Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Prayer for Serenity in 2009

Probably everyone has heard or read this prayer. The prayer is one I often use as a mantra when life seems to whirl out of control for me. It helps me realize, truly, I can't control most things but I can choose how to deal with them.

God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It's the little things I appreciate the most...

It's been one week since the thyroid surgery. Last night I was questioning whether it had been a good decision. But, what's done is done. Can't put that thyroid back in!

My neck is stiff. I describe it as how a large wound feels when it's healing. My mind is fuzzy. I find myself confused easily. Ok, I was like that before, but not this bad! My patience is very thin. I won't know how the new synthetic thyroid replacement hormone is working for quite some time.

I think the incision was slightly larger than my surgeon had originally told me it would be. Well, considering he told Hubby, at the post surgery consultation, I had the largest thyroid gland he'd ever removed and he didn't know how I'd been breathing, I guess I should be thankful the thing is gone. Not if my mind is going to remain confused! But, I sure hope my endocrinologist can get this straightened out eventually.

As I thought about how my body started betraying me around age 35, I suddenly decided maybe having that thyroid wasn't so bad.....I mean, my uterus was removed when I was 35. My pancreas died around age 37 (LADA, Type 1 diabetes) and now, my thyroid is gone. I can't help but ponder at what my body is going to do next. I really didn't have second thoughts about the hysterectomy back when I was 35, it had been causing me all kinds of problems while also delivering two beautiful boys, but it's time of torturing me was done. I was ready to part with it and get on with a new life! I'm a cynic and a skeptic when it comes to the medical profession. I trusted my endo when she said the best route was to remove the entire thyroid. Now, I'm questioning my sanity at going along with the treatment.

Ok, enough about that. I'm hoping to lift this fog off my brain. I quit taking the stronger pain meds because I hated how they made me feel. How do people get addicted to that stuff??? I sure don't get it. I hated the way it made me feel and I only took one tablet every 4 hours, not two as directed. I've been taking acetaminophen for the past 24 hours which takes the edge off the pain and stiffness and doesn't make me feel like I'm in the outer limits of space floating away!

Being out of commission for a few days and relying on others to tend to my horses was actually more worrisome than my surgery. I knew Hubby and #2 son would take care of my guys. My concern reminded me of when my sons were little and Hubby and I would leave them with grandparents for a day. I knew they'd be taken care of but it's the "I'm not there in case...." thoughts which I needed to let go of, and eventually did.

My horses survived my short absence, by the way. I appreciated the care Hubby and #2 son gave them while I wasn't able to tend to them. Of course, by day two of being home (I only had an overnight stay in the hospital) after the surgery, I was out there feeding the guys. Probably shouldn't have been, that close to having had surgery, but I made sure I didn't do anything strenuous. Plus, as anyone with horses or animals knows, you just need to see them when you're down! They help you feel better even with all the work involved.

Our weekend was hectic. Saturday, the washer quit working. Sunday, a leak sprung behind the washer. Naturally, as Murphy's Law would have it, I hadn't washed clothes for a week, since the Sunday before my surgery. I hadn't asked Hubby to do it because laundry isn't that big of a deal to me since it's just the two of us. #2 son, still living at home, washes his own clothes. Both sons washed their own clothes since they were in high school because of one long ago incident involving my hard work of washing, drying, folding and placing clean clothes on their beds only to find the clothes pushed to a pile on the floor. From that time on, I told them they were to take care of their own clothing!

One thing for sure, my boys always knew I meant business because I backed up what I said. A while back, before getting married, #1 son was hanging out with some friends. They were teasing him about living at home and having Mom wash his clothes. He informed them that he had been washing his own clothes since he was in high school. Actually, as he was telling me the story, I could see pride in himself at not depending on Mom to wash his clothes and being able to brag about it! Those little things we never think mean much, turn out meaning the most.

Hubby spent his entire weekend working on that washer/leak problem. Bless his heart! He tends to these kinds of emergencies with patience and perseverance, much more than I have. I would have kicked the washer and headed to Lowe's for a new one! But not him! No SIREE!!!! I don't know how he does it but there is very little that man can't fix! And usually fix it better than it was to begin with! He amazes me with his talent for fixing and repairing. Though he's not an engineer by trade, he's actually a chemist, he has an engineering mind that serves us all well.

We had a nice Christmas with our sons and new daughter-in-law. Christmas Eve we opened gifts. I love the horseshoe charm necklace the kids (all three) got me! I had been looking at one just like it in one of the catalogs! They picked the one I liked without even knowing it was the one I had been looking at myself. But the gifts aren't what made the evening memorable. Honestly, I was in a bit of a haze, with that pain med and all, but I remember I had a feeling of oneness and acceptance among all of us. Love that we usually shared among the four of us, now added with a "daughter" who is as lovely as can be. I hope we can forge a bond that I don't have with my own mother-in-law. Not too close, but just close enough that my new daughter-in-law doesn't cringe at the thought of coming to visit, or when we visit them.

The New Year is upon us, though it's just another day, it brings thoughts of newness and beginnings. When looking back, and also looking forward, I know it's always the little things I appreciate the most and often make the biggest impact.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Just stuff on an almost winter day.....

My mind has been taken over by other concerns the past ten days. Horses, unfortunately, are not what that's all about. But, concern for how they'll be cared for next week are.

I know #2 son and Hubby should be able to take care of things, but I like caring for my horses myself. I have a special way of doing it. Don't we all? I suppose for the days following my surgery, I'm going to have to give in and let Bo and Spirit be cared for as the care-takers see fit. I don't expect to be down and out too long.

Even if I write out a long list of duties, which I will, everyone does things in their own way. I have to let go, and just let it be. I'm sure, the horses will survive. It's probably just me that will have the worry. As long as they get their feed and hay, they won't know any difference, except maybe not seeing me for a few days.

I'm having a total thyroidectomy on December 22. Yeah, I know, it's Christmas week, but this all came down later in the year than I originally thought. Over all, the surgery is suppose to be fairly routine. I'll stay overnight at the hospital, be home on the 23rd. Guess that's what I get for putting it off so long. I avoided it all through the summer because of #1 son's wedding. Glad I did because it was off my mind all that time and I was able to enjoy the time leading up to the wedding, the wedding itself and everything involved. I could have gone into next year, but there's the insurance deductible and my doctor suggested I get it done now so I wouldn't have that money going out first thing next year. Well, isn't it just peachy we have to be concerned about our stupid insurance deductibles?

So, I'm having this total thyroidectomy because there are nodules on both lobes of my thyroid gland. I had an ultrasound in September (I'd put off since the doctor suggested it back in June) which led to a FNA, fine needle aspiration, in October. The results of the FNA came back as "abnormal cells, but inconclusive" on the left side. The nodule on the right side showed nothing. The nodule on the left is rather large. Over the years, I'd always been told I had a goiter. My endocrinologist told me the best way to take care of any possibities of cancer, is to remove the total thyroid, since I have nodules on both sides. I met with a surgeon Friday. I told him I wanted it done ASAP because I want it off my mind. So it is written, so it shall be done!

Our weather is turning bad here in Southern Ohio. We usually don't see this kind of ice, snow, sleet and stuff until mid January. Makes me wonder what the winter will really bring us! About 5 years ago we had a horrible ice storm. Our power, telephone and water were out for a week. I didn't have the horses back then. The only thing that concerns me is the water. We do have a well in the back field, but the pump isn't working. I asked Hubby about this, and he said he'd been thinking about how to fix that pump but it just hadn't been on his priority list. May have to add that one.

I'm sure I'll be fine after the surgery. It's just the thoughts up to the day that can drive you crazy if you let it. I'm going to keep busy this week and get things ready for what I normally would have done Christmas week. That should do the trick!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Tarp Lesson

No matter what trainers and clinicians say, in my opinion, you can never completely desensityze your horses to everything they could possibly encounter. It just ain't gonna happen. I think sometimes, the illusion is there that desensityzing takes care of all the spooky objects and sounds that can be encountered. In the real world, there are too many variables.

I have worked on the desensityzing issue with my two geldings ever since I got them four years ago. They've been through the plastic bag lesson. They've had whips smacked beside them. They've been introduced to leaf blowers, motorcycles, gunshots, lawnmowers, tractors, jumping up and down at them and they always come through those "lessons" with flying colors.

Yesterday, I walked around the side of the barn, while they were standing in their stall/corral area, dragging a large tarp I was putting away for the season. You would have thought I was a mountain lion aiming to pounce on them. Good grief!

The funny part, I thought, was that I had been very noisy as I walked, dragging the big green tarp, which was the noisy part, because I knew they were there. They had seen me come outside. They knew I was in the hay building because they can peek around the other side of their enclosure. I'm pretty sure they would have assumed I was getting them some hay.

At any rate, I thought it would be a good lesson for them. I also thought that the sight of me having possession of the tarp would have made a difference in their flight response. Heck no! They both jumped! Spirit ready to fly out of there but then turned, and snorted as I walked up to the gate with tarp in hand. Bo, the ever lazy and not so skittish one, stood in his spot and snorted. So, I took about 15 minutes to let them see the giant green monster was not going to eat me or them.

Finally, after about 10 minutes, they both put their noses on the monster, sniffed around it, nuzzled it and all was right in their world again. This was not the first time they'd seen a tarp, they'd just never seen or heard one like this, I'm guessing. In the past, I had laid a tarp on the ground and had them walking over it. Different situation this time.

Desensityzing to common noises and various spooky objects is great but you have to remember, once again, the whole sensitivity issue comes down to horse personality. You can never cover everything, and some things just come up without warning. Be aware of how your horse reacts, if he's sensitive or has more of a "so what" attitude. Between my two guys, Bo is a laid back, lazy boy. Not much startles him and he is often slow to respond if it does. Spirit, on the other end of the spectrum, has always been more sensitive to sounds and environment. I am aware of their differences.

Loggers have been taking down trees up in the hills across the road from our property. Yesterday was especially noisy. Between the trees booming with thunderous thuds as they hit the ground and the numerous chain saws blaring all day, the horses were a little edgy anyway. They heard all the commotion, but didn't know exactly where it was coming from because the loggers were up on a ridge. Sound echos and travels down here in the valley so most of the sounds were amplified all day long. I think some of that had an affect on why they were so jumpy when I appeared with the noisy tarp. I'm going to drag that tarp out again today, see how they act towards it.

Desensityzing is something that does need to be done, but you have to remember, it can only be accomplished within reason. You have to account for your horse's personality type.

If you're out on a trail, you have to remember how your horse reacts to external stimuli. What he sees or hears one way, one day, he may see or hear in a completely different way the next time, depends on his personal experiences and his personality.

Sometimes, these issues can be very frustrating but keep in mind, horses are animals, and they have a different way of looking at the world. In their minds, they're life depends on their reactions. If it's something they don't know, or haven't experienced, it may kill them. Of course, when you think about it, not much different than as humans, our choices can make or break us every day too, we just have the capacity for reasoning the outcome. We know about the environment. It's out job to translate for them sometimes.

Great book that I'm going to re-read this winter, Animals in Translation by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson. I read it a few years back before I'd had much real life experience with horses. I think I'll get more out of it this time around. Some of the ideas discussed in the book: language is not a requirement for consciousness, animals do have consciousness; the single worst thing you can do to an animal is make it feel afraid, and animals have their own set of skills and animal genius. I've noticed this book is often recommended reading for animal behavior interests.

Horses will surprise you, somewhere, some time, down the road. The better you try to understand them, as individuals, the better off you'll be when coping with the surprises thrown your way.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Lucy's First Year

Last year, on Thanksgiving Day, a little brown dog with floppy hound ears bounced into our lives. She sweetened me up with her soulful brown eyes and her sunny disposition. For two days we watched as she peeked from behind the house of the lady who lives across the road. Lucy, as I later named the dog, seemed as though she wanted to join our two dogs as they played in the yard, but like a child not wanting to be rejected, she sat across the road and observed. Maybe there was a chance, is what I saw in her little hound face when I looked over that way as I picked up the mail from our mailbox.

I safely assumed the lady across the road didn't want the little brown dog. I saw her shooing it away. She had a cat, which I had actually brought home a few years ago. The cat had been abandoned, left wandering around my mom's house, Mom sort of pawned it on me. Anyway, after bringing that cat home it decided it wanted to live with the lady across the road because it didn't get along with our dogs. That's fine, at least the cat got a home

Finally, on Saturday, the little brown dog made her move across the road to our property. Our two dogs, Xena and Maggie, met up with her and played with her. She was a happy little dog. I estimated fairly young, maybe a year or a little older. I fed her, of course. She ate like she hadn't eaten for a while. She didn't look starved but maybe she was on the verge. I later learned, the county dog catcher was to be called on Monday, by the lady across the road. She said someone had dropped the dog out of a car around 3am in the morning on Thanksgiving Day. We don't usually get drop-offs up this way. I decided I couldn't let the little brown dog be picked up by the county. She'd decided she wanted to be part of our pack. So, we unofficially adopted the little brown dog, with the floppy hound ears. Rather, she chose us.

I must admit, Lucy has been a pain in the butt at times. Naturally, she didn't know the boundaries at first. She started out badly by chasing my horses about a week in. That is a NO NO around here! I don't know if she had been around horses before but she was acting like she'd never seen one. She barked, they ran. They didn't know her so they ran. Maggie, our Cattle Dog, had learned to stay away from the horses. She was trampled one time, though not seriously hurt. Since that incident, Maggie remains outside the fence unless we are inside with her. Even then, she doesn't bark or try to chase them. She's matured. I'm hoping the same for Lucy. Xena had never chased the horses. She was old and wise.

Barking and chasing the horses has been an ongoing issue for Lucy. Now, a year later, I can see her goal when barking at them. She thinks it's her job to make them move. Most of the time they ignore her. But sometimes, on those days the horses are full of energy and bored, they will run and run with her barking at their heels. This drives me crazy! I hate it. But, progress has been made. Lucy will come to me when I call her off, if I can get her hound dog attention long enough to hear I'm calling her. I've watched as both Spirit and Bo tease her, then run after her. They now know I'm yelling at her and I believe they are laughing that she's the one who gets in trouble. The only trouble Lucy really gets into is that I take her over to her house and tie her to her run line. She usually just lays down because she's worn out anyway. I call this her "time out". So far, hasn't made a big dent in her behavior. I usually release her after about an hour.

Though she aggravates me at times with this particular behavior, I can't stay angry with her. She was a cast off. A throw away. Amazingly, she had been spayed. Someone must have cared about her enough to have her taken to a vet at some point. She is wary of men. It has taken most of this year for her to warm up to Hubby and sons. But now, she looks forward to seeing Hubby in the evenings when he comes home from work. She always came to me. My guess, a woman took care of her and a man traumatized her.

Lucy can have a very annoying bark. I always know when she's barking at the horses. She uses a continuous bark with no breaks and it's LOUD. She doesn't have a hound bark, that's for sure.

Lucy gets sick when riding in a car. The first time I took her to the vet, a few months after her arrival, she messed all over the back seat of the car about half way to the vet office, a twenty minute ride. Fortunately, I was prepared. I didn't know how she would react to the ride so I had covered the back seat with an old blanket. The poor girl was a nervous wreck! Her sunny disposition gone. I think she was terrified she was going to lose her new home and be abandoned again. Animals remember the traumatic things that happen to them. It molds their personalities, good and bad.

A year later, Lucy has matured quite a bit. She had a puppy look to her then, now she looks like part beagle, part God only knows what. She still lapses into moments of thinking she has to tell the horses what they should be doing. They basically mock her by jumping around her, running after her and kicking out at her. It can be a funny sight if I don't get too angry about the barking when it's happening. I do worry she will end up kicked.

I do my best to bring her in when she gets into the horse frenzy. Most of the time, if I can get her attention, she will stop and run to me. I simply reward her for coming to me, which is all one can do. In her mind, she's keeping the horses in line. By rewarding her when she comes to me, I have instilled good will that she can trust she won't be hurt. It wasn't always that way. In the first months when I yelled for her, she would run up into the woods and in the beginning, she would cringe about many things. These behaviors led me to believe, who ever had her must have whipped her and she was waiting for that from us as well. We don't use those methods. They don't work anyway, just makes the animal more fearful.

When Xena, our twelve year old German Shepherd, passed away this summer, we figured Lucy may have been sent to us, not as a replacement, but as a way to fill the hole Xena's parting would leave in our hearts. No dog can ever replace Xena, she was the one in a million, once in a lifetime dog. But, by giving one abandoned little brown hound dog a home, we filled a tiny gap in the world of abandoned animals. I think that would make Xena proud!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Simple Thanks on Thanksgiving Eve

The way I see most people living these days, their lives seem more complicated than they need to be. I am thankful for my quiet, uncomplicated life.

Being one of those loner types who's happier with her horses and her animals than an office full of people, I relish the quiet, simplicity my days bring. I am truly blessed. I am extremely thankful.

These days Hubby and I don't make a big deal out of the Thanksgiving holiday. Growing up, my family consisted of me and my parents. I was (am) an only child. We had a quiet trio during our Thanksgiving holidays. My mom never liked to cook. The one turkey she tried to fix was a disaster so she vowed never to bother again. We usually had ham.

When I married my husband, his family of two older brothers and his parents, always had a turkey and a family gathering. As those extended families grew, we all gathered at my mother-in-law's house every Thanksgiving. The gathering was oddly foreign to me but I liked it for the first 10 or so years. Then, things got complicated. Kids grew up. Families split up. It just wasn't the same. I'm thankful my sons had the opportunity to be a part of those good memories with their cousins, aunts and uncles. Something I didn't experience growing up.

The past 5 years, my husband and I have stayed home (though his parents live down the road from us) and had food prepared for a simple holiday, for us to enjoy. We haven't made it a big deal. I know he misses those family dinners with his parents, brothers and their families. But, lives and times move on. Personally, I like that we've simplified.

This year we have a new member in our family, our beautiful daughter-in-law, wife of #1 son. Still seems strange to refer to her as a daughter-in-law. She's really been a member of the family since the late nineties when she and #1 son met through the church youth group. But at any rate, we have added one more to our family of four. They are suppose to come to the area for a visit tomorrow. Her parents and grandparents still live here too. I told #1 son I don't want them to feel rushed, obligated, or make the day complicated. Just come over when they're able to. We'll have smoked turkey breast (Hubby enjoys using his smoker twice a year!) and some other goodies. Simple. Life is so much easier when you try to keep it simple!

I am thankful for the life I have and remembering that on this holiday is my primary goal. My family is whole. My sons are healthy. My husband and I still care about each other, he is my best friend as well as my husband. We don't have a lot of debt. My horses are healthy and winter ready. We're in good shape at the moment. Simple thanks are all that's required.

"Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just the baggage enough." Charles Dudley Warner-American essayist.

"Teach us to delight in simple things." Rudyard Kipling

Monday, November 24, 2008

What makes a good horse?

This is an eternal question for many folks. Kind of like; what makes a good husband? What makes a good friend? Everyone has qualities they're looking for and in the long term, you end up compromising some things you may not like because you know the good qualities supersede those not so likable qualities.

You decide what you know you can and can't live with. Of course, in buying a horse, you usually don't get to spend lots of getting-to-know time before purchase. Many times, it can be a shot in the dark or simply a matter of trusting your instincts.

I'm probably not the best person to advise anyone on horse buying. I would tell them to follow The Rules! Those rules found in articles about buying horses.

I didn't follow the rules when I bought my guys. I bought the first ones I went to see. I didn't get a vet check. I took my non-horsey husband (at the time he didn't know much about horses) with me, not my more experienced horsewoman friend. I'm the kind of person who tends to go on instinct. The little voice or feeling that says "yes, it's right" or "no, don't even think about it!" My instinct has served me well over the years and I trust it.

What makes a good horse for me? Well, most horse people would say "oh, she's one of THOSE...." because, I have to be honest, I sort of fell in love with Bo the moment I saw him. Love at first sight isn't always a good thing in many situations. My husband and I took about 2 years to get to know each other before I felt I was really "in love" with him! I guess in picking my horses, I found the qualities I knew I wanted right off the bat. I think I was lucky.

The wonderful couple I bought my guys from loved their horses and I could see it reflected in all their horses. They were well cared for. After talking to the couple for a while, I got a feel for how they handled their horses. They had raised them with affection and affirmation. The horses were what I term "people horses". They wanted to be with people and they would be willing partners. After only a couple hours, how was I so sure? You know, I still don't really know for certain to this day. What I do know is that my instincts and feelings turned out to be correct.

Now, my guys are not perfect but after reading tons of material, blogs, and email posts where people discuss their horses having one problem or another, I feel I was blessed! My guys really are gems.

Spirit lives up to his name sometimes. He is very sensitive. He's very intelligent. My husband asked me what I saw in him. I told him something in Spirit's eyes, though I have trouble explaining what that was exactly.

When he was presented to us at the seller's farm, Spirit ran full blast into the round pen, running around like a crazed horse and from there tried to jump out. He was a green two year old at the time. My husband thought I was crazy. I still remember the look of horror in his eyes. Kind of funny when I think about it now. Spirit calmed down, I went into the round pen with him. I stood in the middle, my head down slightly, not looking him in the eyes. He approached me. It was then that I decided, he had picked me as a leader. Probably something else going on Spirit's brain but that's how my mind worked at the time. I'd absorbed all those Natural Horsemanship lectures from Pony Boy to Monty Roberts to Clinton Anderson. In my mind, Spirit had qualities I could work with over the long haul. Hubby wasn't so sure. He still isn't sure of Spirit sometimes, but I am.

Bo was the opposite. He was 6 years old at the time. He was mannerly and obedient during the try-out ride. He was actually kind of balky. He can be stubborn, which I was told beforehand. Nothing I felt I couldn't work with. Hubby was definitely smitten with this one! Though Hubby later learned when it comes to riding, a balky, stubborn horse isn't as easy as he thought it would be. Live and learn! He's learning.

After four years, we're all well acquainted. I know their quirks. They know my moods. We accept one another. Bo chews on the wooden part of the fence when he's bored in the winter. Spirit still gets wild eyed when something startles him. Bo can be as moody as a boss mare, but I can accept that because so am I at times. Spirit paws with impatience when food is coming around. Bo will try my patience with his stubbornness during riding sessions, but if I patiently keep after him and encourage him he works with me. For a while, Bo didn't want to stand still while I mounted. I believe his previous owners didn't ask him, just jumped up and took off on him, so that's what he thought was expected of him. After a period of time, and more patience on my part, he has learned that I require him to stand still. Spirit used to move all over the place when the farrier worked on his feet, but now, he is as good as gold. He even stands for Hubby to do a little rasping in-between farrier visits.

I think to myself, if I ever had to sell these guys for some reason, would the person who bought them be as patient as I've been? I hope I never have to find out. When I bought these guys, my intention was to have them as partners for the rest of their lives. In my mind, in my eyes, they are good horses.

A good horse. Hard to define in simple terms. There are many variables. It's an individual definition and everyone's definition will hold up to the qualities they are looking for in a good horse.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Book Review-Deadly Heritage by Toni Leland

Deadly Heritage (2008 Parallel Press, imprint of Equine Graphics Publishing Group) is the first title I've read of Toni Leland's horse-fiction titles. Since discovering so many wonderful horse-fiction writers at Equestrian Ink, I'm planning on checking out her other titles as well.

Deadly Heritage takes the reader on a suspenseful ride entwined with relationship issues, mystery and long lost love rekindled. Kellie Sutton has to turn to the man who's heart she broke many years before, and ask for help in solving the mysterious wounds taking down her prize Quarter Horses one by one. Ed Campbell returns to town as the local sheriff. He never lost his feelings for Kellie, but he has to keep them under wraps for more than one reason.

Leland deftly captures the emotions of dealing with sick horses and the unknowns of desperately searching for answers. At times, Kellie feels helpless. Amid the chaos, she deals with a jerk of an ex-husband and also tries to keep her daughter's life as normal as possible. The supporting characters are likeable and of course various creepy characters thrown in to keep things hopping.

Events are fast paced. Writing clean and emotional at times, especially when Kellie is dealing with her sick horses.

Other titles by Toni Leland:

Gambling With the Enemy

Hearts Over Fences

Winning Ways

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Breed vs.Grade

The only purebred animal I think I've ever really had in my life was a Siamese cat when I was thirteen. We didn't buy him from a breeder. He was given to us by a vet.

Jed was nine months old when we met. Jed's owner didn't want him anymore because he chased her dogs. My mom had recently lost her Siamese to feline leukemia, this was back in the mid-70's. My mom didn't want to care for another cat, or become attached, but she's a sucker for homeless animals. She asked me if I wanted the unruly Siamese since he was in need of a home. This way, Jed would be my responsibility not hers. She was still grieving the loss of her Zach who she'd had for many years.

Even our once-in-a-lifetime German Shepherd, Xena, probably wasn't a pure breed. She didn't come with any AKC papers. We often wondered if she did indeed have some wolf in her close bloodlines. But then, we didn't buy her either. She was cast off from her breeder due to the fact she was not the white German Shepherd they were trying to get. We didn't care about that, we loved her for all the twelve years she was with us.

When I was thinking about getting a horse (or two as it turned out) I really had no intention of going any specific breed at first. I must admit, I wanted a paint/pinto for reasons I can't explain, I am drawn to that particular coat coloring.

I think we all know a good horse has no particular color. However, I did have my personal preferences, and I had always wanted a painted pony of some kind.

I had been looking at Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses and especially Spotted Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horses. I'd found a breeder of KMSH's 20 miles south of us, in Northern Kentucky. I emailed him. At that time he didn't have any spotted horses but wanted me to come see his other horses. Oh, I forgot to mention that since my husband and I were in our mid-40's at the time and Hubby has lower back problems, I had been swayed by my research to look for a gaited breed by then, which led me to the KMSHs.

Just before I was about to set up an appointment to go see some of these horses, I ran across an ad on the Someone locally had Spotted Saddle Horses for sale. Now, at that moment, I had never heard of Spotted Saddle Horses so had to get online and do some research.

At first I wasn't happy to find that SSHs are Tennessee Walkers with the pinto markings, to put it rather simply. Of all the horse breeds I was aware of at that time, I was not a fan of TWHs, never had been. Oh, sure, they're beautiful, big, strong, but I had only seen those horses who performed the exaggerated steps (as I later learned) in the show ring when I had attended horse shows years ago. I wasn't fond of them. I thought they were prissy horses. I've learned alot.

So, I contacted the person with the SSH ad. He lived about 20 minutes from my house. Something (that little voice I've learned to trust) encouraged me to go see the two SSHs he had for sale.

The 6 year old's name was Overdue. Beautiful black and white with a proud head, alert eyes and gorgeous black mane with black/white full-bodied tail. He was 16H tall. The other one was a two year old with alot of spunk and spirit, black and white with a full white mane, black/white full tail. A little smaller at 15 H. Actually, they had named him Spirit. Knowing very little about TWHs I was in love! I was taken by how strong both horses looked in body and spirit.

My past prejudices about TWHs were thrown away and I decided I would buy these two boys (both geldings, of course). Maybe I was a little lovestruck, but at any rate, I had them home within a few weeks. My painted ponies at last! I often refer to Spirit as my Indian pony because that's what he reminds me of. I renamed Overdue, Bo. I just couldn't get used to the name Overdue and I'd always said if I had a horse, I wanted to name him Bo if he fit the name, and in my mind, he did.

Now that I look back, I would have been happy with a Grade horse too. I didn't intentionally set out to buy a specific breed of horse, that's just how it worked out. I had in mind gaited and paint/pinto but would have gone with non-gaited if the right horses were presented to me.

Deciding or not deciding on breed vs grade is a personal choice. I personally think there is too much emphasis on breeds. Any good horse is of any background. Sure there are differences in conformation or size or abilities, but isn't that just as personal as it is with us as humans?

I found a definition of grade horse: Parentage is of unknown, unidentifiable, or of significantly mixed breeding. This seems to be the the standard definition. I guess I just want to defend the so-called grade horses because too many people these days are too caught up in "what breed do you have?".

I am a member of a CTR (Competitive Trail Riding) email group. CTR is something I would like to do, but haven't as of yet. Anyway, the other day a poster on the group asked about the best breed for CTR. The answer used to be Arabian because they were considered the best for the endurance and CTR competitions. As a matter of fact, the endurance races, early on, were limited to Arabians only, from what I've read. I was glad to read other folks telling this person that any horse could participate and would do fine if properly conditioned. The poster was thinking about selling her half Arabian because he was only good in an arena and not on the trail. She didn't seem open to the fact that ANY horse could do it, didn't have to be an Arabian or any specific breed. Yes, Arabians have qualities that do make them exceptional in the endurance and CTR events but that doesn't mean you have to dump your half Arabian and go find an Arabian to have a good time and enjoy endurance events or CTR's.

My thoughts to people who want a good horse is to search around and find a good horse, not necessarily a specific breed. Find out what a good horse is compared to what you hope to do with it. Sometimes that may be a specific breed but for most people who just want to enjoy horses, you define what you see as a good horse.

I love the fact some people take a grade whatever-it-is and turn it into a great trail horse or a jumper or just what you want him to be. Sure, there may be certain qualities you'll need to look for. Unless you're planning to breed, and I hope people stop doing that just to have babies around to experience what it's like, you don't need to worry about "what breed do I want?". In my humble, and less experienced opinion, a good horse is just a good horse no matter what his parentage, or lack of, as the case would be.

This may seem silly on my part but when I'm asked what "kind" of horses I have, I feel sort of, oh, I don't know, elitist by telling them I own Spotted Saddle Horses/Tennessee Walkers. I don't know why exactly except I've always been one to cheer for the underdog. To me, grade horses these days are the underdogs. I wouldn't trade my two boys for anything. However, if I were looking for horses again, I would probably be looking more for the guys who people tend to overlook. The ones who aren't registered to any breed and are of unknown, unidentifiable, mixed breeding, but pass my assessment as a good horse in every other way.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Realities of Horsekeeping

All my life I've wanted my own horse. Actually never planned on having more than one. All those years of wanting, I didn't realize it's wise to have at least two horses, or some kind of companion animal, for a single horse because horses are so intricately wired to herd life of some kind. This was knowledge I gained through my own research and short term experience working at a riding facility. All I ever knew was that I felt, deep inside, horses needed to be a part of my life if I wanted to feel fulfilled.

Honestly, until I worked around horses, cared for them, and saw first hand the real work involved in their keeping, I didn't have a good grip on what was involved. I'm not complaining, I'm simply explaining to anyone who is thinking about owning horses and caring for them on their own, that you need to really research what it takes. Some of it will be trial and error but there is so much good information available, people can be prepared to own horses before they take the leap.

Don't take the leap, then decide it's too much!

I'm a very conscientious person. At times, overly responsible, if that's possible. I think it comes from being an only child. I have a need to do things as right as possible, but I'm flexible. I've had many dogs, cats and other animals in my life over the years but once again, in all honesty, owning horses is different from anything I've experienced in caring for other animals. In my mind, owning and caring for my horses is similar to how I felt raising my sons. Maybe it's just the way I perceive it.

So, I'd like to spend a little time just touching on some things I have learned as a first time horse owner.

I've read a variety of statistics on how much acreage you should have to comfortably keep horses. I've read 2 acres per horse up to 5 acres per horse. Whatever the correct number per horse, I'm here to tell you, it's never enough if you have small acreage. But you know what? You manage. At least we have. We currently have approximately 5 acres per horse (10+) of fenced pasture, the other 52 acres are hill and forest. Although, right now, it's not much of a pasture. The rains started over the weekend. My guys won't be going out to their favorite field for a while.

Horses EAT and EAT the green stuff out there in the pasture. You can rotate their grazing areas, which we do, but we never have enough pasture grass. Therefore, I am constantly supplementing with hay and alfalfa-timothy hay cubes. When I first got into horses, I didn't realize how important their nutrition and feeding needs can be. I have learned, as I've gone along, what works for us. I did have the good fortune of on-the-job training, so I had some experience with the necessities of feeding horses.

Sweet feed versus pelleted. My geldings came to me having been fed a diet of sweet feed and lots of pasture grass. They were, um plump, to be kind. My guys were also a bit hyper for Spotted Saddle Horses (aka TN Walkers), in my opinon. I realize sweet feed is the cheapest or should I say most economical for many, but for me, I got my guys off of it after about the third month I had them. I went to a 10% pelleted feed. They get 1/4 lb in the morning and at night. My guys are easy keepers! Hay is the bulk of their diet but I limit their intake to 2-3 times a day. I have to be careful with their weight. The vet already advised me on this. It's my experience, depending on the horse, sweet feed can keep horses a little hot, a little on the heavy side, and little wired. When I switched to the less sweet pelleted feed, both horses were more mannered at grain time and less pushy. There are lots of variations of feeds out there you have to decide what works for you and your horses.

Deworming. I was SO confused by this topic! I think I'm a little clearer now, after a few years of trying to sort it out. I finally figured out what "rotation" really meant. I'm not going to endorse any one deworming product or any specific rotation. Once again, you have to find what works, but it's not something to avoid doing for your horses. Not always a pleasant job either but one that needs to be done for the health of the horse. If you don't like doing the paste wormers, there are daily in-feed brands.

Mucking and cleaning up the manure. My guys have a run-in stall at the side of our garage/barn. My husband did a great job building their living quarters. Though the horses are not confined to the stall, they still are not polite enough to walk out to the field to drop their waste. So, I do have to clean the stall area daily. Some days are worse than others but its a job you can't just say, "oh, I'll do it tomorrow." I guarantee it'll be worse the next day! Then, it can become overwhelming. The best way to deal with it, is to scoop the poop at least, once a day. My guys love to roll in the fresh pine shavings (which I buy by the bag and try to use economically) I put down for them so I feel a beneft from my "housekeeping" chores.

Yes, some days you feel like that's all you do, feed, water and clean up poop, especially in the up coming winter months. But if you're like me, you do it because you love them and want them to be cared for to the best of your abilities. If you can't do that, then you shouldn't have horses.

Grooming. A simple task really. Every day, you should at least take a brush to your horses. This can amount to 15 minutes if you're rushed. Do I do it every day? No. Not always possible. But I realize grooming accomplishes a couple of things. One, helps you bond with your horse and most of them like it. After all, you're spending time with them as well as making them feel good. Two, you can check over their bodies, make sure everything is looking ok. You'll know when something isn't right if you groom regularly.

Riding. Well, this is something that I just haven't done enough of and I do feel guilty about it. I feel guilty because I never intended to have only "pasture poines" or "pasture ornaments" as my family sometimes teases me about. Not a thing wrong with having horses who fall into that category, but I originally had other plans for my guys. Horses definitely thrive on attention and I believe they do need a job. My guys get bored and tend to eat on the wood planks around the corral area or the trees out in the back field. If I had them in some kind of routine, I doubt they'd be bored. This is something I'm eternally working on.

Farrier. No matter what you think, you need a farrier for hoof care or you need to learn to trim their feet yourself. I do mean LEARN, not just guessing at it. My husband will do some rasping of rough edges, but I'm not comfortable with him doing much more. I'm not comfortable with myself doing much more myself because I feel I might screw up their feet. This, I definietly leave to a professional. Find a farrier you like. One you feel you can trust. One who seems to get along with your horse. Don't expect the farrier to take care of your horse while he/she is working on their feet. Be there! Hold your horse and teach your horse how to stand for his feet to be worked on. I just feel that is common sense! Personally, I wouldn't leave my horse in the hands of a farrier or anyone else without my supervision.

Vet care. I started giving my guys their yearly vaccinations a couple of years ago. I was a little chicken at first, but there's really nothing to it. My vet lets me purchase the vaccines. When I worked at the stable I was taught the correct way to give the injections and the correct areas on the horse to give them in. My thinking, I gave myself insulin injections for years until I went to an insulin pump, there's no reason I can't give an IM injection to my horses. Be aware of reactions though, so you know what to look for. So far, this has been a really easy chore with my guys. They simply stand there as if nothing happened. Couldn't ask for a better deal and it beats having the vet, a strange person, come out and get them a little excited. Learn to take care of minor injuries yourself! Have a first aid kit ready. There are some really good books out there covering first aid for horses. The one I keep on hand is Dr. Kellon's Guide to First Aid for Horses. It's helped me out a few times.

Fencing. Try to have fencing that contains your horse. Please, please stay away from barb wire! I was witness to a horrible leg injury thanks to barb wire and vow I will never have it on my property where my horses are concerned. There are tons of alternatives. We chose a rather expensive horse fencing which has smaller rectangular squares to keep horse hooves out of it. The fencing is stronger than some of the cattle fencing. We did all our own fencing. My husband, sons and I spent 6 months working on it, before I even started looking for my horses. A plus to good fencing, increases the value of your property! I've seen so many horses inside fencing that makes me cringe.

Ok, I've hit on a few things about horsekeeping that I think are important. Things you really need to consider before ever adding that horse to your property. It's amazing that there are people who think they can just buy a horse and put him out in the "back yard" and he'll do just fine. Those horses are the ones that often end up in the rescues or worse, neglected. You can't buy a horse at the local swap meet and just keep him in your yard! That's just not right!

Please, please, think out what it takes to keep a horse! Besides the love you may feel for the horse you find, remember it also takes money, time, and effort to do it right.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Happy Birth Day to my youngest

My baby boy's birthday is today. He's 23 years old. Yeah, I know, not a baby, but he's the youngest of my two wonderful sons. Plus, as all moms know, your babies are always your babies. That goes for the horses in the family too, huh?

Anyway, I woke up this morning thinking about #2 son and his birthday. How could I not? He lives here with us right now, having graduated from college in June, but of course, no job yet. He does have an interview today! That was good news for his birthday.

He is different from his older brother. He is more like his dad. Quiet. Thoughtful. Contemplative. Patient. I can pretty much figure him out because I have Hubby figured out. Ok not all the time.

Yesterday, I went shopping with #2 son to help him find some appropriate job interview clothes. Having just graduated from college, he doesn't have much in that kind of clothing. He found a medium blue shirt he liked, and it was on sale, but was having a hard time picking out a tie. He has two ties at home, dark blue and black. Black pants. He was going for gray pants but couldn't find any in his size or style. He doesn't go for pleated fronts. So we're standing around the tie racks sorting through ties. Naturally, I go for the blues and reds, or grays with blue/black designs and stripes. He picks out a tie that is yellow/gold with black stripes. I didn't want to hurt his feelings but I sure didn't see the match there. He held the tie up to the shirt and since he was wearing black pants said he felt it was a powerful color combo. Okey dokey son. I just know that color combonation wouldn't have been my pick. But then I realized it's what will make him feel confident that matters, not what I like. And at 23, if he weren't living at home, I wouldn't be part of this process anyway!

By the way, when he got dressed to go for his job interview this morning and had on his ensemble, I was impressed. He had made a good choice. With his dark good looks, the whole outfit really set him off, making him look very professional. Looks like he has a good eye for colors after all!

Today will be a day of memories for me. Thinking back how at 7:30-something on this day, twenty three years ago, my husband and I were entrusted with a beautiful little soul to mold, love, teach, through his formative years. He has grown into a fine young man that I am always proud to say is my son. Isn't that a wonderful feeling?

Monday, November 10, 2008

Winter Readiness

Our winter months here in Southern Ohio are not usually traumatic. More like irritating. They can be damp, dreary, gray, cold, sunny, warm, pleasant, we usually see a wide spectrum. Nonetheless, we do have to do some winter preparedness for animals and property. This past weekend, Hubby and I accomplished a few of those chores. Actually, Hubby did most of it since the main job was getting all those leaves out of the gutters and I don't like ladders. I was his assistant, as usual.

As I thought about doing this particular job I thought about the other little chores we do to get prepared for winter around here.

A week ago, we installed the heater in the horse's water tank. There is always controversy over using heaters in water tanks. I use one that is submerged at the bottom of the tank. My horses would destroy anything else. The tank holds 80 gallons so they never get to the bottom to play with the heater. Oh, they did once. I had forgotten to fill the tank to the usual fill line, which makes it too heavy for them to turn over. They like to play in the water some days, the water level quickly goes down when they're having water fun. Evidently they somehow managed to turn the whole tank, with the water, over and started chewing the line to the heater. We're not sure, but seems like Bo must have gotten a little bit of a shock, he was the one shy of the tank for a little while. That was the last time they messed around with the line. But they still drink from the tank.

At the stable where I worked, the manager refused to put heaters in any of the tanks or use heated stall buckets. She said she learned in her equine classes that there is a possibility of the horses getting a shock, if the device shorted, and the horses would never go back to the tank, or buckets, to drink again. Well, the barn was her responsiblity and she was the boss, so we quit bothering about the water heaters and just broke ice. I experienced first hand what a pain in the butt it was breaking thick ice on cold mornings in 15 stalls and ourside water tanks. I decided, at my convenience, I wasn't going to do that for my horses. I check the connection and even dip my own finger in the tank almost daily, to see if there are any shorts. So far, I haven't had any problems with the electric water heater and I believe my horses definitely enjoy the warmer water.

Bought a bale of straw last week to put in the dog houses. Our two dogs are medium sized and don't have winter type hair. They have always been outside dogs. Lucy, our newer member, is something between a beagle and God only knows. She decided to show me how much she must have wanted straw in her house by rolling around in my hay building on nice bales of hay scattering the flakes into piles. I don't like my hay messed with! Maggie, the blue heeler, had never done this before but obviously, after being shown how much fun it was, joined in the rolling game. I decided the best way to deal with this was to get them their own bale of straw. Put straw in their houses and also leave it in the hay building so they could roll in that instead of my precious hay stash. So far, that plan has worked well.

I am dreading the day I have to terminate the horses from going out into the front field. There's no grass out there now anyway,but in their minds, they have to try. They also like that field because they can watch activities up and down our dead end country road. Not much activity, but sometimes, there are cars and someone visiting the lady across the road. They are nosey horses so any little activity peeks their interest. Soon, I will see the two of them standing out by the gate that opens to the front field, gazing longingly at their banished field, but I won't open it for them. I won't open it even at the soft nicker Bo will undoubtedly utter when he sees me walking out to the stall.

The front field is our main grass field and we work hard, well we try, to get grass growing every spring and summer. When the ground gets mushy and soft, the horses aren't permitted out there until about May 1st. I suppose they'll get used to being closed out, they have the past 4 winters. Reminds me of telling little kids they can't have the chocolate cake because it'll ruin their supper. Can't ruin your field or you'll have no grass in the summer!

Storing the patio furniture. Raking or mulching the leaves. Well, we haven't done much of that this year. We'll probably pay for that one in the spring because the leaves will have matted together up on the hill and under the fence line, making the job harder than if we'd tackled it a few weeks ago when they were dry.

Cleaning tack. I need to give the saddles a rub down with saddle soap. I use biothane sidepulls now, so they just need to be wiped down then hung up. I'm full up with hay right now so won't be scrounging like we were this time last year. This is the first time in about 3 years we've had our little hay building full of hay and it sure feels good!

I'm not really ready for winter mentally, but I guess I'll plug through it. The dreary days are what get to me. But with the little chores completed, I'll be able to snuggle down in my comfy robe and warm blanket in the evenings, enjoy good books and relax until about March 1.

Gee, feels like rambling without saying very much today. Suppose everyone has days like this!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Time for books-Gail McCarthy Series by Laura Crum

It's getting into the winter months although you'd never know it by the way our weather has been around here. For the past week we've had a beautiful "Indian Summer" as it's often called. Warm sunny days in the 70's. If it hadn't been for the time change Sunday, I could swear we were still in late September. Ah, but there's a change coming this weekend and when the weather turns rainy, cold with those longer evenings, I start reading more again.

In order for me to read a book and enjoy it, I MUST like the main character. I must get a feel for him or her that keeps me reading. I suppose most people are like that. If I don't like the main character, I usually find myself disinterested quickly and I might make it to page 50 before I decide I don't want to waste anymore time. Oh, I will usually skip to the end and read the last chapter to see if I missed anything. Usually, for me, I was right to close down at page 50.

I enjoy Laura Crum's character, Gail McCarthy immensely. In these modern times you might say I have a girl crush on Gail in a sense that she's my imagination's image of how I would have liked to have been, had I been involved with horses all my life and become a veterinarian to boot. Gail is tough when she needs to be yet her warm side surfaces too, especially where her animals are concerned. She's common sense and no nonsense at the same time. She has her flaws and definitely isn't perfect. Gail is attractive, as I see her in my mind, but she's not a girly girl, yet she has her feminine side too.

I've only read two of the books so far and the stories occurred at completely different times in Gail's life. I actually read Chasing Cans first because it was Laura's most recent. I then purchased Slickrock because the premise of Gail's horseback pack trip in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. I'm planning to eventually get the rest of the titles. If I'd known about Laura Crum's Gail McCarthy series when I was a librarian, you can be sure I would have put in for our libraries to purchase them, but that's the way it goes in rural Southern Ohio.

Chasing Cans has Gail, now a new mom, questioning things in her new life change after the birth of her son. Something, I believe, moms everywhere tend to do, but especially older moms. Well, I mean mom's not in their early 20's. I was in my early 20's when I had my two sons so life just moved forward. But I think when older moms turn the corner of motherhood for the first time, they do tend to question their lives more. Anyway, Gail is content with her life as a stay-at-home mom, for the time being. She is no longer a vet on a regular schedule, though I'm wondering if she'll get back into it because she does feel her purpose on that path and she must have been good at it. I have to read the other titles to get more of a feel for her in her vet career.

The term chasing cans refers to barrel racing, which makes sense, and I thought a really cool title because it can also be a metaphor for life. Well, unintentionally, Gail gets caught up in being a witness to a nasty accident involving a rather nasty horse trainer, who people didn't like anyway. She got results in her training, but her attitude needed adjusting. Gail then tries to put all the ducks in a row to figure out the who, what and why of the accident because things just didn't seem right to her. So, the story continues with more characters involved than you originally think will be involved. Funny, my farrier's name is Jake.

Slickrock was the next title I read although it is number five in the series. I loved this one for the details of the packing into the mountains, the scenery, the way Gail handled herself, which wasn't perfect all the time, and the way Blue entered the picture. I do like some romance, but I'm not much for gushy stuff. I liked the way Gail handled herself in the situations they ran into while..........well, I don't want to give too much away. Gail starts out planning to take a nice, quiet, refreshing pack trip with her horses Gunner and Plumber and her cattle dog, Roey. She ends up with more than she'd planned for.

I've never been much of a mystery person. I'm not sure why, I guess it depends on the mystery because I've been reading more of them lately. Opens up a new genre for me. Plus, finding equine fiction just blows me away! I'm so happy there are writers going in this direction though probably not as financially rewarding, but that's not the goal for writing now is it.

Laura Crum's Gail McCarthy Series in order 1-10:










Chasing Cans

Looking forward to reading what Laura has in store for Gail in number 11!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Elmer Bandit is new NATC record holder

One more weekend completed, Elmer is the new North American Trail Conference record holder with a completed lifetime log of 20,720 miles. Elmer is a 37 year old half-Arabian. His owner/rider, Mary Anna Wood, has been with him all the way. I am awestruck by both Elmer and Mary Anna. I have been following their progress since Elmer's name first caught my eye while reading articles from newsletters. They are a true team!

At the conclusion of the ride, Elmer was awarded a special turnout sheet with his name across the side, "Go Elmer" by his friends and fans from The picture of him in his turnout sheet is precious. He looks bright eyed and happy. What more could you ask for? He enjoys these rides and you can see it even in the still photos. Mary Anna has said that Elmer will tell her when he doesn't want to do it anymore. I believe that's true.

So today, I am applauding Mary Anna Wood and her partner Elmer Bandit for a fantastic career and an inspiring partnership. Mary Anna has taken exceptional care of an exceptional horse over the years. He is special and so is she!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Standard Time vs Daylight Savings

Okey dokey, one more thing to put on my complaint list for this weekend. Something I don't have any control over.

I see no reason for us to keep flip flopping back and forth in March and November from Daylight Savings Time to Standard Time. We're in the modern age. We don't need this change anymore. I read an interesting article on Yahoo yesterday about just this subject.

Statistics from various sources (look it up on the Net) state there is very little energy savings at this point in history for switching time twice a year. Keep it on Standard time and we'll all be fine! The world won't end! Retailers won't lose money or waste energy. The argument for farming doesn't fly anymore. They'll still be out there in the dark, using their lights and equipment to plant their crops when they need to. Most people could care less about Daylight Savings in the spring because, there really is no savings. So what if it getst dark at 8:30pm in the summer here in Ohio? What difference does one hour make?

I'm a clock person, unfortunately. I do pay attention to "what time it is" so these changes tend to be for me, few days of resetting my internal clock.

This morning I woke up at 5:30am. My mind knows it's still really 6:30am but I decided to go back to sleep for another hour. Well, by then it was 6:30am or rather 7:30am by my internal clock. It was light outside. I didn't get out to feed the animals until 7:30 am, really 8:30am and I could tell they were all a little testy with me since I had not been "on time". Especially the horses. They were really peeved at my lateness. Then I thought, well sure you are, my clock changed but yours didn't. So, now I go into transition of morning feed being at 7:30amST vs the 8:30am horse time. Oh, and the night time feed. Well, that one goes smoother because I always feed the horses at dark anyway so that feed time has slowly been changing with the setting sun since about September. The dogs and cat don't seem to mind too much about any of it.

Congress decided in 2007 to move the spring Daylight Saving time up 3 weeks, to the last Sunday in March and the switch back to Standard Time the first Sunday in November. I really truly think, if we kept our clocks on Standard Time, the world would still revolve and our country would adjust just fine. Does anyone really look forward to these changes? Seems to me it's just a pain in the................well, that's my thought on it anyway.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Thoughts on the 1st of November but not about horses

Thank Heaven above Tuesday is election day and we can be done with this marathon thing they've called "campaigning".

I am fed up.

I am tired.

I am weary.

It's all been extremely frustrating, in my honest, humble opinion. It's gone on for too long, I believe it's been stated 18 months. Sadly, I doubt Tuesday will be the end of anything, least of which will be the election.

Back in March, I was ready to give the younger presidential candiate a chance, that is, until he started hiding from things. Hiding from his associations. Skipping around issues that were presented and acting as if his past associations meant nothing. I think he appears to be a very nice man, but you cannot dissassociate yourself from the past. None of us can. That's just life! If he would have stepped up and admitted, yes, he did know these "assoicates" having worked with them, prayed with them, served on committees with them, I might have been more forgiving, more able to believe in what he said. But, I don't like people hiding things (dare I say lying?) and that's how I see his political ambitions.

Then, a few weeks ago the plumber showed up. I don't agree with "spreading the wealth". I don't believe everyone can be equal in a society. Too many generations await handouts as it is. Sure, there are people who just need a helping hand, gladly give them a hand. That's not what I see happening.

We're losing our freedoms. We're losing our liberties too. I am amazed that people are blinded to this.

As a family, we are gun owners. I believe in that freedom. I believe in the 2nd amendment. I don't mind having stricter licensing for gun ownership, I think that is as it should be. But I don't think that's what the younger guy is looking at, from what I'm seeing in his past record, on the gun ownership issue.

I don't believe I should have to take care of my neighbor. Call me selfish. Guess I am. I'm getting the feel, that's the plan. Individual independence, my friends, will be something for the history books.

Now, I'm not saying the older guy is a saint. I've studied his actions too. In my view, he is only the lesser of the two evils. His views and plans are very similar, but not as extreme as his opponents. His record isn't all that pristine. Heck, no politician's is! These guys want the top job in the country. Power is their motivator, though they always want us to believe it's for the Good of the people. Ya. Sure. I never did like fairy tales. Yes, I'm jaded and cynical.

So, as the days wear on I am making every effort to avoid tv coverage, internet news, though I do read some and the radio ads that drone on hour after hour. I've already voted anyway through absentee ballot. Almost thought about not voting at all because that's how I've been feeling lately. Unmoved and wary of either candidate. Whatever Wednesday morning brings, I sincerely doubt anyone's life will dramatically change, no matter what They've promised!

We don't need more government involved our lives, that's not what our country is suppose to be about, but evidently, They think we do!

From Merriam-Webster: socialism
1 : any of various economic and political theories advocating collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods
2 a : a system of society or group living in which there is no private property b : a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state
3 : a stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done

1 a : government by the people; especially : rule of the majority b : a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free elections

Thursday, October 30, 2008

First time horse owner four years later

It's been four years since I brought my two boys home. Two black/white Spotted Saddle Horses. The date was October 24, 2004. Like any proud new mom, I have all the dates written down. I've documented everything from deworming to hoof trimming, vaccinations, change in feed, hay types, where we bought hay, you name it, I've got it written down in their little blue book. This is something I am prone to doing anyway so it wasn't anything new for me to do. Although, I have to admit, I keep better track of the horses than I have our dogs and cats, possibly even my sons when they were little.

The road to getting my guys home is not the road you read about, maybe that should be phrased as map. Not the way it's suppose to be done. I did practically everything WRONG, as far as purchasing my two geldings. I saw them once. I rode only one, the other one was a green 2 year old. I didn't get a vet check. I bought the first horses I went to see. I found them on the internet, maybe not wrong, but from what I've now learned, you need to buy horses like you buy cars. Check out more than one. Oh wait, that's how we've always bought our cars too! We've never looked at more than one car before buying because we always knew what we wanted before we started looking. We've had some darn good cars and trucks too!

I had decided a long time ago that if I ever had horses of my own, they would have to be on my own property, otherwise, I would not have felt it was worth it. I was moving these two guys from lush pastures of many acres to a small, valley farm with about 10 acres of pasture that has trouble keeping grass sustained. Definitely wouldn't be lush grass for them all year around.

We've owned 62 acres for 18 years. Plenty of room for horses, at least on the flat areas. We're blessed and cursed with mini-Smoky Mountain type hills and forests. Blessed, because the area is gorgeous in many obvious ways. Cursed, because of the rock and not so good soil, at least back here in the valley.

The years before my horses were filled with me working shift work, growing sons, soccer games, school functions, and things of that nature. There really wasn't time for horses. Every spring I could count on that longing though, I always referred to it as my Spring Horse Fever. I'd pull out horse books, read about horses for a few weeks, get all horse mushy, and long for the time I could have my own. But, I knew, the time wasn't right so I'd just close up my thoughts and continue on with the part of my life at that moment. I knew, one day, horses would happen for me.

So here we are, four years later. My geldings are now 6 and 10. They are thriving. They love attention. We've managed and we didn't even follow all the rules. I have very few real problems with them most come in the form of riding or not riding as the case is currently, which is my issue, not theirs. I've adjusted my thinking on alot of things, like most new moms I've learned to relax and not take things quite so seriously, except for that darn record keeping. These guys are something that have fulfilled me, as I knew they would. My Spring Horse Fever is gone.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

End of October

Cool days and cool nights. Multi-colored leaves on the trees turn our mini-Smoky's into a patchwork of yellows, oranges, bright reds, dark reds, browns, and greens. For these reasons October is my favorite month. I like September because it's almost there. The changing season can be felt. But if I had to pick, I would have to choose October. We've had a good October, not a rainy one. Too bad I didn't take advantage of it like I should have. I did, however, get a good supply of over 100 square bales of the best timothy hay we've ever had and at a good price. For that, I am more than pleased!

I don't like Halloween. I really wish it would just go away, but, of course, I know that won't happen. I feel "celebrating" Halloween is a hideous custom and I have never found it fun, at least in my adult life. I'm sure I saw it as fun when I was a kid and getting a bagful of free candy, but later, I have come to detest it.

Some of these feelings may have come from events that happened in my life, which always seem to happen this time of year. When I was little, about 4, my grandpa died on Halloween. I was in the hospital with pneumonia. My memory of that time is of being in an oxygen tent and throwing up, alot. I didn't know anything about my grandpa. My parents had their hands full Halloween that year.

I was suppose to have been a turtle for Trick-or-Treat and a parade. My mom had gone all out designing a turtle costume for me out of a cardboard box. I remember helping her paint it green. The only time I can remember she really got into helping with a costume for Halloween. But, I can't blame her for wanting to avoid Halloween in later years since it was her father, and then 15 days later, her mother, who both passed away that year.

In 1997 #1 son had to have surgery on Halloweeen. He'd had an accident playing soccer back in July of that year. He'd been a promising goal keeper. Broken femur and compressed peroneal nerve behind the knee, which resulted in paralysis of his left leg. The surgery was a God send because the local doctor had basically told us, deal with it! He won't be playing soccer again let alone be able to run. He will have to have a brace and a severe limp. Well, I knew there was someone who could help us, somewhere, I just felt it in my heart, so I started calling doctors in Columbus, Ohio. To make this a shorter story than it is, I did locate a children's neurosurgeon who felt there was hope.

So, on Halloween, in 1997, when #1 son was 14, he had to have a 3 hour surgery to remove scar tissue from the main nerve that travels down the leg. Removal of the scar tissue would enable the other nerves to grow back and communicate once again. He has a resulting scar that runs from the middle of the back of his his thigh, down to mid-calf. As the neurosurgeon explained, hundreds of stitches both inside and out. Whenever one of #1 son's friends has had a minor complaint, he has been known at times to show them his "war" wound, though he has never dwelled on it for very long. He has taught me about perseverance, that's for sure!

Fortunately, the '97 Halloween was one we could celebrate. His accident is one of those events in a lifetime when you remember things as life before and life after. #1 son was able to regain use of his leg after 6 more months of rehab, he'd had 3 months before the nerve problem was determined.

But, Halloween will often bring me memories of the emotional time #1 son spent before the surgery and his fight back toward use of his leg afterward. Memories of the local doctor telling him the verdict, the pain on his young face at hearing it. I know, I try to think of the positives from this event because at 25, #1 son has accomplished a great deal for himself. He actually ran track his senior year of high school! Though his motivation was a cute little girl on the track team, who is now his wife, the first time I saw him run the mile, I cried. I still tear up about it. Instead of taking a senior trip after his high school graduation in 2001, #1 son hiked 125 miles of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. He tells me 1997 and his ordeal made him stronger. I believe it. He won the West Virginia Grappling Tournament last year and is involved in MMA. He's now at Ohio Universtiy studying for a Master's Degree in Environmental Studies. I guess we always tend to remember the hurt we feel through our lives. It's just human nature.

My dad has had health problems over the past 5 years and most of them have occured in the month of October, usually around Halloween. Makes me wonder sometimes why Halloween is such a marker for health problems in my life.

A week ago, #2 son had to have surgery to repair a deviated septum. He'd been having problems while away at college but of course, didn't have the time to get anything looked at. Finally, his hearing was involved. So, when he came home this summer, I suggested he get it looked at. He's doing fine. I had to have a FNA (Fine Needle Aspiration aka biopsy) Friday for some nodules on my thyroid gland. Not a pleasant procedure no matter what they try to tell you! My doctor told me she won't have the results for about 10 days, which puts it after Halloween. My adored cat Jinxy (one of the 5 kittens #1 son rescued) died around this time last year, she was only five.

On the good side of Halloween for me, I remind myself, my two beautiful Spotted Saddle Horses, my lifelong dreams, came to me just before Halloween 4 years ago. So, if I look deep enough, with all the hard stuff that has happened around this time of October, I've also had some great stuff going on too. There is a balance. Oh, and I can't forget that Hubby and I had our first "date" in October. We went to the Circleville Pumpkin Show, way back in October 1980. He tells me the little peck on the cheek I gave him at the end of the evening was his moment of revelation that maybe I was "the one". If nothing else, he told me once, "I knew you kinda liked me."

I am always in the process of reminding myself, in this often negative world, to look for the the bright moments, the candle in the window. Where there's dark, light can be found if you look for it. I still don't like Halloween, but I can get through it by concentrating on the candle flame flickering through the dark.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Book-The Horses of Proud Spirit

I read this book a couple years ago. It is a poignant read. A true story. Melanie Sue Bowles writes of her life rescuing abused, abandoned and neglected horses. This is not a light read but it is inspirational. There is sadness as I'm sure anyone who deals with rescue horses can relate to. But there is also triumph for many of the horses Melanie has rescued. Though I cried through many parts of this book, and honestly, I don't do that with books very often, at the end, I closed the book feeling that someone was trying to some good in the world.

Melanie takes the reader into the world she lives every day. She writes about various horse rescues, the indivual horses themselves and what it took to rehabilitate them. She also tells of her trials to keep the Proud Spirit Sanctuary running. Melanie's approach to her story is heartfelt but not sappy. She is realistic about what she is up against but she stays in it for the horses she has saved, and the ones she will be able to save in the future.

Melanie Sue Bowles has written a sequel: Hoof Prints: More Stories from Proud Spirit (March 2008) and I am looking forward to reading it. I also learned that there is a PBS documentary airing nationwide about the first book, though I haven't run across it on my local PBS stations yet.

If you'd like a look into the hard work and dedication it takes to run horse rescues, I recommend reading The Horses of Proud Spirit. If you want to experience the journey these devoted people take in their efforts to save horses this is a good place to start.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

FHOTD is much more than its first impression

When I first started looking around for horse related blogs, I noticed that one blog stood out, often referred to, so I figured I should check it out. The blog is Fugly Horse of the day, aka FHOTD.

At first I was annoyed, a little angry. I don't like negativity, there's plenty of it to go around these days. The first picture I saw on this page was of a severely starving horse. Some of the wording in the blog was harsh. I clicked out figuring it wasn't my kind of blog.

As time went on, more and more of the blogs I like to read were still referring back to FHOTD. Sometimes good, sometimes outraged. Once again, I decided to check back with FHOTD. This time, I read, and I understood the message. I wasn't angered at the blogger anymore. I am a convert, probably like many others. FHOTD brings alot of common sense to nonsensical breeding and horse treatment. I cannot believe the conditions people allow their horses to exist in. I am one of those people who really enjoys life in a perfect little bubble, too bad, life isn't like that.

I hope, through FOHTD blogs, there are people who will change their ways about senseless breeding and treatment of horses. There will always be people who are too, I really hate to use the word dumb, but that's as simple as it gets, to care about the horses in their care. It sickens me to read about the creatures FHOTD posts about, as I'm sure it does anyone who loves horses. I also realize, that out there in the real world, out of my safe little bubble, there are terrible things that happen to horses every day.

So, to FHOTD, sorry for misjudging your intentions. I GET IT NOW!!! Keep up the good work for a good cause! Sometimes folks need a kick in the pants and that's what FHOTD does.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Horses & Mud

Not having lived my life around horses until recently, there have been quite a few things I've learned in the past 4 years about them and their behaviors. The one little item I never realized about horses is that they LOVE to roll in the mud. Honestly, I never knew this! Makes me laugh now. It's really a very simple concept. New rain produces muddy field. Target for horses to go for it!

This morning when I went out to feed, my guys were a little wet when they came in to eat their morning grain. I sort of expected them to already be muddy and was a little surprised they hadn't been at it yet. We've been dry around here for the past month. It's been getting dusty dry. Grass is near nothing. We definitely needed the rain but I was enjoying not having to deal with mud yet.

Fed them their grain, gave them their hay for the morning and then I left to go get some groceries. I was gone for a couple of hours. When I got back, my two boys were waiting at the gate, and yes, covered from ears to hooves in mud! They actually seemed proud of themselves and seemed to be showing me what they'd been into while I was gone.

My illusion of most horses had come from seeing them in shows I'd attended as a spectator or some other event where the horses were always cleaned up and pristine. The thought never once crossed my mind that horses would enjoy mud. Shows how much I didn't know!

We had one little black pony mare, Gloria, at the ranch where I worked. She would always, and I mean ALWAYS, run into the field after we'd bathed her, and roll in the mud or dirt. None of the other horses did it right in front of us, just Gloria. Yeah, we finally figured out that when we bathed her, she needed to go back into the stall for a while and not out to the field right away. It's just so comical when I think about it now.

Then there was big Kleo. She was a 17 h sorrel QH, with a nasty personality but that's for another time, who would literally come in from a rainy night covered in mud. My guys this morning reminded me of Kleo, but even they hadn't gotten anywhere close to being as mud caked as what I remember Kleo. Kleo would have mud caked and baked into(so it seemed) her coat. She had to have rolled with all her weight more than a few times. I hated cleaning Kleo up after one of these episodes, which seemed to be constantly during the rainy fall and spring seasons and just before weekend programs, of course.

Then there was Dusty, who did not like to get muddy. Imagine that! She was always the cleanest horse in the barn. Evidently she didn't care to roll in the mud. We were never quite sure what breeds Dusty was crossed with, but she was a big bodied, almost draft-like mare with the fullest main and tail I'd ever seen. Dusty seemed to pride herself in her cleanliness. She was our little princess as well as our drama queen. But, of all the horses, I don't ever recall seeing her having her way with the mud in the fields or coming into the barn with much more than a small splatter of mud on her coat.

I guess I'm just lucky to have a couple of mud dogs for horses. They do like to roll and get covered in the stuff. Maybe they have a plan in their heads. Maybe they just get covered in mud because they know I'll eventually come out and clean them up when it quits raining. Which works right into their plan of running out and rolling in the mud, again, when I walk back into the house!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Ginger-Great little green trail horse.

I met Ginger when I worked at a riding stable, which was known as a ranch, but that's just because "ranch" was in the name of the place. In Southern Ohio, I don't think we have ranches, just farms.

My first impressions of Ginger were: I didn't want anything to do with her. She was young, 4 or 5 at the time. She seemed flighty. She seemed spooky. She seemed to fit her namesake, kind of flaky. She was named after Ginger from Gilligan's Island. Her buddy horse was a big black Walker gelding named Gilligan, who was in love with the fair haired Ginger. She was sorrel with strawberry blonde mane and tail. Don't hate me for picking on sorrels, but there are just so darn many of them. Remember, that was my thinking when I first met her.

The first year I worked at the ranch, I avoided Ginger as much as possible. During the programming season we were busy through the weekends with riding programs and barn maintainance through the week. By December the programs ended and we had the winter months of January and February to fill. The manager divided the 14 horses up among the four of us for down time training. There were three staff members and the manager.

Ginger was assigned to one of the more experienced staff. I was assigned three of the more experienced, older horses. So, for the most part, my students taught me that season. When I saw Ginger being worked through the training/off season, I stopped to watch. Ginger wasn't behaving very well during her training. All the more evidence I needed to determine I really didn't want anything to do with her.

I went about my own methods for my three students. Granted, they knew the ropes better than I did at times but I was willing to learn some things from them. Later, when spring came around and it was time for riding programs to start again, I was happy my students had been checked off all their "tasks completed". Ginger, however, was missing a few.

The staff member who was responsible for Ginger's training, told me one day, in no uncertain terms, that she didn't like Ginger. She told me Ginger wouldn't learn anything and she was just plain crazy. Now, I started thinking about this. I tend to gravitate toward underdogs. And being the strange thinking person I can be, I started feeling sorry for Ginger. I thought, Ginger can't be all that bad or she wouldn't be here as a school horse. Well, that was a misnomer because she had come to the ranch as part of the property deal. When the organization bought the place they acquired half the school horses that the previous owner had at his other farm. I hadn't known that originally. Ginger had been in the bargain and had never been officially trained before she landed in a schooling program. So, I'm thinking, Ginger needs consistency and some ground work for starters.

Well, there wasn't much I'd be able to do that season. Ginger did fine with our riders as long as they didn't try to trot her. So we kept Ginger in the beginning classes which did not allow for trotting or loping. When a rider tried to trot Ginger, she would raise up her head, do all kinds of head tossing and feet came off the ground loose reins and all. As long as we kept her at a walk, and in the horse care part of the programs, she was fine.

The next year we were able to choose the horses we wanted to work with in the next off season training session. After deciding to work around Ginger to get to know her a little better, I chose her. I also had charge of a little Appaloosa named Speckles. We were down a staff member that year, so we decided to work with those horses who seemed to need the most training, and the other seasoned horses the three of us would work and ride as the time allowed.

Ginger had developed a few more bad habits over the year. Or rather, she was never taught what was expected of her. One, she didn't want to raise her feet to be cleaned or act mannerly for the farrier. Two, she had a problem standing quietly under saddle and while tied. I had decided the previous year that part of Ginger's problem had been in her ground handling since the staff member told me she didn't like Ginger. I believe they had been working against each other. I also knew I'd need to work on that trot issue. The manager wanted Ginger to be able to be used in the more advanced riding programs which meant trotting and loping. So began a relationship that turned into me learning not to judge a horse by it's coat color for one thing, and another, what patience and consistency can get you when it comes to working with horses.

Ginger and I started out with her mild problems. Standing quietly and lifting feet for cleaning as well as for the farrier. I don't know what it was with Ginger, but for some reason, she responded to me. I suppose it was my attitude toward her. I wasn't judgmental. The other staff member who'd had problems with Ginger couldn't even go into the stall to put the halter on her without a fuss from Ginger. That was not a problem for me.

Over a period of the two months the other staff member and the manager both told me they saw a big improvement in Ginger's reactions. By the time March rolled around, Ginger was standing quietly for the farrier. I had also been able to get her through her trot issue. We had checked her out making sure it had nothing to do with equipment or her mouth. After a few times of resistence, but I kept persisting, Ginger finally would transition easily from a walk into a trot without resisting the rider, me, or anyone else. I was proud of myself! And of her.

We took her out on trail rides. Myself and one other staff. Ginger was a pro at picking through the rocks, climbing and descending the often steep hillsides, walking over trees. You would have thought she'd done it all her life. I did have to slow her down when it came to ravines and dry creek beds, she wanted to jump them. I made her walk. She had been allowed to jump over those earthy obstacles in the past, I had been told. After my experiences with her, if I had a choice, I always chose Ginger as my trail mount.

Ginger also was not a typical mare, in my opinion. She didn't seem to have moody days. I labeled her as the tomboy of the ranch mares and we had majority mares over geldings. Some days we had hormonal hell with all those mares! My experience with Ginger taught me that not all mares are moody and hormonal. She gave me a different perspective in many areas. Ginger will always be at the top of my list of memorable horses from my time working at the little ranch. She changed my opinion about many ideas in horse training because I worked through her problems with her and she responded.

I'm not sure how Ginger is doing these days. I've lost touch with anyone that worked at the ranch. When I left the job, I told my boss I would miss the horses more than anything. I haven't been back. I sure hope Ginger is still the good girl I tried to coach her to become. I know I'll always appreciate what she did for me!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Five Kittens in a Box

As long as I can remember, the animals I've had in my life have chosen me. With the exception of my two horses, one dog we got at the shelter and one pup we got from a neighbor, the dogs and cats have shown up, in one way or another, in need of a home.

Six years ago #1 son and his girlfriend (now his wife) were walking out of church after the morning service. There on the front steps of the church they found a cardboard box with five tiny kittens inside. Being the caring soul he is, my son decided to bring the box of kittens home.

Upon being presented with his box of kittens, my response was "why?", as in why he brought them home. I love animals but I also tend to have this instant "whoa" impulse when something is thrust upon me. He told me he couldn't leave them on the steps and no one else wanted to take them home.

The kittens were very tiny. Didn't even have their little eyes open. I told him I'd never raised kittens that small before. He told me he'd take care of them. Well, he was nineteen at the time, attending the local university, not some little boy who just says he'll take care of them so I eased up on my hesitation.

We fixed a large box for the kittens in the upstairs of our garage. It was at the end of summer, the weather was still warm. I fixed soft towels for the kittens to snuggle into. At the time I didn't know there was a kitten formula available through the vet office, so I resorted to buying human baby formula to feed them. As a family, the four of us, Hubby, both sons and me, took turns feeding the tiny kittens. Each kitten fit in the palm of a hand, they were so little.

We used eyedroppers at first. Feeding them every 2-4 hours.We would wipe their little bottoms. We had learned from an internet article mom cats lick the bottoms of their babies to stimulate elimination. It worked like a charm! We also gently stroked and petted the babies after feeding hoping we were able to simulate the affection they might have gotten from their mom.

At one point, after a few days, #1 son asked if I'd taken any pictures of the kittens. I was afraid to take pictures because in all honesty, I wasn't so sure about the final outcome for the little guys and girls. Later, I simply forgot, but now, wish I had taken a moment to snap some photos of them.
Over a period of a couple of weeks the little things thrived. They started crawling around in the box, opening their eyes, all except one tiny little guy, who appeared to be the runt of the litter. He didn't open his eyes like the others. We had to clean his eyes constantly. He had goopy yellow stuff coming out of the tiny slits. We read what was the best way to treat it and for the most part, we used warm water and a saline solution. Don't know if this was right, but it eventually worked. I was sure this little guy would be one of our casualities over the long haul. He remained smaller than the other kittens, but he sure put up a good fight to keep up with everyone!

As the days moved along we played with the kittens and tried to get them used to handling. They were all sweethearts. #1 son wanted to name them, but I resisted. I told him we would need to find homes for them. He requested to keep some. I relented and said we'd keep two of them.
I let him pick out the two he wanted to keep with us. He chose the little runt and the sister who closely resembled him, but was bigger. At that point, I told #1 son he could name his kittens. He decided on Buddy for the little guy, and Jinxy for the sister. Both were gray and white, similar markings, often hard to tell them apart. Jinxy had two small white spots on the tips of her ears and her coat was like the fur of a rabbit. Buddy, was just funny looking at the time. He was actually kind of, well, ugly. His head hadn't grown with his body. He was scrawny though we had moved them to kitten chow and a little bit of can food. I was still uncertain about his future.

We found homes for three of the kittens. Two of them went to a farm and one went to a lady I was working with at the time. I felt fortunate to have found homes for them. That left us with Buddy and Jinxy. Amazingly, over the next few months, Buddy blossomed. He still remained smaller than his sister, but he started filling out. Apparently, a late bloomer.

#1 son spent alot of time with Buddy. He worked out a whistle to call the little guy. To this day, Buddy will respond to a certain whistle in a Pavlov way. His ears perk up, his tail goes up and he walks to #1 son. We've all tried to mimic this whistle but never comes out the same as the way #1 son does it. Buddy will respond to us, but he knows we're not his "buddy".

Jinxy always exhibited delicate girl ways. She sort of became my favorite. She loved to sit on shoulders. Pick her up and she would go right to the shoulder. She was so soft and so sweet! Yes, I had a soft spot for Jinxy. Unfortuately, she died last year from an unknown illness. The vet was never able to determine what took her.

We still have Buddy though. He has grown to a very large cat who I believe, is convinced he's a dog. He acts more like a dog sometimes. He follows us around outside. He's nosey! He has to see what's going on and if it meets his approval. He lays among the dogs as if he's one of them. He and Xena, our German Shepherd who died recently, were close. They would curl up together, though Xena would often look at us as if to say "What? I don't know why he wants to lay here with me." But, she accepted his company.

I don't know what became of the other kittens I found homes for but I can only hope they had good lives. For all I know, Buddy may be the only one still living, if so, he's the lucky one. The runt of the litter and he ends up being the one who portrays "survival of the fittest." I wish I'd had a picture of him when he was a tiny mess!
Twenty little pawprints, forever across my heart!