Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Short stocky Baxter puppy at seven weeks of age. Posted by Hello

Short, stocky Baxter puppy in Mom's arms (gentle giant grown-up Baxter still likes to wiggle his way into Mom's arms!) Posted by Hello

Short, stocky Baxter puppy with "Platty." Posted by Hello

Short, stocky Baxter puppy at the back door. Posted by Hello

"When I was a puppy, I fit under all kinds of things--like this coffee table in the family room." Posted by Hello

"Help, Mom! I'm stuck. I don't fit under here like I used to."Posted by Hello

Small Puppy, Big Dog

Baxter outgrew his body. Well, sort of. He outgrew his idea of his body.

You see, Baxter's parents were small, stocky Labs. And Baxter was a small, stocky puppy. And as a small, stocky puppy, Baxter fit in spaces meant for small, stocky dogs.

Small, stocky Baxter fit under our deck chairs, under the coffee table, under the kitchen table and chairs, between the recliner and its end table, under the rolltop desk, under the patio furniture and glass-top (Plexiglas) tables--anywhere you can imagine a small, stocky dog--small stocky Baxter puppy wiggled himself there.

As he grew, however, small stocky Baxter wasn't so small and stocky anymore. He soon realized (after countless upended chairs and tables) that he couldn't fit under certain things anymore. He wisely gave up trying.

One place, however, that Baxter (no matter what his size) could count on hiding beneath was the picnic table.

Not anymore.

Baxter has outgrown his ability to fit his lumbering, leggy Lab body between the picnic table benches and table top. If he succeeds in getting under the table, he gets stuck trying to get out (see photo above). I guess that's why he's resorted to getting on top of the table now.

Poor Boos. He can't help his size. In his head he's probably still our small stocky Baxter puppy, when in reality he's grown-up giant Baxter dog.

What makes it particularly difficult is that out small, stocky Elsie puppy stayed small and stocky as she grew. She can still fit pretty much wherever she used to fit. And when she and Baxter play, she hides in those places. She knows Boos can't reach her there.

Baxter, the gentle giant Lab, our genetic anomaly, will adjust. Eventually.

Until then, I guess we'll just have to help him when he gets stuck.

'Til next time,
Joan (who, too, has outgrown her idea of her body--it's a middle age thing) ;o)

Monday, May 30, 2005

Smiling Elsie. :o) Posted by Hello

Elsie's Smiles

Phew. Elsie is finally past her prime fertility time, and her heat is passing. Don is back from Ireland; Ridge is sane now (even without Benedryl); I'm over my food poisoning; and life is back to some semblance of normal (is there such a thing?). Can you hear us dancing?

And now I have time to notice the little things once again. Like Elsie's smiles.

A long time ago, some old fuddy-duddy told me dogs don't smile (I can't remember who). He said they were incapable of smiling, especially since they are incapable of emotion. And I believed him. Once. Many years ago. When I was young, naive, and gullible.

Well, dear old FD whoever you are (or were), I now beg to differ. Our Elsie Girl and Baxter Boos both smile. But Elsie's smiles are more visible (Baxter's get lost in his black sheen).

And Elsie only smiles when...well...when she's smiling--when she's happy, excited, or feeling upbeat. She doesn't smile when she's sad or tired or lonely or has been reprimanded. Her smiles aren't gastric reflexes as some claim; they seem to be genuine smiles to me.

Call me crazy. But I know our canine kids smile sometimes. Truly. With emotion. When they're happy or glad to see us. When they just can't contain themselves.

Okay. So I might be guilty of anthropomorphizing the dogs, but who cares? They really do smile. You'll never convince me otherwise. :o)

And their smiles make me smile, too.

'Til next time,
Joan (who is feeling MUCH better)

A NOTE FROM BAXTER: Mom's been out of commission the last few days with something Dad calls "food poisoning." We miss her and are a little worried about her, but she seems better today.  Posted by Hello

Thursday, May 26, 2005

We love our Labs! Posted by Hello

Lessons from Our Labs

We've all seen those lists floating around about important things we learned in Kindergarten or Sunday School or from our dogs. Well here's my start to a similar list of things Baxter, Elsie, and Ridge have either taught us or reminded us of.

Twenty Lessons We've Learned from Our Labs

1. Hope and optimism are contagious. Enthusiasm is, too.
2. There's nothing like a warm lap on a cold night.
3. Boundaries are good; they protect us.
4. Sleep is productive.
5. When you're tired, take a nap. It's okay. Really.
6. Exercise is fun. Exercise is fun. Exercise is fun (repeat).
7. A messy house isn't a big deal after all.
8. It's more fun to share.
9. Loved ones are worth protecting.
10. People are more important than things.
11. Too much food isn't healthy.
12. Be alert for the good things in life; otherwise you may miss them.
13. A little affection can go a long way.
14. When someone's hurting, let him know you care.
15. Take time everyday to enjoy some fresh air.
16. It's okay to be impish now and then; it makes life interesting.
17. Some joys in life require vulnerability.
18. New experiences may be uncomfortable, but they're worth trying.
19. A life shared with others is far more enjoyable than a life spent isolating yourself.
20. When we're sad or afraid, we can run to One who knows, loves us, provides for us, and is with us always. We can rest secure in His arms.

That's enough for now. Now if only we'd learn to live these lessons daily, just as our canine kids do.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Ah...I've got my Kong and I can hide it here in my safe place under the aborvite. :o) Nya, Nya. Posted by Hello

Uh oh! My safe place isn't so safe...at least not from Baxter. Posted by Hello

Safe Places

I wrote earlier this week about Baxter's new safe place atop the picnic table, the place where he goes to get away from Ridge's testosterone-driven affections.

Elsie has a safe place now, too: under the arbovite at the corner of the deck.

The only evergreen in our backyard, the 20-foot shrub holds a number of bird feeders. Hearing the birds hidden within, Elsie has been fascinated with this tree since her arrival eight months ago. She's alert to bird calls and wants to investigate them wherever she finds them.

At one time the arbovite's lower branches brushed the ground, and song birds hid there. Not anymore.

Elsie has seen fit to clean out underneath the tree , creating a cool shady place for respite from the heat. Funny thing was, I had planned to clean out under the bushy evergreen; it had become quite overgrown. I had even planned to prune its lower branches.

Now there's no need. The Elsie Squirt (aka Doctor Destructo) ripped the lower branches from the trunk so she'd have room to rest underneath and a place where she could peek up through remaining branches to keep eye on the birds above. Elsie, the tree trimmer. Gotta love her.

Not only does Elsie go to her base-of-the-tree hideaway when she's hot; she tries to hide her toys there to keep them away from Baxter. When Baxter and Elsie play, she high-tails it to beneath the tree thinking she'll get away from him.

The girl is seriously deluded. A 20-foot arbovite stop Baxter? Not in this lifetime.

So her safe place isn't as safe as she thought it was. Guess she'll have to find a new one.

'Til next time,

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Baxter's domain: the fenced perimeter. Posted by Hello

Baxter, the "guard" dog, standing watch (or sitting, if he's so inclined). Note butt on top step, paws on next step. Only the Boos. ;o)  Posted by Hello

On Guard

Baxter is our loveable, gentle giant. He lumbers around the yard and house, plopping his enormous 100-plus-pound body down whenever he feels inclined to so do. And like most gentle giants, he wouldn't hurt a soul.

But bad guys don't know that. And I rest secure knowning he's here. :o)

Baxter trots our yard's permieters. He sits watch (see photo above). And if anything poses even the remotest threat, his barrell-chested, resonating bark states, "I am here, and if you even think about messing with my master you'll have me to contend with."

Now "contend with" may mean face-washing kisses or paws-planted-on-the-shoulders hugs, but that's between you and me. I'll never tell.

I love my gentle giant. So what if he exceeds Lab breed standards for size (who would've known; his parents were tiny). Yes, for your purists out there, we had him neutered, but I wouldn't trade him for the world.

There's only one Baxter Boos, and I think I'll keep him.

'Til next time,

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Nudge. Posted by Hello

The Nudge

Since we have a Benedryl-induced hiatus from the complete craziness of the last ten days, I thought I'd take today to write about another endearing quality of Ridge's: his nudging nose.

Ridge loves attention (as do Elsie and Baxter). He enjoys a back rub with the best of them. He groans with pleasure during tummy rubs. And he loves to be stroked.

So far, that sounds like any Lab I've known.

Here's where Ridge is different: he won't let you pay attention to anything else when he wants you to pet him.

If I'm working at the computer in the family room, he'll deliberately "bump" the arm that controls the computer mouse (never the other arm; only the mouse-controlling arm). He'll nudge that elbow with his nose until I turn and scratch his head. Then he's happy.

If I'm sitting in the recliner holding the TV remote, he'll nudge the hand and arm holding the remote. If I don't respond, he'll put his head in my lap. When I finally pat him on the head, he'll sit quietly next to me. Then he's content.

If I'm eating at the table, he'll wiggle his head between my elbow and my torso to get a good look at what I'm eating (see photo of him doing the same to Don a few weeks ago). If I ignore him, his nudging will grow more insistent; if I take a second to scratch behind his ears, he'll go lie down, happy as can be.

If I'm reading the Sunday paper, holding the paper open with two hands, he'll bump the center of the paper with his nose making it impossible to read. If I fold up the newspaper, talk to Ridge, and pet him for a minute, he'll curl up at my feet. Then I can read the paper undisturbed.

If I'm reading a book, he'll nudge the binding of the book until I close the book and acknowledge his presence. Again, if I pat his head and reassure him, he'll lie quietly beside and let me read in peace.

I think he just wants to feel secure in our affection for him. And once he gets his attention "fix" he's good to go (for a few hours anyway). Nudging is how he asks for attention.

We call him The Nudge. And a gentle nudge he is.

'Til next time,

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Ridge on Benedryl will actually sleep and eat and rest (for a minute) despite Elsie's pheromones! Posted by Hello

The Wonder Drug

The Doggie Doc called back. :o)

To help Ridge stay sane through Elsie's current heat cycle, the vet suggested giving him 50-75mg of Benedryl two time daily. If that doesn't work, we can call back and he'll prescribe a mild sedative.

We're into the second day of our Benedryl trial, and I must say, it's a wonder drug.

Ridge has eaten twice! (He hadn't eaten in five days and was losing weight.)
He no longer howls. :o) :o) :o) :o) :o) :o) :o)
He sleeps!

Wow! I never realized a tiny pink pill (well, three actually) could make such a difference. I've been giving Ridge 75 mg morning and evening, and it's helping.

Oh, he's still rammy. And he still wants to be with Elsie. And he still paces in his crate when Elsie is out. And he's still amorous with Baxter (who still resorts to the picnic table).

But he's sane rammy (is there such a thing?). And I don't need earplugs.

Phew. We might get through this afterall.

Just think, Hon (dear hubby Don who is in Ireland), if you're reading this, all the excitement will be over by the time you jump back over the pond. Imagine what you've been missing! (Okay...you can stop celebrating now).

Til next time,
Joan (who is breathing one huge sigh of relief)

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Baxter, The Smart One :o) Posted by Hello

One Smart Boy

Baxter's got it all figured out.

You see, he's tired of Ridge humping him. For Ridge, in lieu of in-heat-and-prime-for-mating Elsie, anything on four legs will do, including the Baxter Boos.

So when I let them outside together (with Elsie crated inside), Ridge chases Baxter all over the backyard until both of them are ready to drop. And when Baxter finally quits and lies down , Ridge jumps all over him (his head, his back, his rump...doesn't matter...wherever Ridge can get a hold of is fine with him). Then the riding begins.

Poor Boos. He's had enough.

So...get this...(are you ready for Baxter's supreme display of intelligence?)...Baxter figured out that if he climbs up on top of the picnic table Ridge can't get to him there.

LOL. Boos is desperate. So now he plays King of the Mountain.

The last time I let them out together I found Baxter standing squarely in the center of the picnic tabletop with Ridge running circles around it.

Smart boy. I think I'll let him keep his refuge for now. He's going to need it at least another week.

Now if only I could find a mountain (or picnic table) for me.

'Til next time,
(who, btw, was desperate enough to call the vet today; the docs are calling back about possibly giving Ridge a mild tranquilizer--I kid you not--this dog is in major frustration mode and letting us all know about it 24/7. I'll keep you posted.)

Friday, May 20, 2005

The Barking Wonder. Normally quiet during the day, Ridge barks incessantly now that Elsie is in heat and he can't have her. ;o) Ear plugs AND stereo noise-cancelling headphones help. And Ridge is losing his voice. ;o) One more week... Posted by Hello

Ridge is Pithing My Brain

Only eight days to go (give or take).

Help. (Note white flag of surrender waving in my hand.)

The poor boy needs tranquilizers.

His high pitched barking makes me feel bad for all those frogs I pithed in 10th grade biology class. I suspect needles scrambling the brains in their heads felt a bit like Ridge's high frequency pitch in mine.

Baxter Boos and Elsie Girl are oblivious; it's status quo for them. Baxter still lumbers around the house like the gentle giant he is; Elsie still wants to snuggle and lean against me and get her touch fix like usual.

She doesn't, however, want to go back into the crate. But in she must go if I'm to let Ridge out and get a break from this barking (needling?).

We're back in the rotation again.

'Til next time (if I survive),

Thursday, May 19, 2005

"I miss Elsie. This cat can't take her place." Posted by Hello

Elsie (yellow) and Baxter (black) love being together--a condition that's on hold now until Elsie is out of heat. The Boos misses his buddy. Posted by Hello

Baxter Misses His Bud

The Baxter Boos is the only sane one in the house these days. Mr. Neutered is oblivious to Elsie's condition and completely puzzled by Ridge's sudden interest in humping everything in sight.

He's not quite sure what all the commotion is about. He does, however, miss Elsie.

Baxter and Elsie hang out together almost all the time. Indoors or out, they're buds: They play; they romp; they chase each other; they tease; they nestle down together; they use each other as pillows; they sometimes share a crate; they play tug-o-war; they race; they chew on different ends of the same bone; they get into mischief together.

They're pals. And now that Elsie has to be crated more often, Baxter seems lost.

I can't just let Elsie romp with Baxter all day outside because of the possibility of stray dogs finding her in heat. So she needs to stay indoors. But I can't just let her roam indoors because Ridge goes wild if she does. So (with the exception of exercise times) she and Ridge stay crated, and will, until this heat thing passes. I hate to do it, but it's for her good and Ridge's sanity.

Boos (our affectionate nickname for Baxter) hangs out by himself now. Well, he hangs out with me but it's not the same. He seems to miss the Elsie Squirt.

I don't blame him. They've been buds since she arrived as an eight-week-old.

Oh well, this too shall pass. Only another eight or ten days to go. :o) I just wish I could explain it to Baxter.

'Til next time,

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Daddy Don (shown here scratching the Snickers while Baxter looks on) is missing all the excitement this week. It's a good week to be in Ireland. Trust me. :o) Posted by Hello

It's a Circus

I'm ready for a vacation. And I've only been home a day. :o)

If you're a regular reader you know that Elsie is in heat. She's in that prime conception time between day 11 and day 18 of her heat cycle (I think today is day 12), so she's really ready to go.

Ridge knows it, too. Poor boy.

And if I never hear a howl again, I'll be a happy camper.

Oh, lest I forget to tell you, dear hubby left yesterday for Ireland. He'll be gone for Elsie's entire prime time. Lucky fella; he's missing all this excitement! He doesn't know how blessed he is. :o)

So I'm here holding down the fort trying to work in the office (yes I do that, too), care for the human kids, maintain the house, and referree our female in heat with our experienced sire (absolutely no contact).

Yee haw. We're in the circus now.

We're managing. As long as I crate both Elsie and Ridge at the same time in the same room (different crates of course), Ridge manages to stay calm. But if I let Elsie out...look out and plug your ears. His howling is almost painful. He's going to be hoarse by the end of the next eight days.

And very hungry. He didn't eat again today (I even tried bacon fat on his food--something we almost never do). He's got to eat sometime. And will eventually. He's just a one-track-mind dog; and his track is full of Elsie right now.

He's still sweet otherwise, and he listens to me. And he's still affectionate. But he's mounting Baxter like crazy when I let them play together (poor Baxter doesn't have a clue).

Too bad they don't make sedatives for frustrated males--like an anti-viagra for dogs.

Maybe I'll call the vet. Or the kennel. Ridge may need some space (for me to survive).

Elsie, on the other hand, is calm and sweet and low-key. She doesn't know what to make of it all. Give her another year-and-a-half and she'll know. For now I'm enjoying her oblivion.

I think I'll buy stock in ear plugs.

'Til next time.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Heat? What's heat? All I care about is that I have an itch. Posted by Hello

Elsie's Ripe; Ridge is Bonkers

Well, I'm back from my out-of-town speaking engagement. The engagement went well (great group), and the crew here welcomed me home with open arms (hubby) and sloppy kisses (the canine kids) when I arrived.

I'm thinking, however, that maybe I should've stayed away, like, say, for...hmmmm, another two weeks or so?. ;o)

Elsie's in heat, and Ridge is going bonkers. I've been home less than 24 hours and the two are already bouncing off the walls enough to make me want to hide 'til this heat thing is over (strains of Monty Python and the Holy Grail's knights crying "run away, run away" dance in my head).

Elsie started her first heat cycle just over a week ago: just spotting, really. She demonstrated no major physical changes then, but she was acting more subdued than normal. When I came home last night, though, I noticed that her vulva is enlarged and swollen, and now she's become nutso dog (wanting to be with the boys). She's still dripping, of course, and cocking her tail, and throwing her butt in the boys' faces, but it's the barking that will do me in.

Ridge, our experienced stud, is very interested in her now, much more than when I left. He knows what's going on. He's done this before (he sired litters for his previous owners). Both of their behaviors suggest Elsie is in her prime fertility days. But at ten months old, she's too young to mate and not yet old enough for hip and eye screenings. She needs to wait, and wait she will.

So, we rotate cratings between Elsie and Ridge. We keep them separated--they're not together even for a second. Only one goes outside at a time. We put them in separate rooms to eat. We crate them both at night to sleep (double latched in separate crates). Don works with, exercises, and trains them apart.

And Baxter, our neutered gentle giant, is oblivious to it all. LOL. He just goes along for the ride. He could give a rip that Elsie's in heat (heat? what's heat?). It doesn't bother him in the least.

At least one of the dogs is sane for now. That's our Baxter-Boos for ya; he goes with the flow.

Oh, and did I mention that dear hubby leaves for Ireland on a business trip tomorrow? I get to do this Elsie-in-her-prime-fertile-period-making-Ridge-nuts-time alone. Yee haw. Won't ths be fun. ;o)

LOL. And so it goes....

'Til next time,

Friday, May 13, 2005

Dad, will you dance with me since Mom's away? Please....... :o)  Posted by Hello

Don't worry, Elsie; Mom will be back soon.  Posted by Hello

Dad...I need a hug. Mom's gone the WHOLE weekend doing that speaking thing again. :o(  Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

C'mon, Mom. Let me play with the boys. Please? Pretty please? Posted by Hello