Thursday, September 30, 2010

From Our Friend, Albert, in Colorado

You may recall that on Sunday, August 29, ACFB received a very special visitor who literally drove from Denver to see this place for himself. Not knowing exactly which day he might arrive, chores were in full swing when Albert pulled up, slightly flustered because we had offered inconsistent directions which had him doubting he would find us. We hoped to enjoy dinner with Albert, so there was little time to slow down and show him around as the chore list is long. I feared that, having driven 1,300 miles, Albert might feel a little put out.

While visiting, he often said that he didn't know what to expect. Shortly after his return, I gathered the courage to ask him what he thought of his visit. I was deeply interested in his observations as it is difficult for me to have perspective on what has grown slowly over the past decade. It feels pretty natural to us, but I wondered what Albert made of this circus. His reply:

Dear Friends, Deanna and Woody,

How can I put into words what I experienced, first reading about you guys and the wonderful work you were doing in the USA Today article. Something came over me, as I never met people like yourselves, who had such amazing compassion for God's Creatures who cannot help themselves. Then that picture of Stevie, the blind, beautiful horse, just did it for me. I had to visit and see for myself, and I had to meet you. It was my way of saying thanks for doing what us mere mortals cannot, will not, or do not have the same compassion to do. The trip was cake compared to all the love I witnessed around me. I mean, doting on blind animals, cooking meals for 21 dogs, nurturing horses, dogs, pigs, cats, rabbits, birds, etc., and literally putting yourself last, as our 9pm dinner will attest to. I did not articulate a lot of this to you, because I was amazed at the whole personal experience.

Your sanctuary is not a "circus" ~ As Shoeless Joe Jackson asked Kevin Costner in the movie, 'Field Of Dreams' ~ “Is This Heaven? No, it is Penryn, California."

God Bless You,
Nu Yawk Albert

Once more, Albert, your sentiments have brought me to tears. I've counted myself lucky to have so many animals in my life, not babies spoiled from the start, but broken hearts and bodies that are such a joy to see reborn. They don't hold grudges and are happy with the simplest things. NEVER IN MY LIFE would I have imagined that someone would make such an effort to come see what we love. We think you're some kind of special yourself and we're so honored. I do hope you'll return next year.

This sentimentality makes me long for so many that we've lost. Brave souls who endured much, I wish I could share them all with you. Their stories are barely told as sharing is relatively new to us. I wish I could devote long days to capturing each of their spirits for you in writing ~ Glory, Winston, Magik, DeeDee, Ebbie, Spike, Tank, Ruth... They are what drives this. They are the only thing that makes sense. For now, here is an incomplete album that contains so much love and many tears.

Albert, I don't think you'll ever understand how much you've touched us. Thank you is inadequate.

With deep gratitude,

Friday, September 10, 2010

So Long, Sophie ~ Deanna

The sweetest old Suffolk Sheep passed away today on her own, but not until after the vet was on her way to help. I am not surprised and it isn't the first time that the call to the vet prompted either a recovery or a passing. I'm convinced that the animals wish to pass on their own terms and we try to allow them that dignity as often as possible. Dogs have died in my arms at the vet as the room is being prepared.

Odie, our 34 year old Tennessee Walking Horse is our most laughable case. He is OLD and many times he has appeared to be unable to rise after lying down. A horse's gut can only take so much down time. We get up to three people pushing and pulling, trying to assist him and sometimes it just doesn't happen. I can't tell you how many times I've told people "Odie's really getting close this time." We know the time will ultimately come, but for now we laugh. Twice I've called the vet to come administer "pink compassion" only to have him immediately rise. Once he had been down for nearly 24 hours and the second time, he laid in the pond with his nostrils just out of the water. All in his good time. I think he feins as he has realized his frailty scores him special priveledges, such as unmonitored time at the feed cans and free roam of the front yard. For those who have been around a while, you know he would sometimes come to the front door, as if asking to be let in. Now we tell him, "Odie, I'm going to call the vet!"

Without looking, I'd estimate that Woody and I have experienced close to 60 passings since Chance and Bliss called us to this work. It's been an interesting journey.

I lost my Father in 2003 at the age of 59 to cancer. It was the only time I had been present when a person passed and the feeling in the room immediately lifted. It was palpable and my Mom and brother felt it, as well. Surreal. It caused me to really contemplate death and do some reading, such as "On Death and Dying" by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. I came to understand that death is an important metamorphosis for our soul and that it can be quite beautiful. What a gift to be with Pop at that moment.

Euthanasia is such a unique and difficult issue. I've long held appreciation for the ability to administer such relief to a suffering animal friend, but now I see that it can often be a mere convenience. The dying process can be difficult to witness and we almost always utilize the talents of our animal communicator for insight. Only TWICE have animals asked or agreed to that end. They want to do it in their time, their way.

There are circumstances that call for intervention, of course, but it is such an individual and minute by minute decision. We are BLESSED to be seven minutes from a 24 hour clinic. Another reason our location is so important to us.

The insight from Sophie Wednesday afternoon via Jane St. Croix was that she was FIGHTING to stay here. We honored her. We got her up, fed her, spent time with her. At midnight last night, I fed Sophie a banana and grapes and she literally drank from a 16 oz water bottle, using her lips and tongue to manipulate the water flow. Amazing. But I knew she wasn't getting up again.

The seizures are a clear marker for me. Maybe its a convenience to prevent me from bearing witness, but that's my bottom line. There are people in our circle committed to hospice work who hold firmly that there is no such thing as a humane euthanasia as it relates to the larger picture for the being, but I disagree.

Team Bliss, as I like to refer to us, doesn't always agree about details (imagine that!), and another case, Windsong, has tested my beliefs. Windsong is a mare in her late teens who has inoperable cancer growing in her left eye. It was removed by UC Davis in 2008 and came back mid-2009. For a while, it was an ugly pink mass protruding and Rachel and I argued to call the vet on several occasions. But lo and behold, it somehow changed directions and is completely contained behind her lid. Her eye waters and itches, but doesn't appear painful by the head rubs I get. What's more is that her body condition and attitude are excellent. Jane's insights reveal that it does take energy to maintain and that she is sometimes tired, but it doesn't show. She has friends in the herd that she clearly adores. And she enjoys being adored by Atlas, just recently gelded. Obviously, this isn't indefinite, but her quality of life for the time is clearly good. I'm glad we didn't make the call.

So Sophie's choice to pass in the 30 minutes between the call and the vet's arrival was not surprising at all (if we need help sooner, we go to the clinic as opposed to a ranch call). I tried to coach Sophie last night that it was okay to let go of her failing body. Why did she want to stay? She'd already lost her two lifelong pasture mates, Abby and Nina. That's not mine to answer and Sophie may not have been able to stay as she desired, but Sophie certainly made a point about the way she chose to go.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

September Newsletter Available

The September newsletter, available here, includes a short introduction to Sam, upon which I'd like to expand.

Sam-I-Am is a ten year old Boston Terrier who belonged to a woman who once had six at one time and adored them all. She lost three over time, leaving Sam and his biological parents. Sam's guardian was diagnosed with cancer in early June and died in late June. Somehow, Sam and his folks ended up in the drop box at the Martinez shelter until Linda from Wonder Dog Rescue saved them. Sam's parents were adopted right away, but Sam is a special boy.

Sammy was born with defective plumbing. All of the basic parts are there, but they're not properly connected and all waste is produced through one hole. I'll risk being graphic to give you an understanding: Today as Sam urinated after holding it for a while, the urine shot out straight behind him.

Because he is prone to accidents, I've begun diapering him like Izzy, but it makes him completely freeze! He gets so forlorn... but I trust that, in time, he'll figure it out and fly around the house like his younger sister. I'm convinced that the diaper is the reason he held it so long! I've also discovered that pull-ups are great! Not having children, diaper shopping is new to me and I'm learning. They are a bit more expensive, but the stretchy waistbands means not cutting into their legs while trying to keep the waist tight enough.

A 'Dora the Explorer' Diaper Isn't the Coolest Outfit for a Guy

Sad Sam

Thankfully, Sam is devoted to his new Mother, (me), so any time I'm outside, he follows right along, blissfully diaper-free. When he is happy, Sam sometimes smiles. Today, a photographer came to shoot photos for a story that will run in Women's World the first week of November, so we spent some time taking pictures with the animals in the back pasture. Sam soon began playfully pouncing on his shadow like a kitten (and I got no photos!) He also loves to dig and with the issues he's got, we'll let him. :o)

Sam can be a bit cranky with strangers, especially men, and we're working on this. A guy like Sam doesn't have many roommate options, so we'll work hard to address his personality issues.

We did manage to get some blue 'Diego' diapers today, so at least Sam won't be forced to wear pink.

When you come to visit, please give Sammy his space for a while and assure him his outfit is stylish. He might even smile.

~ Deanna

Friday, September 3, 2010

A Special Visit ~ Deanna

On June 2, the USA Today article was published and cards, letters and e-mail began to pour in. One of the first people that I corresponded with was New Yawk Albert, now in living near Denver, Colorado. I shared a photo of Stevie with him and Albert was intrigued. This past Sunday afternoon, Albert drove up Willow Brook Lane, having followed a persistent calling to see our special blind horse. Yes, Albert drove over 1,300 miles to meet Stevie the Wonder Horse. We shared dinner that night, had a fantastic visit, Albert stayed here at the ranch, took photos in the morning then left for St. Louis. I've learned that one never knows what lies around the corner and I am so happy to have another good friend in Denver. Thank you, Albert. We will never forget our time with you.

On Tuesday, after our monthly visit with Easter Seals, we began assembling sponsorship packages. This is quite a process! Woody and I were assisted by Volunteers Extraordinaire Kathy Leon and Jordan Bartley and we worked for hours. You'll notice a key on your mailing label - DHPM = Dogs, Horses, Pals and Mates; we each took a category, then moved to combinations. It wasn't until Wednesday that we finished applying postage and delivered to the post office - August mailers went out on September 1.

Well, most ~ I'm working on loose ends, correcting addresses and clarifying points. I think we have a good system devised now and a custom database is in the works, donated by Chris Hans and Steve Cooper of OmniCreek.

We learned that using a bulk mail permit no longer entails sorted mail by the zip code, so we will use that next month, reducing costs greatly. Many people have requested no updates or e-mail updates only, but we enjoy preparing the packages and continue to cut costs. We like to imagine Manny's picture on refrigerators across America!

I will close with photos from ESHTR. Gettin' better every day, you guys! We love you.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kathy's Big Boston

On Tuesday, August 31st 2010 Easter Seals Superior California HTR Program, took our monthly trip to A Chance For Bliss. The ride was pleasant with everybody singing along with the radio, except me I was working on a puzzle again. Woody, Deanna and Rachel greeted us. We were in a hurry to go to work, so Rachel right away assigned tasks and chores for everyone. Kim, our resident horse whisperer, got to work brushing horses. Anthony and John got busy bathing dogs, they must have bathed at least five dogs while we were there. Jasmine even helped by drying dogs, but I think she got wetter than the dogs she was trying to dry. Marcellos ground flax seed while Jim cleaned saddles. Ron, Rik, and Vince were manure valets, and I got to entertain the Boston’s. While I was busy doing my job I had the pleasure of meeting Kathy, she is the proud owner of the biggest Boston Terrier I have ever seen. But you know I think the dog liked me, because he licked me flat on my nose. But you know why I really liked Kathy? She said that she actually reads these blogs; I thought my relatives were the only ones who read them. So I want to say hi Kathy and thank you for reading the blogs. Remember animals are such agreeable friends, they ask no questions, and they pass no criticism.

Mmmmm Cupcakes

On Friday August 27th HTR received a surprise visit from Rachel and Deanna from A Chance For Bliss. The visit was to commemorate and celebrate two years of volunteering by HTR at A Chance For Bliss. Not only does HTR have a volunteer placement at A Chance For Bliss, but HTR holds a Holiday Shoppe every year with all the proceeds going to A Chance For Bliss.
Deanna and Rachel presented HTR with a complimentary book that documents a small part of the volunteer work that HTR does. The book shows Marcellos raking in the corral, it also shows John bathing a dog and brushing a horse. We also see Dan washing a pig. We get to see Heather brush a horse and steer, yet still find the time to play with a bunny. Anthony brushes a horse and helps Bob clean a saddle. Steven and Al brush horses while Rik kisses a dog. Tom, Les and Jim show smiles as they pose with the dogs. But the best pages are the ones dedicated to our dearly departed friend Bob, we miss him so much. All I know is not a day goes by that we do not think of his smiling and cheery face. Bob was always ready to help; we love and miss him daily.
Get this, the biggest and best surprise, Deanna and Rachel brought a huge decadent assortment of cupcakes. I picked peanut-butter and jelly flavored cupcake. Remember, Charles Darwin said, and I quote, “The love of all creatures is the most noble attribute of man.”