Friday, May 31, 2013

Herc's weight problem

Hercules in my van on the way to the vet's office.
He really is a good looking dog.
Herc had a cat encounter at the vet's office,
he's not a fan.
So, it's been a few weeks now that Hercules has been on the pancreatic enzyme supplement.  He's also on a strict diet of a very pricey, limited ingredient dog food made by Natural Balance.  Today I took him to the vet's office to be weighed and he had lost weight, tipping the scales at barely 74 pounds. 

I'm going to keep him on the enzyme supplement and go back to giving him raw chicken backs like Zachary eats.  I may also dump the expensive dry food and just feed him my regular foster dry food mix that all the others eat. 

I was disappointed, I was really hoping we had this guy in the fast lane on the road to Wellville.  I had him up to almost 80 pounds eating the raw food before, so I hope he gets back there soon.  There's something he gets from it that seems to be what made the difference for him.  Zachary is the same way. 

Herc winking at the camera,
don't ask me why, must be the flash.
At the vet's office.  We went twice today because
I forgot to pick up some meds the first time.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hey little girl

Okay, I sing a lullaby to Maya.  I call her "little girl" and it brought to mind the lyric's from Springsteen's "I'm on Fire": 

Hey little girl is your daddy home
did he go and leave you all alone
I got a bad desire
I'm on fire.

Tell me now baby is he good to you
will he do to you the things that I do
oh no, I can take you higher
I'm on fire.

Like most lullabies, the lyrics are entirely inappropriate for the intended recipient, but the intended recipient doesn't hear or understand the lyrics, it's all about the music, simple and repetitive, soft and soothing.  I'm not sure who it soothes more, her or me. 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day weekend 2013, Day 3, Eagles and cicadas

I love a big breakfast, it's really my favorite meal.  Sunday and Monday mornings I made blueberry pancakes with corned beef hash (Sunday) and sausage (Monday).  It's a great start for a canoe trip, which I did again this morning.  I went back to my regular stretch of the Rivanna river and found that the water level had dropped significantly from my float on Saturday morning.  It was warmer today and the water was clear but still deep enough for an easy float.  I had my extra paddle stowed securely onboard.  I didn't need it, but I think it will just stay there. 

He showed up in the very bottom corner of one of my
pics.  I cropped and enlarged so it's blurry

I saw a few guys fishing, but I had the river to myself for most of the route.  I probably had 20 or more bald eagle spottings, but I think they were the same two birds that I was chasing down river.  They would fly a short distance ahead until they found another good perch and sit there until I came close again.  For a while I floated silently, trying to get as close as possible, but the closest I came was when I wasn't even aware of their presence.  They startled me by taking off from a perch on an overhanging tree not 20 yards ahead of me.  Of course I didn't have my camera ready for that one. 

The other accompaniment for this trip was hum of the Brood II, 17 year periodical cicadas.  They are out in force right now, creating a constant buzz in the woods that sounds like an alien spacecraft hovering nearby.  I don't have firsthand knowledge of the sound made by alien spacecraft, but I'm sure that must be the sound they use for every UFO movie ever made.  It certainly is "otherworldly" even if not truly alien. 

I was home by noon.  I need to do some mowing and then Clay's mother is coming out for hotdogs later this afternoon.  I love three day weekends.

Part of an old stone bridge at Palmyra, and the new Rt. 15 bridge behind.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Memorial Day weekend 2013, Day 2, Adventures on the James

We scouted out the drop off and pick up locations the day before to make sure I'd have cell service to call Clay to come get me.  It was my first float on the James River.  We've had a lot of rain lately and it's fairly high.  Clay did some searching on the internet and read that there were some Class I and II rapids on the section of the James I'd be floating, so we stopped at Dick's Sporting Goods in Charlottesville on Saturday evening and I bought a PFD, personal floatation device.  Class I and II rapids aren't all that serious, but it's more than I encounter on the Rivanna.  I put in at the Hardware River Wildlife Management Area about 9:45 Sunday morning.  The river is beautiful, full of islands of varying shapes and sizes so there are a lot of route choices to make.  I pretty much hugged the left bank for most of the trip, especially after testing the depth of the water with my paddle and failing to touch bottom.  The islands and all the inflowing tributaries make for a lot of unusual currents, which were visible on the surface of the water.  There's also a lot of rocks in that section of the river and the combination of those elements made for some interesting and occasionally exciting rapids.


The only real problem I had, and I immediately recognized that it was a big one, was that I dropped my paddle.  I dipped it for a stroke and I guess the water caught it and pulled it out of my hands.  The full meaning of the phrase "up shit creek without a paddle" soon became all too apparent.  I was going through some rapids at the moment and really needed that paddle to steer.  I watched it float away ahead of me while trying to steer the canoe through the rocks using my body weight and paddling with my hands.  The only good thing was that the current was carrying both canoe and paddle in pretty much the same way.  I kept the canoe pointed downstream and tried to keep the paddle in sight.  This went on for about 100-150 yards I would guess.  I kept hoping that the paddle would get hung up on a rock and I was prepared to bail out of the canoe to go after it.  I was also thinking, worst case scenario, I would make my way to the shore and locate a branch I could use to pole myself down the river if it came to that.

Eventually we came to calmer spot where there was some distance before the next set of obstacles and rapids.  The paddle slowed down and I headed straight for it, paddling with my hands for all I was worth, knowing that this was my last best chance to retrieve it.  I got it and pulled it into position just in time to steer through the next set of rapids. 

Finally all the madness ended and the river became wide open, unobstructed, clear and calm, although the current was still moving right along.  At that point I got into my dry bag and retrieved my phone, discovered that there was cell service, and sent a text message to Clay: "nice river."  That's also where these pictures were taken.  If I still smoked, I would have had a cigarette.


I don't think I'll do that section of the river again until the water level is down, or until I get a rubber raft.  It would have been great fun in inner tubes.  I have a spare canoe paddle and I'm going to secure it inside the canoe in case that were to ever happen again, or I may get a wrist strap that attaches the paddle to me.  I got out of the river at Bremo Bluff, making the trip in under two hours.  I called Clay and while I was waiting for him to pick me up I talked to two guys with kayaks who were putting in there and floating down to Columbia.  It sounds like that next stretch of river is calmer and slower, more my speed, so I may try that sometime.  Actually, I think I'll go back to the Rivanna until it gets too low to float a canoe this summer.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Memorial Day weekend 2013, Day 1

It was a chilly start with temps down in the 40s overnight. I fed the dogs, tied the canoe to the car, and was on the river before 8:00 a.m.  It was clear and cool, a beautiful morning.  I saw a bald eagle, a couple Great Blue Herons, many ducks, lots of turtles, some pretty big, and one pair of geese with at least 8 goslings.

The river was fairly high still but not high enough to completely float over all the normal obstacles.  I hit a partially submerged rock, it turned my canoe sideways, and the current swamped it.  The river wasn't deep but the current was strong.  I managed to keep ahold of the canoe and paddle.  I discovered that a thermos full of coffee actually floats (who knew?), and I managed to catch it too.  It was the day after the Boy Scouts finally decided that I could join their organization and I felt like I should turn in my canoeing merit badge.  However, after pulling the canoe ashore and dumping all the water out, I remembered that part of the test for the merit badge had required us to intentionally swamp the canoe and recover it, a task I had accomplished masterfully today. 

The rest of the trip was chilly, but the sun was shining and I paddled the entire way to keep myself warm. 

My canoe, back on dry ground at the end of the trip. 
The seat is a real back-saver and the kayak paddle is great for a one-man canoe. 
The yellow dry bag saved my camera and phone.

When I got back home, Clay was in the middle of brewing up a new batch of beer.  This is another porter, and you can see that it's very dark. 

It should be very good. 


Augie and Rocky checking out the new platform.
I was back home, warm and dry, well before noon.  My other project for the day was moving a long wooden platform from one of the empty kennels over to the dog yard.  We accomplished it without hurting ourselves with the aid of a little engineering. 

It is set up next to Trooper's observation post and offers an elevated platform only about 3' off the ground.  It also creates some shade.  I'm not sure this will be the final arrangement, but it works for now. 

The support structure required a little reinforcement.  Maya had to help, of course.

Here's a few pics from my container garden.  The cold night was tough on my sweet potato vines but most of last week was finally pretty good for the garden.

Hercules with a toy.  He can't really carry this
but he pushes it around with his nose and paws.
No blog post is complete without a picture of Gigi.
She is wearing her new elbow pads and laying on soft grass.
  This is my 1000th blog post since starting this back at the end of 2008. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dogs and disabilities

It's been several years since I had Rocky.  He had horrific ear infections and ultimately spent a couple weeks at Virginia Tech having both ear canals entirely removed.  He was completely deaf, of course, but was, and is, one of the sweetest dogs I've ever known.  He was adopted by a former VGSR volunteer who was living in godforsaken Utah at the time.  She drove out here and adopted Rocky and took him home.  He later went into therapy work and they have since moved to Texas.  (There are many blog entries about Rocky, starting July 6, 2009, and continuing well into 2010.) 

The adopter later adopted another deaf dog and now she's looking for a third.  The current object of her desire is this boy, Stryker, being fostered by another friend of mine through Green Dogs Unleashed.

Because she's in Texas and hasn't actually met Stryker, I offered to go over and meet him just to take some pics and get another person's take on the dog.  These pics and this post are mostly for her, as a way of showing her the pics I took when I visited last week.  The dog is sweet, friendly, solid temperament, and she didn't really need me to tell her that.  He's deaf and vision impaired but not blind.  He's friendly, outgoing, and gives a nice hug although they are trying to discourage that particular behavior because it's not really desirable for therapy dogs.   He's good with other dogs, good with children, soft mouth and very gentle.  There's just really nothing not to like about him.  Her other deaf dog is also young and playful, so the two of them should make a good pair and will give the old man Rocky a break. 

I don't take in dogs from across the country, but I'm glad that some people do.  Rocky certainly landed in the best possible home because of it, and a number of other dogs with disabilities have benefited as a result. 

This was Buck (Robin) the day I picked him up
from my doggy dealer.  He's now clean, brushed,
and beautiful, soft and silky, but this is the way
I remember him.
And speaking of dogs and disabilities, today's local news had a story about Service Dogs of Virginia.  You may remember that they took in one of my foster dogs, Buck, and have placed him as an Autism Service Dog.  Buck, now named Robin, was ideally suited for that line of work because he's "bomb proof."  Nothing spooks him.  Here's the story from  Aside from what Robin has done for that particular child, the child's mother is a therapist and uses Robin in her work with other children as well.  Robin is a true angel.  While I'm not keen on using dogs for police and military uses, this is one type of working dog program that I'm happy to support. 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Girl problems

Maya, cute and sweet, but not innocent
There's 12 dogs around here right now I think, nine males and three females.  Two are giving me grief, both girls.  No surprise there.  Actually, all three.  Riley is the least problematic but she found, or made, a hole in my fence the other day and went for a walkabout.  I couldn't figure out how she got out, but Maya showed me the hole the next morning. 

Temporary back fence of the dog yard.
Maya-proof, hopefully.
Maya has taken to jumping over the back fence out of the dog yard and into the pasture.  The grass out there is taller than she is now, but she has a great time bounding through it and she's probably gobbling up cicadas.  That back fence is rather dilapidated so it's not too surprising.  Fortunately Maya comes when I call and either goes back into the dog yard or I just bring her into the house if she's had a good and exhausting romp. 

Gigi, wearing her new DogLeggs.
Gigi, without the hood, finally
Today I took down one of the kennels not in use and used it's 6' panels to make a taller back fence.  It looks rather shiftless, but it's just temporary.  I am going to get the fencing company back out here soon, I hope, and replace some fencing.  I'd like to enlarge the dog yard to include the big clump of trees behind it, thereby giving the dogs some shade and a more interesting environment. 

My big girlfriend, Gigi, is also giving me grief.  Her elbow was looking red and raw again today, as if she had been scratching it with a back leg.  On Monday I finally ordered her DogLeggs and they came today, not a moment too soon.  She knew something was up and she ran from me as soon as I picked them up and came towards her to put them on.  I had had the same problem trying to measure her for them a few days ago.  I finally got them on, which enabled me to finally take that cone off her head.  She's got to be happy about that anyway.  The DogLeggs don't seem to bother her and so far at least she hasn't bothered them. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The canine chorus

Trooper and Maya, howling

The 2:00 a.m. canine chorus starts out low and quiet
a single voice tentatively tests the atmosphere
sending out a quiet howl to see who responds, what life lies beyond.  Awakening pack members join in, happy to leave their beds or maybe just raise their heads to make music in the cool night.

We usually have a couple group howls every day, for no apparent reason.  The first one is usually pretty early in the morning and it seems to be about greeting the day.  A siren will set one off any time of day, but the morning howl usually starts without any obvious prompt.  The most poignant howl I remember was when an old foster, Klaus, died.  Everyone knew he was gone or going and as I got him lifted into the van for the final trip to the vet, the howl started up.  It was a most beautiful and fitting send off. 

Cabell was always the songleader in our household. He'd start up the group howl and everyone would join. If someone else started it and Cabell didn't join in, the howl generally petered out before it ever really got started.  Cabell is mostly deaf now and he no longer participates in the howls, much less leads them.  That's sad because he always had a wonderful voice, a nice baritone, always on pitch.  Sparky is a great howler and he seems to be trying out for the leadership position in the chorus. 

Maya is quick to take up the howl and she and Trooper often sing from the top of their observation tower as shown in these pics.  Maya has really found her voice in many ways.  The girl talks all the time whenever she has an audience.  Herc is a whiner, but Maya voices with a modulated howl, using an indoor, person-to-person voice when she has something to say to one of us, which is much of the time.  It's mostly when she's wanting to go outside in the mornings or when she comes in.  After she gets inside she will stand at the top of the stairs and talk to me as I walk up.  Zachary is quite a talker too, but mostly just to Clay.  Maya vocalizes like Emmylou used to when Clay came home at the end of the day, telling him everything that he had missed.  Like Emmylou, I think Maya wants to make sure that we know everything that is going on, even the stuff that escapes mere human observation. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Rainy day writings

Rainy days eventually force me to do the things that I put off the longest.  I'm not quite desperate enough to resort to house cleaning, but I did finally force myself to catch up on some paperwork and web work.  I've got several dogs that aren't posted anywhere on the web.  Although I take them to outings with VGSR, I'm doing fewer of those recently and these guys really need some web exposure.

Here's the write up I put together for Rocky:

Rocky was all serious when posing for his pictures,
but he's a happy, smiley guy.

Rocky is a cute, sweet, shrunken rottweiler.  He's a mix of some sort but he came out looking like a rottweiler in miniature.  He's very much like a rottweiler too, he loves petting, loves to be close.  Rocky's only about 50 pounds, but he's a big rottie in a small package.  Rocky is crate trained and very content in a crate.  He's probably about 3 years old and he's pretty much housetrained but isn't above marking his territory once or twice in the beginning.  Rocky is neutered, heartworm negative, and up to date on vaccines.  He's good with other dogs (lives with 6-10 different dogs now), and has been friendly with strangers at adoption events.  I have no firsthand knowledge about children or cats.  You can contact Rocky's foster home at if you have any questions.

And then there's Riley:

Riley is about 3-4 years old.  She's a female rottweiler although the name always confuses people.  That's ok, she's quite a tomboy anyway.  She lives with a male rottie (Sparky) and can do anything he can do, and can outrun him to boot.  Riley is a good girl.  If you are a rottie lover you will love her.  If you aren't yet a rottie lover, she will make a convert out of you.  Riley is a bit bossy but is good with other dogs, (probably better with males than females) and she seems to love all people.  Like all rotties, she's very food motivated, so anything is possible with enough treats.  Riley was underweight when she got here but she has filled out to a nice, solid, 70 pounds or so, not a real big girl but big enough.  No cats, older children only, adult household and fenced yard preferred.  You can contact Riley's foster home at if you have any questions.

Riley and Trooper

Hercules has been posted on the VGSR website with a write up that isn't really reflective of the new Hercules.  Here's a new write up I did for him:

Hercules is what rescue work is all about.  He came from an animal shelter and was in bad condition.  We spent over a year working through his problems but happily they all seem to have a pretty simple solution.  Like many shepherds he's intolerant of grains in dog food.  That contributed to his weight loss as well as his chronic ear infections and skin condition.  In addition, Herc has EPI (Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency), which made him unable to properly digest his food, resulting in chronic diarrhea, weightloss and generalized wasting.  This may sound terrible, and untreated it is, but a special diet and an enzyme supplement on his food is really turning this boy around.  He's gained weight again and is looking better every day. 

Herc never knew there was anything wrong with him; he never complained and all he wants in life is to be with his person, and even better, playing ball with his person.  Herc has a very strong, extreme, ball-drive.  He loves a basketball, soccerball, or football, or even a tennis ball and almost always has one in his mouth.  When he's with me one-on-one he will toss it at my feet so I can throw or kick it for him again. 

Herc is very attached to his person and has no desire to be anywhere else.  He's one dog that I can actually trust off-leash in a safe environment.  He's not going anywhere that I'm not.  Herc's food and supplement is more costly than ordinary dog food but not extremely so.  He will reward you many times over with his devotion and loyalty.  No cats, no small dogs, and probably no small people.  He will knock down anything and anyone to get to his ball.  Hercules is probably about 5 years old, neutered, heartworm negative, current on shots.  Herc is being fostered near Charlottesville, VA and lives with 6-10 other large breed dogs.  You can contact Herc's foster home at if you have any questions. 

And finally, there's Maya.  I'm not at all sure about adopting her out, but I'll give it a try.  I know I'm going to put off a lot of people with this write up, that's intentional, I'm not going to waste my time or risk her life with people who think they will make a good home for her just because they have children who would like her.  That's not a qualification, if anything, it's a disqualification, particularly for this dog. 

Maya is about 2 years old.  She's a mixed breed, obviously part shepherd but the other part is anyone's guess.  She was surrendered to a shelter because she escaped from her kennel and chased sheep.  At the shelter she was terrified and extremely fearful and withdrawn.  She was not a good candidate for adoption but I decided to take a chance on her.  She was similarly scared when she arrived at her foster home and after a few days she escaped and was on the run for a month.  We finally managed to trap her and got her back home.  She became attached to one of my own dogs, Trooper, and because of him, she came to trust me.  She can escape from a crate but she really doesn't need one.  She does need a companion dog, a person willing to work with her to earn her trust, and a very securely fenced yard. 

Maya is a wonderful dog, gentle, sweet, and loving.  She loves to cuddle in bed.  She is very, very smart.  She actually isn't so shy any more, in fact she's quite confident at home and is fine meeting strangers in public.  She is very vocal now and talks a lot. 

Because of all this back story, I have to be very careful in finding her a new home.  An experienced home that can provide security, committment, and a companion dog are key to making this work.  She previously lived with both kids and cats, but I'd say no kids because of the need to provide a secure environment.  If you are interested in Maya and think you can make this work, please contact her foster home at  and convince me.