Breaking Brotherly Bonds

Rocky and Blaze, bonded brothers

Blaze and Rocky are bonded siblings: two of 6 puppies that were surrendered with their mother to Animal Control.  The others were all taken away as they were adopted, leaving just these two, clinging to each other for moral support in a scary environment.

When I pulled them from Newport Animal Control, Blaze (the bigger one) tended to cower behind his brother, who would bark fiercely at anyone who stopped at their kennel door.  They were so unruly they had to be carried out to my truck because they would NOT walk on a leash.

Since coming to Piney Mountain Foster they have remained quite close, but not so fearful.  They’d still sleep in a pile, and they love to play together in our big yard.  But Rocky has been nowhere near as protective, and Blaze has started to develop a will of his own.

For example, The wind brought down a good sized Y shaped stick from one of the trees.  Blaze found it and declared it his most favorite thing in the world.  He’d run around waving it, and lie in the grass gently chewing on it.  Rocky came over and grabbed hold of it, intending to take it away.  Blaze was having none of that!  They growled at each other threateningly and had a tug-of-war.  Blaze is a quiet fellow, Rocky tends to yap.  So Blaze waited until Rocky yapped at his brother to demand the stick and Blaze jerked it from Rocky’s mouth and ran off with it.  I’m sure he was laughing!  He’s quiet, but he’s not dumb.

Installing Chain Link Panels

Work on the new kennels progresses.  I spent yesterday afternoon figuring out how to cut down a 10’ wide door panel to be exactly 92¼” wide.  I ran the math three times to be sure it was right because I only get one shot at this.  If I mess it up I buy a new panel: or have one built to the correct size.

I started out cutting the tubing with a metal blade in a saber saw.  A reciprocating saw would have been better, but I don’t have one.  Almost immediately, I broke the blade.  I had more, but it was clear that this was not going to be as easy as I hoped.  The only way to do this – in this manner – was to run the saw around the tube, not cutting across the tube from one side to the other.

I did get the first three cuts done that way, but it took a long time and was nerve wracking – and not especially neat.  Then the bulb lit up.

I went in the shop, put my metal cutting blade on the chop saw and dragged that saw outside.  I’ve used this many times to cut the steel tubing I’ve used in trellises.  I used that to make the inboard cuts and it went MUCH faster and did a much neater job: just needed some work with a file to remove the thin scruff that is left on the back of the cut so the splice tube fits over the pipe.

I also found that I was able to re-use the retainer clips that hold the end rod (it fits along the ends of the chain link) to the vertical pipe and the ends of the mesh.  These bent steel bars use a special tool to form them around the pipe and fold a tab over the rod, kind of like a giant staple.  I don’t have that tool.  But I have a big pair of channel locks.  I was able to unbend the part that folds around the rod and pop the clamp loose.  Then after I cut the tubing and reassembled the frame with splice tubes I unstitched a run of the chain link to remove the excess, inserted the rod in the end loops of the mesh and pulled it tight by hand while I popped the clamp strips back in place.  Folding the tabs back over the rod with channel locks and securing the top and bottom of the mesh to the rails with fence ties finished the job.

Kennels Coming Together

Now that the exterior new construction of our Big Doins project has been completed, it’s time to start bringing the kennels back together … well, almost.  There is one more step to complete first but it’s not construction so much as destruction.

John Kaprocki brought his concrete saw and is cutting doggie doors.

Cutting concrete makes a LOT of dust!

We set up a big fan to help blow the dust out.

With outside and inside cuts made and the block removed it’s time to pretty things up.

Holes made, rubble removed, wall and pad power washed.

Wall painted and panel mounting hardware installed.

Kennel panels going back in.

Rocky and Blaze move into their new rooms.

An idyllic cabin in the woods for homeless canines.

Roof, Roof, Roof!

John Kaprocki of Great Smoky Mountain Woodworks and I spent all day yesterday and half a day today framing up the roof for the new kennels in our Big Doins on Piney Mountain project.  John is an expert at this stuff, I just try not to get in his way.

Actually John did comment on how much faster these things go with two people than with one. And it is not as physically straining.  Let’s face it, tossing a bunch of 16 foot long 2x8s (in Southern Yellow pine) up on top of the beam and ledger is rough enough with two of us horsing them around, doing it all day long single handed would be murder.

Building Inspectors

Blaze and Rocky watched us work both days and were not disruptive at all, they seemed genuinely interested in what we were doing.  Maybe Blondie has explained to them that Robert, Terry, John, and I are building them a new house.  I think Blaze LIKES that idea!

I have ordered the metal roofing and it should be ready to pick-up on Monday.  We should be able to get a fair bit of that done Monday.  The big issue will be how fast it warms up up there on our hot tin roof.

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I’ve Been Slabbed!

Robert Gann and his assistant, Terry, put in two days of hard work this week.  Okay, okay, I’m sure they put in more days than that this week, but two of them were here on Piney Mountain.

On Wednesday, Robert and Terry set up the forms and partly filled them with gravel.  One corner of the slab will be 14 inches deep!  This is because of the slope of the land where the pad sits.  They pulled back the gravel around the edges so concrete will go all the way to the ground around the outer edges.

On Thursday a front-discharge concrete truck trudged up my steep driveway and wiggled in to disgorge its load through a nose shoot like a great mechanical elephant.

The chute is powered so the operator can raise and lower it and swing it side to side from inside the cab.

By pulling up close then backing away from the pour, he can deliver concrete to all parts of the slab so Robert and Terry didn’t have to move it around in wheelbarrows.

They used gravel rakes to spread it in the forms.  The pour went pretty quickly.

These amazing trucks are popular in this area because they are all-wheel-drive, so they climb slopes like a mountain goat (albeit a fat, heavy mountain goat) and they have wide tires that help them navigate unpaved roads without getting stuck or rutting up the surface.  In fact, my driveway is now smoother than it was because the wash-boarding done by UPS and Fed Ex trucks as they spin tires has been mashed down smooth again.  Bonus!

Then Robert and Terry set about making it smooth and pretty.  That took the rest of the day as they tooled it with floats and formers, waited for the concrete to set up a bit, then finally put a light broom finish on it.

I asked that they not make it too rough because dogs will be pooping on the slab and I need to be able to clean that off the concrete to keep the environment sanitary — but I don’t want it to be slick when wet so that I risk falling and hurting myself.

The slab turned out well.  The only glitch in the process was when the wind picked up and blew Redbud blossoms all over the concrete.  Robert said, “No extra charge for the decorative concrete”, but then set about trying to remove them with a leaf blower.  In the end it was a losing battle because the breeze kept blowing more onto the wet concrete.  That is a minor problem and I’m not bothered at all by it.

I’m pleased with the outcome.  Robert will be back in a day or three to remove the form boards, smooth out some of the  damage to my driveway, (it was muddy up near the slab) and move a little rock around for me.  I appreciate all his hard work and look forward to getting started on Phase 2 of this project.

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Buddy Beagle Gets Confused

The driveway in front of our house is T shaped. We come up the drive and swing to the left to park the car. To leave we back up into the other arm and turn left to go down the driveway to the road.

Normally, Marie’s Subaru is the only vehicle parked out there. I park my truck over by the dog kennels, which is accessed by a different driveway. But today a truck was coming in to drop a load of gravel by the kennels and my truck needed to be out of the way. So I brought it up to the house. As long as I park in the “backing up” arm, Marie can still get her car into it’s spot – she just can’t leave until I move.

Buddy had been sleeping when I moved my truck.

When it got to be about time for Marie to get home from work, Buddy got up and looked out a window. He saw my truck, which is similar in color to Mare’s car, sitting in the drive. Wrong vehicle, wrong position, but it is in the driveway.

He went nuts. He always goes nuts when Marie comes home. Buddy adores Marie. He started baying, he ran from window to window, he ran in circles, he tried to knock me over, all his usual stunts. But Marie wasn’t getting out of the “car” out there. So he got frantic. “What’s wrong, what’s wrong?”

It took a while but I got him calmed down.

No sooner had he calmed, but Marie’s Subaru came up the driveway, and we started all over again! But now she’s home. Once he see’s her get out of the car he will calm down so he can greet her when she comes in.

He’s a funny boy!

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Leggy Lennon Tries Tug-O-Rope

All of the dogs except Buddy Beagle — who was indoors doing a detailed inspection of his eyelids — were outside horsing around when Lennon discovered a ropey toy that had been spirited outside and tucked away.  Lennon didn’t want to stop playing with the girls, but he wanted to chew that ropey later, so he devised a plan.  But there was a snag in his plan … a snag named Josephine!

His plan didn’t work out as he had planned, but it did involve everyone playing together.

Lennon is young and playful and gets along well with everyone.  Buddy grumps at him sometimes, but that’s not about Lennon, that’s just Buddy being a grumpy old fella.

In the past, when I’ve tried to get Lennon to play tug with me or with Blondie, he would yield the ropey as soon as his opponent tugged on it.  But today, he figured out that playing tug can be fun.  We should have a new game we can play together now.

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Lennon: Free-Ranging Cookie Tester

Lennon has been getting a lot more free-range time of late. Free-ranging is the ability for a dog to wander around the house unfettered.

For us, house-breaking starts with crate training. This often starts in the bunkhouse. Once the dog is comfortable with the crate they may come to our house to sleep (in their crate) at night. I walk the dog to the door to go out and back to the crate when done. As the dog shows the ability for self-control and no antagonism toward the house dogs, he is granted free-range time. At first it is short and I watch like a hawk. Good behavior earns trust and trust yields longer free-range periods and less supervision. In time the dog is granted “house dog” status where he is allowed to free-range all the time except (perhaps) when we leave. Some dogs take advantage of these unsupervised times to get rowdy. Rowdiness tends to result in stuff getting torn up.  Even house dogs who tend to get rowdy while we’re gone get crated.  They don’t mind: their crates are comfy and we’re never gone long.

Lennon is to the point that he is free-ranging most of the day, going in and out as he pleases and snoozing or playing with toys while inside. Sometimes he gets rowdy with another dog and I send them both outside to play. Lennon eats his meals in his crate and sleeps in his crate at night.

Lennon tends to want to go outside as soon as he’s finished eating. Sometimes he stays a while and Marie and I finish our meal before he comes in. Sometimes he’s back at the door quickly and I have been putting him back in his crate. This morning he was allowed to free-range while we finished our breakfast.

He cruised around the table, poking his nose up like a snorkel but keeping his feet on the floor and his head off the table. He tried to get Blondie to play with him, but I shut that down and Lennon went to hang out with the Beagle Girls.

While Marie was getting dressed for work, Lennon went into the bedroom to chew a tri-bone and lounge on a cushy dog bed. He has been allowed in there more and more as he proves himself trustworthy. Early on he was shredding the blankets I putting his crate even though he had chew toys too, so I was leery of letting him lay on the high priced dog beds. But that worry was unfounded as he has yet to tear into any of the beds.

After breakfast was done and cleared away I started a batch of dog cookies. Lennon was, as always, attentive and willing to be helpful: including test testing the product to be sure it’s worthy of sending out to other doggies.  But he behaved well and did not try to force his offer.

I only needed to make one batch today to be ready for Mondays scheduled deliveries. I am trying out a new heart shaped Big Dog cookie. It seems the bones are a bit too big for some people, and you don’t get many in a bag. The hearts are an in-between size and a pleasant shape as well. Reaction has been good. I think I’ll switch to hearts in the bags and offer the bones only in the bulk boxes – for those who want the bigger Big Dog size.

I also have settled on a standard container for the bulk boxes. These nifty small boxes come in a variety of colors, have a toggle-snap fastener on each end to keep the lid on and when empty of cookies make a great little storage tote. If you have no need for them yourself (storing hobby or craft supplies, organizing small tools, hardware, or parts) donate them to a local teacher: these boxes are highly favored for organizing a classroom’s supplies or giving one to each child to keep supplies in. Treat your dog AND help a teacher!

These go for a $12.00 donation and hold 40 of the Big Dog Bones, or 70 of the Big Dog Hearts, or 200 Regular dog treats. This is equivalent to 5 bags for the price of 4. These can be mail-ordered now as well as local hand delivery.

For non-local delivery see the Healty Dog Treats for Vet Bills page.

Sales have been good and feedback from the doggos has been all dew-claws up!

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Ready For Concrete

As the next step in our Big Doins kennel renovation, I spent the afternoon yesterday pulling out the remaining kennel/fence panels and cleaning things up.

I started by spraying the cinder block wall with green gunk remover (AKA bleach water).  I let that set for about a half hour and power washed the wall.  That took care of the green gunk, mud splatters, and some of the paint.

While I was waiting for the bleach to work its magic I pulled out the remaining kennel panels that had been serving as fencing and gate.  This also cleared the wall for cleaning, since the rear panel hit the wall four feet in from the back.corner of the garage.

I have to be careful now to remember that these panels are gone.  I have been allowing the dogs to follow me into this space when I went in to work there.  But now that it’s wide open all dogs must stay behind the Krazy Fence unless leashed.

While I had the power washer out and gassed up, I decided to clean up the dog houses too.  I used my Concrete Weasel tool, which swirls a single jet of high pressure water to blast dirt and gunk from a surface.  My friend, Willard Overstreet, introduced me to this tool during a church clean-up project and I had to have one.

I’m sorry about the strange picture: I forgot about the vibrations the Weasel makes when I mounted the camera to the wand, and the camera’s shake-canceling software did strange things with that. But you get the idea.  This thing works really well even on a small power washer.  Put one on a commercial grade washer and it will strip paint!

When finished I set the dog houses aside, along with the kennel panels, where they will be out of the way, and hopefully stay clean until needed again.

All impediments have been moved out of the way, the block wall cleaned, and the foundation timbers dug up.  We are ready for concrete.

Since we have had some nice weather, Mr. Gann should be gaining on his back-log of work and our job should be creeping up on his Jobs To Do list.  All I can do now is wait.

John K, Mike R, and I have been discussing roof construction, materials, and costs.  But I can’t do anything about that until the concrete slab is poured and cured.  Once we can walk on the slab I *could* start on the roof, but since I don’t have the money for materials yet, I’ll go ahead and cut down the kennel fronts and assemble the three kennels on the slab.  That way I can open up for fostering again.  We can work above the dogs when the funding is available.

That gets you up to date.  The final step in Phase One will be the pouring of the slab.  See you then!

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Moving Kennel #3

As part of the Big Doins at Piney Mountain, I moved Lennon’s kennel today.   This was Phase One Step Three.  Not that that matters.

The thing is that this kennel could not be taken apart and moved one piece at a time.  Noooooo … this one had to be moved fully assembled (except for the 4×4 timber foundation, those I moved separately). Blondie and Lennon supervised.

If it were possible to get three other people with sound shoulders and strong backs who could all show up here at the same time (that’s the hard part) we could have each taken hold of a corner and trundled the thing around to its new spot in a matter of minutes. Sort of like this but on a much smaller scale:

But I don’t have such a labor force, so I did it by myself and it took all afternoon.

It’s moved now, and tied down on its foundation, which I put under it again once the kennel was where I wanted it. I need to get a few bales of wood chips to put in there to keep Lennon out of the mud when it rains, but otherwise it’s good.

And, the work area around the slab is cleared.  Well, almost.  Now that Lennon’s kennel is moved and the Krazy Fence is buttoned up tight I can take out those last three panels and clear the work area completely.  That will take less than an hour … but I’ll do that another day.  Today, I’m tuckered out.

We want to avoid going into debt with a second mortgage to pay for this project so we’re taking it on as we accumulate the cash to pay for it. If you’d like to help us speed that along, your donation would be greatly appreciated. You may make a donation on-line with the PayPal button below or you may mail a check to:

Doug Bittinger
1198 Piney Mountain Road
Newport, TN 37821

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