Monday, September 26, 2011

Digging on the Dogs, Dancing With Bees Edition

Kelly and Connie, with Dash and Joe.

I drove a little north of Baltimore to meet up with Connie and Kelly who were in from California and staying with Larry and Linda Morrison.  It's always great to see Linda and Larry! Ginger, who is half-sister to my Mountain, is still bouncing up and down like a ball, and eager for a scratch on the belly. Yes, all is still right with the world at Larry and Linda's!

We headed out to a farm a bit up the road, and after hacking through a short arm of very tall corn we hit a hedgerow.  We walked only a few minutes before Joe, Connie's Patterdale dog, marked a sette. He was baying up a storm at the hole, but he was not going to ground, and I think Connie may have thought he was false-marking, as dogs in California do not get a lot of field work and a groundhog this quick out of box seemed a little too lucky. Connie and Kelly moved down the hedge while I shouldered tools and retrieved Gideon, who was tied to a bit of barbed wire fencing off to the side. I unclipped Gideon, and he went over to the hole and disappeared underground. I waited, and less than a minute later, he opened up -- he had clearly found. Joe the Patterdale was right!

I downed the tools, and took a shovel and bar across the expanse of barbed wire to the hole.  I located Gideon about 15 feet from where he had entered, very near another entrance to the sette. A single scoop of dirt off the top of that entrance, and I was looking down the tube. Connie and Kelly came back, and it was just about then that the groundhog appeared in the hole, looked up at us, and then turned around and went back down the pipe towards Gideon, who was still baying. Connie opened up the posthole diggers and had just taken a single stab at the earth where I had barred into the pipe, when the groundhog showed up at the hole again.  This time, when it turned around, I reached in and tailed it. For the record, if a groundhog is in a tight earth and you have it by the tail, that does not mean it is going to come out of that earth with a light yank!  This groundhog braced in tight, and I held on for a few minutes, letting it tire itself out before I managed to get both its back legs into two hands.  With a couple of very strong pulls, I got it free of the hole.

We put the snare on the groundhog so it could serve as a bit of a training tool for Kelly's dog, Dash, who has very little experience with dirt work in general, or groundhogs in particular. 

Dash was a little dubious at first, but she eventually started barking up a storm while remaining well back.  Good enough for a first time!

Dubious Dash meets his first groundhog.  No contact, and the groundhog was unharmed.

We went down the the hedge a bit farther and crossed over a small creek. On the other side, while we were checking holes for activity, Joe and Gideon caught a small groundhog above ground, and I stepped in to sort it out. Two down and barely any digging at all!

I suggested we head to a copse of trees on higher ground.   I was pretty sure we would find there, and after going uphill through thick blown-down corn, we did in fact find. In fact, this little wooded area surrounded by fields was riddled with holes!

Joe the Pattedale found a live sette almost immediately, but he could not get inside, as it was very tight and blocked with roots.  In fact, it was solid welded mass of roots right across the top -- I could not even get a bar into this earth!

Dash, the Jack Russell, marked on a sette a hundred feet away, but it was under broken glass and windows, and I was hesitant to put any dog to ground right there.

After Connie and I tried for a while to get into the sette where Joe the Patterdale was trying to enter, I took Gideon and tried a hole a little up from where Dash had marked under the broken windows.

Connie, with bar, watches Joe try to enter root-hardened den.

This was a big open hole coming out of the side of a small rise (i.e. good drainage), and Gideon opened up immediately and stayed baying.  Excellent!  The problem here, of course, was that there were about 9 bolt holes that we could see, and no doubt a few more we could not. 

I went to grab my tools, and when I came back Gideon had stopped baying, but he was still underground.  A few minutes later he came out, and I feared a bolt.  In fact, a bolt had occurred -- the other two dogs entered and bayed a bit, but they too grew disinterested as Gideon cast about on top looking for whatever had dashed off to freedom.

Dash check out the sette.

We walked a bit farther into the copse, and Joe the Patterdale found again in a nice hummocky bit of hole-riddled earth. I staked out Gideon and let Joe have time to find his game and go deeper.  We popped in one hole, cleared a little dirt, and he moved a bit farther on.  It sounded to me like he was very close (a slight change in the timbre of the voice). 

We located with box and bar, and I started to sink another hole.  It was going well, in soft earth, when I spied what I thought was a bit of Styrofoam underground at the bottom edge of the hole.  Then I saw two bees roll out from under that Styrofoam.

"Get the hell out of here," I yelled.  Connie asked if it was a skunk, and I yelled "Run... BEES!" as I tried to throw a little bit of dirt back over the hive.  For my troubles I was stung once in the head, twice in the lips, and once under the arm pit.  Kelly and Connie both got stung too.  Yes, we ran like hell!

I went back immediately to get Gideon, who was staked upwind from the bees, and not too close.  He was fine, and as yet unstung, but as we walked away he finally did get stung.... in the testicles.  Ouch!  Dash got stung in the testicles too.  Double ouch! 

I let the bees calm down a bit before I went back for the tools, and then we headed back to the truck.  I had to carry Gideon most of the way, however, as my little dog was suddenly super, super horny and he was not too particular that the other dogs in the field were male.  Looking back, I think the bee sting may have released a huge amount of testosterone into his system.  One thing for sure:  he remained comically hyper-sexed the rest of the day. 

Joe the Pattedale works past the first pop hole.

We loaded up the truck and headed to another part of the farm.  Though we had had quite a bit of rain the previous week, I thought we might be able to find a raccoon along a creek that bordered a soy bean field on one side, and tall corn on the other. 

We tied up Gideon (the little sex fiend) and Joe and Dash noodled around in the thicket before one of the dogs really opened up baying.  And guess what?  It was Dash!   Yahoo!  It seems the penny had dropped.  Excellent!  

Of course Dash had found underneath an enormous mound of multiflora rose that itself was covered over with Chinese Tear-ThumbSigh.  No matter.  Man and machete went to work, and Dash growled and barked up a storm through it all. 

We eventually got down to a really nice horizontal entrance pipe on the creek end, and Connie and I dropped a few shallow holes on the uphill side where the center of the multiflora pile had once stood.  Joe and Dash bayed it up, but we never did find this groundhog (it did not squal like a 'coon), and I am pretty sure it eventually bolted out of one of the other holes we discovered as we hacked our way down through the tangle. 

Ah well!   There was no doubt at all that Dash had found, and I count this as a very good day for a dog that started out quite a bit lower on the learning curve than he ended.  Dash is going to do fine in the world of terrier work -- one or two more days in the field and he'll be like a little chainsaw roaring to life on the first pull.

All good, and we decided to call it a day while I, at least, could still walk, and the dogs were still healthy.


seeker said...

I had noticed in the picture of Gideon that he is a well hung little man.
Then I read the part about the bee incident. Do they make jockeys or cups for dogs to protect his package?
Bridget says he is too good a dog to risk. She is spayed but not dead.

PBurns said...

Yes, Gideon's big head and little body is counter-balanced by his massive balls. Built like a bricklayer. I actually want to get a little of him on ice, I like this dog THAT much. Small males like this are rare, and Gideon amuses me and is doing pretty well in the field. I want him to get old, but this is stuff that may be worth working with.