Sunday, August 30, 2015

Hang ten

Scout is a professional surfer. Counter surfer, that is. At this point he could win pro-surfing competitions with all the practice he's had. And Scout is not shy about his surfing. He will do it right in front of us if he thinks there is something worth going after on the counter. His regular raiding runs have netted him several prizes already including, but not limited to: an entire container of dog treats, a hot dog bun, cookies, bread, a variety of lids to a variety of containers, plastic bags containing or previously containing food, the top to a thermos for Mom's tea, plastic water bottles, dog toys, training treats, half a jar of peanut butter, an entire cube of butter including the wrapping, and his latest prize: a bottle of fish oil for the cat's food. Much to his disappointment I caught him red handed and confiscated the smelly item, but not before he chewed several holes in the bottle and spilled fish oil all over the living room carpet. This was, presumably, a tactic to ensure he would have some for later, like a squirrel storing nuts for the winter. He spent the next hour licking fish oil out of the carpet, even after Mighty Mouth - our industrial carpet cleaner - tackled the mess. What remains from Scout's counter surfing is the unpleasant aroma of fish permeating the house, and several large stains all over the carpet. 

This was obviously not Scout's first misadventure with counter surfing and I'm sure it won't be his last. Case in point: just a few days ago I found a chewed up bottle prescription bottle and several pills scattered on the living room carpet. This pill bottle was previously a resident of the kitchen counter and we have never made a practice of storing our medications scattered across the floor. Clearly Scout had been at work again, and this time it cost us $65 to call the animal poison control emergency line to make sure that Scout had not inadvertently poisoned himself with Molly's Prozac. (He had not, although he was rather more sleepy for the rest of the day than a ten month old puppy should be, which was actually a nice change for us all.) As much as we try to keep items that may be of value to Scout out of his reach, he has a habit of turning lemons into lemonade and finding a purpose for anything he encounters in the kitchen, whether it is edible or not. Non edible items make great chew toys, after all. It would not surprise me if there was a sequel to this story.

Monday, August 10, 2015

There's one in every hatch

Well, it's happened. Again. Our latest batch of chicks, like our last batch, came with an unexpected surprise: a rooster. Gretchen is, apparently, a Gregory. The last time this happened with our "hen" named Buttercup, we were forced to re-home him after he started crowing at a few months of age. With neighbors that complained about nearly everything (our trees, our bamboo, the dogs barking in the neighborhood, the kids playing next door, the fact that the sky is blue and not purple with green polka dots; you name it, they probably complained about it) we knew it would not be long before they came knocking to complain about our little songbird so we regretfully re-homed our rooster. 

This time around the situation is somewhat different. Sir and Misses Complains-a-lot have moved out, along with two other neighbors with the subsequent result that now the neighborhood is full of nine barking dogs, three noisy teenagers, two screaming kids, one shrieking parrot, and a partridge in a pear tree. So the addition of one rooster seems to hardly make a dent in the general noisiness of the neighborhood. Add to that the fact that Gretchen has yet to utter a single cockle-doodle-doo: not so much as a peep has escaped his tiny bird mouth. (Knock on wood.) Should Gretchen decide to start, we are going to try to a No Crow rooster collar (check them out here if you want: At best it will reduce or eliminate the crowing. At worst it will be a fashion accessory to make him look charming while he does crow. As long as Gretchen maintains his vow of silence it looks like we will be keeping our rooster and starting a new adventure here on the Unfarm as rooster owners. He does seem to round out our flock of four hens nicely. Keeping our fingers crossed.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Super Dog!

... Or, How I Came to Walk Scout Before I Walk Molly and Axel. But "super dog" has a better ring to it, don't you think? Dog walks. It sounds like a simple enough activity: attach leashes to dogs on one end, your hand on the other, and proceed to put one foot in front of the other. But add in one slightly grumpy 90-pound dog, one extremely exuberant 50-pound puppy, and one overly neurotic ten pound dog all pulling in opposite directions and/or barking like a crazy thing (Molly) and the task becomes decidedly less simple. The solution was obvious: I needed to walk in shifts, taking one or two dogs and then the remaining dog(s). The first day I attempted this was a utter fail. 

I decided that I would talk Molly and Axel together so that I could ensure that Molly's bad habits would not rub off on our impressionable young pup; Axel being rather set in his ways and not so easily influenced. Scout would walk by himself because he tends to be calmer on his own, and he was in obedience class at the time and could benefit from the extra training time. So off I set one summer evening, Axel and Molly in tow. Scout was less than pleased. He was convinced that I was leaving without him and he would not get a walk this day. As I rounded the corner of the house, Scout ran to the master bedroom, jumped up on the bed, and pounded on the window. Which was, unfortunately, open. I stood outside, shouting for Mom and trying to force my frozen muscles to move my body back into the house. While I stood there watching, Scout pushed the screen out of the window and almost fell out. My heart skipped a beat, but he recovered and managed not to fall out. You can imagine my relief. Followed by my utter dismay when Scout took a look out the (second story) window, figured, "I can make that," and proceeded to JUMP OUT THE WINDOW. He went flying, like some sort of super dog, out the window. My heart stopped. I had visions of Buddy jumping off the garden retaining wall and injuring his wrist and how that was the beginning of the end for him. I was sure that jumping out of the window would have some kind of dire consequences for Scout. He landed behind the trailer and I stood without breathing for half a second, waiting for the worst to happen. What actually happened was that Scout ran out in front of the trailer and came bounding up to me, as if to say, "Well? What are we waiting for? Let's go!" My relief was immeasurable.

That he was uninjured was a miracle. That he was unfazed was somewhat disturbing. What, after all, was to stop him from jumping out the window again? This then, is how I came to walk Scout before I walk Molly and Axel, in hopes of draining off some of his energy before he sees me walk off without him. This is also, incidentally, how I came to be even more anxiety ridden than I already was, which is saying a lot. Prior to all walks now we shut every window, every door, lock all doors to the outside, and insist that anyone coming or going does so through the garage, which means there are two doors for the dogs to get through before they can gain any access to the outdoors. These precautions afford me a small measure of comfort but as I am about as neurotic as Molly, it doesn't afford much.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Crazy is as crazy does

Molly is the newest canine addition to our Unfarm family. Our reasoning for getting her was as follows: Scout needed a playmate closer to his own age. Axel likes the companionship of other dogs, but has - we quickly learned - absolutely no interest in playing with an overactive upstart of a puppy. Enter Molly, stage right.  She is a small, ten pound cocker spaniel and chihuahua mix with soft, short, caramel brown fur and brown eyes. She is cute, certainly, and sweet, definitely, but she is also - unfortunately - a tad bit crazy.

The shy, five month old puppy we thought we were adopting turned out to be closer to eighteen months old and "shy" is an understatement. She is scared. Terrified, actually. Petrified, even. At least fifty percent of the time. And what here on the Unfarm could be so scary? Oh, lots of stuff including, but not limited to: bike racks, floor vents, doorways, sewer drain covers, metal plates in the sidewalk, storm drains, changes in the color of the sidewalk, people (outside the family), other dogs, pet stores, slippery floors, dog bowl platforms, and dog bowls themselves (but only certain ones.)

And how did we end up with such a "special" little thing? We adopted her from a local rescue who got her from a shelter in southern California where she was picked up as a stray which means we have no history on her: no clue how her formative months were spent, or how long she was on the streets, or how she ended up there in the first place. We have nothing to go on and are left to try and undo months of deep seated issues.

She is nothing if not neurotic, which is probably why she fits in so well here. Half of us are crazy (Scout is a puppy, and by definition that makes him crazy) or special needs (we've got a duck with a limp and a chicken with a permanent broken toe - rest assured, neither issue causes the birds any pain) so the addition of Molly just adds more character to the Unfarm.

It's not all bad, though. She loves Scout and plays with him daily and worships the ground Axel walks on and will spend half of her walks jumping up to give Axel kisses (which he mostly rejects.) She also loves beds and sleeps all night with Mom and Dad on theirs with them, then spends Dad's working weeks sleeping all day with him. She is, to quote Dad, "a good little sleeper" and has taken over Maia's duties of keeping Dad company while he sleeps. Molly also, inexplicably, loves the beach. I thought for sure she would be terrified of the sand or the water or the noise or the people or everything combined but by some miracle she wasn't. She happily followed Scout, Axel and I into the water and splashed about in the waves, getting soaked in the process.

So how to increase the good times and decrease the stress and anxiety for Molly? We're going to try getting her on the friends and family plan at the local pharmacy. I think that enough of us are on mood stabilizing drugs that we qualify for getting another prescription for free. Whether or not it will help any remains to be seen but I will keep you posted.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Hello my name is Scout

In the several months that we have lived with Scout we have discovered several things:

1. Puppies are absolutely adorable but they don't stay that way for long. Pretty soon the little six pound, eight week old pup that was the picture of cuteness when he gently mouthed your slippers or jumped up to see you when you got home is a forty pound teenager who destroys your shoes in five minutes and pulls you down the street as he gasps and chokes at the end of the leash, making you look anything but in control (and let's face it - you're not.) On the plus side, he pees outside most of the time now so let's celebrate the small victories.

2. The grass is always greener. Scout has come to the decision that any treat any other dog has is better than the one he's got and will complain bitterly about the injustice of life having served him up a treat (bone, rawhide chew, peanut butter filled Kong, etc) that is clearly sub par to the one that Axel and/or Molly have. After about five minutes of his incessant barking in the particular tone that we have come to learn can be translated as, "I want what they have! My treat isn't nearly as good as their treat and if I only had their treat I would be completely satisfied for the rest of my life!!" we will either take all the treats away or we will switch treats with Molly who generally couldn't care less what treat she has, so long as she has one. Scout is perfectly happy for about two minutes until he realizes that Molly now has his former treat and suddenly that treat is the best one and the process starts all over again. For Scout, the grass is always greener on the other side, or the other treat is always better than the one he's got.

Scout has been jealous of the other dogs treats from the beginning

3. Toys are awesome and toys with squeakers are even more so. Scout loves toys, the noisier the better. Apparently, the purpose of toys is to either A) interrupt dinner with the loudest squeaky toy in his arsenal by running in circles around the dining room table merrily squeaking away, or B) cover the living room floor with the stuffing from whatever toy has fallen victim to Scout's ruthlessness, leaving the sad, empty shell of the toy lying forgotten on the floor amid it's own innards.

4. The purpose of life. The purpose of life, according to Scout, is to eat treats. And he's not picky about our treats either - treats can, and do, include traditional dog treats: food, bones, Zuke's treats, cookies, rawhide chews, homemade dog treats, and any assortment of items found in the aisles of both Petsmart and Petco. But let's not overlook the benefit of nontraditional treats - peanut butter straight from the jar on the counter, regular butter from the [now broken] butter dish, cat food, pre-digested cat food (otherwise known as sand cookies around here on the Unfarm), duck food, chicken poo, duck poo, rabbit bunny berries (do you detect a pattern here? if it came out of any animal other than a dog it's fair game), plastic of any kind (water bottles and milk jugs are a particular favorite), and food of variety that gets left out on the counter.

5. Life is full of obstacles - it's how you deal with them that matters. Nontraditional treat inaccessible? Use your surroundings: Scout will crawl, climb, jump, and stand on tiptoes to get to what he wants.

Scout stands on my desk to look for treats
Scout searches for bunny berries in Jojo's hutch

6. Make yourself at home. Scout will turn almost any object into a chance to relax; the world is his pillow. Literally. He will sit on just about anything: beds, couches, rugs, carpets, Molly, Mom, Dad, me (especially when I am trying to get my shoes on for a walk), and - believe it or not - actual pillows. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The end of an era

I have tried and failed numerous times to start this post. There is no way to make light of the loss of Maia, nor should there be. So instead, here are a few memories of her:

*Fair warning: disjointed memories follow... watch for awkward - or even no - transitions ahead. 

Years ago, we took Kita and Maia up to our family's vacation home on the Puget Sound and one time we decided to row her and Kita out to the floating dock to hang out with us, thinking it might be fun to spend some time with the dogs out there. Maia apparently disagreed. Almost as soon as we got the dogs out to the dock, Maia jumped off and swam to shore. We jumped back in the boat with Kita to go retrieve her but halfway to shore Kita jumped out of the boat and joined Maia on the beach. The beach there is a rocky curve of land below a cliff, upon which the houses stand; to reach the house you have to climb a tall staircase to get to the top of the cliff. When he reached the beach, Kita led Maia up the stairs before we could get to them - unfortunately, he led her up the wrong stairs, sending us on a chase through the neighborhood to track them down again. Maia would - and often did - follow Kita anywhere, when they finally came back Maia had found something in what must have been an advanced state of decomposition to roll in - she stank to high heaven and it took multiple washes to get her smelling anywhere near approachable again. 

We used to camp every summer on the southern Oregon coast, at a small campground with beach access that was generally fairly unpopulated so the dogs could run free to have a little fun and stretch their legs. Since the beach was bordered by a tall cliff on one side and the ocean on the other we considered it a fairly safe area to let the dogs explore off leash. On one occasion, Kita and Maia took off down the beach and disappeared. When next we saw them, they were running along the top edge of the cliff. How they got up there is still a mystery. How they got down was terrifying: Maia tripped and started to fall. I panicked and ran in terror to the cliff edge, ready to try climb up to get her or catch her if she fell all the way to the bottom. When I looked up again, she was happily running back down the cliff to the beach. To this day I could not tell you how she recovered from her fall or how she found her way around on the cliff so quickly. She was, apparently, a lab/beagle/mountain goat mix.

Maia lived to the ripe old age of 19 years - a pretty good feat for a dog of medium (about 45 pounds) size. To the end, she loved going with us on trips and to the beach. Unfortunately, she was less and less able to keep up or walk for very long the last year or two. We were then faced with two options: 1) leave her at the house and take just the younger dogs, or 2) get creative. Clearly option 1 was off the table so we got creative. We bought one of those big-wheeled garden carts from Costco and loaded it, her dog bed, and the dogs into the Suburban and headed to the beach. We put the dog bed in the garden cart and pulled it along the beach behind it us. When Maia got too tired to continue on we would set her in the cart, on her dog bed, and wheel her along with us, her ears flapping in the breeze, her eyes blinking in the sun. She seemed to not mind being treated like a princess and she always got a lot of attention from the other people on the beach. She has always adored being the center of attention and in her opinion the more people, the merrier.

Maia in her princess cart, with a blanket to keep her warm on the windy coast

Monday, March 9, 2015

The name of the game: procrastination

Back in the beginning of January I made the resolution to post on here at least twice a month. As it is now mid March you can see how well that resolution has gone. Much has gone on here on the Unfarm since I last posted in (oh, the procrastination, the embarrassment!) November. Here are some of the updates which I hope to be following up with more in depth posts.

An out of sorts sort of year: The whole of 2014 was unusual in that much of what we traditionally do each and every year did not get done. I had planned on taking Axel and Maia camping but my sister couldn't come out here from Colorado during the summer and I know too well Axel's desire to be near me that I feared if I attempted a solo trip I would come out of the campground showers to find him sitting outside the building waiting for me, having left an Axel-sized whole in my tent. In addition to a lack of camping there was a similar lack of berry picking. I don't think we went out once that summer. Usually we visit local farms to pick most of our strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and peaches. In addition, we had a bunch of home improvement projects planned that never got done. Let's hope we can get at least a few of them done this year - if not I think the chances are pretty good that someone is going to fall through the rotting pile of wood that we call a deck (the result of building a deck out of wood in a climate that is nearly perpetually wet.) As it is we have roofing tiles nailed to the deck to keep us from looking like a cartoon character who has stepped on a banana peel, windmilling our arms as our legs slide out from under us on the algae/slime that no amount of scrubbing and washing seems capable of reducing. The year went out with a fizzle as well when we failed to decorate gingerbread houses and bake our usual assortment of cookies and candies to give out to friends and relatives. We did manage to make a batch of fudge, some butter toffee, and rocky road but that's about it. No sugar cookie decorating, no cranberry coconut cookies (they are actually much tastier than they sound), and no chocolate covered cherries. We barely even decorated the tree for Christmas. Let's hope that this year is better than the last one.

Addition, then subtraction, then addition again: No, I didn't take a math course at the local college (child, please!) I bought a pet mouse back in August and named her Bernadette. She was a secret mouse in that Dad knew nothing about her (I figured ignorance was bliss.) Unfortunately she died after about a month (here is where that subtraction comes in) and I decided to get a new mouse (addition) and name her Caroline. In November we finally told Dad about our secret mice. He took it surprisingly well.

Another addition: The Saturday before Christmas we decided that we needed to add another dog as Axel seemed somewhat down since his friend Stella died of cancer recently and we know that Maia probably wouldn't be around much longer having just turned 19 years old and the thought of having only one dog seemed too lonely to bear so we added Scout, an 8 week old pointer mix from the Maui Humane Society. He was adorable which was good for him since puppies are, as everyone knows, rather obnoxious.

A loss: On January 3, 2015 we made the tough decision to put Maia to sleep as she had started whining, unable to get comfortable and her quality of life was diminished. It is never easy to make that decision but we try to do what is best for our little ones and I want to make sure that it is understood that it was not motivated out of a desire to reduce any "hassle" on our part. She got to leave with all of us (except Liz, who had gone back to Colorado already) around her.

A gain: We discovered that Axel likes having a dog to walk with but doesn't really care to actually play with anyone so we decided to add another dog for Scout to play with - enter Molly, an unknown small dog mix who is supposed to be about the same age as Scout (about 4 or 5 months old.) Two puppies at once. Clearly we would be good candidates to enter some sort of in-patient psychiatric facility.

Another loss: In February we lost Sakari, the last of our original three chickens. She was my personal chicken and would have been 11 years old this spring. She got a sort of throat infection and despite treatment she was unable to beat it. We had been hoping she would make it to old age - 11 is actually only middle aged for a chicken. Poor Penny is on her own for now.

And yet another loss: Just a few days ago we lost Basil to a gut upset. I have come to hate gut upsets in rabbits as they have taken several of my little ones now. Basil was an especially sweet little bunny who was the best cuddler of the group and preferred to spend his time out of his cage next to me so that I could pet him the whole time - he would actually demand it if I stopped for more than a minute.