Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Girls

Isn't Izzy's color fabulous?  I love the stripes on her legs too!  Still haven't sorted out a proper name for her, which I need to accomplish this week.

I was standing outside trying to get some good pictures of the horses - not easy when they all crowd around you...  when I looked up and saw this...


"I'm hungry.  How come she doesn't have any food?"

"Hey Sheepy, I think you missed some hay.  Mind if I help myself?"

"Nothing like a walking smorgasbord!"

"Where's our dinner?"

The End Is Near

It is that time of year.  A time when most people look back upon the past year and forward to a new one.  A time of fresh beginnings.  Looking back I did not accomplish many of the goals I had set out for myself.  I had wanted to have Reba ready to compete with but she is still no where near that level of training.  I keep telling myself slow and steady win the race.  

This is the year that Joey entered my life and Buddy left it - both irreversibly connected in a manner I could have never predicted.  Joey has filled my heart with such joy and happiness and Buddy left my confidence shaken.  I believe everything happens for a reason and I try to learn from all the experiences that come my way.

This is also the year that Tessa broke another leg.  I am so thankful I took the opportunity to have Vickie Close take professional pictures of her on sheep.  They will be a keepsake for all our time together.  It is becoming very clear that Tessa will have to have a limited working career from this point on.  She'll need to work to be happy but she'll not be able to complete the training required to do field work.  And perhaps this was the kick in the pants I needed to get more focused with poor neglected Reba.

Reba's training needs to be my focus for the upcoming year.  She deserves to be finished and I need to see what she can do.  

My horse goals are somewhat in limbo.  I need to know if Whiskey will remain to be sound and I want to make one final attempt to breed her.  With luck she'll catch and not have twins!  If she stays sound I'd love to get her going English and try my hand at jumping her.  She's big and powerful so who knows.  Roxy and I head off to Jason Hanson's stable tomorrow and she'll begin cutting training.  I really should sell her but keep getting stuck on the "what if...", as in what if she's really good?  And little Izzy gets to hang out being a baby for a little longer.  Because she hadn't had her feet done before coming here her hoof angles are not very good and I want those correct before she does anything.

My goals for 2010:
1) Work with Reba and Joey a minimum of 4 days per week.
2) Enter Reba and Joey in at least one competition.
3) Run a half marathon (21 kms) in February.
4) Start Izzy and Roxy.
5) Fingers crossed I get accepted into my Master's program - I'll know in Feb.
6) Keep an open mind.

As my friend Jeanne always says, "There's plan A, and then there's what really happens!"

Thursday, December 24, 2009


I have to admit I'm one of those people!  You know, the person who scorns Christmas, who waits until the absolute last minute to complete their shopping.  (Yep, finished it this afternoon!)  Today I started wondering when the joy of the season became dread.  

Looking back Christmas was a big deal in our house.  The house was decorated to the nines, we went to evening mass, opened gifts and had a huge schmozz with tonnes of family over.  And for the most part I loved it.  I enjoyed the baking and took immense amounts of pleasure in wrapping my brothers presents creatively - read so they couldn't open them.  One year this involved duct tape and bricks.  Over time I became more cynical.  The spirit of Christmas seemed to be lost.  

I hated the commercialism of it.  I hated the snarky people rushing from place to place, making rude gestures when you dared to obey the traffic laws.  And I really hated the intensely crowded malls, looking for the perfect gift.  To be honest, I really love giving presents.  I like thinking up what would suit the person, and imagine how they'd feel.  But I don't much enjoy finding said gifts.

Now I procrastinate.  I despise driving into the city, dealing with the traffic and crowds, generally putting off the torture until I can't wait any longer - read today.  But I've learned the art of power shopping.  I have a list of things I'm going to get and I go directly from each place purchasing the gift and then move my rear end home as fast as I can.  All said I completed my Christmas shopping in under 3 hours.  Not bad considering the wait time in line ups.  

Something I've thought about a lot is showing Christmas spirit which for me are the spirits of generosity, giving and gratitude.  I think a worthwhile endeavor in the future will be to volunteer at one of the many Christmas dinners for the needy.  And to never forget all the wonderful things I have to be grateful for.

So for all you happy shiny faces out there - may the season bring joy and love to your homes.  May you and all those you love be safe and happy.  Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


The last two days I've been home wickedly sick.  Tuesday morning after spending a miserable night running the highest fever I've ever felt (I had considered shoving my head in a snow bank at one point), I rolled out of bed to go feed my crew.  In fact, I didn't even bother getting dressed, instead pulling my Carharts over my PJs.  As I stumbled through the snow drifts dropping piles of strategically placed hay I realized Roxy was being abnormally docile.  This filly is not social and is usually a bugger to catch but let me walk up to her and pet her, without walking away.  

Thinking it weird I was too tired to worry about it and continued about my not so merry way.  Making my final hay drop trip (when it's this cold they get a lot of hay) I caught Roxy laying down in a snow bank.  Freezing, I stopped and watched, at which point I realized she wasn't eating, was biting her flank and pawing the ground.  This could only mean one thing - colic!

Cursing under my breath, visions of my bed going up in smoke, I went into the house to call the vet.  They wanted her hauled in ASAP.  With no vehicles plugged in this was going to be a challenge.  She would need to be walked and kept on her feet until Sam was finished surgery or the truck started - which ever came first.  I'm not sure who was staggering more, me or the horse.  When she'd start to go down I'd wrap the lead around my waist and let my body fall into it, to force her head around and up.  

Eventually, my mother came out and sent me into the house.  She was concerned I was going to get frost bite.  I looked at her baffled, because I wasn't cold.  In fact, my toque, and hair was covered in a frosty condensation.  My fever was so high that I didn't feel the -27C temperature (around -20F).  My pajamas by this time were soggy with fever sweat.  

Sam arrived and gave Roxy some drugs to make her more comfortable, with the instruction that as soon as the truck started to make our way to the clinic.  By early afternoon, Roxy made her way to the clinic via my father where she was tubed and spent the night.  It was with relief to see her perk up, and happiness to have her return home today (once again via dad) and be her normal spunky self.

She'll be getting a warm bran mash for the next few days to make sure she stays happy and healthy.  And I am also feeling much more spunky after a lot of much needed sleep and some powerful prescription drugs.  (Dr. was worried about pneumonia.)

Border Collie For Sale

It is with some trepidation that I've officially listed Joe for sale.  I really want him to find his forever home but I know that may be a long slow process.  I've priced him extremely low for a working dog with the philosophy that finding him a home that's right for him being more important than money.  That being said he's not free because I want his new home to have some investment in him.  Plus it helps weed out people.  

Joey has trust issues due to the abuse he received, however once he bonds with you he is a devoted dog who shadows your every move.  He has some basic commands and has learned to respond to your body pressure when on stock.  He'll work both sheep and cattle, has a looser eye, lots of power, and is not afraid to bite.  He's an honest dog on stock.  He's also very well bred and comes with his CBCA papers.  Starting this weekend I'll be putting more daily time into his training working on rate, come bye and away to me.  

He travels well, actually perhaps too well, as if your door is open he'll be riding shotgun before you can get in!  Loves to help with chores and go for runs and plays tirelessly with other dogs.  He's a very sweet and lovable dog who I adore.  But I never intended to be his forever home, I just wanted to keep him from being shot.  And it's time for him to move forward to the next stage in his life.  

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Reba's New Digs

Deciding I was going to have to move Reba into the house until the cold weather broke, I was scrambling for options.  You see, our weather was not supposed to warm up until next Wednesday.  And that, my friends is a long time for her to hang out in a crate in the house.  Talking with my mom, she came up with a brilliant plan.  The garage is insulated and has a large mounted space heater in it.  We'll run the heater until it's time for bed before turning it off.  This raises the heat in the garage but not so much it'll overheat the dog.  

Next, I moved a crate into the garage and to insulate it, placed a horse winter blanket over top.  Then I put some fresh straw in the bottom - one of nature's supreme insulators.  Viola!  Reba's new digs!  I'm leaving her blanket on.  Our temperature without windchill is supposed to hit -38C in town meaning it'll be colder out here.  Also meaning I'll be doing frequent checks on the critters to ensure everyone stays warm and safe.  

Here's Reba enjoying the snugly goodness of her improvised house.

Update: 9:00 pm   Reba is now in a crate in the house.  She just couldn't seem to warm up.  And Joey is in the garage.  He seemed to be doing okay but was really frosty which makes me nervous.  I'd rather err on the side of caution when it comes to the critters and cold.

Reba's Rags

Reba is now the proud new owner of a jacket.  Today when I returned home from the vet with Tessa (splint change) I noticed she was shivering.  Quite badly.  All the dogs had been loose since morning.  I thought they'd be better off if they could run around and play or choose to go into their houses rather than be stuck in their dog runs.  Because it was only 2pm and sunny - so considerably warmer than what it will be tonight I was a wee bit concerned.  (Temperature with wind chill was about -40C.)  

While the vet was changing Tessa's bandage I had been telling her about Reba.  She said some dogs just don't "winter coat" up.  I'm thinking Reba may be one of them.  Last year I had blamed it on the fact that she was a puppy.  This year she should have a thick luxurious winter coat.  But she doesn't.  

So I delivered Tessa into the house, got back into my car, turned around and drove back into town.  Going to the local pet/livestock/feed/pharmacy superstore I went digging through the doggy blanket (pardon me "jacket") bins.  Reba was 26" around her belly and 23" from her shoulder to bum, so the lady told me to go up a size and get a 24" jacket.  Let me tell you there was quite a variety of jackets to see.  I ended up with one that had a nylon outer and fleece liner.  It wasn't as heavy as some of them but they were all cotton.  What I wanted was a Cordura similar to a horse blanket.  I know they make them but they were all sold out.  

You know, I would have thought Reba would have a bit of a freak out when I put it on her but she didn't bat an eyelash.  She hasn't been bothering it and seems quite happy to be wearing it.  Unfortunately she's still shivering, although not as bad.  It seems I'll need to do some problem solving.

I might hang a space heater in the chicken coop and move the dogs into there, but I'm always scared of fire.  The other option is Reba move into the house which is a bit of a problem because Reba and Tessa have a love hate relationship - they love to hate each other!  And Reba's not housebroke.  

I don't have any magic answers but I do know something will have to be done.

Friday, December 11, 2009

To Blanket or Not Blanket?

To blanket or not blanket, that is the question.  As a horse owner I've always been in the blanket camp.  Even when I was younger I had a summer sheet on during the summer and a winter blanket on during the winter.  You have to remember, during this time period it was unusual to see pasture horses blanketed - that was reserved for the fancy show horses that lived in a stable.  

But today, as we head into the cold snap (well, a deepening cold snap), my horses stand naked.  Well, not including their natural winter coats.  And I while I sort of feel I should layer them up I have to wonder where this "you are an evil rotten horse owner if you do not have the best winter blanket available on your horse" attitude has come from.  Really, do they NEED winter blankets?  Probably not.  In reality, if your horse has food (enough calories for the weather), shelter (from the wind) and water, they should be able to naturally survive the winter weather.  

I have to wonder what has caused this change in attitude on my part.  Thinking back, it may relate to all the skin issues Whiskey had last year.  Towards the end of the year I gave up and pulled her blanket off and she hasn't had one on since.  Neither of the babies have ever worn one.  And I'm okay with that.  Let's face it, they're all just hanging out.  Nothing is being worked.  They have shelter, proper nutrition, water and a routine vet and farrier plan.  Do they need blankets?  

Ironically enough, I'm considering purchasing a doggy version of a blanket for Reba.  I'm just not happy with the amount of hair she's grown.  To put this in perspective her coat is probably as thick as Tessa's who lives in the house.  While Reba is not a long (or rough) coat like my other dogs I feel she should have more hair.  I have to wonder if I put a blanket on her if she'd try to shred it.  Of all my animals she's the one I worry about the most and check on when the cold gets harsh.  

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Darn Bella!

Before the cold weather hit, I had gone to the effort to build Bella a straw house.  In short, I took square straw bales and built her a shelter.  Yes, I know most guardians just live out in the open and find shelter where they can.  But this is my dog and I have this compulsion to take care of her properly!  So I built her a house.

I had noticed the roof seemed to be caving in but didn't have time to shore it up.  Bella had been nesting on her collapsed house so I'm guessing she's the reason the roof fell in.  After all, why go into the house when you can sleep on it!  Knowing a wicked winter storm was headed this way I strategically placed some plywood on the back and on one side creating a lean to.  Would that blasted dog go into her house?  Nope!  Instead she chose to lay on the ground in front of her house.  Once the snow stopped, I pulled the roof off her house and she is now, once again, happily nesting in her deluxe bed of straw.  

Of course I still worry about her.  It's been bloody cold here.  But how do you force a dog to seek shelter?  Especially one as large as this one?  Sigh...

Saturday, December 5, 2009

New Ventures

For the past year or so, I've been planning something of a new (or old) venture.  I would like to create a website for myself based on the stock dogs and the horses.  My friend Dee, who has taken graphics at school has provided me with some advice.  She'll create business cards for me, and has provided some input into building a website.  

The key stopping point for me at this point is a name.  I need a name.  I would have loved to use my heritage to create the name - but my grandfather's brand really does not lend itself to a snappy name.  We've never had a "farm" name so that's out.  I don't want to name it after where I live because I may not always live in this area.  Dee wants to see me name it specifically to stock dogs but I'd like a name that works as a farm, because for me, the horses are part of this.  She likes the name "Clean Run Stock Dogs" I kinda like the name "Clean Run Farm".  My other friend Jeanne had thought of some cute "fun" type names but Dee vetoed them because, well, they were too cutesy.  
All of this naming stuff is giving me fatigue - but I need to start making some choices.  Sigh!

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Thousand Words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words.  Winter has arrived in the land of the Great White North!  This was snapped tonight at 5:50 pm.  Not only is it dark out (during the summer we have light until well after 10:00 pm), but the first "Severe Storm Warning" has been activated.  In fact, we've been in the throes of a winter storm all day.  What the picture would normally show is my cement pad in front of my door.  Yep, that's right, I opened the door and took the picture!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

What's In A Name?

What's in a name?  There are some theories out there that say whatever you name something or someone be careful how you choose it - as they will live up to it.  (Erhm - the little boy named Rowdy, who was, well, Rowdy...)  AQHA lost Izzy's paperwork when her breeders sent it in when she was a foal.  The breeders have spent a considerable amount of time on the phone with AQHA trying to sort it out.  As time passes and the end of the year nears, they've given up.  Instead, they have sent me out the registration forms to complete (along with the money to pay for it) and send in.

This is a mixed blessing.  Fabulous because I get to pick her registered name and rotten because I have to figure out her markings!  Plus her color has changed to be significantly darker - darker even then the color on her hocks.  I do plan to get some fresh pictures of her (if the impending blizzard does not hit the area like its forecasted) to show everyone.  Gray horse + white background = not so fabulous pictures.  

Genetically, horses of her line have luscious long and thick manes and tails, plus she has really lovely movement.  But what's in a name?  I chose to call her Izzy because Bella was already taken by one of my animals and I do think of her as an Isabelle type creature.  Look at Roxy, I tried so hard to call her Stella and it just didn't stick.  (She really is a Roxy!)  

But a registered name is pressure.  This is the one that counts.  The one that she will be known as for the rest of her life and the one that will go on record for any of her progeny.  So what precisely should I call her.  She is Quarter Horse and they tend to have some wacky (in my opinion) names.  But I want her to have both a cool and classy name.  After all, I do have dreams of competing on this horse.  Wouldn't it be nice to hear and the Grand Champion is *fill in the blank here*?  

AQHA has rules around names.  The name can be no longer than 20 characters including spaces and cannot contain any punctuation marks.  It cannot sound the same as any other previously registered name, unless you put initials in front of it.  So... within those parameters what are some of your ideas?  For those bloodline junkies out there - her sire is Fintry Hollywood Jac and her dam is Hooks Jewel.  Some of the famous names in her pedigree would be Hollywood Jac 86, Topsail Cody, Easter King, King, Grey Badger II, so there will be many variations on those names already in use.  (I'm not one of those people who needs to have "pedigree" names.)

Some ideas just off the top of my head: Hollywood Jewel (I know not very original!), Canadian Cowgirl, Ciao Bella, Imahand, Luscious Lady, Salsa Dancer.  Not sure if any "fit" her though, haven't really tried them out.  

I need 6 to short list to AQHA.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Guardian Girl

On Saturday, as per routine, I tied up my shoelaces and snapped Joey and Reba onto their leashes to head out for our normal run.  We headed south down the road, pulling to side with each passing car.  All very normal for us.  100 meters down the road we had pulled over for a car when I noticed Bella following us.  As we were still close to home, I gave her trouble and told her to get home (she was just off the property line).  Thinking nothing of it, we continued on our way.  A mile down the road I shoulder checked for traffic, seeing a huge snowbank I thought to myself, how weird I don't remember passing that.  And then the snowbank moved.  

Realizing Bella was following us, I turned around and we headed back towards home.  Bella is a very smart dog.  She knows when she's being naughty and responds with a tail tucked under and a sad look on her face.  She also know what I expect from her.  In the past when Bella was a "bad girl" and crawling under the fence to go into the ditch I could holler at her "Bella, bad girl, get back to your sheep!" and she would bust a move back to where she is supposed to be.  As I neared to where I had last spotted her, I kept a keen eye out for her.  Not seeing her I thought she'd returned home.

You can imagine my surprise when I looked up and saw her leading me home, just as she leads the sheep into and out of the pasture.  Stopping, I shout at her to get home, tell her what a bad girl she is.  And... she ignored me.  Her tail didn't drop, she didn't speed up, nothing!  This is not normal behavior for this dog.  When I stopped for traffic.  She stopped.  When I began to move, she began to move.  

Puzzled, I kept heading home.  Once we reached our land, she pulled back and as I turned into the driveway, she ran back out into the pasture.  Initially, I had thought she wanted to play with the other dogs.  But if that was the case, my giving her trouble would have sent her on the way.  She literally acted as though she was guarding me - much as she guards the animals on the place.  Her behavior was the same.  I don't know if it's because we've had a lot of predator action lately or if it's because I've been sick and she decided I needed watching.  Either way, she was in definite guard action and I was the animal she was taking care of.

Anyone who knows Guardian Dogs knows that when they bond and when they go to work, there is very little you can do to dissuade them from doing their job.  In the future, I won't be leaving for my runs without someone watching Bella to keep her on the property.  

Bella - good dog or bad girl?