This story happened about 12 years ago, in a land far away. We lived in Converse, TX at the time, my daughter was 4, and we had a few dogs and cockatiels. One of the dogs was my first Aussie ever, Astra, a.k.a. Fuzzy Scissor Teeth, a.k.a. The Hamburgler, and probably other nicknames I’m forgetting.
It had been a long week, but the weekend had arrived and Sunday was a day for working in the garden. We had a small home in the city with a beautiful back yard lined all the way around with crepe myrtles that yielded pink flowers, courtesy of the previous owner. There were two holly bushes right in the center of the yard where each year we would have Cedar Waxwings visit to eat as they passed through. A large Oak stood in the center of the yard providing shelter to birds and shade to us and the dogs who would often play underneath it’s branches. Well it was time to trim up the bushes and tree branches since it was brush pick up week this week. This would be our only chance to get this done. Monday was quickly approaching, so we worked very hard all day. We dragged out all the branches to the curb at the end of our trim day and went in for the night, job well done.
The following morning was Monday, a regular workday for my husband and I was a stay-at-home Mom to my then four year old daughter. I set about my day’s routine which consisted of feeding a young girl, dogs and birds. The dogs would go outside and sit in the sun on the deck and play in the yard. At the time we had three dogs; Jinx, our Rottweiler; Chase, our Pomeranian; and the youngest of the bunch, Astra, our Australian Shepherd. Astra was also four years old at the time, same as my daughter. In fact, when Astra was just a pup of four months old I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. These two were virtually raised together and Astra was quite mischievous. Oh I remembered another title I gave her, “curator of games.” She was great at thinking up new games. So since everyone had eaten, the dogs were outside sunning and playing, my daughter was likely catching up on Blues Clues so I set out to straighten up the kitchen. Standing at my sink I could see outside the window into the backyard. Such a lovely view, seeing that huge Oak tree and all the crepe myrtles. I quite enjoyed my view. When I was done I walked over to the table which brought me to the sliding patio door and I see a LARGE BRUSHY branch on the porch! I was shocked! I thought, “wow, that’s strange, I don’t recall seeing this branch there earlier. Hmm, we must have missed that one.” In my mind I contemplated how in the world I did not see this large branch. I surmised that perhaps we forgot it in the yard and one of the dogs just brought it up. Which dog could have done it? Only two could take the blame, that would be either Jinx the Rottie, or Astra the Aussie. Chase, although large for a Pomeranian (he was not overweight, very proportional but tipped the scales at 15 lbs, this is how I like my Poms, far less health problems in my opinion… moving on) there was no way Chase could drag this large of a branch up to the deck. “Oh well,” I thought, and I went and took the branch and set it down the side of the house over a small fence meant to keep the dogs from running down to the gate. Drainage was poor on this side of the house so we kept this small blocking fence panel up to keep from having muddy dogs who could not help themselves but to run through that muddy trench. We had plans to fix it but for now the fence panel worked. So I set the brushy branch over the fence. I would need muck boots to take the branch up to the big pile that was now on the curb in the front yard awaiting pick up.
The day continues
Naptime came for the girl and after I returned to the kitchen to prep for lunch and dinner. As I rounded the corner of the living room I can see through the patio doors to the back deck and my eyes beheld yet ANOTHER large brushy branch sitting on the deck!! Now I’m like, now wait a minute!! I KNOW that I got all those branches. I may be a young busy Mom but I am not yet senile to have missed another branch. While I did not walk the entire back yard when I went out to set the previous branch over the fence panel I was sure I did not see any additional branches. Well, I took the NEW branch and set it over the fence, but before I did, I made a big scene and thrashed the branch around and said and I quote, “BAD BRANCH, THAT’S A BAD BRANCH, NOOO!” As I did that I watched the reactions on my two dogs in question, but got an equal reaction from them, both were sad and apparently guilty, this was not helpful in ascertaining who was my prime suspect.
Now when I walked up the branch was just laying there, and dogs were laying around it in the sun. No one was touching it, no one was particularly closer to it than the others. It was “just there.” I took this branch to my now growing branch pile over the fence panel. I returned inside and contemplated my next step. I needed to figure out who was my hedge trimmer. I had my suspicions but I needed some proof. So I decided instead of letting all the dogs out at the same time, I would let them out two at a time. Chase with Jinx or Chase with Astra, but NOT Jinx and Astra together. It took a few hours, and I kept trying to spy out the windows to catch someone in action, but whoever was doing this was sneaky! Finally I got my NEW branch! A new fresh-clipped branch. Our yard was not that big and when I set the previous branch over the fence panel I checked to be sure there were no additional branches we may have missed. No, these were fresh and chewed branches! My culprit: Astra the Aussie!! I was not really shocked, one of her nicknames was after all, Fuzzy Scissor-teeth, oh yes we also called her Dr. Astra because she could snip on a stitch line and gut her toy animals with the greatest precision!! Impressive indeed. Well these same chompy teeth were now the benefactors to this new brushy branch I now added to the branch pile. Now that I had my suspect front and center I would take steps to ensure she would not continue her trimming as there wasn’t much left to trim. If she continued she might start on the crepe myrtles next. Who knew, it needed to stop! My plan was now to purchase a wire basket muzzle. I went to the pet store and they had none, so I ordered one online. It took a few days to arrive so in the mean time I had guard duty. Astra would not be allowed out unsupervised for now.
The Muzzle Arrives:
When the muzzle arrived I had to train Astra to accept it. She had never before been required to wear one so this was not something she was happy about. After a few treats to show her how it wasn’t half bad to wear one as you get special treats to do so, she was allowed out in the yard. First I would sort of obscure myself from view and spy on her and when I was comfortable with her compliance I let her stay out a little longer. We did this for a total of three days. When she came inside I would remove the muzzle, and when she went out, she would wear it… to protect the branches. After the third day, I removed the muzzle and watched carefully. My plan worked!! No trees or bushes were chewed from this day forward.
Why did Astra chew the branches? Well the first response would be that Astra was a unique dog, but this behavior is not that unique actually. Astra communicated very well with us, for a dog (I have other stories for another time to back this up). She was very involved and inquisitive in all that we did. The day that we were trimming the trees she was outside with us. I have had other dogs see me digging in the garden, and they also began digging holes at the same time. A learned behavior. She taught me that it is best to NOT do behaviors with them that you do not want them to pick up. Not all dogs are exactly this way, some definitely more than others. Anyway, it was such a funny situation and it always makes me smile to look back and remember it. Astra (nor Jinx) is no longer with us, as many dog trainers and people who show do I sent her to a retirement home to make room for a new dog. Her new home was wonderful and she was very loved, however, she was stolen by some workers who had come by when the new owners were not home. We never got to say goodbye to her officially. We miss her very much! She is one of our most memorable dogs, I do believe she has the MOST nicknames. If you knew her, maybe you can remember one. Another one I remember was “Fuzzy Q-tip” because when she was a teen pup she had a fuzzy head and rump but the rest of her body was not fuzzy at all, she was skinny in the middle. It looked so cute and funny. I called her my Ambassador, she loved people and kids. When she was young I used to have to hold her ankles and lay her on her side so they could actually pet her because she would wriggle so much! More stories of Astra to come at a future TBT for certain.
Until next time, Yah bless…