Thursday, December 26, 2013

Fall Project

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

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gibson's Retirement

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

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Gibson's New Wardrobe

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

Expecting a slice of that nice cheddar cheese!

Our handsome boy!

Friday, July 26, 2013

It's Been Awhile!

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

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Being Naughty Is So Much Fun!

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

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Seeing The Not Too Distant Future

  Mosby is now the old man of Hillcroft.  He will be 12 in July and has all the characteristics of a senior dog.  He had slowed down in the last year or so, but didn't really show his age until lately.  Once he stepped on that path, though, it seems he is rapidly heading towards his final months.
   The gray is starting to cover his muzzle and face, his eyes are cloudy and his hearing is not sharp.  Often, he has weakness in his back legs and he acts as if his joints bother him.  He's lost weight, even though he eats every meal.  His appetite is not alway strong so it may take him longer to eat his food, often needing encouragement to finish.
  Mosby still enjoys going outside and socializing with the other dogs.  He likes to sniff around the trees in the back yard and doze in the sunshine in the recent, spring-like weather.  Sometimes, he'll even break into a trot as we go back and forth to the kennel!
 But, a recent development is that Mosby is showing signs of dementia.  It started about a month ago with periods of restlessness and barking, about mid morning.  Even though Claire and Lauren are in the house with Mosby, we realized that he felt alone.  This was easily solved by turning on the tv.  Either the voices or the movement comforted Mosby as he would watch for awhile, then go soundly to sleep.
  Lately, Mosby has become worse, needing a very rigid routine to make him comfortable.  Since the kennel is what he knows best, that's where he heads if given the opportunity when something out of the norm happens.  When Lauren jostled him   as we came inside to see if food was left in his bowl, he immediately made a u-turn and ran out the open door, going to the kennel.  The same thing happened when a mop I had left by the back door got knocked over and landed on Mosby as he was coming inside.
  When these incidents happen, Mosby goes into a complete panic and is so frantic that he doesn't respond to me or seem to recognize me.  It's so hard to see him like this when he's always been such a happy, carefree dog.  It brings back a memory of our trip home from Clarion with Mosby, when we made a puppy potty stop.  I had Mosby on a long lead and he was running to me after I called him.  I heard a woman say nearby, "look how that puppy loves her"!
  I need to concentrate on memories like that and help Mosby cope with his aging body and mind.  While the recent developments are happening more frequently, we have many more normal days.  We know what makes Mosby comfortable and happy and if that means more time in the kennel as it gets warmer, rather than in the house with us, well, so be it.  We always treasure every day we get with our seniors!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

We're Having a Snow Day!

Lauren always enjoys the snow!

Claire wants to get back inside and on her couch!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Treats

  I very much enjoy giving the dogs a little goodie every day, usually after they've had their breakfast.  Most days, it's something ready made--we stocked up when Costco had a sale on all beef treats--but sometimes I do the baking or lately, dehydrating. (more on that in a future post)
  I almost always bake something for an individual dog's birthday, which all get to enjoy and also for Christmas.  I've started collecting recipes, have a couple of treat cookbooks and am now including other holidays for homemade treats.
  Today being Valentine's Day, I was looking for a cookie that I could make heart shaped, preferably with a red hue to it.  I also wanted to include my dog walking clients as recipients and needed an inexpensive recipe that made a large quantity.  I found a recipe in Doggy Desserts by Cheryl Gianfrancesco that pretty much fit the bill.  While the treats didn't come out as red as I had hoped, it was easy enough to use a heart shaped cookie cutter instead of the dog bone shape and not have it affect the baking time or the results.  The Collies loved it!

Red Bones
1/4 cup freeze dried liver (available at pet stores)
1 cup water
1/2 cup all natural tomato juice, no salt added
3 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1 cup wheat germ

Place freeze-dried liver chunks in a blender, and blend to a powder.  In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients.  Knead the dough on a floured surface.  Roll out the dough to 1/4 thickness, and cut shapes with a dog bone cookie cutter.  Put the cookies on a baking sheet, 1/2 inch apart.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  When done, the cookies should be firm to the touch.  Turn the oven off, and leave the cookies in for 1 to 2 hours to harden.
 Yield:  Approximately 80 two-inch cookies

The finished treats!

Enough treats to give to my dog walking clients, too!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Visit to the Dog Park

  We've had some teasers of springs the last couple of weeks and I've taken advantage of it.  Besides washing my vehicle for a temporary respite of owning a road salt/muddy Sequoia, I spent a warm Sunday at the dog park with Gibson.
  I wanted some solo time with Gibson and wanted a place he could have fun.  It's been a couple of years since I visited the park but remembered it's usually a bit on the muddy side.  Since Gibson was already overdue for a bath, I thought that would be a great destination for our outing!
  Our first stop was by the pond, to watch the geese swim lazily about.  Gibson seemed bored by this and anxious to be where the action was, so after getting a couple of photos, off we went.
  Gibson is very social with our own dogs, always in the mix of things, but at the dog park, he's very stand offish, prefering to watch the other dogs.  He also likes to check out the various scent markings from the other dogs, which takes a lot of time.  By the time Gibson's ready to play with the different groups, they've given up on him and ignore him as he makes an attempt to join in.  Sometimes, I feel like I'm watching groups of children interacting instead of dogs!
  Since I'm not a regular at the park, I don't interact much with the other owners, which gives me lots of time for observing.  People can be as funny as dogs!  I would think, being dog lovers, everyone would be petting and playing with all the dogs, but that's not the case.  Often, if Gibson would walk by someone, they would back up or ignore him.  Balls dropped at their feet by a dog not their own, would also be ignored.  That's when I remembered why we don't take advantage of the dog park that often.  Besides always seeming a bit muddy, or in very dry weather, very buggy, it's not a great place for socialization!
  Gibson did start to play more readily with newcomers but when his frequency of circling back to where I was seated  increased, I figured he was ready to go home.  He readily jumped into the Sequoia, but seemed tired and content.  We both enjoyed our spring preview and our anxious for more outings!

Good day for a swim!

Gibson and a new friend explore a good scent.

The Corgi had no problem keeping up with the big guys!

Follow the Leader?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Happy Birthday, Lauren!

  Lauren turned 9 years old on January 20.  I can't believe this delightful girl is now a senior citizen.  It seems only yesterday that she became a part of our family and an important part of our kennel.
  We celebrated in the usual way--a bath for Lauren with extra grooming and pampering and special treats!
  I have a few dog treat cookbooks but I also like to try some new recipes from the All Natural Dog Treat blog.  For Lauren's special day, I chose the Carrot Cheese Puffs recipe.  I knew it would be a hit as it has one of her favorite foods--cheese!  Not only did Lauren enjoy it, but all the other dogs gobbled it down, too!

The finished treats, fresh from the oven!

Lauren enjoying her first birthday treat.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Claire the House Dog

  About a month ago, Claire had a change in status, to house dog!  She adapted very quickly, immediately deciding the couch was a nice place for a nap, expecting treats every time she comes inside and getting lots of pets while we watch television.
  Sometimes she acts like she thinks this is a temporary change, as her behavior going outside is definitely different than coming back in. 
  I take Claire outside with me at mealtimes, giving her an opportunity to spend some time in the play yard and visit with the other dogs.  She doesn't mind being there once we finally arrive, but sometimes the journey is arduous!
  When Claire sees we are going outside, she often balks at the doorway, almost causing me to trip over her.  Not good when I'm carrying an armload of food bowls! 
  She also "loses" her hearing or can't seem to understand "let's go," "hurry up," or even "come."  Miraculously, Claire not only "regains" her hearing upon the return to the house, she doesn't need a single command to get moving!
  Claire had some of her house access restricted recently as she had come into season, but now she's ready for a bath and access to the couch once again!  Just in time, too.  The wood stove is going full blast and I know she'll like napping nearby.  It's nice to have a dog in the house full time and I always enjoy giving one of the seniors the opportunity for special status.