Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘canine behavior

Floating Flakes

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All day yesterday snow-globe flakes floated magically out of the sky. It was mystical. I checked the radar in the morning to see if it was a temporary shower or something more substantial and the precipitation didn’t even show up. Somehow, flakes just kept falling from the time I woke up, continuing without pause through my last walk with Delilah in the dark of night.

It made for a gorgeous winter day. I occupied myself with raking snow off the last three valleys of our roof and then shoveling away the piles that resulted beneath.

There was a decent-sized drift hanging off one eave and plenty of straight accumulation built up on the opposite side of the house.

I let Delilah hang out with me while I worked, but by the time I moved to the back, she just stood at the door staring inside. It looked like she was hoping someone in there would notice and rescue her from the cold. I gave in and walked her around to let her in the front door.

Then she barked at me for the noise I was making on the roof.

Delilah got to have a real canine adventure Friday night when we took our last walk of the evening while the snowstorm was underway. While she had her nose in the snow investigating something that caught her attention, I spotted a field mouse skittering along on top of the snow.

By the time I got Delilah’s attention to come after it, the critter disappeared below the snow again. As Delilah hunted around near that spot, the mouse popped up right beside me and resumed its sprint to escape all this attention.

That was a fatal mistake. There is now one less field mouse roaming the ranch this winter and Delilah is feeling like quite the successful hunter.

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Written by johnwhays

January 20, 2020 at 7:00 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.

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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.

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Written by johnwhays

December 12, 2019 at 7:00 am

Split Second

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I thought Delilah had tripped. She appeared to stumble as one of her paws slid out from under her on the landing in front of the door to the house.

We had just returned from tending to the horses for the afternoon feeding where Delilah had uncovered one of her prized possessions: hoof trimmings. She had retrieved it from a hiding spot and was clenching the precious find in her teeth as we walked straight back to the house.

There are no detours at this point, because Delilah knows that the next order of business involves serving her dinner. I’m sure the cut of hoof was intended for dessert.

I guess she wasn’t expecting there would be appetizers, too.

As I was sweetly questioned Delilah about what had just happened, using a soft, comforting, albeit confused tone, the wingtip of a songbird appeared out of the side of the dog’s mouth.

I stuttered in surprise for a second and before I could utter a command for her to drop it, the bird let out a little tweet. This brought about two reactions.

I switched to my loud voice to demand that she drop it, and Delilah quickly began chomping.

Sorry about the image that may create, but keep in mind, I had to see and hear it first-hand. You get off easy.

All it takes is a split second.

Then, in one complete second, Delilah swallows and bends down to pick up her piece of hoof. She looks up at the door handle, and then me, ready to go in for dinner.

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I’d lost my appetite, but it didn’t slow her down one bit. For my part, I cut back her portion of canned food in her serving. She just had her protein.

If you could use some consolation, there was a mark on the glass of the storm door that revealed a reason for a bird to be laying on the front step. It might not have been dead when Delilah snatched it, but its demise may have already been determined.

I’m sure Delilah’s intentions were entirely directed by compassion.

Mmm hmmm.

She’s such a dog.

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Written by johnwhays

September 2, 2018 at 9:47 am

At Last

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After too many days of no improvement, we are finally seeing glimmers of the old Delilah we knew and were often irritated by. Funny, how perspectives change, and behaviors that came across as a nuisance when she was overflowing with canine energy can become a celebration after a long series of days of droopy, pained existence.

Delilah has regained a little spring in her step, and has flashed moments of youthful yearning to playfully bite and romp, quickly curtailed with reasonable restraint.

Just hearing her let loose with a full-body shake that flops her ears in the rapid tremolo pounding against her own head is of significance when the sound has been absent for so long.

It is like a fresh ray of sunshine after a long period of rain, which is also an apt description of the day we have been blessed with today.

Hello, fall colors!

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Written by johnwhays

October 8, 2017 at 9:14 am

Delilah’s Dilemma

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Delilah must have rolled into some sap. Cyndie thinks it might have been bugging Delilah for a few days. Our poor dog was biting at it, pulling her hair out, and licking obsessively, which eventually created a sore spot of raw skin.

When I got home from the day-job, Cyndie was working her way through an escalating series of interventions to dissuade Delilah from messing with the sore. She had yet to find a method that achieved her goal.

Poor Delilah didn’t realize her lack of cooperation was the cause for the increasingly intrusive control methods being hoisted upon her.

dscn5873eFinally, out came the pad and cling wrap. Cyndie started applying it while Delilah was lying down on her side, and I was getting ready for the chaos that was about to happen when Cyndie tried getting the cling around Delilah’s body. Then she told Delilah to stand up, and the dog responded perfectly, allowing Cyndie to complete the wrap.

It wasn’t very tight, so after a couple of hours it had slid down off the sore spot, but it did help Delilah stop fixating on the wound for a little while.

Before the end of the night, Cyndie had reached the point where she was willing to try the “cone of shame” around Delilah’s head. It wasn’t a full effort, stopping short of threading her collar through loops on the cone as directed, so it didn’t last long. It didn’t really matter. Delilah’s obvious misery was so extreme, to the point of not wanting to move a step while tucking her tail and ignoring any offering of treats, it led to the swift removal of the psychological torture.

It was such a sorry sight, I didn’t have the heart to violate her indignity with a photo recording the moment.

img_1948eWe prefer to remember her in her better days, like the time this weekend when Cyndie grabbed a pillow off the couch and set it on the floor in front of the fireplace to lay on. In a flash of milliseconds after the pillow landed, Delilah dove in for a pin-point landing  before Cyndie could lean back.

The dog had arrived with her fangs wrapped around a precious morsel of bone and went about her business with a feigned obliviousness to the intrusion she had brilliantly executed. When Cyndie turned to question the violation of space, she got the well-known universal dog expression. The look that says, “What’d I do?”

Puppy eyes. Twist of the head.

“Whaa~aaat?”

She knew exactly what she’d done. I don’t buy that act for a minute.

Yesterday, shortly after my photos of disappearing snow posted, we got a fresh new (temporary) inch of white stuff covering everything. Cyndie cleaned off the upper parking pad of the driveway.

Delilah was granted some leash-free time to watch. I think the snow probably felt good on her sore spot. She makes for such a noble looking sentry, doesn’t she?

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Written by johnwhays

March 2, 2017 at 7:00 am

Curious Allure

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There are a couple of things missing from the video I posted two days ago of Delilah’s morning walk, that are frequent parts of her daily surveillance of our property. Below is a hurried, and thus blurry, photo I took, catching her in one of the actions yesterday showing her engaged in the classic canine behavior of scent rolling.

DSCN4383eOne explanation (of several) for scent rolling is that the dog might be trying to cover their own scent with another, as a leftover instinctual behavior from days when they were wild and had to hunt for food. The “scent-disguise” would help them sneak up on prey.

This would make sense for the times Delilah is seeking out the little critters hiding beneath the snow.

But what is the invisible scent that she picks to roll in that would cover her own and not alarm her prey? My guess is, rabbit. What animal would feel threatened by the smell of a rabbit?

The other thing Delilah does that amazes me about a dog’s nose is her occasional focus on individual tiny branches of things growing about a foot or two off the ground. It usually starts with the usual check of tracks on the ground or in the snow, but in certain instances, her attention become riveted and she moves her nose in minuscule increments along some spindly stem.

How much scent can there even be on such a tiny surface, I wonder.

Yesterday, I noticed she was taking things one step further. She was also licking the twig.

DSCN4382eWhat could possible be so enticing to her?

Then it occurred to me that the question was even more intriguing because of the height at which she was picking up this scent. I know that she is extremely fond of rabbits and rodents, but those are all too small to be rubbing up against things growing that high. Even a wandering cat would be unlikely to be the source.

The other common animal that gets Delilah all riled up is a deer, but they are tall enough that it seems unlikely there would be much in the way of contact that low. So, whatever it is would most likely be similar in size to Delilah.

A fox or coyote, maybe?

Time for me to invest in a trail camera, I guess. Or learn to read animal tracks.

I should probably get a trail cam.

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Written by johnwhays

January 25, 2016 at 7:00 am