On Monday, we had to say goodbye to Jack, our loyal Jack Russell terrier. My parents and I bought him as a birthday gift for Bill in 1998. He was, as we liked to fondly call him, “the worst birthday present ever.” Being a Jack Russell, he liked to bark at anything and everything. To be expected, but so annoying! As a bonus, for his first few months with us, he peed in the house and would not stop, culminating with an incident during a move from one house to another when he peed on our bed right before we fell into it, exhausted. Believe it or not, he survived that night, and that was the last time he ever peed in the house until his final illness.
He turned into a pretty good dog, though, and we loved him a lot. He was our only dog when we moved here to Tennessee in 2005. He adapted from city dog to farm dog quite well – he LOVED it here. His favorite place, other than on the couch in the air-conditioned house, was the barn. He had a thing for horse apples and hoof trimmings.
Last January we took him to the vet because we were afraid the Buddha belly he’d developed was more than just fat. Alas, we were right. It was fluid buildup due to liver failure. The vet thought he probably had liver cancer. We started him on diuretic medication to make him more comfortable and began to wait for the inevitable.
A year later, he was still plugging along, but he had developed diarrhea and started peeing in the house. Took him back to the vet and discovered that he was now also in kidney failure. We put him on SQ fluids and a special diet and waited for the inevitable.
The diuretic stopped working a couple of months later so we stopped giving it. His breathing got to be more labored but the tough little dog hung in there. He started having problems eating too, and after a really tough couple of weeks, he virtually stopped eating altogether last week. We reluctantly agreed that the time had come. So on Monday, July 25, we had to say goodbye for good. Jack was 14 years old and we’d had him for more than 13 years. Wow, was that hard. Knowing it’s coming doesn’t make it any easier.
One of the many posts I’ve been meaning to submit these past few days is one I was going to call “Our new dog Sad Elvis”. Elvis had been hanging around our house for some time now, the unwanted dog of a neighbor who refused to restrain him. He was a hound mix with full size features on short little legs. He got along with all of our dogs and cats and although he occasionally would bark at our horses, he did it infrequently and at a distance. This poor dog was skinny but we didn’t want to keep him from going home for meals. Eventually, though, we took pity on him and began feeding him. Most days he had been laying by our front door in the morning, shivering. So eventually we opened our horse trailer and put a blanket in there for him. Last week we decided to bathe him and take him to the vet for a checkup. And since his owner wasn’t taking care of him, we decided we’d try to find him a new owner. The owner had been looking for a new home for Elvis so this wasn’t out of line. We kind of wanted to keep him but we have four dogs already. He was “ours” in the sense that we were the only ones taking care of him.
Since he was now clean and since the weather grew even colder, we invited him into the house. He was a good inside dog and mostly laid around the house all day. Then on the coldest night of the season so far, we let him out before bed so he could go to the bathroom and we never saw him alive again. The next morning we discovered he had been hit by a car on a road not far from our house. Mikki pulled him off of the road and I angrily drove around looking for his owner (we had only spoken with him on the phone and he no longer took our calls). We finally found the owner and demanded he take care of Elvis’ body, which he did.
So Sunday was very sad for us. Even though he wasn’t our dog, he had become a fixture around our little farm and we’re going to miss him.
BTW, we called him Sad Elvis because hounds look sad and because of the popular Elvis song “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog”. It seemed to fit.
Our dogs look forward to farrier visits. I think they mark it on their little doggy calendars, in fact. When the farrier visits, he trims all eight of our horses’ hooves in neat slices, just perfect for gnawing. This to me is disgusting. Mikki and I pick up the shavings but invariably one or two get by us and a few days later we see one of our dogs happily chewing on it. They must be good, too, because our dogs will protect this illicit snack with their lives. This can’t be healthy for them, right? I’m sure hooves carry all kinds of nasty bacteria dogs shouldn’t be ingesting. But then again as much as I love dogs, I realize they are pretty gross. I mean how do you reason with something that will eat its own barf and dig “Almond Roca” out of the cat litter box for a particularly chewy treat? Can horse hooves really be worse than poo and week-old garbage?
Our worst offender is our older Jack Russell terrier. He is a hoof aficionado. This last batch he got into didn’t settle too well in his tummy and we got to see what it looked like partially digested…on our living room carpet. Pretty gross. But that’s the dog theme…gross.
Do you let your dog(s), if you have any, munch on horse hoof trimmings?
Also Avoid Being Stepped On By a Horse (especially if you’re a small dog)
It was bound to happen. Our laissez-faire farm dog got a little too close to the horses’ feet. We didn’t actually see it happen, but we know it scared the spots off him. We were all up at the barn, Bill and I were working inside and Jack was out in the pasture with the horses doing his usual thing: sticking as close to the source as possible for his favorite snack, horse poo. The three of them were around the corner when we heard a shrill canine yelp and Jack came streaking into the barn with a big ol’ smear of “mud” down his side. He was shaking like our other dog, Ranger, does when we have a thunderstorm. (That is to say, if you held him, he’d vibrate out of your arms.) He was scared to death, but apparently unhurt. We think he was kind of half-stepped on but slipped out of the way in time to avoid injury. Since he just wanders around their feet, nose to the ground, without paying them much attention, he’s lucky it hasn’t happened before now. Hopefully he’s learned his lesson!
Seriously. You take a couple of 1000+ pound animals with sharp tools on their feet and put them in a structure made of wood and held together with a few thin pieces of metal, and there are going to be incidents. Take our adventure a few weeks ago, and then what happened last night.
Our barn is about 100 yards from our house, and we’re fairly deep sleepers. Luckily for us (or unluckily, depending on how you look at it), we have three canine sensors with keen hearing who aren’t afraid to let us know if something is amiss, at least in their tiny little minds. Like at 4:00 this morning, when Jack, the oldest, went nuts barking. Usually this means that the neighbor dogs down the hill, who live outside, are barking – why we need to know this, I don’t know, but he doesn’t like to miss any opportunity to bark. But when he’s insistent, like he was this time, we always check it out. Bill pointed out later that any good farmer would have been checking it out by standing on the porch with a shotgun in his hand, but we prefer to do it by peeking out the windows in our jammies.
On this occasion, there did appear to be something actually amiss – there was some loud banging coming from the barn. Bill looked out every window that offers a view of the barn, but couldn’t see anything, and that includes horses. There were no horses to be seen. Finally he ventured out on the back porch, sans shotgun, just in time to see the outer door of Valentine’s stall – which in addition to being latched is nailed shut – fly open and reveal Valentine on his back with legs flailing in the air. He ran back to tell me (I wasn’t fully awake yet) and we started pulling clothes and shoes on. I ran up to the barn to see Valentine standing outside his stall, looking pretty much normal, although a bit surprised.
Unfortunately, the outside door of his stall is surrounded by stuff – the tub to a utility trailer and a pile of fence rails. There is no way a horse can get out of there without jumping. He’s apparently not much of a jumper, and decided to turn around. I don’t know how he managed it in that small space, but he did. He went back in his stall and I followed him in. We checked him from head to toe, and with the exception of some bleeding from a pre-existing wound and being pretty sweaty and caked with what I’ll politely call “dirt,” nothing seemed out of the ordinary. We let him and the mare out into the pasture, 4 hours early, and investigated the area to try to figure out what happened.
The evidence: A dirty, sweaty but uninjured horse standing outside his stall; spilled water bucket next to stall door, still hanging on hook; open stall door with scuff marks and small gouges on inside; and stall door latch ripped off, found about 15 feet away from stall door. Also, Bill’s observation of said horse laying on his back in the stall with his legs in the air.
Conclusion: Valentine laid down and at some point maneuvered himself into a position where he couldn’t easily get up. This caused him to panic, so he flailed those long legs around so violently that he burst his stall door open. After it was open, he managed to get himself up, only to discover that, hey! There’s a door open! So he wandered out into the small space but couldn’t go any further.
So, we fixed the stall door, and moved the debris. Hey, if the mare can wander around in the middle of the night and eat grass, Valentine should too, right? Actually, we just thanked our lucky stars that he didn’t injure himself on the stuff out there, and moved it just in case it happened again.
This brought up an issue we’ve been wrestling with: barn security. A previous owner had, as I mentioned, nailed the outside stall door latches shut. This is good in a way, because it’s hard for someone to sneak your horses out that particular door. It’s also bad in case of an emergency – what if the barn is on fire and you can’t get the horses out through the inside doors? There is a fine line between keeping your horses (which are, let’s face it, valuable property) secure, and being prepared to get them out of the barn at a moment’s notice. A lot of people keep an inexpensive halter hanging outside each stall door in case of emergency. We find ourselves unable to do this, for fear of making horse theft that much easier.
For a future installment: Ways to protect your horse from theft and get it back if it is stolen, e.g. branding and microchipping.
I think that’s the best way to put it, really. My dog just loves our new horse. From the start neither showed fear or even much interest in the other. Except my dog quickly learned that having a horse around meant occasional carrot and apple snacks dropped from our messy horse and an endless supply of the finest horse manure this side of PetSmart.
Now I just know there must be some kind of disease my dog can get from this and of course we stop him whenever we seem him doing it, but there’s no way to keep him from the pasture and as long he as doesn’t run away or cause trouble, we like him to be able to roam freely when we’re outside.
The cleaning up after horsey snacks I don’t mind. I don’t like Valentine to poke his head through the fence and any food left behind will attract bugs and other critters. So I’m fine with my canine friend having some leftover (albeit dirty) carrot and apple pieces. But poop? Ick!
If you ever stop by our little farm, take my advice and don’t accept kisses from my dog.