Thursday, April 20, 2017

Another Little Buddy and Another Ride

I found this little buddy on the driveway last night...

I've seen it called both a Western Banded Gecko and a Desert Banded Gecko.  This one has leopard spots on the tail instead of bands.  It looked like a leaf, but I knew better, so I pulled the dogs away from it.  By the time I got my camera, it was hiding against the foundation of the house.

I fed the horses at 5:30 AM, which meant that Rock finished eating his breakfast as early as 8:30 AM.  He and Gabbrielle take three hours to eat one flake or slice of hay, while the senior horses take four hours.  It was still cool enough that early in the morning that I went for a trail ride again.

My neighbor was pushing a loud metal wheelbarrow with tools in it up his driveway toward his front yard.  I hoped he wouldn't bang a tool against it or fire up his chainsaw or hedge trimmer or weed whacker right when I rode past.  He didn't.  I made a point of focusing on where we were going, so that Rock would not gawk at him, and it worked this time.

Rock is so funny.  At one point during our ride, I became aware of something falling out of a bush just to the side and ahead of us, and then heard a thud.  I looked down to see that a squirrel had fallen out of the bush and landed right beside Rock's head.  Something like that would have sent any one of my Arabs high-tailing it home, but Rock just slowly side-stepped to avoid squashing the squirrel, while the squirrel jumped up and ran away from us.  He causally flicked and ear in its direction, but kept his eyes on the trail up ahead.  I laughed and said, "I guess something like that isn't new to you since you live outdoors.  Huh, Rock?"

He's getting so good about everything from holding still for the mount to watching where he places his feet so that he doesn't trip to listening respectfully when I tell him he can't snack on bushes.  Just a few weeks ago he would swish his tail and stomp his feet when I said no to snacks.  In fact, today I even tested him by taking him on a trail that was overgrown with grass and bushes.  I had to keep the reins tight so that he knew he didn't have the slack to do a snatch and run, but he did make it all the way down the trail without eating.  He's also getting softer and more responsive to my cues.  I thought the day would never come when I'd experience that.

We usually get our trash and recycling picked up two to three days a week right around mid to late morning when I like to ride, so it's always a challenge trying to get up the driveway and across the street before the trash truck arrives.  I was glad that I didn't ride yesterday, because the trash truck broke down right in front of the gate to the bridle trails.  They kept the engine running, and were working on the trash compactor, so there was quite a racket.  If I had been coming home from a trail ride at that time, I would have had to go out of my way to exit a different gate and ride up the street with traffic.

During the month of March, our area hit critical mass as far as the population of snowbirds is concerned, so our neighborhood had to be split up into different trash routes.  They started picking up our garbage last, at the very end of the day when I don't ride, so I was really happy to not have to deal with the trash trucks during my trail riding time.  However, now that most of the snowbirds have gone home, we are back to mid to late morning pickups.  By leaving at 8:30, I managed to miss the trucks, which made for a much more relaxing ride.  In fact, they weren't even in the neighborhood on our way home either.  I love being able to ride down the middle of the street without having to contend with drivers.

The streets were like a ghost town -- just the way I like it.  My neighbor was in his front yard doing something, but again I focused on where we were going, and Rock didn't even notice him.  I could get used to this lack of gawking from my horse.

We managed to cover a lot of ground without stepping on any snakes.

We're still loving our Two Horse Tack bridle and reins.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My Little Buddy Came to Visit

While I was cleaning stalls I happened to glance up and see my little buddy waddling across my driveway.  All I had was my mobile phone for pictures, and I have no idea what settings the camera was using, so that quality of the photos is not as good as usual.




He didn't hiss at me, but I could tell that he was getting stressed having me nearby taking photos.  The phone's camera doesn't have the same zoom capacity as my Nikons, so I had to get in close.  The GM was trying to get into holes in the ground and the stone wall to get away from me, so I left him alone and he was able to finish his trek.  I was glad about the timing of me letting him go, because shortly after that a pack of coyotes showed up in my backyard.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Breaking News Out West

This is partly why I miss my old hometown.  Here's a Facebook post from the local newspaper:

Muller Lane is closed due to about 100 cows blocking the roadway, according to reports on the police scanner. We will post more information as we hear it.


The comments were hilarious...

What are they protesting?

So no cars are mooooooving?

OMG, it's a dreaded rural gang!

Moovalous dahling!

They're grass fed so they won't eat the pavement.

Gotta love where we live!

Where is Billy Crystal when needed?

It's good that life is normal in this part of the country.

Beats L.A. traffic.


The place has become so citified that I expected to see some complaints about ranchers, so it was good to see that most people appreciated it.

I also saw that someone on Facebook posted our local forecast, and I immediately gathered my boots and spurs to go for a ride while I still can.  Basically, a few weeks ago it was supposed to be in the 70's for as far as I could see.  But then we got one or two days in the 80's and all of the sudden the forecast showed 80's for the next 10 days.  Now, all of the sudden it has jumped up into the 90's with a few days pushing 100 degrees.  This is way too soon for it in mid-April.  I thought we'd catch a break after how long last summer drew out.

If there's one thing I've learned, once we break 100, we don't go back down until November.  I'm not ready to quit riding.  I had so many plans.

Rock has finally gotten good at not only holding still for the mount, but not moving a single hoof until I say so.  I want to continue to experience that pleasure a little longer before he has to be retired for the summer, and we have to start all over again in the fall teaching him to hold still.

My neighbor at the end of the street runs some kind of construction business, and he recently hired a bunch of employees, so we've got this convoy of pickup trucks racing up and down the street multiple times a day.  My helmet cam happened to catch one on film.  I hate it when they show up right when I'm trying to cross the street, because I have to stop Rock, and then the next time we ride, he automatically stops on the driveway and refuses to cross the street until the convoy of trucks passes.  There's nothing I can do to convince him that it's a different day, and on this day there are no trucks coming.

You may have noticed that our windmill is missing from its post.  The wind broke it, as was expected, so now it is sitting in the garage.

Yesterday I was trying to get the dogs to go pee, and one of our habitual lurkers cruised up the street on his motorcycle really slowly to sneak yet another look at the house for sale.  I guess the first twenty times he looked at it wasn't enough.  My dogs had never seen a motorcycle before, because this guy hadn't driven past when they were outside, so they went nuts.  I had to drag them back into the house without them peeing.  I wish people who don't have any business in our neighborhood would just go away.  If you can't afford the house next door, stop doing drive-bys.  It's obnoxious for those of us who have to live here, and it makes me nervous.  We've had a string of burglaries and rapes in the area lately.

I saw that my neighbor tore down the real estate sign because he was mad at his agent for having too many typos and legal mistakes in their contract.  He put up some "for sale by owner" signs in its place.  I don't know if that means the sale is no longer pending or if he's just putting that sign up until escrow closes.  He's been brush painting the exterior of his house and barn all day every day for the past week.  He just did that six months ago, and a year before that.  Fortunately, Rock only gawks at him up on his ladder instead of spooking and bolting back to the barn.  I wouldn't have been able to ride at all this past week if there were the case.

Rock did throw his head up and hesitate about something off in the distance...

All I saw were the flags in front of the school blowing in the wind.  But Rock seemed to be tracking something that was moving.  Even though I was higher up than him, I couldn't see anything.  For the most part, we are alone out there, because not many people ride their horses, hike, or bicycle in this heat.  I did eventually hear dogs barking.  I left about an hour earlier than usual because of the heat, so perhaps I caught the tail end of the trail usage.

My trail riding time has become my "me" time when I truly feel at peace.  When I'm home, I have to deal with the dogs constantly interrupting me and pestering me to take them outside, but when I go for my trail ride, they automatically go to sleep and I can usually return home without accidents on the floor.

I really needed this trail ride after the dogs' breakfast this morning.  I carried Scrappy to his food dish and he immediately dry heaved over it.  I scooped him up to take him outside, and then remembered that I can't leave the other dogs' food unattended or diabetic Midge will eat it and get sick.  Each dog has its own diet for its own health problems, and I put Scrappy's various medications in his food, so that would be really bad if another dog got a hold of it.  I had to put Scrappy down and pick up all the dog bowls to put on the counter before taking him outside, even though the other dogs weren't done eating.  He threw up and then peed and pooed... and peed and pooed again... and peed and pooed again.  There was no end to it, so I went into the garage and sat down to wait because my knees were killing me.  I just kept an eye out for coyotes, javelina, bobcats and rattlesnakes that might try to sneak up on my dog.

Later, the dogs were taking forever to eat their breakfasts and I was starving.  I fixed something for myself and as soon as I sat down to eat, Scrappy and Stewie got into a fight, so I had to leave my food to break it up.  Next thing I knew, Scrappy had descended on Stewie's bowl and Midge had descended on Scrappy's bowl while Stewie was cowering under a pile of pillows, so I had to grab the bowls.  By the time I got back to my breakfast, it was inedible, so I had to throw it out.

I tried going to the bathroom, but the dogs stopped me by insisting that they had to go outside.  After I brought the last one back in, I tried to get out the door to feed the horses, and the dogs wouldn't let me out because they insisted they had to go out again, even though it was just a few seconds after I brought them in.  I don't know what all the nervous energy was about, but I was at my wits end with it, so I shoved them aside and pushed through the door.  I said, "Contrary to popular belief, the world does not revolve around you guys.  I have hungry horses down at the barn.  You'll have to use the carpet if you are sick."

You know it's bad when I prefer that the dogs mess the floor.  I must have warmed up my coffee a dozen times because I had to keep leaping up to deal with dog problems.  I eventually gave up and just poured the coffee down the drain.  That was in the morning.  Then I attempted to drink another cup of coffee in the afternoon, and all the dogs immediately woke up and began pestering me to take them out.  That cup ended up getting tossed too.

It's like living in an insane asylum.  Midge kept us up most of the night because she was restless and pacing.  She'd lie down, start snoring, and then leap up like she had been shocked, run around the house several times, and then pass out again.  We realized that she was having a reaction to too much insulin, even though her food intake and insulin hadn't changed since the doctor's last orders, so we kept feeding her until she finally fell asleep.  I can't even express how difficult it has been dealing with both Scrappy's kidney and thyroid failure at the same time that I'm dealing with Midge's erratic diabetic swings.

All I can do is be thankful that the dogs go to sleep when I ride my horses.  Rock remembered that the last time I rode him I turned him toward the pretty purple flowers so that I could get a photo, so he took me over there again today...

It's like he understands that I need to lose myself in pretty flowers every once in a while.  Either that or he just wanted to eat the dried grass on the other side of the wall.

One of the reasons why I don't advertise my photography business anymore is because photography is physically demanding, and I can't do half the moves I need to perform to get the shots.  Yesterday while I was trying to take a picture of Rock in his bridle without the halter underneath, I crouched down without thinking, and couldn't get back up.  My knees can't lift my own weight, so I had to fall backwards onto my butt, turn over onto my hands and knees without getting the camera in the sand, and then crawl over to the barn railings to pull myself up.  My neighbor was up on his ladder.  I'm assuming he didn't see that, because he probably would have come over to help.  Sometimes I'm amazed that I can still ride horses.  Rock has come to expect me to drag my leg over his rump when I dismount.  He's even used to inadvertently getting poked by my spurs when I do it, and he understands that does not mean to go.  He's also good about holding still when I lose my balance and fall during the dismount, so that he doesn't step on me.  I couldn't ask for a better horse at this phase of my life.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Two Horse Tack Western Bridle and Reins

I am honored to have the opportunity to review Two Horse Tack's western bridle (full browband) made with Beta BioThane with bling.  The great thing about Beta BioThane, besides that fact that it is durable, waterproof, and low maintenance, is that it can come in a variety of colors.  I've always admired blogger Lytha's white tack, so I chose white with blue rhinestones for bling, even though I knew it wouldn't match my leather western saddle and brown and tan saddle pad.  I didn't care.  I wanted white and blue.  After taking pictures, I realized that I have so many purple accessories -- purple horn bag and purple quirt -- that purple would have matched.  But I was in the mood for white and blue.  This tack is affordable, so I can always get purple later.  Check out all the colors on their webpage.

I had Rock model his bridle and reins after his bath.  He was quite the ham.


Look at that flirt.  He's pushing centerfold material here.


I really like the roller buckles, because I'm a spaz and it takes a lot of fumbling for me to do simple tasks that require small motor skills.  I can use all the help I can get.  My bridle came with Chicago screws where you attach the bit, but you can swap those out for other options, such as roller buckles, leather ties, or quick change snaps.  The bridle is customizable in so many ways.  There's no point in picking up whatever is available in your local feed store when you can custom order what you need online and have it shipped to your door in a few days.  You can even switch out the no-rust stainless steel for brass.

The throatlatch and cheekpieces are adjustable.  I can't tell you how many times I have had to return bridles to stores because the throatlatch wasn't long enough to wrap around Rock's big jowl.  This one had room to spare.  They have many different sizes, so if your horse isn't just a common "horse" size, you can get something bigger or smaller.  They even allow for a custom size, but they offer so many variations, you probably won't need it.

You can even pick between a black or white thread color for the stitching, and the product is hand-stitched!

I was hesitant about ordering rhinestones, because I was worried that the metal on the back would get hot in the Arizona sun and burn my horse when it touches his skin, however the rhinestones are completely inlaid.  It's just pure Beta BioThane against your horses skin, and that material is soft, smooth, and pliable.

You can get matching reins, breast collar, curb straps, and curb chain.  If you click on their "Other Items" page, you'll see that they can also make cruppers, cavessons, hobbles, girth extenders, martingales, lunge lines, and even saddle pads.  There's a special section for harness gear as well for those of you who like to drive.  I was only expecting to receive the bridle to review, but I was so happy to also be provided with the matching reins.  What more was there to do but to go for a spin and try them out?

Rock was ready for his trail ride, but he was also willing to ham it up for a full tack photo shoot.



The reins they sent me were perfect for my type of trail riding.  They were single loop ten-footers.  I like that the rhinestones add a little weight up by the bit.

I wasn't sure if switching from yacht rope reins to Beta BioThane would feel weird or not, but once we got going, I didn't even notice them in my hands.  It felt natural.  I rode both with two hands and one hand on the reins, and it was easy to grip them either way.  In fact, it was probably easier to grip them than with some other reins.

I know that a couple of times Rock misbehaved and stopped to graze on something, but I didn't lose the reins when he ducked his head down to the ground.  I was able to pull his head up quickly and keep moving.

I used to ride in split leather reins years ago, and then switched to yacht rope loop reins because the split leather kept slipping out of my grip.  That was about the time I started having trouble mounting from the ground, so if I lost a rein and no one was around to help me get it back, I had to dismount and walk home.  Of course, now I know the simple solution would have been to keep treats in my horn bag and get the horse to reach back toward my hand to get the treat so I could grab the rein.  I still had problems with the yacht rope occasionally getting away from me, but the single loop saved me.  I usually had time to grab it before  it got over the horse's head.  So, it's nice to have rein material that's easy to grip and not so quick to slip out of my weak grasp.

Another thing I liked about the Beta BioThane reins was that the excess didn't keep looping itself over my saddle horn the way the yacht rope reins did while I was riding.  I think I'll make these new Two Horse Tack reins my go-to set.

I had to show you one more shot of just the bridle without my rope halter underneath...

So pretty.  As far as cleaning goes, they say that soap and water should do the trick, but you can also run this tack through your washing machine inside a laundry bag or pillowcase, or on the top rack of your dishwasher with no dry cycle.  

If you would like to sign up for the Two Horse Tack Newsletter, you can do that by clicking on the link.

Just by reading this review, you have earned yourself a coupon for 10% off, which is good for any item in the store.  Have at it!


It's Happening Again

I'm getting sucked into that black hole I call "medical care hell" once again, only this time it is for the dogs.  Although overall I am happier with my current vet than I've been with any of the vets I've used in the past, she is starting to piss me off.

A few months ago I took Midge in to see her because of this tumor that created an open sore on Midge's back.  Next thing I knew, the vet was running a full blood panel, which costs about $600 and telling me to lower her insulin dose from 5 to 3.5 units.  I don't like changing her dose drastically, because she's so sensitive that she swings back and forth between having symptoms of too much and not enough.  If she's behaving relatively normal without urinating sticky stuff all over the floor constantly (meaning not enough insulin) and without acting spacey and having seizures (meaning too much insulin), I feel fortunate and I want to leave her dosage alone.  However, every frickin' time I take her in to see a vet, he or she wants to change her dose.  They don't seem to understand that it's rare for her to be in the perfect target range.

To make matters worse, every vet I've worked with has shamed me to varying degrees for not keeping her blood sugar level in that perfect range, which makes me hesitate about bringing her in to see the vet when she needs help.  This latest vet started out behaving professionally, but has since begun to shame me with her tone of voice, and she has this snooty tech who does the same, but I tried my best to ignore it since the dog needed medical care and I was running out of options.

Since I was fed up with always being told that I'm wrong, I dropped her insulin dose down to 3.5 units as instructed, and Midge did okay with that dose for a couple of weeks, but then obviously needed more.  Midge was waking us up throughout the night to be taken outside, and there were plenty of accidents on the floor for me to mop up.  The sore on her back was never really addressed other than that I was told to keep it clean, and was given a round of antibiotics, which gave her diarrhea and caused a whole new set of problems.  At the time, I was just happy to avoid surgery.

However, a few months passed and the sore never healed, so I took her back in, determined to keep the vet focused on the tumor.  The tech immediately took her back for some blood work and the vet came in shaming me for not having her insulin dose properly regulated.  Hey!  I just did what she said.  She told me to drop her down to 3.5 units, and now I was being blamed for not giving her enough insulin.  I knew it wasn't enough, but I was tired of being shamed.

Every time that I make adjustments without the vet's consent, I have to deal with the sighs, the eye rolling, and the sour expressions.  It's really hard for me to communicate what is going on with my dog when the vet tech and vet are making faces at each other that are clearly disrespectful of me.  It's not easy owning an animal who has a life-threatening disease, and it would be nice to find someone who actually is supportive of me, instead of always acting like I'm my dog's worst enemy.  Pet owners are important resources for information that the vet needs in order to do her job, and it's not helping anyone to dismiss a pet owner as someone who is just getting in the way of the pet's care.  I can guarantee you that no one loves a pet more than its owner, and no one knows that pet more than its owner.  For that reason, pet owners deserve respect.

I asked the vet how many units she wanted me to switch her to, and she said 5!  That's what I originally had her at previously, but was shamed for giving her too much.  I just can't win.

I reminded her that the reason why I was bringing my dog in was to address the open sore and tumor on her back.  The vet prescribed a second round of antibiotics, and said she would surgically remove it along with taking care of a couple of other surgical issues, but first we had to get her diabetes under control.  Her tech set up two appointments for me, and I was under the impression that the first appointment was to check her blood-sugar level again, and the second was for surgery.

I took Midge in for her second appointment of three, and the snooty tech checked her blood-sugar level.  I informed her that Midge was spacey, sleeping too much, and not urinating much, so we would need to lower her dosage before she started having seizures.  The vet agreed to lower her dose to 4.5 units, but said that 5 did get her in the target range.  Well, here's the deal:  At the first appointment, I had given Midge her lunch before coming in, and she not only ate her own lunch but got a hold of Scrappy's lunch too.  At the second appointment, I had not given her lunch beforehand.  Those two factors make a huge difference in the test results, and they weren't taking them into consideration.  In fact, the vet jumped to the conclusion at our first appointment that we had a bad batch of insulin, and she told me to throw it out and buy a new bottle.  I knew she was way off base with that assessment, so I didn't do it.

They then said to bring her back in three weeks.  I raised an eyebrow and said, "But she has an appointment next week for the surgery, doesn't she?"

They said next week's appointment was a "follow-up for another full blood panel" (another $600 within two weeks, which would be a total of most people's paychecks) and that they didn't not schedule surgery for her at all.  In fact, the vet was now saying that Midge may be too old to have surgery.  Huh?  She's the same age this week as she was last week when the vet agreed to give her surgery.

Normally, I'm very anti-surgery, however, considering that this open wound will not heal because the tumor is breaking through the skin, she's at high risk of getting an infection.  I want that skin closed, and it won't close until the tumor is surgically removed.  Right now, she gets blood and pus all over the furniture and carpet.

Now I'm feeling angry because I've taken my dog in for a total of three appointments so far and that open wound still has not been treated, because the doctor is being all OCD about her diabetes, and instead of helping, she's just causing her diabetes to be less stable by changing her dosage back and forth.  This is so frustrating because all these appointments and weekly blood tests are adding up quick and depleting our bank account without any benefit to us or our dog.  I almost wish I never brought her in.

When the vet sensed that I was about to bail all together, she had them cancel next week's appointment and just set up the one in three weeks.  She said, "If her diabetes is stable then, we'll reconsider surgery."

Well, it's not going to be stable, because she's so sensitive.  All it takes is for her to get a few extra kibble or a few less, and she's out of range.  Also, if the insulin dose is just slightly above what her body needs, her body will store it until it gets to toxic levels, which causes the vet to swing her dose drastically in the other direction when all she needs is for it to be bumped down half a unit.

My other struggle is that Midge has been a handful lately about letting me clip her toenails, so I had been taking her to the salon to get it done.  However, the owner of this salon is uncomfortable working with dogs who have tumors.  They had one customer who gave them a bad review online for cutting open his dog's tumor while grooming him, and salon owner shamed the dog owner for not taking the dog to the vet to have the tumor removed.  She made him out to be a neglectful dog owner and said it was his fault, and then said that when he has the tumor removed, he will be welcome back as their customer.

I did take Midge in to the dog salon with the open wound on her back once, and I could tell by the groomer's facial expressions and body language that she was totally disgusted and hesitant about even touching her, none-the-less trimming her toenails.  I mistakenly thought they'd be okay with just doing the toenails if it didn't include a grooming.  I knew I couldn't bring her back until that tumor was removed, and now I can't get the vet to remove the tumor, which means that I can't her toenails trimmed.  I may just make the vet tech do it.  The only problem is that the vet charges twice as much to trim nails as the dog salon.

Then there's Scrappy who has a tumor actually on his toe, so he would be in pain if someone tried to trim them.  He'd probably have to be put under or get a local anesthetic to get his nails trimmed, and the vet won't do surgery on him either because of his age.  In his case, I'm thinking he's going to pass away before his nails get too long, but Midge's situation is really putting me between a rock and hard place.  I can't keep giving up all of this time and money without making any progress on closing that wound.  If she were showing signs of being in the last few weeks of her life like Scrappy is, then I wouldn't worry so much, but I think Midge has another few years ahead of her if that open sore doesn't get infected.

I've seen every vet in my vicinity over the past five years and if they aren't primarily business people who want to drain your bank account any way they can, then they are caring individuals who are misguided and end up wasting all of your money through a series of misdiagnoses and by demanding that an unreasonable amount of work be done "for the sake of the pet".  I've received a lot of recommendations, but the reality is that if you are taking your pet in for regular maintenance like vaccinations and wellness checks, of course you are going to have a good experience and be treated with respect.  I've learned that veterinarians show their true colors when dealing with a pet who has a serious health condition.

I think I may have to draw the line soon and just decide between demanding the medical care I asked for or not doing anything at all, because the course we are on at the moment is fruitless.  I understand the Midge's diabetes needs to be stable in order for her to have surgery, but I'm not willing to keep bringing her in for these expensive blood panels until she is repeatedly within the target range.  By the time that happens, I'll be out of money and won't be able to pay for the surgery anyway.

Oh yeah, the other big disappointment is that the prescription dog food that the vet put Scrappy on is a complete rip off.  It cost me $70 for a couple of week's worth of canned dog food, and when you open the can, it's mostly water.  With our old dog food, which was about $20 for a couple of week's worth of food, I could feed two dogs two meals with one can, and if I ran out, all I had to do was drive down the street and pick up some at the market.  With the prescription dog food, I can only feed one meal to Scrappy, and the cans are actually bigger!  I also have to get vet approval every time I order some online, which takes a few days.  I get so frustrated when I'm forced to get caught up in this racket of pet prescriptions.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Bathing Beauty and Construction

I got myself a mule!  Not really.  That's just Rock when he's wet.

See how his tail dragged on the ground?  Once I moved his hooves off it, I trimmed it...


Rock is pleased that he's not longer walking on his own tail.

I can't believe how good this horse is with everything.  He's the only horse I own who allows me to spray him down with a spray nozzle on the end of the hose.  All the others will only tolerate a light flow of water with no spraying.  Rock allowing me to use the nozzle helps cut his bathing time in half, and I always know that all the shampoo has been rinsed well from his fur.  The other three horses were begging me to bathe them, but I didn't have it in me today.

I had a lot on my plate this morning and was trying to prioritize since I knew there wouldn't be enough hours in the day to get it all done.  I wanted to squeeze in a trail ride, because my neighbor informed me that he's going to be starting a couple of demolition and construction projects soon.  I wanted to ride while I can before big trucks and power tools take over the path I take to get out to the bridle trails.  This is the same neighbor who prevented me from being able to ride last spring about this time, because he was doing a slew of home improvement projects and needed me to supervise them.  His timing is atrocious.

He also informed me that the home buyer who backed out of his contract changed his mind again and is now back in negotiations to buy the house.  I wasn't happy to hear that, because this is that nosy guy who's been loitering along the perimeter of my property staring into my backyard several times a week for the past couple of months.  However, he seems to be the lesser of two evils, because the only other person who showed an interest drives a super loud motorcycle, wants just one and a half acres of the five, and wants to build his own house on it.  If that happens, I'm moving.  I did not chose to live in this neighborhood so that people could subdivide their properties and I could have houses being constructed all around me.

I hate construction.  I just want things to be settled and quiet.  I moved out of my last neighborhood in part because all these city people kept buying houses out in the country and remodeling them to fit their sensibilities.  As a result, there was this constant din of construction noises while roofs were being replaced and RV garages were being built all around me.  Totally annoying.  Every time I look at my old neighborhood from satellite view, I see several more houses with paved driveways, room additions, and rock landscaping.  It's not the ranching neighborhood it used to be.  Most of the barns and corrals have been torn down.  It's sad to see the demise of rural living happen so quickly.

Anyway, I remembered that I promised myself that I would trim Rock's tail before I ride him again, and I didn't want to trim his tail until I bathed him.  It wasn't quite hot enough to do that yet, so I turned in my tax forms at the accountant's office,  and then tried to go to a park to look for painted rocks.  However, I couldn't get a parking spot without pulling an illegal maneuver, and of course there was a cop parked right there watching me, so I kept going to the next park.  But I couldn't get into that park either, because of road construction.  Did I mention that I hate construction?

Of course, this was on a nice road that didn't even need any repairs.  Anyway, I drove to a third park feeling bitter that every time I try to find rocks, as opposed to hiding them for others to find, something gets in my way.  I made it to the third park, but as soon as I started walking across the lawn, they turned on the sprinklers.  Really?  I was beginning to wonder if I should just tuck my tail in between my legs and go home.  I had so many other better things to do, but since I was in the neighborhood, I thought I was actually going to get to go rock hunting.  Since I wasted all that gas driving around, I decided to follow through and finish looking for rocks at the third park.  I got lucky because one artist had just hidden a bunch of them an hour before I arrived.  I found a bunch, but only kept one.

My next big project is to clean out all the wooden pallets so that I can order more hay.  Then the hay truck can come and add to the noise of all of my neighbor's construction.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Making Time to Ride

My trail exploration on Monday got canceled.  I was planning on riding Tuesday, but was struggling with one of my lovely health problems.  I had an appointment today, but managed to make it out for a trail ride beforehand.

Rock was testing me left and right by refusing to leave the property and then eating everything he could get his mouth on.  He just wanted to graze with me on his back.  Kicking him, slapping him, smacking him with the reins and quirt had no effect.  He was going to eat, hell or high water.  So, I made a mental note to revert back to wearing spurs.  I'm not happy about that, because I have to wear my old paddock boots that give me blisters, and it takes longer to get ready.  I've been trying to minimize the number of steps it takes to go for a ride, and to lighten my load by not bringing as much stuff with me.

For instance, I just leave a water bottle with old, yucky water in it in the saddle bag at all times instead of getting fresh ice water before the ride and carrying it from the house to the tack room.  However, after today's ride, I was feeling the effects of dehydration since I wouldn't touch the yucky water, so I may have to get fresh ice water in the future.  The ice is necessary to keep from overheating.  Also, I didn't bring my helmet cam, so no pictures.

Most of my struggle to get out the door to go for a ride revolves around the dogs.  One always has to insist that he or she has to pee right then, so I have to delay my trail ride to take the dog out.  Then when we come back in, another dog is waiting at the door doing its pee pee dance.  And the string of interruptions wouldn't be complete without the third dog showing up as I bring in the second dog.  So, having less junk to remember like spurs, ice water and a camera makes my life easier.

The ride itself was uneventful once Rock decided to just walk without eyeing the buffet along the sides of the trails.  No snakes, thank God.  No cholla.  I did have to steer him around dried grass to avoid stickers, but that's about it.  I found a spot in the desert where someone had cut down a bunch of shrubbery.  My first thought was that the rangers were doing trail maintenance, but there were many other places along the trails that needed thinning or cutting back where they didn't do anything.  Now I'm thinking that a horseback rider made that clearing, because there used to be thick brush, and then when you walked around the thick brush, a human sized saguaro cactus jumped out at you.  It spooks my Arabs every time.  By getting rid of the brush, horses can see the cactus up ahead, so it eliminates the spooking.

On the way home, while we were in the street, a neighbor who I rarely see leave his house came striding out from behind a bush.  He startled me a little, but Rock just kept on walking.  He was more interested in getting home to eat the other horses' leftovers than he was a startling or gawking at my neighbor.  After my ride, the dogs greeted me at the door insisted that they needed to pee again, so I took them out.  I remember thinking, "My neighbor was just heading out onto the trails to get some exercise ten or fifteen minutes ago, so we shouldn't run into him."

Then as soon as we walked into the dogs' yard, Stewie started barking his head off and there was my neighbor returning from his extremely brief hike.  I get so embarrassed when my dogs bark at him.  Usually, if he is out, I take the dogs to the other side of the house to avoid that problem.  I know I don't like to be barked at when I'm out for a walk.  It looks like I'm going to have to do some anti-barking training with Stewie, because he has also started barking at the door when I go out to do my barn chores, which he never did before.  Also, my husband's schedule at work has been erratic, so he keeps coming home early, which causes Stewie to bark, and barking at the garage door about the time he's been coming home early is getting to be a habit whether my husband is actually pulling into the garage or not.  If it weren't for Stewie, Midge and Scrappy would be very quiet dogs.  They just bark when he barks.

My other big task I need to get done before I do anymore trail riding is to bathe Rock and trim his tail.  It's dragging on the ground again.  Perhaps I'll get pictures of that.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Diagnosis

Since I do the majority of my ranch chores around sunset, I'm usually too exhausted to make dinner.  Sometimes I make dinner for both of us, sometimes my husband makes dinner for both of us,  sometimes we make our own dinners, but most of the time I skip dinner all together because I am too tired and sore to move.  I skip lunch most days too.  My diet most often consists of breakfast and a couple of snacks in the afternoon.

Last night I pushed myself to make something for dinner and as soon as I sat down to eat, my phone rang.  Yes, I turned it back on because I was waiting for Scrappy's blood test results.  It did turn out to be the vet calling.  She asked me if I had pen and pad of paper, so I knew the results weren't good.  We talked for a long time, and I ended up having to scrape my dinner off the plate into the trash because it wasn't salvageable by the time we hung up.

I had taken him in mainly because of the tumor on his toe that was twisting it to the side.  She originally thought he had either Valley Fever or cancer.  His white blood cell count is fine.  The cause of that turned out to be a thyroid problem.  So, he'll be taking new medications for that.  I'm waiting for the pharmacy to call.

However, he has much more serious problems.  Obviously, I was aware that he slept a lot and peed much more often than the other dogs.  I just chalked it up to old age, but it turns out that greater than 75% of his kidneys are not functioning, so he's headed toward complete renal failure, and that is causing him to be anemic and have to pee a lot.  The readings for his pancreas are high, but he's not diabetic, so I don't have to start him on insulin.  I do have to start him on medications and prescription dog food for the kidney failure.  The doctor said he won't be coming back from this one, and I shouldn't expect him to live more than six months.  I thought six months was generous.

The prescription dog food costs about $120 for a month's supply, and I had just stocked up on his current dog food, which we learned is too high in protein for him to be eating.  I only ordered a few weeks' worth of the prescription dog food because I'm already seeing Scrappy taking a nosedive with his health.  Although, the vet said that one of the medications she previously gave him the other day is not good for him with his current diagnosis, so hopefully the symptoms I've seen recently are just a result of getting too much of that medication.

I really appreciate the way this vet went over everything with a fine tooth comb and was willing to wait for me to come up with questions.  It was fairly late in the evening and I'm sure she wanted to go home and eat some dinner too.  I also like that she prioritizes each of the dogs' health problems instead of insisting that we tackle them all at once so that she can acquire my entire bank account.  That's the difference between her and my old vet.  She actually cares more about the animals than her income and doesn't want to make too many changes at once, so that she can track what is and what isn't working in their treatment.  It takes up more of my time, but it's what is in the best interest of the pet.

I feel somewhat fortunate that all of this is happening right around the time that the snowbirds head for home, because it's been difficult getting Scrappy out to do his business, and the last thing I need to contend with are loose dogs and people who distract my dogs by loitering around our property.  I'd rather contend with the rattlesnakes and coyotes.  Where I used to be able to take all three dogs out in one trip, now I pretty much need to take Scrappy out by himself.

Due to his blindness, he won't walk into the garage unless I let in light, which means turning on the lights or opening the garage bay before we walk out of the laundry room.  I need three hands for that, or I need to carry him.  He doesn't like to be carried, so I try to gently guide him on a leash, but leashes have their limits.  Sometimes he balks worse than Rock, and can't get him to budge, so I have to pick him up.  At mealtimes, he doesn't want to miss out, so he sticks so close to my legs that he trips me repeatedly while I try to prepare all the dogs' food and medications.  He also walks into the doors and walls, so we have to move him out of the way to get the doors open.  Then when we come back inside, he stops in the path of the door swing so that we can't get it closed.  He also walks super slow while the other dogs pull me, so my arms get yanked in two different directions.  And because he's blind, he'll walk right into Stewie's urine steam while Stewie has his leg lifted.  We've got all kinds of issues going on now that we never had to deal with before.

Now we also get to enter the merry-go-round of cycling through different techniques to get him to take his medications.  One of them is sticky and he keeps spitting it all over the floor, so I have a lot of mopping to do.  I've owned dogs my whole life and every one is different, so I've used all the techniques.  In the case of Scrappy, we can only use one technique for a couple of days before he catches on and forms an evasive maneuver, so that we have to switch to another technique.  My dogs are very, very, very, very special needs.  His thyroid medication only comes in a pill and no technique for administering pills works with him for very long, so the pharmacy is going to do some extra labor to put it into liquid format.

In the meantime, I'm just trying to slow down enough to take care of the old man so that his last days can be lived in comfort.


Monday, April 10, 2017

This Place is Hopping

Yesterday I helped put on an Easter egg hunt for some kids in the community, and though I enjoyed chatting with children and watching them hunt, I remembered why I usually don't participate in any kind of social activity.  The event was scheduled from 12 to 2, but at 9 AM I was notified that I should be there at 10 to set up.  Only an hour's notice.  Nice.  I got there about 10:30 AM and setting up only took about 15 minutes with everyone chipping in, so we had to sit around doing nothing until people started showing up at noon.

My leg was troubling me, so I had to go to my truck to retrieve my cane.  At home, I have control over when I can sit and stand and walk, so I have control over my pain, but in group situations I don't.  It got to be 12:30 PM and the hunt hadn't started yet.  The kids were getting restless.  The organizer kept saying, "Just wait a little longer.  Someone is pulling into the parking lot, and we need to wait for them."

The people who kept arriving were never there for our event.  After she said this half a dozen times, I said, "My feeling is that if anyone is more than half an hour late, that's their problem.  We need to reward those who show up on time by letting them hunt."

She said, "Oh, I guess I should have specified that the hunt doesn't start until 1:00 PM.  I just wanted everyone to get here at 12."

Huh?  People were clearly shocked, especially those of us who had been there since 10 to set up.  Why have us come three hours early when setting up only took 15 minutes?  I don't know about you, but I certainly don't have three hours to sit around and do nothing most days.  I was gathering my things to leave, because my leg was killing me, my bladder was bursting, and I was starving.  Then a child talked the organizer into starting the hunt, so I got to see it.  The hunt itself only took about 5 minutes.  They were having a picnic after the hunt, but I was done.  You were supposed to bring your own food and my food, along with my pain pills and my toilet, were at home.

On my way to my truck, a lady with a little girl stopped me to ask if we already had the hunt.  I said we did, but there may still be treasures hidden in the vicinity that were missed.  Right then the girl looked up and found one in a tree next to her.  She was so delighted.  Then I remembered a treasure that I had hidden weeks ago that still hadn't been found, and a few others I noticed that were outside of the hunting zone, so I told them about those, offering hints to their locations.

They thanked me and started to walk away when I got a really bad feeling in my gut, and stopped them to tell the girl to always look around the ground real well before reaching for one, because the rattlesnakes are out.  I glanced at my watch.  They had arrived at 1:15 for a hunt that was advertised as staring at 12.  I suspect they were one of the few who knew it actually didn't start until 1:00, and they were just 15 minutes late.

When I got home, my husband told me that he ran into a Gila Monster twice while I was away.  Based on the size he said it was, and the fact that it hissed at him, I'm pretty sure it was a different one from the Gila Monster I saw a few weeks ago.  That means we have two in our vicinity.  He didn't get any pictures.  I was glad that I said something to that little girl who showed up late and was going to hunt outside of the organized boundaries, because if the Gila Monsters were out, so were the snakes.

A short time after that, I was sitting on the couch and turned my head just in time to see a rattlesnake go slithering past the back door on my elevated porch.  I was shocked, because I didn't think a snake would ever have any reason to go up there.  It went under our barbecue and then two quail stalked it.  We sometimes find dead or injured rattlesnakes with holes in them, and we think the quail peck holes in them to keep them away from their eggs.  The quail shagged the rattlesnake out from under the barbecue and it slithered right onto my doormat beneath my back door.  Had I not seen it, I might have opened the door and stepped right outside onto it.  This was a little too close for comfort.


In the second picture, the head is getting into striking position, because my husband was coming up the stairs onto the porch with his snake hook.  It ended up turning around and dropping off the porch to slither underneath it.  We left it alone, but will have to keep a close eye out.  We think this sudden activity in our backyard was partly caused by our ex-neighbor coming into town and doing yard work all weekend.  I suspect half the animals that are in our yard now came from his, but bailed because of all the power tool noises.

Once the snake was gone, I went down to the barn and noticed a bunny sitting in the grass that didn't seem to be afraid of me.  I wondered if it was from last year's litter, because most of those rabbits were very comfortable with my presence.  On my way back, it had moved to a different location, but was still not running away when I approached it.  I looked at its face and saw some familiar scars.  Could it be?

Was this Charity?  I called to her, but she didn't come, so I went into the tack room and got some pellets.  I sprinkled them down and called to her again, and she came hopping.  She hopped right up to me and started eating!  I was so happy to see her.  I thought a coyote had eaten her because I haven't seen her in months.  I didn't try to pet her, because I'm sure she has reverted back to her wild state to some extent.  Hopefully, she'll be around more often so that we can get reacquainted.

In the meantime, there is a nest of baby bunnies under my haystack, only I'm down to six bales that I will have to move off the pallets so that I can clean them and make room for a fresh block.  I've been stalling in doing that, because I want to give the babies time to be weaned so that they can move to another location when I uproot their nest.  I've even been considering just buying a few bales of hay and feeding that to the horses so that I could leave those six bales there another month.  I've already pulled down one bale and accidentally destroyed a quails' nest.  Quail eggs broke everywhere.  I felt awful.  It's tough running low on hay in the spring around here.  So many animals depend on the environment within my hay barn for breeding.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Appointed

I'm going through another one of those phases where I made the mistake of setting up one appointment and that quickly exploded into a dozen more.  I keep promising myself that I won't allow anything to take my riding time away from me, especially during periods of pleasant weather and temperatures.  Then something comes up and I say, "Okay, I will make time for just this one appointment," and next thing I know I'm double-booked.

In this case, I caved in and set up an appointment with the vet to get Midge and Scrappy their vaccines and to see what the vet recommends for their various health issues.  Shortly after that, I found out that I had already set up a dental appointment in that time slot six months ago, so I had to change the dental appointment.  Then I agreed to attend a recreational event that's turning out to be something completely different from what I was told, and I'm having to do a lot of work to prepare for it.

Also, I had asked a friend of mine to help me explore some new bridle trails, and she got back to me about the time my calendar was filling up, so we fit each other in where we could.  Immediately after that, the tax accountant called and wanted me to come in on the same day and time I arranged to meet my friend on the trails.  I figured it would be harder to get my friend to change the date and time, so I postponed seeing the tax accountant.  Then I realized that this one appointment with the tax accountant really needed to be two appointments.

I told myself that once I make it through the next few days, I'll be home free.  However, things didn't go so well with the dentist and the vet.  I was assuming that I'd have one appointment with each and be done with it.  However, they have a new dentist in the office who claims to have found cavities in almost every one of my teeth.  That was kind of hard for me to believe.  I've been consistent in my dental hygiene my entire life, and haven't had a single cavity since childhood.  How can I suddenly be riddled with cavities when nothing has changed?  I questioned in my mind whether this new dentist was a con artist.  That's a problem we have here in the Phoenix area.  A lot of business people will lie to you in order for them to make more money.  They are notorious for fixing things that aren't broken.  Fortunately, the dentist decided to just put me on a "watch" list, so I don't have to have any work done immediately, but will have to get my entire mouth overhauled eventually.  Nothing pisses me off more than being told I have to fix a problem that doesn't affect me.  In other words, if I'm not in pain and my teeth work just fine, let me spend my money on more pressing matters... like my dogs.

The vet wouldn't even give them their vaccinations because their health was too unstable.  You see, every time that I bring Midge in to see a vet, the vet lectures me about giving her too much insulin.  Then I lower her dose, and she starts urinating sticky sugar water all over the house and waking us up throughout the night to take her outside.  Then my husband asks me to increase her insulin dose because he has to get his sleep in order to function at work.

So, this time, even though I had brought her in for vaccinations and to treat an open sore on her back, the vet immediately took her into the back room to test her blood sugar, even though I hadn't agreed to pay for that.  I was expecting to go through the same rigmarole regarding the vet telling me I'm giving her too much insulin, however this time I got a lecture because I wasn't giving her enough insulin.  That's a new one.

I agreed to give her more insulin, but also tried to bring the subject back to the open sore she has had for several months.  This is the second time I've brought her to this vet to have that sore treated, and all she's had me do is clean it, but it's not healing.  She also still has that tumor in her teat.  So, I have to bring her back in a week to have her blood sugar level tested, and if she is stable, then the doctor will perform surgery and remove both the tumor that's causing the sore on her back, the tumor in her teat, and she'll pull a fractured tooth.  In the meantime, I have to give her antibiotics, slowly increase her insulin dose, and keep clothing on her so that Stewie won't lick her open sore.  The vet said that Stewie could get sick ingesting Midge's pus.

I also have to stay on point at meal times and make sure that Midge does not get a hold of the other dogs' food, which is easier said than done.  If I put the dogs in separate rooms, they won't eat.  They just sit at the doors crying.  I can play food police and stand over them, but my mind isn't what it used to be and I get easily distracted.  I tell myself I'll just give one of the dogs his or her medication while I'm waiting for the others to finish eating, and next thing I know, I've lost track of who ate what.

Then there's Scrappy.  He has a tumor on his toe that has been causing his toe to twist to the side.  I figured it was just another fatty tumor that dogs get all the time, but the vet said that was a symptom of Valley Fever, and given that Scrappy has a few other symptoms of Valley Fever as well, we have to test his blood for that.  She said she can treat the Valley Fever, but if he's negative for that, he probably has cancer, and I'll have to decide between euthanizing him or amputating his toe.  Also, she found some issues with his digestive tract, and since he's been wearing diapers for several months now due to his incontinence, she thinks his pancreas may be shutting down.  His heart murmur has also gotten worse.  She verified that Scrappy is totally blind in one eye and almost blind in the other, which explains why he walks into walls and my legs all the time.  I've been having to carry him to his food and outside a lot more lately.

Knowing all that, it's easy for people to say he should just be put to sleep, but he has a good appetite and has good days where he plays chase with Stewie all over the house.  Stewie seems to understand that Scrappy is blind, so he kind of guides him on where to go when they play chase.  I think Scrappy follows Stewie's disturbance of the air.  I don't think he's ready to go just yet.

I'm now giving him anti-inflammatories for the pain and antibiotics while waiting for the results of the blood test.  I don't know what I was thinking.  I guess I figured all of Midge and Scrappy's problems were related to old age, and the vet would just give them their vaccines and I'd bring them home to keep on keeping on, but we weren't so lucky.  So, it looks like I'll be investing a lot more time into the dogs' health care and my own dental care these next few months.

The dental hygienist mentioned that my hair is getting long, and I sighed.  That's one more thing among many I need to take care of, but I just don't have room for anymore appointments right now.  In addition to needing a hair cut, I don't have the flexibility to trim my own toes anymore because of my arthritis, so I need a pedicure.  Then there's that surgery I promised my doctor I would do once horseback riding seasons ends.  I suspect my own needs will have to be postponed a little longer until we work through the dogs' issues.

Oh yeah, and while all this was going on, our ice maker on our relatively new refrigerator broke.  I had to stop at the market to pick up a bag of ice, and had to try to make it through the self-checkout without my reading glasses.  I postponed calling a repairman since I couldn't spare a 4 to 6 hour window to wait at home for him to show, and both my husband and I kept working on the ice maker in between our appointments.  We woke up this morning and it was finally making ice again!  That's one thing that went our way.  Here's a tip:  If your ice maker stops producing ice, run a hair dryer over it.  Chances are that some mechanical parts are just frozen.