Monday, October 27, 2008

Dog Day Weekend

It was all dogs, all the time, this weekend.

Saturday dawned blustery and overcast, with intermittent drizzle. Up with the day, to get my daughter ready and run her off to her morning at the University of Delaware's Children's Chorus' Song Fest - six hours of singing and drumming with a wide collection of musical groups all under one roof. She'd be picked up later by my wife. Once my daughter was dropped off, it was my turn - With Suka in-tow - to run off. Off to The Farm, for an open house. MABCR runs open houses roughly twice a year, or as resources and weather permit. This fall, the open house was being held despite the weather. For a late October day, it was warm, and the rain wasn't heavy - Not yet, anyway.

I brought with me some home-made salsa to share; I make some mean salsa. I *know* I make mean salsa - I accidentally rubbed my eyelids after playing with the hot peppers. They were better-quality than I expected, and the oil soaked off my fingers, and through the skin on the tops of my eyelids. Oww! Not an eye-opening experience - more of an eye-closing one! AKDD is calling me "Squintyboy" now, and with more than a bit of accuracy. :p Anyway, good salsa is a partial offset for bad weather. I also brought along some StinkyKibble(tm) for Suka.

Got to The Farm to find that an agility clinic was on-going, so made myself at home, hanging out and walking Suka about the farm, away from the clinic. Suka's still a bit freaked out by The Farm, though her stress reaction is quite manageable. The HBIC, Sarah, showed me some tips for helping get her reactions more under control, and I spent a good chunk of the day walking Suka about and acclimating her, socializing her, and just enjoying being at the farm without any real chores. Silly me! I should know better...

Sarah ambushed me and asked, pretty please, as I was the only one not attending the clinic, if I could clean & feed. OK, no problem - I can do that! Crate Suka up, get my nasty boots on, and off I go with scoop, hose, and cleaning supplies. There are relatively few dogs at The Farm right now, so it was pretty straight-forward. Clean the runs, scrub the water buckets and food bowls, and chivvy the dogs into their runs. Feed the dogs, clean up the outside area, haul the trash. Takes about an hour and a half, if you've done it before. In mid-clean, was surprised by a drop-in visit from Animal Control, come for an inspection of the kennel area (which passed with no complaints!), but still managed to get done in plenty of time to share in some excellent pot-luck lunch. The salsa was a hit, but the best dish was some kind of chili pot-pie, for which I will definitely need to beg the recipe!

Back outside for more agility work, but the wind blew, and then the skies opened up - rain was coming down hard, and sideways! That was pretty much the end of things - When it's raining harder than standing under a hose, and the agility equipment is blowing away, it's time to call it off! So, toddle back home, the pair of us wetter than drowned rats, for a good lie down in a nice, dry nest. Well, a nice lie down in my favorite chair, Suka curled up under my feet, and heavy blanket thrown over the pair of us! May as well be a nest, anyway!

Sunday couldn't have been more different, weather-wise; Sunny, warm, and cloudless skies. Newark has parades every chance they can come up with an excuse - Halloween is a great excuse! So, Main Street is blocked, and everyone and anyone whom can think of a reason they should be marching shows up and marches! It's basically a street party, with a parade as the excuse. Thousands of costumed spectators, thousands of costumed marchers, fire brigades, National Guard units, high school and university marching bands in costume (one brass unit completely co-ordinated as a Pac-Man game!), politicians, beauty queens, old cars, fancy hotrods - All the makings of a stereotypical small-town parade! Even Mike Castle, our US Representative, was present, marching along as Frankenstein's Monster. He looks the role, too. ;) The only thing missing was a mounted unit. Eh - Next time, I'm sure!

My daughter was marching with our church's unit, as were my nephews. They'd apparently lost the plot as to where to meet up after the parade, according to my sister, so I stepped off the curb and joined the unit as the marched past - Hey, this is a small town! Anyone can play!

Did I mention I'd brought Suka along? Well I did. She needs exposure to the wide and varied, and to people, and to crowds. I couldn't be more proud of her - She was wonderful! Yes, she was a bit stressed, but the biggest stress on her seemed to be standing still - She wanted to smell everything, greet every dog, and in general explore until her legs fell off! She was the hit of our church unit's march - I was walking alongside, rather than in the middle, so she wouldn't trip anyone with her lead, and the result was that we were right on the edge of the crowd where people could get a good look at her. She's a beauty in my eyes, of course, but it sure was nice to hear so many people saying the same thing, too! She trotted along the parade route, licking faces, greeting people and dogs, and hunting for every new scent she could find - A really wonderful day for her, getting out and about and showing how truly good she is!

After the parade, it was mass trick-or-treat all up and down the street, with every merchant giving out goodies to the throngs of children. Catton candy and balloon venders stalked up and down the street, and people overran the downtown with a will. It says something about the town, that the motorcycle cops had as big a crowd around them as the guy playing Ronald McDonald did. Through all this, I walked Suka down the middle of the street, stopping to talk to her admirers, letting her greet dogs, and generally moseying along, keeping an eye on the kids as they did their level best to fill their bags to over-flowing with loot. My daughter didn't do nearly as well as her little brother, though - There's something about a four-year old pirate that just makes people extra generous. Must've been the hook he was brandishing at them! :D

After a long afternoon of walking and partying, we returned home - Where Suka and I nested up in my chair again. :p

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The weather turns... And so does the dog.

Fall is here. Oh, these last few days have been indian summer, but even so, Autumn is in the air.

With the crisper air, the shorter days, the turning leaves, Suka has turned as well. Her personality continues to unfold, and she's much more active, engaged, and inquisitive. Still, she remains a sweet, well-behaved dog, but she's also prone to fits of wrestling, and has taken to pestering for walks, pestering for play, and even pestering the cats. The cats, needless to say, don't speak 'dog,' and are most confused by Suka's attempts to goad them into a romp.

Feline confusion doesn't stop Suka, though - Her ears pricked up and forward, she bounces at the cats, eyes bright with potential mischief, only to be rebuffed by indifference, confusion, or (in Max's case) a most impressive display of curmudgeonry. Curmudgeonry? Is that a word? Well, I guess it is now. Max is slowly learning to tollerate this bounding oaf in his kindgdom, but is not willing to put up with shenanigans of any sort!

Well, if the cats are no fun, she can count on me for a bit of "squeaky chase." She's got a little squeaky donkey, which is her favored toy. She's got a squeaky elephant, too, but that one doesn't taste as good to her, for some reason. ;-) She'll chew her donkey, drag it around the house, and will nail it in mid flight with unerring accuracy. Getting it back for a second toss is a bit of a challenge, but once it's back in my hands, well, she's locked and loaded for another catastrophic mid-air kill. Ziiip! Goes the flying donkey! Clack! Go the jaws of doom, and the poor donkey meets its grim end once again. As the weather cools, Suka's more and more inclined to punish the poor, long-suffering quadruped. Or maybe she's just fed-up with 'political season'? Naaaah.

Suka's walks are growing longer, too, as the air chills, and her coat is filling back in. By Alaskan standards, this is a heatwave, but by local standards, well, it's time to grow the coat back in. She doesn't tire so fast, and doesn't wind up sucking up near as much water as previously, either. I can hardly wait until a proper chill - I bet I can have her chasing that poor donkey for hours!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A new kind of picky eating...

Suka has taken to not eating until told. This is just odd... I don't demand that she wait - When she gets fed, she's free to eat. But she won't - she'll sit there in her crate and whine quizically at me, and look at her food, and then look at me... Then at the food again.

Not until I call her and tell her she's a good girl will she stuff her face into her food.

OK, BCs can be quirky, but that's a new one on me!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Rescue work: It's not "all dogs, all the time!"

Transport run this weekend past... Not a long one, either. Up into Pennsylvania a ways on Saturday, then back south into Delaware, and then a bit further into Maryland. OK, so I didn't reach the farm in the early AM as I'd originally planned, but this was still a good thing - Bringing a pair of young dogs, really puppies still, down to the farm from a foster family, to be transshipped out to another foster family. Everything ran smooth as silk, and my passengers were a delight.

Getting to the farm, I find that it didn't much matter that I wasn't there in the early AM, as there was still a good bit of work to do. So, some of the less-typical taskings one might find when volunteering as a Rescuer:

Pulling weeds... Clearing the fence line of the dog yard, so the low-lying electric wire will stop shorting out, and we can be assured the dogs won't try to tunnel under the fence. Lots o' weeds to pull, but the ground was soft from the recent rains, the weeds fairly strong due to said rain, and that resulted in great clumps of weeds coming out at each pull. But frankly, I'm out of shape, I've been a bit sick of late, and have pulled too many late nights at work, so I faded fast. Fortunately, there were other volunteers, including one particularly industrious fire-fighting architect, who really went to town on the weeds with hand and shovel.

Auto Mechanic... Of sorts. There's an older car, one donated to the Rescue for resale, the proceeds to benefit the dogs, but one which hasn't moved under its own power in a year or more. Nothing actually wrong with it - it's just that no one has gotten the spare time to sell the bloody thing yet, so its been sitting. And, of course, the engine was dry as dust, and the battery flat as flat as Jebal Ali, with nice weeds growing up through the engine compartment, and divots under the tires... So, put it on the booster pack, and periodically try to get it to turn over. No dice. So, gather a bunch of people, and push the little bugger to where it can be reached - It'll leave, even if it has to be towed. But maybe, after a long charge, someone will be able to get it to crank over. Maybe.

Arborist/landscaper... The HBIC got a lot of trees from the local nursery at a steep discount, this being the end of the season, and we being a non-profit and all. So, we dug holes and planted trees, too. Quite a few of them. But, as previously noted, much of this was handled y other volunteers. I'm out of shape. And tired. And not a little it still shaky from the stomach bug. But I did help... And next time I'm at the Farm, I should be in better condition.

Several really plugged-in and gung-ho volunteers made the rounds of Washington, DC's various Federal Agency HQs this last week, setting up information booths at the kick-off events for the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC). For those of you unfamiliar with the ins and outs of US Federal bureaucracy, the CFC is a coordinated charity drive. Rather than have every charity in the world hitting Federal Workers up at random intervals throughout the year, they all gang together in one giant posse, and hit them up one time, all at once, and get over with it. This is a big deal - paper-pushing administrators like to brag on their support for this official 'non-official' pan handling, and they set up informational fairs that allow charity groups to tout their cause. Well, someone had actually slugged a charity number on us - We are a non-profit, after all - and when our go-getters learned this, they took a table and some flyers and handouts, and a couple likely dogs, and made the tour - State Department, Labor Department, and so on. We may not get much in the way of donations, but a good number of people actually sat down and talked to our people - Some adoptions are likely to come out this, if nothing else!

With all that, things are going well. So, just to put a reality check on things, my son let Suka escape this AM. I don't think he was being malicious, he's just a four-year old. Rather than wait for his mother or I to escort him out of the house, he decided to go ahead on his own, and I hadn't crated Suka yet... So out she went, and vanished like the mist. Perfect way to start a Monday... NOT.
I don't know exactly where she went, though I did hear some random barking in different directions - Fortunately, that early in the day, TRDATEOTN were inside, or at least not active. After a quick close-in search that turned up nothing, I grabbed the car and started a wider sweep. As I was doing that, Suka returned, quite happy to have my wife let her back in the house. *Whew!*

That's more adrenaline than I need on a Monday AM, to be sure. And worse, now Suka has learned that she can slip past my son and go have an adventure, with nothing (in her mind) bad happening. We're going to have to completely change the door protocols now, to prevent a recurrence. Yuck.