Friday, 29 January 2010


Frankly, the title of this post could apply to just about any on which I post photographs that I've had anything to do with, whether behind the camera or in front of it. Any attempt at photography on my part results in far more outtakes than useful shots. In fact, I'm lucky to get even one useful shot at any time. But, perhaps that's true of everyone at least some of the time.

Except, perhaps, Kate Moss. But then again, even she has been the subject of photos that she had rather never saw the light of day.

You may or may not know that I'm the treasurer of the Southern Finnish Lapphund Society. As such, one of my tasks is to produce a little report of the year to be printed in our Yearbook. By far the most onerous job, though, is to get a photograph of myself to go with the report.

As if it wasn't difficult enough to get a photo of the dogs to go into the book! And I've wailed about that very thing here on this blog on more than one occasion. But a photo of myself is just too much.

Last year Pia took one of me with then-puppy Maija on my lap when we were at the Molesey xmas Lappy walk in Surrey. Unknown to me, she bunged it into the book and when I got my copy & opened it up, there we were. What a fright! I do usually try to stay away from the pointy end of cameras.

However, a pic is fair enough, I suppose. This year I thought I'd better seize control and so I sent Pia a photo that I actually like. You can't really see my face, and I'm dressed up like the Michelin man because it was so cold. However, I'm in my favorite place (on the beach) with a bunch of Lappies around me - Neka and various of her offspring. This photo, in fact. Unfortunately I neglected to check the size of the file and when printed it would apparently come out about 2cm high. Okay, so not quite large enough.

So out Jay & I went this morning straight after coffee and before doing anything less important like work, etc. Trying to get a photo - not only of me looking presentable enough to go into a book and so be committed to the annals of history for all eternity (yeesh!), but also with the dogs all facing the camera. Or all in the same direction, at least.

Here are a couple of outtakes.

First, trying to get everyone to at least sit.

Oops, our neighbour walked by.

As you can see, Neka is doing well. Thanks to everyone for asking. In fact, she has even improved throughout the day and I'd say she's totally back to her old self tonight. She had a great time on her walk this afternoon and was zooming through the woods with Maija as if nothing had ever happened. She has her checkup tomorrow morning and, if there's time after that, I'm going to pop into a local open show with Keskiyo for a little pre-Crufts practice... just in case Taika decides I can go and waits until the weekend after to have her puppies. Hoped for puppies, that is. Obviously.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


What a tough few days it's been in this house. On Monday morning I went downstairs to discover that Neka had been throwing up. Now, it has to be said that this is certainly far from an unusual occurrence. Our dogs vomit on an unfortunately regular basis - they drink too much water too fast, up it comes - they've been running around playing and swallow a load of fur, up it comes - swallowed a bit of chewed up stick, up it comes - ate their dinner too fast, up it comes (and then disappears back down again just as quickly). So throwing up in itself never worries me. I cleaned up and then took Neka out for her morning ablutions.

Normal wee, normal poo - normal, normal, normal. Then as we were strolling down the park she started to vomit again and began to look distinctly unwell. Then she lay on the frosty grass and didn't want to get up (Does that sound familiar to long-time readers? I wasn't panicking like I was this night, but it's always a worry when Neka chooses to lay still.)

I got her into the house and took Maija & Keskiyo out and by the time I had finished with them Neka's condition had deteriorated already and she was clearly in some discomfort. Discomfort that continued to worsen over the course of the next hour until she was very clearly in a lot of pain - panting, the pupils of her eyes were dilated and she had started to hunch her back.

I phoned the vet & told them I was on my way and within an hour Neka was in hospital on a drip with a temperature of over 104ºF (40ºC). Her condition was so unstable that they didn't want to do an xray to see whether she had a blockage because of the strain even a small amount of sedation would put on her organs. They took a blood sample and sent it to the lab for urgent results and gave her some pain relief and then we started waiting.

Our vet surgery is a large, busy hospital in Exeter and so when there is something about they are always one of the first to hear about it. That weekend they had no fewer than 3 dogs in intensive care with vomiting, diarrhea and pancreatitis of varying severity and danger. Although Neka's symptoms were slightly different, they suspected that she was victim number 4 and started to treat her for that and gastroenteritis.

Two days later, and I've just brought her home. She was almost as excited to see me as I was to see her! Each day when they told me she would have to stay overnight, I desperately wanted to go and see her but managed to control myself. It might make us feel better to see for ourselves that she's ok, but I know that if she saw us and then we left without her it would be much worse for her. So we stayed tough and when I called three times each day I took the staff's word that she was doing well.

She's still not completely back to her old self - far from it.

It frightens me to think how ill she has been. However I'm hopeful she'll recover pretty quickly now that she's back home. We have 3 different drugs to give her for the rest of the week; one anti-sickness tablet and two different kinds of antibiotic. And she's back to see her friend the vet on the weekend.

We still don't know if she has pancreatitis; it will take a couple of days to get the results of the second lot of blood tests. And we still don't know - and probably will never know - what caused the problem in the first place. But if several dogs have had the same thing, then that implies there is a strange bug around that attacks particular organs. Luckily, everyone else in the house has been absolutely fine.

Maija was at work with Jay when Neka came home, but she had a very warm welcome from Keskiyo.

Neka had a long drink then settled down in her favorite spot for a snooze. For the first hour Keskiyo just lay about a foot away watching her. It was quite sweet to see him be so attentive. Usually when he's focused on the girls it's not with attention so much as with intention.

Here's Neka a couple of weeks ago, her usual bouncy self. Hopefully we'll see some more of that before very long.

And the cost of Neka's good health? Priceless, you might say. Except that we can, of course, identify a very precise price in the form of vet bills. This episode - £400. Actually, I thought that was pretty good, considering 3 days, 2 nights, 2 blood tests, and a load of drugs. After all, if her ailment had been caused by her swallowing something she shouldn't that had caused a blockage (as I first feared), then there would have been xrays and surgery as well. That would likely have pushed the price into 4 figures.

Ask around and you'll get lots of stories about why animal insurance is a good idea. This is just one of them.

So, is Neka insured? Er, no. But the others are, and after this Neka will be too because if she can contract a debilitating mystery illness out of the blue, then surely anyone can, and absolutely anything is possible.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

new poll

I've been rooting around looking through the blog archives and enjoying the puppies all over again. It's hard for me to believe, but I haven't had a poll on the blog since Sept 08 when Maija's litter were going off to their new homes. Has it really been that long? The polls are fun and when there are puppies in the house there are loads of events to have a little game about, so I thought I'd kick off with the first one about Taika's litter.

Hoped for litter. Do you suppose I'm jinxing the whole thing by even referring to it? There is one school of thought - the School of Superstitious Paranoia - that says you should keep your mouth shut about stuff until it happens. But where's the fun in that?

So, I'm giving readers plenty of time to vote in the poll as these news-less days I know many people only check in with the blog occasionally. The most votes I think I ever had on one of the puppy polls was 16, which was pretty good, actually. However, there are a lot more people reading these days. I've had messages & emails from all over the world from all sorts of strangers saying how much they enjoy the blog, and that's very nice, folks - thanks! So it will be interesting to see if some of those readers participate in the polls too and bump up the number of votes.

In 3 weeks Taika will be scanned to see whether she is indeed pregnant and how many puppies she is likely to have. By the time the scan date rolls around we'll probably have a pretty good idea whether she is pregnant or not, but the number of puppies is always a big mystery. Kath, the woman I go to for scanning is excellent, I must say. With my first litter she said "It's a bit early but I can definitely see 7." And Neka had 7. With the second litter Kath very kindly agreed to see me as she was practically on her way out the door heading for the airport and her holiday. It was the earliest possible day it's even worth scanning and I was on my way back from a show. So, we were all in a bit of a hurry. She had a very quick rummage before Neka shifted position and she lost the image and said she saw 7 again but that if she had more time she might find more. Yep, that would be the 9 then.

So, Taika will also be going to see Kath but it won't be so early. With Neka, either by the time of the scan, or literally 2 days later, it was very obvious that she was pregnant. So, I guess we'll know with Taika too, even if we suspect bad news and don't want to admit it to ourselves. The poll, then, is this. How many puppies will the scanner find?

I was going to add an option to vote that she won't be pregnant at all, but that really would be tempting fate, so I'm just not going there.

For those of you new to the Infindigo polls, you can find the voting buttons at the top right of the blog. Happy voting! Check back in 3 weeks for the result. And if, in all the excitement, I somehow forget to post the results, I'm sure someone will remind me.

Now we're off to the beach, so photos later.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

more mud

On the first Sunday of the year I host my Devon Lappy walk for the SFLS. Last year we had 8 dogs (including one honorary Lapphund in the shape of Akita Anniebear) and a bunch of people and we met at Bigbury on a clear, cold, windy day and got lots of great photos.

This year the timing of the tide wasn't very helpful and we were in constant and imminent danger of being under way too much snow and ice to attempt the winding back roads to get there. So we did the ever-popular walk at Saltram House in Plymouth instead. It was busy over the holidays. I mean, it was - whoa! - BUSY. Plenty of dogs, too many people, lots of bicycles and kids on scooters. Not really my flavour. Thankfully it had somewhat improved in the new year when we went, and we had a nice walk followed by tea in the cafe.

In spite of the biting wind, and all the ice and snow we had before and after this day, it perhaps goes without saying that the dogs still managed to find rather a lot of mud.

L-R: Alan, Liz & Helen with Koda; Jo & George with Tarkka; Jay with Neka & Maija

What were those dogs looking at, you ask? No idea. But there was plenty of action in the vicinity to choose from and it was quite handy for getting the dogs to sit still long enough for the camera moment.

The first Sunday of the year is a tough time to gather folk & their dogs as everyone always has lots of commitments around that time. So I think I'll try to pull something together later in the year when it's a little more convenient. Suggestions for location would be more than welcome. I love Bigbury, but I'm not sure how dog-friendly it is in high season. And Saltram is just too hectic. I'll have to do a bit of research & get back to you on that one.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

waiting again

So, we got to France, we met Stéphanie and her mother who both offered us fantastic hospitality. We partook of much delicious coffee & food (well, it was France, after all), including la galette des Rois. Kate won the prize, la fève, from the cake and so got to wear the crown and is now also due a year of good luck - hurrah! However, it also apparently means she's supposed to buy the cake for next year's celebration. I wonder if she realises she's going to have to go back...

Stéphanie's dogs were quite adorable, and we particularly admired the boys who were the sweetest of all, jostling each other good naturedly to be first in the queue for cuddles from the strangers. Kate fell in love with Armas who kept snuggling up to her demanding to have his chest scratched. He reminded me so much of Keskiyö which is, perhaps, unsurprising as they share a sire. Lucky for us, though, Taika fell in love with Albmi. Or something like that. Here they are having a little get-to-know-you game.

The video was cut unfortunately short when I accidentally hit the stop button with fingers numb and shaking with cold. If anything, it was even colder in Normandy than in the UK and with lots of snow. Albmi wasted no time and we got what we wanted quickly and with a minimum of fuss. As a result, we actually changed our return journey home to a day earlier. And it was lucky we did, as it started snowing as we left and by the next day, when we were supposed to be leaving, the road to the ferry port was impassable.

Much like the roads home when we arrived Tuesday night.

After an enforced stopover in a hotel near Stonehenge, we finally made it to Kate's where I collected Maija, who had been keeping Jerome & the children company while Taika was away. Late morning yesterday, I finally got home. No one can say we didn't put a great deal of effort into this event.

But now we have to wait again to see whether it worked. And I guess Kate will be watching Taika with hawk eyes to see if she is showing any telltale differences in behaviour.