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Archive for the ‘Dogs’ Category


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.

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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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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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A typical winter dawn at stunning Running Mountain Ranch, site of the Open Barn affair on New Years Eve day. Photo by Tish Pollock

Now, this is the way to spend New Year’s Eve: On horseback with animal-loving womenfolk!

Good friends Tish and Stacy began musing about having a ring-in-the-new-year party shortly before Christmas. An open house affair was discussed. That quickly morphed  into the idea of an Open Barn  to be held  at Tish’s on New Year’s Eve day. Party central would be the covered arena at the hub of her sprawling working ranch. Running Mountain Ranch is a rural sanctuary in the coastal hills of Western Oregon.

Looking down on the Running Mountain Ranch barns and arena from a trail in the hills above the Open Barn party site. Photo by Tish Pollock

Tish’s barn stretches on forever and is full of her Arabians and the strapping  warm-blood show horses of boarders. What a treat to watch these big-boned steeds being ridden by Tish’s resident dressage trainer, Lynne Salewski. She makes these guys move with grace and glory.

Dressage trainer Lynne is silhouetted as she mounts Cobus, the Friesian that starred in the 2009 movie, "The Dark Horse." Poor guy, he's big and brave, except for the poinsettia you see in the background. It must have looked like a weird predator to him: It scared the easy-going horse to trembling. Photo by James Sherman

One of them, a  giant black Friesian named Cobus, is even a movie star. He and Lynne were in the 2009 movie, “The Dark Horse,” acclaimed at several international film festivals. And yes, Cobus was  the leading man.

Quite fittingly, Stacy affectionately refers to Cobus as the  Antonio Banderas  horse — after the famous dark-eyed movie star.

I think we all felt a little starlet-like riding our horses around such a grand facility.  Something was happening in every corner. Some riders were giving cutting horses a  “play-date” experience completely devoid of competition and cows. Others were having easy rides on tried-and-true trail horses. Some rode English, others Western.

My Gal Gallop pals astride on New Years Eve day.From left to right, Katherine, whose horse is named Boone; Stacy on Sparky; Kelsey on Tucker; Diane on Bobby; and me on Callie. Photo by Jim Sherman

Stacy was astride her prancing senior-citizen black Morgan, Sparky. He seemed to have the most spark of any horse that day; hence his name, we presume. There was a long-legged paint, Tucker, ridden by Stacy’s daughter, Kelsey; another paint called Velvet; and of course, my Callie, who was quite excited to be out of her usual environs.

Tish also raises bearded collies and is active in herding dog circles; hence, several dog handler friends  and their fast and focused dogs were on-hand, busily urging sheep and ducks here and there. It’s always a treat to watch these savvy dogs at work.

Tish raises bearded collies at Running Mountain Ranch. This photo was taken the day the herding switch flipped for young Rock. It was like he awoke from a nap and suddenly knew what he'd been born to do. Then off he went, sweeping and dodging behind the wooly trio as Tish (upper left) helped direct the ewes for him.

I think it’s safe to say my hands, gloved and all, were colder than they’d ever been after some of us struck out to make a few loops around the wooded hillsides and slopes.

When we got our chilly selves back to the barn, I dismounted, pulled off my gloves, held my hands under Callie’s muzzle, and let her warm breath defrost them.

Once the horses were groomed and blanketed, we headed for the party room – the office in the barn.  Fudge, cookies, ham, biscuits and other delicious traditional holiday snacks and good cheer were waiting. The riding now done (Drinking and riding are not a good combo when it comes to staying safe in your saddle and atop your horse.), Tish had  chilled champagne waiting as well as mulled cider.

Tish is known for attention to detail, and her touch was quickly evident at the Open Barn. She had red, white and pink poinsettias placed along the edge of the arena with the sky as background. And she’d made the cutest little cheese-ball snowman complete with scarf and a carrot nose –a mini horse treat perhaps?

Actually, it became a dog treat later that day when Tish was transporting the  too-cute-to-eat snowman from barn to home post-party. She left a car door open when she went to get something else to return to her  kitchen. A visitor hurriedly jumped into the car. It was  Maverick, one of her bearded collies. “Mav” had his way with the cheese ball until Tish returned moments later . Then he abruptly exited the car with a leap, telltale pieces of nuts and cheese flying off his silky, hairy lower lip.

IT WAS  THE PERFECT TIME TO SHOW OFF MY NEW SLEIGH BELLS

These World War I - era sleigh bells were a Christmas gift from a friend who has known my animal-loving ways since childhood. Sleigh bells were commonly referred to as horse bells in Europe and rural America. Photo by Adam Sherman

The 30-bell strand was a  Christmas present from my oldest and dearest friend, Karen. I’ve been animal crazy since birth, I think. Karen, not so much. But she ALWAYS honors that about me. She and I do share a love of antiques and the history they carry forward. When she came across these World War I-era sleigh bells, she said she knew they were destined for me.

The bells were found in an old barn in Vermont. They’re extra-special and pretty hard-to-find, because they are circa World War I. Before the war, bells were created from brass. During the war, all brass was sucked into the making of shell casings, creating a brass shortage. Other available metals, especially tin and nickel, were used  as a brass substitute.

That’s how Karen knew these hushed-sounding  jingle bells were authentic — and antique: They have a gentler, more muffled sound than brass bells. Much lovelier to the ear in my book. I wonder what the horses would say about the bells’ differing sounds?

It was fun hearing the “oohs” and “awes” when I  showed them off during the ride after-party.

Tish, consider this as a tip of riding helmets and snow caps from us to you. Thanks for a blue-ribbon day. You throw a swell out-with-the-old and in-with-the-new party:  Dogs and horses concur.

The patina of the table contrasted with the deep, dark brown of the leather, reminds me of sunlight drifting into a barn through a hayloft window. Sun rays set the same mood in barns today. Oh the stories theses bells could tell about farming America in wartime. Photo by Adam Sherman


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Couartesy of http://wordplay.hubpages.com/My critters  are at the top of my Christmas list. (Sorry friends and family, but they are both to me.)

And they’re so easy to gift – at little or no cost. Here are a few ideas for homemade cat, hound, horse, herd and  hen offerings.

Please use your own good judgment about the safety of offering these items to your particular pet(s).

  • EASY, COST-FREE, CATCH-IT-IF-YOU-CAN CAT TOY:  Cut a wire clothes hangar, and bend it straight into one longish piece.

Push one end of the wire into the middle of a cork – made of actual cork — from a wine bottle. Be sure the wire pushes tightly into the cork.

Tie some yarn or found feathers on the wire and around the cork. Voila: A lightweight, bouncy cat toy rises from recycled or repurposed items. Oh yes, you, the gifter, are part of the toy. You must make it swing and bob. This nifty little toy should entice even an “I’m too proud to play” feline to paw and pounce.

  • EASY, COST-FREE, TUG- OR CHASE-IT DOG TOY:  Find an old piece of fabric or a worn T-shirt. Be sure to choose fabric that won’t fray: If you don’t, the dislodged fibers may get lodged in your dog’s throat or belly.

Cut three strips about three feet long.

The width of the strips is somewhat dependent on the size and pull-power of your pooch. I make them about 4 inches wide for my Labs’ toys.

Bunch one end of the strips together, and tie a knot. Braid the three strips, making the weave super tight at every twist and turn. This makes the braid tighter and stronger and more apt to withstand dog-dog or dog-owner tugs of war. Tie off the other end with a square knot.

This is my Labs’ inside toy of choice. They tease each other into games of push-me-pull-me and keep-away that sometimes last for 20 minutes or more. We get to enjoy their sly gamesmanship.

  • LOW-COST, SWEET HORSE TREAT: What’s as sweet as a sugar cube and red and white all over? A friend of mine boards her horse at a stable where candy canes with horses’ names appear in tack rooms and on stall doors this time of year.

Break a cane into small, crumbly pieces and spread in the palm of your hand. Offer your flat, sweetened palm to your horse. Wait for the delicious slurping sounds made as the  candy is licked away. You’re apt to be rewarded with soft knickers and  nuzzles  as you’re searched for more.  Our steeds enjoy the sweet, mint flavor of candy canes as much as Santa does cookies and milk along about midnight Christmas Eve. Be sure you limit how much sugar you offer your pony.

  • LIGHT READING FOR PIGS:  If you happen to be a keeper of pigs, consider giving them a pick-me-up: Toss them a newspaper, minus Christmas and other ads on slick paper. A coverless phone book works, t00.

The papers aren’t for eating but for playing. A friend who raises pigs says they enjoy rooting through the news and tossing headlines every which way. It appears to be perfect pig play.

After the pigs have had their way with the pages, the newsprint is prey for hog hooves to return it to the soil. The pigs’ weight and walking-about start the newspapers on a journey to become part of the pasture.

  • FLOCK FULL OF FUN:  Safely hang a head of lettuce or cabbage from a chicken coop, fence post, or low-hanging tree. Place it at a height barely reachable by your feathered friends.

Be sure to secure it with something your chickens won’t want to  consume. Then sit back and watch them chicken-dance,  jump up and peck at it. You’ll find a resemblance to children (and adults) swinging comically at a birthday pinata.

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December is the perfect time to share some animal-related posts I’ve landed on here and there on the Web.

  • Dog lovers, get your Kleenex or hankies: These photos, about a dog’s guide dog, will touch you to tears

“Within the heart of every stray lies the singular desire to be loved. Lily is a great Dane who has been blind since a bizarre medical condition required that she have both eyes removed. For the last five years, Maddison, another great Dane, has been her sight. The two are, of course, inseparable. ‘People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.’ ” Substitute the word “people” with the word “dog,” and that works, too. http://rossparry.co.uk/. Photos by Ross Parry , United Kingdom

  • Cat lovers: An alluring cat named Usyaka,caught in the act  in photos taken by her devoted human, Alexandra. I enjoy how creatively Alexandra uses light to make ordinary shots into fashion statements and art. See more of Usyaka at usyaka.wordpress.com. Photos by Alexandra.

  • Tis the Season to Bee-lieve. Click the link below and read a poignant tale that connects Pearl Harbor Day and the life of a b http://honeybeesandme.com/.

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