Monthly Archives: March 2010

Doggie calls the cops – oops!

Maggie Tanner’s not very smart – really.

She doesn’t have the sense to walk around a puddle and just splashes her way through. Once she fell into a goldfish pond and just sank to the bottom with nary a wiggle to try to swim up and out.

During a walk in the woods Maggie was absolutely dumb-founded when she found a log on the trail. No, she didn’t go over or around the log – she just stood and stared until her buddy, Beccy Tanner, lifted her over.

Maggie is Beccy’s dog, a rescued Sheltie that’s a pro at her only two jobs – being friendly and going on walks.

But last week Ms. Maggie was smart enough to help summon the police to Beccy’s house using her master’s cell phone.

Too bad Beccy didn’t know it or need it.

Click on this link to read Beccy’s hilarious account on her site on her ol’ hometown of Radium. Scroll down until you see Maggie’s smiling face.

And, oh, having met Maggie and had her answer the phone three times when I’ve called I find Beccy’s account totally believable.

Give it a read. It’s great.

Meatless in Kansas?

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm got herself in the middle of a great debate when she signed a proclamation dedicating March 20 as a day for going meatless in Michigan.

Somehow I don’t think we need to worry about such a proclamation in Kansas. Our ag-based lobbies and legislators from ag areas would raise such a ruckus no governor could work legislation from then on – or get re-elected. Hunting and fishing groups would also pitch as many fits.

Still, Michigan annually is at or near the top of the nation for the sale of hunting and fishing licenses. Much of southern Michigan is pretty serious farm country, too.

Gov. Granholm’s staff said she made the proclamation as a way for residents to save money from their tightening family budgets. Anti-meat groups and animal rights groups say it’s a clear endorsement of a healthier lifestyle and a kinder, gentler society in the making.

Reading the proclamation sure makes it looks like she’s endorsing the anti-meat and animal rights groups. Our last five governors have hunted and taken animals, let alone enjoyed eating meat.

You can click here to see a copy of the proclamation.

Google “Meatless Michigan Governor” and you’ll  have more than enough reading material on the topic.

2 weeks, 2 skunks – same dog

OK, yesterday’s blog was on how having Hank trained to whistle commands probably kept him from a close-encounter of the gagging kind with a skunk Sunday afternoon.

Well, sometimes hitting the whistle isn’t an option.

Twice I’ve had dogs sprayed by skunks. Both times it was the same dog, doing the same thing, about two weeks apart.

Mysti was a super-charged English-line Golden Retriever we bought early in our marriage. Kathy worked a second job just to come up with the money for a world-class pup and the air fare to get her to Kansas. She was a huge part of our lives.

Mysti took to training very well and one hit on the whistle could turn her from a gold streak to a sitting dog quivering with excitement as she waited for hand signals.

The first spraying happened when I dropped a dove into a hedge and buckbrush thicket by a buddy’s pond. Mysti marked the bird and hit the brush full speed, surprised a skunk and took a partial spray. She actually got enough water work, and I repeatedly lathered her up with shampoo I had in my jeep, so the odor wasn’t too bad. I think I hit her with a few shots of Kathy’s cologne at home, too.

Skunking #2 was much worse. We took a break from hunting pheasants at a preserve near Sublette and were shooting some doves when  I dropped one in thick kochia, Mysti barreled in and took a full shot from Mr. Stinky.

So, we were eight hours from our Lawrence home and I was driving a tiny Ford Fiesta hatchback.

I washed her down with gallons – honestly – of tomato juice and a couple of bottles of assorted shampoos. I thought I had the problem solved – but I thought wrong.

The first hour wasn’t too bad. But the more we rolled on down the road the more Mysti smelled. By Larned I was driving down the road with a couple of windows down, trying to keep myself from getting sick in the car and get enough of the smell air-washed off our house dog to keep me from getting killed when I got her home.

I had on every coat, jacket, glove and cap I had with me as I drove across Kansas.

As I recall, I succeeded and the feeling eventually came back to my frozen face.

Since, I’ve heard the following mixture is much more effective at removing skunk spray from pets -

1 quart of 3% Hydrogen Peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, 1 tsp liquid soap mixed together than a bucket of water.

Smelly encounter avoided by a whistle

It was easy to see a disaster in the making- an alarmed skunk and a hard-charging dog on collision courses.  Neither knew the other was there but both were going to be very aware of the other within a few seconds.

But Hank didn’t get a face-full of skunk spray and I didn’t have to spend the next several hours trying to remove one of nature’s most wretched odors from a family pet.

The probable problems were resolved as clean as a whistle – literally.

For the past 27 years I’ve been a huge proponent of whistle-trained dogs. The basics are simple.

One single, solid blast means sit immediately.

Several combined, very short tweets means to come immediately.

Working the whistle with verbal commands of “sit” and “come” can be taught to dogs at very early ages. The retrievers I’ve trained through the years have been working very well with whistles by the time they were four months old.

One of the primary uses has been directing the dogs to birds or dummies they didn’t see fall. I hit the whistle, they sit and I use hand signals to send them in specific directions.

But it’s also stopped them when heading towards a pond with very thin ice, chasing wounded birds across a road and called dogs from several blocks away when they’ve gotten from the yard in town.

The sound of a whistle registers immediately in their minds and can’t be confused with the hundreds of words we may speak on a hunting or training trip. No question they can hear and translate whistle commands far, far further than the human voice.

So Sunday afternoon Hank and I were scouting deer sign and just having fun in a friend’s thick pasture and around their nice lake in Harvey County. I was working Hank on some fun retrieves as we walked.

I’d tossed the dummy about 30 yards and had just released Hank from a sit to make the fetch when a black and white tail shot straight up a few yards from where the dummy had landed. Hank was about one-third of the way there when it happened.

The whistle was already in my teeth and one loud, long tweet stopped the dog like he’d hit a brick wall. He sat, turned and looked at me for instructions. I walked a bit closer and called him to me, again placing him on a sit.

We have no “stay” command, “sit” means sit until released.

After watching the skunk waddle Hank stayed on his sit while I walked over and picked up the dummy.

Needless to say, we turned and started looking for deer sign in another direction. Back home the only odor I had to deal with was the very bearable  smell of a wet dog.

Perfectly happy with an imperfect lawn

At 8 o’clock this morning I was in the middle of spreading fertilizer on our lawn.

I’m not really sure why I do it every year because my lawn work will largely fail.

Our lawn will never  appear as perfect as the ones on the fertilizer bagz. You know the kind of photo I mean, the one with a mother and father and two perfect children playing on a lush green lawn that’s cleaner than most carpets. Most times there’s a show-quality golden retriever romping with them, too.

Our front yard will look decent as long as the rains come and Kathy gets out and zaps a few dandelions with spray. But we settle for “green is good” out back.

It’ll never be great because I’m too cheap and lazy to water when it’s needed. If I’m going to invest that much energy and money it’ll be in our garden where I get the satisfaction of producing something wholesome to eat for my troubles.

Or if there’s time I might head to our farm and work on wildlife habitat so I can spend some time in what I consider the real outdoors.

And there’s also the lawn-scarring problem of two dogs that have free-range of our large back yard.

A little mowing evens-out the clumps were “well-fertilized” grass grows a bit thicker. A little bulldozing could help the deep wallows that develop in cool areas in the heat of the summer.

And then there’s that very obvious trail coming down the middle of the back lawn to our deck, a trail where the dirt’s so compacted even dandelions and crabgrass can’t grow.

Kathy blames it on Hank, who like most big Labs can’t be deviated from a pattern by cannon fire.  He will walk 20 yards out of his way to use that path when he could get some place much faster in a straight line.

But I contend most of the damage is done by Ruby Tuesday, Kathy’s eight-pound miniature dachshund. After all, those inch-long legs have to pound the ground a lot more times to get her anywhere compared to Hank.

OK, so my dog’s at fault for the wallows and the trail but I’m fine with that.

Somehow I doubt those gorgeous goldens on the fertilizer bags have ever busted ice on a pond to fetch those people a wounded duck or goose. Chances are they don’t enjoy many meals of  tomatoes they’ve grown with their own hands and fresh crappie fillets they’ve pulled from the water only hours before.

I’ll take those things over a perfect lawn for the rest of my life. No sweat.

If I get a desire to see a fine lawn I can simply look at our neighbor’s. He’s got the kind of yard that might put the ones on the fertilizer bags to shame.Seriously.

If he wants to charge me for the privilege I’ll hand him a few ‘maters and a bag of fillets.

I don’t think he duck hunts.

Sounds of spring in the air

Even over gusty winds I heard their calls, and it’s almost impossible for me to not look skyward every time I hear a flock of sandhill cranes trilling overhead. In late October they’re a sure sign that fall has arrived. Now, they’re proof winter is finally gone.

Earlier this week I took a few minutes from working on a photo assignment about habitat changes at Quivira to watch a few thousand cranes, probably recent arrivals at the refuge, flap and glide in twirling flocks.

032110quivirasandhills_mp001

A few dozen at a time they settled into a shallow stretch of water near the Big Salt Marsh. Even after landing the birds called loudly and flapped about, no doubt excited to be heading northwards to their breeding grounds.

I snapped a few pics before moving down the road.

Even with snow in the forecast there’s no doubt spring is here.

So many sandhill cranes can’t be wrong.

Small town – large laughter

The sign on the edge of town says “Matfield Green – Next Five Exits.

In the 17.2 seconds it takes to drive through the town on Highway 177 you realize the town that covers less than 1/5th of a square-mile only has five streets.

In the “middle” of town is a hand-lettered sign saying something like “Look for our new Super Walmart, coming soon!” This in a town of about 50 people.

So it goes in Chase County.

People in ranch and farm country often have a deep love of laughter. Maybe it’s because they’ve long had to fashion their own entertainment because of their isolation. Dunno, but there’s a certainly a pattern there.

Sunday The Eagle ran an article about how Matfield Green enjoyed its annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade last Saturday.

You can click here to see the article, photos and video.

A lack of space in the newspaper kept me from delving into the great sense of humor found in the town and the Hitchin Post, the town’s only business for about the past 30 years.

There’s a sign that says, ‘You don’t have to be crazy to work here – we’ll train you.” There’s also a mount of an old billy goat, with a sign trying to pass it off as some kind of fancy Flint Hills game animal. Hunts for the $20 critters go for $1,500.

Laughter and practical jokes are served up with every thick hamburger and huge plate of fries.

You need to be careful, though.

Last spring I buzzed into town after scouting turkeys and ordered a couple of cheese burgers to go. Susan Hardesty, the Hitchin’ Posts’ owner, let me get almost out the door before she urged me to check the burgers to be sure that’s what I ordered.

Under the buns I found hamburger patties the size of quarters – a far cry from the  usual saucer-sized burgers.

Her “April fools” caught me off-guard.

The crowd was small, but all in the Hitchin’ Post enjoyed a good laugh – including me.

Homeward bound – for the dog and goat

Don’t you just love it when a strange story has a very happy ending?

Such is the case concerning the deer-sized dog and his buddy, a goat that thought it was dog, that I blogged about two weeks ago.

In case you missed it, I was on a friend’s land by the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge when this huge yellowish-white dog came trotting up to be petted. Seriously, the dog was 120 pounds if it was an ounce.

Right behind him was a brown goat that also wanted to be petted.

They hung around the old homestead as long as I did – about two more hours – and enjoyed some attention and even some playing. Seriously, the goat loved a good ear-scratch and running and romping as well as the dog – and it was  a very personable and happy dog.

That night when I asked the landowner about the pair he said he’d never seen them. He called neighbors the next morning and none had seen them or knew where they belonged.

Well, a few days later the goat wandered in to Quivira’s headquarters, just as social and ready to be one of the guys as it had been with me. That’s about three miles from where we’d met.

No sign of the dog, though.

The folks at Q put the goat in a small pen and started making some calls. Eventually they found the owners – who lived about eight miles away! That’s one heck of a haul for the dog, let alone the goat!

The owners said the goat followed the dog everywhere it went. They guessed they’d gone on a walk-about and the goat had finally gotten too tired to keep up with the dog.

The dog eventually arrived back home. They came and hauled the goat from Quivira to their farm.

Next time I’m in the area and have a few minutes to spare I think I’ll swing by and give my ol’ buddies a visit.

Sure never though I’d write a feel-good story that involved a goat.

More, and more, and more, on mountain lions

It went on, and on, and on, like the subject just always seems to do.

At most Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission meetings the portion that gives the public a chance to comment on topics not on the day’s agenda takes four or five minutes. Sometimes there’s not a comment made.

But Thursday afternoon about 30 people attending the meeting in Topeka endured a grueling 45 minutes of chat on a topic of little real importance before the commission could get down to real business.

The topic that didn’t want to die on Thursday is the one that hasn’t wanted to die for decades.

You guessed it – Kansas mountain lions. This time the request and following debate was on the immediate need for a no-holds-barred open season on the creatures.

More to come on Sunday’s outdoors page.

Let the fishing begin!…but don’t litter

Fishing got a lot better in the Wichita area yesterday – and it obviously wasn’t because of the weather.

It was the first day of the new year Kansas Wildlife and Parks stocked channel catfish in lakes within the Wichita area urban fisheries program. Before the fishing season is done for the year they’ll have stocked about 50,000 pounds of catfish into about 30 local urban and suburban lakes. The fish range from 3/4-pound to three pounds.

Among yesterday’s stocked waters -Lake Afton and Chisholm Creek Park North Lake.

While at Chisholm North Vaughn Weaver, of Wildlife and Parks, and fish-grower Mark Harbin saw a bit of littering gone bad when they spotted a gull hanging upside-down from a small willow.

The bird had the treble hooks of a crankbait in the webbing of one foot. Several yards of fishing line were tangled in the tree.

After about five minutes of working together Vaughn and Harbin freed the gull and it flew to freedom.

Photos of the project will run on www.kansas.com/outdoors on Sunday.

After photographing the release of about 400 catfish a few minutes later I looked down and my feet were tangled in fishing line.

Come on, folks, these local fishing holes are far too special to leave them littered.