Saturday, April 1, 2017

Roo's First Road Trip and A Few Repairs







Gunner and The Heathen
It’s been a CRAZY winter, as all of you know. I finally have a car and was ready to hit the road with Heath. I planned to stop and see my Brother and niece. We got to their new house where my brother has mother-in-law quarters, so to speak, and Heath was excited to see his doggy-friend Gunner, that he met when my brother came up last year. What he wasn't ready for was meeting my niece's two elderly golden retrievers. One of them, Ruger, decided Heath did not belong there and chased him until Heath found a safe spot under my car. I was glad to see that he was smart enough to get  himself out of what could have been a bad situation.

Once they were formally introduced, the dogs all got along fine. The 2 Golden Retrievers and the Yellow Lab all walking around, content with mouthfuls of soft frisbees. They use them like pacifiers. Heath, on the other hand, just wanted to rough house and play with someone. As Gunner spun in circles protecting his toy, which he thought was Heath’s target, Heath gleefully pinched and gently pulled his ears, which were his real targets. It’s how he punishes the Maremmas at home, when they come to close to me, wanting attention. He grabs and pulls their ears. Never hard enough to make them squeal, but enough to be annoying. After a yummy spaghetti casserole made by my brother and a couple of rum and cokes, we were ready for bed.

They had a nice big reclining chair for me to sleep in, which made a strange noise when it reclined, but everything was great until 2 something-o'clock-in-the-morning when Heath quietly sneaked up the stairs into the MASTER bedroom to chase their cat around. My nephew-in-law came down the stairs behind a speeding and contrite looking sheppie and I apologized and spent the rest of the night insisting that Heath sleep on the chair with me, which he begrudgingly did. The next morning when I got up, the chair made an even louder awful noise and I was horrified to see that it had apparently been too close to the wall and one corner of it had pushed through, making a large hole in the drywall...of their brand spanking new house.

 It had been raining steadily for days, and their back yard, which was too new to be landscaped was a muddy sinkhole. They had sectioned off a small area and filled it with gravel so the dogs had someplace to potty. They would all go out together, the two old male Goldens both squatters, and Gunner a lifter. There was a nice wooden post just a few steps in that made a perfect faux fire hydrant that Gunner appreciated. We opened the glass doors and let Heath out with the rest of the boys. However he found the barbecue leg more appealing, much to the distress of my nieces who loudly said, “OH NO HEATH!”
No she wasn't really yelling at him and she wasn't really angry but he is super sensitive and took it that way anyhow. He curled his tail between his legs and began slinking back to the house. I caught up to him and talking to him  reassuringly, led him out to the gravel area. He refused to put a foot on the gravel and was obviously quite intimidated by it.  I puzzled over this for a moment and realized his memory is quite good. The last time he saw gravel like this was a trip to town when we had let him out to pee. As he jumped into the planter that was full of gravel, all 4 feet were punctured by goathead stickers and he whimpered painfully. We had to lift him up and pick all the stickers out of his feet. As his mama didn't raise no dummy, he wasn't going to make the same mistake twice. I had to push him onto this gravel so he could see that it was safe. After that, he had no problem competing with Gunner to see who could cover the stick the highest. Potty problem solved.

Next day Hwy 20, where I was heading to see my friend, was closed and washed out, so I changed my plans and was going to go visit my cousin on the West side of California. Then the snow and mud slides closed I-80 overnight. If I could sneak by and just get down to Sacramento I could take Highway 5 up to Williams. I was leery of I-80 when it opened as there were already 3 wrecks reported the first 20 miles, so I opted instead to spend another day with my brother and my niece. That day, Williams flooded and the Oroville dam was still in danger of breaking. I am grateful that I heeded the still, small voice, because all of Northern California flooded and the roads were a mess. I definitely dodged a bullet.

It looked like our only option was to head back home before we caused any more havoc at my niece and brother's new house.
It was snowing when I left Reno for the 5 hour trek home. It turned to rain outside of town and rained all the way home. By the time I got to Winnemucca, I was flaring painfully and shaking. I was tired, and weak and didn’t have much strength to work with. I called TheMan and told him I couldn’t make it home, I was too weak and in too much pain to manage the 3 more hours of remote desert driving.  Heath and I went into a Mexican restaurant we were parked next to at a casino and I had lunch while he napped under the table. It was relaxing and restorative.  I took my time, feeling no pressure, and no anxiety because Heath was near and by the time we were done, I felt well enough to make it home.

So went our first big excursion away from home on our own. It wasn’t quite what I had hoped, but it was a good start.  It turns out that when I lifted my saddle several months ago, hurting my right arm it was more than just a tiny little tear in my bicep. Instead, I tore my whole bicep tendon loose at the head of the femur, and 3 of the 4 large muscles that make up the rotator cuff are torn through and badly atrophied, so I just had surgery to make what repairs they could. The doc said he thinks he has bought me some time before I require a complete replacement.

Heath making sure Lamby doesn't try to sit with me...
Heath watching over me while we have car worked on after Dr appt
HannahBanana feeds Lamby
One of my grandaughters came up to help me after surgery. It made for a great 2 weeks, as her cheerfulness was even more valuable than her helpfulness and that was generous. We had a bummer lamb born just before my surgery, so she took care of bottle feeding her as well as feeding the Heathen and helping feed us. I don't think I would have fared well that first two weeks without her as it was pretty painful and needed icing around the clock. Now I am waiting to heal and figure out what is next for us. Hope its something good!
Heath watches over Hannah

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Safe Behind a Shining Star



Feeling Okay, Hooman?
our walkway to the driveway


It’s been a cold and snowy winter with lots of barometric changes, which of course affect my health. The most I've been able to manage is some laundry, occasional meals, and taking Heath out in the dark and ice at 9 pm every night to put the sheep inside, as the Maremmas are now spending nights in the house as the boss complained he heard barking. Thank God for Heath's help, even with his untrained herding skills he gets the job done for me quickly. We inherited because TheMan blew a gasket one night, unable to get them to cooperate.

We undertook the 4 hour drive to town yesterday to see a shoulder specialist to find out why injuring my bicep by simply lifting my saddle a few months ago should have gotten increasingly worse until I could no longer use my right arm and having so much pain setting in my shoulder. It looks good so far, it’s soft tissue damage that is in the bicep tendon and created a lot of inflammation all the way up under the ball joint and down my arm, so a shot of cortisone in the joint may solve the problem. If not, a second might. and if that doesn’t do it, then we will look at surgical options but i am banking on the cortisone injections.

I had been able to pay off our credit card and Dr bills early so we went to a dealer and bought me a new car. It’s a little new, blue, Subaru and is just what I was looking for. Great gas mileage, 4 wheel or all wheel drive, a back-seat for the Heathen and room for his crate, my suitcase, and sundry other things so I can go on road trips and get away from the ranch I loved so dearly, but has been holding me prisoner because of my limitations. The incredible man I married isn’t thrilled about staying here alone and working for long periods of time, but he understands how this has affected me both physically, emotionally and spiritually. He could hardly miss the tears that leak out now and then. So now I have a few things to get done, like get my license plates, find my new drivers license, and purchase a few things to keep the Heathen in the back, as stuff coming up and hitting the undercarriage still frightens him badly and he jumps into the front, getting twisted and choked in his harness. Not a good scenerio.

We were talking about this yesterday, what an enormous change he has made in my life. I have always been shy, and always been a ‘loner’. Even when I was younger and in shape, I tended to avoid people, when possible. While showing horses for clients I was found either ringside coaching my kids, or at the barn grooming and warming up, but not socializing and having ‘fun’ like so many others. Perhaps that is why it seemed like such a chore. But hey, that’s me. Since getting sick, I have put on so much weight and aged so badly, that I have been ashamed to be seen, so I retreat to my shell and try not to even go out in front of the house unless I absolutely have to. The woman in the mirror is a stranger to me, and I’d rather keep her under wraps. But when going somewhere with Heath, people notice him instead, and talk about him, and my anxiety tends to melt away. And he does garner a huge amount of attention. I could never even consider doing these things without him.

Just in the 2 days we spent in town, all the folk at the dealership spoke to him, and even let him come on my test drive, in spite of the snow and his somewhat raggedy looking undercoat where dirty snow or water had splashed on his leg and belly feathers. He was of course, perfectly behaved and the salesman was impressed with how he jumped into the cargo hold when I asked and quietly laid there for the trip. After purchasing a different car and agreeing to pick it up the next day, we went to Texas Roadhouse for dinner. The smell of steaks and lots of distractions always make me worry, but I shouldn’t have. Other than wanting to forge ahead of me a little bit to try and meet a youngster passing us (he is absolutely wild about kids) we were seated at a booth across from an elderly couple. I was hoping he would behave like usual, as I was afraid that they might take offense to a dog in the restaurant. Instead, as they got up to leave, the lady tapped me on the shoulder to tell me that he is the best behaved dog she’s ever seen, and they appreciated how he went right under the table and laid quietly when I asked, in spite of all that was going on around us. I really appreciated the compliment to us both.


Heath lays under the table at Texas Roadhouse. His good behavior didn't go unnotced

Celebrating with steak, mmmm


We stayed at Holiday Inn Express in Boise, which I highly recommend. The staff is always super friendly and its always clean and nice. I was out front grabbing stuff out of the truck while Randy got us a room. I had Heath wipe his feet on the mat when entering, which is NOT his favorite thing to do. The man behind the desk said “Well, I guess I will have to take your word that he really is a service dog since his vest says so, even if you have no certification papers”. I asked if they’d been having dog problems and he said yes. I gave him an ADA card that explained there are NO papers on a service dog, they aren’t required to wear a vest, etc. and the easiest way to tell if they are for real is their behavior. It also informed him how to protect their business from an acclaimed service dog that is causing problems. He was really appreciative and said he was going to post the card in the meeting room so he could inform the rest of the staff. I felt good because there are a lot of people taking advantage which causes not only bad feelings toward real teams but increases problems for real teams as well as it can seriously unsettle and damage the confidence of a service dog, which is not allowed to defend himself, to be faced with a poorly trained, barky, aggressive, rude dog of any size or breed, especially when working.

Once in the room, my calm, reserved, well behaved sheppie turned into a whirling dervish, pleased to have had his boots and vest removed and had the two of us in hysterics with his antics. Other than waiting until I had my pjs on, (shorts and a t-shirt) to tell me he needed to go out and do his business…at 25 degrees F, he was a good boy. Out we went, me in my t shirt and snow boots and he  off leash with his happy on. I was only mildly frostbitten when we came back inside.

Next day at the doctors, several people commented and asked to pet him. I had to turn them down because he gets too distracted and wants to play with everyone. After awhile, a man came in, looked our direction for a moment then turned to the lady behind the admissions desk. She asked if she could do anything for him and he said “Yes, I want to buy that dog!” We laughed and I was again, really proud of Heath.



Next was Costco, where we were stopped several times and asked about his breed, then a man came up and said “It’s so nice to see a service dog BEHAVE like a service dog! I’ve trained dogs for 30 years and it’s not hard to recognize a phony or the real thing.” I was wow-ed. Again, none of the anxiety raised itself, because Heath was the focus of attention and I felt safe in the background behind his shining stardom.

What a dog!!





We were next faced with a 4 hour drive home in the dark, in the snow, in a vehicle I was not familiar with. I had a fair idea where the windshield wipers and defroster were as that was my key concern. I had already put the service dog stickers on the window so if we had a wreck, first responders would know to look for him and not to separate us. My car has one of those On-Star kinda deals so it tells me where I left it in the parking lot, if I forgot to lock it, if it's stolen, where it's at, and gets me help if I am broken down or in a wreck. A good option for me, I think. Now if they will just pass reciprocity so you can Concealed Carry across state lines so I am not vulnerable while driving long distances alone, waiting for help to show up in the event of an incident.


I was following TheMan in our embarrassingly dirty truck, knowing Blu Roo would look much like that when we made it home. It is, after all, a ranch, with 50 miles of dirt road leading there. I was pretty nervous,  unable to figure out how to work the radio or anything, and unable to take my eyes off the road, or my white knuckled fingers off the wheel. Only about 30 minutes out, we had a lot of road debris hitting the undercarriage which was unnerving Heath and throwing stuff onto my windshield. I couldn't find a sprayer for the front windows, so increased the wiper speed hoping to get it off. The defroster was running full blast and my vision was awful. Everytime there was an oncoming truck I had zero visibility as the whole windshield would go white. There was no white line on the side or lane markers in the center for that period of time. I kept praying they wouldn't pass me on a turn. We had to follow a snow plow into Jordon Valley and it didn't get any better. Finally, about 2 hours from home, I managed to signal TheMan to pull over at Rome Station as it was about the only place on the 4 hour trip to do so. It turns out the snow plow had put something down on the road that messed up our windshields on the outside so we could not see. He washed it several times and there was a marked improvement. I think both Heath and I hyperventilating probably didn't help the defroster any. I imagine that will probably be my worst trip in Roo, and I still love him, so it should be a brighter future for us, and no...I repeat...NO driving at night!

Pretty soon we will start travels in the Blu Roo. We’ll start small with a 5 hour drive to my brother and niece’s house, then build up to traveling farther for longer periods until I make it down to see my kids. The long, lonely winter is looking a lot better…now if I can just time it between record snow falls and flash floods….

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Back in the Day



The yard and showbarn from under the upper pergola-fall, flowers fading


It’s been snowing a lot lately, and quite cold and that has caused me some issues with my health, so I’ve been spending far more time than I would like, stuck in the house doing…well, pretty much nothing. So, of course a lot of daydreaming goes on.

Most recently I have been looking back at the past, at the things I loved and miss. My home, my job, my kids, my gardens. I do miss those simple, productive, wonderful days.

Like now, I spent most of my time alone, but it didn’t bother me because I always had something to do. We had a beautiful home in the Tehachapi Mtns. I had spent over 20 years landscaping it and making it as low maintenance as possible. We had a large patio with a pergola, from which gorgeous, delicate and fragrant purple wisteria blooms hung below, leaving inches of fallen petals on the ground each night and large black bumblebees who buzzed overhead, drunk on the fragrance each morning. Sadly, it only blooms one month out of the year, but the show was worth it, and the fast growing vines would quickly cover the pergola giving us deep shade in the summer, and allowing the warmth of the sun through in the winter when it was dormant.





Two large whiskey barrels stood as sentinels on either side of the back kitchen door with Jasmine growing up a stake and colorful flowers gathered at their base. I had a dutch door that the top would open so I could enjoy the fragrance of the Jasmine throughout the house if I wanted. There was a whiskey barrel waterfall with 3 tiers that made it a calming and peaceful place for me, when a respite was needed. At the far end and sunny part of the patio, was an archway made of 4x4’s covered with trumpet vine. It was covered with large vermilion flowers that were a magnet for the many hummingbirds that lived in our yard. Another trumpet vine wound up a column at the end of the shaded patio, and grew along the roof line so we could see a hummingbird show from the living room as well. A small walkway with thyme filling in around  stepping stones led to some railroad tie steps ascending to the upper garden where there was a large Sycamore tree, and an Alder providing shade, as well as a smaller pergola that my son had built me when he was just 13. It was a hidden place almost like my own Secret Garden. There was just enough room for 2 comfy papasan chairs and a small table and the garden was filled with Roses, Daisies, Lavender, Rudbeckias, Coneflowers, and many other colorful, seasonal flowers as well as low growing evergreen shrubs to maintain a pleasant view in the winter. There were seasonal changes and in the summer I loved to sit with a glass of lemonade or wine, and watch the many butterflies, huge Yellow and Black Tiger Swallowtails  and bright orange and black Monarchs flit from red and blue Penstomens and other flowers and floating on the air currents. It was a blessing, a home and a paradise for me.




We had a small barbecue area out back surrounded by white rail fence and a large entrance with colorful Paprika Climbing Rose growing up and over the top. Many cookouts were enjoyed there with our kids and grandkids and I can still remember the laughter, the love and the warmth I felt having everyone near.

Flowers were integrated into that area as well, with Sunflowers, Hollyhocks, Clematis and many other children’s favorites as well as my own.

Everything was on a drip system that was put on automatic timers. It was densely planted and heavily mulched to discourage the growth of weeds so even though it was large and complex, it was a very low maintenance garden, the work consisting mostly of cutting back the dead flowers in the spring before new growth began.







My typical days began early mornings, sometimes before the kids headed off to school, sometimes after, heading down to the barn to feed both our own horses and the horses I had in training. This could be anywhere from 7 to 20 horses. After filling waters, I’d head back to the house for a cup of coffee and time on the patio while they ate. An hour or so later, I’d saddle the horses I would be riding first and let them settle while I cleaned the barn stalls and the mare motel. I had a set of cross ties in my breezeway barn and a great saddle rack that TheMan custom made for me that hung on the wall and held all of my saddles, my jumping saddle, roping saddle and stock saddle. Other saddles I used for lessons or for occasional bitting were hung in the tackroom. The stall at the very back of the barn held all the rest of my tack and training equipment, such as several different kinds of snaffles, sizes of bosals, lunge ropes, stock whips, spurs, saddle pads, first aid kits, grooming equipment, blankets, shipping bandages, buckets and the like. Next to that was a 12 x 16 stall with a closed circuit camera I used for foaling mares, and at the end was the cement wash rack. The other side of the barn had (3) 12x12 box stalls.

There was a doctoring chute outside next to the washrack, also made by TheMan, where a horse could be confined closely on all sides and safely worked on treating injuries, insemination or breeding exams. Allowing for a 16’ driveway to take the tractor up to the arena, there were then 2 covered mare motels for both extra horses and foaling mares, one being used as a feed room with a heavy sliding door so no horses could break into the feedbags and founder or colic themselves or worse. At the very end of the Northeastern-most stall was a small down hill surrounding a large oak tree that was dandy for either finishing steers to put in the freezer, or keep my milk goats and sheep.

After a cup or two of coffee and having gone over my plans for the day of which horses needed working, which needed a day off, etc. I went back down and started riding colts. Each horse got hosed off after working and put on the hot walker which was on the east side of the showbarn. It made a handy babysitter for our two little girls, as well, with a couple of cinches put together to make a swing we could hang off one of the arms.

It’s been too many years, but I still remember how amazing it felt, to be riding different horses throughout the day, working with each different personality to help them understand what I was asking of them in the most comfortable way for them. Refining form and gaits was especially  gratifying, as I could lope one off with the lightest press of my calf or lift of a hip, listening to the hoof beats as the breeze from the movement whispered through my hair and the horse softly rocked beneath me. A 1000+ lb of pure muscle and power, working with me as a team, respect and affection that was equal between us. When they had achieved my desired amount of proficiency in their lesson for the day or in the event of an off day, just ending on a positive note, we’d side step over to the gate, I’d lift the latch, swing my mount’s haunches around and sidepass the other way to close it, then amble down the hill to the barn to unsaddle and hose off. I’d usually ride 5 of 6 horses each day like this, letting the others either work in the round pen, or have a day out in the pasture.


JR WESTERN PL. FUTURITY- IMPRESSIVE RONNIE, APHA GELDING OWNED BY KIEFFES


Once they were all done, I’d set up whatever courses I had to use for the afternoon students, either trail obstacles, jumps or markers and rest-up until they showed up after school. We’d work on lessons until feed time then put the horses and tack away, pick out stalls and feed for the night.
Throughout all of this, my sons were often key assistance in getting everything done, from cleaning stalls, to assisting me with a dystocia, or abnormal presentation on a foaling mare, and helping to deliver the foal safely.


 JR TRAIL-  QUEST FOR FREEDOM- ApHC GELDING OWNED BY HILDRETHS

Then it was time to head back up to the house, fix dinner, finish laundry and whatever other quick housekeeping chores needed doing and spend time with the family. Even back then, I rarely left the house except to go to the store or to horseshows, where it could be a little overwhelming with the number of people around, dealing with owners, horses, students and getting the horses I was campaigning for them warmed up and ready for their open classes. Pretty much the only folks I knew were the vet, the horseshoer, my clients, and one or two of my neighbors. Although I had a good relationship with most of my clients, I didn’t have much in the way of actual “friends”. You know, the kind you could share intimate thoughts with, or go have a fun weekend together, or just count on one another to be silly. Someone you would just feel you had to sit down and give a call to, or drop in with some donuts to share over a cup of coffee and small talk. I didn’t actually realize it, as I had been the same way as a kid going to school, just tolerating the time spent in class then jetting off to see my horse, getting home usually just before dinner. I loved every minute I got to spend with my boys, and I loved my life, reaching out to the horses and working with them everyday. It is a life I sorely miss and I still struggle with accepting it is my past, and will never again be in my future. And I am beginning to appreciate the awareness that I not only lack close friends and social skills, but have found I have a great deal of anxiety when around many people, even if they are people that I know.

SENIOR HUS -MR IMPRESSIVE II-OWNED BY HILDRETHS

Even so, if I close my eyes and concentrate hard enough, I can still smell the pine shavings, the horse’ sweat and hear the creak of leather and occasional jingle of a spur, along with an equine sneeze as one settles down and prepares to eat its morning hay and grain. I can feel the sleek coat under my hand and the dents and bulges of powerful muscles as I run my hand down their body. I feel myself reach for a hind foot just as a tail swish catches me across the face and I chuckle. The horses usually willingly lift their hoof to my hand so I might clean it out and check for debris  or fungus. I feel their hot breath against my ear as one of them, usually Mister, blows on the top of my head while listening to my heartaches as I curl up in the corner of his stall, tears run down my cheek  unchecked, because he is a safe and willing listener. And I once again, feel my heart swell with gratitude when I throw my arms around one of their long, powerful necks for a mighty hug, amazed that I fought for and got to live the life I had longed for since I was a child. Yeah, these are the memories I cherish and hope no matter how old I become, I never forget.

1ST YR GREEN HUNTER OVER FENCES-BEARPAW'S ROSE-OWNED BY SWEETWATER RANCH

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Angel in a Fur Coat and a Lot of Changes





As often happens, my remission of the last blog was short lived, but that doesn't mean good things didn't happen still. One of the many things I am excited about is that The Heathen has finally decided it is ok to ride on the quad with me, which enlarged our world quite a bit. We've made a few short trips on it, and one on horseback and he's doing nicely.

Having a phone I can use for the first time in 10 years is pretty exciting, although most of the use goes to playing scrabble.

Either the disease itself or the meds make me extremely forgetful and absentminded. I finally had to submit all of my prescriptions to a company that packages them together in 2 daily doses for me, labeled with the date and time they are to be taken. You would think that would solve my problem. Well, not exactly. Especially when I am feeling my worst. I might wake up, grab a cup of coffee and my pills, only to find out that it's Friday and the last time I took my meds was Tuesday. No matter where I put them, I forget. By the coffee pot seemed like a good idea, but I don't drink coffee everyday and I don't drink it at night. The dinner table seemed like the next best thing. Nope. We usually eat in front of the tv these days. Finally, TheMan suggested I train Heath to bring me my pills at the appointed times. It was easily done. The best time for me to take them is before I get up. That way I can't get sidetracked, so I set an alarm for the morning and taught him that when that particular alarm rang, he was to bring me my bag with the pills in it. It took him about 2 days to start doing it on his own. I then forgot to set the alarm, but no problem. Heath has an internal alarm, it seems, so he brings me my meds automatically at 7:45 both am and pm. If I need painpills or something else in the meantime, I need only ask him to bring them to me.  The bag is kept on a trunk that serves as a coffee table in front of the couches where I sleep. He always returns it to the same place, but woe to me, if I put ANYTHING else on that end of the trunk. ie: magazine, book, hairbrush...  It makes for a very disgusted sheppie who huffs loudly and throws my med pack into his toy basket with maximum volume then proceeds to glare at me accusingly. I'm learning. He even brought them to me when we stayed at a motel when we got snowed in in town...
THAT was a great trip!
We went to town the night before we needed to, because a big storm was expected and I didn't want to be driving 4 hours on desolate icy roads.
Got breakfast and went to a farm store and still had some time left so we went looking for the car dealership. Of course, we hit an icy spot and the truck went into a spin and we wound up going off the road into a field, just missing some big old pipes that came up out of the ground. Yeah, I'm ready to get my own 4 WD. TheMan doesn't like putting the truck in 4WD, because it will "wear it out". My argument of "wearing it out is better than totaling it and killing us" doesn't seem to stick with him.
 Heath  has given me back enough independence to get my license back, now I need something to drive so I can get myself to town and maybe take some road trips. It won't be til spring but I am really looking forward to it. It was snowing heavily when we were at the car lot and Heath really liked the little golf cart with the roof and windshield. I think he would prefer I replace our 4 wheeler with one of those, if he had his say. I test drove a used Jeep SUV, but didn't like it that much. Then we saw another one I LOVED, but decided it wouldn't be right to drag a vehicle that nice home to live on a ranch where dogs will jump on it, and it will live in the wind and dust with rocks banging off the bottom and the windshield as we drive down the 50 mile gavel road. I told them if they got one like it that looked like an old rust bucket, with the interior of the car I liked, consider it sold.
The Heathen had to wear his boots, because of the salt on the sidewalks and EVERYONE had to comment on them. TheMan and I could have been standing stark naked and no one would have noticed because they were fascinated that a Service Dog wears boots. Too funny.

As we left the dealership, the snow was getting pretty deep. We drove down a back street where the dogs could get out to pee and noticed a little delivery type car off the side of the road at the end of the street. People were driving by it from both directions. I asked TheMan to make sure they didn't need help. He said they didn't. I asked him again to just check, especially when we got close enough to see it was a young girl. We got out and hobbled over in the snow and sure 'nuff she was stuck. The vehicle was light enough that with both of us pushing, and her driving we got her up to where she had traction and she drove away. I laughed when I considered an "old" guy and a handicapped lady pushed her car out of the snow...sometimes it just takes a little help.

The first  night we stayed in a place that had a hot tub in the room. It was a nice place, but no chair so I was hurting pretty bad by morning from laying down all night. The worst part is that Scottie, TheMan's dog was also with us. Scottie is a dog that doesn't listen to anyone and barely listens to TheMan.  He's a snide little feller who does what he pleases when he pleases, much to my consternation. Well,  Heath woke me up early because Scottie had to pee. Now, TheMan has an ugly little habit of having to shower every morning before he gets dressed. He has a routine that is absolutely inflexible. So while he showered, did his hair, put on his makeup, picked out his outfit for the day and got prettied up, I had to drag both dogs to the elevator that neither one of them liked, with nothing on Heath, not even a collar, and my lash wrapped around Scotties neck, to take them outside in the snow, to pee. I was unable to bend far enough to get my boots on because of the pain so I was barefooted. Scottie did all in his power to pull me to the left so he could pee on the Christmas tree in the lobby, while I  directed both dogs to the exit. Walking over the icy sidewalk to the empty lot next door, I let go of the leash so they could do their business...just then an old gentleman walked around the back corner of the hotel with his cane. Scottie took off after him, barking and growling (he can be a nasty, unsociable little creature) and Heath followed wagging his tail with every intent to jump on the guy with an enthusiastic greeting....all on the ice. Thankfully I had on my shepherds whistle and with a blast on it and a "GET BACK HERE, NOW!!!" both dogs changed their direction and came back to me. I informed TheMan, that from this point forward, he will be responsible for taking care of his OWN dogs needs.

We were still snowed in town so we stayed a a less pricey hotel the next night, which was the Holiday Inn in Boise, which I highly recommend. The rooms are great, the staff is friendly and helpful and the breakfasts are pretty good too. Heath made an impression, as he still had to go everywhere "naked" due to our needing his leash to control Scottie. He wiped his feet each time we came in through the front door, and stayed by my side perfectly. I could not have been more pleased. The staff all got to know him and he felt like quite the star. I was so impressed by his perfect behavior when I had no controls over him. He was absolutely Mister Manners, until we would get back to the room, where he would become super silly, racing around, grabbing my pantleg, jumping on the bed to maul me with kisses and generally just spill over with joy and enthusiasm. It made for a great trip. For someone who is such a homebody I never wanted to leave, even to go to town and go shopping every 3 months, Heath has brought me to a point where I am really looking forward to getting my own car and going on road trips with him. It's an important move for me, because the auto-immune has gotten increasingly worse again, and depression is getting harder and harder to fight, being stuck inside a house along all day everyday. This will be a real game changer.

So for now, I stay home and we enjoy the company of our overly affectionate dogs.

100+ lb Bruno steals Heath's favorite spot while he's not looking...








Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Day in the Big City





The Heathen put in two pretty tough days. A day to mark the calendar, Heath and I drove all the way into Burns, two hours away, by ourselves. We spent the whole day doing things and he grew a pretty big fan club. He's a pretty special guy. The following day, TheMan drove us to Boise to pick up Thanksgiving supplies, etc. and celebrate his birthday with a dinner out. Believe it or not, the life of a service dog is hard work. Mostly mental, because they have to spend all day exercising impulse control. When Heath slides underneath the table at the Mexican restaurant where we had dinner…he lays there smelling the fajitas and all the wonderful stuff he doesn't get to have (Until after because I always save a bit for him) and he’s hungry because he missed his normal dinner time at home. He's mentally always alert to me, and how I am feeling in case he needs to help out. Anyway, day 2 we drove 4 hours into Boise, headed to the Boot Barn to get TheMan some new boots. Just as we were crossing the road to the sidewalk, a very loud !!BOOM!! occurred at the construction close by, which sent Heath into a panic. He’s very sensitive to sound. He spun around on his leash trying to decide which way to run, shaking and eyes wide. We managed him on up to the sidewalk and tried to calm him, but he was really scared. I pulled him into the boot store which had double entrance doors so we waited in the first entry to calm him down. He settled between my legs as I talked to him and when he was able to manage a treat, we went into the store. He recovered completely by then, which was surprising. After a bit, I even took him back outside. He was cautious as we stepped out, but as nothing was going on, he relaxed and just let it go. He’s going to be a great dog.

He did really well ignoring people reaching out to him and talking to him for the most part. I think that is the hardest thing for him, because he LOVES meeting people. Everyone is his friend. He received many compliments on his behavior and his looks. We had lunch at Shari’s and everyone was surprised when we left, that a dog had been there. No one was upset, they were just impressed because he was so quiet and invisible.

Next we went to visit a good friend with 2 scotties. For some reason, they intimidated Heath and he didn’t want to go in the house. We went anyway and took his vest off so he could play, but he was very subdued. The female got snappy with him and that seemed to take all the joy out of him. We had a good time though, visiting, as we had not seen her for several years. She said that everytime she has to take something to the hospital, she always checks to see if i am on one of the wards. Ha. Ha. Costco was next on the list. He did great, although they had no scooter for me so I had to tough it out on foot. I haven’t yet the stamina and strength in my legs and back to walk that much so it was a challenge. Again, he was great. I have a new phone. I should say, I have A phone. There is a phone that was somewhere in the truck that I never used, and couldn't hear anything on. So this is really the first phone I have had in 6 years. It’s an Iphone. Nothing like what I’ve ever had before and I don't know how to use it. I did manage to get a ring tone assigned to TheMan (that I really like, as it sings “It’s your hussssband” and Pharrells “Happy” for other calls. I figured I could hear and recognize those easier than most, since I am losing my hearing. They are pretty distinct. All day it would begin to sing “Happy” but I could not figure out how to answer the phone!! Before entering the store, I stopped Heath at a couple of bushes and poles to pee as he is at that age of males marking territory and I like to be sure his tanks are empty before entering any businesses. He did so and I praised him. We slowly made it through to the back of the store, shopping, avoiding the crowd, and swearing at the ringing phone that I couldn’t answer. After all, who the heck even has my number??? It’s not like I told everybody. While fidgeting with the phone I made a mistake of stopping the cart right next to a big red pillar on Heath’s side. I glanced down and recognized the look on his face and cried “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” just as he lifted his leg. Mortified, because I never yell at him, he bounced back behind me wondering just what was wrong. Luckily for us, that was where the Clorox disinfectant wipes were for sale so we grabbed some, wiped up the dribbles and carried on. I apologized to Heath because it really was my fault. At the checkout they asked if we wanted a different on since the package was open. I hated explaining that.  A man came up and started this long, unwanted conversation with me about service dogs, and his aussies and yada yada ad nauseam. He finally ran out of breath and we continued. I was exhausted, Heath was burned out, TheMan was fresh as a daisy as always. We got through the register, everyone mentioning Heath and complimenting him and wanting to pet him, while I explained if I let them that he would take advantage and mug everyone he sees for attention after that.  As we stepped up to the check writing spot, I could tell he remembered 3 months ago when the guy was throwing boxes at his face, and he was uncomfortable there, so we stepped around to the end and he was fine.



After dinner we headed to Harbor Freight. My head had felt like it was in a fog for a good part of the day and TheMan was laughing at me because I was having trouble talking right during dinner, messing up words and such, putting salt in my ice tea instead of sugar and just basically being…odd. I was concerned, but he didn’t seem to be, and with Heath at my side the anxiety diminished. As TheMan skipped around Harbor Freight, wishing and window shopping and envying and coveting, Heath and I just cruised around to see if there was anything worthy of attention. I suddenly felt very weak and not very good so I sank down against a wall and Heath laid down beside me. He laid across my lap and watched people go by. He was simply fascinated by all of them, but never tried to move from his spot. I was pretty much used up. We had one more store to go. Once I was able to stand again, we went out to sit in the truck.


Onward to Winco we went. I got a scooter there and for awhile, Heath sat on the floor of it between my legs and rode along. Riding or walking he was a star. He always gets noticed. One man stopped me and wanted to know what breed he was and why I choose him for a service dog. The phone kept ringing. I kept failing to figure out how to answer it. Finally, in the payout line we were standing next to a group of very cute hispanic teenage girls. Heath was dying because he LOVES kids and he especially LOVES GIRLS. The phone rang again and I completely lost control. I handed it to one of the girls and said “Please, answer this! I don’t know how!” I was surrounded by peals of laughter and at that point, Heath lost control. He leapt up and began kissing girls (I’m quite sure Donald Trump will get the blame for this) and they giggled and hugged him and failed to answer my phone, but one girl tried to explain to me how to do it and said she always has to show her grandma how to work hers. Once we were reinstalled in the pickup truck, I played with the phone enough to find that no one was calling me, but the ringtone had been accidentally assigned to incoming email. GADZOOKS!! I think I fixed it. Now I just have to give someone my phone number so they can call and I can see if I can answer it or not. It always works when TheMan calls and that’s all that really matters.

So goes another shopping day. I’m glad we only do this once every  3 months…usually.

I awoke this morning with Heath sleeping on top of me, in the chair, keeping me warm. The medication alarm had gone off at 4 am because I forgot to reset it. He brought my pills and they sat next to me as I went back to sleep. A few hours of unloading groceries, then I am planning on a long winters nap.

 #GoodBoyHeath

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Soaking Up the Son-Shine




"Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life" Prov. 13:12

It’s been an incredible week. After my first real ride in years, during which, yes, I got sick, and yes the next day was painful, I recovered quickly enough to go out again the 2nd day after. It was just a short ride, maybe an 1 1/2 hours, walking through the cattle in a few different fields to check on them and find a calf that had seemingly been abandoned the night before but luckily it had mothered up to another cow. It was far less demanding on me and I felt fine when we got back in. I have vowed to ride every other day until I am strong enough to ride daily and still do my chores. Right now, I can only manage riding a few hours then I am pretty much used up and at my limit, so I try to make up for it the following day, making dinner and cleaning up the house. The activity is reaping so many rewards, that even I, who am well aware of the mechanics and benefits of Equine Assisted Therapy am amazed. After just the initial two rides, I was able to force myself up early Saturday morning, walk not just to our corral, which has long been a challenge due to my weakness, but all the way to the corral behind the big ranch barn. I caught up my horse and led him all the way back. I was, of course, accompanied by my two giant Maremma Livestock Guardian Dogs who recently figured out their radio fence was no longer working, after 6 months of it being turned off. They worry about me. In fact, I have such a history, it seems that EVERYONE worries about me.





I knew the cowboys planned to be on the way by 8 am and TheMan, who had been putting my shoes and spurs on for me as I haven’t the flexibility to reach my feet, and was also saddling my horse as I cannot lift the heavy saddle, was still in bed with his back hurting. I had managed to get my shoes and spurs on myself which was a pretty big deal for me, and with a mighty grunt, determination and  a slight injury to the muscle in my right arm, I got the saddle up. I locked the dogs in the yard with Heath, because I knew they would insist on going with me and that cannot be allowed to happen. One of the cowboys was kind enough to tighten my cinch, which is still beyond me, and we headed off. We gathered a huge field of weaned calves so they could get a head count. I, of course, didn’t work as hard and wasn’t nearly as effective as the other two, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. I got my big bunch up in the corner and held them while they brought the rest of the field up and it took about 4 hours all total to do their thing. (There were close to 1300 spring calves). It was noon, cold and windy and I only had on a long sleeved shirt, and during the gather my little package with my pain pill in it fell to the ground where I looked and considered, that getting down to pick it back up would mean about a 2 mile walk on foot to get back on my horse again. I chose to sacrifice it.

At noon, we had put all the calves back into the field and had pushed them up to the feed bunks where TheMan was preparing to bring the big truck of their medicated feed. There wasn’t much else to do, so I excused myself and went back to the house for a drink. I was debating whether or not to go back out and help move pairs, as they had a full day of riding to do, or if I should start training Heath how to behave around horses. I chose the latter, as I hate leaving him home, and so does he. The problem is, he is very bonded to me and has never seen me horseback. The first time I got on Wimpy, it upset him and he was barking and jumping at us and getting underfoot. I was worried he would get one or both of us hurt, and I can’t afford either.

When I got to the yard, Heath was waiting for me at the gate and he held me there for several minutes while he jumped up to kiss my face and wiggle and make his little grateful and yet chiding whiney sounds at me, to let me know how sincerely wounded he was to be left behind. He became the obvious choice.

I had put some thought into how I was going to handle him, and decided to also kick it around with his breeder who is a professional dog trainer and always has wonderful input on how to help Heath to reach our goals. With a pocket full of dog treats we headed out to where I had my horse tied up. Heath was jumping, running ahead of me, sniffing and wandering and doing his own thing. He ran across the big corral, excited to be out loose and went under the fence to peek in the barn. One of the cowdogs lives there and isn’t especially fond of pups or other dogs in “his” territory. I was happy to see Heath take the hint and slowly back away with his tail wagging and his head turned away in a kind of submissive posture. It shows he is thinking and not acting like a testosterone crazed dipwad who loves a challenge. I prefer a dog who tries to get along. He seems to be that dog.

I called him as I got my horse up alongside the mounting block I required, but as I stepped up, Heath once again, walked under the horse and was just kinda being clueless. I had already spent some time teaching him tricks like “get behind” using arm signals so he knew what that meant and just needed to apply it to riding. I gave the signal and told him to get behind and tossed a treat behind the horse as we rode away. Heath scarfed it up then went to run past me and again, I repeated the action Each time Heath got his treat then headed past me to explore and I repeated the command. It didn’t take but a couple of minutes for him to realize, if he didn’t stay behind my horse, he was likely to miss some treats. We rode for about 20 minutes up and down the long lane toward the pastures and he placed himself perfectly behind me at a walk and trot as I occasionally praised him and tossed a treat behind me. Then we did a few sit-stays and down-stays while I rode away from him. He did a fantastic job. It felt so good to have my partner with me and to have him actually complying and still having a great time. We have a little more work to do, to be a bit more solid, as he needs to be able to perform this well with the distraction of other horses, dogs and cattle around him, but I am really looking forward to the day he can go with me for every ride.





And that dark cloud that had enveloped me for months, dragging me down and making me feel hopeless? It has disappeared completely, the Son has come out to shine on my life and I am looking forward to getting stronger and healthier in spite of my disease, and riding every possible day that I can. Hope is back.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

A Fork in the Road




It’s October now and we are on the far side of a great week with the kids. There was a lot of deer hunting going on (though nothing was harvested by us) a great deal of rabbit meat was processed, thanks to my son and the ranch owner’s eldest.



My big brother came up and the girls  had a fantastic time falling in love with Uncle Bob. They ran around on his 4 person ATV, and played in the Octopus tree, where Bruno and Mr Potamus kept watch over the girls. Heath ran some sheep around until I decided they'd had enough of him.



Bella, the girls' English Mastiff met Copper, the couch bunny


and yes, one day Bruno and Mr Potamus came in to visit and we had 230 lb of Maremma, 100+ lb of Mastiff and close to 100 lb of sheppies, for a grand total of about 450 Lb of dogs in our little house. There wasn't much room to move, but there are also no crumbs on the floor.

 


Kinley flirts with the cowboy driving the tractor while they skin a deer

Just too much cuteness!!!
 
We did some family target practice with my son refreshing my gunmanship, which was never all that much. I was good with a rifle in my younger days but not so much with a handgun, so it was nice to get more familiar with my Glock. We all had a good time, I totally enjoyed shooting both my own gun, my son’s and my brother’s AR rifle (which is not the demon the media and politicians would like you to believe), which is a very fun gun to shoot. Even the 8 and 5 year old girls got to shoot it, as it is designed to have very, very little recoil and is a dandy gun for women, or elderly people or someone like me, that fit both groups with severe RA problems to boot.


"It IS a fun rifle to shoot!"

The girls get their turn and more instruction from their father. They are both growing up knowing the dangers of, and gun safety.


I spent the rest of the week pretty sick, and trying to avoid everyone so they didn’t catch it, and now they have all gone back to their own state and are home snug and safe.

So here I am again, faced with the same dilemma that has been eating away at me for the past several years, only now has become intolerable.

My illness has left me with chronic pain and extreme weakness. It’s a deadly duo for the life I have always lived. I was always a bit of a type A and energy charged individual and spent my life, training horses and riders, raising my kids, improving my home and landscaping my yard. We went snow skiing, water-skiing and scuba diving, among other things. Moving to the Alvord ranch in 2007 was exciting for me, as it was everything I had dreamed of doing. Being able to get up early each morning to saddle my horse, learn new skills, work cattle, and for once in my life, not be alone. As a youth, I dropped out of school early as I couldn’t deal with the boredom of the classroom and the “mean girls” at school. Instead I went and got my GED with no effort but never had cause to use it. I spent my middle years alone, mucking stalls, feeding and training horses in the barn at my house while the kids were in school, seeing people only during their lessons, or competing with their horses. It was a lonely, but busy existence and I didn’t mind too much, but now, a whole new world was opening up and the chance to learn the skills I had always been attracted to, but never had the opportunity to learn, such as cutting, and reining. I had gotten ill and developed multiple auto-immune issues a few  years before we moved here but it had only slowed me down at that point.

Once we moved in, I found that my strength and balance had both been badly affected and my reflexes had all but vanished. I struggled to mount a large thoroughbred type horse the boss had loaned me for the summer, not realizing I was losing the strength in my arms and my quad muscles rapidly. It got harder and harder to mount and deal with his deeply ingrained bad manners so I purchased a green horse that seemed more suitable  and in short order got both my collar bone and shoulder broken. After a painful surgery and an 11 month recovery it was beyond my ability to deal with him as he was quite spooky and silly. He had also been injured when I broke my shoulder and never went sound again so we had to put him down. I then purchased a mare from a client I had trained many, many horses for, and unfortunately, after not riding for a year, my balance, strength and reflexes were compromised even more than before.. She bucked me off on a frozen morning into a pile of rocks and broke my ribs, puncturing a lung. After an emergency surgery I was laid up another year. By this time, I had very little left to work with. I purchased an old cowhorse from the current ranch cowboss and  he faithfully carried me around for a year as I began to regain some strength. That’s when the rheumatoid disease completely destroyed my left  knee and it was too painful to walk or put weight on it anymore so a total knee replacement was in order. Another season was lost. I fought my way back to regain strength and skills as I was ablle, riding Wimpy as much as possible, but was finding myself having greater balance challenges as well as weakness and extreme fatigue. My right knee also began hurting immediately and it had to be replaced as well.

As I lost the ability to stay horseback all day, I forced myself to learn new skills. I bought my first Jersey cow and learned to make butter, sour cream, cream cheese, yogurts, mozzarella and other dairy products. I was constantly cooking, making ice creams with 16 fresh egg yolks and heavy cream, baking all of our breads, canning and using the bounty of the garden I put in. I took up soap making and developed some lotions that I began selling on the internet. I raised sheep, had two Maremma Livestock Guardian Dogs that kept them all safe along with my couple of goats and flock of free range hens. Each day, hoping to get stronger, waiting to ride again. I went to a couple of branding but didn’t have the stamina to help long. Still, it fed my soul, even for that little bit.

Over the next couple of years, cowboys or someone would let me know if they were going to do some light riding that I could manage, but I couldn’t even manage that.

So now, that the inflammation has invaded my wrists, hands and ankles, and my back and core muscles are incredibly weak from being sedentary so much of my life, milking, cooking, feeding stock, making soap have all become difficult for me to do. Where being alone all day never really mattered because I stayed busy, now loneliness is a constant and fearsome enemy which has given way to deep depression. I have battled it unsuccessfully for months. Actually, close to a year, but the intensity of the past few months made it feel as though my life was over and everything was dark. Even the few really important things such as my husband,  seeing my family, or life with Heath were unable to diminish it.

Drugs are ineffective and with no friends to visit, being unable to hear and talk on the phone, too far from town to try the aid of a psychologist or a physical therapist, there has been no way to release some of the emotional pain. Letting off small amounts of the pressure online, but unable to express myself fully, and not wanting to burden or alarm anyone, my life began to resemble a black hole. Most of my days spent reclined on the same chair I have to sleep in because of the chronic pain, waking up alone because TheMan has to go to work before I wake up and isn’t really back until  dark or shortly after, with only my wonderful dog as companion, I was caught in a downward spiral and losing my grip. I almost never step outside our front door as I can’t make it up the road to visit the boss’ wife and I feel uncomfortable around people anymore, almost to the point of feeling panicky. I have never been an outgoing person, but I knew I was in trouble when I was desperately lonely, but did not want to seek out any kind of company. It's bad, for someone who has spent her life loving the outdoors to spend months at a time without stepping outside.

I’ve prayed for many long years for relief, but now I was in such a bad frame of mind and my health so compromised that it alarmed me. I felt an urging one recent afternoon and even though I have only been horseback about 3 times in the past several years, I asked one of the cowboys who happened to stop by to talk to TheMan if he could catch my bay horse for me and stuff him in the empty corral. He generously agreed and I spent the night praying that the next day would bring change and be a turning point in my life. TheMan agreed to saddle my horse for me at noon as I can no longer lift a saddle. I hoped that I could just take a short ride somewhere with Heath, and that maybe trying to do that a few days a week, it would help me some.

I was saddled up, ready to go but Heath was not behaving safely, having never seen me on top of a horse before. I was afraid he’d get himself hurt. In addition, Wimpy, my gentlest and most trustworthy horse was being belligerent and my balance was so bad I actually had to grab my saddle horn to feel semi secure at an inconsistent walk. My heart fell, then I asked TheMan to call and see if one of the guys might be doing some slow work that afternoon, where I could follow along, and not be alone. I had to quit riding with everyone else years ago because they usually long trot for miles to get to where they have to work cattle, even after trailering as close as possible, then having to dismount to open gates along the way because the ranch is so large. I was unable to keep up with them and could not, in good conscience slow down these hardworking riders who work so hard for such long hours everyday.

As it turned out, one of the cowboys WAS going to be riding out to separate a few pairs that afternoon. He said I was welcome to come along. I loaded Wimp in the horse trailer and followed him in our truck so if it got to be too much for me, I could make it back without inconveniencing him.

We went about 3 miles down the road to the processing corrals. I got Wimpy out of the trailer and was struggling to tighten his cinch as my hands were too weak and it hurt so much to try and pull it through. Sambo (the days cowboss, and an old friend of the boss) asked if I needed help. I admitted that I did, hoping it wasn’t going to be a portent of how I managed the rest of the ride. He was very kind and even remembered my name. I had met his wife briefly a couple of days before as we were heading out to town and she also struck me as a really nice person. (Most people, even really nice ones, make me nervous, even a lot of people I know) As we headed down a fenceline, he asked if I could trot along okay. What most people might not realize, is that long trotting in a stock saddle is HARD work as you are behind the horses’ motion and of course you won’t be doing it on level, spongy ground like in an arena, so if you are not in shape, you will be fighting to stay in the middle, keep posting and bear with whatever pains it may cause in various parts of your body. I said yes, and to my surprise, did pretty well all the way down the fenceline. I felt comfortable enough with him to let him know that along with my other “assets” I am very hard of hearing. He laughed and said he is too. I asked about his wife and if she rides with him and gathered that she normally does but had a bad accident and hasn’t ridden for awhile. I am hoping she will and maybe I can develop  a friendship with her.



We went into the big weaning field where pretty much all the cows are, except the fall calves. Sambo made it really easy for me to understand what we were going to do and to follow his directions and I was also able to hear him. I am guessing we rode for about 4 hours or so, gathering the cattle and moving them to the far corner of the pasture which in itself is probably bigger than most ranches. Wimpy and I kind of kept them all bunched up while he drifted out pairs and sent them back across the ditch in the direction we had started from. There were a couple of snarks that tried to cause trouble, but nothing got too out of hand, I never felt stressed that I was doing an inadequate job, it felt amazing to be back on my horse, out on the part of the ranch that I love, among the cattle. I loved watching Sambo work the cows, learning a little bit just by observation. I spent most of the time just thanking God for the experience, for the beauty and perfection of the day, for the patience of the man and the generosity of my husband to have saddled my horse, put on my boots and spurs for me and all, so I could do this. At one point, I couldn’t stop the tears of gratitude, it felt so good.

One can't appreciate the vastness of this ranch without actually being here



This is just a small number of the group which probably spread down the fenceline for a half mile or so, but the easy way out was at my end so Wimpy and I kept the peace here.



He finally decided the herd was getting restless and harder to hold and we’d cut out enough for the day so we started pushing the pairs he’d cut out back across the pasture. I was starting to hurt as my body had reached it’s limit and my pain pill had worn off some time before, so I was just walking along behind the group I had while he trotted off west to grab some that had headed off the wrong way. I got that strange feeling like I was being watched or something was going on. He then told me we needed to hurry up, before the rest of the herd caught us. I looked back and sure enough, they were all heading across the ditch, making tracks our direction. I clinched my jaw against the pain and pushed Wimpy up and we pressed the cattle across the pasture and into the corner. He got there in time to open the gate and push them through. Really, it could have all gone south on us, but we did it ahead of the big group and it all went just right. He asked how I was doing and I told him “okay”. He said “you’re doing great, you are out and about”. I don’t think he knew how very true that statement is. It was a fantastic afternoon, and although I hurt a lot, I was totally relaxed and content. He was easy to ride with and easy going, as most (but not all) cowmen are. He went off looking for his dogs and sent me in the direction of the corrals, where I was anxious to get in my truck as the pain was making me nauseous, but it was still a far piece to go and I didn’t have it in me to go any faster. He caught up and let me through the gate, but had trouble closing it back up as it’s kind of a goofy situation with multiple gates hanging together. At that point, I was really sick and about to fall off, so I dismounted and hung my head behind a fence post. He caught up to me and asked if I had dismounted or fallen. I tried to laugh and told him I’d got off on my own power because I was feeling sickly. He took my horse for me and said he’d bring the truck to me. I retched a few more times then tried to stand up. It wasn’t happening. I laid on the ground, exhausted and in pain, hoping I could get it together before he came around the corner and saw me. I didn't want to alarm him and make him wary of letting me ride again. I finally rolled around and made it to my feet but that was about all I could manage. He pulled up in the truck, I got in on the passenger side and got sick all over again. I convinced him I could drive myself so he didn’t have to come back for the horsetrailer, so he agreed and I took off.
I don’t think I have ever been so at the end of my strength. I barely staggered into the house where a grateful Heath showered me with affection. I put a chair in the shower as I had no strength to stand and washed off, then fell on the bed where I must have stayed for an hour before I recovered enough to get dressed. I spent the night rehydrating, but unable to eat, or get up. I was forced to stay in the chair all the next day with ice, heat, muscle relaxers and pain relievers.

Today is the second day after. I am back up on my feet, managed to clean the kitchen, fold up laundry and do some housework. Tomorrow I think I will be ready to do it all over again.

The turning point I had prayed for has come, and the depression has lifted from me so much, it feels as though I have been pulled out of the rubble from a great earthquake. I have hope, and happiness back in my heart and instead of sitting and waiting for an end, I am making plans for my life. I've located my slicker, long johns and silk scarves I will need for cold winter days. At the top of my list is making sure that of the limited opportunities I am given to spend each day, I spend them wisely and spend more of them on what nurtures me instead of just what I am supposed to do. I’m so grateful for a God and a husband who love me.