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......

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