“You never know if you don’t go.”  Isn’t that the truth?

All animals roam.  In herds, the tendency is to go the way of the crowd.  Certainly, this has some benefits.  Still, sometimes, you have to just “take the back streets” and explore.  This is a skill I learned most from dogs and cats.  I don’t know which species goes on little explorations more (since they are both always looking to find new and exciting trouble! LOL), but they each have taught me that wonderful skill.

Sometimes you just HAVE to get off the beaten path and find a new route.  Animals have helped teach me to always be open to the “other” forks in the road, the little dirt path, or even the road that isn’t even there yet…  Certainly, there have been some tough, rocky and unpleasant roads I have taken, but if I hadn’t taken those, thanks to my animals helping me to look that way, I would have missed out on the beautiful and amazing things that have come to me on the other side. The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost, said it best:

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference. ”

Thanks to my dogs and cats for teaching me this lesson. It sure has been fun so far…:-)

SENIORS: Still Play and Enjoy!

There are several, very wonderful web sites set up specifically to get older dogs (and other animals) adopted and I think that it is truly fantastic, and very much needed. Since I have quite a bit of experience working with older horses (and dogs and cats and birds…), I wanted to share what amazing experiences that the older generation has given me. Honestly, some of these most enriching, funny and heart-warming times I ever had were with my years of taking care of the “older generation.”

Many years ago, I managed a farm that had many retired horses that we cared for on the farm.  Although it was not specifically a “retiree” farm, the large bulk of the horses we boarded were either completely retired, or only in light work.  Several of these horses had been national champions in their day and quite frankly, in their late teens and twenties, still looked great (I routinely kept them groomed, trimmed and looking sharp) and felt great.  It was their amazing attitudes that taught me things daily.

All older animals have a certain amount of “slowing down”, due to arthritis and other common aging problems. Still, they all managed to get themselves into trouble enough, meaning that even in their increased age, they all still managed to act like a bunch of kids on the playground.  I used really enjoy cleaning and treating all the scrapes, cuts and abrasions they would have because I always thought, “Good for you!” 

As humans, we have a LOT to learn about getting older gracefully and still enjoying life.  We spend soo much time complaining about, “My bones creak, I’ve got too much arthritis, I can’t do that anymore…”  Then, we sit in our homes, not going anywhere, or doing anything.  Those sedentary lives and attitudes are like a slow suicide, I think.  The one thing I will say that I learned for sure from older animals is, “move it or lose it!”

Animals come at it at a completely different angle.  They used to make me laugh so hard, watching those foolish horses act like little foals sometimes.  The great thing about age is the patience and appreciation they would also have to then lay full-out on a sunny day to bask in the glory of the sun, or to just SIT STILL when I was cleaning up all their little “war wounds” from enjoying each other (again, like kids).

We used to have three separate herds of fully retirees and “living out” horses, but I’d watch them gallop up and down the hills, kick out and “fight” each other and just enjoy each day like it was the most important day of their life.  Because of them (and all the times they put me in the hospital! LOL) I have definitely learned to keep moving, keep loving life and just try to live each day like it might be your last.

Horse Business Card Holder

DOGS: Keep Going and Enjoy!

My old dog Butthead (yes, that was his name-I didn’t give him the name, but if you knew the dog, you couldn’t change the name! LOL) was a puppy mill puppy that a woman bought from a mall pet store because she loved Springer Spaniels and she had the means to do so. She frequently bought Spaniels in pet stores and then gave them away because she wanted them to have a great life.

First, she gave him to a blacksmith, who tried him as a bird dog (which didn’t go well 😊), so he gave the dog away to my former boss. When my boss was leaving his job and I was taking over for him, I loved Butthead SOOOO much that when my boss was leaving, he told me he was moving to somewhere he couldn’t keep the dog, so he asked if I wanted him? Enter my first dog as an adult. I can tell you, even though I was now his forth owner, that he was the BEST friend and BEST dog I ever had (and may ever have).

Butthead was so fun and so cool, you couldn’t help but love him to pieces. His happiness and love for life were so infectious. I even used to take him to senior homes as a volunteer to brighten older citizens days to cheer them up. He would march into each room and announce to every person he saw that life was amazing and weren’t we all just lucky for something so fun?  Certainly, he brightened the life of everyone he saw.

Now, Butthead had everything going against him. Being a puppy-mill puppy, he was terribly bred, meaning he had every problem imaginable. Again, I was his FORTH owner, plus he had grade four out of grade five hip dysplasia, horrible skin allergies and he also had to have three (yes three) cruciate ligament surgeries.  Still, that dog got up EVERY day and looked at me with the biggest toothy grin and said, “today is the best day ever! What are we going to do to make it even more awesome!!?”

It was his amazing attitude and love for life that got me through some of the darkest times of my life. And I do mean dark… I would look at him each day and wonder how he could possibly have such an amazing zest for life? At a time when everything seemed all wrong for me, when I had thoughts of not going on myself, I used to look at him and think, “How can you go on and be so damn happy when everything is against you?” 

FORTUNATELY, he made me realize that if HE could keep going and be that happy, that I could, too!  That dog truly taught me one of the best lessons I ever received.  He gave me a drive to keep going on and keep trying my best, like no one else could.  I still think of him often and know I owe him everything.  When I spread his ashes this year over his old running grounds (he used to trail ride with me for hours in NY, having the time of his life!)  I cry with joy now just remembering how lucky I was for him and how much he gave to me.

Dogs are simply the best that way.  They know that no matter how bad you think you have it, life can still be amazing and fun and wonderful, so WHY NOT smile and enjoy?  His gift, and the gift of all dogs, is to keep on going each day.  We are all really lucky for those furry best buddies, no matter how they come into our lives!