Monday Musings ~ March 9, 2020

OMD, Monday again? And an hour earlier on top of that? What the double dog heck? Yes, it’s that time of year again where we ‘spring forward’ and try to convince ourselves all is just groovy. The fact that it’s oh-dark-thirty in the morning gets fluffed over.

Hate to burst your bubble, Copernicus…but you still only get the same 24 hours a day. I know a lot of you like the time switch but I’m here to tell you you’re only fooling yourself if you think there’s an extra hour of sunlight. That said, those of you who like it, be my guest and enjoy. Those of us who think it’s the dumbest manipulation of time will grouse about it until our Circadian rhythms finally sync with the clock. Sometime in August if I’m lucky.

But enough of the ranting. Let’s move on to something different. Today we’re launching a new monthly feature, “Meet the Breed.” Elsa suggested it at our last editors’ meeting and the other half of the Old Couple, Brother Norman was on board once I asked him to introduce us to his tribe, the Old English Sheepdog. Take it away, Norman.

OES

Thanks, mum. As you probably know, I’m an Old English Sheepdog who arrived at the Ranch a little over a month ago after living in southwest Kansas. Mum may have fussed about DST but I’m quite ‘chuffed to the mitt’ about it because it means I can spend more awake time with my mum. Let’s just say I can get started earlier engaging in one of my favorite pastimes. Anyway, let’s take a look at my people.

OESWe are an affable bunch, us Sheepies. Some think we’re the canine comedians of the dog world. George Carlin aside, from where did we come?

Lush meadows, thatch-roofed cottages with wooded gorges from bonnie ole England are thought to be where we originated. ‘Course our origins are nearly as clouded as the mist-encircled, rugged valleys where we herded and/or drove sheep. Some historical paintings show sheepdogs being depicted as early as the late 1700’s but most breed authorities agree farmers in the counties of Devon, Somerset and the duchy of Cornwall in southwest England used a dog that resembled what we look like today. We weren’t bred for a specific purpose but were the result of a natural evolution of available breeding stock. Prized herding dogs were selected for breeding based on their ability to handle themselves well with the area’s rather rugged livestock that flourished in the craggy climate.

It’s been suggested we received the nickname Bobtail when farmers and the gentry devised a way to avoid paying taxes on us working blokes and docked our tails to prove the tax status. Drover dogs were exempt from being taxed due to their working status and tails were docked.There is some dispute with that notion however. Dogs with long tails tend to use them for balance and since we didn’t chase game, we didn’t need a long tail since there was no need for it when herding. Then again it could have been merely hygienic-there being less chance of ‘fouling’ the tail, if you get my drift. Bobtails are far more common in the US as England and Europe have generally abolished tail docking. Either way, with my handsome tube sock legs, who needs to draw attention to a useless tail? I can wiggle my bum with the best of ’em.

OES

No longer a breed for the wealthy or for farmers, us OES are big, furry, intelligent and even-tempered. We’re easily trained (but don’t tell my mum that; I rather enjoy all the treats she uses on training sessions and wouldn’t want them to be reduced). We are not an aggressive breed and typically get on well with other pets. We enjoy playful companionship. Playful being the operative word, Elsa. Just saying.

Sheepdogs are not for everyone though. If you’re not prepared to spend a fair amount of time brushing and grooming us, you should probably  choose a breed that doesn’t require as much time maintaining our woolly, profuse coats. We have hair (as opposed to fur) and as such do not ‘shed’ per se, but keep that full coat all year long (although hair does fall out so if you’re fussy about dust bunnies we may not be right for you). We adore people, especially the wee little ones and are often called the “Nanny” dog for good reason.

A couple of drawbacks to being owned by an OES owning a sheepdog is we tend to be a tad messy when it comes to drinking water (and we drink a LOT of water). Water collects in our beards so naturally that’s when we want to give you lots of attention, right after a good H2O quaff. Our manners aren’t quite as impeccable as our British heritage might suggest and we’ll always have stained beards unless you’re constantly grooming and cleaning us up.

We also tend to suffer from ‘unbridled’ enthusiasm. Remember, we’re not purse-sized dogs so we often bump into people’s legs because we’re natural herders and can easily knock over any unsteady uprights. In Britain when we say “mind the gap” it means look out where you’re going and that applies to us sheepies. We don’t mean anything nefarious by bumping into you, we are after all, herders. We’re jovial and have astute reckoning powers. You will not win many battle of wits with us sheepdogs because we’re terrific problem-solvers and get easily bored with rote exercises/routines. Because we’re natural athletes, we make great agility competitors. Just remember bored dogs can make life insufferable, no matter what the breed.

OESSince an OES can easily reach more than 80 lbs. (36 kg), we can take up a fair amount of real estate. We do not curl up into little balls, preferring to stretch out.

We sheepies have what’s referred to as a bark with a Pot-Casse ring, a particularly deep, booming (almost echoing) bark. Pot-Casse is French for “broken urn” or “cracked bell.” Which means our bark sounds like a couple of pots clanging together. It is the signature bark of sheepies so however you translate it, it’s going to be deafening. Mum says with my size, I should have a rich baritone voice but instead sound more like a puny tenor. Ha, ha, mum-you crack me up. Either way, she says it’s very loud at oh-dark o’clock when it’s the best way for waking her up.

Sheepdogs don’t like being separated from their family and can raise the dead with their barking. I think that’s what got me and my previous sister in trouble with the neighbors (Libby, the Weimaraner who still appears to be available for adoption here if you’re interested in rescuing her). She needs a loving family and I feel badly she hasn’t been adopted yet and hope she finds a home as nice as the one I found. Even with Elsa sometimes picking on me, I remain a proper British gentleman in spite of her shenanigans, my life is quite “tickety-boo” around the Ranch. A comfy sofa, tasty food/treats, multiple water bowls, frequent walks, a good “chin wag” with everyone I meet-how could it not be fab?

So “Bob’s your uncle” and now I’m kind of knackered after sharing all that info. I should probably go catch a few 💤 before dragging mum around the neighborhood again my next walk. Us sheepies are a lively bunch but we give loads of love. Hope you enjoyed meeting my breed.

If you’d like your breed featured, contact my mum in an email with a photo and some interesting facts. Elsa and I will pick next month’s next “Meet the Breed” post. Cheerio, mates.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ March 6, 2020

Tomorrow marks the two-week mark since beloved Sam left this mortal world. It’s been a painful time with lots of ups and down for both me and the dogs. Just as it seems like things are getting better, something will trigger a bout of tears and it feels like any progress made has been erased. While I realize this is all normal in the grief process, they are still upsetting.

Sam has come home now and I find myself staring at his remains for long periods of time, recalling past memories. Some are funny, some are more of the ‘I can’t believe you just did that’ and others are ones that make my heart swell with loving pride. It’s easy to go the full spectrum as I stare at the carved box.

Just before Sam came home, on one of our many walks during the mild spring-like weather, I happened to look down. Not sure if it was because it was the first sign of spring that caught my attention or the fact that there was a white feather next to it, but the one thing I was certain of was that it was a sign from Angel Sam reaching out. Tears formed in my eyes but then a smile appeared. The dogs and I stood there quietly for a few moments knowing our favorite Knucklehead had sent us a message. The dogs seemed to pick up the pace with joyous steps once we continued on the walk.

Sam, RIP

While I do not consider myself religious, I do think I’m pretty spiritual. Throughout the world, different cultures subscribe to slightly different explanations on what finding a white feather means. Yet, it seems the explanation is mostly consistent across the board. The symbolism of the white feather is generally thought of a sign of the presence of an angel. When you find one, it is thought that one of your angels just visited you within the physical realm and it’s an opportunity to say a prayer of thanks for their support.

It’s also thought that finding a white feather is a sign that a loved one is watching over you from the spirit realm. While that is certainly plausible, it can also be their desire to make contact with you. Either way, when you find a feather, you’ll likely feel a familiar energy, similar to the one we experienced. Finding a white feather is seen as a good omen and reminds us to stay strong, positive, and optimistic.

No matter whatever life throws at you, finding a white feather is viewed as a symbol that can provide a sense of comfort. And in this instance, it was as if Sam were leaning against my leg, wagging his tail and gazing deeply into my eyes like he often did when alive and there was great comfort in that moment.

While news this week has been heartbreaking and disturbing (our thoughts are with the folks of Tennessee and pray the situation surrounding the Corona-virus gets under control), we hope you seek and find comfort this weekend.

Please remember to ‘spring forward’ for Daylight Savings Time which arrives this weekend. We will be envious of those of you who live in Hawaii, parts of Arizona and Indiana who have the good sense not to go through this stupid time change.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Glue and Gratitude

More than a week has passed since my beloved Sam left this mortal world. We’re still in grief mode but are coming to grips with the harsh reality of life without our boy. The click, click, click of his dancing feet on the hardwood floors have been replaced by heavy footed Stormin’ Norman followed closely by the not-so delicate thumping of the Ninja’s paws. Who knew a Ninja would move about so loudly?

Sam was the subtle glue that sealed our pack together. I was never sure he fully comprehended that he was actually a dog and not some special hybrid kind of human with four feet. He taught Elsa how to be a dog and how to learn to trust peeps. Naturally she’s taken his loss particularly hard. Knowing Norman for only a month, the two brothers hadn’t bonded to quite the same level. Yet they all followed Sam’s lead. A doorbell ring demanded the canine security alarm system be activated. Passersby on walks required we stop for ear rubs, body leans, tail wags and a friendly hello. And the sound of crinkle packaging of any food meant cheese! It was the clarion call for sitting at my feet in front of the fridge in anticipation of a tasty treat being dispensed. Sam was my go-to muse for most of my posts. He was the obvious but quiet leader and the glue that kept us all functioning and now our daily happenings have us all walking out of step and out of rhythm. Our compass has disappeared and we are searching for a new evolutionary shift signaling a new ‘normal’ will be the benchmark. We will l get there with some time as new rituals are established.

That said, I would be remiss if I didn’t express my most heartfelt gratitude for all the calls, texts, emails, cards and comments from so many of you while we work through this evolutionary period. You have buoyed our spirits to such an extent and I want you all to know how much this has meant to me. Words however seem so inadequate but please know your loving support has meant so very much. From family members, neighbors, friends and you dear readers, you have all touched our hearts and I am ever so grateful for your kindness and support. You guys stepped in to fill in the gaps as the glue we need.

To my surprise this figurine appeared a couple of days ago without any card or note or attribution. I would love to acknowledge and thank the mystery benefactor so if it was you, please let me know; so that I may  thank you more personally. It’s a lovely piece from Joy of Giving and it truly touched my heart. THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart!

Sam's Angel

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Mourning ~ February 24, 2020

As most of you know, the inspiration and muse behind this blog was a sweet knuckleheaded and loving dog. It is with a broken heart I share that my dear precious boy passed away suddenly on Saturday. One minute he was his goofy self and the next minute he was gone. To say there is a huge empty place in my heart would be an understatement.

Sam was many things but foremost he was always a loving, devoted companion. He was my heart and soul dog. Making me happy along with hundreds of others was at the core of this special dog. He loved life and he loved making others smile and feel better, even if just for a brief moment. He did it with such charming panache and with an ever wagging tail that just never stopped moving. While he recently retired from his hospital visits, he never really stopped being a therapy dog, instead ministering loving affection to all he encountered, every waking moment, including me. He loved delighting patients and staff alike with his one and only trick…licking his chops on command, first on one side, then on the other.

The Ranch is a dimmer place now and we all need time to heal from this devastating loss and thus will be taking time away to grieve and adapt to the new decidedly, empty normal. I know that Sam would want you to pay extra attention to your own special pet in his memory. We never know when their time will be up so please make the most of the time you have, while it’s happening.

Avitar
My sweet buddy

ELMC Sam

“Yosemite Sam”
October 7, 2005 ~ February 22, 2020

Live, love, bark!🐾

Nature Friday ~ February 21, 2020

Welcome to Friday, the day we share some of the amazing sights nature provides us. As usual, we are joining our buddies, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in our Backyard for this week’s edition.

It’s been snowy and cold in the Mile High and I’m still trying to acclimate to an unusually snowy month. Normally January and February are the driest months of the year but this year January was unseasonably warm and February has been unseasonably wet. Let’s just say my body is still in tune with the climate of the Caribbean but I won’t torment you with more beach images, instead, let’s check out the local fauna of the region.

While cruising around the Gulf of Mexico, I saw a number of animals I was familiar with but others that were completely new to my eyes. From iguanas to sloths and a few other unusual critters, I was enchanted like a small child at the sheer number of the different varieties encountered.

This Scarlet Macaw (the national bird of Honduras) was surprisingly heavy when he sat on my head. Who knew parrots had that much heft to go along with that gorgeous plumage?

Hondurus

Two Capuchin monkeys, Pinky and Coco greeted our tour group and Pinky, obligingly climbed on board everyone’s shoulders. She was very sweet and we were told she enjoyed being stroked. Mostly I think she was waiting for pieces of fruit from her handler, Kevin, but hey, what do I know about what monkeys want/need. Normally I’m not into monkeys but Pinky proved to be quite charming.Hondurus

I missed hearing what kind of animal this little guy was but he had such an adorable expression on his face, who could resist taking a photo of him/her.Honduras

We’re in for two days of nice temperatures (low 50’s) and the dogs and I plan to enjoy every single warm degree. Naturally it all comes to a screeching halt on Sunday when [yet] another snowstorm is forecast so we’ll see how the weekend morphs into next week. I know the Three Amigos of the Ranch will happily welcome more snow to mush through. We hope you have a ‘wagnificent’ weekend. Get out there and enjoy all the wondrous things that nature offers.

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Wish I Were There Wednesday

Has it really been two weeks since I was in beautiful Roatán? Where did the time go? Faced with another wintery day with cold temps and possibly more snow later today, I think a reminder of a warm day is in order. Anyone else with me?

Roatán

Happy mid-week.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings ~ January 17, 2020

Monday

What happened…did this troublemaking furry thief steal your weekend like he did ours? Guess Elsa has been falling down with her squirrel patrol duties.

Remember today is President’s Day, so no trips to the bank or post office, ‘kay? We hope today is pawsome and you are able to enjoy an extra day off.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine’s Day, peeps. It’s been a long time since V-Day fell on a Friday but that’s not keeping us from celebrating Nature Friday with our furiends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in our Backyard for this week’s special Valentine’s edition of Nature Friday blog hop.

It was just one week ago I was cruising around the Western Caribbean. The biggest highlight was spending time on Isla Roatán, the largest of the Honduras’ Bay Islands, a 31-mile-long, 5-mile-wide swath of white sand and tropical forests 40 miles off the northern coast of Honduras that can tick all the boxes of visiting an island paradise. You want palm-fringed beaches? Check. Exotic animals? Check. Laid-back restaurants, tropical drinks, and freshly caught seafood? Got it! From the lively streets of the western end to the once pirate-infested coves of the beautiful eastern shores, Roatán offers a diverse array of things to see and do that will surely satisfy all your travel desires.

Roatán is known around the world for its scuba diving. The world’s second largest barrier reef (after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia) surrounds the island and is inhabited by schools of beautiful tropical fish, dolphins and snorkelers alike. When visiting Roatán you will see sea turtles, dolphins, and whales swim in that beautiful blue water.

Roatán
Shipwreck, near Mahogany Bay 

My family and I took a land and sea tour that showed off some of the most amazing sites throughout the island. The water was the clearest I’ve seen in the Caribbean.

Roatán

Lots of tropical fish abound. Just out of view in the image below, dolphins were swimming with snorkelers.

Roatá

One of the most memorable experiences was an unexpected trip to a preserve where our group was entertained by Betty the sloth, Pinky and Coco, the capuchin monkeys and other local animals. The most thrilling part of this side trip was we were actually in many of the enclosures with the animals. I never realized how incredibly sweet sloths were.

Roatán
Betty, the Sloth

A multi-cultural paradise with three distinct influences dominate the isle (Spanish, Caribbean and Black). Although poverty is still a big issue, Roatá’s people were warm, welcoming and ever so proud to share their beautiful island with visitors. It was a day not likely to be forgotten any time soon and I would definitely go back if given the opportunity.

Roatán

The young fellow in the orange shirt (upper left in photo) was one of the most knowledgable tour guides I’ve ever used. Personable and articulate, Joshua enhanced our group’s experience of his island home. He was extremely good natured with this older group (consisting of mostly female cougars tourists from Colorado, Texas, Kentucky and a charming couple from England).

Roatán

Roatán

Meanwhile back on the Tundra, I am recovering from a nasty coughing bug I picked up on the trip home. Snow has fallen four of the past five days and hasn’t made recovery come any time soon, and the furry nurses have barely left my side except to take raucous romps in the snow. Ever have a furry nurse take your temperature 75 times a day?

Snow

We all hope you have a lovely Valentine’s Day with all of your loved ones and also are able to seize an opportunity to enjoy some of the amazing vistas Mother Nature offers.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings ~ February 10, 2020

Clearly Mother Nature isn’t the only thing that’s been a little crazy lately. After having enjoyed mid 80ºF temp’s for the past 11 days on vacation, seeing images from home while away after the rodent’s so-called spring prediction has been…ahem…interesting to say the least. According to one news story,  it was warmer  this past week in Antarctica than it was in New Mexico.

Ground Hog

From Groundhog Day this sunset from the neighborhood. Lovely, right?

Sunset

To earlier from last week.

Snow

The mobile forecast on Sunday continued the cycle and it’s supposed to snow again beginning later this afternoon. The forecast is short and not so sweet, snow, snow, with more snow.

Snow

As you may recall, I’ve been vacationing with my mom, sisters and nieces in the Caribbean, there was little to next to no WiFi that allowed staying connected much, but tried to visit everyone as much as the Internet gods would permit. Rest assured, a lack of comment did not mean I didn’t swing by to read your posts. Hope all has been well in your ‘backyard.’

Elsa seems to understand the whole Groundhog Day thing. As in…never, ever trust a rodent. Happy Monday.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

The Circus Returns to Denver

Just when you thought the circus no longer came to town, I’m here to tell you it arrived safe and sound in Denver recently. A few days ago, opportunity scratched at the door, I answered and life as we knew it changed in one afternoon.

Last summer when I realized Sam’s days as a therapy dog were numbered, I contemplated finding a replacement therapy dog and have long thought a sheepdog might be wonderful hospital therapy dog. The affable “Nanny dog” makes a great companion and is well known for being sweet, especially around little people. But I also knew it might be a long while before one came through the OES Rescue Group of Colorado (a group I have long supported and worked with years ago). Sheepdogs aren’t a common breed around here, less so in rescue and I figured it could be quite a while before one might show up, let alone one who might be a suitable candidate for therapy work.

In December, a pair of dogs from Kansas City ended up in the Grey Ghost Rescue, a rescue dedicated to finding homes for Weimaraners. The pair were being surrendered by its owners following neighbor complaints for non-stop barking by the dogs. The female Weim and her OES brother had been kept in a 6 x 8 foot enclosure and expressed their high energy frustration through barking. Not wanting to leave the pair with any of the high kill shelters in the area, they contacted the Weim Rescue who said they’d take the female provided OES rescue would take the male.

With that agreement 7-year old “Norman” entered the OES rescue system. He was fostered with a transplant to Colorado who had spent decades in sheepdog rescue in Northern California, knew the breed well and currently had his own sheepdog (along with a couple of other dogs). As luck would have it, he was just down the road from my parents’ home in Pueblo West. I had only seen this grainy image on Facebook of a long legged, “tube socked” boy but decided to run down and see if he and the Ninja could get along while visiting my parents for a few hours.

Norman
Mr. “Tube Socks”

Elsa was [surprisingly] on her best behavior and I left after bombarding asking lots of questions about “Norman” as to his background and exactly what kind of boy he was. The Foster Dad assured me Norman was a mellow boy (which was definitely demonstrated during our time together), very easy going, probably enjoyed KC style BBQ and never got on the furniture. Whoa, I thought, a sheepdog who doesn’t express an interest on getting on the furniture. What’s wrong with him?

Norman

Norman was vetted by the rescue’s vet as fit and heartworm negative. I left feeling pretty good about the adoption but wanted to take some time to ‘think about it.’ Driving home, all I could think of was about this big boy and how he might fit into the Ranch bunkhouse. The Foster Dad said he needed to make a trip out of town and was hoping I had decided on Norman’s future so he could make the necessary arrangements in case I wasn’t prepared to adopt him before he needed to leave. I had pretty much made up my mind by the next morning after meeting him and advised the rescue that I would love to be considered as Norman’s new dog huMom. One of the many things I have admired about the Colorado OES Rescue is their deep commitment placing each dog with the right family. I was informed a family adopted Norman earlier, had in fact been vetted, adopted him, then abruptly changed their mind after only a few days. The rescue director was incensed as she thought Norman had been through enough and wouldn’t have placed him with them if they were uncommitted. When I asked her if there were any other requirements on my part, she said no, having been previously vetted before and everything remained the same. She agreed to send the contract out for my signature for the formal commitment to adopt Norman. The next day, Foster Dad contacted me to see if Norman could be picked up either on the 23rd or the 28th as he was traveling to Colorado Springs on business (a halfway point). We agreed to meet on the 23rd.

Norman
Is that my dinner you’re fixing?

Norman was picked up after I raced around securing a new bed, water and food bowls and a few other necessary items for his integration. I could see he was very bonded with the Foster Dad but hoped he would eventually grow to enjoy life at the Ranch with me and the Knuckleheads. I was once again assured he was a good traveler, didn’t get on the furniture and was as sweet as honey.

Norman
I love riding in cars.

Having him here now for the past few days, I can wholeheartedly confirm Foster Dad’s assessment. Norman is beyond sweet, an easy going gentle giant. Mellow is a bit of an understatement with this boy, he’s as unflappable as any dog I’ve ever met, and any trepidation of whether he might be a suitable therapy dog evaporated. Norman is an enthusiastic eater, walks well on a leash and greets all he encounters with a big sheepie hello. If there was any shortcoming at all, it would be that this boy doesn’t realize just how much real estate he takes up, especially in a narrow galley style kitchen where he loves to park his 83+ lbs. in front of the refrigerator.

Norman

As for that whole furniture thing…you tell me. Not that I care mind you; I haven’t sat on the sofa for years.

Norman

Norman will begin training for pet therapy work in a few weeks once he’s fully settled in our routine and has fully adapted to his new surroundings. The Ninja is getting better with her interactions (there is a seriously enforced anti-bullying rule and she is improving with each passing day and seems to be enjoying walks with her new big brother). Sam is cool with the big guy and there seems to be a constant rotation of occupiers of the sofa. Remarkably, Norman senses when he needs to move slower when Sam goes on the longer walks while stepping up the pace on walks with just Elsa. I couldn’t be happier with this new addition and look forward to chauffeuring him to many hospital visits.

Norman
The circus is very much alive and well. 

Live, love, bark! 🐾