Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Belgian Tervuren Shepherd

Work Ethic

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Our dog, Delilah, is a consummate shepherd with a profound protective instinct for her primary caregiver, Cyndie. She also demonstrates a boundless work ethic. Delilah is a Belgian Tervuren Shepherd we brought home as a 9-month-old pup from a breeder about an hour away from our new home almost eight years ago.

I was thinking it would be nice to have a canine companion to hang out with us on our 20-acre property. Turned out, Delilah isn’t really one to “hang out.”

Yesterday, we were all out on the deck enjoying the warm sunshine. There were squirrels, songbirds, and fresh spring aromas in the breeze. Plenty to entertain our senses. When Cyndie stepped inside to do some meal prep in the kitchen, she left Delilah out with me to allow more time in the great outdoors.

As I worked on shaping my latest wood sculpture, I waited for Delilah to figure out that Cyndie wasn’t coming right back outside. I was hoping she would sense that I wasn’t going anywhere and we could both settle down and enjoy the beautiful, warm, fresh air the day was providing.

Minutes passed. Fifteen more. I sanded and sanded. Adjusted my glasses. Sanded some more. Another fifteen minutes and Delilah had not wavered.

It may have been a combination of the ubiquitous canine food-motivation and Delilah’s passionate devotion to Cyndie that kept her at a constant vigil of staring into the house the entire time, but it was girded with a heroic work ethic intensity that underlies everything she does.

Whether it is alerting us to the presence (permanent presence, mind you) of squirrels in the yard, barking back to the neighboring dogs’ calls, or seeking to warn off the potential threat of distant gunshots or rumbling thunder, Delilah is ALWAYS on duty. She will jump up from a sound sleep to race to the door and bark at something that only her ears picked up.

It occurred to me that we should have taught her a command to give her permission to be “off-duty.” Something along the lines of “at-ease, soldier.”

“We need to tell her to ‘Golden Retriever’ every once in a while,” I said, imagining her gaining the skill of becoming easy-going upon request.

That’d be like telling water not to be so wet.

Come to think of it, it would also be like telling Cyndie not to work such long hours every day.

Hmmm. Maybe there’s a correlation here.



Written by johnwhays

March 14, 2021 at 10:07 am

Slowly Convalescing

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She is doing a fair job of allowing time and medication to heal her wounds, but Delilah can’t hide her sorry state of the wounded animal. We suspect the powerful pain killer is rendering her somewhat loopy and the antibiotic is definitely wreaking some disruption on her digestive system.

One of the puncture wounds continues to drain and the area of swelling is noticeable and changing colors daily.

We keep finding her squeezed into rather odd locations around the house and she stays curled up in each place for remarkably long spans of time. Cyndie found her curled up in barely enough space beside the toilet. She tends to push herself behind furniture.

Once we get her up and moving, she will go out for a brief walk and take care of bodily functions, so it is good to know she can still move normally if she puts her mind to it. She just doesn’t want to very much, and I don’t blame her.

Really, the best thing for her is to rest, and for the most part, that is exactly what she is doing.

There is no need for her to rush, so she is taking full advantage of our care. Time will ultimately be her best medicine.



Written by johnwhays

August 10, 2020 at 6:00 am

Winter Walking

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Referring back to my recent post about feeling maladjusted to real cold, this morning’s walk was extremely refreshing at -1°(F). The big moon was low in the west and lit up brilliantly by sun rays that hadn’t crested our horizon yet. I hastily tried to capture a shot with the new Olympus pocket camera while standing on the trail down to the northwest corner of our property.

Nothing spectacular about the image, but that is not the camera’s fault. I didn’t do anything to contribute toward making it a better photo. It was a quick exercise in seeing how well I could pull the camera out of a deep pocket and get a shot with my bare hand while Delilah patiently waited to get on with the more important tasks on her mind.

The pads on her feet are calibrated for the indoor comfort of our house, so the bitter cold snow gets painful for her to stand upon. We made the morning jaunt a short one today, skipping to bother even opening the chicken coop until after the sunshine offers at least a suggestion of possible warmth.

Yesterday, in the bright light of midday, I took some pictures of the snow conditions we are stuck with so far this year.

The snow is crusty, not very deep, and rather uninviting for romping around. That’s not all bad, though. I’ve needed to do less plowing and shoveling, and walking the trails with Delilah can be done without putting on snowshoes.

On the bright side, there is at least enough snow to offer the classic sound absorption that creates mystical quiet in the great outdoors. Both yesterday and this morning the glory and wonder of a winter walk with just the sound of boots on snow were at a peak.

When I stop moving, the lack of sound slowly reveals the delicate notes of a single bird in the distance or the sound of Delilah breathing in the trace of a scent hanging in the still air.

We live in a winter wonderland, no matter how much snow we get.



Written by johnwhays

January 11, 2020 at 10:28 am

Good Sport

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Last night Delilah showed me she had an idea of how to get some exercise indoors while we are staying in the suburbs. First, she brought me her oft preferred squeaking yellow monkey for a little game of tug-of-war.

Then, she took it and spun around to run away in the hope I would chase her.

Of course, I did. Around and around and around the couch and then the pool table until I was too dizzy to keep up.

I’d stop and she would turn for a little more tug-of-war. Then, off she would go again.

Rinse and repeat.

Delilah is being a really good sport about being away from home all these days and having her world shrunk to mostly the basement with walks on suburban streets.




Written by johnwhays

January 3, 2020 at 7:00 am

First Time

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We are on something of a “stay-cation,” in that, we didn’t go up to Hayward with Cyndie’s parents for the New Year celebration, but we are spending a few days with them at their home in Edina. Like we did for Christmas, we’ve brought along Delilah and left the chickens cooped up and Pequenita by herself at home.

Cyndie’s eyelids are showing signs of good recovery and she has begun to only occasionally stray from doctor’s orders to NOT bend over. Most importantly, she has thus far successfully avoided inadvertently rubbing her eyes as the healing process causes them to itch.

I can’t say the same for myself. Since the day of her surgery, I have been rubbing my eyes more than ever out of sympathetic response to her situation.

For the most part, Delilah seems to be taking to our sudden suburban living with impressive ease. I, on the other hand, am being pushed beyond my boundaries. For the first time in my life, I have needed to pick up my dog’s poop. I never thought I would allow myself to be stuck in this situation.

Cyndie and I have taken turns walking her around the neighborhood and both of us are making adjustments to avoid contact with any other dog walkers. She has failed to accomplish successful introductions so many times that we have pretty much quit trying. The only way I would try again would be if someone told me they wanted their dog to be grabbed and shaken like a rag doll. Delilah has proved she is able to offer that service. Otherwise, I’m thinking we are beyond the point of trying to socialize her with other dogs.

While out with her last night in the latest snowstorm, my feet slipped out from under me on the polished packed snow beneath the new-fallen layer on the once-plowed street. Can you say, “Hip plant!”? I’m gonna have a bruise there, I think.

Delilah seems to be doing her best to claim territory on the streets surrounding Cyndie’s parents’ house. Mailbox posts get an awful lot of attention. Safe within the confines of the basement rooms, she boldly barks at the sight of any activity at neighboring properties.

It’s certainly not the first time she has barked at something she sees outside the window.

Here’s wishing you all a safe celebration of the end of a decade and dawn of a new one!

Tomorrow will be the first time we’ve ever been in the year 2020. May all of us experience a new year filled with more peace and love than ever before.

Wouldn’t that be a priceless first?



Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2019 at 7:00 am

Feeling Humble

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Rain in winter is proving to be our new normal in the region of Minnesota and Wisconsin where I grew up. All we can do is react to the conditions presented, but it’s an unfamiliar winter landscape to me to have water raining down onto our snowscape. It’s such a mess.

I wonder what the furry animals of the northern forest do to cope with these conditions. It must be hard not being able to burrow into the powdery snow for insulation from the cold. From my experience, dampness in temperatures that hover around the freezing point feels much worse than dry cold temperatures well below freezing.

Delilah and I discovered evidence in our hayfield that looked like a coyote may have uncovered a rabbit nest.

The wet snow is revealing a wide variety of tracks. The surface keeps changing between being very soft when the temperature is above freezing and crusty enough that Delilah doesn’t break through when it refreezes.

It is humbling to find evidence of how many creatures are wandering our trails just before or shortly after we have walked them. There were footprints on our north trail that were so large I tried to get Delilah to step into one for comparison. It didn’t work, but trust me, in real life, these are unmistakably and rather impressively bigger than Delilah’s.

I’m pretty sure Delilah peed her scent all over any other markers left on that trail.

Trespassers return at their own risk.



Written by johnwhays

December 29, 2019 at 10:39 am

Playing Nurse

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I am not a nurse, but I am back in nurse-mode for a while because Cyndie had outpatient eyelid surgery yesterday. A procedure that only takes an hour required over four to drive to Stillwater and then wait an hour and twenty minutes for things to start because the patient ahead of her took longer than planned.

Now Cyndie’s convalescence requires extra rest, limited activity, no lifting or bending over, and not rubbing her eyes for at least a week.

She looks a little like she stepped on a rake. Twice.

The procedure sounds a little harrowing in that Cyndie was sedated but conscious and instructed not to move for the entire procedure. That included reaching up to scratch an itchy nose. She needed to ask for help with an itch. Imagine trying not to cough, sneeze, or flinch while someone is holding a knife near your eye.

The surgeon asked for a warning to stop if Cyndie felt a sneeze coming on. It makes me wonder if the urge to sneeze gets suppressed by the sedation or if it could sneak up on a person whose face has been numbed.

I’m glad she didn’t get the hiccups.

We are happy Cyndie’s procedure did commence without complications. Our return home was late enough that darkness had already arrived and Delilah’s dinner was over an hour later than usual. I took her for a walk and we closed up the chicken coop where all the hens were unharmed and safely perched on the roost.

I had clipped Delilah’s leash to a nearby tree while securing the coop and, out of my light beam, she suddenly started barking about something. When I returned to her it was obvious she was fixated on something nearby. When I released the clip she almost dragged me away, except the point she wanted to reach was just a few more steps over.

It was the trunk of a large old maple tree and I’m guessing she spotted a critter –likely a rabbit– disappear into an opening at the base of the tree. Delilah reacted with a frenzied, but futile attempt to attack the fortress. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed such a carnivorous fervor from her, except maybe the one time last summer when she had the lake-neighbor’s dog firmly clamped in her jaws.

Maybe I shouldn’t have let her keep the headless squirrel body she claimed from under a decorative pine tree near the back of our house on a walk earlier in the day yesterday. She was pre-primed to be in full-on predator mode after that.

I’m just distracted by a responsibility to focus on what Cyndie’s needs are during the recovery period. We are both going to work intensely on preventing any involuntary unconscious eye-rubbing when the healing causes itchiness. Doing so could completely defeat the surgical procedure results and the surgeon said that it happens to 1 out of 5 patients!

We don’t want her to be one of the ‘special’ ones.



Written by johnwhays

December 27, 2019 at 7:00 am

Keen Sense

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Lately –more frequently than I like to admit– my commuting hours have been littered with the U.S. political theater that is being broadcast over the airwaves. Every day can be a soap opera if you want it to be. I’m more inclined to avoid unnecessary dramatic escapades. It’s a function of purposeful intent, actually. But I do admit to wondering where reason and common sense have disappeared to, and why avoiding the actual issues and endlessly shouting obfuscations as loud as possible is accepted by otherwise intelligent people as a convincing argument.

At least it’s quiet on the ranch when no one else is around. Last night, Cyndie was away at a seasonal gathering of some of her friends and she left me in charge of entertaining Delilah. I took our pooch on a couple of long walks around the property where she repeatedly employed her very fox-like pounces into the snow, followed by adorably cocking her head to listen intently for any possible movements from below.

It’s cute as heck to watch from above, but probably hauntingly intimidating for any critters cowering underneath. She never did come up with anything, however, despite all her valiant efforts.

Watching Delilah navigate our surroundings by way of scent often leaves me feeling cheated out of a vast amount of information on our walks. Often, she will suddenly turn her head toward the middle of our forest and inhale with such incredible intensity that I’m certain she is aware of something in there that I’m not seeing.

By far, most of the tracks in the snow last night were from rabbits, but I rarely ever see them moving around. The most visible critters are the squirrels. They constantly antagonize Delilah when we are inside, then take to the trees when we come out.

Last weekend, Delilah seemed to know there was one in the branches overhead. She stared and stared for a long time. I decided to wait her out, even though I didn’t see a thing up there. Lo and behold, when Delilah finally gave up and looked back down at the ground, a squirrel bolted from the branches above us and scampered through the surrounding trees until out of view.

I had no idea it was up there, but Delilah knew. Poor girl failed to notice the subject of her attention when it finally made its perfectly timed getaway while she wasn’t looking.

It didn’t matter. She probably smelled that it was leaving and chose not to bother looking up at it again.



Written by johnwhays

December 12, 2019 at 7:00 am

Recent Past

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While I was working on a project that had me perusing some of my old photos from the last decade, I developed a yearning for the good ol’ days of about 4 years ago. (That’s the time period I was viewing when the nostalgia hit.) It has me missing our horses anew.

That was back before we added doors to the hay shed. I don’t miss the years of sun-bleached hay reserves. Of course, I don’t miss needing to put up a winter’s worth of hay anymore, either.

Our lives and focus of attention in 2015 seem so far removed now, yet at the same time, pretty recent compared to all the years even farther back in our history. I suppose I’m experiencing something of a near-term nostalgia.

I can’t help but think it might also be related to wanting to be back in a time when US politics weren’t a worldwide embarrassment.

I was so much younger then, four years ago. Delilah was, too. In that series of pictures I was reviewing, there were many where I was putting dog and horses in particularly close proximities, hoping to develop a safe and friendly bond between them. They never became close pals, but the horses offered a gracious acceptance of Delilah’s tendencies to nip at their heals or bark vociferously around feeding time if the horses got rambunctious.

Then, there are pictures of me throwing discs for Delilah to chase off-leash in the fields. That was B.C. (Before Chickens). Unfortunately, we can no longer trust the dog to spend any time off-leash, as she has no impulse control over her urge to follow her carnivorous canine instincts.

Ahh, those were the days, four years ago. Remembering those times feels like wrapping myself in a snuggly blanket on a cold day.

I’ve learned a lot in the years since, though (and Delilah, too, I think), so as 2019 closes in on its final weeks, I’m feeling good with our lives. I just need to remind myself to avoid the constant barrage of horrendous news and put my energy toward sowing seeds of love to all.

That will become a memory I would like to look back on in a few years to remember fondly.



Written by johnwhays

December 5, 2019 at 7:00 am

High Wire

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I got in a fair amount of ladder time over the weekend. Cyndie recently dreamt up inspiration to try hanging a line in the yard to allow Delilah to run a bit more freely while still leashed. Her simple prototype worked well enough to spur me into action on an idea we’ve been tossing around for years.

We haven’t completely eliminated all the concerns that have kept me hesitant about doing this before, but as long as we stay in the vicinity when we connect her to it, I’ve decided to give it a try.

I discovered an old roll of twisted-pair fence wire in the shop garage that had more than enough length on it to reach the bottom of the hill and back again, so I decided to double the run for twice the strength. I expect that was probably overkill, but other than making installation a little more work, it doesn’t cost anything at this point. That spool of fence wire was left here by the previous owners and in seven years we had yet to find any other uses for it.

After I had selected the two trees and found enough wire to reach between them, I needed to devise a way to protect the trunks as much as possible. To keep the wire from girdling the trees, I placed a short segment of an old fence post on the far side of each to absorb the extreme tension. This will also spread the wire pressure across a greater area of the trunk.

We ran out of daylight on Saturday before I could finish, partly because I spent the better part of the day absorbed by the Gopher football game on television, so the final challenge of getting the wire taut and secured to the fence pully (which I stole from one of the anchors on the woodshed) became yesterday’s project.

I mulled over how I would possibly rig a way to clamp the wire so I could pull it tight with a come-along, which would then allow me to anchor it around the fence tensioning pully. It occurred to me that all this was a lot like putting new strings on my guitar.

Starting the day yesterday in the shop, I was thinking about bolting two boards together around the wire as a clamp when I spotted a better idea. I don’t know why I never threw away the broken metal tines of an old rake, but it turned out to work perfectly for this task.

I pushed the rake tines through the twists of the fence wire and hooked the come-along to it for pulling.

With that, I was able to get the rig secured and crank the wire tight to my desired result. It is high enough overhead to be out of the way and reaches from the top of the hill to the bottom.

Delilah was a little tentative on the first test, not sure how much distance this would allow her and a little uncertain about the sights and sounds coming from overhead, but she’ll figure it all out soon enough.

Now we can really put the hill to work as an energy-draining workout for our high-energy breed of dog. Afterwhich, we can all rest easier when we head back inside.


Written by johnwhays

November 11, 2019 at 7:00 am