Monday, August 8, 2011

It's a dog life

Busy busy busy! That's my excuse here. Since the last post I have had family visitors, finished the fence, gone to PEI twice, and now have Sam and his two dogs Hapi and Hiro in residence.

The dogs are huge, hairy, smelly and do not play well with others. While Dobby the boxer and the Toronto branch of the family were here we had three major dog fights where Hapi and Hiro ganged up on Dobby and had him yelping in distress. Dobby is a big dog, 80 lbs big, but Hapi and Hiro dwarf him.

I was really happy to have Dobby here, he was glad to see me and I enjoy his affectionate nature. He is not hairy and not smelly. Seeing him take a beating from Hapi and Hiro did not sit well. I am sure he was very glad to leave here and get back home to his less aggressive dogpark buddies. He had war scars to show off.

Sam thinks that given time the three dogs would have worked things out and grown to be more friendly with each other. I think he may be right but Dobby was being seriously traumatized by the process. He did have a very good vacation in PEI though.

Taking Hapi and Hiro for walks is difficult, I cannot control the two of them alone and they are aggressive toward other dogs. I would like to be able to let them off the leash but there are no places around here that I can be assured that we will not encounter other dogs. I got haltis for them but as fast as I get them on the dogs the first dog has its halti off. I tried walking them separately but Hiro howls continuously when he is alone.

My current strategy is to get them used to short separate walks wearing the halti. Sam says he notices that after a couple of days of that he already notices that Hiro is more controllable on the leash. But I don't really know what to do about their aggression toward other dogs. I wonder if they were permanently separated whether they would be less confident and less aggressive, but Sam doesn't think it will make a difference.

Wilfred delivered two cords of wood to me and we shared a bit of Harbour gossip and chatted about the dogs. He suggested electronic collars for them. That might help, but I wonder if it would make any difference through their thick fur. Also I hate the idea of electric shocks. I suppose though that it might be better than the alternatives.

Sam and I are used to living alone, sharing this house is not easy. Not only are we trying to adjust to shared living accommodations but he is adjusting to a new job that he doesn't particularly like so far. He thought it would be better than it is turning out to be.

I went to Prince Edward Island the first time to visit Isaac and Gretel at the cottage they had the use of while on vacation. Gretel's parents live in PEI and her aunt purchased the cottage a couple of summers ago for the use of all of the family. Her Dad made some extensions on the cottage, three added bedrooms and a screened in deck. He operates a wood mill and was able to use mostly wood that he had milled himself.

The cottage is set in the woods a short walk from a sandy beach, you can't see the ocean but you can hear it. Mornings we would walk with Dobby and the kids along the beach, later in the day we would go swimming there. Gretel's stepmom organized a paddle trip down a local river one sunny afternoon, I brought my kayak along for that.

We all returned to Nova Scotia after a couple of days, meeting Sam and his dogs in Truro as he drove from his home in BC. Thanks to the wonders of cell phone texting, we were able to connect at a gas station and drive the rest of the way to my house together. It was a hectic short family visit with four adults, three giant dogs and two kids.

Unbeknownst to me Sam was expecting me to dogsit for three days while he went to a wedding in Cape Breton. I had previously agreed with Isaac and Gretel to take their oldest son Tristan back to PEI to spend a couple of weeks on his grandparents farm there, so the dogsitting job was not a welcome kink in my plans. We settled on my dogsitting for one day and putting the dogs in a kennel for the remainder of the time at Sam's expense.

The dogsitting day turned out to be a rainday in which we all stayed indoors. Isaac gave me access to his Netflix account so Tristan and I watched movies all day while the dogs moped.

My second trip to PEI was fun, this time I took my bike with the intention of doing some cycling on the Confederation Trail (aka Tip-to-Tip Trail). When the trains were retired on the island the provincial government turned the train tracks into a hiking and biking trail from one end of the island to the other, hundreds of kilometers of flat, gravelled trails through farms, woodlands, marshes, bogs, barrens and small towns. Lots of little B&Bs and cafes have sprung up along the trail, along with bike and canoe rental places, information rest stops, craft and gift shops and so forth. Really quite delightful.

The towns are close enough by that you can easily bike from one to the next in an hour or so, depending on speed. I planned only to bike the part of the trail in the vicinity of the cottage and the farm, but I saw lots of bikes loaded up with gear for longer trips. People from all over, I chatted with a man from Minnesota and a couple from the UK.

My first day of biking I planned to do a bit of grocery shopping and stop at the river we had previously paddled for a swim. The second day was cooler and windier, I biked another section of the trail that bordered the Gulf shore (Gulf of St. Laurence).

On the one rainy day of my PEI stay, Gretel's stepmom came over with Tristan and three neighbour boys to play a board game with me. On my last day there Fiona the boxer (Dobby's sister, living at the farm) had nine puppies to the great delight of the four boys. One of them described how one of the pups was born in a 'plastic bag' which Fiona licked off. They wondered about the logistics of eight nipples and nine pups.

Just before leaving the island I dropped by to see Fiona and her litter, she looked kind of shocked. Perhaps I am just projecting, but that's how I would feel in her place.

Now I am playing catch-up, taking care of all the stuff that was neglected while visiting PEI and with family. Two days spent weeding, harvesting and replanting my garden, some time working with the dogs, and catching up with neglected friends.

I stopped by the hardware store to pick up a new composter I had ordered, the fellow at the customer service desk asked me what I was up to now: every time I came in I was working on some project or another. I told him I had a list, I was making my way through it. He carried the composter out to the truck and I had to let the two dogs out of the back in order to get the composter in. I managed to shove the dogs back in after the composter. Hapi likes getting into vehicles, Hiro does not so he takes some coaxing and shoving.

I am thinking that I will probably keep one of the dogs, Hapi, and send the other one home with Sam. However Sam is now talking about going to college here, meaning that he might end up staying for several years. As things stand at the moment, I do not think having him live in my basement is realistic for either of us but I do not know where he can rent an affordable place for him and Hiro. Until we work that one out I am focussing on halti-training Hiro and somehow getting the two of them to either adjust to separation or be less aggressive with other dogs, or both.

My home is full of dog hair and dog smell. As luck would have it my own sense of smell has deteriorated with age so the smell is not so irksome as it might be, but I know that visitors react to it. The dogs have recently been groomed but you'd never know it, their fur is so thick!

The dogs poop in the back yard which attracts flies, I try to clean up the messes as quickly as possible but the dogs prefer to spend the night sleeping outdoors which means that in the morning the yard is full of flies. Sam says if I got into a regular dogwalking routine they wouldn't poop in the yard, but with all the problems of walking two giant aggressive dogs, that's not going to happen anytime soon.

The list of stuff to be done before winter is full. The firewood has been delivered and needs to be stacked. Places for stacking need to be cleared of other things which in turn need to be stored somewhere yet to be determined. The dogs need rain shelter other than my tiny living room. The kitchen faucet needs to be replaced. The decks need painting or something. The usual lawn mowing and gardening tasks. Several trees need pruning. I need to build four new garden frames for next year. The basement is a mess...

I got to two plays, Beowulf and Driving Miss Daisy, and hope to get to The Vigil and Shakespeare in the Park (Halifax). I managed to get to the Kempt Shore Music Festival and I have a ticket for the Deep Roots Festival, but I missed Stanfest and will (have already?) miss the Lunenburg Folk. Next year. One weekend planned this month at a friend's cottage with a bunch of women friends, the Labour Day weekend planned with a visit from an old Ottawa friend, a weaving workshop in September and hopefully a kayak camping trip in October and somehow a weekend at Milford Lakes Lodge (I have a Groupon I need to use there).

My life has just become a busy round of projects, culture and socializing, I kind of miss the old days of reading and knitting and long walks alone. The fact that my posting here has become so sporadic and that I am not getting near as many photos in is kind of indicative. No doubt this shall pass, but I do wonder when.


Wisewebwoman said...

Now I know what you've been up to!

Boy those dogs sound like an awful handful and to me from the outside, your son has laid a whole pile of responsibility on you with two untrained large animals.

My favourite mantra is: I'm too old for this shyte", we've done enough for the kids, Annie and we'd like to just manage our own shyte now.


Anne said...

It sounds as if you could use some help with all those strenuous chores on your list. What about the strong young man in your life? If you walk his dogs and dogsit for him wouldn't there be a bit of reciprocity?

I agree with WWW -- I'd be way too old for huge hairy, smelly, aggressive dogs. My former dog, Zute, was a 25 pound all white terrier mutt who wanted to challenge every other dog he met. When Zute died at the age of 17 I got a 6 pound toy poodle. Daisy never quarrels with dogs or people, and if anything looks iffy I just scoop her up in my arms.

Annie said...

Sam did not lay a whole lot of responsibility on me, this was a much-discussed arrangement we first started considering a couple of years ago.

And don't worry, his young muscles figure into my planned projects. Some of them I have saved up just for his arrival.

There is definitely something to be said for small dogs, I do appreciate that. One day I'll get one. If all goes well I will outlive these guys and be ready for something cute and little.