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!