Hope for Merry.

Merry 2It was November 11 when I first wrote about her.  Many kind people have asked about her since that story and I really don’t have much of an update to share.

She’s still out there living on her own. She still doesn’t trust. She still needs to come home with me.

I dubbed her Merry. I was so sure I’d have her sitting on the couch cuddled up beside me by now, but Merry is very streetwise. She knows how to play the game. Seek the humans out, accept food from the humans, but dance just out of their reach.

I generally see Merry once or twice a week. Sometimes I don’t see her for a couple of weeks. I watch for her every day. She’s always in the same area…within a quarter of a mile or so of our first meeting spot. She recognizes my Jeep now and will actually follow me as I pull to the side of the road to offer some food,  trying to entice the dog to come to me. But she always moves away, the initial interest shining in her gaze quickly clouded over by mistrust.

At first, I was just sure she must live in one of the sheds behind an abandoned house not far from her normal route. But Jim checked the sheds out and saw no sign that the young dog had been bedding down there. Now, with a light crust of sleet and snow on the ground, I revisited the ramshackle structures to search for paw prints and there were none. Her hiding place is still a complete mystery.

Yesterday, as I was turning on the road that leads to my farm, I saw Merry again. Actually, she saw me first and popped out of the weeds along the roadside, deliberately following my Jeep. Spotting her in my rear view mirror, I quickly pulled over, grabbed the dog treats that are always at the ready, and got out to offer Merry a snack.

I talked to her, I coaxed her, but she remained about eight feet from me, staring hopefully at the biscuits in my outstretched hand. Well aware of our routine, I gently tossed a few biscuits about halfway between us. She darted forward, grabbing two biscuits, and hopped back to what must have seemed a safe distance to her before crunching her treat.

A couple of other cars stopped – kind people wanting to help – but their good intentions always have the opposite effect. For each step forward I gain, the added people, each believing they will be the one to catch the stray dog, actually set me about 10 steps back. Last night I retreated to my car to take pressure off the dog and to allow another man to try to reach her. He got so close.

Eventually though, growing increasingly wary in the spotlight of our attention, Merry retreated completely, trotting quickly across the road and into the field. There her tan coat melted into the backdrop of tall, dry grass and she easy disappeared.

I leave food out for her, I know others are doing the same. While I am glad she is not going hungry, I’m also frustrated because she doesn’t have to learn to depend on just one person. With so many of us trying to help her, we’re also making it too easy for her to remain feral.

I’m not giving up, though. One of my dearest friends worked for four months to catch a chow mix dog that was living near a truck stop. She never quit believing she would eventually catch that dog. I will never quit believing that Merry is destined to come to me, that she should be relaxing on a soft bed in our home.

It’s very cold outside tonight. At least Merry has the comfort of a full tummy. I hope she has a warm, safe place to sleep.

Tomorrow we will start the dance again.

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Christmas With Shelby and Friends

shelby bwWhen I first saw Shelby, he was taking a nap in a nice sunny spot. The temperatures were mild for December and Shelby looked perfectly content snuggled under a blanket his human had tucked carefully around him. The stout, copper-colored dog was snoozing so comfortably you almost didn’t notice the shopping cart he was tethered to, filled with clothing, blankets, and a plastic bag of dog food perched on top.

Shelby’s cozy form in the early light actually a painted a picture of serenity, though the dog was about the only creature enjoying a little peace and quiet at Iron Gate that morning. The rest of the place was buzzing with activity – volunteers preparing food and filling plates, a steady line of people passing through the serving line. Over in a far corner of the room, behind the swiftly filling rows of tables and chairs, was my station where Santa Bob (he just goes by Bob the other 364 days of the year!) and Jim were busy handing out little gifts and lots of necessities.

An amazing non-profit organization based in downtown Tulsa, Iron Gate’s mission is simple: Feed the hungry and homeless in Tulsa – every day. And that’s exactly what they do. Every single day, all year around, people in need can go to Iron Gate, in the basement of Trinity Episcopal Church, to enjoy a warm meal in a clean, safe environment.

Jim and I were first drawn to Iron Gate because it is also one of the pet food distribution points for Feeding the Pets of Tulsa’s Homeless. Every Wednesday morning, employees of our city animal shelter are stationed in the parking lot outside of Iron Gate handing out small bags of dog or cat food to anyone who needs it.

I was initially surprised to learn how many homeless or low income people do have pets. But the more time I have spent helping raise food donations for the group, the more it all makes sense. A dog is a loyal friend, not to mention a great little alarm system when a person has to sleep outside at night. Dogs don’t judge, they don’t question. If they receive affection and care, they give loyalty and love in return. In reality, homeless people often care for dogs or cats that are homeless as well – they are drawn to each other. They need each other.

Shelby’s owner told me how he found the dog injured and starving by a roadside. He worked to nurse the dog that no one else wanted back to health. Now he has a loyal friend and protector. Shelby was quite friendly in the setting outside of Iron Gate, but his owner assured me that Shelby took care of him just as much as he provided care for Shelby.

“No one messes with me or my stuff with Shelby there.”

I can honestly tell you that all of the dogs I have seen that belong to homeless people appear to be amazingly healthy.  I have found that the homeless are very devoted to their animal companions, so much so that they often put the needs of their pets ahead of their own needs.

One of the animal control officers that spearheads the Feeding the Pets of Tulsa’s Homeless program told me a story about a time he bought a sandwich for a homeless man he ran into outside of a convenience store. As he got into his truck, he saw the man immediately unwrapping the sandwich to feed bites to the dog sitting quietly by his side.

The dog ate before his human had a bite.

OK. See what happens when you get me talking…or writing…about dogs? I stray (yes, great word choice). Back to Christmas morning we go.

With lots of changes in my family and holiday routines in recent years, Jim and I decided that we wanted to start some new Christmas traditions of our own. So for our Christmas morning, we gathered up a bunch of goodie bags we had put together for kids, as well as some gifts for any dog friends that might show up, and headed downtown to Iron Gate to meet our good friend Bob. We expected a number of children to be at Iron Gate for breakfast, so we wanted them all to see Santa and receive something special for the holiday.

As it turned out – you can never predict who will show up at Iron Gate on any given day – there were very few children at breakfast that morning. But the place was packed with hungry people, and the regular volunteers created a cheery, festive atmosphere for their guests.

Santa Bob 2Instead of handing out our carefully prepared bags, we were given boxes of socks, blankets, gloves, woolly hats, and other essentials to distribute. And yeah, we raided the goody bags, gave out all of the candy, and sent toys and stuffed animals with anyone who said they had kids. Even a few people who perhaps didn’t have kids seemed to love receiving a toy or candy cane. Everyone loves a little gift on Christmas, right?

I will admit that the first 10 to 15 minutes in our little corner space were a bit overwhelming as people crowded around to see what we had, what might meet some of their needs. I was initially a bit of a deer in the headlights, but then quickly found my smile and hit my stride.

Clean socks were a priority. Blankets went quickly. Many hoped for backpacks and I was sorry we had none. What I found was, for the most part, the people were polite, did not try to take more than what would meet their immediate needs, and they were grateful. I was thanked time and time again for being there with them on Christmas morning.

Jim, Santa Bob, and I worked from 8 to 10:30 a.m., digging through boxes to find one more hat, one more pair of gloves, as we helped people prepare for our soon-to-change weather. Though Christmas day was mild and sunny, the forecast promised torrential rain and dipping temperatures over the course of the weekend, with sleet and snow predicted for the start of the new week. A rough prospect for those with no roof over their heads.

Back outside, in addition to Shelby, two other dogs had arrived and were tethered to a fence while patiently waiting for their humans to return from breakfast. They weren’t stressed, they weren’t barking or pacing. They were just waiting and watching. There was no separation anxiety among these three. Just a seemingly quiet understanding that their people would be back soon.

Jim and I were, of course, very prepared for canine guests that morning. All three dogs got new, brightly colored coats to wear. All received goody bags filled with biscuits, a toy, and chew bones.

shelby and toyThe dogs were lovely. They were friendly and happy. I enjoyed a little break with Shelby while his owner was still inside. Shelby was dressed in a makeshift dog coat fashioned out of t-shirts and some sort of tube top. I was pleased that Shelby would now have a proper coat to wear, but he seemed quite comfy in his eclectic ensemble.

Back inside the Iron Gate dining room, people were finishing up last bites of a generous meal, gathering their belongings, and stopping to say thank you for our time there. I assured each person I spoke with that there was no place I’d rather be that morning. And I meant it.

After things at Iron Gate closed down for another day, Jim and I, suddenly famished ourselves, stopped at a convenience store for for a breakfast sandwich to eat on the drive back to Tails You Win Farm. At home, we celebrated our own little Christmas, exchanging fun gifts, watching the dogs compete for the best new toy (whichever toy another dog had at that moment), and just spending a little rare time relaxing together.

We had a really great day.

Christmas has always been a favorite time of year for me. I grew up with huge family celebrations and  now, as my family has changed through the years, I’m finding new joy in re-inventing our holiday, finding meaning in new ways and places. I think the joy and purpose that Jim and I found in our first-time experience volunteering at Iron Gate will spill over to many more days of the year beyond the holidays. That’s a pretty special gift to receive.

Mother Teresa once said that it is Christmas every time you smile at your brother and offer him your hand. What incredibly wise and meaningful words.

Shelby and JimI’m sure Jim and I will be returning to work with the amazing volunteer group at Iron Gate again. I’m very sure it won’t just be during the holidays. I’ve already started working to gather some backpacks, some warm coats, and other useful items. And I know I’ll always have pockets full of dog biscuits and some bright dog coats to share, because many of my “brothers” have four legs and wagging tails and they deserve a Christmas too.

Today and every day.

 

The Greatest Gifts…And It’s Not Even Christmas Yet.

Charlie bed

Handsome Charlie

This has been a joy-filled week. My heart has that feeling in it that you get when you are just beyond happy. I’ve always struggled to find the words to describe it. It’s a fluttery, excited, feeling that just bubbles up  from your chest to put a smile on your face and a light in your eyes.

Heart bubbles. Yes. That’s the best way to describe the feeling. Beautiful, shiny, floaty bubbles (not to be confused with indigestion or burps…I’m a step ahead of my wonderfully, hysterically sophomoric friends on that one!).

I made a promise to myself last week that I was going to have an amazing Christmas. I decided that the best way to ensure the success of that mission was to put out into the world exactly what I hoped to receive back.

Some years I get so rushed and panicky about last minute shopping (because apparently I don’t learn from year to year that Christmas ALWAYS comes in December and it’s ok to start shopping a month or two early) that I end up on the grumpy and stressed end of the holiday joy meter.

But this year I decided that it was all going to come together and that everything would be great. So I put it out there. Everyone I ran into, or talked with, or purchased something from, or spoke with on the phone got a heartfelt Merry Christmas. And it felt good to put my wishes out there. And the goodness bubbled up from my heart to put a happy smile on my face.

Guess what? People smiled back. They exchanged greetings with me. And gifts started coming back to me. I got some GREAT gifts this week. I don’t necessarily mean the wrapped-up-and-tied-with-a-bow kind. I mean gifts you can’t buy or package.

Here, I’ll share a few with you.

First, I got a visit from a special guy that lived with Jim and me at Tails You Win Farm for some time, but then found a happy home of his own. His name is Charlie and he is a handsome spotted fellow with a wagging tail. I hadn’t seen Charlie in probably a year or more, so seeing him walk into my business with his new owner – just to say hello and thanks again – was a wonderful surprise.

I immediately fell to my knees to say hello. Charlie was a bit distracted – there were a lot of dogs coming in to board with us over the holiday – so for about 15 seconds or so, he accepted my attention with polite indifference.

And then he noticed.

When he finally really looked at and got a good sniff of the woman scratching his chest, his tail started whipping wildly from side to side and I got the most wonderful, enthusiastic doggy hugs and kisses. We all laughed as Charlie obviously said, “OH! It’s YOU! I know you! HI!”

That was a pretty great gift. But you know what the best gift of all was? It was when Charlie calmed down from recognizing me and immediately fell back close to his new human’s side, looking up at her as if to say, it’s great to visit Nancy, but I’m still going back home with you, right?

Oh yes, Charlie. You are most certainly going back home with your people.

Charlie’s body language was so clear and so endearing. There is nothing more wonderful than when one of my former foster dogs is thrilled to see me, but even more focused on his new people. That means Jim and I did our job. We found a perfect match and it is a joy to see.

Oh, there go those heart bubbles again!

The next gift I received was incredibly special. If you have followed along with me here, you know that Jim and I have a wolfdog named Kainan. We took him in when he was found stray and terribly malnourished. We quickly fell head over heels in love with him. He is now a very permanent member of our family.

20140901_103907But we were not his rescuers. Nope. Kainan was first rescued by two ladies who were out for a walk on an August morning. Because our connection was through a mutual friend, I never actually spoke with Kainan’s first angels.

This week, Judi, one of those wonderful ladies, stopped by to introduce herself and say hello. What a pleasure to finally get to hug and thank the person who didn’t look the other way when she saw this young wolfdog following slowly behind her, struggling and in desperate need of help. Meeting Judi was such a special event to me that deserves its own story. I can’t wait to tell you all about it.

A heart bubbling moment for sure.

11114095_10207000607237294_1910729615277641299_nThe next gift was, in part, a physical gift. A really special one. Earlier this year Jim and I took in a little speckled dog with huge, beautiful ears from an area animal shelter. Hannah was an absolute joy to have in our home. She was affable, sweet-tempered, funny, and loved to play with all of our dogs. It would have been so easy to  just keep her forever.

Ah, but we can’t keep them all – we have to repeat that statement to each other frequently – and we both had a feeling that Hannah really belonged to someone else. Almost from the moment she walked through our door, Jim felt that Hannah was meant to be our friend Sue’s new dog.

Long story short, we’ve known Sue for some time now and we have placed a couple of neat dogs with her through the years. She is a wonderful, kind, gentle person. Dogs who get to be a part of Sue’s family are beyond lucky.

Sue had recently lost a beloved dog and Jim and I knew it might be too soon to mention Hannah to her. So we just waited a bit and enjoyed Hannah ourselves. Then we tossed the idea of Hannah Sue’s way.

They met. Sue thought it over. They spent some time together. Sue’s heart was still healing and we knew this story needed to play out in its own time and own way. But through the process, we both just felt so sure that Hannah had come to us only as a stopover on her way to Sue.

Hannah ornament 2This week Sue, who has had Hannah for a few months now, stopped by with the most wonderful present for us. Wrapped in tissue inside a gift bag was an ornament – a white dog with speckles and huge, beautiful ears. A Hannah ornament!

I would not trade my Hannah ornament for all of the huge, lavish gifts in the world. This is my treasure. It’s just what I always wanted and continue to want. It represents another wonderful, deserving dog paired with another wonderful human.

Bubble, bubble, bubble!

What a week of amazing gifts. I thank each of the people who thought to come by to visit and share gratitude with me. It’s a busy two-way street for sure; I am beyond grateful to them as well. Jim and I could not do the rescue work we do if there were not quiet angels helping along the way, and fabulous happily-ever-after stories, because yeah – chant with me – we can’t keep them all. We can’t keep them all. We can’t keep them all.

Now the actual holiday is less than 24 hours away. I can’t imagine it getting any better than it already has been. But let’s put it out there one more time…

Merry Christmas to all!  I wish you bubbles…hearts filled with lots and lots of bubbles.

 

A Different Kind of Merry.

Baby Nan and Santa Dad

Baby Nan visiting with the REAL Santa

Christmas. Just saying the word brings a smile to my face. I admit it, I love Christmas.

When I was a kid, my family celebrated in a big, festive, fa-la-la-la manner. We kind of had to because, in case you didn’t realize it, my father, who for 11 months of the year was Dr. John W. Gallimore, Jr., DDS, became Santa Claus during the month of December. I’m talking THE Santa Claus.

Santa Dad revNo, really. He was the real deal. He had the red velvety costume, the big black boots, the white beard, a booming HO-HO-HO, and the hat with the fluffy band. Ask any number of kids who sat on his lap to whisper their wishes in his ear. R-E-A-L.

Ok. The beard may have been fake.

But the twinkle in Dad’s eye? That was the real deal.

And together with his Mrs. Claus (aka: Mom for most of the year), well, our house was filled with shiny, sparkly, bow-festooned Christmas magic.

It’s not that our celebration was unusual, or outside of the box. If anything, our traditions were firmly IN the box. And it was perfect.

It kicked off a week or so after Thanksgiving when we would race around the corner lot to find that one perfect tree that begged to be ours…while also meeting Dad’s exacting expectations.  The tree had to be six feet tall, with still-soft needles, and a very straight trunk. You did NOT want to bring home a tree with a wonky, crooked trunk.

We always found our perfect tree. And sometimes the trunk was crooked. And Dad would grumble a little as he tried to get the tree into the stand, straight and tall. Sorry Dad.

But it was perfect anyway.

My sisters and I would decorate it with Mom’s  guidance. She liked red lights. She liked the ornaments spaced evenly around the tree. She liked the icicles placed carefully, one slender ribbon of silver at a time. No clumps. When she wasn’t looking, I would grab a handful of icicles and toss them into the air, letting them flutter down on the tree in a haphazard  manner.

Mom always said it was the prettiest tree ever.

Christmas Eve was feast time.  Our extended family would gather at our home, in festive holiday attire. I’d always ride in the car with mom to pick up Grandma Daisy and great-Aunt Elva. We’d take the long route home so we could admire all of the best Christmas light displays in town. Then Grandpa and Grandma, Dad’s parents, would arrive and I’d rush outside to help transfer Grandma’s amazing homemade pies from their car to our kitchen, maybe getting a small taste of meringue on my finger in the process.

There was so much food. Mom would worry that the turkey was dry.  There was a running joke about hovering over the gravy on the stove to stir, stir, stir so it wouldn’t be lumpy. There was a kid’s table. There was a lot of laughter. There was excitement and anticipation and lots of hugs.

My sister Terry would play the piano as we sang Christmas carols. We weren’t really a family of singers. It didn’t matter. We sang loudly and passionately. We might have digressed to silly at times. OK, no “might” about it.

My sisters and I did a mad rendition of We Three Kings. We even harmonized. Or at least we tried. If we were slightly off key, and I’m fairly sure we were, no one complained.

It was perfect. Our grandparents always said so.

Before bedtime each kid was allowed to choose and open one gift to whet the pre-Christmas appetite. There were cookies and milk to set out. Then it was off to bed to pretend to sleep while listening carefully as Mom and Dad shuffled around, working their Christmas magic.

Remember, Dad really was Santa Claus and Mom really was the jolly man’s missus.

And finally there was Christmas morning. First, there were filled stockings placed strategically at our bedside, presumably to give us our first little gift of the day, but in reality, I think, to allow the couple Claus just a few more minutes of peace and a first cup of coffee. Their calm before the Christmas storm.

The year I hoped and prayed and hinted for a Mrs. Beasley doll?  She was there, righ under the tree. The year my letter to Santa promised all sorts of good deeds in exchange for a Beautiful Crissy doll? She showed up to share my Christmas morning. The year my obsession with horses was at its peak? A blue cowboy hat and new boots were nestled in tissue inside the box with my name on it.

And the year I really, really, really just wanted a hamster? I named him Kris Kringle.

Santa didn’t disappoint. And, in the eyes of young Nancy, Christmas was pure magic.

Family christmas revAs I grew older, as our family grew to include grandkids,  and as I started to really watch, I realized the magic wasn’t in the gifts, but rather in watching my parents’ excitement as they helped the holiday unfold. The true joy of the season, I grew to understand, was behind the flying tissue paper and oooos and ahhhhs. It was right back to that twinkle in Santa’s eye.

Now, with the passing of time, a lot of things have changed. My family has changed. Those grandkids, my nieces and nephews, are all grown up and have families of their own. My grandparents are gone, and my sister Terry now answers to the name Grandma. I am great-Aunt Nan.

My oldest sister is gone.

My parents are gone.

Christmas looks very different now. Celebrations have shifted and rearranged. Family members come together some years, and go different directions on others. Some are near to us, some are near in our hearts.

Christmas is smaller. It is quieter. We create new traditions. Sometimes it’s just me and Jim surrounded by the dogs that are our family. And, you know, that’s perfect too.

The magic may have a different sparkle, but even with a softer glow, it still shines so beautifully.

This year we’ll celebrate a lovely Christmas Eve at home. Just two people and a herd of dogs. Maybe we’ll start the evening by taking some apples and carrots out to the animals in the barn. I think I’ll ask Santa for a clear, crisp night with a sky sparkling with stars and a bright, full moon.

Then maybe we’ll fix our own little Christmas Eve dinner with all of the trimmings. We’ll light a fire, we’ll turn out all of the lights leaving just the Christmas tree to glow–you know, the tree with the crooked trunk that begged to be mine. There will be classic Christmas movies; maybe we’ll watch White Christmas, or we might give the night a dose of laughter with a Chevy Chase twist. And we’ll each open just one small gift.

On Christmas morning, we’ll get up extra early to head downtown to help a different Santa hand out small gifts we have prepared for children gathering with their families to enjoy a warm, free breakfast. I think we might sing carols. I think we will sing loudly and passionately.

SANTA & NANCY rev

Our own little Christmas. Santa Jim!

And, like my dear Santa once did, I will have a twinkle in my eye that just might escape to trace down my cheek as I remember, as I honor, and as I embrace my new traditions. Different, yes, but still merry. Still wonderful. Still filled with magic.

Thank you, Santa, for this one lasting gift. You taught me well. It’s just what I always wanted.

And it’s absolutely perfect.

The Secret Lives of Animals

these two too

I admit it. I spy on our animals.

I’m not really trying to catch them committing some doggy crime or horsey misstep, though we have put a hidden camera in the house a time or two to solve a few mysteries. The purpose of my espionage is pure and simple.

I just want to see my animal companions being themselves.

If I join them in the yard or out in the pasture, their games, their focus, and their activities become centered around me. I can’t seem to convince them to ignore the human and go about their business. So sometimes, instead of joining them, I simply watch and photograph them from a second floor window.

This vantage point overlooks the backyard and allows a good view of a majority of our horse pasture, as well. I love sitting up there just after dawn. On a clear day it’s a magical time on our farm and the rosy glow of the sun’s first peek over the horizon serves as a lovely backdrop for our animals, framing them in glowing halos.

This morning I sat shivering a bit in the open window. Our Indian summer has finally surrendered to autumns’s chill. But I stayed perfectly quiet in my “box-seat” perch as I waited for my furry actors to take the stage.

these twoI was soon treated to a play session between Kainan, our wolfdog, and Snowflake, our husky/malamute mix girl. They are the perfect pair. Both are nordic breeds (a DNA test revealed that one of Kainan’s parents was a husky/malamute mix, while the other parent was a wolfdog), and both boast woolly coats that are impervious to the early morning cold.

These two play every day. It actually seems like an elaborate dance that involves much leaping, twisting, rolling, and racing about. If you watch long enough, you will actually see a pattern revealed. Their play is not random. They have favorite games.

Kainan’s personal favorite is the “prey vs. predator” game. Kainan will crouch down, his head level with back, his body tensed, his gaze locked onto his gazelle in dog’s clothing. Snowflake, or any of the other players, will wander innocently past and then WHAM! The giant pounce and take-down.

Calm before the pounceIf the prey happens to be lucky, he or she will escape certain pretend death and then the wild game of chase is on. If the prey is really lucky, the tables will be turned and the hunter will become the hunted. Kainan loves it when this happens. He loves to have the other dogs chase him. He runs away halfheartedly and then falls to the ground dramatically as the smaller dogs pile on. It’s like seeing a favorite big brother in a rowdy play session with his younger siblings.

I’ve also been watching the pasture a lot now that Big Paul, the Belgian draft horse we recently saved from slaughter, is free to interact with the other Tails You Win Farm horses. For more than a month, Paul has shown little interest in trying to fit in with our herd. He preferred to stay shut in his own private little pasture. Now, however, he is free to mingle with the others, or free to be apart. It’s all up to him.

Morning glow

Paulie, far right, still enjoys his personal space, but the gap is closing.

Right now I’d say he prefers to stay on the fringe of the group. He is a very calm, easy-going horse and has not challenged any of our horses, in fact, if any of them give him a hard look, he just moves quietly away.

But as each day passes, as I watch from my vantage point, I can see specific horses starting to warm to Big Paul, in fact, a couple of the mares seem to be a bit flirtatious with Mr. tall, blonde, and handsome. I’d say the ladies have excellent taste and I’d say Paul’s quiet demeanor is serving him well.

I learn so much about my animals by just quietly, unobtrusively watching their natural interactions. I can’t wait to see what game the dogs invent next. I look forward to seeing Big Paul continue to feel safe, secure, and welcome in his new home.

Carry on kids. Pay no attention to the smiling woman watching from the second floor.

All Grown Up…But I Regress.

 

Nan and Skippy

This carefree kid! Where the heck has she gone?

It has been a grown-up kind of week. A hectic, tail-chasing, how-did-I-get-to-this-point-in-life-so-fast kind of week.

I have to confess that I am often just stunned that I’m actually considered/expected to be a full-fledged adult. I swear one minute I was playing in the dirt with my plastic horses and the next minute my alarm clock was propelling me from slumber straight into that rush-hour earn-a-living thing. I just blinked and BOOM.

And bless my heart, I’m nifty-four years old (not a typo…it’s my age, I’ll call it like I see it). You’d think I’d have this grown-up stuff down cold by now, but no, it’s still a shock every time I realize that no one is going to step in to handle my responsibilities for me.

So this week has been romping along – nothing particularly dramatic, just…you know…stuff. Nonstop stuff. Lots of work projects pressing that never seem to get done. Health insurance plan going away AGAIN, so I have to dive back in to pick a new one, AGAIN.

I need to make space in the barn for the 40 bales of hay I ordered to top off our winter supply. I desperately need to clean the barn and try to go knock down the damn cockleburs that are turning the horses’ manes into solid, prickly masses.

Jim's earI had a visit with my dermatologist to pay my annual dues for trying to tan my pale, freckled skin in my youth. The spot he froze off on the very tip of my nose is especially attractive now. I chauffeured Jim for minor surgery to repair his eardrum (ruptured in a fly boarding mishap on my birthday…we both agree it was still totally worth it.) Then I had to play the part of the responsible partner as they rattled off all sorts of post-surgical care instructions.

“Um…what’s that sweetie? You wonder if it’s time for another pain pill? Um…sure, have a pill.”

I picked up my glasses with the new and (sigh) improved lenses.I paid bills. Then, because we love to have things like lights, I paid a few more bills.

I thought about the cards that need to be sent out and holiday stuff that needs to be planned. And oh, birthdays galore. What is this onslaught of December birthdays? (Counts back) Ooooh. Lots of people have really good Valentine’s Days. (I should blush now, but I’m too tired.)

On the home front we have five, count ’em, FIVE animals limping for one reason or another. This is a ridiculous trend that truly must stop.

Let’s see, Cheyenne, our pretty paint mare, got a nasty cut on her heel somehow that has required a visit from the veterinarian for minor surgery and lots of cleaning and re-wrapping on Jim’s part. She is on the mend.

Bob the sheep did something to his back leg that we have yet to figure out, but keeping the leg wrapped for support seems to be doing the trick and he is bearing weight again. He is a less than willing patient, but, as I discovered when shearing him, if you get him down flat on his side, he thinks he is stuck. Bless his heart.

TriggerSnowflake, our husky/malamute mix, has been favoring her front right leg off and on – likely a soft tissue injury. Rest should do the trick. Now Nadia, another of our canine clan, is also favoring her front right leg. No injury to be found, so rest for now, vet visit tomorrow if we don’t see improvement. (Nadia…are you faking it for attention?)

And finally, this brings us to Trigger, our miniature horse. He’s also lame on a front leg. I just noticed a slight limp when I saw him crossing the pasture this morning. At the time, we were already in the Jeep enroute to get Jim to his eardrum surgery,  so I have yet to assess Trigger’s leg.  But there was no visible swelling and he was up, walking around and grazing, so he’ll keep until after the whole Jim/ear thing. Yes, I’ll check on him then.

Well, after I fill Jim’s prescriptions. And after I pick stuff up at the grocery store. And before I feed all of the animals and run a million loads of laundry. Yes. Check-on-Trigger is after grocery store and before feeding and laundry.

Seriously. This grown-up stuff is exhausting. I’m considering running an ad for a nanny. Would it be weird for two nifty-something adults to have a nanny?

To add a little realistic balance to the extreme adultiness of this week, I did myself a favor. I dedicated a couple of hours last night to some serious puppy therapy at a friend’s house. You absolutely cannot feel harried, frazzled, or stressed when you are inhaling that sweet, intoxicating puppy breath while hugging a warm, soft little body to your chest. Lori pups

Six little Dalmatian puppies. Six adorable, waggy, waddling spotted wonders crawling all over me and successfully transporting me straight back to the mentality of a delighted five year old.

Good stuff. Figure out a way to bottle that potion and you’ll be a millionaire.(But don’t bottle the actual puppies. Even five-year-old Nancy knows that would be uber wrong.)

Nanta Claus

Yes. Really. Me.

And the other highlight of my runaway train of a week? I got to play dress-up as Nanta Claus for 25 of my closest four-legged friends. You absolutely can’t be a grumpy adult when donning a padded red suit, a white wig, and a soft, fluffy beard.

Yes, it was Santa photo day at Pooches, the dog care business I co-own with my good friend Lawanna. Ok, technically Santa is supposed to be a he, but we have found that the dogs respond well to me once they sniff past the scary costume to figure out I’m buried inside there. AND I have to brag that I have developed some fairly mad ho-ho-ho Nanta-Santa skills.

I listened to doggy Christmas wishes (I DID!), I got some kisses, I did admittedly get a few nervous glances (what Santa doesn’t make at least one or two kids cry?), and I got coated in dog hair. Gloriously coated in dog hair.

And you know, suddenly, this week didn’t seem so crazy after all.

It’s all about finding a little balance, stopping to smell the puppy breath, and not taking all of the grown-up stuff too seriously. Trust me, inside every adult of any and every age, there still lives the spirit of a little kid, bouncing and bubbling with awe and excitement over the silliest little things. It’s our job to recognize our inner kids and let the little buggers take the lead every now and then.

Today I’m doing adult stuff. The list is long. But I’m also making time to do some fun, just for laughs stuff. I love grown-up Nancy. I love little kid Nancy. They both deserve equal time.

So right now…before I feed the dogs, before I go to the barn to dole out grain, before I doctor whatever is up with Trigger’s leg…I’m going to eat ice cream.

BEFORE dinner. Take THAT adult Nancy!

Sometimes You Just Gotta Go With The Flow.

 

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Early yesterday morning- we’re talking pre-first-diet-Dr.-Pepper-o’clock – I heard this sound echoing through my house:

THWAP-THWAP…THWAP-THWAP…THWAP-THWAP

Now, if you are a dog person with multiple dogs and a dog door, you immediately know what this sound is. And you also know that the rapid succession three-peat means that there was a serious game of chase exploding into the house from the back yard.

I glanced downstairs from the loft just in time to see CC (14 month old deaf Dalmatian), Nadia (aka Marylou…if you remember that story), and Kainan (the somewhat famous wolfdog) hit our living room couch at full canine speed.

The couch went skidding a full six feet to the right. No kidding.

Impressive. And, apparently, great fun was had by all. (We seriously cannot have nice things around here.)

Later in the day I headed to a client’s house for a weekly training appointment. We were working to convince her Bichon Frise that unfamiliar humans are not necessarily boogie men and/or chew toys. Fortunately, for the sake of my credibility and my ankles, the little dude truly loves me.

As I stepped inside the home and received an enthusiastic greeting from my little student, I took a moment to look around. This was one nice home. Opulent was the adjective that came immediately to mind.

The furnishings were ornate with rich upholstery and gleaming wood. There were gorgeous, colorful area rugs showcased against a backdrop of polished dark wood floors. There was artwork adorning every wall in sight and I’m pretty sure nary a one was simply a framed poster. Everything was pristine. Everything was just so (and by “just so” I mean perfect).

Houses like this make me nervous. First, I really don’t know how to behave around nice (and by “nice” I mean ex-peeeeen-siiiiiive) things. Second, I am fairly sure that I am to dog hair what Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen is to dust. I believe a thick cloud of various types of dog hair constantly orbits around me like my own personal galaxy. I should likely have been required to don a hazmat suit for the protection of this home and its contents.

As I absorbed the grandeur surrounding me, I couldn’t help but compare it to my own spartan-by-comparison home and the the scene from my dogs’ morning game of tag. Oh the damage Kainan and crew could do in this house. Those thick area rugs would be perfect for a four-legged Risky Business-esque slide down the gleaming hall floor and straight into the giant vase (pronounced vahze in this case) filled with…are those silk peacock feathers?

Oh, I thought to myself, I so do not belong in this house.

We had passed through the formal foyer, the formal living room, the formal dining room, and the formal parlor (see a trend here?) when we noticed that the furry little focus of my visit was suddenly nowhere to be found. As we stepped into the family room, there we found Wallace (yes, Wallace…it fits), his tail wagging in great delight as he stood proudly on what was surely an antique wood with marble inlay side table. I was certain his owner would panic and snatch the little guy, whose backside was wriggling precariously closes to what was surely an antique lamp,  right off that table.

Instead, she just laughed and said, “Wallace, what ARE you doing?”

Then she turned to me, smiled, and said, “If you’re going to have a dog in your life, sometimes you just gotta go with the flow, right?”

Amen and A+++.

Suddenly, this designer showcase home didn’t seem quite so intimidating. I walked over, plopped down into the plush velvet of the adjacent settee – I don’t think you can call it a couch or a sofa in this house – as my cloud of dog hair settled all around me. What the heck? Maybe the hair that would linger long after I departed would provide little Wallace enough of a tempting olfactory distraction to keep any future visitors safe from assault.

Holy cow, these people are going to think I am an AMAZING dog trainer!

Of course this is not to say that you have to let your dogs overrun your home and mangle all of your furniture. (Kainan, take note…you are NOT supposed to mangle the furniture). But maybe the point is that it’s ok to love your dog a bit more than you love your decor. Maybe it’s not the end of the world if your cute little dog stands on your antique table…or your giant wolfdog uses your couch as a skateboard.

And you know, looking at it now that I’m back home, the couch actually looks better six feet to the right. Well played dogs. Well played.

goofy Kainan

 

Firsts.

First day out

Monday was the first day that I left the gate open to Big Paul’s pasture. Up until this week, the new, giant addition to my equine family really showed little to no interest in joining the other horses. He seemed content in his small pasture with just our gang (you can’t call this bunch of tiny hoodlums a herd) of miniature donkeys.

Donkeys and paulBut over the past couple of days I noticed Paul grazing near the fence that separates him from the other horses. I saw him standing at the gate, looking out into the big pasture with definite interest. It seemed that the new guy was ready to make some friends, ready to explore new boundaries. I granted him the freedom to do just that.

I watched for a bit as Paulie took his first steps out into our big pasture. He stopped just outside the gate, raised his massive head up to scent the morning wind, his warm breath forming puffy little clouds in the frosty air as he likely pinpointed exactly where the other horses were grazing. I was grateful our herd was away from Paul’s gate at this moment. It gave him time to have a look around before running that gauntlet that all new horses seeking acceptance have to run.

After a few minutes of watching Paul’s very uneventful big release, I gave in to the pressing call of my morning schedule and headed off to work.

I didn’t have human children, but I now think I know how a mom feels the first time she drops her child off at school. It’s a good feeling…your baby is taking those all important first steps into the world. It’s also a terrible, what-have-I-done feeling that causes you to spend the day worrying about your little – or not-so-little in this case – darling.

I knew Paul could be in for a rough day. I’ve introduced new horses and donkeys into the pasture at Tails You Win Farm numerous times.  it truly is just like a kid starting midterm at a new school. There are the nice kids who are welcoming with friendly curiosity. There are the kids who just ignore the new guy. And there are the bullies determined to initiate the newcomer.

Our pasture has all of the above.

Dublin and PattyI knew that Patty and Dublin would likely chase Paul away from the group. I guessed that Leo and GoGo might just go about their business, not caring about Paul one way or another. And I had a good feeling that our sweet paint mare, Cheyenne, would likely flirt a bit and follow Paul around like a persistent kid sister.

I got home from work after dark (why must the sun disappear so early in the fall and winter?), grabbed a flashlight and ran to the barn to see how my boy’s first day went.

Would he be stressed and hiding in a far corner of the pasture?

Would he have bite marks from hazing by the bossier members of the herd?

Would he need a hug and a cookie? (Anthropomorphize much?)

What I found was Big Paul standing in the loafing shed in his small pasture patiently waiting for his dinner in the feeder he has been using since day one at our farm. On either side of him were his new kid sisters, Cheyenne and our standard donkey, Delta Dawnkey. Apparently the younger girls at school did indeed develop crushes on the tall, handsome new guy.

Paul was quiet, relaxed, unscathed and hungry. His first day was apparently a success, though I can’t say he is part of the herd quite yet. He grazes near the “popular kids,” but doesn’t try to dive in the middle of them.

Smart boy. Flirt with the cute little girls. Take your time. Find your place.

Hey Paulie, this ain’t your first rodeo, is it? Geeze Mom, what were you so worried about?