Posts Tagged ‘puppies’


Our circle of friends and their animals has been filled with ups and downs this week.

The first sign of trouble appeared in “kitten-land” run by barn cat, Lilly. After a week of nursing a kitten foundling along with her three much-older kittens, she made it clear she was done with the tiny baby.

While feeding the horses one morning , our barn (and Lilly’s) owner, Teresa, noticed the baby was not with the others. Lilly had deposited the little guy in a dark, hard-to-reach corner. He was cold to the touch but alive. Teresa put the baby and Lilly on a warm blanket in a small dog crate, hoping all would be well. Later that morning, when Ella Mae, who boards her horse there, arrived, this was how she found things:

“All three older kittens were in the cage [crate], and the orphan was stretched out sleeping (I thought) near the front of the cage.  Lilly was up on your saddle blanket where I noticed her yesterday for the first time since her babies were born.

“We assume she has decided to wean away from so much nursing and has given up on the weaker orphan. When I checked, he was cold to touch and barely moving.  I tried to warm him and put a drop of water in his mouth.  He was so weak and about dead.  Teresa got special formula, came home and got him and took him back to the bank where she works. She had to go to a meeting, so her coworkers fed the kitten, which took a bit of doing at first.

“Tonight I talked to Teresa and the baby was on her chest. I could hear him mewing.  His body temp is back up: He’s warm and taking nourishment. Teresa named him today:  He will be known as “Will” due to his strong will to live.”

I know Lilly’s behavior is related to Mother Nature and survival of the fittest: It’s still hard not to be mad at her. I feel like revoking her privilege of sleeping on my saddle blankets; but of course I won’t. Thank you Teresa, your colleagues, and Ella Mae for letting this little black baby cat get under your skin and into your hearts!


At the ranch next door, (home of friends and horse trainers Carmen and Norm Bryant, see April 28, 2011 post], a 32-year-old champion Quarter Horse mare had to be put down. That’s a ripe old age in horse years. The cause was colic, a painful intestinal ailment that often claims older horses.

Norm Bryant cutting on Superstar Sierra. This champion mare was nicknamed Little Bunny. Photo courtesy of Norm and Carmen Bryant.

She was known around the place as Little Bunny: Her registered name was fancier, Superstar Sierra. Carmen and Norm cared for and showed both her sire, Docs Superstar Bar, and her dam, Sierra Bunny. Little Bunny was one of the first – and last remaining—offspring of this winning pair.  In fact, her father was quite the sensation four decades back.

In 1977, as agents for R.B. Pamlin Jr., Carmen and Norm orchestrated the purchase of the three-year-old Docs Superstar Bar for $30,000. The young stallion lived up to his name and sired dozens of champions. In 1981, the handsome stud sold for $800,000 – a very large price tag back then.

Bay-colored Little Bunny spent her entire life with Carmen and Norm, as a filly, show horse, brood mare and, most recently, a retired reminder of the good horses, horsemanship, faith and hard work that built their life as successful, well-respected and sought-after cutting horse trainers and breeders. Acknowledging how blessed they were to have had Little Bunny and her dam, Carmen said, “We often admired the class and beauty of those mares.”

I will miss seeing Little Bunny in the band of mares and geldings nibbling away in the green pastures alongside one of my riding paths. May she rest in peace.


Mom Kiwi and her six born-today bearded collie pups. Congratulations Kiwi. Photo by Tish Pollock.

We have six brand new bearded collies bringing cuteness and cheer to our spot on the map. My friend Tish raises these special herding dogs (see Feb. 23, 2011 post): Her bitch Kiwi gave birth this morning.

Here’s what Tish said in a Facebook post, “Puppies are doing really well; two black boys, one brown boy, one brown girl and two fawn girls. All hit the ground strong and active, have had a great lunch, nice sleep, and enjoyed their first exposure to the warm blow dryer when Kiwi was dried after her bath. Kristen (a beardie fan/owner on hand to assist Tish if Kiwi needed widwifery help) has gone home, and we’re going to have another nap around here.”

THIS WEEK’S LESSON FROM THE ANIMALS: This, too, will pass. That’s a hard one to keep in mind; but a welcome ease rides its coattails.

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I was about five when Dad gave me my first pup, Shep. He was a McNab shepherd and born to work. Without any herding to do in the new suburbia of the 1950s, Shep became bored and destructive. Eventually, Dad found him a more suitable home on a sheep ranch. I was heartbroken, yet somehow understood it was best for Shep that way. Photo by Edgar Herring.

Today is the fifth anniversary of my father’s passing. He’s the one who started me on this animal-loving journey.  My first pup, a gift from him, was a McNab shepherd named Shep after my uncle’s childhood dog. I’m certain Dad also was the key to my lifelong fascination with horses.

The California farm where he and my uncle grew up during the Depression was small and diverse. My grandfather’s team of horses was key in working the ground and hauling crops of potatoes and apples to the packing sheds at the rail stop up the hill. Dad much preferred driving the hitch to milking the family cow or cleaning chicken houses. Earning the right to drive the team was a sort of rite of passage. It meant you were in charge. The horses and cargo were the driver’s responsibility.

One summer, Dad was instructed to with make a delivery to the packing house. His city cousin Jack, on his annual trip to see country kin, was along for the ride. Shep — the original one — trotted alongside.

Apparently Jack insisted on having a turn at driving and tried to grab the reins from Dad. I’ve never driven even a single-horse hitch, but I can see why interfering with control of the horse(s) would not be wise. Dad told Jack as much, but Jack would not be deterred. So Dad made his point with an elbow and a shove.

Dad didn’t intend for Jack to fall off the wagon. I picture Shep licking Jack’s wounds as Dad pulled up the team and climbed down to help. At dinner that night, Jack told my grandparents he wanted to cut his stay short and return home. He left by train the next day. That was Jack’s last summer at the ranch. Dad and Jack stayed close through the years: The wagon incident was never discussed.

I’ve always wondered what words passed between the two teen-agers standing on the dirt road after the fall. Shep must have dutifully stood by, wagging his tail low and slow as dogs do when they’re unsure. Whose side was he on? I like to think Shep sat between the cousins, like a mediator, since each had been wronged by the other.

Hoss was a pistol. A small Jack Russell terrier with a personality the size of a bison, he died April 15. Hoss was a pivotal piece

Hoss, a Jack Russell terrier, was a tether-ball playing, gopher-digging, cattle-herding dynamo. Photo by Mary Corning, Four Winds Resources.

in the lives of my horse trainer friends, Carmen and Norm.

For one thing, he was the self-appointed sheriff. He’d bark an alarm if the slightest thing looked amiss in their driveway or front pastures. He did not pretend to like giving up his usual armchair just because you wanted to take a seat there. He’d let you sit, then jump back up and burrow in beside you. If you happened to have a treat in your pocket, he knew. There was no resisting his earnest brown eyes.

Less begging and sudden weight loss were the first clues something was wrong. Turned out he was anemic, because his immune system was destroying red blood cells. Medication helped, and Hoss began eating home-cooked meals three or four times a day, begging shamelessly for more. He rallied and strutted his little-dog stuff for three more weeks. Hoss died at home, in the middle of the night, in the arms of those who adored him for nearly 14 years.

When I met him, Hoss was pretty much retired and a house dog. But he’d had his hey-day. Here are a few of Carmen’s  memories from back then. “In his younger days, Hoss was totally obsessed with tether balls and would have to be stopped before he dropped!  He would also roll balls (of all shapes and sizes) with his nose, at high speed all over the house, barns, or parking lot, until we could catch him and stop the action!  Other obsessions were chasing us through the house, or vice versa, playing tug of war, chasing cats/squirrels, and digging for gophers! He loved to help get the cows out of the arena, and they were actually afraid of him … thinking he must be an over-sized rat!”

Rest in peace Hoss and may you be nudging balls through the halls of Heaven 24/7.


Barn cat Lillie has a kitten litter — all girls and mostly black with hints of white on some toes and a tail tip. The email I received with the happy news indicated she’d had two kittens. By the time I got to the barn to ride later that day and peeked at them – there were three!

Later I noticed a note on the whiteboard we use to communicate news in and around the barn. It read, “Please keep the dogs out of the tack room. Lillie is in there with her babies, 2 (+1). Thanks.” I feel honored that she’s made a nursery out of the old fleece horse blanket I folded up for her behind my tack box.


The Buckeye hens I wrote about in my last post have done their part to keep their endangered breed alive and well. My friend Stacy reports two chicks peeking out from beneath the protective feathers of the three “moms” sharing nest duty in recent weeks. Here's one of them taking a tentative glance around the barn. Photo by Russell Shellington.

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