Monday, May 19, 2014

Cinder the Huntress

Last week started out to be a grand week, but due to some seriously bad storms and tornadoes, it quickly turned out to be far less grand than it began. 

Early in the week, we were able to take Gilley and Cinder to the pond and as anticipated, we got Cinder to swim a little bit by capitalizing on her need to follow Gilley everywhere - including into the deep waters of the pond.  I let Gilley and Cinder start out by wading in the shallow spot for a few minutes. Once that was no longer exciting, I threw Gilley's Frisbee for him to retrieve. Cinder quickly followed and swam quite well for about 10 -15 feet, until she looked at the bank and realized how far she'd gotten from it.  She managed to turn herself around and keep swimming; and by then Gilley had come alongside her so it was a race to shore!  She did that a couple more times.  On the last round, she started to have trouble and I feared I may have to dive in after her, but as I was about to, Gilley saw her and let go of his Frisbee to swim over to and help Cinder; nudging her and then grabbing her and putting her right to swim back to shore.  They swam back to shore together and after that, she was content to wade while watching Gilley swim a few more times.  I'm sure she'd become too tired and started to lose it until Gilley rescued her. Until that point, she was a serious little power stroke swimmer - major power in her push through the water. It was impressive.  It's been too cold to try again since, but as soon as it warms up again, we'll give it another try.  Next time, we won't swim after a long run on the farm and I won't let her swim so much that she gets too tired to be safe.  That was my fault for not realizing she would tire so quickly-she is just a puppy of five months after all.

Day before yesterday, I was finally able to go on a longer walk with the dogs than I've been able to do yet this year. Not that it was a long walk, but it's better than I've been able to do because of my back problems this spring.  I went roughly 2.3 miles and of course, the dogs went about 7-10 miles because of all their circling back to check in with me; and playing our games along the way.  I opted to leave Buzz at home and take only Gilley and Cinder because the two of them are more manageable than all three dogs.  As we went on our walk, I started out feeling pretty great and ready to tackle at least five miles. That was not meant to be and was clearly punctuated by a minor incident at the outset of our walk.  

As we cleared the little creek behind the barn, we turned and headed for "The Billy Goats Gruff Bridge." After navigating my way through the mud at the creek without incident, I felt confident my walk was going to be awesome.  Imagine my surprise when I topped a small knoll, still feeling pretty good until suddenly, I had my leg knocked from under me and fell to the ground in one big thud!  When you've had a knee (or hip) replacement, the idea of a fall is scary and you always try to miss landing on or wrenching the replacement joint.  I had no chance to think about it, but luckily, it was my good leg that was knocked from beneath me and on that side I landed.  What caused my sudden fall? Cinder on the run, chasing Gilley, careened into me on her way by! I swear it felt as though I'd been struck by a wrecking ball that took my leg out from under me!  I could've been 50 shades of angry, but I was too busy deciding whether I was hurt or just stunned as I lay on the ground assessing my body functionality.  Brian had seen the whole thing unfold and made his way to me, worried about my back and my knee.  I managed to get  up and decided that I was a little less enthusiastic about the walk, but still determined to continue. What a powerhouse she is at a full run - no wonder she's a power stroke swimmer! Brian warned me then that I should scale back my goals for the walk, but I pushed forward, a little more cautiously. Brian went along and we played with Gilley and Cinder the whole way.

Did you know that if you're a bird and you attempt to dive bomb a Border Collie, you should probably fly higher than the Border Collie can jump?  There's one less bird flying the friendly skies because that bird missed the memo! As we were nearing the edge of the woods and a field, a bird flew about five feet off the ground and attracted Cinder's eye.  She began watching the bird intently as it continued flying low and getting closer to us.  As the bird got closer, I could see Cinder's little brain calculating the height of jump and trajectory required to nab it.  Sure enough, she plucked that bird from full flight as it came over her!  She jumped at least four feet straight up and nabbed that bird like it was nothing!  The bad news was that I made her drop and leave it - which took some doing because she kept circling back to it as I walked ahead. But, ultimately, Cinder left it behind, clearly feeling deprived of the bird carcass reward she'd earned as Cinder the Huntress.

Gilley watched everything and you could see his experienced mind,"Dumb pup. Mom NEVER lets us catch or pick up any critters. You'll learn eventually. Some things you have to do when mom's not around or just not do them at all."  I have no fear that if she had to, Cinder would survive in the wild quite well.  This is not the first display of her hunting prowess as she has run across a couple rabbits, mutliple squirrels, and she's run up a few deer. Her little nose is ALWAYS going, sniffing out all kinds of things around the house and yard so she hones her ability to scent all the time. 

As the walk progressed, I started feeling pretty sore in my back again. Spasms began, but they were pretty minor initially.  We checked some of the woods trails; cleared a few small down limbs; and realigned the boards of a makeshift corduroy road through a boggy area that had floated the boards out of position in our recent weeks of storms. After that, I told Brian I needed to begin the trek back to the barn while I could still make it relatively pain free.  I was actually already in some pain, but I didn't want to mention that. However, Gilley being my constant companion and smart boy seemed to already be very aware of my pain.  He stopped going so far ahead and waiting or circling in order to stay closer to me.  When I needed to stop for brief breaks because of spasms, Gilley waited with me, watching me. When the spasms eased, hed walk beside me for a bit - until Cinder urged him to run with her.  Gilley seemed to know he was supposed to keep Cinder going to wear her out and he'd oblige for a few minutes; returning to walk with me again.  A few times, I slowed down and my steps were small because I hurt, but I wanted to keep moving. During those times, Gilley seemed to sense I needed his help and he'd nudge me and give me a look as if to say, "Come on Mom, you can do it. Keep trying Mom, I'm right here to help you if you need me."  Then, Cinder would bound back and urge him to romp a little more. Gilley performed that same dual duty performance all the way back to the barn.  By the time we'd gotten to the known barn route, Cinder too seemed to become aware that I was not feeling good and needed a little extra help.  She and Gilley both slowed their pace to stay close all the way back up the lane, through the creek; and up the hill to the barn.  By that point, it took everything I had to make the last half mile of that walk. I think I'd even told Brian to get the Jeep and come pick me up, but he knew I didn't really want to quit.  We made it all the way and both Gilley and Cinder jumped in the back of the car without hesitating long enough to blink.  

Quite the eventful little jaunt we had for my first real walk of the year that was more than an eighth of a mile. I came home and decided to ice pack my back & rest it for a couple hours with the dogs on the bed with me while I watched a movie.  Then, I got up and although I still hurt, kept piddling at house chores and things to keep moving.  Then it was time to go back to the barn to get Ebbie in for the night and I wanted to take Buzz since Gilley and Cinder went earlier.  Buzz was happy to tag along and although his walk was very short, he got one-on-one time he truly enjoyed. 

Cinder proves to be an entertaining addition to our world and as we expand her world, there are almost always some new tricks she pulls out and shows us. Knocking me off my feet to start our walk; plucking a bird from mid-air flight; being able to go the distance of a walk in new areas; and trying to be a helper when she realized I wasn't doing so well. For a blue merle - a dog whose color is black, white and gray - she sure is a colorful pup!  But it's all just another day in our lives as we continue raising Cinder.  



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