Sunday, June 26, 2011

New Kid on the Block

His name is Mr. Stubbs and we estimate him to be a year and a half old. He's missing a tooth and nearly half his tail. A beautiful animal we thought might possibly be a Carolina Dog. A little over three months ago he decided to visit Cheatham County Animal Control for food. Eventually, he came in. No owner. Wild-caught as it were. The first time I visited, he was calm, he knew the "Let's Go Outside" routine. He didn't bark. He didn't jump. He watched what you did and acted accordingly. He marked certain spots outside. He paid attention to his surroundings using his eyes, ears & nose. He wasn't difficult. Didn't require controlling or anything of that sort. He seemed content and confident. Didn't mind that I had the leash and went with me. I was pretty sure if I took the leash off, he would naturally heel and follow me wherever I went. You would probably describe him as a perfect gentlemen. I visited a second time, with my husband. We took him out for another walk, checked out his tail. We talked about his looks and his behavior. We talked to the Animal Control about his history, verifying that he voluntarily came in. We examined his tail to determine whether it short through natural birth or some later accident. Then we contacted Rachel Nagher, a master's degree student studying Carolina Dog populations under Dr. Brisban at the Savannah River Ecology Lab, who first identified the Carolina Dog in the wild. Eventually Ms. Nagher helped us with on-site verification and we have brought Mr. Stubbs to Mule Shoe Farm to be fostered with the other Carolina Dogs.

This put Mr. Stubbs in the middle of the changing pack dynamics between Wodi, Dora and Carmel. How would his presence affect the relationships of the females? I took him around to be greeted by the males and let the females had their initial look at him. Carmel greeted him with barking, fur raised all along her spine and growling with bared teeth. Wodi and Dora touched noses, sniffed him, let him sniff them in a limited fashion but no aggression that was obvious enough to note. Carmel was having none of this new dog. We put him on a thirty foot run with a twenty foot cable, close enough to the house to observe him, yet out of the front yard territory we have previously observed in the Wodi/Dora dynamics of the past few weeks. Carmel repeatedly charged him, fur raised, bared teeth snarling and growling. He was non-plussed. After the fourth or fifth foray by Carmel, he turned his behind to her and spaced his hind feet fairly far apart and stood there. Letting her run at him repeatedly. She never touched him. Never got close enough or quiet enough to sniff him. At one point Wodi, went up to Stubbs' hindquarters as if to show Carmel how it's done. She surprised the heck out of Mr. Stubbs when her wet nose touched him, but everything between the two of them was quite cordial. Carmel kept on. Eventually we all went inside to discuss the day's events and after an hour or so, Carmel's forays became less rapid and seemed to stop. Sometime in the middle of the night or very early morning, I woke up to the realization that the females were barking their guarding bark they have and it was quite bit closer to the house than usual. When I peeked out the window, Mr. Stubbs was trying to come into the front yard. He had slipped his collar and the females, all three together were preventing him from doing so. Carmel was leading the "charge" as it were. Once he was put back on his line in his proper spot and the collar adjusted, everything settled down to normal and the night was quiet.

Now all three females are back on the porch together. Wodi and Carmel usually sleep together and Dora is not far away. Dora is certainly not banished from the pack at the moment. Saturday morning saw Wodi & Carmel in the whelping box and Dora sleeping in front of the door. Sunday morning saw Dora in the whelping box and Wodi with Carmel under the car. There has been no aggression toward Dora that we have observed since Mr. Stubbs arrived. We will continue to keep an eye on the situation to see how it evolves over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Three Days in a New Territory

This morning, Hunter fed the dogs and the goat. This is how it happened today.

Hunter fed Wodi and Carmel first in the front yard. After they were fed, Dora followed him to Yellow Boy who lives in the field in front of the house. When he returned toward the house, Dora showed hesitation in entering the "Front of the House" Territory. Hunter explained it was as if she was following an agreed upon line. Wodi ambled up with Carmel while Dora was trying to get through as quickly as possible on the northeast side of the house. There is only a nine foot clearance between the house and the hill on that side and it is the side where the puppy den has been for the last three litters.

When Hunter turned the corner toward the "Back of the House" Territory, Wodi followed and waited on the back porch, seemingly for food to be dropped. Hunter didn't put any food out and momentarily, Wodi ran off toward the woods. Carmel stayed behind but so far from Dora's feeding spot that she wasn't a threat.

Dora went to her feeding spot and once the other two dogs were not observing, Hunter put out her food. Next time he feeds he will try passing on the southwest side of the house where there is more space, to get from the front to the back. We will see how than impacts the territories negotiation for the three girls.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Changing Places

This past week saw a change in the porch population. Around Tuesday or Wednesday, we noticed Dora wasn't around in the morning. Dora is the blond juvenile on the right in the photo. The red female is Wodi, Dora's mother.

For several months now, Wodi has been the alpha and Dora, the beta, with Carmel, as the omega female. Dora and Wodi took the top of the porch and Carmel hid under the house. We've gotten used to this arrangement.

When we noticed Dora was gone, we figured she was out hunting. When we didn't see her the next day, we started calling her. Lo and behold, she was hiding up in the brush on the hillside to the left of the house about 300 feet away. She wouldn't approach the porch and I had to feed her away from the others. They would "school" her whenever she got close to them.

There is a shift in pack rank going on. Dora was skinny and covered in ticks on Friday. She took a trip with Wodi and Carmel to the local Animal Control office to help the staff identify Carolina Dogs that may show up. Two males we looked at both tried to mount the girls. A sure sign someone might be in heat soon. Neither male comes here because either one would cause a heat cycle for the alpha female, Wodi. Neither male has been verified as a Carolina Dog, either. The beta female, Dora could also be in heat but not show signs. This could be a reason the pack dynamic is changing.
Carmel has come out from under the house and is her mother's constant companion two days later. She is only 5 months old and thus not a threat to the alpha status. Our pack management question becomes what to do with Dora to not excessively interfere with the natural order of things but also allow her to survive. There is a real possibility that she would perish as the new omega.

Yesterday, I thought about how juveniles in any pack will split off from the main pack at a certain age to form their own groups. Perhaps this is also part of the situation here. I set Dora a double ration near a dog shelter that we are not currently using. This shelter is in the back yard of the house near a wet weather creek that will be dry until late fall. I then placed her food in the creek bed where she would be visually shielded from the other dogs should they decide to look around the side of the house. I tried to set up a situation for Dora to inhabit as her own territory without threatening Wodi's territory.

Yesterday became a turn around day for Dora. She ate and ate well. She no longer looked too skinny. She stopped hiding under the milking table on the back porch (where she had been early in the day) and stretched out on the pavement of the back porch and slept. Not a half awake monitoring sleep that many dogs will do during the day, but a full body, sacked out, long breath deep sleep. She was sleeping in the same area this morning, albeit in a different position.

Today when I fed, Dora accompanied me, careful to keep her distance from Wodi and Carmel. Wodi and Carmel were only interested in the porch territory and did not accompany me on any of my feeding routine. They didn't show any interest in Dora once she went to the side of the house. I fed Dora last. She anticipated where I would go with her food and led me to the exact spot I had fed her yesterday. She had a small pile still there. I added today's food and she immediately commenced eating. This is to be her feeding spot for the time being.

In conclusion, I think the pack rank changed due to Dora's relative age and maturity and this is a natural process to be expected. By providing a safe den area for her to go, she is able to successfully survive and perhaps later have her own family without a challenge to Wodi. What remains to be seen is how long the two home territories; the front and back of the house remain as such and whether we can do the same thing on other spots of our property.
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