What's been up ?

I took a half day off for my Birthday, and Stephen and I went to the Lord of the Rings Exhibition at Te Papa. Very cool. Why oh why don’t they publish a book with good photos of all the costumes and props and stuff ? Did you know they not only built costumes and props in different scales (for the shots with hobbits), they actually used fabrics with the *weaves* in different scales. So the herringbone pattern in Frodo’s vest is the proper size, no matter whether it’s Elijah Wood or Kiran Shah in any given scene. Oi.

Naturally, we had to get our photos taken on the forced perspective wagon bench:

Had a *ridiculous* amount of trouble finding a place for lunch. Flying Burrito Brothers isn’t open for lunch, Kopi *closed* (when the heck did that happen ? They had the best roti in town, dammit), Masi (which I had a coupon for) turned out to be a little lunch cafe with a limited menu of boring paninis. Roti Chenai (Tamil/Northern Indian) saved us, and it’s one of my favorite places to eat lunch anyway, so.

In critter news, Jake is afraid of the ceiling fan. We’re wondering if he had a run-in with one of the local hawks while he was out rabbiting.

An interesting little note: If you want to be comforting to an alpaca (or horse, or presumably other herbavore), you’re meant to speak in a low voice, right ? High pitched noises mean agitation or alarm. Dogs, on the other hand, are the other way around — low sounds equate to growls, and you use high pitched noises to express approval. Takes a bit of thinking to get it the right way round. Likewise, I’ve caught myself using “LEAVE IT!!” on the cats, although usually we hiss at them to get them to stop whatever they’re doing.

Jacqui dropped Prince off Friday evening, back from his sojourn at Kylie’s place, and there’s definitely a difference. I think some of it is Prince, and some of it is just that we’ve got a better idea what we’re doing now. Slow Top, interestingly enough, is the bravest of the cats. As long as Prince doesn’t get too close, he’ll just sit there, or will walk around past him. Prince will very carefully ignore him. Quick, surreptitious little glances, and then pointedly looking in another direction. Works outside, too. The others will take a little more work, but it’s a start. Azami seems to be second bravest — I had forgotten until recently that she originally came from a house with a dog.

Got to watch a little switch flip in Prince’s brain. I’d gotten him a rawhide bone (one of the solid ones, not the kind with the knots on the end). We had guessed that at the kennel he was originally from, he might have had to fight for his food to some extent. He’s gotten better about not inhaling his kibble, and he’s never shown any aggression when I mucked with his bowl while he was eating (some of them do), but this is the first time we’d given him a “bone”. He tucked into it immediately, but I didn’t want him chewing at it on the sheepskin, in case he chewed up some of the wool. When I cautiously poked at the bone, he immediately tried to protect it — no aggression, mind you, not even a growl — he just tried to cover it with his head. I nattered at him soothingly, left him to start chewing again for a few seconds, then poked at it again. He tried to cover it again, then suddenly lifted his head and let me take it. I moved it off the sheepskin and gave it to him again. He took it readily enough, but when I got up to leave him alone with it, he dropped it and came over to me for pats instead. I don’t know if he decided he doesn’t actually want it after all, or if he just realized he doesn’t need to protect it from anyone. Either way, it was interesting to see.

In other news, the collars from Irene’s Pet Ware arrived (thanks again, Irene!!). Here Prince models his “royal” purple one, which, being custom made, fits him absolutely perfectly, I must say:

And for those holiday parties:

Oh, the audience for this little fashion shoot was a bit dubious about the whole affair:

The alpacas are appropriately wary of Prince. And Prince is appropriately wary of Oak, who has ac ouple of times rushed up, stopped, sniffed, and sprung away.

How's Prince ?

So how’s Prince doing ? — He’s faboo. He *really* wants to be a good dog; he just needs us to explain clearly what good dogs do and don’t do. He knows good dogs stay out of the kitchen, and don’t try to dig under the cardboard box covering the cat food (good dogs understand “LEAVE IT!” in that and-I’m-not-kidding tone of voice). He knows good dogs don’t jump up, but when he’s really excited, he can’t hold it all in, so he sort of pogo-bounces on his front legs — SO cute. The best way to spend time is with is head in your lap and you rubbing his ears. The *absolute* best would be if he could lie on the sofa next to you, but since he’s not allowed on the sofa, he stands next to you with his head on your thigh. When you get the ear-scratch going just right, he lets out this contented little sigh.

The cats still reckon he’s evil, however, so to help with the cat training we took him over to Kylie’s place in Newtown, to introduce him to Rupert, AKA “His Satanic Majesty”, a cat that takes no shit. We walked him back and forth in front of the cat. The first couple times he diverted toward the cat (not *quite* a lunge) and was corrected with a “LEAVE IT!” and a sharp tug on the collar (inter-canine corrections often center on the neck, so this reinforces the command). By the third or fourth time past, you could see his little doggy brain studiously ignoring the cat. “What cat? I see no cat. Nope. Noooo cat.” He did so well, that Kylie agreed to keep him for a week to reinforce the training and bed it in. When we get him back, he’ll hopefully be much calmer about cats, so that we’ll be able to work him with *our* skittish felines. (Getting our cats dog-trained has turned out to be much the trickier task than getting Prince cat-trained…)

Good news: He has someone waiting to adopt him ! She has a cat, but she’s also had afghans before, so she understands how sighthounds work. Yay for Prince !

More good news: My mom’s friend Irene not only owns greyhounds, but has a business making stuff for them. She’s not only sent a box of goodies for Prince (lucky dog !), but she’s donating collars to GAP ! Go check out her pretties !


Last weekend was cinco de mayo. In celebration there was a big Mexican food feast. Emily was our lovely and very skilled cook. The event was hosted at her friends house in Newlands, as while Emily has mad-keen cooking skills, she also has a small apartment that would explode if we put 12 people in it.

We picked up fixings for Sangria on the way over, and it was most appreciated. Also thematic and festive.

Emily has dicovered a Mexican food supply store (in Dunedin I think) that provides great tortillas, and a pre-made Mole sauce that was fantastic. We may try ordering some tortillas from them, as they are better than any of the store-bought variety.

Many of the people there were employees (and partners thereof) of CYFs. That is the government agency Child Youth and Family. The power of immigration was also well represented, as only 6 of the 12 there were native-born Kiwis. The rest were mainly american (5), with on Brit. Justin was the most recent arrival, having come from the States only 10 weeks ago.

When we told Justin that we raise llamas and alpacas he had a very amusing anecdote. “I met a llama once before- it ate my cellphone.” This required more explanation! Apparently he was out in the paddock back in the States, cellphone in had. The llama decided that it looked tasty, grabbed it, and took off. After much low-speed chasing (a llama can prevent you from getting close at a walk quite comfortably) the llama eventually got bored and spat out the phone. A combination of camelid mastication and drool killed the cell phone most completely.

The next amusing element to the story was Justin explaining the call for the insurance claim. “No, I am not making this up! If I were going to make up a story, would it be this one?!”

Always interesting to know what peoples first encounters were like! 🙂

Tools of the Trade

As most of you know, for the last year or so I have been working full-time on the farm. I do hope to be “finished” one day, but that day always seems be be “four to six months away.”

Working on the farm has its ups and downs. Probably the biggest down is working alone, which can be a bummer some days. But I realized an up-side a few weeks ago while chatting with Bill on the phone. Most of my day to day problems can be solved with one of the following tools:
-a chainsaw
-a big hammer

I know many people who would love to solve some of their work-problems with one or more of those tools.

The last two days have been all about fire. Getting old piles of gorse burned off. This was a challenge, as the bottom layers were very water logged, so in stead of burning in a huge conflagration of doom, I had to feed the poile back over onto itself, producing lots of smoke and taking lots of time. But at least slow means controlled, so I have managed to burn off many piles with no run-away fires, and that is certainly a good thing.

Monday Prince

Walks are getting better. He doesn’t like his turn-out muzzle, and usually tries to rub it off, but he knows that he needs it on before we go walkies, so now he comes up and shoves his head in whenever I present it. Then it takes a few seconds for him to calm down enough to let be actually *buckle* the thing. If I don’t go through a door/gate first, we just don’t go. So he’s learning to not push through, and that the walk goes where I say it goes. The Alpha leading the “hunt” is apparently a crucial point to get across when you don’t want your dog to chase animals outside. I think that’s going to be of limited utility with a dog hardwired to go ka-BAM after small running things, but it might help a bit.

As far as inside goes, we’ve established that, while he is in his crate at least, an oven-dried pig’s ear is more interesting than a cat. Well, until the cat panics and makes a break for it, anyway. I need to not try and rush this — the cats need time to get used to the idea, too.

As Stephen has observed, he’s figured out the sofa. I think the plan today is to put cardboard boxes or something uncomfortable on the couch when we’re not using it.

Finally, our info was out of date — he was neutered last week. He’d been kept intact as long as he had (7 is way past racing age) because he was being used as a stud. Some of the other hounds up for adoption are his kids.

Naughty Dog

So, now that we are on to weekdays, I am trying to work out my daily routine with the dog.

We have determined that he must have only been fed once a day before, for while he eats all his dinner, he only nibbles at breakfast (and what he does not eat goes away, as we are trying to follow the wolf-pack-feeding-hierarchy system).

Most of the day yesterday he was free to wander around the dining room, with the back-half of the house sealed off and full of cats. I left the living room slider open so the cats could come in and out. About lunchtime I came inside and found that Prince had discovered the joy of the couch.

Naughty Dog! We are supposed to train them to stay off the furniture, as we don’t know what the adopting home will want. So I would gently lift him off the couch while saying “Off!” And 20 minutes later, he would be back on the couch. But by the end of the day he had gotten the “off” command, which does bode well for his learning curve.

I had one close moment with the cats. Slow managed to slip into the dining room, and I had to tackle Prince as he made a lunge for him. Later that night we tried some crate training- where he was in a crate and we present cats. But that didn’t go so well, as the cats were so freaked it was kicking in his prey-drive.

We have had more success just leaving him in his crate, and letting the cats approach (or watch from a wary distance) on their own. Hopefully we can improve his cat safety level. We have another 27 days to go, so not rushing the process might help.

In other amusing animal news, last night Jake came to the living room slider and was standing up, pawing at the glass with a clear “hey! you seem to have left me outside!” So we let him in. After a bit of lap time, he curled up against the alpaca pillow. So we left him in for the night, which passed without incident. I am guessing by the time winter fully sets in, Jake will be an indoors cat every night. Sure, he loves the rough farm life. But cuddling up to a fluffy pillow afterwards, well, that is just his due, right?

Saturday, another new face

Whew. Getting a new dog — even one as easy as a greyhound — is *exhausting* ! Jennifer, who’s sort of participating vicariously, bought and loaned me a couple of books, including “Retired Racing Greyhounds for Dummies”, and I also got Jan Fennell’s “Practical Dog Listener” out of the library. Stephen and I have spent the weekend learning how to be alpha dogs. It’s easy to see why so many people get it wrong and end up with neurotic dogs or ones with behavioral problems. And it’s been fun comparing it to llama alpha behavior.

Kylie, a woman from Newtown who is also fostering, drove up to the kennels in Sanson Saturday morning to pick up her foster, Gigi, and ours, Prince — (“Aquatic Prince”, apparently) a 7 year old that came in with a lot of dogs from a kennel that had been shut down by New Zealand Greyhound Racing for not looking after the dogs properly.

So Saturday started with me leaping into the car and scooting down to the annual comic/sci-fi/gaming/etc. convention to pick up this year’s batch of anime. Then back in time to meet Kylie and Prince at around 11am.

First surprise — he’s intact. Part of what we’re doing is teaching him how to live in a house, and that means NO MARKING. Ack. He cocked his leg twice in the house & both times I took him immediately outside & praised him to the sky for doing his thing out there instead. Luckily, I’d swung into Animates on the way home and picked up some enzyme cleaner. So far, no reapeats of that behavior.

One of the hitches that racers often need to get over is being left alone — many of them have been surrounded by other dogs their entire lives. The books suggest working on this in stages for the first couple days — leave for just a few minutes, then come back before the dog has a chance to get anxious. Gradually lengthen the time you’re away, until the dog is comfortable that you’ll always come back. By 2 or 3pm, I could leave him alone for short periods without him making a big deal out of it.

Another bad habit greyhounds have — because they’re so tall, you see — is “counter surfing”. We planned to head that off by just keeping him out of the kitchen in the first place. We have a folding clothes dryer thingy (white rubber-coated steel wire) that we put in front of the opening to the kitchen (in lieu of a baby gate), but I soon discovered that not only did he have no trouble jumping over it (if it was at floor level) or wriggling under it (if I propped it up on boxes), he’s skinny enough that he can go right *through* it. BUT, all I had to do was make a sharp “AHH-AHH!!” noise and haul him out by the collar a couple times, and by 4PM, he’d grasped that he’s not allowed in, and no longer tries to follow me/us in there.

At 7PM, Stephen and I felt okay to leave him (crated) for a couple hours to go to a party, and he spent the night in his crate in the dining room with no complaints at all (in fact he walked in by himself just as we were thinking it was time for bed).

Day two, he no longer needs to follow me around as if his head were glued to my thigh, and he’ll even (mostly) stay flobbed while we get up and move from room to room.

On the flip side, we’re not solid on walks yet — he doesn’t pull the leash (unless he thinks there’s a cat around), but he does try to push ahead through doors and gates. And he’s no good with cats yet. For the most part, if he’s indoors, he’s at least distractable, but still too interested, and he totally lunges at them if he sees them through a window. He’s *much* calmer about them if he’s in his crate — doesn’t even get up, just watches. So for now, we’ve moved the cats’ food and water into the living room and given them the back half of the house, while the dog, when he’s out of his crate, gets the dining room and conservatory. We’ll see how this goes.

I think he must have been kept crated *too* much at the kennel he was at before — he’s missing hair in a lot of places (as you can probably see in the one photo). He’s also shedding dander at a prodigious rate. I need to find out if that’s something I need to do something about, or if it’ll
come right once he’s eating better and settles down. He needs his ears cleaned, too, though his teeth look okay.

I’m a little worried about a couple of organization glitches — he came with a regular collar, not a martingale, and no coat or mat (I bought a second-hand crate myself). I’m surprised to hear he’s not neutered. Plus we haven’t been given a lot of literature, so it’s good that I’ve done so much reading on my own. I think a lot of this is just because the adoption group is very very new (and maybe a little understaffed), and it hasn’t worked out all the kinks yet.

I’m SO relieved that he doesn’t have separation problems, or crate issues. It’ll make it much easier during the week. It’s also really good that Stephen can check in on him and give him a walk on his lunch break.

And here are a couple pictures:

Friday, an early start

Friday started early. Very early. We got a call about 10 PM Thursday that the transport truck carrying Cindy (Homerange Cinnamon Snow) and her cria (Rikaku) were on the ferry. At 1:20 AM on Friday morning the phone rang, the truck was on its way. My faxed map must have been good enough, as he found the place no problem. I wonder if any of the neighbors wondered about the stock truck going up our driveway at 1:30 in the morning?

Anyways, we got them sorted and unloaded (which involved checking eartags, as the dimly lit compartment was full of white and light fawn animals). We stuck them in the dog yard, and went to sleep. Well, we tried. After being awake for 45 minutes our bodies had switched into “awake” mode, and it took at least half and hour to wind back down to sleep. So when the alarm went off at 5:50… urk, zombie time.

At dawn I moved Cindy and Rikaku up to the gallop paddock, where all the girls are living. A great deal of sniffing ensued.

Jim, who was living on the back hill with the rest of the boys, decided that the time had come for him to become alpha male of the girls. This was acheived by jumping the fence. He had jumped the fence earlier in the week to get to “his girls,” and after some consideration we decided to leave him in there. He was obviously happier, and he would just keep jumping over the fence (or trying, and maybe injuring himself). The rest of the boys are not really happy about this, but not much we can do about that.

Rikaku is quite a big boy for his age (5 months), and we are interested to see just how big he will grow.