Tuesday, December 26, 2017

more snow

 Snow fell for many hours yesterday.

A lot of snow.

Beneath the new snow is a thick layer of ice, the result of an entire day of sleet falling on the remainder of an earlier snow. Winter came fast and hard this year.

I often say I would rather have two feet of snow than a half-inch of ice. Snow is mostly extra work and inconvenience, but ice can be dangerous. Ice covered by snow, even more so. When your feet suddenly go out from under you with no warning, there is nothing you can do to help yourself: you are going down, hard, on a surface like stone.

All a person can do is be careful: be aware of slopes and obstacles - like stones and stumps - now invisible beneath a blanket of snow, wear cleated boots to try to gain a little traction, and, as much as possible, shift one's weight side-to-side in the "penguin walk."

This will be the state of things here until we get a significant warm spell.
Could be next week.
Could be April.

That mess of wire Piper is standing behind is a temporary gate in a temporary fence. In late November, my Occasional Helper and I moved a short section of fenceline after the builder modified the route from driveway to back door; an offshoot of the portico project. In early December I bought two 6-foot-wide gates to install in the new fenceline, and the builder kindly brought his massive auger to dig the new post holes.

Unfortunately, in the race to get more critical things finished, we missed by one day the opportunity to do the post holes and hang the gates before the first big snow a couple of weeks ago. So now I'm pulling the two ends of the temporary fencing together and clipping it closed every time I go through. It's a bit awkward to deal with (the fencing is 6 feet high) and looks a mess, but it's a small inconvenience for giving Piper and Moxie and Della a safe "yard" to roam and play in every day. And the gates are standing by, looking reassuringly ready for installation whenever possible. Even if they stand idle til Spring, I'm glad they are already here; by the time I've written the last check for the Construction Extravaganza, I may not be buying anything but food for a long, long time.

Anyway, back to Piper. She came out with me yesterday and trotted around in the snow while I was doing chores. But when I let myself through the "gate" to clean snow off the Highlander, she had to stay inside the fence. Piper has been taking advantage of her hearing loss by racing away the moment she is off-lead, and ignoring my whistles and calls because she "didn't hear" me. Often she really can't, but she knows very well that running off into the woods behind our property or down into the road - yes, into the road! - is absolutely forbidden. And here's the kicker: from her puppyhood, I trained Piper simultaneously to hand signals as well as vocal commands. Well, now she deliberately avoids looking at me when she is off-lead, so she "can't see" my signals or hear my commands. While this may sound very funny, it has the not-at-all funny effect of a very smart dog on a suicide mission.

Not on my watch, Ms. Piper.

Dear Readers, I welcome suggestions on life-quality-enhancement techniques for a very smart dog with hearing loss!

I've recently begun buying bells - in fact, I bought every bell I could find at the Pat Brody Shelter sale - to try to determine which tones Piper can hear. I hope to find three different-sounding bells: one to carry in the woods when Piper is off-lead and I need to "reel her in," and one for each of the two house doors. It is very frustrating - for Piper, for me, for the goats, and perhaps for any neighbor within a quarter mile - when Piper is waiting to come in at one door while I am standing around the corner at the other, whistling and calling at the top of my lungs, while trying to keep two lithe cats from shooting out between my legs into the night. If Piper can hear the bells, a different tone at each door will solve the problem easily.
Whether the "reel her in" bell will work is more doubtful, even if there is always a treat waiting. But we'll start small. It's worth a good try!

The sun is coming up through the trees, so it's past time for me to get started on things. Since it's Boxing Day, perhaps I will spend a little time going through the boxes I asked the carpenter to hand down from the attic. Or maybe I'll make a Box Lunch and take Piper for a ramble in the snowy woods.

What a tough choice.

I'd better let Piper decide.


  1. OH no - hearing loss AND being smart enough to not look for hand signals could be a bad thing. I hope the bells will work. It would be such a shame to have to keep her on a leash. Be safe in all that snow (snowing heavily here at the moment too).

    1. Yes, she's on lead most of the time when we go anywhere, so if there is no one else on the trails we visit, I let her ramble. But it's getting riskier as even my most piercing whistle doesn't always seem to get through :(

  2. Is there a dog hearing aid or whistle available? I hope so.

    1. I tried a "silent" dog whistle a while ago, but either I wasn't using it properly (entirely possible - I have hearing loss also!) or else Piper couldn't hear it. Or chose to ignore it. I've got a pretty loud and clear whistle myself, and I managed to raise it another half-tone, which Piper can hear better! But not always.

  3. Definitely the ice is the dangerous part. Be careful out there. Poor Piper. I imagine she must also get frustrated and confused if she can't hear as well. I would definitely be concerned for her safety.

    1. You know, I actually don't think she feels frustrated or confused about the gradual hearing loss - she never acts that way. She hears some things very well, and I suspect it's certain pitches that she is "missing" and maybe more so when there is background noise. And she has a GREAT nose, so lots of information arrives in her mind that way. Also, if I think she isn't hearing me, I often go over and hug her neck and talk right against her ear, so there is a benefit in the form of More Frequent Hugging. :)

  4. Love the thought of bells - clever you ūüėĄ

    Yeah, aging best friends are a problem, aren't they. Mind you, not that they know they are... perhaps they get to enjoy their "freedom" from shackles?

  5. It's amazing how they can be just like little kids. I hope Piper stays out of trouble.


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