We Broke Them

Up bright and very early Monday morning, I could only stand it until about 4:30, I had to get up and out of the torturous bed. You would think that after two days of walking over six miles a day across uneven terrain, up and down hills, tripping and yes falling flat on my face that I would be so exhausted I could sleep for at least five or six hours. Not so, that bed was the most miserable experience I have had since my bilateral mastectomy a year ago. That bed may actually have been much worse than my mastectomy, at least when I was in the hospital I was given good drugs. I crawled out of bed and turned on the coffeepot, put in my contact lens and turned to look at the dogs. Both were still sacked out on the bed, neither one jumped up ready for breakfast.

I dragged out the dog food bucket and began filling each dish with dog food. At least the dogs lifted their heads to watch me, so I knew they were still alive. Both dogs just waited patiently for me to finish and bring them their dish. Not excited about food, who were these dogs? I think our dogs love food more than us sometimes. Wow these guys must really be tired. Charlie moved forward and sort of melted off the bed onto the floor to get his breakfast. I turned to Orso who looked at his dish then me then back to the dish, took a deep breath and halfheartedly stepped off the bed for his breakfast.

Each step Orso took reminded me of an old war movie where the Nazi soldiers goose stepped when marching. He would extend his right leg straight out in front of him then gently set his paw on the floor stop, lick the bottom of his paw, then repeat the process with his left leg. His right paw was especially tender and wouldn’t put much weight on it. I grabbed Mitch’s small flashlight and turned it on as I gently spread his pads apart to look for lacerations or any foreign objects stuck in his foot. The pads were fine, with no tears or cracks, but the skin between the pads were raw and inflamed from running around in the dry grasses and corn stubble fields. Orso’s nose and the bottom of his jowls were also red and raw looking. After two steps he laid down and didn’t move. Orso didn’t even look up when I put Charlie’s harness on to go out and pee. That was one pooped pup because Orso never lets me go anywhere without him.

Charlie was just as tired and showed no interest in walking very far. He quickly went about his business and turned around to go back to bed without any encouragement from me. So much for a half day of hunting, the only way Mitch and I were going to get anymore hunting in was to get new dogs. We decided to pack up, leave the hotel from hell and head home. Neither dog lifted his head all the way home.

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Day 2 – The Continuing Saga of the Hotel Room from Hell

Thankfully Mitch brought soap from home so at least I could be clean and not forced to use the used bar of soap, which I threw in the trash. I finished my shower, put on my makeup and fixed my hair. Yes I know, I’m going to walk around in the field carrying a gun, tripping over roots and stepping into badger holes, maybe even get shot by a fellow hunter, but at least I have on makeup and under my hunting hat my hair had been washed. All dressed and ready to go I left Mitch to shower and get ready and walked around to the front desk to check out the free complimentary breakfast.

There were frozen waffles, prepackaged cinnamon rolls cut in half, whole wheat and white slices of bread, a couple of apples, four packets of instant oatmeal and a choice of either raisin bran or frosted flakes cold cereal. Carb city, yummy. I popped two frozen waffles in the toaster and poured a glass of orange juice for Mitch. I buttered the waffles and poured syrup over the lukewarm waffles and carried them back for Mitch. After unloading the waffles and orange juice I headed back with my own oatmeal packet from home. I searched for hot water, but no hot water was not an option. How do you make hot oatmeal without hot water? My option was to add water from the faucet and put the bowl in the microwave to heat it up. Of course the only bowl offered was Styrofoam which meant I was going to get all of those bad nasty Styrofoam chemicals transferred from the bowl to my oatmeal. I don’t know how true that is but I figure why push it.

As I turned to walk back to our room Mr. Happy came up to me to tell me that the dogs couldn’t stay in the room if we weren’t there with them. I asked what he meant and he said, “You in 112?” I said that I was, he said again, “Dogs can’t stay in room if you are gone.” I assured him that the dogs would stay with us. How much fun would we have walking around in the field searching for birds without our chief sniffers? I walked back to the room finished up breakfast, loaded up the dogs and headed out for a day of communing with nature.

I had my fingers crossed for fresh towels, clean sheets and Kleenexes, but I wasn’t holding my breath. We got out in the field about nine a.m. and had really good luck in the morning. Orso turned out to finally get it, that he was a bird dog. We called it a day about 4:30 in the afternoon and headed back to the luxurious suite of our dreams. We walked in and saw that the bed looked the same as we left it, the sheets pulled up and the comforter pulled over the pillows. The sheets hadn’t been changed. I walked into the bathroom and saw towels folded and stacked into the slots for the towels. I don’t know if they were clean or just refolded. I looked on the back of the toilet and saw a new package of soap, that wasn’t opened yet. I could just imagine how busy the housekeeping staff was with seven rooms occupied.

But guess what, still no Kleenexes. There must be a world shortage.

Orso – Who Knew?

This was our first hunting trip in two years and the first time I would carry a gun in three years. Last year we didn’t go hunting and two years ago we were hunting quail. Quail are hard for me to shoot, they fly up so fast that by the time my heart stops racing and I realize what flew up the little birds are long gone and way out of range. So I carried a camera two years ago and had much better luck capturing the moments through the lens than with a gun. Two years ago was also the last time we had AJ, our black lab, to help us search out birds. We lost him the week after we came back from that trip. Now we’re down to just two dogs, Charlie, our ten year old german shorthair/lab mix and Orso, our eight year old chocolate lab. Charlie is a good hunting dog, great nose and fast. Orso on the other hand, has preferred to walk behind us letting us beat down the path for him enjoying the outing rather than getting out there looking for birds.

Saturday morning brought clear skies bright and sunny with a fairly strong wind out of the north that felt quite biting. Our group consisted of six hunters, Mitch, me and longtime family friends that spanned four generations. The oldest in our group was eighty-nine and the youngest was fourteen, a wide range indeed. We thought that since Charlie is now ten he might be a little slower and Orso was just along for the ride. Even though Mitch is ever the optimist, saying this might just be the year that Orso gets it, I am the skeptic saying, remember we only have one dog that hunts. We started off working a long strip of tall grasses, Mitch on the outside edge on the left, me just to his right in the grass and the other four spaced out to the right across the expanse to the outside on the right to block any birds from running out and escaping unscathed. The dogs ranged back and forth between us trying to pick up that elusive wonderful scent of the pheasant.

We hadn’t gone fifty feet when Charlie stopped and went on point off to my right in front of the father, grandson combination. A pheasant flew up and caught the wind to fly across my position, the grandson fired off a round and winged the bird, I shot right after and helped bring it down, with Charlie racing hot after the downed bird to make the retrieval. After two years, nothing has changed, it doesn’t matter who shoots the bird the dogs always bring them back to me. A good omen, finding a bird so quickly.

The big surprise came about twenty five yards farther as we walked the field. Orso stopped and stood stock still with his ears cocked up and forward staring at something.

I gave the command, “Get him Orso, okay.” Nothing, Orso just stood there looking at the form in the grass. I gave him the command again, this time with more emphasis, “Okay Orso, get it up!”

Orso moved forward and the bird flew up and to the left trying to catch the wind. Three shots rang out winging the bird but no one got off a clean shot. The bird flew down the hill across the road and into the trees on the other side. Mitch ran toward the spot where the bird went down with Orso following behind him. They crossed the road and worked their way down into the draw where the bird went down. The rest of us stood where we were not moving, waiting for Mitch to resurface. Charlie even came and sat down beside me waiting, taking a rare rest break. About five minutes later I spotted Mitch coming back up out of the draw fifteen feet farther west than they went in and next to him was Orso carrying the bird. Orso had rooted the bird out hiding in the grass next to a tree, went in and grabbed the bird, just like a seasoned hunting dog. Orso trotted back up the hill straight to me bringing his prize, head held high.

After eight years Orso was finally a real live hunting dog. Miracles do happen.

Skunk De-Skunker or A Public Service Announcement

Pheasant season is right around the corner and if your dogs are anything like ours, they get into a lot of thick tall grass searching for the elusive scent of a pheasant. Often other creatures pop out of the underbrush, such as rabbits, deer and on occasion, a skunk. That happened on one hunting trip. The dogs were hot on a pheasant that wanted to run through some prairie grass and would not break cover, when the dogs stopped short. As I caught up to Charlie and Orso I could make out something black sticking up in the grass and the dogs were barking at it. I just barely made out the shape and screamed, “Skunk! Leave it –leave it!”

I back pedaled as fast as I could to get out of range, but Charlie and Orso were not so lucky. As Charlie turned the skunk sprayed them catching Charlie on the right side of his face and shoulder, Orso got sprayed on his shoulder. As bad as the dead skunk stench smells when you are driving down the road and get a waft of the road kill aroma, a live skunk spray victim smells worse. It is a cloying sickening sweet, decaying smell that gets in your nostrils and won’t go away.

We took the dogs back to the hotel and first put Charlie in the tub and used all of the shampoo we had scrubbing, rinsing and repeating over and over until the stench was not as overwhelming as it first was. A trip to Walmart for more shampoo and it was Orso’s turn. Even though we were able to cut the stench down with the multiple baths, the stench was still there when you got close to their heads and shoulders. It took almost six months for the smell to completely go away.

After we got back from our fateful hunting trip, we decided to put together a skunk de-skunking kit. In the October 2008 issue of Gun Dog Magazine there was an article about skunks and dogs and it listed a de-skunking recipe. Below is the list of ingredients and instructions for anyone that takes their dogs hiking or hunting and just might need this.

16 ounce bottle of Hydrogen Peroxide (For best results, change out the any unused Hydrogen Peroxide on an annual basis. This is the keep it fresh and active in case you have to use it.)
1 pound box of Baking Soda (transferred to a waterproof container
Dawn Dish Soap
Latex, plastic or rubber gloves (several pair)
A plastic or metal two-quart or larger container to mixing the ingredients (we used a gallon ice cream pail)

Measure one or more cups of baking soda into large container. Add 1/2 cup or more hydrogen peroxide to form a paste. Expect mixture to foam somewhat. Squeeze one or more ounces of liquid soap and while wearing protective gloves, hand mix the ingredients until smooth and slightly runny.

Hand rub mixture into dog’s coat with a massaging motion concentrating on the region where most of the skunk oil is located. Leave mixture on dog for 10 minutes or more. Then rinse with ample fresh water. Avoid getting the mixture in the dog’s eyes. Flush well with fresh water if it does get in his eyes.

Rinse the dog with plenty of fresh water.

NOTE: Do Not mix the solution before it is needed. It is unsafe to store this mixture for any length of time, so mix only when needed, apply immediately and discard afterwards.

We haven’t had to use our kit yet and hope we never have to, but we take it with us on each hunting trip. Of course I probably should do that on our hiking treks too.

What a Couple of Fair Weather Sissies!

My chair has been bashed for the third time now and I have almost been knocked out of it twice, all because these two hooligans have decided it’s game on. When Charlie and Orso go at it, furniture gets moved whether it’s occupied or not. It is eighty-five degrees outside and these two sissies think the only place that they can play and wrestle is in the house. At almost nine years old, Charlie is a tad on the cranky side most of the time and won’t play with Orso. Orso who is the perennial puppy is always up for a free for all, so when Charlie is in the mood Orso will take advantage of every moment of neck chewing he can get.

Normally the wrestling only lasts for five or ten minutes tops, but tonight this has been going on now for twenty minutes. There is lots of heavy panting, but no one is giving an inch of ground. Barking, snarling and bodies leaping on and off the bed, means a good time is being had by all. Mitch has been trying fruitlessly to stay out of the line of fire, but it’s not working. He’s been bowled over twice now. I call a time out when one of them grabs the edge of my rug in his teeth and wants to play tug of war. Nothing is safe from the jaws of death around here.

After twenty five minutes Charlie has finally called a truce and both have tongues hanging all the way to the floor. A quick drink and both collapsed on the floor to cool off. Now I just have to cross my fingers that maybe they will both sleep all night long and not come nudge me in the middle of the night to see if I’m awake.

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.

Orso My Big Sweetie

Yesterday I posted pictures of Charlie.  Today is Orso’s turn.  He’s my big sweetie weighing in at 98 pounds.  He’s kind of a goof ball, but that’s what makes him so endearing.

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Orso is playing King of the Bed taking on all challengers

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This was taken in December on our very frigid hunting trip.

Orso is squirrel hunting

Kind of a clown, daring the squirrel to come down.

Photos taken on my Canon Rebel