Saturday, December 17, 2011

Liberal with a Gun

I’m an unabashed liberal, and I’ve got a gun. Two, in fact. And one of them is a real prize.

‘Twasn’t always thus. I grew up and have lived most of my life in a weaponless family and friends milieu where gun ownership was not only nonexistent but often held in contempt. I continue to regard parts of the American gun world with dismay.

And yet, here I am today, owner of two pistols and member of the local fish and game club.

What brought this on? In essence, intimations of mortality. Timor mortis conturbat me.

I got to shoot a handgun way back in the mid-1980’s, enjoyed the experience, but for a number of reasons never pursued it then. Over the years I’d occasionally toyed with maybe taking up shooting, then put the idle thought aside – some day, maybe.......... And there were all those, for me, unpalatable aspects of the American gun culture – did I really want to wade into that world?

The cardiac scare I had in late April of this year reminded me that I am not, in fact, immortal; that I am going to die, not somewhere way off in the dim future, but relatively soon. My father died in the recovery room following open-heart surgery in his early 60s. I am a couple of months away from 63, with a much healthier heart, but still...... I don’t have all that much time left to waste, that much future to put things off to. Dammit, I’m running out of somedays. Ever since spring, I’ve been thinking off and on about dying – me, myself, DYING. Not obsessing, not fretting, but with a newfound awareness of the sands running out. If I’m going to do stuff, I better do it NOW.

There’s another issue, as well – I’ve been rolling along in a comfortable but narrow rut for quite some time: Working at home, doing some photography, taking care of the horses, seeing a few long-time friends, but otherwise not venturing outside of my snug little lair very often. I need to shake things up. To push my envelope. To get out of the rut, out of my comfort zone. And boy, this is one helluva way to roar past all that, innit? It was an odd feeling, to sit through the multi-hour gun safety course required for a Class A license (yup, I went all the way for concealed carry – same cost, same process as a more limited license), chatting with people who probably despise much of what I hold politically dear; to walk into that gun shop for the first time – me, the bleeding-heart liberal, the Obama-lover – and become absorbed in picking out just the right lethal weapon for me. (The guys at the shop couldn’t have been nicer to a self-confessed newbie, by the way.)

I’ve been granted membership in the local fish and game club, giving me range privileges so I can shoot my new toys. I plan to lie low as far as political discussions at the club go – envelope-pushing will go only so far – and simply enjoy developing a new skill, making new friends. I didn’t get a gun for self-defense; my town recently had its first murder in over 20 years, of a restaurant owner who made a habit of counting his money on the bar in front of his patrons. It’s target shooting I want to do, and have been doing over the last couple of months. And ya know what? It’s fun! It’s absorbing. When I shoot, it’s my whole focus, and everything else goes away. And the guys at the range have been sweethearts about helping a newbie, even a frumpy old woman newbie.

It still feels odd to be doing this. Still gives me at times a “Who are you, and what have you done with Laura?” feeling. I think that’s a good thing.

Ahhhhhhhhhh............. By now, anyone who’s (a) read this far, and (b) interested in what guns I bought will no doubt be hollering at the screen: “So what did you get anyway? What’s the real prize already? Give!” All righty, then.

First gun, what I picked out on my initial trip to the gun shop, with much helpful advice: A .22 caliber Ruger Mark III 22/45. It fits my hand well, has an easy trigger pull (a necessary consideration given the arthritis in my dominant hand), not much recoil, eats any ammo you care to feed it without jamming, and shoots with encouraging accuracy even in the wobbly hands of a newbie. I put 200 rounds through it the first time I shot it, and had a blast. Very tired hand and wrist by the end, but definitely a good time.


And the second handgun? Why get a second one when the first one suits me just fine? Why take a further step on the road toward gun nut damnation? Why, when on an ammo-buying trip I spotted it on the bottom shelf of a far-corner display case, did I succumb to temptation and (after researching it online; I’m not entirely bereft of my senses) did I pay twice what the Ruger cost me to own it?

Because it isn’t a new gun; it’s an old and very handsome Colt Woodsman Match Target .22 pistol. Its serial number (MT 23XX) indicates it’s from the first year of manufacture of the First Series Woodsman (the “Bullseye” model), which was made between 1938 and 1944. It came without the original box but with the original four-sheet manual. From what I’ve read online about it, it’s a finely crafted, very good target pistol. Well, okay, I’ve discovered it’s fussy about what it eats, but feed it the right ammo and it shoots beautifully. Looks mighty fine doing it too. Fits my hand even better than the Ruger.


And this particular pistol is extra-special in two ways: It has the original walnut “elephant ear” grips, which are valuable by themselves, plus a previous (its first?) owner had it engraved, making it one of a kind. The engraving included the person’s initials, which perhaps is why, even though it’s in fine shooting shape, it was mine for a price well under others I found online for the same make and model.


I guess collectors want stuff that looks fresh from the factory, but not me. To the contrary; the engraving tells me that “SAG” cared a lot for this pistol, and I feel a kind of kinship with that person in our appreciation of a finely crafted implement. This gun will be spending its time at the range, not in a display case.

If you’d told me a year ago I’d be writing this, I would have collapsed in giggles. And yet, here I am. Life is strange.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rats and Drat and Bummer, Dude

Today I took Tanya back to the shelter. No, for damn sure I didn't want to give up my sweet little girl, but Schooner left me no choice.

Tanya'd never been a big fan of the other cats, even before Tomba had to go back to the shelter; and while she got along with him she didn't seem at all upset once he was gone, so who knows whether she considered him a friend or just tolerated the big lunk? The other cats (except Sally) tend to buddy up, but she went her own way, complete with tiny soft growls if they got too close.

Still, Tanya seemed happy enough, especially when she could get lap time with me. We had a lovely cuddle just last evening, in fact, in the living room recliner. Then she got down, wandered off....

And a short time thereafter screaming crashing chaos erupted in the basement, rolled up the stairs, and tumbled out into the living room -- Tanya, hysterical, dashing under the couch in full-throated furious growling and keening; on her heels Schooner, puffed out, wild-eyed, taunting her just outside the couch till I flung a magazine at him and spooked him away. Poor Tanya was inconsolable (and vociferous about it) for the rest of the evening, even when Schooner wasn't coming back to harass her. Everyone else was freaked out, either hiding or slinking about looking fearful.

The wee hours of last night brought another eruption. Then this morning when I came down to feed breakfast I found a stench in the living room and Tanya miserably trying to groom off excremental smears on her nether regions. I have to suppose that Schooner pounced on the poor girl while she was in one of the litter boxes in the basement (and that's probably what happened the night before).

To Tanya's misery and humiliation add the horrors of a bath. Once I'd cleaned her and dried her as best I could, I let her slink away into hiding and called Matt at the shelter to Tell All. We agreed straight out she had to go back. Schooner's an instigator and, having found an entertaining victim to torment, isn't likely to back off; Smedley, seeing a chance for some fun, was getting in some swipes too this morning; there was no point in prolonging Tanya's plight as the butt of the pack.

It was a wrench, handing her over, but it's the right decision, for all of the household but especially for her. Yes, it's tough for an old cat like Tanya to find a new family, but she's so pretty, and such a sweetheart, I have great hopes of her landing in a good home soon. In the meantime, she'll be comfortable and much less stressed living in the shelter's big cat room (the other current residents Matt told me won't bother her). The other cats were totally freaked out by last night's and this morning's screeching chaos; they're settling down now, though, as the tension dissipates.

But I'm bummed. She was one of my favorites. I'll miss her.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Commander is Go! Ben? Not so.

There’s a new twist in the will-I-ever-ride-Ben-again saga: the operative verb may be “can” rather than “will”. Can he safely carry a rider or is he no longer serviceably sound?

The question arises because I now have a delightful young woman passionate enough about riding, and hungry enough for a horse fix, to drive the roughly 35 miles from Winchester to Essex two or three times a week so she can saddle up my two pudgy old boys for ten or fifteen minutes each of walking around the ring, with maybe a couple minutes of trot thrown in at the end of that wild excitement. To date, Betsy’s had one riding session under my supervision to check her out while she checked out Ben and Commander, and one without me there (but with farm owner Maria observing from the house, unseen by Betsy). The verdict on Betsy is she’s just what the boys need to be brought back carefully into riding shape.

The verdict on Commander’s rideability is heck, yeh, he’s ready to boogie. Betsy loves him, thinks he’s a hoot. He needed to warm up out of a little stiffness but quickly loosened up and swung right out. This has been normal for him as long as I’ve had him (two years now!). As long as the founder doesn’t recur (and I’m being fanatical about that) he should work back into his usual Energizer-Bunny form, no problem.

The verdict on Ben’s rideability is not as encouraging. Now, he’s always had issues with kissing spines and hock arthritis as long as I’ve owned him. Even when in regular work, with a saddle on his back he needed to be handwalked before mounting for a few minutes to get his hind legs out of tiny mincing steps into a more swinging sweep; then with his rider aboard he’d be back to mincing again for some minutes before his hind feet were reaching well under him. The long layoff from work it seems hasn’t changed that.

What was different and worrisome on Betsy’s first ride was his reaction to being asked for the right-lead canter near the end of her trial ride. He’d walked well once warmed up; had even volunteered to trot several times before being allowed to do brief test spurts; had picked up a lovely easy left-lead canter, which after a few strides got mildly “Hey! Yippee! I’m running here!” hinky. Betsy lightly said no, walk please, and Ben complied, no problem. Then after another minute of walk we decided to test his right lead.

Oh-oh. Betsy asked on the curve of the turn. Ben flung himself into a half-dozen strides of agitated head-high wrong-lead jouncing mess. He calmed down back at the walk, but it was a sobering sight.

Two other observations: Betsy told me after her second ride that she did a minute or so of trot each way and that Ben was uncomfortable with the left diagonal. I’ve noticed over the last few months that when he and Commander are released for grazing onto the paddock, as he surges out onto the downward slope to the grass he sometimes catches his left hind toe in a mini-stumble.

I talked this all over with Ben’s long-time massage therapist, who used to work him over regularly when I was riding him. Lael pointed out that his left hind has always been weaker than the right, and we agreed that his current state of flabby unfitness isn’t helping it any. We also discussed his back, what signs of trouble to be alert for there.

Bottom line: The light exercise Betsy’s providing should help improve Ben’s physical condition, but there’s no question the boy has some problems, especially in his left hind. For everyone’s safety it may turn out to be best for Ben to retire completely.

As long as the food and love keep coming, I doubt this will bother Ben at all.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

"Because I'm old and falling apart!"

That’s what Justice Thurgood Marshall barked at a reporter who asked him why he was retiring from the Supreme Court. These days, I understand what he meant. Various parts and portions of the corporation I inhabit get ever more creaky, achy and recalcitrant. The worst is my right hand; arthritis has set up shop there and the damn thing hurts. The middle finger, especially after a stretch of immobility, or in cold and damp, would really rather not bend, thankyouverymuch. Oh, you insist? “Clonk”. The joints themselves don’t have that knobbly look; the fingers aren’t warped into twisted caricatures; but the hand ain’t what it used to be, and as a proofreader making hundreds if not thousands of pen strokes daily, I need it to work well and (mostly at least) painfree.

Yesterday I saw a therapist (acupuncture/massage), and he nailed why that hand, the middle finger especially, is so messed up – it’s the way I hold a pen, which is not the normal way you all do, but rather a weird grip which puts excessive strain on the middle finger through the hand and wrist right up into the forearm. By the time he was done massaging and pressing and realigning and freeing up this and that, well, it was NO FUN to go through but that entire appendage felt a lot better. I departed with a topical treatment, exercise instructions, recommendations for gloves to keep the hand warm, and orders to change the way I hold a pen.

Change the way I hold a pen and have done since I first learned to write, back when we used Archaeopteryx feathers for quills.

In essence, relearn how to handwrite.

Yeh, right.

Starting with yesterday afternoon and evening’s proofreading jobs, I did so. Awkwardly. Clumsily. Slowly. Even using the fattest pens I could find, it was hard. But the writing got done – shaky at times, lopsided, with a lurch here and a tremor there – and it was readable.

Even if I had to scratch it out and rewrite it. And rewrite it again.

The fingers did stray back to their old familiar form now and then. But that hurt, which helped to snap me out of error. Then it was back to merely slow and ungainly.

Sigh. For a while, anyway, my handwriting is probably going to look like a third-grader’s attempts at learning cursive.* Still, it should be worth it (and far more legible) in the long run; and I’m already feeling the benefits.

Sucks to get old, doesn’t it?

* Which reminds me – did you know they make grips to help teach kids how to hold a pencil correctly? Like this:


Since my weird pen grip involves wrapping the index finger over top of the implement and curling back around it, with the middle finger jamming the pen onto my thumb, this thing might actually help me retrain.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

At some point I'll get it right

Today’s adventures in grazing muzzles:

I sliced the hole in Commander’s muzzle about a quarter to a third larger, muzzled both boys, and turned them loose. Ta-daa! Commander, with some determined muzzle-wriggling, was able to get enough grass to keep him trying. Ben was doing fine. Both boys rolled, then resumed grazing.

Encouraged, and wanting to encourage Commander, I opened the gate from the paddock to the field. They gleefully scurried out there and dove into the forbidden fruit, with some more rolling interspersed. I went back to mucking, checking occasionally. They stayed head-down in the grass, but in a bit returned to the paddock.

Some minutes later Commander trotted in, fed up with measly rewards and mass swarms of bugs. Even with his muzzle removed he chose to stay in the run-in, so okay, just stay out of the side I’m mucking, little guy. Ben stayed out, but now he was galloping about. Was he enjoying his freedom to run, from field to paddock to run-in and back out? Or........

No. No, this wasn’t playful racing; this was Ben whipping himself into a freakout, probably over that THING on his face he couldn’t get off. After a couple of circuits so jazzed that I didn’t dare try to catch him, he rammed into the run-in beside Commander and stood still, sweaty and panting, long enough for me to talk him down a bit, then sidle up and get the muzzle off.

Phew! That was it, all right. He calmed right down. I did a quick adjustment on the straps and put Ben’s on the mighty Morgan, then led the boys back out.

Ta-daaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! They both stayed out grazing, calm and contented, till I’d finished chores and brought their midday mini-mashes to the gate. Well, “calm” – Commander did do a lot of pawing, as if to hurry the reluctant blades into the muzzle hole, but otherwise he seemed much happier. The Ben muzzle has a more open weave on the nose and the hole is an oblong roughly an inch by two inches, so the air-to-nostril flow is better and a vigorous grass-gathering effort is well-rewarded.

So, are we there yet? A lot closer to what will work, anyway. On the way home I picked up a couple of fly masks for the boys:

A Crusader with ears for Ben -- it’s a mask he’s worn before and does well in.

An Absorbine Ultrashield fly bonnet for Commander -- with that design I should be able to put it on over the grazing muzzle, or under it, whichever fits better. I went for the earless because I figure he’s less bothered by flies than Ben and has enough other stuff on his head hassling him without earhats too.

So, tomorrow we’ll try the new configuration and see how it goes. With lower temperatures and humidity, I’m hoping it will go well.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Commander gets a new grazing muzzle

You all, my Dear Readers, may recall that my last attempt to use a grazing muzzle on Commander didn’t work out so well. It took no more than an hour for the thing to be destroyed. But I’d really like to let the boys have more time out on their grass paddock than the couple of 15-or-so-minute outings they’re currently getting per day, so I invested in a pair of muzzles – one for Commander, the other for Ben. Commander’s has a tiny central circular hole; Ben’s is oblong, larger, and should let him get more grass while still stopping him from tugging off the bottom of his buddy’s muzzle.

Today was the day I tried their new duds on the boys. First up was Commander.

He was PISSED! He knew exactly what it was and he was indignant when I put it on him! He kept twitching his head away or shoving it at me as I adjusted the thing, then when I walked away he came after me, trying to rub it off against the vicious cruel human (or maybe just knock me down so he could trample me to death in revenge). Then he went into the run-in and sulked.

Poor Ben just looked resigned and a bit befuddled when I put his on.

As it turns out, by the time I got to the barn and got them both muzzled, it was twilight and the mosquitos were buzzing. Neither horse was willing to spend any time out on the grass at all. I’d lead them out, they’d dip a muzzle into the grass, say “Screw this, I can’t get anything and the skeeters are swarming me” and bolt back to the run-in.

We’ll see how they do tomorrow midday. Normally when I let them out onto the paddock for a bit of grazing while I muck the run-in, they stay out for at least ten minutes before the various daytime insects harry them back into shelter. Will it still be worth their time to go out when they can’t gobble huge mouthfuls of grass?



At midday Friday, with muzzles on both, Ben happily nibbled away at what made it through to his busy lips and teeth. Commander got frustrated fairly soon, quite trying, and trotted back to the run-in. Ben kept grazing even without his buddy there.

I took off both muzzles and put Commander back out. He dove into the grass and greedily chomped away. This time it was Ben, bug-bugged, who broke away first to flee into the run-in. I had to go out to Commander and lead him back when it was time to end his grazing spree.

Saturday midday: Let both out without muzzles and allowed them to graze freely for a few minutes; then put the muzzle on Commander. He was pissed, circled me demanding I take it off, when I walked away tried halfheartedly to graze, then said the hell with it and stomped back to the run-in, where I did remove the offending device. When he found no food in his run-in stall he tromped over to the water trough, sloshed his face around, and threw an innocent bucket into the trough. I was going to lead him back out onto the paddock for a few more minutes, but Ben came galloping back and they both crammed into Ben's run-in stall for a feverish grooming, so that was it for the grass today.

I need to make the hole in his muzzle larger. And kill every insect in Essex County.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Today I Rode Commander!


For an entire minute!!!

Maybe two!!!!

And we both escaped unscathed!!!!!

Crazy, wild, dashing bravado on my part; stoic heroic endurance on his, it was.


Actually it was a contemplated impulse on my part. I’d been toying with the idea of backing him for the last week, seeing how comfortable he looks on a half-Previcox daily. Silly daydreaming, no more – then today, with cooler temperatures, lower humidity, and a cheerful Morgan who marched soundly over to me from the water trough (where he’d been busy playing before I arrived, to judge by the water dripping off his forelock) spurred me to just do it.

I grabbed helmet, bridle and crop, dragged the mounting block out from its weed-choked abandonment next to the barn, bridled my steed and brought him out to the driveway, and swung aboard.

Be darned if the little guy didn’t march right off, walking freely, smartly, and with no hesitation or discomfort. We slogged through the high grass into the overgrown ring and commenced striding across it. Alas, this stirred up clouds of tiny pesky flying nuisances to annoy and offend Commander. But despite irritated head flips, he kept marching.

Greatly daring, I tapped his flanks with my heels. He stepped right into a short choppy trot . His normal short choppy trot. We jogged along for several strides: Commander, head up, head tossing, body saying “Sure, why not? How far, how fast?” Me, laughing, trying to steer my wandering steed more or less straight while trying to stay centered on the broad wiggly bare back under my wobbly self.

After a few seconds of such hair-raising excitement I rein-and-seat-tweaked the mighty Morgan back to a walk, exited the bug-infested ring, and slid off, still laughing. Commander looked pleased and proud. As well he should!

Where do we go from here? Not far, not fast. I want to see if he still looks as good when I go back to do evening chores, and tomorrow too; I want to see down the road a bit if I can take him off the Previcox entirely, or must maintain him on it indefinitely; and I for darn sure would like to see fewer bug swarms when next I try taking him for a ride.

But this was very, very encouraging. For both of us.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Riding Ben: A Confession of Cowardice

I’m afraid.

I’m afraid to ride my lovely, sweet, well-trained, well-mannered Thoroughbred.

I may never get on him again. If I do, I may never again take him out of a walk.

And it’s not his fault; it’s me.

Way back in early May, before Commander’s laminitis blew everything equine to hell for me, I got on both boys seriatim for a short putter about the ring. I hadn’t been riding either horse much if at all since last fall, but neither one needs to be longe-line-worked into sanity before it’s safe to get on. They’re both steady old fellows who can be pulled out of the paddock for a ride a day, a week, a month after their last work, and not get over-excited about it.

First I rode Commander, who pitter-pattered about at walk and (briefly) trot for me in his usual small-strided fashion. Then it was time for Ben, he of the big, elastic stride; I walked him about for some minutes, getting him warmed up, then asked for a trot. He surged into a big booming TROT; I could feel his body under me saying “Yeh! Feels GOOD! Wheeee!”

Fear lanced through me. Instant ohmygod fear. Snap! Fear that he was going to get silly and stupid, as he will do once in a blue moon (and which has nada to do with his fitness level) and try to take off, maybe even buck. Fear that my aging, overweight, underfit, slow-reflexed self wouldn’t be able to ride through whatever silliness erupted under me.

Fear that I’d fall off and get hurt. Really hurt. Wreck-my-life hurt.

So I pulled him back to a walk – which he came back to easily, without a fuss; he’s really a good boy. I walked him around the ring once, to settle both of us, and got off, feeling that sick weakness fear leaves behind. I untacked him, told him what a fine fellow he is, and put away saddle and bridle, wondering whether I’d ever take them out for him again.

Sigh.......... If I were ten years younger, twenty pounds lighter, riding regularly, my muscles and reflexes tuned to the task, this wouldn’t have bothered me. Indeed, just last September I survived a much scarier experience on Ben – rode through it and kept going on him for another hour. I’ve made it a rule for a long time now, even before that bolt, to ride Ben only in my Aussie stock saddle, that is far more secure than an English saddle. If Commander comes back from his laminitis riding-sound, I’ll happily get on him, even bareback (in the ring; not hacking out in the fields, mind you), because I trust him to be sensible. And besides, he’s nowhere near as BIG as Ben is.

But Ben? I’ve lost my feeling of safety on him, my desire to throw a leg over his back again. Perhaps last September’s scare has stayed with me at a visceral level I hadn’t been aware of. Perhaps it’s a keener consciousness of mortality developing in me as I age into my 60s. Perhaps part of it is that riding just doesn’t matter that much to me any more; the care and feeding and being with and observing and loving have become what fulfills me in horse ownership. Certainly a large part of the passion for riding died in me when Nick, my first horse, died in September 2005; as marvelous as Ben is, and as much as I adore him, riding just hasn’t been the same for me since then.

Further thoughts, in response to a friend reciting her own fears: I’ve come off a handful of times over the years, never seriously hurt, though one time when Ben stumbled badly and I tumbled over his shoulder I got my bell rung hard enough that the barn owner drove me home and called later to make sure I was still (more or less) all there. I used to be much braver; many years ago I rode my dear departed Nick with a broken (not from horse fall) arm, in fact.

But I’m at that stage in my life when I’m more likely to break, not bounce, if I fall. And I am the sole support of two horses, nine cats, and a mortgage, with no disability insurance. It does give one pause.

Whatever the cause, singular or multiple, the effect is this: I am afraid to ride Ben, and may never do so again. This doesn’t bother him, but it saddens me.

And if I do ride him again, we for sure will never do this:



Update: That post also went out to friends as an email, and a number of them responded. It would appear I hit some nerves. Their thoughtful replies I post below. First, from fellow horse owners/riders/lovers:

So I've never come off one.......and you know it's inevitable I will!!!!! So as I start to ride my now five-year-old, high-strung mare, Barbie, instead of my laid back 20-year-old gelding, Buck, I'm getting fearful waiting for it. And the other night I was on Buck and Matt was riding Barb and I was getting myself into a tizz because Buck gets nervous around Barb because his eyesight's poor and the indoor's shadowy and Matt's training on her. So after about 20 minutes of just jogging him, I was done. I can't risk a hand/arm injury. I do LOVE the grooming, taking care of them. But I don't want to be fearful. So I completely get you!!

I feel your pain. I too have lost my desire to ride. It really isn't anything to do with Maggie, except that she isn't Nelson. I know you can't compare, but I do, and I shouldn't. I trusted him with my life - and the life of my son - unborn and until the age of almost 5. She is perfectly fine, but has a stupid spook that involves her running out from under you sideways (and occasionally backwards) that scares the crap out of me. I too just love the care and observation, but it is turning into an expensive hobby. Hang in there and enjoy them as much as you can.

I don’t think I’d call you a coward, Laura. You are being very honest and fear is a huge factor when we are riding. You are brave to admit it and certainly smart to listen to your visceral feelings about the fear.

If you enjoy caring for your horses, then that is what you should do. Forget the riding and enjoy them for what joy they bring to you.

Oh Laura! I so understand.

I don't climb aboard the beasties anymore either. :o(
Pretty much the same reason too. Slow reflexes,the perpetual weight struggle,I just don't have the balance, agility, short,I feel afraid while I'm up there.


And then, the reflections of a non-horseperson, upon life in general:

I read your “confession” as a lament for the passing of something fun, and dear, in your life. That’s life, as the sage says. But I’m responding to suggest to you that the label “cowardice” is just plain wrong and, worse, saddles you (no pun intended, actually) with unnecessary guilt, as though your realization that you feel unsafe (insecure) on Ben’s back is a stain on your character. Not so! It is, for better or worse, an acknowledgement of aging. I will be 65 this summer, I feel fine, yet there are several things I’ve enjoyed in my life that I shall not do again. And they all involve matters where physical dexterity and balance and physical competence are involved.

I have all my life loved to go fast: I raced cars back in the muscle car days, rode and raced on my motorcycle, and loved it. But, if I were ever to ride a motorcycle again, it will be to putt-putt about the scenic roads of New England, not to race at breakneck speed. I no longer feel comfortable doing that. Likewise, racing in a car. I drive well, and sanely these days. It’s been a long time since I have lived up to my pledge to myself, made when I was about 21, that I would hit 100 mph in my car at least once every day of my life. Believe it or not, I lived up to that pledge for many years after that. But I wouldn’t think of doing so now. The excitement I used to feel at 100 mph would be fear and anxiousness now – what if something goes wrong? – and so there would be no joy in it.

Less extreme, I no longer pursue a favorite summertime hobby: getting out of my car alongside a fast-moving alluvial stream somewhere in New England and hopping out on the rocks midstream, making my way from one rock to another, skipping, jumping, sometimes quickly planning out a three- or four-hop route to make it from point A to point B. Great fun! I’ve done it with my kids since they were young, and long after they grew up. But not now. I know I am no longer light on my feet enough to feel safe doing that. And, good grief, suppose I slipped and went ass over teacups into the water, or worse, landed on a rock? My aging bones would not handle it well.

But cowardice has nothing to do with it. Rather, simple mature acceptance that I have passed the point in my life where I can prudently take those physical risks. I have neither the physical prowess for it any longer, and, just as important, my nervous system can’t handle such “excitement” anymore.

This is all a part of aging gracefully, something I hope to do. I don’t intend to curtail all activities; just the ones I am no longer comfortable doing. Nor will I let myself slide into idle senescence. But I will decline to do what is no longer comfortable for me to do. (In 2006, I won the NCRA Speed Contest for the sixth time. A great day! But I announced my retirement that day from speed contests. I knew it was time to quit.)

So please accept the changes in you that come with aging, Laura. Don’t lacerate yourself over this presentiment of mortality. You’re in good health, you’ve got your mind intact – not everyone does! – and so you can savor the wisdom and experiences you have accumulated, and go on enjoying the things you love, like horses, and taking care of them and loving them, and riding them if you choose to – or not.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Plan C for Commander -- It Works!

When last we left our plucky Morgan and his big doofus buddy, I was wondering how the heck to get Ben onto the paddock grass while providing bug-shelter for him, yet keep Commander off the tasty but perilous green stuff. I had a Plan C, but had to run it by the farm owners.

Ran it by; got approval; did it – and it works just fine. How? Here’s how: The run-in structure has two stalls on the right and on the left, divided by a hay/tool storage aisle. In back of the right-hand stalls, a few feet lower, are a small room that can store hay, and a larger room, once a stall called the Mackie House (for its former inhabitant) and currently used for hay storage. The MH has a door on either end and can open to either side of the complex; on my side it opens into the paddock.

So: move the hay bales and the pallets they’ve been resting on from the MH into the old hay storage room; clean out the accumulated cruddy moldy waste hay (four wheelbarrow loads; a task I’d been meaning to get around to sometime in any case), hang water buckets, stock the MH with several flakes of hay, secure the Dutch doors to the MH on my side open, and voila! A bug refuge and watering hole for Ben. And when Commander’s inside the run-in he can see Ben in the MH.

I was going to insert photos in this post to illustrate the new setup, but there were just too many. Here’s a link to my Webshots album showing the whole thing. I’ve put captions as well as titles on each shot to explain what they show.

All the prep work got done yesterday; all was ready to go when I arrived at the barn today. I distracted Commander with a handful of grain (laced with his morning dose of isoxsuprine) while I brought Ben out of the barn first and got him settled in his new digs. I’d worried that my timid TB would be wary of going into the dark recess of the MH, but he walked in with only a slight hesitation, and clearly approved of the joint. With the electric tape gate to the paddock hooked safely in place, I brought Commander out of the barn and into the run-in to see Ben inside the MH. He looked, said “All right then” and dove into his hay. Phew!

Originally I’d left the upper Dutch door between the MH and the hay aisle open so the bay boys could see each other easily. Alas! Ben couldn’t resist reaching in to steal hay – even hay that was just the same, in fact from the same darn bale, as what he had in his new stall; and the upper door had to be shut and latched against his thievery. Commander was unfazed by this new barrier to seeing his buddy, so that was all right then.

I had them out in the new configuration from noon to around 7:00 p.m. – and yes, it was safe to let Ben have paddock access for so long even though I’d taken both boys off the grass three weeks ago when the laminitis struck. Why? Partly because the bugs are annoying enough that he spent far more of his time inside eating hay and schmoozing with Counterpoint than he did outside grazing; partly because for the last week I have been giving him a daily bucketful of grass hand-reaped by me (scissors work surprisingly well; certainly better than a dull scythe, I’ve found), so his belly is well primed for the greenery.

Oddly enough, the diciest moment today was getting Ben off the paddock to bring the boys in for the night. His white friends were out on their field grazing and he got mildly hysterical (abandonment terror? eagerness for supper?) when he saw me enter the run-in apron and approach Commander, started running and bucking. So I haltered Commander and, much to the grass-deprived Morgan’s disgust, held him back from charging into the paddock while I opened the gate. Ben bolted through, still wired. I resecured the tapes; took Commander’s halter off; and let them indulge in a frantic session of grooming until they’d calmed down enough to lead in.

So, success! I’ll continue bringing them in overnight, at least until Ben’s got the paddock grazed down to dry nubbins. Then it should be safe to let the boys stay out 24/7, perhaps even to let Commander out into the paddock for a few hours if not all the time. Of course, by then we’ll probably be getting into greenhead season, when B&C will have to huddle inside during daylight or be eaten alive.

And the field? We’ll see.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

So Much for the Grazing Muzzle

I tried putting the grazing muzzle on Commander today, to deter him from picking at the stubble along the fence line and to see how he’d react to it. He wasn’t happy but he didn’t throw a fit. He didn’t like trying to groom Ben with it, that’s for sure.

After I’d observed him for a while I went back to stall-cleaning and he and Ben hung out in the run-in. Looking out the window now and then, it appeared that they were playing some form of face-fight/halter tag. When I went out at last to fetch them I discovered that the entire bottom of the muzzle was broken right off the woven web around the nose and lying discarded in the run-in.

When it was safe for Commander to do more than a sedate walk, I’d planned to let them start going into the paddock, Ben free to graze and Commander muzzled to forestall his getting more than tiny tidbits of grass. Looks like it’s time for Plan B, except that my Plan B has problems: I could put Ben in the paddock, with the electric tape gate closed to keep Commander in the run-in, and with a hay bag hung on the run-in wall so he could eat and see Ben at the same time. But if it’s buggy, and it is buggy now, Ben would want to flee into the run-in. So that won’t work.

Hmmmmmmm............... There might be a Plan C, but that would require some changes in run-in configuration and hay management for the four horses. Will have to ponder, and consult with the farm owner.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Commander: No News Is Good News

Which is why I didn't post a Commander update yesterday. He’s doing very well, very comfortable on his heartbars. He was never really off his feed during all this, but I think his appetite has picked up a bit since the shoeing. He’s bright-eyed, shiny-coated, and eager to go out! Now!

Well, of course he can’t have lots of turnout; he’s not supposed to have any until he’s on one bute per day, in fact, which I’m starting today: lunch bute as usual, but none for supper tonight. I have cheated a bit, put him and Ben out yesterday and today for the half hour or so it takes me to clean their stalls, and he’s been a good boy, not gotten silly and rambunctious.

What he has done is spend the vast bulk of his time outside in vigorous grooming sessions with Ben, way more than they’d been doing, in fact, before the heartbars went on. Is it a consequence of his feet feeling better, that he can spare a thought now for itchy withers? Or is it the hot humid weather that makes the boys’ coats call out for a good tooth-scrubbing? He and Ben both have rubbed tails, despite their being on continuous wormer, and they’ll be getting ivermectin tonight or tomorrow to deal with that, but as for the rest of their bodies’ need to be scratched? I dunno why; I just know they derive deep satisfaction from their grooming sessions, whether outside or inside their run-in stalls.

More inside, actually, today; the biting bugs have sprung from nowhere into pesky annoyance. Yesterday and today I’ve brought Commander in first, turning him loose on his mini-mash, then running back out to release Ben into the now-lush paddock, to gobble the greenery until Commander came to notice his abandonment and started yelling. Yesterday, oh joy, the Morgan seemed not to realize his buddy wasn’t present across the aisle; his hay was enticing enough, once the mash was devoured, to keep him happily oblivious of his solitary state. The temptation was strong to leave Ben outside, but I couldn’t take a chance on Commander deciding to freak out over his absence, so in Ben came, despite his reluctance to leave all that wonderful grass. Today, though, was a different story. Today a bug-bugged Ben fled the paddock for the shelter of the run-in even before I went to collect him; today he was positively pleased to be going back to his stall.

So there you have it: early days, not out of the woods yet, don’t get cocky, etc. etc., but things are looking good; and unless something dramatic happens, unless some major milestone is passed (or unless I feel an overwhelming need to blather again), I think the Commander updates can go on hiatus.


Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Toot, Toot, Tootsies: Goodbye to Pain

Commander got his heartbars today, and he approved. Yea, verily did he approve.

I had to zip up to the vet’s office to pick up a CD of the x-rays and tote my laptop to the barn so Ken, my farrier, could study the current rotational state of the hooves. Once he’d seen what he needed to there, and checked out the old set of heartbars from Commander’s 2006 bout of founder, kindly loaned to me by the boy’s previous owner, Ken got to work and I got out of his way, back to my car to work on paper while he worked on steel.

And did he ever work! Ken took plenty of meticulous time over getting the heartbars just right, then on they went, along with Equi-Pak padding – neat stuff! It sets up quickly and provides a cushion elastic enough to offer comfort, yet strong enough to provide support and not compress to uselessness over time. Plus, it’s an attractive sky-blue color, adding a dash of drama to Commander’s stride. It’s also easy stuff to cut a hole into for drainage if Commander should happen to develop an abscess, which Ken warned me could happen, though he thought it unlikely.

So the old Morgan got his new shoes. And off walked Commander as if the laminitis had never happened. Yay!

Now, we still need to be cautious, not let the boy get wild and crazy and overdo things while the inflammation runs its course, dies down and dwindles away. So his turnout will increase gradually, carefully confined to the small space at the run-in; he’ll stay on bute for its anti-inflammatory benefit, for some time to come; but I am convinced we’re on the upswing and all will be well.


Monday, May 23, 2011

Commander Post-X-rays Update

And the news is cautiously good!

Commander does have some added rotation since his 2006 x-rays, but it is only a bit, and he still has enough sole to do fine once he’s over the acute phase. He’ll be going into heartbars on Wednesday. That’s the shoeing that worked for his previous founder, and my vet and farrier agree it’s the way to go at this point. His previous owner tells me that with heartbar shoeing Commander went from “Is it time to put him down?” to riding sound in six weeks.

With no bute in him since Saturday midday, you could see he was less comfortable, not moving quite as freely as yesterday; but Commander was and is still bright-eyed, eating and drinking well, sucking up to any human who’ll scratch his proud neck, and very willing to follow me out of his stall – heck, whenever we were pointed toward the exit he tried to drag me outside. He stood calmly with his front hooves up on wooden blocks for the x-rays; behaved like a perfect gentleman, in fact, for the whole process of examination and treatment. The x-ray machine hooked into the vet’s laptop and we could see his rads within seconds of them being taken. Not only that, but Kelly will be emailing them to me, and I can email them in turn to my farrier to have when he comes to put the new shoes on in two days. How cool is that?

My buteless Commander was even able to stand (with an occasional bit of fussing and hoof tugging) on a single forefoot to have each front shoe pulled, which the vet did gently, nail by careful nail, to give him some recovery time between the pulling of the old shoes and the nailing on of the new. Once they were off she showed me by the impressions on the pads inside how the rim of the plain shoes he’d been wearing weren’t offering him any real interior hoof structure support; how the frog was doing a lot of the work of weight-bearing against the protective pad. Then she put new pads and wraps on to keep him comfortable until Wednesday. Once everything was done he got a shot of Banamine, and you could see within minutes he felt just fine, thank you! That stuff is a miracle.

Plan for now: Bute, one tonight, one tomorrow, two on shoeing day and for a day or two afterwards, then taper to one for a few days, always with an eye to how comfortable he is, adjusting accordingly. Stall rest: Pretty much for tomorrow and shoeing day, and for a day or two afterwards, then judicious turnout, always with the goal of quiet light self-exercise that doesn’t stress the fragile tissues. Until he can go out he should get some short easy sessions of hand-walking, a prescription my farrier is strongly in favor of.

I dragged Kelly down to the paddock to look at the grass nubbins along the fence line. Verdict: Too short to harm him; if he wants to entertain himself picking at them, he should be okay. I will need to weed-whack the longer grass outside the fence that he could reach if he knelt down and snaked his head under the lower electric wire.

So, all in all, encouraging, I would say.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday: Taking the Next Step With Commander

With trepidation, today I withheld the bute from Commander’s midday meal. His last dose was about 1:30 or so on Saturday, and he looked good; in fact the step down from the barn to the driveway seemed not to faze him at all today. He was moving just fine on his limited turnout.

Very limited turnout today, only 15 minutes or so, because he would not stop picking at the grass nubbins along the fence line, as he has on previous outings. Nubbins they may be, but apparently there was enough there to keep him working on them, and I did not dare let him keep at it.

Which set up another test for Commander: Could he be inside without Ben? The Morgan came back to fresh hay and his midday mini-mash of Speedi-Beet, bran, regular supplements, and medications (yum! no grain at all now), which kept him occupied as I worked on Ben’s stall across the aisle, ever alert for any sign of a separation-anxiety meltdown. Other than occasional trips to gaze out his window, he was fine. When Ben’s stall was ready I went out to collect the big lug, and let him hand-graze for a bit after we left the run-in. So Commander was all alone; no Ben, not even a second-best human, to keep him company; peace reigned as Ben grazed....


Okay, Commander had noticed his abandonment. I hustled Ben inside, let the boys sniff noses through Commander’s stallfront chainlink mesh, then put the Thoroughbred back into his stall, grained him, and that was that.

Which points to a strategy for giving Ben more time on turnout: Take Commander out first, to forestall any abandonment freakout; leave them out as long as it’s safe for Commander; then bring him back to the distractions of food and let Ben stay out until the Morgan starts getting upset about it. Which of course will require me to be on hand, ready to reel in Ben at the first sign of Commander losing it, sigh.

I’ll be checking on Commander in about two hours, and again around 10:00 p.m., and if he’s in significant distress I will bute him, vet visit Monday morning regardless.

Fingers crossed!



Checked Commander around 5:30. He looked just as good as he did at midday. Left him unbuted, just gave him his evening mash with the isoxsuprine and U-7. Left late evening and breakfast hay flake-piles out for the farm owner to give him, and for once I am going to have an early night, not need to do late-P.M. bedcheck, hurrah!

If you had told me a week ago things would be looking so good so fast I would not have believed it possible. Let’s hope his trajectory continues in its present course.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Commander: Second Day on One Bute

He’s doing well. Remarkably well, given how painful he was just one week ago. If there was a hint of tentative discomfort in front today, it was so minuscule that it didn’t stop me from letting him go out. He was cautious about taking the 6-inch step down from the barn to the driveway; moved off his landing foot quickly; but other than that he walked free and easy, and handled the hardness of the run-in apron with no problem, though after a while he did prefer to stay on the mats inside.

It was good for him and Ben both, to get them out for about 45 minutes. They spent a lot of the time grooming each other. I was tempted to leave them out when their stalls were done, on this lovely warm sunny day after a week’s worth of chilly rain and drizzle, while I drove over to the co-op to buy shavings, but caution overruled impulse. That would have added around another hour to their turnout time; too much, too soon, to risk a setback for Commander’s wellbeing.

There was a farrier at the barn shoeing another boarder’s horse, and I visited with him for a while. I mentioned one friend’s suggestion of putting shoes on backwards. He said it can be helpful, as can other kinds of therapeutic shoeing; what approach one takes depends on each individual horse. When I mentioned my farrier’s name, the prompt response was “Ken Brown! I know Ken; he’s a great farrier!” And other comments indicating that I in fact have a damn fine farrier. You can imagine how reassuring that was to hear.

Anyway, if Commander is looking as good tomorrow as he was today, I will be tempted to withhold his midday bute dose, so that Kelly can assess him completely clear of the drug on Monday morning. If he seems clearly ouchier than today, I will give him the bute.

I spent some time with him after getting back from the co-op run, just neck-hugging and skritching him. He loved it, and when I stopped looked to me for more. He was first dubious, then appreciative when I took a damp paper towel to his eyes to clean away their perennial watery discharge and eye-corner crud. I think we’re developing a closer relationship over the course of his convalescence.

Friday Commander Update

So, 24+ hours after his last dose of bute, how did Commander look at midday on Friday?


No, no, he didn’t go out, the ground is just too wet for that; that picture’s from last spring; but that’s about how good he and I are both feeling right now!

His wraps are still holding up amazingly well, but the sole over the pad is wearing thin, so I wrapped right over them with Coflex. He had a harder time holding up his left foot, all his weight on his right, during that process, but that’s the hoof that’s always been the more sensitive ever since his previous bout with founder, according to his previous owner. All in all, he is looking remarkably good.

So, he's done very well indeed with just one gram of bute in 24 hours; if he’s as free-moving Saturday as he was on Friday, he’ll get one dose at midday, then none on Sunday, as long as he continues to be comfortable; and we’ll see how he looks on Monday morning.


Bedcheck update: Looking good!


Thursday, May 19, 2011

Thursday: Commander is One Smart Cookie

Midday report: On two bute per day, Commander looks very good indeed. I will probably withhold tonight’s dose and see how he looks tomorrow after 24 hours since his last dose. If at all possible he needs to be at least 24 and hopefully 48 hours since his last dose by the time he’s seen by the vet on Monday morning.

I’ve added Finish Line’s U-7 gastric aid supplement to his diet to protect against bute-induced ulcers. If he’s going to need to be on it for a considerable time, I’d like to get his stomach buffered before any ulcers begin to blossom.

Weather permitting, he gets a short time outside, and today the weather permitted. If I hadn’t watched him like the proverbial hawk and shut him down at the first hint of exuberance, our trip down the driveway would have been quite a spectacle of explosive Morgan caracoles. But he knows what the chain under his chin means, and all it took were swift light tweaks on the lead line to remind him “Behave!” and he walked politely.

But that’s not why I call him one smart cookie; no, it’s what he did once he was set free. After trying to graze on the already depleted nubbins he could reach along the fence line (sorry, Commander; there’s nothing there worth contorting yourself for), he started face-fighting with Counterpoint, first in the middle of the concrete run-in apron, but very quickly he moved to a much more comfortable position:


Yup, that’s right, he went into the run-in, onto the rubber mats, and reached around the corner to play. That beige bar you see at the top of the photo is the bottom edge of the swing-up window in Counterpoint’s stall; I had to shoot the boys from up there in the barn because any time I came outside the white boys rushed the fence to beg for food or release onto their field.

Here’s a clearer look at just how Commander positioned himself:


It’s amazing these guys don’t actually do any damage to each other given how ferociously they go at it:


So Ben and Commander had their 30 to 45 minutes outside, and walked back in a fair bit calmer than they went out. Hopefully I’ll be able to get them out every day, hopefully for longer stretches at a time if Commander isn’t set back by short intervals on ground less forgiving than his well-bedded, wood-floored stall.

Tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Commander Update: A Bridge Too Far?

Commander didn’t get a dose of bute at bedcheck last night, so when I saw him at midday today his last one had been about 24 hours ago, and it showed.

Oh, he wasn’t anywhere near the kind of distress I’d seen on Saturday; he was standing foursquare, taking good-sized steps, and not reluctant to move; but he was clearly feeling enough of an increase in discomfort to be stiffer in walking and turning on his forehand than yesterday. I hadn’t planned to put him out today in any case, given how wet it is; but for darn sure he wasn’t going to go out on a gravel drive and concrete run-in apron looking like that.

So off he went to an empty stall across the aisle, which he puttered around in between bouts of hay-munching; back to his stall, where the absentminded human realized it’s a lot easier to add a new bag of shavings to a mucked-out stall before you put the horse back in; over to the empty stall again; finally back home, where he dove into his hay. It seemed to me that he was moving somewhat better, in fact clearly better, by the fourth trip across the barn aisle, so perhaps some of his stiffness comes from being an older horse on stall confinement in damp, chilly weather; and I’ve noticed over the last few days that he also looks stiffer when he first gets up from lying down, so who knows how much of a role mere inactivity plays? – but that’s not the entire cause. The laminitis ain’t done with him yet.

Sigh. I suppose such setbacks are only to be expected. Hopefully when I see him tonight he’ll be back to looking “Just fine, thank you!” with the bute back in him. He’ll get a bedcheck dose; two doses again on Wednesday; then we’ll try again to cut back to one. I’ll also do a bit of handwalking in the barn to get the juices cautiously flowing on gentle footing.

The continued good news is that Commander’s bright-eyed, cheerful, eating and drinking well, sucking up his meds without a problem, in good weight, and shiny-coated. Ben is also handling his companion captivity pretty well; other than screaming for attention when I arrive, looking longingly at the exit when I move him between stalls, and walking manure-churning circles in his bedding, he’s not a problem.


Bedcheck update:

Commander was lying down when I arrived. He got up and looked horribly stiff. I let him move about, loosen up some, as he chose for a couple of minutes, then walked him across the aisle to the spare stall, circled it to turn, walked back, turned again and went back across the aisle, and he was moving waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better when I took the halter off and let him go free over there – just needed to work out of the lying-down stiffness. He didn’t hesitate to follow me when I first asked him to move, either. It’s rainy, chilly, penetrating-damp weather around these parts, been so for the last few days, and I really do think that’s affecting the old man. He might could be a bit tentative still in his front feet, but he’s markedly better than at the midday check. Darn close to what had me feeling good Sunday and Monday.

Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Monday Commander update

So what’s the report for today?


Last bute: 13 hours before.

Quality of movement: Free and easy.

Spirits: High.

He did get to go out for half an hour while I cleaned the stalls, and there were a couple of times on the walk down the drive that if it weren’t for the chain shank I think he’d have gone all boinky on me:

Horse: Head high, neck starting to snake, eyeing the human – “Ima feel good! Ima gonna...”

Human: “GrrrrrrrrrrNO!” *shank-twitch*

Horse: Subsiding – “Oh, well, if you put it like that. Say, there’s some grass over there! Howzabout we – Oh. You sure? Oh. Well, if you insist...”

Once he was there he settled down and alternated between eating hay in the run-in (standing on shavings-covered rubber mats) and face-fighting with Counterpoint. If he’s hyper about heading out tomorrow I won’t take a chance on him getting rambunctious but will turn right around and put him in an empty stall while cleaning his, rather than take a chance on his overdoing it while things are still fragile. Hopefully, if he keeps going the way he’s going, we can get back to dry-lot turnout as soon as the pads come off.

He got his midday bute and as usual inhaled it along with his pittance cup of grain. On his delighted vet’s advice, based on yesterday’s report, I will NOT be buting him tonight but instead will switch to once a day dosing, two days ahead of schedule, and we will see what we will see, but all in all I’m feeling:


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Commander update

So how is the old man today? How did he look 13 hours after his last dose of bute? How am I feeling about how he’s feeling?


When I arrived at the barn he was up, bright-eyed, moving freely, and eager for food, attention, and to go out! Now! There’d been a little rain overnight and the ground was damp in patches but not soaked, so by golly, out he went! He strode down the graveled drive with a big free-swinging walk, puttered around the run-in happily, greeted Ben when he followed, felt good enough to stand at times with one hind foot cocked and both forefeet comfortably planted, and spent much of his 30 to 45 minutes outside face-fighting with Counterpoint over the water trough. This was a happy horse!

Brought back in to his tidied stall, he gobbled up his medicine-laced grain, licking the bucket of every trace, and dove into his hay. I left feeling a whole lot more confident than I had just 24 hours ago.

Half an hour after I left, the heavens opened and a soaking rain started pounding down. How’s that for timing?

Yes, yes, I know; things could still go south in a hurry; he’s not out of the woods yet; there’s still a long course of rehab ahead; there’s no guarantee; blah blah blah............


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Well, this just stinks

Commander’s having a go-round with laminitis. Yep, my previously foundered horse is in danger of it happening again. And I was being so careful about the spring grass!

Last year, with a slow, cautious introduction process, Commander adjusted to grazing without any problem, went through summer and fall living happily on his fields, and was sound enough, in fact, to go barefoot for a couple of months toward the end of that time, till the ground froze hard and he needed the extra buffer of front shoes.

So this year, while always mindful that Commander would require more caution than the other horses, I felt comfortable getting him onto grass, first for brief times on the boys’ near paddock, gradually increasing their grazing time till they were doing fine out there for an hour and a half, until the grass there was grazed down to nubbins. At that point I opened the gate to the field – only for a few minutes at first; most of their grass time was still in the paddock. Over weeks the field time edged up to 20 or 30 minutes. It was about the same schedule I’d followed the year before with no problem.

This year, though, there’s a problem. Was my timing off? Is the grass, for whatever reason of sun/rain/temperature, richer than last spring’s? Is now-21-year-old Commander’s metabolism altering as he ages? I dunno, but....

On May 7th I took a picture of the two boys galloping gaily out to their paddock, a sight I've been seeing every day since I started the incremental process of getting them adapted to grazing.


But in the last few days Commander, I noticed, was no longer dashing out; he was stopping to eat almost as soon as he got through the gate. And yet, released from the paddock into the field, or called in from it for his measly two cups of daily grain, he could and would run with enthusiasm. Walking around as he grazed, or back in the run-in dry lot, he seemed all right. Then yesterday he trotted in instead of running, and I thought he looked just a tiny bit, well, not quite right in front, especially on the hardness of the run-in apron. So I called the vet’s office and made an appointment for a Monday checkup.

Today I arrived, went to let the boys out, took one look at how Commander was moving, emitted some expletives, and dashed back to my car for my cellphone. The vet arrived within the hour, checked him over, and confirmed that he’s having a laminitis flareup. On the plus side: the palpable heat in his feet wasn’t too bad and he wasn’t rocked back on his hindquarters in the classic founder stance; there was no sign that his soles were in immediate danger of being penetrated; and as soon as Kelly Vetwrapped thick foam pads on his front feet he looked more comfortable. In fact, when I led him up the graveled driveway to the barn to start him on stall rest, he walked easily, with hardly any suggestion of pain in his front feet. By the time I left the barn, an hour or so after the vet had departed, Commander was moving about his stall looking darn near normal (or as normal as a horse can look with wrappings reminiscent of clown shoes on his front feet).

He got a shot of Banamine for immediate relief, and I got medicines and instructions for him: Three days of bute twice a day, three days of bute once a day, then off the bute and recheck by Kelly a week from Monday. Daily dose of Thyro-L on the premise that we could be dealing with insulin resistance in my old man. Stall rest for now (which I’d have to do in any case with several days of off-and-on rain ahead of us, to save his foot wrappings). Pick up another set of pads and wrappings on Monday from the office with the expectation I’ll have to rewrap him at least once before his recheck. And of course, if he takes a turn for the worse, call the vet! My farrier’s been alerted and stands ready to do whatever corrective shoeing may be required.

I’m cautiously optimistic it’s mild enough and we’ve caught it soon enough to stave off any serious developments. I daresay if Kelly thought we were facing an immediately dire situation she wouldn’t have scheduled his recheck so far out. The stall rest is a double bummer, since he and Ben are so bonded that leaving Ben out in the run-in while Commander’s in the barn would throw the Morgan into a frenzy of inconsolable screaming, stall-spinning grief and terror, and he really doesn’t need to be stressed out like that right now. Ben would be upset, too. But Ben likes being in his stall, and the stalls themselves are huge and airy, so it’s not too bad for them. I just get to clean mass quantities of dirty stall bedding for the next week-plus, sigh. At least getting the medications into Commander is easy-peasy; this afternoon I mixed the powders along with his regular supplements into a scant cup of his senior feed and he inhaled the lot, then licked the bucket clean.

Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm............... It’s quarter of 10:00; time for me to run over to the barn for another dose of bute, a stall picking, and a refreshing of hay and water for the night. Guess I’ll save this draft, go see what’s what, and add an update before I ship it out.


Woohooo!!! He looks MAHHHHHHHHVELOUS!

No, seriously, when I got there he was lying down, but got up for a (low-glycemic flaxseed) cookie and moved easily to come to me for it. I led him into an untenanted stall across the aisle so I could clean his mess – and he strode right out as if nothing was wrong! In that stall he walked around vigorously, checking it out; when returned to his own picked-out stall he stepped right out, pivoted on his front feet for halter removal without a trace of discomfort, and by golly! If I hadn’t seen him a few hours before I would never guess he was having a bout of laminitis. He scarfed down his evening’s bute dose in a handful of grain and a handful of moistened bran, leaving no trace of its passing.

It’s been about seven hours since his Banamine shot; six or so since his first dose of bute; while he does have drugs aboard, I have to think that this freedom of movement is a very good sign. Hopefully he will still be looking good in another 12 hours, when next I see him tomorrow morning.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I'm fine now! No, really! But...

As I noted in my last posting (a copy of the letter I sent that day to the first responders), I was hauled off to the emergency room by ambulance on Saturday evening. Herewith I expand upon the event.

To be specific, it was a sudden attack of supraventricular tachycardia. As the EMTs and later the ER cardiologist explained it to me, the heart’s electrical impulses normally fire at the top of the organ. Sometimes they instead fire in the center, at the AV node, and that sends the heart into the fast-beat arrhythmia called tachycardia. What triggers it? Stress can (and I’d had a very stressful week); caffeine can (and I’d had a large mug of coffee within the last hour); it’s relatively benign, a problem with the heart’s electrical system rather than the plumbing, as the ER cardiologist put it. Sometimes it’s a recurrent problem; sometimes it hits once and never returns.

Which knowledge, had I known it when things went kablooie, probably wouldn’t have helped much with the “OMG I’m gonna die!” feeling that swept over me when this erupted. SVT produces a sudden sensation of pressure in the chest rising into the throat, a galloping, tumultuous pulse, with added delights of shortness of breath and lightheadedness – not to mention sheer terror: Is this a heart attack? Am I going to die? Right freakin NOW?

I’d had an episode much like this several years ago, that went away on its own after several minutes, so I tried a few minutes of sitting quietly, breathing slowly, and hoping. Didn’t help. So I called 911, reported sudden onset of elevated heart rate, and was told help was being dispatched right away. They weren’t kidding! As I waited I got dressed from housecoat to top, pants, shoes; fetched a jacket and my purse; stuffed a book (!) in my purse – and in those few short minutes help arrived. Quite an impressive show it was for the neighbors, too – not only the ambulance but also a fire engine and a police car.

The first responders were all wonderful – calm, professional, clearly knew their jobs and set about them with reassuring competence. After taking vitals, quizzing me on this, that and the other, and assessing the portable EKG readings, the EMTs rebooted my heart, and my blood pressure (from 200/100) and pulse began to drop back toward normal.

Rebooted my heart? Oh, yes. Hit the reset button, they did. Specifically, had me hold my breath and bear down in my gut while one EMT pressed hard on my belly – a technique which triggers the vagus nerve, they said, to reset the heart’s electrical system. Bonus: If I ever have another SVT episode, I can try rebooting myself!

Once they had me stabilized, they tucked me into a chair thingie, well strapped in, and carried me outside, down the stairs, and to the waiting stretcher. Kudos to their thoughtfulness in asking me what I wanted done with lights on/off, windows open/closed, and pet care, leaving me free to freak out over what was going on inside without having to spare any fretting for external worries.

Then it was off to the hospital – my first (and I hope last) ambulance ride, which is an experience in itself. They zipped me right into an exam room, no waiting room stays for cardiac patients I gather, and got me hooked up to various monitors, IV-portaled, and queried some more about what was going on. Blood pressure and pulse continued drifting downwards to reasonable levels; the EKG patterns steadied to normal, and after a couple of hours the ER cardiologist decided it was safe to let me go home: “Switch to decaf, take it easy, and see your doctor this coming week,” she advised.

I’ve been fine since then. Will be seeing my doctor tomorrow. Trying to take it easy (it helps that work is much slower this week than last). And switched to decaf.


Update, Friday:

Saw my doctor today, and all systems were go; all signs were vitally fine; and I don’t need any further treatment at this point. My tachycardia, based on all the EMT and ER info, is indeed the much less likely to be lethal kind, and unless I start having frequent episodes we really don’t need to do anything. Then we can try Lopressor or some such drug.

Oh, and according to his scales, I’ve lost three pounds since I last saw him three weeks ago (for a discussion of arthritis beginning to twinge in my fingers, sigh). So I must be doing something right.

And now, off to make another cuppa decaf.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Heartfelt "Thank You!"

On this past Saturday evening I had a sudden and frightening attack of tachycardia and called 911 for help. Within scant minutes first responder help arrived – ambulance, police, and firefighters. They stabilized me, and off I went to Beverly Hospital.

Everyone who came to help me did their jobs with calm, reassuring competence and professionalism, and took care to see that no detail was overlooked – right down to making sure my wishes for lights on/off, windows open/closed, and pets were provided for, leaving me free to freak out over what was going on inside without having to spare any fretting for external worries.

As it turned out, the tachycardia was about as benign as such things can be (“You’re back to normal. Switch to decaf, take it easy, and see your doctor this week” said the ER cardiologist) and I was able to come home later that night, shaken but okay, and with a newfound appreciation for the first responders who serve my town.

I hope I never need to call on their services again, but if I do, I know that they will be there for me, be there fast, and be straight up great at taking care of whatever crisis has called them out.

So again I say: “Thank you! You guys rock!”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Mare Stare -- Ruminations on an Online Addiction

The Internet is home to many communities; indeed it offers a near-boundless smorgasboard of virtual gathering places, from the minuscule to the immense, from the intensely private to the aggressively public; geared to narrow niches and sprawling diversities, to interests, quirks and passions of every sort the human mind can conceive of (and some it boggles the mind to contemplate).

One community I’ve become a part of is Mare Stare – more particularly, the message board called Mare Stare Cams Foaling Alerts and Updates. The service offered by Mare Stare seems simple enough: Host streaming cams to watch over expectant mares (and donkey jennets and goat does and sheep ewes and, well, there hasn’t been an elephant – yet), so that the owners of said pregnant critters can keep an eye on them even when they’re not in the barn. The MS motto is “Because you can’t be everywhere...” and the front page describes their mission thus:

Mare Stare is a family — a community of cam owners and viewers who help each other share the miracle of birth. The camera owners graciously put their foaling barns on line for the world to see. In exchange, they get the watchful eyes of viewers from all over the world, who will call them as soon as their mare goes into labor.

As a reward for their vigilance, the viewers get to see the birth live. Then, they get to watch the foal stand for the first time, take the first drink of life-giving milk from its mother, and run, play, and grow stronger day by day, as many owners share the progress and development of their foals with our community.

It's a family relationship that breeds friendship, trust and love among people from all over the world, even though they may have never met in person.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But the community that’s grown up around Mare Stare is as complex as any other human community, with its own mores, customs, lingo, and traditions. It’s determinedly positive, for one thing; even a hint of criticizing another person’s choices in breeding stock or foaling practices or animal care is simply Not Done. When a foaling looks to be going badly, one doesn’t say so outright; one simply offers prayers or jingles or wishes for a good outcome, or zips one’s virtual lips.

Joining that community was a bit of a culture shock. I came to it via another online community, one that prides itself on fiercely uncompromising bluntness, on argumentation over the tiniest of points, on clever snark and bristling confrontation; one that abhors smilies and sentimentalities, mocking them as abdication of articulate reasoning. A thread in the least serious forum there about one of the MS cam feeds sucked me in – horses! that’ll get me every time – and from there I found the MS message board.

Well! “Polar opposites” would barely begin to capture the chasm between my launching point and the place where I landed. I lurked for a while, absorbing the ethos of this new world, fascinated by the culture whose outlines and nuances I was sussing out. When I felt I’d figured things out well enough not to make a total idiot of myself, I joined (with a different identity, Janicket, than the persona known to the smartass board) and began to participate.

It was fun! It was rewarding – I made the alert-the-owner call that mattered a few times; once for a birth that would have gone badly had the owner not arrived in time. Did that make me feel good? You damn betcha! I mastered the art of the MS smilie palette; I saw births easy and hard; I saw foals that were up and exploring their new world quickly, others that struggled in their first hours of life.

And I saw death. I saw people fight heart-wrenching battles to save fragile foals. I saw people do everything in their power to preserve the tiny lives they’d hoped for, dreamed of, worked so hard to bring about, worked tirelessly to preserve, and were at the last powerless to save. I saw gut-wrenching struggles to save, if not the foal, at least the mare herself from the double tragedy of her death in fruitless labor. I saw the moment when hope was extinguished, when the life left the frail body, when mourners clung to each other over the shell of the vanished soul and wept in each other’s arms.

And it wasn’t all fun and games any more. It was, it is, quite literally, a community of life and death. I’ve been a part of this virtual world for about a year now, and while I never have and never will go through the birth of any animal of my own, I have come to appreciate just how stressful, how wearing on body and mind, how nail-bitingly suspenseful, how gloriously rewarding and horrifically devastating the process can be for all who go through it. The relentless insistence on positive interactions among MS members, I can see, is no mere Pollyanna pose; it’s vital to the wellbeing of the people who allow the world this glimpse into their lives.

I’ve been thinking about Mare Stare, its culture, its hold on me, for quite a while, puzzling out just why I have become so powerfully attached to the place. Then Sadie at Big Sky Farm went into labor. This is the thread that followed in realtime the unimaginable tragedy that unfolded: the hard-fought birth of a filly; the shocking, utterly unexpected stillbirth of her twin, a colt (horses don’t do twins! or, rather, very rarely they do; it’s even rarer for both or even one to survive); then the desperate struggle over the ensuing week to save little Athena, crippled in one hind leg by nerve damage but a gallant fighter, whose flicker of life dwindled despite all that could be done to nourish it. I was there, via cam, when the vet made the last merciful injection; I was there, watching, grieving, as her people embraced and wept over the filly’s body, as the cam went to black; though I’d felt from the outset that her chances were grim, still her death was a kick in the gut.

Why? Why did it hit so hard, why did it hurt so much? Why did I care? What’s it to me, that I should invest so much of myself into this event, this community, this pain?

The answer welled up, poured out into what I posted then in the thread and end this essay with:

Quote from: bigskyfarm on April 15, 2011, 06:08:50 pm
Kristen, the "person" of Sadie and Athena, asked that I post a heartfelt THANK YOU to all our wonderful friends here at MareStare. She appreciates your kind words and prayers during this long week.

We could do no less than offer our prayers, our heartfelt wishes for healing, and at the last our grief at your loss, for we have walked in your shoes; we have felt the wildly cresting waves of hope and despair sweep through us; we have ripped out a piece of our heart and sent it over the bridge with the beloved when hope was gone and only loss was left.

Whether it be a newborn foal or the faithful companion of many years; whether it be horse, dog, cat, donkey, or any other dear companion, I daresay there is no auntie on Mare Stare who has not looked into the abyss of sorrow confronting you now. My first horse, mine since he was 10, was crippled in a pasture accident at age 23. For a week we fought to save him, till he told us it was not to be, he could go on no longer; then I gave him the last gift that lay within my power, and released him to run free across the bridge. I had my heart’s companion for 13 incredible years; you had your darling Athena for only a week; yet I know you grieve as bitterly as I did, as I still do, for love is not measured in length of time together; love is, and the loss of the beloved cuts us all to the quick, cuts out a piece of us that departs with the departed and can never be filled.

We cling to, we cherish the memories, and when we see another suffer as we did, we suffer anew with them. And so it is that we here on Mare Stare followed Athena’s story so passionately, rode the swings of hope and despair as the days passed, and grieve now at her loss. Though we never knew her as you did, never knew the gift of caressing her beautiful face, of seeing the light of life and love in her soft eyes, still we mourn her passing, for it rekindles in us our own eternal pain, and we weep with you.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ted's New Tower

Ted has new digs, and he approves.

His three-level tower cage arrived a few days ago, and proved not too difficult to set up, despite the instructions being entirely in Chinese or Korean or some such inscrutable script. Fortunately the diagrams were sufficiently scrutable that, with a few false starts, I got the thing put together. Then I hauled Ted out of his original enclave, stuffed him in a carrier out of the way, disassembled what I had so tediously assembled a mere week or so ago, and reassembled a new cage complex.

I took the larger cage, turned it so the door end faced away from the tower, dropped the tower end inside that long cage (I tried to drop it outside, underneath the tower, but it wouldn’t fit), then tied the two cages together with shoelaces around rolled towels filling the spaces at the joint. The bottom-level tower doorway faces into the long cage, which is where the litterbox sits. The second-level doorway (door removed) faces out over the long cage. Atop the long cage I plopped a soft-sided portable kennel, an opened end butted against and secured to the tower. This provides a lair Ted can reach from the midlevel shelf of the tower, with sides and top that zip away so I can get in at Ted for petting and plucking out. Here, let me show you what I’m talking about:

Here’s the litterbox end of it all, with easy access for cleaning, much easier than the old complex. Given Ted’s unfortunate proclivity for aiming up and out when peeing, being able to fit the cover on is a Big Deal. The bottom tower door sticks out on the right because I wasn’t able to remove it.


The side view, showing the doorways into the long cage and the kennel lair:


Since the tower assembled in sections, I was able to put the top third on with the door facing outwards, giving me easy access down to the midlevel shelf where I put Ted’s food and water dishes. The opening’s high enough that he isn’t likely to make a sudden break for it when I open the door – not that he’s inclined to fight for his freedom anyway; he’s more interested in getting petted and fed.


Ted’s got a good view out over my deck to the thin strip of lawn that passes for a backyard, so he can amuse himself watching whatever passing squirrels and birds may make their appearance there or on the fence beyond. The cylinder thingie in the lower left corner of the tower is a useful stepping stone to the first elevated shelf, but he has no need of a similar aid to make it up to the top shelf.

That’s Ollie checking things out.


Another view of Ted’s dining room. The lair side facing the deck slider is a mesh, so he can lurk and surveill simultaneously.


I’ve stopped worrying that Ted will be unhappy in captivity. He seems contented, greets me with relaxed pleasure, doesn’t even try to get out when the door’s open, and in general appears to have decided that life is pretty darn good for him in there.


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Finally! The Floodgates Open

Ted has been refusing to use the litterbox ever since I put him into captivity over a day ago; to excrete at all, in fact. I was worried enough to be contemplating a vet visit Monday morning. Then I went out to do critter care at the farm an hour-plus ago and came back to find:

YES!!!!!!!!!!!!! He’d finally voided his bladder! And a mighty void it was, a veritable flood of pent-up pee. In the box, to boot.


Ollie and, to a lesser extent, other of the young guys have taken to trying to walk on top of the cages, teetering on the wire mesh. So yesterday I put a multi-folded wool throw on top of the smaller cage and it instantly became a favored napping spot for various of the boys. Ollie still kept teeter-wire-walking. So just now I’ve laid folded throws on top of the larger cage. This appears to have met with universal approval. It’s interesting to see that at least one of the free males will hang out on top of the cage or in a napping spot nearby almost all the time now, so Ted has company.

When I took the photos below, Ted, still basking in my effusive praise for his pissing prowess, was purrfully playing with one of the catnip mice I drop into his cage from time to time; if he bats his toy too near the bars, alas, one of the outside pride will reach in, snag it, and steal it. It’s a never-ending battle to keep Ted supplied with amusements, but I don’t mind. Now that he’s used the litterbox and seems to be happy in there, I’m thinking this just might work for us all.

The latest in slammer amenities, being inspected by Pumpkin:


That round beige thing has a hole in the in-facing side and carpeting within, and Ted likes to crawl in and curl up there now and then. He’s big enough that he has to stick his head outside to fit, but this appears to be fine by him.


Outside looking in: Pumpkin and Peanut, and that black blob by Peanut is Schooner.


Update: Chillin' with the Tedster:


Ted Held Hostage -- Day Two

We all survived the night, though not without some cost.  After hauling from store to house, erecting, and setting up the two cages, getting the Tedster settled, and so on, I then spent several hours sitting in the recliner next to him, keeping him company while watching TV and doing some proofreading; then went to bed – and woke up, midsleep and this morning, with a wicked lumbar backache.  I’ve hit it with ibuprofen and Ben-Gay, gently stretched the area in the course of the usual morning cleaning of eight litterboxes, and hope to do further limbering in an hour or so when it’s horse chore time.  And definitely stay out of the recliner today!  Sigh....
Ted seems fine, calm, mildly complaining now and then but otherwise unfazed.  He ate breakfast with vigor, despite my having stirred into it a dissolved Wellbutrin dose.  I stuck a yardstick through the bars of the big cage to rearrange the towels, since I can’t otherwise reach them without an ungainly contorted effort from the small cage end door, and he enjoyed a yardstick back scratch.  The only thing that concerns me is his failure to use the litterbox yet.  Didn’t use the towels, either, or spray outside the cage.  He went into the slammer in late afternoon yesterday, so it’s not a full 24 hours yet.  Hopefully breakfast will move him to void soon.
Not having a side door on the big cage is proving to be awkward.  I may need to go ahead and get a two or three door large crate ASAP.  There are such crates available at Petco in Topsfield.  Only problem is, the Petco crate doors aren’t removable and they don’t open back flat against the cage side; I’d have to jigger a filler for the triangular space between crates when butting them together.  So:  added cost, added backbreaking labor of taking the current setup apart and installing a new crate.  Ulp.  The heck with it – for now.
Off to check on him
Still no litterbox use, but I crawled halfway in through the small cage (draping myself over the [fortunately, in this case] still-unused litterbox), propped myself on one elbow, and reached the other arm into the large cage for some serious cat-skritching and stroking.  Ted gobbled it up, purred, wallowed, reveled.  Then I withdrew, cautiously – between the iffy back and the imminence of bashing tender body parts on cage wire, speed is not an option – and gave him a couple of catnip mice.  He’s having a blast with them.
Still sucks for both of us, but I think he’ll be okay.  Time will tell.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ted's in the slammer -- and it's a life sentence

Yes, unfortunately, Ted is now caged, and will have to stay caged for the foreseeable future, perhaps for the remainder of his life.

It’s that or put him down because he’s urinating all over the house. Territory marking, no doubt; stress at multiple males, perhaps; maybe simply the grumpiness of advancing age (he’s in his midteens). I never caught him at it, but I suspected him of house-pissing after Ed and Fred’s deaths. The episodes ended after a couple of weeks in each case; perhaps he thought he’d sufficiently marked his territory for the new world order?

Now, with Tomba’s departure and the arrival of Stan and Ollie, the house-marking has not only returned, it’s ratcheted way up. He’s hit my office especially hard, and I’ve actually caught him twice doing it behind my back – literally behind my back; I was working at my desk, heard THAT noise, smelled THAT smell, and turned to see him scram as I screeched. I’ve thrown out ruined stuff, scrubbed and pet-deodorizer-sprayed all the blasted surfaces I found by crawling about the room in the dark with a blacklight, have a steam rug cleaner with special pet-odor agent on order – and I just can’t trust him; within a day of the big all-but-steaming cleanup I caught him backing up to the wastebasket for another hit. He’s sprayed in the living room too; I suspect the upstairs bathroom (sniff – whiff?) but can’t find the exact place; who knows where else he’s gone I haven’t found yet, where he’d go next if I did nothing?

You ask, what about giving Stan and Ollie back to the shelter? And I reply, what if that doesn’t solve the problem? Once they begin this sort of pissing, they rarely reform. I could try kitty Wellbutrin, but (a) it didn’t do much for Tomba, and (b) Ted is a bear to pill. My office, to be blunt, intermittently stinks, and we’re not even into warm humid weather yet. I can’t work around, I can’t live with the stench and the constant vigilant mistrust of leaving Ted free to roam and piddle where he will.

Ted’s too old and too wary of strangers to try to rehome, even assuming anyone would want to adopt a known pisser. So it’s prison or death, alas, and I – judge, jury, executioner – have chosen the slammer for him.

I already had a small cage, the one I’ve used for housing cats on medical hiatus from freedom. After lying awake last night for hours pondering what to do, I went out today and bought a larger cage, the standard sort of large-dog-sized folding wire crate, and have tied the two cages together. Voila: Ted’s new prison. The white object above Ted is a rolled towel tied into place to block the gap between the larger and smaller cage openings.



On order is a six-foot-high, three-perch cat cage which I will tie into the other two cages. Since that has a door at all three levels, when it arrives and gets added to the current set-up I’m hoping to tie into the second-level door yet another crate I bought today, a cloth-sided dog den with a plush (removable) floor that I’ll put on top of whatever crate ties into the tower.

Oops! I might have to buy still another large wire crate to substitute for the one currently in use, because that one, what I was able to get on short notice today once I’d made up my mind, only has one door. (This crate, for example, has three doors, all removable, which would make tying cages together much easier, but I didn’t want to wait for the shipment to arrive to take action.) Would’ve been cheaper to euthanize Ted, eh? And no giant cage complex cluttering the living room!

But I just couldn’t do it. Maybe it’s selfish of me; maybe he’ll be so miserable caged that it would be kinder to call it quits. He’s already lived a good long happy life. But he’s handling the caging pretty well so far; complaining, yes, but after the first few minutes of looking for escape he seems to have settled down, and he’s eating, so he can’t be too freaked out.

So there it is: Ted’s a prisoner and I’m his warden. What a life.