Category Archives: Amy

22 Weeks: Surviving Nemo

Well, we lost power last week during Winter Storm Nemo. Friday night it had been flickering for an hour or two, but right before 8 PM it finally went out. The wind and snow continued to rage through the night, and National Grid was unable to send out crews until early Saturday afternoon. We survived one night on the couch with the three of us curled up and piles and piles of blankets, and as soon as the governor lifted the travel ban, we (more accurately: I, and I dragged everyone else with me) hightailed it to my best friend’s, who kept her heat and power through the storm. It was late morning Sunday before we got power back.

But you know what? That’s pretty darn impressive. Although I was without power for about 40 hours, it was less than 24 hours since power crews were deployed by the time I got power. And our pipes didn’t freeze! Hurrah!

Amy used up all her energy trying teach my friend’s 9-month-old horse-puppy some manners, and some play moves. Ever wonder what it looks like when a foot-high grande dame puts the schooling on a dog with legs so long, she can comfortably walk underneath them?

Other than that, and the subsequent distance I was put behind in around-the-house chores, it’s been a pretty uneventful week.

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Poor Little Boo

In case you haven’t met her yet, this is Amy:

Poor, sick Amy

More to the point, that is one sick little Amy at the vet at 8:30 Tuesday morning. We — she and I — had been up for 5 hours being sicker than we’ve ever been.

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Top 5 Welsh Dog Breeds

So it’s the day before St Patrick’s Day, the day when everyone is Irish, everybody wears green, and everybody believes in pots of gold at the end of rainbows. I follow a lot of canine groups on Twitter and Facebook, and there is a proliferation this year of “Top 10 Irish Dog Breeds!” Well, I have a little Welsh dog and I love her more than anything, and no one wished us Happy St David’s Day this year or posted lists of the Top 10 Welsh Dog Breeds (except there are only 5, recognized by the AKC).

So with the daffodils in bloom, I bring you: the top 5 Welsh dog breeds.

Interested in any of these breeds? I’ll link you to the AKC site with the breed standard for each dog. These standards are a great introduction to the appearance and temperament of the various recognized breeds. I’ll be quoting liberally from these standards when I don’t have personal experience to go on.

NB: I’m not a dog expert, just a dog lover.

5. The Welsh Terrier. Terrier Group; recognized by the AKC in 1888. A “sturdy, compact, rugged dog of medium size” with a dense, wiry black-and-tan coat. 15 inches or so at the shoulder and about 20 pounds; females can be smaller. Rectangular head, dark brown eyes, small “V-shaped” ears and a “confident but alert” expression. The whole entry for temperament is worth quoting in entirety: “The Welsh Terrier is a game dog — alert, aware, spirited — but at the same time, is friendly and shows self control. Intelligence and desire to please are evident in his attitude.” The Welsh Terrier was originally developed as a hunting dog, and as such can be a stoic and persistent sort that can problem-solve creatively and efficiently. A “zippy and compact companion, always looking for action and entertainment.”

4. The Welsh Springer Spaniel. Sporting Group; recognized by the AKC in 1914. A slightly smaller, more compact look-alike of the English Springer Spaniel but a totally separate breed. 17-19 inches at the shoulder and of proportionate weight for the size. The breed standard calls the ideal WSS “compact,” “attractive,” and “handy.” The shape of the head should be in proportion to the body, neither too large (“coarse”) or small and delicate (“racy”). Eyes should be medium to dark brown with a soft expression; ears should be set at eye-level and come down toward the cheeks, “shaped somewhat like a vine leaf [and] lightly feathered.” Recognized coat colors are rich red with white markings, any pattern, and red “ticking” is acceptable among the white. An “active,” “loyal,” and “affectionate” dog, reserved with strangers but devoted to his family.

3. The Sealyham Terrier. Terrier Group; recognized by the AKC in 1911. The ideal Sealyham is 10 1/2″ at the shoulder, 24 pounds, and was originally bred to hunt badger, otter, and fox. This is how the AKC Breed Standard opens: “The Sealyham should be the embodiment of power and determination, ever keen and alert, of extraordinary substance, yet free from clumsiness.” And I think that says it all. Powerful without being bulky; a dynamo in a small package. A powerful (but not coarse) head, a strong jaw with a level bite, smooth flat cheeks, muscular neck set firmly on shoulders, strong forelegs with lighter hindlegs, large and compact feet. The coat is a double coat, good in the weather, soft undercoat and wiry topcoat. Color should be all white with lemon, tan, or “badger” markings. “Proud,” “charming and inquisitive,” and “spirited.” Sealyham Terrier Charmin won Best in Show at the AKC/Eukanuba Championship in 2007!

2. The Cardigan Welsh Corgi. Herding Group; recognized by the AKC in 1935. There are two breeds of Corgi and they are separate breeds: The Cardi is the one with the tail. This is a low-set dog with a deep chest, designed to do droving and farm work. These dogs may be 10 1/2 – 12 1/2 inches at the shoulder and 30-38 pounds (males; females may be of shorter height and 25-34 lbs.). The Cardi’s expression should be “alert and gentle.” Ears are large and prominent in relation to the rest of the body, and rounded at the tip. A moderately wide and flat skull, a distinct stop, and planes of muzzle and skull in parallel with each other. A “moderately long and muscular” neck, well-set on strong shoulders, broad chest, well-defined waist, slight downward slope to a low-set, bushy tail. Medium but dense, smooth, weather-resistant double coat can come in red, sable, brindle, black with or without tan, blue or grey merle, all with white flashings. Flashings can appear at neck, chest, muzzle, underparts, tip of tail, and as a blaze on the head. “Free,” “smooth,” and “effortless” gait;  “Short choppy movement, rolling or high-stepping gait, close or overly wide coming or going, are incorrect.” The Cardigan temperament is “Even,” “loyal, affectionate, and adaptable.”

And the number 1 Welsh dog breed….could there have been any doubt?

1. The Pembroke Welsh Corgi. Herding Group; recognized by the AKC in 1934. This is the second type of Corgi: The one with the Queen. A “low set,” “sturdy,” “bold and friendly” dog, the P-Corgi is slightly smaller than its Cardigan cousins, with shorter, straighter, lighter legs and pointed ears (where the Cardi’s are rounded). Half the “General Appearance” part of the standard has to do with the Pem’s attitude: “Outlook bold, but kindly. Expression intelligent and interested.” The gait should be free and easy, the head “attractive,” with a smooth gait indicating a well-formed (balanced) dog. This dog should be 10-12 inches at the shoulder, males no more than 30 pounds, females not to exceed 28 pounds. Shoulders to base of tail should be 40% longer than the height of the shoulders. Foxy, triangular head; fairly wide and flat skull; slightly rounded cheek; oval, medium-set eyes in shades of brown to complement coat color. Erect, firm, mobile ears that react sensitively to sound (we call them satellite dishes!). “A line drawn from the nose tip through the eyes to the ear tips, and across, should form an approximate equilateral triangle.” Fairly long neck to balance the body; level topline; deep chest. No exaggerated lowness in the chest, please, as this interferes with free movement. Long, slightly egg-shaped ribcage. Docked tail or natural bob, if sufficiently short (and does not spoil the topline). Short, inward turning forelegs; parallel elbows; oval feet with two middle toes slightly ahead of two outer toes on each foot. Medium, thick, weather-resistant double coat; acceptable colors are red, sable, fawn, and black and tan with or without white markings. White markings acceptable on neck, chest, muzzle, underparts, and a narrow blaze on the head. Too much white, especially in the face, can be undesirable. Fluffy corgis, while eminently adorable, cannot be bred or shown. As in the Cardi, a short, choppy, rolling gait is not accepted. Forelegs should reach well forward and work in unison with the back legs to propel the dog forward evenly and strongly.

See also:

Happy St David’s Day (belated)!

Amy would like to know if this means there’s going to be cake.

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“Don’t breed or buy when shelter pets die”

“Don’t breed or buy when shelter pets die.”

This, in a nutshell, is one of the most common “criticisms” directed at the dog-breeding world by those who want to bring attention to the plight of shelter animals, pet overpopulation, and the horrid abuses perpetrated by puppy mills. While I understand the impulse to defend the voiceless, the canines and felines who live on the edges, at the whim of humans, without the love and care of a Forever Family, what sets my teeth on edge is when so-called animal activists get on MY case about Amy. When I say she is a former show dog, or that we got her from a (responsible) local breeder, some people get their hackles up and tell me how awful it is to breed a dog when dogs in shelters get euthanized every day of the week.

Well, I’ve got news for you, people.

Amy’s ADOPTED.

She wasn’t bred to order. She needed a Forever Home.

We gave her one.

Her future was far from uncertain — she’d have been loved no matter what, whether we adopted her or not, but she wouldn’t have had a home of her own. But there she was, almost 4 years old, done with the job for which she was born, with a great many years ahead of her. What’s a corgi girl to do? She’s clearly an “only child dog”—she will play with other dogs and even vacation with them, but she clearly prefers being the only canine in residence, thankyouverymuch. As the breeder says, “I can’t keep them all, no matter how much I love them!”

(Currently, she’s zonked out on the couch in the office, at an hour when in her former life she’d probably be snug in her kennel bed by now. She has a king-size comforter at her disposal for nesting and cuddling.)

I don’t think the contents of her life have changed much — food, exercise, play, loving humans. I didn’t rescue her from a dire situation, the way some dogs are rescued; she has been cared for by great big loving hearts since the moment she was conceived, if not before. Her parents were chosen not just for their looks but also for their health, which improved Amy’s health outcomes and further reduced her susceptibility to certain diseases, and she in her turn passed that great health on to her two litters. She, and her breeder, are doing everything they can to eliminate some of the diseases that plague the PWC breed and break so many hearts every year: degenerative myelopathyhip dysplasia, and Von Willebrand’s disease. Part of her charm is the bill of health she comes with, the “edge” she has, and the fact that I know she’s passing on her disease-free genes to the rest of the corgi community. She’s been given A+ vet care, fed high-quality food, and cared for every day of her life. She is one lucky, lucky little dog. In a world where so many dogs don’t receive the same love and care, she’s blessed. Yes, she’s a show dog, she has a fancy name and everything, and certificates, and a championship medal.

But she’s still an adult adoptee.

Amy was born after Jim & I started dating, but before we were engaged, so she was abroad in the world before her “forever family” even existed. She had her first litter the winter after we got married. She was just getting ready to take her second litter when we met her breeder, and we were supposedly on wait for HER puppies, who were there CUTEST things on Planet Earth, don’t get me wrong. But the babies weren’t in our stars, their mama was. Little Miss was ready to retire and enjoy just being a dog, but needed a home and a family. We didn’t even need to think about it. One glance at each other and the next question we had was “When can she come home?”

It took a year of planning to have Amy’s home ready, before we even knew about her. We knew we needed a proper house, and we had to research breeds still. We were pretty sure we’d be working with a breeder: mall pet shops were out of the question, and a shelter dog just couldn’t come with the same background of health and known temperament. It was nine months exactly from the day we contacted her breeder by email to the night she came home, just like a human baby who is planned for and waited for and loved for.

Jim’s niece urged and urged us to get a shelter dog, to adopt, which is what her family did when they brought home the spunkiest Russell terrier girl I ever did meet; but I think she’s forgiven us for going with a bred dog, because A) Amy is the cutest thing on four feet and B) she IS adopted, even if she isn’t a shelter dog. Maybe the logic’s a little fuzzy, but you can’t argue with this fact: We adopted Amy as an adult dog in need of a forever family.

We see Amy’s breeder a few times a year, either to board Amy when we are out of town or if she’s having a bad day and we need a health consultation; who better to visit than the woman who has fretted over Little Miss from the moment she entered the world, who has nursed her through two C-sections and two squeakerectomies and a spay surgery, who holds in her head anecdotes of all Amy’s forebears, who committed so much time to training her for the show ring? And who has done this not just for Amy, but for the dozens and dozens and DOZENS of dogs she has cared for in many decades of work? Whenever we visit, Amy goes wild with joy and love for the woman who raised her, rooing and wagging her nubbin for all she’s worth, leaping as far as her little legs will take her, climbing on as many pieces of furniture as she can reach to share her affection with this remarkable woman. (Usually couch–>office table–>chair–>lap.)

So I propose we modify the “criticism” that sparked this post:

Don’t buy from pet shops that either directly or inadvertently support the unclean and abusive practices of puppy mills, or from backyard breeders who breed their dogs for easy money without the research and planning required of a conscientious breeder invested in the welfare of a specific breed; both these practices lead to overpopulations of dogs with sometimes severe physical and psychological health issues. Instead, adopt a shelter dog, rescue a dog in need, foster if you can, support your local shelter through donations or volunteer time, or get involved in the pro-active dog breed community of your choice that advocates improving canine health through responsible, planned, conscientious breeding programs and supporting the current canine population. Responsible breeders are working every day of their lives to improve the quality of life for their breed of dogs, by breeding out genetic deficiencies and breeding to enhance the temperament of the breed. They are ambassadors for the many creatures who cannot speak with human voice, advocating for their health and well-being and promoting the positive qualities of their breed to the general public. If you are looking to adopt an older dog in need of a home, in addition to local breed-specific rescue groups, consider contacting breeders in your area and asking if they know of any older dogs in need of placing, get to know them, and cheerlead them on. What they do is a labor of love that, when you think about it in detail, does not reward with a great deal of money…

…but who could ever put a price on the wag of a dog’s tail?

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One Year, and An Observation

On July 31, we celebrated one year of having Miss Amy in our lives and home. She slept under my desk, on top of my feet, and I thought about the changes from a year ago. Last year she was so anxious about being somewhere new with these new people, that she barfed before breakfast. That morning, she scammed part of my banana and thought about drinking her dad’s espresso. We took a walk up the beach and back. I didn’t think I’d be able to live with tumbleweeds of dog fur everywhere, and slobbery puppy kisses. But now I don’t think I can live without them. Even if she does bark at the mail lady, or howl at a strange sound outside the front door, and that howl curdles the blood in my veins. I like her solid, warm little body at the foot of the bed while I’m reading a book, the way she make nests out of blankets and pillows until they suit her. I like how I’ve gotten so used to her furry-sausage silhouette that other dogs — retrievers, labs, boxers, spaniels — look grotesque by comparison. Or rather, I’ve gotten so used to her long squirmy body and kneecap height that seeing other dogs is strange to me. I forget how short she is when she is the only unit of canine measurement available.

We are so lucky, also, that the people in our lives have embraced Amy too, welcoming her as a part of our family, putting up with her shenanigans and ours. A conflux of events has illustrated this to me quite sharply.

The arrival of one of Jim’s old college friends: Amy clearly thinks he’s the best thing since sliced bread, but he has also pointed out that he can tell which room of the house I’m in by looking for which doorway Amy has taken up a post in: she is either watching me, or watching out for me. But wherever I am, she is sure to follow.

A pool party at the home of friends: Amy is invited, welcomed, and given the run of their large and inviting back yard. Dog- and baby-friendly insect repellents are used, and food is sequestered on tables inside a tent (this doesn’t stop Amy from going in to the tent, but she’s so short the tables conveniently keep food well out of her reach). No one makes fun of me when I bring a doggie frozen yogurt and store it in the freezer until the end of the night, a tasty treat for my entirely too-tired puppy. Almost everyone, with one outright exception, knows her name and shows her at least passing affection, and there are toddling children to follow, investigate, and befriend (they might give her a carrot, cracker, or some cheese; one never knows).

This morning: An article in the most recent New Yorker, a personal history by Adam Gopnik titled “Dog Story: How did the dog become our masters?” The story centers on his daughter’s much-wished-for little Havanese, Butterscotch, and the way that Gopnik’s perceptions of the race of canidae shift after Butterscotch becomes a part of his family life. I especially love his closing paragraph:

“Butterscotch, meanwhile, seems happy. She’s here, she’s there, a domestic ornament; she takes a place at the table, or under it, anyway, and remains an animal, with an animal’s mute confusions and narrow routines and appetites. She jumps up on visitors, sniffs friends, chews shoes, and, even as we laughingly apologize for her misbehavior and order her ‘Off!,’ we secretly think her misbehavior is sweet. After all, where we are creatures of past and future, she lives in the minute’s joy: a little wolf, racing and snorting and scaring; and the small ingratiating spirit, doing anything to please. At times, I think that I can see her turn her head and look back at the ghost of the wolf mother she parted from long ago, saying, ‘See, it was a good bet after all; they’re nice to me, mostly.’ Then she waits by the door for the next member of the circle she has insinuated herself into to come back to the hearth and seal the basic social contract common to all things that breathe and feel and gaze: love given for promises kept. How does anyone live without a dog? I can’t imagine.”

The line that just slays me is “They’re nice to me, mostly.” And oh how that is reflected in my own experience being the owner of a domesticated wolf. Mostly, people welcome Amy’s presence, appreciate her personality, and show her affection; some people, however, do take frustrations out on her that I can only deduce come from the fact that she is a dog, an imperfect interpreter of English, a “small ingratiating spirit, doing anything to please.” Yes, she may hover around your ankles, quiet, and staying in your “blind spot,” easily bumped in to or tripped over, but she just wants to see what you’re doing, figure out if there’s something she can do to make you happy with her, earn her a bit of affection or a tasty treat. The corgi is an inquisitive dog, glad to be in the thick of a group of people, curious, especially about food, and maybe that’s not for some people. Because I’m with her so much, I know her personality and the causes for it, and know (or am learning) how to redirect it, counter it, or ignore it.

I know that instead of telling a dog what NOT to do, you should tell a dog WHAT to do. I know that just telling Amy “get out of my way” won’t make her move, but telling her to “come along,” or simply beep-beeping at her, will get her to fall in line behind me and succeed in getting her out of my way. Instead of “stop being annoying,” telling her to sit or lie down gives her something to do, something she’s good at, a way to please the person she’s trying to please.

Amy’s an intuitive animal but she isn’t a mindreader, and her human vocabulary is limited: she knows a handful of words but mostly relies on the tone of voice, and most people speak to her sweetly, and she knows that means she’s succeeding at pleasing us, resulting in food and affection, and so on and so on, a two-way street of affection and trust, a social contract, between Man and the Wolf who sleeps in his parlor.

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A Third Kind of Person

I have always said that there are two kinds of people in the world, the people who go, “It’s a corgi!” when they see us coming toward them, and the people who go, “What kind of dog is THAT?!” There is a small, overlapping minority of people who don’t know what it is, but know that the Queen of England has a small herd of them.

The people who say “It’s a corgi!” inevitably have had a corgi, or know someone who does. And not one of these people hasn’t loved the animal in question, or not had something praiseworthy to say about the breed. They’re so sweet; they’re so funny; they’re so beautiful. And almost 100% of the time, they then say, “But SHE has SUCH a sweet face,” or “But SHE has SUCH a beautiful coat,” or “But SHE is just SO friendly!” By which I perceive that my particular specimen of corgi is an exceptionally beautiful, sweet one (tell me something I didn’t know).

Today I met the Third Person, an elite subset of the person who says “It’s a corgi!” Today I met the person who sees Amy and I coming toward her on the street and says,

“It’s a Tasha Tudor dog!”

Some of you, even my corgilovers (but not likely), may be asking, “Who is Tasha Tudor?” and I apologize if I’ve been a bad corgi mama and not foisted her on you before now. Tasha Tudor was a New England storyteller and illustrator whose love for the corgi and sweetly transcendent drawings combined to create the sweetest looking corgis you’ll ever see on paper. She wrote many books of her own stories for children, and illustrated editions of such gems as A Little Princess, Little Women, The Secret Garden, A Child’s Garden of Verses, and the stories of Mother Goose. She wrote and illustrated The Corgiville Christmas and Corgiville Fair, among others. There is also a collection of her recipes, which happens to include THE Infamous Mincemeat Cookie Recipe in as pure as form as we’ve ever seen it (and also the only written version we know of!). I didn’t know about Tasha Tudor until I started learning more about corgis, so to me knowing about her and her work — and her love for the corgi — is a hallmark of the most elite corgi person possible.

It is a super-special kind of corgi person who exclaims, “It’s a Tasha Tudor dog!” when they see a corgi coming down the street.

————-

And on a related note, Amy is not a fluffy! She’s been shown and bred, which the AKC doesn’t allow you to do with fluffies! She just has a very luxurious coat, and all her litter and pack mates have the same gorgeous coat as she does!

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More Nicknames for Miss Amy

Such a little dog, so many nicknames.

  • Miss Amy
  • Princess Amy
  • Mimi, Meems, Ames
  • Ninja Pup
  • The Ninja Princess
  • Banana Scammer
  • Trip Hazard
  • Truffle Hunter
  • Death From Below
  • The Kraken
  • Peanut
  • You Little Brat
  • Princess Thunderbutt (have you heard her on the stairs?)
  • Midge, Midget; Munchkin, Munchie, Munch
  • Princess AmyPants
  • Princess Peanut PuppyPants
  • AmyGirlBaby
  • The Fluff, Fluffybutt, Fluffybutter (like fluffernutter, only fluffy-butt-er)
  • Squish

The list keeps evolving.

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