Saturday, July 4, 2015

Photo Opps

I finally uploaded some pictures I've been taking around the ranch.

 I saw what looked like drool coming out of the sun's mouth, but upon blowing up the image, it's a dead baby bird and some bird poop.

A deer skull washed down the arroyo.

My husband and daughter put the shed back together after it had been blown apart by a haboob.  We are in the process of designing a bigger, more sturdy shed that should withstand winds of 96 mph.  The new shed will serve as a tack room as well as grain storage.  When we first moved here, I just used the tack room in the horse trailer and some storage bins to hold the grain...

...but the sun destroys the grain bins pretty fast, and trying to dig through the tack room in the trailer is like walking through a field of land mines.  There is stuff all over the floor as well as hanging on the walls.  The new shed will have shelves so that I won't have to set everything on the floor, as well as hooks and saddle racks.

Oh, and I got a new hat.  It's just a cheapie, so if the wind blows it away it's no big deal, and it's made of palm leaves, so it can get wet.

We're battening down the hatches for Midge's reaction to the fireworks and for the next storm.  We had a lot of thunder the other night and I was woken by a crashing sound.  I found that Midge had locked herself in the bathroom and knocked over everything that wasn't anchored down.  Apparently, she also chewed up some rolls of toilet paper.  Fun fun fun.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Preparing for the Fireworks

I didn't get much of a reprieve from being busy before all hell broke loose again.  I think I just need to give up on all expectations of getting some quiet time to do what I choose.  First, there was the wind storm that destroyed everything on our property that wasn't anchored down, and even some things that were anchored down.  Then, the house started falling apart and simple things like changing a light bulb turned into major projects.

In the meantime, the lady who said she wouldn't be needing my services anymore apparently changed her mind and started calling me with more work for me to do, and I literally didn't have a spare moment to return her calls, but sacrificed other responsibilities in order to do so.  Then I spent some time cleaning up the neighbor's property damage from the storm.  Then I received notice that we've got some unexpected house guests coming to stay with us over the holiday, and I don't think I have cleaned house in over a month.  I was planning on getting the heck out of Dodge with my dogs to avoid the bi-annual freak out over fireworks, but now I can't leave because we have company coming.  It's going to be interesting trying to entertain guests while the dogs are tearing up the house and trying to commit suicide.

The morning paper had an article about some 4th of July festivities around town, and right below it was a list of tips for people to keep their pets safe during the fireworks.  We are instructed to catch any loose animals if it is safe, and if not, call the police.  Oh yeah, and by the way, Animal Control is closed for the holiday.  Sometimes this community makes me laugh.  They support activities that terrorize animals, and then they don't even keep the only office open that was formed to support the welfare of animals.

However, a few hours later I was running errands and saw that the city police do have a paddy wagon for animals, so I guess they can pick them up and take them to the shelter, but the general public can't go to the shelter to see if their animals are there until after the holiday.  I doubt that helps my neighborhood though, since it is just outside the city and can only use country services.  My vet got on a roll ranting about how stupid it is for our community to legalize fireworks with it being so dry in the desert, and with it wreaking havoc in so many households that contain pets.  I agree 100%.  I'm more concerned about safety, but this area is known for its big displays of patriotism.

Midge only has a few anxiety pills left and they are getting close to their expiration, so I wanted to stock up on some fresh stuff.  I knew that if I took her to her old vet, he'd hold her hostage for a day or two to run tests around her diabetes, which stresses her out and just causes more health and anxiety complications, and then I'd have a $2,000 to $5,000 vet bill on my hands when all I wanted was a new prescription for her anxiety pills, so I decided it was time to keep shopping for a new vet.  Each time one of the dogs is due for something or needs a new prescription or is sick, I try a different vet.  So far, they have all been the same regarding the up-sell and peer pressure they put on me to get extra, optional vaccinations, dental procedures, and whatnot done.  As a rule, I never drive my husband's Cadillac to a vet's office, because they see me coming from a mile away and try to bleed me dry.

So far I've found that I cannot rely on Internet reviews and recommendations.  I really don't want to have to see a vet that is a long drive to reach because Midge has medical emergencies.  We wouldn't drive our human loved ones an hour to an emergency room when there's one right down the street.  Also, even if the drive is only half an hour in the summer, that means it will be over an hour in the winter with all the accidents and snowbirds on the road.

I decided to go to a vet that is close and at one point in time had a bad reputation.  Guess what?  I was perfectly happy with this vet's office.  The receptionist was mature, experienced, intelligent, and I could actually carry on a conversation with her without being interrupted or cut off.  She never put me on hold or made me talk to a machine.  She was knowledgeable about her office's ways of screening new patients who have diabetes.  When I walked in the door, even though she had never met me in person, she acknowledged me and my dog by names and had one page of paperwork ready for me to fill out.  I got called back into the examining room as soon as I turned in the paperwork.

The receptionists at my old vet's office drove me nuts because anytime I had a simple question, they'd tell me they had to ask the doctor and would call me back.  I knew it wasn't their fault.  The doctor was a control freak and would not let his staff make any decisions or speak in depth to his clients.  He was so paranoid about being sued that it felt like I was dealing with a bunch of people who had gag orders in place.

The vet tech at the new clinic was very knowledgeable and listened to everything I said.  She then went into the back and I could hear her repeating what I said verbatim to the vet without putting her own spin on it and without sounding insulting toward me.  I can hear right through the closed door in medical offices, so I'm always astounded when a vet tech or nurse leaves me to go brief the doctor on our conversation and next thing I know the two of them are getting all snarky or laughing about my situation.  I think next time something like that happens, I'll just yell out, "I can hear you!"

I have had bad experiences with a lot of vet techs.  Veterinarians have invested their entire lives into their career, so they tend to be respectful and professional toward clients (at least to their faces), but vet techs can be rude and openly judgmental, because it's not their business that's at stake.  I think a lot of them get burned out and start taking their frustrations out on the pet owners.  The only thing this vet tech did that annoyed me was that she called Midge "the Corgi with the really long toenails."

That was her way of pointing out that she needed another nail trim, which I am aware of, but I've been quite busy lately.  They grow fast.  It feels like I just trimmed them a few weeks ago.  I liked my vet of 15 years, because anytime someone in his office was bugged because my dogs toenails were too long, they'd just clip them really fast themselves for free.  They understood that not everyone has a second person to hold the dog still while they trim the nails and not everyone has the time or money to be taking her dog to a salon.  Here, I find that people have this attitude that you are neglecting your pet if the nails extend beyond the quick.

Anyway, I really appreciated the vet, because she came in answering the questions I gave to the vet tech.  She didn't pretend like she didn't know what was going on and needed to waste my time by making me repeat everything back to her.  She addressed the diabetes and anxiety issues first, and then did the exam and brought up the dental work that every vet has to mention, but she didn't put any pressure on me to have it done right away.  She recommended specific chews to help keep the teeth clean, letting me know which brands work and which don't.  She didn't even bring up the heartworm medication, which really made me happy.  My other vet made me sign oodles of paperwork releasing him from liability should my dog die from heartworms.  That drove me nuts.  And he didn't have me sign it once, but he forced me to listen to the spiel and sign the legal release every time I walked in the door.  Even after I told them to put a note in my file that I don't ever want to be hassled about the heartworm medication again, they still kept bringing it up.  I liked this place because they didn't have posters all over the walls showing you images of all the horrible things that can happen to your pet if you don't have all this preventative work done.

This new place was very personable.  I didn't feel like I was on an assembly line.  In fact, while I was checking out, someone carried in some dog food and I realized that I forgot to discuss whether we had her on the best brand for her diabetes.  The vet tech thought it was an odd dog food to be recommended for a diabetic.  Anyway, the receptionist went back and interrupted the vet's lunch break to ask her if I should keep her on the same food, and she said to stick with it because she only wanted to make gradual changes.  Right now we are moving her off the $150 brand name insulin to a $25 generic insulin to save me some money, and we need to see if anything changes in her behavior or health.  Then we can look at the dog food and possibly get her something with more protein.  Then once we know she's stable, we can look at moving her to a pet-specific insulin instead of a human insulin with new syringes.

The Humulin N we've been using used to be $75 a bottle, then it went up to $80 a bottle and stayed there for a while.  Last month the price jumped to $120, and this month it is up to $150 a bottle -- double what I originally paid three years ago.  This new vet specializes in diabetes management, and informed me that vets used to have to put dogs and cats on human insulin, because that was all that was available, but now we have pet-specific insulin that is better for them to use.  I have to go to a pharmacy that is further away to get the generic insulin, but with the vet being closer, it makes up for the difference.

My old vet used to tell me that if my dog had a seizure, I had to bring her into the office immediately.  This vet told me how to manage seizures myself.  I'm pretty sure my old vet was all about keeping me helpless and ignorant so that he could keep collecting money from me for his services.  The new vet actually cares about the dog and wants her to be treated immediately.

I also liked that this vet's office was willing to train me to test her glucose levels myself so that I don't always have to bring her in and pay all the vet's fees to have them do that.  I actually bought a pet glucose meter a while back, and my old vet wouldn't let me use it because he didn't have confidence in me, and he wanted to get paid for doing something I could have done myself with a little help in the beginning.  All in all, I felt like I was on a team working together to keep my dog healthy with this new veterinarian's staff.  I didn't feel like I was at the mercy of the doctor's whims.  I was given choices, which is always nice.

Unfortunately, the vet I saw was not the regular vet, so I don't know if things will go as well next time I need to go in.  I liked that they respected my time and didn't force me to set up a series of appointments or keep Midge overnight for observation.  They just did one quick test while I was there, and I was able to bring her home with me.  Also, one of the things people complained about on the Internet was that this vet was too expensive.  I took into consideration that the vet was in a poor neighborhood and figured that she was too pricey for the locals.  Sure enough, my bill was very reasonable compared to what I've been paying elsewhere.  I had been using a vet in an exclusive upper class neighborhood previously, and I was definitely paying for the company I kept.  I don't mind walking my dog past homeless people and mentally ill people if it will save me hundreds or thousands of dollars, get better care for my pets, and put a smile on the faces of the downtrodden who haunt the streets.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Storm Damage

I went out to feed the horses yesterday evening and noticed that it was starting to get a little windy.  Normally, I remove the horses' fly masks as I lock them into their stalls, but thankfully, I forgot that step of the process.  By the time I got done cleaning up manure and passing out hay and grain, sand was blowing in my eyes, so I was glad that the horses still had their fly masks on to protect their eyes.  I looked off onto the horizon and saw a wall of dirt coming our way.

In this next shot, there is a balloon or some other kind of debris flying in front of the haboob...

The horses were very agitated by the sudden bursts of wind...

Everyone was getting pelted by debris.  I got smacked in the face by a leaf and it stung quite a bit.

I ended up opening all the stall gates to allow the horses more room to run should something large come flying at them.  A tumbleweed blowing across the street...

All that haze is just dirt blowing.  I was getting set up to take a video of the trees swaying and bending, and then my camera battery died.  We went indoors to get out of the line of fire and our furniture began collapsing and blowing around our porch.  I was worried that the wind would blow a chair right through our window, so I tried to go out the backdoor to gather the furniture, but the wind was pushing into it so hard that I couldn't get it open.

Right about then, the electricity went out.  That meant no air conditioning, no ceiling fans for us or the dogs, no flushing toilets, and we had to dip into our emergency water supply.  We also had to eat anything in our refrigerator that would go bad if it were not kept cold.  Of course, we had just bought a ton of groceries the day before.  I wolfed down some tuna salad, but I don't think I got to it in time, because I've had a stomach ache ever since.

We went out the front door to gather the patio furniture, and then I found our doormat, which had been flung into our back yard.  After that I found our bird feeder laying on the ground.  Then I found one of my feed buckets and some paperwork over by the round pen.  Our dog poop depository tipped over, so I get to clean it all up again.  These are pictures I took the next morning...

Rubbermaid storage products do not withstand monsoon storms and haboobs.  In this next shot, we removed most of the loose stuff from the storage bin, and laid a wheelbarrow over the rest to try to keep the other walls from collapsing.  The missing door and roof are in our hay barn...

We also put our chairs in the hay barn...

After I picked up the feed bucket, I turned around to find my husband standing in the middle of this, trying to hold it up...
I stood on the left side and tried to hold the wall up so that the entire shed wouldn't collapse on him while he tried to put the pieces back together, but it was impossible.  The wind was blowing so hard that we decided to just let the thing blow over and deal with it later.
It was hard digging through all that mess to get to the grain in the morning...

The roof and floor held together alright, but if we get it back in one piece, we'll probably have to add in more metal bars along the walls.  This shed was a temporary solution to storing grain.  We figured that if it didn't make it through monsoon season, we'd have someone build us a real shed that can withstand 100 mph winds.
Branches broke off three of our trees.  This was the branch our bird feeder had been hanging from...

A branch on our roof...

This Palo Verde tree loses limbs pretty much every time the wind blows...

We were without electricity for a little over two hours.

I had picked out a print book to read next, but had to switch over to reading a book on the Kindle since the ebook reader supplies its own light.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Off the Shelf

I've had a stack of books, mainly about photography, writing and horses, sitting on an end table next to the couch for months, possibly years, but haven't had much luck in finding the time and patience to read them without interruption.  I knew I had also downloaded a couple of books to my Kindle, so I began perusing what I had on its virtual shelf, and I was disgusted with myself to find about ten ebooks I've never read.  I knew I also had about that many ebooks on my laptop as well.  Then I pulled Midge's kennel away from a bookshelf in the bedroom, and found another stack of print books I had either bought or borrowed, all of which still had not been read.  As you can imagine, my disgust with myself was intensifying with each unread book I found.  I then looked at all of my horse training books, and saw that the majority of them still had bookmarks sitting in the first chapter.

I'm not a wasteful person, so this neglect was over the top for me.  My biggest problem is my memory.  Once I put a stack of unread books on a shelf instead of in front of my face, I completely forget that I have them.  The Kindle is especially challenging, because it's one little electronic device that easily gets out of sight, and you have to log on and search to find your books.  I love it because I don't have to take up anymore wall space with bookshelves, but at the same time, it's easy to forget that I have it.  Also, the battery tends to die right when I reach the end of a book, forcing me to leave it charging near an outlet for several hours while I am left wondering about the conclusion.  It's not wise to read with a cord attached to an ebook reader in my house with all the dogs running around.

I can read a suspense novel from cover to cover fairly fast, because suspense holds my attention and is usually presented in a linear fashion.  I recently read fellow blogger Desiree Prosapio's thriller titled MATCHBOOK, and had no problem plowing through it.  I highly recommend it if you haven't read it.  I know I really enjoyed the book, because I saw something on TV the other night about The Alamo, and immediately thought of the story behind MATCHBOOK.  Usually, once I set a book down, it's out of sight -- out of mind, but MATCHBOOK has stuck with me.

I have the most difficulty reading non-fiction reference type books because publishers are incessant about constantly interrupting the flow of the main text by interjecting with all these boxes filled with side stories and tips.  My ADD mind can't handle having the subject changed on me every time I turn the page.  It's obnoxious.  It's as bad as having a lengthy, important conversation with someone, and having all these other people walking into the room changing the subject.  Note to self:  Don't buy anymore non-fiction books.

I honestly don't know how I made it through 8, maybe 10, years of college.  I seriously lost count, because while I earned a Bachelor's Degree and a teaching credential in 5 years, I continued my education at various colleges throughout my life.  The textbooks must have been so painful to slog through, yet somehow I managed to read 4 to 8 of them every quarter.  There is no way I could go back to a university to take classes that require several hours of daily reading.  That's why I stick to the community colleges and their adult/continuing education courses.  The instructors understand that grown ups are too busy to read, so they just teach, and if you want something to read, you can read your own notes.

Anyway, while looking at all these unread books, I realized that part of why I don't read them is because there are so many of them that I am overwhelmed.  Also, if one book doesn't hold my interest, I set it down and pick up another.  Reading multiple books simultaneously doesn't help my situation.  It's like flipping channels at commercial breaks to watch three different shows at once, and then being frustrated because I missed the ending of two of them.  Since our summer is turning into hot, stifling, thick, humid air with the deafening thunder of monsoon storms sprinkled in, I can't do much of anything outside, so I decided to pick a book and challenge myself to read it cover to cover, regardless of how bored or distracted I got.  The first book I picked was THE RIDING HORSE REPAIR MANUAL by Doug Payne.

I found his bio or introduction at the front of the book to be rather fascinating.  I also loved the photos, because he was grinning ear to ear while riding rearing, bucking, bolting, and spooking horses.  This is a man who clearly enjoys a challenge.  Having ridden horses his entire life, sometimes riding 10 horses a day, he's had his share of falls, but pain and fear never seemed to deter him.  Give him a unruly horse, and he'll turn it into a champion.

The first few chapters kind of left me feeling frustrated, because he fell into that method that most horse trainers do when writing books -- he told us to ask our horse to do A, and once A is achieved, ask our horse to do B, and so on.  He presented the order in which we should train various skills to our horse, but he neglected to explain how to do it.  I could just imagine someone completely new to horse ownership saying out loud, "Okay, horse.  Will you please walk?" and the horse just stands there because it doesn't speak human.

But then I got further into the book, and he did start giving specifics.  In retrospect, the first few chapters are titled in such a way that he warns us that they are general information.

PART 1:  Getting Started
One:  A Strategy for Avoiding Behavior Problems
Two:  How to Start a Green Horse:  A Brief Guide
Three:  Training Step by Step:  Work on the Ground
Four:  Training Step by Step:  Ridden Work
Five:  Behavior Problems:  A General Assessment

"PART 2:  Let the Games Begin" is where he starts getting into the mechanics of working a horse through contact issues, unruly outbursts, and jumping problems.  In PART 3, he ends with strategies and case studies.  I suspect that PART 1 could have been an entire book in itself had he not cut it down.

There's a world of difference between how he rides in eventing competitions and how I ride on the trails, and there were a few tips he gave that I didn't agree with because they didn't line up with my experience.  However, I know that his knowledge comes from way more experience than mine, so I had to respect it.  Horse trainers don't just keep on using a technique if it doesn't work.

One tip he gave that I had never heard of before involved helping an insecure or anxious horse who is lacking confidence by always staying in contact with it.  He mentioned Temple Grandin and the Thundershirts for dogs with anxiety problems, and said that you should keep your legs wrapped around the barrel of a nervous horse like your are hugging it and always have direct contact with its mouth through taut reins.  That seems counter-intuitive, because you don't want to squeeze or accidentally kick an anxious horse, so I've been riding my nervous Nellys on a loose rein and keeping my legs off them all these years.  However, I think I'm going to give this constant contact like a blanket idea a chance and try it out.  Payne's feeling is that not only do hot, nervous horses feel more relaxed when they are being hugged, but you need to keep their minds busy with constant requests of pressure and release.

I also liked that he addressed horses who freeze up.  Interestingly, there are a variety of reasons why horses do that, so you have to figure out what the horse's feelings or motivations are behind freezing up, because how you approach fixing it depends on that.  Stubborn or barn sour horses who just refuse to go in the direction you point them in by freezing up, need to be driven forward with legs, spurs, and/or a whip.  Nervous horses who are terrified should not have pressure added in, because the results can be dangerous.  It's better to slowly turn the horse with an opening inside rein to get him to snap out of it.  If he bolts, you want to slow him down by turning him into a circle gradually, not abruptly.  That makes sense, because a fearful horse can explode in an instant if it feels threatened.

I managed to finish ready THE RIDING HORSE REPAIR MANUAL in three days once I put my mind to it.  I'm proud of myself for finally completing the reading of a non-fiction book.  Now I am on to picking out the next book.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Just Breathing

I have officially completed all of my responsibilities, appointments, chores, and errands for the week, and now I am just remembering what it is like to breathe.  One of the downsides of living in the desert is that anyone who needs to come to your house to do an outdoor job during the summer months always wants to come between 5:00 AM and 7:00 AM before it gets too hot.  If they are coming to work with the horses, I have to wake up between 4:00 AM and 5:00 AM to feed them and give myself time to get ready.

This morning I thought I gave myself plenty of time, but managed to not get my hair combed out, go to the bathroom, or have a cup of coffee before the farrier arrived.  When he showed up I greeted him and asked how he was doing.  He let out this sigh of disgust and said, "Tired."


He just had to roll out of bed, load up his tools and drive over.  I had to feed four horses and three dogs, clean up 12 hours worth of manure for those four horses, give out medications, and take a shower.  Last summer I got into the habit of waking up that early most days because P.S. was coming over early to ride Gabbrielle.  I wasn't much into riding in the heat, but she's young so it didn't phase her.  This summer it is an anomaly for me to wake up that early, which makes it that much harder to do so.

After my appointments and errands, I walked the dogs outside and there was a nice breeze.  I thought, "I could ride in these temperatures."

I put the dogs away and walked down to the barn only to discover that the cool breeze was a very short lasting gift, and now it was stifling hot outside.  I knew that if I took the time to groom and saddle a horse in that heat, I'd expend all of my energy before I could ride, so I opted to just take a horse for a hand walk.  I hadn't been in the desert for weeks and wanted to see if anything changed out there.

I chose Bombay, because he has been super good, sweet, kind and innocent lately.  Last night I chased all the horses out of the barn so that I could clean.  When I was done, I gave them permission to go back in.  They charged into their stalls, eager to eat.  I turned around to find Bombay standing at the barn entrance waiting for me to say his name.  He wasn't sure if I had specifically given him my permission to go in.  How sweet is that?

He's also been letting me know when he needs to poop, so that I can catch it in my fork and save myself a little extra energy in cleaning it up.  He's so considerate.

And when the farrier was trimming his hooves, Bombay was super relaxed and he kept nuzzling the farrier until both of us had the giggles.  Bombay usually isn't a very affectionate horse, but he's gentle with smaller animals of other species, and I think his nurturing side came out with the farrier, because the farrier has a bad back and sits on a stool while trimming hooves, which makes him appear smaller and more vulnerable.

So, Bombay and I headed out and I turned up the widest trail to avoid disturbing snakes curled up under bushes.  Bombay began doing something funny with his feet and I was trying to figure out if there was a pattern of lameness.  Then it hit me:  Because he just had his hooves trimmed, the fresh sole on the bottom of his hoof would be tender, and the ground was probably pretty hot.  I turned us around to head back, and I could feel the bottom of my own feet burning right through the soles of my boots.  In the future, I'll boot up any horse I take out in the summer and I'll make sure I do it at the coolest part of the day.

The other evening I tilted up a water trough to pour out and clean, and a small non-venomous snake slithered out from underneath it.  It then ducked under a different water trough.  I suspect it was either trying to keep cool or it was eating all the bugs that live under those troughs.  So, now I'm being more gentle when I move the water troughs.  I don't want to kill anything down there, unless it's a scorpion.  One summer a very aggressive scorpion charged me and tried to attack me while I was dumping a water trough that it had been drinking out of.  They are hard to kill, and after one got into the hay and stung Gabbrielle on the inside of her cheek, I don't want them anywhere near the horses.

I know this blog has been lacking in the picture department lately.  I'll make the effort to get some new pictures now that my time is starting to get freed up.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

It's Been a Blitz

The past couple of weeks have been crazy.  I feel like I'm suffering from attention deficit disorder because things have been coming at me so fast that I am unable to focus on anything for more than a minute before I am interrupted by the next thing.  My phone has been ringing off the hook and people have been coming and going from my house, so the dogs are totally nuts.  I have that sign on my door that tells people to not knock or ring the doorbell, but call me on the phone when they are outside.  Well, that no longer applies, because now the dogs bark every time the phone rings.  I may have to set it to vibrate and keep it attached to my belt loop, but I suspect I will jump when it vibrates and my startled reaction will probably cause them to bark anyway.

This new obnoxious dog behavior has made it impossible for me to conduct business over the phone.  I am an email person, because I communicate most clearly through writing, but the lady I've been working for is a phone person.  Whenever I emailed her about something, she'd email back, "I'll call you about this."

I was like, "Noooooooooo!" because I knew the dogs would freak out as soon as the phone rang and I wouldn't be able to hear anything.  I kept having to lock myself in a bathroom or my office to put a door between me and the dogs.  To top it all off, every time this lady was giving me important information, someone else would call me simultaneously, and my stupid phone would just cut off the person I was talking to, and start beeping loudly in my ear.  I can't talk to two people at the same time, so I don't understand why phones let other calls interrupt when I'm already on a call.  I'm sure that function serves a purpose for some people, but I'm considering buying a new, smarter phone that will allow me to send all interrupting calls straight to voicemail.

In taking this job, I definitely surpassed my limit for how many tasks I can remember to do within a short period of time.  I got so busy that I stopped cleaning up manure and the paddock looked like hell.  I woke up in the morning and fed the dogs, anxious to get out there and put a dent in the manure problem before the phone could ring.  However, neither Scrappy nor Stewie would eat.  Midge, the diabetic dog, kept trying to eat their food, which would have probably induced seizures or a coma had she succeeded.  I took her outside, hoping the boys would eat their breakfast in the time we were gone.  They did, but as soon as we came in, the boys wanted to go out to do their business.  So, I took them out, and then ran down to the barn to clean up some of that mess.

I barely got started on the manure when the phone rang with more work for me.  By the time I fed the dogs their lunch, I began wondering if I ever gave Midge her insulin shot for breakfast.  I found the syringe, so I must have given it to her.  She was racing around the house panting anxiously in the afternoon, and I thought her storm phobia was kicking in because it was cloudy outside.  No sooner would I try to investigate Midge's problem and the phone would ring to distract me.

At one point the dogs heard me make a noise and they were convinced that someone was coming in the garage door.  They charged the door barking and I ran after them only to slip in a huge puddle on the tile floor.  At first, I thought the dogs spilled their water bowl, but it was full.  Then I thought a pipe had burst under the sink again, but it was fine.  It took half a roll of paper towels to sop up the puddle.  Then the floor got super sticky and I knew that puddle was Midge peeing sugar water.  She didn't get her morning dose of insulin after all.  I grabbed the syringe, popped the cap off and saw that it had never been used.  Apparently, I got the syringe out, but before I could actually give her the shot, I had to get control of her because she was trying to eat the other dogs' food.

By taking her outside before administering her shot, I set myself up for failure, because I was rushing to get my morning chores done, knowing that my employer would be calling soon.  I was pressured for time and not thinking about whether I skipped any steps.

I thought, "If I am so busy with this job that I can't even remember to give my dog insulin and don't have the time to clean manure out of the barn and paddock, it's time I quit."

Fortunately, I didn't have to quit, because the lady called to tell me that my part of the project was done and she shouldn't need my help anymore.  Whew!  I then tried putting my life back in order.  I occasionally consider part-time local jobs as they become available, but now I know that with my memory problems and my inability to prioritize and handle distractions, and with all the work that needs to be done at home, having a job outside the home would never work out for me.

Anyway, in the meantime, while I was trying to get back into the groove of my regular routine, my daughter returned my borrowed truck to me.  I opened the garage door, took Stewie outside, and on our way in, heard a thud.  Both Stewie and I paused, but by then I was so fed up with every little thing I do being interrupted that I decided to ignore it and finish what I was doing.  I went back in the house, my daughter walked out of the house, and a minute later the phone rang.

It was my daughter calling from her car on the driveway.  On her way out of the garage, a rattlesnake rattled at her and then skedaddled into our garage.  Great.  Just great.  I thought I was finally going to get to sit down and relax and watch some TV.  Apparently, that thud we heard was the rattlesnake banging up against something.  The one time I really needed to focus and investigate what made the noise, I chose to ignore it, simply because my mind was exhausted from being pulled in so many different directions for so long.

My husband and I went out into the garage with a flashlight and some brooms and long sticks and tried to flush the rattlesnake out.  It was hunkering down right where we need to walk the dogs in and out a dozen times a day and a dozen times a night.  Worst spot in the world for a rattlesnake to camp out.

I'm usually of the mindset that if you leave a rattlesnake alone, it will go away on its own, but in this case, we needed to know where it went.  We didn't want it going deeper into our garage.  We sweated it out for about twenty minutes trying all kinds of techniques to flush the snake out, but it just kept finding places to curl up and hide.  I was about ready to call the fire department to see if they had someone they could spare to help us, but there has been a wildfire burning nearby and I figured they were busy.

We sort of have a snake stick, but we didn't have a clean shot to pick it up without other stuff getting in the way, and we have no training in how to pick up a snake safely so that it can't swing back at us and strike.  We finally started using a stick to pull the things it was hiding behind out of the corner of the garage, and then we set up some coolers and a plastic bin like a cattle chute to guide the snake out of the garage.  My husband encouraged it to move with a paint roller, and when it finally came out, it tried to come around the chute back into the garage, so I swept a broom at it, and it got the hint.  It squirmed on down the driveway and my husband herded it all the way off the property with his paint roller.

So, now we know that snakes can be herded.

Somehow during the whole process, our water softener shorted out.  Fortunately, we got it going again by flipping the fuse.  I'm hoping tomorrow will bring me some rest because I know the next day is going to get crazy busy again.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Busy Bee Me

I've been ridiculously busy lately -- to the point where I've been postponing appointments and plans because I've been having to fly by the seat of my pants.  Long story short, I agreed to do a simple, straight-forward photography job, and that morphed into a dozen other jobs from the same client.  If it's possible for one person to buy another person -- well, let's just say I've been bought.  I'm getting paid an obscene amount of money to ask, "How high?" each time she says "Jump."  But I never know when she's going to say, "Jump," so I no longer have any control over my own schedule.  I'm glad that she really likes my work and trusts me with some big responsibilities, but I've been getting the feeling that there is no end to these projects.  I didn't realize just how busy my normal routine was until I had all these abnormal duties dropped in my lap.  But she does need the help and I am the best person for the job.

This morning I walked out to round up the horses for breakfast, and they were already standing in their stalls politely waiting for me.  I was impressed with their forethought until I saw that I had just never let them out of their stalls after dinner the night before.  I was so exhausted from having a whirlwind of activity this week that I fell asleep on the couch and never let the horses out of their stalls.  Oops.  It's a good thing horses are forgiving souls.

Needless to say, the horses have been left to entertain themselves most days.  They were sick for a really long time after getting their vaccinations and dental work.  It took about a week for them to start eating with an appetite again.  Lostine isn't handling the heat well, and I'm kind of scared for her.  She's so feeble and frail that, in her current state, I wouldn't dream of attempting to ride her.  It's hard to believe that I was riding her regularly just a few weeks ago and now, after just one vet appointment and a drastic increase in temperatures outside, she's a completely different horse.  She wanders up to me and lays her head in my arms and on my belly as if to say, "I'm too weak to hold my head up."  That's how low she's carrying her head -- very unusual for an Arabian horse.  I wish I could bring her indoors to experience the air conditioning.

I've been having to fill up at least two of the six water troughs every day, so I know the horses are getting hydrated.  The entire raven family has been hanging out in my barn to keep cool in the shade, but as soon as I see them go anywhere near the water troughs, I chuck rocks at them.  They seem to be past their phase of dropping dead animal parts into the water, but I'm not taking any chances.  Water is just too precious a commodity to be having those dang birds ruining it with botulism.

It turned out that I didn't have to buy an aisle guard or a gate to keep the horses out of the barn while I clean up manure.  I just trained them by being consistent in demanding that they stay away from me and the manure while I'm cleaning.  Lostine is so good that as soon as she sees me coming with the wagon and manure fork, she volunteers to leave the barn.  Bombay and Gabbrielle just stay out.  Rock will come in, but he's good about keeping his distance and doing a dance around me as I clean up.  All four horses seem to understand now that kicking manure around is against the rules, so they actually step around or over it in their travels.  So, the manure clean up has been going much faster lately, which was my goal, since no one wants to spend an extra half hour standing out in 115 degree heat raking up shards of turds scattered all over the place when they could return to an air conditioned house sooner with just a little cooperation from the horses.

I am feeling a bit antsy to get out and ride a horse since it has been so long.  Even if I could just get an hour when the horses aren't eating and it's not too hot to take a horse for a hike with me, I'd feel satisfied.  Hopefully, conditions will come around like a perfect storm of events, but in a positive way, and it will happen some time soon.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Full Circle in the Lost and Found

It seems that life has been coming around full circle for me lately.  I'm an odd person, because I see patterns in events that happen to me and marvel over how we could probably create mathematical equations and geometrical maps that would mirror the events that take place in our lives.

You may remember how while I was out trail riding one of my horses, we came upon their toy ball in the desert.  I retrieved it from the bushes and returned it to the horses.  Then that same ball went missing, so I hiked, mountain biked, and rode my horses all over our property and out in the desert in search of it, but never found it.  I gave up on it and asked for a new horse ball for Mother's Day and got one.  I've been keeping a close eye on the new one, hoping to solve this mystery of why they keep disappearing.

Then my neighbor hired me to do a real estate photo shoot of her property.  At the last minute, I thought it would be a good idea to get a shot of this vacant lot they own.  While wrapping up that shoot and walking away, I looked over my shoulder and lo and behold, there was my horses' old beach ball sitting in some bushes.  My neighbor retrieved it for me, and it was practically destroyed by teeth and claw marks.  So, now I am leaning in the direction of believing that the coyotes are stealing the balls, and not human trespassers.  If that is the case, all I need to do is toss the balls as far back into the horse paddock at possible where the coyotes can't get in.  If the balls are in the barn, they can probably slip under the gates and snag them, but I don't think they will go all the way to the back of the paddock where they would be trapped by fencing.

I'm just so happy to get that ball back, even though it is destroyed.  At least I don't have to keep looking for it every time I am out trail riding.  I've found closure.

Before the photo shoot, I was planning on wearing tall boots, because I know that the snakes like to hang out where there are no people, and this house and yard have been quiet for a while.  But I also knew that I could be on my feet for several hours, so I decided to leave the heels at home and wear sneakers.  I'd just be careful where I step.  I saw some lizards, but no snakes.  Then I wanted to go back and do some quick shots I just took, but with a different camera.  I had already taken up a lot of the client's time, so I was rushing from one location to the next, and I forgot to keep an eye out for snakes.

You can probably guess what happened.  I was running down her barn aisle with my camera and did a leap in mid-air over a snake that had poked out from behind a bucket.  I screamed and whipped around to find out if it was venomous or not.  I didn't recognize its head, so I looked at its tail.  No rattle.  Then I thought, "Duh!  Take a picture of it."

But right then it turned around and raced off.  Watching it move, I knew it was a Red Racer sidewinder.  Non-venomous.  Very cool.  I wish I thought faster and was able to get a picture of it, but those things are fast.

The other weird thing has to do with the ties we use to hold our stall gates open.  If we don't tie the gates open, the horses will swing them back and forth and make a banging racket.  The mares also will close themselves into a stall, and then the geldings will pull up the handle and lock them in.  I had been using tarp ties with the hooks on the ends, but I had to be careful to hook them underneath the railings, because otherwise the horses would try to itch themselves on the hooks and either lose their tail and mane hairs on them, or stab themselves on the hooks.

I forget to tell other people who visit the barn to make sure that the hooks face downward, and one day a guest left them facing upward and I didn't notice, and Rock ended up getting an unintended nose piercing.  I said that we really need to get rid of these tarp ties and find some other solution that the horses can't hurt themselves on.  I found a strap that had torn off an old hay bag that had a clip on one end and a metal loop on the other.  That was a good solution, but we only had one and I needed two.  I could have made another one, but it just never was a priority with everything else going on.

Then the other day the vet and equine dentist came by to do some annual work on the horses, and I told them the story of the burglar in the white pick up truck who keeps coming around and stealing stuff out of people's yards.  We think he was back the other day trying to hit on my other neighbor's house when he wasn't home, because my husband scared a guy off who came racing out of our neighbor's driveway in a white pick up truck and accelerated so hard on the dirt that he fishtailed.  It didn't look like anything was missing.  Anyway, the dentist asked if he's stolen anything from us, and I said, "No, we don't have anything worth stealing."

Some time later I noticed that the dentist was kicking around the good strap I used to hold open the gates.  I thought he was just kicking it out of the way, but I guess he was trying to figure out if it was a part of his equipment.  Apparently, he decided it was a part of his equipment, because after they drove off, I went to tie open the gates and couldn't find my favorite strap.  I thought it was odd that he'd just take it without asking me if it was mine, especially since he didn't recognize it as being his.  Perhaps his assistant did it absent-mindedly when packing up?  Oh well, lesson learned.  Don't let my stuff co-mingle with other people's stuff.  So, I had to go backwards in evolution and grab another tarp tie with hooks.

I was bummed because that strap fit my railings so perfectly.  However, it's not worth calling him up and making arrangements to get it back.  The man doesn't live anywhere near me.  Ironically, I realized that we do have some stuff that we wouldn't want taken away from us.  I just never thought it would be of enough value to someone else that they'd walk off with it.

Next thing I knew, my husband came home from the hardware store with some rope and parts to make tie straps minus the hooks with sharp points.  He wanted to take care of this problem once and for all.  Sometimes a problem just has to keep on getting bigger before we make it a priority, but it's looking like we won't have to worry about the horses getting body piercings anymore.   Now I've just got to talk with them about those tattoos...