Shelby and Zekie are Great!

Sheltie

Shelby working on growing fur.

It’s been two and a half months since Shelby and Zekie were attacked by two loose dogs while we were out hiking. They are doing great!

Shelby is working on growing back the fur on her leg that had to be shaved to examine her wounds. Other than that she is back to normal. She doesn’t even appear to have any behavioral problems.

Sheltie
Shelby the therapy dog.

I was concerned that it would affect her trust and make her behave differently which would be a big deal since she is a certified therapy dog, even though the program has been on hiatus due to Covid. I am happy to report that Shelby is doing just fine.

Happy dog
Zekie

Zekie is also doing great. He didn’t have much in the way of wounds and no changes to his behavior. He is the same nut case he has always been.

Dog returning

Actually, Zekie’s behavior is slightly improved lately because he continues to have a job. He chases geese off of our neighbor’s pond as needed. She calls on the phone to request his services. He is quite proud of himself, as he should be. My husband has seen Zekie work and he says it looks like Zekie does the work to please me, rather than because it brings him joy. That’s ok. The focus is good for him and the joy comes when he runs back to me and into my arms.

So, even though we suffered some trying times immediately after the attack, there have been no long term effects. We are all happy and healthy!

Are You Happy? You Can Be!

Heirloom Cherry Blossoms

Did you know you can take actions to make yourself happier? Apparently, you can.

I am currently taking an on-line college course that was offered for free by Coursera. (Not all Coursera courses have a free option.) I had never heard of them, but now that I am aware, I will be taking more of their free classes on my computer. The class I signed up for is through Yale University. Other classes may be provided by other institutions. If you want a certificate at the end, you have to pay, but I don’t care about that. I am auditing the course.

This class is about happiness. It is taught to Yale students, and during this time of Covid, they wanted to offer it to others who might benefit as well. I first became aware of the opportunity when it was mentioned in the newspaper. The name of this particular class is The Science of Well-Being. It lasts for eight weeks and requires about two hours per week of effort. Lectures are pre-recorded video clips and there are quizzes and a bit of home work. I’m having fun!

Double Daffodils

The lectures first tell you some of the science behind happiness and various theories, studies, and experiments. Then it moves on to how this pertains to us. I am learning a lot through the course and having a good time doing it. Some of the ways to be happier are not news. The one that everyone has heard about is gratitude.

Narcissus

Gratitude is an easy outlook to apply. Just look around you. What do you see that you are grateful for? I see flowers, plants, trees, and gardens that I am grateful for. If I look at my more immediate surroundings, I see dogs, books and magazines, and coffee in a gifted mug that I am grateful for. One of the dogs is currently gazing at me adoringly and that is a true blessing. And there are so many more. We have but to open our eyes and hearts and see.

What are you grateful for? Yes, I really want to know. There may be things that I am overlooking, and I care what others see as blessings.

Namaste. Peace be with you.

Have You Heard These Love Songs?

I love the sound of tree frogs in the spring. This evening I stood at the fence line overlooking our neighbor’s property and pond, just to listen to them. You can listen to them too in the video above! I used to call them all peepers. I learned that these chirpy spring singers are tree frogs, but not all are peepers.

The songs of the different types of frogs are distinguishable if you listen closely. Some are chirpy. Some are croaky. Others trill. I’m sure they are like birds, in that if you study them, you will learn to tell them apart. For now, I just enjoy their songs.

I love to hear them to the point that I will stand outside the back door in the evening and listen to them. Other times, like this evening, I will walk closer to listen to the symphony as they perform. Mostly they sing at dusk although if it is rainy and damp they will make their music during the daytime as well.

I used to think that I heard one call and a future mate give an answering chirp. I recently discovered that only the males sing, so this is not the case. More likely, one is trying to out sing the other and proclaim his superior virility to all female frogs in the area.

And so, when I stand by and listen to the tree frogs sing, what I am hearing are amphibian love songs. No wonder they sound so sweet.

Appreciating Spring Time Flowers

Spring Still Life

It’s that time of year. Spring has sprung. The weather has changed to pleasantly warm days that are excellent for being outside and working. And also, for appreciating the new life erupting forth from the earth. This statue has seen better days. She was left here by a former owner of this property, but her work is not done. She still elicits a smile as she ushers in each season.

I love the way this euonymus (above, behind the statue) has chosen to grab hold of the fence post and climb. This plant is usually a ground cover. I don’t know what got into this one, but I love it. We have two euonymus, one green and yellow, the other, green and white. Both were given to me by friends and I think of them often when I walk by this bed.

Daffodils

This is a close up of the daffodils in the statue bed above. I love their pastel color and their fancy, ruffled “skirts”. I don’t know their provenance. They pre-date my coming to live here and will probably still be there when I have gone.

More daffodils!

This is another type of daffodil we have. I think of them as the standard daffodil. We have them all over the place. There are giant clumps in the perennial bed beside the house and in many other flower beds as well as throughout our woods and growing across the street along the roadside. I have begun splitting them in the fall of the year, so we continue to have even more! Last year I split a clump that I moved there about ten years ago and dug up over 50 bulbs! If you know me, you know that I do not like the color yellow. Truth be told, I have thrown things away because they are yellow. Daffodils are my exception. They are one of the earliest flowers to bloom and bring so much joy. I can’t help but like them.

Daffodils in the woods.

This shows just a few of the clumps of daffodils blooming in our wood right now. There are many. Taking yard debris back to the far end of the property where we dump it is a pleasant trip.

View coming out of our woods.

This is the view coming out of our woods which covers the back half of our property. You can see more clumps of daffodils, and the garage and workshop on the left. On the right hand side of the path is a portion of next year’s wood, split, stacked, and seasoning for next winter.

Primrose.

I include this shot of a primrose that I planted last year. I bought it at a big box store and it sat on our bathroom window sill all spring and into the summer. It was beginning to die, so I stuck it in one of the patio flower beds to see what it would do. This year, I was encouraged when it sprouted up out of the soil. You can’t tell from the photograph but it is the biggest primrose I have ever seen in my life. I had no idea they grew this big. Might this be a metaphor for life? Don’t give up, you still have the ability to flourish? I choose to believe this is so.

As we move farther into spring, followed by summer, you can expect more gardening posts from me once again. But never fear, there will still be lots about dogs. Follow my blog if you want to keep up to date!

Books I Read in March 2021, and a Slice of Country Life

Bloodroot seen on our hike today.
  1. A Year in Provence-Peter Mayle (Non-fiction)

The author describes how he and his wife bought a house in Provence. There are many amusing tales from his first year. He shares a real flavor of local life and you meet many people from the town. A good read. I will keep this book on my shelf and read it again in the future.

2. The Rural Diaries-Hilarie Burton Morgan (Non-fiction)

The author and her husband are both actors. They find and live their best lives in rural New York state. The author turns out to be a down to earth girl and seeing their farm and connection to the community grow is heartwarming. Definitely worth reading.

3. Dragon Teeth-Michael Crichton

This book was published posthumously, and I can still say, I haven’t read a Michael Crichton book I didn’t like. This one has science, dinosaurs, and the old West. I got sucked in and read it very quickly.

4. Bodie on the Road-Belinda Jones (Non-fiction)

The author suffers a break up and adopts a shelter dog to be her companion. After a few weeks together, they take a road from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon, with many stops along the way. Belinda and Bodie both have a fabulous time. It is healing for both of them. Loved this book!

5. The Solace of Bay Leaves-Leslie Budewitz

This book falls into the cozy mystery category. Although I enjoyed this book, it took me a while to finish because once I put it down, I was not drawn back to it. May have been my fault and not the book’s. Pepper Reece, former lawyer, now owns a spice shop. She has a busy life between her boyfriend, friends, shop workers, and the police investigation. She still finds time to solve a murder and another attempted murder.

If you can only read one book from this list, I would read…play drumroll here!…A Year in Provence. I had a difficult time choosing between this one and Dragon Teeth, but since A Year in Provence is the book I am likely to re-read, it has to get my vote.

A Slice of Country Life

This was another month that I did not do a good job of keeping up with my reading. Too much time devoted to dogs and hiking, I guess. It is only likely to get worse, as far as me having time to read. Gardening season has begun.

Hubby did the first tilling of the vegetable garden this morning, and maintenance of the asparagus bed. Then I planted various lettuces, spinach, and a few turnips and beets. After that we raked up branches and pine cones in the front yard from the winter, and I cleaned dead leaves and debris from the little flower bed beside the house. Don’t worry, these are hauled to a pile in our woods, so any pollinator eggs and larva are still nearby.

We went for our usual hike in the afternoon. Our life is always an adventure and nothing ever goes exactly as planned. I ended up with dog poop on my shirt early on in the walk from a pick up attempt gone awry. A little farther up the trail, Zekie walked up behind a garter snake that he didn’t see until the last minute. He started high stepping in reverse to get away from it. It was quite comical.

There’s never a dull moment. And so, life is good!

6 Tips to Help You Keep Your Dog After the Pandemic

Cassius, Zekie, and Baxter. Three of our dogs posing during a recent walk.

Did you adopt a dog during the pandemic to keep you company? Is your dog having trouble adapting as your life begins its return to normal? Then these tips are for you!

Here are some ways to help your dog adjust to his new normal as you return to the work world and leave him to spend more time on his own at home. For the purpose’s of this article, let’s call your dog Max, the number one dog name in America!

Tip #1Buy a crate and use it!

Crates can avert a host of behavioral problems. First off, you need to get Max used to his new crate before you leave him on his own in it. And don’t think keeping a dog in a crate is mean. Dogs are by nature animals that live in dens. If you introduce him to the crate properly, he will look at it like it is his bedroom and a comforting and safe place to be. Several of my dogs will go into their crates by choice and hang out with the door open. The crate may only need to be used during this transition period, it depends on the dog. You can find many articles on the web about how to get your dog used to his crate.

Tip #2-Get your dog used to spending time on his own.

Whether or not you are using a crate, Max needs to know that he can be alone and be ok. Leaving him to his own devices when he has had you there all the time is stressful. Get him used to it in steps. Leave him alone while you go talk to the neighbors for a few minutes. Drive down the road and come back. Go to the store for a few purchases and come home. Visit a friend for a couple hours. Don’t spring being alone for an entire work day on Max all at once. Give him time to adjust.

Tip #3-Give your dog something to do while you are gone.

Again, this holds true whether Max will be in a crate or not. If you suddenly found yourself alone in a room in the house, would you just sit there in the same place until someone returned? Neither will your dog. My favorite distractions for anxious dogs are Kongs. I have a bone shaped one with two hollow ends that I put peanut butter and baby carrots in. I also have the original sort of funnel shaped Kongs that I put dog biscuits and peanut butter in. I use pieces that are big enough so the dog has to really work to get them out. (Be sure your peanut butter does not contain xylitol which is toxic to dogs. I use natural.) You can also leave your dog with an assortment of toys, but be sure it is not something he will tear apart and ingest while you are away. Using a Kong Toy to Reduce Stress

Tip #4-Don’t make a big deal of your coming or going.

It should be a part of life, not a major event. If you make your leaving and return into a production, Max will see it as something worthy of having a big reaction to. You may not like his choice of reaction. So, treat your going away and coming back home again as a part of life. A pat on the head when you return home is ok, just don’t turn it into a party!

Tip #5-Make sure your dog is well exercised.

Remember, a tired dog is a good dog. 7 Ways to a Tired Dog Max is more likely to relax and take a nap while you are away if he is tired. Exercising him before you leave for the day is ideal, but exercise after you come home is still beneficial. See the link above for ways to tire Max out. The benefits of exercise before you leave are obvious. Exercising Max when you come home will let him relieve pent up energy from the day and give you both something to look forward to. And a dog exercised the evening before, is still more relaxed than a dog not exercised at all.

Tip #6-Have someone take your dog out while you are gone.

Everyone may not be able to do this. Your dog may not be trustworthy with others or you may not have anyone you trust that can help. But, if you can find someone to take Max out mid-day, it will provide a potty break and a chance to stretch his legs while you are gone. Do you have a responsible neighbor kid or senior citizen who would like to have some company and make a few dollars a week? This would be a win-win for everybody. Eight hours is a long day for a dog to spend alone, but it can be done if that is your only option. Be sure to get home right after work to let your dog out and give you both companionship, after all that’s why you adopted him.

In Conclusion:

I wrote this article to help keep dogs in their homes, and lessen their influx back into shelters and rescues as people return to their normal lives and the effects of the pandemic wane. Remember, Max provided you with loyalty and companionship during some dark days. Return his loyalty now and see him as he sees you, a member of the family.

There may be challenges as our lives change again, but you and Max can survive these together. I provided tips here that I think will help the most people. If you need more ideas and help, please email me at sheltiequeen1@yahoo.com with the subject line-Need Dog Advice. We have fostered more than 50 dogs over the years and I may have a few other tricks up my sleeve that I can share with you if you give me some specifics. No guarantees, just friendly advice.

Sometimes, we need to vent to work through stressful times, like dealing with Max as your lives both change. If you just need someone to lend an ear and hear what you are going through with your dog, I can do that too. There are times when knowing you are not alone, and others have been there and survived what you are going through, is enough.

The goal is to increase the number of dogs that get to stay in their homes!

Rocky Trail Hike: Are You Up for It?

Rock Face
Rock Face from our hike.

We took a hike on the Rock Face Trail at West Branch last week. We had put this one off at my request because I didn’t want to undertake it when it was snowy and possibly slippery. It turned out that the biggest challenge was the rocks used in paving the trail. This is also a mountain bike trail and marked for experts only. We took this warning to apply to mountain bikes and thought hiking would be no problem. And the trail is definitely hikeable, although the going is slow. I had to stop once and get Shelby out from between two rocks. She could have done it, but I knew she was tired by then and at eleven years old, I didn’t want her straining herself.

What I can’t figure out is why someone would want to ride their bicycle over all those rocks. The trails generally go back and forth over a small area distance-wise. What you could walk quickly as the crow flies, becomes a ribbon maze to create more distance. And of course, the up and down and bumping and jarring from riding over the rocks. I’m thinking it must be a young person’s activity. Something to be pursued before you have achy joints and you still have more cushioning left between your bones.

Hiking
Hiking beside a rock formation.

Of course, hubby and the bigger dogs always fare better than me and the shorter dogs. For some reason I am also the only one who seems to have problems keeping my footing and not sliding in the mud.

Rock formation
Another rock formation.

Mercifully, for these types of formations, the trail goes around the rock face and not up and over, or down. I don’t think I could handle that. It is always exciting to see new things along the trails. The trees are starting to bud out and new green shoots are springing forth from the soil.

By the time we get back home, I am ready for a cup of tea and a bit of reading. The dogs are ready for a nap.

Baxter having a nap.

This Is My Bag Check!

Bag Check
Hiking Bag and Contents

Have you seen those photo ops called “this is my bag check”? Since I rarely go away these days, there is little point in doing my purse. Maybe it will be more exciting post-Covid.

But I do use this belt bag or fanny pack every day. I strap it on for hiking, to carry all my essentials. I used to keep these items in the many pockets of my parka, but with the changing seasons I kept changing coats and forgetting something.

So what do I take with me?

  • Poop bags-important on every outing!
  • House and car keys.
  • Face mask-a Covid essential.
  • Pepper spray-I never go on a hike without it since our scary run in with loose dogs. Encounter With Loose Dogs, Gone Bad
  • Tissues-I spared you those in the photo. Good to have when applying pressure to a wound, as well as the usual uses.
  • Cell phone-not pictured because I was using it to take the photo. Also useful for accessing maps, tracking distance, and as a compass.

Is there something unusual you never leave home without? Inquiring minds want to know.

A Working Dog!

Dog chasing geese.
Zekie chasing geese off our neighbor’s pond.

Spring is officially here! And with it comes geese trying to make a home by our neighbor’s pond. The goal is to keep them away and prevent them from laying eggs nearby. Once they have a nest with eggs, there is no getting rid of them for quite some time.

Why wouldn’t you want the geese to stay? Two words. Goose poop. They leave it every where and all around the pond. These are Canada Geese and they are large birds. With correspondingly large poop. Walking in the area can become like looking out for land mines. And once the eggs are laid and hatch, the geese may become aggressive trying to protect their eggs and young.

I recently learned that when the goslings are about two weeks old, the parents lose their long wing and tail feathers and cannot fly until they grow in again. This takes about three to four weeks. The young geese stop growing in size and are able to fly when they are just over two months old. The goose family is likely to stay until the end of summer when they move on to look for other food sources. So, you can see why the earlier you get the geese to move on, the better. Otherwise you will have them around for a long time and your pond will not be usable.

This is Zekie’s second year as a goose chaser. Geese stopped at the pond several times last spring as well. Our neighbor bought a couple of large plastic swan decoys and put them on her pond. Swans are supposed to trick the geese and keep them away. The geese did not fall for it. They are apparently smarter than us, as we did. For a couple days I discussed the nice swans over at the neighbor’s with my husband. It took that long for me to notice the swans were not moving. They did bob on the water and move a few inches, but they were always in the same general locale. Upon getting closer, I could see there was a thin rope keeping them in place. Mystery solved. But, I was disappointed not to have beautiful swans living nearby.

Last spring, after the faux swan caper failed, the neighbor called and asked if we could walk some of our dogs around her pond to get a predator smell in the area and see if that would keep the geese away. That’s when my husband offered the services of our dogs to see if the geese could be chased away. The first time I took Baxter and Zekie. The dogs chased the geese around the pond until they went into the water and floated towards the center. At that point Baxter was done. No water for him. Zekie waded in the water a few inches and stared intently at the geese. The geese didn’t leave until after we did.

When the geese showed up, our neighbor would call on the phone and ask for the dogs. After a couple times, I started taking only Zekie, because he would jump in the water and head towards the geese. On his last visit to the pond last year, he swam towards the geese and followed them even after they were airborne. Zekie was giving chase to those geese and barking at them, telling them off as he ran. He chased them to the next property which was a few acres away and finally returned to my callings. His tongue was hanging down to his knees but he had an enormous grin.

Today was Zekie’s first encounter with geese this spring. I had to tell him a couple times to “get those geese”. It still only took him about 30 seconds to get the couple airborne and flying away. Zekie is so proud to have a job to do. I imagine he’ll get to “work” a few more times before the pond stays clear. Below, you can see how happy he is to have done his job and be running back to me!

Dog returning
Zekie returning after getting rid of the geese.

Please note, no geese were harmed in the clearing of the pond. They always fly away well before he reaches them.

Zekie’s Big Stick

Dog fetching
Zekie retrieving his big stick.

We were back hiking at West Branch State Park yesterday. We combined two trails for a total of 3.81 miles. A portion of the walk was along the edge of the Reservoir. It is so nice to hike near the water and listen to waves splashing as the water rolls in and out. Although I am not the biggest fan of swimming, I do love to be near the water for its beauty.

Some of our dogs enjoy getting in the water and some do not. Zekie LOVES the water. In fact, when we are hiking and use a foot bridge to cross over small streams, Zekie always tries to jump off the bridge so he can wade through the water. I often let him. He gets such a kick out of it that he turns around and smiles at me with a mischievous grin.

Yesterday, my husband threw a stick in the water and told Baxter to go get it. Baxter just gave him the “surely you jest” look as he turned his head and walked away. My husband said to Baxter, “Zekie will get the stick. Get it Zekie”. And he did.

Dog retrieving stick
Zekie carrying his stick out of the water.

Zekie was so proud about retrieving the stick. We were proud of him too. He is a pretty good fetch dog. He will bring things back, but it is difficult to get him to relinquish them. He always brings them to within a few feet of us and lays them down though. He just can’t make the final step of putting them into our hands.

Three Dogs
Zekie, Claire, and Cassius.

You can see in this photo that Zekie has a sense of humor and a bond with his fellow pack members. Here he is smiling at Cassius. Probably telling him, “Hey, I went and got that stick and brought it back. Did you see me, huh, huh!” Cassius likes to wade into the water. He just stands there enjoying it.

State Park
Southern shoreline of West Branch Reservoir.

This is the beach area we hiked down an incline to reach so the dogs could play in the water. The level of the Reservoir is low now, so the beach area is bigger than it often is. You can see how shallow the water. This makes it easy for the dogs to walk into the water and back out to the shore line.

WBSP little bit of land
Tiny island in the Reservoir.

Above, you can see a tiny island in the distance. During the summer when the water level is raised in the Reservoir, this little bit of land is probably submerged. Levels are kept lower during the winter off-season months. If you look closely, you can see some birds on the edge of the little island. Most of them were seagulls. As you drive over the bridge to reach the parking lot for this area of the park, you can often see Canada Geese, sea gulls, and an assortment of ducks bobbing on the water. The park is home to various wildlife. Two times within the past week we have seen mink crossing our path. The animals have learned to cohabitate with all the park goers who frequent the area.

We are blessed to live in such a beautiful area.