Flashy Solo…

Dexter and Solo

A little flash gallery of Solo photos, along with a handful of Solo and Dexter together.

Click here to open in new window.

Timing is a Bitch, and the Romanov French Bulldog on Film

Girlish Good Looks

I had been hoping for a nice, long break between litters, but as usual my girls have decided that they’d prefer to take my best laid plans and toss them out the window. To whit, Paris and Journey, the only two girls I had solid plans to breed this year, have both decided to come into season. Since they might not come in again for another 18 months, it’s now or never, in which case I choose ‘now’, of course.

So, I’m skipping Wiarton today to haul Paris in for progesterone, LH and draminski testing. Since we are breeding her via frozen semen (Rebel’s frozen semen, in case you were wondering), timing is of the absolute essence. We’ll only inseminate her once, surgically. And yes, it’s expensive, thanks for asking. Like the oh so funny quote says –

Want to know how to make a small fortune breeding dogs? Start with a large fortune.

I’ll start hauling Journey in on Monday, when her blood flow is heavier – she’s in the very first days of her cycle, so we have time still. I’m still on the fence about who I’m breeding her to, although the list is narrowed down to two dogs. In both cases, we’ll be shipping in fresh semen via overnight express, and crossing our fingers that no one at customs delays the packages ‘for inspection’. Yes, it’s happened, thanks for asking.

That’s probably more than anyone wanted to know, isn’t it? In case it isn’t, and you want to know more about the fertility cycle of the canine, try this link.

The Romanov French Bulldog on Film

Excerpted from today’s Toronto Star –

At the Galleries

Any newcomer to the short, succinct and silent film collages by T. J. Wilcox might assume they’re all about film editing finesse and technique….

…Yet even more central to Wilcox’s practice is the understanding of the varied ways in which each different film form reinvents the narrative….

Garlands 1-6 (2003-2005) consists of six film mini-collections, each with a number of different vignettes explored in a variety of ways that seamlessly relate to one another.

One of the Garlands includes a visit to three favourite sites where a woman named Ann – one of the narrator’s “four parents” – wants her ashes scattered; the morbid story of Ortino, a Romanov daughter’s pet French bulldog buried along with members of the Russian royal family following their July 16, 1917, assassination by revolutionaries; and, last, a snippet of crude animation.

Years back, I wrote an article for the French Bullytin detailing the story of Anastasia Romanov and her French Bulldog, Ortino. I’ve reprinted the article in its entirety below.

Tatiana and Ortino

Anyone with a small child has probably seen the animated Disney© film “Anastasia”, a retelling of the tale of the youngest daughter of the Russian Imperial family. While highly fictionalized (to say the least), the cartoon has fueled new interest in the true stories of Tsar Nicholas Romanov and Empress Aleksandra. A recurring theme in stories of the lives of the royal family is their love for pets of all types. Historical records show that they owned a virtual menagerie of dogs of assorted breeds, as well as numerous cats, parrots and fish.

Of all the family’s dogs, few are as frequently mentioned as “Ortino”, Princess Tatiana’s French Bulldog. Tatiana was the second oldest of the Tsar’s daughters, and was seventeen years old at the time Ortino came into her life. Excerpts from Tatiana’s diary detail how she obtained him, and how very fond she was of her pet –

1914 October 12

“Anya brought me from Malama a small French Bulldog (Ortino). It is a very cute little thing – I am so happy.”

1914 October 15

“We had dinner with father, mother and NP (Sablin, a family friend). The dog was sitting with me… he is adorable.”


Tatiana, Anastasia and Ortino on the grounds of Alexandar Palace

In the strict confines of the palace, the royal pets were allowed amazing freedom to behave just as Frenchies in the most casual households still do today. Ortino and Olga’s cat Vaska were special favorites of the family, and had free run of the palace. In a scene familiar to all owners of French Bulldogs, Ortino and Vaska would chase one another across furniture and table tops, knocking over priceless objects and scattering papers in the process. Rather than being scolded, these antics proved the royal family with a great deal of amusement.

Tatiana mentions Ortino’s playful nature in letters to her father, saying “My doggy Ortino was running about the room and playing during the teatime. It is so funny and sweet”, and “We are sitting in Mother’s room after dinner. Olga and Mother are playing “Colorito” and Ortino is running about the room like a mad dog”. Hardly a letter or diary entry fails to make some little mention of Ortino, and her words convey eloquently how much she treasured him. She describes Ortino as snoring gently at her feet, and even indulgently describes his occasional “accident”.

Ortino was Tatiana’s constant companion and she was rarely seen without him at her side. Like most Frenchies, Ortino insisted he be allowed to sleep with Tatiana at the foot of her bed every night. Apparently, some things about French Bulldogs never change – Ortino snored quite loudly, which disturbed Tatiana’s sister Olga, with whom she shared a room. Anastasia complained about it in her journal, writing “When we are asleep at night, all of us sisters are kept awake by Ortino, Tatiana’s French Bulldog, who snores. We have tried everything, but nothing works!” Ortino and Vaska would also disturb the sisters sleep with the occasional game of tag, but Tatiana could not be persuaded to have Ortino sleep with the other family dogs.

It seems even royalty are not immune to “Frenchie Fever” – the feeling that “If one is fun, more will be marvelous!” The Romanov’s owned at least two French Bulldogs, as this excerpt from Grand Duchess Anastasia’s diary details.

1914 November 30

Faberge Ortino

Faberge Rock Crystal
Satue of Ortino
From the Hermitage
Museum Collection

“Now we’ve got another charming French (Bull) puppy, Bille. She is so sweet. She is so charming when she plays with (Tsarevitch) Aleksey’s dog. They are quite mad and race across the floor so fast they tumble into walls and furniture. We cannot stop laughing at them.”

As pampered imperial pets, simple leather collars would simply not do. Both Olga’s cat Vaska and Ortino wore custom collars encrusted with semi precious stones, hand crafted with Faberge, the Royal jeweler. Tatiana also had a collection of figures of Ortino carved by Faberge in semi precious stones and rock crystal. These reminders of a Princess’ love for her pet have been dispersed around the world, and one may be found in the collection of the Cleveland Museum.

The placid life of the Romanov’s came to and end after the Bolshevik revolution in 1917, when they were forced into exile by the new communist regime. Even during this most difficult time in her life, Tatiana refused to part with Ortino. He is last mentioned in first hand accounts of family’s flight, which detail Tatiana “struggling to carry Ortino while dragging a suitcase through ankle deep mud and a howling crowd at the Yekaterinaburg train station”. Just two months later, at midnight on June 16th 1918, Tatiana and her entire family were executed.

In the late ’90’s, excavations were done to recover the remains of the royal family from the mine shaft where they had been flung after their executions. There, among their bones, were found the remains of what was described as a ‘small terrier type dog’ and which are assumed to be those of Ortino. His bones were taken along with those of the Royal family, and interred with due ceremony and respect in the family crypt in Moscow. Even in death, Ortino and Tatiana have not been separated.

Snowy Day Solo Video

Snowy days make me want to break out the video camera (well, actually they make me want to break out the credit card and book a trip to Costa Rica, but this is cheaper and doesn’t involve my freaking out over the Atlantic because we’ve hit turbulence and I think the plane is about to do a “Lost” and plunge into the Ocean, which causes me to rip the top layer of skin off of Sean’s arm with my nails because he was stupid enough to try and hold my hand to ‘console’ me).

Umm, anyways.

Here’s a video of Solo, doing cute stuff. Bonus feature – Banjo music!!

(Oh, and what do you think of the new theme? I needed something with a wider layout, no matter how colorful the old one was. Input welcome, please!)

The Surreal Life, Country Edition – Or, how I learned to give up Lattes and love Durham

Ruth Gordon almost ran me overLast night I dropped in at our local grocery to grab a few groceries, and was almost run over by a chain smoking, wig wearing Ruth Gordon clone driving a mini van. This isn’t as unusual as it would seem, since the average age in my tiny little town seems to be about 101.

Seniors who can barely see over the steering wheel of their cadillacs regularly veer into traffic without signaling (or even noticing other drivers), and parking spaces are considered to be suggestions more than hard and fast rules. The busiest joint in Durham is the Legion (that’s Canada’s version of a VFW hall), and the crossing guard by the local school seems to escort more old guys in rascal scooters across the road than she does school children.

Drive through Durham, and your initial impression is of a typical small town in rural Ontario – not a lot of money, slightly down at the heels, and with a rapidly aging population. You need to look closer to see the changes that are taking place here.

Driving along the main roads and side-roads in Durham you’re struck by the cheerful cacophony of hand lettered signs for eggs and produce.
There is something else distinctive about this farming neighbourhood. You’ll notice that organic farmland is not manicured. You don’t see perfect rolling hills of green or gold, you see nature in its natural state. Wildflowers are abundant on an organic farm. The fields are white with Queen Ann’s Lace or covered in the purplish haze of wild alfalfa.

From ‘A Day in the Life of an Organic Meadow Farm

There’s a paradigm shift taking place in this tiny little town on the shores of the Saugeen River. We’re at the center of the organic farming boom, and this is bringing in an influx of forward thinking, new generation farmers, some of whom sport tattoos and multiple piercings. As one local resident is quoted saying “I wasn’t sure what to make of them at first, but they sure do seem to know their farming”.

They sure do know how to court controversy, too. There’s a local dairy farm where you can buy ‘shares’ in a cow, which entitles you to a share of raw, unpasteurized milk. Fans of raw milk say it tastes better and is healthier than pasteurized or processed milk, but selling it is illegal in Ontario, as local Durham organic dairy farmer Michael Schmidt found out in 2006.

Raw milk legalization bill defeated in December
Issues around raw milk gained a high profile late last year after a raid on the southwestern Ontario farm of Michael Schmidt.

Schmidt, who runs a cow-sharing raw milk operation near Durham, Ont., had his equipment seized on Nov. 21 and was charged with operating a milk plant without a licence.

A number of prominent supporters including celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy and Ontario Finance Minister Greg Sorbara spoke out on Schmidt’s behalf during his month-long hunger-strike protest.

From ‘Got raw milk? Don’t share, Ontario dairy board warns farmer‘, on cbc.ca

With the organic farmers and their families have come more interesting local businesses. Chicory Common sells organic produce and foods, as well as vegetarian options. Their cafe features vegan and fish based lunches, with dinner served on Friday nights. Poetry slams, lectures on greening your house, special orders from small micro cheeseries and farmers and speeches by Green politicians keep the cafe full five days a week.

Bike FaceBike Face sells high end road, mountain and recumbent bikes, along with hand cycles. Bike Face sponsors the Rocky River Cycling Festival, with demos, triathlon workshops, film nights and camping. We see a ton of cyclists in this area in the summer, due to the abundance of accessible trails and roads with wide shoulders (originally there to accommodate Mennonite horse and buggies).

The same trails that bring in snowmobilers in the winter, draw mountain and cross country cyclists in the summer.

Our local art gallery is set at the end of a long, lovely suspension bridge that spans the Saugeen river. We wandered in last summer, expecting to see quilts and water colors of flowers. What we found was an exhibit of kinetic art, featuring ‘Science of the Quotidian’, an installation by Christopher Flowers, and the quirky and ground breaking film ‘The Way Things Go’, by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss.

No quilts in sight, and the only water colors were a selection of prints from the local artists commune/collective, located just behind the gallery in an old converted grain mill.

Durham might not have a movie theatre, but we do have the Symphony Barn, complete with cattle, birds and an assortment of cats. It’s one of the venues of the ‘Fabulous Festival of Fringe Film‘, our local film festival. The films range from independent to animation, and are shown outdoors, in the barn or at our local retro drive-in.

Durham also has the ‘Words Aloud‘ festival of spoken word and storytelling. With entries open to almost anyone willing to step up to the mike, there’s a lively mix of poetry slams, verbal histories and folk lore, with some political action thrown in for good measure.

Against all of this — this mix of new tribe organic pioneers, displaced Torontonian artists and professors, and an aging population of middle class, blue collar workers, we sit on the edges of the largest concentration of Old Order Mennonites in Canada.

Our store parking lots have shelters for horses and buggies, and we share our sidewalks with Old Order women in ankle length dresses and velcro closing tennis shoes.

It’s a rich and fertile mix that encourages and nurtures iconoclastic personalities. What better place for a post punk geek grrl dog breeder to put down roots?