Sunday, January 7, 2018

Benjamin's Passing: After a Long Life


Great big beautiful Benjamin


  Daniel's beloved golden retriever, Benjamin, died early this morning.  Benjamin was adopted through an agency in Fredericksburg, back in 2006, when he was just under two years old and kept wandering from the small yard of a suburban home there.  This means that in 2018, Benjamin would have been almost an unheard of fourteen years old for a large breed ! Benjamin was also a little larger than the breed standard.   He enjoyed an excellent life here and was loved very much.  He received extra love and care after his "boy died".   Daniel would have wanted Benjamin, especially, who had a puppy temperament and would mouthe everything, to have received extra loving care.
                     Benjamin was quite healthy up to about this week.  We knew that the extreme cold outside placed him at risk, and so he was coming in from the kennel to the basement at night. We knew last night that something was a little off.  He was very tired and wanted to sleep rather than play. Very late last night we noticed Cheyne-Stokes respirations, and I sat with him for a couple of hours. He was peacefully sleeping by four am, and I slept a couple of hours then myself. I arose at five am, to find a newly deceased and still warm dog.  Gosh, even at fourteen plus years old, he was still a gorgeous dog.  He will be buried here on the farm, the day after tomorrow.

             Benjamin was always playful, and had a ton of toys all through his life. We always theorized  that his breeder had parted him from his mother early.

                      Thank you for trusting us and coming home with me that day, Benjamin.  I wouldn't have missed having you here for the world. I know Daniel and Dad will look after you, until we see each other again.  I love you, Buddy.

This is an earlier post that discusses the adoption of Benjamin:

  You will be missed, you great big cuddly Benjaminal hunk of dog....

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Please See: Safety in Secluded Areas

       This week the world lost a young woman who was a helper in animal rescue. She loved both dogs and horses.

 Please read my article on my other blog:

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Proper Planning for the Animals on Our Farms


        Recently, in a rural county not too far from our own, a woman, nearly eighty, fractured a hip and was admitted to the hospital for a repair of that hip. A major fracture at eighty is often repaired by an adept orthopedist, but many persons approaching such an age, die from the hazards of immobility, stroke, reactions to anesthesia, etc.   She instructed her children to care for her animals on her forty acre farm, in her absence. Unfortunately, it was a bit more challenging than they had signed on for.
              This week, animal control officers in hazmat suits removed 560 animals from her farm to a central location within the county in order to properly care for them. There is also a call out to citizens for a variety of animal supplies for them.  Some of the animals at the farm were being housed in overcrowded conditions and had died in advance of the animal control officers arrival to the site.    Things of this description happen enough all over the country and probably in the world, often enough that we should discuss it.

             Although there are people who are simply "pound junkies", and who repeated acquire more animals than they have the time or funds to care for, this is not always the case.   Many times, people raise animals, and then other animals in their area find them, and wish to stay. Sometimes, hunters drop off old dogs at such a place.  Sometimes others dump unwanted kittens there. It is often not a case of the person choosing to acquire all of the animals they might have.
             There is also another issue in play. I have lived in a rural place since my thirties. I have had a number of animals since then.  As I age though, I may not be able to handle the amount of animals I have had when I was younger.  We must all begin to develop realistic ideas about the number and type of animals we can consistently care for ourselves.  We must also have emergency plans for their care should we be temporarily or even permanently called away from those tasks.

            For the sake of avoiding more cases of this type, I wanted to list some suggestions and things we should talk about with the objective of avoiding similar situations.

1. When we are young, we probably can own and care for the largest number of multi-species animals. Many people care for cats, dogs, chickens, ducks and horses.  However, as we begin to age, we may not be able to keep up with immunizations, proper  bathing, grooming, worming,  exercise, maintaining animal structures, and activating an evacuation plan for them in emergencies.  Therefore, we should consider, as the animals gradually die, as they reach old age, not replacing that particular species.  Already, I no longer seek puppies, choosing instead to accept a mature dog that I, most likely, will outlive.

2.  As we age, we should also be careful to select animals whose species do not require large amounts of work.  Alpacas are lovely animals, but in a lot of climates, they require monthly injections in order to avoid meningeal worm which can be fatal. They also require regular nail trimming, and they must be sheared annually.  This may be easily possible for us at 36, but perhaps not quite so easy for us at 65.

3.  With a normal horse lifespan being 25-30 years, middle aged adults can still own them. It would probably be best to acquire adult horses, again so that they do not outlive you.   Miniature horses can live as long as 35 years, and with excellent care possibly longer.  Therefore a woman of 70 probably shouldn't buy a herd of miniature horses. who still need grooming, worming, immunization and farrier care.

4. Since anyone can break a leg, require an appendectomy, or fracture ribs in a car accident, we all need to have emergency plans for animal care.  If you were injured and could not care for your animals for two weeks, who would care for them ?  Two of my horses were sold to me when two different owners required cancer treatment and were no longer able to care for their horses.    If there a notebook already in existence with each species care typed out, with amounts of food indicated ?   There should be. Your approximate routine with your animals should also be indicated in such a notebook.

5. While you are addressing emergency care for your animals, you should also establish a notebook with plans for emergency evacuation of your animals from your farm.  Anyone can need to evacuate their animals.  Flooding can occur in many places, and we could need to evacuate animals where I am simply due to forest fires.

6. Speak with your rural vet about where your animals could go in emergencies and who could care for them. Once you find cooperative arrangements with others, in emergencies, you should be prepared to perform the same talk for others.   Networking with other farmers or with wildlife rehabilitators may also have other positive aspects.  I received a number of veterinary handbooks, and farm animal equipment recently from someone who sold their farm. They only knew me because I had agreed to be a temporary home for their horses should a flood or fire emergency trigger their emergency relocation.

7.  Speak with your family members as to who will acquire and care for your animals after your own death. This is not a pleasant subject, but its discussion is essential.  Your animals deserve something better than starvation, or a quick trip to the pound. This issue also underscores the importance of not acquiring too many animals.

8. If you have elderly parents, then have a conversation with them as to whether they have chosen anyone to care for their animals when they are gone.

     It is not my intention to tell anyone when they have aged beyond owning an animal.   It is my intention, however, to call your attention to the idea that once your animals live out their lifespans and pass, that species with long lives should probably not be reacquired.  It is also my intention to help those who are the recipient of large numbers of strays to realize that they, in tandem with other animal rescuers and local animal authorities, need to find homes beyond your property for them.

        I am not yet old, yet I am down to only eight farm dogs of different types for different purposes, three cats (including barn cats and strays), seven guinea fowl, twelve chickens, four ducks, three alpacas, four horses, and two sheep.    At one time, when our children were teens, there were far more animals here on this large farm.   Now there are fewer and many of them are not only elderly, but they have lived past what is a normal expected lifespan for their species.  Within a couple of years, through simple attritian, there will be far fewer.  The challenge then will be not to replace very many of them.

         This is an unpleasant subject because it requires that we, the "owners" of our animals recognize that we also have finite lifespans, and that some of our animals may outlive us.  Still, our animals deserve such plans being made for them.


Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Remembering Bagel and Moppet

This isn't Bagel, but this picture reminds me of him when he was a puppy.

   This post first appeared on one of my other blogs:

         If I Were to be Honest

  In the late nineteen-seventies, right after I got my driver's license, my first official duty while driving alone was to stop at the post office in the next town. While I was there, a man with a shotgun in the back of his truck was giving away free puppies. He had only two left and he said he would shoot them at nightfall, if he were unable to find them homes. I took the male, and another man in the parking lot took the female.

                  My mother was not happy. She didn't think that anyone would shoot a puppy simply because it hadn't found a home. I was commuting to community college at the time, having graduated from high school early and the last thing she needed with another Northeastern winter coming, was a puppy. No matter how much I insisted that I would take care of it, she knew that at least sometimes, she would be called upon to do something with it, and she wasn't a dog person.
                 I did my best to take care of  the puppy. A year later, I was being sent fifty and eighty miles away to various clinicals in a nursing program, and my mother, and sometimes, my father, pinch hit for me with the puppy, who was now quite tall, and that I had named Bagel.   Bagel was light brown with medium length hair, and white markings. He was a hound with a beagly looking head, a mix I'm sure. He was kind, gentle, and an "all over you" kind of dog.
                  For the most part, Bagel was an "easy keeper".   He was a loving friend and didn't cause much trouble, except for the time he jumped through the plate glass window when the neighbor's dog was in heat.  I took Bagel to be neutered afterward during spring break.  My poor mother was actually charged with having the dog off her five acre lot, thanks to the rather nasty neighbor who had the dog in heat, and my mother paid the small fine.

                   By 1981, I had married and I was working as a registered nurse, and I lived in a garden apartment about forty miles from my parent's home.  I wished I could have Bagel, and our other dog, Moppet, with me, but the place I lived only allowed one tiny dog, or cat, and neither were small.  I visited when I could, and made sure they both knew they were were loved.  By about 1982, we had bought our very first home.  It was in a rural area, on a mountain. The house itself was small, but I could have my dogs there. At first, my mother didn't want me to take the dogs with me, citing that occasional barking probably kept the house safer than not having them there.  Eventually though, I visited both dogs one summer day and found that they were both without water for a second time. I took them with me that afternoon.

                  My starter home had been a seasonal cabin in the Ramapo Mountain Range near a couple of lakes. There were lots of copperhead snakes in the woods, and in the prior summer someone had killed a rattlesnake. However, my own property was small.  The dogs didn't have the range they'd had at my parents home. I was really happy to have them both with me, but I also worked a lot and so I felt that I wished that I could have been at home more for them.

                  The following spring when I got my income tax return, we decided to fence our entire property so that when I was home, the dogs could be free, at least on the property. I hired two young contractors who had their own fencing business. Bagel especially, warmed to the young owner. One day, he brought both dogs, eggs, bacon and sausage in a dish.  The young contractor played with Bagel and said to him a couple of times, "I would love to have a dog like you on my forty acre farm."  On the last day the contractors were there finishing up my beautiful fencing, the owner asked me if I would consider giving Bagel to him. He said that would always care for him and would feed him excellent food.  He would allow him full run of the forty acres he had, which was apparently not far off Route 80 in what was then, very rural Hope, New Jersey. He also said that when the weather was good, he planned to take the dog with him to work. He told me that I could call to see how he was doing and perhaps even visit him if I wanted to. The man clearly loved the dog and the dog certainly adored him.  I felt foolish because here I was, fencing my yard for my dogs, and I was agreeing to give my dog to a man in a situation that would have been better for him.   My other dog was elderly, and would probably enjoy being an only dog, who could come in to the house more than she had been.  So the following day the man came with a new collar, leash, expensive dog food, to see me and to make sure I was alright with his collecting Bagel.  I wished the dog good luck, and hugged him. I told the man that if ever he had a problem, to bring the dog back to me.
                 I was sad after Bagel left, but I wanted him to have everything and I thought that the man he's grown attached to, could do that. My other dog was enjoying the attention.
                 On a Saturday two weeks later, the fencing contractor drove up to my house. He told me that Bagel had spent every day since trying to find a way to get back to me. A couple of days earlier, the contractor had actually located the dog on Route 80 heading East to try to get back to my home.  He said he knew then that the dog would be hit by a car if he kept him and so, he had to return him to me.  He let Bagel keep the new collar, leash and the bag of new food.  Bagel was thrilled to see me, and licked me profusely. Then, he licked the man, who had tears in his eyes, as if to thank him for returning him.

                  I had not understood how attached Bagel had been to me. I felt guilty that I had thought that a better living situation would please him more than the love I had given him from puppyhood. I would not make the same mistake again.  Even Moppet was happy to see Bagel.
                  Over the next couple of years we had two babies in that house, a boy and a girl.  We had an addition put on the house, but ultimately, we moved to a home in Virginia. I still remember driving the family car down to Virginia with both babies in car seats while my husband drove the largest rented yellow Ryder truck. Everything we owned was in the back of the truck, and the two dogs rode in the cab with him, because it was well air conditioned.

                   We fenced and built a kennel at our new home for both Bagel and Moppet and the two of them lived until both our babies were school children.  Moppet died suddenly as a very old girl indeed. In old age,  Bagel had a couple of strokes, and made near full recoveries. Eventually, he had one more, and I brought him with me to pick up the kids from school and then to see the vet. He lay on the front seat with his head on my lap, contentedly, took one more breath, and died.

                  The next time someone on Craigslist or somewhere else says their circumstances have changed and that "their dog might be happier with someone with more time and a larger yard", please remember Bagel. He spent two weeks each day trying to get back to the original human being who'd rescued him as a six week old puppy. He didn't care where I lived or how much of my time was taken by a job or then by young babies. He didn't care that my house on a mountaintop had only a quarter acre.  He didn't care that we'd moved from rural New Jersey to blisteringly hot Virginia. He cared that he was with his human.  It is very likely that your dog feels exactly the same about you.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

I Don't Think I Care that the Foxes Need to Eat

These are three of the group of eight guinea fowl.

                 Life on a farm can be challenging sometimes, if just because it places us up against some stark realities. For example, I work hard to make sure that all the animals here are protected and are either safely caged or indoors in an outbuilding before dark. This alone can be very challenging sometimes, and in all weathers.
                     We have enjoyed our cadre of eight guinea fowl that I have raised from guinea keets. We have been lucky that these eight have had the opportunity to grow up and gain some skills before being challenged by snakes and some small animals. The guineas keep the tick population down, and will take on copperhead snakes, in a dance, quite frankly, too horrible to watch (for the snake, that is.)

                     At the end of each day, all eight of the guineas, the white and the pearly ones, return to their enclosure which has a tarpaulin top. They stay on the perch until daylight, and appear to sleep. Once in awhile, one of the female birds decides to sit on some eggs somewhere, and then we have only seven of them on the perch.  This of course is worrisome, and I will try to find them and return them to their enclosure before dark.  Sometimes, where they are nesting is not found. Last evening, this was the case.

                   This morning, there are piles of white feathers about every four feet from a fenced enclosure where we keep alpacas, where my errant white guinea was apparently nesting on quite the pile of eggs.  I followed it, from the nest, into the woods, and then had my husband meet me there with a machete.  Although there were plenty of white feathers, there was never any blood. Could she have been grabbed by a younger less experienced fox and have ultimately flown away and escaped ? I continued to search thinking that if I found her blood and the den of the fox, I could shoot multiple times into the den and save the rest of my guineas from being a repeated dinner for these animals.

                   I looked because if she had escaped she might need veterinary care, perhaps even gatorade, but she has been nowhere to be found. No particular evidence exists that a particular den of foxes has done this, although I know from the sounds, that parents have been training a new group of cubs to hunt.

                   I know that foxes need to eat too, but I expect them to find small animals and leave the animals I have nurtured on this farm alone.  I know in winter, this gets much harder.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

We Will Be Missing Maxine

No pictures were ever taken of Maxine, but this is probably what she looked like when she was younger.

                 When unscrupulous hunters find they have dogs who have aged out of usefulness, or are ill, or aren't great hunters, they drive them out to the country, remove their collars, and abandon them. A friend of ours who lives nearby has witnessed this more than once.  Two of them found their way here to the farm this year.  Some years, we return fifty hunting dogs to those who tag or microchip them. Very occasionally, when we are unable to find the former owner of a dog after advertising the picture, we keep them. This has happened about four times in twenty years. Two of them came to us within the past year.
             One of these dogs we named Maxine.  Our son James spied her one evening this Winter on our property, terribly thin, cold and hungry. We had tried to catch her before, but she had been leery of human beings. James placed her in the isolation kennel room and visited her often.  We can't adopt too many of these abandoned dogs because we have our own dogs and as they age, their veterinary expenses can be quite expensive.  A new elderly dog can be quite an expense. Since we have no proof of their rabies status, we will need to get them a rabies shot, and in one year, it must be repeated. It will be every three years thereafter. Although I do all the shots on the farm, rabies shots on dogs and cats in our state must be done by a veterinarian. They also will need a heartworm test and then heartworm preventive. A starving dog can't be given large amounts of food initially. They have to be carefully fed, often with a more expensive product until their stomachs can tolerate food, and then over time, they may be able to be advanced to a more typical food. When she is well enough, they receive an annual distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parainfluenza, parvovirus and coronavirus vaccine.  Maxine was an extremely elderly hound. Every one of her teeth was broken or in poor condition. The vet thought she was extremely old and that she probably had been abandoned after the last hunting season. She had also never been spayed.  No one claimed her.
            We decided that we would take care of Maxine, and that she could live the rest of her days here with us on the farm. She was particularly fond of the other hunting dog here.  At first we started with a chicken and rice dog food which she loved. Over time, she was advanced to a grain free dry food which had small pieces. We also added a wet food to it.  It didn't take long before she adored us. The elderly dog would jump like a puppy !  Despite the fact that the vet thought she was living on borrowed time, and likely had some organ damage from protracted starvation, I genuinely thought she had about the better part of a year. She had been through so much, and now finally had a family who loved her, and a group of dogs where she belonged.
            Several days ago, Maxine seemed quiet. She didn't eat as well as she did normally. She was drinking well and urinating quite a bit. She is a very old dog, I told myself. This afternoon, she had a seizure, and then lay quietly in her kennel room. Our other dogs were quite upset.
             At five, when I checked her again, she began another grand mal seizure. I wondered why I always lost dogs on a weekend.  I surmised that she was in renal failure, and that her fluid and electrolyte imbalance was the cause of her seizures. I hoped this wouldn't go on long.  We stayed with her, stroking her and speaking to her softly in between seizures. We were careful to avoid being accidentally bitten.  Then I began to cry, and I put my hands together,

                            Heavenly Father,
                          Thank you for bringing this sweet animal to us.
                          I am sorry that more of her life was not spent here with us.
                          Lord, please don't let her suffer like this.
                          She has lived a long life and she deserves to go Home, quickly and safely.
                          Lord, you know I can euthanize her if I have to, but I don't want to do that.
                          (I was referring to the fact that even loving farmers will end a beloved animals    suffering with a bullet if need be, and I would have, had this gone on too long.)
                            Please call her Home Lord. I know that we will see her again.
                            In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

       My husband said Amen.

                And then, Maxine took one last breath, let it out, and died.

 I looked at my husband and said,  "That's the fastest that the Lord has ever answered any one of my prayers."      Then we both cried.

                  Maxine's body has been wrapped and will be buried on the farm tomorrow.

  Her soul soars back to the loving God who made her and shared her with us, and who called her home, just after five in the afternoon today.

Monday, January 9, 2017

A Rooster Goes Home

One of these birds is Chuck as a hatchling.

  You might recall that we hatched the fertilized eggs from our Rhode Island Red rooster, Ross, and the three Bantam hens we bought.  Ross is the same rooster that Daniel bought two days before his passing, and so Ross and his offspring will always be important to us. Normally there is a hatch rate of a percentage of fertilized eggs, but we were strangely lucky on our first attempt. The wet sponge in the incubator is a wonderful trick and I think it maximized the hatch rate. All the eggs we determined to have been fertilized hatched in the incubator. We had a hundred percent hatch rate !

        Since we had quite a few hens and roosters, we gave some of them to friends as they grew, but many of them remained here on the farm, including roosters.   Sometimes, animals who have known each other from hatchlings will cooperate with one another even though they are each roosters. Other times, some must be housed completely separately from others.

         Chuck was one of the roosters from this large legacy of Ross the Rooster.  Chuck is a beautiful looking rooster. He was of nice size, and had abundant red feathers with a spray of darker green ones at the tail. Some of the other roosters picked on him, and so he spent some time in a cage within the corner of the barn with other animals. Since he had a view of a beautiful hen, he seemed contented.  Each time we placed Chuck in outdoor housing, he seemed to become ill. He didn't move or eat well and he seemed to tolerate extremes in temperature and weather poorly. This was interesting because his siblings, except for one or two of the original hundred, did not.  Several times, Chuck made the journey to accomodations outside in Spring, but tolerated weather changes poorly.  Eventually, we found him a large cage designed for many more animals, and he lived in it in the corner of the barn. He watched the other animals and listened to the radio for most of the day.

          This year, Chuck would have been eight years old. He was living in the barn and had his cage cleaned daily. We would take him out to move around in the sunlight every so often. About a month ago, I noticed that Chuck had a normal wattle, but that his comb was not the crimson it should be. It looked paler somehow. I remembered that one of Chuck's brothers has a heart defect and that I had read a heart problem can cause pallor in the comb.  I decided to treat him with an antibiotic in the event that he had an underlying pneumonia. The color did not change, but afterward he seemed well.

           The last few days have been exceedingly cold here.  The outdoor chickens who has houses within fenced enclosures, seem fine. The guineas also are dealing with the cold and wind. The ducks, who are exceedingly old, and were bought when Daniel was a small boy, are spending extra time in their house, but they too are fine.  I noticed that Chuck was spending more time than usual curled up. He seemed okay, and after all, he was in a warmer spot than the others.  I did not bring out the Delonghi heater or lights because he seemed to be weathering the cold, but I kept a close eye on him.

           Today when I checked him, he seemed okay, but by this afternoon, his posture did not seem right. I took a closer look at him and he seemed to be in a torpor.  He's too cold, I thought.  I placed the Delonghi on a low setting near him.  I also gave him an antibiotic injection, and he barely noticed.  He looked healthy and beautiful other than the pale comb.

             I checked Chuck thirty minutes later and he responded as if to thank me. I stroked him and told him he was a good rooster, and that I hoped he felt better.  A half an hour later, I checked him and he was peacefully lying on his side and had passed.

             I wonder if Chuck has a similar cardiac defect to his brother who also passed?  Almost eight years is a long lifespan for a rooster with a birth defect.   Still, I will miss this bird.  I often get very close to the ones who have difficulties that require my assistance.   Goodbye Chuck.  Thanks for coming.  May you find your family in Heaven and may Daniel look out for you there, in the farm in the sky.

              Chuck was buried this weekend  overlooking both one of the hen houses, and a beautiful forest.