Wednesday, March 9, 2016

robodog II - the sacrificial socks

Robodog 1 was only partially successful, so we had to try again. Here's Artie, bold and resolute, duct-taped and skid-plated, ready to throw himself into the fray of swamp-pheasant hunting. "Gentlemen: we can rebuild him. We have the duct-tape." 

In the course of the previous hunt, one of the $40 dog boots was left behind somewhere in a field of deep hard-crusted snow. I lose more boots (money) that way. Perhaps it's time to fabricate a pair of suspenders to keep the boots at least loosely attached. On the other hand, between the black leather look of the duct tape, and the suspenders, the whole endeavor is becoming a little disturbing. For Robodog II we went with a pair of sacrificial socks under the tape. This provides the warm, durable, yet stylish, armored leggings seen above.

The skid plate is for the low-slung underparts. His belly has a rich assortment of scars from all the cat-tails and other undergrowth he goes crashing through. If I could get him to slow down a bit it would help, but he doesn't do slow.

Artie started dragging his right paw while running, so it gets abraded on top and bleeds. Here is the early season Robodog version 0.9, on the Wyoming operating table (an ATV is useful for about everything, up on the farm) as Ken wraps the paw. Tau meanwhile looks alertly at the woodpile which is emanating suspicious scurrying sounds. Small rodents are also known as 'snacks!' to the dogs. If there aren't any birds around and they get bored, will usually starting hunting independently for a little supplementary protein.

Later that day we visited Ken's neighbor Casey, who had been working on AI in his barn. He had some computer troubles so Ken and I attempted to troubleshoot, concluding eventually it was hardware and not susceptible to our software wiles. Casey listened to us discussing it and observed, "I don't understand a single word you boys are saying, but I bet if I got you out in the barn to do AI, you'd be completely lost." We had to agree. This is of course Artificial Insemination cowboy style, rather than AI in the software sense - wrestling cows, with sensitivity. A good AI man or woman is hard to find, commanding high rates. We can conclude AI is a career with excellent prospects wherever you practice it, on the high plains or in the wretched hives of scum and villainy where software developers fail to mechanistically extract wisdom from data.

First hunt of the season, showing once more the kind of nonsense up with which the poor dog has to put. In the middle of the picture, there is a V of calm water with a black dot at its apex. That's Artie, swimming out to fetch the bird I didn't hit hard enough.

Glory be to God for dappled things. For the overcoat of burrs on the fur, not so much.

Two very truly run-after dogs loafing in the sun. It takes six hours of hard running in the snow to get them stationary for a photograph.

Midseason. Today Artie had to cover ground for three hunters, which he did beautifully as always. That means for every twenty yards we walk forward spaced twenty yards apart, he has run eighty yards up and down the line of hunters, two or three times. Do this across a fifty-acre field with deep cover a few times, add in a quarter-mile sprint down the dirt road after a running bird followed by a triumphant trot back with the bird in his jaws, and he needs a lift up into the car at the end of day.

We don't have a rustic barn with comfortable wood stove unfortunately, so have to make do with a bed in front of the gas fire for recuperation.

Here's a barn pic, from when we were all much younger.

Late season, looking for pheasants in the corn stubble. In these conditions the birds can see, smell and hear you coming, so they fled hundreds of yards ahead of us.

In the evening we huddle under the cottonwoods watching for the evening flight of pheasants into the swamp. The dogs are back in the barn resting so that the birds are not molested or disturbed on their way to bed: this is just bird-watching, the hunt is over. In the spring a pair of sandhill cranes nested here, successfully raising their chick and leaving with the fall flights south, their valedictory rattling bugle calls floating down to us.

Above us hundreds of blackbirds, which used to migrate away from Wyoming in the winter, back when there were reliable winters.

Sunset over the barn mediated by branches and cloud. It was a good year.

Colorado's season goes on for a month after Wyoming closes. For the first time in a decade, a wet spring and summer brought good cover so most of the broods could reach adulthood, and the pheasant population was up. We went out once. This was an historic occasion for me - ten years of hunting in CO, and this was the first time I'd actually fired a shot. It's not a blood sport the way I shoot, much to Artie's regret.

When Artie was young, he would render a chew toy into shreds within a day, so I stopped buying them. His cousins from Australia sent him some new ones which have survived for months now. Instead of getting a shoe to welcome me downstairs in the morning, or home from work in the evening, I get a hedgehog (above), white rat or badger. Of course now I feel terrible that I deprived the dog of his mouth-comforts for so long.

Anno Domini: measuring him by dog years, Artie and I are the same age this year; that is to say, in the prime of life. We'll have to get in some extensive hunts before we are old next year.

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