The bunny whisperer

soleil stick small

When we moved into our place 2+ years ago, we inherited a brown lawn.  Attempts were made to reseed it and resuscitate it, but it became apparent that it needed replacing.  I joked about keeping it indefinitely and hosting a Dead Sod Bocce Tournament, but that never came to fruition, and our backyard just ended up looking janky.

We finally got around to replacing the lawn a few weeks ago, and it’s a much needed improvement.  That said, we’ve discovered a problem, albeit not one that was expected.  Our main concerns were that our white dog would end up green after discovering the joys of rolling in it, or that she would create lots of dead spots where she peed on it.

Neither of those two things has become an issue.  Our problem?  Bunnies.

We’ve had rabbits passing through our yard since we moved in.  Mostly small, and mostly harmless, they never stayed long.  This was not thanks to our dog’s eagle eyes or interest in keeping the homestead safe.  It was because we had nothing for them to eat.

The arrival of a lush green lawn has made our backyard ground zero for the neighborhood’s rabbit population.  The eating of the grass isn’t so bad – it’s what they leave behind.   There are no real predators either, since our dog is useless at noticing them (even two feet away).  And attempts to encourage our dog to act as a predator have not worked.  So it’s now N’s responsibility to scare the bunnies away, while the dog wanders around the other side of the yard, sniffing and doing godknowswhat.

I’ve told this story to numerous friends, all of whom have dogs that would love to chase rabbits.  Many have offered to let us borrow their pets, and a few have suggested that said pet might be able to teach Soleil.  They are optimistic, my friends.

We, however, are not.  So we’re building a fence in the front yard, in the hopes it keeps those critters off our damn lawn.

Homemade Treats for Good Dogs

Homemade dog cookies

While I have no human children, I have a dog child.  One who appears to be more like Benjamin Button than I’d care to admit, but that’s a story for another day (one word – diapers).

I also like to bake.  So you might see where this is going.

A number of years ago I found a dog biscuit recipe on the Interwebz, one that was super easy, and according to certain family members whose previously non-food-motivated dogs became very interested in these biscuits, pretty tasty. It’s been one of the few annual holiday traditions I can manage, and while some years it’s only the family dogs that see these, other years it requires a few batches to cover all the good dogs (or dogs who put up with my mutt).

The original recipe called for water, but I’ve found that chicken broth – especially the stuff with a lot of salt – really makes my dog happy.   A recent iteration with homemade broth didn’t leave her licking the floor with the same vim as the sodium laced stuff.  So take that as you may.

All Natural Dog Treats (adapted from somewhere on the Internet – sadly, I’m unable to remember where after many years)

Makes a whole lot of cookies. Numbers vary depending on the size of cookies (and the size of your dog).

3 and ½ cups flour (I prefer whole wheat)
2 and ½ cups oatmeal (quick cooking is fine if you don’t have whole oats)
3 tablespoons canola/vegetable oil
2 cups warm chicken or vegetable broth

Preheat oven to 300F.  Mix flour and oatmeal together in a mixing bowl. Stir in oil and broth until well blended. The dough should be pliable, not sticky, so if needed, add a bit of flour or water. On a floured surface, pat or roll the dough until about 1/8 inch thick. Using your favorite cookie cutter (that is appropriately sized for your pup – or the pups you plan to gift to!), cut out cookies and transfer to greased baking sheet. Bake for one hour or until crisp.

Age and Numbers

Dog and stick descending hiking trail

Big sticks make her happy.

You’ve probably heard that old chestnut about age being just a number.  It’s a saying you see on cards for ‘significant’ birthdays, a half-hearted attempt to make the recipient feel less decrepit.   For all it’s bad humor, there is truth to it.

A few weeks ago, I met up with my mom for a whirlwind trip to Lebanon County, Pennsylvania, to celebrate my grandmother’s 88th birthday.   She is a living example of age being just a number, appearing fearless in all that she embraces, and basically, to quote my British friends, ‘getting on with it’.  Between learning Quickbooks recently (she’s managing the local store at her retirement community) to traveling to China last October, she’s not afraid to try something new.  Plus, she can still handily beat both me and my mother at cards.

So it’s been with her in mind that I’ve tried to say yes more than no.  This is why I agreed to swim 2.4 miles on Saturday.  It’s also why I’m rocking more than a few gashes on my legs, since I’m now trying to ride more technical sections of trail on my mountain bike – not always successfully.  Though I’m pretty sure I won’t be learning Quickbooks anytime soon.

A prance in her step.

The other example of agelessness (though not grace) is my nearly 12 year old dog.  We’ve not hiked much with her this year, but took her out this weekend on a 9 mile hike at the north end of Desolation Wilderness near Meeks Bay.  An hour and a half on a gently climbing trail got us to Lake Genevieve, the first in a series of lakes along this trail (well worth exploring).    Stick chasing, swimming and prancing resulted, with Soleil acting like it was Christmas.  On our hike out she proudly held her stick between her teeth, carefully guiding it between and around the rocks on the trail, and generally not acting like an ‘old’ dog.

To me this just confirms that she didn’t get the memo about dog years.  And that age really is just a number, albeit one that she doesn’t understand.

As for me, I’m reminded that no matter the number of candles on the birthday cake, it’s not an excuse to avoid the new and exciting.  It’s a reason to relish every day, even the less-than-exciting ones.  Admittedly a hard lesson to internalize, but one I’m working on.

Day by day.

Moving on up

I’ve been quiet lately, I know. Color me distracted. You see, we’ve moved. Or rather, we’re in the process of moving. Still staying in the ‘hood, though we’re upgrading the digs to one with more mod-cons (Insulation! Lots of double paned windows! New gas range with convection oven! Closet space!).  It’s been a process, as any move is, and combined with recent travel and other distractions, it’s been hard to focus.

Moving is stressful for all involved.

Until this weekend. The bulk of the furniture is now in the new place, the dog’s trauma has subsided once she discovered how much fun it is to sprint up and down the carpeted stairs, and while I’m not entirely sure where my inhaler is, I did find the coffee maker this morning.

Waiting for her master

Last night I was playing around with the Hipstamatic app on my iPhone, and captured the dog as she waited with anticipation for Nils to return home from a bike ride (he feeds her, and it was later than her approved dinner hour).

I’m finding that I actually prefer taking photos with the phone, because between this app and the photo editing ones,  it’s easier to edit and post photos than with just my (almost obsolete?) digital camera.

Winter, she returns

Winter appears to have returned to Lake Tahoe, with 3-5 inches of new snow locally. Due to some cosmic screwup, Reno and the Carson Valley got more snow than the Tahoe area did – upwards of a foot.  So while folks down there were digging out, we headed to Luther Pass to look for some wind-deposited winter snow.

Despite it being a holiday week here, with everyone and their mother’s uncle on the roads, we encountered very few fellow backcountry skiers today – just a group from the local community college taking an avalanche certification class.  And even after a week of springlike weather, the snow today bore none of the crusty and firm characteristics I’d expected.  Just boot to shin deep fluff.

No photos were taken today (bad light, too cold, and having WAAAY too much fun to stop), but we did get home to find that the dog, apparently grumpy that we left her and her aging hips behind, had decided to clean all the dishes in the sink for us, leaving detritus all over the kitchen.  While admittedly post-haste, we thought the muzzle might serve as a reminder why impromptu kitchen cleanup isn’t such a good idea.

Tip of the Day

If you need to induce vomiting in your dog after she’s chowed down on more than a few pieces of raisin bread (raisins being toxic to dogs), a plastic bike water bottle is a good mechanism for pouring the hydrogen peroxide down the dog’s throat if you don’t have a turkey baster handy for this task.

Why and how I know this is a whole different story. Dog’s OK now though.