Barn Hunts with Bess

This is my girl...

This is my girl…

Most of you know Bess.  She’s my first attempt at fostering.  You could say I failed.  But you’d be wrong.  I won- big time.  I hit the jackpot with this girl.  She’s slowly, quietly, and carefully stolen my heart.  She did it unobtrusively.  But I know exactly when I realized what she had done: our first barn hunt together.

I had no idea what I was doing.  I didn’t think she did either due to the fact that she failed the rat instinct test.  That’s when your dog has 1 minute to tell you which tube contains the live rat.  There are three and they aren’t even hidden.  Yes, there’s a tunnel, but your dog is not required to execute the tunnel during the instinct test.  Good thing, because Bess ran around the tunnel to the other side where three tubes were laying in the hay.  One contained a live rat, one contained the litter from a rat cage, and one was completely empty. She sniffed all three and then went back to the middle one again. That one seemed to interest her the most,  so I said, “Rat.”  The judge said, “No”.

The nice thing about the instinct test is that if your dog doesn’t get it right, you’re allowed to show her the the correct tube.  Bess became very excited when she realized something was in there.  The judge said, “Tell her she’s a good girl.” So I did.

I was a bundle of nerves for our novice run.  The brusque judge only added to my anxiety.  I stood in the starting box, insides quivering, hands fumbling to remove her leash and collar- dogs must run ‘naked’- to hand them off to the leash runner.  The timer starts when your dog leaves the box.  In retrospect, Bess was hilarious.  I was just too tense at the time to appreciate her unbridled joy for this new game.  She found the rat immediately.  I cajoled her to tunnel, nope- too busy running around, sniffing, working the spectators.  They adored her, wagging tail, nose snuffling audibly.  “She sounds like a Harley!” someone called out at one point.  Bess jumped the bales of hay, still sniffing.  I ran around to the other side of the tunnel, bent over, and called her name.  She came through it to me and I vaguely remember someone calling “Q!”  (I hadn’t a clue as to what that meant.)

Not only did Bess "Q", she also earned second place

Not only did Bess “Q”, she also earned second place

“Q” means to qualify.  When all the dogs had run, the judge appeared with her clipboard to notify us of the results. I was stunned when I heard Bess’s name called.  There was clapping and hooting.  I was shaking as the judge handed me the two ribbons and grinning like an idiot. Our first Barn Hunt and not only did Bess qualify, she came in second place with a time of 1:23:85.

On the way home, Bess soundly slept, snoring softly and twitching occasionally as she dreamed.  I drove on, manic grin plastered across my face still, heart full of love and gratitude for this dog and how she’s changed me.



Missing Ming

Pot holder paws...

Pot holder paws…

It’s been 9 days since I last saw Ming-Ming.  Our pullet, Nugget was stalking her on my mother-in-law’s lawn.  Ming was just hanging out, laying in the late afternoon fall sunshine, watching the rest of the hens when Nugget decided that she wasn’t having it- there would be no cats allowed.  So, puffing up her little 6-month old body, she fluffed her feathers out and hopped at Ming.  Not once, but twice.  Hop.  HOP!  Ming, being ever the peace-keeper as well as the “Welcome Ambassador” for all new comers to our family, quietly backed up and jumped the garden fence to watch from a distance.  Nugget was mollified and continued on her way.

When I realized she was missing and hadn’t been in, I went for the heavy artillery (aka ‘banging the plate’).  It’s a simple process and has always stood me in good stead when either Ming-Ming or Moses would shoot past me out onto the deck after “lights out”.  It was how I would entice them back inside.  Wet cat food on a plate.  Knife placed at an approximent 45* angle. Strike sharply.  Several times.  You also holler the transgressor’s respective name.  It always, always worked.  But not that night.  And not the next.

I have had cats since I was 7 or 8 years old.  I have never once had to put one down.  I’ve never been allowed to say “good-bye” and thank them for their years of purring, comfort, and companionship.  They have left.  I’ve heard cats do that.  Yes, we live in a wooded area.  Yes, we have coyotes and things that go bump-in-the-night.  But even when Miss Ming managed to escape bed check and remain out to party on a night or two- I knew she slept above the chicken pen.  (We put a packing blanket up there when we saw the cat hair evidence… just to make it comfy, in case it happened again.)  She never ranged far.  She was in the yard, or near the barn, or in the woodshed.  Always within calling distance.  So I know the enemy didn’t get her.  I have to believe that, otherwise, it would wreak havoc on my heart…

Ming-Ming was 9-years old.  I keep looking for her- listening for her big ol’ paw scratching on the door.  Waiting to see her laying across the picnic table, soaking up the rays.  Missing her keen observation as I sew, and the gentle pat, pat of her pot holder paw as I attempt to thread the needle.  A gentle, sweet soul.  I should have been allowed to say “thank you” and “good-bye”.

Making sure it's soft enough for the baby...

Making sure it’s soft enough for the baby…

Guess Bess!

Because the Big Guy and I thought it would be interesting and because I had a coupon from PetSmart, we decided to send a sample of Bess’s DNA to Wisdom Panel…  y’know just for hoots & giggles.

Then!  Because my experience with my family and friends has been nothing short of slapstick and hilarious, I thought it would be wonderful to hold a contest.  And Bess rhymes with guess – a sign, no?

So I sent out a group email with the rules, (pick the top 3 breeds in her family tree), a picture of Bess, and the cut-off date.  The winner would receive a $25 gift certificate to the Humane Society or Animal Welfare League of their choice.   I would answer any and all questions pertaining to her behavior, physical attributes, and temperament.  But a reminder… she’s only been with us a few short weeks.

The feedback was immediate and positive.  How much does she weigh?  How tall is she?  Can you send a picture of her muzzle?  Animal Farm Foundation‘s mission is to educate people- teaching them that all dogs are individuals. So it was exciting for me to have these specific questions.

At this point in time, these are the some of the guesses:  Boston Terrier, American Staffordshire, Dalmation, Bulldog, Boxer, and… Holstein.  (Did I mention my family/friends could also be smart-asses?)

I’ll post the results when I get them.  But for now?  Bess is a certified ‘cuddle bug’ beside me at night on the couch.  She’s learned to play with toys… at first she just emptied out the box.  Now, she picks something and plays with it.  She’s learned her name.  She snorts like a pig.

And lastly?  We love her.  IMG_0480

Meet Bess

She is anywhere from 4 to 6 years old.  She was confiscated in a fight bust down south.  She was the breed bitch, whelping one litter after another.  She’s lived most of her life in a small crate.

We contacted Animal Farm Foundation because I wanted to adopt another pit bull- but I wanted to deal with an  organization that was reputable.  After our adoption experience with Rose, I wasn’t doing PetFinder again.

They were fabulous.  I found a dog-  Marilyn young, female, good with other dogs, & beautiful!  Gray brindle mearle coat.  *sigh*  Lovely!  I thought she’d be a great fit with Finn.  (And the name!  Had to be aligned by the stars- my mom’s name is Marilyn!)

The 4-hour drive to Duchess County NY was lovely.  We arrived on time. We left Finn in the rig and went in to meet Marilyn.  She was gorgeous!  Short stubby legs, let-me-show-you-my-toy, I am dead of “cuteness”.  We introduce her to Finn.  He ignores her.  That’s ok buddy, you’ve been in the rig for 4 hours, it’s flipp’n hot & humid out, you can be cranky.

We walk.  These folks are amazing!  They know what they’re doing.  So we walk, side-by-by-side.  Marilyn loves Finn.  He ignores her.  I feel sorry for the girl.

We get to the play yard.  Finn does not want anything to do with her.  I can feel my throat closing up; I will not cry.  Finn is my boy.

We go back to the main house.  Marilyn is subdued.  Finn is confused and wants to go home.  Jaimie suggests that Marilyn will not be a good match for Finn.  We nod.  She takes Marilyn away.  I try (again) not to cry.

Jaimie comes back.  “We have another dog.  She’s older than you wanted, but would you like to see her?”  We say yes.  She gives us a room for Finn.  We go back to the main room.  She brings out “Patty”.  I take one look at Patty, one look at the Big Guy, and bust out laughing.  I duck my head to Jaimie.  seriously??  this dog has been beaten with an ugly stick  But then, Patty waddles over to me and puts her head on my knee  I am done.

IMG_0465Finn liked her immediately.  We named her Bess.



I miss Rose…

ImageThis is my girl.  I miss her.  She was with us for a little over 2 years.  I would give a great deal to have her up beside me on the couch one more time.  I miss her constantly wagging tail.  I don’t know why God gave her to me for such a short time… especially when I was willing to invest so much.

Rest in peace dear one.  You were loved.



Rose Sleeps

That is actually the title of a photo album I’ve created on my iPhone.  I don’t know why, but there’s something about the way this dog sleeps.  I’m completely and totally enamored by it.

As evidenced by all the pictures I’ve taken…

Check out my new Paco collar!

Yep, we broke down, well I actually broke The Big Guy down, and managed to convince him that Rose needed a Paco collar.  It would be good for her health, and my piece of mind if she were to ever (shudder) get loose or lost.  She can wear a leather collar 24/7.  Prior to her Paco collar, I always took the collars off the kids at night, just before bed.  And put them back on in the morning.  And when Rose went into her crate, her collar came off.  The bear incident convinced me that she should have some type of identification at all times.

But I digress.  Look at this sleeping beauty!

And of course look at this one.  I was trying to capture how exceptionally soft her fur is.  Can you tell?

She’s not actually sleeping in this one, but she’s still cute!

I am warm and snuggly in bed with Mama

Can you tell The Big Guy’s left for work already?  Have a great week everyone!  Cheers.

My 4-Legged Kids Take Wing!

Not really… but kinda.  Maybe I should explain:


Meet Eddie.  As in “Eddie Izzard“.  We thought he was a she.  We called her “Lucy”.  You know what?  Let’s just start at the beginning, shall we?

Some asshole person dropped 4 chickens off on our dirt road.  At first, we (the four people sharing this dirt road) all thought they belonged to each other, and they had gotten loose.  Once we realized that they belonged to none of us, there were only 2 left.  Living on a dirt road in a rural area screams “DANGER! roaming foxes, fishers… oh, and bear”.  Not exactly the safest environment for chickens.   One was a gorgeous reddy, turquoise one and the other, plump and white with lots of black speckles in her feathers.  Pretty.  She always followed the red one.  They roamed up and down our dirt road. I was determined to catch them.

I put out corn.  They ate it, but as soon as I approached, they quickly waddled away.  On one of my  morning walks, with Finn and Rose,  we came across a pile of black and white feathers.  It made me sad.  And then mad!  Why would someone dump chickens on a dirt road?  How cruel.  They didn’t stand a chance.

I was even more determined to save the last remaining hen.  She was just as determined to tough it out in the ‘wilderness’…. each morning when I saw “my” hen, I said a prayer of thanks.  And put out more corn.  I began to put it in a dog crate…. which I surreptitiously moved closer to the house when I knew Lucy wasn’t looking.  We added Lucky to her first name when she kept showing up for breakfast.

One evening after the Big Guy and I had chased her around the yard, out back, and into the woods, aided by sheets, big towels, you name it… we were spent.  It was getting towards dusk so we figured she’d won one more night of freedom.  As we sat at the table, catching our breath and laughing that a hen could be so tough to catch, we heard all kinds of commotion and clucking!  All of a sudden Lucy came charging into the yard and fast on her heels, a fox!  Big Guy flew out the door, hollering and waving his arms.  The fox took to the woods and we took to Lucy.

We finally cornered her in our barn.  I gathered her up, she was so soft and was clucking quietly, as if to say, Thank you. I put her in Finn’s old kennel.  She was not going to be fox food.

The next morning my mother-in-law and I had made plans to attend a chicken swap because I was going to get Lucy a possé.  Chickens are flock animals, and if I couldn’t catch Lucy outright, I was figuring on luring her in with the promise of friends.

Chichester Chicken swap

This is for real

However, at around 6 am that morning, I awoke to crowing.  Loud, raucous crowing.  What the hell?  Heading down to Finn’s kennel in my bathrobe, there was *ahem* LUCY crowing to beat the band.  I busted out laughing…. why hadn’t I noticed the gorgeous plumage?  The sheen of the feathers?  The rich colors?  This wasn’t a hen, but a young rooster- no big tail. Yet.  But a big voice.

Lucky Lucy became Eddie Izzard  (overnight) and we went to the swap to get him some ladies.  Located in Chichester, New Hampshire, we left around 8 am and drove till we saw this:

Or “Need Lady Friends?

Right this way.”So meet the girls:  Beyoncé, Miriam, and No-Name.  Beyoncé is big breasted and bold.  Miriam’s the little girl and our ‘middle’ hen still has no name.  Suggestions anyone?

Finn and Rose don’t quite know what to make of them.  Ming-Ming and Moses enjoy watching them.  No eggs yet, but soon!



The Heart of a Lion

This is Rose Marie Logger:

That’s her full name.  (Our animals have always acquired middle names.  I’m not sure why or how, but they do.)  She’s ‘Rose’ because she nearly gassed us out of my rig on the long ride home after collecting her.  She’s ‘Logger’ because when she first started walking and hiking with Finn and I, she would haul small logs home. Yes, logs.  Not sticks, not long branches.  Logs.  She would find one, manage to get her jaws around it, and drag it home.  It was promptly deposited near the front steps.  Truth.

This is a black bear.  They are native to New Hampshire.

Rose is a small pit bull. It would surprise you to learn that she weighs 50 pounds.  But remember science class?  Can you say dense?  Rose is solid.  The girl has mass.  There isn’t one ounce of fat on her.  Her muscles ripple when she moves.

Black bears weigh between 90 and 370 pounds.  They climb trees.  Their claws look like this:

This morning, as happens every morning, I let my kids out back.  It was 5:30 am.  They did their business, came in and I fed them.  We have a slider and a lovely deck.  Finn has taught Rose how to open the slider.  Since his method wreaks havoc on the screen, I have surrendered and simply leave the slider open.  It’s just easier that way.

I was eating my oatmeal and perusing my teaching notes, when I heard Rose barking.  I went to look.  I’ve learned that my kids bark for a reason.  I pay attention to that.

She was at the far end of the yard.  I wasn’t wearing my contacts.  But I remember my first initial thought(s):  “Why is Finn all hunched over like that”  and concurrently, “Why is Rose barking at Finn?”  Then, it was weird, my mind couldn’t keep up.  Finn was right beside me.  What the hell?

And as Finn streaked by me, I realized Rose was taking on a black bear.  All cohesive thought fled.  Instinct took over.  I ran after my dogs.  Finn’s not stupid and he seemed to know this wasn’t right.  I was far too close to a rather large  bear that was making its way up a pine tree in an attempt get away from Rose.  As the bear began sliding down the tree, I bolted back to the house, yelling “BALL!”  Finn followed me.

As I slammed the slider shut, I watched in horror as the bear slid down the tree.  Rose gave not one quarter.  The bear reared up on its hind legs and Rose reared back, barking.  The bear dropped to all fours and took off, Rose Marie hot on its heels.  I began to cry as I watched my deaf girl disappear down over the embankment.

When she showed up at the slider door, I thanked God as she barreled into the kitchen, all puffed up, stiff-legged and indignant.  As she lapped water from the bowl, she was vocal, talking about it.  I didn’t know a dog could drink water and bark at the same time.  I started to laugh: with relief, joy, and thankfulness.

Our trainer Tom affectionately calls her ‘Meathead’.  Yes. Perhaps. Sometimes.  But I saw a dog protecting all that she loved, all that was hers.  In retrospect, I admire her conviction, her courage, her tenacity.

I’m bacck!

So the company party?  And Isis’ folks?  Both very nice…  And here’s what went down:

Me:  So you’re Isis’s dad.  My husband has told me a lot about her.  Do you have a picture?  this always gets them  She’s beautiful!!  and she is indeed, steel blue coat with a white patch on her face and a white chest

Him:  Yep, she’s a cuddler, that one.  What a snuggle bug!!  this, coming from a guy covered in tatts, shaved head, smoking a butt 

Me:  laughing Yes!  I know!  And you’re not the first person I’ve heard describe them that way!  Snuggle bugs!

Him:  grinning I let her sleep with me on the bed.

Me:  leaning over, whispering conspiratorially, We let Rose sleep with us too!

Him:  Aren’t they great dogs?!

Me:  nodding, yes, they are. But so misunderstood!

Him:  I know.  Poor Isis.  When we rescued her from some guy my wife’s buddy knew- they just kept letting her have puppies and then they’d take them away from her before it was time, breed her again, and then let her have puppies….  I think she’s depressed.  I want to let her have puppies, be a proper mama, and then have her fixed.

Me:  deep breath, give me the right words… Well, she’s got a good home now.  You’ve only had her for a few months and she’s learning what it’s like to be a dog who’s loved.  Time heals.  We’ve had Rose for a year now, and she’s really turned the corner and settled.  There are so many pit bulls that are in foster care or rescues who need good homes.  Puppies are cute, but then they grow up…

Him: slowly nods

Her:  See?  I don’t want her to have puppies.  I’m not sure that will help her.

Me:  You might be right.  If she were to have pups again, that’s more strain on her young body.  You’ll want to find good homes for the puppies, you’ll get attached.  It’s hard to find good homes- you just never know.  What if she had 8 or 9 pups?!  That’s 8 or 9 good homes you’d need to find.

Him:  I see your point.  I’d never want anything bad to happen to them.

Me:  grinning Just love her up, she’s got you guys.  You’re her family, her pack now.  I’d be willing to bet she’ll be just fine with more time.

I hope and pray that they think about it.  I hope and pray they get Isis fixed. It was a nice conversation and I learned something.  I hope and pray they did as well.

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Meet Hailey:Hailey

She is between 1 and 2 years old. I would consider her a puppy; but she’s had several litters of puppies, so she’s a mama and is wiser than her years.

See her ears?  No?  Well that’s because the owner they rescued her from cut them off.  Yes.  They. Cut. Them. Off.  I have no words.

I know I’m already sponsoring Fletcher.  But they cut her ears off!  Who does this?  Based upon her bio at PittieLove I would take her in a heartbeat if it weren’t for Rose Marie.

So I am now sponsoring two dogs. And it’s good.  Truly.  But, O’mhead (as Martha would say) there are so many to save…

It breaks my heart.