Saturday, October 18, 2008

Gibby's fine, but I've had some bad news

I've had some bad news about my Blue dog. I took George to the vet for a follow-up visit to check on the effects of the steroids he's taking to fight the autoimmune skin disease (penthagus)that almost killed him. The news with George was pretty good, despite the fact that he's gained ten pounds in ninety days. I thought while we were there that I should bring Blue in to have her phenobarbitol level checked. While the vet was doing the thorough physical check she always does, she found a tumor.

I had already explained that I was going to be in New York next week, so I said I would cancel my trip, but she said we could postpone surgery for a week. The cancer could be one of two types, 1) slow growing, slow enough that Blue could die of old age long before the cancer could kill her, or 2) extremely fast growing, so bloody in surgery she might need transfusions. Luckily, there is a Greyhound Rescue in the area, and Greyhounds are "universal donors". I didn't want to postpone the surgery, but the vet assured me that it wouldn't make a difference. We put Blue on some chemotherapy that could slow the tumor growth for the week I'll be gone.

I guess it's a good thing I wanted Blue's phenobarbitol level checked. Whew!

The other concern is Blue is showing signs of a glandular change, or at least some glandular activity, so we've ordered a pregnancy check along with her other blood test. Blue's too old to have puppies - this is probably almost exactly her twelth birthday, although we've always celebrated her birthday on January 1st, like we do with the horses.

Gibby had visitors both yesterday and today. Cathy, who will take care of him next week, is going to be his new best friend. He loves to play and she enjoyed playing with him. I'm not going to worry about him at all.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Gibby bit me today

Gibby was wild today - as he has been for several days. He has worked out a way to run without getting the cable tangled - he runs as fast as can be in a half circle, reminding me of the way you can draw a circle by putting a piece of chalk at the end of a string. He runs in one direction, then turns and runs the other way - and repeats this activity six or eight times, then runs to the bucket by the door for a drink.
When I had finished feeding the cats and the chickens and checked on the water for the horses, I was ready to feed Gibby. I told him to go to his pen and he gave me a look that clearly said, "You're crazy, lady. You haven't played with me yet." So, I tossed sticks and we played for a while. I stopped playing when Gibby turned the game into tug of war and his teeth came down on my hand - actually, his mouth is so big that somehow my fingers fitted between his teeth and I wasn't pinched at all - but I told him he bit me and Gibby calmed down right away.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Gibby is Assertive

We had to go to a funeral today, a funeral followed by a three hour dinner - then home so Mother could have a nap before we rushed to the farm. We couldn't stay long at the farm because I wanted to drive into Ann Arbor to visit Bezoar, an author cat, who has been alone for a week and may have some good stories stored up.

Gibby has apparently decided he has entitlements. He is entitled to play catch for at least a little while or he won't go back into his dog pen. I haven't seen the kong for several days so the only available toy was the big stick. Yesterday, he played with it so fiercely that he broke off a piece about a foot and a half long. I was able for a while to alternate between throwing the main stick and throwing the smaller piece, but he soon told me that wasn't fair because I was throwing the second one before he had returned the first one. Gibby gets a look on his face that very clearly says, "You aren't playing fair." and then he quits playing.

Blue and Patches were not having a lot of fun. Patches kept barking at Gibby - I kept yelling at her to shut-up (unfortunately, other more polite requests for quiet make no impression at all). Gibby went over to Patches several times, in a bouncy-puppy friendly way, but Patches just lunged at him. Patches would jump, I would yell, and then Blue would be the enforcer and attack Patches. Patches would run and bark, Blue would chase and bark more, and Gibby would watch in amazement. I left them to it while I did my chores.

I gathered two eggs for the first time in months - one from the old hens, and one from the new. A big peach colored one from the old and a little gray-green one from the Araucaunas. We're going to have eggs for Sunday breakfast and try the new little eggs for the first time.

I broke up the barkfest by telling Gibby to go to his pen - my goodness that dog is smart - and off he trotted. Yesterday, he had explored into the weeds around my flatbed trailer and gotten his cable wrapped over and over around some Goldenrod so he was tied tight and whined for help - today he didn't go anywhere near that spot. Yesterday I had to take him off the cable so I could get it untangled and when he was loose, he didn't run away, just went directly to his pen. He is so smart, he runs to the pen and then waits just inside the gate for me to catch up with him and unclip his cable. If I have to go into the house to get his canned food, he sits right in the same spot and waits for me.

I can't stop thinking about some photos I saw at the funeral today. Our friend had emigrated from Chekoslovakia in the forties. There was a photo of his parents, with his father wearing a cross awarded to him by the czar. I have been thinking how excited I was about getting my letter from the university, how much more excitement there must have been around getting an award from the czar. There was also a photo of his cousin in a Nazi uniform. The cousin was conscripted by the Nazis and was never heard from again. He came here and earned a PhD in something to do with metals - and was given an award by China for developing something to do with better steel.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Gibby has a longer cable

Gibby now has a double length cable, he can reach the whole length of the back yard. Now it's harder for me to play with him, I am very leery of being caught by that cable. When I back off out of his way, he comes at me on his hind legs with his front legs up and waving - reminding me of a great big teddy bear. When he wants me to pet him, he runs to the end of the cable and then lets the cable hold his upper body back while he swings his rear end around and sits right next to me. His timing is so perfect, he doesn't knock me over. He only gives me a moment to hug and pet him, then he's off again at a run. He has new area to explore, but somehow in all that extra space we lost his kong. I had trouble trying to look for it because I had to keep alert to the approach of the cable. George was in the yard when Gibby did one of his fast run-arounds and the cable wrapped around George's feet - he did quite a dance to get loose before he lost his footing. That was one skillful dance I wish I had caught on camera.

Today we had one of those miracles that makes farming exciting. After raising the five little Aracauna chicks, almost catching my mother's house on fire with their heat lamp, discovering that one of the chicks was a rooster, having that rooster escape and run me ragged around the barnyard, and waiting and waiting, today, FINALLY, the first egg arrived! It is so different from the eggs laid by the other hens - it's half as big and it's gray. I called it green, but the camera thought it was gray and it looks very gray and small in the egg box with the super extra large brown eggs.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Poor Gibby

On Sunday, poor Gibby didn't get much of my attention, and he had to put up with dog trials going on across the street. The dogs were all Border Collies, and the sheep are the sheep that should be living next door to my barn, but aren't because the babies were dying. The shepherds guided the dogs with high pitched whistles and I'm sure that sound carried across the road to poor Gibby, alone in his dog pen.

Today, I had to drive down to the livestock auction to buy some hay. My horses forage in the pastures all winter, unless and until the snow is too deep, then I have to provide their forage in the form of baled hay. Last winter, I cleared out my hay loft and fed them that old hay, cleared it to the point that there are only about a dozen old bales stacked up in one corner - those are there for the cats to tunnel into. So, now that the weather is cool enough, it's time to acquire enough hay for at least a few months of feeding. I was shocked at the price of hay - I used to refuse to buy any for more than $2 a bale, today I paid $5.30 per bale. A very pleasant man, originally from Ontario, helped me load my 25 bales - which was wonderful because I learned that I'm not as strong as I used to be, but I had to unload the bales and put them into the barn by myself. Poor Gibby got to watch me from afar - I couldn't let him loose even though there were no hunters around because the lumberjacks were in the woods cutting down the trees.
I drove back to the woods to see how the work was coming. I got there just in time to see a beautiful old tree fall. It was shocking to
see the big earth mover in the woods. It was being used to drag the big logs out to the hay field. I saw only two big logs out there when I parked my truck, and I watched the third one dragged out. That big machine made a wide road through the woods and the fallen trees had already left a wide opening in the canopy so sunlight was hitting where it hadn't been seen for many years. I'm wondering how the wildflowers will be effected next spring - I haven't been back there for several springs, but I used to love watching the trillium and jack-in-the-pulpits give way to a carpet of adder's tongues.
When I came back for the evening feeding, Gibby really let me have it - jumping at me in a way he never has before. When I opened the gate and clipped the cable to his collar, he took off in a run as usual, but then came back and jumped next to me like a jumping jack, making a little cry deep in his throat. He even took my hand and then my wrist in his mouth. I think I was being given a really strong lecture. I played kong toss with him as long as I could stand it, several times he stopped playing and threw himself next to me to be petted and hugged. Then I deserted him to feed the chickens. He grabbed his long stick and started flinging it around, so I was glad I wasn't within range.
For the first time, Patches didn't spend her time at the farm barking at Gibby. I don't know what caused the difference today, but it was certainly much more pleasant - I could hear the gathering of the large flock of birds in the top of the huge old black walnut tree next to my house. It sounded like hundreds of birds, but they were so high up in the tree I couldn't see even one. They gather there for a couple days every fall and have done so for forty years, but I've never learned what kind of birds they are.
I'm going to have to spend more time with Gibby tomorrow, even though it's Bingo day and I have to go to the bicycle store to pick up my tricycle.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Gibby had a dull day, I had a great day

At a University of Michigan varsity field hockey game today (UofM vs Temple) a small group of "pioneer women athletes" were honored by an introduction during halftime. The group has been granted honorary athletic letters for their participation on the field hockey team back in the 1960s.
Up until some time in the later 1970s women at the University were basically second class citizens. Womens sports were club sports, sort of sponsored by the university, but not recognized or financed in the same way as the men. In the sixties, even the cheerleaders and the band members were all male. A fall football extravaganza was a completely male event.
One woman doctoral candidate, Sheryl Szady, used her research opportunity to find the women athletes from those early days and persuade the powers that be to recognize us as pioneer women athletes. I played field hockey all the way from my freshman year through several years of graduate school. After more than forty years, today, I received a letter jacket. That's me in the photo, on the left. The others are Chris Schneider, Cheryl Barkovich, and Mary Hensel, who all played field hockey in the late sixties. I was not any sort of super player, but I loved the game and for me, autumn leaves meant field hockey. My mother started showing me and my friends how to play when we were still in grade school, which went to eighth grade. Then, I played all the way through high school, college, and graduate school. I only stopped playing when I started buying horses.

Those girls today had all kinds of advantages we didn't have - we played on a grass lawn behind the dormitories, a place where we sometimes had to beg boys to leave and toss their football elsewhere. The girls today played on astroturf, or at least some kind of special surface, a surface that had to be watered down during halftime, a surface that has a wonderful give and bounce to it. They have a shelter over their bench area - we just put our stuff on the ground near the field. They have an announcer stand - with an announcer - and an electronic scoreboard. Well, in addition to the physical changes, the game rules have changed so the game is faster, and the players were so fast my camera missed every significant play. We had to leave during the second half because my mother was getting cold, Michigan was ahead 3 to 0 when we left.

We went from the hockey game to the farm. I drove the car through the overgrown pasture and hayfield back to the woods. I think I showed the woods to my mother once, about twenty years ago, when I hauled the family back on a haywagon pulled by my antique tractor, but she doesn't remember that adventure. I have been talking so much about having trees cut that I wanted her to understand where they were coming from - she really doesn't like the idea that I'm allowing a single tree to be cut down, let alone forty trees. I couldn't drive right into the woods, but I'm hoping she realized that twelve acres of trees is a whole lot of trees.

I don't know how Gibby could tell we were at the farm when he couldn't see us way over beyond the orchard, but he seemed to be barking in an extra excited way when we pulled into the driveway. The cats were also strangely excited. They were scattered all over the yard, from the farmhouse, across the driveway, and all over the woodpile. No one could be unhappy watching two dozen cats and kittens fly in all directions before they all decide to race toward the gate. I picked up the fluffy little gray kitten and then another little gray kitten. For the first time, Fluffy started to purr. I got another burr pulled out of her fur, but there is still a wad mashed into her back fur. I'm hoping Gibby never hurts this one.

Gibby was a complete gentleman when I opened the gate and held him back so I could clip the cable on his collar. He ran and jumped around and three times headed for me - he came so close I was catching my breath. Then he dove into the grape vines near the house, I thinking looking for his kong toy. I found the kong over by the picnic table and we played catch for a while. Gibby is a real tease, he pretends he's going to give me the kong, then he tosses it where he can get to it first. After several teasing tosses, he finally lets me have it. I wished I could play this game with him until he was tired (although I'm not sure he ever gets tired), but my mother had been pretty patient all afternoon, so I knew I should hurry. Gibby ran around the trees and played by himself while I was feeding the chickens and giving the cats a second feeding (it seemed to me there were more cats than usual today.) I really hated to leave him. He'll get shortchanged tomorrow, too, since the pioneer athletes will be honored again at a luncheon.

Gibby couldn't run today

These are photos of the woods where Gibby is no longer allowed to go. It's hard to believe this can be a very dangerous place, but during hunting season, it's a killing ground. With neighbors who choose to trespass and choose to shoot into my land, there's no way to guarantee Gibby's safety here. It is a great place for a dog to run and play, but not with the gamble of being shot for a deer - and we've had evidence in the past that my neighbor shoots before he has a clear view of his target. The lumberjacks will be back in the woods today cutting down the marked trees - but one large mature tree will not be cut, even though one side is marked, a second look showed some damage at the bottom of the trunk.

Gibby played and played when I let him out of the dog pen on the cable. He couldn't go very far, but he put on a great show racing around the trees, dancing and prancing and playing the stick game. When I told him he was a good boy, he startled me by dropping the stick and running back to the dog pen fence and touching the body of the dead kitten with his nose.

Then he ran to me and layed down at my feet. If there is any way to read a dog's mind, I would bet Gibby was saying "I am soooo sorry." If I could have been sure he wouldn't run to the woods, I would have taken Gibby off of the cable that instant. Instead, I could just pet him and let him almost knock me down with enthusiasm.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Gibby was a huge disappointment

I was so disappointed this morning. I went down to the farm to be sure Gibby was okay after his adventure yesterday, and I found he had killed one of the young cats. It was one of the two cats who did not run away from him, a mottled brown and orange and black youngster. I won't go into detail about how I know Gibby did it, but I have no doubt.

I found the cat before I let Gibby out of the pen, so I didn't let him out. I carried the body over to the dog pen, put it right in front of the spot in the fence where Gibby stands and barks when he wants me to hurry and let him out. I told him he was a bad dog for killing the cat, he looked at the cat, looked closer, ducked his head and looked up at me. He sat and stopped barking. I left the body there.

Back again in the afternoon, Gibby barked and I told him he was still a bad dog. He stopped barking. He was quiet when I went to the pen with his canned food. He was his usual dancing self while I was opening the gate, but I told him to back up and he did - no joyful bounding out of the gate. I carried his food over to his bowl without petting him. Then I filled his water bucket and left the pen to get a new bag of dry dog food. I brought that back and filled the free feeder - all without petting him.

Mother was quite upset with me. She was sure I was being too harsh, especially after I refused to give him the hamburger and french fries she had saved from lunch for him. She said I have to let him know I still love him, but I'm thinking I'm showing him I love him by trying to teach him how to be a good dog. If he would leave the cats alone when I'm not around, he could have so much more freedom. Also, he's going to be pretty upset for the next couple months. Now that I know he might run off into the woods and get shot by a trespassing hunter, I'm going to have to go back to keeping him on a cable. I'm not happy about that at all, and I'm sure Gibby is going to be miserable.
I posted a photo of my mother and George just to show how much she spoils my dogs - and they worship her. I watched the two of them communing for almost half an hour before I took this photo. George rests his head in her lap and just stares at her. George is her favorite, but Gibby is becoming a fast second.