Saturday, January 30, 2010

Winter Newfieland

Finally, a little bit of winter came to Little Rock, Arkansas. Katie and Louie love everything about this weather: the way it tastes, the way it crunches under their feet and the way it keeps them nice and cool. We had a fun walk in the park and even practiced a little obedience work - check our video below the pictures. Snow and ice make everything more fun.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Happy 2nd Birthday Louie!

Today is Louie's second birthday. For his special day I've picked out 24 of our favorite photos in honor of his 24 months of life. But first a few words about this extra special Newfie...

When Louie was born we got the first pick of the litter after Bonnie and Bill (his wonderful breeders) chose the two pups they were going to keep. The most important criterion for us was personality. Knowing this, Bonnie started calling the pup with the red yarn around its neck "Louie" at just 4 weeks old because he was very outgoing and was always wanting to be picked up and cuddled. She was right; Mr. Red did indeed become our Louie. Despite the fact that I said I wouldn't pick Mr. Red after he managed to escape the litter's enclosure at just 2 weeks old. I thought that Red boy was going to be trouble! And, he has been a challenge at times. Louie's so smart that Gary and I had to work very hard to stay one step ahead of him or to catch up the many times we fell behind him in that first year.

No offense to Katie, who has her own special qualities, but Louie is truly the sweetest dog I have ever encountered. He loves every person and dog that he meets. He has never growled or even curled his lip at another dog. One thing that makes Louie a phenomenal therapy dog is that he doesn't register fear in people like most dogs do. We have encountered many people who were - unnecessarily - terrified of Louie and I have observed many times that he never seems the slightest bit aware of their fear. Louie maintains his happy-go-lucky attitude whether you like him or not.

Our baby boy has nerves of steel, a mischievous streak a mile wide, a brilliant mind, a loving heart and he's also pretty easy on the eyes :-) We are grateful for every day we spend with him and his big sister, Katie.

Louie at 2 weeks old
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Louie at 7 weeks old
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Louie and his best sister friend, Katie
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Louie at his first AKC fun match. He won 1st place in the working group the day he turned 3 months old.
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My teddy bear :-)
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Louie with Bearbo
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Louie's first swim
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The cutie twins (Louie was 6 months old)
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When he was 9 months old Louie won 3 gold medals at the Dog Olympics at his dog school
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Snoozin' on Lambbo
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Slaying the dragon
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Louie with 2 first place ribbons in his first real conformation show.
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Louie with his Newf sized tennis ball
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Indiana Newf in The Temple of the DogRoom
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Louie with the toy he won in a Rally Obedience competition
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Louie and Katie Sue posing with the posies
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Louie giving me that look of love I so often see on his face
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What are you lookin' at?
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Louie learned to pull a cart last year.
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Louie and Katie with their Rally Advanced Obedience Ribbons
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Louie won 1st place when he earned his third and final leg of his Rally Advanced title.
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Louis visiting Ms. A one of our favorite people.
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Louie is a wonderful therapy dog.
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This picture is just so "Louie"
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You know that Stevie Ray Vaughn song "Pride and Joy"? I sing my own version of that to Louie all the time because that's exactly how I feel about him. "I love my Louie, heart and soul...He's my sweet little thing, he's my pride and joy, he's my sweet little Newfie, sweet little Newfie boy".

Happy Birthday Precious Louie! We are looking forward to celebrating many, many more with you!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Cuddlebugs

Tired Mama takes a break from grooming.
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When Louie wants some loving he often goes into the living room and literally throws his body to the floor intentionally making the loudest possible thud. Then he rolls over on his back, waves his paws in the air and makes cute noises until someone comes along to rub his belly.
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Just Hanging Out

The other day we spent a relaxing afternoon with Daddy. In these pics we are dirty Newfs in need of a good grooming session, but Mama still thinks we are cute.

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I'm growing up... very soon I will be 2 years old.
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But, I'm still the baby of the family...for now anyway.
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Is it naptime yet?
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One of my favorite activities: my after dinner nap.
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It's hard to decide what I like best: my after breakfast nap, my midmorning nap, my noontime nap, my midafternoon nap, my early evening nap or my 8 hours of nighttime sleeping. My life is rough :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

I Used to Think Crate Training Was Cruel and Unusual Punishment

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Katie and Louie love their crates so much that they frequently get in them without being asked. As previously seen on our blog they will sometimes even cram themselves both into the same crate.

For a long time I was not a believer in crate training and actually thought it was cruel to put a dog in such a small space. About ten years ago Scarlett the Siberian Husky showed me that my beliefs about crates were wrong. When she had knee surgery at the age of 7 she had to stay in a crate for 23 1/2 hours a day for 6 weeks during the beginning portion of her recovery. Scarlett drove me to tears several times during those six weeks with her relentless verbalization of her dissatisfaction with her captivity. So I was sure that once freed from her crate she would shun it forever. But again, I was wrong (that seems to happen often with preconceived notions). Once Scarlett didn't HAVE to be in the crate she started seeking it out. For the next eight years Scarlett spent probably about 10 hours a day in her crate by her own choice.

After my experience with Scarlett I began to see why it would be beneficial to crate train a dog from day one. Now, if Katie or Louie need to be in their crates at a show, while traveling or at the vet's office it's no big deal. Their crates are actually a comfort to them in strange situations.

A lot of people have asked me how I crate trained Katie and Louie, so I thought I would post it here. The strategy I used is a compilation of many different methods I read about over the last few years. My main goal was to make crate training very positive and happy for the puppies.

We were lucky that their breeders put Katie and Louie in crates as pups, so they got a feel for it early. However, at that time they were in a crate with several of their litter mates, so being in one by themselves was a new experience.

The first thing I did to start crate training was to feed them all of their meals in their crate from day one. I left the doors open so they could come out when they were done eating. Since they passionately love food the crate quickly became a happy place in their minds.

The second step for us was to start saying "Katie Kennel" or "Louie Kennel" when standing beside it. Then we tossed a treat inside so the dog went in to get it. At that point, we praised them like crazy. We did this several times for a couple of days.

The third step was to say "Louie Kennel" while standing by the crate and then PAUSING. We gave the Newfs a chance to offer the behavior and when they did we immediately gave them a treat and praised them a lot. We did this many times for a day or two.

Next, we repeated step three above except after the dog entered the kennel we shut the door without giving the dog the treat. We praised and fed the treat to the dog through the closed door. Then we opened the door and let dog exit without any acknowledgement. (Note: you never want to give them praise or a treat for leaving the kennel. That is a neutral behaviour which should not be rewarded because they will cry to be let out in the future if they anticipate a treat upon exit.)

Fifth, we repeated above, giving treats with door shut and locked. This time we fed small treats through the door periodically for about a minute.

Gradually we worked up to longer time periods with the door shut and with longer intervals between treats.

Next we told the Newf "kennel", shut the door, gave them a treat and left the room for just a few seconds. (Note: If the dog whines or paws at the door ignore him until he is quiet. If he is being good give another treat then wait at least 10 seconds before opening the door.)

We gradually built up to being out of the room for longer periods of time. We came in at random intervals and gave the dog a treat through the door.

Some people skip all these steps and just put the dog in the crate and let them cry/bark it out. Sometimes that may be the only option as I had to go through with Scarlett since we didn't have time to do crate training before her surgery. But if you have a month to spend just a few minutes each day on crate training you can make the whole experience a very positive one for your dog. I think these furry bundles of unconditional love are so worth the effort!
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Monday, January 4, 2010

The Current Status of International Adoption

I haven't mentioned our adoption in a while because there just hasn't been anything news worthy to say about it. China has chosen to adopt out fewer of its children internationally and that has had a major impact on many things, the least of which is our wait. The greatest and most tragic impact is on the children who will never have a family of their own.

When we made the decision to adopt in 2005 the waiting period was only six months. As you can see in the chart below that was around the peak time for international adoption and in particular for adoption from China. We submitted our paperwork as soon as we were eligible and were logged into the China adoption system on July 22, 2006. At that time the wait was creeping up, but it still looked like our daughter would be home within a year. Now 3 1/2 years since our log in date and 5 years since we made the decision to adopt, we still have a minimum of a year to go and a likely maximum of two. The wait is not easy, but I am sure when we hold Natalie in our arms the pain of waiting will be forgotten - as women who give birth usually forget just how bad those labor pains were.

Many people don't understand how we can wait so long. My response is that part of my heart is in China and I have faith that this journey will lead us to our precious daughter.

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy NEWF Year!

We hope you all have a Very Happy New(f) Year!
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May 2010 be your best year so far!
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Love and Newf kisses from Katie and Louie
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