Saturday, March 31, 2012

Stuart and Skittles...

From Jim: Stuart and Skittles are best friends. That's really nice, because they both had been loners for quite awhile, before pairing up. Stuart is a Kiger Mustang. Red Dun, primitive markings, absolutely beautiful. When we got him, he had been road foundered and his sheath was so filthy he was having issues urinating. He was also a couple of hundred pounds underweight. The poor guy was really hurting. It took about a year to sort him out, but he's just fine now. Recently had his teeth floated. At 12 or so, that's not unusual. Kigers (we've had 4 of em) are some of the sweetest critters you would ever find. They're like the best of the best Quarterhorse minds. Really peaceful, really gentle, really friendly. We like this breed a lot. We're down to 2. Our first Kiger, Sweet, passed away quite a few years ago. We just lost Tiger Lily a couple of weeks back. That leaves Stuart and Rosie. Kigers seem to live to be in their early 20's and then they're done. Rosie is getting on in years now. Great mare. Skittles is a little Quarterhorse. She was a barrel racer and, true to her breed, a real sweety. She was surrendered to retirement to make sure she had a good safe home. Tawnee put her with us. She knows our policy of lifetime sanctuary and the standard of care we provide. It's sure been nice to work with Jason and Tawnee. Well, anyway, Skittles was doing OK, but she was mostly just off by herself. Stuart, the same. Then, one day, they were by themselves, but in the same corner. The rest is history. They stall together, eat together, nap together, and hang out together. They are inseparable. When we had their teeth done, Skittles was first. As she came out of sedation, and we returned her to the turnout, Stuart was "at the dentist". Skittles let us know that this was not OK and didn't settle down until her Stuart was back at her side. These two are in the upper herd, so she wasn't actually alone, but she wasn't with her BFF. They likely would text that, but hooves don't mix with keyboards. Naw! But a horse with a cell phone is a funny thought, maybe they'd use a bluetooth. In California, they'd probably make it illegal to text or talk while being an equine. Enough silliness. Stuart and Skittles are examples of what Home At Last is all about. We want the animals that live here to be happy, not just survive. To be sure, most wouldn't have made it, if we weren't here, but keeping body and soul together is not enough to truly give sanctuary. Sanctuary is a state of being. It is peace and love and security. It sure is nice the critters like Stuart and Skittles will share that with us. Makes our life so much richer. Equines are social in nature. They need to be with their own kind and have the emotional fulfillment of bonding with another. We like that.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Gifts and Memories...

From Jim: The sanctuary has received several wonderful donations from folks lately. They came from people who wanted to note a friend's birthday or mark the passing of a loved one or friend that had loved horses. Their gift was about what someone they had known would have done or had requested in lieu of a present. The herd will benefit from that kindness and we hope our benefactors do too. The good feeling of doing something so kind should be celebrated. We are humbled to be able to be a part of that. So many of our critters were mistreated and abused and neglected by our kind and, now, are cared for and supported by great folks. That's a balancing of the equation that's worth noting. Probably sounds a little silly, but I think our resident animals have a sense that they are in a special place and loved by a lot of special people. They know peace and security and gentleness. They are well fed and with their friends. Because we are remembered, the herd will continue to have all of that. That means more than my poor ability to write can say. THANK YOU!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Frankie and Brandy...

From Jim: Frankie is a big ole Warmblood-Oldenberg-17-2, white and a real character. When his loving owner retired him here at a pretty young age he had ruptured a stifle and the repair surgery had saved his life, but ended his working days. More than that, he had a tumor on his neck which was growing aggressively and putting pressure on the carotid artery and jugular vein, right side. He was beginning to show the signs of diminished blood flow to his brain. Dr. Darling opted for surgery to remove the mass. Well, it turned out there were two tumors. One was the size of my fist, the other a little smaller but involving some lymph nodes. They were melanomas. They don't internalize very often in equines, but they had with Frankie. After several hours of extremely complex surgery, the tumors were out. I've never seen finer surgical work in my life. Frankie has no recurrence and is healthy as can be. Brandy is a Quarab-one of those Arabian/Quarterhorse crosses. The Quarterhorse side had a lot of Thoroughbred. She's tall-16-1 or so. She's a beautiful liver bay. She had been trained up as a reining horse and was on the way to some championships when her hock became arthritic. Her competitive career was over, but she became a wonderful saddle horse. Brian loves her a bunch. She has always been a loner. Due in part, I'm sure, to being stalled alone during her reining days. Well, on the sanctuary, there are no barn queens. We had her in with the lower herd, but they're a pretty spirited group and Brandy was somewhat overwhelmed. She lost some weight as her teeth had gotten sharp and needed a float. After her dental work, we stalled her for awhile to get her some extra sack feed and hay. She put her weight back on and when we turned her out, it was with the Backyard Bunch. She and Frankie have become really close friends. First time we've ever seen Brandy show so much affection for another critter. We like that. They're about the same age and make a very pretty couple-tall and stately. The way of these animals is always an interesting study. They are such unique, special individuals with personalities that give them very definite identities. So, Frankie and Brandy have found one another. Very Nice!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mud Puppies & Mud Ponies...

From Jim: The dogs have taken it upon themselves to bring the outside inside. They are able to carry several hundred cubic yards of mud on each foot and track it around the house to a depth of several feet. Ok, that's an exaggeration, but not by much. OK, by a lot. Anyway the house has a lot of dog tracks. The dogs have also found some delightful substances to roll in. Doggie cologne like eau de cow poo, eau de dead thing, and, eau de "I don't want to know". They feel rubbing on us, to share the moment, is the least they can do. The dogs are not building up a storehouse of goodwill. The horses, donkeys, and mules are really tired of the rain, wind, and mud. They are cranky. They are posted on the high ground, trying to stay out of the muck. When ever an opportunity presents itself, they lay down for a nap. The greys and whites in the herd are truly something to behold. We have a least another week of this weather coming. The few breaks have not been enough to drain off the excess water, so the mud remains and grows gooeyer (gooier?) and nastier (nastyer?) Spelling notwithstanding, it's a mess. Donna has made a real effort to keep the house cleaned up. I would have given up and adjusted to living in an indoor bog. Knee high rubber slippers would be OK with me. The next few months will degrade into heat and flies. My rational side knows this. My current mindset says, "So what? This is a no way to live". Donna asked me if I was depressed. Me? No way, I'm as happy as a pig in slop. I have to try and remain patient until the afternoon feeding, when I can, again, enjoy the beauty of nature. Uh Huh.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Bucky gets petted...

From Jim: This morning Juan asked to be let back in with the Backyard Bunch. He was missing his friends, which include Bucky. Bucky has very malformed front feet, but gets around just fine. He has had no love of people, considers all of us to be pony-getters. As I waited for Donna to bring the tractor up to the gate from the stable, Juan requested a thorough petting. Bucky was near by, hanging out with his friend. I asked if he wanted petted too. Sure enough, he leaned in for a scratch or two. Soon, he was getting petted all over along with Juan. The trust that Juan showed, along with his loving ways, must have inspired Bucky. Anyway, that's what I'd like to think. Bucky was quite happy to be loved on and, I think, a little surprised that the "pony-getter" could be a friend. It's taken a couple of years for this to happen. These guys really do move at their own pace when it comes to overcoming their fear and mistrust. We think that's OK. It's one of the things I really like about the sanctuary. There's no preconceived timetable, just days and weeks and months and years for us, and no calender for the critters. Bucky got petted today. That's a good thing. We both enjoyed it. Hope you'll go love on your critters too!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Soon, a Good bye to Babe and Moon...

From Jim: There's no more putting off the inevitable for some of our very senior critters. They are no longer able to hold their weight and there's nothing left to do for them. Their teeth, what's left of them, have been floated. They have feed in front of them almost all of the time. They just don't have the metabolic processes left to flourish. We can only offer them the last act of kindness, a peaceful and painless end. The reality of this is so darned hard. We've learned that denial and procrastination are cruel illusions. The animals will hang in there, in a constant state of deterioration, until they're too weak to stand. That's not OK. Starvation is painful. Part of the aging process for equines is the loss of their digestive tract's ability to absorb food. They're not all that efficient anyway. A healthy horse will only absorb about 15% of the nutrition in their forage. That's one reason horse manure is such great fertilizer. By the time they've reached the stage Moon and Babe are in, they probably are down to 4 or 5%. It's just not enough to meet their body's needs. They starve. It's horrible. We can't fix it. We hate that. Babe is Pony of America. She's been a wonderful saddle horse for kids. Not a mean bone or bad habit in her. She's a sweet and loving pet. Moon is an ancient Appie. She's lost one eye to euveitis and the remaining eye is none too great. Like Babe, she is not able to hold her weight. Moon is a lover. Likes to be petted and have her sweet head held against your chest. Like our other critters at the sanctuary, Moon has become a beloved pet. Now, her time is here. Dr. Darling will help us with the final assessment. We've had seniors on a watch list for some time now and these are not surprises There will be those last few quiet moments to say Good Bye.
I think it's important to note their passing. These animals have been the very best they know how to be all of their lives. They ended up here because they were thrown away. They deserve to be remembered for how truly wonderful they've been. Our herd, for us, is about individuals. It's about their willingness to accept our kind. It's about celebrating the days of their lives and the joys they've brought to ours. Soon now, Good Bye Moon. Good Bye Babe. See you at the Rainbow Bridge!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Salt and Batteries

From Jim: It just never fails that when we buy a bunch of 50 lb blocks of salt, it rains, melts some off the blocks and the rest sink in the mud. Besides being heavy, and clumsy to handle, salt blocks never last very long. We generally buy them 20 or 30 blocks at a time. This last time, it rained before I could get the dang things out of the truck. The bed is now stained a nice ugly trace mineral red with melted salt. The metal's gonna love that! It'll be time to get more salt pretty soon. It's always nearly time to get more salt. Same with batteries. I find them to be heavy and clumsy also. They don't last and when it rains, they tend to go flat and I have to jump start the tractor. Our tractor works every day, but not for more than a couple of hours. The alternator is tiny. Looks like a miniature. I suppose if you ran the tractor 12 or 15 hours a day, it might get the battery charged up, but for what we do, it's not enough. So, without a boost from the battery charger every so often, the tractor won't start. It usually chooses not the start after it's loaded with hay and in an awkward spot to reach for a jump. There's generally a quagmire of mud to wade around in. It'll be time to buy another battery pretty soon. Same with the GMC diesel. It has two big ole batteries. They're getting old, so's the truck. If I happen to let it sit for a couple of weeks, starting is no dice. This usually occurs during the rain, when the trailer is hooked up, and there's mud to wade around in. And, of course, when it's raining, I can't run a cord out to the truck and hook up the charger-Perfect. I'm thinking in a civilized world, salt and batteries would be a crime. You know, you're going along, minding your own business, getting on with your chores, and then there's this salt and battery thing facing you. It's just not right. That's pretty much all I have to say about it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Juan and Chad, out and about...

From Jim: The "formal" gardens of the sanctuary, known commonly as the overgrown front yard, are being groomed and trimmed by Juan and Chad. We are very careful not to plant anything toxic to equines.These two old guys have been asking for the opportunity to be allowed to do this task for awhile now. It means that going out any door may now find a mule or horse waiting for you. They are ever hopeful of a handout of a carrot or some sack feed. It's pretty hard to resist them. Both are quite old now and may be at their last spring/summer. It would be hard to imagine two sweeter animals-kind and gentle and peaceful. They do not have advanced degrees in botanical studies however, and, if it grows, it can certainly be chewed on. The "keeper" plants are taking their lumps. That said, seeing these two really enjoying themselves is worth the price to the foliage. Chad's old teeth are worn to the gum and he cuds his forage and drops it out of his mouth. Been that way for some time, and sack feed is where he gets his nutrition. Still, being an equine, he loves to graze and we think he should have that pleasure. Juan, with his hybrid mule teeth, still has fairly effective arcades and trades off between grazing and dozing. He is a wonderful mule. As I've told you before, he is one of our sanctuary's ambassadors and greeters. You really wonder if Juan ever did anything wrong in his whole life. What a boy! Chad had been a therapy horse. He helped our kind until his back gave out. One of the great folks that knew of Chad retired him here and takes care of his sponsorship. We think that's terrific. Wish every therapy horse from every program could be assured a proper retirement. They sure deserve it. We're at the end of the month and at the end of funds that were donated as a result of the nice newspaper article. Enough donations were made to just about cover the feed bill for March. We're hoping and praying that the support continues. For everyone that has pitched in-THANK YOU! We are so very appreciative and the animals receive every penny. They surely deserve it. Well, it's about time to get ready to feed. I'll give Chad and Juan a pat on the nose for you!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Getting on with it...

From Jim: Yesterday was another day to say goodbye to dear pets that had reached the end of their life. We were blessed to get to know them and share in their days. Maggie and Tiger Lily passed quietly and peacefully. They deserved that. Today, we'll haul in some more hay in preparation for a week of rain. Better to haul hay on dry roads and have time to tarp up before the storms. We will see more of our very old members off this spring. We have 6 to 10 that are in their late 20's and 30's. For most breeds, that's a full lifespan. Thank goodness for our vet, Dr. Darling. His wise and caring advice makes it easier for us to make the best choices for our friends. We'll try to get water pumped today. Get the laundry done and the dishes washed. Maybe get the floors cleaned up for a few hours. Around here, keeping the floors clean is a fool's task. Our little ranch house has all laminate floors. Carpeting would have been silly. We try to drop wet and muddy coats and boots in the breezeway. The dogs are stopped and paws are wiped off, except when they're not, and the whole place gets tracked up. The woodstove will get fired up and stay that way for awhile. We're about out of firewood for this year. The late winter weather was not planned for. I'll need to cut some more pretty soon. We have a bunch of down wood, so it's not really a problem-just need to do it. I'm looking forward to straw hats and leather boots. Felt hats and rubber boots need to be put up and the seasons need to change. It'll be time to check out the first hay cutting and service the trucks and trailers. There's a lot of building to do and fences to fix. The roads are a disaster and will need graded. We'll need to get on with it. Life does go on and is for the living. The sanctuary will continue to provide the safe haven for the critters and for us. The hard days will become softer memories and the pangs of loss will lessen. Getting on with it is the best medicine. The tempo and rhythm of the days doesn't leave much time to mope and that's good. Well, I guess I better get to work.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Saying Good Bye...

From Jim: The vet is coming today. We'll have three horses' teeth floated. We will also euthanize Maggie and Tiger Lily. It is incredibly hard for us. Maggie was a feral mini-mule we rescued out of Berry Creek. She's way old now-45 or so. We had her for 5 years. She never overcame her fear/dislike of people but she was happy here and had her equine friends. We admired her toughness and spirit. Tiger Lily is a very old Kiger Mustang. She had lost an eye in an accident and was going to be shot as she was deemed to be worthless. She has been a sweet wonderful mare, as her kind tend to be. She's now unable to hold her weight and her suspensory ligaments are failing, down at the fetlocks. It's their time. We know it. We hate it. The sanctuary is absolutely dedicated to the issue of quality of life. We're here for the animals, not for us. That's a tough proposition some days. We feel that to truly offer a full quality of life to each animal, they must be loved and cared for as the pets they are. Their days need the security and attention that brings them peace. They need the standard of care they would have at any loving home. That means we make an emotional investment in each of them. We know them and their loss really hurts. There will be tears today. It's fitting that we cry, because it's a way to say how wonderful they were. Their souls have touched ours. We'll say goodbye and they will have the last gift of kindness we can give them. Dr. Darling will share our sadness. He's a very kind man. Today will be hard. There will be more hard days ahead. It's what we do.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Living Off-grid in the middle of a herd...

From Jim: Home At Last is a stand-alone off-grid ranch. We use the sun and wind to make power. Our computer uses an air-link and our phones are cellular. There aren't any wires coming onto the ranch. We have two solar arrays. The main array provides electricity for the house, barn, and two of the wells. The secondary array powers up the lower well, which provides our domestic water. There is a fair amount of management and maintenance to keep the systems working properly. On the days when wind and sun fail us, we use a back-up diesel generator. This doesn't happen very often and we usually use about 5 gallons of diesel a year. We chose to be off-grid because it seemed like a really good thing to do. It doesn't use up fuel or produce any pollution. It's fun to show students what's possible without any "new" technology" required. It fits our notion of stewardship for the land and it's creatures. Which brings us to the herd. We live, literally, surrounded by animals. There's a view of critters from every window in the house. Whenever you're outside, you'll have an animal near you or with you. The sanctuary belongs to them. We share it with them or, maybe, they share it with us. Anyway, our lifestyle is different from most folks. We never have to wonder what to do with our days and the work never ends. Having a purpose and passion for what your days are filled with is pretty important to a happy life. Living what you believe in is a true test of your convictions. Too often, we've heard complaints about the anonymous "They". "They" should do this and stop doing that. "They" should pass a law or repeal a law or tax or not tax. Pogo said, "We've met the enemy and it's us"! I hope you will find something that makes your life full and rewarding. I promise you, it won't be about you. To serve a cause beyond yourself is the greatest gift you can give yourself. So, we're off-grid, in the middle of a herd. We like that!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Packy and Banjo...A pair to draw to...

From Jim: I know I've mentioned the unlikely friendship between Packy and Banjo before. It's so interesting that I think it's worth a little essay. Old Packy is a retired rodeo roping horse. He's out of the Packman line and, like all of his line, he's huge. He's all of 1200 pounds, bay with a nice wide blaze and white socks, a right proper Quarterhorse. He knows his business and can turn and take off with the best of 'em. His mind is peaceful and quiet. I love him a lot. Really glad he's here for a good retirement. Banjo is a two, near on three, Angus/Jersey cross young steer. He was rescued from the dairy industry as a "dropped or bummer" calf. We got him when he was 2 days old. He was a bottle baby and treated like the pet he is. Now, at 1000 pounds he is a lot of pet. We had him polled along with Julian when their horns were budding up. He's been loved and petted and handled, but never trained. He's not halter broke, he's "bucket" broke. We're pretty careful around the "calves" now. They're big and quick and cows. They kind of "bull-doze" their way around. Banjo is not as visity as Julian, but still expects a pet and a gentle hand. Well, since the great break out, Banjo has attached himself to Packy. Where Packy eats, there stands Banjo, head down, sharing and looking lovingly at Packy. Packy pins his ears, tosses his head, occasionally runs Banjo off, but to no avail. Banjo is Packy's friend. Packy is learning to live with it. Why a calf/steer would pick an old roping horse for a pal is beyond me. There are plenty of others critters to choose from. There's something about the friendships that animals make which tells us a little more about who they are. They so obviously think and feel and remember. They make choices that are more than just chance. There's a mind in there. I never planned on having steers for pets. I figured they'd outgrow their welcome as they matured and weren't "cute" anymore. Well, they're still cute. They're smart and have real personalities. They're pets and they know it. And, Packy is Banjo's friend. It's just that way.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The "Bovine" Spring!

From Jim: Our calves, Julian and Banjo, both at around 1000 pounds now, have been tuning in on the "revolutions" of the mid-east. They're all in! No more strong armed tyrannical dictatorial husbandry for them. Oh No! Now is the time for "Bucolic Democracy"! Power to the Cattle! Well, at least, they've discovered that the heavy rains have disabled the electric fence and the world is at their feet. Or maybe, just the backyard. Anyway, they're out in the with the backyard bunch. If you'll recall, they had joined into the "occupy" movement and I think they are just natural born followers, just herd-like in their behaviors. I'm pretty sure they will continue their revolt until I fix the fence sometime next week. So for now, they are content to be a part of the Backyard Bunch. One of things that's really amusing about this is that Packy, an old rodeo horse, is also part of the herd. The grudging arrangement they have made is fun to watch. Banjo seems to really prefer eating with Packy. Packy? Not so much. As he pins his ears and moves away, Banjo softly lows and follows-ears all perked up. They are quite a pair. Julian finds all of that confusing and is just happy to vacuum up as much hay as possible. When he loses track of Banjo, the bellowing begins. The calves are still the pets they have always been. They're just really big and really quick and really strong now. A bucket of sweet mix is the best way to move them around, but you sure have to stay out of their way. Funny boys, these two. Banjo and Julian, my lesson to Donna about how dumb and miserable cattle are. I did not win this one. I seldom win any of em. The spirit of democracy and liberation is alive and in the good care of Banjo and Julian!

Friday, March 16, 2012

From Donna: Yesterday my goal was to put away Gracie, Maggie and Sugar. Dressed in my fanciest over sized muck boots, sweatshirt and rain jacket. No hat. Didn't want anything to get in my way when the great round-up started. Took Gracie's fancy teeny tiny halter and lead rope, plus another bucket of grain, and out I went ready for a chase. Well, Gracie said "What's in the bucket? And how about if we go in the barn?" Too easy. Then came Maggie. It's been at least 6 years since we had a halter on her. Took the bucket, set it next to the other bucket, put a rope around her neck and put the halter on. Whoa!! Wait a minute! This is far too easy. Sugar didn't like the fact that her friends were leaving her so she trotted behind Maggie and into the barn. Less than 15 minutes and they were snuggly and warm with lots of extra food. Maggie even let me pet her. What have I been missing?

I was sweaty and hot, coughing like a fool, but the round-up was over. Maggie is very, very thin, but she gets a week of extra special attention before Dr Darling comes for an evaluation.

A cold front is moving in with low snow levels expected, and bolstered by my mini round-up today I am going to put some of the other oldies in the barn to weather out the storm.

Jim says my mind is random abstract ( actually he says random abscess) so here I go. Weather reminded me of wethers. Do you know why a leading event is called a bell-wether event? Neutered male goats are wethers and in days of old a bell was put around the neck of the goat who lead the herd. A bell wether. Oh well.

Jim says he is going to put a snorkel on the tractor because the mud is so deep that soon he will be driving underneath it. No complaints here. I still like mud better than flies. That was yesterday's leading debate. Which is worst- mud or flies. Flies, I say, flies. Even if last night when we made a quick visit to the lower barn and my boot failed to follow, resulting in one gooey, muddy sock.

Had tea with friend Margaret yesterday. Why is a cup of tea with an English lady so much tastier? We watched the birds enjoy (make that destroy) her emerging garden. She has so many lovely plants and the birds eat every one of them. We just live across the highway from one another, but our bird populations are different. The turkeys don't visit often here. I guess the dogs keep them at bay. But I do have the ravens and she doesn't. She has doves. We don't. And the little birds who eat her emerging sunflowers-stripping the leaves before they can grow- don't visit us until the sunflowers already have their seed heads. Very strange.

We are loving the rain. The wells have been replenished. The lake is filling and there might even be some snow in the mountains. The winter was dry and was cause for concern, but I think we will be OK for summer if we manage our water carefully. How we keep Sweetie Pie, Quincy and Jake out of the big stock tank while they play Splash the World, I don't know. Those three go though more water than15 thirsty horses.

Overnight it seems like all the frogs have returned. It was so loud last night when I opened the door we could not hear ourselves talk. Love it.

Thank you again to our wonderful friends and supporters. We count on you.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Back At Last

From Donna: Whew!!!! The virus that caught up with me when I returned from Denver has finally decided to let go a little. Poor Jim- I'd only stayed a few days visiting family "because trying to run the ranch alone is hard work." I'd be home and help Jim. WRONG When this bug finally lifted its ugly head and decided to move on Jim had not only been running the ranch by himself but had a sickie to contend with, too. Many dear friends offered to help but following Dr's orders we stayed far away from folks. Too virulent and debilitating. Anyway, I think we are back on track. Now, if Jim doesn't succumb to it we'll be OK.

Also back are the frogs. The dry winter kept those little songsters away. Do they live in the hard soil until the rains come? Who knows??? Can someone tell me about Pacific Chorus frogs? Their joyous and lusty singing makes life wonderful.

The rain is back, too. Yes, the mud is knee deep. The horses complain that it is our fault and we are all soggy beyond belief, but no fussing here. The blessed drops have replenished the wells and we will have a good run for Summer. Things had been very dry and very scary.

Folks have been very generous in responding to our need for help. Many new friends and contributors have stepped up to help the wonderful animals here at Home At Last. We look forward to making more friends and to have the support continue.

If you wonder why we don't post new pictures it is because the computer won't share them with us. Oh yes, we can find them, see them, but post them? Nope. They sit it their splendor, mocking our lack of skills to get them where we need them. Oh well, some day......

Going to try to move Maggie, Sugar and Gracie to the mud spa today. Our barn has flooded. The mud has oozed to every part of it, but at least it's warmer than outside and with the cold front moving in I'd like the girls sheltered a little. I know this sounds simple, but it is not. Maggie has not been touched for years, Sugar has similar issues and Gracie can run like the wind when she wants to and I can't. Should be worth a good show.

Jim is sleeping in a little. Patches is knocking vases off the kitchen window sill and I'm just happy to be able to breathe without coughing. Side thought. I use salt and pepper shakers as flower vases. Looks pretty in the window when Patches leaves them there- or on the table all lined up.

Thank you for helping us care for the animals and for being the good people you are.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ranch Call...

From Jim: Our vet, Dr. Gary Darling, was trained at UC Davis. He's a large and small animal vet, with a lot of experience with equines. Like most, but not all, large animal Docs, he has a mobile rig, truck with a vet-pack in the bed. It's crammed with all manner of equipment and meds and such. That's a good thing, because a ranch call at the sanctuary can be a real scene. We've got a bunch of critters here and they're not all equines. All of em are Dr. Gary's patients. That means barn cats with eye infections and goats that need their shots and worming, and dogs that are tick magnets. It means calves that need polled (dehorned) and colts that need gelded and old guys that need their teeth floated. We have any number of critters with issues from abuse and injury. We have critters with congenital defects. We have animals that are at the very end of their life cycles and will need the last gift of kindness. It's just a whole big bunch of medical stuff and our vet is up to it-Thank Goodness! I can't imagine trying to have the sanctuary without our good Doc. There are times when we take critters to the vet's clinic. It might be a question of convenience, or a matter of scheduling, or an emergency where transporting is quicker and serves the animal's needs better. There's the equivalent of over one year of animal health care here every single week. Where the average horse owner might see colic once or twice, we'll see it 12 or 15 times. We'll have 20 or 30 floats a year. We immunize 70 or 80 critters a year. We euthanize 12 to 20. We treat uveitis and obstructed tear ducts. We overcome starvation issues and digestive failures. We deal with melanoma and carcinoma and sarcoids. There are surgeries and wound treatments. Through all this, Dr. Darling is our teacher and coach and practicing vet. Ranch calls happen about once or twice a month. Some last minutes, others can take most of the day. Our vet is a key player in what we do here at Home At Last. We sure appreciate him!

Monday, March 12, 2012

not so TINY BUBBLES...

From Jim: Well, we've got a storm on the way, big pressure gradient, low pressure coming. That means a fair chance of weather colic. An equine's gut is around a 100 feet long, counting the large and small intestines and the cecum. That last item, the cecum, is located where the large and small intestines find each other. It's a big old fermentation vat. It's full of bugs. In polite company, they're probiotics. But they're really bugs, bacteria. They play a real important part in the digestive process by breaking apart the forage matter that equines eat. The process creates a by-product, methane gas. You may have gotten a whiff of it once in awhile. Whew! OK, so here comes the big science lesson for the day. An equine's gut is a closed system. It has, or tries to have pressure around what the atmospheric pressure is. When gas develops from digestion, they vent it. Thus, the sniff. Sometimes, when there's a big change in barometric pressure. The internal gases are caught at a higher pressure and the falling barometer causes them to expand to take up more volume and, thus, reduce the pressure, to equalize it. That can and usually does make for "gas pains". We've probably all had them sometime. Our equine friends don't do well with belly aches. They stretch and lay down and roll and generally are miserable. Colic is bad because it's a symptom and the causes can be life threatening. If you have the slightest doubt, call the vet. Colic is a true medical emergency for equines. We usually dose the coliced critter with banimine. A listen for gut sounds is useful. I use a stethoscope, but an ear on the flank works too. Gas makes a high pitched squeak or squeal, kind of like rubbing your fingers on a balloon. There may or may not be the usual gurgling and plumbing sounds. The vet needs to know that. I prefer injections because I can confirm the dosage. That can help with a diagnosis. The degree of relief is telling. Also the time it buys might allow for some gas passing and bowel movement. Again, colic is serious business and the vet is the best line of support. We are in touch with the vet as soon as we notice the signs of colic. That gives him a head's up and he's got an accurate time line. So, we've got a storm on the way. It's a pretty good one, they say. We'll watch the herd very carefully for the next few days. The animals that have had gas colic will get an extra look or three. I suppose I better check on our banimine supplies, syringes and needles. Hope I don't need em!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Filling the Water Tanks...

From Jim: We have a bunch of water tanks. That figures since we have a bunch of equines. It takes awhile to fill them, around an hour and a half. This can be one one of the nicest parts of the day. It's a quiet activity, standing with a running hose and watching the water rise. Pretty much every stop along the way, from tank to tank, finds a critter that wants to share this time. They want petted and loved and to be with you. By now, we know their "favorite" spots, and the lip moving and neck stretching are fun to watch when you get it just right. The peace that comes with these times is priceless. The sound of the gurgling water, the smell and touch of a big old critter that needs some attention, maybe a clattering raven or the wind brushing the trees, all of that is food for the soul. I think about the meaning of sanctuary a lot. The notion that a time and place is set aside to promise peace and safety and love. It's a state of mind and a state of being. Most everyone that visits Home At Last comments on how peaceful the animals are. They don't expect that this many can get along and quietly live their lives. We have simply come to expect it. The wild rumpuses are a celebration, not a contentiousness. The occasional squeal and snort is horsing, not fighting. The "knees and necks" of the GET YOU game is playful and joyful. I think the natural response to safety and kindness is peace and gentleness. Our critters have been through so much. They've overcome so much. Way deep in their beings is the capacity to be the driving energy of the sanctuary. They bring the feeling that people always comment on. Having been a soldier and a policeman, I've known conflict. I wish that the world could know sanctuary. I wish the world could spend some time with me, filling water tanks.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Pen is Mightier...

From Jim: Our local paper recently did an article on Home At Last and the struggle that we have keeping the sanctuary going. The response we received was overwhelming and humbling. Your generosity resulted in donations that will just about cover the hay bill this month. Your gifts to these rescued animals mean that they are safe for another month. Thank You so much. Donna and I appreciate that in these times, you chose to go without something so that these critters wouldn't have to go without anything. We hope you will have a warmth in your hearts that comes from sharing. In this very troubled world of ours, acts of kindness push the scales back towards hope and humanity. We try to thank everyone that sends a gift personally. We feel it is a very personal choice to support this place and deserves a direct response from us. This expression of our gratitude is a public recognition that good folks are doing good things. Our kind sure has the capacity to make some pretty big mistakes. We also have it within us to be caring and kind and loving. We'd like to celebrate that with you! Thank You and bless your hearts!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Rain on the way...

From Jim: The weather guys and gals are calling for a series of rain storms, starting Sunday PM and lasting for most of next week. Rats! I'd like a nice soaking shower followed by several warm days for, Oh, I don't know, say the next three or four months. Well, we're going to get a bunch of storms, all in a row. I better put the waterwings back on the tractor. Sunday I'm going to get a trailer and truck load of hay and get it tarped up. I'll need to open up all of the stalls in the stable. The barn, which flooded in the earlier storms, will just have to flood again. It's been too muddy to get the backhoe to work on the drainage. That will be a spring time chore. Maybe a late spring time chore? Maybe early summer? There's a cumulative effect of wear and tear on the sanctuary during winter. These wet springs can just extend and amplify the damage. Horses move a lot of dirt and mix up wonderful batches of mud and goo. Their hooves seem designed to pick up dirt with every step and masterfully blend it with H2O to a perfect consistency of muck. We have a number of greys and whites in the herd, but not that you would notice now. They are mud/pintos and muck/paints. I'm pretty sure they'll blame us for the incoming storms. The sanctuary has only so many possible critters to blame and usually we're it. I'll need to stock up on some diesel for the generator. and turn the wind turbine back on. The dogs will need a bunch of old saddle blankets and beach towels to get dried with. They will also blame us. The cats will just go on being cats. They may or may not blame us, as for the most part, other than a warm lap, we're not too noteworthy. The goats will shelter in and cry plaintively that the food they ordered in has not arrived. Yep, the weather guys and gals are calling for rain. Maybe they'll be a little wrong? Hey, it could happen. We need the rain. The hay crop needs the rain. The wells need the rain. I know all that. I'm thankful for the blessing of enough rain. Around August, I'll write about heat and flies. The weather guys and gals will be calling for days in the hundred and three range. I'll hope that maybe they'll be a little wrong then too.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Meet the Star Man...

From Jim: Around three years ago, a big ole Tennessee Walking Horse arrived at the sanctuary. His papers showed him to have a fancy registered name- Someone or Another's Star Shine. He made it pretty clear that he was Star and came to be the Star Man. When he came here, he had been rescued by Tawnee from an auction where the killer/buyers were licking their chops for a chance to get this big guy on their slaughter trucks and trailer. Star was lame in the rear quarters. He staggered and would nearly collapse. Our vet diagnosed him as having spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column, which created nerve issues. He was becoming paralyzed. Dr. Dahling thought we might give him a few good months, but the fear was he would get down and not be able to get back to his feet. We thought we ought to give him some time. Well, it took about two years for Star to regain his strength, fill in the atrophied muscles and return to fairly good health. He'll always have a spinal issue and riding him is out of the question. He is a great horse. He had been someones "special horse" and was tossed away to the auction lot when his disability ended his working life. I sometimes wonder if the folks that did that to the Star Man have any idea of what they've missed out on. Star loves to give kisses. He puts his head on your shoulder when you love on him. He's really a pet. When you're around his turn out, he'll generally have his head through the fence waiting for some attention. He's one of the sanctuary's favorite greeters to our guests and volunteers. He's an important member of his herd. Dancer, Dunny, Chad are his friends. He is an example of the need for patience when waiting of an animal to heal. Long, sometimes very long, layups often result in amazing recoveries. The Star Man is enjoying his retirement. A few months has run to three years and Star is going strong. His rump is round and strong again. He travels up and down the slopes of his turnout without a stumble. He'll turn and run and chase and play like a colt. I wish everyone with a senior horse could see that they're really special and have so much to offer. The Star Man is one the sanctuary's stars! We love him a lot.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


From Jim: We've got a bunch of Thoroughbreds. They're off the track, or from eventing or dressage. Most are bays with longs legs and necks and the small beautiful heads that are a part of their breed. Everyone on them is over 16 hands and most are over 17. To a horse, they are sweet and gentle and love people. Don't get me wrong, they can be a handful if you don't respect their sensitivity and capacity for great emotion. I didn't know much about T-breds until we started the sanctuary. We'd saved a few orphan T-bred colts a long time ago that came from a large breeding ranch. They were an introduction to a great breed that I didn't pay much attention to. Back in the day, my appreciation for horses was pretty limited. They were trained up and ridden. They were often misunderstood by me and I was pretty ignorant about their true nature. That was over 40 years ago and things are sure different now. Let me take a minute to tell you about Chance. He's four now, coming five soon. He was two when he came here. In his fourth race, he fractured his left knee. He was in a slaughter pen when he was rescued. He was one of the sweetest colts I've ever met and, to this day, has one of the best dispositions I've seen. And I don't mean for a Thoroughbred, I mean for a horse of any breed. He moved from track training to pleasure riding in about 2 weeks once his knee healed up. Our vet has declared him sound for regular work, but has cautioned about jumping or eventing as there's a risk of arthritis developing. Chance, our stable name, not his track name, is a big love. He insists on pets and likes to rest his head on your shoulder when you're with him. He comes when called and catches you. You never have to worry about trying to catch him up. When we brought him home, he was underweight. Turned out that not only had he been starved down at the slaughter pen, he had really sharp little teeth and needed a float as a two year old. Once that was taken care of, he's been an easy keeper. His hooves need some extra care as the walls are thin and the quarters can break out. That's not real unusual and doesn't affect his soundness. He sheds off to a shiny dark bay, two socks on his hind legs. A very striking boy! I'll have to take the time to share about some of our other T-breds. Everyone of them is pretty special. I wish to racing industry would let the colts grow up before they race them. I wish they would take care of these great animals when their track days are done. I wish it was about horses not gambling. Secretariat was a nice movie. They didn't spend much time telling about the fate of the horses that didn't win. Wouldn't have been so uplifting and heartwarming. The average race horse doesn't have a fairytale life. I'm going to spend some time with Chance when I feed later this morning. Maybe you can find some time to love on your horse.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Getting Hay...

From Jim: Our hay is raised, baled, and stored by Lyle. He's been putting up hay since forever and he's really good at it. He's careful with the ground preparation, uses the proper seeding practices, fertilizes when necessary, and cuts and bales at the right time. His barns are dry and well ventilated. The hay is good. When you have 70 or 80 critters to feed twice a day, you really need someone like Lyle. There's just no time to run around trying to find appropriate feed. I'm old school when it comes to feeding horses. They need hay, and lots of it, to keep them fit and to give them something to do. It's more than calories and nutrition, it's a mental health issue for them. They enjoy eating. They like to spend a long time doing it. Cubes and pellets and beet pulp and such will keep them going, but it's so concentrated that in 20 minutes or so, they're done. They will then start getting themselves into trouble for want of something to do. A couple of fat flakes of hay can take a few hours for them to eat. That's a couple of hours when their heads are down and they're focused on groceries. I like that. It's a three hour proposition to get a load of hay, around 80 miles round trip. Lyle uses a squeeze to load the trucks and trailers most of the time. Once in awhile, he or I will hand load a pickup for a "get by" load. There are days when getting a full load just isn't in the cards. We feed 11 or 12 bales day in nice weather and 14 or more bales when the weather is nasty. Horse's stay warmer when their forage is fermenting in their gut. I see a lot of folks mess around with their horse's diet. They add this and amend that. I've done that when the vet thinks it'll help in a special situation, but for the most part, high quality hay in abundant quantities is all you need to feed. Graining horses can cause some behavior issues. Sack feed for seniors can extend their lives after their teeth are worn out. Salt is important and should generally be available to the critters. Lots of fresh water for sure. Horses should have access to water at least every five hours when working. A little grain for a hard working animal isn't all that bad. A pasture model can be fire up and get in trouble with hot feed and nothing to do. Going to get hay is one of the recurring tasks at the sanctuary that I usually really enjoy. It's nice to see the valley, the orchards and all. Driving the old flatbed, with all of it's quirks and signs of age, is it's own adventure, same when tugging 100 bales on the big trailer with the GM. Folks that don't have critters miss out on the fun that getting hay can have. Maybe they wouldn't think it was fun. They don't know what they're missing!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Saving Bucky...

From Jim: Bucky is a black Welsh pony. He's full of personality, likes the members of the herd, plays knees and necks with Frankie and Teddy, who tower over him, and generally enjoys his life. Bucky has terribly clubbed front feet. His left front is mostly deformed bone and misshapen hoof. He walks on the face this foot. His right front is not as malformed, but turns out, almost 45 degrees, is clubbed to the inside and wings out severely when he's underway. These issues don't stop him from getting around, even from cantering and occasionally full-on running. A attempt to improve his left front surgically failed. There's just too much bony mass. I'm pretty sure every joint from the lower pastern down is fused or maybe never even formed. Bucky is quite unaware of his "misfortune" and for him all is as it should be. For us, trying to figure out how to correctly trim him and make the best of what he's got has been a real challenge. Early on, we tried to fashion a shoe for his left front to try and give him some suspension. That also failed. The answer seems to be to keep the hoof horn away from his pastern bone, get the sole cleaned up and free of excess growth and call it good. His right front is trimmed without any attempt to turn it back to in line. The joints are misaligned with bony material and torque from corrective trimming is just plain painful. So he stumps along on the left and paddles along on the right and gets on down the road and gets on with life. Bucky is a beautiful pony. His head is gorgeous, his color bright and shiny. He's a chunk and holds his weight well. He's not real friendly, but not mean or hard to be around. I guess he's alot of what this sanctuary is about. He was worth saving. He's a vibrant member of the backyard bunch. We love little Bucky for his spirit and personality. He's a good example of why just getting on with it is a good way to go at life. We can all learn something from that. Take the time to love on your critters! They'll pay you back the very best they can.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Weekend Stuff...

From Jim: With Donna gone for a few days, planning the chores and errands gets to be important. The priorities are always making sure the critters are cared for. That means feed and water. Hauling in a load of hay is not optional and trying to fit it in around the other "must do" stuff is tricky. Aaron will be here today and we have a bunch of horses that need trimmed. Thank goodness most of our animals are able to be barefooted. Shoeing is a time intensive activity when you really get it right. Aaron is a perfectionist. Wouldn't have it any other way. The cost of fuel makes taking small loads of hay a bad choice. It's around 80 miles round trip and fuel costs really add up. That means taking the time to get the trailer set up and the added loading time at Lyle's. I think today will be a challenge. I have to get back in time for evening chores and my popularity with the herd won't take much lateness or I won't have any at all. They're good critters, but like most of their kind, they get impatient when meal time rolls around. The improvement in the weather means our solar panels are hard at it and that's good as I need to pump a lot of water to fill all the tanks. I'm thinking around 2000 gallons today. So, with all of that ahead of me today, I guess I'll put a bow on this and get on with it! Hope all you have a wonderful day and take to the time to love on your pets. It's always a good thing to do!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Missing my Donna...

From Jim: Donna is in Colorado, near Denver, to see our new grandson. Boy's name is Nobel and Donna tells me he's the most beautiful baby on the planet. I'm sure she's right. Got through the evening feeding with some help from Laura, our faithful volunteer. She took care of some watering that was needing done. I'll have to go for hay tomorrow and I'll probably take the GM and the small trailer. I just haven't had time to get up to Jerry's to pick up the big flatbed trailer. The weather has taken a turn for the better and, soon I hope, the mud will begin to dry up. In the meantime, YUCK and DOUBLE YUCK! Maybe even ICKY POO. The horses have all found hard places to rest and many are in full-on nap mode. Bucky managed once again to get himself locked in a stall for the day and was very happy to be shooed out for some food and a drink. He's sort of a reverse escape artist, a contrarian if you will. One great thing about constant contact with the herd is that you know in a second it someone's not present and accounted for. With Bucky, it's almost always the get in a stall and push the gate shut. He never tries to open it back up. Clearly, there is no mule in Bucky. I miss Donna. If I haven't mentioned it lately, she's the love of my life. After 47 years, our marriage is still a testament to my good luck and her bad judgement. Time to wrap this up before I get all emotional.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thunder and Hail and Rain...

From Jim: The weather has been right down miserable. Lots of wind and light misty stuff interrupted by Biblical downpours with hail to boot. The herd is not amused. The tractor now swims through the turnouts at feeding time, the tire ruts left full of water. The mud sucks the rubber boots right off your feet. The horses are pretty sure it's our fault and it if isn't, we should fix it anyway. The only answer that seems acceptable is lots of food. Moving quickly is out of the question, but that's also unacceptable. We're sure a constant source of disappointment. Laz got his cast off today. He has his foot back, but he's not ready to use it. The Doc said it might take a few weeks for him to get back to fully using his leg. He's been a good boy throughout the long process of healing up from this severe injury. Nice to see him without the encumbrance. Our TV died. I suspect it was a case of fatal boredom, complicated by ongoing mindlessness and "reality" syndrome. Might be it voted itself off the island. Anyway the search is on for a replacement. It might take awhile as the peace and quiet seems habit forming. Donna's off to Denver in the morning to see our new grandchild. I will carry on with the never ending task of failing to meet the herd's expectations. I'll take some extra time to love on em. I can never replace the "food horse", but I maybe can get "fill-in" status. Thanks again to the great folks that sent along donations. I'll use some of them this Saturday to pay for another load of hay.