Thursday, 4 December 2008

and as for the garden

This weekend we're off to Surrey for a whirlwind visit to join the festive SFLS Lapphund walk and, perhaps, more importantly, to filch a few plants from Jay's green-fingered mother in an attempt to fill some of the vast empty gravel pits currently gracing the patio edges. Now, if only she was so inclined to come for a visit with trowel in hand... no, I'm just kidding - of course I would never - don't be ridiculous, of all the... etc.

In case you missed it, early shots of the work (and the rather excitingly coloured digger) were posted here. For comparative purposes, here is a particularly unflattering shot of the garden just as work was starting, and after the gravel path through the middle had been hoovered up. I think you'll agree it's more than ready for a makeover.

Once the fence was up I started painting. Having spent far too long (dashing out, paintbrush in hand, between rain showers) doing this little bit, I decided I didn't like the colour. It was going to be way too dark. I'd lived, literally, in the shadow of that monstrous hedge for long enough that I didn't want anything dark and gloomy about my fence. I certainly didn't want to undo any of the new, spacious feeling of that path down the side of the garage. Compare this path to the old one (post-hedge but before the hump was removed). It was downright claustrophobic:

And, so, off I went and got a much better colour, although it has to be said that it started out as a rather alarming shade of orange until it dried. I figured it would mellow with age. Oh, but what a lot of fence there was to paint! This little section was the result of one entire can of paint and rather too much effort, frankly.

Then Tony told me about the spraying machines, which I thought might cost a fortune but which actually turned out to be quite affordable and, in the end, extremely cost-effective. It's quick, the paint goes further, and is cheaper per litre. Result! In the amount of time it had taken me to do that little section, I had the whole thing done.

This is how it all looks now.

While I'm loving my new patio (split-level, yet!) I clearly have a lot of work still to do. A Lot.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

like parent, like offspring

Tarkka has been to visit a couple more times and he's looking more like his mum everyday. I know Jo & George were hoping for a boy with tan markings like his dad, but I feel he will end up with the bright tricolour markings that I love with distinctive white and paler tan. Sorry folks!

Here he is getting muddy with our gang yesterday.

And having a cuddle with me very much against his wishes - he'd rather be beating up on Maija as in the following photo.

You can just see the remains of their baby teeth in this one, and it might well be the last photo to capture them. Their adult teeth are quickly filling in the space at the front between the canines and the canines won't be far behind.

I should mention here that the puppies are 4 months old today. It's a real milestone as the girls are weighing in at about 10 kgs now and the boys even more than that. They are getting close to their adult height so that at first glance I can't differentiate between Neka & Maija when they are out running around. Happy 4-month birthday, puppies!

As Tarkka is looking like his mum, can you guess which one is Keskiyo and which Inko?

She certainly has her dad's looks and now we're hoping she's got her mum's brains. That combination might just produce the world's first ever perfect dog.

Yes, well, I would say that, wouldn't I?

Friday, 28 November 2008

cool it, baby

Thank you to Stacey & Shane who sent me this adorable photo of Tarmo sleeping in his favorite position. I particularly like the little tongue sticking out. Can you believe how bright his face is getting? If you look at the earlier photos of him you will see there is just no predicting the adult Lapphund's colour based on puppy colour. This seems particularly true of sables and wolf sables who change colour almost daily as they grow up.

If you own a Lappy, then this on-the-back, belly exposed, legs akimbo, is probably a familiar snoozing pose. Here is Viivi doing likewise followed by Maija then Neka showing off her belly about a week before having 9 puppies. Although it's not quite a cute-sleeping-on-back shot, I like it as part of this group if only for the big grin on her face.

I have a theory that Lapphunds often lie like this because they get hot in the house and that's a quick way to cool down as they lose body heat through their bellies. Keskiyo does it too, usually at night stretched out against the back door in the coolest spot in the house. He makes an excellent draft excluder.

And puppies start to sleep this way at a remarkably young age. Last summer's litter seemed to sleep on their backs most of the time. It was earlier in the summer and we had much hotter weather, so the cooling theory works. Check these babies out - a selection of puppies at 2 & 3 weeks old.





Karhu had another idea for cooling down when he got too hot. In the second litter, the one to perform this trick was Jaska. I truly cannot believe I don't have a photo of Jaska with his head in the bowl because it was always there! In fact, both these puppies were always wet due to their obsession with the water bowl. I'll bet they both love to paddle in the water now too.

Inko, on the other hand, try as she might, was always just too little to reach high enough to fully immerse herself. My, how times change! It's difficult to believe, but she's actually bigger than Tarmo these days. I wonder what Paula & Adam are feeding her? {Sarky suggestion deleted - far be it from me to suggest that "little" Inko is anything other than utterly angelic.}

Saturday, 22 November 2008

ugly puppies

That's right, I said ugly. You don't believe me, do you? I know I've said once or twice that puppies don't come in ugly. I've probably even said it on this blog. But I lied.

It all depends on the age of the puppy. And the breed, no doubt. There are very few puppies cuter than a Finnish Lapphund at the age of about 3 weeks to 15 or 16 weeks. (Ok, possibly these Shiba Inus. Beware this is a time-sensitive link to a webcam which is currently showing the most adorable little red Shiba puppies about 5 or 6 weeks old.)

Here is Viivi at 12 weeks, for example, in her usual position cuddled up with Jaska. Cute as a button, no?

And here is Maija at a similar age doing a like-father-like-daughter at the kitchen door. It's illegal in our house for dogs to actually enter the kitchen, but they do lie with front paws only over the threshold in the hope of being tossed a piece of cheese or, prize of prizes, a slice of green pepper.

And in a few days the puppies will be 16 weeks old. A full 4 months old at the end of November. Is that really all? It seems such a long time ago I had 9 of them here. And like everyone who gets a new puppy, I can't believe Maija has been with us such a short time - she's definitely an integral part of the family now and it's difficult to remember what it was like around here without her.

As there are few things cuter than baby Finnish Lapphunds, so the same dogs at the age of 4-5 months are barely fit to be seen in public. Those of us who are interested in the world of dog shows despair at winding up with such an ... unattractive specimen. Witness my beautiful Neka at the age of 4 months:

Shocking, isn't it? Gangly, skinny, big of ear and long of muzzle. Barely recognisable as a Finnish Lapphund. And so, even Neka's puppies, these most gorgeous of baby Lapphunds, are going through their ugly stage now. Maija's teeth are falling out much faster than the new ones are coming in, and I'm reaching the stage where I wonder if she'll ever grow into her ears.

And speaking of gangly... Tarkka came to visit yesterday. He is shooting up and is now all out of proportion with a long muzzle, head too big for his body and body too short for his legs. But, even in the throes of their ugly stage, I have to admit they're still pretty sweet. Here they are after exhausting themselves playing like maniacs.
BTW that's Tarkka on top - they're still so similar it's difficult to tell them apart when they're just a bundle of puppy rolling around the floor together. But Tarkka is noticeably bigger now so the similarity will likely become less marked as time goes on.

So, we all go through our puppies' ugly stage and hope that when we get to the end of it they will have turned into the beautiful dog we hoped for. Guess what? They always do!

To every rule, there is the exception, of course. Very occasionally there comes a Lapphund who is as beautiful at 5 months as they are at 3 months and as they will be at 3 years. They just don't grow through that skinny, leggy phase. They sail through adolescence without being touched by the ugly puppy syndrome. Who could be so perfectly formed?

Perhaps not the model of Lappy perfection that he is now at age 2 1/2, but Keskiyo didn't have many faults at 4 or 5 months of age. But, then again, some might say he never really grew up!

Saturday, 25 October 2008

here come the puppies

Last weekend we met up with a bunch of hardy souls at Dolebury Warren near Bristol for a walk organised by the SFLS. We had 17 Lapphunds and 1 Anniebear in attendance with their various people.

It was a great walk, up a steep hill, through a lovely wood and over some fields then back. The only downside was that there were sheep in the fields so we couldn't risk letting the dogs off lead. The last thing we needed was the local livestock terrorised by a bunch of friendly herders trying out their amateur skills.

The best part of the walk (for me, anyway) was the mini puppy reunion.

L-R (puppies): Inko, Tarkka (giving Paula a sneaky lick), Kaija (Sulo), Maija, Rauhan

The walk was a little over 2 hours, so much too far for tiny puppies so they had spells of walking & being carried. Some of us had very tired arms by the end. And some puppies were completely shattered.
This cutie is Rauhan, grabbing a quick snooze in the back of the car after his adventure.

Below, Rauhan with his equally knackered big sister Sukka.

As always, it's difficult to photograph a moving target, hence there are no individual photos of Tarkka or Kaija (Sulo) on this occasion. However, I did manage to get this slightly out-of-focus snap of Inko sporting her extra tan markings courtesy of the Somerset mud.

As for the puppies who were not at the walk, I've been the delighted recipient of new photos of most of them as they grow up.

First of all, Jaana with Baz. Looks like she's finally growing into her ears. What a little cutie. I must say she looks like a complete angel but I hear she has a rather unflattering new nickname. Surely it must only be Harry the cat who calls her the Nutter?

This is Jaska with pretty big sis Kia. Something tells me she won't be his "big" sister for much longer. Luckily he's a sweet-natured, laidback boy. Which will come in handy when he grows into an enormous teenage Lapphund now in about 5 minutes or so.

Viivi having a brief and, I hear, rare sleepy looking moment surrounded by toys.

Finally, here is Tarmo starting to grow into his paws. The first photo looking so much like his mum with his crooked sit and fantastic head tilt.

Here is Tarmo a little younger looking positively scrumptious in a photo that was submitted for the 2009 SFLS calendar. For your chance to vote for the 12 photos to be featured in the calendar, and the opportunity to get your hands on one of them when they're produced, go here. Even if you don't want a calendar, or to participate in the vote, there are some beautiful Lappies to be seen in the 100+ pics that were submitted from all over, including Finland.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

my garden...

... otherwise known as the building site.

The puppies well & truly wrecked the grass in our back garden this year. They weren't entirely to blame, however. The unceasing rain played a large part too as without a modicum of sunshine the grass was never able to recover from the rigours of the puppies in their pen as the pen moved from place to place around the garden.

I wasn't wholly unhappy about the wrecked grass. You see, our back garden was an untame-able scramble of weeds, overgrown shrubs and even more overgrown hedge. The hedge was a disaster, about 20 metres long, 15 feet high*, needing to be cut 3-4 times a year and full of brambles and other unmentionables. Yes, that's right, was. Past tense.

While the puppies were in residence I called in a few fine folk to quote for the job of transforming the abomination into an orderly space I would actually like to spend time in. The hedge had to go. Because it was way too big for us to cut, it cost £150 each trim - yikes! And could I get anyone to hack it to a manageable height & width? Of course not, then it might need a £150 haircut only twice a year. The grass also had to go. Apart from the number the puppies did on it, it wasn't great grass anyway, more like couch grass. Just what I didn't need, more weeds.

As soon as the puppies left home, Jay & got to work. I'm not sure the photo illustrates the full
horror of the situation. The hedge was so much a bigger job than I could ever have imagined. "Oh, I can get rid of the green on top of the hump," I said confidently when faced with an astronomical quote for the whole shooting match.

Two saws, an axe and many blisters later the hedge top was, at last, no more. It has to be said that the final couple of metres were actually burned away when Tony & John moved in to do their thing because I couldn't get past the brambles. Horrid things. The brambles, that is, not the builders. The builders are wonderful.

So, the builders moved in and spent several days disposing of the rest of the green part of the hedge. For the hump and the remains of the grass, the toys came out. Who knew diggers came in my 2 favorite colours?

For the few days this sat on my drive I was hoping the bloke had left the key behind because I quite fancied having a go at driving. Sadly, the day they fired up that baby we were away visiting Jay's folks in Surrey so I missed all the fun. At last the digger did its thing and then was carried off to its next job. I wonder what all the neighbourhood cats fight over at night now that it's gone? If you're wondering who won the contest for digger ownership, it was Gink, who saw off 2 tabbies, a ginger and several black cats to claim his prize.

Pretty dramatic difference, huh?

And so, once the destruction was complete, the construction could begin.

So by Friday most of the work will be completed. Then I have a week to catch up a bit before the builders return to finish up the finer details. That's gonna be a lot of fence to paint...

And the next post will be the puppy update - promise! In the meantime, in case you dropped by to see puppies, not diggers, fences and concrete slabs, here is Maija tucking into her frozen carrot.

*Yes, I'm aware of mixing my measurement systems. What can I say? I was born in pre-metric Canada. survived Canadian metricization and now live in half-in-half Britain where you can get your milk by the litre or pint, order mince at the butcher in either grams, ounces, pounds (or even in handfuls, to be fair) and when you describe to the county council your plans for a fence they hold up the whole thing indefinitely because the height was given in feet, not metres. Yet everything to do with motors is still in imperial measurement. Miles away, miles per hour. Except fuel, which is sold by the litre. See what I mean?

Friday, 17 October 2008

grown-up puppy update

It's amazing how the puppies' personalities develop after they leave the nest and go off into the world. When they're 4 and 6 weeks old, you can take a guess at who will be quiet and laidback and who will be a little more, um, challenging and, er, enthusiastic. But you never really know how it will go once they get their paws under the table in their new home and are no longer under the influence of their siblings and mum.

Three examples of this phenomena from last year's litter:

Koda who was a quiet little mouse in the litter but developed into a very confident and ever-so-slightly boisterous teenager. All Liz's hard work and training paid off, though, and at the age of one-and-a-half, he is now a model citizen.

Keksi was the big girl of the last litter and ruled the whelping box with a paw of steel. No one got anything over on her and I warned Daniel that she was going to be a handful and that he would have to be firm with her. Well, she turned out to be a little angel with delightful manners and caused no trouble at all. It helped, no doubt, that Ismo was happy to have a new little sister move in and start to boss him around. These days she looks like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth.

Finally, Karhu, about whom I gave the same dire warning to Wendy & Scott. He, too, was one of the more dominant puppies of that litter and had a habit of stamping his rather large paws until he got his own way. But once he had the undivided attention of his new family (not to mention some great training & lots of walks) he, too, is a sweet, mannerly gent. These days he troubles only the plantlife in his park.

On the other hand, Taika, Taito and Tuuri (re-named Torvi by his family) were all gentle sweetie-pies right from the beginning and they kept those lovely characters even through their teenage stages. Here they are at around 12 months old.




As for Seppo (re-named 'Diesel' by his family), although I did take photos of him when I visited a few months ago, I now cannot find them anywhere. So frustrating but becoming increasingly normal in these chaotic days of mine. Guess I'll just have to go back and visit again!