Mellow in Her Old Age

Our little lap dog is now an overlap dog

I only have a few minutes before the day officially begins with the opening of the chicken house. The new hen (yet to be named, but with her only companion named Pearl, Buck and Jam have been suggested) seems to be adapting very well to her new digs. The dog is sleeping on the couch, and I’ve heard one should let them lie. And I agree.

Just a quick update on Gandy, about which I have been mostly silent lately, assuming half don’t care and the other half is tired of hearing about our puppoid tribulations. Even so, she has been at the center of our tiny universe, and that center is what I have been writing about and photographing lo these past ten years.

Today marks the first time I would characterize Gandy as being “affectionate”, meaning she not only let me rub her neck and ears without suspicion, but actually seemed to invite and then enjoy it. She’s putting the brake on the biting almost all the time now, and jumping up out of exuberance is her chief crime now, especially with strangers. It’s not mean behavior, but neither is it acceptable. If we ignore it, it goes on. If we reward her stopping, she thinks that starting again, then stopping, is the Perpetual Treat Machine. We’re not done yet with modifying each other’s behavior towards a tolerable mutual exchange of reward and punishment. My wife would probably say the same thing of our relationship, and it’s been an unsettled battle now for almost 42 years. We are, all of us, hopeless mongrels, under the thinnest guise of domestication.

As you see here, only ONE of her barely fits in the knee space under my desk where I once could have easily housed a half dozen Gandy’s with room for my size 12 boots left over. I’ll weigh her later today but I’m guessing she’s pushing 40 pounds. She’s gone from laptop to luggable and is celebrating month number 5 this week.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Wow, she’s really growing fast. And her contentment is very obvious! Great job, Fred….she’s a winner.

  2. It’s been a hard time, long time coming, that’s for sure. But her intelligence is finally starting to loom larger than her belligerence, and we are more often friends with me the alpha than competitors and her determined to climb to the top of the pack. I forgot to mention: her incisors (upper) are now permanent. Can the dreaded canines be far behind?

  3. And, she will love you for being the “Alpha” in her life. Much easier for you too! I understand the biting thing. Our cats have a habit of “loving” us by taking our whole hand in their mouths and sorta gently chomping down. Is that a love bite?

  4. The Gandy update sounds pretty good, Fred. I’m sure you know the ole “knee in the chest” correction for leaping onto people’s chests. Of course, you would have to train your guests to administer it!

  5. I’ve found the hiking stick makes a nice visible reminder after a mild thwack or two. Her memory has improved dramatically in the past few days. Sometimes she jumps along side us as we walk, but straight up, not aimed at us. I’m sure she’ll revert to some degree to her old snarly self, but days like this let us know what she is capable of. Pictures of Herself in the creek coming soon. We had fun!

  6. She is so precious! You’ll just have to sit on your feet. I can’t wait to see the creek pictures. She is still a baby but is so smart and learns so fast. We need more Gandy entries. And pictures and of the new chicken who is still nameless.

  7. Mine would general avoid jumping if I held my hand out, palm down, as though to block them.
    No Ruby, or Emmy, or Sapphire? (Please tell me you didn’t name the previous chickens that.)

  8. What a beautiful dog.
    I care, and never tire of reading your “dog” stories.

    I also want to hear more “chicken” stories, with photos.

    How about a photo of You, Ann, Gandy, and the chicken(s), TOGETHER………………. let’s see you pull that photo trick off !!! 🙂

    Take Care

  9. The exuberance of youth is just hard to contain sometimes – I love that she just jumps straight up while out walking! Like everything else you want her to learn, she’s smart enough to get it – it’s a bigger task to convince guests not to encourage it.
    And yes, let’s hear more about the chickens!