The Elfin family lives in beautiful Goochland county, between Richmond and Charlottesville,VA. While our 5 acres still appear rural, Richmond is rapidly growing out to meet us. We now have several good restaurants, a Food Lion and a Video Store only several minutes away! There are no kennels here. When I designed our house and had it built in 1990, it was with the comfort of the dogs in mind. An open floor plan, laminate, bamboo, and hardwood floors, 2 large fenced yards, a small puppy-proof yard, and dog doors allow the dogs to exercise, in or out, sleep and play as they desire. In 2014 I had the entire perimeter fences lined with 1" welded wire so that all the yards are now puppy-proof.
In 2005, our foundation bitch, Poppy suffered from a slipped intervertebral disc (at age 13) and, subsequently, had trouble navigating 'normal' steps so we built her a new deck. The new deck has steps with a 6" rise, which is the minimum rise permitted by code. It was built on two levels so there is not one steep set of stairs but a two step down then five steps to the ground and we added a ramp. She was so happy and cute as she proudly made it down the two steps then slid down the ramp to potty in the grass. The steps are shallow enough that she was able to get back up them without a problem and, until her passing at 15 1/2 years of age, Poppy still managed to get out the dog door and into the yard to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine! The shallow steps were such a good idea that we built a screen porch with big landing and the same shallow/closed steps in the front yard where the puppy playground is so even very young puppies learn to navigate the stairs easily and safely.
There are differing philosophies on 'managing' dogs. At Elfin, there is no kennel. We've chosen the 'family members' approach to dog management. They eat with us, watch TV with us, sleep with us and, most days, one or several go to work with me. We have frequent visitors to entertain them. These include wild turkeys, deer, the occasional 'possum, and the horses are always good for a barkfest excuse.
Inevitably lives change...in 2009 Richi, my partner of 19 years, passed away and is still sorely missed. In Dec of 2012, I sold my veterinary hospital and semi-retired. This is being written in July 2013 and I have to say that retirement has been a delightful life change. Honestly I don't know how I ever found time to work as I am so busy with the dogs and exploring all those things I never had time for before, like art, photography, landscaping, and home improvements! The dogs love having a full time "Mommy".
And now they have a full time Nana, as well. In Oct 2014, my mother came to live with us. Rapidly approaching 95, she finally decided to give up her car, apartment, and dance sessions in favor of being a lap for happy dogs. Dipper has claimed #1 lapdog to Nana status and Mom loves it.
Smoky Joe is our resident Entertainment director. He's a Quarter horse who belongs to my neighbor but who lives here in my pasture. He is the only sure bet I have in getting the dogs to go outside no matter WHAT. Dipper is the leader of the 'get the horse' team. The trigger is 'I see a HORSE! Hi, Smoky Joe!" and off they go...sometimes when Smoky Joe is in the mood, he'll play with the girls...running back and forth along the fence, teasing them by grazing right up at the fence and their barking perturbs him not at all. He's a beautiful, gentle amusement for the Elves.