A Good Dog

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I know this post is titled “A Good Dog” — and I know there’s a picture of our dog, Ryu, up at the top — but can I just talk about runaway chickens real quick?

I swear, there’s nothing in this world quite so disheartening as watching the feathery backside of an escaped chicken flapping away into the distance. It’s disheartening because if you’ve ever tried catching a runaway chicken, you know it’s gonna be at least 10 minutes of frantic chasing before you even come close to catching the dang thing. And that’s if you’re lucky!

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There’s a famous scene in Rocky II, where Rocky’s crusty old trainer, Micky, sets a hen loose and tells him to go chase it down:

“First, because I said so. And second, is because chicken-chasing is how we always used to train in the old days. If you can catch this thing, you can catch greased lighting!”

If truth be told, there’s been more than one occasion out here on the old homestead, when a chicken escapee (in every case a rooster) ended up taking a .22 caliber hollow-point to the head — because it was easier for me to just shoot him and throw him in the stew pot than it was to chase him down and put him back in the coop with the rest of the flock.

Unfortunately, sniping wasn’t an option a couple weeks ago, when TWO of our chickens got loose…

Y’see, for the past two or three months, we’d been raising a half dozen Rhode Island Red chicks for Lindsey’s parents (as well as about a dozen other chicks of various breeds for our own modge-podge flock), and when it was finally time to load ’em up and ship ’em out, two of the little pullets literally “flew the coop” on me.

Rather than wasting all my time chasing down the two individual escapees, I turned my attention instead to getting the rest of my in-laws’ “Reds” out of the coop and into a well-ventilated cardboard box.

That part was relatively easy.

But when I finally got back around to dealing with the two fugitives, they were nowhere to be found. They had made their way into our overgrown orchard, and simply disappeared. I searched high and low, kicking clumps of weeds, canvasing the entire area, and doing everything in my power to flush those two chickens out into the open. But try as I might, I just could not find ’em.

Now, it was a pretty hot summer day, and I was starting to kinda worry about the rest of the Reds, who, by now, were panting exhaustedly in the cardboard box. If this pointless little game of hide-and-seek went on much longer, I might end up with a box full of slow-cooked rotisserie chicken…

So, I decided to bring out the big guns.

I enlisted the help of Ryu.

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Ryu is a German Shorthaired Pointer, and finding lost birds is right up his alley. You might even say this is exactly the sort of thing he was born to do. Except for the part about not harming the birds. That isn’t exactly in his job description.

Over the years, I’ve known (and owned) a lot of shorthairs, and although some were definitely better than others, none of them was exactly what I’d call “gentle” when it came to handling birds. It’d often be a toss-up as to which would be more damaging to the meat — the shotgun or the dog…

But let me tell you, Ryu definitely breaks that mold. I’ve never seen a dog with a softer mouth. It really is incredible. You should see him as he daintily accepts individual peas from the pudgy hands of our 2 year old. His gentle precision is a thing of beauty.

That being said, I still gave him a good talking-to before I let him out of his kennel.

“Now, Ryu. I need you to find those birds for me. But ONLY find ’em. Don’t you dare touch ’em!”

He was wiggling and whining with excitement, but I coulda sworn he nodded his consent.

Of course, it only took him about 5 seconds to find the first chicken, tucked away beneath a plum tree. Ryu pointed that flighty little chook with ease, and waited like a perfect gentleman for me to come catch it, box it up, and give him further marching orders.

The second pullet took a little longer to locate, because unbeknownst to me, it had actually made its way into an entirely different pasture, 50 yards away. All I can say is it’s a good thing Ryu was on the job. He really saved the day. We caught the second chook, boxed her up with her “sisters” and delivered them all to Lindsey’s parents with no further trouble.

But then again, Ryu’s been pretty much saving the day all summer long.

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Deer tracks in my carrots!

The deer have been getting a lot bolder this year, helping themselves to lettuce, spinach, and garbanzo beans on an almost nightly basis. Heck, they even ate our tulips the day after they bloomed!

Normally, just having Ryu in his kennel at night is enough to keep them at bay. But not this year. I don’t know why they’re being so invasive this year, but by the time June rolled around, the damage was really starting to accumulate. So we decided to nip our deer problem in the bud by leashing Ryu to a t-post next to the garden every night.

He’s well enough behaved that I’m sure we could probably trust him without the leash, but we get some pretty reckless ATV traffic on our dirt road, so I’d rather be safe than sorry.

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Every night, just before I hit the hay, I take Ryu out of his kennel, hook him to his “guard post”, and give him his ratty old blanket and a strict admonition:

“You keep the deer out, okay?”

And then, every morning, as soon as I wake up, I make my way out there again, let him loose (after which, he promptly finds a dry patch of weeds to water), and I inspect the garden.

The results have been stupendous. No more deer!

I know my Gratitude Rants don’t start until November, but I’ve just been feeling so grateful for such a good dog. He’s our garden guardian; our chicken wrangler; Lindsey’s personal running companion/skunk detector/bodyguard; and he is so cute and gentle with our girls. I just don’t know where we’d be without him!

I’m very grateful for a good dog!

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