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Archive for March, 2021

Learning Curve

She needs to stop taking pictures and feed us!

I love my Canon 50mm lens for taking horse photos because it captures their proportions accurately with no distortion. It took awhile (and lots of photos) to learn that up close, anything longer than 70mm makes their noses and heads look like canal boats. Several years ago I bought this used, 50mm lens on eBay. Even though it wasn’t that expensive it felt like I was taking a big risk, but the lens has performed just fine. This lens, an 85mm and my 90mm macro (Tamron) are the only fixed length lenses that I own, and of the three, the 85mm Canon lens is the better quality lens. I also think foggy mornings (that means humid) work best for me. Even though I loathe the humidity, I like the “mood” it gives to photos, especially in my garden where it makes the colors really “pop.” Here, the “boys,” Bully (foreground) and Rascal (background) are waiting (not so patiently) for breakfast. I think they look like they’re sharing a secret. They’re probably saying bad things about me since I’m taking photos instead of feeding them.


Friends

Buddies?

Contrary to the body language in the image, my horses all get along pretty well. Dharla (foreground) is a bit of a trash-talker, but Rascal (background) doesn’t take her nonsense seriously. He rules the roost and his feet don’t move, even when she gets persnickety with him. Bully on the other hand, lets her push him around. Oddly, I think he actually likes knowing his place in the herd. Absent that, I think he would be a bit of a pill. He’s not great leader material, like Rascal is. Over the years, all of our heard leaders have been the fair, calm, easy-going type. That’s not to say Rascal can’t get goofy at times or take offense to something, but he doesn’t get riled unnecessarily, and when he does he gets over it quickly.

Truthfully though, it’s the mare who makes most of all the herd decisions, and Rascal just humors her unless he strongly disagrees. In years past when our horses got loose the boys were content just hanging out in the side yard and eating green grass. But it was the mare who winked and them and said, “Let’s go!” and took off down the road. And the boys followed. Mares. Who can resist their siren song?

Bully


Grown Up

So, Chase.

Most adorable puppy ever. Yeah, I know I said that about Gus. I wasn’t lying. Gus was the most adorable puppy too. But Gus was my first terrier and my first small dog. (Really small, by my standards) I was a little shell-shocked. And yes, Gus was outrageously cute and funny. But Chase is “my breed,” which meant I was on familiar ground with him, even if every puppy is a bit different. I have to admit, Chase is my first Australian Cattle Dog that wasn’t drop-dead serious straight out of the womb. Even as a puppy Chase had a sense of humor and was unusually sweet and interested in normal puppy things. I’m so used to Cattle Dogs that are an anomaly. (It’s true, they’re not like raising other dogs.) So Chase was a breath of fresh air. Especially at this stage of my life when I didn’t really have a ‘plan’ for a dog that typically needs a day job, and often then some.

Evil puppy

That’s not to say Chase wasn’t ever naughty or a challenge. He was. But it just didn’t seem like those moments were such a big deal. When he was a pup he was overly interested in Nina’s poop and he went through the typical phase of eating dirt, grass and pretty much anything that wasn’t nailed down outside. He also struggled with bladder issues well into his second year. Not housebreaking; he was housebroken. However, too often he failed to signal that he needed to go out. It got to the point where I nearly made arrangements to have our vet do a deep dive to look for a true medical reason for the constant, almost daily accidents. (We knew it wasn’t a bladder infection) It’s mostly better now, but I’m still not 100% certain there isn’t something organically wrong. (Small bladder? Small brain? Who knows?)

When Chase was just a little over a year old we started to feel a pea-sized “bump” under the skin on his right side. Truth be told, we kind of ignored it for a bit. Nina was getting pretty old by that point and my focus was mostly on making sure the senior dog was doing OK. But I mentioned the bump at his next yearly vet appointment only to learn that the bump was “maybe” a little more of a big deal than we thought. A simple needle biopsy was done and the results that came back looked “suspicious,” so we were advised to make an appointment to have the bump removed ASAP. Chase had surgery a week later. I dreaded the home management with two other slightly neurotic dogs underfoot (Oh look, a wounded comrade! Let’s take him out!), and a youngster who needed to wear a collar for at least two weeks. I need not have worried. Chase (and the other dogs) did fine.

A slightly intoxicated patient just home from surgery.

Still a happy camper!

Unfortunately, the surgical biopsy came back positive for mass stem cells. Cancer. But they got clean margins when they did the surgery and they didn’t seem too overly worried except that Chase was pretty young to be having this kind of thing crop up. Mostly, we just need to keep an eye out for bumps or anything out of the ordinary. Oh goody! More body touching with a dog who typically doesn’t relish being touched anyplace other than his head and neck! I’ve learned to be very stealthy about routinely feeling up my dog. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit this whole experience freaked me out a little. It did. I mean, I know nothing lives forever, but I didn’t see this coming at all. I try not to dwell on it. Chase has been a very healthy dog in every other way, so why spend all our time together worrying about what might happen down the line?

I do know Chase might be my last Cattle Dog. Probably not my last dog, but Cattle Dogs are not always the easiest dogs to live with,and the older I get, the more I have to think about what kind of energy I have to offer this breed. I’ve been very fortunate with Chase and he’s been one of my easiest Cattle Dogs to raise. He adapts well to whatever level of energy you offer and he’s game for just about anything. Chase has a lovely disposition and is super easy to manage with his want to please attitude. Truly, I feel like I won the jackpot with him and I’m not so sure I want to press my luck and try another. I’ve done “difficult,” I’ve done blind and I’ve done super high energy. It’s nice to have “normal” for a change. Well, as normal as any Cattle Dog can get. 😉

Mr. Perfect


Long Overdue

Chase

So, it’s been a long time.

Much has happened on the home/animal front since I last visited my blog. Chase (above) has left puppy-hood far behind and has grown into a respectable, fun adult, Gus is as grumpy and pushy as ever and sadly, sweet Nina has left us. Oh, and a horse (Arlo) has come and gone too. *Sigh* Like I said, a lot has happened in my absence.

Covid has, for the most part, been a non-issue at my household and with my extended family, including my 92 year-old mother-in-law. Ridiculous restrictions aside, not much is different in my day-to-day life. That’s not to say I haven’t known people who’ve had it or died from it, but as a healthy, middle aged person I have relatively few concerns for my own “safety.” Besides, I may have had it at the start of last winter anyway, well before there were any tests for it or even major concerns about a pandemic. I survived.

Nina will have been gone two years this coming April. Sometimes that seems like forever ago and sometimes it feels like yesterday. I don’t often run across pictures of Nina. She didn’t like the camera so I don’t have a backlog of photos of her like I had with Hazer. Still, any time I happen across a picture of her it makes me sad. I miss her. Losing her was less of a gut-punch than losing Hazer because it wasn’t sudden, but any loss is always too soon. I miss her simplicity, her unpretentious way of just being there and asking nothing in return. She was a very easy dog to love.

Nina

The other big change was deciding to let Arlo go. When Covid came I was still boarding him. Why, I’m not sure, since it had been my goal all along to bring him home to live here on our farm with my other horses. But I dragged my feet and one year turned into two, probably because I enjoyed having company to ride with and if I brought him home it meant I’d be back to riding alone. But when Covid hit and things began shutting down I saw the writing on the wall. I don’t have the disposable income to board a horse I can’t ride and by late March many barns were planning to close even to horse owners for an indefinite period of time. (That turned into MONTHS, some still not really open by any standard that one might expect) I panicked, and decided to bring Arlo home even though I really didn’t feel ready. He had been gelded late and while he did do turnout pretty well with most geldings (there’s always that one jerk in the group that NOBODY likes), I have two senior geldings and a mare at home that are all turned out together.

Arlo did very well initially. The first few days I saw some some basic, normal, horse-to-horse curiosity, squealing, and the general appearance of peace. Rascal seemed to take very little interest in the newcomer, but for some reason Bully, the low horse in the herd, took it upon himself to try to buddy up with the new horse. Arlo was fairly neutral with everyone, even shared a pile of hay or two with Bully, but then on day five or so the mare went into her first heat of the season and all hell broke loose. It became apparent in a matter of minutes that this arrangement was not only not going to work out, but it was fast becoming dangerous for the two senior boys. Arlo, (who had probably been used for breeding in his former life) became very stud-like with Dharla, who responded by alternating between hussy and hellion. The older boys didn’t seem to understand Arlo’s intense interest in Dharla and their desire to intervene put them at risk of becoming collateral damage.

Ah, how the best of plans can go awry.

Long story short, Arlo went back to the boarding barn and I put the word out that he was for sale. I couldn’t keep boarding a horse who was never going to come home and I wasn’t able to make the changes needed to accommodate his specific issues. I’d spent the better part of two years working to make Arlo into a good citizen and enjoyable ride. He’d made amazing progress in that time and was a delight to own, but some horse behavior is nearly impossible to change, especially when it’s deeply ingrained and hormone driven. I’d given Arlo as much time as I could to acclimate to his gelded state, but breeding rituals can sometimes stick forever. As sad as I was to have to let him go, in the right situation he was an absolute fantastic dream of a horse and my loss was certainly going to be someones gain. I found a local woman who wanted him and they hit it right off and made a great match. Arlo now lives about fifteen miles away and is loved by his owner and all who come to his barn. (He has such a winsome personality!) I miss him a lot and I try to make light of the situation, but it just wasn’t meant to be. To be honest, this was the first time I’d ever witnessed seriously intense stud behavior firsthand and I knew immediately that it was something I was not going to do at this age and stage of my life. Although Arlo was always the perfect gentleman on the ground, rode beautifully with mares and geldings alike and never had any problems being stalled next to a mare, turnout was a whole ‘nuther story. My first loyalty has to be to the horses I’ve had nearly all their lives and if that means admitting when a horse just isn’t going to be a safe fit, so be it. I do hear from Arlo’s owner from time to time, complete with pictures. She wanted me to try to come over to ride him this winter just for the fun of it, but I decided it’s probably not in my best interest to have to say goodbye to him twice. Once was hard enough.

I’ll see if I can bring more things up to speed a little at a time, but this is plenty for now.