Saturday, March 30, 2013

It's the Rabbit: A Story in Pictures

My husband usually walks the dogs with me, or I walk them one at a time on a four block walk. It's great exercise for all of us. Today, however, my husband worked a double shift and I was tired, so I walked Buddy and Baby, the two males, together, and Holly a bit later with Chewy wrapped up in my jacket.

Chewy trying to climb out of my jacket. 
Look at his eyes--he hears one of those evil cars. 
This is why I keep my jacket zipped. 

Chewy always walks in my jacket. If I put him on a leash he throws himself to the ground and pretends to be choking to death, then instantly recovers when a car drives by and tries to bite its tires. Chewy will never be a "walking" dog. He will spend his 22-year-average-life-span zipped up in my jacket. Sigh.

The following story in pictures explains what happens when I try to walk the two males, Buddy and Baby, together. I suspect it also explains why Baby is a bit on the chubby side. I stop to take a picture every few feet, literally. Their conversation explains why I stop to take a picture every two feet--it's the rabbit.

Baby: "I think I smell something in this shrub. It could be a rabbit."
Buddy: "I smell it too, Dude. Smells like rabbit."

Baby: "The smell moved. I think the rabbit moved."
Buddy: "I think we should move. If the rabbit is here, though, we'll miss it."
Baby: "Mom is tugging on our leashes, but if we move, we might miss the rabbit. Gag. Choke."
Buddy: "I hear you, Dude. Don't move. 
Let's see how long we can make her wait. Cough. Gag."


Baby: "I think maybe the rabbit was here."
Buddy: "Okay, Dude, I'll go with you on this one, 
but you do realize we're standing in the street now, right?"
Baby: "Hey, I lived in the desert. I know rabbit when I smell rabbit. I smell rabbit."

Buddy: "I smell sidewalk."

Baby: "Maybe the rabbit ran beneath the landscape log."
Buddy (mumbling, a bit too loud): "Dude, you're embarrassing yourself. There is no rabbit."

Buddy: "Wait! Dude! I think the rabbit ran in front of our house!"

Baby: "I don't smell a thing. We missed the rabbit. It was under the landscaping log. 
Now you're just embarrassing yourself. I refuse to look."

And this is why my dogs are still chubby in spite of the fact that I walk them four blocks, every day, rain, snow, or sunshine--it's the rabbit. It's always the rabbit. 

P.S. The rabbit lives beneath the shrub on the side of the house. After listening to my two "hunting dogs" this afternoon, I think she's safe. 


Chewy is a very fine judge of character. 
He knows car tires cannot be trusted and attacks them viciously.  

"If a dog will not come to you after looking you in the face you should go home and examine your conscience." 
--Woodrow Wilson

"I question nothing as long as she keeps the seed dish full."

"Animals are such agreeable friends, 
they ask no questions, 
they pass no criticisms."
--George Eliot

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Dog Paws, the Purple Creeper, tree-climbing mice, and a Near Disaster

My life is extremely busy lately. I now have six blogs, two websites, we're selling our house, which means constantly showing the house, and I still have to find time during the day to walk my four dogs. They need the exercise. They eat healthy weight food, but I also give them a little peanut butter in their Kong toys twice a day with a dental biscuit. Twice a week I substitute pumpkin for peanut butter because there's less calories and it's better for them, but they really don't like the pumpkin. The labs will eat anything, of course, but when I give Baby the desert dog pumpkin he takes a lick then stops and stares at me as if to say, "Are you serious?" Baby is the one that concerns me, though. He has a tendency to get chubby, which is why I stopped walking him in the desert--he would run for awhile, then find a stick to chew and spend the rest of his time chomping away. I now walk him four blocks every day on a leash. I also make him dance for his food, as you can see in the picture below.

He is remarkably skilled at dancing on his back legs!

One thing I've noticed about the dogs when they play with their Kongs is they use they paws like hands. It's so cute to watch. Buddy usually just uses his teeth to hold the Kong in place because he has such huge jaws--he's my 95 pound chocolate lab. He's always a gentleman, though, as you can see in the picture below.

Gentleman Bud always crosses his paws when relaxing.

 The other three dogs, though, use their paws to hold their chew toy in place, as you can see in the picture of Chewy below. They love their toys and Chewy the chihuahua's toy is actually a dental chew. Sometimes I take it away from him then give it back to help train him not to be so aggressive.

Chewy holding his favorite toy. 

When I watch him chew I can usually tell when it's time to clip his nails, too, because he uses them to grip his toy. Chewy's toy is also a favorite of the other dogs and they often wait until he falls asleep and try to swipe it. Unfortunately, they have such big jaws that they literally eat Chewy's chew toy, then I have to replace it and they have a belly full of plastic. After losing two chew toys we now wait until Chewy is sleeping and toss his chew toy into the sink for a cleaning. 

Chewy preparing for his morning nap. 

Chewy sleeps in our bed--he literally crawls beneath the covers and sleeps at the bottom of the bed. The big dogs, however, sleep on blankets and I cover them up before bed. Baby's favorite blanket is purple, but he's not always ready for bed when I cover him up. If he hears me in the kitchen fetching water and tea, he will follow me around until I go to bed. His blanket, however, stays on his back and he looks like a purple creeper following me around. It's pretty funny to watch. 

Yes, this is Baby in the purple blanket, 
following me around the house at night as I get ready for bed!

I have mentioned before that I have seen mice climbing the shrub/tree that grows above the wall on the side of our house. I see them on the ground, as well, and thought that they were living in a hole I found in the garden shed. However, I did notice a nest in the shrub, which I thought belonged to a bird. Today, I watched a pair of mice climbing through the shrub, eating the bird seed, and when I came too close for their comfort they easily slid into the nest--apparently, the nest belongs to the mice!

Mouse in the tree.

Mouse eating bird seed.

We had a near disaster today. It is still a bit of a mystery, but the brick wall in back of our house collapsed and after three hours of interviewing neighbors, speaking with the police and photographing the evidence, I suspect we had a freak wind event. A large portion of the wall appears to have been knocked down intact then broke apart when it hit the cement slope behind our home and the bricks fell into the arroyo and broke into pieces. 

The collapsed wall behind our house. 

I walked the dogs around 3 p.m. and photographed some nasty looking clouds, so I knew there would be bad weather. I did not know just how bad it would be, but I suspected we might have rain. The severe winds are supposed to come tomorrow with wind gusts as high as 60 mph.


Dark clouds over Sandia Peak.

 I noticed these clouds because they appeared to be three roll clouds, 
indicating fierce winds coming over the mountains

I left for the grocery store after feeding the dogs their dinner, but I also left the back door open. It wasn't windy at the time, or cold, and I wanted them to be able to go out if they needed to since they had just finished eating. 

When I returned, as soon as I got out of the truck I noticed roof tiles on our front gravel. I picked them up, seven or eight pieces, and realized they were not from our roof, nor did they appear to be from any of our neighbor's roofs. I thought this was odd, so I stacked them in the garage to show to my husband later. Then I took the new bird seed out back for the birds and noticed a bird feeder broken and on the ground. I also noticed some plants were knocked over. I still wasn't aware there was a problem, though. 

I walked to the far corner of our very large yard and started to clean up as we have an appointment to show the house tomorrow (we are selling the house to move to Colorado so we can be closer to the grandchildren. The dogs followed me. Nothing seemed out of place then suddenly I realized the wall was gone.

The wall collapsed evenly with the sand in the yard, 
so I do not believe someone was pulling the wall over, 
or that it had anything to do with faulty construction. 
It was hit with blunt force from inside the yard. 

At first, I just stood and stared. It seemed so odd--it just wasn't there! Then I realized the dogs were no longer fenced in. Baby, of course, hopped over the bottom row of bricks and started trotting down the street so I had to chase him down. Then I called the police. The police decided it was vandalism, but I couldn't find any signs of vandalism and they agreed that it would have taken great force to pull the wall over. No one could have come into the yard to push it over since the back door was open and the dogs would have chased them out. 

If my dogs had been in the yard or near the fence, they could have fallen into the arroyo with the bricks. If the chihuahua was outside, he would have been killed. 

I then spoke with the neighbors and our real estate agent. One neighbor told me he was at church, but heard horrific winds whipping around the church, some of the worst wind he's heard since moving to New Mexico, and this was around 4 p.m. I was in the grocery store at that time, so I would not have heard the winds. My real estate agent also heard terrible wind sounds about the same time. I also noticed that two sections of bamboo fencing are missing, so they must have blown over someone else's wall and are probably in their yard. One of our neighbors was not home, but their front double doors were wide open and their wind chimes were on the ground. Thank goodness they have strong door screens to keep their dogs inside. This, combined with the plants and the roof tiles have convinced me we were hit with a freak wind, or a gustnado. Possibly even a tornado. 

If the wind was as loud as my friends and neighbors have said, then the dogs would not have gone outside, thank God! They would not have heard the wall collapse over the wind. This possible saved their lives. The police did say they were certain the dogs did not knock the wall down as they would have tumbled into the arroyo and suffered serious injuries, and if they survived they would have been terrified and run away. They were all in the house sleeping when I came home from the store. God was definitely watching after my little creatures today. I will never leave the back door open again when I leave! 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Little Birds, Old Dogs, Mrs. Thrasher

Buddy, Holly and Chewy the chihuahua wrestling on my bed-
-yet another way they choose to keep their attractive canine figures. 

Lately, we've been walking our dogs in the neighborhood instead of in the desert. There's a few reasons for this change. First, it's springtime in New Mexico and the coyotes are mating, establishing their dens, moving a bit closer to town for some reason and acting viciously territorial. It's not worth the fight. The second reason is Baby the desert dog has put on a few winter pounds. When we take him to the desert he runs for a bit to find something to chew on, then spends the rest of his time chewing on wood and rolling in the sand. If I take him for a 20 minute walk he stays in shape.

The male little bird.

On our walks we've noticed a flock of birds that seems to follow us. They like our neighbor's trees across the street, but we've noticed they fly from tree to tree and follow us around the block. Perhaps they are curious about the dogs. We haven't figured it out. They are very small birds, smaller than a house sparrow, slightly larger than a hummingbird. I did manage to take some pictures of males and a female, which you can see to the right. I haven't identified them yet. They are a playful bunch and they love to sing. They also stay together in pairs.

I believe this is his mate, 
though it also appears to be a type of finch that could have been nearby.

Speaking of birds, our house is for sale and I will soon be saying goodbye to yet another flock of friends. I think the Thrasher family will be the most difficult birds to say goodbye to as I've grown fond of standing on the back porch and talking to them after the sparrows and finches have moved into the tall threes in the arroyo. I will miss the Thrasher family. There is a male, female, and a juvenile.

Thrashers are in the Cat Bird family, which means they have the ability to mimic the calls of other birds and even the sound of cats. I would assume this ability is a gift they were given to warn other birds of the presence of a predator. I haven't heard our Thrashers meowing, but I have heard them making sounds that are similar to crows. They are fun, and I will miss my old friends.

Mrs. Thrasher and I spend a lot of alone time in the evening.
When the other birds fly off, she sits on the wall, 
waiting for me to come outside and give her a snack.

Speaking of old friends, I have a friend whose old dog, Buddy, is suffering from a degenerative disease. He does not have long to live. Growing old is hard on dogs. They often develop arthritis or other diseases that make it difficult for them to move around, and when you live with an animal from the time they are a pup this can be painful to watch.

I also have a few old friends. Our chocolate labs, Buddy and Holly, are eight years old, which is middle-aged for the breed. However, our twins (they are brother and sister) are also a mixed breed, we believe, or so we were told when we rescued them, and mixed breeds generally live longer. They cuddle and play with each other like puppies and often cross their paws as if they are holding hands.

Buddy and Holly cuddling.

It is sweet to watch them together, they are exceptionally loving animals. Buddy has always shown more compassion toward other creatures than any animal I know. I enjoy taking him for walks because he bounces and prances just like a young pup.

My Buddy

When they were young we lived in Colorado and they loved to play in the snow. Unfortunately, it was often windy where we lived and they could not hear us calling them back to the house, I cannot even tell you how many afternoons I spend driving around our 35 acres searching for them, scared to death they were going to be attacked by coyotes, and they were attacked once! It is a miracle they survived, but they did. They are strong, healthy, beautiful friends.

Buddy and Holly with Baby, the dog we rescued from the desert, sandwiched in-between.  Baby was searching for a pack, a place to belong, and Buddy and Holly were happy to oblige.
They love snuggling on blanket at my feet while I work on the computer. 

I am praying for my friends, and their dog. They have a painful road ahead. Dogs are such a blessing to our lives and it is difficult to say goodbye, which is why I make it a rule to spend time playing affectionately with my animals each day to show them how much I love them and appreciate their presence in my life.

Chewy the chihuahua. 
This is his look that says, "Why did you stop petting me? Is there a problem?"