Friday, December 31, 2010

Old Dogs

 I enjoy every phase of a dog's life.  Since we have dogs that span from puppy to senior, I get to see all the changes that occur during the life span.  I find it very fascinating!
  Ben and Sophie are currently our two oldest.  They will be 12 in April.  A collie's life span is 10-12 years.  We've had a couple that were a little over 11 when they passed away, but certainly Benny and Soph are the healthiest and oldest of the collies we have had.  I think what I have learned the last few years about nutrition and the level of care they receive contribute to their longevity.
  This is not to say that they can be with the rest of the dogs!  Along with the gray on the muzzles, they have slowed down, sleep harder than they used to and while they think they can still run hard and wrestle, it often ends up they aggravate the touch of arthritis they both have.  They still have great appetites and enjoy a treat but I have to be careful how many treats they get and make sure it's not too rich.
  During these bitter cold days, they spend most of their time inside where they get extra attention and care. Both dogs seem to have lost some hearing, but Sophie will sometimes be completely deaf.  Usually, that happens when I tell her not to get into the cats' food or their litter box, it's time to go outside---hmmm, I wonder if there is a connection????
  As they have aged, both Ben and Sophie have developed unique traits and habits that still make us laugh. I taught Ben how to sit and "wave" a few years ago.  He will doggedly do this trick whenever he wants attention, even while Sophie knocks into him trying to be first for the hugs.  Sophie still likes to be the alpha and tries to incite barking contests with the other dogs when she's outside.  The adults largely ignore her, but the puppies can always be counted on to play the game.  Sophie will rush along the fence, barking and snarling and the puppies run from the other side, also doing their best to sound ferocious.  The game lasts about five minutes these days.  Sophie has lost a few teeth so the snapping of her mouth makes no sound, wrinkling up her snout to snarl makes her sneeze and she just doesn't have the stamina like she used to.  The puppies get easily bored, too, and since the game never varies anymore, they can't be enticed to join in for very long.  Sophie gets so frustrated when she's at her "fiercest" and the puppies have moved on to other toys!
  Sophie did give me a scare a couple of weeks ago.  When I went into their room, she was in a crate, eyes partially open and I couldn't see her chest move as she was breathing.  I called her name with no response.  I thought for sure she had slipped away during the night.  Finally, after my panicked, shaky call of "Sooophieee", she raised her head.  I'm sure she wondered why I was hugging her and laughing like a fool!  Ben was immediately jealous of all the attention his sister was getting and tried to get into the hugging, too!  (which, of course, he did!)
  I know the day is coming when there will be a blog post that one of these guys have left us.  While I dread it and know that that day will be very painful, I would never trade losing all these other wonderful days by not having these dogs in my life.  Each day is precious!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Why Are We Surprised?

  Since the snow on Thursday, I've kept the puppies in the kennel instead of their yard.  It was just enough snow to form a layer of ice on the gravel and the babies didn't have a place that was dry to play.  At the same time,  it was chilly and damp enough that I didn't want seniors Ben and Sophie to be outside (right after my last post, they started blowing coats for some reason) as it seemed to be bothering them.  With a little re-arranging of kennel assignments, I freed up one run for the four pups.
  Saturday, David found the inside gate open and the pups running about.  Sunday, he found them in the next door kennel with their mom and Uncle Gibson.  I discovered that they could push under the communal fence inside, plus the outside sloped away enough that they could squeeze under there, too.  I re-attached the fence to the rail inside then tried to find something to place under the outside rail to discourage the kennel hopping.  The gravel is frozen (plus, they would easily dig through that) so I couldn't haul a few wheelbarrows into their kennel run.  Likewise, some stray pavers are stuck to the ground like glue.  Maybe some logs?  Either too big or also frozen to the ground.  Finally, I found a metal fence post that I rolled into the low spot, then positioned their outside bed on top of that.  Problem solved! (I thought)
  I tried to finish my Christmas shopping, did grocery shopping and a couple of errands.  Late in the afternoon I went to feed the dogs and it looked like two of the puppies were in Jewel and Gibson's yard.  Inside the kennel, I found the puppies had opened their gate and were at the door waiting for me (not sure how the ones in the run got back inside so quick).   I had forgotten to secure their inside gate!  I gave them their dinner and saw that they had moved both the fence post and the bed.  Tomorrow's project will be to find something more secure to place on that outside fence rail.  I already fixed the inside gate latch so they can't flip that up.
  I should have expected these puppies to be the escape artists that they are.  There is a post from 2008 about their mom, Jewel, and her Houdini ways.  She slipped under gates as easily as an eel through water!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How Low Can It Go?

  The temperature, that is.  After what seemed like an endless summer (I was still wearing shorts in October!), winter has arrived with a vengeance.  Almost overnight, the temperatures went from the 50's to low 40's, 30's and 20's.  The coldest days have been accompanied by high winds, making the wind chill into the teens and single digits---brrrrr!
  The dogs, though, are barely affected.  Even the puppies are not bothered by this sudden change of seasons.  They come in at night, of course, but tear across the frozen ground every morning, ready to romp and play in their yard.  We drop the kennel doors for the adults at night.  Their combined body heat keeps the building so comfortable, the water buckets only have a skim of ice in the morning!  I was afraid our warm fall would delay their winter coat build up, but even senior dogs Ben and Sophie look like they could step into a show ring with their gorgeous coats!
  Today is still quite cold, but the wind has mercifully calmed a bit.  The sky is very clear with a strong sun and the dogs hinted they would like a play day.  Off they went after breakfast, running and chasing each other, Dixie trying to entice someone to play tug of war with her.  I opted to watch them from inside, next to the woodstove, rather than partake in their play.  Every time I peek out the windows to check on the dogs, they are contentedly watching road activity, looking for squirrels or sunbathing.  Short winter days though, means the fun ends early.  I'll let them stay out for another couple of hours, then it's time to come in for dinner.
  Tomorrow's forecast includes the word S*N*O*W.  Nothing like the blizzards of last year, but should be enough for the puppies to have a new experience!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Leesburg Holiday Parade

  This morning we took Jackson and Treasure to the Leesburg holiday parade.  Jackson hadn't been out in awhile and Treasure hasn't had any leash experience or recent socialization.  It was a great outing for both of them!  I thought Treasure was slow to learn how to walk on a leash, then realized she was outsmarting us.  Every time she refused to move and sat down, people would stop and make over her!  Being younger, she got lots of attention--Jackson would have none of that!  He would push his way into the crowd around his cousin and get his fair share of pats.  
  The first marching band made Treasure try to bolt away.  Jackson wasn't upset by any of the entries which helped to calm Treasure.  He would also try to get her to play during slow spots of the parade and finally succeeded.  About midway through the parade, one person was passing out dog treats.  That was all Treasure needed to decide this was a fun event!
  After the parade, we walked the pups downtown, taking the long way back to our car.  We stopped at the Farmer's Market, where they got lots more attention.  Finally, we got back home and let all the dogs out in the play yards.  It's been so rainy, then cold and windy, that the dogs have stayed in the kennel.  Lots of pent up energy!  They certainly appreciated a pretty day!
Jackson trying to get Treasure to play

She finally starts to romp with him

Getting a treat from a parade participant

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Taking a Mulligan

  We've done a re-do on Callie's name.  I still think it's a cute name but too many people said "Callie the collie"?  Plus, it turned out David didn't like it!  (he should have said something sooner)  At the shows this past week-end, everyone put their heads together to come up with just the right name.  Ellen is excellent at names and suggested "Gemma".  Perfect!  Emma is a favorite name of mine, plus this variation reflects the gem/jewel/treasure theme for the litter.  Gemma will be Hillcroft Gemstone.
  Ellen was on a roll and came up with the registered name for Treasure, the rough girl we are keeping--Hillcroft Hidden Treasure.  She then cleverly came up with names for the remaining two puppies, who we are keeping until show homes arrive.  The girl will be Hillcroft Bejeweled (Bijou) and the boy will reflect his father's name, Hillcroft Play By the Rules (Ref).
  Gemma went to the show with us on Saturday and got lots of practice with her new name.  She enjoyed the atmosphere at the show, was intrigued by the activity in the Group ring and quickly learned that hands often produce treats!