Saturday, November 16, 2013

Goodbye, My Lady

The subject of this blog seems fitting considering it will be my final post - after today the blog will be archived and no updates will follow. Times change, things change, priorities change and my heart left this blog a long time ago. A quick thanks to all who read, followed, laughed, cried and raised their fists with me, and sometimes at me, along the way. It's been a labour of love, been stopped and started again and again, and finally I just have to let it go. Once updating became more labour than love I knew I had to quit. The blog will remain as a testament to my life with the dogs over the course of 6 years. It's been an adventure to say the least and I regret none of it, but now is the time to say our goodbyes. 

I know people are going to roll their eyes when they realize what my final post is about. It's been a blog about the dogs but they, strangely, are not the last subject. A lot of people don’t understand,and I have met very few who can relate to what I am about to eulogize. November 13, 2013 was the day I said my final goodbyes to an important part of my life.

My truck.

March 2008 - just before I brought it home

Some people have called it a just a hunk of metal; some say it’s “just” a truck and some look at me in total bafflement when I speak fondly about my White 2000 Ford Explorer. I am sad for them that they have never owned a vehicle they connected to on more than a "Point A to Point B" level. It didn't just get me from A to B, it always got me from A to B. The thought of replacing it brings me close to tears, like the thought of a friend dying. Call me sentimental but that vehicle has kept me and the dogs safe for over 100 thousand kilometres, a fact I don’t take lightly. I have had that truck almost as long as I have been posting this blog and that is no small thing. 

I got the Explorer in March of 2008, because I needed something that would fit the dogs and all their dog show junk and get me and all my possessions across Canada. I took some ribbing, a few people had a lot to say about the “Exploder” but I shrugged off the criticism and told the truck they were just jealous. It had been well maintained and there wasn’t much about it I didn’t like. I found out after I bought it that the only vehicle U-Haul would not allow to tow one of their trailers across Canada, or anywhere for that matter, was an Explorer, but it was a small glitch in the history of our time together.  

We have seen many adventures, not the least of which was a trip across Canada with 4 Ridgebacks, 3 cats and a trailer with all my worldly goods in tow. It took Halo to the vet with her litter of puppies for a c-section, rushed Cora to the emergency vet, has seen three litters loaded up and transported for their vaccinations, been to dog shows all over the map, been peed, pooped, vomited and bled in by a succession of dogs, travelled who knows how many times to the airport to drop off puppies, and safely delivered me to my destination through more snowstorms than I can count.

Winter 2011 - thank doG for 4WD 

In the last 5 years and 8 months, that truck and I have become friends. When you spend hours on the road together you can’t help but get to know each other. Sure, in the last couple years a few peripheral things have started to go, but nothing that would compromise my safety. I think it was just the truck telling me it was getting tired and perhaps it was time to retire. I always made a point of telling it how much I loved it – a few people said not to do that, it was a sure fire way to have a vehicle fail … telling it how good it was - but the truck and I both know when I told it I loved it, I meant it.  I believed what I was saying, I believed it would take care of me and in all the years we’ve been together, it has never once let me down.

It’s never stranded me, been in an accident, gotten a flat on the highway, needed major surgery, or failed me in any way. I replaced the standard parts like brakes and rotors, a battery and windshield but nothing ever required emergency service work.I was never concerned about anything going wrong because nothing ever did. I put that down to trusting it to take care of me because that was its job. It had one thing to do and it did it well.

Halo, Leeloo, Raimi and Archer plus 3 cats on our way to Nova Scotia

It protected me from all weathers, all drivers, and all situations that a person encounters while driving. We hit a deer once, no damage. A buck steps out into the road just 50 feet in front of me, we miss it (barely). We hit black ice on a bridge and slid into the other lane and it righted us just in time. There have been some tense moments in storms but with four wheel drive engaged we plowed on and made it safe to port.    

I will never own another vehicle as trustworthy and reliable as my Ford Explorer. It was, and will always be, the vehicle I never had a single bad thing to say about. Laugh if you will but that truck is my friend and to leave it sitting in the driveway while I step into a shiny new car with all the bells and whistles … well, it just breaks my heart. It never stopped giving , it still runs great, but it’s time.

Time to retire it from my service before there is a failure. Time to walk away being able to say my 2000 Explorer never let me down and doesn’t owe me a thing.  Time to say goodbye to a legend among trucks, hell, among vehicles.

 In the driveway, unregistered, uninsured, waiting for a new home 

Friday, June 14, 2013

The Return

It's a resurrection. Likely I've lost a tonne of readership but I didn't start the blog for other people, I started it so I could keep a diary of the litters I'd had and have something to refer to over the years. Lately I've had to check back on a few things to verify my memory and I realized I'd lost a couple months where things happened but I didn't make note of them. I'm going to try again and see if I can maintain the blog once more - doG knows there needs to be a blog out there talking sense about living with Ridgebacks, breeding, showing and dogs in general.

It's good to start on a day of note: today is Cora's 2nd birthday. I can't even think where the last 2 years went but some days she is so much the puppy I don't know whether to hug her or strangle her. She is and always will be my darling Bah-Boo - she is a personality that can be hard to figure out but we are working on it. We haven't been to many shows, she is still sitting on a few points but we will get there in the end, I just haven't been able to schedule many shows in and I was waiting for her to mature more since she seemed to need it. I'm certainly not in a rush with her, no plans to breed as yet and definitely not since she is not a Champion - she is fully capable of finishing, I just haven't bothered. It's not like I'm going to rush out today, on her birthday, to get all her health testing done at once so I can breed her on her next heat. Who does that? Probably people that want to go to Disneyland or to pay for a car or have large bills coming up ... you know, people who only breed for money. I haven't even decided if I'm going to breed Cora at all and there is lots of time ... she is only 2 after all, really still not yet done maturing. Here she is with her mom on the sun chair, so hard to believe she was once small enough to be inside Leeloo instead of squishing her!

So happy birthday to all her siblings: Luke, Zayi, Jax, Delta, Franco, Cash, Zeppelin, Gotham, and Shelby! You are all so beautiful and I am delighted you have such wonderful families who will treat you to some amazing birthday treats I'm sure.

On another note The Boy and I continue our visits to the Oddfellows home in Pictou. He loves to go, gets lots of treats and the residents are always happy to see him. It took him some adjustment but he now knows the drill and is happy to wander the halls looking in on the dog lovers and bringing smiles to their faces. Who couldn't love my big handsome Boy?


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Analyze This

Every dog is different and not all can be expected to do the same work or react to things the same way so when the idea of one of my dogs becoming a St John Ambulance Therapy Dog was sugested to me, there was one obvious choice. The Boy. He is so laid back, loves people, is engaging, affectionate, approachable, handsome and charming. He is the perfect Therapy Dog. He may not know a lot of tricks (any), may have to think about things a little longer than most, couldn't catch a treat to save his life, and fusses and whines if the cat is in his spot but he does have important traits that make him extra special. He is almost bombproof because of his dog show experience and will follow me through any door, no matter where it leads. He is curious, interested, food motivated but not manic, and he listens to my cues to back off if required.

To be a Therapy Dog requires all the above things and although you might be certain your dog is capable of doing therapy, it is not necessarily for them. It doesn't require formal obedience, it requires manners, which are on a different level than being able to sit or down when told.  Dogs who are trained in the rigid manner of obedience tend to look to their owners for cues in all situations, and however impressive it is to have a dog whose butt hits the ground in a microsecond, while looking for these cues, it is not engaging the people around it. Obedience dogs are taught to look at their owners while filtering extraneous activity and noise and what a Therapy Dog does is look for and interact with the extraneous because that is its job.

You may also have a dog that is bombproof, this would normally be middle aged to older dogs who have seen a lot in life. Bombproof is great unless it means comatose. There are lots of dogs who don't react to things not because they know there is no threat, but because they don't care. It's hard to strike a balance with a dog that doesn't freak out when something strange comes along (like a squeaky wheelchair), or an unexpected event (like an hospital code or a food tray dropped) with the ability to recover and re-engage after such an event. I have seen dogs who barely react to things like that which is great, but they also barely react to anything else in life, much less the people they are supposed to be visiting. Some dogs love people but can't handle the noise or distractions or allow stress to filter in and they can't focus for very long. There is a delicate balance and it's not easily found.

Raimi is such a balance; because he is bombproof and still engages people, he is a picture perfect Therapy Boy.

So yesterday we made the long drive to Halifax for him to be evaluated. He was put through several exercises that involved common experiences he might have in a hospital or nursing home and he passed each with flying colors. His clear favorite, which I hear is one of the most stressful for some dogs, was the 'crowd swarm' where several people converge on the dog with exuberant praise. He just about died from joy when all these people started calling his name and petting him, he didn't know where to turn and lick first. It was adorable and my heart swelled to see him soaking in the attention just as I'd predicted.

In between tests, while we waited for the other dogs to be evaluated, he was completely relaxed, lay next to me or looked for treats and showed almost no stress. I knew the evaluators were also watching the dogs while they waited, not just while they were being tested, to see how they were handling this unusual situation, other dogs, smells, people, and activity. Boy was his typical self - relaxed, calm, alert when needed and of course, the handsomest boy in class.

The last test is designed to be the most stressful and throws a lot of things at the dogs at once. Boy was curious about but not upset by the exuberant woman in the wheelchair, gently took the treats she offered and when the 'Code Blue' occurred with running people and a dish dropped he let out a woof, then a couple smaller woofs, and then re-engaged the wheelchair treat lady. They are looking for a startle reaction and recovery time and although he reacted and was concerned, he easily recovered and carried on with his 'visit'. And that was that!

We passed with flying colors and the evaluator said he was perfect for therapy work, when could we start? As soon as they have a facility for us to visit, we will make arrangements to go. I am looking forward to this extra special time with Boy since the girls all have their respective Championships to work on (Canadian for Cora, CFC for Leeloo and USA for Esme) and they will get extra attention for those. Boy and I needed a 'thing' and this seemed to fit the bill perfectly. We find out in the next few days what facility we are going to and hopefully in the next week or two we can make our first visit. So here's to The Boy and me, a newly minted St John Ambulance Therapy Dog Team.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Now We Are Six

Today I celebrate another birth that I also attended and assisted, except it was six years ago and not one. I am especially happy to see this day dawn with everyone ready to celebrate since there was a bit of drama and a vet visit a couple days ago because Boy was feeling very under the weather. Normally a little lethargy and vomiting does not get me rushing to the vet but I was concerned he'd eaten fibreglass and didn't want to take chances - we can thank Cora for making the fibreglass incident possible. Fortunately he is on the mend and not a moment too soon to celebrate turning 6 years old. Since his tummy is a little tender I didn't want to subject it to his normal birthday treat of candy, that will just have to wait, so he was satisfied with some extra ID canned vet food and lots of hugs and cuddles from me.

Hard to believe my Boy is already 6 but I am reminded how time passes when I see the little white hairs on his muzzle, take note of a small lipoma on his ribcage and the two or three little warty bumps that started to appear. Clear indications of a dog who is getting older. I try to ignore the signs but there is no denying, he is aging, as are we all.

The horrible truth of dogs, of any pets really, is they do not live as long as we do, and never will. So on days like The Boy's birthday I take the time to hold him a little longer, fuss over him a bit more, and make sure that each and every moment he knows he is special. I want to ensure that no matter how long I am blessed with his presence, he will never experience a time when he does not know he is loved. These days, with a dog in middle age, the celebrations tend toward whispered words and quiet hugs than silly hats and party favours. Those are for the kids, right Boy? As he's aged he's become more sedate and somewhat more thoughtful, if that's really even possible for him, and while his darling Leeloo and his daughter Cora cause mayhem on the dance floor, he is content to be a wallflower and watch his girls have a good time.

So since this has turned rather melancholy I will sum up by saying that the Birthday Boy, today and every single day of his life, is cherished and adored beyond mere words. He is corporeal love, he is simply My Boy, and that is enough. Happy Birthday to my handsome, adoring companion and here's to many more.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Birth of a Nation

There are 9 families out there right now celebrating the birth of their Invictus Ridgeback because one year ago on this date Leeloo and I helped 7 girls and 2 boys into the world. It started early and ended late and was the last litter Leeloo will produce so she made sure to make it interesting. She stopped at seven puppies, relaxed for a while - okay, not a while, it was several hours - before popping out two more in quick succession. She handled this litter like a champ and seemed to remember all the right things to do to care for them, or at least she wasn't as susprised to see these guys as she was to see the first puppy from her first litter!

I don't plan on another litter for at least 2 or 3 more years so please indulge me as I reminisce over what is also The Boy's final litter since he was neutered shortly after they were born. For me, although the litters are largely about the puppies, they are also very about the dam. It's her care and time and work that are the backbone to making the task of raising a litter a lot easier; if she is difficult, disinterested or sadly, as we have learned, not there, then the job is so much harder. Leeloo hated being pregnant, that much was clear, but she was an attentive mother who made sure everyone got what they needed.

But the puppies, the darling puppies who are the reason we are celebrating today, needed to do nothing but grow and be adorable. In the first three weeks of their lives they had a lot of milestones to meet - open their eyes, open their ears, learn to eat regular food, to walk, to interact with each other and to meet the rest of the family. Cora loved to check in the babies, once she realized they were dogs, and spent a lot of time nibbling and poking them. Sometimes she got a poke right back.

Each day this little group of babies got more and more adorable. As with any puppy, the more adorable they get the more naughty they get and it wasn't long before this mass of puppy goodness was wreaking havoc on their parents, Esme, and my house.

All puppies are cute, no matter the breed, but sometimes there is one puppy who stands out as exceptionally aw-worthy and my last litter had one of those. She was the smallest puppy born at half the weight of the rest, and stayed small for the whole time she was here, and ever after. Little Mini is, without a doubt, the cutest puppy I have ever raised. She gets special mention because so many people were rooting for her and I am happy to report she has matured into a lovely, kind, very sweet and correctly sized Ridgeback.
But then, they are all lovely and well loved by their respective homes and although they were a lot of work, it is always a pleasure to meet and enjoy coming to know the families and people who have taken the time to give my puppies wonderful homes. I know you discharge your responsibility with great care and today, on their first birthday, celebrate the companion that will never let you down. It's been a pleasure to watch them grow up and here's to many more years! Happy birthday to Kota, Emma, Zeke, Raylan, Vesper, Rue, Peggy, Kenzi, and Tezlin!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why Stop Now

When you are using a camera such as mine you have the opportunity to take photos in sequence with the motor drive option but because it's an SLR camera you don't actually see what you're photographing as the moment happens because of the mirror it uses. (Google single lens reflex if you need to). It can make it fun and amusing when you download the images to your computer because you sometimes end up with photos you didn't realize you'd taken - like Esme's faceplant from the last blog.

I sort of anticipated the upcoming sequence because I called The Boy to me and wanted some of him smashing through the drifts but unless you time it right, you can end up taking a photo of the non-action, instead of the action. It's hard to explain but there is usually an optimum time to take a photo in an action sequence, like a dog running, where it looks beautiful, instead of awkward - you don't see my awkward photos unless there is something else about them that I like (... and we're back to Esme).  This set came out about as well as I expected, it's only 3 photos, but the last one I didn't anticipate and when I saw it I had to laugh. So here's The Boy smashing through a snow drift to get to me, all manly and muscular.

It wasn't a huge drift and was fairly easy for him to get through but we were at the end of a 40 minute walk, he was a little sick of being out in the cold, he was tired and he wanted to go in. He didn't appreciate me calling him from the house to run through a bunch of snow again but since he adores me, and tries really hard to be good, he came anyway. Photo number two is The Boy plowing onwards to get to me - this was also posted a few days ago.

But then things took a turn and someone had had enough. The only caption I could reasonably come up with for this is "URCH!" He realized at the last second it was a much bigger drift than what he'd just run through and decided that no matter how much he loved me, he was not going through that drift. It doesn't look that big but he's standing on the upslope side of it, on my side it was at least a foot deeper than the one he'd just broken through. So, he stopped. He looked at me like "You be crazy," and headed back to the house. I followed in short order, I know when to take a hint.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Incredibles

The weather here is beyond anything I've ever experienced in Alberta. While I'm sure it's never snowed in August here, I can't recall a time in Alberta that it snowed in the middle of the night and then rained the next day. It's just pouring out now and I can hear the recent snow accumulation on the roof sliding down(it's a metal roof) and landing with a thump next to the house. The dogs are happily ensconced on the couch under their binkies waiting for the rain to abate so we can go for a walk. Not like last Sunday when we were dragging ourselves through crazy snowdrifts. Even long legged Leeloo was having trouble, I can't imagine trying to walk through snow that was the same depth as the length of my legs ... plus I don't have 4 wheel drive like they do!

Still, it was delightful to watch them play and wrestle, smash and grab, gnash teeth and generally throw themselves about without the risk of them hurting themselves by crashing into the ground. That and they couldn't really get up a lot of speed.

Speaking of, it pains me to say it but everytime I look at this photo I giggle. Esme, of the four dogs, is the only one that will follow me no matter where I go. It doesn't matter what she has to do to get to me, she is going to at least try. She does the same thing with the Ridgebacks but I think that's more of a desire to not get left behind, which happens a lot due to the aforementioned leg-length issue, and that can result in some unfortunate situations. Remember the photo from the last blog of her powering through the snow? This is the aftermath; she gets going a bit too fast, or hard, or becomes careless, and ends up face-planting; she is often her own worst enemy. In this instance she nose-dived into snow but she has ground herself into the lawn before. Never one to be held back by speed bumps, she simply rights herself and plows on; we could all take a lesson from this determined little dog (and yes, that is her bottom sticking out of the snow).

But never fear, there she is at the back of the pack, a little black bundle of cords and bark, following the path made by the herd of Ridgebacks. She also follows my footsteps but makes it a lot harder for me to walk because she is impatient as well as tenacious, and is constantly stepping on my heels. Not an issue for the big brown dogs since they jut push me out of the way and break trail themselves.

Down in the woods that day, the snow wasn't as deep but unlike the lawn area, it posed its own problems of hiding all the fallen trees, dips, and roots that are normally quite easy to negotiate. Boy didn't mind, his usual standing about and looking handsome does not require one to navigate hidden booby traps.

His daughter is following her Daddy Boy's example. She is finally growing up, has come into heat again (after an 11 month break from her first heat) and will one day mature into what I predict is the nicest Ridgeback I've ever laid hands on. Here she was watching as Esme struggled up the hill we were climbing and although it appears she is concerned for Esme, Cora actually made a point of pouncing on Esme the second she crested the hill.

In a moment of weakness the dogs thought, after that hike out of the woods,that I was going to the house so, they beat me there. Not so. I wanted them to spend a little more energy in the snow so I could spend a little less energy entertaining them later in the day. I stomped away from the house through a few more drifts and forced them to follow, which they did in time, although I think The Boy actually rolled his eyes.

You didn't see Esme up on the deck because she wasn't. She was, as ever, right on my trail trying to keep up. You may feel sorry for little Esme, because it is much more work for her to get through the snow and she is so much smaller than the Ridgebacks, but fear not. Esme is possessed of about four or five times the amount of energy of the Ridgebacks and in the course of a normal walk, not involving snow almost 2 feet deep, she will travel at least 3 times the distance the Ridgebacks travel. So just imagine that the effort she must expend to get through these drifts, although slower and a little more cumbersome, is simply using up that excess energy.

Cora, at this point, had enough. It was windy, she was cold and it was time to go in. Esme was still ready for more but I took pity on the big dogs and we started to head in to the warm couch and some down throws for everyone to cuddle under (except Esme, she hates that, she's already wearing a throw).

I guess this turned into a blog about Esme, which is fine, because although she can be annoying, loud and pushy, she is incredibly interesting, smart and, as we see from this photo, full of herself. She has every right to be and if everything goes according to plan, this summer there will be little baby Esme's for people to fight over ... and they should, this is one incredible Puli.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Snow White

Last weekend the Maritimes experienced a major snow storm called Nemo. Seems harmless given the reference to Nemo in popular culture but it was a bit of a blow for the region and a large part of the eastern half of the continent. In the morning I let the dogs out and per usual Leeloo, Cora and Esme shot out the door without checking the weather, while Raimi hung back as always to make sure it wasn't raining. When he saw the wind and snow blowing he put on the brakes and, while I was holding the door open to encourage him out, Cora had done an about face and shot back inside. Now I had two sad-faced Ridgebacks refusing to go out in the snow. I had to push them out, whereupon they stood on the deck looking horrified. It's only a little snow I told them.

I was proven wrong throughout the rest of the day as I watched the drifts build around the house and the insane north east wind blow the trees about dangerously. I have only sat through a couple true of Nor'Easters in Atlantic Canada and none of them had the force or velocity of this one. I don't think I've ever sat through a storm like this in living memory actually. It was quite the event and although it had mostly blown itself out by Sunday afternoon, and thankfully we never lost power, there was a lot of snow to shift. Still, we took to the woods to see how the landscape had changed in 36 hours and I brought along my camera to record the dogs after their first major snowstorm at this property.

I would say they enjoyed themselves ... to a point. Raimi and Leeloo got to wear coats; Raimi because he is a big ol' sissy-boy and Leeloo because she doesn't like to get wet. Cora is a bit more hardy because she's young and invincible ... so she thinks. Still, it's hard going in snow that's 18 inches deep when your legs are only 18 inches long.

Now imagine you are Esme. I will give her this: Esme is all try and never quits. It didn't matter how deep the snow was, where we went, or how hard it was, she never ever gave up trying to keep up. I took pity on her a few times and carried her over some of the larger drifts but she doesn't like being carried and for my part it's hard to carry a 35 pound dog in deep snow.

Snow changes the landscape so unless you remember where the dips and hollows are you can find yourself in much deeper than you intended. I decided to head into the woods thinking that there would be less snow there, and I was right, but because of the lay of the land getting to the woods proved a little more difficult than expected! Cora smashed her way through with all the verve and vigor of the young.

Leeloo, on the other hand, flew over the snow with all the skill and experience of an older dog. Plus she has the added benefit of, although not being the tallest dog in the bunch, having the longest legs.

 Raimi muddled through and tolerated my encouragement and requests to run a little more in the snow but every time he thought I was headed back to the house, he was off like a shot and waiting on the deck for me to let him inside. I'm not sure if he doesn't like the snow because he has dangly bits that get cold or if he's just the biggest baby ever. Likely it's a bit of both. The girls have always been made of sterner stuff and although he looks like a big scary dog, he's the softest of the three. Everyone spent the rest of the day napping under their binkies after this walk!

We had a lot more adventures than this though so more photos to follow in the coming days ...

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Parental Guidance

On the heels of my last post I thought I'd follow up with this post about actually being a responsible breeder with integrity and a good reputation. Surely you don't think I'm referring to myself? It's not for me to say; your reputation is determined by other people, you can only influence their opinion by your own actions and as we know, they speak louder than words. The truth will out ... and all that.

As mentioned in the past, and probably multiple times, I take breeding pretty seriously. I think the reason I take it seriously is because my parents take it seriously and it was just something I grew up with. My mom refers to herself as a hobby breeder and wouldn't describe her life's work and dedication to the dogs from a presevationist's standpoint. She loves the dogs, she is devoted to their health, temperament and in producing the best Pulis she can. My parents have done this for over 40 years and have never considered themselves 'guardians of the breed' or other such nonsense and that is because they don't see themsevles as being appointed as a Grand Poobahs of raising Pulis, they see it as a simple joy and delight in watching generations of quality dogs accumulate.

My mom is really my anchor when I have questions or concerns about things that are happening in my breed, or in purebred dogs. She doesn't just draw from her life's work of breeding dogs, she draws from her insatiable need to learn. She has a library of dog books on breeds that she will never own, texts about structure, shows, breeding, and training, and shelves of books on dog fiction that span decades. She is obsessed with learning, expanding her knowledge and then writing about it. For years she has written acticles for dog magazines, published a Puli grooming guide with my Dad, edited and produced the Puli club's newsletter, and been nominated and won awards for her writing. For years she's been a member of several online dog lists, both public and invitational, that almost certainly benefit from her knowledge and experience. I know if I have a question she can't answer, she can draw from their pool of collective information.

My mom is the only person in my life that can actually say she is 100% responsible for the success of all the dogs in her kennel. I don't know anyone else who can point to a dog and tell me that they knew, and probably bred, that dog's 8th generation grandfather. Very few breeders can take all the credit for their dog's wins. Every ribbon she wins is appreciated despite the hundreds that have come before it, and although perhaps the placement might not have been as high as it could have been, sportsmanship is always on the table.

I'm pretty sure my mom dispairs sometimes at the things I do and say. She rarely comes out and says "Just shut up already" but I know sometimes she's thinking it. I'm quite sure that the passion I write with sometimes is just a different version of the passion she has for the Pulis - she's just not as vocal about it! She likes to simply go about the business of producing great dogs without all the fuss. Thankfully I am able to provide entertainment for her through the wonder of the Rhodesian Ridgeback breed and all the facets of the people who have them and breed them.

For my Dad's part he is the anchor to their kennel. He is the work horse in the operation and it would be difficult, if not impossible, for my mom to maintain 10+ dogs without him. He does the manual labour which includes everything from cleaning the kennels to carrying a heavy, wet, just-washed dog upstairs to be put on the deck to dry in the sun. He does all the driving in the motorhome and loves to travel to the shows and see new places. He helps handle when he's needed and does a fine job (although sometimes with a little guidance). He obviously does a lot more than this but the list is too long to relate; just know that everything he does for the dogs he is actually doing for my mother. A better example of a marriage would be hard to find and it's probably the reason I am still looking for my 'kennel help' - my example set the standard too high.

If ever there was a breeder who has earned a reputation of honesty and integrity it's my parents. My Dad is honest almost to a fault and that's probably where I get this infuriating inability to lie convincingly. A good reputation is not self-appointed, it comes with time, not only wins in the ring; it is determined by course of action, not words on the internet; it takes decades for a reputation to become established and is quietly earned. There is no fast track, there is no short cut, there is no easy way in. Show wins aren't the only thing that gets people clamouring for your lines; making connections, demonstrating reliability, being humble, giving credit where it is due(and sometimes even where it is not), and maintaining healthy relationships with other breeders is paramount to success. My parents are still friends with Puli people they met before I was born and who watched me grow up at dog shows; I think I make them feel old when, after several years apart, we meet at ring side and they realize who I am!

I will never be my parents. I will never have a dozen generations of Ridgebacks. The idea is beguiling, to be able to look back on a life of dedication and work simply for the love of the dog and the breed. But that is not me. I have other legacies I intend to leave and although they involve dogs and dog shows, this life is not about one specific breed for me. I love having the dogs, and perhaps in time will see another litter pass through my doors, but the singular, devoted determination and purpose that my parents possess is just not my path. It's not a lot of people, and as the cycle goes we can expect some new breeders to be out of the breed in 5 to 10 years. Some people can't take the drama, the seriousness, the overload of information; and some people are like me, despite my upbringing, it's just not my calling.

However; I am lucky, although not uniquely so, to have been raised by dog breeders. I am part of an intricate world that is constantly changing, fighting, celebrating, weeping and growing. I wouldn't ever change my childhood and at my age I see now how interesting and bizarre it was(although as a child it was simply my life). I wasn't traumatized by circumstance and I don't have any crazy stories to tell, there was no abuse or neglect, no addictions or therapy; I only have stories of road trips to half a dozen states, driving up Going to the Sun Road(do it, you won't regret it), vehicle trouble hundreds of miles from home, overnighting in seedy motels, learning about more birth and death before the age of ten than most people understand in a lifetime and two parents who worked together in our travels across the continent and in every day life.

So when it comes to being responsible and demonstrating integrity my examples are a tough act to follow, but I try. I don't always succeed and in those cases I am usually more of a disappointment to myself than anyone else. Only you can know what your personal standards are but, whether you like it or not, people are taking note of your actions and your words and whether the two actually meet. If you are in the breed now, or intend to be in the future, you must begin how you mean to go on and remember, no matter how long you are in the breed, you will have earned the reputation with which you end up.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The New Normal

There has been a lot of chatter lately, in my breed anyway, about new breeders. It's a huge and hotly discussed topic so I hope not to diverge too much into rants and personal asides. Let's face it, the dog world needs new people in breeding to carry on the genetics of purebred dogs. The 'old guard' is fading away and without new people to replace them it's a short road to the extinction of something to which many people have dedicated their lives.

There is nothing wrong with being new at something. You are not an expert right away and without at least trying, you will never become good at anything. When a person crosses over from 'newbie' to 'experienced' is based upon the individual and their relative ability to pick up the 'trade'. And let's be honest, there are people who have been breeding for decades who know less than they should! Conversely, some new breeders pick up things easily and are able to understand the dynamics of the purebred dog world with relative ease. Even truly experienced breeders still encounter things they've never seen before so issues with whelping or showing or training that new breeders run into aren't necessarily because they're new, problems can arise anytime and don't care what your experience level might be.

My own experience level lies in the mist.  While I am relatively new to Ridgebacks, I am not new to purebred dogs. I'm sure I ruffled a few feathers when I got Halo and it was assumed I thought I 'knew it all' but I understood that I didn't, and still don't. What I did know was a lot about purebred dogs and although my specific breed experience was not at the level of established breeders, I knew when I was being bullshitted and some people don't like being called out on it - especially by a 'newbie'. Now that I've had a few litters, learned a lot from my Ridgeback breed mentor Erin, I am better able to see the Big Picture and the Finer Details.

I got Halo, showed her, bred her and had 3 litters - although not all in a row (because we've already established no excuse is good enough for that). I did this because, with Erin's guidance of course, after my lifetime of being in purebred dogs, I felt I knew how to do it 'right'. I had a plan (which subsequently changed for various reasons) and I understood what I was trying to accomplish, what my 'vision' was and how to get there. I was also in an educated enough position to know if it was too much for Halo, to keep her in optimum shape, how to evaluate her structure against the boy's, what to say no to, how to whelp a litter, how to choose puppies. I also knew all the stuff that you simply learn over time, the things that new people don't have the benefit of and need to learn over time as well.

There are some things a mentor can't tell you, some things you have to pick up as you go. I just know stuff that isn't really in a book, or online, and often times common sense, a decent set of morals and some ethical responsibility are the only things guiding you. Those may seem simple enough but I have learned the hard way they are a rare commodity when several thousands of dollars is a possibility with a litter. I also had the benefit of a single trusted source of breed information who understood my own experience level and knew that when I disagreed with her I could explain my point of view. I knew the lingo, I knew the shortcuts to information and a lot of things you can't know unless you've been in the dog world for several years.

And when I say world, I mean World. It does no good to skim the surface or ride on coattails, you will never understand the intricacies of anything if you think you only have to learn the bare minimum to be successful. The purebred dog world is truly filled with depth and scope that cannot be completely understood by any one person, it is made up of so much diversity and layers it cannot be explained. There are Breed Worlds within All Breed Worlds and within those are Health Worlds, Training Worlds, Feeding, Grooming, Structure, Handling, Whelping, Performance ... the list is almost endless. To attempt to know it all is impossible, but whether you are new or experienced, you must take it upon yourself to learn more than just how hire a handler to get the wins and how two dogs have sex.

But really, how hard can it be? There are new breeders who are winning right out of the gate, but their success often comes because the experienced people guiding them established the groundwork. That is certainly true for me and Halo - I'll never forget Erin saying that in her spare time she liked to research dog health records and pedigrees because she enjoyed it - now that's commitment. Even with a mentor, in time all new people must pay their dues, just like everyone else that came before them. Eventually you have to stand or fall on your own and the short cuts to success have a price.

Personally I have been soundly disappointed with a few new breeders which is why the most recent puppy I sold to a 'newbie' (who wants to breed) will be the last. Thankfully that person is keen, earnest and wants to learn how to do it right, instead of how to do it fast. I have been wildly impressed with still others who have taken it upon themselves to learn, and learn properly. They aren't looking for short cuts or 'fast tracks' to success. They have grounded themselves in knowledge, researched their own lines, and made decisions about what they want to do in the breed. They maintain contact with their breeders, have established a working relationship and know who to turn to if they have questions. There is little more important in breeding than knowing your lines because what is behind your dogs is paramount to what the future holds. If you lose contact with the breeder of your foundation dogs, genetically, you are going to be in trouble one day. 

You have to start somewhere though and usually it's a bitch. Many people get a purebred dog, try to show, realise perhaps their dog doesn't have the quality required, and after doing some research, get another that is better quality. Sometimes the first dog was always intended to be a pet and they thought they'd like to try showing; sometimes that first dog was sold to them as show quality but was 3rd or 4th pick - whichever it may be, it's a start. I think this is the most common introduction to showing and breeding I've heard although it's obviously not the only way. The point is; people will get a dog, show it, enjoy some success and the natural progression is to want to breed.

Most new people start with a mediocre bitch. Established breeders are seriously unlikely to sell you the pick bitch puppy if you are new to showing or the breed. Unless you can provide outstanding references or have proven your commitment to the breed in some way, you are unlikely to start with anything other than a mediocre to good dog. And there is nothing wrong with that because for one thing - most dogs out there are mediocre to good. Outstanding dogs are rare and do not get sold to newbies. People are constantly describing dogs that, to my eye, are no better than good as "stunning" and thus they have ignored, and sullied, the word and done a disservice to the dog: stunning means exceptional and not everything can be exceptional (not even 5 day old puppies so please do not go advertising your ignorance by saying so on a public forum). Is it okay to breed a mediocre to good bitch? Of course it is, as long as she has been shown to her championship, has her health testing, has a decent pedigree, demonstrates a good temperament and is otherwise a nice dog. Oh, and is bred to a dog that compliments her structure with a view to improve not just her, but the boy as well. It's not all up to the bitch to 'get better', he has faults that need correcting too so don't be afraid to turn away a stud that you think is not right for your girl or who might introduce a fault that you think your girl can't correct or overcome based on her pedigree. It's okay to breed your first purebred dog, really it is, but there is a benefit to doing it with caution.

Being a successful dog breeder is not only about producing puppies. Anyone can throw two dogs together and produce puppies; just look at the full rescues, shelters and pounds across the nation. Success is also not measured by wins at the shows or how many ribbons you can display on your wall; it's measured by your connections, your ability to maintain relationships, networking, and being able to establish lasting friendships within your breed. It's about getting deep into the genetics of the dogs, learning pedigrees, knowing what faults are prevalent and working away from them. It's sinking your teeth into as much information as you can about this crazy purebred dog world. And it's also knowing when you shouldn't breed.

Puppies are cute, there is no question. But they are only cute puppies for a few weeks. After that they turn into little Hell Demon Dogs and only get worse from there. Without the proper support from a breeder who knows what they're doing (and can answer some of the weirdest questions I've ever been asked) those puppies are in trouble. It is not okay to breed just because you love your girl so much or because you love puppies, or you want grand-puppies (which is one of the most pathetic reasons I've heard for a stud dog's prolific use) or you think you'll make a lot of money (yes, we can all do math) or even because your breeder demands a puppy back in your contract. Breed when you are ready, when the bitch is ready, and when you understand the gravity of what you are doing.

Take it seriously, you are producing life. Without taking it seriously, and without doing all the 'right' things', you are no better than a backyard breeder or a puppy mill churning out puppies to make money. The way some new breeders are producing puppies has the words puppy factory on the tip of my tongue.  Take the time to whelp the litter properly. When I see photos of a litter whelped on a couch or a bed I want to reach through the computer screen and shake the breeder. If it starts on the bed move them to the whelping box immediately. If you do not have a whelping box, for doG's sake get one. Put it in another room, shut the door and for the love of all things, do not allow any other dogs access to the litter for at least the first few days. A new mom is stressed, anxious and protective. Do not count on your girl's 'wonderful temperament' to come shining through a whelping - they change into different dogs when they have puppies. That is a Universal Truth. Learn to read your bitch's body language - that 'smile' on her face is actually a grimace of anxiety. Puppies (and dams) have been killed or badly hurt in dog fights over the whelping box. Even if she is allowing other dogs near her litter, please consider the stress she has just been through and give her some damn privacy.

And don't be disappointed with a small litter. Hell, if I could guarantee three or four I'd be delighted. What a breeze that would be; fewer puppies to place, fewer homes to find, and a lot less poop to clean up and I could truly get to know the puppies as individuals before they went to their new homes. A successful litter is not based on quantity (truthfully a successful litter cannot be quantified until the puppies are at least two or three years old) and I would rather have a litter of four outstanding puppies than 10 mediocre ones. If you are looking for large numbers I can't help but think you are looking at the dollar amount affixed to that litter. Recouping the cost of the litter is great, and if you end up with more than you spent that is even better, but don't count on it. And certainly more puppies give you more choice, but if you've done your research and made the right guess (because, in fact, breeding is always an educated guess) you are more likely to end up with a litter of exceptional puppies - and if it's only three you better hope they are really good! Oh, and you don't make back any of the money you put into that small litter and in fact likely lose money. Be okay with that or quit now.

New breeders are allowed to win of course and sometimes win very well, but you can't know it all because of a win record or because you've produced a bunch of puppies. Some are making rash decisions, breeding too much too fast, don't understand their pedigrees, stepping on toes, pissing people off, demonstrating seriously questionable ethics and rationalizing behaviour and breeding practices that, if done by someone who knows what they're doing (*experienced*) would be fine (with caveats) - but done by someone with fewer than 3 years experience breeding pose a danger to not only the future of the breed, but also to the future of the puppies they are placing.

New people do not have a handle on the breed's temperament - there is no possible way someone who has only owned a Ridgeback for 2 years could understand what type of home is required for this breed. Having a mentor helps but ultimately the decision on where to place puppies is up to the breeder themselves. Your life with your dogs is not the life that the people who get your puppies will have - they will train differently, they will ask questions you won't know the answers to, they will feed differently, they WILL listen to their vet over you (despite constant and repeated advice from the breeder advising against certain practices), they will have weird things happen, they will let the dog get overweight, they won't train the way you'd train, and a whole host of other things that you never anticipated. Without understanding the breed very well you will be as lost as they are when they email you. Even with my most recent litter, I second guessed who would get a puppy and whether they would be a good home. Although I realize all breeders do that, likely up until their very last litter, I know my self-doubt comes from the understanding that I am still learning the ins and outs of this breed's temperament, traits, needs and the delicate balance that must be struck with their training. A new breeder, producing litter after litter, could be setting themselves up for a teary call demanding they take back a very badly behaved dog that no one wants to live with.

And this doesn't mean experienced breeders are off the hook - time served doesn't earn anyone a free pass to questionable practices. Don't forget, some of those new breeders are simply following their mentor's advice or example and that doesn't always translate into being a good breeder. We are all guided by our own moral compass but if the person you are relying on for advice is doing things, or making suggestions, that you are not comfortable with or don't agree with, then you are not obligated to blindly follow. I have always told the people who ask my advice to use the information I give them and apply it to their own life and philosophy. I would never expect anyone to blindly do as I say, we are all individuals but my advice, when asked for(and even when it's not), is always exactly what I think. No bullshit. No beating around the bush. I have a reputation for being straight forward and that will never change.

And since you didn't ask, my advice to new breeders is this - slow down. Go forward carefully. Take your time. The life cycle of a dog is so much shorter than our own, what's the rush? Learn about whatever you can at every opportunity. With the Internet and all the information out there you can have no excuse to not educate yourself. There are breed seminars, structure seminars, health clinics, mentorship programs, magazines, books, shows, Facebook groups(breed and all breed), puppy evaluation mentors, and breed clubs with dozens of members just itching to help. Choose a direction, know what you like and know what you don't like. If you don't know how to articulate your preferences, take the time to learn the lingo and be able to say no when you need to. Producing puppies is pretty much the easiest part about being a breeder, but experienced breeders understand that breeding is not just about producing puppies.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


In keeping with the desire to post about the dogs I've bred, today's blog is about another one of my 'babies'. But only him because he deserves a special mention for the most adventures had in his short life. Some people may know who Mungo is but if you don't I will endeavour to enlighten and introduce a pretty cool cat into your lives. He was born, as they all were, in my house and raised with 11 other siblings. Then he left to spend the rest of his life with Daniela, Kevin, Sean and Sara. He was especially lucky because Daniela is a vet and Mungo would spend the rest of his life wanting for nothing - not only medically, but also in every other way possible.

When Mungo was two years old I got an email from Daniela telling me that their family was leaving for a year to drive to Latin America. They were going to drive from Calgary to the southern tip of South America and it was going to be quite an adventure. And Mungo was going too. He had all his things packed and everything was planned - he even got his own blog for people to follow along with his adventures of travelling through all those countries. I don't think Mungo cared about the travel; he, just like every other Ridgeback I know, just wanted to be with his family and if that took him through countless countries, then that was fine with him.

They travelled down through the USA, crossed over to Mexico, through Central America, and into South America and I'm sure they saw and experienced things that no one of them will ever forget. Through it all, for an entire year, Mungo was there. I often hear from Daniela that Mungo is a goofball and has boundless energy which he uses for finding naughty things to do . This means he's very active and I can imagine that more than once on his trip through Latin America he was getting on everyone's nerves with his need to go for a run - not always possible on the road!

Once the family returned to the Great White North they had a little extra time and decided to travel across Canada. One of their stops was to visit me here in Nova Scotia and it was a pleasure to see them all again. Mungo looked marvelous, he greeted his brothers and Leeloo with gay abandon and there were some hilarious hi jinks that will stick in my mind for a long time. I saw first hand what Daniela is refers to as Mungo's humour.

Things carry on, as they do, and the family settled back into life in Calgary, Mungo was treated to a new buddy to play with, Sargon, in early 2011, and Daniela opened her own practice in Marda Loop called the Canine Companion Clinic, just a few blocks away from where Mungo was born.

As a breeder you don't always hear what's going on in the lives of the people you sell a puppy to unless you prompt them and often I assume no news is good news, but in the summer of 2012 Daniela contacted me to let me know about Mungo. It wasn't good.

Mungo had been playing with Sargon as rough as they generally do, yelped and came up lame in his left hind leg. Initially the thought was that he'd torn his cruciate ligament, a fairly common injury for an active large breed dog. That would have been good news compared to what Mungo was actually diagnosed with. Osteosarcoma.

For those unfamiliar, that is bone cancer. One of the more serious cancers anyone, dog or human, can get. You can clearly see there is a problem with his bone in this xray - something to do with a whole chunk missing from the top of his tibia. You can imagine that this would cause him a lot of pain. At the time the family decided that because he is such an active dog they would attempt to save the leg, instead of amputating, and so a course of chemotherapy and radiation was established, along with physiotherapy to rebuild the bone lost from the cancer. Dogs handle raditation and chemo better than people, and he was doing quite well for several months.

In case you're wondering, own an Invictus puppy, or have a dog related to an Invictus bred dog, this instance of bone cancer is unlikely to be genetic. Daniela, who is a vet herself, does not believe this to be a heritable cancer, we both believe it's just crappy luck. I know of no instance, in any Ridgeback in fact, of bone cancer, much less in the lines I've used to produce my dogs. It can be inherited in some breeds and especially in some lines of certain breeds, but not mine. I certainly would not ever knowingly have produced puppies who might have had the possibilty of developing such a devastating illness.

Still, Mungo definitely had cancer and treatment, although making progress, was not yielding the results Daniela wanted to see. Mungo's quality of life was in question - he wouldn't use the leg on a regular basis, although new xrays showed increased bone growth, and he appeared to be in pain. The leg was wasting away with muscle mass and strength not being regained at an acceptable rate. Always the question of quality of life hangs in the air. For animals especially, quality of life prevails over quantity - people tend to choose life, no matter the pain or discomfort, simply through fear of death - but animals do not have that kind of foresight, life for them is always now.

With his leg wasting away, and the belief that the cancer was under control, the incredibly difficult decision to remove Mungo's left hind leg was made. Daniela employed the skills of an expert veterinarian, and good friend, to do the amputation. She tells me the decision to remove his leg involved a lot of tears and logic - Mungo was in pain and to have a leg that is useless and causes pain over no leg and no pain just made sense for his quality of life.

I'll be honest, when I saw the photos of Mungo without his hind leg, I couldn't help but cry at the sight. My brain can't seem to reconcile with the image of his missing limb ... it's just ... gone. However, the price of one leg, to save his life, seems small in the long view. He recovered very quickly from the surgery, hopping along just hours later and seeming to accept the new Mungo with relative ease. A dog's natural optimism certainly helps in these kind of cases. Added to which, Mungo has always had a great temperament and that will go a long way toward helping him cope with the drastic change in his body.

It's only been 2 weeks since the amputation and Mungo is making steady progress as a three legged dog. It is a small blessing that the bone with cancer was a hind leg, it is much easier for a dog, especially a large one, to adjust when it is a hind leg affected rather than a front one. He is being taken for daily walks and seems to be enjoying life although he recently did a number on his incision which will require more 'cone time' as a result.

At first glance, if you didn't know he was missing a leg, you wouldn't be able to tell until you saw him move or looked a little more closely. Since he spent a lot of time not using the bad leg for the last few months, the adjustment to three legs, as far as locomotion is concerned, is likely not that difficult for him. I'm sure balance and speed will increase with time and he was even off lead playing a bit with Sargon and enjoying being out in the world

I have repeatedly expressed my heartfelt sorrow to Daniela over the circumstances with Mungo - I can't help but feel responsible in some strange way. He is only 5 years old, barely halfway through a natural life, and my intent is always to sell a puppy to people with the promise of at least a decade. Mungo's life isn't over, that is true, but he's not out of the woods, and likely never will be. The fear of a cancer regrowth will be ever present, this is especially true with bone cancer, and these days every moment with Mungo is a gift.

Daniela put it best when she said she believes things like this happen for a reason. She doesn't blame or assign responsibility to me as Mungo's breeder, she thinks that these are the things that teach us. Her children have learned compassion and about life, she feels this experience will make her a better veterinarian, and no matter how the balance of Mungo's life plays out, his comfort will always be at the forefront of concern. Daniela is straightforward and honest about Mungo's treatment and future - there is hope there but also caution. She writes about this amazing dog on her own blog which was created to document their travels to South America and is now dedicated to it's namesake and his new adventure as a cancer patient - if you have time and want to travel with Mungo and join the fight against this terrible disease, head over to Mungo Eats LA and hope and pray with me and Mungo's family for many years of three legged adventures.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Family Tree

I haven't done an update on the dogs I've placed with other families in a very long time. I don't like to hassle the people I send puppies to - I prefer they be allowed to establish their relationship with their puppies and if they have any questions or concerns they know they are always free to contact me. If I haven't heard from you in a while I will often send an inquiry email - not to be nosy, just to check in a see how things are. I am friends with most of my puppy people on Facebook - which is a nice way to keep in touch - but again, I don't like to pry or hassle. Some people aren't on Facebook, or if they are they are rarely online and from those people I usually get updates once or twice a year. However you prefer to keep in touch is fine, but I do love to get photos of the dogs, just to see how they are getting along and how they compare to their siblings. It's so interesting to see type and temperament trends for dogs that are sometimes hundreds of miles away from each other. So here we are, in no particular order, the dogs of Invictus enjoying life with their families ...

Peggy is from Raimi and Leeloo's second litter of puppies and here she is giving some love to her new 'sister' Elly who came all the way to New Brunswick from BC via Elyiah Ridgebacks. Elly is one of the puppies from Rifka's final litter and Peggy is delighted to have her cousin come to stay - lots of hugs in this family!

(Photo Carolyne Gallant)
Delta is from the first litter Leeloo had and she is enjoying life as a big sister to two little girls, one of whom just had her first birthday and Delta was there to help celebrate. Better hang onto that birthday hat ... Delta's is coming around again soon! Hard to believe these guys will be 2 in just a few months.

(Photo Derreck Parsons)
An uncle and a nephew love to hang out and roughhouse in Alberta although travel to distant lands is on the agenda for them too. Rory (right) and Gotham (left) are a couple hound dogs who love their Pathfinder. It's easy to tell who Gotham's Daddy Boy is! Rory is Raimi's brother from the second litter Halo had - he'd be a littermate to Zero and Rifka.
 (Photo Kathryn Payne)

Emma's birthday is coming right up and she's bound to celebrate being 1 year old with her Great Dane buddy. I see photos all the time of these two playing and it looks like Emma and Cora have a lot in common in the play department - all go all the time. Emma lives in Calgary and she also has an older Ridgeback 'sister' Zoe she lives with but when Emma needs to burn off some steam ... it's Dudley the Dane to the rescue.

Shane is hanging out in Calgary and looks all geared up for the winter there. He is also from Halo's second litter and lives with his pal Ryder. I hear from people in Calgary that Shane is much loved at the dog park and gets along well with everyone. Such a nice thing to hear so I know his owners Peggy and Keith have done a great job raising him.  
(Photo Peggy Johnson)

Kenzi lives in Newfoundland and is utterly spoiled. I am hearing that she's also very well trained - something I always worry about a little with this breed. They can be a challenge but it sounds like Kate has the right balance of coddling and setting boundaries for Kenzi who has grown up to be quite the pretty girl!

Hunter is enjoying life in BC as the family dog to the Shaw family - he loves to go mountain biking and is constantly impressing people with his speed and skill on the hills. I am not surprised! He is from Halo's last litter and is a sibling to Archer who we see here quite often. Hunter has a lovely head and is in fantastic shape ... would that everyone kept their Ridgeback this lean and fit, it's so much healthier for them.

(Photo Doug Shaw)
Remember little Mini from the last litter? Her Big Girl name is Kota and she's all grown up(well, not quite) and is the perfect Ridgeback size at 70 pounds. She has lovely eyes and is Leeloo's color and is adored and soundly spoiled by her family. She sometimes gets to to play with her sister Emma but more often she hangs out with her little buddy the Pomeranian (whose name escapes me). I will never forget Kota as being, bar none, the cutest puppy I have ever raised.

(Photo Michelle Bogren)
 Zero isn't just a show dog and I never want to give the impression that he is just a tool for me, or anyone, to post wins about. He is a well loved, well spoiled and extremely happy boy who gets treated like a regular dog - he doesn't care about the ribbons - he cares about the Gurls. This is his post-Gurl stretch ... hopefully puppies in 9 weeks Zero!
(Photo Lisa Erickson)

Tezlin doesn't live far from her Uncle Hunter, which is how Tezlin came to move to BC. Her family met Hunter and thought he was a great dog and wanted one just like him. They got Tezlin who has fit seamlessly into their lives and is growing up to be quite the beauty. I still remember her as a wonderful puppy since she got to stay a little longer than the rest. It was nice to get to know her on a one to one basis because that doesn't often happen with large litters.

(Photo Hailee Kepes)

There are many more Invictus babies out there and I will try to highlight as many as I can over the next few days. If you have recent photos of them please email them to me or tag me in some Facebook pictures so I can brag not only about how great these dogs are, but also how amazing the families are who have some of the best dogs on the planet.