Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘dog walking

Flash Gorgeous

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Why “Flash Gorgeous?” I saw a portion of a program on climate change last night, talking about the increasing incidents of flash flooding erupting out of our periodic thunderstorms. Yesterday’s weather was the opposite of a flash flood so I thought of flipping convention and describing the incredibly gorgeous day using a term we usually associate with the blast of a weather disaster.

We enjoyed a day-long flash of spectacular weather for working on projects outdoors. I cranked up the power trimmer and focused on cutting tall grass growing on both sides of the fence segments of the round pen and along the border of the back pasture that I mowed on Wednesday.

The air was as fresh and comfortable as ever and allowed for sweat-free exertion which is a rarity for the type of work I was doing under the high-angled sun.

Speaking of fresh, Delilah came home from a grooming appointment smelling so sweet and clean I almost didn’t want to let her outside again, where she tends to seek out the nastiest smells and then rolls in them.

The views during our treks through the woods are quickly growing shorter and shorter because of all the leaves that have burst forth in the last ten days. It really changes our woods dramatically during the peak of transitioning between the extremes of summer and winter.

One disadvantage of Cyndie and me getting away from home over our extended Memorial Day weekend is that transplanted trees didn’t get regular watering and they all looked really sad as a result. Time will tell if better attention now can prevent the loss of the mix of oak and maples we moved to a line just outside the paddock fences.

It makes me even more pleased to have also found a few saplings we could nurture right where they sprouted and not deal with the risks of transplanting. They haven’t suffered a bit since we last checked on them.

Maybe we will end up with a “flash-Forest” one of these days. I prefer looking for flashes of brilliant positives instead of the typical flash-flood of extreme weather disasters being visited upon us with ever-increasing intensities.

Give somebody a dose of “flash-friendliness” if you find an opportunity today. Happy Friday!

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Written by johnwhays

June 3, 2022 at 6:00 am

Noticing Things

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Lately, when Delilah and I step out of the house at the beginning of our walks around our property, I hear a wild turkey gobbling through the trees in the neighboring woods. Just one or two calls and then just quiet. It occurred to me the bird is probably alerting others to our presence. I have yet to spot any gobblers moving around.

At first, I wondered why he would give himself away like that but after failing to ever catch a fleeting glimpse, despite staring intently in the direction of the sound while we slowly made our way down the perimeter path, I realize he hasn’t given himself away at all. He’s just alerting others to seek immediate concealment.

It works.

The narrow path we cleared through the middle of our woods –which we’ve taken to calling the “middle trail”– has become our new favorite. After frequent commands to Delilah to “take the middle trail,” she now hesitates when we approach it, anticipating the call. There are plenty of times when I am more than happy to let her choose our route and leave it up to her as to whether we make the turn or not.

Yesterday, she turned onto the middle trail before I had a chance to consider an opinion. It made me happy thinking that she might like that trail as much as Cyndie and I do. Unlike the main perimeter trail, most of which already existed when we moved here and allows plenty of room for ATV travel, the middle trails (there are now several) are intentionally narrow and a little more winding.

The newest portion was cleared over winter this year so we have yet to experience it when green leaves create a much more dense impression of the surroundings. I’m looking forward to finding out how much that changes the experience of traveling that path.

As we exited the trees and made our way along the fence around the hayfield, I noticed an orange cat walking along in the middle, unaware of our approach. When it finally saw us, the cat immediately went into a crouch position and looked as though it was trying to become as flat as possible. Delilah remained oblivious, so the wind must have been in the cat’s favor.

Since the grass in the field is still short, the orange-ness of the cat stood out clear as ever. I think I may have audibly chuckled at it. I also realized there are probably countless times we have walked past an animal that is crouched just out of view and downwind from Delilah’s keen senses to which we were entirely ignorant.

Sometimes they pop out at the last minute and make a run for it. I figure they must hold out as long as possible until deciding the dog has just gotten too close for comfort. Rabbits, grouse, various other birds, and cats have all startled us at one time or another when they suddenly panicked and ran or flew away from beside us.

I’m always amazed when Delilah fails to notice them first.

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Written by johnwhays

April 27, 2022 at 6:00 am

Nose Knows

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Against my best effort to thwart Delilah getting after something we wouldn’t want her to have, I came out entirely outmatched. It’s not that I doubt her olfactory abilities, it’s just that I’ve seen her get excited over so many spots that turn up nothing that I hoped this would be one of those.

It’s not uncharacteristic for her to venture off-trail to follow some critter’s paw prints, stopping at whatever point I decide to lock her retracting leash. I rarely allow her to go past our property line and usually stop her from forcing me to step off the trail, but generally grant her the added excitement of some varied explorations beyond the obvious path.

The other day, she fervently wanted to go after something that she sensed while we were still on the trail. With a complete lack of interest in her goal, I waited as she made her way as far as the leash reached into a tangle of growth. I waited and waited.

We each held our ground until I finally decided to tug the leash and talk her into coming back to the trail. She reluctantly came out, took a couple of steps on the trail, and then headed right back into that tangle from a new angle. She really wanted something in there, so I decided to take a look for myself.

I pulled her back until I could clip her leash to the nearest tree and then I wove my way through the mess to look for the most likely attraction, typically, something dead.

Finding nothing, I came out again to let Delilah have her wish and allowed her to get all the way in there so she could sniff around and find nothing, too.

She rushed back in there and made her way directly to an undisturbed spot of snow, put her face in it and immediately started crunching on some bones. That was exactly what I didn’t want to happen.

I had to go back into the tangle again because she showed no interest in coming out to the trail at the moment. I negotiated a release of her clenched jaw holding what looked like a rib bone.

It was about fifteen feet from the trail under the snow and her nose absolutely knew it was there, most likely dropped by some predator who had cleaned the meat off and left it for other scavengers.

With the fresh bone now tucked into the back pocket of my overalls, I had Delilah’s full attention all the way back to the house. In reward for her letting me take the precious find away from her, I served up a sanctioned purchased bone in place of the wildlife remains of unknown condition.

Her nose didn’t seem at all disappointed in the difference.

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Written by johnwhays

February 18, 2022 at 7:00 am

Acting Foxy

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I’m not sure what got into Delilah yesterday, but it was Valentine’s Day, after all. She was getting all foxy, pausing to hunt for out-of-sight prey beneath the snow during several of our walks around the property yesterday.

It’s hard for me to tell if she thinks something is lurking beneath the pristine snow cover because she can smell it or hear it. The part that looks so fox-like at the start is how she cocks her head and focuses her ears over the surface, waiting to pounce.

When she thinks the time is right, she pounces and buries her face into the snow.

Either she was getting false signals or the critters under the snow outsmarted her and got away. It wouldn’t be the first time. I’ve watched many little rodents make a mad dash escape out the back while Delilah is digging through the weeds for a prize.

In that photo she is searching at the edge of the wash of snow I had plowed off the driveway a short time earlier. We’ve had a series of 1 to 2 inch snowfalls and several days when wind has packed the snow into hard drifts and I hadn’t plowed for a couple of weeks.

Our driveway looks so nice cleaned up after days of having neglected it. Dare I say, it’s downright foxy!

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Written by johnwhays

February 15, 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

Night Walks

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Just because the daylight hours are short doesn’t mean Delilah doesn’t still get that obligatory one last out-and-about before bed each evening. This time of year those “potty walks” have an added sense of adventure due to the distinct tunnel vision view we experience as we meander along the trails.

Who knows what could be lurking just out of view in the dark?

At least with the snow, we can see clear evidence if there has been recent traffic either crossing or traveling along our same path. I should probably never doubt that Delilah’s nose wouldn’t sense if another animal was nearby but we’ve seen so many times when she appears to ignore some creatures we encounter in our daytime travels that I’m left to wonder.

One time I turned my spotlight 90° to our left in the woods and illuminated four or five sets of reflecting eyes staring back at me for a brief moment before the herd of deer bolted in exit, stage right. Delilah didn’t even flinch.

All the night-vision animals offer up such noticeable eye reflections that it is those two bright dots that I find myself watching for more than anything else. That’s a tendency I have honed over many miles of commuting our country roads in darkness.

I’ve encountered many more staring animal eyes while driving my car than we’ve ever come upon during our night walks. I figure they have a lot more time to figure out I’m coming toward them when it’s me and Delilah plodding along on foot through the darkness and they don’t choose to hang around for a closer look.

Honestly, that’s okay with me. Even though it’s a thrill to occasionally find an owl perched in our woods, I don’t mind doing our treks without uninvited company providing momentary startles right before bedtime.

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Written by johnwhays

December 9, 2021 at 7:00 am

Off Trail

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Given the relatively long span of time with no snowfall, getting off the trails to explore our woods has proved revealing of late. Delilah and I came upon at least three hazardous waste sites. Me suspects the local raccoons have a luxurious condominium in the trees above this spot.

That’s more scat than I care to encounter in any one place. Wish they’d learn to bury their messes.

Farther along, it was hard to miss the calling card of one large antler-bearing white-tail deer. This buck also did a fair amount of pawing the ground in the vicinity of this scraping.

As we made our way down a slope where Delilah raced ahead while I scrambled to navigate the leash, and my body, around and under the tree debris she wove through, I thought I saw a big squirrel on the ground ahead. When Delilah ignored it and passed by in pursuit of a fresher scent, I saw that it was simply a long ago dried out scrap of furry hide from what I guessed to be a deer.

Later, after Delilah’s chase instinct had calmed down, I turned us back to look for that fur so I could take a picture. As so often happens in the woods, I couldn’t find it a second time. Unfortunately, we had no problem coming back to unsightly piles of scat, but nothing that stood out like a body of a dead squirrel that was obvious the first time we passed it.

Unless something smells freshly of death or walked by in the last few hours, Delilah’s nose seems to hold little interest. She walked past this bone with nothing more than a glance.

The white color made it stand out distinctly.

Actually, fresh presence doesn’t always guarantee Delilah will notice. Last night in the final walk before she retires to her crate (her “den”) for the night, my high-beam flashlight caught two little eyes reflecting about 50 meters ahead. I kept my eyes and the beam on the two reflecting spots as we closed the distance, while Delilah focused on whatever scent her nose to the ground was picking up.

Eventually, the creature decided to move off the trail and I could see it was a domestic-looking cat. My flashlight beam picked up the reflecting eyes again in the brush just off the trail, so I knew it hadn’t run off entirely. As we came abreast, I stared at the cat in my light beam and it stared back at me, while Delilah just passed right on by with her nose still to the ground, oblivious.

Never a dull moment on our thrice-daily (minimum) jaunts around the property for Delilah’s benefit.

Even more so when I decide we get to venture off-trail.

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Written by johnwhays

December 13, 2020 at 10:56 am

Frosty Start

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After an initial scare of Cyndie’s foot not working for a day after her knee surgery, she has regained the ability to wiggle her toes and walk like normal. She is playing the good patient and raising and icing her knee while otherwise resting to allow for maximum healing. That leaves the walking of our dog solely up to me at the crack of dawn. It’s the least I could do for her since she has been gifting me the pleasure of waking up slowly in bed on weekends on a regular basis.

Delilah’s body clock does not like to sleep in.

This weekend I am getting a fresh dose of starting the day in the crisp pre-dawn frost of snowless December days.

The pandemic is contributing to a mind-numbing distortion of normalcy with a bizarre mix of isolation combined with displays on television and the internet attempting to make it seem like everything is just fine and Christmas will be the same as always. Advertisers can attempt to make us believe that, but beyond wishing it were so, I don’t think anyone is buying that ruse.

There are plenty of people who are investing energy toward making the best of a bad situation, and I appreciate that greatly, but believe it should be done without discounting the harsh reality of overwhelmed hospitals and high death tolls raging concurrently.

Without checking the authenticity of the reports, I am saddened this morning to see a change of data for the U.S. recording another death every minute to now happening every 33 seconds. (Graphic posted on CBS This Morning broadcast.)

This brings a glaring awareness to how privileged we are to live isolated from congested populations and to have our land and animals where we can get outside to breathe the country air.

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Written by johnwhays

December 6, 2020 at 11:33 am

Trail Bulge

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For some reason, the heaving path down the middle of our trails fascinates me. Some days the bulge stands out dramatically. Yesterday, I tried to take pictures that would show how high it had risen, but the two-dimensional images just don’t do it justice.

First, I tried shooting from my eye height when standing. Then I crouched down and snapped a shot for comparison.

I’m not sure there is any difference between the two for revealing the surprising upheaval of earth compared to the ground on either side of it.

The hump is frozen solid, but the very top surface of leaves and dirt melt just enough to get slippery. It becomes a challenge of constantly choosing whether to step on the residual ice or the decaying leaves for the better footing, ever wary that either could result in a slip.

Add in the frequent jolts on the leash when Delilah wants to make haste after some critter ahead and it’s a wonder we ever make it back to the house clean and dry.

When the trail offers better all-snow footing, and during the summer when it’s not very wet, I occasionally allow Delilah to race as fast as she wants and run behind her, but that is chaos for planting my feet. It tends to be at a pace that I can’t maintain for very long, after which she willingly settles down to a brisk walk and I spend the rest of the jaunt gasping to recover my breath.

Over the weekend, I noticed that it is the corner fence posts that are all getting pushed up, despite my having released much of the tension from the wires.

It is easy to push the fence posts back down using the loader on the diesel tractor. Almost too easy. The first time I tried it, I was shocked over how little resistance there was to the hydraulic power and weight of the bucket. The complication is that the period of time when the ground is thawed enough to easily accept the posts being pushed down, the tires sink in and put me at risk of getting stuck and/or tearing up the surrounding turf something awful.

It becomes a classic case of timing being everything.

I’m not going to worry about the fence posts for now, but I will be anxiously awaiting the trails getting back to flat again as soon as the frost goes out of the ground.

Bring on the spring mud season!

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Written by johnwhays

March 17, 2020 at 6:00 am

Retreating Snowpack

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Wave goodbye. The snow cover over our fields is fading fast. It is fascinating to watch it slowly progress, day by day as the hours of sunlight grow longer and the temperatures moderate. Winter is loosening its grip on our latitude of the northern hemisphere.

The ground is making its annual reappearance. It is also heaving dramatically where the frost was deep, pushing fence posts and chicken coops to new misalignments. Seriously, the coop has leaned another few inches since I last wrote about it. It’s the new leaning tower of Wintervale.

The trails are rising up in a bizarre center crown where our constant foot traffic packed the path solid all winter and drove the frost deeper than the surrounding earth. I don’t understand the physics of why it pushes up so much in the spring, but I’ve watched it for enough years now that I accept it as a regular routine.

One year it was so pronounced that I worried it would be a challenge to drive the 4-wheeler without bottoming out on the high ground between the wheel ruts. After a few days of thawing, the center of the trail surprisingly flattened out like nothing out of the ordinary had ever occurred. If I hadn’t watched the changes every single day when walking Delilah, I wouldn’t have had a clue about it.

On the subject of walking Delilah, if I hadn’t been so pressured by her to go out at sunset at the expense of finishing the movie I’d started during dinner, I would have missed the brilliance of Venus glowing all by itself in the western sky over the gorgeous orange glow radiating just along the horizon. The glow transitioned impeccably from that deep orange to a faint yellow that became an infinite variety of baby blues to almost black as the sky made its way toward night.

Opposite the bright spec of Venus, the waxing moon was on full brightness in the east, starting to cast tree shadows on the snow before darkness had barely started to establish its dominance.

I owe Delilah a debt of gratitude for allowing me to experience that early evening show as we waved goodbye to the day.

Frankly, the movie I had been watching didn’t hold a candle to the twilight scenes available outside.

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Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2020 at 7:00 am