Monday, December 30, 2013

Herd bound no more (I hope)

Flash had a hard start in life and has some insecurity issues. His go-to misbehavior is herd-boundness, and boy, howdy, can he put on a show. Since I started leasing him, I've lost count of how many snaps, ropes, and leather halters he has broken by pulling back while tied. Camilla has been helping me with some pointers about his behavior, and I'm pretty much endlessly patient, so we've been making slow but sure progress. Today I tried out a whole new strategy, and he was a perfect gentleman! (Sorry about the whimsical black bars in the video. I must have clicked some weird setting in Movie Maker.)

Today I got on Dakota without lungeing first. He was perfect, of course. He could already go intro level; he's so easy to get on the bit! The canter still needs a lot of work, though. He needs to build strength. I haven't asked for it under saddle yet.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

New video! Dakota under saddle

I had company at the barn today--Camilla came out to play with Flash. We each rode and then swapped ponies. My trip to Louisiana to ride, ride, ride is coming right up, and I need to get my riding muscles in shape! Flash is good for that; his trot is huge. Also, Dakota is building up his stamina, so I can start riding him for longer periods. This is the first time I've gotten to see him go with a rider. I love what I see!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Lungeing over ground poles

Yesterday I lunged Dakota over ground poles. Either he's pretty smart or he has seen them before, because he trotted right over them with no mistakes or confusion. They did help him relax through his back.

I also worked more on trot under saddle. He needs a lot of help balancing and bending, but he tries very hard. He's just the sweetest little man. I'll work him again tomorrow, and then I'm out of town for a week: first in Las Vegas for training on a new part-time job, and then to Nebraska for a holiday visit with my family.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Pass the popcorn

Dakota and I had quite an audience yesterday. I suppose grazing is pretty hard with this much snow still on the ground, so the herd is bored and looking for entertainment. They crack me up.

I shortened the side reins a little more, so Dakota is feeling a good contact now. He's head-high and bracing at the moment. I think I'm going to find some ground poles to get him to loosen his back and neck. I'm really happy with how far he's come in two months, though.

After lungeing I hopped on him again yesterday and we did a little trot work down the long sides and across the diagonal. He doesn't really have brakes yet, and steering is iffy, but he was a perfect gentleman. He's so soft in the mouth -- quite a change from Willow! I'll have to be careful not to let Dakota go behind the vertical as he comes along.

Monday, December 9, 2013


The temperature and the roads were a little better today, so I was able to make it to the barn. As I was walking across the pasture toward the herd, I could see a horse with something strange about its head. I was really puzzled. I finally got close enough and saw that a little chestnut was wearing a blanket and a combo sleazy/hood, but they weren't made to be worn together (the blanket had no attachment points for a hood), and the sleazy/hood had flipped upside down and was hanging over the horse's head, completely covering his eyes.

The poor guy was pretty freaked out and had some bloody scratches on his legs. I had a hard time getting him to trust me enough to let me get near his head, but after following him around for thirty minutes or so, he finally gave up and let me flip the hood back and then remove it. He shook his head and neck for a long time once it was off. I called the barn owner to let him know the scratches might need a little attention, then caught Dakota and worked him. I shortened the side reins to where he's feeling some contact, and he was super. I can't wait to hop on him again--maybe tomorrow

I've never been at a barn that has such spectacular views. With the snow it's just breathtaking!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Snow patrol

We don't usually get much snow here. When it does snow, it usually melts the same day.

Yesterday, we got about 8 inches, and it's not going to begin melting until at least Monday. It's a winter wonderland! I'm glad I got Flash and Dakota blanketed when I did. The low tonight is going to be 7.

Thursday, December 5, 2013


We don't usually get much cold weather here in the southern Willamette Valley. Wintertime mostly means rain, highs in the 40s and 50s, and lows in the 30s. This week we've got a real cold snap going: highs around 30 and lows around 10. I'm not planning on blanketing the boys this winter EXCEPT when the weather is like this.

Apparently the herd has never seen horses in their jammies before. There was much consternation and running. They did seem to be settling down by the time I left.

Dakota was so good today! He stood like a rock while I tacked him up, and his speed on the lunge was much more adjustable. His canter departs are getting sharper, too, and the canter is more of a canter and less of a gallop. I am terribly wimpy about cold these days, so I'm not planning to ride him during this cold snap. I can't face wearing breeches and freezing my legs. As soon as the weather breaks, though, I'll be back in the saddle!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

The more the merrier

We had a surprise visitor during Dakota's lungeing session today.

Fred was getting into trouble all over the place. Earlier, he found a hole in the pasture fence and visited the neighbors. Then he screamed his little head off when captured and placed in a holding pen until the barn owner could find the hole and plug it. Then he visited Dakota and me in the arena. I think Fred needs a job. I do wish my phone hadn't crapped out when it did--not long after the above video, Fred settled in behind Dakota to participate in the lungeing. I could just eat Fred with a spoon.

With the cob-sized headstall and the full-size cavesson and browband, I now have a bridle that fits in every way except in the throatlatch. I'm just tucking it out of the way for now. Here is Dakota all zoomy from Fred screaming in the holding pen a few minutes earlier. I'm really happy with Dakota's trot. He's got a fairly free shoulder and he maintains good flexion in his hocks behind. There's a lot to work with there.

After lungeing, I brought Dakota over to the mounting block and spent a few minutes lying across his back (no reaction) and then stood several times with my weight in the left stirrup, bumping his hind lightly with my right knee (a tiny bit of surprise, then no reaction). I then swung on over into the saddle. He raised his head a bit and didn't want to move off for about thirty seconds. Then he walked off and the rest of the ride was uneventful. He understood my steering attempts pretty well and gave in his poll when I wiggled my fingers. He's very soft in his mouth. He was quite tired from zooming around on the lunge earlier, so we just walked around for seven or eight minutes and called it good. Yay! Dakota is officially under saddle again after two years off!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Forest ponies

Today at the barn the herd was hanging out in the trees. As usual, I couldn't resist taking some pictures.

That first picture, of Fred the pony lying down, is pure cuteness overload.

Dakota has started coming toward me when he sees me tromping across the pasture. This development warms my heart. It's probably just the carrots, but I choose to believe we are bonding. Today I lunged him in full tack and shortened the side reins one notch. They're still barely touching his mouth, but I like to go slow. He accepted the shorter length without complaint. He has gotten better about the outward drift when going to the left. Even better, he's now able to maintain a (somewhat speedy) canter a couple times around the circle. It's fun to see them get stronger and more balanced.

It turns out Dakota has a funky head. The cob-size bridle arrived, and the bit is riding correctly in his mouth now. Unfortunately, the cavesson is riding way too high, the browband is too narrow, and the throatlatch is too tight. I'm going to have to cobble his bridle together using pieces from both my bridles. And somehow I need to extend the throatlatch. Maybe I'll just hack it off, have buckles installed on both sides, and extend it that way.

Tomorrow post-lungeing I'm going to climb aboard. Given Dakota's behavior up until now, I expect him to behave just fine. I'll probably try out gears one and two, and save cantering for a day when there's someone else around. Again, I don't expect any foolishness, but the arena is quite isolated, and better safe than sorry, right?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Teeth and toes

I'm blogging from wintry Nebraska this evening. I'm out here visiting my family, and the weather is awful. Right now it's 14 degrees, and the low overnight will be 7. There is a reason I don't live here anymore.

Last Monday Dakota had his toes trimmed, his teeth floated, and his wolf teeth pulled. And had a flu vacc. The farrier thought he noticed some white line changes but of course had no idea if it was the change in footing, the change in climate, or the change in diet. He kinda sorta seemed to think maybe the alfalfa supplement was too rich for a mustang, but I had just started it three or four days before--could Dakota really be showing changes in his feet from diet that fast? The vet on the other hand was all for continuing the supplement, so I'm going to continue and just keep an eye on things. We went from very dry to very wet recently, and I think that's probably the cause. Dakota lived his whole previous life in an arid climate. All this squish is new to him.

Dakota also has some changes in the skin on his nose. The vet said dermatitis; Camilla thinks maybe rain rot. I've never pasture boarded in a rainy climate before, so rain rot is all new to me. I've added a vitamin to Dakota's supplement and am trying to groom him every day. I should be able to catch any outbreaks early.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

And then there were two

Do you all remember Flash? Back when Camilla still owned Baby Huey, Flash was the gelding she was spending a lot of time training. Then he needed pasture rest due to an injury, so he has been enjoying the good life for the past year or so. The pasture rest seems to have worked, and he has come sound in the past couple of months. At the same time, Camilla sold Huey and is trying out a firecracker of a mare named Cairo. She doesn't have a lot of time for Flash, and with me going into the teaching business and finding a barn I really like, she asked if I'd like to lease Flash and possibly use him in my program. So now I've got two boys to work with. Dakota is keeping Flash company in the arena for the two days until he's released into the pasture.

Today was Dakota's first real lunge session in full tack. He was a very good boy. We just did walk and trot. He's not very strong in canter yet and I don't want him to flail around in the side reins. To the right he gave me a nice bend and a fancy little trot at times. To the left, he drifts out and gets frustrated with my half halts. He needs his teeth floated and his wolf teeth pulled (happening tomorrow), and my current bridle is too big for him (cob size bridle on its way). Those things are likely bothering him as well. But I was very pleased with his willingness.

After working Dakota, I lunged Flash off the halter to check his soundness in the arena's footing. Doesn't he have the loveliest gaits? If he was an easier ride I would totally use him as a school horse; alas, he is definitely not a beginner's horse. But maybe once I get some clients one of them will have enough natural talent to handle Flash.

Friday, November 15, 2013

A quick session with side reins

Tuesday Dakota tweaked his right hind out in the pasture. When I went to pick out his left hind, he instead held up his right hind dramatically, letting me know that something wasn't right. I couldn't find any swelling or heat, but he was a bit off when I watched him trot. He was perfectly sound in walk, so I decided to tack him up with a dressage saddle for the first time. That was no big deal, so I went ahead and clipped on side reins at the longest setting and lunged him both directions in the walk, just so he could feel what all that was like. He accepted the side reins very well, only startling himself a couple times when he raised his head and bumped the side reins. He figured out quickly not to do that, and all was well.

Wednesday I left him alone, and yesterday I lunged him off the halter to check his soundness. He was almost normal. Today he was completely fine again. Before I got Dakota, he spent most of his life in a flat dry lot, and for the past two years he hasn't been worked. The pastures he's in now are very hilly and can be slippery in places if a horse doesn't slow down and choose his footing carefully. I think Dakota probably went careening up or down a hill and pulled a muscle. It'll be good for him to get used to being responsible for his shaggy self.

I started supplementing Dakota's grass-hay-and-forage diet with soaked alfalfa cubes every time I go out. Dakota thinks this is a great idea! I want to keep his weight up for the winter months.

Dakota has another friend: Fred the tiny pony! Such a cute wee man. Fred thinks carrots are awesome and usually follows me and Dakota most of the way to the arena before accepting that all the carrots are gone.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Less head shy every day

I worked through head-shyness with Willow using lots of carrots. It worked, but she really did expect carrots during the bridling process ever after. I did some research on techniques for working through this problem and found a video I really liked. I have no idea who this trainer is and can't vouch for anything else he does, but this technique works.

On Friday I spent forty minutes rubbing Dakota's neck and head. At about twenty minutes, I started brushing past his ear. By the end of the forty minutes, I could rub his ears without a fuss. Then I started working the head-lowering technique, which worked right away. Then I used an old thin leather rein as a "bit," and had no fuss there either. I quit and let all that percolate through Mr. D's little head for the night.

Saturday I started the head and neck rubbing again and could almost immediately mess with his ears. I repeated the head lowering and the leather rein "bit," and it all went so well that I got the bridle out. On it went, no muss, no fuss. Good boy! Then I lunged him off the bridle. It was much better having the extra control. No more shooting off the circle randomly.

Dakota got the day off today, but I went out in the late afternoon to give him carrots in the pasture. I don't want him to think every time he sees me I'm going to make him work. I'm delighted to see that Dakota already has a BFF. The two of them are always grazing side by side a little ways away from the main herd. I think the friend is a roan Appy; I'll find out for sure. Forgot to check if it's a gelding or mare. He/she gets carrots from me too for being a friend to the new guy.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A visit to Louisiana in January

Wolfgang's widow, Suzanne, is a tremendous dressage trainer in her own right. She recently moved to a friend's training facility in Ruston, Louisiana, and is having the time of her life giving lessons there. She invited me to visit, saying not only could I ride multiple horses every day, I could also teach under her supervision and get some much-needed pointers and advice. What an opportunity! I'm looking at mid-January, when I'll be ready for sunshine and warmer temperatures.

Dakota was still in the covered arena today. I thought he was going into the pasture, but he's perfectly content so it's no big deal. I finished his mane and played around with bridling. He's definitely head shy. I did get the bridle on and let him wear it for twenty minutes while we walked around the arena. I need to work on getting him comfortable with me handling his head and ears. He's a sensible guy, so I think he'll come around quickly.

I also lunged him off his halter. While he does know how to lunge, I kind of think he has never been lunged outside a round pen. He kept plowing off in a straight line. He wasn't being bad, just confused. He also really didn't want to canter and didn't hold it for long when he did. But all in all it was a perfectly fine first attempt. He has the basics and wants to please.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Slow; horse crossing

The ranch where I'm boarding Dakota has an extensive pasture system. The horses are allowed to go almost everywhere. Much of the herd was hanging out on the driveway this evening. There were also several deer grazing nearby. It was a peaceful scene.

Tiny pony alert!

What's this you say about carrots?

I really like carrots!

Time for a haircut

That is a LOT of mane

He's going to look dorky for a day or two. I can only get so much done at a time.

Dakota was a very good boy while I worked on his mane. I don't know if he's ever been asked to stand for so long; he tolerated it quite well. He was curious about everything I did, sticking his nose in my face every few minutes. We took a couple breaks where I led him around. He has great ground manners. I asked him to trot in hand and he willingly trotted at whatever speed I asked for. I led him over a Parelli obstacle, some tires laid flat on the ground in a line. He carefully walked over it, stepping in the tire holes. I'm just thrilled with his attitude so far!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Dakota's triumphant arrival

The shipper delivered Dakota at 4 this afternoon. He was all alone in the big trailer. I clipped the lead to his halter, and he quietly turned himself around and followed me to the door. He looked right, looked left, and then stepped calmly to the ground. I turned him loose in the covered arena, and he walked around looking at everything. Then I threw him some hay and that was that. This little guy loves his food!

Tomorrow he'll be moved to a stall overlooking the pasture for the next two days. On day three, he'll join the herd. This is the first time I've ever pasture boarded; it's one of the reasons I was excited to get a mustang. He should do just fine, weight-wise and foot-wise. I looked over his papers and found that, appropriately enough, he's from the Palomino Buttes herd of Oregon mustangs.

I'm waiting on a lunge line and a girth that I just ordered before I can start lungeing, so until they arrive I'm going to work on basic ground manners and see he how he does. If unloading from the trailer is any indication, I think he has a solid foundation. I'm also going to get to work on that mop of a mane. All the while teaching him that I am the fun carrot lady.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Dakota coming down the mountain

Dakota passed his prepurchase exam with flying colors. Hooray! The only thing the vet found was that he's pretty head shy. So was Willow, and I was able to work through it with her, so I'm not concerned. Dakota has great feet, a great coat, happy joints, and is a good weight. We just need to add muscle.

Dakota lives in La Pine, which is in the Cascades at 4200 feet. When I went to see him, it was hot and dusty. Ten days later, it's snowing. I had hoped to hire Camilla to transport Dakota down the mountain, but with the weather so dicey, we decided to postpone. Luckily, I found a shipper who can do it for me on Tuesday.

In the next few days I'm going to read up on mustangs. My current knowledge is: they have great feet and are easy keepers. I'm sure there's quite a bit more to know. Dakota will be coming with BLM paperwork, so I think that will tell me which herd he's from (I'm assuming he's an Oregon mustang).

My business name will be Coast Fork Dressage. I have a designer working on a logo for me. Website to follow shortly! I can't wait to get to know Dakota.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Jump, pony, jump

Camilla found a wonderful home for Baby Huey. He is now the love of a young girl's life. Look at them in this costume class! It's a Huey-corn!

Camilla is trying out a new mount, Cairo, a 4-year-old 3/4 TB-1/4 Irish mare. Cairo is a sassypants. Today she killed it at her very first show, finishing in the ribbons. Such a good girl!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Going pro!

I was laid off from my job in late September. This is the first time I've been unemployed since I was in college! It was a bizarre feeling at first, not having to get up and go to work every day. I've worked in book publishing my whole career, and there aren't many opportunities in that field in the Willamette Valley, so I was immediately faced with the decision of whether to 1) look for work that's sort of in my field here, 2) move, or 3) become self-employed.

Coincidentally, I had already been thinking about quitting my job and starting a publishing solutions consulting business. The whole reason I was considering this was because of Obamacare kicking in. I'm not comfortable living without insurance, and pre-Obamacare I didn't think self-employment was feasible. Now there's affordable health insurance available to the self-employed. I'm meeting with a designer on Wednesday to design my logo and website. The company name is Bad Beagle Publishing Solutions :)

AND . . . (drumroll) I decided to start teaching beginning dressage! I want to provide beginners with a trained school pony on which they can learn to sit the trot and get the feel of putting the horse on the bit. I'm also happy to teach folks on their own mounts, but I think it's so helpful for beginners to have the option of getting the right feel on a regular basis. I've seen too many green on green situations that lead to endless frustration.

On Friday I found my school pony! He's an 8-year-old palomino mustang gelding. He was a trail horse when he was first broke, and he's been sitting unridden for two years since his owner had a baby. I'll be putting in 60-90 days of training before I decide if he's suitable to teach on. If not, I'll find him a great home. But I have a good feeling about him. He's puppy-dog friendly, and his owner said nothing ever rattled him on the trail. Here are pix and video. He hadn't been exercised since July, so there is some bronco-like activity in the lungeing, but I'm sure he'll settle with regular work. Isn't he adorable?

I've always wanted to get into teaching someday. Wolfgang was a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime trainer, and I'd like to pass on what I learned from him. I hope I get it right!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Gratuitous doggage

My dogs make me laugh all the time. I always have my iPhone handy, so now I have hundreds of pictures of them. I thought I would share a few of my favorites, so I made a favorites folder and started moving pictures in. When I got done, there were 74. Oops.

A blog post with 74 pictures would be a little unwieldy, so I'm sharing them as a slideshow instead. Stop when you get bored :) Also, keep a lookout for Ted's dog, Lucy. She's the one with the ears that stick up, and she'll be joining the pack in September. The rest are all mine: Abby (who died in January 2013; black and white part beagle), Sam (the German shorthair), Annie (the tricolor beagle), and Lola (the bassador). I see I accidentally got a picture of my pond in there as well.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Non-directed kidney donation

I decided to become a kidney donor midsummer of last year. I was having a lot of stress in various aspects of my life, and it just seemed like something that, if I qualified, would allow me to put my focus somewhere entirely other, on something bigger and more important.

So, of course, I googled kidney donation and ended up at the National Kidney Registry. I found the Kidney Donation, No Recipient link, where there's a handy-dandy, step-you-through-it list of what's required to become a non-directed donor.

It started with some basic testing at my doctor's office. She also had to sign off on a form stating that she knew of no reason why I couldn't be a donor. The test results went off to the NKR, and I think it was a couple months before they contacted me to say I had passed the first hurdle.

Next, they scheduled me for two days of more rigorous testing, including a psych evaluation, at the nearest NKR-affiliated transplant center, which was the University of Washington Medical Center. So, in mid-January 2013, my then-boyfriend now-hubby Ted and I spent three days in Seattle. We even found a posh hotel downtown and made it a mini-vacation.

The first day was the day of endless hydration. I had to drink a liter of water on our way in to the hospital and provide a urine sample when I got there. Then the fun began. I was injected with a radioactive tracer and had to collect ALL my urine from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., constantly drinking water the whole time. Every hour, I would go back to where I got the injection and "pee into the hat" (the collection apparatus looked like a sombrero turned upside down) and they would draw a vial of blood. I had to drink drink drink to make sure they were getting enough pee at each collection (I swear it was gallons). This test was to see how quickly my kidneys eliminated the tracer from my bloodstream. A fun bonus: I got an official little card to carry for the next two months so when I flew, if I set off the TSA scanner, I could show the TSA folks why I was radioactive.

Later that afternoon Ted and I met with the whole transplant team, including the surgeon, the transplant coordinating nurse, and a social worker. The surgeon explained that only one in five non-directed applicants makes it through the testing, because it's very rigorous. They want to make sure no one in your immediate family has a history of early heart disease or stroke, cancer, diabetes, kidney disease, or liver disease. He said it's a little strange for him as a surgeon, because the "first, do no harm" doctor rule sort of goes out the window when he removes an organ from a healthy donor. So he wants to make absolutely that donors are very healthy and should be able to get by their whole life with one kidney. The transplant nurse was there to answer any and all questions, then and whenever, and the social worker probed a little into why I wanted to donate. That was day one.

Day two, I wasn't allowed to eat anything but jello and chicken broth. I gave fifteen vials of blood at the blood draw center. I had an EKG. Then we had about a 90-minute break so we went to the cafeteria and I ate, like, ten cups of jello. I am not a person who does well without eating. Next up was an abdominal CT scan. After that I was able to eat again (so hungry!). Finally, I met with a psychiatrist. It only took about fifteen minutes. When I came out into the waiting room, Ted said, "Either you passed with flying colors, or you really crashed and burned." He wants to get a bumper sticker that says "My girlfriend isn't crazy. I had her tested."

Then I waited a few more weeks. The transplant nurse sent me to my regular doctor for a couple extra tests. I waited a few more weeks. Then, in March, I got the email from UWMC that said I was approved! I was so excited. The next step was to enter my information in the NKR database and see who popped up as a match. In May I got the call that a match had been found and that the donation chain involved almost a dozen people (more on kidney donation chains). The surgery date was set for July 10. And the rest is history!

If you're reading this and thinking about becoming a donor, and would like to ask any questions, put your contact info in the comments or send me a message on Twitter where I am @halfpassgirl.

One last thing: I am also registered as a blood marrow donor. That process is super easy. You just register at Be the Match, they send you a cheek swab kit, you swab away, and you send them back the kit. That's it!

Sunday, August 11, 2013


I had my kidney donation surgery on July 10, and it all went very well! Here's me in pre-op with my fashionable hairnet.

I was really excited and totally ready to go. It took about a year from when I first inquired about donation to actually having the surgery.

And here I am first waking up from anesthesia. Look at my eyes! Totally stoned. 

I felt quite good the evening after surgery. I was sore but the pain meds were working well, and I wasn't feeling nauseous. I was actually hungry, but of course could only have jello and broth.

That evening I was drifting in and out without really realizing it. My boyfriend (now husband! but that's another story) Ted was laughing at me because I had been told to use my incentive spirometer (a little toy that gets you to breathe very deeply) as often as possible, so I was doing my ten breaths, falling asleep for three minutes, waking up, doing another ten breaths ... And having no memory of any of it. Also, I fell asleep while drinking soup and poured it down the front of myself. Fun times!

The next day was the only real rough day I had. In the middle of the night I requested some jello from the nurse, and it went down fine. Then at around 7:00 the next morning, the phlebotomist cheerfully trooped into my room to do my daily blood draw, and I said with some urgency, "Please give me that garbage can!" And out came the jello. Poor phlebotomist. They gave me nausea meds that helped a lot, but the next issue was I was having pain breathing and couldn't get much of a breath. They were worried about a blood clot, so they sent me down for chest x-rays. That was hard because I had to stand for the x-rays and I was very, very sore and shaky. Later that evening they also had me walk with a walker, and that too was hard. I made it halfway down the hall and back. The chest x-rays came back clear, so that was a relief.

The next day I felt about 3000% better. My lungs stopped hurting, I wasn't nauseous, and I was able to do a full loop around the transplant ward, two different times! I also took a much needed shower. Ted wheeled me outside for the first time, too, for some sunshine.

The next day was discharge day! I felt really good. I was completely mobile and the oral pain meds worked great. I was just delighted with how quickly I was bouncing back.

One funny thing that Ted and I hadn't anticipated: the recipient was in pre-op at the same time I was, in surgery at the same time, and was in the same wing for recovery. And we're not supposed to have contact for three months, and then only if the recipient wants to. So poor Ted didn't even get to go to the regular waiting room during the surgery because the recipient's family was there. And when I did my walking rounds through the ward, I would peek into any room with an open door and wonder if that was the recipient. We do know that it's a woman and that she's doing well. Her surgeon visited me a couple times and told me I have "the kidney of a racehorse."

Recovery at Ted's house was uneventful. I got stronger every day, and my appetite came roaring back. After a week we were going to movies and walking around the mall. The only hiccup came about two weeks ago, when the pain in my lungs came back, and the difficulty breathing. I called the transplant center for advice, and they said to go to the ER in case it was a blood clot. Luckily, it wasn't -- it was walking pneumonia. They gave me a Z-pack, and five days later I was good as new.

So, one rough day post-surgery and a short bout of pneumonia. Otherwise, the whole experience was truly wonderful. In October I'll get to know more about the recipient, and hopefully she'll want to exchange a letter at least. I absolutely don't want her to feel like she owes me anything; it's more just curiosity. She's walking around with a piece of me inside her :)

I had my surgery at the University of Washington Medical Center. I can't say enough about how fabulous the entire staff was.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Annie the Destroyer

This is Annie. Isn't she all cute and innocent looking?

Annie doesn't like to stay in the yard when I'm not home. I have a doggie door, so it's not like I throw her out back and she can't come inside. She can be inside as much as she wants on soft doggie beds or even the sofa. But no. Annie must explore! All my neighbors have me on speed dial. It takes a village to keep this beagle contained.

At some point Annie decided to go into the crawl space under my foundation. From there, she can escape through a ventilation hole under my front porch. There are several points of access to the crawl space in the back yard. Once I realized how Annie was getting out, I covered the holes with vinyl trellis. That stuff is tough! I learned how to drill into the concrete block and set screws in. I was very proud of my handiwork. No way she could get through that!

A couple days later I came home to no beagle in the yard. I found this:

She must have worried at it for hours. You can see scratch marks in the siding. Anyway, one of my neighbors had her, and also Lola, because wherever Annie goes, Lola goes. Sam the elderly GSP is always sleeping in my living room, clueless. He's a good boy!

Next I covered the above hole with a board. A thick piece of plywood. No way she could get through that, right? All was good for the next several weeks. No escapes. And then...

She ripped the board right off the foundation. All the screws were still screwed into the concrete. Look at the top of the board! Again, that must have taken hours.

Next, I bought a couple two by fours, cut them in pieces to size, and screwed those across the opening with LONG concrete screws. That has actually worked! I can see bite and scratch marks on the boards, but she's not able to make any headway. There have been no escapes via the crawl space since.

No escapes; but that doesn't mean she's not trying. I discovered this today:

She was trying to get into that little trellis-covered opening. In the process, she tore up the siding. Now I have to find siding and paint to match. Sigh.

I found Annie on Craigslist, and this is her third home in her four years of life. I am determined that this will be her forever home. All I have to do is be smarter and more tenacious than a beagle. It's so much harder than it sounds.

She's also a digger, and has dug her way under my fences on many occasions. I've finally hit upon a solution that seems to be working. I took chicken wire and laid it flat next to the fence all the way around the yard. I pounded it into the ground using landscape staples and camping spikes. Then I lined all the fences with landscape ties pushed up right where the fence meets the ground, partially covering the chicken wire. She hasn't been able to dig anywhere I've done that. I missed a few spots, and that's where she has dug. I am feeling good now that I have found all her secret spots.

It's a good thing she's so freakin' cute!

Saturday, May 4, 2013


I see that I haven't written a post since October of last year. Apparently I lost my blogging mojo for awhile. This blog has always been centered on riding, and I had stopped riding. I had a rough winter, too, with multiple deaths from cancer in my circle, one after the other. First, I lost my awesome cousin Matthew, who was just a year older than me. He beat back cancer ten years ago, and in the fall it returned. He died over the holidays. He had just gotten his masters in theater arts and was running a theater in his hometown and really thriving. The world is a less vibrant place without him.

In late January, my elderly beagle mix Abby died suddenly of what was probably liver cancer. One day she just started hemorrhaging in her belly. I took her to the emergency vet, and putting her down was really the only option. She was almost sixteen. I got her as a one-year-old from Hearts United for Animals, one of the best no-kill shelters in the country. They specialize in long-distance adoptions, so if you're looking for a dog, you should check them out. Abby was possibly the most well-behaved dog on the planet. I still miss her.

Then, in February, a good friend of mine lost his mother to pancreatic cancer. She had been diagnosed only about twelve weeks earlier. It was very hard for him. And so, it was just a sad winter all around. I still miss Wolfgang, too.

There was happiness as well. Not long after I lost Abby, I decided to go ahead and look for a rescue beagle. This was mostly for Lola the bassador's benefit. Lola is a super playful girl, and neither Abby or Sam was much interested in playing with her. I found a beagle in Portland on CraigsList, and it was love at first sight. Her name is Annie, and she is fifty pounds of personality in a twenty-pound package. Her baying can just about pop your eardrums, and she is a Houdini at getting out of the yard. But she is a sweet little cuddlebug, and she loves to play with Lola. I'm happy I found her.

Sam the GSP is fourteen and hanging in there. He's mostly blind and mostly deaf, and his eye allergies make him miserable sometimes, but his heart and lungs are good, he's still steady on his feet, and he loves his food, his bed, his backyard, and his chin scritches.

One the horse front, I am currently riding a gray thoroughbred named Lee. He's a pretty boy!

His owner has to be out of town for a couple extended periods, and through a friend (Camilla) I got connected with her. So I'm working this lovely boy until the end of June. He likes me. He comes to me in the pasture and sticks his head up against me. It's nice to be riding again.

Sadly, Camilla has decided to sell Huey. She wants to jump over three feet, and Huey just can't keep his head together over the bigger fences. It's not that he can't jump them; it's more that he gets totally jacked up and takes over. But on lower fences he's super, and he can rock first level dressage. I think second level is within his reach as well. At third, it would take a lot of work to settle his flying changes.

My big news is that I have decided to become a non-directed kidney donor, meaning that my kidney will go to whomever needs it and is a good match. I was inspired by a This American Life segment on a Jewish woman who decided to donate her kidney as a mitzvah, or good deed. I also read a New York Times article on the largest kidney donation chain of all time: 30 donors and 30 recipients. I'll write a future post on what becoming a non-directed donor entails; but I have to share my exciting news -- yesterday the hospital in Seattle called to say they found a match for my kidney, and that my donation will start a chain. My surgery is tentatively set for July 10. I'm excited to think that I'll be able to help someone who is chronically ill have a much better quality of life.