Title graphic]

   This site last updated: August 14, 2007
[Koira with Mr. Punch]

         [Koira icon]   Introducing Koira

         [Koira icon]   Photos

         [Koira icon]   Koira's Origins

         [Koira icon]   Koira's Career

         [Koira icon]   Toby's Blog

[Koira icon]   We Have Lost Our Dog Star

       We are heartbroken to say that our darling Toby Dog, Koira, died on August 14, 2007, of unstoppable seizures and pneumonia. Because of her intense health problems, our life with her was challenging. But it was also infinitely rewarding, and we don't regret a moment. She was a remarkable, resilient individual, a talented puppet show actress, and our precious canine daughter. We will never stop missing her, and we will never forget her.

     What follows is is her original web site, presented in its entirety.

[Koira icon]   Introducing Koira

       What if a well-adjusted, relatively level-headed couple — "parents" of a lovely two-year-old golden retriever, and purveyors of a traditional British Punch and Judy Show — suddenly got the crazy urge to expand their canine family and add a performing dog to their puppet show? Time to seek therapy? No! Time to get a puppy! So we did. Thus, on January 12, 2003, we brought a perfectly adorable Papillon girl home to Minnesota from Madison, Wisconsin. She's the most charming little Cheesehead we've ever met.

       We named our new name family member Koiratähti, which means "Dog star" in Finnish. She goes by Koira. Her big, golden brother, Lumilapsi ("Snow child") also has a Finnish name. We call him Lumi. Neither Diane nor Stu has a drop of Finnish blood, but we like the sound of the language. People often have trouble with Koira's name. We pronounce it COY (like "coin")-ruh TAH-tee. We've been told by a Finnish visitor to this site that we haven't quite got the pronunciation correct. That's okay; this is Dog Finnish. ;-) Fortunately, our Koira had no trouble learning her name. She is also known by her "stage" name — Toby, the traditional name of the Punch and Judy Show dog.

[Koira icon]Photos

   Click on photo to view enlargement and caption
[Bedtime] [Buddies] [Mini-wrestler] [Wind Chill]
[Loveseat] [Portrait] [Gigglyball] [Squirrel Watcher]
[Perch] [Tiger Wrangler] [After the Bath] [Napster]
[Bones] [Friends] [Portrait] [Squirrel Stalker]

[Koira icon]Koira's Origins

     Koira is a pure-bred Papillon. One of the oldest "toy" breeds, the Papillon was developed in Europe more than 500 years ago. These lovely little dogs, popular pets of the nobility, are seen in paintings by the Old Masters of the 17th and 18th centuries. The French artist, Pierre-Francois Mignard, often featured a floppy-eared Papillon variant called a "Phalene" in his paintings of noblewomen and children. Nicolas de Largilliere's 1710 portrait of Louis XIV and family includes a lively Papillon.

     The breed's name, pronounced "PAP-ee-yawn," is a French word meaning "butterfly." Huge, silky ears, standing out prominently from a delicate, rounded head, are thought to give the impression of beautiful butterfly wings. Beauty, however, is not the only desirable quality of this remarkable little breed. "Paps" are intelligent, friendly, and often quite talented. They excel in Obedience and Agility competition.

     Koira is a wonderful example of a well-bred Papillon. She is gorgeous, smart, and sweet. She loves us, enjoys meeting other people, adores Lumi, and would never consider yapping like some little dogs do! We have her breeder, Cindy Jensen of Cincere Papillons, to thank for Koira's wonderful qualities. As with any pure-bred dog, it's essential that the breeder be very knowledgeable and careful about genetic medical conditions and other potential health problems, and attentive to the puppy's socialization. Cindy did a great job on all counts.

     Koira's sire is Wholat's Mister of Cincere, and her dam is Cincere's Foolish April. We met both parents, and they are very friendly and sweet. Here's a photo of April nursing tiny Koira and her sister. Mister is black and white, and quite beautiful. Now that Koira is full grown, she has Mister's coloring, April's eyes and blaze, and a double dose of sweetness. And she knows exactly who she is: Koiratähti, Dog Star!

[Girl Blowing Soap Bubbles, by Mignard] Mignard's Girl Blowing Soap Bubbles (1674)

[Koira icon]Koira's Career

     Though Koira enjoys all of the usual doggie pleasures — backyard romps, neighborhood walks, playtime with her canine brother, and snuggles with her humans — an additional layer of adventure enriches her life. From puppyhood, she was destined for The Stage. We always planned for her to join our touring puppet production, Professor Freshwater's Punch and Judy Show, in the role of Toby, The Dog. Live "Toby Dogs" used to be a standard part of a traditional Punch and Judy show, but the practice has become less common in this century. We thought reviving the tradition would be great fun for our audiences, for Koira, and for us. And we were right! In 2003, Koira (aka "Toby") began appearing with the show and was an instant success. Now she is adored by fans of all ages.

     What does Koira do in the role of Toby? Well, we won't give away everything! Part of the fun is in the surprise! We will say that she interacts with Mr. Punch and his friend, Joey the Clown. Through Toby's clever reactions, the audience is able to decide whether Mr. Punch really owns Toby, as he claims, or whether Joey is the dog's true owner.

     In training Koira for her role in the show, our paramount concern is always her safety and happiness. Koira, like most intelligent dogs, relishes learning new behaviors, especially when taught using positive reinforcement. We do NOT employ punishment in training; we love our dogs too much for that. Specifically, we use clicker training to teach Koira. We trained our golden retriever, Lumi, with this method, and it worked beautifully. (Lumi is also working toward a career as an animal actor.) Clicker training is a very humane, fun, and effective way to teach any dog how to behave acceptably in a human world. To the pooches, it's just a great game!

[Koira icon]Toby's Blog

     It's the latest thing! It's the only thing! To be cool online these days, it seems, one needs to publish a blog: a web log, or personal online journal. Since Koira, aka Toby, is destined to be a star, she feels she needs a blog. Her many fans can follow her training progress and get to know her better. So here it is, in Koira's own words. Shake off your fog, read her log; it's a Dog Blog!

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