Chickens and Dogs, Oh My

First of all, I’d like to sincerely thank all of you who have said such kind and supportive things to Mandi after yesterday’s post about Sweetie. I know she feels the love from all of you. And I mean ALL of you. Her post and the one about Brody getting hurt are the two most-read posts since I started this blog. Close behind came dead chickens. Hmm. I sense a theme.

I feel lots better when sitting on Daddy. Harvey is being good, though.

So, here you go, something on both injured dogs AND dead chickens. Something for everybody, huh?

I guess you can tell from my tone that this isn’t all that horrible. Like Mandi said yesterday, when you live out in the country, you see life and death every day. I think it gets you a better perspective; we all are going to go sometime, for some reason, so let’s appreciate what we have now. Platitudes, maybe, but true.

Chickens can be funny

We did have another chicken loss this week. It was really hot, then really cold, and I guess if a chicken had to die of natural causes, the cold time is probably better. Poor little Ameracauna was just sitting on her nest. Sara thinks she was eggbound or had some other issue. At least nothing ate her, and it was peaceful. Poor dear.

For only having nine hens now, we are still getting lots of colors. And the pinkish one in the middle is HUGE.

I mentioned that the egg production had ramped up, but it had settled to four a day, which isn’t many for the number of chickens we had. As we were dealing with the dead chicken, Tyler, who lives in the cabin by the coop, came out. I said feel free to take a few eggs now, since we have enough for at least our community. He said, “Oh, I’ve been finding them in a weird place lately…oh my gosh!” He had turned to the shelves outside his door and found SEVEN eggs from a brown hen on the top shelf. Someone found a nice, warm roost. So, yesterday, everybody got some eggs!

Continue reading “Chickens and Dogs, Oh My”

Guest Post: More Dog Sadness

by Mandi Shuffield

Country life is a special and different kind of life. It is even more important out in the country to form bonds with neighbors and their animals, in case an emergency ever happens. Country life does have some rules that are sometimes very heartbreaking for the families that have to abide by them. My family is one of those families.

Sleepy Maggie

I am, by all accounts, an animal lover. All of them. Even skunks. I believe they all have their own beauty to share. The most special animals in my life are my dogs. We operate by pack law, and it serves us well. We have a big collie named Sarge, a “hefty” husky/collie named Wink, a little furry Pomeranian/Yorkie named Sully, and a tiny piebald dachshund/Chihuahua named Maggie. We adopted a beautiful new dog that was a dalmatian mix named Sweetie. 

Fuzzy Sully

The four other dogs get along rather harmoniously. They don’t fight or get physical with each other. They will growl over who gets to sleep on which blanket, but they are called off easily. Sarge and Wink are a protective team. They have been taught to work together to neutralize a threat by command, or by recognition. Sully was bottle raised from 3 days old by me after his mother became sick and passed unexpectedly. Maggie came to me from a cousin of mine. They are not trained like Sarge and Wink. 

King Sarge

We brought 2 year old Sweetie into the pack, and I had very high hopes of her joining in the ranks of Wink and Sarge (who are 7 and 8 respectively). Sweetie seemed like a great fit, and then things turned south. But I want to include pictures of what she was like before that happened to really capture who she truly was before the trauma surfaced and took over her mind.

We have no idea what her life was like for the two years before we had her. She was named very well with her personality. She was an astounding cuddler, and loved the kids. She often slept with my two younger kids, as a matter of fact. She got along very well with the other dogs, the cat, and loved her big yard. 

Wink, with Patsy Catsy

One day she started getting out of the yard and chasing cows, sheep, and anything else she could find. We worked on making the fence more secure, but it just never seemed to work.

Then that escalated. She attacked Maggie unprovoked. It didn’t leave serious injuries, so I let that slide as a bad day. Then it happened again.

The third time was really bad. Maggie came out of it with no permanent damage, but Sweetie threatened the kids (the same ones you see her cuddling in the pictures) that time as well. Sarge and Wink did their jobs and protected Maggie and the boys. Sweetie had to be locked up in the house and isolated to assure that she wouldn’t hurt anyone. That’s no life at all. 

Sweetie with her sleeping buddy

At some point in her life, she suffered trauma that caused her to just snap. She was then unpredictable and dangerous. We only had one choice. To take her to see the vet. February 7th, 2019 I laid on the warm, green grass with Sweetie (who had to be muzzled for behavior there) and held her, and cried so hard that I thought for sure I would vomit. Her trusting eyes had looked to me to be protected, and trusted me fully. I felt like I was plotting her murder behind her back. 

Happy days

The night before she had meat lover’s pizza and chicken wings. I felt like I was the worst person on the face of the planet for not being able to fix this with her. My heart is broken. I took every bit of strength I could muster to tell the vet what had happened, ask about alternatives, then make the final call that I knew had to be made for her own peace. So many people I talked to who are professionals with dogs reassured me that this was the right thing, the only real choice, and most humane thing for her.

Peekaboo

The alternatives of her being hit by a car, or a neighbor shooting her and missing so she suffers, another animal injuring her, Wink and Sarge having to gang up on her 2-1 to protect us, were something that I couldn’t allow her the chance of having to go through. She died next to someone that loved her, who held her, who cried for her, who apologized for whatever had happened to her, and who wished beyond wishes that we were anywhere but there at that moment.

We loved her.

I’m so heartbroken, and so angry that someone hurt her in such a way that made an innocent life have to be cut so short. All sorts of mean things against whoever did that have run through my head. But the main thing I have thought was, “There. I cleaned up your mess for you. I broke my own heart to bring peace to hers that you had broken so badly.” 

I wanted to scream “STOP!” when her heart rate and breathing rapidly declined. She was very heavily sedated before the bad shot came. I just kept saying, “I’m sorry.” over and over again until the vet told me it was over. 

This isn’t a nice, warm, fuzzy, funny post that we usually try to make. This is a real life post of what happens when someone is an irresponsible pet owner. Sweetie’s mother and father were allowed to have a litter of puppies that were unwanted. Those puppies were given away, and at least one of them was abused, then tossed on the street to starve. This is the reality of allowing puppies to be born that you do not want. There is someone like me whose heart is breaking over making the choice to have a dog put to sleep because someone else made a bad choice and was not responsible. 

Sweetie stole my heart, and she deserved to grow old with me. She deserved to watch the boys grow up and meet grandkids to play with one day. She deserved a full, healthy, happy life with us. She is now at peace under the tree with Ricci (my old mare who passed in ’17) and my mom’s little dog (also a rescue who lived to be 18 years old). She belongs under that tree. No matter what man made faults she had, she was my good girl.

A Digression on Working in Austin

Resumes are on my mind, since I looked at dozens yesterday. Today, I need to digress from posting about nature and my endless “deep thoughts” to share some observations I’ve had about people in my field (broadly, technical writing and instructional design).

My notebook full of resumes for job interviews.

There’s a job opening on my team where I work in Austin. It’s a rare opportunity in these times when downsizing is the norm. I’m lucky that I work for a company that values its written documentation and resources for customers, since training and technical writing are often among the first folks to be let go when pennies get pinched. So, hooray, it was my turn to bring my instructional design team back up to the level it used to be.

So, I looked at resumes. It was humbling to see how many people with amazing skills and experiences applied (if you’ve hired people lately, I bet you’ve seen the same thing). There were two types, people who have only been in the workforce a few years, then people whose resumes strangely resembled mine.

The pattern is that people have a career at a large corporation that lasts a decade or so, then there is a new contract job every year or so after that. I have so much respect for the people who keep working to find contract work, year after year, because it seemed to me like as soon as you started on job, you had to start looking for the next.

You have got to respect contractors for dealing with these challenges and still getting lots of good work done, with a good attitude.

And here is my rant

Did you notice that everyone was just dandy that government workers got back pay after the recent shutdown? Did you realize that there were actually MORE contract workers who didn’t get to work, and most of them did NOT get back pay.

Yes, more and more companies turn to contractors to do their work, because it’s easier to ramp up and back down as needed. Also, you don’t have to pay contractors benefits. Ka-ching. A poll taken last year showed 1 in 5 workers were contractors.

Here are the actual statistics from a Marist polllast year, reported by NPR.

What does that mean? It means millions of people who don’t get paid sick days, vacation, or most important, health insurance. A lot of these people end up just one illness away from disaster. It does not pay to be a sickly contractor.

When I did my years of contracting (2007-2011), there were at least a few companies that offered health insurance that I could afford, so I didn’t worry about it, but now that’s just about impossible to find. And even though some of the companies you contract throug do offer health insurance, for more than one of my friends it’s turned out to be over half of their earnings.

And don’t get me started on taxes. I’ve heard people go on and on about how highly paid contract workers are. Well, that’s because they have to pay self employment tax on their earnings. They have to save a third of their income to hand over to the IRS.

Thanks, Dell, for introducing me to my husband of ten years! A contractor benefit.

The other thing that can drag you down as a contractor is that feeling like you just don’t belong, like you are an unwelcome guest. You sit at the tiniest desk in the building (I even had to use my own computer at one job). When there’s a free lunch, you don’t get it. You don’t get to go to the corporate gym. When there’s a team-building event, you sit at your desk, typing away. Don’t get me wrong, I have made great friends and had wonderful bosses when I was a contractor. I even married one, so it’s not all bad!

All of this can take its toll on you mentally and physically. I had tics in my eye, a tingling neck, and stomach issues. A woman who suffered from a pinched nerve from contracting stress said:

“As a contractor, the expectations of you are much higher than if you were an employee,” she says. “They’re moving so quickly and they have so little consideration or awareness for you that they sometimes forget that you’re actually human.”

https://www.npr.org/2018/01/23/579720874/will-work-for-no-benefits-the-challenges-of-being-in-the-new-contract-workforce

So, think about the contract workers who you know, who you work with, or who you once were yourself. They work hard, have to ramp up fast, and often don’t get to see their projects through to completion. I will be happy if the best person for the position we’re hiring for turns out to be one of the people who’ve been contracting a long time. They tend to be versatile, have a variety of experiences, and very grateful for a full-time job with benefits.

I’m grateful to the team who brought me on where I work now. I will be happy to pay it forward.

Dog Sadness

Pickle and Vlassic still love each other.

I’d really never had to deal with dog violence until I moved to the ranch. Then our late blue heeler, Stella, got into a huge fight with her sister, Rainey. My neighbor had to break them up by kicking them. It was awful. We never did figure out what set them off.

Yuck. That hurts.

Our two dogs that are close in age and size also have had their issues through the years. In the past couple of months it’s gotten worse. It’s not often, but when Harvey goes ballistic it takes a lot to make him stop.

More yuck.

It often happens when they are trying to go out the front door at the same time. That happened yesterday when Lee got home from work. Our friend Matt tried to let the dogs out and Harvey attacked Brody. Alfred joined in to try to break them up.

This is awful in good light. You’re welcome for not taking THAT picture.

Poor Brody had to get staples and stitches today, plus eye ointment and a number of wounds cleaned.

We will be taking Harvey to a trainer to work with him. We feel awful. Brody will be ok.

This stuff is going around. Tonight a neighbor dog bit the young adult feeding the chickens. And another neighbor dog had to be put down for attacking animals. This is so sad. All these animals have been raised kindly.

Please be gentle with me as we try to do what is best for our canine family.

Universal Needs

The past few days, I’ve been fixated on what all of us human beings have in common. I guess a lot of this has been because I’ve been reading Barbara Kingsolver’s book on the Congo, The Poisonwood Bible, for the neighborhood book club. I’ve also been learning about life in the 1930s for members of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico in the book, Spider Woman, by Gladys A. Reichard (it’s a memoir that just got reprinted). On top of that, the PBS television show Finding Your Roots has focused on family life of slaves in the US, families dealing with wars in Asia, and other times of difficulty and stress for people. I have learned a lot from the photos and documents they show.

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Here are two minor helpers for keeping me well: yet another reblooming orchid, and my sign remniding me to breathe.

I keep seeing families and communities that manage to do well, in spite of the many challenges life throws at them, and also how they sometimes break down. I kept wondering, what do all of us need to have a “good” life?

For my real estate blog, I wrote up some of my thoughts as they relate to what we do to create homes for people, not just houses. I came up with what, to me, are the minimum requirements for a good life.

basic_needs
These are my stab at a list of basic needs. It may not cover everything.

Just having food and a roof over your head is not enough, to me. You need a community around you, so that you can give and receive love and friendship. You need to feel like you have a purpose in life, which is what I mean by fulfilling work. I don’t even know that pay is important, if you can meet your needs otherwise, but life is pretty hollow without the ability to do something that makes you feel like a part of the big picture.

And freedom from fear is the clencher for me. So many people live where they feel unsafe. You can’t be happy if you are worried about war, physical/mental cruelty, prejudices, or environnmental dangers. Every human deserves to feel safe.

img_6466
We have our loving community, a home, food, and the meaningful work of being companions for our mommies. So, we are happy, say Pickle and Vlassic.

I’ve seen (and read about in my books) many people who don’t have much by way of possessions, money, or property, but they are happy because they life surrouded by a safe communty, have enough to eat, and are contributing to the greater good. That’s all I really want, too.

What other things would you add to a list of basic needs for a happy life? I’d be interested. Certainly there are a LOT more things that would add to happiness, like health care, education…and?

 

Winter Coastal Blooms

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Here are the bluish ones. These may be “regular” spiderworts, because those are not such hairy buds.

Some of our readers are still recovering from the polar vortex of last week. Here, it’s suddenly up to no-jacket weather (though another polar front is on the way). It’s not too early for some of our hardier plants to start blooming away, and I found some really pretty ones in Galveston, as I was doing my best to identify beach plants without flowers.

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Some of the shades of purple in this spiderwort species.

My absolute favorite were these hairyflower spiderworts (Tradescantia hirsutiflora). First, they came in so many lovely colors, ranging from the purplest purple to almost pink. It was a striking look.

img_6403
These are the pink ones. Just look at those hairy little buds!

Second, I discovered on iNaturalist that the hirsutiflora (hairy flower) version of spiderwort existed! I’d originally identified it as the more common T. ohiensis, but I’d obviously not looked close enough. Daniel, who corrected my observation, pointed out the hairy buds on the flowers, which you can plainly see here. Regular ole spiderwort has smooth buds. Now I’ll look at every one I see!

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Birding in the Fog

Admittedly, I was excited to go to Galveston Island, because I had the thought that a lot of the migratory birds would still be hanging around and I could see them. I didn’t count on it being a rather dismal day for photography, in which everything around was the same shade of brownish gray.

We certainly couldn’t see anything from our hotel room other than exotic Beach Pigeons (same as any other pigeon). The birds were probably all frightened away by the belching pseudo-volcano at the Rainforest Cafe that was the primary view from our balcony (we could also see the Gulf, when the fog lifted slightly).

Here I am pretending that the Rainforest cafe is 1) open or 2) fun.

Once we were awake (-ish, since the hotel didn’t have any reasonable coffee), we took a walk on the beach. This proved to us that it doesn’t have to be a warm and sunny day to enjoy the shore.

Look how well these birds blend in with the rocks and surf.

At first we didn’t see anything other than gulls, pigeons, and grackles, but once we walked down the jetty, we adjusted our eyes, and boom! There were some beautiful little ruddy turnstones busily picking at the moss and seaweed growing on the granite (from Marble Falls!). They were very industrious and blended amazingly well among the blocks. You really only noticed them when they moved.

Evrybody’s head is all tucked. Nap time?

We kept walking down the jetty until Lee stopped me and said, “Look!” Sure enough, there was a flock of what appear to me to be sanderlings, huddling together to stay warm, or something. They were at least a little easier to spot. They let us get nice and close, so I could get a good photo.

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