Monday, May 22, 2017

Knight in Slightly Shinning Armor

The other day when Lucy (the stray dog) was still here, I went out to the barn in the morning to feed and, since Lucy had been doing so well off lead, I let her off her rope as well.  She had been very respectful of the donkeys and had kept her distance, but all of a sudden she ducked under the fence and went into the back of the barn.  It was empty at that moment, but I knew it would not be for long and there is no way that dogs are allowed in the donkey barn, especially not at breakfast time. 

It was foolish on my part because I have come to take for granted that Connor knows better than to ever cross into donkey territory.  He will come in the barn when they are not around, but at the first hint of hoof beats, he hightails it back to his side of the fence.  Lucy, in her somewhat clueless fashion, simply charged right in where angels would fear to tread. 

I immediately went in after her and tried to call her to me, but she ignored me.  I raised my voice just a bit and said LUCY. COME. HERE. and I went after her to get her out of the barn before anyone with long ears noticed that there had been an invasion. 

There must have been the faintest hint of panic in my voice though.  Donkeys may not understand all of our words, but they certainly understand every tiny nuance of emotion, even when we don't hear it ourselves.  Unfortunately, they aren't always any better at interpreting those emotions than we are. 

Suddenly, Ben, who is normally a big, squishy, cuddly, gentle teddy bear, was right there with fire in his eyes and smoke pouring from his flaring nostrils saying loudly and clearly,

"Don't worry Ma, I'll protect you from that nasty dog.  I'll make sure she rues the day her father ever got a glint in his eye!!  Just let me at her!"

Kind of the donkey version of a Lassie movie.  Ben decided that I needed protection and he would gladly have stomped poor Lucy to bits.  I was trying to wave him off, which only made him more certain I needed help and also got Ramsey and Emma's attention.  They promptly rushed over to help.  This all scared Lucy to bits so she froze in place and would not move, which was soooo not helpful.  I finally got her moving, waved off the fire breathing donkeys and got Lucy scooted back under the gate.  A minute later I had her safely back on her lead and the donkeys went back to being sweet, cuddly teddy bears. 

Donkeys are often used as guard animals and this was a perfect example of why.  It was also a perfect example of why they should NOT be used as guard animals.  One of many reasons.  Donkeys can be fierce protectors, but they are the ones who decide who, what, where and when they are going to protect and they decide what is and is not a threat.  Often as not, the "threat" turns out to be a newborn lamb or calf that suddenly appears in their pasture.  It's perfectly reasonable from the donkey's point of view, but it sure does piss off the farmer. 

Ben has become very attached to me since he came here and I probably should have anticipated this, but I have never seen him get upset about much of anything and I did not give it a thought.  I knew Ramsey would object to a strange dog in his space so he was the one I was watching.  My big grey knight was a surprise.  Ben saw the dog and didn't mind her until he heard that hint of panic in my voice.  I was worried about Lucy, but he interpreted it to mean I was afraid of Lucy and that was that.  From teddy bear to fire breathing dragon in the blink of an eye. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Happy Ending

It turns out that the stray has a name - it's Lucy.

Late last night, I got a message from a local woman who was sure this was her dog.  Since I had several people tell me that they were sure this was their dog, I asked her for some pictures and some history about her.  She was able to provide both, which the other people had not.

Turns out that Lucy is a purebred Bull Mastiff who never quite fit the breed description.  I thought she was some variety of Boxer/Mastiff/something crossbred, but I was wrong.  I told Lucy not to worry since she is not the only one around here who does not fit the mold.  Personality means much more than breed standards on this hill and Lucy certainly wins on that score.

Lucy's people live in the nearby village, next to the church.  About a month ago there was a large funeral there with a lot of cars and people.  Somewhere along the way, Lucy got let out of her fenced yard and went for a walk about.  Since she is not normally a wanderer, I suspect she met a porcupine somewhere near this time and, after an unfriendly introduction, panicked and took off.

In the short time Lucy was here I saw in her the personality type that I affectionately call the clueless coward.  She is inquisitive and curious and has no compunctions whatsoever about striding into a new situation and introducing herself.  At the same time, she is timid, easily startled and backs off at the slightest hint of rejection.  I can very easily see Lucy walking straight up to a porcupine and then taking off in terror when she hits the quills.

Lucy also has some kind of neurological issue that I noticed the first time I let her off the lead.  She was wandering around, checking things out and then started trotting in circles.  The circling was clearly a compulsive behavior.  She could be stopped or distracted out of the circling, but she didn't seem to have a lot of control over it.  Apparently, she was born with some neurological problems and has had this issue her whole life.  It is generally manageable and not a big issue in her own environment, but it is easy to see how a dog like Lucy could get lost in the woods.

She has been out on her own for about 4 weeks and I don't think she would have lasted too much longer on her own.  She was badly dehydrated, malnourished and exhausted when I found her.  After sleeping for almost two days straight, drinking copious amounts of water and getting a LOT of food in many small meals, she is well on her way to recovery.  She even felt well enough to go for a walk with Connor and I this afternoon, staying on her feet this time.

Afterwards though.....

This picture really sums up the colossal personality difference between Connor and Lucy.  They got along well enough, but are so different they may as well be from separate planets.  It is hard to believe they are actually the same species.  They got along, but did not interact much as they clearly did not speak the same language.

A few hours later, Lucy's people showed up to get her.  They had given up hope of finding her, but thanks, once again, to the blog, they have been reunited.  I am very glad to have been proven wrong and find that Lucy was not abandoned after all.  I am also glad I was here to help her when she needed it and I hope she has a long and happy life - at home in her own yard and on her own couch where she belongs.

Bye Lucy, it was nice meeting you.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

A Different Sort of Dog

The stray dog spent the night in my hay shed for lack of any other option.  I suspect that I could have just left her loose, but I didn't want to chance it.  She had a cushy bed to sleep on just out of sight and she was very happy there.

I tried to take her with us when Connor and I went on a walk this afternoon and she was very good on the leash, she never pulled or left my side.

We didn't really get far though because this is what she thought of being out in the woods just for exercise....

I found dozens more ticks on her this morning despite dosing her with Vectra yesterday and she was also just plain filthy so a bath was next on the agenda.

I will concede that bathing a Boxer is much easier than a Border Collie.

Once clean, she was much more pet-able.

She really loves attention and is very sweet.

Rebecca had it right when she commented that any dog who would let me pull quills, catch her in the woods and stuff her in a crate is a sound dog.  It's true, this is a very sound, nice dog.

After her bath, "hike" and another small meal, I got brave enough to let her off the lead for a bit.  She checked everything out, but showed no signs of wanting to leave.

She did show a tiny bit of interest in the Frisbee....

...but she is a whole different kind of Frisbee dog from Connor.

She is now lying on the floor next to me as I type this.  There may be some more excitement for her tomorrow, I will keep you posted.  For now, I will let sleeping dogs lie.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Does Anyone know This Dog??

A few nights ago, something got into the cat food in the barn.  I thought it was one of the cats from down the road and did not think much about it.  Then, one of my chickens got killed.  I figured it was a fox or weasel.  Last night, driving home from work, I saw this dog in the road.

I could see that she had porcupine quills in her face and that she was in poor condition.  She ran straight down my driveway and out past my barn.  I tried to find her, but she took off into the woods and disappeared.  It was 2:00 am and tracking strays in the deep woods was not going to happen.  I went to bed hoping she would find her way home and feeling rather guiltily relieved.

This afternoon, I spotted her by my pond and knew I wasn't getting off the hook that easily.  I went out armed with food, a leash and Connor to point the way.  We tracked her through the woods for a while and finally managed to get close enough to toss some food her way.  That sure got her attention and i was finally able to ease up and get a leash around her neck.

She was standoffish, but friendly enough once caught.  She has clearly been having a rough time on her own in the woods.

She is emaciated, exhausted and the quills in her face and chest have clearly been there for some time.

After talking to her and some more food, she let me pull most of the quills out and I also took off about a hundred ticks.

I got her home, got her some more food and put her in a crate in a quiet spot where she can rest.

I've called all the local vets, the shelter, the dog control one knows her.  I think she has been dumped in the woods.

I really do not want another dog.  Please tell me that someone recognizes this creature and has been looking all over for her for weeks.  She is safe for now and I will make sure she stays that way.  I think she has been dumped in the woods, but I am hoping I am wrong.

Please tell me I am wrong.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Going Green

Bug Off

There are two worries in my donkey keeping world that I struggle with above all others.  The one is how to keep their weight under control while still keeping them happy.  The other is the ticks and the diseases they bring with them.  The first problem is a management issue that I constantly wrestle with, but I also feel that there is a solution to the problem and that it is just something I have to keep working on.

The tick problem though, feels overwhelming and insurmountable.  Despite all my best efforts, I have a 100% infection rate for Lyme in my herd, in my dog and I have had two other instances of tick borne disease other than Lyme.  The two severe Lyme outbreaks that I have had have cost me over $5000 in vet bills and nearly cost Ben his life earlier this year.

I have become downright obsessive about ticks and I would would call my worry about them and their diseases paranoia except that every time I lay hands on a donkey, I find more of the horrible things.

How does that old saying go?

Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean no one is out to get you.

In my never ending quest for tick eradication, I have tried every kind of repellent I could think of, from organic to nuclear.  None have worked well, but some have done more than others.  Lately, I have been using a concoction that includes portions of the most successful repellents mixed together and it is, so far, the most effective bug dope I have used yet.  The concoction is a hybrid mix of lethal and organic and the combination seems to work better than either alone.

I start with a product called Ultra Boss, which is a super concentrated permethrin insecticide.  If used as directed, it can only be used once every two weeks, even though it never works for more than a few days.  It also tends to cause skin irritation in sensitive animals.  It was something I had considered to be a failure for treating anything other than lice.

I use one horse-sized dose as a concentrate that I dilute with water.

To this mix I add 5-6 drops of pure geranium oil.

Because the UltraBoss and the geranium oil are both oils, they do not mix with the water.  To make them mix better, I add about a teaspoon of Lysol.  This also acts as a mild disinfectant and helps heal bug bites.  Do not be tempted to use more as it could cause skin irritation if you do.  More is NOT better with any of these. 

The concoction mixes best if you make it up the day before and let it sit overnight, but that is not absolutely necessary.  Shake the bottle continuously as you spray it on your critter.  I use it 2-3 times per week for tick control and daily when the flies are really bad.

This "recipe" is truly a concoction born of need and was made out of ingredients I had at hand in a moment of desperation.  None of these ingredients had ever worked well on their own (except that I sometimes use the Lysol to treat thrush, it works fairly well for that).  However, I went from finding 20-30 ticks per day to finding 1-2 ticks per week after I came up with this.

It is not perfect (nothing is), but it is the best tick defense I have come up with yet.  It is also easy to use and cheap since the ingredients are so concentrated, one bottle of each will last the whole year.  

This may be one of my odder concoctions, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Cheap Drunk

The vet was out on Thursday for a Spring checkup and dental check.  Ben had been yawning a lot and stretching his mouth so I thought there might be something going on with him and since I don't know if he has ever had his teeth done, I wanted him to get checked out.

He was a bit dubious and worried about the whole thing, but Emma and Ramsey stuck close by him for moral support and he remained stoic about it all.

He had some sharp points that were irritating his cheek, but his teeth are in good shape.  He got a very, very small amount of sedative to make everything go easier for him, but Big Ben is a very cheap drunk and he was away in is happy place for about two hours after the vet left.

Everyone else had their teeth checked as well, but they all got gold stars for excellent dental care and they all got to avoid the dentist chair this time around.  The vet said that all my animals have remarkably good teeth, which I attribute to a forage-only diet fed as close to the way nature intended as possible.

Once the happy juice wore off, Ben was happy to go out and demonstrate his well honed foraging techniques with his newly polished chompers.