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Posts Tagged ‘Farm Animals’


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Callie, too, says thank you for being a fan of AnimalsOurEVERYTHING!

I LAUNCHED MY BLOG a year ago this month.

Today’s post  was my 66th. During this year, AnimalsOurEVERYTHING! has enjoyed more than 4,000 views.

I’d like to say thanks to all of my followers, subscribers, visitors, blogging and writing colleagues for taking an interest in my blog. The animals and I are more than a little grateful. We wanted you to know.

Here’s to another year of learning from animals — the  best of  teachers.

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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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The Apifera Farm greeting committee includes a variety of hens and a rooster or two. Gesture drawing by Janet Herring-Sherman

Autumn’s eve was approaching the weekend I tried my hand at art. I attended a workshop with a barnyard as studio and farm animals as models. The subjects, rescued donkeys, goats, sheep and a pot-belly pig, plus chickens, ducks and a horse named Boone, were quite willing subjects. Well, all but Rosie, the somewhat grouchy little pig.

I figured since animals were at the heart of the exercise, I might stand a chance at drawing something that looked at least a little life-like. Several of the six women who attended the workshop are quite gifted and well-established artists.  A few, like me, are “nouveau art.”

Our instructor and host, artist and author Katherine Dunn, insisted artistic talent wasn’t a requirement to attend. All we needed, she’d said on registration, was curiosity and a soft spot for animals. So there we were on a drippy, chilly Oregon morning gathered in a weathered barn at Katherine’s  Apifera Farm in Yamhill, an hour south of Portland. The workshop, “Gestural Drawings to Capture the Essence,”  began with instructions to sit silently and commune with the critters.

Being in Apifera’s old hay barn, as regal as an old growth redwood, seemed déjà vu. I felt much as I had the time I walked into the majestic St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. Each of these places has a well-preserved  awe, a particular quiet and a distinct smell of must and earth – from hay and manure traces in the barn and from incense and burning candles in the church. That old barn felt a lot like a place of worship. I mean that as praise not blasphemy: The times I’ve felt nearest to God have been in the company of animals.

Inside that barn, with three pair of donkey eyes watching, our group seemed to breathe a collective sigh – as if shedding the hustle-bustle world. It proved impossible to worry about jobs, school,  bills or families while under donkey scrutiny.

My very-novice gesture drawing of a member of the trio of rescued mini-donkeys now enjoying life at Apifera. By Janet Herring-Sherman

Katherine describes Apifera as a place where animals and art collide. I see it more as comfortable collusion than collision. I’m convinced, for instance, that, the Pygmy goat, Old Man Guinnias, and the piebald donkey, Matilda, conspired as to when one would stand and pose, and the other sidle up and nibble at our tablets.

The Apifera herd members really were most accommodating as we attempted to capture them in gesture drawings: These are quick, fluid drawings, often completed in short spurts, that capture the essence of a movement, a line, a shape or a feeling.

When I was young and yearning for a horse of my own, I drew hundreds of horses to keep me company. I learned to draw them pretty well. But getting the essence of these donkeys onto paper eluded me much of the day. As my sketchbook filled with my attempts, I reminded myself that my only “formal” art training was an elementary drawing class I took with my son when he was young.

In her art and writing, Katherine pays great homage to donkey ears. Now I know why. They are, well, captivating in a warm, fuzzy way. The donkeys have a secret language of ear play. I found it hard to turn away.

The real Matilda at rest in the Apifera barn, donkey ears and all. Photo by Katherine Dunn.

I’m especially fond of the splayed-ear look. When donkeys are at rest or feeling content and safe, their ears relax and fall sideways. Catawampus my dad would have called it. My attempt at drawing ears-at-rest ended with what looked like a donkey wearing a floppy hat. It was so out of whack, it made me smile. During show-and-tell, the others chuckled, too. It was all in good fun.

Gesture drawing of Matilda, Apifera's rescued donkey. By Janet Herring-Sherman

Matilda is the two-toned donkey Katherine most recently rescued from a life of neglect. I was struck by the strength of Matilda’s cheeks and jawbones. Since she’s about as tall as my torso, I could reach out and feel the curves, angles and muscles in a way I haven’t with taller horses. I tried to show that solid, rugged part of her donkey physique in profile.

Everyone at the workshop was taken with Matilda’s eyes and ears; as we were with those of the smaller mini donkeys, Pino, Paco, Lucia. Each in the trio was diminutive and demure. It’s easy to see why these barnyard muses so frequently appear in Katherine’s paintings. You might say that Pino has hee-hawed his way to a place beyond the farm: He’s evolved into a puppet, created by Katherine, that stars in her clever Apifera videos.  You can see Pino at http://www.apiferafarm.blogspot.com/.

Meanwhile, if you haven’t yet hugged a donkey or scratched a pair of donkey ears, I suggest adding “dancing with donkeys” to your bucket list. Apifera proved a place of respite. The donkeys and company made it so.

To see a video of Apifera animals, the workshop and some of the illustrations that resulted, click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pdyBbR1ePg&feature=youtu.be.

My attempt at catching a goat on the move during a gesture drawing workshop at Apifera Farm in Yamhill, Oregon. By Janet Herring-Sherman

 Special Note: I just learned that two of the senior-citizen rescued goats at Apifera, Honey Boy and Granny, died last week. Katherine buried the old gent and the old gal in a special place, the pumpkin patch, on her farm. May they rest in peace as they lived at Apifera.

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African American Ghost Dogs

When my son was young, I was on a mission to find children’s books that would help him learn about other countries, their cultures and customs. This was in the early 1990s, and that genre was still pretty sparse. Once the publishing industry acknowledged the vacuum, they were on it:  Pretty quickly, more and more culturally sensitive and culturally accurate books for youngsters and young adults began to appear in bookstores and catalogs; at least that’s how I remember it.

Ghost dog Lucy comforts young Daniel in this sweet story written by Jo Ellen Bogart. "Daniel's Dog" was published by Scholastic, Inc. in 1990. Image from: http://www.scholastic.com/

I felt as though I’d found a buried treasure the day I stumbled on, “Daniel’s Dog,” at a book fair at my son’s school. Published by Scholastic, Inc. in 1990, it’s an illustrated children’s book by Jo Ellen Bogart about an African American boy and his dog, Lucy. I’m glad “Daniel’s Dog” found its way home with us, because it became a favorite with my son the first time we read it. For weeks, story time included flipping through the pages again and again to see if we could spot where the translucent spaniel-like Lucy was hiding in the enchanting illustrations.

Lucy was the kind of dog you could see right through; because she was a ghost dog. My son and I learned that ghost dogs frequent black American folklore. Children’s books have been some of my best teachers.

I wish I’d had a ghost dog instead of my imaginary friend, Betty. I think I was about five when Betty showed up. It hadn’t been a very good day, so I called on Betty for some help. I told my mom and dad it was my friend Betty who’d thrown chewing gum into the fireplace. I also told them it was Betty who’d spilled the milk and not cleaned it up. An imaginary dog would have made the scolding easier – and maybe lapped up the milk.

Lucy was more than a playmate for Daniel. She was his solution to feeling left out and lonely when his baby sister arrived and captured nearly all of his mom’s attention. Lucy was a ghost, but she wasn’t a secret. Daniel describes the faithful Lucy in detail to his mom and his best friend. Soon enough, Lucy becomes a prop for Daniel to tell his mom how ignored he’s been feeling.

“ ‘Who is Lucy?’ his mother asked?

‘Lucy is my dog,’ Daniel explained. ‘My  ghost dog. She always has time for me, no matter what.’

‘Oh, I see,’ Daniel’s mother said. ‘Is she here now?’

‘Right here next to my feet. She’s nice and warm, and she likes it when I read stories to her.’ “

Daniel tells his pal, Norman, that Lucy was sent from Heaven by his late grandfather for comfort and company. When Grandfather was a boy, Daniel explains, Lucy had been his ghost dog.

Ghost dogs happen along in adult literature, too. Critically acclaimed novelist Randall Kenan, an African American, remembered the ghost dogs of his childhood in an article in “US Policy” magazine in 2009.  He met them in stories told in the North Carolina town where he grew up.

Like Superman, the ghost dogs Kenan knew always showed up just in time to rescue someone from death or destruction. His great-great aunt told of a white dog that had led her to safety when she’d become lost in the woods. Kenan’s great-great grandmother recounted the tale of a woman who was about to be attacked by wild dogs when a ghost dog leapt to her rescue and guided her home. Eventually, ghost dogs became Kenan’s muse and led him to write his first novel, “A Visitation of Spirits,” published in 1989.

The South and Its Ghost Dogs

Many a ghost dog tale is recounted by Randy Russell and Janet Barrett in their book, "Ghost Dogs of the South," published by John F. Blair in 2001. Image from http://www.blairpub.com.

Ghost dogs, it seems, followed folks all over the American South. Award-winning folklorists Randy Russell and Janet Barrett recount many ghost dog tales in their book, “Ghost Dogs of the South,” published by John F. Blair in 2001. Complete with photos of dogs and/or their owners, this book captures the stories of several dogs that passed-over yet remained in their owner’s earthly life in invisible yet significant ways. Dog lovers won’t be surprised by claims of bonds this strong between persons and pups.

Russell and Barrett differentiate between dog ghosts — dogs that have become ghosts; and ghost dogs –humans who return as ghosts in the shape of dogs. Then, they say, there are dogs that see ghosts as well as dogs that are afraid of ghosts.

Each type shows up in “Ghost Dogs of the South.” The 20 tales recounted by Russell and Barnett introduce: a stray dog that warns coal miners of impending disaster; a Tennessee dog that returns home every year to go trick-or-treating; and a butterfly dog that eases a young girl’s pain.

Britain’s Phantom Dogs

Local superstition and ethereal dogs seem leashed together in British lore. They are most commonly described as being calf-size and black with saucer eyes. British tradition and tale have it that black phantom dog sightings occur most often along old tracks and roads: And a street called Black Dog Lane is surely haunted by one.

Another renowned scholar and Britain-Ireland folklorist, Katharine Briggs (1898-1980), also described two kinds of phantom dogs: those that are the ghosts of human beings returned as dogs and the ghosts of dogs in their own right. They are, generally, benevolent. In Scotland, phantom black dogs are said to guard buried treasure; while other tales applaud phantom black dogs for scaring away would-be robbers.

Author Daniel Parkinson lists these among the names for ghost dogs in Britain:
Bogey Beast, Bargheust, Black Shuck, Capelthwaite, Cu Sith, Gallytrot, Gurt Dog, Hairy Jack, Mauthe Dog, Old Shock, Padfoot, Pooka, and Skriker.

The infamous phantom dog in Andrew Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes classic crime story, "Hound of the Baskervilles," is likely the best-known ghost dog. Or is it a dog ghost? Image from http://www.flickr.com.

We must not forget the infamous phantom hound in ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ by Arthur Conan Doyle. This Sherlock Holmes crime mystery begins with lecherous Hugo Baskerville imprisoning a young lass at his country estate. The night she manages to escape, Hugo chases her across the moors. Before he reaches the young woman, Hugo is set upon and killed by a “marauding hound of hell.”

This brings a curse on the Baskerville family; a curse that includes being plagued by a mysterious and supernatural black hound. Consider reading, or re-reading, this classic as you burrow in for winter.

If you know any ghost dogs or stories about them, I’d love to hear from you.

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Spotted Tussock moth caterpillar. Photo by Adam Sherman.

Some of God’s creatures are just born dressed and ready for holidays.

This caterpillar fellow appeared on my son’s windowsill last week — already costumed in orange and black for Halloween.

I’d forgotten how soft and fuzzy caterpillars are and how they curl up into a ball when you touch them.

I know, I know, it’s going to spin a cocoon and emerge as a much less colorful moth (a spotted Tussock moth if we’ve correctly identified it).

Trust me, from now on, every time I try to wish and dish-towel-swish away a moth in our house, I will think of his little furry self.

Still, this is the ultimate in caterpillar cuteness, don’t you think? It’s just about the only creepy-crawly thing I’d ever call cute.

There is: the turkey trot, the pigeon walk, the snail’s pace, and now:  the caterpillar crawl.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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