Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Little Squirt

She may like to chew on Kenya...

And with Baxter she may romp...

She might even race her sire...

But she still most needs her mom:

That's our Pinot Girl.

'Til next time,
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's Not Fair!

The weather has been lousy here -- rainy, drizzly, grey, and cold (well, cold for rain - high 30s and low 40s). And it's supposed to be for another few days.

It's just not work-with-the-dogs-outside weather.

So last night DH, took the little Pinot girl into our laundry/kennel/utility room to do some really basic obedience training and short-distance retrieving work (yes, Pinot has a retriever, a real retriever, buried inside her!).

Well, you can imagine what that did to the four remaining canines in the family room. :o)


Elsie, Kenya, and Ridge (below, l-r) stood at the laundry room door with heads cocked and ears perked the entire time Don worked with Pinot (Baxter chilled on the couch):

You could almost hear them: Hey, that's not fair! Dad's working with the runt and not us!

The kids have yet to learn that "fair" doesn't mean "equal." "Fair" technically means "marked by impartiality and honesty: free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism" (Merriam-Webster, 6a).

Whether the canine kids knew it or not, Don's working with Pinot wasn't about favoritism; it was more about what was important for her at this time in her development.

Our human kids had to learn this principle, too. Sometimes one needed more help with homework, or another needed more time to talk. We did our best to give each what was important for that one at a given time. We worked with them according to their needs.

Was the amount of time or help we offered each always the same? No. Were the lengths of our conversations equal? Of course not ("Mom, what time is practice tomorrow?" requires far less time to answer or work through than "Mom, do I have to go to school tomorrow? My teacher hates me.")

But our actions with our humans, to the best of our abilities and though not always equal, were fair. At least we tried (and still try) to make them so.

Do we do this perfectly? No, of course we don't (we are only human). But more than once we had to remind the kids (and ourselves) that fair doesn't mean equal. And that that's okay.

So it goes with our canine gang.

And since canines live in the moment, as soon as Don finished and returned with Pinot to the family room, all was forgiven and forgotten.

Then the snuggling began!

If only humans were so forgiving.

'Til next time,

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Monday, January 28, 2008

One More Pinot Comparison

Some of you know that Pinot stayed with her sister, Dakota, in November when DH and I went to Denmark (the rest of the gang stayed in a favorite kennel). Dakota's owner is a professional pet sitter who also boards pets at their family's small farm.

If you'd like to see how Pinot compared to her sister then, click here (Jamie, Dakota's owner, posted pictures on her blog at that time).

In the pics there, Pinot is the one with the darker, redder coat. She's the smaller one, too. :o)

Just thought you'd like to see her with a sib!

'Til next time,

Size Comparison: Smaller than You Think

Some of you have commented on how big you think Pinot has become. And yes, indeed, she's growing up and is far bigger now at five months old than she was a month or two ago.

But compared to our gang, she's still quite petite. And compared to her littermates, she tiny (running at least 10 to 15 pounds lighter than the other pups we've heard about).

Here are a few pictures for comparison. They're not great (I normally don't post my poor shots), but they'll show you how she's shaping up. She's still shorter than all the rest of our gang -- the only thing bigger are her Dumbo ears!

Take a look.

Here she is (in the middle) with Ridge (back) and Kenya (front):

Here she is with just Ridge:

And here, she's next to Baxter (he's in the middle, Kenya is behind him):

And in this shot, she's on the far right, Kenya is in the middle, Baxter is on left. Pinot is still a good two inches shorter than Kenya and easily four inches short than our giant Boos.

This is pretty much how she's appeared for the last few weeks. She hasn't put on anymore height, though she still may. For now it seems she's focusing on filling out a little (not much, though).

So, the Pinot Squirt is still pretty small, despite how she looked in yesterday's post. I think she'll stay on the smaller side too, especially since she's so much smaller than the other pups from her litter.

But we'll see. :o) It's always a crap shoot with puppies, no matter how hard you try to choose well.

'Til next time,
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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Like Mom or Dad?

So who does Pinot resemble more? Ridge or Elsie?

Here she is at officially five months old:

Now here are Ridge (l) and Elsie (r):

In temperament, she seems to have the best of both parents: Elsie's easy-going, low-key nature and bird awareness; Ridge's strong nose (Pinot's always tracking something) and eagerness to please. She's also a nice blend of independence and affection. We couldn't have asked for a better combination of personality traits.

But we can't quite figure out who she looks like more. She has Ridge's coat color, bigger ears, and big feet, but she has Elsie's dark nose, hip structure, and sway (boy, does Pinot have the "sway" down pat!). We're not sure about body type (too soon to tell).

So what do you all think?

Just wondering (and of course, Pinot still has a LOT of growing to do, but she's still comparitively very small).

'Til next time,
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Thursday, January 24, 2008

First Impressions - Should We Trust Them?

The closer I get to the half-century mark (I'm turning 48yo this year), the more I'm learning to discount my first impressions. They're more often inaccurate than true.

Take Ridge, for example.

After meeting Ridge and falling in love with his fox-red coat, his training focus, and his abundant field instincts, we purchased him as our first stud investment. We bought him, as you recall, when he was three years old (four years ago, now).

My first impressions of Ridge, beyond his trainability and color, didn't emerge until after we brought him home. For the first six months, he seemed aloof. Eager to work? Yes. Smart and trainable? Absolutely. Focused? You bet.

But he didn't seem affectionate. He wasn't the lap dog our other Labs had been.

Of course, that could've had something to do with the trauma of his leaving the only home he'd known since he was eight weeks old. Or it may have been influenced by our taking him from the cool, wooded mountains (if you can call them that) of west-central Pennsylvania to the hot, muggy hills of southeastern PA. It could even have been the transition from living in a kennel with other dogs to living in our home with more humans than canines.

Who knows?

But my first impressions of Ridge during those early months were that he was a great field dog and would make a great sire, but that he'd never love us the way our other Labs had.

I was wrong.

Well...partly. He is a great working dog and sire--I got that part right anyway.

I'm pleased to tell you, however, that Ridge has gone from Mr. Aloof to Mr. Snuggle Bug.

He's Mr. Affectionate these days. Take a look:

He's completely at ease with our affection. And he's equally at ease demonstrating his affection for us.

It's just taken time.

I'm glad my first impression of Ridge (his aloofness) proved to be inaccurate. And I'm glad I didn't take my first impression too seriously.

He needed us to give him a chance.

Maybe it's the same with people. Maybe I shouldn't be too quick to judge or make assessments (good or bad). Maybe I just need to allow people (and myself) more time before I determine what I think about them.

It can go both ways: Some positive first impressions I've had turned out to be way off (a lesson I've learned a few times--the hard way--about not jumping in too quickly lest I get burned); other negative impressions turned out to be equally inaccurate, much to my chagrin (finding I deeply appreciate certain people now that I never thought I would).

So I'm learning to treat my first impressions with suspicion. Can they be right? Oh, sure, just as they were about Ridge's focus and field abilities.

But they're more often wrong.

So I'll take people (and life) a step at time and reserve judgment for later. I'll give people grace to evolve and change.

And maybe I'll be surprised by unexpected blessings -- like Ridge's affection --along the way.

'Til next time,

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Bear is Back!

Some of you may recall that when Elsie was pregnant last summer, she became a bit more needy than usual: constantly pawing, needing to be touched, doing her "bear" pose for us to scratch her belly.

None of these behaviors was unusual for her; she'd just become more insistent and frequent in her demands.

Then she whelped her pups and became Super Canine Mom, barely knowing we existed and seeming to live only for her offspring.

Well, I'm pleased to announce Deep Run Elsie Bear (her official AKC name) is back:

She's her old self again, finally, and seems even more so now that she's completed her first post-pregnancy heat cycle without incident (again, we won't breed her until the summer).

Her infamous bear pose is back:

Now, granted, she's rebounded so well from the wear and tear of carrying and caring for pups that she now has too much girth. But I suppose that makes her all the more a bear, eh?

Poor doggies. All the stress and time demands of our recent family stuff has left them without their normal exercise routines. And we don't work Elsie in the fields or on the dirt roads around our home when she's in heat (too many stray dogs around). So she's been out very little the last two weeks.

Harrumph...that means even more girth.

Elsie's beginning to sound more human everyday: post-baby weight gain, winter weight gain, lack-of-exercise weight gain.

Okay...correction: Elsie's beginning to sound more like me everyday.

I guess she and I will just have to reduce our consumption and hit the dirt roads together!

Happy New Year Harrumph. (Yes, more exercise and healthier eating habits are on my 2008 resolution list. How about you?).

'Til next time,

Monday, January 21, 2008

Speaking of Winter

I wish we'd get some real winter weather here.

Granted, it's cold outside (all of 12 degrees F right now at 8 a.m.). And it's supposed to be cold for a few days.

But we haven't had any snow to speak of (unlike our neighbors to the north and northeast who've really been dumped on, as have the hearty folks in the upper mid-west).

A whopping two inches of snow fell here last week, and the snow lasted for all of about six hours (temps shot up into the fifties again, and the snow turned to rain). Bummers.

Knowing the white stuff wouldn't last, I (or course) grabbed my nifty new camera and herded the gang outside for snow romping, even though it was nearly dark outside. We had to make sure Pinot experienced snow!

So here's the little girl figuring it out:

She's a little cutie-puh-tootie (as DH calls her). And very observant (she's watching snowflakes in the last shot).

No bias, of course. :o)

She loves to romp, too, and a little cold stuff under her feet didn't stop her (notice the ear flap effect -- she was really moving!):

Her favorite way to romp is with the gang, especially with Kenya, her official romp buddy (notice Kenya's tail in Pinot's mouth -- the little imp!):

Pinot loves her gang. And the gang loves her. They're all buds.

And they all love us, including Pinot.

I wondered at first. Growing up with the pack as she has, Pinot might have become more attached to them than to us.

I needn't have worried. She's a people dog, heart and soul. And we're her "people."

But she loves her canine buds, too. That's as it should be.

Come snow or rain, we're a family -- all of us together.

I suppose that's how I should look at the bumps of recent weeks, too. Come snow or rain (what I want or what I don't want), we're in it together. And we can still romp, even when it rains.

The fact that we even have each other is a gift all by itself. Pinot seems to know that intuitively.

I know it, too. I just forget sometimes.

So, here's to remembering and appreciating our gangs, whoever they may be!

'Til next time,

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Well, the temperatures here in southeastern PA finally feel like winter. Today, the highs are only in the teens (F), and with wind-chill factored in, it feels more like single digits or zero and below.

It's about time. It is January 20th after all.

It's funny how we acclimate (or don't) based on how weather fluctuates. If it gets cold and stays cold, bitter temps don't bother us. We get used to them. The roller coaster winter we've had so far, however, hasn't allowed us to adjust to the cold. When one day it's 50s and 60s (F), and the next day it's 20s, our bodies don't have time to adapt.

The same goes for the canine kids, of course. So with this latest blast of arctic chill, our wood stove has grown increasingly popular. Especially with the girls:

Yes, they'll go outside and romp for a bit (we're careful not to let them romp outside too long when it's this cold). But then they bee-line for the hearth.

And if Elsie and Kenya get their first, little Pinot just walks right on top of them and wriggles herself in between for the choice "hot" spot. Wood stove + body warmth on both sides = cozy snuggle place. And snuggle they do. The three girls. Happy together, content to keep each other warm.

I don't know why Baxter and Ridge don't join in. They seem content (and warm enough) on their own or in our laps. :o) They rarely, if ever, pile the way the girls do.

Maybe it's the female social (pack) thing vs. the wandering male independence thing. Who knows?

It's just sweet to see them "needing" each other.

'Til next time,

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Guess Who Did It?

Notice the bright red ink stains on the carpet.

Now, pray tell, whoever could've done such a thing?

Hmmmmm...I wonder....

Yup, you guessed: it's the Pinot squirt! :o)

She may look a whole lot bigger, but she's still every bit the puppy she should be. After all, she's still shy of five months old.

And puppies and red pens don't mix.

Oh, and in case you're wondering...I left her out unattended with the rest of the gang just long enough for me to use the bathroom (not long... honest!). :o)

Poor little thing--it wasn't her fault DH left a red ink pen on the coffee table right at puppy-eye-level and within reach.


I really had to laugh; the little girl had so much ink on her, we had no trouble identifying the culprit.

Pinot is turning out to be a sweet, gentle, intelligent yet low-key little girl (just like her mom). A few ink stains are nothing compared to the joy and smiles she gives us each day.

And so it goes. No harm done to her (thankfully). And who cares about a carpet? It's just a material thing.

' Til next time,
Joan (who still giggles about Pinot's red toenails -- I couldn't have done a better job if I'd painted them myself!)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Well, my BIG Christmas present this year was a new camera (from DH, who faithfully and regularly encourages my interests and hobbies). It was quite a surprise really -- we don't normally splurge like this at Christmas. But I'm not complaining. :o)

I've been wanting a camera with which I could do more (all the photos and videos you've seen here have been taken by my little point-and-shoot Nikon Coolpix L6 -- a wonderful compact camera that's great for travel, but it has its limitations, my chief complaint of which is its tendency to blur images if I'm not using the flash -- I missed countless good shots because of the blur factor).

So now I have a SERIOUS beast of a camera (it's a Pentax K10D Digital SLR ), and I'm really excited to see what it can do. Part of the reason DH chose this camera (besides its awards and features) is that it's 100% compatible with the thousands of dollars worth of mega lenses and filters we already have for DH's camera and photographic interests. He uses really cool stuff, including some really cool telephoto lenses (okay, I'll admit it: I've sometimes been a little jealous of his toys). While I've been running around with my point-and-shoot, he's been taking pictures!

So I can't wait to "play." There's only one problem. My serious beast of a camera comes with a serious beast of a learning curve.

Now, I'm not doing so badly with it (all of yesterday's photos were taken with my new camera). But I have SO much to learn.

I thought I knew something when I was using my little Nikon. Now, with the Pentax, I realize I know very little at all. Such is life: the more we grow, the more we realize how much more we have to grow.

So I'm in the learning curve, trying to teach myself something new about my camera each day. And YOU guys get to be my audience (oh prepare yourselves!).

But I still resist change. It seems like I just get a handle on things when everything shifts.

You've gotta remember here that I'm the woman who won't change cell phone models when I upgrade every two years because I don't want to face the new learning curve. I keep getting the same new phone over and over again to avoid having to learn a new system.

I really don't like change.

That's part of the struggle right now, too. Our yucky circumstances (the ones about which I'm still not at liberty to discuss publicly) have meant HUGE changes: Thanksgiving and Christmas were different (and more difficult) than ever before; family interactions are different; church interactions are different; the future looks different; life is different.

My heart yearns for stability and constancy. And then I look at the canine gang. :o)

Their faithfulness, though admittedly limited by lifespan, never changes. Their love is constant. Their dedication, unwavering. And their goofyness (LOL)...well, it's just part of who they are. Labs don't change; they may grow old and die, but they don't betray us; they don't cash us in for better owners or grass-is-greener lives. They don't indifferently discard us like yesterday's trash.

I'm glad something in my life remains unchanged.

And I suppose I should be thankful: when I really think about it, THREE things in my life are now and have always been constant (and will be, as far as I know): the God of my faith; my husband (what a gift he is to me); and my Labs (yes, that's the Pinot squirt in Don's lap).

Everything else...well...I can bank on it changing.

I may as well get used to it, I know.

I just wish life had an instruction manual as detailed about what to do in various circumstances as the one that came with my new camera.

I'd better get back to reading it.

'Til next time,

Monday, January 14, 2008

Back Again :o)

Thanks for your e-mails; it warms my heart to know some of you really do care about us and our gang.

And, truth be told, things here have not been okay -- they've been downright bad (really tough situations), but I'm realizing that it does me no good to "hide" when life gets difficult.

And, besides, the canine gang won't let me hide for very long (such is life with Labs).

So I'm out of hiding and writing again (something I had NO heart to do in light of the last several very difficult weeks).

So what have we been up to?

Taking LOTS of naps - I'm in my winter-hybernate-like-a-bear mode, and sleeping is something I do when I 'm depressed (Pinot's favorite sleeping position):

Making new friends --there really is a sisterhood in suffering (Pinot meets Snickers):

Getting used to someone else calling the shots -- something none of us enjoys, particularly when we don't like the decisions being made (notice Kenya and Baxter are heeling; Pinot is straining against the lead):

Romping in the woods -- a good nature fix always lowers my blood pressure (Kenya off-lead):

Getting exercise (important when life is stressful) - a January resolution thing (Baxter galloping to me off-lead, Don is in the far back on the dirt road working with Kenya on-lead):

Staying focused on and alert for good things and wise counsel -- always a must when life gets difficult (Kenya awaiting Don's commands):

Getting wet -- "being there" for hurting loved ones means we get muddy, too (Kenya and Baxter wading):

And trying to notice and remember the good gifts and graces that fill each day, even when life is hard (these are the flowers DH sent me for our 26th wedding anniversary last week):

I consider our canine gang one of those HUGE good gifts in our lives. They do keeping me smiling.

And I consider you all a gift, too. :o)

So that's what we've been up to (I'm sparing you the details). And I'll be posting regularly again (it's therapeutic -- something I forgot in the heartache of recent weeks).

So don't give up on us. We're still here, alive and romping! :o)

And Elsie is in HEAT again, so Ridge is going bonkers. But we're carefully protecting her during this heat cycle; we don't want her pregnant again so soon. And poor Pinot just doesn't know what to make of it all.

I do hope all is well with you all. When I can write more specifically about our circumstances, I will, but I can't just yet. Just send your good thoughts or prayers our way, if you will. God knows the needs.

Thanks much for your concern and well-wishes. I'm looking forward to being back in touch.

'Til next time,

We Made Charlie's Day!

Hey all,

Just thought you'd like to know: we made Charlie's day (over at Charlie the Golden Retriever's page). He saw fit to grant us the "you make my day award!"

Thanks, Charlie. In light of our difficult past several weeks, it's nice to know LabTails still brings smiles to canine and human faces!

Now I just have to come up with the 10 blogs who make our days over here!

'Til next time,