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Our in-town neighbors. These two fine-looking llamas live in a pasture along a country-like lane a few blocks from our new home. We have a new address is in a small, but still-rural, town. Our  house may be suburban in style, but all around looks and feels like country. So we feel right at home.

For awhile, our cats went into hiding, because we moved their cheese. Well, actually, their food bowls — and their address. Ours, too.

We’ve spent the last month moving from the country into town. I worried a lot about how the stress of moving our household would impact our two felines, especially old, black Shadow, who’s 19.

As expected, the cats crept out of their crates into the new garage with great anxiety, then hid in plain sight in the maze of boxes. I expected them to be covert for days.

After only a day of coaxing with tuna, Shadow sullied forth. I made a trail of treats to help him find his food and water bowls.

When I peeked into the garage later that day, the younger, gray-striped cat, Mama, was there at the food bowl alongside the old gent. His presence had reassured her.

Now, a few weeks later, the cats are allowed into the backyard where they look and sniff around with timid curiosity.

Mama scrambles the fence, peeks over, then crawl-jumps back down and heads for the new back door. She’s sporting a pink collar with a bell and a name tag, so if she does wander, we have a good chance of tracking her down.

Mama cat has turned playful since we’ve begun to settle in – something we didn’t see a lot of when we lived in the sticks. Perhaps she feels safer here without all that forest — and coyotes — around.

Shadow simply curls up on the soft rug in the new living room and sleeps, or finds a windowsill and worships the rays when he can find them. (This June the sun is so rare that when it does poke through the clouds, it seems rather guilty, like a finger drawn though frosting on a just-made cake.)

Our two Labradors are enjoying the new backyard, too. The sturdy fence means we no longer have to supervise their outdoor time. Out in the country there was always the worry they’d take off chasing a deer or a duck. The hens are laying again, so all is well in their world, too.

The pets have been the leaders and teachers in our new living situation. At first, we pined for the countryside with its far-reaching views and woodland hush.

But we’re loving our new digs in this small rural town of 1,750. It’s four minutes from things instead of 40.

It turns out the country is actually only two blocks away. We hear nearby geese, a rooster and cows. And deer wander into the grassy lot next door.

Each time I walk, I try a new path in order to get to know the neighborhood. This morning Kobe and I discovered a path where pavement gives way to dirt and gravel. Around a turn in the lane is a lush and lovely spot called Half-Ass Ranch. There, we stopped to watch two llamas as they watched us back with curiosity and caution. It felt like coming home.

For my family, the recent weeks have been filled with a recurring animal lesson: Adapt and thrive. And we are.


By William Strutt 1896

Kindness, acceptance, tolerance — these may be the  greatest lessons we can learn from animals.

Tales of enemies coming together — even becoming companions —  are plenty, starting with the biblical ones about the wolf and the lamb and the leopard and the goat.

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them.”  Isaiah 1:6

Treat yourself and watch this video. You’ll be amazed yet again at the company animals keep when they’re not threatened or afraid.  Now if humans and nations could only learn to do the same.

Enjoy — and contemplate.

Doggie and the Deer http://www.dogwork.com/ddsff4/  reposted from Dogwork.com

P.S. Disclaimer, I’m not suggesting it’s appropriate to feed wild animals: In many places, there are laws and such about that kind of thing.


You read about Skidboot here a few weeks back when I wrote about his lymphoma diagnosis and the chemo that followed. Things took a turn for Skidboot and his owner, Lauri Cash, just a few days after my post appeared.

It was the final day of March.

Skidboot, diagnosed with lymphoma last year, appeared to be doing well post-chemo in February. His fate took a cruel turn a month later. A previously undiagnosed tumor on his spleen burst. The rupture caused internal bleeding. Owner Lauri Cash was at his side when the red gentleman of a gelding was put down at OSU's vet hospital on March 31 -- the cusp of April Fool's Day. Photo by Diane Bernards

The day prior, Lauri  had a near-perfect cutting lesson on Skidboot. When she fed him that night and the next morning, Skidboot appeared fine. In the afternoon, Lauri found him in his stall shaking and clearly in distress. It could only be something related to the cancer, Lauri reasoned.

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She and loyal friend Heidi managed to get the sweating, hard-breathing Skidboot into the horse trailer. It would be the red gelding’s final ride to the vet hospital at OSU.

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It turned out a tumor had been growing all the while on Skidboot’s spleen. Now it had ruptured, causing internal bleeding. Skidboot was telling everyone: It’s time for me to go.

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Skidboot was put down early the night of April Fool’s Day eve.

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In the midst of her catapulting emotions, Lauri was clear that she wanted a necropsy to be performed for teaching purposes..

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The vet students at OSU would discover the unexpected: a 90-pound tumor attached to Skidboot’s spleen and liver.

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When he’d cut cows the day prior, there was nary a clue what Skidboot harbored inside. It was Skidboot’s secret to the end. He was a gentleman to the end, too.

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“What needs to happen is there needs to be a way to diagnose this disease,” says Lauri. Her hope is that whatever OSU vet students learn from Skidboot may help move things in that direction.

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Holding back tears a few days after Skidboot’s death, Lauri tells me, “He had such a huge heart, and that’s what I loved about him all along.”


A writing colleague of mine, Sue Fay, happens to be an extremely gifted photographer as well. One of her specialties is capturing the essence of the animals in her life.

She’s done just that in this sweet photo of the newborn calf, Tip, at her Sweetgrass Ranch in Oregon.

Sue’s words and artistry make this a perfect springtime post. Tip’s especially handsome, I think, because his Charolais mom and black Angus dad gifted him with a champagne-tone coat and exotic dark eyes and nose.

Sue granted me permission to share her work with my readers. To see more of her artful approach to ranch life, please visit her daily blog, http://miracleaday.intuitwebsites.com/.

by Susan Fay on 03/23/12

Our Charolais cow, Daisy, used to scare me.  Timid and difficult to catch, Daisy never trusted anyone.

Seeing Daisy with her calf is like looking at another creature.  Daisy is an attentive mother, one who takes her new role seriously.  At the same time, she willingly allows us to handle her baby.

Lorenzo taught me how to catch and halter Daisy today.  At first, the cow was nervous, but with Lorenzo’s excellent help, she settled down and began to trust me.  I’ll be able to move her and the calf into the temporary manger at night.

Watching Daisy with her calf makes me realize how important a good start is, how wonderful it is to experience a mother’s sweet touch.


Skidboot, looking quite robust, and ridden by owner/rider Lauri Cash, awaits his turn at a cutting clinic in February. He'd completed chemotherapy only a few weeks prior. Skidboot sports a green lymphoma cancer ribbon, pinned to the rear left of his saddle blanket.

To look at Sageolena, barn name of Skidboot, you’d never know he’d undergone chemotherapy.

Skidboot’s sorrel coat shines. His muscles, ready and willing to work again, ripple as he moves. I watched him successfully cut cow after cow at a cutting clinic post chemo and never suspected he was staging a comeback.

I’d seen Skidboot, a 14-year-old Quarter Horse gelding,, on cows before cancer. My eyes had been drawn to his chiseled face and the intent look in his eyes.  The eagerness he’d displayed, and the “here I am, and I’m the boss” flick of his tail had told me he found joy in his job.

He’s won or placed reserve in all classes in which he’s competed since 2005: Even in 2011 when signs of illness were surfacing.

At the clinic, I noticed a lime green ribbon (similar to the pink breast cancer ribbons widely seen today) pinned to his saddle blanket. I asked Skidboot’s owner and rider, Lauri Cash of Oregon, what the ribbon signified, and she shared his inspiring story.

“In early 2011,” Lauri recalls, “He had a slight loss in weight and condition.” Lauri did the things horse owners do when a horse seems off. She’d had him vet-checked; had his teeth floated; had him adjusted by a chiropractor; wormed him; increased his feed; and treated him for ulcers. Nothing had helped.

Then his body shape had begun to change. His hips and ribs had become  more prominent. His energy level and attitude had stayed the same, so Lauri had continued to ride him.

Over the summer, Skidboot had become increasingly mellow and then, lethargic.

“He’s always had an edge. He’s the most difficult horse to ride I’ve ever had, but he’s the best one, too. He had no trust when I got him eight years ago, and it took years to build the rapport we have now,” she explains.

The two became so in tune that Lauri had suspected her horse was trying to tell her something when he’d begun repeatedly, and deliberately, leaning on her in a way that suggested he wanted his belly rubbed. In retrospect, he may have been saying, “My stomach hurts.”

By fall 2011, Skidboot’s body had changed dramatically. “He was pot-bellied,” Lauri remembers. “He had no conditioning left on top.”  He’d begun behaving oddly, too. Lauri had found herself  dragging him to the arena for lessons on cows—something he’d always enjoyed. “It was like he had no legs. He’d just stop and refuse to go,” says Lauri.

At the suggestion of her farrier, she’d taken Skidboot for a second opinion. This vet, equine veterinarian Jack Root at Oakhurst Breeding Farm in Newberg, Ore., had heard a heart murmur in Skidboot’s broad chest.

A cardiac ultrasound was the logical next step.  Dr. Root suggested making an appointment with Dr. John W. Schlipf at the College of Equine Medicine at Oregon State University a few hours away in Corvallis.

At OSU, Skidboot weighed in at 1,050 pounds, 50 pounds underweight. Dr. Schlipf quickly verified a heart murmur; however, he didn’t think it was bad enough to be causing the horse’s decline.

A battery of tests awaited Skidboot. He was, says Lauri proudly, a perfect patient as he was poked, prodded and petted. His lung capacity proved strong.  His blood tests and urinalysis were normal. That was all good.

Then came the abdominal tap. It would pull fluid from Skidboot’s belly. That would reveal any infection and, if there were any to be found, cancer cells.

After the tap, Dr. Schlipf found Lauri in the waiting area and told them he had an answer. It hadn’t been good. Skidboot had thoracic lymphoma, a rare cancer in horses. Because it was rare, the vet told them, there wasn’t a lot of research about treatment or results.

Gentle but direct, Dr. Schlipf cut right to the chase: Without chemo, Skidboot might survive for six months. The doctors could administer steroids to minimize inflammation and discomfort. If the chemo was successful, Skidboot might live for years. Lymphoma horses usually respond well to chemo, Dr. Schlipf had told Lauri. Most horses, said the vet, improve after a few treatments.  He also cautioned that cancer can’t be remedied, only arrested – for how long no one can know.

And the cost? Not nearly as many “kachings” as Lauri expected: A six-week-treatment plan would be $1,000 to $1,500. That news, plus the vet’s assurance Skidboot was not likely to have ill effects from the chemo, cinched it for Lauri: Skidboot would have to learn to like injections and infusions.

He was also to get all the feed he could eat. By the second week, Skidboot was showing improvement. “His neck and hips looked less hollow,” recalls Lauri. “It was like the lymphoma had been stealing his food, his nourishment.”

In fact, Skidboot didn’t miss a beat during chemo. Nor did he lose his hair, or experience nausea as most humans do while being treated for cancer. Though the OSU vets had assured Lauri she could continue to ride Skidboot during treatment, she opted to let him rest.

Still, by the day of his last scheduled injection, he’d gained only 16 pounds. Lauri and Dr. Schlipf decided on a few more chemo injections. When the round of treatment ended in February, Skidboot had gained 33 pounds and weighed 1,083 pounds. His blood work was normal. The following month, he’d gained another 15 pounds. The bill remained less than $2,000

This spring, Lauri plans to cut competitively with him and go horse camping, too. “He seems to ride differently since chemo,” she says. “He seems smoother. The vet keeps telling me Skidboot will tell me if and when he’s not up to something. I believe that, too.”

Skidboot in action post-chemo at a cutting clinic last month.

Skidboot ‘s green cancer ribbon remains. It’s a sign to others to keep a distance. Since Skidboot’s treatment regimen still includes large doses of steroids, his immune system is compromised.

To protect Skidboot, Lauri takes every possible precaution, including avoiding nose-to-nose contact with other horses. But that doesn’t mean he can’t beat them at cutting – and beat back cancer for a time, too.


The Duckling Catcher.


Even St. Patrick’s Day has its animal element. 

We attended a St. Patrick’s Day gathering where this young Irish setter, Kevin Rory (call name of Kevi), sported a Kelly-green shamrock cravat. And hoped for a morsel from the table where the theme was green, as in pesto, guacamole chips, spinach dip, minty green frosted brownies, green M&Ms and cupcakes frosted lime.

Kevin Rory is the fourth Irish setter for owners Bill and Carolyn, of Irish descent themselves. Kevi was quite the party gent, and that’s no Blarney.

Kevi came to Bill and Carolyn, who live in Oregon, through the Internet Irish Setter Rescue Group in Oklahoma. He was found roaming the streets when he was four months old.

The couple’s late Irish setters are: Toby, given to Bill as a gift by his aunt; Carnelian Dun Conor, a six-month-old pup with a genetic eye condition that the breeder was going to put down; and Donegal, a stray Irish re-homed by the Houston Rescue Group.

For many years Bill, Conor and Donegal marched in the Houston St. Pat’s Parade. (It’s a huge parade like those in Boston and Chicago.) All three sported green.

Of course, horses are a big part of Ireland and its history. So I had to find some Irish horse art, too.

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