Saturday, September 30, 2006

On the road again...

Long day today!

Early in the morning we piled the child, both dogs, ourselves and the assorted "stuff" necessary to traveling into the car and headed out towards Bendigo. Went through Woodend again, Kyneton, Castlemaine and finally Bendigo itself. Wandered around the towns, gaped at the gorgeous scenery, chirped "Honey, look! SHHHHEEEEPPP!!!" every few minutes, drank far too much caffinated beverages and ate way too much lollies, a coffee scroll and lemon-lime bitters! Wandered around the antiques shops and found this GORGEOUS Edwardian hall stand I'm in looooveeee with - only $2400. :-/ Saw a lot of nice sad irons, old egg beaters, a piece of Staffordshire and a nice flow blue platter (yes, I have eclectic collecting tastes!) I'd have liked as well though the lady wanted far too much for it considering the 3 chips, amount of crazing and minor yellowing. Sierra and Cade got to stretch their legs and wandered with us, causing the usual questions.

"Is that a baby greyhound?" No.

Is that a whippet? No.

"Is he fast?" You betchya!

"Is that a Border Collie/Koolie/Husky?" No it's an Aussie Shepherd.

"Oh, what mix is she then?" Au-sie Shep-herd. No you haven't heard of them before because they're actually an American breed. And yes, I know that makes no sense whatsoever, I didn't choose the name so don't blame me!

Upon seeing her blue eyes: "Is she albino? Can she see?" No, albino means the complete lack of pigment, she's a red merle (!) with blue eyes. And yes, she can see quite well... notice how she's following your hand holding the sandwhich intently... *lol*

I found Laurent an adorable sunhat in this little French shop which he needed after outgrowing last years and a matching shirt but Nic wasn't keen on getting both so I've got the shirt on my wishlist for next time. They had some seriously gorgeous girls stuff, I so need to have a girl next time! Castlemain seemed like a really nice area to live. We left for Bendigo at about 4:30pm to have late afternoon tea with Nic's friend Louise and her daughter who is also Nic's god-daughter at their grandmothers house. Lovely bunch of people and I enjoyed the heck out of it. The area really does remind me of where I came from in a lot of ways! Nic is seeming more and more open to the idea of living in the country now that he's actually SEEN it. I still want to look around because as gorgeous as the areas are I'm also feeling like I need to know more about schools, work and the reality of having to travel several times a week a fair haul to training classes. Great day but I'm bloody exhausted! *FLOMPS*

The only downside is that apparently Nic managed to BREAK our pram. :-( I paid $200 for it used (Bertini Bidwell) and the metal bits that hold the back in locking position are busted from jamming it in and out of our boot when the boot had too much other crap in it. Totally torqued till they broke so now the seat back won't sit up at all and flops down at a dangerous angle. :-( :-( :-(

Notes to self: dog-trailer/float is a priority purchase - two dogs, a baby and two adults in a Honda Accord is at best "cozy", three would be NUTS!

Friday, September 29, 2006

Ahhh... lazy summer days! Well, I wish anyway! Actually it's as busy as ever, though I have been somewhat slack with the dog training. Seems a whole plethora of new things are taking off, old things are changing and I'm thinking about fifty things at once!

As much as I'm eager to move, I'm going nuts over the "where" and feeling a bit sad about leaving this house... it's where we met, where I was proposed to, where we got married, where found out I was pregnant, labored and later brought Laurent home and spent his first year. I'll miss silly things, like the stained glass windows and the beautifully carved fire places with their decorative tiles and insets. And our garden. I'm taking a few things but a lot of the plants we'll have to leave behind when they've been birthday and wedding gifts. *sniffles*

I'm getting more and more eager to meet my new puppy as well, I got the latest photos at 3 weeks of age and I'm ready to fly up there and cuddle her right now! This waiting thing is for the birds!

Now lookit these two pics... what a difference a week makes huh! That chubby little slug has LEGS! LOL Nose is blacking up more and more and will eventually end up solid black, copper is pretty clear now on cheeks, eyebrows and under the rear legs.
We went to the Melbourne Royal on Aussie Shepherds day. I'd been looking forward to it all year long as it's probably one of the biggest Aussie turn outs. Due to crappy traffic ("Take the car!" says my usually PT loving husband! "It's faster!") we got there after judging had already started. It took 1 h 45 min to get from Hawthorn to there!!! Totally bummed out but I still got to catch quite a few of the Aussie Shepherds and got plenty of snaps. If you're interested, here's a link to the Kodak gallery I uploaded them to as there's about 40 of them, too many to put up here! It was waaayyyyyyyyyy too busy, everyone deciding to "miss" the weekend crowds made it into huge, noisy crowd. Blerg. Wayyyy too many people to take Laurent into the petting zoo, you seriously couldn't SEE the animals for the throngs of children so we gave it a miss. I decided to have L's photo taken at the "have your kid's photo taken with a lamb" thingie. It's $10 for a single print or $25 for a "package" which was a single print and a couple of dinky wallet sized ones. I just wanted one for the album, so the lady gave me attitude, which I didn't hear fully at the time (crappy hearing loss...) but apparently was all sniffy like, "Well if you don't think your child is worth it... blah blah" And then just brushed us off, taking 1 shot instead of the 7-8 to choose from she did with the lady before us. OMG!!!!! The NERVE!!! I was steamed for the rest of the day thinking about that lady making a judgement on my gorgeous, wonderful little boy who is more precious to me than anything! It is nevertheless an adorable photo of my gorgeous boy and a very cute little lamb who was licking his fingers! Soooo cute together but poor bubba was so tired!
And one from today, we are actually all having a lovely morning snuggling up together in the bed, just lazing about before we get up. Cade is under the covers, Sierra snuggled up next to L and N, me on the far side of them (you can see my elbow a bit above the lambs nose) and Laurent having fun with the stuffed sheep I bought. You press it and it bleats! Laurent lights up when he hears it and giggles! Tooooo cute!

On a sadder note, the test results for Me-Me, who passed away earlier this month, to confirm the renal failure was indeed amyloid are back. It is something which is something that can only be confirmed after death with a congo red stain test. Today I got an e-mail confirming what we suspected. HERE is the pathology report. End result - positive CRS in both kidneys and liver... amyloidosis with fibroisis and papillary necrosis consistant with Sharpei familial amyloidosis. We're still waiting on her sire, Sami's, report but expect it to confirm the same thing. Not that I expected anything differently because all the symptoms were there and other causes eliminated but I don't know... I just feel so sad, she was such a bright spark, fighting so hard and now gone. It just echos through you.

And as a last icky bit, Cade will be visiting Dr. Jane tomorrow to have his ear looked at. I think the cat must have bit or scratched him while playing as he's got two giant hard red pimples about 2cm size and a smaller 1cm one that look like infections that need lancing and draining. ICK!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Cuebiyar Cross My Heart - Hope, at 2 weeks

Well, for all of my lovely friends living vicariously through me and wishing they could get a puppy when they can't... and there's a shocking amount of you by the by... the pups breeder was kind enough to update photos again and so I'm sharing to prevent mobbing! :-) She's turning into a lovely little chubby puplet! Only a few more weeks now, so cross your fingers for us! I am seriously ready to cuddle a fuzzy puppy! And yes, you'll all get your turn cuddling her too! ;-p

Called CDOC about their waiting list. Was told sorry, we can't take it over the phone now, you'll have to come in person because we need to make sure people are willing to make the commitment before putting them on the list. *whines* I've been trying since before January's intake, I'm commited! Or maybe just should be! ;-) Plus I did come out a few weeks ago and no one said boo about having to do it in person then, though that's probably my fault for coming out after everything was wrapping up. In my defense I figured that'd be the ideal time since everyone would be done. Ah bugger. Next Sunday for sure!

This makes the rest of my (really icky blechy crapola...) day a lot nicer! No training today, too tired and migrainey, so we spent the day alternating between group cuddles (2 dogs, 1 cat, me and Laurent in a grand heap) and watching them play in the garden ending in a wash when Laurent started 'gardening' (aka digging and making a mess in the mud) and Sierra joined in enthusiastically. Oh for a camera!!!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Pics galore and TAG, SIF YOU'RE IT!

L has been having a lot more solids in non-blenderized forms. This is his first piece of watermelon and wow... what a hit it was! Messy too! Cucumber was a hit as well, as was his first few bits of meat, mandarin, grape, pasta etc. He's turned into a regular little mooch, wanting bits of whatever I'm having!

A few more "my kid is cute!" shots... taken in our front garden and porch. As much as I am VERY eager to move, I'm going to miss our garden and a few things about our house as well.

From our trip to Woodend, at Hanging Rock... and no Laurent isn't actually sitting alone, I'm hiding under the rock holding him up, as if you couldn't guess! ;-)

Sheep. I love sheep. Most little girls want ponies. I wanted sheep. I got hugely geeked out and gawked out the window cooing over them. The sheep thought I was weird but eh...

Back view of Hanging Rock - the two little whiteish blips are a ewe and her lamb, which I thought was really sweet.
And that tiny little blip is L and I. I just liked the lighting and the way it gives you a sense of scale of each of the rocks.

We got a lot of comments on what a great idea the sling was for ascending the path... there was a ramp of sorts but it wasn't something I'd want to do with a bulky pram, up a steep incline - no way, no how! Gimme a nice portable sling any day!

And since Shae tagged me....

If you could build a house anywhere, where would it be?
On a few acres where I could have sheep, chooks, a big garden for veggies, a garden for flowers/L playing/our enjoyment and an agility yard. We visited Woodend a few days ago and somewhere like that would be veerrryyy much to my liking!!! (Too funny Shae!!! LOL)

What’s your favorite article of clothing?
A very cool skirt I got awhile back!

Favorite physical feature of the opposite sex?
Eyes... the window to the soul!

What’s the last CD that you bought?
Michael Buble

Where’s your favorite place to be?
In the sunshine with my family and the dogs in a big park/reserve/forest exploring!

Where’s your least favorite place to be?
Dentists. Ick!

What’s your favorite place to be massaged?

Strong in mind or strong in body?
Copping out and saying you need to be a bit of both, as when one is weaker in one area you can pull through by being stronger in the other.

What time do you wake up in the morning?
I'd say way too friggin early, except that implies having slept in the first place... :-/

What is your favorite kitchen appliance?
Oven. Because it produces calorie laiden cookies, cakes etc etc etc. Which explains my growing tummy.

What makes you really angry?
Being lied to.

If you could play any instrument, what would it be?
Violin. I lovvvveee how it has such a wide range of types of music it's suited to, to express any emotion you can think of.

Favorite color?
Green. Or blue. Or blue-green. I'm so decisive.

Which do you prefer…sports car or SUV?
SUV because you can fit dogs, crates and kids and all the gear. Except most SUV drivers are egotistical sods who think they own the road and anything nearby it on account of they drive SUVs.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Favorite children’s book?
The Little Prince

What is your favorite season?
I love a crisp autumn day and the excuse to eat all that lovely autumny food!

What is your least favorite household chore?
The dishes.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?
To get my way, all the time, every time, on every matter! Bwhahahahah!!!!
If you have a tattoo, what is it?
No tattoo. I want one but I'm a big chicken, I haven't figured out where I want it and I never have lots of extra money. It's a symbol I've had for several years in a necklace, a celtic knot sun/moon.

Can you juggle?

The one person from your past that you wish you could go back and talk to?
No one really. I miss my dogs who have passed away though.

What’s your favorite day?
Wednesday. Just because.

What’s in the boot of your car?
A bunch of stuff I need to take to the Op shop for donation.

Which do you prefer, sushi or hamburger?
Sushi! But the catering-to-cultureless-westerners sort... I don't DO seafood, especially raw!

I tag Sif. Yes, I'm being a brat and only doing one person cuz I don't know who else reads my blog cuz you all don't comment!!! ;-)

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Hot off the press... click HERE!!!!

I've been stalking her page all day! LOL Obsessive? Who? ME?! NAH!!! I'll post bigger versions when I get them!
Yesterday Nic had the whole day off so we headed to Woodend. It's one of the places I'd love to live and had on my list of places to visit.

The verdict: it's very pretty and he can see some positives, not sure he'd like to live there but would like to go back for a weekend to have a longer visit. Fair 'nuff. I asked only for an open mind.

I have to say it was exactly what I needed in terms of a break as well; fields of glorious grass rippling in the breeze that stretched around wide as the eye could see, deep vales dotted silver and yellow with leafy shrubs and wild-flowers, wide open fields and the mountains and hills rising from the earth into the skies... places that are still a bit wild... that haven't been tamed and neatly planned out in tidy tended plots! I wanted to jump out of the car and tear, dancing barefoot down through the windswept fields racing the gusts and eddies that danced and swirled the sun dappled grass in wild patterns like I did as a child. Sierra and Cade whined in the car when we hit the areas that reminded me of where we used to live and once out they ran, dashing and barking joyfully as if they were pups again. I think they remember hiking with me through the wild places I used to roam before moving here too. As part of the trip we did the tourist gig and trekked up Hanging Rock which was absolutely beautiful as well.
I'll post some photos shortly.

Today was tamer, a quiet morning after another relatively sleepless night and we had Laurent's photo shoot for Bambini models in the afternoon. We finally found the place after getting directed to the wrong Medina building and got the shoot done... I'd worried as Laurent has a BIG bruise covering his cheek. Thank goodness the photographer was non-plused and was perfectly willing to edit post production. Should get the pics in 2-3 weeks or so.

I also need to start planning L's birthday, yikes... coming up on 15 October! *shock* I've got several ideas of things I'd like but have yet to decide on a venue, photographer etc. and need to firm up my schedule for the cooking. =:-O

Other than that I'm also in the midst of thinking a lot about his schooling since I don't have a huge amount of time before I need to sign him up for one school or the other. That's also factoring into the thoughts on moving since my first choice for school (Preshil) is a few minutes walk from our current house. If we go out in the country, that means leaving that behind and I really haven't heard of any I've liked as well as Preshil. There are other options, schools with a Reggio Emilio stream or Montessori stream possibly but there is a lot more reading I need to do about those philosophies as from what I've read so far there are bits I really like and agree with, points I question and some aspects which I don't care for perhaps even strongly enough to want to avoid it. Even then, each school interprets the philosophy differently - some are extreme and require you follow every aspect of it fanatically and I can see myself taking heavy exception to having someones idea forced down my throat... so. Yeah. Lots to think about.

The other question about choosing to use a RE or Montessori type is that most of those are preschool/kinder/primary but not high-schools. Preshil goes through to highschool. I can't see going with one philosophy part way and chucking him in another simply because he's hit X age, though I think if I could only send him to this type of school for one part of his life it'd be early on. Buuuttt... if we go to Preshil, which is where I'm strongly leaning, it also means that we have to stay close-ish enough that I can drive there. Blackburn wouldn't be a problem... heck, I used to drive over an hour each way to college each day so a 15 minute drive is nothing. But there's a question of how far away they accept students living from.

The other issue with Preshil is the fees. It's seriously NOT cheap... we could swing the fees for Laurent. But... it would make having a second child tricky without sacrificing some of the things I'd really wanted for us in terms of lifestyle, which I think are also important for Laurent to experience. (IE trips overseas and to other areas where he can see different cultures etc.) I'd probably have to go to work part time once the second child was old enough to go to school just to pay costs. Especially with two of them in highschool at the same time!

On the other hand, while I'd like to have at least one more child, I've also sort of reached this point in me where if it happens... it'd be delightful and I'd adore it but if not, I won't feel like our family is incomplete in some way or I'm forever missing a meant-to-have second child.

To complicate matters, I've also got it swirling in my head that while formal education is important, the lifestyle he's raised in is also a very important influence in one's life and I'd really love him to grow up in a small community, close to nature, seeing the natural cycle of life and death and be aware of where his food comes from and at what cost. I grew up in that environment and wouldn't trade that influence on my life for anything. Of course then there is the issue of if he'll like it in later life as well... I know only too well that quite often there are problems with teens in small towns finding lots of trouble for lack of anything to do and lack of opportunities. Yet there are those who thrive in it and never want to move away from that. Soo... more to think about.

Ramble, ramble, ramble... jeeze. I meant to just do a friggin’ brief update about our training and the past few days! *rolls eyes* So. Getting to the training before I blather anymore...

As a brief recap, we started out by holding the dumbell and clicking any interaction with it, free-shaping up to her gripping the bit (and ONLY the bit, no other part) of the dumbell whenever it was presented to her. Then the other day, I didn't go into the full details but basically we did the same thing only instead of my holding the dumbell, it was on the floor. Free-shaped from any interaction to gripping the bit and only the bit of the dumbell. Easy peasy, only trick was that Laurent kept grabbing the darn thing instead of the dog! ;-)

Next step is teaching the dumbell to fly - so instead of clicking just for the grip, we hold out for a few until one end of the dumbell or the other wobbles off the floor. Goal is for the dog to immediately put her mouth over the dumbell bit and cause it to move slightly. After that we'll fiddle with getting the dumbell to have one bell fully lifted off the floor by a mm or so. Then both ends off the ground. Then we get the dumbell a few inches off the ground. Following that we'll click only for lifts of 4-8" off the ground, 8-16" off the ground, 16-24". Since Sierra is a 20" dog that's plenty high. In all of these, the higher the lift in the range the better/more of the treat it merits. EG I'll pay for anything in the 4-8" range but 4" will pay less/less well than 5 or 6 or 7 or 8". I'm guessing this is as far as we're likely to get by the end of tonight and maybe not even that far depending on how it goes. Doing pretty well so far with getting a few 4-8" pick ups.

Long term goal for anyone just tuning in is a hotdog retrieve. IOW I will throw a room temperature hotdog 10' and the dog will go on single cue to retrieve it, pick it up, return directly to me, sit in the front position and release the hotdog uneaten/chewed/otherwise molested into my hands. We're starting by teaching a formal retrieve with a plastic obedience dumbell.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Well it's official... we're moving! Talked to RE agent yesterday and signed a form and everything. Auction date will be 25 Nov with 120-150 days to close. Where we're moving is still up for debate! But Nic has agreed to at least keep an open mind and visit various areas so we'll see how that goes. We're going to make a day trip to one area Friday, not sure where as I've had a few suggestions but it's tricky to suss out what is a.) nice, b.) I can have a couple acres for sheep, dogs, chooks, garden, agility yard etc. c.) is in a nice area, d.) close to amenities and transport for Nic and e.) has good schools for Laurent. Or we may end up going with the Blackburn and save for a few more years thing. Dunno.

Talked to Nancy, Me-Me's mom on the phone today. It was good to talk to her and I'd promised myself I wouldn't cry but almost lost it when she told me that when she called her Kisses and told her I loved her still, she managed to wag her tail when she hadn't been moving before, and she knew that part of Me-Me remembered that time with me. There's more but I'm really too emotional to write about it at the moment.

Didn't do a huge amount in the way of training today. I puttered around a bit with a few of our dance moves but mostly just read my new Freestyle book to get some good ideas. Really chuffed I got this book, super neat!

Other than that I've just been flat out buggered. Laurent had another sleepless night. Nic finally took him from 1am to 3 am so I could get some sleep but then Laurent woke up at 6:30 for the day and I had to get up. Blerg.

Funny story about how tired I am... the other day I was making breakfast and deciding if I wanted coffee or tea. I wanted tea but as I was so tired I needed coffee. So I made a coffee. And I made a tea. Clever solution right? The problem? I made it in the same cup, at the same time and didn't notice until 10 minutes of wondering why my coffee tasted funny this morning... *sigh*

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Me-Me... Chi Kuan's U Talkin' Bout Me? 4/7/02 ~ 19/9/06

I got the news the other day that Me-Me, the Sharpei I mentioned awhile back who had amyloidosis and whose sire Sami (Epic's Am I Blue) also had the same and had recently passed from it, had managed to injure herself on some chain mesh. Her owner was hoping and praying that there wasn't disc damage in the spinal cord and deeply afraid. About this time the renal failure took a turn for the worse. I asked Nancy, her owner, if they'd considered a canine sports injury specialist, canine acupuncturist or chiro. Maybe if they could get the pain under control they could at least accurately evaluate her chances. Nancy wrote back telling me the look in MeMe's eyes was just breaking her heart... how much could she ask her to go through? She was hurting and even with medications she was crying out. To fix the damage, it would be a large surgery and much pain for a reason MeMe wouldn't understand. And her renal failure was getting worse. Who knows what it'd do with surgery... nothing good certainly.

I had hoped. I'd hoped we were wrong about the damage. Hoped she'd rally. Hoped the pain meds would work and allow her to eat and drink again. Nancy tried syringe feeding her. She was on muscle relaxers to help. Her shoulder was paralyzed. I wanted to say yes, keep fighting. I wanted her to get better. I wasn't ready to hear this. But I know, I KNOW realistically I don't have the magic wand that can fix her failing body.
I thought back to Me-Me's birth. She was a little thing but a scrapper straight from the start. She was a girl who knew what she wanted and went straight after it, determined, intelligent, persistant... you really had to admire that about her even when you were busy prying her off the x-pen she was trying to climb for the umpteenth time. She was a sweetie too, her habit of kissing everything in tongue range earned her the puppy name of "Kisses". (Often the buyer changes renames them but you either give them a puppy name them or call them Puppy 1, 2, 3 etc.) Me-Me wasn't the second smallest in the litter but she still never was pushed from the teat and would squirm determinedly through the wriggling mass to nurse. By the time they were clambering out of the whelping box, they'd be practically climbing the x-pen and eachother to get to you when you came by them. When they were older still and were outside, you had to watch like a hawk, else you'd have the whole mob tumbling after you, under the gate and pell-mell out into the big dogs area. Yes, Me-Me had always known what she wanted and if she wanted to keep fighting she'd let Nancy know... but if she was tired, if her body hurt too much to keep fighting and she was ready to rest, I knew she'd let Nancy know as well. So in the end, that's all I could really say to Nancy, to listen to Me-Me to know when the time was right and let her know she was loved and while she would be missed, if she had to go she'd understand. I wanted to say so much more.

I went to bed with a feeling in my heart like a lead weight. I had one of those gut feelings that I'd get up in the morning to find Nancy'd have had to send Me-Me on to the Rainbow Bridge. I avoided the computer in the morning, finally logging on and downloading my messages. I scanned them quickly and found the message I'd been dreading. Me-Me was gone. Nancy said she'd leaned over her to tell her that I loved her too
and that we'd always loved her and she'd always be with us, which I'll be forever thankful to Nancy for because I couldn't be there to say it in person.

It's such a waste and such a damn shame... not even four years old. It's too young! I did the breeding on Ella and Sami, I was there when she was whelped and welcomed her into the world late in the evening, touching her damp fur, clearing her nose, helping her mum clean her and marveling as I always did at the birth of a litter at the sense of promise and potential there was in these tiny little scraps of life. It's a bitter draught to see that which you welcomed into the world and held as it drew it's first breath go out of this world.

Tonight will I light a candle for her, something I didn't think I'd have to do quite so soon for Me-Me. I will light it in memory of the sweet little puppy I called Kisses who held all the promise in the world as she explored puppy clumsy and adorable in her innocence and for the beautiful girl called Me-Me that she turned into under Nancy's care and for the grand old lady she would have been if she'd lived longer. There is another twinkle in Sirius tonight, watch closely for it and smile remembering this little lady with me.
Just born...
Three weeks
With Phish, being told a secret
At Nancy's home
A lovely young lady

I also have a more recent photo I will post once I've done the resizing. The retrieve is going nicely, I meant to comment on it last time. We're to the point of her picking it up off the floor for short hops.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Cuebiyar's Cross My Heart - Hope, at 1 week old

The pups breeder was kind enough to mail me some more photos she'd taken of the pup we're thinking will be mine on Saturday and I just HAD to share! I have to keep reminding myself, 1 week old is still too young to judge things for sure, you can get an IDEA but it's not a determination. Her optha exam could fail to be passed, her bite could be off, any of a myrid of other things which would affect if she were a show prospect and I've promised myself that this time, after 10 years of waiting, if things turn out differently than I'm hoping, I'll wait because I've wanted a dog to show with for a very long time. All of my previous dogs I intended to get a show puppy but then when one wasn't available or fell through, I just fell in love and while I don't regret doing so AT ALL... I do want to show and three is my limit for the foreseeable future. So hard and sucky as it'd be.... :-/

But... I'm not thinking about that at the moment! I'm just enjoying the high of looking at this beautiful little girl and enjoying my dream coming true! She's gorgeous, she's beautiful, Sierra is going to adore having a friend to play with, Cade someone to cuddle with, Laurent someone else to feed crackers and cuddle and me... I'm just going to have a blast with having a puppy again and have SO much fun showing and training! Ahhhh.... I can almost hear the squeak of pups looking for mommas milk and smell that lovely milk-breathed warm-n-fuzzy puppy smell!!!

We may have something of a plan on the moving front as well... looking at a few places out in the country which are nice but a bit more expensive than I want to spend just now. ($650-700K range) So we figured we might move to Blackburn or similar area now in a relatively inexpensive house, invest the balance of our profits in areas that yield higher returns than growth in real estate is averaging at the moment and when Laurent is a few years older and I'm able to work and Nic is hopefully making a bit more money as well, then we take on a house out in one of those areas that's like the ones that are a bit more expensive. Still have to work out how feasable that is buuuuuttt it's an idea. Or we might just move to Blackburn or we might just move out to the country. Jeeze, decisive aren't I!

Real estate dude was ill today, so the appt is set for tomorrow instead.

Will update on the training later tonight after we've more or less finished for the day!

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Good day and the beginings of the great hotdog retrieve!

Good day today, have things reasonably sorted out for tomorrows appointment with the Real Estate fellow... not that the house is on the market yet but we had a lot of "stuff" as we inherited everything of my mother-in-laws, grandfather-in-laws and grandmother-in-laws and I wanted that dealt with before having them over to talk. There was still a fair bit still unpacked, in boxes from the time they moved to here 3 years prior to my arriving. Then when Grandpa passed, his belongings were in boxes.

This has been a long-term project, pretty much since I came over permanently. Four skips, the smallest 3 meter, the largest 7 meters FILLED. Two sets of donations to the Salvos with their big truck. Four trips with a trunk-full each time. Several dozen things freecycled/released to new homes where it can be enjoyed instead of just being clutter. Most of the stuff we're keeping is sorted into portfolios, storage boxes etc. (Photos, letters which were written between family members which we're keeping as part of family history, momentos, paintings and artworks etc etc.)

Whew! What a job it's been!

In dog news... my dumbell finally arrived a few days ago and today I started working with it a little bit. Took a few minutes and freeshaped Sierra into taking it by the bit into her mouth in a good hold behind her teeth. :-)

We followed Shirley's Retrieve... using just plain old kibble on the back deck. It went like this:
1.) Start freeshaping by clicking for any interaction with the dumbell. Since freeshaping is a favorite game, she got it pretty quick. Initially ran over to a few other objects to see if we were also working with them today which we weren't... cheeky lil'girl! The test to see if she "got it" and was ready to progress is 20 clicks in 20 trials in 1 session, which was repeated after each step to test comprehension. (So the dog had to perform the correct behaviour 20x right in a row iow.) Results: Step one was easy peasie and she got it straight away!!!
2.) Eliminate pawing - so instead of marking/rewarding any interaction, it was any interaction except pawing. Super cinchy since she's not real paw oriented and had only offered pawing about 3x initially and only then in combination with nosing
3.) Eliminate looks, nose bumps - a little bit harder as when I held out on her she got more insistant in her nose bumps with a good hearty extinction burst, which isn't surprising considering we've been working a lot on duration with 'touch' for the wand! Noticed I wasn't getting much in the way of tooth connection which I wanted for the next step, so I decided to wait on her a bit till she accidentally hit it with her tooth, clicked and jackpotted with liver. Did that a couple times before she started doing the math and figured out that tooth contact equaled better rewards and more of it! LOL She was also quite keen on the bit when she was nudging which I wanted to keep, and generally ignored the bells until this point when I happened to get the accidental tooth contact on the end of the bell. Eliminated licking at this point as she wasn't really offering it to start with, so just as easy to fade it then.
4.) Eliminated contact with the bells... fairly easy again, just made touching teeth to the bit vs. the bell a better payoff. Ex 1 piece of kibble for contact with bells vs. 10 pieces or some liver for contact with bit. Easy peasie... I love working with dogs who are such little greedy gullets! LOL
5.) Eliminated tooth bumps, same deal - tooth bumps paid cheap, mouthing paid good. Got quite enthusiastic mouthing pretty quick and started whittling right down for proper hold behind the teeth and a decent grip pressure wise. So now we've got her taking the dumbell by the bit in the proper way! I got 10x of this and threw a kibble party, ending the training on a really super high note.... and anyway I was late, supposed to have left for a festival today! :-O

So tomorrow we'll go back over the last bit, test to make sure she understands it and then start with getting her to pick it up off the floor by the bit before moving on with the rest of it. This is all, for anyone wondering, the first little baby steps towards having the dog fetch a warm hotdog that I toss WITHOUT eatting it and release it neatly into my hands. It's a training challenge I heard about in one of the Clickerexpos. First I need to train the base behaviours very, very soundly... hence our working on a nice formal retrieve with the dumbell! I figure it'll be a fun party trick to lob a hotdog and have the dog fetch it without chomping any! ;-)

Friday, September 15, 2006

The morning didn't start out very promising... but first because this is SO long, I'm going to tell everyone the puppies pictures have been updated, they are 1 week old now and you can see them HERE... they're SO gorgeous I've just been peeking at the photos smiling like a fool for hours! ;-)

Now that out of the way, back to the day... Laurent had been up all night and us with him - again. Egh. Nic took him from 4am onwards so I could get some sleep. By 6am, he'd rolled over, started snoring and promptly refused to wake for love or money, so Laurent and I (very, very reluctantly...) got up and had breakfast. There was a meeting of a bunch of AB'ers at the Melbourne Children's museum today, so we left for that, had a great day with everyone even though I was prolly rather out of it. *G*

Still feeling really bothered by the whole issue of moving. We're definitely moving, having the real estate agents out Monday to discuss our game plan... but not sure where we're going. The furthest I've been able to get Nic to even consider is Blackburn, which is a very nice area and has a lot to recomend it but I'm still longing to move out to the country and have a few acres for sheep, chooks, a veggie patch and the dogs etc. I've felt like this all along but now that it's crunch time and we're definitely going to make the move... well, if it doesn't happen now and we move to Blackburn, it'll be a long while till we move again if we do at all and it'll mean that I'll have to face up to the fact it's not happening anytime in the foreseeable future. Still, we had a great time out today and it was nice to just get away from all this muck and just enjoy the day and the company and watch Laurent have a ball crawling around exploring like mad!

When we got home, things came to a head of sorts I suppose. Not a quarl or anything, just sort of the both of us were ready to verbalize what was in our heads. He said a lot of stuff which sort of explained what he's been thinking and why he's been rather 'internal' the past few days. And I was finally able to articulate a lot of what's been in my head as well and that while I was happy with the things I have been able to get back in some degree in the past few months, I still miss the huge part of my life I left behind when I moved here to be with him... basically leaving my country, my home, my friends, my job, my entire lifestyle and well everything... and feeling really hurt he's was shutting down the idea without even *seeing* the towns first. He knows he would hate living in the country, he doesn't want to be around hicks, there's nothing there for him etc. but he's NEVER been there! Seriously, until I took him to KCC/Skye, he'd never been further than Malvern! If he'd been to them and still found they weren't what he'd be happy with, I could deal with that but that he was rejecting the idea out of hand, which was what upset me!

So that night he shocks the pants off me. Or he would have if I'd been wearing any instead of my jammies. We're laying in bed and out of the blue he says, "What about Tasmania?" *blink blink* Um. I don't know. What about it? "I was thinking about moving and the country... and what about moving to Tasmania?" *BLINK*... *BLINK* I paused to consider if I'd heard him right or if I'd accidentally taken anything that would cause hallucinations. No. Pretty sure not. Maybe this is a really weird dream then? I managed a very erudite, highly articulate, HUNH????? Where'd that come from?!? Geeze. Talk about gobsmacked. He won't consider major rural towns in Victoria because they're too far but thinks Tasmania is a good idea? And again, I repeat... HUUUUNH??????? Well. My. That was interesting.

I chalked it up to sleep depribed insanity and pointed out that at 4 am we ought to be sleeping, not trying to have an in-depth conversation when neither of us even vaguely resembles coherant.

So today we drove around Blackburn having a look and talked about making daytrips out to some of the country areas where we might be able to buy an acre or two... enough for sheep, chooks, a veggie patch and an agility yard. There are still SOOOOOOOO many things I feel conflicted about... hauling him out to somewhere he might be miserable, his ability to work out in those areas, have to be careful it's not an area that doesn't have the type of schools I want for Laurent and we have such an ideal school for him HERE (Preshil) that I feel bad about taking him away from that opportunity etc etc. And so I chase my tail in circles. ;-)

Happy happy joy joy news... I am FINALLY making headway of some of the 9 tons of "STUFF" we inherited from DH's mum and grandfather - both of whom defined the word "Packrat". Seriously, go look in the dictionary, I'm sure there must be photos of the two of them there. I've found postal recipts from packages they mailed in 1979... kid you not. :-O Bits and bobs and scraps of paper and things they figured might someday in someway possibly have a use... some of it's to the Salvos, some to Freecycle and some straight to the recycle bin.

ETA: While driving in Blackburn I asked him what he thought of the area. He said that he was quite happy with it and in a whistful tone added he supposed "if he got homesick for Hawthorn it wasn't too far"!!! LOL Can anyone say "Cancerian"?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Do Aussie Shepherds Shed???


I get a lot of questions about Sierra's coat which is one of her more unique features. It really doesn't take a lot of brushing, far less thanthe Collie I had before her who passed away in 2001. It's pretty dirt/grunge repellant and has a proper texture for the breed so it doesn't really mat or pick up burdock/leaf litter from outside.

So the other question is, "Do they shed?" The answer is, yup, they sure do! Besides brushing, I have a special grooming tool that gets rid of all the undercoat which I use once every few weeks after she gets a bath. Here's the result of about half the dog brushed out with it! Still have to brush out the other side! So as you can see, YES, she DOES shed!!! LOLOLOL

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Since I was talking about the places I missed, I started looking through photos of them and figured I'd share a few of my favorites. The first 4 shots are of the Lake Superior area....
The great lake as seen through the trees in the woods
One of the many waterfalls in the area
The painted rocks
Another of the waterfalls, this was shot during the low season so normally the water would be much more abundant
The view from one of the beach areas
My backyard in Fowerville, shot from the back of my porch... it was 20 acres of field and woods on a dirt road fairly far out. This is an older shot, from 2000!
A shot from my porch in the morning in Charlotte, all beautiful and misty.
A fawn taking a nap next to my deck!
Canandian Goose
Another early morning misty photo taken while walking around the property
Same area as the first shot except the sun is a bit higher and the mist has rolled out
Muskrat! Eatting popcorn I tossed in the water. ;-)
A malard duck drake

We had countless little creeks and rivers around, this was just one that was pretty while I was walking the dogs one morning in the early winter. I loved to go out and watch the sunrise, glistening on the fields of snow. The play of the light is just beautiful.
One of the nine billion deer, she's standing maybe 3.5 meters off my deck.
Okay, crappy photo but a nice memory... I didn't have a decent enough camera at the time to get it. Plus the farmer kept giving me suspicious looks for stopping and snapping pictures as this is an Amish area. Those are his draft horses, hitched to a wagon which he was loading hay on to go feed the rest of the critters.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The day

Busy day today... got a bunch of stuff that's needing taking care of for awhile done, though there's still more to do. Got some nice new shampoo for the dogs and a dumbell so I can start working on the retrieve bit of the hotdog retrieve I'm teaching. Played around with target wand for duration today and cue discrimination which is a fancy-schmancy way of saying I spat out a bunch of cues so the dog actually had to LISTEN instead of just relying on hand signals the little stinker!

Other than that, just sort of processing everything at the moment, feeling unsettled and restless since I took Sierra out for her herding lesson. I've never been very happy being here in Hawthorn, I only moved here on the premise that we would be selling and moving shortly after I arrived to a place more suitable. I (rather thoughtlessly) assumed that Australia would be laid out similarly to the US where the country and city areas are quite meshed and you can have a few acres while still being in a nice area, close to amenities etc. Needless to say that has not been the case.

I miss the country terribly. It was something I longed for since I left my grandmothers farm when I was about 5 and I don't think I've ever felt as sincerely at peace with the world as when I was able to move out after college and live in Fowlerville and Charlotte. I was never comfortable until I left the city areas. I enjoyed every moment of living out there, the quiet, the peace, the sunrises on my porch, the cool night air, the wind in the trees, the sun on the fields and all of a thousand other things and long to have those things back. There doesn't seem to be any way for that to happen though, as Nic won't move out to the country and then there is the issue of his having to be close to his work and Laurent's schooling.

My home is where my family is and I wouldn't trade this little family we've made for anything in the world... they are my heart, they complete me, I adore them and I am thankful every day I get to have them in my life as corney as that sounds. I have a difficult time reconciling the idea that I have to give up one thing for the other... the idealist in me rebels at the idea that I can't have both if I just work hard enough or want it badly enough. I believe you ought to pursue your dreams vigorously and leap into life with all your heart because it's just too darn short and precious to do otherwise. And I'm all too aware that there's little use in dwelling on what you can't have and can't change in life to the point you miss out on the good things you could be enjoying. The heart feels what the heart feels though and it's not so easy to ignore something that's such a deep part of you.

I think of my mother-in-law who spent her whole life waiting to pursue her dream, in a rather similar situation to mine - wanting to move to the country and start a bed-and-breakfast, have a big garden and lots of animals... yet staying here for the sake of work and her childs education. She always waited for a better time, for the right time... until there was no more time because her cancer reoccured and killed her. I'd like to think that I can learn from that and live my life in a way that there are no regrets... which thus far I've pretty much managed to do. Not that nothing bad has ever happened but I'm content that I did the best I could with what I had and made the most of everything and so I regret nothing of it. I can see this being something I will regret though, if it never comes to pass, if I waited too long until it was too late. It's too much a part of me and you can't ignore your self, that part of you that makes you who and what you are, without consequences.

When I was out at the herding lesson, I spent a lot of the time walking around the area and taking it all in. It reminded me a lot of the areas I loved and made me miss them all the more and brought up all these things once again. I'm not sure where that leaves me but I know I definitely don't feel at "home" in Hawthorn and know myself well enough to honestly say I'm never going to be happy here or feel like I fit in among the BMW driving Prada wearing fashion mavens and their cafe culture, though I'm happy with other aspects of my life and pursue and enjoy those things which I can do something about. I need the country in my heart, the land and the trees and the dew on the grass. I want sheep and chooks. I want to be in an area I can have my dogs underfoot, swirling happily around my feet as we walk in the fields, a whole kennelfull of them. I want to be in an area where I can work with them, which will never happen in Hawthorn. I want a big rambling garden of veggies. I want to feel connected to the land the way I did before I moved. Just musing out loud a bit, I suppose, wanting to put it out and see it in words with some substance, however small, instead of just whispy thoughts dancing around my mind. And at least when I say it here, there's no worry it makes Nic feel badly that he can't give me those things which has been the case in the past when I've spoken of these feelings of longing.

In happier news, I heard back from the puppies breeder and she feels one of the black tri girls may end up being what I'm looking for, although a few days old is far too young to determine much of anything. She mentioned the name she's thinking of, registered and call name, and it seems to me that perhaps it's a good omen. The theme for the litter is "heart and soul"... iow all the puppies in the litter will have something to do with that in their registered names. (The names that will be on their papers - eg Sierra is U-AGI Samilyn Too Qute To Be Tru CGC HIC and Cade is Rohan's Cascata Di Luce CGC) The theme for the litter just seemed very perfect because this has been such a longtime dream of mine and the dogs and working with them really is such a part of what makes me me. The puppy would also be an anniversary prezzie of sorts. And the call name (eg Cade and Sierra) for it, she is thinking of "Hope" which seems rather apt as well since Nic has told me not to give up on this dream for a long time. That and Hope ties in to both Sierra and the dog I had before her Brianna. I have the weird quirk of giving my dogs middle names. My first was Brianna, a lovely Collie whose name was Brianna Hope. I wanted to call her Hope but in a dream she told me her name was Brianna but I could call her Brianna Hope if I liked. When she passed away in2002 and I got Sierra, I wanted to name Sierra, "Faith" in tribute to Brianna Hope because she was so much like her I rather felt that Bria had sent her to me. Same thing, I dreamed that Sierra told me her name was "Sierra" (a name I didn't like really...) but she'd love to be called Sierra Faith. So perhaps Brianna is still looking after me with this puppy... I wouldn't put it past her, she was the most loving soul you'd ever want to meet.

So that's my day... and since I've still got to attend to dinner, I'll leave it lay for now.

A few more photos from herding...