Sunday, December 11, 2011

A GAGGLE OF DOGS

click on photos to enlarge

I dedicated the entire afternoon today to the dogs.  This entry is about their day.  First let me comment on yesterday.
Army of bear hunters.  I'll refrain from commenting. (Rt 129 South)
I wanted to do a canoe ride in the worse way so I loaded up the canoe on an impulse and took off down the road.  I had no dogs with me to care for.  I wanted to just be alone on the water.  It's about 90 miles to Calderwood Lake from here so it would be a couple hours until the boat touched water.  I got a rude awakening when I drove past the lower end of Tellico Lake.  Tellico Lake receives the outflow from Chilhowee Lake.  The water had rollers on the surface.  Oh no!  The heavy rains we sustained for two days and nights have caused TVA to open the flood gates on all the dams and draw down the lakes.  Calderwood only sees a maximum draw down of two feet, ever.  I was hoping it would be somewhat calm.  It all depended upon what the outflow of Cheoah Dam was.  If Tellico was rough due to major outflow from Chilhowee Lake, then the water coming into Chilhowee Lake from Calderwood Lake, would probably have the same flow rate.  I don't know if the dams even out the flow between them or not.  Cheoah Dam dumps water into Calderwood Lake and I would be able to see down onto Cheoah Lake from Route 129.  Whew;  that's a lot of lakes to talk about.
 As I drove past Cheoah Dam I saw the water coming down the face of the dam across it's entire span.  The little boat ramp at Calderwood was deserted.  The water was flowing fast;  very fast!  I can paddle 4 miles per hour sustained and maybe 5 or even 6 miles per hour for short periods of time but, no way could I paddle against this current.  The ride down stream with the current would be super fun but, I'd never be able to paddle back to the truck.  Getting back to the truck is important, as you can imagine.
There would be no canoe ride today.  Something made me want to try the lake today anyhow.  Common sense made me forget it.  It would be a long ride home.
It's  my own fault.  I should have checked the flow rates on the Internet before I left.  Actually, I should have headed for Indian Boundary Lake.  That would have been fine.  There are no dams to affect Indian Boundary.  The lake, however, is lowered every year.  Even with the lower water level, it's still a fine paddle experience.
I decided to contribute my time and the day today to the enjoyment of the dogs.  They haven't been anywhere in a long time.  There is nowhere to take them over here where they can just be themselves and be off a leash.  The Cherokee National Forest was in my back yard where I used to live and the dogs got to go there three evenings a week and sometimes mornings and afternoons.  We walked along pristine shorelines and  could enter the forest at will.  The outings kept them in excellent shape.  There are no national forests here and the lake shorelines are all owned.  The shoreline is mud and rock anyhow and not real desirable to be on anyway.  The only alternative we have at present is the wildlife management area (WMA) operated by The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA), located in Buffalo Springs.  That WMA is the work center for my work group within the agency.  I've been given permission to take my little gaggle of a family there when I like.  That is where we went today.
 I have mentioned this WMA in a previous blog entry and briefly explained what the place is like.  It consists of a blend of open meadow, planted fields and wooded area.  The only thing missing is a stream running through it.  There is no place for the dogs to drink.  I have to take water in the truck for them.  It's no big deal but, it's something I need to remember, because to forget the water means we turn around and leave.  Dogs heat up very quickly.
Today's outing was important for more reasons than just getting them exercise.  I wanted Falcor to mix with the group and to observe how he handled himself and I wanted Shade to become acquainted with getting into and out of the truck again.  She is in the above picture so she obviously got in the truck to get here.  It took some cajoling and talking to make her jump up onto the tailgate and get under the truck cap.  She was under that truck cap when Douglas and I swerved to miss that idiot, moron kid who pulled out in front of us that horrible day when Douglas lost his life.  That truck did a 180 degree spin on that two lane road.  Shade must have been hurdled from wall to wall and top to bottom back there confined under that truck cap.  There were spare trailer tires, a jack and canoe equipment flying through the air too.  That's why she does not want anything to do with trucks.  However, she did my bidding and jumped up inside for today's ride.
They all bunched up together for a short moment and took off across the field to where the high grass was.  Falcor fell in behind his new little friend Chestnut, the hound.  They have become close friends from the start of Falcor's residence with us.
The work center at Buffalo Springs is well taken care of.  The grounds are manicured and reflect the pride the employees have in this beautiful place.
The boat shed.  I call it that anyway.

Work Center shed where all the equipment repairs occur



I would walk through the meadows today where I could watch where each little gremlin goes and who's with who.  I really hope Falcor starts to follow Shade as Shade is a veteran to the wild places and she responds very well to my calls and commands.
"Falcor;  Come!  Good Boy!"



I will call him a hundred times today to make sure he responds each time and immediately.  He's doing better than I thought he would.  He left the other dogs and came running.  Not bad.
They are all far away in the shot above.  That's because they can still see me.  If they lose sight of me, they will return quickly.  If we were in the forest;  they would not venture that far away because I would not be in view.  Shade is especially vigil when it comes to keeping an eye on my whereabouts, and Happy has no equal in knowing where I am every second.
He's running with the wind.  Go Falcor!
They had no particular direction to run.  They were running for the sake of running.  It must feel exhilarating to them.
I called Shade and they all followed her lead and returned with her.
All came in but one.  Little hounds have a reluctance to respond instantly to the command "come," especially when their noses are inhaling the sweet fragrance of a squirrel.  Chestnut will return quickly but, not as fast as all the others.  Such is the way with hounds.
Nice of little hound Chestnut to join the party
There are little corridors between small blocks of woods that are really nice to walk through and investigate.  Of course, Chestnut has another case of  "happy feet" and slowly distances herself from the group.

Falcor is finding out what it's like to be with a group.  He will emulate one or more of them as he grows.  But, I will keep a tight reign on him as far as the commands are concerned.  I will not continuously take him out with the group either.  I think a group offers too many choices for a young pup like Falcor.  I would, however, take him out continuously with Shade as she is woods smart and reliable.  The group experience is fine in moderation, I believe.
In the above photo you see Falcor bringing up the rear, running after the rest of them, who are running after Chestnut, the hound who doesn't have a destination in mind at all.  She's running because it feels good and the rest of them are just following her because---running feels good to them too.  Falcor has no idea what he's doing.  He's just having fun running.   I want Falcor to feel freedom to run as hard as he wants yet, have the security of the group.  He'll grow up with confidence.
Look at their faces.  These are happy guys.
He is really having fun and playing himself out, which is also what I want.
This is what I wanted to happen
Shade had accepted Falcor from the first day Falcor arrived here at home.  Falcor would not back down from Shade, who is food aggressive.  Falcor barked back at Shade and went into his puppy routine of feint and false charge/attack and Shade backed off him.  Falcor was playing.  I don't know how Shade took it.  The end result is that the two of them hit it off and work well together.  A Lab and a Golden Retriever are a hard pair to beat.
What a great friend!
Look at Shade closely in the photo above.  Those ripples on her body are solid muscle.  Shade is solid as a rock and a very powerful dog.  I wouldn't want her mad at me.  She is the sweetest, mildest, loving dog imaginable though.  She is not a pure bred Black Lab.  I would certainly like to know what breed she is crossed with.  She could be very formidable if she needed to be and, a more powerful swimmer there is none.  She is an energy machine.
Chestnut is getting ideas again
Yep;  there she goes on a mission
Watch this:  "Chestnut;  Come!"
Very few hounds will react that quickly to a return command.  It's not that I put a lot of training in with her.  I simply spoiled the heck out of her.  She loves me.
Think that's something.  Watch Falco below.  He'll leave the pack and instantly come to me.
"Falcor;  Come.  Come Now!"
"Good boy Falcor, Good boy!"
If he comes like this reliably every time;  he'll remain safe in the wilds.  He's doing very well for his age and getting better every day.  He's a very smart little guy.
He's a pretty boy
He's so pretty he should have been a girl
"Yes Happy;  you're pretty too.  You're beautiful and my favorite."
"Come on Shade;  lets go to the barn."
"Good Girl!"
It's time to gather them all up and stuff em in the truck.  I had one more thing to do today.
"Great Scott!  Shade;  get outa there.  Nooooooo;  Shade No!"
 Shade's definitely riding in the back of the truck.  It's no big deal really.  I am taking Happy and Chestnut home and driving to the lake with Shade and Falcor.  I want to see how they run together.  We would only stay an hour at most, or at least as long as it would take to wash the mud off Shade.

  They were looking compatible together.  I believe I could trust them to run with each other on a camp trip.  Falcor is sticking to Shade closely.  I didn't want to see him break away on his own and run by himself.
I called them back and they came instantly.  I called Shade's name.  She responds instantly and Falcor will see that and learn that he must do the same.  I let them play in the water awhile and then we left.  There are other things I could have done today but, I am responsible for these guys and its up to me to see that they have opportunities to be happy.  It's just a little bit of my time and I enjoy being with them.  This has been a fairly large dog post and I know that all the readers are not into dogs so, I'll try to refrain from focusing on dogs for awhile.  I love em and they are a part of me.  One last thought;  you see how happy and free they are when they run and socialize.  They love to chase the wind and run for the sake of running.  They're dogs and meant to do so.   A dog who spends his life with a chain around his neck under a tree in front of a dog house is a tortured dog.  He's better off , well;  he's better not to have been born.  Remember that.  It's true.  There's lots coming up so stay tuned in.  And, thanks..

"Sweet Douglas;  don't worry golden son.  I'll not forsake your memory."