A Tale of Two Craties

Several months ago, Sigrid: a friend who has been involved in rescue for a long time gave us a large, heavy-duty crate. It was something she had used for many dogs but would not need any more because she was “slowing down”. It is quite large: 32″ high by 30 inches deep, by 42″ long and made of steel tubes and bars, not of welded wire. This crate, although “experienced” would stand up to most any dog, and we were grateful to get it. We did not have anything that sturdy.

Blade is a Malamute. He is pretty good sized, though he is mostly fur. Blade can be … belligerent. Convincing him to go into a kennel is not usually easy. A crate is almost impossible. I have been house training him for a couple of months. When I must leave the house Blade goes to K4, an outside kennel, if the weather is fair or to the Mega Crate inside the Guest Cottage if it’s bitter cold or wet out. The Cottage keeps him warm and dry. As long as I have a lead on him, Blade is compliant, and will go into even the crate – errr, I mean the Mega Crate. He will NOT go into even the largest regular crate I have.

K4, Blades former outside room.

I would LIKE to get Blade to use a crate in the house, like Callie does, so I could free up K4 & Mega Crate for another dog to use.

A week ago Stacy, another rescue friend brought us another heavy-duty crate. It’s just a little smaller: about 2″ in depth and 3″ in length. But it’s brand-spanking new and it has WHEELS under it making it easier to clean beneath it. I felt sure it would be big enough for Blade, so we unloaded it into our house and I made room for it.

Blade disagreed. I put a lead on him and tempted him with a Soup Bone dog treat. He stuck his head inside for a moment then backed out, “Too small, Doug. A BIG dog like me needs more room.”

Mere inches if difference in size!

I reminded him that he’s not REALLY that big. Yeah, he’s large but it’s not like he’s 120 pounds. He’s 85 pounds. He looks bigger but he’s mostly fur. He just humphed at me and pretended to be inspecting a seam between two floor tiles.

I have not been able to convince him to go into the brand new but slightly smaller mega crate. And a situation has arisen where I really need that K4/Mega Crate combo in the Cottage. So, I decided to bite the bullet and swap them. I did that this morning.

The Stacy Mega Crate is now in the Cottage and available.
The Sigrid Mega Crate is in the house and Blade seems interested.

Yes: I need to put away the Christmas Tree. January has been a strange month around here and I am behind on many tasks. I also need to build a wheeled platform for Blades crate to sit on so I can move it to clean the floor under. That’s easy since another friend, John Kaprocki gave me a bunch of industrial grade casters a couple of years ago, and I have plywood out in the shop.

I have found that as long as I get a slip lead or a leash (slip lead is easier) on Blade he is amazingly compliant. And I did get him to go into his room for a while.

Not overly roomy!

This would not work for long term confinement, but for a while: when I have to go away to run errands (and don’t take him with me) or go to church, Blade will be fine here. And we now have a vacant, workable kennel/crate combination to offer to this other desperate doggo. A win-win situation.

Sinking it

I spent my afternoon working on the mop sink area:

Mop basin area
Mop basin area

Primary tasks today were to cut a 2½” hole through the cement board, the insulation, and the siding for the drain line to exit through and cut a precisely sized, perfectly square hole for the access panel (below the faucet).  I accomplished these but it took 3 hours to do it. 

Drain with trap
Drain line with trap assembly

To determine where that hole in the cement board went to make the whole thing fit, I needed to get tricky about measuring the height of the drain pipe when it’s installed.  There is no room to work down there, so I spun the trap assembly around so the discharge pipe was close to the outboard edge of the basin, then I could get an accurate height measurement.  Then I stood a piece of 3″ pipe in the drain hole of the sink and spray painted the floor around it.  That gave me a definitive reference of where the drain is so I could remove the sink and work at laying out the hole on the cement board and cutting it. 

Then I made a template (accounting for the sole plate in the wall and using a wall stud as locator) to use in transferring the hole to the siding so the two holes will line up perfectly.  I also used it to trace the circle on the insulation which I did not staple in place in the lower part of the wall.  That way I could pull it up and out of the way to get to the siding, and I used scissors to snip a tunnel through the batt.  For some strange reason, it all lined up well.

I have NOT glued anything together or permanently installed the cement board.  I’ll need to move all of this out of the way when Robert Gann comes to run the water line in and install the supply lines.  That will require drilling through the studs and running pipe to the faucet. I did staple the insulation in place. That’s an 8 inch thick wall with plenty of room for insulation and plumbing.

Next step, level the floor under the sink so the cement blocks it sits on will be level and the sink will sit squarely atop the base blocks.

Moment of Truth

For some time now I have wanted to move the light switch controlling the kennel’s interior lights. One of the reasons I wanted a left hinged, inswing door was that the switch for the lights was in the right side of the door as I went inside. But that door was not available (at least not in a model I could afford). I waited and waited for Home Depot and Lowe’s to restock, but it just wasn’t happening. The door I wanted was probably sitting in a container ship off the coast of California. So, I bought a right-hinged door that was available. But then I had to go around the door to turn on the lights. That’s awkward.

Moving the switch to the proper side of the door meant surface mounting it on a concrete block wall. Home Depot had an attractive system for doing just that, including low-profile switch boxes sized to fit the cover plates.

The building has several outlets and switches mounted to the concrete now, but they use standard plastic wall boxes, and the result is quite ugly.

I mounted the switch boxes and wire race (conceals the wiring) a while back. I’ve been delaying the wiring work because I wanted a day when I did not have a vet appointment to keep, or errands that would send me hither and yon. I wanted most of a day to focus on this one task so I could get it done and have lights again. That day was today.

An experienced electrician could probably have knocked this out in an hour. I am not an experienced electrician. I know enough to get things done, but I take my time and check things thoroughly as I go.

Junction box
Junction Box

This junction box is mounted at the top of the wall, on what was the header of the roll-up garage door. That door is no longer there and I’ve walled in the opening. A cable comes across from the breaker box to supply power to the light system. A cable goes out to the interior lights, another to the exterior lights. Neutral wire and grounds from all cables are bonded with wire nuts in this box. The hot wire goes down the wall to the switches, power returns come back up the wall to the junction box and are wire nutted to the hot wires of their respective power circuit. So this box is where all the magic happens.

Switch boxes
Switch boxes

This is pretty basic stuff here, except that the low-profile wall boxes leave no room behind the switches for wiring so that all has to be routed around the switches. This issue is compounded by the fact that all the wiring comes down one race. The wires for the box on the right (exterior kennel lights) comes in and goes out through the box on the left (interior lights). Getting everything to fit and making the connections was a task! This 12 gauge wire is stiff stuff.

All closed up, no wires showing.

With the wire race cover and switch plates installed everything is hidden away nice and neat. The switch boxes and the race are primed, so I can paint them the same color as the wall to further hide the mechanics of the thing.

Now to The Big Question — will it work? I really hate it when I turn the power back on and something erupts in a shower of sparks, or nothing works at all. I *think* I’ve got it right, let’s find out.

Beagle Accosted

I find routine a valuable aid in training.

For our dogs, breakfast is at 6:00 am and dinner is at 5:00 pm. They may key these times to Marie’s movements. In the mornings Marie gets up about 5:45 and spends a few minutes dispensing belly rubs and ear scritchies. Dinner is always a few minutes before Marie gets home from work. If Marie gets off work early (as she did the day before Thanksgiving) the dogs panic when she comes in the door because they think I’ve neglected to feed them.

This morning Marie had just awakened and Josephine came in to nose-whistle at me and pound her little forepaws on my knee, “I . am . starving . to . DEATH. Feed . me . now.”

Callie Roo backed her up. I told them that it was not quite time yet. More paw pounding, “NOW . NOW . NOW.”

“Marie has just awakened. I’ll bet you have not even gotten your belly rub or ear scritchies.”

Josie stopped accosting me, as realization dawned. Then she trotted in to Marie. Afterall, one cannot properly dine with unscritched ears.

The Future of Big Box Stores?

I had an interesting experience this morning. It started last night.

I needed a tool. I need it quickly and Amazon.com is no longer doing the two day delivery thing. I decided to see if our local Lowe’s had what I needed. They did, but the web site warned that stock on this item is low and I should purchase quickly. I was going to go to Lowe’s the following morning but was concerned that I’d get there and find that tool had sold out before I got there. This has happened to me before. Whether they actually sold out or the web site lied to me about how many were on hand is hard to say. Computers are not as infallible as some like to say. Not as long as people run them.

I decided to secure my tool by ordering it on-line for store pick-up in the morning. The web site sent me an e-mail saying the tool will be available for pick-up from the pick-up lockers just inside the main entry, and gave me a bar code to use in collecting my purchase. That’s something new! I printed out the page.

Lowe’s claims that this form of store pick-up reduces interpersonal contact, and so is safer for everyone in this age of pandemic.

Yeah, whatever.

Armed with my print-out I drove into town, parked in the Lowe’s lot and went inside. Sure enough, there was a bank of lockers of various sizes and shapes.

The terminal said to scan my bar code and the locker containing my items will pop open. It wasn’t quite that simple. Being a newbie I didn’t know the secret hand gesture that is required to get the terminals attention. But once I was indoctrinated a door popped open and there sat my tool.

Being the weirdo that I am, this got my mind to running as I rode the interstate home. What would be the logical evolution of this technology if pursued?

I saw big box stores replacing almost all of the store employees with picker robots like Amazon.com uses to manage their warehouses.

A company would only need a few Bot Wranglers to oversee things and throw the power switch if the bots go crazy and start busting the place up.

Customers order on-line with their smart glasses (because computers and even phones are a thing of the past by then), bots run around collecting the items and stashing them in a locker, then the system sends the customer the pick-up code. Large orders, like building materials or appliances, would be in a large locker on a robotic sled that will follow you to your truck so you can transfer the load (it might even help), then return to the store.

Of course the pick-up terminal will be peppered with cameras and maybe a taser cannon to prevent vandals or looters from damaging the lockers.

I can see all the big box stores: Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, Target, Home Depot, Lowe’s, etc going this route. This will be a major bummer for those who enjoy spending hours and hours shopping for stuff they didn’t know they needed. But I guess we’ll always have malls for that.

So, what do you think: possible? Probable? Or totally outlandish?

Calibrating …

A couple of months ago I bought a platform scale for Piney Mountain Foster Care. I used funds we received from The Binky Foundation for building and equipping an I.C.U. room to better care for sick or injured dogs. The scale counts (no pun intended) because knowing a dogs weight is needed to properly dispense medications and some preventatives as well as monitoring a dogs body condition.

I discovered that our new scale was weighing 1 pound 4 ounces heavier than the scale at our veterinarian – which is frequently checked to be sure it’s accurate. So I decided to recalibrate our scale. That turned into quite an adventure.

First off, I found that while the scale will display in pounds or kilograms, it must be calibrated in kilograms. But I used an on-line conversion calculator to determine that 7 Kg is 15.43 pounds. I used a 15 pound bag of dog food and a baggie with 6.9 ounces (.43 pounds) of loose kibble. Armed with these I ran through the sparse directions (yes, ladies, I do read directions). It took me a couple of tries before I got it to say that the process had been completed successfully and the 15 pound bag of dog food weighed in at 15 pounds.

Unfortunately I discovered that I had inadvertently reset the scale’s upper limit from 600 pounds to 15.43 pounds and anything above that weight errored out.

About that time I bought a truck load of building supplies for a renovation project we have underway and needed to store them indoors. To make room I had to unplug the scale and stand it up on its end. It has been there until those materials were used up last weekend. So today I took another run at calibrating the scale.

I don’t have 600 pounds of anything. If I did I would not want to have to load it onto the scale and unload it to put it away again. But I don’t really need the scale to handle 600 pounds – I’m not caring for cattle or hogs, just dogs. 200 pounds should be plenty.

The calibration weight has to be in Kg and a whole number. So I settled on 91 Kg, which is 200 pounds 9.6 ounces. I can produce that weight in bags of dog food. The bags are assorted brands and weights, so I had to do some “cyphering” to get the closest combination and make up the last bit with kibble weighed into a bowl. Then drag all of that over to the new kennel from the bunkhouse.

200 pounds (plus a smidge) of dog food

With the required weight at hand I set about recalibrating the scale and setting a useable upper limit. Did I mention that the manual (pamphlet) is sketchy on details? I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’m no dullard. But I had to run through this complicated process of holding these two buttons down while pressing that one, then press this key for 1.5 seconds when you see that displayed, than press that one while standing on my left leg and poking my tongue out the right side of my mouth …

Okay, I’m kidding (in case you could not tell). But it’s almost accurate. Once I got the scale into the right state and configured I had to pile the 200 pounds (plus a little) of dog food onto the scale and do another incantation and turn the scale off to save it. Then take the 200 pounds of weight off of the scale, turn it on and set a known weight back on the scale to test it.

It took me about 6 repeats of this process before I managed to get the thing calibrated AND increase the weight limit. That’s 2,400 pounds of kibble I moved on or off of the scale that morning.

But perseverance (and prayer for clarity) paid off and I finally completed the process successfully.

Then I hauled the 200 pounds of pet food back to the bunkhouse, tossed it up onto the dock and carried it inside and to the far end to be stacked up for storage again.

I was SO glad to be done with all that! Now, where is my Ibuprophen?

A Bloodied Blade

I am working at cleaning kennels. Blade is in the play yard with Blondie Bear. They seem to be playing gently so I am focused on my work.

Then Blade comes over and confronts me. He has blood smeared on both side of his face, “What did you DO to yourself?”

A closer look reveals it’s not welling up from him, it’s surface smears. “Did you hurt Blondie Bear?”

I checked Blondie Bear: no injuries.

What could possibly have happened? Did he kill a bird? A snake? A squirrel? A water buffalo? No, we don’t have any water buffalo. Not since it stopped raining every day.

Then it hit me: strawberries.

No, no one pelted me with fruit. But I picked strawberries last night and I tossed the way-too-ripe ones out into the yard so they wouldn’t draw slugs in the garden. I’ll bet he found one and mooshed his face in it, then came to show me how clever he was, “Look Doug, war paint!”

Okay, so, don’t toss strawberries out into the grass. Most of the dogs would just eat them. Not Blade, no: he has to turn them into body art.

A Blessing or a Chance Encounter?

Yesterday I was at Cedarwood Veterinary Hospital, P.C. with Baby (Bae Bae) to have a test done and get the medications we need to start her heart worm treatment. Chad came out and talked with me about Baby’s condition then took her in for the testing.

One of the two ladies in the waiting room with me asked if I was with a rescue. I said, “Yes, Piney Mountain Foster Care”.

“Oh! I follow you on Facebook.”

I should have asked her name, but being a complete social klutz I didn’t want to pry.

Her dog, Ursula, was a beautiful, well, behaved girl who is battling her own issues and being very brave about it. She kept “talking” to Lavonda, encouraging her to come into the lobby and give out biscuits again. She was quite persuasive in her quiet, calm manner.

A little while later Ursula’s mom stepped closer and handed me some folded bills, “I want to make a donation.” That was a pleasant surprise! I understand it to be gauche to count such a gift in the moment, and I didn’t have a receipt book with me, so I thanked her and tucked the bills away safely in a pocket.

I told her we were raising funds to pay for Baby’s heart worm treatment, so I’d put this toward that.

When Baby was done I paid my bill and said goodbye to everyone.

When I got home I counted the donation we’d been given. I knew it was at least $20.00 because the outer bill was a 20, but I was pleasantly surprised to find 4 more 20’s inside! Wow, what a great start to Baby’s fundraiser!

Then the phone rang.

It was Cedarwood, letting me know that “Ursula’s mom” had made another donation: $200.00 paid into our account at Cedarwood. Since we have a zero balance we will be able to use all of that, and the cash, on Baby’s treatment.

How wonderful! And all because of a chance meeting with a kind lady and her sweet dog who sings for biscuits. ❤.

Baby enjoys snuggling with me while I read at bed time. When it’s time to sleep she toddles off to her own bed.

More about Baby: https://PineyMountainFoster.org/baby/
If you’d like to help Baby you may donate on her page or in her GoFundMe


A few days ago I rounded the corner of the house, heading across the back to get to the play yard. What I call The Chute runs along the North side of our house and across the back, formed by a tall retaining wall to the North and a chain-link fence from the wall over to meet the play yard perimeter fence. The walkway is graveled, with large stepping stones placed atop the gravel for the dogs comfort and our convenience.

As I started across the back of the house a scrabbling sound caught my attention and I just caught sight of a small (4 foot) Black Snake racing along the walkway until it hung a left and shot through the fencing into the weeds and grass on the other side. I really need to weed-whack that stuff.

I am not fond of snakes, but I know black snakes are harmless, even beneficial. So I shook off the creepiness and went about my work.

The next day I was cleaning the kennels. I was crossing the front of the building to get to the entry door at the far corner when I noticed the tail end of a black snake disappearing through the rotted out wood at the bottom of the door frame. I really need to patch that rotten wood.

Sunning itself on the walkway is one thing, slithering about in the kennel building is quite another.

I grabbed a corn broom and swung the door closed, exposing the corner into which the snake had crawled. Two rolls of tar paper sat atop a two-by-four laid on the floor to keep the rolls dry in heavy rains when that back wall leaks. The snake was between that two-by-four and the wall. The door was still open enough the leave a bright spot of sunshine beaming in, hopefully signifying escape and safety.

I poked and prodded with the broom, to no effect whatsoever. There were some rebar pins stored nearby and I began tossing these in from the side opposite the door. After a few of these clanged against the concrete (and a couple whumped against the snake) my foe emerged from the other side, but instead of racing outside to safety, the obstinate thing coiled up in the corner, accordioned the first foot of it’s body in a “ready to strike” pose, opened its mouth, wobbled it’s head, and began vibrating the tip of it’s wail against the floor.

“You don’t fool me, Blacksnake, you’re no rattler.”

I was once fooled this way by a Yellow Bellied King Snake, which has markings that could be mistaken for a rattler, unfortunately that deception backfired and let to the King snakes demise. I felt terrible afterward when the truth became clear from a closer inspection. But I will not be so fooled again, especially not by a Black Snake.

So we began doing battle. I would prod it with the broom, trying to turn it’s head toward the door, it would counter by striking and slithering to orient it’s body differently.

At one point I stopped to reconsider my approach. This clearly was not working. All I was accomplishing was to make the snake exceedingly pissed-off.
During my respite the thing decided on another tactic as well. It went UP THE WALL!

I’ve seen snakes go up a rock wall before, but a cinder-block wall? Granted, it was in the corner and seemed to be using the opposing walls to wedge itself some, but up a wall? It seemed to think it could escape or at least gain advantage by getting up into the rafters (and it was correct on that last score).
I knocked it down. It started up again. I knocked it down again.

It got REALLY upset and reared up tall, upper body wavy and I could swear the thing was hissing at me. I saw an opportunity.

I swatted it with the broom, pushing the head down and into the corner by the door frame.

The snake had finally had enough and quickly exited, it scales grating against the wood and concrete and the steel door. It went around the corner of the building and back up into the brush behind the kennel building.

That battle was over. I was victorious. I hoped it had learned a lesson and would content itself to hunt in the woods. What could it possibly have wanted in the kennel building?

Unless …

This building was once a lumber shed. In it I stored several thousand board feet of lumber, sticker-stacked on racks so it would dry and become usable for making furniture.

In the summer of 2019 we poured a concrete slab beside this building, erected a sturdy steel roof above it and built three 8’x10’ kennels in that space. I added igloo style dog houses and Kuranda dog beds. Our kennel dogs lived there for a while. Then in the early winter of 2020 I sold the stack of lumber that sat next to the wall which was the back wall of the outside kennels. That opened up (just barely) enough space for me to construct block walls between inside kennels and erect chain-link door panels to create indoor spaces for the dogs to escape the cold of winter. Later I sold two more stacks that opened up all the space in the front of the building and I began moving supplies in there.

It did seem odd that in all the rearranging I never flushed out any nests of mice.
I found the remnants of abandoned mice nests in the lumber piles – and snake skins. But nothing living of either species. Only once have I heard something scrabbling about up in the loft of the building. That did seem odd.

Perhaps this “visitor” was in fact the previous resident, diligently reducing the mouse population.

Black snakes are officially the longest snakes in North America, some reaching 8 feet in length, but 6 feet is quite common. So a four footer was probably at least a couple of years old, maybe more. Definitely old enough to have been hunting in here for a while.

Guilt set in. That wasn’t very hospitable of me, was it?

On the other hand, do I WANT a snake living in the kennel building?

Chances are that as I remove the remaining lumber, paint the walls and the floor, install insulation and better lighting, the place will become less inviting to both mice and the snake.

Well … the snake anyway, mice don’t seem to care, they invade any place. Maybe I could get the snake to patrol the outside, intercepting mice on their way in but not come crawling around inside itself. Yeah: that would be good. I’ll work on that.

The Dancing Voice

I normally go out to clean the dog kennels at 10:00 AM. That’s my winter schedule, I go at 7:30 on the summer schedule so I’m done before it gets hot. It usually takes a couple of hours to get it all done.

PMFC’s kennel building

This morning I was sitting at my desk working when the thought, “Go clean the kennels” danced through my head. It was not so much a voice I heard, like someone else in the room, as it was a “knowing” in the back of my head. But different from a typical thought that occurs to me.

I used to get these communications frequently: I’d be working on some piece of furniture and the dancing voice would say something like, “Go mow the lawn.” At first I’d tell myself (and the voice) “I’ll do it later, I’m busy now.” I knew the lawn was in desperate need of mowing, but there was time later. But later it would start raining — and rain for 3 days. By the time it was done the yard was a mucky mess and the grass was 2 feet tall. I should have listened.

So I started listening. And more often than not, just as I was finishing up and putting away the lawn tractor … it started raining. Perfect timing! And I could go back to working in my shop all afternoon and just let it rain.

I wondered if this was the voice of the Holy Spirit, tipping me off to potential threats, but these instances seemed so insignificant that I couldn’t say for sure. I mean, does God care if my lawn is shaggy? These instances weren’t always about grass and rain, sometimes the answer to a problem I’d run up against and was racking my brain over would just come to me in that special way. Not a detailed explanation, just a few words: “Reverse bevel cut.”

“What? How would that solve this? OOhhhhhhh … yes, I see it now.” Some brilliant solutions to confounding problems in woodworking and computer programming came to me that way.

Whether it was God, or intuition, or an halicinacion, I haven’t heard that voice in quite a while. But it “spoke” to me again this morning. And I responded with:

“What? No, it’s too early.  Why would I do that?”

Then I started thinking about it. 

I usually wait until later so it’s warmer, but I can’t wait until afternoon: when it is warmest.  Usually.  Some days I have to wait because of bitter cold. That depends on the dogs and their personal habits: I don’t want them walking through their own filth.  But it’s unusually warm this morning, and it might, possibly (100% chance) rain later.  “It would probably be better if I do it now.” I decided.

Dancing voice: “Good boy!”

I went out to find that the rain had already started, but just a light rain, and I’d be working under a roof, so it was okay.  The dogs I evict from their “rooms” to clean will be out in the rain, though, so I didn’t do the 10 minute long disinfection step.  That was not really needed anyway since they have all been good about not “going” in their rooms.  Sweep, hose, scrub, hose, squeegee.  Get all three outside kennels done, and their occupants back in them, then I’ll go inside.

Just as I was finishing up the last step: scrubbing and squeegeeing the sidewalk in front of the kennels, the rain intensified to a downpour, the breeze freshened to a stiff wind, and the temperature dropped 6°. I was SO glad to be going inside!

This front didn’t let up until almost noon, when a dog trainer is supposed to be showing up to work with one of the dogs and my cleaning kennels would have been a distraction. Thank you, Dancing Voice!