Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Bad Year

My sister and I have noticed that our lives have spells of bad luck that last 12 months, and then we will have good luck for a long time until the next “bad year.” We definitely have been going through a bad spell. We decided it started at the end of October last year when Dad first started feeling poorly. We rounded up to November 1st, which is his birthday, and decided that that’s when our bad year would end. We still had to get through October.

Ranger has been having abscess issues since early September. This month, Ellen was finally able to ride Ranger a little bit. He got that abscess in his front hoof, it blew out and we thought everything would be just fine. Well, when he blew it out, he tore up his heel, creating a huge crack. When the vet came out to give the horses their fall shots, Ellen had her look at Ranger’s hoof. She cut out some frog and found a pus pocket. She said it was left there as the infection traveled to his heel. That was also causing him discomfort.

Now, he had a badly cracked heel and his frog was sensitive as a result of the vet’s knife. The vet wanted her to douse it with iodine to toughen it up. At the time, Ellen was only hand walking him for exercise. We were both getting very discouraged. He was doing all right at a walk, but he was lame at a trot.

Right at this time, Cruiser had something happen to his head. I think he must have banged it into something. His face was swollen and he had a huge, fat lip. We now only had one horse to ride, Cole Train. Ellen was taking him out in a few mornings a week on her own, and she was enjoying her rides, but it is never the same when your own horse is ailing at the barn. I was riding Cole in the evenings and hand walking Cruiser. (When I got into horses all those years ago, I never expected to spend so much time hand walking!)

We scheduled most of our vacation time together for the month of October. This really messed us up--having only one rideable horse. Kevin graciously allowed us to ride Starry D. Still, it wasn’t the same.

After a while, Ellen started to ride Ranger lightly in the arena and on the driveway, and each time, he got a little better, but he still wasn’t there. Cruiser’s face swelling went down, and I was able to ride him in a side pull hackamore. Things began to look up.

Still, Ranger didn’t seem 100% at a trot. He was the worst when his bad foot was on the inside, which made sense. Ellen mostly walked him and would do a little trotting.

On the brighter side, I sold my old Camaro with 150,000 miles and started driving my dad’s much newer car with only 15,000 miles, the kitten my sister found that she turned into the greatest cat shelter ever---Stay a While Cat Shelter—got adopted. Could our awful year, the one that started at the end of October last year, be ending after all?

Then, Cruiser started to cough quite bad. He has seasonal allergies, and fall is a bad season for him. All the leaves came down at once—maybe that is why it was so bad. I started to ride him more cautiously. Some days—I just hand walked.

A few days later, after Ranger’s ride, Ellen noticed that his back hoof was mushy and wet. He was only in the indoor arena. I took a look at it—a hoof abscess had just blown out of the heel. The previous problem hoof was a front hoof on the same side. Could this be why he was still a little off when he should have been getting better?

A few days later, my “new” car got rear ended while I was at a standstill at a traffic light. More bad luck.

We had one more vacation day left for the month of October. Ellen and I take our time off together so we can go on trail rides, but due to her work schedule, we have to pick the days several weeks in advance. Turns out that this day was when the worst of Hurricane Sandy would be hitting Ohio. You know, Frankenstorm. Even though we were far from the coast, they predicted miserable weather. So much for our trail rides. More bad luck. Would we make it to the end of the month?

Ellen and I had planned to celebrate the end of the “bad year” and Dad’s birthday by making a couple of homemade apple pies—his favorite. We weren’t even going to eat dinner. We were going to feast on the pies.

Then Kevin’s furnace broke…

The night before, I was at the barn to ride and feed. Riding was out of the question—the wind was so strong that the arena was making all kinds of scary noises. I hand walked Cruiser and lounged and led Cole. He practiced his silly walk, and I taught him to chase a ball. At first, I clicked him for touching the ball. Then I would kick it a few feet, and when he walked to it, I clicked him for touching it. It didn’t take long for him to be trotting after it.

After we fed, I went to Kevin’s house to watch a DVD. I got a text from Ellen. It said, “I really think they shouldn’t let Dad control the weather. He is making the bad year go out with a bang. I think it’s a sign.” It made me laugh. My dad was obsessed with the weather. He would have loved following this storm—even more, he would have loved creating it.

At 10:30, Kevin’s power went out. I called my house, and the power was still on. I knew because the answering machine picked up. I got home around midnight. Fifteen minutes later, my power went out, too. Thunder and I snuggled close all night, trying to keep warm. I never spent a colder night.

The next morning, our day off, I called Ellen. The wind wasn’t quite as strong, but it was still raining. Her power was off, too. We decided to go to the barn, anyway. I only ran into one detour due to power lines being down. All was well at the barn, they didn’t flood and the horses were fine. We started our morning by riding Cole.

By some miracle, it stopped raining. We decided to lead Cruiser down to the river to see how much it flooded. As we started on the trail, we heard what sounded like a large branch fall. We were partway down the first slope when we heard another crack. We stopped, looked up, and we could see across the river a tree break about ¼ of the way up and crash down into the water. It was an awesome sight. I decided we should bring Cruiser back. He really liked the idea, too, and we spent the rest of his walk on the driveway. He didn’t cough at all on his walk.

We walked down to the river without a horse to see how high it was—and it was an amazing sight.

Ellen started leading Ranger on the driveway, but he was very excited, so she brought him in. Just as well, as the rain started up, again. I trotted him in hand for her to watch, and we decided that Ranger is no longer lame, at all. Yes, the bad year was ending.

We found a Taco Bell that was open and ate lunch. We called my house, and found that I still didn’t have power, so Ellen went her way and I went mine. No apple pies. The thing we were looking forward to the most wasn’t going to happen.

At 12:30, I walked into the house, and to my unbelieving ears—I could hear the furnace running. Dad realized his mistake and intervened. We had power. I called Ellen up and she came over. We made 2 delicious apple pies and ate them for supper. The bad year is over, and we had our celebration. We are going to try to do this each year in the future in honor of Dad. He loved our homemade apple pies.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Frustrations getting better

I got to ride Cruiser!!! Yes, the swelling on his face went down enough to ride. His lip was still puffy, so I rode him in a side pull hackamore instead of his bridle with a bit. On Friday, we just rode around in the arena and driveway to make sure he was all right. Saturday and Sunday we went down the trail. My sister rode Cole with us. Cruiser doesn’t have good breaks, anymore, and even less in the side pull. Cole has excellent brakes. I figured as long as my sister could stop Cole, I could stop Cruiser. We had no problems at all, and the rides were great.

More good news—Ranger is improving. My sister rode him all 3 days in the arena and driveway. By Sunday, he was only lame when he went the sore direction when she pushed him to go faster. His split heel is feeling more solid, too. I can’t wait until he can go on the trail, again—hopefully it will be before the weather goes sour.

My overall mood is improving as the horses improve. They are so important for my coping with the loss of my father. That goes for my little angel cat, Thunder. Animals can really make a difference in a person’s life.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Life just hasn’t been going smoothly, lately. When I went to bridle Cruiser on Wednesday, he simply wouldn’t cooperate. That’s when I noticed he had a fat lip—a really, really fat lip. Somehow, he must have bruised it. It hurt him a lot. I managed to get a halter on him, and we have been hand walking instead of riding, ever since. It did look considerably better, yesterday, but I’m not sure when I will be able to ride.

My sister’s horse, Ranger, had a terrible abscess that blew out and made a mess of his hoof. He hasn’t been able to be ridden, either, so it has been quite a bummer. We saw improvement with him, yesterday, too. Still, it may be a while before he is on the stony trails.

My sister and I have been sharing Cole Train. She likes him a lot, but it’s never the same if you aren’t on your own horse.

So we are both off of work tomorrow with only one horse to ride between us. Hopefully, my boyfriend will take pity on us and lend us Starry, again. We also plan to finish rebuilding my garden wall that was collapsing. So, even if the riding isn’t what we want, the day won’t be lost.

On the good side, it looks like I sold my car. I inherited my father’s car, so I didn’t need two cars. His has a tenth of the miles (15,000) that my Camaro has, so it is the smart thing to do, but I confess, I will miss my Camaro. I had it nearly 13 years, and it is the fifth in a series of great Camaros that I have owned. I now will be driving a sensible, economical Ford Focus. Time to grow up, I guess. (I hate driving a rear wheel car in the winter, so this really is a good thing.)

Before the potential new owners came out for a test drive, I had the windows open to air it out. I hope they won’t mind the smell of horses!

Crossing the River

My sister took these pictures from the pesestrian bridge that crosses the river.  This is me on Cole.  The water was pretty deep, but the current is slow at this crossing, so it is easy to cross.  Cole kept wanting to stop so he could try catching the leaves floating by.
Here is Kevin on Starry.  Starry is a much taller horse, but it was even deep on him.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Maggie at Large

Maggie at Large

When my father died, he left me with his dog, Maggie. No one else wanted her, so she is all mine. She came with some problems. When we adopted her from a rescue 3 years ago, she didn’t even know what “Good Girl” meant. We found that we had to keep her on a leash because not only will she run off, but running into the woods wasn’t good enough. She wanted to run down to the street—a very busy street—to look for garbage to eat. Yes, they found her doing just that when they rescued her. Anyone familiar with the west side of Cleveland knows what Train Avenue is like. She is from Train. Ironically, our last dog was found on Train, too, but she was just a pup and probably wasn’t on the street long at all.

That was problem number one. I can manage with that. Problem number two was worse—separation anxiety. If left alone, all paper products became vulnerable. My dad started by locking her up in his room when he left, but soon she was destroying that, too. we ended up getting her a cage. That worked, but my dad usually wasn’t gone that long when he left her. I spend the day at work and a lot of hours at the barn. She was destined to spend a lot of time in the cage. I wanted to find her a better home, but since no one wanted her, my sister suggested cleaning out my dad’s room of all paper products and leaving her locked in the room.

It worked. I would pack up a Kong toy for her and leave her in a large room with great windows overlooking the driveway, a bed, cage, water and toys. When I was home at night, she was allowed the whole house. Thunder and I sleep upstairs where she can’t go because of the metal spiral staircase that doesn’t work well for dogs. The first few weeks, she did find things to destroy in the house. Sigh.

Then, I started to sit with her a few minutes on her couch every night before bed. I reminded her that we used to call her Blunder when she was bad in the early days. I said that if she makes any mistakes over night, I would call her Blunder all the next day instead of Maggie. “Do you want to be Blunder or do you want to be Maggie.” After that, I never did have to call her Blunder. I still have the talk with her since she likes the cuddling time. Thunder thinks she should be called Blunder—he likes the sound of it.

Anyway, it has been over a month of the Blunder talk, and I decided to try not locking her up during the day. I did it a few times when I was only going to be gone for a short time, and to my surprise, she was fine. I expanded it to all the time and she hasn’t made a single blunder. I think it helps that I keep a very regular schedule. When Dad would leave her, she didn’t know if he would be gone 20 minutes or 5 hours. Routines are good for dogs.

So, now I have a proper watch dog who can roam about the house and bark to scare off any intruders. The intruders are usually deer, and they typically just stare at her when she barks. She gets very frustrated.

I’m not sure if Thunder likes her being loose during the day. She brings toys into his “play area” and leaves them there. Since she has more windows to bark out of, there is much more barking going on. He hates her barking. I do believe that she sleeps most of the day—just like she did when Dad was around to keep her company. For a young dog, she is pretty low energy. I guess I am lucky with that.

When I have time, I make sure she gets long walks, and she really likes them. I have started up here clicker training. She is awesome jumping through a hoop. I think I will try with the Frisbee, again.

Keeping her isn’t htat bad, after all. She has adjusted, and I am starting to like her more. Ask me again when I am walking her in the winter.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Mundane Stuff

I don’t feel like writing. I feel too empty. There aren’t any words in there. I am so ready to be done grieving, but I guess it’s not something for me to decide.

Writing sometimes helps me feel better, so I will give it a try.

Ranger is still ailing from the hoof abscess. The vet came out for fall shots, and Ellen had her check his foot. She found a pus pocket in his frog and cut it out. He is doing a little better, but it has only been a few days. Ellen is so worried that it is really something else. She has been riding Cole Train and Starry, but it’s never the same if you aren’t on your own horse.

I have been eeking out very fast, short trail rides after work, on Cruiser, but it won’t last much longer. I have been working with Cole in the arena. We are still struggling with the right lead. He is so awesome with the left—so that’s all he wants to do.

My sister and it started rebuilding the top garden wall by the house. That garden used to be so pretty, but in recent years, the walls started to collapse and the plants disappeared with the soil that got washed out. The top part won’t be so bad. Next year, we will begin the bottom part. That will be tough.

I turned the furnace on—but only to 56 degrees. Don’t worry—it will be warmer, soon. We are still getting mild afternoons, so the heat is only for those cold nights. Thunder has been very cuddly.

Maggie is now at large when I’m not home. I started experimenting last week, and she has been perfect. I thought she might be—once she stopped getting into things at night when she was alone. She doesn’t sleep with me because of the metal spiral staircase—too dangerous for clumsy dogs. Besides, Thunder needs a place of his own. I am so glad she is no longer locked up in her room. It was a nice room, but this way she has more windows to look out of—and how could she be a proper watchdog if she is locked up?

We have sold 5 cars. My Camaro is for sale, as I will be driving my dad’s Focus. I have someone from work bringing his daughter to see it this weekend. I wish my father would have bought me a sports car when I was a teen. I ended up buying my own—my first Camaro—a 1974. I followed it with a 1976 Rally Sport Camaro, a 1981 Z28 Camaro, a 1990 Camaro and then this 2000 Camaro.

For the first time in my driving life, I won’t have a Camaro. My brother is keeping my dad’s, and he said I could drive it if I wanted. It is a 1967 Convertible. I took it to a car show, years ago, and on the way home, both sets of brake lines blew out at a light—then a miracle happened. It stalled. I pulled it into a parking lot and it stalled, there, too. There was a payphone, so I called Dad. He came and got me and drove it home using the emergency brake. I never thought that—as it rolled through the intersection—me screaming and honking.

I am keeping the 1962 Metropolitan—cuz I always liked that car and it isn’t worth much money. Will we be able to get it to run is the question. Of all the cars, that is the one that has been sitting the longest. We won’t even try, this year. We have other things to worry about.

That’s about it. Nothing exciting. I don’t feel much better for writing, either.

Just a note for anyone who has read this far. Grieving takes a lot of time. Chances are, you may know someone who lost someone precious in the last few months. I guarantee, they aren’t over it. Please be kind and understanding towards us mourners. It isn’t easy, and healing doesn’t go fast. Just because you don’t think of their loss often, I am sure they do.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Canter Continued

Canter Continued

After a weekend of trail riding, I was back in the arena with Cole last night. I am glad to say that I think we have solidified the canter left lead. We did a bunch of transitions, and he was getting them 90% of the time. I was varying our distance before clicking, so he was never quite sure when he would get clicked. We went our furthest ever—three quarters of the arena.

It was time to start the right lead. On the trail, he takes the left lead readily, but the right lead rarely. I have one favorite sharp right turn that I like to use for it, and there were successful times and unsuccessful times. I knew that the arena wouldn’t’ be easy.

I ended up with all the problems I had when I first started the right lead—combined with his preference for the right. I didn’t get a single successful transition. Once, he felt like he started to take it up properly with the hind leg, and then lost it. I did click him for that because that was the closest we got.

I need to get candy.

Surprisingly, there was just enough daylight to take Cruiser on a quick and fast trail ride with Starry D. That was fun.