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!