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.