Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Favorite Pets

I have been happy to have had a variety of pets as an adult - dogs, cats, sheep, chickens, turkeys, and horses. Out of all the pets I felt the greatest connection to, though, it had to be Casey. 

In Loving Memory of Casey - April 20, 1995-February 13, 2008
Pictures of Casey with Sophia, Olivia, and Montague.
(Collage created on February 14, 2008.)

Casey was  adopted from a humane society, and was one of several puppies in a litter. When I went to look at them, she came right to me. I liked the distinctive white mark on her chest. It stood out against her black fur.

For the first few months of her life, she lived in Minneapolis. Then, she became a farm dog. As livestock was added to the farm, she was equally intrigued and amused by the animals - sheep, chickens, turkeys, and horses.

She was an incredibly gentle dog and none of the poultry, lambs, sheep, or horses felt threatened by her. In fact, mother sheep would allow Casey to get close to their newborn lambs. 

When I was offering a children's camp, many of the children who lived in the inner-city were frightened of dogs, particularly large dogs. At 60+ pounds, Casey probably looked very scary to them.

Yet, the children who were fearful of her at the beginning of the camp week, were hugging her when the camp program ended at the end of the week. Truly, she had changed their attitudes and helped them overcome their fear of dogs in only a few days.

Casey died when she was 12 years old from complications of a twisted stomach. Prior to her death, she began having seizures which was frightening to watch. The only thing I could do was comfort her and be there for her when she came out of the seizures.

That is such a short period of her life...and, by thinking about it, I am not remembering the happier times. So, I think about how she and Sydne (and later Montague) would play and "pretend fight" in the backyard. These dogs - who did not know one another - became close companions. They enjoyed going on walks, exploring the backyard, discovering interesting scents that wildlife left on the nature trail, swimming in the river, and sleeping on the bed next to me.

The current dogs here are Montague and Gretel. They are, likewise, a great team. When Montague was grieving the loss of Casey and wouldn't leave the deck...or would look out the window waiting for her...it was clear he needed someone else.

Montague in Black and White
Montague in the pasture.
He and Casey would run in the pasture together.
They would enjoy finding tracks of rabbits and deer; or 
discovering pheasants who would fly out from the tall grass.
(Taken on September 29, 2007.)

Gretel was adopted from a humane society, and became Montague's life line. He was able to move through his grief thanks to Gretel. 

It has been fun to raise a dog from the puppy stage again. (Sydne and Casey were both adopted as puppies while Montague was adopted as a 1 1/2 year old adult dog.) The humane society thought perhaps Gretel was a German Shepherd-Basset Hound mix. As she has grown up, it looks like she is more of a German Shepherd-Coonhound mix.

Gretel Listening
Gretel listening. 
One of her favorite toys when she was a puppy is nearby.
(Taken on March 28, 2008.)

She has a goofy personality and is very vocal. I've never heard a dog "talk" as much as Gretel does. She also will rub her head on my arms, legs, back, side...wherever she can wedge herself next me. She does this to others in the family as well...not just me. It's as if she wants us to know we're part of her pack and she's part of ours.

In addition to the dogs, I've had six cats since 1990. I also had one shortly after I graduated from college. I didn't have that cat for long due to behavior issues it had.

The six cats I've had came at different times. There have never been more than five cats at one time in the house. Honestly, that's plenty of cats.

That being said, seeing the personalities of each cat develop from being a kitten to cat has been fun. There are cats who enjoy playing and resting next to one another while others prefer to be rest and spend the majority of their day alone.

Meenie, Eenie, and Lucy
Meenie, Eenie, and Lucy sitting together.
(Taken on November 17, 2010.)

Each cat has something distinctive about her/him. Maggie, the solitary cat, prefers to rest quietly either on top of the DirecTV box or heating vent in the floor (both nice warm spots). She sits next to me while I eat and will gently put out her claws and tap me if she sees some food of interest. The only other cat that has done that was Boo (who was adopted in Charlotte, North Carolina).

Maggie on November Nature Table
Maggie playing with different items on the nature table.
(Taken on November 22, 2007.)

Shadow wandered onto the farm (just like Lucy and Maggie). However, he spent the majority of the days sitting on the fallen log in the pasture or in the hobby shed. We would put out food for him so he had something to eat, and would feel more comfortable around us.

As the weather became much colder in the winter, he trusted us enough by that time to allow us to bring him indoors. After the weather warmed, he wanted to go back outside.

Shadow Sitting by the Purple Flowers
Shadow outdoors in the pasture.
(Taken on November 1, 2008.)

He stayed outdoors until the following fall, and then wanted to come indoors. He has been an indoor cat since that time. Out of all the cats, Shadow has the most mellow and easy-going personality. He gets along with all the cats, especially Eenie and Lucy who enjoy running around the house together and playing.

In July 2009, we adopted a pony and miniature horse from the Minnesota Hooved Animal Rescue Foundation. Both the pony and horse came from neglect situations, and were quite underweight. Both had not been in pastures - they were in dry lots with limited space to move.

Needless to say, it was a long process to transition their stomachs and bodies from dry alfalfa to pasture grass. To see them at first be confined to the barn and a small area behind the barn - to gradually spending time in the pasture - to seeing them gallop together throughout the pasture has been a joy.

Bailey by the Pond in March
Bailey walking in the pasture through the snow.
She's on the east side of the pond.
(taken on March 27, 2011.)

What makes Bailey and Hoss' relationship special is that we found out (after they were adopted) that Bailey is blind in her right eye. Her left eye has a pigmentation and other vision issue that potentially could render her completely blind. 

Hoss, despite being only about a third of her size and weight, watches out for his companion. He stays next to her when they go out in the pasture together. When he has to stay out of the pasture (so he doesn't over-consume grass and get sick), he keeps a watchful eye on Bailey. When he can't see her, he will call to her to make sure she's okay. 

Hoss in the Woods
Hoss in the wooden area in the pasture in the spring.
(Taken on March 29, 2012.)

The minute he is let out in the pasture, he runs at full speed to her, and eats right next to her. They are inseparable.

The latest addition to the home is Phoenix Star, a hedgehog who was adopted on June 29th. It has been interesting to watch him during the last few months move from the baby-hedgehog stage to the adult-stage as he lost his baby quills and grew permanent ones in. Imagine teething...except all over your body. That's what happened to Phoenix.

Phoenix at about 8 weeks old.
(Taken on June 30, 2012.)

Through adoption, I have seen cats, dogs, horses, livestock, and a hedgehog all live peacefully together. Seeing them grow up and play together is a daily joy for me.

I can't imagine just having one cat...one dog...or one horse. Seeing how important companionship is to the pets here only makes me that much happier that they are part of a pet-filled home, and that each one gets to experience the love, care, and playfulness that another animal can bring to her/his life.

This post is part of Blog Ease Autumn Blogathon challenge hosted by Blog Ease Facebook Group, BellaDazzle, All 'Bout Cute Designs, Giveaway Overload, Shoes Fashion Fitness, Survival Guide by The Working Mom and Roasted Beanz.

1 comment:

Erin Slocum said...

What cute animals! We live on a farm and have horses, goats, sheep, chickens, cats, and dogs.