Today I took the dogs for a good hike.  I first took Ross out on his own, to spend some long-overdue one-on-one time with him, and to also just enjoy a relaxing walk.  Ross is such a wonderful companion with whom to hike in the woods.  He sniffs about and explores, but stays close, happy to trot along at close to my pace.  Furthermore, he lately has met quite a few new dogs on our walks with absolutely no problem.  I have been really careful with him for several years now; the combination of improving his health and keeping him from rehearsing inappropriate responses has really paid off.  And as a result, while I always keep one eye on what’s going on around us regardless of which dog(s) I have with  me, I can now really relax and enjoy my hikes with Ross.  The girls are all much wilder, racing about and requiring me to pay a lot more attention to where they go and what they get up to.   Hiking alone with Ross is a much more relaxing start to the day! 

After walking Ross I took the girls to the baseball fields to play fetch.  As I’ve mentioned I’m not really fond of fetch because of the jarring, high impact motion, plus the potential for injury.  But seeing as two out of the three of them are now in heat (Kestrel came in two days ago – apparently the shelter got it wrong and she is indeed intact, as I suspected), I don’t want to be taking them into the woods.  Neither girl is in standing heat right now, so they are ok to be outside in public.  But I keep them in a big, open field where I can see other people and dogs approach from a long way off.  If nothing else, they don’t need to be harassed.

Life with three intact bitches will be interesting.  Hannah will probably stand by the end of the weekend (day 12-13 of her cycle), at which time she will be kept strictly around the house for the next week.  While it varies from dog to dog, a bitch’s cycle lasts approximately 21 days.  However, they can only get pregnant during a short portion of this, typically (again this varies) between days 12-13 and 17-18.  This period is called ‘standing heat’, and the dog will typically flag her tail aside if her hind end is touched, and otherwise make herself available to be bred.  Every bitch varies in how she behaves while standing; Hannah is pretty demure and until she was treated homeopathically, wouldn’t flag or stand at all.  In sharp contrast, Mira will back up to Ross and try and swing her hind end under his hips (little hussy!).   

Kess is still a week or so away from standing, but seeing as this is her first cycle, I don’t really know what to expect with her.  Mira stood on day 7 of her first cycle, which I suspect was actually closer to day 12-13 and I miss-counted.  First cycles can often be very light and hard to notice.  So I can’t be absolutely certain that Kess is only on day 3.  And there’s no point taking any chances!

Other than getting a little bitchy for a week or so in advance, Hannah doesn’t change at all when she comes into heat.  Mira, as I’ve noted, falls apart and needs homeopathic treatment to re-stabilize.  Seeing as both other girls are in season, it should be no surprise that Mira fell apart last week, what with all those hormones in the air, even if it isn’t her time to cycle!  

I have noticed some subtle changes in Kess with this cycle, but nothing significant and certainly nothing suggesting the deep chronic imbalance that Mira has.  Kess has become more demanding, barking at me to be let out of her crate, stamping her feet, demanding attention and otherwise being a little edgy.  As my roommate pointed out, it’s as if she has PMS.  I wonder if that is possible?  Seems to be the case with Hannah and Mira too.  I guess it makes sense – cycling is very stressful on the body and creates all sorts of changes and imbalances.  

Seeing as Kess is now also in heat, I guess it is just as well that my plans to farm-sit this week have been put on hold, as with the farm comes a very experienced stud dog.  Keeping him away from both girls would have required considerable vigilance, although I’ve done it before.   

Yesterday I got all packed up and ready to move to the farm, and even drove all the way there and started unloading.  Unfortunately, their vehicle breakdown 4 hours into the trip, requiring them to abort and come home.  They were very disappointed, and so was I!  I was so, so, so looking forward to sheep access every day for the next three weeks.  I don’t know how I’m going to get ready for that clinic I am attending in June.  I will be immensely disappointed if we go there without having adequately prepared.  It’s not every day that you get to train with the world champion, and as of right now, my dogs haven’t seen sheep in 6 months!!  Ack!

I have, however, located a sheep farm about 40 minutes from here that allows people to train their dogs.  I don’t know how much they charge but I hope to get in touch with them this weekend to find out.  I am also going to call Kestrel’s breeder (1.5 hours away) to see if we can arrange a lesson with her.  So hopefully I’ll have some sheep news soon.  And we may still get to farm-sit later next week, providing the vehicle can be repaired.