Thursday, June 18, 2009

Odds and Ends (More Odd Than End)

Last week was the week that was. Actually the past couple of weeks have been pretty busy, but last week takes the cake for mishaps and accidents and the like. So let me fill you in.

Hair Sheep?
Whenever hair sheep producers tout their chosen breed, they mention good feet, easy keepers, parasite resistance, and the fact that hair sheep shed out in the spring, so there's no need to deal with finding a shearer, who are becoming as scarce as hen's teeth anyway. Sounds good, doesn't it? What they don't tell you is that many hair sheep don't shed completely, and some don't shed at all. I'll say this for Crazy Red, the katahdin x St. Croix I got from Darci: Apparently the crazy gene brought along shedding genetics with it, so CR actually did shed out this spring. The others did not. So one day the week before last I grabbed the Shearmasters, a handy dog, and my fitting stand and went to work. The young wether didn't require much as I had already stood out in the pasture one day when I was supposed to be working a dog and plucked a goodly amount of his hair off. It clung to his sides and hind legs, though, so I did have to shear that much. Anyway, I took some photos for a pictorial essay on a border collie forum I'm on, so I'll share the before and after shots of one of the ewes here.

Yes, this is a hair sheep!

And here she is nicely shorn.

The Week from, Well, You Know
So last week was a bad week in many ways. And I don't even count the fact that lately it seems we're living in something akin to the Pacific Northwest, with near constant rain. That drought from two years ago? Gone. Long gone. Even this spring the weather forecasters were mentioning how many inches we were still behind, but not any longer. It seems we've had the wettest June in some time, and we're now ahead of normal rainfall by more than 3 inches. So enough already. (Even so, Greensboro is asking its residents to conserve water because the reservoirs are overflowing and the city will actually have to release water back into the streams and rivers. Huh? This is a bad thing?)

But the rain hasn't just been any old rain. No steady, life-giving drizzle or gentle spring showers. No, it's been coming down in the form of deluges and thunderstorms, and bad ones. Rainfall over a matter of hours measured in inches. Rain gauges overflowing before one can venture out to empty them. Tuesday of last week is a good example. Thunder rumbled, the heavens opened, and hail the size of marbles rained down. Creeks were overflowing and many areas were facing problems with flooding. But the really bad part for me was that Maia disappeared sometime between when I fed her Tuesday evening (before the storms) and when I went out to feed Wednesday morning. My fencing is pretty darn dog proof, or so I thought, but Maia sure did find a way out. Maia getting out is problematic because she's not exactly people friendly.

I'll spare you the details except to note that Laura and Kelly, troopers that they are, spent several hours combing the surrounding woods and fields with me, hoping to scare her up or find some sign of her, to no avail.

Then early this Tuesday morning the phone rang. It was my neighbor Marjorie (the alpaca farm) calling to say that Charles had seen a Pyrenees looking dog out at Red Cross on his way to work. I leapt out of bed (ugh, not feeling great, but more about that later) and hopped in the van and headed toward Red Cross. About a mile up the road was Maia, walking along the verge and headed in the direction of home. Okay, I'll admit now that I was not a Boy Scout in some former life. I rolled out of bed and went to get my dog, but I was unprepared. I know Maia won't get in the van, so why did I stop in the middle of the highway and put a slip leash on her and try to get her in? I knew it wasn't going to happen. So here I have my wayward (and difficult-to-catch, thanks to a semi-feral period before I got her) maremma on a slip leash, which she's threatening to chew through if I keep trying to get her in the van. I realize at that moment that I am going to just have to walk her home on a leash. But my van is parked in the middle of the road and I can't just leave it there. Fortunately there was an access driveway to a hayfield right near where I was, so I walked Maia up the road and tied her to a tree. Then I went to back the van into the drive. As soon as I backed in I realized that Maia had chewed through the leash and was heading across the hayfield to the woods. Gah!

I put my brain in gear and decided to go back home and let the dogs out so I could come back and stay a while if need be, get some food for Maia as she likely hadn't eaten in the week she'd been gone, and to change out of my pajamas and into some real clothes. All that done, I headed back down the road and there was Maia pretty much in the same spot. When she saw the van, she headed into the hayfield again. I got out and although she wanted the feed, it was clear she didn't want to come to me as she knew I was going to catch her. So we started a slow walk across the hayfield. She finally realized I was going to persist and sat down facing away from me and allowed herself to be caught. Once I had the (new) slip leash over her head, I gave her some breakfast and then proceeded to lead her the mile back home. I put her on a cable tie out where I had tied her when she first came to me, got Pip, and walked the mile back to the van. It was thundering while I was walking and I kept thinking, "Please don't let her panic again and pull out of her collar and take off." Someone was watching over me: Pip and I made it to the van and ensconced ourselves safely inside before the deluge that seems to have become part of daily living here.

Once back home, I set Maia up with a new Dogloo with a tunnel entrance, thinking she might feel more secure if she could scrinch back into the back and well out of the weather. Maia's not talking, so I don't know where she was or what she was doing for the week she was gone.

Oh, Farleigh
In the meantime, there was yet another thunderstorm Wednesday night, so of course in addition to have lost my livestock guardian dog, I have to deal with several very thunderphobic border collies. My first mistake? Yelling at Farleigh for jumping on the couch when I was trying to replace the throw that one of the other dogs had dug off (why do they start digging at bedding and stuff during a storm?). So Farleigh hid in a crate as he usually does during a storm. I stayed up late waiting for the storm to pass and gave it another good hour before throwing the dogs out to go potty before bed. Farleigh didn't come out of his crate. I'm sure you know where this is headed. For those of you who don't know, Farleigh is fear aggressive. Never, ever try to grab his collar when he's afraid of something. It's a good way to get bitten. But Farleigh and I have come to an understanding. I can usually take a slip leash (or leash looped back through its handle) and carefully reach in and toss it over his head and he'll come out. In fact, sometimes all I have to do is step in front of his crate with such a leash and he'll come on out. Because I know him well, I think in the nine years I've had him he's put his teeth on me maybe three times and he's always managed to exhibit bite inhibition too. Until that night. I reached in with my slip leash and before I new it, he had grabbed my hand and clamped down. And he wasn't planning to let go. I knew it would do no good to try and pull away. It hurt bad enough having his teeth sunk into my hand without pulling on it too. So I squatted in front of the crate and thought about what to do. Whatever I did had to succeed in making him let go while not letting him grab again. Finally, I called to Jimmy in the other room. At this point I was thiking that he might have to go get a stick and pry Farleigh's mouth off my hand. Jimmy walked in and I told him to move slowly as I didn't want Farleigh to react by biting down even harder. Once Jimmy bent over to look in the crate, Farleigh glanced up and him and in the process let go of my hand. Blood was pouring. Sigh. I scrubbed my hand as well as I could, put the only antibiotic I had handy--silver sulfadiazine--on it, bandaged it, and finished all my nighttime stuff and went to bed. And didn't sleep because of the pain. I knew I'd be visiting urgent care in the morning, but no way was I going to make an emergency room visit that night--not in my currently uninsured state, thanks to my recent unemployment.

Long story short--the doctor flushed out the worst punctures on the top of my hand (talk about painful!), gave me a tetanus shot, and sent me off with prescriptions for two antibiotics and a recommendation for probiotics. I asked him to try to stick to the $4 meds at WalMart as money is tight. He even cut me a break on the office visit, dear man, and told me that if I wasn't better in two days I would have to go to the hospital, but since he would be on duty Saturday, I could go back to the urgent care and they'd call him and he would admit me directly to the hospital, thereby avoiding the emergency room and its associated fees. Nice guy. At WalMart, it turns out that the Clindamycin cost $82 (!) for a week's worth (14 pills). No wonder medical insurance is insane. The girl behind the counter told me I could opt out of that particular prescription. Yeah, right--I have puncture wounds in my hand and I'm trying to avoid hospitalization and IV antibiotics, so I think I'll cough up the money and take the antibiotic that will work on anaerobic bacteria.

I'll spare you the details of my recovery. Suffice to say my stomach has never burned so badly while on medication, and I spent the week being overly tired, but by Monday the swelling had started to go down, and today my hand looks pretty normal. I can also make a fist today, at last, but some of the dexterity is still lacking. I guess Farleigh managed to bruise things up pretty good while he was at it.

As for Farleigh, he's been sucking up to me ever since. I can't really blame him, though the first thought that always goes through one's mind is that "this is it; this is the last time." But no, I recognize that I was careless and did the very thing that I knew could set him off. Although he's never drawn blood before, my yelling at him earlier had just increased his arousal and anxiety and so getting bit was at least as much my fault as his. We've managed to co-exist mostly peacefully for the past nine years, so I guess I'll just be extra careful in the future.

And it's getting late, so the fox and mockingbird stories will have to wait till tomorrow.


Chasing The Dog said...

wow--what a crap week Julie. I'm so sorry.

Darci said...

Hi Julie!
So glad Mia is home! thats great news.
Farleigh?? He is such a little lavender headed step child! Glad your on the mend, I know exactly how those dog bites feel, so you have my full and complete sympathy. Get well soon.
Hows my Chris? cant wait to hear what the vet says on monday. crossing fingers and toes.

DeltaBluez Tess said...

Goodness, I sure hope your weekend will be much better and the rain stops.

Kelly said...

Julie.....all I have to say is, boy it was a week wasn't it!! And my word verification is fauckwo...HA

Laura Carson said...

You definately win the award for Suckiest Week Ever. Glad you're healing, and glad Maia is home. Besides, the tromping around looking for her was like all bonding and stuff - and we got to see shacks where one could hide dead bodies. LOL!

Kelly said...

You guys and your dead bodies, how come i'm the only one in the bonded 3 some that isn't afraid of shacks and the dead bodies in them? Ha ha but jump out of the woods in front of me with a snake and I'm outta there

Ha ha word verification:reroo

Samantha ~ Holly and Zac ~ said...

It sounds like you had quite an eventful week. I am glad that you found Maia.

My two are ok so far with storms but my previous dog hated them She was so scared of them. I am glad you hand healed ok, hopefully your run of thunder weather will go soon.

I had never seen any sheep sheared until a few weeks or so ago. It looks very hard work actually, i think you did a great job with your sheep.

I hope you and the dogs are having a nice relaxing Sunday and you get some good weather soon.

Rachel said...

So glad you found Maia!! Sorry about your sucky week...I think you have had enough of those lately. It was nice of the Doc to at least cut you a break on the fees at urgent care...most people just don't give a darn lately!

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

Sounds like everything is resolving positively; I'm glad for that for your sake! And you can send that rain scurrying back to the Pacific Northwest; we NEED it.