Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter in Michigan

I was blowing the snow out of my mother's driveway with my little electric snowblower when I realized I am in love with my jacket! This humongous neon pink jacket has been my winter jacket for three winters now - and that's the first time I've kept a winter jacket for any length of time. I used to have lots of jackets, one for every outfit. Of course, that was back when I practically lived outdoors - when I was skiing every weekend, and also when I was giving riding lessons outdoors all winter - but I never had a great jacket like this one. I don't stay outside for hours on end like I used to, but when I have been outdoors with this jacket on I have never been cold. I can take the dogs outside for a 4AM nature call, zip myself into my jacket, throw up the hood and fasten it with the little toggles on elastics that seal my collar closed, and I can walk around with the dogs without really waking up. It's like being in a big roomy walking sleeping bag.

The jacket came with a funny little black hat that's probably made out of some space age kind of fleece because I've never been cold wearing it, and strangely, I haven't lost it either. The jacket has great pockets, two on the outside and two on the inside. When I bought the jacket, I thought I'd use one inside pocket for my cell phone, but I've decided to keep on storing the cell phone in my jeans pocket so I don't forget about it and leave it in my jacket. The left hand outside pocket holds my head lamp, a great little tool that I can wear over my black hat and under my hood when I walk Blue in the middle of the night - she's totally blind in the dark, but a little light gives her a little sight. I also use the headlamp at the farm - for checking in feed bags before I plunge my hand in (yes, I did once reach in without looking and encountered the soft fuzzy back of a mouse - in a building surrounded by two dozen cats!), for seeing in the indoor riding arena where I hay the horses while the florescent lights are trying to warm up enough to light up the building, and for holding the rooster at bay. I don't know if the rooster thinks I'm some kind of different animal with a really bright central eye, or what, but he hasn't attacked me since I've been wearing it - but I carry a rubber snow shovel into the chicken coop for protection anyway. My right hand pocket is for my little gloves, my city gloves. At the farm, I use leather work gloves (got the best ones ever for 7 bucks at a truck stop in New York) but they won't fit into my pockets. When I'm not snow-blowing or animal feeding, I don't really need gloves because my jacket has some great fleece cuffs inside the sleeves that I can tuck my hands up into and my hands never get cold. The jacket pockets are lined with the same great fleece, so I have an alternative place for my hands to stay warm.

I used to always wear sweaters or fleece pullovers under other jackets, but this great pink jacket doesn't need any help - I can go out to blow snow with just a cotton turtle neck under the jacket and be perfectly warm. Yes, I love my jacket. It's bright enough to make it easy to find me if I fall down in a snowbank, and warm enough I could probably survive in a snowbank all night.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Gibby is a gift

I finally figured out why Gibby is very important. Today was a helluva day. My mother woke up feeling fine this morning. She ate her cereal and was cheerful and pleasant - then she drank her orange juice and the world turned upside down. I think it was the acid in the orange juice.

I've been buying acid-free orange juice, but last week I went to Costco and saw a good deal on 10 ounce bottles of orange juice. I thought the little bottles would be great for Mother, who usually sips at any drink for hours on end - so, I bought a case. I tried a bottle on the way home and immediately felt sick to my stomach. I took some antacids and felt a little better, and then took antacids all day. Since I have GERD, I figured that orange juice just wasn't for me - so I gave it to my mother.

Mother felt sick almost right away. I gave her some pills for her stomach and thought she'd be better soon. Wrong. At lunchtime, I gave her some homemade chicken vegetable noodle soup, and she ate a few sips. Then she told me, "I have smallpox, isn't the doctor coming?" Well, there's no way to explain to Mother that doctors don't make house calls anymore, but I did tell her she couldn't have smallpox, that she had been vaccinated. My mother likes to argue, especially when she doesn't feel well, and today qualified. She was argumentative for the rest of the day. When it was time to go to the farm, I was so exhausted I even thought about not going.
I postponed the time to go and took a quick nap for half an hour - with only a few interruptions from Mother asking for a kleenex, her electric "cart", and her blankets. When I finally left for the farm, I was grinding my teeth with exhaustion and irritation both with my mother and myself.

I began to relax the minute I saw the cat on the farm driveway gatepost, but I really relaxed when I saw Gibby. I think all of his frolicking and running and chasing in the snow is so funny, and I think he enjoys my thinking that - if I really watch him, he gets funnier. After a few minutes of watching Gibby make himself into a snowplow, my world has turned right side up and fallen back into place, and I'm ready to go back and answer my mother's calls for help. Gibby really is a gift!

Gibby has Gained Weight

Gibby seems to have put on some weight, he certainly looks very different from the rib-showing pound dog who first came to the farm. This is the picture of him I see every day when he's asking me to throw sticks for him to catch.

This "Serious Dog" is the dog I see every time I walk away to go take care of cats or chickens. No matter how long I play with him, it's never long enough - for Gibby or for me.

This picture is pretty dark because the sun was going down, but it shows Gibby on his fifty foot run - he plays tag with that tree, then turns and runs as fast as he can back to me. I never know how these runs will end, will he run past me, slide on the ice at my feet, or do one of his spectacular leaps in the air. This one ended with a slide and a rapid turn around for another run.
This picture might give you some idea how fast Gibby is moving - he's going so fast, his back legs have disappeared.

While Gibby is racing around, George is calmly walking around, wagging his tail, and eating snow.

Some people grow roses in January, but these photos show what we grow here in Michigan.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Gibby has a new trick

Gibby the snow plow, has a rather frightening new trick - when I'm standing on the back step, he flies around the yard with snow flying everywhere and then aims straight at me at full speed and stops by leaping straight up in the air-right in my face! Whew! If his aim was a little off... ninety pounds flying too fast to imagine - if he hit me at shoulder level I'd be going back into the house through the porch door, the kitchen door, the dining room doorway, and I'd probably end up falling over the coffee table in the living room - or, if I was lucky, I'd land on the quilts and pillows and couch cushions Gibby has piled on the living room floor.

The dogs were all sniffing around very seriously today and I didn't know why until I ran into my friend Bobby in the grocery store. Bobby is the man who hunts with his grandson in my woods. He was very pleased to tell me he was at the farm today and walked all the way back to the woods - it must have taken forever because the snow is at least knee deep and more like waist deep where it's drifted. He had his big black dog with him - Scrappy is sort of a rotweiler/pit bull and a marvelous dog. They got within about five feet of a deer and the deer didn't notice them, and the dog didn't notice the deer. That happened twice before they got to the woods - and then, in the woods, he saw at least a "thousand deer tracks". I thought deer "yarded up" when the snow is deep, but apparently that's not always true.

I can't get back to the woods these days, so it's nice to have a report on it - and now I know why all the dogs were so "sniffy". At one point, when I came out of the barn, I thought I had lost Gibby. He wasn't barking and I couldn't see him anywhere. All kinds of horrible thoughts ran through my mind, the worst being that I had left the driveway gate open and maybe Gibby had run out to the road. The other dogs were perfectly calm, which didn't make sense if Gibby was somehow running around loose. I looked all over, then it turned out he was sniffing the ground over on the other side of the old horse trailer. He must have known Bobby and his dog had been there. I wonder how much of the story the sniffing could reveal.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Another Pack Member

The last dog to join the pack before Gibby was Patches. Patches had a pretty bad start in life, and it was my fault. Patches was one of Blue's puppies. I sold her to some really bad people. A grandmother came to the store when there was only one puppy left and begged me to sell the puppy to her for her grandson. She lived just two blocks away from the store and was a cousin of one of my friends. I was a little reluctant to deal with her because there seemed to be some kind of custody problems with the grandson, but I finally agreed and she gave me a down payment and named the puppy Patches. She gave me another $25 a month later, and then I saw her no more. Almost a year later, I heard some of her relatives telling my friend what a horrible situation it was. The poor puppy was kept in the basement all of the time. The grandmother never went into the basement and the grandson never cleaned up after the puppy. The clincher was that the grandmother was running a daycare center upstairs - and the basement stench was reaching the little children. I had some friendly customers in the store when we heard the story, one of whom had been one of my weaving students, and they offered to go get the puppy. I thought they would bring Patches to me, but they didn't, they took her home. They told me they had decided to keep her.

A year later, I got a really strange call from them. They said Patches was at the county dog pound and was about to be put to sleep. They said they had moved and had given Patches to a neighbor whose little boy was wheelchair bound and in love with Patches. They said they just happened to be walking through the pound, something they did every once in a while like other people visit a zoo - and anyway, they were leaving for Texas in an hour and would I take Patches?

Of course I took Patches. It turned out that they had abandoned the poor dog almost right after they took her. She had been living wild for a year. One of her survival techniques was stealing chickens from the people who finally trapped her and turned her over to the pound. I learned later that they had tried to keep her, that she had a litter of puppies while in their home, but she wouldn't stop being the wild dog chicken slayer.

She was delivered to me within a few minutes of that strange phone call, and has been with me ever since. Her mother never seemed to recognize her as her own. I had given George to Blue to raise and she recognized him as her puppy, not Patches. So, Patches has been back with me now for eight or nine years, and all of that time, Blue has pushed her around. They have had some pretty bad fights that resulted in bloody torn ears, but now they just bark at each other. Patches is obviously not only Blue's puppy, but also Ben's puppy - and that fact made me have an abnormal amount of patience with her. She has gotten into trouble too many times. She has run away too many times to count. She's terrible with the cats and I can't let her near the chickens. If she's hungry, and no one is looking, she finds a way to get whatever she wants. She has eaten bags of Hershey's kisses, foil wrappers and all. She's not exactly house trained. I never take her outside without a leash - a leash with two clips, one fastened to her collar and the other clipped on her harness. I have seen her make herself into a spaghetti that can slide right out of both collar and harness in a split second.

Finally, this year, she has accepted me as an important person. I was stunned the first time, after so many years, she jumped up into my lap. She didn't know how to relax and sit down, she only stayed a few seconds, but it was a start - she has finally been able to lay down in my lap and twice I have even held her and her mother in my lap through a whole tv show. The last time she ran away was the first time she didn't seem to have a place to go - she didn't head down the road, she just ran across the street to attack our neighbors Newfoundland. The poor Newfie was shocked and didn't fight back, so Patches just jumped on her and then actually came to me.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Gibby is Wonderful

Gibby has a lot more room to run now with his fifty foot long rope instead of the shorter cable. He showed off beautifully tonight. My across-the-road neighbor was already there and plowing when I got to the farm today. He seems to really like Gibby, and Gibby likes him. Gibby had tangled his new yellow rope and his old red cable around the big stick that is his only stick big enough to show up through the snow, and Jim saw me getting in trouble trying to untangle it while Gibby tried to take the stick away. I had the rope wrapped several times around my legs and Gibby was almost chewing on my hands while he was yanking on the stick. Jim came to our rescue, got the stick free, and then stopped to talk for a couple minutes. Gibby then did something that at first looked dangerous and rough, and then proved to be marvelously obedient. He took a flying run at Jim, skidded to a stop, flung his body in a half circle, and sat right next to Jim's right leg. He sat long enough to be petted, and then did the same thing to me. It looked like a very practiced trick, but I never saw him do it before. When he sat next to me, he leaned into me for petting the same way George does. I had to say that he's really a beautiful dog. Jim said he was training some of his dogs to be sled dogs and I thought Gibby would be a perfect sled dog. He doesn't seem to mind the cold at all. He has a thick coat but doesn't have long hair to get tangled with ice balls, and he is extremely powerful - he could probably pull a big freight sled all by himself. Maybe next summer I'll teach him to pull my tricycle.

I had a strange trip home from the farm. The snow was falling in increasingly large flakes, the sun had gone down, and with the dark trees on both sides of the road, I felt like I was driving through a dark tunnel. Very few other people were foolish enough to be out on the roads. Blue must have sensed there was something a little eerie, she came into the front seat and reached her head over to touch my hand. I had cleared the driveway before I left for the farm, but the new snow had filled it all in again. It took almost half an hour to get up the hill to the house, but I was intent on having the patience to let my front wheel drive do it's job (Mother's new caretaker, who comes for two hours a week, told me to "feather" the gas and let the front wheels do their job. She just bought a 2007 Ford Freestyle just like mine, but she read the instruction manual.) Amazing - she was right. Patience and feathering worked. Nice to have new learning take me to the top of the hill. So, feeling quite pleased, I drew a new pattern and dyed some wool, so I'm moving over to my other blog.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

More about the Pack

I guess the cold has me thinking more about the old days, with the old dogs. Down at the farm, a bitter cold day like today, with temperatures below zero, would be a huge challenge from sunup to sundown. The biggest challenges were always keeping the dogs warm and having water for the horses. So far, I've been terribly lucky that all of the systems at the farm are giving no trouble - of course, it has taken years of hard work and bushels of money to get the systems to this point. The new furnace in the old house this year was one of those things that had to be done. This furnace is at least the fifth I've had in the house since I moved in. I started with a great big old coal furnace from the thirties that had been converted to an oil furnace. The old coal bin holds the oil tank - which probably still holds a lot of oil. The house was always cold so I supplemented the heat with kerosene heaters and a woodstove - it seemed like I spent most of my free time filling kerosene containers or chopping wood. I broke the pick-up truck springs year after year by overloading it with firewood. Then, about 25 years ago I had the old furnace, and the asbestos it was wrapped in, removed and replaced it with a new oil furnace. I had an oil delivery man for many years who made sure I never ran out of oil and I had heat and no worries. When that great guy retired, I had problem after problem. On the coldest nights - like the ones this week - I would find myself up at the gas station filling a can with diesel fuel for the furnace. I learned that I could heat the house for a night and a day with a 5 gallon can of diesel fuel.

That new furnace couldn't survive the spring flooding. Every spring, my basement would leak so badly that the sump pump couldn't keep up with it and the furnace pilot light would go out. So, one of the horse boarders worked in the plant department at the university in Ann Arbor - which meant he installed and inspected furnaces every day. He talked a buddy into installing a commercial gas furnace in my basement. They hung that furnace from the ceiling. It worked for a while, then had to be replaced. The replacement blew up in the middle of the night, the night before I was leaving town for a week (to go to a rug school in Iowa). I heard the big bang in the middle of the night, but had no idea what had happened. When I came home again, the house was filled from basement to attic with black soot. I replaced that furnace, and now this year have replaced that replacement. I hope this furnace lasts a little longer than the others.
A couple years earlier, at that same horse show, I acquired a wonderful little puppy from some cowboys. I named the puppy Mink and carried her around under my sweater for a week because I kept taking her into places where dogs were not allowed. When she was two, she ran right through two rows of fences and was hit and killed on the road. Right before she was killed, I had acquired another puppy. This was another dog, like Ben, who had come to school. I saw him first in the school office. A mother of a First Grader had brought the puppy in for show and tell. He was a big black and white ball of fluff and I admired him. I said something foolish like, "I wish I had a little dog like that." and Boom! she shoved him into my arms and said, "He's all yours" as she ran out the door. I was stunned - and there I was with Spot - Spot the Border Collie who was waaaaaay too smart to be a dog - way too smart to live with. Spot, the dog who tried to get rid of Blue. Spot, who was eventually killed on the road. Spot who had been dearly loved and worshipped by Blue and a whole herd of humans. People used to bring their kids to the store just to pet Spot. One young lady who works now for my new vet remembers how her mother was always willing to schedule "petting time" so they could visit and pet Spot. Spot died because he had such a strong will of his own. He went on a run at the farm on a Saturday when I was scheduled to be at the store. I hunted for him, then gave up, and left for the store without him. I drove back about an hour later, feeling awful that I had left Spot behind, and found him dead in the road. I believe he was attempting to follow us when he was hit by a car.

I am always devastated when I lose an animal, but I was especially upset with Spot because I thought his death was my fault. My vet knew how upset I was and must have told his wife. She called me one day and asked if I'd like to have another Border Collie. Foolish me, I immediately said yes, and she gave me directions to a find a lady who had just had a litter of puppies vaccinated. I drove to the house and found a little room full of roly poly black and white fuzz balls. There was some story I didn't understand about the puppies coming from a careless neighbor, but I stopped listening when I saw a replica of Spot. I took him right home and started calling him Little Spot. Some of Spot's best friends said I couldn't do that, so I changed his name to George. (I was reading a book at the time about King George and George Washington, so that's where the name George came from.) The dog George has turned into is a much kinder and gentler dog than his almost namesake. Once he started growing, he even stopped looking like Spot. He's much bigger and calmer looking - and he would never dump another dog in an icey pond. He's now eleven years old and has a close bond with my mother. Whenever she will let him, he sits by her and sneaks his head onto her lap. She knows long before I do when he isn't feeling well. When he almost died last year, she was the person who realized he was sick and scared me into action by saying, "We can't lose him now" and thank goodness we didn't.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Other Pack Members

After writing the last post earlier today, I've been thinking about the old dogs, I realized I should explain who Ben was - since I have described him as my "lifetime dog". Ben was the dog who came to school. I was teaching in a Title I program with my classroom being the first one in the hallway near the front door. My program covered all the grades in the building (plus two parochial schools) so I knew almost all of the students in the school. One morning, right after the doors opened, I heard a ruckus in the hallway. I went to the door to see what it was about, and discovered that some of the older boys had let a dog into the hallway. I took one look at the scrawny little mutt and felt an instant connection. It was the middle of a very cold winter, and this dog had come inside with ice balls in his paws and ice hanging on his face. He was so thin all of his ribs were showing, and he was so tired that he almost fell asleep in my arms the minute I picked him up. I had a little reading corner in my classroom, furnished with a couch and comfortable chairs and a nice rug. I placed the dog in the middle of that rug and almost ran down the hallway to the kitchen. The cook was a good friend who quickly gave in to my begging and gave me a carton of milk for the dog. When I got back to the classroom, he was fast asleep right where I'd put him down. I left him on the rug through my first class. I had a small group of three boys who were all pleased to work on computers and stay out of the reading corner. The boys already knew about the dog, one of them was probably the joker who originally brought the dog into the school. While the boys were working, I gave the dog a close lookover and found that, in addition to looking starved, he had some almost healed creases across his head and rump. They looked like bullet creases.

It wasn't long before our principal, Mr. Miller, came to the door and told me I couldn't keep the dog in my classroom. I moved the poor little guy to the teachers lounge. He stayed there quietly through my next class, but then teachers started having recess breaks in the teachers lounge and someone complained about the dog. Mr. Miller said I'd have to have him out of there before lunch time. At lunch time I returned him to my classroom, but Mr. Miller said I would have to put him outside. I knew Mr. Miller's word, no matter how kindly he said it, was law, so I put the poor little thing out the front door. Not too much later, some of the older kids told me to come to their classroom at the back of the school. Not only had they rescued the dog and sneaked him back inside, they had named him Benjy. It happened several more times that I had to put Benjy out the front door and the kids would sneak him in the back door. It happened enough times that finally the school day was over. It wasn't until the end of the day, when Mr. Miller told me he hoped I could get the dog home okay, that I realized Mr. Miller had been rooting for us all day. The proper procedure would have been to call Animal Control the minute the dog arrived in the morning. He hadn't called, and Ben came to live with me for the rest of is life.

My dog Blue

I haven't told you much about my dog Blue. Blue is an Australian Cattle Dog (known as ACD). She's twelve years old and has been with me since she was a puppy. Before Blue came to live with me, something was attacking the cats on the farm. I was outside in the barnyard one day when the attacker got into a fight with my alpha cat. I heard the high pitched cries and ran to the rescue. I saw the spotted attack dog and chased him away. Unfortunately, he ran across the road toward the pasture where he lived in an underground den. He was hit by a fast moving truck and spun, on his back, half a mile down the road. I tried to get help from the truck driver so I could run for a blanket, but the driver took off and so did the dog! I figured if a dog could survive being hit on that road, that was the kind of dog for me. Over the years, I had lost a lot of pets to the speeding drivers.

A woman who had been feeding horses and giving riding lessons on the farm had the most beautiful dog I had ever seen. He was about the size of a dalmatian, but had ACD coloring and was supposed to be a cattle dog, so I had already learned a little about that breed and I recognized the spinning dog as an ACD. The breed had been developed to be tough enough to herd cattle by jumping right at them and maybe speeding trucks aren't too much tougher than an angry bull.

People who breed and show Quarter Horses seem to collect animals that are the "in" animal to have. The "in" dog for a long time had been the Australian Shepherd, and I really enjoyed watching the cowboys walking around with those blue-eyed dogs following at their heels, but a new breed, the ACD, was moving in on the Aussies. Once a year, there's a huge ten day American Quarter Horse show in Columbus, Ohio. I had made it down to that show for at least a few days for twenty years, but in 1996 I was still teaching school, running the farm with a little help, and running the antique shop in Hamburg by myself, so I knew I couldn't go to the show. Two years before I had brought a wonderful little mixed breed puppy back from the show and that puppy had been killed on the road. I had several beloved dogs, but I felt that I was short one dog, knew my new dog should be an ACD, and I knew there would be ACDs for sale on "Puppy Alley" in Columbus.

So, of course, I went to the show - four hours to drive down, one hour to choose the very appealing runt of a litter, and four hours home. Blue joined a pack that included Shady Lady, a French Malinois who had come to me years earlier because she had a death sentence in another county for chasing deer, Shady's son Shep who was half Lab and the kindest dog to ever walk the earth, and Ben who was a tough black mutt, sort of a terrier street dog type, and my Lifetime Dog. Blue joined the pack but never really became part of it. Shep and Shady were both way too old to play with a puppy and Ben was too busy running and hunting and going everywhere with me. Blue really didn't come into her own, meaning doing the job she wanted which was being my main dog, until the other three died of old age.
Shady at 17 years old.

Shep at 16 years old.

There was another dog who was not part of the pack. Spot was aloof with the other dogs and was his own pack. Spot was a Border Collie who was waaaay too smart. My furnace at the farm exploded and filled the house with soot, so I moved myself and all of the dogs to live in my studio above the antique shop. Spot escaped constantly. One day I got a call at school that he was loose and had been rescued by a neighbor's mother, who had been sitting with him in front of the store for hours. Several times, he broke through the antique doors in the store building, and took Blue with him out into the countryside. He took her a long distance and then would run off and leave her. One time, he left her in a frozen pond half a mile behind the store. Luckily, I found her in time. Another time, down at the farm, he took her more than twenty miles away. A distant neighbor and I tracked him all night. That time, she was only found because I had told another distant neighbor about the dogs and that neighbor had called her daughter. The daughter's neighbor had just told her about this lost dog who had turned up covered with ice on her porch. Spot was obviously trying to dispose of Blue.

When Blue was only ten months old, she surprised everyone by delivering a litter of six puppies. I had never noticed that she'd even had her first heat cycle. Later, we realized that both Ben and Spot had fathered the puppies.

When I was working downstairs in the antique shop, I didn't want to leave the puppies alone upstairs, so I started putting them in an antique beach baby cage - a big wooden and screened in box on wheels. On warm spring days, I rolled the cage outside and parked it in front of the store window. One such Saturday when the puppies were five or six weeks old, all of a sudden, customers started begging to buy the puppies - and I started selling them. Shady had been a mother three times years earlier, with a total of 36 puppies, which I mostly gave away to good homes, but selling these puppies was a pleasant surprise - a surprise which eventually led to George and Patches joining the household - I'll try to tell the rest of the story in my next post.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Gibby Was Probably a Cute Puppy

This puppy photo from Joan Dwyer looks like Gibby, but it isn't. I think this must be what Gibby looked like when he was just a puppy. I wish I knew who had him when he was so little - how could anyone have lost him - they must have had him from puppyhood like this until he was two years old - probably a very gawky two year old, but I just can't imagine him running away. Then those people with the other male dog found him and kept him for a year - I bet that other male dog was his pal, even though the people said they were fighting. Seems to me they would have been more likely to be fighting at the beginning of the year, not the end. He's such a loving dog, it's hard to imagine he's already lost two families.

Anyway, I'm really glad the doggy door has been installed. The farm is snowed in, I couldn't even get close to it today. I got out as far as the grocery store, where I ran into the appraiser who works in my township office. She told me there must be at least ten inches of snow in my driveway and I wouldn't have a chance of getting in. Since I'd had such a hard time getting to the grocery store, I turned around and went back to my mother's house. When I got there, even though I'd cleared the driveway three times today, snow had filled the driveway and I couldn't get up the hill. For the first time this winter, I had to park the car on the lower drive - out too close to the end. I'm afraid the snowplow will have it buried by morning.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gibby Has His Doggy Door

My very kind neighbor installed Gibby's doggy door, so I am no longer heating the great out doors with my new furnace. I bought the largest door available at Tractor Supply, the one that shows a dalmatian on the package. We wondered if maybe it was too small for Gibby the Giant, but no worries there - Gibby gets into the house just as fast as he did before - just as fast and not quite as noisy.

Gibby has been collecting - he finds things inside and brings them outside. I first noticed his collectability when I saw the last roll of toilet paper out in the dog pen. The next day, a bright spot of red turned into a silk scarf I had brought from China. It was still in the original plastic bag without a single mark on it. Then I found a Mexican doll. One black work boot. A water bottle. A plastic box. A skein of yarn. A book. I've almost started to look forward to seeing what will be next.

Gibby also has a huge collection of sticks. The wind has been generous, lots of sticks down and most of them right in the yard behind the house. Only a couple sticks have fallen into Gibby's pen and only a few really large logs have fallen - luckily not on the house, although one is leaning against the house. Gibby has a couple of sticks that are so big, both long and thick, that I have to run fast when he comes toward me with one in his mouth - I really don't want to have one of those sticks run into me.

Gibby almost got away today. I had just let him into the yard when I realized he was running too far away. He had gone behind the trailer, on the far side of where the cattle dogs were tied. I knew I had clipped the cable to his collar. I have been making him sit until I have it clipped and tell him it's okay to go. Then I saw the cable flying out behind him - for a short distance, then nothing. Somehow he had snapped the cable. I'll have to check at the Tractor Store, I'm pretty sure I remember that the cable was supposed to hold 2500 pounds - I can't imagine that Gibby could have applied more pressure than that just by running full tilt to the end of the cable. The really nice thing was that he didn't go after the cats and he came right to me when I called. Hanging onto him while I fastened another cable clip to his collar wasn't easy and it was wasted effort - I had used the other end of the broken cable and off he was, running again. I finally got the second cable he had wrapped around some trees and some sticks untangled and clipped onto him - and it was waaaay too short. I moved it from the dog pen fence over to the little grove of scrub trees that Gibby likes to run around and that let him run to most of his normal places. I'll have to buy him a new cable tomorrow.