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I'm a children's author. Animals are a constant source of writing material for me. They are also my heart!

Raining Squirrels

>> Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Just so you know, I posted this on Saturday, May 2nd. My sister-in-law (who is much more the blogger than me) saved my photo in a draft so I could get to it easily.

At any rate, let me tell you about the day it rained squirrels...really and truly.

It was spring and I was home doing nothing for once in a blue moon. I was actually enjoying the act of being still and then the phone rang.

"Jan," said my friend Anita, "Can you come over here right now?"

"Why?" I asked as I gulped the last of my iced tea.

"Because," said Anita, "Squirrels are falling out of my tree and landing on the glass top table on my deck!"

"What kind of squirrels?" I asked, still feeling a bit lazy.

"Naked baby squirrels!" Anita shrieked. "Get over here now!"

That was the beginning of a long day. Somehow (and I'm still not sure how) I found the number of a squirrel man. I called and asked him the best course of action.

"Get the babies and put them in a shoebox at the base of their tree. Keep an eye on them to make sure no cats or dogs get too close. Their mother will come get them," the squirrel man assured me.

So, I did as the squirrel man said. I got the three naked babies and put them in a box at the base of their tree. Anita and I stood in her kitchen window and waited and waited and watched and watched.

In about an hour, the squirrel man's prediction came true. The mother squirrel inched down the tree and one by one, took her babies in her mouth, back up to their nest.

Inside, Anita and I were thrilled. We actually clapped with joy but our elation didn't make it past a high five. Plop. Plop. Plop. Just like big raindrops, the babies fell again. It wasn't a short fall either. These babies fell from high up in the treetop. I couldn't believe they weren't hurt, but they weren't, so we began the process again.

And again.

And again.

We were finally exhausted. We had had enough. I was just getting ready to tell Anita that I'd take the babies home and bottle feed them when (you're not going to believe this one) another squirrel came from the yard next door and took the babies to a nest in a different tree.

I called the squirrel man back. "Squirrel man," I said. "What's going on here? Our babies have just been squirrelnapped."

The squirrel man was as calm as Anita and I were frantic. "It's not unusual for a squirrel father to get involved," he said. "He probably found a bigger nest and decided to move the whole dang family."

The squirrel man must have been right. The mother squirrel and her babies settled into their new nest in an upscale tree and lived the high life.

Anita went back to whatever she had been doing and I went home. After it quit raining squirrels it was a good day to do nothing.


Annabelle - What a difference a year makes...

>> Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Annabelle came to us a year ago last October. She was our most challenging rescue because the unknown abuse she must have suffered led to incredible fear and distrust...especially of men.

All I know about Annabelle's past is that her previous owner went to prison for twenty-five years (for a child related offense). I called my rescue friend who had placed Annabelle with us and said, "Find out when he's due to get out on parole, because he's never getting this dog back."

Her response was chilling, "He hung himself," she said.

Annabelle is blond. He hair is curly and wiry...much like a terrier. Her body is long and her lets are short...much like a dachshund. Annabelle resembles the dog in the story of the Grinch.

At any rate, I let our other two dogs (Maddie and Kelly) take care of Annabelle when she first arrived. She put herself in the middle of the pack and that's how they roamed the house and the yard. After a week or so, she would let me touch her slowly and gently, but I was the only one.

My advice to my husband and sons was: "Don't look at her. Don't touch her and don't talk to her." With the exception of my middle son, the advice worked and after several months Annabelle warmed up them.

My middle son was another story. He must have somehow reminded Annabelle of her past. When Jeff came over (all my sons are grown and married) Annabelle would charge him. Kelly (who knew and loved everyone) would join her. They would pin Jeff to the back of the basement door and bark ferociously.

Needless to say, this didn't go over well. Thankfully, instead of being furious at the situation, Jeff tried to figure out how to gain Annabelle's trust. First of all, I felt that I knew Annabelle well enough to say, "Quit allowing her to back you in a corner. Hold your head high and walk by her as though she isn't there."

I know it was intimidating to Jeff, but he did just that. Then one day, just as Jeff and my daughter-in-law Eileen were getting ready to leave, Jeff took off his T shirt.

"What are you doing?" I asked as everyone else looked and wondered.

"I'm going to put my shirt on the couch for Annabelle to smell all week," Jeff answered.

Annabelle did indeed smell Jeff's shirt. His scent became familiar to Annabelle. Eventually, she even slept on top of the cotton-soft shirt.

I'm not sure if Jeff's act of kindness was because he really wanted Annabelle to trust him or if it was because he was bound and determined not to be defeted by a dog, but in any case, the left-behind T-shirt worked.

Annabelle quit barking at Jeff. She even began to let him pet her. A year after the fact, Annabelle greets Jeff with a wagging tail. She's still cautious of men, but Annabelle trusts us enough to let her know she's safe.

She's a good girl.



>> Sunday, April 26, 2009

If Kelly is scruffy like Tramp, then Maddie can certainly be described as the dog that played Lady. Together they are Lady and the Tramp. Maddie's as feminine as they come. She's a pretty little dog...ruby red.

Of my three, Maddie's the only dog that isn't a rescue. Maddie's a King Charles spaniel. I always tell people that Maddie's not the brightest bulb on the tree, but she's certainly sweet. Sweet and obsessed with food.

Maddie eats anything...well almost anything. I feed Maddie in a crate with an open door. She inhales her food then sits and waits for more... just in case. Even though Maddie's only six, she's had most of her teeth removed. Her short snout left her predisposed to dental problems.

Having no teeth doesn't stop Maddie in the least. I thought I might have to give her canned dog food, but Maddie's veracious appetite (or obsession with food) seems to give her the ability to be creative in the way she chews and swallows. Actually, her lack of teeth may be a blessing in disguise. It takes her a little longer to finish her meals now.

Maddie is almost always underfoot. That's okay, I like having her near me...I just have to remember she's nearby if I have the urge to move suddenly. As I'm typing this, Maddie's where she always is when I'm on the computer...between my feet. I'm sure she's dreaming about food!



>> Friday, April 24, 2009

Kelly is my oldest guy. I'll get photos posted soon (with the help of my sister-in-law) but the best way to describe Kelly is SCRUFFY ! Kelly looks like he could have played Tramp in the movie Lady and the Tramp. He's got the personality to match too.

Kelly moved in with us seven years ago. A friend's aunt originally got Kelly from the pound and then she died. No one knows how old Kelly really is, but we're guessing between 12 and 15 now. Kelly was just what I needed after my beloved Newfoundland died. I swore I'd never get another dog after that death, because I couldn't stand the pain of another loss. Somehow Kelly made that different. He needed me.

Age hasn't stopped Kelly much. He still rules the roost around here. Yes, our boy is pack leader...there's no doubt about that. He routinely puts Maddie and Annabelle in their place. In fact, he rolls them. Kelly decides who gets to sit on the couch with us. He even decides where. they will sit One look from Kelly is all it takes. His body language dictates where the other dogs go. Maddie and Annabelle respect Kelly. So do I!

When Kelly first came to us he had a five foot vertical jump. It's down to about three feet now. Believe it or not, Kelly's energy level still surpasses that of a thoroughbred on the track.

Health wise, things are looking down a bit. I just got back from picking up medication for Kelly. Kelly's appetite is not what it used to be and he's been a bit incontinent. Blood tests show elevated liver enzymes. Somebody forgot to tell Kelly that he's a little under the weather!

The vet put Kelly on Denamarin for his liver and Diethyl Silbesterol for his incontinence. Anyone ever used those medications?



>> Thursday, April 23, 2009

I decided I should introduce you to my pets before I start posting old columns from equine magazines. Tango seems like the perfect place to start since I already have photos of him on my other blog

Some horse owners don't consider their horses as pets, but I sure do. I adore Tango. I have to remind myself that he's not a dog on a routine basis. Let me tell you about Tango's beginning. Five summers ago I rescued Tango. I got a phone call while I was on a family vacation in the mountains of Tennessee. "There's a horse who's going to slaughter tomorrow if you don't commit to buy him now," the caller said. Being the sucker that I am I asked for the rest of the story. It seems that an Amish man purchased Tango's bay mother when she was pregnant. She was expected to deliver a bay foal but instead Tango came out about as black and white as they come. This Amish man could not drive a "flashy" horse, so after keeping him for his kids to play with for a couple years, he was ready to sell him one way or another. I bought Tango by the pound and brought him back to the farm where I was boarding an elderly thoroughbred. The plan was for someone (not me) to train Tango.

Unfortunately that didn't happen, so being overly confident and eternally optimistic I managed to test fate. One beautiful summer evening in August my friend and I went out for a trail ride. "Tango's calm," I said, "He'll be fine." I guess the sweet smell of summer and a new horse took the place of common sense. Tango hadn't been under saddle much yet and before the evening was over I managed to end up on the ground. When I fall it looks like Barney the Dinosaur in a train wreck and this time was no exception. There was no gracefulness in the way that I ruptured my spleen.

That was then and this is now. Tango is amazing. He moves like a dream. I can show him in pleasure driving classes and dressage.Tango is also Houdini. Want to know why? One winter when Tango was slightly off (lame) I couldn't ride him much. So instead, I taught Tango tricks. I taught him to push a ball. I taught him to pick up cones. I taught him to bow and give kisses. AND I TAUGHT HIM TO USE HIS MOUTH TO PULL THE END OF A ROPE.So, Tango pushes. He pulls. He gets out. Dumb me. Smart Tango. He knows where the grass is greener!


Nothing Better!

>> Wednesday, April 15, 2009

I can't think of a single thing (aside from my faith, family, and friends) that makes me happier than my animals.

I have three dogs...Kelly, Maddie, and Annabelle. With the exception of Maddie, all my dogs are rescues. Later on, I'll go into greater detail about my dog rescues!

I also have a horse, Tango. I rescued Tango when he was a little over a year old. Tango was small when I got him but he's not now. Turns out, Tango is part draft horse. He's awesome! I show Tango pleasure driving and right now, Intro level dressage.

Journaling is therapeutic to me. I decided it would be fun to journal about my animals with other animal lovers. I use to write a column for a horse magazine. Maybe tomorrow I'll share one of those columns...maybe I'll write about something else!


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