Thursday, January 24, 2013

Seasons of his life

The other day I went outside to warm myself in the late afternoon sun. Of course the world's nosiest dog came flying out the door pushing me put of his way as he did so.
I wore a wry smile thinking about how some things never change. We have worked so hard to increase his patience and impulse control but he's never not sprinted to push past us to get out the door first. I warn guests he'll always pass you on your right.
I don't fear it is his 'dominance' over us, there is no other indication he sees himself as dominant. He just really wants to not be left behind in case something wonderful is happening.
We don't fight it any more, haven't for years.
However, other things have changed.
It feels quite sudden but when I looked at my handsome boy, standing on the front steps surveying the cul de sac, I saw physical changes that were bound to happen but I hadn't really seen yet.
His taught body isn't as taught. His neck has slack that wasn't there.
Tiny gray hairs are populating his muzzle.
Just at that moment his coat reflecting the intense sun, I realized he really was a senior. The vet has been telling me that at his size he's been a senior since age 5.
But he didn't look it to me, no longer young? Sure. A senior? Nah.
This shoulder injury and associated pain has taken its toll.
I pray that once we are back to swimming in the lake regularly we'll see improvement in his physique and his mindset. And that will lessen the senior-like appearance.
Of course the fact will remain that he of permanent exuberance is slowing down and his body will never return to the Mr Atlas he was a youngster.
He will sleep a bit more, exercise a bit less, and thankfully eat a bit less.
We will love him with all our heart, as we have always done.
I felt quite sad about this realization of his seniorhood.
Their lives are so darn short, I abruptly realized MY fountain of youth was leaving me.
His youthfulness had tricked me into believing he was the young dog that performed such crazy feats.
The task for me now is to transition my expectations for him and make the most of this new part of our relationship.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Fields and trails and healing

Poor Bugsy remains in significant pain from his shoulder and his left hind leg. We tried massage over the weekend which was basically a fail. Bugsy remains the same as he was a puppy - which was 'HANDS OFF'!
He's such a loving dog its hard to explain to people that haven't experienced it but you don't pet Bugsy. He just doesn't seem to like it.
Anyway that didn't work out very well.
So back to pain meds and limited exercise.

Today I took him to our fields and as soon as I opened the hatch of the car, he ran down the ramp and was off and running in the field. Nose down, tail up, intense...........and happy. No way anyone would notice he has been struggling with injuries.

After I brought him back home, I decided to head out to a local wildlife management area for a trail walk. It was a cold, bright and still morning. I was alone with just the sleeping ducks. 
Really they were sleeping on the water.
Anyway this trail is convenient but I've always thought it was fairly boring. There are no great vistas, no interesting plants, and not much wildlife. I am preparing myself for longer hikes and hopefully a backpacking trip so I need to hit the trails, this one is just too convenient to not use it.
A funny thing happened while I was walking, alone, on this peaceful morning.
I began noticing how things had changed since last weekend when I last walked this trail. The water levels are much higher, there were many tracks in the mud, sparkly frost remained where the sun hadn't melted it yet and a huge tree now lay across the path.
I saw a squirrel foraging, loads of warblers (I never know which warbler is which, sorry), a sly red fox carefully watching me as he sipped water from the stream.
Standing amongst the 40ft long leaf pines I saw several 4 inch high long leaf pines.
Although our North Carolina Piedmont Winter is mild in comparison to many areas, the forest is still very much in Winter mode; grasses are yellow and trees are bare.

I thought about how many people I know who don't enjoy trails and as I slopped through mud I understood why. I, however, have always loved trails. Slopping through that mud reminded me of some funny and fun times as a kid and as an adult.
I love the sense of heaviness in your legs that occurs as you continue on your way and that feeling when you reach a destination - be it a lake or a river or vista or your car at the trailhead.
Mostly I just love being surrounded by the natural world that is constantly changing as it grows, dies, regenerates and morphs. I love being just part of the land along with the wildlife.
I find it peaceful and invigorating. It always takes me to a very different place than the 'normal' world I inhabit.

I realized along the way today that just as the fields, lakes and trails energize Bugsy and help him to forget his pain, they do the same for me. Its a different energy and different pain but the result is the same.

Monday, January 14, 2013

How to catch a mole (vole or shrew) by Bugsy Lee

I have a bit of a knack for catching moles (some people call them shrews or voles. It doesn't matter to me what you call them).
We have a lot of these little critters around here and I have permission from MANY neighbors to go ahead and dig them up if I like.
Apparently some dogs aren't really too good at digging them up so I thought I would help by showing you how its done.
Today my mom took me to the woods. She calls it our secret place because after going through the field we get to the woods and then you get to the LAKE!!
So much fun. So many critters. So much poop!
Sorry I digress.

OK so first you might just be trotting
photo taken at 9:00:19

Then suddenly you hear something so you stop in your tracks, tilt your head and listen.
Last step put your nose to the ground, sniff but not too loud!!
photo taken at 9:00:44

Yup its in there.
Then very quickly rip up the ground with a front paw while burrowing your nose
Photo taken at 9:00:44 (yes really same second, I told you BE fast!)

Lastly pull the mole from the ground and kill it. In this photo I haven't finished him or her off yet but don't worry. I did. Mom said no one really needed to see it afterwards. Personally I bet you do want to see it. It was very clean. Ok it was covered in dog slobber but I AM a dog!
Photo taken at 9:00:52

Thursday, January 3, 2013

She just doesn't learn! I am a BIRD dog!

Earlier today I took Bugsy down to the local lake. I need to get him swimming again and bizarrely every time he's had a layoff from swimming he *forgets* how to swim. Sigh.
So there we are, me throwing his dokken duck and him going chest deep into the water, crying and whining because he can't reach the duck.
He always gets there eventually but goodness me he should be embarrassed to be such a studly dog whining and crying for his duck instead of just getting it.
Anyway that's how the adventure started.

After a few chilly and whiny retrieves I decided to walk the edge of the still low (but filling fast) lake.
There isn't much land left uncovered now but there is enough of an edge to walk so we did.
Him exploring, me calling him back regularly.
Then he found something.
Like a good pointing dog he stopped in his tracks and pointed.
I looked at him - he gave me a pleading look - and I called him.
Nope not coming, mom, pointing!
No movement.
I keep walking - he is still a statue. I call more firmly, nope he is not budging.
He looks at me - irritated.
He begins to paw at the ground.
Whatever it is (I am thinking mole as I walk closer) it is under an eight inch ledge that is at the normal water line, so the top is scruffy grass and the wall of the ledge is mud.
He paws at it and looks at me like THERE IS SOMETHING HERE!
Yes he shouted with that look.
Finally I wander over, grab his collar and peak under the ledge.
Crap its a bird! An American Coot. All I can see is about an index card of gray feathers.
Presuming its dead I pull him away and off we go.
I mean why would a Coot be burrowed into mud??

Of course on the way back past there he was heading in.
Guess what?
The coot wasn't dead. Next thing I know the coot tries to fly off, Bugsy catches it and is strutting around with his catch.
I manage to get him to release it (so very thankful when it comes to birds he has a SOFT mouth) and it tries to fly off into the lake.
With a very large, very excited, "I remembered how to swim" (live bait gets him every time) mutt making a beeline for the poor coot.
Coots are terrible flyers so the thing was slapping the water as it tried to reach safety.
Fortunately it made it to safety and I prevented the silly Beast from going for a long swim that no doubt would have ended with hypothermia.

So lessons for this human.
Bugsy finds birds and points them.
He finds and kills furry things.
He doesn't bother with dead things. Dead things are smelly and don't run or fly. That isn't fun.
He will always forget he can swim but he remembers when there is something to chase. Then he can swim long distances.
So when my dog points something I shall try to remember that it will be alive and covered in feathers.
Here he is refusing to go back to the car - HIS coot is somewhere off in the distance

Oh and thanks Bugsy for NOT eating the half decayed carp. That was gross