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

Posts Tagged ‘Belgian Tervuren Shepherd

Like Marchruary

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Is it possible that you are able to see that this image was taken when the temperature was below zero on Saturday morning?

It is a reference for the next image that I shot yesterday afternoon.

That outdoor temperature of 45°F was in the range of average for the month of March, not February. Both Delilah and I wanted nothing more than to just be outside in the warm sunshine.

I offered to brush her multiple layers of hair out on the deck, flashing a bag of tasty treats as periodic reward for her cooperation. The only cooperation she offered was to sit down every time I neared her back legs so that I couldn’t be the least bit effective.

It became a game where I offered a treat to buy more time and she would soon after, sit down so I would feel the need to offer another treat to get her up again. I didn’t get much brushing done. I switched focus to tossing some discs for Delilah to chase in the back yard.

She pretty much wanted to sit down after only a few throws of that exercise, too.

I think she is starting to feel all of her nine-and-a-half years of age. Average age for a Belgian Tervuren Shepherd is 10-12 years. She is starting to act as if she is getting old.

My next attempt to make her feel young again was met with complete disdain.

I made a snowball out of the sticky snow and started rolling it down the hill. When it got big enough that it was difficult to push, I stopped and looked up to find her completely ignoring me.

When I decided I didn’t have any interest in making a snowman out of my giant snow boulder, it occurred to me that I was feeling my ripe old age.

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Written by johnwhays

February 21, 2022 at 7:00 am

Big Between

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We have been living in a pretty peaceful time of late at Wintervale, one I tend to label, “the big between.” Whenever we get a significant block of days without a major weather event or an unexpected life disturbance, it becomes the time between the last one and the inevitable next one.

Delilah was her best-behaved self all day on Saturday. She responded surprisingly quickly in obeying a “drop it” command that she normally resists. She had just made a lightning-fast dash and discovery of a recently departed squirrel just over the snowbank of the driveway. We were on our way back from the barn after feeding the horses and Cyndie was just telling me about startling a hawk when she came out of the house at right about that same spot.

Poor bird didn’t get the benefit of its kill. That is, unless it was keeping an eye on where Cyndie tossed the limp tree rodent over the property line into the neighbor’s woods where it will be out of reach of our dog.

Delilah was rewarded with a fully sanctioned dead animal chewy treat that Cyndie purchases, not made out of squirrels.

Heavy napping soon followed.

A couple of days ago, just as the horses were finishing their pans of feed pellets, I was blessed with a precious interaction with Light toward the completion of my manure scooping.

She approached the wheelbarrow, which they often do, and was checking things out as I walked up with a full scoop. She stepped as close as physically possible to impede me from being able to grab both handles. I dumped the contents of the scoop into the nearly filled wheelbarrow and set down the tool to give Light my full attention.

Not yet confident that I am reading the signals from any of these mares, I attempted to see what combination of hand contact, intensity, and location appeared to meet with her satisfaction. Scratches behind her ears? Under her jawline? Massage her neck? Slide my hands under her blanket?

Scratching her forehead and jawline seemed to elicit the best reaction of eyes closing as if in bliss, with ears happily relaxed. The routine I am used to with these four Thoroughbreds is for them to move away rather soon after we put hands on them, but this time Light was more inclined to lean her forehead into my torso with no hint of wanting to be anywhere else.

It is such a treat to be given so much attention from a horse. Surprisingly, I ended up being the one to break the spell. We had been standing together like that for about ten minutes and I really was on my last scoop and ready to dump the wheelbarrow so I could join Cyndie up at the house for breakfast.

I moved toward the far handle of the wheelbarrow and Light read my intention and slowly backed up so she could turn and mosey over for a drink of water.

I’m hoping the time between that session and my next opportunity to receive similar love from any of the mares is not anywhere as long as the number of quiet days we’ve been enjoying around here lately.

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Written by johnwhays

February 7, 2022 at 7:00 am

Squeaky Stroll

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How would you like to tag along virtually on a frigid mid-day walk with Delilah on some of our trails? In a rare (for me) instance of verticle orientation filming, I recorded nine minutes of our rather uneventful stroll yesterday to provide a glimpse of what has been a major part of my days since Cyndie has become hampered by a troublesome painful knee (the one that hasn’t been replaced by an artificial joint yet).

With the air temperature just below zero (F), my boots squeaking on the snow are the prominent audio component of the recording as I quick-step to keep up with Miss D. I won’t feel bad if you choose to turn down your volume to reduce the potential annoyance of the squeak but I hope you can turn it up whenever she allows me to stop so you can enjoy the sweet sounds of birds in the otherwise serene quiet of a mostly calm day.

I directed Delilah to make the first turn and then let her choose the route the rest of the way. Hopefully, my motion won’t make you feel car-sick as the girl pulls me around bends and I hustle to keep up with her pace. I turned twice to provide a glimpse of the horses, but they were lingering around the gate between the paddock and hayfield and at that distance weren’t much to see.

If you spend the full nine minutes to follow her along on this video like she’s pulling you on a dogsled, you will be presented with a pretty good perception of the experience of walking through parts of our woods to where this trail emerges behind the back pasture.

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It ends rather unceremoniously at the point my phone battery got too cold and gave up on me. We were approximately halfway around the property perimeter at that point. It was simply more of the same to complete the trip, just without the trees. If you’ve watched the video, you’ve seen the best part of the trek.

Thanks for coming along!

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Written by johnwhays

February 4, 2022 at 7:00 am

Treading Widely

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Our Belgian Tervuren Shepherd, Delilah, being one high-energy dog, gets multiple opportunities per day to burn off energy in walks around our property. If not, she gets a little stir-crazy in the house. As such, we tread on our paths repeatedly –from every direction, because I like variety.

In the last week, we have received a series of overnight snowfalls when the temperature has been very cold, bringing an inch or two of light powder each time, which has been enough that the trails we walk have needed to get re-packed every other morning. If we were to walk down the middle all the time we would end up with a rather narrow “aisle” of travel through the accumulating snow cover, so I make a concerted effort to walk the edges after new snow in order to keep the packed path nice and wide.

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It makes it look like a large crowd has been taking Delilah for a walk, but it’s just me, three or four times a day.

Once the width has been re-established, I focus my boot steps on knocking down as many high spots as possible with each subsequent pass until the path is groomed smooth like an excellent fat bike trail.

The local wildlife has shown an affinity for following our packed trails as opposed to the deeper snow so Delilah often has a variety of enticing scents to track as we progress. Of course, that means we frequently find ourselves pausing to wait for her to come back to the trail after she followed some footprints that wandered off to the left or right in pursuit of alternate destinations.

When we get the big dumps of snow around a foot or more at a time, I break out the snowshoes to pack these trails. Just a few inches at a time are easy enough to walk through with just boots, which are easier to navigate when we stop to tend to the horses on our morning and late afternoon jaunts.

The middle of the day usually involves a route past the mailbox to pick up the daily snail mail.

When I’m feeling generously adventurous, I’ll grant Delilah the opportunity to bushwhack through the woods wherever her nose leads. Those trips don’t happen as much once the snow gets deeper. Since we just cut a new trail through the middle of a portion of our woods last year, I more often let that be her treat for alternate exploration.

That path doesn’t get the same attention toward widening. It’s more like a rustic side road to our perimeter trail’s main expressway.

Winter tail maintenance at Wintervale is an art! What can I say?

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Written by johnwhays

January 25, 2022 at 7:00 am

Hello 2022

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Happy New Year! Good Riddance, Old Year! Let’s hope the coming year will bring the ultimate demise of the current global pandemic so we can better focus on dealing with the growing weather calamities caused by the ever-warming planet. We find ourselves under the spell of a deep freeze of -31°(F) this morning here just north of Grand Rapids, MN.

We celebrated the last day of 2021 yesterday with a hearty snowshoe hike in the woods on nearby Wilkus’ property before the temperatures plummeted well below zero.

They have christened the property with an acronym’d designation garnered from Barb and Mike’s grandchildren: Maggie, Allie, Jackson, Jack, and Caleb.

It is a perfect name for the magical plot of varying elevations with thick tree growth and a pond nestled in a bowl surrounded by a prominent ridge.

With almost two feet of relatively fresh snow accumulation creating iconic winter landscape views, we let Delilah bounce ahead to break a trail that we widened with our snowshoes.

For some reason, I kept noticing a mental image of a steamy cup of hot cocoa forming while we clomped through the powder. Barb made my dream come true after we got back to the cabin.

As you might imagine, Delilah was in her glory, pouncing about like “T-i-double guh-er” of Winnie the Pooh fame in the deep snow.

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It took extra effort to dissuade her from a fixation on a tree in which she spied a nut-weilding squirrel energetically climb. So many new sights and smells for her to explore.

She didn’t seem all that fired up about our staying up late to hoot and holler over the Times Square ball dropping in New York at 11:00 p.m. our time. As long as it was midnight somewhere, it was good enough for us to call it a night.

May the new year treat you all with big love in all the best of forms that can be manifest!

Peace!

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Written by johnwhays

January 1, 2022 at 10:36 am

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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Written by johnwhays

December 31, 2019 at 7:00 am