Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘dog walking

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.



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.



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.



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!



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.



Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2020 at 7:00 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

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

Year Ends

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Today is the last day of 2018. What do you make of that? I think it’s just another Monday, strikingly similar to all the others, no matter where they fall in a year.

Our animals don’t seem to notice any particular significance to the date. The passage of time is doing our balding Wyandotte hen a bit of good. New feathers are slowly growing in.

They have all handled the day of rain and following freeze well enough, mostly by spending the majority of the ensuing days beneath the overhang with the horses. For their part, the horses show signs of understanding the precariousness of the icy slope, but it hasn’t kept them from braving the danger to walk down to the waterer, even though we put a tub to drink from by the barn to save them the trip.

I noticed several marks of slipping hooves which was rather unsettling, but they are choosing to make the trek of their own free will. I trust their horse sense in this instance, partly because the last time we tried to outsmart them, it didn’t go so well.

Walking Delilah around the perimeter trails has become a treacherous exercise of trying to walk like a penguin over very unpredictable surfaces. She hasn’t been slowed much by the conditions, so there is an added challenge of being pulled along by her, faster than little steps accommodate.

When she stopped to give a prolonged inspection to something that caught the attention of her nose, I spotted this single stalk of some plant that was dropping seeds on the snow. It looks like such a delicate process playing out, despite the harsh elements nature has been delivering lately.

It’s just another Monday, and life goes on.

I don’t know if it is something of a placebo effect, but since we are now over a week beyond the shortest day of the winter solstice, I got the impression it was already lighter outside during our late afternoon walk.

Or, it could just be the dawning of a new year.

Farewell to 2018 and greetings to 2019! It’s all just a series of individual moments. May we benefit by paying attention to them all.



Well, Hello

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Here’s the thing, I was home alone last night, tending to chores while Cyndie was out. I had finished feeding and cleaning up after the horses, and walked Delilah, but the chickens weren’t quite ready to turn in for the night. It was another beautiful evening, so I suppose they were taking full advantage of it.

After killing a few minutes back in the house with dog and cat, I noticed it was probably dark enough to go close the chicken door. It is such a brief trip, I chose to leave Delilah inside, but did tuck my headlamp in a pocket, just in case it was too dark inside the coop to easily do a head count.

It wasn’t too dark, and I could see that the one Wyandotte that chose to perch against the wall above the window (well above all the others on the roost) just so happened to be the hen missing head feathers. A possible clue that something is setting her apart from the others. Whether it’s her choice or theirs, we don’t yet know.

Anyway, this is beside the point. I didn’t need the headlamp. Well, not until later. After dinner, I wanted to work on one of my creative projects, and noticed my headlamp wasn’t in the drawer where I keep it.

Who took my headlamp?

Oh, yeah, that was me. I had put it in my pocket when I went out to close the coop. But then, why wasn’t it still in my pocket?

This time, I decided to let Delilah come with me. I was guessing the lamp had fallen out of my pocket on the run down to the coop. With a different flashlight in hand, we set out to backtrack my route.

While Delilah mostly obscured my view of the trail, I staggered to keep up with her while scanning the path as best I could. As we got close to the coop, it became obvious that Delilah wasn’t just in her normal rush, she was frantically straining against the leash to get at something.

When I looked up to see what she was after, two little red dots were reflecting the beam of my flashlight right back at me.

Delilah was right in front of it at this point, and I suddenly had to juggle the dang flashlight and her leash to reel her back toward me. The critter just sat, staring. It looked to be about cat-sized, but it seemed odd to me that it hadn’t executed a mad dash in the face of Delilah’s rather threatening level of interest.

Despite our canine’s freaky level of urgency to be granted access, I successfully clipped the locked leash to a tree so that I could make a solo approach for identification.

Well, hello possum.

It stared intensely at Delilah, not up toward me as I stood right in front of it, beside the front door of the chicken coop.

It likely showed up to scrounge the bounty of chicken food off the ground that the hens kick out of the pan we set out during the day.

I got all growly and menacing and the pest finally turned and skittered into the underbrush.

Shortly afterward, I located my headlamp in the snow and everyone lived happily throughout the rest of the night.

No pics of the adventures in the darkness, but this is the lovely face of our wee one who joined me when I crawled into bed at my bewitching hour:

Well, hello there Pequenita!



Written by johnwhays

December 18, 2018 at 7:00 am

Growing Crystals

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It is wet, and the temperature drops below freezing at night, so morning walks offer views of the overnight ice crystal growth. Photo op!

We are enjoying a couple of days with daytime temps climbing above freezing, so our snow cover is dwindling. Walking Delilah along the perimeter trails yesterday, I discovered tire tracks that revealed someone had left the road and driven into the ditch by our property.

Roads in the area are still slippery.

Delilah made a surprise discovery while we were making our way through our woods after I got home from work yesterday. (Interesting coincidence: Ward and I were just exchanging comments related to this subject on my Tuesday post, Feeling Wintery.)

Like she almost always does, she was paying frequent attention toward the center of our woods, obviously picking up the scent of something that interested her. She generally walks a short distance, then stops to look left and sniff at the air, before continuing on for a ways and stopping again.

Sometimes, she picks up a scent on the ground and tries to follow it a few steps off the trail. I tend to pull her back quickly to get her back on task of walking our regular patrol around the property.

All of a sudden yesterday, she bolted to the left as if she was immediately on the tail of some critter, circling around a large tree trunk beside the trail before I could put the brake on her leash. I spotted the pile of fur just as she struck it with a massive bite.

She then let go just about as fast as she had attacked. Uncharacteristically, she didn’t resist one bit when I put tension on her leash to bring her back to the trail.

We walked a short distance and I hooked her to a tree so I could go back alone to see what it was that she had bitten. It was an opossum. I didn’t bother to check for any other detail, choosing to let nature take its course, and us to finish our walk.

If that had been one of our chickens, they wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Even though we keep Delilah on a leash, we also need to pay attention to her at all times.



Written by johnwhays

November 15, 2018 at 7:00 am