Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Didn't Mean It

We are all about “truth in advertising” here at MisFit Farm, which may account for why, despite several adoption inquiries, Presley remained here with us. While we may wax poetic about our best traits, we have an incisive honesty about our less-desirable traits, and a pretty no-holds-barred forthrightness in our communication styles.

Which is why I found it odd, as I sat with Presley that afternoon, to find myself patting her head and leaning in real close to say to her, “It’s o.k. if it is time for you to go, girl.” Because I didn’t mean it. I can tell when I say something I don’t mean, because as a corollary of K’s theory about not saying what you don’t want to happen, as I was saying those words, I was seeing something entirely different happen.

I was seeing Presley standing insistently in front of me, silently demanding I scratch her head, especially just behind her left ear. I was seeing her cruise from food dish to food dish, snatching up mouthfuls and then moving on to claim the next, as if the rule from our childhoods, where we lick each open tootsie roll pop to stake our claim, applies to food dishes for dogs. I was seeing her run up and down the pasture paths with me despite my admonitions to take it easy; when we turn around to make our way back to the house, her eyes are dancing, her big lolling tongue is hanging out the side of her mouth, and her back legs and hips are drooping as she staggers, elated and exhausted, back onto her corner of the couch.

I was seeing the beautiful day from earlier this Spring, when we had stolen time home from the office and had the doors and windows open and were unexpectedly visited by a family of religious adherents who despite my polite and gentle treatment were insistent that they would read me some scripture (which is one of my pet peeves, as I am perfectly capable of reading to myself); Presley thereupon reified my irritation and agitation by urinating on the nice lady’s daughter. I was seeing Presley stick her big nose right up in my face to pretend she wanted to give me a stinky kiss, running roughshod over the proscription against dogs approaching the table during mealtime.

I was seeing her the first day she came to us, and the day she came back after her failed placement, and I was hoping upon hope that it wasn’t time for her to go so she could come back to us yet again, that I could see her coming home again in my mind and it would be so. Notwithstanding Doc’s best efforts and my hopes to the contrary, Presley took my permission and passed along that night. She must have known that each time I saw her I would fill my mind with more of what I wanted to see happening, and try to fill myself with words that I didn’t really mean.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

To Do Lists

I am a compulsive list maker. The house features lists of “ready made” meals and meals for which we have all the ingredients. We have magnetic notepads on the fridge and in the utility room, where needed items can be jotted down for incorporation into the house shopping list I prepare and organize according to aisle based on the store I will be using to complete such shopping. I have long-term “to do” lists, short-term “to do” lists, and for special events, I prepare a “to do” list as a reverse timeline.

Between attending to family needs, routine care and upkeep of the house and our menagerie, and work, lately, my to do lists feel like they are almost overwhelming.

Which is precisely the time when something happens that is ex parte to do list, like our perma-fost girl, Presley, falls ill.

Presley has been with us for about a year and a half. At the age of 9 ½, her owner moved on. Literally moved, and left her behind on a raggedy couch on the back porch of a house with no air conditioning and one final bag of Ol’ Roy. The woman who owned the house started looking for someone to help, because when the bag of Ol’ Roy ran out, so did Presley’s back-porch residency.

On the very day the woman poured the last bit of kibble from that bag into Presley’s dish, a Dane rescue fairy picked up Presley, gave her a flea bath, and met me at a Dairy Queen in a town south of Kansas City. At the age of 9 ½ , we pretty much figured this would be the one and only “placement” for Presley. There were inquiries and one attempted and failed placement, but Presley managed to find a place in the pack, fall into the rhythm of life here among the MisFits, and worm her crotchety way into our hearts.

Presley’s liver enzymes are three times the upper limit of normal, and whether the issue is hepatitis, cancer or some other disease, the prognosis is the same. With any luck, she will be feeling well enough to come home tomorrow so we can manage her pain and let her go in the small comfort of this last place she has known as home.

But as for today, we put the to do lists aside and spent a nice long time just sitting with her on the floor at Dr. Kevin’s, doing nothing but looking into those baleful eyes, trying to soothe her with touch and quiet murmurings, while people came and went. Presley perked up discernibly when K went to see her this morning; K has that effect on us all. As I was sitting with Presley this afternoon, Doc's kids came in to regale us with stories about their second day at school. I know it wasn’t on Doc or his family’s “to do” list, to provide a soundtrack of laughter, life and love, just as it wasn’t on our list of “to do’s” to while away time sitting in Presley’s fluids and detritus; but I can say with absolute certainty, exactly what needed to get done today, did.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Place for Bill

Anyone who has visited MisFit Farm learns quickly of my reservations about poor Bill, our miniature horse. He IS cute - he is small, which always pre-determines a certain level of cuteness. His coloring is exquisite. His mane and his tail are lovely. He has a nice, soft, muzzle, rounded, fuzzy ears, lush, velveteen eyelashes, and soulful eyes. But as my equestrian aunt pointed out to me once, you don’t ride the mane or the color. Those things are nice, but they do not make the horse. And I guess that underlies some of my reticence around wholesale acceptance of Bill.

I am not sure how Bill fits into my utilitarian view of the world. He is a sweet boy, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to give him a “place” here at the Farm. He seems to want for a task that makes him uniquely integral to the overall quality of life here. I have resolved to at least start the process of teaching him to pull a cart through this summer. I think that would be quite fun. There is a total horse-drawn carriage parade in Lawrence every winter, there are neighborhood Fourth of July parades, there are visiting friends and family who might like to go for a ride. I have thought this through and it seems feasible, at least in theory.

Of course I am uniquely un-qualified to teach a horse to pull a cart, never having done so before. As a matter of fact, I cannot remember ever even riding in a horse-drawn carriage or cart, and I know for a fact I have never ridden in the pony carts that are the chosen vehicle for miniature horses to pull. So although I have this theoretical world where Bill happily halters up and trots down the road, our shiny red cart in tow and me or some other person sitting comfortably and in control at the reins, this world exists only in my imagination, where it is likely to remain. The more likely scenario looks a lot like a hairy WWF match as I try to put a halter on Bill; should we eventually get him to don the necessary equipment and actually attach a cart to him, it most likely ends with the cart wrapped around a tree, or an overturned cart being pulled on its side down the road, and me running either after or away from the whole mess.

Thankfully, the need to stake out a place in the world sometimes resolves itself.

As I rounded the cedar tree to make my way to the pasture for morning chores today, I discovered Bill’s purpose.
A closer look is warranted.

And a short video clip to boot, because I knew no one would ever believe it otherwise, and I can't blame anyone for that:
And a link because FB hates my videos: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EgtaJCuuooc

Sunday, May 09, 2010

She Who Will Not Be Moved

In homage to this day when we celebrate our Mothers, Mercy offers this powerful reminder about the beauty, the frustration, and the humor we should all find in the parent/child relationship.

On the other hand, the new mothers, Pebbles and Lucy, have stepped into the role of mother in fine style, offering a good mix of nurturing and independence.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Baby Goats!

We are philosophically, dispositionally and practically non-reproducers here at MisFit Farm. Meaning, we spay and neuter as a rule, and those who are not spayed or neutered are not exposed to impregnating agents, generally speaking.

Last Fall, an exception was made for reasons that I no longer can begin to fathom. For some inexplicable reason that in memory amounts to: K pleaded, cajoled, and batted her eyelashes at me while smiling that heart-and-reason-melting smile, I agreed to let our two un-spayed female goats intermingle with Steve and Carolyn’s goats, including their un-un-masculined male, Dewey (Batman). After two weeks of our goats brutalizing Dewey, I retrieved them, reasonably assured that Pebbles had been tapped, but doubtful as to whether Lucy allowed herself to succumb to Dewey’s amorous advances. I have since concluded that poor Lucy had to have slept at least once, because she does indeed appear to be carrying some of Dewey’s product.

The girls’ stay at the Rancho Curry is a story unto itself, which will remain untold until such later time as I need to tell a story and haven’t anything else more imminent to relay.

Fast forward roughly 150 days into the future: Sunday, April 25, 2010.

In the middle of a weekend where I had managed to triple or quadruple book myself until the point in time when a family health situation caused me to sharply refocus my priorities, and where we had not just one, but two out-of-town houseguests, Pebbles gave birth to two lovely little goatlets. Thankfully, she appeared to have the situation well in hand, so minimal intervention was needed on my part.

The upshot of this all is that we now have two very fresh baby goats at the Farm. AND THEY ARE TOO FREAKING CUTE FOR WORDS. So here’s a video instead:

Friday, April 02, 2010

Clean Catch

Having owned and housed various Danes across the past several years, many of whom have come with health or disability issues, and then having felt our way through goat and miniature horse ownership, we have had a front-row seat for veterinary care for treatments ranging from spays to sutures. I have held goats as they were being de-manned, and squatted alongside the Vet in our front yard as I learned about a “brave cut” while gelding the horse. We have learned about blood conditions, cherry eye, endometric eyelids, stenosis, colds, osteoporosis, and displaysia; we have explored the full landscape of the wonderful world of NSAIDs, and treated lots and lots of UTI/bladder infections.

K pointed out yesterday that Presley had gone out like clockwork every hour overnight, prompting us to wonder if she might have a UTI/bladder infection of some sort. Presley had dealt with such issues in the past, making her a prime candidate for these types of ongoing issues. K mentioned she has the day open today, so she would be happy to take Presley in to see Doc. Well, even if she is somehow able to wrangle Presley into the CRV and get her over to see Doc, I know from past experience: we will need a urine sample.

Knowing my chance would surely come to collect such a sample, and believing firmly that chance favors the prepared mind, I loaded my pocket with a syringe and one of the little vials we have re-purposed for taking urine samples in to Doc. Seriously. We have done this enough to have designated containers for this purpose.

Sure enough, a short while later, I followed Presley as she wandered out into the yard for a potty break. She squatted and I tiptoed up behind her with the vial, trying to make a “clean catch.” For my trouble, my hand was given a warm sprinkling, the vial remained empty, and Presley scooted away from me, shooting a disgusted look over her shoulder. In retrospect, I can’t really blame her. But I wasn’t done. I didn’t have my sample. Thankfully, Presley wasn’t done, either.

She re-squatted a few yards up the path to finish the job she started, and in a desperate attempt to make my catch, I ran up behind her, cupped my hand, and thrust it into the stream. I dipped the vial into the puddle I had gathered in my hand, and stood up triumphantly, at least until I fully processed that I was feeling a sense of accomplishment while holding dog urine in my hand. My feeling of triumph was slowly replaced by a sense of wonderment about what I would do now that I had my uncapped sample in one hand and a fistful of uncontained urine in the other.

I did what any reasonable, college-educated person who suddenly found herself standing with urine in her hand would do. I began calling for K to come save me. She padded outside, shot me a questioning look as I stood there with my urine hand-cup, and without a word, took the sample vial from my “free” hand. She then held open the door and waited as I dumped the hand-cupped urine out onto the ground and followed Presley into the house. I washed my hands and capped the vial off, but somehow I can’t get Presley’s disgusted look and my concurrence in her sentiments out of my mind.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Gentleman's Agreement

I was not enthusiastic when K first suggested we fence off the property. Aside from the obvious: cost and effort, it ran counter to my notion of “ownership” and "property." I wasn’t opposed to creating pasture area, obviously. So we had fenced in an area for our goats, when I noticed how a dachsund-width “path” was being worn from all along the pasture fence line up the hill to the “bad neighbors‘” house.

K's position that fencing exists for the dual purposes of keeping in and keeping out was a salient and compelling one. After much haggling, grunting, squatting, and post-pounding, a fence was erected the entire length of the property between our land and the “bad neighbors’” slice of property.

Then came the Danes. When we lived in the trailer, we didn’t spend much time indoors, so the “fence” was mostly an area the doggy door opened onto for middle-of-the-day potty purposes. The fence itself was only a 4 foot field fence secured to t-posts. My joke was that the fence itself represented a “gentleman’s agreement” between us and the dogs. Since we only intended to live in the trailer for a few months (famous last words), the t-posts were placed about 10 feet apart, and the fence was basically clipped to the posts in three spots. A committed dog could have easily burrowed under, and an able-bodied Dane could have easily jumped over it. To our understanding, the fence represented a barrier, and the dogs honored that barrier.

So we happily lived under the mistaken and misplaced trust in the existence of said gentleman’s agreement. One day, I came driving up the road and turned into the driveway. I thought I saw Emmett running out in the yard north of the trailer as I turned in, but since that area wasn’t fenced, I dismissed this as a shadow or hallucination. Sure enough, when I walked into the trailer, Emmett was among the wiggling, wagging mass of dog that rushed to greet me.

A few weeks later, K was home when the UPS truck turned into the driveway to make a delivery. Hearing the truck, Emmett barreled out the doggy door and completely forgot his ruse, hopping over the fence and running around to greet the delivery man. K stepped out the front door just in time to see Emmett running around the trailer. She exclaimed, “Don’t worry, he’s gentle!” and called for Emmett. The driver pulled a dog biscuit out of his pocket and said with a smile, “I know. It is good to know his name now.”

As it turned out, Emmett had been greeting the UPS man thusly for months.

We have been re-configuring the dogs’ yard now that we have been living here at the house for over a year and have a better sense of how we use the space, and what would be most convenient for all of us. This weekend, I expanded the existing dog yard, bringing it around to the front of the house in anticipation of the installation of an upstairs doggy door. I pulled out the posts at the previous edge of the yard and swung the fencing out, extending it about 40 feet. Emmett lay in the dog yard watching me work, sprawled out at the place where the fence had been previously installed. When I called him to urge him into the newly fenced area, he lay at the edge in the “old“ yard, crying, and refusing to step across the line where the fence previously existed.

My only question is how long this gentleman’s agreement lasts.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Once Again, I Stand Correct(ed)

Trinity barfed in the bed last night. Seriously. In. The. Bed. I was sitting there, minding my own business, reading a few chapters before turning in for the night, and she sat bolt upright, began making that unmistakable retching sound and proceeded to hack up what looked to be about three cups of semi-chewed, mucous-drenched kibble.

And just like that, I was 8 years old. “K come quick! Trinity puked! Gross! It stinks!!!!!”

Thankfully it was on the comforter. Yes, I just wrote that. I can’t hardly believe it myself.

As I stood in the corner of the room, dancing from foot to foot, and whining about the smell, the aesthetic, and the overall ill-advised-ness of allowing dogs into the bed, K calmly removed the comforter, took it outside to shake off the solid chunks, applied some sort of laundry magic elixir, and put the comforter into the washer. Whereupon it occurred to me just how ridiculous I was behaving, so I got another comforter out of the linen cabinet, made the bed back up, and returned to my book.

As we were turning in for the night, I couldn’t resist the urge to point out one last time that the recent events reinforced my overarching bias against allowing dogs in the bed. I turned off the reading lamp and settled down to go to sleep . A few minutes later, I felt the movement of the bed as one and then a second dog crept up to join us. Resignedly, I rolled over just as I was being gifted with a singular, barf-smelling kiss to my chin.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


One of the major benefits of being owned by Danes is that they are basically wash-and-wear. They don’t have to be taken to a groomer for some ridiculously expensive haircut, and I did not have to invest in some industrial-strength shears and 30-minutes with an instructional video to give them mullets.

Like all of us, they need to be bathed on occasion. We have found across the past two years, as Trinity and Emmett have discovered the joys of skunk-hunting, some of them need to be bathed more than others. And even with our magic skunk-scent-neutralizing potion, the bath-to-skunk-encounter ratio is at a minimum a 3:1 ordeal, and even at that, you will still get whiffs of skunk for months to come, especially around the eyebrow region.

Hair brushing is a nice thing to do, especially around the turn of each season. It only takes about five minutes with them to be disabused of the misconception that they do not shed, and giving them a nice brushing seems to land a somewhat preemptive blow that I assure myself saves at least two house-wide sweepings a day. The way I see it, I can stand and pick the hair off the brush, or I can chase it around with a broom and crouch down with a dustpan later.

Nail-clipping is a major ordeal, with that not being their most favorite thing , nor, truth be told, mine. I can usually get one foot done on one dog before the rest are alerted to the activity, and run off to apply grease to themselves so wrestling them to the ground to submit to my caretaking can be that much more difficult. Four out of six of them have black toenails, which means I either exercise great caution in taking just little bits off the ends with a need for frequent re-trimming, or risk quicking one of them and then running around, mopping up blood spots, apologizing profusely and abandoning whatever remaining nails need to be trimmed on that dog to be attempted another day.

.Now ear-cleaning is an entirely different matter. The dogs take responsibility for policing and augering out one another’s ears on a routine basis. Sometimes we will stumble upon the highly sonorous and slobbery event of a group ear cleaning And sometimes, they offer their grooming services to us, free of charge, whether we want or need it, or not.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Mysteries and Miracles

Mysteriously, a momma Dane and her litter of what seems like 500 pups were turned over to the Rescue just over a week ago. O.k., the term “mysteriously” was used in jest. Under-nourished: check. Filthy: check. And as it turns out, dreadfully ill with a highly contagious and completely preventable condition: check.

Without exception, each of the puppies had Parvo. As a side note here: I have known of several owners who had dogs that contracted Parvo. In those cases, the dogs died. The merciful owners (who did not have the resources to treat their babies) put the dogs to sleep as a pre-emptive measure. In the other cases, the dogs were not treated and died suffering.

Not that I need to remind those of us who commune through this medium, but I am duty-bound to say it: vaccinate. The Dane Rescue has encumbered bills in the thousands of dollars to save these pups for want of someone forking over $15.00 per puppy for the d*mn vaccinations. Parvo is very preventable, but once a dog gets it, life becomes a very tenuous and very contagious proposition for these babies.

Which brings me to my second point, which is that the amazing people involved with the Great Dane Rescue of the Ozarks (and with a nod to Special Castaways in NE Missouri) somehow managed to save every single one of these precious babies, at great personal cost (tears, time, energy), for which no compensation would be adequate, and also at great financial cost. So if anyone out there has some extra bucks, there are some Vets in Missouri who we would like to keep on our good sides by paying in a prompt and full manner. GDRO even has PayPal and a 501c(3), so your donation would be charitable in every sense of the word.


I would include a picture of the puppies here, but they are so devastatingly adorable, it wouldn’t be fair.

OK, maybe just this one because I might be secretly in love with this little guy, although I don’t even know his name:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Real Estate

We have acquired a second king-sized bed. The question has been where we plan to place said bed. There is space in the dog room, but only Emmett uses the room when not otherwise obliged. When he takes his voluntary time-outs to the dog room, he seems to prefer sleeping on the loveseat.

Our bedroom is large enough; I pointed out that we could simply rotate the existing king-sized bed and line the second one next to it. Space for sleeping has become a precious commodity since Trinity and Emmett have taken up residence in our bed. I seem to be particularly vexed by the loss of real estate, notwithstanding the fact I could sleep through the dropping of the A-bomb. K is the one who loses ground each time she gets up to let the old dogs out for middle-of-the-night pit stops.

K nixed my proposal, based on the prognostication that they would still insist on using just the 1/3 of the bed we are occupying. Which appears to be empirically proven.