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.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Raw Deal




Lately I haven’t been doing much. The title of this blog was originally Range to Range, because I was sick and spending less time out on the ranch riding and helping move cattle to being instead in the kitchen, cooking meals.


homemade fettucini pasta

homegrown chicken

canning

from the garden



homemade pepper jack cheese

butter pats


fresh eggs

fresh milk with heavy cream

ghee

homemade sour cream and butter

making cream cheese

making mozzarella



That went pretty well for a long time as I learned many, many, many new dishes, acquired some wonderful gadgets that made it all worthwhile and thoroughly enjoyed making bread, homemade dairy and cheese, and processing our own meats. I have always missed riding though, I guess that will never go away.




Anyway, as things have progressed, I am now doing less cooking as well. Not to say we have given up completely…I am still hoping and praying for deliverance from this condition, even if it is only in the form of some much needed assistance.
Hopefully, from some folks in particular.








Meanwhile, the biggest change we have gone through lately has been changing Heath (and the other dogs as I am able) over from store bought kibble (which often has recalls and deaths due to bad ingredients usually from China) to raw food. Raising extra chickens, rabbits and an occasional lamb, deer or whatever may become available makes it possible. Heath however is a bit of a critic. (His breeder calls him “the Prince” bahaha) We’ve had to suffer a few fasts until he decided that eating chicken is not beneath him…or duck. Now that he is enjoying his meals with gusto (which he never, ever did on any kind of kibble) I am making his treats as well.

Because originally feeding him chicken parts, such as a drumstick or thigh, he would actually remove the meat and eat only the bones (raw bones are ok for dogs to eat, but never, ever, ever bones that have been cooked or smoked as they will splinter and damage their intestines) we had to buy a heavy duty meat grinder and feed him ground meat, with the bone ground in as well. Rule of thumb, as I understand it, is a raw fed dog needs percentages of meat, bone and organ in order to eat a balanced diet. There is a lot of information on the internet if you need more detail.

The grinder easily grinds up all the chicken, duck and rabbit meat with bones so that problem is solved. Heath doesn’t like liver though. So making use of the food processor and dehydrator, we solved that problem. He loves dried liver treats!! I also dehydrated some of his duck to make treats, so now instead of ordering expensive dog food rolls to cut up and use for training, I can use healthy food for him which is much less expensive and has no additives.
I dried some sweet potatoes for him as well, but Heath is not a fan.

Since we have the grinder, and the grinder came with a sausage stuffing attachment, we decided to pull the 18 lb. pork shoulder out of the freezer and make some sausage. With a “kit” that had all the spices and casings, we made 5 lb of Italian, 5 lb of cheddar bratwurst and 5 lb of brat. It was a little bit of a learning process to stuff the casings, but we nailed it and it all came out pretty well. So well, in fact, that we just purchased a large bucket of casings and plan to make some other sausages from scratch, saving more money and having more flavor. It ought to be fun.

IN between, I keep trying to get stronger, Heath keeps trying to keep me going. He wakes me up daily between 6:30 and 7, by first gently touching his nose to my face, then softly placing a paw on my arm. He waits patiently until I either get up, or turn away from him. He knows if I turn away, I absolutely, positively need more rest and he gives me another hour or so. On the days I am very poor, he stays close enough to always be touching me, sleeping against my legs or alongside me. Other days, he engages me with play, bringing me toys to throw, or tug for him. If that isn't enough, he brings me his treat bucket for either a free treat or a game of “click”.




He is there for me daily, handing me things I drop, or cannot reach on the ground, putting away his own toys, helping with laundry, opening the back door, dragging me a blanket or pillow and various other little things I used to take for granted. He is my only company and companion each long day while TheMan is at work, 7 days a week. I’m not sure I could do without him. We’ve been working lately on getting him to accept riding on the 4 wheeler. Being trapped in a house all the time starts to feel pretty awful, especially when there is so much beauty outside here. Being able to take the 4 wheeler on my better days would be a huge relief but Heath has to agree to ride with me, as he can’t run all the way or we’d never get anywhere. He’s getting there slowly, but surely.

And we keep on….

Sunday, July 24, 2016

A Little Mexi-Can Food

HARD WORKING SHEPPIE


Things have been a little sketchy, but I do what I can, when I can. Heath has been doing a remarkable job as a Service Dog, particularly considering how seldom we go to town, when he has to perform around crowds and in strange places. But he’s been really consistent about being “on” when he has his vest on. He’s getting much more comfortable wearing “boots” which are required when it’s really hot out, as pavement will blister his feet, easily hitting 120 degrees or more on a warm day. He’s even been working for TheMan at home, opening doors for him (and myself, of course) picking up stuff we drop and slowly learning the names of things I need him to bring me when I am not well (blankets, pillow, tv changer, medications). He’s also very attentive and darn good company.

I’ve lately had a hankerin’ for Taco Salads and Burritos and we got a 1/2 beef in the freezer recently, so I canned 10 qts of “Mexi-meat”. I started having the roasts from the front quarter made into stew meat, as I can a lot of it and that way I don’t have to cut it up, or pre cook it. It’s made things a LOT easier. I raw can some of the stew plain, as we heat it up with BBQ sauce for great BBQ Beef Sandwiches. It’s a no-work no-mess meal that way and only takes minutes to prepare. The Mexi-meat, however, is a favorite, adapted from AR’s Charleys Slow Cooker Mexican Meat.

10 qts worth
For canning, I quintupled the recipe. It goes like this:


CANNED MEXI-MEAT

ingredients:

7 packages of stew meat
5 tsp salt
5 tsp pepper
2-3 diced onions
3 cans of diced chilis
5 tsp cayenne pepper
5 tsp chili powder
5 tsp garlic powder
20 oz of Chipotle Tabasco Sauce (purchased in 1/2 gal on Amazon)

Directions:
Dump meat in large roasting pan
sprinkle all ingredients on top, then mix well.
Heat in 250 degree oven until warm enough to put in hot jars.
Prepare canning jars, fill with mixture, splitting juice among the jars.
Place in pressure canner and process for 90 minutes per quart.

This is some great and yummy stuff!!

I’m selling half of the breeder rabbits and their cages to make life a little easier. We have a large grinder ordered to process chicken and rabbit to make food for the dogs and hope that will make things easier as well.

Welp, it's killing me to smell this and not partake, so, we're having burritos for dinner! Bon Appetit!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Family Reunion



 Heath had a family reunion. His mother and littermate brother came to visit. We were a bit concerned about how 2 intact 15 month old males were going to get along with each other (or not) but we were in luck, they remembered one another and got along fabulously. They tussled and wrestled and played constantly. It was great. These dogs are so gorgeous and their personalities so amazing. It was really neat to spend time with others of Heath's breed and see what they are like. Although, not all have the same qualities.

It was also awesome to get to know their people better. I was amazed at how much we all had in common! It turned out to be just a super weekend for everyone involved as all the things we all loved to do were at hand. I even went riding for the first time in 2 years! My horses even got tired for a change. We celebrated with homemade hot fudge sundaes as well (yes, homemade ice cream, homemade hot fudge, homemade whipped cream, only the nuts were purchases and we forgot to get cherries).


Trying to get a family picture of the 3 dogs was fun and amusing. Getting all 3 to sit still and look the same direction at the same time brought more than a few chuckles....


Mama Pixie spies something that needs to be run out of the yard...

Heath-"It's a bird!"  Leif-"It's a plane!" Pixie-"NO! It's a doggy treat!!!"




Much to their mama's dismay, the boys had a fine time being boys...

Look at those fierce expressions...

Leif meets "Cousin IT"



Leif accommodates Heath "There's a bug on me! Get it off! GET IT OFF!!!!"

More fierce doggy play


Heath lets his "derp" out...







the cavvy is in 

 We had to take the 4 wheeler down into the pasture where the horses were and wrangle them up the lane and into the corral by the barn so we could grab Wimpy and saddle him. Mister was already up at the house.



The horses were playing around while we saddled

The Maremmas waited faithfully, watching the corral for our return to make sure I made it back safely. I love these big white dogs!!!


Anyway, it was a fabulous independence weekend. We are grateful for the sacrifice made on our behalf to birth this great nation and pray that it's greatness is soon restored. There is much more to be grateful for in this life and living here is one of them.

Hope you all had  a good weekend and look forward to the rest of your summer!