December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas to my wonderful friends!

Sending you wishes for a beautiful Christmas
from our house to your house.

December 18, 2008

Are You Lonely, Royal?

Our rescue horse becomes Royal's babysitter.

Thanks to all of you wonderful, fantastic, helpful friends that have made such good suggestions and have been great at just "being there" during these very long worry days/months.
This ordeal with Royal has been traumatic and we'll all be glad when it is finally over.
They say it will take him about a year for recovery, but I just can't deal with that !
I've lost count on how many times the vet has been here, how many times I felt like crying because he said things weren't going so well with Royal, and how scared I've been that I might lose my boy.

But here is the latest report on Royal.

Remember after that steroid medication (that he should not have had) and how he blew up like a fat bubble wrap boy? Well, the welts and edema are almost gone. The blood work is showing that the insulin resistance situation is improving, and his weight is getting back to normal.
We still do not know if he is really insulin resistant or if the steroid medication caused the situation. But whatever, he is being treated for IR ... and laminitis and rotation.

Tomorrow, both the vet and the farrier will be here to remove his wooden shoes and see what we have underneath. More x-rays will be taken to see what the situation is and then they'll decide what type of shoes and pads he will have put back on.

His medications have been reduced, but he is still on his diet ... much to Royal's disappointment, even though he is much thinner.
In fact, I think he looks thinner than the day I bought him. He's always been a big boy ... you know, tall, dark and handsome.

Probably the toughest past of his confinement has been being stuck in his stall. I mean, take a look at it !!
It is a constant reminder that his mom needs to get out the paintbrush and get things back in shape.

Royal pretty much just hangs around looking out the window watching dogs, cats, geese, ducks and the world go by ... and, of course, waiting for me to show up for the 45th time just to check on him. He's such a good patient.

With all the rains, he has managed to stay dry. I suppose that is the good part of being stuck in the stall.

I'm counting on good news from the vet, tomorrow.

That's all I want for Christmas ... a healthy Royal, running up and down the hill to the upper paddock and calling out to me just to be sure I know where he is.

Just couldn't ask for more ....

December 3, 2008

Royal- Worry and Sleepless Nights

Click to enlarge photos
Royal ~ The Love of My Life!


Royal has always been the horse I could depend on. He's my army tank, perfect feet, perfect attitude, healthy as a horse, the one that just keeps on rolling with his beautiful, heavenly gait, day after day.

Suddenly, he is now suffering laminitis in both front feet, on 30 day stall rest just for starters, on Banamine twice a day, Ace twice a day. He has rolled wooden shoes screwed to his once upon a time, perfect feet.
As soon as we had the diagnosis, we did five days of ice/water soaking of his front feet for 15 minutes three times a day. Near the end of the process, Royal would just pick up his feet and plop them in the bucket. He seemed to know we were trying to help him.

The alarm went off when Royal was being such a quiet babysitter for Shadow. Royal is an active boy, always flagging that tail as he runs to the upper paddocks on a regular basis, or prancing his way down to the arena.

I've kept a detailed chart of the accumulating time bombs along the way. It seems things keep getting worse, the list of possible causes is getting longer.
I'm an absolute worried wreck and nearly living in the barn round the clock.

If you read through my panic post and see red flags along the way or have any suggestions, ... I'm listening!

I love this boy!

Late last August, a new young vet made a routine call to the barn. She recommended Royal be given some medication for those annoying "can't see 'um" fly bites. A short time later, Royal blew up the size of a house. He looked like he was a big roll of bubble wrap. I later learned the medication was potent steroids given several times a day.

Later, my regular vet came by and ran x-rays of his feet to get a base line in case of further problems. The results were ... perfect feet.

Then blood tests were run for insulin resistance. It came back positive. However, on second opinion, I learned that steroid overdose can cause artificial metabolic syndrome and excess weight and bloating. Whatever the cause, he now has laminitis.

Royal's menu is now 16 pounds of soaked timothy hay a day, along with 1 cup of Purina Low Starch feed with his usual vitamin/mineral supplement. (He's a big boy, almost 17 hands and big boned.)
Even though Royal's thyroid is normal, he was put on 4 scoops of Thyro-L daily to lose the weight.

Three weeks later, he has developed laminitis. X-Rays were done, again. It shows rotation in both front feet, numbering 7 in the right front and 10 in the left front. Now, he is in serious condition.
My farrier says he has seen this before. He believes the steroids started the process and the thyroid has caused the laminitis. He recommends slowly bringing him off the thyroid, since his new diet will bring down his weight. He believes to continue the thyroid for another 2 months will cause further problems.

Now, I don't know what to do about the thyroid medicine. The vet says to give it to lose weight fast and the farrier says no, that it is risky.

Both my vet and farrier are excellent. Just differing opinions. And I don't know what to do.

I've been reading Victoria's very similar problems. She sure has kept me together through this trial. I'm so glad to see things are on the mend with Siete.

My thinking, at the moment, is Royal does not have insulin resistance, and I'm very concerned about the effects of the thyroid and the laminitis.

My vet was here this morning and we discussed this thoroughly. He sees no relationship in the timing of the medication and the laminitis. He'll be back again, tonight and we'll be doing more blood work to run another test for the insulin resistance.

In the meantime, I'm going in circles, checking Royal constantly and worried sick.

If any of this is familiar to you, if you agree or disagree with my thinking, please post a word or two.
If you have suggestions ... any help is greatly appreciated.

Right now, I'm back to the barn ...

November 29, 2008

And ... Just When Things Were Going So Well

Click photo to enlarge
Shadow with his dad

Shadow has made a remarkable recovery from those starvation days two months, ago. He knows the feeding schedule, well, licks his plate clean and even hangs around for some good old fashioned grooming. He's rather proud of his handsome new pounds that cover those skinny bones of yesterday.
He has happily joined in his exercise program to build those muscles and get his hind quarters strong. He has even lost that strange rotation in his back leg. The vet was right ... build the muscles, get him stronger and he just might surprise you.
With Shadow's walk abouts in the neighborhood, he has become a bit of a celebrity as people admire those new muscles and shiny black coat, remembering how fragile he once was. It has been great to see him become so proud of himself.
We were thinking ... what kind of career would be best for Shadow. He is calm, well behaved, loves children, scared of nothing. Then I thought of my friend who taught at the Shea Center for handicapped children. Ah-Hah! What a perfect job that would be for him.
The plan was to spend 3 more months of muscle development, then off Shadow would go to the therapy center for his 90 day trial. If that didn't work, he could always come back and hang out in his paddock and entertain friends that go by.
That was then and this is now.
How times can change in 24 hours.

It was early in the morning when Shadow's paddock partner left for another home. I was there to be sure everything went smoothly and to help the owner.
"Angel" was still in the horse trailer when Shadow began his frantic pacing. There was not another horse in sight for Shadow to see even in the distance. He was alone. There was nothing to calm him.
Once again, he felt abandoned. Blind fear took over.
I stayed with him until nearly midnight, trying to help him, but ended up just watching him pace himself into a lather. I asked friends for a horse that needed to get out of a stall and stretch its legs to keep him company. But no luck.
The next morning, neighbors said he kept up the fast pacing the entire night. It wasn't until the afternoon that I located a mare to share the empty paddock next to Shadow. He immediately was calm, even though the mare continually tried to bite him.

The sad part was the mare would be going back late that afternoon and Shadow would be alone to do his manic pacing, again. He hadn't stopped for 30 hours, not even for food or water. He was losing those precious pounds. A plan had to be made quickly.

It was decided that Shadow would come temporarily to our barn. My friend, Nicole, had the job of walking a frantic horse away from his "home" and to a strange place.

When he arrived at my barn, Shadow continued to pace in the stall for another 3 days and whinny at night. We called the vet, who said that Shadow had such insecurity issues from so much abandonment, that Royal would be his only help.

Royal is not famous for being a babysitter. He has his own things to do. But, Royal patiently stood by Shadow's stall window and Shadow finally began to calm down and to eat and drink.

Now, I had to find Shadow a permanent home, quick. ( Remember, no room in my barn?) Since Shadow wasn't ready for the therapy school, I called every rescue place possible. They were all full considering the horrible plight of horses right now.
I didn't trust what would happen to Shadow and I just could not let him repeat his dreadful past. So he is still in our barn.
Shadow thinks he is home. He's finally calm, walks around with confidence and thinks he won the lottery. He's a good boy ... and, yes, he is a keeper. He's home, now.

Much to my surprise, Royal has been a wonderful babysitter, stands quietly by Shadow's stall. However, I know Royal ... he is standing much too quietly.

We soon learned ... life has changed, again.
Shadow is fine, but ...
There is something seriously wrong with Royal.
That is the next chapter!
I'm living in the barn for awhile.

November 22, 2008

Thank Heaven For Second Opinions!

Click photos to enlarge
La-Lee is one of those cats that purrs her way into everyone's heart. She's a talker, a lap sitter, a tag along, and a pillow warmer. As you might guess, we got her from the Humane Society.
We had been looking for a Burmese cat. None were available, but we were told that there had just arrived a beautiful Tonkinese cat that sure wouldn't be there long. We jumped in the car and she was ours about 45 minutes later.
I asked why such a beautiful cat was there.

It seems a girl was getting married and her future husband had said it was "me or the cat". Personally, I would have found a different groom and kept the cat.

Lucky for us, this adorable cat has been the center of our household for almost 12 years.

Last January things seemed to be going wrong with La-Lee.

For all of you who have cats, I'm telling you about our ordeal in the event you have a cat with symptoms similar to what La-Lee had.
Perhaps some of you have already
been there and done that with your cat and wonder why it took me so long to arrive ... at the "second opinion" that saved her life!

It all happened gradually. This calm, sweet girl began acting nervous, then later seemed to be having "panic attacks". I rushed her to an old vet I'd used years ago. He said she was a Tonkinese and was "neurotic" and not to worry. (La-Lee has never been neurotic!)

However, things got worse. When holding her I could feel her heart pounding, and she was panting as though she couldn't get her breath.

Back to the vet:
This time he said she was having an asthma attack. It was decided she was allergic to the dogs. This meant she had to be isolated in the bedroom, permanently, forever. I also had to use a face mask to give her asthma medications.

Things still got worse, nights were especially bad. She was so hungry, yet she never ate. I tried every food imaginable. She seemed to like tiny bits of my left over egg or tuna salad with mayonnaise. Eventually, La-Lee only licked Nutra-Cal from my finger.

Back to the vet:
She was put on high powered steroids and penicillin. I was sent home with the syringes to give her the meds. I said there was no way I'd be giving penicillin shots, it is painful, requires a large needle ... and I knew La-Lee would have no part of that.

Back to the vet:
After a good scolding, the vet said ... let me show you how to give a penicillin shot. I knew what was coming! He held her firmly and attempted to give the shot. The cat jumped in the air, the syringe hit the wall and the vet was covered with penicillin. He was very annoyed, I was amused and La-Lee was furious. We were sent home with medications less troublesome. (I later found out it was tranquilizers mixed with antibiotics.)

La-Lee continued to get worse. She was now dreadfully skinny, had insomnia, cried all the time and was extremely restless.

Back to the vet:
This time she was given an ultrasound. The vet determined she had cancer throughout her intestines and if I loved my cat, I'd put her to sleep ... right then.

This didn't sound right and didn't feel right. I'd had enough with what I now considered to be a neurotic vet. I told him I didn't make hasty decisions and would need to take her home and give this some thought.

After calling all my friends to help me locate a specialist, I decided to rush La-Lee to the young vet that in the past had the unpleasant responsibility of coming to our house when it was time to say "good-bye" to a family pet.

I needed a second opinion, pronto.
Off to a Different Vet:

Dr. Kelly was all business. To put my mind at ease, she did an ultrasound of La-Lee's intestines. Several other vets, as well as myself, studied the screen. It was agreed by all that there was no sign of any cancer. Next came x-rays and then drawing the blood for a complete panel.

Dr. Kelly was quite certain by La-Lee's behavior and appearance (skinny, nervous, hungry) that she was ... hyperthroid and that there was probably a non-cancerous tumor on her thyroid.

When the blood results came back ... her diagnosis was correct. La-Lee's thyroid was alarmingly high. Had we not found this out she probably would have had heart problems and not long to live.

We had three options:
1. pills = which made her vomit
2. medication rubbed on the inside of her ear = this made her vomit
3. radioactive injections

Radioactive !! To poor La-Lee? How frightening!
But that was now our only option. I couldn't imagine sending her off to a special hospital for this procedure and then leaving her there for a week while she became ... non radioactive! But that is what we did and how fortunate we were that such a clinic was near our home, so off she went.
There were 18 cats that checked in that day, all being sent for the same hyperthyroid treatment and all kept in individual isolation "suites". I was amazed. I had no idea this was such a common problem in cats, especially 13 years old and over.

I coughed up the $ so that I could watch her on my computer screen from early morning to late at night. It was worth the peace of mind.

I'd sent along an old green T-shirt I'd worn for her to sleep on. Somehow, I think it made her feel better. It certainly made me happier.

Here is the first picture of her in the hospital.
She is not radioactive, yet.
But she knew ... this wasn't home.
She's tucked back under ... on my green shirt.

The next day she had her radioactive procedure. I didn't know what to expect, how she would act. Would she be a sick-er cat? I knew she would be lonely, since they couldn't pet her.

So I checked out my computer screen to see what was happening.

I certainly didn't expect to see this.

Hey! Any room service here?!

We all survived her week being gone. She is now healthy, loves to eat, is no longer skinny or nervous. She is back to normal ... purring, sitting on my lap and keeping all the pillows nice and warm.

That's her job, you know ... that is when she isn't walking in front of the computer screen or pawing her way across the keyboard.

Wow ... I sure missed her and how lucky we are to still have her ... thanks to a second opinion!

November 14, 2008

Problems With Your Printer?

Making the email rounds and too cute not to share!

November 9, 2008

Royal's Friends ~ Ben and Pal

Click photos to enlarge
Early Morning

Back home, again ...

Seems I need to explain this unlikely pair.
In a comment, Amy Jo asked how a "Clydesdale
and a little pony ever hooked up".

The pony has been living at this house for several years, along with goats and chickens, but no horses. Then while making the rounds of the neighborhood, lo and behold, there was a Clydesdale that had just arrived a couple weeks, ago.

The owners said Ben was from Wisconsin and I guess got tired of the snowstorms and so he was shipped to California. He seems quite happy with his pint sized room mate.

They do their munching at the bottom of the hill and then toddle back up to their barn.
I'm rather curious if the owners thought to measure the opening of the barn door before bringing Ben to live with them. Oh well, things usually work out.

November 1, 2008

Shadow's Carrot Girl

Click photo to enlarge
Wait A Minute, Shadow ...
I'll get the carrot for you!
3 year old Cassie stops by often to give her favorite pal his treats.
Shadow loves children and has regular fans who stop by.
Take a look at that boy! No ribs showing!
Yeah! He's come a long way!

October 30, 2008

Shadow Begins Exercise

Click photo to enlarge
Shadow ~ First


It's been almost two months since Shadow began the long road back. I still look at that first photograph of him, and remember how uncertain I was that he would even make it. I just didn't realize the inner strength this horse had. He amazes me everyday.

He has a healthy appetite and is starting to fill out in just the right places. This week we began the muscle-up program, which means a slow walk on the flat along the trails that are conveniently in front of his paddock.

His hind quarters are very weak, but Dr.Secor assures me that keeping things slow and steady, Shadow should be able to develop the muscles to solve that problem.

My real worry is a strange rotation of the left hind leg. Sometimes it seems that he could possibly go down. At present, I'm avoiding turns towards the left, as that is a challenge for him.

He does fine on the straight for about 20 minutes, and then the leg seems to give out. I hope it is a muscle thing and not some old injury that will be permanent.

Here are some photographs that show the left hind leg rotation.
Would greatly appreciate opinions, suggestions, advice.

Beginning of walk on the straight

Turning left ... beginning rotation of left hind leg.

Turning left ... rotation and lack of support
The severity seen in last photo is generally after about
20 minutes of walking. On a good day, there is no rotation.
I try to remember it was only
8 weeks ago he could hardly walk.
It's a day at a time.
(Shadow is a Fox Trotter about 25 years old.)

October 26, 2008

We Live In A Dog House

Click photo to enlarge

Katie and Charlie


Every now and then Charlie has a good idea. In fact, this time it was a terrific one. He wanted a sister and that's sure what he got. These two kids were meant to be together.

I just don't know why it took me 48 hours to see that Katie was not going to be temporary.
In fact, when I think about that phone call from Carole describing this "perfect girl" ... I think this whole thing was a set up, ... this was no "foster for a few days"! This was a done deal, I just didn't know it.
Carole knew I'd keep this little girl and she also knew I'd say "no" if she mentioned my adopting another dog.
I'm such a push over once they get in the house!

The cat test was a breeze .......
But, there is no doubt ... life has changed around here!

The nightly romp

and ... so much for those toys.

Later, it's time for races.
This is when mom says ... "take it outside!"
Then it's back for TV.

Is this just one big pile of fur, or what?!

October 18, 2008

Katie Comes To Visit

Click to enlarge photos

Katie ~ The New Foster Child


As you know, Charlie wants a sister and I want a trial before adding another dog to our collection of animals. So, we're trying the fostering idea. Never done this before.

I called Carole at the Golden Retriever Rescue to tell her that I would possibly, maybe, think about fostering an older Golden Retriever, but none of the puppy stuff.
Somehow, with Charlie, our house has become his ... meaning we live in one big dog house. And now we were considering another?
Carole knew I was still in recovery from my breathless training adventures with Charlie. He had been a large pup when we brought him home to a place filled with ducks, geese, cats and horses.
What were we thinking?

At the time, we had been looking for an older female with perfect manners and then we saw Charles. Well, you know the rest of the story.
He behaves perfectly now, but I'm still in recovery.

So, in my conversation with Carole, I told her that this new foster Golden would have to be an older lady that would fit into our zoo.

I figured that would take quite awhile to find ... and maybe never, then I'd be off the hook.

Only a few days later the phone rang. It was Carole. She was all excited about having found the most perfect, sweetest, most adorable 8-9 year old female Golden that she had ever seen. This girl would be a perfect foster child for me. It went something like this ...

"Oh believe me, she is wonderful. You'll love her and she'll only be there a few days before she'll be adopted by another family."

We dashed over to pick her up. Carole was right. Katie was a sweetheart. She politely jumped into the back of the car. I later turned around to check on her.

It looked like we were driving "Miss Daisy". She was sitting so perfectly in the middle of the back seat, looking straight out the front car window. All that was missing was a flowered bonnet.

It is hard to mention, sad to say and difficult to fathom, but this lovely lass had been left at the dog pound by her former owners and then they drove away. I only hope they at least said "good-bye".

But now, she was at our house and our girl ... until she found her forever home.

Charlie was simply overjoyed! I don't think his tongue stayed in his mouth for more than a few seconds. He hauled all the toys out of his toy box pretending he would share.

Katie was patient with all the activity and tried her best to keep up with the road races up and down the hallway.
We found these two kids entertaining as we watched the rugs being rearranged into clumps and piles, along with toys being thrown in the air.
Charlie was in his glory and Katie was a sport.

The two became instant friends. There were car rides together, long hikes on the trails, ball chasing in the back yard and outings along the beach.

My responsibility, other than caring for Katie as a foster child, was sending Carole daily reports as to how Katie was adjusting to her new environment, did she like cats, did she like Charlie, did she bark? All these details were necessary in order for her to find the home that would fit perfectly for her.

A few days later, I wrote up the ad for Katie, along with a photo. It was late at night when I clicked "send" and the write-up was off to Carole to be placed on the Golden Retriever adoption site, so Katie could find her new parents.

The ad went like this:
Katie is a sweet, gentle older girl that came from a local shelter. Sad to say, she was turned in by her owners who could no longer keep her. Katie is the ideal companion. She has perfect manners, is calm and quiet. She does not bark. She enjoys greeting people on her walks around the neighborhood and loves rides in the car. She gets along with other dogs and doesn’t mind well behaved cats. Katie would love to find a new home where she can pal around the house, stroll in the backyard or just watch TV with her new forever parents. If you are looking for a foot warmer that is sweet and adorable, Katie just might be the one.

Early the next morning, I checked the Golden Retriever website and saw ... our Katie!
I quickly called Carole and said ... "take the ad down! Katie already has a forever home."

Katie is a keeper and I'm a foster failure!
Katie is here to stay.

October 14, 2008

About That Sister For Charlie


When Charlie said he needed a sister, I wasn't real jazzed on the idea. But then I remembered that I've been called a soft touch and knew that I needed to uphold my reputation.

For sometime, we've been helping with the Golden Retriever Rescue in the Southern California area. For the perfect dog, this is the place to go.

We adopted wonderful Kayla from them ...

And, of course, .... Charlie.

If you happen to be in the Southern California area, please check them out. They are wonderful people. At the moment, there are 49 adorable Goldens looking for a forever home.

Here is a photo of one recently adopted.

Some dogs are found running along the streets, some in dog pounds, some turned in by their owners for various reasons. This is a sad time, now, as people are losing their homes ... so are their pets.

The dogs are picked up by volunteers and are placed in a hospital clinic where all their needs are taken care of before being available for adoption. It is truly remarkable.

If dogs need surgery or medical procedures ... it is done. I remember one dog that had been hit by a car. He was literally put back together. What a wonderful dog he was and eventually he found a wonderful home.

We have been volunteering at the rescue center and have the official title of ... Dog Walkers. Since the dogs are kept temporarily in kennels, they need to get out several times a day for a healthy walk. I thought it was a win-win situation. The dogs got exercise and so did we.

A few came home with us for a "play date" where they ran around the yard and had a jolly good time.

It was always difficult to take them back to the clinic, but I knew that somewhere there was a perfect family searching for that very dog. It was a wonderful feeling to see them jump into the back of a car and head home with their new family.

Some dogs are sent to foster homes where they get to sleep on the couch, play with the kids and chase balls while their photo is on the website. Before long, they are found by their new family and finally move to a home of their own.

Now, with Charlie's request for a playmate of his own, I contacted my friend at the rescue center and suggested that we might foster a girlfriend for Charlie, while I decide if two dogs are too many.

Well ... you know where this story is going.

October 13, 2008

Meanwhile, Back At The Farm

Charlie and Dad ~ Story Time
"... and the wolf huffed and he puffed ..."

Now that things are under control with Shadow and we are mostly standing around watching that sweet horse eat and put on weight ... I'll bring you up to date on Charlie.

As you remember, Charlie was a Golden Retriever that we rescued last February.

He has now reached the age of two and has pretty much finished chewing up our shoes, counter surfing for food and chasing cats.

He has actually turned into a regular gentleman ... well, almost, most of the time, gentleman.

He's dad's pal. They have regular routines, such as early morning walks and late evening story hour. They are rarely apart.

The car is now a dog mobile filled with Charlie's toys. You've already heard about his shopping escapades.

Lately, I've heard this rumor circulating around the house. It seems Charlie wants a baby sister. At the moment ... I don't think so.

It's a busy place around here ... and at this very second it's time to scoot back to check on my rescue boy. That sweet horse is ready for another feeding and perhaps a very short walk along the horse trail.

And then when I get back home, there is handsome Royal to groom.

Another dog? Hummm .... do we really need two?
I have a feeling there will be another dog chapter in the near future.

October 4, 2008

Four Weeks Later ... Part 5

Click on photo to enlarge

A Day At A Time

This heroic boy is on his way!

With four feedings a day, lots of grooming and a tremendous amount of love ... changes are happening. Here he is only four weeks since that first photograph.

So far, he doesn't have a new name. I've saved all of your great suggestions. Thank you, so much! I'm not sure which one will fit. I'm thinking in time his personality will emerge and perhaps he will name himself.

At the moment, it is the sound of my voice and the bucket that gets his attention.

During the past few weeks, I've been leaning against the fence watching in amazement as this boy has gradually lost his depressed, starved appearance. I now see a handsome, sweet horse starting to emerge and growing stronger each day.

The first major change I noticed in him was ... trust.

I'm not sure why he would ever trust a human being again, but that seems to be what he is all about. He is forgiving and simply loves people.

Since I'm at his paddock several times a day, I've discovered he now has a fan club. People stop by to admire his progress and give him words of praise.

There is the little 3 year old carrot girl who waits to give him a hug.

Then there is the van of young school kids that stop, roll down the window and give him a cheer. The mother says this is the best part of the day for her girls.

It is a wonderful sight to see my boy putting on weight, filling out between those bones and seeing strength gradually building up in his legs.

Being very clever, he has learned to walk faster from the gate to the feeder. In fact, he seems to have acquired the energy to be a little too eager at times.

I said, well, look at you ... you're in school now.

We've worked on patience, no pushing at feeding time and a quick learner, he is! Now, he politely steps back and waits for me to add the food and all the healthy things that go with it.

He seems to honestly believe there will be more food coming, again, in a few hours. What a wonderful thing that must be for him.

In a few weeks, he will slowly start his exercise program. This means walking a short ways up and down the horse trail in front of his paddock. Dr. Secor wants to build muscles without burning the fat we are working so hard to put on him.

Speaking of my vet, let me say he is a gem. Being one of the best vets in the area, he is much in demand. He works with the top competitive horses, as well as some child's favorite pony. He is an expert, efficient, thorough, and very compassionate.

When he heard about my rescue horse, he came as soon as possible. He spent nearly 2 hours going over this boy, building my hopes that we could save him and establishing an on going plan for the years he had remaining.

I knew the vet bill would be a big one. And when the bill arrived, I braced myself, but knowing it would be worth every penny.

Much to my surprise, at the bottom of the list of procedures performed that day, there was written ... N/C. I was stunned ... no charge!

Yesterday, I printed a card for my vet showing the first photo taken of one starved horse. On the inside I printed the "4 weeks later" photo above, with the following message.

Dear Mark,
It is difficult to find words to describe how much we appreciate you.
We always know that we can count on you.

You've been a part of the best times and the tragic times with our horses,

but you've always been there as a source of trust and comfort.

We want to express our gratitude to you for your generosity

in helping us with our most recent addition.

It is our hope to give this poor soul a few more years,
only this time filled with care and love.

With gratitude and countless thanks to you!


On the way to the vet's office,
I picked up a big bouquet of red roses,

not from me, but from our boy.

September 13, 2008

You're Mine, Now ! Part 4

Click on photo to enlarge

No longer hungry, no longer an orphan !
Sept. 11 ... papers signed!

It must have been all of your good wishes sent my way this past Thursday, because the meeting to sign the transfer of ownership papers went very smoothly ... no drama, no theatrics.

I thank all of you so very much! You kept me going.

When I drove up to Shadow's paddock, I saw "the young girl" packing her saddle and assorted things into her car. What a great sight that was! She seemed to be in a hurry ... that was even better!

I had the paper work all ready, my check for $1.00 and pen in hand. We went directly into the tack room and she signed her horse over to me without hesitation. For a moment, she faked a bit of sadness, but with a passing pat for Shadow, she was off and gone.

It has been since then that I have learned more details people had not wanted to tell, such as Shadow being left without food or care while his owner went on her honeymoon. Then there were long periods of time that he was simply abandoned, ... she was busy, I'm told.

But that is now the past. Shadow has a new life ahead of him.

I have no idea what I have purchased for $1.00, but I do know each day is going to be a better day for both of us.

Shadow has put on weight, due to those night time runs, and also thanks to my friends who risked I don't know what to sneak the feed to Shadow during the daytime.

His ribs no longer protrude so badly that I want to cry. It's a happy feeling to walk in the paddock and be greeted by a big nose eager for the bucket in my hand.

And it is wonderful to know he is mine.

The farrier gave him a trim and said his feet were excellent. Shadow was so off balance, I have no idea how he could possibly stand. Now he moves about comfortably.

When my vet heard I had taken on this rescue horse, he immediately made time in his very busy schedule to give Shadow a work over, yesterday.

This vet has been with me through all the ups and downs of owning horses. He said that seeing this horse and knowing he now would have the chance to live out his life in comfort ... made for a wonderful day!

Dr.Secor estimates that Shadow is about 25 years old and based on the severity of his weight loss did not have much time left. The vet was amazed at the weight Shadow has put on, and the beginnings of a shine in his coat.

Shadow is still weak and a bit unsteady at times, but we feel with nutrition, his teeth filed and polished to perfection so he can eat and process his food, plus lots of love ... he is going to be one handsome, healthy boy.

Everyone who has had the pleasure of seeing him is impressed by Shadow's sweet and gentle nature in spite of the long rough road he suffered.

Shadow is like a big puppy dog. I think that sparkle in his eye and his tag along personality is his way of saying ... thank you.

I wish he could somehow know how lucky I feel to have him.


The next project is to give him a new name to match his new life. Any suggestions? He is tall, dark and handsome, does that help?

I need to add a P.S. to the name change idea.
"Shadow" does not know his name, does not respond to it and I believe it came from the "the young girl" who had him only a few years and was rarely there.

Wish I knew what he was called in his previous life.

September 6, 2008

Shadow - Starving Horse Part 3

Click on photo to enlarge

So Sweet and So Gentle

Negotiations To Take Ownership
Thursday, September 4

First, I need to explain, as some have asked, Shadow lives at a private residence with horse paddocks at the bottom of the hill which are rented out. Shadow's paddock is right next to a heavily traveled horse trail and next to a private stable and across from a fully operated Equestrian center.

I know ... it's hard to believe that through all the months that he grew thinner and finally to a condition of obvious starvation, nothing was done until my concerned friends called me. I haven't stopped working towards taking ownership of this horse since that fateful day.

Thanks to all of you who wished me luck for "the meeting" this past Thursday. I discovered I needed every ounce of your good vibes.

I hope to never go through anything like it again ... ever! Staying calm and patient at a time when the world is going crazy is exhausting. The only thing that kept my temper in control was one frightfully fragile horse within my eyesight and the goal that I wanted to accomplish... taking ownership.

At the beginning, things went very smoothly, "the young girl" seemed cooperative, we talked about my helping her, she admitted she couldn't afford the horse, and agreed I should take over ownership of the horse. Details were being worked out as to how and when.

Then, from the nearby stable, a head appeared over the wall. A rather hysterical looking middle aged woman called to the girl. "Do you know that people are sneaking over there everyday at the same time and feeding your horse!!!"

This person continued to describe "the people" and their cars. These were my partners in crime !!

"The young girl" who owns Shadow went ballistic. She had made it clear that no one was to feed her horse. That included me. All negotiations came to a screeching halt.

She stated that she noticed Shadow seemed to be putting on weight. I firmly said, yes, I have been feeding Shadow a special diet, otherwise he would die. (She has no concept that he has serious teeth problems and is unable to eat the alfalfa which is sometimes left there for days.)

The woman now took issue with me. Cutting her off, I asked for her name, who she was, what was she doing at the stable, did she have a horse there and what was her purpose. It seems she feeds and cleans there, as well as yelling hysterically over fences and doing surveillance.

Not done with me yet, in an attempt to gain status, she named people in the community that had told her about this underground network of caring for Shadow. She, unfortunately, was naming people who were my friends and had offered to give food and money for the care of Shadow in the event I took him.

At this point, I made it clear that I was done with her. She backed off and disappeared into what I assume were the bushes. (perhaps the dumpster)

I now addressed my attention to "the young girl" who was delivering impressive theatrics. Had it not been for the sake of saving Shadow, I would have walked out of this performance.

Taking a deep breath, I told her not to worry, that I would take care of "everything", (meaning the underground). Finally she calmed down.

It was all about her... all about people feeding her horse. Do you not find that amazing?!

At no time was any thought given to the starving horse standing right beside us !! It was truly beyond me. But I had a mission to accomplish and somebody needed to keep their wits about them. The evening finally ended quietly. She agreed to give me ownership in October.

When I arrived home about 4 1/2 hours later, I spent a few bouts of primal screaming before getting a grip on myself.

Saturday, September 6:

Tonight, I called Shadow's owner and said that considering she was having money problems, and had no time for Shadow ... I thought perhaps she would like for me to take ownership of him this coming week and she could save the cost of the now due September paddock rent.

That did the trick !!

We are to meet next Thursday, sign a bill of sale for $1.00 and ... Shadow will be mine.

Now, where to put him. Remember I had no room in my barn. After much thought I have decided to skip a few baubles and trinkets, and keep him where he is and pay his rent.

He will have a new mom, actually he will finally have ... a mom!

In fact, he will have three new moms. My partners in crime have become very attached to him and my wonderful friends are even helping to pick up some of the bills it will take to get him back in health.

And, oh yes, he will have a very wonderful dad who has supported me through all this trauma and drama, who has driven me in the late night hours to feed and is already fixing every nail and screw that is out of place.

Things are looking up. It will be a very slow process, but already Shadow knows he is loved and he is showing it more and more each day.

I cannot wait until Thursday ...

OK, I'm a little nervous ... we might have another theatrical production, things might change, but this time I really believe things will work out.

As Shadow improves, I will always keep this first photograph and remember.

I think of the wonderful words of Ralph Waldo Emerson ...

You cannot do kindness too soon
For you never know how soon it will be too late.


Stay tuned ... there will be lots more to this story.
Thanks for all your encouragement!

September 3, 2008

Shadow - Starving Horse Part 2

Click on photo to enlarge
Sweet, affectionate, pretty
and so hungry.

Update - September 3

First, a huge thanks to Arlene at Grey Horse Matters who posted this story (due to my computer problems) and to Victoria at Teachings of the Horse who emailed me with helpful advice since she knew of some So.Ca contacts. Those are just two terrific friends!

And thank you, thank you to all of you wonderful people who have given me amazing advice and support! It is so very, very encouraging and helpful !! It has given me a Plan B !

At the moment, I'm working on Plan A, which is to meet with the owner, tomorrow, for a nice friendly talk about "what to do about Shadow". I'm so glad she agreed to talk with me, again. I'm approaching her with: "You are not a bad girl, I just want to help you" in the hopes we can reach a good conclusion for Shadow.

My goal is to get her to sign Shadow over to me. She has admitted she cannot afford the horse (lost interest), but doesn't want the "horrible people in the community" to be near her horse. Let's hope tomorrow works out and we don't have to go to plan "B".

At present, he is on a carefully planned rehab feed program, which is delivered by my "drop and run" partners in crime. The only problem is ~~ the horse now welcomes us and could very well give away our clandestine act of mercy.

Now ... for the other problem. I'm hoping to remove the horse from her control, which means I will be inheriting a horse (with no room in my barn) and then what?

Hang in there with me and please keep sending advice ... it's so appreciated!


September 1, 2008

Starving Horse - What Would You Do?

Click on photo to enlarge
Sweet, affectionate, pretty
and so hungry.


Not far from my barn is a wonderful horse with a dreadful owner. The girl is young, doesn't know much about horses, doesn't have time, and is not willing for anyone to help her or this wonderful horse.

Yes, he is old, in his twenties, but still has much to give, if only someone would feed him.

I have offered to put him on our well proven feeding program for senior horses, to put him under veterinary care, do the work ... and pay the bills. She has said ... no.

Animal control was called, but were much too kind to her. All she needs is a statement that a vet has been there. She called her friend, a cat-dog vet, to provide the "off the hook" statement.

Shadow is surround by barns filled with well fed, healthy horses. He stands out in the crowd!

All of us in the area that love our horses are not allowed to touch the horse or help the horse.We can only stand by, feel sick, angry and helpless.

This is no way for a sweet, loving horse to end his days, far too soon.

Help! What would you do?

August 25, 2008

Royal Takes Long Way Home

Royal and his dad
taking the road less traveled

August 11, 2008

Gotta Get A Goat !

Orange County Fair
Kimberly Barnes


Even though I've never had one, I've always found goats to be entertaining critters ... the way they seem to crawl under, over and on everything and are never at a loss for finding things to eat, including tin cans, I'm told. (don't know if that is true)

There are countless stories of how goats make wonderful companions for horses. But I'm not sure Royal really wants one. He certainly has never mentioned it.

After reading an article in the Los Angeles Times written by Steve Lopez, I've got a new respect for goats. Seems they are inspiring. They just may be the answer to the shortage of veteranarians.

Steve had just been to the Orange County Fair ... read on!


Teenager loves the farm life -- and her cellphone too

The aspiring veterinarian digs into the hard work
of raising animals with gusto.
It pays off at the Orange County Fair.


If you're wondering what to do with another lazy Sunday, my advice is that you charter a bus and take everyone you know to Costa Mesa for the last day of the Orange County Fair.

I went last weekend and wished I had camped out there the last three weeks, filing daily columns. Where else could you hear the following announcement:

"Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the pig races."
There's world-class people-watching, deep-fried Snickers and Twinkies, a Barnyard Animal Fashion Parade, a hypnotist and a Vector Control information booth close enough to suck the blood of the guy in the adjacent Libertarian Party booth. And these are but a small part of what makes the fair a better bargain than Disneyland at a fraction of the cost.
But you know what? I was most transfixed by the sight of teens and younger children pitching hay and shoveling livestock dung without any adults making them do it.
What kind of kids are these?

Evy Young, a fair supervisor, suggested I talk to an 18-year-old goat farmer named Kimberly Barnes. I couldn't find her, but I found her goats in a pen that was plastered with the five award banners she and her herd had already won, including best goat in the show.

I also found an adult goat farmer named Richard Pigman.

I swear.

"I know," Pigman said. "It should have been Goatman."

Barnes should have been Barns too. But I'm getting off track.

"She's got a real good head on her shoulders," Pigman said of Barnes. "And she cleaned up on the competition."

Barnes is a 4-H member who's also president of her Tehachapi chapter of the Future Farmers of America. She had loaded her seven goats onto a trailer back home, hitched the trailer to a Dodge Ram pickup with a diesel engine and a stick shift and driven to the fair on her own.

I've known teenagers who couldn't get out of bed on their own.

While waiting for Barnes, I saw a teenage girl stooped over, milking a goat with both hands while talking on a cellphone cradled between neck and shoulder.

At first I thought it was some sort of competition, but I didn't see any other contestants. This girl filled a bucket of milk while on the phone, then led the goat back to its pen without interrupting her conversation -- a blue ribbon performance.

When Barnes arrived, her Saanen and Alpine goats could not have been happier. She checked their food and water and scratched their ears. "Mama loves you," she said.

It was a white Saanen named Kit that took best-in-show, and Kalani and Carmen San Diego were taking home some hardware as well.

Barnes said she was thrilled, especially since it was her last competition before she leaves for Iowa State University later this month to begin her freshman year. She wants to be a veterinarian.

But there was one event left. She and two other winning Future Farmers had been chosen to square off in the livestock arena to show their skills in handling a cow, a sheep and a goat. Barnes had never won the round-robin competition, and she wanted the belt buckle that goes to the champion.

"I really love showing," she said, in part because it's the culmination of lots of hard work.

For five years, she's been up before the sun, milking and feeding before school. The same chores are waiting for her in the evening. She drinks the goat milk raw and makes cheese, but doesn't sell it. This is all voluntary, with no financial payoff.

"I'm biased, but I think she's pretty special too," Barnes' mother, a teacher named Heather, told me by phone.

Barnes, perhaps the most pleasant teenager in the contiguous 48 states, said she fell for the farm life as a little girl when her family had animals running around on some open space in Aliso Viejo. Her grandparents had a cattle ranch up in Stockton, and her dad, who died two years ago, raised goats to clear brush for fire prevention.

But she could be out surfing, I told her. Huntington Beach was five minutes away.

It's very satisfying, Barnes said, to learn how to properly raise an animal. With a goat, you have to work on "general appearance, dairy character and a mammary system with capacious udders."

I'd say she nailed it. Her goats bear more than a slight resemblance to Pamela Anderson, except that the goats are natural.

As for Barnes' devotion to her hobby, it's not as if she's missing out on life beyond the farm. She said she hangs with friends, goes to the mall, noodles around on MySpace. She has a boyfriend too, who's not a farmer.

"And I love my cellphone," she said.
But the animals are fun to be around and rewarding in many ways.

"They're nonjudgmental," for one thing, Barnes said, and each one has a distinct personality.

"A lot of the kids I've known are into appearances, talking about who's doing this and that, being popular. They're into fashion and looking like everybody else. That doesn't matter to me," she said.

"Not to make it sound like a cliche, but with the animals I've learned a lot about responsibility while doing the things I've always wanted to do."

OK, I'm giving her another award:

World's Most Mature Youngster.

What Barnes really wanted, though, was the buckle. And she wished her father could have been there to see her compete. He'd have been proud, she said.

Barnes seemed a little nervous after putting on a crisp, ice-cream white uniform for the round-robin competition.

She studied her hand-written notes on livestock and checked out the cow and sheep she was about to handle, along with her prize goat, Kit.

She and the others spent about five minutes in the ring with each animal, leading them around and posing them on command. A trio of judges watched every move and peppered them with questions. The Holstein wasn't terribly cooperative with Barnes, but she gave it couple of tugs to let it know who was in charge.

Later that evening, the results were in, and Barnes called her mother.

"I got the buckle!" she said, and her mother screamed.


I'm not sure that we'll ever have a goat or two in our barn, but there sure is room for a veterinarian named Kimberly Barnes.