The Buddy report: Crate training an older dog

We have had our new farm dog Buddy for a few days now and he is fantastic!  While he still shows far too much interest in the barn cats, he is responding to commands (that his previous family claimed that he didn’t know that sneaky little devil), understanding his limits and just generally being a joyous dog.  Until bedtime.  Then the fun really begins.

At this stage in our farm evolution, we have all of the outside service animals (aka dogs and cats) sleeping together in a heated outbuilding that we refer to as the garage (not that we get to park anything in it..sigh.)  In this building, everyone has a safe, soft and warm bed while being protected from the elements.  For this situation to work, we crate the dogs just to ensure that no mayhem ensues at night.  It has worked like a charm for Kya the farm puppy, but Buddy…well.  He ain’t havin it.

Now, I’ve never crated a dog before Kya.  Frankly, I always thought it was a little cruel.  Snickerdoodle, my much beloved Aussie/Catahoula mix used to sleep under the covers of my bed next to my leg.  That was kind of a turn off for some guys during my single days, but I always had my priorities right: 1) dog 2) guys.  Thank goodness Sheldon understood the pecking order!  Anyway, my previous dogs came and go where and when they pleased in my house.  By “came and go”, I unfortunately really mean poop and tear stuff up.  It was a chore that I was constantly managing.  So, when the opportunity came up with Kya, we decided without hesitation that these dogs (and all dogs moving forward) would be crated at night at least in the beginning.

wire_dog_crate

Apparently Buddy’s old family never explored crate training-at least that is what his behavior is showing us.  They were very candid in telling us that they had not worked with him like they should, and frankly it shows.  So much of we are working on is amending Buddy to our training for his safety and the safety of our other animals.  To help introduce him to the crate, we’re trying to make it a positive experience.  He has his bed in there from his old family.  It’s sized right for him so he can stand up and turn around.  We’re putting in Kya right next to him in her crate with lots of very vocal praise so he can see that it’s ok.  When we are putting him in, we’re using praise and treats to make it desirable.  And while he is very much enjoying the treats, he is still hesitant to sleep in there.  I know that it’s just going to take some time.  When I woke up the other morning around 5, I could hear him barking incessantly.  I’m sure all of the other animals are ready to vote him off the island.  But this morning…it’s 6:15 and all I hear is silence.  Either the cats have tied Buddy up and duct taped his mouth…or we have had some improvement.  When the weather gets a bit warmer, the dogs will move to their permanent home in the new barn without the crates, but for now-we’re going to keep at it-we’re in this with him for the long haul!

Meatloaf went to the library today

Alternate title: Holy cow-I looked like THAT today???

As farm girls and guys, I think we spend so much time working the land, caring for animals, providing healthful and delicious foods for our families and communities that it’s easy to let yourself begin to look like Meatloaf.  I swear, this was me at the library today:

My horrific photo cropping skills aside, I greatly admire and enjoy Meatloaf as an entertainer.  So sorry Mr. Loaf for intimating that you looked as bad as me.

My horrific photo cropping skills aside, I greatly admire and enjoy Meatloaf as an entertainer. So sorry Mr. Loaf for intimating that you looked as bad as me.

 

It’s so easy to let things slide in this kind of lifestyle.  First it’s the makeup, then it’s the haircuts, then it’s the color, etc etc.  Next thing you know, you are taking your Blueberry to the library wearing your husband’s lumberjack shirt with your hair looking like a rat’s nest and wearing a face that looks like an aging rocker.  Sigh.  It’s fair to say that I have yet to find the balance between “me” time and everyone else time.  Sheldon?  All he has to do is brush his teeth and he looks great.  Sigh again.   Any other homesteading wives and husbands do a good job balancing time for looking good with doing good work?

Poop is worth it’s weight in gold?

Those of you who have had to rehab large tracts of land know what I’m talking about…turkey litter.  It’s the fertilizer of choice here for pasture land (did you know Missouri was the #2 producer of cattle in the nation?  Nope?  We didn’t either…) and it’s worth it’s weight in stinky gold.

Our poop is the shiz.comPic courtesy of ect coop

Our poop is the shiz.com
Pic courtesy of ect coop

We have asked every single human that we have come into contact with for connections.  I even stopped by the local Ag Extension today and asked if they had a hook up for litter and/or topsoil and oddly both of these ladies looked at me like I was on crack.  While we have found Missourians to be absolutely warm and lovely people, they don’t give up the good stuff to “ferners” (You know-people from Texas) quite so easily.  Finally someone shared the helpful nugget that it is actually more profitable for these poop producers (aka large poultry farms) to ship it up north than to sell it to their neighbors.  Huh.

So, to The Bing I go…I have discovered some local (local being companies within 200 miles) providers and intermediaries.  I’ve sent messages to several of them, all in Sheldon’s name (because that post on good old boy mysogeny is for another day) and now we just wait.  For poop.  That we have to pay for.  What a life.

Do Homesteaders get depressed too?

As I was scrolling through FB this morning, I came across a post by The Bloggess who was talking about an article on CNN/Parenting’s site titled Xanax makes me a better mom.  Now, I think this is probably a hot button issue on all sides, but I do have to say that I felt like the original Parenting article took a pretty soft approach to a very hard problem…sometimes it sucks to be a parent.  And sometimes the level of “suckage” is just too damn much for some parents.  I like what Jenny (The Bloggess) had to say in regards to getting through the day-do what you gotta do and no one should judge you for it.

However, it also made me realize that the challenges might even be harder for those of us trying to homestead, or at least move towards a more homesteading-like life.  Let’s face it-this lifestyle can be isolating.  I went from being in a very large city with friends just a short car ride away.  Now, I have to drive 40 miles just to get into town in order to even get to friends being a short car ride away.  The distance makes building lasting relationships a bit challenging.  Sheldon works in that city 40 miles away and right now The Blueberry attends school there a few days a week.  It makes for a quiet house during those days.  Sprinkle in the fact that while we have neighbors on our dirt road, they are almost all bachelor men, it makes for a bit of a lonely day alone on the farm with just the animals for company.  Sheldon hears that and thinks I’m crazy…if he could go a week without ever uttering another word to a human, it would be his best week ever.  For me-I’m more of a social creature, so I crave my interactions be they on the phone, via web or when I do get to drive into town.  It’s those little things that keep me going through lonely, blue times.

I think to those stuck in the city but longing to be free, our lifestyle can seem idyllic.  Wide open spaces, plenty of honest work to do around the farm and house, and no neighbors to see you when you sit nekkid on your back deck (not that I’ve done that or anything), but just like everything else in life-it’s not all sunshine and roses.  I would love to see more homesteading/hobby farming families talking about this.  How to balance a person’s need for social interaction with a more isolated way of life.  Blogging is a great way to tap into a wonderful and supportive community, as you’ll see in a later post of mine talking about a Liebster award.

I’ll be frank-I’m not sure how to wrap this post up.  I’m still happier here than I would be shoved into a tight little neighborhood where I can hear my neighbors and smell the traffic.  However, I still struggle with the loneliness at times and frankly, there is not much of a fix for it most days.  It just comes with the territory.   I guess I’m just going to put this out there to anyone who might read this blog…let’s be honest about it as farmers/homesteaders/parents/people.  Sometime it ain’t easy being us!

Picking a farm dog

Ever since The Blueberry was a wee Blueberry, we have been promising her a dog. Once we moved to Blueberry Acres, that dream became a reality and we rescued our puppy, Kya. Kya was originally thought to be an Australian Shepherd mix by the shelter that we adopted her from, but come to find out, all of us (vet included) think she is some kind of Rottweiler mix. All the same, she is still working hard to be a good dog although we have since discovered that Rottie pups are apparently more bitey than the average dog. And considering that a full grown, full bred Rottweiler has a bite force of over 300 pounds, you gotta shut that down quick.

I'm cute, but bitey

I’m cute, but bitey

Because Kya is going to be a hybrid working/family dog, she spends all of her time outside of our home. Now, before you animal lovers tell me how cruel that is, let me remind you that Sheldon is a “cat lady supreme” which means that all of our barn cats (and farm dogs) have luxurious sleeping accomodations that include heat, air and complete protection from the elements. However, unlike the cats who have each other, Kya is alone outside when we are not with her…and for pack animals, that is simply not a good plan. Enter dog #2.

Both Sheldon and I are experienced dog “havers”…I hate to say owners because let’s face it-these little boogers own us, not the other way around. We’ve both rescued all of our animals except for the ones who have rescued us. And getting another farm dog to complete our pair should be as simple as going into a shelter, picking a dog and bringing it home, right? Nope.

Well, to start with, we have pretty specific requirements. We need a male dog (better fit for Kya) who is older than Kya, who will not eat cats, can at least be trained not to chase livestock and won’t try to bite our child’s face off.  Sheldon has very specific breed requirements.  Not that we want or need a full-bred dog, but rather that he wants to avoid those breeds that he believes will be more likely to chase cats.  Oh, and the dog needs to be large enough so that it can’t be carried off by the bald eagles that fly over the farm and Heaven forbid, can hold it’s own until we can get there if a random bobcat and/or coyote decides to pick a fight. And then if that’s not enough restrictions, telling some people that this will be an outside dog makes them absolutely seeth with indignation for the dog. I recognize that for so many of these organizations, they are trying to do right by their dogs and for them that means absolutely no outside dog adoptions. But to take such a blanket approach, it’s unfair to us and the dogs who need loving, responsible homes. Outside does not always equal unloved.

So, what’s a farm family to do? Lie about keeping the dogs outside? I’m not going to do that. Although it has meant that some people won’t return my calls or emails, others instead won’t allow me to come visit the dogs and others still have lied to me about a dog’s status until they can find someone they like better.  However, it’s also led us to some bad fit dogs. Like the place that told us how sweet a dog was just to have him bite our 4 year old in the face without any provocation. We’re still convinced that he was a good dog, but a bad dog for us.  This is where I want those long-term shelters (who obviously know the dogs well after they have spent a year there) to be responsible in saying “he isn’t going to want to share you with your kid.”  Or the other sweet dog who was wonderful with our child, wonderful with Kya, interested but cautious with the chickens…but also seemed to have a sweet tooth when it came to our cats. It’s not easy to pull a 70 pound dog away from a cat when they are hell-bent on ingesting it, but thankfully, we did.  I would have kept him in a second, but the fit has to be right:

Sweetest Dog Ever, if you don't have cats!  If you are local, please consider visiting him at the Rogers, Ar Humane Society!

Sweetest Dog Ever, if you don’t have cats! If you are local, please consider visiting him at the Rogers, Ar Humane Society!

So, the journey continues.  We are supposed to go see an Australian Shepherd mix on Saturday morning.  We have had a very candid conversation with the person fostering him and she believes he would be a good fit for us.  He sounds like a great dog, but I cannot tell a lie.  My little heart can’t take much more.  I’m a dog lady all the way.  I love and enjoy our many cats, but I’m just simply a dog person.  My dog Kya needs a brother and I am very much hoping that this one will be the one.   But, if not, I have at least learned a few things along the way:

1) be totally transparent when communicating your needs

2) go to multiple shelters if you need to

3) get on sites like Petfinder, Craigslist..do Bing/Google searches looking for local rescue groups.

Bottom line is don’t adopt a dog who won’t be the right fit for you because you won’t be the right fit for him/her either!  Good luck and happy farming!