Archive for the ‘COVID-19’ Category

And Then There Were None

Sunday, January 17th, 2021

I have so many pictures and videos and things to post, the last couple of weeks have been crazy and I really have had to just neglect the blog in favor of work and getting the puppies home.

Unsurprisingly, I have some thoughts about the last couple of weeks here.

Choosing homes for puppies is one of the best and one of the worst things about breeding. Some breeders just let people choose a puppy and it’s all good. That works for them. That isn’t what works for me. The way I do things doesn’t work for everyone and that’s ok. I use an application, talk to people, and see if there’s a puppy who seems like a good fit once their personalities come out and once I’ve done their structural evaluations at 8 weeks. My obligation is to my puppies, and I hope people realize that I’m doing my best to find the best home for the puppy AND the right puppy for the owner. And that making a bad match does neither party any favors.

There was a lot of frantic, last minute running around this week and COVID makes everything more difficult (I mean, obviously most difficult for those who are sick or who’ve lost someone to the virus, but it’s amazing how many things you never even think about are harder because of it). And obviously the background level of stress and anxiety is so much higher, so it’s unsurprising that the usually-stressful time of sending the puppies out into the world to start their lives was even worse this time.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the homes for this litter. I always hope I did a good enough job raising them. Both parents are stellar dogs with great temperaments, the puppies all seem like great dogs. But you always worry. Will their owners love them as much as they deserve? Will they love them as much as we do? Will they kiss them on the nose the way that puppy loves? Will they play tug the way that THAT puppy loves? Will they talk to them in the stupid squeaky voice that makes their faces light up and their tails wag? Will they blow on that puppy’s face the way that makes her crazy happy? Will they realize what an amazing being they have to share their lives with now? Will they realize that they are about to become that dog’s whole world?

Letting go is hard. Packing up and putting away the puppy stuff is bittersweet. Going back to normal life is comforting. Planning the next litter is exciting.

I don’t know that people who haven’t raised a litter understand just how much work it is. It’s a labor of love for sure and it’s so gratifying and so fun. But it’s also work. SO much laundry, SO much poop, SO many days you just want to come home from a hard day at work and sit on the couch and veg out and you can’t. But so worth it to see them out there starting their lives and learning about their new people.

Red girl Alfa is now named Mimic and is living in Canada with her great aunt (Grandma Zhora’s sister). She will learn to play agility and probably already knows ten tricks.

Orange boy Bravo is now named Timber and is living in Canada with a lovely couple who are first time puppy/Vallhund owners and who did everything right from research to networking and were so excited to get him it makes me smile every time. It does your heart good.

Yellow girl Charlie is now named Valkyrie (Kyrie) and is living in Vermont with a lovely family who’ve had a Vallhund before. She will learn agility and will go kayaking!

Green boy Delta is now named Whiskey and is living in Canada in an experienced dog home. He will learn agility!

Blue boy Echo is now named Enzo and is co-owned by me and a lovely couple who are friends of mine. He will learn Barn Hunt and will hopefully be a show dog too!

Purple girl Foxtrot is now named Daisy and is living in beautiful Prince Edward Island where she will hopefully be a show dog and will definitely play on the beach!

Pink girl Golf is now named Jovie and is co-owned by me and a wonderful couple who also have Jovie’s great uncle (Zhora’s brother). She is their third Vallhund from me and if that’s not an enormous and humbling compliment I don’t know what is. She will learn agility, hopefully be a show dog, and will go some way towards healing hearts broken by the untimely loss of their oldest dog.

Have wonderful lives my D litter. We will miss you.

Some Helpful Links

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

Here are some links I think might be useful:

Puppy Culture Stories is Jane KIllion’s blog, there are some excellent articles on there. Especially this one about Socializing Puppies During The Coronavirus Pandemic

And here is the FREE course for puppy owners!

Insomnia Thoughts

Saturday, November 21st, 2020

So last night I was up quite a bit with the puppies (some nights they’re quite active and vocal and because I am sleeping right beside the whelping box if they’re up, I’m up). As I’ve said before, they’re big and strong and active now, but they still can’t see (any day now!). So they’re able to get themselves into jams on occasion, like the ones who insist on trying to sneak around behind Alice to get an unopposed teat, who then end up shrieking when Alice lies down and traps them behind her under the pig rail (the pig rail is the white plastic you see around the sides of the box, this is to help stop a puppy from being crushed between mom and the side of the box).

If you’re watching the puppycam you will also see me moving puppies around on occasion, as much as I try to let them do their own thing most of the time, if I have some who are big gainers and some who are small gainers, I will try to give the smaller gainers some prime nursing time so nobody falls behind. Would they all end up where they should be? Most likely. But why not make sure of it?

I was thinking about my policy (for want of a better word) for how I place puppies. I don’t do things the way many breeders do, many breeders put you on a list and then once the litter is born they say whether they have a puppy for you or not and then either let you choose or choose for you (and I’m not saying that’s better or worse, it’s just different from what I do, and I have to do what I am comfortable with). And truthfully that’s probably the most “fair” way to do it, because the limbo I leave some of y’all in sucks, and I know it sucks. I usually wait until the puppies are old enough for me to see what their personalities are like, to decide who fits where. Which unfortunately means that even if you’re a home I’d love to send a puppy to, I may not have the right puppy for you in a given litter. If you want an agility dog and I have only mellow puppies I’m not doing you OR the puppy any good by placing a puppy with you. If you want a quiet family pet and I have only “delightful assholes” (as one of my puppy buyer husbands terms them), I’m not doing you OR the puppy any good by placing a puppy with you.

This is also why I try not to talk too much about individual puppies here, why I try to be gender neutral with collar colors (even though it ended up being more or less traditionally gendered this time, the collar colors are rainbow colors in birth order, so if a male had been born last, he’d have had the pink collar), why I try to be neutral with whelping box names, etc. Because in the last litter when I had a puppy who was struggling for the first little while (Popcorn) and wrote about it here, of course everyone wanted Popcorn. She was the one who had a “story”, she was the one they heard about the most. She was the one they fell in love with. So even if you’re glued to the puppycam, don’t fall in love with a puppy such that you’d be disappointed if that puppy isn’t “your” puppy. You don’t know them yet, heck *I* don’t even really know them yet and I’ve been with them 24/7 and even before they were born! We have a tendency to gravitate to the one that seems different or special (and I am no different in this regard, I loved Popcorn fiercely, I stayed awake for 72 hours trying to keep her alive, but I didn’t keep her, she wasn’t “my” puppy – I apply my placement rules to myself just as stringently as I do to y’all), but that doesn’t mean that that puppy is really the right one for us.

I feel that my first obligation is to the puppies, to find them the best possible home for them. It’s been the case in the past that I had a home that I was SUPER excited to place a puppy in, because I knew that puppy would have an awesome life and get to do all kinds of things. But the litter I had at the time just didn’t have a candidate in it that I felt would thrive in that home. Not because it wasn’t a great home, and not because I didn’t have nice puppies in that litter, but because the match wasn’t there. I told that owner (a very experienced dog person) that I didn’t think this was the litter for her, she appreciated my candor, she waited two and a half years for my next litter, and THERE was her puppy. And now that puppy has gone on to make breed history multiple times. That owner was Jan Robles and that puppy was Lobo (Alkemi Beowulf del Roble LS). Lobo (and his niece Cora now too) is thriving with Jan. Would he have been happy in a true “pet” home? Maybe, he’s a pretty stable and easy-going dog, but he wouldn’t have been living his best life, and he needs a job to do and someone who is willing to find ways to let him do a job. My obligation when I bring a new life into the world that otherwise wouldn’t have been here is to give that puppy the best possible life for it. So if I don’t have a puppy for you, that doesn’t mean I don’t think you’d be a great home, it means I don’t have a puppy that I think would be a good choice for you.

You don’t really start to see what their personalities and energy levels and tendencies are like until they’re a few weeks old. I mean right now I can see that some seem more mellow and some seem more busy, but this stage of their lives is not like any other – they can’t see or hear yet, their entire world is about eating, sleeping and having their mother stimulate them to urinate and defecate. They might walrus around the box but they’re not really exploring the world yet. The active puppies now might be the chill puppies later when they can see and hear. So it’s not about where you are on the list, it’s about what your home and lifestyle are like and what the puppies I have turn out to be like.

There is a tendency to think that “a dog is a dog”, and while dogs have many qualities in common, even within a given breed, they are also individuals. You may think you want “a Vallhund”, because you met one and loved it, or because you think they’re nice looking dogs, or because you think they’d be a good fit for your lifestyle, or any and all of the above. But within “Vallhunds” are individual dogs, with individual energy levels and drives. And one thing my mentor, Ulla Gamberg, told me that has always, always stuck with me is this: always trust your gut. Ulla and I do some things the same way and some things differently, but Ulla has forgotten more about Vallhunds and breeding Vallhunds than most people will ever know. And I absolutely trust that advice. So sometimes my gut (going by what I see in my whelping box) is going to tell me that I just don’t think this litter has your puppy in it. And if I tell you that, please believe me that it’s not that I don’t understand how much you want one, and it’s not that I don’t think you’d be a great home for a puppy (unless I tell you that), it’s that I think the puppy and you would be better served by waiting for another litter, or maybe I will refer you to another breeder who might have something suitable for you.

To my mind one of the biggest risk factors for a puppy not working out in a home (and since I take responsibility for my puppies for their entire lives, this matters!) is a mismatch between what the puppy needs and what the owner needs and can offer. You can’t make a high drive puppy into a low drive puppy, you can’t make a high energy puppy into a low energy puppy. And you need to be honest about what your lifestyle is like and what you can offer. I try to breed dogs with a work ethic, this isn’t what everyone wants in a dog! And there’s no shame in admitting that that’s not what you want in a dog.

So hopefully you understand that if I don’t have a good match for you, it’s not that you aren’t a suitable home, it’s that this litter doesn’t have a good match for you. I know these days, especially with COVID, it seems like everyone wants a puppy. But a Vallhund should be part of your family for well over a decade or even over a decade and a half, and I think it’s worth waiting for the right puppy, not just the right now puppy.

PACH NINA!!!

Saturday, August 1st, 2020

Today, at the Olean Kennel Club trial at Countryside Agility in Erie, Nina became Can CH MACH PACH Vastgota Nina Ricci MXG MJC MXP2 MXPB MJP3 MJPB XF T2B3!!!

I have been so very fortunate to have this amazing little dog to play this game with. She brings 110% to the line every time, even when I don’t (and she lets me know if I mess up). Nina was made for agility, it is her very favorite thing, and I am so happy she is still able to run fast and happy and sassy at 13. It is an honor to have her as my best friend and a joy to have her as my teammate and I treasure every run with her, Q or NQ. She is such a special dog in so many ways.

It was so awesome to earn her PACH under our friend and favorite judge Sherry Jefferson! And at a suggestion from Glenn and Rebecca, we did a social distancing PACH picture:

The day I stole her from Ulla was one of the best days of my life. Because of Nina, I know so many people I wouldn’t know otherwise. Because of Nina, I’ve gone places and done things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. She is my Ninabean, and there will never be another Nina. Thank you for the privilege of your efforts my Tiny Bean, I love you. 

Nina Jumpers (part 1 of PACH):

Nina Standard (PACH NINA!):

PACH celebration (the video got stopped and then started again so we didn’t get the celebratory elbow bump with Sherry unfortunately, but we DID get the celebratory hip-bump with Sue!):

Zhora Jumpers (QQ #131, second place, 19 points, 5 YPS):

Zhora Standard (QQ #131, first place, 30 points, 3.89 YPS):

Alice Open Standard (NQ but some really nice bits!):

Alice Open Jumpers (NQ):

Greater Pittsburgh Golden Retriever Club AKC Agility Trial

Saturday, July 18th, 2020

We love Laura Kuterbach. But today Nina didn’t feel like a PACH. Another 19 1/2 day. Zhora won the Standard class but I sent her off course with a mishandle in Jumpers.

ALICE was the star today, NAILING her weaves in Standard and recovering from a slip in the weaves in Jumpers (after a big slip on her first attempt) to earn her second Open Jumpers leg.

Everyone wearing face masks, some with better grace than others.

Zhora Saturday Jumpers (NQ):

Nina Saturday Jumpers (Q, first place, 23 points, 4.8 YPS):

Zhora Saturday Standard (Q, first place, 27 points, 3.7 YPS):

Nina Saturday Standard (NQ):

Alice Saturday Open Standard (NQ, she was chasing her leash dragging on the ground after the leash runner, but NICE WEAVES!):

Alice Saturday Open Jumpers (OAJ leg #2, lovely run, slipped after stepping on the base of the weaves, 4.1 YPS even WITH having to restart the weaves!):

Admiral Perry Obedience Training Club AKC Agility Trial

Saturday, July 4th, 2020

Our first trial back in four months. I decided to dip my toes in and do a few Saturdays to see how it was. Overall I was very pleasantly surprised, everyone wore masks and social distanced and it felt pretty safe.

Nina is just one QQ away from her PACH, and I cost us that QQ with an ill-conceived rear cross that wasn’t really necessary, which put her into berzerker mode.

Zhora QQ’d, she was thrilled to be back.

Alice earned her Open FAST title and had two really nice NQ’s in her other classes. Really nice to see her finding the value in the work, I was really happy with her.

It was so great to see my agility peeps!

Judge Robert Jeffers had some nice if tricky courses, a generous wheel, a generous eye on the contacts, and the fastest table count in the West, which STILL wasn’t fast enough for sassypants Nina!

Zhora Saturday Jumpers (QQ #130, third place, 21 points, 4.9 YPS):

Nina Saturday Jumpers (Q, first place, 26 points, 4.9 YPS and would have been even faster without the near-off course):

Alice Saturday FAST (Q, Open FAST title, LOOK AT THOSE WEAVES!!!):

Zhora Saturday Standard (QQ#130, third place, 31 points, 3.9 YPS):

Nina Saturday Standard (NQ velociraptor mode):

Alice Saturday Open Standard (NQ, really nice run, I showed lateral motion as she took off for the triple and she sliced and knocked the top bar):

Alice Saturday Open JWW (I pulled her out of the weaves, nice run though):

Phase 1

Saturday, May 23rd, 2020

This week we entered Phase 1 of reopening. We returned to regular hours at work on Thursday May 21, but we’re still not allowing owners in the building (which is fine by me, and fine by just about every client).

Yesterday was the first day I wore short sleeves to work under my scrubs, even though it’s been warm enough to for several days.

I entered UKI‘s agility at home trial for this weekend, and of course that meant it rained hard overnight. I built the first course already but it’s too soggy to run just yet, here’s hoping it dries out enough to run this afternoon. It’s great that they’re offering a titling at home trial with small space options! The dogs are super excited to play again, there was shrieking while I was building the course. I’m super excited to do agility too!

It’s Memorial Day Weekend but not much has changed, masks are being worn by the considerate people, which truly is most people. Social distancing rules are in effect but they are allowing outdoor gatherings of less than 10 people, and beaches are open but limited to 50% capacity.

COVID Walkies

Sunday, May 3rd, 2020

It was a lovely weekend. Got the deck set up thanks to Jim and the power washer, just in time for it to be cold again this week. Oh well. Warmer days are coming.

This Too Shall Pass

Saturday, May 2nd, 2020

It’s a Groundhog Day existence right now. It’s grinding. Every day is the same more or less. Tempers are fraying. Talk of reopening. Rioting armed maniacs in Michigan. We have to be stable or reducing the number of hospitalizations before we can reopen. I am hopeful they are doing the right thing. You still don’t want to get this if you can avoid it, there are some scary sequelae like sudden deaths from clotting issues in people who were thought to be recovering that we still don’t understand very well. Masks are here to stay I hope.

I love the sidewalk messages and art people are making
Alice found an empty robin’s egg

Testing Testing One Two

Saturday, April 25th, 2020

They’re now offering testing at all the WellNow Urgent Care facilities here (there’s one literally around the corner), as I wrote on Facebook today: the current antibody tests being done are research, not truly diagnostic. There is so much we don’t know about this virus, and there are different kinds of antibodies they are measuring, one type shows exposure, the other type has to do with actual potential immunity, and they still don’t know how much immunity and for how long is actually possible. Baby steps. I’m just glad testing is now more available. We all need to remember though that there will likely be an explosion of positive case numbers now that more people are being tested. We already know that people who are symptomatic, presymptomatic (no symptoms yet), paucisymptomatic (very mild symptoms) and truly asymptomatic all test positive so higher positive test numbers don’t necessarily mean the virus is any more terrible, and in fact higher numbers of people who have the virus and aren’t very sick is good for the fatality rate, but bad for containment efforts.

My car battery was dead on Wednesday so we had to get AAA to come. Jim said the guy was coughing up a storm but said it was cigarettes. Fortunately masks were worn and distance was maintained and wipes were employed.

We were out walking last weekend and a guy power walked past us and coughed a few times and right away we were shrinking away from him (we were already like 15′ away anyway). Covid Bob.

People are being friendly and nice out in the world, waving at each other on walks while crossing the street to avoid each other. Other people are getting short and crabby with each other and tempers are frayed. It’s what we need to be doing right now.

We’re at the end of five weeks since the PAUSE order went into effect. Some people are really suffering from having to stay home. Not only financially, but mentally. My life is more or less the same as it would be anyway, since I’m a hermit. But holy shit do I miss agility. I miss it so much. I miss my peeps.

The PAUSE order is in effect until May 15, dumbfucks have been demonstrating because they want the lockdown ended. I’m terrified of the lockdown ending to be honest. I think masks and social distancing will be in effect for a long time, at least I hope it will. I can’t even imagine going into a crowd of people until there’s a better treatment or a vaccine.