Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's Our Birthday

Today is our birthday !! We're two years old. We're going to spend the day playing, eating and getting in trouble. Sort of like every other day.

Happy Birthday X 8

This was Samba two years ago today. She was carrying nine puppies, but had only gained about five pounds and although she was rounder than normal, she was not very big.

Her puppies were due on the 27th, but they were in a hurry then, just as they are now.

Starting at 11:11 PM on October 25th and finishing at 6:40 AM on October 26th, she produced nine beautiful babies.

Number 8 didn't make it, but the others were strong and healthy.

They were a joy then and continue to bring me happiness and laughter.

Happy second birthday to Tess, Sky, Lola, Gracie, Bailey, Gib, Noah and Norma Jean.

This is Samba today. She was a great mom and still enjoys her pups.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Back To Normal

Things have calmed down around here, as calm as it can get with eleven dogs all wanting attention at the same time. Fudge is no longer in the dog house for misbehaving at the obedience trial. He was just being Fudge.

Although he's three years old, he's still very much a puppy and loves to entertain.To him that means jumping, spinning and rolling over. He was doing his best to amuse that judge on Sunday, but she just didn't understand.

At first I told him his career was over, but after thinking it over I've come to a different conclusion. We have two of the three legs we need for a title and I hate to waste all the work we did to earn them, so we'll go for that third leg. If we try three days a year for the next ten years, surely we'll pass on one of those tries.

I wish I had these pretty curls.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Day # 3 of Fudge's Big Adventure

This morning I really didn't want to get up. One of the pups barked around 3AM and I just yelled to go back to sleep. That was my first mistake.

When I dragged myself out of bed at 5:45, I discovered that Lola had been sick in her crate, probably from one of the natural snacks she indulged in last night in the yard. Who knows what she found to eat, certainly not anything any human would approve. I took everyone out, fed them, then had to dissemble the crate, scrub it and reassemble it.

When I tried to bring everyone back inside, Tsar decided that he enjoyed the cool temperature so much that he refused to come in. It was still dark and I wasn't going to chase him all over the yard, so he stayed out.

I was so tired that I laid down on top of the bed for just a few minutes, but fell asleep. Rob woke me in time and after giving everyone another outing and encouraging Tsar to come inside, we left for the last day of the trial.

J and her Porties weren't attending today and I missed her support, but Dr. Nicki was there.

Fudge was unusually calm today, lying quietly at my feet while the other dogs performed. He didn't show any great interest in ripping my arm off every time a female dog walked past us. Could this mean he was going to pay attention to me when our turn came? Last night I had explained to him that all I wanted was three minutes of his undivided attention, then he could go back to ignoring me. I thought he might comply.

Our turn came. He walked nicely to the starting line, then he turned into an old familiar personality. He became 'Watch Me Do My Tricks Fudge'. He paid me very little attention at first, then he saw his opportunity. He started to jump. He jumped straight up in the air and in case I had missed it, he jumped up on me, several times. The next command was 'down'. He chose to rollover on his back for that, then jump straight up in the air again for a finale.

He did the last couple of commands, but by then it was all over. We had gotten a non-qualifying score. So ended our first attempt at Rally Obedience. Will we try again? It's too soon to ask. I need time to dull the memory of all this.

Rob took me to lunch afterwards and reminded me why I chose this breed. He noted that if I had wanted a dog that paid perfect attention and followed every command, I would probably have chosen one of the herding dogs, Sheltie, Australian Shepard or Border Collie. But I chose a breed that likes to make their own decisions, and those decisions aren't always the ones we would chose for them. This is a somewhat wild and unpredictable breed and that's what I enjoy about them.

So, here we are with the weekend's loot. I have my pretty ribbons and Fudge has his toys. I still love him and he still loves me and that's that.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Day # 2

I didn't want to get up this morning. I thought about Fudge's lack of attention yesterday and didn't want to go through it again. But it's supposed to be fun, right? So we got ready and went back for another try.

Here are some of the beautiful dogs at the trial today.

I really like this little mop.

It's time for Splash to go into the ring.

He's going for his Advanced Excellent title, so he has to do two runs on different courses. He did really well today and earned another leg.

After everyone completes the course, there is an award ceremony.

The humans get ribbons and the dogs get a toy.

Then it was Grace's turn. Today Grace was playing 'space cadet'. She couldn't concentrate on any of the commands. The distractions outside the ring were too much for her and she didn't receive a qualifying score.

Here are Fudge and I practicing.

And Practicing.

And Practicing.

And still more practice.

Then it was our turn. The course was not too difficult. All the commands were ones Fudge can do. There was one that he had been having some trouble with, so we've been concentrating on it all week.

On the first part of the course we were having the same problem as yesterday. He wasn't paying attention to me. We had to repeat a couple moves.

Part way through, he started paying attention and did much better. He actually did better on the difficult moves than on the easy ones. He aced the one we had practiced so hard.

Some of the paraphernalia you accumulate at a dog show, course maps, treats, leashes and hopefully ribbons and toys.

J and Splash show off their winnings.

Fudge received these and earned his second leg. One more to go.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Day # 1

Today was the first day of the Obedience Trial. We've been working hard getting ready for this big event and I've learned that Fudge has three different personalities that show up for practice.

First there is 'Fudge The Good Boy', who listens to what I say and does exactly what I command.

Second is 'I Don't Understand The Language Fudge' who stares at me, sure that he's never heard any of those words before.

Third is 'I Can't See Or Hear You Fudge' who on the first command lies down on the floor, rolls onto his back and covers his face with his paws.

Yesterday afternoon, after a poor practice, where he didn't pay much attention and just wandered along, he saw me get the shampoo and towels assembled. He got pretty interested in that.

Once the bath was over, he knew something was up and was bouncy all evening in anticipation. I tried an evening practice, but he was too excited to pay attention. It was my hope that after two poor practices, he'd be ready today.

I twisted my ankle last night and it was quite swollen when I went to bed.When I first got up this morning I could barely stand on it, but it wasn't going to stop us. I walked on it as normally as possible and I'll rest it later.

J was at the trial with Splash and Grace. Splash did pretty well, he wasn't fully into it, but he got a pretty good score and finished fourth and fifth in his two runs.

Grace was spacey and wandered along, but didn't give it her best effort. She seemed distracted by all the activity in the building, people and dogs coming and going. She did earn her second leg.

In Rally Obedience the team starts with 100 points and the judge deducts for errors. You need 70 points to earn a leg and you need three legs to earn a title. Grace already had one leg from earlier in the year.

Then it was our turn. When I walked the course without him, I was pleased. All the moves were ones he knew and did well. None of the three familiar Fudge personalities showed up. It was a new one who just strolled along looking everywhere, but at me. We had to repeat several moves and he just wasn't interested.

The judge was very generous and we did qualify, but just barely. We now have one leg toward out title. I can only hope the good Fudge decides to show up tomorrow. I have some more lovely ribbons for the wall and Fudge has a new toy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thank you, Dutch

This is just a quick post to honor a special dog.

On Monday evening Presidio Dutch of Alto Mare, TDX, SWDX, SAR, MI-TF1 died. Dutch was the first Portuguese Water Dog to ever earn a Search and Rescue Certification, a Cadaver Certification and a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Certification. He also earned the PWDCA Super Dog award.

Dutch and his owner-handler Connie Millard were at the World Trade Center as seen here.

Dutch is a hero to those in the PWD community and we will miss him.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Legacy Is Born

Twenty years ago today I brought home my first Portuguese Water Dog. I didn't know he was a PWD, in fact, I had never heard of the breed. I soon learned what a wonderful breed of dog this is.

One of the things I like most about PWDs is the variety. They're not cookie cutter dogs. In many breeds each individual looks very much alike. The colors and sizes are the same and sometimes the markings are almost exact. Not so with PWDs.

The size varies greatly from about 35 pounds to 65 pounds. The theory is that fishermen on small boats had small dogs and the large dogs worked the large boats. Whatever the reason, if offers a lot of choice to the owners. Samba is small, weighing about 50 pounds. Fudge is taller and weighs about 60 pounds. Their pups, all taller than their mom, range from Noah at 40 pounds to Sky at 62. Bentley was my big boy at 66 pounds.

The color offers choice, too. They can be black, black and white, brown, brown and white or all white. The markings can be varied, solid colors, traditional Irish markings of white chest and feet, or big splotches of white. The brown can be dark chocolate to light beige. There can be ticking, black hairs growing in white patches, or graying, white hairs growing in the black or brown patches. If the black ticking is very heavy giving a gray or silver appearance, it is called a silver fox.

There are two coat types, wavy and curly. This can get pretty confusing as there is a lot of variety within the types. A wavy can be almost straight with just a slight wave or it can be a pretty tight curl and anything in between. A tight curly is just that, similar to a poodle, or it can be a loose curly that is actually a looser curl than a tight wavy. Confused yet? The only time one can be absolutely sure of the coat is at birth when wavies look shiny and smooth like little seals and curlies are less shiny and have ripples. The coat can change lot as they mature.

To mix thing up even more, there are two recognized haircuts allowed. One is the retriever clip where the hair is trimmed evenly to one inch all over. The other clip is the traditional lion where the back end and muzzle are shaved and the front end is allowed to grow long. The dog may be shown in either of these clips in the USA. In Europe they must be shown in the lion.

In this country people who show PWDs have been letting the retriever cut get longer and longer. the coats are sculpted and sprayed and no longer look like working dogs. The written standard is specific about the length, but although they give lip service to protecting the standard, they ignore that part. On the few occasions that I show my dogs, I adhere to the standard. We may not win, but we have been true to the standard and will continue to be.

PWDs are strong dogs with large heads which they use effectively as battering rams. If one runs head first into your leg, you know you've been hit. They run into doors and walls without any sign of having done so. My pack races around the yard and often run into the fence in order to stop. They have large, webbed feet that they use as paddles in any body of water, including their water bowl,

and a tail that they carry curled over their back with the end left untrimmed in a flag. I love watching all those Portuguese flags flying as they run out the door in the morning.

The dogs were used on fishing boats to pull nets, herd fish into the nets, retrieve objects that fell overboard, rescue people that fell overboard and before technology replaced them, they were couriers that carried messages between boats or between the boat and shore. They are strong swimmers and divers. When the boat came into port at night, the dog stayed aboard and guarded the catch. They are great watch dogs. They have amazing vocal ranges, from a deep bark if a stranger approaches, to a high pitched bark when excited. Samba gives that high bark when she is heading out the back door. It makes you want to hold your head. They make a 'woo-woo' sound when trying to communicate with people. Fudge uses it when he's in trouble and trying to explain his actions. There are growls and lots of sounds in between.

If the boats were in port for awhile, the dogs were sometimes used to herd the flocks. My dogs have a strong herding instinct. It's handy if one doesn't come in with the others. I can send Samba of Norma Jean out to herd the other one in. Unfortunately, they picked up the habit of grazing from the flock. They pull grass up by the root to chew it and can leave some nasty bare spots in the lawn.

The original Portuguese standard for the breed, under temperament read as follows: "An animal with fiery disposition and a brawler by nature, self willed, brave and very resistant to fatigue." When the American standard was written for the AKC, the description was changed to the following: "An animal of spirited disposition, self willed, brave and very resistant to fatigue." Believe me, the Portuguese had it right. These dogs are brawlers by nature. They love to wrestle and chase each other. Many people are concerned when they see how roughly these dogs play with each other and the noise they make while playing. Yet, there is almost never any physical harm done.

PWDs are born thieves. They love to steal for the sake of stealing. They are well known as counter-surfers. Fudge used to love to steal the dish towels off the counter. He then had to parade in front of me with the towel in his mouth making humming sounds so I would be sure to notice. He didn't really want the towel, he wanted the attention it brought. One day I washed some pottery and had it drying on a towel on the counter. Fudge hadn't touched the towels in awhile, so I didn't think about it and left the room. There was a tremendous crash and Fudge ran by me at top speed. He had pulled the towel off the counter, bringing the pottery with it. Only one piece was destroyed, but it did cure him of stealing towels. He still does steal. If a lid to a Ben and Jerry's container is left on the counter, he gets it.

These dogs make eye contact, in fact, they insist on it. Mine will come put their faces inches from mine and look into my eyes. They seem to be trying to read my thoughts. Some other dogs don't deal well with the long hard stare from a PWD and there can be aggressive responses.

One of my favorite things about the breed is their loyalty. These dogs bond so closely with their human companion that they are referred to as velcro dogs. They are always at my side. As I type this they are scattered around the room sleeping. If I get up to walk out of the room, they all go with me. They are never far away. Samba would be next to me every minute of every day if possible. She makes a strangled cry when I shut the door to leave the house without her.

Perhaps their best feature is their happiness. These dogs never have a bad day. They wake up early and are ready to get going. If scolded for misbehavior, the either look pleased with themselves, or momentarily downcast and quickly toss it off. The worst punishment for this breed is to ignore them or withhold your attention. They want and need constant attention. This is not an easy breed to live with, but the rewards are enormous.

My Bentley (Boo) was the finest ambassador the breed could produce. He looked like a Muppet, could be a clown, but had great dignity and was completely attuned to my emotions. Samba is my dog. She doesn't leave my side. When Rob takes the others outside, she chooses to stay with me. She is my constant companion. Fudge is a goofy Muppet like character. He wants attention and is willing to cause trouble to get it.

The pups ( not really pups anymore) each have a different personality. Tess is high strung and wants to please. Lola is stubborn and doesn't like to follow orders. Bailey is independent and likes to track, Noah is a little tough guy on the outside and a sweetie on the inside. Sky is lazy. Norma Jean is like her dad in activity level and like her mom in that she wants to be touching me at all times.

I love this breed and can't imagine life without one. Twenty years ago today I had no idea the adventures in store for me, all due to that little black frizzy puppy that rode home tucked inside my jacket.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Monday Morning Quiz

After reading Chan's blog this morning, I took the quiz. Much to my surprise, I'm Jackie. There were only two questions, but the results are amazingly accurate.

Rob is home today for the Columbus Day holiday so after I finish my ton of paperwork, maybe we'll go out for coffee. I worked Fudge pretty hard yesterday, so today we'll just have a light refresher run-through. I didn't get a new project started last night, I just chilled out. Today I hope to start both a cross stitch and a knit project. One for me and one a Christmas gift.

One of these days I really do need to do some housework.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Countdown Begins

This morning I got to sleep in. Rob volunteered to get up and do the feedings this morning. I actually slept till 9 AM. What a luxury. I think he saw how stressed I was last week and decided some sleep might help. After a second dog outing, Rob and I went to breakfast, then off to buy dog food. We didn't actually need dog food yet, but we were sent two coupons worth $25 off and we'll need dog food eventually, so we took advantage of the savings.

Tsar waiting for dinner.

When we got home Fudge and I did a practice for the trial that starts on Friday, THIS FRIDAY!! I keep asking myself why I get involved in these things that cause me so much anxiety. When it's over, I'll feel good about having tried, but I'm nervous heading into it. Fudge is doing pretty well. He enjoys the one on one attention. I'm trying to keep the leash slack and not guide him with it. That's hard for me, so this afternoon I just took the leash off and we walked through the course . He stayed with me and did fine.

Between practices I did some office work, then it was feeding time again. Boy, that sure seems to come around fast.Tonight I think I'll start a new knitting project while I watch TV.

I got my Christmas notebook out this afternoon. I keep lists of what I gave people in prior years and make notes throughout the year. If someone casually mentions that they want something, I make a note of it. If we're out shopping together, I observe what the other person looks at and make a note. When Christmas comes around I have all my notes and it helps in picking a gift. Usually I have my shopping done by now, but I'm running late this year. I have a lot done, but need to sit down with a cup of tea and think about what I still need to buy or make.

Bailey had a short haircut on Friday. She was really carrying around a lot of hair and looks sleek and trim now. The other dogs chase her, so she's hanging close to me until the novelty wears off.

Bailey having dinner.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

One of Those Days

This has been one of those days. This morning while I had the dogs out in the back yard, Rob left for work. The dogs didn't see him go. When I brought them in, Morgan ran to the office and began scratching at the door. I knew she wanted to see Rob, so I opened the door to show her that he wasn't there. She got frantic and started racing around the room. I called them all upstairs and closed the office door. Morgan refused to come with the rest of the dogs, continued scratching at the door and moaning.

I'd left my juice in the office, so I went back in to get it and when I came out I dragged Morgan upstairs with me. She jumped onto the window seat and started licking the window. After a few minutes of that I pushed her away from the window. She started licking the stereo speaker and kept it up for about twenty minutes, until I thought I'd go nuts from the slurping noise.

I carried her to the couch and laid down next to her. She was panting hard, so I stroked her until she fell asleep. She gets this way whenever she's seperated from Rob. After awhile, I fell asleep next to her. We woke up when the phone rang. It was Rob on his way home.

It was time to get everyone outside again, so we all trooped down the stairs, but when we got to the back door, I was missing a dog. I did a quick head count and Sky was missing. I went back inside calling for him, but no Sky. I opened the office door and there he was wagging his tail and looking so happy to see me. He had gone in when I went to get my juice.

Unfortunately, while he was waiting to be released, he entertained himself by ripping up a roll of paper towels and chewing a plastic waste basket to bits. The pieces of plastic and paper were scattered all over the room.Rob got home just after I got the mess picked up.

We had been invited to a wedding that was to take place this evening at 6. I wasn't sure Rob would be home in time, so yesterday I left the gift with a friend who was going. We did have time afterall, so I fed the dogs early, changed clothes and we left for the wedding. We had directions from the bride but no street address for the church. Rob has a GPS for the car, but with no address we couldn't use it. The instructions looked pretty clear, so we left in plenty of time. Well we drove for an hour and a half and never did find the road the church was on. Finally we gave up and went home.

We've been to several weddings here in the Ozarks and they are so different from the weddings we're used to on the East Coast. I prefer the Eastern weddings.

I did finish a project. This is a cross stitch of a Corgi that will be made into a pillow. The local agility club is having a raffle at their trial and I donated a knit dog sweater and this pillow as prizes.

This disjointed and not very relaxing day was the end of a week filled with anxiety and anger. I'm trying to destress and get my emotions under control, but the wierd behavior of my little buddies is not helping, or maybe they're picking up on my emotions. Anyway, I'll do my Scarlett O'Hara impression, "Fiddle dee dee, tomorrow is another day." There, I feel better already.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

From Robert

I am the slightly over weight guy you see from time to time in the pictures, with an occasional mention. Lucy was my dog, she came from a flea bitten existence in Delaware. I thought she was a mouse running by me in this trailer, as I attempted to do an interview, with a less than worthy candidate. Well I got the dog and the fleas! She rode home with me in a cardboard box, my right hand in the box all the way, amazing not one flea bite on me. Lucy got accustomed to the world of giants in our town house by taking over. Soon she was the boss of our lab mix and our PWD. I am sorry to have her gone from our pack. I don't particularly enjoy digging holes in lime stone but for Lucy I made the sacrifice. She was a real trooper and a great friend.

Good By Lucy RWH

I Think He's Got It

Just a quick post today with no pictures.

Fudge and I have been practicing for our upcoming rally obedience trial. It's now less than two weeks away. I found that Fudge doesn't do as well with daily practice as he does if we do it every other day. If we do too much of it, he starts goofing off, jumping around and rolling over when I tell him to stay, etc.

My solution has been to practice on my own. A couple nights ago, while all the dogs were in the back yard, I started walking through some of the exercises by myself. I was talking to myself and I didn't realize I was talking out loud. Suddenly, Fudge came running across the yard and got in position beside me and we walked through several exercises. Then he ran off to play again.

The next night I did it again to see what would happen. Again, Fudge saw or heard me and came and joined in. Today, while Rob was outside with us, I did it, with the same results. I think the boy has got the moves. He knows what I want and how to do it. Now the question is, will he perform in public?

One interesting note, Sky came today and did the exercises beside Fudge. Hmm! Maybe we have another obedience candidate in the making.

Saturday, October 4, 2008


This week I've been trying to make some headway with the project list. I have managed to finish up a few things , but the list is growing faster than I can finish things.

First and most important, we planted Lucy's tree this morning. We chose a spot in the lower corner of the yard where she liked to hunt for bugs. The tree we selected is a River Birch which usually grows quickly. Of course, we had to put a wire cage around it to protect it from the pack of wild Portuguese Stick Eaters until it gets big enough to defend itself.

Morgan was the only dog allowed to attend the tree planting. Did you ever try to dig a hole and plant a helpless plant with the help of eleven crazy dogs who all want to get in on the action? We've made that mistake before. One time I planted a whole flat of impatiens plants in a row along the fence. What I didn't realize was that my furry helpers were following behind me digging each plant up as I moved on to the next.

Good-bye Lucy

Here is another reason I didn't let the others help. Check out the dirty feet on Morgan.

As far as my other projects are concerned, I have been making some progress. My current 'sit in front of the TV' task is a cross stitch pillow of a Corgi to be used as a raffle item by one of the local dog clubs. It's coming along nicely.

I used to do cross stitch all the time. I was never without one in progress. Then three years ago I stopped. It was when Fudge came to live with us. He took a major interest in my work and especially liked to steal my embroidery floss. It just was too much of a hassle trying to keep it our of his reach, so I gave it up temporarily. Well, it turned into a long suspension. A few times I thought about starting a piece, but the drive just wasn't there. Then a friend needed cheering up and I started a piece for her. It felt so good to be stitching again that I immediately started a second piece. Now I have a lot of ideas dancing around.

I am having a terrible time finishing the afghan. The knitting has been done for a month. All I have to do is weave in the ends and fringe it. For some reason, I can't seem to get started. It won't take long, if I can just get going. I won't let myself start another knitting project until it's done, and I have yarn for a Christmas afghan for myself , so today is the day. I will finish the afghan.

I have two orders for dog sweaters. One is a pink ruffled sweater with a fancy collar for a therapy dog that makes visits to hospitals and nursing homes. Her owner wants her to dress up for her visits this winter. The other is a sweater with a snood for a dachshund who is so low to the ground that he feels the cold on his chest.

I found this wonderful fleece the other day. I want to make myself a jacket or pullover with it. I'm also feeling Christmas fast approaching. I know of a couple gifts I want to make for friends. It's late to get started on Christmas. I usually start that in January or February, but this year time got away from me.

Check out this neat painting of Portuguese Water Dogs that arrived in the mail this week. It's done by Kris and I have a special spot on the wall reserved for it.

Well, I guess it's time to tackle that afghan so I can move on to the next thing on the list.