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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!

Tango's Up for Anything

>> Sunday, June 28, 2009

You've seen Tango in a pleasure driving competition. You've seen him competing in dressage. You've seen him at a clinic. I just found this photo of young Tango and my adorable granddaughter, Alexa, taken a few years ago. Alexa and Tango were in a lead line competition. Am I obsessed or what?

Alexa and I have the best time together. She's going to be a better rider than wait, she already is! She rides my friend's horse, Tantra now. I think in October, Alexa will be going to a dressage show too. She hopes to show in the junior divisions. Imagine that, a grandmother and granddaughter combination. Pretty cool, huh?! I do believe we're creating memories.

I can't find the photo of my grandson, Christian (he's adorable too) riding Tango but I will. Tango's great with kids. Christian is very active. It's really interesting to see the calming effect Tango has on him. All I have to do is put Christian on Tango's bare back and Tango's gentle motion takes over. My energetic grandson almost falls asleep. It's an amazing thing to see.

You know, when I first started this blog, I wondered if I could think of enough things to write about. All I have to do is look at photos (or live everyday life with my guys) and there's always something.

Also, I just realized I'm overcoming one of my greatest fears. I have let you see me in breeches. Up until I started this blog, no one saw photos of me in my skin-tight-dimple showing-riding apparel. Wow. What's happened to me? I've been having so much fun blogging, I forgot to care about how I looked. Good grief. It's a new world.

Before I forget it (like I could) my new business website is ready. You can find it at If you know anyone who needs a writer, speaker, or creative coach please share my new site. Also, I'd welcome feedback from you. I value what you think.

Nothing at either of my blogs will change...I promise. I like talking to you too much!


Not a Clue or Lucky Chipmunk!

>> Saturday, June 27, 2009

I have rocks that surround three big trees in my backyard. Inpatients flourish there...until the chipmunks that tunnel in and out get hungry. Then they nibble on the delicate flowers until I open the door and let out the dogs. Maddie's more interested in birds. I suppose that's the spaniel in her. Not Annabelle. It's the chipmunks she's after.

Poor girl. Annabelle's clueless. She thinks she's a mighty chipmunk hunter while she lays in wait. What Annabelle doesn't understand is that chipmunks have some sense of danger

because they can hear her little dog snorts every second or third breath she takes.
Annabelle had been laying in the position you see in the photo for about two hours. I had Maddie on my lap and was alternating between reading a book and watching the rock pile just in case a chipmunk decided to brave it and run out.
I know chipmunks are detrimental to lots of things, but my plan was to run interference nonetheless. After all, chipmunks are pretty darn cute and it's not like I'm growing crops or anything!
Okay. Back to my story. Annabelle continued to stay in the position in the photo even after Maddie jumped down from my lap and I got up to move the sprinkler.
I sat back down and noticed...are you ready?....a plump chipmunk dart from the flowers back into the rocks.
"That's a pretty brave (or stupid) chipmunk," I thought to myself.
Of course my second thought was, "Is there something wrong with Annabelle?"
She was still in the same position, barely moving. My creative mind has a tendency to concoct things that border on the side of impossible, but I can't help myself.
Somehow, I got it in my head that Annabelle had suffocated from lack of oxygen in the rock formation, giving the chipmunks free rein to the flowers. "After all," I told myself, "Annabelle should have been up and chasing!"
At that point, I wished that my husband were home. I would have had him go touch Annabelle. But, as luck would have it, I was home alone.
I called Annabelle's name. Nothing. I moved closer to her (shuffling the loose gravel along the way). Nothing. I cleared my throat. Still nothing.
Can you tell how brave I am in the face of adversity?
When I reached Annabelle, I took a deep breath, bent over and laid my hand on her little back, not knowing what to expect.
You can probably guess what happened next. Annabelle bolted straight up knocking several rocks out of position on her way. She'd been sound asleep. Guess waiting for a chipmunk to come out had been more boring than she'd expected.
Clueless Annabelle. Lucky chipmunk!
Just so you know, my youngest son has the same imagination as me. Whenever he calls and doesn't get an answer in a timely fashion he's sure Chuck and I have been kidnapped or worse. It's genetic!


Linda Hoover Clinic - A Great Experience!

>> Thursday, June 25, 2009

It didn't use to be easy to travel with Tango. Getting him on and off a trailer took forever. Life is so much easier now. He actually likes to go where I go...thank goodness! As you can tell from the photo, Tango is happily curious as we arrived to participate in a clinic presented by Linda Hoover.

This is my good friend. Nancy (in the red) and her horse Jammer. Thanks to Nancy, Tango and I were able to attend Linda's session. The clinic I attended was held at Nancy's barn. As you can see from the photo of Tango and me at the bottom of the page, the setting is glorious.

I have to admit, at first I was a little intimidated about signing up to work with Linda. Her reputation preceded her. Linda Hoover is highly respected in the equestrian community.

"Why would she be okay working with someone with my level of expertise?" I wondered.

My fears were put to rest. Linda met Tango and I where we were in our relationship. She assessed our needs and began to offer advice and tools to work with that would make our relationship even better. Through natural horsemanship, Linda guided us through several exercises that resulted in more calmness and trust...for both Tango and me.

Linda's focus is to help horses become more willing partners. Linda teaches riders to chose better options with stressful situations that all of us encounter from time to time. Some of us encounter them more often than others, but that's another story for another time!

All in all, the day was a huge success. I don't think I'll ever learn all I need to know about horses, but through my love for Tango and excellent coaches like Linda Hoover, Tango and I will continue to make great strides.

Thank you Linda!


I Could Love this Face but...What is It?????

>> Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I was going through my draft posts today and found this photo. It was labeled "A Face Only a Mother Could Love."

I can't remember what kind of animal this is or why I saved it in my draft file. I must have had a good reason at the time, but who knows what it was....surely not me!

Since I'm getting ready to run out the door, I thought I'd post this interesting photo and let you tell me what it is...I have two ideas, but I'm just not sure. What do you think? I do believe it's so ugly it's probably cute!


Good Rescue - Good Friends

>> Sunday, June 21, 2009

They looked like baked potatoes when we pried up the plank from the deck of a vacant house and pulled out seven at a time. From the beginning, I called them jumbo puppies. These puppies (and others like them) are the reason I always know summer is going to be busy...very busy.

It started like this: A good friend of mine (you remember Anita from my Raining Squirrels post?) lived next door to a vacant house. For several weeks, a vicious looking dog would run from the backyard of the house and scare the beejeebers out of anyone who came near...including me! Trust me, I didn't go too close, but I tried to put a dish of water and food in the backyard more than once. The dog let me know I was unwelcome.

Anyway, this went on and on. The seemingly vicious dog got more aggressive. She tried to jump the fence and come into Anita's backyard more than once. Since Anita had an elderly dog of her own and children too, she was getting more than just a little nervous. The situation was getting bad.

One night my husband and I were over at Anita's for dinner.

"I had to call the animal warden," Anita told us. "I can't take a chance of that dog hurting Savannah (her dog) or Emily (her youngest daughter)."

I was sad but I understood. It was scary.

We ate dinner. As evening turned to night my husband fell asleep in front of Anita's televison. I fretted. About 11:00, Anita and I went out to see if the dog had been trapped. It had indeed. It only took a moment for me to see that this lactating dog had only been trying to protect its pups.

"We've got to get the mom out of this trap," I told Anita. "If the animal warden comes this dog doesn't stand a chance and I know she has puppies somewhere. She needs to be able to nurse them."

This story could go on and on but through the efforts of my husband (and a few other friends) we went into the very dark backyard of the vacant house. And yes, I had to wake up my poor husband. We needed as much help as we could muster at that late hour.

With flashlight in hand, we looked under bushes and in a shed. Finally, it dawned on one of us that the puppies were probably under the deck where they would be hard to reach. Of course, that's right where they were.

As soon as we started pulling the puppies out from under the deck, we transferred them to another large crate which we placed right beside the mother dog. We left that crate opened and untrapped the mom. She immediately ran into the crate with her pups. Now she didn't look so ferocious. In fact she looked downright grateful.

The next morning we went back to the vacant yard to make sure we hadn't missed any puppies. It broke my heart to find empty McDonald's bags and various other trash that the mother had obviously been eating just to survive. What maternal insincts she had.

Ten weeks and I can't tell you how many bottles of formula later, we placed all the puppies in good homes. Most of them went in twos, which made all of us very happy. The mother found a good home with one of my friends who helped to care for the pups all summer. Her name is Rae. In addition to taking the mother dog, Rae did puppy laundry, feedings, and just about everything she could do to help with the puppies.

In the end, it was a very successful rescue. A patient at my vet's office had formed a foundation to honor her dog. It paid for every single shot the puppies and their mother received. Can you think of a better end to a rescue story?

Oh! I can think of one way. There's going to be a puppy reunion in July. I'll take lots of pictures to share with all of you.


Is Grass a Vegetable?

>> Thursday, June 18, 2009

Okay, here's what happened. I was having lunch with two horse friends today when I mentioned that Tango boy is putting on the pounds. I honestly believe my guy has gained 100 pounds since the grass turned green.

I was thinking out loud when I said, "I just don't get why horses gain weight when they eat grass since grass is a vegetable."

My two friends laughed out loud. They were really quite amused. "Grass is most certainly not a vegetable," they said. "It's something else."

"What else could it be?" I asked them. "Grass is green. It's like a big leafy salad. When I eat salads, I lose weight. Tango's gaining. His svelte figure is changing on a daily basis. Why?"

The conversation continued for awhile and by the end my friends laid out the challenge.

"Get the answer!" they said. "If you can prove grass is a vegetable then let us know."

So, here's the deal. Most of you know lots more than me about animal nutrition and horses in general. I need to know what you think. Your answers will be greatly appreciated and I'll consider every single one of them...even the ones that are totally made up. I might need a few of those just in case the debate with my friends gets serious. I like to be prepared to blow a little smoke. What fun is a debate without some creativity?



"Someone Almost Died and He Wants Us to Do What?!"

>> Sunday, June 14, 2009

Thank you so much for all your thoughtful comments about adopting a cat into our family. After reading what you had to say, it occurred to me that every summer I usually foster a litter of kittens or two. In the past, I've had to find homes for all of them. This summer will be different. I'm going to sit back and wait to see what happens. If I foster a litter, two kittens will already have a very good home!

Okay. Now I'm going to switch back to horses. Most of you know how much I love Tango and most of you know that I show him dressage. Tango is a very versatile guy. I rescued him from an Amish background and driving is in his blood. He moves like a dream and loves every minute of it.

I thought I'd share a pleasure driving story for you. Yep...that's Tango and me in the photo above. The judge was actually offering high praise. Below is a partial article that I wrote for an equestrian magazine. There's never a dull moment when it comes to animals, and a day without just a little excitement could even be called boring!

Here's the partial story:
The last show of the season was...let's just say more than competitive. What I had always believed to be true, was. Tango held up under pressure. He was better than good, he commanded calm and exhibited his true nature.

We were in the show arena and had just switched from a walk to a park trot. Tango was responding with ease. We had just rounded the first turn in the arena when I heard a banging commotion from behind us. A young woman had lost control of her horse, fallen to the floor of her cart, and was wildly flying back and forth and around and around the arena. It seemed there was no stopping her horse.

The second time the runaway cart went by us; it clipped the back of our cart. I asked Tango to move forward and stand. He did.
Three minutes of chaos seemed to last forever. Other horses in the arena were clearly upset and unruly. Who could blame them?

Tango's calmness kept me calm. I remember thinking, "Should I get down and try to help or just stay here?" But by that time, lots of other people were in the arena. Common sense took over. I decided I'd do the runaway driver and horse more good if I just stayed out of the way. That's what I did. Rather, that's what Tango allowed me to do.

Finally the out-of-control horse was stopped. I was shaking from the inside out and ready to leave the arena when the announcer barked, "Resume park trot...resume park trot."
"He's got to be kidding," I thought. "Someone almost just died and he wants us to resume park trot???? "

The saying "The Show Must Go On," applied here. The show went on. I was numb but not Tango. His extended trot was more beautiful than I've ever seen it. I felt like we were floating through the air. The only thing that took away from our first place finish, was concern for the driver of the other cart, who luckily was not hurt.

Our win was the icing on the cake. That day...that moment....the bond between Tango and me grew even stronger. He trusted me and I trusted him. Yes, Tango was and is a winner for more ways than one.


Should I Rescue a Cat?

Here's the question. Should I or shouldn't I? Up until Kelly came, I always had cats. I love anything with fur and kittens are no exception. My cat, Sophie (18) had just died when I rescued Kelly. Kelly is/was the only dog I have ever had that chased cats. Of course Kelly chased anything that moved (with the exception of the other dogs). So, since I was fearful of what might happen with a cat, I got Maddie then rescued Annabelle. Our house was more than full. Now it seems quiet and slightly empty. I or don't I? That's the question of the day. Help!


Animals Are Living Well at the Columbus Zoo

>> Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I was watching the morning news this past week and was pleased to learn that our Columbus Zoo is ranked NUMBER ONE in the nation. Since my sister and niece were in town it seemed like a good time to travel to our famous zoo.

As we wandered around and through the vast areas, I couldn't help but be impressed by the naturalness of all the animal's habitats. While I understand that it would be terrific if all the animals were still in the wild, I was awestruck and impressed by the way that they live in captivity.

I found a quote by Gandhi (that you can see in the photo above) on a plank wall inside the aquarium area. It exemplifies why the Columbus Zoo is so excellent.

"The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

I think Gandhi's notion applies to more than the Columbus Zoo, don't you?


The Girls Got Some TLC and a Trip to the Spa

>> Sunday, June 7, 2009

This is Maddie with my brother-in-law. She had a rough week and needed the TLC that everyone gave her.

Annabelle's trying to decide if she should take her rightful position as alpha dog. Sorry Annabelle, that's just not going to happen...yet.

The spa trip left Annabelle feeling confident and ready to pose. I usually groom the dogs myself, but this week we all needed a little pampering--so traveling to the spa was just the ticket. She's a peppy pup!

Annabelle is sitting beside a rock planter that surrounds one of my big trees. A chipmunk lives in the rocks. You guessed it...there's a story coming soon!

Maddie seems a little happier every day. I think I might even see the hint of sparkle coming back to her eyes. What a good girl.

Thank you so much for all your kind words about Kelly. His legacy of love will live on in my girls and Tango. You know how wonderful that legacy is...that's why your notes were so special to me.

***A guest blogger will post on this site on Saturday, June 13th. Please make sure to drop by to read her fun post!


My Heart Hurts - Kelly Is Gone

>> Monday, June 1, 2009

Frankly, I thought I was ready. I thought I'd be prepared for the day Kelly died. I was wrong...totally and completely. Nothing could have made me ready for the day my scrappy boy stopped bouncing forever.

I woke up on Sunday morning at 7:00. Kelly was thrashing about on top of my legs. It didn't take long before I realized he was having a seizure. I'm not sure how, but somehow, Kelly ended up on the floor with me beside him.

He was breathing heavily, but not uncomfortably or out of control. "I can do this," I told my husband. "If this is all it is and Kelly is going to die, then I can let him die here."

I began to pet Kelly. I put my face tear-stained face beside his and kissed the top of his scruffy little head. "I'm here Kelly," I said. I knew Kelly couldn't hear me because he was totally deaf, but I needed to say the words. I needed to comfort myself as much as him.

My husband stayed with me and my lifelong friend, Joani came over. We all kept vigil by Kelly's side. At one point I stood up to get dressed. The minute I moved, Kelly tried to stand. He couldn't. His back legs were no longer working but he didn't want me out of his sight.

"Just pet him like I do, " I told my husband. At that moment, I was in control. I wanted to get back beside Kelly as quickly as I could. Chuck kneaded Kelly's shoulder while I threw on my clothes.

That was when Kelly began to throw up bile. I propped him up against me so that he wouldn't choke. And I cried. Kelly got worse and worse.

At 10:00 A. M. it was clear Kelly was suffering. I had made a promise to myself and to Kelly that I would be brave enough to let him go. I loved him that much.

Joani called the emergency vet's office and made sure I could stay with Kelly while he was euthanized. Then I swaddled my boy in a blanket and we left.

When we got to the vet's office, they took Kelly long enough to put a catheter in his leg. I suppose that's so there are not mistakes once the drug begins to be administered. The vet tech carried Kelly back to me. I held him in my arms and pressed his little body next to mine.

Chuck, Kelly, and I were on a couch. Joani was on a chair just across from us. She had a clear view of Kelly's face. "I think he's asleep," she said.

Kelly was indeed asleep. The comfort of being with me had calmed him again. "When the vet comes in," I told Joan, "Tell her to do what she needs to do and not say a word. I don't want Kelly upset again."

The vet came in. Joan gave her my instructions. Even though I was sobbing, I felt joy. Kelly died peacefully and calmly. I kissed his still warm head one more time. So did Joani. His death was as beautiful as his life. I am writing through my tears, but writing is therapeutic to me.

Kelly is gone. My heart hurts but Kelly's legacy will live on through all the other animals I love.

Just so I don't end on such a sad note, I want you to read an email I got from another dear friend today. The memory she shared made me laugh because it was so Kelly.

This is from Cheryl:

Hi Jan,
I was so very sorry to hear about Kelly. Hope you got the voice mail I left yesterday--I know Joan says you don't always get your messages. He was a great dog--your little bouncing Kelly. I will smile every time I think of him and the time we got kicked out of the vet's office! Take care and call me if there is anything I can do.

Love you--Cheryl

Yes, Kelly got us banned from my old vet's office one day. He just wouldn't quit bouncing or barking. That was my Kelly.

Annabelle is fine. Maddie is still looking for Kelly. I know we'll all be better soon. Kelly's memories will live on in our hearts and minds. Thank you for letting me share.

*picture taken Christmas of 2004


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