This blog is dedicated to my friend, my mentor, and the best teacher I have ever had. Without him, I would not have embarked on this amazing journey. Split, this blog is for you!
Ponderosa Misty Icon, aka "Split," is a handsome gray Welsh pony who came to me via a phone call "out of the blue" (actually Peterborough, Ontario). Our first few months together were rocky to say the least, which made me question my ability as a horse owner, as a horsewoman, and as a rider. Forty years of horse ownership had not prepared me for this little gray pony!
But we muddled through and because of Split, I have begun a journey that is both spiritual and enlightening. I hope something here resonates with you and that you'll check back now and then.
We leave you with one of our favorite quotes: "The best whisper is a click!"

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bret Schneider

Paul showed up on my doorstep one morning and when I opened the door, he said - in typical Paul style - " I'm not at the farm anymore. I'm renting a little barn for me and K.T. off of Putney Road next to the dump. Got a new horse for ya to ride. Meet me at the barn at 4:00." Since that was all he'd come to say, he turned around, got back in his truck and left. I, however, began counting down the hours and minutes. Paul hadn't let me down yet. Every horse he'd put me on had been a wonderful learning experience - challenging sometimes but that man could match a horse and human like no one I've ever known!
I arrived at the appointed hour to find a little chestnut horse with 4 white socks ("feed him to da crows?" NEVER!) and a little white star on his forehead standing in the cross-ties. Paul growled, "Well, there he is. Name's Bret Schneider. Don't stand there gawking. Tack up and let's go." Paul liked to trail ride on K.T. and the 4 of us headed out into the glorious September afternoon. We rode for hours and the only time Bret spooked was when someone fired a gun off in the distance. He jumped, landed with all 4 legs splayed out, looked around, sighed and seemed to say, "Oh. Ooops. Sorry. Let's go on." And we proceeded as though nothing had happened. I was totally in love with this little standardbred. He'd bowed a tendon on the track and was being brought slowly back into work. His owners sent him to Paul for rehab and of course Paul had "just the trainer" for him! When we got back to the barn, Paul said, "You like him?" Naturally, I gushed on and on about how wonderful Bret was til finally Paul said, "Ok. He's yours for a while." Then he outlined what I was to do for him, i.e., daily walks on the trail, working up to trotting, always checking that tendon for heat each time. As he started to walk away, Paul added, "He's never been ridden before, ya know. You're the first person to ride him." I have NO IDEA what the expression on my face was but I know very clearly that I was thinking, "OH, MY GOD! I coulda been killed!" ha ha He continued, "Well, would you have gotten on him if I'da TOLD ya that?" Still speechless, I shook my head. "Course not," he continued. "But this guy, he's had harnesses on him all his life. He's used to stuff on his back. You trusted him. He trusted you. Don't stand there gawkin' (he told me that quite often during our friendship), put him away!"
Bret was at Paul's for about 3 months and during that time we explored every nook and cranny in southern Vermont, I think. He was one of the kindest, most endearing horses it's ever been my privilege to meet. One of our favorite pass times was to lay down together in his stall. I'd go in and groom him and then step away. He'd lie down and curl his legs up and I'd sit down, resting against his rib cage and read a book. The first time Paul caught us doing that, I thought for sure he was going to pitch a fit but instead he actually chuckled and said, "That's the finest compliment a horse can give you." I said, "Whaddya mean?" He said, "If a horse lets you approach him while he's laying down, he's saying 'I trust you' because he's at his most vulnerable as far as being preyed on. He's letting you lay down WITH him. Don't get up on my account."
I rode all that fall and when it was too cold or rainy or icy to ride, I would just go to that little barn and visit Bret, grooming him and reading with him. I didn't really see Paul that much. He tended to be there in the mornings and because I was student teaching, I often didn't get there til 3:30 or so. Just before I went back to college in January, I showed up at the barn to say good-bye only to find the place completely abandoned. Paul, K.T. and Bret were gone - lock, stock and barrel. No note, no phone call, nothing. I was dumb-founded, numb, there are just no words to describe that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. I cried all the way home and asked my parents if Paul had perhaps left me a message (no answering machines then, at least not in our house), or had they seen him around town? (I grew up in a little town.) Nothing. It was as tho he'd vanished from the face of the earth. Every time I was home from school, I'd take the car and sneak up to that barn off of Putney Road, hoping against hope that Paul and the horses had returned. Of course they hadn't...........And eventually the old barn collapsed and now there's a big food distribution warehouse sitting on that site. Still, every time I'm in that area, I picture K.T. and Bret romping in the pasture....................
There's a little more to this story. Til next time...................

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Great Expectations

It was the summer of 1973 (can you believe I can remember that far back?) and life was good. As with all my blogs, the stories are true and I've not changed names to protect the innocent. If they deserve to have their name dragged through the mud, so be it! LOL
'73 was the year I met the irascible Paul Johnson. He was a successful, albeit small-time, standardbred trainer who had retired from the game and taken on the lease and managing of Hillwinds Farm, accompanied by his retired trotter, Korwin Time (K.T. for short). Paul rented me a stall for $20 a month but I had to earn my keep! I swept the barn aisles (he reamed me out good for not sprinkling them down first!!), helped put in hay, did daily turn-outs as my schedule permitted, etc. Little did I realize it at the time but I was in the presence of greatness. Paul was truly a "horse whisperer" but he went about his business quietly and with no fanfare. He just did what instinct and experience told him to do. And he talked to the horses constantly! Humans, not so much. They annoyed him no end and he made no bones about it! LOL He once "caught" me talking to one of the old standardbreds I was grooming and when I stopped in embarrassment, he said, "Keep talking. The horses like it. They'll listen to ya."
There was a small apartment at the barn that Paul rented to a hippie couple........southern Vermont was "hippie central" in the '60's (there's some talk of trying to get the abandoned communes on the National Historic Register....go figure) and this couple was drifting through life hoping to save the planet one animal at a time. They did maintenance and chores and feeding and cleaned tack, and were constantly amazed that I smelled like lemon shampoo. No, I'm not kidding but I AM digressing.............Anyway, one day they went out and bought this standardbred gelding who'd been injured on the track and brought him back to Hillwinds. The first time I saw him, I was speechless.....this horse's left front knee was literally (and I'm not prone to exaggeration) the size of a basketball!!
But the hippies thought they could save him. Paul took one look and muttered several epithets under his breath and finally said, "What the hell do you think you're going to do with this horse?" "Make him better," the hippies said. Paul was disgusted, I could tell but, being Paul, he simply said, "OK." He disappeared and returned a while later with some sort of gooey glop he'd concocted in a bucket, a roll of wax paper, and a rolled bandage. He told me to open the stall door and "go hold onto that horse" so I did. He proceeded to slather the glop generously on the knee (gotta say, this horse lived up to his name - PRINCE Brastius because he was a prince about the whole thing!). Then he ripped off a chunk of waxed paper and wrapped that around the knee, followed by wrapping the entire thing with the bandage. When he was done, he simply picked up his stuff and left the stall. This routine was repeated twice a day by any of us who were handy. To my total amazement, that knee began to go down quickly and within a week was looking almost normal! To make a long story short, "Brat" as we came to call him (a total misnomer!), made a full recovery and I ended up riding him almost every day! The hippies soon moved (in the middle of the night) on to greener (or maybe "weedier" - ha ha) pastures and left Brat behind so Paul told me I was to take care of him and treat him as my own. When Paul left Hillwinds in September, Brat stayed there with a new owner. I wish now I'd thought to ask Paul what was in his poultice!
If any of you are of my vintage and from southern Vermont, you may remember a mare from the '60's show circuit named "Doe Girl." I remember watching her cantering around the hunter courses of my youth (and back then you had to jump OUT OF THE RING and put your horse over a course of x-country fences and then jump back INTO THE RING to finish your round!) and being in awe of what this little horse could do! Imagine my surprise when she showed up at Hillwinds one afternoon. The trailer pulled up, a guy jumped out of the truck, unloaded her, talked to Paul for a while and left. Paul said, "You recognize that horse? Doe Girl?" My eyes popped out of my head. "Remember? Yeah! Really, that's her?" Of course by then she was close to 20 years old but she still had plenty of git up 'n go left in her. "Well," Paul scratched his head. "You wanna ride her?" Well, DUH! (Was that an expression in the '70s??) I asked why she was at Hillwinds and he said that the guy who'd delivered her had bought her for his daughter but that they didn't get along and he was thinking of selling her.
Doe Girl was an amazing pony!!! She would do whatever you "thought." I'd think "trot" and we'd go trot. I'd think "canter" and off we'd go, always on the correct lead. I'd think "let's jump that" and over we'd go. One afternoon, the guy who owned her showed up when I was out on the hunt course and stood beside Paul, watching me ride Doe Girl. Paul hollered, "Hey! Take her over a few jumps but not the coop, OK?" Alrighty. We warmed up a little and then popped over a few post and rails. Then Paul hollered, "Now the coop." No problem. Over we went! Paul hollered, "Do it again from both directions." Piece of cake. I brought Doe Girl to a walk and was about to ask Paul what he wanted us to do next when I saw him laughing (yes, Paul Johnson was laughing!) and accepting some money from Doe Girl's owner. Later on I asked him what that was all about and he explained that Doe Girl had come to Hillwinds for "training" because for some reason she had started refusing jumps with his new rider and had steadfastly stopped in front of every coop the girl had tried to get her over. Paul had bet the girl's dad $10 that I could get her over the coop!! Turns out Paul had told the guy that he had "just the trainer" for Doe Girl and that "trainer" was me! I said, "But.......but........why was she refusing with her other rider?"
"Well," Paul drawled, "Y'know, you pretty much get from horses what you expect to get. You just expected her to take that jump, didn't ya?" And he walked away. (And he didn't offer to split that $10 with me!)
I remember that conversation to this day. It's stuck with me like a stubborn stain and pops into my head now and then when I'm getting frustrated with one of my animals. "You get what you expect to get." Wise words, indeed!

Don't live down to expectations. Go out there and do something remarkable.
Wendy Wasserstein

Do it for your horse!!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

In Memory Of.........

"Touch me
It's so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You'll understand what happiness is
A new day has begun"
Andrew Lloyd Webber

This morning I read a wonderful blog post from Katariina Alongi who writes "Equine Insanity." The title was "Never Forget Me" and it truly brought tears to my eyes. (http://equineinsanity.blogspot.com/2011/03/never-forget-me.html) It made me stop and think about the many horses who have passed through my life and how they've touched me and changed me and taught me..................
It wasn't until recently that I began to think about and reflect upon the importance of the horses in my past. I know I learned from each and every one of them.
During the summer between my junior and senior years of college, I was fortunate to have stumbled onto a golden opportunity. Looking for a cheap place to board a horse for a few months, I walked into the barn aisle of Hillwinds Farm where I found the barn manager, a man probably in his 60's, kneeling on the floor, wrapping the legs of an old standardbred gelding. I introduced myself and explained why I was there. Paul sat back on his haunches, stared at me, looked me up and down, and said, "Well, you're kinda puny but if you can help me around here..........How about $20?" I squeaked out, "A day?" (Way beyond my paltry budget as a day camp counselor!) And he growled, "Nah. A month. But you gotta bring in your own grain. And you gotta help out around here." And then he went back to wrapping the standardbred.
I was shocked. "$20 a month? Seriously?" Again, he sat back on his heels and stared at me. "Yeah. I guess so. When do you want a stall?" I phoned my boyfriend (now my husband!) that night and asked him how soon he could arrange for Katie the pony to be trucked over and the rest, as they say, is history.
Paul Johnson was a retired successful standard bred trainer, an ornery, taciturn character who took me under his wing that summer and taught me more in 3 months than I'd learned in the four years I'd had horses myself. He'd grouse and growl and act like a bear with a toothache most of the time but underlying that gruff exterior beat a heart of gold....which he was loathe to show the world. But the horses knew it. I'd never seen such love and devotion - he could do anything with any horse in the barn. Looking back, I realize that he embodied the words "horse whisperer." Although I did over-hear him say about my little Welsh/QH mare, "Yeah, she's pretty alright. But her brain is about the size of a pea and it's attached to nothing." At first I was offended but then I realized that it was just Paul talking and upon reflection, he might have been right......................LOL!
I've blogged about dogs from my past but now I think it's time to give the horses their due. Thinking about Paul has led me to remembering Brett Schneider. I think I'll write about him next time..................
Have a great day, friends!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dolphin Encounter!!

A beautiful evening, a gorgeous sunset, a light wind, a speedy boat, my family.......what's missing from this picture? Oh, right! A dolphin!!
I'd seen dolphins cavorting in the distance from my daughter's dock on the May River in South Carolina but it was my deepest desire to actually see one up close. Wednesday evening Trevor and Colleen took my husband and me out for a spin in their boat and we were having a great time watching the pelicans and cormorants, and laughing uproariously while we rescued Trevor's "hat overboard!" (which almost resulted in "daughter overboard!") when suddenly my daughter yelled, "Look! A dolphin!" I jumped up in time to see one dolphin fin break the surface of the water, rise up again, and then the entire dolphin leapt out and splashed back down! It was amazing! Trevor slowed the boat and we drifted along, watching this dolphin playing alongside us, but quite a distance away. Well, you know me.....I asked that dolphin to come alongside us so that I could see him closely; so that I could say hello. Instead, he disappeared............only to reappear RIGHT BESIDE THE BOAT! He rose up out of the water and bobbed his head while "waving" at my daughter! She was speechless and finally said, "Oh, my god, look at that! He's playing with us! We've never had a dolphin come that close before!" The dolphin dove again, seeming to go under the boat so I followed and crossed to the other side of the boat, too. And suddenly, directly under my nose and so close that I could have reached out and grabbed him, was the dolphin! I could see every single spot on his skin; every single blemish; every single glowing part of him!!!! Being the literate type, I went, "WHOAAAAAAAAA! OH, MY GOSH! NO WAY!" My dolphin friend looked back at me, winked, flicked his tail and was gone.
And I was left staring into the water, mouth open, speechless.....Colleen broke into my reverie by again saying, "We've seen tons of dolphins but we've never had one come that close to the boat before!" To which I replied, "Well, you only needed to ask." I'm sure you can all imagine how that answer went over! Rolled eyes and, "Right, mom." But we all know differently, don't we?? I TALKED TO A DOLPHIN!!!!!!

And then the sound of long, heavy, perfectly gray bodies rolling away into an unknown fathomless deep, quietly giggling."
Douglas Adams (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


"I'm on vacaaaaaaaaaaaaation!" (Name that movie!) It's sunny and warm here today and tomorrow the temps are supposed to climb close to 80! We're having a great time visiting my daughter and her fiance but I do miss my animals. I'm used to having something furry and 4-legged near me 24/7 and I had to endure a little "withdrawal" when we first arrived. There are cute anoles on the deck, tho, and squirrels who literally stop and stare as you ride by on bikes or walk by their territory. I always make a point of saying "hello." We did see some dolphins cavorting out in the river (it's a brackish river) and are hoping that the wind dies down enough that we can go out in the boat or kayaks for a closer look. My daugther reports that the dolphins love to swim and play next to the kayaks and sometimes - if you're lucky - they'll even bring their babies to get a look at the humans! LOL She says they're the size of footballs. Cute!
Go give your cat or dog or pony or donkey or guinea pig or whatever fur baby resides with you a hug and kiss from Granny Hayden! I'm off to see if I can find some anoles to talk to...........................
"I am the lizard King. I can do anything." Jim Morrison

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lucy and Granny's Amazing Journey

Before we had our kitchen redone, there was a big, old radiator against the outside wall. This is where I placed Lucy's bed - she loves to be warm. One afternoon I went out into the kitchen and Lucy was curled up asleep as usual but as I approached her, she opened her eyes and looked at me and just stared..........She looked so sad. Without warning, I was suddenly hit with a feeling of over-whelming sadness and despair. It was deep and almost painful! I remember thinking, "What the heck is this about?" Lucy continued to stare at me. I sat down on the floor beside her bed and she crawled into my lap and curled up as she pressed her little head against my chest. I held her and said, "What's wrong, Lulu?" Lucy sighed and my feeling of despair became deep, heart-wrenching sobbing. I cried as though I had lost someone loved and treasured....My chest hurt and the tears were soaking Lucy's head. To say I was confused and frightened would have been an understatement. I thought for a second that perhaps I was going insane! And then I heard this little voice....."My babies. What happened to all my babies?" I looked down at Lucy and she looked up at me and she asked again, "Where did they all go?" And in that instant, I realized that Lucy had opened herself up to me and allowed me to feel just what she was feeling! That made me cry even harder and there we sat........Lucy snuggled against me; me shedding all the tears that Lucy couldn't shed for herself. I finally told Lucy that she wasn't going to have any more babies so no one could ever take them away from her again! I apologized to her for the thoughtless behavior of some humans - humans who used her just to get her puppies - and I told her I was sorry that she never had the chance to love them and romp with them and teach them like a mother dog should...........And still we sat and I cried...........And then suddenly, it was all over. I felt something peaceful settling over us and my tears stopped. Lucy looked up at me and her eyes were bright and shining and she licked the tip of my nose. I kissed the top of her head. And that was it. Our journey was complete.
I still get goose bumps when I think back to that afternoon. I'm honored that Lucy chose me to share with. It had to have been as frightening for her to open up as it was for me to receive the message and to take on Lucy's emotions.
If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that without hearing aides, I'm profoundly deaf. But a friend told me once, "God may have taken away your physical hearing but he's showing you other ways to hear." I honestly thank God every day for these hearing aides but I must remember to thank him for deafness as well. It's opened my heart and mind to a whole new way of being and thinking. Oh! And I must remember to thank him for all the animals in my life.....I'm still learning to hear them!

An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language.

Martin Buber

Sunday, March 6, 2011

I Love Lucy!

No, not the "vitameatavegimen" Lucy. (Although if you remember that.........you're old like me! ha ha ha) I'm talking about Lucy the mini pin or "chi pin" (pronounced "chee-pin").
Lucy quickly adjusted to life at Granny's Doggie Day Care and even looked forward to coming here each day! Sometimes, after she was let out on Saturday mornings, she would even run to Annie's car and sit there, staring at it and whining, clearly saying, "Come on! We have to get to Granny's! She's expecting me!" She didn't realize it was a "weekend!"
Shortly after Lucy's arrival, we noticed this odd "lump" on her abdomen. It wouldn't be there and then slowly, like a balloon filling with air, it would appear and get bigger and bigger...........and then disappear again, only to start the whole thing over again. We wondered if it was somehow connected to the surgery she'd had for spaying and to repair to bilateral hernias she'd developed from bearing too many puppies.
We were off to the vet again. After a lengthy exam, the vet seemed perplexed and said she thought that what we were seeing was Lucy's BLADDER! For some reason, it was OUTSIDE of her abdominal cavity. We were to bring her home and watch the "lump" as it got bigger and then take Lucy outside to pee. If the lump went away, it was her bladder and we were facing an emergency situation!! Unfortunately, the vet was right on with her diagnosis and Lucy was rushed into surgery that afternoon. Apparently when she'd been spayed, the clinic that performed the surgery had "tried" to repair the hernias (which apparently were quite large) but had no idea how so they simply threw in a few sutures (the vet said she saw sutures in healthy tissue - in places where there was no reason for sutures!) and closed her back up again but they sewed her bladder outside of her abdominal cavity! Yikes! Lucy recovered very quickly (a testament to her tenacity and positive demeanor!) and was soon back to her old self again.
Annie, on the other hand, was left with a $1,000 vet bill! But as I reminded her....when you adopt an animal, it's like having a baby....you take what you get and you deal with any responsibilities that come with it. I did, however, suggest that she contact the rescue organization from whom she adopted Lucy to let them know what had occurred at this clinic in the hopes of preventing it happening to any other animals. The rescue group was appalled and began an investigation; our vet also became involved, and the clinic was shut down. The rescue group requested a report from our vet and a copy of the bill which we were happy to share with them. Several weeks later, Annie received a check from the rescue group, reimbursing her for the costs incurred because of Lucy's surgery!! We were not expecting that at all but of course Annie was thrilled and it was reassuring to know that there are such wonderful, responsible rescue groups out there!
Shortly after all of this, Lucy took me on an emotional journey like I've never experienced before! It reaffirmed my belief in animal communication and left me humbled and honored that she chose me to talk to! I'll share that in another post.
It's raining here today and my cellar can now double as an indoor swimming pool! And to think that yesterday, I was tromping through several feet of snow. Well, that's weather in the Great Northeast! Off to build an ark now..............
For the man sound of body and serene of mind there is no such thing as bad weather; every day has its beauty, and storms which whip the blood but make it pulse more vigorously.
George Gissing

Saturday, March 5, 2011

LULATULABABBALULA! (Say it really fast! LOL)

Here I am with my granddoggie, Lucy. The title of this post is a nickname I made up for her but I also call her Lulu, Teeny Tiny, Babbaloo, L'il Minipini.....whatever ridiculous thing pops into my head at the time! Lucy is another puppy mill mom. My daughter found her through a mini pin rescue in Syracuse, NY. I think Lucy is more chihuahua than mini pin but, like all members of the tiny breeds, she has the heart of a lion! That's what got her through some very tough times. Lucy's ears are all torn up and she has a light scar on her face......clearly life was not good to her when she was younger.
Annie had always wanted a mini pin of her own so started looking for breeders, thinking she would get a puppy. I begged her to go the rescue route.....surely there were mini pins out there desperately seeking a loving home! And that's how she found Lucy.
Lucy arrived shortly before Christmas in 2007. She was scared but hopeful, skinny, shy, and very unsure of herself. As soon as they arrived home, Annie called me to come and meet Lucy. Lucy? I was surprised because Annie had driven out to Syracuse to get a dog named "Molly" but Lucy, you see, had other plans! SHE chose Annie!
When I got to the house, Lucy was curled up in the recliner in the livingroom, watching everything, shaking with nerves, but not at all aggressive. She seemed interested in the new humans in her life. I sat down on the floor across from the chair and leaned back against the sofa. I talked mentally to Lucy, welcoming her to our family, and telling her how much she was going to be loved and pampered. She very slowly got down from the recliner and dropped to her belly. She literally "commando crawled" over to me and put one paw tentatively on my leg. I smiled. She was hesitant but after a few seconds she jumped up into my lap, curled up, sighed, and went to sleep. Annie walked into the room, smiled and said, "Listen, as long as she's OK there, do you mind if I run to the pet store for a few more things?" Heck, no! And so I sat.....and sat.......and sat.........first my butt went numb and then I lost all feeling in my legs!! ha ha ha I sat on that hardwood floor for over TWO HOURS while Lucy snoozed away..........
Lucy's adjustment to life at Annie's house didn't go smoothly at all! She suffered from severe separation anxiety, causing her to literally eat her way out of the new nylon crate Annie bought specially for her when Annie went to work. I loaned Annie my big, metal crate, saying, "She won't eat her way out of that!" No, she didn't, but she managed to slice open the top of her nose and pull out 4 teeth as she desperately tried to escape during the day. Annie called me in tears to say she'd made an appointment with the vet to have Lucy checked out and was afraid they'd tell her she had to return the dog because she was a "bad owner." I assured her that that would not happen. I was sure Lucy would be OK and even had a plan............but we went to the vet anyway. She assured me that Lucy's nose laceration was superficial and that she could eat just fine without those 4 teeth and would l like some brochures about local doggie day care? I told her, "No thanks," which produced a look of consternation. She said, "But......." I smiled and said, "There's no need for that. Lucy is going to come to my house every day from now on." And that's how Granny's Doggie Day Care came to be. But I only have one client! LOL
There's more to Lucy's story. She's an amazing little spirit and I can't wait to share more about my Lulatulababbalula!

A house is not a home until it has a dog.

Gerald Durrell

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Don't Eat That!!!

Like most neophyte clicker trainers, I had a tough time with treat delivery when I first began clicking. Food is a very high reinforcer for Split (he's all about the treat! ha ha) and he was so overjoyed with this new learning process that he would quickly grab the treat from my hand, resulting in nipped palms, bitten fingers, and a frustrated human being. Mary Arena taught me the "t'ai chi" delivery system which helped immensely and I also taught Split to back up a step or two in order to get his treat. When he has to stretch his neck, he's less likely to "snatch 'n grab." But then I read about "Don't Eat That!" This is about duration and patience, and I wouldn't recommend it for an aggressive animal unless you're working behind a barrier. But for a patient old soul like Split, it worked perfectly. I held out a treat to him and when he reached out to grab it, I closed my hand in a fist and brought it rapidly up to my chest. I also instinctively made a sound like, "Uh-unh!" (think "SSSSHT" as Cesar Milan does to dogs). Split was surprised by this and just stared at me. (For clarification - I did not ask for any behavior prior to offering the treat; it was all about the treat and developing patience in obtaining it.) I held out the treat again and once more he went to grab it so I did the fist to chest move again. The next time I held it out, Split hesitated for a second or two before beginning to reach for the treat. I clicked and let him have the treat. We worked on this each time we clicked and now I can hold a peppermint right under his nose and he will wait until I give him permission to take it.
I haven't done much clicking this winter. The weather is horrible, my paddock is either covered in 4' of snow or a layer of ice, and there's not too much room in my barn for indoor play. But on Sunday morning, I was feeling benevolent and decided that Split and Jingle each deserved a peppermint "just because......" Just because they're my friends, just because they're sweet and kind, just because I love them......."just because." So I went out into the paddock and began unwrapping the first mint. Split's ears popped up and he snorted, "CANDY!!!" And came right over to me and stood most politely while I unwrapped the mint. I put it in the palm of my hand and just waited......I thought, "I wonder if he'll offer to trade a behavior for the mint?" I could see the wheels and gears in his clever brain starting to turn. He looked at me; he looked at the mint. He licked and chewed for a sec and then took one step back. I smiled. He took another step, then another, until I counted 10 steps in all. I clicked and called him back to get the treat.
I thought that was pretty cool, letting HIM offer ME something instead of me asking him to do something specific. He's a neat pony!
Jingle of course waited politely for her turn at the candy. She's never in a hurry. She just ambled over to me and slowly lowered her head to my palm and very gently picked it up with those little, soft donkey lips. And then she chewed......and chewed......and chewed.....
That donkey knows a thing or two about getting the most enjoyment out of each moment in her life!
I love the quote I found this morning. I really should put it on a big poster in my barn. I don't know how many times I've done exactly what it admonishes against - thrown up my hands in frustration at myself, my pony, my dog, my spouse............and yet perhaps if I'd just practiced a little more patience..........

How many a man has thrown up his hands at a time when a little more effort, a little more patience would have achieved success.
Elbert Hubbard

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Jellybean Beagle

Hi! My name is Jelly because when I first arrived here, my belly was so huge, it hung almost down to the ground! I had dandruff and fleas and my fur was greasy and gross, and surgery to remove a cyst had left my tail looking like a deformed stump! But Annie saw something special in me when she visited the animal shelter that fateful May day. I knew she did but she told her friend that she couldn't adopt another dog. She said it was too bad her dad wouldn't let her mom have another dog because I would be perfect for Mom!
I traveled a long road to get to New York. I started out being a mommy in a puppy mill but someone came and rescued us! I went to the University of Georgia where I earned my PhD in Human Psychology. Ok, I'm kidding about that. I went to the university to get my shots and to be spayed and then I was on the road again, this time to a shelter in Mississippi. My time was running out so I was sent, along with a bunch of other dogs, to New York and there I sat with my biological clock winding down.............I just couldn't let this nice girl, Annie, walk away! I'd come this far - I wasn't going to stop here! I sat inside my kennel and pressed against the bars. I put one white paw through the bars and waved and waved and Annie turned around and saw me waving at her and "talking!" I was saying, "Come back! Come back!" And she did! She adopted me right then and there but asked if she could return the next day - Mother's Day - to pick me up. I was ecstatic and couldn't wait to see my new home and whoever this "mom" person was.
Things didn't go exactly as I'd planned, though. I leaped out of Annie's car the next afternoon and galumphed up the steps of the new house with Annie proudly holding my leash. Mom took one look and said, "What the heck is THAT THING? You know I don't like beagles." Annie said, "Come on, Mom. Look at her! She's SO CUTE! If you don't like her, I'll keep her or take her back." Mom was reluctant, I could tell, so I was on my best behavior that day (although I wish someone had told me I wasn't supposed to pee on the floor!). And Dad? Well, don't get me started on what HE thought that day.....
When Annie got ready to leave, Mom said, "You can't take this poor dog with you. Lucy (Annie's minipin - what a pain) is obviously upset about this dog and Nick (Annie's fiance) is going to have a fit if you go home with a beagle. You CANNOT take this dog into such a negative energy situation. She can stay here tonight and you can decide what to do with her in the morning." Annie said, "Wellllllll.....Ok. If you're sure." And she and I winked at each other when Mom wasn't looking.
I'll be honest and tell you that my cuteness factor and my gentle, loving ways won Mom over very quickly so when Annie called the next day to say that Nick would not let her have another dog and that she would pick me up and take me back to the shelter, I didn't worry. Poor Mom, though! She sat on the floor and held all 35 pounds of me on her lap (despite the dandruff and greasy fur and ugly, stumpy tail) and cried and cried and said that she wouldn't let me go to the shelter; that she would find me a home herself because how could she send me back there? She hoped I understood that she couldn't have another dog because Lucy came every day for doggie day care and there was also Sassy the old yellow lab who was sick and needed lots of attention from Mom. On and on she went. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Dad standing in the doorway, arms folded, a funny look on his face. Mom didn't notice. She just kept crying. Finally, Dad sighed and said, "Alright. If you want to keep the dog, keep the dog." And that's how I got here.
Look at me now!!! A sleek 25 lbs., shiny coat and no dandruff! AND, for some reason no one can figure out, my tail grew REALLY LONG! I get to walk through meadows and woods every day! I can bark at rabbits and dig in the snow and run and run (with Mom puffing and panting behind me! ha ha)! Life is grand!!!
So....how 'bout it? Next time you think about getting a dog, think about adopting one!! I'm not saying you'll be as lucky as my Mom and get someone as intelligent, loyal, loving, and fun as me but then again.............maybe you WILL!!!!!!
Thanks for reading my story!
"Dogs have given us their absolute all. We are the center of their universe, we are the focus of their love and faith and trust. They serve us in return for scraps. It is without a doubt the best deal man has ever made." - Roger Caras

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

This is the sight that greeted me Saturday morning!!