Friday, July 24, 2020
One of the best pieces of advice I have ever been given concerning the care of animals, is this: “put your hands on those critters.” This is what the Farmer suggested during my first week as a Farmwife, when I pulled on boots and gloves and ventured out to the barnyard to see what trouble I could get into.
The Farmer has always been a solitary creature, preferring to do most things on his own. He does occasionally need an extra pair of hands, however, and that’s where I come in. And he has learned that if the animals are comfortable with my hands, they are far more likely to agree with whatever sort of treatment we are trying to administer.
Take Ginger the cow, for example. She was so excited to see the Farmer approaching with a round bale of hay one winter morning soon after we bought her that she ran in front of the tractor and got herself impaled on one of the forks. For the next few weeks Ginger found herself penned up, receiving medical treatment on her wound. New to the farm, she didn’t trust us and kicked at any approach. I watched as the Farmer put the salve on the end of a pole and wiped it on her cut from a distance. Imagine how much easier that would have been if Ginger was used to being touched. Things were much easier with cattle that were born on the farm, because they were used to us being in their space, brushing them, checking their feet and moving them around.
The donkey, sheep and even the chickens got fairly used to having me in their living spaces, brushing them, handling them and feeding them treats. Some of them became quite tame. Others remained wild but not as mistrusting as they would have been if I had kept my distance.
Even dog training books recommend you get the animal used to you handling their sensitive ears and feet and checking their teeth. It’s much easier for a vet to treat a dog that trusts human touch.
One day I had a feral barn cat show up on the back porch with a huge swollen abscess on her cheek. I knew it would be difficult if not impossible to examine and treat her, as she was never one to allow human touch, even as a kitten. In the end we had to lure her into the house, corner her in the basement and catch her with a fishing net. Once trapped, she was resigned to her fate and lay quietly while the Farmer administered a shot of penicillin and I wiped antibiotic cream over her face.
If you have a barn full of animals, I highly recommend you get in there and put your hands on them, regularly. I have found visitors are also typically willing to assist in this exercise, especially where puddles of new kittens are concerned.
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 12:07 PM
Monday, July 13, 2020
In recent days we have experienced a cacophony of loud noises at the cottage. The Farmer has been hammering to finish trim and the gabled end of the roof. Occasionally the air compressor lets out a large belch as it gears up for its next expenditure of power. These noises are startling to humans. To dogs, they are next-level disturbances.
Thunderstorms are another source of concern for the dog, and he knows when they are coming before we do. One slightly overcast afternoon we were just floating around on our inflatable unicorns, commenting on how the sky appeared rather ominous at the distant end of the lake. Suddenly we realized Fergus, who had most recently been barking at us from the dock, was missing. We thought he was protesting the fact that he couldn’t join us on our floaties. Perhaps he was trying to alert us to the coming storm. In any case, he was gone.
We had just enough time to gather our things and head up the hill when the skies opened and the wind started blowing sideways. The thunder boomed as we entered the cottage. We found Fergus upstairs, wedged in the dark space between the wall and bed.
The situation reminded me of my sister’s dog, Mandy. The Rottweiler-mix was not a small dog, but she was terrified of thunderstorms. As soon as the barometric pressure began to change, she would blast through the screen patio door to safety. Upon hearing the weather report on the radio at work or in her car, Mom would call home: “Open the screen door! Mandy’s going to bust through it!!”
Sometimes we caught it on time. Mostly we didn’t. I think Mom replaced that screen door half a dozen times during Mandy’s lifetime.
On Canada Day, I got the great idea to buy some fireworks to send up over the lake. We started with the smaller ones, watching the dog to see how he would react. Fergus appeared to be doing ok with the explosions – he just kept running out onto the dock to where the Farmer was setting them off. Maybe he was trying to protect his master. In any case, we thought he was fine. Certainly he didn’t react the way he does in a thunderstorm. My daughter’s dog Vitor, however, was another story. While his mum and dad were lakeside, Vitor took off.
We searched every corner of the cottage and took a flashlight to peer under every parked car. Finally we found him (another Rottweiler mix, by the way), trotting down the road. I don’t know where he thought he was going. Maybe next year we will lock the dogs up with a movie and a snack before the fireworks begin.
Posted by Diana Leeson Fisher at 10:59 AM