Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve!

From Jim: Another year is in the books! Remarkable! The sanctuary rolls along at it's own steady pace, with rhythms and cycles that lull one into a sense of timelessness. Very often, we are not only unaware of the day of the week, we forget what month it is. Some events do impact us and remind us of the passing of time. We lost some really wonderful critters this past year-Zoe and Mac, Jonathan, Levi II, Callie, Lexi, and Tess. We met some new critters that now call Home at Last theirs-Laz and Cal, Dream, Toby, Tango, Tawney, Kitty, General, Harley, Jackson, Reba, Bucky, Bo, Sugar II, Ginger, Kim, Little Dog, Little Red, Annabelle, Teddy, Chad, Jimmy, Packy, Whitey, and Bow (AKA Gumba). Because we're here with your support and donations, these animals are alive. We added fostering homes for some of our herd. The thrift store finished it's first year in fine style. Our board elected new officers. Our wonderful supporters were there for us. Lyle put up the hay for the year. Dr. Gary Darling, our vet, and Aaron, our farrier, produced their usual miracles. Linda and Brian got engaged. Our son and his wife let us know we'd be grandparents again. These are good things. The new year will have a lot of the same sanctuary patterns. And, that's a good thing. We hope all of you and your critters will have a great new year! From time to time, this new year, we hope you will stop and appreciate that your contributions and efforts have given so many a chance at life. And, that's a very good thing! Thank you! We greet the new year with a real sense of happiness and gratitude. Your kindnesses humble us.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Laz is Home!

From Jim: Laz, our newest canine family member, came home from the vet today. His right front is encased in heavy duty cast. Three pins are holding his broken metatarsals together. One didn't get a pin. He is such a good boy. Because we had only had him for two days when he got hurt, he was not happy at being left at the vets. The vet tech said he had the "oh no, not again" look on his face. He sure was happy to see us and to come to his house! He's tolerating his repair work quite well. He has a quiet disposition anyway, and with his meds and the protection the cast gives his injury, he's very happy to just sleep, get petted and be home. How they know that they're a part of the family in just a couple of days is beyond me, but there was no doubt, he knows he belongs here. Anyway, a huge thank you to Dr. Darling and his assistant. The next nine weeks should be interesting.

Let's Talk Mules!

From Jim: The topic of longears keeps drawing me back. I think it's because they are such great animals. Donkeys, Hinnys, and Mules all qualify-longears/great! We have a bunch of mules here at at Home At Last. Our mini-mule is Maggie B. She's way into her 40's, has about 3 teeth, and doesn't like people very much. She's a sorrel and to touch her nose is a major coup. The fact that she survived an abandonment up in Berry Creek for several years, living feral, is amazing. We have Tawny and Tango, the "dog foot breakers". These two molleys are not trained one little bit. Can't catch or touch them. They were rescued, after being left in a field with nothing to eat and little to drink. They are beautiful and are showing signs of wanting to get to know us. With longears, this can take several years, but it's worth the wait. Once a longear makes you a friend, it's a lifetime deal. Wild Bill, a Kiger cross mule, is in with the Standardbreds. They kind of tolerate each other. Our neighbor, Art, has been hand feeding Bill and petting his nose. Again, Bill was abandoned, had no training, and no real love of people. He is coming around. There's Tucker, a beautiful Appy mule. He is one of the most charismatic animals you could ever meet. Tucker is just fun to be with! Lady Bug is in the same herd. She's a Hackney mule. She was badly mistreated and doesn't really trust people. She shows every sign of wanting to. She'll touch your hand with her nose, but is very nervous with it. Time and patience will help her. Toby is another Kiger mule. He's one cute fellow. He made up his mind to get to know us. He was rescued from a neglectful situation and, on his own, made friends with us. He's so full of it, eyes sparkling, and ears up! What a boy. Juan is our mule diplomat. He's old, way old. His hind foot was severely damaged and requires a corrective shoe. Juan is probably a Quarterhorse mule. He's a big love. He will stop feeding to come over for a pet. Likes to put his head on your chest and doze while he gets his ears and face rubbed. Jackson is white mule. He's also very people friendly and likes to get loved on. At 10, he's still a young mule. Mules live a long time-45 is not unusual. Reba is a gorgeous molley. She's a sorrel, tall and graceful, beautiful head. She's learning to trust us and gets a pet now and then. She came with a "hard to catch" label. Mules can be difficult that way. We let them learn to catch us. They are affectionate and once they find out about soft and gentle touches, they can be real pests. Molly is a tobacco brown mule. She made the transition from "hard to catch" to "stop and pet the mule". Took about 2 years. She's also probably a Q-horse mule. Mules have a reputation for being stubborn. They do have a well developed sense of self-preservation and can be very leery of new "things". If there's a doubt in their mind about the "good for the mule" issue, you're likely to have to spend some time getting past that. They do not respond well to force, punishment, or heavy-handed approaches. A careful, well thought out, and sequential training program seems to work best, with a huge dose of patience. There's not a lot of value in trying to hurry a mule. Mules are great saddle animals, sure footed and dependable. They are tough and can work longer and harder than a horse. They are, pound for pound, much stronger. They generally have good teeth and sound hooves. They are usually easy keepers. Plain old hay is the best diet for them and they shouldn't be given alfalfa or grains. They can founder of hot feed pretty easily. Mules are really smart and have incredible memories. They will not do too well with horse saddles, as their backs are donkey-like, flat and wide with almost no withers. Mule saddles often have breast collars and britchens to help keep the saddle in place. Mules like comfort and an ill fitting saddle can be real trouble. They can buck and get into a real storm at times. There's a lot of different opinions regarding head tack and bits for mules. I've always gone with the notion that less is better. Don't have a real strong opinion, but I think a Mullen or Sweet Six of the proper width, maybe with a roller, should do. Time, with a lot of patience, is the trick. Jerking on a mule's face with a harsh bit and curb chain is not going to work out real well. Once a mule has a bad experience, it's going to be a while to get them over it. Might even not be possible, if it was bad enough. To ruin a mule with stupid and ignorant training practices is sure a shame. Well, I'm likely to come back to the subject of longears again. I love them and their ways. I hope you'll get an opportunity to get to know some of em!

Thursday, December 29, 2011


From Jim: The sanctuary, with it's 80 equines, 4 goats, 2 steers, and so on, is a fair amount of work. Without the equipment we use everyday, it would probably be impossible to keep up. We use the tractor for feeding the 12 to 14 bales of a hay each day. Donna has become quite the tractor driver. The old Ford flatbed and trailer move about 6 tons of hay for every 7 days of feeding. It can haul 100 bales at a time. The fuel savings really add up by taking fewer trips to Lyle's barns. We have a little garden tractor that has stood in for the big tractor when necessary. It can only handle 2 bales at a time, but it gets the job done. We have an assortment of generators. The big diesel is the fall back when the sun and wind aren't doing it. The wind turbine has been getting a new controller and has been unavailable for the last couple of months. There's the pick-ups that serve for transportation and hauling sack feed and the occasional load of hay. They have a hard life. We cut our fire wood from the down oaks that are here. The chainsaws stay pretty busy. There are a few arc welders-one with it's own engine and weed whackers, both wheeled and hand held. There's the water pumps and systems. There's just a bunch of machines that help get the work done. They also create work. Like all equipment, maintenance and repairs are constant. When I have a day that seems sort of difficult, I think of the generations before us, that made do with their own muscles and those of the livestock they kept. Back in the day, a horsepower was just that! The harness and tack took time to care for and the convenience of "turn-key" power was only a dream. Going to town was a day long proposition and that slow ride took time away from the chores that always were waiting. I complain if traffic holds me up for 10 minutes! I can't even imagine thinking of Jake, our Belgian, as "equipment". Cutting fire wood with a handsaw-a misery whip-doesn't sound fun. The tractors and trucks are sure something to appreciate. The off-grid power system makes life better. The ability to stay ahead-just barely-of the work is a miracle! I like my equipment, most of the time.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Laz Update...

From Jim: Laz had a surgical repair of his broken foot. Dr. Darling put three pins into the fractured bones so they would align properly and then put on a cast. There was enough swelling from soft tissue damage that another cast will be called for in a week or so. Mules can cause blunt force trauma! It was a real relief to get such a positive post-operative report. We'll bring Laz home on Friday if everything goes as it should. All told, this will be around a 9 week recovery-6 weeks in a cast(s) and 3 weeks in a soft splint. The splint will support his foot after the pins are removed and let him start to use his foot without too much movement. We'll probably keep him in for this process. He'll probably not like it. Oh well! The prognosis is quite good for a full recovery. There are some concerns about infection. Cast wear and tear can be an issue. Laz's tolerance for restricted activity is also a concern. Initially, pain management is also important. We'll keep you up to date on Laz's progress. We sure think a lot of this guy. He's very calm and gentle. Gary says that Laz really wants out of the vet hospital and wants to come home. We'll like that too!

A New Day! I'll take it!

From Jim: Boy, Oh Boy! Yesterday was not gonna make the list of favorites for me. That said, today holds the promise of being a whole lot better. We'll check on Laz this afternoon and see how his surgery went. It'll be good to have him on the mend. I'm going for some hay a little later this morning. It's always fun to see Lyle. It'll be a generator day. It's too cloudy for the solar panels. Marcus set up the diesel generator so well that it's just not a problem anymore. We'll continue with the water management issues, but they're much more in hand. The lower herd will have to readjust to different water tanks. They're pretty smart and that won't be much of problem for them. Sweety Pie, our Hackney Pony, splashes too much water out of the big tank anyway. She loves to play in the water. Brian and Linda gave us a load of firewood for Christmas. What a great present, maybe almost perfect. Unlike a lot of presents, it's really OK to throw it in the fire. It's more than heartwarming. And we won't have to find a place for it in the Spring. Perfect! Our work here at the sanctuary is generally a peaceful and quiet undertaking. There's usually not much drama or stress. I think yesterday was disquieting and unpleasantly disorganized. Those days happen, but it's sure good to have them fade away. The high spots, in the midst of the chaos, came a few moments here and there to love the some of the critters. Aaron reset Juan's corrective shoe last evening. Juan was fine with that as long as he was getting his face and ears rubbed. Got to know Jackson, our new white mule, a little better. Quest was a pocket Appy and Cal was the Arabian version. All in all, there were some good moments, but I won't mind waiting for quite a while before there's another one like yesterday.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Good Bye Mac...

From Jim: Today Mac got his wings. His connective tissue cancer had progressed to the point we could no longer control his pain. He would cry throughout the night. It was no good. He's at peace now, no more pain. As I've told you before, Mac was a good dog. He was loyal and well behaved. He had a sweet personality. He really enjoyed sleeping by the wood stove and getting petted. I will miss Mac a lot. There was no doubt that it was his time and that is comforting. See you at the rainbow bridge old boy. Laz will have some surgery tomorrow to pin the broken bones in his foot. All four of the metatarsal bones were fractured, leaving no choice but to pin a couple of them to properly align the bones so they could heal. Then a cast for 6 or so weeks. That should do it. Mules are not dog friendly. Glad they didn't kill Laz, as they easily could have. Whatever would we do without Dr. Darling? It's been a very long spell without rain and the wells are not as productive as I'd like. We're on a careful H2O management program for the time being. The herd still uses about 2500 gallons a day. Glad it's not gardening season! The sanctuary keeps us on our toes, that's for sure. I'll have to go for hay again tomorrow. Our feed bill runs around $140 a day. Donations have been hard to come by. This economy is hard on everyone. We just plug along, day at a time, getting on with caring for the critters and trying to keep our heads above water. (I said that because of the well situation) Brian and Linda are engaged! How great is that?! We hope all our friends will find peace and happiness in the new year. We are so blessed and wish that for each of you!

Monday, December 26, 2011


From Jim: Monday was filled with the usual stuff. The calves were out this morning. The were totally unimpressed with the equines of the backyard bunch. Harley and General, old rodeo horses, gave it their very best shot and the boys were good for one short run. Banjo emphasized his unwillingness to play cowboy games by staging an eat-in. Harley, confused by this resistance, gave up and joined Banjo's movement. There they were, head to head, vacuuming up hay. Julian, bawled a couple of times and went back to doing calf stuff. General went on to other things. A little while later, Julian asked to be let back into his own corral and with a call or two from me, Banjo joined him. I checked the fence. It was working, but the ground is so dry the effects are minimal. I'm not going to run a separate ground wire right now, so I guess the calves will have their way with the fence till it rains. Spent some time this morning petting critters. Quest loves to have his bottom scratched. He'll follow you around in reverse, and shift around until you are getting just the right spot. He's a funny guy! One of our new Arabians, who came labeled "hard to catch" is now hard to avoid. He fully expects to loved on anytime you're around. The new mules have both been petted. Their "hard to catch" days will soon be over too. It's hard to overstate the power of just being with these animals two or three times a day. That, and the herd's behavior, which states clearly, "this place is OK". I believe there's real value to round ring work, but I think having a strong relationship first is important. Respect and dominance are readily accepted by equines. Trust and confidence are too. We like the "T-touch" for calming leery critters. Just something about those fingertip circles that horses find relaxing. We work on name recognition, but try to keep the chatter to a minimum. A lot of verbalization is wasted on equines. They're a pretty quiet type of animal. I use my hat to shoo critters out of the way. You'd think they would get nervous about my hat when it's on my head. Nope, they figure if it's on my head, there's no shooing going on. Our critters shoo, but they are not afraid. They accept being made to move but know they won't be harmed. I'm pretty sure the new animals can tell by herd's state of mind that they're safe. We don't rush with this type of ground work. Time is on our side and hurrying just makes for unnecessary upsets. We aim for critters that want to get caught, will lead with a piece of bailing twine, and stand quietly until you ask them to move. We don't tie hard and fast and look for a ground tie when we're done. We make sure that our animals are clear on what we want. This all takes time and nothing else will do. Progress can be very slow. Patience is absolutely a requirement. With equines, emotions are contagious. Get mad and upset and your horse will believe it and be afraid and upset-doesn't make for a good student. Stay calm, quiet, focused and patient and wonderful things can and do happen. You can't "like" your way into a horse's mind, but you can become a respected teacher if you deserve it. Being around animals all of the time sure keeps you humble. It sure a good thing they're so forgiving.

And Coming Soon...A New Year!

From Jim: Donna's latest blog-just below-recounts Christmas day and night, with it's ups and downs. We're now in the no-man's land, waiting for the new year, but done with the Christmas activities. Very soon we'll start leaning hard toward Spring. I know, Winter's just getting started, but Winter is something to get through, Spring is to be enjoyed! We really need rain and a bunch of it. This dry cold spell hasn't left me all giggly. The new year gets us closer to the next election. Can't come soon enough for me. It's kind of like Winter, only longer and harder to put up with. Soon it will be the season of never ending campaign commercials-Oh Goody! We are terribly concerned about the horse population, what with the inert economy and sky-rocketing hay prices. Hope folks will be able to adjust their budgets and hang on for the Spring cutting. I have been resisting getting a new battery for the tractor. It really needs one and the cold isn't helping one bit. I hate to buy batteries-no special reason for that- I just don't like it. The old battery spent the night on the charger-again. We'll see how perky it is later this morning. Might be a new battery in the new year. Terrific. All of our newest equines have settled in. The backyard bunch is a lot of fun. Wish we would have changed the fence lines a long time ago. Here, at the sanctuary, new years are a lot like weekends. They don't mean much. There will be change. That's for sure. But, for the most part, it will be the quiet routines and chores, the feeding and mending that makes up our days. They blend together like a water color. The edges are soft and gentle. We like that! Oh, and resolve to take more time to love on your horse. It'll make a better year for sure!

Christmas Day and Night

Christmas morning started with a glorious sunrise. Love, Laz and Mac dogs opted to stay in by the wood stove while Keecha and I started the morning chores. The Standardbreds Promise and Charity await their Christmas breakfast. There are only four in the mini herd right now-Maggie, Sugar, Gracie and Dobbin. They all get extra feed and grain. They are the "oldies." The lower well and stock tank area is a special place. It's peaceful. I love just being part of the land here. Cricket pony came with Lucky last year. They brought strangles with them. Cricket is very old and wild. She is a real cutie, though. Tiger Lily is a Kiger mustang who lost an eye in an accident. Her owner was going to shoot her because she was "worthless." Quincy horse doesn't think so. They have been bonded since she came. Feeding and watering is a special time with the herd. We do a check up and evaluation daily of everyone. This lower herd has 17 of the more vigorous and playful ones. Only a couple are on our watch list-Tiger Lily and Cricket. Both are old and had the strangles last year. Coral Belle the tractor decided she had worked hard enough and wouldn't start so Keecha and I started walking back. Fortunately, we were in no hurry and could enjoy the views. The horses munched on their Christmas breakfasts. It's a beautiful walk. Almost to the upper road with Keecha leading the way. It's a good thing I like walking. Maggie mini mule likes to take a sunbath. The walk was long (sort of) but the views well worth it. Later we had lunch out with friends. After more than 50 years of making Holiday dinners, it was time for a treat. This will probably be a new tradition. No cooking, no mess. Great food. Great friends.

Laz went out with me when I did the afternoon watering. He is new to the ranch and does not know about mules. Before I could stop him he got into the turnout with Tawny and Tango mules. They went after him in a concerted effort, rolled him with their front hooves and stomped on his leg. We think it is broken. Will get him to the vet early this Mon AM.

Mac and Beth enjoy their time together.Beth and Mac have been buddies since they were both "pups." Laz is sleeping peacefully with a pain pill, but poor old Mac could not get comfortable at all. I have been up all night with him, hand on his back and head. Even an extra pain pill could not relieve his pain. He has cancers in is joints and getting up is almost impossible for him. He will make the trip to the vet with us, too.

Christmas day is over. As with most days there were highlights and hard times. We cherish the good and deal with the difficult as best we can.

Hope you had a happy day.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas...Happy Holidays!

From Jim: Here's a few of my favorite pictures. Donna's will be posted later. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Welcome home Laz!

Part of the backyard bunch, from our back deck.

Sugar Pie, a hinney that really looks like a stuffed animal!

My morning greeting committee!

Two of our sweet donkeys, Jenny and Jessie.

Good dog, Mac. What a great boy!

The "catapotamus", Patches.

Close of day at the sanctuary. We wish all of you peace
and love.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Blessings

The dedicated Board members who take their time and energy to help and the donors and sponsors of Home At Last are wonderful blessings. Without your love and support we could not do what we do. There are so many of you who are there when we need you. You are truly angels.
Here are some of the animals you have helped save.

Without our "angel" Dr Gary Darling and his staff Home At Last would not be successful. He is here for the good and difficult times. He helps us with our life and death issues. He is truly a blessing. Our volunteers at the sanctuary are blessings. They work hard to get done whatever needs to be done. A real blessing has been the Thrift Store in Chico. Helen, Ron, Tobi and Lucas have made the business a success in these hard economic times. They have donated over $1000.00 to the sanctuary. They continue to support us in all ways possible. Laura and Amazing Gracie

and of course, Miss Pickles, add joy, hope and love where ever they go. Linda, Brian and Hannah are blessings, too. They add so much to our lives.

Granddaughter Beth is a year round blessing. When she's here she's right in there with the critters. Give her a chance and they'd all be in the house with her. Here she is giving Hannah some special attention.

One of our special blessings is Tawnee from HorsePlus. We have had an association and friendship with them for years. They have many difficult decisions to make regarding horse care. The animal's welfare always comes first.

Smile, everyone. Since I got two horses for Christmas, and Jim did, too, we told granddaughter Beth these were her presents. She's fine with that. What could be better than two beautiful mules? Jim has Reba. I have Jackson. Let's go kids. You are truly "home at last."

Toby and Juan are part of the welcoming committee. Pretty little Reba is shy, but sweet. This is where I left Laz sleeping last night.

This is where I found him this morning. He'll sure miss Beth when she leaves.
Happy Holidays to all from the Home At Last herd.