Saturday, November 28, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Twist is 8 today. It's hard to believe; it seems like just yesterday that I stopped by Kay's on my way home from Richard Rogers' trial in Luray, VA, and fell in love with a 12-hour-old guinea pig with what looked like barber pole stripes going around her.
She's taught me a great deal about working dogs and livestock; and she's been my "right hand man" on the farm. We've had a lot of success on the trial field, and some spectacular failures. But in general, I can count on her to be rock steady anywhere we go.
She can be a bit of a troll, but that's just part of her charm. She's the dog who I'd most want to have if stranded on a desert island, because if there's food to be found, she'll find it! I could say so much more, but the simplest thing to say is that she holds a huge piece of my heart. Happy Birthday Twist, and here's hoping that we can share many more!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Ranger also got to visit with his buddy Barbara. He's got a goofy look on his face either because he loves Barbara or because he's quite proud of himself for having just worked sheep in the round pen--or both!
Ranger and Tug moved their fleecy activities into the dogloo. Those are some happy faces!
And Ranger Danger showing his stuff, at 16 weeks, in the round pen.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Pam's birthday was this week and in celebration she wanted to have lunch, go see a matinee of Twilight: New Moon, and then finish off the afternoon with a visit to Cold Stone Creamery. Sounds good. As Laura drove us to lunch I realized we were going to be quite near a Barnes & Noble. I also knew that we were going to get to the theater early to make sure we could get decent seats. My addiction started nagging at me. There's a bookstore nearby and I'm going to need to kill time. I need a book. But alas there really wasn't time to go to the bookstore before the movie. Imagine my surprise when it turned out that Cold Stone Creamery was in the same shopping center as the bookstore. I told my companions that there was no way I could be this close and not go in. Yes, my addiction was speaking loud and clear.
So we took our ice cream and sat in the cafe at the bookstore, where we were serenaded by middle school kids singing Christmas carols. Laura, Pam, and Sandy savored their ice cream. I guess I pretty much inhaled mine. I couldn't waste time eating while in the presence of the siren song of so many books. I asked if they minded if I browsed while they finished eating, knowing they couldn't possibly deny me that.
I read dust jackets, ran my hands over covers, wandered around looking at titles and illustrations. I saw books that are dear old friends, like Paolo Coehlo's The Alchemist, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which in DVD format sustained me across the country from Sturgis, SD, to Elizabeth City, NC, after the 2005 sheepdog finals, and many others, some of which I'd forgotten about but whose covers brought back memories of lovely reads. And of course I saw books that I wanted to read. Yes, I am an addict, and I have a hard time controlling myself in a bookstore. Today was no exception. I bought books. I have no business spending money on frivolous things right now, but there it is; when it comes to books I can't help myself.
After paying, I went back to find the girls still sitting in the cafe chatting. Their first comment on seeing the bag: "That looks like more than one book." Well, yeah, how do you buy just one? I could have bought many more. "What did you buy?" And Laura's priceless comment: "I hope you bought fluff--lots of fluff." Quite the opposite, I'm afraid. So I pulled out The Music Room, by William Fiennes. It's his memoir of growing up in a castle with an older brother who suffered from severe epilepsy; I don't know what drew me to the book, but it was the first one I picked from a shelf that I knew I had to have. Then I found The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein. Bobbi Washer had recommended this book to me when I saw her at Jan Thompson's trial. I also picked up The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger and South of Broad, by Pat Conroy. Someone asked about Pat Conroy, and I noted that even if they hadn't read his books, they might have seen the movies: The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline, The Prince of Tides, or The Water is Wide.
At the end of this brief discussion, Laura remarked: "Oh no, why did you get that book? His stuff is a recipe for Prozac!" Which comment actually caused all of us to laugh (I hope the children singing didn't think we were laughing at them!). Why did I get Pat Conroy, knowing that his books are generally sad? Because I love his writing. I love his descriptions of the south and southerners and southern life. And yes, I even love the sadness and heartbreak that always seem to be central themes.
My love affair with books started at an early age. One of my best memories is of Jean and I sitting on the hay in the old barn, sun streaming through multipaned windows that reached practically from floor to ceiling, both reading copies of Gulliver's Travels, though mine, a gift from Gran, had one extra story in it. I can still see the dust motes floating on the sun's rays, muted by the dirt on the windowpanes, and the old apple tree outside the window. And I remember the joy that sinking into such stories brought me. Reading more books than I can possibly remember is what made me a good writer and allowed me to pursue that alternative career when my original career dreams had to be set aside.
To this day, and no doubt on into the future, sinking into a good book is my escape from cares, sorrows. I guess it's better than sinking into a bottle or popping pills, and I can always rationalize that I am staving off dementia by keeping my mind working, exploring narrative and language.
Yes, I'm an addict. I'm addicted to books.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Willow had her one-month check up at VSH on Tuesday. Here's what Dr. Kozicki, her oncologist, had to say:
So it's looking good for Willow at this point. Of course I was cautioned at the beginning of treatment that how she was doing at 6 weeks would not necessarily be predictive of how she will be doing at 6 months, but at least so far it seems there's cause for hope.Willow looks great today! Her lesions are flatter and less inflamed and have decreased in size, which is really good news. Her bloodwork is also normal. Willow will need a complete blood count in one week with Dr. Scott. We would like to see her in two weeks for her six week Palladia recheck. If things are continuing to go well at that point we will extend her appointments to every 6-8 weeks.
For her part, Willow is pretty much her same old self, doing all the stuff she loves to do. Her lesions truly have reduced, and some have even disappeared, though she still has one that's rather ugly looking. But given the way this cancer has behaved, I know that just because it's (partly) gone now doesn't mean it will stay gone. Here's hoping Palladia is a new wonder drug for dogs with mast cell tumors!
Mount Pleasant SDT
There was a lot of good, bad, and ugly at Mt. Pleasant last weekend. The drive was changed from the right hand drive of years past to a left hand drive, and that made a huge difference in the number of dogs who lost sheep to the exhaust on the drive. In fact, I don't think anyone lost sheep to the exhaust on the drive (in ranch and open) this year. Unfortunately, there were quite a few runs that never got started, thanks to the sheep bolting back to the setout. With fences, driveway, barn, and vehicles up there, there was just no way for a dog to catch the sheep and save the run (unless the dog was very fast and would slice its flanks). There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to which sets would bolt for the barn. On my two open runs on Sunday, I even tried stopping both dogs short and risked lifting the sheep sideways to try to circumvent the mad dash for the barn, but to no avail. By then the sheep weren't just running for the barn, they were also splitting one and two, so even though Pip looked like he could catch them, once they split, it was all over. Twist lost both her sets to the barn, though on Sunday she tried to catch them all, first covering the two that went to the set out pen, and then turning back for the one who was trying to circle the barn via the driveway (and again losing the first two in the process). I had sent Twist right and Saturday, which meant she was running opposite the pressure to the barn, but I figured she comes in deep enough at the top that it wouldn't matter, but the sheep were able to outrun her.
That said, I did have a few good runs. Pip placed second in open on Saturday with a score of 81. We timed out in the shedding ring and a hole opened just as the timer went off, so I called him through anyway and completed the shed just to help with his confidence since he's relatively new to running in open (his fourth open trial). I had fallen down the outside steps in the rain on Wednesday and wasn't moving very well, so I couldn't really help him much at the shed either. I was proud of him.
Lark did a great job on Saturday in the ranch class, ending with a score of 75 and first place. Phoebe had on her listening ears Saturday as well. Her run was a little less clean than Lark's, but I was pleased with the fact that she seemed less frantic and didn't mess up flanks by reacting before I got the flank out. She placed third with a 66, I think. On Sunday, Lark lost her sheep to the exhaust, one of the few dogs to do so all weekend (now there's something to celebrate!). The problem was the same one as for many of the other dogs--the intense draw to the barn. They pushed way offline to their right, and even though Lark was able to prevent them from going to the barn and brought them down the field offline, here's where her clappiness kills. She'd get to their heads to stop them, but wouldn't turn them back into the field, and each delay caused by me having to tell her to get up just let the sheep push that much further downfield. They finally got behind the hill that masks the exhaust and when sheep came back over the hill, there were just two, so we retired. Phoebe modified her listening ears on Sunday, and although she was still listening, she also decided she needed to push an awful lot more, making for an extremely ragged run. I don't think we hit a single panel, except the occasional sheep here or there by accident (okay, so we were close, but when Phoebe gets that pushy and the sheep are running, it's hard to make panels). We didn't get our pen either. And yet we still placed third. And were overall reserve champions for the weekend (hint: just two ranch dogs managed to get scores both days, so they ended up champion and reserve).
At least the sun came out on Sunday, making for a very picturesque view of yellows and reds on the mountains behind the farm.
A disappointment. All the hype had me believing I'd see a great show, and I dutifully set my alarm for 1:30 a.m. and went outside to view the night sky for about an hour. I saw maybe five meteors, only one of which could have been called spectacular. At least it wasn't freezing cold, but I sure would like to see a show like we had a few years ago when I still lived in Elizabeth City!
There are none! Okay, let me correct that. I've applied to lots of jobs, and I've gotten lots of rejections. The upside: at least I know I wasn't selected, which is better than wondering about the black hole into which most applications seem to disappear. The downside: I still don't have a job. I'm looking harder than ever though.
My back is a whole lot better. I stopped taking meds earlier this week, and although I still have pain if I do something foolish (setting up a round bale, for instance), I am well on the road to recovery. I'm guessing that the speed with which I have recovered means I didn't do any serious damage, though parts of my back are still extremely sore to the touch. (For those of you who don't know, I did the banana peel thing in the rain on the wet steps out front. My foot went out from under me and I fell backward, hitting my hip and back on the stairs on my way down. It was very painful.)
I've come to the conclusion that my tunis ewes did not get bred by the BFL ram last June. I have no lambs, nor any sign of impending lambs. I don't know what to blame it on, since the ewes are first timers as was the ram. I expect it was already too hot in June for his sperm to be viable, since he obviously bred the ewes (he was wearing a marking harness). I will try again this spring and put him in much earlier (I was late this year because I didn't get the ram till May and he had to be quarantined before going in with the ewes, hence it was June before I got them all together.)
I don't think I've commented in a while on what I've been reading, probably because most of the books have just been fun/easy reads and mostly limited to what I can get from my local library. So I read Dan Brown's latest, and I rediscovered Rita Mae Brown's foxhunt mysteries (I've read a lot of her stuff, but don't always notice when new books come out). I also read and enjoyed Every Last Cuckoo, by Kate Maloy. Right now I am reading Rita Mae Brown's autobiography, Animal Magnetism, suggested to my by my sister Jean.
And I guess that's it for catching up here at Willow's Rest.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
My friend Heather and I were chatting on Facebook a couple of weeks ago when she mentioned that there was an Old English Game (OEG) bantam show being held in Salisbury. She wondered how far it was from her, and I told her that it was an hour from me, which would make it two hours from her. She decided that was too far for her to go, but since I have OEG bantams, I was curious about the show and decided to find out more about it. If you've ever tried to research chicken shows in the Web, you'll know that information is practicially non-existent. You'd think we were talking about cockfights for all the apparent secrecy surrounding times, locations, etc.
But Kelly lives down that way, so I e-mailed her and asked her if she could find out anything for me, since she is well connected in the area. And while I was at it, I asked her if she wanted to work dogs, since I was going to be in the area anyway. She thought dog working would be a good idea, and at that point, I decided to invite Laura. So you see, while the dog working may have looked like a bribe, it was really an afterthought, with the chicken show taking top billing for my weekend.
The intrepid Laura, always up for a good time, agreed to brave the chicken show in exchange for a chance to work her dogs on different sheep in a different location. So yeah, maybe there was a bit of bribery too.
On the way down, I explained chicken showing to her. They're in cages in rows and you just walk up and down the rows and see what's there. My main purpose for going was to see if there was anything I liked, figuring that I could then track down the owner/breeder and talk turkey, er, chicken, regarding buying some birds at a later date.
Imagine my surprise when we pulled into the fairgrounds to find cages of chickens and other critters lined up outside the arena. This was just a show; it was also a sale! Woohoo! I could see Laura visibly blanche at the idea that we would be strolling through all the outdoor "exhibits," but she gamely followed me up and down rows as I perused the stock for sale. Frankly, the cutest thing there was a crate full of rat terrier puppies, but we looked at the only briefly as I was on a bantam mission. Unfortunately, since I hadn't realized there was going to be a sale, I hadn't brought any of my small, chicken-sized crates with me, and as Laura and I were together, every available crate in the van had a dog in it. Laura's "gigantor" chickens were Jersey Giants, a breed I'd love to own, but realistically I don't have much money and I had absolutely no way to cram them into the van with seven dogs, an X-pen and various and sundry other stuff.
But don't think I was completely deterred. I dragged Laura into the arena so we could look at the show chickens. I was mainly looking for color varieties I don't own and just comparing sizes, since show chickens (like everything that's shown, it seems) are generally larger than the chickens I have at home. I got a good idea of the color variants I'd like to add to my flock and then hauled Laura back outside to do some shopping.
The chickens I really wanted were a pair of spangles (chocolate colored with white spots, sort of like a nonpareil candy), but the owner wasn't there and a neighboring seller told me that he thought all those birds were sold. I inquired about a blue hen from a different seller and was told she cost $25. What? Sorry, but I am not about to pay that for one little hen that, knowing my luck, would immediately be carried off by a Cooper's hawk. So I kept looking. At chicken shows, you're generally not going to be able to buy just a hen or two. Everyone always has extra roosters, and of course no one wants extra roosters. We all have extras hanging around. Most people will sell pairs, but if you're lucky, you can talk someone into selling a trio. And that's what I did. I got a trio of BB Reds. The rooster is a classic red with green/black tail feathers--nothing exotic. But the hens are a lovely grey/red, so I took the rooster to get the hens. And as Kelly pointed out, at least he's new genetics for my flock.
And with the purchase of that trio, the excitement began. Since I didn't have a crate, I asked the seller for a box. We caught the rooster and one hen. When we caught the last hen and he went to place her in the box, she squeezed back out of the top before he could tape it and took flight.
At which point a scream emanated from Laura's throat. I mean, she screamed like a girl. Over a little tiny chicken taking flight. I'm still chuckling over it. Laura claims the chicken flew at her face. Maybe. She also claims that the flight of the hen started up a cacophony of chicken and duck noise, and it's true that the entire area erupted in wild poultry sounds, but I have to wonder if the hen's escape, a la Chicken Run, or Laura's scream was the cause of the screeching and squawking that followed.
Some quick-witted fellow reached out as the hen circled near his truck and caught her in mid-flight and I went to gather her from him. Interestingly, the seller just sort of stood there while all this was going on. Perhaps Laura's scream paralyzed the poor chap.
We got the hen back in the box and the box taped safely up. I figured poor Laura had had enough excitement for one day (little did I know the additional excitement that awaited us in a cut over cornfield), and we headed for the exit. On the way out, I stopped at one more seller to ask about a trio of blues. The guy said he'd give me a deal, only $40. Needless to say, they stayed. Well, I might have been tempted, but really I already had one box of chickens that I was going to have to worry about hanging out while we worked dogs, so I really didn't need any more. There's always next year.
I wonder if Laura will want to go with me?
I'm sure the sheep work was a real let down after the excitement of the chicken show. Kelly had hauled her sheep from home to a cut over cornfield behind the feed store. It took us a few attempts to figure out the best way to work the sheep on the field, given the draw back to the trailer and to the pen with the extra sheep, and--in the case of the sheep called Doughnut--the draw to the pond. But once we worked out the best way to work them, all the young dogs (yep, we took sheep to a strange field and didn't have a single experienced older dog with us in case of emergencies--brilliant, huh?) got a chance and in general it went pretty well. The young dogs did typical young dog stuff--running tight, not covering as well as they might, pushing too hard on the fetch, but once they settled down, we also saw some very nice work.
So while I might not be able to convince Laura to attend a chicken show for the sake of the chickens again in the near future (I heard her on the phone with her mom at one point, and even though I couldn't hear the other side of the conversation, I could tell from Laura's comments that her mother must be just rolling her eyes!), I bet if I lure her with more sheep work, I can slip a show in here or there....
You're a good sport, Laura!
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Who would have thought that getting a prescription filled could be so wrought with pitfalls, especially a prescription that is simply being renewed? Yes, you read that right—not a new prescription, just a continued one for a long-term medication because all the refills had run out on the old prescription. This is Phoebe’s fluoxetine (Prozac) prescription. She was getting one capsule a day and my vet told me to double her dose sometime after I refilled the prescription the first time. Doubling the dose meant I went through it twice as fast (duh!), so soon I needed a new prescription. My vet dutifully wrote one out, but horror of horrors, apparently he wrote it using common veterinary pharmaceutical abbreviations, which caused no end of problems at the human pharmacy. Last Wednesday, I tried to fill the Rx at the WalMart in Greensboro where I had filled the original prescription. I was meeting friends for dinner so just planned to drop it off and pick up the meds on my way home. But since I was at WalMart anyway, I decided to grab a few things, so I was still there when I heard my name called over the intercom to please come to the pharmacy. So off I went, only to be told by the girl behind the counter that they couldn’t fill the prescription because they couldn’t read the directions and they couldn’t call the vet’s office because it was after hours. Innocently, I asked “What can’t you read?” The girl held up the paper and pointed the abbreviation SID. I said, “That’s SID. It means ‘once a day.’” “Oh no,” said the girl behind the counter, “QD means once a day.” I tried to politely explain that in veterinary parlance, SID does indeed mean once a day, despite what people pharmacists might think. But the conversation was going nowhere. So I tried a different tack. “This is a renewed prescription,” I said. “Phoebe should be in your computer already with the original prescription information available there. This is the same prescription as before as far as dosing directions are concerned. The only thing that has changed is that we’ve increased the actual dosage amount.” She just looked at me blankly and said, “I’m sorry, but we can’t fill this without talking to the vet’s office.” Whatever. I just asked for the script back so I could try somewhere else. You see, part of the problem is that no WalMart is actually near where I live, so I go there only when I can combine the trip with something else so I can conserve gas. I wasn’t planning to come back up to Greensboro before Phoebe’s current meds ran out. And it’s not as if I have money dripping out of my pockets right now, and gas prices continue to rise.
On Thursday, I tried taking the prescription to my local CVS pharmacy. They told me that yes, fluoxetine is on the list of drugs for which you could get a 90-day supply for $9.99. Not as good as WalMart’s price, but I’d be saving time and miles, so I thought to go ahead. Only then, the girl behind the counter said to me, “Well, I don’t think we can use the prescription program for a dog.” Sigh. WalMart doesn’t care.
Act III: I was planning to go with Laura to Kelly’s in China Grove and work dogs on Saturday and figured I could go by the WalMart in Siler City (whose pharmacy has also filled this prescription before) on my way home. It’s not really on the way, but as I would already be out and driving a good distance, I figured I’d just suck it up and take the detour on the way home. At this point, I knew Phoebe doesn’t actually have enough meds to see her through the weekend, so I called my vet’s office and asked them if they could please call in my prescription to the WalMart in Siler City so I could pick it up Saturday evening. I explained the trouble I was having getting the script filled, and one of the techs said they’d be happy to call it in for me that day. She even said she’d call me back if there were any problems. I never got a call, so assumed everything was good to go (yeah, I know, that’s what I get for assuming).
Well, I’m sure you see where this is going. After dragging the intrepid Laura to a chicken show in Rowan county in the morning (more on that later) and then working wild sheep (I’ll tell the story about the sheep now called Michael Phelps in another post) in a corn field in China Grove all afternoon, we both just wanted to get home—and she had a dinner date with her dad to make. So we exited 85 at Lexington and headed east on 64, a nice leisurely little drive. It seemed to take forever to get from 85 to Asheboro, and then another forever to get from Asheboro to Siler City. All the time, the sun was setting and hopes were fading of getting home and still being able to do chores in some sort of daylight.
At the WalMart pharmacy in Siler City: When I finally get through the line to ask about my prescription—you guessed it—they had no record of any such thing. They even shunted me off to the side (you know, the black hole where you never speak to anyone again) while another pharmacy worker looked for any evidence that a prescription had been called in for me. Finally, in exasperation I pulled out the original prescription, which I still had in my purse (and which I was going to return to my vet at my next appointment, since the script should have been called in at that point). I said to the young man, as kindly as I could, “Here is the actual prescription. Can you fill it?” He goes off to talk to the pharmacist and doesn’t come back in, like, forever, so I meander over to the “drop off” area to see if he, too, has disappeared into a black hole. It turns out he’s in consultation with the pharmacist because they don’t know what SID means! Can I be forgiven if my head started to spin at about this point? Okay, I tried to control any external evidence of a spinning head, and instead I smiled politely and said, “SID is veterinary parlance for once a day. This is an existing prescription that should be on file on your computer. If you’d check it, you’d see the directions there, and you can just copy them.” Instead the pharmacist says to me, “I’ll just put ‘Take as directed.’” Gah! And double Gah!
I guess I should have been counting my lucky stars that they were at least going to fill the damn thing! But I had newly purchased chickens, who had been in the van all day without water or food, and Laura, who needed to meet her dad. So I thanked them for filling it and told them I wouldn’t be waiting (because you just know I wanted to wait another 45 minutes for an Rx that had already taken me to three pharmacies over four days to try to fill). So now I have a dilemma. Phoebe can take a half dose of her meds on Sunday, but I won’t have anything for her on Monday. I have an appointment to take Willow to the vet on Tuesday for bloodwork. I really don’t want to make the drive to Siler City three times in four days, so I plan to call my vet Monday morning and see if they won’t make up their fail on the prescription call-in by letting me bring Willow first thing Monday for the blood draw so I can make just one trip and get everything done. Wish me luck!
I’ll get to the chicken show and dog working later…. Here's a teaser on the chicken show: She screamed like a girl. Just writing those words makes me laugh all over again!
Monday, November 2, 2009
I was discussing this strange phenomenon with Laura on our way to Barbara's yesterday for lunch and a puppy play day.
Me: "I'm kind of freaked out by this. Do you suppose I have a brain tumor or something?"
Laura: " I don't know. Maybe." (Yes, Laura can be counted on for the most comforting answer when it comes to potential medical issues.)
Me: "Seriously, what could cause something like this? You don't just give up cravings like that. And especially not to chocolate. I've seriously craved chocolate for all of my adult life. Something must be wrong."
Laura: "Well, it could be a good thing. If it's a tumor, maybe it's okay as long as it's a small one. Think of how much easier it will be to lose weight now that you no longer crave chocolate. If it grows big and causes other problems, then you should worry."
See, that's what I like about friends like Laura. She found the positive spin to this conundrum.
Puppy play day was loads of fun. And the vegetarian chili and jalpeno cornbread that Dave and Barbara served was delicious. Dessert was chocolate cake with raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream. The chocolate cake was wonderful, and I ate my entire serving, but I didn't crave it.