Sunday, December 16, 2012

Being Creative

  Early last spring, our Collie club decided to participate in a Dog Days event.  It was going to be a great chance for the club to show the public our wonderful breed and we could also sell items as a fundraiser.
  My interest in knitting got revived with the arrival of our granddaughter.  I found this paw print pattern on Ravelry and decided to adapt it for some items to sell at the club booth.
  First, I made a scarf.  While I was very proud of myself for being able to reverse the pattern directions so my paw prints matched at each end, I realized it was too time consuming to knit and then sell for its proper value. (But, I now have a very nice scarf for this winter!)
  I decided to add a loop to the corner of the original pattern so that it could hang on a doorknob and be handy for wiping dirty, muddy paws as dogs came into the house.  I thought I had a hit on my hands!  A hand knit cloth, 100% cotton, that could be machine washed and dried, a practical item that would look nice and be convenient for use.  I knit up nine mud cloths, three each in red, brown and black.
  By this time, it was early summer and I was pleased that my project was finished way ahead of deadline.  I showed the cloths to my sister, who said "Where's the back? I thought it was a mitt, which would be a lot easier to use".
  I realized she was right and decided to make a back, using a plain stockinette stitch.  I went right to the craft store to buy three more balls of yarn.  There, I hit snag number one.  The store no longer carried the brand of yarn I had used!  But, it was still available online and since I had my original receipt showing the yarn color names, I was easily able to order the colors I needed.  But then, I hit snag number two.  Since so much time had passed, of course I was using different dye lots and the new ball of red didn't match the original ball of red.  Now, what was I going to do?  I decided to make those backs in a different color and decided on a cream.  Back in business!
  It was going to be a tight deadline to get these finished in time for the Dog Days and I thought I may not have all nine available, but at least I would have six finished.  Then it was a big snag number three!
  As we got closer to the date of the event, our volunteers had things coming up that prevented them from helping out and the club decided to cancel our participation in Dog Days.  So now, I have nine paw print mud mitts with no homes!
  I'm not sure what to do with all these mitts.  We only have one door that the dogs use!  I considered giving them to my dog walking clients as Christmas gifts but I think the dogs would rather have treats. I'm thinking about listing the mitts on Etsy or on Craig's List.   I can also keep the mitts until we have litters this spring and include a mitt in each puppy packet.  
  Here's how the mitts turned out:

Unfortunately, the pattern doesn't show up well in the photos!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Birthday Catch Up

  I've been woefully behind on celebrating the dogs' birthdays!  Mosby turned 11 in July, Gemma and Ref were 2 in September and Claire turned 9 at the beginning of this month.  While I wished them all "happy birthday" on their special days and gave them extra attention, I didn't bake them birthday treats.
  Yesterday, I got caught up and tried a new recipe I had been saving for the occasion.  With my granddaughter's "help", I made Peanut Butter Dog Treat Balls.  It is a super simple and fast recipe to put together--even with a toddler by my side!
   The dogs got their treats this morning and it was huge success!  I think this recipe will be used for holiday gift baking for my dog walking clients.
  Claire's birthday celebration isn't quite finished.  She will be coming inside for a bath, then will become a house dog. I miss having a dog inside, now that Ben and Sophie are gone.  I had planned on making both Claire and Phoebe house dogs this winter but will have to make do for awhile with just one inside dog.  Even though Mosby is older, his coat is always so thick that he would find it hard to adjust to the warm house.  I'm keeping an eye on him though, and Lauren, too (who will be 9 in January).  Maybe if the forecasters are correct and we have a snowy and colder than usual winter, they'll be ready to be full time house dogs, too!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Country Life

  Signs that winter is around the corner are all around! (and I haven't finished my fall chores yet!)  The trees are pretty bare, the deer have their dark winter coats, the bucks are posing in the field with their impressive antlers and the foxes have beautiful, vibrant red coats.  I rush to feed the dogs before the early darkness hits but do enjoy being lazy in the mornings while I wait for the sunrise.
  For the last couple of weeks, just as there was a nip in the air, I could see that something had been digging outside Jackson's kennel.   It was a small hole, which I covered up every time it appeared.  Sometimes, there would be a corresponding hole inside, which I would also refill.  Jackson didn't act like he was sharing his kennel with any stray creatures, but still I don't want wildlife in the kennel with their fleas and diseases.  Rodent bait is on the shopping list for the next trip to Home Depot.
  Yesterday, the hole had appeared again.  Once more, I filled it in, checked inside Jackson's kennel but no holes there.  I set about feeding the dogs their breakfast and checking on their water.  The last kennel, Gibson's and Gemma's, had a surprise!  A mouse in the water bucket!  Either it had attempted to escape from the dogs or it was very thirsty but for whatever reason it had climbed in the bucket, it wasn't able to get back out.  I had the unpleasant task of dumping the water with a floating body in it.
  However, it wasn't easy to do!  When I shrieked (pretty loudly, I would have thought one of the neighbors would have shown up to see what was the matter!) Gibson immediately came over to see what was wrong.  A pat on the head convinced him that I was o.k. and he could go back to eating breakfast.  I wanted both dogs to go outside while I picked up the bucket, but they could tell I was a bit agitated and wanted to be involved in the clean up operation.  I was afraid they'd either knock into the bucket, sloshing the dead mouse onto the ground, or try to grab it from the bucket.  Since David normally changes water during the mid day, the dogs took my picking up the bucket as a sign that they were going to be playing in the yards.  There was a lot of jostling as they tried to get out the gate with me.  Again, I was afraid they would knock into the bucket, but I didn't want to lift it above their heads, which would put the contents on eye level to me.  Finally, I shut my eyes, lifted the bucket and pushed myself in front of the dogs and out the gate.
  I've lived in the country for most of my life and I can deal with most aspects of it.  I work around the deer eating my landscaping, I don't mind my sleep being interrupted by fox calls, I don't even care that the overly fat raccoon eats the food we leave out for the feral cat.  But, two things I can't deal with are snakes and rodents.  It's something about their sneaky ways and surprise appearances, I guess. Or maybe it's because I don't like dealing with the aftermath of meeting them in water buckets, under the tractor, in the garden's bird netting.  Wonder if there's "an app" for that???

Monday, November 5, 2012

My Favorite Brushes

  A few years ago, I received a pin brush from the Collie Health Foundation as a show trophy.  I knew many Collie people like the brush but didn't think it could be that different from any other pin brush.  After only one use, I became a fan and like so many others,  it quickly became my favorite! 
  When my brush broke last year, I dug out one of my old brushes from my tack box.  The dogs didn't like it and I was reminded why I liked the Collie Health Foundation brush so much better.  It's easier to handle, it goes right through a collie coat and easily works out those little tangles behind the ears and in the feathers.  I bought two more brushes so I wouldn't have to worry about going without should I lose my brush at a show or break after years of use.
    Actually, since this past summer, I don't have to worry about going without one of these great brushes for quite a while!  I'm now the promos chair for the Collie Health Foundation!
  When I retired, I wanted to do some type of volunteer work, preferably with dogs.  I was thinking about and would still like to be involved in therapy work.  I wanted to be more involved in the Collie Club of America and also the Collie Health Foundation but wasn't sure where I could be of the most use.  The Foundation's promos position opened and I thought I would just be working on a committee.  Somehow, I ended up the chair!  But, it's not a big time commitment--though between the promos and my job, the blog isn't getting more frequent updates--and it's fun to fill orders and very soon, order new inventory.  Sometimes, I feel like I'm "playing store"!  But the funds that are being raised have a very serious and important purpose--to fund grants to worthwhile organizations for research in breeding, genetics and health issues in all dogs with primary emphasis on the Collie.
  So while a corner of the dogs' room is filled with pin brushes, lanyards, mutt matts, decals, ear rings, catalog covers and (hopefully, soon) new, exciting inventory, I hope I'm giving something back to the breed I love so much.  Amazing what one pin brush can lead to!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My New Job

  I've been remiss in regular postings as I now have a job!  I'm a dog walker for Belly Rubs Pet Care and it's a perfect fit for me.
  I had been looking for something part time since I retired two years ago but couldn't find a position I could get excited about.  Every job ad I looked at had some fault--the schedule, the pay, the job duties.  I wasn't sure if I was too picky or had just become lazy.  After all, doing crossword puzzles over a cup of coffee and then spending time with my dogs is a very appealing lifestyle!  But, my husband isn't getting the overtime like he did in his old job and while I can get creative and stretch food dollars, the budget didn't have space for dog shows.  I needed to be less picky about employment and just get some income.
   After my working interview at the kennel, I didn't have high hopes that I could find a job that was truly part time and didn't involve nights or week-ends.  I thought dog showing might have to be put off for a few more months as I applied for a sales position at Yankee Candle.  I applied for a substitute position with the school system and thought working full days wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.  I saw the position as a dog walker and thought, "Monday through Friday, a schedule of late morning to early afternoon, no nights, no week-ends, working with dogs, working on my own and getting exercise. What's the downside"?  Of course, the downside is walking dogs outside in the rain, the heat and the cold.  I have to be outside to take care of my own dogs and it doesn't bother me too much so I decided to apply for the position.
  I was surprised when I was quickly called for an interview and even more surprised to be offered the job during the interview.  I couldn't start until my background check came back but then it was two days of on the job training and I started solo on the third.
  There is so much more to this job than I thought there would be!  I've learned all the quirks and likes of my individual clients (this one doesn't like to be scratched on his side, that one likes to carry a stuffed toy outside). I've learned how to walk the client, give treats, freshen water bowls and write daily reports  all during the time allotted and not run over too much ('cause there is no time limit for belly rubs and snuggling!).  I've established a rapport with all my dogs and they know that when I'm walking them, they have to behave like dogs, even if they are a spoiled princess with their owners.
  My concern about walking dogs in bad weather turned out to be something I can easily work around.  I do have some discretion on how long the dogs are out during hot days and inclement weather.  I only need to have them outside long enough to relieve themselves then we can go back inside and play the remainder of their visit time.  I've been fortunate so far and we've only had one really rainy day.  The dogs seemed to know they wouldn't be outside long and quickly took care of business to enjoy play sessions.  The company doesn't offer dog walks on snowy days when the federal government is closed, so I won't need to worry if we get the winter weather some forecasters are predicting.
  The best part about my job is that my collies are not affected by my working.  I'm still spending quality time with them, both morning and afternoon.  They still get to spend days in the play yards and we have our games of tug of war and with Dixie, fetch.  I'm able to keep up with their grooming needs and my kennel chores.  Sometimes they are puzzled by the scent of other dogs on my clothes when I come home in the afternoon but only Gibson seems a bit jealous by it.
  I'll be subbing for a couple other dog walkers during the next two weeks. The paycheck from the extra work should probably cover the costs of some new dog toys.  Then my guys will be really happy I'm working again!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Another Weapon in the Arsenal?

  Years ago, I gave the dogs brewer's yeast with garlic to help combat fleas.  My vet at the time said it was an old wives tale that it worked and that I was just wasting my money.  Since we weren't battling  fleas then , I stopped the supplements but still kept the idea in the back of my mind.
  With the severe problem we've had this year, I've been willing to try just about everything and anything to get rid of these pests.  A recent column in the paper by Dr. Fox made me reconsider the garlic.  I bought garlic supplements from Costco and started adding one pill to each of the dogs' breakfast bowls.
    The dogs were a week or so away from their monthly topical flea treatment and had started scratching and I was seeing fleas here and there when I started the garlic. Within a couple of days, the dogs stopped scratching!  I looked on bellies and legs and didn't see one pesky flea.  I think the garlic is working!  Coats are growing in nicely and everybody is happy.  Lauren will often spit her garlic pill out and I did find a few fleas on her the other day.  But, a dose of K9 Advantix and she's flea free once again.  I'll keep the topical treatment in readiness, but a bottle of garlic pills is much cheaper than several doses of Advantix!
  Our annual fall pest, the stink bug, has taken up residence in the kennel this year.  The outside walls are covered, dead stink bugs are always in the dogs' water buckets and I'm being dive-bombed as I feed the dogs their dinners.  I was going to keep the shop vac outside and try to reduce the numbers by vacuuming each evening (stink bugs congregate at the end of the day) but then learned about a spray called Talstar when I attended a Barktoberfest yesterday.  The vendor said she had used it her farm last year and it was so effective that she only needed one application.  It also kills fleas which is a very nice bonus!
  I had planned on working in the kennel today, fixing some fencing and painting door ways.  I'll add spraying this treatment to my chore list and hope the vendor is right!  The weather is forecast to be beautiful today.  The dogs will get to play all day in the yards and have a tidy and pest free home by the end of the day!

Thursday, September 13, 2012


  As Facebook fans of Hillcroft Collies already know, we have lost another dog.  It was too soon for Phoebe to leave us, and her death has us hurting more than usual after a dog dies.
  Phoebe was diagnosed with severe arthritis in her spine about three weeks ago.  It was very painful for her but she managed to hide it from us for quite a while.
  In late spring, she started dragging one hind foot every so often.  This usually happened after she had been laying down for a long period and once she took a step or two, would be fine.  On rare occasions, she would be slow to get up, but we thought it was normal aging as she was going on 9 years old.
  By July, she was loathe to play or move too much.  This was during the heat wave and she was never a big fan of hot weather, so again, we were not overly concerned.  At the end of July, though, I got a feeling that something was not quite right but couldn't put my finger on it.  Phoebe wasn't exhibiting any consistent symptoms or troubles and she had just received a clean bill of health in April. I wasn't sure my vet would be able to diagnose anything when I myself couldn't give a reason for a visit!
  In the middle of August, though, Phoebe did not want to play with the other dogs and would just sleep behind a bush near the fence.  I had to encourage her to eat that week-end, which definitely was not the norm for her.  I made an appointment first thing Monday.  By the time of our appointment, she was running a high fever and could barely walk.  I carried her into the vet office and feared the worse.
  An x-ray showed the arthritis and we quickly had a course of action.  Phoebe received a metacam shot and we had prescriptions for additional metacam and clavamox.  The injection worked quickly--Phoebe was able to walk by the time we got home!  Her fever was down by the afternoon and gone the next day.  Each day, she was steadier on her feet and enjoyed her new status of permanent house dog.  I could tell when she had walked too much or the time or two of trying to trot as she seemed to slip back a bit in her progress, but it was always temporary.
  At her re-check the following week, Phoebe was moving almost normally!  Her weight had increased quite a bit and she was almost the happy girl we knew and loved.  We went home with more metacam and more clavamox with the goal of weaning her off the metacam and only using it when she needed it. 
  Just four days later, Phoebe couldn't stand up without help.  When I boosted her up, her legs couldn't support her and I could tell the pain had returned with a vengeance.  We made a quick trip to the vet, Phoebe frequently crying softly. 
  Phoebe had lost all the weight she had just gained, plus a little more.  During the exam, she blew her cheeks out, then pushed her head against the tech's arm.  I knew she had to be in unbearable pain as she would never show when something bothered her. 
  The vet recommended a course of steroids and heavy sedatives for the pain, then re-check her in two days.  If she did not have improvement, she would need to be euthanized. 
  David and I discussed the hard decision before us.  If the steroids worked, we could expect another episode that Phoebe was enduring.  The steroids may not work at all, could last six months or as long as two years.  We both felt that another episode would be much worse than what Phoebe was experiencing.  We didn't have high hopes that the steroids would work at all since this downturn had happened so suddenly.  We didn't want Phoebe to live her life in a heavy medicated state and most important, I had promised Phoebe that her pain would end.  We made the painful decision to have her euthanized rather than more treatments.As she slipped away, we saw the pain leave her eyes and then she smiled before closing her eyes. As hard as the decision was, and as much as we hurt, we knew we had done the right thing for our beautiful girl.

 Phoebe as a young adult, this is one of my favorite pictures of her!
 Phoebe's championship photo.
  Phoebe and I did a library program  about a posh puppy--she had a matching tiara to mine!
 Another favorite picture!
Phoebe was clearly a fair weather dog--impatiently waiting for the door to open!

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Pretty Good Life

  My husband changed jobs in May.  He's much happier in his new job, however, the pay isn't quite as much as his old job.  I'd rather he be happy over money, but it will put a pinch on dog showing so I've been looking for a part time job.  I'm not looking for a new career, benefits or a lot of hours, just something flexible so I can have week-ends off when needed.  Apparently, that's a tall order!  I've inquired/applied for several jobs but only four have led to interviews or some type of follow up and I haven't been hired yet.  I'm trying to not let this bother my ego!  In my former life, I managed the circulation department for a public library and now I'm applying for entry level jobs.  I'm sure when hiring personnel see my resume that they consider me over qualified and think I won't stay in the position for very long.  I'm also competing with much younger applicants who don't have husband, household and dog obligations.
  Last week, I had a working interview for a kennel assistant.  I thought this would be an ideal job as I could do it early in the morning, be with dogs and I'm certainly accustomed to scooping poop!  It was an eye opening experience.  Within a few minutes, I decided it was not the position for me.  The work itself was fine, but the facility and atmosphere was not.
  Of course, I was the oldest one so I didn't think the other assistants would want someone old enough to be their mother joining them!  I pretty much worked solo, cleaning and disinfecting the crates.  When it was time for group play, I played with the dogs while they checked their phone and texted.  I thought the staff and other applicants would be vet tech students, junior dog handlers or dog lovers but no.  One person said she didn't even have dogs, she thought they were a lot of work!
  What I really didn't like was the facility.  I'm fairly familiar with the county code on kennels and of course the facility would have been inspected before being allowed to open.  However, the crates and outdoor area all seemed to be of minimum size allowed.  If the dogs didn't get group play, they stayed in their crates all day and exercise was going to the other side of their run to relieve themselves.  One poor dog appears to have been abandoned by its owner.  He's been there for over a month, never gets walked, brushed or pet by the staff.
  The group play is letting the dogs in a yard for fifteen minutes in the morning and fifteen minutes in the afternoon.  There was only one toy in the yard for them.  Inside, the dogs only have toys if their owners bring them from home.
  The facility itself was immaculate, twice daily cleaning of crates and runs, bowls washed after every meal and bedding washed daily.  But the bedding was flimsy, many of the mats full of holes.  If a dog had a water bucket instead of a bowl, that indicated they would chew their bedding and couldn't have a mat.  They had to sleep on the concrete floor, not that the bedding made it much softer.
  Other than playtime for the lucky few, there wasn't much else to stimulate the dogs.  The staff didn't seem to pet the dogs much when they were being fed, no radio, no toys.  As I worked, I kept thinking about my own dogs and the life they have.
  While I don't have concrete runs so I don't hose down the kennel twice a day, I still spend a lot of time outside.  Their indoor kennels and outside runs are at least twice the size of county code.  The indoor kennels are lined with  rubber mats and have a cot if the dog will use it instead of treating it like a giant chew toy.  Everybody gets a good morning hug and kiss when they get breakfast.  More hugs and kisses when I clean their run or a little bit of playing if they are in the mood.  Each dog gets a misting and brushing when I pick up their bowls.  When the weather is nice, they have their group play--but it's all day long!  Their play yards have a lot of toys and they also have the stimulation of watching the horses at an adjacent farm, joggers, bikers or the wildlife.  All in all, a pretty good life!
  I didn't get the kennel assistant position but I knew that day I wouldn't accept it if it was offered.  Even though most of the dogs were there for boarding and would be home after their owners' vacations, I felt it was a routine that was very foreign to them.  I wondered what my dogs would think if they suddenly went to a kennel for a week (not that we could afford boarding for that many dogs!).
  I know the general perception is that our dog are "kennel dogs" because they are housed outside.  People think they don't get much attention or interaction with us but that isn't true at all.  Our dogs pretty much dictate to us our schedules, vacations and now employment.  If I had taken that job, or something like it, it will impact my dog time too much.  And, we can't have something like that!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Individual Personalities

  Last week, we had our gutters cleaned.  After the crew was finished, one asked if he could visit the dogs.  Of course I said yes and gave him a tour.  As I introduced him to each of the dogs, he commented that I knew each by name and seemed very surprised about it!
  I know many people perceive those of us with multiple dogs to consider them a business and are surprised that we love our dogs with the same intensity that they have for their one house dog.  For us, the kennel is a practical way to house the collies.  I can't imagine what our house would look like if we had nine large dogs running through it all the time!
  I'm equally baffled though, by people who are surprised that I can tell the dogs apart.  I've heard that comment ever since we had more than one dog.  Besides the obvious differences--coat color, coat length, markings--each dog has distinct personalities and quirks.
  For instance, Jackson won't eat until he's had his "love fest".  He practically quivers as I'm distributing the food bowls, then races outside to greet me at his gate as he's the first to have his kennel cleaned.  He greets me as if I haven't just seen him and given him his hug.  He leans against my leg, his head and ears get a thorough scratching, then he walks with me while I clean his kennel.  He watches me as I clean the next kennel, and only after that goes inside to eat.
  His grandmother, Lauren, is the opposite.  Meal time is the best time of day for her and nothing will stop her from getting to her bowl!  She jumps up and down in anticipation of eating, sometimes so high I'm afraid she'll go over the gate!  Lauren doesn't even notice when I scratch her back as she eats, her enjoyment of breakfast or dinner is so great.
  Lauren is also our "town crier".  I said she was a tattle-tale but our handler had the more flattering term for her.  She lets us know when deer are in the yard (sometimes waaaaay back in the yard but she thinks it's important to let us know), when one of the dogs is mis-behaving or she thinks breakfast is late.
  Phoebe and Claire also enjoy their meals and do a synchronized jump as I give them their bowls.  They are not as athletic as Lauren and don't jump as high.  Phoebe likes to conserve her energy and will find her bed as soon as she finishes eating.  Her biggest pet peeve is cats.  She doesn't like them at all, objecting to the semi-feral cat that visits us or the house cats that are peacefully sleeping by the wood stove.
  Claire is quiet and can get overlooked when she's by her more dominant sister.  Phoebe pushes her aside for attention, the cot, the daily brushing and Claire readily gives way.  Usually, this works to Claire's advantage as we try to make up for it with extra hugs.
  Dixie is the opposite of her mother and aunt in many ways.  Besides being smooth, while they are rough coated, she can be hard headed and determined to have her way.  When I tell her "no, you can't nip at my shoes" she'll sneak behind me and nip my backside!  Dixie is very athletic and our only dog that likes to play fetch.  She will chase after a toy until my arm gets tired and is disappointed when I stop playing (which is when the nipping starts, I think she's trying to keep me playing).
  Mosby is the old man but doesn't realize it.  He thinks he's the pack leader but the girls put him in his place!  He pushes himself into any activity they are doing, often clumsily knocking into someone.  Sometimes, they gang up on him, knocking him down and rolling him about.  Mosby always gets back up, covered in leaves and grass clippings, sometimes a little stiff, then goes right back to whatever behavior earned him the put-down!  I often have to separate him from the others on play days as even I can see he's annoying, although he just wants to be part of the gang.
  Ref looks big and dominate, but he's a marshmallow.  He doesn't like Jackson or Mosby and will posture if they are near him.  When I call him out on it, he immediately flattens his ears and leans against my leg, with a "I don't really mean it" look on his face.  I call him my delicate flower as he refuses to leave his kennel when it rains.  Even on cloudy days, he stays inside, only poking his nose out and looking anxious as I clean his kennel.  If he does have to walk in the rain, he almost cringes, as if he expects the raindrops to weigh a ton!
  In looks, Gemma is a female version of Ref but her personality is completely different.  She can be most stubborn and dismissive of things she's not interested in.  It could be a toy or the show ring.  She's actually looked a judge up and down, gave like a "phhttt" sound, clearly decided he wasn't worth her time and that she was bored.  But when she wants something, I can practically see the wheels turning as she tries to figure out how to get it.  She has a very sweet face, which she uses to get me to relax my guard, then quickly tries to stick her nose in my pocket, grab the brush out of my hand, knock a water bottler off the grooming table...
  Gibson is the smartest one of the group.  He's a fast learner, picking up on how to do something after seeing it once or twice.  Unfortunately, he watches Gemma and can figure out how to accomplish whatever mischief she's attempting.
  While I try not to have favorites, Gibson is my special love, filling the space that Ben left.  Gibson is always sensitive to my moods, knowing when to act like a clown or when to snuggle.  He has expressive, brown eyes that look like melted chocolate.  Sometimes, I see him sitting in his yard, watching the house and of course I have to run outside to spend extra time with him.  But since I try not to play favorites, everyone ends up with a hug and a pet!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Doing Battle

  I know one reason why the dogs want out of the kennel---fleas!  We've been doing battle since the beginning of July.  My vet's office says this has been the worst summer for fleas that they have seen, and I can attest to that!
  I saw a few fleas on Ref when I was getting him ready for the shows in July.  I bathed him in a citrusy shampoo, which usual takes care of the stray flea or two that start to show up at the end of the Frontline cycle.  This time, it did nothing, and to my horror, I was finding more fleas on Ref at the show site.  A friend told me about Capstar, a great pill that kills all the fleas on a dog within half an hour.  I stopped at the vets on the way home that day and bought Capstar for all the dogs.  It worked!  But, unfortunately, it doesn't repel fleas so my problem came right back and worse.
  I gave the dogs their monthly Frontline but I was still finding fleas on the dogs and they were still scratching.  I tried treating the kennel yards with a spray but couldn't seem to completely eradicate those pests.
  Unfortunately, I came down with a summer cold that went into a sinus infection, knocking me out of commission for a couple of days.  Of course, that was all the fleas needed!  Just that fast, they were everywhere.  Dixie, Lauren and Phoebe started scratching so bad that they had bare patches on their legs.  I knew I had to draw up a battle plan!
  The weather cooperated that the dogs could be in the yards while I fought the war.  Over the course of two days, all the dogs got flea baths.  I closed up the windows and doors in the kennel, stuffed cracks with newspapers and flea bombed the building.  While the bombs were working inside, I sprayed the outside with a strong insecticide that we had bought from the farm supply store.  All the dog mats, towels and soft toys were washed in hot, hot water.  After the dogs came inside for their baths, I vacuumed the area rugs and every crevice of our downstairs, not wanting to transfer the flea problem to  our house.  At the end of the week, the dogs were due for their topical flea preventive but this time I used K-9 Advantix instead of Frontline.  Finally, the fleas were gone!
  I'm not saying we've won the war but I think we have the upper hand (although I say that with my fingers and toes crossed!).  One of my vets said that Frontline is just not effective this year and to keep up with the K-9 Advantix.  I'm glad to have Capstar in our arsenal now, too.  I can buy that through Amazon, which makes it much more affordable.
  I don't like that I had to use so many pesticides on and around the dogs to get rid of these fleas.  We had spread lime in the kennel in late spring in an attempt to not have fleas start.  I think next year we'll do that again, but as soon as the weather starts to warm, probably in March.  I also want to plant lavender, a natural repellant, around the kennel and play yards.  I'll need to stick with the K-9 Advantix applications, not all year, but start those in the spring, too, instead of early summer.  We have so much wildlife that come near and through the yards that I know I can never prevent fleas completely.
  It 's good to see the dogs comfortable again, even though we are still dealing with some 90+ degree days and August humidity.  I think they'd agree with me, though, that a killing frost would be welcome at any time!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Mass Exodus

  With Lauren and Mosby now having their storm phobias, they readily escape their kennel when a storm is nearby.  Or, sometimes, they get out when it's just raining...or it's windy..or, who knows???  We moved them to the puppy/senior yard which is escape proof (we think) but frequently bring them inside at night.
  But then, Phoebe started barking at several periods during the night for no apparent reason.  So now she also comes inside.  And, because Claire thinks she needs to go wherever her sister goes, she sleeps in the house, too.
  Then, Dixie discovered her kennel door has an opening that she could squeeze through and started to leave her kennel at various times.  She doesn't have a storm phobia, doesn't bark at the wildlife or even try to get out of the main gate.  My husband says Dix is only getting out because she knows she can!
  For the others--what is going on???  Why don't the dogs like their kennel house anymore???  Obviously we need to repair some fences, which we are hesitant to do until the storm season is over as we don't want to take a chance that the dogs will hurt themselves trying to escape during an electrical storm.  I don't mind dashing outside (or sending David) to bring in the dogs when we see the clouds coming up from the valley.
  Actually, I don't mind having half the dogs in the house at night!  Phoebe though, has let me know that she is now house dog status and I've complied.  Her time in the kennel is a couple of hours in the morning and a couple of hours in the evening.  The other dogs have not picked up on the fact that I readily acquiesce to what they want so we currently have the upper hand.  But...stay tuned!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Garden Dog

  I have to be careful on the dog match-ups when it's play day in the big yards.  The girls get along with anybody, but the boys get prickly with each other.  Ref and Gibson are fine to be together but sometimes they get irked with Jackson.  Gibson and Jackson will frequently fight with Mosby and Ref cannot stand to have Mosby near at all.  Even the girls seem to find Mosby annoying some times.  Poor Mosby!
  Since Mosby seems to be frequently standing on the outside, watching the others play, I have found another way to give him quality time.  He helps me garden!
  I wish I could have Mosby in the vegetable garden with me to help discourage the rabbits that keep trying to set up a home in there, but he would rather sleep on the plants than the mulch paths.  We have plenty of gardens, so there are many other places he can plop down while I dispatch the weeds.  Recently, Mosby settled under the hydrangea while I worked nearby.  I wish I had my camera then!  His blue merle coat under the blue hydrangea flowers made a very pretty picture!
  We've had to take a break during this recent heat wave.  The weeds are taking advantage of my absence and are trying to take over!  Fortunately, I can get back into the gardens this week and Mosby can join me.  When he sees me put on my gardening gloves and pull out the wheelbarrow, he starts to bark and dance, ready to come out and "supervise"!

Settled in, ready for a weeding marathon!

Taking a break to roll in the grass, in the sunshine!

Aahhh, life is good!
A nap is always in order after weeding!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Grandma's Little Helper

  We had our 11 month old granddaughter, Taylor, stay with us for three days while her parents took a mini-vacation.  What fun to have a baby in the house!  We played, read books, sat on the porch swing and blew bubbles and had lots of cuddle time.  Our time together brought back so many memories of when Taylor's father and uncle were little ones.
  But, I also quickly realized how our lives have shifted away from little people and their needs.  All the electrical outlets have covers, of course, but I had to move the trailing plants, pick up the cats' food and water, make sure the pantry doors were closed tight.... (Grandma was pretty tired by Friday night!)
  The biggest adaptation I had to figure out was how to mesh Taylor's schedule with the dogs' schedule.    When our sons were little, we lived in a subdivision with two collies.  I would just feed them on the deck right outside the kitchen door.  But, now, our dogs are in a kennel a short distance from the house.    Taylor wakes up in the morning right about the dogs' breakfast time and her afternoon nap time is too early for their dinner.  David, my husband, has a new work schedule which doesn't mesh with the dogs' regular feeding schedule, either.  How was I going to work this out?
  Fortunately, Taylor's stroller was here.  I would carry Taylor downstairs, fix all the food bowls and place them at the back door.  Then I'd carry Taylor back upstairs, secure her in her stroller and we'd walk around to the back of the house, pick up the bowls and walk to the kennel.  There, I'd park her at the kennel door while I fed the dogs.  I'd reposition her stroller while I cleaned kennels so she could always see me.
  I have big dreams that Taylor will develop a love for dogs, collies in particular (her dad thinks a lab is in their future--where did I go wrong???) and become a junior handler.  Since I had Taylor's undivided attention, I explained everything that I was doing, why some of the dogs had long hair and some short, which dogs had their championships and which dogs were in the shows last week-end.  I'm sure Taylor will remember everything I told her!
  Taylor did enjoy her dog care chores.  She would wave to the dogs as we got close to the kennel and wave "bye-bye" when we finished.  When the dogs started playing, she'd laugh and kick her feet.  When the dogs barked, Taylor would imitate them, making funny sounds and jumping up and down in her stroller as much as the straps belting her in would allow.
  The dogs adapted to the presence of my helper very quickly.  They were curious Wednesday night about the little person and stroller outside their door.  By Friday evening, when they saw the stroller being loaded in the car for Taylor to go home, they got excited and started barking.  They thought it was dinner time!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Show Results

  The fat balls worked!  Both Ref and Jackson put on weight in time for the shows this week-end.  Ref was in perfect weight and Jackson was close, then the heat wave hit.  He was only picking out the fat balls from his food, so at least he didn't lose weight but he didn't quite hit the goal we had hoped for.
  As far as the shows themselves, mixed results.  Both boys showed well, improving each day.  I was very pleased with that!  They both had great movement, Jackson doing a better job of standing while the judges went over him.  Ref didn't act like he enjoyed the show at all on the first day and I drove home thinking his show career was finished and we would need to look for a companion home for him.  The next two days showed dramatic improvement (thank heavens!)  Then, by today, his eyes were shining, he jumped up on me, he wanted to play and acted game for anything I asked of him.  Ref was obviously not today's judge's cup of tea, but yesterday he was Winners Dog for one point!  I was hoping the major would cross over but I couldn't get him to "show"when it was needed. I did learn some valuable tips that I used today so I improved also!
  Jackson did not win or even get Reserve in the four shows, which was very disappointing as he responded very well to Ellen (our handler), had lots of fun and looked great.
  Ref's past issues of car sickness is now history.  Jackson didn't travel well the first day but improved each day.  That's something I need to work on with him so I think long distance shows with Ellen will be put on hold for a bit.  Both dogs were relaxed at the show site, sleeping most of the days and generally quiet, even when the dogs in the next set up were barking or their handlers were eating lunch behind our crates.
  Proofreading my post makes me think maybe this was a better week-end than I first thought!  I didn't have to clean up car sickness, the dogs had fun, I had fun, I visited with friends, I learned some handling tips, discovered a grooming comb I've been wanting is still available and Ref got a point.  Yeah, this was a good week-end!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Storm Phobia

Last night, we had a severe thunderstorm (as did much of the eastern section of the country) with winds up to 80 mph.  We live next door to radio towers and a generator for  the electrical co-op, both of which have lightning rods attached.  Needless to say, lots of lightning comes our way!
  The kennel is situated between the two lightning rod locations which reduces the risk of the trees nearby or the kennel itself getting hit by lightning.  Generally, the dogs aren't concerned by the storms, they just go inside until the weather calms.  But, this summer, Mosby has developed a storm phobia.
  The storms we've had up until last night have not been bad, a few lightning strikes but mainly heavy rains.  Mosby has reacted by finding the loose spot in the kennel fencing, getting out, then standing by the gate, panting and nervous.  He's fine once I get him inside, which I now do whenever storms are predicted.
  Mosby has never been bothered by storms before but I think it must have something to do with being older.  This had happened with one of our other dogs, Abby,  a few years ago, again starting when she was about ten.  Research was in order!
  I found a couple good sites on the internet and a good book at the library.  I learned some very interesting things!
  Storm phobias can worsen as a dog ages, just as I suspected.  And, as I know from experience, the phobia can become "contagious" from one dog to another.  I don't want the other dogs to learn from Mosby that thunderstorms are something to fear so we've become very quick to get him out of the kennel.
  Behaviorists can't pinpoint what the dog is reacting to--the lightning, the thunder, the wind blowing or the sound of rain on the roof.  Some dogs will start with their phobia symptoms well before the storm arrives.  This could be caused by the sudden drop in the air pressure, the electrical charge in the air, or with their acute sense of smell, the dog can detect the change in the air scent before the storm.
  Some dogs, especially those with long coats (and Mosby has lots of coat!) can feel the static electricity of a thunderstorm before it arrives.  The electricity in the air causes little shocks to the dog, which would be very disconcerting!  This theory I have experienced myself.
  I had Abby outside with me while I was gardening.  It was a beautiful morning, blue sky and no clouds.  Suddenly, Abby became frantic and ran to the back door, scratching to get in.  She was panting heavily and showing all the signs that a storm was near.  I was puzzled as the sky was clear and no storms were predicted.  But then, the hair on my arm stood up and the lightning rod on the radio tower started to crackle.  I looked up and a dark storm cloud was overhead.  Abby and I got inside just as the cloud burst and the rain started!
  Another theory in the July/Aug 2001 issue of Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association is that genetics plays a part.  Herding dogs are bred to react quickly to stimuli but not to be aggressive from it.  A collie could have a strong reaction to the startling noise of thunder and flash of lightning but repress their natural aggressive response, thus causing their anxiety.
  For Mosby, I think it's a combination of factors.  I'm sure the change in atmospheric pressure must bother his geriatric ears and with his abundant coat, must feel the static electricity.  I not only want him in the house to relieve him of his anxiety, but that the other dogs don't learn that storms are to be feared and start to react by association.
  In Mosby's case, being inside resolves the problem so exposure therapy to de-sensitize him would not be effective.  I'm hesitant to fix the loose spot in the kennel fence on the chance that we would not be home when a storm started and Mosby would harm himself trying to get out.
  During last night's storm, we had tree limbs blow down next to the kennel.  I found Lauren outside this morning, sleeping by the front gate.  She and Mosby share their kennel spot so she's either learned from him that storms are scary or is starting with her own phobia at 8 1/2 years old.  I'm glad she was safely able to get out of her kennel when she needed to but we won't take any chances from here on out.  Both Lauren and Mosby will be indoor dogs frequently, especially during this heat wave and the chance of sudden, severe storms!  Hopefully the other dogs won't become afraid of bad weather after last night.  They seemed quite nonplussed when I checked on them this morning but did seem disappointed that my early morning visit didn't include breakfast!

What a surprise when I opened the kennel door and found these tree limbs!
Ref and Gemma didn't seem to care that this was just outside their fence.

We were very fortunate that this fell next to the kennel and not on it! Only the top rail of the fence had minor damage.

This tree limb was on the play yard fence.  The dogs were content to stay in the kennel with their fan while David was busy with the chain saw!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Fat Balls

Earlier this year, we decided to not do any more shows until the fall, giving Ref and Jackson time to mature and develop.  Funny, how quickly plans change!
  One morning, I looked at Ref and he had seemingly changed overnight from a gangly, leggy boy to a male with more muscle and mature body.  I looked over at Jackson and his coat was blooming and he was standing with a nice arch to his neck and a beautiful expression on his face.  Hmmmm...should we reconsider our decision?  I barely broached the subject to David, who interrupted me to say, "have you noticed that Ref has put on weight"?  We decided to plan on entering a cluster of shows the first weekend of July, but on the caveat that Ref needed a bit more weight before the entry was due.
  I researched the internet to see if there was a better way to put pounds on a dog instead of just adding more food to his bowl.  That method usually leads to diarrhea, which seems to defeat the purpose of adding the food!  To my surprise, there are actual recipes for "Satin Balls" or "Fat Balls" to help in this situation.
  There were several variations, many involving cereal, which I didn't want Ref to have.  I chose this recipe:

10 pounds of uncooked, ground beef
10 ounces uncooked oatmeal
6 raw egg yolks
10 ounces wheat germ
10 ounces molasses

Mix well, roll into balls (I make meatball size), refrigerate enough for a few days and freeze the rest.

  I've been mixing one to two balls into Ref's dry food at each meal.  He loves it, of course!  Within a few days, he had put on the extra weight we wanted and I mailed in the entries.
  Jackson has some sixth sense about dog shows and started his old trick of not eating all of his meals once the entry had left the mailbox.  It's hard to maintain a good weight on him anyway, so now Jackson is on "fat balls".  I'm giving him more meatballs at each meal, using two to three, to basically coat his dry food so he eats it all.  I have a week, we'll have to see what happens!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Sunday Dinner

  David received a nice gift certificate for Father's Day from our oldest son and daughter in law so we ate out tonight!  MacDowell Brew Kitchen has outdoor seating, allows dogs there and I realized I needed to add to my blog list of dog friendly restaurants.  (this might need to be my summer project!)  We've eaten at this Leesburg restaurant before so we know the menu is great but took Ref along to judge the atmosphere for the canine contingent.
  Ref had a great time!  The outdoor dining is beach themed--sand, tropical plants, wooden tables, music and a play area for kids.  Ref enjoyed the attention from the restaurant staff and fellow diners.  He watched the little ones play in the sand, snuffled in the sand himself, then laid under the table while we ate.  I tried to share my fish and chips with him, but Ref didn't care for anything but the fish (although he did seem interested in trying David's beer!).
  It's always fun to take one of the smooth coats out and hear the various guesses from people as to what breed of dog we have.  Tonight was a new one--a man thought Ref was part beagle!  We're always quick to let people know that a smooth coat collie is a terrific breed and let them pet the dog so they can experience some collie love.  We held up traffic in the parking lot as one group spent so much time petting Ref and asking questions about smooth collies.  I think at least one person in that group will want to add a collie to their home!
Ref got a sandy nose from snuffling so much!

Surveying the dining area.

I shared my fish and chips but Ref didn't like the batter.  He only ate the fish!

Relaxing in the shade of the table.

A Rhodesian Ridgeback came out for dinner, too!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Jackson's Birthday

  Jackson is two years old today!  To celebrate, I made the Blue Blue Berry Berry Bun Buns from the Three Dog Bakery Cookbook.  It's a quick treat to make and the dogs really enjoy them.  I always seem to have the ingredients on hand, so it's my go-to recipe for doggy birthdays!
  Today is overcast with rain showers, so the birthday party was very low key.  I skipped the birthday bath, probably to Jackson's delight, but he did get his nails filed and a good brushing. He was glad to get that part of his celebration out of the way!  Nails filing is not his favorite thing.
  We had quality time together after his brushing and then I let him in the yard for a short run.  Jackson didn't want to run and only explored for a bit before acting like he wanted to go back into the kennel.  Yesterday, I gave him a big beef knuckle bone and he had been chewing on that before I brought him into the house for his brushing.  All that gnawing must have worn him out--but his teeth are gleaming!
The muffins cooling before the "party"

Jackson after his brushing.  Poor lighting in the room  but his sweet expression still comes through!

Starting on his muffins.

Strolling the yard.

Jackson posed for me and let me get a couple good shots!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


  I received two nice e-mails last week with updates on Bijou and Tiriel (Treasure)!
  Bijou is doing great and has completely adjusted to her new home.  She loves her children, plays with them and is a full member of the family.
  Tiriel is also doing well.  She "guards" the yard from deer invasions, enjoys going to the dog park and has completed her first obedience course. (an "A" student, of course!)
  Tiriel has also learned the enjoyment of the couch, or maybe she just wants to be a lap dog!  Christine wrote, "she just started this two days ago - and Al was on the sofa when she first did it.  She starts by jumping up with her front paws to give you a "hug" and nibble on your head.  Then she gradually climbs on up and just smiles.  We both agree that we shouldn't let her get away with this, but she's just so darn cute that we haven't had the heart to correct her yet".

Thursday, June 7, 2012


  Last Friday, June 1, we said good-bye to Sophie.  Her final days were a rapid slide of physical abilities.  We had to help her get up, help her gain her balance and when she walked outside, would lean against our legs to help steady herself.  Even at that, she would fall frequently while she was walking.  Her appetite decreased, too--although she still liked her evening treats!  We started to add treats to her food bowl to entice her to eat.  Sophie would pick the treats out and leave the kibble, sometimes going for a day and a half before eating a full meal.   By Friday, the expression in Sophie's eyes told me that she was not enjoying life anymore.  As painful as the decision was, I had to do what was best for our girl.
  The vet thought Sophie had an age related brain tumor, which caused the balance issues.  I had been researching her symptoms on the internet and wasn't surprised by the diagnosis.  Dr. Robbins offered the option of treating Sophie with steroids, which would mask the symptoms, improve the quality of her life, but only for a short time.  I couldn't see making Sophie go through the physical decline again, just so we could keep her for another week or so.  As I held her for her shot, the vet asked if I was ready.  I started to say "no," as I'm never ready to part with one of our animals.  But, I always have to accept what is needed for them so I nodded my head.
  Sophie was the first dog that I picked from a litter to be a show dog.  The stud's owner came to evaluate the litter and asked who I thought was the best. When I said Sophie, and Deanna told me I was correct, it was the greatest feeling!  A few years later, when I worked with Sophie, Ben and Mosby in a handler's class, a long time collie/sheltie breeder told me that Sophie was the best of the three.  She thought I should be concentrating on getting Sophie's championship.
  However, Sophie didn't like to show.  It took a long time just to get her to tolerate car rides without getting nervous and car sick.  Someone told me Sophie was just a country girl who wanted to be home!  We tried her in the ring, anyway.  Mid way through her very short show career, she adjusted to traveling and got her first point on February 15, 2004.  We changed handlers soon after that and though Ellen worked very hard with Sophie, it was pretty clear that it was an uphill battle.  We decided to give Sophie about ten shows to change her mind.  Some shows Sophie would have a bit of a spark but when we saw her in the ring at her second to last show, she looked absolutely miserable!  We decided enough was enough but for some reason decided to keep Sophie in her last show on May 17 (our wedding anniversary).  She must have known that she was coming home after that as Ellen said Sophie walked in the ring a different dog!  She was confident, held herself proudly and won Winners Bitch, Best of Winners and Best of Opposite Sex!  What an anniversary gift she gave us!  It was tempting to keep showing Sophie as the judge loved her and she received many compliments from ringside.  However, a deal was a deal and we brought Sophie home, content that she had finished on top!
Sophie at the start of her show career.

Sophie's second and final win.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

National Dog Bite Prevention Week

  In reading the newspaper yesterday, I learned it is National Dog Bite Prevention Week.  Dog bites are not something I have thought too much about, as collies are such great family dogs and have very tolerant personalities.  I do know not to fully trust any dog or consider any dog, even my own collies, "bite proof" but generally our dogs are not in situations where they feel threatened and more likely to bite. But with the arrival of our granddaughter, who has started to have interactions with the dogs and has reached a "grabby" age, I'm more aware of behaviors that can result in a bite.
  I have always felt it's my responsibility to keep my dogs out of harm's way.  We have double fencing around the kennel and locks on the gates, not only to help prevent accidental escapes but to discourage visitors from entering without our escort.  We have a lot of walkers and joggers on our road so the play yard is set back far enough that someone would be trespassing on our property to visit the dogs.  We also don't let the dogs in the play yards unless we're home most of the day to keep an eye on things.  We enjoy including a dog or two when we attend dog friendly events, but if it's extremely hot or we think the crowds will be especially heavy, the dogs stay home.
  Many of the tips that the AVMA give for preventing bites have been part of our dog training regimen anyway as it is not just good, common sense, but helps the dog as a whole:  socialize the dog as a young puppy, don't let the dog get teased or feel threatened, use a leash in public and keep control of the dog.  Check out the AVMA website for more tips and information!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


  Last week, we said good-bye to our 16-year old cat, Harley.  His full name was Harlequin, in reference to his black and white coat, but he was known by other monikers--H-Man, Toughie, Jungle Kitty, Bush Baby (he had a tendency to not clean his coat after walking through shrubs) or simply, H.
  Very often, Harley was referred to as "that cat ain't right".  Perhaps his mother dropped him on his head as a kitten but he had such a unique personality that everyone who met Harley would utter that sentence in one form or another after a first encounter.  The kids in the neighborhood said it so often that I jokingly said "that cat ain't right" was Harley's middle name!
  Harley earned that description with his odd behaviors and traits.  He never mastered the ability to use a litter box but would cry at the door to go outside and use the mulch.  He didn't clean his coat, face or paws, plus was a sloppy eater to boot, so he'd walk about with canned food on his whiskers.  He would track in all mud, grass clippings and yard debris on his coat from outside .  When our sons were young, they would frequently put Harley in the bathtub for a good scrubbing.  He would meow softly but never attempt to jump out or scratch the kids while they lathered him up.
  After we moved to our current house in the country, Harley would stalk the deer and wild turkey, completely confident he could bring down something many times bigger his size.  He walked through the woods as if he was a lion on the prowl, coming into the house afterwards with chiggers in his coat and mysterious scratches on his nose.  Once, he poked his nose too far into a fox's den and was chased out of the woods by the vixen.  Harley was crying and running for all he was worth with mama fox right on his heels, snapping and growling.  When I yelled at the fox, she snapped at Harley one final time and gave me a look that said, "keep your cat out of my den"!  Harley immediately forgot the danger he had just escaped and came strutting up to the porch, cocky and full of leaves and burrs, as usual.
  Harley probably hung around the foxes so much because of our collies.  He was one year old when the first litter of puppies arrived and by the time of the fox chasing incident, Harley had "raised" about three more litters.
  As part of the socialization process, we would introduce the puppies to Harley when they were about 4 weeks old.  Harley was always excellent with puppies, would discipline them with a smack of the paw, but never scratch or bite.  He would play with them, herd them and wrestle with them.  All the puppies learned to respect Harley and never try to bully him, even when they were twice his size.
  Harley was most involved with our first litter of puppies.   Almost every evening ended with a wrestling match before the puppies were crated for the night.  The four puppies would line up and Harley would take them on, one by one.  He would grab a puppy, flip it, then pin it to the floor.  After a couple of weeks of this, I suspected the puppies had learned how to flip themselves into the pin position as they were so big, but they all enjoyed the game!  Harley would be proud of himself, strut about the room and the puppies would be worn out.
  We're going to miss you Harley!  Raising puppies won't be the same without you!
The contestants prepare for the "wrestling match".

Harley gets advantage!

And the puppy gets flipped!

Pinned!  Harley wins again!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bijou's New Home

  Bijou's perfect family has found her and she is now living in Frederick, MD!  In early spring, Holly contacted me, inquiring about Bijou.  She and her husband have three children, ages 8, 6 and 4--great ages for a dog like Bijou.  Plus, the family enjoys the outdoors together and physical activities.  Another plus!  The more Holly and I talked, the more I had a sense that this could be Bijou's family.  When Holly brought the children out to meet Bijou and tour the kennel, I knew it was a perfect match!
  Bijou knew it, too!  She ran with the kids, was very gentle with them and followed them about the yard. When it was time for them to leave, she watched the kids get into the van, clearly wanting to go with them.
  Holly and I arranged the time for them to get their new family member.  They needed a few dog supplies before Bijou moved in and when we exchanged e-mails about dog crates, food and such, there was always a line about how anxious the children were for her arrival.
  Finally, the day arrived!  I gave Bijou a bath and wanted to spend a lot of time with her, but she seemed to know that her family was coming.  Bijou was attentive to me but clearly anticipating their arrival.
  Such a happy reunion between the kids and Bijou when I opened the door!  Their dad, Miguel, was meeting Bijou for the first time, but he was immediately smitten.  She, of course, was flirting but she didn't need to use her charms as the kids had already told him how wonderful she is.
  While Miguel and I did the paperwork, went over last minute instructions and all, Holly and the children took Bijou outside and walked her a bit in preparation for her ride home.  When I got outside, Bijou was laying on her pillow in the van, sound asleep and the kids were in their car seats, anxious to go!  When I bent to kiss Bijou good-bye, she gave me a sleepy, "I think I've met you someplace before" then focused on her kids.  Great transition!
  In the reports since, it sounds like she's adjusted very easily and it's been pretty smooth sailing.  Here's a couple of pictures:

Monday, May 7, 2012


  In March, we bred Dixie to CH Limerick's Reach for the Stars, a beautiful, rough mahogany.  We had high hopes for a successful breeding and looked forward to puppies in mid-May.
  At first, all the signs pointed to just that.  Dixie exhibited many signs of pregnancy as each week passed until about two weeks ago.  I began to suspect that she had either re-absorbed her litter or the breeding had not taken after all.  An ultra sound confirmed that there would be no puppies this spring.
  I've been breeding collies for a few years and this is not the first time that a hoped for litter didn't happen.    It's disappointing but not devastating and I feel like I've learned to roll with the punches that the dogs give me. After the vet visit, we did some errands where I showed that may not actually be the case!
  We went to Best Buy for a firewire for the video camera.  Since it was a cool day, Dixie could stay in her crate in the Sequoia with the sun roof open.  I locked the rest of the doors and we went into the store.  Our purchase made, I reached into my purse for the keys but couldn't easily find them.  My purse is very large and it's easy for the keys to disappear as I fish around for them, so I wasn't worried at first and I have never locked my keys in a vehicle.  But, then, after taking out most of my purse's contents, I still couldn't find my keys!  Panic!
  We went to the Sequoia and looked in--there were my keys sitting on the center console.  Seemed like a piece of cake to retrieve them, but even with David's long arms, he couldn't reach far enough through the open sunroof to get them.  Assistance from a Best Buy employee with a "reacher" was just as futile and more frustrating.  It was within inches of my keys.  David asked for a broom, so he could reach through the sunroof and poke open the door lock, but the employee didn't have access to the janitor's closet.
  He went back into the store to see what he could find to help us while we pondered how to resolve our dilemma.  The best I could come up with was to see if someone would let us lower their toddler or preschooler through the sunroof and reach our keys.  But, that would have been so outlandish that I'm sure one or both of us would had been arrested if we started approaching people in the parking lot with that request!
  Thankfully, the employee had a great solution.  He found a broom, attached a screw driver to it, then reached through the sunroof and hit the "unlock" button on my key fob!  Success!  We were soon on our way home where we were able to lift our spirits about the lack of puppies at a menu tasting at our favorite winery.
  We'll try the breeding again at Dixie's next season.  I'll definitely keep my keys in hand at all times!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

That Was Close!

  Yesterday, Phoebe seemed a bit off.  She had a touch of diarrhea over the week-end but I wasn't concerned.  She had been to the vet last week for updates on all her shots.  The vet also thought she needed to add a couple of pounds so we've increased her food.   As usual after an exam, Phoebe was plied with treats so some tummy upset wouldn't be alarming.
  Yesterday morning, though, Phoebe was reluctant to get off her cot for breakfast.  She ate well but just stood by her bowl afterwards with her head hanging.  I decided she needed to come into the house for a thorough going-over.  She slowly walked to the back door, her feet literally dragging in the grass.  This was definitely not like Phoebe!  Usually, as soon as she sees she's headed inside, she races for the door, impatient for me to catch up.
  Once inside, Phoebe did try to detour by the cat's bowl for a snack (a good sign) but didn't make an attempt to get up on the grooming table for me.  I hoisted her up and took her temperature--normal.  I ran my hands over her, looking for any bumps or bites--nothing.  Checked her mouth--just her pearly whites, no irritation or inflammation.
  She had some dirty spots and her coat had a couple of mats.  I misted her with grooming spray and gave her a nice brush out.  That perked her up!  A treat for being so good on the grooming table was gobbled up and made her tail swish a few times.  I lifted her off the table, gave her another tiny piece of treat and she danced a bit.  I decided to let her stay in the house for the morning as I knew what was wrong with her--she was starting with a case of the prima donna's!  I needed to nip this in the bud before it became full blown!
  I've had to re-arrange kennel assignments and Phoebe has recently been rooming with Dixie.  Dixie was bred in March and we keep watching for signs that it was successful, which means she gets lots of attention.  Jackson went to the winery with us Saturday, Sophie has received extra attention lately and this clearly does not sit well with Phoebe.  She had shown some discontent on Tuesday when the weather was nice enough for a play day.  Jackson knocked into her during some rough and tumble play with Lauren.  Phoebe gave me an "ugh, dogs" look but she does that frequently so I didn't pay too much attention to it.  I guess I should have though!  Happily, a day inside, extra attention and a couple of treats was the remedy Phoebe needed.  By dinner time, she was ready to go back into the kennel, her bout with the prima donna's over and forgotten!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

How Did She Do That?

  Spring has brought a wave of girls in season!  Phoebe started the rise of hormones and now Gemma is finishing it up by being the last to come into heat.
  To keep the boys from being frustrated, as well as discouraging any stray, would-be suitors, Gemma is in the house, crated at night.  Even though the room is for the dogs, I don't want them to get into mischief during the night.  But, somehow, Gemma did!
  I heard a crash the other morning, followed by silence.  Then, a flurry of noises that I didn't believe Sophie (who is not crated) could possibly make.  When I opened the door, I was greeted by a happy Gemma and a bewildered Sophie.  The area rugs I use in the whelping box had been pulled from the shelf, my grooming bucket had been pilfered, the slicker brush had some tooth marks added to it, the chalk stick   broken, toys were strewn about, the water bucket was almost empty but there was plenty of water on the floor, the bottle of ear glue had been chewed and was oozing glue onto Sophie's floor mats.  I hurriedly cleaned that up before the mats were glued together, finding some glops of glue on the floor, too.
  Poor Sophie had glue on her foot and slobber on her head.  I'm sure she was sound asleep when Gemma broke out of her crate and was completely surprised by all the commotion and Gemma's attempts at play.
  But how did Gemma get out of her crate?  I thought maybe my husband had not latched it the night before when he brought Gemma inside, but no, the latch was in the lock position, although the bottom latch looked like it had not been in place.  Could she have worked the crate door out of position, thus escaping?  I'm not taking any chances now, though!  I'm using a coupler to keep the door extra secure and will plan on taking one with me for any shows Gemma will attend.  I don't mind scraping glue from the floor but definitely don't want to chase down a dog at a show!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy Birthday, Sophie!

  Sophie is now thirteen years old!  This is new territory for us, as we've never had a collie go past twelve.  We take one day at a time with our senior girl and enjoy every minute of it!  Sophie has good days and then some moments that make us realize she won't be with us forever.  She seems to have lost her hearing and sometimes is easily knocked off balance.  But, Saturday, she ran along the fence line as I drove down the driveway!  Her gait looked awkward and I was afraid she wouldn't be able to stop without crashing into a bush or tree, but her tail was wagging and her eyes were shining with happiness.
  We celebrated the birthday milestone with doggy blueberry muffins for everybody.  The birthday girl got full size muffins while everyone else got the mini's.  What a hit!  I think the dogs would like philosophy of  the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland and celebrate the un-birthdays, too, and have muffins every day!
The muffins are ready--let the party begin!

Sophie enjoying her birthday dinner and muffins.

Checking for an overlooked crumb or two.

The look on her face seems to say, "There's no more"?  But, her bowl is very clean!