Sunday, June 24, 2012

Beauty and the Beasts

This is our little beauty. She is an absolute delight.

I am really excited to report that my son Cody came to see us and brought our 4 year old Abby. After 16 hours on the road, they pulled in at 9:30 at night and little Abby said
 “Grammy, we brung you your horse! ”

 She was very proud of herself, that she had completed this important mission. I was pretty glad too, mostly because I got to see Cody and Abby, but I am very grateful to have Mister back home also. But more than anything, I was so glad to lay eyes on them.

For 3 days, she had not a single toy to play with. For the entire 3 days, she never whined, never cried, just played with the animals and laughed and entertained herself. She is so much like her daddy at that age.

A couple of days before they got her, I was told Abby said she didn't wanna wait and had packed her bags to come visit. That made me smile. Her folks are so good about helping her remember us, as we only see them a few days each year.

The timing was excellent. Our friend and closest neighbor on the ranch had her grandkids visiting at the same time. The highlight of the week for everyone was feeding the critters.

Very early one morning (early for me, as I don't sleep much), I casually went out to the shed to let the 'meaties' out so they could start eating while I had a cup of coffee and finished waking up and Randyman got calf bottles made. I wasn’t back to the house yet, when the kids from ‘next door’ were happily skipping through the gate, ready to feed the animals. 
I was told, they had been up since 6 am, staring through the window waiting to see activity so they could come over. Pretty cute and pretty funny all at once. I did however, let the meaties go hungry a bit longer the next couple of days to make sure I got at least a cup of coffee in, before we started the day.

These were darn cute kids. They were also happy, helpful and polite. They explained to Abby how to hold a calf bottle, as they had helped to feed the night before and already had some know-how. You see, calves have a nasty little tendency to butt the bottle or, if you are unfortunate enough to be a cow, they butt the udder, very, very hard. Randy waited a little too long to explain this to the neighbor herself and the calf she was feeding rammed the bottle into her midsection and just about knocked her off her feet. She was a very good sport and laughed hard about it, but she also made sure to explain this to the kids. Never hold a calf bottle in front of you. Keep it to the side. Abby is still pretty little and hasn’t got the ballast to overcome that kind of behavior so she watched while her daddy held a bottle for her.
The goats were another story. I was SURE Abby would fall in love with little Annie. Not so. Annie is rather insistent on  attention and Abby took exception to her placing her front feet upon her little person, no matter how gently she might have done it. Abby's new friends however, got along great with Annie. Abby remembered EmmaLouMoo and would seek her out daily. She remembered helping to milk her last year.

They all went down to the Octopus tree, where the bigger kids climbed the tree with Annie, played tag, and took turns being Abby’s “horse”. I missed this particular field trip, but I understand a great time was had by all. Each morning and night, all the kids got together and helped us feed 10 bottle calves, 3 baby goats, milk goats, feed 3 different flocks of chickens and still fit in a game of tag, piggy back rides, playing on the dual purpose cattle chute/monkey bars and the older two even instructed Abby on the finer points of using a small point and shoot camera. There was a ton of laughter and giggling throughout their stay.

Cider got his share of attention too, as they accommodated him by throwing his ball, until his get up and go, did...leaving him panting helplessly in my kitchen. 

There was only one low point in Cider's experience. His lower "spa" was finally filled with water, but his ball was resting all alone in the bottom of the empty barrel next to him just out of reach. Truly it was a pity.

There were daily ‘meatie parades’ as the chickens followed the kids and the bottle wagon back and forth across the yard.
Abby had packed the dress I made her on my treadle. I was told a day or two before they were supposed to leave that she said she didn’t want to wait, she wanted to go to Grammy’s and had packed her bags already. What a perfect child she is.

One of the more interesting events, to my way of thinking, was the day the boss had about 20 new cows put into the back pasture where the sheep and goats live. EmmaLou and her two bovine friends reside there as well, and the Maremmas are in charge of security. These cows had been there all night and day and it was no problem, the dogs never objected to their presence. 
But this particular afternoon, the kids wanted to go to the Octopus tree again. Bruno observed them from up above until they got closer to the new herd than he felt was prudent and he jetted across the pasture at top Maremma speed. Next thing we knew, he had run all of those cows into the corner of the pasture and wouldn’t let them move. Now mind you, Maremmas are NOT herding dogs. He was in full protection mode and made it pretty clear to these poor clueless cows, that it would be a terrible mistake to go ANYWHERE close to where the kids were playing. In fact, if they moved out of the corner, they may have a future as handbags. Once that was settled, he slowly came back to me (I of course had been trying to get him to come back, to no avail, since he first took off. He is an LGD...not gonna happen if he thinks the cows are a hazard.)
BTW, he had no problem with EmmaLou and her 2 friends being around, as they are HIS cows and I guess not likely to cause any mischief. He does, however place himself between myself and the cows frequently. Cletus does this as well. 
It's a lot like putting yourself on the streetside of your child while walking down the sidewalk.
I was pretty impressed that Bruno would automatically protect kids he didn’t own or know. He just did it because they were little kids and needed protecting.
He placed himself where he could watch the kids without ever losing sight of the herd he had relocated. BTW, Maremmas don't play with humans. They like a good hug or petting now and then, but are content to just observe and keep vigilance. The idea of fetching a ball or stick, or playing tag with people just never occurs to them. They are hardwired to serve.

Cletus is still out on 'disability'. He doesn't feel ready to go back to work yet. Personally I think he is making more of the situation than it really merits, especially after coming around the corner of the house to find this.

Meanwhile, the boy representative of the three kids , played tag with Annie all around a wallow. He’d shake a stick at her then turn and run, she would jump up and go in pursuit. Then they would switch places. It was pretty entertaining to watch. 
I was moving too slowly to catch up with everyone a good part of the time, but I could hear and see they were having a great time.
Everyone has headed home now, after only 3 days. It is much too quiet here, but I am probably better off, moving at my own slow and steady pace again, as a lot of the work fell on Randyman this week.

Mister and I caught up on old times and he seems to remember me.
It was a great three days. I am looking forward to more of them, and two weeks from now, will bring more visitors. It’s gonna be a fabulous summer. I will have to settle for pictures and email stories of my little angel, my wonderful son and his beautiful wife and baby Kinley.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Patients and Patience

Mr Potamus had a foxtail in his foot. Also known as cheat grass. Nasty stuff that grows barbed heads and works its way thru the skin of their feet, ears, eyes and mat up in their coats. Because they are barbed and pointed, they only travel one direction, so when it penetrates and gets inside a dogs body, it spells trouble. Sometimes it will travel into a joint, or even into more delicate places. Other times it might just abcess and be flushed out. Two years in a row Cletapotamus has had his ear drums ruptured by an errant foxtail. I was trying so hard to keep him out of those pastures this year, but its pretty much all over. This year it was in his foot. It swelled up real bad and was very painful. He wouldn’t let me touch it, or soak it, or do anything at all to help him. 

Lucky for us, the vet was at the ranch doing trich tests on the bulls, so he was able to help Mr Potamus. We had no muzzle, but he did have sedative.
He gave Mr Potamus the lightest dose and it worked very nicely.
He was able to open up the entry hole further and after an hour of sticking and probing, got most, if not all of the offensive seedhead out of Cletus' foot. It was working its way into his wrist joint, so we were lucky to get it when we did.
Mr Potamus was totally apathetic. A few people came to watch. My friend from ‘next door’ decided to have a seat and do a little needed grooming and cut the mats out of Cletus’ “pants”. Since I can't get down and back up again too well anymore, his grooming has been pretty much non existent.  He doesn’t much like being brushed anyway, so this was a great opportunity.
He finally woke up, a little sore. After 5 days of tricking him into taking his medicine, he is feeling a lot better, although he is still a bit dramatic.

The meatie chickens got big enough to move out of the milk shed, so they have been residing in the back yard and sleeping in the goatshed at night, as the goats are all out in the pasture with Bruno and the sheep. They have voracious appetites and are growing quickly. There are frequent meatie invasions everytime we head out to feed the calves. They are enjoying their stay here, at least.

My son Cody, is bringing Abby up for a short visit. He is also hauling a horse trailer with my old Paint Horse in it. I haven't seen the horse for 6 years, so it will be good to have him home. It's a long, long drive and I have been anxious about them, so naturally, they left at 5 a.m. to get an early start, then wound up with 2 flat tires on the horsetrailer which put them hours behind schedule on what is already a 13-15 hour drive depending on how things go. Abby is 4 so it is going to be a hard day for her, being confined to a vehicle, hard on her Daddy, who is driving, and hard on old Mister who hasn't been on a really long haul in his life. I'm petitioning heaven for things to go smoothly the rest of the day.

Meantime, while I wait anxiously,  I grind some Hard White Wheat we found at Costco. I was SO excited! Randy loves white bread and the Hard White is much milder than the Hard Red so I was really glad to be able to try it. I have it soaking overnight in some yogurt to make bread with, and tonite I will soak more for waffles in the morning, unless  Cody wants eggs benedict instead.
I have lamb marinating for shishkebabs tomorrow and have broccolli and chicken cooked up for tonite's casserole, which is one Cody used to request when he lived at home. I hope Abby likes it too. I have a feeling however, they are going to arrive much too late for dinner. 

They got here after 16 hours of driving. It was after 9:00 pm and Abby was as sweet as sugar, in spite of the long trip and the late hour. She reminds me so much of her daddy. I was surprised to see how big Abby had gotten and how small Mister was! I remembered he was not a big horse, but somehow in my mind, he had grown. He looks young, however, is in very good shape, has low mileage  and I think he has years of service yet to give me. I do grieve the 6 years he was gone, but I know he had a purpose in the life of the young girl I had given him to.

It was great to be  back on a horse I had trained myself, as he is the last one. He had forgotten a great deal in 6 years, but after a bit of riding, it was beginning to come back to him. I am looking forward to this summer. He made me feel as though I had found myself again.

Hopefully, Abby can take her second ride on him tomorrow, because the rest of the week is all about enjoying her and her dad. Sometimes I can't believe how blessed I am.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Dog's Life

Whoever said “It’s a dog’s life” didn’t know Cider. His enthusiasm for all things gets him in a heap of trouble sometimes. Baby animals are there to be licked, loved on and flea bitten until they fall over, start screaming or someone comes to their rescue.

 All things able to be carried in a mouth are to be delivered for throwing so the process can be repeated over and over, ad nauseum. If you don't partake, he will give you either the 'magnum stare' or a very sad, pitiful face.

All bodies of water, no matter how big or small, are to be laid in, played in and enjoyed. 

Cider was a Christmas gift from my youngest son and a friend, and has been with me for 10 or 11 years now. He has been my therapy against the devastating condition of empty nest and is the Prince of the house.

He is my 24/7, faithful, constant, bosom buddy. No matter how crabby I am, how scary I look, or how bad I screw up, he still loves me with his whole being.
When he was a pup, I did some clicker training with him. The accompanying book warned to only work a dog about 15 minutes a day, to prevent burnout. Well. Cider didn’t burn out. He has ADHD and all he wanted to do all day was play with the clicker. So he learned to crawl on his belly, turn around in the direction my hand indicates, back up, bring me items I request and put his toys away in the toy basket. Most of this was in 2 days time, as he is very smart for a dumb dog.
I used cheese as a reward. Unfortunately, the day after our incredible sessions, he was really sick. He laid on his pillow refusing to get up. Normally he is at my heels everywhere I go. I suddenly realized I had not vaccinated him yet for that year and I panicked that he might have distemper. The lethargy sure did suggest it. I called the vet whose receptionist said there was NO way he could see him until the following day. I told her it was important, I wanted him in first thing in the morning because he was VERY sick and VERY lethargic, which is NOT like Cider.
The next morning, as I was getting ready to take him to the vet, he drug himself out to the back yard and took a 10 pound poop. He suddenly felt worlds better! That’s when I thought about the cheese...I took him anyway, as he had a chipped tooth I wanted looked at. 
We entered the vets office, Cider’s tail wagging like the rotors on a helicopter, as he skidded around the tile floor. The receptionist checked her chart and with a puzzled look over the counter said,
“He’s lethargic??”
To which I replied,
“You should see him when he's feeling GOOD!”
Live and learn. Now he gets cookies for treats at least half of the time.

He still puts his toys away, and if I ask him to bring me a pillow and blanket to the couch where I am sitting, he will promptly bring me the tv changer, a checkbook, random tools, coins and sometimes a candy wrapper. That is to 'prime me'. Then he chooses which toy he wants me to throw. Once I accept the toy, he brings my pillow and blanket and I throw it for him. Yup. That clicker method is really something. It worked great  on  for me.

Empty nest syndrome is the best way to ruin a perfectly good dog. Cider has his own chair at the dinner table.

 He used to sleep on the bed, until a grumpy Randyman kicked him off, so now he has a bed of his own. 

We wound up buying a crew cab truck so he had his own seat. 

He has a basket of toys. He's very good about sharing them, but he lives in fear of every dog on the ranch stealing and gutting his toys. They are obsessed with taking the stuffing out. Otherwise, they last him years.

His favorites are stuffed animals, but he's not averse to the real thing either.

Which brings to mind the night we slept with the back doors open and he invited a skunk into the house. We even locked his doggy door after that.

Like most Golden Retrievers, he is a great family dog, and loves kids. He's a great babysitter.

Even the Maremma's know Cider is the Prince. They sometimes even pretend to be afraid when he tries to be tough. Most of the time, Cider wants to best Cletus. Cletus is willing to engage him playfully, but Bruno always sneaks up behind and jerks Cletus' legs out from under him, thus protecting Cider without injuring him or his pride.

Cider doesn’t know he is adopted, but he does know he loves water. I had a beautifully landscaped yard when we lived in California. Nothing was sacred. Not the koi pond, not the horse troughs, not mud puddles, not the whiskey barrel waterfall. He thought that had been placed there for his enjoyment, as his own personal spa.

Our surroundings have changed a bit, but not Cider.
He has spent his summers here enjoying his various personalities as the Alvord Alligator, River Rat and Wildly Wet Whiskey Barrel Bad Boy.

Yesterday was the most pitiful thing I have ever seen him do. The waterfall is dry.
Cider climbed in, all ready for a refreshing spa experience but it was still dry. He waited patiently for someone to fill it, to no avail.

He waited patiently.

He was certain help would come.

He tried so hard to believe.

Doesn't ANYONE on this ranch with opposable thumbs have a hose??

As you can see, it’s tough being a dog.

 Good boy Cider.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Deja Vu

Miss Scarlett has gotten rather wide.
Animals have their own way of communicating. Often, they speak with their posture, tails, or facial expressions.
This face says “Does this collar make me look fat?”

Last nite Scarlett’s ligaments were pretty much mush. I knew she was going to have her kids rather soon, so I put her in the goatshed with the camera on, and I stayed up and watched “GoatTV”. She spent a miserable restless night. I catnapped.
This morning, while we were feeding leppies, I heard a pitiful groaning that sounded familiar. I stepped around the corner and sure enough, Scarlett was delivering kid #1.

Bruno and I went in to see if she wanted company, help, or someone to choke.
She was just happy to see #1.
Bruno helped clean him up. It was interesting to see Bruno and Miss Scarlett interact on this offer. He entered and approached her cautiously. She looked at him and he stopped while she thought it over. As soon as she looked back at her kid and began to lick him off, Bruno recognized her acceptance and stepped up to assist.

Once he had been dried and massaged off by the two of them, he ordered breakfast in bed.

Scarlett started back into labor again while Bruno took a nap between contractions. It was not necessary to watch her flanks to see the contractions, I only had to watch her ears stick out. Please note her facial expressions. They are JUST like people!

Her efforts were not in vain. Kid #2 arrived without too much fanfare.

Bruno babysat kid #1 while mama cleaned up kid #2 herself. It's always nice to have someone keep the older ones entertained when you are busy with a newborn. I remember when my Cody was born. There was no one around to do that, but my Matt, who was 2 1/2 was a huge help to me. What great kids I have! 

Kid number 3 came soon after, in a fashion much like that of Glenda, the GoodWitch of the North, in his own little bubble. It's pretty neat. They show up all wrapped up and packaged, albeit a little slimey.

There is just something heavenly about giving birth. It is surely one of God's most winsome acts of creation.

So, the ranch triplets graduated High School this year, Prissy had her triplets the same day. Today Scarlett had triplets on ranchkid #5's  birthday. I told her it was Scarlett's gift to her, but she declined. My friend and neighbor, "D" made it over in time to see #3 born. After we had decided they would all manage without us, we went to the octopus tree to visit the rest. Prissy's little trio has grown a lot in the past 2 weeks and were having a good time. That is how it should be.