About Intention Hill Sheep

The Animals
I began my flock in Amity Oregon with 3 ewes from Braeberry Farms (Cheryl Dutton) in Boring Oregon. I later obtained two more ewes and a ram, and later still, two additional ewes from Blacklocust Farm (Barb Lee). My flock grew quickly. I have pondered registering the flock, however I have not had buyers for whom this was important. Each year I sell sheep for breeding stock and meat.

Two llamas were purchased from All Mosta Ranch (rescue) last Spring due to a fox issue. They did defend the sheep from a cougar in late Spring, after which I purchased two livestock guardian dogs. The llamas have not worked out as planned, in that they will not travel through the swamp to the far pastures, however they do act as sentries, alerting the LGD to intrusions from the east side of the property. Additionally, there is often a split in the flock, as I maintain a small flock of wool sheep for my own purposes. The Blackbellies will often browse more freely and farther than the wool sheep, so the wool sheep will often be found staying home with the llamas, while the Blackbellies travel under the watch of Mary (LGD).

The dogs are from 5R Stockdogs in Billings, MT. Mary is a Great Pyrenees. She is untrusting of people, but a very hard worker, very dedicated to her flock.

Joseph is 3/4 Akbash, 1/4 Great Pyrenees. He is devoted to both person and flock, and prefers to guard the homestead area. He will travel with the flock to the far pastures, but sometimes returns home, unless a predator is in the area.

Due to heavy predation from bears year, I have no breeding ewes available for sale, only rams. Rams will be butchered beginning January or February. The predation also disabled my setup with the rams pulled from the flock, so 2012 ram lambs will all be castrated, as it’s time for a new ram.

Last year’s bottle lamb, Lambie, will be kept by Intention Hill, and either used at stud, or whethered as a pet.

The Blackbellies
My flock produces Blackbellies of good color, generally a rich mahogany in color, though I have a couple ewes that will throw some dark lambs.

Katy (on the right) with 2011 lambs. Ewe lamb on the left is deceased, broken leg.

I have one ewe, Katy, that is 1/2 Katahdin. She produces correct lambs when bred to correct rams. She is my best producer for meat stock, always throws twins which grow quickly, and has strong mothering instincts. She is long in the back which has brought some nice structure to some of her daughters.

Floppy, foundation ewe, 2011 (about 10-12 years old)

My other foundation ewes are Floppy, who is at least 10 years old this year, and has strong mothering instincts. Floppy usually drops single lambs. I also have Baby. Baby is very short backed, and usually produces single lambs of lovely color and size. However last year she twinned, and it didn’t go so well for her. She was the first Blackbelly I ever had to assist in lambing. She rejected the malpresented lamb, who is now known as Lambie, and I bottle raised him. My other foundation ewe is Middle. Middle is not social to people, but is a solid ewe, long in the back, produces twins or singles with good color, and occassionally dark in color.

The rest of my ewes are daughters of these foundation ewes. The two I got from Blacklocust were not a fit for me, with one taking ill after arriving, and the other not showing good mothering instincts. One of them did die of her illness, and the other has gone to live in Pendleton on a farm with a better set setup for monitoring ewes and lambs.

2011 Ram Lamb

It is always scary to bring in outside blood, but I will be looking for a new ram this year.

May 2012 bring abundance, prosperity, good health and great happiness.

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About the A Litter (Basquelaine A of Intention Hill Litter)

The combined efforts of Basquelaine Belgians and Intention Hill bring you the A Litter. Kelley Hoffman of Basquelaine Belgians is the scientific and artistic mind behind the pedigree of this litter. Basquelaine Belgians has an elite record of performance, under the well researched and meticulously guided breeding program of Kelley Hoffman. Kelley selects dogs for breeding with painstaking attention to health records and the possibilities that unfold when combining the genes of two dogs. There is no breed of dog, nor family of dog, that is without some inherent health risks. It is the art and science that the breeder employs to ensure that every effort is made to produce healthy stock which may excel at their intended purpose.

The litter is sired by UKC Ch Matti Deabei and is out of SAR Cert Basquelaine Cat On The Scent “Savannah”

The litter was whelped at Intention Hill in Montana on June 19, 2011. Two of the puppies, Blue Boy (Amsterdam, aka “Vallon” and Alluring, aka “Lourdes”) went to Basquelaine Belgians to carry on the bloodline for Kelley. Aanandi and Abhithi will remain at Intention Hill to train in IPO, SAR, Agility and Herding. Abhithi may only be considered for a placement to a working or performance home.

The Aqua Boy (Amal, aka “Mulder) has gone to live as a companion on a ranch in Libby, MT.

The Orange Boy (Anuraag, aka “Novak”) has gone to live in Quebec City with Sandra Lafontaine, to train in agility, obedience, skijor, and herding.

Pink Girl (Ashwini, aka “Pinkie”) is still available to the right home.

Yellow Girl “Aarti” may be available in a couple months. Four of the puppies contracted parvo, and overcame it quickly, except for Aarti who was hit hard. Pending her full recovery, I will make a decision about her placement. She is a serious puppy with intense work ethic, strong bite drive, and is therefore not in consideration for a companion only home.

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The Development of the Future Soul Mate

It seems everyone has a formula for the success of their puppies. There is the “Super Puppy Program” which hinges on early neuro-stimulation and stressors scientifically “proven” to increase your puppy’s ability to handle stress as an adult. There are “rules” for exposing puppies to X number of people in X number of days. There are “rules” for exposing puppies to X number of “new” things each day. These are not unfounded processes, as they are based on current understandings of cerebral development. However, there is also just common sense. I think parenting was more effective at times in our culture when we did not rely so much on the expertise of others. I think that when we rely solely on the instruction of others, and fail to honor our own inner voice and the voice of experienced mentors, then we fail our children, puppies, society, friends, etc.

The Busy Bumble Beez have received their “early neuro exercises” befitting of the “Super Puppy Program” and have met new persons in their life, though not 100 people in 10 days, dare I say. They have met chickens, sheep, big white dogs, a black dog, and climbed a manure pile.

Bhanavi (Yellow Girl) meeting the rooster

Bhanavi (Yellow Girl) meeting the rooster

They have smelled human remains. They have perfected the art of movement on a Sit N Spin. They have learned about snow, sheep poo, moss, trees, toddlers, teenagers, men, women, music and television, pots and pans, blenders, food processors, telephones, brushes, Dremmels and X-Pens. They have ridden in a vehicle in a crate, and have had their first outing to a novel location. They have walked on unstable surfaces indoors and out, including the Sit N Spin and an inverted umbrella.

The object of the umbrella is to introduce something new and unstable to walk on. It is just one measure of their confidence with unstable footing. These puppies didn't care, and felt it was a better chew toy than wobble board.

The object of the umbrella is to introduce something new and unstable to walk on. It is just one measure of their confidence with unstable footing. These puppies didn’t care, and felt it was a better chew toy than wobble board.

Bhanavi (Yellow Girl) tearing the umbrella

Bhanavi (Yellow Girl) tearing the umbrella

Their fifth week did include new persons tending to their needs, whilst I flew out of town for the funeral of my beloved Grandmamma McEntire. I visited with family I had not seen in 25 years. The puppies had 3 caregivers to visit them. My neighbor Stephanie came throughout the day to rotate the adults through the backyard for extensive play and potty time. She fed the puppies and adults each morning. She brought her toddler and teenager to help and to visit. My friends Sharon (fine breeder of Red Royal Standard Poodles) and Kathleen (skilled manger and rearer of all things wild, including coyote, wolf and fox for a game farm) came each day to spend additional time with the puppies, and to offer their second feeding, and attend to any medication needs for adults.

The puppies have spent time with a toddler who lives next door.

The puppies have spent time with a toddler who lives next door.

The puppies have spent time with a toddler who lives next door.

The puppies have spent time with a toddler who lives next door.

On my return, I continued their education outdoors, and added the human remains scent to their play pen. They just figured the scent tube was another chew toy. We also climbed the manure pile. It seemed like a nice mountain to climb for babies.

"Little Bit" (Bhanavi, a.k.a Yellow Girl) making her way down the manure pile

“Little Bit” (Bhanavi, a.k.a Yellow Girl) making her way down the manure pile

After playing, they got a wipe down with a damp cloth. They learned about the Dremmel and had their nails trimmed (it was too hard to see their nails to use clippers, so I switched to the Dremmel, which I use on the adults anyway).

Climbing the hill.

Climbing the hill.

Puppies at the top of a hill, which they found very easy to go up, but not so easy to come down.

Puppies at the top of a hill, which they found very easy to go up, but not so easy to come down.

A day after their 6-week birthday, the puppies began to climb the stairs on their own. And we ventured over to the forest edge, and they played on some tree stumps.

Puppies exploring the edge of the forest where many new scents await.

Puppies exploring the edge of the forest where many new scents await.

Benazir (Pink Girl) playing on a log.

Benazir (Pink Girl) playing on a log.

They also got their first brushing, which they all enjoyed. They also entered into their first “fear” period, which probably coincides more with the changing depth of field in their vision. Puppies are at first blind, then see shapes, then are very near-sited before this continued expansion gives them the eagle vision of a proper predator. When we’re outside, they can have trouble seeing me and Savannah if they don’t stay close. But on this day, they began to notice things above them, below them, and farther away from them. Some appeared a bit startled, others not. I remember in the A litter, the Purple Girl was dubbed the Purple Dragon. She was dominant and had a temper. The day her ears stood up, she became a princess. It’s so interesting how changes in their senses can change their behaviors. Pink Girl’s ears stood up, her vision changed, and so she was a bit startled by things coming toward her on this day, but much less so two days later.

Two days after their 6-week birthday was their first field trip. It was a fairly haphazard day, having had to travel a bit to fetch the last of hay I had purchased before this weekend’s snow set in. I also had to move a refuse pile from under the barn roof where the snow will pile as it avalanches off the roof. And I picked up the LGD’s bones from the field so that there won’t be sharp bones buried under the snow. Then I quickly loaded the six Beez into a crate in the back of the truck (which has a canopy) and off we went to Montana Earth Pottery, the business and passion of friend and fine breeder of Airedales, Judy Howell. Since it was cold, we carried the crate inside the shop. We probably both regret this maneuver as the puppies in the crate were screeching, waling, howling, and making all sorts of other profane remarks about not being allowed to explore en masse. We let one puppy out at a time to meet Judy and observe their explorations. They were fairly even except that Yellow Girl (Bhanavi) made more eye contact with her new friend, and was the most explorative (of course). She was also the loudest screecher when it was not her turn. Pink Girl (Benazir) also made reasonable eye contact, and was very independent. Aqua Boy took his customary moment to think on things, and then wanted to go about his independent way. Green Girl was her sweet social self and then explored. Orange Boy (Bashir) was also his sweet self, and seemed soft and pliable. Red Girl (Bhagavathi) was pliable and did explore but mostly wanted to be by the humans. When we first arrived, they were all a bit trembly or shivery, but otherwise, still explorative, confident and wagging their little Bee tails. Nobody really stood out in an extreme or dramatic way.

Then we let them out in two groups of three, just to have a quick romp. I noted the two boys zeroed in on the tupper of food (with the lid on). They got in the scent cone and went right to it. Not that I expect any less than this but I note these things. Aqua Boy was the only one to venture to the kitty litter pan. He was not permitted to ingest Kitty Roca. I think at that time, our human ears wore out from the screeching. They are getting better about this at home. I try to reward silence with visitation and feeding.

We had a big snow this weekend, so I will have to ponder their future visits. We have a plan for a visit to do a small temperament test, and a visit to evaluate drives in a novel setting. Though I prefer to look at drives at 10-12 weeks, the timing of Christmas and travel makes placing the Beez in their new homes at 10 weeks more favorable. I will have to plan their early scent tests soon :P

The puppies learned about snow.

The puppies learned about snow.

Snow on the nose

Snow on the nose

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Swarming Beez

The early morning began with a little escape from the puppies night time Hive. One Miss Pink Girl was exploring the bedroom, unimpeded, as her family watched on. After situating the adults and lone juvenile, I released the Beez from their Hive, and enjoyed the sound of 24 galloping Bee Paws across the house, while I prepared their breakfast. This was not accomplished without some difficulty, as the Beez began to hang onto my foot and leg with either teeth or paws.

This morning’s meal was much the same as other meals, raw goat milk, ground lamb, natural anthelmintics, and vitamin C. Though last night, they got minced deer, and other days they have had egg or cottage cheese.

After a washing from their mother and half sister Aarti, the Busy Beez have fallen into slumber… quiet descends on the house. Today’s agenda includes play time outside in the barn. There lies on the ground 4-5″ of freshly fallen snow. We’ll see which Beez choose to touch the snow.

The little ones are changing so much by the day now. As I describe them, I note each individual does not develop at the same rate as the next, so I don’t pass judgement so much at this point, but observe and take note.

Yellow Girl, 4 weeks

Yellow Girl, 4 weeks

On their romps in the house and out doors, Yellow Girl seems to be a global explorer, investigating independently, and confidently. She is very committed to her decisions, and focused. She will bark loudly when discontented. She is a very Busy Bee, and I see her needing plenty of stimulation and activities to keep her fulfilled.

Pink Girl, 4 weeks

Pink Girl, 4 weeks

Pink Girl is strong and full of fire. She is independent, acts alone in her her decisions to explore, where to sleep, etc. She is biting and tugging, and pushes back when pushed on. She is calm in neuro-stimulation exercises. She leaps into me to grab at my clothes, and today, barked and chased the broom. Yesterday, I played a gentle game of tug with her. Early tug games should be rewarding, but keep in mind the growth of the puppy so as not to cause injury to the jaw, neck, head, etc.

Green Girl, 4 weeks

Green Girl, 4 weeks

Green Girl is sometimes reactive in a “I’ll kick your butt!” sort of way, within the mix of puppy play and fights. Puppies learn about the power of their bite and how to engage appropriately through these early games, as well as through their mother. Savannah has had to deliver some reprimands for biting during nursing, and has also corrected some unfavorable play around her face. In Green Girl’s case, she will respond with the fire of a dragon when crossed by a siblings painful bite. She is also explorative, and investigative, though at present seems more a follower, or needy of the pack to choose exploration.

Red Girl, 4 weeks

Red Girl, 4 weeks

Red Girl is strong in that she will speak her mind through her voice or reprimand to a sibling, but seems to be more an observer of things at this stage. She has a beautiful sit as she watches the world around her. Like Green Girl, she prefers the company of her siblings to independent exploration.

Orange Boy, 4 weeks

Orange Boy, 4 weeks

Orange Boy is very similar to Red Girl. While both of them bite and engage in play, they seem a bit softer than the top dogs, and more of a follower. I say the were soft with a grain of caution, as none of the puppies seems particularly soft in the truest sense of the word. From the A’s, there was a clearly soft puppy in Pinkie, and I don’t see that in any of the Beez, nor would I expect a truly soft puppy from this combination. But of course, there will be degrees of dominance, hard/soft, drive, etc. in every litter.

Aqua Boy, 4 weeks

Aqua Boy, 4 weeks

Aqua Boy is an interesting combination of traits. Being larger than the others, he has natural advantages. He is very strong, and will act independently and then other times prefer company. He can instigate puppy fights, and can often cause quite a few of them. But it seems more that he doesn’t know his strength yet, and so he instills some insults. He will cry when a sibling bites his ear too hard, but recovers quickly. He has been, early on, the one with the most corrections for biting, from his mother. What I predict in him, is a boy that is a bit slower to mature, but whom is cocky, somewhat arrogant, and perhaps a little foolhardy. He reminds me of his father, more than his mother. With him, I can almost hear the wheels turning in his head. I am fascinated by him really, as I can’t wait to see what he does next. He’ll sit for a moment, as though plotting some plan, and then pounce into action, usually to attack a sibling.

I will be sure and take photos today of their new experiences.

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Growing up a Bee.

The “Beez” are growing so beautiful. They are playful, and vocal, and each has so much personality. Red Girl and Aqua Boy have developed the most beautiful watchful sits when they just want to observe something. Often I will be sitting with the puppies, and all of them in my lap, but then those two will sit back, as though waiting politely for their own opportunity for private attention.

Each day I try to bring something new to their lives, either a new toy, a new scent, new sound, new person or dog, or new environment to explore. They went outside for the first time on their 4 week birthday, and met Joseph, one of my Livestock Guardian Dogs.

belgian sheepdog puppy with LGD

Pink Girl of the B litter meets Joseph (LGD), on her 4 week birthday

They went outside then again two days later, and met a toddler and his father.

Each morning, the puppies go to a playpen in the living room, which is where the crates are for the adults. The adults are only in crates for meal time, times when I’m away from home, or times when I want to give them some privacy to chew on a bone, or I need to clean house or something. It’s also the room with the dog yard access, so it is here that the puppies witness the most activity of the house. At night, the puppies return to the whelping “den” so that we are all sleeping in the same room. At first, I carried the puppies in their green basket.

puppies carry basket

The “Beez” are carried in this basket when going outside.

This morning, the puppies said they wanted to follow me to their playpen, instead of being carried. It’s probably what I started yesterday when we were outside. It took very little effort to call the puppies, as one would expect. So this morning when I had two puppies in my arms and was headed to the playpen, one popped over the barrier to follow. So I put the two in hand on the ground, opened the barrier, and off we went as a family, me, Savannah and six little beez.

It’s so nice to have two places for them, so one can be cleaned and set up with surprises while the other is occupied. Today they got an empty toilet paper roll. Yes this is a magical thing. The puppies have many toys, including wool balls, rubber balls, Tuffy balls, Tuffy animals, teddy bears, rubber Dynomite. But their favorite things today are their plastic water bottle which crunches loudly, their new cardboard, and their plastic infant bumble bee that is strapped to the side of the xpen. The bee has a hard plastic body, but soft head, and the wings are fabric with krinkle inside. The puppies pull on the wings and it makes the bee body flash a red light. They of course love their My Pal Scout also.

After arriving to their play pen, they enjoyed some raw goat milk with ground lamb and natural anthelmintic (DE, Rascal and GSE) and vitamin C, followed by some play time and a washing by their sister Aarti. Aarti has taken Nanny duty very seriously. She bathes them, “nurses” them (no milk) and is very concerned for their constant supervision. Last night I had to take her out to her crate because Savannah wasn’t going in to nurse them. It’s lovely to see natural mothering skills in any bitch like that. Savannah allows all the girls to visit the puppies now, but doesn’t want the boys to even look at them yet. With their great love and need to chew on things, due to teething, they were given a nice elk bone to rip some flesh from. They needed no instruction, and set to the work of tearing at it.

puppy with bone

The puppies are wanting to chew on things so much, they got to tear up a meaty elk bone.

The puppies are showing beautiful social temperaments, all of them are biting very hard, are coming towards all sorts of sounds, demanding interaction with the adult dogs and loving all their human interactions equally.

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The Gifts of Autumn

As I watch the radiant hues of Autumn spring forth over the land, the trees beaming with change, and carpeting the pastures and hillsides with golden leaves, I consider the immense anticipation this time of year brings. It is a season of preparation for Winter, a time when our energies draw in to reflective spaces. It is also a time when I consider our Winter skijor and sledding activities. This year brings a special excitement also with the arrival of the “B of Intention Hill” Litter, affectionately referred to as the “Beez.”

On October 2nd between 9:05am and 11:20am, Savannah delivered her six puppies, four girls and two boys. The puppies are lovely reds and fawns, fairly consistent in appearance, but having a split in sizes much like the A Litter. Their arrival felt surprising, as I was counting on 2-3 more days, and noting that Savannah’s milk wasn’t running as it had with her first litter. In fact I was preparing to head to the veterinary clinic for her xray when she was frantically in first stage labor. I’d missed her temperature drop, though might have caught the tail end of it. I came home Tuesday to see she’d had a rough day, and the next morning, she began labor in earnest. But I was still surprised. A couple weeks later a friend’s litter also came in four days before expected, and was the earliest whelp she’d had in her many years of breeding. We decided it was the moon. In any case, the Beez arrived in fine form. They are a vocal bunch, creating a chorus of trills, yips, yaps, puppy barks and howls.

This year’s whelping area is the same as for the A’s, in that it’s the walk-in closet space. The space has a linoleum floor, but no door, making it an easy place to observe them and visit them, yet protect them from most drafts. It provides enough shelter to keep it warm in the chilly Autumn of Montana. They have a heat lamp and the primary room space has a radiator. I didn’t use the wood whelping box sides this time. I put primary colored anti-fatigue mats down, creating a nursery style look, and created pig rails with 4″ PVC. This box has less bedding than the A’s because with no sides to keep the blankets down, Savannah creates mountains of bedding for puppies to get buried in. It’s worked fantastic, is easy to keep clean, and is nicely roomy.

As the puppies emerged, I found myself noting the similarities and differences between them and the A’s. Choosing their ribbon colors was like matching crayons to auras. It was easy. It’s amazing that even a newborn baby exudes a radiant aura… they emerge from the womb fully alive with the potential of their entire life, just as a seed carries the potential of an entire tree.

Red Girl is fairly independent and strong. She can frequently be seen touring the whelping den, and yipping, as though trying to see if each section of the whelping box will sound precisely the same as the next. She is not particularly needy, though not overtly independent. She’s a nice sized puppy, and should be a nice deep fawn or mahogany.

Pink Girl is fairly a mystery to me. While Pink is clearly the color she expresses to me, she is not the same kind of Pink that came through in the A Litter. This Pink Girl is as much as beautiful devi as Pinkie (A’s), but she is also fierce. She is Kali. She also is very vocal. She was born with considerable white on her paws and chest, but this is filling in with fawn. She’ll still have white on her chest. She is the first that I observed in a puppy “tantrum.” I went to pick her up and she wrinkled her little face up in a complete tyrade and let out a screech that only a cat could admire. Of course she settled in to appreciate back scratches and tummy rubs. She is a lovely puppy, very expressive, loves to cuddle, but is also a strong presence. I expect great things from her.

Green Girl was initially a very strong presence in the whelping den. At first she seemed the clear alpha of the girls, but her early lead has tapered as Pink Girl and Red Girl have exceeded her size in weight and attitude. We’ll see what Green Girl brings as her flowers blossom. I predict a strong and intelligent thinker, like her big sister Abhithi (A’s).

Yellow Girl is a flower. I cannot say it in any better way. She is a fascinating golden nugget amid a sea of red puppies. She is beautifully feminine, and quiet. She snuggles comfortably under the puppy pile, or in my lap. She is no pushover however, and as the puppies begin to play, she engages equally with her somewhat larger siblings. I predict a sweet and very loyal girl with plenty of drive and highly biddable. I also predict she will be a nice compact little pocket rocket, like her mother Savannah.

Orange Boy was an early and clear choice for the famous “Orange Boy Genre.” He has been highly active, frequently touring the whelping box, and showed a clear advantage in scent development over his siblings. This is not to say that all things won’t be equal with this skill, just that he had earlier development. Orange Boy is vocal, strong, and confident. While he can seem very independent, he will always be found sleeping in the puppy heap, and also likes to snuggle. He was the first to venture outside the whelping box, the first to investigate new toys in the whelping box and I predict a very agile boy with great problem solving skills. I also predict he will be into everything and will demand and occupation.

Aqua Boy… what to say about “Boris.” He’s huge. He has grown more per day than his siblings, and on this day is nearly a full pound heavier than the others. He is arrogant and independent. He has no need for anybody, yet enjoys company. He is happy to sleep alone or to spread himself over top of his siblings for warmth and cushion. He was first to splash his way into the milk pan for their first puppy meal at 3 weeks (goat milk). He can be strong in his resistance to early neuro-stimulation, and on one day that I trimmed his nails, he held onto my knuckle the entire time, with his toothless mouth. I love his strong presence, and clear leadership. I believe he will be very much like his father Gabbit, strong, and a real work horse, with a strong desire to please.

Please visit the puppies on their Facebook page (click here) to see their photos and videos.

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Many Gifts

It’s been so long since I have posted in my blog – but this happens. I have posted on the puppies facebook page, and of course on my own page… but here it is: Things happen and we go through phases and moods, like the tides, and the seasons and the moon. Today I was reflecting on the highlights of my day, and they were so delightful I had to share them.

This morning as I was feeding the sheep, I had Gabbit, Aanandi, Abhithi and Savannah in the dog yard. Normally, I do not put Gabbit in the yard during sheep chores of any kind, because he will jump the fence. But he’d been good lately, and I’d raised the height of the fence. Also Savannah is usually annoyingly vocal about my choice to perform any task without her, so it’s more pleasant to put the more temperate girls in the yard during chore time. So as I stood there by the ram pen, giving them a visual inspection, Gabbit jumps into the ram pen from the yard. I had specifically raised the height of that section of fencing where he’d become a habitual jumper. I scolded him sharply, telling him to “get back in the yard.” Well I’ll be a feathered frog… he jumped back in the dog yard. Okay I made up that expression. You know how some folks have these expressions that always elicit a smile or a giggle? Like “I’m fine as frog’s hair.” It’s not so unusual for Gabbit to return to the dog yard when commanded. The Gift was that I was not at the back door attached to the dog yard. I was not calling him too me. I was commanding him to go AWAY from me. So that was a GOOD BOY! And Gabbit likes to be a GOOD BOY!

This evening I had one of those evenings where I feel such incredible joy and devotion in my life. Really I came home to some signs of mayhem, as the steel ladder that goes to the hay loft was laying on the ground… by it’s position, I was immediately concerned someone was hurt. I had to assume the sheep brought the ladder down. But I was not seeing Jo… so I began walking tentatively to the Night Pen, wishing I’d grabbed my pistol, and noted Mary had arrived. I asked her where Jo was, and she had a worried look on her face. Well if I needed my pistol, the sheep would not be standing calmly… but still I could feel that sense of chaos. But there was Jo, asleep in the sheep shed. He was not immediately interested in following me back to his side of the barn, which is like a parking port, beside the hay loft. But he did, after I’d counted the sheep and lambs, and confirmed all were present.

Once inside with the dogs, who had their long potty breaks and walks/runs, and I with my chores done, I sat by the computer and began to play fetch with everyone. Well of course Jai wanted to play like Godzilla, instead of playing the indoor version of fetch and keep away. So I sent him outside for his private time, so he could meditate. Meanwhile, I had Gabbit, Abhithi, Aanandi and Savannah watching my hand and the magic white hairy ball toy. Their faces were priceless, and their rapt captivation intoxicating. Yes that’s it… they were as stoned on that ball as a cat on catnip. We’ve worked out this fetch game with the accuracy of a great football team. I will indicate that I will pass to Gabbit, with ever so small a gesture, and I will throw a fast pass… he never misses. He will catch with all four feet off the ground. Soon I was laughing without inhibition, with as much delight as a child who knows no hardship. I laughed at Gabbit’s speed and drive for the ball. He is such a professional, and the girls, despite their own intense drives, seem so delicate beside him. Truth be told, they don’t want to lose their faces against his lightening fast attacks on the ball. Gabbit always returns the ball with full belief that I will throw again quickly, so he deposits the ball at my feet with a toss. I must teach him to put the ball in my hand, as I’ve taught Savannah and Jai.

Then I throw to Abhithi. She is so cute, she “hurts my heart.” She is a magnificent creature, full of vim and vigor. She is a Sheltie on Steroids, vocal about most all things, and extreme in all manner of expression. She cannot go to the back door without leaping 4-5 feet in the air and throwing all four feet against it, before returning to the ground, squeaking in her Soprano voice with each leap. So I throw to her, and she catches the hairy ball, then quickly positions herself away from Gabbit so he will not steal the ball. He is nearly twice her size, yet she tells him “MINE!” If I feel he will be unfair, I tell him “let her have it!” and he does. Abhithi always returns the ball to me, because like Gabbit, her treasure is to chase and catch the ball.

Then I will throw for Aanandi. The moment I gesture that it’s her turn, she rears up like a horse, over and over, saying “Me! It’s ME!!!!” Aanandi has more bite and tug drive than retrieve drive. For her, possession is part of the game. Possession is only a rewarding behavior if someone else want what you have of course. She will hold the ball, and tonight, something new… she offers me the ball! Yet she will not release it, so we tug. I let her win, and finally she will give me the ball. I throw again and again, delighting in the young dogs’ joy and skill.

For Savannah, the throws were few, as the ball was not a tennis ball, which is one of her passions. She couldn’t seem to grasp that a ball was bigger than a tennis ball, and so this one popped from the front of her muzzle, back into my hands. She was tragically disappointed by the whole game, and quickly retrieved a tug toy for me. Surely it would be more fun?

Soon Aarti was participating, but in her old annoying way. She would shark dive into the ball when Gabbit or Abhithi would drop it for me to throw. She’d grab the ball, and begin growling with glee. If I tried to take it, she got louder, and more delighted. It was so much more the merrier that Gabbit and Abhithi wanted that ball. She giggled, I swear she did, because she knew she was delaying the game. So finally, I’d ignore her, and she’d put the ball down. I’d try to sneak and grab it, but she was too fast… she’d snatch it and growl some more. Of course I’m referring to her talking, there is no real menace in her act, it’s all a game. Finally, I’d blow gently on her nostrils and she’d let go, though a few times, Gabbit told her “enough already” and grabbed the ball from her. Nobody wants to have possession of the ball when he snaps for it.

Finally I put the ball to bed, and went to watch the sheep through the window. This time of year, it’s like romper room. At one point, the sheep were all sleeping, the lambs curled up beside their mothers for warmth. It’s all very pastoral, but for noting that the ewes with lambs, in their maternal strength, have booted the yearlings out into the snow. They want the space for their lambs, and what was once a communal space is now the nursery. Later I looked again from my living room window, to see that all the lambs were up and and romping. They were leaping around, often on their mothers’ backs. At one point, Ellie’s white ram lamb was standing on her back, when Jonah, his sire, walked over and pushed him off her back. It was as though he was telling the lamb to “knock it off.” Ellie stood immediately, and I’m certain I heard her tell Jonah that “lamb-rearing” was HER business, no this. Surely there was at least a curse word uttered.

Then the little lamb was leaping in the air, and accidentally landed on his Grandmother katy’s head. This gave him an unfortunate landing on his side. Soon as he caught his breath, he was up again, and began to chew on his mothers ear.

Lambing season restores our soles and brings so much joy. This year is such a blessing after last year’s losses. All but one lamb is vibrantly healthy. I’m so grateful for my lovely animals, both the ones that feed us, and the ones that bring us warm woolen clothing.

Finally, I delight in freshly falling snow, as I snuggle into bed with the dogs.

Namaste.

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VETERINARIANS

I suppose it’s a bit like being in hell. Perhaps you have to be living it to understand, but I’ve been here before, it didn’t happen out of the blue. I’ve lived with my dog for more than 12 years. I am an empath. You don’t have to know what that latter part means, but you should figure the first part – I probably know my dog pretty well. If you think I don’t, well you just don’t know me very well.

It was a long and painful night for Kylie. I had left a message with the local vet that I use. He didn’t actually phone me back, I still had to phone him. Understand when I took her to him on Tuesday, I told him I thought it was just “time” but that I wanted a thorough examination and ideas, as a duty as “gatekeeper.” He had just seen her about a month ago, because she was declining, and I wanted to check her platelets and wbc (normal then).

So he saw her Tuesday, repeated bloodwork, checked urine, found wbc, but not a lot of rods/clumps. We put her on Clavamox anyway. Saw her Friday for xrays. I was just feeling it was time to let her go, but going through the motions of exams and such. It wouldn’t be fair to show up on his doorstep and say “kill this dog.”

But she wasn’t improving on the antibiotic and in fact, she is quite acute, with periferal/neurological deficiencty, fever, and overnight, even some nasal symptoms. Vomiting. No bowel movements. A lot going on for this geriatric girl that had an acute immune mediated disease treated starting in 2007, and treated for 4 years. She doesn’t express a lot of vitality, and hasn’t since 2007 and perhaps before then. She has trouble with stairs and her hearing is going, and probably her vision too. But when I took her to him on Tuesday, I pretty much felt it was her time, and told him so. He strongly disagreed. But he had no diagnosis and suggested even trying one of those “new COX-2 inhibitors” just to see if it helped her. I declined (strike 2).

Anyway, so I reached him this morning, and told him it was time to put Kylie down, unless there was some way to fix her, but that I couldn’t let her suffer like this. He just couldn’t believe she could have declined so much. He asked that he be able to keep her for the day, I consented to a few hours. After observing her, he agreed she had deteriorated, and gave a list of possible diagnosis. Basically she has meningitis. She has a fever, she has high wbc, and she has neuro symptoms which by tonight included the front legs and hind legs. He wanted to try an antibiotic that would penetrate the spinal cord. In theory it was sound, but empathically it felt wrong.

But I let him talk me into it. So she got Baytril and Penn-G injected, sub-q and IV fluids. I picked her up at 5:30 and asked to speak to him. I wanted to just share with him that I wasn’t feeling good about this, and ask for his blessing, should I choose to pull the plug in the morning. He was offended. There was discussion back and forth, I felt he was talking over me, though I said I saw where he was coming from, he hardly wanted to hear where I was coming from.

He wondered why, if I just wanted to “kill her” did I even bring her in (strike 3). I told him he talked me into it, and I consented because of his medical experience, but wasn’t feeling good in my heart about it. He was further offended. He said if I was just going to decline his expertise, then all I needed was a tech. So it ended with “I think you need a vet that understands you, we don’t communicate well.” So I agreed.

Strike 1 was when the puppies had Parvo, and some asshole posing as my friend told him some untruth about me. Our first meeting about the puppies was an argument. I finally has to say… “where is this coming from, did somebody say something to you about me?” Yes in fact, they had. Whoever that was, unfriend yourself because I hate you and you don’t know me. You are an ass, and one day I will know who you are. You’re an ass. Go fuck yourself. Do you really think I do not research what I do? Do you really think I give a rats ass that you disagree with what I do? You are destructive and it’s not your business.

I digress, but I had to get that off my chest. How is it I have to go home feeling like shit that my dog has to suffer another long night, to maybe or maybe not recover to a state that wasn’t so great to begin with? Fuck this!

So I phoned another vet. She and I spoke for about an hour. I told her what was going on, and asked if she thought I was out of line. She had a lot of clarity. She said she has learned that owners don’t come about the decision of euthanasia lightly and that it must be respected. She also understood from a medical perspective that if the practitioner does not have a desire to treat and cure, then they shouldn’t be practicing. She saw both sides. She also saw some miraculous recoveries from steroids and encouraged that I might stay open to it. I told her of Kylie’s previous experience with steroids. She lost control of her haunches and her bladder, had to be helped up and down stairs and was so ravenous she began to eat feces. She also broke several teeth… her teeth were trashed while on prednisone. She also had her thyroid crash on prednisone. The current vet wanted to use a different steroid, by the way.

Anyway, I did feel better after I spoke with her, because I felt she heard my desire for peace for my dog, and understood I didn’t arrive at it without great consideration. I also understood that there is a drive from the practitioner to try a few steps to cure. I don’t feel much better about putting Kylie through another night, truly in my gut, I just want to help her over. I feel her body when I lifted her out of the truck and all I feel is pain, disorder and dying.

I am an empath. I do not need explanations for what I feel. I have felt fractures in racehorses before they ever happened. I have felt liver issues in racehorses before they ever diagnosed. I live with this dog. Do I have to go through mental gymnastics to choose for my dog?

In the end, me and the vet I phoned tonight did discuss some matters of contention between this other vet and I. The first concerned herbal and holistic treatments. Understand, I arrived at the use of said treatments because I myself was very ill. The doctors didn’t know what was wrong, and tried one drug after another. As a teenager, I was very unhealthy. Never mind the fuckin side affects of those drugs. But I REALLY arrived when one day I got frost bite from the waist down. I was exercising racehorses one Winter day, and on this day I wore jeans instead of my Goretex. That’s because I was told we’d stay in the indoor gallop. But I was sent to the frozen track for a couple horses. I had excrutiating pain from that.. my skin turned yellow and I had shooting paints, and my skin burned like fire. After 10 days with a catheter because I couldn’t pee, and the doctors having called in specialists and having no answers, I followed my intuition and went to a faith healer. She sent me to a Chinese medical practitioner, classically trained in China. From the Chinese perspective, it made perfect sense that I couldn’t pee after freezing the energy centers for the kidneys. He worked on me for an hour, gave me some nasty herbs and sent me home. I removed the catheter and I was fine. That changed my whole life, and my entire approach to wellness. Should I be vilified in the eyes of a veterinarian who does not live with my dog? It is not about whether she can kick this infection. It is about the suffering at hand, measured with the quality of life before falling into this acute state of illness. That is where we cannot speak the same language.

It ended with this: The veterinarian I spoke with tonight is willing to perform the euthanasia and follow on necropsy. But she also recommended a different veterinarian for me, since my primary foundation to health is herbal or holistic in other measures. I agree. It’s time to just move on.

May God grant me the wish in my heart, to move from this place I find so full of arrogance and corruption, a place that has been largely inhospitable to my animals, and to me.

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The Fragility of Being

A room once used for giving birth to new life, is now converted to a place for dying. I’ve packed up the whelping box, and converted the space to be Kylie’s private quarters for her final days, perhaps weeks. Do not weep for me. I can only weep for the many times I’ve been imperfect for her. But I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to give her the best that we can ask for in life. That is, to give her a good death. It is such Grace to know when the time is near. Sudden death is so much more difficult to understand, so much harder on the soul, and harder on those left behind.

California Aqueduct

When I first began to write this post in April, it was to express a perspective about being, one I’ve witnessed within myself numerous times. I think I first experienced this “fragility” when I flew over Southern California for the first time. The rainy season in Southern California is suggestive, at times, of an Indian monsoon. But the rest of the year, it is a desert, dryer than Beirut. Living in a desert like that, if you have any sense about you, you get a look at the fragility of life… and how an act of terrorism, an act of God, an accident of catastrophic proportions could extinguish that existence by rendering the area devoid of water… and leaving it also as a place with no escape route. It is a place so easily gridlocked, with only a couple roads North, and a few going East. Truly if you consider this, it exists for any desert community – Palm Springs, Las Vegas, Los Angeles. Without these massive networks of water movement, there is only the ocean. I thought on this as I reviewed this article: Water Supply in Southern California.

So this was the brainchild for this post. But since then, many things have happened. One friend lost her dog after he sustained just a small cut on his foot. It became infected – staph… and died. And later she lost two of her elderly dogs, one not so very old, the other a respectable age. So each time these things occurred, I thought again of this post, and wanted to write.

Three weeks ago I lost a dear friend. I had not known him long in this lifetime, a year perhaps. He was a healer. I visited him about once per month over the last year, Dr. James MacKimmie, author of Presence of Angels. Dr. MacKimmie and his wife Andrea had become, for me, family, healer and adviser. I had just seen him and he was telling me about his pending knee surgery. The man could probably count on one hand, the number of times he’d visited an allopathic practitioner. But his knees were giving out, and causing him grief. So he was to have a replacement. I did feel that perhaps I would not see him again during that treatment. But it was more because I’d had some serious discussions with a potential new employer. He and I were both excited about the energy of the new location for me, and how he felt it resonated with the fulfillment of potential in me. It would match my vibration. It would hold so much promise. It seemed so exact and perfect. The knee surgery met with complication, perhaps a clot. Days after, he had a heart attack, and just a few days more and he had left the earth.

He woke Andrea in the night sometime before he left us. Told her there would be a celebration of his life on July 29th. Odd date really – so far from his departure. Part of me weeps. I’m used to this dying thing with the farm animals. Perhaps I’m even numb. But this human thing seems to grow more difficult with time. In 2010, I had two tragic losses. A dear friend from an MMO game I play shared her final months with us via the game. She was dying of cancer, and there was no saving her. She was only in her 20s. She clung to life with all she had. She was angry. But she told jokes up until her final days. Her last few days, she’d sleep. At one point she slept more than 24 hours straight. The doctors were not sure she’d wake. But she did. In the end, she felt very alone. There was so much blood, she said. No amount of closeness could make her feel she was not alone. I know her as an angel – and so I cannot believe anything other than she met with the Divine as she departed. So young and so dear a woman. She was fierce. She did not dwell in silliness. If she was angry, her anger moved through like a storm. Then it was gone.

Most tragic of these losses in 2010 was my Grandpa. As a child, I visited him every Summer. He’d fly from Maryland, to his home in South Carolina. Back then, having an airplane was not so much a luxury as it is today. Once I was an adult, and had work, I couldn’t afford such visits. But Grandaddy was such a larger than life figure for me. What saddened me most was the timing. I was unemployed, nearing eviction, and I learned on Facebook when some family friends told me they were sorry to hear. I exploded. I’d gotten a prepaid cell phone just days before, no longer able to maintain my Blackberry bliss with Verizon. But I got no email from family. No phone call from family friends that had the new number. Just Facebook. No voice mail. Just Facebook. I planned how I could fly there…but if I did so, I would have no money for food. And so I remained home, feeling more disconnected from society than ever before. I was angry. I was sad for my Grandmother, who also felt jolted from the life she’d known.

Only a short time before, she and her husband had been moved to a care facility. In her mind, this was much against her wishes. And so there I was contemplating the great fragility of being. We are born so fragile. We understand this. But we grow, and are vibrant. And so many things threaten this existence. Consider this very primal instinct for survival. It shapes and molds some of our most basic emotions. Being excluded from a group of people – it puts us outside – from the most primal level, this is a threat to our very survival. There was a time when being forced outside the community meant death. So when we are forced outside a group, there is upset, in its varying expressions. Underlying that is the very primal fear – a threat to our very survival.

Alison Hershbell at Delaware Park

When I was a jockey, I had a roommate and fellow rider, Alison Hershbell. I loved Ali. She was unique. She was a free spirit. She had no problem being different. I remember the time she agreed to come with me to Gurumayi’s Ashram in South Fallsburg, New York. Not something we’d ever talk about on the racetrack, but Ali wanted to come. I was driving her Saab I believe… it had heated seats, a feature we both enjoyed with our frequently sore backs. We were on an exit ramp in New York. There was a van stopped in the middle of the road, so we had to stop. Then the van moved…but now in our path was a possom, which ambled towards us, then climbed onto the driver’s side front tire. We got out of the vehicle and wondered what to do. Finally, a highway patrol officer came and dispensed of the creature, using one of Ali’s commonly-worn tie-die crinkle skirts as a glove. Off we went, up to the ashram. Ali went right up in the Darshan line with me, and I introduced her to Gurumayi. I will never know what kind of experience Ali might have had with Gurumayi. But I feel better about her early departure from this earth, knowing she was blessed by the Guru. Last time I saw her, I visited her in Southern California. She was riding an Arab race at Los Alamitos, and so I went to her hotel for a very brief visit. Later, I was thinking of Ali. It was some time after I had left racing, and had lost touch with her. It was perhaps her choice to lose touch. She was having a fair amount of success with racing. I generally was not, and had frequent broken bones. I looked her up on the internet and was stunned to find, instead of success stories, an obituary. I remember my gratitude that she’d survived an abusive boyfriend. She told me of a time he’d choked her. I remember the gratitude I felt that she survived every spill. But now she was gone at 30 years of age. And I wasn’t there to wish her spirit a good journey. I remember her artwork. I bet most people didn’t have the privelege of seeing her sketches. Or meeting her dear schoolfriend Haley. To me, Ali was like a younger sister – but one I looked up to. She was so unencumbered by emotion. And I so trapped by them. Perhaps that is why she departed early. She was more free to go.

Being does not seem so fragile when we witness aging. But being is fragile. The aging process, while it can be slow and painful, is a way of separating the soul from the body. I must consider that the more we identify with the physical self, the more difficult and prolonged this process. Perhaps this makes me surprised to have this journey for Kylie to have taken so long. For it was 2007 that she was first really ill. I suspect she was growing ill for some years before that, but in July of 2007, I took her to the vet, as she was failing sometimes in her training. He phoned me on a Sunday morning to inform me that she was in danger of bleeding out, with dangerously low platelet and WBC count. Several people who had lost dogs to anemia contacted me to inform me that there was no cure and that she would most certainly die. First off, she didn’t have anemia. But second – what a horrible thing to say. Was this a bitterness that people felt from their own loss? Was it some attempt to prepare me? We must focus on the living, if this is the moment at hand.

I trusted my instincts with Kylie’s health. I put her on a vigorous herbal regime for blood building and fighting cancer. Here we are, five years later. And I have just felt it for certain tonight. It is the time to prepare her room for dying. She is dying. The temple that has carried her for more than 12 years is failing. Do not weep for me. Only weep that I have not been perfect for her. Sometimes cruel, sometimes thankless, sometimes too demanding. If she leaves me with anything, it is a sense of not having learned enough from her. But also knowing that for most of her life, I understood that she was a spirit trapped in a body that didn’t suit her. I told her she should return as a bird of prey. Because she loves to hunt and kill. This was the source of most of our disagreement. This and her refusal to accept my home and property as my domain. For her, it was hers to decide who could visit and where they could sit. She guarded my own mother as though she were a felon. She’d follow my mother around the house with an accusatory glare. Generally, Kylie was in a crate if there was company. And if there were cats around… this was her specialty. Though I dare say, Kylie was an expert rodent killer. So if she would return as a bird of prey, she could manifest that fragility of being, showing that in dying there is the sustenance of life. She can do so as a bird of prey, without repercussion.

Fragility is also about our state of being, the fabric that we are at a given point in time. In just a moment, we are changed. Wether we die, or become forever changed – what once was, is no more. Perhaps I will write a book about living and dying. I have so much more to say. But for now, I have the night to reflect on the many who have gone, and the many that remain. And the fragility of being.

©2012 Tracy Wessel

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