Critters update

I was going to write about Bubbaz, but realized I would have to include Rosie. And then I would need to talk about the cats, and hey, while I was at it what about the horses?  And the elk and the ravens, and… yeah, like that. I’ve got critters, lots of them, and they’ve all got a story.

So here’s a bit of everything critter-related since the last time I posted, the day after Bubbaz arrived.

Photo of Bubbaz the dog

Bubbaz

Bubbaz

I’m starting with him because I mentioned him first – no favoritism here!  

Just a refresher: on June 26, 2020 I picked up Bubbaz from Round Valley Animal Rescue in Springerville AZ.  I was told he was part Great Dane.  Given his love for running – and by that I mean the dog never walks when he can trot, and never trots when he can barrel along at full speed – I’m more inclined than ever to think that there’s Greyhound in him, too.  Bubz does not act like any eight year old dog of that size I’ve ever met.  He does acrobatics when he walks next to me and thinks I’m going too slow, leaps over every obstacle he can find and with room to spare, and when we set out on a walk he runs circles around me.

Bubz has huge feet.  Just sayin’.

He is a happy dog.  His philosophy is whatever, it’s good.  Thunder and lightning?  No problem.  Last one to get breakfast.  That’s fine.  Look in my ear?  Well, if you must.

Except for one thing:  He doesn’t like being left behind.  His whines can be heard a quarter mile away. 

Bubz is sensitive.  When I get excited (usually that means yelling at my computer) he reacts. If I need to correct him, clearing my throat will get the message across.  If he’s running out too far from me, I swear I can just think my concern and he comes zooming back. 

When I first got him he had full access to the interior of my house and to a dog yard with a 6’ fence.  We walked on leash.  In a month’s time he has graduated to no leash, and I am super happy with him.  The dog not only knows what it means when I call him, he actually comes!

Unlike with Rosie, who has to be cajoled, bribed, and sometimes escorted to get her to come — even when it’s for dinner.

Rosie

The introduction of a new dog to Rosie’s established territory was painless.  What might take weeks and months with other dogs took hours and days with him and Rosie.  Bubz is just a super dog, and Rosie is happy to have a companion again.  When she was rescued from the backyard she had been abandoned in (nearly a year ago) she had a toy poodle friend who got adopted immediately.  It was good to have nearly a year to ourselves with no other dogs around.  It gave Rosie, who is submissive to the extreme, the chance to relax and expand her wings to whatever extent possible. But when Bubz came into our lives it was like I had gotten him as a gift just for her.

In a way, I did.

One great thing about having such an energetic new companion is that Bubz encourages Rosie to put a little more effort into keeping up on our walks.  She still takes her own sweet time, mind you.  Bubbaz and I will have reached the one mile point and be turning back towards home when Rosie’s only covered a half mile.  And then, when she sees us coming, she just sits down and waits. 

Bubbaz & Rosie sleeping

Bubbaz & Rosie

I can’t blame her, though.  It’s not just that she’s got such short little legs (I just measured them – her front legs are 9 ½” long from elbow to foot) so that she’s got to work harder to keep up with long-legged Bubbaz.  It’s simply hard for her to breathe.  In spite of the surgery last February, she still suffers from brachycephalic syndrome.  She’s not as bad as she was, but I still have to be careful to not let her get overheated or stressed. 

She also seems to be developing arthritis.  We don’t know how old she is, but even young dogs can suffer from it.  Rosie walks with a side-ways lurch, as if her feet hurt.  She can’t jump into a car.  Going up and down stairs seems to be a challenge.  Lately she’s been peeing and pooping inside the house near the back door.  It took me a while to get the message:  She doesn’t like going down and then back up the stairs to the dog pen but if I leave the back door ajar she goes outside just fine – there’s only one low step for her to negotiate to get to the back yard.  I guess I need to install another dog door for Rosie’s sake.  And also because if I leave the back door open anything can come in.

Birdies

photo of a Say's Phoebe

Say’s Phoebe

Today a bird took the open door as an invitation.  It’s a Say’s Phoebe, a favorite of mine because of the vocalizations. I know the “clear, slurred whistle” that’s repeated over and over drives some people crazy but I like it.  Plus phoebes are flycatchers and anything that eats flies is a good thing in my book.  I was able to catch the little bird easily with my nekked hands (usually I toss a towel over a bird I’m trying to catch).  Phoebe was very patient while I grabbed the cell phone, got the photo app activated, and took a few shots for posterity.

Meanwhile, my valley’s extended raven family members (sorry, I refuse to call them a murder of ravens) are done with their courtship flights and most have gone off elsewhere, leaving a core pair that “owns” the valley and its contents.  These ravens spend a lot of time around the horse pens.  Sometimes just for the fun of driving the dogs to distraction they’ll hang out on the porch railing or a fence near the house. 

Some people feed ravens and the birds get quite tame.  I don’t feed the wild animals around me.  If they became dependent and then something happened to me, they’d go hungry.  Plus, well, wild animals should be wild.  That’s what I think and I’m sticking to it.

The only thing is I wish they were just a wee bit less wild.  I don’t want them to stop being wild, I just want to get a few good photos.  Okay, a lot of good photos.  I swear, every time I touch a camera or cell phone they wait just till I’m ready to press the shutter and then take off.  Clever little devils.

Cats

Coming around full circle, Lili took only a few days to decide that Bubbaz wasn’t going away.  She whacked him a couple times on his nose just so he knew who was boss, and since then she’s pretty much ignored him just as she ignores Rosie.  They’re merely lesser beings she’s forced to share space with.

Tux, on the other hand, has not been so accepting.  First he growled and attacked poor Bubbaz.  After he’d sufficiently demonstrated that he was really the boss, Tux relented some.  He’d go with us to the barn, talking the whole way (he’s quite the talker, Tux is) and on walks.  It was getting downright friendly around here. 

And then Tux disappeared. 

He is prone to that – he is a tomcat, after all.  He was gone so long this time that I started thinking maybe he wasn’t coming back.  Finally, after nearly a week AWOL, I heard him talking as he approached the house.  It was weird, though — I couldn’t figure out why he didn’t come in right away.  He had to be hungry.  And then when he finally did come in, he made a bee-line for the kibble bowl, scarfed down his food, and split.

Tomcats.  I figured he had a girlfriend he was courting somewhere and was in a hurry to get back.  I was right… and oh boy, was I wrong.

A couple nights later I heard a teensy mewling from outside somewhere.  And I heard Tux talking back.  Obviously, to a kitten. 

Yes, Tux had brought home his very own kitten. 

It bears mentioning that the nearest inhabited house to mine is several miles away.  I haven’t heard anyone talking about missing a kitten from a litter so I’m more inclined to think this kitten is feral.  Either way, I have to think Tux had been courting its mother who, given the size of this bit of fluff and the timing of Tux’s disappearance, had come into her post-partum heat.  Since this wasn’t the first time Tux had gone walkabout this year, I also have to wonder if maybe he’s the father of the kitten.

I also have to wonder if Tux is so clever that he figured out if he had a kitten of his own here it could grow up to be a female cat he could breed without missing any meals.  Or maybe, if he’s the father, he just wanted his own flesh and blood to hang with.

While it’s a mystery to me how he convinced a wee little kitten to follow him home, I have to say I’m kind of happy Tux did so.  Lili and he have become indifferent mousers.  She’s too old and toothless, and he couldn’t be bothered.  But a young cat might well find mouse steak tartare to be an excellent repast.

To that end, I’ve been feeding the kitten in a have-a-heart trap, rigged to stay open and placed near the hole she scrambles into when I try sneaking up on her to see what she looks like.  When she gets old enough to get spayed, she’ll be used to the trap and thus easier to catch.  I don’t feel any need to tame her.  She’ll tame if she wants to, and if not – well, she won’t be the first feral cat I’ve had in my life.  On the other hand, I don’t think this kitten means to live outside the rest of her life.

Every night Tux attempts to to talk her into the house.  If he can get her in, he retreats to my bed and lets her explore.  Last night she made it into the kitchen.  Lily was up on top of the cabinet watching.  Bubbaz watched me to see what he was supposed to do rather than join Rosie in going after the small intruder.  I called Rosie off before she was halfway across the room (pretty nimble for a dog that finds it hard to go up stairs). 

The kitten skeedaddled out the dog door and I thought for sure that would be the last I’d see of her for days, but no.  Tux followed her out, had a chat with her, and within minutes she was back inside, back in the kitchen where she had left off.  I tried for a photo but that was just too much.  She ran out and stayed out, no matter how much Tux tried to get her back.

She will be back, though.  She already stuck her head in the dog door earlier today.  It’s not hard to know when she’s around because she’s got to talk about it. 

Just like her daddy does.

Horses

Sometimes I despair because each one of my five horses has got a problem.  I keep forgetting that four of them are senior citizens and these issues crop up with old age.  I’ve got an Arabian horse retirement and rehab facility here, and I can’t expect twenty and thirty year old horses to act like yearlings.

SE Kelsey Grae.  At thirty three, Kelsey is the oldest.  She’s in good health except she’s become a hard keeper.  Even so, she moves as fluidly as ever, always reminding me why we had been such careful breeders back in the day, looking for athletic ability rather than just another pretty Arabian face.  I haven’t been on her back for nearly ten years but I bet she wouldn’t fuss at all if I hopped on her back – except for that spine that sticks up.   

SE Bint Tazala and SE Sofia.  The next oldest – nearly thirty — are Tess and Sofie, neither ever started under saddle due to physical issues early on.  Tess injured her left fore fetlock joint when she was one or two.  It healed badly and she can’t flex the joint.  Tess’ bloodlines are superb and we could have bred her, but we never did.  She is still the most beautiful mare, even in her late twenties, and she’s got a personality to match.

Sofie developed severe lordosis (sway back) between two and three years old.  We didn’t see it develop as we were in the process of moving to New Mexico then and all our horses were boarded out.  Imagine our astonishment when we saw her next and she looked like an old plug!  The vet told us that it wasn’t painful for her and that she could be ridden – or even bred.  We had too many horses to ride as it was, and had no desire to pass on the possibly recessive genes involved.  Sofie became a pet. 

SE Kokopelli Kid.  Koko, now twenty three years old, was going to be my endurance horse and breeding stallion.  He’s the son of my soulmate stallion, Ben Nasrif, who I miss every day.  Sadly for Koko his breeding career got cut short with the collapse of the economy in 2008, and I had some health issues that resulted in my never doing more than sitting on his back.  No training, mind you.  Aside from athleticism, we bred for intelligence and personality.  The day I first sat on Koko’s back it was because I was sitting on the fence rail and he came up and stood next to me, essentially telling me to hop on.  And I did.  Sadly, Koko had an accident last fall – we never did figure out what he did to himself – and was severely lamed.  He’s improved since then but he’ll never be sound again.

Photo of Sonny as a foal

Sonny at six months

SE Redhill Sonetta.  Last but not least is Sonny.  She was the end result of an unplanned and unnoticed pregnancy, born long after Koko was retired from stud.  He had been lonely and we had an old mare who’d shown no signs of coming into heat for years.  You can imagine the rest of that story, but I’ll just go ahead and tell it.  We let Suletta live with Koko.  Never saw any sign of breeding activity.  Koko was happy to be with her, Su was content to boss him around, as mares will do.  A year passed.  And then another.

One frigid January morning, New Year’s weekend I believe it was, I went out to feed.  Su and Koko were turned out at night, but that morning only he came in for breakfast.  I hunted for Su, but it wasn’t till I had given up, fed the other horses, and come in to warm up before going out again, that she showed up.  When I went back outside there was the reason… a foal. 

Talk about shocked! 

Sonny grew up to be a promising endurance contender (her full and half-siblings were killer on the trail) until one day she came into breakfast lame.  Not yet ten years old and she was suffering from laminitis.  Out here it’s a major deal to get a vet to make a ranch call or to haul a horse the hundred miles or more to the nearest vet clinic where she could be x-rayed.  Much treatment and many dollars later, she still suffers periodic laminitis bouts and when that happens I freak out, grit my teeth, and we start the whole recovery process yet again.  In-between the bouts she travels up and down the mesa sides with the old lady horses and it’s tempting… but riding her wouldn’t be fair, not with those feet. So while Sonny is gorgeous hunk and an otherwise healthy middle-aged mare, she’s permanently retired.

None of my horses will ever have any other homes than the one they have now.  That’s true for all my critters.  Rescue dogs, stray cats, bumbling birds, and crippled ancient horses — doesn’t matter.  I’ve got my own issues and I don’t want to be sent off to live somewhere else, so I won’t do that to them.  We’ll all grow old together.  Family.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. Oh wait — I forgot to describe what it was like one dark night when a herd of elk cows and calves wandered by the house, calling to each other in their weird high-pitched whistles for nearly an hour. Or the recording I made of spade-toed toads (say that three times fast) singing their love songs.. Or…

Maybe next time.

#amwriting

Bubba or Bubbaz or maybe Bubz is home

BubbazSome years ago I promised myself I would not adopt any more animals. So naturally now that my two rescues from last year are settled in (one happily living with my sister in NY, the other with me), yesterday I brought home a dog from Round Valley Animal Rescue in Springerville AZ.  They tell me he’s part Great Dane. He’s tall, and with that brindle coat and those big paws he for sure could have some Dane blood in him.  

I’ve had my rescue, Rosie, for 10 months now. I don’t love leaving her at home when I go out but I don’t like dragging her around while I do errands, especially during the heat of summer. She’s not a real enthusiastic traveler, and needs to be lifted into the car, an awkward experience for the both of us. Even though Rosie’s had surgery to correct brachycephalic syndrome, she’s still not 100%.  That means she struggles to breathe if she’s been exercising or is overheated.  Which is pretty much all the time this time of year.  And that means leaving her at home. By herself (cats don’t count).

That’s why, in spite of my best intentions, the moment I saw a photo of a large, goofy looking dog on the RVAR Facebook page I immediately contacted them.

What was I thinking? 

Are you kidding?  Of course I wasn’t thinking. I was feeling.

Bubba had come to RVAR a month or so ago. I was told he was microchipped and had an old rabies certificate. He was supposed to be 8 years old. If he was full Great Dane he wouldn’t be around much longer since that breed’s life expectancy is 8-10 years.  However, Great Dane crosses tend to benefit from the age expectancy of the non-Dane breed. It’s hard to tell what Bubba’s parentage might be, but I don’t think he’s in any danger of dying soon.  

The adoption process was super easy, barely giving me time for second thoughts. Not that it mattered.  As soon as I met him I knew I had no choice. I told him then I’d give him a home and I knew he understood it as a promise.

I brought Rosie in for a meet-and-greet a few days after I met Bubba.  It was anticlimactic.  Rosie barely acknowledged him and Bubba was distracted. Still, Rosie didn’t hate him, so I took it as a sign it was the right thing to do.  I signed the paperwork and arranged to pick Bubba up another day when I wouldn’t have Rosie with me. I felt it was too soon to have the two dogs in as confined a space as the back of a car.  

I noticed that one of the gentlemen who was doing the adoption paperwork called the dog Bubbaz. At least that’s what it sounded like to me. I looked on the form and he’d put down “Bubba’s” as his name. I loved it. Bubba didn’t appeal to me but something about that Z at the end changed it from the name of a doofus dog to, well, something else.  A name I liked better and that didn’t involve a new name.  Seems to me that while old dogs can learn new tricks it’s simple courtesy to call them by the name they know.

So yesterday was the day to bring Bubbaz home. I wondered as I drove in whether he would be afraid or maybe reluctant. Or if he’d even remember me. 

I needn’t have worried.

The moment the gentleman and Bubbaz walked around the corner of the building to where I waited, that tail started wagging. He looked at me and he smiled. I don’t mean the gentleman, I mean the dog — because that’s all I had eyes for.  Bubbaz headed for the truck, hopped in when asked, and settled down to wait for his ride home.

Next challenge: Rosie & the cats on their home turf

A meet-and-greet at RVAR is one thing, but when Bubbaz stepped into my house Rosie decided she was going to set things straight right away.  Her lips curled into a snarl (my timid Rosie!) and she growled. I cleared my throat. She glanced at me and oops. Suddenly it was all sniffing and tentative wags.

The cats — Tux and Lili — were not nearly as welcoming. The growling from them did not stop just because I told them to knock it off. They’re cats, after all. But Bubbaz didn’t pay any attention to them. He paced around my small house a few times, then, when he seemed done with that I showed him the dog door. He went through it and onto the porch, then bounced down the stairs to explore the dog yard.

All was well and good till I went to the truck to bring my groceries in. Next thing I knew, there was a dog waiting to get into the back seat. Uh oh! My arms were full! But he didn’t try to run off — in fact, he more or less hovered around me as I made a couple trips into the house with my stuff, and was not at all reluctant to come with me back inside.

I went back out and waited to see if he’d escape again. He did. He had found the tiniest gap in the fence and nosed through it, something Rosie had never tried. So the first order of the afternoon was to fix the fence, not a big deal. Bubbaz wasn’t trying to escape as much as he was attempting to stick with me.  The fence is clearly a non-issue as long as I was inside it, too.

When it came time for dinner, I fed them in separate rooms and kept an eye on them. Rosie is intensely interested in her food, and compared to her gobbling Bubbaz is a slow eater. Rosie didn’t bother him while he was eating, though. And he didn’t bother me when I added some kibble to his bowl, just to see how he felt about me messing with his food.

Nothing bothers Bubbaz. Some of it is being a mature dog, and some of it is his mellow personality, but he’s also had some very good training. He doesn’t pull on the leash. He waits at the open door for me to go out first. He comes when he’s called. He doesn’t go into the garbage. He sits promptly, but seems to feel stay is optional. He’s nice to Rosie and to the cats.

Lili is not so nice to him, but she’ll come around. Tux… well, he’s gone walkabout. I don’t think there’s a connection between a new dog being here and Tux’s taking off, since last night he went with Rosie and Bubba and me for a short walk after I fed the horses. Going walkabout is just a thing Tux does. 

So if the dog’s trained, then what’s left to do?

I don’t know the extent of his training, and I can’t presume that Bubbaz is already settled in here just because he’s relaxed, seems to like everybody, and doesn’t run away at the first opportunity. We will take it as slowly as is needed.

Bubbaz in the barnYesterday afternoon I tied Bubbaz in the barn as I unloaded hay and later when I fed the horses. This morning when I fed I put Bubbaz on a drag chain in the barn. His leash (red, for visibility) is attached to a length of light-weight chain that leaves a nice trail in the dirt when he drags it around. If I have to I can easily track him.  This is only used when I can keep an eye on him when we’re outside — when we’re walking he’s going with me on leash. So far with the drag chain he has explored only a bit — going out maybe a hundred feet from me.  He seems to prefer being underfoot.

There’s a lot of hovering around Lif right now.

Taking photos is a challenge. Bubbaz wants to be next to me, not over there modeling.  Rosie doesn’t like Bubbaz being that close to me. The good news is that when I go for a walk now, Rosie makes an effort to keep up. Maybe she’ll get some decent exercise and lose a pound or two. Or maybe once she’s accepted the new situation she’ll go back to plodding along. Time will tell.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered Bubbaz is just as happy to answer to Bubz.  But then again, he seems happy for whatever happens. And Rosie? Well, maybe someday she’ll enjoy having a companion again. I did catch some play behavior she initiated this afternoon when she thought I wasn’t looking, so friendship (packship?) might happen sooner than not.

Bubz and Rosie