Tag Archives: dogs

Our latest trip south.

Trip

Leaving Manitoba to drive south in winter is a dicey affair. No matter what the weather forecast says, you are bound to be surprised. This trip was no exception. We awoke on the 12th, our scheduled departure date, to find it was snowing. And it kept right on snowing right until we got over the US border. This meant a trip that would normally take about three hours took five. We paused for a break in McCreary, Neepawa and Brandon in order to deal with issues like a puppy who needed a walk and bathroom breaks. By the time we got to Brandon I was thoroughly chilled in spite of my winter outerwear and thermal underwear. Hot coffee never tasted so good!

Our original destination was a campground in Dickinson ND. Unfortunately we found ourselves only at Minot ND when darkness fell with blowing snow and nasty cold winds. We detoured off to Swenson’s RV repair and campground.  Exhausted and cold we arrived after the office had closed and we couldn’t find the campground host. I’m not sure why because when we rolled out there was a huge sign by the first campsite near the door. We rolled into an open pull through, plugged in the electric and settled in. The temperature was -17C (1F) and forecast to drop to -22C (-8F). The furnace ran without a pause all night and we had two electric heaters and our little electric countertop oven open and on. We snuggled under our electric blanket which was set on the highest level. We were barely warm enough. I was so grateful Swenson’s was open! We would never have made it through the night with just propane heat from the furnace.

Morning dawned bright and early. Since we fell asleep by about 8:00pm we were up at 5:00am. We were off to Dickinson. I felt really bad because there was no where to leave an envelope with our payment. We got to Dickinson very early and gained an hour due to the change to Mountain time. We stopped for breakfast at MacDonald’s and a cup of hot coffee never tasted so good. First thing I did was send the folks at Swenson’s an email to tell them we had been there and needed to pay them. After some searching I found a campground in Rapid City that was not only open, but in an “above freezing daytime” forecast zone. We decided to continue on.

That long long long stretch between Dickinson ND and Rapid City SD seemed like it would never end. We did see antelope, jackrabbits, mules deer, flocks and Canada geese, partridges, and a pheasant. That helped break up the trip. We made a few stops at bleak windy cold roadside stops. Somewhere along the way we noticed we had left the snow behind and we were relieved.

Misty had been very well behaved the entire trip. She either slept or followed what was going on outside with great interest. About an hour and half from our destination she had just had enough. She started puppy crying and howling and barking at us. If she could  have talked I’m sure she would have said “When are we going to get there??? How much farther do we have to go??? I want to go HOME!!!” In spite of two more breaks and a surprise chewy, offers of food and water, she remained inconsolable. I felt really bad for her but there was nothing to do but push on. Eventually she put her head down where Dick could reach and he rubbed her ears and talked to her and she settled enough to finish the last part of the trip quietly.

We pulled into Happy Holiday Resort after dark and we were warmly welcomed by the staff there. I can’t describe how nice it is to arrive at a campground exhausted, cold, hungry, and we welcomed with a cheerful attitude and a perfect campsite. I had some pre-made hot chilli and I made some rice. While the rice cooked we went for a nice long walk with the dogs. We all fell asleep early again.

In the morning I was awoken by steady dripping. It was already above freezing and all the accumulated snow and ice was beginning to melt. By the time we finished making breakfast, the solar panel’s regulator was humming. The sun was strong enough and the ice had melted enough that the panels were actually charging again. After breakfast I went to the campground shower and enjoyed a long hot shower. It was wonderful to feel clean and warm again. Our hosts refilled the propane tank we emptied overnight in Minot for a modest $18. We then took the dogs for another nice long walk. Because of skipping Dickinson and driving so far the second day out we found ourselves a day ahead of schedule. The campground was so pleasant we paid for a second night. The WIFI was really good and among other things we settled with Swenson’s for our surprise stay. I had a nice correspondence via email with the staff there I am thinking we will go by again if we can in future.

On the way out, we went by Mount Rushmore. We had a little misadventure on the way in because the highway was so steep on the last two miles that we could only climb with the truck on low four wheel drive and first gear at a crawl. That was harrowing but we made it. (Note to others, take the southern route in. It is much less steep.) We had been at Mount Rushmore many years before but because we spent so much time at the Crazy Horse exhibit we had just stopped by the roadside for a few minutes and then continued. This trip we paid our $5 fe and went in and looked at the displays and the museum. We took a selfie to prove we had been there. I can’t say I like how I look in the picture but it is a good shot of Hubby Dearest. The sunshine was such a pleasure! We then continued on into Wyoming.

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The trip to Wyoming was uneventful. Our plan was to stay in a free campsite in a place called Wheatland. We go there early enough we decided to push on through to Laramie. We had let the KOA know we might be a day early and so they were prepared. We decided not to take a recommended shortcut via highway 34 because the map had a mountain pass on it. We weren’t sure about how high the pass was, how our trailer would manage or the weather as we had a strong north wind blowing up to 60 km/hr (40mph). We had the wind to our back on the interstate and so the trip into Cheyenne was easy. I hardly even had to put my foot on the gas. The uphills were ridiculously easy with the wind. The trip from Cheyenne to Laramie was really difficult even though it was on an interstate. It seemed like all we did was climb and climb against a cross wind and a few times I could barely hit 60km/h (40m/h).

We finally crawled into the Laramie KOA just before 6:00pm. We checked in and picked up some packages that we had arranged to mail ahead and made ourselves at home. I was shaking and feeling light headed and numb. I think I was reacting to going from 1200ft in Manitoba to 7200ft in Laramie with only two days acclimatizing at 3200ft in South Dakota. We went to bed early again and then after another delightful hot shower we did some grocery shopping. Dick’s conference registration was at 4:30pm and they served all kinds of sushi as the welcome snack. YUM!

This KOA campground is fine. One thing it has which I really appreciate is a fenced dog play area big enough for Misty to go a flat out run. We have been visiting it several times a day. The traffic noice is a bit much as we are right near the interstate but it is temporary. I have plenty to do.

We are set to stay a week in Laramie. In addition to the major repair of getting our hot water heater unit in, I made arrangements to get the truck a slightly over due tune up and finally fix the slow leak in the tranny. Dick meanwhile is attending a conference. He is having a blast while I entertain the dogs and get stuff done.

Venus Modeling Workhshop

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Life with Misty and Fred

If you thought babies grow fast, you have never watched a puppy. When we got Misty she was 13 pounds (5.8 kilos). By her second vet check she was 23 pounds (10.4 kilos) and on her latest vet check she hit 33 pounds. (15 kilos). She has had all three rounds of puppy shots and her rabies vaccine. She has her own tag and last visit she got a microchip. She turned 4 months old on September 2. Fred by contrast is 88 pounds (40 kilos) he turns 12 on September 20. Almost every day Misty has grown bigger. She eats about four cups of puppy food each day but she has hungry days where she will pack in as much as seven or eight cups. We are feeding her the highest quality puppy food and I must admit I will be glad, for the sake of our budget, when we can switch her to adult dog food. Hubby Dearest makes many jokes about Clifford. She has begun losing those needle sharp puppy teeth (thank goodness!) and clean large new white adult teeth are coming in fast and furious.

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Our vet surprised me by recommending we do not spay Misty at six months. Given her parental breed types and their bigger but slower growth, he recommended we wait until she is at least a year old. This will give her bones time to fully develop and growth plates to close before cutting off her estrogen supply. Given her breed and size she probably will not have a heat in that first year. We had a discussion about handling an early heat if she does, and preventing pups, as well as the pros and cons of letting her have one heat cycle before spaying her. Apparently you trade one set of risks for another but overall it is better to wait because her breed types (given both her parental breeds) are prone to hip issues and tears in ligaments in the knees and early spaying and neutering seems to increase those events. There are cancer risks decreased by early spaying but there are also different cancer risks increased by early spaying. There isn’t really a right or wrong answer. As always, it is about weighing risk versus benefit so we will revisit the issue at her next check up at one year. I always thought spaying at six months was the absolute normal standard but times are a changing and apparently the thinking on this is changing as well.

Misty is a delightful dog and we feel very blessed to have her. She is still a puppy and as such is subject to those bursts of bad puppy behaviour that result from overwhelming exuberance with life and the itch of new teeth. Even so she had learned several commands including “off”, “off cat” (for small animals including our cat), “come”, “sit”, “lie down”, “shake paw”, “quiet”, “out”, “truck” (go to the truck so we can drive somewhere) and of course her favourite “walk”. She will fetch if prodded but it is not her favourite game. Balls, however, well balls are joy. She has also acquired a lot of the manners essential for successful living with humans. She has a pretty solid grasp of the idea that most things in the house are not hers to chew and some things are. We have had very little trouble of late with her chewing things she is not supposed to have. Constantly rescuing objects from her and substituting toys and an abundance of bones and chew things has helped a lot. The puppy mouthiness improves daily.

Walks are the highlight of Misty’s day, no surprise there. She minds very well on the leash and can now heel on command. She is also pretty trustworthy off leash. We leave her off leash for part of almost every walk now and she stays close by but also thoroughly enjoys the opportunity to run flat out. We take her into our back unfenced yard when we work and she stays in the yard and runs herself to exhaustion in great fast circles.

Misty also loves swimming. We were going to the beach on a regular basis while the weather was warm and it took little urging for her to start swimming eagerly and freely. She has big webbed feet, a legacy of her Golden Retriever mother and those make for great paddles.

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One of the pleasant surprise bonus of her temperament is she is what my husband calls “a contemplative dog”. She likes to spend a lot of quiet time just watching the world go by outside, taking it all, watching everything with great interest but quietly. Fred suffers from such severe separation anxiety that he simply will not sit quietly outside. If we are not with him, he wants in right away. A dog who seems to enjoy sitting outside is a real pleasure. I have known a few German Shepherds who like contemplating the great outdoors so I will give her father credit for that. She daily develops more bridling the most recent being new shoulder brindle marks. Genetically she is a “trindle” i.e. a tricolour dog with brindle as her second colour. That is obviously from her father as well. Her ears are still going between up and down. In these picture they are down but when she is alert and attentive outdoors they stand up like a German Shepherd’s. I think Golden Retriever will win on that account long term though. The older she gets, the more the ears spend time down.

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Misty will sleep anywhere but given a choice she takes the big comfy dog bed or she sleeps at our feet. At night she will sneak into our room so she can sleep at the foot of our bed or on my side on the floor near me.

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Today a proper new big steel kennel arrived for our girl. It is currently large enough for both dogs in a pinch. Fred already has his own big kennel. We learned early how important it is for each dog to have a sturdy steel kennel. Many hotels, shelters and home owners who otherwise will not tolerate dogs, are happy to accommodate them if they have a proper steel kennel. After Irma and Harvey the necessity for each animal to have a proper kennel is even more obvious.

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Another thing that is different about Misty is she is clearly my dog. All the other dogs in our life regard me as a useful pack member but Hubby Dearest is clearly the Lord and Master of the Universe. For some unknown reason of dog brain functioning, Misty seems to have concluded Fred may be the big guy’s dog but she is MY dog. This is not to say she doesn’t like my husband, especially at mealtime because he is in charge of food, but if he gives her a command, she will look to me to reinforce him before obeying. If I get up in the night to use the washroom, Misty always gets up and follows me. She doesn’t follow him. Where I go, she always tries to follow. I must admit after 25+ years of playing second fiddle master, it is very nice to have my own dog at long last.

Misty is an easy going puppy. You expect all kind of trouble with puppies. She still forgets her manners and jumps all over me on occasion. She still will give a puppy nip and then be all contrite when scolded for it. But I see improvement every day. She is also endlessly and totally loving. When she runs on our walks she careens off exploring the world and then runs back for a reassuring pat and some praise. Then she is off again. It has been fun seeing the world through puppy eyes again. It is a marvellous wonderful place. Still, I am looking forward to the day we get past puppy antics and I have a quiet well behaved adult companion. Each day I see that adult dog a little more and the EF5/Category 5 puppy little less.

 

One Week With Misty.

IMG_0490Death is terrible but life goes on anyway. When it comes to dogs there are at least two ways dog people cope with grief. Some need to spend time quietly mourning and eventually they heal enough to be able to open their hearts again. Others are like us. We enjoy not just the individual dogs but the things that go with having a dog around like going for walks and getting greeted with a happy wagging tail. So for us being without a companion dog is a double loss, the dog itself and the companionship of the dog. For us, moving quickly on to the next companion eases the profound sense of loss and grief after the passing of the last one.

Enter Misty. We were very aware how both our Fred and Trusty were aging and that was a source of stress and pain to us. In many ways it was wonderful to have two dogs the same age because they were companions to each other in addition to being companions to us. However this meant facing the loss of both dogs at the same time. We decided before we lost one of this pair would get a new puppy so that the new puppy would already be well integrated into our life. Also, we have noted in the past that the arrival of a new young dog tends to rejuvenate the older dog while the younger dog is learning. There is a few happy months and then a realization for the old dog that this youngster is ready to take over the duties that have become a burden due to aging. The old dog can let go and sleep longer, leave barking at passing dogs and strangers to the young one, and not push so hard. It seems to me it eases their passing. They leave knowing we are not left alone.

 

Our home (purchased two and a half years ago) was not suitable for a new puppy. We have a front area where the dogs went out  to do their business or sun, but that was a pair of much older dogs who were accustomed to being on leads, leashes and tethers when not in the house with us. That is too hard for a young puppy. Puppies don’t understand being tied and it makes them miserable. They need a safe place to just be puppies and run and jump and roll unless the owner is ready to spend a lot of time going to safe dog parks. We knew we needed a fence. Our wonderful neighbours came through for us, a big sale was going on for lumber at the local co-op, and we soon had everything we needed to fence the front dog area. Puppies are also clumsy and silly so Dick added lots of extra boards to the front deck so the puppy couldn’t fall off and break something.

The choice of dog was tough. Fred was our first big dog. We didn’t plan on having a big dog. Fred came to us because Trusty brought him home one day and introduced him. Fred taught us there are some real advantages to a big dog. Primary among them is that being big, just their presence can act as a deterrent to those up to no good. During our many travels we have had humans try to attack us four times and each time Fred transformed from the sweetest gentlest doggy you could ever find to a snarling killer dog whose bad attitude drove off the attacker. A well socialized, properly trained dog who knows people also knows when they up to no good. I have to wonder how many other times having a big dog made some predatory human decide to go hunt elsewhere before we ever knew we were being assessed for vulnerability as prey. Also many years ago while we were at a riverside campground, a boy of four got in over his head. Fred noticed the child in distress well before any of us humans. He leaped into the water, wrenching the leash right out of my hand and swam straight to the little guy. Dad was just entering the water when Fred got there. The child (who had been floating just at the surface) pulled himself up onto Fred to lift his head up with a huge gasping sound. Fred swam back with the little guy clinging to him meeting the father halfway. A small dog would never have been able to do such a miraculous thing. So we knew this time we wanted another big dog.

We also knew we didn’t want an older rescue. All of our dogs but Trusty were older rescues. All of them had been mistreated and came with baggage from something awful in their past. Even our current dog Fred came with separation anxiety, roaming behaviour, some minor aggression issues and intense food anxiety that made him a real handful for the first three years we had him. It took him a long time to finally bond to us. All of these dogs adjusted to us and bonded but the process of untraining bad habits and establishing trust and making the bond with the older dog took a lot of time and, for some things, it was never fully accomplished. An older dog often comes already housebroken and spayed or neutered but, frankly, we were tired of dealing with all the other issues. Having already adopted so many older rescues over the years, we just didn’t want to do it again. We wanted a new puppy like Trusty had been, who would be ours from the beginning. Trusty was the most cheerful, happy, trusting little girl and I think that was in large part because she went from an experienced show dog breeder to an experienced dog home as a young pup. (I know some people think all breeders are evil. I personally do not accept the position that a responsible show dog kennel owner who is raising grand champion dogs, does not allow litter to happen unless she has a waiting list of adopters, and even then only has puppies about once in five years a part of carefully planned breeding program, is in the same class or deserving of the same scorn as a back yard breeder or a puppy mill.)

You would think finding a young rescue puppy would be easy. It was not. We came head long into the phenomena know as “retail rescue“. Naturally we wanted to avoid this. One rescue near us boasted of over 80 puppies needing rescue, puppies of all kinds of breeds and types, but they wanted an astonishing $850 for these pups. How does one have a constant stream of rescuable puppies if one is not in retail rescue? The other rescues acted in ways we found repugnant. One rescue took three weeks to answer us about a puppy they had available for adoption on their website only to say that puppy was gone. Even though their website showed nearly a dozen new babies desperately needing homes and they were pleading for donations of money and supplies, they would only offer us a totally different and entirely unsuitable older dog instead. And then there was the other dog they had who was in a doggy wheelchair because his back legs didn’t work but it wasn’t much extra trouble to care for him. He just had to have a wheel chair accessible ramp at the door or to be carried up and down the stairs each time. They gave us a “well if you just want a healthy puppy you don’t deserve a dog” attitude.

Other rescues were what seemed to be outright neurotic, far more interested in passing judgement on us evil humans than actually rehoming puppies. One rescue wanted us to agree to take a dog that might have aggression issues and a biting history and promise we would not ever put the dog down for aggression. That is simply not happening because my sense of responsibility to my community is far more important than to my dog, so sorry. In my book the only good aggressive dog with bite/attack history is a dead one.

One rescue appeared to be run so the owner could have a constant supply of young puppies. No puppy could leave them until after the age of six months, fully housebroken and trained, and at substantially higher costs. When I said we wanted to train our puppy ourselves, I was told very firmly that should always be left to professionals and rehoming a puppy before such professional training was dog abuse. (Utter nonsense!)

Another one said they would not let us adopt because we were too old and the dog was likely to outlive us! (My husband is 73 and I am 57.) Another wanted to see five years worth of our income tax assessments to be sure we could really afford a dog. (Uh no. We’re not doing that.) Several demanded we agree to home assessments before and after placement and one wanted us to give them the legal right to swoop in and seize the dog back with no refund of the adoption fee for any reason they decided on, plus the right to bill us to recoup any and all costs associated with taking the dog back. In the event of any dispute we had to agree to pay all legal fees. That was not acceptable to us either. A pre-adoption home assessment was fine but not the other stuff. Speaking of home assessments, two rescues refused us because we lived too far from the city for them to send someone out to do a home assessment.

I was once accused of abusing Trusty Dog by a vet technician I met at a dog party. She thought Trusty Dog was too thin compared to her dog. In fact, Trusty was a perfect weight by our vet’s estimate at her regular check up a month before. Trusty Dog had also been assessed by an expert team raising awareness of dog obesity at the dog party we were attending. Yet this fruitcake asked me all kinds of questions in order to determine who to complain to and she called the owner of the kennel we got Trusty Dog from. She created such a fuss that the kennel owner reluctantly and apologetically contacted me to make sure Trusty Dog was not being starved. Trusty Dog simply had a more “rangy” terrier build. This was why she was sold to us as a pet quality animal in the first place! I also learned that the people running the obesity clinic was apparently fools because they had told the crazy person that her dog was overweight. (Surprise, surprise.) The kennel owner reported to me how this nut had already had her in small claims court over false dog abuse charges once and she warned me to be careful of her. After that experience, I was certainly not about to give up my legal rights to the dog, in advance, in a contract. I know for certain this woman would have seized Trusty Dog from us for our perceived abuse if she could have. I just knew from that experience that I would spend the rest of that dog’s life waiting for a neurotic nut to swoop in, accuse me of dog abuse, and seize the dog and break my heart. It would make bonding with the dog extremely difficult.

My story is not unique. Unresponsive, difficult, neurotic individuals in rescue organizations are common place. I felt all the rescues I contacted were either unethical “retail rescues” or they were making it so difficult to get a puppy that we despaired of ever finding one. Even the shelters that we knew were good ones reported that rescues swooped in and immediately adopted any puppies that they did get so that regular folks like us would never have a chance. We kept looking. Meanwhile, we kept working on the fence.

And then a small miracle happened as such things tend to. There was a small ad in a local paper. Golden Retriever mother and German Shepherd father (probably). I talked to the woman selling the puppies and it soon became obvious this was no puppy mill. Her 12 year old Golden Retriever (who had never had puppies before and was assumed to be incapable) had unexpectedly produced a later of eight puppies after an unauthorized visit from two full brothers who lived two farms over. The young woman was embarrassed, even apologetic, about the unplanned litter. Mom was an older but still fit and lovely girl who had spent many years as a farm dog/family pet and she had been used for hunting. She was a real working dog.

 

The young lady who owned the pups said they had to stay with their mother for a full 8 weeks and she would not release them until after they had their first puppy shot and vet check. Mom was fully vaccinated and healthy in spite of being skinny from nursing pups. She asked me a few appropriate questions that indicated she was making sure the puppy was going to a good home but she was not a neurotic fruitcake. She was asking far less than any formal rescue, basically enough to cover the vet costs and a bit extra for her trouble. She was also local to us and her family’s reputation was excellent. We decided to go see these puppies.

I read up on Golden Retrievers as a breed and on German Shepherds first. I also read about Golden Shepherds, a so called designer hybrid. All of this looked very promising except that we wanted a dog who would be reserved and protective and if the puppy took after the golden side too much, we would get a big happy goofball who would likely wag her tail and lick a stranger out to rob or injure us. Goldens are not exactly noted for their protectiveness. Both breeds are highly intelligent, attach firmly to their people, need lots of activity and long walks and a lot of time just being with their owners. These are all pluses for us as an older retired couple. It seemed a good match of breed to owner.

On our way to see these puppies we stopped and saw the pair of big males of which one was the presumed father. They were also assumed to be purebred German Shepherd. These were working farm dogs, in glowing good health. Being from a  working dog line I was pleased to note they did not have the long sloping back so prized among German Shepherd show types but associated with hip dysplasia. I watched the owner of these two boys interacting with them. He was using hand signals and the dogs were immediately and correctly responding. We met the mother and she was a delightful and typical Golden Retriever. So both parents of these puppies were real working farm dogs, intelligent, healthy and of excellent temperament. We decided to take one puppy. We wanted a female since we felt that a female puppy would be more likely to integrate into our existing family. We also had a family wedding to attend and we wanted her to stay one extra week with her Mom after her shots. I also wanted the shot to have some time to work before taking her home. I am crazy afraid of parvo. The nice woman immediately agreed to the extra week.

All this settled, we finally went to see the puppies. They were happily running about in a box stall, healthy, fat and sweet tempered.  Young children were present so the pups were already well accustomed to children which was a plus. There were also horses, cats and goats nearby and the pups were therefore likely to be tolerant of all kinds of animals. This was no puppy mill litter. If anything it was an accidental litter from responsible pet owners (aside from the lack of spaying and neutering something very common in farm dogs) who were now trying to do the right thing by these puppies. The next task was simply picking the right puppy for us out of the five females in the litter.

When the woman opened the door to the stall the puppies came tumbling out, joyous happy tail wagging bundles. One puppy started with the crowd and then spotted us and immediately paused. She held back. Her little sweet puppy face was hesitant. I read “Wait a minute, do I know you? Are you safe?” After a proper introduction she immediately became a happy friendly pup but that moment of hesitation was critical in my assessment. She was a reserved dog, not fearful, just reserved. And when I picked her up and gently flipped her over to check she submitted gracefully and, yes she was a female. The pause she exhibited was more German Shepherd than Golden. She was our pup.

We had left Trusty at home because traveling upset her too much but Fred was with us. We took her over to introduce her to Fred. He immediately did a full body joyous melt as if she was the cutest thing in the entire universe. She did her reserved hesitation thing again. After assessing Fred and deciding he was okay, she wagged her tail and gave him a puppy kiss and I thought Fred would pass out from his joy. Fred approved of her. Now we had nearly four long weeks to wait until she could come home.

 

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We have had her for a week now. It has been almost pure pleasure. She is intelligent and adaptable. In one week she has already learned her call name and the commands “off” (as in put it down and/or don’t touch it), “come”, “out” (as in we are going out to the yard now), and “down”. The crate was a strain at first but she went in at bed time and slept in it all night last night without a whimper. Being a puppy, she hasn’t much attention span but she’s listening and responding to the commands for at least a few minutes. She is testing us to see what we are consistent about. She is walking well on the leash although we aren’t yet doing more than pleasure walking. Heel, sit, and stay, lie down and the formal stuff will all come later when she is a bit bigger. She has enough to learn right now. A friend of ours came to see her and she reacted by barking at him and backing off until she had a chance to look him over. Now that she knows him, he gets a joyous greeting. I like a dog that is a bit suspicious and reserved but soon learns who she can trust. We took her to the beach and she is a natural water dog. She followed Fred right in and swam eagerly with him. And she chases and fetches a ball already.

Fred adores her though she gets disciplined by him. She worships Fred and happily does anything she sees him doing which is making housebreaking really easy. As long as we get her out of the house we have no accidents. She hasn’t figured out how to let us know she needs to go out yet, so we still have a puddle or two each day, which is to be expected. I no longer get to sleep in because she has these spells of being frenetically active and the only cure is a walk around town until she is tired out and that begins when she gets up at about 7:00am. This is actually good for me. (I keep telling myself this.)

We named her Misty for two reasons. We wanted to memorialize Trusty Dog and another dog from my husband’s past named Rusty. She is mostly black but she has a few hairs that just make a mist patch of white on her chest. Plus she has gold brindling highlights. Trusty Dog was a brindle and I love that on Misty. People who see her assume she is a lab because she has the golden/lab shaped face. For campgrounds that don’t allow German Shepherds she will be a lab cross.

Best of all she has firmly and absolutely bonded to us. We are her people. She is our dog. And we have a joyous house full of puppy kisses and happy exploration and just plain fun. Right now as I write she is lying at my feet sleeping. She is happiest beside one of us and she often sleeps in a place halfway between us both. Trusty Dog, I miss you still and thinking of you still makes me eyes tear up but don’t worry about me. Fred, we know your time is coming sooner rather than later. Your hips hurt so long walks are no longer possible and your lumps and bumps keep getting lumpier and bumpier. You’ll be able to go in peace when it is time, knowing we are well taken care of. With Misty, we are fine.

At this point there is only one family member who isn’t happy. The cat is not a big fan of puppy kisses and being bowled over with exuberant puppy greetings. Klinger has had to be very stern and unforgiving in teaching her that cats are not fellow puppies and must not be treated as such. Klinger was horrified when she arrived and he is still not a bit happy with us for bringing this canine nuisance into his otherwise well ordered life. As of yesterday, he has stopped growling, hissing, spitting and threatening to take her eyes out, mostly because she has learned about his sharp claws on her tender nose and she has begun keeping a properly respectful distance. Life goes on. Praise G-d.

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Migration Home – Fourth Stop Gilliam Lake Arkansas

Gilham Lake

We left Louisiana and headed north into Arkansas. The interstate soon became a rather pleasant four lane divided highway through one small town after another. The terrain went from flat to rolling hills that border on small mountains. We travelled along the Red River of the South. We stopped at the MacDonald’s in DeQueen for a snack and checked the internet for more details. I had a map of Army Corp of Engineer sites in the state so I knew approximately where we were going. Our dog Fred had not been swimming for some time so I wanted us to be well out of gator country. Imagine my surprise to read that alligators once ranged all over this region but were extirpated by settlers and overhunting. They have been gradually recovering and expanding their old territory. We had to get north of DeQueen to be sure we had no possibility of our Fred have a close encounter of the toothy kind. After comparing facilities we decided on Gillham Lake.

We missed the turn at Gillham. Our GPS didn’t seem to like going that way and we didn’t see the sign until we were driving past it. The interstate was now a plain old two lane road going up and down and up and down with a lot of trucks and no place to turn. We got to Grannis before we could turn around and the map, and another unobtrusive sign, showed us another road in. We now got to experience Arkansas backroads. I had noticed before that these Arkansas types seemed to go in for really big trucks, like 250 and 350 deisels with their RV rigs. I learned why on this trip. The roads went down at ridiculous angles and then came back up at such steep grades I had to shift the truck into the lowest gear and the temperature on the transmission began creeping up the hill with us. Pretty country, lovely little farms, cattle herds of about twenty animals, horses, chickens, and up down, up down, up down, with an occasional rapid turn. We reached the campground and then we were kind of stumped. There were three sites marked on signs and no directions as to which one we should go. We tried Little Coon Creek first. After a very steep three mile drive of up-downs, crazy twists and riding the brakes a lot, we found it was just a few campsites on either side of the road. No one else was there. We used one campsite to turn around. We went back up the hill, paused to let the tranny cool again, and then tried Big Coon Creek. The road did not have as many twists and turns but that last hill down into the campground was a shocker. The steepest hill yet leading right into a small beach. I wondered how many people ended up in the lake. This was much nicer though! We pulled into site 19 which had the loveliest view of the lake and settled in as it got dark.

We stayed three days and we had a wonderful time. We took the canoe out. We ended up following the shoreline because of all the high speed boating traffic that nearly capsized us more than once with big wakes. The geology of the region was really fascinating. Wonderful pink and orange sandstone and granite layers that were shoved up to at least a 45 degree angle to make the hills. We had a lot of discussion between about the geology the area. By an interesting coincidence, Dick was reading a paper on origin of life and it included references to some ancient fossils from a microcontinent under the area we were in. That led to us really appreciating the geology we were seeing while imagining a microcontinent miles below.

We were still seeing lots of the birds we see nesting back at home. It seemed we were migrating home with nuthatches, pileated wood peckers, blue jays, wrens, warblers, eagles, ducks, geese, loons, crows, and orioles. What a pleasure to travel north with these lovely little birds. (Sorry no pictures as we were relaxing too much.) In addition to many colourful birds we were treated to many colourful wildflowers.

We had several long walks. One real treat was the folks next door invited us to join them at their campfire and we had the nicest visit. They were local people and they were able to fill us in on a lot of details of the history and nature of the park. We were going to stay longer in Big Coon but our campfire hosts told us about how this campground got flooded after heavy rain just the year before. They had barely gotten their own rig out while that lake rose up 70 feet in less than twenty four hours. There was rain in the forecast so they were going to leave a day early to avoid a repeat.

We  were finally able to let Fred have a nice long swim and he had such a good time. Unfortunately there were some rough rocks and he cut himself so we went home from the beach with him seeping blood. Once we were back I carefully cleaned the wound, applied antibiotic ointment and wrapped it up in layers of bandages and a final top layer of duct tape. For some reason duct tape makes a very fine doggy bandage. When you change the bandage the tape comes off easily without pulling out hair. Bonus, judging by the expression Fred makes if he licks at it, it tastes too horrible to put any serious effort into chewing it off. These days you can buy duct tape in every imaginable colour. I had white on hand because I had to repair the cover of the air conditioner on the inside and the white duct tape didn’t look quite so… well duct tapey. I know most of us who have rigs end up with ones largely held together by duct tape, but it is considered tacky and redneck. I also had standard grey duct tape because, well, grey is the standard you can buy in bulk. I wrapped Fred’s foot in grey because it matches his fur best.

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We drove up to see the third campsite, Cassatot Reefs, which is easily the loveliest of the three campsites at Gilliam Lake. I have a passionate love of the sound of water over rocks. and so we decided we would move to that site and stay for a week and enjoy the running water. Cassatot Reefs is below the dam and not subject to flooding. We packed up to move. Getting back up the hill meant driving in the lowest gear with four wheel drive on and there was an even bigger hill on the shortest route from Big Coon Lake to Cassatot Reefs. We decided to just take the easier road into DeQueen and take the trailer along with us and drive the longer easier other road back into Cassatot Reefs. The Talmud says “Men plan, God laughs.” This was proven to us again.

We got to the same Macdonalds and had a snack while we went on line. I always check the weather first. I was concerned to see that Cassatot Reefs was not just expecting heavy rain. It was in that dreaded yellow hatched area on the NOAA map meaning severe weather was possible. Meanwhile Hubby Dearest had discovered that an old volcano had brought up melted lava chunks of that microcontinent and deposited it up at our level. Looking for another campground we found one called Crater of Diamonds State Park which was located right on that old volcano site. It was also outside the hatched weather danger. And so we decided to skip more of Cassatot Reefs. We left moving east outside of the yellow hatching to try our luck diamond hunting.

This is my review of the Gilliam Lake Campground.

Gilliam Lake is a smallish dammed lake built by the Army Corp of Engineers. It has three campground sites. We visited all three during our stay. Two are above the dam on the lake and lead to boat ramps. Little Coon Creek is simply 10 sites, all back in, on both sides of the road down to the lake just before a large boat ramp. There is very little to recommend these sites if you are not a fisherman but the lots are big and spacious and all were empty when we were there. It has modern washrooms and showers. Big Coon Creek is on the next lake inlet and also above the dam and it has some 31 sites, all back in. It was mostly full when we were there. It is a fisherman’s dream with room for a big rig, a big boat trailer, and a truck. All the sites are paved and have a barbecue and fire pit. The washrooms are new and clean. There are also showers with abundant hot water. There is a nice sandy beach and four playground structures including one in the water at the beach. Although both campgrounds are above the dam, Gillham Lake itself is infamous for rising many feet in under 24 hours in heavy rain. The locals told us you have to watch the weather and be ready to clear out fast if it rains heavily because the campgrounds will be underwater with little warning. We saw plenty of evidence that is is the case in the form of high water lines and deposited logs on the shores. One women told us about pulling her rig out in pouring rain and high water and barely making it just last year. The third campsites is Cassatot Reefs and it is on the Cassatot river below the dam. This 30 site campground is the largest of the three campsites because it is strung along the river just past the spillway with most of the sites overlooking the river. It is a pleasant and pretty stretch with long cement walkways by a park-like setting on the river bank with benches and swings. The campsites are set high above the flood plain on a ridge. There are three sets of pretty little rapids between deep pools. These campsites are smaller and older and do not have room for a separate boat and trailer in addition to a rig. There is a canoe launch and the current runs swiftly. These campsites are also mostly not paved but are packed gravel. Washrooms and showers are older style flush toilets. The dam was built to protect downstream houses and so of the three, this campground below the dam is the least likely to flood. I was alarmed to hear just last year the lake was full right up to the top of the dam which makes me wonder if water could flow right over the dam, given enough rain, but apparently this has not ever happened. We watched a grader repairing the dam above the current water line and a lot of evidence that the local who told us about last year’s flooding was not exaggerating. The roads into all this campground are about 3-4 miles of very deep drops and very steep hills that required I use 4 wheel drive and low gear to climb. These roads were really narrow and curvy in a few places. Not for driving by the faint hearted, an overloaded rig or one with poor brakes! Both Big Coon and Little Coon are served by a single dump site at the park entrance so you have to haul your full tanks up the hills to dump. Cassatot Reefs has its own dump site also at the top of the hills. There are two additional boat launches into the lake in addition to the ones at the campsites and due to the large number of high powered boats going at very high speed in this small lake there are a lot of wakes and noisy traffic. We therefore found canoeing to be a challenge. I enjoyed our stay and it was interesting to meet dedicated fishermen but I am not sure we’ll come back again.

And this is how far we have come on our slow migration home.

Gillham Lake

Yet Another Country Vet Visit.

I had previously complained about the ridiculously high cost of pet vet care.

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Saturday afternoon the same vet showed up for yet another parking lot session of shots. All three animals got all their shots and I got a certificate good for two years of border crossing from the vet for $150 total. $150 for three animals (two dogs and a cat)!

Again the same quick efficiency, no frills, get it done attitude I love about the country.

We didn’t bother with heart worm this year because I discovered you can order a big fat tube of heart worm medication for a horse for $10 from Amazon. Horses require a much larger dose than dogs and cats but since I have a degree in biochemistry I know how to do the conversion to get the right much much smaller dose. (I honestly think anyone who can double a recipe or halve it could also do that same thing. Be careful though if you do it wrong you’ll kill your pet. The drug is called ivermectin and the dog sized dose from horse medication works out to about what you can get swirling a toothpick in it. You can also order dog sized pills that even with shipping will be 1/4 to 1/2 the cost from Australia where a rip off vet prescription is not required and you aren’t lining the pockets of some crook in big pharma.)

And so the whole $60/six month heart worm in the little beef flavoured capsules is a rip off. The medication costs pennies. It’s all in the packaging and marketing. And insisting you must have the heart worm blood smear once a year is also ridiculous since if you have been using the medication faithfully the odds of killing your pet by continuing the medication are so very very low they are almost zero.

What typical small animal vets charge for vet care in the cities in my area is a crime. In 2013 I paid over $250 for each pet and even that required a lot of arguing and refusing stuff in order to keep it that low. It is a rip off. Let me say that again. IT IS A RIP OFF!!!! It is a whole series of completely unnecessary tests and procedures that are  at best worthless and at worst potentially dangerous for the purpose of filling pockets and the veterinary profession should be ashamed of themselves. If a country vet can pull into parking lot, fully vaccinate nearly 100 animals in an hour for $50 each there is no reason such a thing could not also be done in the city.

Oh, and our town has free vet housing, hospital/clinic and office space sitting empty because most vets in Canada prefer their over priced, high profit, rip off small animal city clinics instead of actually taking care of sick animals in need in rural area. That’s a double shame on them.

 

 

Woofstock!

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Sometimes we get involved in the zaniest things. Today we attended Apalachicola’s Woofstock. Each year the local Humane Society has a fundraising parade during Mardi Gras and it is endlessly popular. This year’s theme was Woodstock. Dogs, peoples and vehicles were to be decked out in 1960s style costumes. The price to enter as a”walker” was $5 with all proceeds going to the Humane Society in Apalachicola. Over 1000 people attended the day and there were multiple ways to donate including buying a donated doggy costume, buying stuff at the bake sale, buying hot dogs and paying to walk or ride in the parade, cash donations and purchase of Mardi Gras beads.

The whole town turned out including the fire department.

Fred and Trusty had an great fun. There was a woman selling donated doggy costumes and there wasn’t a lot of choice so Fred and Trusty got to go as a ketchup and mustard hot dogs. Everyone thought they were adorable. They had a lot of pictures taken. Both dogs seemed to think the whole thing was a total blast. There were a lot of noses and butts to sniff and plenty of attention to be earned. Trusty especially enjoyed strutting her stuff once she figured it all out.

After the parade all the Woofstockers retired to assorted dog friendly venues all about the town for refreshments and more pics. Fred photobombed one post parade picture and almost made off with a cupcake and some smoked tuna dip. We brought the dogs home and they went right to sleep. Maybe not so much fun as a day on the beach, but certainly worth the trip. And all for such a great cause!

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Peaceful Days

We have settled into our Florida home. Life has been gentle and sweet. Long days of lazy beach walking, and collecting natures treasures. We were walking the beach and found endless sea pansy soft coral so we carried handfuls back to the marine lab where they will be put to good use instead of dying. Another day we watched our favourite dolphin pod driving mullet into the shore in high surf and we were overjoyed to see they have a new baby. I shouted my congratulations and was treated to a waving tail display and a happy jump and a rolling wave of one flipper in the air. Dolphins call dogs. Jack’s Lily swims out and then swims with them when they call. The dolphins like Lily, especially the younger ones and they greet her and try to get her to play but she isn’t a very good swimmer. When they get bored with her simply one dimensional stroke they swim off and she returns to shore, exhausted but full of doggy joy.

On the walk pictured below, in a heavy fog, we disturbed a large osprey who had just caught a fish. The bird flew off with the squirming fish tight in its grip. Yet another day we found a pile of slag from the clearing of a canal and it was packed full of fossils. We carried home chunks of ancient sea bed turned to rock with shells and worm tracks that day. We saw my favourite bird of all birds, the impossible, ridiculous, roseate spoonbill which is much more respectable looking in its native habitat doing its natural thing than when seen in any zoo. The winter birds who headed south before us, but whom we left in Georgia, have finally arrived and the trees are full of cardinals, robins, oriels,  blue jays, hundreds of starlings in stunning murmurations, golden and brown finches and yellow warblers and all those nondescript little brown ones I can never distinguish. They are far quieter and far more social in winter than when they are combating for mates and nesting places back in Alonsa so one can see entire folks living in peaceful close proximity.

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The dogs love the beach. Each morning a large group of dog owners meets early and walks the beach with dogs off leash. The dogs run and play and do the dog thing with abandon while we walk and chat about grandchildren, vehicles, our aches and pains, and where good sales are. The dogs roll in the stinky gunk, swim in the water and dig, endlessly dig in the sand. We moan about how they will need a bath again but none of us makes a move to interfere with their dog play. Some dogs try fishing. The fish are too smart. The crabs fight back and win. Yelp and a quick walk back and the dropped crab moves off. Some dogs, like my Trusty, prefer to just lie there and enjoy the sun and the heat in quiet dignity. Trusty watches the others with disdain and she never needs a bath. The only time I have ever seen Trusty get excited and take to the surf was when the dolphins called her, presumably to show off their new baby. She’s not as good at swimming as Lily and she gave up when the waves hit her chest. She ran up and down the beach crying, unable to fully answer their song. I wish I could hear it.

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Most people like the beach when its sunny and hot. I prefer to go to the beach when it’s cloudy and cool and a stiff breeze makes for rolling surf. On such days it’s often just us with our dogs and we can walk for kilometres without meeting another human being. These are also the days one is most likely to see the dolphins.

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There is something healing about the beach. The voice of Ulmo (if you are a Tolkien’s Silmarillion fan you will recognize that) is soothing.

As a child I had favourite song. I learned it in school. Our school day began with the Lord’s Prayer and two hymns from an English child’s hymnal.

I often hum it quietly to myself as I walk the beach listening to the waves.

“This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.”

“This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.”

“This is my Father’s world, dreaming, I see His face.
I open my eyes, and in glad surprise cry, “The Lord is in this place.”
This is my Father’s world, from the shining courts above,
The Beloved One, The Holy One,
Came—a pledge of deathless love.”

“This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The Lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth we trod.
No place but is holy ground.”

“This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.”

There should be something about dolphins in there. Perhaps I will have to add a verse.