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! 🐾

 

Goodbye 2019

Today is the last day of 2019 and the last day of this decade. Where did the time go? We here at the ‘Ranch’ will spend a quiet evening of reflection and hope whatever you do, you do it safely. No wheels falling off, okay?

Reindeer

From all of us Knuckleheads, have a safe and Happy New Year. Make 2020 be your best year ever. Remember tomorrow begins with a blank page of a 365 page book. Write a best-seller.

New Year

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Monday Musings with a Birthday ~ December 16, 2019

Meme

Training works on both kids and dogs. Today is my ‘baby’s’ birthday. This woman is an amazing mom to both two and four-legged kids, has a killer sense of humor with a solid gold heart. Clever and creative, she’s grown up into a remarkable woman who loves Irish Wolfhounds and is…ahem…as I affectionately call her, Leprechaun-sized (aka vertically challenged), with her dog towering over her, as a mom. I don’t think I did too badly. Happy birthday, sweetheart. I hope your day is as bright and special as you are.

Wolfhound
Reoán, the Irish Wolfhound welcoming her mama home

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Wordy Wednesday

SnowHappy pre-Thanksgiving Day. As many of you know, Denver was hit with a gigantic storm yesterday that buried the city with a foot of snow. It prevented Sam and I from doing our hospital visits and has us pretty much confined. It did however allow me to enjoy my favorite blizzard beverage, hot chocolate. With Schnapps and whipped cream. We are warm and fine if not a bit stir crazy. It’s too cold and deep to take the dogs for their usual walks and apparently not possible for Sam to use the dog run to relieve himself beyond the occasional pee over Elsa’s spots in the freshly created pee-atio in the dog run. Elsa however could practically pee or poop on command but Sam is nothing, if not discerning about where he goes. I have to chuckle about his refusal to not poop in the run, but know if I scooped out a square over at my neighbor’s house, he’d drop a log in a heartbeat.

Snow
Where the heck will Friday’s snow go?

We wish all of our US readers a day filled with good cheer, good food and a football win tomorrow. To all of our readers, we will spend the day staying warm, cozy and being grateful for your digital friendship and good company every week. We are truly blessed you are in our lives and we thank you for our good fortune for the connection. Cheers!

Hot chocolate

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Nature Friday ~ October 4, 2019

It’s time to celebrate the beauty Mother Nature provides us and because it’s Friday, that means we’re joining our fur-iends, Rosy and her brothers from LLB in our Backyard. Autumn has definitely arrived and judging by your kind comments this week, a favorite of many peeps.

This week nature has had a lot to offer. Sadly, not all of it was good either. Several wildfires continue to burn in our fair state and there have been a number of officially ordered evacuations. Winds, warm weather and tinder-dry conditions have fueled these fires and we pray for the  safety of residents and firefighters.

Fires
Photo courtesy of Jerry McBride/Durango Herald via AP)/The Durango Herald via AP

Human activity can impact the look of nature in any number of ways. Last week while visiting the Vail area, I saw what extraction mining can do to a remarkable landscape. The ghost town of Gilman, Colorado, located near Battle Mountain was once a thriving mining operation with a number of mines being opened beginning in the 1870’s during Colorado’s silver boom. Gold and silver were mined until the 1920’s.

As is often the case, mining operations went deeper and deeper and the extracted ore contained heavy sulfide content which local smelters refused to process. Separators were installed in 1905, and a problem was turned into an asset. Zinc, often a by-product in silver mining, became the economic mainstay until the early 1930’s. When the zinc market dropped, the mines switched to copper and silver ores which then became the main focus until the zinc price returned. Zinc became the principal ore until the mine was forcibly closed due to extreme pollution by the EPA who designated the town a Superfund site; it being listed on the National Priorities List in 1986. Gilman’s residents were forced to abandon the 235-acre site, many leaving much behind. By 1984, rock-bottom zinc prices coerced the company to leave Gilman for other profitable enterprises. A couple of attempts have been contemplated for redevelopment of the site but much like the town, they have also been abandoned.

The thriving town of Gilman (population of around 350) once included an infirmary, a grocery store, and even a bowling alley in its heyday. By 1970, total production was 10 million tons of ore ( 393,000 troy ounces (12,200 kg) of gold; 66,000,000 troy ounces (2,100,000 kg) of silver; 105,000 tons of copper; 148,000 tons of lead; and 858,000 tons of zinc) while an astonishing 8-million tons of mine waste was excavated and deposited into the ecosystem.

The townsite has long been notoriously vandalized over the years with worker’s homes being heavily tagged in graffiti by trespassers and nearly every window broken. The main shaft elevators still sit ready for ore cars, permanently locked at the top level. Various vehicles still sit in their garages, left behind by their owners. The town has been the subject of interest for many historians, explorers, and photographers.

Gilman, COThe once colorful homes of Gilman sit close to the mining facilities with the waste tailings flowing down the hill. Though posted as a no-trespassing area, the town continues to draw vandals who have posted hundreds of images on social media sites. Looking through many eerie and creepy images on Instagram, it seemed the residents left in a hurry. One particular image, a box of Cheer soap, spilled on the floor along with children’s toys, magazines, among scads of debris haunted my thoughts. I did not trespass the fence area, instead taking in some of the natural beauty of the mountain. I couldn’t help but wonder about those who lived and worked there and how many of them fell ill after they left.

Notice the mine tailings flowing down the hill on the right.Gilman, CO

Still, all is not all bad and I certainly don’t want to end on a sour note. All the changing leaves reminded me that Nature can still be a very beautiful place.

Vail, CO
Betty Ford Alpine Garden, Vail, CO

We hope you have a beautiful weekend.Vail, CO

Nature Friday

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Mourning Monday ~ August 5, 2019

Normally we begin each week with a smile but after the latest mass shootings over the weekend, it’s hard to share a silly cartoon. As a general rule I avoid expressing  my political thoughts here, but with the most recent cities joining a less and less exclusive and heartbreaking club of victims and survivors dealing with the aftermath of gun violence in America, perhaps it’s time to make an exception.

Let me start by saying I have no simple solution but clearly the usual way of coping after this happens doesn’t seem to make a difference. And I don’t know how to eliminate assault weapons or high capacity magazines from the hands of those who would use them to wage their particular flavor of hatred. I can only hope we take a long, hard look at the ugly image of America staring back at all of us in the mirror and finally resolve to actually do something to change these nearly daily occurrences. With over 200 mass shootings tallied this year alone (the exact figure is difficult to precisely pinpoint with various agencies tracking these events using different metrics), no matter which number you settle on, by my way of thinking it’s still over 200 too many.

Yes, thoughts and prayers are the normal offering at times like this, but it seems they do little to resolve this seemingly never ending problem in America. We must to do more than just offer platitudes.

Love more

Live, love, bark! 🐾

A New Season Is Here

Are you ready for a new season? No, not the one that’s due to arrive in 59 days, but who’s counting? I’m talking about another season. Besides more sunlight, ahem…’warm’ days, bugs and barbecues, there’s a season within summer I liken to pure evil hell, otherwise known as the grass-weed season.

You may recall a previous rant post about Foxtails (found here). Mostly found in the western part of the US, these innocent enough looking weeds can be very risky for dogs.

GrassesThe barbs are uniquely designed to move in one direction–only forward. They burrow deeper and deeper into the fur. Noses, ears, between the toes, under the collar or armpits are the most frequently found spots. Removal from fur as soon as possible is important since they can be quite difficult to remove once they penetrate the skin. Once burrowed into the skin and if not treated, they can travel throughout the body. A dog sniffing the ground can easily inhale them into their noses, under an armpit, or get them caught in their ears and if not treated immediately, can result in serious problems resulting in an expensive visit to a vet.

The danger of foxtails goes beyond simple irritation. Because these tough seed barbs don’t break down inside the body, an embedded foxtail can lead to a serious infection. It can even lead to death if left untreated and these seeds can be hard to find in dog fur.

Foxtails move relentlessly forward and can migrate from inside your dog’s nose deep into their brain or be inhaled into and perforate a lung. Embedded foxtails can cause discharge, abscesses, swelling, pain, even death. If your dog is displaying any of the following symptoms, check for foxtails or talk to your vet. Make sure you check your good dog’s feet, ears, face, nose, genitals. Limping, excessive licking, head shaking, incessant scratching, redness, discharge, swelling, squinting or pawing are all symptoms your sweet dog may have picked up a foxtail. Foxtail season runs from May to December. Once foxtails dry out, they are like little sharp knives waiting to stick to someone or something.To remove, use a pair of tweezers if you can easily get to it. But if it’s deeply embedded, or if the area around it is red or swollen, call your vet right away. Remember, foxtails won’t come out on their own, and they can burrow deep within your dog.Prevention is your best weapon against this grass. Avoid overgrown grassy areas and remove these plants from your yard. Regular grooming/brushing can help.

Though not nearly as dangerous, are another seasonal weed-what I call Velcro grass. Not sure what the scientific name of this grass weed is, mostly I refer to it as evil bastard.

Grasses

Notice all those nasty little seed heads? They stick like Gorilla® glue-to fur, socks, pant legs, whatever it can attach its little evil self to, and often spring up along sidewalks near the neighborhood ‘pee-mail bulletin board.’ When we came back from this morning’s constitution, I found one attached to Sam’s bandana. Elsa had a very small piece of one stuck to her check a couple of days ago. It was a real bugger getting rid of, you pretty much have to pull them out seed by seed since they tend to disintegrate when you try to remove them. Dogs aren’t  typically keen on having lots of pulling out of their fur. It took several attempts to fully remove it.

Grass

Paws crossed this ‘season within the season’ doesn’t affect you or your good dog.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Did You Know ~ Essential Oils and Cats

CatLast week I shared a list of safe essential oils that can be safely used on your dog (found HERE) and I didn’t want to forget our feline friends. Use of essential oils is a controversial topic for use on cats but there are some essential oils that are safe, with caveats.

Never having owned a cat, I had to consult Dr. Google. One thing I learned  about cats is they are deficient in glucuronyl transferase, a liver enzyme that changes bilirubin into a form that can be removed through the bile. This compound also changes some hormones, medicines, and toxins into non-harmful by-products. Since uprights have a much higher tolerance for phenols, extra care when using essential oils on cats is critical. Harkening back to high school chemistry for a moment, you may recall that phenols are chemically active compounds which are found throughout nature, especially in plants (i.e. peppers contain capsaicin which is a phenol). Phenols exhibit a wide range of properties; some for their health benefits, while others are deadly poisonous. Only high quality, therapeutic grade oils (without phenols) should be considered for cats.

Cats possess an enhanced sense of smell, so diffusing essential oils has the potential to become overwhelming. That said, essential oils are likely more safe for cats than artificial fragrances and air fresheners. Even still, what your nose perceives as pleasant may not be perceived quite the same by your cat. When diffusing essential oils, a scent-free room for retreat is a good idea.

It should also be noted that a cat’s system is incredibly sensitive and some oils can be quite toxic. Essential oils with phenols should never be used and any safe oil used should be diluted in a quality carrier oil (a high-grade, pure vegetable oil is the catalyst that can make certain essential oils tolerable for cats. Some vets suggest the differential be dramatic: 50 drops of vegetable (the carrier oil) to 1 drop of essential oil though you should verify this ratio with your own vet as some recommend increasing that ratio up to 80- to 90-percent. Once properly mixed, you can place a drop of this mixture into your hands and pet your cat. Dilution and testing are two critical components when introducing your cat to essential oils, but before you start applying, it’s important to introduce these agents to your cat slowly.

The following oils are safe for use on cats and may be used in moderation (make sure your essential oil is phenol-free).

Cedarwood Repels pests and promotes healthy skin and coat.
Chamomile Promotes relaxation and sleep and also supports healthy digestion.
Lavender Relieves anxiety from separation or during long trips.
Myrrh Can help fight allergies and promote healthy skin and coat.
Clary Sage Calms nervousness and excitability.
Geranium Great for repelling pests and as a treatment for ear infections.
Ginger Relieves pain from arthritis and hip dysplasia and supports healthy digestion.
Marjoram Repels pests and helps treat skin infections and irritations.

Never apply essential oils at full strength on cats (and only use in a diffuser for short periods  of time). not meant to be used near the eyes and ears of humans or cats. It only takes 6/100th of a drop of lavender oil to calm pets down. And just because paws have leathery pads, that doesn’t mean it’s safe to apply essential oils to them.

Avoid these oils:

Clove oil Cinnamon oil
Thyme oil Oregano oil
Wintergreen oil Sweet birch oil
Lavender oil Citrus oil
Peppermint oil Pennyroyal oil
Eucalyptus oil Tea tree oil

Remember always consult your vet before introducing new food, treatment, or any substances into your pet’s routine care. If using essential oils on your cat, be on the lookout for strange behavior (drooling, muscle tremors, difficulty walking, or lethargy). Contact your vet or the Pet Poison Helpline (800-213-6680) immediately, and especially if you notice redness on your cat’s skin, or if they begin pawing at their face following exposure to essential oils.

Have you ever used essential oils on your kitty?

Live, love, bark! 🐾

Good News Tuesday ~ July 2, 2019

An interesting story in the paper caught my eye over the weekend. Last week, the small town of Berthoud, Colorado (pop. approximately 5500) made history in Colorado by becoming the first (and only) municipality in the state to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet shops. While probably just symbolic (Berthod has no pet shops), the town is making a statement on the topic of puppy mill pets.

Puppy millsIn his statement, Mayor pro tem Jeff Hindman said, “We can be up front and take a stand and hope this will spread to other towns and other pet shops across the state,” following the 6-0 vote approving the ordinance banning the sale of puppies from inhumane breeding facilities. You may recall that Elsa herself the product of a puppy mill, came from Greeley, a mere 29 miles (45 Km) away from Berthod. Local residents, many holding their rescued dogs in their laps, filled the Town Hall and applauded the vote. Loveland, CO resident, Lauren Kujawa said, “I’m hoping it spreads to Loveland, Fort Collins, Omaha, Oklahoma, everywhere.” We share Lauren’s sentiment.

Rudi Taylor, who founded Harley’s Dream, a Berthod-based organization had proposed the ordinance. Harley’s Dream was established in 2016 to create awareness and educate the public about cruelty in the commercial dog breeding industry, aka puppy mills. By using a grassroots approach, Harley’s Dream believes large groups of concerned citizens is the most effective way to bring about change regarding these cruel, for-profit farms. Their sole focus encourages advocacy by providing the tools necessary to educate the public on the puppy mill crisis.Puppy Mills

Let’s keep our paws crossed that more cities around the country accept the challenge to ban the sale of puppy mills dogs in pet stores. Hitting these profit based farms is likely the best way to combat this insidious practice of abject animal cruelty.

Well done, Berthod! Elsa and I tip our hats to you for your efforts in getting Berthod to ban puppy mills dogs. It’s the first step which I hope snowballs across the state and country.

Elsa

Live, love, bark! 🐾

High Flying Highlights

As I briefly noted in yesterday’s post, I was fortunate to volunteer at the Front Range Agility event over the weekend. For years, I’ve helped out the Colorado Old English Sheepdog Rescue group and enjoy helping them whenever I can and the group uses these volunteer events to help fund their outstanding rescue program. Normally I work the agility event that is coupled with a dog show around the same time as the AKC’s Westminster but this was a second smaller opportunity that I was happy to help them out with over the weekend. Here’s a very short video from the event.

According to AKA’s webpage, “Agility is a growing dog sport in the United States, with over 1 million entries to the AKC’s Agility Program each year. Dogs race against a clock as they navigate an obstacle course with strong concentration and speed.”  These amazing dogs are incredibly athletic and you can’t help but get excited when they compete.

Agility is a sport where you direct your dog through a pre-set obstacle course within a certain time limit. With between 14-20 obstacles, including tunnels, weave poles, tire jumps, seesaws, and pause tables where the dog must stop for a set amount of time, dogs race through the courses designed for that day.  The dog rely on cues and body language from their handler who directs them. All breeds, including mixed breeds, can participate in agility. Jumps vary from 4″ to 24″ and our ring mostly ran 12-24″ with a couple of dogs running at the shorter heights. There were multiple classes and levels including Novice, Regular, Jumpers With Weaves, and Master to name a few.

MACH stands for Master Agility Champion title and is awarded by the AKC . To achieve this title, dog and the handler compete as a team earning first Novice, Open, Excellent and then Master Titles. There are two games to achieve this title: Standard which includes the contact equipment (A-frame, bridge, teeter and table) and the Jumpers with Weaves. The Novice, Open and Excellent titles require three qualifying runs with progressively harder requirements and courses. The Master titles requires 10 perfect runs at the Masters Level. Qualifying runs at the Masters level also earn one speed point for each full second under course time (partial seconds are eliminated.). Once the team is competing with both runs in one day at the Master level they start to accumulate “Double Q’s”. A team earns a Double Q when they qualify 100% perfect on both runs in one day. To earn the MACH title, you must earn 20 double Q’s and 700 points, so no easy feat.

To my great surprise, I spotted one of our fellow pet therapists, Kai, who was competing in the ring I worked. Trust me when I say this beautiful Aussie is quite speedy and she had a perfect run. Being truly ignorant of the sport of agility, I could only stand back and watch as everyone whooped and hollered as an official brought out a MACH bar, signifying Miss Kai had won another title (her second I learned when I was able to personally congratulate Kai’s mom, Sue later that afternoon).

Here are a few photos I was able to capture when not working in the ring. Obviously there’s a lot of waiting until your event is up for that quick 25-40 second run. And there’s lots of barking by the competitors-they are so wound up to race. Most Shelties bark with enthusiasm as they clear each jump and race through the poles.

Agility

Running into this little girl upon arriving, I learned she was competing in her first event. She was young, sweet and totally devoted to her mom. Sorry for the blurry images, I only had my cell phone with me which isn’t very good with fast action shots.

Agility

She reminded me of Elsa though she was much smaller. I’m guessing this girl weighed in around 40 lbs. whereas Elsa hovers around 60. But she was pretty and seemed to enjoy agility.

In a big no-no, I snuck this image when I worked in the ring. Photos aren’t allowed from inside the ring at the time, and was unaware of the rule.

Agility

Even an OES competed. I’ve watched “Dallas” compete before and she is a total love. Dallas loves high flying, is a breeze to handle and is completed adored by her sweet mom, Meg who’s always gracious, warm and friendly, just like her cute panda-faced baby. Meg is a big supporter of the OES rescue group and always singles us out whenever she talks to people. Both her and her dog are favorites of competitors and spectators alike.

Agility

Here is Kai shortly after her winning run with the event official and ring judge.

Agility

Being part of the hospital pet therapy, I couldn’t be more proud of fellow therapist Miss Kai and her huMom, Sue who trained me and Sam when we joined the team.

Agility

Sue plans to continue racing Kai but at a lower height now that she’s earned two MACH titles. Kai is one of our top pet therapists whose love of people is evident whenever she encounters them at the hospital. I mean, just look at her face! How could anyone not want to hug this precious girl?

Agility

Hopefully future opportunities will present themselves so that I can continue volunteering for the OES rescue group and improving my knowledge about this fun and amazing sport. Have you ever considered participating in agility? What made you decide to get involved with it?

Tails Around the Ranch will be taking a few days off while we take time to visit with out of state family. Posts and comments will likely be infrequent but I’ll do my best getting around to seeing you as I can. Otherwise, we’ll see you next week.

Live, love, bark! 🐾

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