Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Gibby Has Visitors

My mother has been quite ill, so I've been rushing back and forth to the hospital and not having much time for the dogs. One recent day, I decided it would be easier to have all of the dogs in one place, so I took George and "the girls" to spend the day with Gibby at the farm. I don't know whether or not they rested all day, they were really anxious when I got to them in the evening. The "house dogs" were all out in the kennel and Gibby was in his usual place in the kitchen. I couldn't tell if the dogs were stuck in the kennel or just didn't want to return through the doggy door, but I had to call all three of them by putting my hands and voice through the doggy door. They acted like I'd left them for days. Blue, especially, told me off by diving at me full speed several times.

The next day, I had planned to repeat the same doggy day care plan, but I was too rushed in the morning to stop at the farm, so the dogs spent the day in the car. I got to walk and water them every couple hours, which was good for them and great for me - a little break from mother's bedside was energizing. It was a really beautiful day, the autumn leaves were a bright yellow with intermittent flashes of red, the temperature was almost balmy, and we had a little wooded walking spot next to the nursing home where my mother has been transferred. I even gathered a few mushrooms to investigate for dyeing - they're shaggy manes, which I used to love chopped and mixed with Italian dressing and served on crackers - haven't had that treat for a long time. I think the dogs were much happier. I know they were a lot calmer.

Today, I did the same thing, but they were only in the car for a few hours, then we went to the farm (Mother's guardian is requiring that I leave the nursing home by 2:00 in case my brother who hasn't spoken to Mother in three years wants to visit). The dogs had quite an adventure at the farm. I had to do some small chores in the house while Gibby was on his cable in the yard and the girls were on their leashes (George is the only one who can safely be loose). Somehow, while I was in the house, Gibby's cable went through all of the leash clips on the girls collars and harnesses. The girls were loose and Gibby's cable was held tight at both ends when I went outside. Amazingly, both girls came running to me, Patches in the lead. I guess after all these years, finally, Patches has decided she belongs with us. In the past, whenever she got loose, she would run as fast as her legs could go toward her old stomping grounds where she lived on her own after she was abandoned. Also, it looked like they had run over to check out the new sheep pasture next door instead of chasing the cats, so that was another relief. I just wanted to hug both of them, but they were more interested in getting into the car. I think I'll continue to take them with me as long as the weather holds. I have to gradually make Gibby part of the pack in case we move back to the farm soon - the other dogs all seem to like him, but he isn't part of their pack.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dog Training and Boating on My Afternoon Off

While an aide was caring for my mother, I went to the farm this afternoon to meet a dog trainer. He wants to train his dogs in a space where he can shoot out some kind of thing for the dog to retrieve and it turns out my newly brush-hogged hay field will work perfectly.
The horses were in the front pasture, eating between the weeds in the paths we've created with the brush hog.

They're all looking pretty fat and sassy, but they weren't sassy - we drove two trucks through the pastures to the hay field and the horses paid no attention at all. Only Weaver even looked up.
Weaver and Manly look like stuffed sausages almost ready to burst. I think Manly is right up at the top of my list of the most beautiful horses ever born. I'm really sorry my loss of physical adeptness has kept me from ever enjoying riding him. His back looks so broad it would be like sitting on a big couch.
After the dog training use of the hay field was arranged, I took my (second) new rowboat over to the public access point on Whitmore Lake. I bought this boat with the idea I could handle it better by myself than the first boat that required a trailer and is just too heavy for me. There were other people at the access point, taking pontoon boats out of the water. I waited while one beautiful boat was loaded on a trailer and hauled out of the lake, then backed my truck up to one side of the dock while another pontoon trailer was backed in on the other side. Somehow, while I was getting my truck in a good spot, the men with the second pontoon boat lost it. There was a pretty good wind and by the time I saw what was happening, their boat was heading toward the center of the lake. I got my boat out quick and let one of them take it out to catch the boat.

The little boat moved pretty fast and the guy caught the pontoon boat right away, but that didn't end the trouble. The wind was a little stronger than the rowboat and the pontoon boat was headed for shore, or at least for shallow water where the sand would have ruined the motor.

The other fellow had to run over and get into the rowboat so he could get on the pontoon boat and start up the engine. They brought the pontoon over to the dock, then helped me a lot by pulling my boat up on the dock and emptying the rainwater out. They even held the boat for me while I got in (and getting into this boat wasn't scary like it was when I was getting into the first boat, somehow I wasn't too stiff today to swing my legs over and turn around on the seat). I rowed out to the point of land that was blocking the wind, making the access point into a sort of cove, and found that the wind was pretty strong and it was going to be a lot of work holding my boat against it. I figured I'd done as much rowing as I should for the first time in half a century, so I rowed back to the dock. One of those nice men had fixed the tailgate on my truck (I had just jammed it on and he put it on the right way) and then they helped me load the boat. I now know that I could handle it all by myself, but it was very nice not having to do so. I'm not sure what is happening, maybe I look old and decrepit, but I have had more people do nice things for me this year. Every time I'm really in over my head, it seems someone steps up and helps me - there's Jim who plowed my driveway all last winter and brush hogged the hay field all summer, there's Bobby who has helped me for years and over last weekend mowed the yard at the farm where the grass was knee high and fixed my lawnmower. When I bought my brush hog, the husband of the woman who delivered it took it home and filled the oil and got it ready to run - and I've never even met him. At the grocery store, I've had perfect strangers offer to help me load my groceries into the car, I've had people offer to load the fifty pound bags of dog food.
Now, sure, those boat men would have been in big trouble if my little 12' boat hadn't been there, but they were offering to help me and giving me suggestions before their big ol' 22' boat drifted off. In fact, they probably missed seeing their boat getting loose because they were guiding my truck back to the right spot to unload my boat. Maybe the economic downturn has made people kinder.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Sheepdog Trials Today

Once a year, my across the road neighbor, Jim, puts on a sheepdog trial. Border Collies come from all over to herd sheep around a course in a cow pasture. The dogs are amazing - they make those sheep 250 yards from the top of a hill down to the bottom, then back halfway up and through a gate, then back again and into a little pen. All of this while being directed with whistles and calls from their shepherd who has to stand at a post at the bottom of the hill.

The dogs move at lightning speed, down low and close to the ground. I guess any sheep that sees a dog coming at them like that is going to want to get away.

The dogs seem to really love this sport. Even when it's not their turn they sit on the sidelines like avid fans and their eyes closely follow the action.

Border Collies are very individualistic - they are all of a type, but their looks vary tremendously. As do the shepherds - there are men and women, young and less young, and all having fun.

Watching them is a really nice way to spend part of a day. I wish I could have stayed there all week-end. Of course, after just a short visit, I was wishing for a trained Border Collie of my own.