Omega Fields

  • Blue Chicken Eggs

    Written By Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily

    There are basically three types of chickens that lay blue eggs - Ameraucanas, Araucanas and Easter Eggers (although Cream Legbars do lay blue eggs as well and are just becoming available in the US) - but only two of the three ALWAYS lay blue eggs, so you'll want to be sure of what you're ordering if you are determined to have blue eggs.

    AMERAUCANAS

    Ameraucanas are a pure breed recognized by the APA since 1984. They were most likely originally bred from South American blue egg laying breeds but were developed and standardized in the United States. They come in eight distinct colors including, Blue, Black, White and Wheaten, which all share these distinct Ameraucana traits:

    ● Peacomb

    ● Muffs and beard

    ● Red earlobes

    ● Tail

    ● Blue legs

    ● White foot bottoms

    ● Always lay blue eggs

    ARAUCANAS

    Araucanas are also a pure breed recognized by the APA since 1976. They originated in Chile most likely and come in five colors including black, white, duckwing silver and golden. Araucanas all share these distinct Araucana traits:

    ● Peacomb

    ● Ear tufts (this gene is lethal to developing chicks if inherited by both parents)

    ● Red earlobes

    ● Rumpless (no tail)

    ● Green or willow-colored legs

    ● Yellow foot bottoms

    ● Always lay blue eggs

    EASTER EGGERS

    Easter Eggers are not a recognized breed. They are mongrels - mixed breed chickens that do possess the blue egg gene but don't fully meet the breed specifications of either Araucanas or Ameraucanas. They can come in any color or combination of colors and share these traits:

    ● Any kind of comb

    ● Muffs/beard/ear tufts or none

    ● Any color earlobes

    ● Tail or tail-less

    ● Any color legs

    ● Any color foot bottoms

    ● Can lay blue but also sometimes lay green, tan, pink or even yellow So if you want to be guaranteed blue egg layers, you will want to raise some Araucanas or Ameraucanas; but Easter Eggers are fun because you never know what color egg each will lay until she starts laying, and even identical-looking hens often lay varying shades of bluish or greenish eggs.

  • 80% of People are Now Shopping Online. Will they Find Your Horse Business?

    Written By Randi Thompson

    Social media and SEO (search engine optimization) are more important to local horse business owners than ever

    With the recent Google search changes, social media is now the best way to get your horse business on the first page of the local search engine results. Studies show that most people do not go past that first page, so it is important that your business is listed there.

    Local Marketing with a Focus on Social Media and SEO. How people will find you

    When you enter the world of social media, you will become a part of a social network. You communicate and interact with each other through the posts that you share with each other. The more likes, shares and comments your posts and website that is connected to them gets, the higher your business will show up in the newsfeeds of anyone who interacts on it, and even more importantly, the search results.

    Some of the benefits for marketing and promoting your local horse business on social media include:

    • You can attract and target horse people in your local area.

    • Social media marketing is low cost.

    • You will become an authority in your local area and in your field.

    • You create relationships with the people who become a part of your network. Those you are interacting with begin to know, like and trust you. They can become your customers.

    • You can talk directly with potential customers or create a stronger relationship with your current ones.

    Are you ready to get started?

    Begin by choosing a social media network that features local business pages. You can start a local business page on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php If you are on Google + (of course, since it is Google, you will get the best search results there) start with a Google local business page here: http://www.google.com/+/business/

    When you go to the business start-up page you will be asked to pick a classification. Choose “local business or place” This classification will help your business rank higher in your local area. The name you choose as the title of the business page is very important. It needs to be one that people will search for. Since they probably do not know the name of your business, you can add more words to the title. For example, Sundance Stables. Conyers, Ga. Or, Sundance Stables- Horse training, boarding.

    Next, you will be asked to upload a photo for the “cover photo”. This is the image that will appear across the top of your business page. Creative business owners use their cover photos to promote their sales or share photos that focus on their business and the customers who make it special.

    You will also need a smaller “profile image”. It is the profile image that will show up on any of posts you share. Many business owners use their logo as their profile image so that people can recognize their business.

    The “About “section” is designed so that your business name and website (if you have one) can be found in the search engine results. It is very important and often over looked by business owners who do not realize its value. With Facebook and Google+ local business pages you can also add your location, phone number, website and other information that people will be looking for in a local business.

    Once your business page is set up, make sure to add its icon, a clickable image, to your website. By doing this, your website will have more value as your activity on social media will be noticed by Google and your website will be listed higher in the search results.

    How to Find the Local People Who Are Interested In What Your Business Has to Offer

    Social media is all about connecting to people with similar interests. Your goal will want to find where they are on other social media pages, groups or communities. To find them go to the search bar on the top of the page and type in the words that people in the horse world are using. This is called “targeting”. For example, you can start with the word, horses, and see who turns up. To narrow your search down even more you can type in AQHA, dressage, horse training or whatever words are related to what you are doing in the horse business. To find out who is in your area, type in those words and add your city and state. You can also go to your competitor’s pages to see who is there and target the people who are there that you would like to get to know better. All you need to do is click on their profile image and you will be magically transported to their business page or personal profile where you can start having conversations with them on the posts they have shared. This makes them feel valued and they will often click on your profile image to see who you are and what you are doing. If they like what you are doing, they will become a part of your social network.

    How to Get People Talking About Your Business

    There is a reason it is called social media. It’s all about being social. You will be using the posts you share and the comments you add to other people’s posts to create conversations with other people. Especially those who are interested in your field or what you have to offer.

    • To start, you will need to reach out to your prospective clients, or the people with lots of connections related to what you are offering in your business, by going to their posts and business pages.

    • Add interesting comments to the posts that they are sharing. Your goal is to get them to respond to you.

    • Post from your business page when you are on other business pages so that those who are there begin to recognize your business from your profile image

    • The more people you can get to like, share or comment on your posts, the higher your business page, and as a result, your webpage, will appear in the search results. To do this, share interesting posts, photos, or videos to attract their attention.

    When do You Promote Your Business?

    Every time you post from your business page you are promoting your business. It is important to keep most of your posts, or comments, conversational, entertaining, or educational. At least 90% of your posts should be posts that people want to interact on or respond to. You can also use your posts to promote your business directly. The trick is in making that post more than just another ad that no one will look at. To do this you can ask questions or experiment with what people will respond to. Less than 10% of what you share on social media should be focused on direct advertising. You can also target local horse people directly with Facebook and Google Ads.

    Can Anyone Find You’re Business When They Do a Search?

    Your prospective customers are now searching online for what they want locally. Will they be able to find your horse business?

    Randi Thompson is internationally recognized in social media for her award winning “Horse and Rider Awareness" and “How to Market Your Horse Business”. She is a keynote speaker at national events, author, and expert legal consultant for the horse industry.

       

    How to Market Your Horse Business

    Horse and Rider Awareness

  • Colic Prevention Part 2

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    This month we will finish our discussion of common causes of colic in the equine, and what you might do to prevent them. Previously we discussed the importance of having a thorough emergency plan in place in order to make a potential colic less stressful for you. We followed that with a discussion of the most common management practices which will help minimize your horse’s risk of colic. These included quality and consistency of the diet, proper hydration and parasite control to name a few. This month we will focus on some of the less common reasons horses may colic. Although less common, they are no less important for the owner to be aware of these possibilities.

    The sex of your horse may increase its likelihood of colic. Remember that colic just refers to general abdominal pain. Some mares experience discomfort relative to their estrous cycle. If your mare routinely shows mild colic at three week intervals, her ovaries may be the culprit. Normally cycling mares will ovulate every 21 to 23 days and this event can be associated with discomfort. Having a reproductive exam can also rule out if she has an ovarian dysfunction exacerbating her discomfort. If you choose to breed your mare, you must also be aware of the possibilities of colic associated with pregnancy. During gestation, the mare may experience colicky symptoms due to movement of the fetus. That does not mean that colic signs during gestation should be discounted. Follow your normal procedures of a thorough exam and consult with your veterinarian. Finally, mares are often crampy after foaling, as the uterus continues to contract in order to expel the placenta. Additionally there is a greater potential for twisted bowels post foaling due to the extra “room” in the abdominal tract. Typically these mares will experience very severe pain. As I have personally had to suffer the loss of a mare with a new foal at her side, realize that these are very real possibilities. Monitoring mares closely in the post foaling period may allow you to catch symptoms early and perhaps save her life. All in all, realize that there are risks one has to assume when choosing to breed horses.

    The lifestyle of your horse may also cause it to colic. Some horses experience far more stress due to competition or travel than other horses. Some horses dislike horse shows or competitions so intensely that they work themselves into spasmodic colic. If this is true, you really need to closely examine why your horse is experiencing stress. Are you asking too much of them? Do you warm-up or ask the horse to perform at a different level than at which you train? Is the change in environment or the close proximity of other horses too much? Try to acclimate the horse gradually to stressful scenarios. Be reasonable in your expectations of your horse. Consider how nervous or anxious you may be at shows. Isn’t it likely that your horse may also experience anxiety (albeit for perhaps different reasons)? Ultimately, it may be possible that that type of career may not be a great fit for your horse. Consider a less stressful type of competition or even re-homing the horse where it may be more comfortable. After all, competitions and events serve as recreation for most horse owners. Is it really fun if your partner is miserable?

    When traveling to events, also consider how long the horse is in the trailer. Hauling in a horse trailer for long periods of time is actually fairly tiring for the horse. Ideally you should let the horse rest every 5-6 hours. Coupling that with a change in a horse’s normal feeding schedule and reduced access to water, can set the horse up for colic. At rest stops, consider offering your horse flavored water to ensure he maintains his water intake. Begin to accustom him to the flavoring at home to ensure he actually likes it. This is especially critical in hot weather, when the temperature in the trailer can exceed the external temperature. Horses may lose a substantial amount of water through sweating that they may not have the opportunity to replenish. Horses may also be more likely to develop respiratory issues while confined in a trailer as well. While we often try to help the horse by keeping hay in front of them, open windows or sides can force dust and particulate matter into the horse’s airways. This can cause the horse to develop pleuritis, which is inflammation of the lungs. While it is a respiratory issue, the horse may still show colic-like symptoms. All in all, plan your travel with your horse’s comfort and health in mind.

    What breed your horse is may also pre-dispose him to certain gastrointestinal disorders. Arabians and Arabian crosses are more likely to develop enteroliths than other breeds of horses. Enteroliths are essentially an accumulation of mineral within the intestine which forms a rock-like object. This can range in size from very small to the size of a softball or larger. While the reason is not yet known, this risk increases when these horses are fed alfalfa. This is especially true in the California and in other parts of the Southwest. However, this does not mean that a Quarter Horse in Iowa can’t develop an enterolith, they are just less likely to do so. High alfalfa diets are thought to cause enteroliths due to the high level of magnesium and protein combining to form crystals which make up the enteroliths. Diets higher in wheat bran have high levels of phosphorous which also contribute to enterolith formation. It is also possible that feeding highly digestible, lower fiber feeds like alfalfa may reduce gastric motility, allowing crystals to form more easily. Other lifestyle factors which lower gastric motility, such as lack of exercise or low frequency of feeding, increase the risk factor of enteroliths. Even the type of bedding chosen to be used can affect a horse’s risk of developing enteroliths. Horses on straw bedding, which allows an opportunity to nibble on high fiber feedstuffs, experience less enteroliths. While many believe that adding vinegar to the horse’s diet to lower colon pH may prevent enterolith formation, this has not been proven. Ideally, lower the amount of alfalfa in the horse’s diet, feed frequently and allow ample exercise are the best management choices.

    While we can never completely ensure that our horses will never colic, following practical management strategies can lower these risks. Informed horse owners are those whose horses usually experience less health issues. Hopefully if you follow these tips from our last series you can have a colic free 2014! Until next month, enjoy some winter riding!

  • Goat Industry 2013: Why and Wherefores

    Written By Janice Spaulding , www.GoatSchool.com

    My husband and I just returned from a whirl-wind Goat School® tour that took us from our home base in Saint Albans Maine all the way across Canada to Taylor British Columbia (approximately 30 kilometers north of Dawson Creek) then back to the United States for a weekend Goat School® in Hillsboro Ohio. The entire trip took 21 days and encompassed just under 8000 miles in our 2006 GMC.

    For those who have attended Goat School® here at our Maine farm you know that our primary focus is on raising and breeding top quality disease, resistant animals, that will not only be easy keepers but also productive and profitable additions to any farm operation. At the special request of our British Columbia sponsors we changed our usual format and spent the entire first day on explaining the “why and wherefores” of the goat industry in 2013. The presentation was so well received in Canada that we incorporated it into the Hillsboro Ohio event as well. (First time Ken ever got a standing ovation for a presentation). While the information focused mainly on what is happening in Canada there are also implications as to what is taking place in the United States. Here is some of what we discussed:

    There has been a longstanding joke in the goat business, “ How do you make a million dollars selling goats?” simple answer “ you start off with 2 million dollars!”

    At first glance this might seem to be an off the shoulder remark but there is a certain amount of truth to it. In a real way it takes money to make money. It is very rare for someone to fall into a money making, get rich quick scheme. Most always it involves lots of blood, sweat and tears. That's where the 2 million dollars comes in. You must do your due diligence; you must determine your goals, you must (within reason) come up with a business plan. Business plans are not carved in stone they must have a real basis but must also be flexible enough to change as your situation changes. You must do your homework and you must research as fully as possible the market you plan to serve. It does you no good to spend all your time investigating the goat markets in Arizona if your operation is going to be located in Maryland.

    The situation in British Columbia is ideal for an expanded goat presence. The infrastructure is already in place, due to a thriving beef cattle industry. So it is a simple matter of identifying potential markets and adding goats, in proper numbers, to the existing herds.

    Why are goats and more importantly goat meat (Chevon) becoming so popular in both the United States and Canada. The answer is, changes in immigration policies in both countries.

    Legal immigrants in the United States are at the highest number ever at 37,000,000. Since the year 2000 the number of immigrants to the US has averaged 1,000,000 per year. In 2006 the percentage of the US population consisting of foreign born was at 12.5% and the Canadian rate was 19.8%.

    Who are these immigrants? They are described statistically as the “visible minority” and defined by the Employment Equity Act as “ persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in color.” The visible minority consists mainly of the following groups: Chinese, South Asian, Black, Arab, West Asian, Filipino, Southeast Asian, Latin American, Japanese, and Korean. While this may be a somewhat complex definition, for our purposes and in no way meant to be offensive, these are people whose primary dietary protein is goat meat.

    One important fact to note is that the newer immigrants, unlike their predecessors, do not look upon the idea of assimilating into the culture of their new country. They no longer come to Canada to become Canadians or to the US to become Americans. They bring their religion and cultures along with them and are looking at the freedom to be who they are and not who someone wants them to be. For someone in the business of raising meat goats this is the perfect scenario! These folks are your potential and existing customers. Religious belief and cultural traditions are a fundamental and unchanging part of the daily lives of this visible minority.

    What drives this desire for goat meat and why can't the new immigrants simply adjust their eating habits to a “beefier” diet?

    Dietary preferences are part of our being and at the very core of our existence. Prior to the 1990's the majority of immigrants to the US and Canada were of European descent. Stop and ponder this; Europe, much like the Northern US and especially Canada, is a relatively cold climate. We have ice; and what does ice give us? Ice gives us the ability to preserve and keep large pieces of protein; beef! We can process a 1200 pound beef critter and preserve it for long periods of time. We have adjusted our diets accordingly. People defined as the “visible minority” typically come from fairly warm climates; that means no ice, no refrigeration, perhaps no electricity and no ability to preserve large portions of protein. It is for that primary reason goats have for millennium been the main protein source.

    Now that we've identified our market how do we go about tapping into it you ask? Here are a few thoughts: Raising goats involves a great deal of common sense and surprisingly when it comes to livestock many folks particularly city dwellers don't have it. To successfully raise goats you need to develop a “gut instinct”. You need to pay attention to how they move, eat, rest, get from location to location and watch what they don't eat. You need to learn to think like a goat. If it's easy or cheap it's probably not going to work with goats. When you decide to become a goat herder you can forget about having days off. There are no holidays, sick days or paid vacations. Raising goats becomes your life and your lifestyle. Goats can not be successfully raised by an absentee landlord. While it may be possible to raise goats “just for the money” it likely will not be an enjoyable experience for you and probably not for the goats either.

    Choose your mentors carefully. Don't blindly do what your friends or neighbors are doing. You must educate yourself with the best information possible. Don't get advice from someone raising show goats if you're not raising show goats. They may be experts in the “show ring” but have an entirely different regimen on diet and nutrition than what you need to keep commercial meat goats thriving and healthy.

    You are not going to make much if any money for several years because of start-up costs like buying land, fencing and of course, goats. This is true in any business. If you don't have enough money to survive for up to three years without taking money out of the business you are not likely to be successful. There are no “quick fixes” in the goat business. The problems you may encounter are usually not a result of the particular breed of goat but rather your particular management style. Where you are located does make a difference. If your pastures can not support 100 goats you can not raise 100 goats. With proper management, land, facilities and nutrition you can raise any breed of goat to a healthy marketability.

    If you are interested in learning more about owning and caring for goats visit our website www.goatschool.com!

     

  • My Greatest Gifts

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    I don’t participate in the sales, the super shopping, running around completely stressed, many of the things we’re ‘supposed’ to do during this holiday season. I think Christmas is supposed to be about love, and I don’t know how buying stuff for people became equated with love. It’s a misguided notion that helps drive the economy, but puts a lot of stress on people.

    I avoid Black Friday like the plague, especially this year when I've taken on the excessive financial burden of vet bills for cancer treatments. I know Black Friday is intended to boost the economy. But people get so stressed out during this season (trying to buy just the right gifts) that they often forget to be kind to one another, battling for choice parking spots, fighting over stuff to buy. Let's not forget that it's supposed to be about love. Get the good deals if you must. But even though Thanksgiving is over, take a few moments each day to be thankful for what you already have.

    Which brings me to my dogs, and my deep gratitude for their presence and well-being. In July, Chase was diagnosed with colonic adenocarcinoma, with a prognosis of 4 to 6 months, even with treatment. But we caught this insidious cancer in stage one, and in October, after 21 radiation therapy treatments, a CT scan showed ‘no evidence of disease’, which felt like a miracle. We’re not completely out of the woods yet, because small seeds of cancer can escape detection by a CT scan. We will need to do another CT scan by year-end, to make sure Chase’s insides still look good.

    On the outside, Chase’s hair is growing back where he had radiation therapy. Five months after his diagnosis, he’s full of energy, running and playing each day. He’s back at the library, where the kids read to him once a month. Although I have faith in miracles and Chase’s cure wasn’t cheap, I’m still very grateful and amazed that he’s doing so well today. I don’t take him for granted.

    In September, the day after Chase sailed through a two-week follow-up appointment for his radiation therapy, Bandit was unable to work. We had been training all spring and summer toward a tracking title, and that day he just wasn’t able to start a track. Bandit is usually an intrepid worker, so I knew something was terribly wrong. Not long after, Bandit was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a completely different kind of cancer. With daily chemo pills and other medications, the average prognosis for canine multiple myeloma patients is 18 months. But Bandit began to rapidly lose weight, losing eight of his 55 pounds in less than six weeks. I was scared that he might starve to death and I might not be able to help him. But by focusing on good nutrition (including Canine Shine and Omega Nuggets), healthy fats, and whole foods, I eventually got his weight back up. At his most recent check-up, Bandit’s weight was up to 53 from 47 pounds, his blood work was back in the normal range for the first time since his diagnosis and his urine proteins (a sign of the disease) had also moved much closer to normal. He seems to be stabilizing, which feels like another miracle. He runs and plays each day, engaging me in several games of jolly ball. We celebrated his 10th birthday on November 13th.

    Throughout these past few months, I’ve learned to live more in the moment with the dogs, not knowing how many more moments we will have together. I’ve watched them truly live each day to the fullest. They live like they’re living, not like they’re dying. And for today they are living. I know they won’t be here forever, but I wanted to give each of them the best chance to fight cancer. So far, it seems to be working. This is one of my greatest gifts.

    Several people in my life have passed on or suffered major illnesses this year. One dear family friend passed on at only 61 years old. He was out running his dogs when he had a stroke, which he never recovered from. We lost him a month later. Our memories of him, one of our greatest gifts, are of his true character and the good times we spent with him. Nothing about those great memories has to do with ‘stuff’.

    Here we are at the end of a very trying year, one that most certainly has built character. Maybe you can understand now how running around buying stuff has completely lost its point for me.

    Before our November library day, Chase had to have a bath. He didn't really want to take a bath, but when I told him he needed a bath so he could visit the kids at the library, he walked into the bathroom and climbed into the tub by himself. I kid you not. On our library day we had fun with the regular kids that we know. We also met a new little boy who loves dogs and is a great reader. He told me about his dog Sadie, who is "up there" and he pointed up to heaven.  Chase snuggled in to him and he hugged Chase for a long time after he was done reading. The reading is so important, but I’ve learned that it’s about so much more than just the reading. Another of my greatest gifts.

    Spend the time. Have the experiences. Make the memories. Forget the stuff. Live in the moment. Play. Laugh. Love.
    And let somebody else have that parking spot. You won’t regret it.

    8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey and Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog is now available for Kindle at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00GWAZFAW.
    To help pay the vet bills, I’m selling the rest of my inventory of Not Without My Dog Resource & Record books at a steep discount. I have a limited number of these hard cover, journal-style books with photo pages. They make great Christmas gifts for the dog lovers in your life, and are $15 each, plus shipping (or contact me for discounts on quantities of 10 or more). I will sign them personally if you wish. Learn more and order online at: http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?page_id=1542
    To donate towards cancer care: http://tinyurl.com/bentleys-aglow Thank

        

  • Strategies to Reduce your Horse's Chance of Colic

    Written By Dr. Kris Hiney

    Last month I encouraged all horse owner’s to develop a preparedness plan in the event their horse colics.  This month we will discuss strategies that will hopefully minimize the chance that you will need that plan.  We will discuss feeding strategies as well as other important management techniques that will help keep your horse happy and healthy.

    Feeding your horse properly is one of the easiest ways to help prevent episodes of colic.  Remember  the digestive anatomy of the horse, with its small stomach and large hindgut for digesting forage does not often fit well with  modern management practices.   The horse is designed to forage continuously throughout the day, typically for almost 18 hours.  This provides a continuous input of material to the hindgut without overwhelming the stomach.

    1.Maximize intake of good quality forage.

    To mimic nature, ideally a horse should consume 2% of its body weight in high quality forage per day.  This allows the best match to the horse’s normal feeding strategies.  Remember high quality forage does not necessarily mean rich or high energy forages which can lead to obesity.   Simply put, high quality hays do not contain molds, potentially toxic weeds or insects, or are not excessively coarse and stemmy.  Of course, toxins and molds can easily cause digestive upsets or result in feed refusals.

    2.Avoid very coarse hay or staw as feed.

    Excessively coarse hay may be harder for the horse to masticate and may lead to impactions.

    3.Prolong feeding/chewing  time.

    If your horse needs to consume less than 2% of its body weight due to the need to maintain proper body condition, using a slow feeding hay net will help prolong the horse’s feeding time.  As we increase the amount of time the horse spends chewing, more saliva will enter the stomach and buffer the acid that is continually secreted.  As horses only salivate with oral stimulation, this increase in chew time is extremely important.  This helps to maintain a healthy stomach and avoid ulcer formation.

    4.Split up concentrate meals to smaller portions.

    If the horse needs substantial amounts of concentrates in order to maintain body condition or support athletic performance, be sure to spread feedings into smaller amounts.  High volumes of concentrate may overwhelm the horse’s ability to digest it properly in the small intestine.  When concentrates escape to the hindgut they are fermented by a type of bacteria which produces organic acids and lowers the pH of the horse’s gut.  By lowering the volume fed at one time, this will avoid fluctuations in pH of the horse’s tract and promote a healthier population of microflora.

    5.Slowly introduce new feeds.

    If new types of feeds are to be introduced to the horse’s diet, be sure to do so gradually to allow time for bacteria to adjust.   Due to the ability of bacteria to either proliferate or reduce in population with changes in substrate offered to them, a change in the horse’s diet can wreak havoc in bacterial populations. Often this is what results in the overproduction of gas, a frequent cause of colic.

    6. Maintain a consistent feeding schedule.

    If your horse does not have free choice access to hay or pasture, be sure to maintain a consistent feeding schedule.  Horses are certainly creatures of habit that do best with consistent schedules.  This will avoid periods of time with the horses’ stomach in an unnatural empty state, or overeating due to excitement of feeding.
    7.Avoid feeding horses off the ground.

    Ingestion of sand can lead to the development of impactions or colitis from irritation of the gut wall.  Routine feeding of psyllium can aid in sand removal from the hind gut.  Feeding off the ground will also limit the exposure to parasites which are a frequent cause of colic through either blockages or disruption of blood flow.

    8. Practice strategic deworming and parasite management.

    Regular parasite control is therefore key to colic prevention.  Remember from previous articles that this does not mean indiscriminate deworming of horses without knowledge of their true parasite load.  In fact, an increase in colic in young horses due to ascarid impactions may be in part due to the anthelmentic resistance occurring in these worms.   Rather, remember to follow strategic deworming practices in consultation with your veterinarian.   Follow good pasture management practices and avoid overgrazing. This will help to limit your horse’s exposure to parasites.

    9. Allow adequate water intake.

    As winter approaches, it is especially important to remember that proper water intake is vital to maintaining normal flow of digesta through the horse’s tract.  Normally horse’s drink about 8-12 gallons of water per day.  We often think about increasing a horse’s water intake when it is hot or the horse is heavily working, but fail to think about water intake in the winter.  Horse’s actually don’t like cold water, and will greatly reduce their water intake if not offered warmer water.  Providing a heated bucket or tank will encourage your horse to drink water at the same rate throughout winter.  Be sure that it isn’t sending off any stray shocks however!  That will easily lead to dehydration as the horse is too frightened to drink!  You can also increase a horse’s water intake by offering a mashed feed.  Don’t forget however not to rapidly alter his diet!

    10. Provide regular dental care.

    While all of these tips primarily refer to the feeding management of the horse, other factors can influence his risk of colic.  Providing regular teeth maintenance will allow your horse to chew his feed properly.  As mentioned previously, coarse hay or poorly chewed hay can create impactions in the horse’s tract.

    11. Exercise the horse on a consistent schedule.

    Regular exercise for stalled horses is equally key.  Horses naturally travel several miles per day while foraging. We have created a rather artificial, sedentary life style for most of our horses. It is up to us to help provide a form of regular exercise and stick to a schedule.  While this may be difficult owners, it truly is best for the horse.   In fact, some companies are working towards creating automatic feeders which force a horse to travel through its paddock to obtain its feed. Such systems also have the added benefit of prolonging feeding time as well.

    Next month we will discuss additional management strategies that will reduce your horse’s risk of colic which are linked to your horse’s lifestyle, breed or even sex!

  • Scratch Sunflower Nut Edible Treat Wreath for Chickens

    Written By Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily

    As many of you know, I enjoy adapting ideas I see online and elsewhere for the enjoyment of our chickens. I have seen several versions of birdseed wreaths for wild birds on Pinterest HERE, HERE and HERE and decided to make my own chicken version.

    My first two attempts didn't work very well - don't trust everything you read online! - and fell apart, but this, my third attempt turned out perfectly. Easy, quick, held together well and the chickens loved it!

    Here's how to make one for your girls.

    You'll need:

    Cooking spray
    Bundt Pan
    1/2 Cup cool water
    3 envelopes Knox unflavored gelatin
    1-1/2 Cups Boiling water
    1 Cup bacon, suet or hamburg grease, heated to liquify
    8 Cups of a mixture of scratch, sunflower seeds, cracked corn, raisins, nuts or seeds
    20 fresh or frozen cranberries
    Ribbon

    How to:

    Spray Bundt pan with cooking spray and set aside. In a measuring cup, dissolve the gelatin in the cool water and let sit for a minute. Pour the boiling water into a medium bowl and whisk in the gelatin to combine.

     

    In a large mixing bowl, combine the seeds and nuts, stir in the grease and then pour in the liquid gelatin. Mix well with a wooden spoon to be sure all the nuts and seeds are well-coated and all the liquid is absorbed.

     

    Place the cranberries in rows in the indentations in the pan (I used three in half the indentations and two in every other indentation) and then carefully spoon the seed mixture into the pan. Press down with the spoon to pack it well.

    Put the Bundt pan in the refrigerator overnight to set. The next day, take the wreath out of the refrigerator and let come to room temperature. Invert and tap gently on the countertop to unmold.

     

    Tie a pretty ribbon in a bow at the top and then attach the wreath to your run fencing for your chickens or to a tree or fence to treat the wild birds.
    I did switch out the fancy ribbon for a plain one when I hung the wreath in the run.

  • Equine Vaccine Tips and Strategies

    Written By: Dr. Tom Schell

    If you own a horse, one of the most important things you can do to maintain health is vaccinations, but it can also be a costly endeavor.  Everyone seems to have a strategy or recommendation, but the question is 'what is right for your horse?'.  Well, that depends on many factors including location, exposure to other horses as well as general risk factors.  Another thing to consider is that vaccines are not without harm and over administration of vaccines can prove to be harmful in some circumstances.  Let's explore the options and recommendations.

    When viewing vaccines and establishing a protocol, we must remember that each horse is an individual and that no one perfect protocol exists.  It is also not generally necessary to implement the same protocol in every horse just because they are in the same barn.

    Here are the main points we should consider when establishing a vaccine protocol:

    • Risk factors associated with the particular horse (including housing, exposure to other horses, environment, age and geographic location)
    • Impact of the particular disease we are targeting including mortality/morbidity rate and risk of spread to other animals and species (including humans)
    • Possible negative side effects of vaccine
    • Cost implications to the owner
    Some basic considerations that we always need to remember include:
    • No vaccine is 100% effective in preventing disease
    • Vaccines are designed or intended to reduce morbidity or clinical signs of disease
    • No vaccines is 100% safe and risk free
    • Vaccines are not generally protective until 10 days or greater post administration
    • Most vaccines require an initial booster series to build an antibody titer and establish protection
    • Many vaccines come combined with many antigens

    So, now let's start with the basics in terms of equine vaccines.  In most cases, we generally have the core or basic vaccines, as defined by the AAEP.
    1. Tetanus  (annual vaccine)
    2. Rabies     (annual vaccine)
    3. Eastern/ Western encephalomyelitis (annual vaccine in spring)
    4. West Nile  (annual vaccine in spring)
    After the core vaccines, we then have what is called 'risk based' vaccines which include:  (Based on AAEP Guidelines)
    1. Influenza  (annual to biannual vaccine)
    2. Rhinopneumonitis (EHV)  (not necessary, annual or biannual dependent on situation and in pregnant mares)
    3. Potomac Horse Fever  (not necessary, annual, biannual or more frequent dependent on situation)
    4. Strangles  (not necessary, annual or biannual dependent on situation)
    5. Rotavirus  (pregnant mares at 8,9,10 months gestation)
    6. Botulism  (annual and one month prior to foaling)
    7. Anthrax  (annual vaccine)
    8. Equine Viral Arteritis  (check with state guidelines)

    In most cases, the core vaccines are vital and given to every horse.  The big question comes as to what other risk factors are involved, which determines if other vaccines are necessary.  Such risk factors include exposure to other horses such as boarding facilities, traveling and competition, but also include issues concerned with breeding operations.  We always have to remember that not every horse responds appropriately to the vaccines, meaning that some develop protective titers while others do not.  In larger facilities, it is generally easy enough to keep most if not all of the horses on the same protocol due to ease of record keeping, but also by doing this we can hopefully minimize disease prevalence and thereby protecting those other horses that may not be responding to the vaccines appropriately.  We also have to take into consideration age of the animal at the time of vaccine as older horses tend to be less predisposed to various illnesses such as EHV, which according to the AAEP is less frequently seen in those horses over the age of 5, unless we have other known risk factors included such as a breeding operation or frequent movement of animals.

    How are vaccines administered and how often?

    In most instances, vaccines are administered by intra-muscular injection, usually in the neck region, pectorals or the thigh muscle.  Some vaccines, such as Strangles, Influenza and some EHV vaccines may be administered intra-nasally. In adult horses that are unvaccinated, it is generally recommended that they receive at least a 2 injection series, spaced apart by 4-6 weeks.  In foals, vaccines are generally started around 3 months of age and given as a series of 3 injections spaced 4 weeks apart.  Pregnant mares are generally advised to receive a full 'core' vaccine series about one month prior to foaling in order to help build passive transfer for the foal.  Other vaccines such as EHV are given at specific intervals during the second and third trimester.  Most of the core vaccines, once initiated, are administered on an annual basis.

    What are the side effects to the vaccines?

    No vaccines are completely safe nor void of any risk!  That being said, most vaccines are administered without any problems but the most common side effect seen is general malaise, body aches and a slight fever 24-48 hours after administration.  Dependent on where they were given, we will often see sore necks and even swollen injection sites.  In most of these cases, the signs resolve within a couple of days with no harm to the horse.  It is generally not advised to compete or even work the horse for a couple days post vaccine due to side effects noted.  Some vaccines are more prone to developing side effects than others and in my experience, the Tetanus and Rabies vaccine are the most common.  Vaccines that are administered by the intra-nasal route commonly produce a mild sneeze or even slight clear drainage for a couple days post administration.  In more severe cases, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication may be administered to help alleviate the clinical signs.
    More serious or adverse reactions have been noted included anaphylactic reactions (some life threatening), localized infection, scar tissue deposition generalized hypersensitivities.

    Why do some horses respond differently to the vaccines?

    We have to determine what is a favorable response to a vaccine?  Ideally, it would be one void of any side effect and one that establishes a protective antibody titer.  In most instances, the horses do respond well to the vaccines and without any side effects, but determining the proper antibody titer is difficult to do in most cases.  In the ideal world, we would perform antibody titers to determine who is and who is not responding well to the vaccines, which might help us to focus on more in need horses, but this is costly.

    Given, in my experience, that 9 out of 10 horses respond with no noted side effects, the question comes as to why that 10th horse reacted negatively.  Did they have a reaction to the vaccine?  What was that reaction?  A fever, general malaise or worse?  I really begin to question things when I have vaccinated a particular horse routinely year after year, using the same vaccine brand, and yet, this horse reacts negatively.  We can speculate, but really we don't have any pinpoint answers.
    In the world of small animal veterinary medicine, we almost always perform a basic physical exam prior to the administration of vaccines.  The purpose of the physical is to pinpoint any health problems and determine if there is any fever present, which may also indicate a health concern.  In the world of equine veterinary medicine, the individual physical exam is performed but not that often, especially on larger farms due to time constraints and cost.  Often, the vaccines are administered one horse at a time while working the way down a barn isle way.  The horses are often given a quick once over looking for the obvious, but sometimes details are missed.

    We have to remember that the purpose of a vaccine is to stimulate an immune response to a specific antigen.  If a horse is sick or not feeling well, then not only would it be possible that their immune system may not respond appropriately, but we may also actually do harm to that animal. It is generally not a good idea to vaccinate a sick animal for these reasons.  We are often better to wait, let them recover and then vaccinate when it is more appropriate.

    Other reasons that a horse may not respond appropriately include concurrent diseases that may be impacting the immune response which may include things like insulin resistance and Cushing's disease.  Age also plays a role in the immune response and many older horses fail to respond appropriately for this very reason due to a failing or debilitated immune system for various reasons.

    Now, one area of interest to me is those horses that tend to develop signs of laminitis within 2-3 days post vaccination.  We all see it as a veterinarian, but the reasoning as to why it happens has yet to be determined.  Personally, I tend to feel that these horses are more predisposed to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance and even Cushing's disease, but have yet to be diagnosed.  In reality, most of these 'laminitic reactors' are the easy keepers of the group, more likely to be overweight and often have a history of laminitis.  So, what causes them to be pushed over the edge?  Again, in my opinion, it is linked to an ongoing inflammatory cascade that is occurring within that particular animal.  The vaccine can be seen as fuel added to a glowing ember, soon igniting it into a flame.  I often view those horses as ticking time bombs of inflammation, waiting for the right situation to get flared up.  Vaccines are the perfect medium to achieve this.

    General Recommendations:

    As a veterinarian and horse owner, I do believe in administering the core vaccines to every horse.  Does that mean that every horse in my practice gets those core vaccines?  The answer is 'NO'. Does that mean that I see more clinical sickness in those horses that have NOT been vaccinated?  The answer here is "NO" again.  I believe in vaccinating for those illnesses that have a high mortality rate, which includes tetanus, rabies and encephalitis.  Dependent on the situation and geographic location, these core diseases can be readily prevalent, very costly and difficult to treat and yet so easy to prevent. I also believe in risk based vaccines in the right situations, but not in all situations.

    As any horse owner can testify, there are many cases of equine infectious diseases ranging from Influenza to Rhinopneumonitis in horses that have been vaccinated properly.  Here again, we have to raise the question as to why this occurs?  First, as stated, no vaccine is 100% effective in preventing disease.  The goal with any vaccine should be to reduce clinical morbidity.  Second, we have to take into consideration the amount of stress that some of these horses are under at the time of vaccination as well as during competition.  Stress in the competitive horse has been discussed in another article, but sometimes their stress levels can impact the immune function, making them more prone to various diseases.  Sometimes, I think it is better to keep these particular horses healthy with immune supportive herbs as well as adaptogens to help counter the stress, than it is to overwhelm them with vaccines.

    If we have a horse that is turned out on pasture 24/7, they are often less prone to infectious disease development than those that are stalled constantly or in training/competition.  Again...we have to take into consideration the impact of stress.  I feel it is more important to address these horses through nutrition and herbal supplementation, keeping the immune system strong, trying to offset the impact of their current conditions.

    I believe that we really need to evaluate each horse as an individual, taking into consideration all of the factors mentioned above.  The AAEP recommends this approach to us, as veterinarians, but all too often we fail to follow these guidelines due to time constraints and other factors.  If I have a horse on a farm that never leaves and is never exposed to other horses, I am going to vaccinate them differently than one that is competing at different locations once monthly.  The risk factors are different and taking into consideration that no vaccine is completely without harm, we want to minimize risk.

    I also think we need to evaluate those horses that react negatively to vaccines more thoroughly.  If a horse has an allergic reaction to a vaccine, we need to question why.  Was it the brand of vaccine?  Was it the location where it was injected?  Was the horse sick at the time?  We need to figure out why and not just treat and move on to the next year.  We also need to investigate those horses that develop signs of lethargy or even laminitis, by looking a little deeper for underlying health concerns.  At the very least, we need to stagger vaccines by 2-3 weeks, instead of potentially overloading these particular horses with 4-5 antigens at one time.  Not only does this reduce the antigen load and immune challenge to the horse, but it may also allow us to pinpoint which vaccine is causing the reaction.

    In the end, vaccines are a vital part of maintaining equine health.  This being said, they are not without harm and consideration needs to be given to make sure they are administered appropriately, at the right time and at the right intervals, taking into consideration the many risk factors involved.  Be an astute horse owner!  Take into consideration the many variables when deciding what your horse should be vaccinated against!

    Dr. Tom Schell has over 18 years of equine medicine and surgery, as well as being head of research and development for Nouvelle Research, Inc.  Dr. Schell may be reached by email at tschelldvm@nouvelleresearch.com
    Nouvelle Research, Inc. is the developer and manufacturer of the Cur-OST line of equine anti-inflammatory products, the only equine supplement using Curcumin as the primary ingredient to reduce inflammation, enhance health and performance for over 7 years.  Our goal at Nouvelle Research, Inc. is to enhance the health of our equine companions naturally and effectively, while also providing a source of information for the horse owner.  These and other articles may be seen on our website at: http://nouvelleresearch.com/index.php/articles
    For more information about Nouvelle Research, Inc, please visit:  www.nouvelleresearch.com or call 1-800-476-4702

  • Baby, It's Cold Outside

    Written By: Walt Friedrich

    It’s a beautiful time of year, Autumn, with trees decked out in full color, warm days, chilly nights, and our horses enjoying it as much as we do. We’re also keeping an eye on the calendar, because before long we’ve got winter on our hands, when all that brisk comfort has changed to cold and wind. We’re getting ready for it; laying in firewood, making sure windows and doors seal properly, shutting off outside water supply, shaking out winter clothing, “winterizing” the stable…and, of course, preparing our horses for the cold season.

    For those of us in northern climes, it means the annual struggle with the question of whether or not to blanket. It’s odd, isn’t it, that we allow our horses to be just horses most of the time, but come cold weather, we feel the need to step in and overrule Mother Nature by blanketing them to make sure they can stay warm. Can’t blame us – we know the extent of discomfort that an icy cold wind brings in mid-January, and we bundle up for it bigtime, so let’s do the same for our beloved steeds. Right? Well, maybe -- but let me take a moment to tell you a true story about Wally. It is pertinent.

    Wally is not one to accept other people’s opinions without question. It has to make sense to Wally before he buys it, and he’s always researching one thing or another. And so he’s lived the skeptic’s life for some decades, making mostly good, well-thought-out decisions. Wally is also a horse-lover, and he keeps a few on his property. He calls them his “extended family”. Wally has always been strongly concerned over their welfare. Very early on in developing his horsekeeping methods, he agonized over whether or not to blanket, just as you and I have done. Blanketing seemed so logical because he knew well how the cold feels, and he wore a coat, so why shouldn’t his herd get the same protection? Yet highly respected horsepeople made strong arguments in favor of NOT blanketing – surely there must be something to it.

    So one winter, Wally crossed his fingers and kept the horse blankets stowed away. Their coats had come in long and thick, and if it got “bad” enough, he could still break them out. Things went well; he noticed those thick coats seemed even thicker on particularly cold days, and when he investigated, he found that all those long hairs were actually standing on end, sticking straight up! And his fingers actually felt warm when he ran them through that bristling coat. Things looked promising, so he stuck at it.

    And then one morning he woke to an outside temperature of -10 degrees F, quite cold for a northeast Pennsylvania winter morning. Wally headed to the stable, wondering if he had a herd of “horsickles” out there, waiting for some hay.

    Well, he didn’t. His herd appeared to be enjoying the “delightful” weather, and that did it for Wally – he was convinced that his gang did quite well au naturel. And then the icing on the cake: the following morning it was almost -20 F – almost unheard of in these parts – and his horses were still totally unfazed. And so the heavy blankets remain folded and stored away, haven’t been used in years, and the horses continue to enjoy the cold winters as only horses can – bareback and outside 24/7.

    What Wally discovered is the truth that it’s usually not the cold that’s their winter nemesis, it’s not even being wet – they love walking about looking like a snowman horse, and snow seems to actually help keep them warm. No, the problem is lack of shelter from the wind. Not all of us can prevent their being exposed to wind, but if we can’t, we must provide at least some respite. Anything will do – a stand of evergreens is ideal if there’s no stable or run-in shed available. We can even create a windbreak shelter by making a wall out of hay bales,  three or four bales high – they’ll have their shelter and eat it, too!

    But let’s be fair about this subject: horses are individuals, even as you and I, and some may not take winter weather as well as most others.

    Blanketing may be called for if your horse is shivering, or even just visibly uncomfortable in cold weather; older horses as well as ill horses and very young horses may appreciate a blanket despite their bodies’ natural coping abilities; if your horse is clipped, he has no protective coat, and can use all the help he can get; horses that don’t grow a sufficient winter coat are obvious candidates. Consider your options carefully, and remember that although you may need to override it, the best solution is usually the natural one.

    If you believe blanketing is truly justified and not simply the result of “humanizing” your horse, do your homework. Blanketing is not a “one size fits all” situation, and there are many specific considerations you need to evaluate. There are countless websites on the Internet, providing information to help you decide, well worth your time and your horses’ comfort for you to study.

    Beyond blanketing, there are other considerations to consider as winter approaches. For example, in winter horses do not need a cozy stall bedded with shavings –  it’s a lot of work and it won’t help; likewise, there’s no need to heat the barn – presumably inside the barn is already dry and reasonably windproof; they do not need extra grain – if you must increase their food intake, increase forage; and limiting movement is unwise – adequate movement is always best for horses no matter the conditions.

    But what they do need is plenty of free choice grass hay, and adequate water (more on this in a moment). Be sure there is unlimited, free choice, loose, unrefined salt – preferably sea salt. And a horse that has trouble keeping weight on will need additional nutritional support, but not grain.

    The other major cold-weather threat is colic. Colic refers specifically to nothing more than a pain in the belly. But the devil is in the actual cause of the pain: gas bloating sometimes hurts, but it usually makes a noisy departure leaving no tracks except for a trailing scent. An impaction, on the other hand, doesn’t go away without some help, like walking the horse for half an hour to stimulate fecal movement within the intestinal tract (terminated by, we hope, the deposit of a brown pile behind the horse). Sometimes an impaction needs still more help, commonly a vet will perform a procedure known as “tubing”, that will help clear the blockage. The most serious form of colic is hard clogging within the intestine that requires immediate surgery to correct. No matter the cause, if prompt action is not taken at the first indication of pain, the situation can develop into a serious condition.

    Probably the primary cause of a winter colic attack has to do with water. As we head into the season, the horse’s digestive system continues to need a large volume of water, but his water intake drops along with the temperature, and the colder the water, the less he’ll drink. But he’s still got to digest his food and keep it moving down his intestinal tract, so lack of sufficient water can become a serious problem –potential intestinal upset and a colic attack. Complicating matters, with little or no water-rich grass to graze, only dry stubble, the need for water multiplies even further.

    It seems as though the deck is stacked against him, and it is, but you can help prevent a colic attack  just by ensuring that his digestive system is functional and efficient. Here are the simple rules of prevention: first, use in-tank heaters to keep his water at a constant 50 degrees F; keep a reliable supply of hay (and grain, if you’re feeding it) to keep his diet constant; make no sudden changes in his diet; maintain his deworming schedule; use a prebiotic product to keep his intestinal gut garden healthy and thriving, providing consistently efficient digestion; feeding a simple mash every day is a great idea – just soaking hay cubes, or maybe beet pulp in water, adding an ounce of salt, can give him a couple extra gallons a day of water;

    Finally, a few ideas and tips to make cold weather a little easier, especially on the senior citizens:

    Spend a little quality time with him as often as you can. You are important to him -- he knows you and he relies on you.

    Get him a little regular exercise; longe or ride him for 30 minutes or so every week – it’s not much, but it will help keep his digestive system healthy, and in cold weather he’ll especially enjoy the activity.

    Be patient with him; older horses especially may stress out in cold weather. New horses joining the herd, trailer rides, illness, vaccinations and deworming are all potential stressors. Avoid those that aren’t really needed.

    Keep drinking water at a comfortable temperature.

    Supplementing protein, calcium and phosphorus will help older horses through the cold season, as will a cup of oil per day for those hard keepers. Canola, flaxseed or rice bran oil would be good choices.

    Don’t forget that daily ration of salt. Free choice loose salt is probably best, but a white salt block that’s always available is effective and easy to do.

    Keep the farrier coming on schedule – their hooves keep growing regardless of the temperature.

  • Living With It and Rocking It Out

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    First, an update on how Bandit and Chase are doing.

    Chase completed 21 radiation therapy treatments for colonic adenocarcinoma on August 23rd. He had a stellar follow-up appointment two weeks later. On September 24th he returned to his volunteer mission at the local library, where kids read to him. On October 15th, he had a CT scan to show the status of the cancer cells. There was no evidence of cancer at the original site, for which I am very grateful! We will need to carefully watch some tiny spots in Chase’s lungs and a spot on his liver, to make sure the cancer has not metastasized. The oncology vets recommended another CT scan by the end of the year.

    Ironically, Bandit completed his therapy dog certification in August so he could substitute for Chase at the library if Chase didn’t feel up to it. But Bandit was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in September, just after Chase completed his follow-up appointment. Bandit and I had been training all summer for a fall tracking test. One day he just couldn’t work, for the first time in his life, and I knew something was terribly wrong. After Bandit was diagnosed and began daily chemo meds in September, he lost a lot of weight even though he was eating twice as much as before. We have been adjusting the meds in an effort to treat the disease while allowing him to maintain his weight. This requires regular blood and urine checks and the involvement of a veterinary nutritionist. Bandit is still losing about a pound per week, and I’m still trying to find the best way to help him maintain his weight. He will be 10 years old on November 13th. His father lived to be 16 and his mother is still going strong at 14, so 10 is not that old for an Australian Cattle Dog.

    Bandit and Chase, who are brothers by fate and heart, but not blood, carry on. If you saw them you wouldn’t know they were sick, except that Chase has two bald patches on his butt, and Bandit is too thin. They jump out of bed every morning and enthusiastically greet the day. They shower me with a tremendous round of barking when I come home at the end of the day. They run, play, wrestle, go all out, and make great acrobatic leaps to catch flying squirrel frisbees. They’ve shown me how to live with a disease, truly LIVE with it, even while they may be dying from it. Attitude is everything. They are definitely making the best of every day.

        

    I decided not to continue training with Bandit due to his rapid weight loss of mostly muscle mass. Now that the meds have him feeling better, he would probably still track, but I don’t want him to lose any more weight. I’m sad that we weren’t able to take the tracking test that we trained so hard for, but I’m very glad we spent that time together. And who knows, maybe he’ll feel up to it in the spring.

    I usually say that two of my dogs were diagnosed with cancer instead of “My dogs have cancer” because it could never define either dog entirely and, at least in Chase’s case, I don’t know whether he still has it. Each of my dogs is so much more than a being with cancer. In fact, if I weren’t struggling with taking them to all the vet appointments along with working a full-time job, helping Bandit maintain his weight, and losing sleep sometimes over how to pay such astounding vet bills for not one dog, but two, we would most often carry on as usual.

    We’re all going to die from something, and none of us knows how much time we have left. The dogs don’t know that the data says they’re ‘supposed to’ have a limited amount of time. They just know when they feel well and want to get out and play ball and enjoy the day. I don’t want to impose limits on them, and I’m happy to welcome any miracles that come our way. Dogs will be dogs, and my dogs are choosing to fully live with it, even possibly while dying from it.

    I suspect that dogs are not afraid of death the way many people are. To them, and all of us, it’s an inevitable part of life and they will probably see it coming before we catch on. I remember one day in August when Chase was not feeling well after an RT treatment. Bandit went over and just sat next to him and hung out, not the usual behavior for Bandit, but I could tell he was supporting his brother.

    I’ve never called my dogs “fur babies”, which oversimplifies the relationship if you ask me. While I provide for them and they may be like my children in some ways, they are truly my teachers and mentors. They have taught me so much that I’m aware of, and no doubt I have missed many of their messages. Thus I don’t think of them as babies in fur. I think of them as friends, companions, and teachers.

    A friend told me about a person who died four days after receiving a cancer diagnosis. The guy was devastated and thought he was going to die early anyway, and in his mind gave up. I guess that’s a difference between dogs and people. The dogs know that they’ve been ill, but they live in the moment and don’t overthink or worry about the future.

    I am worn out from all the appointments at different vet clinics, from trying to raise money to pay vet bills that cost about as much as a new car, and from resisting having to choose one dog’s care over the other’s. I’m starting to resent anything that takes time away from simply enjoying time with them. One of the benefits of being spread pretty thin over the past few months is that I’ve let go of things that don’t matter. I’m spending more time with the dogs doing the simple things that are good for us: staying home and spending time together, hanging out, running and playing outside, eating healthy whole foods (including Omega Nuggets and Canine Shine), and really enjoying each other. I wish I had even more time to relax at home and be in tune with them.

     

    On Chase's October library day, it was so inspiring to see the kids read to him. The regular readers improved tremendously over the summer. I love to see kids get excited about books. When many adults don't read books any more, it's good to see a younger generation being inspired by them. One little girl who is new to the program got very excited when she learned that after reading to Chase eight times, she will get to choose her very own book to take home. I heard her tell her mom that she’ll get to take the book home and won't even have to bring it back to the library! She was so excited.

    I'm very grateful to the librarian for getting this program going and continuing to promote it. It’s fun to see the kids’ confidence in their reading improve. Chase showed his appreciation for their reading by lying on his back with all four feet in the air! (Actually, Chase the herding dog listens best that way, with his eyes closed and no visual distractions.) He finds the most appropriate way to reach each child. If they're comfortable with him leaning in, he will. If they’re not, he’ll just put his paw on their leg, or touch the bottom of his foot to the bottom of their foot.

    While developing their reading skills, the kids are learning about dogs. One little girl said that Chase is the only dog she isn't afraid of. He must sense this because he bows in front of her instead of standing over her. She wants to get a dog, and she remarked that 'having a dog is a big responsibility', something she must have been told at home. She has been inspired by Chase to read and learn about different dog breeds, and I have no doubt that one day she will be well prepared to care for her very own dog.

    One middle-aged man stopped to pet Chase. He has stopped by on Chase's library day before. I don't know if this is coincidence or whether he comes specifically to see Chase, but Chase seeks him out now to say hi. He asked why Chase had bald patches and I told him about the cancer treatment. He then asked how recently it was and seemed genuinely concerned about Chase. And Chase seemed to genuinely care about him too.  I feel like I'm a student following along on this little dog's mission, learning from him along the way. I hope he has many good years left to continue this mission of sharing love.

    No matter how much time we have left, we’re going to truly live it and rock it out. That doesn’t mean pretending nothing is wrong. That means being in tune with how each dog feels, being sensitive to each one’s needs, and making the best of each day we have left together. It’s not like I’ve decided to rock it out. It’s just their approach to life, every day… something I’ve learned from my dogs, my teachers. They wouldn’t have it any other way.

    To help pay the veterinary bills, I’m selling the rest of my inventory of Not Without My Dog Resource & Record books at a steep discount. I have a limited number of these hard cover, journal-style books with photo pages, and do not plan to produce any more. They make great Christmas gifts for the dog lovers in your life, and are $15 each, plus shipping (or contact me for discounts on quantities of 10 or more). I will sign them personally if you wish. Learn more and order online at: http://www.8statekate.net/wordpress/?page_id=1542
    To donate towards cancer care: http://tinyurl.com/bentleys-aglow Thank you!

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