Friday, July 31, 2009

Those Little Cat Feet

With all this rainy weather, and one very bored teenager, I took some time to do one of our favorite things. We went next door to visit our friend who runs an animal rescue organization and helped socialize some feral kittens. It’s not hard. You just play with them until they get used to being around big human creatures, and then you cuddle them. We love this job.

This time, there were seven babies from three different litters. This fluffy black and white fellow was the most outgoing. He’s a real prince, adorable but hissing at the other kitties if they got to close. It’s all about him. Still, he was more than happy to be picked up and petted. There will be no trouble finding him a good home.

The two orange darlings in the photo below were part of a litter of 13 kittens who were in bad shape when they were rescued. Last week, there was only the scared little girl on the right, but now her brother is feeling well enough that he was able to get out of quarantine to join her. The sister was snuggling on top of her brother while I tried to lure them out of the cat cave by wiggling a strip of fuzzy material. It was incredibly touching how happy these cats were to see each other. I am always so moved by the tenderness that animals show to each other.

I have made one serious rule here: No kitties come home with us. We’re just doing our job like cat cuddling professionals. That’s because our house already has a King. His name is Velcro and he rules (despite my husband’s efforts to regain the crown).

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Yes, There is No More Abscess!

When I fed Silk on Monday morning, she was holding up her back left leg and wouldn’t put any weight on it. Abscess season has begun, I thought, as I filled the medicine boot with warm water and Epsom salts while she ate her breakfast. She soaked the foot and happily ate her hay. Then, I switched the rubber boot for the boot that JME gave me with an Animalintex poultice in it. All day, Silk limped around wearing the boot without any complaint. What a great horse!

At dinner, we did the whole drill again, and Silk was, of course, the perfect patient. Siete, are you watching? I noticed a big, yucky glob of something came out in the boot. It was a good sign to me that the abscess had drained. For three days, we’ve soaked and poulticed twice a day. By Tuesday night, she was standing firmly on all four feet. No more limping today. I am so pleased to report that tonight she seems sound again. I’ll keep the hoof really clean, but I think we dodged the bullet.

I decided that I’m going to put shoes on Silk’s front feet next week. Siete is doing so much better this summer since she has that extra support. We’re into this difficult weather pattern of lots of rain and then drying up and then more deluge. It reeks havoc on horses’ feet, not to mention the rocks that spring up overnight in the pasture, the stalls, the corral. My husband swears that the rock is the state flower here.

So, it’s pouring again today and no end in sight for tomorrow. The girls were glad to be together in Siete’s stall all day. Every couple of hours, I took a sponge with cold water and dribbled it on their necks and chest. They stand in front of the fan and it cools them.

I’m picking their feet twice a day. Yesterday, I was cleaning Silk’s back hoof and as I bent over, I heard a scary cracking sound from my back. I froze, realizing that I couldn’t really stand up straight. Leaning on my good sweet horse, I concentrated on breathing until my back relaxed enough that I was able to loosen the spasm. I hobbled back to the house and got one of my flexible blue 3M ice packs out of the freezer. I can’t live without them. After lying on the cold pack for ten minutes, I was able to move around a bit better. Let’s just say that my 95 year old mother walks normally, and I look like I’m the old lady.

This too shall pass, but I need to get back to my yoga exercises. Who knew that picking hooves could be so dangerous?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

When the Chickens Cross the Road

I need to go on record first by stating that I am not a fan of chickens. Our neighbors across the street have tried to raise them off and on since we moved in here. There have been some tragedies. As the Animal Control officer told me, “Raising chickens in this town is like opening up a deli for foxes and coyotes.” Still, our neighbors have persevered, building an enclosure around their henhouse that looks like something out of Swiss Family Robinson.

We have a sweet deal going. We give them compost, and they supply us with all the organic, free range eggs that we can eat. As part of the free range claim, they let the chickens out to roam for a few hours each day. It turns out that the chickens like to eat the ticks. So, when they started crossing the road to visit our yard, we weren’t going to chase them away.

Little did I know that I was going to be charmed by the rooster. I admit that I’ve fallen in love. We call him “The Chief”, and he really knows how to keep his girls safe and in line. If one of the hens strays to our driveway or the backyard, the Chief runs right over and pushes her back where he can keep an eye on her. He always waits to be the last one to cross the road, making sure that there are no stragglers. If the girls start to argue over a tasty morsel, he steps in and breaks it up. And did I mention what a handsome guy he is?

So, now I know why the chickens cross the road, and I’m very glad that they do. All hail the Chief!

Friday, July 17, 2009

More Honest Scrap

It’s that time again. Arlene at Grey Horse Matters and Karen at Karen's Musings & Endurance Ride Stuff have honored me with the Honest Scrap Award. A while back, I was given this award and revealed 10 little known facets of my life. Now, I’m going to try to come up with 10 more. Let’s see…

1. I don’t like thunderstorms. When we first moved here, our fence in the pasture was struck by lightening and it blew out many electronic treasures in the house like my computer, the coffee pot, the microwave and the ceiling fan. The fence caught on fire. When the volunteer firemen came, they informed me that we live on a street prone to lightening strikes. Luckily, I had just put the horses in the barn, but they were afraid to go near that part of the pasture for months after it happened. Summer is the season for big boomers, and even as I write, we’re having a severe thunderstorm warning.

2. I’m addicted to the radar page at I check it first thing every morning and often throughout the day. I don’t know how I lived without it. We’re extremely weather-conscious around here.

3. I am religious about picking out my horses’ hooves twice a day. We will see if it really helps keep the abscesses away this year. Silk doesn’t even notice when I do it. Siete used to resist, but now she seems to enjoy the attention. It’s become a bit of a bonding ritual between us.

4. Arlene revealed in her Honest Scrap confessions that she can swear like a trooper. Okay, I can swear like a Teamster, which is the same thing, but I learned how to do it on movie sets not highway patrol. My daughter always reminds me that I’m not setting a good example when I let loose.

5. Every morning, after I feed the horses, I say. “ Hello Mr. Goldberg! Hello Aunt Park.” These are two spirits that I feel who live in our backyard. Mr. Goldberg built our house and lovingly grew and cared for the trees and vegetation on our land even when he no longer owned it. He has been long dead and gone but my 95 year old mother says she sees “the old man” by the barn all the time these days. I believe it must be him. Aunt Park was a free black woman who lived here in the 1700’s and was the midwife, healer and medicine woman in our town. She’s still wandering around in the cedar trees on the hill. Most people who come here can sense her presence.

6. I’m turning off the computer because the thunderstorm is upon us. I’ll be back in a few minutes.

7. I don’t have a good voice, but I sing to Silk all the time. She’s the only one who enjoys it, and that’s why I know she really loves me. Sometimes, I make up the songs, but I’m partial to Van Morrison and Silk seems to be too.

8. I can’t wait for the tomatoes to ripen so I can eat them with mozzarella, basil and balsamic vinegar several times a day for the next month or so.

9. I can’t fall asleep at night unless I read in bed. Often, I don’t get through more than a couple of pages, but I love books and the day doesn’t end properly unless I fall asleep with my head buried in one.

10. Everyone in our house is addicted to a new TV show called “The Penguins of Madagascar”. It’s an animated show that takes place in the Central Park Zoo and although it’s supposed to be for kids, the writers are crazy, urbane lunatics. Here’s a sample of the dialogue:

Marlene the Otter: “Skipper, these aren’t the kind of creatures you can reason with!”
Skipper the Penguin: “Neither are we, Marlene, neither are we.”

Tonight, King Juilian, who is a lemur, was lounging on his “super comfy pamper-time floatie throne”. I want one of those, and I’ll bet you do too.

The Honest Scrap Award has been making the rounds, so I’m not going to official bestow it on anyone. You all deserve it, so please feel free to pick it up and tell us some secrets about yourself.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


I got this letter today. I called. I hope you do too.

July 14, 2009
Make the Call Today to Help Save Horses

With 144 U.S. Representatives and 17 U.S. Senators co-sponsoring the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act of 2009 (H.R. 503/S. 727), this critical legislation is moving full steam ahead. However, until this bill is signed into law, tens of thousands of American horses will continue to be shipped over the border to Mexico and Canada where they are inhumanely shot and stabbed to death for their meat.

Dedicated advocates like you have brought us so close to the finish line in stopping this cruelty once and for all, and I am so grateful for your unwavering support. But we are not there yet, and we can't stop until our horses are finally protected from slaughter through passage of H.R. 503/S. 727.

Can you help us reach out to your federal legislators and secure more support for this critical bill?

Please make a brief, polite phone call to your U.S. Representative and your two U.S. Senators and urge them to co-sponsor H.R. 503/S. 727, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act. Click here to look up your federal legislators and the phone number.

When you call, remember to leave your name and address so it is clear that you are a constituent. You can say:

"Hello, my name is [your name] and I'm calling from [your town] to urge [legislator's name] to co-sponsor H.R. 503/S. 727, the Prevention of Equine Cruelty Act, to end the slaughter of American horses for human consumption. We must end this cruel practice once and for all. Thank you."

We are tracking the impact of your calls, so please click here to let us know you spoke out for horses.

Thank you for your tireless efforts to protect horses from slaughter.


Wayne Pacelle
President & CEO
The Humane Society of the United States

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Life Lessons from a Video Shoot

I just returned from Massachusetts where I was working with a very good old friend of mine to make a video for a great organization called Red Tomato. They help family farms get their produce to market, but that is really only a surface explanation of what they do. I believe it is the way that they do it that make them so unique and valuable. Spending time with them gave me new incentive to live my life in the spirit that they embody, and naturally, some of what I felt can be related to my horses.

First, I was reminded that respect is essential in any successful, meaningful relationship. I saw genuine respect for everyone, from the farmer to the Jamaican tomato pickers to the camera crew to the people working in the office behind the scenes. It made everyone feel like they were doing something important together. Everything counts and each individual feels important and proud of what they are doing. This morning, in my barn, I was thinking about how easy it is to confuse respect with just doing something in order to get what we need out of someone, two or four legged. It comes down to putting yourself in the other person’s shoes (or horse’s hooves as it were) and sincerely considering what they need to make things better for them. It doesn’t have anything to do with manipulating what will happen to our advantage or trying to make someone like you so your ego will feel good.

I thought about all my years with Silk. We began with me trying to do things to get her to do what I wanted and to get her to bond with me. It was only when I forgot about all that and just considered what I would want if I were her and helped her feel as good as she could that she began to trust me. It starts with the small, daily gestures of respect and grows over the years. Even now, a friend called me and wanted to know if I was going to ride this weekend. I know that Silk’s belly is still pretty itchy, so the girth will rub on the bug bites and make them feel worse. I said no, since I wouldn’t want to have to endure that and be uncomfortable if I were Silk.

The other positive attitude that the people at Red Tomato have is to not get upset when they make mistakes. They look at what goes wrong as an opportunity to make things better and try different approaches. They don’t blame or look back and regret and paralyze themselves with feelings of failure. They just move on and figure out what to do next. Mark Rashid talks about that approach with working with horses, and I am trying so hard to reach the point where I can truly be that way without having any little nagging doubts and inner voices trying to sabotage me.

The third thing that I saw and heard from both the farmers and the people at Red Tomato is that they wake up every morning happy to go to work. They don’t lie there in bed, wishing they didn’t have to do what they are going to do today. I told them that they are really lucky. Today, as I was having a cup of coffee with my horses while they ate their breakfast, I realized that this peace of mind comes with acceptance. Like Silk and Siete do instinctively, I am trying to just live with what is, not wish for something to be better or different or easier or more secure or less scary or more fun. My husband pointed out to me that this sense of meaning and personal satisfaction comes from following your dream. For some of us, with the economic challenges that we face right now, it’s not hard to get off track and lose sight of the dream. This trip to Massachusetts was a way for me to pull out the compass and get my bearings again.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Thoughts about Attachment

I’ve been thinking about how people say that animals can only live in the moment, and that they don’t miss the past or worry about their future. Yet, I know that some of my animals do miss me when I’m not here and appear to be upset if things change. So, in that sense, they do miss their past experiences or they miss their past routines if I am not present to continue to do what they have come to expect me to do with them. And they also miss my presence and the attention I have given to them.

I could clearly tell that Pepper, our dear departed dog, was always extremely sad when my husband would take out his suitcase and when I would leave with him to drive him to the airport. She was visibly relieved to see me return, but still pined for him until he came home. When I go off to work on a video production, Silk usually spends a lot of her day when I am gone standing at the gate, watching for me to pull into the driveway. When my husband feeds the horses and does the evening chores, putting them in their stalls and locking up the barn, Silk is anxious because I’m not there. Is she worrying about the future and whether she will see me again?

I know that there are a lot of people who think it’s wrong to compare animals to children or give them human attributes. But how can someone not believe that we share similar emotions with animals? My animals and I both feel jealousy and sadness and loneliness and grief, and of course, happiness and love. It makes me realize how difficult it is to not become too attached to another being -- human or animal -- since many of the things that hurt when they are gone are the things that you love when you are with them. What’s different is that people are able to rationalize about how you need to let go and trust that the one you love will return, but an animal can’t. Silk will learn from the repetition of my coming and going that I will eventually be back, but she has no way of knowing when that will be and that causes her anxiety.

So, as I go off to shoot a video for the next couple of days, I will carry with me a touch of sadness. I will know that my horse is spending a lot of her time waiting for me at the gate, no matter how many times my husband reassures her that I will be back by Saturday morning. And I don’t know which one of us will be happier when I come home and see her eager face light up as my car pulls in the driveway.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Chillin' on a Sunday Afternoon

We had a big party yesterday so I didn’t have time to wish you all a Happy 4th of July. Here I am, doing it a day late. I hope you had a wonderful time. The weather was glorious, the company was excellent. We are lucky to have some great neighbors and friends of ours from India brought some delightful visitors who were here from Delhi. Today, I am one tired hostess.

The horses enjoyed all the attention. Right before the fireworks were going to start, I went to the barn and gave each horse a flake of hay. As I was standing with them, the first explosions began. I jumped a mile, but neither horse even looked up from their late night treat. Later, I checked on them again and Silk was lying down, asleep, even though things were still popping. Siete stuck her nose out to see if I had any more hay, of course.

So, this morning, when I came out to feed them, I was worried that I didn’t see Silk’s head sticking out to greet me. I found her in the back of her stall and had to coax her to her bucket. First, I thought colic, but then I looked at her tail and realized that she was really itching. While she ate, I slathered Deogel on her bottom and her belly. Before I could do her face and ears, she left her stall, which is again very unusual, and stood at Siete’s door, conferring nose to nose with her daughter. As soon as I opened the door, Silk began nibbling on Siete’s neck at the base of her mane. Siete started nibbling her mother along the base of her neck up and down like she was chewing on an ear of corn. Silk was weak at the knees from how good it felt to be itched in just the right spots.

The love and attention the horses gave each other was really touching. I felt like I was witnessing this really private moment, and I was grateful to be accepted by them as I stood at Silk’s side. When they were done, Silk gently touched her nose to my chest as if to be sure to include me in their circle.

Okay, I thought, it’s time. I called the vet to tell her that we needed to start the prednisolone. When she pulled up the records, we realized that it was exactly the same day as last year when we began the dosage. Because of Silk’s age, I try to not have to use steroids but we decided that the least amount of pills for the least amount of time was necessary. Once the itch cycle gets to a certain point, no amount of washing and salving will calm it. The Deogel is great though. I use it in both the gel and the lotion. I mix the lotion concentrate four parts to one part witch hazel, one part vinegar and six parts water. It works really well and is very economical.

Silk took her first dose of twenty pills at lunch. I just checked on the girls, and they are chillin’ in front of the fan in Siete’s stall. Mama Silk looks so much happier, even though the skin on her face is raw in some spots. It will take a week or two for her to return to normal, but the Pred really did the trick last summer. You know how I fear that stuff, yet at the same time, I’m glad that I can give my horse something to help her stop the itching. I got some mosquito bites on my legs last night, and they’ve been driving me crazy. It’s nothing compared to the bumps on Silk’s belly, under her tail, along the base of her neck and under her chin. I don’t think “sweet itch” is the right name. It’s “crazy itch”, and it’s time for the heavy duty ammunition.