Glancing Back, Looking Forward.

Dear, beautiful, shiny-new 2021,

Finally! You’re here! We’ve all been downright giddy looking forward to your arrival. Now we can officially put our old nemesis, 2020, to rest. Hallelujah.

But wait. As the fog of a decent night’s sleep clears, the realization that the giant reset button we all so desperately crave did not actually materialize. So, while we hope to climb free from the mire of what was arguably one of the most challenging years in everyone’s life (with the exception of the possible existence of that one dude who actually is 100% isolated, off the grid and remains blissfully ignorant), we do still have a few “opportunities” on the horizon.

That said, I think it’s important to look back in gratitude for the good things that did come about in 2020. The birth of my newest great-nephew last January always comes immediately to mind. (Shout out to Calvin and his new parents!) My family and extended family/friends remain healthy (or have regained healthy status because, yeah, the ‘rona is a sneaky bastard) and safe. That’s a biggie. Also, I learned to make amazingly delicious banana pudding this year.

What? It totally counts. It’s REALLY good banana pudding.

While I promise to keep working on grateful reflection, lets forge ahead to focus on resolutions for our hope-filled, so-far-so-naïve friend, the new year. Now I know what you’re thinking. How cliché. And yeah, you make the resolutions, then you never keep them. Well, that’s because people tend to make lofty resolutions when they should perhaps start out with some modest, low-level good intentions. Resolution seedlings if you will.

Here, I’ll get us started.

Nancy’s Resoundingly Realistic Resolutions for 2021:

  1. Do laundry BEFORE you get down to that last sad, tattered pair of desperation underwear.
  2. Throw away the sad, tattered desperation undies.
  3. Nah, tuck those suckers in the way-back of the unmentionables drawer just in case you forget that first resolutionette.
  4. Ooooo…make up new words (CHECK!)
  5. Learn to cook healthy, balanced meals. Well, learn to cook. Well, think about learning to cook something besides AMAZING banana pudding.
  6. Get rid of all the junk food in the house. (By “get rid of” I mean eat it, but don’t replenish it. Except on Thursdays. And my birthday. And other people’s birthdays.)
  7. Take down and store (you have to add “store” because otherwise “pile it on the dining room table” is a viable option) all Christmas décor before taxes are due to be filed.
  8. Remember that taxes will not likely get a leisurely extension into midsummer this year, so claiming a 4th of July tree isn’t going to fly.
  9. Don’t take in any more dogs…HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Scratch that. Instead: Find great homes for the foster dogs you and Jim will undoubtedly welcome into your home this year.
  10. Marie Kondo the heck out of your closets and chest of drawers. (It could happen! Oh wait. She would not approve of the desperation undies in the way-back of the unmentionables drawer. Dammit.)
  11. Stop and look down before you get frustrated by the dog that is constantly underfoot. It could be Stormy and she’s in her 19th year of life. She gets a free pass on this and many other potentially frustrating dog-related issues including, but not limited to peeing in the house and needing to be carried up and down the stairs. Soon-to-be 15 Howie also gets this consideration. And Dottie. The rest of you PLEASE get the heck out of the way! I’m looking straight at you, Precious.
  12. Write more. (Oh hey! Look at me diving right in and it’s not even lunchtime on 1/1/21 yet. Overachiever? I think yes.)

I feel like this is a good and attainable start for 2021. I mean, I could add stuff like paint the bedroom, clean out the attic, scrub the house from top to bottom, and run a marathon, but whoa there, missy. Don’t go completely crazy and set yourself up to fail. Anything above and beyond this list of 12 goes straight in the bonus accomplishment column and who knows? That might become a lengthy list if the other stuff goes well.

2021, bless your little heart. Here you are, still blinking the sleep out of your eyes and you already have a sh*t-ton of work ahead (let’s be honest…there’s no other word for it). The good news is that 2020 set the bar ridiculously low, so I feel like you’ve got this. And dammit, I’ll do my part. Starting right now. The desperation panties are going in the trash by sundown today. (But stay the hell away from my Fritos…we don’t need to go all nuts on the first dang day.)



Precious on the left. How on earth do you always manage to be directly in my path and completely immobile? Move it, sister. Stormy on the right, whatever you want/need, whenever you want/need it. Stewie in the middle…AWWWWWW!

One Treat at a Time

headed home revisedThe first thing I always notice is that they have no idea how to take a treat from my hand. I always offer one as soon as we are safely loaded in the car. The dogs are either too nervous to even sniff the morsel, or they lick it with interest but have no idea they can actually have it.

I guess dogs raised in puppy mills aren’t ever handed treats. But when our rescue is able to get these dogs out of the hands of commercial breeders and turn them toward a life as a companion dog, it’s my very favorite first thing to teach. I have a delicious bite of food in my hand and I want you to have it.

At first they sniff, lick, and fumble around my hand. Then, eventually, I manage to pop the treat into a surprised mouth. Crunch, crunch…and the look of confusion on the dog’s face turns quickly to one of delight and hope. “May I have another?” Yes. Yes you may. And there are plenty more where that one came from.

I know a lot of people hear about puppy mill dogs, but being hands-on to actually work with them and rehabilitate them is an interesting journey.  Getting a new dog out of a puppy mill is actually a bit like getting a mystery box where there’s a prize inside, you just don’t know what it might be or how hard it will be to get it unwrapped.

Margo came to us completely terrified of humans and shut down. Ladybug was clingy, skittish and initially latched onto me as her lifeline. Andy and Ollie were goofy, clueless teenagers.  Jack and Sally, two of our recent additions were opposites. Sally was on the wild side while Jack was sweetly reserved.

And now, on an early, chilly Sunday morning in Missouri, it was time to meet Jo and Meg, our little women. They greeted me quite enthusiastically from their holding pen inside the auction house kennel until the moment I slipped leashes on them. And then they froze and flopped to the ground. The concept of walking on a leash was obviously new territory and met with oh-heck-no attitudes from both puppy girls.

Now, I say puppy because they are only seven months old. But at seven months, they both weigh more than 50 pounds so the oh-heck-no response to the leash made life a tad interesting. You see, I had two very valid reasons why I wasn’t excited about the prospect of physically lugging them out of the building and across the parking lot to my Jeep. First, my sure-to-be-aching back. I couldn’t imagine that trying to carry a flailing 50-something pound dog was a promising recipe for great lower back health.

Second, the girls were less than clean. In fact, they stank to high heaven and the dirt I saw on them was not mud, if you catch my odoriferous drift. This was not the time to introduce them to the concept of cuddling.

With a little help from another kind/brave person and a LOT of coaxing and baby talk, we haltingly made our way out to parking lot with just one quick close encounter to lift the dogs into the car. Because yeah, “hop on in” was not in their skill set.

But I do love that moment when I climb into the driver’s seat and turn to face my new foster dogs. It’s always filled with butterflies of anticipation and a dash of what-have-I-gotten-us-into-this-time. I snap a quick photo to send to Jim, my partner in life and rescue, then I talk to the dogs to calm them. And I always offer treats.

It was the same routine with Jo and Meg. I said hello to my slightly bewildered duo and offered each of them a cookie. They stared at the offered goodies with cartoon-like curiosity, they sniffed, they stretched their necks out tentatively to try confused licks. After a moment or two I tossed the cookies on the floor and they were gobbled right up with delighted enthusiasm.

So I immediately held out two more cookies. Sniff, sniff, lick, fumble, lick. I waited for just the right moment and popped treats straight into their mouths.  I love that “ah-ha” moment. That moment when they realize I’m handing the treats to them…for them to have. And after a few more tries, these excellent students were plucking treats from my fingers like champs.

And so the first lesson that would begin to transform these dogs from kennel breeding dogs to beloved companion dogs was complete. Oh sure, there are about a million lessons still ahead, along with a million lessons in patience for me and Jim, but successfully taking the treat from my hand goes in the win column. In that exact moment, it’s all I needed.

Well, that and maybe the please-don’t-poop-in-my-car lesson. THAT would be a great one to nail down too. And so I turned the Jeep toward the highway with precious, smelly cargo and fingers firmly crossed.

Welcome Jo and Meg. Welcome to the road that will eventually lead to a place called home.

Creative. Life.

Howie and coI’m not going to lie to you…and my blog won’t let me lie even if I wanted to. I haven’t had much time to write lately.

Writing is my therapy. It’s my joy (well, one of my joys!). It’s my me-time. It’s the place where the voices bouncing around inside my head sometimes come together to make sense. It’s an outlet for my good friend, Creativity.

Ah, Creativity. How I treasure and respect you, both in my own self and in the incredible works of others. If I could, I would just bask in your light every day, all day. Just imagine…

But lately, I have been beating myself up because I feel I have been neglecting my best friend. I haven’t made time. I’ve let “life” get in the way.

Life has a way of doing that sometimes. Hustle. Bustle. Ping-pong from one project, one commitment, one necessity to the next. And then, at the end of the day, you collapse on the couch and wonder where time went.

So I thought maybe I should write an apology to Creativity. You know, give my dear friend an explanation. I could list all of the “life” things that have been going on and surely Creativity would understand. Yes. I could tell Creativity I’m very sorry and ask for forgiveness.

So here it goes:

Dear Creativity,

I haven’t been a very good friend to you the past couple of months. I’m truly sorry for that. 

You see, life has been crazy busy lately. My business partner and I opened a second business and getting that up and running…and then working to make it successful has been quite a task. It seems I spend every minute of every day thinking of ways to get customers through our doors. Thinking of advertisements, promotions, posting away on social media. It’s fun, but boy it’s time-consuming.

And do you know that Jim, my friend Lawanna (aka: business partner!), and I run a non-profit organnization to rescue, care for, and re-home Dalmatians? Of course you know. you’ve helped me write about my beloveds spotted dogs often. Well, things have been a tad busy on that front lately too. We’ve taken four additional Dalmatians into our home in the last two months. They’ve each come with their own set of special needs, so they’ve kept us hopping.

13716136_10210354273316850_5128798030219378446_nDottie came to us neglected and with horribly disfigured feet. We’ve been working to keep her comfortable, healthy, and happy. Sweet girl, her tail never stops wagging in appreciation.

Then Brother and Sister came along with several of their litter mates. Just babies, they all had come down with a terrible case of deadly parvovirus and needed our help. Some of their siblings did not survive, but Brother and Sister did. We’ve been nursing them back to health while being careful not to spread the disease to other dogs. It’s been a huge juggling act! And did I mention that we had to set up a giant fund raiser to pay for their treatment? Oh, but how rewarding that has been as we witnessed so many friends and strangers-who-are-now-friends stepping up to help provide the needed funds to see our puppies through to good health. 

Amazing stuff right there.

Almost immediately after we took the puppies in, we got the call about Skip. Ah, Skip. What a little doll. He was born and raised in a puppy mill where his life was restricted to a small cage with no toys, no soft beds, no belly rubs. Then he, his parents, and several other Dalmatians were placed in an auction, to be sold to the highest bidder. Sad, scary stuff for a six month old puppy to endure.

skip crate 2Luckily for Skip, dedicated rescue friends were able to purchase him and asked if I could pick him up from the auction house in Missouri, get to know him, and help him find a REAL home. One with toys, soft beds, and tons of belly rubs. They didn’t have to ask me twice, I’m a sucker for a cute, spotted face. 

Of course that just added a lot more work to the old to-do list, and that darn list was already pretty full anyway.

Because we have our own dogs to care for. There’s chickens to feed and a barn full of animals. There’s laundry  and mowing and a house that always needs cleaning.

There are bills. There are seminars to attend. There are errands to run. There are birthday parties. 

Darn it! When is that doctor appointment?

There are articles to write. Deadlines to meet. More business ideas that need research, thought, and execution. 

The car needs an oil change. My closet is a mess. We’re out of milk. I need to take Lacy the Whippet to the vet for a check-up. 

Creativity, I know I’m babbling here. The point I’m really trying to make is that life has been crazy busy lately and I’ve neglected you. I know I have. I’m truly sorry. You are such a good and loyal friend that you haven’t even complained once. You’ve just been waiting patiently for me to return, haven’t you?

And I will. I’ll be back. I promise. I’m truly sorry.



As soon as I put my apology out into the universe, an immediate reply filled my heart and mind.

Dear Nancy,

You never left me. I was never neglected. And I certainly never left you. 

I come to you in a lot of forms. I’m not something you make time for, I’m not something that can be scheduled. I’m a lot more than just words on a computer screen.

I’m part of you. I’m with you every minute of every day. I help you make things happen. I help you solve problems. I help you make a seemingly impossible to-do list do-able. 

How in the world do you think you ever get everything done?

We do it together, my friend. 



You know, I don’t think I’m going to beat myself up any more. And you know what else? I’m pretty sure this reply wasn’t just to me.  We all have to deal with that life to-do list thing. Nice to know you have a good friend to help you juggle it all, isn’t it?

Thanks Creativity. You’re the best. We’ve got this.

Once a Year…

MotherYou know that old saying…you don’t know until you try? Well, several years ago I wanted to do a Mother’s Day giveaway at my dog care business. I had seen a cute doggy floral arrangement online and asked a local florist if they could make one. They made one for me…and it was adorable…and it was EX PEN SIVE.
Hmm, I thought. I looked at the arrangement. Hmmm.
So the next year I dove in and decided I could make one myself. Oh, mine are not perfect, but they make people smile and I think I love creating them just as much as I love giving them away.
Once a year, I become a florist. Once a year, I fill a shopping cart with bundles of beautiful flowers. Once a year I pick and choose just the right bloom here, the perfect bud there.I make a terrific, colorful, aromatic mess of my kitchen. And, when I’m done, I step back and laugh.
Pictured are this year’s creations. The “leftover” flowers (I buy WAY too many on purpose!) will be crafted into beautiful bouquets to honor my mother, grandmother, and sister.
I’ll go sit in the peace of the cemetery and tell them all about my funny dog arrangements as I carefully place just the right bloom here, the perfect bud there, in a heartfelt attempt to make the world just a little more beautiful on a very special day.
Happy Mother’s Day!

Romp in Peace.

Run in Peace Big Paul

A Haiku for Big Paul

His shell rests in peace
Beneath the disrupted soil
But his spirit soars

I looked at out toward the pasture at first light to find that all color had been replaced by the sun’s golden glory painted on a canvas of rolling fog. Nature was welcoming the day with spectacular enthusiasm.

Then my eyes fell on a dark, slightly mounded patch of earth out near a small evergreen tree. One of our horses was standing near the spot, sniffing the clumps of dirt, then grazing nearby. Did she know? Could she tell that her fallen friend was buried there?

I suspect yes. Since the moment Big Paul stretched out on the ground and his beautiful heart gave one last beat, it has been interesting to watch the reaction of the other animals. When Paul went down, the entire herd, five horses, one mule, one miniature horse, one standard donkey, five miniature donkeys, and one sheep, stayed nearby, on watch at a seemingly respectful distance.

Paul died next to the opening in the fence that allows the animals to pass from our smaller pasture out into our big pasture. Paul’s body was not blocking the path, but not one of the horses or donkeys was willing to pass through the gate. Each came, in turn, to sniff Paul, to understand that he had made his transition. And then they all returned to the small pasture to munch on hay and bask in the early morning sun.

It was comforting to me to watch them slowly approach him, to see how they very carefully, but without caution or fear, stretched their necks forward to inhale Paul’s scent. Stepping all around him, but not disturbing him, they learned what they needed to know, seemingly paid their respects, perhaps said their farewells, and then moved forward.

Each animal moved forward. It was simple, it was respectful, and their acceptance of this change in their herd was beautiful. While none of the horses lingered directly with Paul’s body, they also seemed reluctant to move away from him. It wasn’t until Jim moved Paul out to the spot in the pasture where he would be buried that the horses left the small pasture and returned to their normal routines.

It occurred to me that animals may know something we do not. I have come to believe it is their gift to see a natural death as a gentle friend, rather than a great unknown. Perhaps they have a more pure, unbiased understanding of what comes next than their human counterparts do.

I know it is customary to bless the departed with the words “rest in peace.” I appreciate the sentiment, and I am grateful for those who so sincerely wish peace in a time of grief. But I have never felt comfortable with the idea that when we die, it means eternal rest. It does not fit the story that plays in my mind about what I hope comes to pass in the ever-after. If I have learned anything from living on our farm and watching animals in this moment of ultimate grace, then I think it’s time for a new saying.

So I say romp in peace, Paulie. Race in peace. Buck, roll, leap, and play in peace, big guy. This is how I will picture you. That place in the pasture where the earth is broken only covers your body, the shell that housed your incredible spirit. But I know you’re not there.

On this golden morning, I know you are finally free to do as you please. And while everything in my world still feels a bit broken, that’s not on you…it’s all about me. I will miss you. I will miss standing at your side and feeling so tiny next to your massive frame. I will miss the warmth of your neck when I reached up to wrap my arms around it. I will  miss your deep, rumbling greeting at the pasture gate.

Right now I am sad for me, sad for my loss, but I’ll get better. I will learn from your herd-mates and I will move forward. I will step into this perfect day with a mortar mixed of memories and gratitude carefully bonding the cracks in my heart.

And maybe someday, if I am very lucky, my ever-after will include that ride you and I had always planned. That, my giant friend, would be Heaven.

Sunshine Paul



It’s Just a…

Hug Mia

Forehead to forehead. Front legs entwined. It’s just a very special moment.

Take the term “it’s just a,” then fill something in after it. Those little words seem so innocuous, but can really pack a punch depending on how you use them.

We use those words to downplay something that happened. You know, the no-big-deal “just a.”

“It’s just a scratch.” When applied to something that has happened to me, Jim, or one of our animals, this is a good “just a.” Nothing major. Whew.

“It’s just a little ding.” When referring to my beloved Jeep? There is no such thing as “just a.” Get out your insurance card.

There’s the “just a” that forgives.

“He’s just a little kid.” The words many a parent has said to talk themselves down as they stare at the latest crayon wall mural. Or when they find the rotting jack-o-lantern rescued from the trash and stored safely in the corner of the front hall coat closet. (That last one might or might not have been perpetrated by young Nancy.)

We use those words when we put on a brave face.

“It’s just a house.” A friend said that to me after her home burned to the ground. Courageous words, and she meant them. Her family and her animals were all safe. The things she truly held dear did not perish in the fire. A heart-wrenching “just a.”

“It’s just a ring.” Another friend used that one as she shrugged and forced a smile after losing her beautiful wedding ring. That was a “just a” as much for herself as it was to convince me she was OK with the loss. A “just a” with a deep sigh attached to it.

But there is one  “just a” that can get me riled faster than just about anything you can say to me. It’s the “just a” that degrades.

“It’s just a dog.”

What? Just a dog?

Well. Yes. And it’s one heck of a just a.

It’s just a living, breathing creation with a heartbeat, with a brain, with awareness. It’s just a loyal, true-blue being who doesn’t care if your hair is a mess, if your clothes don’t match, or if you put on a few pounds over the holidays.

It’s just a dog. It’s just a soulful creature with feelings and emotions. It has friends. It has ideas – some good, some, by human standards, not so good. But hey, it’s just a shoe…and it was apparently delicious.

It’s just a dog. Just an incredibly adaptable animal that can learn. That can comfort or protect. That can perform amazing tasks.

It’s just a dog who forgives the many times we claim to be the wiser species, but allow our actions to prove us wrong.

It’s just the very best friend you might ever have. The one who is thrilled to see you whether you’ve been gone for five days or just five minutes.

And if you ask me, the relationship we have with our dogs? Their willingness to bridge the gap to exist and thrive in our very human-focused world?

It’s just a miracle. A beautiful, hairy miracle.

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!

He Doesn’t Know What Carrots Are.

Meeting eyeI first saw him from across a large paddock. He was relaxing under the shade of a tree on a glorious, sunny fall day.

I’ve been waiting for this hello for four weeks and though I wanted to rush across the grassy space to throw my arms around his neck, I knew better. Just as I know not to approach a stray dog head-on, I also know not to rush straight toward a horse that I don’t know, and that doesn’t know me.

So I approached quietly, talking softly so as not to startle him from his afternoon nap. He turned his head to study me and his sleepy eyes immediately creased with worry.

While I certainly posed no threat to this handsome horse that I have named Big Paul, he had no way of knowing that. His life over the past few months, or maybe years, had really given him no reason to look at an unfamiliar human with anything but mistrust.

Most of this big horse’s past life is and will remain a mystery to me. What I know for sure is that he was sold at an auction somewhere in the United States and then shipped to a feedlot in Oklahoma to await another grueling trailer ride to a Mexican slaughterhouse.

Until his recent life at Silvermoon TLC boarding farm, new people approaching had likely been valid cause for stress to Paul. Horses are not handled gently at auctions and certainly not coddled at the killer buyer feedlots. They are a commodity in both places, nothing more. They are moved around quickly using a horse’s natural flight instinct  as they are  herded from pen to pen, into chutes, and onto stock trailers. Horses are spooked, stressed, jostled and often injured.

It’s no wonder the approach of yet another stranger cause worry to cloud Big Paul’s huge brown eyes.

Meeting 4Sensitive to his concern, I approached with my shoulders rounded and angled away from Paul, my arms relaxed at my sides. I kept my eyes cast down, just glancing sideways at my horse. I spoke very softly to him, calling to him using the nickname he recently earned while I was pouring over photos of him that had been shared with me online.

“Hey there Paulie…hey Waffle boy. Hey big guy. How’s my Belgian Waffle?”

He tipped an expectant ear my way, but as I reached sideways to run a hand along his neck, he still took a few nervous steps away, unsure of my intent. I stepped sideways with him and simply reached up and gave a spot just below the crest of his neck a light scratching. That stopped him in his tracks. No predator in the world knows to scratch this spot so perfectly. I must be ok.

And so we stood together in the cool shade for several minutes, side by side, me telling him how glad I was to meet him as I continued to run my hand along his golden neck. As he relaxed, I turned to face him, using both hands now to reassure him that I was truly one of his best friends in the world.

Then I reached into my pocket, extracted a few little pieces of carrot and offered one to Paul. This gesture would cause the horses, donkeys, and mule that share Tails You Win Farm with me to crowd around and get a tad pushy as they competed to be the first to nab a sweet, crunchy treat.

Paul, on the other hand, sniffed the carrot carefully and turned away. Ohhhhh…a horse who has never had a carrot. Well, Big Paul, I have much to teach you.

After a few minutes, I stopped petting Paul and walked back out of the paddock to retrieve my camera for a little photo shoot. Paul, now relaxed, followed me out of the shade to bask in a little sunshine as he munched on a bit of hay from the giant round bale in his paddock. As he enjoyed his afternoon snack, I had an opportunity to get a good look at my new friend.

I estimated him to be around 17 hands tall, meaning his withers were about as tall as the top of my head, at 5’9″ (one “hand” equals four inches). His coat, a lovely golden shade, was still shedding old, dry hair, a new glossier coat coming in beneath. His tail brushed his hocks with burrs tangled throughout. I was itching to take a comb to those pesky snarls, but that would have been rushing our relationship. We have time.

His pale mane also had a few big burrs in it, I was able to tease those free. His mane was thick, but worn completely off where the collar of a harness would rest – a little clue to his past. We feel sure Big Paul was used as a working farm horse or a carriage horse for most of his life. The general consensus is that Big Paul may have been an Amish work horse, possibly traveling to Oklahoma from as far away as Pennsylvania.

Meeting nose scarHis long face, graying a bit  around his eyes, had a handsome white blaze marred by twin scars on his nose, likely from a halter fitted too tightly, or worn too long. His eyelashes, impossibly long and thick, shaded his eyes as he continued his seemingly shy glances my way.

Big Paul’s hooves, though in need of attention from a farrier, appeared sound. His long legs were straight, and strong with no lameness. One back leg had an impressive scar on the inside of the hock. It would have been an impressive cut, and perhaps the reason Paul was retired from work and sold, though his gait did not reveal any permanent limp or damage from the injury.

I actually believe that Paul’s life was likely upended simply because of his age. The veterinarian estimated him to be around 16 year old. Not ancient by any stretch, but perhaps beyond his peak heavy work years. I’ve been told that the Amish will sell off horses of a certain age in favor of younger horses. I need to do a little research on that, though the whys don’t really matter beyond satisfying my own curiosity.

Meeting followingThe reality is that I don’t care how old Paul really is. I don’t care that he can’t do hard work any longer. I wouldn’t care if he happened to be lame, though I’m quite relieved that, beyond needing to gain a few pounds, he does appear to be very healthy.

All that matters to me is his sweet disposition, his gentle, relaxed nature, and, hopefully, his willingness to accept one more change – the move to Tails You Win Farm.

As I spent time getting to know my “online boyfriend” – we did meet on what could be considered an online dating service for horse-crazy people seeking horses in need of a lasting relationship – I just kept my heart in tune with his. Horses can speak volumes to you if you just leave your own assumptions behind to spend some quiet time petting, brushing, and just being there with them.

What Paul told me was that he is very weary. That he has known great stress. That he has never been considered a companion animal, but instead a tool to be used until it is worn out. He told me that he is willing to try again, that his spirit is still quite strong.

Nan and Paul 2I think this relationship is going to work out very well. While there was no immediate ah-ha moment when we met – we did not rush to each other in cosmic recognition – I could see Paul lowering his guard, growing to trust me, and eyeing me with curiosity instead of fear.

I think that’s a perfect start. I think we’ll become fast friends. I think all of Big Paul’s worries are behind him now.

And I think I’ll teach him that carrots are quite delicious.

Online Love Affair

It’s true. Today is the day. Today is the day I am finally going to meet a man I met through an online matchmaking page.

Are you shocked? I know. You’re thinking, “But what about JIm?” How can you do this to Jim?”

Oh, he knows. In fact, I think he’s coming along with me. He wants to meet this guy too.

Scandalous? Have I lost all good sense? Taking the man who has been my partner for more than a decade to meet a man I recently met online? A tall, strawberry blonde for whom I admittedly have strong feelings?

Well, think what you will, but I feel pretty good about this love triangle. I think my two men will get along just fine.


The man we are going to meet is Big Paul, the handsome Belgian draft horse I purchased online from the killer buyer feedlot a month ago. Paul has a lot of fans across the country, many of whom generously donated money to help secure Paul’s safety. Today I finally get to make the trip to meet this special guy.

And I don’t think Jim will mind seeing me give Big Paul a huge hug. I don’t think he’ll mind one bit.

I already even have a pet nickname for him…he’s Waffle. My big Belgian Waffle. ❤ There will be stories and photos to come. Hopefully a long, happy lifetime of them.

Can You Love A Horse You’ve Never Actually Met?


Big Paul relaxing at Silvermoon TLC, his quarantine hub after leaving the feedlot.

The answer is yes. A firm, loud, resounding YES.

I am in love with a tall, strawberry blonde guy that is now named Big Paul. Big Paul, a Belgian draft horse, came into my consciousness via a post on a Facebook feed highlighting horses purchased at auction by “kill buyers,” and in danger of being shipped to Mexican slaughter houses. It’s a grim, sad business that often inspires great debate, anger, and frustration.

But falling for and subsequently rescuing Big Paul has really opened my eyes even wider to the situation. While people argue back and forth about the morality of the whole issue, I’m just firmly rooted in the one thing that should really matter in any discussion of the topic.

The horses.

And for me, Big Paul.

I have a lot to think about. It’s one thing to know that something like this goes on, that animals who have been our trusted partners for centuries are allowed to meet such a horrific fate. But where is the crime? Is it in slaughtering horses? Is it in being the middleman whose job it is to purchase the horses? Or is it rooted in the hands of the people who let their horses go to the highest bidder in the first place? For some in other countries, horses are a commodity, a business, a food source. And here, we have a surplus of horses that are seemingly cast aside. As wrong as that feels to me, it is reality.

Are we right or wrong to ban slaughter houses in the United States? If you had asked me that question a month ago, I would have been firmly on the “not in my backyard” bandwagon. But is it better to have these innocent horses endure the agony of a long journey across borders to meet an unregulated, often inhumane demise?

Or would it be better to have well-regulated slaughter houses here, in the Unites States, where horses would have a shorter trip, less holding time, and we could work to ensure a swift, humane end? I don’t like the idea any more than most horse lovers and animal welfare champions do, but if you really stop to consider the horses, which is the most humane option?

We see cats and dogs euthanized in shelters all across the United States every single day. It’s not right…we don’t like it…but it’s reality. We don’t ship them away.

I have a lot going on in my brain right now. I have a lot of questions. I don’t have a lot of answers. I’m not sure what is right and what is wrong. But I know one thing for sure. I have a horse that was once named Asher on a feedlot in Oklahoma, who is now safe and has been renamed Big Paul.  He is my focus right now. He is counting on me to make good decisions for him.

Like many horses that go through auctions, then onto feedlots where horses are constantly coming and going and stress is high, Big Paul has developed a runny nose. It’s not too serious at the moment, and the very nice woman who is providing his quarantine at the “horse hotel.” Silvermoon TLC, is watching over him carefully. But it’s still cause for concern. Big Paul will get checked over by a veterinarian tomorrow.

I’m hopeful that his “shipping cold,” as it is commonly called at the feedlots, is minor. He could have nothing more than a mild, runny nose. He could develop a fever and a cough. We just don’t know. Feedlots are a breeding ground for illness in horses.

11062041_681469195287763_5327904129611822887_nWhatever Big Paul needs, we will see that he gets it. Thanks to an online campaign by my friend, author Jon Katz ( we have received an amazing outpouring of compassion and concern from people from all across the country, many I don’t even know. Through the kindness of friends and strangers, I am receiving donations to cover Paul’s purchase and immediate expenses. It is a blessing to not be worried about the vet bills. Paul will receive good care. I am incredibly grateful for this gift.

I was hoping to go meet Paul in person today, he is currently staying a couple of hours to the southwest of my farm. I wanted to hug his huge neck and tell him that everything is going to be ok. The weather didn’t cooperate, however, so our meeting will have to wait for next weekend. Hopefully he’ll be feeling well by then.

Once Big Paul is healthy and able to leave quarantine, I will make plans for his “happily ever after.” I will also continue to think about the bigger picture. The other faces that stare out from behind the feedlot fences every single day, all across the country.

Big Paul has stolen my heart and given me a lot to think about. I hope his story makes other people stop to think too.

Stay strong, Paul. Get some rest. Eat your hay. Take your medicine. Know that you are loved.