Monday, March 12, 2007

Ahh, the weather! Dog updates! y2k or yNOT2k!

What a weekend! I’m still jacked up from two solid days of sunshine and pleasant temperatures… The growing throng of bullfrogs around the pond down the hill from the house sang loudly and non-stop, spanning several low, and near-harmonic octaves. The still-naked trees seemed to swell with anticipation around their budding points.
Of course I was outside most of it, we’ve decided to clear off another section to make way for a garden spot and expand the usable, (by that I mean mow-able) lawn. The house sits on five plus acres but only a few hundred square feet close to the front door had been maintained as yard by the previous owners. The rest is either heavily wooded or overgrown by weeds, saplings and the massive grapevines that are strangling the life out of everything they can reach. There’s no easy way to do all this… My 19hp, 43 inch mower, which we picked up right after we bought the place last year cannot beat down the bigger saplings, many with one to three inch trunks, and the crawly grapevine can tangle the blades requiring an hour or so of squirming in the dirt, yanking it or chiseling it free, bit by bit.
So we grab the clippers, and lob ‘em as low to the ground as we can….hundreds of them, some snaking back along the ground several feet under the heavy leaf cover. For the bigger ones, I get to fire up the chainsaw. Along with picking and choosing which are to live, which to die, I take out all of the cedars. Tall and full, scrawny, crooked, or cute, it doesn’t matter. Angel has decreed that all cedar trees must die; she backs that decree with an unyielding, yet unexplained obsessiveness which though we have discussed that as being completely irrational, and petty, I have found it simpler to comply than debate.
We tried to burn the rapidly growing piles, but recent rains have pretty much soaked them making them very slow burning and quite smoky. So we have decided to wait a couple of weeks and we’ll rent a chipper, we’ve got other piles and loose branches and such all over the lot, so we’ll spend some upcoming Saturday making cedar laced oak mulch.
Our dogs are swell, We still have to keep an eye on Blue though. He’s got a nasty habit of occasionally getting in over his head playing, then going a little too far, leading to whelps and yelping and lashing out, so when Mystery (still new to the pack) is out we have to watch out that Blue doesn’t overdo it with him. We also have at the house a little Doberman mix, named ‘Mini’ (like the car) ,a gorgeous and frail pointy little girl, spoiled rotten, but not in the good way. Socially confused and timid, she’s the opposite of aggressive, but also has no manners. She has the need to constantly touch or be touched and the other dogs, especially Blue can get rather annoyed by it. They’re not allowed out at the same time either… She’s fixable, still young and malleable, she just needs time and a firm hand, which is what Angel is perfectly suited for.
Angel took Mini to PetSmart on Sunday, rescue groups are invited to bring adoptable dogs on weekends. It was Mini’s first outing and she handled it very well. Unless you’re a fluffy flat faced puppy, it usually takes more than one weekend to get adopted, but it’s still a good way to meet and greet and once in a while you get lucky. Mini needs socialization, so it’s good place to be approached and fawned over by strangers.
I stayed home with the Bentley Pack, it’s what I do. Not a lot of work as they have a large fenced back yard, with an additional run along one side, and they have large crates in the basement, which they accept as their ‘rooms’ and actually have grown to enjoy the security and quiet they provide. So all I have to do is make sure that Blue and Mystery are not running free together, and Bailey and George can pretty much do as they please.
Mystery has adopted me. If you’ll recall He’s a full pit bull, black, thick , tight skinned and stout, very scary looking by contemporary knee-jerk standards. He was a ‘gift’ from Angel’s former co-volunteers at the kennel in Maryland, they even delivered him to us. He was named ‘Mystery’ because he showed up at the Humane Society one Monday morning, inside one of the outdoor runs. No indication of ownership, origin, age, creed, or religion, just abandoned, at about a year old, at the Humane Society. He was scared, and very needy, which if you are a pit bull can be easily mistaken for sinister and dangerous. Angel took him through a year of professional courses and evaluations. Nobody, wanted to adopt him. Yes he’s strong, you will not win tug-of-war with him if he digs in. He is for all of this, a trusting, affectionate and needy sweetheart. His mouse-like whip of a tail starts slapping the floor whenever I enter the room and starts hyper-drooling like a Pavlovian overachiever. If I drop to a crawl, he nearly wets himself in excitement, but instead nudges me and drops to his back for the complete narcotic bliss that is a belly rub. It paralyzes, hypnotizes him, he completely tunes out all else. When I stop, he pauses, snorts and pops back into reality to look around to see where it went… Angel loves this (mostly, I’ll explain shortly) and I , well I just need to be wanted so it’s a perfect fit. He is also a bit pee-shy around the other dogs, so a couple of times a day I’ll lash him to my arm with a long lead and take him out front to his favorite, long-suffering shrub. We’ll generally continue the walk at a brisk pace up to the mailbox and back which is a pretty good aerobic haul for short, out of shape, stocky types such as Mystery and myself.
Occasionally I get the evil in my eye and he picks up on it.. He’ll be laying on the floor chewing something to shreds, and I’ll just look at him… when he notices I’ll shift my eyes toward the direction of the bedroom… that’s all it takes, It can be done without alerting Angel, even though she may be in the same room… but not for long. All I have to do now is tiptoe toward the bedroom and Mystery is in the air. He gets to the bed before me, and he’s ready… I dive my head under a pillow and he near takes it apart trying to find me… till he goes comatose again from the belly rub.
Angel hates this game. She claims I’m teaching him bad things. Dogs apparently aren’t allowed on the bed. I cannot recall, nor find any evidence that this rule was ever discussed, or agreed upon, though she insists it is indeed a long standing policy. She also claims that I’m making Mystery think that it is ‘okay’ to leap at a high velocity on top of me on the bed. I respond “Get over it, you’re the professional dog trainer here! if I screw him up then just push yourself off the couch and train it back out of him!” Which she of course finds hilarious.
Anyway, she got home from PetSmart, I was scraping globs of excess NeatStuff brand expanding foam out of the gaps in the gazebo ceiling (we gots wasps). She asked about dog status. I answered that they were all inside napping, so she let Mini into the backyard, where she immediately Velcroed herself to Angel’s leg. Mini prefers to touch and be touched at all times. Angel reported that all went well, Mini behaved herself and did not maim or kill any children. (In the dog-rescue and rehab business that’s called ‘a good day’) Angel goes to these things for other reasons than adoptions, for one, it puts her 2000 Ford Escape SUV/rolling billboard in a prime location, and it’s a fine way to strike up discussions with potential clients as well as meeting and networking with rescue workers from around the area. She took it one step further this time. After she scraped Mini off her leg log enough to shove her squealing and flailing into her crate. (Mini doesn’t mind her crate, in fact she sleeps quite well in it, she squeals and flails getting out of it as well, it’s a transition-panic thing.) Angel sheepishly admitted to having another dog in the car. One of the PetSmart patrons had brought her handsome young Border Collie/Eskimo mix to the store for food/treats/toys/pee on the floor. She stopped to look at the adoptable poodle puppies, and struck up a conversation about her dog, Mickey.
“He’s bitten about thirty people” She said. Angel then pulled a small hammer out of her purse and ball-peened the lady right between the eyes, which dropped her like a flour sack. Angel then smashed each of the lady’s fingers and toes individually with a dirty, jagged rock that was lying nearby.
Of course that’s the embellished version, that’s really just what Angel wanted to do. What she actually did was to offer to take Mickey for a few days for ‘evaluation.’ The owner had claimed that their other dog, a German Sheppard/mountain lion mix (embellishment) may be part of the problem, and that yes, it probably isn’t so smart to let Mickey run around outside without leash or supervision…. Or ‘ I suppose we should have done something after the first couple of attacks.’
Mickey is about a year old, and though it’s too early to tell for sure, he may not be long for this world. If indeed he shows significant signs of erratic, dangerous behavior, regardless of whether it is inherent or learned, he will not be considered adoptable by any ethical rescue shelter, regardless of training. It is not likely at this point that the owner will take him back. Angel’s really the last possible detour on Mickey’s road to the big sleepy needle.
So for him, (Warning: Soapbox Ahead!) as with other dogs taken in for being too dangerous for adoption, there is the needle, or there is a long life of loud, lonely kennel spinning in a no-frills, ‘no-kill’ shelter. Kennel spinning is what animals do when they are confined for extremely long periods, (think months, not years) visit a zoo lately? Watch the big cats. They circle the cage, or pace back and forth, it becomes obsessive, and by some indications, permanent. At this point their diet has deteriorated, their senses have diminished or are just being ignored. They can become more erratic and aggressively possessive. Though probably treated well, fed, kept warm and watered, they are by any other humane measure, neglected. That really can’t be helped. “No kill” shelters by definition end up with the long-term outcasts, un-adoptable, unwanted, aging animals. The shelter can not make a dime from them if not adopted, but must maintain their medical care, food, etc. Obviously space is limited, and no one, I mean no one is getting wealthy in the no-kill rescue industry. Generally they are marginal, tin-cup operations, partially funded by local charities or private philanthropy, or in some case by municipalities. Workers at these shelters are generally wonderful people, answering a calling. They are always in over their heads. They always have at least two more dogs than places to put them. They also, to a person, get angry, frustrated, upset, when hearing of a dog owner letting their puppy run amok and then throwing them away after a few months.
Sorry about that.
Then there’s Rocko.
Oddly enough one day Angel was clicking through the Wide World of Web and landed on a massive site filled with rescued animals. ‘’. This is a wonderful site that is nation wide, free to most-ad/based so you can look for or offer a pet by type, size, age location… so is you want a basset-poodle-mastiff mix you may have to go for a drive, but it searches nation wide… (end of gratuitous ad) On this site she was looking up ‘Rhodesian Ridgebacks’. In memory of Max, our long suffering old dog that we put down back in January, (those of you that knew Max recall the Mohawk of fur on his back, Max was a Ridgeback/Sheppard mix) Angel picked up a big, glossy, full color ‘Rhodesian Ridgebacks Gone Wild’ calendar. Thumbing through it on page August is a picture that if we did not know better looked exactly like Blue. EXACTLY! Except Blue doesn’t have that ridge of fur on his back. But the face! That handsome and regal face was a dead-on match. Blue’s genealogy has always been a curiosity. We knew his mom, and all of his siblings. Blue sitting among his brothers and sisters, I think there were seven, would look like a evolution chart no two identical, each slightly off, and none, absolutely none resembling the mom.
So she’s looking at other ridgeback mixes to study characteristics and for cases of a ‘known’ parentage producing something like Blue’s motley litter. Not that we can do anything about Boo’s (Blue’s) lineage, he and all his siblings were fixed early in life, it’s an academic exercise that helps improve one’s breed identification skills. Anyway, That’s how she came across another dead-ringer, listed as a Boxer-Ridgeback mix named ‘Rocko’ currently a resident in a foster home in West Memphis Arkansas. Well one thing led to a dozen others and sure enough that dog’s gonna be heading up here in a few days as sort of an exchange-student thing, where he’ll be the ward of a local shelter here, and living with us as a foster. This simply means that the shelter will pick up medical bills, we do the rest. No one’s making a dime here, it all zeroes out pretty much, even if Rocko eventually gets adopted.
Then there’s the whole time-change thing… we in the IT-support industry did indeed hearken back to the end of the universe version 1.0 back in December 1999… oh those heady days of non-stop funding and obscene contract gouging! Sure there was an issue, but sheesh! This time was embarrassing. The deities that control time/space in this part of the galaxy decided that three more weeks of DST would be pleasant, though there is no actual evidence of request, complaint, or outcry from the masses… So they decide to stage an unnecessary disaster. Change the start and stop points for the silly thing. You’d think, and you be completely wrong, that we learned something from the Y2K self imposed emergency. NOOO! We hard coded the start/stop date for DST into the rigid and unforgiving firmware on the servers themselves. Firmware in IT-speak is software by and for hardware. It does leaky basement utility stuff like manage temperature, power levels, fan speeds, clocks, blinking lights and meaningless but impressive clicking and whirring noises. It does not rely on the disk drives, It is aware of them but it’s memory/code is all in a chip. It CAN be changed…….and in fact is frequently ‘patched’ to add ‘enhancements’ and ‘features’ (bug fixes). Anyway, we’ve been fighting this battle for a couple of months… Between the hundred or so software vendors and the dozens of hardware parts we had to evaluate what was going to happen, not just in March, but in April as well (will it change twice in spring and twice in autumn?) Well the answer is we ended up patching the devil out of everything for a couple of months, restarting systems in the dark and early’s whilst good people slept… And pretty much as with Y2K it all went quite well with a couple of small oversights, but the beer kept flowing. However when the jokes get tossed about, let it be known that the reason it turned out to be a near-non-event, is because we beat on it at all angles for two or three solid months! We made, we broke, we fixed!

I’ve picked Maryland for the NCAA’s Only because my real Alma Mater doesn’t have a men’s basketball team.

I made Hollandaise sauce from scratch for dinner last night (because it sounded like a neat thing to try) , served over fresh hot waffles, Canadian bacon and scrambled eggs, Awesome!

Adam is doing well in Maryland, still calling his mom once a week.
I hear that Andrew might have Joined the Army? Can someone confirm that for me?

Leslye is going through some rather heavy things now but is holding up, she calls and updates a couple of times a week.

As for everyone else on this mail list, well, they’ve all fallen of the side of the earth and steadfastly refuse to report back in a timely manner.

Love and/or acknowledgement to all.