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Archive for July, 2018

To the water

ian casting

Bluegill aren’t the prized fish of any big-time angler. They are pretty easy to catch, and in some not particularly pressured bodies of water they will happily nail unbaited hooks.

But they have a special place in my heart. I’m fairly certain that the first fish I ever landed was a bluegill, and if I’m feeling that I can’t catch anything, I’ll always try to for the bluegill. I’ve never gone bluegill fishing and failed to land at least one, and if you’re just looking to cast out and drown some worms, they provide a bit of relaxation and hint of Zen-like meditation.

And they are beautiful fish. The males in spawning color have the most spectacular turquoise marking around the heads and gill-plates. Were they not the banal fish of every little fishing hole, they would probably be prized as a sort of temperate cichlid and cost at least $25 a pair.

The current project around the house is setting up a native fish tank. It’s a birthday gift to my partner, and what’s more, my partner’s son is spending a few weeks with us.

And I get to share that childhood joy of landing that first bluegill, which he did this week. I wanted to make sure he got the fundamentals of fishing before we went out “for real,” when we were going out deep in the quest for our new tank specimens.

I taught to cast using a Zebco reel. The Zebco was the reel I first learned to use, and in a about a half hour’s worth of casting practice, he was doing the job well.

So we went to the lake at a little state park not far from here. We threw some night-crawlers and mealworms in the blackness of a summer lake. The bright orange bobbers floated like alien craft on the surface of the water, and every once in a while, the bobbers would tense up and shift, sure sign that a creature was nibbling at our bait. And then the bobber would go below the surface, and I’d say jerk and reel, and we’d miss.

But then we didn’t. The little bluegill fought his hardest against the line being spooled back towards the shore. He was so small that I was certain he’d gotten unhooked, and the boy reeled in his line, expecting to be left with a bare hook. Instead, he pulled in the little blue.

And his eyes beamed with pride at having landed that fish. It was prize every bit as a great as that record-breaking muskie or that giant flat-head reeled on a hot summer night’s fishing foray.

To the water we have gone.  And we have gone in search of beasts. We cast our lines into the murky universe that we can never fully enter. We hope that our baits are good, that our hooks are sharp, that our knots are steady, and that we reel just right.  Our big brains and dexterous thumbs have made us masters of the land, but when it comes to the life aquatic, we are mere amateurs. It matters little if we’re casting into little farm ponds or into the deep swelling sea. The fish have the answers. We can only hope that we ask the right questions and hope that luck swims in our way.

I hope I have passed on some of this mystery to Little Ian. I know that I have given him a chance to have some fun and think about the world that is not ensnared in steel and concrete. To consider the organic world from which we all descend is a gift I wish every child could receive.

So now we’re ready to collect our first specimens. I hope we get some bluegills or, even better, some of their related sunfish kin. These are the beauty fish of North America, but they are so common that we never consider their beauty fully. They are bycatch for bass and crappie anglers or bait for the flat-head hunters.

But they are still marvelous. And yes, they are tasty.

ian catches fish.jpg

 

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birth

The hours passed on nice summer day. All day the mother dog has panted and stared. Her maiden litter was on its way, and I was there to watch them come.

A sweet little golden retriever, she was too sensitive to push unless she knew her people where there to stroke her ears and tell her what a good girl she is.

As the night drew near, she climbed on the bed between us and then began her long night of pushing and pushing. A wave of contractions would rise from within her, and she would rise in discomfort and turn around. Then she would go prone again against the bed, but the next wave would have her rise, pushing and turning in her primal mammalian dance of parturition.

At one point, her vulva was just inches from my face, and in her pushing, I could see the coming amniotic sack, and then I saw the head of a golden retriever puppy emerge from her body cavity. It was perfection just wrapped in a sheet of biological plastic wrap.

Another push or two, and the bitch screamed as the puppy passed from the prenatal state into the breathing and screaming existence that we call life.

Then the membrane that held him so securely then split away from his face,  and as the oxygen filled his little lungs, he inched over to the milk-filled mammaries and helped himself to a good helping of colostrum.

But he was still connected to his placenta and for what seemed an eternity to me, he was both nursing off his mother and tapping into her blood supply. He was trapped between both states, but one was about to let him go and sink into the other.

He suckled ravenously, and the mother dog expelled the placenta. And thus the first of a litter of seven little puppies entered the world. Through the dark hours of the night, two little girl puppies and four more little boys lurched forward into the great bursting of existence.

And the mother dog shared it with me. She, a beast perfected over the eons to serve mankind, needed us to hold her as she began to force her progeny into the world.

I have never before been privy to such a spectacle. I have no interest in producing a child of my own, and all of my experiences with dogs whelping have been fleeting memories from childhood, where the bitch whelped black crossbreeds in the back of the garage and I hoped that the daddy was a Labrador and not the fierce boxer from up the road. And obvious flattened muzzles exhausted those hopes very quickly.

But to know a dog like this one, one that trusts me enough to share this intimate aspect of her life, is a moving experience. I am better for having been privy to the entire spectacle.

And I am happy. I am content. And I am free.

 

 

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Rush Fontana

I am currently about 10-14 days out from the first golden retriever litter I have ever bred. The dam is Fontana (Windridge Love is All You Need!) and the sire is Rush (Joyful’s Fast-Trak Thrill of a Lifetime).

Fontana is a nice, calm dog. She has fairly strong retrieving desire and is quite biddable. She is a hair soft, but she is stable and nice. She can play fetch or she can sleep on the bed without much concern. She is good with children.  She is smaller, weighing 43 pounds in working weight.

Rush is from top obedience and agility lines  He is darker than Fontana, and he has full-blown ball drive. Like her, he is smaller and lighter boned, weighing about 50-55 pounds.

Most of the puppies in this litter will be on the smaller side for the breed, though we cannot guarantee that all of them will be that small. We should get a mixture higher drive pups that are like the sire, and we should also get some that are calm like the mother. We should also get a wide range of golden shades in this litter, for the dam’s parent’s have also produced a few dogs that approach the cream color. The sire comes from lines that produce very dark colored dogs.

This litter will have a very low COI by pedigree. Over 10 generations, it has been calculated at 0.01 percent, which is well below the breed average.

Sire has all the GRCA required health clearances, and his hips are OFA “Good” and elbows “Normal.” Dam has OFA prelims of Good hips and Normal Elbows as well.

Dam has been DNA tested by Embark and was found to be clear of all eye diseases that the company tests for, including various forms of PRA.  She is also clear for the peculiar golden retriever form of Ichthyosis.

I used to write a lot about golden retrievers on this blog, and the pups that will be produced from this breeding will match a lot of what I think golden retrievers should be. These pups should be great for working homes and as wonderful family companions.

We still have some slots available for this litter, so if you’re interested please send an email to dogsofwindridge@gmail.com or use the contact form at the Retrieverlady blog/Windridge website. I can also field inquiries through this site.

Pups will be sold with full registration at $1,500.  Deals can be made for a breeding guardian home, but those inquiries should fielded through the aforementioned contact links.

I am really excited to be around golden retriever puppies again. It’s been so long since I had a chance to see some grow up, and I certainly will be keeping everyone posted on this site about their progress.

 

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