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Posts Tagged ‘Dog’


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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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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This picture seems to be all that remains of the young black-tailed buck that traveled our woods -- and helped himself to my rose buds -- for two years. I forgave his harvesting my roses when he turned and looked right into my eyes as this photo was snapped. It was taken earlier this year when his new antlers were still fresh in velvet. I imagined that rack being a yard across in years ahead. My guess is he seldom left our place. It is rather a perfect bachelor pad as bucks go: meadows for browsing; ponds and creeks for drinking; woods for hiding; and does for courting. It was his turf until poachers ended his young life the first day of the Fall 2011 hunting season. Photo by James Sherman.

I try not to use the word “hate.” I did my best to raise my son in the art of not using this four-letter word or others  like it. But I’m using that word now: I “hate” deer and elk hunting seasons. More specifically, I hate the people who cheat at it: poachers.

Where’s the sport in raising your rifle as you sit in your truck on a public road at sundown and shoot a deer on private property where faded, but readable, “No Hunting or Trespassing” signs are posted?

Yes, we live in a hillside clearing surrounded by private forests and BLM land; so we expect hunters’ rifle shots to boom through our silence. The first weekend of the fall deer season they seem especially loud. I remind myself it’s a seasonal sport and tell my husband how glad I am it’s not his thing anymore.

I admit hypocrisy here: I don’t often voice my view in our rural social circles. Intellectually, I get the pros of ethical hunting as necessary for wildlife and wildland management. It’s my heart that isn’t convinced.

I’m the mom who read “Bambi” to her son and every time skipped the part about Bambi’s mother dying. My son’s 20 now. But whenever he starts a sentence, “Remember when you…,” I know he’s about to remind me how my revisionist bedtime reading got him blindsided on the playground when friends happened on the “Bambi” storyline. Adam insisted it didn’t go the way his pals said.

That afternoon, Bambi was with us in the car on the ride home from school. As soon as Adam had clicked his seat-belt around his six-year-old waist, it was game-on. “Mom, there’s only one ‘Bambi’ story right? So how come other kids say his mother got killed? And what exactly are hunters? ”

Adam’s words were like a shot to my mom heart. I’d tried to protect him from what I considered a harsh reality. And I’d put him at a disadvantage. It wasn’t the first time I apologized to my son for something I’d said or done. It was the first, and last, time I lied to Adam by omitting pieces of the truth.

I guess you could say deer hunting is a loaded issue for me. And can I just say that I got my Bambi comeuppance this summer. My chocolate Lab, Kobe, loves to find stinky things to carry home from walks in the meadow. This time, he was lagging way behind and pulling something heavy up the hill. He was dragging a skeleton: a head, spine, and partial rib cage. It could only have been a long-dead deer or young elk, taken by coyotes, injury or illness. “OMG” was about all I could say to my quite proud-of-himself dog.

Kobe knew better than to even attempt to bring his find into the house. Reluctantly, he dropped it on our front porch. Where it stayed until Adam got home and moved it out of sight for his mother.  Yes, the whole “Bambi”-on-the-playground incident came up yet again.

As it did recently when we got disturbing news from our other-side-of-the-woods neighbor: He reported seeing hunters taking aim from the road and dropping a forked horn in our woods at dusk. I literally felt as though I’d been smacked by a rifle shot’s recoil.

The young buck was apparently standing alongside the pump house on our private property when they killed it. Did I mention they were shooting toward our house?  The poachers, trespassing, dragged the buck to the county road and heaved it into the bed of their pickup. They sped off before the neighbor could make out the mud-spattered license plate number. I’m no game warden, but I count at least three rules* of the hunting game broken. Not to mention the spirit of the laws. Wonder what great heroic story the cheap-shot hunters told their peers about their illegally taken prize?

Chances are the buck poached was the one you see in the photo. He posed in our front yard earlier this year, perhaps to show off his brand new antlers. Needless to say, he felt pretty safe hereabouts. He probably didn’t stray from our place his entire life. Born here, lived here, died here. RIP.

 *      General Hunting Rules, excerpted from 2011 Oregon Big Game Regulations

Shooting Hours:                                                                                                                                                                                             ■■Game mammals may only be hunted from 1/2 hour before sunrise to 1/2 hour after sunset.

No Person Shall:                                                                                                                                                                                             ■■ Shoot from or across a public road, road right-of-way or railroad right-of-way….

■■ Hunt any wildlife from a motor-propelled vehicle. Exceptions: 1) A qualified disabled hunter may obtain an “Oregon Disabilities Hunting and Fishing Permit” to hunt from a motor-propelled vehicle except while the vehicle is in motion or on any public road or highway.

To Report Wildlife Violators in Oreogn,  Call 1-800-452-7888 or Email tip@state.or.us


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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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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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AnimalsOurEVERYTHING! and blogger Janet Herring-Sherman have received a blogging-community award.

The AnimalsOurEVERYTHING! blog has received the Memetastic Award. Sounds like a bit of bragging, huh? Actually, it’s another kind blogging soul doing the bragging about my blog.

Her name is Sandra Bell Kirchman. She is a gifted author/editor/blogger. You can see samples of her work at: http://fantasyfic.wordpress.com/. Sandra’s fantasy fiction book, “Witchcanery,” was first published in 2007 and is now a collector’s item. The second edition was published in 2009 and can be purchased at most major online book outlets.

I can’t deny it: Getting an award for my blog feels swell! Accepting the Memetastic Award comes with two conditions. First, I’m required to write five little-known statements about myself and post them on my blog. This being a blog about animals, each scenario mentions, or is centered on, an animal or two.  Only one will be true. (See the stories below.)

The hope is that readers of my blog – that would be you – will give this unusual exercise a go and try to guess which statements are fiction. What that really means is that I have to write well enough to convince you each is true.

Please indicate your choice in a comment on the blog. Just enter the number (1 through 5)  attached to the statement you choose. I’ll name the winner(s) in a future blog; which requires my revealing the true tale as well.

JANET WONDERS IF YOU KNOW

WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING STORIES ABOUT HER IS TRUE

1. I once stood on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Calif., and held the hand of a former college dorm neighbor while he threw his wedding ring into the Pacific Ocean. We’d been sweethearts at university, then parted for reasons I can’t even remember now. Several years later, I was working retail in the city by the bay: A chance meeting of a mutual friend in that clothing store was the catalyst for our reunion. Our mutual pal mentioned how often my name still came up in letters he received from my ex. Next thing I know, my once-boyfriend is traveling from Australia to see me again. The magic was still there; hence the dramatic disposal of his ring.  It was all a false alarm. Neither of us felt good about how our proposed affair would impact his wife. Or his dog. His dog-loving ways were what had attracted me to this guy way back when; so it wasn’t exactly unexpected when he began pining for the dog he and his wife shared down-under. We parted ways after a few days. I still wonder how he explained his absence — and absent ring — to his wife. Just as well, he was allergic to horses and cats.

2. I was once a guest of a royal oil sheikh from Saudi Arabia. We landed on his private airstrip and dined at his compound in Dhahran.  Then we headed to his stable – if you could even call it that, it was so, well, bejeweled. In the world of Arabian horses, this sheikh was known for his stud farm full of horses directly descended from those of the Bedouin tribes. Thousands of the Bedouin’s desert-bred Arabians were distributed to royal family members in the 1950s when the Kingdom of Saudi was being formed by King Abdul Aziz Ibd Saud.  The Bedouins were convinced to surrender their horses, which were essential to their tribes’ armed forces. How did I manage to meet the sheikh? My girlfriend was a flight attendant on his private jet. She asked if I might meet him and write about his stud farm.

3.  I guess I’ll do nearly anything for a good horse story. A photographer friend and I were on a magazine assignment to cover a really big horse sale at a prestigious breeding facility on a working cattle ranch. The ranch owner, a wealthy New Yorker as I recall, had sent his pilot and plane to pick us up several hours away in another state.  I admit feeling quite privileged to be “flying in.” I didn’t anticipate the plane would appear to be made from balsa wood. Ascending the tiny, teetering set of stairs, I nearly turned back. I reminded myself that the photographer and I had been hired as a team. I didn’t want to let my colleague down. Sundown was approaching when the pilot yelled that we were going to descend for our landing. I thought I’d heard wrong. All I could see out the filmy windows were rugged fields and crags: no tarmac. That’s when I closed my eyes and started praying “Our Fathers” and “Hail Marys” in rapid repeat. After the plane first hit ground, it seemed like the bumping over boulders and crowhops would never end. When the pilot shouted, “Everybody hold on real tight!” I thought, “This is it,” and saw visions of Heavenly horses. Suddenly, we fell forward in our seats, then stopped with whiplash force. Engines off, the only sound was the wind having its way with the sagebrush outside. The nose of the plane was kissing the foot of a mountain. A Jeep and driver were waiting to take us on the overland part of the journey.

4. My uncle was an administrator in the U.S. Peace Corps in the 1960s-1970s. He, my aunt and three cousins were “stationed” in Paraguay in South America. We — my dad, mom, sister, brother and I — visited them there. They had a mega-champion Chow, a big fluffy red dog with a black tongue, with an equally impressive litter. We were going to oversee the pups’ transport to their buyers in the States. I was fifth-grade age at the time. When we disembarked the plane, the lack of oxygen at that height left us disoriented and unable to take a deep breath. Someone began distributing an antidote for the altitude sickness. We were instructed to put the little leaves they’d dispensed into our mouth. The leaves’ soothing juices cleared our heads and calmed our lungs. My uncle explained this was a common cure for the adverse effects of thin, low-oxygen air. Then he told us they were coca leaves; as in, that’s where cocaine comes from. I thought my dad was going to throttle my uncle. They started laughing crazily instead.

5. I was an extra in an Alfred Hitchcock movie. In 1962-1963, the famous thriller movie-maker was filming “The Birds” in the small coastal town of Bodega Bay in California. My best friend’s family had a weekend cabin there. It was just down the hill from Bodega Bay’s tiny elementary school. We were playing on the school-yard  swings and tossing a ball for her German shepherd when members of Hitchcock’s film team showed up to scout locations. They looked around, then handed us little business cards. The gentlemen, dressed dapper in hats and ties, told us a movie was going to be filmed there. They added, “We’ll be needing some children to pretend they are running out of the school to get away from something scary. We might be able to use your dog, too. Have your parents call us if you want to be in the movie.” We did, and we were. My glasses were even a prop.

PAYING THE AWARD FORWARD TO OTHER BLOGS

Condition two of the award acceptance is that I pass this Memetastic Award along to five bloggers whose sites I find appealing and interesting, in other words, top-drawer. I’m happy to do so. They are:

“Tag,” you five bloggers are “It” now. Your turn to pass the Memetastic Award on. Here are the rules:

    • You must proudly display the award in a post.
    • You must list five things about yourself; and four of the five must be BOLD FACE LIES.
      (your readers must guess which one is the truth)
    • You must pass this prestigious award on to five deserving bloggers.

HAVE FUN!

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FAWNED OVER

I've been partial to fawns since childhood. This was taken circa 1960s in a California national forest where a park ranger had rescued this orphaned fawn. Photo by Edgar J. Herring

Does and fawns, nouns that elicit Madonna-and-child-like visions of peaceful mothers and their babes: Until the doe thinks her fawn’s in peril.  A sweet-seeming Bambi mom can turn mean in a hoofbeat. That’s what happened when a pint-size dog (He weighs in at 14 pounds.), on an innocent gopher hunt, was caught “trespassing.”

Here’s how the scene unfolded. The pooch’s owner heard a weird sound while doing evening chores. She looked up and saw upwards of 208 pounds of white-tailed deer running dead at her! Next she noticed the mad-as-a-hatter deer was really stampeding after her little dog — also speeding straight toward her.

Some fancy arm-waving and shouting detoured the deer into the woods just in time to avoid a woman-doe collision. The little dog, kiy-yiy-yiying all the way home, was shaking, dirty, limping and missing some hair. The assumption is that he got rolled, stomped, or bit by the doe. After a few shaky, achy days he was back to normal – and now a rare visitor to that particular field.

Imagine your surprise if, walking through the tall May grass, you literally stumbled into this all-alone fawn. Apparently, the new baby was napping while Mom was several yards up the hill, scaring the life out of one of the farm's resident dogs.

Same place, same day, an all-alone fawn was discovered in the hip-high grass of a resting field just down the lane.

Gates were left open to encourage Mom and baby to reunite and make their way back into the woods. Next morning, no sign of the fawn; instead, a path of recently flattened grass leading away.

No coincidence I’d say. That fawn had to be the brand new offspring of the raging doe.

“Like a lioness” or “like a mother bear” are phrases used to describe a human mother who, instinctively and aggressively, jumps to her child’s’ defense or protection. I think we can add “like a mother deer” to that group.

IT’S SUPERMAN! NO, WAIT: IT’S A BIRD, IT’S A PLANE!

Turkey vulture profile, in a manner of speaking. In the air, their faces seem a muted coral color. Close up, the color is a brilliant lipstick red. Looks like smudges of dark eyeliner around those eyes if you ask me. Photo source: http://mollysbox.wordpress.com

Riding toward the river near the barn, I spied a hint of red high in the for-once very-blue sky. A red-winged bi-plane was flying a pattern of dips, lifts and somersaults.

Stage right, another spot of red appeared  lower in the sky. It was a red-beaked turkey vulture. It, too, was repeatedly diving, soaring, and floating on the breeze. It looked as though the small plane and big bird were a pair waltzing in-step to a choreographed sky dance.

I sat in my saddle and pondered how oddly enchanting the scene was. I’ve never thought of vultures as anything besides unsightly, unseemly scavengers. It turns out, vultures are uniquely built for expert soaring and are considered by many experts to be one of the smartest birds there is.

They’re big on family, too: In late spring or early summer vultures nest as a clan in caves, cliffs, and tree hollows. They “speak” in hisses and grunts; hence locating them by ear can be challenging. Vultures don’t bestow us with lyrical birdsong; instead they give us acrobatics with sky as their theater.

The wingspan of an adult turkey vulture can reach six feet. Photo source: nationaleaglecenter.org

Since vultures  prefer to fly over open fields and meadows rather than dense woods, we often get to watch them play the thermals above the valley behind our home. My appreciation for vultures has been awakened. Now, when I observe them — so ungainly on the ground — glide and swoop with great grace, I see them as winged dancers, not just as opportunistic gleaners of nature’s fallen.

Watch this short public broadcasting video for a glimpse, http://www.opb.org/programs/ofg/segments/view/1718

THE ANIMAL LESSON THIS WEEK, from the vultures, relates to the 12-step slogan, “Keep an open mind.”


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