Sunday, January 20, 2013

Tiki is a British Spy

Tiki in the British Spy Stall at New Bolton

Look close at the picture above and you'll get it.....

So, Christmas night, while we're at my parent's house in Baltimore celebrating, I get a phone call from a friend who I asked to stop by and feed the animals for the night.  Thank god Emilie was there.  Our original plan was to have Christmas dinner, stay the night and drive back home in the morning.  Instead, we got our dinner packed up to go, as Tiki was off her feed and down in her stall. Another dear friend stopped by to triage Tiki while we were gathering our things and about to head home. I walked her through some first aid and how to get some vitals and she reported that her temp was 105, Tiki was up and down in her stall and there was no gut sounds or manure in her stall. She gave her some oral banamine and headed home.  This was serious.  We sped home, I took her vitals again and indeed her temp was still 105, her heart rate was 65, and she was clearly painful and colicky, but had finally produced some manure.  Her gut sounds went from being silent to being able to hear them from outside of her stall. Her capillary refill wasn't bad, she didn't seem dehydrated, but her gums were pale, her coronet bands were hot (an early sign of founder) and she was starting to show some mild neurological signs, having trouble chewing, drinking, and unable to eat the little sprigs of hay I was giving her to test her appetite. She acted like her upper lip was so swollen she couldn't use it. 

Tiki down in her stall
Joe and I set up the barn cameras for the night to monitor her from the house, hoping for her vital signs to improve and the need to call the vet in the morning to be negated.  She did produce more manure overnight, which was a great sign, but she was up and down most of the night, with her time down spent craning her neck in pain and splaying flat out trying to stretch out her stomach. So, at 8am I called the vet and he was promptly on the way.

The concerning problem was the fever.  She wasn't presenting as a typical colic, as high fevers generally aren't associated with colic. She was also producing manure, so her digestive system was generally working.  He was thinking more along the lines of Potomac Horse Fever, colitis, botulism, or salmonella.  All have high fevers, cause the horse discomfort, have mild neurological signs at the onset, and lead to diarrhea.  He took some blood, gave her some banamine and tetracycline and said he'd be back in the AM.  He said to start giving her hay, a flake at a time, and keep an eye on her.

By 6pm, she was very painful again, hadn't produced any manure all day in spite of eating some hay, her fever hadn't reduced and her heart rate skyrocketed to 70bpm.  After checking in with the vet, it was decided to get her on the trailer to New Bolton.  The high heart rate meant her body was internally fighting some trauma we couldn't see, and a heart rate 70+ means an emergency. She could have internal bleeding or a twist or blockage in her intestines.  Either way, she was now in a situation where she needed to be seen in a hospital to determine further treatment and possibly prep for surgery.

Off we go to New Bolton......

The problem was that there had been ALOT of rain and there was a severe storm with high winds and hail going on at that exact moment.  Because of some construction earlier in the month, we had parked the trailer far back off the gravel and had backed it all the way up to a fence behind the barn.  It was on soft ground and our truck tires aren't stellar.  While I ran inside to get Tiki's insurance paperwork and call in the claim (thank god for horse insurance!!!!) Joe hooked up the truck and trailer and GUNNED it to get it out of the grass.  In the pouring down rain, I hooked up the sway bar and stabilizer bars and we prepped up the trailer cam for the ride.  I went into the barn and explained to Tiki that she needed to go see a doctor to get better and that she was going for a ride with Ariana.  I told her Ariana would make sure she stayed safe on the ride and it would be ok.

I grabbed Ariana from the front field to be a companion to Tiki for her first ever trailer ride.  By the light of the outside barn lights, in the pouring down rain, with winds at 30mph, I tried to load her onto the trailer.  Normally an easy loader, she planted her feet and REFUSED to get onto the trailer.  No amount of cajoling, threatening with a whip, or bribery was going to load this mare.  There was no time, so I gave up and threw her back out into her paddock next to the trailer, promising to starve her for the next week because I was so pissed I couldn't even see straight. *NOTE: I did not starve the horse as threatened, but I sure didn't talk to her for the next few days......

So, I ran back into the barn, looked at Tiki through the bars of her stall, and spat out at her that Ariana was A DICK and that she was going to have to be a big girl and load all by herself for the ride.  I told her that even though she wouldn't be able to see me from the trailer that I would be with her the whole time.  I grabbed her lead rope and we marched out into the freezing hail and gale force winds.  Ariana was now running around the paddock next to the trailer screaming her fool head off.  If there was anything I could have grabbed and thrown at her ninny self at that moment, to include a brick, I just might have.  SO MAD AT HER.  Tiki and I walked up to the dark trailer (silly me for  not thinking to turn on the internal trailer lights.....) and I walked up the ramp with her following.  I turned around and could see her shaking with the freezing hail bouncing off her coat.  The wind was so strong it kept rocking the trailer and blowing broadside on her body causing her to sidestep to catch her balance.  It was at this moment I thanked myself for having kept up on trailer loading training with her, starting when she was only a weanling and having her walk up the ramp and stand and munch hay.  She looked at me, standing on the ramp, soaking wet, looked at Ariana, who was craning her neck over the fence and screaming at full volume, and looked up and down at the outside of the trailer.  She took 2 steps towards me and peered into the dark interior, thinking.  After a moment's hesitation, she followed me up into the pitch blackness and Joe put up the butt bar and closed the ramp.  I tied her up, showed her the hay, and we jumped into the truck and drove off.  I stopped the truck at several stop signs, running back to the door to crack it open and check on her.  Each time she was alert, but generally calm.  I couldn't believe she wasn't losing her mind.  I had loaded her onto the trailer plenty of times, but I hadn't gotten around to making it MOVE yet.  So, her calm demeanor in spite of her illness was remarkable, especially considering the insane weather and the incredible noise the sway bar makes when going around corners.  It makes for a rock stable trailer but squeals like a banshee on crack. The grating noise alone, without the hail and buffeting winds, could have unnerved the most seasoned traveler.

We were having trouble getting truck monitor to connect to the trailer camera, so while I drove Joe used his iPad to look up the camera specs/manual.  We stopped in a parking lot over the Conowingo Dam to call New Bolton and let the front desk know we were on the way and work out the kinks with the camera.  In less than 5 minutes we had it working and got back on the road.  Tiki was a rock and even with the torrential rain, hail, winds, and squealing sway bar she was just quietly munching hay and concentrating on adjusting her footing around turns.

Tiki calm as a cucumber on her trip home from New Bolton
Once we arrived onsite, I had to just about parallel park the trailer while the doctor team got ready.  I backed it into the spot near the Isolation building.  All critical cases that could have a contagious or unknown nature to them go here, both for the protection of the horse and the rest of the patients.  Also, horses that are immune-compromised go here as well. Tiki offloaded into the storm like a champion, backing slowly down the ramp and walking behind a building into a rollup garage sort of setup.  She walked into the clinic and right into the stocks set up to evaluate her.
Tiki with her IV fluids

Tiki in the stocks and getting ultrasounded
The doctors ran a catheter and hooked her up to IV fluids, did a neurological evaluation, put a nasal tube down her to check her reflux, rectally palpated her, and shaved her belly to do a transabdominal ultrasound.  For each thing they would ask "Has she ever had _______ done to her before?" and the answer was no.  Not ever in stocks, not ever been palpated, not ever been nasal tubed, not ever been ultrasounded.  Each time they were shocked that in spite of her dull condition, she was amicable for everything they were doing.  The bloodtests that my local vet had pulled had JUST come back and her white blood cell count and nutrophil levels were on the floor.  Because of this, they decided to keep her in the Isolation Ward.  After alot of diagnostics, which didn't point to any definite cause, they led her into her stall, MI06.  This stood for Barn M, Isolation, Stall 6.  But in my mind, all I heard was MI6 (British Intelligence).  And in my tired state of mind, I heard myself saying "So, Tiki is now a British spy!"

Tiki in her stall during one of our visits. This is as close as we could be.
The stall is completed segmented from all other stalls.  Each stall has a mantrap-style room where technicians have to don a full-body biosuit, sterilized boots and disposable gloves before coming into contact with the horse.  This prevents cross contamination between horses and introduction of germs from the environment/visitors. 

During Tiki's hospitalization, we visited daily, even though we couldn't touch or even go near her.  We had to observe her through two panes of glass.  Concerned that the next step in her infection would be founder, we brought our Jack's Medicine Boots (ice boots) up for her while the staff kept ice bags tied around her coronary bands.  Thankfully, over several days her fever slowly came down, her heart rate slowly got slower (it stayed pegged in the mid-60's for 2 days), she never developed laminitis or diarrhea as expected, but her white blood cell count remained on the floor.  She stayed laying down for 2 days, dull and listless.

It took 4 days of IV fluids, antibiotics, banamine, and general supportive care for her to finally pull through.  The diagnosis :fever of unknown origin and colitis.  Concerned that a newly-aware-of-her-surroundings, feeling-more-like-herself Tiki would be a handful to get back onto the trailer, we showed up with an hour of daylight to spare to load her up.  She walked out of her stall calm as could be and didn't even hesitate to walk right up the ramp and into the trailer.  I couldn't believe what a mature horse she's becoming. Totally drama-free load, and she just quietly munched from the haybag the whole ride home.  She's back to her normal sassy self, eating, running around and playing again. I'm just thankful that while we had a scare on Christmas, we got a perfectly healthy horse back as a Christmas present a few days later.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Shotgun Gator Kitty Sidekick

Sassy napping on the Gator seat
Today was the first day that Sassy has trusted me enough to actually stay in my lap while I'm driving the Gator. Why is this significant? Because she has wanted to ride with me since she arrived here but has been too scared. She sleeps on the Gator seat, follows my every move when I'm outside, and stands with her back legs on my feet every time I end up standing in one place for more than a few seconds. She's a needy drooly kitty who will jump into every vehicle you're in, follow you like a dog (hell, better than OUR dog!) and leap onto your shoulders or climb up your leg with super-sharp Claws Of Death when you're least expecting it. Now, ask her to catch a mouse and you're insulting her.
Sassy lounging in the wash stall
She's here for eye candy only. She is the Superior Siamese Barn Kitty. She does not work for her supper unless you consider her career is modeling. Catarina, the poofy long haired Fabio-looking blindingly white cat with calico patches is the unlikely hunter of the bunch. While she looks like she should be going down a models' runway at the latest Cat Fancy show and winning in the Housecat division due to her stunningly soft and starchily clean long coat, she's the more industrious of the duo. She prefers to don a construction cap and grab her lunch pail every morning and embark on her journey through the plains of the Serengeti (better known as our backyard and the adjoining forest behind the pasture) while Sassy lounges in her cat bed eating bon-bons in her housedress and trailer park tiara in the barn or curls up in the barrel that we store our trailer cover in in our shed. Catarina then brings the spoils of the hunt to our front door and prominently displays them on the doormat, to which we greet with an obligatory CRUNCH and often a scream as we step on the carcass in our hurry to leave the house in the morning. I can't tell you how many mornings I've spent scraping vole goo off of the soles of my shoes after having walked the dog....

Pepper riding on a round bale

Pepper prowling in the backyard
Pepper walking the plank
But I digress. Sassy is a sweet soul who reminds me so much of my beloved Pepper. She came to us after Pepper passed last year and her mannerisms, drooly kitty-ness, her tendency to be fearlessly underfoot and inconveniently in the way whilst still maintaining her cuteness is surprisingly similar. Now Pepper used to LOVE the Gator. She was an adrenaline junkie kitty who LOVED riding shotgun in the Gator, tried to constantly make herself a hood ornament on our cars, ATV and eventually the Gator while we drove around the farm. She rode shotgun with me everywhere. If she wasn't hanging on to the passenger seat, head up and wind blowing through her fur, she was firmly attached to my lap, claws dug in, while I was driving. She even hopped onto anything in motion-I snapped a pic while she was in her glory perched on a round bale we were towing with the Gator.
She climbed rafters that were insanely high and napped on birds nests. If she were a human, I guarantee she would be mountain biking down steep cliffs and jumping out of airplanes. Maybe a race car driver? Who knows.

Sassy insisting on helping me put up lights

So ever since Sassy arrived and "felt" like Pepper, she's gazed longingly at the Gator when I drive it. She would sleep on the seat and clearly want to stay in it with me whenever I drove it, but fear would take over and she would leap out of the moving Gator within seconds. For a while, it was an event for her to stay in the Gator when it was started. She would follow it, trotting beside it until I got to my destination. But no matter how gentle I drove it she would eventually lose trust and jump out. So, today was the first day I've ever scooched her over into the passenger seat and had her stay in the Gator while driving. She climbed onto my lap, dug her claws in and drooled while I drove around the farm.
Sassy actually climbed the ladder right next to me
It may not mean much, but when you feel the honest trust of an animal while they're clearly fighting every instinct that tells them to flee and they make a conscious choice to stay with you, it's a special thing. I'm glad to say that I have a Shotgun Gator Kitty Sidekick again.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fearlessly Following Felines

We had a nice weather day last weekend and I decided to take advantage of it by working with Tiki in hand for a few minutes.  After she was done with her training session I was walking her back to her field when she decided she wanted to check out a flatbed trailer that was parked in the backyard.  Being a bright day, the barn cats Catarina and Sassy were sunning themselves on the wooden floor of the trailer.  Tiki, ever curious, wanted to check it out. She gently pulled on the lead rope, straining to walk over to the trailer.  She craned her neck out, flared her nostrils and blew at the wooden beast.  Since horses have very poor sight when it comes to anything right between their eyes in front of them and right in front of their noses, she startled herself when she craned down to sniff at the trailer and smacked nose-first right into the handle.  She jumped straight up into the air about six inches and landed with her feet planted wide and eyes even wider.  She snorted and tried again, bumping into the handle a second time with less fanfare.

I couldn't help it, I started laughing at her confusion.  After petting her and telling her that it was ok, she seemed to shrug her shoulders and started eating the grass next to the wheel.  Then she noticed the cats, who had woken up with all the commotion and were now trolling about on the deck of the trailer.  She realized they were SO much closer to her and more attainable than normal due to their elevated status on a raised wooden surface.  This completely fascinated her, and she gazed at them longingly, craning her head and neck over the edge of the trailer to try to reach them.  This was cute for about 30 seconds, until I realized that her completely fearless self was poised to just hop up about 2 feet into the air to join them.  I looked back and saw her positioning her hind legs underneath her body and starting to lift a shoulder.  Having taught her how to jump in hand and how to start the spanish walk, this would have been a cakewalk.  But in my mind I saw a flash of the future, with her sliding her hooves across the deck of the trailer in a cartoon-like banana peel type of fashion, trying to stop her forward momentum (she puts a LOT of gusto into her jumps and tends to fly through the air twice as high and far as she planned) and then scrambling off the other side, probably cutting herself on the sharp metal corners in the process.  So I quickly said NOOOOOOOO and backed her away from the trailer.  She went back to quietly nibbling on grass like nothing happened and her feline friends returned to their napping state.

I am forever floored by how curious and fearless she is.  She often looks at me to see my level of concern about anything, and so long as I am calm, she is calm and willing to go anywhere and try anything.  She'll walk on any surface, hop up on or over anything I present her with, and generally just doesn't blink an eye about most things.  If she does startle, she hits the end of the lead rope but really doesn't pull or do anything stupid anymore.  I don't feel like I signed up for an impromptu skiing lesson when working her in open spaces anymore.  There was a time when she was young that she figured out how to turn her head away, take control of the lead rope and knew the exact angle to lock her neck and pull that would make hindquarter disengagement impossible by pulling in the exact opposite direction from the handler.  Thankfully, we've worked through that and now have softness and give when being worked with.  She naturally yields now and will step over as necessary and disengage her hind when necessary. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Back to Tiki Tyme

Tiki is now 2 years old, as of this past August.  She is truly growing into herself, and while she is still small (14.2H) she is taking great leaps in maturity.

Tiki is the first baby that we've bred that I've kept and raised from birth.  Sure, we raised her dam, Mona Lisa, from 5 months old to adulthood and her sire, Masetto (AKA Eddie) raised from 4 months old:
Tiki's sire at 4 months old
to 4 years old:
Tiki's sire at 4 years old

But I didn't foal out Eddie or imprint him.  This didn't make him any less special, just a simple fact.  There is something about imprinting a foal that can't be replicated after meeting a horse later in life. 
Me imprinting our first foal, Gossamer
Because all of the previous foals we foaled out, from friesians to iberians to warmbloods, were all meant to be sales horses, I always held back in the process.  Oftentimes the foal was sold in-utero and the new owner was present to imprint their foal, with me teaching the process at the time. If they didn't have an owner yet, I knew they would someday and kept alot of myself in reserve, imprinting enough to make them very trainable at an unusually young age but not enough for them to truly bond with me.  It was their destinies to be bonded to someone else, and I did not want to ever stand in the way of that later when they found their soulmates in life and were sold.

With Tiki, I didn't have this concern, so she bonded very quickly and hermetically to me and I have been her sole caretaker for most of her life.  With this bond comes consequences, both good and bad.  My goal for her is that she is my companion, my riding horse, my pet, my Trail Buddy.  If she happens to be good at dressage, GREAT!  If not, I have an in-utero warmblood on the way that, by all means, should be a stupendous dressage horse.
My warmblood foal due in spring 2013 :-)
So, I have very little expectations of Tiki, though I'd like to be pleasantly surprised to find out she's talented under saddle.  With that said, my goals and training techniques with her are bent more towards making her a very confident, independent horse who looks to me for guidance. I don't want her to be herdbound, and work with her bond with me to confirm that she's comfortable in her own skin and with only myself for company.  I load her in the trailer by herself and she doesn't care one whit. We still need to take trips to new places, so that's a goal for the coming year.  I take her for walks around the farm and she stays with me, by my side, where ever we go.  I show her new objects and obstacles and she approaches them with curiosity and confidence. I've taught her a command to "touch" things with her nose to check them out and she has a implicit trust that I won't put her in danger or ask her to touch something dangerous.

This weekend we had a bunch of construction equipment in the yard by her field.  She had been in the barn and hadn't been able to see the machines, just hear them.  During morning feed, I walked Ariana out and had her promptly whip around and stop and STARE on the way out to her field.  Tiki, on the other hand, casually looked over on the way to the gate, almost like she just nodded at the machines and said " stuff" and moved on.  Whether it's been a running tractor, a truck parked right by the gate, the Gator driving right up to her, she's fearless and not very reactionary at all with new experiences.  I took her for trail walks several times and it's truly remarkable how settled she is, even walking in a location she has never been before, crossing little streams, blazing paths into the woods that she's never been in before.  She's alert, but stays right with me and is relaxed enough to graze quietly, stand quietly and not pull to get back to the barn.  If she does startle for any reason, she very consistently jumps, gets to the end of the lead rope and stops.  She doesn't pull, she doesn't try to get away at all.  She feels safest with me and by my side and watches for my reactions.  She walks through narrow openings, through questionable footing, up banks, down banks, through fabric sheds, blinded by light to dark or dark to light and couldn't care less. Even with her pasturemate Rambler losing his ever-loving mind and screaming, galloping, tossing himself around in the air in the field, she didn't jig and just looked casually at him and recognized him as a complete drama-filled goofball.  She is comfortable enough in her own skin that you can take other horses out of the pasture without her losing her mind and just pacing a bit until she starts paying attention to something else.  When she was turned out with Doc as a yearling, she regularly had to be turned out first by herself while Doc slowly chewed his way through his breakfast and she handled the solitary turnout well.

The downside: much like her father Eddie, I can't just hand over the lead rope and expect that she'll behave for anyone else.  She IS a fiery redhead, she IS very opinionated, she DOES have one hell of a temper and can pull out a temper tantrum that even made our vet take a few steps backwards in fear.  She can go from standing still to windmilling the air with her front feet and landing in a kneeling position, stomping her one front foot in pure anger like I have never seen in another equine.  She's nearly laid down while pawing the ground so hard I wondered if people in China were looking at each other and saying "did you hear that?!"  Her chest was mere inches from the ground she was bowing so deep while pounding the ground with her front legs, ears flat back and teeth bared at the ground. She spent two full months pretty much walking out to the pasture purely on her hind legs and resisting every single attempt to convince her that rearing is NOT acceptable, nor is it a normal mode of traveling gait.  We had stop, rear, walk while rearing, trot while rearing (this is impressive) and various forms of airs above the ground.  She seriously did some moves I have only seen done by Lippizaners.  If I tie her in the cross ties in the grooming stall and walk out of sight while the farrier works on her, she begins to dance, paw, and her confidence goes to zero.  Thankfully, we now walk out to the pasture again on 4 legs :-)  The Terrible Twos came early for this filly, and they're already starting to fade.

So, she's a work in progress, and much like her mother and father, who I raised both since they were 5 months old, I expect that she will be the unusually incredibly level-headed horse I see now with a "button" to turn on the fire and stoke when needed.  Like Dolly, I expect she will be the type of horse that nearly anyone can get up on and ride around and she will pack them around at a walk like a champ.  Get someone with some knowledge in the saddle and she will puff up underneath them and give them an incredible ride.  And, for me, like Doc, Dolly, Winter and Eddie that came before her, she will reserve that extra spark for when I call on it and only hand that to me and perhaps a precious short list of other riders that she connects with in a lifetime.  She truly is growing into her own now and I have to say I'm proud of how ahead of the curve she is for a filly of her age. Her willingness to learn, memory retention, and cognitive ability to problem solve rivals that of her sire and make her a fun horse to work with overall.

I promise to keep you posted as she starts to learn new things in the next year and has many "firsts" along the way :-)

New Modalities

New Modalities.......

So, I made a reference in my last post to adopting new modalities for myself and the animals.  Here's an explanation:  I've discovered feeding raw to the cats and dog and gluten-free for myself.

The Skinny

Nutmeg's new diet

So, I was inspired by my friend Inez in one of her posts from her massage business's Facebook page, Unicorn Dreams Wholistic Touch in her informative posts about feeding raw.  Specifically, her link to this blog post was very interesting to me. Sushi's coat was getting dry and he wasn't eating well. This turned out to be caused by an infected fang tooth that our vet, Dr Schaupp, at Chadwell Animal Hospital and I were reluctant to pull due to Sushi's advanced age.  Now that his tooth has been pulled, he'll eat anything that doesn't move faster than him :-)  Nutmeg was also not eating well.  She hates kibble, and while I had transitioned her to Taste of the Wild canned and kibble, overall she's just not impressed. Realize this refusal to eat on her part is not due to a lack of education or effort on our part.  When we adopted her she (unbeknownst to us) had Parvo and nearly died within days of bringing her home from the shelter.  Chadwell saved her, but she definitely had major digestive issues and permanent gut damage from the experience.  We had to feed her Tagamet to be able to eat without pain and I eventually started giving her a homemade natural remedy of pureed papaya and aloe vera juice to help her digestive tract and remediate any ulcers she had.  She also had trouble digesting protein and seemed to have food allergies when on Wellness puppy, developing severe diarrhea and also dealing with two bouts of giardia.  Being a northern breed dog, we switched her to Blue Wilderness Salmon and mixed it with Nupro Lamb and Rice for about a year with good results, but she finally got tired of the combo and started going on strike with her food again.  Concerned about reactions she seemed to have to samples of kibble with beef or chicken, but knowing she was VERY tired of salmon, we transitioned her to Taste of the Wild buffalo and venison.  She was mildly enthused with this for a short time, but finally has gotten to the point that unless we water it down and make a gravy out of it or add TOTW canned to her dinner, she just wants nothing to do with it.

Nutmeg will stand in her crate for hours not wanting to eat her food. We have a constant mexican standoff with her laying petulantly in her crate staring at her bowl and us yelling at her that we won't let her out of her "room" until she eats her dinner.  We've learned that she must be locked up with her food or else she simply won't eat, but Fiji will dine endlessly--the tiny Siamese has a strange penchant for dog food, no matter what flavor or type.  Even with only 3 teeth, she will carry off the kibble pieces and gnaw endlessly until she manages to break it up enough to eat.  The ADD dog, meanwhile, wanders around the house scrounging for anything she can find off the floor while the cat eats her food.  So, crate confinement until she eats her dinner is a must.  Needless to say, it does not make for a happy dog. Her coat was also dry and dull looking even though I feed her fish oil caplets and a great nutritional supplement daily.  Her skin inside her ears was very pink and she was itchy with pink skin on her belly.  She was constantly scratching and after several attempts at a remedy I decided to treat her like she had true food allergy and started looking for a new way to feed her.  The more research I did, the more I thought it would be worth it to try raw, especially to try to mitigate possible food allergies.  I went to Baron's Country K9 store in Bel Air and they were so helpful!  They gave me a ton of samples to try and Inez helped me pick out Nature's Variety frozen raw food.  They have 5 stars on Dog Food Advisor and it's SO easy to thaw in the fridge and feed the medallions.  Nutmeg LOVES it, and snaps it all up within seconds.  She's still on kibble at night until she finishes the bag, but her coat is already so much softer and shinier even with feeding raw only 1/2 the time so far.  The pink skin is gone, and her itching is MUCH less.  I did a trial of 100% raw with her for a week and it was remarkable how much her coat and skin changed in the week and she was a happy, happy, ravenous dog for her dinner.  To help transition her I feed her digestive enzymes sprinkled on top.  And, remarkably, I have cautiously started adding the proteins she seemed allergic to back into her diet with great success.  We started with ONLY lamb, but she now gobbles down beef, chicken, duck, venison and this week we're going to try rabbit.  The raw diet has made a remarkable difference in her.

The cat's new diet

As for the kitties, I started them on raw too. It was a struggle.  Fiji is a Hoover Vacuum and will eat nearly anything.  Sushi is very picky and Pixel is equally picky, if not worse than Sushi.  I did alot of reading and found that kitties love their crunch, so that's the hardest part about the transition.  While most pet owners are trying to get their pets to lose weight, all of my pets have high metabolisms and require some work to keep them maintaining weight.  In a raw diet, this means feeding organ meats and fats.  Now, with Sushi's advanced age and past liver issue, I am a bit concerned about taxing his liver to try to process a high fat/high protein diet.  At the same time, I have been feeding Blue Wilderness Chicken and Duck kibble to the cats, along with Buju and Ziggie cans, for about a year with good results.  Unlike many supporters of raw diets, I'm ok with mixing modalities.  The dog will be going 100% raw, but I feel that the kitties, due to their very slight Siamese builds and high metabolisms, plus my concern with Sushi's liver, need some carbs so I still top-dress their food several times a week with the kibble.  I introduced the raw food slowly, just giving them maybe 1/4 of their canned portion of a meal as raw and mixed it with 3/4 of canned food and sprinkled some dry food on top like sprinkles on ice cream.  Slowly, I was able to sneak more and more raw in and less and less canned food in to a meal.  Now, as of last week, the cats are on 100% raw with either a little kibble or a little freeze dried raw sprinkled on top.  During this transition, Fiji's coat went from a straw-like consistency to an amazingly soft, shiny and healthy feel. Sushi's coat has gotten EXTREMELY soft and shiny and now that his tooth is pulled and he's eating like a champ again he has gained a very decent amount of weight.  If I feed him just raw for a few days, his coat looks amazing but he starts to get very lean, so I will continue to top dress his food with a good quality kibble to give him the carbs he apparently needs.  I have tried feeding raw liver and he and Fiji LOVE it.  They both slurp it down like I do a raw oyster.  Fiji, the moment I get the bag of pre-cut liver I get from the butcher out, starts meowing like crazy and doing laps around the island in the kitchen.  Pixel and Nutmeg are not fans of the raw liver, but I'm still trying to introduce it to them every chance I get.  Again, though, due to the high fat content of it and just the plain difference of the food, even with feeding digestive enzymes daily, I just don't want to stress Sushi's liver, so I am careful at how much raw liver I give him. 

My new diet 

The catalyst:

So I've discovered, thanks to reading this article sent to me by Emilie, that PERHAPS my joint pain issues and remaining neuropathy were stemming from gluten intolerance.  I won't bore you all with a ton of details like I did above with the animals, but suffice to say that after a 4 week trial of living gluten free, I am able to definitively say that I have a gluten intolerance issue that is manifested by neurologic deficit, extreme joint, muscle and bone pain, and insurmountable weight gain no matter how much I work out.  The Reader's Digest version of this is that I was diagnosed with Lymes Disease a little over 2 years ago, after a very severe tick bite in Nov 2009.  This lead to such a severe decline in my health that I was actually not able to walk without a walking cast and had lost the bottom 1/3 of my lung function and was dependent on inhalers.  When walking up the sidewalk to my front door, I was tipping over by the time I got to the door.  I couldn't stand for more than 10 minutes without severe lower back pain, and couldn't walk more than about 50 steps without the same issue.  MRIs revealed several herniated disks in L5/S1 and C2/3, along with a chiari malformation   that seemed to be causing a "double crush" syndrome, but after seeing several neurosurgeons they all agreed that the problems seen on the MRI did not need a surgical solution.  I was prescribed 15mg Mobix to replace the 3200mg of ibuprofen I was taking daily just to deal with the pain from walking.  I had severe foot pain and was at the podiatrist's office often to try to find a solution as well.  Everyone kept asking if I had seen an infectious disease doctor, as I seemed to have Lyme symptoms and I was bloodtested several times for Lyme with no positive result. There was a definite attitude from doctors wondering if the pain and symptoms I was exhibiting was "all in my head".  Trust me, you begin to question your own sanity after a while of searching with no treatment and no answers. I learned that the standard Lyme bloodtest is often not conclusive, especially if a patient such as myself had been on antibiotics.  I was constantly ill during this period--bronchitic, pneumonia, migraines, night sweats, major balance and neurological issues along with the severe back and leg pain and debilitating lethargy.  I had read about this type of lethargy before, but had never experienced it.  Normally a very active person who couldn't stay in bed, I was often bedridden for days on end and it was actual effort to BREATHE let alone lift my head, get out of bed or walk.  I found an infectious disease doctor who was willing to start me on antibiotics and treat me according to the symptoms, which she felt was not only Lyme but also Babesia and Bartonella.  I had hit the trifecta of tickborne diseases!!!! LUCKY ME!  I did finally do the Igenix Lab test and I did test up on 1 band of Lyme, but that's incredibly inconclusive since I again had been on so many antibiotics for so long that I think it would be a miracle if it showed on the test.

I started on a regimen of 3 different antibiotics a day, with a "cyst-buster" drug mixed in on weekends to help root out any encysted Lyme, break it open, release it into my bloodstream and then let the antibiotics attack it.  This resulted in 18 months of a rollercoaster of Herxheimer reactions and me constantly oscillating between feeling well and feeling so sick I could barely move.  The pain to simply move about became so intolerable that I was taking 3200mg of ibuprofen a day ON TOP of the 15mg of Mobix to survive.  I spent nearly two years in various antibiotic treatment regimens, combining several at once and then switching them up to combat resistance and felt about a 70% improvement.  Nearly 60% was immediately after starting the antibiotics, and then it was a rollercoaster ride between 90% and 60%, with the average day feeling like I was, perhaps, 60% back to normal and pre-Lyme functionality. When riding, my balance was sketchy, and I truly felt like I could be unseated with the smallest bump/adjustment from the horse.  I withdrew from most horse training and just had to stay with my own horse, whom I trust implicitly, and trail rode.  There were some days I couldn't ride, and some days I could only walk around and trot a little.  I couldn't handle hills or speed well for a while due to the increased balance necessary in the saddle. Honestly, with the life I had been leading (health issues aside) I needed the break anyway.

A few months ago I was hospitalized with food poisoning. It was honestly the worst bout I had ever had with it and required ALOT of IV fluids and my blood pressure was on the floor.  I was extremely reluctant to start taking the antibiotics again and my instinct told me that I had plateaued with Lyme treatment and it was as good as it was going to get, so I stopped them cold turkey.  I have to admit, I didn't feel much of a change short of it being liberating that I was no longer taking such a large handful of pills 2x a day.  Right about that time is when I read the article about different manifestations of Celiac Disease and how for some people the antibodies that normally attack the gut instead attack the nervous system and neuro system instead.  This resulted in symptoms similar to what I was still experiencing--joint and muscle pain, balance and neurological issues.  Since I was already fairly low carb/low sugar, this wasn't much of a leap for me to eliminate gluten.  Now, it took some serious education as I had no idea just how many things contain gluten, and especially how many products have MSG in them. But, I had noticed a long time ago that I seemed to have a pretty significant food allergy.  If I ate anything that contained wheat, I immediately began coughing, my eyes would water, I had a ton of phlegm and mucus (sorry to be so graphic) and occasionally I would actually have a full blown asthma attack.   Now, I realize it seems like common sense to just simply stop eating these things, but there's two issues.  1. Your body craves what it's allergic to and 2. You'd be amazed at how many things contain gluten!

The cure:

So, I decided to try a four week trial of strict gluten free.  There were some general slip-ups along the way, but the results are in---that was a significant part of my pain issues.  I can proudly say I now no longer take Mobix.  I no longer take 3200mg of ibuprofen a day.  Many days I take no painkillers at all, and my joint pain and muscle pain are nearly eradicated.  For the first time since I shattered my leg, I've been able to jog again (I was an avid cross country runner).  I take vitamins.  No large handful of drugs anymore.  No days of walking hunched over and barely able to get out of a chair or walk up stairs.  I walked 15 miles for the Relay for Life.  I was able to ride a couple weeks ago for 2 hours while trotting, cantering and galloping up and down hills with NO balance issues at all.  NONE. I can breathe all the way into the bottom of my lungs again and haven't needed an inhaler in months.  I'm starting to slowly lose the extra weight, and I can definitely tell an immediate difference if I eat something that has gluten slipped into it that I didn't know about. I have severe knee and joint pain for days and migraines return. It takes about 48-72 hours to get it out of my system and then I'm doing well again.  It's still a learning process for me.  I'm not at 100% yet but I'm MUCH closer than I have been in years.  I can eat meat, cheese, and veggies.  That's it.  I've learned to cook.  Not just kind of cook, but REALLY cook, and I've learned I have alot less stress when I cook for myself and know exactly what went into the food versus hoping that what I'm about to eat/drink is gluten free.

The irony--I've been a proponent of fixing animal's issues through diet for years, I just never applied the same logic to myself.  Funny isn't it?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Sad goodbyes and new beginnings....

So, it's been over a year---lots of changes!

Looking at my last post, and for you long-distance folks who know my "herd" members in my home, let me recap the comings and goings of the herd in the last year.  There have been quite a few changes.  We've had some very sad losses, but also some wonderful new companions.  Modality changes have been put in place for myself and for the animals that have made a remarkable difference in all of our quality of lives.  So here it goes......

The sad news: the following animals have crossed the rainbow bridge.  Late 2011 and early 2012 was tough.

Iceman, our little white ferret, died at 8 years old of insulinoma.
Sammy the Siamese (one of my 2 housecats) succumbed to 3 different heart problems, but specifically congestive heart failure.  She was 18.

Osiris (one of our barn cats) ended up with FIP
Osiris helping me set up the jump course
Pepper (another one of our barn cats) was attacked by a stray in the backyard and died in my arms.  I can't even begin to explain how upsetting it was.  She was quite old, but she was also very loved and spoiled and knew it.

She loved "teaching" with me and would climb all over the jumps

Pepper hated me for this!  LOL!  But I loved and still miss her.

Doc, my beloved Arabian gelding, who was with me for 17 years and was estimated (if he was ACTUALLY 12 when I bought him in '94--which we know he was probably older) would have been around 29 years old died of a stomach tumor in January of this year.  He spent his last couple years as Tiki's surrogate father, teaching, protecting and raising her.  He and I had a great spiritual journey together that I will never forget.  I watched him blossom from a hard-to-control speed demon runaway horse into one of the most trusted and educated horses I've had the pleasure to work with.  While he spent some of his life with others, being leased onsite by clients, used for lessons, and sometimes just spending months in the field waiting for his next assignment, his last few years with me were quite close.  He became my rock--my go-to horse for any lesson, no matter what level. My go-to horse for every timid, young, or just plain terrified rider.  We worked on people together.  When he was in the ring, we felt connected to one another and I could ask him to navigate the most complicated course by simply moving my arms and stepping in one direction or another. He never took his eye off of me. I could put riders on him and have them close their eyes, then quite literally walk next to him and dance one way or another with him to ask him for laterals, in complete silence and using the smallest gestures and he would swoop along in harmony.  It was like we had an invisible string attached, and he tuned completely in to me while working with beginner riders, checking in with me and asking me what to do next.  A rider could completely "wig out" on his back, screaming, yanking the reins, kicking, or just incredibly mis-signal and accidentally ask for a command he knew they had no business asking for and he would just tune out the static and ride on, listening to me instead.  Yet, if someone confident and experienced got on his back, even half blind in his last years, he would confidently sail over 3 1/2 foot xc jumps (at only 15.2 hands!), canter pirhouette, piaffe, passage, canter half-pass, and tempi with the best of them. Some of my more advanced students would be shocked in their first lesson with him, after bringing in this scruffy, long-haired, long-bearded, sort of swayback-looking "pony" from the field.  Put tack on him, ask for a frame and half-halt and he would LIFT right up underneath the rider, put his tail up in the air and give them an experience they never forgot. Take him out on trail and he'd either walk along like a sleepy hack horse with a timid rider or gallop away with an experienced rider and make you wonder if you were ever going to stop......  And while he was NOT a fan of dressage by a long shot, he was very, very talented in it.  On the rare days I would hop on him myself vs teach with him, he would immediately start handing me all his tricks, just to show off and tell me he missed me.  Once we moved back to our farmette in Churchville, he stayed in our front field since he needed a dry lot for the Cushings he developed later in life.  When getting up for work in the morning, I would open the door and he would nicker "Good Morning!" to me (actually, it was usually "FEED ME DAMMIT!").  Coming home at night, my car door would open to his neigh greeting me.  I still miss hearing him, but Ariana is now in his spot in the front field and faithfully carries on his tradition.

Doc and I at a John Lyons ride in Gettysburg, circa 2002

SO, with that said--now for some new beginnings!  Meet our newest herd members below:

Sassy the Siamese:
Well, probably more like a Himalayan.  We didn't choose her name, believe it or not, to go with our S______the Siamese theme, it just happened that way.  She looks remarkably like Sammy--same sealpoint features and the same round applehead.  She really looks all Siamese, but she's a large sized cat and has some seriously thick fur.  She also has the Siamese voice and we can hear her yowling clear across the field.  She loves following me around the yard and will absolutely greet ANYONE standing around by promptly standing with her back legs on your feet, as if to convince you to stay RIGHT THERE and keep her company.  She's a hoot, and will climb your leg to be petted or jump on you if you're not paying enough attention to her and then promptly starts drooling on your shoulder.
Sassy playing with a lunge whip.  Now if she would only play with the mice......

The IttyBittyKitties AKA Fiji and Pixel:
With the passing of Sassy in Nov 2011, I knew that Sushi, my 18 y.o. housecat Siamese who I've had since he was a kitten, would not do well alone.  He is always curled up with someone, he is just NOT a good "alone kitty".  My sun rises and sets according to Sushi.  He's slept by my side for 18 years now, rolled over with me when I rolled over at night, followed me around, and laid on whatever hurts and healed me.  I wanted to keep him young and happy, so I decided to get him a kitten.  Joe and I were all ready to purchase an 8 week old Siamese kitten and went to Philly to buy him.  When we got there, the breeder was giving away two retired 5 y.o. female breeder cats.  They were the size of kittens themselves--I actually mistook them for grown kittens when we walked in the cattery.  They were less than 6 pounds, lithe, lean, and the tiniest of features.  They were like teacup kitties.  Fiji immediately greeted us and was climbing up our legs to say hi.  Pixel was (and still is) very skittish and hid from us.  We were told we could adopt them instead of buying the kitten, but they had to go as a pair.  Ellen described it best when she said we would be "adopting Fiji and her pet cat Pixel".  Pixel follows Fiji around, rubbing on her, while Fiji turns around and bats at her to make her go away.  Poor Pixel!  But if you so much as glance at Pixel, she runs.  Breathe, she runs.  Cough, she runs.  Get up from a chair, she runs.  You get the picture.  While Sushi did not take kindly to them at first, he now completely loves his two new girlfriends.  And he has taken delicate Pixel under his wing so she has someone to run to when Fiji has had enough of her.  She's slowly warming up, though I think it will take years before she's really comfortable, if ever, out and about in the house.  She loves me and will follow me around, come when I call, and greets me in the morning and at night by rubbing all over me to say hi.  She lets me pick her up, cradle her and pet her, and even rolls over for belly rubs, but it's still very much on her terms.  If a pin drops while I'm petting her she bolts. She doesn't let anyone else touch her and will hide under the bed at the smallest noise.  She hides downstairs in our bedroom for most of the day or lounges on the cat tree sunning herself, but doesn't normally come upstairs into the main part of the house unless its dinnertime.  Nevertheless, the I love the IttyBittyKitties and their undying cuteness.  Fiji is the happiest, brightest, cutest tiny thing and bounces from activity to activity like a butterfly.  Pixel is the Chief Bug Hunter, and both are Sushi's best friends, which make them priceless to me.
Sushi loves his new girls

The new IttyBittyKitties - Fiji on the left, Pixel on the right
Sushi adores his new girlfriends.  They snuggle together daily
Fiji trying to look innocent while planning her pounce up to the counter

JamieJackie AKA JJ
After Ice died, I felt that Hailey should have a friend.  She seemed so depressed by herself. I also felt that I no longer wanted to be the caretaker of ferrets.  But, when we adopt, we adopt for life.  Even so, I worked with a friend and Oxford Ferret Rescue to bring in a friend for Hailey (enter JJ in our lives) and I was simply going to introduce JJ, make sure her and Hailey got along, and then hand both of them over to Laurie to adopt.  I'd still see them and her son would have ferrets to play with.  Unfortunately, fate did not work out that way.  So, I packed up all my ferret stuff, packed up Hailey and JJ and was driving to Claudia to give them back.  But, sucker that I am, I just couldn't go through with it.  JJ kept kissing me on my cheek and tickling me and my little Crazy Hailey seemed to like her.  She didn't bond with her like she had with Ice, but they like each other well enough. So, halfway there I turned the car around and set the ferret cage back up.  I just couldn't give Hailey back. She's 8 years old and not getting any younger.  It just didn't seem fair to her or Claudia to rehome her at an advanced age, even though she's in good health and still pretty active for an old ferret.  When Claudia introduced me to her, she said her name was either Jackie or Jamie.  Every time I introduced her to someone new, Kim pointed out that I kept changing her name back and forth.  So, we came up with JJ, AKA JamieJackie. I like JJ, it fits :-)

Our newest ferret, JJ
Getting older and wiser......

And in the last category, Sushi is now 18, going on 19.  Since he's not exactly a flight risk anymore and loves his walks in the garden, I let him wander outside supervised on warm days to roll in the mulch, sniff the flowers, and bask in the sunlight.  He LOVES it and each time I take him for a walk in the garden is precious to me, as I know I have limited time with him now.  We had a very bad scare with him in December 2011 where he was about 24 hours from dying.  He started melting weight off and within 48 hours he went from "a little off his food" to vomiting profusely, and a complete skeleton.  He could hardly walk, he could hardly lift his head all weekend long. He couldn't keep anything down and was fading fast. I was at the vet's doorstep at 8am Monday morning, with him limp in my arms.  I thought for sure that was it, he was getting ready to cross the rainbow bridge, though his spirit still felt strong.  But, fate had a different plan.  While his liver values were extremely poor, the rest of his bloodwork was excellent.  Supportive care from the vet's office had stabilized him and he seemed better, but my instinct said he wasn't out of the woods.  They told me they could do a sonagram just to make sure all was well.  I gave them the go-ahead and it revealed that he had a completely blocked gallbladder and was going to die without immediate surgery.  Normally a surgeon would not perform surgery on a cat of his age, but we like to call him the Jack LaLane of Kitties.  He really had no other health issues except this sudden problem.  We weren't treating him for anything else and he's been very very healthy all of his life, short of a bout with asthma for a few years.  Dr Weiren at Chesapeake Surgical Veterinary Services was very positive and performed the life saving surgery on him immediately.  Everyone--nurses, staff and our wonderful vets at Chadwell Animal Hospital were shocked at how strong he is and how well he bounced back from the surgery.  We keep a very close eye on him now and he has a very holistic diet and vitamin regimen that help keep him in tip-top shape.  Even now he can still leap onto my shoulders and can make it to the countertop in a single bound.  He is our Miracle Kitty and I am thankful for every single precious minute I have with him.  EVERY one. 
Sushi going for a walk in the garden
So I'll leave you with Tiki, the inspiration for my blog.  She's growing up into a mature, elegant woman.  Some days she looks like an awkward, big-bellied gangly yearling with legs too short, body too long and croup too high, and sometimes she evens out and just looks like a little horse.  She's only 14.2 right now at about 26 months old, and I don't expect she'll get much height on her due to being the first foal from a maiden mare.  Her face is getting longer and more refined, and she looks more and more like her sire, Eddie (Masetto) every day.  I know eventually she'll bone out, fill out, and look very friesian, but for now I really enjoy her very, very andalusian look.  She's gotten extremely playful and very attached to me recently.  During a late summer day a couple months ago when I was scrubbing and cleaning out the water trough I accidentally left the hose running.  It created Lake Tiki in the middle of the field and she went to town!  She was so proud of herself, she just kept rolling and rolling until there were clumps of mud sliming down her back and only her face was still red......

Til next time......stay tuned......

Tiki's gotten a little bigger.....and muddier......

*****NOTE--This was a blog post I had saved in drafts from winter of 2011 (thought I had published it....OOPS!!!!)********

So, since it's been CCCCOOOOOOLLLLLLDDDD and crappy out, Kim and I decided to start playing with the horses with a large beach-ball type ball.

Kim ordered the ball and we waited with baited breath for the package to arrive. The tiny box was shipped to us, and Joe with his trusty air compressor, helped us fill up the rubber ball and get the nylon sleeve on it so we could go out and play. This, my friends, is where the trouble begins. Blame it on wine, the cold, brain freeze, or whatever your heart desires, but Kim and I just weren't thinking during the ball deployment process.

First, we (3 of us, two of us being engineers--Kim's supposed to be the common sense for the two of us as we all know engineers have the common sense of an amoeba) all make the mistake of blowing up the ball to its fullest width INSIDE the house. We merrily bounce the ball to the front door to go out and show the horses--it bounces a couple gleeful times across the room and then promptly gets stuck in the doorjam. All three of us stare at the glorious, now obese-looking ball as it is mashed into the door and not moving. The sides of the ball look like a muffin-top sticking out of the wooden door frame. I'm stuck on the porch in the cold, Kim and Joe are stuck inside the nice warm house, heating the neighborhood with the door lodged open. We decide to remove the plug on the ball and let some air out, then snake the air compressor hose out the door and re-inflate. Of course, we're laughing the entire time at the fact that NONE of us thought about how we would get the ball outside.

At that point, we should have quit while we're ahead. Instead, we forge forward, determined to go introduce The Big Scary Ball to the horses. Now, let me insert a note in here--I'm a trainer. I have trained horses in the past to "play ball". I know how to introduce horses to the ball, as it can be quite scary, spooky, and intimidating at first to a horse. It bounces, it's colorful, and it's BIG. But what we didn't think about was what if said Big Scary Ball decided to CHASE a horse? Not possible? Read on.....

I have no idea what possessed us to simply toss the ball over the fence on the way down the driveway. We had the full intention of putting the ball over the fence, then walking to the front gate, going into the pasture, grabbing the ball and starting to work with the horses. The footing was slushy, as the ground had dealt with inches of snow and rain over and over for weeks. In retrospect, I think we fully expected the ball to just splat in the slush and stay until we walked into the pasture and retrieved it on the other side. Instead, we watched, horrified, as the ball bounced into the pasture and was caught by a gust of wind, taking the Big Scary Runaway Great Ball of Hellfire straight at Doc, Tiki, and Ariana who had been peacefully munching at the round bale. All three had watched with casual interest as Kim and I walked to the fenceline with a big colorful monstrosity. Their interest turned to terror as it was suddenly bearing down on them at high speed.

There was nothing Kim or I could do but watch the event unfold in slow motion. Doc and Tiki peeled off to the left around the round bale holder and headed for high ground by the road. Ariana peeled off to the right, went to the corner of the paddock, glanced once at the oncoming Ball of Death and sprung STRAIGHT UP vertically into the air with all 4 legs tucked to her belly and, 4 feet off the ground, and floated above the fenceline to the other side. It was like she was a great white hovercraft. We stood there in SHOCK. I have no idea how she managed to land on the other side with what looked like no forward momentum.  Just up, float, and down, with some invisible winch pulling her slightly over the fence whilst in midair.  She landed on the other side, planted all 4 feet, tail straight up in the air and tossed over her back, neck pined up, head on a swivel.  Her eyes were big as plates and her nostrils flared, showing the delicate pink on the insides easily.  It was a beautiful sight of raw power and fast-paced instinctual reactions that even our most domesticated horses are programmed with.  Until she realized there was an open gate.......

Like in a cartoon, she spies the gate and Kim and I spy the gate at the same moment and race to the same location.  We had been in the middle of hanging a new driveway gate up for moments just like these--just in case a horse ever got loose in the barnyard, we would still have them fenced in from any danger by keeping our driveway gated shut.  We hadn't installed the hinges yet, so it was just leaning up against the fence, leaving the driveway wide open. We all spring into action at the same time.  I yell to Kim "THE GATE!" and she manages to lift, swing, and prop the gate all the way shut JUST as Ariana's chest is reaching the gate.  After grabbing a halter, lead, and some bribery materials, we catch her with little fanfare. Doc and Tiki look on with interest.  They seemed to be commiserating on how they missed a golden opportunity to make an equally grand exit, but it no longer seemed worth the effort. Kim held Ariana outside the field as I grabbed the offending Flaming Ball Of Death from the bottom of the field and pushed it outside the field gate.

On a whim, we put Ariana back in the field with Doc and Tiki, hoping that she would learn from example that the Ball Of Death was actually not the flame-snorting monster she imagined once she saw Doc and Tiki partaking in more bribery to even come within a 50 foot radius of it.  Alas, she would have none of it and actually spent her time trying to convince Tiki and Doc that the ball did indeed contain zombies and if they touched it, the ball would bite them and turn them into zombies too.  Her propaganda campaign was being too effective, so we exiled her to her stall to convince Doc and Tiki that she spoke all lies......

Doc, Ariana and Tiki look at the ball outside the field with deep suspicion
Kim stops to take a candid photo of Doc
Bribery does wonders
I give Tiki a hug to console her

A more proper introduction to the Flaming Ball Of Death
NOW we're getting the hang of it! Tiki begins to push the ball

Eventually, after a bag of carrots and watching Kim and I desperately pretend that the snow was sand and this was indeed a lovely, fun beachball in the field, Doc and Tiki were convinced to come closer and inspect the ball.  As Kim and I batted the ball back and forth to one another, laughing and encouraging them to come closer, they stood about 30 feet off like they were father and daughter on the sidelines of a tennis match, heads moving back and forth with each turn of the ball.  We also learned that ice covering the snow + wind was not our best friend when it came to controlling the predictability of where the ball rolled to.  I think we spent more time amusing them and sloshing our way down the field, playing fetch with ourselves than anything else.  But, by the end they were approaching the ball, putting their noses on it and starting to push it around.  Mission Accomplished. And we learned Ariana's closest cousin is apparently a Harrier Jet.

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