Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Kidnapping and Mauling of Ike

He sat peacefully on top of a bookshelf in my study for two years, ever since he arrived with the book Dear Mrs. La Rue: Letters From Obedience School.
He was cushy and clean, quiet and innocent. Above all, unmarked. Until the evening when Miro noticed him and, when I wasn't looking, stole him from his perch. It's well known that Airedales, when no one is looking, can magically elongate their bodies to reach unexpected heights or turn into wisps of smoke to escape through the mesh of a crate door, leaving the door closed and latched.

Although the ransom demand was for one large biscuit, the criminal received nothing but a scolding. By the time I rescued Ike, he was disfigured for life, his nose gone (top photo), his beard in slobbery clumps, his head torn open with the brains showing if he had brains (right). While I wept over the ruin of Ike, the criminal shrugged off the entire incident (below).

Planning his next robbery.

Miro believes crime pays, even if briefly.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Have you been naughty or nice?

Inquiring hens want to know.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Chickens as light sensors

Sunset today, the shortest day, was at 4:19 pm. At 4:00-ish I took some scraps out to the chickens, dragged the dogs away from where they were sniffing at the gate to the pen, and went inside the house. The chickens busily pecked at the leftover parrot food. About fifteen minutes later when I opened the back door again, it was dark enough to trigger the motion-sensor light over the door. The chickens were just filing inside their coop to get tucked up for the night.

So, if you want a motion-sensor light at the back door that goes on when it's getting dark out, all you have to do is rig it up so the chicken will trigger it when she goes indoors. I'm sure there are people who know how to do that.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Doggie toothbrushes

Alanis runs away from the toothbrush or mouthrinse and backs into a corner, looking as if I'm about to torture her. Being accustomed to tooth-brushing since puppyhood, Miro participates. That's a key word with Airedales. They participate, with enthusiasm.

While I'm trying to brush his teeth, he wriggles his head and licks the brush to get all the poultry-flavored toothpaste he can. (No, he doesn't look at the chickens and think, "Toothpaste with feet!") I use the big end of this brush because it's hopeless trying to get at the smaller teeth with the small end:
Then saw a brush with three sides that's supposed to enclose the teeth so that you can easily brush the inner side of the teeth without the dog chewing the toothbrush to shreds.
I ordered it from the catalog and discovered the two sides don't open around an Airedale's huge molars. The brush might work on smaller dogs, but we're going back to the regular brush. I also give the dogs bones. Where to chew on bones in winter--that's a whole other problem.
Can't photograph the back teeth without an extra hand, so here are the front.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The card photo

The house of destuffed, destroyed and dead toys wishes you a howliday filled with all the joyous abandon Miro experienced when playing and all the relief Alanis felt when he was chewing on something other than her.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Trying to take the holiday photo of dogs

 In the old days when I wanted to take a photo of Darwin and Keeper together, I could dress them in silly clothes, haul out the camera, tell them to sit several feet away from me, and they sat and waited for the photo followed by a treat. Not Alanis and Miro. I didn't even attempt a scarf or tee shirt, knowing Miro would immediately gnaw on whatever Alanis wore. This year I had an ambition to try something candid because Miro and Alanis will only sit together right in front of me. Alanis knew how to stand for exam in the show ring but did not know "sit for a treat" until I corrupted her two years ago.

We went outside and the first thing they did was --

chase behind a tree, growling and playing bitey-face.

Then Alanis had better things to look at than the camera.

And they both decided something needed immediate investigation.

I think we will go back to the sit-for-a-treat idea.

Saturday, December 4, 2010


Yesterday a couple of men arrived to repair the roof that was badly installed by the house's previous owners. Here's how it goes.

A truck pulls into the driveway.

Bark bark. BARKBARKBARK. Stranger alert! Gotta bark, gotta bark. The human is barking back at us; there must be something really important to bark at. She walks away. Wait, look! People!

One of the men comes to the door to tell me they have arrived. I smile at him while struggling to haul back two dogs. Not much point trying to talk--Airedales are very loud.

Hey hey hey! He's on the porch! He's leaving the porch! I can just about get up on the window sill--urg, who's strangling me?

The men disappear around the other side of the house and the dogs quiet down. Then one reappears.

Stranger! Bark bark! Rark rark ruff ruff. RUFFRUFF!

He disappears. Dogs settle down. The same man walks past the window again.

Stranger! Alert alert! BARKBARKBARK.

No matter how many times the same man walks into view, the dogs react as if a complete stranger were prowling around their territory. They sleep through the pounding on the roof. I start to settle at my desk. BARKBARKBARK and I spring three inches into the air, prevented from going higher only by my legs slamming into the underside of the desk.

The roofers didn't complete the work yesterday and are coming back today. The sun is out--meaning we'll get about three hours of sunlight today-- but the blinds are shut. I want to keep that ALERT switch in the doggie brain off.
A round of bitey-face relieves the stress. For them.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Record cold

You know those brisk fall days when you enjoy raking leaves and readying the yard for winter? We didn't have any this year.
Roses one week ago.

During the snow.

Today after the snow melted.
Monday's snow fell on top of icy roads and one day this week set a record for cold this time of year. Tuesday and Wednesday the dogs got only minimal walks because the snow was so dry that it squeaked under my feet, sending shivers up my back and teaching me that cold-shivers are preferable to sound-shivers.
Green leaves fell on the snow; I've never seen that before.

I saw interesting footprints around the house, some that I can't identify.

A bird hopped onto the back stairs.

The neighbor's cat walked in front of the garage.

And something really big crossed at the entrance to the driveway.
Because snow was falling, I ran inside and grabbed the first thing I could find to show the size--a five-inch rawhide chew stick.
By comparison, this is an Airedale footprint.

And here's the monster foot. What could it be? Does this neighborhood have a very weird newspaper carrier?

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What chickens think of snow

I'm heading inside to the day quarters.

Isn't it gone yet?

Muffin (r) and Bran(l) waiting for the coast to clear.

Snow is for eating off the side of the chicken barn.
Yesterday at the first sign of snow, the chickens headed into their daytime hutch. (That's a muddy tarp in front.) They're spending today inside their snow-covered chicken barn. Normally they'd spend some time outside but 26 degrees F is too cold for us all. Snow in November simply isn't supposed to happen around here.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ticklish feet

I tried to teach Miro foot-handling the same way I taught The So-Perfect Darwin. From the time I brought him home at eight weeks, I'd run my hand all over him down to the feet. Randomly I'd pick up a foot and let go before he jerked his leg away. That was the routine: pick up foot, play with toes, release, treat.

He never got used to it.

When the first nail-trimming time came, I tried to introduce him to the Dremel. Most dogs prefer it to a clipper. Whoa! he went, squirming all over the way you would hearing fingernails screeching on a blackboard (what can we say now that we use whiteboards and markers?). So I switched to a clipper. Alanis insists on a Dremel and sometimes leans her whole weight, which is only 45 lbs, on me like a horse when I'm holding her foot.

the instruments of torture
When I trimmed around Miro's feet with a scissors and clipped the fur between his toes with a #40 blade on the electric clipper, his foot would jerk at a touch even when the rest of him was standing still and relaxed on the table. Slowly I realized there's more here than a dog not wanting his feet held. His feet are ticklish.

That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
The well-trimmed foot that grew out in about five minutes. Note the remodeled corner of the bed.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My first Airedale

More than 20 years (!) ago my late husband snapped this photo of me having a philosophical discussion with a very ungroomed Emma. Like many people, we didn't know what we were getting into when we brought her home. Both of us had grown up with dogs but not Airedales; and for us both, Airedales became the finest animal on the planet..

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Reptile report

Hens aren't the only critters molting around here. Chilibelina the leopard gecko has shed all but a hat and sock.

She also looks as if she doesn't quite know what to do about it. Not surprising, considering a reptile's brain power.

Saturday Blog Hop

Monday, November 1, 2010

Polish Chickens and Stephen King

Go to the link, paste in your latest blog post and find out which famous writer your deathless prose resembles. Report back. I wish I knew how the site came up with Stephen King for my story about chickens.

I write like
Stephen King
I Write Like by Mémoires, journal software. Analyze your writing!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The bobble-heads get a boyfriend

Punkster (the gold laced Polish above) kept picking on Brangelina the Ameraucana until Bran would shriek and run at the mere sight of the Punk, who would dash after the fleeing object, corner her, and peck at her amid even louder shrieks and squawks. Dartmouth (silver laced, top) joined in the bully-party but only after Punk started it.

For several days and nights I confined Punkster and Dartmouth to the hutch where they paced back and forth, complaining constantly about not being allowed out to play. Meanwhile, Brangelina's missing feathers were getting a chance to grow back in but bare spots were still visible. Maybe the pecking was due to the sight of bare chicken skin? After all, it's not pretty stuff.

Years ago the late spouse and I solved a similar problem by coating the offending area with black, tarry stuff. Not having any, I went for the next best solution. I got out a black Sharpie pen, pounced on Brangelina, and drew on the chicken. I didn't draw pictures; I just dotted the Sharpie wherever bare skin showed. It worked as a disguise but when I let Punkster out of the hutch, she made straight for Brangelina and jumped her. I grabbed Punkster by the neck and popped her back in solitary confinement.

Fearing nobody would want hens whose best laying days were over, I put a notice on my chicken list anyway. Through a complex series of somebody who knows somebody, I found a lady with a lonely rooster. She did not care if the hens laid eggs; she enjoyed looking at them and she knew that a single rooster is always in want of a flock. (Class, get out your copies of Pride and Prejudice and turn to page one.)

Punkster and Dartmouth are settling in to new quarters with a small rooster and a big yard and people to admire them. The two hens could decide to gang up on the rooster, who is apparently a very mild-mannered type; but I believe he will rise to the occasion and assert himself.

I'm down to three hens who have forgotten there ever were two others in the flock. Peace reigns, though it still looks moth-eaten.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

Limericks Littering the "L"

People on the Airedale list are posting silly limericks about their dogs. I'll show you mine if you show me yours. I hope to read limericks about all sorts of dogs.

Miró and Alanis, with me,
walk nicely on neighborhood streets
but when it’s time to trim nails,
I see tucked-under tails
and the tips of their ears as they flee.

I once flew an Airedale named Miro
across the US from Ohio.
He fit on my lap
while taking a nap
but now he’s the size of a rhino.

Alanis arrived from Alberta
where she had her very last litter.
She was happy to be
an only-dog with me
until I added a bitey-faced critter.

Now he nags her incessantly
to play chase and sweep the yard free
of squirrels and cats
and now I think that’s
why she tries to hide behind me.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chicken Altercation

The innocent victim

The lighter patch shows the innocent victim's feathers growing in.
Birds moult at the end of summer but not all at the same time or in the same way. Little Edna, the Modern Game bantam, went without a tail for a while. Brangelina, Americauna shown above, dropped a pile of wing and back feathers, leaving her looking half-plucked even while they were growing in.

Punkster, below, fancies herself in charge of everything. Seeing a strange-looking hen in "her" run, she started picking on Brangelina, chasing her out of the coop or just out of the way. She corners the larger hen and beats on her while Brangelina cowers and squawks with head tucked down. When she can, Brangelina hops on top of the old hutch and crouches in the space between the overhead netting and the hutch top.

Punkster the evil-doer

I got really tired of the noise and fighting one evening at chicken bed-time when Punkster was trying to force Bran out, so I hauled Punkster out of the coop and tossed her in the hutch, closing the door. All the other hens settled quietly on their roosts in the coop while Punkster paced back and forth, very unhappy about being alone in a different place. When it grew completely dark out, I fetched Punkster from the hutch and put her in the coop with the others.

Chickens are disoriented in the dark; even with the aid of a flashlight, Punkster didn't seem entirely awake. She made the high-pitched humming noise that sounds like "huuuunnnhhhh?" while stepping cautiously inside. I waited for a while, shining the flashlight for her, while she stood around--you wouldn't call it thinking but I guess something was slowly revolving in her head. I think she spent the night on the coop floor.

The next morning when they all woke up, there was that strange moth-eaten chicken and the bullying started all over again. When Brangelina's feathers finish growing in, Punkster will go, "Oh, I know you; you're part of the flock." Or I hope she will.

P.S. Blogger is really messed up today. I had to revert to the old blogger in order to upload photos and back to new to fix the spacing because the new one suddenly wanted me to sign in again in order to upload, and then it wouldn't recognize my user name or password. Anybody else encounter, and possibly solve, that problem?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Powered by ADT

That's the look of a dog outside the kitchen who knows there's cooking going on inside.

Tonight's dinner turned out awful, right down to the dish broken in the sink when the jar I was trying to open fell on it. I have time to eat or I have time to cook, not both. The only good part was chopping up the overcooked hunk of meat in my new mini food processor, meaning the processor worked well and the meat tasted just as awful as before the chopping. (After over-cooking it, I had ideas about shredded beef and sauce but there was nothing, absolutely nothing, with which to make strongly flavored glop to put over the meat; and I did not intend to mix it with a can of chili because my son and I ate chili yesterday or maybe it was the day before.)

I started making cornbread and discovered I had polenta-type ground corn, not cornbread type. I made crunchy cornbread. The chickens and parrots will love it.

While Alanis barked at the back door, Miro stopped in front of the window to tell me to let him in. Instead of letting him in, I did what any sensible person would do--let the food burn and run for the mobile phone camera. In the photo he's up on his hind legs behind the sign that lets all wanderers know there are Airedales (ADT's) in the house, as if he's saying,"I don't care what you did to it; I'll eat it."

With dogs in the house, you never really cook a bad meal.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Wimpy dogs

There's Alanis refusing to go to the back yard and pee. It has been raining steadily since yesterday. She did not want to go out in the dark last night, nor out in the dim morning. Miro wasn't too eager, either, but he followed me to the yard and "emptied the tank," as one writer put it. Alanis simply walked out to the patio, turned around and went back to wait at the door.

They will happily walk around the neighborhood with me in the rain while I get soaking wet. But go out to the wet yard? Alone? In the dark? No way!

It's lighter out now, as light as it will get today, so we'll try again. Meanwhile, the chickens emerged from their house, looked around, railed against nature with high-pitched whines, and retreated.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Pumpkin eater

Artist Roberta (Bobbi) Sparr--that's her signature on the left side of the pumpkin-- gave permission for me to post her rendition of an Airedale getting ready for Halloween. You'll find more of her Airedale paintings and other artwork at her website.

I particularly liked the expression of this dog and his glowing eyes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

No more puppy look

At 20 months old, Miro has lost that indefinable puppy look. Or maybe it's the grooming job.

Serious fence patrol.
Puppy look two months ago. Could be the feet.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

A very small life

If you have picture windows in your house, you may have heard the particular thud of a bird hitting the window. The sound is so sharp and quick that it can leave you wondering if you heard anything at all. To ward off reckless fliers, people sometimes put decals of crows or other shapes on large windows or sliding glass doors. My house has white, horizontal blinds on the windows. I keep them open to let in the light but lowered so that the windows don’t look like an empty expanse to birds.

At least I thought the blinds looked like a barrier until today when I heard the ominous thunk followed by the barking of two Airedales. Sometimes a bird is stunned and best left alone to recover. Today’s bird, a juvenile goldfinch, was not so lucky.
Juveniles have duller coloring than adults as well as a dark upper beak.

Although the goldfinch is the Washington state bird, we don’t often see them anymore. The population of songbirds has declined drastically everywhere. Reasons normally include habitat loss, acid rain, climate change, even predation by household cats, though a recent study in the UK supports habitat loss as the main reason.

I went outside to the front porch to find the bird dead of a broken neck below the window-box nasturtiums, one eye closed and the other beginning to dull. Most birds around here sport variations in shades of brown; to find some golden coloring is like finding real gold. I took photos to remember the colors and when examining the markings on the bird’s wing, discovered the flight feathers are so delicate as to be translucent.

This is the time of year when birds, opossums, spiders and other wildlife leave their families to search for their own territory. That’s why we find more of them on our front porches and in the roads.

Early in the summer I mentioned the low odds of any bird surviving to reproduce. How important is one tiny goldfinch?