This morning I was getting my coffee and looking out the kitchen window. Belle caught my eye, as she so often does when the sun is hitting her coat - so much so that I reached for my camera to take the distant shot. What I realized when I looked through the lens was that Belle, along with the other horses, was on point - ears perked and bodies stiff and ready - watching.
I can always count on Belle to keep a close eye on things. No trespasser - human or otherwise - can get past her. I turned my attention in the direction the herd was looking and, sure enough, something that wasn't part of our ranch family was hopping back and forth across the far fence. Fortunately we were far enough away that the Corgi Boys didn't notice anything so I put them up for safe keeping and grabbed the shotgun. I wasn't sure what I would find because a few days ago I witnessed a couple of coyotes chasing a white cat that has taken up residence here. (Einstein the cat was still here yesterday so you can stop imagining the worst.)
The question I should have asked myself at this point (but didn't) was "what did you bring the gun for?". Looking back on the situation, I suppose it was a prop to make me look tougher than I am, because I have no idea if it was even loaded and am not gun savvy enough to feel comfortable checking! (I can shoot a target - moving or stable - but apparently I am a pampered Annie Oakley since I've never loaded my own gun. This is now at the top of my "skills to learn" list.)
I had the distance of a couple football fields to walk but
kept looking at the last spot where I had seen movement as I made my way. The next thing I knew, Belle was standing on her back legs and began a quick dash towards the woods as she came down. She stopped at the edge of the property as
quickly as she has started. She stood in that spot for a few minutes and then did what I call the "Belle Dance". It really should be called the "something is not right here and hurry to me" dance because she only does it when she's worried.
Once I got near the horses, Belle made her way to me and did her dog trick. She is as good at pointing as any hunting dog, just not quite as stealth. There in front of me, just past the trees, was a precious little deer - on the ground, stuck in the brush, and terrified.
I'm not sure if he had been playing with other deer or running from something but he was clearly stuck now and a prime target for the coyotes I had recently seen. I'm not sure who was more jumpy - me or him - but after a few EEEEEKs from both of us, I was able to loosen the hold the branches had on him and he quickly disappeared.
I gave Belle a big hug and leaned on her strong neck for a minute. Then, as if nothing had happened, Belle turned and went back to the herd who had all put their heads down and begun grazing again. Were they blind? Did they not just see me save a life? Why were they not as exhilarated by this experience as I was???
I'll tell you why - because in nature, instinct and intuition rule. Challenges and threats are part of every day and animals make decisions based on what they know instinctively to be best. They groom and guard each other. The protect their
family and their friends from predators. They are loyal and forgiving. They choose their leaders for their strength and accomplishments. The teach their young to be able to stand on their own and they respect their elders. Belle used her communication skills to let me know my part in the rescue
of this little guy. To her and the rest of the herd, there was no act of heroism, just a responsibility to another being.
So.....in true human fashion, I humbly walked back to the barn where I told Tank and Jag about my noble feat. (If I use the right tone, they think anything I tell them is incredibly newsworthy!)
Bobbie's recovery from the snake bite last week has been slow but I'm happy to report that she is improving daily. At first her coordination was really off, making it difficult for her to walk a straight line into her stall or even stroll through the pasture without running into the fence. We wanted to close her in a stall to prevent this but the steroid she has been on for the snake bite had her pacing and anxious. Instead of locking her up, we did the next best thing - we put Rey in the small pasture with her.
Rey is a four year old foal out of Bobbie. She is gentle and cautious and has never stopped showing her admiration and affection for her mom. Even under normal circumstances, they spend a lot of time together. At some point it changed from Bobbie looking after Rey to Rey watching over Bobbie. For instance, when the herd moves from the front of the property to the back pond, Bobbie's pace is slower than the rest so she lags behind. It's not unusual to see Rey standing between Bobbie and the others patiently waiting on her.
When we put her in the pasture with a pitiful, snake bitten Bobbie that couldn't hold her head up or walk a straight line, we hoped she would protect her and reduce the obvious stress Bobbie was under. She did not disappoint us. That first day when I witnessed Rey watching Bobbie's every move and quickly putting herself between a fence or gate or tree when Bobbie would begin to lose her balance, I was humbled. Rey hardly ate. She just stood close by and watched over her mother. She let Bobbie lean on her when she slept (Bobbie was not coordinated enough to lay down for several days) and Rey would guide her to the water trough now and then. When we called them to the barn so that we could give Bobbie her shots, Rey would walk her safely into the corral and wait to escort her back to the pasture.
It's been a week and Bobbie is doing very well. She is holding her head up. Those big brown eyes have never been more beautiful. She's regained her strength and along with it, her coordination. I'm sure the prescriptions had a great deal to do with this miraculous recovery, but I can't help but believe that Rey's attentiveness and calm were the real medicine.
Once again, the more I pay attention, the more I am amazed. This week Rey reminded me that patience and compassion are invaluable in our relationships - as friends, parents, children, partners, even strangers .... yep, I'm being schooled by a four year old horse.
A few nights ago we were out back throwing a frisbee with the dogs as we do most evenings. Tank and Jag were barking happily and we were enjoying the breeze and the first reasonable temperature in ages.
The herd was out by the pond, all but Bobbie. She was making her way towards us. At first I thought she was just coming to say hello like she usually does (in hopes of a carrot) until I realized that she was holding her head unusually low and to the side. Her eyes were heavy and so sad looking. Something was definitely wrong. She was coming to ask for help.
She gladly followed me into the corral but never lifted her head, even when she did her normal "talking" to ask for some grain. We put a small feeder on the ground to see if she indeed had an appetite and were pleased that she went straight to eating. From her posture we feared she had wrenched her neck or her back and treated her accordingly but by the next morning it was obvious that we were wrong. Our old girl had been bitten by a snake.
Her lip had swollen to several times it's normal size and the fang marks were now clearly visible. Her huge, painful lip made eating and drinking difficult and she had no sense of balance. She didn't appear to be cognizant of her surroundings and was not responding to normal communication.
The vet gave her fluids using a bucket of water, a hose and a pump - a method I had never seen. This Macgyver move saved us from having to haul her when she was in no shape to stand in a moving trailer. He gave her shots of antibiotic and steroids and left us with twelve days of syringes. He expects her to be fine and although I was terrified that the 12 hours that had past would be catastrophic for her, he felt we had actually caught it early.
Shortly after he left, she made her way to the water trough (even though we had a water bucket conveniently on the floor of her stall) and I was thrilled to see her swallowing several big gulps. We had put Rey in the corral with her because we knew her company would be comforting. We witnessed Rey guiding Bobbie away from harmful objects and standing quietly by when she rested. I'd seen mares do this with their foals but it was so sweet to see Rey do this with her dam.
What I really found amazing was what my friend Sandy and I witnessed next. The walk to the trough obviously took all the energy Bobbie had, so she just stood there - head still low and eyes almost closed. Kit was on the other side of the fence by the trough watching her closely. Both of these young mares, Kit and Rey, stretched their necks down to meet Bobbie's face and proceeded to gently lick her mouth right where she had been bitten. Their three heads remained connected for several minutes while Bobbie stood motionless enjoying their care.
I understand that animals can sense when something is wrong, but it still astounds me that they knew exactly where she was hurting. Nature is phenomenal. That includes "us humans" although I think we let a lot of things muddy up our instincts and intuition.
We rose especially early this morning to give the poor girl her first set of shots for the day. She teetered a bit when I first started leading her but she quickly got her rhythm. She's eating and drinking and the swelling has gone down considerably. Her eyes are brighter and she's seeming more like her old self.
The vet says we're lucky that this is our first snake bite in the nine years we've been here. I'm sure sweet Bobbie isn't feelng too lucky...
A good friend of mine recently asked, "What makes you smile?" Ever since the question was put to me I've been paying attention to the things that bring joy to my heart. If truth be told, I'm a bit of a country dork and my city friends would heartily agree if they could see inside my head.
After a walk with the boys this morning that had me smiling the whole time, I decided to keep track, just for today, and write down the things that made me smile. Here goes:
- I woke up this morning with a headboard! It's made out of a door that hung in the original 1930s home once on this property. I smiled because I refurbished it months ago and it's been leaning on my bedroom wall waiting for my husband to put it up. Yesterday I wondered why on earth I was waiting on him. I have a brain, two hands and HIS tools!
- An unexpected quick visit from our oldest daughter made me beam. I was able to meet her friends from school that I've heard so much about and discover that they are just as wonderful as she said.
- I couldn't help but laugh out loud watching Tank reunite with his aforementioned girlfriend.
- I had a phone conversation with our youngest daughter that was full of confidence, laughter, accomplishments and goals. A happy child makes a VERY happy mom.
- Two crazy Corgis butts wagging always make me smile. This time it was because they know a camera in my hands means an unhurried walk around the property for them.
- The flowers I planted yesterday were still there!!! I thought for sure Belle would have had them for breakfast.
- The two gallon jugs of 20% vinegar on the barn table that I picked up yesterday made me smile because it means my organic-minded husband has completely worn off on me.
- I found a pallet in a "storage" pile that I could turn into a coffee table like Sarah did on "Sarah's House" (HGTV). After all, I'm a pro now that I've installed my headboard, and again, I have his tools.
- Beau was covered in shavings which means he got a good night's sleep in his stall.
- The smell of the fresh shavings I put in Beau's stall for tonight conjured up memories of Rey's Barn and playing in the sawdust pile.
- Abby the cat talking to me from the top of the shed where the Corgiboys can't reach her deserved a giggle.
- Too much HGTV had me thinking about turning the dilapidated shed into a cool chicken coop.
- That got me to wondering how in the world I could keep the Corgiboys from torturing these imagined chickens. Chicken herding Corgis had me laughing.
- A job well done that resulted in a clean water trough for the horses put a smirk on my face.
- Jag inspecting the clean trough brought on the laughter.
- The view of a half-mowed pasture made by smile and realize that, by definition, ranch work is never done.
- Our persimmon tree weighted down with perfectly beautiful fruit would have made Julia Childs grin.
- Wondering what the heck I do with persimmons made me think of Frank from college and his grandmother that made the best persimmon pudding....or was that rhubarb pie? Either way, I was smiling thinking about it.
- I sat on my parent's old bench while I watched the dogs cool off in the pond. Thoughts of my parents brought on a tearful smile. I was one lucky girl.
- Watching my husband on his John Deere, completely oblivious to the fact that he's so covered in grass and dirt that he resembles George Hamilton before the gray hair, made me laugh.
- The smell of fresh cut grass...and horse manure made me smile. (Horses really can say that their poo doesn't stink!)
- Jag made me proud when (on the third try) he learned that if he barks at a horse I've tied in the barn, he goes back inside. The first two times I grabbed his collar and walked him to the door. The third time he walked himself and waited for me to let him in. He immediately barked to be let out and came out slowly with his nose in the air as if to say, "horse? What horse?" (Tell me you're not smiling too!)
- I thought of Jake (our first Cangelose family Corgiboy) when I passed his grave, marked with a metal sculpture of a Corgi Fairy. Years later, every thought of him still makes me smile. Adding to that amusement, I remembered Cam recently learning about the myth of Corgi saddles for fairies and laughing hysterically.
- Our crepe myrtle showing its appreciation for this summer's rain with tons of blooms had me looking in awe.
- Giving Bobbie a bath AND staying dry because I replaced our old "Jaggified" hose with a new dog proof one really had me smiling.
- I smiled at Jag for being terrified of the gunfire next door and wanting me inside with him. (And I smiled again because I was thrilled to be needed INSIDE because it's 101 degrees outside.)
- I stopped to look at the painting Kels did of Cameron and Beau when she was twelve that hangs in our den....that made me go look at the one of Jake in our room done around the same time. I am still amazed at how well she captured their faces.
- I love the C4 Ranch sign made out of a plow disk that Cam had made for her dad's birthday. (Which made me smile thinking of highlighting the artist on the blog soon because he's amazing)
- I smiled because my friend in Georgia asked when I was making my flight reservations. - Not "are you coming?" but "when?"!
- I laughed at Jag sleeping at the back door holding one of his twelve Frisbees so he'd be sure not to miss an opportunity if we headed outside....and at Tank lying on the back of the sofa hoping we didn't go outside again and disturb his nap.
- I smiled a satisfied smile at the clean smell of orange oil when I mopped my floor.
- I'm smiling now at myself trying to find the right spot on my beloved rustic kitchen table for my water bottle to sit steadily while I type this.
Hmmmmm. This is reading a bit like a gratitude journal. I suppose that makes sense because we should be grateful for the things that make us smile. The lesson here for me personally is that it's the little things that keep me smiling on the inside. There's nothing monumental listed here. In theory, all I should have to do is pay attention in order to find something that makes me feel good enough to smile. Implementing this strategy when life plants a hurdle in front of me will be the test. That fact also makes me smile.
Life, no matter how simple, gives us a bounty of things at which to smile. What's making you smile today?