Friday, December 31, 2010

Actual Conversation

hears ruffling sound

"Ruffian, are you being bad?"

I get up and tip-toe toward the tv room. Ruffian sees me, and greets me in the hall with her jazz-hands specialty, up on her hind legs, reaching out with her front paws. She dances.

"Yes, yes, I am! I am bad to the bone!"

She dances more, she leaps, she bounces, she turns circles, all standing up on her hind feet, she can't bear it, and she taps her paws on my legs. 

"I am! I am! Bad, bad, bad dog! 

All bad, no good, just bad to the boowwne!"

"Grrrr!!! Rrrrr! Rrwwwwhuhhhhh!"

"Bad to the bone! Bone?"
She collapses to the floor and wriggles on her back, all paws in the air.

"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, belly rubs!"

And that's how we roll around here. Belly rubs to you all! 

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The No-Snowday Pictures

Blackthorn's Musket, 11 months
Musket controls the ball ... with the power of his mind!!!!


Outlaw, Musket, Obsidian
Outlaw <3 Musket

Thursday, December 9, 2010

News and Gratuitous Oda

Gratuitous Oda picture... isn't she pretty!

Back in early November, I sent off DNA swabs on five of my dogs to test for the gene for Degenerative Myelopathy.

There is some anecdotal information swirling around that the DM test for GSDs isn't very reliable--some dogs tested clear have shown up with problems that certainly look like DM. And other dogs who show two copies of the suspect gene have never had any DM-like problems. These are not widespread contradictory cases, but that they exist at all implies that the full genetic story has not been revealed for DM in GSDs.

For a long time, I resisted doing the DM testing because of this reliability problem. Finally, though, I decided that what the test did was give me information.

And it is up to me to gather as much information as possible before doing a breeding--it is up to me to try to apply that information in ways that will increase the likelihood of sound puppies with long, healthy lives. And if the DM test can help me avoid having even one puppy whose body starts failing at 5 or 6 years old, if it can prevent one family and one dog from having to live with that misery, then the DNA testing will be worthwhile.

So, in the absence of symptoms (in parents or the dogs themselves), I decided to treat the test results as both informative and useful--at the least, the genes tested for are likely involved in the inheritance of the problem in GSDs, even if we later find out that it's necessary to look at other factors as well.

Well, the good news is that every of my tested dogs came up clear, carrying none of the suspect alleles. So, Nike, Coal, Danca, Hunter, Jubilee, and Xita all came up clear.

And because both parents (Coal and Danca) are clear, then I know that Lynx and Macha and Musket do not--cannot--have the genes for this problem.

Gratuitous Oda picture #2 (with a rear end of Macha) --doesn't Oda look a lot like Outlaw?
For the O puppies, I know that they are in the absolute worst case "unaffected carriers" -- which means that even if they did get the gene from their dad (who may or may not have any genes for this problem), they should never be affected. So, for the O puppies, it would be a good idea to test any individual who is going to be bred, but there's no point in doing the test until all other health/performance/conformation hurdles are crossed. A dog who comes up with 1 allele (an unaffected carrier) can still be bred--selectively and with care (which is the whole point anyway, no?). In that case, one chooses a partner that has zero alleles (non-carrier), then all of the puppies will be healthy and unaffected, and individual pups can be tested if they are being considered for breeding.

Gratuitous Oda #3
She's so pretty, I can't believe she's one of mine.

Other good news is that I have Xita's AKC registration in hand, and back in early November, I sent off her DNA swab to AKC. (Before registering puppies out of an imported dog, AKC has to have a DNA sample for their records--they don't actually do anything with this sample unless someone challenges the parentage of a puppy somewhere along the line.)

As soon as I get her DNA confirmation, I can register the O litter, and I should be able to send puppy owners the AKC papers within a few weeks of that date (AKC typically has a fast turnaround at the litter registration stage). So, hopefully that will be completed before the new year. Such a long chain of paperwork!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Sid and Outlaw

Woe. Woe is me.

I'm working at my desk with one eye and one ear on the puppy behind me.
It's Outlaw, who is growing into a big, sweet, thoughtful girl. I was about to write about how she was gnawing on a blue Wubba skin, but something sounded wrong and I realized that she had my glasses and had thoroughly licked both lenses and was getting ready to test her molars on them.

Outlaw, 5 months

So. Even the good puppy is still all puppy. 

Outlaw and Oda are still almost twins. Outlaw is slightly bigger overall, three pounds heavier at 4.5 months, with larger ears and slightly thicker boning. She's got a bit more tan in her coat, although she's still very red. She's playful and sweet and is incredibly affectionate. She's been known to ask for snuggles and then wriggle her way up, until there I am, holding her in my arms and laughing at her as she kisses my chin.

Outlaw, 5 months
I am still looking for homes for both Outlaw and Obsidian (Sid). I have been sort of sitting on them, a bit, watching how they grow, seeing their personalities develop, learning from them, thinking about what their mom has put into them. This will, hopefully, help me make more informed decisions for breeding Xita in the future. But it's really time for me to find them permanent homes, their own people to love.

What I've seen in both of them is super temperaments--sweet, interactive, loving--and very sound nerves and gorgeous looks. Their conformation is excellent (as in, they would be likely to be able to get a V/Excellent rating as adults)--heavy bone, great shoulder angles, lovely toplines, beautiful heads with large, expressive ears, thick coats, strong pigment.

They are very human oriented--they are clear in letting me know that I am their person and I am important to them and they need their daily quotient of physical affection. While they like to chase and carry things--sticks, balls, tugs, bones, metal bowls, giant buckets, eyeglasses--they are not natural retrievers. They are more inclined to get a toy and play with it near me than to bring me something to play with. They have very good food drive and are extremely trainable. They aren't stubborn or resistant--they want to do things that I want them to do--because I want them to do them. In short, they are both delightful to have around--good company, good looks, and easy to live with.

Sid is much more of a handful. He is 100% boy--galumphy and sweet and demanding and sensitive and pushy and possessive and snuggly and very physical in his enthusiasm and affection. He likes new people, but he watches them. When he is older, I suspect he will be aloof but accepting of strangers--but he will watch out for his person--I can see hints of his protective instincts as he eyes people who walk past the car--not reacting, just watching.

Unfortunately, one of his testicles hasn't descended, so he is only available to a home that doesn't plan to breed. I think he could be a great active companion, but he could also be a nice working prospect. I do think he'll fit best with someone who has had GSDs (or at least, big dogs) before.


He's the one who wakes me up every morning, demanding to go out, warbling and scratching at the door of his crate. He can hardly hold himself still and bounces forward to hit the door then back--he knows the door doesn't open if he's touching it, but it is very hard to be still!

He needs a home with someone who can handle his enthusiasm, his size--his very big sense of self.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Roughousing Around

I always recommend not trying to raise two pups from the same litter. They can so easily become utterly dependent on each other for support and confidence, and you have to work hard to make sure they have sufficient interest in interacting with the human members of their family. So, by and large, Macha and Musket don't hang out together much--usually walked separately and traveling separately and definitely socialized separately.

But every now and then, they get together for a play session or just for a daily walk. Monday they got together for a photo session after not having seen each other in more than a week. It was all hugs and kisses and widespread mayhem.

Mouth hug!
I think this is called an "oh shit" moment.

(with Oda? chasing along behind)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Making Much of Macha

Macha, 10 months

It occured to me, yesterday morning, that I have been highly negligent. Not just of this blog, but in failing to properly introduce the latest permanent member of my pack--not a new member, not really, but one who has been sorely overshadowed by her two brothers.

Blackthorn's Macha, 9 months

Macha, 6 weeks

Meet Macha--a littermate to the Entertainment!Puppy and a full (younger) sister to Lynx, she's a daughter of Coal and Danca born in January 2010. She's named after a Celtic goddess of war and (if you read the legends) vengeance.

Macha, 8 weeks

By 8 weeks, she had made it clear to me that I was hers and I really didn't get a say in the matter, she was staying--but I knew that my hands were full and was worried that I wouldn't be able to give her enough individual socialization, so a friend of mine kept her for about 6 weeks and taught her all the important puppy things--slick floors, things that fall and clatter, car rides, housetraining, playing with new dogs, snuggling on furniture....

She has had some major gangly stages in the past few months, and she is taller and longer than the more compactly built Musket. She's also wicked smart and thinks really hard about everything. She hasn't been as intrepid or wide-open as Musket, but she is not about to be outdone.

After watching him climb in and out of the pool via the ladder this summer, she taught herself to use the ladder too. She went in the water one day, swam over to the ladder, and climbed out--no involvement from me, no coaxing or training or intermediate stages.

Thinking dogs are both fun and challenging to train. She isn't thinking about the next step, but the next 3 steps, so while using a marker and positive reinforcement is essential, it's not sufficient. She needs to have greater faith in what I have planned.

Due to me doing mean and horrible things to her, such as putting her in the front yard or crating her, when she reached that independent phase at about 8 months, I started having to prove everything to her, also I had to regain her faith, many weeks of ...  "really, if you come here, the most horrible thing I am going to do to you is hand you this piece of salmon jerky."

Macha, November 2010

I think we're just about over that molehill, and she's starting to grow into those long legs, and I'm beginning to get glimpses of the beauty she is going to be. What's more, her drives and wicked personality are starting to resurface. And she's showing herself to be a true member of the Throw the Ball pack.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Still Alive with Puppy

I've eaten dinner, I crate Lynx and Xita. Tonight's puppy is Oda, so I let her out of the crate where I fed her dinner, then take her out to pee, then we head back inside.

Just 15 more minutes of work to do before I can break for the night, so I sit at my desk. Oda trots by, 8 pages of edited work in her mouth. I thank her for the delivery and ask her to go back for more. Agreeably, she trots back into the TV room and returns with the sat TV remote. I rescue it from her and suggest a tug toy might be a better option. She agrees and hops onto the futon sofa with the tug. I turn back to the computer screen.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Oda trot by with a shoe. I rescue the shoe and hand her a stuffed sheep with blue legs and fuschia feet. She hops onto the futon with the toy. I grab the rest of my pages from the TV room and sit down at the computer again.

I hear a thump and a plastic noise, Oda trots by with the DVD remote. I rescue it and hand her a tennis ball. She hops onto the futon with the ball. I go back to work, replying to emails. Flint steals the tennis ball. I rescue the tennis ball from Flint. Nike flops beneath the futon, Oda jumps on her head. Wrestling ensues. I go back to the email.

Another odd noise comes from the mudroom. There's Oda with a shoe. I rescue the shoe and hand her the tug again. Futon posing ensues.

Who me?
Oda is to my right now, trying to remove the quilting buttons from the seat of the old office chair. I suggest she do something else, so she grabs an old monitor part and runs off with it. I decide I don't care about the plastic monitor back. But I can see another shoe needs rescuing now. I find a rubber puppy toy and play tug with Oda for a couple of minutes until she distracts herself by grabbing some lint from the trashcan and running off.

Wreaking havoc is *hard work*!
This time I get up from the computer because I hear a clack and a clatter and the television starting up. With a sigh, I get up and go into the TV room. The DVD remote is on the floor.... and Terminator 3 is playing. Oda seems pleased with herself, but I tell her she's not allowed to watch the movie without me. She looks at me, hops over the coffee table and heads off to the futon in the office. With a sigh, I follow her.

The Puppinator.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Trouble with Terriers...

... is that terriers are trouble.

They have, however, taught me quite a few things. The lesson of Terrier Morality is perhaps the most important:

If you can do it, you may do it.

It is notable that my herding-breed German Shepherds do not embody this principle. They very much factor in the concepts of right and wrong in their worldview. They may well decide to do wrong, but it will have been a considered decision. Even the German Shepherd motto reflects this: Do right and fear no one. (No, really, there is a GSD motto!)

This doesn't mean that they automatically know right from wrong--but they learn and they care, and then tend to think about this question of morality: "Is this a wrong thing to do?" Some GSDs are more concerned with this question than others. On one extreme, my first GSD Thorn spent all of his days studying this question and pondering what his goddess wanted of him. He dedicated his life to learning the language of his goddess and spent his hours pondering possible interpretations of her wishes. My 2nd GSD, Frost, was close to the other extreme--she was was greatly dedicated to her wants and needs, and ultimately, was a great, tormented sinner--she knew what was wanted of her, but she just had to do what she had to do.

And even among terriers, there are differences--Flint spent his first year at Thorn's side, and he seems much more desiring to not only hear the commandments but to try to obey them.


Ruffian is free of this--she has grown up heathen and her gods are the wind and the birds and the scent of dirt in the fields.

She ventures forth and quests for communion with her gods and the commandments of the goddess are all too often naught but sounds in the distance. 

The scent of blood, the snarls of battle, the rattle and flutter of a chicken--these to her are celebrations of life and she throws herself forth to participate, body and soul, no time for consideration, no room for shoulds and do nots--only the deafening whistle of exhilaration through her head and heart.

* * *

All this is to say that last night Ruffian got herself in the middle of a fight between three German Shepherds and now sports a deep puncture on the bridge of her nose, another by her ear, a third through and through her ear and also a rip to the edge of  her ear as well as some bruising on her thigh (stepped on?), and no greater appreciation for the frailty of her life.

The German Shepherds are fine. Hopefully they spent the night in the kennel pondering the will and anger of their goddess.