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A non-goat post!

I know, I know, a shocker! We’re nearly caught up on goats but I thought y’all might like a break. Besides, there are critters other than goats running around here, after all!

And recently we’ve discovered that we’ve been spending way too much money on dog toys. On a whim, we gave Zille an empty 2L soda with the cap on. She loved it and had a great time with it and finally crushed it into a flat mangled thing sort of reminiscent of modern sculpture, so we gave her another one. Only this time, we filled it with water first.

Gentle readers, I do wish I’d gotten video. She had the best time with that thing, and her favorite thing to do was to grab it with her front paws and shove it backwards, sending it shooting through her back legs so she could spin around, growling fiercely, and do it all over again. She did that for hours. She finally punctured it after a day or so and crushed it into the same mess as her first bottle, so we gave her another one. That one didn’t last quite so long, but she has to wait for me to finish this bottle of ginger ale before she gets another one.

As each bottle becomes a crushed and no-longer-fun mess of chewed plastic, she takes them over to a spot she’s designated for piles of things that are no longer any fun and leaves them there. At least she’s being neat about it, right?

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Near Death Experience

Daniel and I went out to feed and water the chickens this morning and also move the three adolescents who were living in the shed into an integration pen in the Pen for Big Chickens. We thought we’d closed their crate after grabbing their waterer but apparently not, because while we were out at the Pen for Big Chickens getting their new home ready, Melchior the Little Blue Vulture got out and got tackled by dogs.

Luckily we were close enough to intervene and Melchior has one small slash where left wing meets the body. She is now in the house recovering in the same dog crate that held Zombirella after she got the back of her head pecked off.

I’m not angry at the dogs, who were just doing what large predators do when a small prey animal goes flapping by, but I’m pretty mightily irritated with myself for not making sure the crate was firmly closed and latched. Here’s hoping that Melchior has a swift and uneventful recovery!

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Mother Nature hates Virginia, possibly.

So I’ve been quiet not because I’ve been busy, or not just because I’ve been busy, but also because Tropical Storm Lee was passing overhead for approximately the past week, dumping a metric crap-ton of rain on us and also obliterating the internet connection here at home. Fun. Only not.

The deluge of rain meant moving most of the silkies into the shed, which was already occupied by the porcelain trio I picked up on our trip to Philadelphia to drop off Coriander with her new person. I was able to get Lucifer in but Asmodeus refused to be caught. Hilariously, with no other adultish roosters in residence, Lucifer not only went all *FOOF*ROOSTERTASTIC*FOOF*[1] and started crowing, but decided that the group of seven juveniles was his little flock. So when I moved them all back outside and tried to put him in the pen with the rest of the chickens, he objected mightily and repeatedly snuck back in with the juveniles. Finally I just left him to it — he seems very happy watching over his little flock of adolescents and is strutting around all “Oh yeah, I’m the big roo.” He even managed to somehow keep them mostly dry when it rained last night, which means I have to worry about them less. A good rooster is a definite blessing to a flock!

While Lucifer was busy going roostertastic in the shed, the dogs were busy driving us nuts indoors because it was too wet and miserable for playing outside. Sid’s training continues apace — yesterday he went to the optometrist with me to order new glasses since Beowulf or Zille one tried to eat my glasses overnight, then to Panera for food and Tractor Supply for chicken food. He was a huge dork at the optometrist, whining and bouncing and otherwise pretending I had never trained him at all, even a little bit, but calmed down by the time we got to Panera. A Weimaraner whose people had pretty obviously never bothered to train him, just slapped a prong collar on and called it good, even barked at him uproariously and all he did was stand up and growl. Well, he did let loose one “woof” but it was practically sotto voce coming from him, so I let it slide. His normal response to being barked at involves a bark so loud and thunderous that his front feet lift off the ground.

Meanwhile, the storms have cleared and theoretically we should be pretty dry for the next week barring hurricanes and tropical storms, which will give me and Daniel a chance to expand the chicken infrastructure as necessary and play tons of fetchy with Zille.

[1] Interestingly, if you have a large group of roosters, the subordinate ones will not rooster out very much at all, which is probably a way of preventing battles to the death, or something. So Lucifer was roostery enough to tell he was a rooster, but not all ROOSTERTASTIC or as roostertastic as silkies get, anyway. A week in the shed with no other mature roos to compete with, and he has started crowing and grown some substantial wattles in a beautiful mulberry shade.

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I get by with a little help from my friends…

School is into the final rush to completion and you have NO IDEA how much I want this to be over with. Due in the next two weeks: one 5-7 page paper for bio, two labs for bio, one chapter quiz for bio, two math lab thingies, two final exams, and a short paper for Civil War history plus 4 shorter assignments for same. I may keel over and die. Except there’s a good chance I can get bio at least knocked out tomorrow and be DONE WITH IT FOREVER AND EVER. Exciting.

Meanwhile, my friends keep me entertained.

Via my friend F, a link to a pic of Viggo Mortenson playing a version of Manor Rules Footsoccerball.[1] F says, “I think Daniel’s got a harder time of it than Viggo.” It’s true in SO MANY ways, F.

katie at Save the Pit Bull, Save the World posts asking What’s a person in search of a nice family pet puppy supposed to do? and gets some interesting discussion going in the comments.

In another case of interesting discussion in the post and comments, Marji at For the Pit Bulls asks Where are all these fake service dogs?”

Here at the Manor, my beloved husband has fully recovered from his last game of Manor Rules Footsoccerball and has built an 8′ x 4′ raised garden bed and filled it with really good dirt. It’s the kind of dirt I remember from growing up in Illinois: black and rich and smelling all organic and, well, dirtish. Which means that we bought the dirt, because here in Virginia the dirt is red clay and I’m sure it’s very fine dirt and all, and things do seem to grow in it, but I still get wistful about that good black dirt in Illinois.

[1] Since the alt text on that pic is not illuminating, I will tell you that Viggo is playing Manor Rules Footsoccerball in a movie costume, with a chihuahua. He appears to be in no danger of being bitten on the groin.

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We can never paint that door frame again.

Last night while waiting for the arrival of the Best Mother Ever, I got the bright idea to definitively measure dogs by pinning them up against the door frame between kitchen and living room and marking their heights with a pencil (first we wanted to use our front one got from Uk Oak Doors… but it’s just too great to be marked). This could have gone more smoothly. Zille came right to me, stood in place, and let herself be measured. So did Sid. So did Beowulf. Tink on the other hand first tried hunching her back to make herself taller, and then when I sighed and begged her to behave, she extended her front legs and made herself shorter. A few moments of wrestling my recalcitrant dog later, I had my pencil marks and got out the tape measure and recorded their heights on the wall.

I was so pleased with the result that I went over them with a Sharpie to immortalize them. Sid’s is the only one with a date, because Sid is still growing. I figure I’ll measure him once a month or so and keep track of his continued progress.

A section of narrow white wall with writing on it in black marker.  The highest mark is Beowulfs, at thirty and three-quarters inches.  Next down is Tink at twenty-eight and one-eighths inches.  Then comes Zille, at twenty-four and one-quarter inches, and finally Sid at twenty-three and three-quarters inches.

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I’m a sucker for cool dog stuff, and there is sadness as an era passes.

So my dear friend Ellen (she wrangled Beowulf at my wedding and is a savior to kitties in need) posted some pics the other day of some very spiffy tags she had gotten for her gang of quadrupedal hooligans from Down 2 Earth Jewelry. They were these fabulous lucky penny tags.

So of course I had to get some for my dogs, because I can’t possibly have my dogs losing out in the Cool Collar Jewelry game, now can I? Well, speaking of jewelries if you want legit and trusted jewelries online, you can check it out at Randor Rings.

But it caused some consternation. I am one of those dog owners who has the t-shirt that says “Dog is my co-pilot.” I have the bumper sticker, too, and it’s on my back bumper. And for years now, that co-pilot has been Tink. We have had many an adventure together, usually on Civil War battlefields (but once on a Revolutionary War battlefield). We’ve logged a lot of miles, sometimes with Beowulf, sometimes without.

Now, Tink is six. Her weird medical problems have gotten a little weirder (see also: recent eye removal, hair loss from Tinea versicolor infection…) and her joints are not the most stable. I’ve hit 34, and over the past year particularly my own medical problems have gotten worse. The current drug I’m on lowers my chronic pain substantially, but has also screwed with my balance something fierce, and I’m using a cane full-time and training up Sid as a service dog.

I’m not saying Tink and I will never have adventures again. But we’re past the point where we are the only companions we need on them, where we can thoughtlessly jump in the car and head out. I have to think ahead, figure out if both Tink and I have the energy for this, if we have time to recover. I have to ask myself and answer with brutal honesty, “Do I want Tink to come because I think Tink will enjoy this, or would she be happier at home?” More and more often, the answer is “Tink would be happier at home.” To be fair, more and more often the answer is also “I would be happier at home” as well, but I don’t have that option a lot of the time. This is why, when we went to Kentucky, despite the fact that I desperately wanted my beloved Tink with me for the comfort she would have provided, Tink stayed home. She would have been unhappy with the hotel, which did not have elevators and required doing the stairs multiple times a day for potty trips. She would have been unhappy with having to potty on leash. And she had just had surgery, and didn’t need to be that far from her vet. Just in case.

So when it came time to choose slogans for tags (I went with descriptive titles, rather than their names), it was hard. A couple years ago, I would have put “co-pilot” on Tink’s tag in a heartbeat, and meant it. These days, though… these days. But there is one phrase that describes Tink and will always describe her, one that other dog people will recognize and those who are not dog people might get: heart dog. The one in a million dog who is the living, breathing, canine part of you, the dog who is like oxygen in the air. No matter what, that one is Tink’s.

So it was with great love and also sadness that I ordered their tags. Tink’s says “heart dog,” Beowulf’s says “love hound,” Zille’s says “fetchy dog,” and Sid’s? Siddymonster’s tag says “co-pilot.” It’s his job now to keep me safe in the great outdoors, to be my tireless companion whose energy picks me up when I’m flagging, the one who will go out on a slightly crisp (but not TOO crisp, I don’t do cold) morning without complaint.

I think he’ll do just fine. No, I believe he’ll do better than that: I believe he will be freakin brilliant. But I’m going to miss this smile on the battlefields.

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The Return of the Entertainment!Puppy

Yesterday morning, Daniel met up with Christine to collect Blackthorn’s Musket. No, we are not keeping him for good, he’s just here for the weekend while she’s off having fun without Mr. Musketbutt. Still, it’s good to have him around, he may be a very intense sort of dog but he’s also just an all around swell guy, affectionate and interested in absolutely everything going on in the house. Daniel is looking forward to playing even more fetchy than usual[1] and I am looking forward to a second opportunity to teach Musket helpful behaviors like the Elbow-Flipping Nudge of Doom and how to escape his crate by yodeling.

The Dobes are slightly non-plussed and Tink is mad-teething like a very mad-toothed thing, but they’ll get over it and maybe when Musket goes home again they will appreciate their own quiet and laid-back Shedder. Who is, incidentally, very happy to have another Shedder to play with, although she has gained enough self-confidence to tell him off when he tries to steal her ball while playing fetch. In an appropriate manner, of course, Zille has developed into an amazing doggy diplomat.

Meanwhile, Musket finds EVERYTHING exciting, because he is that kind of dog. A cat! How exciting! Another dog! How exciting! A person! How Exciting! THE WORLD, HOW EXCITING! He really needs a Job, an official one that engages his brain and even gives him something to do with all his physical energy. Currently, he’s focusing his considerable brainpower on staring at Aida through a gate, which does not amuse Aida in the least.

In other news, I discovered when doing tags on this post that I have a “dogs suck” tag. I can’t imagine why.


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New residents, and an honored guest.

Another trip down to Blackthorn Kennel yesterday for Christine’s excellent company and our final two chickens! Very exciting. We also on the spur of the moment agreed to bring Musket home with us for a week. Musket is Zille’s younger half-brother, a fine hairy sable beastie who was in need of a vacation at the Manor to give his ginormous brain something to do. In fact, Daniel summed up the worky dog thing pretty well when he said “You know that light Zille gets in her eyes when she sees a ball? He has that all the time.” We’ve had one incident of minor bloodshed when Musket thought he might play a chasey game with Braxton Bragg, who beat him upside the head repeatedly. Everyone survived unscathed, the blood shed belongs to the dog who pretended not to notice but now runs the other way when he sees Brax.

The chickens are about six weeks old, so not laying age for another 3 months or so. One is a Welsummer, a Dutch breed, and she has been christened Bebelina. Welsummers lay fat dark-brown eggs. The other is an Ameraucana, a hybrid of some breed crossed with the Araucana, which is a rumpless chicken that lays greeny-blue eggs and is indigenous to Chile. She has been dubbed Ayinnanku, which is a Mapuche name meaning “favorite eagle.” The Mapuche are the indigenous people of Chile who were conquered and displaced by the Spanish, who called them the Araucana, from whence the breed of chicken gets its name. Look at that, history and poultry all in one tidy bundle! But yes, I did name my chicken “favorite eagle.” I am, after all, the same woman who named her Doberman “Tinkerbelle.”

Pictures of all this excitement will no doubt follow when it’s light outside, but for now you will have to imagine the fine hairy sable dog and the charming chickens. Bebelina is brown with yellowy neck feathers, Ayinnanku is mostly black with coppery neck feathers and spiffy ear tufts. Fingers crossed that Lorena and Matilda are gracious about sharing their digs. There still might be bantams in spring, but this is it for full-size hens.

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Well that didn’t go so well.

Astute’s potential family backed out, saying they had “decided not to pursue a kitten at this time.” Fair enough, but now I’m back to trying to place three kittens. Sigh. My mission this weekend is to get most excellent and adorable pictures of them, and possibly organize a fundraising sale from the many crafty things I have lying around the house (I have a million hobbies) because I still can’t get the low cost spay/neuter clinic to call me back. It would be $40 each to get the Three Musketeers neutered there, whereas it will be $155 each at my for-profit vet.

Which is still cheap, as pediatric surgeries go, but three of them at once? Ow.

Meanwhile, just when we thought the immigration process was coming to an end, it turns out we are actually just back to more waiting, and it may be as much as four more months. Ow.

Things that are going well: Emmaline is starting to explore the house, which would be easier on everyone if the dogs were not fascinated by the brand new kitty, but is going nicely just the same. Badger is now 0% hissy, 25% purry, whereas Intrepid is at 100% purry and solicits human attention, and Astute is at about 200% purry — he starts up as soon as I walk in the room. So that’s all right. Now I just need to find them homes to go to after they’re neutered and vax’d.