Science, Technology and a little bit of Magic

Ruby woke me up at 5 AM on the morning of her procedure. I’d slept well, thanks to wax earplugs that subdued the neighbouring guests’ party music, and Ruby had too. When she was younger, Ruby alarm barked her way through most of our show travels, but this trip, she settled into our low rent motel life and is being a wonderful travel companion.

Dr. Sophia greets me at the door, her brown eyes friendly and reassuring over her masked face. The defrosting and preparation of the semen is time sensitive, so she has waited for our arrival. I watch and listen as she explains everything as she works. Curling puffs of vapour rise above the storage tank when she opens it. Liquid nitrogen maintains the semen at a storage temperature of -195 Centigrade. Using a clamp, she carefully draws out a a series of 5 inch long ‘straws’ and checks the labels. Defrosting takes very little time, and Sophia places a drop onto a slide, bends over the microscope and says “Oh, yes, I’m a happy camper! Would you like to have a look?”

I turn the focus knob and suddenly they appear, incredibly small and powerful little bundles of Rebus’ genetic material, dancing on the slide. For the first time, the whole project feels real. When I flew to Arkansas to pick up Ruby from Pat Boggs, I had confidence that she had chosen a good quality, healthy schipperke puppy for me but I had no thoughts of breeding her. Her litter mate sister, the lovely Jade, had been selected to be part of Kathy’s breeding program. Even though I showed her in conformation, I did it for the experience and not because I wanted to breed her. Yet here I was, five years later, watching these potential puppy lives, wriggling on a slide.

I lifted Ruby onto the table and we placed a wide strap under her hips to prevent her from sitting down during the procedure, which could injure her. Ruby stood calmly, munching treats, as Sophia inserted a short plastic tube into her vagina, through which the catheter would be guided. In moments, we were watching the screen, following the catheter as it threaded its way through the tube, the vaginal canal to the cervix, and through that doorway into the uterus. All of the tissues looked very strong and healthy. Sophia inserted the semen, withdrew the tube and we were done.

Well, not quite done.

After everything was put away and the Ruby was released from the strap, Dr. Sophia leaned over, placed her hands gently on Ruby’s hindquarters and intoned, “Maaaaake PUPPIES!”

Scratch a scientist and you’ll probably find there’s a little bit of a mystic, underneath.

Test test test!

Test test test! is not only good pandemic policy, it’s essential for a successful canine insemination. We want to time the sperm and egg meet-up as precisely as we can. We test the blood daily or every second day to observe a big hormonal spike upwards that indicates that she has ovulated. I have considerable confidence in Ruby’s reproductive health, but she has never been bred before, so I’m mildly nervous. Test, wait, test, wait..tick tock tick tock…

On Monday her levels were gradually climbing but were still relatively low at 7.3. Tuesday morning she tested at 9.4 and I couldn’t stand it anymore. We could have remained here on the island and continued to test, but I decided to pack up Ruby and catch the ferry to the mainland, where Dr. Sophia could take over. We’d be more settled into our accommodations and Sophia would have a chance to meet Ruby and I.

On Wednesday, Sophia drew the blood and I was the tech! That was quite a change from pandemic procedures at Sidney Animal Hospital, where I’d been handing her over to the staff at the front door and receiving her back after the blood draw! Sophia chose to draw from Ruby’s foreleg and it was my responsibility to hold her steady.

The next day, now that I knew my role, I worked with Ruby, clicking and rewarding her for presenting her foreleg, permitting the tourniquet to be placed on, (I used a poop bag (unused) and tied it tightly around her foreleg) allowing the tension and building duration. It was not ideal to have to train a cooperative care procedure that quickly, but Ruby has a strong history of positive reinforcement training and she learned quickly.

For Friday’s test, I still needed to use some physical restraint to hold her head away from nosing her foreleg but I was pleased at how well she tolerated most of the procedure. That afternoon, Sophia called with the good news that Ruby had indeed ovulated the day before, and we would inseminate on Sunday morning. It was a great relief to hear that!

Saturday, we wandered around Harrison in the rain



What a difference a day makes…

Part of the day, Ruby has been ensconced in a well appointed ex pen in the middle of our living room during her heat cycle. This affords her a good view of the kitchen, the centre of her universe. If Sami approaches, boyishly charming, she looks right past him (usually at me, the bringer of all good things) and if he hangs around for more than ten seconds, she provides a lip lift, soft growl or harmless air snap just to make things absolutely clear.

This morning, he came bouncing in from outside, play bowed and pranced around the pen. She looked right at him, dropped her ears down against her head and threw a little play bow right back at him.

Ahh, the power of hormones.

So now we’re on serious lockdown.

“Fun at Home” league

The Agility Association of Canada has started an online game for suffering Canadian agility addicts and Ruby and I are having a ton of fun with it. The courses are small…3 jumps and a tunnel on a 40 by 40 grid.

You can choose to buy one or all the courses (6) for all the levels (3). You can also choose to be judged and collect quallies towards titles in the league. The courses are cleverly built and present mind bending challenges for the human part of the team!

Here’s a video of Ruby and I running one of the courses this morning.

Check it out here!

Or here if you don’t do Facebook.

Shouting on the street

Yesterday, very early o’clock, I was standing outside Sidney Animal Hospital, shouting at my veterinarian, Dr. Nigel Bass. Shouting, because we were trying to be heard over the din of two cement trucks, barrels grinding, diesel engines roaring, as we planned Ruby’s next steps, socially distanced on the sidewalk. The Covid 19 pandemic adds a little spicy sauce to everything we do nowadays!

Her first blood draw was taken to test for her progesterone levels. These tests are vitally important to correctly time the insemination procedure. We will need to repeat that test a few times until the hormone levels tell us that she’s at her optimum moment for breeding.

Here’s a nice readable explanation of that.

I’ve just heard back from Dr. Bass about the results. She’s very low still and it’s his opinion that we can wait until Monday to do another blood test. I have monitored Ruby’s heat cycles in the past and they are quite ‘textbook’ in their regularity and characteristics, so I am comfortable with that decision.

I feel very fortunate to have Dr. Bass as my reproduction veterinarian. Not many vets choose this specialty and they are not easy to find. I am doubly fortunate because I have a second reproduction veterinarian, Dr. Sophia Fanous on the mainland. She will be doing the insemination procedure. I am grateful for them both.

Love my solar panels…

Dave Borlace highlighted some current data from IRENA,  International Renewable Energy Agency, tracking the renewable power generation costs from the last decade. The costs continue to drop steadily.

We decided to install solar panels in the summer of 2017 and I’m so grateful we did. They’ve been humming along, quietly producing electricity for us (and our neighbours when we create more than we need) for nearly three years.

A friend asked me a couple of weeks ago, if I needed to do any maintenance on them, and if they had caused me any difficulty in repairs or other maintenance. No. I wouldn’t even notice I had them, except that I love to look at them.

Thanks to Viridian Energy Cooperative, for their excellent guidance and installation work.




Learned a few things…

I enjoy Dave Borlace’s youtube channel.
Here’s a bit from his ‘what’s it about’ section.

“The channel is not a debating forum about whether Human Induced Climate Change is a real phenomenon or not. If that’s what you’re after then I can highly recommend chat forums on Social Media, where people on both sides of the argument go round and round in circles achieving precisely nothing at all.”

He’s done a short analysis of Gibb’s and Moore’s recent “Planet of the Humans” that I think is thoughtful and I learned more than a few things.

I have long accepted the truism that human overpopulation is a big part of our planetary problems, but he effectively shifted my thinking.

You can choose to support his work on Patreon, if you find him informative. I do.


Let me rest my eyes

Let me rest my eyes

On something beautiful

My dog, sleeping.

A tulip green budded,

Tight lipped against the still cool morning


slipping between the trees like a

guilty teenager,

Touching crevices of bark,

Lifting them out of the shadows,


Let me fill my mind with


weathered fingers reaching out for mine,

Tendersharp sparks

that drift and fall back into the


Let me rest my soul

Upon the soft sea

lifting and rising,


My small boat

We float and gaze at

white fluttering sails

Take me back.

Let me rest my eyes,

On something beautiful.

Just press “Paws”

Seldom, if ever, do people decide to just stop whatever they are engaged in; their work, their duty, their play, their goals, their dreams, their fears, their fantasies…their conscious lives.

Seldom, does one’s life reduce itself to its most basic elements.

An opportunity exists for us now to reflect; to sense ourselves without distraction. This is the opportunity that seekers of meaning; explorers of inner and outer spaces hunger for and here it is,

Plop, in the middle of our laps.

Cancel the meditation retreat and the ayahuasca, to induce an altered state and lead you into new awareness. Here it is, free of charge.

The bardo; the space after the exhale and just before the inhale.  A long precious moment in our shared existence, where everything has hit ‘pause’.

And when “play” is pressed again, will the same Music play on?

I wonder.

A new world


Sunlit tree bark

Pressed green cedar lace

Oyster pink blossoms, curving

around bees’ bottoms

Brown eyes soft, loosening

Once guarded secrets,

His mouth,

brimful of humour

The world is new again

And small.

I like it.

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