Friday, August 30, 2013

The Story of Rosheen (Roisin)

Roisin, in her kennel

    One of the most valuable and important gifts God has chosen to provide to me in this life have been my dogs.  I have had a dog of one kind or another since I was a small child, and the only genuine criticism I have for them is that their life spans here on Earth with us, simply aren't long enough.  When I was much younger than this, I recall praying to God asking why people, who are often hostile and self centered may live to a hundred, and many dogs are lucky if they live as long as fourteen.  It took years before I believe He answered me, and when He did in a dream, He related that human beings require many years to learn all that is needed about love and loyalty, and that dogs know all that is important relatively quickly.  I have taken that to be true, and not simply a creation of my own mind in sleep.
           Now that I am half way through a century myself, and we have raised our own large family and lived on two farms, I have had an awful lot of dogs over the years.  The farm needs a number of different types of dogs for many different purposes, and we have been fond of taking many of them, often purebred varieties, from pounds and rehabilitating them.  Of course, the pedigreed varieties often  lack the mongrel resilience of others, and I have often wound up with an animal with a significant medical problem which requires injections or anti-seizure medication a couple of times a day.  Still, I can convince a dog of my good intentions within an afternoon, and having been a foster mother, I can assure you that human beings take much longer to trust other human beings, if in fact, they ever do.
          This month has been particularly difficult on the farm.  Angus, was a small bi-color beagle who came to our original farm some years ago and would watch us.  It took a year before he allowed himself to be captured and served a meal, some water, and within a day or so, a rabies shot.  (Rabies is endemic here and we cannot have an animal in close proximity without proper protection.)  Even then, the vet indicated that Angus was very very old.  He was likely one of the hunting dogs which had found its way to our property and then was never picked up again.  He had no collar, and no microchip.   He adapted to our farm in 2000 and having spied on us for just over a year.  We know that he had been abused in a prior home, because he could cowar when we raised our hand to pet him, and then he would remember that we meant no harm and he would allow us to touch him.
          Rosheen  (Irish Gaelic spelling is actually Roisin) was a Jack Russell terrier mix who came to our farm in 1999. In 1999, after we moved out to the country to our first farm that we built, my daughter and I went out one day to the edge of one of the cities which is within a days commute. While we were there we stopped at a Dairy Queen which has long since closed and been replaced by something else.   My daughter and I each got a small cone, and the woman who has working the DQ that day asked us if we wanted a dog. We told her the truth which was that we already had several dogs on our farm and didn't really need any.  She proceeded to tell us that a female Jack Russell Terrier mix had been dropped off at her apartment complex, and that she didn't want to take her to the pound, but couldn't keep her.  She proceeded to take us to her car where the dog was "napping".  How bad could a napping dog who waits for you to finish working really be ?  When the woman got to the car, she found the interior of her (thankfully) older car, chewed to bits !  The woman was upset, and I had plenty of places we could station a small watchdog, and so we brought her home.  Our daughter named her Rosheen, (written for pronunciation) although the Irish Gaelic spelling is Roisin.  The dog has been a great joy to our daughter, to all of us, and also to our young son Daniel who passed suddenly at the beginning of the Christmas Season now four years ago.
         Although we had Angus neutered and Ro was spayed, they were like an old married couple.  They shared a kennel room in our kennel, and this year had been together for ten years. They fought over a milkbone from time to time, but their relationship was congenial and devoted.   We were aware that the vet believed that Angus was in excess of twenty years old.  We knew his passing was coming, especially since the vet warned us of it, each Winter.  We also inherently knew that Rosheen would not do well following Angus' passing.  We knew she was now fourteen, and we tried not to contemplate this much, and we hoped the other larger dogs would help her in that event that he passed before she did.
          On December 1st, Angus passed quickly of a stroke. We moved him to the finished warm barn. He was alive for a few hours and we had a chance to sit next to him as he slept and eventually died.    Ro, initially seemed alright, but one never knows how much they do, and do not grasp. A couple of weeks later, we could see that she too was depressed. She was showing clear signs of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or more commonly "Doggie Dementia". She initially drank well, but almost seemed to have forgotten how to eat, or that she needed to eat at all.  She enjoyed our interaction, but she was not the same dog. It was as if all of her energies were set on joining Angus in whatever Heaven our Lord sees fit to provide for his youngest children.

Rosheen, also in happier days.

           Tonight, at 5:15 pm on December 28, 2012, Rosheen drew her last breath.  This week has been spent tempting her with turkey, chicken broth, a couple of flavors of gatorade, all manner of food, specialized soft dog food in cans, and ultimately simple rehydration solution in plain water. My Christmas was spent walking her, playing the radio to her, and having each of the kids including my daughter, (who was really her owner), spend time with her. Today, I spent as much time with her as I could, and then returned about every forty minutes when her respirations grew shallow.  Ro waited until I was there and took one last breath.
             I have been so honored to have had all these dogs as my friends. Angus and Rosheen are just two in a long line of very special devoted friends who have shared important parts of our family life. I am going to miss them both so much, even with seven different breeds and types of dogs remaining.    Medical care, chux, special bedding, blankets, medication, food, feeding syringes, for Rosheen's last days were about three hundred dollars.  Dogs: Absolutely priceless.   Yes, our friends are priceless.


The Passing of Angus

               I don't often repeat a post from my blog "What I Learned from Daniel" which is about faith, hope. loss, and survival, and post a similar entry here on Rational Preparedness:The Blog.        
 What I Learned from Daniel is a spiritual forum, and its younger sibling Rational Preparedness: The Blog is about the practical matters of preparedness.  I even use different names on it, both derivations of my real name, but for a long time I have kept the two blogs very separate, and I plan to again.

                Some time ago, you may recall that I posted here concerning canine dementia.

That post can be found at:

This is the update to that post, taken in its entirety, from
 "What I Learned from Daniel: The Blog":

This is Angus, taken this year

   The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas has been a time in which both people and animals have passed from our lives..  Sadly, this year was no exception.   Angus came to us in 2002, as an elderly thin dog who liked to hide and watch us at our original farm. He was one of many hunting dogs who came to our farm during hunting season, and whose owners never came to find them. Most of the beagles and hounds are tagged with an owner, dog license, microchip or kennel number, and we have called and returned many, many of them over the years.  Angus never had a collar.  He was very skittish and used to watch us, but would not let us get near him.  It took a year of leaving food and then leaving and watching him eat before we were able one day to collar and tie him.  Rabies is endemic in our region, and we can't have an unimmunized dog running around.  Once we caught him and fed him regularly and provided him with a doghouse on the edge of the forest, he seemed happier.  However, his initial response was always to cowar when someone held their hand above his head intended to pet him.  We always believed that Angus had been abused as a hunting dog, and probably didn't want to be found by the original owner.  We were very surprised when we took Angus to the vet for a check up, a rabies shot a heartworm test and some immunizations, when the vet told us that she thought he was very old. She told us that she believed him to be about 14. She thought that if we gave him the good care we provide to all our other dogs and animals that he could live another several years, and that the end of his life would be spent securely and happily.  We were happy to care for this small and gentle dog.
                 Time passed, and we moved to a new farm taking all of our animals with us.  Angus adjusted, in part because he had Rosheen as a kennel mate.   Rosheen  (Irish Gaelic spelling is Roisin)  is a Jack Russell Terrier who enjoyed keeping company with Angus.    Over time,  my parents passed, Daniel passed, Daniel's elderly large dogs Jake and Mark passed. Chickens and roosters passed, but Angus remained.  The vet would check him each year and tell us that she didn't think he would make it through the Winter.  In 2009, we build a really lovely kennel for all the dogs which had separate kennel rooms for all of them, and a fenced enclosure for them outside.   Ro and Angus shared a kennel room.
                  Although Angus had always been skittish, he did recover from his prior abuse somewhat. When we would pat him, he would at first cowar, and then remember that we wouldn't hit him and that he was safe to allow us to pet him. A couple of years ago, he developed a new problem.   At night, he would tear apart in the inside of his kennel room, knock over the food dish, and sometimes even the water bucket.  He would growl and bark at things that did not seem to be there. This behavior prompted a post on my other blog concerning canine dementia.   The vet said that there is a medication which is sometimes of assistance in canine dementia but she wondered if this truly ancient dog could detoxify such a thing. We decided to continue to love and cherish him, and keep him with Rosheen in order not to make changes in his world which would lead to furthur disorientation. The vet said that this was not surprising, since he is after all, 24 years old by her estimation.  He continued to recognize us and although he was slim, he still had a hearty appetite. We continued rabies shots every three years, and heartworm and worm prevention.
                   The last three weeks we knew that he was nearing the end of his life.  He would look for places to hide in the kennel and outside it. We could comfort him, but he was up all night, and slept during the day. Once, I couldn't wake him easily and wondered if he were dead.  Almost deaf now, he was still jumping and happy when he saw us, and he never turned down a small milkbone dog biscuit. As with all the elderly dogs, we put a coat on them at night, to keep them comfortable when the temperature drops.

Sweet Angus really enjoyed the snow.  He also liked to eat some of it.

                   This morning my husband called me as soon as he went out to feed dogs.  Angus was in the fenced enclosure outside his kennel.  He still had his coat on, but it was muddy, and he seemed disoriented.  By the time I got down there, he had a grand mal seizure, the first we had ever seen.  We promptly put him on a transport board with a chux on it, covered him with a blanket and moved him down to the heated barn room which functions as our animal ICU.   The seizure ended and he seemed calm, as most post-ictal creatures are.  However, he could not move normally.  We believe him to have had a massive stroke over night.   Unlike human beings who have much more complex mental demands, dogs can recover from severe  strokes. I have had several who have and who lived several years afterward.  However, if Angus is as old as the vet suspects, then the kindest thing probably would be to allow him to pass. Initially is heart rate and breathing were regular, and I sat with him as he lay in a nice warm bed with a soft blanket over him.  Then, as the morning went by, the respirations changed. Although they were regular, they were occurring less often. The distance between each respiration lengthened and I knew that today would be the day he would leave us.  Even though he likely could not hear us, we played soft Christmas music in the barn. I told him how much we had enjoyed having him at the farm and that we would see him again.  We told him that he owed us nothing, and could pass on to Jesus, and to Daniel and that he would again see the other dogs that he knew as part of our farm.  Angus passed with one more deep expiration at 11:51 am.   He is the only one of our dogs whose picture appears in my book Rational Preparedness (p.65 for those of you who have it.)   He will be missed by both the animals on the farm, and also by the human beings.

This is the link to the earlier post on canine dementia from my other blog Rational Preparedness: The Blog which concerns Angus:

The Life of Angus

Angus and Ro in their indoor kennel room  Note the plastic easily cleaned kennels even inside, for extra cool in summer, and extra heat in winter. The door to the outside exercise area can be closed.

 This is a post which first appeared on my blog  Rational Preparedness, in May of 2012.   It is important material on Canine Cognitive Disorder and is appropriate to this blog also, so I am reprising it here:

Original post:

    As you know, our dogs who live in our kennel and who rotate out to different areas of the farm to "work" are a passion of mine.  Most of them are rescues from pounds, some near and some far. Some of them are likely full blooded (purebred), and some of them are mixed.   I personally try to choose mixed breeds for their "mongrel resiliency", but truthfully, a dog in need that we can help, when the kennel is not full, gets the slot.  Most of them adapt very quickly and enjoy whatever their work is.  Some are used as watchdogs. Some are trained to watch over livestock.  One proved his worth as a "seizure dog", notifying us when another dog of similar breed had seizures.  They are all very dear to us.
          One of the sad things in this life is that most dogs live ten to fourteen years or so, and humans live seventy or eighty or more. The years of a dogs life pass quickly, and then, once again, you are looking at the impending passing of a dear friend.  Of all our dogs over the years, we have been very lucky.  Most have lived long lifespans, and have passed easily.
          Some years ago, on the last farm, a small tri-colored beagle appeared, and would hide from us.  We saw him occasionally, and he would cower.  We tried to feed him and give him water, but for a year, he would hide from us.  This was very concerning because rabies is quite a problem in the forests of our county.  A feral dog could become rabid and endanger our family, spread rabies to other wild animals, or attack our own pets or livestock.  We worked to catch him if just to take him for a rabies shot.  It took more than a year, but we eventually caught the dog. He was glad to have a family and steady food and water, but then frightened at intervals from relatively mild stimuli.  The vet believed him to have been a hunting dog who was abused because each time we tried to pat him gently, he would shrink as if he were sure someone were going to beat him. The vet believed him to be very old, even then. We named him Angus.

Angus just last winter, going for a walk in the snow.
Rosheen, during her walk in the snow.

            He adapted well when we developed this particular farm, and has really enjoyed the safety of the kennel, particularly at night.  Late last autumn when he had his annual physical with the vet, she told me she thought that he could be older than twenty. She told us that tri-colored beagles can live a very long time. We actually had an appreciation for this, as we adopted a former hunting dog from a construction site in the 1980s, and he was eventually euthanized by the vet for lung cancer. He was also exceedingly old.
           Lately however, we have a new concern with Angus.  Angus shares his large kennel area with a spayed Jack Russell Terrier named Rosheen  (although I think on her records, it has the traditional Gaelic spelling of Roisin. She is Ro for short.)   Lately, Ro has been looking a little jumpy, and the items in their kennel have been thrown around overnight.  I also have occasional found Angus in the outdoor run area of the kennel in a dog house, facing backwards and barking voraciously.  Sometimes, he seems to bark at things that aren't there.  We are able to calm him and he does know us, but it appears that Angus has developed something called Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome.  Sometimes, as dogs age, they develop brain lesions, and they have difficulty regulating their brain chemicals.

These are some of the general symptoms of Canine Cognitive Dysfunction or Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome:

    Stares into space
    May become lost in places that are ordinarily familiar, either in the house or in the yard.
    Is easily startled.
    Loses the ability to keep himself clean.  Has lost the skill of being housebroken.
    Interacts with his human and canine family less. Plays less.
    Sleeps more during the day,  may be disoriented and agitated at night.
    (At lot like the "Sundowner's Syndrome" we see with some human dementias.)
    Shakes or trembles, even when it's not cold.
    Is hesitant to eat or drink or accept a treat.
    No longer enjoys favorite toys. May fear them.
    Some CCDS dogs vocalize excessively
    Some may seem a bit more aggressive.

 It can be hard to tell these symptoms from normal aging, or as simple complications of failing hearing or sight,

Of course, not every dog with some of these symptoms has Canine Cognitive Dysfunction Syndrome, and not every dog who does has ALL of these symptoms.  Angus seems to have the "Sundowner's Syndrome" pretty consistently, and I am sure life for Ro is less relaxed than it used to be.

      If you have a dog with these issues, it is probably not necessary to euthanize him.  Most vets would prefer to see a pet who has developed a sudden dementia, because there are drugs specifically for this disorder. First, they like to rule out medical causes for changes in behavior. If it IS CCDS, then a drug called L-selegelene has been used, and the more common registered name for it is Anipryl. Apparently, many vets are of the opinion that this is more a brain chemical issue than it is a lesion based syndrome.  Although it may be expensive,  it can be treated, often successfully for a period of time. The dogs dementia process usually slows and may reverse, although eventually, the dog either passes or the dementia moves on.

     I will mention this to our vet, but meanwhile we will try the softer solutions.   We will try to play with him during the day, so he is tired enough to sleep at night. We will be understanding of his gradual failure. We will move slowly around him, and not make changes to his kennel room.  We thought about moving Ro to a neighboring kennel room, but if the dog is not aggressive, and Angus is not, then changing their world is strongly discouraged by veterinarians and animal; behaviorists. The time for discipline or teaching is probably now past.  We will support our dear friend through his aging, and through his eventual passing.

       In the country, we use our dogs to alert us to bears, coyotes, rabid animals, bobcats,  coydogs, feral dogs,  and a rare mountain lion. We depend upon them very heavily for both patrols, notification, animal supervision, and herding depending upon their breed.  However, our lives are very much enriched from their companionship as well.

One of the best and most complete discussions of CCDS can be found at:

Update:   November 26, 2012:      Angus is still with us.  He functions during the day by following whatever his kennel mate Ro is doing.   At night sometimes, especially if there is a change, such as windy weather, he makes a lot of noise and  moves the water and food dishes and bedding in his kennel room.  He does still recognize us, and is comforted by us.  He still eats well and enjoys the dog biscuits we bring.

Monday, August 26, 2013

The Horse, A Nervous Child


     We have all manner of veterinarians that come to the farm.  We have two farm vets who come for the camelids.  They take care of farm animals, but they limit their practice, and therefore do not care for dogs or cats.  The dogs or cats, and rabbits see a small animal vet group about twenty or so miles from here.  We have a large equine veterinarian group which travels a great distance to see our horses. (They even take care of racehorses and have a full surgical suite for horses at their offices and stables.) We have them because they will even come out on a Sunday evening, if you ask, because I have had them do so when some eyelid suturing with sedation was needed.  Usually, one gravitates to a particular partner in a veterinary practice, but all of the vets in this large group are kind, helpful, and very willing to teach owners like me.  All of them are also very bright and very observant.  I often think that if it weren't illegal, I wouldn't mind having them take care of me. (Especially since it would likely be cheaper than my own physicians.)
                    When we got the first two horses, it had been a long time since I had been around horses.  I wanted to please them, and to convey to them that I could be trusted and that I am their friend. This meant that I was  congenial cooperative where they were concerned, and actually sometimes gave them choices.  One of the equine vets said something which has helped me a great deal with the horses.   He told me that I should treat them like children.  I should not give them too many choices, and that I should give them the gift of being in charge. This freed me to make decisions and to actually lead them rather than see if they are willing to go in the direction I need them to.  This was especially important information when the two most recent horses joined us.  They very much needed structure and a regular routine.
                   One of the surprises of horses, that I had long since forgotten since childhood, is how intelligent they are.  They learn and they reason.   Their lips can be about as dextrous as fingers, which is how the bolt from the stall keeps getting opened.  I have had to add a supplemental lock so a particular one stops flipping and sliding the bolt.  They also are capable of emotion.  One day when one of them let all of the others out, I chased them around to put them back for a couple of hours.  When the 92 degree humid heat made it impossible for me to continue, I went into the barn and sat down there.   They realized I couldn't catch them, and they each returned to the stalls, their day of broad exploration over.  They are bright children with a bit of a nervous brain.
                 Today, despite a twisted knee, I rotated ponies to new grazing fields, mucked pens, cleaned out mop buckets, and restocked hay, grain, and supplies.  They stopped periodically to watch me, as if to say, "Mom, you work too hard."

Friday, August 16, 2013

Noticed at the Farm


  Thus far, it has been unnecessary to shoot any other foxes.  The doubling of the dog guard of the ducks has prevented any additional attacks. The duck who fought beside Stretch and survived, and who had some injuries on his face and beak has healed completely. They SEEM relieved by the true watch dog I have stationed just outside the duck pen.

             I have also learned that too many shredded pine flakes on a concrete barn floor is unwise.  Sometimes you will see deep shredded pine flakes at an exhibition with horses, and this is indeed the way I started, but I am finding it to be unwise.  When the shavings are too deep more time is spent rifling through looking for horse stools and extracting them with tools. People are less likely to change all the shavings.  I use much less in terms of shavings now, and once they are wet, I remove them all, and then mop the wet area using water and Simple Green.  (Which I buy in giant bottles from Sam's Club)  Interestingly, changing a modest amount of pine shavings daily keeps the flies down, and this keeps the horses much happier than perhaps anything else I could do, except perhaps feeding them.

            It has been cooler this week, and this has translated into fewer horseflies, fewer white faced hornets, and generally happier horses.  We had three family birthdays this week, and one of my sons came to help me with the mucking on my birthday.   We finished in record time !  Hope your week and your weather has been wonderful.

For our purposes here, large shavings work better.  Our horses tend to urinate outside the stalls, so finer shredded pine isn't really needed to absorb the urine from the stall floor, and to prevent slipping.  

This weeks revelation should help us to contain costs a bit on the shavings.  You have no idea how many of these I use !

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Fox Troubles


Stretch is the tall boy at the back.

  Some years ago, a breeder near here bred different types of foxes for foxhunting, which is still a popular Virginia sport on horseback.   No one kills the foxes. They release them, the tri-color hounds chase them, and people on horseback chase the dogs. It all looks like a framed print on an English country home wall.   I have never done this, as I have never seen the point, but I know others who do.  The foxes are gathered afterward and no one gets hurt.   There was a flood in this area some years ago, and somehow this resulted in the freeing of a fairly large number of red and gray foxes.  These interbred fairly quickly and farms and forests in this area have a number of mixed red and gray foxes in large numbers.  We also have a few black foxes, which I have mentioned on another blog I write.
             Anytime nature is out of balance, problems occur.  Although we have never had problems with foxes at any of the homes we've had before, or any of the farms, a couple of years ago we began to have trouble with the foxes.   More than once a large fox challenged us, barking and growling as we left our home.  We spoke to the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and found that a challenge from a fox either means that they consider that we are encroaching on their territory, or that they are rabid.  Rabies is endemic in this area, and there are attacks by rabid animals of many kinds.  We were told that we are to shoot to kill a fox who directly challenges us on our farm, especially near our residence.  We don't like killing anything, unless it is kill or be killed, but there were several close calls and they killed our large rooster, and some chickens despite solid chicken housing. We have actually been afraid that the foxes might target and kill our two farm cats.
             Last year we shot one large very aggressive red fox on our property, and we were lucky it died before reaching us.  The wrong caliber round can go right through such an animal, allowing it to attack you before it eventually dies. The trick is to select the correct round to end the life of any animal you must eliminate, without passing through it, and causing it to dump possibly rabies contaminated blood everywhere.  In addition, anytime you must eliminate an animal, you want it to suffer as little as possible and simply remove it from play.  We thought that taking out the "King of the Den" would cause the others to relocate, deeper into the thousands of acres of forest which we do not own and do not frequent.
             We were wrong. This year, quite a crop of young male foxes could be seen stalking our animals.   When one was menacing to one of our sons in the garden, we killed it.   We still felt badly when given no real choice.  We thought the ones remaining would move on, since we believe them to be close by when we had to shoot.  Last night one of them crawled into our duck pen, broke the neck of one of our large white Silky Swede male ducks (his name was Stretch) but could not carry it out of the pen.  He ate most of Stretches body right there in the pen.  This means others will be back tonight.
             Not only are we out Stretch the Silky Swede duck, but now we have to shoot other foxes who likely will be back tonight to get food for the remaining members of their den.  Foxes may be very beautiful, but they can be very vicious and quite dangerous.  The high numbers locally cause them to become more aggressive and more willing to take risks and to challenge human beings.
            My only relief in this is that foxes kill quickly usually breaking the neck of the subject animal, so Stretch likely didn't know what hit him, and likely did not suffer.  I will try to return the favor for the fox.
I will also double the dog guard outside the duck pens at night.

This is the link from my post on one of our other blogs regarding a black fox:

Friday, August 2, 2013

When Horses Escape

This is a picture snapped by my husband's cell phone. Here they are getting ready to return to their barn.

   We had a thunderstorm this evening, and although the horses could leave the pasture and enter their stalls, and usually would, they apparently didn't.  The thunder was louder than normal and there was more lightning than usual.  I feed the horses around five o'clock, and then after they have had a chance to eat, dance and frolic, I put each of them in their stalls around eight or nine pm, depending upon the season. I don't like to have them out in the dark, particularly after dark when the bats come out.
                  So around eight pm, after the storm, I headed down to the barn to find all four horses grazing in a distant field in the tall grasses.   They looked up and saw me, and then went right on grazing. As I went to get four lead lines, I noticed that a portion of the corner of the fence had been broken. I made a mistake in not anticipating that this storm might be worse than the others we have almost daily each afternoon.  They must have become spooked and then challenged the fence, feeling safer out of the pasture than in it.  I used my cell phone to get some extra help. I called my husband who was in the house.   He came out immediately  and tried to drive them toward the barn which I had opened on one side.   No such luck.  All four of them took off galloping with gorgeous form looking a lot like the wild ponies in the West.  They headed for the house and galloped around the front and back yards.    Then all at once, they ran off.   I was quite worried wondering if they would somehow head for the mountain trail which leads to the farm.  The entry road is gated here, but fences don't always keep these horses in, as I just learned this evening.   All at once they reemerged galloping at top speed toward me, and I was just a little scared. I was beginning to wonder if this post was going to be "When Horses Attack ".  Just then,  Shadow slowed, and I put a lead line on him and walked him inside.  With my husband following them, the remaining three followed Shadow.  I tossed them the really excellent hay, and thanked them for returning.
                 This is my fault.  I should have anticipated that a thunderstorm could spook them, and I should have had each of them in their stalls beforehand.  This can be difficult.  They like to frolic and be out as long as they can.  Sometimes, storms come on very quickly.  Also, horses are not the only animals I have or the only thing that demands my attention.  I am grateful that they didn't injure themselves or leave hoof imprints in the body of my fairly new car !

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sweet Sir Galahad

Sir Galahad, sitting peacefully on the floor of his stall in the barn. This was a week or two before his passing.

  The post below originally appeared on our blog, "What I Learned from Daniel" in 2009.   This post talks about the loss of Sir Galahad, a beloved alpaca of ours.

On a farm, loss and death are inevitable, though for years we have gone without losing very many, and we tend to lose sight of this. This year though, there was still another loss to come. Sir Galahad is a fine 13 year old alpaca we purchased from the Pacific Northwest some years ago. Galahad's sire, Max, originated from a herd of alpacas who were from a herd in Australia.   He was a half brother to one of our dear breeding females Queen Isabelle, and he is unquestionably a dear friend in his own right. Galahad is a favorite because he is a gentle giant, and has always been a calm and loving creature. We have been aware for some time that Galahad had a low level ongoing medical problem, and this was being watched and followed. In late July, Sir Galahad did not look well. In the course of a day he did not eat, looked short of breath and did not move well. With hard work to feed him, medicate him, conversations with the vet, and even antibiotics, he began to improve a bit. I cautiously believed he might survive this particular illness. We even took him for walks while tethered, to different parts of the farm to keep his energy and mood up. At the end of July very quickly in the course of an hour, Galahad deteriorated, and while I sat with him, he passed. In those last hours, I had called the vet to euthanize him to prevent any suffering, but she did not arrive in time, and he passed quickly anyway. Daniel now has many animals he knew over the years, our golden retriever Susan, his German Shepherd Jake, two large white chickens, and now dear sweet Sir Galahad. Galahad also joins his sister Queen Isabelle,  who passed of a brain tumor a couple of years ago, and his niece alpaca named Shakria who died while a (young) cria.  (An alpaca baby is called a cria) I hope they are all together and all happy. It has taken me two weeks to be able to write about this. I know that when we love, being parted and losing is inevitable, but we seem to have more of our share of this lately. Sir Galahad received a farm funeral fitting for any royalty or head of state. Be sure to spend time with your beloved animals today.

 Alpacas can live  fifteen to twenty years in captivity when receiving terrific care.  Those with longstanding medical problems can deteriorate very quickly and can be very challenging to their farm veterinarians.  Sir Galahad was known to have a congenital issue.

Jake, the German Shepherd

Jake, our elderly dog, just weeks before his passing.

 The body of the post below, originally appeared on my blog, "What I Learned from Daniel" in February, 2009.    It relates to the background of animal rescue
and this farm, and so I have included it.


I had not realized that I had not made a single post in February, but I suppose this is not surprizing. Daniel has a dog named Jake, a large male purebred German Shepherd that we rescued one Fourth of July about an hour before planned euthanization. We had seen the dog the week before and waited for the owner or someone to come for him. We could not leave such a majestic animal there to die. Taking him wasn't a bright thing to do as we already had other male dogs on the farm. In addition, Jake, who should have been about 100 lbs, was only 33 lbs ! We thought heartworm was also a real possibility. We took a chance and found that he not only didn't have heartworm, but that once his parasites were cleared, he gained weight just fine. He would follow Daniel, and all of us. Four years ago the vet told us that Jake might not make it through the winter. She cited that he was of advanced age and that hip issues and other disorders would affect a shepherd as old at ten. We put him on glucosamine chondroitin and vitamins and we were careful that he did not overdo. He really looked wonderful and functioned very well.
In February, Jake who was by then, 14 years old, had a stroke. He was unable to use his rear legs, was newly incontinent, and had trouble eating and drinking. Because he was not in pain, we did not euthanize, but instead brought him in the house, hand fed him chicken and held his water dish so he could get it. We placed him on pillows with chux and turned him every 2 hours during the day. We kept him clean with baby wipes etc. He was not in pain and was cooperative and I think appreciative. This took almost all of our time. As the vet had indicated, he did improve slightly each day over that week, but one evening, I noticed his breathing was slightly labored. I told him that if Jesus came, or Daniel came to get him that he should go, and that we were very grateful for all the time we had with him here. We told him that we would be okay with his looking after Daniel in Heaven. A few minutes later, he was quietly gone. Jake looked peaceful and beautiful, and Daniel has his shepherd with him once again. We will miss our dear faithful friend but know he joins Daniel and other beloved animals from this farm. We are lucky to have had him here, and fourteen years for a German Shepherd purebred is quite remarkable.