Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Itch

I am half-way through my summer of exile.  My self imposed decision to not compete.  To not drive all over the place with the dogs and to stay home with the horses (more or less).  And I'm getting itchy.  My skin is all crawly and I think I just may be a bit bored.

Of course there are a ton of things I can do at home.  *cough, clean, cough*  But I'm a master procrastinator.  The main reason I chose to stay home this year is because I was burned out.  I had put too many balls in the air and just couldn't keep them up - that was compounded by health issues followed by a wack load of tests.  I also know that next year is going to be busy.  I'll have cutting horses and dogs both on the go.  

I wanted some time to literally smell the roses.  To have no pressure to be ready for anything.  To do something, anything other than animal stuff.  And I've accomplished this.  I've travelled to Las Vegas, I've gardened, I've gone for wonderful walks with the dogs.  And I've begun to enjoy my country lifestyle again.  But I think I may be getting the bug again.

Today I went and watched the German Shepherd Championships.  This was really neat and a great opportunity to see a different doggy world.  These dogs did the Schultzhund (sorry, no idea how to spell that one) where the dogs had to search, hold and attack a decoy person.  Very cool.  When I came home, I came home freshly motivated.  I'm ready to get working with the dogs, to put some time into my feisty little Izzy and start setting some goals.  

So tomorrow I'll make the trek to Lloydminster where a stock dog trial is being held to watch, enjoy and visit.  I'll also be on the phone to Ken, to get in some dog works (grass is waaaaaay too tall here - dogs can't see the sheep, heck, the sheep can't see the sheep) and help him with his horses.  Great trade for me as it combines two of my loves.  Plus on August 7 & 8, Izzy and I hit the road to show halter in couple of open shows.  We even have a sleep over planned!

A new day is dawning and I'm ready to roll!  (Izzy not so much, but that's what time is for!)

Reba's Nest

We're approaching Reba's due date which means it's time for Reba to bond with her new house.  I've created a whelping crate using a plastic swimming pool, newspaper lining, and for now an old quilt and towels.  Using a portable run fence she now has an extra large "crate" to live in.

Once we reach her whelping day, (I'll know by taking her temperature daily, when it drops she'll whelp within 24 hours.) I'll pull out the blankets and towels to prevent any accidental suffocation of pups.

As she whelps I'll add in layers of fresh newspaper.  When she's finished I'll pull all the newspaper out.  Put in a fresh layer and top it off with a foamy bath mat (the kind that keeps you from slipping in the bathtub).  The bath mat will help keep the puppies clean and will be easy to rinse any waste material off, helping keep their area clean. 

Reba seems pleased with her new space which is good as she'll be spending nights in there until she whelps.  (She still has run of the lower level of the house and outside during the day.)

Friday, July 30, 2010

I Cried

Today has been a busy day.  Tessa and Reba both went into the vet clinic.  Tessa has been peeing on her beds.  So much that I haven't been able to keep them clean.  My mom who dog sat while I was in Las Vegas commented that she's doing it a lot.  So I called the clinic, explained what was wrong and asked if Tessa could accompany Reba today.

I had to laugh.  They asked for me to bring in a pee sample.  So there I was out this morning, latex gloves on, disposable dish in hand, dog on leash.  Thank goodness my dogs have a "Pee On Command" button.  Tessa did look at me a little strangely as I shoved the dish under her ass as she was peeing.  I'm pretty sure I caused pee interuptus as she had another pee almost immediately after.  

Transferring the urine into a container for transport I washed up, started my truck and loaded up.  Off to the vet we went.  Reba had X-rays to see her puppies.  She has three and possibly a fourth puppy.  The happy part is the puppies are all about the same size.  No huge and no tiny babies to worry about.  We look on track to have a healthy delivery.  

When Sam saw Tessa she checked for scalding.  This happens when dogs leak urine.  She seemed to be not too bad.  We now have some drugs to help with the incontinence, and her pee is enroute to the lab to be checked (just to make sure we're not dealing with an infection).  Sam did say she needs to loose weight which will be a challenge as she doesn't get very much food as it is.  She's just slowing down on all fronts.

I know it's a little thing, but I cried on the way home.  I don't think I'm ready for her to be old.  She still has that spark but doesn't have the drive.  Yesterday she didn't want to go for our walk.  Instead she waited on the cement pad by the house.  I will do what it takes to keep her quality of life high.  And if that means I find doggy diapers, it means I find doggy diapers.  But I cry at the thought of my loyal companion and friend no longer by my side.  We have been through a lot together.  It breaks my heart to see her grow old and know that the inevitable is creeping up on us.  (My friend put her horse down today - which adds to my sadness.)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Bit of Bloom

A few shots of the flowers around my yard.  The results of my dirt digging.

I love the pansies.  They remind me of being on the farm with my grandmother.  She always had them in her front flower bed.  A tough bloom for a tough lady.

Life is good!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


One of my friends has been having some trouble with one of her horses.  This past winter, her horse foundered.  A bit surprised that it foundered she took care of it using her extensive knowledge, with the assistance of her vet and farrier.  A couple of weeks ago the same horse foundered again.  This time the outlook wasn't very bright.  Immediately calling the vet for professional advice she once again took steps to try and bring the horse out of it.

For the past two weeks she's been trying to see if they could stabilize the horse.  With some investigation it was discovered the horse also has a metabolic disorder, causing it to be prone to founder.  With it's coffin bones dropped, and it's high needs this horse will never be rideable again.  It's life, once stable, will consist of sitting in a dirt pen with a highly monitored diet and drugs to help with the disorder.  

My friend has agonized over what is the right thing to do.  She has vehemently said she'll never put an animal down because she doesn't want to be bothered with the care.  Her plan was to give the horse away as a companion horse once it was stable.  But she's been tormented with the thought of what if...  What if the new owner doesn't do everything the horse needs?  What if the horse founders again?  What if they think they can ride the creature?  What if the horse gets sold to the packing plant?  What if??  
We've talked a lot about her options.  We've talked about how sometimes the right thing to do is the hard thing to do.  We've talked about what this horse's quality of life will be like.  What the possibly things that could happen to it down the road.  Finally, with the vet's consultation, the decision has been made to put the horse to sleep.  My heart bleeds for my friend.  No one wants to have to put one of their animals down.  But sometimes doing the right thing for the animal is the hard thing for the human to do.  My thoughts are with her.  Sometimes being responsible just stinks.


Reba is definitely pregnant.  After being gone for a week the changes in her physiology jumped out at me.  It's funny seeing my lean little girl develop a distinctly wider midsection.  Even funnier are her humongous nipples.  Being a paranoid type A person I've been doing a lot of research on whelping.

And in the process managed to scare the bejeebers outta myself.  I'm wondering if ignorance is bliss?  After all thousands of dogs have babies unsupervised and in less than ideal conditions all the time.  But this is my dog we're talking about and I want her to have the best chance for a healthy and safe delivery possible.

This week, I'll be going into to town to buy the materials to build her a whelping pen.  (Or buy one if I can find one.)  Next, I plan to set it up in the large bathroom near where I sleep.  I'll start keeping Reba in here at nights to encourage her to "nest" in her new bed.  Next on the list is a trip to the vets.  I wasn't going to do this but after scaring myself decided I wanted to know what was going on.  So Reba will get X-rayed to see how many pups she's carrying and if there are any visible problems to anticipate.  

In the meantime, we'll continue on with our exercise program, going for walks and I'll keep feeding her an egg a day for some extra nutrition.  Countdown is on - we're in week 6 (of 9).

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Ants in the Pants

I have ants in my pants.  I'm sitting in the airport waiting to fly home.  Back to my little furry family who I've been away from for the past week.  I've been in Las Vegas seeing the sights and sounds.  And yes, I could probably tell a few "Animal Adventures" that I witnessed in the Sin City.  Right now, I wait, and tap my foot, looking forward to the doggy kisses and horsey hugs that will greet me upon my arrival.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Last night I said some very bad words. I had been giving Izzy her evening scratches, the ones where she takes her bum, neck and head and contorts her body for optimal enjoyment. The ones where I rub her withers to have her reach around and rub her muzzle on my free hand. I had noticed there was one particular spot that she really enjoyed getting her rubs.

Suddenly stopping a gut clenching thought occurred to me. What if there's a reason she loves those scratches so much? Surprise!!! Izzy has lice. I've had horses for close to 30 years now. I had never had an occurrence of lice until two years ago. Since then I've had to douse my horses three times. THREE!! What's up with that?

Izzy came home to a farm where there are no other horses and has in fact been horse free for two months. Where do lice come from? What makes them suddenly appear? And why now? Nothing else has changed in my horsey world, so why am I seeing lice on my stock now? I'm feeling a wee bit frustrated with the situation. I don't like them. They gross me out and are a royal pain in the arse. When one animals shows lice, I treat ALL animals as if they are infested. Unfortunately, Reba is bred, and bred dogs cannot be treated for lice. Sigh. So I'll do my best to stop this now.

Oh, have I mentioned I'm leaving for holidays. Today. With everything except Reba treated there's nothing I can do at this point but wait until I get back and retreat the horse.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Unlikely Friends

Izzy and the three dog broke sheep are the best of friends.  Last night I tried to separate them.  I was serenaded by them running around and crying for their horse friend.  This morning, the sheep went out into the big field and I moved Izzy into a smaller grassy pen to graze it down.

Taking a break from my grass cutting I went to check on the critters.  To my surprise there Izzy was calmly grazing with her sheep.  Puzzled I looked at the fence and it seemed okay.   Walking around the fence line I discovered Izzy opened the wire gate (think old school with the wire around the fence post) and let herself into the field.

I fixed the gate and left the horse.  She loves her sheep and the her sheep love her.  They can stay together.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Terrible Twos??

I'm in the midst of preparing Izzy for her first horse show.  We're entered in three halter classes at a local open show.  This means I've been jog/trotting, stopping, turning on the haunches and standing square - or at least attempting to.  It also means Izzy needs a clip job.  After all, you can't have a hairy horse amongst all the spit and polished beauties.  

Izzy is such a sweetheart with a stellar disposition, that in my naivety I thought all of this would be no big deal.  Well, according to Izzy it is a huge deal!  She went bug eyed and freaked when the clippers were unveiled.  And yes, I know how to do this nice and slow in tiny increments to introduce the tool without trauma.  Except Izzy disagreed.  Rather violently and in a way that's completely out of character for her.  She wanted nothing to do with the silent clippers when they were two feet away from her.  

She became a snorting, blowing, hopping, backing, fighting mess.  It quite astonished me how she wanted nothing to do with anything.  I couldn't even hold the torture device and pet her at the same time.  She was that upset.  Eventually, chanting my mantra of, "Patience, she's just a baby." we managed to get her long muzzle hairs trimmed.  And stopped at that.  Her bridlepath, and feet will have to wait.  

I have to wonder if she's not coming into heat as she's been calling for the neighbor's horses.  And am kind of hoping this hormonal time is causing my rock steady girl to act like a hot headed diva.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bubble Wrap??

A feeling of frustration came over me as I read the newspaper this morning.  In it was an article highlighting the number of animal deaths at this year's Calgary Stampede.  There was a quote in the article from an animal rights group, the Calgary Animal Rights Meet-up Group, stating, "This is exactly why we protest the rodeo." "When people use animals in entertainment in high-risk situations, this is what happens.  Every year animals die."
You can read the article for yourself at this link.  

What frustrated me is how the animal rights groups never seem to want you to do anything with your animals.  Because it's so incredibly cruel.  I won't comment on Chuckwagon Racing because the sport is one I don't enjoy and won't watch.  However, the rodeo horse with the broken back, I will comment on.  Seriously, my horse could hypothetically go out and buck hard enough to do this to herself.  Having once been part of the rodeo world I know those animals are cared for.  In fact, they are worth far more than my lowly saddle horse could ever aspire to.  

A freak accident in cattle penning and it's horse cruelty?  Are you going to try and tell me that horse doesn't LOVE chasing cows?  That it would be better off in a field doing nothing?  Perhaps these animal rights people would be better served hanging around auction markets.  Then they might see some things to get upset about, instead of looking at someone's well cared for high performance animal and stating that it's cruel to have it perform.  The vast majority of animal owners that I met in my travels in the rodeo and performance world CARE about their charges.  They have a tremendous amount of money wrapped up in these animals and for some of the people their livelihood depends on how well the animal performs.  

So here I sit with my high performance animals that I know are well loved and cared for, and thinking about the wonderful mare who caused a career ending injury playing in her large grassy field.  And I wonder what those lovely animal rights activists would think about that.  Perhaps she should never have been allowed out into her natural environment.  You know, because it's so dangerous.  Surely I could have prevented that traumatic injury.  But the simple reality of the situation is that no matter how much we care, things happen, accidents happen, and injuries both to humans and animals happen.  

Perhaps I need to get out the bubble wrap...

(And I'll get off my soapbox now!)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Just Like Riding A Bike

When people tell you it's just like riding a bike I've begun to think they're just selling you a story.  I'm not a bike rider.  When it comes to exercise I'm pretty basic.  I like running, going for walks with my dogs, riding horses and doing yard work.  I don't like how the bike seat makes your rear end feel like something torturing it.  I hate how my legs feel like jello and I wobble as I take off and stop.  

However, in the nature of getting fit as fast as possible I'd decided to add bike riding into my repertoire.  My superstar friend stepped up to the plate and offered to loan me her fancy mountain bike to help me decide if my dislike for biking was just a poor bike or the activity itself.  The same bike she broke her collar bone riding!!!!!  (Let me tell you that inspired confidence.)  

So today I broke the seal.  For the first time in a very, very long time I poked and prodded a bike, made all the necessary adjustments, strapped a helmet to my head and pushed off.  Or should I say wobbled and jerked my way down the drive way.  This brings me to my point.  Riding a bike just doesn't "come back to you" like they say.  I was very awkward and uncoordinated.  And probably lucky I didn't get up close and personal with the gravel.  

Eventually, (like a good 1/2 mile later) I started to get the hang of it.  Until I encountered a mild (and I really do mean mild, as in gradual, gentle) incline.  Gears popping I tried to figure out how to make the bike go up.  As in forward.  Legs moving in a cartoonish way I wobbled to a stop.  Trying to get off the bike without damaging my tender bits was also a challenge.  Once off, I examined the gears and adjusted them while running along side the bike, hand pedaling.  

There I was ready to get back on the bike but also already on an incline.  Hmmmm.....  Taking a deep breathe I made a mad hopping movement while trying to hit the pedals to get moving forward.  Jerking and swerving I slowly made forward progress.  And made it to the top!  Where I stopped for a break, hoping the burning in my legs stopped soon.  

As the miles passed I began to get more competent.  I rode the 6 mile "block".  And survived!!  Here's to attempt number two tomorrow...


Growth is an amazing thing.  Last night I went to Drayton Valley to work dogs with my mentor, Ken.  While Ken doesn't "help" me much anymore, the visit makes the drive worth while.  Once there Ken worked my Tessa and one of his young dogs Panda.  I worked Reba and one of his training dogs Crash.  Swapping dogs is something we often do and works well for us as our styles are so similar.  It gives the other person a chance to see how their dog works from a different perspective.

There are times when I think Reba should be further along than she is.  It's not her fault I haven't been able to work her the way she deserves and I just can't let her go to someone else.  And sometimes this just makes me feel frustrated.  Last night I took a deep breathe and looked at my dog.  Really looked.  And I realized just what a GREAT dog I have!  This dog while having some issues with strangers and other dogs is a talented working dog.  She has great stock sense, the right amount of eye, and wants very badly to make me happy.  Reba had an outstanding work.  I was stunned at how good she was.  And this makes me happy.  

I also sat back and looked at myself.  I realized just how much I've grown as a handler and trainer.  How I've developed timing and stock sense as well.  Sometimes I forget just how far I've come too.  

When I pulled back into my yard I had two tired and happy dogs, and one tired and happy human.  The love of the game is back.  Freshly motivated I'm focused on putting as much into Reba as I can before the puppies come.  

Saturday, July 10, 2010


It was with some trepidation that I loaded up my truck and pulled out of the yard without my dogs.  I was off to Calgary for a work related training session.  Normally when I'm away my mom takes care of my furry family, but this time she was off acting as a nanny for my sister-in-law who has a one month old and is in the process of finishing up her graduate course work.  

This meant my dad would have to be my pet sitter.  Anyone who knows my father knows that he has his own unique way of doing things and viewing the world.  What this translates into for me is how I deal with things and see things is not how he sees things.  He is, to put it bluntly, not the most reliable person around the animals.  So with butterfly's in my stomach I left my treasured animals in his care and drove off.  The sight in my rear view mirror was of him holding Reba's collar to keep her from following me.  

When I came home it was to a suspiciously stinky dog, (Tessa is a consummate manure roller.) and all animals with intact limbs.  My fears and worries were for naught as everything seemed to have survived their stint in his care.  (And yes, I did thank him...)

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Brave Girl

We were walking down the road on a bright sunny day.  Reba stays on leash with me and Tessa runs in the ditch off leash.  Because it was warm, when we reached one of the large sloughs at the side of the road I let Reba off to go for a cooling swim.  Tessa who had been snooping was lagging a bit behind.  Reba began to make her way down the steep, grassy ditch when she stopped short.  

A sound in the water had her looking and bouncing her way to it.  Tessa noticing something was up increased her speed and adding in a bow-wow-wow for good measure.  With a slap the beaver dove under the water sending Reba scuttling back up the bank to the safety of my legs and Tessa motoring in barking all the way.  While Tessa barked and went for a swim, Reba stayed glued to my legs.

Poor little Reba is not the bravest dog going.  When the other dogs see something to chase and start barking Reba always runs back to the safety of the yard or her humans legs.  Literally standing with her body pressed against your shin and calf.

It never fails to amaze me how different animal's personalities really are.  Reba is shy, hesitant of strange situations and likes the security of her person.  Tessa is a social butterfly who has small dog syndrome and like to test the boundaries of her world.  

They make me laugh anyhow - cheap entertainment.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


With mixed feelings I made the trip to Calgary to pick Izzy up from my friend Jeanne's.  The plan had been for Jeanne who loves working with young horses and is very interested in Natural Horsemanship to start Izzy.  Of course, life thought that would be too easy and in June, Jeanne was bucked off.  Her mountain bike.  God, it seems has a sense of humor.  Jeanne ended up in the hospital with a broken collar bone.

This meant Izzy was going to have to wait.  Jeanne with her broken wing remained as diligent as she could be.  She would go out and (with some assistance from her great friends) would brush Izzy, as well as work with her on the natural horsemanship stuff the filly already knew.

This pattern would have continued on until Jeanne was able to get going on the under saddle training except for Jason.  Jason is my trainer who has Roxy in a cutting futurity program.  It has been decided that Roxy will get two week breaks throughout the summer to let her grow and get some weight back on.  During Roxy's off weeks, he'll take Izzy and get her started.  This is not an ideal training situation but it gets Izzy who is unbelievably ready to work going on a training program. 
I know starting her now when she's so ready is the right thing to do.  But my heart broke in two for Jeanne who loves Izzy and has done such a fabulous job to date.