Time In A Bottle (Written 3/21/20)
I hate it when I drop things. For a control freak, this is always an annoying situation. For a blind control freak, it can be downright maddening.
So when I discovered this afternoon that I had apparently dropped one of the kids' bottles after feeding, I groaned. The first problem is that I need every one of those bottles. There are X number of kids requiring X number of bottles, and if we're one bottle short it causes all kinds of delay and aggravation. The second problem is that a feeding bottle, still smelling and tasting like milk, is a high-value prize for any dog or cat who might locate it before I do. And if that happened, the bottle would not, shall we say, be returned to me in mint condition.
No question about it—I had to find that thing.
The initial search centered around the corral gate. That's where the most pushing and jostling takes place as I go in and out of the mini barn area. It's also where I hang the bucket outside the fence as I chain the gate shut. It was just possible that one of the kids, who are getting bigger every day, had managed to reach through the fence and yank one of the empty but still-coveted bottles out of the bucket as I was leaving.
But no luck. I circled and zig-zagged and kicked the grass, folded to my hands and knees and crawled around for a more thorough search, grumbled and sighed and growled, and still came up empty-handed. Okay, this situation was beyond me. It was time to call in canine reinforcements.
Over the past years, my main go-to guy for finding things has been Dundee. But early last winter, my trusty boy began to lose his hearing.
Now that he's ten years old and more or less retired, I've gradually begun to encourage Tassie to pick up the slack and help me locate items.
Tassie is careful, observant, and smart. She's definitely looking like a worthy protegee, and this, I decided, would be an excellent opportunity for her to get a bit of practice and build a little confidence.
I began with another empty bottle, identical to the one that had been misplaced. I took her out to the front patio, let her see it and smell it, then dropped it in the grass at my feet and told her to "get it."
She nipped it up and brought it right to my hand. I tried a few more, each time dropping the bottle more surreptitiously so that she would have to hunt for it, and each time she got it and brought it right back.
It was time for the real thing.
By then the kids had been locked in the mini barn, the corral gate was wide open, and after putting the decoy bottle away, I headed for the gate and gave her the "get it" command.
She put her nose down and started searching. First close to my feet, then farther and farther out. After a minute or two of finding nothing near the gate, she ranged out even farther and began swiftly combing through the corral. I didn't think she would be distracted by the baby goat droppings, scattered all over creation in there, and she wasn't.
Goat poop is small fry to Tassie. However, the crumbs of sweet feed, spilled over by the babies' hay rack, were a different story.
Once she honed in on that yummy, molasses-flavored grain, I had my work cut out for me. It's hard to tell a dog to "leave it" and to "get it" in essentially the same breath and expect her to figure out what exactly you're talking about. Tassie was getting confused, and I was getting frustrated. So I called her back to the gate, closed it, and asked her to search on the outside of the fence. Nothing. She dutifully sniffed and surveyed and ran figure-eights on the front lawn, and she still didn't retrieve that bottle.
Just about the time that I was considering whether or not to bring in the professionals and get Dundee after all, I remembered that, after feeding, I had walked over to the front gate to close it. I had carried the bucket of empty bottles with me. There was just a chance that, as I shut the gate, one of them had flipped out of the bucket. Well, let's go and see.
I walked across the lawn, past Mocha's outer gate, up the slope to the driveway. Tassie trotted with me, waving her tail and probably thinking about that grain I had whisked her away from. Then we turned up the driveway toward the gate, and she got it. Sure enough, it had landed right near the post where the gate latches. She brought it right back to me, and we both forgot about the grain and the last five minutes of miscommunication. She was such a good girl!
After some treats and congratulations, I put Tassie back in the house, rinsed out the offending bottle, and went back outside, just in time to hear Drifter barking the announcement that the next wave of babies has arrived. Stoli and her little brother, Story's first kids, were born during our bottle search. Good work finding that bottle, Tassie, because with two new mouths to feed, I have a feeling that it's really gonna come in handy.