Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Delilah

Near Miss

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Are you as amazed as I am that our three chickens continue to survive ranging freely around our property, despite our having done nothing different to protect them in the time since some predator decimated the flock of nine birds?

It almost seems counter-intuitive that something would attack the large group of birds, but now no critter has bothered with the three that remain. Maybe with such low numbers, it isn’t worth the trouble of stalking them compared to the easier pickings of attacking a large flock.

None of this factored into Delilah’s thinking yesterday.

While Cyndie and I were unloading bales of hay from the pickup and stacking them in the shed, we let Delilah hang out with us to watch. Cyndie had hooked the leash to the front of the truck.

Meanwhile, the three chickens wandered over to peck at the mess of hay shrapnel that falls from the bales. I’m guessing they were growing used to seeing the leashed dog and didn’t feel particularly threatened.

Everyone seemed to be getting along just fine, until Cyndie decided the charade had gone on long enough. She told me that she meant to shoo the chickens away and was planning to remove Delilah from the captive spot to take her for a walk and get her away from the constant tease of free roaming chickens, which surely was tempting fate.

Except that the moment Cyndie processed that thought, (when I think she may have indeed made some sound toward the chickens to back them off) Delilah exploded against her restraint and ruptured the webbing of the harness that held the ring to which her leash was hooked.

Delilah chased, the birds panicked, and Cyndie and I both screamed at the dog with all our energy. The chickens ducked the fence into the paddock, which slowed Delilah a bit, and by the time I got down off the stacked hay in the shed, the dog had paused her pursuit a short distance beyond that fence.

Was she really listening to us? Cyndie thinks so. She declared it a partial victory, because Delilah did choose to stop the chase and did, hesitatingly, come back to us. We were able to hook the leash to a different ring on her harness and Cyndie walked her to the house to confine her until she calmed down.

Disaster averted, but not for lack of trying.

Those three birds must have some special luck that they escaped unharmed again. Or maybe they have a cat’s nine lives. Yesterday seemed like the kind of ruckus that probably used up a life for a couple of our surviving birds.

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Written by johnwhays

July 28, 2017 at 6:00 am

Dog Speak

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John is out of town for the weekend and has asked the animals to fill in for him for a few days. Today, Delilah gets a chance to “bark,” and to do so without John or Cyndie hollering, “NO!” at her every time she does.

I Didn’t Mean To…

First, I just need to say, that joke about, “Squirrel!!,” …it’s really getting old. I’m sorry if we canines have a heightened sense of chase instinct. Other than that, hello! and consider this my face-wash of a happy dog greeting! There is so much to tell you about now that John has given me this unprecedented access to his blog thingie.

Did you know he asked the cat, Pequenita, to write for today before he asked me? I think he was just trying to be nice to her, because he sees how smitten she is with him. He absolutely knows I totally own her. That’s why he always feeds her first, trying to show me how high and mighty the little meow machine is around here. I see right through him. I can drape my paw over her back any time I want to and she just sits there with a stupid cat expression on her face.

She thinks she’s all that because she gets to roam free all night when I am imprisoned in my crate. Whatever.

What can I say? Dogs and cats. We are what we are.

Now, dogs and chickens… That’s another thing altogether. I didn’t mean to end that chicken’s life when I raced up and grabbed her with the soft grip I’m so practiced at using. When I do that to the baby rabbits around here, they never seem to have a problem with it.

I think the bird probably had a weak heart and couldn’t survive the excitement of seeing me up close. I’m a lot to handle, I know. I get that.

Hold on a second, I need to go bark at the window again. There’s nothing out there, but I still need to do this regularly to make a good impression. I mean, what if there was a rabbit/bird/squirrel/deer/cat/another rabbit/raccoon in the yard and I missed it? What would that do to my reputation?

I’m sorry if I’m panting too much. It gets to be a habit in the summer, between this thick coat I wear all the time and the pent up energy from confinement. Yeah, I brought that full-time leash rule on myself. I admit it.

A girl’s gotta run, you know. And when you’ve got legs like these… combined with my nose! Oy! I don’t blame John & Cyndie for their precaution. <yawn>

Squirrel!!

Dammit. Pretend you didn’t just see that.

I was doing so good for a while there, too. You should know, it’s taken all I can muster to paw out these human-like word sentence things and not just type, “Are they home yet, are they home yet, are they home yet…”

It’s a dog’s life, I tell ya. <bark! bark, bark!>

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Written by johnwhays

July 22, 2017 at 6:00 am

Coming Around

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A day later, I’m coming around to the idea that I will be able to figure out a modification that will sub-divide the coop into two smaller apartments. I guess I just need to whine about it first. Upon further review, I’m pretty sure we can come up with something that can work.

Maybe my knee-jerk reaction of pessimism is a way of balancing Cyndie’s unbridled optimism on projects like this. If I don’t think I can do it, she will take care of it herself, regardless her rather unreliable spatial relations perception, and currently, her limit of only one available arm.

Don’t for one minute assume her having only one useable arm has stopped her from accomplishing anything. It slows her down a little bit, but she still has managed to do way more than seems possible around here.

I felt a little like the questionable photographer when I kept snapping shots of her struggling to scoop piles of grass that we had raked up. Sure, I could have set the camera down and helped her, but she was actually doing pretty well without me.

As soon as I finished raking, I took over the scooping chore from her and she wandered away to a different spot to pull weeds.

We opened up the back pasture to the horses so they could keep us company while we worked, but they weren’t our only companions. Delilah, who Cyndie had tethered nearby, alerted us to the appearance of chickens. How nice of them to come help.

I had just been thinking of them a few minutes earlier when I spotted a big juicy bug pop out from a pile of grass. I figured that would appeal to the chickens. Maybe they picked up on my thinking.

They happen to be about as good a helper as the dog has proved to be when I am working. If I move something, Delilah likes to move it back for me. The chickens checked out our raked piles by kicking them to smithereens in search of a snack.

We think the three survivors of the great chicken massacre of June 16 may have a little PTSD over the event. They no longer put themselves to bed in the coop at dusk. Many nights I would find one of the Barred Plymouth Rocks up on a branch in the same tree where I found her that fateful night.

Now she has lured the others to join her. At first, it was just the Buff Orpington, but two nights ago, it was all three of them up in that tree as the sun disappeared. Cyndie just alerts me, the one of us with two useable arms, and I come out to pluck them from the branch, one at a time, unceremoniously returning them to the coop for the night.

Last night, retraining to the coop started anew. We round them up before they take to the tree at dusk and herd them over to the coop, to be enticed inside with treats.

And we want to get more of these birds?

I’m coming around to the idea.

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Written by johnwhays

July 10, 2017 at 6:00 am

Beating Heat

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Although Arabian horses were bred to perform under harsh desert conditions, the humidity that we get with our high heat is enough to make all species a little irritated. In the summer, we offer our horses a warm dusty breeze that moves enough air to toss their manes and chase off some flies.

It actually seems like little comfort, blowing hot, humid air, but Legacy has taken a particular liking to it.

Delilah prefers to lay on the cool tile in the house. Her fur coat doesn’t allow for wind to be much help. Luckily, she is a big fan of sprayed water from the hose, so we can shrink her coat dramatically by getting her wet.

We are arriving upon my last weekend before the annual June biking and camping week. I will be looking for a way to spend some time on the bike seat without putting myself at risk of heat stroke. It would be really helpful if I could rig up a mount on my tractor instead, so I could sit on my bike seat while mowing the lawn.

Speaking of mowing, I will be picking up the old Craftsman rider from the shop this morning. Now I can return the borrowed John Deere and get back to my own rig. I’ll be able to find out if it runs well under intense heat, that’s for sure.

The summer heat has brought out the lightning bugs. With the strawberry moon glowing brilliantly last night, the neon green flashes dancing above the tall grasses made for a glorious nighttime walk with Delilah as I rolled the trash and recycling bins down to the road.

George has come back for the weekend while he is serving his farrier clients in the region. I tended to the horses while he trimmed our herd after dinner. Cayenne is making good progress. He removed her shoes and left her bare foot again.

It may be hot, but things here are actually running pretty cool.

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Written by johnwhays

June 9, 2017 at 6:00 am

Coming Together

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I was keeping Delilah tied close to me while cleaning up around the paddock, partly to keep her out of trouble with the horses, but also because I don’t want her venturing to the full reach of the leash, scouting chickens. She seems to understand the drill.

After retrieving her from the kennel located behind the house, we walked along the back pasture fence line toward the chicken coop. I had already checked on the chicks earlier, so knew where to expect them. Keeping myself between the chicks and Delilah, we strode parallel to the coop where I stopped to put the memory card in the trail cam for the night.

She was appropriately curious, but not frantic over the presence of the birds. I doubt she will ever reach a point where she would let one of the birds walk into her space without attempting to grab it, but it feels nice to have her practicing a respectable level of calmness with them in view.

In the paddock, I had my attention on the task at hand, letting Delilah explore the immediate vicinity around me. When she stopped and stared, I looked up to find the chicks making their way over from the coop to join the horses for some short grass grazing.

Although separated by safe distances with Delilah restrained on the leash, it felt good to have us all coming together in the paddock. It was a hint of the ideal we wish could somehow come to be.

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Written by johnwhays

May 26, 2017 at 6:00 am

Joking’s Over

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Last weekend, while spending extended time with friends in our home, I came to realize from some comments that I tend to paint an unbalanced portrait of Delilah, which leans toward the harsh. As recently as two days ago I posted a picture that I intended as humorous, giving her a thought bubble that played on my tendency to trumpet her carnivorous nature.

By frequently referring to how ferocious she can be, I have been neglectful of her gentle side. Our little pooch presents with a happy-go-lucky gentleness more often than not. In fact, it is probably why I don’t tend to write much about it. Her good behavior is so common as to become overlooked. We take it for granted.

It’s the exceptional moments of craziness that grab all the headlines.

Well, it’s hard not to write about the exceptional moments.

Today, I am feeling some regret about my attempt at humor over Delilah’s interest in our chickens.

Yesterday morning, while Cyndie was cleaning up under the overhang of the barn, Delilah could hold back no longer. She lunged hard enough against her leash anchor to break the handle and bend the hook it was hanging on. The handle banged against the siding of the barn and caused the horses to jump, alerting Cyndie to go check on what happened.

In that flash of seconds, we lost our first chicken to a predator. A domestic predator.

We knew all along that having free-ranging chickens around Delilah was high risk, but we simply hoped for the best. It seemed that our gradual controlled exposure to their presence was being accepted with surprising calmness, between bouts of excessive interest.

We knew she wasn’t to be trusted yet, but there were enough moments when she was demonstrating appropriate acceptance of the chickens that we felt hopeful about the chances of further improvement.

We don’t fault her for acting on her natural instinct. Delilah has given us a chance to more closely consider the delicate balance of predator/prey relationships. She is also forcing us to renew our attention to directing her exactly in the manner we need her to behave.

It’s not the dog that needs the most training. It’s her handlers.

To her credit, Delilah’s choice of victim turned out to be the extra Rhode Island Red from the batch of 10 we received for our purchase of 9 chicks. We are now down to three each of the 3 breeds we ordered.

Maybe yesterday’s incident will help me to think twice about joking over Delilah’s carnivorous ways in the future, but I’m guessing my writing will still highlight more of her wild behaviors than her quiet moments. It’s the nature of this beast.

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Written by johnwhays

May 24, 2017 at 6:00 am

Chicks Exploring

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I have no idea whether the raccoon Delilah alerted us to outside our sunroom in broad daylight yesterday afternoon had anything to do with the new presence of our 8-week-old chicks roaming the property. It was certainly a surprising and uncharacteristic sighting.

Daily, our chicks have expanded their excursions from the coop, and yesterday achieved milestones that gave me great satisfaction. Cyndie found them marching along the edge of the woods toward the compost area where they quickly unleashed their best chicken behavior on the piles.

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Later, after running with Delilah to follow the scent of the raccoon, we moved behind the barn to check on the birds. When they spotted us, they scooted from the paddock over toward the coop. The paddock is the other spot I hoped the chickens would frequent. My two primary goals realized in the same day. Huzzah!

While I am grateful that Delilah is attentive enough to call out the presence of a raccoon threat in our yard, I’m not yet convinced her concern for the chicks is as altruistic as we would wish. While Cyndie was cleaning the barn, Delilah held an uncomfortably intense focus on the compost area.

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Written by johnwhays

May 22, 2017 at 6:00 am