Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Christmas From Spring Rock

Ambrosia is inspecting the decorations up close and personal.

The dogs Cleo and Aslan, the ferrets Loki and Pandora, the cats Ambrosia, Nefertiti and Tristan, the galahs Hedwig and Hermes, the roosters Eros and Butterfly and The Girls (our 9 chooks), Graeme and I wish you all a very Happy Christmas surrounded by those you love.

Friday, December 12, 2014

My Day

 I thought you might all like an update on Aslan's progress.  He's growing well and I think he's absolutely gorgeous.   Aslan is the most laid back puppy I've ever encountered.  He's the love of Cleo's life as well.  Even Graeme says he's cute although he doesn't play with Aslan as he did when Cleo was a pup.  He thinks that Cleo has Aslan for a  playmate now and vice versa so there's no playing with squeakies any more.  Cleo and Aslan still manage to keep him busy though, putting up fencing around my garden.  We keep finding new bits of garden that has been trampled flat during St Bernard games Graeme borrows more sheep fencing to put up yet more barricades to allow the garden to recover and to keep large puppy bodies out.

Yesterday began with giving Aslan a bath. He had an appointment at the vet's in the afternoon for his vaccination and check up.  First up I had to lure Cleo into the laundry so I could lock her up during the bathing procedure because she likes to get her nose into everything I do and Aslan is not in the mood to be shoved around by Cleo's nose when he's enduring a bath.  After Cleo was incarcerated with a rawhide bone to console her, Aslan's bath began.  Aslan isn't a fan of baths but he takes a very mature approach to the whole sordid incident and thinks of other things while his body is drenched, soaped, rinsed, conditions and rinsed again.  When that is over the good part begins.  Aslan loves being towelled dry.  Why he gets such joy out of it I don't know, but even since he was a tiny pup sitting on my knee while I towelled down his paws and tummy from the wet grass, he has been in seventh heaven while being rubbed down with a towel.  I'm sure he thinks it almost makes the whole bathing beforehand worth the indignity.

Then it was time to change dogs over - get Cleo out of the laundry while putting Aslan in.  Cleo prefers to be wherever Aslan is, but after a bath he's just not in the mood to be thoroughly checked over by a big black nose.  He prefers solitude to contemplate and dry off.  Changing the dogs over therefore took a while.  Cleo kept trying to get back into the laundry to be with Aslan and Aslan kept trying to get out of the laundry to find a nice spot of dirt or mud to roll in.  Finally they were on the correct sides of the laundry door and I was able to come inside, change my clothes and do a bit of housework.  Aslan and Cleo were eventually reunited and spent most of the morning snoozing on the  laundry floor.

In the afternoon we headed off to the vets' for Aslan's third vaccination.  He was very happy to visit there - more people who love him.  Cleo came too as usual because she frets when Aslan is out of her sight for too long.  Cleo loves car rides so it was all win win for her.   Aslan lay down and let the scenery pass by, but Cleo likes to wander around the back area trying to find the best window to look out.  A couple of times she planted her great big foot on Aslan and they had words.  I got into the conversation when Aslan growled at Cleo.  He swore it was an accident but I have zero toleration for growling.  Cleo barely noticed Aslan's growl and just moved over to the other window saying the view was better out that side of the car.  I don't know how she can tell because she's slobbered all over all the windows so it's hard to see out anyway.

When we got to the vets' the dogs had to stay in the car and wait for a house call - or I suppose a car call.  The vets' recommend that puppies who aren't fully vaccinated be carried and not put on the floor inside but my carrying Aslan days are over and Graeme didn't want to take him in to the vets'  without me for some reason.  Cleo would fret if we all went out of her sight, so the back of the car it was.  Rose, Aslan's personal vet, absolutely loves him.  When we visited the first time she asked me if I would let her carry Aslan into the surgery.  I was more than fine with that after having Aslan sit on my lap for quite a while in the busy waiting room.  Rose and Aslan bonded during that visit and she told him he was her new favourite patient. Yesterday wasn't any different.  Rose (whose real name is Rosemary by the way) came out with a vet student and made a big fuss of Aslan.  The vet student spent most of her time patting Cleo, but that was because Cleo kept putting her head under the student's hand and nudging her in a significant way.  The vet clinic has five vets but Rose made sure she was the one to come out to the car to give Aslan his check up and inoculation.  Everyone was amazed at how much he'd grown in such a short time and
and how big Cleo was.  Rose said she thinks Aslan is going to be a very big St Bernard based on how much he'd grown and the size of his paws.  Cleo muscled in as often as she could and made sure she got her fair share of pats and attention too while Rose was checking him over.  Cleo was shameless.  While Rose had her head bent over Aslan checking his tummy area Cleo leaned over, despite being on her lead tied to the cargo grate, and gave Rose a bit lick right up the side of her head.  Rose laughed and gave Cleo a pat.  I told Rose she'd need a shower and change of clothes after her visit with us.  Rose agreed.

Aslan passed his check up with flying colours.  I asked about his weight because making sure he gets the right amount of nutrition is always at the top of my mind.  Rose said he was perfect, so both Aslan and I were very happy.  Graeme has been saying for a
while that Aslan is too fat and I've been assuring him it was fluff, so Graeme can stop the insults now.  We have an expert's opinion on his weight.

Just before Rose returned to the clinic she asked if we'd allow her to take a photo of Cleo and Aslan for the clinic's Facebook page.  Both pups are always happy to pose for photos and after his had a bath in the morning I was happy to have his cleanses recorded while it lasted.  Rose returned with the camera and both  Cleo and Aslan assumed cute poses while Rose snapped away.  Rose returned to the clinic and I got her purse to pay for the visit and returned to the office as well. 
When I opened the door I heard Rose saying to John, another of the vets, "You want to see a lot of cute?"  She then scrolled through her photos so John  could see all the photos she'd taken.

Here is the one they put on their Facebook page.

The link to the page if you want to see it is https://www.facebook.com/moorongvet?fref=photo  Sadly they called Cleo Chloe, but I'm sure Cleo will get over the insult eventually.  I'm telling her to concentrate on being a star.

Aslan still clean and fluffy this morning so I'm sure he'll be looking for some mud and disgusting farm type stuff to roll in and Cleo is sis sure to know the perfect spot to take care of all this fluffy cleanness.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Aslan Is Home

 Cleo and Aslan meet for the first time.

Almost two weeks ago we headed for the Goulburn area to meet our new menagerie member and bring him home.  His breeder, Ann, was a lovely lady had travelled down from Queensland by car with three pups to deliver to their new homes.  Ann had developed a nasty cough along the trip, but she spent time to give me lots of good advice in pup raising and showing.  Aslan agreed with all she said, but chose to sit in the shade of the car and snooze in between wise head nodding when Ann said something he wanted to agree with, especially on the use of treats to reinforce wanted behaviour.  We moved inside for a cup of tea and Aslan followed along being told to "follow the feet" by Ann.  It's proved over the last few days that Aslan is very good at "follow the feet", his only hindrance now is Cleo who wants to follow Aslan right on top of him, rather than beside or behind him.  It's difficult to follow human feet if all you can see are giant paws all around you.
 Aslan the day after he arrived home.  Note the feed dish - it's the same one in the photo below.

  Cleo at the same age as Aslan in the photo above.

The first few days were fraught for Aslan.  Cleo wanted to get to know him from every angle and her nose was always glued to some part of Aslan's anatomy.  The little pup couldn't find relief from the big nose that was constantly questing for more information about this new addition to Cleo's life.  Aslan tried being philosophical about it for a while and we tried to intervene when things got too much for the baby pup but in the end we had to offer him political asylum.  Bringing him inside wasn't a good idea because we didn't want to make Cleo jealous and we wanted them to bond and form a strong friendship.  Graeme came up with the answer.  He brought a fence panel down from the shed and placed it across the laundry door so that Aslan could come and go as he pleased but Cleo couldn't get to him if he wanted a break.  They could still lie close to each other though.  It works like a dream - makes it difficult for us to get in and out of the laundry now, but we are the mere humans in all this bonding and bullying scenario so we don't really count.

Aslan seeking political asylum from Cleo's attentions.  Note the tongue poking out at Cleo.

Aslan isn't the only one making major adjustments though.  Cleo is delighted with the newest family member but does allow herself to be bullied out of her food by the little scrap of fluff if I don't intervene.  The feeding regime at the moment is quite involved.  Mornings begin with a drink of lactose free milk for both parties.  Cleo on the back porch and Aslan locked in the laundry so he only gets one share.  Then comes the tinned food.  Aslan had a scoop of tinned puppy food - the very tinned puppy food Cleo refused to eat from the very first offering.  Cleo has half a tin of adult dog food - the very dog food she has scarfed from her early puppy years because she wouldn't eat puppy food.  Cleo now refuses to eat the adult food unless a dollop of Aslan's puppy food is added to her adult food.  She then eats the puppy food first and feels that she's not letting Aslan get something she doesn't have.

Aslan is locked in the laundry with his breakfast for about 15 minutes so that Cleo, a slow eater - she like to savour her meals - can get some food inside her before he comes out and tries to muscle in on Cleo's breakfast.  Once the timer goes off (so poor Aslan isn't forgotten and left in the laundry) I remove Cleo's food, placing it up on the feed bins where Aslan can't reach but Cleo can (but never does - she'll stand and look at her food as if it's on top of the roof rather than nose high).  We then do a tour of the garden so Aslan can practise "follow the feet".  Cleo makes this a complicated procedure because her favourite out in the garden pastime with Aslan is to gently place her nose under Aslan's fat little tummy and flip him over on his back turtle fashion.  A puppy will only suffer this indignity a number of times (quite a number is turns out) before he objects strongly to being flipped over every few steps.  Aslan then voice his disapproval of the game and says it with sharp little teeth as well.  Cleo manages a hurt expression on her face and appeals to me to see the unfairness of it all.  Sadly for Cleo I'm on Aslan's side and end the discussion by picking him up and carrying him back to the house while Cleo follows asking to be picked up too.

Cleo gets a big pat and scruff up and told I still love her too when we get back to the house and both dog lie down for a well earned sleep, waiting for lunch time and the whole feeding procedure (with only the dry food and a chicken leg each this time thankfully) to begin again.

 Aslan practising to be a show dog.

After lunch all is relatively quiet.  Cleo and Aslan go out and play, talk to the ferrets, the galahs and the chooks through their cages and generally enjoy the lovely spring weather we've been having.  Around 4.00p.m. life gets more interesting as it's time for me to collect the eggs.  Cleo has always been of the opinion that I am not able to collect eggs without her help.  She waits patiently outside the cage and accepts offers of stale bread if any is available, otherwise she just waits and watches the proceedings, knowing her daily egg will be delivered when we get back to the house.  Aslan likes the more up front and personal approach to the hens.  He trots inside the chook yard as if he owns it and goes straight up to the nearest hen or rooster to introduce himself.  Now when Cleo was a puppy she tried the same thing and got a peck on the nose for her trouble - hence her choice to wait outside the chook yard.  For some reason the chooks are more tolerant of Aslan and give him free reign of the chook yard without interference.  Cleo fusses on the outside of the yard, trying to warn Aslan of impending doom but Aslan wanders around making chooky friends and proving Cleo wrong.  I collect the eggs, give each puppy his or her egg for the day and go inside for a well earned rest.

All is quiet until dinner time about two hours later.  After the dinner ritual is over and Aslan once again freed from his seclusion in the laundry it's play time again for the dogs.  Eventually they come back to the laundry and their beds to settle down for the night.  

 Tummy Rub Time

So the state of the nation at Spring Rock is pretty good.  All members of the menagerie have adjusted to the new addition.  Hopefully they won't notice him growing and growing as the months pass and will still be pro Aslan.  Aslan is learning to live on a farm and ignore any passing sheep if we go for a walk.  Cleo is showing him how - it's hard, but a dog can do it if she or he tries.  Graeme is coping well with the whole second St Bernard situation.   I'm a bit busier than usual and look forward to the day Aslan can have his meals left on the floor to eat when he feels like it rather than these four meals a day.  Cleo is looking forward to this too because she doesn't like having her meals removed after 15 minutes either, but, unlike Cleo, with the easy integration of one fluffy little puppy I'm not complaining about the next few months of complicated feeding regimes. 

Welcome to the family Aslan.  

Best Friends

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Meet Aslan

 Aslan and one of his brothers.

 Aslan, or to use is full pedigree name Aslan's Gift if the beautiful boy on the right.   He's only about four weeks old in the photo and it's the only one I have of him face on, but I think he's gorgeous.  In case you haven't guessed Aslan is now my dog.  I'm just waiting for him to reach eight weeks of age and then his breeder will bring him down from Queensland and meet us in Goulburn and Aslan will come home with us.  This will all happen in a week or two,

I've told Cleo all about him but at the moment she remains unimpressed.  She just wants me to play with her squeaky toy with her.  I hope she is more impressed when she meets the little scrap of fluff - although I don't suppose he'll be a little scrap for very long.

I had some trouble obtaining a pup this time.  Trying to buy a good quality male dog from well known studs proved a lesson in humility.  So many of them were very reluctant to sell to me because I have no dog show history.  They weren't willing to take the chance that I might bring their stud's reputation down.  The stud from which I bought Aslan has a great reputation, breeds top quality St Bernards,  temperament tests each pup before sale and offers life long support to purchasers.  The lady I spoke to was supportive, offered lots of useful advice and suggested I should get into showing if I'm going to be breeding.  I feel confident I've bought from the right people.

Not only that but Aslan's Gift's father is named Aslan's Pride (hence Aslan's Gift's name).  I am a big fan of the Narnia series and told Graeme I had to have a pup by this father (not a very professional way to choose a pup I know).  I had been toying with names from Egyptian mythology for Cleopatra's mate, but when the breeder gave me the opportunity to name the pup I immediately chose Aslan as his name.  Aslan's dad is a beautiful, big boy with the best puppy dog eyes you've ever seen.  I hate to say it but he reminds me so much of Billy. 
Aslan's Dad.

I'm sure to tell you a lot more about him when I pick him up in a week or so.  There are sure to be lots of photos, both of Cleo and Aslan.  Before I go, here is one last photo of Aslan.  He's enjoying dinner with his seven siblings and I'm not entirely sure which one he is but I think he might be the pup in the middle with the almost completely brown back.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Cleo's Big Day Out

 Hello Everyone,

On Friday I went out for a long drive to Central New South Wales with Mum and Dad. Apparently the power was being turned off for the day while the electricity people fixed something on the big pole behind the house.  Dad said something about not wanting me to drool on the electricity people, but I'm sure that's not right.  Everyone loves my drool and I'm always so excited to see people - I'm sure they don't mind being knocked over while I'm saying hello.  I always apologise very nicely while they're on the ground with lots of licks and a bit of my drool.  I'm getting very good at sharing my drool - it's a new thing with me.

Dad took two photos of me while we were out.  Here is the one where I was actually looking at the camera.  I'd just been for a nice walk in the bush behind the car.  The smells!  I have lots of nice smells at home, but the smells out here were all new to me and very interesting.

I had lots of trouble lifting my nose off the ground and walking back to the car.  Mum said we couldn't stay out here all day sniffing the grass, but I couldn't see why.  Mum didn't even sniff it once so I don't know what she meant by "we".

I had a wonderful day.  I made Dad lift me in and out of the car every time we stopped - the man's got to have some fun in his life.  The last time we got out of the car I nearly jumped out myself, but remembered in time that it was Dad's job.  The temptation to jump out was due to my discovering a new taste sensation.

Have you ever heard of Paddle Pops?  If you haven't you just have to get one!  They are delicious.  Mum bought me one, even though Dad kept telling her I wouldn't eat it (Mum knows me so much better).  She reminded Dad that they used to buy milk shakes for Christie, her horse (no idea who Christie was but I'm sure she loved the milk shakes), so they could buy a paddle pop for a St Bernard.  She opened this paddle pop thing in front of me and my nose started twitching as soon as she opened the pack.  Then she held it in front of me and I thought I'd found Heaven!  I moved forward and bit off the very end of the tail gate and took a bite (Mum miscalculated how far I could lean out of the car and not reach the delicious treat).  Well!  All I can say is, "Why wasn't I told about Paddle Pops ages ago?!"  I'm ten months old after all.  That's ten months where I could have been eating Paddle Pops and haven't been!  I almost jumped out of the car to get the rest but remembered in time that this might upset Dad who was having so much fun lifting me in and out of the car.  Once Dad had done his thing and handed my lead over to Mum I was right there looking up lovingly at the Paddle Pop and I even "Sat" without being told - I was so eager to get the rest of that treat inside me.  Mum held on to the stick and made sure I couldn't get my teeth on it.  That was OK.  I have a feeling it would have tasted good too, but Mum said she didn't want a trip to the vets' so I couldn't have it.  I slurped up every drop of the Paddle Pop and looked for more.  Mum said she needed a bath before she could eat hers but Dad just got the water tank out so she could wash her hands and then - would you believe it! - they ate their own Paddle Pops without giving me so much as a lick!  I tried my puppy dog eyes look, I tried a little whine, I even tried strings of drool, but nothing would convince them to share.  I promised not to eat the whole lot and leave them a little bit, but nothing moved them.  When those two selfish parents were finished we got back in the car (Dad made some comment  about spoiled dogs but I know he must have been talking about some other dog.)

After that I heard Dad talking about making ramps so I could walk up into the back of the car myself on our next day out.  Then Mum and Dad started talking about getting a friend for me and if we'd both fit in the back.  Dad didn't think so, Mum was confident we would because she said she'd seen photos of two St Bernards in the back of a much smaller car.   Dad said OK then, the ramps were definitely being built.  Mum looked surprised.  She told me later that I had bewitched Dad and she hoped my mate (whoever that is) will do the same.  Dad even agreed to let Mum put a St Bernard sticker on the back of the car next to his Landrover Discovery group sticker.

The last think we did was stop at a shop so Dad could buy boring human food like milk and such for when we got home.  While he was gone and Mum was reading I made friends through the car window with an old man who walked by.  He was trying to get a  good look at me through the smears on the glass when Dad came back.  Dad told him I was just a pup.  He asked how old I was and Dad asked Mum.  She told him I was ten months old and the old man came up to Mum's window and started talking to her.  Mum and Dad said he'd had a very interesting life - he was from an old pioneering farming family and had farmed all over Australia.  He had farmed in all six states he said.  Mum reminded Dad that we'd never have met him if it wasn't for me.

We then went home and Dad lifted me out, grumbling about needing those ramps and I escorted Mum to the house.  She was hobbling a bit and complaining about her back, but I stayed close to offer moral support and I'm sure I made her feel a lot better.  Then it was time to settle down and sleep and dream of a back porch full of Paddle Pops.

Lots of love from Cleo

Friday, September 05, 2014

A Tale of Two Ferrets And A St Bernard

 Pandora and Loki (Loki is the large male ferret on the right)

Just before I started dinner last night I realised I'd forgotten to bring my two ferrets, Loki and Pandora inside for the night so I headed down the yard (with Cleo in tow as usual) to bring them in.  Loki, also as usual, was excited to see me.  He ran up and down inside the cage pointing out I was late, it was getting dark and he was feeling a might chilly.  I apologised profusely and pulled him out of the cage. 

The outside cage lives under our apricot tree where the ferrets get wonderful shade in summer and warm sunshine in winter.  The cage is long, made of wire and stands about four and a half feet off the ground on wooden stilts.  It's the perfect height for a St Bernard to stand at the front, look in and beg for cat food or chicken meat to be tossed out onto the ground.  The ferrets usually comply with these requests.  For once I have ferrets and a St Bernard who actually seem to like each other rather than declaring war to the death on sight.  That doesn't mean I let them up close and personal though because Cleo is what my Nana would have called a gop.  Nana called me a gop all my younger years.  A gop is an uncoordinated, happy go lucky, overly friendly person who tends to bump into things because she doesn't look where she's going, not take things seriously enough or just plain gets on a Nana's nerves.  Nana was right, I was a gop, so I'm well and truly qualified to recognise another gop in the world and Cleo is definitely one.  Cleo's goppiness means that she is likely to squash a little ferret with her huge paws if she gets close enough to play.  She's also inclined to place her head on top of them and rub, which might be a sign of affection but will certainly mean the ferret coming off the worse for wear after such behaviour.

Anyway, now that we have the gop term sorted, back to the ferret cage last night where Loki was last seen dangling from my hand in the twilight.  I put him on top of the cage as usual so I could retrieve Pandora and their bedding.  I have to bring the bedding in each night so the dew or fog doesn't make it damp for the next day.  I had Pandora dangling in my hand ready to place her on top of the cage when Loki started doing "the ferret thing".  Some of you might remember my description of "the ferret thing" in the past.  It involves dancing backwards with your mouth open and twisting your body from side to side while you are doing it.  It's much more fun if you have another ferret to do the ferret thing with you, but Loki took the pragmatic view and did "the ferret thing" solo and kept doing "the ferret thing" right off the side of the cage!  He hit the ground with a thud and sat there dazed for a few seconds.  I bent down as quickly as my poor back would allow only to be beaten to the ferret by an over excited St Bernard.  Cleo had been observing "the ferret thing" with great interest and thought she'd like to join in the game despite her lack of ferretness.  Now that Loki was on the ground where she could get at him a game was definitely on the cards.

I made a grab for Cleo's collar while Loki, ignoring Cleo in preference to exploring sites unknown, headed down the yard.  I had Cleo's collar in one hand and Pandora still dangling in the other hand trying to work out how I was going to retrieve Loki while still holding a ferret in one and and Cleo in the other when Cleo bounded off after the retreating ferret, taking me and the attached Pandora with her.  We were dragged along the ground for a few steps while I was yelling at the top of my voice for Graeme (who was still inside thinking of nothing but computers and his dinner) to come to the rescue.   Cleo realised something wasn't quite as it should be.  Usually when she bounded off she made much better progress.  She turned her head and actually looked surprised to find me attached and lying on the ground behind her.  Things weren't all bad though, I had the other ferret clutched tightly in my other hand.  Cleo now tried to turn herself into a doughnut shape to gain licking access to Pandora while Loki continued his exploration of the yard, paying no attention to the drama unrolling behind him. Not being able to reach the ferret I held as far from her as possible Cleo made do with licking my face instead.  A dog has to make do after all.

Meanwhile Graeme was coming down the back steps.  He blithely walked past the questing Loki with little more than a glance at the retreating white form, and headed for me.  I knew there was no point in shouting, "Catch that ferret!" even though the words hovered on my lips (between groans of pain and frustration).  Graeme is anti-ferret and will not have anything to do with them.   I've told my children if I get run over by a bus the first thing they have to do is mount a mercy dash to the farm and give the ferrets political asylum at one of their houses.  Graeme watched Loki meander past him without so much as raising an eyebrow.  He muttered things about animals, and wives who loved them, as he bent down to take Cleo's collar so I could get up and hobble off after the disappearing ferret.   I still had Pandora dangling from my hand as she had been when all this stared.  I rearranged her more comfortably, told her to behave (huh!) and limped off in search of the recalcitrant Loki. 

Thankfully both ferrets are albinos so Loki wasn't difficult to see in the fading light.   Loki increased his speed from an interested meander to just faster than his pursuing owner and headed around to the side of the house where the aviary is located.  The galahs, who enjoy a daily chat with Cleo without a thought, decided that this small white creature was a predator worth panicking about and set up a very satisfactory screeching and wing flapping - making Loki feel that he truly was top of the food chain a (fact every ferret knows from birth).  He had been heading in a different direction until now, but this pink and grey blur of noise and feathers was well worth a ferret's time to investigate further.  He did a circuit of the cage and wonders of wonders found a plastic above ground tunnel around the other side of the cage!  This is a Cleo deterrent I set up to discourage her from sitting on my garden plants around the aviary while she talks to the galahs. In a ferret's mind tunnels top nearly everything else in the world, screeching galahs included.  Ferrets can't resist tunnels so of course Loki had to run in one end and out the other.  Knowing ferrets as well as I do I just waited at the other end and nabbed him as he came out.  Words were exchanged about badly behaved ferrets while Loki just yawned in my face and said he was ready for bed now thank you.

With both ferret in tow I returned to the house, noticing the laundry door was closed with a sad Cleo on the other side, and put the ferrets in their inside cage.  Graeme was back at his computer trying to pretend he didn't live with a woman who owned such animals.  I realised the dratted ferret bedding was still outside so went out to retrieve that too.  I came inside once again and told Graeme he would have to get dinner.  My back was just a ball of agony by now so I spent the rest of the night in my chair working on my cross stitching and thinking dark thoughts about ferrets and goppy St Bernards while poor Graeme once again had to get us our dinner.

Cleo spent the night on the back porch wondering what all the fuss had been about.  She just wanted to play with a ferret when it presented itself to her.

Pandora and Loki spent the night swapping exciting stories of being dragged along by a St Bernard while Mum screamed her head off and things you can see in the yard from ground level, noisy pink and grey birds and a wonderful tunnel hidden around the other side of the house.  I think Loki's stories top Pandora's by a mile and live in dread that she'll try to find her own adventures one day.

Cleo investigating interesting smells - on our walk a few days ago.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Training Cleo

Cleo, as I may have mentioned, is my third St Bernard, but my first St Bernard pup - Billy and Athena were both adult dogs when I got them and knew basic good behaviour.  Cleo is now seven months old and about the size of a full grown German Shepherd, though I think she weighs more than your average German Shepherd now.  She is what my Nana would have called a Gop (a term my Nana seemed to reserve just for me in my younger days) - Cleo is full of energy, a bit clumsy with those big feet and always racing around looking for mischief or fun and frolic.  She's not particular as to whether it's the former or the latter, just so she's up and doing. My son Josh, when walking Cleo to the lamb shed when we were bottle feeding the hoard, was heard to say to Cleo, "Where's the dignity?"  He was used to walking Billy who was both dignified and sedate on the end of a lead.  Billy always channelled his show days and walked with the air of a well trained butler leading visitors to the sitting room.  As I keep telling everyone that Cleo will settle down in a year or two and become the staid, sedate dog St Bernards are known for, but in the meantime training sessions and just walks in the garden are fraught with adventure - for both Cleo and me.

I'm trying to train Cleo in the basic good behaviour commands with little success at the moment, but I hold hope tightly in my heart. She's not too bad at "Sit" but the rest of the   commands are still an enigma to her.  She does "Heel" when told to, but only for a second or two then she's back to charging forward on the lead and towing me along as if she thought she was a Husky instead of a St Bernard.  Cleo is working on obeying the "Drop" command as well, but it always turns into a "please rub the tummy" position as soon as she's on the ground.  Let me tell you, trying to get a seven month old St Bernard up off the ground to continue her lessons when she's in tummy rub mode is not easy!  Especially when I can't give her the tummy rubs because that would be a reward for bad behaviour.  "Come" and "Stay" are closed books to Cleo. She is absolutely incapable of staying. Cleo will sit like a good puppy and look at me with her tongue lolling out the side of her mouth and she'll even acknowledge my hand at her nose to make her stay in the one spot. I know she's acknowledged it because she tries to lick my hand before I start to step away. Trouble is she's right there with me from the first step I take backwards. We go through the "Sit", "Stay" commands again and once again she's up and following me from the first step I take. The strange thing is the absolute opposite is the case with "Come". Cleo plants her bottom on the ground and refuses to budge, especially if there is an open gate between us. Her laughing face and enthusiastic greeting when I go to grab her collar are to show me there's no hard feelings, then she drops to the ground (as I mentioned, another command she doesn't get when asked to do so) and has to be dragged through the gate so I can close it and get on with my day.  She doesn't even have the good grace to stand up while I'm getting her through the gate.  She just sort of crawls along and pops up on the other side of the gate to lick me and tell me that was a good game and can we do it again please?  Of course training with someone to help would be the answer to the problems I've described, but Graeme is out on the farm all day and only gets back to the house late in the afternoon - not the best time for either Graeme or Cleo to participate in a training session.

Most of our training - while the ground is too damp for walks being towed by an enthusiastic pup - are conducted in the back yard after I put the ferrets out for the day.  Cleo is always available for escorting the ferrets to their cage and after she has had the opportunity to commune with them for a little while training begins.  Cleo is very keen to get the treats, but not keen to obey commands to get them.  She's more inclined to just snuggle up and push at the hand holding the treats.  Holding that hand above my head is not to be even considered.  Cleo is already big enough to reach up to my raised hand and that means she needs something to lean against.  The only thing close enough to use is me and you can imagine the consequences of Cleo leaning against me while I'm standing there with one hand raised above my head.  Commands of "Sit!  Sit!  Sit!!" only get the response from Cleo, "In a second, I'm a bit busy at the moment," and over I usually go.  I've tried putting the treat in my pocket, but Cleo's nose knows where to find them.  I'm now trying treatless training so that Cleo is more focused on the lesson than the reward.  Cleo is unimpressed.

Another bone of contention (if you'll excuse the unintended pun) is when Cleo comes inside. Graeme has a no dogs on the carpet rule, and Cleo does her best to get around the rule.  Things start well.  Cleo comes inside and sits on the kitchen tiles and looks like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.  She even adopts the drop position and settles in.  The photo below shows the muddied floor from just the first visit today (remember we are having a lot of wet weather at the moment and towelling feet isn't enough with a large pup).

  By the time I've gone outside to get her blanket to lie on things have changed. 

And things just go downhill from there.  More and more bits of Cleo end up on the carpet, until nearly the whole dog is ensconced on the carpet with a look on her face that says, "I know you love me and really want me in the loungeroom with you and not here in the kitchen."  After a battle ranging from a few minutes to half an hour, depending on my patience at the time, Cleo ends up outside to think about her behaviour and to try again later.  Cleo has only managed to stay inside for a few hours twice.  We are still working on this behaviour, just as we are with all the other ones.

I've explained over and over again to Cleo that these are commands she has to learn if we are to take her away with us if we go away for a couple of days at any time.  We will be staying in caravan parks and her public behaviour has to be perfect or there will be trouble (for us, not Cleo).  Cleo just smiles and drools and rolls over for a tummy rub. She only discovered tummy rubs recently but she's hooked.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

A Day In The Life Of Cleo

Cleo is continuing to grow like a weed.  This was taken a few weeks ago and she's now considerably larger again.  That bib will soon fit.  Cleo life is very full these days with lots of tasks to accomplish each day.  I'm sure she wonders how we managed before she arrived.  Cleo's day begins with her morning drink of milk and breakfast.  She's given a short time to digest this and explore the house yard in case something exciting has happened during the night that she didn't notice.  Then it's off to feed the lambs.  Cleo comes along on a lead and loves saying good morning to the bottle babies.  She rushes up to the fence and licks as many lambs that present themselves for said licking.  Most lambs are eager to front up to the fence in case Cleo has a bottle concealed about her person.  Once the lambs realise Cleo is bottle free and wander away the greetings are over and is Cleo is tied to a post outside the reach of the fence while Graeme and I feed the lambs.  We used to let her sit closer to the fence but soon discovered Cleo wanted to be personally involved in the feeding.  She climbed the fence and tried to join us in the little feeding area, despite being tied up to a post.  Cleo is happy to sit back and watch now, even finding it all a bit boring and takes the time to lie down and rest while she keeps watch on the lamb feeding.

Once the lambs are fed, it's back to the house.  Cleo is off the lead and looking for one of her squeaky toys as soon as she's past the gate.  Once a toy is acquired I'm invited to a game of tug of war.  We play for a while with Cleo toning down her strength to accommodate for a weakling like me.  Dad is a much worthier opponent but he doesn't get to play until later these days.  Cleo is a very good tug of war opponent.  She plays with the grandchildren when they visit and has never pulled one of them over even though some of her challengers are very small.  Cleo fits her tug to suit the size and strength of the human on the other end of the toy.

Cleo's next job is to do a tour of the garden with me and help me pull weeds or plant out any new plants or rooted cuttings that need attention.  She is a very "helpful" pup at these times.  As soon as I begin to dig a hole Cleo plants her bottom on the spot and smiles at me with all the assurance of a dog who knows she's an invaluable help.   For a short while I was able to trick her by beginning to dig a hole a few feet to the right or left of where I actually wanted the hole and as soon as Cleo plonked down in the hole I quickly dug the real one.  Sadly Cleo was soon on to me and while she still sat in the first hole it was like there was a little spring in her rear end because she'd bounce up and settle down in the real hole in nothing flat.  I now lock her in the laundry with a pork chew (Cleo loves pork chews) if I have a lot of planting to do, or put up with the "help" if I only have a couple of holes to dig. If it's a watering day Cleo has even more to do.  She cannot resist water coming out of the hose and gallops around me to get at the water from different angles to position her mouth so she can gulp down the water.  I'm trying to dissuade this behaviour because Cleo doesn't know when to stop and will make herself sick if I don't once again lock her in the laundry.

After the morning gardening session we are off for our walk.  At the moment our walk is about a 2km round trip to the top of the hill towards the front of our property (for those new to this blog we live on 1,000 acres with lots of places for a puppy to explore if she's on a lead).  Cleo is always very excited to go on these expotitions as Winnie the Pooh would say and makes my 2km walk a real work out.  She's very good and just gives any sheep or lambs a nod of acknowledgement as she passes by without showing any inclination to chase them.  Yesterday I let her off the lead once we were well and truly clear of sheep and started training her to come when called.  Cleo isn't learning "Come" as quickly as I'd like - read Cleo is refusing to learn to come at all.  She did very well yesterday until she decided it was a great game and ran towards me very enthusiastically and knocked me sideways.   I have a back injury and being knocked sideways meant that walking back home was slow and painful after that.  Naturally I suspended lessons and hobbled home, cursing myself for forgetting to take my mobile phone with me to call for help.  Graeme finally missed me and came looking for me thankfully, but I was almost home by then with a very tired Cleo at my side.  While I might have been making slow progress, Cleo, who was still off the lead found lots to bound over to and explore before rushing back to make sure I hadn't disappeared.

After our walk Cleo has personal time while I go inside to do the housework and quilting, recovering from being knocked sideways or whatever.  She usually lies on the back porch with her bottom up against the screen door and goes to sleep.  I firmly believe this is a strategic position so that she's instantly aware of any comings or goings of her family.  She keeps a squeaky toy close by in case someone comes out for a quick game.

After her nap it's time to go find Dad and see what he's up to.  Cleo is aware that she's neglected Graeme for most of the morning and as he's her favourite squeaky toy game partner she has to keep in his good books - so it's time to make herself useful around the farm.  Cleo's "useful" behaviour involves following Graeme from job to job wagging her tail furiously in a show of farmer solidarity.  She pitches in and helps whenever she finds Graeme prone under a piece of farm machinery and isn't above drooling on him to add that St Bernard touch of approval.  Occasionally Cleo forgets herself and, in an effort to be even more "useful", steps on Graeme while he's lying under some huge piece of machinery.  She is then told in no uncertain terms to "Go Home!"  When Dad gets like this there is nothing to be done but to go home and sit on the back porch to wait to greet him when he comes inside.  Cleo always makes sure one of her squeaky toys is left at the gate so Graeme can pick it up and come play with her when he gets back to the house yard.

With the advent of the new ferrets Cleo has a new task to add to her day.  She feels it incumbent on her to check the ferrets every hour or so, going up to the cage and walking under it, licking any ferret tummy or feet available through the mesh floor.  The ferrets sometimes move on to the mesh for this doggy greeting and sometimes are so over doggy greetings that they retreat to the safety of their bedding where no tongues, no matter how big, can reach.

By the time the afternoon has rolled around Cleo is ready to help collect the eggs.  As I head off to the chook pen with scraps in hand, Cleo bounds down to alert the chooks of the impending raid.  She then waits at the gate while I open it, but learned as a pup not to go into the chook yard.  I didn't teach her this rule, the chooks did.  When, as a pup, Cleo bounded into the chook yard ready to make some fluffy friends the chooks ganged up on her and pecked her nose every time she presented herself as a new buddy.  It didn't take many such pecks to convince Cleo that the outside of the chook yard was the place  for a St Bernard to be.  Once I'm inside Cleo positions herself at the side of the yard close to the wire ready to share the scraps.  Her favourite is stale bread.  I sit on the horizontal post at the opening of the chook shed and scatter pieces of bread to the chooks, with the fox survivor sitting on my lap eating the bread without competition.   I pass lumps of the bread through the wire from time to time and Cleo happily chomps on her share.

We also visit the galahs to check their food and clean their water bowl.  Cleo keeps a good distance from the aviary ever since the day she bounded through the wire at the side of the cage and found herself inside with two furious birds.   She couldn't get out the way she'd come in because the wire was bent inwards and far to sharp to push again.  All Cleo could do was sit down and try to look like an innocent, bird loving dog until we noticed he there when we looked out the kitchen window.  Once the galahs are fed, and Cleo tries to smile reassuringly at them despite the fact that Hedwig and Hermes are severely prejudiced against St Bernards, we head back to the house.  Cleo then gets and egg in her bowl as a thank you for her invaluable assistance and a drink of milk to wash it down.

The only other task for the day is to help bring the ferrets inside.  This happens around dusk as the night get a bit chilly.  Cleo likes to bound around ferrets and me as we head inside. She runs circuits around the garden (except where I've put up puppy blocks to protect my plants) and is back in front of us long before we make the back steps.  This slow progress is due in some part to Loki and Pandora who don't yet know how to sit on my shoulders for the trip inside.  I usually have my hands full of something else, like a few items from the clothes line, or a plant pot or something so, while trying to reduce my trips outside at night and bring the ferrets in, travelling on my shoulders to free my hands is something I'd like them to learn.  At the moment I can't bring other things inside because I'm too busy catching falling ferrets.  Cleo seems to be front and centre as soon as one or other or both ferrets slide south.  Cleo is more than happy to try and catch any ferret in reach and I'm desperate to do without  her help so I've got rather good at ferret juggling. 

After this exciting last task for the day Cleo settles down for a well earned sleep, but just lately she's noticed that sparrows nest in our ancient pine tree in the chook yard.  They have roosted there for as long as we've been here, but it's just come to Cleo's attention.  For some reason she's taken exception to their presence and spends a good while barking at them to be quiet!  Cleo's bark is developing nicely and has almost reached sonic boom decibels so she's able to drown out the noisy sparrows as they flutter their wings and settle on their branches.  Once silence in the pine tree has been achieved Cleo retires to her bed in the laundry and only comes out if Graeme or I go outside for some reason.  Once we are thoroughly licked and told how long it's been since she saw us last Cleo returns to her bed and sleeps the sleep of a puppy who has had a very busy day.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lambing And Other Joys In Life

I haven't written for a while because I've had a some sad events in my life lately - one after the other and haven't found much to laugh about.  I try to write only humorous stories as I prefer to look to the positives, so no stories have occurred to me.  I'm sure the menagerie were up to their usual hijinks, but the humour just seemed to pass me by.

Yesterday a friend wrote and asked me to keep posting because she missed reading about my life.  I wrote back to explain why there had been no posts only to find that there was humour all around me if I only took my own advice and concentrated on the positive.

Cleo is growing like a weed and is quite a character so it's more than likely that once I come out of my funk I'll see lots of things to write about.  She adds joy to my day every day.  She has a toy squeaky witch (well two identical witches and one new one in the cupboard in case of lost witch emergencies).  The witches go everywhere with her and I am forever scouring the houseyard trying to find where she's left them this time.  Cleo tries to entice Graeme outside each morning by squeaking her witch for as long and as loudly as she can.  She's trained Graeme to come outside at the sound of the squeaking and play their game of who has control of the witch.  This goes on for a while, usually until Cleo gets greedy and tries to grab the spare witch while holding on to the witch in play.  She then seems to lose both witches and Graeme wins.  I've never actually been able to watch one of these games because if I come into view Cleo stops playing to come and give me the score so far.  I keep out of sight so Graeme can continue to bond with Cleo who has him wrapped around her large furry paw.
An old photo of Cleo and her witch.  She's a lot bigger now - the witch remains the same size.

Cleo enjoys accompanying me around the yard, and farm if she's allowed out the gate, her biggest problem with this activity is that Cleo likes to take the lead but isn't entirely sure where we are going so she needs to keep looking back to check I'm still on track and also it seems to encourage me to keep up.  She does this by furiously wagging her back end while turned in a pretzel shape.  Inevitably this causes her to run into things.  I'd never realised how full of hard objects my yard and larger farm contains!  My progress is filled with calling out, "Watch out!!" or "Cleo!  The wall (or rock, or bird bath, or fence, or on one memorable occasion, the house!).  Cleo just bounces off whatever obstacle she's encountered, gives me an accusing look, like I deliberately put the house there for her to run into and continues on her way, still in the pretzel/back end wagging position.

Cleo's other peculiarity is her inability to deal with steps.  She manages to dramatically trip up or down the stairs nearly ever time she leaves or comes back to the back porch.  I've tried to analyse her technique to see where she goes wrong, but it just seems like she doesn't recognise the need to actually go up or come down the steps.  She either falls off from the top or runs into the steps and stumbles up them.  I live in dread that she's going to seriously hurt herself, but at the moment, Cleo seems to thing that face planting on steps is the accepted means of navigating them.  Who knew some St Bernard pups require remedial lessons in ascending/descending steps?

We have almost finished lambing - only one ewe left to lamb.  She is going for the record in being overdue.  Actually she officially broke the record last night, so hopefully she'll pop today.  I visit her a couple of times each day when I go up to the shed to feed the lambs.  I try not to encourage her to get on with things - I remember the feeling of being overdue when pregnant and everyone commenting, "Haven't you had that baby yet?"  I just sympathise with her and tell her she's still beautiful (despite the round belly I never mention).  I know she's just as eager as we are for her to pop.  All the other ewes are either out in the paddock with their lambs or in nearby pens showing off their new babies.  Life for a way overdue ewe is no picnic.

31st March Update.

The last ewe finally popped and boy was it worth waiting for! She had the longest pregnancy on the farm ever!  No wonder.  The lamb is the biggest lamb we've ever produced (or as the mother insists that she's produced!).  His birth was no fuss and his mum produced him without any trouble.  She's amazing (as I've told her a couple of times) He has all the makings of spectacular.  He is our highest ranking ram lamb in LambPlan. 
Here he is - remember this lamb is less than 24 hours old.

We have a total of 9 bottle babies this year with the possibility of another two who aren't doing as well as we'd like.  All the bottle babies so far are the smallest  lamb in sets of triplets.  We had a record number of triplets this year and decided to keep back one from each set to allow the other two to be raised by their mothers while we bottle fed one.  This will allow the two out with their mums to grow a lot better and of course the little ones kept back by us will do better than they would in the paddock as well.  We've found in past years that triplets are just problematic out in the paddocks.  Mums have trouble keeping track of all three and often one just falls by the way and is either found starving and weak or dead.  If Mum raises all three they are all a lot smaller than the rest of the lamb flock because mum's milk has had to go three ways instead of one or two.  Most of the bottle babies agree with our plan and tuck into the bottle with gusto.  Two little ewes (all the ones kept back bar one ended up being ewe lambs), object to being kidnapped and give us as much trouble as they can - running around the pen, hopping through the fence baaing for help and asking the other ewes to cal the police - that sort of thing.  Graeme and I could try out for rugby league teams by now I think.  We are expert tacklers and are getting quite fit dashing around the pen trying to corral two non co-oerative lambs. They still gobble the milk when we finally catch them, but they make sure we know they only do so because they are being forced to.

                                                 One of the bottle babies who doesn't need catching to feed.
The last set of triplets to be born are still with their mum in the lambing shed.  She's a bit of a dozy ewe and managed to step on two of her three lambs at various times, leaving the little ones with a limp.  No bones broken thankfully, but with the limp they may have trouble keeping up with their mum in the paddock, and as she's a bit of a vague one, I wouldn't put it past her to wander off and forget she had little ones lost somewhere in the paddock.  So, she's staying in until the lambs are walking normally again.  This is a problem in itself as it turns out the mum was a bottle baby.  How do we know this?  The hard way I assure you!  I took the bottle into the pen to give the smallest one (the one targeted for later kidnapping) a top up of milk.  I had her on my lap trying to convince her that a rubber teat was almost as good as mum's softer, more personal one when the mum under discussion came over to investigate.  She took one look at the bottle and something clicked in her somewhat befuddled mind.  After that I had to try to fend off a very determined ewe who had regressed to her days of fighting other lambs for her share of a bottle.  The fact that the lamb she was now trying to dislodge from the teat was her very own didn't occur to her.  She was a lamb again and getting her share of the milk was her first priority.  Let me tell you, holding on to a three day old lamb who is reluctant to drink from a rubber teat while fending off a fully grown, determined, if lacking in even average sheep intelligence ewe who is just as determined to drink, is not to be recommended.  There were occasions where the ewe won and managed to get the teat into her mouth.  While I struggled to wrest it from her mouth and at the same time keep hold of a struggling lamb, she sucked for all she was worth and boy, could she scoop up the milk.  Once I tore the teat from her mouth and restored order to the lambs who were all gathered around mum learning bad lessons in what is and isn't appropriate sheep behaviour I took the better part of valour and retreated to the other side of the fence with the lamb I still had control over.  From this protected spot I once again tried to convince the lamb to have a drink from the now rather slimy rubber teat.  Mum stuck her head through the bars of the pen and tried to demonstrate to her lamb,once again, just how nummy the contents of the bottle were.  The lamb remained unconvinced.

The beauty of all this is I have it to do all over again three times a day.  Ah, the joys of bottle feeding lambs.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A Cleopatra Progress Report

I thought you might like to see how Cleo is doing.  She's growing like a weed.  Each week we take a photo of her next to her feed bowl so we can see how much she's grown.  It's hard to believe we've only had her four weeks.  She's growing at an incredible rate.  I think I've mentioned that Cleo is my third St Bernard, but my first pup.  Billy and Athena were full grown when I got them so watching Cleo shoot up almost daily is amazing.

Cleo has settled in happily and is trying her best to make friends with the menagerie.  So far she has only won over the ferrets.  The cats all refuse to be polite and despite Cleo lying down near them and wagging her tail furiously all she gets for her trouble is a hiss and sometimes a scratched nose.  This hasn't put Cleo off though. She has hopes of living in peace and friendship with the cats.  

The galahs are another matter.  They are very scary when they raise their wings and screech at her so she gives them a wide berth.  The chooks are OK, but a pecked nose is no fun either so Cleo is content to sit outside the chook pen while I collect the eggs and watch the chooks from the safety of the other side of the wire.  Sheep we just won't talk about.  They are altogether just too big and too scary.   Cleo has met Teddy once and they touched noses in a polite way, but as Teddy insists on living out the back of the property and only coming near the house for a drink from the dam, Teddy and Cleo don't get much socialising time together.

The other great conquest is Graeme.  Cleo has him wrapped around one furry little paw.  Every morning as soon as Graeme gets up Cleo meets him at the back door with her witch.  This is a little dog toy that was left over from Halloween (you can see her in the third photo below) and I bought on sale.  The witch has a squeaker inside and Cleo and Graeme have a daily tussle in the back yard to see who can take possession of the witch and make her squeak.  Cleo usually wins.  

So all in all Cleo has quickly become part of the family and it feels like she's been here forever rather than just four weeks.  Stay tuned for further Cleo up dates.