The Chase

I may be slow, with a wobbly hind end and a serious limp, but I managed to catch a gopher. I admit the little guy was cornered in the barn, but still, I caught it. Me.

Just to clarify, for those who aren’t familiar, the animals I’m referring to are technically Richardson Ground Squirrels, often called prairie dogs, but around here they’re just gophers. And, as cute as they are, they are farm vermin and will dig up your entire property, eat your garden, create a minefield for livestock, and attract much larger burrowing critters, like badgers who dig holes big enough to swallow a human leg up past the knee (just ask Teresa).07-logan-thechase-groundsquirrel

We spotted the gopher as we were headed out to the barn on Wednesday morning and chased it across the paddock, Chico in the lead, of course, but me not so far behind. When the gopher went under the barn door we knew we had him. There was no way he had an escape hole dug through the concrete floor.

We ran in, he cheeped to alert us of his location (which they always do for some reason), Chico went left, I went right, and there he was, cornered by the wall and a shelf unit. I haven’t had a gopher in my mouth in years but I jumped in and grabbed him. He was huge! He fought! I tried to give him the old shake of death but my wobbly back legs gave out and I plopped down onto the floor. Despite my unplanned, sprawling sit, I held on. His claws were flailing at my face—

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Jaws of death.

It was about then that Chico jumped in, grabbing him just as I let go. He finished him off, which was fine with me. I always enjoyed the thrill of the chase and the catch but the killing, not so much.

You may see the whole thing as rather barbaric, and I suppose it was, but I felt so alive in that moment, like I was four rather than fourteen, and I walked a couple of inches taller on my way back to the house.

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Jaws of death at rest.

There’s not a lot of excitement in my life these days, which I’m normally fine with, but every now and then, it’s good for the old canine soul to do something completely instinctual and dog-like. It used to be chasing coyotes, baying as I went, or running down a skunk or a porcupine and dealing with the consequences. I don’t recommend any of these activities but, at the time, they were pretty thrilling.

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Expressing our wolf-ness when we were both a lot younger.

These days, my hunting and chasing amounts to following Chico on his yard patrols, sometimes watching him catch something, always far behind and never in the thick of things. Wednesday was different. Wednesday I was a wolf.  Wednesday I forgot I was an old dog, just for a minute.

There’s a scoreboard on the fridge in the kitchen, a little friendly competition between Nollind and Chico. Well, this old dog is on the board.07-logan-thechase-scoreboard-190123

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Close Encounter

It was a lovely morning for a walk as we set out last Sunday morning. Part of my routine is to circuit the barn on our way west, just to make sure all is as it should be. Well, on Sunday morning, it definitely wasn’t. A small, black and white, looked-like-a-cat was on the south side of the barn next to a freshly dug pile of dirt. You can’t just move into our yard without so much as a hello so I ran over to check out the newcomer. That was when I discovered it wasn’t a cat, but a very unsociable, straight-from-hell, toxic-gas-spraying beast!

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The face of a happy dog looking forward to a morning walk.

 

It turned as I ran toward it—I assumed to run away—and I was looking forward to a good chase when the animal’s tail went straight in the air and a nasty, yellow stream hit the left side of my face. The smell was bad but the burning in my left eye was excruciating. I ran back toward T who’d just come around the corner of the barn to see what was happening. I thought she might go after the creature that had attacked me but she just clipped the leash on my collar and we were running toward the house, away from the dispersing cloud of gas.

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that it was a skunk that I encountered. It was my first experience with one so I had no idea. Logan thought it was hilarious, having had his run-ins with them more than once as a young dog. One time it happened when they were out camping with the horses and he had to ride home in the front part of the horse trailer where the tack usually goes. The tack got to ride in the truck. I guess I was lucky it happened at home where they had stuff on hand to help me.

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Logan’s still laughing.

 

So, anyway, once we reached the yard, T called for Nollind to come and help and then took me to a grassy area away from the house. I rubbed my face on the grass again and again, so many times that my lip was bleeding, but it just kept burning. I was sure relieved to see Nollind coming with a bucket full of remedies. I knew I could count on my people to know what to do.

The first thing they did was rinse my eye a few times with saline and that helped a bunch. The burning subsided. The direct hit to the face meant the spray was fairly localized, but it also meant it was hard to clean off without hurting me. They first tried a store-bought deskunking solution with written instructions to avoid the eyes, nose, and mouth. They applied it as carefully and as thoroughly as they could and let it dry. I was hopeful.

It helped some, but the smell was still pretty bad and I wasn’t allowed in the house. T did some research on products that could be used on my face and tomato juice was at the top of the list. It was nicer than the skunk product but I’m not a big fan of tomato. Too bad bacon grease didn’t take out skunk odor! When they rinsed it off I smelled kind of like a skunk in a tomato patch.

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It’s a little redder than the rest of me but I think it makes me look younger. What do you think?

 

The third and final solution was what they’d used on Logan all those years ago, once they got him home from the campground. It’s also not recommended for use on the face but we were desperate by this point. They were very careful, I did my best to keep my eyes and mouth closed, and we got the job done. A quick eye rinse after and I was just fine. It burned less than the skunk spray. The magic concoction? A mix of peroxide, baking soda, and a little bit of dish soap. If ever you need to get rid of skunk smell, here’s the recipe.

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I think all the peroxide bleached my face. I’m sure it wasn’t this white on Saturday.

 

I don’t notice it much anymore but, apparently, I still smell at close range or when I get wet and I’m told this could last for a month or more. As long as I’m allowed in the house and people still pet me, I’m okay with being a little stinky.

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I thought a swim in the canal would help but the water just brings out the smell.

 

As for the skunk, that pile of dirt was what he’d dug out from under the barn to make a den for himself … or herself. And, yes, he/she is still there. T and Nollind have tried a number of things in and around the den that are supposed to repel skunks but, so far, it keeps returning. They’re wondering if there might be babies in the den. I hope not, because as long as the skunk is there, Logan and I don’t get to go anywhere near the barn. They’re being silly, really, because it’s not like I’d do that again. No way. Next time I’d grab him before he had a chance to turn around and lift that tail!

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Please Fence Me In

I never thought a freedom lover like me would be happy to be fenced in but, turns out, at this stage of my life, it’s a good thing. I’ve mentioned in other posts how old age has me wanting to be outside all the time. Problem is, where we live, outside is a very big place and not without hazards. Until recently, nobody was too concerned about me wandering off on my own a little. I was independent and capable. But now I don’t hear so well, I can’t run very fast, and I’m certainly not up to fighting a coyote or badger or other such wild creature I might run across.

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First day in the new dog yard.

 

Truth be told, I’m not really inclined to wander much these days and am quite happy to just hang in the yard so they really don’t need to worry about me. Problem is, thirteen years of sneaking off at the first opportunity has created a certain amount of distrust in my people. I get it. I probably wouldn’t trust me either if I said, “Hey, don’t worry, I’ll stay right here where I’m safe.” Uh huh.

In my youth, I could run for miles, and did, every chance I got. Now it doesn’t take a lot of space to keep me happy. A few good den locations, a bit of green grass to chew on and lie in, a shady spot, and I’m content. Oh, and a house. I do like my dog house.

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Daytime deck and nighttime house.

 

So this year, in my fourteenth turn around the sun, Teresa and Nollind built me a yard. I like to think of it as my retirement home. It means I don’t have to stay in the house when I don’t want to and I’m let alone to do as I please when I’m outdoors. The best part? I get to sleep outside under the stars at night (although I usually prefer my doghouse).

And, yes, it’s also safe, and although the safety part is mostly for the comfort of my people, I’m probably just as happy to not tangle with a coyote, or a Ford pickup. I actually had a close call with a skunk a couple of nights ago. It was outside my fenced area but close enough I needed a deodorizing bath.

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One of my under-shrub dens.

 

So how big is “Logie-land”? Well, they used about five hundred feet of fence wire to go around it so probably about a third of an acre or so. Not a big piece in terms of the whole property but big enough for this old dog, and so much bigger than the little temporary corral they put together for me last fall when I was needing trips outside in the middle of the night. This new area wraps the whole house which means I can come and go via either door and hang out on both decks. There are treed areas to explore, good places to hide bones from Chico, and I just generally feel like I have a domain to patrol and protect.

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The bone I managed to bury well enough to keep from Chico for three days.

 

When I first joined the van Bryce household, I could escape from a 6-foot-high chain-link dog run, until they put a top on it. My new fence is just four feet high and I can’t even imagine going out over the top. But, other than yet another reminder that I’m not as young as I used to be, I’m okay to stay on my side of the fence, soak up the sun, sleep in the shade, and enjoy my retirement.

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A shady, grassy bit of heaven.