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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.”

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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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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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A NOTE TO MY HORSE-OWNING READERS: This is a survey worth taking the time to complete. It will provide much-needed data on the state of the horse industry in America. We all know statistics are power:The survey results will help power changes in horse welfare legislation and provide indicators about the future of horses and their owners. It took me about 10 minutes to do the survey. I hope you’ll do so, too.

American Horse Publications Launches

Its Second Equine Industry Survey

MARCH 5, 2012 – The American Horse Publications (AHP) is launching its second Equine Industry Survey to gauge trends in the U.S. equine industry. The AHP Equine Industry Survey is being sponsored by Kentucky Equine Research, Merck Animal Health, and Pfizer Animal Health.

In 2009, AHP conducted an online nationwide survey made possible by the sponsorship of Intervet/Schering Plough Animal Health and Pfizer Animal Health.  Upon its conclusion on Jan. 31, 2010, a total of 11,171 usable responses was collected.  This completed the largest-ever equine industry survey of hands-on horse industry participants in the United States.1  AHP will strive to exceed that number with the current survey.

As in the previous survey, the purpose of the 2012 survey is threefold. The first objective is to obtain information regarding past, present, and expected future participation in the equine industry. The second objective is to identify which issues currently facing the equine industry are perceived as being most critical to those who own, or manage horses. The third objective is to analyze issues pertaining to horse health. In addition to questions on vaccines and deworming, the 2012 survey includes questions relating to nutrition, feed, and nutritional supplements.

Those eligible to participate in the survey are men and women, 18 years of age and older, who currently own or manage at least one horse and live in the United States. This study is anonymous; this means that no one–not even members of the research team–will be able to associate information that is given with responses. When the survey results are tallied, only aggregated results will be presented.

To show the type of important information AHP collected in the first survey, following is new data from the 2009-2010 AHP Equine Industry Survey on how horse owners use their horses.  These responses have been broken down by geographic region and discipline.  Within each region, the most popular use of horses is for pleasure or trail riding.  It is also the most popular activity nationwide.  After pleasure or trail riding, the top 5 most frequently reported activities in each region are identified.
To download the results of the 2009 AHP Results Discipline by Region Table, click on the link below.
http://www.americanhorsepubs.org/resources/2009-AHP-Results-Discipline-By-Region-Table.xls

To take the 2012 AHP Equine Industry Survey, go to www.horsesurvey2012.com

The survey closes May 15, 2012.

The 2012 AHP Equine Industry Survey is being conducted by American Horse Publications (AHP). AHP is a nonprofit association that promotes excellence in equine media; Its members include equine-related publications, digital media, professionals, students, organizations and businesses. Dr. C. Jill Stowe is providing consulting services for data collection and analysis to the AHP; Dr. Stowe is currently an assistant professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Kentucky. The survey is sponsored by Kentucky Equine Research, Merck Animal Health, and Pfizer Animal Health.


The 1995 NAHMS survey collected responses from 3,349 operations, and the 1998 NAHMS survey collected responses from 2,904 operations.  The 2008-2009 American Horse Council Unwanted Horse Survey collected responses from over 23,000 horse owners, non-horse owners, and equine industry stakeholders.

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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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E-cards are abundant and easy to deliver. A snail-mail greeting is a pleasant surprise these days. The snuggling-in time of year that is fast-approaching seems ideal for sending warm thoughts via a greeting card — the old-fashioned kind that you can hold in your hands. The cards below, with my original verses, have animal-related themes, of course.

SEND A FRIEND a seasonal message with sentiments and scenes of animals. It’s free.

Right click on the links below: Choose “Save As” to create a document you can download to your computer and print. You can also view and download these and other cards in the “Free Offers” category at right.

White card stock or matte finish photo paper provide the best results. Finished size of the side-fold cards is 4.25″ x 5,” which fits a standard 4.5″ x 5.50″ envelope.

You’ll find dogs, pigs, kittens and colts represented. From PAUSE FOR PAWS PRODUCTIONS.

Black Cat in Halloween Sky

Black cats haunt silent barns.

Giant moons spotlight cows on farms.

Pumpkins scream out, “pick me,”

from U-pick patches up-valley.

Apples drip with caramel.

“Trick or treat,” the children yell.

Their costumes: Lions, tigers, bears,

Cowboys, cowgirls and ghosts with hair.

Witches’ hats take their place,

Sharing front porch space

with corn stalks and straw bales.

Chocolates and gummies fill the pails.

Youngsters fall asleep with grins.

Coyotes howl as the fog creeps in.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN

Fall-colored Horse in Autumn

Reds and brown all around.

Gold leaves dress up the ground.

Woodpiles, axed and stacked,

Await frost’s first attack.

Coats appear, gloves go on.

Mornings have later dawns.

Hens molt while geese depart.

Barn twine hangs like orange art.

Hay and straw all tucked in:

Let the rain and cold begin.

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“In the October issue of ‘America’s Horse,’ read along as Janet Herring-Sherman writes about her journey – 50 years in the making – toward owning an American Quarter Horse.”

A picture worth a thousand words; and in this case worth a fifty-year wait. The photo captures the essence of a story I have published in the October issue of "America's Horse" magazine. My article, "Horse of a Lifetime," is a short chronicle of wanting and waiting for a particular breed of horse for most of my life. I have that dream now and love her so. "America's Horse" is a publication for members of the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA): I will post the article on my blog down the road when the contractual time restrictions have passed. Meanwhile, if you know someone who is a member of AQHA, snag their copy of the October issue and read a lot about my horse, Callie, and a little about how she 's changed my life. Photo by Adam Sherman.

THIS WEEK’S ANIMAL LESSON (in 12-step terms):

Don’t quit before the miracle happens. Be patient, God’s not done yet.

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My young nephews invited me to join them at the picnic table for an adapted version of BananaGrams. Every word we created with our letter tiles had to have something to do with the animal kingdom I was instructed. Photo by Adam Sherman

Everywhere we go, there they are: Animals that is. Even on vacation.

Some dogs, like some people, me incl uded, are quite content to spend their vacation on a raft. Photo by Dennis Forer

Some dogs, like some people, me included, are quite content to spend their vacation on a raft. Photo by Dennis Forer

My dad started a wonderful family tradition 50 years ago—a week or two spent in the same place at the same time each year. As the family has grown and moved away from home, this annual August trek has become a mini family reunion while on vacation.

Prince is my sister’s family’s golden retriever. It’s hard to say who enjoys the mountain-air morning runs more, Prince or my sis. Those outings always end with Prince madly splashing into the swimming hole and begging to be sent into the deep on water retrieves. Prince also likes to retrieve the rubber rings used in the game of Muckers, which is much like Horseshoes. Each year, we set up our Muckers pit behind our cabins and have an all-ages guys-versus-gals tournament; however Prince must watch the game from the cabin’s veranda. Otherwise, it would turn into Prince’s own game of “Catch Me and the Rings If You Can.” Give him a bed and a dog chewy something, and he’s content all the same. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Sparky is my brother’s family’s dog. He’s small but mighty in charm and character. Family vacation came as a relief for the little guy: He’d had a hard school year, what with two of the three kids in his family going off to college and all. Here at last, his pack was united. Photo by Adam Sherman

Our stay in cabins on a river in the woods almost always includes a few dogs of our own. Other families have vacationed with cats and ferrets.

When I was young and on vacation here, I spent the largest part of each day at the stable, waiting for my turn to ride one of the for-hire trail horses.  Wilderness pack trips and promises of great fishing in the cold lakes of the back country were then one of the main draws to this rustic 1920’s-era “resort.” Dad and I took a lot of those rides back in the day.

One thing that has remained constant at our family vacation spot for 50 years is blue jays. If the warm sunshine in your face doesn’t wake you when it stretches above the mountains in the early morning, the blue jay conversations just inches from your sleeping bag will. Photo by Adam Sherman

Much-younger, my siblings had their own kind of animal fun watching fat chipmunks and shimmery blue jays  scatter after bread crumbs. The once bustling stables were abandoned long ago, and the tack room and hitching rails have gone to weeds. But a sturdy new corral is home to a couple of overweight donkeys that come hee-hawing to the fence whenever someone with a carrot or sugar cube stops by.

Youngsters in ours and other families pester parents to take them on walks “up to where the donkeys live.” For me, the little long-eared fellows evoke Dad-and-me memories of following along behind a string of mules packed with supplies for forest rangers at lookout stations and Boy Scouts at high country camps.

“Mr. Donkey, just because my sweater is green like an apple does not mean you can eat it! Let me have my sleeve back, and I’ll give you a carrot!,” I said to this sweet long-eared fellow. He’s gone a tad “sour” from all the handouts he gets from vacationing kids – and yes, adults, too.  Now corralled, this donkey and his partner used to roam the resort at will. Since the warped doors on the old vacation cabins don’t always close tightly, these clever donkeys would use their long noses to wedge the doors open, tip-toe up the rather rickety stairs, go inside and binge on human sweets and treats. Photo by Adam Sherman.

“Mr. Donkey, just because my sweater is green like an apple does not mean you can eat it! Let me have my sleeve back, and I’ll give you a carrot!,” I said to this sweet long-eared fellow. He’s gone a tad “sour” from all the handouts he gets from vacationing kids – and yes, adults, too. Now corralled, this donkey and his partner used to roam the resort at will. Since the warped doors on the old vacation cabins don’t always close tightly, these clever donkeys would use their long noses to wedge the doors open, tip-toe up the rather rickety stairs, go inside and binge on human sweets and treats. Photo by Adam Sherman.

My nieces and nephews appear not to have my horse-crazy genes, but they do smile sweetly when the donkeys’ soft lips and bristly chin hairs sweep across their small palms as they offer treats. Family dogs aren’t always so enthused by the donkeys: Sometimes they growl a grumble or hide behind the person nearest at hand.

Watching the kids and donkeys interact again had me thinking about how entwined animals are in our lives, even when we’re away from home.

Butterflies float through our mountain forest vacation spot but infrequently. This beauty took a breather on a corner of the riverside beach. Back home, my mom’s husband’s family has a renowned butterfly garden; hence he gave this visitor a hearty welcome. Photo by Dennis Forer

My cousin’s husband had his camera slung over his shoulder while walking near the river the morning this bird of prey passed overhead. There’s an eagle’s nest not far from where the photo was taken, so we assumed this was an eagle. Once we had the photos in hand and could enlarge them to look at details, it looked to be an osprey – probably out fishing for breakfast. No matter the type of bird, it doesn’t get much better than snapping a photo as it soars against a cloudless blue sky before the heat of the day sets in. Photo by Dennis Forer

Most years, while we’re on our family vacation, there’s some kind of bear activity in camp. Generally that involves midnight raids with bears climbing on top of chain-locked dumpsters and straining to get the lids off. The noise they make is the worst of it.

However, last year, on the bittersweet final night of our vacation, a bear ripped out a screen and climbed into a nearby cabin. The bear had its way with the refrigerator and most things in the kitchen. Meanwhile, the woman sleeping at the back of the cabin jumped over the veranda and ran to safety. The bear was later trapped and moved to a distant section of forest.

Here’s how my youngest niece, Sara, who was age eight at the time, told the tale, which appeared in her school’s newspaper.

A BEAR STORY

“I went on an adventure to Trinity Alps Resort with my family. It is an adventure because you are in the wilderness. When we went on walks in the wilderness I found chipmunks. We had three cabins in a row this year: We had Sierra, Santa Barbara and Sacramento. My family was in the one Sacramento. Everybody in the family comes to Trinity Alps Resort.

“Our last night at Trinity Alps Resort the bear was out! My mother woke me up to show me that the bear was out in the garbage can. I was so scared I had to go in the room with the roof. I was sleeping out on the veranda which has a roof on it. But there are other openings all around you.

“Guess what? The black bear actually got into a cabin. It tried to open the door. But instead he broke apart the window. The lady’s name was Sharon. So she heard a noise in the kitchen and then she went into the kitchen and she saw this black thing on its two hind legs and then she realized that it was the black bear! So she ran to the veranda and she jumped over the veranda.

“Then she ran over to my cousin Mikayla’s cabin and she told Mikayla’s dad all about it. Then Dennis, Mikayla’s dad, drove Sharon to Jim’s house. Jim is the kind of person who keeps everybody safe and keeps things straight. So Sharon slept the rest of the night. The bear got into the cabin at 3:00 in the morning before the bear got into the garbage can about 4:15 in the morning. My dad was in the bathroom about 4:45 shining a flashlight in the bear’s eyes.

“There is a cabin called Napa and the person who is staying in Napa which is Mrs. Jansen. She gets freaked out because there is like a little path where the bear comes and goes. I was selling jewelry there, too. In the morning we went to go look at the cabin. At Mikayla’s cabin I got a Hershey Bar. You might not want to read this at night but the chocolate part won’t scare  you as much as Mrs. Schuler [Sara’s teacher].”

Her teacher commented: “Good suspense. Now that’s a scary bear story!“

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BREAKING NEWS: This article just won first place in the Nonfiction, Essay by an Adult, Category at the Yamhill County Fair 2011.

I’ve always been an animal lover, so I take it quite personally when an animal gives me the cold shoulder. That happened three times this past winter and spring. Now, it’s like Christmas in July, because the two aloof dogs and horse have warmed up to me enough to permit a touch or two.  I can’t say that I did anything special to earn their trust. I just waited them out. It was an exercise in patience.

NEKOTA

Nekota, a bearded collie from champion lines, is sometimes aloof with newcomers, especially when her owner is not present to offer encouragement.

Nekota, a young  bearded collie from champion lines, was the first to allow me a touch. She came around about two weeks after I started seeing and feeding her twice a day. My friend and Nekota’s owner, Tish, was out of town on dog and family business.  I was pet sitting three of her bearded collies: Nekota, her mother Kiwi, and another female, Bubbles.

The jovial trio always greeted me with enthusiasm and barks of delight. I’d ruffle the long, silky hair of Bubbles and Kiwi; then they’d set off to romp and tumble on the winter-wet green lawns. I wanted to pet and hug Nekota, too. But she kept her distance even when I offered her treats.

After a few days, I was feeling slighted, so I quit pursuing her affections. I stopped trying to make eye contact with Nekota, too.  This wasn’t too hard since bearded collies have long, bushy eyebrow hair that covers their eyes to protect them from stickers and debris when doing the livestock herding for which they were initially bred.

One evening, as I was preparing their dinner in Tish’s kitchen, the three dogs came in from outside and gathered around me. Truth be told, they were more interested in having me throw the raggedy toy they’d dropped at my feet than they were in their meal. Nonchalantly, yet deliberately, I let my hand slowly drop to Nekota’s head — for an instant. She didn’t recoil. I was wowed, making it nearly impossible not to look at her, but I refrained: Doing so might have made her feel challenged, hence retreat.

I repeated similar gestures over the next few days. In time, I could pet Nekota at will and even glance at her while at it. By the time Tish returned home, Nekota was curling at my feet and allowing me to stroke her head and scratch her chin for as long as I liked. I lavished praise on her in a very subdued manner: She didn’t seem to mind that either. She liked me after all.

The new accord between us meant more to me than many other successes in my life. Good Girl, Nekota!! Thanks for considering me a member of  your pack for awhile.

STELLA

Stella, a shy, uncertain mastiff when rescued, has gained confidence while settling in at her new forever home. She's become trusting enough to include some humans among her friends.

I’d known Stella, a shy and aloof rescued mastiff, much longer than I had known Nekota when her stand-offishness  began to ebb. Quite possibly, Stella knew abuse and /or neglect in her past. Once settled in a safe, quiet environment, it still took the big taupe-colored dog months to stop evading me when I visited the farm where she lives with her new owners, Stacy and Russell. She couldn’t be bribed with treats, toys or praise. Cats terrified her, too. She was wary of all that moved – even the wind, it sometimes seemed.

When my husband, son and I have acquired rescue dogs in the past, we’ve been cautioned that it can take as long as a year for a dog to really feel secure with a new place and unfamiliar faces. So I waited on Stella, and waited some more.

It’s all too easy to envision Stella having been cloistered away and used for the single purpose of making  babies in a puppy mill setting. If that was the case, it explains why she’s still afraid to be in dark, tight places. It may also be the reason beneath her demureness: It’s possible she’d never known affection at the hand of man, or woman, prior to her rescue by English mastiff guardian angels Sue and Gary May of McMinnville, Oregon. (The couple founded Mastiff Rescue Oregon and has placed more than 80 of these cougar-size gentle giants in loving, permanent homes.)

For the longest time, when  Stacy and Russell had guests, four-year-old Stella would retreat to a spot where she could rest her chin on her giant paws and observe the movements of all those folks she didn’t know. Her eyebrows seemed  to do a sort of line dance, moving side to side with each quick, constant, wary eye movement. A few other dog-loving friends and I started letting a hand dangle whenever we sat and chatted with our hosts. We hoped our hands would serve as bait for the lonely Stella, who appeared a little braver each  week.

One night, a collection of us were having a group lesson in making pot-stickers. I was preparing to slice and dice celery at the island in Stacy’s kitchen when I felt a cold nose bump the hand I had resting on my hip. (That’s about eye level for big-and-tall Stella.)  Purposefully, I kept talking about chestnuts and pinching pasta and barely acknowledged the now-curious dog. A few visits later, Stella approached me from behind and stood at my side. The next time, she let me stroke her head as I stood talking with Stacy, a coffee mug in my hand.

The encouragement Stella has received in her new forever home has given her the confidence to trust, perhaps for the first time in her adult dog life. She even gives the new kittens clattering about a curious sniff instead of immediately trotting away.

Nowadays, when I arrive at the farm, Stella lopes out to meet my car instead of racing off to hide behind the free-range chickens or miniature pinscher tap-dancing about. Stella’s long tail, no longer tucked between her powerful back legs, is carried more naturally and, most of the time, swings lazily from side to side. If I linger over the new kittens too long, Stella actually nudges her way into our little crowd to claim some petting for herself.

Oh yes, the “min pin,” small enough to be a lap dog, isn’t a snuggler or a cuddler. But loving, lanky Stella is.

BOBBY

It was nearly a year before Bobby, a cutting horse, felt safe enough with me to take treats I offered to him. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Bobby was the last hold-out: He took nearly a year. Bobby is a chestnut-colored, top-performing cutting horse that belongs to the owner of the barn where I stable my horse, Callie. This athletic gelding, too, may have been mishandled in his youth, long before he came to the loving home where he is now the star.

At first it was tempting to think Bobby was stuck-up, even vain; then I remembered those were traits exclusive to humans. He’d move to another part of his stall whenever I entered to clean it or feed him. I didn’t dare try to remove his fly mask at night. He reminded me of a cat. Everything had to be on his terms and in his time. I’d offer Bobby a carrot or apple slice, and he’d turn his head away. I’d never experienced a horse refusing things that were like candy to them. I was flabbergasted and, yes, my feelings were hurt.

“Bobby’s just like that,” his owner assured me. “It’s not you. He’s even more skittish around men.” That would make sense if he’d been corrected too harshly or ridden too hard by a man somewhere along the line; however, I was determined to befriend him. Every time I’d pass Bobby’s stall or paddock on the way to catch Callie, I’d stop to offer him a treat. He’d look me right in the eye, then pivot away. That left me feeling like the wallflower kid who never gets asked to the floor at a junior high school dance.

One afternoon, I offered Bobby a treat on the way back from the pasture with my horse at the end of a lead rope. Instead of shunning  me and turning tail, Bobby remained still. When my horse tried to angle in and snatch the treat for herself, Bobby grabbed it from the palm of my hand! I repeated that approach day in and day out — with varying degrees of success.

Then the farrier arrived ahead of schedule one day.  Bobby’s owner, unable to leave work early, sent me a text message and asked if I would please halter Bobby and bring him to the main barn for his session with the horseshoer.

“Me?” I thought as I responded, “Yes, sure, no problem.” Once inside Bobby’s run, his halter slung over my arm, I talked softly and approached him slowly, but with confidence. Next thing I knew, I was buckling the blue halter alongside his ear, and he stood perfectly calm as I did so!  Since then, he’s taken to following me around his stall, hoping for more of the treats stashed in my pocket. I wouldn’t say were BFFs (best friends forever), but Bobby and I are working on it.

THIS WEEK’S ANIMAL LESSON: Nekota, Stella, Bobby — When they finally befriended me, I was reminded of a slogan 12-step programs use. It goes something like this:   When we try to force solutions, we become irritable and unreasonable without knowing it. As in, I let one dog hurt my feelings; another make me feel unworthy; and I thought of a horse as being a snob. Change takes time, so be patient” The animals are.

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