Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Hey Mom! Remember me as a gorgeous pup?

CH MACH Otterby Abercromby and Fetch CD RE XF NAP NAJ

I am quickly approaching the weekend when I go back into the conformation ring for the first time in seven years.  It will be Ghilley's first show in what I hope is a long competition career where conformation is only the beginning.

I find myself looking at her a lot.  She is very pretty.  She is also difficult to resist with a personality to match her looks.

Nearby is my "little man", Robbie.  Robbie is 10.  He will turn 11 in June (same birthday as Ghilley, actually).

Robbie has two championships.  He is a conformation champion, shown by me and finished when he was three.  He is also an agility champion.

He sports a lot more gray these days but he remains a handsome dog.  Most striking on him has always been his perfectly black ears.  Those ears really stand out now with his gray face.

Robbie is my special guy.  He has always had a confidence issue but darned if he does not show how brave he is by his willingness to work with me.

He is my little charmer and flirtie boy too.  He loves to curl his body and wag either in excitement or if he gets embarrassed.  Either time elicits body rubs from me and lots of kisses.

I think he is enjoying his new status as the alpha dog but I can also tell it seems like a lot.  I continually tell him that he is doing great and that he does not need to protect me.

Ghilley and he regularly play and they play without some of the underlying tension that could result from his tussles with MacDuff.

I realized that after a few months of my blog, I have not really had a dedication post to Robbie.  Well, that is him at six months old in the picture at the top.

If I think Ghilley is gorgeous, that picture reminds me that Robbie is too.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Ghilley grows up

It is a good thing that Ghilley is a dog.  If she was not, my blog post would be very humilitating.

Nothing is worse than a mother bragging about her little girl growing up.

Well, I get to experience something for the first time, just like Ghilley.  Her first heat cycle.

Given the fact that my dog owning experience is limited to 14 years with male dogs, I am in unknown territory here.

Since I will be showing Ghilley in conformation, she must remain intact (i.e., unspayed) at least until she is done showing in conformation.

I did go through this with both Duff & Robbie.  Duff had about 1 1/2 years of showing before we stopped.  One can only get so many "reserves" before crying "uncle".

Robbie showed until he was 3 1/2 and earned his breed Championship, with me handling him the whole way.

His reward was a trip to the vet to relieve him of his baggage.  ;-)  Actually, had Robbie's temperament been a little more like Duff's I may have tried to campaign him as a stud dog.  Alas, his temperament is a little twitchy and not something you want to pass onto puppies.

I digress, as usual, though.

Ghilley came into season on Sunday so we get to muddle through everything for the next few weeks together.

I could tell she feeling unsettled this morning, stretching out on her belly and moving around restlessly.  She has my sympathy.

We will save the little panties for nighttime, if loose, with me or when we are out.  Otherwise I know it is healthier for her to not be covered up and she is confined when I am gone.

Now I wonder if some of that puppyish behavior will disappear or not.  We will have to see.  This will be one of many journeys Ghilley and I take together.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Smart little girl

Ghilley has had a few opportunities now, in private lessons with Dee (, to really start working on some foundation work in understanding hind-end awareness, different surfaces and targetting.

We had a blast last night working on shaping her to step up on a step stool with all four paws.  That was not something she did with a lot of drive as she clearly did not want to put her hind legs up.

Once we got past that hurdle, we tested her out on some balance discs (

She definitely liked this better and it took almost no time for her to put all four paws up on the 22 inch disc.  She was a bit like a person on a sailboat at first but it was great to see her adjust herself as I gave her treats to the right, to the left, up, down and in a circle.

We worked her from a 13-inch disc to the 22-inch one, back to a 13-inch disc.

Then, we ended with some work getting her up on a theraball and comfortable with that.

All this helps build awareness of her hind end, confidence in different surfaces and muscle-tone as well.

It is a blast to train her and watch her mind work.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Ring out the Old, Bring in the New

New Year's Eve and New Years are always times where we sit and reflect on the year past and look forward to the year ahead.

I find myself in a somewhat similar place that I did in 2000 reaching towards 2001, but perhaps not as severe.

2009 marked some major changes in my life, some positive, some negative.

During the beginning of the year, I found myself kind of in a continual funk at work.  Add to that fact, I was carrying extra weight on my body that had a lot to do with my perception of myself.

Basically, I was not happy.  Work was not great, but it really boiled down to the fact that when I looked in the mirror, I was unhappy with myself.

I was continuing to compete with both my Border Boys (Duff & Robbie).  They were my rays of sunshine over everything else.  But, after the competitions, I was finding it more difficult to walk around from the pain in my knees.

The stress at work added with my weight caused me to have to increase my high blood pressure medication dose.

It was about the April timeframe when I finally got angry enough at myself to do something.  Anger is the best way I have of describing the feeling.  It is an emotion I am very familiar with and is something I have learned to both curse and bless at times.

It fired me up to start to work on calorie-counting and exercise around the time of April 20th.  I progressed to losing about 8 pounds by the time June rolled around but realized that I really wanted that extra guidance or rigor into my diet that I felt I needed.  Having used Weight Watchers in the past, I joined it online on June 10th and sought to really kick everything into a higher gear.

Well, it did.  By the time mid-October rolled around, I had lost about 33 pounds, was back to a lower dose of the high blood pressure medication, and the pain in my knees is only on occasion if I overstress them somehow.

I am down about 36 pounds to date but that is knowing that I have slowed my progress to get through a horrific budget season and chaos at home with a new puppy in the midst of 2 other dogs (until I lost Duff).

On the dog front, I had fallen into a bit of a pattern with my guys in the early part of the year.  I finally decided to retire Duff from agility at a trial in the end of May.  He just seemed to be struggling with things and while he enjoyed himself, I was concerned that he could injure himself.

Around early June, Robbie's vet was concerned with a blood draw from him and how fast his blood came out to test for heartworm.  We did a heart workup on him with blood pressure tests, EKG and chest x-rays.  His chest x-rays revealed an enlarged heart.  Though nothing really showed up elsewhere, she wanted to have a cardiac ultrasound performed on him.

The ultrasound showed mild cardiomyopathy where he had about a 5% deficiency in his heartbeats and a small regurgitation in his valves.  The amount was so minor as it could only be detected through the ultrasound.

The prognosis was to put him on cardio supplements but not actual medication.  His condition is not so severe that he has to be on full meds.

It was also around that time that I sent an email to Duff & Robbie's breeder regarding thinking about adding a new puppy sometime in the next 12 months.  I had thought of waiting until I lost one (hoping that would not be for awhile) but then thought that if Duff had his daddy's longevity and with Robbie's heart condition, though mild, I may want to act sooner than later.

I would like a puppy raised by my boys where Robbie, though 10 years old, is still of an age to enjoy one.

So, I had my order somewhat placed in the breeder's mind.  I wanted a girl.  I was bound and determined to mix boy and girl since Duff & Robbie could, at times, battle each other.  I also knew that I wanted the "reckless gene" that Duff had.  It is a confidence thing as well as a "woo-hoo" type attitude.

During July, Robbie gave me another terrible scare.  Kicking the latex soccer ball for him on a long run in the park, he yelped on the way out and came up lame.  I carried him home with Duff coming along for the 6-7 block walk home.  A trip to the vet that next day did not reveal too much other than a very strong suspicion it was not a knee but very likely a partial herniated disc in his back.  A regimen of strict crate rest and steriods worked wonders.

Robbie was actually off agility class for 2 1/2 months, meaning Duff was too.  Poor Duff, always an eager worker, was suddenly retired from everything.  We tried to make it up in other ways.

Earthdog came to mind on Labor Day weekend and the boys are always up for that.  It was at this event with a Border Terrier outing that a breeder mentioned the availability of a puppy from Robbie's co-breeder, Ann.

All I thought was, "I planned on a new puppy, but not in the fall.  Work is nuts right now."

After talking with Duff & Robbie's breeder, Jan, though, it seemed worth a trip to meet the little 12-week old girl in early September to see what she was like.

I was prepared to say "no" if it did not click.  Trouble was, I hear about her personality and she shares the exact same birthday as Robbie.

We met and she did seem to take an interest.  I liked her personality and she got along well with the boys (who were with me).  I took the plunge to add her to the household.

That first week was a little nuts, with me making sure the boys did not get into with each other.  But it was clear that they liked this new little girl.  Ghilley fit the household really well.

She reminded me a lot of Duff as a puppy.  Very full of herself and confident.  Wanting to play interactively with me.

After Ghilley arrived, though, it seemed like the deck of cards were falling around me elsewhere.

My friends lost their dog, Golly, Duff's buddy.  A week later, another long-time agility friend lost their dog, Dakota.  He was a dog that learned the joy of barking in agility from Duff.  Robbie's Mom died shortly thereafter, losing her battle with a heart-based tumor.

I was feeling more than a little paranoid but honestly did not expect to join that club in a couple months' time.

I made it through Christmas, feeling okay, but honestly a little meloncholy too.  Memories of my dad floated around in my head during this time too, probably contributing to some of my silence.

It was fun watching my nephews tear open toys but it was not the same.

So, 2009 came to a close.  Some people have said that they feel it has been a bad year.  Yes, in some ways it has.

But, I have a wonderful little miss who reminds both Robbie and myself that life is fun.  I have a new lease on life with a lot less body fat insulation (I do feel that in the winter) though I still aim for more.

Goodbye 2009.  I lost my MacDuff but his memories will always be with me and someday, we will be together again.

Onward to 2010 and adventures with my "little man" and "silly Ghilley".