Archive for the ‘Animoirs (Animal Memoirs)’ Category

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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


“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.


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.”

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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.

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Last up on AnimalsOurEVERYTHING! was a bearded collie, Nekota, who runs as if in flight. This ability to float, plus her Houdini-like escape skills, reminded me of the nun-who-could-fly character Sally Field played in the old “Flying Nun” sitcom; hence Nekota earned the nickname of Flying Nun during a recent stay with us. Here are some photos, taken by Nekota’s owner, Tish Pollock, further demonstrating the beardie’s flying technique.

I see a great 12-step lesson in these photos: Live in the now. That’s something animals beat humans at hands-down. Another 12-step slogan comes to mind: You can’t give away what you don’t have. In this case, Nekota is giving us a piece of her complete joy in the moment. Thanks darlin’ dog.


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Nekota’s long, flowing black-and-white bearded-collie coat brings to mind the habit Sally Field wore, as Sister Betrille, in the old TV comedy “The Flying Nun.” The outfit included a wide stiff hat, known as a wimple. The nun was so light and the wimple so aerodynamic that she could fly in an updraft. That appears to be how Nekota escaped out a window – on a coat of hair that allowed her to float. In some circles, she’s now regarded as a canine Sister Betrille.

Nekota, the "Flying Nun" bearded collie.

Until Nekota, a bearded collie, came to stay with us, I’d never associated dogs and nuns. I do now.

It was a brief visit but one long on adventure for the champion beardie. Sweet and smart, Nekota, like many stars, is prone to elusiveness.  Her impossible brand of aloofness:  Escape.

I’ve been Nekota’s  dog sitter before, so I know she likes to hide and make you work to find her. She’s clever enough to pull off hiding in plain sight; the white and shades of black in her full coat easily blending with shadows in a room. The effort she puts into maneuvering things to go her way is impressive : As it should be in a herding dog, whose job is to convince livestock to do things her way.

Nekota was staying at our place, because she was in heat and needed to be kept apart from the intact male at her house while owner Tish was away. No problem, we thought. We have neutered dogs and a Labrador-proof fence. We would learn that does not equate to Nekota-proof.

Used to having the run of the secluded ranch where she lives, Nekota would not let our mere fence stand in her way.  I know beardies’ long, full coats make them look larger than they are, but I never dreamed she could make herself small enough to actually squeeze under the bottom of the dog run.

I expect she wanted the privacy of the woods to do her business, because she came right back, going flat to get back under the fence, when I called her. Our attempts to block the undercarriage of the fence worked:  Nekota escaped no more.  Well, at least not that way.

The following day, Nekota  seemed settled in and content. It was a warm day; hence when I went to town, I left the low window that looks from our kitchen to the front lawn open wide. The smell of the outdoors, or perhaps a nearby male dog, enticed Nekota to push out the screen – with nose or paws who knows.  It was an effortless, small leap through the window to the deck.

My son, Adam, found the window screen ajar and called my cell to let me know.  My stomach did a flip. A friend’s dog lost on my watch; a valuable, in-heat dog, too. I envisioned Nekota pairing up with one of the coyotes that haunts our place. How would I ever tell Tish?

Adam and I drove the miles between our place and Tish’s twice. We hoped Nekota had headed home, and we’d find her en route. At dusk, when there was no hope of distinguishing a runaway beardie on the landscape, we came home discouraged and worried about Nekota being loose on unfamiliar turf in the dark of night.

There she was sitting on our front porch right by the window she’d used to set herself free. Pieces of dead berry vines and stickery weeds had attached themselves to her long, silk coat. Otherwise she seemed fine. But had she made a match? I called Tish and told her there might be some half-beardie pups in the making. Ever strong, she took the news well.

The third day, when I left home, I locked the lower-level window where Nekota had escaped. It was another warm day, so I left the window in our loft open.  I got another call from Adam.

“Mom, Nekota’s gone missing again,” he said.

I replied, “That’s impossible, I shut and locked that window. You need to go look under the beds and in the dog crates. You know how she likes to hide.”

“Mom, she’s NOT here,” explained Adam. ”The screen from the loft window is on the front lawn. She must have jumped out.”

I experienced an even stronger lurch of worry in my gut. How could a dog make that leap without injury? She’d either gained a foothold on our log home and shimmied down, or she’d made a calculated jump to the cross rails below, followed by a long, graceful leap to the ground. Maybe she’d landed in a roll, her big coat of hair providing a soft, bouncy landing.

Or she’d flown. That’s when I thought of the “Flying Nun.” You may remember the 1967-1970 television series starring Sally Field as Sister Betrille. She wore a pale-gray-and-white habit and a wimple so wide it served as wings, enabling her to fly in a stiff wind.

Like Sister Betrille, Nekota is blessed, because she returned from her misadventure safe and sound.  I’d envisioned her, possibly pregnant, now broken inside and out, caught up somewhere all alone. The only obvious evidence of her flight was a tiny scrape on her nose.

Again I called Tish. We agreed it would be best for this sweet freedom-seeker  to spend the last days of her stay safely boarded at the vet. There she could also be checked for injuries.

In the end, the Nekota was unpregnant and uninjured. Since then, she’s added several wins to her resume as well as the ability to fly when she has the notion.

I like to think Nekota’s flowing beardie coat worked like wimple wings.

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Sad news posted on the message board at the barn where Buffy lived.

Significant events for animals and people seem to occur more often in the autumn of the year. Some we expect: School starts, and pets are left pining for the kids they had to themselves all summer. Others we never see coming: Towers come down in smoke and flames, and the lives of victims, survivors, rescuers — and search dogs — change in ways unimaginable a moment before.

It was a September long ago when my buckskin colt was born. Two years ago, when I got my horse, Callie, it was October. Twice, I’ve lost golden retrievers to cancer in the fall. My godfather and my grandmother passed away. I got married, and so did my sister. My best friend and sibling were born.

So it seems appropriate that a very special dog crossed over the Rainbow Bridge as fall began this year. Buffy, the barn dog where I stable my horse, died Aug. 31. Her people, Duane and Teresa Smith, were  at her side in the home where she slept many a night. Buffy was 13.

She rests now, under a birch  tree between the Smiths’ farmhouse and the barn. That was a path well-traveled by Buffy the 10 years she lived there — though many wondered how she managed it.

The Smiths’ son named the straw-colored puppy after the heroine in the popular 1997-2003 TV series, “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.” Buffy, the Labrador retriever, knew no vampires. But she knew darkness and fought demons of her own. Her eyes turned on her, leaving her blind at age five.

I will always marvel at how Buffy maneuvered around the horses so safely. I think she navigated by the sound and smell of their hooves. I bet she could identify each horse by the rhythm of its hoof beats.

Buffy had her timing down in other ways as well. She knew whenever someone neared the dog-cookie jar kept in the tack room. She’d appear from nowhere, approach with tail high and wagging, and look right at you with her foggy gray-blue eyes. Over the years she got far more treats than were good for her figure.

Buffy seldom let on if she was having a bad day. Even after she fell six feet into a hole dug for a corner column of the arena under construction.  Maybe it was a blessing she couldn’t see that night: She didn’t know to be afraid of the dark while confined in that small space. Duane, Teresa and the neighbors managed to get a harness under Buffy and carefully hoist her out.

While waiting for Buffy to surface, her rescuers worried how many of the old dog’s bones would be broken. Not one broken bone. Not one scratch. She was cold and exhausted. After a night by the fire with Teresa, Buffy awoke stiffer and slower than usual, but eager to start another day. Remarkable I say!

Her passing was reason to share Buffy stories like these, so I’ve tried to capture a few. Always, I will remember Buffy picking up her red rubber bowl in the late afternoon to broadcast to those in the barn –“It’s my dinnertime.”

The barn floor has a few levels, the Smith house a few stairs. Buffy new each one: On approach, she’d high-step up or over, so as not to miss and stumble. She looked like she was marching to a drummer in a parade.

Buffy in one of her favorite spots, the lawn in front of the farmhouse porch where she held court.

She loved a good roll on the lawn and barking fests with the dogs on the other side of the driveway fence. It was part of the daily routine for Buffy to woof and wag whenever someone arrived. Her best buddy, Sam, a blue heeler, continues as greeter in her absence. But the silence left without Buffy is telling.

At first, Buffy mothered the shy blue heeler pup, Sam. In time, their roles switched: Sam grew to be blind Buffy's guard and guide.

Sam joined the Smiths five years ago, young and overly shy. He became Buffy’s self-appointed guardian and, in his new role, grew more self-confident. Teresa describes how Sam would lip-bite and softly tug at Buffy’s floppy ears. “The vet told me that ear-thing is a sign of great affection between dogs.” As Buffy was put to rest, Sam watched, but stayed his distance. It was three days before he ate again.

Long before Sam was on the scene, Teresa had a Schnauzer, named Gabby. She, too, watched over and served as canine guide for Buffy. Together they hid Buffy’s blindness well. It wasn’t until Gabby died that Buffy began to bump into things, then lost the ability to jump into the bed of Duane’s pickup.

A trip to a canine ophthalmologist revealed that Buffy had inherited degenerative retina disease. Noting how happy and content Buffy was, the vet encouraged Duane and Teresa to let her be. He did caution that, for her safety, Buffy would need to be kept away from water.

Buffy had 30 acres of pasture to roam, but she seldom left the barnyard. The barn was her hangout – plus the sandy arena when it was empty of horses. She was content there and on the farmhouse front porch where she held court.

In earlier times, Buffy had traveled hundreds of miles of trail alongside the Smiths’ horses. “She never got in the way,” Teresa remembers. “She even had her own little pack and carried her own water.” Only once did hardy Buffy need an assist to get to the end of the trail. It was when the Smiths and friends were riding at the base of the Three Sisters Mountains in Oregon.

The weather had turned out to be much hotter than forecast. Toward the end of the day, Buffy had maneuvered out ahead of the horses and gone prone across the trail: She would not move. Teresa and company managed to pick Buffy up and position her in front of Duane’s saddle, much like cowboys carry weak or lost calves.

Buffy always was more attached to Duane, says Teresa, describing how the butterscotch- colored dog loved going to town and gathering the horses with him. Teresa also remembers how good Buffy was at defense when the family played impromptu games of soccer in the barn aisle. “She was so fast. She could leap straight up and catch barn swallows in flight. And she practically flew when she jumped over the furniture in our family room.”

Stopping to wipe a tear, Teresa says, “When Buffy was napping, her feet often looked like they were running. We liked to think she could see again in her sleep.” Last week, a friend’s grandson placed a rose near Buffy’s headstone and said to his grandma, “I think it’s good Buffy’s in Heaven. That means she can see again.”

I think we all believe we see Buffy in the shadows, sniffing the hay stacks for Lilly, the cat; offering up her bowl for kibble; giving voice at the sound of a familiar car in the drive; listening for riders to return from a jog around the pasture. I especially miss the little front-foot jig she did as she bounced in rhythm to her barks.

Rest in peace brave girl. We miss you.

THIS WEEK’S ANIMAL LESSON: In 12-step programs there’s a slogan that can make all the difference to sustaining recovery: “Take the world as it is, not as you would have it.” It’s all about acceptance. Buffy was the perfect model.

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By Janet Herring-Sherman

On the deck, leaning over it, hose in hand,

I spray roses below, expecting birds there

To hip-hop on mats of dead leaves and dry sand.

Strange, that today, no finches take to the air.

Then, movement beneath pink buds off to the right.

The crinkle sounds too big for birds, so I stare.

Curious, I un-grip the nozzle held tight.

Spots of white can be seen under the leaves.

Yet, ivory roses don’t grow at that site.

Distracted by bees abuzz in the eaves,

I nearly miss  —  the hiding baby cat!

Do dappled shade and green shadows deceive?

Sounds like four feet, and more, going pat-pat-pat.

One more paw, then two, then three white sets show.

Next comes big meows from the cat who begat.

Her paws broad and gray, tail curled as a bow,

Mama Cat comes forth, with her pint-size twin.

They stretch and slink, long and low, as if to go.

How long since Mama’s last meal has it been?

She flops down, kittens nurse, each neatly squeezed.

Beneath her black stripes, Mama’s tummy is thin.

“Where are you from?” I ask, secretly pleased.

Two weeks past, my old cat died while asleep.

Old Gray’s work, I muse, as I hear a small sneeze.

In sequence they tire and fall into a heap.

Turns out, they’re all living under the house.

How many little “shes” and “hes” shall I keep?

Soon, Mama will teach the trio to mouse,

Sharpen claws, wash whiskers, pounce, jump and land.

The quartet, when meowing, will sound like Strauss.

They’ll be named, “The Strays,” like a rock band.

I hope they won’t stay afraid of my hands.

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By Janet Herring-Sherman

Doodling my way through meetings at the newspaper, crafting headlines on deadline, responding patiently to readers with a cause: This — along with shuttling our son to and fro, and seeking not-made-of-cement places to walk our dogs — was my California life. I loved it, except for the sensation of living life like a kid at the fair, rushing through one midway ride just to jump on another, then another; at the end of the day remembering little about any particular one. That was before my world began to shift north.

I’d been standing at the stove, looking at the worn sun dial in the yard and the 18 years worth of purple, pink and red roses, and the gold and violet day lilies we’d planted. My husband, Jim, had loped up the back stairs, tossed his cap – gone tan with vineyard dust — on the table and fired off the question, “How would you like to move to Oregon?” I kept stirring the spaghetti sauce on the back burner as I’d asked, “Why?” Before he could answer, I’d put down the spoon, turned and asked, “Where in Oregon?”

“The Willamette Valley,” Jim had said, not hiding his excitement. “It’s a little farm town called Yamhill. The place we’d live has amazing views. There’s so much room for the dogs — meadows, even a pond.” I, rather indignantly, had said, “You already know where we’d live?” Still, he’d captured my attention by conjuring the vision of dogs splashing into water within walking distance of our back door.

With that, Jim had pulled from his briefcase the packet of photos his boss had spread out before him earlier that day when he’d proposed the idea of Jim going north to develop vineyards in Oregon and Washington. The place in the photos appeared to be an emerald paradise. The rooms in the house even loomed large, compared to the cracker-box size rooms of our in-town Victorian. I wasn’t completely sold that first night. There were, after-all, four generations of my family where we lived in the Wine Country.

Soon after, we made a visit to Yamhill. Being there felt like coming home – to the place of my childhood. What I remember most from that trip are the roadsides: Country roads awash in blurred shades of green — lime, hunter, celadon and chartreuse – as in an Impressionist painting. Roads lined with shooting-everywhere berry vines holding hands with wild roses, their arm-like limbs stretching out to tap utility poles on the shoulder. There was even a llama loose on one of the curves. What I saw evoked memories of roads where my school bus had bumped along, and where I’d ridden bareback — before dusty orchards gave way to tidy subdivisions. As our plane returned to California, I had a notebook in hand and was listing all that needed to be done to forge our personal trail to Oregon.

Jim moved first. Our son, Adam, and I followed when school let out for summer; and after I’d said farewell to newspaper colleagues I’d worked with for near 20 years. That was harder than saying good bye to friends and family: I knew even though we’d exchanged mailing addresses and e-mails, I likely wouldn’t see most of their faces again. Thus began what I’d taken to calling Our Great Midlife Adventure when friends said, “You guys are so brave, packing up your lives and moving out of state!”

At first, I tried to make our Oregon home mimic the one in California. I painted walls the same deep burgundy, burnished orange and cobalt blue colors, hung pictures in the same groupings, and shelved our books in the same order. Becoming a true Oregonian began the day I was in the hardware store with a collection of paint chips in my hand.

Repeatedly, my eye was drawn to two particular shades of green. With a start, I realized these were the same shades of green prevalent on our first drive along Yamhill County’s rural roads. French Olive Green and Spring Green they were called. I left the store with gallons of each. When I began brushing the new colors onto the remaining walls, the strange new house began to feel like home

That’s not to say it wasn’t lonely. Once I’d set up house at our Yamhill address, I looked around and realized I knew no one. While planting cosmos and corn one evening, I confessed to my husband how very alone I felt. Looking out at the rows of vines silhouetted against the sun, setting in a rhubarb-colored sky, he’d said simply, “You need to get a dog.” (We’d come to Oregon dogless, having lost two golden retrievers to cancer not long before our move.) So I did.

That’s all it took: a chocolate Labrador retriever named Kobe. He was ever-so-sweet but needed better manners. I inquired around about an obedience class. On the afternoon the instructor, Sandy, and I spoke, I mentioned my son had just registered to attend the local high school. Wouldn’t you know: She also ran a volunteer program there.  I was soon signed up for dog and teen training! My new world suddenly seemed smaller and brighter. Sandy, as it turned out, was to become my best Oregon friend.            Through my new friend, I met several volunteer mentors at the high school and learned I had something in common with nearly all of them: dogs, horses, books or teen-age sons. I met folks at neighboring ranches the day Kobe sent a stray cat up an oak tree, and I went searching for its owner.

The following spring, I’d been thinking about how everything was working out so well and how much I was liking Oregon when the accident happened. I slipped in Kobe’s kennel, dislocated and broke my ankle in three places. Facing surgeries and months of no walking and no driving, I worried about how to get through it without my family support system nearby and Jim often gone to Washington.

I should have known better: I lived in Oregon. Dinners appeared in our kitchen the first nights I was home from the hospital, spontaneous gifts from folks down the road and up the hill. Sandy tended to Kobe – and my first-ever chicks — and kept my spirits up. Another new friend did grocery shopping and drove me to doctor visits. All this from people I’d known by name for a matter of months, not years. Prior to moving, I’d been warned Oregon people didn’t like Californians one iota. “Pshaw,” I say to that now.

This, our third summer in Yamhill, the ripples that started with Kobe have turned into waves. Through Sandy, we’ve met other Yamhillians. In fact, we’ve become part of the group of regulars who meet Friday nights at the local pizza-pub. Sometimes when we gather, I feel like I’m in the bar from the “Cheers” TV show. Then I listen to the conversation:

“We lost three chickens to a hawk.” “I planted iris around the roses, and that’s keeping the deer away.” “It got so hot, we had to make the pigs’ wallow bigger so they could stay cool.” “I got locked in the chicken coop and had to use my cell phone to get someone to let me out.” “When that big wind came up, all the horses went and stood in the middle of the pasture.”

It’s then I realize the lives of these people – our friends – are far more interesting than anything on television. Now it’s my life, too. While I wasn’t looking, Oregon became my home.

The proof? The night Adam graduated, we asked him what his best high school memory was. His answer: “Moving to Yamhill.”  Pass a slice of pizza, please, and don’t forget a doggie bag for Kobe.

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By Janet Herring-Sherman

Three mares, in lazy-day, summer-fit shape,

Their curves on display in afternoon light.

Winter blankets cast off  for sunshine drapes.

Bronze statues, until tails swish at fly bites.

Necks stretched long, chiseled heads deep

In pasture grass rain-grown rich, withers’ height.

In stalls, somewhere, horses on their feet sleep

Through the heat, willing a breeze to stop by.

These three can take to shade under trees steep.

For now, they are content, say their horse sighs.

With no breeze to tickle tender flanks, hips

to startle to a lope, tails arched high.

They tug and pull stalks through whiskered lips.

Synchronized, three right fores lift, settle.

Later, they’ll wonder to trough for long sips.

The scene, against grass green, could win medals.

A black-trimmed bay,  sorrel and  red dun

All touched with white, and oh so gentle.

Heads come up fast at sound of distant gun.

Six ears forward, frozen, they wait for more sound.

None comes; back to grazing, no need to run.

Faces buried, their blaze, snip, star near to ground.

All have left hinds with a half-sock the same.

The dun preps to roll, bends knees, tucks, goes down

White hind in air, foreleg cocked  like a crane.

Dad used to say, “Horse rolls one way, fine,

She’s worth two bits; both ways, a buck, plain

And fair. Was that true, or an Old West line?

I think of a legend read at age ten

Of a horse with a white left hind, a sign

He would run fastest again and again.

A summer without real horses to tame.

Astride, wind in face was a dream back then.

Now one’s mine. I call, she comes to her name.

Heaven:  my fingers tangled in her mane.

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