Sunday, January 30, 2011



CAUTION: Large learning curve ahead.

Many thanks to Peter C. of Laureate for his very helpful advice.

I feel all grown up or something! I'm excited to get started. Signed up for two courses.

Who says you can't teach an old dog new tricks?!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cat Day and a Forced Upgrade

Cat cuddling (cleaning) day today, I was anxious to see who was still there (Elmo?) and who had been adopted (Elmo?) during the week. Well, two adoptions - way to go Tiger and Paige! And I can't believe Elmo is still there. Just one new cat, a petite, pretty tortoiseshell named Demona. I would be changing that name right quick if it were up to me! She's a pretty colour and not too shy so she'll probably go quickly.

Now out of the 8 cats there, five of them are solid black. It seems it's very similar to dogs, the black ones are more difficult to place. People will pick colour over personality, such a shame as colour should be the very last consideration, if considered at all. It's like buying a car based on colour alone. Does that make any sense? It gets old pretty quick if that fancy coloured cat is no fun to be around!

The volunteers had been worried about Paige's brother Zizu if she got adopted without him, since he is so dependent on her. Well, she is gone and isn't Zizu more bold and less shy without her there! So sometimes kicking that crutch out means they will walk just fine on their own. I was actually able to pet him which I couldn't do before. He is more confident, a big change for the better in him.

I managed not to misplace any cats today, have more of a routine going, but it still takes quite a bit of time to clean the area. The volunteers sometimes leave notes in a big notebook, so I read the notes since the last time I was in. I was chuckling to read from another volunteer "OMG Elmo is the most fantastic cat! What an awesome cat he is. If he is here any longer I will just have to take him home!" So it's not just me. Now I just have to hold out longer than everyone else!

No pictures, (I did take a couple of the new girl Demona and of course Elmo) but my camera (*sniff*) got stolen today at the store. I am somewhat to blame of course. You get a little too comfortable spending three hours in a very quiet store, chatting with the cashier as I was buying two bags of just reduced to "almost free" rawhide, we were comparing deals (she had snapped up some clearance stuff for her dog) when I decided to run back and get the last bag, why not! I left my purchases (and camera in it's bag) up front and didn't the two young guys that came up to the cash just afterward help themselves to my camera. The cashier didn't realize it was mine. Not her fault. I am so naive. People sometimes, really. I hope they enjoy it.

Time to go camera shopping, and an upgrade is definitely in order. A great excuse to get a better camera. I've really come to enjoy photography. I hope I like it as much as I liked the last camera. Like any good blogger, it went everywhere with me and was as comfortable as an old sweatshirt. I miss it already.

In the meantime, I'm charging the batteries in my (very) old cybershot and relying heavily on prose.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


Standing out in the cold trying to get a good picture of a White-breasted Nuthatch. Summer or winter, I can't seem to get a good shot of this bird. There are a couple hanging around this day, so I get lots of chances. Between times, waiting for them to come back, I take pictures of whatever else is there while I wait. Too cold to continue, I'm so sure I've got some great shots of this bird...finally!

When I upload the pictures, there were so many good ones, but not one was of my intended subject. Not one of those turned out. Most of the good shots were of my favourite little bird, the Black-capped Chickadee. So many good ones of them, in fact, I had to really pick and choose to pare it down to just these.

Sometimes you don't get what you want, but it doesn't mean it was time wasted.

A seed between the feet, seed "crumbs" on beak.

Double click to see the tiny tongue.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I'm A Cuddler

I really am.

A Cat Cuddler that is.

That's my official title, although I'm really much more a cat cleaner, cat caterer and a sometimes cat wrangler.

Yes. I'm a volunteer for a cat rescue. Just one morning a week, I go into the store where the cats are housed for potential adoption, let the cats out, totally clean out and disinfect their enclosures, litter boxes, feed them, water them, change beds and blankets, sweep the floor, and in my leftover time - cuddle with them. Groom them, play with them, etc.

My loving husband got me into this.

"Have you ever thought of volunteering?"

Volunteering!?! Almost everything I do is "volunteer". I'm the loyal servant, chef, spa technician and main cleaner/scrubber/scooper to our dog pack (aka I'm the "pack leader"). I do LOTS of other things too, and no paycheck in sight for any of them. Volunteer....sheesh!

So he e-mails me one of his charity "alerts" (have YOU e-mailed your spouse who is in a different room in the same house?) and it's for a "Cat Cuddler". Hmmmm. Cats. They don't have to come here, I can't bring home any diseases since we don't have a cat, and I'm still doing something to help them out on their way. So I decide to respond.

It's really not like applying for a "real job". I impressed with my first "test" - getting into the small cat room to meet the trainer who is in there with all the cats loose. "Don't let any of them out coming in", she says. Child's play! I have been squeezing through doorways, over gates and through the tiniest of spaces and managing to leave all the animals on the right side for more years than most of these high school kid volunteers have been alive. I slid through that door before a single cat even knows what is going on.

My trainer was great, showed me where everything was, how to clean everything and with what. One small problem, the cats look pretty alike to me, kind of a lot of black ones, for instance. She says I'll get used to it. And remarkably, I do.

They really do a great job with these cats. They are kept very clean and well looked after, all by volunteers, potential homes are screened and everyone hopes they get the best homes possible.

My first night I meet Sasha, a beautiful black cat (not my favourite colour, but by the end of the night, who cares, what a sweetheart he is). Sasha was adopted but his new home never came back to pick him up and no word from them, so he's still there and available. How sad, he's an amazing, affectionate boy who gets along so well. Their loss, that's for sure.

My man Sasha on the top level, Tiger below.

I was on my own for the first time today, and aren't there five new cats, for a total of 9. I didn't feel comfortable enough letting all of them out at the same time, so I did them in groups that I was sure could go together. Besides, FIVE of the nine cats are black like Sasha. It seems that, like dogs, the black ones can be more difficult to place. I'm getting really good at i.d. but don't want to push my luck. I do have to put them all back into the right spots.

I met a new love today, an XL black male cat (I'm sensing a pattern...) named Elmo. WHAT a doll. As outgoing as they come. He looks older but isn't that old according to his info. I loved him.

Elmo chillin' watching me clean his cage. What a love bug. Yes, Elmo likes to be tickled! Actually Elmo likes everyone and everything. This picture shows the little notch torn in his left ear. Little things to remember when you are meeting five solid black cats for the first time!

Endearingly funny looking, Elmo is easy to like. He's really not quite as stubby looking in real life, but yes, he's got a belly .... If this guy lasts there very long, something is really wrong.

Tiger. Another nice guy. Missing half an ear. It's okay, he doesn't need it.

Indigo. (Really? Must be after the bookstore, not the colour). One of the 4 kittens in the condo, new and shy, needs extra cuddling.

Rosalee, another new kitten, a little more forward. She's eyeing my swinging camera strap. Sweet and petite.

The cat condo from the outside after I cleaned it all out and let the occupants roam. Paige in the front, her brother Zizu (all black cat on top shelf), Rosalee and Indigo in the back. All of these guys are 6-8 months old. And act like it. Note to self: close all cupboards as you go, because if you leave them open even for a second you can lose a cat. I was all done and two of the kittens were missing... Man, I am going to get fired! Both were in cupboards whose doors I had closed. Lesson learned!

Since I'm the morning person, I get them when they've been alone the longest so the litter boxes are full and there is more cleaning than for the afternoon person. The very first time I looked at my watch two and a half hours had gone by! And very little cuddling... Maybe I will get faster and be able to spend more one on one time with the cats. The shy ones need work so their chances of adoption are improved (even though big, easygoing Elmo is calling my name..).

The other cages to the left of the condo. That big black blob on the top row, middle - a sleeping Elmo.

So we'll see how this goes. I wanted to do something out of the box and a little out of my comfort zone, just to mix things up a bit.

When I was fostering the various newborn kittens for my vet clinic, Terry was quite concerned about it, he was so sure I'd fall in love with one and just have to keep it. So I had to *promise* that I wouldn't do that. Under no circumstances would I keep one of those kittens.

So I asked him now, since he's the one that put me onto this cat cuddler job, isn't he worried I'll fall in love with one (Elmo) of these cats (Elmo) and (Elmo) want to (or Sasha) adopt it? Ummm?

Didn't think of that, did ya?

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Camp Whitegates

We have a couple of visitors here for an extended stay, so today we decided to show them around!

Tia the blue merle is Ch. Whitegates Celestial, who left here to live in a "dream home" when we decided we wouldn't be breeding Shelties anymore. An amazing dog, she was really hard to part with, but we felt it was best for her in the long run. "Amy" the bi-black is a Netta daughter who has been living in said "dream home" since she was 8 weeks old.

The girls have fit in really well (as long as Tia stays OFF Tiffany's couch) and are very relaxed. One of the best things about this breed has to be their ability to get along with each other so well, strangers to each other or not.

We have snow here again, a "just right" amount, so we took the whole troupe on a walk.

Tia dashing through the snow! Tia is by BIS/BISS Am./Can./Jap. Ch. Pop Star SS Of Northern Farm ex Laureate Nuance.

Amy playing with her "sister" Tia. Tia plays with everybody but having been an "only child" for so long, Amy is most comfortable really letting her hair down with her own sister. It's nice to have another black one around! Amy is by Am. Ch. Shamont Lasting Impression ex Ch. Shadypines Viennetta, from the only black-to-black breeding I ever did.

Roxy, Sizzle and Tia, the social butterfly.

Even the matriarch, Netta, came along for the entire walk. She will be 15 years old in 3 months.

Sizzle and Roxy. Sizzle seems to be in on all the action, she's the one that's game for anything at all!

Tia and Sizzle showing 'em that blues are rocket fast!

Mason keeping an eye on his expanded harem!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

An Even Dozen

January is a big month in this family for birthdays, both two legged and four. Today we're celebrating Tiffany's 12th!

We bought her sight unseen at 11 weeks old (the only baby puppy we ever brought in, our usual practice when adding from the outside is to purchase an older puppy or more often, an adult. She is also the only dog we ever purchased that we had never seen in the flesh, just a short video clip. So much for following our own advice!). She was delivered to us by friends who were coming to town for a show. We met them there, and picked up Tiffany in the parking lot. It was dark already so we couldn't really get a good look at her. When we got home, we set her crate down and opened the door. Out she came and before she could take two steps, Terry had scooped her up in his arms and exclaimed "we're keeping this one!!!".

She was gorgeous from day one and while she went through some stages and was not a puppy flyer (although she did do a bit of puppy winning, including a Specialty BOW and BPISS), she just continued to fulfill everything we saw in her on that first day. As Tiffany was growing up I could be overheard to say that she was going to be a star, that this one would be remembered, this one was special. I'm not one to "jinx" things by verbalizing them, but it turns out I was right this time! I was that sure. She reminds us every day what excellence is.

Tiffany has a very special connection with Terry (he is the only person she will kiss, she has never kissed me). In his eyes she can do no wrong, and I guess she might say the same about him. Every single day she will jump up on the couch between us, kiss and cuddle with him, leaving me with the other end of her!

BIS/BISS Am./Can. Ch. Laureate Fifth Avenue on her couch.

While Tiffany is still our most energetic and bouncy senior, she has always enjoyed her comforts including her very own colour-coordinated leather couch. She is happiest with Terry at one end of it and her at the other.

May she grace her couch and our lives for MANY years to come!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Lucky 13

My adorable heart dog, Holly, is 13 years old today! I just can't believe it and I'm okay to just STOP! right here. She is doing really well, looks great, same personality that makes me just want to clone her. Well, we did clone her in some ways, her granddaughter Sugar is about as close as you can get, and makes the "heart dog" list for BOTH Terry and I.

My Holly is all I ever wanted, from the day she bounced into the world at over 10 oz. to this day, she and I just hit it off. She's my girl who follows me around all day. (And who I regularly trip over!). Showing her was a treat, she ALWAYS gave me 150%.

Am./Can. Ch. Whitegates Tinsel Town - "Holly" finishing her American Championship at age 2 years, with a Best of Breed win.

Holly was from our first bi to bi breeding. I saw "Monroe" (Am./Can. Ch. Akirene's Aramis Bi Barkley ROM/ROMC) and his WB daughter at the Chicago ASSA National, and I knew I had to breed Netta to him. Terry wasn't overly keen on a bi to bi breeding... but agreed to it and later when he got to see Monroe, just fell in love with the dog.

Holly winning her second of three majors en route to her U.S. title. "Big hair" Holly could be shown all 12 months of the year, and actually looked better out of coat like in this photo.

The family this summer. Netta on the left, mother of Holly who is next to her, Holly's daughter Sizzle and Sugar on the end, the 4th generation.

The four generations again in the same order. Holly beside her bi-black mother Netta, then Sizzle (one of our best) and then her daughter and Holly's granddaughter, Sugar.

If I could stop time right now, I would. Happy 13th birthday to the Queen of this household!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Another Year Over, A New One Just Begun

New Year's is not a big deal for me. Isn't every day the start of a New Year? But I think reflection is good, how can you know where you are going if you don't know where you've been...and all that. I am not a New Year's resolution type of person either. I do better when I just continuously try to improve, try to tweak. Experiment. Keep and discard. Learn new things. Eliminate the negative and concentrate on the positive. Do things that make me happy. Try not to get stuck in one time or place doing the same thing over and over like some skipping record or personal perpetual "Groundhog Day".

2010 overall was a very good year. We had an unforgettable trip to Egypt in January.

We did not lose one of our own personal dogs in 2010. With the senior citizen's home we have going here, that is something to be very thankful for!

All of our close friends and relatives (and us) enjoyed a pretty good year health-wise. Some problems, but good outcomes so far. Another reason to celebrate.

Life is never all good, of course. Joan has slipped further away from us in 2010, and that makes us sad. But we still have her, so, in accordance with my new-as-of-2010 mantra - "it could always be worse". Whenever something bad happens, thinking that, repeating that over and over, helps me get to the other side. Because, no matter what, it could always be worse!

Sugar and I ventured into tracking this year! A totally new and different activity for us both, and a new and refreshing community of people. I am still a bit of a fair weather tracker (okay, a lot of a fair weather tracker!), but enjoying doing something "out of the box" and 100% new to me. I couldn't have a better little partner to track with than I have, either.

I was privileged to be able to show our beautiful Tiffany at some Specialty shows this past year, and looking back, realized she WON five Specialties just in 2010! I am acutely aware of how lucky I am to be able to do this with an 11 year old (12 in 3 days!) dog. Tiffany has been a winner since she stepped out of her crate at 11 weeks old and into our kitchen and hearts. Winning Specialties since puppyhood and continuing, it's been icing on the cake for quite a while, and that icing is thick! Looking into that face has spoiled me for life, I'm afraid!

I judged the Sweepstakes at the Canadian National, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Being the first event, when I was done I was able to relax and take in the rest of the show with my friends! Truly the definition of having my cake and eating it too....!!

I sat ringside at a U.S. Specialty at the end of the year, and did not see a single bitch in the Winners class that I thought was worthy of a Specialty major. And it was not because the judge made a mistake and left one that was deserving behind. That was a sad first for me. Luckily that was not true of the males, but still. It made me feel badly and I haven't been able to forget it. I'm not sure exactly what it means, but it isn't good.

So now on to a New Year. Today it's raining (a lot) and very mild, our snow is almost gone. As it is we've watched a lot of places that normally don't get a lot of snow get clobbered, and while we've had a couple of storms, we've mainly been spared. I know it will find us eventually, but at the moment, here in the Great White North, we're green.

So of course seeing the snow disappear down to the grass I have to run out to scoop in the pouring rain. That's when I do my best thinking/writing. Plus I get the smug satisfaction that only a fellow dog person can understand - of getting absolutely everything up that was missed, the poop that got covered in overnight or surprise snows, what we know is there but can't see. As always, surprised at how much I've missed when I thought I was much more on top of it.

But now it's all done, all gone, fresh again. And we can start new, start over. Square one. Let it snow, bring it on. Happy New Year!!

January 1, 2011. The green, green grass of home!