Wednesday, January 30, 2013

50/50

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.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Contagion

For the past 5 days I have been slowly extricating myself from what people are calling the 2013 Superflu. Personally I don't think there's anything Super about it. I woke up Saturday morning with some chest congestion and before it got too bad I took the dogs for a quick walk (knowing they'd be more relaxed and nap if they had) and then we all crashed for the rest of the day. Mostly a cough, aches and pains and an irresistible desire to sleep have been my symptoms and there is light at the end of the tunnel this sunny morning.

I'm not hoping for sympathy based on the paragraph above, it's just a virus, the first time I've been sick since February 2011, and I'll get over it; no, what I want to discuss is how the dogs behave when I'm sick. I've never been sick since Cora was born, which is a weird thing to say, but her birthday is June 14, 2011, and it was a new experience for her to have a Mommy who spent days lying in bed instead of paying attention to her.

When we get sick I know we smell different to the dogs. It's well documented that dogs can smell cancer cells, they can sense epileptic seizures and there is no doubt in my mind that a virus changes us so that dogs know there is something not quite right. In all mine have been very good about not demanding too much attention and quietly napping when I need them to - however lying almost directly on me when I'm sick in an effort to comfort me isn't exactly the best route to take.

I'll never forget waking up in the middle of the night on Saturday(or Sunday morning, however you want to look at it) and being soaked through with sweat, boiling to death and having the chills - I'm not even sure how that's possible. I sat up suddenly to try to get some air since I felt like I was being smothered, and startled Leeloo who sat up also. There was enough light to be able to see her sniffing the air in my direction and make out the expression on her face which said "Mommy, you don't smell right at all." Smell right, feel right ... nothing was right.

Since I also have chest congestion sometimes when I'm sitting on the couch and the dogs are at eye level, if I am having one of my many coughing fits, they smell the air coming out of my lungs and the concern in their eyes is touching. Or confusion - mostly that's Cora because she is a dog who tries to figure things out, although this is something that cannot be explained to a dog.

At any rate, we are on the back end of whatever this is and I sincerely hope it's another 2 years before I get sick again. I'm sure the dogs feel the same way since our walks have been short and that, in their world, doesn't have a lot of valid excuses. There's no denying that the dogs are great company when you're nursing yourself back to health, although they don't bring you hot lemon tea when you want it.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Ground Zero

At the end of every year the dog world watches with baited breath, in the USA anyway, to see which dogs make the top ranks of each breed. Zero's year was last year when he made it to the #2 Ridgeback in the USA and #1 male Ridgeback, beaten only by his half sister Fiona. This year I wasn't really paying attention because he wasn't being shown much although the shows he attended had some pretty big wins attached to them.

He started with a Regional Specialty win, then hit a few shows here and there for several months, geared up for the RRCUS National Specialty, won an Award of Merit which doesn't count toward any point system, and then won another Regional Speciality in October. I would check in once in a while to see where he stood in the overall rankings and note that he was comfortably in the top 20 Ridgebacks in the USA. I was happy with that because there are a lot of Ridgebacks being shown America and in just a few shows he'd managed to keep his foot in the door.

I checked in December and saw he was the #11 Ridgeback and after looking at the positions of other dogs I realized it was unlikely he'd move up any. Then, at the end of the year, Erin sent me an email showing where Zero ranked. He was #10. He'd been to a show in early December and won a mere 40 points but it was enough to bump him up and put him in the Top Ten Ridgebacks for the third year in a row.

The interesting thing about the numbers is not necessarily the total number of points, but how many wins it took him to accumulate them. I find statistics interesting because it can show relative success or failure rates among any group. Something that looks successful on the surface might not actually be so based upon the statistics gathered.  However, looking at Zero's numbers certainly puts him in a very good position of statistical success. There he is, highlighted at number 10.


Rank
Name
Sex
BOB/V
Defeated
1
B
112
1,757
2
D
60
1,614
3
B
38
948
4
D
85
937
5
B
55
922
6
D
69
852
7
B
30
755
8
D
40
659
9
D
30
642
10
D
13
471
11
D
34
450
12
B
39
431
13
B
25
374
14
D
22
333
15
D
4
323
16
D
25
270
17
D
19
260
18
D
15
256
19
D
34
238
20
D
16
225

These are official American Kennel Club final rankings. The columns are as follows: far left is the dog's rank, then their registered name, then their sex (D: dog B: bitch), then the number of Best of Breed wins and then the total number of dogs defeated. In the top 10 Zero has less than half the number of breed wins and among the top 20 he is second only to the dog who won the National Specialty (totalling about 300 dog entered).

What this shows is that Zero's Best of Breed wins came at shows with large entries. At least 2 of the shows he earned over 100 points. And just to be clear, he wasn't taken to show after show and only won 13 times, he was taken to less than 20 shows and won breed most of the time - this was his 'semi-retirement' year. I'm sure Erin didn't expect another year in the top 10 but it's nice just the same.

And Zero is making his mark across not just the USA where he has several litters anticipated, on the ground, and in the ring - he is also catching international attention. He was bred last year to a Brazilian bitch from Malabo APD (a top ranking kennel here and there) and his puppies are doing extremely well in South America. He's also had requests from Europe and hopefully this year there will be Zero babies on the other side of the Atlantic. I like to think he's improving Ridgebacks on 3 continents!

Zero, as a sire, has proven to be outstanding. He has incredible motility, is producing large litters, few ridgeless, and he stamps every puppy, no matter who he's bred to, with his quality. It is easy to see why he is becoming more and more popular. It is not easy managing a stud, you really have to know what you're doing and to be able to say no when it's necessary. Recently Erin said "It sure would be nice if having a stud dog meant making some money....but you know how that goes." Indiscriminate breeding by some popular studs has resulted in gene pools being awash with health, structure or temperament issues that plague some breeds for decades. This means it's doubly important to know what you're doing when you have a breed that can produce 10 or more puppies at a time. I am happy to know Zero's genetics are safe in Erin's experienced and discriminate hands.

So there we have it, another successful year for Zero who will rest on his laurels and watch the young up and comers have their turn. I know Erin has big plans in the coming year and I look forward to seeing who she takes to the top next!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Visitors

Archer and Raylan came to visit last weekend and I'm finally getting around to posting their photos. Blogger is still not cooperating so I am doing my Picasa Work-Around (still not happy about it) which makes the blog a serious chore. Raylan is growing up into a fine handsome fellow and although we need to do a little work on learning how to stack and not sitting for a treat (ahem ... Sandra) he should be ready to show once Cora is finished since I can't show them both at the same time. Meanwhile he is busy annoying his Uncle Archer and when he comes to visit, his Daddy Boy.


Most visitors are obsessed with Boy. He is a big ol' softy but knows how to say no without getting all nasty about it. Some male Ridgebacks have short fuses but fortunately Raimi's fuse has always been very hard to light. It means good news for Archer who has always held Boy in a bright ray of adoration.


 Not that Leeloo is immune to being fawned over but her corrections tend to be a little more sharp and to the point. She doesn't really take much guff from the 'kids' and is quick to smack them down when they need it. However, she still knows how to have a good time and likes to wrestle with them. Here's a nice family portrait to hang on the wall. The Boy giving Raylan some fatherly advice while Raylan  tries to quiet Leeloo down. That never goes well ...


Archer is going to be 4 soon and I can't imagine where the time has gone. He's lived with Sandra for over 2 years now but still, when he sees me, I get all the bouncy greetings and affection I could want - he will never forget he was once mine.


Then again, he will now always be Sandra's. He is clearly well loved, spoiled and adored and even though it's nice to see him once in a while he is clearly Sandra's dog. Nothing about being a breeder, and I mean nothing, makes me happier than to see my dogs bonded and safe and happy with their people. It is all I ever wanted for any of them. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

Footnote

The downside to having to use Blogger as a host for the blog is the problems that Blogger sometimes throws at me. I can't upload photos from my computer. I've sent a complaint into cyberspace where it will be soundly ignored. There are other options to upload photos, namely putting them in a Picassa web album and then ushering them into Blogger from there, but the process to upload into Picassa is insane and takes so long I can't be bothered - first I have to resize every photo because if I leave them the original size it takes forever to upload and sometimes Picassa freaks out and can't load them at all. That means, if I want it to work and work quickly, I have to resize every photo I want to upload and do it all individually. If you have ANY idea how many photos I take you'll know this is a huge time suck. Also, if you are uploading to Picassa you have to do it *one*at*a*time. You can't be finding and queuing up the next photo while it's thinking about the one it's working on. You have to wait for the first photo to finish and then carry on to the next. Infuriating.

So, in place of photos you get a story.

When I lived in Pictou we'd walk behind the town where there was an abundance of wildlife the dogs could sniff out. I have no idea what they ate while out there but I'm sure I don't want to know the details. I do know what Leeloo rolled in and the deer poop they'd eat but otherwise the other goodies they ate were often a mystery. One of the things that concerned me was Boy's cyclical illnesses. It would always start with him not wanting to eat, some diarrhea and a couple days later he'd be fine. I dewormed him with various medications and asked the vet about it but there didn't seem to be anything that preceded the illness that I could pinpoint. It just happened every 8 or 10 weeks and then he'd be fine. I put it down to something he was encountering in the woods but since I couldn't stop him from coming into contact with every twig and bush, there was nothing I could do.

Since moving to the property here Raimi has never had a single episode of illness. We've been here almost 6 months now and it didn't occur to me that he hadn't been sick because we were busy and I just never thought about it.

That was until 2 weeks ago. One morning we woke up and I knew that face. The Sad Boy face. He didn't want to eat but did in the end to prevent the girls from stealing his breakfast. I could tell he was not feeling good at all, he hunkered down in his chair and every time I caught his eye his face would wrinkle up in self pity. I was a bit worried about him but when I got home from work he was himself again. I sighed internally, thinking that we were back on this weird cycle and there was still no indication to pinpoint the issue.

About 5 days later he was sick again. Dammit Raimi. What IS it? Again he ate, although reluctantly, and then was fine later in the day. Now, lest you think I'm a terrible dog owner and am just letting him suffer, I had been running through my head all the things he'd been eating in the woods and was going to be talking to the vet about possible bugs in various animal poop. He eats all kinds of things in the woods - bark, branches, dirt, cat pooh ... and I wondered if it was the cat pooh. He'd certainly encountered that behind Pictou - the Feral Cat Capitol of the World - and I thought perhaps it was that delicacy. I don't have deer here, that has as much as been confirmed by the total lack of poop and tracks in the snow and any other animals packed up and moved out once they saw who moved in.

So this morning I woke up and Raimi was not on the bed. Sort of unusual for him and I just knew he was sick again.  I got up and there he was, on his chair, looking most sad. I let everyone else out and spent a moment with him, talking him through his clearly upset tummy and asking him what was wrong. I made their breakfast and fed the girls and rather than stress him out by leaving his dish down I set it up on the stove out of the way.

Then I heard it, the start of the dog barf. I shuffled him outside and thought he was just going to throw up the usual bile and left over dog food. Instead he surprised me by vomiting a very sorry looking sock along with bits of a treat he'd been fed yesterday.

I recognized that sock. I'd seen it before. In the back yard. It has already spent some time in someone else's tummy although I'm not sure if it was Cora's or Leeloo's. I was taking the dogs for a walk a few weeks ago and spotted this lumpy mass on the grass of the dog yard, thought it was a dead animal but it turned out to be one of my ankle socks - thoroughly digested. I kicked it out of the way and thought when I next clean up the poop in the yard, I'll scoop that up too. Well, as it happens, it snowed shortly thereafter and I wasn't able to clean up the yard and there the sock stayed.

Until, for whatever reason, Raimi decided to eat it. Perhaps it smelled like dog food (since it had been in a dog tummy and I'm sure it came out the front door instead of the back door) or perhaps while he was sniffing it one of the other dogs came to see what he had and he ate it so they couldn't have it. In any case, that is where the sock ended up and stayed for what estimate is just over 2 weeks. I suspect every now and again his tummy tried to either move the sock through or send it back the way it came, but wasn't having any luck with either. All he needed was to feel ill enough to throw up and thus, this morning, success.

Leeloo has eaten countless socks in her youth. I couldn't believe how many I found in tidy little bundles in the spring after the snow melted. They'd come out one way or the other and been buried with snow. She was a habitual and very sneaky sock eater and I never knew she'd eaten one until it came out.  Cora didn't inherit this most annoying gene, mostly because I grew to be very careful where I left socks, but also because she likes to just play with things and has rarely eaten what she shouldn't.

Boy has never eaten a sock in his life. In fact, come to think of it, he was a remarkably good puppy. He didn't often wreck things and his usual downfall was candy, so to see a sock come out of this dog was a big surprise. I am really hoping that this is the reason he was having his Sad Boy moments. I guess we'll see!

I don't often worry when the dogs eat something simple like a sock (or underwear) because mine have a habit of getting things out one way or the other and also because you don't often see them eat something they shouldn't. They are very sneaky about it, particularly if they know it's something they are not supposed to eat! These days the thing I spend most of my time trying to stop them from eating is the branches and bark in the woods - they like to eat partially decomposed wood. Tasty. I still don't know what made Raimi sick before we moved here but since there are no deer here, and therefor no poop to eat ... I suspect that is the culprit. Let's hope so.