Category Archives: dogs

An amazing dog

Poor little Oscar sustained a rather hideous injury on Labor Day.  Excited by the arrival of one of his favorite guests, Oscar decided jumping on the fence was a good way to show his enthusiasm. Unfortunately, his paw slipped through the wiring and caught his caudal pad, partially tearing it from his wrist. Fortunately, the guest he was so excited about was my good friend Sara, a veterinarian, who always travels with a med kit. With some medications I had on hand and her bandages, we got him treated. Considering how much it hurt, he was amazingly cooperative.

The injury requires daily dressing changes. Remove the old bandage, clean, blow dry, and redress. He wasn’t impressed with the blow drier, so I had Peter rewarding him for staying still during the process. It became a nightly ritual. On the fifth day, I went into the bathroom (not the dogs’ favorite place because that’s where they get their baths), and got all my supplies ready. I opened the door and there was Oscar waiting in the hallway. I asked him if he’d like to come in, fully expecting him to slink off down the hall, but to my utter surprise, he walked in and lay down on the towel and propped his injured leg on the other towel.

The next night, he was in the living room when I got everything ready. I walked in and he looked up at me. I said, and these are my exact words, “Oscar, I need you in the bathroom”. He proceeded to get up, walk down the hall and into the bathroom. I stood there with my jaw sagging for a moment, and he popped his head out the door with a “well, aren’t you coming?” look.

Yes, dogs recognize and respond to patterns, and yes, they respond strongly to positive reinforcement, and yes, I’ve been working very hard to develop optimism in my dogs, but this just blew me away. All I can think is, “What an amazing, trusting, confident dog!” and “Thank the Good Dog the injury wasn’t sustained by D’Argo!”

Bunny brain

Oscar has a condition I call bunny brain. It’s a ten on his distraction list.  If a bunny is present there is nothing, absolutely nothing, that will pull his attention away for more than a fraction of a second, not even deer flushing right in front of him.  He must watch the bunny, he must chase the bunny, and if given the opportunity, he must kill the bunny (cue the “Ride of the Valkyries”). This condition led Oscar to take up the hobby of escape artist.

Leading up to this weekend Oscar has escaped the fenced yard on a few occasions. The first time was my fault, I forgot to close the gate. Both dogs left the yard chasing heaven knows what, and we got a phone call from our neighbor behind that he had found Oscar (D’Argo had already trotted home). The second time Oscar had escaped through a fence washout. Twice he got out by digging under a gate, once from a portion of loose fencing.  Just when I think I have solved all the problems, Oscar finds another escape route.

I was mowing in the back yard, yesterday evening when a brown streak zips past me yipping, first in one direction, then in another.  It’s Oscar.  And what is he chasing?  A bunny.  He tore off through the most densely vegetated part of our property, full of poison ivy, bull nettles, and Johnson grass taller than my head (also foot catching collapsed gopher tunnels from the heavy rains this past spring). I’m catching glimpses of my bunny brained dog, as he darts to and fro.  He must have lost his prey, because he eventually came back to me when I called.  Having no leash with me, I had to carry this goofy panting dog, about a tenth of a mile, through the sand burs.

I checked the fence line and was baffled.  The only spot I thought he might have escaped from was a section of fence that would lean out a few inches if a dog stood against it.  I wired that section tight again and thought I had solved the problem. I was wrong.

After walking the dogs this morning, I left them in the yard while I watered the chickens and weighed the eggs from the evening before. When I came out to get them, Oscar was gone again.  I found him in the same spot as yesterday.  No doubt he was searching for his bunny.  At that point I thought we were going to have to tie Oscar up in the yard.  After breakfast, I let dogs wander while I observed from the other side of the yard.  In that time, I identified numerous weak points in the fencing, but nothing I could say with certainty  was Oscar’s route.  So while fixing some of these weak points and continued to observe Oscar.  Sure enough, he escaped again, but this time I was right there to grab him, before he suffered from bunny brain.
Between the wall of the house and the gate, on the front porch, there was a short section where the fence was only two feet high because it went through a holly bush and a boxwood shrub.  In the seven years since this fence was erected, D’Argo, another hunter, never tried to jump this fence, even when a bunny got stuck trying to get through it. Oscar however, was not bothered by the fact that he had to jump through a shrub (which in hindsight now explains some mysterious scratches).  That was his escape route.  Luckily, I still had a lot of spare fencing. I had to cut the shrubs back quite a bit, but was able to install a four foot fence section against the two foot fencing.  Oscar was disappointed to say the least, but I feel much better now, and I don’t have to keep Oscar on a long lead. He has no idea how close he came to losing his freedom.

Joe Cool

Recently, Odo had an injury to his eye that we were having trouble getting to heal properly. In order to protect his eyes better, since he’s losing his sight, I decided to get him a pair of Doggles (goggles designed for dogs). I must say he looks pretty cool in them. He reminds of Snoopy as Joe Cool.

Unfortunately, Odo doesn’t think they’re cool at all, and will take every opportunity to remove them . Luckily he doesn’t have the balance anymore to use his front paws, but he’ll use anything else available. In this case, a weed. I’ve seen him with his head inside a boxwood shrub, try to brush them off on your legs as he passes by, scrape them on the chairs on the front porch, even rub them on the stone facade (that left some nasty scratches on the lenses).

I’m hoping he’ll eventually get used to them, but right now, if he’s unsupervised, they end up on top of his head. Also a cool look, but really defeats the purpose.

National Snow Day! (or so it seems)

We had a messy snow storm that started Monday evening into midday yesterday. The storm spread heavy snow all across the mid-West yesterday and into the East today. We were lucky. No freezing rain, but some interesting thunder sleet Monday night, then snow blowing snow and bitter winds. These cold temperatures might wreak havoc on some of my zone 7 plants, but maybe the thick layer of snow will protect them (there were some early daffodils pushing up before the storm hit). Peter’s been off work for two days now, but doing a bit from home. Melting won’t start until Friday at the earliest, but it’ll be above 40°F by the weekend.

Odo, also known as Arctic dog, shrugged off the cold and snow and was romping in the front yard. He didn’t do so well once he got ice balls building up between his pads, leading to a belly flop into the snow. I took him out later with his boots on and he trotted along like it was Springtime. He got bogged down in the deeper snow because he’s lost some back leg strength and tends to drag his feet a bit. Not a strategy that works in deep snow.

D’Argo on the other hand, is not a snow dog. I sent him out in the frigid cold and he immediately turned around and slammed into the door to get my attention. I had to bundle up and go out with him to make sure he did all his business. When I took them for a short walk later, he did pretty well as long as we kept moving. When his feet got ice bound he’d three-foot it for a while until I had the chance to grab him and scuff the snow out.

Peter took some video of me and the dogs outside.

My renovations haven’t entirely solved the pipe freezing problem, but only one sink tap has frozen, the other is still flowing. I’ll have to do some more weatherizing of the stack pipe in the attic when it warms up again. There’s little chance of pipes bursting with the new Pex piping, but I don’t like having the cold air leaking from the wall.