20 May FHA Newsletter, June 2020
HOMEOWNERS’ ASSOCIATION NEWSLETTER
June, 2020 Volume 39 Number 6
Worries and Action
As the 14th Dalai Lama observed, “If a problem is fixable, if a situation is such that you can do something about it, then there is no need to worry. If it’s not fixable, then there is no help in worrying”. There are many problems facing us that we can do nothing about. But there are many problems we can deal with, and acting on them can dissipate those worries. So, our FHA worries about things that sustain or improve our quality of life and our property values, and it acts on those worries. We look toward improvements in many areas.
One might think that in our time of Coronavirus the FHA has less to do, but we are in fact busier than ever. Fortunately our FHA Board is strong and acts as a team, and we have acted to draw on the amazing talent repository that is Fearrington Village to create committees for action.
There are other articles in the Newsletter or on our website which go into some detail on many of our action items, but the summary below highlights a few:
- Wastewater Management – Our Vice President, Rose Krasnow, has formed a task force to watch over the system in Fearrington Village which either will require substantial upgrading or become part of a project to connect it to a facility in Briar Chapel. The latter would require pipes to be laid in some areas, and FHA has serious concerns about the plan and about the capabilities of the company (Envirolink) which would operate the system. It is up to the North Carolina Public Utilities Commission (NCPUC) to approve or disapprove of that project. Our task force has people with considerable expertise in this area to act for all of us. It is important that the NCPUC hears our concerns; to that end we have engaged an attorney to take the necessary steps to allow us to “intervene” at hearings to be held. Of course, that creates an additional expense, putting pressure on our already stressed budget.
- Grounds and Roads – These make up a significant part our quality of life and property values, and our team watches over these areas. That requires a lot of work. Our walking paths and trails are an important component also, and we must consider how to manage those as we move forward. Fitch Creations will transfer more land to FHA, which will require more expense. Costs of servicing the paths mount each year and that, plus having new land to manage, also put pressure on our budget. We will need to ask approval for additional budget above the 5% currently allowed.
- Gathering Place – Our Director of Health, Safety and Security (Warren Ort) has formed a committee to determine how and when the Gathering Place can safely be opened. This team includes people with medical expertise to guide our decisions.
- Financial Management – This year our contract with the Management Company, Towne Properties, is up for renewal. We must evaluate our requirements, as well as their performance and costs. We will request proposals, and compare Towne Properties with alternative companies. Our Treasurer, Tony Daniels, has formed a finance committee to manage this process and make recommendations to the board. He and his team must also manage our budget and forecast our needs for next year; this will include any proposals for an increased budget, above the normal 5%, that might be required to meet the needs of Fearrington Village.
- Covenants – Our covenants committee is remarkably busy as requests and complaints seem only to have increased. That committee contains only three members and we continue to stress how important it is that residents approve a covenants change to increase the number of people on the committee.
- Communications – the board holds its meetings via Zoom, and we meet face to face only outside, in small groups with social distance. However, we need to consider how to reach all of you, since we cannot hold our usual open meetings. Our Director of Communications (Gordon Pitz) is designing a plan for holding an online Zoom meeting so residents can see presentations and ask questions in some form. He is working with board members and others who have expertise in such technology.
As we move forward and take action, you will see more detail on all these topics, either on the FHA website or through occasional emails. We are acting on behalf of all of us to preserve and improve quality of life and property values. What I want to stress is that the “WE” are board members who work as teams, with incredibly talented volunteers, on various task forces or committees. It shows the strength of our community, both in terms of talent and in the willingness of people to interrupt their lives to volunteer.
Email all submissions to: email@example.com, in the body of the message or as an MS Word attachment. No PDF files please.
Jim Brooking, Jan Kowal
Judith Andersson, Arleen DeLuca, Carol Kurtz, and Marji Maarschalkerweerd (chair)
Deadline for submissions to the July/August issue is
Monday June 15
- All submitters will receive a confirmation email. Contact the editor if you don’t receive this confirmation.
- Submissions are limited to 150 words for village groups and 100 words for outside groups. FHA submissions are not restricted.
- Items to be listed on the calendar page must be listed separately.
- Articles may be edited for space and formatted at the editors’ discretion
For more information: see website: www.fearringtonfha.org
FHA BOARD MEMBERS
President: Carl Angel
Vice President: Rose Krasnow
Secretary: Leslee Shell
Treasurer: Tony Daniels
Director-Communications: Gordon Pitz
Director-Community Affairs: Margaret (Maggie) Tunstall
Director-Covenants: Eric Frank
Director-Grounds and Landscaping: Jesse Fearrington
Director-Health, Safety and Security: Warren Ort
Director-Infrastructure and Facilities: Mark Haslam
- Are You Prepared
- This Month’s Supplement
- The Inside Scoop: Wastewater Management and Long Range Planning
- Where Do We Go From Here?
- Open Meetings in a Stay-At-Home World
- Friendly Reminders: Survival in a Pandemic
- Green Scene
ARE YOU PREPARED?
While trying to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is easy to forget that there may be other reasons for concern about your safety. An active hurricane season is expected to begin in June. Are you prepared for it?
Let’s find out. Do you know the answers to these questions?
What should I do if told to evacuate?
Can the Gathering Place serve as an emergency shelter?
May my dog come with me to the emergency shelter?
How long will frozen food last after a power outage?
What should I do if my home is in danger, and I cannot get through to 9-1-1?
It is much better to learn the answers to these questions now rather than during the emergency. Answers, and answers to other important questions, can be found in the Emergency Preparedness List, available on the Health, Safety, and Security (HSS) website, at https://fhahss.blogspot.com/p/p.html. You can download a copy of the list that can be printed and laminated, and kept handy for an emergency.
The list is part of a portal provided as a way for residents to locate, read, and subscribe to key HSS news and files. The home page for the portal is at https://fhahss.blogspot.com/. To see the range of topics covered, check out the tabs on the top (main) menu. You will find this to be a very valuable resource.
THIS MONTH’S SUPPLEMENT
Readers who have received the email version of the newsletter will find another supplement at the end of the main newsletter. As usual, it contains illustrated articles about features of Fearrington Village.
This month there are two special items. Ann Fox Melchior addresses the concerns of dog owners about the care of their dogs during the pandemic. Ann taught classes at the Capital Dog Training Club of Washington DC before moving to Fearrington, and uses her expertise to address questions we might have. The article is accompanied by a collection of photos of several dogs belonging to Fearrington residents.
The supplement also features birds of the region. Maarten Simon Thomas has created 13 scale models of birds that might be seen in or near the village. These have been mounted along the North Langdon Trail. If you are not familiar with this nature trail, it is well worth exploring. It lies across Millcroft, directly opposite The Knolls Place. Photos of the birds are available; see how many you can find. Some are easy to see; some less so. But unlike real birds, they will not fly away or try to hide as you approach.
THE INSIDE SCOOP – WASTEWATER MANAGEMENT AND LONG RANGE PLANNING
FHA vice-president Rose Krasnow heads two committees charged with the study of issues that may have a major impact on Fearrington residents. Here is a summary of what these committees are doing.
Wastewater Treatment Task Force
Plans to transport Fearrington Village’s wastewater to Briar Chapel for treatment have been a source of controversy for many months. At the recommendation of the task force, the FHA Board voted to file a Petition to Intervene with the North Carolina Utilities Commission, and authorized the expenditure of $5,000 as a retainer to hire attorney Dwight Allen of Raleigh to advise the FHA. The Petition was filed on May 7. Assuming that the Petition is accepted, Fearrington’s testimony for the evidentiary hearing scheduled in June must be submitted by May 15th, although it appears that these dates may be delayed until September.
The task force has carried out extensive research to determine whether replacing our current plant with a new plant intended only for Fearrington Village would be more desirable than the proposal to connect to the Briar Chapel system. The advantages to remaining separate are (1) there would be no impacts on the buffer between Fearrington Village and the commercial area of Briar Chapel along 15-501, (2) no construction would be required on Trundle Ridge or along Creekwood, (3) we would have more control over management of the system, which is important given the many problems Briar Chapel has experienced over the last several years, and (4) our wastewater utility rates may be more reasonable.
As the hearing date approached, the task force has learned that Chatham North has scaled back the proposed size of the expansion of the Briar Chapel plant from 1 million gallons per day to 875,000 gallons per day. They no longer plan to use PVC pipe to run our sewage to Briar Chapel, because they recognize that the PVC pipe currently installed in Briar Chapel has experienced frequent breaks. Finally, they recently revised the purchase agreement between Fitch Creations and Chatham North, in response to concerns from the Utilities Commission that some of the terms would adversely affect rates. At the same time, however, the clause that said Fearrington Village’s utility rates could not be increased by more than 60% for the first two years was removed.
It is important to recognize that our rates have remained the same for the last three years due to an agreement struck when the management of Fearrington Utilities was first turned over to Envirolink. There is no question that our rates will rise in the future. Briar Chapel currently pays just over $42/month, and nearby communities such as Governor’s Club pay $69/month. Although a rate increase is not in front of the utilities commission at this time, the task force is looking for a solution that will keep future rate increases to a minimum.
Long Range Planning Committee
Three important concerns have been identified that could determine the future of the village: (1) Governance, or how the FHA operates in conjunction with Service Groups and with Fitch Creations (2) Transition as control of various areas and amenities is transferred from Fitch Creations to the FHA, and (3) Lifestyle, or how to preserve and nourish features of the village that we value. Subcommittees were recently formed to address each of these concerns, and each group has begun to define the primary objectives they wish to work toward. To this end, the LRPC will resume efforts to design a community needs assessment survey, which had been put on hold following lock-down regulations. Rather than relying on face-to-face Coffee and Conversation meetings with residents, the committee hopes to conduct sessions using online Zoom meetings.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many changes in village operations were forced upon us. The situation changes almost daily, and we all struggle to respond appropriately. The FHA board has been discussing how we might best deal with the crisis. Here are just some of the issues that are under discussion.
The Gathering Place
In response to directives from the Governor, the Gathering Place was closed in late March, and has been closed to meetings ever since. However, as the state begins to ease some of the restrictions imposed during the last two months, the board has started to consider a possible reopening.
Clearly we cannot suddenly return to operations as they were prior to March. We need to develop a plan that specifies under what conditions a partial reopening of the Gathering Place might be possible, and what restrictions must continue to be imposed. It is essential that steps be taken to protect the health of all village residents, as well as allowing groups to use the facilities in a way that would be beneficial to everyone.
A committee of board members and medical professionals has been established to discuss how these goals can be met, and to prepare a proposal to be presented to the full board.
If you have comments or suggestions concerning this issue, please contact the chair of the committee, Warren Ort, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For the third month in a row, newsletters have been sent by email to everyone for whom there is an email address in the FHA Directory. A very small number of printed copies has been made available to residents who are unable to access it through email. The reason for moving to email was that printing and distributing the newsletter carries the risk of transmitting COVID-19. More than 100 people are involved in the process, and we were not willing to expose so many in this way. It is likely that the risks will not soon fall to an acceptable level, so we can expect the emphasis on email delivery to continue.
There have been no serious complaints from people who had previously received paper copies. Certainly there has been grumbling from those who might miss the convenience of a paper copy, but everyone understands why this is happening.
There are many benefits to receiving the email version. The supplement featuring photographs and special features is only available that way. Many savings are realized by cutting back on printing. It has been a major budget expense for the board (this is your dues money being spent), a large number of volunteers have devoted hours to making sure the newsletter is delivered, and there is a savings in paper and other resources that would otherwise be depleted.
It is not unusual for organizations to rely on email to deliver their newsletters. We are looking at ways in which we might make the process more efficient, and improve the overall quality of the newsletter.
Remaining Up To Date on News
The newsletter is published only once a month, and much of the information contained in the newsletter is out of date by the time it appears in your email or on your front door step. How can you learn what happens on a more timely basis?
The FHA website features a summary of important developments that is revised as soon as relevant events occur, or whenever new information is available. If you connect to https://www.fearringtonfha.org/, you will see this summary front and center, followed by a link that will take you to a fuller explanation. We recommend you check the website on a regular basis to find out what is happening.
Gordon Pitz, email@example.com
OPEN BOARD MEETINGS IN A STAY-AT-HOME WORLD
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced all of us to find new, safe ways to perform old tasks. The closing of the Gathering Place has required groups that regularly met there to find new ways of communicating. Like many others, the FHA Board of Directors has turned to online meetings as a way to conduct business.
Now we are inspired to widen our horizons, and consider how to hold a meeting that would be open to all village residents. It appears that we can expand the number of attendees at Zoom meetings to accommodate the needs of our open meetings.
Before stay-at-home directives were issued, an open board meeting had been planned for June. The board has decided to go ahead with the meeting using the Zoom platform. Many details remain to be settled, but here is what to expect:
The meeting will be scheduled for one evening the week of June 22. You will receive an announcement via email that will include an invitation to the meeting. Details of how to sign up and attend will be provided. If you do not have access to a computer you will be able to connect by telephone, but a computer connection will provide a more satisfactory experience. The board is exploring the possibility of recording the meeting so it is available for later viewing by residents who are unable to attend.
The agenda is yet to be determined. You can expect there to be three, perhaps four presenters, each person talking about issues that are important to residents at this time. The presenters will be on camera; we need to work out a system so that audience members can request a chance to speak and ask questions.
Obviously, if a large number of audience members want to ask questions or make comments, it will be necessary to limit the permitted time, and to work out a way for as many people as possible to be involved.
Unless you are a frequent Zoom user, the first online open meeting will be a learning experience for you, as it will be for the board in hosting a community-wide meeting. Even if you are familiar with Zoom meetings, their use for groups of a large size will be rather different. The board plans a practice session ahead of time, but we ask your indulgence if the meeting does not proceed as smoothly as we would like.
More information will be provided later as the details are worked out.
FRIENDLY REMINDERS: SURVIVAL IN A PANDEMIC
We are all familiar with the guidelines that have been issued for staying safe during the pandemic. Surveys show there is overwhelming support for the guidelines, and most people try to comply. Unfortunately, no matter how well intentioned we might be there are situations where distractions or other obligations cause us to drop our guard.
Using the mail kiosks is one activity that can create close contact in a confined space. Wearing masks in this case is recommended. Whenever we engage in conversations with other people, it is easy to get closer than 6 feet without realizing it. Collecting pickup orders creates similar problems. In these situations our attention is directed elsewhere. Masks can be helpful, but remaining at a safe distance is better.
The best solution is to remind ourselves to look out for such situations. Only by practice can we learn to avoid the dangers. And if we see someone else who has fallen into one of these traps, a friendly reminder is a more effective recourse than becoming angry.
On October 14, 2019, the Fearrington Homeowners Association sponsored a community “Information Meeting” to share the preliminary outline of a plan for the Fearrington Wastewater Treatment System to be sold to a company that manages the Wastewater Treatment Facility for our neighbor community: Briar Chapel. The plan involved the construction of a pipeline from Fearrington to the Briar Chapel Treatment Facility. Our current treatment facility would be “de-commissioned”, and replaced with a pumping station to force our wastewater uphill, through the pipeline, to the Briar Chapel Treatment Facility. There would also be a second, parallel pipeline, coming back to Fearrington, to bring the treated “effluent” back, to be discharged into the same stream into which our current treated wastewater is discharged. This proposal is being considered by the North Carolina Utilities Commission, whose “seal of approval” is required for the transaction to be consummated.
In recognition of the complexity of this matter, and its serious implications for the future well being of the Fearrington community, the FHA formed a Wastewater Management Task Force, chaired by FHA Vice President, Rose Krasnow. That Task Force has been studying this issue, and meeting with significant parties of interest, for a number of months. Elsewhere in this Newsletter you will find a status report as of mid-May. On Wednesday, June 10, at 11:00 AM, The Green Scene will sponsor a Zoom meeting to hear an update from Rose Krasnow, as well as to share an opportunity for questions and a discussion of the matter. All Fearrington residents on The Green Scene e-mail list will receive an invitation to participate in that Zoom meeting. Other interested parties may contact me for the possibility of meeting access, as long as the meeting is not “over subscribed”.
Jason Welsch, Moderator, The Fearrington Green Scene, Home Phone: 919-533-6118
- Fearrington Tennis Association
- Fearrington Havurah
- Women of Fearrington
- PORCH Fearrington
- Fearrington Democratic Club
FEARRINGTON TENNIS ASSOCIATION
The tennis courts are available for use by members at their own discretion during this time. Groups will resume play as restrictions ease.
Fearrington Havurah members will soon receive an emailed communication with information on election of officers for 2020-2021 and tentative plans for the coming year. If you have questions, or do not use email, contact Catherine Garland at 919-533-6329 (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Beryl Sherman at 919-704-8018. (Bisherman3@gmail.com). We hope you are staying well and safe!
WOMEN OF FEARRINGTON
In late April, Women of Fearrington members elected the executive committee for 2020–2021, which starts July 1. Kathleen Angel and Ellen (Mif) Flaharty will serve as co-chairs, Robin Williams as secretary, and Ellen Spin as treasurer. Many other members have volunteered to lead or serve on WoF’s committees and teams. Although things may appear quiet, the outgoing and incoming chairs and committees have been working diligently to achieve a smooth and efficient transition and to make plans for 2020–2021. Great things are in the works, so be sure to watch for news about Women of Fearrington events and activities.
This year’s executive committee is also hard at work reviewing grant applications. Recipients of Women of Fearrington grants will be announced sometime in June.
In these difficult times, we have modified our usual collections from 26 porches throughout the community. Instead, we have been encouraging cash donations to CORA, and, as of this writing, we have received almost $9,000 in online donations since the start of the pandemic, in addition to checks sent directly to the pantry. Thank you for your amazing generosity! In April and May, we also did a limited food collection and received almost 700 pounds in April. CORA needs our help more than ever, as they reach out to our Chatham County neighbors who have lost jobs and income.
We hope to return to our usual collection model soon; in the meantime, you can help by making an online donation at: https://fearrington.porchcommunities.org/donate/
FEARRINGTON DEMOCRATIC CLUB
The Democratic Club is beginning a series of Zoom-based webinars with Democratic candidates for the fall elections. Fearrington Democratic Club members receive an email with directions for registering for each session. Non-club members can contact the Club for information about registering. Website: www.FearringtonDems.org or Club co-chair: Vickie Shea (919 545 0024).
We are delighted to announce that our first speaker will be NC Supreme Court Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who is the first African-American woman in the Court’s 200-year history to serve as Chief Justice. On Saturday, May 30, 2:00 to 3:00 pm, (contact is Therese St. Peter, 919-638-7062) Justice Beasley will speak to our community on the topic of “The NC Supreme Court and COVID-19.”
We are planning additional candidate Zoominars all summer, but because scheduling these webinars may not conform to this newsletter’s publication deadlines, we encourage all community members to check the mail kiosks or www.FearringtonDems.org throughout the summer for updated information.
4/16/2020 through 5/16/f2020
The following people have been added to the directory:
BARDIN, Patricia A (Patti)
|Patti’s Email: email@example.com||Patti’s Cell: 336-263-7550|
DROKE DVM, Dr Laurie
154 Turtle Run
|Laurie’s Email: firstname.lastname@example.org||Laurie’s Cell: 919-548-8413|
B-007 B Wing
|Rita’s Email: email@example.com||Rita’s Cell: 540-598-8725|
SPOTZ, Diane S
|Diane’s Email: firstname.lastname@example.org||Diane’s Cell: 717-449-0359|
Karen’s Cell: 561-252-0940
BROCK, Brenda, Ken
47 Trestle Leaf
Brenda’s Email: Pamperedbrendi@att.net
Ken’s Email: Kenemail@example.com
Brenda’s Cell: 919-906-8555
Ken’s Cell: 919-906-8039
242 Fox Ridge
Jim’s Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
JACOBS, Lisa, Teddy
58 Stone Ledge
|Lisa’s Email: Lisaojacobs@gmail.com|
NEWSLETTER SUPPLEMENT, JUNE 2020
You can click on a photo to see the caption and credits.
It may appear that this edition of the newsletter is going to the dogs, although some of it is for the birds as well. In fact, the edition is devoted to a celebration of life in all its forms. It contains an article about helping our dogs in a time of crisis, and an account of their role as therapy dogs. We also have a puzzle that will introduce you to some of the birds to be seen in the village.
New Life in Fearrington
Although travel outside the village is limited, there is plenty happening around us to keep us informed and entertained. Last month’s newsletter reported the birth of two kids, unusually early for goats. Several more have joined the flock since then, eleven at last count.
Several varieties of wildlife are seen regularly. The warmer weather encourages turtles to catch the sun whenever they can, even though they pay no attention to social distance rules that affect the human species. The Great Blue Heron is a regular visitor to Fearrington ponds, but the Yellow Crowned Night Heron though (pictured) is much more unusual. The village lies at the very limit of its range.
Foxes are known to inhabit the area, but this year they seem to be more noticeable than usual. You may have read that as humans remain at home, wildlife is appearing in many areas where they have rarely been observed. It is unlikely that this explains the frequency of foxes in Fearrington. But an earth of youngsters (the collective noun for foxes) was found in the woods not far from the Gathering Place. A cub has been seen sunning itself on the grass outside the building, and another sleeping outside the Swim and Croquet Club.
Why do these sightings give us so much joy? The New York Times reported on a den of foxes that had appeared under the Toronto boardwalk, and observed, “They are wild and free, when the rest of us feel trapped. They are new, beautiful life, while we are transfixed with death. And they offer hope that maybe we can make it through these hard times.”
Our Closest Friends
Parenting Dogs in the Age of Corona
By Ann Fox Melchior
Shelter-in-Place…social distancing…facemasks…family dog tests positive for the coronavirus. As I write this piece in early May, it seems the pandemic news gets worse by the day. Roll with the punches I remind myself. But what about our dogs? Do they understand why their world, and opportunities for fun, are shrinking by the day?
I also wondered, “How are my dog owning friends dealing with all this?” So I sent off an email to several asking, “Tell me the good, and bad, of the Coronavirus, from your perspective as your dog’s caregiver.”
As the responses trickled in, I was not surprised that the most prevalent “good” response was… “I’m home more….my dog likes that.” However, the other responses, good and bad, proved quite diverse.
Let’s start with the bad aspects of pandemic living my friends mentioned:
- “I feel rude asking people not to pet my dog.”
- Fewer places to go with businesses closed… where we can offer our dog the exciting “Wanna go for a ride?”
- “I eat more meals at home…my dog gets more handouts…I now have to watch her weight.”
- “No puppy socialization classes are being offered.”
- “I am stressed and my dog senses it.”
- “Our local vet has cut back on hours and I worry how far will I have to drive in an emergency.”
- “It’s harder for dogs to socialize on leash when their humans have to stand 6 feet apart.”
- “I mourn the loss of admiring petters for our young Golden Retriever as we sit outside our favorite bakery.”
- “With school out…my dog can no longer volunteer as the Paws to Read dog at our local elementary school.”
And the good aspects of pandemic living? A variety:
- “There seems to be fewer people in the parks, so it’s easier to practice our skills,” noted my friend who seeks out novel locations to train for Nosework competitions. Public parks, she explained, are normally impractical due to proximity of others.
- “My new puppy is learning the home routines nicely with us being home so much.” (Actually, several friends mentioned a more predictable “routine” with being home more as a good thing for their canines.)
- “Time for longer walks and better health…and my dog has lost weight.”
- “Extra time to discover new trails and new smells.”
- “More time with my husband who is now working at home.” (From a friend whose new puppy had bonded more strongly with her.)
- “More time to watch funny dog videos on YouTube.”
- “More time to practice taking pictures of my dog and learn how to operate my old 35 mm digital camera.”
- “I’m realizing how calming having a dog is when you feel anxious…and you have a constant companion to help fill lonely hours.”
My friend from Asheville wrote:
“Probably the biggest impact on our dogs is that because of social distancing, they are not getting their daily allotment of treats from the gatehouse attendants at the Arboretum. The first time this happened, the reaction was a whiplash, and disbelief. Gradually, their whines for the expectant treats have declined, but we still feel a big sense of disappointment from them!”
Can’t you just picture those two dogs thinking, “Whoa….wait…..go back!!” as she quickly pulled through the gatehouse? Like our friends, as my husband and I abide by the stay-at-home rules, we enjoy having more time to engage with “Clancy,” our yearling Welsh Springer. More time to train, take walks, and to host back-yard play with a few neighborhood dogs, including “Andy,” a 12 lb. Norwich Terrier. We get a sorely needed dose of laughter as we watch Clancy and Andy chase, tackle, and swap spit with abandon. Despite Andy being a mere third of Clancy’s size, he is a dogged little player, true to his terrier DNA
My “bad?” of Coronavirus? Clancy’s home-alone training has taken a hit. Welsh Springers are a clingy breed, the type that leans against your leg and puts a paw on your foot. They can suffer from separation anxiety if not handled carefully. So, from the day we brought Clancy home, we have slowly increased his home-alone time, finally reaching our goal of 3-4 hours. We always scheduled our absences after providing Clancy ample exercise. And we left him with creatively stuffed Kongs (peanut butter, banana, carrots, apple) to ease him into a restful sleep. It was working nicely.
But shelter in place ended our non-dog outings….no restaurants, no movies, no adult classes…no place to go. A few weeks ago, I told my husband “We gotta go somewhere. Alone.” So, now we occasionally leave home, sans Clancy, whether we need to or not. Before we depart, I place several food-stuffed toys in his safe-space (our laundry room), just inside the closed baby gate. And I shut Clancy out. Yes, out. I want him to be so focused on his Kongs that he doesn’t have time to become upset about our impending departure. Instead, he’s focused on what awaits him on the other side of the baby gate. And he gives me the “when are you leaving????” look that tells me he’s ready and willing to “Kennel Up!”
So what else can we dog parents do to make pandemic living easier for our dogs?
Dogs are happier, calmer, and experience less stress when kept on predictable daily routines. Equally as important? Adequate exercise and enrichment. When I taught dog training classes I told my students that each day their dogs would arise with a tank full of fuel. The owner’s job, I said, was to judiciously deplete that tank throughout the day so the dog had little opportunity, or need, to get into mischief. This, I explained, was good management and just like raising kids…management is everything.
For our uber-friendly Clancy, social distancing has been hard. He craves engaging with the dogs and people on our neighborhood walks. For many dogs, however, social distancing is probably just what they wanted all along. All our dogs, however, benefit from activities that challenge their brains and offer an outlet for breed-specific urges. And there are so many options. A tennis ball is all you need for a retrieving fanatic. Most dogs enjoy scent games played indoors or out (find the hidden treat, go find Daddy!). Try blowing bubbles…some dogs, especially bird dogs, love it. How about a plastic baby pool from Walmart to cool a water-loving dog? Or a snuffle-mat to hide a portion of your dog’s dinner kibble?
Better yet? What about a daily walk where your dog dictates the pace? Let your dog sniff freely…where he wants, and for as long as he wants. You? You are at the other end of the leash just to keep him safe.
For more ideas to keep your dog active and amused during a pandemic, or any day actually, Google “games for dogs.” The internet is loaded with inspiration. “Companion Animal Psychology,” a blog by dog trainer Zazie Todd, PhD, offers many ideas for enriching your dog’s life. Consider reading a book on dog play (Pat Miller’s “Play with Your Dog” a good choice). Or, even better, check out The Resource Center on The Association of Professional Dog Trainers web page (APDT.com). It offers a pick-of-the-litter list of training books for pet-dog owners selected by APDT’s members. You’ll find lots of ideas for enrichment and training there.
Speaking of training? Have you taught your furry friend to Sit…on verbal cue…reliably? Is now a good time to refresh, or teach, the basics? Thanks to the pandemic we have some extra time on our hands. Take advantage of it.
Ann Fox Melchior, her husband Art Gonzales, and Clancy recently moved to Fearrington Village. A retired investigator, Ann taught classes at the Capital Dog Training Club of Washington, DC for many years.
The Dogs of Fearrington
Here is a collage of just some of the dogs you may encounter in Camden park or on the walking paths.
Top row, left to right: Dogs that know how to make themselves comfortable in a human environment, making the best of “shelter in place” requirements: Martha Gray Stewart’s Winton, Helene Carlson’s Sugar, and Janet Keefer’s Brinkley; Warren Ort’s Fanny, a retired English Cocker Spaniel show dog, wears her most irresistible expression.
Bottom row, left to right: Debbie Liebtag with Lizzy and Cooper, English Springer Spaniels; Linda Smith’s German Shepherd Rudi, bred to be a companion for the deaf, who loves people; Melissa Crane’s Shi Tzu and furry friend Gabriel; Frank Huisking’s Llaso-Apso/Poodle mix Austen, perhaps intimidated by McIntyre’s bunny.
One of the more striking dogs you may encounter around the village is Luna, a Blue-Merle Collie belonging to Chris Ridley. Collies are herding dogs, but generations removed from pasture duty. Luna is also a licensed therapy dog trained to work with those in need in hospitals or assisted living complexes, and institutions that serve challenged individuals.
Chris adopted Luna when she was a year and a half old. Because of her calm disposition and friendliness, a friend suggested she might make a good therapy dog. Chris took her to a six month training course, and worked with her diligently to ensure her success. Luna passed an hour-long test by an AKC professional the first time out.
No breed of dog is uniquely suitable as a therapy dog. In this way they differ from service dogs or field dogs, which have an innate sensibility to perform specific tasks – eyes for the blind, alarm to danger, the nose for illicit drugs. For therapy dogs it is the temperament and eagerness to learn that matter. For any well trained dog, learning the necessary skills is fun. Performing the task and receiving praise from the person they are serving is sufficient reward.
Therapy dogs work in many settings: In hospitals, assisted living facilities, anywhere individuals might be needful in some way, and where discipline and adherence to regulation are required. Luna has served those staying at the Ronald McDonald House and Residential Services Inc in Chapel Hill – see the collage below. Unfortunately, the pandemic crisis has made such service impossible in recent months. Chris and Luna look forward to seeing their friend again as soon as things can return to normal.
If you have any questions about therapy dogs, feel free to contact Chris at email@example.com.
Where in the Village Are … ?
This month, a puzzle that offers something a little different. Recently Maarten Simon-Thomas, a village resident who is a fine woodworker, carved a series of 13 models. Each is a copy of a bird that might be seen in the village or nearby.
Maarten and his wife Betty placed the models in the woods along the North Langdon Nature Trail, and they invite you look for them. The trailhead is on Millcroft, across the road from The Knolls. Look for a sign to “Natural Habit Restoration”.
Some birds are fairly easy to spot, others are quite difficult. Of course, like the real birds, please leave them alone, and do not disturb them. But unlike real birds they will not deliberately try to hide or fly away as you approach.
To give you a sense of what to look for, close-ups of the 13 birds are provided below. If you need more help, photographs of the birds showing a wider view of their location are posted on the FHA website, at
Birds of the North Langdon Nature Trail
Top row, left to right: Great Horned Owl, Kingfisher, Robin, Indigo Bunting.
Middle row, left to right: Eastern Towhee, Baltimore Oriole, Tufted Titmouse, Prothonotary Warbler.
Bottom row, left to right: Cardinal, Blue Jay, Red Cockaded Woodpecker, Piedmont Barn Owl.
Inset: Black Throated Warbler.
The answers to last month’s “Where in the village” puzzle will be provided next month, in case you would still like to attempt solving the puzzle. It turned out to be quite difficult. The winning Fearrington Savant was Rita Bergevin, who spent at least 13 hours in search of the four locations. Second place went to Maarten Simon-Thomas, third place to Barbara Harris. Congratulations to all who knew any of the answers.
Coming Next Month
The July issue of the Newsletter Supplement will contain an article about local vegetation, written by a true plant lover. There will also be an article about the gardens of Fearrington and the gardeners who take care of them. And who knows what other surprises? As always, attractive photos are very welcome.