloo.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sunset Beach

I was sifting through the many photos stockpiled on my computer (which really need to make their way to an external hard drive) and remembered that I took about 300 photos in one outing with the dogs and only some of them have made it to the blog. It was just coming on sunset and we were at the beach on a rather brisk day but the dogs found ways to stay warm. There's Leeloo demonstrating that Fast Leeloo is fast.

The only dog who doesn't need to run around to warm up is Esme but she insists on doing about 3 times the distance of the Ridgebacks despite her size. She doesn't have any trouble keeping up with Boy anyway.

She tries to herd the Ridgebacks because she is a herding breed but they don't make very good sheep. Boy loves running in the sand, it's one of his very favorite places to run at high speed. As long as you are not behind him eating sand, or have a natural screen of Puli hair protecting your eyes, it's a thing of beauty to watch.  

Lately Leeloo has discovered that Cora has become the right size for wrestling. Her days of unequivocally beating Cora into the earth are coming to an end. I am certain this is good news for both Cora and Leeloo since Leeloo will be more satisfied with the play and Cora is less likely to get injured.

Then again, there is no accounting for Leeloo's intensity. When she plays she means it and although the scales are becoming a little more balanced, Leeloo is practiced and certainly doesn't play fair.

I suppose it's a good lesson for Cora since life isn't always fair, although I think sometimes Leeloo might put too fine a point on it.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Day One

It's the first day of 2012 and I am happy to welcome the clean slate of a new year. I headed out yesterday to my friend Donna's where we watched Mary Poppins and Muriel's Wedding, and in doing so we missed the countdown to the New Year. Funny how time marches on whether you are watching an awesome comedy from the early 90's or standing in Times Square watching the ball drop. Either way we welcomed the end of 2011 and look forward to making fresh memories in the future.

The dogs, as always, accompany me everywhere I go. If it wasn't for people who allowed me to bring my crew to their homes I certainly would get out a lot less. I love spending time with my dogs and that's a fact. If I can't take them with me I often experience split attention and in some cases guilt for having left them behind. I don't feel this when I'm at work, because that is necessary, but if I'm not working it means my time is my own and often the choice I make is to spend it with the dogs. Undoubtedly this makes me crazy but I don't mind being crazy if it means the dogs are happy and I am happy. Boy is just happy to keep his feet dry on the asphalt.

The dogs had a lovely romp at Donna's where there is a large landscaped lawn for them to run around and explore. It's bordered by acres and acres of trees which we sometimes venture into but the ground is very wet and the dogs spent enough time getting filthy just in the yard near the house, although the bordering trees got a little attention from Cora who thought bark was not just a noise dogs make.

She also worked on her listening skills to no avail. She doesn't follow commands any better with her ears like this than when they are 'normal'. However, when your Momma is Leeloo 'normal ears' are relative. And yes, this is in fact Cora, not Leeloo - a easy mistake someone made since I too have had to double check a couple times to see who I was yelling at.  

There's the Momma - hiding in the trees as usual. Much too busy to stop and pose for me, there might be renegade squirrels afoot and Leeloo is on the case.

And there again is the Boy and his Boobles - inseparable. He takes his ques almost exclusively from Leeloo and if I want to know where he is, I just need to find Leeloo. It's quite rare that he will adventure without her which isn't always good news since Leeloo isn't well known for staying out of trouble.

Neither is Esme. She sticks close though and her trouble is more of the getting dirty and making noise variety. Hopefully, assuming one day her new suit arrives, one of those problems will be rectified. Maybe we'll have her new suit by this time next year because that one is just plain horrid.

And so, despite arriving home to a house with no heat and no internet due to a power outage, 2012 has come in with little to complain about. January 1st is almost over and if the worst to happen is that we spent 3 hours snuggled on the bed under layers and layers of down comforters while I read a good book and didn't have to vacuum we'll be very lucky. Let's see what else 2012 can throw at us ... chances are it's nothing a little down, a good book and the company of adoring dogs can't fix.