Celebrating Today

Although I am not with her, today I am celebrating the birthday of my daughter, Julia. As I scrolled through multiple pictures of her it was easy for me to recognize why I love her and am blessed to share life with her.

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First off, you cannot put this girl in a box. Oh, wait, maybe…

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Of course, I am her mom and have a fair amount of bias. There are a lot of “mom pics” in the album I’ve made. But most of the photos are of Julie with the family at large, with her Cambodian “sisters and brothers”, with her clients and their animals, with her own menagerie of four legged friends, Julie being silly, enjoying the outdoors, Julie being Julie. The smile is always present and gives the impression of coming on easily and quickly. She is connected. She is involved.

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I’ve seen her when she isn’t at her most glorious, when her dishes aren’t washed, when she doesn’t feel well, when she’s depressed, when she’s overwhelmed with her complex life, having a bad hair day, in trouble at work… all those things that happen to us all. I still like her. I always love her. I admire her resiliency and her ability to work through to better times. If I were a captain choosing my team, I would pick her.

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So today, thank you for keeping yourself in my life Julie. I am grateful for your friendship and all the wonderful opportunities you give me to talk, to laugh, to work, TO HAVE FUN! I am forever on your side and you are forever in my prayers.

Love, Mom

A New Thing to Do

I think it is good to do something new, every once in a while, if you can find something. Finding something new to do is not always easy, but it really helps to  hang out with someone younger. Someone who does things that you didn’t know about.

Now this could be an introduction to several things, but what I’m actually referring to is geo-caching.

It’s an odd sport, but I saw it in action the last couple of days and I think it has a certain charm. For me, at least, it attracts me in the same way as doing jig saw puzzles, playing Microsoft solitaire challenges, or hunting down sea shells at the beach. It calls for a focus, a dedication to the hunt, and possible putting up with some inconvenience.

We were walking in the forest, on a treacherous unpaved path with tree roots and rocks grabbing at our shoes as we climbed steep embankments. Julia, as usual, was paying no attention to the path but was fixated on her phone. She said we were near a geo-cache and she was going into the woods to find it. She handed me the dog’s leash, and the dog and went off the path and disappeared into the brush. The wait was rather long. I was developing a story plot in my mind about a girl finding a cache (whatever that was) and falling into an alternate universe as she grabbed it, never to be seen again. A man and woman came by on the path and as I felt awkward standing there doing nothing, I explained what I was waiting for – a person who had gone looking for a metal box hidden out there somewhere.

I finally heard a shout, which sounded excited, and I attributed it to a successful find. But there was still a long wait before she was seen or heard returning. It is customary to open the box when it is found and leave a record on a small notebook, or leave an object as proof of your presence. As with much of today’s fun, an app on a mobile phone is responsible for announcing the nearness of a geo-cache and guiding the way to it, within a small margin of error.

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Yes, we are never free from our phones, even out in the forest it seems.

Today we went hiking again. Wanting to see how easily this sport could be called up, I asked if there were any geo-caches in the area and Julie turned on her app to find out. There were several, and they were not too far away. The hunt was on.

It took us 30 minutes to find the first one after we reached the area. We are in a forest downed trees, brambles, ravines and all sorts of natural obstacles strewn about. The forest floor is covered with leaves and debris. The clue given to us, as I remember it, was to look on the downhill side of the path for a fallen log, with some parallel sticks on its uphill side. We also had a picture of a little boy holding the box by the log. It’s a forest. There are fallen logs everywhere, parallel sticks are not scarce either. As I said, it took us 30 minutes. Julie found it. She was quite pleased because this improved her record, having now found more caches than the ones she had tried to find and missed.

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Find a log with some sticks by it. Sure, no problem.

A mile or so later we were following another clue – find the cache not more than 50 feet from the path, on a fence line between a pine and a hardwood. I saw the fence line first. That was my only contribution. Julie found this one too and our only disappointment was not finding a pen in the box so we could record our presence. We took a picture instead – at least we know we were there.

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One of Julie’s finds – the one by the log obviously.

We finished the hike discussing where we could hide our own geo-caches, and how we would carry pens with us next time – enough of them so we could leave one in the box if necessary. I would dearly love to get rid of some of the many pens I have accumulated and this would be a fun way to do it. My only problem is that my phone’s storage space is full of apps I don’t use and can’t get rid of (thank you Verizon) so I have no room for the geo-caching app. I may have to get a new phone, just sayin’…

Ordinary Times and Travels: North Carolina

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View out the kitchen window. Could it be prettier? No.

I am in North Carolina for about 10 days, staying with eldest daughter Julia. She has recently moved here to start a new job with Carolina Equine. She is an equine veterinarian. She left her previous work in Jacksonville, FL over Christmas vacation and is gradually getting moved. It hasn’t been fun or easy for her, and moving is quite often a risky endeavor. How do you know it will be better for you in the new place? You don’t, really.

North Carolina has been a dream of hers for a long time. I think it started when we visited a friend’s house in the Nantahala area. It was cooler than Florida and had interesting terrain with streams, mountains, and forests.  Later on, we went hiking on the Appalachian Trail and saw more of the state’s mountainous western side. We’ve spent a week in Charlotte years ago. We’ve heard glowing tales from friends who have moved to the state – that’s it. Somehow the dream grew from these beginnings.

I feel that it was divine providence that Julia found a temporary place to live. She was worried about finding an affordable rental that wouldn’t require a long lease. She wants very badly to find property of her own where she can finally settle and unpack. She has not had a place she could really call her own since she left for school eight years ago. One of the clients of the practice she works for has a small rental house on their horse ranch and offered it to her. She can’t unpack and is still surrounded by boxes but it is a comfortable abode and the ranch is so beautiful it is going to be hard to leave.

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Over 100 acres of field and woods, loved and cared for by Cesario the ranch hand.

Of course, the husband and I are interested in all this because she is our daughter, but also because we have entertained the thought of moving here as well. We have been wanting to live nearer to family, specifically our daughters, for a while, praying about it and considering where and when.

So, here I am, determined to find out some things about Greensboro, NC. I am learning my way around the roads, looking at the neighborhoods and trying to imagine living here.  I’m trying to help while I’m here by fixing some meals and, as usual, cleaning the old food out of the refrigerator. I find it strange that after years of not liking to cook, it now seems that is one of the ways I am most useful to people. I had better start to like it. I clean, I take care of pets, I get groceries. Ordinary times are the norm, and that’s good because ordinary times are wonderful.

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Horse trailer, pick up truck, Tess the dog, Todd Rogers the cat – all part of ordinary life with Dr. J.

Watching and Waiting: Part 2

The continuing saga of Hurricane Matthew in Jacksonville

Friday: It was a restless night. We kept hearing the noise of the wind and rain messing with the tarp on our roof. The logs holding it down kept rolling around, thumping, and we wondered when the leaking would start. When it was light enough, Julie decided to move her vet van out to the other side of the electric gate, in case the power would go out and leave her trapped.  She thought it would be good to move my car out as well so it wouldn’t get stuck in the mud.  I never had noticed all the power lines overhead, but now that it was time to avoid them, there they were.

The barn owner came over in his golf cart and suggested better placement of our vehicles, so out we went again, looking for high ground away from trees. The weather was not particularly scary so we decided to eat a good breakfast before leaving. The cats were going to stay put in the barn apartment so we fed them too. The horses, backs to the wind, heads down, were still grazing out in the field pond.  Water, water everywhere and more coming down all the time.

We relocated to the main house around 11 and took up residence with Cliff, Monica and their kids, “hunkering down” as hurricane people call it in their solid, block house which Cliff assured us was going to be super safe in spite of being surrounded by huge trees.  For several hours we cooked, watched tv, and did all those electric things that one takes for granted, until the power went out at 3 pm.  The party spirit was not dampened in the slightest since the generator went on and powered lights and fans, tv and internet quite adequately.  Out on the dining room table a four hour (agonizing) game of Risk took place at decibel levels that I’m sure were damaging to the ears. I blogged and caught up on my Solitaire challenges.

Somewhere in its progression Matthew took an eastward jog which newscasters credited with saving most of Jacksonville. The reports showed the devastation of the beach towns which were flooded, but even there the damage could have been much worse.  Piers were washed away, people reported sharks in their front yards, trees were snapped off, all the routine hurricane stuff… Just sayin’…

It seemed like the wind was dying down where we were as well and I wanted to get out of the house and check on our things in the apartment before darkness was upon us. Julie and I set out in the golf cart during a lull, but before we got halfway to the barn the wind picked up again and, well, really impressed us, I’d have to say. It wasn’t a fearful moment, but definitely exhilarating to be aware of the power of the wind and driving rain, to have to wade through a foot of water to open the gate, and to arrive drenched in spite of rain gear.

The expected leak had begun but the buckets were catching most of it. The cats were fine. We grabbed some food to take back and braved the elements again going back to the house. More eating, waiting, watching tv until bedtime. We decided to sleep at the house where there were lights and fans and good company if we needed it. Still raining, but we were glad to hear the promise of better weather for the morning.

Saturday: From a west coast friend “it’s hard for me to understand why people choose to live where they have to prepare for possibly devastating weather. Every year.” I guess I would answer that I didn’t really choose Florida for its weather at all – I loved Wisconsin where I came from (although some people can’t understand choosing to live there either…). Sometimes the more pressing matter is where you have a job that will support your family. And I have to say that most of the year Florida weather is pretty desirable, judging by the crowd we get down here. Florida has been our home for 30 years and this is only the second time I have “hunkered down” during a hurricane. I do appreciate that we are given ample time to prepare and make decisions, even leave the path if we desire.

Today’s waiting is for the power to be restored and the water to run off. Most of us are a little stir crazy. I’ve been out to check the apartment, sweep debris and pile up fallen branches. We are still on generator power and it doesn’t run the AC so it’s getting a little damp and warm in the house, but overall, still comfortable. Although we have internet, my pictures will not upload so I will have to add them later. Check back if you wish. Thanks to everyone who cared about our welfare, and thanks to God for protection and comfort in the midst of the storm.

 

 

 

Watching and Waiting: Part 1

Watching and waiting for Matthew…

The worst thing about this hurricane, so far, has been making the decisions about where to go, whether to evacuate, where is the safest place if we stay? The decisions develop and change with time as there is always something new to consider. Second guessing is a constant temptation.

Tuesday:  I arrived a bit before noon and met Dr. Julia on her rounds. She had the dog with her so I had to share the passenger seat with a black lab.  We made a stop at the office and at the stable to drop off the dog. It seems that a lot of people don’t think about updating the vaccinations and Coggins on their horses until they have to consider evacuating them out of state. She has numerous emergency visits just to do health certificates.

Nearly all of Julia’s belongings are stored in a large metal storage unit. She goes down a couple times a week to look for something she needs and today she needs canned goods. We are more than a little upset to find out that a leak we reported two weeks ago is still leaking. I drive up to the office to let them know and return with their solution – a 50 gallon garbage can to collect the water.

We stop at Moe’s to buy dinner for ourselves and a friend and then return to the stable where nervous horse girls are painting phone numbers on their horse’s sides.  Our friend Doug eats burritos with us and says he’s not worried about the hurricane.  He seems to be very confident.

Wednesday night: After riding around seeing clients for most of the day, Dr. Julia started thinking about and questioning her employer as to her obligation to answer emergency calls during hurricane weather. After all, as she reasoned, she isn’t a government employee, doesn’t have fancy lights and sirens on her vehicle, might encounter impassable roads, might not be able to find fuel after the first tank, and doesn’t even have health or life insurance. She cancelled her Thursday appointments and will be talking people through their emergencies if they can reach her by phone. No one has complained. Evidently people have better things to do right now.

The husband has been texting us often, as he thinks of things we should be doing. He has suggested several places for us to evacuate to, and for some reason that I can’t fathom, is worried about us getting our laundry done.

I made a trip to the gas station to fill up the tank and find out why my tire pressure monitor was misbehaving. It was busy there. The Publix next door was doing good business too – every cash register was manned, the bottled water was gone, as was the bread.

Thursday:  We slept pretty good Wednesday night, knowing we had until sometime Friday to figure out what to do. We are in a small apartment in a stable, next to the feed room. Across the aisle from us are several stalls with horses. The barn cats are guarding the door. Inside the one room abode, Julia houses herself, her dog and two cats.  The barn is about fifty years old and has weathered one hurricane pretty well. It is open on each end which allows the wind to go through unimpeded. It has a metal roof and as far as anyone knows, there is only one leak above the apartment which is covered with a tarp weighted down with huge chunks of log. To me, the place feels pretty sturdy. There aren’t any big trees around to fall on it. I would consider riding out the storm here, even though the tarp will probably blow off and we might have some leaks. We have buckets.

Julia has joined a gym close to the barn partly for exercise, and definitely so that she can have a place to shower. That is her first mission for the day. We split up and I go to the post office for her and to Sam’s Club. I need to buy Half n Half because we can’t stand the thought of several days in storm confinement without cream for our coffee.

Another trip to the storage room, and there is good news. A repair has been made and the roof is no longer leaking in that spot. The bad news is that Julia discovers a new leak and we try to figure out how to move her bookcase to safety. We have come for hurricane supplies – a transistor radio and batteries, candles, toilet paper and vodka.

Today we spend quite a bit of time watching tv.  We check in on the hurricane but most of the time we   watch HGTV, Flip or Flop. We are both a little short on rest and can hardly stay awake.  The hurricane has not reached us yet but it has been raining almost constantly, sometimes very hard, with wind. I check on the horses who are standing, soaked in rain, grazing as if nothing is happening.   We have decided that it’s best to leave the horses loose in the pasture as a herd.  I finally go out to help feed them and have to wade through a sea of rainwater. Their feed turns into mash in the trough.

We are getting offers of shelter. The people who own the stable have invited us over.  Their house is surrounded by huge trees. In fact, the last time I visited during a storm, a big limb fell off one of their trees and trapped our vehicle in their back field. We also have an offer from a friend who has a nice new house, right on the marsh of the river. He’s in zone A for evacuation. HE SHOULD BE LEAVING so what’s with that?! Dr. Julia doesn’t want to leave her own animals, even though she knows the priorities of the situation.  The husband is still texting us that we should leave. He is reminding me of a Cat 1 storm that devastated a nearby town years ago, and this is a Cat 3 scheduled to go right over us.  We consider again and pray about it, knowing that it still seems best to stay where we are. We ask God to change our minds if he needs us to do something different. And we ask for peace for our family and ourselves.

Before we turn in for the night, we pull our vehicles into the barn and load some things in them. In the morning we’ll head over to Cliff and Monica’s to spend the day and night during the worst part of the storm.  We fall asleep watching the weather report.

Making Faith Common

I woke up this morning knowing that my plans were in jeopardy. I had the awareness that we should have been up and around, getting ready to travel the four hours to see the daughter whose birthday is tomorrow. That was still in my mind last night as I rounded things up and put them in the car for an early start. It was nearly 7, and we had meant to start at 8. I could tell already that wasn’t going to happen.

But don’t panic. Your plans may need to change, and that will be alright.

I checked my phone, as usual, and saw a couple text messages that had come since I had gone to bed the night before. My daughter was undecided about the weekend. She was going to have four days off and was wanting to make good use of it, maybe travel away from home to look for a new job. She was also concerned about her dad. He had hurt his back and she knew he wouldn’t want to sit in the car for hours and hours. Should she come home to us so he wouldn’t have to travel? The possibilities were confusing. I wanted to talk to her but she wasn’t answering the phone.

You’re right. Don’t rush around trying to get ready and don’t be upset or confused. I know what’s going to happen and you will know, trust me.

 My husband wasn’t even stirring yet. I knew he liked to go slowly in the morning even when he was feeling well. His painful back was going to make it even harder to get ready. It seemed okay to let him sleep since I wasn’t sure what we were going to do anyway. An hour later he came shuffling out of the bedroom, every step taking effort, and headed to his favorite chair – the one that made his back feel better. I told him the situation. “It would sure be easier if she could come here, but I’ll go up there if she can’t. I want to be there for her birthday.”

You know what you need to do – ask me for help and affirm your trust. I’ll take care of the plan.”

 We had been praying together in the mornings pretty regularly, so it wasn’t hard to decide to do it given this situation. We asked for peace for our daughter and for ourselves. We asked that she be blessed on her birthday and that she would know that she was valued and loved. We asked for the best plan to be clear and that we would not balk or feel inconvenienced. “We want what you want Lord, so we’ll wait until you let us know what it is.”

Soon after, my cell phone rang, and my daughter and I talked. “We should have thought more about this weekend, I guess.” She was subdued and sounded tired.

“Yes, Dad doesn’t look any better this morning. He’s not moving very well. It might not be the best thing for him to travel.”

“That’s why I asked if I should come down.  His bad back wouldn’t be comfortable sleeping in my accommodations either.  I want to get away from here anyway, stay somewhere a little nicer this weekend. Can I bring the cats?”

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The cats seem to have settled in already. It’s their specialty.

And so it happened that instead of going to Jacksonville for the weekend, Jacksonville came to us – the girl, the dog and two cats and that really does seem best to us all. I was consciously aware of and thankful for the fact that I did not waste energy worrying about how it would turn out. I did not struggle with the change of plans. There was no miracle here, no dramatic voice from above, just a quiet interchange of spiritual thought in a rather common type of situation. What makes it possible is the claim of God to be caring about the details of my life and the response to believe him. It is very freeing and my wish is to be able to apply it, practice it, until it is second nature in all situations. It is like having adventures with someone who has all the time in the world for me. And I thought I would say that I like that, very much.

 

Understanding 101

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not paraticularly inviting…

Depending on how you look at it, being at the end of a long, unpaved, often pothole filled, dead end road can be very comforting (like, what bad guys would even want to drive down this?) or really creepy (if they do come they are highly motivated and wanting to avoid witnesses). And isn’t that how life always is? We often get to choose a viewpoint.

I am coming to the end of a project, that of keeping house for Dr. Julia while she visited Cambodia and the children of Asia’s Hope. I find it interesting to step inside someone’s world and reflect on their experience. I’ve lived with her family of animals, sweated in her less than efficient air conditioning, traveled her frequented roads and busy city highways, walked in her pastures, waded through her mud, mowed her grass, eaten dinner with her friends and driven her vehicles.

I’ve gotten the flavor of north eastern Florida, from the hospitality and southern courtesy of its inhabitants, to the ever present matttresses, broken tv’s and toilet fixtures waiting on the side of the road for garbage pickup. What I will miss is the silence. I don’t know why I call it silence – it’s really the sound of a crew of frogs in the pond in the yard, and the wind in the trees, and the rain on the roof. But I can actually hear these things and it’s not hard to sleep peacefully with that kind of music in the background (if you’ve chosen not to worry about the bad guys…)

For me, coming away with a better understanding of another person’s joys and struggles is the bonus in this experience. Now, when Dr. Julia tries to explain the feelings of isolation in the evenings, coming home to a dark house, with only her cats and dog and her “friends” in the box (tv), I get it.  When she mentions her frustration with the rats getting into her horse feed again,  I get it. I saw those critters.  I hope there is some comfort for her in knowing that her experience is more known by another.

I am thankful for this season in my life. I am benefitting from these extended periods of time spent with family, sometimes in their homes, sometimes in mine. I marvel at how gently God is teaching me empathy, compassion, and how to discern other’s needs. I want to learn how to honestly express interest, and love. Often that class takes place at the end of a long, bumpy road. Just sayin’…

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recently graveled, but working on some new potholes

My Daughter’s Horse and I

A visual sequence that brings good times and a great horse to mind…

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Ghost want to go for a ride? No? This looks like a belt and I think I need it to be tight. Don’t be holding your breath now…
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Yeah, I’m on. Nice horsey, you knew that was going to happen so don’t act all surprised. Nice horsey, let’s go.
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Round and round the track we go – you lift your feet so pretty and I haven’t fallen off. We’re good.
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We are so cool, and I am still firmly in the saddle. Let’s keep it that way, thanks.
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You are so pretty and white. I am red and blue. We look so red, white and blue together. I make you look good, don’t I? Smile for the camera please.
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Good ride Ghost. Now let’s get back to the barn before something bad happens…
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Whaaa!!! Getting off is supposed to be the easy part! Gimme my shirt back!
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That was embarrassing. I’m outta here. Don’t pretend you’re sad.

I really do have fun riding and am not quite as fall phobic as I make myself out to be. And Ghost was always a good horse. RIP 5-11-2016

Legacy: A Horse Called Ghost

Love, whether or animals or people, involves risk.  Let me amend that, love involves the certainty of pain and eventual loss, always. Because we know that, every moment that we spend with each other or with a “quasi-human” pet should be filled with awareness and appreciation of life. Over a lifespan, the love we enjoy far outweighs the pain of separation. It leaves us enriched, more experienced, and better able to process what we know will come.

For some reason many of us as children were fascinated by the idea of sitting on a horse. Our mothers set us up on the horse of our choice on the carousel.  Maybe we got to ride a real pony around in a circle at the fair. We read Black Beauty, and watched My Friend Flicka. I did all these things. So did my children.

For many of us the fascination wears off. We discover that real horses are bigger than we thought, and stronger than we knew, and less inclined to be caught and gently led, let alone ridden.  But for some, like my daughter Julia, the dream goes on, and if horse ownership is denied for lack of money, time or any other practical reason, the dream builds pressure until it explodes.  And so, a horse entered the life of our family and had effects that are still in operation today.

Julia, her sister Esther, and I had ridden and worked at a small stable in northern Wisconsin for several summers when the owner brought in a new string of horses she had bought in Minnesota. They had to be ridden a lot and carefully gauged for their trustworthiness before any of the “dudes” were put on them. The owner, Miss Lolly, had one that was her favorite – a nearly white quarter horse mare she called Ghost.  She rode her most of the time but occasionally one of her better outriders were asked if they wanted to try her. That was the summer Julia fell in love with Ghost.  The next year she bought her, one payment at a time, with her own money.

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Julie and Ghost in their first parade, Hayward, Wisconsin.

Logistically, it was crazy. We had moved to Florida and had no place for a horse. So Ghost lived in Wisconsin on Lolly’s farm and she and Julia continued to work together in the summer. But the time came when school and work made the summer trips up north shorter and Julia missed her horse. It was time for Ghost to come to Florida.

We knew little to nothing about trailering a horse over that distance. Our borrowed one-horse trailer was hitched behind a mini-van, of all things, and I have pictures of our travel arrangement that make me wonder how we ever made it. The roughly 30 hour trip had one overnight, as I recall, and lots of stops where we would check on Ghost’s water and hay.  Only once did we actually take her out of the trailer briefly and let her walk around at a country exit off the interstate. I think we were worried we wouldn’t be able to get her back in.

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Ghost with the new filly Fea.

She made it to Florida and to Springrock Farm where she spent a number of years with J.C. Barnhill watching over her.  Julie’s regular trips to care for Ghost benefited the horse but also furthered Julie’s interest as she learned how to trim hooves, care for horse teeth, and feed and exercise horses.  One of the biggest surprises was when it was discovered that Ghost had come to Florida in foal.  Rocker, a pretty paint colt was added to the family.  Several years later Ghost was bred to Barnhill’s thoroughbred stallion, Officer, and had a filly.  Julie named her Fea, and although she came out brown, she soon was the spitting image of her mom.  The family was a herd of three.

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Left to right: Fea, Rocker and Mama Ghost in festive dress.

The family spent time at several other properties as the years unfolded, always necessitating Julie to travel daily to watch over, feed and ride. They were her charges, her dependents. Her knowledge and interest in veterinary care of large animals increased and ultimately led her to enter the DVM program at UF, Gainesville.  Ghost and the family moved to a small farm there for four years.  The next move was to Jacksonville, FL where Dr. Julia began her job with Jacksonville Equine.  At the small boarding pasture where her herd now lived, Dr. J. had to deal with Ghost’s problems of advancing age, especially weight loss and inability to compete with other horses for feed.  The last few months were a triumph for Ghost and Dr. J. as Ghost was healthy, energetic and looking well nourished.  Only a few weeks ago Dr. J. and some friends took her on a trail ride with Rocker and Fea and all did well.

We’ve all heard of the benefits of having pets. There Is even more to a long term, committed relationship to the care and welfare of an animal. It is much like parenting, in that patience is learned, along with so many other skills. Love is practiced through good times and bad. Faithfulness has its demands for both owner and animal. Those demands, decisions and courses of action can be stressful and sudden.

A week ago Ghost had a medical emergency, colic, another name for equine bowel obstruction. It could not be resolved with initial treatment and Dr. J. took her quickly to the UF vet hospital for diagnosis and ultimately, surgery. Given every chance, Ghost was still unable to survive. She has been laid to rest in a quiet corner of her pasture and will not be forgotten.

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Ghost, may you be in pastures where the grass is always green and fresh…

Weekend on Call: episode 2

I have a talented daughter who is an equine veterinarian. Although I am a registered nurse for people, she occasionally allows me to ride on calls with her as she treats animals. We have adventures. I call myself VetMa. (OK, it’s a bit dramatic. So what?)

I heard the gathering of supplies and the phone conversation as I was waking up. There was no time for breakfast. We were on the road within minutes. It was Saturday morning and the weekend had officially started.

An animal loving family had been nursing their mini calf during the last week.  It had been seen by vets locally and at the University. It had been doing well and was being stalled in the house, in the bathroom. At midnight, the night before, it had been standing, chewing calmly on some hay with no apparent problems. This morning the family found things quite different. They were afraid it might be too late.

The scene was not encouraging. When the Doc arrived the calf was lying on the living room floor, swaddled in blankets with a heat lamp on it.  A worried looking husband and wife gave her the story. They had found the little animal unresponsive, barely breathing and looking near death. They had no clue what had happened.

A mini calf is about as big as a medium sized dog. The woman was stroking his head, holding it to keep his airway open. The preliminary exam showed a temperature too low to register on the thermometer, unusually cool limbs, barely audible heartbeat and respirations so diminished they were hard to detect.  Its eyes were open and glazed. The only sign of life was an occasional struggle and agonizing cry.

The doc is not only an animal lover herself, but also a very compassionate people person. She always tries to give people options even in the most critical looking situations. There weren’t many options to give in this case. There was no apparent course of action and it was doubtful the little guy would survive another trip to the university hospital. She offered to try to decompress the bowel, in case there was a blockage of some sort and talked with the owners about euthanasia as well. She went out to the truck to get her equipment ready should they wish to have treatment.  The man came out a moment later with tears in his eyes to say they did not want their animal to suffer any longer.

Hearts break when a precious animal suffers. It is part of the risk of ownership of an animal, that it will get sick or hurt and suffer. A good doc gives owners as much information as possible to make responsible decisions about the care of their animal. Making the decision to not let suffering continue when nothing can be done is difficult but there is also a peace and a feeling that the decision is the right one for the animal. A caring veterinarian helps clients through these times, being as kind, gentle and humane as possible. And that is how the first call of the day ended.

Euthanasia is not something a veterinarian enjoys, but it is part of the job.  It is heartbreaking. Every time.