Sunday, May 23, 2010

Lectures, stories, and shtick-- By Rachel

Greetings all, from beautiful Santa Ynez, where Dee and I are getting ready for the third and final day of Light Hands Horsemanship. It has been an amazing time and I will give you a synopsis of what has happened Friday and Saturday so far, even though there are so many details worthy of mention, I can't really do it justice.

On Friday Rick Lamb kicked off by listing all the countries of origin of the participants. This conference gathered people from France, Brazil, Argentina, Poland, Hungary,and Canada. Pretty amazing. Dr. Robert Miller, DVM, for whom I have the ultimate respect, and who may be the only vet who has ever treated a hummingbird and a whale in the same day, gave a great talk about the reasons why the horse is the most unique in the animal kingdom, of any domestic or wild creature. He also made a compelling argument about how the horse is the singular factor which allowed Asia and Europe to develop past the stone age, and is the biggest influence in the societal development of man.

Eitan Beth Halachmy did a hysterically satirical presentation, examining the propensity of every corporatized horse "guru" to sell their own equipment (especially sticks) for sometimes obscene amounts of money, and insist to their followers that only their stick can work properly. Eitan brought out his own back of "shticks", and wove those into an informative presentation about examining the footfall and self carriage of a horse from the ground.

We were also treated to a colt start by Richard Winters (had never seen him live in person, but was impressed by his refusal to hurry the horse), and riding demonstrations by John Ensign and Lester Buckley (two of the consistently finest horsemen that I have now had the pleasure of learning from for two years in a row).

The exciting announcement was made that the FEI was now including a Western Dressage division. For those who do not know much about horses or horse showing, you may not understand my excitement. I beleive that this signals the biggest turn of the tide for the condition and standard of horsemanship in the show ring in a positive way in at the very least my lifetime. Jack Brainard, who will be inducted into the Reining Horse Hall of Fame this year, and has been around for close to 90 years, echoed this sentiment.

The day ended with an amazing screening of the trailer for a documentary which evolved into a book on the history of the Hollywood horse.

Saturday was more of the amazing same, but with the addition of a talk from Jack B., my hero, with the assistance of Jewels Adams on her gorgeous Azteca stallion. Meals both days have been great, and I would be lying if I said I had not been indulging a bit in desert. The winds have been high, which has created some problems for us in our booth, though that hasn't stopped the most dedicated animal lovers from coming by and showing their support for animal rescue. The day ended with a panel (Jack and Bob Miller being my favorites) of cowboy story tellers. If you ever meet Jack in person, don't leave him until he tells you the generator story.

My snooze has now gone off about 14 times, and I had probably better make an excuse to get out of bed. One more half day and then we come back to reality, just a five and a half hour drive away. Fortunately for us, we will have some happy critters waiting to ease our transition back to the real world from fantasy land.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sleep is good, but horses are better-- by Rachel

Dee and I are in beautiful Santa Ynez, getting ready for the first full day of the Light Hands Horsemanship conference! We had planned to drive down Wednesday evening at around 7 in order to set up our booth Thursday,but had some technical difficulties. Instead, we ended up leaving at around 1:30 AM, and arriving in Santa Ynez at 7 in the morning. We checked into the hotel, took an hour nap, and then got up to go set up the booth.

Debbie Beth-Halachmy, who runs this fancy shindig, and whose husband is a featured clinician, was so sweet to us when we got there, along with the rest of the staff. We got a booth in a prime spot, right near the entrance to the eating area. We got our stuff set up by about 11:30, and then headed into town to find some tent stakes for the pop-up. The Ace Hardware there is about the cutest store I have ever seen, and the people were exceptionally friendly and helpful. We went next door to the Dos Carlitos Mexican Restaurant and Tequila Bar for lunch (didn't use the latter service, I'm afraid). It was a sensory experience. GREAT food, really good salsa, nice dining room, and even biodegradable take away boxes.

We made it back in time to pound in the tent stakes before the weather turned from serene to high winds. I spent about an hour chasing things down and zip tying them to the pop up frame. If it wasn't zip tied, or laid flat and weighing in at over 8 pounds, it wasn't sticking around long. Our neighbor's pop up frame literally buckled under the wind. Our neighbors by the way were all fascinating, and I will write a little about one each day. The guy with the bad pop up luck is a geologist/paleontologist turned self taught award winning jewlery maker. He had some exquisite pieces, and regaled us with stories of how he found one of the very few Tyranosaurus Rex fossils. I learned yesterday that the triceratops has the thickest skull of any animal in history.

The conference did not officially start yesterday, but Mr. Art Perry, the owner of the fabulous Intrepid Farms that hosts this conference each year opened the farm to visitors who wanted to take a tour of the Farm's museum. We talked to quite a few people at our booth, sold some t-shirts and raffle tickets, got a few donations, and really felt the love for our cause and animals. The day ended perfectly with Rick Lamb, of The Horse Show, giving a talk about the Seven Key Qualities of a Horseman. As Dee put it, the essence of the talk is that the horse is your mirror, and you create your own reality.

We turned in early, completely sleep deprived, not speaking in complete sentences, looking a little ragged, but pumped for the start of the conference on Friday. It is not Friday morning, and the cell alarm just went off. I am going to go shower while Dee caps off her first night of sleep uninterrupted by dogs in a year with a 15 minute snooze button. Today should be less windy, and now that we are awake, we will start to take some pictures of this amazing place.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Thoughts of peace and love to our friend Bob and his family

We have just received the news that long time sanctuary volunteer, supporter, and friend Bob Walter passed away peacefully in his home this weekend.

Bob was and remains well loved by all at the Sanctuary. He began volunteering here nearly two years ago, and his quiet cheerful spirit was appreciated by all, two and four legged. He particularly bonded with the horses. Tank, our giant white draft horse, who passed in February 2009, had a special bond with Bob. Although sometimes Tank's gigantic size could get him into trouble, Bob was always quick to defend him-- "He is a good horse. He didn't mean it". We used to love to watch Bob groom Tank, taking such pride in his work, fearlessly brushing, hugging, and leading around his 2000 pound friend. When I told Bob that Tank had passed, he simply responded with a sad smile "He was a good boy, and now he is in a better place".

Prince, was another favorite of Bob's. This Thoroughbred used to love to make Bob laugh by making faces when Bob would scratch his itchy spot. Even when Prince first came to the sanctuary and had not the healthy body and coat he does now, Bob loved him. They were two gentle old souls with occasionally quirky senses of humor enjoying each other's company.

Although Bob was quiet, his smile and kindness always encouraged us to strike up conversations with him, to get a glimpse of his inner workings. I will always remember Bob as a person who stuck up for others, who had surprising and sometimes hilarious insights about the human condition, and who approached all with a spirit of willing kindness.

Bob, we grieve along with your family for how much we will miss you, and with tears free flowing, wish you all the happiness and beauty wherever your spirit now calls home.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

He Loses His Grill

On Tuesday, April 27th , 2010 Easter Seals Superior California Help To Recovery Program, went on our monthly trip to the animal sanctuary. It was a rainy and gloomy day, with some bad omens. Neither Anthony or Jasmine could unlock the lift-door on the bus. But neither, rain or locked doors could curb our enthusiasm to visit A Chance For Bliss. Once we got going it was a fun ride, with everyone laughing and joking. When we got to the sanctuary we got to work inside because of the rain. We got to bathe dogs, grind flax-seed, and clean saddles. Of course we got to play with the dogs! Deanna told me that A Chance For Bliss might make a calendar next year, we will see I hope so. While we had our lunch, the funniest thing, happened. I was eating a sandwich, when I heard a loud crunch. What was it you ask? I not only broke a tooth, but I swallowed it as well. I had so much fun, mugging for everybody. You see, I wear dentures, so I did not feel a thing, all I could think there is a gap in my grill.
Remember take a tip from the dogs. Do not pre-judge us by our appearance, beauty, or lack there-of. None of the doggies noticed I was missing my front tooth. So, do not judge a book by its cover, but by its content. Hector Easter Seals Superior California Help To Recovery Program

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend...

Inside of a dog it is very very dark.-- Groucho Marx

Just a thought to keep you entertained while you and all of your friends go to and vote under each and every one of your email addresses. --Rachel

Friday, May 7, 2010

With Love and Thanks

I have been thinking about the path I have walked since meeting Dee and Woody in January of 2009. Little did I know that I would be writing to you today as their Director of Marketing for A Chance for Bliss. I am pleased and honored to be a part of this incredible organization.

If you have been to the Sanctuary, you know you have stepped into a very special place. A wonderful feeling comes over you that goes right to your heart and soul. My friend Alison summed it up perfectly: "God is everywhere there."

I had never heard of a place that takes in animals and cares for them to the end of their days. As a hospice volunteer for Sutter Roseville Medical Center, this novel concept for animals attracted me. From the first time I stepped into Dee & Woody’s home, I was hooked. Inside, there were dogs everywhere! Outside were horses and barn cats, geese, ducks, goats, sheep and potbelly pigs. This city girl was enthralled to be surrounded by so many of God’s creatures. I’m here to stay!

There is much to do to keep a non-profit afloat these days. The show must go on ... all the time. We survive on less than a shoestring budget and rely heavily on the goodness of others. That goodness is coming from all directions, and we are so grateful for the incredible connections we have made. Who'd have thought we would have a Fashion Show by Halo Salon & Day Spa as a fundraiser! (see our home page for details).

Then, there’s our official Spokespig. Who’d have thought Homer would be the most popular pig on Facebook! Mr. Le Porc will be giving you a 'pigs-eye' view of life here at the Sanctuary from his unique perspective. So, stay tuned!

Know that each one of you has made an incredible difference in the quality of care of our animals. Your continued kindness and support mean so much to us. We keep asking, and you keep giving. A thousand thanks and blessings to you all.

Is This Heaven?

“Is this heaven?” “No, it’s Iowa.”

In the movie “Field of Dreams” when Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella heard “The Voice”, he started doing some crazy things: mowed down his cornfield to build a baseball park, took off on an odd and enlightening road trip, met and befriended people from the past. To many it all seemed just nuts. But, supported by his wise and spunky wife, Annie, Ray continued to heed “The Voice”, and events unfolded in a way (a good way), that they could never have imagined.

Today, here at The Ranch, as I scooped up doggie poop in the backyard, happily humming and putting new, animal-inspired lyrics to old familiar tunes in my head (Woody and I have this in common), I thought about Ray and smiled.

See, when I started to really listen to my “voice”, life as I had known it for the last 20 years, came to a rather abrupt end. My job, marriage, close-knit family, beautiful house, good credit, beloved pets…all were gone baby, gone. And now, a few years later, here I am at A Chance for Bliss, spending time in the company of some of the finest people I know, caring for all kinds of wondrous animals, and happily humming while scooping dog poop! Who knew?

Hmmmm. A song lyric comes to mind: “…who could know that a man would come who would change the shape of my dreams? Helpless now I stand with him, watching older dreams grow dim…” Quick! Name that musical! ANYWAY. Take out “a man” and “him”, insert “The Voice”. And yes, my dreams are changing shape---morhping into dreams that are closer to my heart’s true desires. Yay!

When Woody and Deanna adopted Chance and Bliss, they had no idea that an animal sanctuary was in their future. (I bet “The Voice” knew) (I’m just sayin’…) But now they marvel at the “right-ness” of it all. And though there are days here at The Ranch when we wonder how we’re gonna make it through another month, mostly we know that, as with Ray and his field of dreams, all kinds of folks are drawn to this place and are inspired to contribute their time, talent and treasure. And we are thrilled, humbled, and so very grateful.

“…oh people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come…”

A Chance for Bliss Animal Sanctuary. Is this heaven? Yes. I believe it is.

Bernie: The Old Man of the Pack

Last weekend at A Chance for Bliss, the Animal Acupressure Training Academy held a class on the Five Elements in our Acupressure for Animals 100 Hour Certification Program. The Five Elements in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) give us a way to assess the condition of an animal, as well as clues to what we can do to address the condition. So we’re looking for signs, clues to direct us. For example, if there’s not much energy evident in an animal, we call it a yin condition—that is, there is an apparent deficiency versus a congestion or accumulation. One of the many ways we assess what organs are affected is by the sound of the voice. When the liver energy is affected, it can manifest as a shouting voice in a human, and kind of an aggressive, hostile bark in a dog. If the Kidneys or Bladder energy are affected, the sound is a kind of groaning voice. Lung and Large Intestine energy is a crying voice.

Enter Bernie, our oldest member of the pack of 20 dogs who live together at A Chance for Bliss. Bernie is known for his almost incessant moaning-howling-crying-groaning voice. It’s been hard to pin down the sound with any precision; but everyone keeps asking, “What’s up with Bernie? What’s wrong? What does he need?” My students and I were hard pressed to agree on the sound of his voice. His voice didn’t fall into one of the distinct sounds of the Five Elements. So we would have to look for other clues, never going by one clue alone. But here, we didn’t find much of anything out of the normal range. He’s an old guy and is pretty normal for his age: his coat still has some luster; his tongue is a little on the pale side, but still “in the pink.” There’s still a light in his eyes. His body is a bit heavy but still not abnormal. Good appetite. He gets around for an old guy. He’s just slowing down with age. But his characteristic “howling” keeps going on and on. It would make a great car alarm, getting everyone’s attention.

Bernie, then, didn’t give us much to work with; or, to put it another way, we we’re stumped. The consensus we had was that Bernie was trying to tell us something. He’d look you right in the eye and plaintively give you his characteristic howl (though again, it’s not quite a howl). It was like the sound of a lost soul calling for help. If we had more clues we could have used the Five Element theory to address a particular disharmony in Bernie’s system by addressing the organs most affected and the energy of other organs to support the one most affected. What to do then? Exactly what Traditional Medicine (TCM) does—treat the whole being. And be sure to treat his spirit

So we lifted the old guy onto a big hassock, gathered around and got lots of hands on him. We harmonized all of his meridians with Tui Na (Chinese Massage). We did acu-point work to boost his immune system, calm his system and give him energy, and balance his system. We used points on the head to clear confusion; points to reduce anxiety; and points to raise his spirit. To tell the truth, he wasn’t having much of it; he just wanted to look at you and implore you with his repetitive howl. He was somewhat resistant, but not enough for us to stop working with him. We don’t do anything the animal adamantly doesn’t want, and Bernie seemed just restless. That restless energy did give us a possible clue. It was not the restlessness of anxiety, but felt more like a foul wind blowing through him. Wind is a disharmony in the system related to Liver energy, so we gave extra attention to Liver acu-points.

When we were done the howls were still going. We had given him the best we had. Sometimes you just don’t know, so you just do what you were trained to do. There’s a mystery of the body that’s bigger than any of our theories of knowledge. But we know from 5,000 years of Chinese medicine that “the work works. Trust your learning.” Later on, someone noticed that Bernie had stopped whining or howling or whatever it is he does. He was resting, but not howling. And later, when he was up and waking around, the howling was still gone. Something in his system was harmonizing. I haven’t checked in with Dee and Woody on his behavior, but the howl may be back. If not, great. If it’s back, that’s ok too. Sometimes a disharmony needs to unwind over time. We’ll keep working with him. We’ll be there for him. And, in addition to all of the knowledge and techniques we have, we always are guided by the what the great Yellow Emperor of Chinese Medicine said 2,600 years ago in his treatise of internal medicine: “Always look for the rooting in Spirit.” We will keep working with him to address his body, mind, and spirit.

Tom Wilson, PhD, Director, Animal Acupressure Training Academy and Director of Education, A Chance for Bliss