Happy Mother’s Day to the mother’s out there.
Denver and Kent are working today and Mark is in Florida on a business trip. So that leaves me and Neva to celebrate. That’s fine. We always have loads of fun together.
My only regret is that I am forfeiting my one day of year when I can force the family to do my bidding. I usually pick a canoe trip, much to everyone’s misery but mine. They lucked out this year, but that doesn’t mean I won’t make a play for a Mother’s Day Canoe trip rain check later.
Today has to be a better day than yesterday, because yesterday was the worst.
When I went down to feed my animals, I found one of my big metal cages had been tossed several feet, than rolled over many times until the door finally opened. My lovely (highest pedigreed) bunny had been killed. She was literally skinned, so only her pelt remained – just a face and ears and body, like the carefully cleaned raccoon pelts you see in stores. Whatever did this was hungry. The tarp that I had covering the cage had been torn to shreds. I don’t mean it was ripped, I mean it looked like fringe.
No dog can do this. This had to be a bear. Spring is the time bears come out, hungry and sniffing for trouble. Damn bears.
I noticed that my second big cage had been shoved around too. A big, heavy wood piece I put on the ceiling for enhanced shelter had been tossed about 4 feet and this tarp was shredded too. The cage had not been knocked from its stand (probably because it weighs over 100 pounds) but it was askew. Had the bear been successful, he would have gotten my other female and all her babies too.
This made me upset, but it’s not why I cried.
I was cleaning up the mess, picking up my beloved bunny’s caucus and whispering a “sorry,” when suddenly I wondered, “Hey, where is Palate?” My peacock tends to hang around whenever I’m at the barn. She is curious about me and we are buds. I had a sick feeling so I took a walk to find her. I found a pile of feathers instead.
THAT is when I cried. If someone had driven up to the barn at that moment with a U hall and said, “Hey, want me to cart away every animal you have and relieve you of this burden for good?” I would have jumped at the chance.
I don’t ever say never, but right now, I feel I’m done with peacocks for good. And I’m leaning towards letting my bunnies go too. Except that this week I received all the fiber from my llamas and bunnies that I sent to the carding mill 5 months ago, and it came back all soft and magnificent, like miles of fluffy cotton streams. It is ready to spin, and I will soon have gobs of yarn made of my dear pet’s fur- so this week, I’m thinking my animals are glorious and fun. Weakens my good judgment, ya know.
In case you were wondering, this is what carded wool looks like. The black wool – remarkably soft – is a combination of my llama , some black sheep wool and angora, the white is a sheep fleece with my angora blended in for softness. The tan happens to be camel and alpaca, with a bit of rabbit thrown in because I wanted to make the blend meaningful. I bought the raw wool for the animals I don’t own on the internet. Just had to try it for experimental sake. The gray is pure angora. Luxurious!
Mark is out of town for a few days, which makes the current animal threat even more frustrating. Without him here to help me devise a solution, my rabbits are sitting ducks. That bear can just return and devour my other bunnies tonight unless I do something about it.
I’m embarrassed to say I’m not exactly skilled at working with tools. The best I can say is that I used to walk around Home Depot looking for inspiration, fueled by a need to be creative for a dance. I bought stuff like PVC pipe and a saw and made 3 D boxes for a dance in a variety of sizes. Lots of cussing and blisters, but hey, it was all in the name of art. I have never been very experienced with hardware, but I could figure things out when I needed to.
So, if I could figure it out for dance, I certainly can figure it out for rabbits.
I went to home depot and bought some big shelf brackets and wire. I bought wood screws too. I already had bought myself my very own power screwdriver/drill about two weeks ago. It was on sale for 19.99. I thought it was time to begin my own barn collection of tools. Mark has about a dozen expensive drills, but I’m not allowed to touch his tools. And we have a drill at the house for quick projects, but it is meant to stay in its place.
Mark sort of sniffed when he saw I’d bought my own drill and commented that I should just use the house drill when I needed one. To buy another drill was wasteful. But I know I’d get yelled at for not putting it back or using it in the wrong way or something and I don’t want to feel he’s doing me a favor by allowing me to use the family drill. Besides which, then I have to count on it being charged, and I rather be responsible for that kind of thing myself. Furthermore, I don’t want to have to traipse to the house to collect tools when I’m down at the barn and need to do a quick mend. As you can see, I’ve built up a strong case for wanting my own (cheap) tools, so when I saw the modestly priced drill, I snagged it.
I love that drill. I’ve put up my very own pegboard in the barn to hang tools in the feed room. I’ve made holes in the feed buckets and the salt block holder so they won’t fill with water when it rains – been wanting to do that for three years now. I drilled holes in the big plastic tubs I’m using for a container garden this year (I’m on a mission to perfect the tomato crop). I hung some additional hooks for my rakes and put up a couple of clocks. My new motto is “To drill is a thrill”. I always plug it in so it is charged and ready.
Having done my home depot shopping, I stopped by the feed store and purchased two big metal rabbit cages to mount on the chicken house. I have my buck mounted this way, and he has always been safe and secure. Mark helped me with that project, but we never got around to doing it for the other rabbits, even though that was the plan when I had the chicken house built and insisted it have a little roof for the rabbits.
OK, so now, I have to do this project myself or risk losing my rabbits. I’m a girl on a mission.
It takes me 5 hours. No shit. I spent about 1 ½ hour putting the cage together and three hours screwing in the brackets (I didn’t measure so I put the top brackets too high, of course.) Then, there were obstacles, like the fact that it took me 25 minutes to figure out how to change the direction of the screwdriver to take a screw out rather than drill it in. I had to reposition a bracket. Alas, figuring out my cell phone isn’t the only thing technical challenge to a gal like me who spent far too much time dancing and far too little time living for the last 50 years.
Once I had the cages wired onto the brackets, I wired them to the roof beams for extra support. In the end, I had a very secure cage for my mother bunny right next to my boy. I got an extra bonus – my rabbits won’t be lonely now. They immediately slept nose to nose, content. I stood there watching, wondering how tall this bear might be and if he has long arms. Damn bear.
I still had five baby bunnies in the other cage. Denver showed up and helped me repeat the process again on the other side of the chicken house – no roof here but I figure I can cover the cages for now and talk Mark into building me a roof later. Doing all this the second time was easier (slightly smaller cage). I put the two babies we are keeping in this new set up, wishing I’d bought one more cage. I stopped at two because I didn’t want to go crazy buying cages until I was sure I could mount them successfully. Today, the store is closed, but tomorrow I’ll purchase another cage and put it in the remaining space on the chicken house outter wall. I left the other three babies in the original cage, but this time I put cement blocks on the heavy wood top to help keep it secure. The rabbits are simply getting too big to keep together – which stretches my safe cage options.
When I finished, I called a friend who has mentioned he’d love an angora and urged him to pick a bunny or two up ASAP. I’m determined to move these animals now.
Rabbits were not my only project of the day. While driving to home depot I spotted an animal in the middle of the road. At first, I thought it was a skunk, but when I got close, I saw it was a tiny puppy. He was lost and it looked as if he was bound to get hit, so I stopped the car in the road. When I got out, I saw he was dirty, starving and scared. OK, he’s a stray. He tried to get away from me and almost got clipped by a car coming the other direction. Obviously, I couldn’t leave him there or he’d bite it. So I pulled to the side and tried to capture him. He was only about 5 weeks old. If he’d been dumped by someone, he would not be so fearful of people. I figured he was one of those wild puppies that are born in the woods from a stray– a sadly common occurrence around here. I didn’t not see any more of the litter or a mother anywhere. So, I tried to coax the wild dog to me with a calm voice, but he was desperately scared, and so very, very small. He started to scramble up the bank by the road, but it was too steep and he slipped back down, so I reached out and grabbed him by the scruff of the neck. He then tried to bite me and he was scratching and making a racket.
There I was, holding a wild baby dog, but I had to get back in the car and drive. I’m alone; there is no box in the car – what’s a girl to do? I put the dog in the back seat and he climbed under the seat and whimpered.
Neva had spent the night with Dianne, so I picked her up. As you can guess, she was delighted. We drove to the vets to have the puppy checked, but the office was closed. So I brought the dog home and we gave it a bath. He was filled with fleas and ticks and he was so scared that every time I held him now, he lay limp in our arms like he was dead or in a coma. We fed him and he polished the entire bowl of dog food and the entire bowl of water in about three minutes. OK, now we are sure he was a stray, because he was starving on top of all else.
Every time we held him in our arms and stroked him, he immediately fell asleep. He is just so little he needs his rest like all babies. He is not exactly a well adjusted puppy, but I’m feeling very glad we rescued him. I keep having to remind Neva that we probably won’t keep this dog, but we can be happy that we found him and are giving him a second chance. Frankly, this young a dog probably wouldn’t have survived for much longer outside and if he did, he’d grow up to be a wild stray. They don’t live a very good life, and they are often caught and put down or shot by farmers.
The dog spent the day eating and sleeping and slowly, he warmed up to us. He hung with us at the barn as I struggled with the rabbit cages and he seemed more comfortable there – I guess the “outside” is more familiar.
I tend to believe in fate somewhat – that the world sends you what you need when you need it. Not that I’m superstitious, but I think we each have an energy that connects us to the earth, and we can draw things to us when we need or want them most. All day, I looked at that little dog wondering “why today?”
When I’ve shared my grief over the bear and dog attacks down at the barn with friends who share my agricultural interests (and have far more experience), they respond that I should get a “barn dog”, which is an outdoor dog you train to live in your barn. They claim the dog will eat and sleep there and be happy because he has lots of freedom, yet he also has protection from the elements. The fact that the dog isn’t sleeping at the foot of your bed doesn’t mean he isn’t loved. You give him the ongoing care and companionship a dog loves (because you are down at the barn everyday), and you train him as you train any pet, but he sleeps at the barn. When the dog considers the barn home, he will protect the area at night. My son’s dog, Teddy, was born in a barn and though, in a place like Sarasota, the idea of an outside dog is scandalous, here I’ve learned some big breeds prefer the outdoors to the house. In Teddy’s case, despite the dog’s outdoor preference, Kent has trained him to come in at night because he wanted to sleep with his dog – Poor Teddy is always restless and wanting back out at 2Am – even in the dead of winter. He has me convinced that some dogs really can be happy outside. This is not the case with our other big breed – a lazy old plot hound that would sleep in a comfy bed 24-7 if we allowed it. She refuses to stay out when she knows it’s time for bed.
Anyway, this little puppy is helpless and bitty now, but he looks to be part husky. He has the coloring of the area huskies and the blue eyes and the very dense fur. This means, he would make a great outdoor dog, because he will be a good size and he won’t get cold in winter. He is young enough now to train anyway we choose. So, while I don’t really want another dog, I can’t help but wonder if this dog showing up on the very day my rabbits and peacock were Hor de oeuvres is not the universe’s way of sending me what I need to keep my barnyard safe.
I will think about it. In the end, the real question is, can we – a family of serious animal softies – keep a dog in the barn when winter comes and it is cold and wet outside – because three big dogs is simply too much for one house and I don’t want to set us up for an inner struggle and feelings of guilt when the weather turns. If we keep this dog, it HAS to be an outdoor dog.
So maybe we will find him a good home – but even that wouldn’t guarantee he’ll live the cushy life of an indoor dog. Up here, many people keep their dogs outside and it’s considered perfectly normal.
I just feel that no matter how you look at it, we have saved a little dog from a sad end. He is young enough that we can probably find him a home, or we will assume he was sent to us for a reason and give him a home with us. It is good dog karma no matter how you slice it.
Even if he is only with us temporarily, he needs a name. I called him Newman – because everyone knows Paul Newman has the most beautiful blue eyes ever, and this dog’s baby blues are a close match.
I first suggested we just call him Blue – but Neva felt that name suggested he was sad and thought it might jinx him. Once we associated those feelings to our little lost dog, “Blue” just sounded wrong.
Another day – another slight shift in our world. If you pay attention, you start noticing how change happens, day in and day out – it’s the subtle things that add up, the small decisions – to stop the car or not to stop – to do a task or put it off . . . These are the things that make your world what it is.