Training the hound

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A big part of our new life in the country has been Bailey. After losing our first dog Brodie about 12 years ago we always wanted another dog but living in the Inner West of Sydney didn’t seem a good environment for dogs. We had a tiny house with a tiny courtyard and despite there being lots of parks in the vicinity we always thought having no grass at home was a major no-no, especially for a bigger dog. Once we arrived in The Meadow it seemed sacrilege NOT to have a dog lying on our beautiful wrap around veranda and running riot on our 2 acres. My birthday bought me our beautiful little chocolate labrador Bailey and she has very much become part of our family, joining in most activities , however domestic, as well as adventures at the beach, the river and in the adjoining paddocks. She loves coming to local wineries and the markets and is constantly hopeful that someone will have dropped a few pie crumbs for her to clean up.

She is a very happy and affectionate little dog, always keen to please and VERY sad when she’s in trouble. There have been a few atrocities committed in the last 12 months but nothing too dreadful. She isn’t a hole digger for instance, more of an opportunist – if someone is silly enough to leave their shoes around at ground level outside she considers them in her territory and if we dare to lie in bed past 7 am she will let us know she is bored waiting for us to come and play by having a chew on them. Sadly the latest casualty was Wayne’s good walking boots – a rather expensive target that left her master less than impressed……

She has been on a waiting list for obedience training now for 8 months and thank goodness in that time she has become fairly well behaved. She does all the usual sit, lie down, shake hands commands and she waits for her dinner until her drool forms a little puddle on the floor, which is pretty good for a Lab, and I can walk her without a lead everywhere except in town where she gets super excited with all the people, smells and crumbs outside all the cafés and where it takes me 30 minutes to walk the 400 m of the high street because everyone wants to pat her and say hello – it’s exhausting!!

Finally we got the call up for the dog training school and she is one of 9 in a class – which is pretty distracting for a dog that loves to play. We go armed with 4 sausages cut up into little pieces as ‘encouragement’ to do as we ask and in a little bum bag to dole out as she performs to order. She is so excited when we arrive – so many new friends to play with, another Lab, 3 Border Collies, a Bull Terrier, A Staffie, a lovely ball of muscle of an unknown breed and a little shitzu. So much fun to be had and so little time…..

Also she had to wear a halti.

This is a little mini muzzle thingy that goes around her snout and she DIDN”T LIKE IT.

She spent the first 10 minutes trying to get it off and rolled around on the ground willing it to leave her body. I managed to distract her for a while with the special sausagey treats but she just wanted to play with all her new friends. Why after all would they all be together at a great park if you couldn’t PLAY!!!! She was confused and unimpressed but eventually she too was walking around in a big circle on a loose lead, her usual enthusiasm diminished and unsure as she got rewarded for being beige and boring. Next week hopefully it will all be a bit easier and the halti will be less weird and she will shine as an A student as our homework this week is to teach them to shake hands – something she learned a long time ago. Yes – it’s her time in the sun although there are other calmer, more beige dogs than her who will probably steal the limelight and be TOP DOG. Long live the sausage treat……

The main reason we are doing the course now is that I would like to take her to agility training as I think she will love it. You have to do Obedience 1 AND 2 before you can have a go at agility so I’m guessing these classes will be a regular entry in my diary for a while to come. Of course they would become available as Winter looms and instead of being tucked up at home in front of my fire with a glass of red I will be rugged up in the middle of a huge park exposed to the wind “encouraging” my little darling to comply with my wishes!!!

However it will all be worthwhile when she is beautifully trained and she also deserves to have some fun learning new things.A payback for the unconditional love she gives us.

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On my way to work early the other morning I relished the view from my car window. The mist hugged the fields like your favourite blanket and a single boat was making it’s way up the Shoalhaven River cutting a swathe of ribbon through the silk of the still river water. In the distance the white cockatoos hung in the trees like Xmas decorations – entire strings of white baubles across the branches of huge trees and over the electrical wires covering the road, later I saw them feasting on unseen delicacies covering entire freshly harvested paddocks. The cows, as always, graze on the lush grass and no matter what trivial annoyances I am experiencing this picture of nature calms me and puts all of lifes little foibles into perspective.

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I noticed a cow was beginning to calve yesterday at about 4pm and thought how wonderful it would be to capture it on film for you, my beloved readers!! She was very conveniently close to the road and next to my friends house surrounded by a 6 foot fence so I had somewhere to hide and surreptitiously video the miracle of life that was about to occur…..

Two hours later and now in complete darkness I gave up. She had laid down, groaned and pushed with the calf starting to emerge only for her to suddenly stand up and proceed to graze on the grass for a while, the little bundle disappearing within. This in/out thing continued until I wondered if it was perhaps me that was holding her back. I really wanted her to hurry up and have her baby before it was time for Freddy Fox to come out and play so with a heavy heart I came home – no video for you guys this time around I’m sorry to say. The farmers had previously told us that cows are able to “pause” a birth if they are worried about safety for the calf or if the weather conditions are truly awful – super hot or cold or wet. It’s quite amazing considering they are perceived as ‘stupid’ animals by many people yet they can influence their babies birth and we supposedly complex and intelligent creatures have no control at all, giving birth in cars and on bathroom floors all over town!

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This morning I was very happy to see that this little guy had made it unscathed through the night to enjoy the beautiful Autumn sunshine and Mum was taking a keen interest in him. A miracle indeed, no matter how often you see it.

I was very excited this week to see an avocado tree for sale in a nursery in Kangaroo Valley. I have wanted one for ages and as we get through 3-6 avos a week it would be great to have our own, especially when they charge $3-4 each for them in the summer months when you want them  the most! They are a very handsome tree with large soft leaves and grow to be about 12 metres tall so we had to choose a special spot in the garden to plant it, away from the other trees to allow for it’s projected growth but protected from those nasty westerly winds that we get. It will hopefully start producing fruit in the next 2-3 years as it is grafted, otherwise you can wait 7 years for a tree to bear fruit. You also need another avocado tree nearby for pollination, so all in all it’s a bit of a lottery as to whether we will ever get our own avos but it’s worth the risk and the wait for me! I also picked up a finger lime tree, a native lime with little balls of amazing limeyness inside – almost a citrus caviar, which are great scattered over salads, tarts and in the odd G&T.

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I wonder if we could train The Chocolate One to tolerate something like this beautiful flower crown for the wedding?

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