Sunday, April 30, 2017

A Royal Farewell To The Duchess of D-fa

Annie, AKA The Huntress, AKA The Duchess left us this last Sunday night after a sudden, but as is the way with our beloved aged dogs, not unexpected decline in health.

Too dignified for games of fetch, too precious to chew sticks and as one not to suffer fools The Duchess lived her life among her people - and by her people we mean anyone with food and/or willing to adore her. Funny about her feet and never sure whether she liked her ears scratched or not (some days yes, some days no) Annie delighted us with her peculiar ways. Only in later life did she accept that opening doors herself was acceptable to someone of her standing. Prior to that, Annie would stand at a half open door waiting for someone to open it fully for her entrance. Her title of Duchess earned, not merely bestowed.

The shuffling of back paws that had become a familiar sound across our floors and that we had likened to a small Japanese lady wearing fine silk slippers became more of a sway as she became less steady on her feet. Overnight she lost her voracious appetite and aptitude for speed eating (if ever a member of the nobility was to enter a village pie eating contest, she would have been a clear winner), and it became clear to us that whatever mystery was happening inside was ready to take her from us. Our only remaining wish for her was that she left peacefully, with dignity and with us by her side.

So, in gracious style, befitting a creature of such nobility Annie chose her day carefully. Our remarkable girl, the colour of fallen pine needles and with eyes that melted hearts, chose a warm day under blue skies and blazing with the colours of autumn to match her own colour palette on which to say her goodbyes to her adoring public.

She selected a Sunday, her favourite day of the week due to its high likelihood of a roast dinner being served, with extra vegetables and gravy in the pan for her (and much to her chagrin in later life, to be shared with M'Lord Reacher).

The Duchess finally left us with her own spectacular light display on Sunday evening 23 April during a rare show of the Southern Lights over our home in Wanaka, New Zealand. We like to think that was the universe calling her magnificence home.

The Huntress who became The Duchess lies now alongside her beloved Jack, under the cherry tree at The Huts. We placed her with the wool from her bed and her coat so the Duchess need never feel under-dressed in public or uncomfortable in her quarters, and with a piece of smoked chicken should her appetite return. The two of them, our very own Royal Couple, overlook the lake we all love in a place full of fond memories together.

If she could have talked, we hope she would have whispered 'thank you' in our ear. Well Our Duchess, let's just say the pleasure was all ours.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Every Dog Has His Day

They say that every dog has his day, and Friday the 4th of October was our beloved white-whiskered Jack's day. In his own dignified and peaceable way, Jack made it known that this was his time and that he was ready to leave us.

Mark and Jack with The Dutchess - waiting for a sausage roll delivery on His Day
Over the past two weeks we have had time to consider exactly how Jack came to this decision. He chose a day that was warm and sunny and perfect for lying about on the lawn, and a day where our human schedules were easily put aside. He chose a day where our good friends could all gather and farewell him and where there was a good chance of there being sausage rolls and chips on offer for lunch.

Every dog lover wrestles with this decision. But Jack sent us a clear sign.  Not one of distress or pain or urgency. He sent a sign that what was happening inside him was now in its own motion, past its tipping point from being hidden to being obvious and irreversible in its nature.

Jack's Cherry Tree
Our noble, beautiful, distinguished gentleman now rests beneath a newly planted cherry tree on 10 beautiful acres of land overlooking a vineyard and our lovely Lake Wanaka. A special place for us for so many reasons, but to Jack this spot was simply the only place in his 13 years that he ever managed to actually catch a rabbit (despite giving chase with characteristic doggy optimism countless times over his life). He caught that rabbit by doing what he did best - waiting in patience, snoozing and knowing when the time would be right - and that rabbit ran right into his yawning mouth. He was 12 years and 10 months old at the time. Jack, our fur lined philosopher - when the dog is ready, the rabbit will come.

We knew every hair on his head, every wrinkle in his brow and the meaning of every sigh, wag and snuffle. Annie, The Dutchess has never known a life here without him. She too is lost without his sentinel's presence. Everyone who loves a dog knows this feeling.

We wrapped Jack in his favourite Ice Barker in case it is chilly on the way to the next life that he alights. In our adaptation of the ancient tradition of burying a dog with a piece of fat in their mouth and wishing that in their next life a dog be reincarnated as a human, we placed his favourite treat of dried beef lung with him and wished than in his next life he comes back to bring all that he has again to our world as only a Dog can.

Every spring when that cherry tree signals the warmth of spring that every Ridgeback loves we will see again the Dog that changed our lives. We are pretty sure there will be no rabbits around that tree, just Jack snoozing and waiting for the world to come around to his way of thinking. No more tears now, just good memories and snippets of philosophy from the World According to Jack that bring us laughter and insight in equal measure. Cheers to you Jack.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

It's Only Fur

Had an interesting conversation today while sitting outside our local cafe with a man who was amazed that our three dogs were sitting there, all with jackets on. Jack, our old boy was wrapped up in his Ice-Barker, Goose the Vizsla Pup was sporting his Puff-Doggy, and the Dutchess was in her one of a kind black Arma-Doggo (she is a couture kind of girl).

This gentleman, let's call him Bob was dressed head to foot in warm and wet weather gear - a sensible choice given it is both cold and wet in Wanaka today. It is pouring with rain and about 4 degrees (C). Bob looked like a smart guy, but then he opened his mouth and proceeded to comment how ridiculous it was that dogs were wearing jackets. Once I got over the shock of being called ridiculous by a perfect stranger (usually people don't say that kind of thing to me until they know me much better) I pulled myself up to my full 4ft11 and 3/4 and enquired how so. His response - they have fur. Duh.

Resisting the urge to ask Bob if he had any body hair of his own (which I am pretty sure he did) and if so then why he had bothered to put on clothes, I smiled.

Ever since we started D-fa Dogs there is have been those that think we're crazy. The conversations usually go something like this:
"Oh, you make jackets for dogs (awkward smile), how cute, like the little Paris Hilton ones with diamonds on them?"
"No" I reply. "We make real gear, technical gear, for dogs out in the outdoors. Just like you wear, but for dogs." (cue confusion).
"But they have fur!" 

Humans have such remarkable powers of observation, yes they have fur,  but humans for all our frontal lobes sometimes lack a bit of common-sense. Surely if fur was that great, we'd all be wearing it, always, for everything. But we don't, because it's not that good at keeping you comfortable in a human world.

While it might appear that we 'just' make jackets for dogs, I don't feel that way at all. To my mind we do much more. We keep the cold from our old dog's bones, we keep our young dogs visible as they bound around the hills, we warm working and hunting dogs between jobs, we keep dogs afloat in water they didn't ask to be in and we make sure that the unconditional love dogs have for us can endure whatever human conditions we decide to expose them to. Now with the launch of HeliDog, our rescue harness, I'd like to think that we also protect the dogs that do the hard yards in the mountains as they are winched from helicopters and riding on skidoos.

So, hairy Bob, yes they do have fur but that's just window dressing. Beneath that fur is flesh and blood and heart. Fur doesn't make our dogs invincible. It just makes them hairy.

But I will agree with Bob about one thing. Fur or fluff, scruffy or smooth, and all fur aside dogs are superhuman. Jack's superpower is now the ability to sleep through everything and Annie's the ability to hear an apple being sliced from over 1km. Goose is only 13 weeks old so his superpowers are pretty underdeveloped so far (as is his fur), but pooping his bodyweight and wriggling appear to be early contenders for his special skill set.

Right now the three of them are sleeping, naked, by the fire while their jackets are hanging in the laundry to dry ... and if that's crazy then so be it, I wouldn't have it any other way.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Grey Whiskers at the End of the Bed

Our Poster Boy
You get a puppy, they win you over and all the time you know they are going to break your heart. But still we do it, again and again. Despite the certainty of the broken heart on 'that day' I would not give up one day of my dog's life with me simply because we know they will leave us before we are ready.

Our old dog Jack, the original inspiration for pretty much all that is D-fa Dogs now has very greying whiskers and a runny nose and he smells a bit funky sometimes. But not surprisingly given our life together, I love him more today that I did the day he flopped into our lives all ears, paws and very sharp baby teeth! Sometimes when things get a little frayed around the edges Jack looks at me as if to say 'you know, it is what it is ... what time's dinner?'. Perspective.

I, like most of us with first world worries, do all kinds of things to stay centred and grounded and at peace - I've contorted myself into yoga poses that have me resembling half assembled pieces of Ikea furniture; I've taken deep breathing classes; I've listened to whale song and silver meditations. I've drunk tea that takes like dirt and eaten foods that even Jack wouldn't touch (and that's saying something given he's a Rhodesian Ridgeback). But the one thing that never fails, never feels futile, doesn't involve a change of outfit or the consumption of something inedible is a stroll with Jack and The Dutchess. You can't hurry (too wobbly and too much to sniff), you just have to take it all in at the pace set for you by the grey whiskered one. And there is nothing quite as grounding as picking up after your dog ... it comes out, you just gotta deal with it ... it's a metaphor for life.

Grey Whiskers
Jack (and The Dutchess) both sleep at the end of the bed. At night now we alternate between 'oh my god, I can't hear him breathing' and 'oh god, stop licking!' as Jack goes through his nightly rituals of snooze, snore, lick, turn-over, wake us up to go out for a pee, exhale loudly and repeat at least 2 times. I wouldn't change it for the world. I wouldn't trade a day. I love those grey whiskers more than the puppy smell I first fell for 13 years ago. Cheers Jacko!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Magnificent Orion

We take a bit of pride in some of the gorgeous images that we have for D-fa and that we use in our fancy, expensive and convincingly glossy marketing material designed specifically to give the impression that we're fabulous and that life in D-fa land is beautiful. Which of course we are and it is.

Fredrik Larsson of New Zealand (well, actually he's originally from Sweden, but now he calls here home) takes most of our images. He got the shot of Millie and Brendan skiing here when he was moving backwards down a black run on the summit of Treble Cone (did I mention that Fred also used to ski for Sweden and I understand specialised in blowing things up during his mandatory army training ... needless to say we always pay his bills on time!). He usually takes pictures of brides, but thankfully he laughs in the face of those who say never to work with children or animals. Love your work Fredrik.

Occasionally though a D-fa jacket ends up in the paws of a lucky dog owned by another brilliant photographer. This is the case for these shots which are from David Collier, a US based photographer, of his Dalmatian Orion looking very sporty in his Sub-Woofer. Thanks for the images David, we will face you and Fredrik off in a talent quest later in the year when you visit NZ.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Fun in the D-fa Sun

The Southern Hemisphere spring is upon us and it now is beginning to feel like summer will in fact happen. It's been a great winter, but everyone at camp D-fa is looking forward to summer. We got an early dose of it at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City in July this year. After a disastrous start to our journey (fog, delays, missed connections, misdirected luggage and transit through LA rather than San Francisco) we had a fantastic show. A highlight was the outdoor demo day where we showed our D-fd (doggy floatation device) to the USA for the first time.
Many people question whether their dog actually needs a floatation device because they're a good swimmer, but as we all know even the best swimmers can get into trouble. We agree some dogs are brilliant swimmers. They’re in and out of the water all day long, doggy paddling to their hearts content like big furry fishes. Others lack doggy-paddling style but still love the water. Their natural swimming style is to moving in and out of the water, not to swim continuously.

However, even the most confident swimmers can flounder if they tire, become cold, or are trying to swim in moving water. Unlike you, your dog doesn’t have opposable thumbs to allow it to hold paddles and can’t float on their back if they get a bit tired. Your dog, no matter how good of a swimmer is not indestructible and cannot swim indefinitely.

Fitting your hairy water buddy with a D-FD can help them swim more confidently and comfortably, for longer, and retain their body heat when on water adventures with you. The handle of the jacket also makes it easier to retrieve your dog from the water if it gets into trouble.

Our D-FD™ has been created in New Zealand by designers with expertise in buoyancy and with the help of the D-fa-Development Dogs to help us find the most ergonomic fit for buoyancy on a doggy frame. We've got the legal eagles onto it and they've filed for some patents on the design so we'll see what happens there. Our D-fd will be in the USA shortly. They're on a boat, which we hope doesn't sink (although by rights the jackets would float) and will be available for sale within weeks.

Here's some shots of Annie and Mollie the labradors from Standup Paddlesports in Santa Barbara showing us how they work. I have to laugh each time I look at these as these two buxom labrador ladies jostle for position on the board, it was only going to end one way.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Chobe of Canada

Dog lovers share a common connection - all of us with plastic bags in the pocket of every jacket, most of us with a fine layer of dog hair on our black trousers, and all with nose marks on the windows of our cars. We can spot one of our own a mile off.
Two winters ago, whilst strolling the streets of Wanaka (there's not many, it's not a big town, but still we stroll) we happened across Chobe and her people. As is often the case, it was Chobee the RR that we noticed first. She is gorgeous and reminded us so much of our first RR Simba. We stopped for a pat and a chat and as it turns out that chance meeting has become a piece of D-fa's history.
Having lived in the UK, Singapore, NZ and now Canada, Chobee is an international Rhodesian Ridgeback of mystery. Upon meeting them they were all set to depart the end of the NZ winter to enjoy another cold spell in BC, Canada.
Ridgebacks are natural heat seekers and will follow warmth wherever it takes them. I am sure Chobee was facing a thermal dilemma over what's better - wandering about under the natural warmth (thanks to the Ozone layer) of NZ sun or another few months snoozing in front of a roaring fire during a frigid Canadian winter. It's hard to take pity on a RR who is as loved and adored by her people as Chobee is, but we couldn't help but think of how much less of a dilemma she would face if she had a nice merino jacket to wear on her travels.
At this time D-fa was really only a twinkle in our eyes, and we had only a couple of a test jackets that had been made pretty much from scraps of fabric as we tried to see how they might work. But our RR Jack was happy to part with his original Ice-Barker merino so it was packed up in all its scrappy glory with Chobe and shipped to Canada.
We have often thought of Chobe over the last few years, wondering what far flung land she's snoozing in now, but we didn't expect another chance meeting to bring us news of her adventures. Whilst at the Wanaka A&P show (social highlight of the year in Wanaka) we got a visit from Chobe's people who were visiting NZ. We couldn't believe our eyes. Even better they have pictures of their beloved wearing her very very old Ice-Barker in Canada. The jacket has apparently been worn all winter, both years and is Chobe's favourite possession (after her bed, dinner bowls, the fire etc) ... so we're top ten anyway. Annie (our RR) gave them some big ridgeback love to keep them going until they returned to Canada, this time with a proper D-fa with proper clips and logos and most definitely not made of scraps!

Thanks for making D-fa history.