Weekly Photo Challenge: Nostalgia

ImageOn the right is me looking very young at age 24.  The cute one on the left is my first born son Justin.   He is still cute and will be 32 years old next month.  Do I look in love or proud?  Or both?  I am still proud of my son Justin and in love….well you know what I mean.Image

Fast forward about 20 years.  Here we are again.  Still very much in love….well you know what I mean.ImageFast forward another 10 years.  A very proud mom and we are still very much in love……well you know what I mean.

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.

Sundog to San Diego


This is ALWAYS how I start a trip when I need to get on the big bird in the sky.  While I wait to board the big bird, a gin martini is in order.  Explicitly,  straight up with Sapphire, dirty please.  Oh…and I did eat a healthy salad too.  I needed something to celebrate and calm me down a bit since I was on the way to see my baby.


The flight went with out a hitch.


Before I knew it I was celebrating again Mexican style.


Best of all I was celebrating with one of my favorite people in the world.   My baby girl who has grown into a woman.  It is hard for me to call my baby, or my daughter, a woman.  But she is a woman now who I am very proud of.  Sorry about the blur in this photo but Andrea has a habit of evading the camera.  I had to quickly snatch my camera out of my purse and snap a shot of her smiling face. I told her she better start liking the camera for two big reasons.  #1 Her mom is a photographer and blogger. AND # 2 She is WAY too pretty not to be noticed.

I also told Andrea besides all the shopping, eating and laying around we usually do when I come to visit we needed to get out and be active too.  So we got out daily to hike to high places.


I see Mexico.


Meet Benzi, the Blue Nosed Pit Bull.  The love of Andrea’s life….or one of the love’s I should say.  Andrea was raised from a young girl with Labs and Golden Retrievers. She is the reason we have Golden Retrievers at Sundog.  She begged for our first one over 16 years ago (rest in peace Kelsey) and the rest is history.  Nonetheless Andrea being the maverick she is bucked this family trend and adopted a puppy pit bull irregardless of their reputation.  If anyone should raise a pit bull it should be Andrea or someone like her.  Benzi, believe it or not,  is a sweetheart.  She is my daughters friend and protector when walking down those sometimes rough city streets.  I think this photo above sums up their relationship.


We took Benzi on a few of our runs and outings.  This outing I feel sorry to say kinda kicked Benzi’s butt.  The hike was longer, tougher and hotter than we thought.  Tough on her tender city paws.  Andrea unbelievably flew up the mountain with a smile from ear to ear.  Becoming a woman has changed her attitude.   She faces MOST obstacles with determination.


Once we reached the top of the mountain a long rest in the cool breeze was in order.  Can you tell who loves who?


We could see all the way to Mexico again


Even though the way back was all down hill Benzi was pooped to say the least.  We stopped every so often to let her rest in the shade.  NO SHE IS NOT DEAD IN THIS PHOTO.


This is how dedicated Andrea is to Benzi.  She lifted all 55 lbs of Benzi to give her a break going down the trail.  That dog does not know how good she has it.


By this time I was REALLY worried.  I will never head out on a hike again without water.  I’m  not used to the arid Southern California climate.  And Benzi is more used to lounging than hiking


FINALLY we make it to the trail head and water faucet!!


Benzi was very happy to be back in the car for the drive home.


Besides the view at the top of the mountain we saw lots of beautiful desert like fauna.


You don’t see many tree’s like this in Northern California.  This was some kind of pink trumpet tree.  Does any one know what it is called?  I doubt it would grow at Sundog.


To be nice to Benzi we took her to the beach on our last outing.  It was cool, breezy and soft on tender paws….and feet.


Loving arms and lots of licks.


Alex is Andrea’s other love.  Between Benzi and Alex,  Andrea’s got all her bases covered.


I had a great trip but hated to leave my baby, my daughter….that woman.



She’s getting better at smiling for the camera don’t you think?

Adios Amigo’s.  Signing off until back at Sundog.

Meet the Family: Part 3

The Sundogs

Image                                From left Sasha, Maisie, Yolo, Lassen, Nevada

In my first two posts you met Sasha our youngest and her mother Maisie.  In this post I’ll introduce you our three other Sundogs starting with Yolo.  Yolo for some reason ALWAYS ends up in the middle of the group,  and I don’t plan it that way it just happens.

Yolo is short for YOLO BOLY ROLY POLY HOLY MOLY   hard to spell but you get what I mean right?Image     Here he is looking very regal with his signature color GOLD surrounding him.  Yolo is 8 years old and known as our “special needs child”  He has a intense desire to be a lap dog even though he weights upward of 80lbs.

Next we have Lassen, otherwise know as Mr. Lassen.  Lassen and Yolo are brothers and have lived their whole lives up here at Sundog Ranch.  They are BIG TIME BUDDIES!

Here is Mr. Lassen relaxing in the arena this morning while I do my chores. Boy does he need some grooming.Image

Image     Here is where Lassen hangs out while we are cooking dinner.  Notice his eyes pointed towards the kitchen making sure no morsels fall to the floor and go uneaten.

Next we have Nevada or Nevi for short.  Nevada is Yolo and Lassen’s sister.  Why you ask did we keep 3 DOGS from our first litter?  That is because we tell all our puppy buyers if you ever have to give the dog up you can bring it back to us.  So believe it or not Nevada came back to us at age 7 since her family hit hard times and could not keep her.  With our 04′ litter all the puppies were named after counties in California and they all still have their puppy names.  Here is Nevada looking very happy and pretty in Tahoe last year.Image

Below Nevada is not looking so pretty.  She had just pulled her head out of one of many dirt holes she likes to play in.Image

Next I have to introduce you to a very important member of Sundog Ranch. He is my SECRET.   For purposes of this blog lets just call him ROCKIN’ ROY.  Why Rockin’ Roy?   Because ROY ROCKS.  Without Rockin’ Roy  Sundog Ranch would not be possible.  Besides he is the nicest guy I know, he is my other half.

To start with Rockin’ Roy is very good to the Sundogs.ImageImageAlmost every night while I have a glass of wine or a cocktail, Rockin’ Roy cooks me dinner EVEN after he works hard all day.Image      Roy is a duck hunter and brings home wild duck for us to feast upon from time to time. Roy is happiest when duck hunting with his buddies at the Napa River…as you can see by the smile!

Image                    And that is not all why ROY ROCKS.  Rockin’ Roy has done many projects (urged on by yours truly)  to make Sundog Ranch what is is.  Just check out some of the cool things he has done here.  To start with Rockin’ Roy installed windows in our whole house ImageImageImageThen he built our very sweet shed row barn, seen here on New Years Day 2011.


Check out these cool vegetable beds Rockin’ Roy just put in last weekend!  And he will grow the vegetables in them this spring!Image                Roy put in ton’s of custom rock around the house starting with……         The pool decking which caused him to loose about ten pounds while he was doing it. Image

This nice rock wall for our Sundogs to pose on.Image                                           This rock surround around the hot tub .Image                                  The entry stairs to our humble abode.Image        The entry way of my dreams, and also the pump house in the background.                      Image      And I can’t even begin to show you a fraction of all the fencing and gates Rockin’ Roy has put up over the years.ImageImageImageImage              One more thing not pictured here.  I have not showed you the “Puppy Palace” that Roy built.   That comes in another post with another secret.

Signing off….hope you enjoyed meeting our family.  Bye bye for nowImage              Yours truly,  Jo Jo,  Johanna or Jo for short, happy in the sun with her Sundogs.

Meet the Family: Part 2

ImageSince I ended my last post with a goat I will start with my most famous goat in this post.
Meet Dublin, a Alpine goat.  This is a goat you don’t know whether to hug or strangle.  He is into everything, the hay room, the tack room, the treat bucket, you name it.  In this photo he has his head stuck in a gate.  I decided to leave him there for a few minutes to see if he would learn his lesson and not stick his head everywhere.  Mean of me huh?  Guess what?  No lesson learned.  Fortunately despite his annoying traits he is very loving too, so he gets to stay on the ranch and not end up in someone’s taco.



ImageNext we have Malachite and Topaz.  They are brother and sister and are a Nubian and Toggenburg cross, hence the airplane ears. The Toggenburg give them that pretty chocolate color.  Their passion is jumping into and eating out of wheelbarrows.Image


Topaz and Dublin working on the ranch earning their keep.

ImageSo that’s it for the goats.  Maybe someday we will have babies but I think these guys have everything under control.

Next we have Hanna.  Hanna is 17.  It is amazing she has survived this long living among five dogs who regularly chased her up and down the staircase for the first 8 years of her life.   Present day her survival skills are still intact.  Poor thing still has to contend with the five dogs.    After moving to the country Hanna decided to become a indoor kitty.  Smart girl.


For years her house was in the master bedroom exclusively. Here she is looking out the window.


Occasionally she would venture out to the living room to try out a new spot.




This is her present day spot.  Near the fireplace graced behind with photography by your truly.

And last but not least I’ll save my BIGGEST animal for last.  Meet GQ.  His fancy name is RDL’s Prince Elite.  He is a grandson of the famous Appaloosa stud Prince Plaudit.  GQ is 18 and has been in the family since he was 4.  He used to be a Western Pleasure show horse but now he has the pleasure of living a placid life on our ridge and going on weekly trail rides.ImageLet me tell you this horse has given me a run for my money.  I have “come off” this horse in more ways that I care to admit.  But it is all good now.  You see despite the fact I could of been hurt I felt sick to my stomach when I thought about divorce so I decided to learn Natural Horsemanship.  Long story short with a lot of patience and work we are now big time partners and I would never dream of giving him up. I’m a much better horsewoman too.Image

Fall or winter this is the guy for me.

Believe it or not I still need a “Part 3” to finish introducing you to the whole Sundog Ranch clan.
I have the rest of the Sundogs to entertain you and a secret.  Stay tuned for Part 3 of “Meet the Family”.


Meet the Family: Part 1

   In the last two posts you met my two youngest Golden’s Maisie and Sasha, on our vacation in Tahoe.  Now we are back at the ranch.   In the next three posts if you have not met them already I will introduce you to everybody at Sundog Ranch.

     Meet the newest members of our clan Francis on the left and Rosie on the right.  They are two wild burros (donkeys) adopted from the BLM last October.  Francis is about 10 and Rosie 4.  They were rounded up in the high desert region outside of Susanville, Ca. compliments of our government’s new screwed up policy on wild horse and burros.    Their job will be as guard animals for our goats.  Francis actually belongs to my sister Susie and will guard her sheep at her property later this spring.  It is my job and gift to my sister Susie to gentle Francis along with my Rosie.  They need to accept us humans.  Soon I must put some markers on them to tell them apart…just look at those SHAGGY COATS which are keeping them so warm in this chilly winter weather we are having.Image

As you can see they are not too shy anymore and becoming fond of the camera.  Are there any treats in there?



ImageBig shaggy ears and faces are our trademarks.


Next meet my crazy horse Chiron.  He is one of the funniest characters in our clan.  He is a 6 year old quarter horse and loves to play.  Here you see him on his daily morning routine of running around like a manic which always includes coming up to say hi to me, flapping his nose around and sticking it in the camera just like the donkeys.


In part 2 or 3 maybe I can get my other elusive horse, GQ, to come around.

     Meanwhile meet some of the goats.  Mr. Cinnamon on the left and Cinder.  They are brother and sister Nubian and are pretty much inseparable.  We got them as adults a few years ago to try having goats clear our brush land.  Are they cute together or what?


     And since the land clearing by Cinnamon and Cinder was not quite going fast enough and we loved their company we decided to get a few more mouths to clear.

     Meet Sweet Pea, she was born of a litter of quadruplets last spring and is quite the little Princess.  We just love her to pieces.  She is one of the main reasons for the guard donkeys.  We have mountain lions around here, no kidding.  (No pun intended)


     We also have Sweet Pea’s sister, Sorrel, who just today (I think) learned to drink from the automatic waters.  I am such a proud mom.


Hope you enjoyed this post.  Feel free to post your comments.  Bye Bye for now.

Stay tuned for part 2 of Meet the Family.