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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Post #30: Living off the Land

Henry was always good about supplementing his diet.  It seemed as though Henry figured out a new supplemental plan for every season. 

During the Summer, Henry would feast on Locusts.  He learned how to sniff them out while they were still under the ground.  Then he would dig them up and have a little snack.  I think his favorite locusts, though were those that made the mistake of stopping too close to the ground to shed their outer shell.  You know, they say texture really enhances one’s dining pleasure.  I think Henry enjoyed the extra “crunch” of biting into the locust’s crispy outer shell.

In the Fall and Winter, Henry would eat the acorns that fell from our giant live oak trees.  The trees were huge, ancient, and their canopies pretty much covered our entire back yard.  I’ve learned that the acorns from a live oak tree are bitter.  One taste was all it took to convince me to leave the acorns to the squirrels.  Henry, however, seemed to like them.  Maybe I would have enjoyed the flavor more if I had eaten the shell along with the bitter nut.

One Fall afternoon Wife took Henry to the vet for a routine checkup.  They had a new vet in the clinic who was not familiar with us or with Henry.  She chided Wife for letting him get overweight.  He was only one or two pounds over his ideal weight, and was by no means obese.  Wife told her that we didn’t know where he had gained the extra weight.  The mulberries were no longer in season.  It might be the acorns.  No, we never fed him table scraps.  Yes, we were giving him the recommended amount of dog food.  The vet didn’t believe Wife, but let it drop.

I got home from work the same time Wife got home from the vet.  As we walked Henry from Wife’s car to the gate we talked about what the vet had said.  I thought it was probably the bumper crop of acorns that our trees had produced.  Wife wasn’t so sure.

We got to the gate.  I bent over and unleashed Henry as Wife opened the backyard gate.  Henry took off like a streak of black lightening.  Before I could even stand upright to see what was happening, Henry was on the far side of the backyard, munching down on the bird he had just caught.

Wife and I looked at each other and laughed.  Now we knew how he was gaining weight.  Apparently the first two bird catches were not just a lucky accident.

Henry’s favorite time of the year for snack food was the Spring.  Our neighbor had a mulberry tree that hung large branches over our backyard.  The tree’s limbs would be heavy with ripe mulberries.  The berries would drop into our backyard by the truckload.  Both PD and Henry would feast on the berries.  But Henry was the one who would gain weight.  Wife referred to him as having “porked out” on the berries.  We discussed whether eating mulberries would be a problem for our dog’s weight.  Our vet assured us that dogs couldn’t get fat on eating mulberries.  I believed that the vet was wrong!

We were especially worried about Henry’s weight because of his back.  We knew that even a few ounces on a small dog put excessive weight on the long back.

I decided that I needed to fence Henry out to keep him from eating too many mulberries.  I started off just using assorted lumber and cinder blocks that we had around the house.  I fenced off that portion of the yard where most of the mulberries fell.  I didn’t fence off the entire area, since I felt like a few mulberries would be OK for him.  I just fenced off the area where the biggest piles lay.

Wife and I couldn’t see the area I had blocked off from the kitchen, since there was a small shed in backyard that blocked our view.  I went outside later in the afternoon to see how things were going with my fence.  Henry had managed to knockdown some of the boards and got in.

I chased him out, added a few more boards and some more bricks.

Those got knocked over, too.

Sigh!  Time to get serious.  So, my next stop was the local Tractor Supply store to see what they might have in the way of inexpensive and temporary fencing.

I found three foot high green wire fencing and fencing stakes.  I bought what I thought I would need and brought it all home.

I pounded in the stakes.  The wooden fence separating us from our neighbor made one side, and our little shed made a second side.  So I ran stakes from the fence to the shed on two sides.  Then I stretched the wire fencing from one stake to the next until my mulberries were secure.

The next day I came home from work and I found Henry calmly eating mulberries under the tree inside the fence.  He had figured out how to squeeze between the wooden back yard fence and the first metal stake.  I wasn’t sure that he could get back out, though.  Since the days were getting warmer, I was concerned with Henry having access to water.

I spent the rest of the afternoon securing all of the gaps that I could find.  I left for work the next day certain that there would be no more holes for Henry to squeeze through.

That evening I saw the same familiar site.  Henry grazing on fallen mulberries inside the fence.  I searched the fence for gaps or knocked down stakes.  There were none.  What I found, however, was a nice hole dug under the fence. 

So far Henry had shown me that he could go over the fence, through the fence, and under the fence.

Henry won!

The fence came down.  I decided to trust the vet and quit worrying about mulberries.