Tuesday, August 30, 2011

#86 - Texas Heat & Chicken Death Threat

Our area of Texas has suffered an "exceptional" level drought, the worst level that can be declared. When we open the door, it feels like we've opened the oven. A wave of heat blasts our way and even breathing can seem stifled. But, the worst part is that we're not getting rain to alleviate the overwhelming heat.

We've broken records in Texas, giving us a record number of days in triple digits. Earning record back-to-back 100 degree days is not a record you WANT to cherish being able to break. Some records are best left unchallenged.

In all areas, we are trying to conserve our resources and save ourselves money with electricity and water bills. Still, the drought is affecting us in other areas...our chickens have several shaded areas in our yard at their disposal, but the heat is nearly unbearable, even in the shade. Some farmers with chickens are installing small air-conditioning window units at the coop to take the edge off the heat and to help reduce their losses. I read about people taking extraordinary steps to save their chickens and it appeared that we had been fortunate enough to escape losing a chicken to the heat.

But, our turn came yesterday as Deputy Dave walked into the backyard to find a chicken laying limp on the ground as another chicken walked straight on top of her body. In a scurry, he brought the chicken inside and sat with it on the floor in front of the box fan.

Stefie and I flew into action as well. I cleaned up the mess the chicken's body had made on the way inside the house, we got a bowl of ice water with electrolytes ready with a dropper to assist the hen with getting fluids into her body and I crushed half of a baby aspirin to put into her water to help her fever drop faster. I grabbed my spray water bottle that I use for my hair, hoping it would help cool down her core and Deputy Dave would lift her lifeless wings to give her a cooling spritz.

She looked dead. Deputy Dave kept checking for her heartbeat. Her body lay completely limp and lifeless, with eyes closed. Every time I walked in and out of the house, I thought I was walking back inside to be told she had died. Her beak was not moving, her creepy chicken feet lost their pink color and she was clearly dying. I felt so helpless as we waited for her to take her last breath. For the past few weeks, this hen has been laying eggs for us. She's just gotten started and is such a sweetie; to see her suffer so intensely was disturbing.

In between Deputy Dave sitting on the floor with the dying chicken, I would go outside and work with the chickens in the backyard. I made sure to wet down their preferred dirt zone against the house and I soaked their feed to make a mash, which they gobbled down. The weather has been a brute. I didn't want to see any other chicken drop from heat stroke, but I didn't know how we could avoid it with temperatures at 105.

After Deputy Dave sat for 45 minutes on the floor with the dying chicken and after I'd been scurrying about and nearly suffering heat stroke myself, he was pleased to see that the chicken finally responded to the dropper pushing fluid into her beak. Slowly, she began to open and close her beak in a drinking motion, but her eyes stayed closed. This was a little encouraging. Still, I didn't think she'd make it. I didn't know how the damage could be reversed, not at this severe stage of heat stroke.

Into our master bath the chicken went. She started out as a chick inside that tub and now she was dying, in the tub. On a pad of soft towels, her limp body was laid. She had absolutely no response. Deputy Dave would try to sit her upright and her head would fall over. We thought we might have our first dead chicken on our hands.

My youngest daughter stood there in disbelief. She didn't ask for these chicken lessons, but she sure is learning right along with us and she's a trooper. She was worried for the chicken.

Stefie suggested, "Let's take her to the vet."

Deputy Dave and I looked at each other and then we looked at Stefie and said, "Are you kidding? Vets around here won't know a thing about chickens except what can be found in a textbook and we're already doing all of the suggested remedies."

She said, "Mommmm, vets are TRAINED to take care of animals."

"Yes dear," I replied, "but there really isn't money for local vets in the area of chicken check-ups and they'd probably just recommend we put it to sleep anyway. Plus, the vet would think we were crazy for bringing in a chicken with heat stroke."

Then, I realized the vet already thinks we're crazy. Years ago, our hamster had gotten out of its cage, it ran behind the washing machine where we had one of those horrible large sticky sheets for catching cockroaches and small rodents (a mistake to use those) and the hamster got stuck to the sheet. We discovered it on the sticky paper as we were getting ready for a school morning.

It had one little leg firmly sunk into the thick gooey substance. I took the girls to school and brought the hamster stuck on the sticky paper into the science teacher's room and asked for a recommendation. She was horrified, but we knew her well. Our family is big into science, but this one dumbfounded her. My daughter was nearly seemed we always had pet disasters and the trauma never ended. She loved this hamster.

The poor teacher looked at it and said, "That one leg is already mangled, don't touch it's mouth because it'll probably bite and it will only be a matter of time before it starts gnawing off its own leg."

Panic set in. I am not heartless. I could not let the creature die a slow death or chew itself to bits and I could not do it in myself. So, I did what any normal person would do...I left the school and went straight to the local veterinarian in the high-tech aerospace NASA neighborhood.

Standing in the vet's office, the assistant, myself and the vet stared down at the hamster stuck to the paper. I was pleading, "What can we do to save it? My daughter's pets always die tragically, and I don't think we can take another death so soon."

The vet looked at me and said, "Honey, let's put it to sleep and you go to the pet store and buy another one that looks just like it; your daughter will never know."

I contemplated his suggestion briefly. Well, that won't work. My main problem...for some reason, I am NOT a successful liar. My kids seem to have this radar to know when I'm fibbing. Even when I'm questioned about Christmas presents, "Mom, I think that I can tell by shaking this present that it's a purse!" Instead of trying to deny anything, I've learned to simply respond, "I'm not saying if it is and I'm not saying if it isn't." That has become my standard answer.

So, I told the vet, "I can't lie...I can't be deceptive like that, I'd rather tell them the truth, but surely we can do something."

The vet looked at his wife/assistant and said, "Well, I've never performed hamster surgery, but we could amputate the leg and the rest of the body looks fine."

I ask, "How much would that cost?"

He gives me a very puzzled expression, shrugs his shoulders, looks at his wife again and says, "We don't exactly have a pricing chart for this procedure, so let's say fifty bucks to cover anesthesia."

"You're really going to give it anesthesia?" I ask.

"Sure, the little guy won't feel a thing. You can pick him back up this afternoon to give him a chance to recover," the vet told me.

"It's a deal, fifty bucks and I'll be back...don't switch him out because you'll just have to remove the leg of the new hamster for me to believe it is the one I dropped off," I warned.

The vet and his wife got a good laugh out of that one.

Later that day, we picked up the three-legged hamster and showed great intelligence by naming him "Tripod." All I can say is, my kids realized I'd do anything for them and since my husband would not come home from work for this animal emergency, I handled it MY way and we saved the hamster.

But, I learned my lesson with the hamster. I could not be rushing to the vet for such things because I think I was pegged as the weirdo woman paying for hamster amputation. I didn't want to add weirdo woman with the chicken that's having a heat stroke.

So, the chicken lay there dying in my bathtub and every 30 minutes we took turns going into the bathroom to feed the chicken a dropper full of fluids with electrolytes. She'd lie there barely moving her beak to drink it in. I dared to hope that she would survive, but it seemed impossible.

Finally, we shut off the lights and went to bed. There was nothing else we could do for the chicken.

Then, as I laid in bed, I thought about the disconcerting images that could take place during the night. I am a night-time potty break person. It's a curse. I pictured one or two scenarios occurring as I stumbled with my night-light to the bathroom, as is my regular routine...

1) I would have my dim night-light in hand, shuffling to the bathroom wearing one of my moo-moo gowns that my husband has already photographed me wearing in a previous blog, and I would suddenly have a mad chicken flying at me in sudden, terrifying attack...causing me to pee there on the spot as I scream and fight the chicken in the dark.


2) I would walk into the bathroom with my dim night-light in hand...blah, blah, blah...and I would not be able to resist checking on the chicken and I'd find it dead at 2:30am which would force me to wake Deputy Dave because I could not lie there with a dead chicken in my bathtub. Would we have a chicken funeral? Where would the body go? I didn't think the chicken should be buried next to our dog that died after she'd been a faithful pet for 15 long, wonderful years. So many questions.

So, in order for me to avoid either scenario during the night, I decided to use the half bathroom around the corner from our master bedroom.

The next morning, Deputy Dave walked into the bathroom to get ready for another day of fishing and he came out gagging. The smell was indescribable. The smell was in between dead body, skunk, and poop. Not pleasant. I thought the chicken was surely dead. Amazingly, she was still alive, but had pooped in the tub and it was a smell new to me...a definite high-to-heaven-stinker-poop. Deputy Dave did the dirty deed of taking the towels into the backyard for hosing and disinfecting, he washed out the tub and I scrambled to bleach the heck out of the tub while thinking "I'll never use this again" and I dug for the Lysol spray.

Between the Lysol and the bleach fumes, we were in danger of dying before the chicken.

All cleaned up, the chicken was still in our master bathroom sitting motionless and she could not support her own body, but her eyes were opening for longer and longer periods of time. More hope bubbled inside of me.

That afternoon, a bowl of water was placed in front of her and she'd dip her head to get a drink. Yea! Another small success! Then, a small flat bowl of feed was placed in front of her and wobbly pecking began. Awesome!

Then, another poop episode took place. We were ready to vomit.

The second night came and went with her profound weakness making us question whether we'd found her too late. But, a miracle happened on the second morning...the chicken was ready to start flapping around. She was steady, strong and acting like a regular chicken again. So, back out into the coop she went at 4:30am as Deputy Dave was preparing to leave for his next day of fishing for his vacation. I couldn't believe that she recovered!

Later that morning, I stood in the backyard, amazed at the chicken's resiliency. I don't think she would have survived if we hadn't done several things...the fan, the water spray bottle, fluids with electrolytes and half a baby aspirin crushed into the water which was put into her beak via the dropper and lots of attention by us inexperienced chicken people.

The miracle chicken is back to laying eggs, and I am glad that I didn't decide to force the vet to create yet another crazy billing category.

A Survivor!

Monday, August 29, 2011

#85 - Miss Stupid is Attacked

For those of you who read Farm Life Lessons, you already know that our large dogs are well-trained to not lay a paw or snap a jaw at our chickens. It has taken a lot of interactive, eye-to-eye training, but Howdy, the Australian Shepherd, is always busy running circles around the chickens, but he would flip over himself before hurting a chicken. Then, the dog we rescued many years ago, Lyla (spelling never right), is a beautiful dog that is probably part boxer, part collie and she is just as sweet as can be with the chickens --- a nurturer. My large dogs are let outside several times per day, without supervision, and they live in complete harmony with our chickens.

But, this weekend, I got a taste of seeing a dog who is prone to attacking chickens.

Out of the blue, the cutest little dog made a visit to our house this weekend, a Yorkshire Terrier. She has clearly been severely neglected, had obviously traveled a long distance to get to our house and she was a total mess. She appeared rather desperate to be rescued. We could tell that she'd been kept outside of the house because her coat was matted, filthy, chopped lopsided with careless concern and she had minimal eyesight because her hair blocked her eyes, but she was still a small package of adorable sweetness.

Taking a closer look, we could see that her entire body was covered in dirt, oil and her hair was so matted that it hurt her to move in certain ways. Her face was blackened with flea eggs and huge fleas surrounded her eyes so they could get an easy drink when they wanted. It was horrible. I've seen fleas on dogs, but this dog obviously lived with fleas for longer than I'd want to imagine. I felt like I was a part of an episode of "Houston Animal Cops."

Deputy Dave and I immediately made a team effort bathing her and giving her a flea dip. She was a good little doggie; enduring long, repeated baths with a stoic personality. We began to hand-pick fleas off of her body as dead fleas began to be washed down the drain.

Clean and more healthy, she slept with us in our bed that night. Well, no one actually slept because she was on doggie-over-drive. She acted like an excited puppy, ALL NIGHT LONG as she would lay on Deputy Dave and be silly, then come over to me and lick my chin, nose, and ears in a desperate attempt to keep the fun going. Needless to say, there was never a "wake up" time that morning because we three never really got to sleep. I believe she was so nervous with her new surroundings that she reverted to her puppy days with nibbling our fingers and wanting to play nonstop.

My youngest daughter, Stefie, was out of town for the weekend and I was at the point where I would beg her to come home so we old parents could get some sleep. It was Stefie's 21st birthday weekend, so she'd gone out of town to celebrate with friends (that's an entirely new post of mommy dread), but she'd ALWAYS wanted a Yorkie. This was fate for the neglected Yorkie and for the daughter.

Over the weekend, the little dog we didn't know what to call did great with the chickens; I'd take her out into the backyard for a potty break and she'd stand among the chickens with slight interest. Throughout the day, we made multiple trips outside and the little cutie would ignore the chickens as she did her business. I don't think she wanted to chance being left outside again. Only if I led the way and stood in the backyard would she follow.

Over the next few days, we could tell that this little doggie had been neglected of receiving personal one in their right mind would hold a dog so filthy and flea ridden. And Yorkies aren't exactly outdoor rugged types. To her credit, she quickly began to allow us to hold her close and to brush her long tangled hair. She's seems eager to be sweet and happy, if only she has a chance.

We are ready to give her that chance.

Then, we enter the horrifying Farm Life Lesson scene as Deputy Dave and I were outside putting the chickens away the other night. Three of them had flown to the top of the coop (outside of the chicken tractor) in an attempt to roost in the open air, so Deputy Dave was taking them down and putting them inside the coop, one by one. It was dusk. The little babydoll dog was taking her potty break as Howdy watched us handle the chickens. He was ready to run left or right to cut off a chicken's effort to go the opposite direction as we were putting them inside the coop for the night.

Unfortunately, one chicken behaved flighty, for those of you who read regularly, it was the chicken we affectionately refer to as "Miss Stupid." She is entertaining, that is for sure. She can never seem to find her way back into the coop at night without assistance. On this night, her lack of an internal-chicken-GPS would be to her detriment.

Howdy and Deputy Dave worked to cut off Miss Stupid's panicked escape --- for about the 100th time since we've had her and SUDDENLY the little, tiny, innocent doggie flew into action. She chased Miss Stupid all around the yard. I was yelling at the dog with no name, "You! Little Dog! Stop! No!" as I was running and tagging her with my bamboo stick, hoping to stop the little chicken assassin, but she'd only jump OVER the stick or duck under it, as if she were performing doggie Olympics.

I was stunned. The chicken screamed "BAAWWWKKK, BAWWWWK, BAAAWWWK" while running freakin fast while also partially taking flight a few feet off the ground, but there is no where to go in our yard except in circles. So, they ran in circles as we humans struggled to keep up. I'm sad to announce that the animals were MUCH FASTER than Deputy Dave or myself. We needed strategy to stop the madness.

During the craziness, I literally had a emotional crack...I couldn't help it...the scene playing out in front of me was hysterical; for a brief second I kind of felt a bubble of inappropriate laughter threatening to spill out. I will let you know that this is one of my weaknesses; I am known for having very inappropriate laughter. I might be attending a wedding or sitting in Sunday church service and I am struck with a horrible need to laugh as if I am watching a live comedy. It's wrong, really wrong. My daughters have inherited this terrible trait. Poor things.

Anyway, Miss Stupid is on her second go around the yard with the nameless dog chasing close behind and they are all headed straight for Deputy Dave. He is determined to either grab a dog or a chicken, I don't think he was quite as ready to laugh as I had been, but I will dare to say he was slightly amused that this little dog could have taken us off guard so quickly. I mean, we're city people for Heaven's sake. The dog duped us.

That short-legged little dog ran extremely fast and that chicken kept flying a few feet at a was surreal. Deputy Dave and I didn't particularly enjoy running around like lunatics trying to catch the little dog; she was a blur. Poor Howdy was not sure about who he should tackle; he initially went after the little dog to put a big paw on her back to hold her down, but I screamed at Howdy, "No Howdy! Don't Touch Her!"  because I didn't want him to hurt the small-framed dog. Howdy froze, literally, from a full run into a screeching sitting position. He's incredible; he listened to me. I love that dog.

Because I stopped Howdy from stopping little dog, within the next five seconds as little dog and Miss Stupid were rounding the corner heading for Deputy Dave, he took the opportunity and with a quick-draw hand, he reached for the chicken and snatched her up. Unfortunately, at that very moment, little dog had sunk her jaws into the chicken's butt. Miraculously, Deputy Dave managed to free the chicken from the dog's jaws, but the chicken thrashed about and kicked free. She took off for the back of the house, behind the garage.

I could imagine the trail of blood following behind the chicken.

I stood wide-eyed, with my stupid bamboo stick in my hand that I'd been using to TRY to cut off little dog from her mad dashing about the yard, and I was speechless as the sweet bundle of Yorkie loveliness spit out a mouthful of feathers. A LOT of feathers.

Finally, I was able to scoop her up because the mouthful of feathers had distracted her long enough to do a bit of gagging. I scolded the dog; I held her firmly while telling her, "Not Nice! Naughty Dog!"

Since that moment, Deputy Dave has taken her in the backyard a few times, under heavy, watchful supervision and she's not paid any attention to the chickens nearby. However, we don't trust her. If a chicken starts running, I think that sets off her instinct and she is in automatic motion on the hunt.

Of course she would be on the hunt, a Yorkie is a Terrier breed and is a hunter by nature. I know training can do wonders, but the breed of a dog must be considered for the environment. Since she seems to be learning very quickly that we DO NOT ATTACK CHICKENS, we are not giving up.

Years ago, one of the best dogs we ever had was an awesome, little Rat Terrier. She would chase squirrels around with a sporting, determined attitude that would never quit. Oh worry.

So, this has been part of our weekend fun. I got a first-hand lesson in how horrible it is to see a dog go after one of your chickens. It's certainly a new experience for this city/suburbia gal. I can tell you that when I am ready to have roasted chicken, I'll handle it myself; I don't want a dog to start "processing" our chickens before we are prepared.

I know one little dog can wipe out an entire flock of chickens in one frenzied attack, so we'll be hawk-eyed with little doggie and hope our chickens remain as durable as Miss Stupid, who only lost a few feathers and probably had an IQ increase after this experience. I think Miss Stupid's bird-brain kicked into higher gear as she was forced to do some fast thinking on her feet and with her wings flapping furiously. Yep, I think she graduated from Miss Stupid status to Miss You-Got-To-Be-Friggin-Kidding-Me status.

Friday, August 26, 2011

#84 - Somedays are MISERABLE, Some are Great

Right now, I've not really been able to write too much because my home is full of strife. I guess we all have our moments of misery, but sometimes I want to give up and walk far, far away. People who like to dish out misery are really strange creatures because they sure don't like it to boomerang back on them. We all know the kind...likes to dish it out, but can't take eating their own dish.

Guess what? Mama is NOT happy. Have you heard the saying, "If Mama ain't happy, ain't no one happy." Well, I have a dense one in the group over here that is doing things specifically to make Mama very unhappy. Not advisable. I'm a woman over 40; we are dangerous creatures.

Anyway, my oldest daughter will be here this evening. She and her fiance are coming into town. Of course, it's been a rough Friday for him at work. He'd planned to be out of there early, but a gas line created a problem and that created a delay. So, my daughter is twiddling her thumbs at her house with bags packed at the door, ready to leave. She worked a "sacrificial" weekend so that she could have a weekend off. It's like that at her job. She has a load of stuff packed to share with me about the wedding...invitation designs, wording, paper selections and more. It's exciting stuff to us gals.

Makes me wish I knew calligraphy! I'd hand address every one of her invitations. Wait! I think there's time to learn!

So, I have had one of those weeks. No one likes to be insulted, but I'm getting older and figuring that I might do a bit of hell-raising each time someone calls me a name...I figure that I better really work on making that name-calling WORTHWHILE. Except for the word Butt-head...I would not want to work on becoming that definition.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

#83 - It's a Smith & Wesson birthday, Texas Style!

Our youngest daughter, Stefie, is a birthday girl today, Wednesday, 24th, and she is fully legal at 21 years of age. Regardless, she still looks as if she's twelve. Even though she is technically a woman, she most often resembles a young child. She's a tiny, petite, little thing, about 5'1" and 90 pounds, but she is well-trained with fire-arms.

Stefie and her daddy --- her senior year of high-school.
As she was growing up, she'd occasionally have a boyfriend who would see a photo of her shooting her 9mil and he'd say, "It's a little disturbing to have a girlfriend with such abilities---other girlfriends don't go to the shooting range to practice shooting their semi-automatic."

That's right partner...keep it in mind.

Since she is so small, we are especially concerned with her being fully able to protect herself. She's got some great friends, but she does not want to be dependent on others for her protection; she wants to be able to take care of herself.

Spring Break fun with friends in college.
This picture shows how tiny she really is...and this is a "Augh" mom -moment.
Stefie and Deputy Dave have fun times at the shooting range. Her uncanny ability to shoot the target DEAD-ON is down-right-scary. That girl can shoot ANOTHER bullet through the same hole she just shot out. Precision in a fun-sized package.

Since she sometimes travels and is on the road alone, she'll be taking her concealed gun license course very soon. You must be 21 to take the class, so she'll soon be licensed. Therefore, we wanted her to have a "Forever" birthday present and that meant a "Smith & Wesson" box of protection. This gift does not go out of style; it does not disintegrate very easily; it can truly be a gift to pass down to the next generation; it can end up to be your best-friend when you desperately need a friend of great strength.

With the right attitude, the right training and the right kind of respect...a gun can be a life-saver. People control guns. In our household, guns are considered to be the Great Equalizer. It doesn't matter if you are a petite 90 pound woman facing a 240 pound man, the gun equalizes the circumstances, instantly.

Hopefully, you'll never need to utilize the Great Equalizer, but having the option is pretty darn nice.

We three spent several hours this past Sunday at the sports store. We made our way to the gun section and she took her time handling various guns to see which one she'd like to add to her collection, but she had no idea we were actually going to buy one, on the spot. We'd just finished eating a delicious lunch at Olive Garden and we were enjoying gun shopping. It pays to spend some time with doting parents. We all enjoy spending time together and she gets fringe benefits just because she is around to receive them. That's how life works. If she had not been with us, we would not have purchased a gun...she needed to test them out in her own hands.

Mostly, we wanted her to have a gun that she could shoot directly, if needed, through her purse. A 9 mil or semi-automatic can get jammed after one or two shots from inside of a purse because the rack slides back and the spent casing can fall BACK into the racked space or debris from the purse can fall into the space and cause the gun to jam. Professionals who use guns daily know of this real danger that could prevent a woman from being able to protect herself. Purse shooters can almost be guaranteed to have a jam after the first or second shot, unless they are shooting a revolver. In a bad situation, this could be severely limiting. A revolver won't jam.

Therefore, if you want to carry a gun in your purse, this is a huge consideration...gun jams.

So, the 21 year old gal got a revolver, a beautiful Smith & Wesson. It's lightweight and she got to see the difference in the bullet size. She's never shot a revolver, so she was holding it in the store and practicing her grip; she kept wanting to automatically rack the slide, but she immediately discovered that there was nothing to do with a revolver except load, aim, and shoot.

She was amazed at the simplicity, but a little disturbed at the lack of a safety lever...until she realized that the trigger wasn't as easy to pull as on a 9 mil.

The guys behind the counter were amused with her tiny frame and her obvious lack of fear with guns. They told her that she'd be good with this gun in her purse and that all it'd require is that she shoot from the hip...simple as pie. The only thing is...the trigger is fairly firm, so she had to hold the gun in her right hand and use her first two fingers to pull the trigger. Two fingers work just as well, if not better than one finger. Whatever works for her.

Of course, she gets the standard earful and beyond normal safety lessons from her Deputy Sheriff father. But, she lives in a household where gun usage is a daily requirement. She knows more about guns than most people will know after a life-time of hearing about them. Her dad lives with at least one gun on his hip at all times. This has been her way of life while growing up. Both of my girls understand gun safety on a level most kids do not comprehend.

In our household, we do not take guns lightly. They are not tools of entertainment or "cool" and they certainly aren't to be used unless you intend to use deadly force...there's nothing in between. Unless you are at a shooting range, if that gun comes out, you better be prepared to be lethal. There is not an attitude of "shoot to wound" in our household. That kind of attitude will get yourself killed. If a gun comes out, you must surely be committed to understanding that the shots fired will be lethal.

But, my girls also know the power and protection that a gun can afford. If you know Texas, then you understand that gun ownership is a cultural heritage aspect of the South that cannot be altered. We take our ability to own arms and to defend ourselves very seriously. There are many stories on the news, just about weekly, of home-owners and individuals who are able to defend themselves quite nicely from a would-be attacker, simply because they are "packing."

As the saying in Texas goes, if you need to defend yourself---if you feel that your life is being threatened, then you better use that gun because, "It's better to be tried by a 12-person jury of your peers than to be carried to your grave by the final six."

Stefie was nervous about getting a revolver. So, her and her dad will be heading to the gun range a few times over the next few weeks so that she can become one with the gun. You must become ONE WITH THE GUN in order to act, react and be accountable for your actions.

During her class to become licensed to carry a concealed gun, she'll most likely take her 9 mil for training and qualification for licensing. Then, the Smith & Wesson will be her other buddy.

It's great to have beautiful daughters who are also intelligent and slightly 007 dangerous. It makes a parent feel a TAD more at ease to know that their girl can handle defending themselves, if an ominous, life-threatening situation arises requiring them to take charge of their own safety. We pray that Stefie never crosses paths with a fool who has evil on their mind, but if she does, then she will have the Great Equalizer at her fingertips. And, she will always have ongoing excessive training to instill confidence in her so she is capable of making the right decision for the moment.

And that's how we do 21st birthdays in Texas.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

#82 - Good Dog!

As we were heading to Tractor Supply back in March of this year, I was very concerned about having chickens around our two large dogs. This would be brand new territory for us.

My oldest daughter Heather spent some time out at her fiance's parent's ranch and she got to learn a couple of chicken lessons. One of the things she told me was, "Momma, you can't let the dogs kill one chicken or they'll not stop killing them."

So, the task and challenge was upon us to make sure that our dogs were gentle with the chicks. I figured the best way to instill this gentleness was to encourage the protective, guarding instinct in the dogs over the chicks. This would require major supervision and positive reinforcement until the dogs fully learned to treat the chicks as if they were their "babies." Extremely close supervision would be a necessity until the dogs and chickens learned to be around each other without any wild-animal-kingdom drama. We were patient for them to become accustomed to each other, and we watched for signs of trouble.

Once we got the chicks home, we brought in the store's box containing the seven chicks, and we let the dogs take their time sniffing the box. Before the jumping, yellow-bundles of squeaky toy delightfulness was let loose, we made sure the dogs were comfortable with the scent. We had to hold firm to the box as the dogs literally pressed their noses against the side holes of the box and the chicks were blissfully unaware of the set of powerful jaws that were salivating on the other side of the flimsy cardboard.

It was a bit chilly outside, so we set up the master bathtub to hold the seven chicks. A camera tripod held the special heat lamp. At first, we kept the chicks inside a rubber tub set inside the large garden tub. We would sit on the edge of the tub and let the dogs stand on their hind legs to lean against the edge and peer down at the chicks with baited excitement. A few times the dogs were so enthusiastic that they nearly fell over the edge of the tub, but we were right there to prevent such a fall; we'd yank them back with a firm warning command. Soon, they learned to gauge their strength at the edge of the tub so that they could stand there for hours absorbed with the activities of the chicks. Well, Howdy would stand for hours. Neither dog wanted to leave the bathroom. They'd even sleep on the floor near the tub.

Frequently, we'd pick up a chick and hold it close for the dogs to sniff. Lyla immediately obeyed her instinct as a nurturer...licking the chicks as if they were puppies. We had to be careful because her tongue was as big as a chick. We had to keep them away from her or they'd be a wet mess and probably die from a chill. But, she was showing great protectiveness toward the chicks; wanting to care for them.

As we'd hold a chick up for Howdy (our Australian Shepherd), he'd sniff them thoroughly with his eyes wide and alert, but he NEVER licked them. He's not a nurturer; he's a protector and a herder. He would stand at the tub, his elbows resting on the tub's edge and his head would jerk back and forth as he kept a simultaneous eye on all chicks. He could do this continuously for HOURS. I would often be forced to shut the bathroom doors just so Howdy would take time to eat. His working instinct was incredible. At least the tub kept the chicks "herded" but he was still busy trying to keep an eye on all chicks at once. As we held a chick up to his muzzle, he'd sniff and get enough to get a nostril full of chick fuzz. He liked taking a good close look at them, but he had no urge to do any nurturing. It was very interesting to see the clear difference in the behavior of our dogs.

The chicks grew. They began to tilt their head sideways and give a good long look at the dogs as they peered up toward the edge of the bathtub. The chicks began to grow feathers and they grew stronger each day. Every now and then, a more aggressive chicken would attempt to fly up toward one of the dogs. The plastic tub was removed; we lined the bottom of the bathtub with newspaper, then pine shavings and they had more room to run around. Still, the dogs watched. Deputy Dave got to work putting the finishing touches on the chicken tractor.

On nice days, in good sunny weather, we'd often take the chicks outdoors in a gated zone so they could become acclimated to the outdoors. During these times, the dogs would stay at the chicks' side, on the other side of the gate. Bit by bit, we would sit outside with the chicks, with the feeder nearby, and we'd let them roam around. The dogs would be given the command to sit next to us, unmoving. Remembering the size of the dogs is important because one mis-step would accidentally kill a chick. They had to learn to move around the chicks without unintentionally hurting them.

I loved the moments when the dogs would be laying in the grass and chicks would hop onto their backs or peck at their legs.

Of course, we continually said, "Watch out for your babies," or "Where's the baby?" or something similar.

One day, when we were first letting the chicks outside, the two dogs got into a scuff because each dog was trying to keep the other away from the chicks. They had to learn to work TOGETHER and to trust each other. Each dog was closely watching the other. That was our biggest hurdle. It turned out the Lyla was more aggressive to Howdy, so she had to have a few time-outs, but she wasn't aggressive toward the chicks, just overly nurturing to a growling fault and snippy toward Howdy with his natural instinct to herd the chickens. But, she was a fast learner. I think she'd fight a coyote to save those chicks.

After we realized that we had two roosters on our hands, that's when the start of a tad bit of worry set in. The chickens grew rather large pretty fast and I'd let Howdy out into the backyard with them, but the Big Rooster would charge the dog. Howdy would do some fast foot-work to duck and dodge, but I could see that this was not going to work.

It wouldn't work because the rooster was relentless, but Howdy was infinitely patient. Sometimes, Howdy would do his heavy front paw pouncing back and forth in an effort to make the rooster shoo away into another direction, a herding technique, but the roosters would not allow themselves to be herded. Instead, they behaved like a bull and would charge at Howdy. We knew the roosters had to go to a new home and they did.

These days, we daily let both dogs into the backyard alone with the chickens. Often, in the morning, the dogs will lay in the grass sun-bathing while the chickens run around them scratching and pecking at their food. But, every morning, as I go outside to let the chickens out of the coop, Howdy races around the chicken tractor in circles, as if he's making sure they stay in one place, in the center, as I am at the back door of the coop setting things up to open the door. There's no way to stop  him from doing this. He needs to be allowed to be an Australian Shepherd. It's good practice for him. He runs and runs, then issues a loud "get back" bark. Sometimes, I take my time letting out the chickens because Howdy needs to assert himself and run a couple hundred laps to set himself on a good track for the remainder of the long, long day.

I open the coop door, the chickens descend one by one on the old picket fence board and they are closely watched by Howdy as he stands nearby. This is when he stands still.

All of our neighbors, our family and our friends cannot believe that Howdy is so gentle and protective toward the chickens. They get a kick out of watching him try to herd them into the garden.

Howdy is not always sweet...if I am here by myself and a solicitor comes to the front door, Howdy goes into ferocious mode. He sure doesn't seem as if he'd be kind to a chicken, but he is.

This morning, a big, burly highschool football player came to the door to sell a coupon booklet for discounts to local restaurants as a fund-raiser for the team. He stepped up on our front porch, rang the doorbell and the dogs came charging. He actually ran for the walkway. If you've been reading the blog, then you probably know that our Australian Shepherd has lunged at our full length stained glass front door TWO times. He was never hurt, but the door was in a shattered mess. We've worked with him, but some people approach and set him off in a big way...he seems to focus and charge.

He can sit.
He can shake.
He can wave.
He can lay down.
He can open the back door by himself.
He herds chickens.
He gently pulls the covers off me in the morning as I get out of bed.
He goes to his kennel upon command.
He plays catch and will leap several feet in the air to make the catch.
He understands "drop it."
His "vocabulary" recognition is immense.
He recognizes hand commands.
There's too much that he does and I can't even write it all down.

You know how we dog loving people are...our dogs are always the smartest one on the block or at least the cutest.
But, he won't quit pouncing on our front door when he sees someone he perceives as threatening. He charges with this two front paws, and BAM, he does a quick pounce with all his weight behind him and the glass shatters. He's smart and knows it is wrong, but he doesn't seem to be able to stop himself. Maybe THIS can be blamed on his jewels. The jewels Deputy Dave fought for Howdy to keep. One day, we will breed Howdy, so the jewels will stay in place, but I'm not sure I can blame the misbehavior on his jewel retention.

Anyway, as the highschool student stood a few feet from the front door as my youngest daughter, Stefie, tried to open the door a crack while Howdy readied himself to do some damage. The young, but LARGE football player nervously stated his purpose...he's a neighbor trying to sell coupons for the football team where my daughter attended highschool, so she bought a set of coupons for twenty bucks. However, the football player said he wouldn't approach the front door to make the exchange because he was terrified of the dogs, especially Howdy.

Good. If only we'd had a dog like him sooner, maybe we would have been able to deter all the OTHER boys who approached that threshold. Good dog.

Live and learn.

Friday, August 19, 2011

#81 - Deputy Dave is a Chick Man!

Deputy Dave has been a great husband to me and a fantastic father to our daughters. He and I grew up together. We've known each other since we were lanky kids. It's been great to watch the evolution of this man from a cute ladies boy/man to a real man, on whom we can always depend.

Since my husband and I met when we were kids, he kind of waited for me to grow up so we could get married. He waited exactly until I turned 18, then we got married via eloping and the caveman came out in him, "You now below to me!"

Little did he know, his days of acquiring a few chicks would be far from over.

During my husband's teenage years, he was indeed quite the "ladies man."

I thought that my sweetheart was the cutest boy ever created by God. We were always pretty nuts about each other, but I sure did love his long legs.

He gave those legs to our oldest daughter. I also knew he was extra special, but I was surprised to learn that he gave his rare blood type to our youngest daughter. If we had a transfusion emergency for either one of them, at least they have each other!

He had no idea that by marrying me, he'd be creating a chain reaction that would permanently connect him to more ladies, for life.

I've found it to be rather humorous that the Lord gave him two beautiful daughters to constantly freak out about. He wanted ladies...he got them.

More than that, even all of our dogs were female.

He seems destined to be surrounded by the female persuasion. Unfortunately, he's constantly around ladies that he feels compelled to protect. It's a full-time job for Deputy Dave to keep up with all of his gals. There is no rest for the weary!

Deputy Dave had also been honored enough to be a Foster Dad to each of these beautiful gals. I hope they'll always remember fishing and playing with chalk all over the concrete in front of the house.

You could say that he's a man who has had his hands full...

He keeps his gals enveloped with his love and protection, every chance he gets.

The beginning of our little family.

These days, there are more chicks in Deputy Dave's life than ever before.

  Now, this is a man who has a good eye for a cute chick.

And, he finally has a buddy in the house. For those of you who read my blog, I hope you can see that my monster, Howdy, is such a good dog, even with the chickens,

I feel compelled to let you know that Deputy Dave FOUGHT to keep Howdy's jewels. Yes, he is over two years old, with his jewels, and he's a great, great dog. After reading all of the literature on the subject and involving ourselves with lots of tension-filled conversations on the topic, I thought that Howdy keeping the jewels would ruin him forever. I pictured him being ferocious, unable to follow a simple command and running away every chance he got. But, it's been okay, except for his need to mark a corner in the house every now and then, but the spray bottle of bleach is my six-shooter which combined with my temper has pretty much taught him to cut it out. Overall, he's one of the best dogs we've ever had. Ever. Ever. Ever.

I'm learning, it's okay to have some extra jewels in the house. He's our secondary protector and takes his job seriously. Then, we play with the Frisbee. It can't get much better than this and Deputy Dave is not alone with his chicks anymore.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

#80 - The Man's Gotta Fish

This weekend, Deputy Dave and his brother, Kevin, had a weekend of fishing. Those two have fished together since they were in their 20's. Now, they are in their 40's and 50's and they're still going strong and fishing by ocean kayak most of the time.

Deputy Dave with Henry, the fiance of our oldest
daughter, Heather. He'd never fished ocean waters
before today and I think he liked it.
The great thing about fishing by kayak is that you get to explore. You can go places on the water in a kayak that you can't reach in a regular boat. This means Deputy Dave can either fish the open ocean or he can explore the inner most part of nearby creeks, inlets, canals and flats. All he needs is about 3-6 inches of water to float along in peace.

This weekend they fished near the Texas City Floodgates and Deputy Dave took some awesome shots of their adventure.

On the way back through the flood gates on their way home there were converging waters which created turbulence. Deputy Dave got stuck with one wave headed for him and another pushing his kayak from behind. The force of both caused his ocean kayak's bow to scoop well below the water, so he leaned back in his kayak with all his strength, but he was now submerged up to his waist under water, then the kayak finally popped back up. That was close. Losing his fishing load on the kayak would not be fun. Yes, he always wears his life-jacket. Ocean kayaking should not be taken lightly.

High tech glasses that manually adjust to the level of sun.

Flounder! One of my most favorite fish!


The second fishing trip on Sunday found them headed to Deer Island via West Bay. It was beautiful. I hope I have the pictures matching the trip --- maybe not --- but I know I'm close because these photos are from their weekend of fishing.

And, Deputy Dave brought home to delicious beauties this weekend. I can hear the dinner bell ringing!

He catches the fish. He expertly cleans the fish and ends up with perfect
fillets. He cooks delicious recipes. He is the Fish Master.
Here we're having Trout and Flounder.

I love these two guys.

My brother-in-law Kevin is a good man. He works at one of the
petro-chemical plants in our area. Deputy Dave and him are close.

I love that Deputy Dave comes home with the freshest fish imaginable, he cleans it and cooks it. I love cooking baked or fried fish, but he truly loves to cook, cook, and cook.

So, he made sauteed battered fish served with a caper butter sauce. With a bit of rice, we had a perfect meal (no veggies this time---the idea was to really focus on savoring the fish). I had two fillets of fish on my plate, one flounder fillet and the other trout. Each were mouth-watering. It's good that I rushed to take pictures of the food I was about to dig into because a few minutes later the entire plate was wiped clean. I made a happy plate, an ecstatic plate; every bite was consumed with me being in seafood heaven.

We can't hardly eat fish anywhere else because our home-cooked fish is always so very fresh. It's very difficult to compete with the high quality we get at home. The good thing is...when we are at an area restaurant, especially in Kemah, Texas, we are most assured to have the freshest available. If you ever come to the Houston've got to go to the Kemah Boardwalk. Since we live so close to the bay, the fish (on ice) is sometimes alive when he gets home. Of course, it is a relatively short drive for him to get home with the fish, contributing to the freshness. You can't get fresher than this. I love that these guys actually fish for enjoyment AND to feed their families.

Nice Redfish. It was caught and released. Deputy Dave
practices catch and release frequently. Otherwise, it's dinner.

My question to Deputy Dave is:  Can you guys go again next week?

Side topic...Okay...I got a haircut. It's been months and months since scissors have touched my hair. My curly hair was like a weed, growing fast and out of control. My regular hair-dresser was on vacation. For some reason, she felt the urge to hit Las Vegas, so I took one of her new gals. She gave me a layered cut, then decided to flat iron my curly hair to show me that it can be straight. I have a flat-iron and know how to use it, but I let her go crazy on me.

However, I think she soon regretted her decision because it took her a LONG time to straighten my hair because it is rebelliously curly. She worked so hard that she actually became overheated with beaded sweat dripping down the sides of her face; she had to take a break, then get a fan to blow on her while she finished the tedious task. I left the beauty shop with flat hair sticking to my head like strands of lifeless silk. I walked in the door to the house and it took hours for Deputy Dave to even make a comment about my hair because he doesn't like it straight. He kept dodging me, pretending he didn't see it, but it was clear that he was not pleased. He wasn't prepared to lie to me.

Regardless, I had fun for a day with it straight. Even so, it was TOO flat, so I went into the bathroom, sprayed it with hairspray and messed it up a little. Yes, I am a Texas gal. I was far from the Southern curse of "Big Hair," but I surely didn't want sleek, stick-to-my-head hair. I walked back out of the bathroom with my messed up hair and Stefie says, "Oh mom, I'm glad you did that; it's a lot better...I like it now."

Flat hair messed up.
I actually slept better without fighting a mess of hair all over me. It was great. Layers can indeed lighten your load, and I think the hair cut has helped me to lose two pounds. However, I'll be curly again by the end of the day; I don't want to traumatize Deputy Dave for much longer. Poor guy.