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Mighty Hunter

Mighty Hunter

I heard the customary scratch on the front door tonight and when I went to let him in, Owen hustled off the front porch and out into the yard. At first, I thought he was after a bone, because sometimes he hopes I’ll let him bring them inside.

Whatever he had, wasn’t a bone. I then hoped someone had thrown a dog toy over the back gate, but no, what he had, was the back end of a bunny.

When we’re up at the cabin, Owen and Raymond are obsessed in that way that only bird dogs can be,  about chasing bunnies. The door opens and they rocket out, yipping a little, filled with hope that this time, this time they’re going to catch the Garbage Can Bunny (who lives under the pallet upon which the garbage cans rest). Or perhaps the Motel Bunny who lives behind the 2-unit motel cabin. Or maybe, just maybe, the Bunny Under the Big Bush by the ditch.

They have never caught any of these bunnies. These bunnies live in the wild. These bunnies keep their eyes out.

In town, the alley behind my house has a pretty healthy bunny population. I figure that augers well for the chickens, because any predator that will eat a chicken, will also eat a bunny. Somehow, the dogs must have surprised a Town Bunny out by the shed, because after Owen brought me his prize (he was quite proud of himself) I made him take me in back to find the rest of the bunny (thank goodness for gardening gloves when disposing of such messes). “Hunt it up,” I told him, and off he went.

Alas, it seems the front half of the bunny has disappeared. So tonight, we sleep with the door to the mud room open, so two dogs, who have been known to have rather delicate constitutions, can exit should the front half of the bunny re-assert itself.

While I’m sad for the bunny, who was, from what I can tell, a sweet furry little grey cottontail, I’m sort of thrilled for my obsessed dogs. A bunny! They got one!

The Mighty Hunters.

Harmony Still Reigns …

Harmony Still Reigns …

I hesitate to broadcast this to the universe, but we seem to have reached a state of interspecies harmony here at the homestead. Raymond, former chicken-killer, seems to have figured out that he can follow the chickens around the yard, wagging his tail at them, and making small whining sounds without actually having to kill them. It’s clear he wants them, but so far, he’s managed, even unsupervised, not to kill them.

And here’s Owen. If you look closely, you can see chickens taking dust baths in the background behind them. Owie’s never killed a chicken, his current challenge is learning to stay out of the chicken coop when the door is open. He goes in seeking “delicious” chicken poop, which makes me want to hurl.

So, it only took a year, and two dead chickens, but it seems that everyone has pretty much learned to live together. It certainly makes gardening much more entertaining …

Chickens and Dogs

Chickens and Dogs


It’s not quite the lions and the lambs, but pretty close — we’ve had a big breakthrough in the domestic realm this week. The dogs seem to have developed the ability to mingle with the chickens without killing them. It’s a fragile truce, and one that requires close supervision, since the poor bird dogs are fighting generations of breeding that tells them to get the bird, but so far, we’ve had several episodes of domestic harmony. Which makes gardening much easier, as the compost heap is inside the chicken run.

At any rate, I’m very proud of my boys. Such self-restraint. It was so exhausting that Raymond (the larger dog) had to come inside and take a nap afterwards.

Shameless Plug, K-9 Orthotics

Shameless Plug, K-9 Orthotics

robo-dog
robo-dog

I’ve written before about Owen’s robo-leg, but it’s worked so well that I had to send it back to the good folks at K-9 Orthotics in Nova Scotia last week for a tune up.

It was really sad — the vet and I had to put him in a brace, like the ones he spent much of last summer in, except that because we didn’t have the fiberglass “cast” as a base, we wound up using a generic hard plastic brace for support. Since he really doesn’t have a functioning achilles tendon in that leg, it needs support, in large part so he doesn’t blow the other hind leg.

He did pretty well for the first couple of days, but Saturday night we were up at Chuck’s cabin and it was clearly upsetting him. He’s such a good patient in general, that when he starts biting at something like a brace, it means something’s wrong. So I cut it off, and yeah, the hard plastic thing had rubbed a bad sore spot on the inside of his “elbow.” Poor guy.

So I let him go bare-legged until Monday afternoon when the miracle of FedEx brought us a new, improved, fixed-up “leg.” As I carried the package into the house I said, “hey Owie, want me to put your leg on?” He’s so funny, he’ll roll right over and hold up his wobbly leg so I can put his “leg” on:

robo-leg
robo-leg

It does look like a bondage device, but the really exciting thing is that after almost a year of surgeries and braces and bandages and all the rest, Owen’s been in this thing since December. The only reason I had to send it back to Canada is because it’s been so successful that he wore out the velcro straps. This thing has been a lifesaver. Owie can run again, and chase bunnies, and go through the irrigation ditch at Chuck’s cabin. He’s gotten his strength back in his other legs, and I don’t spend all day cringing and hoping he’s not going to hurt himself even more. It does sometimes rub him a little raw, especially behind his hock, but for the most part, it’s been a raging success. Such a success that five days without it was a real problem. If I had the money, I’d buy a spare …

So, if you have an animal with mobility issues, I’d advise you to go off and check out the K-9 Orthotics website (look for the picture of the Llama with the aritficial leg — it’s wild!). They’re really nice, work very fast, and are more than happy to make repairs if needed. Can’t say enough good things about them …. thanks guys!

Teenage Chickens

Teenage Chickens

teenagers Here are the chickens — they’re so goofy looking right now, they seem to be in whatever passes for eighth grade in chicken-dom. Their feet are enormous, and while their feathers are coming in, they’re still not really feathered out (look at their funny tails). But they’re getting little chicken-y personalities, and they like to torment the dogs by flapping their wings.

I took the chooks outside for a little air last week, and here’s Raymond watching them. He spent the entire afternoon out there, occasionally running inside to whine at me that there were birds! birds! out there. In the yard! Birds! ray and chickens The next step is to build the coop. I’ve got a big packing crate that we’re going to recycle, but since it’s snowing again, and wet, and nasty, and well, the chooks are fine out in the shed in their dog crate, it’ll probably be another week or so until we get the coop built.

In the meantime, we’ll all just keep watching the funny things. Funny, smelly, goofy-looking birds.

Chickens in the Shed

Chickens in the Shed

pb260023 This is Raymond, staring at the shed door, because on the far side of that door are four baby chicks in a cardboard box tucked into a dog crate all kept warm by an infrared light.

There were six chicks, but I erred and thought they were too hot under the light, and so two of them caught a chill and gave up their tiny little ghosts. They’re resting peacefully in the compost pile.

pb250026 Here’s the little peepers. Saturday morning I called Murdochs, our local ranch store to see if the chicks had come in (they’ve had a shortage this year, one of their hatcheries cancelled on them). They’d just unpacked an order, so I jumped in the car at 7:30 to get there before the small children of Bozeman had mauled the poor little things to death.

They only had two varieties — Rhode Island Reds and Red Star Sex Link — so I got three of each. They cheeped all the way home in their tiny cardboard box. So loud for little tiny things — they’re none of them any bigger than a ping pong ball, with downy little proto-feathers.

pb250032I wound up putting them in an old cardboard box with nice high sides to keep the draft out, inside the dog crate to protect them from critters, and then covered it all with a tarp to keep them warm. I don’t have electricity out in the shed, so there’s a very long extension cord strung across the yard (Patrick left me several 100 foot outdoor extension cords — the benefit of relatives in the party tent industry).

Last night it snowed, and the temps dropped down into the high twenties, and I’m happy to report that the four survivors seem pretty perky out there. I took a couple of old towels to drape over the tarp to try to keep them a little warmer, poor things. But they’re in there, cheeping away — I’ll have to clean the cage when I get home from dog walking.

And so a new adventure begins. Chickens! I’ve wanted chickens forever, but kept telling myself that I couldn’t have chickens because I have dogs. One of my New Year’s resolutions was to stop telling myself  that things I want are impossible — to taks a shot at it. And so, chickens. Chickens!

Bionic Dog

Bionic Dog

p8240024.JPG After nearly a year of surgery and recovery and then blowing the achilles tendon repair, my vet and I decided to go for an exoskeleton solution. This is Owen in his very fancy orthotic device that the nice folks at K-9 Orthotics in Canada built for him. We made a fiberglass cast of his leg (and cutting it off was the most traumatic part of the whole saga of the leg — poor guy, that cast saw completely freaked him out, and he was on a lot of drugs at the time) and they built him this spiffy brace.

p8210023.JPG Unfortunately, he had a few hiccups adjusting. The straps rubbed a little sore spot on the back of his ankle so we had a couple of days of bandages while I tried to figure out what to do. And then it dawned on me — fleece! I cut a strip from an old fleece blanket and ran up a couple of sleeves on the sewing machine. There’s a lot of that blanket, so if they get too grubby I can just throw them out, and I assume that after a while his little leg will get accustomed to the pressure. But for now, they’re working great — he’s cruising around like his old self, poking at Raymond to come play and in general, acting like a happy boy again. p8240025.JPG

Home Sweet Chicken

Home Sweet Chicken

While it was indeed a lovely drive up the Clearwater river yesterday on the way home from Seattle, it made for a very long day in the car — I didn’t get back until nearly ten and I was all road buzzy when I got here. But today was lovely — walked the dog, did some grocery shopping, and then tried to decide what to do with the requisite homecoming chicken.

I seem to be compelled to cook a chicken after returning from a trip. I’ve written any number of times about my mystical belief in the power of a well-cooked chicken to make everything right in the world, but I have to admit, I went back and forth on whether or not to do a chicken. I have so much food in my freezers already — half a pig, for instance, and there’s a substantial amount of lamb left, and even some cut-up chicken. But no, nothing else would really do so Raymond-the-dog and I walked to the grocery store and bought a chicken. It doesn’t feel like home until I’ve cooked a chicken.

Tonight is Poulet Bonne Femme or white coq au vin — a whole chicken, browned all over, then cooked with onions, carrots, parsnips (they were in the sale bin at the grocery this am), garlic, spices and a little white wine and spices. The whole house is beginning to smell like wine and chicken, the dogs are sleeping in their respective spots, and I’m reading Home: A Novel by Marilynne Robinson. All is indeed well with the world.

On Walking

On Walking

Yesterday afternoon, in the middle of the big snow, I realized I was down to only one egg, so I set off, with Raymond, for the little health food store a couple of blocks from my house. Ray hadn’t had a proper walk because of the snow, and I was feeling like I needed some exercise, and the roads were so crummy I didn’t want to drive. Well, Foodworks was out of my Milk Lady’s eggs, and what can I say? After eating her unbelievably great farm eggs for the past couple of years I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the “organic” “free-range” whatever commercial eggs. I wanted Isabelle’s eggs. And there were none. After a short round of exclaiming bad words under my breath I left the store and untied Ray from the bench and thought well, why not? We headed off on foot across town to the other grocery store.

Now, in the mornings Ray and I walk about 10 blocks to the dog park, do a lap or two, and walk back. The grocery store was only a few blocks further away on the other side of town, and I had a bag I’d brought with me, so off we went.

What I love about walking is the things you see. Houses you didn’t know were for sale. The acquaintance I ran into who I’d seen at the Obama fundraiser the day before — we chatted for 10 minutes about politics, about how we love living in a state so small our Senators show up for those things, about how great the music was before heading back down the block. On the way home, I discovered that the little Mexican restaurant that closed is coming back soon in a new incarnation serving Cuban and Latin American food. Then, when we got to Bill and Maryanne’s house, Ray went up their steps, stood at the gate until we all had to have a small visit because he knows their house, knows their dogs.  “Do you want to come in?” Maryanne asked and I said no, because by then we’d been gone over an hour, and I wanted to get home, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t fun to say hi, to remind ourselves that we all live here together.

Then a few blocks from home Ray ran to the end of the block, and because he knows he’s not allowed to cross the street he headed up the side block. I got to the corner and saw my friend Robin, in her car with her dogs. She pulled up. “I was about to get out,” she said. “I saw Ray and didn’t know why he was on this side of town by himself.” So we chatted for a few minutes about her husband’s campaign, about the fundraiser, about dogs, and then Ray and I walked the last three blocks home.

It was a good walk to the store. We got eggs. We saw people we like. We got a little exercise. We participated in the life of our community. It’s a good thing to get out of the car. It’s a good thing to walk, to slow down, to look at things and talk to the people we like. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to live in town (as much as my fantasy life involves a bigger garden and livestock) — because when you live alone it’s good to live in a place where when you go outside you see people, you talk to people, you’re involved in the communal endeavor.

And the snow was pretty too.

Stinky Dog

Stinky Dog

stinky dog If you look closely you’ll see a bad bad stinky dog’s nose poking out from inside the bathtub. For the second time this week, Raymond found a dead thing in the dog park and rolled in it. Tuesday I took him to the new groomer who is two blocks away, but as great a job as she did, I didn’t feel like paying for grooming twice in one week.

One of the older guys who hang out at the dog park in the mornings suggested this miracle dog de-stinking mix: baking soda, shampoo and hydrogen peroxide in a bucket (actually, he suggested dish soap but I thought I’d at least give Mr. Stinky some shampoo). So I put a towel on the bottom of the bathtub to keep Mr. Stinky from slipping, tied his leash to the washcloth-rod (which I had installed with these situations in mind) and sponged him down with the contents of the de-stinkifying bucket.

It worked! He no longer smells like what I hear is a dead cat.