Traction Footwear for Old Dogs

image Our eldest Border Collie, Spanky, is about thirteen years old (I’m not sure if his exact age because  he’s a rescue, but I know he is at least that old). He is having the same problem many old dogs suffer- weak rear quarters. This, combined with our wood floors, make it very difficult for him to get up from lying down. He lacks the muscle strength and coordination to get traction. Sometimes he collapses midway, sprawling out like a frog, and would need assistance to get back up. It’s sad to see once-spry dogs suffer these old-age maladies, and I’m sure it impacts their quality of life. So, we’ve gotten him some shoes to help!

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Washing Down Comforters


When Kirk and I got married, he brought with him two favorite down comforters. I’d always chosen cotton and polyester blend bedding; because I let the dogs on the bed, I need to wash the bedding a lot! So I cringed as I saw this lovely pale pink comforter get dirtier and dirtier as Maggie slept on it every night. I know, we could just not let the dogs in the bed, and it’s really only Maggie who gets up there. But she’s such a cute snuggler, I just can’t resist! And Kirk doesn’t tell her no either! She usually sleeps by my pillow every night.

So, I went to the Web for advice on cleaning feather down comforters. It turns out, you can safely wash them in a front-loader washing machine; and I’ve done it several times now. The great thing about front-loaders is that they spin the load at such high speeds, they drive most of the water out of the load  with centrifugal force before it goes into the dryer. So, clothes- and down comforters- are almost dry when they come out of the wash! One of the many reasons I love my front-loader so!

I’ve read several recommendations to dry the comforter with some tennis balls, or tennis shoes, in the dryer- to help fluff the feathers via some pounding action. I did this the first time (we have lots of tennis balls for the dogs), and it worked, but have since found that it’s not necessary, at least in my dryer. The only caveat is that the comforter does have a weird smell when wet-exactly like a wet chicken, because it is! But, the smell goes away once dry. It takes a little longer than a regular clothes load to dry the comforter, and I remove it and rearrange it several times during the cycle to make sure all sides get equally dry. But, it’s the same as washing any other large comforter.

I guess this makes sense, after all, chickens dry fine after getting wet, so a feather down comforter should too, given the right conditions. So, hooray, we can keep the down comforters!

Coyote Skinning

CoyoteAndMaggie I’ve talked several times before about our coyote predation problems, and our attempt to manage coyotes partly by attempting to teach them to stay out of the yard and livestock areas, and using removal as a final option. We’ve had reasonable luck this year with shooting at them and (intentionally) missing, and having that be enough of a deterrent to  keep them at a distance. But, for the ones that do keep returning and not responding to our “training” methods, eventually, we’re not going  to miss! So that is what happened last week, we had one that kept lurking, boldly continuing to snag poultry from the yard, and Kirk finally got him. We don’t like to take them out, but if they are constantly killing livestock and do not respond to training, they have to go.

This was while I was out of town in Pullman, and Kirk called with the news. He ended up putting the coyote in the freezer to wait until I got home. It fit neatly into the empty above-the-fridge freezer that we’d recently replaced with our new French door fridge. So, we had a frozen coyote in the kitchen. 🙂 Before that though, he weighed the coyote and all the dogs. You see, we always get a kick out of people expressing great fear of coyotes, and amazement that we chase them, because they are really little dogs. Littler than our dogs. And they’re pretty chicken; they are no fools, they don’t take on something that might injure them if they don’t have to. And that was the case with this fellow, as you can see from the photo above, he’s a petite little canine, just about the same size as Maggie. Here’s how they weighed in:

Coyote: 33.5 pounds
Maggie: 42 pounds
Gene: 36 pounds
Spanky: 48 pounds

We thawed him out this weekend for processing. This coyote was actually not in good health, and his skin and tail were very mange-ey and he had some bald patches. He may not have made it through the winter on his own, and was probably targeting our poultry out of desperation for something easy enough for his unhealthy body to catch. Despite the patchy appearance, we thought it would be good practice to skin it, and once the hide was off, it looked OK. So for fun we’ll tan it for a wall-hanger, even though it’s not a fancy fur.

I’m not sure how to judge wild dog teeth for age estimation, but if this were a domestic dog, I would estimate 5-7 years old, based on the wear of the “scallops” off of the front incisors. This may be somewhat “elderly” for a coyote? They may wear their teeth faster than dogs though, so maybe he’s not quite that old. But definitely a mature male. It’s interesting to see how much longer and larger their teeth are compared to domestic dogs, definitely still designed for hunting, not kibble eating!


Below is how we skinned it. Warning: graphic pictures ensue, so only read on if you’re up for it! This post is in no way meant to disrespect nature or glorify killing, but to acknowledge that sometimes predators have to be killed, when they are making a habit of eating livestock and do not respond to gentler control attempts. When you do have to harvest one, you might as well make good use of the hide, and recycle the rest back to nature, so nothing is wasted. And learn some anatomy too. So, here’s how it’s done, or one way to go about it.

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What Is Inside Gene’s Toe?

GenesLegsMy Border Collie, Gene, has been battling some kind of leg or foot problem off and on for several months. It caused her to not use her right front leg at all. Though she gets around famously on three legs- she can really cruise! The issue didn’t seem to be causing her any distress or discomfort, she went about her business like she wasn’t even aware that she was only working with three  legs!

At first I thought this was caused by a thorn or other sharp object in her foot, as originally I could see a little hole in her pad (or maybe even an insect bite or sting?). I could massage and palpate her whole leg and foot, and hyper-extend it in all directions, with no complaint from her- just a little sensitivity right on the pad was all I could find. I tried digging around in there with a needle and squeezing it, but could never produce anything large enough to explain the problem-just sand grains would come out of the hole (hmm). I tried a couple of different homeopathic remedies, and soaking in Epsom salts, thought the problem was gone, but then it came back. So, I finally sought the help of a vet to figure it out.

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More: Sheep Summer Camp Fun and Learning


The second stop of the KHSI Expo learning experience was to tour Jo-Le Farms in Scio, Oregon. Jon and Leslie Carter have been raising commercial Coopworth sheep for many  years, and decided to “breed the wool off” their sheep in 1999 when Jon started having back problems and no longer wanted to shear. Jon used mainly Dorper and White Dorper genetics to do this, but recently has been experimenting with Wiltshire Horn terminal sire influence as well. (More history on that endeavor is on their blog.)

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Integrating Young Guardian Dogs With Sheep


As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and experimenting with training methods to harness our LGD’s talents and minimize her undesirable behaviors. The biggest challenge has been preventing her from getting rowdy with the sheep. She has affections for them, which does translate to guarding them. But it also translates, sometimes, into her wanting to engage them in a good game of wrestling, ala teenager dog style. This is injurious to the sheep, so obviously has to be prevented. Continue reading “Integrating Young Guardian Dogs With Sheep”

Ocean Visit


We went to the ocean last week, for a five-day vacation. We visited Long Beach in Washington, and Cannon Beach in Oregon. The weather forecast was for rain all week- after months and months of pure sun! But, we lucked out, it mostly rained at night, and we got plenty of chances to play on the beach in warm, sunny weather. We stayed in our travel trailer at two different campgrounds.

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Mud Hen

MudHen This is what Maggie looks like after she swims in the muddiest of our agricultural drainage ditches. Like she’s been dipped in chocolate. Here she is locked outside, waiting for a hose-down before she can come into the house.