Monday, April 15, 2019


So, not sure what’s going on, but it doesn’t appear that any of my replies to comments are making it to publication.  WB, you asked about Geena’s sire.  He is a JB Roar X Cabin Fever Miss Millie son, Morgan Rivers Expresso, Ethan.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

In Memorium

Goodbye to a Good Old Dog

7 July 2003 - 11 February 2019
Southern Cross Touch of Apache STDsdc JHD PT

I was there the day he was born.  The litter was only a few hours old when I arrived with Ho Dog for a training session with Tom.  I looked at Sin lying there with a pile of pups, and I saw him. I took one look and said ‘I love that one’.  Tom was keeping him, but every time we were there for training, I’d go visit. And, it appeared that Touch (his name then) loved me too, because the other pups would carry on with puppy shenanigans, and he would be at the side of the pen, wiggling and licking my hand.

It took 4 months for Tom to finally turn him loose.  And, I brought home the ugliest red merle Aussie pup that possibly ever existed.  Dale was horrified. “Oh god, please tell me he’ll grow into that nose and those ears” was all he could say.

Ho Dog was over the moon.  I’d brought him a play toy that could keep up with him.  For years, until the girl thing happened, they were inseparable.  And even after the girl thing, when they weren’t locked in mortal combat over a bitch in heat, they were best buds.

I remember the first time Dale trialed him in Arizona.  Due to the Newcastle outbreak, Hoke had never, ever been in even the same zip code as a duck.  I entered him anyway. Dale walked up to Marti Parrish, the judge, and asked “how much per duck?”.  She didn’t know what he meant for a moment, but we were both pretty sure it was going to be feathers and fur flying.

He placed second, behind a nationally ranked, Open level Border Collie.  He was always good on ducks.

Sheep and cattle, however, saw him channel his inner Richard Petty (a famous race car driver).  We tried everything to slow him down. Not much success, but he was usually appropriate on sheep, even if he did have nearly sub 1 minute Started runs.

On cattle, however, his ideology was that if a steer didn’t move when he told it to, whichever end the steer pointed at him would bleed.  He was fearless on heads and on heels. We backgrounded some commercial steers one year when we first got to Oregon. They were testy Angus X buggers, and one in particular, named Tony, drew the ire of 3 year old Hoke as well as 15 month old Cricket many times.  One of the other ones ended up with the nickname Nacho, because at one point, trying to push them through the chutes for routine vet care, that one turned and put his head down at Hoke for snapping a heel to get the balky steer moving.

The vet just cleaned and sprayed the missing chunk of ear with Blu Kote.

Two weeks before we left Southern California for Oregon, we trialed him at Murrieta.  He not only finished all three of his Started titles, he did it by winning or placing in each class.  He was Dale’s first ever trial dog, and it’s a good thing Dale is a natural at it, because Hoke was perhaps the hardest dog I’ve ever seen to train and trial.  He wasn’t bad at regular ranch chores, but since Ho was saner and more reliable on the cattle, Hoke mostly got to do pen work, because no one dared to disobey him in close quarters.

He had a reputation, somewhat deserved, as a flyby dog.  Once, a friend of Dale’s wandered by right after Hoke had been working hard on cattle with a trainer, and Hoke did a 3 acre sweep at full speed around the house and outbuildings, and as he passed behind Dale’s friend, took a strip of his blue jeans with him.  Didn’t touch the skin, but ruined a pair of Levi’s. Our good friend Don, who has one of Hoke’s daughters, used to egg him on, make him go faster and faster, just to laugh at the spectacle.

He wasn’t all that old when he blew his first ACL.  Then, a year later and semi retired, he slipped through the gate and rounded up the sheep in the snow, and tore the second one.  From that moment on, forced into full retirement, he voiced his displeasure every time someone went out to work the stock. Loudly.  And ran himself ragged unless he was put in the house, in a room, at the farthest point from the pasture, with a noisy radio on. In a crate, he’d hurt himself.

He just wanted to work.  That’s all. That’s all he ever wanted to do.

He was a lot of dog in a moderately small package.  Not as biddable as Ho Dog, he was never able to trial at the Open level, because we were never able to teach him to drive without a wreck.  He wanted stock to MOVE dammit, and once they got all crazy, he was in his element. He always did this just so he could put things back together again.  He didn’t chase to cause a riot, he chased because he wanted to gather and control. And he was damn good at that.

As he slipped into the silent and blurry world of the aged canine, he mellowed bit by bit.  He hadn’t barked in probably a year. He finally stopped trying to kill Rosie every time she got near him.  He ignored the Border Collie altogether, and she was very thankful for that. He stopped accepting his dorky daughter Sybil’s invitation to play; she was the only dog he ever really played with beside Ho, and that was when he was a young dog, and before the girl thing.  He and Cricket were like Ragnar and Lagetha (from the show ‘Vikings’) in how they ruled their domain. If you follow the show, you know that it’s now just an aged Lagetha; Ragnar is partying hard in Valhalla.

That morning, we didn’t wake up with the intention to let him go.  We have been watching, discussing, and measuring the quality of both his life and ours in these twilight years.

This morning, the scales tipped.  He could no longer get up on his own, and the results required a hose and the carpet shampooer.  His breathing was steadily growing worse; two nights ago, he woke us up with his bellowing respiration.  That morning, I accidentally bumped him with his hated nemesis, the vacuum cleaner, and he barely opened an eye.

For the record, my old vacuum has teeth marks on it.

It’s always a heart wrenching decision, to voluntarily end the life of a beloved pet.  You’re always questioning - am I jumping the gun? Is it too soon? Did I wait too long?  Did my pet suffer while I selfishly refused to let them go for my own comfort of having them around?

Will they tell me when they’re ready?  No, not usually. Sometimes, it works out that way.  But mostly, because I don’t anthropomorphize any of my animals, I know that short of obvious, protracted, vocalized pain and/or grievous, unrepairable injury, they cannot tell me they are ready to return to the stuff of stars, from whence we all came from.

But dammit, he just didn’t look like Hoke anymore.  The fire was dimming to the point of barely being there at all.  He lay awkwardly, back legs splayed up along both sides of his abdomen, and paid little attention to the world going on around him.  Watching him lay down was gut wrenching. The pain pills didn’t seem to be doing much for him anymore. Even a spunky, daredevil calf poking its nose thru the pasture gate didn’t draw his lion roar and charge.  The younger dogs would charge by him, knocking him down, and he’d just lay there, waiting for someone to help him up, instead of raining the wrath of Hoke down upon their snotty little heads.

We made the final, hard decision.  His long time friend and vet Ryan will, just as he did for Jazzee and Ho Dog all those years ago, lead him over The Bridge.  And it will be done.

As I was there at his arrival, I will be there at his passing.  And that is at it should be.
Get ‘em up, Hoke!

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Ode To An Old Horse

The neighbour’s called in the early afternoon.  Pony was down, and trying unsuccessfully to get up.

It was July 6th.

Here we go again, I thought.  A few months ago, the same thing had happened.  The OSU vets were on their way out. Dr. Meacham told us to roll him over on his other side, and see if that helped.  It didn’t appear to do anything, at least not right away. I went to the barn for his blanket, as it was getting cold, and when I stepped out of the barn, there he was, standing there yelling that his chow was late.

He turned 35 in May.  We got him when he was 13.  Most people thought he was about 15, more or less.  He was something of a butt. He was loud, always had to be in the middle of everything, and not usually in a good way.  If we tried to do something with his sheep, he did his best to thwart our plans by not only getting in the way, but running the sheep around, away from us and where we needed them to go.  If I was late with his chow, he’d follow me to the barn, grabbing at my hoodie in the winter, holding it just long enough to feel me pull against it, then let go, whinny and prance as I pinwheeled my arms, trying not to fall face first.  In the summer, it was my hat, or worse, the back of my upper arms that became targets of his pranks.

He was a jerk.

In 12 years, we never lost a lamb or sheep to a predator.  Even when everyone within 3 miles of us were losing stock to mountain lions, bears and coyotes, our stock was untouched.

He’d take his 900 pounds of skinny chested, long legged and teeth baring American Saddlebred gelding self and send 2200 pounds of bovine bullness fleeing in terror, yelling all the way.  Poor Roar was simply terrified of this gangly collection of bones. All Pony had to do was look in his direction and pin his ears, and Roar immediately started the other direction, bellowing in fear.

In his younger days, he was a 5 gaited champion show horse.  He also pulled a stagecoach in the Ramona Pageant, a 3 day live action, outdoor play held in Hemet I think it was.  Running in harness, bandits riding horses along side, shooting blanks, he never flinched. However, let a butterfly meander by his nose, and all bets were off as to whether I could keep my seat on his back.  I tried to do dressage with him, but not being much of a horsewoman, I did him no favors. However, my instructor could get on his back and have him doing all sorts of fancy dressage stuff at the Prix St. George level, whatever that is.

Damn, he looked good doing it, too.  If there was one shining good thing about him, it was his ability to do whatever you asked of him under saddle.

Or, even without a saddle.  One summer he spent a few weeks as a vaulting horse, with up to 5 little girls doing acrobatics on and off of him at once.  The best I could do, the only adult in the class, was run around the inside of the circle, trying desperately to haul my big butt up onto his back without a mounting block, helping hand or stirrup.

Mostly, I wasn’t successful, but occasionally, the magic happened.  Have I mentioned that I’m not much of a horsewoman?

In 2006, we moved him from his dusty, dry 20’X20’ pipe corral in Southern California to 50 acres of pasture in Western Oregon.  The first time he met our 3 VERY pregnant ewes, he pinned those long, elegant ears, arched that neck, and ran those ewes all over the place before we finally got him under control and out of their pasture.  I just knew they’d all abort or deliver stillborn lambs.

Eventually, they all lambed normally, and Pony found his calling as flock guardian, and chaser of cattle.  Something that Saddlebreds are NOT known for. But, something that he showed an inane talent for, much to everyone’s surprise.

We leased a pasture to a neighbor for his 50 momma cows and a bull that first summer we were here.  The pastures were way overgrown, some of the fencing was a bit on the iffy side, and we didn’t have the electric fencing up yet, so we tried to keep them corralled in one pasture at a time, to eat it down and to give us a chance to fix things up in the next pasture.  One day, I had left a gate open between the south pasture and the maternity pasture, and the next thing I knew, 50 momma cows and a bull were streaming into the already mowed down maternity pasture - the one without a main gate, which had been removed to replace a broken post.

I just knew this was going to end badly, and with no time to go get a dog, I ran down to the gate they were coming through, trying to stop and turn them around.

Imagine, an ant trying to prevent a steamroller from making ant pancakes out of her sisters.  That’s about how it was going, when out of nowhere, Pony charged through the stream of cows at the gate, whirled around, and took the side opposite me.

Holy crap, are you KIDDING me?  No. That horse read what I was doing, and between the two of us, we got those lead cows turned around and started back through the gate, doubletime.  And, the last last one through got a little love bite from Pony, as if he was driving home the point. He followed her through, and then looked back as if to say ‘hey, that was FUN!’.

We moved him out of the south pasture as soon as we got the gate rehung.  Not our cows, and didn’t feel like buying them. We did admire how that Angus bull always seemed to keep the mommas between him and Pony, however.

He hated his blanket.  Growing up in SoCal, he never needed one.  He tended to grow enough hair to look like a yak in the winter, no matter where he lived.  But when it was single digits and icy, he’d stand there and shiver, icicles hanging off his belly and chin, and dance away from any attempts to put a blanket on him.  When we’d finally get it on, his only goal was to remove it, any way possible. He’d shred them on the barb wire, the trees, the barn and people. He’d roll, and shake, trying to get the straps to pop off.  I’d tie wrap the straps to their keepers to prevent that, as he got good at it.

He never, EVER kicked.  He’d dance for the farrier, until he or she made it clear that his feet would be done, whether he liked it or not, then he was pretty much okay with them.  When we first got him, his first farrier worked for 2 years, with corrective shoeing, to get his feet out of Saddlebred show trim and into normal, and then finally barefoot trim.  For almost 20 years, he never wore shoes.

I think he liked that.  I also think part of his grief with farriers might have been the thought of wearing those awful show shoes again.

He was one of the prettiest pasture ornaments you could want.  When he got all het up and started first his prancing gait, and then galloping in that Cadillac smooth gallop that felt like you weren’t even moving, that the air was just rushing past your face as you watched the scenery fly by from your comfy seat in that Cadillac convertible, people would stop and watch his fluid beauty in awe.  Nothing rides like a Saddlebred, especially a finely bred, 5 gaited one, and nothing looks as effortlessly elegant in full stride. He was gorgeous, a deep, golden red chestnut, with a flaxen mane and long tail, and he LOVED to show off. Tail in the air, chin tucked, neck arched, I always wondered if he thought he was back in the show ring, the crowd cheering him on, front and back feet nearly reaching his chest and belly as he gaited around the ring.

We went out to the pasture, with a bucket of his grain and a halter, and rolled him over, just as before.  Put the bucket just out of his reach. Stood back, and waited, then rolled him back. Over and over, we did that.  Over and over, he tried to get his rear legs under him. He was a tad on the chunky side, and that probably wasn’t helping, but he tended towards rewarding that expensive, senior horse chow with plenty of padding.

I called Dr. Vanegas.  He’d just left the dairy down the road, and now he turned around and head out to the ranch.

Still, Pony tried to get up.  But, it just wasn’t happening.

22 years is a long time to own a horse, especially one already in his teens when you got him.  In that time, I learned a lot about horses. What colic was, how to identify choke. How NOT to tighten the cinch on a western saddle.  How to tranquilizer a horse and STILL not be able to get him into a trailer. I still wasn’t a horsewoman, but I had one, so I had to try to be the best non-horsewoman I could be.  There were times when I wanted to just shoot him, like the time the vet was coming out to do an exam, and he decided that was a fine to to rip the lead rope out of my hands and lead us all on a merry chase for 45 minutes all over the place, his sheep in tow.  And, when Cricket was dog breaking the lambs, and he was running around the outside of the round pen, screaming at us and scattering lambs all over the pen, in spite of Cricket’s best attempts to keep them together. Or when, in a fit of pique, and for absolutely no reason, he yanked the rope out of my husband’s hands so hard, it broke two of his fingers.

Then there were the days, when my old girl Jazzee, 14 at the time, Pony, and I would walk out to count noses in the frosty morning air, 3 old farts enjoying the solitude and quiet of a winter’s morn, none of us needing to make a sound other than 10 feet crunching through the frost or snow.  The dogs trying to work the goats, whom Pony loved with all fo his big heart, the goats who gathered under his belly, where they knew the dogs wouldn’t go, even though Pony never, ever kicked at dog in his life.

Dr. Vanegas and his 2 students arrived.  We rolled him again, and Jorge examined him carefully, testing his rear legs for feeling.

He didn’t flinch.

He listened to that heart, and shook his head slightly.  I think that’s when I knew it was over. No murmur was detected on the last exam just a few months before, but there was one now, and it was bad.  Coupled with the lack of reaction to his legs being pinched, what came next was not unexpected. He had likely ruptured a disc in his back when he went down, probably to roll, trying to get his fly mask off (he hated those too).  His heart was too damaged, too weak, to pump enough blood to his rear legs.

I asked Jorge and the students for a few minutes.  They graciously went back to the truck to prepare the necessary items.

Just two months ago, we lost Twyla, our beloved old ewe.  Old Pogo, the ancient Navajo-Churro and Twyla’s best pal, adopted Twy’s two little girls.  The last picture of Pony I have is of him hanging out with the trio, sensing that they might need him more than usual, at least for a while.

I sat by his head, and saw that he was tired.  He lay quietly, and that horse just didn’t do quietly.  We had taken the hated fly mask off, and for that, he was grateful, I’m sure.  I watched him, and talked to him a little. Just nonsense, for what I recall. What do you say to an animal you’ve had for so long, really?

I looked at Jorge, and nodded.  I moved to the other side of Pony, fitting into the curve of his back, nestled in comfortably, and just stroked his chest.  I watched the pulse by his elbow, until it faded away.

Don brought his backhoe over, and we buried him in the south pasture, down where his beloved goats rested.  This fall, I’ll toss some red clover seed on the bare dirt. He loved him some fresh red clover, he did.

Pony was a son of the Hulse’s great Champagne Fizz, and a great grandson of the immortal Wing Commander.  He did his pedigree proud, and for the last 12 years of his life, found his calling as a flock guardian, cattle wrangler and Prince of the Pastures.

He was, and now he’s gone.  It’s quiet now, no horse prancing and screaming at me in the morning, watching me feed the dogs and not being happy to be second in line.  That annoyed me to no end.

I’m being honest here.  I don’t miss that part of him.

But, I do miss him.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

How to Tell When It’s Spring in the Pacific Northwest

You wake up and find your garden art has dandruff

Even the daffodils are cold

You spent all day the day before, getting the garden beds ready to plant

At least you zipped up the mini greenhouse.  Didn’t matter, the baby lettuce all died anyway

Below freezing.  Again.

Which means that there must be newborn lambs, because the ewes only lamb when it’s raining/snowing/freezing/3 in the morning and doing all of the above

The trade off is tons of gorgeous bulbs bursting forth, bringing smiles to the faces of everyone who sees them.

The greenhouse is groaning, it’s so full, and I just keep moving more seedlings off the heat mats and into the greenhouse to harden off, hoping that eventually, I’ll get a chance to get them out before the stockdog trial season starts in May!

Happy spring, everyone!

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Happy 2018!

Flash, first calf of the season, arrived late New Years night.  Here, the 4 day old poses with big brother Ethan, momma Millie, and daddy Roar lounging in the background

Hours old

Monday, December 25, 2017