Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Breed Profile: Greater Swiss Mountain Dog

The Greater Swiss Mountain Dog is of the mastiff type, which means big, strong and jowly. Swissys are tri-colored (black, tan and white) with a short double coat.  Yes, they shed.

The GSMD is the largest of four Swiss breeds originally used as draft dogs, drovers and all around farm dogs.  In World War II, the Swissy carried military supplies in either back packs or by pulling carts, for the Swiss Army.

Swissys are home bodies. They are unlikely to wonder off except, perhaps, to check out the neighbor's livestock.  This is not a breed that is content to be left alone for long periods.  Swissys want to be with their people, whether hanging around the house, tending the garden, or running errands.

True to their mountain heritage, the GSMD is fond of snow and not tolerant of hot weather.  Like other large deep chested breeds, the Swissy is at risk of the dreaded bloat.  Interesting observation by a Swissy breeder:  personality plays a role in bloat victims.  An easy going Swissy is less likely then a more intense Swissy to have a bloat attack.  (Could be it's like the old Type A and Type B theory for heart attack victims).

Swissys are wonderful family dogs.  They are gentle and protective of children but aren't snippy about it.  Their usual manner of protection is to place themselves in between a loved one and a stranger.   The worst thing to be said about living with a Swissy; he'll get in your way because he wants to be near you.

Swissy Manifesto

- I will alert you to important happenings large and small, by throwing my head back and exclaiming, "baroo" .
- I'd rather use my nose to poke people than to sniff them out.
- Sure, let's exercise.  But remember:  I'm not a sprinter;  I'm a stroller.

Next Breed Profile:  Cavalier King Charles Spaniel!

see some nice pics at

sources:  An Introduction to the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog by Shannon Hennigan
Greater Swiss Mountain Dog Club of America (

Monday, June 27, 2011

Awards are Sweet

The original intended recipient of the Irresistibly Sweet Award declined- too busy waiting for the sugar coating to dry or something.  Thus, I step in as Honorable Mention or Second Tier or perhaps Semi Sweet to accept an Irresistibly Sweet Blogger Award.  Thank you Eve of The Desert Rocks.

It is a curious thing how differently we are perceived by others than how we perceive ourselves.  Me?  Sweet?  My writing?  Sweet?  I don't see it.  But some critters are sweet so maybe this makes me sweet by association.

In trying to understand this sweet business, let us consider two dear friends of mine.  Carla was not what I would call sweet.  She was a sort of smart alack.  For instance, when my husband, The Handsome One, would leave the room for a brief time, Carla would get up and take his chair.  She did this, I believe, not because it was the best seat in the house but because it caused THO to good naturedly bellow,  GET OUT OF MY CHAIR YOU BAD DOG YOU!

On the other hand, Wilma was sweet.  She was the kind of gal who put her head in your lap not because she wanted to be petted, but because she noticed you were a bit downcast so she figured you needed a little petting.

Let's return to Irresistibly Sweet Bloggers.  The Award rules say recipients are to offer 7 personal facts or tidbits and give 5 other bloggers a Sweet Award.  Non compliance is one of the subsets of my sweetness.  These rules are like chain letter rules or backyard croquet rules- acknowledge their existence then do what you want.

Here's some tidbits about me:

1.  From the age of ten through the age of thirty, I played softball with ferocious enthusiasm.

2.  Grape Nuts is my favorite cereal even though it is only edible when allowed to soak in milk for a minimum of twenty minutes.

3.  I am far more graceful on ice skates than I am in ballet slippers.

4.  The pond in my backyard has more frogs than flowers.  This is how it ought to be.

Now,  let's give some awards away!

To bettyl of incidental imagery.  She takes really cool photos and pairs them with pithy sayings.

To Erin of Nuka vs the Land Walrus.  She offers tales of her dogs with heart and humor.

Thanks again Eve.  You are sweet.

please visit:

Monday, June 20, 2011

The American Robin

The Robin's song is a merry tweet tweet; a song that exudes cheerful optimism.  (Some of the Robin's riffs remind me of songs sung by my beloved Canary, JeanPierre. He was a very merry bird.)  The upbeat beat of the Robin's voice combined with a sprightly hopping gait make for jolly birdwatching.

Unlike many common backyard birds, the Robin's courtship rituals are not well known.  We see Mr. Cardinal with his bright red feathers tenderly feeding the blandly colored Mrs. Cardinal.  We see House Sparrows chasing each other with amazing aerodynamic skill.  How they are able to turn and dive with such speed and frenzy without smashing into a lamppost is even more exciting than the grand finale which is Mr. Sparrow mounting Mrs. Sparrow on the ground, on the wire, on the rooftop, on the Barberry Bush and on and on.

Male and female Robins look quite similar.  Both have reddish orange breasts, grey feathers on the wings and back, yellow beak with a black tip and white outlines around the eyes.  Slight differences in appearance include: the male's head is darker grey, almost black and the female has a touch of white on her belly.

Robins build nests out of mud and grasses often in pine trees or on assorted horizontal objects such as a windowsill.  Robins nest early in the spring and usually have 2-3 broods a year sometimes using the same nest.

It takes about two weeks to incubate the 3-4 light blue eggs.  The youngsters leave the nest when they are about four weeks old.

Robins sleep and commune with other birds in large groups.  Incidentally, a group of Robins is called a Worm.  Even during breeding the males will sleep among the flock and return to the nest in the morning. 

The female takes care of the incubation duty.  She typically sits on the eggs for fifty minutes out of each hour, leaving only to eat and drink.  Once the young are born both parents feed them.  Robins eat fruit, earthworms and insects.

Not all Robins migrate to warmer areas during the winter.  Some remain.  Since they can't hunt bugs and worms in the snow, they survive by eating berries and some seeds.

see nice pictures of Robins at
sources:  Guide to Bird Behavior, Volume 1 by Donald Stokes,

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Multi Purpose Commands

Living with dogs is never dull and most of us like it that way.  But don't let chaos spoil the fun!  Of course, no matter how much you love Spot, you don't let him run things, his priorities would doubtless be different than yours.  You must be in charge.

In everyday life things come up that aren't covered by standard commands like come, wait, sit, etc.  Indeed, there are many instances where you need a more versatile method for bossing Boots around.  Thus, today's tutorial focuses on handy multi purpose commands.
Now then, our first example of a multi purpose command involves direction or location.  This is useful when you want the dog to leave the room or in general, move elsewhere.  You don't have to teach Fluffy individual room names (unless you want to amaze your friends!).  One command can serve to get Fluffy from here to there.

Let's take my dogs for example.  The short haired dogs rarely get material on their rump hair after a bowel movement.  Sheepdog Lois is not so fortunate.  The poop bounces against her substantial hair on the way down and leaves crumbs.  As the dogs enter the back door following toilette, I am traffic cop.  The short hairs may repair to the kitchen.   "This way" accompanied by an arm gesture that points to the kitchen sends the dogs up the steps to the kitchen.  Lois must go to the basement bathroom because that's where the baby wipes are.  "This way"  accompanied by a arm gesture toward the basement sends Lois down the steps to the basement.  (Lois is an old hand at this, she heads right to the bathroom and waits for me).  You will notice I don't say kitchen to one dog and basement to another.  "This way" and a wave of your hand is a directional command that can be used anywhere.

Our next example is useful for those unpleasant or awkward things you must do to your dog from time to time.  Sometimes you have to wipe goop off your dog's eye or trim the hair between his toe pads.  "Let me do" proclaims that something disagreeable but necessary is about to happen.  You've already taught your dog to cooperate with say, being rigged in a harness and getting into the car.  When you have to then lean over him to fasten the seat beat a little "let me do" can save you both the stress of wiggling.  The "let me do" command is sort of a courtesy/warning/comfort all in one. The dog knows he must cooperate and trust you to guide him through the ordeal. It even works at the Vet's office. 

Life is full of inconvenient mundane details you and your dog must endure.  Multi purpose commands give you tools to reduce irritation and increase organization to benefit you both.


Friday, June 10, 2011

True Summer

What does summer mean?  School's out?  Lazy days poolside?  Softball games and picnics?  For me summer has officially arrived when Malcom can go outside.  As some of you may recall, Malcom is a tortoise.  He is my pet, my captive and a source of fascination and responsibility ever since 1975.  And it is because of Malcom that I view summer not merely by when it's warm enough to plant Basil or when the pond Lilies bloom but when it is OK to put Malcom outside.

Being a cold blooded creature, Malcom's environment is more than just a matter of comfort, it is a matter of survival.  Thus, his cage is outfitted with a warming/basking light and a heating unit that warms a section of the bottom.  This way Malcom can easily move into the appropriate clime to keep his body at the right temperature. 

Real sunlight is critical for good health too.  So in summer Malcom spends time outdoors.  Long ago, my dad made a containment unit with wooden sides and a top made of chicken wire.  This keeps Malcom safe from predators and getting lost in the Peony patch while allowing him to nibble on fresh grass and to bask in genuine sunshine.  A portion of the containment area is shaded by a piece of cardboard (we like things high tech around here).  This way Malcom can alternate between sunning himself and chillin' in the shade.

Malcom may be a laconic and unaffectionate fellow but he has vast power over my plans and actions all year.  As for what summer means, let's just say that summer is not measured by the calendar or even simply by the weather.  True Summer is measured by whether it is warm enough for Malcom.