I’m Married to a Ten Year Old Boy

Don’t get me wrong, I love Mitch with a passion and ninety percent of the time he acts like any normal man in his sixties. He takes his responsibilities seriously, has a strong work ethic and for the most part makes good decisions. If you ask almost everyone that knows Mitch, they will tell you he’s an old soul. He is usually pretty serious, doesn’t smile much, which scares a lot of people. He’s reserved and holds himself back a bit around people. Mitch is definitely not in the group labeled that the collective IQ drops when a bunch of guys get together. But every once in a while the ten year old boy comes out to play.

Because we pheasant hunt, we own bird dogs which require daily exercise. Our walks include both dogs sniffing the ground checking the scents left behind by other animals. Squirrels, raccoons and possums beware; these two will sniff them out and if we let them, will give chase. Squirrels run in fear because Charlie is fast enough and has caught and killed a few; Orso goes along for the ride. Geese are another favorite that the dogs love to chase. As long as the geese are not nesting, it is legal to harass geese with dogs in order to make the area less desirable to them. Geese are pretty lazy and will stay around and take over an area if not managed by different means, such as egg shaking and using dogs to make the geese fly. You can’t let your dog attack and kill them, though.

The ten year old boy thought that it was pretty cool to let the dogs chase the geese and make them fly. Well the geese only flew as far as the lake and landed in the water. That did not stop the dogs, only slowed them down a bit. Charlie and Orso jumped right in and started swimming after the geese. The geese swam up and down the lake with the dogs in hot pursuit and refused to come back when called. The two just kept swimming away after the geese to the other end of the lake. Problem one – Mitch discovered that there was no way he could get to the other end as quickly as the geese and the dogs would. Problem two – how would he get to other end quick enough to catch the dogs? Mitch had to run home jump in the station wagon and drive to the other side of the lake. He got there just in time to see the geese and the dogs turn around and start back the way they came. The ten year old boy quickly figured out that the dogs would drown from exhaustion if he couldn’t get them to come out of the water. This meant that he might have to jump in and swim out to them. Mitch finally caught Charlie’s attention and coaxed him to shore, with Orso following. I had two very tired dogs and one husband in the dog house.

One of our neighbors put a deer target out in his front yard propped up against a small tree. The start of our walk yesterday morning was just about sunrise still fairly dark, and the dogs didn’t notice anything, but on the way home the sun had come up and was a lot brighter out. Charlie saw the deer first and froze just staring at the deer; Orso swung around and saw what had captured Charlie’s eye. Both dogs stood stock still waiting for the deer to make a move so they could give chase. Of course Mitch encouraged Charlie to get a closer look, just like a little kid. Charlie lunged at the deer causing Orso to follow suit. The deer statue didn’t move, the dogs felt foolish and now I had a ten year old boy rolling on the ground laughing at the prank. All I could do was stand there, shake my head and roll my eyes.

An Animal Lover

Let me start off by saying I am a consummate dog lover. I will pet any dog that comes my way; from tiny to huge I love them all. I can even go a step further and say I am an animal lover. Cats, dogs, rabbits, etc, I think they are all pretty awesome. I know that probably sounds a bit like an enigma since I am also a bird hunter, but hunting is for food not for trophies. So in my mind it balances out.

Back to my “I am a consummate dog lover” statement, I love them all, but at the same time I am well aware of the power and strength of any dog, no matter its’ size or temperament. I believe that all dogs big and small should be properly socialized and trained to behave in a calm well behaved manner. Granted not every dog is going to perfect every day, but with consistent work, you should be able to walk with them and not have an aggressive dog. Good behavior starts at your end of the leash.

I am also a strong believer that not everyone should own a dog, some people are just not fit to take care of themselves let alone a creature that relies on them for all of their needs. Just as important is that people need to research the breed of dog they want to have before getting something just because it looks cute or the size of the dog. Looks are not the “begin and end all” of getting a dog. Do you have the time and patience to give a certain breed the exercise and interaction it may require? If not then please don’t get the dog, everyone will end up unhappy and the dog may end up in a shelter or worse put down.

This morning on our walk we ran across such a case in my humble opinion. There is a woman who lives a couple of streets over that own two Cane Corsos, a two year old male and a one year old female, neither of which is neutered. The male weighs in at about a hundred and ten pounds and the female is only about seventy five pounds. We have run across her walking her dogs on occasion, but Mitch has been with me to help, not this morning, though. The male is animal aggressive and lunges growling and barking which sends our dogs straight to the same red zone level in zero to ten seconds flat. Then we have a potentially serious situation on our hands. The woman does everything she can to hold the dog back, him standing on his hind legs straining to break free and one of these days I think it will happen. He is only going to get stronger as he gets older. Don’t get me wrong these are beautiful dogs and quite friendly when I approached her “dog less”. But when there is another dog in close proximity look out scout.

This morning walking in the dark I saw her walking toward us and she had both dogs with her. I moved as far to the left as I could and downed both Charlie and Orso, spoke calmly and quietly telling them to “leave” and re-adjusted my hold to the low end of their harnesses for a better grip. My two did awesome comparatively speaking. The woman moved as far to the left as she could and tried to get hers under control but the male immediately lunged growling and barking at us raising the female to the same frenzied state. Mine started to respond in kind when her two went at each other in a horrific dog fight with the woman on the end of the leashes. I jerked both leashes of my two and turned back the way we came and I walked as fast I possibly could to get away. I felt terrible for that woman but I was not going to put my dogs and myself in harm’s way. Even as I rounded the curve in the road and was out of sight I could hear them go at each again.

It was a very sobering and scary experience, which I hope to never live through again. It really drives home just how important working with your dog is, for their sakes and your own.

The Sultan of Slobber

The other day I was sitting on the bench at the end of the bed putting on my shoes when I glanced up and saw a long brown streak on the wall a little higher than eye level. I walked over to get a better look and figure out what it was. You can imagine the look on my face when I realized it was dried dog slobber. Gross! Of course this isn’t the first time I’ve found dried dog drool on the walls, it is almost a daily occurrence around here. Ever since we brought Orso home we’ve had this phenomenon. So you’d think I would be used to finding it by now, but every time I spot a new blob of drool, I get grossed out.

I’m pretty sure there is a Saint Bernard hiding in that Labrador body. I’ve never seen a dog drool quite as much as him. Orso will be walking along and drool will be hanging down swaying back and forth with each step getting longer and longer. The long tendril will even pick up stray debris and add to the drool creating a sort of anchor at the end. It’s really disgusting looking. Mitch will take his shoe and knock it off, no big deal, but not me, I do not want that anywhere near me. I’ll take a twig to try and snag it, but I am not going to touch it with any part of my anatomy, unh huh no way. Yuck! I am pretty sure it is some sort of toxic waste or something like that.

What amazes me the most is how in the world it ends up splattered on the furniture, the walls and occasionally me. That is probably the grossest feeling in the world getting hit with flying drool. My stomach usually turns over a couple of times when that happens. Then I rush to go bathe.

Now my life is reduced to doing daily wall checks, where I walk around each room and check for fresh slobber shrapnel. I have found it as high as above the door jam, how he got it almost seven feet high amazed us both, but it usually is about five foot off the ground that I find most of Orso’s weapons. There is nothing more embarrassing than washing down all the walls and as soon as someone stops by the first thing anybody sees is the remains of a fresh nasty slobber blob at eye level.

That’s my dog.

I’m Going Solo Again

It’s just like old times. It’s just the dogs and me, facing life all alone in the wee hours of the morning. It has been eleven weeks since my foot surgery and one week bootless. This morning was the first morning that it was just me holding both leashes wandering around in the predawn hours. It was a nice quiet morning all by ourselves, no critters or other vermin about. It was a slow walk much to dogs dismay, my foot is still stiff and a bit tender, but I’m walking, and that is a wonderful feeling.

Charlie kept an eye on the road ahead as usual always on the hunt. Orso snatched as much tall grass to munch on along the way as always. The world is his “All You Can Eat Buffet”. I’ve never had a dog that will eat just about everything he comes across. Tall grass, mulberries and wild blackberries in the summer, acorns in the fall and hackberries in the winter are all on the menu, plus the undesirables, goose poop and deer droppings are quite the delicacy. Yuck.

This morning was quite uneventful and for that I am very grateful, because I know in the not too distant future, something will be out waiting for us. Waiting to run in front of us or make a noise in the dark and the dogs will lunge and drag me around like a boat anchor, and hopefully my foot will be able to take it, not to mention the rest of my body.

But there is hope, our wonderful friends that walked the dogs for me while I recovered also worked with them daily, training them to heel, do stupid pet tricks and not lunge at other dogs on the walk. I intend to carry on and continue the training; otherwise we’ll have dog stew for dinner. Just kidding, we don’t eat stew in the summer.

It felt good though, almost as though life is almost in balance again.

Living with a Serial Killer

I live with a serial killer.  Although I’m not afraid for myself, others should be terrified.  I’ve watched enough episodes of Criminal Minds to know how to profile this serial killer.  Serial killers torture and kill small animals.  That fits him to a tee. He is remorseless.  He lives for the kill.  He loves to stalk, capture and murder squirrels, rabbits and moles, killing them with a viciousness only a true murderer can master.  This killer especially loves to hunt and kill lizards and snakes.  Charlie will stand motionless for minutes listening and staring intently at one spot waiting for some slight noise or movement.  As soon as the victim makes any sound or movement Charlie strikes with lightning speed and deadly accuracy, snatching the hapless reptile up, shaking the life out of the snake then slamming it to the ground for good measure.  How he does that always surprises me, those lizards are fast.  Who would think a dog would enjoy catching and killing snakes? Most snakes move pretty fast and disappear in the rocks.  His speed of execution is poetry in motion.  Deadly fluid poetry none the less.

Charlie will run down squirrels and rabbits, snatching them up on the fly, shaking and slamming the animal to the ground.  He will do this repeatedly until the poor creature is dead or wishes he was.  The mark of a true killer.  Moles are a particularly favorite victim of his.  I’m not sure if he hears the moles in the ground or smells them, but he will stand stock still for a moment, then start digging and without fail pull a mole out of the ground to torture and kill.  Charlie feels that it’s his purpose in life to rid the world of moles, snakes and lizards.  The moles I don’t care about, because of the damage done to our yard.  We even have friends that want us to rent him out to them.

I can see the ads now, “Serial Killer for Rent” “Mole Assassin for Hire” or “You Got Varmints – We Got Charlie, The Serial Killer”.

Early Spring Morning Hike

We disturbed a very large bird from its’ perch on top of a power line.

  I didn’t get a good look at before it flew off, but it was big.

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Charlie was busy hunting in a dead cattail marsh.

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The creeks are still very low.  Pretty but we need more rain.

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Orso coudn’t get enough running around.

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It was a beautiful morning just after sunshine.  The dogs didn’t

stop running the whole time.  They had so much fun, they didn’t really

even mind getting a bath when we got home.

Now I have tired happy and clean babies.

A great start for an early Spring Sunday morning.

These photos were taken with my Canon using a 55-250mm lens.

There Are no Witnesses in the Dark

In the early predawn mornings when it’s still very dark, no one is awake to see what goes on during my walks with the two terrorists, aka Orso and Charlie.   Only the deer and raccoons are around to witness their antics.  I’m talking about them jerking me around, getting the leashes tangled up and charging at the nocturnal animals keeping my chiropractor in business.

It’s bad enough going on a walk in the dark and twisting an ankle stepping off the road into the ditch, which I have done on more than one occasion, causing me to wonder if I’m going to be able to walk home when I’m a mile away from the house.  No one else is around to see my gracelessness or help me if I get hurt.  It’s just the dogs and me.  I’ve even fallen over a giant boulder in the middle of the road.  I’m that graceful.  At least in the dark no one else is there to laugh at me.

Not today though.  After I got home from work this evening, I took the dogs on their afternoon walk which is when everyone is coming home from work.  The walk down to the dam was uneventful, a very pleasant stroll for the three of us.  The dogs were behaving themselves and enjoyed the romp at the dam.  On the return trip home we ran into a friend and his two dogs, which I used as a training session for Orso, working on his sudden aggression lunging at other dogs.  So far so good, Charlie was a champ and behaved perfectly and after a rough start Orso got into the moment and behaved very calmly walking back and forth in front of my friend and his dogs.  We almost looked like a Cesar Milan episode.

After the successful walk-by the dogs and I continued on our way home.  We had just rounded the second curve in the road when Charlie circled around behind me to pee on a bush causing me to try and whip the leash over my head and twist my arm around when Orso stepped back toward me.  I tripped over Orso and fell hard twisting my ankle and knee.  Right there in broad daylight for everyone to see.  As I sat there in the road feeling foolish, Orso came over to check on me and let me know he loves me even though I am the most graceless woman in the world.

There’s something to be said for walking in the dark.

Who or What is Out There?

I’m beginning to think that the simple act of walking the dogs at 4:30 in the morning is anything but solitary.  It seems every morning we run into some wandering critter.  I’m used to watching out for raccoons, opossums and deer.  On a few occasions, the dogs have heard or smelled something; I don’t know what, but something.  I never saw anything, but there have been a couple of times that the hair on the back of my neck has stood on end and my heartbeat started racing, but nothing concrete.  Just a feeling of trepidation or uneasiness.  Call it intuition, but I didn’t stick around to find out if I was just being silly.

The walk started off normally, Charlie walking back and forth, crossing behind me then getting the leash all tangled up in search of the exact right tree or bush to pee on, making me crazy.  I think he does this on purpose knowing how much I hate it and how much he hates being on the leash.  Charlie would much prefer to range loose chasing after whatever is out there.  Oh and his really favorite thing to do is to roll in something stinky and nasty, causing me to have to bathe him before I can get ready for work.  Those are the reasons the dogs now walk on a leash.  Sorry I digress.

The morning was cold with clear skies and a light breeze. The stars were twinkling and there was no moon, so it was pretty dark with shadows cast from the porch light glow of a few houses behind me.  I felt something, a presence, so I looked first at the dogs to check their behavior, but they acted as though nothing was out of place.  Then I scanned the darkness around us and listened intently for some sound that didn’t fit.  At first I didn’t see or hear anything unusual, but on a second sweep I noticed a shadowy shape up on the top of the hill.  It looked like a person just standing up on the hill not moving, just standing very still. 

I felt very naked in the predawn darkness, not knowing who or what it was.  I didn’t even know if the shape was facing toward me or away.  Was he looking at me or some other direction?  I reached back into my memory and tried to remember if the shape had always been there and I have just not noticed it before, but I couldn’t remember ever seeing it before.  I didn’t want to call out to the shape, one if it was a person and it was looking away, I didn’t want to call attention to us and two if it was looking at us, I didn’t want to antagonize it.  I stood frozen in one spot trying to get a better look at the form.  I still couldn’t get a better look and I had no intention of getting closer.  I looked down at the dogs but they were oblivious.  Maybe they hadn’t smelled him or maybe he didn’t smell.  I realized that I had been holding my breath and slowly let it out.

I decided that the smartest decision, maybe not the bravest choice, but definitely the safest option was to make ourselves scarce.  I quickly turned the dogs around and walked very briskly back the way we came.  I kept looking back over my shoulder all the way home making sure that we weren’t being followed.

I was totally unnerved by the time we made it back home, expecting any minute to have the bogeyman jump out of the underbrush and scare the bejesus out of me.  Then when nothing happened, I berated myself for being such a sissy. 

Tomorrow I’ll be paying more attention to my surroundings on the walk and check to see if the shape is still there or if it is someplace else.

It’s a Jungle Out There

Our predawn walk today was almost like a trip to the zoo.  Lions and tigers and bears oh my.  Well not quite lions and tigers and bears, but plenty of other wild animals crossed our path this morning.  I almost felt like Marlin Perkins. 

No sooner than we started off up the hill from the house did we run across a small herd of deer mingling in the neighbor’s yard.  Orso lunged forward with an extremely loud woof, startling the deer causing them to bolt and run up over the hill beyond us.  After I put my shoulder back in the socket we resumed our walk.  I had my fingers crossed inside my mittens that we were now going to be animal free.  Not so.  You would think that I would be used to being wrong all the time.

As we topped the hill and started down there was a very large opossum sauntering across the road without a care in the world.  Stupid opossum.  Both dogs charged down the hill toward the opossum with a five foot one and a half inch boat anchor in tow, me.  It took about fifteen steps before I could regain control and halt the charge, because now the opossum has seen the charging dogs and decided to play possum and faint.  Really stupid animal.  Just what I need, an unconscious wild animal, two dogs ready to eat the unconscious wild animal and with my luck the wild animal would wake up and decide to fight back.  With much tugging and pulling and a few choice words spoken softly so as not to rouse the sleeping opossum and the neighbors, I finally pulled them past the critter and moved on. 

We ran across no more animals on the way to the dam so I was becoming hopeful we would not see anything else.  Well almost right this time, but not quite.  At the dam, to the left of us was the lake and to the right is a park area complete with a shelter house, picnic table and grill.  Below the dam is a nice greenway that we take the dogs to and let them run and work off pent up energy.  Well this morning at the base of one of the two large Sycamore trees was a large raccoon hugging the base of the tree frozen and making no movement just watching us very alertly.  Luckily for me the wind was blowing across us from the left to the right, masking the raccoon’s scent.  The dogs had no idea that fifteen feet from us this raccoon was waiting and watching, ready to scurry up the tree if the need should arise.  As we walked past, I turned back and saw the raccoon walk across the road to the lake and disappear in the dark. 

Maybe I need to make a standing appointment with my chiropractor.

Another Morning Walk as Sedate as Always – Not!

Once again our “quiet sedate” pre-dawn walk was anything but quiet or sedate.  Something was out there.  Both dogs were on high alert.  Orso had his head up with ears turned forward and at attention, listening intently searching for the intruder.  Charlie always on the hunt had his nose to the ground and sucking up the strange new scent through his vast number of olfactory glands.  He sounded like a vacuum cleaner sniffing and snorting sorting out the scent.  His tail puffed out and the hair on his back stood straight up like a Mohawk.  Orso scanned the dark road in front of us turning his head back and forth searching for a glimpse of whatever it was.  Charlie jerked and pulled on the leash head still down following the hot scent getting more and more agitated as we walked. 

I started to doubt the wisdom of our forward motion, thinking this is only going to end badly for us, or in reality, me.  As we rounded a curve in the road, Charlie jerked his head up and turned to the right of us, lunged forward and growled at the dark.  That’s when the hair on the back of my neck stood up too.  Orso and I both looked in the direction of Charlie’s growled challenge, not seeing anything.  Whatever was out there wasn’t showing itself and I wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or not.  Adrenaline was flowing in both Charlie and me now so I quickened our step in order to get up over the hill to where there was a street light and maybe get a look at what had Charlie so worked up.  His “I want to kill something” instinct was definitely in overdrive.

By the time we reached the street light the scent had gone cold and Charlie started to relax a bit, as much as Charlie ever relaxes.  I noticed that most of the hair on his back was laying down with only a tuft of hair at base of his tail still at attention.  Maybe whatever was out there had decided not to tag along and track us in the dark.  It took a little longer for the adrenaline rush to go away for me though.  I was a little more on guard than usual for the rest of the walk.

I think I need to start carrying a light saber or bazooka maybe on our walks.