All Duck Jokes Aside…

11222641_10207088710479820_3429991043406163465_nMay has been a great month. If you’re a duck.

Ohhhhhhh. HAHAHAHAHA. Wooooo…snort…hahahahaha! That’s a good one. Yeah. Hysterical.

For the record, I am not a duck.

The month of May in my-neck-of-the-woods Oklahoma is rather famous for being a thunderstormy time of year. Rainy days are not a shock during the fifth month of the year around here. Usually.

Day after day after day after day of rain is, however, a different story. I think we have had something like 30 days of rain in the last 24 days.

I may have that wrong.

Whatever the actual number, it’s a lot. It’s way more rainy days than not rainy days.

1509948_10152813494209422_1517234258837950771_nWhat this means for me: Mud. Lots and lots of mud. Lots of dogs sporting lots of mud.

I’ve tried to look at the situation from an artistic standpoint. You know, you look at clouds to see what shapes you can find? Well, I’m looking at the mud patterns on the dogs, on the floor, on the furniture, on my clothes, on my bedspread to see what I can see.

So far I just see mud.

And with all of the storms and wet and gunk, we’ve had to limit the dogs’ yard time to keep the whole fenced area from turning into a giant swamp.

What this means for me: Bored dogs.

Oh the dogs are bored. The energy they normally burn during several romp/wrestle/run sessions in the yard is now pinging around inside their little and not-so-little bodies like a bunch of bumble bees trapped inside a mason jar.

All attempts to entertain the beasts have failed and they are making up their own games.

What this means for me: Stuff is getting torn up.

The couches are no longer getting destroyed…that’s so yesterday. But with Sir Look-What-I-Can-Reach (aka: Kainan the wolfdog) in the house, mischief and mayhem are the order of the day. Or shall we say night.

Yeah, when the humans fall off into a muck-induced coma/sleep, Kainan apparently heads off in the house to find ways to entertain himself. Let’s see…victims include one half of a birthday cake (it was WAY out of reach…or so we thought…lemon…Boog the now seven year old cow dog was not pleased. Happy birthday anyway, Boog), one set of earbuds, electric dog clippers and blade guards (clippers survived…blade guards are lost somewhere in the grass we can’t yet mow because, you guessed it, it won’t stop raining), one Baylor Bears shirt that was to be a gift for a new high school graduate headed off to college next fall, two dog beds, one Dirty Dog door mat (yeah, that is ironic), and who knows what else.

I just really can’t keep track any longer.

We were warned that wolfdogs are smart and that they are mischievous – a dastardly combination. But just as no one can really explain how much a kidney stone hurts, no one can really tell you just how much havoc a wolfdog can wreak in your home.

I know, I know…dog trainer, heal thyself.

Brooke and Cookie go to ChinaI just think the rain may have melted my resolve. I think my guard has not only dropped, but has been sucked into the vortex that was once the underground condo the dogs were excavating in the backyard. The condo, by they way, has not held up well in the monsoon. We think it’s a combo of some structural issues and a sincere lack of French drains. The dogs are back at the drafting table. The condo may now be a Jacuzzi.

If the rain doesn’t stop soon, I fear even more drama could unfold. You see, the mechanism that operates our front gate is solar powered. That means it needs sunshine to continue to function. And we aren’t seeing much sunshine these days, months, years.

I could be wrong about the months, years part.

What this means to me: We could be trapped here.

bob 2Oh sure, we have food and water to last a bit, but if we truly end up stranded here, I have bad news for Bob the sheep. We have decided that in the event of extreme emergency, Bob will be the first animal consumed on Tails You Win Farm.

Bob hopes I could be wrong about that. 

Obviously I am kidding. We will not be eating Bob. Unless there is a zombie apocalypse.

What a zombie apocalypse could mean for Bob: Shish Ka-Bob.*

On the find-the-silver-lining front, all of this lovely freaking rain means that we are NOT currently experiencing a drought. We have very full ponds so all of the frogs, fish, turtles, geese, and, yes, ducks are quite deliriously happy.

1907455_10152813492479422_6046102528494206089_nBut even Jerry Swinefeld, our resident hog, is actually sick of the mud. I’m sick of the mud. The dogs are sick of the mud.

Truly, I’m not whining. Really I’m not. I’m not complaining. I’m feeling nothing but gratitude for nature’s bounty.

I could be wrong about that.

(*Nooooo…we will not really eat Bob.) 

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Spring has Sprung. All Over the Darn Place.

IMG_1903_2Aren’t April showers supposed to bring May flowers? Well, apparently we’re a tad behind here in Oklahoma because May monsoon has arrived and shows no signs of surrender to any sort of fair weather inspired floral displays.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the rain. I am . Most days.

Good rain showers now mean that we will have a great hay harvest this summer…hopefully two cuttings so we will have plenty for our own animals and perhaps enough to sell at a good, fair price to the neighbor who has cattle. We always like to have enough for everyone.

Good rain showers also mean reduced fire danger. Going through a couple of summers of drought will put that in very clear perspective for you. We have had “volunteer” fires sweep onto our property in the past, and were very grateful for our fine volunteer fire fighters who swarmed the place with great enthusiasm. Do you ever wonder if volunteer fire fighters are really closet pyromaniacs who stay just to the right of a very fine line? No matter. Those guys were awesome.

Good rain showers also mean salvation for my bandaided-following-extensive-beaver-damange pond. Last year’s remaining puddle has been restored to its full glory complete with beautiful, flowering lily pads adrift. Side note, if you have a body of water on your property that you enjoy and you one day see a cute little beaver swimming around in it, do everything you can to encourage that little flat-tailed, tree destroying, pond draining bastard to move along. You may (as I did) initially find him charming, and then he will destroy every bit of scenery you hold dear.

Back to gratitude! Yes, gratitude. The pond is full to the brim and lovely, not a beaver dam in sight.

Good rain showers also mean mud. So much mud. And I’ll be honest, I’m struggling to find gratitude for the mud.

The mud on Tails You Win Farm seems to somehow have a life of its own. No matter how hard I try. No matter how much I clean. The stuff just keeps creeping in. A smear here. A glop there. On this chair. On my shirt. Coating our shoes. Changing a Dalmatian into a chocolate Lab.

Just yesterday, on Sunday – you know, that fictional day of rest – I spent the day in an all out battle. I vacuumed, I scrubbed, I washed bedding, I broke out my beloved professional floor scrubber. I cleaned and cleaned and cleaned some more.

Finally, several hours into my frenzy, feeling that I had accomplished the ultimate conquest, I turned to survey my sparkling home and saw…saw…

20150517_145141Oh Kainan. Buddy. Good thing I love you more than I love my almost-clean-for-a-second-there home. I shall live to clean another day.

Maybe, just maybe, I can find gratitude for mud because you and your dog friends obviously have such great fun playing in it. I’ll work on that. Maybe I’ll just throw in the towel and play with you.

Mud pies for everyone!

Have To? I’d Love To.

Nan and Mom 2One day, several years ago, I was leaving work and in the process of saying goodbye to co-workers I said, “I have to go see my mom.”

Have to.

Mom lived in a nearby assisted living community. She was in her mid-80s and she was fit as a fiddle physically, but her dear mind had begun to play some pretty significant tricks on her. Visiting mom was pretty much a daily event. You know, routine. “I have to go to work, I have to go see Mom.”

I didn’t mean anything by it, that “have to” I tossed out there. In the moment, I didn’t really even realize how I had said it…or how it may have sounded. And I doubt anyone else gave it a second thought.

But I did.

On the drive over to spend some time with my mom, my heart reached up, tapped me on my shoulder and said, “Hey…you don’t have to go see Mom. You get to. Remember that. Because someday you won’t have to and you sure won’t get to.”

Oh heart, you wise and wonderful muscle! How right you are, I thought.

You have to go to the dentist. You have to pay your taxes. You have to take out the trash.

Mom and her girlsBut spend time with your beautiful 85 year old mom? Spend time with the woman who rolled your fine little girl hair on those pink spongy rollers every night in an attempt to have curls for even a minute the next day? The woman who made your family amazing fried chicken every Monday evening in the pre-cholesterol concern era? The mom who dutifully drove you to the horse barn every non-school morning and then repeated the trip to pick you up every single evening? The mom who encouraged your love of drawing and who saw a spark of something good in your early writing? The mom who was always 100% there for you, even when you didn’t really realize it?

That’s a get-to visit. A grab and cherish every moment you can get-to.

From that day forward, I consciously changed my phrasing and my attitude from “have to” to “get to.” Oh sure, some days weren’t easy. Some visits were taxing, emotional, and draining. My mother, in the grips of dementia, was not always the sweet, compassionate, gentle, fun-loving woman who raised me. Some days it seemed nothing made her happy.

But still, I did get to see my mother. And for each of the days, in the last years of her life, that were a bit of a struggle, there were 10 days that were great ones. Most of our time together we laughed, we sang, we danced, we held hands, we played with one of my dogs, we talked, we walked together, we conquered Bingo as a team, and we loved each other. Always.

Now, I don’t get to see my mom. It’s Mother’s Day and I don’t “get to.”

But I do get to celebrate her. I do get to remember her. I do get to feel her spirit alive and well within my heart…the heart she created and nurtured. She didn’t have to. She wanted to.

Do you have to, or get to? We should all think carefully about the ones we love, the ones who spent a lifetime caring for us, and who perhaps need to lean on us these days. “Get to” now because some day you won’t be able to, and you’d sure love to. I’d sure love to.

mom and donkHappy Mother’s Day, Margaret Kirk Gallimore. You were and are loved so dearly. You are missed every single day. What a cool, amazing, fun mom I get to remember.

Thank you for sending me seagulls and for popping into my head every time I find a button for our jar. 

Talk to the Animals? I’d Rather Listen.

Toby boss 2

There is a lot of talking going on in this moment…but not a sound was made.

As humans, I think we are a rather arrogant species.

We are!

We spend a lot of time talking about how to train animals, to make them understand our language. We come up with all sorts of tools and gadgets to make animals do our bidding. Sometimes we yell, we bark out commands like a drill sergeant. And all of our efforts are often met with confusion and stress.

Boy. We’re really missing out.

Animals of all species have rich language. They communicate subtly and effectively. The twitch of an ear. A glance. A flick of a tongue. The curve of a back.

If only we could just hush for just a bit. If we could just learn to stop filling the silence with a lot of words that are often not given the chance to have meaning, we could learn so much. We could work together with our companion animals so much more effectively.

The horse trainer who understands an ear turned one way or the other, or the message of a horse making chewing motions and licking his lips, is the trainer who will work with a horse fairly and without force to form a meaningful bond.

A dog trainer who understands a deliberate glance away, a quick sit, a dropped head, or a big yawn, is a dog trainer who can work to make a huge difference for a stressed dog.

A human who understands what it means when a wolfdog gets up from his spot by the desk, walks all the way downstairs to find “something,” and returns just a few moments later to place a dog food bowl in said human’s lap…well…

Yeah. I got up from my desk and fed the dogs breakfast.

Sometimes animal communication is anything but subtle. Sometimes the language gap is bridged rather brilliantly.

Well done, Kainan, you clever boy. I heard you loud and clear.

Interested in learning more about how dogs communicate? This is a brilliant article written by Turid Rugaas on calming signals. She also has a great book entitled “On Talking Terms With Dogs: Calming Signals.” Anyone who wants to learn to work with dogs…or just improve your relationship with your own dog should read this book.