When “Bad” Things Happen to Good Wolfdogs

Kainan and shadow“This is going to hurt me far more than it’s going to hurt you.”

Did you hear that one growing up? I did. That line either meant that you were about to get punished OR you were possibly going to the doctor to get a shot.

For the record, although I grew up in the “spare the rod, spoil the child” era, my parents never actually spanked me. The threat of a pop on the butt was quite enough to keep me in line, thank you very much.

I did get one spanking in my tender youth. Scarred me for life. It was in the second grade and it was a rainy day, so no playground time. Instead, our class was supposed to be playing quietly…QUIETLY…in the gymnasium.

We didn’t pull off the quietly part very well. The gym teacher walked in and found us all running and screaming like little demons. She told the entire class to line up and proceeded to give us each a light, but meaningful swat on the bottom (yes, kids, there was a time when teachers were allowed to give spankings AND they had rather impressive paddles hanging on display in the classroom).

I was terrified. I kept moving back in the line until I was the last kid standing. The gym teacher was HUGE (in my seven year old eyes) and I was the second smallest kid in my class. It was the “tap” heard ’round the world, in my memory.

And I’m pretty sure it didn’t hurt either of us very much.

So yesterday I had to deliver that line to Kainan. “Oh buddy, this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you.”

You know you ALWAYS end up saying the exact things your parents once said to you. You remember…you rolled your eyes at the time and now YOU’RE using the same damn lines! Vicious cycle, this growing up thing.

Obviously I was not about to give Kainan a spanking. Do what you will to your kids, but do NOT strike my wolfdog.

I was delivering him to the vet for “a small surgical procedure.” YOU KNOW. That procedure.

Yes, it was time for our big, handsome wolfdog to lose a few vital parts. We had waited a bit to neuter Kainan to allow him to regain his health after finding him nearly starved to death last August. From his measly 38 pounds then, to his 100+ pounds now, he has grown and thrived.

And he’s been getting just a bit cocky in the process (is that a play on words?).

Actually, 9.5 times out of 10, he really does get along well with our other dogs. He loves to play and he has always been gentle, despite that fact that he easily weighs 40 pounds more than our next largest dog here.

Toby bossHe even bows down to our “big guys.” Toby and Howie are our resident dogs in charge. They are both 60 pound Dalmatians and Kainan submits to them on a daily basis. One look from either of these spotted boys sends Kainan into a slinking, groveling display. He presses his ears back, he lowers his head, he licks his lips, he licks their muzzles in a charmingly submissive display. And then he generally falls over on his back in ultimate surrender.

He could easily kick either dog’s butt if he wanted to, but HE doesn’t pull the “this will hurt me more than it will hurt you line.” He does not. He respects his elders.

Lately, however, he has had a little attitude change toward some of his friends here. Oh, not the girls. He’s still a big Romeo…and some of our littlest girls are his favorite play pals. No, it’s his friends Bernie, the pit bull mix, and Boog, the cattle dog.

In recent play sessions with these boys, I’ve seen Kainan’s attitude shift a bit. He has been a bit rough with this boys at times. And it hasn’t been any serious threat yet, but he will often stiffen his body posture and place his head over their backs with a hardened stare, a tight mouth and erect ears.

These are all little doggy/wolfy postures that suggest our Kainan has decided to assert himself…with dogs that really have no interest in being assertive themselves.

A little less testosterone is part of the cure for this new-found machismo.  And that brings us back to our “this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you” moment yesterday. I was dropping Kainan off at the veterinary hospital to be neutered, microchipped, and to have a a gastropexy, an elective prophylactic procedure to head off the tragic complications that come with a condition known as gastric dilatation and volvulus, commonly called bloat.

Bloat is an unpredictable and almost always catastrophic event in which fermented gas accumulates in a dog’s stomach and causes the entire organ to twist and flip over on its long axis. Left untreated, bloat will kill a dog within a matter of hours. The condition hits hard and fast and requires immediate emergency treatment.

Jim and I know firsthand. In our years of having so many dogs in our lives, we’ve had dogs bloat and Jim even lost his beloved malamute to it. It’s a terrible, terrifying, agonizing illness.

Emergency treatment often consists of a gastropexy, in which the dog’s stomach is sutured to the body wall, preventing it from twisting. Larger dog breeds with deep chests are more prone to bloat, so many people with “at risk” breeds opt to have the gastropexy procedure done proactively when a dog is spayed or neutered.

Gastropexy will not prevent the build up of gas and bloat, but it will prevent the stomach from doing a deadly flip-flop and is a life-saving procedure.

Kainan is a big, deep chested boy and after consulting with our veterinarian, we decided the extra surgical procedure was a good choice for him.

But it did mean more time under general anesthetic. It did mean an abdominal incision in addition to the relatively simple (I know men…I know…) neuter incision. And it may not be apparent to Kainan in the aftermath, but this truly does hurt me more than it hurt him.

My big guy looked pitiful when I returned to the vet hospital to pick him up. He was still a bit groggy. He kept his ears pinned to his skull, his head hanging low, and his tail limply wagging just a bit upon seeing me. Pit-i-ful.

He was confused. He was sore. He wanted the heck out of there.

I’ll admit it. My heart ached for my sweet boy.

I would like to assure all Kaniacs out there (this is the name I have given to Kainan’s fans…and he has them!), that the big guy came through with flying colors and two less testicles.

He is recovering nicely, though I’ll anthropomorphize and say that he is milking it a tad. OH what a sad, sad face. I don’t know if he understands at all what just happened…and realistically I know he doesn’t…but the look on his face when he took a peek between his back legs? Well…priceless.

Kainan and friends

Kainan’s friends checking out his post surgery smells. Notice his “goat ears.”

A little pain now will help keep the peace in the dog pack at Tails You Win Farm and will prevent an unplanned army of little Kainans in the future (yes…they would have been adorable…but still!). And, just as the little microchip implanted between his shoulders is a proactive step to protect him, the gastropexy means that we have taken measures to ensure Kainan’s ongoing health and well being.

It was a good day. It really was. Seriously Kainan, it was a good day. I think it’s going to take me a bit to convince him.

Damn it. This does hurt.

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The Definition of a Good Man

Gus and JimI write a lot about the animals at Tails You Win Farm. The dogs, the horses, the hogs, the donkeys, the mice…the what?

Yes, you read that right. The mice. Well, the mouse. We’ll get to that.

I realize I don’t often write about the humans at Tails You Win Farm. There are only two of us and we are seriously outnumbered, so it’s understandable that we don’t get a lot of press.

But I live with a really great human who deserves a little recognition and the dogs, horses, hogs, donkeys, and a mouse play right into my definition of a good man. Let me explain.

I love this crazy place I call home. It’s a place where I have the room and ability to pursue my lifelong love of animals and my dedication to their welfare.

Now take that those two previous sentences and replace every “I” and “my” with “we” and “our” in a manner that would make your grade school grammar teacher proud (or relieved, as the case may be).

My definition of a good man is one who knows how to dismantle a tractor, put it all back together again with NO mystery parts left over, and have it actually run and run well. Then take that same man and watch him gently care for a senior dog in the throes of congestive heart failure…a dog that hasn’t been his long term companion, but receives the same love and care as if he had been born here umpteen years ago.

It’s a guy with a heart big enough to share his home with a rotating pack of rescued dogs who come and go as need arises and good homes are found. It’s a guy who will help you chase down your rogue pig in the middle of the night.

My definition of a good man is one who greets you on a Sunday morning, looking a tiny bit sheepish, as he says, “I might need your help with something.” Please note: Might means HELP!

I had the pleasure of waking to that very statement this past weekend. At the same time I was wrapping my sleep-addled brain around Jim’s words I noticed that all of my wildlife rehab supplies from my days of raising orphaned squirrels and bunnies were sitting on the kitchen cabinet. And there was Jim holding a little plastic food storage container with air holes punched in the lid.

Uh oh.

The story according to Jim is that Kainan, our resident wolfdog, was “on point” in one of our closets. A side lesson here is that if you see your giant wolfdog standing like a statue and staring intently into a corner, well, chances are you should check it out.

Micely 2Jim did just that.

Good thing for Micely Cyrus.

Yes, you read that right. Micely is a teeny, tiny, days-old baby mouse. And yes, Jim saved her. And yes, we are working together, around the clock, to help her survive.

A mouse. Yes, yes we really are.

Now I know a lot of you are out there thinking that the only good mouse is a dead mouse. In fact, I recently wrote a post about Kainan the wolfdog’s prowess as a mighty hunter of tiny rodents (you can read it here…don’t tell Micely!). And yet…when faced with a tiny,  helpless baby…well…you break out the formula, the syringe, and the smallest nipple you can find and you become a giant, clumsy surrogate mom to a mouse.

We may be hypocrites in the eyes of the resident rodent community, but we are really compassionate hypocrites.

And now, add to my definition of a really good man a guy who will somehow cradle a tiny orphaned mouselet in his big hands and coax it to drink a little formula.

Let it be known, far and wide, that a guy named Jim, who is likely sleep-deprived and covered in dog hair, is a really good man.

Isn’t Micely lucky?

Isn’t Nancy lucky?

The Epic Battle at Tails You Win Farm

20150425_083651 (1)He goes to war with relentless fervor. A solitary mercenary for a cause known only to him.

His enemies, his prey, were, in another time (about five minutes ago), his best friends—this, the cruel reality of the battle.

He stalks. He gives chase. He pounces. His prey is always held fast within his intense focus, whether running away, or creeping up in a futile ambush attempt from behind. Nothing escapes his keen senses, his unwavering instinct.

20150302_191225And there are many, so many foes to slay.  One after another, after another is mercilessly worn down until all soldiers for the cause have fallen into certain, unyielding nap-time.

Then, and only then, the giant warrior succumbs to the need for rest himself.

Sleep soundly, my dear battle-weary soldiers. For you must certainly rise to play-fight yet another day. If not for you, I fear the couch will most assuredly fall victim, yet again, to the wrath of his boredom.

Cinder and Kaine  Kain and Bernie

20150425_083726  bed party

Some Are Silver. Some are Gold. And Some are Syl.

Jill and Syl

Syl and her friend Claire on Jillie’s adoption day.

Remember that song? I think we sang it when I was a Camp Fire Girl (yes…I was a Camp Fire GIRL before they went all politically correct and said it would just be Camp Fire and boys could join too).

Make new friends,
but keep the old,
one is silver
and the other gold.

Now , with the internet and the whoosh of social media hitting us from all directions, we have a whole new avenue for making and maintaining friendships. (For the record, I’m a admittedly addicted to Facebook and I toy very occasionally with Twitter, but that’s about the extent of my online presence, dedication, and attention span.)

Oh, and there’s the online dating. Thank the good lord that I have not had to do the Internet dating thing. I know I would doctor the bejeezus out of my profile pics and then panic at the reality of having to meet someone in person and explain why I didn’t actually have Christie Brinkley’s body from her Sports Illustrated cover days.

Anyhow, I have a really nifty extended circle of amazing friends, some I’ve never met in person, thanks to this now-clunky, aging Sony VAIO laptop. We may live hundreds of miles apart and we may rarely, if ever, meet for lunch, but they are friendships I value greatly.

One of my favorite online friends is Syl. Syl stands for Sylvia…not Sylvester. Let’s get that straight right off the bat.

Syl and I actually met about 3000 years ago (we’re aging quite well, thank you), in a pre-Facebook, early version of online chatting era. And really, the reason we met has absolutely nothing to do with technology at all.

It has everything to do with spotted dogs.

Syl and I both adore Dalmatians. We both hold true that like a Lay’s potato chip, you can’t have just one. And through the years some of my all-time favorite Dalmatian foster dogs have gone to live with Syl in her home state just to the right of mine.

This is the highest praise my dog-hair-addled brain (I think it seeps in through the ear canal. A brain scan would be entertaining) can offer to anyone. I was willing to send dogs that were “keepers” to live with my friend Syl.

“Willing” isn’t exactly accurate. I may have kind of somewhat stalked Syl. I recall very clearly when a gorgeous liver spotted Dalmatian that I named Mason came into rescue and into my home. Oh Mason. What a love. I fell for that dog hard and fast. He was in great danger of being one of those foster fails we joke about in rescue circles.

But with plenty of dogs of my own, and in my ongoing quest to dodge the slippery slope that is known as hoarding, I started plotting about getting someone special to adopt Mason.

To this day I compare it to fishing (for the record, I don’t actually fish…I think it’s rather mean to offer a free snack and have it turn into an involuntary piercing). I tossed a line out Syl’s direction–because truly, if I couldn’t keep Mason, I wanted him to have a home with Syl. I just had a feeling that he should, nay, would be her dog.

Now mind you, Syl was not looking for a dog. She had already adopted a darling dog named Annie. But I cast a line straight toward her anyway. You know…photos, “he’s so sweet” stories, more photos.

Syl nibbled the bait just as I hoped she would.

I set that hook hard and fast and before you could blink, Mason was headed to Arkansas to be her much-loved dog.

I’m wondering if Syl knows this side of the story. Well, she does now.

And then…maybe a couple of years later…Syl heard that ziiiiiing over the top of her head again and saw another yummy piece of bait land just in front of her. This time it was in the form of a black spotted sweetheart named Henry.

You know what? Syl bit again.

And then a couple of years later? Well, I didn’t have to troll for Syl this time. She saw a story about a Dalmatian that we had rescued from a puppy mill and she let shy, troubled Jillie come into her loving world. Jillie is still a bit shy, but no longer troubled. Syl has worked her magic on Jillie Bean.

Oh how I have loved sending my favorite foster dogs to Syl. I always know they have a great home and I know they can still be my family too…because I adore Syl like a sister.

Syl is that kind of person. You cannot help but love her. I dare you to try. You will fail.

She has the most delicious southern accent and when you talk to her, you hope she’ll want to tell you stories for hours. You don’t want to interrupt…you couldn’t possibly have anything to add that would make the story better than Syl’s version.

When Syl tells you a story, she paints a picture. She tells you side stories that, in her own words, “…really have nothing to do with this,” but it’s great, and you want more side stories.

Conversations with Syl are lively, colorful, and special, even if you’re not talking about anything special at all.

I love this woman.

So this year, Syl has been going through some STUFF. Now, we all have our stuff, don’t we? But right now, Syl has been struggling through STUFF. Honestly, it’s a package of stuff no one should have to deal with, especially dear, sweet Syl.

I’m trying very hard to be the right kind of friend through it all. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to support someone you truly care about when they’re dealing with STUFF. It’s particularly hard when there’s about 375 miles between you. It’s not as if I can drop by with a casserole.

I’ve decided that the best way for me to be there for Syl is to listen when she needs an ear, to talk when I think there are words that need to be said, to be available anytime she needs a long distance shoulder and/or hug, and to be her friend…just like I always have been.

You see, one thing I am learning from Syl right now is that you don’t let your STUFF define you. There was a lot to Syl pre-STUFF and there is a lot more to come from Syl post-STUFF. So while she is weathering her STUFF, I want to be the kind of friend she can talk to about anything…dogs, shoes, flowers, STUFF, what we each had for lunch, whatever.

Syl is NOT defined by STUFF.

Now here’s another very cool thing about Syl. She makes it really easy to be the right kind of friend. She is so open and so honest, truly a glorious example of a strong woman.

What she has taught me recently is that “strong” doesn’t mean you don’t need to cry. Strong doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to be mad, or sad, or happy, or fill-in-any-emotion-here.

Strong means being honest with yourself and the ones you hold dear. It means screaming at the top of your lungs if that’s what you need to do and then moving on from there, because that IS what you need to do.

Strong means facing fears and challenges and out-of-your-control change, and getting through it all with grace, determination, and a good dose of humor.

Strong means recognizing when you need someone to be strong for you…for just a bit…so you can curl up with the blankets over your head.

Strong means planting flowers and celebrating the hope of spring.

Strong means talking to your friend on the phone and somehow, despite all of your STUFF, hitting the end-call button and leaving your friend feeling better than she did before she said, “Hi Syl, what’s up?”

Yup. That’s a fact. She has that special mojo.

A conversation with Syl is like riding a merry-go-round that just might jump track and do a figure eight instead of sticking to the counter-clockwise circle route. It’s fun, it’s beautiful, it’s musical, you might cry, you will laugh, and you get off that ride feeling really, really good.

What a gift. I wish everyone could have a friend like Syl–the platinum kind. I can only hope that I AM a friend like Syl, to Syl.

(Love you, friend. This is what I thought to do for you. In the words of our mutual man crush, James Taylor, “…you’ve got a friend.”)

How to Move a Huge Hog That Doesn’t Want to Move. Riddle solved.

20150412_104026 (1)

Jerry…the picture of noncompliance.

Before I tell you the answer to my riddle from earlier this morning (if you missed out, you might want to read here first), let me walk you through the events that left me a tad battered and bruised, but victorious on oh-so-many fronts.

Ok, when I last shared with you this morning, I was looking forward to the prospect of going out to convince one wayward Jerry Swinefeld that he should not be living as a gypsy pig, he should move back into his comfortable digs in the barn. Behind a gate. Behind a fence. Two things I consider essential to responsible large hog/small hippo ownership.

I was pretty convinced that if I just went out, sweet talked Jerry a bit, maybe scratched him in all of his favorite spots (under the jowls and belly being the very favorite), and offered some past-the-point-for-human-consumption strawberries (YUM! A Jerry favorite), my big guy would just haul himself to his feet and lumber along with me back to the barn.

I was sure of it.

I walked over to the spot where I left him last night to find him still firmly, lazily planted in the brush, under the trees on the backside of the pond dam. He even grunted me a little “ah-ah-ah” good morning greeting. I felt this was a positive sign. Was Sir Never Miss A Meal a tad peckish?

I sure hoped so.

I sat down in the tall grass and brush beside him…tree branches hanging low over my head. It did not escape me that I was serving a little round of brunch hors d’oeuvres in prime blood-sucking, mini vampire meets mutant zombie territory. You might know them as ticks.

Since it was Sunday, I took the opportunity to offer up a hopeful little prayer…”Dear God, Far be it from me to question your wisdom. I know everything you designed has a purpose. But ticks? Really? If there is any chance you are feeling up to banishing them from the earth now and forever, I’d be crazy grateful. If that’s asking too much, just banish them from this immediate area, OK? Thank you, God. Amen.

I’m guessing I gave God a good laugh. And the ticks too. Nobody was banished this day.

Anyhow, I sat and talked with Jerry who was more than happy to accept my offering of strawberries. I scratched in all the right places. He closed his eyes and sighed in bliss. I showed him MORE berries in a nearby bucket. He drooled. On my leg.

I hopped up enthusiastically and said, “OK, let’s go to the barn!” And off I went, nearly skipping with optimism.

Jerry? Not so much. In fact, I am fairly sure I heard snoring from the underbrush and possible teeny tiny giggles. Damn ticks.

Ok. Plan…what are we up to here…I think C by now. I decided that Jerry was boycotting his pasture until Bob the ram was relocated. Plan C: Catch and move Bob.

Sounds simple enough, right? You would be wrong. Bob is not a fan of being caught. You can pet him, you can feed him, but put a rope on him? Yeah. Cute little rodeo time.

Lacking a dog in my entire pack with a clue as to how to properly herd a sheep, I was on my own. I took my “sweet talk the hog” course of action and modified it to the “sweet talk the ram” plan of action.

bob

Farm tip…when a ram holds his head down and eyes you like this, it’s best to not stay in front of him. The’re called rams for a reason. You’re welcome.

I whispered sweet nothings to Bob. I scratched in all the right places (SEE Jerry? You DO have something in common with Bob!). I used mad ninja skills to slip a rope halter around Bob’s neck and up and over his nose.

Ta da!

And now we lead the ram…we lead the ram…oh, the ram leads us in bucking circles. Ok, that’s fun too.

I finally got Bob to the barn and got the bright idea that I should give a couple of long spots on his hooves a trim before moving him to the donkey pasture and releasing him. I called Jim and informed him of my grand plan and asked him to bring the hoof snips to the barn.

When Jim arrived, I had Bob calmly tethered to a post in the barn. This was going really well!

I reached down to pick up a foot and Jim says, “Wait! Give me your phone!”

I look up to see a smirk on his face and a twinkle of mischief in his eye. Oh hell no, Mr. Gonna Hit It Rich On You Tube. Not today.

As you can perhaps imagine by now, Bob was not feeling cooperative about the whole hoof trimming scenario. Someone was going to get stabbed with hoof snips at this rodeo and I didn’t want it to be me.

Plan D: Make Bob lie down.

The easiest way to shear Bob, to trim Bob’s feet, to worm Bob, to do ANYTHING with Bob, is to get him down on the ground. He calms right down and somehow seems to think he’s stuck.

Let me interject here that Bob the ram is not the brightest Crayon in the box. In fact, on the MENSA scale of animal intelligence, Bob ranks on the low end of “bless his heart.” If you’re from any region of the U.S. where you believe y’all should be in the dictionary, singular and plural (all y’all), then you totally understand that.

Not in the mood to wrestle with a ram that is well past the cute little lamb stage, I proceeded (yes, with Jim watching and snickering) to make Bob lie down. You do this by standing facing his side and you reach under his stomach to pick up his front foot on the opposite side. Usually, if you pick that foot up and bring it back, he’ll just fold like a miserable poker hand.

Of course not today. So, I had his far front foot in my right hand and reached across his back with my left hand to tuck his back leg up and ease him down.

That was what was supposed to happen. What DID happen is that we both “eased” down, with a tad more force than I had planned, on top of my left arm.

The good news is that Bob was fine and securely down in the “bless his heart” stuck sheep position. The less-than-good news is that I found out I am not Gumby (younger people, look it up) and elbows are really, really only designed to fold one way.

I am a tough woman, but I will tell you I was in some pain. Oh, but Jim was watching and I was going to suck it up. No wimpy girl moment. No sir.

I did warn him that I might need to cry for just a moment (in case he wanted to do the right thing and look away…he did not), and then I channeled my inner Taylor Swift, decided to shake it off, and started trimming those hooves sticking out from that temporarily paralyzed ram.

Job done, I convinced Bob that he could, indeed, still stand up all on his own and Jim and I marched him from the barn to the donkey pasture—Nan playing the part of border collie, Jim in the part of shepherd.

I can’t say that the donkeys were happy to see Bob back. So if donkeys don’t care for you, and a hog can’t stand you as a flatmate…well, Bob…it may be time to have a little talk about hygiene or something.

Ok, Plan D accomplished, though it was not really the plan I needed to accomplish.

Plan E was to leave a tempting meal in the barn for Jerry, refresh and fluff up his bedding, and leave the gate open. Surely he would get tired of his little camp-out and decide to head home.

Yay Plan E! I would return to the barn after a few hours away to surely find Jerry napping happily in his bed. A simple gate to shut and all would be right on the farm.

I showered, de-ticked myself (nasty little blood sucking bastards!), did the grocery shopping, and headed back out to celebrate Jerry’s return.

Have you guessed? Have you? Yeah. No Jerry.

Plan F: Channel your inner Future Farmer of America kid and MOVE THAT PIG.

You’ve seen them do it at the county fair, right? Kids, little kids, are moving big hogs around with nothing more than a stick in their hand. Hey! I have a stick!

So I grabbed a long crop we keep in the barn and headed back over to Jerry’s nesting spot. In the grass. And brush. Under the low hanging trees. Where the ticks are.

No Ms. Nice Guy now. All business. “Jerry, get up, get up (tap with stick), get up!”

Holy cow, he got up.

I got behind him and started tapping. Just like the 60-pounds-soaking-wet kids at the fair.

“Go to the barn!” (tap-tap-tap his left side) “Go to the barn!”  (tap-tap-tap his right side) “Go to the barn!” (repeat) (repeat) (repeat)

What do you know? He went to the barn. He walked right into his pen and ate a bite of his welcome-home dinner and checked out his bed.

Plan F, I embrace you!

I learned a lot today.

1. You cannot convince Jerry that Bob is a pig in sheep’s clothing. No bromance there.

2. I still really hate ticks. They still really love me.

3. Elbows should only bend the one way. It’s bad if they bend the other way.

4. Ibuprofen is our friend.

5. You CAN move a 700+ pound hog that does not want to move.

I’m not really sure I answered my riddle. Sure, Jerry is back where he is supposed to be, but I didn’t find and repair his escape hatch, so we may be repeating this whole joke-on-me tomorrow. My hope is that with Bob gone from his world, Jerry will settle back into his happy routine of eat, wallow in mud, sleep, wallow in mud, eat again, sleep some more.

20150412_103901And me? Well, I’m giving myself an “atta girl” for tenacity today, and a “bless my heart” for trying to rearrange my elbow.

I can already see tomorrow in my crystal ball…”Hey Nancy, how’d you hurt your arm?”

It could be a long Monday. Hey Jerry…STAY PUT.

Riddle: How Do You Move a Huge Hog That Doesn’t Want to Move?

Jerry at the porch

Jerry on a previous walkabout.

Do you have an answer to my riddle?

No?

Shoot. Me neither.

This post could also be titled: When Good Pigs Go Feral. It all started after Spamela Anderson, our grand dam of the farm, passed away at nearly 13 years of age. This left Jerry Swinefeld alone in his pasture. I interpreted “alone” to mean “lonely.”

I may have been wrong.

You see, about a week or so ago, I moved Bob, our resident bachelor ram, into Jerry’s pasture. There’s some nice grass springing up, it’s a safe little pasture with access to roomy shelter in a section of the barn, and the coyotes tend to steer clear of the big hog…so that would afford Bob some security (he is not one tiny bit savvy and falls for the “follow me little lamb” line every time a coyote tosses it his way. If not for the donkeys and the mule Bob would have been a main course years ago).

Thinking like a human, I came up with the idea that Bob would be great company for Jerry Swinefeld. Bob would nibble grass while Jerry would luxuriate in his favorite mud hole. The two would nap side-by-side in the shade. The odd couple would share the spacious stall in the barn at night, snuggled in the sweet-smelling straw.

Paradise, right? Wrong.

The day I moved Bob to Jerry’s pasture, Jerry moved out of his comfy digs in the barn and dug a new bed in the farthest corner of his pasture from the barn. He would not come back to the barn, not even to eat. This is is a profound piggy statement because, well, it’s FOOD and he’s a PIG.

So I thought I’d give them a little time to work it out. You know…give them a week and surely Jerry would decide that Bob wasn’t such a bad roommate after all. Right?

Wrong again.

Jerry has upped his game. He up and moved out.

We’re still not entirely sure how a 700+ pound hog has managed to subtly slip out of a seemingly still intact fence, but he has. Now he has taken up residence by the pond, up against the backside of the dam.

And he is not budging.

Usually I can lure him back to the barn with promises of grand feasts (this means rattle a bucket with anything remotely edible in it and he’ll jump right up). But he’s not falling for it this time.

Bob seems concerned. He spent the night standing confused by the fence, staring at his wayward friend snoring on the other side.

So today I get to figure out how to convince Jerry to come back to his home…and I need to do this before he decides to head off to see if the neighbors might have anything interesting to eat. That NEVER goes well.

How do you move a huge hog that doesn’t want to move?

Well, I’m going to solve that riddle today. My first guess is that I need to move Bob back to the donkey pasture.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about Bob’s seemingly uninventive name after reading names like Spamela Anderson and Jerry Swinefeld? Well, he named himself.

Baaaaaahb. Baaaaaahb.

Stay tuned…this riddle is very likely to turn into a full-fledged joke.

Drama on the Farm: Grooming, the New Contact Sport

Kainan faceIt’s spring at Tails You Win Farm. The trees have brilliant green leaves unfurling. Flowers are bursting into bloom in defiance of our fickle, here-gone-here-again winter. The pasture’s pallet of tan and brown has a beautiful undercoat of soft green pushing upward toward the warming sun.

And speaking of undercoat, we have two Australian cattle dogs, one husky/malamute mix, and one rather large, wooly wolfdog who have now decided it’s safe to shed their excess winter plush.

It starts rather innocently. You notice an odd tuft of fur sticking out of an otherwise smooth coat, so you naively give it a tug. Oh what a tangled web we UNweave when we first start to pluck those irresistible bits of fur. That first little tuft is like finding a thread on the hem of your favorite shirt…you just can’t resist the urge to pull it and then everything unravels.

All. Over. The. House.

I am convinced that the dogs have the ability to control when and where they release the fluff. My yard is not covered with dust-bunnies of canine origin. My living room is carpeted with the stuff.

In an effort to contain the shednado that is overtaking our home, I sat down last night, with brush and trash bag in hand, to hopefully make a significant dent in each dog’s quickly departing winter undercoat.

Dogs love to be brushed. It’s a great way to have some quiet, soothing connection time with your furry friend. The husky/malamute dog rushes to me when she sees that brush come out. She flops to the ground, moaning in anticipatory delight.

The cattle dogs also love to be brushed, though it requires a bit more skill on the part of the brusher because these brushees are moving targets. They wiggle this way, they squirm that way, they roll over. It’s as if they want to be sure you get every spot, but they can’t decide which spot to offer first.

And then there is Kainan, the resident wolfdog.

This is my first shedding season with dear Kainan contributing to the swirling, clinging mess. But the big guy loves attention, he loves it when we pet him and ruffle his impressive coat. Come here, big guy, let’s get you brushed.

I had no way of knowing. I had no time to prepare…to come up with a combat plan.

Combat, you say? YES. Combat.

Kainan did not flop to the ground in a comatose state as his husky mix friend did. He did not squirm from side to side in delight, as the cow dogs did.

He saw it as a contact sport.

A really, really, did-I-mention really fun, rowdy contact sport called “grab the brush.”

I brush down the right side of his back, he spins and lunges for the brush—eyes glowing with mischief, ears pricked forward, body swinging in playful joy. I brush down the left side of his body, he swings for the brush. I quickly realize that I can’t sit comfortably to brush Kainan.

I’m up on my feet, in warrior groomer pose. Game on, big man.

I spin, and swipe the brush down his chest. He rears up and fakes right, then goes left to grab my retreating hand and brush, but AH HA! There is a huge wad of hair in the brush.

Point to the human.

I swing left, dodging his next advance and manage to swipe the brush down Kainan’s right thigh. He whips around and grabs the brush, running a few feet away to drop his chest to the ground, his butt still high in the air with waving tail, brush clamped in his grinning mouth.

Aurgh…he got the brush AND landed in a perfect play posture.  Two points to the wolfdog.

This dance went on for about 10 minutes until I finally whisked the soon-to-be-doomed brush away to safety on a shelf that I believe to be out of reach of the beast. I believe. Maybe. Well, we can hope. For the sake of the brush, we can hope.

Memories of less fortunate television remote controls flash through my mind. I offer a moment of silence.

We may have a little work to do on the “accepts grooming calmly” front, but honestly, I wouldn’t trade the hilarity of the failed attempt for anything.

Cinder and Kaine

Kainan playing with foster dog, Cinder. It’s play. I promise!

Just eight months ago Kainan came to us weighing only 38 pounds. He could barely walk ten steps before he needed to lie down for a rest. He was beyond weak. He was emaciated. In hindsite, I truly believe he was days away from death.

But he always had a little sparkle in his eye.

Today this boy weighs 110 pounds. He is healthy. He is very happy. And so are we.

The sparkle in his eye is now a full fledged gleam.

Grooming be damned. Surrender to the spring shed. Throw the hair up in the air like confetti.

Party on, Kainan.

How I Know I’m Not A Hoarder

Robbie toby

If you’ve been reading along with my blog, you may realize that Jim and I share our world with a number of dogs. Admittedly, by normal standards, it’s a large number of dogs.

So let me explain in case you don’t already know us. Jim and I have our “on purpose” dogs, our “showed up and never left” dogs, and our foster dogs.

On purpose dogs are those we planned. Our show dogs are on purpose dogs. Many of our Dalmatians, the breed we both adore, are on purpose dogs.

The “showed up and never left” dogs (SUNL) are dogs that come in as strays or as rescues from area shelters and just never manage to leave. We take in a lot of older dogs that don’t have great potential for adoption. They fall into the SUNL category.They are welcome to come here to live their lives out as one of our own dogs.

Hazel, Gus and Candy are our resident senior SUNLs at the moment. They are sweet old dogs who grace our home and lives for whatever time they have. Some stay for years, some stay for months. We love them all.

Then we have the SUNLs that are what we call foster fails. A foster fail is a homeless dog you take intending to provide it a temporary home…but then you get attached. And then you end up adopting the dog yourself.

It happens. I should know.

It happened to me the day I went to the Sapulpa Animal Shelter to pick up a little cattle dog to foster. The shelter was full and they were asking for volunteers to provide temporary homes for some of the dogs so none would have to be euthanized.

Sign me up.Edie Nan selfie

But then I got Edie in the car with me and we took a good look at each other.

Oops.

If you don’t believe in love at first sight, let me be the first to tell you that it does indeed exist. Edie sleeps on my pillow every night.

And there was the tiny Dalmatian puppy that we plucked from a Craigslist ad on behalf of our local Dalmatian Rescue organization. She was three and a half months old and the new owners found that a baby puppy AND a human toddler were too much for them to handle at the same time. Ah, buyer’s remorse.

580194_10201013777690297_1437750559_nI will never forget the look on Jim’s face when he took that tiny spotted puppy into his arms. I sensed my first “uh-oh” moment in that instant.

The pup was not in great health…her initial owners had not taken her to the veterinarian for necessary vaccinations and worming.  We had to give this little “foster” puppy some time to get healthy and put on a little weight before we could list her for adoption.

Do I really have to tell you that she “showed up and never left?”

This brings us to our final category, our foster dogs. We foster a lot of dogs. At any given time we may have five or six dogs living with us that are available for adoption. Of course you have to pass the Nancy/Jim standard to be approved, but we love finding the perfect home for each of our foster dogs.

foursome

Foster dogs? SUNLs? It’s a fuzzy line sometimes. Robby is he dark dog in the back…and he just might have a wonderful new home.

And because we are willing to let our foster dogs leave the Tails You Win Farm nest doesn’t mean we love them any less. It doesn’t mean that at all.

It means we have simply run out of room on the bed.

Ok, it really means a bit more than that.

It means we know that there is a great home out there for a great dog and it’s our job to make that match.

I remember talking with a woman who rescued a huge number of dogs (she makes us look like complete amateurs). I asked her about some puppies I knew she had and was shocked when she told me she would not be trying to place any of them. Why? Her response was simple.

“No one can love these dogs as much as I do.”

Yikes. Call Animal Planet. I think we have an episode brewing here.

And this is how I know we’re not hoarders.

Well, there are actually a number of things that set Jim and I apart from dog hoarders…good conditions, healthy spayed/neutered dogs, top notch dog food, regular vet care, no random bowls of dog food overflowing on counters and floors throughout the house, no vile odor wafting from the house into the front yard, no filthy, unkempt dogs (well, I make no promises during mud season), and no cats. You have to toss in the random trailer full of cats in a true hoarding situation. Oh, and we don’t have 30…40…50…100 dogs.

But the real reason I am quite sure we are not hoarders? Because we are very willing to let our lovely foster dogs go to new, well-screened, responsible, fantastic, deserving, wonderful, capable, loving homes (we have strict standards…all adjectives must apply).

I absolutely believe someone can love my foster dogs as much as I do. I have numerous “happily ever after” stories to prove it.

Today, we’re hopefully proving it once again. My foster dog Robby is off visiting a potential home today. If all goes well, his adoption will be finalized this week and he will live his life as the center of attention for a lovely retired couple.

They have a dog bed in just about every room of the house ready and waiting for him. They will take him for walks. They will sit outside with him on beautiful summer evenings. They will slip him little treats from their plates at the dinner table. They will give him everything he could possibly need and then some.

Although Robby looked a bit surprised as I left him behind at the front door with those friendly strangers (the hardest part of rescue for me…how do I explain why I’m leaving?), I have no doubt that he’ll soon settle in to be the devoted companion I know he can be, and I know this couple is ready to reciprocate the adoration.

Nope, we’re not hoarders. I’m quite sure of it. I know because we love Robby so very much, we’re willing to let him go.

Be a good boy, Robby. I think these are your perfect people.

(But we’re right here if you ever need us!)