Friday, March 18, 2011

And Then There Are The Dogs

We currently live with three dogs:

Hoku is a mixed breed spayed female who is going on eight years of age. As far as we know she is a Rottweiler, German Shepherd mix with something else thrown in. She is a little over 22 inches high at her shoulders and comes in at a very lean 49 pounds.

Keanani is a pure bred Maremma, one of the livestock guardian breeds. She is around 26 inches high at the shoulder and weighs about 90 pounds. She is also a spayed female and is almost four and a half.

Kip who doesn't figure into the story below, but is an important part of the family, appears to maybe have some Australian Cattle Dog or Kelpi in her but we really have no idea. Shorter than the other two, she is about 46 pounds.

Hoku and Nani on a run together.

On most days all three girls get along just fine. Hoku and Nani spend their time together just hanging out, and playing kill my sister games as well as patrolling the territory for any and all enemies. Kip is the house dog and likes to spend her time on the couch. However, Hoku and Nani also have an edge in their relationships that is caused by both wanting to be the alpha bitch among the three of them. Usually they realize that I'm really the alpha bitch and they need to cool it.

This morning started off like most mornings with Hoku and Nani walking down with me to the gate that leads to the area where the wild chickens live. I went through the gate, closed it firmly behind me and went to feed the chickens. I didn't even hear them grumbling with each other at the gate this morning. They usually do. I came back through the gate and we started up our long driveway to the house.

Nani made a play move at Hoku and they ran together in what looked like one of their normal mock battles. But then something changed and I have no idea what. But in an instant, I had a fierce, real dog fight on my hands. If you have never seen a true dog fight, let me tell you that it creates an adrenalin rush very quickly.

I screamed at them - a totally useless activity but almost reflexive - and grabbed Keanani's tail. I tried to pull them apart with just leverage on one dog. But it became obvious very quickly that it wasn't going to work. I left them to fight and ran for the house where I grabbed a leash. (Thank you, Angelic, for making very strong leashes that are easy on the hands.)

Back at the dogs, I looped the leash around Nani's rear quarters and pulled it tight and then started pulling the dogs with me. I needed to get to something strong enough to hold the dogs that I could secure the leash to. However, there wasn't anything closer than the house. So I was pulling close to a combined hundred and thirty pounds of snarling dogs up hill for about 35 yards to the house. We were making slow progress but almost there when Glenn finally arrived from his walk with Kip. He then helped to by grabbing Hoku's tail and we were able to break it up.

However, if he hadn't been available, I would have still been able to do it without getting injured myself. I would have secured the leash to a post at the house and then gotten Hoku's tail and pulled them apart. This method works. It always works and I thank my friend and mentor, Linda Weisser, for the knowledge of how to break up a real dog fight on ones own.

If you live with more than one dog, please take the time to go to The Great Pyrenees Library and read and print out for yourself Linda's article on stopping a dog fight. It is located in the first section on behavior. My only addition would be that if you have a dog with no tail, grab the back feet, lift them off the ground and pull. Linda was talking about Great Pyrenees who come equipped with lovely, long tails.

Both girls will be alright. Hoku has a torn toenail, aches and pains, and some emotional damage. Keanani has a small injury to her left eye lid, her right ear is pretty badly chewed up, and she too has aches and pains. They are walking around each other carefully and both are pretty much totally exhausted still. They will be fine. They will also go back to their lives of an armed peace. For now, they will do OK together, but I will always have to be ready for another battle. It is sometimes part of the life of living with two very strong female dogs, and I choose to live with them so vigilance is the key on my part.

It has been a rough two days here on our rural acreage, but tomorrow will be better and brighter. And I promise, I will blog about that too.

The Joys and Sorrows of Chickens

We live in a very rural area on the Island of Hawaii. The land is heavily wooded and filled with plants of all kinds. It makes for beauty, but it can hide a dark side too.

Almost all the people in our area have chickens. Some just run wild and make you smile when you see them; others are kept in pens for their eggs, and a few may be kept for meat. Chickens are delightfully funny creatures and many are quite frankly beautiful.

I have a flock of eight hens and three roosters who run wild on midway to the back of our property and on the adjoining property. Here is a picture of the oldest rooster and a few of them hens.

I smile every morning when they come running and flying to great me as I head out to feed them. And they follow me back to the chicken pen area talking to me all the way. These are the joys of chickens.

But rural areas bring sorrows too. Here is a picture of the ten chicks that I brought home yesterday.

I settled them into my chicken pen which I had cleaned up and made ready for the new babies in every way that I could. I'd checked for spots that predators could get in and that babies might be able to get out of and they were all tight. Or so I thought.

About lunch time, Glenn went down to check for me while I fixed lunch because we heard one of the wild roosters. He came back with bad news: A mongoose had gotten into the pen and killed one of the babies. Less than an hour since I'd left them and I'd lost one. I went back down and rechecked for problem areas. I came back an hour later and all was well.

But while I was with Keanani at her obedience class the menace struck again. Again Glenn went to check on the chicks and again, he found carnage. He came back from the pen just as I got home from the obedience class. I couldn't leave the babies in the pen. It was like I'd put them in a killing field. I gathered up my survivors and brought them up to our house. I put them in a dog crate and the crate in a storage room.

This morning, my five remaining chicks went back to Hilo Coffee Mill where they will be safe for now. My good friends there have banded my girls and they will keep them while we build a new chicken area closer to the house where my dogs can keep the mongoose at bay and protect the chickens.

Mongoose are a monster predator in a small body. For those of you who have never seen one, think weasel. They are vicious and clever and death to birds and eggs. And we have lots of them. They are one of the not good decisions by the sugar cane industry in Hawaii's past. We can't eliminate them, so we will need to build more protection and try again.

Death is part of living on a farm even if your farm means only chickens and plants. But it is never easy and the last twenty-four hours have not been.