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.

This clever fellow is available for adoption.

For info, visit his web page.


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

Squatter

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!

The New Toy

The furkids decided to pool their milkbones and get me a birthday present: a GoPro 7 Black video camera. This is a replacement for my aging Sony Handycam – which is my THIRD Sony Handycam and although some improvements have been made over the past decade, their main fail remains an issue. But that’s a rant for another day. Today, we’re stepping up to a GoPro!

This thing is DINKY! But that’s not to say it isn’t impressive, just that all that photographic power is packed into a petite parcel.

The manufacturer offers a plethora of mounts: it’s made to be an action camera so they make it possible to mount the camera to anything from a bicycle, to a helmet, to a surfboard, to a windshield. I have no need of most of those devices, but because it’s quite small, holding it by hand is difficult. However one of the benefits of it being small is that it can mount to a hat, or a head strap, or a chest harness to capture the action while leaving my hands free to do what I need to do as I work with the dogs.

It does have a hand grip (above) that splays out to become a small tripod, that even telescopes to be a bit more versatile. I have that. I also have a head strap that allows me to affix the camera to my forehead to make a POV (Point Of View) video. There is an example below. I’ll need to more aware of sudden head movements – or hand out Dramamine before airing my videos.

I also have a chest harness. This would be better for training sessions, as long as I remember to lean over, not just tilt my head down, so the dog stays in the shot at close range.

A suction cup window mount is inbound that will allow me to video the dogs as they ride in the truck.

One accessory you will NOT catch me using is a selfie-stick. I’ll leave the narcissism to those young YouTube moguls.

It’s going to take me a while to learn all the controls and features that this thing offers (including voice control!) but I expect it will help me improve the quality of my dog vids for Piney Mountain Foster Care. I hope you enjoy them.


Leaping

An acquaintance on Facebook, someone we go to church with: Lorryn, celebrated her 17th birthday yesterday.  She posted it as celebrating (number) days of life and proclaiming it a wonderful adventure.  I thought that was pretty cool and wondered how many days it will have been when I celebrate my birthday in a couple weeks.  A few taps on a calculator gave me a number.  But wait, that doesn’t take into account leap years.  How many leap years have I lived through?

I found an on-line tool that answered that question.  Guess how many leap years have occurred in my life.  17.  Lorryn was celebrating her 17th birthday and I’ve lived through 17 leap years.  I found that interesting.

You may now proceed with your day.  Hopefully you will be able to function normally after that astounding revelation.

Kennel Update: Walk-Through

The ongoing kennel project has come to the point where I thought you might enjoy a walk-through.  It is no where near finished, but progress is being made.  I am thrilled to be able to offer our residents secure, heated “bedrooms” to stay in on the cold winter nights that are coming.

Ready to go?

So, what do you think?  Please leave a comment below.

Kennel Update: Guillotines

Our Board of Directors approved the purchase of three Kennel Clad guillotine kennel doors.  You’ll know why they’re called that when you see the video.  I ordered them and they arrived quickly.  I spent my afternoon today installing the first one.  It went into Rebel’s bedroom.

I wanted Rebel to go out into his outer room so I could open his inner door and work less encumbered by having to open and close the door every time I went in or out.  But Rebel was having none of that.

However, he perched himself on his bed and lounged there watching me work.  He never got in my way and never tried to squeeze out the door with me.  He watched intently as I worked as though it was the most fascinating thing he’d ever seen.  He was SO adorable!

There were several challenges to overcome.  The biggest was the fact that the walls I’m mounting the door slides on are not even close to be being flat.  Warping the rails causes the door to bind.  I got around that by shimming the rails where needed.  Fortunately, as a former furniture maker, I have a fair stock of ultra thin pieces of wood laying around to stack up for the perfect shims.

It took me a couple of hours to unpack the boxes, decide what tools I needed, get everything staged, and then install the first door.  But the end result is satisfactory.  I should probably go buy some sheet metal to cut up for shims instead of using wood shims: wood will rot.

The final door has been installed and is working properly.
Check out my Walk Through video for the result.

Kennel Update: K2 is move-in ready

Some time ago Debbie Ramey, who rescues dogs and horses was renovating her horse barn and had a bunch of 5 feet wide by 6 feet high American Kennel Club welded wire kennel panels in there that she wanted to be rid of.  She asked me if I could make use of them here at Piney Mountain Foster Care.  Oh, yes, I could!  So she donated them to us and my friend, Trucker Tim, and I went down there with his truck and trailer, loaded all those panels on his trailer, and hauled them back here.

K4 For short term and emergency housing

Tim lives near by.  Tim also has a barn.  A barn with lots of extra space inside.  He offered to let me store this trove of panels in his barn where they would be out of the weather until I found ways to use them all.  I used 6 of them (one with a door in it) to build kennel 4.  The rest went into Tim’s barn.

With the north wall of Kennel 2 Inside complete I just need a front panel for it to make it usable.  The 10 foot long kennel panels I have on hand are too long for this application.  One of those worked okay on Kennel 1 while I built a proper front panel with door, but in this position it just won’t work.  I am rapidly filling up the empty space that was created by selling  the stack of white oak lumber.  So I went down to Tim’s place and retrieved a few of those 5 foot panels.  I mounted 3 conduit hangers, which I use to attach the tubing frames to the concrete walls with concrete screws, in the opening.  Then I used those as a hinge for the 5 foot panel.  I hold the other end tight to the wall on the other side of the opening with rubber straps to keep the dog inside.  This is just until I get a proper front panel with door built.

Then I got Josie’s Karunda dog bed and water bowl out of her outside kennel (K1) and moved it into the new inside space (K2) — leaving  the barrier I have over the small door between inside and outside areas because Blade is still in  K2 Outside.  I took out the small igloo style dog house that was in K1 Outside for Josie and assembled a large one in there for Blade.

Josie had been running in the play yard while I did all this.  Now it was time to get her back into K1 outside and let Blade out for his turn.  While he played with Blondie Bear I removed his Karunda and water bowl out onto the sidewalk outside the kennels, closed the outside door to K2 and removed the barrier between K2 Outside and K2 Inside.  Then I removed  the barrier to K1 Outside and moved Josie into K2 Inside through the kennel building and secured the makeshift door/front panel.  I put the K1 barrier back into place and went outside.

I moved Blade’s bed and water bowl into K1 Outside and called Blade to come get his treat and go into his room.

He came running, stopped short and gave me the side-eye, “That’s not MY room.  What are you trying to pull?”

The short version is that he became Blade the Belligerent and I had quite a time getting him into his new room.  But that’s another story.

Josie, on the other hand, was delighted with her new expanded living space.

Now when I give her a treat, instead of munching it down where she stands, like she always did before, she takes it to her inner sanctum, gets up on her bed and noshes on it there.  Also, she has been kind of bad about barking at anything that’s moving about in the woods above the kennels at night.  Last night she curled up in her “bedroom” and slept all night.  We didn’t hear a peep out of her.

I swapped Blade and Josie’s rooms because Kennel 1 does not have an inside room ready yet.  Blade has a plush coat of long fur to keep him warm.  Josie doesn’t.  Josie is still underweight too.  She needs this shelter for the cold snap we’ve got coming this week (Low of 20 predicted Tuesday night).  It’s just a couple of nights, then it warms up again.  By the time it turns cold again I should have Blade’s (new) room done as well.  Then everyone can get inside and away from the cold.

I need to sell another lumber pile.  That will free up some more space and give me funds to start buying insulation to go in the roof and buy paint for the walls.  Getting rid of the bare concrete block will go a long ways toward brightening the place up.

And doors.  I need to install guillotine doors that can be opened remotely via a cable and pulleys.  These will keep the cold and wind out at night and keep the dog inside or outside when I need to do that.

Step by step, we are getting there.

 

Kennel update: K2 wall complete

North wall of Kennel 2 complete.

I got the wall for Kennel 2 (Blades room) done this morning.  It’s not as pristine as my first wall, but the issues are probably not anything visitors will notice.  I notice because I’m a self-flagellating perfectionist.  But I know that, so I’ll move on anyway.  But first I need a rest, some Ibuprophen, and a meal to rebuild my energy reserves.

Work table, tools and supplies moved to K1

After lunch I moved my work station and tools out of K2, swept the floor in there, and set up my work table and tools in K1.

I had to rearrange my stack of blocks because (dummy me) the next wall goes right through that stack.  I remember thinking that I’d use enough blocks to shorten the stack enough to not impede the wall.  But I didn’t bother to count them.  I should have counted.  Not even close.

K2 lacks only an interior door panel to be usable.

The pass-through door in K2 remains blocked with crate board and a couple of propane cylinders because I don’t want Blade roaming around in here- or slipping out and running off while I have the roll-up door open.  Once I have a door across the front of that area, he will be allowed, if he chooses, to enter and utilize his inner sanctum.  I doubt he’ll make much use of it.  He prefers to be out on the front lines of the outer run to see as much as possible.

Once K2 was all squared away I laid in the first row of block for the kennel 1 north wall, making sure it is square and level.  I’ll let that set up good and hard to form a solid foundation for building the rest of the wall.

I’ve almost got my “mud slinging” technique down.  Almost.  The trick seems to be in getting the consistency of the mortar just right: wet enough it will cling to the trowel a little, but not so wet it sloughs off of the block after I scrape it onto the edge.  It needs to be the consistency of cake frosting.  Very gritty, dark gray cake frosting.  And there is a trick to moving the mortar from mortar bin to block without making it fall off on the floor or fly down the holes in the center of the blocks.  This is my first attempt at block laying and I’m working with knowledge I learned from watching YouTube videos.  I may be slow, but the end result seems to be good.  I’m happy with that.

If I don’t get this last wall done before it turns cold I can move Blade into K1 (Josie’s room) and Josie into K2.  I’ll go get a 5′ welded wire kennel panel out of Tim’s barn tomorrow (where I have stashed a bunch of them that were donated to us).  I can use that as a temporary interior door to K2 until I get the chain link frame installed and sheathed with mesh.  I’ll go into chain link mode once the blocks are laid and I can clear all those tools out of the way.  It’s getting tight in here!  Need to sell the rest of this lumber.

Blade doesn’t mind the cold.  He seems to prefer it.  With the full-body Parka he has for fur, I can understand why.  Josie is not so well insulated.  She needs the shelter.

I have found the vertically sliding doors I need to close off the small doorway between inside and outside runs.  They’re expensive: right at $200.00 each for the Standard version, over $300 for the insulated doors (I’ll skip those).  But they’re good quality: made by Kennel Clad for professional kennels and shelters and should last a long time.

There is another brand: Ecco(something) that makes doors for zoos, and are heavy duty enough to stand up to lions, and tigers, and bears (oh my!).  They come fully assembled using roller bearing tracks.  But they run in the $600 price range!  Although Blade thinks he’s a lion, we don’t need anything THAT heavy-duty.

There are cheaper ones, too.  Other brands can be had for as little as $60.00 per door.  But these are light plastic panels in sheet metal rails and do not come with hardware and cables.  My time working in a shelter proves to me that plastic doors get chewed up post haste and need to be replaced often.  The Kennel Clad doors are plate aluminum with aluminum frames, stainless steel fasteners, that ride in extruded aluminum rails that are heavy duty to resist dogs trying to bash through the door.  They will also stand up to frequent cleanings with disinfectants without rusting.

I need to get Board of Director approval to spend the money on them, but I want to get them ordered ASAP because heating a building with holes in the side is … problematic.

But for the moment, I’m building block walls.  I’ll focus on that until our Board meeting.