Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Gemma's Gonna Be Sooo Jealous!

  For Christmas, my kids gave me a FitBit--one of those electronic trackers--and it is really motivating me to get out and walk and be in shape.  I joined an online community to virtually walk the Appalachian Trail and am currently trying to walk seven miles a day.
  When the weather is good, I take a morning walk of three miles and an afternoon walk of two miles.  Both Gemma and Jackson are entered in an upcoming show so they usually come with me, to also get in shape.  Gemma gets the longer walk in the morning and Jackson the afternoon one.  Both of my walks take me by the horse farm near us.  Usually, the horses are in the field, but not near the fence to be pet.  Yet, everyday, Gemma wants to stop, clearly hoping the horses will come over so she can meet those big creatures.
  Our walk this past Sunday was no different.  I had not taken the dogs walking with me for a few days as our dirt road has been a combo of snow, ice and mud.  I took Gemma for a bit longer of a morning walk but she still wanted to see the horses on our return home.  Like usual, they only looked at her from the middle of their field, even though she was poking her head through the fence, furiously wagging her tail.  When it was clear that once again, she couldn't entice them over, we went home.
  I did my usual chores, helped David with some wood splitting then took my afternoon walk.  I was a bit tired by this time and looking forward to relaxing the rest of the day.  I decided to not take Jackson as I didn't want the additional work of brushing mud out of his coat.  Gibson seemed anxious to go walking, so off we went.
  The horses were in their field but Gibson didn't pay them any attention at the start of our walk.  He was more concerned with all the good smells that the patches of mud seemed to hold.  I was only thinking about how good it was going to feel to get my mud splattered clothes off and get into a shower!
  As we crested the little hill before our house, right at the horse farm, I could see the horses were near the fence.  As they saw us coming, two of the horses walked over and put their head over the top railing, eager to visit with Gibson.  He wasn't too sure of them at first, especially when they started snuffling in his face, but then he became enthusiastic and returned their friendly greetings.  I got some pictures, but I'm sure not going to show them to Gemma!  I hope Gibson didn't tell her about his visit and cause some jealously.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

NOT How We Want to Start the New Year

  While we were disappointed that 2013 ended without a championship for Gibson, we have high hopes that 2014 will be a great year.  So far, the prospect is dim!
  We bred Gemma in November to a wonderful, rough, tricolor with a fun personality.  Shortly before Christmas, Gemma was showing positive signs of pregnancy--increased appetite, expanding tummy and sleepiness.  There were some days within the last week that I could barely raise her to go outside, she was so content to nestle into her dog bed and doze.  I cleared my calendar for this upcoming week and started to prepare the whelping room.
  We went to the vet this past Monday for an x-ray to see just how many puppies she was carrying.  To my surprise, the number was 0!  Gemma was having a false pregnancy.  We're disappointed, of course, but will try again when she comes into season in late summer.
  I then decided that Gemma  needs to get back into the show ring before becoming a mama, so we have some work to do to get her back into shape.  She's not pleased with her return to the kennel, the cutting back of food and treats and the long (3-4 miles) walks we're taking daily.  I'm not pleased that the temperature is supposed to dip again this week.  I enjoy the walks, but not in temps of the low 20's!
  Lauren was also in season at the same as her granddaughter, Gemma.  About 6 weeks after they finished their cycles, I noticed a spot on the floor in the dogs' room.  Since we had had rainy weather, I wasn't sure if it was mud or dull colored blood.  I couldn't find any spotting on any of the girls, so assumed it was dirt (and they were dirty that day).  A few days later, I found another couple of spots but this time found a bit of discharge on Lauren.  I started watching her but the pattern stayed the same-nothing for a few days then a couple of spots.  It was never bright red, so I assumed she was having hormonal issues, as she is almost ten years old.
  On Thursday morning, I was greeting with lots of blood on the floor that was a much brighter red.  A trip to the vet was made in the afternoon, and as I was afraid, Lauren had pyometra--a potentially life threatening condition.  The decision was made to spay her first thing Friday morning and she was going to stay overnight at the vet's for observation and to receive fluids.
  I was very nervous during her scheduled surgery time.  Finally, I got the word that she had done well, it was definitely pyometra and I could pick her up about 5:30 that evening.  We were very lucky that Lauren had done so well.  She never had a temperature and the infection didn't go further than her uterus.  When I asked my vet if the outcome had been different if I had brought Lauren in when I first saw the spotting, he said no.  He said he would have advised exactly what I had done, monitor her closely and see if it developed into anything.
  Lauren was still pretty groggy when I arrived, but knew who I was when I knelt by her crate.  She came out and buried her head in my chest, ready to go home!
  She is recuperating quickly.  Lauren wasn't very hungry on Friday night, needing two sessions to finish her light dinner, but ate her full breakfast and dinner yesterday.  She's already barking this morning to let us know she's ready for breakfast (I better wrap up this blog entry, is what she's saying!)
  During yesterday morning's re-check at the vet, we found out that Lauren had escaped from her crate after her surgery.  She was in a crate that will open if pushed in the right way, which she discovered.  Lauren wandered into the waiting room, weaving about, but awake enough to greet people and get some petting.  She's always a glutton for attention!
  We're so glad to have our girl home and in good health again.  This isn't how we wanted to start the New Year, but hopefully it will only get better from this point on.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fall Project

  Now that winter is officially here with the very short days, I'm doubly glad we did our fall project of painting the inside of the kennel white.  The brighter interior certainly helps on some of the gloomy, overcast days we've had of late.
  Painting is not my favorite thing, so while this project was on the to-do list for a bit, it turned out to be an easier undertaking than I thought.  We used barn paint, which went on easy and covered well.  The biggest problem is that we did the painting during the stink bug swarm and had the critters falling into our paint buckets!
  The kennel is easier to clean now, just wipe down the walls to disperse the muddy footprints from the dogs jumping up to look out their windows.  But, it has made me think about other improvements we can make to the building.
  The fencing is almost ten years old now and is misshapen in spots with a few holes where the dogs have pushed against it.  I've started looking at vinyl fencing, which would also be easy to clean, should be easy to install and hopefully more lasting than the chain link.  I'm wondering how durable and safe it would be against puppy teeth, though.
  That project would be costly so I have some time to explore the options.  Our spring project will be improving the drainage around the west side of the kennel and replacing/adding pea gravel.  That will require some digging and moving of dirt to level the runs and keep the gravel from shifting.  It also will require me to build up some muscles by spring--time to lay off the Christmas cookies and start working out!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gibson's Retirement

  Gibson is now retired from the show ring.  Try as we might, we were unable to get that second major and his championship.  I really don't know what happened to cause him to not like shows at all now, but this past week-end showed me that it would be unfair to him to continue this goal.
  I was thinking in July that this was a possibility, but then Gibson got his first major the last show of the Independence cluster.  I started working very hard after that to build on his confidence and dispel those ring jitters once and for all.
  The two shows in September showed some positive results of my efforts.  He moved the best he ever had, although he still wasn't comfortable with the judge's exam.  Gibson really does like his routine and familiar places so I attributed the outside show site to his uneasiness.  I set the goal to finish his championship at the Turkey Cluster shows, a show site he'd been to frequently.
  During October and up until the show, I exposed Gibson to every situation that he preferred to avoid.  We took daily walks, right when the school bus or trash trucks came through.  The trash cans with the blowing lids?  That was the perfect place to stop for a treat!  Ditto for the end of our road with the heavy, early morning commuter traffic.  Within a couple of weeks, Gibson, while not completely comfortable, was confident enough to handle each situation.  Better yet, he would watch me for cues and trust me that he didn't need to panic.
  I thought we had our problems solved!  Suddenly, almost every type of situation that used to give Gibson some anxiety was not an issue.  The dog that would rush across his yard and bark and growl at us?  Gibson barely glanced at him.  A different route for our daily walk? Great, new scents to explore! The deflated helium balloon hanging from a mailbox?  Okay, that was a bit too different, but Gibson showed some initiative and put a tentative nose out to make sure it wasn't too scary.
  My own confidence was building with each successful outing.  I figured winning this major was in the bag--a piece of cake!  But the day before the first show, Gibson did not do well on our walk.  We took our new route and he was apprehensive over things I didn't even see.  He clearly wanted to go home.  He settled down during his bath and grooming but then started to get nervous as he saw me packing up the show equipment.
  The next day, Gibson started shaking when I went to put him into the car, something he hadn't done for awhile.  Once in his car crate, though, he settled right down and slept most of the trip.  He wasn't as relaxed on the grooming table at the show as he normally was but I figured he was feeling my excitement over the win that I was sure was coming our way.
  We stood outside the ring to watch the Rough Collie entries.  Gibson was the most relaxed I had ever seen him at a show!  He was nibbling on bait, watching the show and standing in a show position.  All of a sudden, he tensed up and I could see his anxiety starting.  I didn't see or hear anything to cause it, but our day went downhill from there.  Gibson didn't even win his class.
  We went home and I tried to put it out of my mind.  Gibson and I spent the evening watching t.v. and sharing a bag of popcorn.  The next day, he was more relaxed during our pre-show prep and he did show better, but still didn't win his class.  I wasn't too worried though.  The judge for the final day was the one who gave Gibson a major reserve in July.  We were competing against most of the same dogs from that show and the judge didn't seem to mind then if Gibson didn't stand perfectly for the exam.
  Everything was going well before our ring time.  Gibson was happy on the grooming table, was taking bait and I couldn't wait to get into the ring.  But, once again, Gibson developed a severe case of nerves as we stood outside the ring. He seemed to be a bit better as we went into the ring but then a dryer started just as the judge came over to examine him.  Gibson has certainly heard that noise often enough and should be able to show through it.  While he's never comfortable with it, he just plastered himself against my legs and tried to get away from the judge.  The judge was nice, said he was obviously a mama's boy but I knew there would be no championship for us.
  I was disappointed and kept going over the shows in my head, wondering what I could have done differently to have changed the outcome.  Even though Gibson is now five years old and the dogs winning over him are younger, maybe a few more months of concentrated socializing was all he needed and surely he could get his championship at the shows in January or February?  Maybe I was the cause of his nerves and a handler would have better results?  As I tried to puzzle this out, Gibson himself gave me the answer.  When I walked him out of the building to the car, he looked truly miserable.  He jumped into his crate, curled himself into a ball at the back and gave me the saddest look.  That desire he'd always had to please me, to show even though he wasn't 100% comfortable, was gone.  There's no way I will continue to make him do something he doesn't like.
  The very funny thing, though, is that in the days since the show, Gibson acts like he always does after winning points!  He's confident, wants to go into a show stance when I take his food bowl out and acts like he's eager for whatever comes next.  Rather than disillusion him, we tell him he won this past week-end and he's a Champion!  Of course, he is a champion to us, even if he had never won a show!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gibson's New Wardrobe

  I've been supplementing my retirement income with polishing collars for the Kenyan Collection.  The goal is to polish enough collars to defray the cost of show entries, but when I see those beautiful bead patterns, I imagine how nice one would look around the neck of a Hillcroft Collie!  I've tempered my collar envy by telling the pups they must earn their wardrobe addition, either by producing a litter or earning their championship.
  Gibson received his first collar a couple of weeks ago by becoming an employee of The Kenyan Collection himself.  JMS Ventures, the owner of The Kenyan Collection, is my neighbor so when I've finished a batch of collars, Gibson goes to work.  I hitch him up to the parade wagon and we walk up the road to deliver the inventory.  Good exercise for us and a confidence booster for Gibson, but Joan declared that he needed to be on the payroll and to choose a collar.
  That was easier said than done!  When I work on the collars, I mentally put them on our dogs and thought the Earth pattern would look best on Gibson.  My husband thought the Cheetah pattern would be ideal.  I thought I would only have to choose between the two, but Joan suggested I try both on Gibson.  I'm so glad she did!  The Cheetah pattern didn't look good on him at all and the Earth was too bland.  The Jacaranda wasn't quite right but the Maasai Shield was close to looking right.  Then we tried the Topi on Gibson and it was perfect!  It suited his personality just right and he seems to hold himself differently when he wears it.  Somehow he knows he's extra handsome!
  Now we're looking for places to take him so he can show off his new wardrobe.  We walked him to our favorite winery, Casanel, on Labor Day and spent a relaxing afternoon on their patio.  Gibson thought his new duds entitled him to our cheese and crackers rather than the everyday treats I had brought for him.  Of course, we indulged him!
A close up of the collar's Hopi pattern

Expecting a slice of that nice cheddar cheese!

Our handsome boy!

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's Been Awhile!

  I truly haven't forgotten about the blog.  It's just been very quiet here at Hillcroft, at least dog wise.  We've been very busy with other things like getting our property ready to host a family reunion and now we're on baby watch, waiting for our first grandson to arrive.
  The hot weather has limited activities, too, but here are some pictures from a recent break from the heat:

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Being Naughty Is So Much Fun!

  It's a good thing that Gemma is so darn cute because sometimes she is so darn hard to live with!  She is eager to please but also willful, sweet but stubborn, smart but obstinate, obedient but headstrong...hmm, what some might say is the behavior of a typical smooth coat Collie!
  Gemma is usually the instigator in any hi-jinx in the kennel.  If gates are left unlocked, she quickly releases her pals and off they go for a run around the dog yard.  If she can only get out of her own kennel, she goes directly to the plastic poop bags and shreds them.  Once, she even distributed bags to her locked kennel mates so they could enjoy the fun--what a mess to clean up!
  Running is Gemma's passion.  I usually use a lead to walk Gemma from her kennel to the big yard on play days or else she will spend about ten minutes just running around and around the kennel.  And, nothing tires her out!  After a long sprint like that, she still has the energy to chase Jackson or her brother in the yard, making them pay when they can't stay one step ahead of her.  Only Dixie is able to keep pace with Gemma and match her energy.
  Gemma is also a hoarder.  She will steal every toy from the kennels from either side of her and keep them just out of reach so the rightful owners can't pull them back under the fence.  And any stuffed toy is a goner within minutes.  She eviscerates the toy and scatters the stuffing so it looks like a sudden snowfall.
  Gemma oozes attitude but sometimes it's not good!  Out in public, she will make someone complete mush, getting them to make over her and coo at her, then she will turn and look at me as if to say "Hah"! and completely ignore me once her adoring fans are gone.  In one very memorable show, she looked unbeatable--outside the ring.  Once the judge was watching her, Gemma refused to cooperate, wouldn't stand still, wouldn't move properly (unless the judge was looking at someone else) and when the judge was giving me advice as he handed me my second place ribbon, I swear she narrowed her eyes and went "pbbbt" at him!
  Her newest bad habit is to start a barking contest with Ref as I'm taking the food bowls into the kennel.  Ref is always torn between quieting down when I tell him to stop, or listen to his sister.  His head turns back and forth as Gemma and I both command his attention and he tries to please us both by making a huffing sound.  He always looks relieved when I give him his food bowl so he doesn't have to chance displeasing his sister!
  And Gemma's response when I tell her to quiet?  Usually, she turns her head and continues to bark--I guess she thinks if she can't see me, she can't hear me.  When I am adamant that the barking will stop, she goes outside, pushing the limits just a bit further before snuggling up to make amends.
  She is an exasperating character but we wouldn't want Gemma any other way!