Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Puzzle Ball Smackdown

One of MisFit Farm’s greatest discoveries has been toys that in their various incarnations amount to “puzzle” balls. We aren’t talking about the fleece “beehive” toys that would represent a puzzle in the only sense that we would be left wondering why we spent $20.00 on something so easily and quickly destroyed. We are talking about the “hard” toys where treats are inserted into a contraption with an internal “maze” which requires the contraption to be twisted and turned to manipulate the dispensation of the internal treats.

The puzzle balls are bar-none Azure’s favorite toy EVER. The other members of the krewe have no interest in anything requiring such a high effort-to-reinforcement ratio. Azure, on the other hand, dive-bombs through life with the mantra of diminishing returns.

We started with a ball procured on a fluke from Wal-Mart. I say this was a fluke because (a) Wal-Mart is not one of our most favorite or frequented shopping establishments, and (b) we have never since found another such toy for offer at any Wal-Mart establishment.

Azure was interested in the first ball, which was blue, but not overwhelmingly so. K reasoned that because the ball wasn’t see-through, the intermittent reinforcement the ball offered Azure was not associated with contents she could see. She, naturally, could not hear the contents rattling around inside the ball and therefore lost interest before the bounty had been exhausted. Hear no treats, see no treats,

Never ones to accept subtle rejection, we located another version of the puzzle ball. This one was clear and allowed Azure to see the presence of tasty treats inside the ball. With the introduction of this version of the puzzle ball, Azure was hooked like Danny Bonaducci in an opium den.

Armed with a better understanding of the puzzle-ball concept, like a one-armed carpenter with a single tool, Azure approaches all new toys as if they were a puzzle ball.

And, thanks to the ingenuity of dog toy manufacturers, she is mostly correct. We are now the proud owners of clear puzzle balls, solid puzzle balls, a large buster cube, a buddy treat dispenser, and the remnants of a rubber puzzle ball resides in the yard somewhere beneath the snow. Azure is relentless when on the trail of a puzzle ball and its solution. The buddy tug jug © learned this the hard way.

Tonight, however, Azure may have met her match, although not in the form of a puzzle ball.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Soft Serve

A friend of ours once described A as a dipped ice cream cone, with soft serve on the inside and a hard chocolate shell on the outside. Basically, A tries to come across as strong and unaffected by the world. However, A is very much affected by the world. The world is unkind and cruel to the many people and animals A tries so hard to fight for.

I noticed while I was gone the last couple of days, A was at it again: trying to put out the image that without my presence, Azure’s life was in danger of an early termination. Anyone who knows A realizes these are idle threats, stemming from the frustration of cleaning up the “Taj-Mah” crate 2 days in a row (Azure had left steaming piles of evidence that the chili she knocked off the counter and ate maybe didn’t set to well in her stomach – or possibly the Shrimp Jambalaya was the culprit – hard to say). Or maybe it was Azure’s barking in the middle of the night, or her insistence on jumping in and out of the bed, that seemed to put A on the edge.

Just for the record I have been home for 24hours and all is as I left it . . .

Friday, January 25, 2008


Although I never for a minute take K’s presence in my life for granted, it is on the intermittent occasions when she spends significant amounts of time away from the Farm, as in overnight trips to nether-regions of the state, when I realize there are specific functions K performs that I may take for granted.

Not the obvious ones, like cleaning up dog regurgitation.

No, things like providing a buffer between me and her precious Azure. So I do not clobber Azure with my bare hands when she insists on jumping up to investigate the contents of the kitchen counter, toaster over, stove top, or sink.

When she uses the bed I am using for repose as a trampoline/springboard combination for a 1 a.m. routine.

When she plunks down for an intense toy destruction session right where I am headed with the vacuum.

When she insists on barking because I won’t let her into the goat pasture, because other cars dare use the road we live on, because someone has a bone she wants to sample, or just because her existence needs affirming. When she dumps over the dog toy box for the exclusive sport of stringing its entire contents across the living room, which inevitably results in me stepping on things like nylabones, partially consumed cow hooves, or soggy, eviscerated fleecy toys.

When she constantly “bumps” my arm as I am trying to use the computer or put a loaded spoon in my mouth.

Hopefully, our buffer will be home soon. At least before the ground thaws.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Field Tripping with Azure

There is a terrible irony in the notion that our Deaf dog, Azure, seems to suffer from chronic ear infections.

My sister has had sinus problems all her life, even after her tonsils and adenoids were removed and tubes were put in her ears. I myself suffer from a serious combination of selective hearing and earwax overproduction, which led to routine “treatments” through my childhood. My childhood ear de-waxing regimen was a special form of torture concocted by my mother, which included such sterile and highly medical implements as a hand towel, baby oil, warm water, a recycled “booger sucker,” and a bobby pin, all treated with isopropyl rubbing alcohol.

Because of my heightened awareness around ear canal issues, I have a special sympathy for Azure’s ongoing issues with her ears. Across the past couple of weeks, we have plowed through a dosing of Amoxicillin, cleverly disguised in anything necessary to get her to take it. When K was dispatched to Dr. Kevin on another canine health matter, we asked for another round of something stronger. Dr. Kevin instructed K that if all was not better after this round, we would need to bring Azure in to have her knocked out and get her ears flushed out.

When Azure continued to shake her head and scratch at her ear after the last dosing of Doxycycline ran out, we decided to take her in to Dr. Kevin to apply his version of ear de-waxing, hopefully without the bobby pins. Always looking for the bright side of life, K and I agreed that while Dr. Kevin had her unconscious, we would take full advantage of the opportunity to trim her nails and do any dental work that seemed appropriate or necessary.

Leashed and loaded, Azure and I headed out for a date with the Doc. The very short ride was unremarkable except for one lunge Azure made across the front seat to defend me from the tractor-trailer carrying an oversized piece of heavy equipment in the oncoming traffic lane, from which we all emerged alive. We arrived early and after practicing making eye contact and sitting on command in the front seat of the Jeep, exited the vehicle to walk off our nerves a bit.

As it turns out, we should have started walking our nerves off at about 3 a.m. No amount of sniffing, of practicing our sitting, of being reminded in sign “Me” + “Boss,” dampened Azure’s high-spirits or desire to engage in such entertaining activities as: jumping up into the window of the Beauty Parlor adjoining Dr. Kevin’s office; jumping up into the windows of parked cars containing other canines awaiting the arrival of Dr. Kevin; and, jumping out into the field by Dr. Kevin’s office to take me on a doggy doo-doo sampling tour.

When he looked mildly surprised to see me with Azure in tow, I reminded Dr. Kevin that he had admonished K about bringing Azure in for an ear de-briding if the last round of antibiotics didn’t work.

For being the guy who is in large part responsible for her continued existence on the earth, Azure doesn’t like Dr. Kevin much. She wasn’t having him so much as touch her head, much less look in her ears. When he dared try to look at her from across the service counter, she retorted with a snarl and a growl. She didn’t want his pets. She didn’t want to be in a small room with him. She darn sure didn’t want the lovely shot full of magic wellness potion he had to offer her.

In the end, Azure didn’t get knocked out and de-brided. What she did get is held tightly in place using her leash and the handrail of a bench for leverage. Dr. Kevin got to work on practicing some snazzy dance moves. I got my hand bashed against something. The syringe and needle got to administer a shot of Dr. Kevin’s magic elixir with the needle at a 90 degree angle. The woman standing in the waiting room with her extraordinarily tranquil boxer got to see quite a production.

The good news is, Azure continued to funnel her ire at Dr. Kevin. After the ordeal was over, she curled up against me, happily followed me to the Jeep without any interest in the windows of adjoining businesses or vehicles, and insisted that I console her with constant petting for the car ride back to the Farm. As we stepped out of Dr. Kevin’s office, it began to rain lightly.

For the record, Azure hasn’t completely overcome her hatred of windshield wipers.

For photographic proof, witness the “before” photo of the Jeep dashboard:

And the dashboard after Azure’s sojourn to the Vet:

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Painful Lessons

When the dogs are hurt, we load them into the back of the Jeep and take them either to our regular Vet, or to the 24-hour clinic where he works part-time. When the goats are hurt, the process is basically the same.

Hindsight being 20/20 and all, we should have asked ourselves, “So what happens if the horse is hurt?”

The short answer is, we load him into the back of the Jeep and take him to the Vet. In this case, because of our regular Vet’s unavailability, we take him to a large animal Vet who seems to be completely nonplussed by the presence of a horse in the back of a Jeep and who is totally prepared to perform minor surgical procedures in the back of said Jeep.

The first trick: getting the horse into the back of the Jeep. Begin by layering tarps and sheets across the folded-down rear cargo area. As it turns out, this is the easy part. With horse haltered and on a lead, attempt to convince him that the feed in the dish you are holding is sooooo yummy and sooooo enticing, he would like to crawl up into a metal box to eat it. When simple enticements do not work, offer him the accommodation of a telescoping dog ramp which he politely declines. Attempt to lift said horse into the rear of the Jeep. Abandon this effort when hatch-door comes to horse’s rescue and hits horse-hoister on the top of the head. Try the concessionary move of placing horse’s front hooves onto rear bumper of the Jeep for the pleasure of observing the ruts caused by horse’s rear legs as he backs out of the situation.

Eventually, he was coaxed into the rear of the Jeep after the vehicle had been backed up to the trailer deck portion at the top of the wheelchair ramp. By placing granules of grain on the ramp, a la Hansel and Gretel, and suggesting with gentle tugs on his lead that he follow them, using the aforementioned telescoping ramp untelescoped as a threshold, sitting on the speaker box at the side of the cargo area in the Jeep, and coaxing him far enough into the vehicle to be able to close the hatch.

The second trick: getting the horse in the back of the Jeep to the Veterinary Clinic without some type of major damage to the horse, the Jeep, or me.

K has this funny thing about negative inferences. She says that you shouldn’t say what you don’t want someone to do, because they will automatically envision themselves doing it and then it will happen. My poor buddy Val, came to appreciate this lesson quite painfully one time when she admonished a hammer-swinging K, “Don’t hit my thumb.”

So the whole car ride to the Vet, I am telling myself, “don’t visualize what you don’t want to happen.” And my mind keeps responding with unhelpful suggestions like, “Oh yeah, like him kicking out all the windows?”

I would like to take this opportunity to thank every last person who, when told of K’s intention to acquire a miniature horse, responded by asking me if he bites. Because at some point in time thanks to the sense of humor of either Bill the horse or the cosmos, Bill’s lead rope got caught around my headrest and held his head right over my right ear and shoulder, which on the one hand was a relief since I could then abandon the image of him kicking me in the back of the head as I was driving, in exchange for the visual image of him taking a big old bite out of my shoulder.

While the cosmos were busy playing tricks on me, here is another sad twist: having loaded Bill into the back of the Jeep and having started to make my very tense-but-I-am-trying-to-put-good-energy-out-there-so-Bill-will-not-feed-off-of-my-energy-and-kick-or-bite drive to the Vet, I passed by Steve and Carolyn’s house, where Steve had arrived home just a few minutes previously. His red pickup truck sat, gleaming and utilitarian in their front drive. Had I know this was his early day at work, we would have placed a XXL kennel in the back of his pickup and transported Bill to the Vet thusly. Inertia being what it was, I put my unbitten shoulder to the wheel and pressed on with the wheels already having been set in motion.

We made it to the Vet without incident.

Bill needed stitches in his eyelid, which was accomplished in the back of the Jeep by a very flexible and very nice Vet. In order to perform the procedure, the Vet gave Bill a mild sedative, which made me feel much more secure about making the trip home. Much to all three of our surprise, I was able to hold Bill’s head steady and help with the suturing.

I profusely thanked the Vet, gathered up the antibiotic and ointment for continued care, happily paid for our services, and returned to the Jeep to chauffer Bill home.

The sedative was working nicely. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that shot must have contained a Veterinary form of ecstasy. Thanks to the sedative and whatever elixir was contained therein, I learned today that it is possible to drive a standard transmission vehicle with the head of a drooling, loving, bleeding horse resting on your right shoulder, upper arm, and inner elbow.

When we arrived home, convincing Bill to use the ramp to exit the vehicle was no more successful than using it to encourage his entrĂ©e. With Bill’s sedative offering a calming affect for us all, I was able to fashion a different approach for Bill’s extrication from my Jeep. I backed the Jeep up to a low-lying area so the bumper was just a few inches off the ground, and convinced Bill he could make the 4-inch leap with a smattering of pixie dust and a tug on the lead.

And herein lies the most valuable lesson from today’s escapade, as I return home greatly relieved and probably more in love with a horse than I had ever anticipated being, I am awestruck by these magnificent MisFit Farm creatures who offer breathtaking everyday reminders that we can do things we never before thought were within our capacity, no matter how foolhardy they may be.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Emmett & Trinity's Everlasting Love

We were having dinner with an old acquaintance recently. Notwithstanding her confessed efforts to try to keep K and me from continued attempts at dating several years ago, she observed with some degree of astonishment, “My goodness! The two of you are perfect for each other. You belong together.” I think we would agree, most days. As I found Emmett and Trinity piled atop each other on the loveseat after an afternoon of outdoor playing, the theme of belonging together surfaced again.

Her penchant for eating livestock aside, Trinity is gregarious and welcoming to all visitors here at MisFit Farm. Perhaps it is the amount of time Emmett has spent here, or perhaps it is some type of karmic connection, but Trinity and Emmett’s bond appears to be something a little more extraordinary than her run-of-the-mill friendliness. Aside from the copious amounts of time they spend using one another as pillows, Trinity and Emmett are voted the two most likely to disappear on adventures in the woods. If the two of them were second-grade classmates, they would form a formidable dodgeball duo. The snarkiness occasionally demonstrated by their housemates, present company included, rolls right off their collective back. Unlike the others, their food dishes are completely interchangeable. This, truly, will be an everlasting love.

In the not-so-distant past, we were admonished by our friend and the instigator of the Dane-surplus here at MisFit Farm that “[Emmett] wasn’t ever really leaving the Farm, was he?”

Hmmm, I guess not.