November 6th, 2023

I am so sad to say that we lost another of the Alkemi A litter today. The very first puppy born in the very first Alkemi litter. Right after he was born and I was telling Jim his markings (so we could tell them apart later), I looked at his chest and said he had a white stripe, and Jim said then his litter name would have to be Jack (after Jack White from The White Stripes).

So he was Jack.

Little did we know he’d keep that name for the next almost fourteen years. Jack had a wonderful family who gave him a great life with adventures big and small, they took amazing care of him, and they loved and respected him enough to say goodbye when the time came, he will be missed, and he was loved. I am so sorry for their loss

Rest easy Jack, you were a good boy.

Jack (Alkemi Ascari LS) – 1/15/10-11/6/23

Evie Progress!

October 22nd, 2023

I’m sharing this mostly for myself, but I am proud of the hard work Evie and I have done over the last six weeks or so.

Evie stresses UP, which is a good thing, but it also means that she needs to learn how to channel that up stress and not let it explode her brain. She was disconnecting, zooming, visiting, and just checking out, because she didn’t know where to put the energy she was getting from a trial environment.

For the past several weeks I have only entered her in games classes, only did FEO, and often only did two or three obstacles and then got out of the ring, and we stayed for matches (even if it meant I didn’t get home until after 9 PM).

I am proud that I have been disciplined about not going for the Q but playing the long game, getting her the experience and training and mileage she needs.

I am grateful for the folks who were willing to be pretend ring crew in the classes we dropped into, and for Sue’s help and support as always!

It is ALWAYS worth putting in the effort. It is ALWAYS worth taking a step back and working your foundations. It is ALWAYS worth throwing a Q in order to give your dog the right experience (DON’T FIX ALL THE THINGS!).

Train the dog you want to have in a year. Be patient, but don’t be lazy. And VIDEO EVERYTHING, because seeing even small improvements can be the cookie YOU need to keep going,

It’s obviously a work in progress, but we are for sure several big steps along the right road!

I am so excited about what the future could hold for this little dog!

(Also she earned her very first title – Novice FAST!)

Evie Training

August 12th, 2023

Here’s a little sample of what Sue helped me with today: working Evie through distractions. It is SO helpful to have someone to train with who knows a lot and has good ideas (not to mention, it’s more fun).

Evie is very friendly and also stresses WAY up, the visiting is less about her being friendly though, and more about being an outlet for stress (remember even good stress is still stress).

I am absolutely THRILLED with this! Plus LOOK HOW FAST SHE IS, and look at how quick also – you can see her deke towards me and then back to the dogwalk when she isn’t sure where to go. And this is probably the best set of weaves in a course I’ve ever had from her.

Good girl Evie! She loves to work and is such a trier.

Evie Training Thoughts

August 6th, 2023

When you’re really invested in your dogs and your dog sport(s), it can make you feel all kinds of big, profound, wonderful, terrible, things.

For me, there are few things that cause me to doubt myself and my skill more than when I feel I’ve let my dogs down.

Since COVID I’ve been much more of a homebody than before (although I’ve really always been a homebody), and so I go to agility trials far less than before. Instead of doing 2-3 days 3 out of 4 weekends a month (or more), I go to 1 or 2 days, once or twice a month.

This has positives: it’s better for my bank account; I get to spend time at home (which I love), with my husband (whom I love); I get to spend more time with my dogs outside of our sport.

But it also has negatives: my dogs get far less trial mileage than before; I get far less trial mileage than before (this has a highly detrimental effect on our mojo); we fall behind with the titles etc.

Agility is just dogs jumping over plastic, yes. But it’s also an amazing bonding experience with your dog. When the mojo is working, you truly do become one mind.

Anyway, all that is a big preamble to me trying to work through how I’m feeling about Evie right now.

Evie is an amazing dog. She’s so fast and quick, in training when I can feel the beginnings of our mojo, it’s like running with a hummingbird or a rabbit, she’s so immediately responsive, it’s like driving a sports car. And, for a dog who can be a bit of a weirdo about some things, she’s really very confident out there (three different people remarked to me about how confident she is).

But she’s a very sensitive dog, and she’s really experiencing the throes of adolescence right now. She has a LOT of feelings about things. And while I absolutely love a dog who stresses up, because those are usually the dogs who end up being the most fun to run with, right now Evie can’t cope well with pressure. She’s run in a handful of trials, and initially she was what I expect out of a novice dog. But the trend over the last few trial days has not been what I want to see, and the way I’ve been handling her is not what I want to see. I am so thankful to have dog friends who are wise, and willing to tell me what they’re seeing and what they think.

Evie is zooming, and visiting, and tuning me out, and I’ve been dropping connection, which is a big part of WHY she’s doing that. I took the opportunity yesterday (after a really ungood trial day) to run her in a match (you have 90 seconds to do what you like on a course, you can bring a toy or contained food). And while I got some really good attention from her in our second run, I came home feeling quite defeated, and disappointed in myself.

So, I pulled her from all ucoming trials, other than the games classes, where I can run For Exhibition Only.

I’m going to do some Control Unleashed pattern games. I’m going to work on relationship. I really think she has the potential to be an amazing agility dog, but she needs more foundation work, and I need to step back, go back, and work this through.

Greater Pittsburgh Dalmatian Club AKC Agility Trial

July 9th, 2023

Zhora’s MACH8 has its own post, and was obviously the highlight of the weekend.

One thing I’ve tried to cultivate in myself is that everything can be a learning opportunity if I allow it. I also made a more-or-less New Year’s resolution to try to be less lazy. Trulli coming along meant that the two other green dogs in my house (Alice and Evie) got relegated a bit, and that’s not fair to them.

It became extremely obvious to me this weekend that Alice needs more from me than I’ve been giving her. I realize I’ve sort of been treating her like she’s at maintenance levels when really she isn’t at all. So: more Alice time!

I also found a few areas I need to work on with Evie (this is absolutely expected). She’s doing the thing that Alice also did where she wants to go get the cookies before she’s finished running (and to be fair to her, she was in the crate a LOT this weekend, plus we stayed overnight, so she had a lot of pent up energy both mental and physical). I talked it over with Sue and she reminded me of the really useful cookie jar game, so we’ll be doing that along with some other games to help. That said, there were flashes of real brilliance from her, and I’m super excited about what I’m seeing. She picked up her second Novice FAST Q, but more exciting is that there were real moments of being in sync, with glimpses of mojo starting to build. She is very, very different to run than my other dogs have been (they’re all different from each other, but she’s REALLY different): she’s so tiny and light and agile it’s like trying to run with a hummingbird or something. It’s really interesting.

Alice Friday FAST (Q):

Evie Friday Time 2 Beat:

Alice Friday Jumpers (Q):

Alice Saturday FAST (Q)

Evie Saturday FAST (Q):

Evie Saturday Jumpers (the second half of this course was amazing):

MACH8 Zhora

July 9th, 2023

What an incredible journey this dog and I have taken. Once we got our mojo Zhora became a qualifying machine. Forgiving of my mistakes, a dog who usually chooses to slow down and look to me for direction rather than grabbing any obstacle or zooming or stressing. So many of our runs were Q’s because of this. She’s my comfy slippers, my cozy home feeling. When we’re in the zone with each other, it truly feels like we have one mind.

I always thank her for the privilege of her efforts, for her impeccable, unflappable working temperament. For her kindness and the joy she shows at the start of every run. She’s nearly 11 now (August 5), and she’s slowed down as you’d expect. But she still sometimes manages a miracle run, like our Friday Standard run where she ran it in 4.2 yards per second, which I think is her personal best. She’s a long and quite massive dog even though she’s lean and muscular. She isn’t a light and quick little hummingbird like Evie is, or a squat little speedy fighter jet like Nina was. Zhora is a dragster, straight lines are her milieu, collection is expensive for her. But even when I ask her to do something she really dislikes (like pinwheels), she does it, even if she does it slowly, she still does it.

She’s done everything I’ve ever asked of her. I am so grateful to her and for her. I don’t know what the future holds for her, she still comes to the ring with joy and good energy, but I think we can slow down a bit, put more energy into the up and comers. Whatever Zhora wants, I will (to the best of my ability to ascertain it and provide it) give her.

Dan Wolfson’s courses were fun and challenging. They got the better of Alice and I, but Zhora just scoffed at the traps and had a perfect two days.

Thank you my ZhoZho.

Friday Standard (4.2 YPS, first place):

Friday Jumpers:

Part 1 (Standard) of MACH8:

Part 2 (Jumpers) of MACH8 (featuring skipping Sue):

A different view (thanks Jan!):

And another courtesy of Jan:

Westminster Agility Championship

May 7th, 2023

I’d kind of had Westminster on my bucket list for a while, but it’s a pretty expensive agility weekend and it’s a big hassle and blah blah blah.

But after losing Nina I got to thinking that if I was going to go with Zhora, I should just go. Zhora will turn 11 in August and while she’s still healthy and sound and running well, she isn’t getting any younger and neither am I. After all, it’s better to regret something you have done, than something you haven’t.

So while lots of folks overnighted their entries and all that, I handwrote our entry the day before the trial opened and snail mailed it. I figured if we got in, then the universe was telling me we should go. I was shocked when I got word that we were 13th on the waiting list. I realized then that there was some danger we might actually get in! And then less than 24 hours after closing, we were in!

Of course I hadn’t made any arrangements and had to hustle to find a (very expensive) hotel.

So off we went!

Nina (thank you Sue) came with us of course

We hit terrible traffic in New Jersey trying to get into the Lincoln Tunnel because of course we did. I’m used to city driving but we were at a standstill with no shoulders or anything packed in like sadines and I got a bit panicky about it and had to call Jim. Once I got into the tunnel though it was fine, and then driving through Manhattan on our way to Queens was just wonderful. Such a beautiful city.

Checking into the hotel I had to drive around the block four times before a spot opened up where I could stash the car while I went to check in. There was a guy screaming in the lobby, hotel staff were trying to calm him down, police were being called, two different women told me how much they liked my hair. It was so NYC.

Our room was in a half basement and tiny, but it was clean. A nice agility person saw me with Zhora and showed me where I could walk her. And then Zhora and I went for a stroll around the block to stretch our legs after being in the car all day.

We got up the next morning, quick potty walk, got our game faces on, checked out, and headed to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

It’s an absolutely gorgeous facility. Purple and gold was everywhere (yes, the dog show starting tomorrow is the big draw, but there were still a LOT of people there as the day went on).

We checked in and got our awesome swag (an embroidered North Face knapsack, a picture frame, a dog toy, a bandana, a really nice t-shirt, and a ticket for a free lunch).

Standard was in the stadium:

Jumpers was in an outdoor ring under a tent (this is actually where the biggest crowd was – most were just bystanders and they were AWESOME! The cheered LOUDLY for every team, it was so much fun!):

And then! We walked and ran standard, had lunch, then walked and ran jumpers:

Standard was first (Q and 14th place!). There are supposed to be “official” videos coming but Jesse kindly videoed too:

ProPlan gave us a lovely, healthy, and delicious free lunch (not dog food but I did share my sandwich with Zhora):

Then Jumpers (Q and 12th place!!):

I was hoping for one Q, and instead we doubled! And Saga the Vallhund was in the top 10 (awesome!) so made it to finals, but if she hadn’t, we’d have likely gone to finals too!

I am always humbled and amazed by Zhora. She always rises to the occasion, she thrives under pressure. I am so very glad we went, it was a whirlwind, tiring, crazy and expensive two days, but it was so very worth it for the amazing experience we had. Thank you Zhora for being the wonderful partner you have always been.

Finally, I just want to say that it was so awesome to see so many of my usual agility peeps there being supportive and having fun running their dogs and doing wonderfully. And it was so nice to see Whitney and Susan with their amazing Vallhunds (ALL FOUR VALLHUNDS QQ’d!), and it was just so lovely to feel the support we gave each other, we were all genuinely happy for how well each other did. Agility might just be dogs jumping over plastic but wow can it bring out the best in people sometimes.

“Official” standard video:

“Official” JWW video:

(and finally, as if my heart wasn’t full enough, tomorrow Zhora’s son Orbit and his co-owner Ruth will compete at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. I wish I could have managed to stay and watch but it wasn’t to be, I’ll be watching on the live stream though!)


April 21st, 2023

Jim and I are very excited to welcome Kleinhaus Trulli Madly Deeply at Alkemi LT to our pack! Two weeks ago I drove to Massachusetts to meet these little monsters, and this little girl cuddled into me, took a deep breath, and melted. And then so did I. So on Friday after the agility trial I went and picked her up. She’s been doing great: stable, brave, bold, sassy, smart, and adaptable (just my kind of dog).

Trulli (pronounced “truly”) is out of a very genetically diverse breeding (as diverse as you can get in Vallhunds, with parents who carry the least common alleles, this was a BetterBred “10” breeding for those who follow that), so I knew I might be interested just from that standpoint when I learned Kat Klein was planning this litter. That, combined with the fact that Kat does an absolutely stellar job of raising her litters, meant that I just couldn’t say no once I met her.

Trulli is named after the Formula 1 driver Jarno Trulli (because of course she is). Because she was born near Valentine’s Day I knew I wanted a Valentine’s sort of name, and her name just came to me as I drove home from meeting her that first time.

The last puppy in our house that I didn’t breed was Nina, so it’s been a while since I didn’t grow my own. Thank you so much for trusting us with this little girl Kat!

It’s The Little Things

March 26th, 2023

The things you notice after you lose someone or something you love.

Two weeks ago Nina was doing so well that I bought an extra two cases of food because I was worried I’d run out. She was sparkly and bouncy.

And then as that week progressed she stopped eating so well. The little hitch in her step and occasional trip she’d had for a while progressed to outright falling. She’d been sitting down to eat for a while, but now she wa swaying and sticking her legs out at odd angles.

That weekend, last weekend, it was like she fell off a cliff. Eating less and less, falling more and more. She had been frail (she was just a few weeks aways from 16 years old after all) but this was different. Sunday she ate just a token bite of her Sunday pancake. It was cold and windy but we bundled her up anyway and took her around the block in her stroller. I took pictures. I knew it was coming to an end. As we walked, she looked back at me as she often did, meeting my eyes in that way she had.

Monday at work I wrote in her chart that she’d had a rough weekend. Dr Stein said to bring her in Tuesday. That night she was restless and woke me up by walking on the control for the heated bed pad and turning it on.

Tuesday at work she had diarrhea and seemed very dull. But she had a fever, so maybe she was sick! Maybe it was pneumonia again or something. We put her back on Clavamox. I decided I’d force feed her for one week only in case that was what she needed to get over the hump. We put her on two different appetite stimulants. I said I just needed to know if this was a bump in the road. Or the end of the road. I gave her a bath on Tuesday, because she got poop all over herself.

She was a dog whose dignity did not depend on things like that. She was the queen after all. She tolerated the bath and blow dry with her usual grace.

That night she was restless, and she woke me up by getting herself trapped between the wall and the dresser. Appetite stimulants can have strange effects is what I told myself, but I could see she just wasn’t right.

Wednesday she actually ate a couple of bites on her own! I allowed myself to feel slight optimism, but I could still see that there was something neurological happening. I took her to work with me so I could feed her small meals throughout the morning. We gave her a cautious amount of subcutaneous fluids to hydrate her (you have to be very cautious with this in dogs with cardiac issues). And then a co-worker called and told us of the unimaginable tragedy that had killed one of her dogs.

Wednesday she got worse through the day, and the knowledge I’d been carrying in the back of my head forced its way to the front. Jim and I lay on the floor with her that night, and she told us. I don’t mean she spoke English, but she told us just the same. She was done. She was ready.

Thursday morning I texted Linda and said I was so sorry to do this after the trauma we’d all experienced the day before with the co-worker’s dog, but we had to put her to sleep that day. She was ready. One of the other instructors at agility kindly agreed to take over my classes that day.

Caroline at work came in and asked how Nina was and I told her. She hugged and cried with me. Then suggested I come home to spend the day with her. I walked in at home and she came to the baby gate like usual, looking surprisingly perky, Jim cautioned me that she was really wobbly (as in “don’t get your hopes up”), and then one of the other dogs brushed against her and she fell. I had always been Nina’s sunshine, she always brightened up when she saw me, and that was it.

I’d stopped on the way home to get her a Tim Hortons old fashioned plain donut, her absolute favorite. She took one piece to humor me, but spat it out. Jim had gotten her to eat a couple of bites of baby food, but that was it. I made ramen for lunch, also her absolute favorite. She ate a few noodles (probably also to humor me), but that was it.

I sat there with her all day. I took pictures. I cried. I wrote her obituary.

And eventually it was time to go. That last car ride to the vet is always, always, always, such a journey. Her warm weight wrapped in waterproof pads on my lap. It rained. I kissed her nose over and over again.

We let her walk around the clinic while we waited, she didn’t want liver, or peanut butter, or even one of the Hershey’s Kisses that we keep in a jar and bring out for euthanasias (the jar is labeled “goodbye kisses”). I lay on the floor with her. I told her over and over again how much I loved her. I kissed her nose, her fur was wet with our tears.

And then it was time. We gave her the sedative injection and she took a deep breath and relaxed on my lap. We stroked her and hugged her and kissed her. She got so sleepy so quickly as they often do when they’re really ready to go as she was. We put a catheter in. I sat back down on the floor with her on my lap, her head against my chest. I told Linda we were ready. I kissed her nose and told her that it had been a privilege. And she was gone.

Euthanasia when it’s done right is beautiful. It’s a very heavy burden those of us in veterinary medicine carry (even when it’s not our own pet, we cry with every one, every one affects you, you are ending a life). But it’s also beautiful. To give something you love so much a peaceful and painless death when their time comes, when it’s the last thing you can do for them, is beautiful. When it’s done right, they just drift away.

Friday, the day after, was sunny. I visited Sue and we cried. I tried to train my dogs but my heart wasn’t in it. Jim and I took all the dogs for a long walk in the sunshine.

We cry all the time. Of course we do. You don’t love and lose a dog like Nina every day. I see her everywhere. I am so glad she got to be in the house, to bless it with her presence. I am so glad she got to be happy and sparkly in the house. We needed that.

I told a friend yesterday that it’s like she was this magical creature who was somehow MY magical creature. We had nearly 16 years together but now it seems like a dream.

And now we are faced with then mourning. And the last of all the things. Washing the pile of waterproof pads she’d used. Vacuuming the hair that was hers. Washing the last bowl she’d used. Washing the water bowls and refilling them, washing away the last traces of her. And today we will make our usual Sunday pancakes. And for the first time in almost 16 years she won’t be here to demand and eat her rightful share.

But between that first time our eyes met and I knew she was meant to be my dog and I was meant to be her person, and that last breath she took in my arms, hopefully feeling loved and safe and warm and at peace, there was so much. So much joy and and running and barking and agility and travel. So much love. I hope we gave her a good enough life. I hope we gave her the life and love she deserved.

There will never be another Nina. She was my soul dog. When we looked at each other there was a connection that transcended species. She was my sunshine and I was hers. I don’t really believe in metaphysical things but I so hope I will see her again.

It was a privilege.

Nina May 14, 2007 – March 23, 2023

March 23rd, 2023

Today we said goodbye to the best dog who ever lived. She changed my life in so many ways. From the moment our eyes met at Ulla’s house, I knew she was my dog and I was her person. Ulla was keeping her, but I managed to convince her to let me take my bean home.

Baby Nina

I met so many people because of Nina. I have my job because of Nina (I needed a vet because she broke a baby tooth shortly after I brought her home). She was a wild puppy and a wild dog in the best way, so energetic and strong willed and opinionated. But also so sweet and so loving and so gentle. She was just what we needed. She drew blood more than once in agility when she thought I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. But she also gave the best kisses and snuggles. People who only saw her in agility thought she was a wild thing (and she was), and people who only saw her at home thought she was a mellow sweetheart (and she was that too). She was the foundation on which Alkemi was built, and while we wish she was living on in our home, she is at least living on through her descendants.

Smart as a whip. Fast as lightning. Beautiful inside and out. Sweetest dog in the world. A working dog to her core. More than my heart dog. My soul dog. There will never be another Nina. She was with us for nearly 16 years, but it seems like it went by in a flash. Every dog you ever own will break your heart, and while she was ready to go, we weren’t ready to lose her. She did everything with conviction, and balls to the wall abandon.

I hope she is healthy and happy and running like the wind wherever she is. I hope she is spinning and barking her “pack a day” bark. I hope she is with Al (she is the last of my dogs to have met Alun) and with my Mum and Dad and Auntie Ann, and with Rakki, Riley, Demi and Austin, and with Ringo and Rupert and Bailey and Sullivan and Cillian, and with everyone else who’s gone on ahead.

I have never had a bond with a dog like the bond I had with Nina. She was my soul dog, and she will take a piece of my heart with her across the bridge, and I will keep a piece of her heart here with me. I know I will see her again one day, and both our hearts will be whole again.

It was a privilege to be your person my tiny bean.

Canadian CH MACH PACH Vastgota Nina Ricci ROM MXG MJC MXPB MJP3 MJPB PAX XF T2B3 NAC NCC NJC TN-E TG-N WV-N HP-O ChFH CL3-R CL4-S CL4-F CL4-H TG2, AKC Agility Invitational qualifier 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2020, AKC National Agility Championship qualifier 2018 2020, #1 AKC Agility Swedish Vallhund 2015 #1 AKC Agility PACH Swedish Vallhund 2019


May 14, 2007 – March 23, 2023

This was always Nina’s song