Water strike!!! Living with quirky pups…


Our first dog, Grover. Grover was the first of our quirky dogs! He usually was a sweet as can be, but with an occasional “grumpy” streak. In many ways he seemed part cat, part dog, taking love on HIS schedule, while grudgingly tolerating it at other times.

Way off topic, but given recent events…a story about our history with pups seemed to be in order.  I never had a dog growing up.  My dad is a great guy, but alas…he was a mailman!  No dogs for him.  My mom didn’t like cats.  As a result, I had fish growing up, but never had something warm and huggable! After we got married and got our first house, one of the first things I wanted to do…get a dog!  We ended up with “Grover”, a wonderful, sweet-yet-simultaneously-grumpy Cocker Spaniel with a million little quirks.  Most of the time, he was sweet and loving, but on occasion, his grumpy side would kick in and he might TOLERATE your love, but he didn’t seem too enamored about it. Despite his quirks, he was a great first dog.

A year or two after getting Grover, my wife stumbled across “Cooper”, a Cocker Spaniel in need of rescue.  She went to see him at his home, where he had lived outside for his short first year of life, chained to a tree with nothing to even play with, other than an empty milkjug.  Of course when you SEE a rescue dog, you WANT the rescue dog.  We arranged to get him, and I went over the next day to pick him up. He’d never been groomed, had hair as long as any Cocker Spaniel you’d ever seen before, hadn’t been played with much…but when I picked him up and brought him to the car, he immediately jumped into my lap in the driver’s seat, and curled up.  Hence began our long, perfect relationship with Cooper “Milkjug” Sohl, a beautiful, gentle soul for whom the entire world was always a place of happiness and wonder.


Cooper, our 2nd spaniel who lived a long, healthy life alongside Grover. Cooper was the sweetest soul that ever walked the face of the earth, with nary a “bad day”, and always full of joy.

Dogs live far too short of lives.  After 11 years, Grover started having health issues.  An examination and x-ray revealed the worst…a huge tumor that wasn’t treatable.  We didn’t know how long he had left, but he continued to enjoy life, and we enjoyed our lives WITH him. After a couple of months, something I’ll never forgive myself for…I went on a business trip, doing field work up in Alaska.  We were staying overnight in a wilderness cabin, in the middle of nowhere…and my cell phone rang at 1:00 in the morning.  Stunned that there was even service, I picked up the phone, and heard the cracking voice of my crying wife.  Grover had woken during the night and was seemingly paralyzed in the lower half of his body, due to the growth of the tumor.  My wife snuggled him through the night, brought him into the vet in the morning, and he was given release from his pain.  My first dog, and I wasn’t even there for him at the end.

Cooper lived for another couple of years before he too started having health issues.  Just as with Grover, an examination found a large tumor that was inoperable.  However, we were fortunate with Cooper.  He didn’t pass until he was almost 15, and for his last couple of months with us, we were able to shower him with love and affection, before letting him go as well.  This was in early spring of 2014.

It’s heartbreaking to lose a family member, and make no mistake, dogs are family members.  My wife didn’t want another dog, at least not for a long while.  Myself?  Our house just seemed so quiet, so empty.  After a month I started casually looking at “rescue” sites, not really planning on doing anything, but being…curious.  It was during this aimless online perusing that I came across “Oscar” and “Felix”, two spaniels that had been found living in the wild. They were found living in an outside auger pipe, and thus they were initially given the nickname “The Pipe Spaniels”.  When a farmer down in Kansas first managed to coax them into his house, they were scared, wild, and painfully shy of any human contact.  After refusing to leave the relative safety of a spot under the farmer’s bed, a rescue group was contacted.  For the next two months, they were slowly introduced to human contact by a wonderful woman from the rescue group, and in June of 2014, we were introduced to the newest members of our family.

Oscar and Felix

Oscar and Felix, the “Pipe Spaniels” soon after they were rescued. At this stage, they’d huddle together in the far end of their enclosure, trying to stay as far away as possible from any human contact.

Given their background and reluctance to even touch a human being when they were first found, they had made some progress by the time we got them.  However, they were still incredibly shy, so easy to spook at the slightest disturbance, and felt much more comfortable snuggling with each other than they did coming anywhere close to members of our family.  The first month was especially rough.  Just trying to get them to go in and out of the patio door to go outside was often a chore.  We were slowly introducing ourselves to them, allowing them to get used to us at their own pace.  There were many growing pains over the first year!  After a while, they began to feel more comfortable. Instead of looking for “cover” while resting (such as under a table or chair), they started coming into the living room and feeling comfortable enough to fall asleep in the open while we were all in the room.  They were increasingly coming up for pets, and then snuggles. Trying to walk them on a leash was impossible at first, as they’d buck like broncos while on leash.  But there too, they began to trust us.  By the end of that first summer, not only did they learn to walk on a leash, but walks became the high point of their day!  Just the sight of us grabbing the leashes would send them into a butt-wiggling frenzy of  happiness. As they learned to trust us, they also started acting like “normal” dogs, following us wherever we went in the house, and often insisting on snuggling up with us no matter where we were.

It’s now been 2 1/2 years since we’ve gotten the Pipe Spaniels”.  A great story?  No doubt!  They’re wonderful, sweet little dumplings (my wife’s term), and have added immeasurable joy to our lives.  But as rescues, coming from a background “in the wild”, they are two of THE QUIRKIEST dogs on the planet.  The names the rescue group gave them, “Oscar” and “Felix” are PERFECT as they are truly the “Odd Couple” of dogs.

Oscar, Felix and Alex

This is about 3 months after we got Oscar and Felix. Despite their quirks, they warmed up to our son FAR faster than we would have ever expected.

Felix is the goofy, more outgoing one.  We’ve given him the middle name of “Tigger”!!  He’s always bouncing from place to place, looking for something exciting.  If there’s trouble in the house, you can ALWAYS bet that it’s Felix who started that trouble!  He loves to chase, he loves to play, he loves to tease his brother, and tease us!  He also is a true cuddler, loving nothing more than curling up on your lap or next to you on the couch.

Oscar’s middle name?  “Eeyore”.  He couldn’t be more different from Felix!  Everything he does is slow…and…deliberate.  Walking outside, eating, even playing…everything is done slowly and carefully.  He’s also more cautious and careful about distributing his love, which makes loving moments with him even more special.

Given their background as rescues, even after 2 1/2 years, quirks remain, one of which has recently driven  us NUTS, and is the reason for the title of this blog post.  While they generally act like “normal” dogs while with us in the house, they are often still painfully shy around new people and new situations. Fortunately they both think our son is the greatest thing since sliced bread, but otherwise, children, especially young girls, really seem to frighten them (making us wonder what they went through before the rescue place took them in). One major, MAJOR quirk…their eating and drinking habits, particularly the latter.

The first day we got them, we immediately introduced them to the back yard.  One of the first things they did…go over to the bird bath and get a good drink. Ever since that first day, they both REFUSE to drink water that’s inside the house!  The bird bath is their “go to” source of water, and no matter how thirsty they are, they will wait until they’re outside before taking a drink.  In winter when the water is frozen?  They eat snow!  No water in the bird bath in summer? They’ll lick the morning dew off the deck!  They’ll lick the dew in the grass!  They’ll look for a mud puddle!  They even turn over plastic bags or other things in the back yard to lick the moisture underneath!  It’s only on the very rare occasions where there’s no outside water source that they’d even DREAM of drinking water from the always full bowl next to their doggy beds.


Felix lounging on the couch in one of his favorite positions. Yeah…I’d say he’s learned to relax around us.

Recently, we have been very worried about Oscar.  He’s always been the “quirkier” pup, but recently he’s taken it to a new level.  About a week and a half ago, Oscar started to eat more slowly, and leave food behind in his bowl.  Soon, it was hard to get him to eat at all.  After one day where he refused to eat anything, we set up a vet appointment and started to wonder what was wrong.  I called the vet to make the appointment, then went back to try to get him to eat…something. ANYTHING!  Even ground beef, fresh chicken, and any other of his favorite treats were rejected.  He’d lick them once or twice, then ignore them.

That evening, worrying about poor Oscar and anxiously waiting for the next day’s vet appointment, a thought occurred to me.  His eating troubles began RIGHT at the time where I took the bird bath down for the winter.  The weather had been very dry, and there was little moisture outside for them, except perhaps the morning dew. In the past, both pups would VERY reluctantly resort to that yucky, disgusting tap water in indoor bowls, if no water were available from any other source.  We had just assumed that if they were really thirsty, they knew there was always an accessible bowl of water by their doggy beds!  But on a hunch, I took that bowl of water and moved it 10 feet…so it was OUTSIDE the patio door on the deck.


Oscar in one of his favorite elements…snow! Why is this one of his favorite weather phenomenon? BECAUSE IT MEANS AN UNLIMITED SUPPLY OF OUTDOOR WATER!! Allowing him to avoid that disgusting, clearly inferior “indoor” water!!

Oscar “Eeyore” Sohl, in true Oscar fashion, slowly meandered to the door when I asked if they wanted to go out. Felix did as he always does, bounding down the stairs and running all over the  yard like a mad man.  Oscar? He stopped when he saw something was “different.” “What’s this?”, he seemed to be saying, as he suspiciously eyed the water bowl in the corner of the deck.  Slowly, cautiously, with tail tucked between his legs (or what counts as a tail on a docked Spaniel), he approached the bowl, much as a gazelle would approach a watering hole when lions are around.  He took a sniff…and then started chugging water like he’d been lost in the Sahara for months.  That ENTIRE BOWL of water was gone in a couple of minutes. I look out, and a happy looking Oscar is staring back up at me, with water dripping down from his wet snout.

Could that be it?  Could that be why he wasn’t eating? Was he SO DAMNED STUBBORN about drinking water inside the house, that he was dehydrated and didn’t feel like eating? When he came back in, we offered him his food bowl…and he DEVOURED 2 1/2 meals worth of food.

What kind of pup does this?!?!? What kind of pup refuses to drink water if it’s inside the house, but will drink the same water, from the same bowl, if it’s 10 feet away OUTSIDE the house!?!?!  What kind of pup STARVES himself in some kind of silent demonstration against the evils of indoor water?!!?!?

We’re still monitoring our little freaky Oscar. I did temporarily refill the bird bath, given that we’re not supposed to get a hard freeze for the next few days.  Oscar has been drinking heartily from the bird bath and the outdoor water bowl, and is back to eating normally, just as if nothing were ever wrong!  Given where they came from and how incredibly shy they were when we first got them, they’re always going to be “quirky” little Pipe Spaniels!  But as the Great Water Strike of 2016 showed, we ARE learning to understand their freakiness!

Hummingbirds “trapped” in garages and other structures

Ruby-throated Hummingbird at honeysuckle

Hummingbirds are easily attracted to brightly colored objects. To them, a dangling red object in your garage may represent flower and food! Hummingbirds can easily get “trapped” inside a structure like a garage, and its imperative to help them find their way back outside before they become exhausted.

A beautiful South Dakota summer evening, and thus I was out doing yard work last night.  As I typically do when I’m outside, I had the garage doors open, even as I worked in the backyard.  After cleaning up some branches from a tree I’d trimmed, I came in the back door of the garage and immediately saw a hummingbird hovering in the garage, near the door.  As I approached he (a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird) was a little confused as to the way out, but fortunately he did manage to find the door and head out.

The timing of this was interesting, in that just yesterday I came across this story of a hummingbird “trapped” in a fire station, with the firemen rescuing it and feeding it sugar before sending it on its way.  Unfortunately it’s not that rare to have a hummingbird trapped in a garage or other structure.

A couple of years ago, I again was working outside, returned to the garage, and saw a hummingbird flying around.  Our garage roof is rather high, perhaps 15 feet to the ceiling.  However, the doors themselves are the standard 7-8 feet high.  Hummingbirds seem to have difficulty with structures such as this.  They become attracted to something in the garage and come in the open door, but their first instinct to get out seems to be to head upwards.  Once they do so and get above the height of the garage opening themselves, they seem to get “stuck”, and aren’t able to understand the way back out through the garage door.

In the incident two years ago, it was very disheartening to watch the hummingbird (again, a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird) quickly wear itself out as it flew madly around the garage, trying to find a way out.  All my efforts to “shoo” it out through an opening failed, as did efforts to lure it to a lower height with a hummingbird feeder and flowers.  “Out” for it seemingly meant “up”, and it soon became so tired that it perched on a wire going to my garage door opener, refusing to move. It was my wife who saved the day.  She got a very long feather duster with a long extendable handle, and moved the feathery end up towards the hummingbird.  The exhausted hummingbird was so tired it didn’t want to fly, but it did eventually cling to the feather duster.  Very slowly and carefully, my wife lowered the feather duster and moved outside through the garage door.  The hummingbird was still so tired it didn’t want to move, but after resting for perhaps 10 minutes on the feather duster, it finally did fly off…hopefully to find a nectar source to feed on.

Having a hummingbird trapped in your garage or other building definitely isn’t a rarity!  It can be disheartening and frustrating to try to make the hummingbird understand where “outside” is.  One thing you can do to prevent a “trapped” hummingbird is to remove any attractant within a open structure.  Do you have a cord that dangles down from your garage door opener, a manual release?  Chances are the end of that cord has a red ball or other such component.  My garage door openers both had red plastic balls on the end, and to a hungry hummingbird, such a dangling device potentially means “flower” and “nectar”.  I removed the red balls from my garage door openers and replaced them with large plain weights in the hopes of lowering the chances of hummingbirds flying into the garage.

You’re not alone if you have a hummingbird “trapped”in your garage!  If it happens to you, don’t wait for the bird to find its own way out, do everything you can to “assist” the bird in finding the way outside.  It doesn’t take long for a trapped hummingbird to burn through its energy supply and become exhausted, and without help, a trapped hummingbird can easily (and quickly) perish.

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