Saturday, August 29, 2009

The Dog Food Freak Out

I've known something has been "off" with my dogs for a while.  When they went in for their annual check up all of the dogs on Acana had anal gland problems and all of them had been having abdominal difficulties - if you know what I mean.  My lone dog on a different brand of dog food (Wellness) had none of these issues.  

Being a take charge kind of person I went into the local dog food store to switch brands.  Only to be faced with such a wide variety of dog foods that I truly did not know where to begin.  As a label reader I compared brand after brand.  While Tessa's Wellness dog food has limited ingredients for dogs with allergies, it also causes constipation.  (Tessa gets her dog food, Metamucil Coarse Fibre, Cod Liver Oil, topped off with a bit of water as her meal.)  The constipation factor, along with the fact it's a ridiculously expensive dog food, caused it's removal off my potential feed list for the other dogs.  (When feeding as many as I am money does eventually factor in!)  I tried different brands both cheap and expensive, mixing some of the cheaper brands with the very high end brands to combat constipation issues.  

With a Maremma and Border Collies I tried to figure out what the difference between large breed and normal adult dog foods.  I tried to figure out the virtues of meat vs meat meal vs meat by products.  I pondered the differences between chicken, turkey, lamb, fish, and bison.  I faced dog food store clerk heckling as they tried to sell me their propaganda.  I scrolled through Internet site after Internet site searching for research, anything that would tell me the magic answer.  Telling me what I should be feeding my dogs.  

Based on information from the Edmonton Rehab Clinic, who do a lot of blood work on dogs, I was avoiding grain free brands as they found the puppies who came in and were on those brands had low blood sugar.  As a farm person I know dogs will eat darn near anything they can - ranging from berries off the patch to corn off the cob to cow turds to dead creatures.  (They are omnivores.)  But how does this translate into dog food?  What exactly should a person be looking for in their dog's food?

After a particularly humiliating and patronizing experience at a Pet Store I came unglued.  This morning I drove into the vet clinic, and cornered my vet.  Frustrated, I explained I needed to know how to choose a dog food.  She looked at me and explained she probably wasn't the one to ask as she's not a "dog food nazi" meaning as long as the dog is healthy she doesn't care what they are being fed, but I insisted that I wanted an unbiased opinion.  At the very least a starting point.  I told her that Reba was molting in the strangest manner and I was not impressed with the dog's body conditions.

I learned that By Products are not necessarily bad - just because I don't want to eat lung doesn't mean it's not a good source of protein for my dog.  This is something I'd judge on the quality of the food - if it cost $5.00 a bag the by products are likely not quality ones.  I learned that most high end dog foods are too high in protein and don't have enough fibre.  High protein + Low fibre = constipation.  I learned that Eukanuba and Science Diet have completed field trials and SHARE the results.  I learned that some of the very popular brands do not share any of their so called research.  Most importantly I learned to look for a protein level in the +/- 23% range, to look for high fibre and if needed add Omega 6 (fish oil).  I also learned that dogs are opposite humans and need more Omega 6 than 3.  Who knew?  I learned that filler often is fibre and not always a bad thing - based on the types of filler (beet pulp is good).  And I found out once my large breed dog is fully grown its not such a big deal for them to be eating regular adult dog food!  (At one point I was buying four different brands - so this is good!)  Of course this is my retelling of what my vet said and I'm not including all the details, so please, speak to your vet and get their opinion.

With focus and on a mission, my aunt and I went to the largest pet supply store in the area.  On the drive in we had decided we would start with Eukanuba.  The options within the brand were slightly mind boggling so we began comparing labels.  We eventually settled on Eukanuba Naturally Wild North Atlantic Salmon & Rice formula for the following reasons: 1) It was lower in protein than the Maintenance formula. 2) The fibre/protein ratio was better than the Maintenance formula.  3) It had higher fats/oils and Omegas.  4) I wanted something different than the chicken based protein sources I had been feeding. 5) Added bonus - it was cheaper than the other formula.

The trial now begins.  The vet did say to pick something and stick with it and if we need to tweak individual dog diets we would do so.  

For those of you who may be curious how my outside dogs (Eukanuba) and Tessa's (Wellness Whitefish and Sweet Potato) foods compare here are the labels.

Eukanuba Wellness
Crude Protein Minimum:  23.0% 22.0%
Crude Fat Minimum: 14.0% 12.0%
Crude Fibre Maximum: 04.0% 03.0%
Moisture Maximum: 10.0% 11.0%
Omega 6 Minimum: 02.1% 02.7%
Omega 3 Minimum:   0.4% 01.1%

Incidentally, Wellness is around $20 more a 30 pound bag than Eukanuba.

I think one of the things I found the most frustrating about the whole experience is the lack of reliable information.  I like to research and make choices based on facts.  I do not like making blind, misinformed decisions.  The entire dog food debate is highly opinionated which makes it challenging to get quality information.  In fact, most pet food clerks are educated by the people supplying them with dog food, who of course want you to buy their brand.  Which, in my mind, makes the people in dog food stores unreliable sources of information.  Leaving most pet owners either scratching their heads in confusion or buying into whatever the latest trend is.

All I wanted was to be able to make an informed decision.  And now, finally, the dog food debate, debacle and freak out is concluded.  I've made a decision and I'm going to stick with it!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Wave

Many years ago, I lived in a small, very rural community that consisted of oil/gas and ranching industries.  One of the things I loved about living in Consort was the random friendliness of people.  It never failed to amuse me to be driving down the road and have people I didn't know waving at me.  At first I thought they were mistaking me for someone else.  Eventually I came to realize that people - especially farmers - waved at everyone.  If I had to put a number on it I'd say a good 80-90% of vehicles I passed on the isolated highways would wave when they met you.  The number increased to closer to 100% if you had a horse trailer.

The wave is one of the things I miss about my more populated pseudo urban area.  People here just do not wave when you meet them on the road.  Instead you run the distinct possibility of other not so nice hand gestures.

This morning while on my run I noticed something strange.  As I worked with Reba and Joe to teach them a "Ditch" command - meaning hit the ditch when a vehicle approaches - I had a couple of people give me the wave as they passed.  At first I didn't think anything of it, but as car after car waved past me I began to wonder, do they always wave at me and I just not notice it, or was today different?  Were people just happier today?  I don't know.  What I do know is I'm going to be watching for the wave as I make my miles down my busy country road.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Grab A Gun

Last week was a week of guns.  While working with the horses I heard Bella let out some running yelps getting increasing closer to the corrals.  Looking up I saw the biggest coyote I have ever seen.  Bella is not a small dog.  This coyote was the same height as her.  He was right on her flank biting at her and she was busting a move to get home.  Normally, Bella is the one that does the chasing, however I think she may have been ambushed because she didn't do her routine of warning barks.  And she doesn't generally run from predators - she is a livestock guardian dog after all.  This is the same dog that took on a coyote when she was four months old.  But she was definitely scared.  I ran waving my carrot stick, yelling, towards the field and the coyote slowly turned off.  He was clearly not afraid of me which makes me believe I need some new tools.  My whip isn't cutting it anymore.  So, I've decided I need to learn how to shoot.  As in a gun.  And yes, this animal lover is fully capable and willing to kill anything that threatens her little furry family.

I've also started shooting at Reba.  With a water gun!  After dealing with a scary dog fight between Tessa and Reba I decided I needed some serious artillery.  So I invested in a Super Soaker water gun.  And it works like a charm!  My brother and sister-in-law were up visiting with their puppy this weekend.  Reba was her charming rotten self.  So I spritzed her every time she looked funny at this puppy, every time she growled or made a negative mover she got sprayed.  Fun for me and very effective.  Worked well with Tessa too!  

Tonight when I was going to work the sheep with Joe, Reba began the awfullest racket.  So I sprayed her and magic - no more barking!  Love the water gun!  She's gotten so all I have to do is pick it up and she'll run into her house and pout.

Now all I need to do is develop some practice with a real gun and do some predator control of my own.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Neatest Thing

This morning I was witness to one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  Bella is starting to come into her own and is spending more and more time with the sheep.  She seems to be maturing out of some of the silly adolescent behavior she had been subjecting us all to.  

As I was bringing the horses in from the field after their morning meal, Chevy (sheep) ran up to the top corral where I was tying each horse before going out for the others.  Bella had been lazing in the shade by the sheep when she saw Chevy running up the hill.  She proceeded to give a giant woof and ran after Chevy.  Chevy was looking around and seemed kinda confused.  I think he just realized his buddies were still out grazing.  

I continued on collecting up my horses.  As I was leading Roxy into the top corral, Chevy began bleating, clearly realizing he was alone and not seeming to know where the rest of the crew was.  Bella once again gave a giant woof and began to run down the hill towards the other sheep.  What makes this so cool is when Bella barked Chevy's head shot up and he began to run after her.  Basically, Bella led Chevy back to his buds.  Or so it seemed.  Bella of course was very pleased with herself.  

I find it fascinating that the sheep recognize Bella is there to take care of them.  I find it equally fascinating what hundreds of years of selective breeding can accomplish in a dog.  Bella is developing into a fine Livestock Guardian Dog.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Barking Bonanza

As I sit here in front of my computer I'm being serenaded by my dogs.  Which wouldn't be so bad if  it wasn't eleven at night.  Normally, by this time I'm cozily ensconced in my bed, dreaming sweet dreams.  Reba, for some unknown and cruel reason has started barking wildly the moment the sun goes down.  I had been bringing her into the house and putting her in her crate to sleep but it's getting cooler here at night and I can't keep that up indefinitely.

I have to wonder if there are any magical solutions to the barking frenzy that occurs, because as anyone with multiple dogs knows, when one barks, they all bark!  Not cool.  

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day Off

Yesterday it became clear I've become a bit of a hermit.  One of my long time friends was getting married and I made the trek to her small town an hour and half east of here to join in the celebration.  The only problem was I really just wanted to stay home.  Which is horrible I know!  But I felt guilt at leaving my critters.  As I sat at the table surrounded by good cheer it was all I could do to resist calling my dad to check up on him - to ensure the dogs really were getting their play time, the horses made it out into the field okay and he was able to catch them.  

I'm seriously getting neurotic, always been something of control freak, but I'm becoming a hermit.  I've discovered that I get resentful when I have to leave my little furry family.  Don't get me wrong, I quite enjoyed getting dressed up and dancing, but I hated being away from my animals.  

Just think, this January I'll be sending Roxy off to the cutting horse trainer.  And he's talking about spending 3 months down in Texas (save on heating costs and avoids the high cost of hay).  Perhaps I'd better practice letting go before she goes off to school.  :0

Friday, August 14, 2009


Progress is a funny thing.  Some days it's so subtle you don't know it's there and some days it's like the most brilliant sunset filling the sky - impossible to miss.  My dog's are making progress.  Slowly but surely they are growing in their ability to work sheep.  In the drizzling rain (Finally!!) it became clear to me.  

Joe, while still fast, can circle both direction, change directions based on my body pressure, lie down, come off the sheep when I call him and is starting to understand how to trail the sheep.  He's also respectful of the leash and is my loving shadow.  This may not seem like much except when I got him he was crazed on the stock, had no understanding of how to work with a person, no control, and was continually strangling himself when on a leash.  He shows that he trusts me in his willingness to be with me.  I can see the dog he's going to turn into and it's exciting.

Reba, is learning her Come Bye and Away To Me commands, and is continuing to work on her outruns.  Plus my persistence away from the sheep on Obedience skills is paying off with her listening much more consistently.

Tess, is working on learning her whistles, (I'm lazy and generally revert back to voice - but no more - we have a whistle focus!), and continuing to work on her understanding of an outrun.  

I think some days I'm too close to see the progress we make but today was an "aha" moment.  All the dogs tried hard and listened well, which is all I can ask for.  After the sheep were put away we (Tessa, Reba, Joe, and Bella) went for a play in the field.  They were all so happy.  Me too!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Old Is New Again

My rear end has not touched an English saddle in the vicinity of 13 years.  Instead I've done everything Western from competitive team roping, barrel racing, working cow horse, riding and finishing colts, reining, ranch cutting and just plain riding.  I've learned to ride with virtually no hand contact, using my seat and legs to communicate with the horse.  

Yesterday was my riding assessment.  My English riding assessment.  Let me say it was somewhat challenging for me.  I swear there were times the instructor was talking in tongues.  I was pretty sure I knew what she wanted me to do but my brain just couldn't compute it.  Not only did my poor out of shape body protest some of the movements being asked of it but my hands developed a life of their own.  It was strange to have to keep what felt like a constant pull on the reins.  And don't get me started on the whole standing in the stirrups leaned over the horses neck.  Or trotting with my pelvis tilted forward.  What a workout!

But I'm excited.  I'm excited to challenge myself, to improve my horsemanship, balance and feel.  I'm excited to enter this old but new and foreign world.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Whiskey's Plan of Action

I'm much less stressed today.  Last night after much thought, angst and drama I came up with a plan of action for my darling Whiskey.  No more breeding this year - it was creating massive amounts of stress for me.  No biopsy either - in the off chance it can cause scarring.  I will instead ask Sam to flush her (in case there are any ickies in there) and give Whiskey one more breeding shot next spring.  If she doesn't catch that round then I won't try anymore.

So rather than looking forward to a pregnant mare, I'm now looking forward to working on getting her sound and riding her.  

Monday, August 10, 2009

Torn in Two

The last day and half I've been feeling torn in two.  After Sam was out and we discovered Whiskey was not in foal I began the process of notifying people in my life.  One person basically said I shouldn't do the biopsy because it could wreck my chances of ever having a foal (uterine scarring).  This of course scared me.  They suggested I should flush, and make another attempt at breeding - this season.  Let's not forget the vet said I should wait until we know what's going on.  

Breeding horses is not my thing.  I've learned a lot and am not afraid to read and ask questions but it's not the same as real life experience. I'm having a very difficult time making a decision - it's literally tearing me apart.  I feel a tremendous amount of internal pressure to do what's right for my mare.  Realistically, I would love a foal from her because her breeder is no longer breeding, she's very athletic, smart and has an outstanding temperament.  I've actually gone online to try and find other horses of her bloodlines.  No luck.

I've also learned the more times a mare doesn't catch the less chances you have of the mare catching in the future.  This being Internet based I'm not sure how valid the information is but it also scared me.  The other side of the coin is she did catch earlier this season (twins) and absorbed them.  Because Brad and Tashia were not home for a good portion of this heat cycle (mare and stallion in a pen together),  there is also the wild card issue of did the stallion even breed the mare.  

So I'm torn - should I give it one last shot for a late season baby, should I do the biopsy, or should I wait and make another attempt next year?  I just don't know what the right answer is.  And I desperately don't want to make any mistakes with Whiskey's health and happiness.  

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Things That Care

As someone who has faced adversity up close and personal, I have a strong emotions when it comes to dealing with the variety of illnesses that plague humanity.  One of the ladies I used to work with has created what I think is something special.  She is moved to make a difference and has created a jewelry company that gives back to both MS and Cancer charities.  For those of us in the stock dog world we all wear lanyards with our whistles, and I would encourage you to check out her individual, creative and beautiful lanyards.  For those of us of the female persuasion I would encourage you to check out her lovely jewelry.

While I usually avoid going off topic with my blog, when I saw her web page on Facebook it touched my heart.  Please take the time to check out her new company: Things That Care.

Friday, August 7, 2009

More Vet Bills to Come

Whiskey is not pregnant.  And she should be.  No excuses this time around.  Sam wants to do a biopsy and some tissue samples to try and figure out if there is something wrong with Whiskey's uterus.  Some reason I've had so much trouble getting her bred.  Needless to say I won't be deciding whether or not she'll be bred again until the results are in.  

On the other hand, this also means I should be getting my riding horse back.  When Sam does do the biopsy, she'll also x-ray the hock and we'll move towards injections - with the hope we can help her move past whatever is causing the problem in her leg.  I miss riding her and hope we can find a quick solution.  However, this also means more vet bills and I was soooooo looking forward to a vet bill reprieve!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

My Secret

I have a secret.  And no - not Victoria's.  You could say I'm coming out of the closet.  You see, I love riding English.  I rode English for most of my teen years.  I was the girl in the all purpose English saddle on trail rides.  I even cattle penned and did gymkhana in my trusty English saddle.  Don't get me wrong - I love my western roots.  But there's something about the elegance and pageantry of the English events that appeals to me.

As a teen I showed my Arabians Hunter Under Saddle and Show Hack.  And I loved it!  The last year I've been having a massive internal struggle, having trouble focusing on what I should be doing with my horsey life.  Part of me desperately wants to try Three Day Eventing, part of me wants to get back into the roping world and part of me is crazy to get serious with cutting.  

With two cutting prospects sitting in the corral I know that (fingers crossed they have talent) cutting is definitely in my future.  After taking my aunt to watch a dressage show last weekend I realized I wasn't ready to give up my English dream.  This week I took action towards achieving my dreams.  After all, life is short and you never know what is around the corner.  I contacted one of the local stables regarding lessons.  

On Wednesday I met with the owner and head coach.  We discussed my goals and I left with a fee schedule.  My next step was to drive into town and stop at one of the English specialty tack shops.  While I used to have English gear, my rear end (unfortunately) as grown considerably and nothing fits.  I am now the proud new owner of a pair of black breeches, and dress boots (the tall black leather boots).  I'm almost, almost excited enough to wear them around the house!  

My next step is booking a riding assessment (next week), which will be followed by Tricia placing me in the lesson program and matching me with a lesson horse.  Because I have a lot on my plate I'm planning on doing one lesson per week.  If that goes well, I may move up to two lessons per week.  Financially I was surprised at how reasonably priced this is.  

One of my goals is to learn how to jump.  I'm excited, nervous and scared to start this new venture but am doing it for me.  To become a better horseman, and a happier, healthier person.  This counts as cross training for running, right?  :)

Personal Pet Peeve

One of my simple pleasures in life is running with the dogs.  I love my furry running partners as they make the miles pass so much faster.  Today, my mom and I loaded up the truck with her bike, Tessa and Reba and we all went off to the local provincial park.  Tessa ran off leash with mom, while Reba remained on the cord and ran with me.

As we were nearing the end of our run we literally ran into one of my biggest personal pet peeves.  We met a lady who had two dogs - both off leash.  This is not my pet peeve.  Tessa often runs off leash.  My pet peeve is when the owner of said off leash dogs DO NOT HAVE ABSOLUTE CONTROL over said dogs.  I will admit this makes me feel rather cantankerous.  

As Reba screeched to a stop and began to growl, I demanded she stop and attend to me.  This should have been the end of the situation, except the two dogs continued running towards us.  The lady meanwhile is making no moves to apply control over her dogs, instead tells me it's okay, that her dogs are used to running in the dog park.   Um, that's nice, recall your bloody dogs because mine clearly is NOT interested in being friends with them.  *argh*  When my dirty look in her direction and my strident demands that Reba "Leave it!" clued her in she began yelling at her dogs.  Who summarily ignored her.  They continued to run at us, even once we had passed the owner, continued to follow as Reba and moved down the trail.  This is my personal pet peeve.  If you can't control your dog 100% of the time your dog should be on a leash.  Period.  It literally took me turning around, snapping my fingers at the bigger dog and telling it to get back before it returned to it's owner who by this point is at least 50 meters down the trail.  (And no, we were not in an off leash park.)

As Reba and I finished our run I discovered another pet peeve.  This lady's dog had left a deposit in the middle of the trail and she didn't move or dispose of it.  It's owners like this that give dog owners a bad reputation - and that makes me feel testy.

There you have it - my rant of the day!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Security Blanket

I've attached a youtube video of a young dog starting at sheep (this is about where Joe is at in his training - perhaps a step or two further along than this dog.)  Louise is a handler who lives in Northern Alberta.  Click on her name to go to her website. Sorry, I couldn't get the video on directly.

Working dogs is a lot like training horses, it often helps to have a set of eyes on the ground (so to speak) to watch and provide feedback.  While I know I don't suck at training the dogs (I'm not a superstar either), I occasionally feel as though I'm doing something wrong.  I've been feeling somewhat insecure in part due to a handlers snarky remark about Reba and Reba's recent rotten behavior.  The handler made a comment about how did I end up with two snarly dogs (both Tessa and Reba are not friendly with other dogs).  The implication being that I've caused my dogs to be antisocial.  Reba has also shed her sweet wanting to please personality and morphed into the dog that looks at you when you call her name and continues on her merry little way.  (Let me tell you, this about made my head spin off my shoulders!)

So I did what any self respecting person does, I called up my security blanket Ken, and spent the day in Drayton Valley with him.  When I say spent the day, I mean I spent 7 (!!!) hours working dogs with him.  I love working dogs with Ken.  Not only is he an outstanding behaviorist and trainer but he's able to express and share what he knows.  And is he is not easy on me.  If I'm messing up, I hear about it.  Which I like and need because growing as a trainer is important to me.

We worked Reba first.  Reba is a tricky dog because in some ways she's a very "soft" dog.  Meaning she is sensitive to what you are asking of her.  In other ways she's a very "hard" dog.  Meaning she has her own agenda and is capable of pouting or trying to manipulate to get her way, in that she doesn't want to respond to corrections.  After watching and hearing my concerns Ken reassured me this was just a stage and that I was on the right track.  We worked through some issues and improved the distance and quality of the out run (when the dog runs to collect up the sheep).  I'm going to focus here at home on being very firm with basic obedience until she moves out of her ignore the human problem.

A huge feather in my caps was Joe's massive improvements.  I had already decided that it was time to tighten up and become less forgiving of his quirks (like trying to chew on the sheep) which Ken backed up.  I used a 2-3 foot piece of PVC pipe (plastic hollow pipe) as ammunition.  Every time he dove in to help himself to a sheep I fired the pipe at him.  My timing was awesome and I was able to have the pipe hit the ground just as he moved into the space, thus deterring him from the action.  (Those of you who may have used pop bottles with gravel or a water gun to stop negative behavior - same idea.)  Joe was a superstar.  A tough minded super star but I was really happy with his progress.  He still won't let Ken pet him but he's better able to relax around him.

Tessa's outrun is horrific.  She's never had a particularly good outrun but for a dog as broke as she is, it's a bit of a glaring issue.  We worked at letting her make the mistake (not bringing the sheep to my feet) and correcting the behavior.  Basically we work to "shape" her actions into the correct behavior until it become an intrinsic behavior.  We also worked at the international shed.  In order to do this, the dog has to split the sheep into two groups and maintain control over one of the groups.  Too much fun.

Before I left, we worked two of the dogs in for training.  And of course talked some horse.  (Ken rides cutting horses.)  It was a great day.  I feel good about myself, and my dogs.  I know what I need to do and feel comfortable going out in doing it.  And regarding the other handlers comment... Ken believes that you can't change the dog's basic personality make up.  Even though I've done the right things (socialization, negative reinforcement when they exhibit poor manners) it doesn't really matter.  Give the dog to someone else and they'd still behave the same way.  Ahhh... relief.  

Sunday, August 2, 2009


When I went out with my aunt to try and get some better pictures of my new filly this is what we saw.  Whiskey and Roxy having a midday nap.  If you look closely you can see Roxy's loose lips.

Here are some improved pictures of my little girl.  I keep thinking if I didn't already have a Bella that the name would suit her.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

The Naming Game

To the tune of Lady Gaga's Love Game:  Let's play a name game, name game, name game.  Or something like that anyhow!  Introducing ?????.  To date I've had horses with the following names (some I've picked and others that came with): Maggie, Jet, Pilot, Pepper, Haida, Smokey, Charro, Roo, Charger, Whiskey, Roxy, Buddy, Shorty, and add on some long term training horses with Yeller, Sweetie, and Doll.  I need a name.  Currently my animal family consists of Whiskey, Roxy, Bella, Tessa, Reba, Joe, and Moxie.  

Sorry for the bad pics.  I need someone to hold her while I take the pictures because she likes to come right up to me, making things challenging.  

She's quiet, quiet, quiet!  This is her fourth day of handling and I can walk up to her, pet her on either side, including her bum, as well as scratch her entire head.  She will lead forward and backward.  Her feet and resulting angles are a mess but Derek my fabulous farrier will straighten them out.  She also needs some serious deworming but I'm waiting until she's been worked with more.  (I'm also itching to get after her with a scrub brush and clean up her messy stains!)  She was born a palomino and is grey.  I do have a drag line on her but don't really need it - probably pull it off tomorrow.  This little girl is just that - little.  However, this line does have a history of late growth and are slow maturer's.

My little girl's pedigree.  One friend has suggested Hollywood Hic which is cute but more for a gelding.  Farm name ideas I'm leaning towards are more basic type name like Kate (but Kate doesn't "fit" her.)  Thoughts?