Archive for October 18th, 2011

Gobbling Down the Goblers

Tuesday, October 18th, 2011


As I write this, it is finally 28 degrees outside, and not much warmer inside. I can see doggy breath coming out of Metoo. I have just lit the wood stove to let the dogs warm up by the fluffy beds that lie in front of it, while some of the guys outside are starting to find the first rays of the morning sun to bask in.
Well, it’s been a weird week here at the kennel, as you can tell from these pictures. We have been getting visited daily by a flock of turkeys. This may not sound that strange except to those who know that there are no wild turkeys in Alaska.
Apparently someone has been letting them go, probably hoping to start a seed crop of birds that will take root and breed to increase hunting opportunities down the road, but as ex-zookeepers we can vouch for the fact that it is never a good idea to introduce a new species into an area where it does not, and never did, naturally occur. Typically diseases can be introduced to native birds, or perhaps naturally occurring wild species can be out competed for a food source during our long, harsh winters.
In this case, neither seems to be a concern really; instead the turkeys seem to be coming to our yards because they are struggling to find food. They try to visit what is left of our garden to peck a few scraps of greens. Since they aren’t truly wild, they seem to have slow reflexes and no sense of the danger of dogs or other carnivores, which doesn’t bode well for them going into winter in a neighborhood filled with coyotes and lynx.
Anyway, we came home from a dog run two days ago and Shagoo was sitting in the woods next to the first bird she brought down. Shagoo spends most of her free time outside since she tends to be such a loner compared to the other dogs who seem to have a buddy or two they like playing and rough-housing with.
Shagoo is quite proficient at bringing down dinner for us. In the past she has caught grouse, and pheasant (which also don’t belong here), but this was by far the largest critter, as you can tell by the picture. It was as big as she was. Still it looked like it was a tussle bringing it down, there were feathers all over the yard.
We don’t teach Shagoo to kill wild things, but since the birds don’t belong here anyway, we never scold Shagoo for killing them when they’re coming in our yard. And since she is the one who brings in dinner, we always split the catch with her once the birds are cleaned and cooked.

Anyway, we thought it was a fluke that the birds came through once, but we figured seeing one of their own brought down would be enough for them to avoid our yard in the future, but the next day we finished another dog run and as we ran the team up the incoming trail to the yard we flushed another flock. The sleds dogs went wild, immediately jumping from about 10 up to 20 mph at the site of the birds, but being tethered into the team, no dogs caught one.
However , as we made it the rest of the way into the kennel, once again we saw Shagoo, this time sitting on a big bird to guard it from all the sled dogs that just arrived. Again, we cleaned the bird and cooked it up, giving Shagoo 50 percent of her catch, although this time the other dogs were starting to get a little curious too, and I barely got the bird to the cleaning table once they all figured out what it was.

While we feel bad for the turkeys, the fresh meat has been delicious, especially since we just harvested our garden last week and have been enjoying all the crops we grew. We harvested about 2,000 carrots and 500 potatoes, plus several other veggies and greens. Again, this bounty is thanks to the dogs since we spend two years on average composting their poo into some incredibly fertile soil. I know it sounds gross on first thought, but you have to remember two things. One: most fertilizers come from some form of animal poo, typically chicken, cow or even occasionally bats. And two: when done right, composting completely breaks it down. By the time we use it, the rich soil smells sweet and earthy, and is indistinguishable from that from a nursery.
Well, on that note…all for this week.