Thursday, February 26, 2009

How Cold Is It?

Yes, for those people with children the title is a variation of a great kids book called "How Cold Was It?". But seriously, how cold is it today? Well, let me tell you, last night it was a face tingling, numb finger kinda cold. Put the dog in a barn, give everything extra feed kinda cold.

This morning it was frosted glasses, can't feel my face, ice climbing my legs kinda cold. How did I know it wasn't just a bit cold? Bella - the outside, let me lay in the snow dog - was doing the three legged dance. The horses were covered tip to tail with frost, and the cat was nowhere to be found. Tessa beat a hasty retreat to the house and none of the dogs wanted to play.

I like many features of winter. The white fresh snow. Winter sports. But I am seriously tired of the bloody cold. It seems as though this winter has been excessively cold, with longer cold snaps. I hate that it went from -5C to -38C in the space of 24 hours. I hate how hard it is to do anything outside and I really hate having to drive in a cold car to work. Even the heated seats don't make up for the car temperature gauge never making it past 1/4 mark. I especially hate that it means indoor recesses for the kids at school (making them wild with energy).

I am fully and completely ready for winter to be finished. I am ready for the baby animals and fresh greens of spring. I am eager for rain and mud and a warm sun. Let winter be done. Please.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Reba and the Crate

Okay, so I've been gushing about what an outstanding puppy I own to everyone within hearing distance.  I still have an outstanding puppy albeit a puzzling one.  Tessa who despises being kenneled/crated has been my only experience with the crate.  This morning Reba wouldn't leave her crate.  Not for liver treats, water and fun new toys.  She sat in her kennel, and looked at me like I was nuts.  When I reached in and snapped her leash on she dug in her heels and braced on the sides of the kennel to keep from leaving it.

Puzzled, thinking surely she's got to go to the washroom by now, I left the crate open and started getting ready for my day.  And no movement from the dog.  She happily lay back down and watched.  With the clock ticking, I ended up dragging the kennel towards the back door where she finally deigned to leave the safety of her cave.

Tonight the kennel will be by the back door.  Easy access if you will.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Reba Rocks It!

With our big trip to High Prairie looming in the not too distant future I wanted to get Reba ready. Reba while not ready to actually compete she'll be travelling with Tessa and myself to get used to being on the road. As High Prairie is a bit of a jaunt we'll all be staying in a hotel Friday night. With Tessa this is not a big deal. She's a seasoned traveller. With Reba I was a bit concerned. You see Reba lives outside in a dog run. She is not a house dog and has spent very little time in a building of any sort. To prevent major trauma I thought it would be best to do some preparation with her.

So yesterday I drove into town, visited PetSmart and bought a crate. I have two at home but one is too small (I use it in my car for travel.) and one is canvas and too large for a first overnight experience. I put her crate together, put the freshly purchased foam bed in it, layered towels over top, and placed a toy for her chewing pleasure. Tessa of course was watching this process suspiciously. Experiencing mild anxiety I fretted over how she'd do. Being an outside dog I was worried she'd get too warm. But Reba rocked it!

At 10pm, I went out to discover she had freshly eliminated - this of course made me very happy as I wouldn't be out there trying to get her to go before her stint in jail. She was slightly freaked when I brought her into the house, skittering on the tile down the hall to where I had her crate set up, diving into it when she saw it. Poor little girl. She lay there so nicely with her front paws crossed and not even a squeak.

Off to bed I went. I of course had a rotten sleep with one ear cocked anxiously listening for any sounds of distress from Reba. At about 3am, she started panting pretty hard so I got up and offered her some water. Normally I wouldn't do this due to toileting concerns but with the alarm going off at 6:30 I thought she could make it. And like a true champion she did.

I was so impressed with how well she handled her first house experience. Each night this week I'll bring her in so she gets used to house sounds. Thursday night I'll move her into the bigger crate (the one I'll be bringing) to see how she handles it. Based on her attitude so far I should have no worries.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Mouse

I enjoy watching Reba play in the backyard from the warm vantage point of my kitchen.  She pounces, runs, jumps, roots, and plays with Bella or Moxie.  Reba was especially interested in her latest treasure, throwing it into the air, pouncing on it, and shoving it with her nose.  Peering a little closer I realized she was playing with a mouse.  

Out I went to take her treasure away from her and dump it into the burning barrel (I know highly not environmentally friendly).  Outside I approach her and encourage her to come to me, when the mouse moved!  "It's alive!!" I screamed.  I had thought it was something she scavenged, instead she must have hunted it.  I do not like mice and had visions of this thing faking being dead only to jump up and run up my pants.  Ugh!

Reba of course did not want to give up her treasure and I did not want to get too close.  So Reba and I danced around the twitching mouse, with Reba thinking I'd created a grand new game.  With a stroke of brilliance I ran towards the corral - sure to draw Reba off.  With Reba distracted thinking we were going to the sheep I grabbed the shovel and gingerly scooped the floppy mouse up.  With a wary eye on it - lest it run up the handle of the shovel - I deposited it into the burning barrel.  

Now I fully realize I should have put it out of it's misery but I just couldn't bear too.  Yuck!  (Hey - I never said I was a good farmer!)  

Friday, February 20, 2009


As I watched through my kitchen window while Reba hopped up on Bella's bum and started wildly humping, I thought - good god, what is she doing!  Remembering what my friend's sister a vet tech said, I raced to the deck door and bellarred at Reba to stop being a bad girl.  The vet tech had said that when a female dog does this it's an act of dominance and to treat it as a behaviour.  So I did.  But later I got to thinking.  The only other time Reba had the strange compulsion to hump Bella was just before Bella came into her first heat cycle.

So when I did my chores tonight I rolled Bella over and examined her bum.  And yep - it's getting pouffy.  So Bella is indeed coming into heat.  Here's where the stress come in.  I had originally planned to breed her this cycle.  But now I'm worrying.  I'm worrying about creating dogs no one will want.  I'm worrying about keeping Bella safe from opportunistic males.  But mostly I'm worrying about just what is the right thing to do.  Bella has a stellar personality, temperament and guarding traits.  It would be nice to breed to continue with this genetic pool.  But is it necessary?  I just thought I'd have more time to make a final decision.

What to do, what to do...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Itch

I was sitting around bored waiting until it was late enough to take Tessa outside so I thought I'd kill some time on the computer.  Whoops!  I stumbled across a couple of horsey blogs and they made me feel so nostalgic and edgy and just irritable.  I want to go riding!  Now!  I want my old Arab show horse I could just hop up on and go with.  I want Whiskey to be sound.  I want the cowy gelding at Grant's.  I want, I want, I want!  

I want to be in good enough shape to ride the colts without fear and flopping.  I want to have all the time in the world to ride and play with the horses and dogs.  With my schedule I won't actually be able to make it out to Grant's until March 14 - that's 3 weeks from now.  That means I have 3 more weeks of doing the work and none of the fun with the horses.  I sat down and figured it out - its actually been 9 months since I've last rode.  I genuinely cannot remember the last time I went this long without it.  Unfortunately my life has just been a comedy of errors getting in the way.

Well, on the bright side, at least I'll be able to play with the dogs.  Okay - I'm done with my pout.  Note to self - don't read blogs when tired!

Damn Ram

Norm's ram has been taking great delight in making my life miserable. Normally when I go out into the corrals I do not carry a stockman's cane or stick. But I'm really starting to feel annoyed when I have to dip, dive and jump to avoid the ram. You see, the ram has decided to chase me. I don't actually have to be anywhere near him or feed, he'll come find me. I've started making Tessa stay with me so when the ram takes a run at me I sic her on him.

I first realized the ram was not nice when I was working Reba. As the sheep moved towards me the ram started shaking his head at me, even taking a jump at me. I passed it off as we were pestering the sheep and he had cause to be annoyed. However, one morning after opening their gate to the hay, while walking the opposite direction from the hay, I looked behind me to see the ram trotting behind me with an evil glint in his eye. Shrieking for Tessa I leaped towards the fence. As the ram accelerated towards me, Tessa came diving under the fence, turning him back toward the rest of the sheep and the hay.

I've decided I really do not like this creature. It adds a heart pumping element to going out to work the sheep (or even do chores). Will or will not the ram take me out today...

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Taking the Plunge

Well, it's time to take the plunge.  I had been sitting on the fence regarding an upcoming arena trial in High Prairie.  I've been worrying about taking Tessa simply because she is not in working shape right now.  Plus I have the added concern about her limping at a trial - I don't want people thinking I'm abusing my dog by running her lame.  But after her good work at Corey's with the additional bonus of her staying sound after her work, the decision has been made to enter her up. 

Today I hopped on the Internet to start looking for a hotel room as High Prairie is about a 4.5 hour drive for me.  The added incentive for me to get moving on this is in April.  In April is a fairly big arena trial in Calgary in conjunction with their Aggie Days.  If I'm going to make a run with the big guys (only open handlers) than I'd better get her out to some smaller trials and work out the kinks.  As there are only the High Prairie and Airdrie arena trials in between now and then it means I should go to everything I can.  Here's hoping to a good run February 28.  

Monday, February 16, 2009

Crazy Busy

The past few days have been ridiculously busy, for both myself and my animal family.  But busy in a great invigorating way.  On Thursday, Sam (my vet) came out to see Whiskey's skin ickies.  She thinks its a staph infection and left some oral antibiotics along with the warning that Whiskey would need to stay on antibiotics for at least 3 weeks.  This should have made me happy, except Whiskey is an exceptionally picky eater.  On Friday (I had the day off), I drove into town to pick up some corn syrup and applesauce.  You see, Whiskey will not eat the meds (which according to the bottle are apple flavored), so I made a mixing attempt.  I knew from prior adventures with her that she won't eat molasses, so that left me with the two other flavor to attempt.  I mixed the oats with her meds and added corn syrup, stirred, and went out to feed her.  After 40 minutes of me attempting to coax her into eating them I gave up and returned to the house where I added applesauce.  Still no go.  

Giving up I thought a couple more days without meds won't kill her, loaded up my car and headed to Wainwright where I'd spend the night before heading south to see Buddy in Consort.  While in Wainwright I shopped for large syringes.  I have the sneaky feeling I'll end up mixing the meds with water and shooting it into her mouth like a dewormer.  Fun times.

Grant has been doing a lot of ground work with Buddy and apologized for not riding him yet.  I personally like starting a horse with a solid foundation of ground work so this doesn't bother me.  Buddy to date is getting saddled, bridled, ground drove, sacked out and Grant has been putting a dummy on his back.  It's funny but Buddy seems to be pretty oral - sticking his tongue every which way.  I left my favorite colt bit for Grant to try with him to see if it helps with the tongue.  Grant has even stepped up on him and is saddling him from both sides of his body.  With all these baby steps, Buddy is enroute to a great start.

Saturday I pulled into the yard at about 7pm, sat down at the computer to finish the ASDA sponsorship package, print it off and say hello to the dogs before going to bed.  Sunday morning I drove to Red Deer (2 hours), and spent the day working the ASDA booth with Tessa at the pet expo.  Now Tessa is normally a superstar but she has not been out lately and was a ravaging lunatic.  Not cool.  I actually went to the booth next door and bought a collar with the chain on it in order to have a discussion with her about lack of manners.  Major improvement! She suddenly remembered how to follow basic commands.

Today was another early morning as I drove out to Drayton Valley with both Tessa and Reba.  Corey, one of my dog guys had asked if I wanted to come out - of course I did!  Corey owns Reba's dad and has been very curious to see how Reba was turning out.  We worked Tessa first who amazingly was wonderful.  She listened well and picked up all of her commands, with the added bonus of doing the entire work without limping or favoring her freshly fixed paw.  I'm going to start planning to enter her in some arena trials and get her out more.  Reba was also awesome which is phenomenal for a puppy in a strange place.  Corey was so impressed with her he said he thought she worked nicer than the full brother he owned.  Gotta love compliments on the animals - and the biggest compliment of all - "Is she for sale?"  Nope!  The other exciting thing that happened while at Corey's is that Corey has offered to switch sheep with me for a while.  This is awesome for me because his sheep are super tame and dog broke and mine are still a challenge to work with.  This means Corey will get some fresh sheep and I'll get some steady eddie sheep.  Great trade!  After a month or two we'll flip back.  Also great for the dogs.

So now here I am, tired and happy.  To put this into perspective: I drove over 1500 kms Friday through Monday.  Wow!  (That's over 900 miles.)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Running Again

When I got home from work, I changed my clothes and grabbed the dogs to go for a run. I decided to give Tessa the chance to run free. Over the years I've added various commands for her to follow. Because I live in the country I often run down my range road. My busy range road. So Tessa has been taught to heel to the ditch side, irregardless of what side of the road I happen to be on. She also knows "wait", "here", and "ditch". I use the ditch command when a car comes to tell her to hit the ditch. She's actually quite good at this and will swerve into the ditch when she hears a vehicle, often alerting me of approaching traffic.

I was not entirely sure of how well she'd listen off leash. After all, it has been a long time. But she was a superstar. When I called for her to wait (she's a faster runner than I am) she skidded to a stop leaving a set of elevens from her boots. She was so happy to be free she literally bounced beside me when I recalled her to my side.

Feeling adventurous I also took Reba with me. Poor Reba has had very few experiences with being on a leash and having to run beside me. At first she pulled and strained wanting to run with Tessa, eventually settling in to running by my legs. We had a few awkward moments as she tried to cross to the other side, tangling in my legs but began to learn to pay attention to where I put my feet. We were doing awesome until it was time to turn around home.

You see, Reba has always done leash work on my right side. Whoops! As I switched directions she thought she needed to stay on the same side. Unfortunately this would put her in the middle of the road. Tugging and puffing I tried to help her see she could run on my left. With worried looks she was bound and determined to run where she was comfortable. Prevailing I won the battle. When we pulled into the yard I released her. I think she enjoyed her first run even if it left her a little baffled. You could just see her wondering what her crazy human is doing.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Laziest Thing

Yesterday, while driving to meet my honey, I saw the laziest thing. I had to swerve to stay on the highway I was so startled. You see on the service road running parallel to the highway was a slow driving SUV. It caught my attention because it was driving excessively slow, which is normally only seen during crop time, when the farmer crawls along side the field of wheat or canola. But it's winter and there really isn't anything interesting to look at.

It wasn't until I was almost past the SUV when I noticed the dog trotting happily along side the SUV. The driver had the window down and on a long leash was taking it's dog for a walk! To put this in perspective yesterday was a gorgeous, unseasonably warm day. I'm a bit baffled how anyone can consider taking their dog for a walk - from their car! Really - the laziest thing I've seen in a long time!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Run Time

Prior to her injury I would take Tessa running with me.  It was an ideal way to help her stay in shape as well as spend some quality time with me.  Normally, she runs off leash in the ditch but today I kept her on leash with me.  You see it's her first run in over 6 months.  She was slightly excited.  I have had an antibiotic resistant sinus infection so have not run for around 2 months.  I was also slightly excited to go for a run.

Well, the word run being used loosely.  I decided that because both of us were not in shape it would be best to start out easily and carefully.  The plan was to run twenty minutes doing 1-1 ones.  1-1 ones is basically 1 minute running and 1 minute walking.  This was to give both our bodies a break and to ensure I'd be getting enough air.  

When Tessa saw me pull on my running tights she howled her joy.  At the door she jigged and danced around my legs as I pulled on my shoes.  It was a bit of a battle to get her to sit still long enough for me to get her boots on, snapping her leash on we were off.  Bucking and bouncing at the end of the leash she knew exactly what was happening.  

When the watch beeped signaling our first walk break Tessa strained at the end of the leash.  I was quickly realizing she was not interested in taking this slowly.  Normally I would put a chain on her to remind her of her manners but today I just had her nylon collar which was not conveying the message of "wait".  We lurched through the run with Tessa straining all the way.

Pulling into the driveway, I reached down and unsnapped her leash.  She ran up to the door to wait for me to catch up.  In the house with her boots off, laying beside me as I did my stretches I looked down to see her smiling a big doggy grin.  She was one happy dog.  And I was one happy human.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Doggy Help Needed

A question for the readers (assuming there are any, haha)...
Grant often works as a contract hired hand for some of the large ranches in his area.  He has encountered a major problem.  Where Grant lives its big wide open rolling country.  You can literally ride for hours on one plot of land.  For those of you familiar with Wyoming it would be a similar landscape.  The problem being in the past 10 years the drought and increasingly lack of water has created a nightmare for him.  

You see, Grant has had 2 dogs die from heat exhaustion in the past 2 years.  Where he is riding and working is in the middle of nowhere.  With the low areas drying up he has to travel increasing distances to get to water for the dogs, and with temperatures commonly in the 30C mark (approximately 90F), the dogs are overheating.  He carries water with him and gives it to them but this is just not enough.  By the time Grant can get the dog to a cool place or even back to the truck and trailer it's too late.

He's always run traditional Border Collies but is thinking about getting something with short hair.  I'm wondering if the hair will make a big difference?  What do people who live in hot climates do?  Grant is just heart-sick over his dogs and I know there has to be a way.  The bottom line is the dogs are a great help when working with herds of cattle.  

I use a kiddy pool, or a hose when my dogs get too warm but these are just not viable options when you are a 1 1/2 drive from town in the middle of a 1000 acres of land.  Any and all help would be appreciated.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Poor Whiskey

Poor Whiskey.  We've been having unseasonably warm weather creating a tremendous amount of ice.  Whiskey is one of those tender footed quarter horses, and this uneven hard ground gives her tender toes.  She gimps from the automatic waterer to the straw pile and gimps from the straw pile to the hay bale.  She even patiently waits by the feed shed for me to bring the feed to her.  When Derek the farrier comes out I'm going to have him bring this stuff you put on the soles (not the frog) of the hoof to try and toughen them up.  I could buy her the little rubber boots but with the ice would hate to her to have even less traction than she already has.

Today I was out and just petting and scratching her, continuing my never ending search for skin ickies (and yes there are more!!) when I discovered the entire area under her head was an itching mass of things.  This may explain the mystery of the moving tractor bucket.  When I went out in the morning the bucket (front end) of the tractor had been moved 2 feet.  Baffled and concerned I looked over both the horse (the only animals with access) to see they were both happy and healthy.  My suspicion is Whiskey has been itching the bottom of her head on the top corner of the bucket.  As Whiskey is an easy 1400lbs. she'd have the power to move it.

When I scratched her under her chin she blissfully began to lick my coat and hand, telling me she was enjoying the automated scratch.  Later I observed her scratching on the tombstone of the bale feeder.  As much as it pains me to admit it, I'm loosing the battle with her ickies.  Tomorrow I'll call the vet and see what she has too say.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Working like a Dog

I love writing about my animals, but his week I've spent very little time with them. You see the Alberta Stock Dog Association is hosting the Canadian finals and the Western Canadian finals this August. As a board of director this means I've been working very hard to get some stuff set up. One of the things I'm working on is putting together a sponsorship package - it costs a surprising amount of money to host a trial. The other thing the board of directors is working on is finding a suitable field. While this sounds easy it isn't. The field needs to be within proximity of a major airport, be a "quality" field meaning no big holes, overly rough etc., as well as large enough to host a trial so around a quarter section size. We are currently investigating fields in the Calgary area.

So this week, I've been working like a dog for the dogs. In addition, I've started rehab on my shoulder to try and make it a little more functional. I've set up my chores so I don't have to do any heavy lifting. Normally I fork hay to the sheep off a round bale. This just helps prevent waste. Right now, the sheep have a round bale in a tombstone feeder, so no forking for hay for me. With Buddy gone I don't have the horses separated which means in the morning I feed a few flakes of hay and in the afternoon I turn them out with the round bale for a while, bring them in and grain them. Bottom line, I'm not carrying water or forking hay, thus saving my shoulder some wear and tear. Hopefully enough to give it some healing time.

All in all it's been a busy week with no play time for me.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Buddy's Big Trip

Today, I hauled my rear end out of bed at 6:30, fed the horses and hitched up the trailer.  Buddy was going to be embarking on a new adventure.  I loaded him up.  Well, I attempted to load him up (this was his fourth trailer trip).  It took my mom nervously clucking behind him and holding up her arm to get him to step into the stock trailer.  And we were off.

After tensely navigating the extremely icy country roads I hit the highway.  It took Buddy a ways before he figured out how to stay balanced and then it was smooth sailing.  I was heading to cowboy country and my old mentor Grant who has agreed to give Buddy his start.  Now normally I'd have no qualms starting a horse.  However this year I haven't been on a horse since May.  You see in May Whiskey sprained her hock and is still lame.  I was further derailed by my doctor telling me riding with fluid in my ear is not a good idea (that's where your balance center is).  I thought I'd best err on the side of caution and not make my first riding experience in the better part of a year on a baby.

While Buddy is at Grant's, I'll periodically drive out and ride some of Grant's horses to get some muscle tone and balance back.  This is a commitment as Grant lives a comfortable three hour drive from my house - one way.  When we arrived Buddy came out of the trailer slightly bug eyed, clearly wondering what was going on.  I took him into the barn and pulled of his blanket only to have him steam.  Apparently he found the drive a wee bit stressful as he was a hot sweating mess.  

With some luck, he'll settle in and be a little superstar for Grant and I'll be able to figure out just what his purpose in life is supposed to be.