Friday, July 31, 2015

In the Blink of an Eye

The morning was bright and sunny, and I was hungry, so I suggested that we go out to eat.  My husband wanted to run an errand after we ate.  While we were in the restaurant, we noticed that the sky was getting dark, and some people came in saying that there were really bright lightning flashes over the mountains.  I suggested he drop me off at home before running his errand, because I figured our Corgi Midge would be flipping out if there was rain and thunder, and I didn't want her destroying the house.  We were too late...

I'm embarrassed to say that I meant to unpack that box of light bulbs when we moved three years ago, but kept forgetting -- until now.  Midge kind of unpacked it for me.  Amazingly, she didn't break a single light bulb.  It's odd how she is attracted to anything related to electricity during storms.  She rips electrical cords out of outlets and attacks anything that makes a hollow noise.

Our biggest loss was my husband's iPad.  She had locked herself in the bathroom, knocked over all the shelves, shredded toilet paper rolls and books, and broke the screen on the iPad.  I keep forgetting that we need to set aside several hundred dollars every summer to pay for all the damage the dog does during thunder storms.

The sad thing is that the worst of the storm hadn't even hit.  It wasn't even raining.  She just sensed the storm coming and went nuts.  My husband left to run his errand, and then it hit:  Pouring rain, thunder, lightning, 50 mph winds blowing the rain in horizontally.  8,000 people in my community lost power, several streets are closed due to downed power lines, and some mobile homes were blown off their foundations.

The drainage ditch my husband dug with the Bobcat did its job and, though there was still water in the barn, the barn was not so severely flooded that it will take days to dry out.  The irony in all of this is that the errand my husband had to run involved buying the straightest 2x4 of wood he could find to help level the ground for the new shed, and of course as soon as he got it out of the store to load in the truck, it started pouring rain.  So, I'm sure that 2x4 will be warped by morning.  At least I don't have to wash my truck this weekend.  Between the pouring rain and high winds, it sort of went through nature's car wash.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Juggling Dogs

It was that time again that the Chihuahua mixes were due to have their toenails clipped, and just thinking about it stressed me out.  My choices were to attempt to clip them myself and work through all the squirming, squealing and biting, or take them to the rude dog groomer in town who criticizes me for not trimming their nails often enough and not having their teeth professionally cleaned despite Scrappy's heart problem and the risk of being put under anesthesia in his condition.  I get criticized so often by strangers that all I can figure out is that most people have perfect little lives, unlike me, who always must be choosing between the lesser of two evils.

I was having a high pain day, but knew that if I put off trimming their nails any longer, the criticisms would just get even harsher.  Also, some thunderheads were moving in and I knew it wasn't a good idea to leave Midge at home alone with her storm anxiety.  But I couldn't juggle three dogs on leashes at the pet salon.  The employees there are completely thoughtless and won't help me get the dogs in and out the door.  So, I locked Midge in her cage with the TV volume turned up high while I drove the boys to the salon.

Scrappy was trying to jump out of the truck, a four-foot drop onto asphalt, and I was trying to stop him.  I didn't want to set him down on the hot asphalt while I got Stewie out of his kennel, because his paws would burn.  So, I struggled to keep both dogs in my arms for as long as I could carry them.  When I set them down and opened the door to the salon, my dogs resisted going in, and of course, some man was standing at the counter paying for his services and letting his dog run around off leash.  It started to run out the door and I had to stop it while trying to keep Scrappy from pulling out of his collar.

The man turned around and saw what was going on, but didn't even bother to call to his dog.  He just turned back to the lady behind the counter and kept chatting with her.  In my pain, I had to crouch down and pick up both my dogs to get them through the door while repeatedly kicking out with my foot to try to block the man's dog from running out into the parking lot.  You know if the dog got hit by a car, he'd sue me in an instant.  People are not really good about taking responsibility for their own actions nowadays.

Once inside, the man's dog charged my dogs and started sniffing their butts.  Scrappy hates other dogs and I expected him to bite, but he just wagged his tail really fast, which is what he does right before he attacks.  The strange dog knew enough to leave him alone, but then cornered Stewie with its snout stuck up his butt.  Stewie was quivering in fear and looking at me with pleading eyes.

The man finally picked up his dog and walked out.  I knew that the woman behind the counter was the same woman who insulted me last time, because she didn't greet me or ask what services I needed.  She just sat there for several minutes staring at her computer screen.  How hard is it to just acknowledge the customer and say, "Just a minute, please"?

When I got tired of waiting for signs of life from her, I started paying attention to the wall hangings, and I glanced back to see her looking at me with a puzzled expression on her face, as if she were thinking, "When did this lady show up?"

Since for once her eyes were on me, I told her what I needed, she said okay, and then went back to staring at her computer screen.  Ummmmm?  Could I have a time estimate?  Could I be told what I am waiting for?  I was about to walk out when she got up and said, "Two nail trims, huh?"

Oh great, she was going to do them herself.  Yay.

She had both dogs trimmed in less than five minutes -- about two minutes per dog, and she charged me $24.  Last time they charged me $18 for two trims.  I know my dogs haven't grown any bigger, and they charge by size, so I figured she was punishing me for letting their nails grow out too long.  They don't have a price list anywhere, so sometimes I think they just charge what they are in the mood to charge.  I asked for change, and she gave me mostly big bills.  It's customary to leave a tip, but between the extra charge and the fact that she only gave me one dollar bill, I decided to skip the tip this time around.  I left a generous tip last time, and the same lady didn't even say thank you, so why bother?

Imagine if they had people continually bringing dogs in to get their nails trimmed to the tune of $12 per dog and it took only two minutes to trim each dog.  Those dog groomers would be making $360 an hour.  But I know the reality is that they don't have continual business, and they have to pay for rent and utilities and insurance and supplies.

While she was finishing up with the last dog, this other customer came in and stood at the gate blocking the woman from being able to hand off my dog to me.  She opened the gate, and he wouldn't even step aside for her, so she tried to squeeze past him sideways and hold the leash out for me to grab.  There are just so many behaviors that are automatic for me, like getting out of someone's way, and when I don't see other people do that, I'm stunned.  I want to say, "What planet are you from?  And are you the King there?"

Then while I was paying, this man opened up the gate and let his dog come running out off leash.  The dog immediately charged my dogs and I had to scrambled to prevent a dog fight.  The man then opened up the front door and let his dog just run out into the parking lot.  I know a lot people say, "It's okay.  He's friendly."

But they don't take into consideration that their dog is not the only dog in the picture.  They should be asking me, "Is it okay for my dog to greet your dogs?  Are they friendly?"

Then I'd have a chance to say, "Please don't let your dog approach my dogs, because I don't want anyone to get bit."

I honestly didn't know how my dogs would react to having a strange dog approach them, because that's never happened before.  My dogs are indoor dogs and the only places I ever take them are to the vet or the groomer.  There are too many stickers on the ground, too many coyotes and birds of prey and rattlesnakes around, and the ground is too hot in the summer months to take them for walks to get them socialized.  The only place they see other dogs is at the vet's and groomer's.  Fortunately, everything turned out okay and my dogs did get a little socialization out of the experience, but I was surprised that the groomers were letting dogs run around loose in their shop.  That sure seems like a liability.

I've noticed there appears to be this epidemic going on in my town that I'm calling the two-minute stop.  Normally, drivers are supposed to stop for two-seconds at a stop sign, but I keep running into these drivers who stay stopped at an intersection for several minutes.  This confuses the hell out of me.  I don't know if their car is stalled, if the driver had a heart attack and died, if they are lost and consulting a map or their GPS (which they should pull over and do at the curb), if they are texting (which is getting to be one of the biggest causes of car wrecks), or even if they are yielding to me, because most cars have tinted windows and I can't see behind them.

This leaves me in a quandary because if I'm behind them, they are blocking me.  I wonder if I should go around them or honk or what.  I've seen some really unpleasant road rage incidents triggered by flaring tempers in the heat, and honking can be as good as signing your own death certificate.  If they are at the intersection needing to cross in front of me, I don't want to just go and take their right-of-way because chances are that they will suddenly wake up and go right when I go and we will crash.  I especially don't want to get into a situation where I start to go and have to slam on my brakes with the dogs in the back seat.  Should I flash my lights to tell the other driver to go?  I have no idea, but I'm really tired of waiting for other drivers to take their right-of-way.  Is this something that is just particular to my area, or is it happening everywhere?

It's definitely better than having people running stop signs, but I've seen a lot of that too.   It just feels like the wild west around here -- no rules, everyone does what he pleases regardless of the consequences.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Whooooooo Are You? Who-Who Who-Who?

Getting into Riding Shape

It usually takes me most of the fall season to get my strength and agility back after hibernating indoors all summer, but I want to be prepared to ride once the temperatures cool down, so I spent fifteen minutes on the elliptical machine and half an hour doing floor exercises.  Ever try to do floor exercises with a Chihuahua bouncing all over you?  I just made the best of the situation by putting him to use as a five-pound weight.

Then I went outside and felt how nice it was with the clouds and wind, so I took Bombay for a fast-walk.  He was hyper and forgetting his manners by crowding me.  I spotted a white plastic grocery bag stuck to a bush and grabbed it.  He kept his distance from me then.  Each time he started veering in toward my space, all I had to do was crinkle the bag and he'd mind his manners.

I spotted another Mylar balloon from that graduation party that took place in the desert in May.  Each time I see it, the balloon is under something or up high or tangled in a bush just out of my reach.  I keep telling myself that I am going to bring the snake grabber stick out with me next time and grab it, but I always forget.  I also spotted this champagne bottle that I'd seen before but couldn't pick up because I had my hands full, so this time I picked it up and brought it home to the trash before someone could break it.

I put Bombay away and saw that someone had kicked Rock in the leg and he had a big gash.  I cleaned it up and then bicycled right back out into the desert with my snake grabber stick.  I thought I could ride a mountain bike and hold the stick at the same time, but I was wrong.  I smashed my leg into the pedal and now I have a bloody gash that matches Rock's on my shin.  Then I tried to brake and bent my fingernail all the way backwards.  Fortunately, no one was out there to hear my screaming curses.  I vowed to cut all of my fingernails down to nubs when I got home.

I tried picking up cholla balls off the bridle trail with the grabber, but they just stuck to it, so I had to golf them off.  I fished the Mylar balloon out of the bush with the grabbers, but not without stepping on a camouflaged portion of a cholla ball and having it stick up through my shoe and sock right into my foot.  It didn't go as deep as the bone, but it still hurt.  Bicycling home was now even harder as I tried to hang onto the balloon and the grabbers while pedaling, steering and braking.  I finally gave up and just walked the bike home before I got into a wreck.

So, after all that, I got quite a workout.  If I keep this up, I should be in shape for horseback riding in no time... if I don't kill myself first.  I owe this sudden surge of energy to the clouds, the wind, and my hair stylist.  She told me, "You'll feel so much better after I cut five inches off your hair."

"Five?  How about three?"

We compromised at four inches, and she was right.  I do feel so much lighter and cooler, and I don't have to waste an hour each day trying to get all the tangles out.  That's an hour I can now spend exercising.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Dragging the Shed

A few screws and the doors popped out, but they could be popped back in easily enough.  The new location isn't exactly level, so the shed leans to the south, but I figure I can fix that over time by digging out the high end and letting it settle better during rain storms.  I don't want to put too much work into it in case we have to relocate it again.  Right now it is getting the full afternoon sun, which is warping the plastic, so if that turns into a bigger problem, we may move it into the shade of the new shed once it is built.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Breaking Ground

What are the horses all riled up about?

A Bobcat passing by the barn.

It didn't surprise me that while the three Arabs were pooping in their pants, the Quarter Horse just kept on eating.  I think adding a Quarter Horse to the herd is the best thing I could have done for them.  Once Lostine, Bombay, and Gabbrielle noticed that Rock couldn't care less, they settled down. 

Breaking ground to make it level for the new tack room. 

Yesterday my husband shored up the Rubbermaid shed and then dragged it out of the way with my truck.  We're probably going to move it over by the round pen...

Leveling a spot by the round pen.

Gabbrielle clinging to Lostine for safety. 

Bombay freaked out, but interested. 

After pushing dirt around behind the hay barn and next to the round pen, my husband drove the Bobcat over by the barn to dig the drainage ditch deeper so that the stalls will stop flooding. 

Bombay claps his lips when he's nervous.

There was a lot of hugging going on. 

"Are you okay with this?"
"Not sure.  Are you okay with this?" 

Lostine wasn't particularly worried or interested, but just seemed to be waiting for the contraption to go away so that she could get back into the barn to finish her breakfast. 

Bombay clapping his lips again.

This is what Rock was doing the majority of the time.  (Note my husband doing a wheelie in the background.) 

Nom nom nom nom.  Mmmmmmm.  Bermuda hay.  Oooooooh, so awesome. 

What the heck is that thing doing now?

In the little time we had left with a four hour rental, I asked my husband to move some sand from the thick end of the paddock, where it's hard to pull the wagon, to the entrance of the barn, so that I can spread more sand in the stalls.

This was the only time Rock ran away.  He photobombed my picture of the other horses running.  He's obviously feeling better after soaking both front hooves in Epsom salts for the past few days.

I'd never seen so much pooping going on.  I had to keep re-positioning myself to try to get all the piles of manure out of the frame of my photos.  I had literally just cleaned all the manure out of the barn and paddock minutes before, and by the time my husband finished working around the horses, there were at least a dozen fresh piles of nervous poop. 

Rock decided he was more interested in the fresh pile of sand than he was worried about the Bobcat.  He walked just a few feet in front of it to return to the barn to finish eating. 

The Arabs trying to sneak back into the barn so that Rock won't get all the goods to himself. 

But they quickly allowed themselves to be chased off.

Run awaaaaaay! 

Okay, this time we are going to make it to the feed troughs. 

Or not.
 (Check out that tight turn.  What arthritis?)

Lostine was beginning to look like her hankering for hay was going to win out over her fear of the Bobcat. 

But the chicken squawking in her ear over her left shoulder won out. 

This is the rental trailer that the Bobcat came on.  It's like a see-saw.  You just have to drive it forward and let the ramp tilt down and crash, and the back it up onto it and let it crash from a ramp to a flatbed. 

I just wanted to show you this as a side note.  A package arrived and all that was in it was a jar of detangler.  Really?  Was a box that large really necessary for such a small item?

I think it's funny that hair detanglers are marketed for little girls.  Big girls get tangled hair too.  As I get older, my hair gets drier, more brittle, and tangles more easily.  The majority of detanglers come in spray bottles, which are useless around here, because the spray dissipates before it even reaches my hair.  I tried using the horses' detangler gels, but they were too thick and heavy, making my hair look greasy and dirty.  So, I found this "pudding" for African hair and decided to give it a try.  If it doesn't work, no big loss.  It only costs a couple of bucks.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rationing Energy

When activity on the trails is at its busiest, I often find myself looking forward to summer when humans go into hibernation in the desert.  I have this image of having the desert to myself and being able to ride my horses to my heart's content without unwanted surprises caused by the actions of other humans.  Then summer comes and I find that there is a time limit to being outdoors, which gets shorter as the heat and humidity rise.  After just a few minutes in the sun, I find that I can feel my heart flub-flubbing out of my chest, I have sweat pouring out of every pore, sweat gets into my eyes and renders me blind, and just simply being able to move or take one more step is daunting.

It doesn't seem possible to instantly lose weight, but after spending a little time out in the heat, I find that my pants start falling down, and the energy it takes just to keep hiking them up is energy better spent elsewhere.  I could always go into the house to get a belt or change into a fresh pair of jeans, but again, that's energy better spent elsewhere.  Summer in the desert is all about prioritizing and rationing energy.  It's like having only a sliver of gas left in your tank during a gasoline crisis.

If you have to do something outdoors, you either have to do it all around sunrise and sunset when it's cooler, or you have to alternate between going outside to do activities for just a few minutes and going back indoors to get your body temperature back to normal with the help of air conditioning and ice water.  Every once in a while we get a strong breeze or a few refreshing gusts of wind that energize me and make me think I can actually ride a horse, but then by the time I've haltered a horse, the wind stops and I know I won't have the energy to saddle, ride, and unsaddle the horse without the help of some wind.  So, I usually just take the horse for a walk in hand and see how far we get before I start feeling ill.

I've learned to be careful and not wait until I can't take another step before turning around.  If I turn around as soon as I start feeling my energy getting depleted, I usually have enough gas in the tank to get home, but not enough to neatly hang up the halter in the trailer.  I often just toss it somewhere on the ground and stagger back into the house.

I'm  not complaining or asking for advice, but simply recording what summer is like in the desert so that I will remember to ride when I can in the other three seasons.  I've had a lot added to my plate of responsibilities these past few days and have found myself having to break up the tasks into multiple trips.  I've fallen into the job of property manager for my neighbor's place, because things keep getting knocked down and breaking in the wind, and my neighbor needs to keep the place presentable while it is on the market -- something she is incapable of doing herself from the other side of the country.  We discovered that mice and rats have taken over her tack room and kennel, so I laid down some bait.

Her wooden gates started rotting and falling apart, so I had to go pull an existing screw, take it to the hardware store, and buy something fatter and longer since all the holes were stripped.  I waited until sunset to start pulling and replacing screws to reassemble the gates, and tired out pretty fast.  I knew I needed to go back home to rest, but wanted to check on the poison before leaving.  Just after two days, all the poison pellets were gone, and the entire floor was covered in rodent droppings.  I sighed in exasperation, because I knew I had get more poison and sweep up all that poop, but just didn't have it in me.  That's a task for another evening.

After just spending a few minutes in air conditioning, I had to head right back out to feed my horses their dinner before it got dark.  I didn't have enough time to feed them hay, feed them grain, clean up manure, and soak Rock's hoof before it was pitch black, so I chose to feed them hay and clean up half the manure.  Soaking Rock's hoof meant coming out after dark with a flashlight to remove the boot, and I am notorious for falling asleep before doing such things.  I felt it would do more damage to leave his hoof soaking in Epsom Salts overnight than it would to go without one treatment.

By morning I had a lot more manure to clean up, and once again, didn't have the energy to do it all.  To top it all off, several water troughs were almost empty.  I compromised by only cleaning up half the manure, feeding the horses both hay and grain this time, soaking Rock's hoof, and leaving the gates open for the horses who didn't have enough water in their troughs.  I pushed myself to get all that done, and of course, Rock decided not to cooperate by refusing to pick up his hoof.  He kind of looks like he's limping on both front hooves now, which would explain his resistance.  I tried a variety of training techniques, but eventually ended up using all my strength to pull his leg up myself.  I soaked one hoof for a while, and then repeated the process to soak the other hoof for good measure.  Of course, that took two trips.

I'll have to spend the rest of the day making short trips outside to clean and fill water troughs, clean up the rest of the manure, lay out another batch of rat poison, sweep up all the rodent turds, and finish repairing the gates.  We have a construction crew coming in a few weeks to build our new tack room.  They swear they can build it in a day, but I don't know how without them being able to take constant breaks to get into air conditioned shade and drink ice water.  I'll probably open up the house for them so that they don't die.

I don't like hiring people to do outdoor work in the summer, but it's impossible to get help in the winter, because the population explodes and all the businesses are too busy helping snowbirds to respond to my calls.  Whenever I do have to hire people to work here in the summer, I find myself serving as a waitress, making a lot of trips between the kitchen and outside to bring them ice water.  Most people bring their own water, but it gets hot quickly and people really need the ice to cool down their body temperatures.

Oh yeah, and despite us keeping the outdoor lights turned off at night, a poisonous toad still managed to get into our garage in the few minutes we opened it to take the dogs outside.  I put on my gloves and caught it.  I've learned to carry toads way out in front of me, because the first thing they do besides secreting their poison is pee all over me.  This toad did something new-to-me, though.  It began screaming in a really loud, deep voice.  It was scary.  I could see how a predator would let it go after hearing that noise.  I set it down on the driveway sooner than I wanted, and chased it the rest of the way, because I didn't want to know what other tricks it had up its sleeve.

Also, we've got a couple of owls that come out at night.  One of them let me get up close to it, and it was so cute the way it would lean forward and stick its tail feathers up in the air each time it called out to the other owl.  It had to "hoo" with its entire body.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Horse Time

Horse butts...

So lovely.

The boys got a new-to-them pair of jeans to play with.  They were my favorite pair, but I got tired of the air conditioning on the inside of the thigh.  They were quick to rip the hole much bigger during their tug-of-war.

Gabbrielle feeling her oats...

After lunging her, I went to get Rock, and of course, he couldn't walk.  It never fails that whenever everything comes together for me to have a little time and good health to work with the horses, one of them always has to get a hoof abscess.

I hung his toy jeans around his neck to help him feel better.  Nothing was working out in the soaking department, so I splurged on a draft horse sized soaking boot.  It worked well enough... at least until I opened up the gate and Gabbrielle came in...

...and proceeded to bite Rock on the rump.  He jumped and tried to run, and the soaking boot went slop, slop, slap, flying around his hoof.  It managed to stay on, but got twisted all over his hoof.  At least the Epsom Salts stay inside of it, unlike the feed bin and buckets that spill.  I have a smaller soaking boot, but I can't even get Gabbrielle's tiny hooves to fit through the opening.  I'll probably give it to CNJ or Christine, since they've got ponies.  Of course, Rock had to poop and then step in it...

Gee, I wonder why he keeps getting hoof abscesses?

Bombay took Rock's turn in the round pen...

...and promptly tripped and fell down...

I don't know what I'm going to do with these stooges.