Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Peppy, Sadie and the Secret Hoarder Syndrome

Twenty-plus years ago I tried country living for the first time. I bought 14 acres in a rather poor rural neighborhood of rundown mobile homes and even more rundown farm houses. I got the property because of a foreclosure, and the new mobile home I moved there stood out like the comma in a comma splice. It was an interesting collection of farm-lets.

There was a group home of mentally challenged children a few lots over, and one of the older teens there once came by and “confessed” to raping one of the other fosters and holding up a local store with his pretend gun. The sheriff assured me none of that was true and escorted him home.

Another neighbor from down the road who I’d never met came to my door one night, quite drunk and bleeding from having negotiated her way through the barbed wire fences between her place and mine. She asked me to call the sheriff to escort her back home after spending a couple of delirious minutes on my porch. I obliged.

The woman who lived in the lot next door seemed to be a truly nice woman when I first met her. She owned a number of young dogs – all rescues, according to her – as well as a young bull calf who followed her around everywhere, including to the mailbox and back. Her place was as squalid as the rest of the area, but I gave her the benefit of the doubt that she was caring for the animals the best she could.

Two of the dogs came over quite frequently to play with my Dobermans. Peppy was a tall black-and-tan setter/shepherd cross and Sadie was a tiny black cocker spaniel mix. My two Doberman puppies adored Peppy and I appreciated the way he mentored them, even though he wasn’t even a year old himself when he first came to visit. Sadie was a little dynamo who ingratiated herself with anyone she met.

My Dobies - Lance (L) and, um, Phoenix (R)
My dad loved coming out to the property on weekends to mow or work on the old Ford 8N tractor. Built in the early 50s, that tractor needed lots of care to keep it going. Sadie would come over and hang with Dad while he worked. When he expressed interest in getting a dog to keep my invalid mother company, I was surprised – and pleased – and knew Sadie’s attitude and non-stop tail were instrumental in his even considering getting a dog for him – er, Mom.

About a year after I moved in, I was on my way to work when I saw a tired and muddy dog plodding along the road about 8 miles out. It was Peppy. I bundled the grateful boy into the car and brought him back to my neighbor, who told me he’d jumped out of the back of their truck when they’d gone to the little country store that was 6 miles away. She seemed pleased to have him back, and I left it at that.

The next weekend, my dad made another comment about getting a dog – this after Sadie snuggled up beside him while he was on a break and demanded a tummy rub. Since she’d taken to spending a lot of time over at my place, I made a decision. Friday morning before work, I asked my neighbor if my dad could have Sadie. I was stunned when she said, “I took all my dogs to the county shelter yesterday. I just couldn’t handle all of them any more.”

I was crushed. Especially since she hadn’t asked me if I wanted any of them first. She and I had never been close as neighbors, but she knew some of her dogs and mine played together. I ditched work and drove straight to the county animal shelter. There was no sign of Sadie or Peppy – who I’d also decided would come home with me – and the shelter manager told me no one had dropped off 7 dogs in recent memory. I went home and called every shelter in the area. Not one of them had seen any of the dogs I described.

Only then did I realize that not only had the neighbor lied to my face, she had no doubt purposefully lost Peppy on the side of the road a couple of weeks earlier. Where she’d abandoned him and Sadie and the others this time I never found out. I had been too late to save them by no more than a couple of days. That I had been so close to enabling a different outcome for them ate deeply at me for a long, long time. I suppose it’s still eating at me 20 years later.

A couple of weeks after the pups went missing, I noticed the calf, who’d grown into quite the hefty bull, had also disappeared.

Not long after, I was working near the fence between our properties (we couldn’t see each other’s homes otherwise) when the neighbor came out carrying an 8-week-old bulldog puppy she’d bought the week before. She showed him off to me without apology and told me she was picking up a shih tzu puppy the next week. She cuddled the little bulldog close, kissing him on top of his head, and went back into her house as though nothing were wrong.

I wished the puppy god-speed, knowing he had maybe 2 good years ahead of him. I’d finally figured out the woman had a special kind of hoarding syndrome. She collected BABY animals only. Once the animals outgrew their cute phase, she’d simply get rid of them and start collecting all over.

I moved before that happened again.

Twenty years ago in a poor neighborhood, in an even poorer county, outside any city limits and with nothing but circumstantial evidence to go on, what could I have done to prevent the woman from cycling again?

Abuse and neglect come in many forms. If only they were all obvious.

Good dogs both - forever missed.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Just Pictures!

I took several pictures earlier this week to tell the story of the drought we're experiencing here in North Texas. Then I decided I didn't want to write about something so depressing today. We'll save that pictorial essay for next week, OK?

Today, I'll just share some random pics of the beasties in all their beastly glory.

Ricky is a sorrel-and-white pony x miniature horse cross. Easy to see why the vet calls him "flashy"!

Stampede! Mom came out the door. Maybe she has treats!

Umm, where exactly ARE the treats?
Rowdy the pygmy goat had a severe case of bloat last week. Using a turkey baster, I drenched him with baking soda/water, massaged his tummy and gave him Prevail to help with the pain. When his breathing became labored and he didn't want to stand up, I was afraid I was going to have to put a needle in his rumen to expel the gas built up. Luckily the other ministrations worked and, after a few days, he was back to his (fairly) sweet self.

Back to eating normally, with a little grain mixed with baking soda for breakfast.

Lucy insisted on a picture too. Notice the elongated, horizontal pupils of her eyes. This is normal for goat eyes.
A few of the chickens looking for their corn and scratch grains treat scattered in their chicken yard. 
2 of the 3 guineas - both males
Another shot of the guineas, who don't get much face time in photos.
This is a little hummingbird taking a rest outside my office window. I rarely get to see them so still!
Ginger is quite worried that, even though I've just given her a treat, I might steal her duck egg - the one she stole out of a duck nest from the backyard.
Reassuring herself that her egg is, indeed, still there. Yes, she'll eat it. In a few days.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Linda the Clown

This week's guest post is by Landra Graf.
Like some of the other stories on this blog, the best ones are about the animals that flourish after being saved from horrible circumstances. Linda the Clown is another example of why rescue work is rewarding.
Linda is a 14-month-old Basenji Shepherd Mix. This sweet girl was in Pawsibilities’ local pound, and when the local ACO (animal control officer) resigned from his position our rescue stepped up and brought Linda into our fold. When Pawsibilities got her, Linda’s first experience with us was a trip to the vet.
Side note: One of the reasons her position at the pound was dire is because she was originally mistaken for a pit bull. The town Pawsibilities is based in has laws that pit bulls and pit mixes are not allowed within city limits. This makes them extremely hard to adopt—and the first up on the list for euthanasia. Fortunately for us the vet was able to give her a positive identification as a Basenji Mix, which opened a lot more doors for her.
She had mange, and acted extremely terrified of everything—it didn’t matter if it was a person, a bug, a new blanket or treat. On top of the mange this baby was also suffering from an ear infection. Since that first day Linda has been with us for 5 months, and now she’s every bit of rambunctious puppy. In that time her personality has completely changed.
At first we thought she was the devil dog, and possibly psychotic.  She would tear into everything at her foster’s house. Threaten to chase cats with a gleam in her eye, and act completely hostile at Pet Fairs. Linda even took the time to tear up a doggie door at a local boarding facility that was holding her for us while her foster went on vacation. Unfortunately the facility owner has since banned Linda from the establishment, and in retrospect we realize that not everyone is good at boarding. At that point Linda had been a member of Pawsibilities for only a month, and likely thought she was being abandoned again. No one, animals or people, enjoys the idea of being cast aside.
A few more months behind us and Linda’s not afraid of anything. In fact, she’s shed her devil dog persona and replaced it with that of a clown. Her everyday antics and actions provide a ton of comic relief—from chasing paper towels to leaping over the couch. The couch trick is one of her favorites, and is a daily source of exercise. Her foster will fill a Kong toy with peanut butter and throw it back and forth over the couch. Linda will play chase for hours as long as the Kong keeps moving. 
The best part is when you talk to her; she’ll tilt her head to the side as if your sentences really bear some sort of important factor. In reality she could be just mesmerized or relieved at the sound of your voice.  She mimics Snoopy by sleeping on top of the dog house, and has a genuine love for gardening. Just don’t draw her attention to the carrots because she just raises her nose at them.
As time passes and this darling is avoided at Pet Fairs, like our girl Hope, we wonder if there will ever be a family for her. She’s only a year old and her behavioral issues are those any puppy experiences. Surprisingly she fits in well with the other dogs at her foster’s home, and some of them ignore her when she goes hyperactive ninja or decides to pole vault over people’s knees. 
At some point we hope that this precious bundle will get the chance to make others laugh and enjoy her cozy, snuggling ways. Until that point, we can only continue to help her grow, and keep her from chasing the cats. FYI: She typically stalks a cat in slow mo, and then runs away in the other direction.
Pawsibilities…Are Endless is a tiny rescue located in Central-West Missouri not far from Warrensburg, Sedalia and Whiteman AFB. We specialize in helping animals in need find their forever homes. To assist in these efforts, not only do we provide local adoptions, but we work with other rescues to find homes for our furry packages across the United States. In Pawsibilities' mind, nothing compares to helping an animal find their happy-ever-after.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Snap, Rattle and Roll

The first decent rain in weeks (yay!) and, surprise, who shows up? This is, I believe, a red-eared slider - but s/he was a bit too shy to pop its head far enough out that I could verify.

This is the first turtle I’ve seen this summer. Most years there are usually quite a few trundling through.
And talking turtle today because this little guy showed up yesterday gives me a chance to recycle a post from last year ...

I'm a big believer in allowing things that are alive to stay that way. Not everyone holds that same view, I realize, especially out in the countryside where my little farm is. Routinely I hear neighbors shooting at coyotes, snapping turtles, snakes, and wild hogs. Sometimes even stray dogs. I'm certainly not naive enough to think I can influence the behavior of those around me; all I can do is manage what happens on the 27-acre microcosm that I pretend to have some say over.

And what happens is this: Until an animal proves they are not just troublemakers but repeat offenders, I hold no grudges. We're all in this together, trying to survive. I've lost very dear furred and feathered friends to coyotes and owls and hawks. But we're also not overrun with mice and rats and rabbits because of those same predators. They simply don't discriminate. So I do what I can to protect my beasties in what ways I can while giving them as much freedom as possible to live relatively happy lives.

That doesn't mean I don't take an active part in trying to control the environment. Potential predators are often shepherded along through my relocation services. I've run after a number of coyotes myself and sent the dogs after several more to chase them off the property. I've broken up fights between my chickens and hawks and sent the hawks on their way. I've grabbed my trusty rake and big storage bins and moved a few nonpoisonous snakes from Point A to Point B, especially when there were young chicks or ducklings at Point A.

I did once have a crisis of conscience when I found a large rattlesnake in my backyard. With my ducks. And my dogs. When I first saw it, I didn't know it was a rattler, and I stepped back in the house and grabbed a broom and a bin to capture it. When it coiled up and raised its head in the classic pre-strike pose, I still didn't catch on because it was the first (and so far only) rattler I've seen on the property. Only when it raised its tail and shook the tip of it did I recognize it for what it was. I looked from the 4-foot snake to the 5-foot broom and decided I needed heavier artillery. For a moment, I did consider killing it. Even if it struck in self-defense, it was a big snake with plenty of venom to kill a curious duck or do serious neural damage to a 40-pound dog trying to intimidate it.

I took a deep breath and the moment of irrational panic passed. Just because this was the first time I had seen the snake didn't mean it hadn't been hanging around for awhile -- and nothing bad had happened so far. I stepped back in the house and picked up a 6-foot metal pipe and locked the dogs inside. The only plan I had was to encourage the snake to leave the yard as far from the house as possible. Beyond that, planwise, I had nothing. Luckily, the rattler was simply a creature that wanted nothing more than to be left alone to go about its business of eating small prey. I expected it to attack the pipe. It didn't. I expected it to resist being moved. It didn't. Although it did move toward the house instead of away from it, which had more to do I suspect with my lack of snake wrangling skills than any motive on its part. It disappeared through the chainlink fence and slithered under my wraparound porch.

For a couple of days after, I kept the cats inside, watched the dogs, wore shoes, and was especially careful where I stepped. But I never saw the snake again.

Oh, Snap

I was reminded of all this a few days ago when I saw a turtle crossing the front lawn. While we have our share of red-earred sliders and box turtles that hang out in the ponds and creeks, this was no big, slow, shy guy that ducks his head and feet into his shell at your approach and lets you pick him up without a fuss. No, no. This was a snapping turtle.

Snapping turtles are not made like other turtles. For one, theirs is a small shell; too small for them to pull their head and feet into. For another, these guys have sharp claws and a wicked beaked mouth with a bite like a pit bull. They're quick and they're aggressive. I have never met one yet that allowed itself to be herded easily into my relocation bin. They lunge at me and attack the rake handle, leaving gouges in the wood from their bite. Did I mention they also hiss?

This one was no different. After a bit of a pole dance to get it into the bin, I carried it off to an unused back pasture and released it there, away from my dogs and fowl. And this time I snapped a couple of pictures. For a size perspective, that's an 18-gallon bin the turtle is in. This is actually a young-ish turtle and one of the smaller ones I've relocated. It will likely wander back up to the house when it's almost twice this size and we'll go through the whole process again.

Yes, it's possible it will wander toward one of the neighbors instead and that shotgun pop I hear will mean it won't ever wander this way again. That makes me sad. But at least I know I've given it a chance that others wouldn't have. What it makes of that chance is out of my hands. I accept that. It's part of the price I pay for living in a place where I have the tremendously fulfilling opportunity to interact with nature and to relocate all the creatures that I do. As I said earlier, we're all in this together. That's something I never forget.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Nick's Story

This is a guest post by V.K. Whetham.

Nick is a “special” dog, which is a polite way of saying his chance of being adopted is slim to none.

It is not because Nick is old or sick. He’s only 4 and in perfect health. Nor is he ugly or too black [ed: there is documented evidence black dogs are euthanized at a higher rate than dogs with any other trait]. He is a beautiful tri-color border collie/ Australian shepherd cross. That makes him a herd dog twice over, and in the West where there are more predators than people, more free range than fenced, a good herd dog may be the only insurance a rancher has against bankruptcy. We love our dogs here. We depend on them. They protect our homes, livestock and families. Even more than family members, they are a part of who we are.  

But Nick isn’t an ordinary herd dog. He has issues. So many issues that if he were a child he would very likely be shipped from one foster home to the next until landing in a residential group home and, finally, institutionalized in a psychiatric hospital. Because Nick is a dog and not a boy, his future was even more grim and in other circumstances he would have been destroyed. In fact, his final walk had already been planned when he got lucky and came to live with me instead.

Nick is a rescue from an animal hoarding situation. Although we can’t be sure, we believe he may have been born in the very cage he was rescued from when he was 2 years old. That’s a very long time to live in a cage. After months of trying, his rescuers determined he was unadoptable and a desperate search for a foster home began.

St. Jude is the patron saint of lost causes. I like to believe he and I would get along quite nicely. The good saint was looking after his own when he dropped Nick into my care.

I can still smell him. Within an hour of his arrival, my house smelled so bad it could have been a kennel. He had this huge Buddha belly but his legs were small, under-developed. They had atrophied. I will never forget the first time I put him into the backyard. He stood completely still and stared. He tiptoed across the grass, suspicion in every step. He didn’t know what grass was, had never felt in under his paws. He ran to a corner of the yard and shivered underneath a Lilac bush. He wouldn’t move. I had to put him on a leash to bring him back inside. Then he ran to his crate and cowered. We repeated this several times a day for 4 months.

It took many more months of coaxing before he would let me pet him or take food from my hand. It's clear he thought I would grab him or hurt him with the other hand. Months passed and still he wouldn’t willingly leave the crate. Finally, I had to take it away. Many anxious days followed when Nick paced and paced, looking desperately for his cage, all the time pleading with his eyes. I would sit next to him and sing – one lullaby after another, Christmas songs and hymns – the only songs I could remember. He tolerated me, but only just – tense and shivering, looking for a way to escape. One day he lay down and rolled over. It’s like he was saying, “If you insist on assaulting me with your horrible singing, scratch my belly while you’re doing it”. So I did.

Nick’s better. His progress has been slow but steady. There have been no big “Aha” moments. No ooohing or awwwing, just remembering how far he has come, one tiny little step at a time. Today, 18 months later, Nick almost looks normal and only the most astute stranger notices the fear in his eyes and asks, “What’s wrong with that dog?”

With me, he is calm now and all smiles. I laugh as I watch him swagger across the yard. I’ve never known a dog so careful about finding the right place to mark his presence. All my other dogs take a few seconds, but not Nick. Our 3 a.m. bathroom breaks are at least 15 minutes long now, sometimes longer. I don’t care because even so early, sometimes in the bitter cold, and always in the dark shadows away from the porch light it makes me laugh.

But then I watch Nick back up to a tree or fence to do his major business. What a smart way to keep your cage clean! But it’s sad as well. I know how and why Nick got so smart. My chest feels heavy when I think of why Nick, for the rest of his life, will do his major business like this.

Nick and I talk when he sits on the couch and the other dogs are playing. He isn’t much of a player. He enjoys my touch and no longer flinches or tenses up when I pet him. No longer does he look for a way to flee in case something happens and he finds I can’t be trusted after all. When strangers come over, even the young men and giggling girls that trail after my son, he no longer slinks off to the bedroom, hoping no one sees him. He sits with me and we watch the strangers. In his eyes, I can see him thinking, They are very loud. I nod. “But fun to watch,” I say. He looks at them and then at me. Loud wonders. I nod.

There are days when I look at Nick sitting on his bed, staring off in a distance. I know he is remembering things I can’t imagine. There is sadness in his soulful eyes, a loneliness, a painful remembrance. I lay my hand across his shoulders and he looks at me. The sadness fades. I nod. He knows I understand how far he has come and I don’t care how long the road is that he has yet to travel.

One other thing you should know about Nick: He was rescued from a “rescuer” with over 100 dogs. The owner was brought up on 100 charges of animal cruelty. She was offered a plea deal that if she relinquished her property – her 100 neglected dogs – charges would be dropped. Less than a year later the owner was charged with 51 new counts of animal cruelty.

I cried when I heard that. Then I remembered the starfish. I can’t save all of them, but I can make a difference to one at a time. Nick understood. He wagged his tail, slightly.

I also cried for this woman. As a therapist, I serve those who are often despised by others. I understand feelings of loss. I understand obsessive-compulsive disorder. Is Nick’s broken spirit and heart greater than this woman’s? She feeds her emptiness, fears and longing for happiness with animals she can’t care for. Is this so different than another who feeds his emptiness with wealth only to find there is not enough gold in the world to feed the bottomless pit of despair?  Is it so different than another soul who feeds the pit with food?

Nick looks at me. I look at him. We understand. He wags his tail, no longer tentatively but assuredly, joyfully, and my heart swells with love and hope.

I thank God for Nick. Nick shows me a tiny bit of God’s huge, omnipresent heart. He has learned to trust, love, forgive and hope against all odds or reason. Nick’s heart was surely made from God’s for Nick had no more reason to love, forgive or hope than God, yet they both love unconditionally, fully, deeply, in ways I can only imagine.

Nick was my foster dog but now has joined my growing family – three other rescued dogs and three beautiful cats. They all come with a story worth the telling.

If you would like a herd dog of your own – once you have a HERD you’ll never love another – please visit HERD rescue of Wyoming at or any other rescue in your area. If you encounter a “rescue” that is not reputable – meaning the animals are not well-cared for – please report it to your local authorities. In Wyoming, before additional criminal action could be taken, new laws had to be passed. Nick’s “rescuer” was raided the second time less than 30 days after the governor signed the stricter laws. It’s frustrating that it takes so long but people really do want to do the right thing.

Next time I’ll tell you about Rocky the ComeBack Kid. Rocky can’t wait! He likes the spotlight!

Adopt One, Until There Are None.   

Monday, September 12, 2011

We Have More Than Lives to Repair

I know I’m blessed to live where I do and to have the life I have. Since I thrive on drama, I do tend to inflate small problems just to get the adrenaline rush my brain demands. Mainly I live vicariously through virtual friends who have very real, very terrible problems and offer what support I can, recognizing each second we are all only an ill-timed moment away from devastating accident or injury, or a wrong word whispered into the wrong ear away from the loss of friendship and trust.
I isolate myself here on my little farm. I make it a game to see how long I can go without driving into town, which is only about 10 minutes away. Still, despite what these ducks, Roo-Boy the rooster and Rowdy the goat seem to believe, life isn’t always serene at Rainbow’s End.

First, we all have to be vigilant against predators. Last week the guineas put up a fuss mid-day and I found a coyote napping under a tree. The guineas were in a pasture on one side of the fence, the coyote on the other. He was encouraged away, first by me then by the dogs who were caught napping themselves.
Then there are the repairs. The back of the feed shed opens up into the goat yard. The walls of the shed are simple sideboard, which doesn’t seem to hold up well under the head butting of a bored goat.
"Who, me?"
Yes, Lucy. A little water damage softened the wood, but the rest was all you.

I have sheet metal in both red and white left over from the last barn I had built, and my intent was to side the back of the shed with the red sheets. I figured metal would at least be harder for goat horns to tear up. When I started sawing a long sheet in half, though, the number of sparks scared me. We’ve been in a drought and I’m even afraid to start a mower engine for fear of dead grass catching fire. Plenty of wildfires in the area have taught me to be cautious. So I found two pieces of metal short enough to use without sawing. They, of course, are white.
I hate repairing things. I’d much rather build from scratch. I did a reasonable job in taking care of the hole in the wall, but the door no longer hangs/closes as well as it did, and I had to improvise the trim at the top to keep rain out.  The repair is merely serviceable, much like most of my work around here.
The dirt gathered from being in the field will wash off if we ever get any rain. And with the way the trim on the door is being abused by goat horns, looks like I'll be replacing, instead of just rehanging, the door next. Building a new shed would probably be far easier in the long run...

Then, too, the drought has been cracking the ground, opening deep and wide crevices that can easily catch an unwary horse leg. I’ve seen a distracted Ricky back up without looking and have one of his legs slip into one of the crevices. Fortunately, although he was over knee-deep in the hole, he didn’t panic and quickly extricated himself. Should that happen at speed when he’s chasing Cody or playing tag with Bonita and not watching himself, I shudder at the possible consequences.
My foot on the left, Cody's on the right for a size comparison.
Yes, that's a Halloween spider on the canvas shoe. Please do not judge.
(R) Me stepping into one of the many, many crevices criss-crossing the pastures.

The moving ground also plays havoc with the water pipes carrying water through the fields to the house.  Ten-foot sections of PVC pipe are held to each other with a connector and glue. When the glue dries out too much, it cracks, then the earth moves and the pipe sections shift, causing them to leak. To repair, the offending section has to be sawed out and a special coupling that can withstand the water pressure inserted. When it’s textbook, it’s not difficult, just time-consuming.
I spent Sunday morning doing my 6th or 7th leak repair this summer. Around sunset, just before I was going out to put the beasties to bed, I turned on the water and nothing came out of the tap. That meant one of two things: a MAJOR leak on my property or a leak somewhere upstream and the water company had shut the water off completely. It turned out to be my problem. A piece of pipe buried 18 inches underground had suddenly broken apart and the two sections had shifted about ½ an inch away from each other. It was a wide-open faucet underground. Luckily I noticed it before thousands of gallons had been lost. What was really eye-opening was that the hundreds of gallons that did leak out traveled through underground crevices that only here and there cracked up to the surface. It was amazing that there was a major leak in the middle of the pasture and the only outward sign was a circle of damp ground about 3-feet across.
After the sun had risen a little less than 12 hours later I went out to repair the line. Overnight, the ground had sucked up those hundreds of gallons of water and everything was desert dry. Usually when I have to dig down to the pipes, it’s through sticky wet clay that clings to everything it touches and I have to bail water from the hole I dug. The dirt this time was barely damp, even around the gaping hole between the two sections of pipe. If you had told me several bathtubs worth of water would simply disappear overnight I wouldn’t have believed you. Incredible.
Fortunately the dry ground worked in my favor and the repair went like clockwork. Now I’m just hoping there aren’t any more breaks before my next trip to town when I can pick up another spare coupling.
I didn’t get pictures of Sunday’s repair, but here’s a section of pipe I repaired earlier this summer and have left open because it was a tricky repair and I’m afraid if it were to leak again I wouldn’t notice quickly enough. You can see the deep fissures leading away from the water line as well as those opening up underneath the pipes themselves. The sheet metal covering simply keeps the horses from accidentally stepping into the holes and tearing the pipes apart.
(R) A double repair with the special couplings needed to connect inline pipe sections after the pipe has already been laid.
The horses aren't actually grazing. They're scarfing up grain and alfalfa pellets I've strewn over the ground to prolong treat time. There's still a bit of grass to be had, but none of it is very nutritious right now.
 In the grand scheme, though, most of my emergencies have been reparable with a cost of time and elbow grease and a few dollars for parts. Aside from a hen lost to a coyote at the beginning of the summer and a rooster who died quickly from something akin to a heart attack, the animals and I have all done well these past few months. Partly because of the unrelenting heat, I have been slow to get to some of the normal maintenance; I’ve none but my conscience to answer to on that account.

Still, as I look around at many of my friends and share in their varied hardships, I come full circle back to the fact that I am truly blessed right now. While that can turn in a heartbeat as I know only too well from my dad’s unexpected heart attack and stroke a couple of years ago and my own scare with cancer a dozen years back, at this moment I can make a lot of noise and rattle the sabres as a big bluff. Because I know when true tragedy strikes, it’ll come in the quiet of the night with a whisper of fear and a paralysis of self and a long, dark slide into a river-deep chasm where true heartache lies.  I’m hoping THAT day is a long, long time away.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

There's Something in the Air

You know that smell that belongs solely to autumn? The crisp, cool scent spiced with just a hint of smoke wafting from the first cozy fires of the season?
Well, that’s not what’s in the air here. It’s the acrid scent of wildfires. And it’s coming in waves.
At first it smells like the scent a faulty electrical appliance gives off when the connection starts burning. My first reaction is to check the computer then inspect the rest of the house, trying to sniff out where the fire smell is coming from. Once I’ve convinced myself nothing in the house is burning, I step outside. That’s when I know my house isn’t in imminent danger. That it’s a way-off burning, but not so far off as to not still be worrisome.
This year has been the hottest on record in North Texas. Couple that with it being among the driest on record and the wildfire danger escalates dramatically. I started to saw a piece of sheet metal in two last evening to make some repairs to the goat shed and stopped when I saw the sparks it was giving off.
While much of the South and East has been contending with tropical storms and hurricanes, we’ve received about 15% of our normal amount of rainfall for the summer – and that amount came early in the season. Our next chance of rain (and it’s not looking like a good one) isn’t until the middle of next week.
We broke an all-time record with 62 days of 100+ (F) temperatures (37.8 C). Lake levels are at their lowest. Two of the three ponds on my property are completely dry and the third isn’t looking well. What this means is that there isn’t much hay being harvested locally. That will drive prices up – waaay up – for the winter, and that means economically stressed ranchers will be forced to sell their cows and goats this fall rather than overwinter them and non-food horses will be left to starve in pastures that are nothing but dirt. Rescues are already taking place. We have grim times ahead.
It isn’t just the smell of smoke that hangs heavy in the air today. It’s the smell of great sadness looming just beyond the horizon.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Holiday Reruns

It's a holiday in the States and I only have one series of photos in the camera today, so I'm taking it easy and offering some random pictures from the past couple of years. Enjoy the eyecandy!

NEW PIC: An early morning visitor

NEW PIC: Ah, so THAT's who the visitor was coming to see!