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

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Jerry…the picture of noncompliance.

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

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

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

I was sure of it.

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

I sure hoped so.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ta da!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Plan D: Make Bob lie down.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Holy cow, he got up.

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

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

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

Plan F, I embrace you!

I learned a lot today.

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

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

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

4. Ibuprofen is our friend.

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

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

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

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

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

A Terrific, Radiant, Humble Happy Birthday

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If you had told me 15 years ago that I would someday have a pet hog, I would have…well, I wouldn’t have batted an eye. In fact, I would have likely just said, “Cool! When?”

Yeah, that’s how I roll.

I have always been “that kid,” and now “that person,” earning me nicknames like Horsey Girl, Chicken Girl, Dog Lady, Squirrel Mom, Bunny Mom, etc…so naturally, Pig Mom felt so very right.

It was May of 2002 when I got the call from Dave, a good friend who worked at the City of Tulsa Animal Shelter. I volunteered at the shelter on a regular basis at that time and Dave knew I was “that person.” He called with a special request for a foster home. Three pigs had just come to the shelter…yes, the shelter set up to house dogs and cats, but NOT pigs…and one was very young and very tiny. Dave was afraid the piglet would not survive if housed in the shelter.

Would I provide a foster home for a baby pig? Well, hell yes! There really wasn’t even a moment of hesitation. My only questions were:

  1. Where is she?
  2. When can I pick her up?

I would figure the rest out as I went along. A lack of plan seemed like the perfect plan.

Now, let’s set the stage here. At that time I did live on a small acreage that boasted a barn where my horse, a llama, and my growing donkey family lived. I also owned 75ish acres that I had hoped to move to. Hoped. But at THAT time I was in the middle of a divorce and everything seemed way, way up in the air. I wasn’t sure where I would be living over the course of the next six months. I wasn’t sure if I could keep my animals. I wasn’t sure about anything.

Was it a good time to take on a baby piglet? Well…sure! She was just a foster pig, right? (Yeah, I’m laughing too.)

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So skinny at first! It didn’t last long.

The piglet had been transferred to an area veterinarian for a checkup. Beyond being a bit malnourished and having a case of pig lice (ewwww!), she was proclaimed healthy. I did quickly learn that pig lice are species-specific and that they had treated her for them, so I parked my heebie-geebies at the door of the vet hospital and rushed in to claim my new little charge.

I believe I heard her before I actually laid eyes on her. Squealing all the way into the exam room, a tiny pink bundle was delivered into my waiting arms.

Oh my. She was adorable.

Big ears, a wrinkled little snout, button eyes and a pricelessly curly tail—it was love at first snort. She was truly no bigger than a football (forgive the cruel comparison!). She walked on tiny, cloven high-heeled feet. She loved to snuggle. She was all personality. I was completely smitten by my first pig encounter, beyond the destined-to-be-bacon pigs at the state fair.

I quickly ran to the feed store to purchase some appropriate food and then also hit the produce stand to buy some fruits and veggies I knew she might like—nothing but the best for my little bundle of joy.

I bedded her down in my spare bathroom because that somehow made sense at the time. The dogs met the pig and miraculously made friends. They even played together. It was quite a sight to see my Dalmatians racing around with a little pink bullet at their heels.

Within 24 hours I knew this pig would NOT return to the shelter. If the owner of the pigs returned to pay the fines and claim them, I knew she would be destined for slaughter. If she remained unclaimed, she would be sent to auction where her fate would likely be—you guessed it—slaughter. That was just not going to happen.

So I called Dave at the shelter and told him the pig was staying put and he needed to figure it out on his end. His answer (God love this man…I know I caused him stress) was to list the piglet as deceased. Yes, he wrote on her intake card that she had been too young and malnourished to survive. (By the way, names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent…) We joked for years afterward that Spammy was the healthiest dead pig anyone had ever seen.

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A girl and her pig.

Now I had a pig. Wow. Now I had a PIG. My up-in-the-air plans officially needed to accommodate a pig that would swiftly turn into a full-fledged hog. A lack of planning on my part perhaps not such a good idea? Perhaps.

Meanwhile, the piglet continued to charm everyone she met. Jim (who was not my partner quite yet, but soon would be—lucky, lucky me!) named her Spamela Anderson within the first few minutes of meeting her. GENIUS. A quick, quick wit. Just another reason why I fell for this man.

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Spammy and Monte demonstrating a good “stay.”

Spamela, affectionately known as Spammy, quickly became a beloved fixture in my home…well, actually in my barn. The “let the piggy live in the house” idea changed pretty quickly. Did you know that pigs like to back up against the walls of your bathroom to poop? Yeah, I didn’t know that either.

Creating poop art on the walls issues aside (and in her defense she DID “go” on the papers we put out…well, her feet were on the papers), Spammy was clever. She learned tricks and behaviors just as easily as the dogs did. She liked to play, she liked to eat. Oh she really liked to eat. My tiny pink piggy swiftly grew into a beautiful, huge hog.

Now fast-forward 12 years.

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Spamela Anderson napping with Jerry Swinefeld. Friends at last!

Spammy and I have been together through a lot of life changes. Well, life changes on my side of the board, anyway. Her life, on the other hand, has been fairly stress-free and even keel.  She has always had a comfortable barn to snooze in. She has always had lovely mud to bathe in when the weather gets warm. She has always had plenty of good food to eat. She has always had room to roam and graze. She even eventually got a younger adopted brother that she wasn’t too sure about in the beginning, but grew to enjoy his company (except at dinner time—he’s such a pig!).

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Spamela and Monte were best of friends. They played together until I decided she was just too big and might hurt him accidentally. It was sure fun to see them romp. Interesting side note, Monte would never accept one of those pig ear chews. Turned his nose completely up. What a loyal friend!

All these years later, we get to celebrate Spamela Anderson’s 12th birthday. So few pigs live to see this milestone, so it’s special. All the more special because, after a bit of research, I found that the average lifespan for Yorkshire pigs, who are actually allowed to live, is listed as six to 10 years. You go, Spammy!

This little piggy has lived a very good, long life. Together, we survived divorce, we survived figuring out where and how to live, and we survived changes in family, career, and lifestyle. Through it all, Spamela has been blissfully unaware, but she did play an important role in swaying many a decision and I am grateful for her not-so-silent influence (have you ever heard the noise a 600-plus pound hog can make at mealtime? Think roaring lion.).

Now Spammy’s years are showing. Her once impressive bulk has faded. She is a little slower to rise and enjoys naps a good deal of the time. She still meets each meal with the enthusiasm of a young porker and she still loves a good wallow in the mud. I know we don’t have a lot of time left together, but whatever time she graces us with, will be wonderful.

To borrow words from another famous pig story in which a clever spider named Charlotte documented the attributes of her porcine friend within her web, I would have to say that Spamela is, indeed,

“Some Pig,”

“Terrific,”

“Radiant,”

and

“Humble.”

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Portrait of a senior pig.

After all, she was a bit famous in these parts with articles documenting her life in magazines, newspapers, and even on the news. Through it all, she remained unaffected, and slightly mud-caked.

I would have to one-up dear Charlotte’s list, however. My last web-message for Spamela would have to be “Much-Loved.” And she is.

Wishing the happiest of birthdays to our dear Spamela Anderson. You are one very fine pig.

 

Following are more photos from the life and times of Spamela Anderson. Here’s to hoping we get to add many more.

 

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Yes, she would let me ride her. Sort of.

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We were our own little side show.

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She could heel better than most dogs.

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Hanging out with her horsey friends.

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Carrots. Always a favorite. She loves all fruits and veggies, but does not like cake…especially stuff like Twinkies. This could be a key to her long life.

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Spammy, at her full size, enjoying a visit from friends. She was quite impressively large in her prime.

Bread, Kitty Litter, Toilet Paper, and Milk. All We Need to Survive.

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Photo by Jim Thomason

Walk to the bread isle of just about any grocery store in the Tulsa area tonight and you’ll find nothing. Absolutely nothing. Well, I did find hotdog buns, but that was it.

Bread delivery truck strike? Nope. Giant sandwich festival? Nope. Snow in the forecast? BINGO.

Apparently we are facing snowmageddon and that requires everyone to stock up on bread. Why? Because if the earth freezes over and we all end up stranded in our homes—orphans of the storm—at least we can enjoy toast. This is my best guess. Yes, let there be toast!

The other apparently all-important items on the we-have-no-idea-how-to-handle-snow must-have list are kitty litter, milk, and toilet paper. The litter is to be kept in the car in case you get stuck and need to create traction (For the record, I have never seen this actually work. The litter tends to just mix with the snow to create sharp little projectiles that shoot out from spinning tires to torture the poor soul trying to push).

The milk is because, because…you should just always have milk on hand. Don’t question it. The toilet paper, well, you know. You do NOT want to be stuck at home in a storm, having consumed massive amounts of toast washed down with milk, and not have a good supply of TP. ‘Nuf said.

So let’s just admit it, Okies do not handle the threat of winter weather with anything that remotely resembles grace or good sense. All week long the weather forecasters have been predicting a “major winter weather event.” It was to kick off with a coating of sleet to give the roads a nice slippery base that would then be covered by snow. Lots of snow. (if you look up “lots of snow” in the Okie dictionary it will be described as anything ranging from 1/8” to four feet…it’s all the same to us.)

The reaction to the threat of snow around here is completely ironic because toss a good tornado warning at native Okies and we all run outside to watch for the damn thing.  But God forbid you threaten us with some fluffy frozen water vapor. It becomes the end of the world as we know it.

This storm was supposed to start by 8 a.m. this morning. Then they pushed it back to 10:00. Then 11:00.

At exactly 11:00 a.m., the sleet did start to fall (meteorologists all across the area immediately started high-fiving and slapping each other on the ass). It continued off and on all afternoon alternating with a dusting of snow. Aaaaaand then the real fun began because if there is one thing that rivals our tendency to overreact to the potential of snow, it is our general inability to drive on the stuff once it arrives. Fasten your seatbelts, start your engines, and let the demolition derby begin!

I swear I heard reports of no fewer than four fender benders within an hour of the start of the “winter mix precipitation.” I, however, was not afraid because I knew “the Duke” would see me through the storm. Yes, I do name everything. The Duke is my Jeep and this is our first snowfall together. I am happy to report that we made the whole drive home in perfect form. Not one slip or slide. Way to use those four wheels Dukie!

So when most people arrive home after a long day at work on a miserably cold day, they run into their cozy homes, immediately change into flannel jammies, heat up some comfort food (I recommend mac and cheese), and curl up under their favorite blankie by the fire, right? Well, that scenario is probably accurate for many people, but not for me.

No, when I got home today, I got to change into my Carhartts (if you live on a farm where the weather gets cold, you surely know what these are…if you don’t, they are super warm, very ugly coveralls and jackets) and headed out to the barn to help Jim get the animals situated before the full force of snowmageddon arrived.

Now, I categorize farms into three types:

  1. A working farm. (Provides for the greater good/nourishment of America)
  2. A hobby farm. (Provides for the family and/or provides specific products for a cross-section of America)
  3. An E-I-E-I-O farm. (Provides no real value other than joy and an occasional backache to the resident humans)

Our farm is the latter, but proper preparation for freezing weather is equally important. All of the animals have to be fed. Round bales of hay have to be moved into the pastures. These are big suckers. Moving them involves the tractor with a huge hay spike attached. Potentially a lethal weapon in my hands, Jim handles the drive-the-tractor responsibilities while I man the gate. With him driving, I feel very sure I will not be impaled. I do not inspire the same confidence in him.

Water troughs have to be cleared of ice. Our two hogs have to have lots of fresh straw so they can burrow.  Our two elderly horses need their blankets—first time for blankets this year and the gals weren’t quite down with it, but we worked it out. There was a little cussing involved.

Last, but oh-so-certainly not least, we put out some extra food for our recently released to the wild young squirrel. He’s in for a big surprise tomorrow…do squirrels get excited about playing in snow for the first time like puppies do? We shall see.

Ok, barn chores completed, we finally did get to come inside to get into those warm jammies and decide on a comfort food for dinner. We actually went with soup…BUT there was chocolate cheesecake for dessert. Good call, Jim. Good call.

And now we hunker down (That’s Okie for stay inside) to await the big storm that could deliver a few inches of snow overnight. Oh sure, you people who live in the great north and other places that experience snow on a regular basis can snicker all you want, but that amount of snow will pretty much bring northeastern Oklahoma to its knees. Seriously. The schools have even already waved the white flag and cancelled classes for tomorrow and there is nary a flake on the ground.

I do not know what my day will hold tomorrow. If the snow does fall as predicted, my business partner and I will have to decide if we will delay the opening time for our dog care facility or if we will just suck it up and mush on in. Of course that trek will happen after Jim and I check in on the oink-oink here, and the neigh-neigh there, here a baa, there a bray, everywhere a bark-bark menagerie that defines Tails You Win Farm.

As for now? I’m tending the fire as humans and dogs wind down for the evening—except for Edie the cattle dog, I swear that dog never sleeps—to  await the onslaught of Old Man Winter. According to Jim, who is napping on the couch (yes, he is under there somewhere), it is apparently a four dog night. Thankfully we have plenty of dogs to go around so we should both be toasty warm.

Yes, we are ready. We not only have bread, we also have bagels and English muffins. Bring it on, Mother Nature. Bring it on.

Author’s note: Technically, I am forbidden to post photos on the internet of Jim sleeping. If I breach this agreement, he will retaliate by posting sleeping photos of ME and I am NOT one of those pretty sleepers. My face gets all slack and my mouth hangs open. I can’t help it if my nose doesn’t work. A gal has to breathe. However, since you can’t actually see Jim sleeping in this photo, I think I’m safe. I think. I hope.

Farm Animals Can’t Tell Time.

Jerry at the porchThis morning, at still-too-dark:30, my dogs went nuts. Not a little nuts–full blown bouncing from window to window barking at the top of their lungs nuts.

So, jolted none-too-gently from a sound sleep, my first response was to issue a very effective command to the dogs to calm down. I think it was something like, “OH DEAR LORD, PLEASE SHUT UP!” May I add here that I am a professional dog trainer? Yes, I am. Impressive demonstration of my abilities, I know. Let me know if you want my business card.

When my command did not result in a return to immediate, blissful silence, I too joined the pack at the window to see what in the world inspired such a frenzy. Coyote? Raccoon? Mastodon? Zombie attack? Nope. Jerry Swinefeld? Yep.

Yes, my 900 pound hog had decided to escape his pasture and come for a little early morning visit to the house. Apparently, I have failed to teach my large porcine friend proper etiquette when it comes to the art of dropping in uninvited.

So, in my pajamas, robe and house shoes, I stepped onto the porch where I was greeted by the familiar soft grunting of one pleased-to-see-me hog. My hogs have a little greeting they give me that I choose to interpret as an expression of endearment, but realistically, it’s probably more of a  may-I-have-a-cookie plea.

I said good morning to my charming escape-artist and gave him a reluctant scratch on the head. After all, how the heck do you scold a giant slab of pig? Jerry and I walked back to the barn together where his barn-mate, Spamela Anderson, was still sound asleep. See that Jerry? ASLEEP.

Yes, I gave him some cookies for coming along with me and for going back in his pen without a fuss. Trust me, if he wants to, Jerry can make quite a fuss. Rewarding compliance is a wise choice. I identified his latest escape route–he pushed out a section of the barn wall–and made a temporary repair. If I seem rather blase’ about the fact that one of my animals pushed through the wall of my barn, you have to understand that it’s not the first time it’s happened, and I have to assume you’ve never lived with giant hogs.

Peace restored to the barn, I shuffled back to the house where I could hopefully grab a couple more hours of sleep before the day was really supposed to begin. The dogs where still crazy, so I pacified them by letting them all take deep sniffs of my hands. This was my way of telling them that it was Jerry outside the window, not the rabid bear they were so certain it was just a short time ago.

Within 15 minutes of my very rude awakening, I was back snug in my bed and feeling very grateful. You may think it’s odd to find gratitude in this event, but find it I did. For one thing, it was NOT a rabid bear (we don’t have bears around here, but my dogs have very vivid imaginations), it was not a zombie attack (though we ARE ready for that). Perhaps more importantly, I am the one who discovered Jerry on the lam. I did NOT receive a phone call from sleepy, startled neighbors. Yeah, that has happened too. Jerry can cover quite a few acres in a surprisingly short amount of time.

So I drifted back into near-sleep, happy and content…until something set the dogs off once again. Who needs an alarm clock when apparently you have zombies to shoot? Ah sleep…we shall meet another night. Farm animals 1 – Sandman 0, but who’s keeping score?