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Friday, October 30, 2015

Post # 45: Rabbits!

Wife has started raising a Spring/Summer garden in our backyard. She worried about the dogs getting into her garden the first year that she planted.  So I put a small fence around her little plot.
The vegetables grew and produced an abundance of produce.  But, it was difficult to step over the fence.  She worried about snakes. And she worried that everything was crowded.

The second year saw a larger garden plot with fewer plants and no fence.  This was also the year of the heavy rains and some flooding in May and June.  The garden didn’t do very well with that much water.

This was also the year that PD decided he liked squash plants.   Not the squash vegetable.  Just the plant itself, the stalk.  Over a period of a month, PD ripped out one plant after the other.  He would tug on the plant, pulling it out by its roots.  Then, PD would drag the plant out of the garden and settle down for a luscious meal of Squash Plant.

Wife and I had been worried about rabbits, not dogs.

It turns out that we were right to worry about rabbits, too.

Twice I had come home and spotted a rabbit in our back yard.  I quickly alerted Wife and had her seal off the back door.  Neither one of us wanted to watch our dogs tear up a rabbit.  We had chicken wire along the back fence to deep our dogs in the yard and other critters out.  Apparently the fence only worked on our dogs. 

I knew that the rabbit had figured out a way to breach the chicken wire.  But I also figured there would only be one or two ways in and out of that fence.  I was worried that in its panic to get away from the dogs, the rabbit would get trapped and we’d have a slaughter.

In each instance I was able to go into the back yard without the dogs, and herd the rabbit back to whatever hole it had dug or chewed to get in.

One evening, Wife and I were sitting on the porch enjoying our freshly mowed lawn.  Frank started barking at something I couldn’t see.  Wife had a better view and told me it was a rabbit.

I walked over and started “shushing” Frank.

It was just a poor baby rabbit.  The little guy was all hunkered down, trying to be still.  Despite his best effort at looking like a rock, he was trembling. 

I was able to pick up Frank.  We called PD, who obediently followed us into the house.  We closed off the dogs and I went back outside.

The bunny had hopped over to the brick border around a tree.  He sat there with his face to the wall.  I guess he thought he was hiding.  Wife was watching from the window.  He was so small.  She said that he just kind of fell over onto his side on uneven ground.

We just knew that his momma had to be nearby somewhere.  So we kept the doggy door shut and waited a couple of hours.

Two hours later, and he was still in our back yard.  Still in danger.

I scooped him up, carried him to the fence and put him gently on the other side.  That should take care him, right?

That evening just before bed time, we let the dogs out to take care of business.  And they did.  And for Frank, taking care of business included discovering that the bunny had come back into our yard.

Frank started his barking at the bunny.  He was a little afraid of it, since he had no idea what this critter was.  I walked over to get Frank but he kept avoiding me.  Then, the bunny turned around and lunged at Frank.  This little tiny thing decided he was tired of Frank’s noise.  So he lunged, not just hopped, but an aggressive lunge.  Frank backed off and into my waiting hands.

We left the little rabbit alone in the yard and locked the dogs inside for the night.  Surely, by morning the rabbit’s momma will have found him and escorted him home.
The next morning, I did a quick walk around the backyard, looking for the little rabbit.  I saw nothing, so we let the dogs out of the house.  It wasn’t long before we heard Frank barking.  What I couldn’t see, Frank managed to sniff out.  That little bunny was still in the back yard.

Back in the house went the dogs.  I scooped up the little fella and placed him in a small cage.  Then I went back into the house and got on the computer to do a bit of research.  My granddaughter had raised a rabbit for 4-H just a few months ago.  I was wondering if this rabbit might be turned into a pet for her.

Or maybe I could find a shelter for the rabbit.  It was plain this baby’s momma just didn’t care.  And he didn’t seem to be very bright.  I learned that baby rabbits’ nests often loo
k like the piles of grass we had all over our yard after mowing.  So maybe he just got turned around.

I also learned that it is very hard for a young bunny to survive as pets.  They are much more hardy than you expect, and usually do quite well on their own.  Better, in fact than they do when people try to make them pets.

So, I pulled out my folding ladder and climbed over into our neighbor’s property with the cage.  I walked a bit into their property, and behind some brush and released the rabbit back into the wild.

We’ve not seen any rabbits since then.  I don’t know whether he survived, if he found his nest or his momma.  But in Wife’s imagination, he made it back home safely and is still out there in the brush romping around with his brothers, sisters, momma, and daddy.

Of course, Wife isn’t really all that na├»ve.  She pointed out to me that her google search revealed that rabbits are food for everything else.  “Why do they have to make them so cute?” she asks. 

Maybe rabbits could look a little more like possums?

Friday, October 23, 2015


When we lived in Aransas Pass and both PD and Henry were young, Wife and I would often sit outside in the evenings.  We would enjoy the sea breeze and the cool shade of our Live Oak trees. 
PD and Henry were full of youthful energy.  They would often entertain us by chasing each other around the yard.  PD would chase Henry around the shed, under the lawn chairs and around the trees.  We’d watch and laugh when Henry would sometimes take a break in the game.  Henry would gain distance from PD and then stop once he was out of PD’s sight.  Then he’d sit in the grass and watch PD continue to run around the course, thinking Henry was just ahead of him.  When he got tired of watching PD run by him self, Henry would take off in the opposite direction.  The two would cross paths at a high rate of speed, barely missing each other, like the Blue Angels with their thrilling in-air stunts.

Sometimes the two of them would come crashing into one of the chairs as they misjudged the turn.  Or Henry would broad-side PD and send PD rolling through the grass.

Wife and I just saw this as an interactive game of chase and enjoyed the show.
When Frank came along, PD was already too old to play chase.  But Frank was young and full of joyful exuberance.  He wanted to play and needed to release his pent up energy.  Wife and I had become busier in our lives and spent less time walking the dogs, or even sitting out in the back yard.

What’s a young, high-energy dachshund supposed to do when surrounded by a bunch of “old fogies?” 

The answer is “Zoomies!”  I have to thank the Dachshund-Talk forum for giving me a name for this phenomenon.  Without them, I would have never known what to call it.  Zoomies describes the action perfectly.

They started when we were still living in the old house in Aransas Pass.  Every evening around meal time, we would hear the clatter of toe nails on hardwood as Frank would jump off the love seat in the TV room.  We’d look up in time to see a brown and white streak flying past the kitchen door toward the living room.  Then Frank would come racing back and making a hard left turn into the kitchen.  

With the hardwood floor, he would almost always overshoot the mark, sliding past the door as his paws scrambled to make purchase, and sometimes slamming into the door frame.  Then Frank would zoom through the kitchen, into the mud room, out the doggy door, back into the mud room, and back through the kitchen.  He’d then hang a left, go back into the TV room, fly onto the loveseat, jump off, and start the whole course all over.

Frank did this with his tail wagging, and a look of joy on his face.  Usually two or three trips around the house like this, and then the Zoomies stopped, just as suddenly as they began.  He walked calmly into the kitchen and get a drink of water as if nothing unusual had happened.

Frank continued to run his Zoomies in our little patio home and he still has them in our new home.  We have a bit more of the floor covered with carpeting, and he seems thankful for that.  The paths he invents have altered a bit to accommodate the shape of the house and then number of rooms available to him.  But the behavior and the pure joy we see in him has not.

I love Zoomies!

Frank's Zoomies

If none of the videos or links above work, copy and paste on this link:

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Post #43: Moles in the yard

PD has established his dominance over Frank, and Frank pretty much accepts his place in the pecking order.  While it is sad for us to watch Frank’s insecurity around PD there have not been anymore major fights between the two.

Frank enjoys our backyard and he usually takes advantage of the ramps we have around the house. But, he still manages to surprise us by flying on to chairs, tables, and even the bed.

Frank has filled out nicely. He is no longer the skeleton he once was. However, he can no longer fly as high or as far as he once did. Still, he does pretty good.

Frank has learned to ask for attention when he wants it. And, he can be really persistent. He will work his muzzle under our hands and then onto top of his head. It doesn’t take long to figure out that Frank has a pair of ears that need to be massaged or chest that needs to be rubbed.

Frank also does his best to earn his keep as a house dog.

When we first moved to our new house, we had mole trails all over our back and front yards. Frank decided that it is his job to hunt them down. I’m pretty good at catching gophers. I know what to look for in a gopher hole, and how to set a gopher trap.  But I’m not so good at catching moles.

On the other hand, Frank has never caught one, either. But that hasn’t stopped him from trying. He is probably one of the most enthusiastic mole hunters that you have ever seen. He spends hours in the backyard digging trenches. I’ll look out the window and see his butt in the air and dirt flying. He’ll dig for a bit, and then he will grab a grass runner and pull and shake and pull some more until that grass runner has come loose. Then Frank will stick his nose in as deep into the earth as he can. Once he has the scent firmly in his nostrils, he will pull his head out, snort, and start digging the trench again. Frank has been at this for about two years.

He’s never caught a thing.

We have a few cats in our neighborhood. Frank and PD will chase them out of the backyard when they see them back there. I don’t mind the cats. I won’t feed them, but I don’t chase them away.  And I try to be careful about not running over any cats when I pull out of the driveway. Unlike the experience we had on 11th St., we’ve not yet killed any cats in our new home.

There is a large yellow cat that likes to sleep under my truck. I think he’s watched Frank’s futile attempts at catching moles. Sometimes I see him lying in the brush behind our property staring into our yard.  I’m not sure, but he may be smiling while he is watching Frank dig trenches.

Watching Frank’s enthusiastic attempts to catch the moles motivated me into action. I’d done a bit of research and I couldn’t really see that they’re doing a lot of harm. They weren’t killing the grass. In fact, they were probably eating the cinch bugs dining on the roots of my grass.

Sometimes it is a little disconcerting to walk across the lawn and then suddenly sink lower than expected when I step on one of their trails. But that doesn’t happen too often. I’m actually more annoyed by stepping into one of the trenches Frank has dug than I am by stepping onto one of the mole trails.

I have read stories about moles damaging foundations and driveways, but I’m not sure that those stories are true. Most of these stories came from internet sites trying to sell the latest and greatest gadgets for killing moles.  Still, I felt I should do my part to help Frank’s “stamp out the moles” campaign. So I went online, and did some research.

I bought some Super-duper, Extra Large, Guaranteed to Work Mole Traps. I carefully read the instructions, bought some flags to help me carry out those instructions, and set out the next day to mark all of the trails that were crisscrossing our backyard. I’d walk a bit, and when my foot sank down I took a close look at the ground, and if it looked like there might be a mole trail under that grass I’d stick a little red flag into the ground next to where I just stepped.

The idea is that moles do not like to have their active trails shut down. If you step on one and crush the tunnel the mole will come back over overnight and reopen the tunnel.  If you look at the trail the next day, and the trail has been repaired, then you know that you have found an active trail, and that is where you want to set your trap.

By the time I finished, I had about 20 places marked off in our backyard. The next day I went out and selected four spots that I thought might have been reopened. Then I set my traps.

After about a week of hunting down trails and setting traps, I finally got one mole.  I noticed the yellow cat watching me.  Yes, that was definitely a smile.

I was setting traps in the back yard, in the front yard, and in the flower bed.  Only one mole.
One morning, sometime after I’d caught my one and only mole, but before I’d given up, I opened the garage door to go get our newspaper.  There it was.  Just outside the garage door.  The gift from our yellow cat:  a dead mole.

There haven’t been any others. The cat didn’t need to bring us any others.  He just wanted me to know that he could do it.  And he could do it anytime he wanted.

I haven’t had the heart to tell Frank.

And I’ve not bothered to set out any more mole traps.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Post #42: PD’s Criminal Record

PD had a difficult time accepting Frank into our home.  He became very possessive of me.  With Henry, PD was willing to share my lap and willing to share our bed. 

Frank was a lively, friendly dog, but he was not totally welcomed by PD.  PD would stare him down if Frank looked like he wanted to get on the couch with us.  He growled at Frank if he thought he was getting too close to my lap.  Early on, we were able to get both dogs on our laps without much of a problem.

But things began to change.  PD became more aggressive.  When Frank wandered too close to my lap, PD would snap at him.  We had a couple of loud scuffles on the love seat where Wife and I sat to watch television.

Food had become another issue between the two of them.  And part of this aggression, we believe, was due to PD’s having been put on steroids.  It wasn’t too long after PD recovered from his pancreatitis that we figured out he really was having back pain, and he was put on steroids for a while to help with that.

One evening, about three months after Wife and I had brought Frank into our home, PD taught me an important lesson.

Frank had beat PD to my lap and had settled in.  PD came up the ramp and demanded that Frank get off.  He began barking and started to lunge at Frank.  I instinctively put my hand out to block PD’s attack.  PD clamped down on one of my fingers.  I grabbed his jaw (with my finger still in his mouth), flipped him over on his back and did my “aggressive” act to let PD know that his behavior was not acceptable.

When he was looking calmer I withdrew my hand and found a couple of puncture wounds in my finger.

Things got better with PD after that, but we still watch their proximity when I am around.  The two can be best buddies as long as I am not close. 

My First Lesson?  I’ve learned not to stick my hand in front of a growling, barking dog.


A couple of days after the biting incident, one of the puncture wounds was turning red.  I was in Victoria at the time and decided to have it checked out by a doctor.  I went to a walk-in clinic, got some antibiotics, and was told I had to wait until the Animal Control folk came out to interview me.


Animal Control showed up and asked me some questions.  Then, they informed me that if PD had been in Victoria they would have required that he be taken to the pound and quarantined and observed for three days. 

They labeled him as an aggressive dog.

Since PD lived in Aransas Pass, they sent a notice to the Aransas Pass Animal Control (APAC), and it would be up to APAC to decide what to do with him.  Thank goodness they didn’t file extradition papers on PD.

A day later, the APAC knocked on our door in Aransas Pass.  Wife opened the door and PD and Frank ran out onto the porch to greet the Animal Control Officer.  Thank goodness PD wasn’t in one of his barky moods.  The officer saw the wagging tails and experienced PD’s submissive peeing (did he get her on the foot?  I think not) when she bent over to pat PD on the top of the head.

She said she could tell that PD was not an aggressive dog.  And she understood that bite was due to circumstances, after Wife explained what happened.

But, she also warned us that the dog bite is now “on his record.”  Another bite could result in his being put down because he is an aggressive dog.

The Second Lesson I’ve learned is that my family pets are just two bites away (well, PD is only one bite away) from being taken from me.

I realized that PD was aggressive around Frank, and he didn’t really like kids, but I never thought of him as a danger to the public at large.  But now he has a record.  He has one strike against him in a two strikes and you’re out system.

In my work, I do risk assessment on offenders.  How likely are they to “recidivate” or commit the same crime again?  I began to wonder if there were any assessment instruments or psychological tests out there that I could administer to PD.  Maybe I can do an assessment and show that he isn’t really a high risk dog.  He has to register every year, but that’s just for rabies.  

At least they don’t have his mug shot in a book down at the dog pound.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Post #41: PD’s Third Miracle

PD’s third encounter with near death was also his closest call.  PD was eight years old.  Wife and I were trying to live in two places in two cities.  I had closed my private practice in Rockport and began a full-time position as faculty at the University of Houston – Victoria.  I would stay in Victoria for three or four days a week, and then would stay in Aransas Pass for three or four days.

PD began acting strangely on one Sunday in Aransas Pass.  He was depressed, not moving much, and looked like he was in pain.  This was too soon after Henry went down, and we were still very much worried about dachshund back injuries.  Our first thought was that PD had hurt his back.  Our regular vet was closed and not available. 

I drove PD to the veterinary hospital in Corpus Christi.  I expressed my concerns about PD’s back to the person who did the intake.  The tech took X-rays, the vet looked at them and said she could see some places where he had inflammation of his disc.  She gave PD a shot for his pain.  PD and I left the hospital with a bottle of pain medication, advice to keep him in a crate, and instructions on when to give him his medicine. 

I was supposed to be in Victoria on Monday, and Wife and the dogs were coming with me.  So, we crated PD, packed our things, and headed north.

PD did not get better.  PD continued to be lethargic.  He threw up a couple of times.  He refused to eat.  That was a really big thing.  PD has always been food motivated.  So, any time he refuses to eat, we know something is really wrong.  He also refused to drink.

Wife forced his pain medicine down him, and he threw it right back up.  We decided not to force him to take it again.  By late evening, PD had not had anything to drink.  I took him to his water dish, but he just looked at it.  Then I put some water on my finger and rubbed it around his lips.  That triggered a gagging reflex.  PD was warm and seemed to have a fever.  It was late Sunday evening, and we had no vet resources in Victoria.  We decided to wait it out, and hope that PD would be better in the morning.

He wasn’t.                                                                                                                     

Wife was headed to Temple to spend some time with our grandchildren, but we both knew we needed to get PD back to our vet in Rockport.  

I put PD in the car and drove south to Rockport, while Wife headed north to Temple.  Both of us with prayers for the safety of the other, and for PD to get well.

The vet examined PD and ran some blood tests.  He told me to leave PD with him so they could start him on an IV and get some fluids in him.  He was dehydrated and in pain.  The vet wanted to wait for the lab results and check some other things.  I left and went back to Victoria without PD.  When the vet called, the news was bad.

PD had pancreatitis.  His body was digesting itself.  His liver had shut down.  His kidneys had shut down.  The vet wasn’t sure that PD would live.  He told us that on paper, PD was already a dead dog.

The vet withheld all food and water.  Any food or water consumed by mouth would trigger an enzyme action against his organs.  This is why PD was vomiting and gagged when I forced him to put water in his mouth.  This enzyme action was the means in which his body was digesting itself.  Any fluids or nutrition that PD got would have to be through his IV.

PD stayed at the vet’s for several days.  We spoke to the vet every day.  At first we got encouraging news.  He seemed to be getting better.  But then, PD seemed to be getting worse.  The vet asked us to come and talk to him about taking PD home.  The vet didn’t think that there was anything else he could do for PD.

Wife and I drove to Rockport, to the vet’s office.  We went into the examination room and waited while the vet told us about what he had done for PD.  He told us that PD wasn’t “out of the woods, yet.”

The tech walked in carrying PD.  He saw us and began to wag his tail.  The tech put him on the examining table, and PD was all over us with kisses and tail wags.

The vet smiled and said that was the best he had seen PD act since he had arrived.  He knew that he had done the right thing to get us to come and get him.

PD is now on a low-fat diet, and has not had any further problems with his pancreas.  He is 11 years old now, and is losing some of his eye sight.  He is often in pain because of his back, but Wife does a great job of managing his pain.

As he gets older, he accumulates symptoms that slow us all down.  We do not know how many more years we will have with PD.  We are simply grateful for all of the years that we have had.  We count each day that PD is with us as one more blessing.