Jazzie was so miserable being kept inside all of the time I started letting her in the back yard when I was going to be out. The warm sun and grass made her happy. There were feral cats in the area, and I didn’t want her to tangle with them. She has no idea they could do her harm. Mocha, Jazzie and I spent lunch outside and we’d go out for a while after work. She was content spending time in the yard but longed to be playing in the woods and following Furball.
We were only in our new house a few months when we had carpet scheduled to be installed upstairs. Furball was out. Jazzie and Mocha were confined downstairs. It was noisy and the carpet layers were in and out the back door. Jazzie disappeared. I couldn’t find her anywhere. Greg came up to me and told me Jazzie got out somehow. Apparently, she saw the field across the street and made a run for it, unaware of road hazards. She was hit by a car and killed instantly. I was devastated. How could she have gotten out? I wanted to see her, but Greg didn’t let me. He buried her on the hill where she could look over the field and us. Our brilliant shooting star burned out all too quickly.
LPS Ranch is more than just critters. It’s who and what we are. The name started out as a little joke when we moved to the farm in Salford. The farm needed a name and it was full of little peckerhead sh**s (Greg’s collective name for ornery critters). From a pup that was always into something, a kitten that wasn’t any better, an older cat, a mischievous young horse and an older horse that got herself into a good deal of things. LPS Ranch was born. For whatever reason it stuck over the years.
I consider myself very blessed to be living a life I love. I live in a beautiful place with the love of my life, surrounded by cornfields and nature, where God paints exquisite sunsets almost every night. We don’t live in a fancy house. In fact, we don’t live in a house. We live in a 37′ RV parked on my Mom’s farmette with Daisy our Beagle and the cats Harlie, Indy and Mouse. At 90 this place is too much for Mom to care for. Although she still drives her old Jeep to the grocery store and lunch with her friends 3 days a week, she needs help with things around here.
It’s been many years since I’ve spent a good amount of time here and I’d forgotten just how beautiful the area is. We’ve watched fawns grow up in the pasture where my pony used to live, saw the rabbit family teach their young where the bird seed is and so much more. A walk across 2 corn fields and across a street gives us about 3,000 acres to hike with Daisy.
For the last year and a half I’ve been taking pictures with my phone. I’ve gotten some beautiful shots, but it wasn’t quite enough. This past Christmas I got a real camera. My love of waterfowl, wildlife and nature keep me out with the camera quite often. Some of the photos were too beautiful to keep to ourselves so I’ve decided to share them at https://lpsranch.smugmug.com
I hope you enjoy seeing them as much as I enjoy taking them.
Mocha’s new home was much different than the farm she was used to. No fields to romp in or creeks to play in. The walks stopped altogether since there was no place to walk. She did look forward to seeing her new across the street friend, Molly every time she went out. They’d bark at each other, with tails wagging. She could still lay on the back deck in the sun and we played in the yard at lunch.
Somewhere around age 1 1/2 something in her head clicked. All of the time and effort we put into training suddenly paid off. As if a light switch turned on, she was doing everything she was told. Her reward was a bit more freedom. Off leash was going to be the big test. She was very good in the yard, but what if there was no fence?
We decided to take Mocha to the barn one nice Saturday. It sat far enough off the road that I wouldn’t have to worry if she took off. She jumped out of the truck and followed us into the barn. So far so good. She greeted people, looking for pets and scratches. When we walked out to the pasture to see the horses she stayed at our side. Her trial run was a huge success and a far cry from having to chase her across fields at the farm when she wouldn’t come.
Mocha got to go to the barn on a regular basis. She made friends with the other dogs and spent most of the time playing with them. If I lost track of her she was either following someone else or laying in a cool spot. Greg decided to take her on a little trail ride. He was ready to go and called Mocha. She wasn’t sure but went over to him. He rode off and called her again. She followed, along with one of her dog buddies. They were gone about 30 minutes or so. Greg said she was really good. He’d have to call her once in a while, but the dogs romped and played and followed Greg & Koko.
It was February 2009. Mocha was in the yard and having some trouble controlling her hind end. We rushed her to the vet. She stayed overnight so she could have x-rays done the following morning. They were concerned about hip dysplasia. We picked her up the following day after work. She was still groggier than I would have liked to be taking her home. We had to lift her in the back seat of the car and carry her into the house. We laid her on her bed in the living room. Within 10 minutes she had a seizure. Called the vet and back she went. The vet kept her for almost a week, running tests. They found nothing. When she no longer had seizures for a few days we were told we could pick her up.
We got our pup back on Valentine’s Day. Tired, but glad to be home Mocha slept a good portion of the day. She went out when she needed to, ate her dinner and camped out on the sofa with us while we watched TV that night. Thigs were finally going to be normal. We went to our bed and Mocha to hers. She was covered and tucked in for the night. We woke the next morning to Mocha standing next to the bed, staring at us. Her stare was blank and her eyes weren’t right. It was like you could look into her eyes right down to her soul and see nothing. I jumped out of bed and went to her. She was afraid of me. She didn’t even know who I was. She was afraid of Greg and the cats. Everything else seemed fine. No obvious pain or injury. Since our vet wasn’t on call after hours, we ran her to the local animal emergency hospital. We explained the entire situation and they took Mocha in right away. After what seemed like hours in the waiting room, we were called into the exam room. Mocha had a stroke. They suspected a spinal edema where a clot loosened and went to her brain. I wasn’t sure how that was possible since she never had any spinal trauma. The only thing Greg and I could think of is when she was at her vet. She had to be turned on her back for x-rays. The only way to know for sure was to take her to a neurological specialist. The testing was going to be around $3,000 and there was a 50% chance of them being able to do something for her and less of a chance that she’d ever be right. It was a big risk to put the dog thru that and spend that much money for her to remain in her current condition. I couldn’t do that to her. Mocha died that day with her head in my lap.
Several experienced dog people recommended I get an electronic collar. We bought a good one and I set it up. It was adjusted to the lowest setting. I tested it on my hand before I used it on Mocha. We took her down to the big field on her leash. I unhooked the leash and she stayed around me for a bit. I thought Frisbee would be fun so I threw it. Mocha chased after it, picked it up and ran the other direction. She wasn’t far so I wasn’t too worried. I called her and she kept going. I called again and she still didn’t come back so I lightly hit the button for the collar. She yelped, dropped the Frisbee and took off like a shot. I chased her down, finally caught her and took her back to where Greg was standing. Back on the long line for now. I thought we could still play Frisbee. Mocha thought differently. Not only did she refuse to play, she was afraid of it. She thought the Friseee bit her and wasn’t getting near it again. We tried the electronic collar a few more times while she was on the long line. Each time she ran away from me instead of coming back. The electronic collar was a major fail for her.
Mocha decided to be my work buddy and steal my chair if I got up for any reason. She was good enough to leave me the edge of the chair to sit on. Adding insult to injury, she’d take my ponytail holder out of my hair if she got bored. Trying to work was getting interesting.
At lunch we’d go in the kitchen and she’d supervise me while I was making my lunch. One day she was over by the window barking. I looked, but didn’t see anything. She continued to bark, but I still didn’t see what she was barking at. As I carried lunch to the table I saw Mocha rubbing her nose. Upon closer inspection I saw the back end of a wasp sticking out of her nostril. I couldn’t believe she sniffed a wasp up her nose! Fortunately it was in far enough that it couldn’t bend it’s body to sting her. I got the tweezers, but she wasn’t having any of it. This was going to be a 2 person job and there was only one of me. I ran her up the street to her vet. We got her to lay on the floor. I laid on her to pin her down and the vet tech performed a wasp-ectomy. Her nose was examined for stings and we headed home, without the wasp.
The older Dakota got the more play he demanded. He was about a year old and we were exhausted, and he wasn’t letting up. He started getting into things he knew he wasn’t supposed to and stealing our things so we’d have to pay attention to him. One Sunday evening he was unusually quiet. We thought he was just tired from being at the barn all day. After dinner I took him out. He squatted and nothing came out then he started throwing up what seemed to be gallons of water. I called the emergency animal service since our vet didn’t have weekend hours. We rush him in immediately.
After an exam, the vet said he suspected a blockage in his small intestine. We couldn’t imagine what it could be since he’s always with us. We sat in the waiting room for several hours while Dakota was in surgery. The vet finally came out and said surgery went well, they found the blockage. He held up a bag and asked if we had any idea what this thing is. It was a hard, bouncy cat ball the neither of us new we had. Dakota found it. They wanted to keep him over night, but he had to be picked up before 8 the following morning and transferred to his regular vet. When we got home I left a message for Dakota’s vet telling them he’d be there early the following morning. Morning came and I picked him up and took him to his vet. He was to stay there for a few days to make sure there wouldn’t be any complications from surgery. A few day later the vet called. There were no problems and we could pick him up, but he needed to stay quiet for about a week. I told her if he was supposed to be quiet, they needed to keep him. The only way we could keep him quiet was to keep him crated and we certainly couldn’t crate him for a week.
Dakota got the all clear to come home and resume his (almost) normal activities. He was as active as ever but starting to get a bit aggressive. We weren’t sure if it was the surgery that caused this or having to be quiet for over a week. We took him to dog trainers, did everything suggested, and nothing could break his aggression. In fact it was getting worse. If he stole something that wasn’t his and we tried to take it, he’d growl. If we persisted, he’d bite. I could no longer handle him. I was getting to the point where I was afraid to be home alone with him. Since I worked at home, this was getting to be a huge problem. He was as strong as an ox and weighed about 30 lbs. less than me. After trying to push thru this, dog trainers, Greg having to come home from work to rescue me from Dakota trapping me in one room, it was time to make a decision. We just couldn’t continue the way we had been.
In early December 2009 I made arrangements for a Springer rescue to take him. We drove him to a foster home over an hour away. We watched as he played with the other dogs and made himself at home. He was happy and barely said goodbye. A few months later I got a call from the rescue. He’d been rehabbed and rehomed. He was living with a family in Delaware that had 2 boys that loved to play baseball. Dakota was going to love it there.
Like puppies have a tendency to do, Dakota grew like a weed. Our week day routine was me throwing toys while I worked, Dakota would play with Mouse, I’d throw more toys. At lunch I’d eat and we’d go outside to play puppy soccer. I finished my work day the same way it started. I’d feed critters and start our dinner. When Greg got home we’d eat, he did dishes and I’d do odds and ends of things I needed to do. When we finally sat in the living room to watch TV and relax, Dakota would shove toys in Greg’s lap and he got to be playmate for the rest of the night. If Greg refused to play, Dakota would stuff toys under the sofa, behind the sofa or in the baseboard radiator fins (anywhere he knew toys weren’t supposed to be). Someone would get the toy out and be forced to play. He quickly caught on to this new game and played it any time someone refused to play with him.
The months passed and our (his) routine didn’t change. The only time we got a break is when he was in his crate to sleep. He was far more puppy than we expected, and exhaustion was setting in. A few evenings a week and sometimes on Saturday mornings I took Dakota to doggie playground to get some of the energy out. He’d race and wrestle with the other dogs. He was racing down the fence with another dog one day, apparently not paying attention until it was too late. He was going to crash into chairs. At the last minute he made a huge leap, right over the laps of two older ladies sitting in those chairs and kept right on going. Greg and I were stunned and couldn’t hold back our laughter. The ladies Dakota jumped over were stunned and horrified. I was laughing so hard I could barely apologize.
Somewhere around 6 or 7 months the squatting stopped and leg lifting started. Once the leg lifting started Dakota was suddenly un-housebroken. After all of these months I had to housebreak him again. One night we were eating dinner, Dakota went under the table and Greg got a very funny look on his face. After a few minutes he yelled that the damn dog just peed in his moccasin. I ran to the bathroom, closed the door and laughed my head off. I had to quickly regain my composure. I certainly couldn’t go back out laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes.
Dakota learned him name and how to come as quickly as he learned everything else. The barn owner where we boarded had been telling us to bring him with us so we could stay longer. He was about 4 months old when we decided he could go to the barn. We got there and got him out of the truck. Charlie was there and told me to unhook the leash. I looked at Greg. We have to let him loose sometime. Let’s see how well he knows his name and comes. He stayed with us until he saw a barn cat. I called, he ignored me. I called again, he still ignored me. I ran over, grabbed his collar and took him back to where I was when I called him. He got the message for now. We had 2 or 3 more repeat performances before he started listening.
Dakota loved the barn and we took him every weekend. He’d play with the baby goats and calves from the other side of the fence. There were a few other dogs to play with and people. It didn’t take him long to learn how to con everyone into playing with him. I kept a few tennis balls in my tack box and gave them to him when we got there. Everybody he saw got a ball dropped in front of them. He also learned that barn cats didn’t make good playmates.
He was loose while we groomed and tacked up the horses then went into a clean stall or our trailer with water and toys until we finished riding. When we were finished riding we’d turn him loose while we finished up with the horses. He was a very good boy at the barn, but everything took twice as long when you’re watching a pup and trying to get things done. When we put the horses away we’d often take Dakota for a run in the hayfield. He’s run out in front and circle back to us. That was a hunting dog. He was instinctually pushing game back to us! When we were ready to go home, he was so dirty he’d get a bath with horse shampoo and hop in the truck. After 5-7 hours of playing he was exhausted ready to go home. After a 30-minute ride, he was ready to play again. One day Dakota heard a noise in the hay barn and went to investigate. He came flying out with mama chicken on his tail. She chased him at least 500’ and pecking him every chance she got. She was satisfied he was far enough away from her chicks and stopped. He added chickens to the list of not good playmates and avoided them at all cost.
It wasn’t the farm, but it was ours. The yard was fenced so I didn’t have to worry about Mocha and there were woods at the back of the property for Furball to go off and do his cat things. He was a weary outside cat, so I didn’t have to worry about him getting near the road. Jazzy was too young and active to go out there so much to her dismay, she had to stay in.
Furball wasn’t happy about having to stay inside until he got used to his new home. I would have liked him to stay in longer, but he absolutely insisted he had to go out. I couldn’t stand the howling, pacing and scratching at the door any longer so I let him out the back door. He was cautious and happy to be out. He and Mocha hung out in the yard for a while. He jumped the fence and Mocha came in with me.
Now I had the other one to contend with. Jazzie couldn’t understand why Furball could go out and she couldn’t. She played with Mocha and “helped” me work during the day then bugged Furball at night when he came in. She wasn’t happy, but she dealt with her new-found situation.
Mocha seemed to have found a new friend. There was a yellow Lab that lived across the street. She’d go to the fence when she went out to look for her friend and they liked to bark at each other.
I guess between Greg’s guitars and Mocha’s barking, we were going to be the noisy neighbors …. Again.