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Adding another blog to the blogroll!

There are some good dogblogs over there on the right, you know. Recently I’ve added Training of a Search Dog, where you can read about Mr. Musket’s journey to his new career as a SAR dog! For those of you with short memories, Musket has been here twice before for short stays, and has finally found His Person who adores him for his high drive. I encourage you to keep up with him, cause it looks like it will be a fascinating read, especially if you’re interested in what goes into a Wilderness SAR dog!

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Chickens: most excellent soothers.

I am not the only person to recognize this in the world, gentle readers. Today, let me link you to a piece my good friend S. E. Smith wrote over at This Ain’t Livin: Today We’re Going to Talk About Chickens.

A brief sample that will help you understand why I absolutely adore S. E.:

Try spending some time with chickens. It’s immensely cheering and soothing, as long as you aren’t the type of get all self conscious about the fact that you’re hanging out with chickens. Some people are, you know. . .

Seriously, after the news yesterday I was not feeling a happy camper. Attempts at assassination tend to harsh my mellow in a pretty serious way, along with all the rampant speculation about which/how many mental illness(es) the shooter had, I was in fact very disgruntled. And then I went out and I sat with the chickens, and there were two eggs, and the chickens did chickeny things and said “bweeek?” at me and Bebelina shyly sidled up and pecked my shoe, and I felt much better.

In other Antidotes To A Sucky World: Musket is hilarious. I spent 30 minutes yesterday throwing a ball at his face. He thinks this is the Best House Game Ever[1] and spent the entire rest of the day bringing me his ball and trying to put it in my hand. Finally I gave in and started throwing it for him. In the house. He thought that was great, too. Also, he turned a year old on…Friday, I think. To celebrate, he is lifting a leg to pee, something he didn’t do last time he stayed here. But he hasn’t quite grasped the concept that you lift the leg to pee ON something, so he’s just standing there, in the middle of the yard, with one back paw lifted about 3″ off the ground. Makes me giggle, every time.


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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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Action Puppy Goes Home

We sent Musket back to Blackthorn Kennel yesterday with Christine, who came to pick him up. The house seems kind of quiet without him and we do miss him, although we knew all along he was just here for the week. It was a great learning experience for all concerned I think. If I had the time to put into training with him, Christine would have had to pry Musket from my cold dead hands, seriously. He is going to make someone a great working partner: willing, bright, able, and happy to snuggle or keep your feet warm at the end of the day. He’s polite to other dogs, learns quickly not to bother dog-savvy cats who are willing to whack him once or twice, but a little bit of a pest with a cat who has a serious lack of healthy fear like Rooney Lee. Someone looking for a working candidate is going to get a real treasure in Musket, I tell you what.

In other news, we’ve received 19 eggs from the chickens, which means we are down to $42/egg. We sent six home with my parents at Thanksgiving, since they wanted to try home-raised eggs. Ayinnanku and Bebelina continue to grow, and we’re hopeful that soon they’ll be able to go in with the big chickens since temps are dropping here at the Manor.

And now it’s time to go enjoy a movie with the family, although we will have an empty spot on the futon and no one will be dropping balls coated in a heavy layer of dog slobber on us at key moments in the film. Ah, Musket, you’ll be missed!

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Musket says dogs are carnivores.

We spent a hilarious 20 minutes the other night trying to feed Musket green beans. Our dogs love green beans, so when we had some for dinner I was of course handing them out to dogs. At first, Musket would only sniff at it, eyes wide with horror, while the other dogs jockeyed to get the green bean that he was manifestly not eating. Then, deciding it was terribly important to the people that he take this appalling object, he would curl his lips back and take the green bean with this front teeth with utmost delicacy before dropping it on the floor.

Eventually, after we kept trying to convince him to eat a green bean, he took one to his crate and buried it in his blanket. Further attempts to convince him that this was actually a tasty treat did convince him to actually bite into one, at which he looked even more horrified and immediately spat it out on the floor, where one of the other dogs promptly grabbed it.

It really was funny, because you could see his desire to be a Good Dog warring with his deep, deep horror of the innocent green bean. In the end, we stopped persecuting him with strange vegetables, lest he tell Christine that we abused him. I expect he’ll be more excited about his portion of Thanksgiving turkey. Still, Entertainment!Puppy continues to be entertaining. He really is a hell of a dog, and I keep thinking “if only I did not work so much…”

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Here is Musket, being Entertainment!Puppy briefly. It has to be brief because if you play hose with him for too long, he swallows dangerously large amounts of air and water. But, y’know, a brief game on a warm and sunny fall afternoon is pretty good stuff.

Water: runs!
Musket: I KEEL YOU! *snap*
Water: runs some more.
Musket: DIE! *SNAP*
Water: still running!

He really does love to play hose and was all kinds of disappointed when I declared the game over after 30 seconds because I didn’t want him to bloat. He is also deeply interested in pretty much everything humans are doing and would like to be involved, please. Oh and he is convinced that he is a lapdog, at least where Daniel is concerned, and is prone to heaving his front half into Daniel’s lap while clutching a slimy tennis ball in his mouth. He will attempt to hand you his slimy tennis ball repeatedly if you don’t appear to be busy, which would be more charming if it didn’t result in slime-trails on the legs of your pants as he rolls it enticingly across your leg.

On the plus side, he regards it as a pretty fun game if you take the ball, ask him to sit, and then hand it back while encouraging him to take it nicely from your hand. This doggy, he LOVES to work, even simple work. I almost feel like I should be having him do my Econ homework or something for me. I’m pretty sure that if he thought I’d throw the ball afterward, he would definitely work up the supply curve for an oligopolistic industry.

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Mister Fluffybutt Gets A Clue

It’s interesting having a puppy in the house again. I mean, Musket is not a tiny puppy, but he is only 10 months old. This is occasionally difficult to remember because he’s a big boy, but at ten months old he’s not really expected to have his WHOLE brain grown in. He does have half a brain, and it’s a pretty prodigious half a brain, but he’s not quite got the self-control of an older dog yet.

So anyway, new dogs are always fascinated by the cats. Mr. Fluffybutt is no exception. He is not out to hurt cats, but he really, really wants to interact with cats and possibly play with them. The cats, on the other hand, are not accustomed to the laser-focused stare of a drivey dog. Well, none of us really are, because generally speaking I prefer softer dogs and so that is what I have: dogs who can be roused to intensity by favorite treats or toys but who generally speaking are pretty happy to lounge on the couch with a chewie. But I digress. Musket is a very intense dog, who very intensely wants to interact with fascinating cat beasts, and the fascinating cat beasts would very much like him to not interact with him.

Initially, Musket thought it would be fun to play chasey games with cats. This worked really well with Aida, who took one look at him and said “Oh hell no!” and bolted for the cat rooms. Then he tried to play it with Braxton Bragg. For comparison: Aida weighs about seven pounds. Braxton is roughly three times her size. Neither one of them suffer fools or puppies gladly, but while Aida’s tactic is to remove herself to a secure area, Braxton’s modus operandi is to catch the offender across the face with two or three lightning-fast right hooks. With claws. And he holds a grudge.

Having thus been discouraged from playing chasey games with Braxton Bragg, Musket next optimistically decided he’d try with Emmaline. Emms looks like a much safer bet, she weighs about eight pounds and does not swagger like young Master Bragg. Unfortunately for Musket’s deliriously joyful plans for playing with her, she grew up in the woods and believes very deeply in her right to self-defense and also has all her claws. Since Musket isn’t aggressive, just playful, he came off the worse for wear in that encounter, too.

So by the time he got around to contemplating playing with Roo, who has no teeth and no claws, he was deeply respectful of the personal space of cats. Once he attempted to suck on Roo’s head and was reprimanded by the people, and now he leaves cats alone except to stand at a respectful distance and sometimes cry from frustration because he wants to play with cats SO MUCH and cats do not love him back and want to play with him. In fact he has been cornered by cats on a couple of occasions. He has such a good heart that retaliation has never crossed his mind, instead he waits for people to move the cats out of his way so he can get by without losing an eye.

Musket’s also a very honest dog. He will not lie to you, he will not dissemble, he lets you know who he is and what he needs to make his little world right. He’s frankly a joy, and that’s why I’ve loved him from afar for a while now. Unfortunately he’s also a dog who needs tow ork to be happy, and the Manor is not a good Working Dog home for the long haul. But so far Mr. Fluffybutt is enjoying his vacation, as you can see from the light in his eyes.

Blackthorn's Musket, a sable German Shedder with a wolfy, fluffy face and relatively small ears (compared to Zille) in three-quarters profile to the camera.  His ears are up, his eyes are alight, and his tongue is out.

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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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The Empire of Jeremiah Swakhammer

A heartwarming tale for your Sunday evening: Mr. Jeremiah Swakhammer’s new abode is complete. It took two days in temps with the heat index over 100F (roughly 38C), although at least we were working in a shaded area. The siting of Mr. Swakhammer’s mighty Empire was determined by 1) the morning sun 2) the shade during the hottest part of the day and 3) how far I can reach without getting out the Long Hose.

Speaking of hose, my friend C came over yesterday to help with laying the foundation, bringing with her Musket, who is 5 1/2 months old now (I am often sketchy on ages, this is the latest figure from C though so go with it). Is Musket fun? Oh my GOD is he fun. He loves to chase the water from a hose. LOOOOOVES it and if you spray it straight at his face he will be all “WHAAAAARGARBL” and snap at it and let you shoot it straight down his throat until he starts making weird gurgling noises and you have to stop so he can catch his breath. He is totally the perfect puppy, personable, curious, willing to give you his attention and work, energetic, handsome, and also belonging to C, who took him home with her at the end of the day so I didn’t have to deal with a waterlogged puppy. If you are looking for a working dog, and I mean here a dog who actually needs some work so he doesn’t decide to dismantle your house or something, look no further because seriously, he is a great puppy and is going to grow up to be a fantastic dog.

Wait, what, you wanted to hear about the Empire of Jeremiah Swakhammer? Right. I have pictures! Please forgive me if my alt tags aren’t up to their usual snuff, I am kind of incoherent after two days in the heat. Also I got no pics yesterday of the laying of the foundation, so, y’know, you’ll just have to suck it up and we’ll start with the building of the walls:
Four two inch by ten inch by ten foot boards rest in a square on a foundation of red twelve inch by twelve inch pavers.  A man in a white t-shirt and khaki shorts straddles one of the boards in the background, he holds a hammer in his right hand.  A section of four inch by four inch lumber, cut to twenty inches high, stands upright at the corner of the board opposite the man.  In the middle of the square, amid mounded dirt, sit plants in pots.  The area is dappled with sunlight but mostly in shade from the tall oak trees around it.

While my friend Rod was building the walls, I was in there digging holes for plants, placing hides and a small pool, and then shoveling leaf litter in that I stole from other parts of the property, the idea being to give Jeremiah Swakhammer the kind of forest floor environment he is used to:
The walls of the pen have now been constructed, so they are twice as high as in the last picture.  In the center of the pen, a piece of one inch by four inch lumber runs straight down the middle, supported at both ends and in the middle by more pieces of four by four.  In fact, Rod is placing the middle piece of four by four in this picture, taking care to avoid the plants, pool, and hides that have now been placed around the enclosure.  The floor is no longer mounded dirt, but covered in a thin layer of straw that is barely visible in places through the thicker layer of dead oak leaves that have been been spread throughout.

I sacrificed a couple pieces of firewood to make a hide, and added a large rock and then chunks of turf that had been removed during the laying of the foundation:
A view into Hide One.  A wedge-shaped piece of firewood whose length is indeterminate from this picture, sits to the right.  Propped up on it at one end and resting on the ground on the other is another wedge-shaped piece of firewood.  The interior is dark, but from this angle you CAN kinda tell that the back is topped with turf.  Petunias with pink flowers on them are planted in front of it.

Yet another piece of firewood sacrificed to make a hide. You can also see the Feeding Rock. That’s a Hosta on the left and the cantaloupe vine on the right.
A section of oak log, not too huge, rests on the ground, except you can kinda tell that there is a space dug out underneath it in case a turtle would like to hide there.  To the left of the log are the green leaves of a hosta, to the right of the logs a brave little cantaloupe vine puts out a yellow flower.  Behind the log is a square grey tile of slate to be used for offerings of food.

Finally, here it is all done and closed up so as to thwart Raccoons and other predators who might wish to make a snack of turtle:
A view of turtletopia with the top closed.  The top is two five foot by ten foot frames, which have strong hardware cloth attached to the underneath.  They are hinged, and on the left side in this picture you can see a handle on each so they can be opened more easily.

Anyhoo, Mr. Swakhammer will move into his new digs either later tonight or early tomorrow before I leave for work, when it’s cool out and he can explore a little bit and discover the hides and the pool and stuff. At some point, probably after I bring him in for the winter and the plants have died (although hostas at least are perennials! If they live…) I will add about 6″ of topsoil to the whole thing for better plant-growing conditions. I think this will work out for now, though, as long as I keep it watered and the plants don’t die. Speaking of keeping it watered, I think we’re about to get a thunderstorm. Well, the sky has gone dark and it just thundered, anyway, which was met by barking from Ms. Tink. When Big Sky Dog growls, you must respond to the challenge, lest Big Sky Dog think a territory is undefended, you know.