Vacation Housesitters

RangerSir and I have returned from vacation and now I feel like I can blog here out in the world of everyone knowing because it is all in the past.  I think the hardest part of planning a vacation was making arrangements for our livestock.  It was much harder than I had imagined, as I had remembered as a young adult, I loved getting away from roommates.  Getting paid was a bonus because it was like having a part-time job that didn’t cramp my lifestyle. We finally make a connection for a house/pet sitter before we left.   It worked out well but oh the journey was an adventure.

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Cora is an easy pet to care for.  She sleeps and wants just a little bit of attention. 

We started by putting out the word to friends and family that we were looking for a house/pet sitter.   We have a small college in town and I was sure that someone would know of a person who was interested in the job.  We got no bites.   We were unsure if it was because we lived out-of-town or it was our menagerie but no one wanted the job.   We were offering to pay the sitter what kenneling would cost.

After a couple of weeks, we got worried and started to make kennel arrangements for the cat and dog.   We watched our neighbor’s horses and barn cats, so we knew that they would open the door for the chickens in the morning and close them up at night.   It was a workable solution, but it wasn’t the best solution because we did not want our house empty for ten days.

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Zip is a people dog and after a day alone needs some serious play time.   He also is a true terrier and can’t be trusted off leash, so walks require a human.   All that said he is still a loveable character. 

We started to tap into websites offering house/pet sitters, talking to folks, trying to figure out our liabilities, and what could go wrong if we were two days away from rescue.  There were so many pros, cons, and unknowns.  You asked everyone you knew if they knew this person on the net wanting to sit for you.

Finally, we made a connection with a young woman who would be in her last two weeks of high school the time we needed her.    Lots of people vouched for her maturity and reliability.   It was unnerving after all she was in high school.  I met her mother and knew her step-father and grandmother.   They were all comfortable with this and supportive of her doing this.  She had an afterschool job but would be home the same hours as we were when working.    We met with her and talked with her and in the end, she would be our house sitter.   RangerSir reminded me in a couple of weeks she could call herself a college freshman, so if she had such good references we should go with it.

In the midst of all of this one late afternoon, three of our chickens flew over the fence in their run attached to their coop.   They came to their favorite dust bath location by the back door at the edge of the foundation of the house and they were prone to do.  Unfortunately, Mr. Fox came right up to our back door and got our girls.    It was unnerving and devastating because this happened just a few feet from our back door that we use as our main entry.  RangerSir and I had decided just this year that we were not going to do baby chicks and the hens we had were likely our last hens.  In retirement we would be in town and chickens would not be part of our lives.  When we were gone so were these hens.    It seemed that fate was telling us that our train was moving much faster than we had thought it was.   We had one chicken left after this unfortunate incident and we called a girlfriend with a flock to see if she would take our last hen.  She took the hen with all the food and supplies we had for our backyard flock. Housesitting at our place just got easier for our young housesitter.

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All that was left of our chickens was a pile of feathers outside the back door.

The first night we were gone and out of cell phone connection most of the day and early evening.   We got back into service at 8pm Montana time to have a message from our housesitter who came home to find that we had no electricity (no water/well either).  When we finally connected up that night she just wanted to know if there was something special she needed to do as she had tried the breakers and no luck; the power company in town couldn’t help her.  I placed calls to her and made sure she knew where the oil lamps and flashlights were (things we had not covered in the walk through before we had left).  We are the next to last house on an electric run connected to a local electric co-op.  We placed calls to the co-op linemen in charge of our area and electricity came back on at 9pm her time.    She was so calm and collected and told us no worries, she was ok and it would be ok.  It was an immediate demonstration to us that we had left our house and critters in good hands and that this young woman may be in high school, but she was ready for heading out into the next step of life and working her way through the what life was going to throw at her.

When we got home our dogs and cats were happy to see us, but a little put out with us as well.  Life had been good for them while we were gone.  The house was clean, the sheets and towels were pulled and washed, though we had not asked her to do so.  We could not tell that she had been there.  The neighbors were impressed with what they had observed she was home with our pets as we had wanted and no crazy visitors.  I’d love to have her again, but she is ready for the world.  She and friend will be visiting NYC before she heads off to Seattle for school.   So as great as this was, if we go on holiday we will once again be looking for a house sitter.

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Instinct Is Still Intact

Our dog, Zip, has been full of challenges.   Most of them come from his previous life as a puppy companion to an older woman.   He ended up in the shelter when the woman could no longer stay in her home and family could not keep her dear pets.

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Zip loves laying in the lush grass over the septic field.

Read between the lines, and you know what things Zip never learned.   Zip’s main purpose in life was to sit on her owner’s lap and be the center of her world.   We suspect his owner wasn’t very mobile  and because of that  he wasn’t house trained until he learned it here. He had never experienced grass before us. To this day he likes to walk and lay in lush Iowa green grass and hates prickly cured Montana dry grasses.   He isn’t crazy about snow and absolutely hates rain.   He can hold it for hours rather than go outside in even a light drizzle.   We have learned that we just pick him up and carry him out to a spot because he likely will never choose to go outside instead he will explode.  He will go on walks, but he is the first dog  that we have had that is not passionate about them.  He is not a dog who loves to train with me or gets me out when I don’t want to go.   We don’t tell him this out loud, but we think he is a pansy dog.

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He hates walking through even a little water on the road.

Today he fooled us.   His terrier instinct kicked in and he was on the hunt for some ground burrowing animal that has turned up in our yard.   We have not see what is making all these holes, but Zip was out there in the hottest sun of the day digging for all he was worth.  He was dirty from digging with his front feet and tossing with his rear feet.  His feet were digging through not only soil but also rocks and roots.  Some how I imagine that was harder on his feet than the dry grass.    His head was down in the hole, snorting in a highly unimaginable fashion before today.   His nose was mud caked from sniffing out his imagined prey.  It was fun to see him having fun doing something outside.

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This is fun and I know how to do it.   How’d I know how to do this, my humans have not tried to teach me this?

So we now ask ourselves nature or nurture?   When does it kick in?

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It was fun to see him enjoying himself doing something so dog.

Holiday Weekend – No Plans

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It is a hot day, but there is a little breeze that makes the temperatures feel quite nice.

RangerSir’s occupation means that he works the all the summer holidays, because on the holidays  it is all hands on deck and everyone is out in the field with the increased visitors.  Folks always act disheartened when they ask me about holiday plans and I claim none because of he is working.    For me it is quite the opposite, it is a long weekend were I have no plans except of my choosing.   I usually pick to stay home and do whatever possesses me.   Working up to this holiday we had company for over a week followed by a summer cold that had me off of work for several days.   I am still hacking a bit with a cough that hangs on  so I am hanging around the house.   All the chores and housework are done or will wait until after the holiday.   Instead I am taking walks, cooking, writing, spending some time in my studio, reading and I am even thinking a summer time nap in the hammock may be in order.    Sounds like a perfect summer holiday to me.

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Zip is napping.

Cold to the Bones

Sometimes I just feel cold to the very core of my being.   I call that being cold the the bones.    I have been having a lot of that lately with lots of wind and subzero temperatures.  Our new dog has no undercoat and I suspect that he can vouch for the feeling of cold I am talking about.   He has recently taken up sleeping as close to the propane stove as he can get.

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All I can think when I see that is lucky dog.  For a little while he has to be totally warm.

Zip is the Bottom of the Pack

In September we adopted/rescued Zip our dog.  Based on past experience with the pets we have had over the years, we knew it would be awhile as he and the cat sorted out their relationship.  We have watched at times unsure where this relationship was going.   This week it became clear how it was going to work.

Our cat was a ten-year-old rescue when we got her.   She had been in the shelter for six months and had no front claws. Corabelle was not a fountain of self confidence or assertiveness.   Her relationship with Harley, our previous dog, had been one of an quiet truce.   Neither acknowledged one another more than necessary and when they did it was usually with a snarky look.   CoraBelle did not have much use for dogs, and would prefer that they not be there, but would tolerate them if we insisted on one.

Zip had lived with a senior woman and two senior dogs before she passed away.   He had not lived with cats and by all accounts had a sedentary indoor lifestyle.    After living with us, he has decided that there should be some times of intense play and zipping around the house.   He has also shown interest in playing with the cat and  sleeping with the cat. Up to this point the cat is unsure why she should allow either of these.  To Zip the cat was his friend, who cared that she was a cat, she was an animal that was good enough for him.   We were not sure how this was all going to fit in with CoraBelle’s idea of life at home.

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But….but….but…that is my toy

This last week CoraBelle decided she was the top of the pecking order.   She decided  to hog the dog toys and making the dog watch as she slept on his toy stash.   Zip is fast enough he could have made his way and stole his toy back but instead he deferred to her.    I am guessing that she thought enough of this running around and she was going to a stop to it. Zip, though he had nothing to fear from a older clawless cat, gets it and has recognized her as the top of the pecking order in this house.  It appears that the cat has chosen to interact with this dog and by controlling the dog toys control the dog.    I can’t wait to see where else this takes them.

Learning to Walk

When we first got Zip he hated to go on walks.   It gave me pause because I picked my little terrier because of their energy level and my desire for another walking partner.  I have blogged previously about his lack of outdoor experience and it turned out that this was part of the problem.   He really did not know how to walk.   When he walked his legs went every which way.   They did not move in conjunction with one another. He spent untold amounts of energy in forward momentum.

He has now learned how to walk.   He has found his rhythm.  Now he begs to go on multiple walks each day.   I have found my walk partner.

He wants to know why we have stopped.

He wants to know why we have stopped.

Life With a New Dog – Housetraining

This past month has been full of triumphs and amazing awakenings for us  with our new dog, Zip.   He came from a pound after he was turned in when his frail older owner passed away.   We were unsure what we were getting into but once we had decided to take him we knew that this first month would be a learning process for both him and us.  It has been much more time consuming than we had experienced before when we adopted a shelter dog.  Each dog before Zip has had a set of adjustment and learning curves, but Zip’s are for the most part things we have not experienced before.

The best we could tell Zip was a 100% indoor dog before he came to our house. This was a first for us.  He was startled when he walked on grass the first time. He walked funny, because the grass to him felt funny.   Fortunately he quickly learned that he loved the outdoors and would gladly go outside and flop down in the grass.

Zip loves the outdoors and isn't sure how he lived without it in his previous life.

Zip loves the outdoors and isn’t sure how he lived without it in his previous life.

I am going to repeat the observation, Zip was a 100% indoor dog before he came to our house.   We did not have to figure out how to show him where our door to go outside was.    We did not have to figure out the magic word to tell him it was time to take care of business.   All of this was because, it quickly became apparent that he was worse than not house trained, he was indoor trained.   We kept logs of all input and output trying to figure out his schedule so we could beat him to an “accident”.  We used the crate and the umbilical method both which had worked with past dogs who had been house trained but need a brush up when they arrived at their new home.  He had no idea about either method and fought them both.  We would sit outside, tried walks, and even the  in/out only for the toilet method trying to help him get the gist of what we were asking.   No matter what we did, he refused to do anything and then he would immediately perform when we gave up and took him inside.   Each time he would  wag his tail and if he could he was smiling as though he was doing the right thing.   It was almost laughable if it wasn’t so wrong.  Recognizing the problem I first tried the puppy pads thinking if he used those and then I put them outside he would get the idea.   He did not use puppy pads in his past life either.  If he had a choice between doing it inside on the pad or the floor.   The floor always won.    This was how he was trained.

Zip is now well on his way to being trained.  Our combination of scheduling, umbilical and crating had him, not giving up was the key to our success.  His original schedule required hourly stops and nightly runs.   He now can go for longer periods of time including the whole night.  We are trying to figure out how to get him to ask to to out.   When he sits at the top of the stairs and then heads down when everyone is active upstairs it is a sign he his heading for the door.   He will wait a few minutes for you. You need to notice that he has gone to the door, because the clock is ticking.   So far it is working, with no accidents in the past week.   Now we really want him to learn to bark or something so we notice that he needs attention.  Only once have successfully taught a dog to bark on command and then to go outside, so odds are not in our favor, but we know things could be much worse.