About a week ago I walked through a new door to a new chapter in my life – raising chickens. So far five days in all seems to be doing well. I had four Rhode Island Red pullets which are 18 weeks old. I am told they could be laying eggs sometime in the next couple of weeks.
The first few days in their new hen house, they have spent getting to know the place. The weather has been cold for May as we have had snow and two freeze warnings in the last week and it’s been windy, blowing the dogs off the chain for days making the temperatures feel like it was mid-February. Every morning around 5am I head out to the hen house to check on the ladies and open their door to the outside run which is enclosed with chicken wire and hardware cloth.
On Tuesday, I was sitting on the blue painter’s bucket I had flipped over to use as my perch so that I could spend some time getting to know my chickens. I sat in the corner watching and photographing them as they pecked around at the food and jumped on the roost. Then there was a moment when they were all down by the food near the door to their run when two of them poked their heads out and walked down the plank to the grass. The third one quickly followed suit and then the fourth. The fourth one who is the only one to have a nickname so far of Khaleesi/White Pants. She gained the nickname Khaleesi after having been pushed on the swing and held on for dear life as my friend’s seven year old rocked the swing wildly back and forth. They had been the ones to get the pullets and were dropping off the four we wanted and they were keeping another 8.
I’ve never been around chickens but I figure like any animal they need some time to acclimate to their new environment. On the other side of the door to the hen house are our dogs. They stare through the glass door to the hen house which depending on the time of day and lighting, reflects back their own images. They can smell them though and unbelievably one curious girl came out to check the dogs out.
The morning that they all four walked out the door of the hen house and into their backyard enclosed run, I was so happy. New doors were opening up for all of us and we just have to trust our instincts about when it is the right time for to walk through those doors.
I just realized this but I haven’t had a post about the actual pack which makes up Xine’s Pack. Although, I’ve had many dogs throughout my life, I currently have three of my own dogs in the pack as well as 2 grand-dogs. The grand-dogs come visit enough and spend so much time here (especially being quarantined together, but even before that) that they are definitely considered a part of #Xinespack. I have used that hashtag for about ten years now so if you ever check it out on Instagram, you will also see some of the previous incarnations of the pack.
Currently, the self appointed alpha, besides myself, is Marley. Marley Sage Mulch is her full name since as a pup she had a habit of chewing on the sage and the mulch out in the garden. 6 years later, she still seeks out the mulch. Marley is a mutt in every sense of the word. We did two different DNA test kits on her from two different companies since we had adopted her from a shelter at the age of 9 weeks. The DNA tests were inconclusive as they came up with different answers. One kit said she was 50% Jack Russell Terrier with a blend of brittany, golden retriever, australian shepherd and shetland sheepdog. The other had everything from Norwegian Elkhound to Australian cattle dog. When I first saw Marley and her little freckled nose, it instantly reminded me of our brittanies who also had freckles. Plus she has the same coloring as the Brittanys except she is mostly reddish-brown and they were white with reddish brown markings She’s an awesome dog – she loves to go for rides in the gator and hike around in the woods.
My other two are my doodles, Boomer and Gunner. They are littermates, mini goldendoodles that weigh 48 lbs and 52 lbs, respectively. At first I was nervous about having two puppies to train at the same time but I had dealt with so many dogs at that point in my life it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be and a lot of the time they would simply either copy the other or Marley. They are some of the best companion dogs I could have ever hoped for and they are so affectionate. It’s hard to believe they will turn 3 years old in a couple of weeks. Gunner has always been a pup who plays hard and sleeps harder. When he passes out, he’s out. There were many nights when he was younger where either Mark or I had to carry him upstairs to put him in his overnight crate where he used to sleep. He prefers to sleep now on the ottoman I have pulled up next to my side of the bed and stretch out though. But he loves using the crate during the day to go and hang out in and take a nap.
Boomer is my shadow, following me pretty much everywhere. He’s learned in time to sometimes wait at my desk if I head out to the kitchen for another cup of coffee or something but for the most part he walks right be me. Mark has given him the nickname CB – Charley Bravo since Boomer likes to plant himself at night right between Mark and I. It’s his polite way of saying he is a cock block. He will move reluctantly when told, however. Boomer that is, of course. Boomer is a happy dog, he loves going on the boat or the gator and getting up on the seat, feeling the breeze in his fur as ears flap in the wind. He also smiles. I’ve never had a dog that actually will smile at you. It was a little strange at first since we all weren’t sure if he was doing it on purpose, a friend at first thought it was him snarling but he’s not snarling. He very clearly is showing you his teeth and smiling.
Then we have Kona. Where to start, where to start with this one. I’ll tell you living with Kona is like living with blonde Elmo, or what I imagine living with Elmo would be like if you could live with a live muppet who is so living but acts a little (a lot) crazy at times. Kona Athena is my son’s 4-1/2 year old standard goldendoodle and she is the most loving and affectionate dog I’ve ever known. Kona will crawl in your lap while you are working at your desk so nonchalantly with her long legs and slinky body that you can’t help but just hug her back. If you are upset she senses it immediately and will come over to make you feel better. All the doodles are really good at sensing when you are upset or anxious and come cuddle with you immediately.
But this sweet little blonde has the stomach of I don’t know what. Since being in quarantine she has managed to eat 5 loaves of freshly baked bread (1 loaf Easter bread, 1 loaf sourdough, 3 loaves French bread), a dozen English muffins, 3 hard boiled eggs and a pound and half of Amaretto cookies. Her farts were bad before quarantine and have become so much more toxic since her bread addiction started in quarantine.
Then there is Blue, my daughter’s 2 year old red merle mini Aussie Shepherd. Blue is definitely the smartest of the pack. Samantha’s done a great job training him. He loves running on the beach and going for hikes with his human and friends. Thankfully Blue grew up to be on the larger size of mini and weighs about 35lbs. By far the lightest in the pack but by the far the fastest. When Blue gets the zoomies and the others dogs are in pursuit, all you see is a light streak breeze by.
We’ve all been up here on the mountain together since mid-March and the pack has settled into a routine, although we need to break Kona of her counter surfing somehow. The weird thing is she was doing this initially, but then again Mark wasn’t baking delicious loaves of homemade bread a few weeks ago. Hopefully the weather will start warming up and we can get outside more. It has still been on the chillier side and wet and windy making being outside for too long still a bit challenging. We’ve learned after 4-1/2 years up here that you have to take advantage of the nice and mostly nice days up here when you get them.
One of the things I was able to accomplish during these last few months though is I finally started and am about to finish writing my book. It’s a book about all of the dogs that have touched my life basically. I don’t yet have a title for my book, the working title on my spiral notebooks that I have handwritten it all in simply says The Dog Book #1, #2 and #3. The other day I finally got to the point where I think I’m done with the first draft and now need to sit down at the computer and type and edit it. I’m sort of in disbelief that I have written it finally – I’ve thought about it for so long and was scared to start it. Actually I had no idea how to start it and after talking to some friends of mine who are authors they simply said “just start writing”. Sounds simple but it wasn’t for me. I had been writing notes over the years of stories I wanted to remember to tell but that’s as far as I ever got. It took me reading another book about dogs and their stories to get me going, this time I just started to write.
Artemis was our beautiful Brittany spaniel. She was a lot of firsts for me. She was my first female dog. The first dog I ever rescued from a shelter and the first dog I ever found on the internet. But she was not the last of any of those things. Rather, she opened the door to all of them.
She was a magnificent hunter, true to her name. On rainy days, her ideal weather for such sport, she would lay in the daisies hiding, the way a Navy Seal does on a covert mission. Her natural patience paying off.