20 June, 2010

Summer time and the livin’s easy

Well, for dogs anyway. Yesterday I grabbed the girldogs and went down to visit C at Blackthorn Kennel again, to help set up new digs for her chickens and coincidentally attempt to tire out my Shedder by treating her to a family reunion. I wasn’t going to take Tink originally because she occasionally finds outings like this stressful, but as she watched me leash up Zille her head and ears and tail drooped, and drooped, and drooped, yet there was a hopeful little light in her eyes and the barest pleading wag to her tail. There are many things I can withstand, but not Tink using her best and most heart-wrenching tactics to ask “But don’t I get to go, too?” Beowulf briefly considered asking to come along, but I offered him a frozen turkey neck and a frozen chunk of rabbit, and he was all “Screw you guys, I has food that is also a chewie toy!” and didn’t even walk us to the door. He is sometimes problematic with other dogs, whereas Zille is the most submissive dog EVER and Tink just declines to get into anything that even looks like a conflict.

So Tink went. She got to stay in the house while C and I rearranged fence panels and installed chicken wire and other barriers and Zille played crazed Shedder games with the dogs she grew up with. I got to visit with the N litter again, and got barked at by the little red-collar dude, who is clearly going to be a vocal Puppy With Attitude. Their eyes are just starting to slit open, and their legs are supporting them for brief moments in time, but they can definitely creep more swiftly than you’d think.

Musket (brother to Macha, who has been mentioned here before) was Helpful!Puppy–he wanted to carry the wrench, he wanted to help hold up the piece of plywood, he wanted to know what you were doing so he could be involved, too. He is a hilarious, charming, and VERY ACTIVE puppy, who is in fact a perfect puppy as far as I am concerned: charming, winsome, and belonging to someone else. He will make someone one hell of a working dog some day, if you’re in the market for a thinky drivey sable boy then let me commend him to your attention. Definitely not a couch potato housepet dog, and you’d best be prepared to give him lots of constructive ways to channel his energy, but a real charmer and definitely wants to be involved in whatever you’re doing.

Nike was helpful, too. Well, sort of. Nike is QUEEN of sad pleading looks of “I am old dog. All I want in the world is for you to throw this ball in such a way that I may dramatically go and fetch it, without having to worry about these nasty young dogs taking it from me.” and also “I am old dog, and won’t you please gently stroke my head?” This meant the chicken coop construction was not without brief interruptions to gently toss Nike’s ball and gently stroke Nike’s head because, seriously. She’s had twelve years to practice puppy-dog eyes and she is GOOD at it.

You can see Nike and Musket both in the Illustrated Version of Will It Float?. Nike is the star, whereas Musket comes in at the third picture down, he’s the good lookin little sable boy nearest the camera.

The chickens had previously been living in a concrete dog run, and when they were finally installed in their new digs, which feature a tree for shade and a deep composty floor and bugs it took them maybe ten seconds to be all “OH HEY WE CAN BE REAL CHICKENS HERE” and start pecking and scratching and digging through the dirt and just, y’know, charmingly being chickens. I really want chickens. Ahem.

After chickens it was time to get in the pool, and we brought Tink out on a long line that let her come socialize with us and also wander off to the shade if she wanted. Zille got in the pool once, not very voluntarily. Tink went so far as to stand on the top step and get her front paws wet, she thought about stepping down to the second step but couldn’t find it (it’s hard for even seeing dogs to find that second step, let alone my little mostly-blind girl) and declined to go deeper but she did have herself a good time hanging out in the shade and occasionally coming over to check on us in the pool. She even got to be off-leash on the way back to the house and for once did not pull her “WHEEEEE NO LEASHES NO FENCES I AM FREEEEE” business but instead upon figuring out she was leashless trotted ahead of us back to the house and then stared back impatiently. “Why are you people being so slow?? Don’t you know the air conditioning is INSIDE??”

Zille spent most of pool time looking for a ball she could have, and a lot of pool time hanging out with Tink in the shade. Zille takes her duties as Seeing Eye Shedder very seriously. This left us with Flint the Loch Blackthorn Monster in the pool, with occasional huge cannonball dives by Nike, who WANTS THE BALL, while C and I just enjoyed the coolish water after our satisfying chicken-related labors.

After swimming, dogs got locked up in the house so we could go to dinner, and then finally I loaded tired girldogs back in the car and we rolled down the road back to the Manor of Mixed Blessings. The girls were so tired that they passed out in the car, got up long enough to come in the house, and then they kicked Beowulf off the futon and stretched out, butt to butt, and snored. At one point Beowulf approached to see if maybe there was room for a boydog there, and they warned him off in synch without ever actually opening their eyes. They did consent to get up for dinner but then it was right back to bed. I followed them after a shower, and then, MIRACLE OF MIRACLES, I got to sleep straight through until 0615. Even Roo did not wake me. What good critters I have.

There are no pictures, C and I were too busy cooling down in the pool. Ah, well. It was still a fantastic day, and the girls are STILL sleeping it off this morning.

In non-dog-related news, my fiance Daniel’s visa paperwork has made it to the London Embassy, which sent him another big pile of paperwork to fill out. We’re currently assembling the required supporting documents so he can send the stuff back and it’s not inconceivable he will have his visa sometime in August! Very exciting, because it means we will probably be able to get married early this fall! At which point, not only will I be able to treat you to the finest in the hilarity of living with a pack of quadrupeds who outnumber me seven to one, but also the finest in the hilarity of a nice British man moving to backwoods Virginia. Woot!

13 June, 2010

The best puppies belong to other people

Yesterday I went down to Blackthorn Kennel to visit my friend C and socialize with other visitors, and also meet the N Litter. At a whopping three days old, they were the most adorable puppyloafs you have ever seen. Tickling them on the sides, chest, or behind the ear will get you a vague reflexive thumping of one back leg, offering them a finger gets a much less vague reflexive suck. They grunt, wail, and cheep at this age, and have adorable little vaguely feline faces with wrinkly muzzles, plus soft baby fur. They’re also just beginning to be mobile, paddling around their whelping box to find the perfect spot, although occasionally flummoxed by the obstacle of Mom’s leg, and her tail invariably produced a confused halt. At this age, they are probably the best-behaved they will ever be and boy, you should see their rock-solid down-stays (although they don’t maintain a head-up sphynx posture, preferring to do their down-stays on their sides, so I guess it doubles as “play dead”).

I also got to snuggle with Macha, and offer Xita some chicken jerky (I never go to Blackthorn without bribes) which is how I discovered that even though she is looking pregnant, Xita knows how to sit up and beg, which was totally adorable. She’s a level-headed love of a dog, really.

After puppy-snuggling and dog-bribing we all headed out for a movie and then followed it up with some excellent Thai food. I crawled home at 2100 and got a stern lecture from the Usual Suspects, discovered Jeremiah Swakhammer had buried himself in protest at his new surroundings, and then got yelled at by Noodlehead on top of it all. This morning Emmaline came up and explained to me that she hadn’t gotten dinner last night because I wasn’t here, and would need extra wet food. Clearly I am expected to never leave the house.

P.S. C did take puppy pics. I will post a link when she has them up!

ETA: Get your dose of puppy right here, y’all.

6 June, 2010

Zille, Macha, and a Disapproving Toad

While I’m waiting for the sun to come up enough for me to go check on Noodlehead, and also torturing Rooney Lee by not feeding him despite the fact that he’s been whining at me for an hour now, I worked up pics from yesterday’s visit from my friend C.

While Macha was nervous at first, Zille’s repertoire of play bows, bounces, and scampers put her at her ease:
Macha, a bicolor German Shedder puppy in a red collar who has a glossy black coat and elegant tan legs, has pinned Zille, a sable German Shedder bitch who is easily twice her size at least.  Zille's mouth is open, showing a fearsome array of shiny white teeth.  Macha is straddling Zille's shoulders and head, and is clearly not worried about the teeth.

Then Zille showed her how to cool her tummy off by splashing in the wading pool:
Zille digs in a small light blue plastic wading pool, the end result of which is that her belly and legs are splashed with water, while Macha watches attentively.

After some zooming, all pictures of which turned out unacceptably blurry, Macha decided it was time to give splashing a try:
Macha digs and splashes in the pool just like Zille showed her how to do, while Zille looks on approvingly.

Then everyone splashed together (we had to refill the pool a couple times in the middle of all this splashing):
Macha and Zille stand facing each other with their forelegs in the wading pool, digging at the water to splash their bellies.

Zille was excessively pleased with herself for teaching the puppy to do something messy:
A full body shot of Zille who stands, turned about three quarters to the camera, grinning and ears up with about ten miles of wet pink tongue dangling out of her mouth.

Then there was fetchy with a stick:
To the left is me, a skinnyish woman in jeans and a black t-shirt, holding a stick out of reach of Macha, who is in the act of sitting with her back to the camera.  Zille stands in front of me, staring at me attentively in the hopes that this will cause me to throw the stick faster.

Macha sits with her body in profile to the camera but her face turned toward it, watching someone just outside of the shot.  This someone can be reasonably assumed to be holding the fetchy stick, because Zille, who is sitting almost face-on to the camera, is also staring at the same someone.

Zille is a very diplomatic dog, good at putting puppies at their ease, but she was not about to let the puppy have that fetchy stick:
Zille trots with one end of a stick in her mouth, her ears and eyes betraying joy and satisfaction at the fact that she has once again convinced someone to play fetch with her, and also the fact that she has a stick that Macha really wants but cannot have.  Macha tags along behind, focused on the stick but too clever to make a try for it.

Disapproving Toad did not appreciate all this activity in the yard:
Disapproving Toad, a dusty greyish toad with black markings, sits facing the camera on the dirt between clumps of grass and disapproves of all the excitement in the yard.  This is clearly one of the most disapproving amphibians ever.

An eventful Saturday at the Manor

Actually, the morning passed in blissful leisure. The afternoon was happy activity, my friend C (of Blackthorn Kennel) who bred Zille came over, bringing with her puppy Macha, Zille’s half sister. Pictures later, when I’ve had a chance to process them. Macha was a little nervous at first but Zille used her best bounces, play bows, and scampers, and soon the half-sisters were having a grand good time playing bitey-face, smacking each other on the head with their paws, and then Zille taught Macha how to splash all the water out of the wading pool.

Finally, Shedders worn out to good behavior, we came into the house where Macha was adorable and thought the Manor was Disneyland–toys everywhere! A cat who would kinda play with her! New foods like tomato and blueberry and the same kibble the big dogs got at dinner time! She was less than skilled at eating the cherry tomato and eventually gave up at which point Tink took it, but she got the hang of blueberries pretty quickly. Macha was also small enough to fit through the cat doors at the bottoms of the gates that protect the bedrooms from dogs. Whoops! She didn’t LOOK small enough to fit, but apparently can collapse herself partially into another dimension. Luckily, being a good puppy, she did not use her powers for evil and dig through the litter boxes, she just played with Rooney Lee and tried to steal a couple stuffed mice. When we caught on that the cats were NOT the ones giving her the toys and closed the cat gates (the cats can also go over), she decided on a bone to chew and even tried out Zille’s dog bed.

When C left, taking Macha with her, Noodlehead was on the front porch. I gave her food, she ate it, and hung around yelling and also biting and hissing if anyone tried to touch her. She wasn’t giving serious bites, just warning nips, but the Best Mom Ever and I heeded the warnings and stopped trying to touch her. I’m pretty sure she’s in the early stages of labor. We were a bit worried we’d have to sit on the porch with her all night as she got very upset every time either one of us left, but eventually she adjourned to the cat shelter in the woods at the edge of my front yard (not far from where the turtle was Saturday morning) and hopefully she intends to stay there if she really is about to have kittens. Once the sun’s up a little bit, we’ll go out and check on her.