Monday, December 31, 2007

Big Bones and Little Spaces

On our last day at work before the long Christmas weekend one of my coworkers asked me what I had gotten Katie for Christmas. I said “Nothing”. After looking at her appalled face, I said “What do you get a dog who has 30 different dogs toys, six dog beds scattered throughout the house, 5 different kinds of pup treats and endless cardboard boxes and plastic milk jugs to chew on? She is definitely not in need of a doggie sweater.” She admitted that I had a point. However she did get me to thinking that Katie should have something special on Christmas Day. I remembered that I had a huge Old Mother Hubbard dog biscuit in a drawer in the kitchen. I had been reluctant to give it to Katie because I have to watch her weight closely and that thing looked like it had way too many calories. But since the holidays are a time for indulging I decided that Katie should have her chance to join in.

We spent Christmas at my Mother’s house. Shortly after we arrived I brought out Katie’s Christmas Biscuit. In the first picture she appears to be taking her prize enthusiastically, but I think that was just because I hyped it up. She ended up sitting on her dog bed and putting the biscuit on the floor in front of her just looking at it. Here I am trying to talk her into eating it. I think she didn’t know what to do with it since she usually only gets tiny biscuits at home. But once she finally sunk her teeth into it she had it demolished and happily in her belly in less than two minutes.

It seems that Katie thinks she is smaller than she really is (maybe that's why she didn't know what to do with the big biscuit). Last night when I was sitting at my computer she decided to crunch past my legs and squeeze her huge body into the space under my small desk. It was hilarious to see her contorting her huge body in order to fit her big behind under there. That’s my silly girl :-)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hiking with the Hounds

On December the 8th, Gary, Katie and I joined some members of the Little Rock Dog Training Club for a hike at Mount Nebo State Park. As you can see in the pictures, it was a very foggy day. There are supposedly beautiful views from the top of Mount Nebo, but we couldn’t see any of them. In spite of the weather we managed to have a wonderful time on our hike. Afterward we had a great cookout with our group.

Katie had an absolute blast being with the other dogs and all of their lovely humans. Katie loves any outdoor activity, but she loves us even more than being outside. When we are home she is always wherever we are. She doesn’t want to go out and play unless we go with her. So to Katie this was the ideal day... getting to romp outside with her two favorite humans all day long. And then a long car ride home - perfect for a cozy Newfy nap.

Inside the Visitor's Center

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Day With Dad

Gary, had a day off work a few weeks ago. I think he was doing some work in the yard and the girls must have been hanging out with him. These cute pictures were on my camera... looks like they had a nice day. Katie loves to play tug the rope with Gary. Scarlett just likes to be queen of the yard.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Confession: My Dog May Be Smarter Than Me

(Katie pictured above at five months old. You can clearly see the intelligence in her beautiful brown eyes :-)

Last night when Katie and I were at dog school, I spoke to our lovely sub-novice teacher, Lois, before class. I was asking her advice on what class Katie and I should take next. Larry, our basic obedience instructor, previously told me that most dogs benefit from repeating sub-novice two or three times. So, I asked Lois if she thought we should do that. Our conversation was interrupted, so she did not get to answer my question right then.

Class started out with a heeling exercise. We were walking in a large square practicing our turns, with some about turns thrown in, sits, downs and lots of variation to our pace. Katie was doing beautifully. After that exercise was complete the teacher came up to me and commented on how well Katie was doing. She told me that she thought Katie would get bored if we repeated and that her recommendation was that we go on to Novice next. Funny, that’s the same thing Larry said when I asked if we should repeat his class, “No, Katie would be bored”.

After Lois told me we should go on to Novice I was feeling pretty good about my training partnership with Miss Katie. We did the figure 8 exercise and Katie did a great job. Then Lois suggested we try it without our leashes. I was thinking that it would be easy since Katie and I do some off leash work at home and she usually does pretty well. I was so wrong! It was not easy for ME at all. I couldn’t get Katie to do anything even by luring her with her favorite homemade salmon cookies. Lois saw exactly what the problem was and to prove her point she removed ME from the equation. She led Katie though the exercise herself (still off leash) and of course Katie did it perfectly. Then the same thing happened when we were practicing our fronts. I just couldn’t get Katie to sit straight, but of course she would sit straight every time for her teacher.

Poor Katie... always having to wait on her mama to catch up. I have noticed that when I finally get my mind wrapped around what I am supposed to be doing Katie usually falls into place immediately. The learning curve seems to be mostly on my side. I’ve never trained a dog before (beyond sit, shake hands and down), so I have a little bit of an excuse. There really is a lot for the human to school isn’t just school for dogs. Tons of information gets thrown at you all at once in sub-novice. It’s fascinating though how the smallest turn of your shoulders can be the difference between success or failure for you and your dog. I think with Newf2 I will do a much better job since I will have a lot of this down by then. In the meantime, Katie will just have to put up with her slow mama... thank goodness she is such a patient girl. I’m going to have to get very serious about training myself so that I don’t cause us to get held back in sub-novice. If that happened Katie might decide to do novice by herself.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Thankful for Family Love

Katie pictured above with her Auntie Leah on Thanksgiving Day.

Leah, Katie and I went to visit Katie’s Newf family the day after thanksgiving. Katie is pictured above on the right next to her sister Rose. I’m not sure who the third Newf is with the glob of drool on its head. We were trying to get a picture of the three siblings (Katie, Rose and Milton), but it’s hard to get them in the right configuration.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Scarlett and Her “Little” Sister

See the difference between a dog that knows sit stay and one that doesn’t? The sit stay command definitely comes in handy for taking pictures.

If you look into the blur that represents Scarlett in the first picture you can see her eyes glowing with what I interpret to be a mixture of enthusiasm and contentment. Scarlett is 14 years and 8 months old. She is still very spirited and likes to give us a good tongue lashing if we fail to follow her royal orders.

Before Katie joined our family Scarlett had been without a dog companion for about 6 months since we lost Lincoln (her lifetime friend) last summer. Scarlett had always been nice to little puppies in the past, so I thought she would welcome Katie into our pack. I was wrong. After Scarlett figured out Katie was home to stay she resented her and would growl at Katie just for being in the room.

I was so depressed about this unexpected behavior that I was at my wit’s end. I had absolutely no hope that these two could ever live together harmoniously. Gary was much more practical about the situation. He helped me to put up some fencing in our yard to divide it into sections so the girls could each have their own space. We also put a barrier all the way down the middle of our kitchen because that is the room where I spend most of my time. This allowed me to be with both dogs at once. Katie’s puppy school teacher suggested that walking them together was probably the only chance I had of getting them to bond as a pack. So, we walked, twice a day every day. The growling from Scar lessened continuously until one day I realized that she had stopped doing it completely. It took about 3 months for them to reach this stage. During the next 3 months I would classify their relationship as neutral. There wasn’t any hate there, but there also wasn’t any love (on Scarlett’s side anyway).

Now the love between these two has blossomed. Katie loved Scarlett from day 1 even with all of her growling and posturing, and for the past five months Scarlett has actually started showing Katie love in return. Katie has become Scarlett’s rock. I think Katie helps Scarlett to feel secure and safe both at home and out in the world. They play crazy games together every day as they rejoice when we come home from work. They lounge around together all day while we are gone. They take turns getting treats and love from mama. When I am training Katie in the house Scarlett tags along after us and every time Katie gets praised for doing something good Scar gives a little hoot as if to say “Hey, I should get something just for being cute and gracing your space with my royal presence.” Of course she gets a little treat every time. When you are going on 15 (about 90 in human years, according to the modern dog/human year equation) you have earned the right to be a little spoiled in the Happy Haus. Hopefully, when we add Newf2 to the pack mix we will have a smoother transition, but if it is rocky at first I won’t be without hope this time. If Scarlett could have this dramatic of a turn around with Katie I think almost anything is possible. 

Scar says “Finally, those crazy folks let us get on with our walk. Let’s go sister Kate.”

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Smart Dog

I know lately my blog and a lot of my conversations seem to be “all Katie, all the time”, but when you share your life with an animal that is as sweet, beautiful and smart as Katie you just can’t help yourself. Plus she is playing a critical role in helping me to keep my sanity during this increasingly long wait for Natalie. Also, since Natalie will be an only child Katie and Newfie #2 (to be introduced at an unknown time in the future) are going to have to act as her siblings. It should be an interesting childhood for Natalie. I can just see Natalie now riding in a little red wagon being pulled by Katie or Newf2. We will all have a blast together. But I digress from the main story...

The latest act of Katie’s brilliance occurred yesterday when she and I were hanging out in Natalie’s room. All of the sudden Katie let out a huge bark in the direction of one of the walls. Then she stood at attention staring intently at something. I looked around to try to figure out what caused her to bark (she only barks about once every other day, so there is usually a good reason for it). The only thing I could see that was unusual was the red dog pictured above that I had placed on the shelf that morning. I thought surely she didn’t possibly notice that new dog I put on a shelf about six feet off the floor, but I didn’t see anything else out of the ordinary. I took the red dog off the shelf and showed it to Katie. She took a step backwards and barked at it. So, sure enough, it was the red dog that she noticed as being different. Has she memorized every decoration and object in this house? I am just astounded by her observational skills. I showed Katie the dog and told her to “Check It”. This is a command we learned in puppy school that Katie came to understand as “even though I’m scared of this thing mama says check it, so that means it’s not going to hurt me”. After she gave it a good sniff she decided it would make a good toy, and I had to tell her that it was my toy. Sorry Charlie, go play with one of the thirty toys that are yours :-) Maybe it was a scheme she was plotting all along to get a new toy. If so, she didn’t outsmart me THIS time, but who knows what the future holds.

Monday, October 29, 2007

First Birthday of our First Newf

One year ago today our precious Katie was born. I was able to visit Katie's mom, Berta, a couple of times before she gave birth and saw Katie for the first time when she was one week old. I visited the litter about once a week until Katie was old enough to come home at about 10 weeks. Katie was always easy to spot in the pile of ten black puppies because of her pretty little white foot. I thought she was so cute and I really wanted her from the beginning. However, I kept reminding myself that I wasn't looking for the cutest puppy; I was looking for the one with the best personality. When the pups were 6 weeks old I was finally allowed to hold them. When Miss Katie was in my arms for the first time something inside me melted. She truly felt like my dog. Each time I would visit she would spend more time with me than any of the other pups. I think she was picking me as much as I was picking her. To me, she seemed to be the sweetest one in the litter. So, in the end we got the sweetest AND the cutest one :-)

My husband, Gary, thought I was a little bit insane when I told him last summer that I wanted to get a Newfoundland. Now, he jokingly takes credit for the idea and always brags about what a great job he did in picking Katie out. Katie has even won over the heart of our 14 1/2 year old Siberian Husky, Scarlett, who at first didn't have any appreciation for the crazy puppy we brought into HER house. Dearest Katie has become our pride and joy. Gary and I are so grateful for her presence in our lives. Our deepest thanks to the Bennetts for entrusting us with this wonderful girl.

Tonight Katie celebrated with a fish snack, lots of extra love and her own special princess birthday hat.
Happy Birthday Dearest Katie! Here’s to Many, Many More Together!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Albert Pike & Little Missouri Falls Hike

Gary, Katie and I had a wonderful time Saturday on a day-trip to Southwest Arkansas. It was a perfect October day. Katie got her first taste of being a superstar. Everywhere we went her admirers flocked around her asking the usual questions: What kind of dog is she? Is she a Saint Bernard??Huh? How big will she get? How much does she eat? What made you pick out this breed? The answer to the last question is that I wanted to get the sweetest dog possible and I knew that Newfs were known for their sweet temperments. And, it sure is true with Katie!! She is such a happy, precious girl and is glad to soak up all of the affection that people want to give her while Mom and Dad get grilled by her fan club.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

And the Winner is...Wilbon’s Katie Scarlett O’Hara

Tonight 11 month old Katie completed her basic obedience training. For the last class we had dog olympics. There were four events: heeling with auto-sits, sit stays, down stays and recalls. Katie won the GOLD in the first two events: heeling and the sit stay. I was so proud. I was just as proud when she won a bronze in the down stay. I was further away from her than I ever had been and she held the down stay without moving for several minutes. She even stayed when the teacher bounced toys right in front of her with me far away. Finally she couldn’t take it any more, and wanted to be with her mama. The gold and silver winners broke less than 5 seconds after her, so it was close. For the last event she did a beautiful recall complete with the cutest little bounce into a sit. Her sit was a little crooked so she didn’t win a medal. I thought she should have won a special award just for being so darn cute :-) Katie and I both had a total blast through out the 8 week course. We trained all of the other students in the class on the importance of carrying a drool rag. Everyone loved Katie even with her slime.

Now Katie and I are off to seek new adventures in the sub-novice class.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Katie and Gary Doing Yoga

Last night Gary and I both decided to skip our respective yoga classes and practice together at home. Miss Katie plopped down on my mat and seemed to be mirroring her dad in extended child’s pose. She ended up spending most of the class lying in that little strip of space right between our mats.

Whenever we do yoga Katie always goes into Lily’s room, grabs a few toys out of her toy box and brings them into the room where we are practicing. Every time we bend down into a forward fold we pet her as our arms are coming down. She loves the whole routine.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

A Weekend Full of My Favorite Things

This last weekend was so much fun. Some of my favorite things in the world are my mother, children and dogs and this weekend was full of all three. My mother stayed with us for the entire weekend which is a rare, and very special, occurrence.

Friday night we got to see my cousin Marilyn, who I always called Aunt Marilyn as a child because she is close to my mom in age. It was wonderful to see her; she is such a lovely woman.

Saturday, Mom and I volunteered to help at our local FCC (Families with Children from China) Moon Festival. We ran the temporary tattoo booth. It was really good for both of us to get to spend some time around all of the precious Chinese children. Mom has been excited about our adoption from day 1 back in Feb of 2005, but seeing all of those children had an impact on her. Now she is more ready than ever for her granddaughter to come home. She was so cute pointing out one child after another saying how beautiful and sweet they were and wondering what Lily will look like. Seeing those children just makes it all seem more real to me. Someday Lily will be home and we will be going to the Moon Festival, Chinese New Year and playdates with her.

Sunday, we drove to Hot Springs, AR and went to our first dog show. Katie's breeders were showing a couple of their Newfs and let us come through the back door to keep them company during their preparations. I was the official spray bottle, treat and drool rag carrier :-) The two Newfs they had there were such sweetie pies. It was fun to get to see the show and the behind the scenes preparations.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Natalie’s First Gifts

My cousin Marilyn brought Natalie her first gifts when she came to visit this weekend. I can’t wait to dress Natalie in the clothes and put her into the incredibly soft jacket with the cute little ears on the hood. I really like the diaper bag too... pink and brown are some of my favorite colors.

Sunday, September 16, 2007


Katie, Gary and I went to visit Katie’s sister Rose and their wonderful breeders. In the first picture Rose is chasing Katie. In the second one the roles were reversed. I know the second pic is a little out of focus, but it’s hard to capture these two crazy girls on camera. They don’t like to be still when they are together. I love how Katie’s tongue is pointing straight out and Rose’s ears are flapping like wings.

Sisters enjoying the view together.

Rose is in front of me saying “Hey lady, how about some more of those yummy salmon cookies? I’m drooling just thinking about them” Katie says “Don’t forget about me, your best girl, while you are doling those out.”

Katie got a little bit jealous today whenever she caught HER mama petting sister Rose. She would come up and give a little perturbed bark as if to say “Hey, we may have the same dog mama, but this human mama is Mine-All-Mine.” Then she would beg for some lovin’ too. Hopefully Katie will learn I’ve got plenty of love to go around.

Katie says:
Do you think my tongue is long enough or should I consider getting a tongue extension? You know - like some people get hair extensions :-)

Getting to visit my sister Rosie is one of my favorite ever things. What a wonderful day!

Big sloppy kisses and love to all, Katie

YEAH!!! We Made it Out of the Review Room :-)

The CCAA in China has completed their review of dossiers submitted during the month of July 2006. Our dossier was logged in on July 22, 2006, so now we know that our dossier passed through the review process without any problems and has moved into the match room. This is the last piece of information we will receive until we get our referral. Earlier this month the CCAA sent out the September referrals and they only covered 4 calendar days. I think the process may speed up a little bit in a month or two, but we are still estimating getting our referral late next year at the earliest.

P.S. The above picture is of some surprise lilies which were growing in our yard. I thought it was a fitting picture to go with this good news about our daughter Lily.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Downward Dog

Katie has become my new yoga partner. Shubot, our kitty who passed away a few years ago used to do yoga with me. Katie isn’t quite as adept at partner yoga as Shubot yet. Sometimes she will lie quietly beside me other times I have to give her a toy to keep her busy. She loves to hang out with me though no matter what I am doing. She is such a wonderful, precious friend. Katie's thoughts on the subject are below.

What on earth is my Mama doing? She is so strange sometimes.

Time for Savasana (Relaxation Pose) - This yoga stuff can really wear a Newf out.

Then when I get bored with Savasana I can chew on Mama’s toes :-)

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lixit is a Hit

Our Lixit kit came in today. Katie was in a big hurry to try it out so Dad installed it for her before he even changed out of his work clothes. That is doggie dedication!

Katie loves her Lixit! It took her a whole quarter of a nano-second to figure out how to use it. Now she can have fresh running water whenever she wants. No more having to wait for mom to let her drink out of the bathtub facuet. Although she will probably still do that for variety. Thanks Dad!

Click here for a link to the faucet extender we used.  You will need to buy a short hose to go with it.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Attack of the Boston Terror

Wednesday night on the way home from our evening walk, Katie and Scarlett were attacked by a Boston Terrier. It wasn’t funny at the time, but I woke up at 5:00 this morning laughing hysterically at my mental picture of it.

We were almost home when this dog just burst out of it’s house. It pushed the storm door open with it’s head and them started running straight towards us barking like a maniac. He definitely wasn’t looking to make friends. It was hard for me to comprehend a 15 pound dog hurtling himself at a 95 pound and a 50 pound dog. I decided to send Katie, our group ambassador, forward to greet the crazy critter. I kept Scarlett close by my side in the hopes that the owners would capture the dog before it got to her. Well, the dog went after Katie and started biting at her extremely hairy neck. His muzzle was so smushed in (much more so than in the above picture) that I knew he wouldn’t be able to hurt her. Katie just stood there looking at him with curiosity, trying to figure out what he was trying to accomplish. I guess he quickly became disgusted with her lack of reaction so he circled around and turned his attention towards Scarlett. Now, Miss Scarlett is 14 years old and she has zero tolerance for aggressive dogs that get in her face. She is still quite feisty. The owner of the dog was coming towards us, so my goal was to keep Scarlett from biting that dog until the owner could retrieve it. I pulled up on her collar to try to keep the BT’s head just out of reach of her mouth. I succeeded and no one was hurt. Although I wouldn’t have blamed Scarlett if she had bitten that dog (and she really, really wanted to). He was very rude and aggressive for no reason. I have nothing against Boston Terriers, but this one didn’t seem to be too smart. Oh well, at least it was good for a laugh after the fact. Katie’s reaction was the funniest part. It was like, “Mom, I don’t understand the game this little guy is trying to play, but I’ll be a good sport and let him play it”.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

August Referrals from China

The CCAA in China recently sent out the latest batch of referrals. Like last month, they covered seven calendar days. The chart below shows what the trend has been on the number of calendars days referred each month since January of 2006. For people who are not familiar with adoption from China, I must explain that one specific week may have many more dossiers logged in than the following week. So, the chart below just gives us a rough idea of how things are going. BOTTOM LINE FOR THE HAPPY HAUS FAMILY: It’s going to be a very long time before Lily comes home. My homemade estimator is telling me it will me 21 months until referral. But that is based on history and things change constantly. [Note: chart wouldn't show up after transition to blogger see Jan 2008 chart for more up-to-date information.]

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Does This Look Like a Watchdog???

Well, appearances can be deceiving. We do indeed have a budding watchdog in the Happy Haus. I never dreamt when I got a Newf that a watchdog was in our future. I thought they were way too friendly to fill that role. But, as Katie matures she seems to be developing quite a keen intuition. She rarely barks, but when she does it is because something is out of the ordinary and she feels we need to pay attention.

Two weeks ago she barked an extremely loud bark at the kitchen window and then walked up to it and looked out. I was curious to see if there was anyone there, so I walked outside and discovered 2 people on the other side of our privacy fence. Katie couldn’t have seen them, but she knew from inside the kitchen that they were out there. They turned out to be people that were touring the vacant house next door which is for sale. She never barks at the neighbor who lives on the other side, but these people were not regulars.

The funniest example of this happened at home tonight. I took Katie and Scarlett on a 5 minute very slow walk because it is blazing hot here. (This is what I call a psyche out walk to trick them into thinking they have been walked) During our short absence Gary arrived home from the gym. We came in the back gate and Gary heard us so he started up the hill to meet us. Katie barked at him quite loudly (it wasn’t a I’m-happy-to-see-you bark) and started charging towards him. It was apparent that she thought a stranger was in our backyard and she was not about to cower in a corner. I was telling her “Katie it’s just Gary” but until she got close enough to smell him she could not be convinced. Upon close inspection she decided that yes indeed it was just her own dear old dad. She then immediately shifted from watchdog to a circling dancer of joy. I am guessing that she remembered that the house was empty when we left and then someone who didn’t belong there was in our yard. Hmm... I wonder what she would have done if it hadn’t been her Dad? She is such a sweet and friendly girl when we are out and about. It’s like she has never met a stranger. My guess is she would probably just check a stranger out, decide they were just fine and them honor them with a slimy kiss. Any volunteers to help me test this theory? :-)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Katie’s Wonderful Water Weekend

Written by Katie, the 9 month old Newfie puppy

The above picture is of my first time swimming with my lifejacket on. I was a lot calmer and more confident in the water with the extra help even though I thought the whole life jacket idea was ridiculous. [Picture credit goes again to my stepgrandad John :-]

Here I am modeling my life jacket and floating ball.

Yes, I know, I am the cutest doggie ever. My dad and mama say I am the sweetest too.

Next, mama set up the sprinkler for me since I really prefer it to the pool.
The water tastes good!!

YUM!! I bet I drank a gallon of this delicious water.

I must attack and kill this ferocious water

I love this sprinkler game, but having this much fun can sure wear a girl out!

After all this water fun, mama bathed and blow dried me. I used to be scared of the dryer when I was really little, but now it relaxes me and makes me sleepy. It’s definitely time for a snack and then a long summer nap in the cool air conditioning in grandma and granddad John’s house.