Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Day of the Vi'Skaly's Dogs and Life Before Ralle

Photo by Daniel at Vi'Skaly's
Young and old they gathered on a beautifully sunny morning in Löberöd near Lund, at Kennel Vi'Skaly's.  Dogs and owners and caretakers like ourselves, everyone proud of being in the company of these great big wonderful dogs.

Our personal story in regards to Great Pyrenees started in the Sierra mountains in California when we lived in the the middle of the forest in Mariposa not far from Yosemite National Park.  We lived there with four horses, some Pygmy Goats, a turkey by the name of Veronica, a large flock of chickens and also a flock of Guinea fowl, six cats and two or sometimes three dogs. not to mention the deer and the squirrels and a large flock of peafowl.

The little house in the forest
Yosemite "A Magical Place"

Along with our more or less domesticated family members we lived with bobcats, coyotes, black bear, mountain lions, raccoons, fox, just to mention a few of those wild critters living in the forest all around us.
We fed our chickens.  Then everyone in the neighborhood came to feast.

When we first moved to the mountains we brought our two rather cityfied cats, rescued from the University of California at Davis' hog barn, and two dogs, Silas the Deer Hound and Chico, David's "little" Rottweiler.  Then it did not take long for our family to grow.

I counted over 35 Pea Fowl at our place at one time.
They started having their babies at our place.
They were magnificent.
A couple of pea chicks.  We had them well trained.
Guinea Fowl chased away the coyotes.
These guys came to have their babies.
These cuties found the sunflower seeds.

When Chico and Silas had gone on to the great big "dog park in the sky" we considered living without dogs.  Heck, that did not work for long, simply it was not "normal" for us. We had many incidents when we lost chickens as well as Guineas to fox, bobcat and coyote  so we started looking into what kind of dog would best suit our situation with all those animals.  Chico had also been known to "snitch" a chicken now and then, being absolutely unable to not "play" with them if they ended up on the "wrong" side of the fence.  I would be horrified when we came home to a pile of feathers and an obviously "guilty looking" Chico!

We considered several of the flock protecting breeds!  Maremmas, Akbash, Komodors, Anatolians, etc. Talked to breeders and read books and reports trying to learn as much as we could about the different personality traits, various maturity levels and on and on before we finally settled for Great Pyrenees. Contacted and spoke, what must have seemed endlessly,  to Brigitte Doxtator of Oneida Acres in Michigan.
Rontu, in need of a good brushing!
Sweet Una

Rontu and kitty Diffy were buds.
"Boxer" found us at the Feed Store on Road 426 !
Our horses loved the forest.
Saga and Rontu.  Our family also loved the mountains.
Looking back on our animal critter friends we were great polluters of the environment and didn't even know it.

She is a truly devoted and knowledgeable breeder of Great Pyr's and she guided us through this process with patience like Job's!  We ended up with a pair of her dogs and named them Una and Rontu and as they say "the rest is history"! Once Una and Rontu became responsible adults we never lost a bird. The Peafowl smart as they were knew to come and have their babies at our place, realizing somehow that it was a safe haven.

There is nothing like a Pyrenees.  These gentle giants are hard to resist.  We used to say that we wanted to try every single breed of dog, full well knowing ones life just is not long enough to be able to accomplish that goal, but we have given it a good go.  We have lived with several wonderful breeds of dogs over the years.

Now stuck on Great Pyr's.  This Love Story to be continued!  So as to not make this "chapter" so long your eyes will fall out, feast instead on some of Davids pictures............ and our story about the delightful and amazing new relationship with Ingela, Pernilla and Daniel at Kennel VI'SKALY'S will follow. There is a lot to tell!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

In honor of Mothers Day in Sweden!

It is hard not to think of how much I have learned from several significant women in my life. My Mother Number 1, Elsa-Maja who ran my life with an iron fist and had a bit of the "spare the rod, spoil the child" philosophy. Never let your child become "big-headed" by telling her, she looked cute, pretty or nice. And ALWAYS expect more! Work hard, earn your keep, bring your straw to the stack etc. etc. Advice that have served me well. However, having been told I too looked nice when I went out all dressed up on a Saturday evening would have contributed  something to my self confidence, but oh no, in those days that would not have been acceptable!

My Mother Number 2 is my Auntie Helmi! Growing up much of my time was spent at her and my Uncle Gunnar's house, as well as at my Mormor and Morfar's. The two families lived in the same apartment house so I could easily move between the two.  It was more fun to be at Helmis however, since there was so much going on there, she was always baking and sewing, had lot's of visitors but best of all my cousin Jan-Otto was the big draw. We played together a lot, got into endless trouble, created mischief galore, I was allowed to get dirty without being scolded. It was for me such a happy place to be.

Mother Number 3 was Berit, my best friend Mother! She thought I was as "special" as my Mother Elsa-Maja felt that my best friend was. Berit supported me in a way my own Mother could not. So, ultimately I managed to received ALL  the elements of a well  rounded adolescence, just not from one single person. I owe them all a debt of gratitude as I figured out how to be and how not to be.

My two year older sister was always a bit of a Mother as well. She, like the oldest child in a household so often do, took on the burden of "teacher", "disciplinarian", "boss" wether I approved of that behaviour  or not. But for sure she was and still also acts as my  protector. Her home has over the years always been a most welcoming and comfortable place, a place of refuge,a home filled with with loads of laughter!

It is difficult to not reflect on how differently I brought up my own three most remarkable and  amazing children, for whom I have so much respect! It is difficult to not reflect on the difference in their child rearing. Being a Mother is a BIG job!

There are other women who have loomed large in my life, guiding, supporting, listening and sharing skills and advice. A special teacher, a special neighbour, a special customer even and always my most special and cherished friend! Thank you for sharing wisdom, thanks to some of you for sharing your Mothers. Those were BIG gifts! I am a lucky person to have and to have had each and every one of you and them, as a part of my life experience.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

People are the PROBLEM

We got up Monday morning and as always David makes a pot of coffee then goes out to fetch the paper.  No, we have not taught Ralle to do that yet, in case you wonder.

Front page news = a BIG prominent article reads: "Study show large dogs are as bad for the environment as an SUV ". Are they kidding ??  One of the first things that comes to MY mind then is what is a big dog? Since that is relative. So dependent on your point of view and experience if you get what I mean.  We have what I would say is a big dog as Ralle weighs in at about 110 / 115 pounds.

The news hit "like a blue whale in the bathtub" to quote a writer with a view similar to mine who writes for the regional paper.  Where do they come up with these statistics?  According to the article two scientists in New Zealand did the research.  Robert and Brenda Vale at Victoria University.

 They figured out how many resources and how much energy is used by various domestic pets and compared these to how much energy an SUV or a City Jeep they call it uses.  The usage is then measured in how much land is required to produce this amount of energy and the results needles to say came as a shock.  So, from an environmental perspective according to this study it is worse to get a dog than an SUV!  So, what do you think, should we exchange our dog and all get, what the heck, how about a Hummer instead?

The following day a reporter in the Helsingborg paper who writes the "Animal Section" reports, that no more did the newspaper hit the mailboxes in this region and ideas were pouring in to the editors desk suggesting various ways to solve the problem.  Start taxing dog owners according to the size of their dog, the same way car owners here are taxed for the cars they own.  If you use a lot of gas and produce a lot of pollutants the more expensive your license tag.

Needless to say no one touched on the subject of what kind of dog food is being fed etc.  But, I suppose that is coming next.  Along with, as some also suggested, catalytic converters for dogs.
The first thing David said when I mentioned this article to him was: "perhaps we should get rid of people, or at least SOME people"?!

I for one vote to keep the dogs and can honestly say that Ralle our BIG Polar Bear of a dog is worth his weight in gold, just as all our other dogs before him!  They have never deceived me, they have never lied to me and have been steadfast and devoted friends no matter how my hair looked and regardless of what brand of denim pants I wore.

So, I suggest and I say, that it is we the people who are the threat to the environment, we need to change the way we live, rather than changing the size of our dogs or turning them in for  a Zebra Finch as a replacement pet.  That is what I think, not that I suppose anyone really cares.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Ryan the Runner!

We have an accomplished runner,  a Champion Runner at that, in our family!  How proud we are of this kid who has worked so hard to succeed in track and field. Yea Ryan!!  Eat your heart out, move over  Johan Wissman.  Among other accomplishments he and his team members are number one in the nation currently running the 4X100 and they will be traveling to Ohio later  this month to compete.  Exciting for them as well as for us who are watching from near and far.  Go Ryan GO!!!

It is easy to look backwards and think of all or some of the HIGH points ever since Ryan was born.  The first one being at the hospital where he was born watching Ray so very  happy carrying him from the delivery room to the nursery.  Somehow I have a sense that Ryan was born determined.  When he had something in mind he did not waver, he DID IT!  Often with simple stubborn determination, sometimes with grace, other times with a bit of "got 'ya"!   He has always been good at having fun and being a tease.

Left to Right: Gary, Linnea, Kellie, Ryan hanging on the gate in Mariposa

I can tell stories about "historic" video games between Ryan and Boompa David that will make you laugh.  Sometimes those games made David pretty mad even when Ryan was around seven years old. Ryan was relentless, he wanted to WIN!  He would distract David, then clinch and score.........

Ryan as a youngster was one of the most energetic of the bunch.  If we went for a walk in the forest he walked twice as far as the rest of us, zigzagging every which way!  If we walked along the creek he would be IN the creek.  He was a fabulous helper during log splitting never seeming to get tired getting one more load of split wood into the wheel barrow.

Ryan was a Cub Scout, and very much involved with theater arts in grammar school, where he had some larger roles in several musical productions, and was always involved with sports including Pop Warner Football!  Played football and ran track in Junior as well as High School for the Hay Balers at San Benito in Hollister, California earning his letterman's jacket and letters for both track and football.

Ryan is soon at the end of his second year at The University of Redlands a place he is very proud and happy to be part of and to show off.  The school was founded in 1909 and built on "Inspiration Hill" it is a Green College something Ryan is proud of and likes and naturally athletics is firmly established as an important part of his education.  Personally, I like their Mission Statement, it reads as follows:
"The University of Redlands aims to mould the mind and the heart so that in the conflict of life, keenness and conscience shall go forth together.  It seeks to impress its pupils with the idea that making men is more important than making money; that it is better to live life than make a living."

He is not only an athlete as he also plays the drums as well as the guitar and is a member of a band by the name of "Left Over Pie" ......... go figure?  In other words he is a busy guy our "Ryan".

Ryan on drums
Visiting the campus in the beginning of the year along with Fredrik, Saga and Elliott it is obvious how glad Ryan is to be there and very proudly showed us around the various buildings, parks and grounds, and the beautiful track.  While there Elliott, the little squirt, ran around the track two and a half times without stopping impressing the coaches to no end.  He was recruited on the spot, at the tender age of four and a half!!  See it's in the genes!  Now did I tell you that when I was in seventh grade going to Abrahamsbergs School I was the fastest girl running the two hundred meters for one season.  Those were my fifteen minutes of fame and THAT is where it all started!!!!  It is in the genes ha, ha,ha......

Left to right: Maria (Ryans Mom), Elliot, Ryan, Saga

Lucky as I am with the three best "kids" who all got in touch for Mothers Day we were kidding about how we used to have these races running home from the Foppianos down at the corner of our block. John reminded me that he was 13 years old when he finally beat me home. He our tall long legged boy and his short little Mom.  We had some fun we did!!