Saturday, December 31, 2011

Official New Champion

         So I mentioned in an earlier post that our bitch, Casey (Ch Chateau Palos Kansas City Jazz Singer) finished her championship in November. I posted a photo, too. And now, because it's not official in the dog world until you get the win photo back from the photographer, I'm posting the Official Win Photo of Casey.

New Champion

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Things to do in Normandy when You're a Dog

Since I've been doing chicken-themed posts, I'll share another poultry story. Then maybe I'll stop for awhile.
A few years ago, during a long-term stay in Paris, we got the mid-winter blues decided that a little fresh sea air would be just the thing to cure the general grumpiness, so we went for a weekend in Normandy. We stayed at a 13th century fortified farm in the countryside near Bayeux called Ferme de la Rançonnière.  It’s near the towns of Bayeux (home of the Bayeux Tapestry) and Arromanches (Gold Beach from the D-Day landings), if you fancy a little touristing.
Pooka, our dog, was perhaps the most grateful member of the party at la Rançonnière. He disliked apartment life, and it had been more than a month since he'd been able to run off lead.   
La Rançonnière, besides being charming and possessing a lovely restaurant, also has a large fenced yard in back of the main hall with a little chicken house in the center. 

This is the chicken house
When we got in Friday afternoon, we took Pooka out in the yard so he could run. We failed, however, to notice that the fence around the chicken house was open on 2 sides. Pooka, extremely happy to be off leash and on grass, found some mole trails and spent a pleasant 15 minutes exploring them. 
Oh look! There's another one over there!
One of the trails took him quite near the chicken house, and, having never met a chicken before, he trotted over to investigate.
Consternation among the birds! Squawking, flapping, and random heedless galloping. And because they’re chickens, and thus dumber than a cubic yard of gravel, they ran not into the relative safety of the chicken house, but out into the yard.
How could a dog resist that? Pooka went after the chickens, who were shouting, "Help! Help! Murder! Barbarians!" I went after Pooka, shouting, "No! Leave it!"
We zigged and zagged across the lawn, squawking and shouting, and finally, the dog who can't catch a squirrel or rabbit (much to my disappointment) got him a mouthful of chicken. I had a panicked vision of myself presenting a bloody chicken carcass to the owners with my deepest apologies and a wad of euros, followed by a quick, inglorious retreat to a different hotel entirely (preferably chickenless).
Thank goodness Pooka's Killer Instinct wiring is faulty. He neglected to catch the hen by the neck, opting instead for a wing grab. A bit of poultry yelling, some flapping, some flopping, and Pooka was left with only a mouthful of feathers, while the hen escaped with her life, if not her dignity, and faded into a nearby hedge.
K watched the whole show with a great deal of merriment. And of course after that, Pooka was always leashed and kept at a distance from the chickens. 
They still shouted, "Help, help! Huns! Visigoths! Murder!" and ran around like...well, you know...when they saw him.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Non-random Mystery Christmas Tree

Every year, in the park where the dogs and I walk, someone decorates one of the small blue spruces:

The purple ribbon up top says, "Charlie." Who is Charlie?

I don't know who does it or what the significance is, but I always look forward to seeing it.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Floydyssey (Part Four)

Now, what was it that I was looking for?
(This image is ©Nancy Banks,
and can't be used without her written consent.)

Previously on this blog, Floyd was bitten, plucked alive, denied a sweater, and given sound veterinary advice. Now the healing starts.

The Floydyssey
Part Four

Floyd’s bruises slowly faded,
and we got to be quite friendly over the weeks.
I changed her litter every day,
and she hobbled around the utility room while I
shredded more newspaper for her.
I talked to her;
she talked back,
with that low, purring cluck
that chickens use
when they feel okay
their world.

But as soon as her feathers grew back,
Floyd got restless.
She still limped, but she got around pretty well,
and I'd take her outside
for constitutionals.
She'd gimp around, looking everywhere
For something she had apparently lost,
and she stopped talking to me.

So eventually I took her back up the hill
to the coop and her kind,
and she realized that it was her flock that she'd misplaced.
She was pleased 
to finally find it.

And because this is a
story about a
and not a dog or even a cat,
Floyd forgot me.
She didn't recognize me when I fed and watered everybody
or when I collected her eggs.
She ignored me when I talked to her.

I think it was
the feathers.
When she was down to just skin,
the differences between us
didn't seem so huge.
But when she had her feathers back,
she was a bird again,
and I

As for Shorty, well,
there's a saying in my family
that the unjust
punish themselves.

One Sunday when we were out running errands,
He tunneled under the fence,
squeezed out,
and tried to herd a car
that was going 50 mph.
It was a glorious

No one really mourned him,
especially Floyd.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Floydyssey (Part Three)

This is not a good color for a naked chicken.

(This image is ©Nancy Banks,
and can't be used without her written consent.)

Previously on this blog, Floyd the chicken, wounded and risking cannibalism if she stayed with the other chickens, took up residence in a temporary shelter, where she was plucked alive by a dog no one liked. Alas, her travails are not yet over.

The Floydyssey
Part Three
The next morning when I checked on her,
her skin was green.
I had invested a lot of effort in saving her life,
and she repaid me by getting gangrene.

Treating gangrene was far beyond my poultry medical skills.

I couldn’t just let her suffer horribly and die slowly,
which meant I’d have to kill her,
after all that we'd been through

(You have to understand
I'm terrible at killing things.
Me putting something out of its misery
involves much misery on both sides,
and therefore
does not actually qualify as
stopping the misery.)

Before I put Floyd's head on the block, though,
I called the vet as a last resort.
I got the vet assistant on the line
and told her the whole story.
She said,
in her I’ve heard it all, and chickens with gangrene do not
disturb my calm professionalism voice,
“let me ask the doctor,” and she put me on hold,
with nary even a giggle. 
I was on hold for a very long time—
long enough
for her to repeat the story,
for the vet to collapse in gales of laughter,
and for him to call in all his colleagues
and have her retell the story for them while they all howled with laughter.
We are talking about a chicken here. 
Something you're supposed to eat, not nurse back to health from a state of 
involuntary pluckedness.

When the assistant got back on the line,
her voice was remarkable steady as she
that perhaps Floyd's skin was green from bruising.
I've never received a doctor's diagnosis
with a greater sense of relief.

Floyd should have been doubly relieved,
but she was a chicken, and she took each thing as it came,
including nakedness
and full-body bruising.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

The Floydyssey (Part Two)

Naked chicken. Sweater. At the time, it seemed
like a good idea….

(This image is ©Nancy Banks,
and can't be used without her written consent.)

Previously on this blog, I told you about Floyd, the wounded chicken. Yet more trauma awaits her:

The Floydyssey
Part Two

Floyd was okay for the weekend at least.
The dogs stayed in the house with us.
So Saturday morning I put Floyd in the dogs’ house with some fresh straw,
and she built a nest  
while I built her
a nice temporary pen
with a nesting box
under our second-story deck.

It was very cold work.

Monday came and I retrieved Floyd from the doghouse,
put her in her temporary pen,
fluffed her straw,
closed the pen up tight,
turned the dogs out into the yard for the morning,
and headed into town to work.

It was freezing cold.

When I got home and let the grateful dogs into the warm house,
I noticed I was missing
the smallest, least likable
member of the pack. 

I opened the back door and
called for Shorty.
I called again.
No Shorty.
I was puzzled.
He was
where the other dogs were,
trying to steal their goodies and commandeer their beds and bite them
when they weren’t expecting it. 

I put my coat back on and went out into the yard
to look for him.

I finally found him,
in Floyd's pen,
reclining entirely at his ease in her nest box,
Around him were scattered
of Floyd's feathers.
Floyd herself
cowered in the farthest corner of the pen,
stark naked. 

There was surprisingly little blood.

I didn’t even yell at Shorty—
the magnitude of his crime struck me dumb.
As did the fact that Floyd was still alive
I zipped her into my jacket
and went inside,
followed joyfully by Shorty,
who seemed to think the chicken rodeo
would be continued in warmer climes.

what to do with Floyd?
She couldn’t stay outside;
she was naked.

I couldn’t put her in the garage even though Shorty wasn’t allowed in it—
it was unheated
and she was naked.

But the basement offered
the dogs never went down there.
So that’s where she went,
wrapped in a towel so she'd stay warm.

I considered knitting her a sweater but
had my only flash of sanity in this entire episode
and instead
found a cardboard box
and shredded a bunch of newspaper into it.
I rubbed her down with salve,
put her in the box
with a bowl of water and another of mash,
and set the whole shebang by a heat vent. She acted surprisingly grateful,
for a chicken.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Floydyssey (Part One)

Floyd, Floyd, and Floyd
(This image is ©Nancy Banks,
and can't be used without her written consent.)

           I've been reading much these days about how hip and green and all things good and right it is to have backyard chickens. Well, as the song says, I was poultry when poultry wasn't cool. Back in the day, K and I kept chickens, not because they were hip and green and good and right, but because they were tasty.
            And truly, chickens = hipness and goodness is an equation that I don’t have the subtlety to understand. Because I always think of hipness and goodness as pretty much the opposite of stench, poop, and cannibalism—all of which I associate very strongly with chickens.
            Don’t misunderstand me; I loved our birds, but as K says, they’re just lizards with feathers. He also claims that you’re doing them a favor when you butcher them. I've seen bored hens facing a long winter commit atrocities upon their fellows that I won't describe, just in case tender-hearted souls are reading this, so I have never had qualms about the butchering part. Plus, yard-raised chickens? Yum!
            I say all this, and I sound quite tough and old-country and next thing you know I'll be castrating calves with my teeth, but I harbor a guilty secret—Floyd, the naked chicken who lived in our basement one winter while I nursed her back to health.
It gets worse. 
I wrote an epic poem about her. In four parts. With illustrations.
And because I have no shame (at least, not so's you'd notice), I’m going to share it right here live and in person. Ahem.

 The Floydyssey (an epic poem in four parts)
Part One

Floyd was just an ordinary Cornish/Rock cross hen.
(And she was not as
cross as some of our hens,
although you couldn't call her affectionate, either.) 

She had survived the chopping block by luck--
butchering, as you know, is a tiring process.
We had done ours over several weekends,
and finally it got too cold,
and K was tired of killing chickens,
and so several of the hens
received a reprieve.
I named them all Floyd.

This was the winter that we were in a Friday night
bowling league.
Since we both worked in town,
we went straight from work to bowling,
which meant that we didn't close up the chicken coop
till we got home.

One Friday night in February, when
I went up the hill to close the coop, 

I found the
all over
the landscape--ambulatory, fortunately.

The coyote that got into the coop was too slow
to catch any,
although he did wound one--Floyd.
She had a puncture wound
about the size of a nickel
on her thigh.

I put everybody back in the coop
and closed it up tight
and went to bed
worrying about Floyd.
Our egg birds, the Barred Rocks, were
easily bored during the winter. 

They beguiled the long cold days
by eating
their sister Floyds.

I'd already had one cannibalized Floyd,
and I knew Floyd's wound was an invitation
for bad behavior.
I wondered here to put her until her wound healed.

I couldn't put her in with the geese, because
they liked to chase the chickens,
and, with her bum leg, Floyd couldn't run away from them.

We were having a very cold spell,
so I couldn't put Floyd in the dog run
and let her
roost in the doghouse--
the dogs needed to get in their house to keep warm,
and I knew they wouldn't if there was a chicken living there.

Surprize, our Giant Schnauzer, was scared to death of chickens,
and Loki, our Standard Schnauzer, I think disapproved of their personal habits.

We had a new dog, Shorty
(a stray perhaps Bichon Frise that, with more compassion than good sense,
I'd picked up on the highway),
whose views on chickens had not yet been aired,
but who was irascible about
except Milk Bones.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

New Spa in the Neighborhood

          K is a bless-the-beasts-and-children kind of guy, so it's not surprising that he came home from his most recent trip to the bird seed store and set this up on our back deck:

          What is it? It is a heated bird bath. Because you know how much birds hate to splash around in frigid water in the winter.
          It took a few days, but the Feathered Ones discovered it:

          So now we're the first ones in our neighborhood to have a bird day spa.