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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Post #27: Skunked!

I was in the kitchen late one evening, putting some things away when Henry streaked through the room like his tail was on fire.

Our house is arranged such that one can stand on the back porch and look out into the back yard.  Coming in from the porch, you would enter the back door into a mud room, which in turn opens into the kitchen. 

On the other side of the kitchen is a doorway that opens into the dining room, and another door that opens onto the stairwell and hallway.  The dining room is between the Study, on the left, and the living room on the right.  From the living room you can go back down the aforementioned hallway and turn either right back into the kitchen, or left into the master suite, complete with a bedroom, bathroom, dressing area, and walk-in closet.

Henry visited every one of these rooms during this particular journey through our house.  And he managed this tour in less than a minute on this summer evening.  Henry not only visited these rooms, but he managed to jump on every sofa, loveseat and chair that these rooms contained.

I had heard some barking earlier, followed by a high pitched squeal just moments before I saw the black streak flash through the kitchen.  I had time to turn and watch Henry leave the dining room and enter the study before I got slammed.

It hit me like a wall of odor.  Henry had just been skunked!  And it was powerful.  It felt like a physical force pressing me back against the kitchen cabinet.

“Stop him! Stop him!” I screamed at Wife.  Of course she had no idea why I was yelling, or what I was yelling about.

Henry had jumped up onto the love seat where Wife and I spent most of our time in the evening, watching television.  He rolled on his back and did his best to wipe the skunk off of him.

By the time the odor wall hit Wife, he had already rocketed into the living room.  He jumped onto one chair, then the next, and then the couch, desperately trying to find something that would get the smell off of him.

Wife and I were in hot pursuit.  Yelling at Henry, yelling at each other, not sure we really wanted to pick up this skunky dog.  We just wanted the smell to go away.  We wanted to turn back the clock for five minutes, and call Henry inside.  We wanted Henry to go out onto the porch.  We didn’t want Henry spreading his scent all over the house.

We were just two steps behind him when he headed for the bedroom.  He rolled on the rug, then headed back for our walk – in closet!  The good news?  This is where we were at last able to corner Henry.  The bad news?  This is where all of our clothes were hanging!

I carried Henry out onto the front porch, and closed him off from the rest of the house.  Then we opened the door, ran the air conditioner, turned on ceiling fans and exhaust fans, and opened any windows that weren’t painted shut.

It was already 11:00 when Henry first blew through the house.  We really didn’t want to stay up washing the dog, but we also didn’t want to leave poor Henry out on the front porch all night.  So, I hit the computer looking for a magic anti-skunk solution.  The word on the internet was that tomato sauce and ketchup don’t really work.  The magic formula I found involved hydrogen peroxide (quart), Baking Soda (1/4 cup), and 1 – 2 teaspoons of liquid soap.  Mix, rub on stinky dog, wait 15 minutes, rinse, repeat.

We had hydrogen peroxide, but not a quart of it.  So our first task was to run to the local grocery store which, thankfully, was open all night.

We washed poor Henry three times, and he still smelled like skunk.

The next morning we put our skunky dog in the bathtub and washed him with a dog shampoo we’d had for years.  He smelled much better.  The skunk smell was still faintly on him, but there was a great improvement.

The next time Henry met the tail end of a skunk, yes, there was a next time … we went straight to the dog shampoo.  It only took two applications, and it worked much better than the secret formula given above.

Henry didn’t learn to stay away from skunks.  But we learned how to deal with him when he forgot his lesson.

Oh, our clothes?  Wife and I smelled a little skunky for about six months, but the smell eventually left.  It was always interesting reaching in and pulling something out we hadn’t worn in a while.  Memories of that warm summer evening returned, along with the faint odor of skunk.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Post #26: Henry the Hunter

Henry was a really athletic dog.  He was quick, intelligent, and agile.  Henry surprised us one day when we were in Arizona visiting my Dad. 


Both PD and Henry were in my Dad’s back yard.  The humans were out in the back yard, too.  Dad’s house was just two blocks from undeveloped brushy Arizona desert.  His back yard had a nice view of Mount Graham rising up and dominating the skyline.  We stood under the shade of his trees, visiting about trivial things and enjoying the view. 

There was plenty of wildlife in the area, including birds.  One little brown bird came swooping down into the back yard.  He was trying to score something for food or perhaps some twig for its nest.

A black streak shot from the left.  My stepmother exclaimed “Oh my!”

I looked, and Henry had snatched the bird out of the air in mid-flight.  I was shocked!  I had never seen Henry move that fast, and I certainly would never have expected a dog with such short legs capable of catching a bird.

And then, I realized that Henry intended to eat his catch.  Raw bird meat, bones, and feathers were not on Henry’s meal plan.  At least not the meal plan Wife and I had mapped out for him. 

I tried to act calm as I walked over to Henry.  “Drop it!” I commanded.

I was both surprised and relieved when Henry set the bird down.  I picked up the bird and inspected it.  It was badly injured, but not yet dead.  I carried the bird over to the trash bin, and quickly dispatched it, putting the poor bird out of its misery with a quick twist of its neck.

This was only the first of many critters that Henry would successfully catch, or at least attack.

Henry’s next catch happened several months later, in our own back yard.  As I said, Henry was not only quick, he was bright.  He learned from his previous experience.

Wife had been looking out the window into our back yard.  She spotted Henry just as he snatched a large black grackle out of the air.  It seems he was perfecting his technique.  Grackles are large black birds, and were frequent visitors to our back yard.  I had seen both of our dogs take off after the big birds, scattering them up into the trees, but this was the first time one of the dogs actually caught one of the birds.

Wife began shouting at Henry and calling my name, telling me to hurry.  We went outside, and there was Henry, with his prize on the ground.

I was beginning to think the capture of the bird in my Dad’s back yard wasn’t a fluke, after all.  This dog could move!

When Henry looked up and saw us, he scooped up the bird in his mouth.  I think he remembered from the last time that he caught a bird that I was likely to take his prize away from him.  As I approached, I told Henry “Drop it!”

And he did.

But, then, recalling the last time I told him to drop a bird that he had caught, he picked up the bird again.  Henry did not want to lose his hard earned reward.  So he snatched up that big black bird.  The bird went in head first, with its feet dangling out on either side of his mouth.

Henry began to run around the yard, the bird’s legs flopping around.  Wife said he looked like he had a “Fu-Manchu” moustache.

I retrieved the sternest voice I could muster, considering the comical site in front of me … black dachshund running around the yard with the legs of a black bird dangling out from either side of his mouth … and ordered Henry to drop the bird.

He stopped.  He dropped the bird.  And he watched me.  I walked over to Henry to retrieve the dead bird.  Henry let me get within three steps, and then he reached down and picked up the bird again.

Before I could order Henry to “Drop It” again, he took a big gulp, and swallowed the bird whole!

I still have no idea how he managed to get that whole bird down his throat in one swallow.  Nor do I know what happened to the remains of that Grackle.  I watched the back yard for days, looking for droppings with feathers, bones, or maybe even a whole bird carcass.  Nothing.  As far as I can tell, Henry managed to digest that bird like he did his dog food.  There was nothing in the yard to indicate that any part of the bird was vomited back up, or did not get fully digested.

I didn’t even find the feet.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Post #25: Emotional Connections

Dogs are pretty amazing at picking up on our emotions.  I did not really believe that they could read us as well as they do.  I learned otherwise during a trip Wife and I took one year to Kerrville, Texas.

We had decided to visit Kerrville one year as a weekend getaway.  Kerrville is located in the Texas hill country and a lot of folk like to go to visit and drive on the narrow winding roads through the hills.  I had a friend that lived in Kerrville, and thought it would be nice to meet him during our trip.  I had met in an online forum, and had not actually met him face to face, so the trip would be a good opportunity to cement our connection.

We had dragged our Fifth-wheel behind us and stayed at a nice little park on the Guadalupe River.  We did a little bit of sight-seeing and some shopping, and I was able to meet my friend at a restaurant.  He invited us out to his house later to show off his workshop.  My friend was a contractor, so I knew that anything he built would have been well-built.  We agreed to stop by his home on our way out of town.

With our time off from work over, we hitched up the Fifth-wheel and the dogs, and headed to my friend’s house.  The friend lived in a nice community of homes built among the hills outside of Kerrville.  His house was at the foot of a very steep hill with homes perched along the hillside like bird’s nests.  My friend came out to greet us, and suggested that I drive up and around on the narrow road so that my truck and trailer would be facing the right direction when it was time to leave.

We started up the hill, admiring the beautiful homes.  And I was admiring my Ford F250’s diesel engine as it pulled the Fifth-wheel up the slope.  There is nothing like feeling the power of your diesel taking on a challenge like this one.  Slowly, gently, up and up we went.  Then the road turned to the right and we were on pretty level ground, although pretty high up. 

There were a couple of roads that intersected with the one we were on, but my friend had made a sweeping gesture with his hand, suggesting that we just stay on one road all the way around.  Still, I was a little uncertain.  Should I have turned back there?  What about this next one?  We passed the last intersection with some doubt, and were about to follow the road as it turned to the right again, when we saw a sign that said “Dead End.”  What?!

The next thing we saw was the road in front of us dropping down into … nothing?  Looking ahead, I saw another road rising up from the valley, but it was way off to the left of the road I was on.  I was not sure if that was the same road I was on, or if both roads dead-ended into a creek, and they were different and unconnected.  The sign we just passed had said this was a dead end!

As we started down, I was very anxious, worried that I would have to back my truck and trailer up a steep grade on a narrow road for quite a distance.  Wife was feeling the same anxiety, as we both began to second guess my decision to not turn at the last intersection.

As we started down that steep road, our anxiety must have crossed some kind of threshold.  Our normally quiet, peaceful dogs sat up and began crying.  They sang, they howled, and they barked loudly.  We moved slowly down the hill facing the unknown with our choir singing their loudest.  This was not at all helpful, and I’m sure each of us was reinforcing the anxiety of the other, bringing us all too quite a high state of fear!  Further down into the abyss we went, but not quietly.

When we drove down far enough, I could see that our road did indeed bend to the left and proceed up the other side of the hill.

Like magic, the cab of the truck became quiet.  Everyone was happy, cheerful, and relieved.  The dogs settled back down onto their laps, laying their heads down like nothing had ever happened. 

Once we arrived back at our friend’s house, facing the right direction, I asked about the “Dead End” sign.  “Oh yeah,” he replied “they just put that sign up there to keep kids from hot-rodding through the neighborhood.”


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Post #24: Traveling With Dogs

Henry and PD got along well.  We never saw any aggression between the dogs.  And Henry did his job.  He taught PD a few things about doggy manners.  Henry was always respectful of us. 

When we brought Henry home at three months old, Henry was smaller than 6 month old PD.  But, by the time Henry reached 6 months, it was obvious that we had a full-sized dachshund, not a miniature. 

With two dogs, we could not travel as easily as before.  To stay current in my field, I attended a lot of workshops.  We had taken PD with us to a hotel when Wife decided to join me at a workshop in a distant city.  PD did fine, and we were good tenants in the hotel.  We took PD down and out to the little postage sized green space the hotel had for regular walks.  There were no “accidents” in the room. 

Leaving PD in the room in his crate by himself was a little scary, though.  We could readily see that two dogs in a hotel room would be difficult to manage.  

Our solution was to buy a travel trailer.  We found a used trailer in a local lot and took it out for a test drive.

The dogs really enjoyed the experience.  While we were on the road PD and Henry would take turns sitting in my lap, then sitting in Wife’s lap.  They expressed their creativity by producing “nose art” on the side windows of the truck as we traveled down the road.

Sometimes they would bark out the windows to scare away people or animals walking down the streets.  Apparently the barking worked, since we were never attacked by street people or animals while pulling our trailer.  Sometimes the two would spend their time just watching the scenery go by.  But most of the time, they just napped on our laps.

Every once in a while we would watch as their heads would rise up off our laps in unison.  They would begin to sniff the air, and then put their faces directly in the path of the air flowing out of the vents.  Their noses would twitch as they strove to catch every nuance of the scents that were being directed into the cab of the truck.  Something interesting was outside nearby.  Sometimes it was cattle, or it could be horses.  Most likely, it was some dead animal flattened by the traffic.  The dogs usually knew when something was coming near long before the people in the truck did.

Once in the campground, we enjoyed our time walking our dogs around the RV parks.  PD was little and cute, and he was always the one to get the most attention.  He was also the one who did not trust children.  Kids would come up and ask if they could pet PD.  We advised that they pet Henry, instead.  Henry loved kids, and loved the attention he got from them.  PD, however, would prefer that children just leave him alone.  He would allow an adult to pet him, but the result was usually a wet shoe, since PD was a submissive pee-er.

One thing that Henry did not like about RV parks was people cooking outdoors.  The smell of smoke cowed him for the first couple of years when we traveled.  I would notice that Henry would suddenly stop in his tracks and refuse to go forward.  Then I’d realize that I could smell someone barbecuing nearby.  I was eventually able to get him to walk with me past the smoking barbecue. 

After about a year with our pull-behind trailer, Wife and I decided it was time to invest in a new Fifth Wheel.  The new trailer was fabulous.  PD and Henry really enjoyed their new set of wheels.

The Fifth Wheel was also a bit higher off the ground.  Since the whole purpose of the trailer was to be able to take our dogs with us, I needed to find an easy way to get the dogs in and out of the trailer.  Larger dogs can just bound up the steps.  But when you are born with silly little legs that let your chest drag in 1 1/2” high grass, steps can be a bit of a challenge.  So I bought a board that they can use as a ramp.  Now lumber can be slippery when damp, so I had to modify the board.  I added outdoor carpeting to let the little guys gain traction.

And if I’ve got a ramp to help them get into the trailer, why not a ramp to let them up on the couch while Wife and I are out site-seeing every day.  I think I went a little “ramp – crazy.”  Because the idea of a ramp in the trailer soon grew into ramps in the house. 

In between road trips, I started building ramps.  We had ramps to help them get on couches, a ramp for the bed, and of course, a really long ramp to let them go outside from the house.  We lived in a house on pier and beams, and the house was about five foot off the ground.

And ramps are a good thing, if you happen to be a dachshund.  But that's another story.