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Archive for July, 2018

Anka holding down the fort:

anka in repose

Or she is making sure the fish don’t escape from the tank.

 

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dead groundhog zoom

The lawn is mowed and manicured. The only grass that rises from the soil is that lush green kind that the herbivores crave.

For over twenty years, the lawn has been mowed and the soil has brought forth this bounty. And the highways churn away on both sides of the land, and the only predators that stalk its grounds are the black feral cats that slink around property’s edge.

It is a paradise for the Monax. They are a grass-eating people who find such grounds beyond perfection. All day, they rise from the old huts in the back and undulate their fat forms on the lawn. Their rodent teeth crop at the grass. The sun shines upon their forms, and in winter, when the time of hibernation comes, they sleep soundly through the snow squalls and hard freezes, and in spring, they trundle out with their little ones.

And for these two decades, they have raise their young in this verdant land of plenty.

But one day, a change came wafting in on the late spring breezes. A good, hard rain had fallen, and the evening sun was casting its glow upon the green grass.

Any of the Monax worth their salt as grass croppers decided to wander out. This was the time to graze and grow some fat on that thick, green grass.

A soft breeze was in the air. Wind chimes some yards distant were clanging about.  The cars on the highway were motoring on and on.

But in the air came the softest jingle, and the Monax didn’t know what to think of the sound. It was eerily soft, and then it would fall still. Then the sound would rise again, and the tempo would increase.

Then came the sound of running feet on the grassy ground, which matched the cadence of the jingle sound almost perfectly.

And then it came upon them, that running, whirring whiteness. It was a beast of prey, but one they had not seen before. And the Monax raced away on their stumpy legs and sowbellies.

They dived for their holes among the wood huts and along the edge of the woodland. They had never before experienced such terror before. After all, the Monax came to this land because there were no coyotes or foxes to molest them here, but now, their land had been taken over by the Great Running White Fox, who nearly hourly cast running sorties across the grounds.

But the message was not well-received among the Monax. Impetuous youth caused the young males to wander out onto the lawn in midday, testing their luck against the jingling and running whirs of death.

For nearly a week, this coterie of the young came to out into the mid-lawn, and several times, a day the Great Running White Fox was descend upon them, running hard and casting his fell jaws at at their fatty hides.

One day, a young male got the fright of his life when the beast of death ran him down, but the predator had never before killed such a creature and so was left filling the air with some wild barks while the Monax youth rose on its hindlegs and showed its teeth.

And that display was enough to make the Great Running White Fox back down.

But that would not stop the sorties, but it would not stop the bravado of youth either. It was as if both sides were unaware of what the other could do, and they were now testing the waters to see how far it all could go.

And not two days passed, when a young Monax heard the jingle, jingle and the running of feet, and decided not to run until the beast was upon him.

This time, the Great Running White Fox grabbed the young Monax and shook it violently in its jaws. On this foray, a yellow dog had come along for the sortie, but all she did was bark wildly at the Monax youth that stood to watch in horror as their comrade was shaken to death.

And so the first Monax in two decades had died at the jaws of a predator. In this case, it was a running dog, a cream and white whippet, a beast brought over from England and supremely adapted to the runs against the rabbit and the hare. The short legs of the Monax were no match for long legs of the dog.

From then on, the Monax knew to live in fear. They crept about the lawn only with great caution, for now they knew the real world of predation. They were prey, and the predator could come at any moment.

This is the way the Monax live where there are only forests and fields. The coyotes and the foxes and the farm dogs all take their toll upon the Monax. The .17 rifles take out the Monax as well.

It is only in these odd anomalies that we call “development” that predator-free paradises can exist, but they are anomalies that barely register in the history of life on this planet. Where there is vegetation, there are grazers and browsers, and where there are grazers and browsers, there are fanged beasts of prey to hunt them.

The introduction of the whippet to this artificial grassland made it oddly more wild  With a domesticated killer to run the domesticated landscape, there was a sort ecological balance provided to the waves of grass.

But it an ersatz ecology to an ersatz landscape. It is only made slightly more complete with the whippet’s running feet.

 

 

 

 

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anka

I always thought I’d be a golden retriever person. And I still am. Indeed, I am still very much into the gun dog breeds. I will always have one around.

But I’ve added to my canine tastes an entirely different sort of dog. Well, they aren’t entirely different. I really like the working shepherd dogs from the European continent. They are into retrieving, too, but their natural tendency is to retrieve with a very hard mouth. Half-wild sheep or cattle living on the North European Plain need hard tending.

Anka is a working German shepherd, whose ancestry I’ll never know, but I know she is from working lines. Her dark sable color predominates in those strains, and she is only 64 pounds.

She has decided that I am her main human and with me is as demonstrative and fawning as a golden retriever. With strangers, she is merely aloof. Aggression towards people really isn’t her thing. She loves children and will even adjust her wild playing to meet their needs.

I suppose now I will always have a dog of this type too. The two types of dog are an interesting juxtaposition to each other. Both are about seeking the approval of mankind. Both are about marveling at our species. As flawed as we are, there is something oddly comforting to look into the brown eyes of a dog like these two types.

A German shepherd is a wolfy enough animal for me to think of them as something truly primitive. But their primeval appearance is illusory. They were made wolves out of herding stock, and though they may have a bit of Central European wolf blood coursing their veins, they are working herding breed.

I suppose that as I gain more experience meeting dogs, I will have new ideas about them, and I have the right to change my mind as new facts and faces come to the fore.

I never thought I’d feel this way about a dog of this type, but I really do like her. I love her soft sensitivity, which she avails only to a select few, but it is so different from what I’ve seen in other “macho” breeds.  The boxer and working bulldog types I’ve been around are not like this at all. They are many things, but sensitive souls they are not.

I feel so embarrassed that I was wrong about this breed. Dogs barking like maniacs in backyards or the ones that you pass at the park that growl at you as their owners hold their leads tightly are not truly representative of the breed.

In fact, those same dogs in the right hands might be the most stable working dogs. and with their owners, they might be biggest babies that cower before the Yorkshire terrier or cat that lives in the house.

Anka has this odd sense of humor. It is developed and refined. She greets me with a lick on the face, and then when I’m not looking at her, she will pop her jaws just an inch from my face. I will flinch, and she will look back at me with this goofy grin. Her eyes are so soft and gentle, yet you cannot readily see them through her black mask.

And the way those eyes look at me, I know that I am hers and she is mine, and all will go right with the universe so long as we can be together.

 

 

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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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