Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘dog

First Sighting

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After all the years of hearing them and losing chickens to them, yesterday I finally saw my first coyote on our property. It was mid-morning and I had tethered Delilah to a small tree while I coaxed the horses back into the paddock from the pasture. Actually, Mix and Light were already in by the barn.

Swings was close to coming in but decided she still should kick into a big run, which helped energize Mia, who was much further out in the field, to also accelerate into a run. It saved me from needing to trudge all the way out there to get her. I hustled behind them to close the gate before they might decide to keep running and loop right back out again.

That’s when I noticed the odd-looking gangly juvenile coyote standing in the paddock near the waterer, all ears with spindly legs and an ugly long tail. It didn’t seem very jumpy but looked like the rush of horse energy showing up was enough to convince it to take a walk.

I tried to hurry my latching of the gate chain and rush back to get Delilah so we could add a little convincing of our own to show that intruder it shouldn’t be here. I’m sure that Delilah was clueless at that point, but she definitely picked up my urgency and gladly rushed off in pursuit of anything just as fast as she could drag me.

As we rounded the backside of the barn I caught a glimpse of the lone young coyote moving beyond the hay shed toward the north loop trail. Its pace wasn’t the least bit threatened which led me to feel it was acting with a rather cocky level of self-confidence. Too bad I couldn’t move fast enough to allow Delilah to close much distance on the trespasser.

When we reached the road, I saw the rather mangy-looking youngster trot across the neighbor’s lawn across the street. It looked back to check on our pursuit once before disappearing over the horizon.

I wish it hadn’t looked so comfortable in the paddock before leaving. I take some solace in knowing it won’t find any chicken dinners here for the time being.

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Written by johnwhays

May 17, 2022 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Ground Visible

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The change of seasons is marching full ahead with great results. I appreciate that our snowpack’s meltdown has been happening at a perfectly gradual pace. It’s been cool enough during the overnights that melting pauses so the runoff has been controlled, for the most part.

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Delilah and I found the fields entirely bare when we emerged from the woods where there was still snow covering the ground on our morning stroll.

By afternoon, water was flowing as the melting of remaining snow picked up again. It is very rewarding to witness the unimpeded drainage flowing where Cyndie and I worked hard to correct the grade in front of her perennial garden last year.

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My “swale” in the paddock hadn’t maintained its shape nearly as well and the water was draining randomly across the main travel path of two gateways where hoof prints in the soft earth disrupt any coordinated drainage. While cleaning up manure yesterday afternoon, I did a rudimentary job of stemming the flow as best I could, using the flimsy plastic tines of my fork scoop tool.

I want the water to flow out of the paddock to the left of the gate opening to the hayfield, not across the primary travel pattern of the horses. Any attempts I make toward achieving this goal end up getting stomped on by horses who don’t seem to notice what my efforts are intended to accomplish for them.

It’s almost like they have no idea how much they weigh and the amount of disruption in soft, wet soil they create.

One other creature who has no idea how much of a disaster she creates is Delilah. She prances around everywhere she pleases in the snow and mud and then assumes a little toweling off when we come inside the house and she’s good to go.

Sweeping the floor is an adventure after practically every outing.

Yeah, the ground is visible alright.

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Written by johnwhays

March 19, 2022 at 7:06 am

New Game

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It’s like a board game for dogs! Cyndie gave Delilah a new present to challenge her intrepid canine intellect. It started slowly, with Delilah unclear about the particulars of moving the sliding tiles to uncover the treats her nose was telling her were inside.

When it comes to doggie treats, a certain sense of urgency is demonstrated. Miss D was showing little interest in learning the nuances of this “game” with her intense focus on getting another treat between her teeth no matter what it took.

A little timid at first, Delilah used only her nose to push aside the sliding covers in order to inhale the treat as it was exposed.

Then she rose to her feet for better leverage and tried gripping at the tiles with her teeth.

Before the first session with her new game was over, she was sliding some of the pieces with her paw.

When the game came out again later in the afternoon for a second session, Delilah showed impressive improvement in refining her techniques at solving the challenges of uncovering treats. The treat for us was being able to witness her curiosity and intelligence so visibly demonstrated.

That is infinitely more satisfying than when she thrashes at our windows barking endlessly at a squirrel in the yard.

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Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2022 at 7:00 am

Glazy Morning

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Wet precipitation when the temperature hovers around the freezing point is a perfect recipe for hazardous footing. This morning we woke to ice covering everything and faced a slippery challenge walking Delilah and making our way down to feed the horses.

To our surprise, the horses were navigating the crazy conditions with relative ease. I suspect the advantage of having four points of contact with the ground and being almost ten times our weight allows them to deal with the slippery footing better than we do.

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They were judicious about moving around and calmly settled into enjoying the feed served up in their pans on the ground. I get a sense that their ability to cope with the situation better than us is a function of their living outside in the elements. They were experiencing it as it was happening throughout the night and adjusting to conditions as they changed.

In contrast, we arose from our warm, snuggly bed and stepped out of our comfortable house into the shocking iciness that threatened to slam us to the ground with each slippery step.

I tried to prepare Delilah for the craziness on the front steps but she pretty much had to figure it out for herself when the pads of her paws couldn’t get a grip on the surface.

The outlook for the rest of the day is the opposite of sunny. There is more rain expected, possibly even thunderstorms this afternoon, but with a little warmer temperatures so maybe not as much ice.

We aren’t sure about how the horses will deal with heavier precipitation. They have shown significant anxiety about being confined to stalls in the barn so we are inclined to leave them out until they get uncomfortable enough to need a break from the weather. Maybe then they will be more interested in the indoor option.

In preparation for the possibility, we added pads to the floor of Mix’s stall after she carved up the soil something awful with pawing and kicking last time, when she kicked boards down in a tantrum. In addition to the dust storm that must have resulted, she excavated a few large stones with her aggressive gyrations in there.

Tonight might end up being a chance to test that new floor.

As always, the weather will dictate our decisions.

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Written by johnwhays

March 5, 2022 at 10:41 am

Tree Dwelling

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Near the edge of the woods at the bottom of the hill behind our house, there is a large tree with three distinct critter access points. I noticed them the other day because Delilah stopped to look up at the tree with excited interest. That almost always means a squirrel was moving around in the branches.

I didn’t see any life in the branches but I very much noticed the three holes in the tree.

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Do you think those are three separate “apartments” or is that a deluxe three-story home with a door on each floor?

Cyndie, Delilah, and I are waking up at the lake place this morning on the weekend of the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race. Our friends, the Williams family will be joining us, and their daughter, Ella will be skiing it on Saturday for the first time.

It is estimated the event brings 40-thousand people to Hayward for the weekend. That changes things dramatically around here. For reference, the population of Hayward is a little over 2000. It messes up our navigation because they close roads and strive to move everyone by shuttle bus. Foils our desire to sneak down a fire lane road to catch a glimpse of racers in the middle of the woods.

Organizers want all spectators to watch the beginning or the end, or both, traveling by shuttle bus. I’d prefer to not be constrained to standing among the masses. I’m not tall enough to expect I will be able to see anything in a crowd, anyway.

Before we left home yesterday, I needed to finish clearing snow from in front of the big barn doors so I could move bales of hay in for the person tending to the horses while we are away. I also needed to pull snow off the eaves above the front door of the house and then shovel that into a giant mound by the front steps.

Arriving up here hours later, the first order of business was to shovel access paths to the doors. The driveway was plowed and caretakers had pulled some snow off the roof but no good attention had been paid toward clearing snow from in front of the doors.

Ski racing might be an Olympic sport, but I feel like the shoveling I’ve been doing lately is medal-worthy.

In case you didn’t form an opinion about the tree pictured above, I’d say it’s one palatial three-story home based on the noticeable lack of tracks in the snow at the base. I may be wrong, but I’m guessing it’s some fat-cat of a squirrel luxuriating up there with no reason to come out and get his feet wet.

I think Delilah could smell him.

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Written by johnwhays

February 25, 2022 at 7:00 am

First Paths

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Following a new blanket of snow, the next phase could be called “first paths.” As Delilah and I emerged from the woods behind the back pasture yesterday morning, the first thing I noticed was the few very specific routes a horse or horses traveled into the smooth covering of new snow.

I wasn’t able to capture it all in a photo but took a couple of sample shots anyway.

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This is one of those cases where the naked eye can absorb the full expanse of the landscape in a way the camera cannot. However, if I had a drone I’m pretty sure I could have come close.

Turning around to look back in the direction from which we had just come, you can visualize Delilah prancing along beside me as we forged each of our own ways through the deep powder.

After breakfast, I needed to finish the plowing that I had started the night before. It was both easy and difficult all at the same time. The snow was light and dry, making it easy to plow and shovel, but there was so much of it that it became difficult to manage with my little ATV plow blade.

A snowblower would have been a handy tool in this case. I have avoided that purchase decision for many years but the subject comes up more and more as we age.

To clear the areas in front of the barn and around the hay shed when there is so much snow becomes an almost endless iteration of shifting from forward to backward. I push forward with the blade overflowing, going as far as I can into the pile from the last time it was plowed, and then back up so I can make another pass beside the one just prior.

The engine revs, then pauses while the plow blade is lifted. The engine revs again as the ATV backs up. I generally don’t notice the noise because I’m focused on the task at hand but I get the feeling the sound of that on and off throttling would drive me nuts if I wasn’t the one driving.

I tend to wonder if the horses find it completely annoying but they made it pretty clear yesterday that it doesn’t bother them a bit.

While I was revving the engine over and over, Mix and Swings decided to take a little nap. Maybe the engine’s repetitive up and down droning is something they find soothing. They probably fall asleep during long car rides, too.

Speaking of first paths, if you look closely at that last shot, you see how much they’ve already pounded down the snow in the paddock while making just a few treks out into the hayfield. You can also see a skinny trail coming out of the paddock that was probably made by a neighbor cat who frequently visits.

New snow is so much fun for the vivid evidence of travel paths it exposes.

Yeah. Remind me about that next time I start whining about needing to plow and shovel it all.

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Written by johnwhays

February 24, 2022 at 7:00 am

Fresh Blanket

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The old snowpack has melted and refrozen several times and was beginning to look rather sad. It’s been polished by whipping winds and covered with leaves, branches, and shrapnel from trees, knocked down by birds and squirrels. Well, it has a whole new look today. It snowed all day yesterday and everything is now covered with a fresh white blanket.

At the time of that photo, we had about 8.5 inches on the ground. After dinner, when I was out plowing the driveway, it snowed another half-inch.

The horses can always retreat to the protection of the overhang and I closed gates between the two paddocks to give the two chestnuts unrestricted access to one side. Under the overhang is where we hang hay nets, so the hay stays dry. Of course, then the horses can stay dry, too, while eating.

I’m dumbfounded why the chestnuts, Mia and Light, choose to stand out in the snow anyway. Swings, the eldest of the four mares, always chooses the overhang for shade when it is hot and shelter when it is windy or wet.

Here is what the difference looks like:

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That’s Mia on the left and Swings on the right.

Today is my last day of talking to myself for the past nine days because, if all goes according to plan, Cyndie returns from Florida.

I think Delilah is getting tired of trying to figure out what I am saying, as I have been rambling at length to explain my activities to her in the absence of anyone else around for conversation. She has taken to cocking her head a little and giving me a long blank stare. If my jabbering doesn’t ultimately culminate in something she can eat, she tends to sigh and wander away for another nap.

That is, if it isn’t time for one of her walks. She knows when it is time for our regularly planned outings and never hesitates to make herself very available for each precious occasion. Walks are even more special for a while now because of the fresh blanket of powder we get to romp through.

I get a fresh chance to trudge a wider pathway on our trails for several days. Delilah and I will have it looking nicely packed again in no time. Then all the forest critters will commence dropping things everywhere and I’ll start pining for the next new blanket of snow to show up.

Rinse, and repeat until spring.

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Written by johnwhays

February 23, 2022 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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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

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

Blown Snow

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On Monday, I was plowing the driveway to clear the gradual build up of 1-to-2-inch accumulations from the previous couple of weeks and it was wonderfully calm. Yesterday, the latest two inch accumulation of powder on top was being blown across our fields while I wasn’t looking.

I took Delilah outside with me when I needed to do some cleanup shoveling that I had skipped after plowing on Monday. She patiently waited while I worked at each stop: up at the house in front of the garage doors, in front of the shop/garage, and down at the barn to clear in front of the big doors.

While I had the big doors open, I moved a few bales into the barn from the hay shed and then tidied things up in the barn. We were down to our last two bags of feed for the horses and I was anticipating delivery of more any day. I like to have things neatened up for the arrival of more feed.

Upon completion of all my intended tasks, I wanted to reward Delilah’s patience with a long walk to wherever she wanted to go. When we popped out of the woods behind the back pasture, I was surprised to find the path completely filled in by blown snow.

The whole time I had been shoveling around buildings I had been oblivious about how much wind was blowing and the open fields offered up a lot of snow to sweep into drifts.

I trudged through the deep snow, wishing I had my snowshoes on. But then, coming around the corner, the path was nothing but packed snow where no drifting had occurred.

I totally understand why some cultures have many words for snow.

The blown snow made a nice pattern around some stacked rocks near the labyrinth.

Later in the day, when we returned to the barn to set out the afternoon feeding for the horses, there were eleven new bags of feed freshly stacked on the pallets. There’d been a visit from the feed-fairy while we were up in the house having lunch.

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Written by johnwhays

February 16, 2022 at 7:00 am