Friday, April 27, 2007

The Birds and the Bees


Doves are supposed to be the representatives of peace. From what I know about them, they don't build very sturdy nests and they are very tasty when breasted, wrapped in bacon, and baked or bbq'ed.

Last year a pair of doves made a flimsy nest in my little wisteria covered pergola. They ended up raising at least three clutches, something I didn't know they could do. This year they are back.

I wish them great success. They need to be aware of the big blue jay that's been hanging around.


I also snapped a photo of these giant bees. I think the black one is a carpenter bee and I have no idea what the orangish one is. Though they don't seem very aggressive, they are big enough to be scary.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Milking Sheep

In early March my sister broke her leg from a bad horseback riding accident. She ended up having surgery and was off work for a long time (yesterday was her first day back). Since she is usually very active being virtually bedridden for the first four weeks was driving her nuts. When she was able to move about a bit, she still couldn't do a lot but at least she wasn't shackled to the bed anymore.

In trying to find things to do she's been hobbling about her house on her crutches, or scooting on her butt with her leg sticking straight out while she weeds the flower beds, but mainly she's been housebound and bored. She decided to start baking bread. But then remembered she'd have to eat it, and with her forced inactivity that would only lead to way too many unwanted extra pounds.

She asked if I ever milked my cow. I had tried it once but she's not trained for it and wasn't happy about it. I got about a half a cup of milk and decided it was easier to buy it at the store. My sister had decided to try to make cheese. Don't ask me what made her think of doing that, but I like it!

She did a little research on the internet and found a few simple recipes. I did some shopping at the health food store where I found some milk that wasn't ultra-pasteurized and some liquid rennet.

The next day she had some "lemon cheese". It was a bit bland, but I could see it spiced up with herbs or even some spicy peppers. It had a texture similar to a spread cheese like Alouette or Boursin.

Meanwhile she has also been researching dairy goats. Now we're talking! This is something I can get into. More animals!

The LaMancha was different, with little or no ears, and the while the Golden Guernsey is a very pretty red-haired goat it is extremely rare and almost impossible to find outside of Great Britain. The Alpine breeds probably wouldn't do so well in our summer heat. The logical choice was a Nubian or Nigerian Dwarf.

All right! I asked her how soon could we get one? I would even be willing to go in halves with her. We'll get a buck and breed to my cashmere doe. We could practice the milking on her. Slow down, she said. She wanted to be able to take care of it first. Let her leg heal up and then we'll talk more about getting an actual goat.

Last week she ordered a cheese making kit. She made mozzarella! It was delicious.

what's left of the mozzarella, until after the picture was taken



Now I got to thinking. Hmmm. What about sheep milk? Don't they have dairy sheep? Of course there are. That's how they get sheep cheese. Well, now. I happen to have two sheep that are still producing milk for their babies.

The grand idea came to me: MILK MY SHEEP!

I had to get some grain and chicken food anyway, so while at the feed store I bought a nice 4 quart stainless steel pail. I could hardly wait to get home.

I got Jaime Lee out of the pen and led her to the shearing stand. I bribed her with some grain and she climbed up. I grabbed a hold of one of her teats and started trying to milk her. It's not that easy. Finally I started getting a little stream. It was hard to keep any kind of rhythm going because my fingers kept slipping off. I got a tiny bit of milk in the bottom of the pail as well as on my shirt, the ground, etc. Finally it looked like I had more than a tablespoon so I decided not to torture Jamie any longer. She was being very good about my clumsiness.

Jamie's milk in the bottom of the pail, along with some debris (no biggie)



I took her off the stand and gave her another handful of grain. I let all the sheep out at that point so they could be reunited and relax while they nibbled the grass. Then I ran inside to measure what I got.

It turns out it was a grand total of 1/4 cup of milk! And even though I tried to keep it clean somehow little specks of dirt or hay (no doubt from her belly) had fallen in. No matter. I strained it through a paper towel into a little plastic bag and put it in the freezer. I figure it's like when you grow your own fruit or veggies. It doesn't matter if it's got a bruise or bird peck mark in it. At this rate I'll have enough milk to make a half pound of cheese in, what, say about three months?

1/4 cup of milk for our efforts!

I could spend $180 + on an Udderly EZ milker but I'm not ready for that yet. I'd rather get a goat first.

So either we need to get a goat (bigger teats would make it easier) or I'll have to train Ladysmith to let me milk her.

Meanwhile... Oh Ewenice! You're next!

Hurry up and get well m.t.!!! We have THINGS TO DO!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dogs Are Family Too, Final


When you have three dogs daily doo pick up is a must do chore. Poops pile up pretty darn fast if you don't, making backyard navigation hazardous.

Since I usually make that chore a part of my morning routine I wasn't all that keen about getting another dog.

Nevertheless, just for fun and out of curiosity I would occasionally check the internet for my long ago pick of Bracco Italianos. There were some beautiful web sites of breeders from overseas but that was out of the question for us. There were a couple of breeders in the United States but it seemed they never had any puppies when I looked.

One day in November, about six months after Elmo died I was once again checking out my dream dog. There on the web site for Cerca Trova Kennels located in Colorado was an announcement from October that they had a litter born on the 10th.

Later that evening I asked my husband if he still thought he wanted to get a third dog. The answer was yes. Time to start my smooth talking.

I took out the dog breeds book and flipped it open to the Bracco Italiano page. I showed it to my husband and made sure to point out all the positives.

Braccos have a very handsome and nobile looking hound dog type face. It's a shortcoated dog so there was no grooming issue. Their tail is docked. We frequently have to remind each other to move drinks into the TFZ (Tail Free Zone) of the coffee table because of Chester's long whippy tail and Gus's sweeping tail, something that was a nonissue with Otis, Roscoe, Duke, and Elmo.

Appealing to my strange sense of vanity was that I was pretty sure we'd be the only people in Bakersfield to own a Bracco. And, since our first dog, Otis, had been a German Shorthaired Pointer, getting the Italian Pointer would round out the heritage part of it for me.

My husband looked at the book for a while. I added that I had found a breeder that had puppies ready to go and if we wanted one we'd probably have to act fast. I was a little surprised when he said to go ahead.

I fired off an e-mail introducing myself and asking if they had any male puppies left. I wasn't sure when I would hear back because it was Thanksgiving Day.

I did receive an answering email Friday morning. They had several males left and if I was interested I should call. I did call right away and spoke to Dan. I hope he didn't hear me gasp when he said they were $2500. The "good" news was that the price had actually been reduced to $2000 because they had hernias that would need repair. I started to panic a little when he further stated they did not ship. They required buyers to pick the puppies up from the kennel. Thinking fast, I asked if I could send a $500 down payment to hold a puppy until we could get there in the next week or two. He agreed but cautioned they would go fast and we could only pick from what was left.

I told my husband the bad news about having to go to Colorado. Then he asked the one question I had been dreading. How much? I held up two fingers. He raised his eyebrows a little and I added "thousand." His response was a quiet "Wow."

I did have most of it squirreled away in our little safe. I had been saving it to use towards our car insurance due in May. With a teenaged daughter with one point already on her license, I knew it was going to be very costly. But hey, I couldn't pass up this opportunity. What's more important, after all? I would worry about the insurance when the bill came.

I believe all my common sense fled out my ears the moment I heard my husband say we could get a Bracco. I had often scoffed at the high prices some people were charging for dogs in our local paper. Even scorned the people who would be foolish enough to fork out that kind of dough for a mere dog. And now I had become one of them.

I expressed my concern about waiting too long. And then my husband surprised me again. He said he would go the next day (Saturday) to get our puppy. YES!!! I called the breeders to let them know.

First thing Saturday morning I went to the bank to get the remaining cash plus a little for expenses. I gave my husband an envelope filled with cash and the Map Quest directions plus all the phone numbers.

As he drove off I remember thinking if he realized this was Thanksgiving weekend and traffic, especially the return on Sunday, would be horrendous, particularly through Las Vegas. I wasn't about to tell him.

He told me later the drive up was uneventful and he got to Moab in about 12 hours. He slept in the truck (not very well) and the next morning drove another 1 1/2 hours to the kennel.

He got there fairly early and the puppies had to be awakened so he could make his pick. There was one brown and white male that he liked (reminding him of Otis) but he ended up picking the liveliest of the bunch at the time, an orange and white male.

The drive home took about three hours longer because of the traffic in the Las Vegas area, just as I'd feared. But he finally made it home and we instantly fell in love. While my husband went to get some much needed sleep Chester, Gus, and the puppy got acquainted.

new puppy & Gus get acquainted

Being the oldest, Chester was not crazy about the new guy and let him know it by showing his teeth and giving the softest of warning growls. Gus, on the other hand, became the nanny. They slept together and played together. Even when the sharp puppy teeth drew blood, Gus was ever so patient.

buddies

I had decided my husband had most definately earned naming rights. After some contemplation he came up with "Clyde", after one of his grandfathers.

At Clyde's first vet appointment one of the girls exclaimed how cute he was. Of course, all puppies are cute. Then she said, "I've never seen one this color before. Oh! What happened to his tail?" I knew then that she was thinking he was a bloodhound, because at that time Clyde had the long ears, big jowels and lots of wrinkles on his face. In fact, he had lots of skin all over. I told her he was probably not what she was thinking he was and explained about the Bracco Italiano.

lots of extra skin

Clyde is six months old now and about half way through his basic obedience class. If I say so myself, of the eighteen dogs in the class he is probably in the top three. Everybody is impressed with how well he does (practice, people, practice!). It's obvious at home that he is a hunting dog. He brings a tennis ball to be thrown over and over and over again. The only time he stops is if he sees a fly and then he becomes totally focused on the fly. We're looking for a trainer so he can get some formal pointing training. And not just anybody will do. I want to make sure he doesn't get ruined by a rough handler using shortcuts or whatever.

practicing long sit with an audience

Clyde is not the most perfectly behaved dog. I've had two pairs of flip flops chewed, my son has had a pair of sneakers chewed and my husband's old work boots are now sporting a stlylish band of silver duct tape along the top. And yes he has lots of toys. I think he must like the smell?? We've learned to put our shoes up and out of reach or in the closet where they probably should have been. He likes to sneak up onto the bed early in the morning and gets between my husband and me. And sometimes he still tinkles in the house. Just a little.

with a duck (first lesson?)

But it's so easy to forgive him. He is still a puppy after all, and he is just so darn cute! Even Chester has accepted him.

God has a way of making things work out. Even for foolish people. Carli had moved out in the beginning of November. When I got the car insurance renewal bill and saw that she was 80% of the $5600 (after "discounts") I told her she'd have to find her own insurance. She was able to find a much better deal for her fiance and herself, and suddenly my insurance became affordable again. Thank you, God!

And now finally the tale of the dogs is over, but it's not ended.

Clyde, Chester, Gus


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Brother's B-Day




I was almost five years old when my brother was born. I was the third born of three daughters and he was the fourth born and only son. Let me add, the much longed for and wanted son. We were actually "accidents". Our parents had not planned on having more than two kids,but there we were.




He was born in Oklahoma during a tornado warning. Might that have been a warning of things to come? Maybe not so much for him but for me towards him




Before he was born I was the baby of the family. My parent's friends would visit and make a big fuss over me because I was the baby and I must admit, I was the cutest! All the attention used to be focused on me until he was born.




I remember driving home from the hospital after visiting our mother. My dad was asking for suggestions for names for our new BROTHER. It seems all the suggestions of my four year and 11 month old brain name factory were shot down without so much as a how do you do. I ask you, what's wrong with "Housy"? Nowadays with the popularity of the show "House" he would be a total star. Especially considering that he is today an actual doctor. Obviously I was way ahead of my time!




Who'd have thunk it? My slow, underachieving little brother would become a doctor? An M.D.? NO WAY!!




Meanwhile he had become the bebe de celebrite. I was virtually ignored while visitors oohed and aahed over the NEW BABY.




What was going on? Was I not worthy of attention anymore? Had I suddenly been transformed into some hideous beasty that deserved nothing less than total disregard? I used to think I was fairly cute. That's what they used to tell me. That's why I would try to sneak into every photograph ever taken.




I took every opportunity available to torment him. I remember once shortly after he had been brought home he was sleeping peacefully in his crib. I looked at him through the slats, then reached in and gave him a good pinch. Of course he immediately woke up and started bawling.




My mother rushed in and asked what happened. I feigned total innocence and declared I had been merely passing by when he suddenly woke up crying. I had no idea what was wrong!




It didn't stop there. When he was a little older and just beginning to speak I would hide around corners and just as he was passing by I'd jump out and scare him. That's when he started stuttering. That's when my mom told me to knock it off, or else. I took her warning to heart and his stuttering stopped.




When he was a little older he turned into the nightmare brother. That is, he knew at that point our parents were suspicious of me and usually assumed I was the culprit when he started crying. Usually this was true, but not always. He started tormenting me in ways that would make me sock him. Then he started "crying" and I got in trouble. He did it on purpose!




I don't even remember anymore what set me off on this particular episode. I just recall being so angry I was shaking. I grabbed him around the waist, and in one smooth move, flipped him upside down and then tried to stuff him head first into a metal garbage can.




Then my mother gave me a different kind of warning. "One day he is going to be bigger and stronger than you. Just remember that."




That day did indeed come and the first time he punched me back I was in total shock. My harassment towards him quickly abated, especially since my mom merely looked at me and said "I told you so."




Now he is a doctor. He is an anesthesiologist and also got a fellowship in pain management. I think I speak for my two sisters when I say we are very proud of him. He turned into a really great human being. I'm sure I can take a lot of credit for that! (Just kidding!)




HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MARKIE!


Monday, April 23, 2007

The Lambs Have Lost Their Tails

All the lambs have lost their tails
and don't know what to do.
So they run and frolic all about
to the amusement of me and you.



racing lambs



Then they take a little rest
to nap, to drink, or nibble grass.
And suddenly they're off again.
They leap and race en masse.





All too soon the lambs grow up
to have babies of their own.
And so the cycle starts again.
The seeds of life are sown.



newly tailless butts










pretty tails all in a row


I found the last of the lamb's tails in the pen the other day. It kind of seems a shame not to do anything with them. I've been thinking of maybe marketing them with a game and calling it "Pin the Tail on the Lamb". No, actually I'm just kidding. I threw them away after I took this picture.

PS-My apologies for the bad poetry! Be ready for more in the future!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Dogs Are Family Too (Part Three)

Otis's health was rapidly going down hill. We often had to give him a hand to stand up. I wasn't sure how much longer he would last. Roscoe had gone through something similar. We would have to pick him up under his stomach until we got outside where he would collapse immediately on the grass when we took our support away. From there he would pick at his dinner and do his business. We did this for three days before I said "Enough!"

I was watching Otis carefully because I didn't want him to have to suffer the same indignities. When he got to the point where his legs could no longer support him I said it was time. The family said goodbye and I took him to the vet.

When it comes to emotional issues my husband is a bigger softie than he would let on. He cannot handle this aspect of animal ownership well and the sad chore always falls to me. I love having dogs but the sad truth is they don't live as long as we do and that is a fact of life we have to deal with. In the meantime we do the best we can to ensure they live in a wonderful, happy, and safe environment.

We were definitely not a one dog family anymore, and the loss of Otis left a big hole. Even Elmo seemed to be looking for his pal. Carli had been talking about having her own puppy. Like all kids who want a dog there were the absolute promises that she would totally take care of all it's needs. She promised to feed him, pick up his poops, bathe him, play with him, and whatever else would be necessary. I knew that it wouldn't really happen, but it was time to get a new dog anyway, so what the heck.

I was pretty sure I was done with dog shows by then so we looked in the paper for something local and found a litter of Chesapeake Bay Retrievers in Taft, a tiny town about 30 minutes away.

I had see Chessies at the dog shows, and I've got to say, the father of this litter did not resemble them much. He was the biggest and most rambunctious Chesapeake I've ever seen. If I had read John Grogan's book Marley and Me before then I would have politely said "We'll keep on looking" and backed away.

two month old Chester

Carli picked out a pup and held him in her lap on the way home. I persuaded her to name him "Chester". Gee, I wonder how many Chesapeakes are named that? But it was easy to remember; Chester the Chesapeake. I never even bothered to send in his registration papers. Both his parents did not have the same "type" I'd seen at shows. Like I said, I knew I wasn't going to show again, and we were definitely going to have this dog neutered early, something we'd never done before. (It must be a "man" thing. The husbands always seem to be against neutering, like it's somehow going to transfer to them and make them "less of a man.")

Chester came home and he and Elmo immediately took to each other. Chester filled the missing dog role in Elmo's life and Chester had a new dog family member to replace the ones he'd been taken from.

Chester & Elmo

Unfortunately Chester turned out to be a bit of a disappointment as far as a hunting dog goes. Let me just put it this way: If he's in the same room with you and you sneeze, he runs for another room. Sometimes I'll have a sneezing fit and the first sneeze he'll try to climb on my lap, but as I continue he runs to hide. I don't know why he has this odd idiosyncrasy. We always try to reassure him that everything's okay, but there is something in his brain that can't accept it.

Chester & friend


The other thing with Chester is he loves to climb on the table to look out and about. We've caught him on the dining room table a few times. I suspect he jumps down when he hears us coming. It's not really that he's looking for scraps because the table is bare. He just likes to be up high and survey his dogdom.

Surveying his dogdom

I've heard it said that Chesapeakes have a peculiar, very disagreeable, distinctive odor when they get wet. (I think most wet dogs stink anyway!) While this is somewhat true of Chester, it's not as bad as I had been led to believe. He does love to swim. We are fortunate enough to have our lot back up to a couple hundred acres of water storage ponds. When the ponds are full we often open the gate to the back and Chester goes racing to the water. He leaps in and swims around and around, and back and forth, barking at his own splashing feet. This continues until he has to come to the edge of the water, vomit the gallons of water he has swallowed, perhaps poop and pee what has gone even further and then go back and do it all again. It is very difficult to get him out of the water unless he's already worn out from all his swimming.

The ponds are currently not full because work is being done back there and we noticed Chester is getting a bit of a paunch. I hope they finish soon and refill. He needs his exercise.

One day when Carli was about 15 (about five years after we brought Chester home) she came in the door carrying a little yellow puppy. She claimed she rescued him from the street where he'd almost been hit by a gardening truck.

Upon closer examination, the puppy appeared to be a purebred Golden Retriever, about eight weeks old. I really didn't want a third dog and especially not a golden retriever. My sister had been given a pair several years earlier because their owner could no longer take care of them anymore. Every time I saw her she had long blond strands of dog hair all over her clothes. (We all have dark hair, well, gray hair colored dark now.)

My husband was even less thrilled than I. But we agreed the best thing to do would wait a few weeks and look in the paper every day for a "lost" ad. My husband also drove the neighborhood looking for flyers of a lost puppy. I didn't put an ad in the paper because #1: "lost" ads were free and "found" ads were not; and #2: if I had put an ad in who knows who would've called to claim him? It could have been someone lying to get a nice dog. I didn't want to take that chance.

After several weeks of seeing nothing we had to come to the conclusion that we now had a third dog. We named him Gus. We took him to the vet (a new place, closer to home) to start his vaccinations. She even checked for a microchip, but found nothing. The staff were all surprised that such a nice puppy had gone unclaimed.

The vet told us there were two types of golden retrievers. They were great family pets either way, but there were the kind that were very active and needed lots of exercise (hyper), and there were the cool, calm, relaxed, laid back type. We had yet to see what we had.

Gus relaxing at my desk


We got lucky. Gus is very laid back. He'll happily plop down on the sofa with his head in my lap. He often lays at my feet while I'm typing. He has the same type of look in his eyes that Roscoe had. He just wants to make his humans happy.

Gus & Chester

The first time my husband took Gus hunting with him it was to hunt quail. Gus had never had any sort of training so he really didn't know what to expect. He shot a quail but it was only wounded and ran into some brush on the side of a very steep hill. As my husband walked along looking for the bird he spotted it hunkered down about five feet away. He called Gus over and pointed to the bird (isn't it supposed to be the other way around?). Gus walked up to the quail and began to lick it. He's such a gentle soul! Nowadays he knows what he's supposed to do and happily finds and retrieves the downed birds. That dog has natural talent!

Elmo & Gus sleeping


Eventually came the inevitable day when Elmo started doing poorly. He was only nine years old. His breathing was becoming more labored and he wasn't getting around too well anymore. He was stone deaf and his eyes were cloudy. He suddenly became incontinent. His time had come. My husband wanted to go to the vet with me. I think he was hoping she could give him a shot or some pills and he'd be cured, but in my heart I knew better.

After examining him she gave us the bad news. His heart was not healthy and had fluid built up around it. There was really nothing she could do for him. At this rate he would not have lasted out the week on his own. She added he just wasn't the same Elmo she had come to know. I agreed. He didn't seem happy anymore. The decision was made and my husband left the room to wait for me in the truck.

A few weeks later my husband surprised me by saying he really liked having three dogs around. I wasn't ready to get another just yet. That wouldn't happen for another six months.




one more left...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Dogs Are Family Too, continued

Roscoe was gone and Otis was without canine companionship. He was beginning to show his age. I've heard that sometime getting a new puppy can revive the spirits of an older dog. It was worth a try, wasn't it?

Once again it was time to decide on what breed to get. I really wanted to get back into showing. I wanted another sporting breed. I wanted something kind of different, unusual. It had to be AKC registered, as I was totally unfamiliar with the UKC or any other dog registries. I thought of Mikki with her whiskery terrier face. That look always appealed to me. Yet I didn't want something that would need constant grooming either.

As I flipped through my dog breeds book I paused first on the Bracco Italiano. It is an Italian pointing dog. Who would've thought? It looked kind of like a spotted bloodhound with a docked tail. The book said they were an ancient breed and very rare. I really liked the looks and description but realized they were not AKC registrable. Maybe one day I would get one.

The next dog I looked at was a dog called a Barbet. It looks similar to an untrimmed poodle. I knew poodles were hunting dogs at one time, and the way their hair is cut was to make it easier to swim yet protect their joints and vital organs when retrieving in icy waters. But I kept going because they are not common in the US either and my husband would never consent to having something that looked like a poodle. Also it was not an AKC breed.

Then I saw a Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. They seemed to meet my requirements. They were good family dogs, they weren't very common, they had a very cute whiskery face, and grooming requirements were as simple as a weekly brushing. They were supposed to be an all around hunting dog, equally adept at hunting upland game and retrieving ducks over water. That would be the next dog for us.

I bought the latest issue of Dog World magazine and checked the back pages for ads. (This was still before the internet really took off and long before we owned our first computer.) I found a breeder in Michigan and began a telephone correspondence.

It might be interesting to note at this point that all these decisions were made by myself, without any input by or knowledge of my husband. Now to break the news to him.

I convinced him that Otis needed a dog companion and stressed the versatility of the Wirehaired Pointing Griffon. Somehow he believed all my lines. Or is it just that he loves me so much he'll go along with my schemes to keep me happy? (Roll eyes here.)

We picked up our little bundle of joy at LAX, the same terminal where we had picked up Victor, the Karakul ram. We had him home for just a few days when he started acting depressed and had mucousy diarrhea. My heart sank. I had just named him Worf, after the Star Trek character.

The vet confirmed my worst fears: it was parvo. The little guy didn't make it. I called the breeder to relay the news. Even though he had given the pups their first shots it was not enough yet to protect them. He was dealing with similar problems with the puppies he still had at home. He assured me a replacement puppy would be shipped with his next litter, due in the next several months.

In the meantime I decided to get another puppy, this time from a breeder in Oregon. Duke was a few weeks older and had an additional set of shots, but I still watched him carefully for signs of parvo. He was okay.

Duke
True to his word, the Michigan breeder sent another puppy many months later. I was paranoid with fear that this puppy would come down with parvo too, but my fears were eased. He was totally healthy. We named him Elmo.

Three puppies? Elmo, Carli, Duke
My reasoning for getting two Griffons was simple. There were not very many around and I needed at least one other to compete against in the conformation ring in order to earn at least a minor point. This way I would bring my own competition with me and guarantee that one of the dogs would get a point. The hard part would be to get the required major points. I would have to travel to areas where there were usually a few more Griffons shown in order to try for the coveted majors.

You are probably wondering how I could show two dogs at once. It was easy. My friend Vicki was breeding and showing Mastiffs. We'd travel to shows together, share hotel rooms, and help each other out in the ring as needed.

Before Elmo was old enough to show we took Duke and one of her mastiffs to a show near Vallejo. We had left the dogs in the hotel room while we went to get a quick bite in the downstairs restaurant. We felt safe doing this because our dogs were house dogs after all and used to being inside. We fully expected them to fall asleep while we were gone.


Duke
After our dinner we were casually strolling back to our room at the end of the hall when we heard a big CRASH! We stopped and looked at each other. Was that from our room? BANG! Our stroll turned into a dead run.

We hurriedly opened the door, fully expecting to encounter a total disaster. It wasn't too bad, I guess, but it was bad enough. The dogs had obviously had quite the party while we were gone. The bedspread was on the floor. Vicki's make-up case was no longer in the bathroom, but now it's contents were spread all over the bedroom floor. The plastic wastebasket had chew marks. The floor to ceiling curtains were slightly askew. Worst of all was the large pile of poop in the middle of the floor.

Upon seeing the last I turned to Vicki and said, "That didn't come out of my dog." She had no choice but to agree. We cleaned up as best we could and discovered it really wasn't as bad as it had first appeared. There was of course the wastebasket that suffered the worst damage. After all that the only other damage we could find was a tiny one inch rip on the bed spread and a smaller tear in the curtains.

We carefully arranged the curtains so the rip was not visible, but we knew we'd have to confess to the other damage. The next morning before we checked out we called the front desk and told them about the damage. They said they would have to send someone up to inspect the room and then they could tell us how much the extra charges would be.

We waited as long as we could but ring time was fast approaching. We called down to the front desk one more time. They said we could leave and they would simply add the charge to my credit card. We agreed to that and took off for the show grounds.

We swore to each other that our husbands must never find out. As it turned out, the extra charge was only about $30. Whew! That was probably one of the funniest adventures we ever had.

Elmo, left; Duke, right
Eventually the time came when both Elmo and Duke had earned all the minor points they could. It was a waste of time and money to keep going to shows where they couldn't earn a major. At one show in the Los Angeles area I was approached by a couple asking if I had any Griffons available for sale. It was then that I decided to let Duke go. He had been getting a little too "friendly" with my little daughter at home lately and the timing seemed right. The people I sold him to wrote me a note with some pictures a few weeks later. They were thrilled with him and their German Shorthaired Pointer had the companion dog she'd been lacking. And yes, they had Duke neutered.

I found a professional handler to show Elmo for a while. I was hoping he could do what I could not: finish Elmo's championship. He did okay with Elmo, and given enough time and money probably would have finished him, but I was definitely running out of the latter. It was getting a little too expensive and we did miss him at home. So much for my dreams of the Westminster Kennel Club Show at the Madison Square Garden in February.

Elmo with handler, going away
...not done yet!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Holey Holly



Remember the ewe lamb that got the giant hole in her ear when I tried to tag her? (See "Ear Tagging & Shearing", April 2, 2007.) I noticed she managed to rip her scrapies tag out of the other ear. Silly thing! The only thing I can think of is that she did it by poking her head through the fence and then got it caught.


Ouch!

I think I'll call her Holy Holly.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Dogs Are Family Too

The very first dog that was ever my own was my dog Mikki. My dad had brought her home from work. A woman he worked with had brought her dog's puppies to the office in hopes of finding them new homes. I'm not sure if she had the miniature poodle or the Scottish terrier, but that's what Mikki was a combination of. I called her my "pooter".

Mikki

She was supposed to be the family dog, but it didn't take long before she was all mine. I did most of the chores associated with keeping a dog; feeding, bathing, cleaning up after. In return she loved me unconditionally. She took to sleeping in my bed with me at night when I could sneak her in. Otherwise she would scratch on my door in the morning to wake me up and greet me with whiskery wet kisses.

I was almost 20 when I started dating my husband-to-be. He would pick Mikki and me up and we would go to his apartment. I don't know how the game started but it seemed funny at the time.

The apartment building was on a small curved road. When we reached the beginning of the curve we would stop, let Mikki out and race off. She would race behind us to the first floor apartment. It got to be where she would know what was coming and get all excited and squirmy in anticipation of the race.

One day we were heading to the apartment and approached the curve. The window was rolled down and before I fully realized what happened, Mikki had leapt out. Without thinking I yelled, "Go! Go!" My shrieks of laughter suddenly turned to wails of sorrow when there was that sickening sound of thudding underneath the car. We had run over her. She had been in the road ahead of the car where we didn't see her instead of on the grassy side of the road as she usually was. I looked back to see her limping to the gutter where she collapsed. Before the car was fully stopped I jumped out and ran back to scoop her up in my arms, but it was too late.

We buried her out in the foothills. I cried every day for a week. Sometimes I thought I heard her scratching at my door, but I knew it was my imagination. It was all so stupid and unnecessary. I know my fiance felt guilty, but I placed the blame on myself.

Time does have a way of making things somewhat better but I still get tears in my eyes when I think of her.

When we married, my husband and I knew we would eventually get at least one dog. He had been raised with miscellaneous dogs his whole life, while in my family it was not practical for various reasons, not for lack of us kids trying to convince our parents otherwise.

Shortly after we married we moved from the apartment to a duplex with a surprisingly large yard. The landlord allowed pets, providing a hefty deposit was paid.

Since my husband is the outdoorsy type and enjoys fishing, hunting, and various other manly pursuits, we thought our first dog should be of a sporting breed. He favored the black labs, but I've always had a thing for having the unusual, so I thought a Visla would be a good choice.

I found a California breeder in the back of a dog magazine and gave her a call. I was disappointed when she said she didn't have any puppies available at that time and it wouldn't be until almost a year later before she was expecting another litter.

That just wouldn't do. When I get my mind set on something it has to be right now. We'd just have to look in the local paper and see what was available. I found a listing of German Shorthaired Pointer puppies. They were less than $200. Now that most certainly would do. Plus I liked the idea of the German part, since my heritage is German/Italian.

How can anyone possibly choose just one of the adorable puppies? They are all so cute. My husband is a "boy dog" guy so that narrowed the choices just a bit. We finally made a pick and brought our new puppy home.

Now, what to name him? After rejecting multiple possibilities we ended up going to our back up method of choosing a name. The good old phone book. My husband closed his eyes while I fanned the book in front of him. He let his finger fall on a page and we looked to where it was pointed. "Otis" somebody or the other. Well then, Otis it was.

Otis and in-law's dog Amos

We'd only been in our duplex for a short while when the in-laws came for a visit. As usual, my m.i.l. brought tons of food with her to fill our fridge. We fixed a tray of delicious sliced salami on the coffee table for snacks after the grand tour of the new digs. We spent a few minutes marveling in the large back yard and then went in to have our wine and goodies.

The plate that held the two pounds of salami was empty. Otis looked a little too satisfied. I sniffed at his mouth and he most definately had salami breath. Fortunately he suffered no ill effects and we learned to not leave food where he could reach it unless we were in the same room to watch him. There is a saying that if you can survive your first two years with a German Shorthair then you'll have him to the end.

Otis, about three months old

When Otis turned one I saw an ad for obedience class and thought it most certainly couldn't hurt, so I signed us up. The class brought out the competetive nature in me and I started going to shows to try and earn Otis's obedience degrees. I also thought I might try out some of the conformation classes to see how he stacked up against the other dogs of his breed. I personally thought he was perfect.

I found out he wasn't. The first time I went to a conformation class more than one person asked what happened to his tail. The German Shorthair tail is supposed to be docked, leaving about 40% of the length. Oops. Somebody had docked Otis's tail to three inches. If I'd have known that I could have saved myself some embarrassment. It wasn't a major fault but it didn't help any. Live and learn.

Grown up Otis

I only went to a few more shows but we finally, by the skin of our teeth, managed to earn his Companion Dog title. Dog shows were just not Otis's favorite thing.

Then came the day we moved into our first very own house. We could punch holes in the wall if we wanted to, paint the walls wacky colors, or do whatever we wanted. We didn't have to worry about the landlord. We lost our pet deposit from the duplex because Otis had shredded the curtains in the room we kept him in when we went to work. Fortunately the room was void of any furniture.

Now we had our own little house, again with a surprisingly big yard. That meant only one thing; it was time to get another dog. We had seen a John Wayne movie (can't recall which) that had a Rottweiler in it. I knew what they were but had never seen one in real life. At that time they were not very well known. We decided to get one.

I found a breeder in Los Angeles and this time we got lucky. She had a litter and we could pick from about five available males.

We thought picking out the Shorthair was hard. These puppies all looked exactly the same. They all seemed to have pretty much the same personalities, playing with each other and occasionally coming over to check us out. After watching the puppies for about thirty minutes we finally made our choice. It was the only one we could pick out from the bunch and know it was the same one each time. He had a tiny piece of turd stuck to the fur on his little stumpy tail.

Roscoe

We brought him home and he was the cutest thing. He looked like a fuzzy little bear cub. Otis wasn't too thrilled with his new brother at first, but eventually they became good friends.

Now for the hard part. A good name. Again we hit the same roadblocks. Nothing seemed to feel right and we couldn't agree. So we did the phone book routine again. Out of three possibles one had the same first name as the first person my husband ever arrested in his police career; "Roscoe". And so the puppy became Roscoe the Rottweiler.

Roscoe was a great dog. He always tried to please me and when he knew he did well not just his stumpy tail, but his whole rear end would wag. I took him to obedience class where he excelled. He earned his C.D. in his first three shows and his CDX (Companion Dog Excellent) in the next three shows. He wasn't doing too badly in the conformation classes either. I felt optimistic about earning his championship because we were being consistently placed in the top four of our classes. Popularity of the Rottweilers just exploded about then and the classes were huge, sometimes including 20 dogs in one class.

Grown up Roscoe

I was taking him to Utility Dog class by then and he was doing very well. I had ideas of going for his Obedience Champion title. He was two years old and it was time to get his hips x-rayed for his OFA rating. After doing the x-rays, the vet told me it would be a waste of money to send them in to get evaluated because his hips were really bad. Even though he wasn't currently displaying any symptoms, the vet said instead of having "ball and socket" joints, Roscoe had cubes where the ball part should be. He recommended retiring Roscoe from all showing, especially obedience where jumping was a requirement.

I reluctantly took his advice and we retired from all showing.

Another couple of years later and we were finally making enough to buy a house with a little more property. We used to drive around neighborhoods looking for "for sale" signs. The first time I saw the house we eventually bought I knew it would be out of our league. It was just too nice of a neighborhood. When we finally committed to enlisting the aid of a real estate agent she took us to see that house. It had everything we liked, and particularly for me the almost one acre lot. I still didn't think we could afford it but the agent assured us it was within our reach. Apparently it had sat vacant for over a year because the former owner had been transferred by his company. Twice it had started escrow but fallen through for various reasons. It was a sign. We made an offer and the house became ours.

We eventually had our first child. We brought her home and introduced her to the dogs. Again, Otis was a bit stand-offish, but Roscoe seemed happy to see her. He would often lay down by her playpen while she slept or played.

The difference in the two dogs was like night and day. Once when Carli started climbing on Otis his growled and snapped at her. I immediately pounded on him. He got the message that that behaviour was not allowed! After that when she started heading his way he would get up and move to another location. Roscoe, on the other hand, endured all kinds of abuse at the hands of the baby. She could crawl all over him, pull his ears, poke him in the eye, and he would take it all in stride.

Two years later we had another child, this time a boy. The dogs were like old pros now with the kids. By the time the kids were a little older they all played happily together.

My favorite picture of the kids & dogs

Roscoe's bad hips finally caught up with him, but not until he was twelve years old. Even though I had seen the x-rays myself, I wondered if we could have kept on showing. After all, he ran and jumped and played with Otis and the kids.

It was wierd having just one dog. Although we were all grieving I knew we would eventually get another dog. I couldn't bear the thought of getting another Rottweiler though. By then their popularity was ruining the breed through over breeding and I knew we could never get another one like Roscoe.


to be continued...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Chickens

My girls.


Every quintessential farm must have chickens. (I had to look that word up.) Ours is no exception. Currently we have four hens and they provide us with plenty of eggs for our small family.


I remember the first time we thought we might like to get some chickens. It was almost 20 years ago. We were visiting a friend and his wife, who just happened to be the daughter of Jeffie, the 4-H leader of my daughter, yet to be born. Jeffie's daughter also happens to be the first wife of our eventual next door neighbor, Dean. (It's a small, small world!) At that time our friend and his wife lived in a mobile home on Jeffie's property. Are you confused yet?


Jeffie and her husband raise Suffolk sheep and Quarter horses. They also had a variety of dogs, peacocks, and semi-wild chickens running about. One day they decided the chickens were getting out of control so they rounded up as many as they could and stashed them in unused rabbit cages. The day we visited she asked if we wanted any. She used the magic word, "free". Since I'm unable to resist such a bargain I said "Sure!"


She found a couple of burlap bags and started stuffing a bunch of chickens in. I was a little concerned about getting roosters, since they can be noisy. She assured my husband and me there were mostly hens in there.


We brought the squirming bags home, and not really knowing what else to do, dumped them out by the gate to the big back yard. Out flew about 20 cackling, squawking, protesting chickens, at least half or more of which were, you guessed it, roosters!


My husband and I looked at each other in dismay. But she said there weren't that many roosters, there were mostly hens! I imagine Jeffie and her husband having a good chuckle over a simple solution to their chicken population problem and the greenhorns that provided that solution. Of course, later on when we mentioned all the roosters we were met with pure innocent looks of puzzlement and "Oh really? Hmm!"


So while the mostly roosters decided to stage their own cock fights in our back yard we had to come up with our own solution. Quickly.


There was only one thing to do. My husband ran into the house and got his .22 rifle. As quickly as he could he started plugging away at the obvious roosters. He's a really good shot, so it didn't take long. I went around and collected the bodies and shoved them back into the burlap sack they had come in.


There were about 12 chickens left. We fed them chicken food every day and they learned they didn't have to search out their own dinners. About half of those left before we could get them into their own chicken coop, not yet built. They may have been so used to roaming before or maybe they tried to find their way back home. I don't know. We obviously learned a valuable lesson on the incident. Planning ahead is very important! And if you don't want roosters, pick them out yourself.

Making eggs in nest boxes made from leftover lumber.


Now when our chickens get old I go to the feed store to buy replacements chicks. They have the usual breeds, nothing really exotic. But I have bought several different breeds; the brown egg layers, the white egg layers, and the blue egg layers. I don't really have any favorites. As long as they earn their keep, that's all I'm interested in.


We have had as many as ten hens (on purpose this time) and I've found that is way too many for us. We could not keep up with their production. So I would give them away at work, or find recipes that used a lot of eggs, and share the goodies. I have a pound cake recipe that's useful in these times, which I will share here. I found the recipe in one of my mother's old cookbooks. It was one of those cookbooks that are put together by an organization or group and sold as a fundraiser. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the book but it was by a group of Army wives.


OLD FASHIONED POUND CAKE


1 pound butter

2 1/3 cups sugar

10 eggs

4 cups flour

1/2 teaspoon salt


Cream butter and sugar; add eggs one at a time, beating

well after each addition. Sift flour and salt; add to egg

mixture in 10 portions, beating after each portion.

Pour into greased and floured 10" tube pan, bake at

300 degrees for 2 hours.



We did end up getting a rooster from Jeffie on purpose several years later. He was getting badly beaten up by the other roosters at her place. If chickens can have personalities then this one did. He was very sweet and loving and would let anybody pick him up and carry him around like a little dog. We had him for a long time before he died of natural causes.

With my favorite rooster in 1988. I was four months pregnant with our daughter.


Today I have to keep my chickens totally penned up, unless I am outside to keep watch on them. We have a neighbor whose dog likes to jump the fence so he can "play" with the chickens.


I haven't ever worked out the numbers to see if the egg production is worth the cost of chicken feed. The merit to me comes from having really "farm fresh" eggs and for the fun of it.

Farm fresh eggs!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Sold In Utero!

In 2004 I saw an ad in a Dexter magazine of semen for sale from a bull named Brambledel Redberry Prince. He is a gorgeous red Irish Dexter bull from England. The Brambledel web site is very impressive. It has multiple pages, professional photos of their Dexter herd, and cites notable numbers in regards to show stats, pedigrees, breeding program, and the like.


Brambledel Redberry Prince


The advertisment was actually from a lady in Virginia who had purchased several straws from overseas and was reselling them in the United States. The straws cost more than average but I felt like it was still a good deal.


Although Irish Dexters are no longer on the endangered list (they have been upgraded to "recovering" status--www.albc-usa.org) the gene pool in the U.S. is still fairly limited. Outstanding foreign semen is very welcome.


When I called the owner of the American straws she enthusiastically reported on her personal first crop of calves with the imported semen. I made arrangements to buy three straws.


Everything went as planned and my cow, GRR Ladysmith, became pregnant with my first straw of Brambledel Redberry Prince's genetic material. Cows are preg-checked at two months, and when my cow vet declared Ladysmith pregnant, I was overjoyed. I just had seven months now to await the arrival of this special calf.


Just a few months later a lady called asking about my cow. My husband had answered the phone and he handed the call to me, explaining that the cows were "my wife's thing." The lady on the phone introduced herself as Debbie. She went on to say she was here from Nevada visiting her dad. She and her husband had a Dexter herd and when she looked in her Dexter breeder directory on a lark she saw my name and address in Bakersfield. Would I mind if she came over to look at my cow?


Realizing a potential sale I naturally invited her to come on over. When Debbie and a friend arrived I took them to the back to look at Ladysmith.


She seemed to like Ladysmith just fine and when I told her who she was bred to she seemed to like her a lot better. She took a few pictures to show her husband.


Later that evening Debbie called me back. Would I be willing to sell the calf to her and her husband? They would give me a couple hundred dollars to hold the calf and as a down payment. They liked Ladysmith and were excited about the prospect of having a Redberry Prince baby to infuse new blood into their herd. They were really hoping for a bull calf, but would be happy with a heifer too.


Well, that's never happened before. Did I feel special or what? I actually sold a calf before it was born! I "modestly" had to tell anyone who would listen that my cow's unborn calf was already sold, to people from Nevada. That's out of state, you know. I was very impressed with myself.


The deal was struck and we all eagerly awaited the October due date. As the date drew closer the e-mails became for frequent. Nothing yet...


Then came the nights of getting up to check. 11 pm, nothing. 2 am, nothing. I don't usually wear pj's to bed, so I would grab the sofa blanket around me, slip on my flip flops, grab the flashlight and head out the door. I sure hope none of the neighbors has insomnia. 4:30 am, nothing. 7:30 am, nothing.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Sunday, October 23, 2005 was no different. I was getting tired from the frequent nightly cow checks. I knew it had to be soon. She was three days over her due date. I had checked her several times the previous night and early morning and it still seemed like there was no change. The last time I checked her was at about 8:30 that morning when I got up. Debbie called me and I had to tell her again. Nothing.


I settled on the sofa (I had my clothes on now) and started reading the Sunday newspaper and drinking my morning coffee. At about 9:30 I heard Ladysmith's bell ringing. Ringing, ringing, ringing.


OH! I jumped up and looked out back. She was licking a black thing on the ground. The motion of her head bobbing up and down while licking was making the bell ring. I grabbed my camera and ran outside.




All she wanted was a little privacy and I had been trudging out almost once an hour to stare at her back end, her udder, and her breathing to check for any changes. She must have flopped down as soon as my back was turned the last time I had been out.




There was a brand new calf on the ground, sopping wet, with its ears still flopping, it was so new. I watched as it struggled to stand and then wobbled around a bit before collapsing to the sandy ground. More licking from mom and the calf stood again. It instinctively searched for nourishment, it's lips and tongue pursed. Ladysmith lowed softly to her new baby with encouragement. It found what it was looking for and started heartily nursing.




I could see then that the new calf was a girl. I snapped a few shots on my digital camera and ran in to call Debbie with the long awaited news. I hit the redial button on our phone and kept getting a busy signal. So I fired off a quick e-mail with some pictures attached.



Towards noon I thought I'd call again. I dialed the number directly instead of using the redial feature (which I found out I had not programmed correctly) and this time the phone rang and was picked up by one of the kids. Debbie and her husband were out with the cows right now.


Less than five minutes later Debbie called me back. She was just as excited as I was.


Over the next few months I would keep Debbie and her husband updated with frequent e-mail photos that chronicled the calf's growth. They visited her dad at least twice and came out to see the calf in person. They were pleased with her progress. Since they were happy I was ecstatic.


I let them decide on the name. The first part was easy because it is the farm or ranch name: Wilamar. The registry* they chose allows 23 letters and spaces so there were 16 spaces to make a name. They wanted part of the bull's name to be included also an we came up with WilamarBlkberryPrincess. Somehow though, the registry changed it to Wilamar BlkberyPrincess. Ah, details.


Wilamar BlkberyPrincess aka Princess



By the time Princess was ready to go to her new home Debbie and her husband and I made future plans. I sold them one of the two remaining straws, and a tentative agreement was made for them to buy Ladysmith's next calf. I was hoping for another heifer calf so I could keep it, they were really hoping for a bull calf to use as a new herd sire.


The future was looking bright!






*There are two Irish Dexter registries in the United States. The American Dexter Cattle Association, which allows 21 letters/spaces, and the newer Purebred Dexter Cattle Association of North America. A few years ago there were some major disagreements and one group split from the other. Don't you just love politics! PS-I'm a member of both organizations.