Archive for the ‘Dogs will be dogs’ Category

It’s February and winter is still on the lam.  Well yes, January brought some snow, but it’s hard to believe this is Wisconsin in winter.   Here at Sontheim temperatures hover in the balmy mid 40’s and occasionally tumble below 20 degrees.  The migratory birds are confused and the Canadian Geese can’t make up their minds if they should be coming or going.  On any given day you can watch great flocks fly South, only to see them return on the next day to head North again.  It is astonishing to watch such confusion and it makes me uneasy when I think of our Hummingbirds.

Other than experiencing the strange effects of climate change all else seems fine at Sontheim.  Our Sophia had a rough encounter with epilepsy last year while Sam and Lilly experienced good health and unfettered romps in the woods.  All we know is that the seizures started after Sophia had received her lyme disease booster and Dr. Sander, our trusted family vet, and I suspect that the vaccination may have been the trigger.

Sammy loves eye contact.

All together Sophia had four seizures, the first of which took place in the early morning hours on 8-24-11.  We tried medication which unfortunately she was not able to tolerate.  So I decided to treat her with food.   Sophia’s fourth and hopefully final seizure was on 11-01-11 and thankfully there has been no recurrence since.

Recently our Sam also gave us a scare when I heard him give a sharp yelp while he was out of sight.  All I know is that something must have happened to his rear end, because for several days thereafter he was not able to take the stairs.  In consultation with our vet I gave Sam some Rimadyl to ease his discomfort, and sure enough, it did not take him long to be his usual rambunctious self again.

While all things seem right on our beautiful patch of land high on the bluffs, nothing seems right in Wisconsin.  For a year now, our beautiful state has being torn apart by the divisive politics of Governor Walker and his cohorts in the State Legislature.

The Assembly just passed a mining bill which  will roll back long-established environmental safeguards.  All 183 pages of the bill were written behind closed doors by the republican majority and their mining company lobbyist.  As with the bill that stripped collective bargaining from workers’ rights last year, this bill is being rammed through the legislature without public input.  As it stands, bill AB 426 will give mining companies the right to rape our land by looking the other way when they divert water from our rivers, when they deplete our groundwater through high capacity wells, when they pollute the air and dump mining slag into our pristine wetlands.  And all of this for the mere promise of a few hundred jobs.  Or should we also mention the millions of mining dollars that are flowing into the coffers of the six republican incumbents who are being recalled by the people of Wisconsin!!!

All across our nation, the fight is on to preserve citizens’ rights and quality of life.  2012 has barely begun, but it is already clear that it needs a lot more than a just little bit of love.   Oh Charlie Brown, how I envy you Your Christmas Tree.

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The month of June has been busy here and a Sontheim update is long overdue.

The bird breeding season is in full swing and there are nests all around the house, in the bushes, in the trees, the meadows and in the prairie.  There even is a new swallows nest attached to the light fixture high above the front door.

Our hummingbird population has more that doubled with the first batch of fledglings that arrived at the feeders in mid June.  It is pure pleasure to watch these fat little jewels congregate for a drink of sugar-water.  At this stage in their development, the baby Hummers are very sociable.  Only later do they become protective of their turf.  I suppose there is a similarity to human behavior in that.  The Hummer moms are busy with their second set of eggs and will soon again have hungry chicks to feed.

Two days ago, before the big heat hit, we enjoyed a romp through the meadow.  Sammy and Lilly way ahead of Sophia and me.  My Berner girl and I could be considered slow-pokes when it comes to sprinting along the path.  And I watch with fascination when the dogs stop at their favorite places to chomp on tall leaves of grass.  And I wonder what Walt Whitman would have made of that.

Sam, the undisputed leader of the pack.

Now, that the tropical heat has us confined indoors there is ample time to sit at the computer and attend to our blog.

A big part of our recent silence is the effort it took to form a much-needed MS support group for our neck of the Wisconsin woods.  🙂 And I am happy to report that the group is well on its way to host monthly meetings that will commence in August.  Our website is up and the PR effort is in full swing.  But more of that later.

And speaking of Multiple Sclerosis, it is always good NOT to take NO for an answer.  Instead there is the YES I CAN as Janet Echelman demonstrates so beautifully through her art.


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We woke to a forty degree rise in temperature at sunrise this morning and there will be no outing for the dogs today.  The hummingbird feeders are replenished and the Orioles have found equilibrium in their ravenous consumption of grape jelly and sugar-water.

A sad thing happened yesterday when we found a dead Hummer girl whose entire beak was wedged through the screening under the porch.   We where shocked to find her there, because the spot she hit is a very secluded part of the screened in area under the porch.  As you know, Sontheim is a place “where hummingbirds play” and every effort is made to provide a safe environment for our beloved visitors.  However, sometimes unexpectedly, things go wrong.

When the same tragic hummingbird death occurred last summer on precisely the same spot, we thought it was just an awful fluke and would not likely repeat, but this second death questioned the wisdom of keeping the screens in place.  So, early this morning, we took the screens down.  Of course, that means that my office door will have to be kept shut to keep out the bugs and Felix, our inquisitive cat, will lose his favorite out-door play area where he enjoys an occasional romp with the dogs.  Poor Felix will have to be restricted to the indoors.

A few days ago Lilly and Sam enjoyed the yummy Spring grass on our morning walk through the meadows.While Sophia found the perfect spot for a roll after the walk.


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Two years ago we brought our first Bernese Mountain Dog home.  We had driven all the way to Dallas TX, where a super shy Berner girl was being fostered by a member of the BARC rescue group.  (For details see the March 2009 posts.)  We brought her home and named her Sophia.

After two years as a member of our family, Sophia has learned a lot.  She has become an excellent office dog who loves to lie under my desk while I do my work.

Sophia under the desk with Sammy off to the side.

She loves the out-doors, especially when there is some stinky spot to be found with the possibility to roll in it. 

She has literally become my shadow and follows at my heels everywhere I go.  And most of all, she comes running whenever there is a chance to collect some petting.

Oh No, mom is petting Sam!

My sweet Sophia, you have made great strides in adjusting to a normal life.  Our family would be incomplete without you.

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Quite a bit has been said about the importance dogs have played in human evolution and it comes as no surprise that many people love their dogs.  That love seems to be especially stong in the folks who are devoted to the Bernese Mountain Dog.

I learned this fact after becoming a Berner mom myself.  It has been almost two years since we brought Sophia home from her BARC foster home in Dallas, where she had spent several months recuperating after her traumatic start at a puppy-mill;  and as you all know, our little Berner girl has been joined by a bouncing Berner boy not too long ago.  So the question is this, what makes this breed so irresistible?  And why is it that there is no such thing as a One Berner Household, provided there is room for a second, a third, and maybe even a fourth?

Sammy on the couch with Sophia by his side.

The addition of our second Berner was initially strategic.  Our girl had come a long way from the frightened pup she had been when she first arrive, and she had learned to love her new home and family.  But something was still missing.  She did not fit the description of the Bernese:  loving, outgoing, goofy, fun to be with…  None of that seemed to be possible in her live.

Our Berner girl needed help in the final adjustment to a normal life.

When Sam arrived, he entered our lives in true Berner fashion:  a big boy with an even bigger heart, he walked in and claimed us as his own.  There is no shyness about this boy and no hesitation.  And ever so slowly he has done precisely what we hoped he would do – he has helped Sophia to a nearly normal life.

Today our Berner girl showers us with Berner love and she comes running to claim her share of  hugs and kisses.  She is practicing the Berner-lean and often now she shows a goofy smile and participates in Sammy’s adorable silliness.

Luckily a member of the Berner community has produced a video that makes my point most clearly and I’d like to share it here.  Watch and enjoy:


Before you click, please note that there is a slight problem with the video link, but if you type in “Bernese go together” at the Youtube screen, the video will pop up.  Or better yet, if you go to Cyndi’s comment at the end of the post you will find the video ready for viewing.  Please also note that the video has a slight delay at the beginning. 

Many thanks to Lori in Minnesota for this wonderful video.  It will make you smile.

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