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

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.

The Long Wreck

it looked something like this

On the way home from Knoxville today we encountered a wreck that had traffic backed up for 6 miles.  At that point in time.  I’m sure that distance stretched out as the minutes passed and more traffic flowed up from behind.

One of those informational signs read,

“Left lanes blocked after 640 exit, merge right.”

Did anyone merge?  A few of us did.

Far too many camped out in the left lane (because it was moving faster than the right lane) until they bumped into the flashing blue, red, and yellow lights, THEN they were in an all-fired rush to be let in by the lanes to the right of them.

I let several in ahead of me while we were back in the “Merge Now” area. Afterward I became a real jerk about it.  I do get SO aggravated by self-important people who want to race up to the front of a line that is obviously forming, then force their way in ahead of everyone else.

When we finally got up there 3 lanes of traffic were mooshed over onto the shoulder because a half-dozen fire trucks, a couple patrol cars, some kind of blockade vehicle with lots of flashing lights on it, and two wreckers were trying to clean up a big truck: Ford Excursion I think, that had been pulling a large box trailer.  The truck had obviously rolled over at least once – probably more.  The trailer was on its side 30 feet or so further down the road from the truck.  The firemen were using shovels to scoop up bits of glass, plastic, and metal and toss them back into the truck, turning it into a dumpster.  Which was about all it was good for now.

Once we were past the wreck and the road was wide and clear again, many people stomped the pedal and went immediately to Ludicrous Speed.  I just stayed over in the right-hand lane and poked along at 70 MPH  La, De Dah, De Dum, I’m just a little turtle, pay me no mind.

WHOOSH  WHOOSH  WHOOSH  WHOOSH!!!

The Imposter

Last Thursday I noticed a piece of heavy black plastic hanging down from under the siding along the back of our house. Just 6 or 7 inches long and maybe 2-3 inches at the widest, like it fell or was pushed out from under the siding. “What the heck,” I said to myself, and pushed the plastic back up under the siding. Maybe it was mice. I’d better toss some bait in the crawl space this week.

On Saturday I was walking along with a dog on a leash and this brown head pops out from under the siding and peers at me: Oval, 1¼” long, color of milk chocolate, soul-less black eyes, flicking a forked tongue.

“What the hay fork is this?” I yelled. We stood there staring at one another for a few moments, me trying to decide if I should grab the thing and yank it out of there. Not knowing what it is, that might end badly. Before I could decide, it ducked back up under the siding.

I slept fitfully last night, envisioning going out at 4:30 to turn on the coffee maker, in the dark, and stepping on a snake. I mean, if mice can get into the house around the plumbing through the floor (and they do occasionally) so could a snake. And I don’t have any snake poison to deal with that possibility.

As I finished up with the mid-day dog play session and Sarah Sue Tinyshep and I were heading for the back door, a snake was crawling down from that spot in the back of the house. About 4 feet long. It flumped onto the ground and it had the familiar two-tone pattern of a copperhead. I hurriedly took Sarah out of the way and confined her. I grabbed the poop scraper I use in the kennels – which is not as long as I’d like and not nearly sturdy as something like a shovel, but it was all I had on hand. By this time it was trying to crawl back up the foundation.

snake climbing a wall
Not my snake, not my wall, but you get the idea.

It amazes me how well snakes can grab onto stone, brick, stucco, with their belly plates and climb a vertical surface.

I nailed it just behind the head with my pooper scraper and pushed as hard as I dared without buckling the light weight handle.

A mighty battle ensued.

As it struggled, it was opening it’s mouth and I could clearly see the lack of fangs.

Chocolate colored head not copper, and oval not triangular. No fangs.

This is some sort of imposter snake. Maybe a corn snake, although they are more reddish than this. A yellow bellied king snake looks similar to a copperhead too.

It was still struggling, wrapping itself around my scraper blade trying to … well, I don’t know what it was trying to do. But I decided to use the scraper as a trebuchet and launched it about 50 feet up into the woods. Maybe it will survive. If it does, hopefully it will go hunting elsewhere. If it doesn’t — well, it should not have come slithering around my home in its copperhead pajamas, pretending to imperil me, my wife, our dogs.

It was probably eating mice that were staging for an assault on our home (it IS fall, they do that as winter comes on), so I feel kinda bad about that. But … stepping on a snake in the dark. Nah, not taking that chance.

High(way) Husky Adventure

About 10:00 last night Marie and I were traveling west along I-40 taking a pair of Huskies to meet their transport to NJ when the truck’s engine died.  Timing chain (belt) broke, I think, but I’ll leave that to the professionals at Eastport Exxon to figure out.  With cloudy skies it was really dark out there, a Thursday night: heaviest night of the week for semi traffic, which were whooshing by just feet away from us, rocking our truck with each pass.  The Huskies were scared and screaming their heads off.  If you’ve been around Huskies you know what I mean.  It’s a Husky thing.

What do we do now?

Marie started praying.  Always a good place to start.

I called the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department.  Although they were short handed and quite busy, a Sheriff’s car came up behind us to run flashing lights so no semis smashed us.  Deputies Alex and Heath turned out to be dog lovers and were not gruff with us at all for asking for their help.  In fact I think they enjoyed getting to see the inside of a rescue transport vehicle set up so animals can be taken in and out easily yet ride securely.

That transport, which we were supposed to be meeting at a truck stop on I-81, came to us (which meant going on to Newport, turning around and coming back to where we were) and we transferred the dogs.

The driver of this transport, Melinda, was having a horrendous night before I complicated it further.   Before she got to Nashville a tractor-trailer truck went off the road and burned, closing I-40 for an hour and a half while crews got that put out and cleaned up.  Then she hit another traffic snag in Nashville, so the rendezvous that was planned for 8:30 pm got shoved back to 10:30.  There was another wreck that slowed traffic after she left here and headed north, so it was a rough run for her.  We work with a couple of other transport services, and I’m not sure they’d have been so accommodating if all this had happened to them.  So, Thank you Melinda!

Hartford Towing sent a rollback right out there to snatch our truck from the roadside.  And Tim Holt came out, even as late as it was, to give us a ride home.  All coordinated perfectly (thank you God) so the rollback did not show up before Melinda got there, which would have left us standing alongside the Interstate with Huskies on leashes in the dark, being buffeted by tractor-trailer wakes.

Huskies in NJ
Adam and Cyrus: bewildered, but safe

Our truck is out of commission until it’s repaired, which might be a couple of weeks: they’re backed up too and I didn’t think to schedule this event ahead of time.  But no one was hurt, the dogs got where they were going, we met a couple of nice Deputies, and … it WASN’T raining!

Almost A Wonderful Story

Marie and I were at the Wags-to-Wiggles store (over towards Gatlinburg) for our weekly check-in.  A vehicle pulled up out front and a young woman in a bathing suit got out, ran in, and said; “Can you help us, PLEASE?”
The short version is: they found a parakeet wandering the parking lot at a McDonald’s in Gatlinburg, it is very friendly and obviously someone’s pet.  They called the local Police, Animal Control, Sevier County’s animal shelter, all said they could not help.  These folks were from Georgia, here on vacation, and on their way to go white water rafting.  They can’t keep the bird and don’t know how to help find it’s owner.
Gwen, the store manager, gave us a wicker picnic basket from store stock to put the cute lil feller in.
She also called Stacy, the Manager at the Friends Animal Shelter in Newport, to see if she could take it.  Stacy asked, “Is it orange and green?”
“Yes!”
“I have a lost bird report on him.  His name is Arty.  His owner’s number is …”
“Gwen called the owner.  She lives in West Tennessee and lost Arty 17 days ago while on vacation in Gatlinburg.  She put up fliers, and notified shelters, but had to go back home.  She was coming back out next Monday to search some more.  She has a good friend who lives in Newport who can care for him until she arrives.
We’re all boggling!  What are the odds?
So Marie and I took the bird-in-a-basket back to Newport and into the shelter where The Friend was to meet us.  We were especially careful to not let “Arty” out of the basket because there are several shelter cats who wander the halls and sleep on beds or chairs.  Supposedly they are on vermin patrol, but I never see them hunting.  I think they’re scamming the shelter.
When the friend showed up she was ecstatic that Arty had been found, but asked to see him before she took the basket.  She peeked inside, “Oh … that is NOT Arty.  That’s a parakeet.”
“Yeah …”
“Arty is more of a parrot – much bigger.”
We all glared at Stacy.  “What?  I didn’t know?  We don’t even DO birds here, I put up the flier as a courtesy.”
The friend left to give Arty’s mom the bad news.  A shelter volunteer set Not-arty up in a cat carrier with some water and bird seed (the finders bought him a small bag of seed) and Stacy began calling people who might have birds, or know someone who has birds, or might want to have a bird.
Turns out Stacy hates birds … ever since she watched Hitchcock’s The Birds, she’s had a deep fear of birds and wants nothing to do with them.
Well … it was almost a wonderful story to tell.