Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Close to too many pets ...

We're not quite to the point where we're the Duggar family of pet owners, but we have a lot now.  And I am drawing the line lest we end up having our house destroyed (or our wallets) by them.  On Friday my parents moved into their new condo that doesn't allow dogs over 20 pounds (because they of course do not carry diseases, bite, destroy furniture or bark - unlike dogs who are 21 pounds ...)  so we took in their 20 month old Australian Shepherd, Missy.  And I realized I may have too many pets when I just now said, "Ok, you can go outside Willow ... I mean Toad ... I mean Boone ... I mean Missy or whoever you are!"

The pitbull is very happy to have a new little sister although she spends a lot of the day hiding so she doesn't have to play constantly and then moans when Missy finds her and grudgingly gets up to play before trying to escape to nap again.  Our 18+ year old tomcat is completely unfazed because in his view his days of being a God embodied in a big mortal orange cat body are numbered and nothing really matters except eating and sleeping on our laps.  The kittens (who are 2 years old this month but still eternally kittens) are slowly getting used to her.  Although the white one can't get it through her head that she looks like a tiny sheep when she whizzes by Missy at fast speeds so Missy can't help but try to chase and herd her.  We're at a manageable mass right now (thanks to carpet cleaners and this really cool lint remover by Pledge that is the first one we've come across in years that actually works on the micro-fiber, fur-magnet couches).

I'm slowly getting all my ducks in order to renew my massage license which it appears you can take the test now online.  I'm not sure if that's a good idea because people can totally cheat.  But then I guess you still can't get away from the fact that you need to prove you went to school for 800 hours and god forbid prostitutes who besmirch the good name of health care working LMP's aren't going to go to that much trouble.

I didn't make it out to ride today because I'm resting up after coming down with a stomach bug yesterday afternoon.  I didn't ride yesterday because I was feeling fatigued (now I know why) and Maiden initially seemed like a complete yahoo.  I went to get her from the pasture and it was just her, Gandolf (the new Friesan who's kind of a nutcase right now) and Batman (who's a beautiful but high strung OTTB).  It was very windy and it was a cold, biting wind and that (or something) got Bruce going and he started some serious broncing in his paddock.  That upset Gandolf who started running back and forth in his paddock.  I didn't expect much of a reaction from Maiden other than to prick her ears and look concerned, but the cold wind and the howling sounds and waving branches were just enough on top of her friends freaking out that as soon as she came out the paddock gate and I was reaching to close it she reared up and scooted backward and started broncing.  I opted to leave the external gate open until I got her inside because there really isn't enough room right outside the gate for her to be broncing on the lead line.  And well there is that tiny rule that we don't buck and rear on the lead line too. (Gandolf still had the hotwire between him and the external gate but with all his running around I wasn't confident in the hotwire holding him for a long period of time).

I got Maiden to calm down, then we started to walk toward the barn with her prancing away (very unlike her! Very like Toad but very unlike her).  Then a few hundred feet before the barn a big gust of wind hit us, rustled the trees around us and she literally leapt up in the air ahead of me and twirled around looking at me like "Aaaagh! They're coming! They're coming!"  I led her back to where she was standing safely beside me instead of out in front of me and told her quietly to get ahold of herself and calm down, scratched her withers a little while she shook all over and pranced in place, then did my best to walk us into the barn without letting her run ahead of me.   So, of course I figured she might want to free lunge in the arena and get her ya ya's out.

But after a little snack I took her out in the arena took her halter off and let her loose and she just stood there.  I clucked and encouraged her to do something and she just stood there.  I slapped her lightly on the butt and she looked at me like I was mean, walked over to the mounting block, sighed and picked up her halter in her mouth and turned to look at me.

I decided to try leading her without a halter or lead rope and see how it went.  She did pretty well except she kept trying to stay behind me instead of next to me (which makes me nervous and feels unsafe).  So I went out and got my pretty pink dressage whip and this time we tried again and every time she slowed down so she was lagging behind me I'd cluck, make a signal with my right hand and reach my left hand behind me and tap her gently with the end of the whip where I'd touch her with my foot if I were riding her.  She started to catch on really quickly! (which leads me to believe she must've done that with someone before).  We ended up walking around the arena at different paces and stopping and starting again and even trotting and then stopping all with just voice commands and hand signals and no halter or lead rope!  We definitely need practice at it but I was very proud of how well she did!  She's such a good girl!

I'm so glad that at least for now we can figure out a way for me to afford to keep her.  And I was worried about where she'd go if I didn't keep her.  Even Trainer K. said yesterday that she was very worried about finding a good enough home for Maiden if I couldn't keep her.  She's been through so much in her short life and I don't even know the whole story about her first eight years before the criminal abuse case she was rescued from.  And then after being rescued to have to spend a year with one of the most abusive dressage trainers in this region before H. bought her three years ago (and I bought her from H.) she really has had a crappy time of it. I feel like it's up to me to make sure her next 12+ years are good ones.  One of the boarders at our barn used to volunteer for the rescue where she went when animal control seized her so she could at least tell me what little she knew of her.  When Maiden came in to the rescue she was too skinny but wasn't as skinny as the other horses so she obviously had survived by fighting for the food.  And it shows when you walk up to her stall and she's eating, she will lash out at you.  She's getting better but it's not something we are aggressively trying to train out of her because it was a survival technique that probably saved her life and we can't punish her for it.  I'm slowly trying to train her it's not necessary anymore, but I'm not punishing her because in her mind that is how she survives and there is a logical reason to do it.  The only other thing the boarder could tell me was that she seemed to have pretty much had no handling at all or if she had it had been so long ago that she'd forgot what it was like.  She's doing really great now though with handling!  The rescue she came from never got back to me to tell me what the criminal case was.  I may continue to try and investigate on my own but I imagine much of her early life will always be a mystery to me.

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