Rob's Blog Archive

September 4, 2011

Yard Time










Traipsing across the kennel to the play yard while carrying a bucket of water means either yard time or a run.  It’s a very good sign.  Such good signs are inevitably followed by pandemonium. 

As I set each of the dogs free for yard time, he runs off like a kid at the recess bell to get the best toys and play areas.  The first moments are dominated by each dog’s effort to relieve himself in as many places as possible, and then one more. 

With round one done, the second round, a.k.a. “Marking on Empty,” begins.  Right now, Shoshone tends to shadow Zappa, baiting and harassing him.  “Shoshone, cut that out!” He momentarily obeys my yell by pealing off.  Then after about a minute or so, he’s back at it.  Zappa is at best complacent and sometimes even a bit encouraging to Shone, though I think it is more “I’m ready to rock!” than “Shoshone, you’re funny.” 

Having finished her toilet, Tempest usually remembers one of the forty itchy spots she has, and decides it needs attention.  It’s particularly flattering when she lays belly up and writhes side to side to scratch her back.

With the necessity of quick marks everywhere done, Gonja starts looking for fewer but higher quality spots to lift his leg.  They must be better because at this point in yard time, the post-urination-demonstration has increased its drama ten-fold.  However, inspite of Gonja’s desires, it constitutes a lot of sound and fury while still signifying nothing.   Everybody except me ignores it, and I’m just checking to make sure it isn’t a pre-fight confrontation. 

As the continuing marking leaves fewer and fewer spots with seven or less marks, playgroups start to get together.  Who joins in varies, but Mitzi and Sybil are always there.  Sometimes it’s just the two of them taking turns hiding under platforms or in houses waiting for the other to “flush out their prey.”  

Good sized scrums also form and when this happens, I often try and use it as a distraction for Tok for a round of “Home Free” where home is under the deck.  I’ve actually caught him one time before he made it to the deck, which makes the cumulative score Rob one, Tok thousands. 

I remember one of the professors I worked with describing the Theoretical Nuclear Physics group at M.I.T. as a bunch of baboons all trying to mount each other.  As yard time at Silly Lake continues, there’s a lot of that too.  However, while the mounting is real rather than metaphoric, I think yard time with my dogs is the more genteel version of this. 

Of course, many of the males do hold out hope to mount any or all of the females.  All my females are fixed as well as being perfectly capable of telling the boys where to stick it, or more importantly, where not to stick it.  Still, “Gonja, that’s your mother,” or “Quid, she’s your half sister” commands frequently roll off my lips.

There are bitches and there are bitches.  Every kennel has a teasing slut and in my kennel, that’s Kennicott.  Before I had her spayed, her continual offering of herself by flagging had all the humans a bit concerned.  In fact, she never came into season.  It was a tease that she’s only gotten better at.  And her primary victim is Quid.  The Q’s make great sled dogs, are very sweet, but are not in the brain trust of the Velikaya dogs.   With typical canine optimism supplemented by a relative shortage of gray matter, Quid is certain that at any moment Kennicott will fulfill his fantasies. 

The Silly Lake Siberian version of 43 man Squamish usually lasts 30-60 minutes.  Even if it’s shorter, the pack is willing to take their one treat bribe to be back at their houses. 

Ten minutes after I start hooking dogs up to their platforms, I’m done.  Everybody seems pretty happy, even those who had part of their treat stolen by Tempest or Fondue both of whom make a good habit of picking up any crumbs falling out of dogs’ mouths.  And the gang rests, watching for the next “good sign,” whatever that may be.

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