Chicken Friends?

Long time no write because Things Have Been Crazy.  In mid-December, Spouse came home with a puppy, a half Jack Russell, half fox terrier he’d cashed in the only stocks he’s ever owned to buy from the farmer the farmer up the street married a year or two ago.  (Grandma terrier lives up the street from us, mama lives on the farm a couple of villages over, and papa lives in the nearby town but his owners have the wood-harvesting rights to the knicks here (sort of like hedgerows, but more about trees, every tenth one being an oak, than bushes), so they’re around a lot every winter.  Which makes Rudolph Rupert Rocket Dog (aka Larry but Ru-Ru for short and those Rs must be trilled) as deeply embedded here as most of the locals (although, unlike a disturbing number of the locals, has yet to divorce his first wife and marry her younger sister).

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Anyway, puppies, PHEW!  They’re not like kittens.  You can’t just put out food and water and play with them for a couple of minutes every day.  They poop everywhere, pee everywhere, and smash up the kitchen the moment you leave them all alone for literally two minutes in this horrible, cruel world.   Until the rabies vaccine knocked the sauce out of Ru-Ru for eight days, I hadn’t had a second to myself since he came into our lives.  Because even though he’s Spouse’s dog, and Spouse is the fun! member of this household, I am the person Ru-Ru sticks to like glue.  Which isn’t that surprising.  Dogs love me (makes me wonder if I smell like an old dead thing like they so totally love to roll in) (or just if I smell like cat).  Also Spouse is a decent guy but he just doesn’t get animals.  He knows what it is like to be himself and he can imagine what he would be going through in your position, but he has zero idea what a dog or a cat or a chicken or a blackbird or any other animal might be experiencing  Which means he can’t ever seen when Ru-Ru Must Go Out Now Or There Will Be Puddle for or that since the terrifying New Year’s Eve fireworks blitzkrieg (the neighbors spent hours setting off the big, the bright, and the LOUD) Rudolph needs emotional support, not dragging, to get down the street to the main road if you want to take him for a walk, etc.  (But, whatever, fair enough.  I have zero insight into human beings, whereas Spouse gets along with them quite well.)

And, as I have probably now already repeated to way too many people, the cats are like Ha, ha.  Great joke.  Now make it go away.   But at least Rudolph immediately accepted they were members of the pack and he’s happy to share his clearly superior dog food with them (and in return, he loves munching on the dry cat food they hate) and his worst sin is that he keeps trying to play with them and when they run away and he gets to chase them, oh golly, is that ever the best!  And today he was with me when I had to round up some escaped chickens and that was fun too, but all he wanted to do was chase and corner them.  He didn’t try to bite them or pounce on them or attack them in any way.  So that was a good discovery and also maybe the prospect of being chased by a puppy will make the chickens think twice before going under or over the fence to ravage my garden.

The most interesting thing about Rudolph, however, is how much he picks up on.  I take great pride in paying attention to what is going on around me, hearing the rustling in the bushes, or noting the flash of movement off to my right, or seeing the animals in the distance.  But, first of all, Rudolph can smell stuff and what a so much richer world he must experience because it has this added dimension to it.  Here walked a fox or a deer or another dog.  He’s always stopping and sniffing the air, too, drawing in as much volume as possible through his nostrils.

Then, this morning, I was eating  breakfast in my chicken observation room and he jumped up from the floor and started pawing at the glass of the door and whimpering.  So I let him out and he stood on the thresh hold and stuck his nose up into the air and did that sniffing thing.  Then he did a short loop on the lawn and, satisfied, came back in and sat down on his pillow beside the radiator.  And when I shut the door, the movement this set off caught my eye.  Fifty feet away, on a fence post at the very back end of our yard, the young goshawk who grew up in the alpaca barn next door and spent the summer hunting the sparrows that would hang out in the chicken run had turned its head to look at me.  I don’t know if it’s full grown yet, but it is already an enormous and powerfully beautiful bird.

And it just sat there and paid no attention to the chickens.  And the chickens paid no attention to it at all.  It’s like they were work colleagues or something, not predator and prey.  After five minutes, the goshawk gathered itself and launched its massiveness into the air and Bertie Rooster made a short cry of alarm at that flap of wingspan, but the hens didn’t care.

I was just thinking this morning that we’ve gone more than an entire year without a goshawk attack on the chickens.  And I’m wondering if it’s because this is now that young goshawk’s territory and it hasn’t occurred to it yet that everything tastes like chicken, including chickens.


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