Thursday, November 26, 2009

Shadow's Big Night

I wrote this story in June 2007. Shadow is sadly, no longer with us. She died at the ripe old age of at least 18 and possibly older (she was an adult dog when I rescued her from the shopping mall). I miss her as does Billy. He doesn't have anyone to boss him around anymore/

Warning!!: This story is about abscesses and associated oozings. The descriptions below can get a bit graphic and yucky (a very technical medical term). If you have a weak stomach you might want to skip this story, or at least the first few paragraphs.

Shadow is up for adoption if anyone is interested. In the interest of fair trading Shadow is a very elderly, deaf and blind Silky Terrier type dog. She had an abscess on her face just below her right eye last week. With her furry little face we didn't notice it until is burst and then it was hard to ignore. Bec and Frances spent part of their Christmas vist helping me clean up the little face and needless to say Shadow was less than greatful. I think the purple spray to deter flies and disinfect the wound was the last straw. After a few terse comments about the younger generation of her family getting a bit pushy and disrespectful to elderly lady dogs (she seemed to hold a grudge against the girls, but still love me - after all I'm the one who knows how to work a can opener), she turned her back on them and hobbled away (Shadow alwasy hobbles when she's feeling indignant). I cleaned up the abscess a few more few times over the next few days and it's now looking good (if a red hole in her face covered in purple can be said to be looking good). A few days ago, just to make things interesting, her other eye started weeping and the hair around that eye ended up matting over it like a pirates eye patch. I know Shadow is blind and the matted hair made no difference to her at all other than aesthically, but I duly clipped and cleaned the area, sprayed all available bits of Shadow that I could reach with the purple stuff and left her to it.

That night Graeme came to bed at 11.30 and told me he thought Shadow needed an anitibiotic injection because "she smelled a bit". I got up and investigated and decided that with all her seeping bits it most probably was a good idea. We farmers do these things ourselves, living so far from town we have become proficient in providing quality medical care for our pets (with the vet's expert advice to back us up of course). The vet has prescribed this antibiotic when the abscess first became apparent, it looked like it was time for a followup dose.  I loaded up the syringe and popped it into Shadow while she was dozing in her bed. She barely gave a squeek so I congratulated myself on a job well done and went to bed.

About half an hour later, Shadow began to yap. Billy, who thinks that any time Shadow has a disharge (regardless of which end of her is oozing) Shadow is in season, despite the fact that she's been desexed for about 100 years, and he is therefore been banished to the other side of the laundry door where he keeps constant vigil in case the love of his life needs him to slay a dragon or some such small task (now that was an involved sentence wasn't it?!). He immediately gave voice too. If his love was protesting, well then, so would he!!! A high pitched yip was bad enough, add to it a concerned baritone bark and there was not way we were going to get to sleep. I got out of bed and opened the laundry door to see what the problem was. Shadow shot out and went for a drink. Fair enough I thought, maybe the injection made her thirsty. She was definitely moving at a faster speed than she'd managed in the last few days so I thought the injection was working and she was feeling a lot better. I stood on the back porch and waited, and waited and waited. Shadow had decided that now that she was feeling better she'd better catch up on her duties and now was the time to do a perimeter check of the house yard. Billy, ever anxious to help, was keeping close and whispering sweet nothings in Shadow's deaf ears. She must have heard some of what he said, or maybe it was just his doggy breath in her ear that ticked her off, but every now and then, then night air was broken with Shadow's pithy comments about her love struck body guard. Of course, this didn't deter Billy at all. He lives in hope that some day (or in this case night) Shadow will look up at him through her catarct dimmed eyes and realise what a dish he really is. When that day comes Billy wants to be close by so he can take advantage of the moment.

And what was I doing all this time? I was standing on the back porch calling Billy (well there was no point calling Shadow, she couldn't hear me) to no avail. Then my chance came. Shadow's circuits of the yard brough her past the porch steps with Billy close behind. I swooped on her, picked her up and plonked her in the laundry, dusted off my hands with a job well done and returned to bed. Graeme was fast asleep by now so I settled down to join him BUT about fifteen minutes later the yapping and barking resumed. I tried to ignore it but that didn't work. I once again got up and opened the laundry door. Shadow was doing laps of the laundry!!! She stopped to say hello when she realised I was among those present and invited me to join her in a 2 am dance. I delcined. Billy on the other hand was saying that he'd like nothing better than to be allowed in the laundry to partner Shadow in any dance she chose. I grabbed Shadow, gave her some calming pats and a good talking too, more for my benefit than her's, plonked her in her bed, filled a bucket with water so she had no further excuses for disturbing the peace and went to bed. I had toyed with the idea of leaving the laundry door open, but this would have resulted in Billy trying to chat Shadow up all night and Shadow is very vocal in her rejection of his propositions. Her rejections are actually a good deal louder than the yips of joie de vie with which  she was piercing the night air.

But that wasn't the last I heard from Shadow by any means. At regular intervals throughout the night, usually just after I'd managed to drift off to sleep again, Shadow again invited me to come and join in her revels. Then Billy would ask to be allowed to join her her revels too.  And so half the night passed. Eventually, even Billy grew tired of Shadow's celebrations and he moved to the front porch to catch up on his beauty sleep. Graeme, who is deaf in one ear, simply put his good ear firmly into the pillow and had no problem staying asleep. I on the other hand, heard every yip throughout the night. When it finally came time to get up, Shadow was only yipping once every now and then, but still enough to make sure my sleep was very, very disturbed. I let her out of the laundry with a few well chosen words to send her on her way, all of which she ignored.

And how did Shadow spend the rest of her day? Sleeping of course. After such a busy night, a girl has to catch up on her beauty sleep after all.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Billy Gets a Pedicure

Billy resting after his ordeal

Every summer Billy starts collecting grass seeds between his toes (read about De-grass seeding Billy here ). The best way to counteract this habit of his is to give him a pedicure at the beginning of spring. As are most things Billy doesn’t enjoy, it’s a two person job. This year Graeme was very ill around the optimal pedicure time followed closely by me catching Graeme’s bug. Crawling around on the concrete laundry floor attached to Billy while he tried to hide all four paws at the same time just didn’t appeal to us until we had completely regained our strength, so Billy had ample time to go out and stock up on grass seeds.

The fateful day arrived and we gathered our instruments of torture (electric clippers and a pair of hair dressing scissors), invited Billy into the laundry while carefully concealing said instruments of torture, and quickly locked the door after him. As soon as his avenue of escape was blocked Billy started to suspect something was up, especially seeing Graeme was in the laundry too. Our one and only toilet is located in the laundry and Graeme is very strict about not sharing this experience with Billy. When Graeme enters the laundry Billy is told to leave! So something sinister was definitely afoot (literally).

The first thing we needed was Billy lying down on the floor. Experience has shown that trimming Billy’s toes while he’s standing just isn’t a good idea. Billy leans, and when Billy leans his massive body on someone they know they are being leaned on. The usual outcome for someone being lent on by Billy is to fall in a heap on the floor. Billy then feels very sorry for his latest victim and stands over him or her and worries that you might not have appreciated being leaned on. This wouldn’t be too bad, except that Billy usually has strings of drool hanging down and these tend to be shared with the leaned on vicitim. Graeme tried his sheep dropping technique to get Billy to lie down. To accomplish this Graeme reaches under Billy’s tummy and grabs Billy’s front and back leg furthest from him. Billy immediately drops to the ground, unlike when I try the same technique solo and I’m the one that is dropped to the ground. As soon as the St Bernard hit the floor I dived on his head and held the sides of his face, murmuring words of encouragement and love, even though Billy is now stone deaf and can’t hear a word I’m saying. Billy watched me with wrapped attention as if he was soaking up every word, but what he was actually doing was trying to get me to rub his ears, head or any other part of him I could reach.

Graeme had begun the toe shaving as soon as I had Billy’s massive head in a strong hold. Billy gave me a hurt look as if to say, “I thought you were here for a love fest and now I find you are working in league with the master torturer!” I apologised profusely and explained that it was all for his own good. This got me nowhere because, as stated above, Billy is stone deaf. I then had to endure reproachful looks from Billy while Graeme played Catch That Foot at the other end. Billy wouldn’t leave his foot in Graeme’s possession if there was any chance of removing it and hiding it under his body. At first Graeme would wrestle Billy and retrieve the foot he’d been working on. When this grew old, Graeme resorted to attacking any foot not tucked under the 70kg dog instead of going after the foot he’d been working on. Billy can’t hide all four paws under himself at the same time, no matter how hard he tries so there was always at least one foot available for clipping.

Once Graeme had finished with the front paws I decided to help by trimming the undergrowth around Billy’s pads. This required letting go of his face, but by now Graeme had a good hold of a back leg and I remained vigilant in case I needed to grab Billy’s head in an emergency (Billy turning his head to help Graeme is considered a major emergency in this procedure). Once I began snipping the lush growth of hair between Billy’s pads, Billy joined in and nosed my hand away from his foot every time I managed to get the scissors near his foot. Sometimes I was quick enough to snip some hair, other times I was too slow and no clipping was accomplished. I was hampered by the fact I was trying very hard not to snip Billy’s nose when he moved in to remove my hand and scissors from the general area of his foot. Billy took unfair advantage of this and won more rounds than I did.

Finally Billy’s feet were shaved and trimmed. One thing I noted about Billy’s shaved feet. Usually when a rough coated dog is clipped you find there’s not much dog under there. They look to be about a quarter of their size pre-clipping. Not so with Billy’s feet. They look just as huge bare as they do covered in fur. Billy was not impressed with this new streamline look and tried to escape to go hide his feet until the hair grew back. We’d found a few little holes in his feet where grass seeds had dug in and wanted to spray those spots to prevent any infections, so, while I once again held Billy in a headlock, Graeme sprayed The Purple Stuff between Billy’s toes. This was the final indignity and Billy had had enough. He rose from the floor with me hanging on and totally unable to keep him down, and headed for the closed door. I gave up and let go. Billy then stood at the door, turned his head to give us one of his best long suffering looks and waited for me to open the door for him. Suitably chastened I did. Without a backward glance at us Billy summoned all his dignity and left the room.

Unfortunately he had to walk past the ferret cage to go sit in the shade and brood. The four ferrets were lined up along the cage as they always are when Billy is being held against his will. They know bad things are happening to Billy and they are all for it! As Billy walked past the ferret cage I’m sure I heard pointed comments about purple toes and naked feet. The ferrets deny it, but Billy and I both know the truth.

 A close up of Billy's shaved foot before the purple spray was added.  This is embarrassing enough for poor Billy I didn't want to photograph the graffitied foot.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Billy & Emu BFF - Well Maybe ...

Billy is now as deaf as a post and I'm teaching him sign language. Silly dog could have pretended not to understand what I meant when I pointed to the laundry (the place Billy has to go when he's in trouble), but I suppose a combination of the look on my face, hinting that I wouldn't put up with any gaff from an oversized dog and the fact that he felt so guilty, he immediately slunk off laundryward as soon as I pointed to it. He sits there now, brooding on the unfairness of a world where new, fluffy roosters are imported into the menagerie and an innocent St Bernard isn't allowed a taste.

Emu, the Chinese Silky rooster has come to take up residence in our chook pen. Emu hails from Camden way where he lived with another rooster and a harem of hens on an acre property owned by friends of my daughter.. Unfortunately Emu likes to greet the morning long before sun up each day and does so at the top of his lungs. Neighbours don't care that Emu is a beautiful fellow and is just doing what nature dictates a rooster do. They, the neighbours complained and kept complaining until it was obvious that Emu had to go. Luckily for Emu I was up at Camden the weekend a home needed to be found for him. I was attending my grandsons' birthday party, minding my own business, when without quite realising how it happened I became the proud owner of Emu.

I gently broke the news to Graeme while still at the party. I used to wait for a quiet moment to inform Graeme of any additions to our animal population, but lately I've discovered that confessing in public isn't only good for the soul, Graeme is usually too preoccupied with whatever conversation he is having to really register a protest - or maybe he has finally realised the futility of protesting - whichever the reason, Graeme barely raised a murmur before returning to his conversation about cars and their respective tyres.

So, Emu was transported to Spring Rock and set up home in the chook pen. At first there were the usual sorting out of pecking orders to endure. Emu spent the first week in a makeshift small yard within the larger yard, where Adonis, the resident rooster, and the girls could meet him without getting physical. Emu was used to be the second rooster in the yard so he had no aspirations to move up in the pecking order. After he was released to join the gang, he settled in quickly at the very bottom of the pecking order resigned himself to a boring life being bossed by rooster and hens alike.

Billy had noted Emu's arrival almost as soon as he was released. Billy at first spent every waking hour with his nose pressed against the chook wire, trying to figure out what exactly had come to stay. Billy pays no attention what so ever to the rest of the chooks in the yard. Common old laying hens and accompanying rooster hold no interest for him. Emu on the other hand, looked to good to ignore. Emu didn't help the situation either. One could say he actually encourages Billy to visit daily. While Billy sat staring at the fluffy one, Emu from his little yard, glanced back and wondered what Billy was, I'm sure. The day Emu was set free to roam the entire chook pen was a red letter day for both of them. Billy could hardly contain his excitement. Now he'd get to see exactly what this fluffy thing was and hopefully manage a taste or two while he was at it. Emu seemed eager to help out with these aspirations.

The day Billy began to learn sign language came about because I found him settled in for the day, stretched out at his ease along the outside of the chook pen, eyeing Emu longingly. Billy was staring at Emu with evil intent obvious in every fibre of his being. He was employing his never take your eyes off the target and don't blink stare. Emu, on the other side of the wire was thrilled. You see Emu thinks he's made a new friend. He was sitting on the safe side of the wire, just a few inches away from it in fact, looking back at Billy and clucking quietly to himself (or maybe to Billy, who knows). He looked like he too had settled in for a long and delightful day conversing with a new friend.

Emu firmly believes in the noble side of Billy and would be shocked if he could read Billy's mind. Billy has no noble thoughts where Emu is concerned I'm sure, so Billy was banished to the laundry to think about his sins and adjust his attitude to little fluffy members of the family. Each day Billy can still be found sitting outside the chook pen, drooling over the chicken dinner on the other side of the wire while Emu rushes up to the wire to get close enough to commune with Billy. They sit and stare at each other for ages until I make the hike all the way to the chook pen and angrily point to the laundry. I'm worried that Emu will be tempted to poke his little head through the wire to chat more easily with Billy and Billy will just chomp it off!

It would be such a sad ending to a beautiful friendship.