Horse Camp: On the Fly

Rancho2013_I love it when my birthday, June 8th,  falls on a Saturday.  On June 8th, about 2 weeks  ago, the scheduled temps in Chico, Ca. were around 108 degrees.  At Sundog, up in the foothills,  the temp might ONLY be 103 degrees (how do I make a degree sign on a computer?)  So I asked Rockin’ Roy…if we could do one of my favorite things.  Camping in the cooler mountains and not just regular camping,  horse camping, even better.   You see,  I have my Appaloosa gelding named “GQ” trained so good right now I can just about let anyone hop on his back for a ride and that means Rockin’ Roy gets to ride him.  Lucky Roy.   I can hop on my newest ride Chiron.  Chiron is pictured above after loading into the big tin can trying to sniff the big black thing in his face and asking “where the you know what are we going now?”Rancho2013_-2I tell Chiron “you are going on a trip with your buddy and staying right next to each other all day and night ”  He does not care about anything else.   Like the fact we are going to a place called Skillman Campground about 2 hours drive from here where it might be 10 degrees cooler. Rancho2013_-3The feeling of driving away with the horse trailer and camping gear is just about as good as it gets.  Only one problem.  No Sundogs are aboard.  The campground we are going to requires dogs on a leash and some of the trails go too close to highways.  Taking a Sundog or two would be way to complicated and even dangerous.  Besides,  it is good for us to have vacations away from each other once in a while.   Just like Rockin’ Roy and me go our separate ways quite often…I mean once in awhile.  AND it is not like the poor Sundogs are deprived.  They are staying home lounging by the pool being spoiled by some lucky Sundog sitters.  IMG_0114

See, here they are. Minus one.Rancho2013_-9“On  the fly”  to me means spontaneous,  not fly fishing.    Non tent living quarters pictured above is part of the “on the fly” theme.  Spontaneous is fun and makes me feel young again but it has some drawbacks since neither Rockin’ Roy and I are all that organized.Rancho2013_-4Like…..I had to immediately wash all the camping supplies due to ample amounts of wood rat droppings in the camping stuff bin.   Of course it was not MY fault because I did not pack the truck.  The person who packs the truck with STUFF is supposed to check the STUFF since this was the first trip of the year….. but I did the dishes anyway.  Doing the dishes when you are camping is like playing house when you were a kid.  Plus the scenery is nice.  I was a bit embarrassed to put up this photo of me doing the dishes but I wanted you to see our “on the fly” set up.  Please don’t laugh at our camping gear, we keep the thrift stores in business.Rancho2013_-5What a nice fire huh?    I built this fire while being left alone for an hour.  Left alone because someone (who me?) forgot to put everything we needed in the cooler.  Like coffee and cream which is a must for waking up on my birthday morning.  And another someone (not me) forgot to bring along the lantern, another must have camping item.   Making a fire with dry wood is a piece of cake.  In fact with this fire who needs a lantern?  GQ and Chiron are into their busy bags.  The best part  about horse camping is sleeping near and looking at your horses all the time.  It’s like we are living together.  I think I will title this photo “Life is Good”.Rancho2013_-10“Life is Good”  came to an end when in the morning I had to clean the stalls.   Lots of horse poop is a fact of life having horses, unless you have a poop picker upper.   Which most of us don’t.  But the duty is not so bad since we are in the cool mountain air and the flies are at bay.Rancho2013_-8While cleaning the stalls the horses had to be tied up to a hitching post.  A wood hitching post is an old fashion invention. Why they make them out of wood I’ll never know.   Standing still while tied is a horses job.  As you can see in this photo Chiron is not exactly doing his job well.  He is starting the annoying habit of pawing at the ground due to boredom I quess.  GQ watches me wondering why Chiron gets all the attention all the while misbehaving.Rancho2013_-26The pawing kept him busy for a while.  I tried not to make much of it.Rancho2013_-23He built up some pretty nice soft soil there around him to stand on.  Maybe that was what is was all about?Rancho2013_-20

GQ decides to go introverted at the hitching post.

Rancho2013_-35It is all he can do to deal with the situation.  Being tied to the hitching post with Chiron is about as bad as it gets.Rancho2013_-16Eyes closed, head down, nose to post.  “Maybe nobody will notice me”.Rancho2013_-17Secret whiskers on alert.Rancho2013_-18Time to wake up goober nose.Rancho2013_-15
Chiron feels he has to help GQ wake up by sniffing around and tickling GQ’s belly.  GQ is enormously tolerant of Chiron in this way.Rancho2013_-7“Mom come and get me now “!Rancho2013_-30Chiron on the other hand has other ideas.Rancho2013_-28As you can see a wood hitching post has its disadvantages.   Notice how nice and straight Chiron’s teeth are?  No I DON’T brush them daily.  Also notice the orange drips on the hitching post?Rancho2013_-29Habanero sauce, which usually works to discourage wood consummation.  Chiron did NOT do all this damage to the hitching post.  The many horses that visited here before did it.  Chiron was just doing his part.Rancho2013_-13After a bit of Habanero sauce Chiron quickly lowered his head under the hitching post as if to say…..”I think I’ll just hang my head low and be a good boy like GQ”Rancho2013_-19“Or maybe not”  As you can see this horse has some pent-up energy.  Lucky me I get to ride him today, my birthday.Rancho2013_-36Speaking of birthdays look what I got!  What more could a cowgirl want?  No not the Corona…..a new tool.   Besides a couple of knives it’s got wire cutters and a bottle opener.  Even though it was only late morning we were camping and it was my birthday so off popped the cap on the Corona Light which is like drinking water almost.  It is good to loosen up a bit before a rideRancho2013_-12Being an experienced trail horse GQ goes back to snoozing while Roy has to check the map one more time.  He knows all about conserving his energy before he has to work.Rancho2013_-22The warm mountain sun is starting to get high meaning we are REALLY late getting started for our ride today.  Do you think GQ cares?Rancho2013_-27Absolutely NOT!Rancho2013_-37But the time comes to ride.  I tack up the horses because Rockin’ Roy is allergic to them. Rancho2013_-38Doesn’t GQ look fabulous in his new headstall?Rancho2013_-40Chiron finally calms down knowing he is going to get to move his feet soon.  Saddlebag not needed today.  Rancho2013_-39Whoa Roy!  Heels down, shorten that inside reign, lower those hands, elbows in.  GQ wonders “who is this on my back and why is my usual human standing on the ground in front of me?”

At this point my trail camera bit the dust and it was time to get on with the ride.  Chiron was calling me to hurry up and get on.  No more blogging time just riding time.  Rockin Roy and I had a glorious ride through the forest.  We even had lunch at a cafe along the trail.   The weather stayed below 95 degree’s I think.  GQ and Chiron were perfect mounts and the rest of the weekend went of without a hitch….ha ha no pun intended.

Adios Amigo’s…until next time.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Curves

A stallion meets a mare.

This is the first photo that came to my mind when I thought of the word CURVES.

Titled   “Synergy”     Original Photo In color

A stunning Saddlebred stallion “Lange’s Cheyenne Gold” owned by Eitan Beth-Halachmy meets a Morgan mare,  defusing his pent-up desire….somewhat.

“Synergy”    Turned into Fine Art


And finally here is yours truly posing with the infamous Eitan Beth-Halachmy, founder of “Cowboy Dressage”  in my fine art booth at the Light Hands Horsemanship Clinic in Santa Ynez, California two weeks ago.  Original photo taken in May 2011 in Grass Valley California.


Mountain Dogs: “The Precious”


This is actually “Part Two” of Mountain Dogs: At It Again   But I had to name this post  “The Precious”.   Because anybody that has a retriever or any dog that likes to retrieve you know what I mean.

When we go to Tahoe the Sundogs become “Mountain Dogs”   Close by the condo cabin we have the Truckee River or “The Lake”  We did not take “The Precious” to the river because it may end up downstream if somebody does not do their job to recover it.  And we don’t want to litter the river beds with “The Precious”

So today we take “The Precious” to the lake._MG_0251But first we started out by having Rockin’ Roy get the dogs focused on “The Precious” on the lawn.   Notice who are the best students.  Lassen the noncompetitive one has other things to investigate._MG_0239Sasha’s focus is unbeatable._MG_0206At two years old she’s in her prime.  Sorry Yolo.

_MG_0318After the warm up it’s time to head down to the pier.  As you can see someone got a little too warmed up and is already cooling off at the shore.   Normally at the condo cabin we have to have the mountain dogs leashed up in the common areas and the pier.  But since it is off season and no one is around the COAST IS CLEAR!_MG_0324We HAVE to make sure we bring plenty of bags (for you know what) and the leashes out on the big long pier.  Because sometimes guests come walking out and want more peace and solitude than the Mountain Dogs are willing to offer. _MG_0340 Human rules don’t apply to the Mountain Dogs._MG_0360Even though Sasha’s in top form these days Yolo will not give up on owning the “The Precious”.    Lassen on the other hand has other things to investigate._MG_0373You see,  Yolo is addicted to “The Precious”.   His addiction gets a little annoying at times and we have to put “The Precious away”.  Right now Roy is trying to teach Yolo a little patience._MG_0368Yolo tries to maintain his cool._MG_0376“Will you PLEASE throw that thing for me!”_MG_0380“Finally he is lifting his arm a little”._MG_0400“I thought it would never happen.   And look….. all five Mountain Dogs are competing with me now.  Darn”_MG_0401Their off!_MG_0389Miss perfect beats Yolo again by two body lengths at least. _MG_0427Watch out for Sasha.  MONSTER MOUTH._MG_0429ESCAPE ROUTE PLEASE!!_MG_0395Amazingly Sasha makes it back to Rocking Roy with “The Precious”.    _MG_0521Did you ever wonder if “The Precious”  ever goes over the edge?  Well it does.  As you can see Yolo still has his eye on “The Precious” but I have to be truthful and admit, it took quite sometime for him to put two and two together and figure out how to get to it._MG_0080 (1)He finally figured to go over to and then down the stairs that lead into the human swimming section which is where “The Precious” fell.   He looked and looked at the water and at me.  “Where is The Precious?”_MG_0507Sasha was looking for “The Precious” too._MG_0546Finally they both were on track and getting near “The Precious”._MG_0550When suddenly Sasha gave up and turned back.  I think she just wanted to give her big brother a chance.  But in reality Yolo is “still the man” He kept his eye on the ball (I mean “The Precious”) and did not give up for anything.  I guess his “Precious” addiction is good thing…….sometimes._MG_0565Sasha not being quite as addicted the “The Precious”  said “I gotta get back to dry land”._MG_0484 While Lassen is off investigating again.  Not giving a hoot about “The Precious”

Until next post.

Adios Amigo’s!

Reflecting on Hanna


I promised last post to write “The Precious” but my mind is wandering thinking about a pet I now miss.   This is a post I have put off for several months even though I’ve  wanted to write about it.  I need to think about and absorb what happened.  How about I lighten this story with Hanna’s humor then touch on the sad, heavy, thought provoking, controversial stuff later.

Okay….. out it comes.  Our one and only little kitty, Hanna, otherwise known as “Hanna Banana” passed on March 11th of this year.  I call her little because she weighed 13 lbs at her heaviest.   Most of our animals are huge in comparison.  Sweet Pea weighing in at maybe 50 lbs by now and GQ weighting around 1200 lbs.

Hanna’s death was not sudden.  In fact I felt like I watched her die for quite sometime.  I did not write about Hanna much since having this blog which has only been for less than 6 months.    I ask myself if she did not impact me enough for me to want to to capture her but frankly she lived a reclusive and sedentary life.  And you can only take so many photo’s of a sleeping cat.   If you’ve seen my equine and canine photography it is about emotion and action.

For most of her life Hanna was a ‘scaredy cat”.  Living life in the farthest away bedroom she could find only venturing out for her required morning and evening feed.  She planned it when the Sundogs were outside playing,  on a walk or snoozing heavily.  Sometimes her timing was off.  She survived several gut-wrenching chases up and down the stairs at our 2 story Moss Beach home and later in life down the slippery cement floors in the hallways at Sundog Ranch.   The Sundogs learned to respect Hanna but there was something about a good chase.  They could not help themselves.  The Sundogs still have intact noses.  Surprisingly Hanna became somewhat social and downright pleasant in the last couple years of her life.  Maybe she instinctively knew in her cat like way that life was not eternal and she’d better take advantage of what life has to offer.   She started allowing the Sundogs to come close without the usual nose swiping.  Instead of the far away bedroom her hangout became a little ledge in the great room by the fireplace where I could watch her sleep while I cooked and watched the news or episodes on the Food Channel.   She in turn kept her senses intact.  She could hear kibble hit the pan, a can opener in action or smelly “Fishy Fiesta”.   Once in awhile she would even hop up on our laps for some affection and NOT draw blood if we scratched her in the wrong spot.

Hanna graced the planet for 17 years and lived life to the fullest every day.  Even if that meant sleeping most of the time.  Image

Hanna slept in every possible position.


In the warm afternoon sun on a early spring day she might hang out on the couch for awhile.  But not were the Sundogs lay.  These photo’s were taken at the end of her life when she decided to come out into the world and enjoy her surroundings.


Speaking of surroundings, Hanna would do silly kitty things even when she was all grown up.  Like bedding down in this box for a few times a day until boredom set in.Image

Then she went back to her usual hangout.  The ledge by the fireplace with the little white cotton blanket which was her last bed.  I would roll the little white blanket up like a doughnut and she would sleep in the middle.  I buried her in that little white cotton blanket.


Now for the part I dread writing about but want to express.  This photo was taken in the last hour of Hanna’s life.  Being a photographer I feel I must capture life in any form at any time.  I even have photo’s of the last week when my first, most precious Golden, Kelsey,  died.  To this day I have never shared “the last day” with Kelsey out of fear that someone would call me sick or gruesome to take them.  Maybe if I get the courage up I can share that day.  I think the photos show a natural phase in life.  For now I’ll just reflect on Hanna.

The ledge you see above Hanna’s back to her right is where her bed with the little, white cotton blanket was.  She had jumped down off of it for the last time and just about collapsed.  She wobbled and could barely stand.  It is hard to witness any animal in this condition especially a cat.  Her demise came on suddenly and I panicked a bit.   I had a vet coming at the end of her work day for possible euthanasia if Hanna did not pass soon or appeared in too much distress or pain.

For the last 6 months Hanna was in renal or kidney failure.  Not unusual for a senior cat.   Rockin’ Roy stayed out of my decision to let Hanna live or die.  I let her live and I also let her go through it, death.   For two years I did not let her go through it, death.   I took her to the vet and did all the things you do for a pet to care for and prolong it’s life.  Antibiotics, subcutaneous fluids, labs, etc.  But towards the end Hanna was done with the needles and cramming pills and I was too.  I decided to let Hanna sail her own course from then on.  We dealt with the frequent LOUD, DEMANDING feedings and picky appetite.  She got breakfast, second breakfast, lunch and second lunch, dinner was not so important.  Oh…and it HAD to be canned Friskies “shreds”.  We tried the wholesome natural feeds but Hanna only wanted canned Friskies “shreds, whatever flavor just NOT “pate” style.  Fresh chicken or salmon worked too when ever she got lucky.  Oh and let’s not forget the elephant in the room, the only thing I felt gave her discomfort.  Frequent urination with bleeding and incontinence.  Oh what a joy to deal with.  Luckily for us we don’t have carpets or euthanasia might have come quickly.

Despite the frequent urination Hanna was pretty happy up until a few days before she passed.  She would sit up quietly, on her ledge, licking her paws after her yummy Friskies meal.  Then she would settle down, curl up and slumber in her little white blanket bed near the kitchen.  By now Hanna was unaware of the Sundogs.  Warmth, food and a soft bed were all she cared about.  And the Sundogs seemed to be aware of her need for solitude.   Most people would likely take her in for euthanasia at this point which I feel is brave and courageous but I made the decision not to.   I don’t think it was me being selfish and wanting to keep her around.  I just felt she had lived a good life all these years on her own terms and was still living a fairly good life in her own terms so why not let her live out her life until the end.  I tried to keep her healthy and alive but it was not working anymore.  It was time to let nature take her course as awkward as that may seem these days.   Boy that sounds weird.  As a ICU and oncology pediatric nurse I have witnessed  pain, suffering and death beyond imagining.   In the human world euthanasia is not an option, especially with children.   But we can put our animals down.  Regardless of the human euthanasia issue I think it is a good thing most humans are compassionate enough about animals to end their suffering.  People don’t want to experience that very end of life that can be peaceful but sometimes very unsettling and unpleasant.  I felt I could help Hanna pass through death.


This photo is of Hanna’s last stare.  She could not focus on me at this point and seemed to be judging where she was on the planet earth.   A few seconds after this she went off to somewhere I don’t know.  There was nobody home.  She was in limbo, dying and passing to the spirit world but still trying to move in her inhabited earthly body.  It was then I had to put the camera down.  For a few minutes which seemed like an eternity I witnessed agonizing cat cries and gasps until her final breath.  I’m not going to lie and say she died in peace. For a few seconds all I could do was cradle her head and body in my hands to soften the blows of her flailing body against the concrete floor.  There was a body and that was all.  Her spirit had left a few minutes before while she cried.  After her last gasp of air immediately there was peace.   I collapsed by her side and sobbed for her suffering but soon was crying with joy for her final peace.  We wrapped Hanna in the little white blanket and buried her on the ridge edge under a blooming Redbud bush.  She is far enough away from her former Sundog rivals Kelsey and Madison.

This is not a anti-euthanasia story.   I have HAD to euthanize three beloved pets in the last three years because it was the right thing to do.  Did I do it too late? Did I do it too early?  Did I do it in the right way?   I hold those questions in my heart and mind for the longest time after one of my pets dies but luckily time heals and the hurt finally goes away.   Death no matter which way it comes is not easy to go through.  And we always keep missing them, but such is life. C’est la vie.


Here is how I prefer to remember Hanna.  This photo was taken about 6 months before Hanna’s death.  By this time her arthritis was settling in but as you can see even without the little white blanket she naps peacefully protected by “Knight Invader” a big beautiful black stallion.  What more could a kitty ask for?  RIP Miss Hanna Banana.

Meow’s in heaven.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Fleeting

My Marine0

“My Marine”  Photo taken July 2006 in the Boston Harbor.  This is my son Justin on a family vacation with us 4 years into a 5 year commitment with the Marines.  By this time he had been deployed to Iraq twice so we were sure happy to be enjoying his company.  Justin was in the air wing of the Marines.  He was in squadron VMA 311, the “Tomcats”  he was honorably discharged in 2007.

Mountain Dogs: At it Again


I, we and they are at it again.  “I” meaning I’m finally back to this blog.   “We” meaning Rockin Roy and I took the Sundogs to one of their favorite places in the world.    And “they” meaning the Sundogs doing what they do best.  Strutting their stuff at Tahoe in the Truckee River.  This year Sasha is a whole year older and becoming quite the competition for the Yolo the “king”  of our retrievers.  As you can see above Sasha has the upper hand with the BIG stick.  Yolo clings to about one inch of it.   I don’t know who found the BIG stick but they really scored.  They found a LONG stick too since the BIG stick is a bit heavy to retrieve every time.


Here is the LONG stick.   Can you see the way Sasha grabbed the end next to Yolo?  That is her strategy for knocking him off the stick so she can get back to shore solely with the stick in her possession.


It is time to throw the BIG stick again.  Dropping the BIG stick at one’s feet is how it’s done.


Grabbing the BIG stick without getting your hand stepped on or mauled is a good thing too._MG_0198Keeping your eye on the stick while it is being thrown is a good thing if you want to get to it first.


This time Yolo gets a better grip but Maisie is out of the running completely.


“Today is just not my day” says Maise.


Yolo and Sasha make it back to shore AGAIN after I don’t know how may retrieves.  “We have to live up to our name mom”.


Meanwhile Mr. Lassen our noncompetitive Sundog strolls on the beach.


And rolls in the course mountain grass scratching his back.  Who needs to fight for the stick?


Nevada wants to fight for the BIG stick just once at least.


But Sasha and Yolo joined at the shoulders are not letting anyone else in on their rivalry.


Guess who eventually wins out?  Hopefully Sasha retains all her teeth after proudly prancing around on the beach with the BIG stick.


And since 20 retrieves is not enough they have to go for one more plunge.


“Boy that one really got me wet all over.  Getting the water out of ones ears is important”.


Last return after at least 21 throws.  It’s time to dry off don’t you think?


Sasha says no way.  I am in perfect form and peak performance.


I’ll just take this BIG stick into the river on my own.


After a few tries on her own Sasha agrees to do her dry off dance on the beach.


Soon we vanish into the forest and let the warm mountain sun dry wet paws and pants.


The dreaded leashing up for the walk home._MG_0313

“We get to be leashless while we dry off some more in the sun”.  The truck is another favorite place of the Sundogs because it takes them to their favorite places.


Time to close the tailgate for the trip home.  Yolo contemplates how far to the ground just in case the need for escape.


Once home the couch rules.  Rockin Roy is exhausted from throwing the BIG stick and and Maisie contemplates how to get back her groove as the top retriever.  “Boy swimming against the river current really wears me out these days”.


“Life is good though.  I can’t complain”.

Adios Amigo’s…stay tuned for the   “The Precious” .