Its getting close to that time of year when I have to decide what I’m going to do for vegetable gardens. (Planting for my area is traditionally Memorial weekend) Last summer we had a horrible drought and I spent way too many hot, humid days dragging a heavy garden hose from bed to bed. At some point I found myself swearing through my dripping sweat that I was done with vegetable gardening for good. I reasoned that we have several veggie stands nearby and our town does a nice little farmer’s market every Saturday morning. I even visited the farmer’s market once to see what they might have and I discovered they sell most of what I usually plant. So I know I can get fresh veggies without having to invest in all those hot, buggy hours of toil.
Easier said than done! I love watching things grow. For some reason that whole process from seed to produce never fails to trip my trigger. So I say I might forego the vegetable garden this year, but the truth of that statement remains to be seen. The lure of our local nursery might call to me and I may cave, but I’m seriously kicking some alternative ideas around. I think this might be the summer to shake things up and do the opposite. It just might be a better fit!
Things are melting, refreezing, then melting again. We have lots of icy morning paths, frozen piles of manure and a light skin of ice on the water tank. I’ve smartened up. Instead of trying to pick the paddock I only clear a few areas to put out the hay. After the sun has warmed the surface of the ground I go back out and finish the job more thoroughly. All but one large patch of stubborn snow has slid off the roof of the barn, making it less dangerous for me to be out there with horses who bolt and run at the slightest notion that the sky is falling. This has been our first winter in the new barn and I’m still getting used to the ups and downs of the environment. The snow-sliding-off-the-roof drama is a new experience for me and I’ve had to cultivate an awareness of where I am in proximity to the horses when the conditions are ripe for a snow slide. It’s a whole different kind of learning curve.
We have to wait until the sun has softened the frozen landscape, but by mid-afternoon I can get the dogs out to play a little ball and Frisbee, after which Hazer would be content to find a sunny spot and just curl up in the snow. But with not much to do in the way of chores our time outside is still limited. We all have a bad case of cabin fever. The gardening catalogs that keep jamming my mailbox are no help.
(Click on photo)
This photo was taken two weeks ago. Nothing has changed except the snow on the the barn roof slid off, creating a 5 foot wall of snow the entire length of the run-in. This happened an hour after we spent three hours plowing and shoveling the paddock, the drive and various paths. *Sigh* For weeks I played the blanket game: blankets on, blankets off, double blankets at night for the mare, no blanket for the buckskin during the day. It about drove me to drink. And if that didn’t make me woozy enough we had endless days with sub-zero temps. One morning it took three attempts to get everyone fed, blankets sorted out and the paddock picked to my liking. I had to keep running inside (and I do mean running) because my fingers and toes were on fire from the cold. I’ve learned that while it might not look pretty, it’s possible to run wearing ice cleats! I may have invented a new Olympic sport.
My house is now leaking, my back yard is a skating rink and I hold my breath every time I let the dogs out. Speaking of which, they’ve coped pretty well with being cooped-up for so long. That can only mean one thing: they’re getting old.
We’ve spent the better part of the last two days prepping for the looming “historic” snow storm of 2015. We have batteries, candles, propane, gas for the tractor and snow blower and plenty of milk and bread. (?) It started snowing at 9:15 this morning and so far it looks like any other gray, mid-winter January day. That’s to say that at this point our storm of ‘epic proportions’ doesn’t have much bite. The weather channel has been peppering their forecast with words like ‘gravely dangerous’ and ‘life-threatening.’ I’m not exactly sure why, but perhaps we’ll find out as the night progresses? I’d think a better choice of words might be ‘inconvenient’ or ‘bothersome,’ but I suspect those words aren’t sensational enough to drive ratings.
So here we sit, waiting.
In the world of dog rescue there’s an often-practiced way of celebrating the “birthday” of an animal whose date of birth is unknown. We commemorate their adoption date, or in certain cases a better term would be their “Gotcha” day. Some of these adoptions are formal endeavors, with long, dragged-out protocols that include the filling out of page-long detailed forms, telephone interviews with every member of the family, calls to your vet and a handful of character references and a final home inspection visit that includes a meet-and-greet for household members and all current pets, after which (if you make the grade) you sign multiple documents whereby you must agree to relinquish the rescued animal should the rescue organization ever deem you unfit, and the exchange of a rapidly increasing amount of money. (Yeah. Feel free to take a big deep breath and exhale s-l-o-w-l-y.) But other “adoptions” are precarious events where the animal in question barely gets out of a bad situation by the skin of their teeth and the adopter flys by the seat of their pants. They don’t get the luxury of knowing if the animal will be a great “fit” or not and if things fall apart no one has their back because oftentimes, all the parties involved are working in the red and flying blind. Which is how I’d like to think the term “Gotcha Day” was coined. It makes things sound a little more like Raiders of the Lost Ark than Lassie Come Home.
Rascal’s “adoption” (December 14, 2013) was somewhere in the middle: Not quite a full blown Rader’s situation, but not a Lassie story either. His owner was down-to-her-last-bale-of-hay desperate, but Rascal was in good health and condition. So I got there in the nick of time, but not a minute too soon. I don’t like to think of myself as an angel or even a Good Samaritan, but the truth of the matter is, this woman had reached out to our local horse community (on Facebook) more than once and nobody stepped forward to help. Nobody. Oh, there were several suggestions that covered everything from where she might be able to buy more hay (no funds) to warning that she should avoid offering him on a free lease (because the lessee would surely turn around and sell him to a kill buyer), but nobody said they’d take him. Not even temporarily. Nobody.
The picture she posted haunted me for days. Not because the horse looked abused or thin or sick. No, it wasn’t that. (Those make it easy to determine right v/s wrong!) The picture haunted me because this horse looked just like my husbands first horse, Beanie, whom we’d lost only a year prior. But I truly thought somebody (else) would step up to the plate and take this horse, and I was so sure of it that I didn’t call to inquire about his story until weeks passed and she posted again. I think it was at that moment that I realized I couldn’t sit and wait for somebody else to do the right thing. It was quite possible that I was “it,” the only person who would call. And so I did and the rest is history.
I’m not a hero. For the first few months I worried a lot that I’d made a horrible mistake. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop; for the horse to get sick or lame or mean and crazy or …. something. Instead, what I discovered restored my faith in people. Rascal’s former owner never painted a false picture just to place him. Maybe I was just very lucky, but Rascal is every bit the exact horse his owner told me he would be; Kind, sweet, silly, wary, rascally. Yes, he is VERY rascally at times!
I won’t lie, there are days when I don’t relish having that “extra” horse to take care of and another mouth to feed, but 99% of the time I have no regrets. And yes, I still hold to my word that Rascal belongs to his prior owner and if that day ever comes that she can have him back, he’s hers. But I say that with less conviction now. I’d let him go, but now I know how she felt on that cold December day when she stood, tears streaming down her cheeks as she waved goodbye to Rascal. My heart would ache for a long, long time.
I’m a few days late, but Happy “Gotcha” Day little buddy!
Bullet & Rascal
A recent post from a fellow blogger brought up some thoughts and feelings that I’ve visited regularly throughout my life. I guess I could say I’ve always thought horses, dogs and other animals have feelings and form attachments (or aversion) not only to us, but to one another. In fact, my belief in this can be traced to my childhood and is probably a direct result of having read Black Beauty and Beautiful Joe at a young and impressionable age. I suppose it’s normal for children to believe concepts put forth in books and movies, but I’m not sure why some children never set those beliefs aside when they grow up. Whatever the reason, I’m glad I didn’t.
I can recount numerous times when I thought I sensed something akin to human friendship taking place between certain critters. I’ve watched horses bond closely and stress over even just the temporary separation they experience when a buddy leaves the herd to go for a ride. For example, I’ve noticed in my current herd both geldings are far more stressed when the mare leaves than when one of the boys goes and she stays behind with the other. Why that is I don’t know because she seems (to me) like the least congenial companion in the group. But apparently she has a calming affect on the boys because they become restless and vocal until she returns … where upon she immediately pins her ears and threatens to kick if they crowd around to greet her!
For the first time ever, when I “adopted” Rascal I witnessed (what I believe was) grief for a human companion. His former owner got Rascal when she was just a young girl and he was a young horse. Since then, he hadn’t been very far away from her or known any other owner until now. When Rascal first arrived he was skiddish and wary. I was very relieved to see that true to his nature, Bullet was curious, but welcoming. With Dharla away for the winter, the boys had plenty of time to get to know one another without having to jockey for hierarchy. Bullet was so happy to have company that he willingly shared his hay and shelter with his new companion. Still, Rascal stayed wary, especially of humans. He didn’t run from me or behave badly, he just seemed tense and aloof.
I gave Rascal lots of space and love. I can’t explain why, but I sensed he was grieving. Something about the look in his eye, his posture, spoke of sadness. Yes, all his needs were being met, but there was an emptiness I couldn’t put my finger on except to say that I felt it. We’d go out on a quiet trail ride together and I’d talk to him, praise him for his effort to do what I asked. He was a good boy and instead of testing me it felt like he was trying very hard to please me. He did great, and I found many opportunities to tell him so. Still, his demeanor didn’t really change very much. Back home Rascal would always move just slightly out of reach where he would stand, gazing off in the distance with a faraway look in his eye. It was during those melancholy moments that I wondered most what Rascal was feeling. Did he miss his old pasture mates? Did he miss his old owner? Did he wonder why she’d left him, forcing him to adapt to a whole new way of life? Do horses blame themselves? Like any human might, did he think his new circumstance was his fault?
Slowly, over many months something started to change. I’d go out to the pasture and instead of having to pursue Rascal’s eye, he started to look for mine! Then one day I was shaking out Rascal’s morning hay when he turned his head and nuzzled my hand. It was subtle, but it was the first time Rascal had reached out to me instead of the other way around. And just a few days ago Rascal actually walked up to me for no other reason than to say hello! I smiled as I scratched his jaw, enjoying the knowledge that Rascal has finally decided I’m family.
Welcome home little brother. I’ve been waiting for you to choose to join us.
A late Sunday afternoon visit, the old-fashioned way!
A much younger Hazer
Hazer turns ten this fall. There, I’ve said it. As much as I’d like to think he has several good years still ahead of him, I can’t help notice how much he’s aged. Oh sure, he still wants to play Frisbee once or twice a day, but even that extracts a toll. And it’s the little changes I’ve seen that make my eyes mist up when I think about them. Like how he still lays on a nearby hill as I garden, but instead of overseeing his domain he’s sprawled out fast asleep. Or how he doesn’t always drag his sorry butt off my bed and come greet me at the door the minute I get home from an errand. And how he does the “old dog shriek” which is basically just noise that consists of yipping and barking at anything and everything simply because he can. But the most telling sign is that in his own dysfunctional way Hazer has grown affectionate in his old age. He wags his tail more often than he did when he was younger and he occasionally flops down at my feet to ask for a belly rub; something he’d never in a million years want before. In fact until now, general touching has not had any part in Hazer’s repartee at all. So it seems a bit odd to have Hazer milling about, trying to outdo the other dogs for my affection. He’s not very good at it either, never really sure if he wants to be pet or just plain left alone, thankyouverymuch. It’s a constant physical run-on sentence that says, “touch me, no don’t touch me, yes, touch me …. not!”
And then there’s those little marble-like bumps on his head. I gently feel them every day. Measuring. Worrying. Have they grown any bigger? Are they painful? Are there any new ones sprouting? You can’t see them, they’re beneath the skin. Lurking. Probably just fatty cysts, but I worry as time ticks on. His teeth are worn and getting nasty again. Should suck it up and drag his butt off to the holistic dental hygienist this fall? Although he does much better with this appointment than we ever dared hope (a tribute to her, not him), it’s expensive. Does he really need it, does it matter? To look at Hazer he’s doing great. He spends his day pushing his weight around when he can and shrieking when he can’t. He plays Frisbee, accompanies me to the barn where he snoozes in the sunshine, pretending to watch as I do chores. He still loves going to work with Dad on Saturday and jumping into my hatchback while I unload groceries. For the most part, life is good. Here’s to it staying that way for as long as possible.
The horses are starting to realize the new barn is home. I’ve let them down back to graze a couple of times and after having to go down and lead them up the lane twice, they figured out how to get back to the new barn on their own. It’s not complicated, just different. In fact, they have to walk past the lane that leads up to the new barn in order to go to the old barn. It’s really just a matter of them understanding that the new barn is where the hay, water and shelter can be found now.
It seems they like to spend their nights under the pines. At first they avoided the wooded part of their new paddock, but they’ve gradually started to explore it a bit more on their own. I’m seeing signs that they’ve bedded down in the pine needles and both Dharla and Rascal have had oak leaves tangled in their tail and mane the last few mornings. When I was picking the pasture today I noticed several piles of manure in the woods. Apparently they like to lay right where Beanie and Tia were buried. At first that discovery seemed a bit creepy, but after some thought I came to the conclusion that dead horses probably don’t mind the company. When we were first thinking about including the burial ground in the paddock my husband was hesitant, but I didn’t think it all that strange. It’s one of the rare flat spots on our property and since it abuts the new barn it would be silly to exclude it from the paddock. With only a few suitable acres, every square inch of property that we can wrangle for turnout counts.
It’s been four years since both Bean & Tia died. The ground over their resting place has long since settled and were it not for the large flat stone that marks their grave you’d be hard pressed to know where they’re buried. Do our horses sense something we can’t? I don’t know, but I find it both strange and comforting that they’ve chosen this very spot in the woods to lay down. Their caramel-colored dropping mix with the long pine needles and I smile as I pick through their cozy slumber nest. In that moment I feel like we’re all together again, one big family.
It’s easy to tell it’s almost full-fledged fall. I get three distinct reminders:
- The horses start shedding their summer coats
- The dinner plate-size hibiscus burst into bloom
- The skunks make their dusk or dawn presence known
Twice in the last week I’ve been jarred out of sleep by the pungent scent of Peppy LePew wafting through my open bedroom window. The first time it happened I could hear the low rumble of Gus growling in his crate. Gus typically doesn’t make a peep during the night, but his highly tuned nose put him on full alert. The scent wasn’t too horribly strong, but there was no mistaking that a skunk had wandered across our property. When this happens in the spring it’s usually the young skunks who don’t have full control over their scent glands yet. But when it happens in the fall it’s more likely a full-fledged adult, which is a little more worrisome. It’s been years since I’ve had a dog get skunked, but it’s something you never forget. The smell that you usually associate with a skunk meandering through the area is nothing like the full force stench of them using their smell for defense. It’s got to be one of the most gagging, God-awful, eye-watering smells on earth. And it’s dangerous too. The dog who got skunked took a close-range shot to the face and I’m still not convinced that didn’t contribute to his blindness just a year or two later. With that episode in mind I’m not taking any chances. At the first indication that a skunk might be nearby the dogs get leashed and walked and there’s no running about freely until we’re sure the coast is clear. The pups are a little put out by that, but it’s far better than the alternative!
There are other signs of the approaching fall. The hummingbird feeder has transitioned from a dull roar to the occasional passer-by. We’re on the migration route so I’ll continue to fill the feeder until a couple of days pass with no visitors. The cardinals are getting very vocal. I’m not sure why because they’re here all summer, but every fall they become more active and noticeable. Could it be one of their food staples has come into season and they get more competitive over that? I don’t know, but I enjoy seeing the colorful pairs. Crickets are louder. I always end up with a few that get into my basement looking for what, I’m not sure! And the days have grown noticeably shorter. Our mornings stay dark now until almost 6:30 and the late afternoon sun slips over the ridge across the road by a little after 7 PM. The changing of seasons happens so fast that if I didn’t have nature to remind me I might miss it altogether.
I woke up yesterday to a three-legged lame dog. *Sigh* The more animals you have the more interesting life gets. In all truth, I didn’t notice the lameness until we went out after feeding horses to play ball and Frisbee. It’s possible the dog was hopping on three legs prior to that, but if he was it didn’t register with my brain. It’s more likely he was walking fine UNTIL we went out to run around. I dunno. I have three dogs, two balls and one Frisbee all going in three different directions simultaneously with a carefully orchestrated rhythm that insures no two dogs get back to me at the same time. It’s a canine juggling act. Anywho, on the first return Hazer came back limping. Not just “ouch, my paw hurts” limping, but literally holing his left front paw up off the ground gimping. That didn’t deter his desire to play Frisbee at all, it just slowed him down some. Naturally, I took the Frisbee from him and looked at his paw. Cautiously. Hazer isn’t known for accommodating pokes, pries or … hell, Hazer doesn’t even like to be looked at. He tolerated some exploration, but grew increasingly impatient with the fact that I wasn’t tossing his Frisbee again. My inspection of the suspect paw was interrupted twice so I could kick Neena’s ball again and lob the tennis ball for Gus. That didn’t do much for Hazer’s patience.
Cattle Dogs are notorious for their high pain threshold. Both Neena and Hazer have had some pretty serious boo-boos and both have showed complete disregard for their pain. As their human it’s my job to evaluate these situations carefully, not take their word for how they feel. They could be bleeding out a lung and if asked, would say they’re fine and just throw the Frisbee again, damnit! They’re like a four year-old child who wails and sup-sucks the entire way up the stairs, insisting they’re not tired and they don’t need to go to bed yet. Yeah, right.
The jury is out on the diagnosis. I made sure he had a very low activity day yesterday and that he did minimal stairs. He seems a bit better today, but I’m watching him carefully. Lyme disease can show sudden and acute lameness symptoms and he’s had Lyme several times. If he’s not fully recovered in a couple of days I may have him looked at by our vet. Time will tell.
Every spring I think I need to split and move a bunch of perennials that have outgrown their beds. Since this is a huge undertaking I go check my resources before I begin, only to discover that they say split & move them in the fall. Well, not all of them, but most. OK, that’s easy enough! But then in the fall when I’m getting ready to do a major relocation project I recheck my resources again and I swear to God they say split and move them in the spring! If this keeps up I’m gonna need napalm!
Well over a decade ago I started a flower garden in front of the wooden fence that runs along one edge of our pasture. At the time I wasn’t overly creative because to be truthful, the soil was marginal and the land sloping. So I threw in a dozen or so common daylilies and called it a day. Much to my surprise, the next year they sprouted and blossomed! And multiplied. Again and again. I was pretty stoked. I mean, eventually I got a huge payback for very little effort.
Fast forward some fifteen years or more. The daylily bed is badly overcrowded and sadly, I’ve grown tired of it’s monochrome design. I’m a better gardener than I was back when I started this flower bed and I have higher expectations. I still love daylilies, but I’m no longer content to play host to the the common, orange lily one sees along the back roads of my state. No, I want different colors, mixed sizes and the occasional exotic! So it’s time to bite the bullet, take shovel in hand and dig up the old daylilies. Normally I get a little depressed when I have to discard any perennial, but I’m letting my mind focus on what I’ll do to replace them. I have lots of plants to pick from since most of my bigger, established perennials are ready to be split. But I have some headaches to get rid of first.
Ferns. They are the bane of this property. I know most people would love to have ferns growing in their gardens, but here they are an intrusive menace. Especially the Sensitive Fern, whose roots are nearly impossible to eradicate. They send underground runners into the surrounding area and they have started to invade my flower beds in several places. I should have done something to stop them when I first saw them, but I had no idea they were as invasive as they are. Now I’m paying for that mistake and it’s created a lot of extra work.
I spent two days removing a ton of old daylilies and those nasty ferns wherever I encountered them. It was dirty, tedious, back-breaking work, but now I’m getting to the fun part: planting! I’ve almost finished replanting one smallish lily bed in the front yard and I’m getting ready to tackle a second flower bed. Some of the new transplants might not do much next spring, but I’ve found daylilies incredibly forgiving and rewarding. I’ve got a bunch of really pretty and different size varieties to plant and I suspect next summer I’m going to feel like a kid in a candy shop when they start coming up. I’m already excited!
Last week, before it turned 90 and ridiculously humid, I went hiking in the woods with Hazer. We hadn’t gone hiking in a long time and I was feeling pretty nostalgic, especially when we came to Hazer’s “up” rock. The “up” rock is a very large bolder that graces the side of this one particular trail. When Hazer was a youngster he learned to run ahead, jump up on this rock and wait for me to come along, praise him. and give him a treat. It was a game we always played. We’d approach the general vicinity of the rock and I’d say, “go find the up rock” and Hazer would run ahead, jump up on the rock and wait for me to come give him a treat. It was great fun and we’d play the up rock game both coming and going on that trail. Although the trail is littered with large boulders in several areas, this is the only rock Hazer has ever climbed.
We hadn’t hiked this trail in about 2 years and I’d kinda forgotten about the “up” rock. As usual, Hazer trotted along in front of me, veering off the trail from time to time when something piqued his interest. At some point Hazer jogged ahead out of view and when I came around a bend, there he was waiting patiently on his favorite rock. I was so amazed that he remembered! It really warmed my heart. Fortunately, I always carry a little pouch with treats and I gave him several as I praised him for remembering our game. I called him down and we continued on our way.
The trail crosses several small streams, but all have dwindled to barely a trickle in most places. Our final destination is a larger stream that, despite a recent dry spell still sports a pretty little water fall and a deep-ish “swimming hole.” Hazer’s never been much of a swimmer, but if opportunity presents he likes to wade in a stream. At this particular spot he’ll usually walk in until the water is about belly deep, then stand there to cool off and have a drink. There’s a nice crop of ledge that I can sit on while he putters around for a bit. This is our turnaround point, so there’s never any hurry to rush off. Many a deep conversation has been held there between Hazer and I and today was no different. We had a lot to discuss.
Hazer is getting old. Oddly, I’ve noticed him aging more so than Neena, who is the same age. He sleeps a lot more during the day and his movements aren’t as quick or as steady. More often than not I’ll come home from an errand and Hazer won’t run to greet me in the kitchen like I’m the second coming of Christ. When I put my things down and go looking for him he’s usually sacked out somewhere comfy, awake and well aware that I’ve returned, but not inclined to jump up and carry on like before. Sometimes he picks his head up off his pillow, other times he just glances in my direction before sighing and drifting off to sleep again. It makes me a little sad. He’s not always like that, but it’s not unusual either.
I’ve spent most of Hazer’s life wishing he’d shut up and behave more like a normal dog. He could be the poster dog for Autistic Dogs. To say he’s a difficult dog to live with is a gross understatement. Quirky, irritating, OCD and socially inept, he’s the kind of dog who’d have been better off being the only household pet. But he’s not, and so he takes it upon himself to make life hard for everyone. Back in early June Hazer jumped Gus and they had a nasty fight. Hazer doesn’t signal these things and even though I’ve always got one eye trained on him when Gus is around, his usual MO is to wait until he’s behind my back to make a move. There was no pre-warning growl. His posture didn’t change. He just launched. And for the first time ever, Gus didn’t ignore the challenge. Oh, there have been other instances when I’ve had to step between the boys to “break” Hazer’s locked-on, I-dare-you stare. But Gus has always let Hazer’s nonsense roll off his shoulders. You see, Hazer is an alpha-wannabe and I think most dogs get that his nonsense stems from his insecurity. But this time it was different and Hazer finally barked up the wrong tree one too many times.
I’ve lost count how many fights Hazer has started. It’s not a lot, but any fight is one fight too many. And every time it happens you’re horrified, even when the outcome isn’t all that bad. Why do dogs who live in the same house and seem to get along fine suddenly snap and want to kill each other? Something has to take place between them that humans can’t sense or see. Some invisible trash-talk, some insult or challenge must get hurled through space in a glance or a stare. Humans always can’t hear this “inaudible” dialogue and sometimes we can’t even see it, but it’s there. And it can get ugly fast.
I pulled Hazer off Gus, who was reluctant to let go of Hazer. Gus is a terrier and he’s got a strong gripping instinct. Tapping the super-human strength that adrenaline brings to these situations, I hurled Hazer across my kitchen and herded Gus into a corner of the foyer. He was injured, bleeding and threatening to bite me, but there was pain and fear in his eyes, not angst. I paused for a few seconds to give Gus a moment to calm down. It was not a good scene, but at this point I was just thankful that Neena hadn’t jumped into the fray and that for the moment, Hazer wasn’t the least bit interested in finishing the job he’d started. I got both ACDs into my office, closed the door and directed my attention to Gus, who was shaking his head, splattering his blood all over my kitchen cupboards and floor.
As far as ears go the damage was minimal. It could have been MUCH worse. It seems like the bigger the ears the more the target, and Gus has HUGE ears. He sustained a puncture wound about halfway up one ear and the very tip of that ear had what looked like a small divot in it. I couldn’t tell if the divot was just some fur missing or if the tissue was gone too, but it was clear Gus wasn’t going to let me touch it. At least not right away. I grabbed some sterile gauze which I dampened with cold water, then did my best to clean the blood away so I could decide if we needed to make a trip to the vet. Experience has taught me that ear wounds might bleed like heck, but they don’t always require vet attention. After about ten minutes or so the bleeding started to abate and I got a better look at the wound. I didn’t think there was much the vet could do besides clean him up and send him home with some antibiotics and pain meds. I’m not a big on treating every little wound with antibiotics, so I decided to keep an eye on it and pass on the vet unless things took a turn for the worse.
The bigger problem was figuring out what to do from that point on. Living in a small house with two dogs who don’t get along is a serious problem, one I’ve always said I’d loathe to do. Baby gates were dragged down from the attic and covered with polar fleece blankets to discourage any visual challenges. A new routine and protocol had to be instantly implemented to keep the boys from having any interaction. This meant having to think about who was where at all times and carefully planning for trips in or out. Gus now eats upstairs, the other two dogs eat downstairs. Being a reluctant strategist made me grouchy and made my brain hurt, not to mention that I was constantly living with pet strife.
Gus healed, both physically and emotionally. He also got neutered. Zip-zip, just like that, Gus went from a show dog to non show dog. I was seriously bummed, but the alternatives weren’t good. Hazer was neutered at 16 months because he was starting to pick fights with one of my older dogs and now I was neutering Gus because Hazer was targeting him. This so sucked. For about a week I felt like I was living in some endless version of pet hell. Since all my dogs want to be with me, one of them is always whining or yipping or acting out their misery in whatever room I’m not in. All the trainer’s I’ve ever known have told me that if you ignore their noise and nonsense they’ll eventually give up and quit. They’ve never met Hazer. He’s in the living room right now, where he’s been whining for several hours. Pet hell.
Slowly, we’ve started going outside together as a group. I keep the dogs busy playing ball and Frisbee for a bit and then everyone seems pretty content to mind their own business. I have 6+ acres so nobody needs to be right on top of one another. It still requires management, but it’s pretty doable and I’ll take any improvement I can get. Inside we’re still a work in progress. I’ve had the boys “mingle” a little because if I keep them apart for too long they’ll start to think something’s wrong if they’re suddenly together. Better to give them small, heavily supervised doses of togetherness and mix things up to keep them guessing. I want them focused on me, not each other when they’re in the same room. But they can’t be together unless I’m able to have my full attention on them. When the weather permits, I try to hike Hazer, then he and Neena do several hours in the outside pen. Gus hangs out with me. Some days I feel like my whole existence revolves around managing the dogs, but I have hopes that this situation won’t last forever and eventually we’ll return to a more normal routine. I’ll never trust Hazer around Gus, but as more time goes by without any further issues, the better it bodes for all. Although Gus seems to be letting go of any angst he had about the fight, I’m sure he doesn’t trust Hazer. Who would? Gus gives Hazer a pretty wide berth. For now, that’s the new order of things around here. We’ll see how it goes.
I generally don’t use my blog to comment about stories posted on the Internet (by others), but today I read something that touched a personal nerve. Assumptions. We all make them from time to time. Even in a world that puts such a high priority on not judging. However, I find it more than ironic (and bit hypocritical, too) that some of the same people who berate others for judging don’t try to check their own assumptions.
I remember the comments I read after the first time I saw this photo, comments from people of all walks of life. Most of the comments were critical and sarcastic, but the most scathing remarks came from fitness fanatics. They ranted about how ironic it was that a fitness facility would install an escalator, and that perfectly healthy people would use it (as opposed to the stairs) when going to (or from) an exercise facility. Now I’m no an angel, but my first thought was a little different. I approached this picture from a handicapped point of view. I thought about the scores of people who’ve had hip replacements, knee surgery, back surgery and various injuries and broken bones, who need access to a gym to continue their rehab or fitness regime. When I mentioned that point, most people chastised me, pointing out that neither of the people on the escalator LOOKED handicapped. Ah. The old appearances and assumptions game. So apparently we’re told we shouldn’t judge others, but it’s OK to make assumptions about people based on how they look!
To be perfectly honest, I also thought about a few other scenarios regarding this photo. I wondered if the city or town had certain zoning regulations about how business must manage traffic flow, safety and accessibility. I know most gyms are swamped by crowds of members during certain, high-traffic times of the day. Perhaps escalators were installed to comply with a specific zoning criteria the facility had to meet? I also thought back to those days in my own lifting career when I trained to absolute failure and inhalation. There were many times when I left the gym and found myself nearly incapable of operating the clutch on my standard car. Would I have chosen to use an escalator some of those days? You betcha! With no hesitation, shame, or loss of pride I might add! My ego simply isn’t that big.
So today’s photo that gave me pause was this:
The comments about this photo were scorching. Lots of angst and hate toward everything from SUV drivers/owners to bad park jobs and vehicular dings obtained at parking lots. Now I’m no stranger to parking arrogance or vehicle dings, but I don’t particularly like ostracizing people for their choice of vehicle. While I might not choose to drive a big SUV myself, I like having the right to pick the vehicle that suits my needs. Therefore, I don’t think all SUV drivers or owners are the “bad guys” any more than I think all hybrid drivers are raging liberals and nerds. I think most people are a lot like me: they drive what they like or (sometimes) what they need.
Upon further inspection, I noticed a tag hanging from the rear view mirror on the windshield. My first impression of this photo instantly changed. Was that a handicap tag? If so, that would totally change my interpretation of this picture. I have a handicap parking tag. I don’t always use it, but when I do, I can’t help but notice the vehicles and the people parked around me. First of all, let me say that handicap people (or their drivers) drive all kinds of different vehicles. Sometimes the vehicle is specifically designed to transport the handicapped, while other times the handicapped person is a passenger in the driver’s car. I’ve seen vans and trucks that that have been fit with lift kits to transport several wheelchairs, and station wagons and hatchbacks with walkers and wheelchairs stashed in the trunk. Handicapped parking spaces are extra wide so doors that swing open can be opened all the way and wheelchairs can be wheeled alongside the vehicle to ease the transition in and out. Lucky is the handicapped person who has a vehicle that has been customized with a lift kit for their chair. More often than not, the elderly and temporarily handicapped (think: trauma, critically ill) must make do with grossly inadequate substitutes. Many have to improvise on the fly.
Handicapped people come in all shapes and sizes. Some wear their handicap on their sleeve, meaning, you can tell just by looking at them that they have a handicap. But some (like me) don’t look impaired. In fact, I work very hard not to show my disability. And even though I have a perfectly legal handicapped parking tag, I’ve had perfect strangers come up to me and point out that I’ve parked in a handicapped parking space. Um yes, I know, and I’m legally entitled to park there. I have to submit a signed medical form to the DMV every four years for the right to park in a handicapped parking space. Not to mention that I often forgo the handicapped space on days when I think I can manage OK. In my state, there are so many people who have handicapped tags that you’re lucky if you can even score one. I know the average person thinks there’s tons of spaces devoted to the handicapped, but they just have no clue how much need there is and how every year the need is growing for more. Handicapped spaces are based on the overall number of parking spaces in a given parking area, not by estimates based on need. I remember when my father-in-law was in the hospital dying and I was taking my 84 year-old, severely arthritic mother-in-law to visit him daily. Seldom could we find a handicapped parking space in the parking garage, despite what seemed like plenty of handicapped spaces. It was enormously frustrating, getting her in and out of that facility every day.
The vehicle in the photo looks like it might be a Humvee. So what? Handicapped people have been known to be passengers in all sorts of vehicles. My niece’s future husband drives a Humvee. Should that exempt him from parking his vehicle in a handicapped parking space if I’m a passenger in it? No. If I had a wheelchair should he park in a manner that allows safe access and prevents his vehicle or the wheelchair from dinging the cars parked next to it? Of course not!
Let’s not make assumptions, folks. There’s enough shame in this world without having to carry chalk in our purse to draw signs around a vehicle on those occasions when we think (maybe) someone has over-stepped the boundaries or broken the rules. Do you know the whole story behind everything? Probably not! And who cares! If a certain situation forces you to park a little further out of the way then embrace the exercise and don’t let it get your panties in a wad!
(Click for best resolution)
Yes, it’s winter and yes, it’s been a cold one. While we haven’t had as much snow as we did the year this photo was taken, we’ve had more than I like. But worse than the snow is the bitter cold; it’s worn me thin. The constant parade of various layers of clothes and trying to whip through barn chores as quickly as possible has made this winter seem like one big, long tedious task. I have so many extra pairs of gloves and socks in my car that it looks a bit like I’m living there. I’m counting the days until it warms up, but until then any day that hits the low 30’s feels like a treat!
Psalm 77 by David Nevue
I generally don’t make a fuss over New Year resolutions. I may reflect a bit on events that occurred over the last year and think a bit about some things that I might want to strive to change. But I don’t get too worked up about the stuff that didn’t live up to my expectations or make any grandiose announcements.
I made some good progress with Dharla this year. I’m very glad that I decided to bite the bullet and get some professional training for her. While I miss having her at home, she’s not far away and I still see (and often ride) her every day. It’s been a great experience being at a bigger barn. I’ve met some very nice people and I’m learning a lot of really good stuff. Sometimes I feel a bit pulled in different directions. I still have the responsibility of caring for the animals here at home, but so far I’ve been managing to divide my time and attention equally. And it’s not forever. I expect I’ll bring Dharla back home come early spring.
I fulfilled a year’s commitment with an online nutrition program. While it’s sad to see that come to a close, I’m anxious to get back to doing things on my own. I’ve never been much of a group joiner, though I made an exception for this program because I felt it was important to experience the program from the inside before I recommend it to others. I got some good ideas and tips on food prep and meal planning that I’ll probably continue to use on my own. I can’t say enough about Precision Nutrition’s Lean Eating program. It’s not cheap to do, but I saw firsthand via my own group of 150 or so members that it’s a life-altering approach to exercise and nutrition. Now I need to get cracking and get my own Precision Nutrition certification done. This winter should be a good time to hit the books and do it!
This year was a (fairly) healthy one. No eye surgeries or other major health issues, which was certainly a welcome change. We started the year off with the loss of my father in-law, but as sad as that was we’ve managed to get through all the “firsts” without Pop and survive. In early spring I had a very dear friend lose his home and entire life belongings in the Colorado Black Forest fire, and I experienced the helplessness of not being able to offer much more than an ear to bend when the burden became too heavy.
The animals have stayed healthy and grown a year older. Gus continues to tickle my funny bone daily, and at age 9 the cow dogs are still as energetic as ever! I closed the year by adding another horse to our small herd of horses. Rascal continues to impress with his easy-going nature, and I’m eagerly looking forward to getting out on the trail with him this spring. After all, it IS the year of the Horse!
Word has it we’re supposed to get socked in with another snow storm tomorrow. Time to hunker down and knit!
I hope everyone has a healthy, safe New Year!
I’m not much of a fan of winter, but the horses actually seem to prefer the cold. No bugs, no humidity, no long hours in the blistering sun. They miss the green grass though. I guess life is always a bit of a compromise in that regard; you like some things about one season, but hate others. If I could create my own perfect world I think I’d keep all four seasons. Maybe shorten winter a bit, and summer too, but lengthen spring and fall. And there would be horses. Definitely horses.
I’ve never had a fondness for city or town life. In my opinion, the best neighbors are the kind you can’t see or hear. Ever. Although my house sits on a small parcel of acreage, I’d be perfectly happy living smack-dab in the middle of several hundred acres. During the spring and fall I try to get outside to walk several miles every morning. I’ll usually say it was a good walk if I’m able to complete my hike without seeing a soul. That’s my idea of quality time.
Like most things in life, nature has many layers. Sometimes things seem straightforward and uncomplicated while at other times more like a mosaic of twists and turns. This fungus, with it’s many layers of color and texture, was quite an interesting discovery. It appeared soft and velvety, slightly fuzzy from a distance, but upon closer inspection I found it rather slimy, and not nearly as inviting to touch as it looked.
A New England fall horizon.
An early morning sunrise over a local swamp. The sun had just barely cleared the treeline before it was overtaken by an onslaught of approaching clouds, leaving the rest of the day overcast and dull. The entire shoot lasted about ten minutes and served as yet another example of having to “be there” before the event happens if you expect to capture it!
And old broken-down, discarded vehicle sits abandoned, deep in the Salmon River state forest.
Taken late in the fall of 2010 and late in their lives, this has become one (of a series) of my favorite photos of our horses. That I even stopped to take this photo was nothing more than a bit of a whim, a challenge to try to use the foliage as an artistic frame for the subject. I was a rookie and little did I know how fortunate I’d been that all the right elements for a keepsake photo had come together for a few magical moments.
And just moments they were. I had been out shooting some early morning landscapes and as I walked down the road toward home I came across all three horses sunning by the gate. That morning was unusually crisp and the horse’s breath rose in smoky white puffs that mixed with the gently rising fog. It’s pretty hard to sneak up on horses. Tia heard my footsteps first, and turned her head toward the sound. Bullet, though barely visible behind a branch in the foreground on the far right, also heard me. His head popped up and his ears flicked forward. Beanie was sound asleep and so it took him a little longer to hone in on my presence. Seconds later he turned his head in my direction, eyes and ears alert and scanning for the source of alarm.
I shot maybe all of ten frames, none of which were taken particularly well because I was, after all, just a rookie. But the photos I took have become my favorites. I lost Tia only two months after these pictures were taken and Beanie followed ten months later. There would never be another golden fall morning when I’d happen upon all three of my horses quietly sunning and snoozing by the gate.
When I bought my camera in June of 2010 I’d never had any interest in taking photos. I didn’t own a smart phone and I hadn’t used a point and shoot more than a half dozen times in as many years. I simply woke up one day and decided I needed a new hobby, and settled on photography. I sat down at the computer and started doing some research on digital cameras, which is sort of hard to do when you don’t know the first thing beyond pushing a button and getting a mediocre result. A few years earlier I’d tried reading the instruction manual for the point and shoot camera we owned and it lost me after explaining how to turn the camera on. As a result, wading through the endless narratives about which camera and what brand would best suit me was a monumental exercise in frustration.
I finally settled on the Canon 7D for no other reason than the fact that it was (at that time) a new model and most people were raving about it. I didn’t stop to think that I might be getting in way over my head rather, I thought I’d eventually “grow into” my camera. I reasoned that once I knew what I was doing it would be better to have everything I wanted in a camera than wish I’d bought the next model (or two) up, right? Well it’s been three years since I bought it and I’m still not sure if it was the right decision.
The first year I had my D7 was a spectacular year for taking outdoor photos. I didn’t know that then, I just thought I had a big fancy camera and every picture I took would (therefore) turn out great! Wow. It’s kinda hard to believe I was that naive. Truth of the matter is, by sheer dumb luck I’d just happened to buy my camera at a very good time. I’ve since learned that great shooting conditions are rare and you can go an entire season (or year or two) and not have more than a few days where the conditions are great for shooting. I didn’t use to care about that and I took lots of pictures anyway, but they weren’t the same quality and I (eventually) knew it. As hard as it is for me to look out the window and see beautiful fall colors in the trees and surrounding landscape, I won’t grab my camera unless the conditions for shooting are just right.
Perhaps that makes me sound like a snob or far more of a professional than I really am, but the truth of the matter is, I’m lazy. The days of taking a roll of pictures and dropping them off to be developed are gone, and while that gives me lots of creative license, it’s a huge time-suck to have to process my own photos. I’ve become far more discriminatory about when and what I’ll shoot and even which pictures I’ll keep. So the fact of the matter is, unless the conditions are perfect for what I want to shoot, I won’t even bother to try.
I’ve watched the days turn into weeks, then months as my camera sits untouched. I admit, that makes me a bit uncomfortable sometimes. I worry that I’m being TOO discriminatory or lazy. I feel guilty about the money I’ve spent on equipment that isn’t getting used. But eventually I know I’ll wake up to a morning when I can instantly tell that it’s going to deliver everything I want: light, color, subject and the right conditions. The photo above was taken on one of those mornings.