Sassy Sue wows the bark park visitors with her catching and retrieving.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sassy Is One of Those Exotic Creatures

Have you seen a murmuration of starlings,
where they weave patterns in the sky by constantly changing group flight patterns?
We watched during a church picnic, transfixed by the ever-changing shapes created.

I lost track of the Facebook page on jeweled spiders from Australia, with some remarkable photos in the article.

I decided to Google the images and could not find anything close to the article, so I wondered if it was a hoax. I could find the category and examples, but they did not look like walking stained glass windows - except for the one photo of a jewelry case in the shape of a spider.

Nothing would surprise me about exotic animals, especially those in Australia, where they seem to be larger, more colorful, and more dangerous than anywhere else except Africa. They even have giant earthworms in Australia.

Everyone loves the Sassy grin.

Sassy is learning her Australian culture, since she is half Australian Cattle Dog, bred from the tough little dingo wild dog of that continent. We sing Waltzing Matilda and the Cattle Dog Blues in the car. That proved useful when we were waiting for tires at Goodyear. Two customers became very interested in her behavior and three legs, so we sang the Cattle Dog Blues, with Sassy howling the chorus. They loved it so much that Sassy pawed my leg to get the second verse going, where she howled again. She loves attention. The customers wrote down the Sassy blog's name so they could look it up later.

When she begins yipping in a high-pitched voice, we chide her about "going full Kelpie." That is another name for the Cattle Dog - Kelpie. When she hears that Kelpie name, she really sounds off.

She used that call to get the Helper family out of their house. Mrs. Helper asks for the happy bark when we stop by. Sassy responds with her German Shepherd voice, a very loud but lower pitched bark, sent left and right for full coverage. "There's that happy bark!" And she barks some more. In contrast, the Kelpie yip is high pitched and penetrating, one sharp warning or alert.

She yips if anyone tries to pick her up or comes close to stepping on her. She is especially sensitive because of her amputation and recuperation, but she is also quite the drama queen.

She is one of those homegrown exotics that people often overlook. Sassy is unusually smart and independent, cleverly working on us to understand to her way of doing things. I just asked her to move over on the bed, so she rolled over for loveys. If Mrs. Ichabod does not join in pettting her, Sassy looks back to get a second person petting her at the same time. She grins about this because her independent actions makes us laugh each time.

Butterfly Weed is related to Milkweed, named Asclepias for the healing properties of this family.

I am hoping that Butterfly Weed will grow in my yard. I planted some along the fence. In time they should show themselves. The attracts butterflies in general but also helps other plants - a companion plant.

Once upon a time Milkweed was common, and so were Monarch butterflies. Now people are wishing for more butterflies and worry about the loss of the Monarch.

I think I spotted some local Milkweed on my walk. A stand of them would support some Monarch caterpillars, but I doubt one plant in the sidewalk crack will do it.

Here the Monarch, in his jade coffin with golden nails. The wing markings are visible. Shortly before he was a fat caterpillar with none of this coloring - no gold frills. I am not going to get jeweled spiders in my yard, but I can raise these and even hatch them in a glass jar, as I did years ago in New Ulm.

No one is sure if the golden nails have a function. I consider it showboating by the Creator. If you ever doubt the power of the Creating Word, look at what He does with with a homely caterpillar that dines on milkweed sap.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Continuing Adventures of Sassy

We saw this photo on the rescue group's website,
and we had to have this three-legged dog.

We think Sassy is the greatest, but we enjoy seeing how much others enjoy her personality and talk about her silky fur, which looks German Shepherd (top half) and Red Healer (bottom half). My neighbor on the corner would love to have her pups, but she is spayed.

Sassy has a combination of personalities and voices. She guards us night and day, even turning around while sitting on the grass, to keep her eye on the perimeter (GS).

Like a Cattle Dog (or Healer), she is a talker and a singer. We sing the Cattle Dog Blues in the car and for select audiences. I am teaching her Waltzing Matilda so she knows one of her two cultures. I had to learn the words and the meaning - a unique national song, not about a girl, and not about waltzing.

Many German Shepherd owners are puzzled by her, because she is off-spec for a GSD. She does not wear that worried look that so many GSDs have. Instead, she smiles all the time and really tries to make friends with everyone. Most adore her, especially when they learn she has three legs.

I was waiting for some attention at the Walmart drive-through for prescriptions. I said quietly to Sassy, "Bark." She let go a big bark and I had an instant reply from the pharm tech. At the bank she got a bigger response, which led to three treats. That was her own idea.

If I go inside, I crank down two windows and position the car so she can watch the front door. I usually say something like, "Guard the limo while I am gone." She usually barks happily to say, "Hurry up!" This time she licked her lips to remind me about getting her snacks.

Our helper's family is used to seeing her twice a day. In the evening Mrs. Helper loves to coax Sassy into her loud, happy barks.

Her are some funny communications from Sassy:

  • Staring at me with a big smile on her face - she wants something and I know what it is.
  • High-pitched sounds every so often - time for a snack.
  • Switching her tail so it beats against my arm - late for a snack, and I should know that.
  • Half closing her eyes - I am not doing my duty. If I respond, a bad daddy tirade starts. I argue back and forth about how I do my best. She barks back that I am neglecting my tasks, especially the walk. She is more impatient for walks than for food.
  • Lightly chewing my hand - do not pluck my shedding hair. I like it there.
  • Ear flapping - this is an alert so I do something for her, like take her out, without waking Mrs. Ichabod.
  • Banshee squeal - this is her loudest bark, far louder than her Wake the Dead bark. I went back to sleep inside after letting her out one evening (good weather, backyard). She used the Banshee on me, and I woke up. She knows how to go to the right window for effect.
That missing leg makes children love her.

Today Sassy asked permission to chase a squirrel. I said, "Our little girl is growing up." She is much better at asking permission. When she wants to walk down another street, she stops, looks at me and smiles, and looks down the street. "Do you want to go there?" She jumps forward for some exploring and seeing favorite spots.

Sassy usually asks if she can meet someone new. She looks up at me, looks at the new person, and smiles. We have had experiences where a new person is frightened or annoyed, so we are more cautious. Most start by admiring her, so she picks up on the affection or smells the dog on their pants. The stranger must like dogs, so she waits for the compliments and gets them.

Sassy friends cats now, but she began her career
on our block by sending a cat up the tree and into its garage.

Early on I took her to a dogpark, and I had her run a lot. As you can see from that early picture, she was rather weak from her neglect and then her amputation. Running at me became a big game.

Almost every day, she holds back, a half-block away. Then I say, "Go, go, go." She runs at me grinning and I grab at her. She evades me at the last minute.

Sassy is a Packer fan and does not mind rubbing it in.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Sassy Sue Is Welcome at Lowe's - Picks Wheelbarrow Out with Me

Sassy caught the ball for a professional pet photographer.
I had a pile of seed packets burning a hole in my pocket. I wanted them in the ground and growing - spinach, lettuce, kale, and egg plants.

Our helper semi-prepared an area for me to finish, in the future corn patch. Earlier I put some sunflowers in, near the house, because I wanted the other rows for vegetables in the sun. Yesterday, the ground was very tough and not easy to break up for planting.

Sassy and I took off for Lowe's for mushroom compost and a tiny wheelbarrow. I wanted something inexpensive to haul bags, and I needed more mushroom soil for my newest scheme. The Internet says  not to plant in pure compost, but this was more of an experiment than the ultimate vegetable garden.

Lowe's welcomes dogs, as Sassy and I learned earlier, so we went in together to get our wheelbarrow, mushroom compost ($2 bag) and mulch. The wheelbarrow fit in the trunk of the Town Car, with room for half of the cypress mulch. Try that in your sissy Prius.

A contractor buying supplies thought my new wheelbarrow was too tiny. I said, "Hauling soil is overrated. So is digging soil." He laughed, because he was going to be putting in drainage for yards that were becoming ponds in the rainstorms.

The woman who fussed over Sassy in the flowers area helped with the mulch and compost, calling Sassy by name. We got everything into the car, and we headed home. Sometimes we sing songs in the car. I can get Sassy joining the chorus of the Cattle Dog Blues.

Once at home, I covered the grassy rows in mushroom compost. I planted all the rest of the seed by sowing on top, tamping down the soil, and covering it lightly with another layer, then tamping down that layer.

Our helper covered some new areas with newspaper and mulch, and we Photoshopped the rose garden by adding some newspaper and mulch where needed.

The backyard got another facelift as we pruned away more of the low branches. This project has opened up the yard to a lot more sunlight while keeping the central area shaded.

Grow a little birdhouse for your birds -
the birdhouse gourd.

Birds Love Me
God's Creation established certain rules, which when understood, make gardening much easier. One is that all the creatures work in balance with each other and tend the natural world better than we can. All we have to do is enhance their growth and they labor 24/7 on our behalf.

Birds twittered long before Twitter. They murmur with pleasure when good things are going to happen. A gardener who feeds, waters, and shelters birds will be popular with the avian population. I hear the noise level go up when I go outside. The common birds will hunt insects, dig up grubs, and devour weed seeds. Their population grows with the amount and variety of food, shelter, and water.

I have a 100 foot stretch of soaker hose, most of it suspended from the chain link fence. When I go outside to check on the plants, the birds scatter a bit. I caught some using the newspaper mulch for nest material. I am sure the wood mulch also gets carried away, too. They pay me back in the work I do, so I enjoy improving their living space and giving the water.

When I turn on the soaker hose, the birds have a large area where they can bath, drink, and preen - on top of the fence and on the ground. They like some space, so this is ideal for getting more birds involved and happy. They love the sound of dripping water, a safe place to bathe and drink, and perches for preening their feathers.