Friday, September 27, 2013

The Sucker Tattoo Has Got To Go


This morning FarmDog started barking like a bird had landed on her head and was trying to ride her into battle. When I poked my head out the door to tell her to shut up, she looked at me, wagged all over, barked at the ground near a corner of the yard, and looked back at me and wagged again.

Clearly, Timmy was down the well again. 

So I went over to see what on earth she was going on about. And saw a pair of kittens.

So I go outside the yard to get a better look at them and see how likely it is that their mother will be coming back by to pick them up later (usually very likely,) and realized that they clearly had eye infections.

Being dry and dusty here it's pretty common for feral kittens to come up with minor eye infections, they generally get over them and all is well. The problem with these two was that their eyes were goobered shut.

And they were skinny.

Also my dog was whining and reaching a paw through the fence to paw near one of them as if to say "They're right there. They're babies. Alone. Damnit do something!" 

Anyway. Babies. Needed help. Need I elaborate on what happened?

It took me ten minutes to get one of em's eyes cleaned up enough to open, and it demonstrated the bad side of eye infections in feral kittens. 

See, usually the momma cat cleans their faces so the eyes don't get stuck shut. If they do, though, all that infection has nowhere to go, and builds up behind the eyelids. So when you do start getting things cleaned up a bit, you get... ooze. In a best case scenario. In a worst case scenario there's a good amount of pressure built up and there's squirting. 

We'll see how they do. One of them is a little worrying, but I'm not going to make a bet either way yet. I'll do everything I can and see what happens.

But something really needs to be done about the sucker tattoo on my forehead if the dog is reading it now...

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Black and Silver? Salt and pepper? Wha?

People seem to get confused by the terms we use for our pups when I put up pictures. I can't blame them because the coloration terms make no sense at all unless you know how Schnauzer genetics work. Since I don't have any real content lately (I could bitch about the fact that our living room is a useless waste of space the way it's laid out and is entirely too easy to pile crap in all year because it doesn't get used except for my gaming corner and then September rolls around and it's "holy crap we have to clean the living room out" because company is coming but that's just boring) I decided to do a brief show and tell.

Meet the salt and pepper female. (I'm not naming her, I'm more attached to her than I should be already, she had a name but it was sort of dependent on Micro to make sense, and now it's just kind of depressing to use it soooo salt and pepper female)

She's a cutie, isn't she? I think she's going to wind up being a pretty close younger female version of her daddy, Fuzzy Pup. She's stout like he is and while it's still early days yet on coats I'm betting she's going to lean more towards his curly ultra soft coat than her mom's more wiry coat. Anyway, this morning we played for a while and then she obligingly fell asleep on my lap after giving up on dismembering me one digit at a time.

You can see in the above photo that she's clearly tan and black. Maybe the light markings on her face could be construed as "cream" rather than "tan" but she's definitely not anything you'd call salt and pepper, right? So is this just one of those weird-ass nonsense terms that people use for colors, like "blue roan" when clearly the horse is not actually blue? 

Nope. The reason this little brownish puppy color is called salt and pepper is because of a gene that schnauzers have. This gene causes the brown and tan pigments in the coat to "grey out" or some call it "bleaching out" but I don't like that term because it suggests we're throwing the puppies in the washing machine or something equally awful.

This greying out process starts when they're born, pretty much. Some pups grey faster than others. One of the black and silver males is already just barely cream on his markings, while his brother of the same coat coloration is still fairly tan. So let's take a look at the process in action, so to speak.

Here she is, natural lie to the coat. That really dark streak along her back will probably stay pretty black, or at least be a deep dove grey. Or maybe both. The hairs over her shoulders are banded (the bottoms are black, but the tips are tan) which means that'll probably grey out some, but behind her shoulders and down onto her butt there's no banding and she's blue-skinned there. (If you naired a black and white dog you'd see skin that matches their markings... the black areas would have a skin color that actually does kind of look blue.)

(I hope I don't need to say this but just in case: don't actually nair dogs... beyond just being rude imagine the feeling of nairing your fun bits all over your body.)

Anywho. Puppy:

So. How in the world can this puppy turn grey? Well there's a couple of things that do it, functionally. One is that as the hair grows the greying gene works on it, even if the tips don't fade all that much. Lookie here:

Especially on that left side you can see a really distinct shift. Have another one from a different spot, just to be thorough:

So the tips of the hair will fade out, the new hair growing in will grey more quickly than the hair that's already grown, and depending on the pup, sooner or later you'll get a dog with no brown left, just grey, white, and black. If the process is slow enough (as it may be in this little girl but only time will tell) it's possible that the grey won't show at all until she gets her puppy clip. Basically that's just a quick trim with the clippers, usually just before they go to their new homes, in a general approximation of a schnauzer cut. This does a couple things, first off it makes em look good for their new people, which is always a plus, but more importantly it makes their first experience with a set of clippers happen in an environment where they're comfortable, with people they know.

If a pup greys out slowly enough, it's possible that after their puppy clip, you wind up with a really weird looking pup, showing grey everywhere it was clipped and the tan everywhere they will eventually have "furniture." (That's the completely ridiculous and arbitrary term for the beard, eyebrows, and long hair left down the sides and on the legs of a schnauzer.)

That's where the second process I talked about earlier kicks in. Because eventually, the pup grows it's adult coat and loses the puppy coat. And the greying gene works on any new hairs grown from the get-go, instead of coming late to the game like it does when the pups are developing in the womb. So the new hairs will grow in already grey.

Another neat factoid about this gene is that while the new hairs grow in already grey that doesn't necessarily mean the gene shuts off. Fuzzy Pup is a beautiful deep velvety grey on his back when he's clipped. But let him grow out for a few weeks (or months, man I gotta get him clipped he looks more like a sheepdog than a schnauzer) and that deep lovely grey will fade to an equally lovely light grey, and eventually a silvery color on the ends.

Fuzzy Pup's dad has the same trait, where his coat will silver out if you let it grow long enough. The neat part about that is that Fuzzy Pup's dad is black.

There are other animals with color-change genes, too. Certain wild canids grow a different coat color for winter and summer, I've had a horse that I don't know what gene was responsible but she'd shed out a different coat color every spring. And the beautimous white Lipizzaner breed of horse, famous for all of those heart-stopping airs above the ground? They're born brown or black.

It's true though that few genomes are as flexible as the canine. The dog has gone from wolf to shi-tzu in a remarkably short amount of time, evolutionarily speaking. Look at the breeds that have been developed and reached the goal of the human mastermind behind it in a lifetime. Or even over a hundred years.

Dog: the longest running genetics experiment in history, and it's still going on.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Super Special Announcement!

I hinted at this on my personal Facebook earlier and a couple of people have been bugging me since. Of course, I had to wait until it was live.

The Farm Fam has now officially released our first cookbook: Granny Goodcookies

It's available on Amazon now, and contains 21 of our absolute favorite family desert recipes.

I don't think we did too bad for Farmmom and I's first collaborative effort, myself. It's very different writing prose and putting together a cook book so it has been a learning experience. Especially since this is a project we started a while back, then lost time for, and recently picked back up and finished.

Farmmom plans to put together more recipes, entrees and breads and... well, anything we've got, which includes the kinds of recipes that are most useful these days: those that make a meal from minimal ingredients.

That's the future though, and Granny Goodcookies is our test, to see if people actually want our recipes.

Go check it out and let us know what you think!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

This is what I get

For getting optimistic. Yesterday afternoon micro started refusing food and continued to refuse food all day today. 

The only thing I can think is that pneumonia got set up in his lungs, but he's gone. 

So much for my super skills I guess. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Meet Micro

He's pretty much been my life since Saturday. 

He's one of Jez's pups. A very special pup at that. See, Micro was probably a late fertilization. A product of a mash up of timing and fate to leave him with just a little less time to develop than everyone else. 

As a result he's got a cleft palate. Not even terribly cleft. Near as I can tell there's only one spot that is actually open to his sinuses, behind where his front teeth will be. But it means that a lot of things have to go just right before he can suck. He's managed it, but not consistently enough to keep him going. 

So when it became clear he wasn't doing well on Sunday, and I found the cleft, I started supplementing him. 

And frankly I was failing miserably. I'd never had to deal with a cleft puppy before. I knew they could be bottle fed, but most people recommended tube feeding instead. Unfortunately I didn't have the equipment or the skills for tube feeding. So we struggled on with the bottle. 

We found a position that he didn't seem to flood out in as often. We let him work on the bottle until he got tired, gave him a break, and started over again. We managed to get enough in him to keep him going, but that's it. 

By Wednesday morning I was pretty sure he wouldn't be alive for the next feeding. At four am I got up and he was still there and I prepared to spend an hour fighting along side him, because he just refused to give up, and I couldn't do any less. 

I was sitting there, extremely fuzzy headed from lack of sleep since I hadn't gotten more than an hour at a stretch for a couple of days, willing milk replacer into his little tummy. Nearly crying over how skeletal he was, but if I cried I couldn't see the occasional bubble coming out of the nipple, the only real sign of success I had. 

I thought to myself "If it were any other puppy, I'd be able to put him on his back and let instinct take over- swallow or drown. But he's already risking drowning every time he eats. And worse when he's flat on his back."

Pure stubborn refusal to give up had gotten me this far. I'd been asked by the vet if I was sure I didn't want to put him down, but I simply could not give up on him. I believed he'd probably die anyway but at least he wouldn't be the only one fighting for his survival. He could get some suction on my finger, since it blocked off the cleft, but I hadn't been able to find a nipple that worked for him. People baby nipples were just a bit too big and stiff to work any better than the puppy nipple which was too small to let him get sealed off. 

So at four am with a severe lack of sleep and grief waiting for me I dug deep down inside and found a new level of stubborn. And I started changing his angle a little at a time. Flat on his back was no good, he flooded out and we had to take a break to let him point his head down and suck on my finger to clear them out. 

Straight upright with his chin tipped up worked a little better but it was a struggle keeping him there. He didn't like pointing his nose to the sky. And he still wasn't getting enough.

So I split the difference. Halfway between on his back and basically standing him up on his butt. 

And the bubbles started rolling. I'd been scared of any positions even close to on his back because he flooded out so bad the first time I tried it. 

But we found it. The position that let him work the puppy nipple I'd opened up so that the slightest squeeze would give milk. The one that let it roll to where he could swallow and bypassed the cleft. 

And at that feeding he ate as much as he had the entire day before. 

An hour later it worked again. He didn't eat as much, but he wasn't as empty starting out either. 

All day it kept working. Sometimes more milk sometimes less. I figured out that two hours between feedings worked better than one. At an hour he still had milk in his belly enough that he was prone to starting to doze off. Which meant he wasn't swallowing as efficiently and he was more likely to flood out. At two hours he was ready to get his belly full again. 

And throughout the day, I saw him gaining physically. He rehydrated, and his ribs ever so slowly hid back behind a layer of flesh instead of pressing up against his skin. 

He's not out of the woods yet but he's headed in the right direction. Every couple of hours he gets his belly really full, then goes back to his momma for cuddles and cleanup. He's still miles behind the others, size wise. He probably won't catch up to them, but he's leaps and bounds ahead of where he was. 

As I write this Jez is outside for a potty break and the puppies are all napping or jostling for position. Micro is almost due for another meal but he's willing to nap till it shows up, if the big lunks will let him lay on them. 

I think Micro has taken over the motto "Never give up, never surrender!"

He's not in the clear, there are dozens of things that could still go wrong. But there's an inkling that there might be a light at the end of the tunnel now, and I know he won't stop fighting for it. 

How on earth can I do any less?