St. Bernard, Nova Scotia
It wouldn't be proper to start this week's diary without a picture of Larkin. She is a well-dressed hound. This is her sweatshirt. She also has a fleece turtleneck jogger, a winter coat and a rain coat. Greyhounds are short-haired and thin-skinned, and do not take well to winter weather. They are definitely indoor dogs. However, Larkin doesn't seem to mind the temperatures we are having, and actually prefers to be cool. Still, we are ready for anything.
She is adapting well to her new home. She is much more relaxed. She is still a bit curious about the cats, but because she is so mellow, they are quickly getting used to the idea of having a dog in the house.
We took Larkin to the vet this week for her first checkup. The verdict is that she is in good health and has excellent teeth, unusual for a retired racing greyhound. The funniest thing was to see her reaction when we brought her home. She has done so much travelling in her journey from the track to here that we are fairly sure that she has never gotten into a car without ending up somewhere strange with new people. So when she got out of the car and realized that she was back home, she got all excited, wagged her tail, and ran straight to the front door with a big grin on her face.
The weather remains mild, and we have been looking for the first signs of spring. Wendy found this clump of snowdrops at a neighbour's place. At a house downtown, a witch-hazel tree is starting to bloom. (right) In a few days, these blossoms will be bright yellow.
At our place, we are a bit behind, as we don't get much sun at this time of year. However, our first daffodils are above the ground, showing little inch-long spears.
I spent some time today pruning the plum trees. They say you are supposed to do them in June, but I have never figured out how that works. Since they desparately need pruning, I decided to do them at more or less the same time as the apples. I'll be pruning them next.
My projects this week included making a rain shelter for the jerry cans of gasoline that we keep for the generator. The old shelter was just a piece of metal roofing held down with a rock. However, that was just a bit too dangerous for a galloping greyhound, so I made a new one out of cedar.
The other project was indoors: I laid a carpet runner on the basement stairs. We just might have the classiest basement stairs on Denman Island! The purpose was more than cosmetic, though. Eventually, once we can trust Larkin and the cats to co-exist peacefully, we want to be able to allow her downstairs. Greyhounds don't do stairs well. Partly, it is unfamiliarity, though Larkin sems to have learned quickly to handle short entrance steps. But also, with those long legs, stairs are just awkward. To prevent accidents, carpet is recommended on stairs.
Emcon, the road maintenance people, have started work on resurfacing the Pickles Road bridge. They have about one third of the deck boards replaced. The bridge was second-hand when it was installed many years ago, and the wooden deck boards have been rapidly deteriorating in the last few years. With any luck, the new deck will last many more years.
Last week, I mentioned that our daffodils have started waking up. Here is the evidence. There is also new growth on the rose bush, and the leaf buds on the hydrangeas are thinking about opening. We have mulched everything in the garden heavily with straw, so it is too soon to see if our rhubarb and garlic are waking up.
We are trying to work out new routines now that we have a dog in the house. At this point, everything is too new to her for us to be able to leave her alone. So, Wendy and I have to take turns doing errands or working outdoors.
Our biggest fear had been that Larkin would chase the cats. Considering her amazing acceleration, they wouldn't have stood a chance. However, while she is curious about them, she hasn't chased them. Any time she shows a bit too much interest in them, a simple "no" is enough to make her look away. The cats, for their part are no longer terrified, and are starting to show curiosity about her. Liesl now routinely walks past the open door of the bedroom where Larkin is sleeping, and stops to stare at her. Even Owen has held Larkin's eye without running away. That is amazing progress for only two weeks. Still, we need to be prudent, and we can't leave them together unattended.
The other reason we can't leave her unattended yet is that she has a habit of picking things up. She doesn't really chew things, though she did take a chunk out of a pair of my jeans - fortunately I was not wearing them at the time. However, there is lots of potential for damage there, to our furnishings obviously, but also to her (think power cords). Until things are no longer new to her and she understands what is hers and what is not, she requires supervision.
We have taken the door off her crate because we leave it open normally, and the open door was in the way. However, it can easily be reinstalled for those occasions where Wendy and I are both out of the house at the same time for short periods of time.
Have you ever wondered how the brindle colour scheme developed in dogs? This weeks third picture shows why it evolved. I have an even better picture, but you wouldn't see anything in it!
Larkin is a well-dressed hound. Here is a picture of her in her raincoat.
The weather this week has been mild with some rain and some sun. Perfect weather for growing things. The first crocus is up, with a flower bud ready to pop, and we have our own snowdrops flowering now. There are more daffodils poking up now, although it will be more than a month before they flower.
I planted a bunch of tulip bulbs last fall, now that our yard is deer-proof. There is no sign of them yet, but I am hoping it won't be long.
There are fresh leaves on one of the hydrangea vines, and lots more buds to follow. The climbing rose has new growth on it, and the hazelnut trees we planted in the fall have healthy-looking buds. Down in the garden, the scallions are poking up through the straw mulch.
Larkin is feeling more at home all the time. We have now had her longer than the foster home did. When we come in from outdoors, she comes trotting out to greet us, all waggy-tailed. She is relaxed and confident around the house.
The cats are feeling more comfortable with her all the time, too. They are gradually getting back to their former routines. While they are still cautious, they don't seem too bothered by such a large, strange creature. Larkin and Owen have even stood facing each other only six feet apart without either one acting aggressive or fearful. Though we had hoped that they would get along eventually, this is progressing much faster than we had expected.
Larkin enjoys going for walks. This week, we started taking her out of the yard. We have been down Pickles Road to the bridge several times. In the last few days, we have taken her in the car to Central Park and Chickadee Lake for longer walks. She was afraid of the car at first. Most of her experience with vehicles in her life has been to take her away to new homes. However, her attitude has rapidly improved with several car rides that ended in walks. Today, she was more than happy to hop right in.
On the longer walks, we go for about an hour. This is quite enough to tire her out. Remember that greyhounds are sprinters, not endurance athletes. In their racing lives, they ran for only 30 seconds a week. She is a treat to walk, especially in comparison with Reba, the doberman that we had in Calgary, who used to wrench my arm out of its socket. Larkin trots along at a good clip, but she not only keeps a slack leash, she actually responds to signals through the slack leash.
On today's walk, she encountered something she has not seen a lot of in her life: other dogs that were not greyhounds. The kids walking the dogs were responsible, and immediately leashed their dogs. Larkin made us proud and trotted right by them without showing fear or aggression.
More and more, we are thinking that we made a very good choice to adopt her.
Today, Wendy and I enjoyed another concert at the community hall, featuring Catherine Ordronneau playing solo on Denman's Yamaha concert grand piano. The program was all French, with pieces by Ravel, Hahn, Debussy, and Poulenc. The final Ravel piece "Gaspard de la nuit" was described in the promotional material as "fiendishly difficult", and I can certainly believe it. While the pieces wouldn't have been my first choice for listening, Ms. Ordronneau played them magnificcently, and we thoroughly enjoyed the concert.
This week has been a mixed bag for weather, with some very wet weather and some cold clear weather. On Friday, it was too soggy to do anything outdoors, yet a couple of times, I was able to go out at night and look at the stars.
Today, it was cool enough that we dressed Larkin in her winter coat for her walk. We take her for about three and a half to four kilometres, or about an hour. She loves to explore new territory, and would like to venture down every deer trail she sees or smells. She would happily run for hours until she dropped from exhaustion if we let her. As it is, she is nicely tired at the end of a walk.
To avoid undue stress on the neck, tall dogs should have their food and water dishes on a raised stand. A couple of weeks ago, I converted an old bucket into a stand for Larkin's dish. For some reason known only to herself, Liesl the cat has developed a taste for water flavoured with dog slobber. She will stretch herself up to drink from Larkin's dish rather than her own kitty-sized dish downstairs.
Larkin and the cats are still mostly avoiding each other. Earlier this week, Larkin was sitting in the kitchen. Owen crept up to her and bravely reached out and touched one of her hind legs while she wasn't looking, then quickly scuttled away. She didn't react, other than to wonder, "What was that?" They have had some supervised mutual staring sessions in the living room. We are hopeful that it won't be long before they are fully integrated into each ther's routines.
In the meantime, both kitties spend most of their time in the basement. Liesl has her own bed downstairs, where she tries to hide, but can't resist peeking to see who is looking at her.
Outdoors, we are seeing more daffodil shoots popping up all the time. There are several crocuses up, and the snowdrops are pretty much finished. Unfortunately, the forecast for this week is for cold and even flurries. Hopefully, the plants are used to that sort of thing.
This morning, Wendy and I dropped in at the Seniors' hall to watch some of the table tennis tournament. This annual event is a fundraiser for the green cemetary project. Denman's table tennis elite, and some ringers from off-island battle for bragging rights in this two-day tournament. We watched some of the doubles playoffs ths morning.
We didn't stay for long, because we don't want to leave Larking unattended at home for too long. Initially, we locked her in her crate when we went out. Then, we just confined her to the bedroom with a chair blocking the entrance. Today, she graduated to having the run of the main floor. She is doing very well. She hasn't chased any cats, and only steals the odd cushion or towel.
Copyright © 2013 Keith Walker
Last modified: 20-May-2013