Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘dog behavior

Twenty Questions

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I’m not going to number them, so you’ll have to count if you want to find out if there really are twenty. It’s just that a question came to mind during my morning commute yesterday and I found myself mentally careening down a rabbit hole of not-necessarily-related questions that went on for so long –pretty much the rest of the way to work– I figured it deserved to become a blog post.

Now, if I could only remember what it was I was pondering so deeply in that westbound commute at almost zero-dark-thirty. Oh, that sentence triggered a memory of feeling really grateful to have been able to drive west in the morning and east in the afternoon during most of my working life. I’ve avoided fighting the daily glare of sun in my eyes while driving.

Speaking of being triggered, a song lyric during the morning commute got me to wonder, do people know who it is that taught them how to love? Or how come some humans can play instruments faster than my ear is able to discern? Have you ever heard Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper play Tall Fiddler? Wow. Seems pretty fast, until they suddenly go even faster.

How come I’ve never been able to get my left and my right hand to work together at breakneck speed to hit the correct notes at the correct time on the strings of my guitar? That’s just black magic to play that unrealistically fast and actually produce recognizable melodies with every note presented, if only for a micro-fraction of a second each.

When it appears like our dog is trying to bite the cat, is it possible to know which of the two was the instigator? Does Delilah suddenly start barking at something outside our house because of a sound she hears or some canine sixth sense that tells her there is an invisible thing out there that needs to be barked at?

Actually, I think it’s become a learned behavior that she is unconscious about. There was once a squirrel up in the big tree towering above her kennel outside. She barked up at it, logically. Unfortunately, now she barks up at that tree every time we put her in the kennel, regardless of any squirrel sightings. Does she associate being in the kennel with needing to bark up at the tree? Apparently so.

Are digital HD subchannels radio’s best-kept secret? Is it weird that one radio or television station is actually multiple stations?

Is there a general age break where the reference of something being bigger than a bread box no longer makes any sense? Maybe it has been replaced with, “Is it bigger than a video game console?” Of course, I have no idea if game consoles have a general size at this point, but I have seen pictures of people opening wrapped packages of the latest impossible-to-get hot item that have me thinking there might be.

Have you noticed how Cyndie’s photos have been more interesting than mine for the last few years? I am very lucky that she shares them for use on my blog.

Does it matter if I don’t offer answers to all the questions I am bringing up? Can you tell when my posts run a little long? Who’s counting words, anyway? It’s all about how long it takes to read, not how many words there are. You just skim the sentences like a speed reader after all, don’t you? What words catch your eye enough to slow you down and really read a full paragraph?

Without knowing any of the answers, it still just boils down to the question that started it all, do you know who taught you how to love?

I heard the question in a song.



Written by johnwhays

November 18, 2021 at 7:00 am

Puppy Love

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While communing with Cyndie’s family over the weekend, I learned of a wonderful photo captured by one of my fellow Friswold in-laws, Sara (married to Cyndie’s youngest brother, Ben). They are the only other Friswold family with multiple pets in the house. In addition to their three kids, there are two cats roaming the house, (and multiple amphibians and reptiles in a bedroom), and two dogs. Mocha is a 3-year-old mix they got from the Humane Society and Hazel is a 4-and-a-half-month-old rescue puppy.

Given that variety of kid and animal energy, it is easy to imagine the perpetual hum of commotion from ongoing activity constantly underway in the background of their everyday lives. In that setting, it is any sudden absence of activity that causes a person to take notice.

Sara reports just that scenario one day while she was occupied at her computer. She noticed it had gotten quiet and turned around in her chair to glance in the direction of the dogs. This is what she saw:

Puppy Hazel had her paws on Mocha’s chest and they were gazing at each other, nose to nose.

Sara quickly, but subtly, reached for her phone and captured the moment over her shoulder in the split second before it was over and Hazel moved on to other pursuits.

I asked how it might have transpired and Sara said it is not unusual for Mocha to sit upright in that spot and hang a front “arm” over the chair to look out the window. It is assumed that Hazel just took advantage of the position to stage an impromptu up close and personal puppy style greeting.

Everyone who has seen the image has enjoyed it so much, myself included, that I asked if I could share it with my readers, too. Let’s amplify and spread the puppy-love joy it brings.

It’s better than the “chew on everything in sight” puppy energy that is more the norm.

Congratulations, Sara, for the deft achievement of capturing this image in the moment’s notice!

It’s a winner of a photo. Thank you for letting me feature it and your pooch smooches.



Written by johnwhays

September 15, 2020 at 6:00 am

Duly Moved

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Last night I watched the award-winning documentary, Free Solo about Alex Honnold’s epic climb of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. What a masterpiece of a film! I highly recommend it. I was duly moved by the intimate glimpse into Alex’s life, and the inclusion of the emotional challenges of those around him coping with the immensity of the monumental risk he was facing in his quest to climb that granite monolith without ropes.

Alex points out that any of us could die at any moment, whether doing something risky, or not. I tend to avoid things with a high risk of death whenever possible, but it is true that my life could end at any time. One way I interpret his thinking is to frame myself as “free soloing” all the time.

It made my walk with Delilah a little more exciting than normal after the movie.

She suffered a bit of a panic inside her overnight safe-space crate yesterday morning when a rowdy thunderstorm rumbled over top of us at oh-dark-thirty. I didn’t have much success trying to assure her we weren’t in jeopardy as I prepared to leave for work, which made it rather stressful for me to walk out the door and leave her alone until Maddie was due to show up an hour or two later.

I soothed myself by considering how she would greet me when I got home at the end of the day, as if clueless that anything out of the ordinary had happened earlier, which turned out to be true. She did.

We then made the rounds on the property, hiking the perimeter trails and surveying the results of the wild weather. There were 2.5 inches of rain in the gauge and the ground is fully saturated, but no new-fallen trees or limbs, thank goodness. That much rain, or more, is expected to fall before this weather event is done and gone.

We will carry on and survive to the best of our ability, even though I now have this new sense that I am doing it all without the benefit of any ropes.



Written by johnwhays

September 12, 2019 at 6:00 am

Rural Pleasures

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We had the wonderful opportunity to drive through the cities to the rich countryside of Wayzata yesterday for the unfortunate occasion of a memorial service. Some of that time in the car spawned discussion about what might be next for us now that we no longer have horses. It is a complicated dilemma, although dilemma is too extreme a word.

It’s really just a question, one that could be simplified to the alternatives of continuing to live here, or selling the property and moving somewhere else. One of the first complications is that there is nowhere else I would prefer to be. We have become very accustomed to the space our little sanctuary provides.

Back home in the afternoon, Cyndie hung up the authentic Guatemalan hammock that our friends the Morales family gifted to us. In the shade beneath giant oak trees, I joined Cyndie to luxuriate in the open privacy of our little nature preserve. Then Delilah decided to join us, too.

We are truly blessed to live here. It is a real struggle to even conceive of leaving for something else.

Discussions have continued on the neighborhood group about our recent close encounter with a mysterious wild visitor. The fisher is too rare an occurrence for some to accept, so the opinion has shifted to a woodchuck.

That’s good news for us, as that would be much less threatening for our chickens.

Those hens seem to be luxuriating in the rural pleasures themselves. It’s pure luck that no predator has disrupted their ranks all summer and it seems to have inspired a dangerous, comfortable confidence in them.

One of them has decided she doesn’t need to use the nest boxes in the coop to lay her eggs.

This morning, Cyndie noticed a newborn cow in the neighbor’s pasture. Last week, she reported a group of five eagles soaring together, high in our sky. Delilah picked up a feather left on one of our trails by a wild turkey and carried it like a precious treasure for several minutes, ultimately dropping it with a vividly contrasting lack of interest.

Today, it is beyond my comprehension that there is any other place where I will be as happy living as our rolling hills in the rural countryside of west-central Wisconsin.



Written by johnwhays

August 18, 2019 at 9:39 am

Foulest Odor

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Ever. It was absolutely the worst possible smell. I looked it up on a “rank bad smells” survey and there it was at the very top of the list: decaying animal. How did that smell get inside my house?

Who else? Delilah.

The sequence of horrible events went like this: Delilah and I had just completed a perfectly normal and wonderfully pleasant afternoon walk. She peed, she pooed, I picked eggs (six!), and we were on our way toward the front door.

Suddenly, Delilah darts to the far side of the driveway and snaps up something from amidst the thick ground cover over there. Then she gets that look on her face. I could tell she had something in her mouth, but I had no interest in challenging her over it.

We start our way around the garage, but then she turns to chomp on her prize. I see a brief flash of what looks like small feathers of a bird’s wing out the side of Delilah’s mouth. She swallows demonstratively and heads for the door, happy as can be.

At least I didn’t have to try negotiating a way to go inside without bringing that little snack along. That game never goes well. When I got to the steps, I caught a whiff of a dead animal and wondered if there was a deceased critter nearby that needed to get picked up.

Then I followed Delilah into the house and the smell was even stronger inside. She burped. Honestly, she did. That made the stench even worse! I thought I was going to be sick.

I had to struggle to get her harness unclipped without letting her snout get anywhere near me. It was awful. Horrendous. She had eaten the foulest dead bird and now it was in her stomach, and in our house.

Pequenita came running up to Delilah –not something she normally does– and appeared to take great pleasure in inhaling that noxious odor coming from the dog’s mouth. For that moment, suddenly they were true pals with a genuine shared passion.

I could barely wait to feed Delilah her dinner to replace the disgusting smell with the usual unpleasant smell of dog food.

Before that all that happened, we had accomplished a survey of the perimeter of our property for wind damage. We made out okay.

There were several small trees that had fallen across the trail, but nothing substantial tipped over.

Up by the house, I spotted some freshly sprouted oak leaves that had been blown off a branch.

That little batch was about the size of my hand, with each leaf barely as long as my fingers. Their lives ended way too soon.

It’s a shame because we need all the leaves we can get in order to purify the air around here and counterbalance Delilah’s foul contributions.



Written by johnwhays

May 23, 2019 at 6:00 am

Nose Prints

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Over the weekend, while in the midst of my planking and stretching routine, I glanced out the bedroom door and noticed a message written on the glass.

Can you see it?

Delilah wrote it with her nose. What do you think she scribed?

My first impression was, “Too Much.”

I think maybe she was referring to the endless taunt of squirrels frolicking about on the other side of our doors and windows, and her unrelenting urge to chase after them.

“Who? Me?” she says.



Written by johnwhays

April 23, 2019 at 6:00 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.









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.



Written by johnwhays

September 2, 2018 at 9:47 am