Archive for April, 2010

One Dog At A Time

Dr. Jane talking to the teenagers at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter.

I had the great honor and good fortune this morning to sit in on a session with one of the world’s most revered and respected scientists, Dr. Jane Goodall.

Probably best known for her early work with Chimpanzees, Goodall now travels throughout the world speaking and inspiring individuals to take informed and passionate action to improve the environment on earth for all living things. She is a UN Messenger of Peace and the founder of the  global nonprofit organization, The Jane Goodall Institute.

One of Goodall’s main areas of focus is youth, and she meets with young members of her Roots & Shoots program all over the world, gently teaching them by example how to be ambassadors for the change they want to see in their lifetime.

That is what she was doing today — meeting with the Youth Board of the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, an outreach group of about 10 teenagers that got started four years ago in connection with Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program. The kids spoke of their love for animals and their reasons for joining the Board, but also expressed their overwhelm about the magnitude of need for reform, education, and animal rescue.

Jane began quietly reinforcing each child’s experiences by telling them over and over things like, “You just never know how your story or what you say to just one person might make a difference. Don’t give up.” Then, in her modest and rather hypnotic style, she proceeded to tell them a few stories of her own to make her point. Like the one-dog-at-a-time story, which goes something like this.

An acquaintance of hers was stationed in Bombay, India, but after some time felt she had to request a transfer because of the horrid conditions and abundance of dogs on the street in that city. When she went to her senior advisor to request the transfer, he made one request. He asked her to go back and see if she could help just one dog before making her decision.

So she did. She took one dog in off the street, got it cleaned up, healthy and spayed and then found it a good home. Then she took another dog and did the same. A friend decided she could do that too, so she took in a dog. A friend of the friend followed suit and soon there was a very active group saving these street dogs in Bombay. The final outcome? They organized and built a no-kill shelter and basically transformed at least one area of the city’s dogs’ plight.

These ladies didn’t let the fact that they couldn’t save all the street dogs in all the cities in India stop them. They just started . . . one dog at a time.

There were many other stories, and the kids themselves realized they had a few of their own to share, and that maybe, just maybe, their experiences and interludes would have farther reaching effects than they would ever know about.

Before the meeting was over and Jane went on to her media interviews, one of the girls asked Jane if she had a favorite animal.

Jane unhesitatingly said, “Yes, the dog. Everyone always thinks my favorite animal would be a chimpanzee, but chimpanzees are far too much like humans to be my favorite!”

Jane is a legend in her own time and certainly inspired me today. Her work on behalf of our planet is immeasurable, and I felt I should at least help by spreading her message on my tiny blog.

So whether your cause is the near-extinct Booby Bluebill, the rainforest, or your kids’ diet, don’t give up! Just keep doing the work:



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Will Winter Never End?

I shouldn’t say that, really. I mean, things ARE finally starting to green up around here. And although the irises won’t bloom for at least another month, they are well worth waiting for.

And the seeds I planted in my vegetable garden (only those that specify planting PRE-last-frost, mind you) are finally poking their little heads up.

But after, oh, maybe only a week of lovely spring-like temperatures during the day, here came another winter blast last evening! April 22nd. Earth Day.

I guess Mother Earth has her own opinions about when to start and end her seasons, huh?

  1. The first 'heads up' from the garden.

    One of last year's irises - they knocked my socks off!!!

My horses and dogs love the cold and the snow. So do I. But I have to admit I’m beginning to wonder when we’ll see the end of it. It didn’t snow here in the desert last night, but it did up on the mountain behind us where my friend Clare lives. She sadly reported this morning that the flowers she  jumped the gun on and planted are probably goners today. And my dear neighbor, Annie down the road, who has lived out here since the mid-’70’s says this is the longest, coldest winter she remembers.

My second winter here. Just my luck.

Oh well. I am not complaining.

Yes, I am longing to get the scrawny little tomato seedlings in the ground that have been struggling along for the last month or so in my dining room window.

Pretty pitiful, huh?

And no, I am trying not to think about the fact that those seedlings would almost be producing tomatoes by now if I were back in Texas.

Because what I love most and remember best is that our hot summer days here in Northern New Mexico blend into fresh, cool nights where I always keep the windows open and need a blanket.

And here I do not need an air conditioner because my adobe mud house stays cool all day long.

I remember that the air here is dry and clear, and the sky a startling blue unlike any other sky anywhere.

I anticipate with great delight the monsoon season which arrives mid-summer bringing afternoon and evening drama and rain that washes the painted desert and mountains vividly clean and clear

I savor the climate and relish all it brings, whether it is an eight-inch snow in mid-April like last year, or a cold blast like last night, and know that this too shall pass soon enough.

I love living here in this land of enchantment. I love my new friends and the local color, and I feel like I’ve belonged here forever.

So as winter blows her last gasp, I sit here with maybe what will be the last fire of the season and give thanks for having found such a blessed spot for myself and my human and animal family.

And to any of my old friends who may be reading this and want to escape the hot, humid mid-summer heat in Texas – – – – do yourself and me a favor and COME ON OUT! We’ll be enjoying cool nights and eating out of our garden allllll    summmmmer    looooong!

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What Makes a Successful Blog? Your Voice!

What makes a successful blog? YOUR VOICE. But no, you don’t have to sing like this little character here.

And why am I, an animal communicator, blogging about blogging? Well . . . since my blog is about  ‘a day in the life of an animal communicator,’ and blogging is a common component of how I spend my days,  pulleeze, indulge me here.

I’ve been reading a lot of blogs lately. One, because I’m an avid reader. Two, because I enjoy the different voices that are out there and the different types of information they convey. Plus, of course, I have been posting my own blog for over a year now so am curious about what others are doing.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about what makes one blog attractive and another not so much. What makes a successful blog? What makes ME want to come back to a blog or shun it forever?

The answer, at least for me, is simple: the blogger’s voice.

You can ping and post and use the most perfect keywords in the world, but if you don’t have a unique voice people just aren’t going to want to read what you have to say because they won’t be able to identify with you.

What makes a “unique voice?” YOU BEING YOU. It’s that simple.

In other words, you being true to yourself in everything you write. People can tell if you are being authentic or not. They can read between the lines. Writing about something you know well – sharing your expertise – is all well and good. But if you’re not writing from the heart and from the gut, the real you is not going to shine through.

Let people see who you really are. After all, your blogs are not chapters in a textbook.

If you’re blogging, do it right. Put yourself out there and use your real voice. Just like you would if you were talking to your best friend.

The first blog I got hooked on was the Julie/Julia blog, written by Julie Powell. This is the blog that got made into a book and then into a movie starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams. The blog was phenomenally successful, which is why the book publisher took notice. Granted, I started following the blog because Julie happens to be a close friend of my daughter’s from their earliest childhood. But one or two reads and I was addicted. Not only because the main subject matter was to my liking (cooking), but because Julie’s voice was so real and unique and irreverent that I had to keep coming back for more. Had Julie not had a unique voice, her blog-then-book-then-movie-then-subsequent-book would not have become a reality.

Here are a few other examples of blogs I read and why I think they’re successful:

  • A horse lover compares horse behavior and activities with life in general. She’s had lots of hard knocks, including losing her husband to cancer, but her spirit and gumption are dauntless and her use of horses as a metaphor for life events is humorous and engaging.  Her blog is sloppy – she never edits – but her voice is honest and clear and totally unique, and I always take away a beautiful life lesson/reminder. This blog is successful because it is inspirational.
  • A life coach spews forth editorial and philosophical content and comment regarding current events as well as her daily experiences. Her writing style – her voice — has amazing flare and great depth and is totally authentic and unique. What better way for prospective coaching clients to get a feel for her in order to decide whether they’d like to work with her or not. This blog is a great business tool because it provides honest insight into this individual and what she might therefore be like as a personal coach.
  • A veterinarian describes case histories and shares lots of useful information about holistic health care, mixed in with frequent descriptions of every day life on her farm. The voice here is down-home and to the point. The material is fascinating as well as helpful, so this is a very successful blog.
  • A young woman who specializes in network marketing blogs about growing one’s MLM business online — an as yet unplumbed approach. Since I have had an MLM business for the last 20 years, I am interested in how the development of the internet impacts this business and how I can make the best use of it as a new tool. This blog is packed with hard-core and helpful information, and the voice, believable and business-like, also often contains a tongue-in-cheek humorous side note. Instructive and informational, this blog is another winner.

As you can see, I read blogs that are all over the map content-wise. But, seeing as how there are literally millions of them floating around in the ethers nowadays, I wouldn’t come back to any of them unless the blogger’s voice was real and unique enough to make me feel like I know the writer personally.

So blog away. Just play like you’re talking to your best friend. And once you get good at it start throwing in a few pings and keywords in all the right places too.

Happy blogging!

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Horse Sarcoid Treatment: Excuse Me, Did You Say TOOTHPASTE?!

Guinea Pig Lopeh, when she first came to me 6 months ago.

I’m going to be a guinea pig. Or rather, Lopeh, my little Quarter Horse mare, is going to be a guinea pig.

Lopeh has what I am pretty sure is a sarcoid on her jaw and I’m going to experiment with a remedy I heard about years ago that someone said absolutely positively cured sarcoids. Crest Toothpaste, applied externally, right on the sarcoid.

Yeah, I know. Sounds pretty weird. But I’m into home remedies, and this one is obviously quite harmless, so I’m game to try it.

I’ve never had a horse with sarcoids before so I’ve been researching them a bit online. Here’s a bit of what I found, but I make no claims that this is all accurate information.

One Type of Sarcoid

  • Equine sarcoids are slow growing, locally invasive masses.
  • A virus similar to the papilloma virus in cattle is suspected as the cause, but this is not definitive.
  • Sarcoids CAN run in equine families, so there may be a genetic predisposition involved.
  • Sarcoids usually occur in younger horses (7 or younger).
  • Sarcoids often occur in areas that have been injured or irritated.
  • Sarcoids are often linked to a weakened immune system.
  • Definitive diagnosis must be done by analyzing the sarcoid tissue under a microscope.
  • There are several types of sarcoids, identified according to gross and microscopic appearance. Some sarcoids may look like warts; these solid roundish lumps are called the verrucous type and are distinguished from the fibroblastic type and the flat type. The fibroblastic type looks like proud flesh (granulation tissue) and frequently the tumor mass will have an ulcer on top of it. The flat-type sarcoids are ring-shaped, are not significantly raised, and tend to be scaly and crusty. A combination or transition type exists composed of the verrucous and fibroblastic types.
  • Treatment of sarcoids varies widely and includes surgical excision, cryotherapy, laser excision, immunotherapy, chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Crest Toothpaste is not mentioned, but hey, why not try it since no one method thus far employed has been consistently more successful in treating equine sarcoids than the others.

I think it’s high time someone did try this Crest home remedy thing, and I am more than happy to offer up Lopeh as the test case. Her sarcoid — or what I think is a sarcoid — is in a spot where a halter or bridle certainly could have rubbed or irritated her jaw, so its location alone makes it highly suspect.

Lopeh and Her Sarcoid

Also, Lopeh came to me after 3 or 4 years of living virtually wild in a breeding herd on a large ranch where she birthed at least 3 foals during that time. She was extremely stressed out and fearful emotionally, had two babies by her side and had been nursing constantly for those years,  so I know her immune system was terribly weakened.

In the six months I’ve had her, Lopeh has mellowed out dramatically. I have also been working hard on strengthening her immune system by feeding her lots of Super Blue Green Algae, focusing on probiotics and anti-oxidants.

But now I think it is time to add one more ingredient to her health regimen. Crest Toothpaste, extermally, for her sarcoid.

I will start in the next day or two (as soon as I can go buy some) and will report back in a few weeks or months.

NOTE:   It is now January 1st, 2012, and I have had so much interest in this topic that I have set it up on my Facebook fan page so folks can more easily chat back and forth about what they’re using and what’s working there. If you would like to do that, ust go HERE to check it out! And thanks, everybody, for your posts and your ideas!


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The Mustang Mystique

What is it about the wild Mustang that captivates and holds the attention? People of all ages and backgrounds love this American icon, and increasing numbers are fighting for its survival.

The horse throughout time has represented power and freedom, a connection with both the higher realms and the earth itself. If you want to feel grounded, just sit on a horse. If you want to transcend to higher levels, just touch and spend time with one, on his back or not.

Combine these mystical qualities with the traits of a truly wild animal and the results are, in the true sense of the word, AWESOME.

When you first meet a Mustang you will know what I mean.

Even after being tamed and trained, there is something about a Mustang that is different. A trainer I know who works with them a lot says:  “I love working with them because each one is just a blank slate.” I think what he means here is that he is working with what nature has crafted, not what man has bred or shaped through behavior modification.

Another friend who has adopted several Mustangs over the years pinpoints some of their unique qualities. She says:

Mustangs are like the mules of the horse world. They give new meaning to words like:

  • stubborn
  • opinionated
  • survivor
  • tough
  • heart

If a Mustang has an opinion about something (and most Mustangs have opinions about everything under the sun) you will know, and quickly!

A case in point. My Mustang mare, Bella, whom many of you have met through this blog, has never cottoned to the training exercise of lunging — with anyone, be they owner, friend, or trainer. Everyone who has tried (and believe me, many have) has simply given up. One seasoned horse woman who thought she could set Bella straight and make her lunge was put in her place by Bella’s turning toward her and facing her off, even after the woman continually whipped her on her haunches. Bella simply stared her down, face-to-face, and wouldn’t move, and the woman was totally intimidated and handed the rope and whip back to the owner. Now you have to know Bella to realize how strong is her energy, because she’s huge and very black, but the sheer presence she presented to the woman is what is typical of the Mustang.

Horses of domesticated breeds can also certainly be very stubborn and opinionated — just ask any horse owner. But a domesticated horse’s stubbornness is usually a product of his breed or upbringing. The Mustang’s is not. The Mustang does nothing just to curry your favor. He has not been raised around humans and their ways so could care less about your approval or rewards. He is wild at heart and really has nothing to lose if he doesn’t please you. But he will, finally, please you if he wants to please you and decides you are worth it.

What more can I say? The Mustang is the absolute paragon of strength and freedom, the very essence of what we revere in the American culture. These beautiful animals deserve our respect and our support, and I hope you will take steps to aid in their survival. They are truly in danger and are — I can say from first hand experience — truly worth saving. They are part of America’s heritage and preserving them is, I feel, preserving the best in each of us.

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Pleasure Seeking – What It Really Means

By now we’ve all heard the rather New Age’y platitude: 

It’s the journey that counts, not the end result.

Right? Well, it seems that’s applicable in many more areas of life than just one’s spiritual pursuit.

I remember clear as a bell riding the bus downtown with my grandmother when I was about six years old and demanding to know from her exactly how long it was until Christmas. Twelve weeks, she told me. This made me very excited as Christmas now seemed finally within reach, and my brother and I could start counting down the days! Do you remember that too? How exquisite the anticipation was? But then how once you began opening presents your ‘Christmas high’ sort of seemed to deflate? Somehow the end result was never as exciting as it had seemed it would be 12 weeks or so before.

A few other examples: the courtship phase of a new relationship; thinking about the kind of new car you would like to buy; plotting a new business; planning a vacation . . . even working a crossword puzzle. I’m sure you get the drift — all of these activities or periods of anticipation can be absolutely thrilling, while their end results can sometimes fall a little flat.

Dr. Jaak Panksepp, a neuroscientist at Washington State University, calls this anticipatory state “seeking” and classifies it as one of seven core emotions that he claims all animals and people possess. Temple Grandin, in her recent book Animals Make Us Human, talks a lot about the emotion of seeking and how important it is in terms of quality of life, to the extent that when deprived of it animals and people develop neurotic behaviors, slump into depression, even become ill or die.

Seeking equates to the feeling of looking forward to, being curious about, or wanting something. It takes the form of exploring new territory, whether it be mental or physical. Stuff like figuring out new ways to do something if you’re a human . . . or maybe digging a brand new tunnel if you’re a prairie dog. But seeking is not only fun and pleasurable, it literally enhances brain growth and development.

We all know by now how important it is for our puppies and kittens to be exposed to lots of different stimuli while growing up. In fact, in an experiment where kittens were raised in a stark white room with dark parallel bars as the only visual stimulus, they were then unable to see dark perpendicular bars when moved to a room with only those, and would run into the perpendicular bars as if they did not exist. The kittens had very little to explore and learn about — no seeking opportunities, so after a certain developmental phase had passed their brains simply did not accommodate new stimuli.

I no longer have small children, who we all know need tons of stimulating activities while growing up, but I do have 14 animals and try to create an environment for all of them that provides plenty of seeking opportunities. Whether it’s new toys, bones, or walks in unfamiliar territory for the dogs; lots of different kinds of greens or other exciting foods for the chickens; hiding flakes of hay in various places in the pasture for the horses to go find; or allowing my cat into a new outdoor territory doesn’t seem to matter. What matters to them is that they get to be doing something new and different, whether it’s with their food or their environment.

If you have an animal exhibiting neurotic behavior — something as simple as your dog constantly digging holes in your backyard — start thinking about how you can enhance and expand their world. And check out Grandin’s book, Animals Make Us Human. It’s very informative and will help all of this make better sense.

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Rescuing a Horse Equals … Helping a Friend

I borrowed this post from another blog, Daily Oats, and it rang so true I felt it was perfect to post this weekend when many are focusing on their spiritual beliefs and celebrating religious holidays. I myself am non-denominational, but the spirit is the same, no matter what your set of rules, and I loved this message.

“Someone you know or your friend knows is going thru a really tough time: losing a loved one, making a tough decision, having major surgery, starting a new job, losing their job, or just feeling all alone. If you see them today give them a hug and let them know you care. If you don’t see them, stop and think about them for a minute and wish them well.”

Taking a moment just to share a hug, a cup of coffee or a meal is what should be in the heart and soul for all of us.

Let’s  say a horse needed help.   I know that everyone who will ever read this would help in a second.  My question is, should our friends that need help deserve any less.

A few years back, one of our horse neighbors, a man who raised quality Belgians,  walked out to the back forty of his property and never came back.  He left his wife a note saying he could just not deal with life any longer.   Sometimes, life can just be harder for a friend, a neighbor, or another horse lover then we can ever imagine.

It is something about the life of a Cowgirl or Cowboy that says we should  not complain, that someone else always has it worse.

I just  found out that some great friends  recently lost their ranch.  The couple  worked their entire life for endless hours at a time,  they  raised their family, worked cattle for nearly 50 years, and now everything is gone but a few head of horses.   I feel as if I should have known.

I should have been ready with some extra hugs, a  big smile and a shoulder if they needed one.

This life is simple:  check on your horses, then check on your family and  friends. Most of all,  share a whinny to anybody that needs one,  no matter what.

I do mean no matter what.

Over the years, I  have been  run over, hurt — a broken leg, a  broken foot, two broken ankles at the same time  and a broken wrist — all  from horses.  I have been  bruised, stepped on and  bitten.  In fact.  I was picked up off the ground when a stallion grabbed me between the shoulder blades.

Most of  us horse lovers wear our horse stories as a code of honor yet we keep coming back for more.

Here is another fact:  most people who piss you off are just hurting themselves, and sometimes they just do not know any other way  to express all the heaped up  pain.  Their pile of manure is just too overwhelming to move anymore.

So for today, no matter what,  share  a hug, a smile or a laugh, even if that Cowboy you know says they don’t need one.  Just head for the barn and check on them anyway.

After all, it is the Cowboy way. Care for the  entire herd, no matter what.

And most important, remember to  share the whinny.

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