Wednesday, 24 February 2010

magic number

Oh, you clever things, how did you know? Despite all the evidence suggesting otherwise, most of the people who voted on the poll chose 5 puppies. And I'm thinking that after my experience of 7 and then 9 of the little beasts, then 5 will be positively easy. Uh huh.

This is how much mess 7 make when they're learning to eat porridge:

Top, L-R: Keksi, Tuuri, Seppo, Koda
Bottom, L-R: Karhu, Taito
Missing from photo: mum-to-be Taika

Kate zoomed down to visit Kath and her brand new ultrasound machine. Lo and behold, she did indeed spot 5 puppies - maybe 6, she said. So, it's quite a relief to know it's more than 2 or 3, although 5 or even 6 will not completely fulfil the demand for them. Unfortunately, some people will just have to wait until next time.

It's so lovely to give people the good news - yes, there are puppies on the way and if nothing goes horribly wrong, then you shall have your long-awaited Finnish Lapphund! Equally, it's terrible to give people the bad news - sorry, not this time. On a mating attempt long ago, we were unsuccessful and I had to tell a bunch of people that there would be no puppies at all on that occasion. Including Kate who ended up with Taika 8 or 10 months later. And this time, the news will also be sad for some who were hoping for a bigger litter. We've all been there with the wait for a Lappy puppy - a very lucky few just happen to turn up at the right place at the right time and ask the right question and not have to wait at all. Most have to wait a bit, especially if they prefer a specific colour or sex.

And so on to the list of prep chores: I am now in possession of plenty of liquid puppy wormer & Kate is employed administering a squirt to Taika everyday. I also have a stack of puppy insurance packs and a whelping box which is currently flat-packed until such time as the junk room is cleared - see previous post. I'm awaiting puppy sales wallets which have been ordered. None of these do much to help whittle down my list, it's true.

Things to add to the list:
  • Update the puppy information pack
  • Update the sales contract & send to everyone so we have a chance to talk it through
So what's the holdup? If you've had half an eye on Twitter this week you will know that I've been busy setting up a new work-related website. Yawn. Part of the job entailed photographing tiny electronic parts and somehow getting them more or less in focus (yeesh, my eyes!) For this purpose, I needed a smooth, bright white background and so I was using the glossy back of a spiral-bound report we had for something or other and placed it in the feeble natural light coming in through patio doors.

Keskiyo thought it looked like fun, and he decided to help out. He's much more photogenic than these other things, don't you think:

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


No, not for clothes and makeup, alas.

Where the 30-ish days post-mating always grind by in an infuriatingly leisurely manner while everyone plays the is-she-isn't-she game, the 30-ish days pre-whelping zip by quite smartly. In the meantime, I've been procrastinating over clearing out and preparing the whelping room - otherwise known as the back bedroom, or more frequently, the junk room. But I've decided it's best to delegate that job to Jay.

Before you judge me too harshly, consider the fact that I don't even know the names of some of the things in there, let alone what they're for or where a likely alternative good home would be for them. (Um, bin?)


Now what am I going to do with all that xmas wrapping paper? And I don't foresee much call for an electric fan anytime soon. Does that fan even work?

No, that pile of abandoned shoes is not mine, as it happens.

And those little electronic thingies? No idea.

Apart from that job, there's all the stuff that needs money thrown at it, and now, with just over 3 weeks left to go, there's no time to waste. So, today I've ordered the whelping box. I never know which size to get. The first year I ordered the one recommended for Border Collie size dogs. It was exceedingly spacious and is fitted with 2 large washable mats (with 2 extra for washing & swapping) and side rails to provide a little escape channel for the puppies to stop them getting squashed under their mum against the walls.

The second year I ordered what I thought was the same size but got a slightly smaller version. Still plenty of space for Neka & her brood of 9 but the rails and mats didn't fit - 1 mat was too small but 2 were too large. So I ordered new mats and Jay made the rails fit. Well, they still didn't fit, as such, but they accomplished their purpose nonetheless.

This year I didn't know whether to buy the larger or smaller size. In the end I opted for the smaller so that I'd have only one mat to wash at a time instead of 2. I guess I should also have ordered new rails, but I'm sure Jay will want to participate in some small way in the setting up again this time around. I'm hoping the rails will miraculously appear when some of the stuff starts moving out of the room. Perhaps they're hiding under the wrapping paper.

Other jobs to do / things to buy:

Puppy food for Taika, starting next week
Wormer for Taika & puppies, ditto
Puppy-holding contraption for the postage scales
Holding box (bigger than last year's!)
Lactol milk
Find hot water bottle
Clean & disinfect all the just-in-case tools - thermometer, scissors, tiny nursing bottles, syringes
New batteries for clock/room thermometer combo
Chicken soup for new mum

And if you're one of the people who is planning to be visiting the puppies when they're 4 weeks old, then start saving your newspapers now. It is no exaggeration to say that I will not be able to get my hands on enough newspaper when the puppies arrive. So, save your own and if you can also get all the papers from your friends and neighbours, then so much the better. No one will be given entrance without a newspaper offering.

It's not much to ask for the chance of cuddles with 1-month-old pups, really.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

no poll result

If you've been checking out my Twitter feed (which shows on the right-hand side of the blog window under the photo slideshow as well as on the news page of the website), then you will know that Taika is indeed in whelp. Sadly I cannot announce the result of the poll though because, whaddeya know, things didn't go quite as planned.

On Friday I had a call to say that the ultrasound machine had broken and could not be fixed. Oh, the timing! A new one has been ordered, but it won't arrive probably until Taika's puppies do. So that left us all at the mercy of Kate's vet who very helpfully rearranged their afternoon appointments on Saturday to squeeze Taika in to have her scan there. The only problem with that, of course, is that vets are notoriously squeamish about naming numbers. I don't know if they are afraid of unreasonable comeback from people after the birth - "But you said she was having sixteen!" - or whether it is simply because they are not radiologists and so do not have the expertise to make any kind of accurate estimate.

That's what's great about using the people who are experts. They're not afraid to name the numbers, and we all know that 4 can actually mean 2 or 7 and that 9 can mean 5 or 10. We just accept that it's not exact - but in my experience, the helpful woman I've used in the past has always known.

So for a fat fee, the vet was able to confirm that yes, Taika is carrying puppies - plural. Strong heartbeats & plenty of space. All seems well with however many are in there. But she wouldn't even say she heard/saw 2 or 4. All she said was she didn't think there were "lots" in there. My question would be how many she considered "lots" to be. "Lots" for, say, a Labrador would be 12 or 14 whereas for a Lappy, "lots" could be 6 or 7, although a vet would be very unlikely to know this.

So, after all this, you would think that in 4 weeks' time we are guaranteed to have puppies, wouldn't you? There are several people who are certainly hoping that's the case. But it's not entirely that straightforward. (Did you really think it would be?) It's true we will probably have puppies. But as with seasons & mating, there are certainly no guarantees, and this is another likely reason vets don't want to name numbers. For example, she could be in whelp with 4 puppies now but re-absorb, say, 2 of them before the birth and so we only end up with 2. Also, stillborn puppies are certainly not rare so they might not all make it. The scariest scenario is that something goes wrong and the mum needs to have a Caesarian. This can also result in one or more dead puppies.

So, in case you have uncrossed your fingers, toes & legs, thinking we were out of the woods now, please just give your limbs all a good stretch and then re-assume the position until all the puppies arrive safe and sound.

Friday, 12 February 2010


So there is one more day left to vote on the poll and that means that tomorrow is the day. If I told you that today was going to be the day, I apologise. I apologise whole-heartedly for giving you a full 24 hours more anticipation than you thought you were going to have. Today could have been the day, as it is the magic day 33 after mating. However, I couldn't quite manage to get all the necessary people in the same place together until tomorrow. Kath the scanner and Kate with Taika, that is.

So as soon as we get back, you'll be the first to know the result. Well, right after the very few who have been waiting a year now for this event (!) and who have been faithfully promised a puppy should we be lucky. They'll be the first-first to know. And if you're waiting with bated breath for a text tomorrow night, don't think that no text means bad news - I remember from past experience that the village we're going to has notoriously poor mobile phone reception. And, to add insult on top of that injury, what the village lacks in phone masts it more than makes up for with its terrific pub so we're off there for dinner after the scan to either celebrate or commiserate and plan our next move.

But don't worry - as soon as I can let you know, I will let you know. Promise.

On other other hand, if the news is bad I'm not sure I will have phone reception or access to a computer from Venezuela or Outer Mongolia or wherever it is I will have to flee to if Taika does not prove to be in whelp. Do you suppose they have good beaches in Outer Mongolia?

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

more old wives' tales...

... or not.

I'm charmed that so many people have voted on the poll and I find it interesting to see that the majority vote currently stands at 39% for 5 puppies. A super-competitive someone who always likes to win (and who shall remain nameless) has even voted twice - once with his own guess and once because I said I thought Taika would have more than 7. That's not what I voted, though - I voted for 7.

Don't ask me who just at the moment because I can't quite put my finger on the right book, but it has been said (by someone who ought to know) that the sex of the puppies is determined by the sire's genes while the genes for litter size come down the dam line.

As I'm a bit short on photos at the moment, here are a couple of cute old shot of Neka's first litter of 5 dogs, 2 bitches (including mum-t0-be Taika). The sire was Elbereth Kimmi, himself from a litter of 4 males and 1 female.

L-R: Taika, Tuuri, Keksi, Taito, Kultainen, Seppo, Karhu

That's just how cute 4-week-old Finnish Lapphund puppies are. And here they are 2 weeks later.

L-R: Karhu, Taito, Keksi, Tuuri, Seppo, Taika

Neka was one of a litter of 7 (6 bitches, 1 dog) and her mother, Pigga, had 2 other litters of 6 puppies each. Neka's second litter was 9 puppies. We thought it best to stop there - who knows how many we would have ended up with had we gone for a third batch.

Here, in their entirety, are the Devon Nine who inspired the conception of this blog:

L-R (I think!): Jaana, Inko, Tarmo, Jaska, Sulo, Rauhan, Viivi, Maija, Tarkka

Albmi is one of 3 boys and he has sired two litters of 6 each; 2 males-4 females and 5 males-1 female. I don't know what his history has to say about this theory.

Sunday, 7 February 2010


On the subject of mating (which seems to be the unavoidable topic of choice for the time being), spring has arrived in my garden. Clearly we are following the pagan calendar around here. The frogs certainly are, anyway.

We have had a few days minutes of warm, sunny weather and the frogs are celebrating with their annual gathering in our small pond. In a couple of days I expect the surface of the water will be roiling and eventually the frogs will all return from wherever it is they come from, leaving masses of spawn behind. After that we will have a few more days' hard frost - enough to re-freeze the surface of the pond, and when that melts it will officially be spring.

Have I been paying close attention to the weather forecast? No, I usually don't. But over the half-dozen years we've been living in this house, I know that somehow the frogs know exactly when the last hard frost of the year will be. You can plan your calendar around them - and they're early this year.

And where is it they all come from, anyway? Perhaps the same 100 go around the whole village populating every pond with spawn and then split up to return to their normal homes. We usually have a few resident frogs keeping the newts company. It's quite amazing that we don't witness what must be a mass migration as they arrive and depart each spring.

And what's the Taika update today? Well, Kate says she seems to think she's eating for at least 7. But, frankly, that's not unusual, so don't let that get your hopes up.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

old wives' tales

A friend and I were chatting the other day about her puppies and my hoped-for puppies (hereinafter to be referred to as HF puppies - at least until things have been confirmed one way or the other). She knows a thing or 2 about dogs, my friend, so when she asked whether Taika drooled a lot during the mating, I didn't laugh. As a matter of fact, she did, said I. As a matter of fact, Kate came away from each mating with a very wet knee/arm/hand from where she squatted holding Taika still. Apparently, according to my friend, that's a very good sign that the mating will be successful.

Now, don't ask me. I have no idea whether that is biological fact or just one of those stories breeders tell. But I know what I reckon. And I have to say it sure doesn't sound like anything scientific.

The other 'very good sign' I've heard about is when a bitch squeals, screams, howls - or makes any of those embarrassing loud noises you really wish they wouldn't - during mating. Did Taika do this? Yup.

Neka neither drooled nor squawked during her successful matings. She did, however, grunt in a quite amusing way the whole time and Keskiyo threw up during one of his ties that led to a litter of puppies. And I haven't heard any anecdotes to support my theory, but I'd bet there have been bitches who did drool and howl and yet did not end up in whelp at the end of it.

So, what I'm saying is, we won't know anything until the scan.

Unless, of course, Taika has been having a bit of morning sickness...? Unlikely. Nothing would put that girl off her food. But I will ask.

This waiting & wondering - tough, no?

As for the drooling = puppies on the way theory, far be it from me to doubt the wisdom of those with far more experience than I. I'm not one of those who doesn't believe stuff without solid, tangible proof. Frankly, I believe in lots of things that others say have not been proven. Just because it sounds unlikely doesn't mean it is unlikely and just because no one can identify a link between drooling and having puppies doesn't mean there isn't one.

As in so many things, we shall simply have to wait and see.

For your visual pleasure, here is an admittedly poor shot of Taika playing with her boyfriend.

Monday, 1 February 2010

showdog returns

We had quite a hectic weekend. Or, should I say, I had one.

First, I zipped into the Newton Abbot show at the Matford Centre in Exeter bright & early to set up my stuff in a convenient place. I knew that by the time I finished with Neka's check up at the vet and got back to the show it would be heaving and I would struggle to even get through the door.

Next stop, vet, where Neka was given the all-clear. The second blood test revealed she did indeed have pancreatitis and we were lucky because one of the dogs who had been inflicted with it the previous weekend had died. She may or may not ever have another episode, but we'll take small steps in an effort to avoid a repeat performance.

At the moment we feed our dogs a mixture of Arden Grange or Purina Pro Plan complete and raw meat and vegetables. Because pancreatitis can be triggered by high fat or high protein content in the diet, we'll be looking at quality complete foods with a lower fat content for Neka. And from now on, no more raw. She'll be very disappointed with this news, as she is very fond indeed of her raw meals. Perhaps just an occasional chicken wing won't hurt.

Did I say in my last post that I was planning to pop into the show after our vet appointment if I had time? Well, I arrived there shortly after 8am to set up, returned by 10am. Yup, we had plenty of time. More than plenty, in fact. We finally got home at 4:45pm. Phew, long day!

But it was worth it. We had two big classes of Finnish Lapphunds entered but unfortunately with many absent, there was only Keskiyo and his half-sister Taru in attendance. Under judge Krystian Greenland Keskiyo got Best of Breed and then we had a long wait for the group judging. Again, I didn't regret hanging around for hours because Keskiyo won 2nd in the Pastoral Group. I really felt the judge wanted him to win the group, and he gave us every opportunity by getting us to move and move and move again. However, after the long day Keskiyo was a bit tired and as it was his first show in a very long time, he was out of practice, so he wasn't his usual sparkling self by then. Nonethless, we're certainly not complaining about coming 2nd.

It was a fitting result for my little showdog's return to the ring after his stint in semi-retirement! We've got a couple more open shows over the next few weeks to take advantage of him looking so nice at the moment.

Photo by Farlap

This was the photo I was hoping to use in our Yearbook this year. However, something went haywire with my order and so it didn't arrive in time and I ended up having to use (after some Photoshop-ing to try and improve the perspective) the pic I took myself. That should be interesting.