Posted in Animals, Family, life

Remembering Drew Miller

imageWe had to say good-bye to one of the finest dogs there was.

Our Drew Miller.

Our Drewby Dooby Doo.

He was somewhere around 11 years old. Give or take a year. He was named after a preschool classmate of Ashlynn’s. He was her second puppy after her first Drew Miller met an unfortunate end under a car tire. So when asked what to call the new puppy, he was Drew Miller too. Or Drew Miller #2. I guess technically he was Drew Miller #3 if you count the classmate.

He had the manner of a cat, not giving a flip if you pet him or not. or if you liked him or not. He was not a man’s dog. He was not a companion dog. He was a dog’s dog.  Unlike most dogs that eagerly run to greet you, if he was feeling generous he might raise his eyebrows and thump his massive tail no more than four times on the ground in greeting.  That was as good as it got. He wasn’t one to be bought or tricked or persuaded.  Not even with steak.

He was a large fellow, narrow through the hips and broad in the chest. Built like a Marine but with an awkward gait that showed something wasn’t quite right in his hips. He never allowed that to stop him on our outings and he would run as far and as fast as he could before slowing to a crawl and lagging far behind. Tongue lolling. Then when you least expected it, here he’d come blasting past with renewed energy. He was rescued from the humane society and was labeled part border collie, which couldn’t have been the farthest from the truth. Part beaver and part killing machine was more accurate.

 

He was a wood chewer and loved a good stick to chew although fetching one was out of the question. He practically ate our house down to the shingles as a puppy. “You can’t fault him for being a dog,” my dad replied after my complaints

He loved to be outdoors in any weather and often had to be dragged inside with a leash on a frigid night.

imageHe had the heart of a warrior, fighting anything that threatened his territory.  Porcupines, badgers, skunks, possums, and rats. He was proud of his kills and laid beside them until we took notice and patted him on the head. He alerted us to snakes and strangers; yet was gentle around all things important: chickens, cats, and kids. His tail was a weapon in itself if he ever whacked you alongside the thigh on his way to chase a rabbit.image

 

He was a country dog to the core. He lived a good life on many adventures with J-dub and me from the prairies of Texas to the mountains of New Mexico. He spent his golden years running, chasing, and occasionally catching out in the open range. The wind in his face. Untethered. Just being a dog.

He will be missed.

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Posted in Animals, Children, Faith, Family

The Hummers

I overheard them talking in the doctor’s office a few weeks ago.

You need to get ready for them.

They’re here.

We saw some at our place yesterday. 

Hummingbirds.

So I heeded their advice and went to The Walmarts to buy a couple of feeders.  I googled how to make sugar water (4 parts water to 1 part sugar), and I filled my feeders and hung them on the patio.

I doubted they would come.  Just because I doubt most good things will come in my life.  It’s a huge weakness in my character.  But lo and behold, as Emma Kate and I were outside enjoying the day, the dogs, and the chickens, they came.  They did!  Two of them hummed their way over to the feeders and got a drink.

I was thrilled.  Absolutely thrilled.  I ran to get my camera and of course, as in the way things happen, they flitted away to the trees.  I could still hear them tweeting and buzzing around, but they wouldn’t come to the feeders again.

I waited and waited and waited.  Some might find waiting on the hummingbirds tedious and boring, their minds filled with a laundry list of to-do’s that they would rather be doing, but the simplicity of the afternoon overtook me and as I waited on the hummingbirds, I sat in the sun and let it warm me all the way to my insides.  There’s something healing about a little sunshine warming the innermost.

I watched my darling daughter play in the animal’s drinking water.  We have a waterer for the chickens and a big bowl for the dogs, but they don’t seem to understand the distinction, so the dogs drink after the chickens and the chickens drink after the dogs, and Emma Kate drinks after both.  It’s good for the immune system I say.

She got pine needles and dunked them through the water and sucked the moisture off, she splashed, and she laughed.  And the laughter from a little child on a sunshiny spring day is music to the ears.

She herded chickens and hugged them from behind and Grace, our heeler dog, herded right along with her.  Ever vigilant to protect Emma from chicken danger.  Meanwhile, Drew, who’s a couple milkbones short of a full box, chewed on a pink bone and didn’t ever once feel his manhood threatened.  Real dogs chew pink bones.

And finally as the day drew to a close, and the sun dipped behind the house, and the shadows grew longer, I got a halfway decent picture of a hummingbird.  But my true treasure is the several decent pictures I got of a simple day in the backyard that soothed and healed my soul.

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Posted in Animals

The Cat’s Meow

We haven’t had any chicken killings, no wild horse escapades,  nary a snake has snuck up on me of late.   The dogs have been calm, the skunks have been distant, no electrical or water outings to speak of.  Save my 9 month old causing a ruckus, it’s been relatively quiet here at the J & A Chicken Ranch.

The weather is turning cooler, and if you live in the country, inevitably means the mice try to scurry inside.

For the record, me and mice, we don’t jive. I usually keep poison out in little hidey spots and have a trap or two set, but now that our little EK is crawling and nosing around, neither poison nor traps are a good idea.

In case it bears repeating, me and mice, we don’t jive.  So I couldn’t just live with the nasty little varmints.  I knew they were around, being the light sleeper that I am, I could hear them in the night and quite frankly I was just a tad creeped out.  My mother told me she heard that rats ate a baby in New York City once and I just couldn’t bear the thought of mice nibbling on my tot’s ear or at the very least scuttling about throughout the house.

I had to do something, so do it, I did.

I brought home some cats.

Two little kittens were born under my mom’s house about 3 or 4 months ago.  My mom and my niece worked diligently taming the little cuties, feeding them saucers of milk, getting them to come in the house, until they were just almost pets.

One is a little gray and white one that Ashy mistook for a girl and named Flower and the solid black one is name Bandit, Bandi for short.  He’s a bit wilder.

I had to bring Flower out first, as we only had one cat carrier, and couldn’t fit them both in the carrier, much less catch the little black one.  As soon as the door was opened, Flower was MIA.  He took off and I didn’t hear from him for 3 days.  The food was eaten each night, but I wasn’t sure what exactly could be chowing down in his absence.  Finally on the 3rd night, we heard a meow coming from the tree so we knew he was still hanging around.

The next day, I quickly went to my mom’s and got Brother Bandi.  Now this little wiry black kitten is skittish and wild acting, but when the door to the carrier was opened, he just stayed put for a while.  Then he nonchalantly walked around the yard, sniffing around, venturing out of the front yard fence momentarily.  I was pleased to see that he wasn’t going to run and was hoping that he and Brother could reunite shortly.

I sat out and watched the reunion closely as they began mewing at one another.  Slowly the little gray kitten tiptoed off the haystack where he had stayed hidden and they scurried off together running underneath an outbuilding.  I sat on my bucket on that beautiful fall afternoon smiling  at how grand life is.  Then I went in the house.

It wasn’t much later that the quiet, grand life was interrupted with yelps, and barks, and bangs, and growls.  As I ran to peer out the back window, I discovered that Bandi had found his way into the backyard and the two dogs, Drew and Grace, were not appreciating their intruder.  The backyard had turned into a boxing ring with 2 against one and the dogs were winning.  I ran out there screaming and shouting, but our dog Drew will fight to the death and refuses to be called off of anything he has cornered.  The only way was to open the gate and convince them to go outside where Drew could go chase invisible rabbits and dig holes under pipe.

Once the dogs were gone, the little black cat pressed himself against the back screen door, wide-eyed and panting.  His fur was matted and wet from the battle and his heart was pounding.  He stayed there frozen.  I went to him to try to help him, but he ran away and climbed into a bush in the backyard where he stayed perched for at least an hour.

Finally, with EK in her stroller, I got a chair and stood atop to reach up and remove the little fellow.  He quickly hopped down, found his way out of the dog’s backyard territory and has stayed hidden every since.

My mom and Ashy came out that evening after I called and told them the story and were able to woo the frightened little guys out of hiding for a few minutes of reassurance.

Needless to say, the dogs are back in the backyard, one cat stays hidden on top of the stacks of alfalfa, the other stays hidden under an outbuilding.

I don’t think they like their new home much, but on a good note, I haven’t heard from the mice lately.

 

 

Posted in Animals

Chasing Rabbits

We have these two dogs.

Drew and Grace.

 

Grace is so appropriately named and could have easily been named Faith.  She is loyal to the end.  Always there right beside you.

Drew on the other hand, should have been named Retard.

He’s just  a big goofy dog who likes to chase rabbits.

We have some pipe lying around because

1) we live in the country and country people acquire crap like pipe
2) J-Dub was going to build something but instead it’s laid in the pasture collecting rabbits.

Our dogs are outside dogs who live in the backyard, lush with dirt, having trampled or eaten every stitch of grass or weeds that ever attempted to grow there.  But each evening when it’s time to do the evening chores, we let the dogs out.  Who let the dogs out?  I said we do.  Opening the backyard fence gate is like shooting off a gun in the 50 meter dash.  Away they go, barreling past, knocking you down if you hadn’t the foresight to move quickly, sprinting towards the wide openness.

Grace runs a little pace and then realizes she is Grace the Faithful and comes back and follows whomever is doing chores, getting the hay, the horse feed, gathering the eggs.  She’s their little sidekick.

Drew the Retard on the other hand, heads to the pipe.  Because once upon a time, many moons ago,  he chased a rabbit.  And maybe that rabbit ran into the pipe.  So Retard thinks it’s still in there and he is determined to chase it out.

He starts at one end of the pipe, sticks his nose in, tail wagging maniacally, sniffs around, then runs to the other end of the pipe, sticks his nose in, sniffs around, then back again to the beginning.  Ad nauseum.

Every night this is his routine.  After he has run circles around the pipe, sniffing and wagging,  he then begins to dig.  Because if he can’t sniff that nonexistent rabbit out of there, by golly, he’ll dig it out. He starts at one end of the pipe digging ferociously, runs to the other side and digs ferociously over there, then back to the beginning, ad nauseum.

 

Perhaps he’s digging a grave for the nonexistent rabbit when he ousts him from the pipe in which he does not live.

Finally around sundown, panting and bloody toenails, he is exhausted.  But he will not leave his post.  No sirree, not this soldier.  While Grace the Faithful lies on the porch waiting on master to put her up, Drew the Retard lies beside the pipe and keeps vigil on the nonexistent rabbits until we have to call him home to his lush dirt backyard to rest up for his next night of rabbit chasing.

 

 

Posted in Animals, Children

Peace, pecks, and pigs—Randomness

It’s a peaceful kind of morning.  No hustle, no bustle.

There’s a cool breeze, and it’s a nice respite before the West Texas July sun follows it’s usual path in the cloudless sky and the daytime temps rise to scorch and wither.  But after all, it is summer.  What else do we expect.

EK and I sat outside for a spell.  Me with my coffee, she with her glee.

Watching the world through the eyes of a baby brings on a new light.  I read that every day to a baby is like a visit to Paris for the first time for us.  The new smells, the new sights.  We would be on high alert, taking it all in.

Her yard is a far cry from Paris, I would have to imagine since I’ve never visited there.  But oh, how she takes it all in.  She notices the smallest things.  A leaf blowing across the yard, a black bird flying to rest in a tree top, the bark of Drew and Grace from the backyard saying, “We want out, let us out, we want to see you this morning too”, the choo choo whistle as it rolls down the tracks.

A chicken flew up on the arm of our chair with her beady eye and pointy beak.  Me, I’m a bit intimidated.  I don’t know why I suddenly became afraid of my chickens, as if they could peck me to death or something.  I usually shoo them away afraid they might peck EK, but today we just sat.  The chicken jerked her chicken neck around studying us, and EK stared back.  I put EK’s hand on her feathers to let her feel.

The other day my mom mentioned how the baby needs one of those toys, you know the kind we used to have as a kid.  Where you pull the string and the animal makes it’s sound.  I said, “Mom.  Look around.  Why does she need that?  We have horses that say neigh, dogs that say ruff, chickens that say bawk, cows that say moo, right here.”

That seemed to satisfy my mom, but it wouldn’t surprise me if she pulls up with a pig in the passenger seat one day.

 

 

Posted in Animals

Country Troubles

Somedays the  J&A Chicken Ranch has more excitement than my feeble heart can handle.

This beautiful breezy morning I am waiting for the water well repair man as we have no water coursing through our pipes.  The precious commodity, the life blood, the toilet flusher has seized for reasons unknown to me, but hopefully not beyond the scope of knowledge of the water well man.  In today’s America, one does not realize how fortunate and blessed we are until one does not have running water.  It is taken for granted, assumed that at the turn of a faucet, we can clean our bodies, brush our teeth, water our plants, or rinse our dishes.  No less humble does one become than having to relieve themself outside in the middle of the night, saving that one last toilet flush for the inevitable morning poop.  Forgive me, but as is life.  But yea for the man who can repair the problem and I only hope he arrives before my bowel movement decides to. 

When I first began dating J-Dub, I would ride with him to tend to his cattle.  At the beginning of the trip, he would inquire, “Are you brush broke?”  At first I didn’t know what that meant, but quickly learned when you are miles and miles from modern conveniences, there will come a time when you have to squat in the brush and piss in the pastures or you’re going to be very, very uncomfortable for a very, very long time.  Yes, I am very brush broke.

I slept in a bit this morning but knew I needed to let my fourteen dear chickens out of their coop.  Not until you’ve watched fourteen chickens come out of a coop, do you understand the true meaning of the phrase “cooped up”.  The chickens have a coop that was an old metal garden shed with a sliding door.  It sits in a side yard, up against the edge of the backyard fence, but not in the back yard.  Surrounding the shed is a chicken pen, enclosed with chicken wire, and covered mostly over the top with protective wire.   I keep the sliding door to the coop opened enough so they can come and go freely into the pen to get fresh air or take a dirt bath or something equally chickenish.  Each morning, as early as possible, I open the door to the pen and let the chickens run out so they can free range around the yard and pasture.  Our back yard and our two dogs, Drew Miller and Grace, are enclosed directly behind the chicken coop and pen.  Never have the dogs and chickens come into direct contact.  I fear it would not be a pretty sight.

When the chickens eye me coming their way, they get so excited.  They know freedom is in sight.  They will run to the corner of the pen, clucking and bocking, eager to get out.  This morning, before I was about to open the door, I heard a commotion.  It sounded like chicken feet on metal and I assumed a chicken was inside the shed, trying to jump on the metal nesting boxes as they sometimes do.  With their chicken claws slipping and sliding and feathers flapping to maintain balance, it sometimes makes quite a ruckus.  The next thing I heard was a terrible sound like nothing I had heard before.  It was the sound of a chicken in distress.  The clucking was rapid and high-pitched.  I then noticed out of my peripheral vision, the dogs were agitated. Through a crack in the gate of the backyard, I saw 3 streaks of black running past, back and forth.  First a black  chicken, followed by Drew Miller, followed by Grace.  My first thoughts went something like this: Is there a chicken in the backyard?  how did a chicken get in the back yard?  There is no way possible that is one of my chickens.  It must be somebody else’s chicken in my backyard.  Mine are all right here in the pen.  With my hand on the door to the chicken pen, ready to push it open, I glanced over and did  a quick headcount.  1-2-3-4……  1-2-3-4-5……, 1-2-3-4 I began adding quickly:  4 Barred Plymouth Rocks + 5 Buff Orpingtons + 4 Black Australorpes = 13 total chickens.  THERE’S A CHICKEN MISSING!  And it is presently in grave danger.  Immediately I began screaming NO DREW!  NO GRACE!  and with ninja like skills I flung open the backyard gate, grabbed Drew Miller by the collar and tried to get the whole party to settle down.  The dogs were having no part of calming themselves, so I drug Drew Miller by his collar over to where his leash hangs, put it on him as he jerked about, acting a fool, and I tied him to a post.  He is the dangerous dog.  He is the porcupine attacker, skunk killer, possum murderer.  He loves the kill.  Grace, a heeler, doesn’t want to hurt the chickens, she just wants to herd the chickens as she slinks down, belly close to the ground, haunches shaking, eyes fixated.  She doesn’t even wear a collar or has never experienced a leash.  She is right by your side most all the time and if she wanders too far, a quick command draws her back to her spot.   So there we were in the backyard:  Drew Miller and the blue leash wrapping  tighter and tighter around a post, a chicken petrified yet unscathed, Grace slinking beside me towards the chicken and me a little afraid to try to pick up this chicken who just might turn into a fighting, pecking, scratching defender.  The little black chicken was behind the dog’s water dish.  I gave her some time and space to see if she could find her way out of the gate on her own.  I thought of trying to corral her out, but decided that might agitate her even more.  As I reached down, she hunkered close to the ground, terrified, but allowed me to pick her up, hold her to my bosom, caress her little back.  Her feathers were hard and stiff where Drew’s slobber had already dried on them.  He obviously had his mouth clamped on her at some point. 

It was a close call. Perhaps even a miracle.  I think I’ll call her Lucky.

I still don’t know how in the world she managed to get into the back yard.  I walked through the pen and the coop looking for holes.  I can only figure that she flew out the small opening in the roof, walked across the wire roof of the pen, walked across the roof of the coop, which was the commotion of chicken feet on metal that I heard, and flew over the fence into the backyard.  

Stupid chicken.  I hope she learned a lesson.  The next time she tries to escape, she better hope I’m squatting in the yard.

Posted in Uncategorized

I’m Not Gonna Hurt You, I Only Want to Chew On Your Neck.

 

The J&A Chicken Ranch, the place I call home, is stocked with 2 dogs and 14 chickens. 

Natural enemies, they are. 

The dogs live in the fenced backyard and the chickens live in a chicken pen and garden shed close to the backyard.  Somedays I like to let the dogs out, and somedays I like to let the chickens out, which leaves a logical deduction that someday they’re going to be out at the same time.  I would hate to raise my chicks to survive the  bitter cold, dangerous chicken hawks, and an owner that leaves them crushed under the water tub all day, only to be massacred by tame dogs.

I’ve been trying to think of a way to introduce the dogs to the 9 week old chickens.

My practical approach has been taking the dogs to the chicken pen, shaking my finger, and yelling “NO, NO, NO!” for at least 3 hours at a time.

My husband thinks no matter how many times I do that, if they are ever left alone, Drew Miller will kill them. 

Drew Miller is my killer hound, my head of ranch security, notorious ’round these parts for polishing off possums, slaughtering skunks, and going a couple rounds with any porcupine dumb enough to stick a bunch of quills in his face.

When Drew Miller sees the chickens, he tenses, his ears go up, drool runs from his massive jowls, but  when I give him the finger shake and the NO, NO, NO technique, he becomes disinterested, wags his long, powerful tail, and meanders off. 

Grace, on the other hand, stares them down.  She is on point, which doesn’t make any sense to me since she is a Heeler. 

She won’t break eye contact with the chickens.  She watches their every move.  I think if given the opportunity, she might kill my chickens.  J-Dub says she will only chase them.

I must make the dogs understand that I love these chickens.  I’m trying to train them by going into the chicken pen and holding the chickens, talking to them, and petting them.  The dogs just watch.  I’m not sure they understand.   I think they’re jealous.

They’re certainly curious of them.  They haven’t acted aggressively toward the chickens yet, but I don’t trust them.  No siree Bob.  I’ve got some more work to do on training my dogs to love my chickens as much as I do.  Or rather, less than I do.  I’d be content if they’d just leave them be.

Teaching old dogs new tricks has taken on a whole new meaning for me.