Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I Live At A Zoo....

Before I share the Celtic event, there is the back story and after story (I'm sure those are technical terms.) I had been scrambling all week to get things pulled together for the event, and finally by Friday had everything at least planned out. I was on my last nerve.

I work half days on Friday, so as soon as I got home, I planned to load up the truck with all the wool, roving, tables, supplies and sheep crate etc. When I pulled into the driveway, I noticed Jeff and Cal (Shetland ram and wether) standing under a tree in a place they never hang out in during the day. Still in Celtic planning mode, my thoughts were, hmmm..that's strange, wonder why they are standing there? That was the last I thought about it til evening.

Loading went pretty smoothly and in about an hours time I had the truck packed to the gills, including having the sheep carrier loaded and strapped on. Somewhere during this time, I let the kittens out for their first solo unsupervised play time. Granted I was keeping an eye and ear out for them, and it was only for about twenty minutes.

Fast forward to evening. It was time to fix a catch pen for the sheep that I had to load the next day, let the kittens out again and then tote them to the breezeway to put up for the night. I was out in the garage, with the kittens, when it struck me again that the rams were still in the same vicinity as earlier in the day. Finally I says to myself-- I better go down there and see what is bothering them. Maybe a plastic sack or something caught up on the fence... When I walked around the big round bales to take a look, I was stunned to see a little dog staring back at me. What the heck? Who are you are how did you get in my ram's pen?

This is not an actual picture of "Fox"--I borrowed this from the nets as an example. I didn't actually get a picture of him. This resembles him, minus the white, and the look of bright eyed health.....

He was obviously not well, limping about and looking very uncomfortable, but he did have a collar on. He was a strange little creature, and of course I had visions of rabies or getting bit. Butterfly followed me down and he never even glanced at her. He didn't run, but neither did he want to be caught. I went ahead and finished up chores--put the kitties up, fed the rams some hay (since I hadn't paid the proper attention to their signals), and fixed the catch pen and got up the sheep. Then I tried to feed the little dog, but then the ram/wether came waltzing in there and went right up to the dog! The dog paid absolutely no attention to them, but sat like a little stone statue with his eyes drilling into me. Please help me... I was sure that Jeff would flatten him, but he simply sniffed him, and turned and walked away. So then I had to lure the sheep back out of there with some grain and shut the gate between the pens.

Then I was able to feed him. He would let me touch his head, but didn't want any part of me snapping the leash to the collar. To me he looked like an old dog. The best I can figure is he somehow squeezed himself through the cattle panel gate to gain access to the rams pen.

While he ate, I went and finished doing some chores and put Boone in his yard (he was freaking out all over the place). I also called my Mom to see if she would call around to the neighbors and see if he belonged to anyone. In the meantime I looked out and the dog was now out of the rams pen and wandering around the front of the place (still within my parameter fence).

All I could think was I can't leave him wandering around ---I was going to be gone all day the next day, and there were cats, kittens, chickens and sheep to worry about--not to mention Boone freaking out. I was incredibly bummed--what on earth was I going to do with an old, intact male dog? I had hopes because of the collar, but Butterfly was wearing a (flea) collar and that didn't indicate anything. By this time I was calling him Fox, and decided he looked an awful lot like a Shiba Inu. He was wandering about, with me still trying to coax him to let me snap the leash on.

It was starting to get dark and I was just getting ready to call my Mom back to see if she'd had any luck--because I still didn't know what I was going to do---when I looked up and saw her walking up the road. After Mom got up there Fox decided to head up to the garage. I sure didn't want him up by the sheep so went to head him off. Then miraculously for one brief instant he let get close and I snapped the leash on! Woot! I expected him to lead, but he started screaming and bit at the leash, but slowly we worked our way down.

The upshot of it all, after a flurry of activity, was Fox got tied to a long training lead attached to a tree, Mom stood guard and I went down and helped Dad load up another cage I have into their van. (They were using this for Heidi and she had just graduated to her new house and didn't need it anymore). Remember my truck was loaded up so there was no way to haul it on there! I heard the dog scream once while I was down there (Mom said she walked a few steps towards him!). Got the cage set up and after everyone left, me and Fox slowly made our way to it. I ended up having to thread the lead through the top wire, and pull him in, while using my foot to push his butt. I was very mindful about getting bit, although I really don't think that he would have. He put up a struggle, but finally I got him in the cage, with a hay and blanket to lay on, water and food.

I felt really bad because there was no way I was going to take him out of the cage the next morning before I left--there would be no time and I was afraid he'd get loose. I told him just to potty in there as he needed, but he held it all night. Poor little doggie, he eventually went sometime after I left but was pretty tidy about it.

And sometimes things have a good ending! One of the neighbors Mom called didn't get in to the wee hours of the morning, but when she saw the message she was very hopeful it was her dog and called the next morning. She attempted to describe him to Mom but Mom had only seen him in the dusk and couldn't give her specifics, but when the lady mentioned he was as Shiba Inu, Mom was able to tell her that is what I called it. By then I was already at the Celtic Festival and was ecstatic to hear that it was likely "Fox" was going home! I can't even describe how relieved I was. Taking on seven cat/kittens was overflowing my plate as it were.

The lady that he belonged to was really scared he had bothered the sheep, (I gave a little lecture once when one of their corgis was in my field) but he hadn't. She was very happy to get him back. They run a back yard breeding kennel with a few breeds, and I guess they had gotten him a few days ago. He had gotten loose (or they turned him loose?) and he wouldn't let them catch him. They kept putting food out, thinking he would come around, but then he disappeared. He had been missing about three days. I'm so relieved that he was claimed. They feed/treat their dogs well, even though it is a backyard breeding setup. Fox is seven years old, but looked much older since he was so thin and crippled.

There again, if I was paying attention I should have known something was up. I had to lead the sheep out to pasture for two mornings in a row and they kept looking to the south like they saw something. I think that Fox got hit or something because he had a big cut on his foot and acted so sore. I gave him some aspirin and I think he slept very well that night.

I'm unable to turn away the lost and homeless critters, but when it rains it pours and I was feeling a little desperate!

The after story is shorter----I came home to an empty crate, my happy dogs, and relaxed sheep. I was only going to unload what I needed to, but on the way home I was listening to Laura Ingalls Wilder's, The Long Winter, and got inspired. The sheep were so glad to be home and gladly jumped out of their carrier. I figured if Almanzo and Cap could drive their horses miles across a snowbound prairie, fill umpteen sacks with wheat and turn around and head back in the same day, surely I could unload my piddly little truck! :-) It went pretty fast and I was really glad to have it done after all.

And that is it. I live in a zoo and I'm the caretaker.... I think......


Michelle said...

Or you live in a zoo and NEED a caretaker....hee.

Vicki Lane said...

Oh what a happy ending!

Brenda (Prairie Daisy Handspun) said...

I know the feeling of living in a zoo! Somehow animals seem to know just where to go, huh? :)

Pat in east TN said...

I'm glad too for your happy ending ... that was quite a story!

thecrazysheeplady said...

I'm with you. One of my all time favorite song lines is by the Counting Crows and is something like "the last one to leave the circus turn the lights out". Glad you had a happy ending!

Tammy said...

Exactly my thoughts as I was typing that line, Michelle! ;-)
I think all the strays just know where to end up at....and so far I've not been able to 'draw the line'.