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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