Reflections on Life

My Colorado Rockies beckon me  to share the glory of a summer on the ranch.

My Colorado Rockies beckon me to share the glory of a summer on the ranch.

Pretty impressive title, eh?  (I am practicing this for Lauren’s best friend who will join us from Canada soon.) It won’t be that serious. I have just been in the mood (a little melancholy) and been reflecting on life.  I am nearing my birthday.  It is not a big birthday (like a 50th or 60th) just an in-between birthday, but I think it still makes me stop and consider my past and my future.

What are the things I know for sure?  What are the things I still want to do?  Well, here is my list:

I know that family tops all.  While marriage was not a big success for me, my three wonderful daughters are- so nothing unsuccessful about that! My mother and all the rest of my extended family, make my life worth living.

I know I want to share more with my family of the things that meant so much to me when I was growing up.  My father was with United Airlines, so we traveled a lot.  It has been my dream for so many years to get back to Hawaii and share the islands with my girls.  We will get there together this summer.

The ranch in Colorado still beacons and maybe one day, the whole family can get away to my favorite mountains, ride horses down the trails I rode as a kid and see what life on a ranch is all about.  It is on my list.

I want to breed a mare to chosen stallion and see that baby foal be born on my property.  Lauren is not interested in this plan so  I don’t know if it will come to pass, but it has always been a dream of mine.

I want to go to Ireland.  My friend Kathy and I talked of taking our daughters and doing the horse back riding tour from one castle to the next.  Maybe I am too old and broken to make that one come true but I have not totally given up on it.

I want to see my children follow their dreams.  I hope they get the education opportunities that I did and chase what makes them happy.

And I can’t wait to see how these grandchildren continue to grow and bloom.  Each one is a unique individual.  I pray I am around long enough to see them grow up.

My friends, from so many different backgrounds, ages, life styles and worlds, support my soul and I am thankful.

Finally, I would say I am grateful for the opportunity to have my little farm, my horses, dogs and cats.  I am grateful Lauren has chosen to stay with me for a few years and build on to our little kingdom.

Bucket list, dreams of the future, thoughts to carry you through a long drive home, whatever you call them, these are mine.

p.s. Now I have a super intent black poodle interrupting me every ten seconds while I write so I can throw his ball…again.  Another one of those dreams coming true.

Jim Finally Makes it Home

Home at last!

Home at last!

After almost a month, my 95 year-old step-father, Jim, made it back home to his place in Arizona. In a fall that might have toppled a younger, stronger man, Jim has overcome surgery to stop a bleed to his brain, subsequent days in ICU and a long road of rehab.

He has been blessed by visits from so much of his family including Janey Boo, Siobhan, Bridget, Tanner, Hannah and great-grandson Victor. Jay has been there every step of the way.  We are all hoping that Jim continues to improve and gets back to all the things he enjoys!

Jim with his favorite 'Blue Moon' beer.

Jim with his favorite ‘Blue Moon’ beer.

The Snow descends (but not here)

Seven month old Irish Wolfhound puppy Nellie, thought the snow was great!

Seven month old Irish Wolfhound puppy Nellie, thought the snow was great!

As many of you can attest from Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Missouri the snow has cometh!  My daughter Amber lives with her family outside Denver which had several days of blizzard conditions, including snow, wind and treacherous driving. But the one who was not at all daunted by the miserable conditions was puppy Nellie.  Amber got bundled up to go out with three year-old son Riley and the dog.  Riley got outside and instantly decided it was “too windy” and wanted to go back in. I think Nellie would have been content to stay and play for quite awhile.

Nellie is the second Irish Wolfhound for Amber’s family.  Their first Wolfhound, Miller, tragically died this summer.  He is shown below his first winter in the Colorado snow with Ryan, Amber’s husband.  I am not sure what’s bigger-the snow drift or Miller.

Miller and Ryan enjoying the snow.

Miller and Ryan enjoying the snow.

I am just glad everyone was safe and warm.  I wish my Kona could have gone to play in the snow with cousin Nellie.  What a time they would have had!

Typically this is a lovely view of the front range of the mountains.  Now, just snow!

Typically this is a lovely view of the front range of the mountains. Now, just snow!

Weekend Wrap-up

Feather is perfect (to my eye anyway) over this jump.

Feather is perfect (to my eye anyway) over this jump.

We had the first horse show of the year at Pine Hill-which is known for its Eventing venue.  Many of Feather’s Flagmount relatives have soared over the cross-country courses and jumped well in the rings.  We were here to do the hunters-which is judged on style, conformation and correctness.  It is subjective, the judge picks who they like best according to class criteria. Lauren has been in the jumper ring (speed wins!) for several seasons now except for Feather’s two shows last fall so it was a big change for us.

We got there Friday with Kona in tow, and Feather was pretty quiet.  By arriving on Friday we had a day to school her in the ring and let her settle in before actually “showing” on Saturday.  We had never taken her to any outside ring to show in and this would be a test of sorts, to see how well she could handle the stress and strain of new people, places and issues.  She settled in well.  Lauren was jumping a little defensively-waiting for the hot mare to jump out from under her.    At one point, Dev told Lauren, you are doing five things and they are all wrong!  Once Lauren relaxed and trusted Feather everything was fine.  The hot mare never showed up, just a quiet, easy to ride mature mare.  Schooling was over-the show would start Saturday.

Back in Wharton, we went to the Milam Street Coffee House to hear the Davang family of Lauren, Chelsea and Jeff sing.  I have known these friends for many years.  I had no idea they were so talented.  Lauren (Davang) and her sister, Chelsea, both gave several solos with material from country to jazz.  It was great! So many times, I have opportunities to go places and just don’t try to get out to do new things.

Saturday dawned cold and clear.  Kona was outfitted in Kena, the Doberman’s, zebra jacket.  At one point little Abby volunteered her pink hat and Kona was adorable!  Kona did very well never creating a problem or barking at other dogs or horses.  I think I finally have a horse show dog!  He slept in the back seat of the truck quietly there and back (and no throwing up like Kena always does).

Oh, Kona!

Oh, Kona!

Lauren and Feather had solid trips over fences.  Each time they got a little better and more relaxed.  I cannot express the progress they have made from last fall.  Their lines are more fluid and jumping is more consistent.  We are still chasing a blue ribbon but ended up with two-thirds and two-fourths.  I think their flat round was really great.

We had a tired mare as we went to load her in the trailer to head home.  She did not even think about refusing to load.  I think she was thinking instead of her friend Mickey and laying down in her own stall without all those noisy show horses.

We learned our pony Mimi was at a barn our friend Holly also trained at.  She had seen the other trainers working with Mimi. Holly told us the little pony was doing fine.  We haven’t heard a word from the people who are trying her out so it was good to know she is doing well.

Jim continues to get better and should be going home from the hospital soon.  He has had a lot of company with many members of his family making the trip to Arizona to see him.  Of course, for much of the country this week, a trip to Tucson for any reason would be a great idea.

This is Jim with his grandson Tanner Foust whom some of you might know from the TV show "Top Gear".

This is Jim with his grandson Tanner Foust whom some of you might know from the TV show “Top Gear”.

Yesterday, Lauren and I stripped stalls, hauled out many wheel barrow loads of manure and then brought in a couple hundred of pounds of shavings to re-do each stall.   Personally, I need another day off to catch up from my weekend!

Kona Settles In

i swear he is smiling.

I swear he is smiling.

I got Kona home Monday night after over hundred long miles of contemplation of how it was going to go when we finally got home.  I was nervous, apprehensive, excited and having more than little buyer’s regret.

When we  got home, Lauren was off caring for a friend’s horses and was not there to greet us.  First, I had to get my dogs out of the house and get Kona in, without having a huge dog fight erupt.  I did not know if it would or not, but I have had dogs in huge fights before and the outcome is often swift, brutal and bloody.  The two dogs most apt to start the fight were the two rescue dogs, Muffy (the black and white spaniel mix found near frozen in the corn field) and Browndog, ( a brown lab and Australian Shepherd mix) whom Jordyn spotted behind our arena the year of the great drought, horrendously thin and needing a home.  These two dogs came from hard times, are more nervous and can become nippy if crossed.

I managed to get the dogs all fed (all outside at their usual stations) except PuppyGirl and Kona whom I separated indoors until I would know how the dogs would get along.  Kona had come with his own high dollar dog food made from Salmon and including blue berries (anti-oxidents, you know).  When Lauren opened the bag she said it smelled like a million dead fish.  But Kona loved it and ate it hungerly.  Introducing dogs is hard enough but you do not add the element of food. 

Then, on the leash, Kona and I went off to investigate the horses for the first time.  We got just outside the gate, when Kona realized something was a miss.  He got wind of the horses and the horses got wind of him.  He immediately started barking in a deep resounding bark while braced against his front legs in case he needed to whirl and run.  Mickey and Feather did not smell or see “dog”.  What they saw resembled an ape or a bizarre hedge hog and what they smelled was a floral scent from the grooming powder and shampoo.  Feather raced to the back of her stall.  Mickey stood his ground at the front of his but was puffing and blowing at the weird animal in front of him.  In my head, I thought, oh boy, isn’t this gonna be a great horse show dog!

But each time I went back out to water and then to hay, Kona came along.  By the third trip he was quiet, relaxed and looking for some horse poop to eat.  Good progress!

Inside the house, things were going a little slower.  Kona was not a threat to anyone, but he was acting like the exuberant puppy that he is, jumping, posturing and giving happy barks to invite the other dogs to play.  By bedtime, he, Muffy, Lula and PG were tolerating each other.  I finally laid down to read on my bed with the three existing dogs on the bed with me.  I had quickly learned that Kona had been taught not to get on the furniture and it seemed like a good rule to keep enforcing.  I put Kona in his big kennel and we all settled in.

I turned of the lights.  Kona started barking.  His barking engaged the dogs in Lauren’s room and it got pretty rowdy.  I yelled at him. Still barking.  Turned the light back on.  He goes quiet. I have no idea where his kennel was before (in a garage, a cave, in the pool house) but in my bedroom it was going to be a problem if I could not have the lights out and quiet.  I turned the light out again.  The barking started in full force.  I was tired, stressed and scared I had bought the hound from hell.

I put my ear plugs in (used last time to block out the giant cat mating under my house session), turned on a fan and eventually he quieted down and slept.

My goal for the next day was by day’s end to have all the dogs out together in the fenced back yard. It seemed like it was not going to be easy.

Meanwhile, Lauren saddled up Feather.  Kona and I headed to the arena behind them to see how a horse moving was going to effect him.  We have a horse show this weekend and Kona cannot go and bark at all the horses.


Keeping an eye on Feather but not offering to charge or chase her.

Keeping an eye on Feather but not offering to charge or chase her. He has ball in his mouth.

By the end of the evening, we were going to barn without incident and the backyard full on new sisters was going okay as well.  The best part of ending day 1 of Kona’s first day on the farm?  I put him in his kennel, turned out the lights and we quietly went to sleep.

Bruno’s big screen TV-a Bruno Story

101_2775Okay, don’t worry, we did not go over the edge and install a big screen TV for the horse on infinite stall rest (we might if we thought it would cure his boredom and not be broken to bits) but just want to discuss his perspective on life from his stall.

I think it is a great deal like a real life, albeit  circa 1970, television screen that Bruno sees each day from his stall.  He has about 90 degrees of vision from his stall as he has a wall on his left side and one to his back, but he has pretty unlimited vision to front and right side.  Bruno has very few channels to choose from, thus, the circa 1970.  Primarily he watches the “Highway Channel” where hour after hour, day after day, an assortment of vehicles from bicycles (quite frightening) to semi-trucks and tractors rumble by maybe 300 yards in front of his stall.  For added excitement, an occasional horse or cattle trailer rolls by and some even pull into the yard in front of him.  In addition to the “Highway Channel”, he gets the “Mr. Kid Show”-described as the often boring but predictable life of an elderly ex-barrel horse.

Additional channels, with limited availability include “The Man Mowing” channel, the “Cows Across the Road are Moving” channel (another frightening channel), the “What is our Crazy Neighbor Burning, Plowing or Cutting up now” channel, the “Mickey or Feather Get Loose” channel (this does not have a sexually related theme), and finally, the “Special Events” channel.

Yesterday, on the “Special Events” channel, Bruno had a captivating and exciting look at modern-day cow herding.  For the most part the cattle pastured across the road do not do much.  Sometimes, a round bale of hay is dropped off and this causes some frantic activity.  Then a couple of times a year, the calves are culled from the herd and trucked off to another place. 


I came out to see Bruno with his head held high and eyes riveted to action in front of him.  No less than five rigs (that’s pick-up trucks with assorted trailers) were pulled into the cow pasture.  Bruno watched the whole ballet unfold from the unloading of ranch horses (already saddled and ready to go-Bruno says he has never had a saddle on in a trailer ever!),  the cutting of the cattle, the roping and the eventual loading of the babies into the trailers to be hauled away.  I don’t know about any other viewers of this special event, but Bruno gave it a 10 for great plot, terrific special effects (he had no idea a horse could dance around a calf that way), and an outstanding sound track (the horse neighing was VERY authentic-the cow mooing mournful and sad). His expression of apt attention should get viewers everywhere to want to tune-in.

It was a very exciting day for television watching and Bruno keeps checking back for more action only to see “The Cows Chewing” program has taken over that network.

Due to poor reception or some technical problem Bruno doesn’t understand, once it gets dark he seems to lose all the channels except the sleeping portion of the “Mr. Kid” show.

My Kind of Crazy

An email that stopped my heart.

An email that stopped my heart.

Those of you who have known me for a long time will understand that an email from Betty Brown would certainly give me pause.  And even though I knew it could not be from ‘her’ I still saw it as a sign.  Betty was my older sister.  Brown was my maiden name.  My sister was killed in a car accident over 30 years ago.  She never knew what a computer was or sent an email.  She was the better part of me-the better sister.

When we were growing up we would go spend summer vacations at the ranch in Granby, Colorado.  It was a working and guest ranch-still is, after all these years.  First, we were just another family that came to ride and enjoy the mountains.  Later, my dad managed the ranch awhile.  It is funny how things you learn, respect and enjoy as a kid, stay with you.  The owner of the ranch had cattle dogs of course, but she also had beautiful, intelligent standard poodles.  Before you scoff at the poodle, know it is not French at all, but bred to be a water retriever dog from Germany.  It is a working dog-I am not talking about the little toy dogs, but the 60 pound, non-shedding, rough and tumble standard poodles.  On the list of the top five most intelligent breeds, the Poodle always finds a spot. 

I have wanted to have one all my life. I am nearing my 56th birthday.  I have a menagerie of dogs, cats and horses.  Kid is my elderly quarter horse but not since I owned Wally my Doberman, have I had a dog that is mine. If I get a dog now, I will have it until I am 70 (Lord willing-about the dog and I).

I thought I would just check around and see what the market was for standard poodles.  You know, just to see.  Yeah.  So, I looked up Houston area breeders.  I really did not want a little puppy.  An older dog was great for me.  I found a breeder called Donnchada Poodles.  I sent them an email.  Then I got the email shown above from Betty Brown.  She was the the breeder and just coincidentally named the same as my sister.  There was very little that could have stopped me from proceeding at this point.  I mean, this just had to be proof that I had to have one of her dogs! Although, I couldn’t really think of anyone who would concede that this was a good idea.  They would say I already had too many dogs, cats and horses.  So, what is one more?  Then they would say, you can get one later when your dog population dwindles some.  I would say the time is now.  It is time to do something just for me.  Actually, when I started asking my friends if I was nuts, most were very kind.  I had texted Amber that I was going to do something that no one would think was a good idea but I was going to do it anyway and wanted to discuss it with her.  She thought I was cleaning out my 401K and moving to an island so the whole get a dog thing came as kind of a relief.

I went to see the poodles last week on Valentine’s Day.  I looked at two males, one white and nine months old and one black and six months old.  I just felt the six month old would ease into my home better (and stay cleaner!).  I called to Lauren on the long drive home.  She was not nice about it. But I feel she has warmed to the idea and knows there are times when you best go along with mom.  This is one of them.

I am calling him Kona-as in Kona Coffee, as in Kona black sand beaches.  I will make him my horse show dog and companion.  I am truly thrilled to have this boy sitting next to me right now. My sister would have approved.  I know, it is my kind of crazy!

Kona-before his hair cut.  Don't worry there will be lots of pictures.

Kona-before his hair cut. Don’t worry there will be lots of pictures.