How to Tire Out a Border Collie If You Don’t Have a Herd

Captain Jack considers my socks from the hamper and his pillow from my office to be his flock, his to move about the house as the need comes over him. It’s cute, but it doesn’t really serve the purpose of tiring him out.

This might. 

Click picture to biggify

This is our new 1-Running-Dog Bike Tow Leash, attached to my recumbent bike. It weirded him out pretty good for the first few minutes, but now that he’s gotten the hang of it, he really seems to like it. We live near a bike path, so we can get going without worrying about car traffic, at least for the first mile. I’ll have to get some video of it. When he breaks into a gallop, I feel like Roy Rogers on Trigger, with Bullet racing alongside.

I also have to say I like our town. In the space of two minutes, yesterday, I passed a young girl on a unicycle and a guy on a Segway. The Segwayist yelled to me and Jack, “Man, that… is… cool!”

I  had to agree. But I’m already starting to see signs of Jack getting into shape. A vigorous forty-five minute run just leaves him wanting more. 

Buried By Snow on a Snowy Evening

My friend Rich Bowker has been posting a series of snow poems by actual poets. I thought I would add my own stanza to the ouvre.

Whose woods these are I think I know
His house is in the snowdrift though
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods swall’w’d up by snow.

—Robert Frosty

The ground is down there somewhere. Way down.

Another foot or so predicted tonight and tomorrow, after the foot or so we’ve had over the last couple of days. It’s getting really hard to pile it any higher.

Captain Jack’s enjoying it.

Something interesting

My snow blower continues to work, off and on, coughing and sputtering. I believe it’s running way too rich on the bad carburetor (new one still en route from China), and after few hours it quits and I have to feed it a new spark plug because the old one is fouled with carbon. I only have so many new spark plugs on hand to feed it. (Like, that was my last.)

The bike path transformed

We will remember this winter, I think.

Captain Jack: Lost and Found

Today was going to be a big work day for me, because I’ve got some big ebook launch and promotion coming up in the next few days. Things worked out differently, however.

Our neighbor Marc borrowed our border-collie mix Captain Jack for a hike in a reservation a couple of towns over. Marc is one of Jack’s favorite people, and usually Jack obeys Marc better than he does us (kind of the way a child might listen to a favorite uncle while ignoring a parent). This time, though, he ignored Marc and went tearing off after another dog. And got lost. Lost, lost, lost. Eventually Marc called me, and I went up to help search for him. We were getting nowhere, and a ranger who had been alerted searched without success. It was getting on toward dark, and it was already cold out. I was remembering my first border collie mix, Sam, who had once gotten lost in the same reservation and who had stayed lost for a couple of days, before turning up at our home miles away in Cambridge. I didn’t want to relive those couple of days. Or worse, never see our buddy again.

And then Marc got a call. (Aren’t cell phones great?) An acquaintance he’d run into (who was walking her own dog and learned from him about the missing Jack) had just snagged Jack on the border road, where she’d seen a driver trying gently to herd him off the pavement! We were soon reunited, Jack unharmed but shaken, and Marc and me and all the family heaving deep sighs of relief.

During the course of all this, we were on the phone to the Dept. of Conservation and Recreation, the state police, and the police of a couple of neighboring towns. Without exception, the dispatchers were helpful and sympathetic—and happy for us when we called back to say that Jack was found. They’ll probably never read this, but if they do, thank you! Thanks also to all the other dog owners in the area who helped us look!

We even capped it off by watching the second half of the Patriots/Ravens game, which was really exciting even for us non-football-fans. Go Pats. Go Jack!

No, make that “Come here, Jack!”

Turkeys Afoot!

It was about six weeks ago that I first encountered the family of wild turkeys on the bikepath near our house. I was walking Captain Jack when I came upon them: two adults and four youths, taking their own stroll. They didn’t seem very concerned about us, and Jack didn’t seem terribly interested in them, which struck me as odd.  Here they are on August 6.

We’ve run into them probably about once a week, since then. Here they are today, September 17. The young’uns are quite a bit bigger now. I took this picture about ten seconds  before Captain Jack pulled the leash out of my hand (I was trying to email the picture) and bolted after them, chasing them into the trees. No one was hurt. No harm, no fowl. Heh.

A Bird in the Kitchen…

…is worth how many in the claw? 

I got up this morning to the sound of Captain Jack howling and scrabbling frantically around the living and dining rooms. What I found when I arrived was a terrified bird flying back and forth in the room, arousing great interest from Jack and Moonlight (the cat). Finally it flew into the kitchen, and I managed to get a few pictures.

Who can tell me what kind of bird this is?  Gray, with a spotted underside, and (though you can’t really see it in these shots) a longish, narrow beak. You can biggify by clicking on the images.

I opened the kitchen window screen, and after a few minutes the bird found the opening and shot out of the house like a rocket. I’m still not sure how it got in—maybe through a torn screen in my office, up on the third floor. If so, that meant it found its way down the hall, and down the narrow stairs, before meeting up with the local guards.

All’s well that ends well.

Space Travel for Animals?

Being on retreat doesn’t mean I don’t still get interesting links. First, we have a frog joining the space program, probably not voluntarily:

That’s from The Atlantic, which has more details. This is the recent launch of the LADEE moon probe, on a Minotaur rocket, from Wallops Island, Virginia. Pity the poor creature. But it did have a fleeting moment of glory.

And second, we have some cows who did not seem to enjoy the test launch of a SpaceX Grasshopper rocket. Looks like they didn’t stick around to watch the landing. But you should.

A rocket landing on a tail of fire is how God meant us to come back to Earth! All that’s missing is tail fins on the rocket to complete this Golden Age SF vision of space travel.
The retreat is going very well, by the way. Making good progress on the book. 

Asleep in a Heap

Allysen’s back from Puerto Rico, and here’s how she looked soon after her arrival. The little fellow is Crunch, who hung out with us for a few hours before going to her home. The big guy, of course, is Captain Jack. They look like they could be related. But they’re not.

Will You Adopt an Adorable Puppy?

I’ve been in Puerto Rico for the last week, working away at the Herculean task of packing up Allysen’s mother’s house for her move to the Boston area. A couple of evenings ago, her dogs Diego and Sixta ran howling up to the gate to see what insidious deed was afoot. It turns out their instincts were spot on. A family of—I can only call them lowlifes—had just dropped a litter of seven puppies in front of our house and hightailed it down the hill.  (Allysen got there in time to see them and ran after them yelling, but they fled. We are the last house at the top of a hillside road, and for years, people have been abandoning animals at our gate.)

We really needed this, while trying to pack up a lifetime of books, papers, artwork, and other possessions. But like it or not, the puppies were suddenly in our hands. And so now, we have fed them and bathed them (they were crawling with fleas), and have been trying to find a local rescue group who can take them. If we don’t hear from Save a Sato or one of the other groups by tomorrow, we’ll take them to the Ponce Animal Rescue and hope for the best. We could bring a couple of them back to the States, if we knew there were homes waiting for them. So how about it? Would you like to take in a heartstoppingly lovable puppy?

You can see six of the seven in this picture. In back is an adorable one I immediately named the Hindmost, a reference that any reader of Larry Niven’s stories will recognize.

Moonlight: Playlist Killer

Moonlight: Killer App, or App-Killer Cat?

See this whitish Egyptian Desert Sand Cat? Looks innocent, doesn’t she? She spends most of her time sleeping, or making good her latest escape from the irrepressible Captain Jack (“I am border collie! Run when I say run!”). But beneath that seeming innocence lurks the heart of a computer-wrecker.

Sometimes, when I’m writing late at night, Moonlight likes to saunter up to my office  and get in my way by being affectionate. Usually she starts by hopping into my lap and purring, forcing me to reach around her to type. But sometimes she ensconces herself in the space between my keyboard and my monitor. It’s got a slidey stack of papers on it, and she makes them slide even more. Often, her hind paws stick down toward the keyboard. Last night, they were on the keyboard—actually, I think, on the Delete key.

I was just getting ready to quit for the night, when iTunes (always open when I’m working) suddenly began to flicker and blink. Finally it stopped. I inspected it. What’s this? To my disbelief and dismay, my entire set of playlists was gone. All of them. My carefully selected Writing Music, my eMusic downloads, my Kitchen Get Your Mojo Working lists, everything. I glared at Moonlight.

She shot a bored glance my way. (“You lookin’ at me?”) Yes, I was looking at her. And then evicting her.

Instead of going off to bed, I went off to Googleland in search of cures for accidentally deleted playlists. I was not the first to seek help with this problem. (A lot of people must have cats too close to their keyboards.) There is no “undelete” for itunes playlists. In the end, fortunately, I located a backup of my itunes library that was only six months old, and it had most of the lists reasonably intact.

Cat, you got lucky this time. But next time… well, there just better not be a next time, you hear? Stop purring and listen to me.

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