Two years ago when I returned to college, I put all my projects on hold. Well, I couldn't stand it any longer, I had to build something, or I was gonna die. The bunkbed project wetted my appetite. I wanted more.
First on the agenda; a new chicken coop for the 25 chicks residing in my bath tub.
Yes, genius ordered chicks back in the Fall and they arrived as scheduled Jan 31... yet, I wasn't quite ready. Murray McMurray is a hatchery in Iowa that ships sexed heirloom breed chicks.... which means no bothersome roosters in the lot, all females.
I'm not keen on the shipping part, but there's no other way to get vaccinated, sexed chicks form a closed flock. With all the poultry diseases running around now, I don't bring in anything from an open flock.
When the central heat in my house failed for 4 days, I bundled up all the dogs in down comforters and moved the chickens to the office.
Now it was urgent to get my new coop built!
I used a round bale hay dispenser that Flynn had built for my cattle. It was no longer square or plumb because the ox had batted it around for 2 years, but it was solid and roomy.
I had saved the storm windows from my house that's being renovated. Before you ask why I'm not working on that instead... simple, I don't want to hamper progress. My contractor is working there sporadically, and I know better than to 'help' and get in his way. I'll have plenty of time to do what I excel at: painting and landscaping.
Right now, it's his show.
Also upcycled was the metal security door from my other house.
Quite a few late nights after work spent on building the coop. Chicks moved in 10:30 PM. Insulated with heat lamp and heating pad... Taj Mahal of coops.
Spent a couple other nights painting it to match my house and garden shed.
When it finally warmed enough, my friend came to take her half of the order and left me with 12 happy hens.
The egg production should being by the end of May.
Next project: a cabinet for all the dog harnesses and leashes residing in random buckets and hanging from every coat hook.
An old door and some excess lumber my contractor bought... note to self, never use my electric planer indoors.
Progressing nicely. Oh the fun I have at 2 AM...
Half loaded. Trust me, I have enough harnesses for the Iditarod.
All organized and out of sight. I keep expecting Dr. Who to walk out of it.
My Bob The Builder side is satisfied for a while, I can go back to studying in the evenings.
In November, through forces greater than myself, I ended up with a 13 year old German Shepherd.
Marco is a purebred German Shepherd. The long hair is a recessive trait affecting about 10% of the breed, it's an undesirable trait, as my vacuum would concur.
I set him up in the tack room at the barn, unsure of what to make of him. Fish Stix was in the other room, so he received plenty of interaction, seeing as I was in the barn round the clock.
His frail elderly owner couldn't care for him any longer. I collected him from her house, scooped him up in my arms and put him in the back seat, that's when she said: "oh no, he doesn't get touched like that, he doesn't like it, do you have a good muzzle?" . Fine time to tell me he has issues! Obviously, the element of surprise had been on my side initially, because when the moment came to get him out of the truck, he showed his true colors. 2 people, 15 minutes of negotiations and a beach towel over his head, we eventually managed to extricate him from the cab of my truck.
Concerned about his poor mobility because of advanced hip dysplasia, I obtained permission to contact his previous vet. I discovered that any vet care had been pretty much discontinued 3 years prior. His owner had made a euthanasia appointment March 2021, but hadn't been able to follow through. The kennel manager asked me: "do you have a strong muzzle?"... I saw a trend.
Marco was in bad shape, seriously underweight under that shag carpet he was wearing, couldn't stand unassisted, collapsed often while walking, the best I thought I could do was give him 2 good weeks and then provide the compassion of putting him to sleep. I have a soft spot in my heart for senior dogs; especially after this brutal year, my perspective is: 'maybe a week too early, but never a day too late' when it comes to euthanasia. Suffering day after day, with occasional snippets of joy is pure misery for creatures that can only live in the moment. Yup, I was going to feed him anything he wanted for two weeks, let him live the good life, then release him.
Little snag... Marco wouldn't eat anything. Small handfuls here and there. I tried the food he came with, my food, all sorts of different brands of canned food, raw food, boiled chicken, ground turkey... and good luck sneaking any pills to him, regardless if it was swaddled in steak. So, arthritis pain management was going to be difficult as well.
Gradually, with 5 feeding sessions throughout the nights, I managed to get him to eat almost his daily required intake. The benefit of all this hand feeding is that we bonded. Within a week, I carried him around like a rag doll. Cujo had turned into my overstuffed teddy bear.
His stamina improved, he began escorting me around the barn.
After a couple weeks, I introduced him to my pack.
He instantly fell in love with Emmett. He tried his mightiest to bunny hop after him.
Thanks to the bromance with Emmett, Marco's entire disposition changed. He's become unstoppable, a lean bunny hopping machine.
He gained weight, his coat glistens, he plays and he turned me into his 24 hour job. I now have a very dedicated, slightly demented bodyguard, who still requires every meal hand fed.
I drag him around everywhere. We went to check on the progress made by my contractor at my house around the corner. Marco is very much on task all the time.
Don't think it's all roses though, he's an ancient dog with an easily upset GI tract. Many nights were spent disinfecting the floors with bleach. It would be misleading to believe just the highlight reels.
Nevertheless, it's been worth every minute. I've learned a tremendous amount from this experience. I've overcome my intense fear of German Shepherds. I refused to even touch one for 35 years. At age 8, my neighbor's German Shepherd attacked me, tried to rip my head off and I protected myself by sacrificing my arm to it's mouth. Add to that my uncle's decade long torment with his German Shepherds. He'd tie them to his snowmobile or truck and they'd block us from entering the cottage. Whenever he visited, I was on high alert, making sure the coast was clear before opening any door. Once, in the middle of a Canadian Winter, I tiptoed out at night, in my pyjamas for a trip to the outhouse. I had wrongly assumed the shepherd was in his room. It came barreling around the corner as I narrowly made it into the loo. I hollered for well over an hour, each time I tried to peek out the door, it would lunge, grab the edge of the door and try to rip it open. The more I yelled, the more it yanked on the door handle. Finally, my grandmother awakened and came to my rescue with a shovel in hand (Reason #999 she will always be my greatest Superhero). 77 years old and fearless.
I'm not sure how much longer Marco will be with us, his dementia is manifesting itself in more varied facets lately. He's shown moments of insanity and I'll soon make a decision based on the safety of the team.
Regardless of his remaining time, I know my job is done, Marco has lived an incredible adventure these past 5 months. When its my turn to cross the Rainbow Bridge, there's going to be another soul waiting for me on the other side. Until then, I'll keep hugging my big old floof and reminding his forgetful self that his name is Marco Smith and he is my child.
My love affair with Marco couldn't have taken off or remained sustained without all the time Dr. Carattini volunteered to the cause. Some angels have a one floppy ear and a shaggy coat, others have curly hair and ride motorcycles, they're all around me.