Entertaining Articles

  • Milo Takes “Find-it” Very Seriously!

    Written By Leigh Pyron
    I met Milo when he was just eight weeks old. I thought he was the cutest chocolate Lab puppy I ever met. I know… have you ever seen a puppy that wasn’t cute? Milo is four years old now, but when he was about six months old I started taking him out with my morning group of dogs. Now that Milo was a part of the group, there were a few things he would have to learn in order to fit in with the pack. I taught him various basic exercises such as, wait, stay, come, sit and “Find-it”.
    “Find-it” is so easy to teach and it’s a wonderful way to get the attention of one dog or even 6 dogs! All I have to do when I’m out with a large group of dogs is say, “Find-it!” and the dogs come running as the treats fall all over the ground. Now Milo always loved this game, but as he grew older he became much more interested in sticks and, most of all, tennis balls. Yes, Milo is one of those labs that is crazy about tennis balls. So, given that Milo understood the concept of “Find-it” with treats, I thought I’d try to use the same exercise but instead of searching for treats have him search for tennis balls. Sure enough, all I had to say was, “Milo find the ball, “Find-it” and off he would go with his nose to the ground in search of any lost balls hiding in the brush and long grass.
    Now, the space where I take the dogs for their morning outing is a very large, open marshland area that has many large Pampas Grass plants scattered throughout the middle of it. These ornamental grasses grow quite large with long, thick, graceful blades and delightfully fluffy off-white plumes, which grow up through the middle like a floral decoration. The long leaves are very coarse and sharp to the touch, but the dogs love to run through them and rub themselves against them.
    One morning at the marsh Milo was looking a bit bored so I told him to go and “find” a ball! So, off he went searching with high hopes of finding one. Not long after I sent Milo on his search I happened to hear a loud crash in the brush. I couldn’t imagine what caused the noise because at that moment my group and I were the only ones there. I continued to walk ahead and as I rounded the bend with the other dogs I happened to see something moving in the middle of a clump of Pampas Grass. As I got closer, I was trying to figure out what it was that was moving back and forth in the middle of the plant, I finally realized it was a tail! Yes, Milo’s tail! That crazy Lab went head-first and dove into the middle of the 5 foot tall clump of pampas grass. I was laughing so hard wishing someone were here to witness this when Milo’s head popped up out of the top of the bush with a tennis ball stuck in his mouth. Just as I called out to him he disapeared again head first down into the grass. I tried calling him to come out, but only halfheartedly because, at this point, it had become quite entertaining. All of a sudden, POP! out came Milo with two balls in his mouth.   He leaped into the air out of the clump of grass and took off running looking quite proud of his find.
    Now, I said to myself, what on earth gave Milo the idea to search for a ball in the Pampas grass? And then I remembered… when the dogs would get too crazy over a ball and I would have to take it from them, I would usually toss it high up into the middle of the Pampas grass so they couldn’t get to it. I thought it was a great idea because there is no way they could possibly jump up that high or get down into the middle of the grass. Well, let me tell you, the old saying really applies to Milo…“if there’s a will, there’s a way,” Milo’s way!
     Have fun when teaching "Find-it." Dogs love this exercise and, why not, there is always a reward of some kind that follows! It’s important to use high value treats when you teach this exercise, because you are trying to redirect your dog’s attention away from something. Usually the more scent the treat has the better. You’re asking him to come back for a treat instead of chasing that fast rabbit that just ran by! Omega Fields’ Omega Nuggets™ make a great “Find-it” treat. They have a strong, appealing smell that dogs love.   Another great dog training investment is a treat bag. Most pet stores carry a variety of these. They usually hook on easily to your belt or clip in the back like a fannypack. Load up your treat bag everytime you go for a walk or an outing with your dog. Before you start out, ask the dog for a “sit” or any basic command and give him one of the treats you are carrying. Then, let him get out a little ahead of you and call him back and give him a treat. Now your dog knows that you have treats and are willing to dole them out.
    Once your dog has learned the basics of “Find-it” there are endless reasons to use it to redirect your dog’s attention:
    • Another dog approaching or a wild animal off in the distance
    • If he is going for an object you don’t want him to have, such as something edible or a non-edible item like a childs toy
    • To catch his attention before he takes off down the road or heads off into the woods off the walking path
    • To get him off furniture or out of the car
    • To get him to change directions on an outing or walk when he is not on a leash. Simply toss a few treats in the new direction ahead of you and say, “Find-it.”
     
     
    Teaching “Find-it”
    Start out by taking a treat and toss it on the ground close by the dog and say, “Find-it.” Once he gets the hang of it you can expand the distance that you toss the treat. If he doesn’t see where you tossed it, guide him by pointing to the treat and when he finds it say, “Yes!” Let his attention wander and then throw a treat and give the command again. When the dog is breaking away from what he is doing and coming over every time you say “Find-it,” increase the challenge by having someone create a diversion. Use a friend with a toy or another dog. When your dog turns his attention to the diversion, call his name and say, “Find-it” and toss a treat. Increase the diversions until you can get your dog to break away every time.
    “Find-it” is also a wonderful way to engage your dog to interact with you and play. You can have someone take your dog to another room while you hide treats for him to find upon his return. When he returns simply tell him to, “Find-it.” Dogs have an instinctive hunting mode and most dogs find it enjoyable to look for things. If your dog is bored from being home alone all day while you’re at work, a ten minute game of “Find-it” works wonders to re-energize them and give them attention.
    “Find-it” is a great tool to have in your dog training tool box. When a big diversion is needed to get your dog to come to you and “Come” just isn’t working, “Find-it,” when effectively taught, will overcome many enticing distractions. It is also a great way to entertain and interact with your dog. A healthy dog/owner relationship starts with positive, fun, interactive training.

  • The Goodness of Goats

     Written By Barbara O'Brien

    A few years back I had an assignment to photograph a small goat dairy near Winona, Minnesota. I happily documented the owner and family with the milk goats and even managed to get some nice images of their massive billy goat who was the undisputed leader of the herd.

    They also had many adorable baby goats and I had fun feeding them bottles and watching them play. I noticed that three little white goat kids had escaped from their pen and mentioned this to the owner. She laughed and told me not to worry; those three are always getting out. I finished shooting and was beginning to load up my gear when a small white kid goat jumped into the back of my open minivan.
    “Hey!” I shouted, and was reaching towards him to pull him out, when the other two kids goats jumped in one right after another. They were duplicates of the first goat. All white with big perky ears, and short wagglely tails. “Hey!” I said again, laughing. The owner came over and stated, “You may as well take them. They are too small for the butcher."
    She explained that they were triplets, and although weaned and ready to go, they weren’t worth anything at the sales barn because they were on the small side. They were males and although she’d like to, she can only keep the females or does for her dairy.
    I remembered my husband Kevin’s prior agreement with me that sheep were ok, but no goats! Goats, from our experience, were nothing but trouble. You can’t keep them in their pen, they like to jump on cars (at least the pygmy goats do) and they eat everything in sight.
    But when their three little faces peered out at me as if to say, “Well? Let’s get going,” I knew I was done. Being an animal person, I always have an empty crate in the back of my van, so I loaded the goats in it.
    My four sons were thrilled when the goat kids jumped out of the crate and ran right up to them to be petted. Kevin… not so much. “Goats,” he sighed, shaking his head. “I thought we agreed."
    “They were going to be butchered,” I told him. “I couldn’t let that happen.” As if on cue, the goat kids ran to Kevin, pushing on him with their heads and wagging their short tails. “Ok.” he said to them, while he scratched their heads. “You’re here. You may as well stay.”
    The younger boys promptly named them Marcus, Aralias, and Tiberius. They tend to name animals after what they are reading and it happened to be about the Romans at the time.
    I set the goat kids up in a horse stall with an old calf hut for even more shelter. It wasn’t long before they figured out that they could crawl under the bars of the gate to freedom.
    They became our constant companions. Whether it was chore time, where they insisted on stealing corn from the chicken feeders, or haying time, where they jumped on and off the bales as I tried to move them around, or just hang out in the yard time, where they tried to nibble on the book I reading, they were always part of what we were doing. When a crew came to insulate the house, the goats managed to sneak into the back of their open truck and had to be locked up for the duration.
    We have learned that we can forget about trying to keep them in their pen. There is an old saying, that if your fence can hold water it can hold a goat. We have found this to be true.
    Just when I thought I had closed all the gaps large enough for a small goat to crawl under, they learned to jump right over it. I watched in amazement as they jumped straight up and over, one right after another, like small deer. I wonder why nobody has started the sport of goat agility like they do for dogs. I think goats would be excellent at it.
    And forget about having a garden; although the goats do eat weeds, they also eat all the good plants and shrubbery as well. I remember the first spring we had them, I had a lovely plot of tulips that were just about ready to bloom. The goats had escaped again, and it only took them moments to eat the tops off of every tulip.
    I won’t say they’re all bad though. Now that they are full grown, topping out at 75 pounds each, they protect the sheep and will drive away dogs they don’t know. They are good company and are always curious about what we are doing. Being white, they photograph well, and are easy to find in the dark. And finally, they are always guaranteed to make me smile.

  • Picture Pups

    Written By Barbara O'Brien

    Just thought I’d share some fun images from a recent shoot with some eight week old American Eskimo puppies. It’s not easy to convince puppies to stay in one place much less as a group.

    I usually start out with one pup.

            It takes a little convincing to get them to stay on the set.
             Ok, that’s better. Could you sit, please?
                    Good sit! Good Puppy!
                Then, I will add another. Could you both look here please?
                 Nice! Good Pups!
               Then I will try for three.
               Hey! Get back here!
               Now you listen to the nice lady, little brother!
             There! That’s it! Such good pups!
    I must admit it is all worth it in the end. Who wouldn’t love getting puppy kisses from puppies like these?

     

  • Bandit, My Bolt Out of the Blue, My Miracle

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic
    The following is excerpted from the book, A Book of Miracles. Copyright © 2011 by Bernie Siegel.
    Reprinted with permission from New World Library. www.NewWorldLibrary.com.
    In January, I took my very old dog Rusty to the vet for the last time. Rusty had been a stray, found in a neighboring state. I had adopted him from the local animal shelter and we had been together for over seven years. Now his liver was failing and he was very ill and in pain. Sadly, it was time to let him go.
    Once the vet gave the injection and Rusty peacefully passed on, I went back out to my truck for Rainbow. She was Rusty’s pal, a much younger and higher energy dog. I led Rainbow in to see Rusty, so she wouldn’t wonder what had happened to him, then took her back out to the truck.
    Before driving home, I was compelled to go back in to the clinic to get Rainbow a chew toy. I knew she would be lonely as the only dog and would need something to keep her busy. Inside, a blue Australian Cattle Dog (ACD, a.k.a. blue heeler) was standing at the counter with an unfamiliar woman. I was surprised because I didn’t see cattle dogs often and hadn’t seen one at our vet clinic before. I asked the woman if it was okay to pet her dog. I told her that I had just lost my cattle dog mix a few minutes earlier. She encouraged me to pet the blue girl, Opal, and told me that she had a red puppy in her van. He was the last one of the litter and needed a new home. People on her waiting list had been looking for blues. I told her that I had another red heeler mix (Rainbow) in the truck and that we like the reds at our house!
    I hadn’t even thought about where my next dog would come from. Rusty was very old, but had only recently shown signs of illness. The woman, Louanne, told me that while she was driving to the clinic, she’d been overcome by a peaceful feeling that the red puppy would soon find his new home. She offered to bring him over to meet me. At first I resisted, telling her I couldn’t make a decision on a new dog right away and that Rainbow was probably upset about Rusty passing on. I didn’t know how much more emotion my heart could take that day. But Louanne brought the red pup over. To my complete astonishment, he had Rusty’s double red mask and red ears (Louanne had not seen Rusty). He was a very nice, bold, playful puppy and I was taken with him right away. He and Rainbow got along from the beginning. I didn’t want to make an emotional decision, so I asked Louanne for references. Rainbow and I needed to grieve Rusty’s passing. I was exhausted and needed time to think. Louanne and I exchanged information and Rainbow and I went home. I kept thinking about that red puppy, feeling like he belonged with us. It was clear that Rainbow needed a playmate. I did my homework, contacted Louanne’s references, and two weeks later Bandit joined our family.
    The amazing thing is that I had made an appointment for the vet to come to my home at the end of the day to put Rusty down. But Rusty was suddenly in so much pain that I didn’t want to make him wait, and drove him to the clinic. Louanne lived over an hour away and this was not her regular vet. She had been referred to my vet for Opal to have a special procedure, and had brought puppy Bandit along for the ride. If I hadn’t gone back in to get Rainbow a chew toy, Opal would not have caught my eye at the front counter, and I would not have met Louanne, or Bandit. I believe the sequence of events that brought Bandit to me were not a coincidence. In his pain, Rusty led me to the only red ACD puppy for miles. Bandit was Rusty’s gift to Rainbow and me, to help us heal from the pain of his loss. I think we experienced an everyday miracle and that Bandit was meant to be with us. My mom says that “God winked” that day.
    Bandit’s formal name is Hillhaven Bolt Out of the Blue. With his puppy antics and his silly rubber chicken, he brought Rainbow and me back to life. He taught me that sometimes the best friends will find you when you least expect them to, and that paying attention to them is important. Jump on a good opportunity when you see it, because life is too short and you may not get the chance again. Bandit has been a wonderful companion, a perfect fit with my personality who has taught me so much about life. He is my bolt out of the blue, my everyday miracle, and my link back to Rusty.
    A limited number of personally signed copies of A Book of Miracles (hard cover), the Not Without My Dog Resource & Record Book (hard cover and paperback), and 8 State Hurricane Kate: The Journey & Legacy of a Katrina Cattle Dog (paperback) are available for purchase. Please contact me directly at jenny@8StateKate.net with BOOK REQUEST in the subject line. Find more information at www.8StateKate.net.

  • Winter on the Farm

    Written By Barbara O'Brien
    Since winter is now upon us I thought I would share with you some of my favorite images from winter on the farm.
    As you enjoy this Holiday Season remember to keep warm and to love and enjoy your animals as much as I do mine.
    Merry Christmas from all of us at White Robin Farm and Barbara O’Brien Photography.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Of Geese and Men

    Written By Barbara O'Brien

    Regular readers of my column know that my husband Kevin really loves his animals. The horses, sheep, goats, ducks, cats, and dogs all thrive under his watchful eye and tender care. He calls them by name and they respond eagerly. The horses hope for the apple treats in his pocket, the goats and sheep hope for the pen gate to swing open, the chickens and ducks hope for some kitchen scraps, the cats hope for an early dinner, the Border Collie and the German Shepherd hope for a stick to be tossed, and the Aussie hopes for the magic word: “Sheep.” And they all hope that Kevin can be convinced to turn their hopes into reality.

    So it’s no surprise that the latest additions to the farm have fallen for Kevin.

    A few months ago we were asked to provide some Canada Geese for a commercial. They had to walk back and forth across a golf course putting green and look as destructive as possible.
    I located a breeder in the SE corner of Minnesota. Kevin and I drove down to buy the geese. We pulled into a beautifully kept farm with a century old barn that gleamed in the late afternoon sun. The elderly owner and his son came out to greet us. The geese, over one hundred of them, were in a penned area that spanned two acres and had a big pond in the middle. As soon as they saw the owner many of the geese ran over to him with beaks open and heads bowing up and down. The owner spoke quietly to them and they followed him around. The owner and his son selected two pairs of geese, caught them, and loaded them into the crates in the back of our van.
    Everything was done with great gentleness and patience and I was impressed with how tame the geese were. The owner and his son had taken great pains not to stress the birds and they seemed to respond by staying calm and undisturbed.
    The geese did well in the commercial. We fenced off the perimeter of the shot and used corn to keep the geese located in one place. Gently, we encouraged them to walk where needed for the shot. Their wings had been clipped shortly after hatching, so they were unable to fly and we did not have to worry about losing them. Hand-raised and bred from a long line of hatchery Canada Geese, they would not have fared very well in the wild.
    After the commercial was over Kevin and I took them home to our farm. We turned them into a pen to keep them safe and help them understand that this was their new home. Kevin spoke gently to them as he fed them. “This is a good place,” he told them. “We have corn for you and there is plenty of grass to eat. You can make friends with the ducks…I think you will like it here.”
    The four geese were promptly given names by my sons that honored their country of origin: Calgary, Halifax, Montreal, and Nova Scotia. They are impressive creatures with gray backs, long black necks, and thoughtful but sharp dark eyes.
    Since I usually do the chicken chores, I was the one who fed them and filled their water. They soon learned to defend themselves from the chickens who tried to steal their corn. The geese always regarded me with suspicion. They eyed me cautiously as they came up to drink and made certain not to get too close to me.
    But all that changed one day when Kevin came to help me. They made a bee line to him and stood about only a foot or two away. “Why, hello, geese,” he said in a friendly tone. “How are you ladies and gentleman today?” The lead goose nodded his head up and down and bowed low for a moment and back up again. Kevin mirrored the goose, and then the goose did it again. “Well, hello,” Kevin said again. The other geese also waggled their heads up and down to greet Kevin. He laughed. “Look,” he said to me. “They like me.”
    “I don’t know why they should,” I replied, a little put out. “I’m the one who feeds them.” Kevin laughed again. “Maybe you don’t know how to talk to them like I do,” he said teasingly.
    After a few days we let them out of the pen so they could walk the farmyard and eat all of the bugs and grass they wanted. They stayed pretty close to the barns and didn’t venture up near the farmhouse.
    The next morning Kevin was near the farmhouse working oncanada-geese4152 copy.jpg the tractor when he heard the loud honk of a Canada goose. All four had made their way up from the barn and were standing behind him bowing and waggling their heads. He greeted them, and then tried to shoo them away. But no, they had decided that he was their leader and that was that. Whenever Kevin went outside they would meet him and watch patiently while he completed whatever it was he working on. Even when Kevin walked out to check the fields, the four geese marched happily along behind him.
    A few weeks ago I was the photographer on a large fashion shoot. My farm was the location for the shoot. There were models, stylists, hair and makeup people, and a large crew. Our geese, I assumed, would keep their distance from the visitors and commotion, not to mention the six Irish wolfhounds we were using in the shot.
    cangeese1633.jpgGuess again. While Kevin helped to set up the lights, the geese were by his side. When any female member of the crew tried to approach them, the geese quickly backed away, feathers ruffled and wings outstretched. But they came right up to Cowboy, our digital tech, when he bent down to snap their picture.
    It was then that I remembered that the geese had been raised by quiet gentle men who were careful not to upset them. Their affection for Kevin and preference for men over women made sense to me.
    Our Canada Geese still do not think much of me. They will come a lot closer to me now that some time has passed and they recognize me as the giver of things good, corn included. But it is Kevin they adore. As I write this column, I can see the four of them clustered just outside the open window of our farmhouse. They are waiting for Kevin to come out. Every so often the lead goose honks loudly to remind Kevin that his geese are waiting for him.

  • September 11

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic
    On this day in 2011
    My dog brought me his rubber chicken
    Before I even got out of bed
    Because he knew I was sad.

    On this day in 2001, I packed for a flight to Washington, DC.
    My co-workers prepared to leave for the airport, when someone called us
    to the TV,
    showing a plane crashing into a skyscraper, unfurling clouds of dark gray smoke.
    Over and over, over and over and over we watched that plane strike the World Trade Center.
    We wondered, what in the world?
    Then another plane struck, and both towers went down in a monstrous cloud of dust.
    On it went.
    A plane crashed into the Pentagon in Washington, DC
    And we prayed for our co-worker who was already there. We prayed for everyone there.
    What on earth was going on?
    A plane crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.
    Later we learned of brave passengers, who heard over their cell phones of the attacks and said, “no more!” Saying goodbye to their loved ones, they faced the attackers and drove the plane into that field.
    Heroes they were.
    There would be no more flights that day.
    All were grounded.
    That night the skies were empty. My dogs and I walked under a clear, star-filled sky and wondered at the quiet, the emptiness.
    For surely many new souls had entered heaven that day.
    People from the planes
    People from the buildings
    People from the neighborhood
    People and dogs from the rescue crews
    Surely heaven was busy that night.
    And yet the sky was so quiet. And empty, except for the stars.
    New stars lit the night.
    Soon fighter jets circled overhead, even here in Minnesota.
    And though I had wondered at the peacefulness of the sky, following the violence of the day
    And realized, even then, I would never again see the sky this empty and the stars so wondrous.
    Once I knew they were ours, I was thankful for the fighter jets watching over. I was thankful to be an American.
    I was thankful for the rescue workers, dogs and people, who tirelessly searched in the face of such wreckage, such overwhelming sorrow
    Allowing the possibility of hope.
    I was thankful for each being who gave hope to another, through a courageous act, a hug, or just a simple word of kindness.
    For we all felt so fragile even as we were gathering our strength.
    I wondered how this tragedy could happen in our great country—or anywhere.
    How does hate go that far?
    I wondered at the depth of loss and destruction.
    I stood up for Marwane, a man at work. For although some hated him for his name and I had felt his disrespect for me as a woman
    I knew he was not a terrorist.
    I learned of children born on 9-11-01, of love that was born too, borne on the winds of destruction.
    I saw how tragedy brought out the best in people, how love brought us together and slowly built us up again, how love inspired us to help one another.
    And I tried to focus on love.
    I tried not to hate.
    Because hate killed all those people.
    Hate killed all those people, and some dogs who went to help.
    And somehow the hate has to end.
    Somehow the hate has to end.
    On this day in 2011, my dog brought me his rubber chicken before I even got out of bed, because he knew I was sad.
    Because I have not forgotten.
    So through my tears I played with my dog (not yet born in 2001) and his rubber chicken. Through my tears, I played with Bandit and that rubber chicken, and I smiled.
    My dog’s simple act of love and compassion showed me how to go forth. My dog showed me how to go forth with love, not hate.
    And I vowed to go forth with love.
    Through my tears, I vowed to go forth with love.

  • Ten Miles from Milk

    Written By Barbara O'Brien
    My sister writes a blog about our family’s history. It’s fun to read about where your people came from and see how far you can go back. A few recent posts have really hit home with me.

     

    In the spring of 1911, my great grandmother, Lena Hymers, a city girl through and through, left St. Paul, Minnesota and followed her husband, Frank, and his dreams to the vast, open and unsettled plains around Kincaid, Saskatchewan. They had a one-year-old daughter, Ethel. She was my grandmother. My grandmother wrote down these experiences in 1988 and my aunt gave copies of the reminiscences to my sister to share.
    We had names for the cows also. There was white-faced Daisy and black-faced Daisy, then Sutton who belonged to a farmer named Sutton who died and his widow gave us the cow when she left the farm. There was Bessie, Nancy, Patsy, and my cow's name was Bertha. I have my picture taken with it when it was a calf. It was our first calf and Grandpa said it was a girl so he would name it after his first daughter. (I wonder if my Aunt Bertha ever knew we had a cow named after her?)
    My grandmother and I were very close. She understood my love for animals and especially horses. I loved it when she would visit me at our farm. She was always happy to pet the horses and whisper sweetness into their ears. Throughout my life I always thought of her as an old woman, someone who volunteered with the Girl Scouts and the church, cooked the best waffles, and took good care of me and my siblings when my mother had to go to work part time.
    I never thought of her as a young girl, living the life of a pioneer on the Saskatchewan prairie while the daughters of great-grandmother’s old friends in St. Paul were going to city schools and living in houses with modern plumbing, electric lights and telephones.
    We had some pigs but we only named the mama pig. She was Sally and she had a lot of little pigs every year. Sally was very tame and if we was alone in the pen Papa would put me on her back and I'd hold onto her ears. She would give me a ride all around the pen. I used to scratch her behind the ears. She would come over to the fence and wait for me.We had some white turkeys. Turkeys are a very difficult type of fowl to raise. They keep close together in a flock and sometimes become attached to a leader gobbler, who might decide to leave the protection of the farmyard for a hollow in a field or a dry creek bed. This was dangerous to their safety. At night they would huddle together with no protection from the prowling wolves or coyotes. You can't drive turkeys - they just won't go where you want them to. Once Papa had to search them out and it was a good thing they were white because Mama, Papa and I sneaked up on them and caught them and put them in sacks. Some got away but we got the gobbler and the next morning the stragglers had come back home. Papa cut their wings so they couldn't fly away and we had to put up a fence to keep them home. Mama didn't raise many turkeys after that. We had ducks and geese but Mama didn't like them. They were such dirty fowl. They always tried to bathe in their drinking water. We couldn't waste so much water. Mama had to make a special drinking pan just for the ducks. They didn't wander away, they stayed in the farm yard. I didn't like the geese and the old gander always wanted to chase me and he'd scare me. Mama always canned chicken and turkey, but we sold the geese and ducks in town at Williams' Store. Sometimes Papa would shoot rabbits and Mama canned them too. We always had some kind of meat over the winter, later we even smoked meat when we butchered a pig.

    I had heard a few of the stories over the years, of course. I knew how sad she felt when her little colt got into the chicken feed, got the colic, and died. I knew she rode her horse, Prince, to school while keeping a watchful eye out for the coyotes who frequented the washes and gullies alongside the road.
    My horse's name was Prince. He had a white face and was a trained cow pony. Then we had Kit, a beautiful dapple grey and high-stepping Fly. Nugget was a bronco and if you weren't careful, would buck you off. We also had Maud, Jenny and Lady. Maud and Jenny we bred and let run with their colts. Lady was a pacer and Papa had bought her from a racing horse stable. Allen always rode her to school. She always wanted to race, and when I rode to school on my pony, Prince, we often raced the half mile to the crossroads on our way home from school.
    By reading the rest of her stories, I learn about what her early life on the prairie was like and how much work it was for her and her family. I have a ten-mile trip from my farm to the store to buy milk, but it only takes me a few minutes by car. Their trip by buckboard and team to town, also only ten miles away, could take half a day or more depending on the weather. 
    When I read my grandmother’s stories, I am struck by our common love and appreciation for the horses and the other animals in our lives. When I look out my window and see my horses, sheep, goats, dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, and geese I feel a strong connection to my grandmother and to the people who came before me. 
     When she writes of how the ducks and geese mess up their water pan I laugh because my ducks and geese do the same thing. And when she expresses her love for her horse, Prince, I think of my love for my horse, Finnian. This love of the land and animals ties us together through time and space. I know when I smile at the thought of my grandmother, she also is smiling on me and mine.

    —Quotations and photographs from the reminiscences of Ethel Hymers Glewwe, South St. Paul, Minnesota, 1985.

     

  • Wild Bill, Rudolph Valentino and Mr. Fugley

    Written By Barbara O'Brien

    This fellow's name is Wild Bill. He gets that name as he has quite the way with the ladies. He is a white Leghorn Rooster. He would like to think that he is top dog, but he is not. 

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    That honor goes to his fellow. Mr. Fugley. We don't know what he is. His mother hatched him out and his dad could have been any number of roosters we had at the time. Poor Mr, Fugly, He may not be much to look at, but the ladies love him and he is ruler of the roost. Even the dogs leave him alone.

    A few more of Wild Bill. He spends a lot of time talking the big talk but is nowhere to be seen when Mr. Fugley comes around.

    This is Rudolph Valentino, he is named after the famous Latin

    lover from Hollywood’s early years. Quite the handsome fellow don’t you think?

     He is even brave enough to take on the cats.

     

     

     

     

     

    But this is what happens when he sees Mr. Fugley.

    Now this is what the roosters spend so much time fussing over.

    Girls.  Girls.  Girls.
     

    This is one of the ladies they spend so much time fighting over. Her name is Grace. All of the speckled hens like her are named Grace.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    All of the red ones are named Ruth.

     

     All the white ones are named Gladys.
     
     And all the ducks are named Richard. Don't laugh, It just makes thing easier.

     

     

     

    And here is why we keep Mr. Bill, Rudolph Valentino and Mr. Fugley around at all. They keep the hens happy. Happy hens make more eggs and more eggs make a happy me!

     

  • Reiki and the Zen of Motor Vehicle Maintenance

    Written By Jenny Pavlovic

    In mid-July I was on my way to a meeting in the city. It was the first meeting since the interview for my part-time summer job and I didn’t want to be late. I was driving on a country road, on my way to the interstate. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a light flash, and then disappear. It flashed again, insisting that I “Check Gages”! Now! Uh oh. The oil pressure gage read “0”, like a flat-lined heart monitor. This couldn’t be good. Briefly I thought about driving home, and considered going back. But my engineer brain told me that, like a body without blood, a truck without oil won’t live long.
    I pulled over right away, realizing that I wouldn’t get far without oil pressure. Plus, if my truck needed to be towed, I was already closer than home to the repair place. As I pulled over to the side of the frontage road, smoke rose up in front of the windshield. I turned off the key, grabbed my laptop and notes, and jumped out. I wondered if the truck would catch fire, but the smoke seemed to come from the hot oil dripping on the parts below. I bent over to discover a growing puddle of oil leaking onto the pavement between the front tires. I looked back to see a trail of oil drops behind the truck. I prepared to issue last rites.
    My cell phone had one battery bar left and the charger was at home. I called the Car Guy. With almost 233,000 miles on the truck, I knew his number by heart. He arranged for a tow truck to meet me. I didn’t have cell phone numbers for the people who I was to meet at a restaurant, but I was able to reach the department administrator. She connected me to one of the people from the meeting, who offered to pick me up at the car repair place and give me a ride.
    I had to wait about 45 minutes for the tow truck. The chi appeared to be draining from my truck and I didn’t have a specific back up plan. Normally I would sit and stew. But I thought about the almost 233,000 miles we’d driven together, all the wonderful memories, and felt grateful. I was going to miss my old GMC Sonoma. I decided to lay my hands on the hood and administer Reiki (pronounced “Ray-key”, a Japanese form of energy healing), to channel positive energy and encourage healing. I know this sounds funny, but it couldn’t hurt, might even help, and it was better for me than stomping and cursing.
    In the Reiki frame of mind, I noticed that it wasn’t a bad day to be stuck on the side of the road. It wasn’t too hot, it wasn’t raining, the birds were singing, and it was a rather pleasant day. I suddenly had the time to notice.
    While I had my hands on the hood, a handsome man on a Harley pulled over. He asked if I had help on the way, and I nodded. He noticed the growing puddle of oil under my truck and mentioned possible solutions. He told me he’d replaced the engine in his Blazer and about how much it had cost. He got me thinking about possible solutions other than junking the truck. I told him that the truck had already given me almost 233,000 miles and that it wasn’t a bad day to be stuck on the side of the road. He pointed out the vegetable garden beyond the trees and noted that I could watch the gardeners. Knowing that I was ok, he said goodbye and rode off. Then I wondered, “Who was that handsome man on the Harley?” Perhaps he was a guardian angel.
    The tow truck arrived. The driver let me charge my phone while we rode to the repair place. I met the Car Guy’s new Australian Shepherd puppy, left the truck there and caught my ride to the meeting. I hoped for the best, but prepared for the worst. I figured I would have to arrange new transportation ASAP and my mind began working to solve the problem.
    The restaurant where we were scheduled to meet was closed (for good), so we ended up meeting in a restaurant back by the car repair place. We decided to make it our new meeting place!
    When I called the Car Guy to check on my truck, he told me that, amazingly enough, the tube that routed the oil to the oil cooler had corroded through and he thought he could fix the truck by replacing the part that same afternoon! After the meeting, I learned that when he installed the new part, he discovered that a second part, the oil cooler, was also cracked and leaking. He was able to find the second part at a place about 45 minutes away, and it was rush hour. His wife, who usually makes the part runs, was busy, so he sent his son, who also works in the shop. When his son got to the parts place, he realized they were about to sell him the wrong part. Luckily, they had the right part in stock and he returned with that.
    While I waited, I got out my laptop and worked for a couple more hours. Then I played with the puppy again. They replaced both parts for less than $500, a blessing considering that a few hours earlier I’d thought I’d need a new vehicle, or at least a new engine.
    At the repair shop, they were amazed that I was able to pull over and turn the truck off before it lost all of its oil. In fact, it still contained a quart of oil when it arrived at the shop. They had never seen anything like it. But then, they had probably never seen anyone lay hands on a truck either!
    The day included so many near misses that could have gone one way or the other, but went my way. There was the flashing oil pressure light, that I was able to read the second time. I was just a mile or two short of being on the interstate, where I wouldn’t have been able to pull over and shut off the truck right away. My cell phone had just enough juice for me to call for help and call people about the meeting. I was able to reach people about the meeting and get a ride. The man on the Harley stopped and gave me positive things to think about and possible solutions for the truck, and showed me the gardeners. The truck still had oil when it arrived at the shop. They were able to fix it by replacing two parts the very same day. The son went to get the second part, not the wife, who would have returned with the wrong part.
    We found a new restaurant for our meetings. When I was delayed, my neighbor was able to let my dogs out. She said I was lucky to catch her at home because she was leaving for a trip the next morning. I finished some work and even got to play with a puppy while I waited for the second part to be replaced. I drove home that evening in my own truck, for under $500. This had seemed highly unlikely earlier in the day.
    The day was full of near misses, with a good outcome, considering. So tell me… Does Reiki help machines, and who was that handsome man on the Harley anyway? Some have said he was my guardian angel, and I won’t argue with that!
    You may be thinking, what does any of this have to do with dogs? My dogs have taught me that all we really have is this present moment, and we’d best enjoy it. Enjoy the day and try not to worry about money. My dogs led me to learn Reiki, which may not have helped the truck, but it certainly helped the way I handled the situation. All these things that I’ve learned from my dogs helped me to be positive in a stressful situation. And when I thought of all the amazing places my truck has taken me and the wonderful times I’ve had, most of them involved my dogs. I was overwhelmed with gratefulness!

    That’s how a day that started out fine, veered toward disaster, but then seemed to be a miracle a few hours and $500 later. I ended the day as usual, safely back home, on a walk with my dogs. It was a pleasant evening. We took the time to notice, and we enjoyed every moment.

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