Do they Remember?

Every night I have a routine, after working from catching up on paperwork and desk duties, I will settle down in my easy-chair.  Because it's a couch with a recliner, it's pretty comfortable for all of us, including the dogs.  Elaine has her own rocking chair, so the whole sofa is for the dogs and me.  Once I sit down, the procession starts.  Meggie goes to the opposite end, JoJo heads to the middle, and Whiskey hops up in my lap, and sometimes whoever else can fit it.

Meggie and Whiskey
Whiskey always has this thing where she stares at me when I stroke and rub her face.  She will lay on her back, and the stress vanishes form both of us, but especially me.  Most days are very stressful, with dogs looking for homes and needing care and surgeries going on.  The last three weeks have been externally stressful because of Stevie/Sadie and the broken leg from being kicked off the porch by her owner.  She had two significant surgeries to repair the problems, and hopefully, she is on her way to recovery without any nerve injuries, time will tell.

Sadie who is now named Stevie after her first surgery.
As I sit and stroke Whiskey's face, JoJo will put her head in what lap I have left, and I will rub both of their faces.  It seems with each rub, I am rubbing away all my problems and concerns for all of us.  I have to think about what Whiskey is thinking.  Is she happy and letting me know, is she trying to tell me to keep her safe, does she think about the dogs that were left behind?  Elaine is always thought that dogs can remember their past.  I have my doubts because some of the dogs we deal with would have problems for years from where they came from.  While I believe they can acclimate from most circumstances, and I do think they are pretty resilient.

Diving into this topic, I remember the first day each of my dogs came home to live with me because it was very poignant for me. But does my dogs remember when they met me for the first time? The short answer is, they probably don't. But that doesn't mean they don't remember me.  Dogs may have some type of episodic memory, or the ability to remember specific events in the past? A recent study suggests this is possible. However, the same study shows that there are real limits to that type of memory for dogs. So your dog isn't probably able to reflect back on your first moments together in the same way you do unless you're Dutchess who remembers everything and where the treats are.

JoJo in my lap watching TV before she settles in.
When the dogs are in my lap, it's peaceful for everyone except Elaine, who becomes the person who refills my drink and gets my slippers or comforter.  While she is very sympathetic about helping, I will say, "I've got dogs in my lap," and she understands and lovingly helps out. I don't know what it is, the dogs seem to gravitate to me and the couch even much more than the bed.  There is something magical for both the dogs and me when they put all their trust in me.  They totally relax, but then again, I rub their ears, stroke their body, rub their feet and toes and give them a deep massage.  Then again, I guess I would like it too.  Make no mistake, Dutchess knows where every snack is at, she is the Einstein of dogs in more ways than one. 

A Busy Morning...

Several summers ago I got a call. “Hello,” I said, “Hey…there is a small fawn inside your fence, and one of the dogs is chasing it,” I had only been awake for just a few minutes and was making myself a cup of coffee. Going into survival mode, I grabbed my 38 chief special revolver that is hidden at the back door for emergencies and slipped on the only shoes that were anywhere near me.  My famous Orange Crocks and I headed out to the far end of the property where I could hear a dog going through the woods barking after something, but this time, I knew what it was. 

I held my 38 snub-nose in one hand while my other hand I was holding up my loose-fitting sleeping pants that were falling around my ankles.  Running toward the distance barking, I could see a vicious dog tearing into an innocent fawn or a mother deer tearing into my dog that was protecting her young, and the latter is the most probable. The good part, there were only two dogs outside at the time.

The grass was wet because of the heavy dew on the ground.  I was running with the gun in one hand, my other hand holding my pants with my feet shuffling and scooting to keep my shoes on because my feet were wet. Note to readers; running with Orange Crocks that are wet inside, slick on the bottom, wet grass with no arms that can balance you, can be dangerous.

Once I reached the lake and knowing it would be shorter to go down the hill of the dam rather than around, I headed down. About 20 feet into my decline, I knew I was in trouble as I hadn’t slowed down at all, in fact, I was speeding up and unable to stop. My little feet were high stepping as fast as I could manage, especially with one arm in the air with 38 and one hand holding up my pants… Note to readers; do not run fast down a hill on wet grass with Orange Crocks with no hands for balance; it can be really dangerous.

By the grace of whatever or dog gods, I made it down the 50-foot embankment without falling down. I still had to run up another hill and nearly five hundred feet to get close to the dog and fawn. The barking was continuing, and my mind was running wild as to who was in trouble and didn’t realize it was probably me.

I saw the spotted fawn and the dog. It appeared that there was no problem, but the dog was curious, and no mamma deer was anywhere to be seen… Whew… The dog turned toward the house and started running, which I assumed he wanted to get breakfast. The fawn was scared and nearly came up to me looking for help, we were close to one of the twelve-foot gates on the farm that exited out of the property. Case closed… open the gate and walk back to the kennel putting the dog up, and the fawn would surely walk back to mamma deer when it has a chance.

So off to the house I went, my gun arm by my side, my other arm holding my pants up and dew in my crocks. Out of breath, I walked down and back up the hill I had just run down. The dog was standing at the kennel door, but when I was about 10 feet from him, his instinct kicked in again, and off he went as fast as he had ever run. I don’t know if it was “get the fawn” or “I’m out of here,” and I suspect it was the latter.

I looked down at the ground at my wet Orange Crocks… then toward the heavens and said, “SHI……. Sugar,” … and off I went back toward the open gate and I just knew that I would never find a running dog in the four thousand undeveloped acres of the Hoosier Nation Forrest. I took about ten steps, kicked off my Orange Crocks, threw the gun on the ground, and started running like a madman except I was still holding up my pants up. I again ran down the hill, up the hill, and over the levy toward the gate. Again, by the fate of the dog gods, the dog turned away from the open gate for some reason and sprinted off in another direction. The gate is over a small knoll, and I could not see it, but I’m sure the dog didn’t either. I kicked in everything I had, running the last 50 yards like a high school kid, topped the hill, and slammed the 5” high gate shut, hoping the dog was still inside.

I walked back to the house, not seeing the dog but hoping he was inside the gate. I had to take a few breaks just to catch my breath and pull up my pants, and when I got near the house, sitting on the back porch wagging his tail was a very happy, well-exercised dog…

Moral of this story;
Don’t run in wet Crocks down a hill with no hands...
Don’t leave a gate open when you want to keep something inside...
Don’t expect a curious dog to mind...
And why would I take my S & W 38 Chief Special revolver with me? I’ve tried to answer that myself. I might as well have taken a picnic basket, a book or a crossword puzzle… Maybe I should have had that first cup of coffee… and pants that would stay up…


Happy Birthday Dutchie Doo...

Dast night I was sitting in my recliner, and as usual, a black and white fluffy dog slowly walked up to my chair and wanted up.  Years ago, this same dog would leap from nearly five feet away and land in the middle of my lap and turn over to scratch her back, wiggling from side to side and almost burning a hole in my pants. She would turn circles with her body, finding the right angle and land with a plop.  Today, I reached down and gently placed her feet on the side of the chair, grabbing behind her front legs and pulled her up.  Dutchess was now in her spot.

On December 19, 2005, Dutchess was born on a farm in southwest Kentucky near the Tennessee border, and last night, as she looked at me with her head upside down, I went back to the day she was born and to the day she came to the farm.  Dutchess came from a litter of four girls and five boys, and honestly, you could find her littermates from the police reports and trouble runs that have been filed over the years by her brothers and sisters but make no mistake, she is the ringleader.  To say she was mischevious is a vast understatement, no malice, just having fun, and will always be known as the original Party Girl here at the farm.

In her younger days, she had no boundaries when it came to fun and food, and the competition was equal; she wanted it all, all the time, and she usually got it.  She could multi-task with the best of them, no, she could multi-task better than any dog I have ever seen.  Dutchess came to the farm when we were in a breeding program with Clancy and Molly and Dutchess wasn't spayed. One of my favorite stories is when she came into season; she bred with Clancy. 

Not being very experienced dog owners, Dutchess was in heat.  Elaine and I were playing Frisbee with the dogs, and all the dogs were running and playing and having a grand time.  All of a sudden, we looked over at Dutchess, and Clancy was... well, you know!  We left them alone, and while it takes about 15 minutes, we moved away from them and Dutchess seeing this pulled Clancy to get a Frisbee and come with us.  When she went into labor, it started when she was playing Frisbee, and as she squatted oddly and low and behold, she had her first pup.  I guess its name should have been Frisbee.

Dutchess was always active in everything she did; she would run through any barrier and thicket on the barm.  She had a habit of running right to you, and when three or four feet away, she would turn around, stand on her back legs against your legs, and lick your face.  I once saw her do to a man with his family who came to visit.  She knocked him down because he wasn't prepared, and I rolled my eye and apologized.  I did mention that she was trying to kiss him, and he thought it was an odd way to do that.

Dutchess has always been a Superdog at the farm.  Loving, sweet, active, and would rather play than do anything else in the world.  Now her life has changed, and she will only walk at a quick pace, and when some of the dogs play, she will just sit and watch the others.  It's been a pleasure to and honor to be invited into her life, and hopefully, we will have many more days, but time will tell.

As I sit with her and she sleeps and dreams in my lap, she is comfortable.  She has lumps and bumps all over her, and her eyes are clouded.  I hope she will live forever, but as we know, death is always in the shadow of a dog.  As of now, I will rub and stroke her face, soothing her as she chased rabbits in my lap, but one day, it will stop.  I only hope that when she catches that rabbit and her final breath were taken, she is where her second home was, in Daddy's lap.  Happy birthday, Dutchess, have a great week.

Not Again...

Elaine has spent the weekend with her side of the family, and that means I can do anything I want, eat anything I want because I am king of the hill, sort of.  While I am in charge, that means I am also responsible too, but of course, I am never wrong in Elaine's eyes... HAHAHAHA Just the opposite...

After doing a load of laundry and straightening up the house, I was headed to the store to pick up a few things Elaine had on the list.  I like a list, and if something is on it, I buy it, and if not, I don't, makes it easier for me because I'm not an impulse buyer, Elaine is!

Elaine picking up bread and milk
Me using the list
Saturday was a sunny day, and as usual, we went for our morning walk, and while most of the dogs would run through the woods, Dutchess held back close to me, and we walked together, and it was very peaceful.  At one time, she was our most active dog and would outplay, out swim and out jump any other dog on the farm.  She is a wonder dog in more ways than one with me wondering what she will do next.

Putting my shoes on, getting my wallet, I grabbed the list and put the dogs in the kennel.  Each one always goes to their door and wait's their turn, but something is wrong, very wrong.  I am missing a dog.  I always count, but I'm one short, and it was Dutchess.  She must be outside the kennel.  "Dutchess, where you?"  She was nowhere to be found, which is concerning because she associates the kennel with a place to get food.  She has never, and I mean never misses a meal.  She must be in the house. 

I went back to the house and called her name, "Dutchess, where you?"  I walked to the upstairs, nothing, middle floor, nothing, and the 1st floor, nothing.  This is a little concerning.  The thing about Dutchess is if she can't find you, she will bark at the back door wanting in, no matter what.    Back to the porch, I go and walk all the way around it, no Dutchess.  I go back inside and go into each room and check every nook and cranny from the top of the house to the bottom, nothing.  I check the garage and mudroom, nothing.  Dutchess is never late or unresponsive.  After my third trip scouring the house, now I'm worried.

Knowing she is not in the house and rechecking the kennel, Dutchess is gone.  She has to be here, but where and as I change to my boots to walk the muddy trails in the woods, I think the worse.  Several things pop into my mind, and none of them are good.  Is she hurt? Did she take a nap, or has she lay down and pass away somewhere in the woods?  My mind is going in a thousand directions.  Elaine is not home, and she always finds stuff even if I need to call her, she knows, but this time, I'm on my own.  Just two days ago, Shepp's grave marker was delivered and placed, and will I need to get another? 

As I head out with my work boots on, I dread the sight I may find, and all of the emotions of the last few months are coming up with the losses I have had.  The thought in my head are bouncing like ping balls falling on a concrete floor.  I head into the woods to look for her, but before I make that final turn.

I'm right here
Dutchess is snacking on an appetizer of deer poop on a small patch of grass where the deer sometimes graze.  "Dutchess," I say "DUTCHESS" and nothing, she is busy feasting on her favorite food.  I go up and touch her, and she responds with a wagging tail and happy eyes.  In her old age, she has lost some of her hearing and can't hear everything.  Getting old sucks, even for dogs.  Happily, we trot to the kennel where she gets the main course.  No dog kisses tonight...