country life, dogs, photography, Uncategorized

Canine Entertainment

This is how Wyokiddo and I entertained ourselves tonight.  Photographing the dogs while tossing them treats.

I set up some studio lights in our basement to take school photos of Wyokiddo.  I’d seen a funny series of images of dogs being thrown treats and decided to have some fun with it.  Wyokiddo and I giggled our way through two dogs and about two dozen shots.  These were the most entertaining!

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country life, family, photography, Uncategorized

Ziggy

Ziggy at 11 Weeks.jpgAbout three weeks ago, we expanded our family to include this little dude.  Meet Ziggy, the newest member of the Downar Bird Farm Management Team.  Ziggy is an 11-month old border collie, and was bred to be a lean, mean, herding machine.

He’s got some growing to do before he’ll be ready to hit the bird pens.  In the meantime, he is quite the snuggler and is entertaining himself finding little bits of food, paper and other detritus to eat on the floor.  I’m choosing not to take that as a condemnation of my housekeeping.

Look out roosters, there’s a new sheriff in town.  He’ll come after you just as soon as he’s caught his own tail.

-Teresa

dogs, family, Uncategorized

Heartsick

HoopsSuch a heavy heart I have this morning.  As I sit here, typing, my oldest and dearest dog is struggling out on the porch.  For the last few weeks, he’s been struggling.  He’ll alternate between good days when he begs me for treats and wants to play ball, and bad days when he limps around in obvious pain and only wants to be left alone.

The bad days have outweighed the good days here lately, and my heart can’t bear to watch him struggle anymore.  I know that our time together is coming to an end, and that I must give him one final act of kindness.  Even if it rips my heart out in the process.

This is Hoops.  He’s 13 years old, almost to the day.  I adopted him from an animal shelter in Cheyenne, and in those 13 years, he’s been a loyal, loving companion.  He has been part of my adult life for so long now, it’s hard to imagine life without him.  He was there when I was 20-something, single, and struggling with a job I disliked.  He was there when I endured a string of bad relationships and broken hearts.  He was there when my dad had a major stroke and the prognosis was uncertain.  He was there when I suffered two miscarriages and endured one hellish pregnancy.  He was always there, his fluffy head on my leg or back, the weight of him reminding me I wasn’t alone.

One night, he might have even saved my life.  A naer-do-well was running from police officers and tried to run through my backyard to affect his escape.  It might have worked, but for the yellow dog sleeping outside.  A scuffle ensued between my protective big dog and the man.  I woke up to frantic barking, flashlights shining in my bedroom window and pathetic cries from over the fence.  “The dog bit me.  The f’ing dog bit me.”

In the end, the police apprehended the man in the neighbor’s yard.  He was missing one shoe, had his pants shredded and required stitches for his calf and hand where the “f’ing dog” bit him.  I shudder to think what might have happened had Hoops not intervened.  The man might have come right through the backyard, into my bedroom and who knows…thankfully, the big yellow dog did his job that night.

Hoops has also been with me for the best times, too.  Nights with me rubbing his belly while I talked on the phone with Outdoor Guy as we planned our future life together.  Riding shotgun on Sunday mornings to get a breakfast burrito (Hoops was just in it for the bacon) followed by a trip to the dog park.  Days wandering the badlands of Washakie county, evening walks across the high desert prairie of Sublette county and afternoon romps in the water at Bump-Sullivan reservoir or Springer lake.  He has patiently endured Wyokiddo’s exuberance, Outdoor Guy’s teasing and a furry brother and sister added to the mix.

I couldn’t ask for a more loyal, loving dog.  I know there will be new dogs down the road, dogs that I will care for and love almost as much as Hoops.  Almost.  Because there will never be another curly-tailed, fuffy butt, grumbly big dog like him.  He is one-of-a-kind, both in looks and in spirit.

My heart aches at the idea of what tomorrow holds.  The goodbyes I must say and pray Hoops understands.  I don’t want to do it.  God, how I wish I could be spared the decision of euthanizing my best fur buddy.  But I love him too much, I owe him too much to be selfish.  So I will drive him to the vet and weep in his scruff as our time together comes to a close.  I will feel my heart crack wide open and the tears flow freely.

I wish there was more time.  But even that wouldn’t be enough.  A lifetime of being loved by this big-hearted, goofy dog wouldn’t be enough.  So instead, I’ll thank my lucky stars for the 13 great years I had with him, for his comfort and protection and his love.  My heart is broken now, but his presence in my life has been a gift.  And that is what I will carry with me.

Love you, big dog.  I’ll miss you oh so very much.

Teresa

Afterword:

My heart still aches today, and will for a long time.  Our house that once seemed small with three dogs underfoot is now painfully, painfully empty.

I wanted to let go of Hoops the same way I brought him into my life, just him and I.  So I drove while he rode shotgun next to me in the car, occasionally nudging my hand for more petting.  Hoops returned from getting his IV in the back and perked up considerably at the sight of me.  He even gave me one last kiss on the cheek, before settling in my lap.  His passing was as peaceful as I could make it.  In the end, it was just me and him lying on the floor together.

We’ll receive his ashes back next week.  I’ll bury them in our front yard, under the shade of the big elm tree.  It was his favorite place to lay, and that way, he can always keep an eye on me.  He took that job so seriously in life, protecting me.  Maybe, just maybe, he can keep on looking out for me and mine from the Great Beyond.  RIP Buddy.  You were loved.

dogs, Uncategorized, writing

Archie

 

ArchieYesterday was a rough day.  The last few weeks have all been rough, actually.  Our border collie, Archie, had surgery last week to remove a sarcoma, a kind of cancerous tumor, from his hock.  It didn’t go well.  The tumor was more extensive than the vet originally believed and she had to cut out much more muscle and tissue.  He came home with his entire back leg in a splint, looking considerably worse for wear.

We hoped for the best.  We loved on him, dutifully kept his bandages dry and tried to keep him comfortable.  But as the days drug on, Outdoor Guy and I could clearly see he wasn’t getting better.

Archie had always been energetic.  Or “spaztastic,” as I liked to call it.  Even at 12 years old, he was a dog of constant motion.  He had a zest for life and being on the go.  Outdoor Guy often described him, however un-poetically, as a fart on a skillet.  So we knew when he wanted only to be prone on the kitchen floor for hours on end, it wasn’t a good sign.

The vet discussed a complete amputation with Outdoor Guy.  But the last thing we wanted to do was force Archie to endure another difficult surgery and long, painful recovery time that might or might not work.  It wouldn’t be fair, we said.  So in the few quiet moments we have around here between the birds and our three year old, we decided if there was no new tissue growth or improvement to his leg yesterday, we would have him euthanized.

Outdoor Guy made the trip to the vet’s office alone.  I hoped against hope that we would be blessed with our own little miracle and he would bring Arch dog home with happy news of a leg that was finally healing.  But when I heard the pickup in the drive and saw Outdoor Guy turn into the garage instead of dropping Archie off at the house, my heart broke.  I burst into tears because I knew our sweet dog was really gone.

Ugh.  Just typing the word euthanize makes me cringe.  It’s such a cold, lonely word to describe what in this case is truly an act of kindness and mercy.  It is the best gift that Outdoor Guy could have given his best dog – an end to the pain and suffering.

I am proud of my husband for this decision, because I know he makes it from an incredibly selfless place in his soul.  I believe that when you adopt a pet or raise any kind of animal, you are making a pact with that creature.  You are giving them your word that you will provide for their needs in the best way you know how.  That you will give them love and kindness as well as meet their physical needs.  And when they no longer have a quality of life, when they must endure long-term pain, that you will give them one last act of kindness and love.  Even if it rips your heart out.

I’ve always described Archie as Outdoor Guy’s dog.  He got Archie when he was a puppy.  Archie came into my life as part of the package when Outdoor Guy and I got married.  But he’s been a part of my family for more than eight years now.  It didn’t really hit me until I hugged him goodbye and wept in his scruff that Archie was my dog, too.  And had been all along.

Oh he drove me nuts, with the incessant barking and his uncanny ability to be in my way at all times.  But he was sweet and loving and smart as a whip.  We used to joke that if he had opposable thumbs, there was no telling what the dog could accomplish.  At the very least, he would have typed his a scandalous tell-all and made millions.

I found new appreciation for Archie when me moved to the bird farm.  Border collies are working dogs, and ours was finally employed.  Outdoor Guy began taking him out to work the birds.  Archie would help herd the pheasants, some just a few weeks old, into their barns at night.  As the birds grew, Archie would help herd them from one pen to another.  My husband never had to teach him any of it.  He just knew what to do.  Hundreds of years of genetics led Archie to his moment to shine as our “bird dog.”

I loved watching him work birds, especially the chicks.  Archie would lock onto a single chick, determined not to let that individual double back past him.  Two dozen other birds could crawl under his legs and sweep past him, but Archie never failed to hold the line for that single chick.  They might have had beaks and feathers, but they were Archie’s flock and he was on the job.  After his time in the pens, Archie would come home, lap up half a bucket of water, then collapse in a heap on the cool wood floor of our kitchen.  Within minutes, he would be sound asleep, snoring, with his eyes open.

Archie was a one-man dog.  He liked me, tolerated Wyokiddo and lived under a tentative peace treaty with the other two mutts.  But he LOVED Outdoor Guy.  Archie was loyal to a fault. If he was inside the house, he was always waiting within sight of the back door for his boy to come home.  I know his loss is even harder on Outdoor Guy.  And for that, I ache even more.  Just now, Wyokiddo came and nestled in my lap and told me she missed her Archie bug.  There is a hole in our lives now that is bigger than the space on the floor where his dog bed was.

We will all miss Archie.  I will miss his sweet face and sneaky kisses.  I will miss the way the white on his nose would turn pink in the summer sun.  I will miss the shrill bark he greeted me with each morning and the silly bug-eyed face he made when he licked an ice cream bowl.  I will miss seeing him work the birds, racing around with his tongue lolling out to one side.  I will miss his weird old-man snoring at night and the efficiency and zeal with which he snuffled up even the smallest crumbs on the floor.  But most of all, I will miss seeing him scrunched on the couch next to Outdoor Guy with a look of  pure bliss and contentment on his face.

Rest easy, my black-and-white friend.  And know you were loved.

dogs, pets, photography, writing

Give me an old dog

Roxy DogThis is Roxy.  She is one of three members of our motley crew of dogs.  I tend to think of her as as my pup, because our other two dogs are both 12 years old.  But looking at this photo reminds me that she is no spring chicken.  She’s 8 this year, and if you look close she’s starting to show her age.

Our neighbor up the road has a lab puppy that comes to play at our house on occasion.  Wyokiddo is in love with the puppy, and says the puppy is her favorite dog in the whole wide world.

I understand.  Puppies are fun.  They are cute.  They have sweet faces that you just want to smooch on.  Everyone loves puppies.  But for me, there’s nothing better than a loyal old dog.  A dog that let’s my 3-year old dress her up in play jewelry or climbs up the plastic slide just because the 3-yeard old asked her to.  A dog that lays at the threshold of Outdoor Guy’s closed bedroom door because he wants to be close to his master at all times.  A dog that  knows when I am sad and offers his head for a scratch because he wants to make me feel better.  A defender.  A protector. A friend.

Our dogs have a lot of miles on them.  But I know we are all better for the journey.

“Dog ownership is like a rainbow.  Puppies are the joy at one end. And old dogs the treasure at the other.” Carolyn Alexander

Teresa

Uncategorized

Meet our “bird” dog

Border collies are working dogs.  They were bred to help with livestock, specifically sheep, and are the kind of dog that needs a job to keep them happy.  They are known for their intelligence, obedience and athleticism.  Ours is known for barking at unseen assailants and the uncanny ability to get tangled in my feet as I’m about to head down the stairs.

For the last nine years, Archie has been unemployed, because there’s really no need for a stock dog at a fish hatchery.

Since our move to the bird farm, this 12-year old bored collie has been helping my husband herd the pheasant chicks into their barns at night.  Now he’s earning his keep and he couldn’t be happier.  Today, he helped move 5,000 chicks to their big enclosure.

This is what a happy Archie dog looks like.  A  dog so tired he’s snoring with his eyes open.  Congratulations on the new job, big guy!

Teresa

Archie tired