Article Archive

The City: blue light last year

Last night apparently a transformer blew in Queens or Brooklyn and lit up the New York City sky with blue — although at the time I would have said green — light. When I first noticed it as I did the dog route, I looked to see if anyone else on the street was paying attention to this strange phenomenon. For a few moments, no one seemed to be looking. When I saw a group of people on the corner pointing, I found it reassuring: yes, this was a massive and unusual event.

I lived in the city for 15 years. It’s starting to be that I have lived up here in the country for almost as long as the city. When I used to drive around my old haunts– upper west side, Union Square or Park Slope– I found it emotionally taxing, to consider my younger self in any way. Increasingly, I just drive. Moments like this transformer blowing up I was “a part” of the city with other people, and I can remember when I thought that meant something. But now, naw, it’s all an illusion, just a flash in the sky and gone.


Fat Dog, Skinny Dog

Owners sometimes complain that their dog is skinnier or perhaps fatter than when s/he left for camp. Looking at the dog every day – along with a lot of other dogs every day – we might not notice incremental changes in weight. The obvious solution is a scale, which we have had for a while. The problem with the obvious solution is the obvious time it takes to weigh everyone. It really isn’t a burden in and of itself – but there is so much going on here. Another trip to the pond or weigh all the dogs? Should we open up the fences and re-surface the smaller yards with new mulch or weigh all the dogs? Is it time to work on sticking and malfunctioning gate handles or weigh all the dogs? And the obvious solution to getting all this done is to hire more people. If I hire more people, I will have to raise the price.

Yesterday, the answer was, yes, weigh all the dogs. From now on, once a week we will make sure we get to this, same as cleaning out the van twice a week, get the pressure washer out for the terrace area and the rugs, fire up the washing machine, or repair dog beds. Here is how the weigh-in weighed out:

Grizzly Bear weighed in at 136 pounds (ca. 62 kg). Xander at 10.41 pounds (4.72 kg). You mean the same species of animal can vary from 10 to 140 pounds? Adults weight? Wow. Nuts. Now look in the photo galleries and figure out who Xander and Grizzly might be… shouldn’t be too hard.

Aggression and socialization

A customer recently wrote about how we deal with aggression when we have groups of dogs playing, as you can see we do regularly (anywhere you see our pictures and videos). So here is a rundown of how we deal with dogs not getting along:

  1. Groups. Unlike the dog park, we have many outside areas where dogs can run. On the 20 acre property, there are four large fenced fields we use for dogs (larger and an acre), and another dozen yards. If two particular dogs don’t seem to get along, or if one dog routinely seems to be aggressive to a specific type of dog, we can still work out ways for the dogs to socialize and be outside. If a dog can’t socialize at all, they still can have a yard and go inside and outside whenever they’d like. Size, age, temperament, kind of fur, gender: there are many factors in making up groups and if our initial decision of how to do it isn’t working, we can change, keep changing, until everyone seems happy and no one is growling or getting mad.
  2. Tricks. Another trick that works best on a dog that isn’t routinely aggressive but appears aggressive in the short run due to fear with an unfamiliar setting is to introduce one or two dogs who are extremely relaxed and social first. Dogs do pick up on each other’s moods rather quickly, so this can work quite well. This can ease a dog into the new setting.
  3. Supervision. Someone is always around. When we take a larger group out to the pond or another field, they are supervised all the time.
  4. Time. When the dogs have had a few days to get to know each other and have not shown any aggression, leaving them to hang out together seems to be no problem. On the first day or when some new dog arrives, we have to observe and monitor a lot more than after a day or two.
  5. Long term employees. If the people here did not know most of the dogs well already – and only need to get to know the new ones – this system of social dog boarding would not work. Vern has been here more than a dozen years. Julia comes every summer. Me, Will, I’ve been at this for 14 years. Gary, who mostly builds and does maintenance, nevertheless knows many of the dogs by name and temperament. He’s been working here for eight years. If you had no idea who was who, you could not group them for safe play.
  6. Sex. Most dogs are fixed. If all the dogs here were intact – some in heat, others horny as hell – no way would this work. The occasional unfixed dog who comes here does not get as free-run of the place as the castrated/spayed dog does.

So, that’s a rough guide to how we do it. And, knock wood, we have not had a serious fight here in more than six years. There has been no more than a few scratches from some nonsense that some dogs got into but no dogs have been hurt in more than 1000 individual boardings in the past six years.

It’s true that if I leave two dogs together and walk away and can’t see them, they could kill each other. But the same is true for my children, any couple cohabiting, two people on the bus… that’s why when a person jumps another person and hurts them it’s in the newspaper. Usually, people can sit next to each other, even live together, do all kinds of things together. When they can’t, it’s news and unexpected. The same with our socialized, fixed dogs. The norm is getting along. This is all the truer because we mix and match who is with whom.

I hope this essay helps to understand some of what we do in terms of socialization and aggression in a social dog boarding setting.

Peepers Out late again

We have a pond here full of these little frogs people call peepers. They “peep” in the spring. The peeping can actually be quite loud. If you stand at the edge of the wetlands or the pond when they start in the evening, the noise can hurt your ears.

In the winter, they bury themselves down in the mud, deep under there somewhere. When it’s been warm for a while, one male frog comes out and starts singing his mating song. The other males don’t want to be left out, so they all come out and sing too. That’s why they peep: the males are trying to attract females.

When one male comes out, they all come out. So, one night some time in March or April, it’s quiet. The next night, it’s loud. It’s like turning on the light: boom, there they are. So, I have been writing down the date of this marker of spring for a few years.

2019: March 29

2018: March 28
2017: February 25
2016: March 9
2015: April 3
2014: April 6
2013: March 30
2012: March 12
2011: March 17
2010: March 19
2009: March 27
2008: April 1

10th Annual Fetch Competition

For ten years, I have held a fetch competition here on Christmas day. This year, 2018, we decided to do it up right and make it a real event. It was incredibly fun and more events like this are definitely coming up. What a great job! Sometimes I’m out there clearly having so much fun, it hardly seems fair to call it work.

Coyotes and Eagles

There were five bald eagles on a branch behind the barn last week. Five. Never heard of such a thing. A coyote came right up to Vern’s house across the creek and looked him in the eye for 10 seconds before running away. Also not common. The pond froze so thick but so clear I could see fish swimming under there I didn’t know I still had. We installed a wood stove in the barn, vented the water heater and the furnace. Holes poke out in every direction like the kennel was stabbed. The coyotes, I hear them. My dogs hear them. The guest dogs hear them. But they don’t come too close. I have never lost an animal to a coyote, knock wood. There is a snowstorm coming perhaps this weekend but it felt like snow today. We have been splitting some trees a neighbor took down and I’m going to finish the winter with more wood than I started with. That also has never happened. I just want one phone number and one place to do communications by text, voice, and email but that hasn’t happened yet. Kind of surprising. I’m reading a book about Winston Churchill and he was as blind about India as Hilter was about Russia. I don’t mind cold, really. Some of the dogs love it. Poncho would stay out all night just enjoying the breeze.

Add your Glencadia reservation to your Google calendar

Once you have made a reservation and we have confirmed the reservation, you can log into your Glencadia account and see the dates and times like this:

You can pay, modify the reservation, all good stuff. Also note that now you can add the reservation to your own Google calendar so that someone remembers to be home from 6 to 10 PM or so on the Monday and Thursday we are coming to pick up the dog.

If you click to add to your calendar you will see this:

Make sure you note the right time — after 6PM in the city, other times by agreement. Now you’ll have it where you keep all your other appointments!

New feature!

Luxury is not quality

Our family of country mice went to the city and had a great city weekend. One thing that’s healthy about being in the city but not working is it reminds me what living in the city is like. I lived in New York from about 1990 to 2005 so it really isn’t a foreign place or anything but still, it’s getting pretty far back there in my past.

I noticed a hair salon with a number of high-end Macs they were using to make appointments with customers. Now, you can make the same appointment on a $150 Chromebook that you make on a $3000 Mac. But that’s kind of the point: anyone can make an appointment on a $150 Chromebook and get their haircut somewhere. Only some people can make their appointment on a $3000 Mac and get their hair styled in a facility that pays $20,000 a month in rent.

But is the hair styling any better? If a human being opens the door for you and calls you “sir” is there any difference to when the robotic automatic door opens at Walmart?

I’m all for quality. Food: we are in a CSA, have a garden, raise our own sheep, keep bees. Quality is important. I can see that it might be the same with clothes, even a camera, or anything.

But I think there is a type out there that is a confusing luxury for quality. Luxury is a con. You are either fooling yourself or someone is fooling you and laughing at you behind your back. That’s luxury. You are paying for nothing, fluff, or an illusion. You get what you pay for? No, sometimes you get something quite poor for a very high price. It looks nice on the plate. The reviews of the restaurant are good. But its mass hysteria: the food is not actually high quality.

On the topic of dogs in the city, I noticed that some people definitely have a dog as an accouterment to their overall lifestyle. The same luxury/quality dynamic is definitely playing out in the business in which I find myself participating. I just can’t do participate in the luxury con. It’s not in my nature and it’s morally questionable.

Anyway, we had a terrific time in the city and did some high-quality activities, and none of them were inexpensive in this case.