June 07, 2012

 Awake at 6:30 on a Sunday morning!  Not in my plans to be up this early but nature called, as did several little dogs.  So, there I was, in the midst of something that, at my age, can't be stopped all that easily, when I saw a flash of movement on the floor.  I knew immediately what it was but could not move from where I sat. My first instinct, after lifting my feet off the floor,  was to scream, "SCOOTER" followed by "MOUSIE".  Then, as the small creature scurried along in front of the sink, I tried yelling "TRICKI! DUCKY! DOGS! COME HERE!".  As the mouse scampered around the doorway of the bathroom and started down the hall, I finally concluded my business and scrambled to my bare feet.

There was a time when my shouts would have elicited a stampede of little paws, running to see what varmint I had spotted.  Scooter would have led the charge, ready to do battle with any mouse that dared cross her path. Today, however, when I dashed back into the bedroom for shoes, I found a half dozen bleary eyed dogs, staring at me.  Scooter, whose head was just poked out from under the covers, blinked at me as if to ask what all the ruckus was about at this time of day.
Twelve years ago, Scooter was just a year old and that summer mice invaded the bird-room, which was closed off while the birds enjoyed their outdoor aviary. When I walked into the room, I knew instantly that there was a problem and in short order I discovered that a mouse had selected an empty bird box for her nest and was working on litter number two.  There were 16 or more mice in that room, counting the litter of hairless little babies!

That day, I truly saw instinct in action.  To my knowledge, Scooter had never seen a mouse before that day but I was frantic, trying to figure out how to deal with a mass of mice that I knew would erupt as soon as I moved the disturbed the box.  I decided that if Rat Terriers were "designed" to hunt rodents, it was worth trying Scooter as a solution tho the horde. I brought Scooter into the room, closed the door and shook the box the entire family was living in. Mice poured out and took off in every direction.  So did Scooter!

That little dog was a whirlwind, she raced from one side of that room to the other, snapping up a mouse, dropping it and going after the next.  She got so excited that a couple times as she ran past one she had already killed, she would grab it up and bite it again.  Except for the little pinkies in the box, Scooter cleared that room of mice in less than 5 minutes.  She kept hunting for another 10 minutes and for the rest of the day she would go check the room every hour or so, I suppose just in case she missed something.  Scooter remained an amazing hunter until last year,  wherever we went, all I had to do was say, "find a mousie" and she would set off, searching corners and crevices for the scent of prey.

Last year Scooter had what appeared to be a stroke. She had another a few months later. She made a fair recovery and is still my buddy but she can't see well and today I learned she can't hunt anymore, either.  She just looked confused when I told her to find a mousie.  It's sad to see her losing her edge with age although she doesn't seem to be concerned about it. She would rather stare at me these days, hoping I called her so I could give her a treat. 

Of concern for me is that there is no successor in sight. All my guys are around the same age and Scooter was the only one who ever took a real interest in hunting mice.  For me, this means I either have to start setting some traps or risk having tiny furry paws running across my toes when I get up in the wee hours of the morning. I suppose we will muster on.  It just happens that a cat was dumped in the neighborhood this week and she has taken up residence on my porch.  Perhaps she would be interested in hunting?  Or, she may just sit and stare at me, waiting for food. 

BTW, I didn't give Scooter the babies to kill, dumb part of the story, I raised the babies on an eyedropper then took them FAR away from any houses and released them when they were old enough to forage.

October 29, 2011

Lazy Autumn Nights

Fall is officially here in the Lewis establishment.  The furnace came on this morning, although I thought it was turned off.  Turns out I had just turned it down so when it got down to 58^, it kicked on.  I usually try to see how late we can go before turning it on, made it to Thanksgiving a couple times.  BRRR! It was getting a little chilly in here by then.  
The fun part about cool nights is packing into the library, where the computer is, turning on the "stove" which looks like it is burning and puts out a nice warm breeze.  The dogs love when the stove goes on because they can curl up in front of it and get all toasty. They become less like a pack of terriers than a herd of slugs when the heat is on.   

On winter mornings, when I get ready for a shower, I turn on a little electric heater in the bathroom to warm it up before jumping in. Long ago, my "kids" learned what it means when I holler "bathroom".  When they hear that word, they run into the bathroom and cluster in front of the heater, on the bath rug.  The trick is to find a place to put my feet when I get done.  I have to slip my feet between little dog bodies to get out onto the floor again.  There are a couple who volunteer to help me "dry off" by licking the water drops off my ankles.  When the really cold weather comes, they don't want to leave the bathroom when I'm done, until I turn off the heater, then they are ready to go. 

Now that I'm retired, I should have plenty of hours to sit in the warm library with the dogs.  I can listen to "old time radio" on the computer,  while working on my blogs.  Gunsmoke is my favorite.  Could it be any better than that?
Sweet dreams fur buddies. 

October 19, 2011


My little Scooter, my April Fools baby, now in her autumn years. She was such a little whirlwind when she came to me. She is a Rat Terrier/Jack Russell Terrier cross but she got the look of a Rat Terrier. Fortunately, she got most of her personality from that side of the family as well. She was active but not insanely so and she has always loved to cuddle, sometimes for hours.

When she was just a puppy, she would run, FAST! She would tuck her puppy butt under and go so fast she would run into things and bounce off, like a pinball. She reminded me of the '70s cartoon car, Speed Buggy. How all that translated into naming her Scooter, I don't know but whenever I watched her run, I had an irrisistable urge to call out, "scoot, scoot, scoot, scoot" in a fast, high, squeaky voice. Even now, if I scratch her butt and say this to her, she will take off at a run, butt under. She did eventually learn to not run into things.

Scooter was a natural born hunter. She showed an early talent and passion for hunting mice. When she was barely a year old, mice took over the birdroom while the birds were outside for the summer. Trying to set the cat on the full litter of nearly grown mice and their mom was a lost cause. The cat figured he better run because he wasn't normally allowed in the birdroom. In a panic over how to deal with 8-9 mice before they could locate shelter outside the room, I called in Scooter. The girl looked for only a moment at that first mouse then she was off and running.
Scooter spun through the room in pursuit of the mice which had scattered everywhere as she came in. She would grab, bite, drop and go after the next one. She got so excited by the hunt that as she crossed the room, searching for more prey, she would grab one she already killed and bite it again. It was amazing to watch. She had never seen a mouse before.

She was not taught to hunt by her mom as her mom was afraid of mice. Pretty silly for a Rat Terrier but when she was a pup her owner presented her with a baby mouse in a bucket to "hunt". Unfortunately for this potential mouse hunter, the mouse was braver than the dog. It bit her on the nose, she jumped away and from that point on, she would have nothing to do with chasing mice.

Now having passed her 13th birthday, Scooter is still quick but last year she suffered from idiopathic vestibular disease, sometimes called "Old dog vestibular disease". When it first hit her, she was in the yard and suddenly she was stumbling, falling and walking sideways. When I picked her up, her eyes were flashing back and forth and she couldn't hold her head still. She went to the vet, the answer there was devastating. The vet said this was generally a symptom of a brain tumor. When I brought up the IVD, he said it is possible but probably something more ominous.

I could be referred to someplace where tests could be done to determine more but the vet was not optomistic about the final outcome. This meant going 6 hours away from home, being away from the rescue pack and then having to decide what I would do if it was a tumor. In the end, I decided to wait at least a few days to see what happened with her condition. This turned out to be a good choice.

After about 48 hours, Scooter's eyes quit flicking and she was able to balance better. She stopped tipping over and with that came a more relaxed demeanor. Gradually, over the next few days she returned to almost normal, which at this point is grey faced, arthritic, blind in one eye and nearly deaf. She still carries her head tipped to one side and this looks a little comical sometimes but other times it just looks sweet and quisical. I am so glad it turned out this way, I hate to see my little ones growing grey and stiff but I really am not ready for them to start getting the terminal conditions that can come with old age.

September 25, 2011

Visible pets.....finally

Finally, an update on my formerly invisible pets. The little fish actually look like fish now.

Despite having all hatched within the same 24 hour period, they now range in size from about a half inch to probably close to an inch and a half. Only one has come into his color so far, that is the biggest, named Midas. The second largest one, called Carat, is bronze colored but should turn gold before long.

There appears to be a natural process that prevents overcrowding, besides the one where the parents eat as many of the eggs as they can find. Over time a large number of little fish just died off.

There are only 11 fish now and the smallest one is so little I am still not sure he will grow up. None of them are big enough to rejoin the "parental" group. I hope by next spring they will be able to swim with the big fishies, although most of them will go live in the country in a friend's stock tank. They keep down mosquitoes and adding more than one extra to my little pond would probably too much.
It was kind of fun raising some of them but I doubt I will get real excited about doing it again.

September 24, 2011

Quilt 2011

The Ratbone Rescues quilt for 2011 is finished and is now in the process of finding a new home. It came out pretty nice, at least I think so. So many lovely blocks were made by volunteers. I made the center block, a Columbus Day block, Memorial Day block, Christmas block and a Halloween block.

I really have enjoyed doing the applique work. I hadn't really tried anything like that until I started doing blocks for the rescue quilt. The neat thing about the applique is the artistry in it, even though at this point, for me it is a craft. Perhaps eventually I will create truly original designs, so far I have used photos for my designs. I did modify the image for the center block, making the puppy several weeks younger than the one in the actual picture.

The quilt is big enough for a queen sized bed and should be nice and warm. The binding is done in the burgundy color used in the center block. Each pieced star block was done by a Ratbone member and her mom in a long weekend. The quilter put little stars in each little white square in the corners of those blocks.

I do hope this beautiful quilt raises a lot of money for our rescue. A lot of expense goes with rescue and it is rare to find a legitimate rescue that is not in the red most of the time. Takes a lot of fundraisers to keep up with the cost of vet care for 100+ dogs at a time.

September 15, 2011

At this writing, it is early morning, September 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of 9/11. For the past week TV programming has been full of stories about that historic day and it's aftermath. Millions of Americans will forever remember exactly what they were doing that morning in September, 2001 and for the rest of their lives, many will feel an ache in their heart when they recall it. Americans pulled together that day and heroes emerged from clouds of dust. One tiny little hero, special to the hearts of Ratbone members, was Ricky, a Rat Terrier Search And Rescue (SAR)dog from Washington.

Ricky, who lived with the Linker family, was not a shy dog. He jumped, ran, chewed things up and fetched until day's end, although he would not give up the ball. He could bark continuously, for what seemed like hours. But when people were trapped and dying, these were the traits that put Ricky in demand. At two years old, Ricky could climb ladders, run complex patterns on command and differentiate between the living and the dead. On June 17, 2000, Ricky attained his Basic Level certification after proving he could search through piles of concrete at a site half the size of a baseball field, finding three victims in less than 10 minutes, unfazed by bulldozers, jackhammers, cats in cages, and dirty laundry, set up as distractions. Even so, the carnage at the World Trade Center site pushed Ricky's abilities beyond anything he'd ever experienced.

At 17" and less than 18 pounds, Ricky would not let his small size deterred him from his duties at "the pile". In fact, his size, compared to most SAR dogs, worked to his advantage. Ricky was able to squeeze into holes that other dogs and robots were too large to navigate. Ricky and his trainer, Janet Linker of the Seattle Fire Department, searched the ruins for ten September days, helping to locate the bodies of several victims. "There were a few situations where we had to climb underneath metal beams, and the space just kept getting smaller and smaller," said Janet, who worked with Northwest Disaster Search Dogs.

Janet and Ricky worked closely with another SAR pair, Kent Olson and his Golden Retriever, Thunder, fellow members of NDSD, to locate several victims in the rubble, among them a firefighter and a policeman. The two dogs' abilities meshed well, Ricky could wriggle into tight spots that 64 pound Thunder could not manage, and Thunder, a more experienced dog would verify Ricky's finds. When Ricky found a body, he would signal by standing very still, looking at his handler intently with his fur standing up; Thunder would confirm the find by lying down as his signal to his partner. Rescuers then knew exactly where to dig. Both dogs' signaled a "live find" with a bark, but unfortunately they never had the chance to give that signal.

On Sep. 29 after almost two weeks, Ricky and Janet were called off the job and returned to their home in Auburn, Washington. Ricky has been retired from SAR work and now spends his time being a loving member of the Linker family. The nation owes it to Ricky to always remember the work of he and his fellow Search And Rescue dogs. These amazing dogs and their handlers deserve a place in history for all their efforts in the days following the attack on the World Trade Center.

We at Ratbone Rescues THANK Ricky and all the other rescue workers, human and canine, for all they did for America and we REMEMBER those who died that day and in the years since, in defense of America.

This article was originally written for the Ratbone Barker, newsletter for Ratbone Rescues. I'm the editor and one of the writers. Please feel free to sign up for the newsletter if you would like to read more of the articles about our delightful Rat Terriers.

June 04, 2011

Invisible pets?

I tried to take pictures of my new "pets" but since they are nearly invisible at this time, the best I could get was some shells and gravel. The new critters are baby goldfish and I mean real babies, like just hatched last week. My 4 goldfish got very excited about the addition of live, floating plants to their pond a couple weeks ago. Within a couple days they had deposited eggs among the roots of the plants. Since they then set about eating any eggs they located, I took one of the plants out and put it in a bucket. In less than a week, I looked in the bucket and saw what could have passed for mosquito larvae but they didn't wiggle the same way. The first couple days I had to look really closely and all I could really see were two tiny dots, followed by a 1/4" thread like line. The rest of each tiny fish was transparent.
Now that a week has passed, they resemble minnows but VERY small. I can make out little heads holding their tiny eyes and their bodies are more visible now. Maybe in another week I will be able to get pictures where they actually show up.