Monday, June 30, 2008

10 challenges = 1 Canine Good Citizen

The Canine Good Citizen test offered fun for Blake, and challenges, too. We had to pass each and every one of the 10 tasks, to achieve the CGC certificate.

Here's what we had to do, all following our AKC evaluator's instructions:
  1. Accepting a friendly stranger. Blake was told to sit at my side. I shook hands with the evaluator and we traded greetings. The dog must not break his position, must not be shy, but must not try to go to the evaluator. 
  2. Sitting politely for petting. The evaluator asked permission to pet Blake, and she pet his head, then his body. I was not allowed to talk to him. The dog must stay in place while being petted. Blake decided this was a good time to KISS the evaluator!
  3. Appearance and grooming. I told Blake to "stand." Blake was inspected for cleanliness and allowed the evaluator to brush him. She picked up each of his feet and examined each ear. This demonstrates that the dog welcomes grooming and will allow others (such as a vet) to examine him. Blake decided the evaluator needed more KISSES.
  4. Out for a walk. Demonstrating that Blake is not in control of our walks, we followed a little course as directed by our evaluator. I wasn't as good at following the evaluator's calls of "right turn" and "left turn" and "about turn" but Blake stayed right at my side, walking calmly and so attuned to me that he turned instantly whenever I did.
  5. Walking through a crowd. We had a group of spectators, and they came into the ring while we wove our way back and forth among them, Blake always walking calmly at my side. The dog isn't supposed to lunge or jump or strain on the leash. Blake was perfect.
  6. Sit and down on command, and staying in place. This was where I was not sure of what Blake would do. However, he did all that he was supposed to. He sat when I told him to sit. When the evaluator said, "Now you need to tell him to get down," he went down the minute SHE said the word! Then I told him to stay, walked across the ring, turned around, walked back to Blake and then walked away again to the center of the ring, where he had to ...
  7. Come when called. At first Blake was reluctant to get up from his "stay" in the nice shady spot in the cool grass. But then he decided he had better come and see what I wanted, so he came directly to me.
  8. Reaction to another dog. We had to walk toward another person with a dog, then I stopped, shook hands and exchanged pleasantries with the other person. The dogs are supposed to stay by their handlers' sides and show no more than a casual interest in each other. Blake was so businesslike that he became the test "stranger dog" for other dogs trying to get their CGC certificate!
  9. Reaction to distraction. This shows confidence when faced with distracting situations. But outside the ring we had some interesting distractions. We were very close to a horse pasture and all the horses, along with a few goats, were at fenceside, watching the CGC tryouts! Inside the ring, the evaluator walked strangely and closely past us with a crutch, then dropped it close to Blake. She also shook a can filled with pebbles and threw it, which Blake loved! 
  10. Supervised separation. Blake had to "down" and "stay" and the evaluator took his leash while I left and got out of sight for three or so minutes. The dog must stay calm. No problem for Blake, he really thought the evaluator was a great friend by then!
Wow, we did it!!!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Mr. Good Citizen!

The San Diego and Southern California St. Bernard clubs had a match today in the San Bernardino area, and they said their AKC Canine Good Citizen testing was open to all breeds. Friend Bill has an air-conditioned truck and he said I could keep Blake in there to protect him from the heat. 

OK! We can just practice, I thought. We've been working on our obedience commands. Blake is SOOOOOO mischievous, being one of the rambunctious tennis litter, I was sure that we would, at the very least, provide entertainment for the Working Group crowd. 

Outside the ring Blake was rolling in the grass and playing with and mouthing the leash.

He had a big Irish smile on his face, and that look in his eye. Hoo boy, I thought.

But once the testing began, Blake was excellent! He passed every step with flying colors. The evaluator even used him as the "stranger dog" with the remaining dogs being tested.

Blake's winning strategy: "It helped to kiss the evaluator and tell her how much I loved her at every step of the testing."

Congratulations, Mr. Canine Good Citizen!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tryouts for the Herding Group

Our neighbors down the road and around the corner (you remember the loose bull) let their goats wander, and sure enough, once again, the herd arrived, hungry, at our house.
While their brush-clearing habits are indeed a fire-protection service, they eat EVERYTHING, including the fruit trees outside our chainlink fence. They also broke into another neighbor's corrals and ate their horses' hay and grain. 
When they came outside the chainlink and began destroying the fruit trees they already had decimated the other day, I decided to see what we could do about this.
The lead goat wears a collar with a bell. When our toy Manchesters heard the bell, they barked like maniacs in their Munchkin voices. So, I let them out, and quickly they were bouncing off the chainlink, barking at the goats. 
The goats ignored them. They were directly on the other side of the fence. Chomp, chomp, chomp. The goats were breaking the young apple tree's branches.
OK, since we had no members of the Herding Group available, maybe this was a job for an Irish Wolfhound.
Come here, Blake.
In an instant, Blake was working the goats, from his side of the fence. He rounded them up into a little knot, ran back and herded up the strays ... and sent them packing!
They headed down the driveway and went home!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday to the tennis player litter, all my nine brothers and two sisters, from Blake!
We're all two years old today.
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday dear tennis litter,
Happy birthday to you!

My brothers and sisters, I have one more word for you today:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ginny's checklist

Getting ready for a dog show
We're going to the shows this weekend. Here's how Ginny prepares.
  1. Muscle toning and exercise program. Play "demolition derby," knocking against other Wolfhounds until one or none remains standing. Repeat right up to the ringside, if needed. Status of completion: ONGOING.
  2. Bath (as close to showtime as possible). Dig a hole in the dirt, knock over the water bucket to make mud, lie down and roll. Status of completion: DONE (yesterday afternoon).
  3. Groom coat to perfection. Chase madly after a squirrel or rabbit, ripping through briars, burrs, and brush. Status of completion: DONE (squirrel, this a.m.).
  4. Practice gaiting for the judge: Grab a roll of toilet paper from the bathroom, gait around the living room in a circle and down and back. Practice until roll is emptied and spread around room. Status of completion: DONE (this a.m.).
  5. Smile! Remember to have fun. Status of completion: ALWAYS.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Father's Day Salute!

Happy Father's Day to Merlin and Tate!
We are extremely fortunate at Gryffindor Irish Wolfhounds to have two wonderful young Irish Wolfhounds, Ginny and Blake. They both are beautiful inside and out ... all that one can hope for and dream for in a Wolfhound.

Blake leading Ginny in the chase (Murkland photo)

That's no accident — it's all due to the hard work of their breeders (Glenamadda, Starkeeper, Limerick) and the many years of dedication and thoughtfulness that continue in their kennels. Marvelously, these dogs' pedigrees come from years of collaboration among quality Wolfhound kennels in Europe, Great Britain, Canada, and the United States.

Both Ginny and Blake have gorgeous Moms. We look forward to celebrating them later! 
This being Father's Day, we'll celebrate our Fathers now:
  • Merlin, 
known officially as
MSBIS BIS CH Taliesin's Llenlleawg, CGC,
was Ginny's (Verity's) sire.

"The King" with his prince and princess puppies,
 Victory (Ginny's brother) and Monet. (Mary O'Mally Photo)

The details:
By CH Donna's Dream von der Oelmuhle X CH Taliesin's Lasair of Eagle
Breeders: Donna Smith, David Smith, and Samuel Evans Ewing 3rd (Eagle)
Owners: Karen Malone and Donna Smith

The dazzle:
The Taliesin website showcases highlights from his show career, which included numerous specialty wins.

Here, you can watch Merlin win Best of Breed at Westminster 2005.
(Example of what judges said about him: 2005 PVIWC specialty Judge Michael Canalizo wrote in his critique: "If he had any flaws they were so minor I never made notice of them.") 

Merlin was indeed a magical Wolfhound in the show ring. But of course having a wolfhound in your life means much, much more, and I think I can see who he was in who my Ginny is.

Both parents get credit for Ginny's sweet, sweet temperament ... and sharp, sharp intelligence. I don't know WHO is responsible for the mischief gene, however! 
  • Tate, 
MSBIS BIS CH Taryn Tate of Limerick SC
has been declared Stud Dog of the Year for 2007, having sired NINE wolfhounds who became AKC champions last year. Among them was Blake's brother, Cash, who became a CH at nine months! More titles are on the way, as several of Blake's half-brothers and half-sisters and his littermates are all close to their CH titles this year. Blake's sister Serena is working on her rally novice title, too!

In the showring, 2006 IWAWC specialty. (Murkland/Buell Photo)

The details:
By CH Urlimerick of Kilmara X CH Taryn's Abigail
Breeder: Brenda Taylor-Fairbanks (Taryn)
Owners: Linda Souza and Jamie Souza-Bartlett 
The dazzle:
Tate was an incredible dog in many ways. When he was just over two years old, he already had won a specialty and an all-breed Best in Show. Of the three specialties he won in 2006, two were from the veteran class. 

The 2006 IWAWC specialty judge, Roni Kaluza, wrote in her critique: "... As the class wore on, CH Taryn Tate of Limerick just got better and better. By the final go-round, he owned the ring. He is a big, upstanding dog, who, despite the heat, just never let down. He is typey, curvey, strong, and masculine, perfectly groomed and shown." 

As for personality ... Speaking of mischief ... The tennis player litter (or should I say "set"), of which Blake is a member, is famed for shenanigans. They love life. They embody what it is to be an Irish Wolfhound. Although Blake is happy, happy, happy, he can be majestic and powerful when the situation demands.

We love Blake and Ginny.

Thank you, Tate and Merlin!

Father's Day Salute: Our patriarch

Puppy Ginny in 2006 goes for a walk with her beloved Harry
(Murkland photo copyright 2006)

Happy Father's Day!
Although our Harry has never sired a litter, he is our patriarch, the alpha male leader of our "pack."
Harry is oh, so sweet and kind. He's friends with everyone he meets. People can't get enough of petting and hugging Harry.

A local car dealership put on display our photo of Harry gently greeting a tiny kitten. Harry also is friends with our tortoise – and one time, he saved the tortoise's life by alerting me that the tortoise had flipped itself over and couldn't get right-side-up again. 

Harry also has been a great guardian and protector. One time Harry just stood and looked at a group of men who trespassed and wouldn't leave our property, and believe me, they left in a hurry.

Harry takes his duties as patriarch seriously. He has been a patient nanny to our puppies and other people's, too. He is a quiet but effective teacher. Now that Harry is failing, we take care to protect the Old Man and make sure that he and young Blake stay the best of friends.
Happy Father's Day, Harry.  

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Judging a Book by its Cover

This is my favorite book cover featuring Irish Wolfhounds (so far).
My copy had a former life as a library book, so note that the brown stripes at top and bottom are part of its clear protective cover, not the design.

Here's what appeals:
  1. The wheaten Wolfhound, Holdfast. His power and strength are offset by the gentle hand of his mistress. The illustrator obviously read the manuscript because the scene foreshadows the story's "gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked" theme.
  2. The dynamic interplay between the girl, the flow of her Elizabethan gown and the Irish Wolfhound. Really nice design.
  3. The typeface seems more Yellow Submarine than medieval but it still manages to flow and take our focus to the girl and dog.
What else appeals:
The Beattys lived in Riverside, CA, my former haunt. They used some of my favorite libraries to research the history for this novel set in Elizabethan England. The novel is aimed at young readers. For more books that feature Wolfhounds or that even mention a Wolfhound, here's a list.


Thursday, June 12, 2008

Just a bystander

I went to the pet food and supply store where we enjoyed the grand opening earlier this week, and the cashier recognized me. Sort of. 
"Oh," she said. "You're the one with the Biggest Dog."
However, she didn't say it as, "You're the OWNER of the Biggest Dog."
She said it as, "You're the one who ACCOMPANIES the Biggest Dog." 
As in, "The Biggest Dog's chauffeur."
"The Biggest Dog's go-fer."
"The Biggest Dog's secretary."
"The Biggest Dog's buyer of pet foods."
"The Biggest Dog's personal groomer."
"The Biggest Dog's maid."
"The Biggest Dog's fan club president."
Yup. That's me.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Another beastly encounter

Last week we had an encounter with a bear.
This week, once again I heard Blake barking ferociously. This time it was broad daylight. I ran outside to see what was causing my Irish Wolfhound — who never barks — to bark so amazingly. 
It was a loose bull.
The bull was standing in my driveway with a herd of loose cows and calves. He was mixing it up with my neighbor's longhorns, in the adjacent pasture.  The longhorn steer didn't like the bull's interest in the lady longhorns, and the barbed wire between them seemed suddenly rather fragile.
Blake was standing at the fenceline closest to the driveway, sounding the alarm and ready to take them all on. Thankfully the chainlink separated him from the bull, but who knows how long that would last? He came when I called. 
Thankfully, the bull's owners soon arrived and herded away the trespassers.
Bull versus Bear Market? I was thankful that this time I could see what was going on. Besides Blake, that is.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Name games

My first Irish Wolfhound more than eight years ago was very special as the first, and I searched and thought a long while when it came to naming her and registering her with the American Kennel Club. I looked through Irish dictionaries and delved into other possible sources such as myths and legends. In the end she gave me her own name, because that's who she was: Erin, Rocket Girl of Rysheron. Her call name was Erin ... Ireland.
Harry's registered name is CH Rysheron's Wizard, JC, a tipoff that Harry's name pays homage to the hero of J.K. Rowling's magical classics. 
CH Glenamadda Starkeeper Verity was a bundle of red brindle when she arrived as a puppy from Canada. A smarty redhead with a giant crush on Harry from Day One ... naturally, she named herself: Ginny.
 Young Ginny with Harry at dusk in 2007
Her registered name, Verity, comes from being in the "V" litter. Verity means truth, and that's my hope for the foundation of my kennel.
Blake, the youngest, registered as Limerick Blake at Gryffindor, comes from a litter of 12 magnificent wolfhounds that are all named after tennis players! 

Sunday, June 8, 2008

He's the Man

A new pet food and supply store opened over the weekend. Blake and I went to the grand opening celebration, where he was mobbed by adoring fans. He had great fun being a celebrity! He enjoys all people of all ages and races and disabilities. He even liked meeting the people dressed up in furry costumes as giant dogs and cats. People snapped photos of themselves with him. The store held a contest and Blake won ... Biggest Dog. Woo hooo! I loved the store gift card but Blake sniffed it expectedly and wondered why it wasn't a treat. We also got a studio photo taken for free and I have to say it's a pity I'm not one of those people who resemble their pets ... Blake is so handsome!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Tails of Boy Meets Girl

Usually Ginny has her tail straight up in the air when she's playing or having good Irish fun. But here (in front), I think maybe she's showing her "flirty tail" to Blake ... and his tail says it's working.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008


They say about Irish Wolfhounds: "Gentle when stroked, fierce when provoked." 
And it seems there is no dog sweeter or more gentle than happy young Blake. For example, Blake is extra gentle, very mindful, and careful around children and people who are disabled. I'm hoping he has a future as a therapy dog.

Last night, however, I saw the "provoked" side of my sweet boy.
It started with a great commotion around 9:30 p.m. in our Canyon. I had let Blake out in a small fenced yard behind my house, before I brought him in for the night. The neighbors' dogs were barking frantically, and amazingly, so were a pack of coyotes. Usually when the coyotes are having a teasing exchange with the neighbors' dogs, they cackle and howl. This time, however, both wild and domestic canines were barking ferociously. What was up?

In less than 10 minutes,  I heard Blake barking and growling as I have never heard him before. I ran out to the yard and Blake was standing in powerful majesty at the fenceline. In the porchlight, all his fur seemed to be standing on end. He was gazing into the dark wilderness, the national forest beyond our fence. When he saw me he immediately placed himself between me and the fenceline, his barking and growling continuing all the while. There was little moonlight to see what was out there. In the darkness, there was ... something. I called and he came to me. 

This morning my neighbors said it appeared that a bear had knocked over other neighbors' very large and heavy trash cans. And when I let Blake out in the morning light, he ran to that same spot near the fence, growling and looking around. Then he stopped and came to me with a wolfhound grin. He was satisfied that the danger was gone.