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And I Thought It Had Been A While.....

Posted on October 27, 2011 at 7:25 PM Comments comments ()

Whew!  I knew I hadn't posted to this blog for a good long time but I didn't realize exactly how long.  Please forgive me for being remiss.

Let's see...  What all has happened in the past months?

We were very proud of the show dogs this summer.  First, in July, Mollie finished her AKC Championship in a big way.  Mollie swept the three day weekend in Dallas with WB/BOW for three majors and her title.  Since then, over four weekends, she has met all but one criteria and lacks only 10 points toward her Grand Championship.

We took both Mollie and Kodi to the Monroe, LA show over Labor Day weekend and had each of them show two of the four days.  They both took Best of Breed both days they were entered - and Kodi achieved his Grand Championship.  He is now enjoying the life of a semi-retired show dog.  I say "semi-retired" because he will continue to show at select shows when warranted.

Stetson also had a great weekend at the Monroe show.  He took WD/BOW two of the four days.  He also earned Best Puppy honors and represented himself well in groups and earned placements both days.  He also placed in the the fun match groups.  Since then, he has continued to earn points and is well on the road to earning his AKC Championship.

At home, the dogs are all well.  We are finally settled in here in Denton and enjoying returning to the more active lifestyle of being in the city.  We have established a couple of walking routines and are resuming a schedule.  Both ourselves and the dogs are improving our physical conditioning.  Now that November is just around the corner and I begin to hear the jingle bell sound in commercials on the t.v., the dogs are enjoying cooler temperatures.  This past summer we experienced record hot weather and the dogs spent most of their summer napping in the house.  Now, they can finally lounge around on the back patio or roll in the grass and knaw on the twigs Jake's been trimming off the trees and bushes.  Their evening walks have been absolutely beautiful for the last two or three weeks.

So...  life goes on.  Life is good.  I have to admit a certain amount of sadness surfacing with the season change as I associate it with the impact of Nellie's illness this time last year and approaching the anniversary of saying goodbye.  She was such a large part of our lives that her absence is felt dramatically even now.  It is always a comfort to come home and be greeted so enthusiastically by the crew.  Stetson and Mollie's unabashed joy at my return from work is very comforting and Kodi's quiet assumption of his place in my heart helps fill the void left by Nellie.  Gumby is so frequently a reflection of his mother than I can't help but cherish his sweet nature and Chuckwagon's steadfast, unconditional love reminds me of Nellie's focused devotion. 

People often ask how I can own dogs with a shorter than average lifespan.  Fortunately, Mastiffs lives aren't as short as many imagine.  However, I explain that as difficult as it is to lose one, the love of others always pulls me through.  Years ago, I came to the realization that although I feel my loss of each one of these amazing creatures very deeply, having them allows me to get to know many souls - each as remarkable and irreplaceable as any other.  So, even as I lost Nellie last year, I gained Stetson.  I appreciate each and every day with the goofy boy and when the day finally comes to say goodbye to him, I know in my heart that there will be others to help ease my grief and pull me through. 

With that, I think I'll go snuggle with my "kids" and enjoy a quiet, rainy fall evening.  My hope for you is that you have a four legged critter to snuggle up with and love on as well.

It Sure Has Been A While!

Posted on March 31, 2011 at 10:05 PM Comments comments ()

My apologies to anyone who checks in periodically, looking for a recent blog post.  The fall and holidays were busy and a little overwhelming.  Since New Year's, we have been focused on trying to relocate to Denton, TX.  So...  I haven't stayed current.


As a quick update to bring people up to speed - On December 2, 2010, we made the difficult decision to say goodbye to Nellie.  It was the right time.  She told us so.  She was remarkably calm, at ease, even happy.  It is still difficult to look through the house and not find her.  She was my "girlfriend."  I miss her.  I suppose I always will. 


As timing would have it, I left the following day for Portland to bring home the newest member of the family.  Stetson is another wonderful soul blessing our lives from the generosity of our friend, Denise Hyer of Wynwood Ranch Mastiffs.  His mother is Mollie's half sister.  We are very excited contemplating his future.


Once we got through the holidays, I began looking for jobs in Denton and we began searching for a home there as well.  The way things sometimes work out, I found my job quickly but we are still looking for the right home.  So, I spend my weeks living in Denton at the Motel6, trading out Kodi and Mollie for companionship.  Then, on weekends, I head back to east Texas.  Of course, soon, I will be having to take call and when I do, I won't be able to go home on the weekends I am committed to the hospital.  With any luck, we'll have a house by then.


This past weekend was the Ft Worth Kennel Club dog show.  I can't tell you why, but I have always enjoyed that show.  The first time I went was when Kodi was still a puppy and we had just started showing.  It was just the two of us and we knew no one.  Heather Reid (then Tauer), was kind enough to be friendly with me and make me feel welcome.  We didn't do anything noteworthy in the ring but we had fun, visited some friends and family, and learned a great deal more about showing.


Since then, Kodi earned his second major in Ft Worth.  By then, I was getting a little more experienced and polished with showing, as was Kodi.  Phil got to make that trip with us and we knew more people.  The weekend was great fun.


The icing on the cake happened this past weekend though.  This was Stetson's first weekend as a show dog at the ripe old age of 6 months (barely.)  I was very proud of how he did in the ring.  Considering I haven't been home to work with him, he did a remarkably good job of stacking and moving around the ring well.  As long as I can help him keep his bubbly, happy attitude, he'll be a great show dog.


Mollie continues to be the "professional" show dog.  She is as dependable as they come in the ring.  We will be focusing this year on obtaining her majors and doing our research into possible stud partners for her first breeding.  Hopefully, we'll be planning puppies around Christmas.


Kodi somehow blossomed before our eyes last fall.  He finally matured and beefed up and now looks every bit the gorgeous male mastiff.  He isn't tall but he's built well and is nicely balanced.  Since we found the right diet, his coat is beautiful.  All the pieces came together this last weekend when he beat the number one dog in the country to take Best of Breed on Sunday under judge, Mrs. Joan Anselm.  This is the second time he has beaten this particular dog, but this show was a big one for our region with 35 entries.  With his Best of Breed award on Sunday and receiving Select on Saturday, Kodi earned two 5 pt majors this weekend in the chase for his Grand Championship.  And as a reward, he got to come back to the Motel6 for this week with me.  He's been great company.


So, soon I will try to get back here and blog about something more interesting than just the happenings of the last several months.  Hopefully, I'll have something wonderful, interesting, or even amusing to discuss.  In the meantime, I hope you all, and your dogs, are doing well and enjoying the improving weather.  Hey, go take a walk!!

When Is It Really Time?

Posted on October 23, 2010 at 9:28 PM Comments comments ()

This is a question that every true pet lover has had to ask themselves at some point.  Allowing our beloved friends a graceful and gentle end is one of the greatest things we can do for them that we cannot do for ourselves.  We owe it to them to work through whatever our own issues are, be educated about their individual conditions, and prepare ourselves to do the right thing at the right time.


You might ask yourself why I am discussing this particular question at this time.  Phil and I are coming to terms with this issue ourselves - again.  This past Thursday, we took Nellie into our vet with a realistic expectation of what we knew he would tell us.  Getting x-rays was really a formality to confirm what we already suspected - Osteosarcoma.  It presented in it's classic manner, starting with an occasional limp that became constant just as a lump in her leg became obvious - only two short weeks ago.


Nellie is our seven year old girl, mother to Kodi, Gumby, and Chuckwagon.  We were blessed to bring Nellie home to our family four days before Christmas 2003.  Over the first two weeks, we fought the battle of upper respiratory illness with her and through the process, discovered what a little trooper she was.  From the very beginning, Nellie was sweet and devoted.  She has spent every day of her life loving us unconditionally.


I will address the beauty that is Nellie in some other entry.  Today, I want to discuss Nellie's condition, our treatment choice, and the prognosis.  I will share what I have discovered in my reading.  With Osteosarcoma, 90% of all cases have already metastasized by the time the dog shows symptoms and gets diagnosed.  Most commonly, the cancer spreads to the lungs or another bone.  Occasionally, it spreads to the lymph nodes.  There are surgical options - amputation or excision of the tumor.  Also available are radiation and chemotherapy options.  Depending on what treatment options are chosen, the best case scenario is for a dog to survive from seven months to an outside maximum of two years.


With all this information in mind, Phil and I knew before we received the official diagnosis what our choice for Nellie would be.  Nellie's tumor is at the distal end of the radius in the left front leg.  For a mastiff, being a front loaded breed, amputating a front leg is something you can't ask them to adapt to - let's not add the fact that we're talking about a seven year old girl.  The option to have the tumor removed and some kind of graft put in to help strengthen the bone wasn't something we wanted to consider.  It is incredibly expensive and doesn't significantly lengthen their life.  Chemotherapy and radiation are very costly and although most veterinarians like to say that dogs tolerate both very well, I am skeptical based on the stories those who have tried it tell afterward.  In humans, all these options are worthy of consideration, particularly because the possibility of substantially lengthening the patient's life expectancy is reasonable.  In dogs, the possible time added is not great in comparison to the struggle, recovery from treatments, and the possible side effects - not to mention the expense.


So, on Thursday, Phil and I brought Nellie home with resolve to love her and enjoy her for whatever time we are blessed with.  We will medicate for pain for as long as it helps and prepare ourselves for the difficult day when we are forced to say goodbye to the beautiful soul that has given us love and unmeasureable joy since the moment she put her little paws around my neck and refused to let go.  Nellie and I had a quiet moment on the back porch a few nights ago.  I assured her that I was in no hurry to see her go but that when she'd had enough, all she had to do was tell me.  Nellie, in her inimitable style, shoved her head into my arms and told me not to worry.

How Much Is A Bag Of Dog Food At Walmart?

Posted on September 28, 2010 at 9:05 PM Comments comments ()

People!!!  Really?!!!  You can choose to bring a puppy into your home but you can't afford to even buy the cheapest possible dog food and feed that puppy?


Now, I know that it is a comparatively small number of people in the country who "spoil" their dogs with high quality dog food, cooking treats and supplements, etc like we do.  I don't expect everyone to be as focused on their dogs' diets as we are.  However, I think it is a small thing to expect people to feed a dog adequately if they choose to bring that dog into their home and family.  A basic bag of kibble from Walmart isn't going to break the bank.


This topic of conversation comes up because last Thursday, while I was taking Kodi and Mollie on our usual four mile walk, we encountered a sweet young boy (maybe six months but it's hard to tell in his current condition).  He barked a greeting to us from the bank on the side of the road and then came approaching deferentially in order to make a good impression.  It wasn't until he was in front of the three of us, rolling over submissively, that I got a good look at him and realized he was mere days from starving to death.  If I wanted to learn more about the canine skeletal anatomy, he was a good demonstrator.  Every bone was individually visible.  He barely had the strength to jump up to say hello and when I stole Kodi's leash from him to put around the boy's neck, he didn't have the strength to argue.  I called Phil to come pick him up because I didn't want to burn critical calories walking him home the remaining two miles.


So began our current journey.  We are trying to, little by little, re-introduce feedings to him.  We immediately started with small, water soaked feedings so that he wouldn't over fill his tummy and make himself sick.  We've been giving those feedings four times a day.  Finally, we have begun to increase the size of the feeding and can now feed him only three times per day.  He is still frantic to eat and never feels full.  It will be a long time yet before he feels satisfied at the end of a meal.  However, he is learning more patience and will stand quietly until the bowl is put down when it becomes clear that he won't get it until he does so.  He is good about letting us pick the bowl up in mid-feeding and never shows a cross response.  Yet, if Bowie tries to come near while he is eating, he will growl.  It remains to be seen if his canine directed food aggression will improve when he gains confidence that each meal won't be the last for a while.


In addition to starting his feedings gently and gradually increasing his daily intake, we immediately wormed him.  For our efforts, both Phil and I think we are seeing a slight softening of the edges around his bones.  The texture of his coat is softening from the wiry, malnourished feel he had but it will be a month or two before we notice that it has filled in where it had gotten thin from the lack of nutrients.


As I loaded this young boy into the van when Phil drove out to pick him up, I mentally told him he had no idea what a lucky day it was for him.  I am certain that had I not crossed paths with him that day, he wouldn't still be alive.  I know I cannot possibly save them all, but I can do my best one dog at a time.  And this boy's time is now.  We will fatten him up, get him neutered and current on his shots, and find him a home somewhere.  As luck would have it, someone at work asked me that very afternoon if I knew of a young dog that needed a home.  Hopefully, that person will decide to bring this boy home when he is ready.


Still, this experience continues to highlight a great frustration that Phil and I have about our community.  We live in farm country.  Like many parts of this country, the value placed on animals' lives is not what we would hope for.  Few people acknowledge the importance of routine veterinarian care.  Few people place priority on safeguarding their animals' welfare through appropriate fencing, etc.  Even fewer people will make the small investment to have their dogs spayed/neutered appropriately.  With a value system like this, it really shouldn't surprise me that they also place no value on keeping their dogs fed.


This is about as high as I want to climb on my soapbox.  I can't go out and start campaigning for community awareness.  I understand that many a well intentioned indivdual has started working toward correcting these problems only to get caught up in the legislative process with the outcome being the crazy proposed legislation we see ever more frequently across the country.  Mandatory spay and neuter is not the answer.  Breed specific legislation is no the answer.  Making it nearly impossible for responsible breeders to provide healthy, well adjusted animals is not the answer.  Somewhere, the answer lies in reaching these people who don't have the education or background to process the value of these lives and do not accept the responsibility that is demanded when making the choice to bring these dogs into their homes.  Someone out there who is smarter and more socially and politically driven than I has the answer.


So, for now, we will tackle our little corner of the world one beating heart at a time.  At this moment, that focus is on a sweet little black and tan puppy that appears to be a hound/shepherd mix of some sort with beautiful, soulful gold eyes.  What a bittersweet experience it is to feed him and watch him joyfully scarf down his kibble.  With each pound he adds to pad his little bones, with each pound of muscle he adds that gives him strength, we will gain a little peace from the thought that we helped in some way.


And as I put down bowls full of expensive, high quality kibble doctored with yummy canned food, special blends of homemade concoctions, and enticing leftovers from the fridge and watch our cherished mastiffs (and Bowie, of course) casually nibble away, I heave a sigh of relief.  I laughingly note that they have no idea how good they have it.  In reality, I say my prayers of thanks that they don't.  I am thrilled that they take their lives for granted and will never know what it is to sleep in a pile of wet leaves under a tree.  They will never have need to resort to eating whatever they find that appears edible on the side of the road or in someone's unattended trash can.  They will never have to drink muddy, slimy water full of who knows what microbes.  Most importantly, they will never know what it is to live a single day without a sense of belonging and purpose; without the confidence that comes from knowing in their hearts that they are truly and well loved. 


In return, I go to sleep each night with the feelings returned to me tenfold.  I drift off with the reassuring sounds of mastiffs snoring throughout my house.  I am comforted in the dark by the sound of happy feet chasing who knows what in their mastiff sized dreams.  The dried drool that decocrates the blanket on my bed is a reminder of the love these gentle souls share with me every day.  In the end, it is I who is most blessed by these beating hearts that share my life.


Addendum:  October 23, 2010

Little "Amigo", the dog that I found almost starved, stayed with us a month.  He gained a substantial amount of weight, began to feel less frantic about where the next meal would come from, and learned to be friends with our entire crew.  We tried to find a home with people we knew would safeguard him for the rest of his days but didn't find the appropriate place for him.  A friend of ours runs a no-kill shelter on his nearby ranch with large kennels.  Most of the dogs have free run on the property where the kennel is housed.  All are well fed, given complete medical care, spayed/neutered, and loved.  If they are lucky enough to be selected by a prospective home, they will be adopted out.  If the right family never comes along, they happily live out their lives being well cared for at the shelter.  I took Amigo to join these happy canines last week.  Within moments he was cheerfully barking with the pack as they sang to announce our presence in the kennel.  He was wagging his tail and confidently chowing down on his first feeding.  I pray some loving family comes along but am sure that, regardless, he will lead a happy life with all his new friends.

Back In The Saddle

Posted on September 17, 2010 at 7:54 PM Comments comments ()

So, after our previously referred to break, we are back into the show routine - albeit a little less hectic.  A couple of weeks ago, we took the four day holiday weekend over Labor Day and went to Monroe, LA.  It was a small entry, to say the least.  Actually, it was Mollie, Kodi and the number one (All-Breed Ranking System) mastiff in the country (LazyD's Bonnie Blue).  Nothing foolhardy about that!!


Actually, we had a really nice weekend, crazy as that might seem to many.  Mollie was in full blown heat.  That translates to mean that Kodi had absolutely no brain.  He was so distracted and frazzled that even the four judges had to chuckle at him and express their patience and sympathy for his plight. 


However, unlike all the previous times we've lived through a girl in season with Kodi, he was not driven completely over the edge with desire.  He was able to sleep at night and only gave up eating for about six days, as opposed to the usual four weeks he used to fast.  While we were out of town, we were able to put Kodi in the bathroom section of the hotel room and block it off by leaning a folded soft crate across the doorway.  For safety, Mollie was crated in a wire crate whenever they were unsupervised.  (It's a lot harder for Kodi to break into a crate than to break out.)  A weekend that could have easily been sheer torture for us wasn't very eventful as far as the possible issues surrounding a weekend of traveling with an intact male and a girl in season.


Although Mollie won WB, she gained no points since the only other girl entered was absent.  Kodi took BOS to Bonnie (not an insult, by any means), got lots of sympathy, and received compliments from the judges despite his distracted state.  It was a very good exercise for both of them and myself.  Mollie was able to experience a show while in season and, to her credit, was virtually unaffected.  She was her usual chipper self, even with the onset of a UTI in the middle of the night Saturday.  Because I had both Mollie and Kodi to take into the breed class, I had to enlist the assistance of someone to handle Mollie.  She was a little taken by surprise the first day, but relaxed more each day with the surprise of finding herself handed off to someone else.  For my part, the exercise of handling Kodi while in an overwhelmingly distracted state, was a good learning experience and great practice, despite the moments of frustration.


I was very proud of both of the kids.  When I considered the events of the weekend during the drive home, I was most pleased with Mollie's behavior during her first season.  Many a young female mastiff has been ruined by the stress of showing during her first season, particularly if they have some sort of negative event to associate with it.  Mollie, as usual, took the entire experience of being in season in stride - without concern.  Her temperament is so solid that things just don't get the best of her.  What a trooper!


So, we have two to four shows we are considering in October.  There are several we could decide on in November but are leaning towards not doing much that month.  In December, there are shows during the first several weeks, although we will likely only enter the Dallas show.  As it stands, we should have a busy next six weeks or so and then calm back down as we head into the holiday season and the close of the year. 


Here's hoping for a strong finish to 2010!!

Sometimes, A Little Break Is Called For

Posted on August 8, 2010 at 8:15 PM Comments comments ()

Experienced dog people will tell you, there are times where the best thing to do is to simply take a break.  That is a great piece of advice that one does well to heed.  So.... at this moment, we are enjoying one such break.


We have been going strong since Specialty in May - showing every two to three weeks, sometimes even back-to-back.  Before that, we were showing plenty often enough considering what a young puppy Mollie was.  So, when we discovered after showing at the Longview show a couple of weeks ago that we hadn't really had much of a good time, we elected to take a little time off.  Although we are still only about one third of the way through the planned time off, it has proven to be a very good decision.


After my previous entry extolling our ability to have a good time no matter what, you might be wondering what happened that I would summarize our weekend saying we didn't have much fun.  Actually, we still had fun showing, but it was definitely not the light hearted play that we usually experience.  If I share my thoughts too directly, you might think I have gotten a little full of myself.  However, in all honesty, I am pretty fair minded about the other dogs we compete against and am able to appreciate that a judge might prefer another over mine, even if I don't agree.  The Longview weekend was an exception.


Near as I can tell, on Saturday, the judge simply picked the professional handler.  There was one dog and two bitches, Mollie and another girl.  Neither the dog nor the other bitch had ever shown before.   Both were totally thrown by the environment and the noise.  The floor was cement with epoxy paint and, although it wasn't terribly slick, it was a little unsettling to move on without the customary mats.  Both dogs sort of crouched close to the floor, kept eyeing the exit to the ring, tried to bolt when given half a chance, and wouldn't stand for exam.  Mollie, on the other hand, was her usual professional and cheerful show dog self.  Her ability to stack was afffected by the slick floor so her feet weren't quite far enough behind her.  Still, she did incredibly well.  Yet, in the end, the professional handler on the other bitch earned his wage and got the point for Winner's Bitch and the dog earned a point in the crossover by being named Best of Winner's.  It isn't often that I leave the ring aggravated as I understand well that some days you win and some days you lose.  However, on this day, when Mollie was far and away the best class dog, I was really frustrated that the judge didn't find it in himself to put up the best dog.  On Sunday, the outcome was similar.  However, although the other bitch still didn't show as well as Mollie, she did show better.  And this judge at least had the good sense not to put up the boy for the crossover point.


While out sightseeing on the way home, it dawned on me that I wasn't experiencing my usual sense of general good humor post dog show.  Maybe it was the frustration with the judging.  Maybe it was the lack of friends entering their dogs and coming to share in the fun.  Maybe it was the fact that we live so close, showed so early, and were on our way home before our teenage son would even be crawling out of bed.  Whatever the reason, I wasn't "feeling it."


So, with a little introspection and some good discussion between Phil and myself, we decided the healthiest thing for Mollie and myself was to take August off.  We had originally planned to register for the Greeley, CO show but decided that with Mollie still needing a little time to mature into her own in order to be competitive against the older girls, it wouldn't make sense to spend that money to go that far only to leave empty handed.  We really wanted to go "home" to visit the older boys, see our dog friends and others, and visit Phil's Dad.  It just didn't make sense at this time.


So, we are enjoying some weekends settled at home.  I'd like to say we're getting lots of productive things done but that wouldn't be strictly true.  We have gotten a few good things accomplished but mostly, we're relaxing, enjoying Jake's company, getting some of Jake's driving hours in, and catching up on general hosuehold chores.  I even took the grandkids, Jake, and a friend of his to Six Flags this past Friday.


As we enjoy our time re-energizing ourselves, we are also plotting and planning for the home stretch for the show season.  Like the rest of the year, there are plenty of opportunities to show in Texas going through the fall and into the holidays.   Mollie looks like she's "thinking" about finally starting to mature a little and put on some weight - her backside is getting a little wider, for one thing.  Another couple of months and she should be more competitive and start to gain some points.  Then, I doubt it will take her long to put the "Ch" before her name.   Once that happens, what will I do?  Enjoy some more weekend re-energizing?  Hopefully, not too many.

A Network Of Friends

Posted on July 12, 2010 at 12:22 AM Comments comments ()

I always stop to reflect, after the completion of a show weekend, at how much fun Phil and I have.  We have gotten pretty efficient at the preparation and packing process so that it isn't much of a headache.  We've also gotten very organized at moving in and out of hotel rooms with as little hassle as possible.  With those two chores managed, all that is left is to enjoy ourselves, which we do.


Even when we go to smaller shows where few of our friends are entered, we have fun.  It is a simple fact that we have discovered a passion for these dogs that binds us together even more strongly than we realize.  Because of that, we can have a great weekend when it is just the two of us at the show.  Fortunately, we are often blessed with the chance to visit and catch up with other friends from the dog community.


This weekend was one such weekend.  We had friends from near Austin and Houston make the trip to Dallas, as well as a few local friends who chose to come watch, share the three days.  What is it we enjoy with these people?  The shared interest in these wonderful dogs creates a common ground.  Some of us are old school, long time mastiff people.  Some of us are relatively new.  Some of us are just plain rookies.  Regardless, we can share our love for mastiffs, and the more knowledgeable can share their wealth of information with those of us hungry to learn the history, the standard and how to apply it, and which judges like (or don't like) what..  Each of us has something to share and teach the others.


Along the way, we have discovered a network - our network.  Little by little we recognize the web that links one friend to another friend's friend, to another, and another....  Because we are not networking for the sake of networking, but because we truly want to have friends that are knowledgeable, passionate, and participate with integrity, we are gradually building relationships with friends that we hope will last through the years. 


While at Specialty each year, I am always amused to watch the "old school" of breeders who quietly preserve the history of our breed and the club.  These people have been friends, acquaintances, and adversaries for years, sometimes decades.  What they generally have in common is an unspoken agreement to treat each other with respect for their differences.  They are capable of disagreeing about what they think a mastiff is or should be, and still remain friends.  My hope and belief is that Phil and I are in the process of building our "old school" network, that years from now we will be the ones to assume that quiet but crucial role in this community with the people that we are learning from today.


In the meantime, we will continue to ask the questions and accept the lessons when they are graciously offered.  We will grow our knowledge, our perspective, (our thick skin), our persistence, and our network.  All the while, we will continue to enjoy the game.  Thanks to Mollie, that's a very easy thing to do.

Post MCOA Specialty

Posted on June 13, 2010 at 11:22 PM Comments comments ()

Wow!  It's been a while.  Actually, I wrote a blog entry prior to leaving for Specialty in Eugene, OR but had difficulty uploading it.  So, here I am with a post-Specialty entry instead.


As usual, Specialty was an absolute blast.  Both Phil and I enjoyed ourselves immensely.  It was a week chock full of learning opportunities, chances to visit with old friends and get to know new ones, and multiple appearances in the show ring.  Unfortunately, Kodi's coat was in very poor condition from his bout with hot spots and hives from the spring hay season and he did not show despite being entered in three different events throughout the week.


Mollie did show - and boy, did she show!  The first opportunity to do our thing in the ring was Sunday morning for the Sweepstakes prior to the REMC Specialty.  I will always remember that being the moment that the light bulb went on and Mollie discovered for herself that she was a show dog!  Over the course of the week, Mollie showed six times.  That is an awful lot for a nine month old puppy and most become incredibly bored or tired or cranky before the end of the week.  Not Mollie.  She could by lying quietly ringside, even sleeping, and when I would tug at her collar to tell her it was time to go, she would leap up and instantly "turn on".  When the week was over, Mollie had placed five of the six times she had shown - a first, a second, two thirds and a fourth.  When all was said and done, what mattered most and will be forever etched in my memory, is not the successful placements consistently won throughout the week but the great joy and enthusiasm Mollie showed and the fun that we had together every time we entered the ring.


Aside from Mollie's success in the show ring, I was also incredibly proud of her in anoher more important regard.  Despite the very long ride in the car, both coming and going.  Despite the lengthy stay away from home.  Despite the stress of meeting hundreds of new people and nearly as many dogs.  Despite being met with the occasional testy or cranky mastiff - Mollie was always a lady, always a picture of good nature, good humor, and simple joy.  She had veteran dogs, cranky in their old age, snap at her without warning.  She had boisterous, mature boys decide that she was cute and needed to enjoy their attention.  She had many the puppy, older and younger, decide it was time to wrestle her to the ground.  At every encounter, Mollie took the behavior and responded to it with the appropriate reaction.  She was never ruffled or flustered and she was always up for a good time when someone else wanted to play.  Never did I have reason to worry that she would decide that she was either frightened or had simply had enough.


So....  Kodi, buddy, I am so sorry you weren't at your best and couldn't show.  It was a long trip for nothing but a week in the hotel room.  Thanks for being such a good sport about the whole thing.  Phil, thank you so much for again being the driver and getting us all there and home in one piece.  I had a blast and am grateful to you for once again making it possible.  Mollie, thank you for being your dependably joyful, silly, and cheerful self.  You made this MCOA National Specialty one to remember!


Now, on to the "meat and potatoes" of the show world - regular weekend dog shows.  Now that Mollie and I have discovered the joy together, my goals are set - and my expectations are high.  Let's go get 'em, Mollie!

Happy Spring

Posted on April 13, 2010 at 10:37 PM Comments comments ()

Here it already is April.  Actually, tax day is only two days away.  Wow!  Time just seems to pass faster and faster.  I spent the winter months lamenting the unusual cold and wet weather in Texas and it felt like it lasted forever.  Now that we are having beautiful, warm weather, it doesn't seem that long ago that I took warm, fall walks.  Still, I am loving the green grass that is growing incredibly fast and it is amazing when a slight breeze picks up the scent of the myriad of flowers in bloom and wafts past like nature's own perfume.


The dogs are loving their cool mornings on the front porch.  Kodi, however, is already becoming the drama king and making it clear that he will wilt in the heat if we don't let him lounge on the cool bathroom floor.  I had thought he might forget about sprawling there, but, no.  His favorite place in the house is once again in Jake's bathroom.


This past weekend we welcomed a new, albeit temporary, addition to the household.  In March, we were approved by Big Dogs Huge Paws (a charitable rescue organization) to foster dogs they take in until they can have their forever home identified.  There are very few foster homes in Texas so they were thrilled we were interested.  Our first foster child, Daisy, came home with us from Dallas on Saturday.


Daisy is a five year old spayed female mastiff that originally came out of a puppy mill in Oklahoma.  Amazingly, she doesn't look like a puppy mill dog, for the most part.  She has a beautiful head and the sweetest temperament.  She was carrying pounds of extra weight in loose undercoat but after a thorough brushing when we brought her home, she has lost the lumpy look and is beautiful.  Daisy is eager to please but very gun shy.  She must have been scolded (or worse) when she got underfoot.  She watches closely to see where we walk and then dodges out of our way.  She also ducks when you raise your hand to pet her but immediately comes back when you call her.  She is definitely more comfortable when the humans are down on her level.


Getting Daisy to eat is proving to be a challenge.  She isn't much for dog treats.  (Hmmmm - that doesn't sound familiar.)  On the way home from Dallas, she did enjoy the Whataburger we introduced her to.  We also discovered that she gets excited about cheese.  So, we got her to eat a small meal the other night by lacing her dog food with mac'n'cheese.  However, nothing else seems to be enticing.  Sooner or later, she's got to eat!


Mollie was the first to greet her, of course, since Mollie just knows everyone wants to meet her!  Daisy was tolerant for a few minutes but the long day in cars and with multiple people was stressful and eventually, Daisy let Mollie know she needed her space.  Of course, it was only minutes before Mollie returned to check on Daisy and see if her mood had improved.


Then came Kodi.  He took a quick sniff of her nose, a longer sniff of her backside, and then decided she was just another pretty (spayed) girl and went about his business.


Eventually, Gumby said hello.  I was already in the middle of that first big brushing so Gumby quietly sat down next to Daisy to keep her company, as if to say, "Don't worry.  All is well and you have friends here."


It wasn't until the next day that Daisy met Chuckwagon and Bowie.  Chuckwagon spent dinner time hanging out in the kitchen with Daisy.  After a few trips around the island with his nose up her backside, Chuckwagon got the message that she really didn't feel like socializing a lot and decided just to hang out nearby.  Bowie, on the other hand, is almost as bad about believing everyone is there to play with him as Mollie is.  When we put Daisy out in the pen with him, he kept running back and forth - going off to check something out and returning to check on Daisy, as if he was the good host wanting to see if she needed anything.  By this morning, Daisy was following him around the pen.


As for Nellie, the two "old ladies" seem to agree to co-exist without interfering with each other.  Neither girl is interested in getting into the other girl's space so they just walk past each other and go about their business.  Mostly, it is a relief to see that they don't take exception to each other as they are closest in age and both female.


Long and short, I was made to remember that watching these guys together - stimulated by the arrival of a new pack member - is a constant learning process.  Each one of these creatures has so much to teach us.  I believe that is a large part of what I love about them.  I know my dogs pretty well.  I watch them constantly and learn more and more nuances about their personalities.  Adding the new girl to the pack brings new lessons about how their brains work and that these mastiffs have huge hearts.  Despite whatever ills have befallen this pretty girl over the first years of her life, she is still a sweet tempered, eager to please, watchful and sensitive girl.  Now, with some effort and love, it is our job to teach her to trust again.  And to give her such positive experiences that she gains her confidence back.


First step - walking.  Now where is that leash?

Happy Birthday, Boys!

Posted on March 14, 2010 at 11:50 PM Comments comments ()

Happy Birthday, Kodi, Gumby, and Chuckwagon!  I can't believe it's been four years!


I've spent some time today thinking about that day four years ago.  Like many memories, some pieces are very clear and others not so much.  I remember that Chuckwagon was the biggest and the last puppy - that we put the brown ribbon around his chunky little neck while we worked to get his little lungs working.  I remember that we only had ten colors of ribbon because we never imagined that we would have eleven puppies.  The vet's office was kind enough to give us a piece of silver rick rack ribbon that we placed around yet another puppy while we worked to get him breathing well on his own.  That puppy was Kodi.


I remember Gumby giving up on life when Barney, the purple ribboned puppy, choked on his food while weaning.  I remember that he and Phil spent two weeks consoling each other with Phil hand feeding him and cuddling with him to keep him warm when he wouldn't sleep with the other puppies.


I remember thinking that raising puppies wasn't so terribly different than having a human baby - only of much shorter duration.  There were the feedings every three to four hours.  There was helping the puppies learn to eliminate.  There was the brief stretch of days where we experienced the excitement of watching them open their eyes and begin to explore their environment.  I remember the fun of watching them get their legs and start to play with each other, with toys.  I remember them peeking up over the edge of the whelping box in the middle of the night and Nellie, ever the disciplinarian, growling at them to tell them to go back to bed.  I remember them chewing anything they could get their little puppy teeth around.


As the other puppies began to leave and go to their forever homes, we began to settle in with our boys.  I had managed to try and stay objective while I assessed the puppies to see which boy I would keep to show.  Once the other puppies were gone, I realized I hadn't really allowed myself to bond with the babies.  That made it easier to let the others go but now I had the task of forging relationships with the three boys we kept.


Four years later I can take stock in those relationships.  I have always tried to let Chuckwagon be Jake's dog and let Gumby be Phil's.  Somehow, I still managed to develop a love for them that is unique to each boy - just as parents do for each child.  I adore Chuckwagon for his sweet, laid back, endearing personality.  If I ever need a kiss, Chuckwagon is always ready to share one.  If I want to snuggle, Chuckwagon is always a ready volunteer. 


Gumby is my truly dedicated walking partner.  When I get up in the morning and get dressed, Gumby assumes it means walk time, even if it doesn't.  He enthusiastically races to the back door and dances, just sure he's going to get to go.  And if I head out on a second walk with Mollie after the one I just took with him, he's just as eager to go on the second - if I'd only let him.


I've mentioned how Kodi and I bonded.  We have learned the dog show routine together.  We have won together and lost together.  I have embarrassed him and he has embarrassed me.  We have loved traveling together, many of our destinations less than fascinating but still fun because we were able to go together.  Because of the time spent learning to be a team, Kodi and I have a bond that is unique.  As much as he loves the whole family, he is first and last my dog.  When he feels lousy or out of sorts, it is me he wants to snuggle up to.  When he gets a wild hair, it is me he wants to wrestle with.  I have come to know that when I talk to him, he understands - maybe not the specific words, but he gets the general idea.  And he believes in me.  Kodi is more than just my dog or my partner.  He is my friend.


There is something special about a dog that you bred.  I'm sure I will have a better understanding of that when I have another litter and I look at those beautiful new babies.  The next time, I will know what I am in for and be able to truly appreciate every step along the way.  When I hold those squirmy little warm bundles of fur, I will cherish each moment.  And as I watch those puppies grow and develop, I will remember back to when these boys were born.  I will know that I have been given a gift to be cherished; a gift that will give me more than I will ever be able to return.


These boys - Kodi, Gumby and Chuckwagon - have brought such joy into our lives.  In true mastiff tradition, they give far more than they ask or require.  They each have individual traits and gifts that make them special and mark their place in this family.  Each one is a piece of me and makes my heart whole simply by being in my life.  What a great adventure this life with my mastiffs is!


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