Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Gibby Really Upset Me Today

Gibby did a terrible thing today. When my back was turned, he ran away. I was distracted because the man who hunts my woods was angry about the timber cruisers and had spent the day pulling his hunting blind and his tree stands out of the woods. He was putting the final touches on his two truckloads when I arrived and he was so angry he barely spoke to me. His wife didn't even say hello. I was thinking about why he was so angry instead of paying attention to Gibby when I was feeding the chickens - in fact, I was distracted enough that I'm not sure I put the feed wagon away before I left. Anyway, while I wasn't thinking about him, Gibby disappeared.

I don't know what made me realize he was gone, but I thought he would return when I called him - so, I called and called. No Gibby. I covered the whole barnyard, calling in each direction, no Gibby. At that point, I was ready to believe the worst, and walked down the driveway and along the side of the road, expecting at any moment to see Gibby laying in the ditch. Phew, no Gibby.

My hunter friend came back to get his last vehicle and we chatted. I think he realized he had been foolish, said he should have talked to me before he spent the day ruining his hunting season, and then he started helping me look for Gibby. More calling and looking all over. The hunter took his four wheeler down the lane toward the woods, but returned when he saw three deer standing in the lane, deer who wouldn't be there if Gibby was there. He came back and then jumped over the riding ring gate (I can't believe I put the water trough right in front of the gate so it can't be opened) and went calling across the north end of the orchard. I pushed part of the fence down so I wouldn't have to jump the gate, and went through the riding ring and then through the orchard to the south side and out into one of the overgrown pastures. No sign of Gibby anywhere. The horses were looking at me like no one had been out in the pasture with them for a long time (perceptive critters, horses are), and there was no dog with them. I gave up. Went back to the car and drove over to my neighbor's house to the west - she's a dog lover - and asked her to keep an eye out for Gibby. I had heard barking from that direction earlier and kind of hoped Gibby had gone over there to visit her dogs. Turns out they had just returned from a trip and the barks were welcome home barks. After one last return and look around the barns and in the dog pen, I took my mother home.

I gave Mother one of those horrid microwaved tv dinners so I could hurry back to the farm. I was so upset that I wasn't a very pleasant dinner companion. Mother suggested I might want to stay at the farm overnight - and I didn't know if that was to look for Gibby or get my grumpy self away from her.

I took a new rug hooking book and the ATHA newsletter with me. I was expecting hours of waiting with no Gibby, but Gibby surprised me - he was waiting uncomfortably in the driveway when I drove in. It was dark out and he was caught in the headlights - not knowing who was coming, so he was kind of dancing around. I spoke to him as I opened the gate and he came running. First he ran to me, then on past me to the car. I think he was really disappointed that the other dogs and Mother were not there. I wanted to drive past the gate and didn't want Gibby to get hurt, so I let him into the back seat of the car. He anxiously sniffed all over the seat and barely responded to me at all. I petted him enough to learn that he was soaking wet. Maybe he'd gone back to the little pond in the woods for a swim.

I checked the dog pen and learned that Gibby had already eaten the two dinners I had left for him, so he must have been back for at least a little while. I put him back in the pen, and told him I was sorry. For the next month or more, through the multiple different kinds of hunting seasons, I'm going to have to keep him on a cable again. He looks way too much like a deer to be running in the woods without getting shot.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Gibby Loves Apples!

Gibby has been disappearing recently - gone for long enough that I've been worried, then he suddenly reappears bounding through the weeds on the west side of the barnyard. I figured the only place to go over there was into the orchard and I couldn't figure out why that would attract Gibby, but I found out today.

Two timber cruisers came out to measure the trees in the woods so they could tell me how many and which ones they wanted to buy. I drove out and joined them long enough so I could take some mushroom and fungus photos for my dye project. They were both very nice, explaining to me why certain trees would provide good quality lumber and others poor quality. The damp side of the forest, where Gibby likes to wallow, grows trees that are useless for lumber - the dampness turns the color darker and maybe splotchy and people don't buy it (too bad lumber doesn't have the same type of appeal as fabric where a variety of shades and the mottled look are good things). It was also interesting to learn that trees that are wider at the bottom are trying to grow around ruined or sick parts of the trunk. After I drove the men back to the barnyard in the back of my truck, we made our deal. I signed the contract, and then we each had an apple. Some people toast with champagne - we woodsy folks eat apples. Gibby went nuts. I thought he thought we had red balls that we might throw for him - but I was wrong.

The two men went back out to the woods to paint the trees. On the way, they tossed out their apple cores - and Gibby charged for them. Seeing that, I tossed my apple core into the air above Gibby's head and he leapt for it and chomped it up - no wonder he wants to be in the orchard!

When the timber crew comes to cut the trees, they're going to reopen the road on the west side of the farm. Right now, it's so deep in weeds that I drove right over a huge old corner fence post because I couldn't see it (I had the two timber cruisers in the back of the truck and neither one even whispered anything like "Woman driver" - just like neither even changed the expression on his face when I told them I was collecting mushrooms because I'm a hooker who likes to dye). Anyway, when that track is open and packed down by the big trucks, it will make a nice race course for Gibby.

Gibby is Cat Bluffed

Gibby wanted to go for a woods walk today. Each time I walked toward the barn, he ran to the corner where the path to the lane begins, but there just wasn't enough time to go.

I had run out of chicken feed, so we had raced up to the feed store, but got there four minutes after closing. Our only alternative was to drive across the road to the produce market and buy a bag of field corn - they have a huge load of bagged corn and apples to sell to people who bait deer, but baiting deer is illegal this year - the DNR found one sick deer on a commercial deer ranch so they made baiting and feeding deer illegal to keep the deer from unnatural gathering, Anyway, getting the corn made us late getting the chores done at the farm.

There was a big cat race to the gate when we drove in the driveway. Brownie is almost always waiting for us and she seems to signal the others. The fastest racer is almost always the new Blackie - who lets me grab her tail while we go as fast as possible back up the driveway. Right after the new Blackie I watch for the fuzzy gray kitten in the photo. This little gray kitten was in a photo posted earlier, sitting on a saddle with burrs in her fur - and she seems to gather more burrs all the time. Today, she not only had burrs and stick-me-tights in her fur, she also had a piece of white fuzz from the dog bed that Gibby ripped apart when he first arrived. To my surprise, she let me pick her up so I could remove the worst of the stuff stuck to her.

She is a very brave little kitten. While I was watching the chickens to see if any of them were going to try pecking at the ears of corn I had put in their pens, Gibby decided he was going to chase cats. I had already stopped him once, just by saying NO until he turned back, but he knew my attention was on the chickens - so, he headed for the porch on the red house where I feed the cats. One little kitten was sitting about six feet out in front of the porch entrance. Gibby got to her first, but she wouldn't run. She stood up and hissed at him! His nose was right above her when she hissed, and he backed off fast! I didn't dare laugh at him, I just called him "Good boy" and gave him a hug.

When we were ready to leave, I looked back and noticed the black cats taking over the chicken pens. There are several sitting on top of the tarp covered chicken wire and several more patrolling the perimeter. I wonder if the cats are protecting the chickens...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Gibby Neglected Today

Today, I didn't get to see Gibby until early evening because Mother and I went to Grand Ledge, MI, about an hour away from home to see and hear Senator Hillary Clinton. There were about a thousand people in the audience, all willing to wait almost two hours in the hot sun to hear Hillary support Barack Obama. The cheers were loud and long for both our Governor, Jennifer Granholm, and Hillary. Hillary spoke for close to an hour without notes or teleprompter, making a very clear case for the need to save America by saving the middle class. In addition to the impressive speakers, the members of the audience were amazing. Total strangers offered to help me with my mother and her wheelchair throughout the day. One lady passed her sunglasses down to Mother, and another lady brought a brand new t-shirt to put over Mother's head to protect her from the sun. A man pushed Mother's wheelchair up the steep exit from the park and then a quarter mile down the road, when it became a steep rise, a group of young ladies offered to push the chair up the hill, and one of them did. It wasn't easy pushing and I was/am very grateful. The best I could do to return the many favors was give a bottle of Gatorade I had tucked into the back pocket of Mother's chair for emergencies, to a lady we passed who was leaning into a tree and feeling ill from the heat - she had been standing for the several hours we were there.

When we returned home, I had planned to go to the Webster Township Festival, which was being held just down the road and around the corner from the farm. Usually at the annual festival I have a chance to talk with a rug hooker or two, see some animals, go into the old one room schoohouse and the old townhall, and maybe have a pork roast dinner. Mother was worn out, so I went down to the festival alone, planning to pick up a couple of their dinners to take back home. The first display inside the fence after I parked was a couple rows of old tractors. I love old farm equipment, so I walked the rows, and, right at the end, found my stolen tractor. Mark Bennett of Hamburg, MI stole my tractor over a year ago, and there it was! I spent the next two hours waiting for the police, finding they can't/won't help me, talking to the thief, and determining that finally, all I can do is go to court and sue the crook. Needless to say, by the time I got to the farm I wasn't in a very good mood.

When I pulled in the driveway and the cats came running in force, I had to let go of a little of my anger. By the time the cats were fed, I was feeling more civilized. Gibby was frantically barking, so I almost ran over to him, let him out, and he did that amazing jumping thing, but this time, he kissed me! With just the lightest touch, he jumped so he put his front paws on my shoulders and touched my face with his nose. I was so surprised my bad mood was entirely lost. Gibby raced from me to the car, probably looking for Mother and the other dogs, and then back to me at full racing speed. I was sure he was going to knock me down, but he skidded by me in the dirt and turned around behind me to run again. I tried to take some photos, but he was moving entirely too fast.
I did get a photo of the branch that almost killed the dogs yesterday, but it looks very small in the photo. Even though it looks small, it probably weighs a couple hundred pounds because I couldn't budge it at all. Gibby knew he wasn't getting his usual run time, but he was a complete gentleman about going back into his pen - of course, I was carrying a can of his favorite dog food to supplement his dry food. He had that juicy food scarfed up almost before I had the gate chained, then he came to the spot in the fence where I can see him as I leave - see him and feel really guilty for leaving so soon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Gibby Likes Me!

I was able to visit Gibby twice again today. The roofers are finished with the boarder's building so I went down to the farm to check the clean-up and write their final check. Gibby was barking, so I let him out as soon as I got there. I thought he might take off for the woods, but he stayed close by. I couldn't stay for long, so I told Gibby it was time to get a drink and he headed right for the dog pen. When I fastened the lower chain on the gate, Gibby gave me a gentle little lick.

When I went back again in the late afternoon, I let Gibby out of his pen, and instead of doing his wild run out to the yard, he bounced in front of me, jumping up to my nose, and making a funny little sound - he repeated this funny bouncing several times. I told him to go on, and he ran over to the car to say hello to my mother. He was pleased to greet everyone, even was gentle with Patches (yesterday, he told her to quit jumping on him by pinning her to the ground and growling at her.)

I went about my chores and was feeding the chickens when I heard an ominous crack. I looked around, and saw a large branch from a maple tree dangling down about 30 feet high, right over Gibby, who was standing next to Blue and Patches. I was suddenly so scared I couldn't even get a yell out, as the branch suddenly fell right on the spot where Gibby had been. Whew! I didn't see him move, but he was not there and the two cattle dogs were sitting inches beyond the branch. I went over to drag it out of the driveway, but the main part of the branch was too heavy for me to move. I rolled it over as much as I could, just enough to be able to drive around it. I found Gibby and gave him some great big hugs, followed by hugs for Blue and Patches. I am very glad they are all still with me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Gibby was MUD from toes to tail

I think Gibby thought he was in heaven today. I had to walk the farm with a timber cruiser, and Gibby went along. He ran and ran and ran. At one point, I was afraid we'd be in trouble - the timber cruiser and I spooked up a deer, a small doe. The doe ran parallel to our path for a minute, then crossed in front of us and ran into "The Lurker's" woods. (The Lurker is a man who used to lurk in the bushes around one of my training areas. One day I was giving riding lessons to a group of little girls and a couple of them whispered to me that there was a man hiding in the bushes. Of course, I went right after him, using my Fifth Grade Teacher supervising playground voice and he scrambled backwards out of the bushes and made a fast dash for his own property. I was still giving him verbal what-for when he reached the corner of his own woods, and he turned and said, "I wasn't hunting", half a dozen times. There he is in camouflage clothes with his bow and arrows under his arm, and he says he's not hunting! I informed him that anyone lurking in my bushes and not hunting must be a pervert hiding there to watch little girls - and I said I was calling the police immediately. He was immediately gone. He has been called "The Lurker" ever since and I no longer remember his real name.)

Gibby came back from one of his forward forays and caught the deer scent. A deer colored dog chasing deer in this country would be shot, no second chance. So, we yelled his name, I yelled NO, the timber cruiser has two rottweilers and a strong, I AM THE BOSS, tone, and he yelled, "come here", and, unbelievably, Gibby left the scent and came to us. Whew! I don't think I have ever pulled a dog off a deer scent before. My old shaggy black dog, Shady, had been smuggled out of another county because she had a death sentence for being a deer chaser, and brought to me - to my farm where I could easily count 96 deer in the hayfield on a summer evening. She survived to very old age, but never stopped chasing deer.

Gibby loved the hay field, he ran and leaped and ran some more, but I think he loved the woods even more. He followed scent trails back and forth and covered the whole woods before I could get over the fallen tree near the entrance. Luckily, some of the ancient old fence was still up enough that Gibby ran into it and turned back into the woods. He found the mucky area near the back corner and ran up to us from there with black goo oozing from his toes all the way up to mid body and looked like a very happy dog. A few minutes later, he came back clean again. Then he did it all over again - covered with black goo, then washed clean. The third time, I had finally walked to the right spot and saw him rinse himself off in big clear puddle - what a clever dog!

I learned that the Emerald Ash Borer has been active in my woods. Lots of dead Ash trees. The Ash are so like the Walnut that I had thought they were just young walnut trees. I suspect there are no live Ash trees in my woods anymore. I lost a whole species of tree a few years ago when my front woodlot was all Elm and they died off. Surprisingly, a young elm sprung up in the middle of my front yard and is now about thirty feet tall. I think the Dutch Elm Disease must have died out and somehow this volunteer tree might survive. I'm not particularly fond of Elm trees, even though they lined the streets where I grew up, because their leaves are tough and rough like sandpaper when you drive the lawn mower around the tree and run into the low hanging branches - but I have great respect for that brave survivor.

The timber cruiser wanted to zig zag through the woods and check out more trees, so I headed back to the barn yard. I had way over walked what my legs could do and I wasn't sure I could even get back without having to sit and rest for a long time. I was quite surprised that Gibby didn't stay in the woods but came with me. He didn't stop running, but he kept me in sight. I had to stop a number of times to rest, but he didn't leave me behind.

When we got back, I went inside to wash, and Gibby spent about five minutes rolling in the grass. When the timber cruiser returned, Gibby was sound asleep on his back, all of his paws in the air. I said, "Gibby, do you want a drink?", and Gibby ran right into the dog pen to his water bucket. I think he is a genius.

When Mother and I came back several hours later at feeding time, I thought Gibby would be tired and subdued, but he was ready to run again. Mother gave him the supreme compliment, she said, "I think your new dog is another George."

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Gibby had a busy day again

I was able to spend several morning and early afternoon hours at the farm today. The supplies for re-roofing the boarder's lounge were being delivered and I had to be there to tell them where to put everything.

After everything was delivered, I let Gibby out. Fortunately, he shows no interest in going down the driveway unless there are people in the driveway. As long as he continues to focus his attention in the barnyard, he'll be safe. He ran around checking things out but didn't do his wild running - no sliding soccer tackles to scare me. I spent a little time cleaning out the dog pen, Gibby had quite a collection of cardboard and aluminum dinner trays. The recent weekend of constant rain washed away a lot of the dust that accumulated during the years the pen was not being used and part of the pen floor is now the original gravel. I never liked the gravel for the dog paws, but at least it is the little round kind and not rough pieces of rock. Gibby seems to be very happy with his dog house. He chose the smaller of the two - well, actually, I chose it for him by putting it under the tarp, but he agreed with the choice and runs right into it when he's in the pen and not eating. He seems to get smaller in the dog house, he curls up and only takes up half of the space.

For the first time, when it was time for me to leave, Gibby didn't want to stay in the pen. He went in willingly, but when he saw that I was closing the gate instead of going in with him, he tried to squeeze his way out. That really bothers me, having to lock him up, but it's so much safer for him. At least I could promise to be back later.

The roofer discovered some ants in the two by fours where he fell through the roof, so I had to buy some poison. I bought a concentrate and had to mix it after I got to the farm. I let Gibby out, then went into the farmhouse to mix the poison. Mother said Gibby went back and forth between watching the back door and putting his head in the car window. It took forever to mix the poison - I wanted to do it very carefully, so, of course, none of it worked out right. First of all, I used a strofoam cup to measure out the concentrate - big mistake. The cup disintegrated in my hand while I was trying to pour it into the gallon bottle. Ugh, poison all over the sink, on my hands, and splashed who knows where else. I'm going to have to do a major scrub down before the dogs stay there when I'm in New York. That poison is so potent I don't want them to touch a dried drop. Even after thoroughly washing my hands a number of times, I was leery about petting the dogs, especially Gibby who has lately taken to licking my hands. I pasted a poison warning on it and put it on the pallet with the roofing supplies.

Gibby followed me through the rest of my chores, but I wasn't up to playing with him - dealing with the poison was exhausting. That's the first poison chemical I've allowed on the farm since 1984 and I don't like it, but those carpenter ants must be stopped before more of the roof falls in. Gibby seemed to respond to my mood and was pretty subdued. He chased some cats, but not with his usual energy.

He was even pretty calm when I took his dinner out to the pen. Here's hope for a better tomorrow.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Gibby, Gibby, Gibby

Gibby and I had a great time twice today. I called my friend, Bobby, to ask a question about roofing supplies and caught him out in the middle of my woods (aren't cell phones great?). I hadn't heard about it, but apparently there is a new, extra week of killing deer - a special week for killing does. This is a horrible time to do this - I have seen a lot of deer lately, babies still with spots. Killing the does will kill those babies, too. Bobby was checking the woods to see if our frequent trespasser, a man we call "the Indian" was out there killing deer. Last year we had a terrible time with him - he shot a little baby deer - shot it right at the foot of the tree, deep in my woods, where Bobby's son was hunting. Needless to say, the son was very upset and words were exchanged. Anyway, Bobby told me we had trouble, a dead tree fell across two fences, my neighbors sheep pasture fence and my horse pasture fence. The new sheep fence was really smashed, and last we knew, there were a hundred sheep in that pasture. So, I left immediately for the farm, and Gibby joined me to walk back to check the fence.

When I let Gibby out of the pen (the gate repair is still holding), he did his wild running, around in a big circle, back to me, to the car, back to me, etc. I think he was surprised to find the car empty, no other dogs and no mother. He did one straight line run at full speed right at me, but I was now confident that he would swerve away or stop in time - but, oooooooooooo, I was almost wrong. He slammed on his brakes about a stride too late and slid right into my feet- just barely touching them. For a second, I was sure he was going to knock my feet out from under me.

We went down the lane that starts next to the barn, Gibby going back and forth and side to side, covering about ten times more ground than I was. When we got to the beginning of the pasture, a tree that grows right in the corner and acts as a fence post, had dropped some hickory nuts on the ground, so I gathered a pile and left them there to pick up on the way back. I was thinking the squirrels would probably see that pile and make it disappear before I got back.

I saw the downed tree and it really did some damage to the sheep pasture's new fence. I was glad Bobby was coming back with a chain saw. Once I saw it, there was nothing I could do alone, so I walked a little further and found another scattering of hickory nuts. I was really surprised to find them before the deer or squirrels or other animals had gobbled them up - last year, I didn't find any - so I piled those up, too. Gibby was dancing on his toes, trying to get me to hurry on, and he didn't even tell me that a man was coming up the lane calling my name. It was the fellow, a Quarter Horse cowboy, who works for the sheep man. I stopped and talked with him on my way to the farm. He came over to help with the tree and instead helped me with the hickory nuts. I filled the pouch I made out of the front of my shirt. I already made a hickory nut dye sample, so I might use these for eating. I think I'll save the husks and dry them so I can see if dried hickory husks give as good dye as fresh hickory husks. Gibby must have been disapointed because our walk was cut short. We walked back to the barn and got there just as Bobby arrived with the chainsaw. Gibby was as good and polite as any dog could be. I told him I had to leave and he walked right over to the dog pen. I reached over to chain the gate, and he licked my hand - such a wild big dog being so gentle!

I went back to the farm again at feeding time and Gibby was just as active as if he hadn't run for miles earlier in the day. We both went back to check the fences and found the two men had cut up the tree trunk and fixed the sheep fence, but left the horse fence down on the ground with the tree branches laying on it. It's rusty old fence that needs to be replaced, but when it's up the horses respect it, so I had to prop it up with some of the branches from the tree. ( I left one big branch in the path so Bobby would have to stop his four-wheeler to move it - I was feeling a little irked that my fence was still down.) Gibby was running back and forth, up to the barn yard and then back to me. Patches was barking at him and I think he couldn't decide who he wanted to play with, Patches or me.

I fed Gibby just before time to leave. Yesterday I put a whole bag of dry dog food in a feeder that he can access any time he wants. I couldn't tell whether he had eaten much of it or not. I think he figured out how to use it - he has to push his head on a swinging door to get to the food. However, he really loves the other food I bring to him from Mother's leftovers, he jumps up to see it no matter how high I hold it while I'm taking it to the pen. I think he's saying, "What's on the menu? is it meatballs and rice again? Oh, I hope it's spaghetti! Wow, is it really a hamburger and fries???? Yum! Today there were no leftovers, so his meal was a can of premium dog food.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Gibby is Busy

The mended gate held - Gibby was in the dog pen when I arrived this afternoon. I was really pleased because I had sent some young boys to the farm to see about roofing the boarder's lounge building (that's the name we always used for the vacant converted barn on the farm.) I was concerned that Gibby might be overly protective if the boys got there before I arrived - but, like most boys who haven't successfully held many jobs, the boys were an hour late, and when they finally arrived, Gibby treated them like old pals.

When I opened the dog pen gate, Gibby wanted his one minute of petting.He ran to the car to say hello to my mother, then he sat by my side and let me rub behind his ears. Looking down at him from that perspective, he has a really big head - lots of brain room. Maybe that's why he is so curious and so smart.

After his petting, he did some wild running.

Then, he started MY work routine! He apparently remembered that I go first into the barn to check on the horses and the indoor water trough. He headed into the barn ahead of me, then came back to be sure I was following.
He went right into the pump room and checked out the pump. If he had hands, I bet he would have turned on the water for me.
Next, he ran through the stallion section, then came back and jumped up to look into the stalls - stalls that have been empty now for almost a decade. I wonder if he could tell who used to live there.
Outside of the barn, he tried to play with George.

George just kept turning away, keeping his back to Gibby.
After just a few minutes, George begged to be let back into the car. He made it very clear that he has no intention of making friends with that new dog.
Patches is a completely different story. As soon as Gibby gets near, Patches just flies at Gibby. When he isn't near, she barks at him.
Gibby condescends to play with her for a few minutes, but his wild running is hampered by the rope clipped to her collar - which somehow always ends up wrapped around my legs.
I'm having a lot of fun with Gibby. I enjoy doing the rounds with him. He watched me feed the cats from a distance, then stood in front of the chicken pen while I filled the chicken feeders. It's almost like he's apprenticing and watching everything I do so he can get it right and do it himself next time.

Gibby has Come Out!

The real Gibby has surfaced. He's no longer being the polite guest, he knows he's home and he knows he is wanted and loved. He was out in the yard the last two days, having destroyed the mending on the previously destroyed pen gate. Each day, he was sitting by the picnic table - right where Rusty used to wait - and came running when he was sure it was our car in the driveway. When I opened the gate, he ran to me, swung his back side around by my leg, sat down, and leaned in to me to be hugged and petted. Here I was thinking I should train him to stay in the pen, wanting to be stern with him, and giving him great big hugs.

Gibby only stays still for moments at a time, so our hugs were not long - his next activity was to show off his great physical prowess. He can run VERY fast, leap and twist in the air, reverse direction, run back to me, slam on his brakes at my feet, then leap above my head into the air. Phew! Nothing to do but observe and admire.

The next act is Kong catch - I throw, he catches. I can't play this game too long because the Kong gets really slimy. It's wonderful to see Gibby so happy.

However, for his safety, I worked on the gate, trying to wire the steel sign back onto the gate. I really miss having wire coat hangers. I looked through the house - went upstairs for the first time since the roof was done and forgot to see how it looks in the loft where there's no ceiling - but couldn't find an old hanger anywhere. In a fit of getting organized a few years ago, I bought a big stack of matching blue plastic hangers. I had to use one of the cables that I had to clip Gibby to before he moved into the pen. It was the first weaving I've done in months - weaving the cable back and forth on the outside of the steel sign. The whole time I was doing it, I was wondering how long it was going to take Gibby to chew through the cable. I'll find out this afternoon.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Gibby was chased by 5 horses

Gibby has had quite a week. The first few days, after only a few minutes of freetime out in the yard, he went after the cats. Each time he chased the cats, I put him back in the dog pen. To reinforce the seriousness of his behavior, I carried an orange plastic Tide bottle and banged it against my leg. When he was on an intent charge after a cat that headed for the deep weeds, I threw the plastic bottle into the weeds to grab his attention. The bottle bothered him enough that when I put it down in the driveway, he circled around it. He seemed to learn instantly that my holding the orange plastic bottle and bouncing it on my leg was a signal he better head for his doghouse. Two days with the bottle and Gibby seemed to learn his lesson. The following two days, Gibby didn't chase any cats at all, didn't even go into their part of the yard.

When I open the pen gate, Gibby comes out like a flying cannon ball. It really isn't safe to be anywhere around for a couple minutes. He flies out of the pen and takes several fast runs in a circle around the trees in the yard. He scares me when he comes running back to me, but he always stops just before I'd be mowed down. After several minutes of this flying around, Gibby comes to me and leans into me for petting.

Well, today Gibby had a big treat. A friend came to the farm to see how we could keep a pair of sheep - two sheep we might go in on together - so I took her out back of the barn to see my neighbors sheep, but there were no sheep. No sheep in his field, but horses in mine, so we walked out to see the horses. We ended up walking out to the hay field gate so my friend could see the back part of the farm - there's more land beyond that gate than there is in front of it. I haven't seen most of my farm this year, so I was happy to walk through the field, but it was really exhausting - for me, but not for Gibby. Gibby tried to follow us when we entered the field by climbing over a gate, but he couldn't get through. He was smart enough to find another way to enter from the other side of the barnyard, but that put him immediately in the pasture where the horses were grazing. The horses are probably used to protecting each other from coyotes, since there are a lot of coyotes around, and Gibby is a coyote color. The horses formed a phalanx and went right after Gibby. He halted his mad dash, backed up a few steps, and then really turned tail and ran. Gibby again figured out a way to catch up with us by skirting around the horses - and then he had a wonderful time racing around and around through weeds taller than his head. He was perfect about staying close while he was running, and then he followed us back to the barnyard. In the barnyard, he made his first mistake of the day - he chased a cat. I regretted having to do it, but I had to pick up the orange bottle and order Gibby back to his doghouse. Either he knew he was in big trouble or he was as exhausted as I was, because he layed right down by the fence and didn't even bark when we left.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Gibby and the Roofers

Finally, the roofers came out to reroof the front two sections of my house. The last time those sections had new shingles was thirty years ago. There were three layers of shingles on top of the original old cedar shake shingles, so everything had to be torn off. The cedar shingles had a life of fifty years, then each layer of shingles might have had a life of 30 to 50 years which would take the house back 140 to 200 years ago, so the newest parts of the house were roofed the first time somewhere between the Civil War era and the settlement of Michigan in the 1830s. The older part of the house is shown on the right side of the left hand photo above. The ceilings in that part of the house were so low that my hair almost touched the ceiling (and I'm only 5'4") so either the early settlers were very small people or they built the house low so it would be easy to heat. The two sections in front were built differently. I've always thought they were sections from other houses that were dragged over here and attached to the original house. They were built with a mixture of the old handmade nails and the early machine made nails which might date the construction to about 1850 - or, maybe they were built earlier and then brought over and joined together around 1850.
The crew that came to do the roofing consisted of about ten men - with only two who spoke a little English. They all worked really hard and really fast.
(Here's a word of warning if you're looking for roofers in Michigan: Mr. Roof advertises all over the place, so I called them for their advertised $19.99 price for ten square feet, including tear-off, clean-up, etc. Well, the first estimate was a tad under $18,000. When I told the estimator that was too high he lost his temper and was so unpleasant I ordered him off my property. At the sale price, his estimate must have figured on an 80,000 square foot roof - slightly larger than mine. A week later, his "boss" called and asked if he could give an estimate. I said okay, he came out and remeasured, and his price was a tad under $8,000, which I still thought was too high, but I wanted to get it done, so I gave him a $500 down payment - and didn't hear from him for two weeks. I called to find out when the roof would be done, and was told it had to be $4,000 more. I told them I would be nice and let them out of their contract, and they should just send my down payment back. That was the beginning of August, maybe five weeks ago, still no refund. Finally, I called a local contractor and he's doing it for $3,000. So, I just wanted you to know I do not recommend Mr. Roof.)
I just happened to spot this poor little kitten while I was watching the roofers. Poor thing has some burrs on her back, but I would have scared her half to death if I tried to catch her to take them out. Maybe her mother will help her.
Gibby did not like having all those men around, but his barking wasn't loud enough to be heard over the generators they were running in their truck. I think Gibby was barking, "Roof, roof, roof, get off my roof, roof, roof."
Later, when the roof was finished and the men were gone, I let Gibby out to run in the yard. The cattle dogs were on their leads attached to their line between two trees. They did their best to attack Gibby, but he was smart enough to stay just out of range.
The new roof looks pretty good.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gibby had company

Gibby had a normal day, sleeping in his dog house when I drove into the farm. He didn't hear the car until I had already driven all the way in, turned around, parked, and rolled down the windows. At that point, he woke up, came to the viewing spot in the pen fence, and gave a couple of barks. My mother was determined that those hello barks were intended for her - and she might have been right. Even though she never gets out of the car and he is normally on a cable that keeps him about thirty feet away from the car, they seem to have some kind of connection. Mother tunes into animals in an amazing way - she knew George was sick before I did and I spend hours a day with him. Whenever she has been concerned about an animal, she has been right. Anyway, Gibby and I played stick and kong toss, and then Patches and Gibby had a bark contest while I fed the chickens and filled one of the water troughs. I fed Gibby and put him back in the dog pen and then we left.

On the way back to my mother's house, I got a call from the friends who were coming out for dinner. They wanted to meet Gibby. So, I turned around and went back to the farm - very hard to explain to Mother who couldn't figure out where the friends were and how I knew and how long we would have to wait - being deaf and unable to read lips sometimes makes the world a very worrisome place.

I think it's not making a big stretch to call my friend Cathy a "dog whisperer". All of my dogs treat Cathy like a very special being - especially George, he just melts when she comes near. Gibby was no exception. He liked Cathy right away. He was a bit much for Carol, who has only been out of a leg cast for 24 hours, but she did say that he's beautiful. Cathy and I played stick with Gibby for a while and he was a real gentleman and a perfect catch. Cathy thinks he's part pit bull - accounting for his wide head, wide chest, and great power - she could be right. There has always been something about Gibby that reminds me of poor Rusty - and I always suspected Rusty was part pit bull. Maybe other people are more astute than I am and that's why no one wanted to adopt Gibby. There's a lot of negativity about pit bulls and other "fighting" dogs around here, particularly since two people, a woman on her way home and an older gentleman out for a walk, were mauled and killed by four dogs belonging to a woman in Livingston County - and Livingston County is where Gibby came from.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Gibby is the first

Gibby is the first dog I've played with who plays fair - if I toss a stick and he catches it, he brings it back for me to toss again. If I tell him to go find a stick he will keep looking until he finds one or I tell him to stop. All of the other dogs I've had would take a tossed stick and run with it - or tease me by playing keep away with it. Same thing with tossed balls - as a rule, my dogs have always grabbed the ball and kept it. I had one wonderful old dog (Ben, father of Patches) who could keep a tennis ball in his mouth with my hand around it while swinging him in the air. I haven't had a ball for Gibby, but that rubber kong is the same idea, and I think Gibby is trying to play catch with me with it. I toss it, he grabs it, and he throws it back toward me - of course, it bounces in wild directions and I hardly ever get it. I'll have to get a Gibby ball when I go to the pet store to get a new collar for him. We couldn't find the kong today, but Gibby kept going back to the grape vines by the house like he remembered leaving it there.