Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Weston beach walk

On Sunday we met a bunch of old friends and new friends-to-be with a rather large group of Lappies for a walk at Weston-Super-Mare again.  I have to say that I'm pretty unimpressed with the council for charging such extortionate parking fees.  Even in the middle of the winter the minimum charge was £2.50 and when we went there in November it was twice that.  So I don't think we'll be troubling their lovely beach again with our half dozen cars and twice the number of dogs.  There are lots of nice places to walk that don't cost the earth in parking.

The weather was incredibly kind to us, if chilly - the forecast was for cold & wet but we only got the cold.  Phew!  Even those who were threatened to be homebound by snow managed to make it.

Thanks to Mark Treasure for the great photos, as always.  Most of these are his, the poor phone shots 1st & last are mine, as usual.  We didn't manage to remember to get a group shot of everyone there, but if my memory serves correctly, we had 12 Finnish Lapphunds and about twice that in people.

That sign beyond which everyone is walking?  It says something like: "DANGER beyond this point."

Much running & playing.
L-R: Kaija, Miika, Kesa, Taika
It's anyone's guess who is running to catch up in the distance, but my guess is Minna.  She is not one to miss out on a good game of chase.

Case in point:
L-R: Minna, Kaija, Taika, Miika

Even Keksi did a little bit of running, but mainly she stayed close to the humans' legs (and pockets full of treats).
L-R:  Keskiyo, Keksi

Neka, the eldest in attendance, had a wonderful time, racing around like a dog half her age.

And this tells the story of later that evening.  Evidence of a very good day.

Monday, 30 January 2012

pup tip - 1st day & night

When you first bring your puppy home, everybody is going to be excited about the new family member and all your friends and neighbours will want to visit.  Resist the urge to show off your puppy straight away.  Plan for your puppy's first experiences of his new home to be quiet and calm.  Give him the opportunity to get to know you and your house, where his things are and what his new routine is going to be without the comfort and security of his mother and siblings.

Keep in mind that it's a big, new, scary world for your puppy; ease him into it.  Let him find his feet and feel at home before bringing in the well-wishers and puppy-cuddlers.  Once he is feeling secure and at home, then bring on the visitors. Keep numbers down to 2 or 3 at a time, though, so that he is not overwhelmed.

While he is being visited and fussed, be sure not to neglect his toilet training needs and always allow him to get sufficient sleep.  He'll be excited and enjoying the fuss, but it's up to you - the parent, as it were! - to enforce quiet time.

Neka at 8 weeks old, a couple of days after arriving.

Friday, 27 January 2012

five ways to help your dog lose weight

While recently on the subject of overweight dogs, and assuming your dog's girth is not expanding due to a litter of puppies growing in there, here are some tips for helping your pooch to shed those unhealthy kgs.

Taito looking a bit pudgy

1.   Before embarking on a drastic weight-loss programme, visit your vet.  Find out what a reasonable and healthy weight is for your dog and make sure your dog is physically able to exercise safely. 

2.  Start and maintain a regular exercise routine. If your dog is unfit, start small with short, easy walks and build it up gradually.  Aim to get your dog on at least one long walk every day. If you have time for two walks, or more, so much the better.  Don't let your dog wander along sniffing the ground - put him on a lead and keep up a brisk pace.

3.  Look very carefully at what you're feeding your dog and then cut out the treats.   All of them.  For training, use pieces of kibble taken from your dog's meals (not in addition to his meals).  If you must give a treat, give raw vegetables instead of unhealthy high-fat, high-salt store-bought treats.  If your dog won't eat raw veggies, then he is not hungry!  Give your dog big meaty bones fresh from the butcher - they are very satisfying.

4.  Change your dog food.  Get rid of the standard brands you can buy in supermarkets.  They are full of unhealthy additives and preservatives and generally have too much fat and sometimes even non-edible rubbish! Instead, replace them with high-quality premium dog foods such as those sold in pet shops or veterinary surgeries.  

5.  Give your dog two or more small meals a day instead of one big one.  To slow him down, consider one of the bowls specially designed for dogs who eat too fast.  Feed your dog less than the amount recommended on the dog food bag - the aim of those guidelines is to sell more dog food!  If your dog is still not losing weight, decrease the amount in his meals by 10%.  Add a few raw vegetables to your dog's meals to bulk them up without the extra calories.

Taito looking perfectly fit
 For more reading about helping your dog to lose weight, here is an interesting article from the Whole Dog Journal with lots of good advice about what to feed and how.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

belly update

A little over a week ago I was watching Keksi's belly for changes.  There was no sign at all just 7 days ago that she was in whelp.  And then, so suddenly, she started to look a bit rounder, just a couple of days before her scan.  Now, at day 36/37 after mating, there is a definite swelling of the belly.

The slightly heavier waistline hasn't yet slowed her down on her walks, though.  Today she was certainly giving Maija, the original speed freak, a run for her money... so to speak.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

don't shoot the dog

I've borrowed the title of Karen Pryor's excellent training book in response to the hysterical frenzy whipped up by the public, media and politicans whenever there is a tragedy involving a dog and a person.  This week a child was attacked by a dog and, as always, it has led to cries for banning certain dog breeds.

There are a couple of reasons I didn't watch the BBC documentary "Death Row Dogs" last night.  I never watch these things because I already have more than enough awful images stuck in my head that I wish I could scratch out.  And I also don't watch them because I usually get so angry and frustrated at the sensationalism or the ignorance or the one-sidedness that I start yelling at the television and upsetting my own dogs.  And, really, none of us need that - with 4 dogs in the house we generally have more than enough opportunity for noise.

But on this subject I'm with Beverley Cuddy, Editor of Dogs Today magazine.  You can read her excellent blog on this subject here.

In the meantime I leave you with an old photo of Neka, aged 11 months, playing with Annie, who was our very own "dangerous dog" Akita. A more gentle, loving and dignified dog you could never hope to meet.  Does she look scary here playing?  You bet she does.  Was she completely reliable around all people, children included?  Yes, to our knowledge, she certainly was.  Would we ever have left her (or any of our dogs) alone with small children, as Beverley discusses in her blog?  No.  We definitely would never have done that.

Rauhan & Pippa illustrate the wonderful relationship between dogs & children when carefully supervised

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

and then...

Yesterday's post was written last week.  What can I tell you, the commitment to post 5 days a week requires advance planning (kinda like that "spontaneity" I was referring to earlier).

Anyway, shortly after writing that post I was looking closely at Keksi's ever-expanding waistline and thinking to myself that I must be feeding her too much.  Then I said to one or two people that if I had to guess, I'd guess yes.

And so on Sunday up the A303 Keksi & I went for her to be scanned by the very helpful Kath.  And it's confirmed:  we're having puppies!  Cue much whooping & dancing.  Well, one whoop and a little shuffle, anyway.  That's about all the energy I can muster, I'm afraid, regardless of how good the news.  Jay was away for a week & I've been taking care of 4 dogs on my own with not enough sleep or time to fit everything in, so there was actually very little in the way of dancing, in truth.

The scan says "five, or at least five", which was the same prognosis as for Keksi's last litter of seven.  So the new waiting begins to see how many will arrive.  It could actually be fewer than 5 because a bitch can re-absorb foetuses if they are not viable.  But I'm remaining confident of the "at least five". 

This is what I'm looking foward to in about a month's time - content mum & babies taken 24 hours after their birth last time:

Keksi with the Persikka litter, 1 day old

Monday, 23 January 2012

signs 2

A few days ago I was looking for signs that Keksi might be pregnant.   The very first sign of pregnancy is often an uncharacteric tendency to slow right down on walks.  I saw this with both of Neka's litters, especially the second litter of nine puppies.  A couple of weeks after mating, Neka made a dramatic transformation from a running, zooming, light-on-her-feet dasher to a by-my-ankle plodder.  The plodding lasted only a couple of days, and I only half-noticed it because the weather was warm and so a bit of slowing wasn't really remarkable.

So, did Keksi display any of this deceleration?  Well... the only answer I have to offer is, I don't know.  Sorry.  She wasn't with me at the time and, frankly, with Keksi anything goes.  Daniel reports that on walks she is constantly running around, chasing squirrells, disappearing off and speeding back.  In my experience, Keksi is much more of a natural plodder, sticking close by and rarely deigning to break a sweat.    These days, enjoying her newly svelte shape, she does actually pick up speed a bit and give the squirrells a worry or two, even when she's walking with me.

But, then, all the Lappies love to engage in a bit of squirrell bothering.  Here is Keskiyo looking rather smug at having chased a poor critter up a tree.  And if it had been Neka, the photo would have been little more than a blur of Lapphund on 2 legs, mouth wide open as she variously tried to bark the squirrell back down to the ground or, alternatively, to climb up there and get it for herself.

I ask you, does this look like a dog who is slowing down?

That's right, no, it does not.  However, I am consoling myself with the fact that the time for slowing down is long past.  

And if you're wondering why poor old Neka is on her lead in this video it's because she knows this walk so well that she feels the need to disappear for way too many minutes at a time in search of new adventure whenever we go there.  And we go there often.

Friday, 20 January 2012

five things that are not so great about having a dog

1.  You are often carrying around a bag of poo.

2.  All your pockets are stained with dog treats.  And your walls/furniture/car with mud.

3.  Much of your wardrobe is chosen on the basis of what hides dog hair most effectively.

4.  You can forget disappearing off to Paris for a spontaneous romantic break - spontaneity
     requires advance planning.

5.  You are forced to get fresh air & exercise everyday whether you want it or not
     and regardless of the weather.

    Wet, muddy Kesä having a drink

      Thursday, 19 January 2012

      trick - sit

      Here's another first of what I hope will be a regular feature - how to teach a new trick.  However, I'm starting small with the basics - it's not a trick, as such, but the most basic thing to teach your dog is to sit on command.  I'll get on to the complicated stuff in due course.  Like, in the case of young Lapphunds, walking nicely on a lead, for example.  Or, say, for another example, the recall.

      But, for now the sit.

      Aim:         Get your dog's bum on the floor and his nose pointing toward your face, giving you attention.

      Use For:  Everything!  Sitting is the most basic of doggie manners.  Use it when he is greeting someone, when he is at the vet, when he is at the kerb waiting to cross the road.  When you need some control.  Sit, sit, sit.  SIT.

      Start with a pocketful of tiny treats that your dog loves.  Treats should be about the size of the tip of your little finger.  Small.  And easy to eat.

      1.  Hold a treat next to your dog's nose (don't let him grab it, obviously...)

      2.  Slowly move the treat back towards the top of the dog's head, between the ears.
           Don't lift your hand too high - keep it low and near the dog's nose.  The aim is to get his nose to
           follow the treat - i.e. pointing up.

      3.  As your dog's nose points up, his back legs will bend and his bottom will head towards the floor.
           As soon as his bottom touches the floor, say the word "Sit".  Immediately give the treat and
           praise him enthusiastically with the words "good sit" and/or "good dog".

      Perhaps I'm too ambitious, but I've made a little film to illustrate the method.  Making a film fit for public consumption?  Difficult.  Specialist, even.  Filming animals?  Very difficult.  Very.  Filming animals with no help?  Even harder than that.  Filming animals with no help and with a jealous canine audience barking & kicking up a fuss at the sidelines...?  So you shall see.  Don't judge me too harshly, my filming technique can only improve!

      Of course, Keskiyo already knows how to sit, so a new puppy will take a bit longer to get the hang of it than Keskiyo does in this film. 

      If it's Not Working 

      If your dog's nose is following your hand but his back legs are not bending, then you are holding the treat up too high.  Keep your hand close to the dog's nose during the whole exercise. 

      If he keeps scooting backwards rather than bending his legs, don't give the treat and don't react.  Just start again.  Don't get frustrated, just be calm.  If you find yourself getting frustrated at any point when training your dog, stop and try again later.

      Don'ts:  Don't get angry or impatient.  Don't yell or use a harsh voice.  Don't push your dog's bottom down.

      Tips for Success:  Take your time.  Be patient.   Be quick to give treats and enthusiastic praise.  Be generous with the praise and petting.  Always reward well while your dog is still learning.

      Wednesday, 18 January 2012

      book review - control unleashed*

      Control Unleashed: Creating a Focused and Confident Dog
      (c/o Clean Run Productions)

      Author:  Leslie McDevitt, MLA, CDBC, CPDT
      Publisher:  Clean Run Productions
      ISBN:   978-1-892694-17-1
      Pages:  226
      Price:  £17.50

      Classic Quote

      “Even if a student and her dog do not perform an exercise perfectly, as long as the dog is looking happy and engaged with his handler, I count that as a win.”

      About the Author

      Leslie McDevitt is a certified dog behaviour consultant and pet dog trainer in Philadelphia, MA, USA.  Her behaviour-based articles have been published in the agility periodical, Clean Run, and in Dog Fancy.


      McDevitt is a trainer of agility and often found dogs in her agility classes who were unprepared for working within such a stimulating environment. For reactive dogs who had difficulty concentrating in the agility class setup, she devised a seven-week behaviour modification course as a pre-requisite to agility training. She called that course Control Unleashed (CU), and this book outlines the content of the CU course in week-by-week exercises.

      The book is studded with true stories and case studies from her CU experiences and threaded throughout is the story of McDevitt’s progress with her own dog, Snap, to whom the book is dedicated.

      Control Unleashed is aimed at:
      1. Students of dog sports or the companion dog owner whose dog has difficulty concentrating or working off lead near other dogs or in exciting situations.
      2. The experienced agility or obedience instructor who reads dogs well and wants to get a handle on dealing with the disruptive dogs in class.
      Difficulty concentrating in exciting situations? That sounds like a Lapphund or two to me! I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the book, which I ordered from the US, but it is now available in the UK

      What is Great About This Book

      First of all, it’s a relief to find a dog book with a new approach that really works. It’s a mile from the standard unhelpful advice which runs along the lines of:  keep your dog’s attention on you at all times to avoid him focusing elsewhere and then when your dog’s attention does wander, it’s your fault for not being “interesting” enough.

      Instead, McDevitt has worked out strategies and games for building up dogs’ confidence, techniques for keeping their excitement at a manageable level, and methods to train your dog to want to focus on you, not because you say so but because he’s no longer distracted by outside stimuli (like other dogs, for example) and because it is a fun game for him to play. It all adds up to a strategy for helping dogs be comfortable around other dogs and other stimuli while remaining focused on his handler and ready to learn.

      The CU course is for dogs who cannot think or control their impulses when they’re excited, who need to learn to relax and focus in the presence of their triggers without becoming reactive, and who need to learn to work off-lead in stimulating situations without getting distracted. CU is not an agility course and it is not an obedience course. It’s a behaviour modification course based on the principles of desensitisation and counter-conditioning.

      Each class chapter starts with a list of clear aims and new exercises that will be introduced in that class, so you know where you’re headed as you work your way through. The description of each exercise is clear, detailed and mainly easy to follow with lots of helpful advice for what to do if things are going wrong. The case studies are well chosen to illuminate the lessons being taught, and there are plenty of photos that illustrate the points extremely well, even if they are a little small.

      The best thing about this book is that the strategies really work! Well, those that I’ve tried thus far, anyway, have been amazingly successful and in a shockingly short period of time. So far, my favourite game is “Look at That!” which is designed to get your dog to glance at his trigger (i.e. scary other dog, for example), then revert his attention immediately back to his handler for a treat. This takes the stress out of looking at a formerly scary thing and turns it into a game that will earn the dog treats. It turns looking at the scary thing into a cue to revert his attention to his handler. Even better, it does so while allowing the dog to check out his environment and reassure himself that there is nothing around him he needs to be worrying about.

      I took my reactive, noisy Lapphund, Keskiyö out with clicker and treats in hand and as soon as he focused on another dog and started to bark, I said “Look!” in a suitably pleasant voice and clicked straight away. He knows what a click means, and he turned to me immediately with a confused look on his face as if to say, “You mean you’re going to reward me for barking at that dog? You usually tell me off for barking at other dogs.”  We started playing the "Look!" game for clicks and treats with every exciting thing he would normally zoom in on.  After only two walks he had already begun to stop stressing and start concentrating on the game. 

      The trick, of course, is to manage the situation so that the “trigger” doesn’t get too close. But with my dog’s triggers far enough away to keep him under threshold, the results were fast and dramatic.

      What’s Not So Great

      Unusually for me, I really don’t want to criticise anything about this book.  I value its content at least as much as, or more than, any other dog training / behaviour book I’ve ever read. However, there are a lot of issues with the book that the reader will need to be aware of.

      First of all, Control Unleashed uses a great deal of jargon – terms from psychology like “reframing” or “conditioned emotional response” and from the world of dog sports, such as “contacts”, “two-on-two-off” and “circle work”. Once you get used to this, it’s fine, but it’s distracting and a bit confusing at first if you’re unfamiliar with the terms.

      In addition, although it is not necessary to use clicker training in order to follow the exercises in this book, the descriptions do utilise this type of terminology and procedures. For this reason, the reader would be well advised to brush up on clicker training before tackling Control Unleashed.

      My only real complaint with the content of the book is that there are a couple of instances of principles being introduced or mentioned but never fully described or explained. For example, McDevitt puts great emphasis on calming anxious dogs by using massage such as Tellington Touch (TTouch) or a technique called the Protocol for Relaxation. TTouch is given a one-line description with references for further reading. The Protocol for Relaxation, developed by Dr Karen Overall, is introduced in two paragraphs, giving just enough information to make you realise that it will take another whole course or book to learn it separately. Yet it is presented as one of the first crucial tools to the CU approach.

      Finally, the major goal of the CU course is to make the handler more aware of her dog, his needs, his triggers, thresholds and responses and to find the right balance of stimulation for her particular dog. This is a highly complex topic with individual requirements and trying to get that from a book is difficult. This is specialist material based on reading your dog to tailor the exercises to his particular requirements. Anyone who is less skilled at reading their dog will struggle with getting the balance right in attempting the exercises.

      I found that the exercises and descriptions became more and more complex and difficult to follow as the book went on. Furthermore, some of the more advanced and complicated exercises that give the final touches to bomb-proofing the dog would be difficult to apply in the “real world” outside the class situation.

      These problems are not a fault of the book, as such. Rather, they arise as a result of trying to lift a step-by-step book directly out of a fluid and changeable class structure which is managed by an expert in dog training and behaviour.

      The solution, of course, would be to take a Control Unleashed course instead of reading the book – and I very much wish I had the opportunity to do so!

      Worth Reading?

      Definitely.  In fact, I think a Control Unleashed type course should be mandatory for most Lappy owners! After all, how many of us haven’t struggled with the over-zealous, barking Lapphund zooming away to say hello instead of paying attention to us? However, in the absence of any CU courses in the UK – or certainly in my neck of the woods – then this book is a must for everyone with a distractable dog. 


      Round Up:  Excellent plan for teaching control to reactive dogs
      Best For:  Experienced dog handlers
      Woofs:  4/5

       *This is an edited version of a review I originally wrote for the Dec 2009 edition of Lappy Tails, the newsletter of the Southern Finnish Lapphund Society.  Reviews written specifically for this blog will be shorter & more consise.  Probably. 

      Tuesday, 17 January 2012

      weight watching

      In spite of their great energy, Lapphunds often have a weight problem.  Perhaps it's the fact that they are very greedy eaters.  Greeder eaters are easier to train, but more difficult to keep healthy, weight-wise.  I've had 1 greedy eater and 1 fussy eater - I never had to worry about the weight of the fussy eater - in fact, it was a struggle to keep him looking in good condition because he was so persnicketty.

      Neka, the greedy eater, is kept slim & fit by 2 plain meals a day and a minimum of treats (often raw veggies rather than pieces of sausage).

      In Neka's first litter she gave birth to 7 chips off the old block.  Greedy little devils every one.  And weight watchers, every one.  Here are 3 of them with their mum.  In this photo they are only 12 months old and in need of diets and she, the smallest of any of them, is only a few weeks away from giving birth to 9 more puppies.  Nine!

      L-R: Keksi, Neka, Taika, Taito  (photo Andrew McCarthy)
      These days Taika's and Taito's weight is kept in check by strict diets too.  As for Keksi, she struggled longest & hardest with her weight.  Then after her own litter of puppies last year, it all dropped off like magic.

      There is little more pathetic or sorry-looking than a bitch at 11 or 12 weeks post-whelping.  She is skinny and she has lost absolutely all her fur in readiness for a lush new coat.  I won't embarrass Keksi by posting a photo of how she looked then.  But the good news is that once she shed all that weight, her speed increased dramatically and now she is able to keep slim & fit easily - and she is able to eat more at her meals than ever before.

      Of course, she has not been spayed yet.  And neutered dogs & bitches have a whole new challenge with weight.

      Monday, 16 January 2012


      It's an interminable wait when you're wondering if your bitch is pregnant. The mating happened a couple of weeks in the past, the scan isn't due until a couple of weeks in the future. You watch your bitch with a keen eye, looking for changes in appearance or behaviour, clues, any little sign that she might be a little different than usual, not her normal self, pregnant.

      And so we are doing with Keksi now.  For Keksi's last litter, she was at home with Daniel & Jim at this stage and I kept getting reports that she didn't seem different to them.  By the time she came to me for her scan a month or so after mating, I was quite confident I saw a little sign - a little ruff of fur sticking out from her sides like a skirt.

      At the moment Keksi is staying with us and I have my eyes peeled for that ruff of fur.  She is super-fit right now and with very little coat, and I don't know if those 2 elements will cancel each other out: she is slim & fit, so it will be easier to spot any little swelling of the belly, while on the other hand, she has no coat to speak of, so there is no fur to stick out.

      Definitely no fur skirt here - check out the curve of her thigh.  But if we were looking for shoulder ruffs, we'd be in business.
      One sure sign of pregnancy is a sudden voracious appetite.  (I'm pretty sure that's true in human females as well as bitches of other species, actually.)  Last time around, Daniel reported an astonishing bin raid while Keksi was left alone for 20 minutes.

      That was about 20 or 25 days post-mating - approximately where we are now.  I certainly have not given her any opportunity to ransack the kitchen while unsupervised, as she has been known to do so even when not pregnant.  But for a few days now she has been grabbing every opportunity to frantically hoover up little twigs on her walks and she then proceeds to chew them up like they are gravy bones. 

      Do I take this as a sign?  I'm trying really hard not to.  For all I know she is ordinarily a twig nibbler, so I'm keeping a lid on my expectations at this point.  From the anecdotes of others, it seems that matings don't work as often as they do, so there is a lot of disappointment involved.  It's frustrating not only for me, and people like me, who have spent a lot of time & money preparing for a litter of puppies who don't arrive, but imagine how crushing for those people waiting for their puppy.  It's really awful. 

      So don't you get your hopes up, and I will try to control mine too.

      In the meantime, should Keksi don a fur skirt, you'll be the first to know.

      Friday, 13 January 2012

      five great things about having a dog

      Here is the first of what I intend to be a regular feature - a list of 5 light-hearted dog-related things.

      Today's list comprises 5 great things about having a dog.
      1. A dog is terrific company and having one means you need never be lonely
      2. Having a dog makes sure you get exercise everyday
      3. A dog is there for you without being the least critical or judgemental
      4. Dogs are beautiful to look at (even those who are so-ugly-they're-cute)
      5. When you have a dog you are pretty much guaranteed never to have the worst breath in your house

      The perfect companion - Usko & Liz - photo by Ian Dean

      Thursday, 12 January 2012

      one tiny resolution

      I'm not usually one for new year's resolutions - I believe that if I want to make a change in my life, then I should just get on and do it.  However...

      When I started this blog in 2008, it's main purpose was to document the development of my second litter of puppies.  I read - and still do read - a lot of blogs of all types, and I thought it would be a great way to help the puppies' new families feel part of their lives right from the beginning.  In addition, it has proven to be a great archive of the novice's experience of what's involved in breeding dogs.  Not to mention a perfect record of my puppies that I refer to again and again.

      Since 2008 it has remained pretty much the same.  It has had an updated look now and again, but it has primarly been a place for daily posts when I have puppies and occasional posts when I don't.  The subject matter has strictly been Infindigo Finnish Lapphunds (and their friends).

      For 2012 I have been considering a little resolution - a way to improve the blog.  My initial thought was to post only good quality photos.  I am inspired daily by the wonderful pictures featured in many of the blogs I like to read, like those Scott Gilmour takes for Thankfifi and Mattias Swenson takes for Fashion Squad.  (But I did not know before that he is a co-founder of Blog Lovin.  Cool. )  Regular visitors to this blog will know that high quality photos rarely feature here.  Just about every post does have a photo (or several), but if anything, I am unfortunately better known for grabbing whatever picture I am lucky enough to capture.  That is a shame, but I think is unlikely to change because I'm busy with the dogs & the writing & the et cetera and I do not have a Scott or Mattias who is so interested in photography to assist.  And everyone knows that animals are notoriously difficult to photograph.  Yes, they are.

      So for 2012 I've decided to make a change I actually have some hope of achieving.  My aim will be to post 5 days a week, with or without puppies.  To that end, the scope of the thing will necessarily need to broaden somewhat to incorporate a wider range of dog-related stuff and not just be about breeding, puppies and the various members of the Infindigo Finnish Lapphund family.   After all, I've always tried to make my posts entertaining and I don't see the point in sacrificing quality for quantity.

      So while my posts might get a little shorter, I'm going to make a concerted effort to make them more regular too. 

      And, from the archives, here is today's photo of a couple of adorable puppies at the age of about 5 weeks who missed out on being blogged as babies, as the blog didn't exist in 2007 when they were born.

      Taito (left) & his brother Karhu (right)

      Wednesday, 11 January 2012


      I'm very lucky that I have a phone with a calendar that will ring an alarm to remind me of everything that is meant to be happening in my life. I'm very sensible in that I (usually) record important events in that calendar. Because without it I would remember to do very little, apparently.

      On a number of occasions over the holidays my alarm-ing calendar saved me from social disgrace by warning me of a forgotten event in good time to get there. One such event was driving to Bristol to collect Keksi who has come to stay for a little holiday and, in due course, to be scanned for evidence of pregnancy.

      Monday morning I was lazing in bed nursing my head cold & feeling miserable when beep went the phone. What now? I thought. Oh. Yes. Another forgotten urgent thing I needed to do. I had just enough time to wash & dress & get my aching bones to Leigh Woods.

      I did try to contact some people who live within spitting distance of the area to see if they wanted to meet for a walk, but in my haste I was only partially successful. I did manage to catch Jane & Mark with Mika who live only about 10 minutes from there. By now they may regret that I did catch them just as they were leaving the house for their walk - or at least Jane might.

      Leigh Woods is a good place for dog walks and, being conveniently located, we often meet there with various friends & their dogs. I think I'm safe in stating that I have never, ever seen it quite so muddy there.

      The weather was not helping.

      Daniel & Jim couldn't stop for long, but while we stood under a tree & chatted briefly we were subjected to torrential rain, gale force wind, hail, thunder & lightning and wet snow. Nice. Not. They very sensibly carried on their way and the rest of us set off for a walk.

      We soldiered rather valiantly but didn't exactly have a marathon before retiring to Jane & Mark's to warm up over coffee and cake before heading back home. As we slopped, skid and slipped up one path, Jane suggested we take a bet on who would be the first to fall into the mud. She barely had the words out of her mouth when she landed - splat!

      And to think that Jane had been concerned that she had not had time to put on lipstick before leaving the house.

      There are no photos of the dogs or us or even Jane's event. I did bring the camera with me, but in that weather it remained safely tucked up in the car. I did, however, manage to get a quick phone pic of Kuura on the snowy day I collected Keksi on the way to Shropshire last month.

      Kuura 12 months

      Tuesday, 10 January 2012

      Britain's Next Top Canine Model

      And while I'm on the subject of models...

      Karhu, a very fine 4½-year-old brown & tan gent from Neka's first litter, stars in his very own fashion blog.  With his pal and writer, Wendy, he features under his stage name "Mr K" in wonderful photos taken by Scott on (just about) every weekday.  Occasionally he lets Wendy have posts all to herself because that's just the sort of generous guy that he is.


      We are very excited that Karhu's blog* has been long-listed by Marie Claire magazine for their Best Fashion Blog award, and now they need lots of votes from supporters of affordable fashion, intelligent, witty writing & dogs.  So, please go vote for Thankfifi and make Karhu the star he deserves to be.

      Vote here:

      *The small print:  Ok, so you knew it was actually Wendy's blog, right?

      Friday, 6 January 2012


      Lapphunds have appeared as models and/or stars in a few places. Early on in their history in the UK, Neka's and Keskiyo's granny Echo graced the bag of Purina dog food. A few Lappies have appeared on television in one thing or another. Now a Lappy has become the face of a brewery.  That's right, I said a brewery - and, not only that, but he's had a drink named for him as well.

      During my trip to Shropshire with Keksi I spent some time with Liz, Ian & Usko, although we did take some care to keep Usko & Keksi apart, for obvious reasons. On my departure, they very kindly gifted me with a jar of Liz's wonderful chutney and a couple of bottles of "Usko's Nog", dark ale brewed by The Laughing Lappy Brewery (otherwise known as Ian). The Laughing Lappy Brewery label features a very fetching photo of Usko, the quintessential laughing Lappy.

      I don't partake of such things, but it did smell very nice and Jay assures me it was quite delicious. A worthy ale to be promoted by a Lapphund, we say.

      And, speaking of models, Keskiyo - who is never one to willingly miss out on anything, least of all a photo session - was wondering why I was bothering to photograph boring old bottles when he was available and a more than willing subject.

      Tuesday, 3 January 2012

      happy muddy new year

      Will it ever stop raining?

      It's a struggle to keep the dog towels & beds dry these days. Forget clean. And my floor? Well, let's just say if I hadn't been suffering from such a miserable cold, I would have had the energy to be quite mortified after our new year's day Lappy walk when the group came in for a coffee.

      But when you share your house with dogs, you get accustomed to a bit of mud in your life.

      Our walk was a small but dedicated group! It was the morning after the night before, after all. I was mighty impressed that the Cornish contingent made it, considering they hadn't got to bed until 3am. Well done! The various others who were thinking they would maybe, just perhaps, come on the walk, ended up staying in bed (the sensible people...?) The rest who were definitely coming all had cancelled for one reason or another, the most dramatic being a backed-up sewage system in their new house. Oh dear, is what I have to say to that. Happy s****y new year indeed.

      Our group consisted of myself & Jay with Neka, Keskiyo & Maija; Maria & Mark from Cornwall with Marja; and their houseguests Dee & Patrick from Derbyshire with Karri & Tuula.

      Many thanks to Mark Gregory for all the photos.

      The least muddy of the paths - but Marja's legs tell the story, & that's after she had cleaned off in the river.

      L-R: Patrick, Karri, Tuula, Marja

      And before Marja had had a paddle in the river - the blackest of legs on the whitest of Lappies!

      L-R: Tuula, Karri, Jay, Marja, Patrick, Neka, Maria, Keskiyo, me, Dee

      At this, the halfway point of the walk, just before the river, Maija had already set off on her own customary route straight up the mountain for a quick recce before joining us at the river.

      Having a paddle.

      L-R: Tuula cleaning her feet under protest, De
      e, Maija, Keskiyo, me, Marja full speed just for a change, Neka begging sweets from Maria

      Love the gorgeous old stone bridge here! And I've never brought our good camera up here to get a decent shot of it, so I'm even more grateful to Mark & his camera.

      A bit cleaner underfoot most of the way back out. This is the meadow full of snowdrops in February & bluebells in May.

      Sad to see that the beautiful old dead tree (left) has come down in the storms.