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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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.

Another Life Change

My last day of my summer job we learned we were going to have to put down our dog Harley.   We had adopted him from a rescue shelter as an adult.  We soon figured out he had been abused, but it would be a long time before we heard via the local grapevine how terrible his abuse.  It was reflected in some of his behaviors, that we we could never convince him to let go of.   All this aside he was a great little companion in our family.   I worked from home all but the last three months of his life, so we were constant buddies.   Yet when RangerSir got home each night he followed him around and tried to make up for the time they did not have together while he made money to buy dog food.  Harley was a little Cairn Terrier (think Toto), and his terrier attitude and energy level made him a perfect match for our household.   He was the world’s best hiking partner, tireless but alert.  As a Cairn he should have seen anything that was small and darted as prey, but he was the protector of baby chicks and our adult flock.   Never made sense, but it was a role he took seriously.  He fit into our lifestyle, energy when he needed and quiet when we were.   He was our pet, a member of our family.  He is gone now, but he will always hold a special place in our heart.

One of my favorite pictures of Harley doing what he loved sitting up on a rock looking out on the world.

One of my favorite pictures of Harley doing what he loved sitting up on a rock looking out on the world.

After we put him down we had a hole in our hearts but we were not sure if or when we would want another dog. We started to look at the local shelters and the online shelter pages after about a month.  Sometimes thinking yes it was time and other times thinking not so sure, and if you are not so sure – you really aren’t ready.   It is hard to know if and when you are ready.

We talked about the four dogs we had owned in the 35 years we have been married    We were honest about their quirks, good traits and the bad traits.   Our next dog could take us into our 70’s easily and so as we thought about the things we wanted in our next dog, some things were negotiable and others nonnegotiable. We were getting closer to making a commitment to a pet for their lifetime.

Five weeks later we were fairly certain we had found a match.  We had found this dog from an online shelter notice. We had asked lots of questions and RangerSir and I had discussed his pros and cons. Sunday we drove nearly four hours to a shelter to meet this dog and see if when we met him it was a match.   We are now the owners of another rescue dog.   He is a teenager mixed breed, likely of Cairn origin.

I am sure that we will do some pet posting on the blog as we move along the continuum of learning about this dog and his quirks.   There are sure to be lots of bumps in the highway and some long learning curves for all of us.  In spite of it all pets bring so much to our lives that years from now we will only remember a few of the challenges that come with a new pet, Zip.

Our new teenager, Zip.

Our new teenager, Zip.

In Spite of It All Life Goes On

This weekend here is suppose to be nasty. You can read between the lines for that to mean rain, snow, wind and temps in the 30’s.   Yesterday I curled up and stayed in all day when Mother Nature dealt me a crummy hand.      Today I when I woke up to snow/rain I  said “UP YOURS” and went on about life.     This morning I did my first 5k of the season.

This one was a special one as it was a charity walk for the local shelter’s animal fund.   Albert’s Angel Fund is a local charity  that helps pay for medical expenses for adoptable animals that the local shelter might not otherwise afford.   I love the idea of the partnership of the shelter and the AAF.    Years ago our rescue dogs, Max and Charlie, used to get pledges and annually complete the Walk for the Animals, a fundraiser for the shelter they came from in Minnesota.   Today’s  walk  was a natural fit for me.

If it had been nice weather there would have been no question about participation, but with the rain/snow mix, the wind and the thermometer screaming 34 degrees I was not sure what the turn out would be like.   Heck I was not even sure if RangerSir would participate or not.  We got ourselves ready and out the door before we could change our minds.  The field was full of hardy souls dressed for spring in Montana, the rest of you may call it winter clothing.   There were folks of all sizes and ages, just the dogs were.   Probably the most interesting dog we saw was a Komondor, which I had never seen in person before.    There were also Corgie, Dachshund. Bloodhounds, Yorkies, a 3-legged Pomeranian, Giant Schnauzer, and any thing else you can imagine in between.  The family who parked next to us captured the essence of the field.   They had a little teeny tiny dog of Chihuahua  origin, a large elderly dog of Golden origin, a very young infant in a stroller, a short small mom, and a very tall dad.  See them unload from their rig  and make their family race ready made me glad I had not been a wienie and stayed home.

We finished our first 5K in 55 minutes.  Love that snow in the background

We finished our first 5K in 55 minutes. Love that snow in the background

Here are a couple more pictures taken during the race.     This was the 5th year for the race.   In the first four years of the race it has raised over $13,000 for Albert’s Angel Fund.   Not sure if the turn out will allow us to stay on target, but every bit helps and the race helps to raise awareness.   It was fun to watch the faces of folks in cars to see a mass dog walk.

Look at the puff winter coat.   The rain/snow made focusing a little difficult.

Look at the puff winter coat.

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We walked in a wide right-of-way.

Now as I sit here blogging at home four hours later we are getting the snow that they predicted and yes they might be right it could accumulate an inch before it is done.   Sure am glad the walk is over, but glad I was part of it.

Looking off our deck to our shed and chicken coop.   The snow is coming down.

Looking off our deck to our shed and chicken coop. The snow is coming down.

 

Joy of Pets

blog-04-13I just spent the better part of the week on the road for work.   I am home again and reminded the joy of owning pets.  Each of them brings something different to the the household.   My dog brings a sense of spunkiness and a challenge of a stubborn personality.    My cat brings that that quiet acceptance.  All of it so enjoyable after a week away from it.

Life with a Dog is Better

Mr. Ranger Sir & Harley

Mr. Ranger Sir & Harley

We went out exploring and I captured this snapshot of the men in my life.  It captures how in tandem they can be . As we were walking down the country road, they both heard something that made them stop, look and listen.   This is remarkable because we did not raise him from a puppy, but got him when he was five-years old from a shelter as someone’s cast off pet.  In the three years we have had him, he has become ours.

For me he is a constant companion.  Working from home he spends  hours with me.   His days are spent in the office, lounging around not asking for much, but always there.     He is my walking and hiking partner, be it paved road or forest trail he is always ready and a tireless companion.   Lastly I have discovered he is also my protector.   When the man of the house is gone, he sleeps not with me, or in his kennel as he usually does,  but watching out the window, providing notice when someone arrives friend or foe.

For Mr. Ranger Sir Harley is the calming and diffusing element for the stress that his life brings.   When Mr. Ranger Sir gets home from work Harley knows the fun half of the family is in the house.   He gets himself all wound up, barking and twirling in circles as terriers are suppose to do,  because it is time for  play.   I am not sure if Harley does that because he needs some activity or he senses his man needs to unwind and a mental diversion from all that has happened in a hard day at work.   The are inseparable when they are both home.   They bring out the best and worst in one another and only boys can do.

Harley is by no means a perfect pet or dog.   He is a Cairn Terrier and has a bit of a terrier attitude at times, and does things on his own schedule, his own way.   He may be a small dog, but by no means a lap dog.   Don’t think you will lower your blood pressure by petting  him as he sits on your lap.   He’d rather lay on the floor.  After we had him about two years he decided he’d like to chase the few cars and trucks that come down the road ; luckily it is a dead end.   Lastly he came with mental baggage and dislikes others fees and hates men’s workboots.   No amount of consistent behavior modification work as stopped or changed any of that.

In spite of it all our life is better because he is in it.   Life is better with a dog in it.