City Life

A while ago…six weeks, six months, six years…our backyard neighbor replaced his roof. (It may have been hers, at the time: we do not neighbor.) I was informed of this by the dogs, who found this activity utterly foolish and annoying to boot. Annie stood in our back yard and told the roofers to come down from there immediately and to cease and desist, which amused the roofer (they were young men, safe on a roof twelve feet above a 45-pound pit bull) and I swear they hammered harder. For a week and a half I had to look on the roof of the neighbor’s house to see if it was safe to let my dog outside, or listen to her scold the men for neighborhood misdemeanors. I was actually not as relieved when the roofers finished our own house, but then, Annie had crossed the rainbow bridge by then.

This summer Nancy experienced a shortage in her chicken population, so she got into her car and drove away and came home again with three new pullets. One is an Australorp (black, with a greenish sheen to her feathers,) one is pictured above, and one is a cross between a barred rock and a leghorn, which is, ultimately, a smaller barred rock-looking hen.

Shortly after the hens arrived, another neighbor began re-roofing.

I didn’t think about it too much, at first. It’s not an uncommon sound, although these particular roofers did not have the steady rhythm of the original pros, but their work schedule was hit-or-miss, and it went on, and on, and on…

I happened to be in the back yard one day and I noticed the barred leghorn was tap tap tapping in the water dish. The other hens drank, but she hammered her way to the bottom of the dish, bang, bang, bang, and I realized no one in the neighborhood is replacing their roof: the barred leghorn is beating her way through the siding to join me in the Conservatory. I haven’t looked, but I imagine she has beaten much of the paint off the lower panels of siding on the house. There are probably beak marks all over the place.

So we let her in.

Well, actually it didn’t happen quite that way.

She became our first ever case of bumblefoot.

Bumblefoot is a chicken disease (or injury) where the chicken develops a staff infection in the tissues in their feet after (I guess) stepping on something. Their feet swell up between their toes. Apparently they can die from this.

I became aware of the problem when I walked into Nancy’s office and found her holding a towel-wrapped chicken inside a small pail. She was soaking the chicken’s feet in hot Epsom salt water.

Our mother did that to us, when we were kids. We all learned, by the time we were five or six, to NEVER tell our mother there was anything wrong with our feet, or she would grab us, sit us down in a chair and shove our bare feet into pails of boiling water. Any time the water cooled, she would boil another kettle of it and pour that into the pail. None of us having any feeling left in our feet.

“Oh, you poor, sweet chicken,” I commiserated, but I did not know the half of it.

“Sit down,” Nancy said, and she handed me a towel-wrapped chicken to hold while she brandished a razor blade. “We have to get this open so it drains,” she said.

This is why the entire neighborhood called to the police to report an grown woman AND a small chicken fleeing for their lives down the public street.

We were caught. I held, Nancy operated. The chicken has no use for either one of us.

Then I held some more while Nancy applied an antibiotic cream, a drawing salve and bandages to the chicken’s feet. (Yes, she has double-bumblefoot.) We held all this medical care together with electrical tape (it’s waterproof.)

There has been less hammering in the back yard, these past few days. When I look out, a smallish barred leghorn is busy doing her very best to pull the electrical tape off her feet.

(I did say, “we could take her to the vet.” Nancy does not take chickens to the vet. I said, ‘one of the reasons I worked for many, many years at a job I did not absolutely love was so I would have enough money to take my pets to the vet. My pets get sick, something breaks, falls off, bends the wrong way or turns green, I wrap them up in a towel and take them to a vet. When I was in high school my guidance counselor told me I could be a teacher, a secretary or a nurse. I was the oldest of five kids and had done all the babysitting I ever planned to do by the time I was a sophomore in high school, I could type 125 words per minute with only 17 mistakes per line, and I was better-suited to either of those professions than I was to being a nurse. Do not bleed, swell up, crack open or leak puss in front of me unless you bring your own towel.” While Nancy was applying her razor blade, I was gazing intently at the ceiling and singing ‘Amazing Grace’. To a chicken. Well. To two chickens, one a barred leghorn and one human.)

We hope this hen will survive our ministrations. The only indication of her recovery I’ve had so far is the steady tap, tap, tap that has started again on the siding of the Conservatory. Either she’s recovering, or she’s freed herself of the last of the electricians tape.

Either way, I haven’t mentioned this to Nancy. It’s sort of like saying to my Mother, “Mom, my foot hurts.”

Oh, no. We don’t do that.

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The Wooley Bear in Fall

Daisy and her bonded pair partner Pugsy came to live with us on or around the twenty-first of July, 2020. Nancy and I jumped into our car, masks affixed, and although we had barely left our home since the 12th of March, we drove two hours into the deep interior of Indiana to adopt the Littles, whose loving owner had died tragically a few days before. We found them on Petfinder. We imagined two small, grateful dogs that would greet us with love and adoration for our willingness to save them from the trauma of homelessness. Instead, Pugsy was thrust into my lap, where he paced endlessly for the next several hours (two of which were spent in the car) and Daisy turned her attention to some point in the ceiling where neither of us were visible and stared at it relentlessly for the next week.

“Oh, dear,” I said to Nancy, “she’s traumatized.”

She also had fleas, she smelled bad, she was out-growing what appeared to be some sort of poodle cut, and she peed wherever she happened to be on average about once every two hours.

We were not allowed to touch her hair. She disliked being picked up. She disliked being fondled in any way. She growled, snarled and bit us at the site of a coat brush (she’s mostly Pomeranian, which is a lot of long, snarly hair. She’s groomed once a month now, and she still looks like a Wooley Bear; it always surprises me to pick her up and discover she’s actually a fairly small dog in a big fur coat.)

She came to live with us twenty-six months ago.

Since then she has approached me, bounced in place, waved her tail and otherwise indicated she wished to have some sort of communication with me at least five times. I usually pick her up, and she usually draws a deep breath and tolerates it for as long as six minutes at a time. Nancy has picked her up more often than I have because Nancy is a masochist. I don’t mind holding Daisy, I mind the dismount, which almost always ends in snarls, writhing spasms and flashing teeth.

This evening Daisy practices Going Outside. This is a command she began teaching us earlier this spring. She stands in the middle of the living room, raises her tail and starts bouncing. Dancing, really, but Daisy is roughly 12, she seizes up like a pair of rusty shears if she’s still for more than 20 minutes, and she had knees about like mine, so her ‘dancing’ can be hard to recognize. It looks more like bouncing to me, although at no time do more than two of her feet actually leave the ground. When we do not respond properly to bouncing, she barks.

At us. Like we’re the dogs and she’s the human trying to train us to behave.

And it works, because one or the other of us will get up and put her outside just to shut her up.

Apparently this rang a very dim bell in the back of Daisy’s mind, and after living with us for a year and a half, she suddenly began letting us know when she needed to go outside. Where she lays on her little porch rug Nancy made for her until eventually she begins barking at the door, we come let her in, and she rushes to the living room to pee on her pee pads, because nothing with Daisy achieves the hoped-for goal quickly.

This evening she began dancing and bouncing and tail-waving and eventually barking at me, so I put her out. When I let her back in she seemed quite pleased to see me. She trotted back to the living room where Nancy and I were watching TV. About ten minutes later Daisy began tail-waving. And then bouncing. And when neither of us moved, she barked.

And barked.

And barked.

And barked.

So I called her over, and she quite happily came. I explained (again) that I am the human and she is the dog, and when I bark she is supposed to obey me, not the other way around.

She barked.

So I picked her up.

She sat in my lap. She licked my hand. She curled up against me. She leaned hard against me until her tiny nose was all but pressed against the tip of my nose (which she immediately licked, which ruined the whole moment for me, but). If she’d been a cat, she would have purred.

Daisy, apparently, is becoming a lap dog.

I probably held her for ten minutes. On minute eleven she began oozing groundward, and since she is old and small and (I suspect) breaks easily, I sorted through the array of dog parts in my lap until I found what I thought were the proper parts to hold as I set her down on the floor. I was wrong, as always. I got my fingers tangled up in her hair, she writhed around until I almost dropped her, she nipped my hand, snarled, and ran across the floor and bit Pugsy.

Pugs is fairly sanguine about these attacks. He just shrugged and went back to watching TV.

Daisy, on the other hand, ran around the living room once. She fluffed her tail. She bounced. She danced.

And then she barked.

We are still unsure what it is we are being trained to do, but she has become much more actively involved in our evening training sessions here lately, and it’s beginning to look like the only solution may be to start going to bed at 7:30 at night.

Still, it amazes me that a little dog who was so shut down when she came to us that she barely made a sound has become this rowdy, demanding little tyrant we live with now.

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Our Big Old Boy Boy

This is our boy, doing what he does best. I object to this particular hobby of his, not because I begrudge him any sleep time, but because he often sleeps with his eyes open, which makes my heart stop. It has taken me more time than it should have to understand how very little difference it makes if he’s awake or asleep, when it comes to what he can see. Our boy, who has lived with us most of his life, who loves us and is calmly assured of his place in this, his home, has recently taken up flinching like we beat him on a regular basis. We don’t. I think he only sees vague shapes of things. Movement. Odd movements scare him.

Last week he was floor-napped. He was just innocently sleeping in his bed in the bedroom when his bed threw him out, dumping him on the floor. We have a tile floor in our bedroom. It’s my fault–I like tile floors. I liked them better ten or fifteen years ago or whenever Nancy put it in for me, but I thought it was ‘cool’. It is NOT cool if you have a 60 pound Golden Retriever/lab mix who is slowly but steadily losing control of his back legs. Once he goes down on a smooth floor, all he can do is flail and hope he will eventually find some sort of stable surface he can grab for traction.

I find that process hard to watch.

I happened to be taking a nap on my own bed that day, so when the flailing began, I woke up and found my dog scrambling to get himself back somewhere he could stand up. This was challenging for several reasons.

  1. He is not emotionally ready to admit he needs help. So the simplest solution–to grab him by the collar or the rib cage or whatever and push him to a surface he can grip pisses him right off. Like snarling, teeth-baring, ‘don’t do this to me’ MAD.
  2. What works best for me is to get behind him and just hold my hand against his butt. This gives him something to push against, and he can get up. This works much, much better when he is floundering somewhere where I can get behind him. It took a little maneuvering for me to get in place this time.
  3. Often he wanted to get up in the first place because he needed to go outside, so when he panics and begins flailing, the floor gets wet or worse. This is not awful, but he is a well-trained dog and it embarrasses him.
  4. He won’t let us try to pick him up. We have to give him something to push against and then train our gaze at the ceiling and perhaps whistle to ourselves, as if we were just suddenly overcome by the need to touch a dog’s butt and whistle.
  5. The kitchen floor is laminate, and it waits for him. If he falls in the middle of the kitchen, either Nancy or I need to walk up behind him, cradle his butt and whistle casually (I hum) while sliding him across the slippery floor to the rug (or, in Nancy’s case, drag the rug over to him and then push him onto it. She’s always been a better problem-solver than I am.)
  6. Once he is on his feet again, all three of us immediately pretend it never happened, we never saw anything, and he’s as agile as he was when we got him (he was about a year and half.)
  7. This should not imply in any way that we only make special compensations for our aging dog. We too are aging. I fell on the same kitchen floor earlier this year, assessed my skills and abilities, and we called a fireman to come pick me up. Like Riley, I would rather not admit that happened. We make our own compensations, and we are no prouder nor any more willing to admit to them than he is.

Otherwise he seems happy. His thought processes are not as clear as they once were–like us, he wanders into a room, stops, looks around, squints, and we can see What am I doing here? clearly on his face. But he eats. He goes out, he comes in, he goes out (roughly 20 times a day.)

It used to be when he was outside and he wanted in he would stand in the yard, surveying his domain, and he would bark. Once. A big dog, authoritative bark that would, in humanspeak, say, essentially,

“Hey!”

Since then he’s lost most of his hearing, so in order to hear himself bark, he has raised both the pitch and the volume, until he released a sharp, violent yip that makes it sound like we beat him. We have never beaten him. His short-term memory is not good either, so instead of waiting for us to come, a minute or two later (while I am still standing up) he does it again, and then again.

If either one of us could run we probably would, imagining the dog welfare people coming from the other direction, but we can’t, so he gets in a good 5-7 loud, slightly out-of-tune yips before we get there. To find him standing in the back yard, his back to us, his tail slowly, pleasantly waving. We have to yell at him to get his attention. Loudly. Like he was on the far side of a hay field. On the other hand, he’s always happy to see us.

He used to adore me. He has slowly moved inward until I’m not sure he knows who I am. I am the one who opens the door. (One of them ones who opens the door. Probably the one who opens the door when you can’t find the better door-opener.) When I hug him he puts up with it. Sometimes I think maybe just a little part of that huggy stuff comes back to him, and then it wanders off again into the mist.

He’s always been very gentle with us. A little while back he bit me and being a bigger dog, his bites hurt. He bit me because I was giving him a treat, which meant he made a mistake. But part of my mind kept saying he’s never done that and eventually I discovered that when I give him a treat, I need to hold it out directly in front of him so he can see the treat and he can see me. His aim isn’t good, so he can still pinch, but we’ve worked through the blood-draws now.

He could still be with us this time next year. I don’t think he will, but then…last year I didn’t think he would still be with us now.

But he is. He’s here with us now. And now is really all any of us have.

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Crime Wave

Isn’t she adorable?

If you’ve read previous entries here, you know the question is ironic. Daisy is…extremely fond of dried chicken treats.

Since the cost of chicken has skyrocketed (these are treats to get Daisy to trot across the kitchen floor to go outside when she has perfectly good pee pads lining our living room carpet, multiplied by Pugsy’s love of anything he can stuff in his mouth and Riley’s observations that it is his house and whatever The Little receive, so should he also and probably in a greater quantity) we have shifted to dried bologna treats.

“Oh, pew,” said Riley.

“I’ll take his,” Pugs volunteered.

We refrained from switching Daisy over until we were sure the dietary change would not result in tummy upsets from the boys. Daisy is delicate. And has very long butt hairs. However, Daisy loves bologna treats. Nancy says she’s becoming an addict. Pugsy still loves anything that will fit in his mouth, and Riley has never been one to ignore a handout when others are enjoying theirs. Dried bologna may be a questionable treat, but it is cheaper. And none of these dogs, in their dotage, are cheap.

Our local crime wave:

Tuesday Daisy was chauffeured to her monthly beauty appointment. She has a monthly beauty appointment because she is a Pomeranian, which I wanted (this has been mentioned in our household more than once, so it must be important, so) yes, I–me–wanted, have always wanted a Pomeranian, and she is one.

Through and through, apparently.

Be careful what you wish for.

Pomeranians have long, fluffy hair. Like most dog hair, it mats easily. Unlike many dogs, Daisy will not allow us to touch anything but the top of her delicate little head. She bites. A Daisybite is not the worst injury anyone could experience (it actually took me a few glancing blows to figure out what she was doing) but the growling, snarling, small-dog-turned-wolf behavior that comes with it is remarkably daunting. In the very late evening, when Greenies are so real and so close they can be scented in the air, I am treated to the Greenie Dance of Joy, during which–if I am really, really careful–I am allowed to touch her butt.

Once.

Between 8:57 and 9:00 pm each evening.

Once.

(And I do, gloating, because Daisy and I are more alike than either would like to admit.)

Don’t touch my butt.

Also, because she is about three-quarters hair and it’s thick and it gets no air flow, Daisy becomes easier and easier to find as the month wears on. About 3 days before her next appointment I can tell when she is near me by sheer smell alone. I have almost no sense of smell.

I’ll be honest here: we knew our groomers before we got Daisy, and when we got Daisy, I called and I said, “I have a rescue Pomeranian that bites if you touch her. Her coat is a mess. But I respect you as a groomer and a friend, so if you’d rather not deal with this…”

Our groomer said, “I have a Pomeranian.” Ironically she has a Pom with alopecia, so not only does he bite, he’s semi-naked, thus missing the one attribute which most attracts Pom lovers (particularly Pom lovers who have never actually owned a Pom.)

We love Daisy. There is just something about something that small and that nasty that makes you have to admire her. And she has the cutest little run. And when she’s happy (between 8:57 and 9:00 each night) she dances and laughs, and you find yourself thinking, “I love Pomeranians.”

Anyway. Daisy went to her beauty appointment this week, where she was so unpleasant even her groomer reported her for biting and said she was having a ‘bad day’. Nancy brought her home. Both Nancy and I were shunned religiously until 8:57 pm when all was (more or less) forgiven. That was Tuesday.

Wednesday Nancy noticed Daisy was wearing a little collar with some tags on it. We investigated. The tags were verifications of rabies shots and dog licenses issued in Michigan for the past three years.

We’ve had Daisy for two years. Before that she lived in Indiana.

But then, Daisy doesn’t have a collar.

Our daughter dog stole another dog’s necklace.

Nancy tried to take it back, but the groomer was closed today. So I called. I said, “Daisy came in for her beauty appointment Tuesday and she came home with a collar. Unfortunately, Daisy doesn’t have a collar. We don’t think she meant to steal it.”

Pugsy has a collar because he’s taken off across the neighborhood twice in the first year he lived here. His second run ended when strangers found him spinning in the middle of Hoffman Street, which is a trucking shortcut through out town. His collar has his name, his address and my phone number on it. Riley has, in his lifetime, taken 12 unauthorized walkabouts. His collar has his license tag, his Pet Finders tag, his name tag with his address and both of our phone numbers, and I think he has another ID tag as well. When we take Riley out of the house we attached a leash to his collar. When we take The Littles out of the house, they have little cloth harnesses that we stuff them into like babies into a onesie. (Neither of The Little have real necks. Pugs is a chug, a chihuahua mix, so anything around his neck is a bad idea anyway.)

We have been watching her carefully, but so far it would appear the life of crime does nothing for Daisy but wear her out. She’s sleeping somewhere right now.

Riley, on the other hand, is not. He’s panting behind my chair, which means I need to leave you now. I have a door to open. And wait by. And re-open because otherwise he stands in the back yard and barks like we beat him.

We don’t beat him. He’s about 3/4s deaf and it’s the only bark he can make and still hear.

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Update

We have solved the mystery of the disappearing/reappearing hen: she’s gone broody.

She has created a nest (inside the no-chicken wire barrier around) the backyard spirea bush, where she has accumulated 10 eggs to represent her future family.

So last night, after I bravely and boldly rescued poor Lorp 2 from a thunder storm the previous night, I happened to catch a glimpse of my partner pass by the window, across the back yard, and a few minutes later she reappeared, holding an angry black chicken who had been ‘rescued’ from her own biological imperative.

Nancy also rescued the eggs, in the hope this would convince Lorp 2 that motherhood is still something awaiting her in the future.

Lorp 1, her predecessor, went broody once, Nancy bought her a clutch of eggs, she hatched them, raised them, shook it off and muttered, “never again.” Unfortunately right now we have 5 hens, (3 pullets and 2 oldsters,) and we remain uncertain exactly what the backyard farming limits are here. We are hoping the mood will pass.

We have also suffered a cruel blow inflicted, as far as we can tell, by the sheer passage of time. Nancy’s retractable clothesline broke. Snapped right off the fence. Nope–Not holding up your clothes anymore. We estimate the line and its inner retractor was approximately 20 years old, so we bowed our head in honor of a job well done and duty well served, and she bought a new one. Which, I suppose, sucks a lot of the drama out of that adventure.

Daisy has not gone broody. Daisy has gone to bed for a long nap. As a pet and family companion, Daisy has about ten minutes, just before bedtime, when she shines. It’s Greenie Time, that magical evening hour when, once you have finally gotten them up and moving, the humans put you outside, wait an interminable length of time, and then open the door, let you in and give you a Greenie.

I have no idea why Daisy loves Greenies so much. She only has about half her teeth, so (since they are designed to clean dog’s teeth by being chewed) chewing hers up each night is about the most exercise she gets all day, but as the clock turns slowly toward the appointed hour, Daisy begins getting restless, and then she gets up and wags her tail, and then she bounces a few times, and then she laughs and dances, and if none of that gets our attention, she barks sharply. Greenie Time will not be ignored.

Once she has finished her Greenie, she runs directly to the bedroom and cuddles up under the bed, with only her tail hanging out for me to step on when I go to bed. She’s done: that’s all we get, a once-daily Greenie Dance.

Adjust your expectations accordingly.

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A Chicken Story

I pay for this site, I suppose I should probably use it.

Above these lines of type you will see a photograph of a chicken roosting on my partner’s foot. She also roosts on our thighs and sometimes the arms of our lawn chairs. Her name is Small. Small is our flock leader and a very social chicken; it would not be unusual to step out the back door and see a small black and white projectile, wings spread, running bow-legged across the yard to greet us. We like to think this is because Small likes us, but it is much more closely related to the possible delivery of treats.

My story, however, is not about Small. (If you care, she came in a clutch of pullets, one Rhode Island Red, one Australorp, and two Barred Rocks, one Large and (yeah) one Small. There may have been more of them, but it was probably six years ago and I don’t remember any more. We have two left, Small, and Red.)

Our previous Australorp, appropriately named Lorp, went broody on us, and when we could not get her to snap out of it, Nancy went on Amazon and ordered a box of fertilized eggs. I think she ordered 6 and received 8. One egg broke, and one never hatched, so Lorp dutifully sat on the eggs and hatched out six chicks. They were delightful additions to the back yard, but sadly they were not long-lived, and this spring Nancy went broody. She began wistfully searching sites like Craig’s List for young chicks, and found a source, and around May of this year we acquired 3 new pullets.

Small was incensed.

Red went full-on red zone. Ceasar Milan could not have calmed down this hen; she was going to drive the invaders from the yard if it was the last thing she did.

In addition to assimilation issues, the newbies grew up in a chicken tractor. I’ve seen them. I’m still not sure how the chickens inside the tractor know when to move (I assume when the universe around them shifts into gear) but apparently chickens who are raised in a chicken tractor don’t learn to roost. So we had two queen hens, a coop with two sections, intended to be one for the oldsters and one for the youngsters, and each night one queen would settle into each half of the coop and refuse to let the young ones inside. This resulted in a complex ritual which involved Nancy going outside, ushering one of the old girls into the same coop half as the other, locking them in, and then encouraging the young girls to go in. In addition, she felt compelled to pick up each of the three younger birds and set them on the perches so they could roost.

This ritual could take as long as half an hour each night. If she failed to separate the girls from the old women, the old women would wake up in the morning and start beating up on and pecking the girls.

Over time all of the ladies learned to share the back yard and could at times even be seen browsing as a single group, but it took the younger hens quite a while to be able to hold their own inside the coop, and even longer to establish the habit of roosting. It’s only been within the past two weeks that everyone has gone to their own room, pulled up their blankets and turned off the light.

So last night Nancy went out to close the coop. She was gone a while. I fed the dogs. Nancy came in the back door and said, “I can’t find Lorp 2.”

I grabbed my shoes and a flashlight and joined the hunt.

Our back yard is not large, but it is surrounded by a six foot fence, the yard is full of tomato plants and one floundering squash, and the fence line contains the 6-inch forest, so named because all the trees (there are roughly 12) are volunteers that grew in the six inches between our fence and our neighbors. We should have pulled them out. We didn’t. The six-inch forest is about 20 feet tall now. Very leafy. So the back yard, after the sun sets, is dark.

Lorp 2 is an Australorp. It’s a breed of chicken originated in Australia (I don’t know what the ‘orp’ means) and they’re black. In the sunlight they have a beautiful green sheen to their feathers and they glisten in the light; in the dark, they look like every other shadow in the back yard, of which there are many. We searched and we searched. We checked to see if she’d gotten through the chicken wire to protect the tomatoes (Nancy loves tomatoes) and couldn’t get back out. We checked to see if she’d fallen asleep in a chicken wallow (also known as ‘dusting sites’.) We looked over, under and behind everything in the back yard; but we were using flashlights, which illuminate the object closest to you, and reduce everything behind it to black shadows. This can make a black chicken hard to find.

Nancy went around the house, checked the front yard, the side yards, while I did a second tour of the fenced property… No trace of this chicken.

I suppose it was technically possible she flew over the fence. None of them ever have, but it’s always possible.

In the meantime the rains were coming and 500,000 starving mosquitoes saw me and thought: LUNCH!!!!!

Nancy came back from her tour of the outlying areas, and we’d both come up empty.

Nancy sighed. “Let’s go to bed,” she said, and we gave up. We have really had extraordinary luck with the chickens we’ve kept for the past roughly ten years. One escapee seems just normal.

Nancy goes to bed early because the dogs get up with the dawn and Cheryl does not. So I was playing on my computer and listening to the thunder and lightning and the coming storm and I thought to myself, ‘someone is grumbling’. I’m used to it. It’s a natural part of my usual sound track.

And then it dawned on me that the distinguishing trait we noticed about Lorp 2 after she came to live with us is she’s a bass. She has an extraordinarily low, quasi-masculine voice.

There was an angry, deep-voiced chicken bitching in my back yard.

I jumped up, ran to the door, and she came to me almost immediately (I am not a person of interest for Nancy’s chickens since I never distribute treats) and I called her (“Lorpie”–save me) and led her to the coop. As I was fumbling with the baby gates we put in the doorway to let the heat out and keep predators out, there was a steady low muttering of discontent behind me.

stupid people can’t even put a chicken to bed right I’ve been out here for hours getting rained on and no one has done anything to keep me dry or safe I could die from rainwater poisoning my sisters abandoned me how long can it take this fool to open this door anyway I’m moving to a new coop first thing tomorrow morning where competent humans can see to my needs my feet are tired my feathers are wet I AM NOT WELL HANDLED.

Nancy reports she seems fine today, if a little less active than usual.

We still have no idea where she was, or why she didn’t go to the coop with her sisters. But she’s been found, and all is well.

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Steroids

I have lived around respiratory issues my whole life. There are those who have been far sicker than I have, but if I’m going to get sick (and when I lived in the world among other people, I was always going to get sick) it’s with a respiratory illness. I was in my forties before I had a cold the way other people have colds; my colds always went directly into bronchitis, and as often as not, asthmatic bronchitis. As a result, I am deeply, personally familiar with the medical use of steroids.

Ironically, my life now post-Covid has considerably fewer people in it, which means I don’t get as many contagious diseases. Life is good, if, occasionally, a little lonely.

In the middle of the pandemic, Nancy and I looked around our companion animals and we had an aging cat and and aging dog. The dog seemed older than he was because we had been warned he ‘probably’ had a cancer that spreads quickly and the amount of time we had left with him was likely very short. We made the difficult decision to allow nature to take its course, which is why we mourned the loss of our Beloved Riley for a good year before we hauled him back for another annual physical to discover he wasn’t dying at all. False alarm.

But in the middle of all that drama, we decided we needed another dog. We discussed it. We are older, so getting a puppy who might easily out-live us seemed unfair. We decided we wanted to adopt an older dog, one whose person or people had been unable to see them through their senior years. We decided, given our own declining health and strength, that a smaller dog would be better. We browsed through Petfinders, looking for suitable rescues, and we found a bonded pair. “Oh, isn’t that cute,” we said to each other, “a bonded pair of oldsters.” And we applied.

In retrospect, I suspect the only factor on our application that the rescue agency paid any attention to was ‘they’ll come get them. They live a state a way, so it’s a long drive to bring them back. Pick them.” We rescued our bonded pair. Minor point: if they are a ‘bonded pair’, they have hidden that fact from us remarkably well for the past two years. Their most common interaction occurs when something frustrates Daisy and she feels the need to bite something, so she bites Pugsy. He tolerates this, but it is about their only personal interaction. Their bond, it seems. They did live in the same house. From the day they arrived in our house, Daisy has seemed much, much fonder of Riley, who was already here.

Neither dog is fully house-trained. They were eight and ten respectively. Pugsy knows the word ‘no’, which is, apparently, the only training he ever received. Daisy considers ‘no’ one of the possible options. Daisy bites, often, but not particularly hard. She despises brushes, combs, being captured, lap-sitting or, really, human-canine interaction, which she considers superfluous to her personal lifestyle. (She does prefer being in the same room as one of the available humans. She doesn’t seem to care which one.)

When we picked them up, Daisy was clearly traumatized to the edge of catatonia, but she was a Pomeranian mix and I had always wanted a Pom. Pugsy was nervous and hyperactive and–we thought at the time–perhaps one of the ugliest dogs we’d ever seen. We took him because they were a bonded pair (see above.)

Daisy has earned a place in our household as the arrogant, snotty, nippy diva that she is. As we are picking up soiled pee pads from the living room floor we say to each other, “well, at least most of the time she uses the pads.” We joke with each other that she was lucky to find us, as we understand things like incontinence and we don’t like to have our hair pulled. We assure ourselves that no one else would have put up with her.

We joke about how the rescue threatened, when we first called, to make periods checks with how we were doing after we took the dogs home. We’ve never heard from them since.

Pugsy, on the other hand, is not an ugly dog. He’s actually cute. He’s a Chug, which is a cross between a pug and a chihuahua. He loves people. He loves people so much that on those rare occasions when strangers come to his house, he actually cries in his efforts to get to them. He loves to be petted, held, stroked, fondled, loved. He is, hands down, the most interactive dog we have or have ever had.

And he is…kind of/sort of housetrained. If I stand up, and if he needs to pee and if I walk toward the kitchen, he will jump in front of me and run to the back door.

If one or more of those things don’t occur on a timely basis, he pees in the house.

So we have all of the elements of the story already presented, now.

  1. He’s half-pug (genetically, structurally prone to respiratory infections.)
  2. He’s not house-trained except during rare strokes of coincidental luck.
  3. The most reliable cure for respiratory infections are steroids.

Steroids make me hungry. Steroids make him pee. On steroids, Pugsy is a tiny mobile fire hose.

This is his second stint on steroids this summer.

We weren’t paying attention. We were blinded by the sheer joy of owning a Pomeranian.

Yes.

I believed I’ve posted comments about the reality versus the fantasy of that uninformed dream before. My other two favorite dogs, based on sight alone, are huskies and border collies, so I was doomed no matter what I did.

We love our little rescue dogs. We love our big rescue dog. We acknowledge that dogs, whatever their size, age faster than we do. We are happy we are able to give these dogs a safe and loving home. We may love the big dog, who has impeccable house manners, just a little bit more than before.

We were going to have to tear out the carpet eventually anyway.

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Back to the Pool

I met these fine ladies–I assume they’re sisters, although I can neither sex a duck or determine their genetic similarities through a camera lens–during a rare camera outing. I used to grab my cameras and drive around looking for photographs three or four times a week. Now, due to the intervention of Covid, vision complications and I suppose just flat out age, I’m lucky if I go out four times a month. But I loved these ladies, whom I found gathered together for protection at the end of a fishing site. they are domestic ducks so they either live nearby or they’ve been unusually lucky, but I try not to think too hard about the stupid things humans do to non-humans. I wish these girls well.

I, in the meantime, have returned to the pool.

My gym/pool closed for some time during the pandemic, and when they re-opened they had all the usual warnings and special rules I found cumbersome. I had grown accustomed to my extraordinary good fortune of not having anywhere to go to exercise, and I settled in for some time to a life where I rarely left the house. The truth is, I enjoy being in the pool and I do find some odd sense of satisfaction in walking my laps and doing my exercises. I get pleasantly high from moving. It’s all good except the packing, loading into the car, and making the time. And without it, I had SO MUCH time…

I have also gotten stiff, uncoordinated, my balance is shot and I’ve gained weight. I struggle to get into a car, my knees won’t let me get over curbs gracefully and a flight of steps strikes terror into my heart. It’s the not being able to lift my leg high enough to get into a car that annoys me.

So I bought a new suit and new swim shorts, hunted up a towel and went back.

My gym, in the meantime, has been sold to a different management company. This does not appear to affect my life all that much, but I did need to change the card that lets me (mostly because the old one was falling apart.) They changed the days they clean the pool. The classes have shifted their schedules.

And I can’t walk as many laps, stay as long, or do as many reps of my exercises as I did three years ago. I get stiff. I find myself reserving strengths for the climb back up the steps, out of the pool. I come home now from a greatly reduced workout and crash like a dog.

I have maintained a healthy exercise program in odd, random spurts throughout my life, but rarely have I been so stiff and sore for so little as I am today. So I sit here, basking in the warm glow of self-satisfaction that I went to the gym today, a little high on the endorphins and a a little grouchy about being stiff, and I think, I used to walk a mile in the pool (37 laps) in 45 minutes or less. I walked 10 laps today and I’m about half-sorry.

I also go up the steps a little more gracefully today, so I guess what I used to do three years ago doesn’t matter all that much. It’s still all about what I’ll be able to do tomorrow.

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Old Dogs

Over time I have gradually lost track of when we got him; he’s part of our life. Our Boy-Boy pictured above is 12 now, although he was a rescue someone found running loose on the street, so his age was always approximate. My friend recently lost her dog who was the same age as our Riley (Boy-Boy, Boo, Riley Boo, Boo-Berry, Wiley Riley–perhaps we could measure is age in nicknames) and she (my friend’s dog,) oddly enough was 13. I could pull up his dog license to verify his age, but his vet and the dog pound have never agreed. Still, I can’t change the truth he’s an old dog now. He is steadily losing control of his back legs. He doesn’t seem to locate things as precisely as he once did (he’s apt to bite me by accident taking a treat, and I could go hoarse calling him from the back yard, even when I’m looking right at him.

We love him. We are perfecting the art of pushing him along a slippery floor onto a rug without appearing to notice that he fell because he HATES it when we try to help him. We look at each other and we say quietly, “we’re not going to have him much longer.” A sad sentiment, but it is somewhat blunted by the year we spent saying good-bye to him because he had terminal cancer (false alarm) or the year after that when the cancer he did have would eventually spread. So far it hasn’t. A few weeks ago we took him in for his final diagnosis, bucking up bravely as we went, to find out he had a respiratory infection that responded to immediately to antibiotics (so the cancer spreading into his lungs isn’t actually there yet.)

Dogs get old. He lives with two people who are living the process. The other night after bedtime (the rest of the household turns in before I do) he came to me and he said, “I need to go out, Cheryl.”

I said, “Okay.” I took him to the back door and let him out.

He took three steps outside, stopped, and looked around the back yard.

I had turned on the light for him, so I stood there for a few minutes, wondering how long he was going to want to stay out.

He didn’t do anything. He just stood there.

I opened the door and I ask, “What are you doing?”

And he turned and he looked at me. If he could have shrugged, he would have. He said, “Damned if I know.”

And he came back in and lumbered off to bed.

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Change

Wonderful. Every time I come back here, the way you do things has changed. For instance, it would appear I can no longer adapt the photograph to the size I want. Or perhaps I could shell out $150 on a WordPress course on how to use their site. I have, in my old age, become distinctly snarky about learning how to the same thing over and over and over again. I have enough challenges with Word.

Nancy is the scourge of our beloved little community today. First of all, with forethought and malice, she went out in the backyard with a shop vac and a variety of other housekeeping tools and she CLEANED THE HENHOUSE. Moved everything. Nothing is right, the nest boxes are no longer fit to lay an egg in, both of our surviving hens have stalked around the back yard for three days now complaining. Loudly. Woman Destroyed Our Home! Death to the infidel!

But more treachery was yet to come. This morning, my partner loaded a dog crate in the back of the Escape and drove away, and when she returned…

…the crate was FILLED with immigrants.

Well. Three. But then again, it was a dog crate.

‘We’ are, of course, a Rhode Island Red and a Barred Rock. We are the preferred hens. The survivors.

These new creatures are a Sapphire Gem, a California Gray and an Australorp. In human terms, this is a gray, lacey-colored chicken, a smaller, chunkier black and white speckled chicken (a cross between a Barred Rock and a Leghorn, which is a white chicken,) and a black hen with a beautiful greenish tint to her feathers. The new girls are about 5 months old. (The old girls are, give or take, about 5 years.)

Nancy put the intruders in temporary isolation in the coop, where they can see the older hens but actual physical contact can’t happen.

If Red ever stops shouting about betrayal, human interference and The Total Destruction of the Known World, the hens, old and new, will eventually meet and (with any luck) form a flock. Small is not pleased, either, and she has voiced several complaints about the TD of the KW, but she is also wary because she is the flock leader. She was not always the flock leader. While she was alive, our beloved Lorp reigned over the back yard, and when Lorp died, Large was Queen of the henyard for a while. Sadly, Large also died, leave just Red and Small. (The smaller the flock, the bossier Small has become.) Now there are usurpers.

We do not like change. No, no, no, no, no.

In the meantime we are laying our eggs behind the downspout next to the house because those freshly cleaned and fluffed laying boxes are just NOT RIGHT.

And we have voiced our complaints in no uncertain terms.

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