Having animals should teach you something about growing old. The closer Hazer gets to the edge of his life expectancy the more we’re just trying to have fun and make every minute count. It’s not that he doesn’t annoy me sometimes. He does. Make no mistake about that! But I’m trying to overlook the stuff that old age tends to exaggerate. Like his propensity to want to control things beyond his control, and his tendency to shriek at every little thing. Even imaginary things.
It’s ironic that a dog who in all his long years never wanted affection or attention, now seeks it unashamedly. I used to think that would make parting company easier (when the time comes) and then he goes and has a change of heart toward me these last few months. Does he sense his time is growing short or did he just give up the fight to be a bastard to the bitter end? I’d like to think he had a change of heart, that all the years of trying to break through his tough exterior actually had an effect. Either way, I’m enjoying it. Soaking it up like a sponge. It’s nice to be able to touch your dog without him giving you the stink eye and moving away, or sneak in a snuggle and a kiss …. as long as I don’t linger very long.
Hazer, you’ve always had my heart, albeit from the other side of a glass wall. My only regret is that it took age and infirmity for you to break through the barrier. Here’s to making every last minute count.
It’s hard to believe it’s that time of year again. I thought about Tia as I rode yesterday, as Dharla fussed and worried, shied at ice frozen on rocks, fret over bikers and dogs, jigged and jogged as much as she could on our way home. It wasn’t a great ride. I try to be patient and open and accepting of Dharla, but sometimes I just miss Tia. Not that Tia didn’t have her faults. She did. But I was younger then and I guess things got under my skin a little less back then.
Every ride I try to keep an open mind, stay positive, try to understand where my horse is coming from. Sometimes I succeed, but other times I fail. And when we fail to connect I start to feel … a little hopeless. Like I’ll never reach that impossible high bar I had with Tia. And I take the blame for any shortcomings we have now. Fortunately, the frustration doesn’t last too long. Maybe a day or two at best, or maybe just until the next ride that goes better. I guess if I have any strong points it’s that I never give up. I keep trying. Some might say that’s silly or stupid, that I have the wrong horse and I ought to sell her and start over. But I tend to disagree. I think Dharla has a lot of potential and if I’m not tapping it it’s only because I lack the skills to do so.
Either way, today’s another day, another opportunity to get out there and do it all over again. So we will. And I’ll always carry the memory of Tia in my heart. Always.
I’m having a Hazer vacation today. Over the last few years I’ve been using a holistic dental hygienist to clean my dog’s teeth, but Hazer finally reached the point where he needed a more thorough cleaning. For many years digestive upset has forced Hazer to consume a grain-free diet, which I suspect is at the root of his dental problem. This (expensive) type of diet has resolved some of his digestive issues, bit it’s a more “sticky” type of food than traditional kibble. Add the fact that Hazer has never been one to tolerate much hands on, and you have a situation where I can’t really do much here at home to clean his teeth. Oh, we give it the college try, but evidence shows we don’t put much of a dent in things.
Any time one of my animals needs special care or vet attention I worry. I worry about the procedure itself, and with Hazer I worry about his ability to cope with the environment and stress. The worry doesn’t end when he comes home. In fact, I have to be extra diligent when we return from the vet this afternoon. “Vet smell” can send an alarming scent to my other dogs and their curiosity will not be welcomed by Hazer. Hazer is the kind of dog who reacts negatively to any perception of infirmity or weakness; his, or that of another dog. So we will have to take plenty of time to re-acclimate Hazer once he is home. This would be best done outdoors if possible, but since winter has decided to stick around it will be too slippery and cold. Fortunately, I’m prepared to manage things inside. By bedtime tonight, things should be well on their way back to normal.
Hazer is such a large presence that the house feels quite different when he’s not here. It calls to mind Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone; the minute the house is a Hazer-free zone I want to run around and do a million things I can’t do (or can’t easily do) when Hazer is home. Like vacuum, lay on the floor (?) hug the other dogs, come and go without having to trip over his prancing body or do just about anything without having to listen to his ear-piercing shrieks or threatening growls. There’s a freedom in this, yet it feels empty. There is quiet in his absence, but the peace lacks energy. I’ve always said my relationship with Hazer is Yin and Yang and nothing makes me more aware of that than the few rare moments when he isn’t right beside me.
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.
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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!
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.
We have a new “guest” here on the farm. You can read about Rascal’s story on my horse blog.
I feel like I’ve spent the better part of the last year like Gus: oblivious to everything going on around me.
For those following, in the last twelve months I’ve weathered numerous operations on my right eye. Last March I only required one simple procedure, but then things went awry. The ensuing tailspin ended up being much more complicated (and scary, frustrating, and costly) than I ever could have imagined. Yesterday I got a new pair of glasses (second pair in two months). These glasses are supposed to be my last and final installment in this saga. The new glasses are an improvement over the $700.00+ pair I got previously, so maybe once I get used to them I’ll be rocking 20/20 vision again? (Insert HUGE sigh here)
A week ago (yesterday) I lost a very close friend who was truly like a brother and son to the entire Zovich family. We knew his recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was terminal, but to lose this man only a few short weeks after Pop died left us reeling. It’s just ….. not fair? Too soon? What? I don’t know. Two deaths in five weeks kinda makes you visit those deep, dark places in your mind.
Have I been taking many pictures lately? No. For several reasons. One, it’s been very cold and windy. Most of the things I’d strive to shoot this time of year can’t be photographed in blustery wind. Two, the light conditions have been horrible. No gorgeous sunrises and very few picturesque sunsets. The skies have been unusually dull. Third, the horses are muddy, hairy and somewhat scrappy looking, and the dogs? Well, I just haven’t felt inspired. Hopefully the conditions will begin to improve soon and I’ll get my mojo back. Oh, and I’ve been sick with an upper respiratory virus for four weeks now. That was enough to take whatever wind I had right out of my sails!
Today is anther cold, rainy, damp morning. If Mother nature is listening I could sure use a slight change of scene!
We’ve made progress getting the basics dug out, which is a good thing because today we’re supposed to be hit with round two. Not snow, but rain and freezing rain. I’m not sure where all this participation is supposed to go, but I suspect a good portion of it is going to end up in places it’s not supposed to be. As of this morning we’ve been unable to clear the barn roof … just too much manual labor for two middle-age people to handle in 24 hours. I can only hope the roof holds up under the weight of all the rain and ice we’re supposed to get. If we can hang in there another day or two the temperatures should begin to rise into the 40’s and perhaps some of this mess will begin to abate on it’s own. Here’s to the power staying on and everyone staying safe even if they’re stuck in their own home!
We got snow. And more snow. And even MORE snow!
In the end, we got walloped with about 37-38 inches of snow in 28 hours. It was both exciting and overwhelming. The storm built gradually, going from light flurries at 8 AM to full force gale winds and blizzard conditions by dusk. That evening, horses fed (but outside) dogs content, we hunkered down to watch a movie (Red Dog), totally unaware that the precipitation was falling at an alarming rate. At 10:30 I nudged my snoring husband awake. We decided it was time to get the dogs back out for last call, check on the horses and distribute more hay. There was a good bit of dialogue about whether or not to bring the horses into the barn, but against my better judgement it was decided they were happier outside. After all, they are used to being out and have full use of two covered lean-to sheds.
Aldo went downstairs with the dogs while I puttered around and basically avoided going to help. I didn’t think he needed my assistance, but when it became obvious that there was a problem I poked my head down the cellar stairs to ask what was going on? Apparently, the snow was so deep he couldn’t get the basement door open! Oh boy! In the end, I suited up and I shoveled while he went to fire up the snow blower. We worked for almost two hours, digging our way though almost two feet of snow. We cleared paths for the dogs and dug our way out to the barn. The horses were fine, but welcomed more hay. Again, against my better judgement, we let them stay outside. Exhausted and cold, we finally called it quits and went inside. Meanwhile, the storm raged on.
I awoke sometime around 5 AM and glanced out the front window only to see that it was still snowing as hard as it had been the night before! My first concern was the horses, so we soon suited up and prepared to re-shovel the paths we’d made hours prior. I grabbed a yardstick on my way out the door and we were stunned when we saw that the storm had dumped another 15 inches on us in the last 6 hours … and it was STILL coming down! We got the horses in their stalls and fed. They were toasty dry beneath their blankets, but their tails and manes were heavy with icicles.
It snowed almost until noon, whereupon the wind immediately increased until we could tell viability and wind chill was going to hamper our clean-up progress. We hadn’t seen a town plow go by since the day before and our truck needed to be dug out and moved in order to reach our Kabota tractor. (In hindsight, even if we’d relocated the truck prior and parked the Kabota at the “ready to go” spot, we still would have had to do considerable clearing just to reach the tractor!) It took an hour to snow-blow enough driveway to move the truck, then it took an hour to dig the truck free and move it. Finally, the Kabota (with it’s bucket loader) was ready to tackle the rest of the driveway. The goal was to clear the driveway, then open the lane to the barn and push back as much snow as possible in the horse paddock. But somewhere along the way my husband got distracted. About mid-afternoon I went out to take some pictures and realized he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Worried, I abandoned my camera and went looking for him, hoping I wouldn’t find the tractor upside down in a ditch.
Walking anywhere a path hadn’t been cleared was impossible because the snow was some 3+ feet deep in most places. To give you a little idea of how deep that is in relationship to my size, that meant trying to navigate through snow that was at least crotch-deep. Fun as that was initially … for the challenge certainly kindles the child in me … after about 20 yards you’re just exhausted. So the search for my husband was limited to the small labyrinth of dog paths we’d made and the trails we’d cleared to reach the various key points of necessity on the farm. He was nowhere to be found.
Eventually the husband reappeared on the radar. Apparently he’d driven down the road to plow out an elderly neighbor. Now as much as I commend him for his generosity and kindness, I was a little stumped. I mean, it’s not like our neighbor could go anywhere! (All state and secondary roads were still closed!) Meanwhile, we had animals that needed a cleared place so they could be out and move around safely. Instead, my husband spent the rapidly dwindling daylight clearing someone elses’ driveway. Long story short, the horses spent the night in the barn. Snow is still blocking everything …. and this morning I still don’t have a path to the manure pile. Cleaning stalls is starting to get a little tricky! Hopefully, we’ll do a better job of prioritizing the clean-up process today and get our horses back outside where they belong!
Finally some white stuff, but no spectacular skies or great light yet. So …. meh. I got out and shot a few frames only because it’s been so long that I needed the practice … use it or lose it and all that rot. I’d forgotten how cold my fingers can get in a matter of minutes. Spring and fall are my favorite times to shoot. Freezing cold winter and the heat of summer … not so much! While sitting in the comfort of your home it’s pretty easy to forget what a good photographer must often endure to catch a great photo op!
May the spirit of Christmas be with you today and through the new year!
It looks like it might be another a soggy, foggy Christmas this year.
At certain times in my life I wanted to think we ought to have the right to decide when our life should come to an end. Acute, chronic pain.Terminal illness. Alzheimer’s. There’s a whole host of nasty, hideous ways to die that when confronted with any number of them, the ability to choose a tidy, medically assisted death seems like a better option. But if living with animals has taught me anything, it’s that knowing with absolute certainty when to let go isn’t nearly as easy or simple as one thinks. Do you continue to make adjustments, accommodate advancing age and all the complexities that come with it, or do you draw a line in the sand and wait? Easier said than done. When does modern medicine become more of a hindrance than a help? Where does hope morph into wishful thinking or grasping at straws? Does having the option to choose death make dying any easier, and if it does, easier on whom?
I don’t have the answer to any of these questions, but I do know that if euthanasia was a choice we’d struggle with that too. You don’t think so now because it’s not a legal option, but if it was I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t be any clear-cut guidelines for it’s use. We’d still waffle. Because difficulties aside, I think there are some pretty important lessons to be learned through our experiences with death.
Frost on sage.
Morning Fog lifts off a swamp.
Once the clouds move out it should be a nice day!
The remains of a light snowfall last week.
Waiting for the fog to burn off.
We had a light dusting of snow yesterday that’s sticking around today.