The Animal Thread

Started by SueC, January 13, 2020, 00:19:06

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This is a thread where you can tell us about your companion animals past and present.  Photos are extra wonderful!   :)

Also, since this is a Cure forum, if anybody knows anything about any companion animals people in the band have / had, this is where you can put the information.  All I know is that there was a dog belonging to I forget who, who featured somewhat on the track Babble by putting his paws on the keyboards.  Also, I once saw a photo of Robert Smith sitting on a seashore surrounded by a bunch of what looked like Irish Setters, if I remember correctly - large, reddish dogs anyroad, and they were all over him and great body language all around from the four-legs and two-legs; unfortunately I can't locate the picture, but if anyone else knows where it is...

So I'll start us off with the current companion animals Brett and I have - a collection which expanded considerably once we bought our smallholding back in 2010.  Before that, I didn't have a dog since childhood, because I could never justify leaving a dog on its own while I went off to work long hours during the day - and I had a horse since way back, who died in 2014 at the age of 32.  I used to borrow our neighbours' Border Collie to take on walks when we lived in town, which was a win-win for the dog, its owners and me.

Our dog Jess has been with us since 2013.  The human-shaped object who owned her previously took her for a long drive when she was 9 months old, found a patch of bushland, and tossed her out to fend for herself (and I would so like to do the same to him/her :evil:).  She was picked up by the ranger and ended up at the Donnybrook Farm Dog Rescue, from which we adopted her.  She's a working line Kelpie, a breed developed partly from Border Collies and other stock dogs, and the Dingo.  This is her at work:

On a bushfire patrol with me, having a quiet moment:

And at home:

She is such a fabulous dog, I daily wonder at the idiocy of some people who acquire and then dump animals when they tire of them - although it was actually a good day for Jess when her first owners tossed her out of their car, because that's how she came to be with us, and we give her a decent life complete with stock work, walks at home, hiking adventures, trail rides, all sorts of games, an outdoor dog palace, an indoor personal sofa of her own and plenty of attention.

As part of what I write about for a couple of independent magazines, I write about animals on a reasonably regular basis, and this is a story I wrote for her:

Also living on our farm are three ex-harness racing horses who in their previous lives were all kept solitary for over a decade each, while training and racing as stallions.  Horses are social animals who need two things above anything to be happy:  A herd to be a part of, and places to roam freely and eat grass.  Unfortunately, many domestic horses have neither of these two biggies these days, and this makes for many miserable animals.  These three horses, whom I all knew since birth and helped to educate as young horses, lived most of their previous lives in boxes at night, and daytime turnout into long narrow sand yards with double electric fences to separate them from each other.  There they would pace along the fencelines so many hours they wore deep channels into the ground, with dead expressions in their eyes like you see in those photos of tigers and other zoo animals when they used to be kept in barred concrete enclosures, where, just like these horses, they would pace up and down alongside the bars that kept them from the outside world and others of their kind.

Since I was never able to do anything about this at the time, and saw this going on for so many years, you can probably all imagine how happy I was to be able to adopt them post-racing, and rehabilitate them with a view to running them in a herd, and free-range at our place, once we had this place.  Two of them were dangerous to humans and other animals at the time of adoption - they charged at and bit anything living they could reach.  One of these, the first of them, I actually adopted the year before we bought this place, and re-educated him to saddle while also carefully starting to socialise him with other animals.  Actually being able to graze, and having lots of exercise and adventure on trails, were key elements in breaking the horse out of his previous frustrated pattern, and getting him happy.  He has been my principal riding horse for nearly 12 years now, and I've got a "virtual ride" with him through the local landscape here: 

His name is Sunsmart, after the Australian skin cancer campaign, because from the time he was little he's always found himself shady places to rest in - and also because his sire was The Sunbird Hanover.

And this is him on the left, with the other two the day we introduced Julian (middle horse) to the group, two years ago (Chasseur on the right).  Julian was our most recent adoption, and also the horse who had spent the longest time of them all solitary, without social contact.  He was 17 when we got him, and had already been retired from racing for 5 years, but no efforts had been made to geld and socialise him post-racing.

All three of these ex-racing stallions were finally gelded just before I took over the care of them - it is pointless to keep non-breeding stallions entire after their racing careers; dropping their testosterone drops their aggression considerably, and makes it so much easier to run them with other horses without them tearing strips off each other.  You can see they are still plenty operatic with less testosterone, but they're also not hurting each other:

These days, they live happily on free range with each other and the donkeys (and also the beef cattle, but horses don't socialise with beef cattle if there are other equines around), and I am happy each day to see them enjoying their freedom to explore, graze and socialise as they see fit.

Speaking of the donkeys, this is our original group of three, which we got from the Donkey Society in 2012 when we asked if they had any donkeys in need of a good long-term home:

Don Quixote, Mary Lou (Irish Longhair) and Sparkle.  These three needed re-homing as their prior owner was experiencing health issues.  The group had to stay together long-term because Sparkle is blind - the other two act as her guide donkeys.  More of their story is here:

Just over a year ago I had an unexpected telephone call which resulted in two more donkeys coming to live with us:

Nelly and Benjamin's story is here:

We're "full house" and have no intentions of taking on any extra animals - and that's a resolution I find easy to stick to, since animals need proper care (and too many animals means the care is compromised), and because we won't overstock our land - we're passionate about not damaging the place we are stewarding.

The only extras that appear in our paddocks are emus, kangaroos and other wildlife, who come in to graze amongst the domestic stock, and are welcome here.

That's our animals - and I'd love to hear about yours.  :cool
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Something silly happened on a hike we did while a friend was here recently.  Near the top of a hill, we encountered some very steep ladder-stairs that I wasn't sure our dog would be able to handle, but she decided she would.  I could have just tied her to the base of these ladder-stairs, nipped up to the top of the hill, and come back down 5 minutes later, but because I thought there was an alternative route down that didn't involve the ladder-stairs, I decided not to do that.

But my memory was wrong - and we had to come down the same ladder-stairs again.  For us hominids, it's not an issue - but a dog can't climb down backwards unless it has circus training.   

We had no rope with us, and the dog is not on a harness, but a collar with a plastic snap that could break easily under strain. Jess weighs 22kg, so is not exactly the kind of dog you can just carry around easily in a situation like this. It's like trying to lug around a bag of horse feed - and on a ladder, where you could both fall...

So this is how we solved it. Surveying the available materials, I decided to borrow the scarf Brett had brought in his backpack as a sling, and carry the dog under my arm with the help of this sling (to grab on to in case she struggled), while he steadied her head with the collar and came down close behind us:

The dog was a very good sport about it all, and held very still, which was excellent - so I didn't have to grab on to her sling to steady her. However, by the time we got to the second flight of ladder-stairs, my left arm was basically numb, and only the fact that I really love my dog and was petrified of dropping her kept those arm muscles engaged for me.

I'm very glad we all got out of that one comparatively easily...

And then we found that the whole episode had been filmed - our friend loves to document adventures...
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Some funny photos of Brett (a non-rider, he thinks being on the back of a horse feels "like being drunk and staggering around but without the euphoria") when I coaxed him onto my riding horse for photos after he came home with a Nazgul costume for Halloween - because you can't really be a Nazgul without a horse...

This is the same photo after Brett photoshopped Middle Earth into it:

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...I found that photo of Robert Smith and the presumed Irish Setters, referred to in the opening post - as I said, great body language from all concerned:

A clearer photo that doesn't embed on this link:

I've worked with animals and with people all my adult life, and I would describe that photograph as a reliable character reference.
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After a busy day and an early dinner yesterday, I decided to go twilight riding for my birthday eve and dared myself to go bareback. I used to do that regularly, but then Sunsmart got a Cushings crisis a year ago and took about six months to return to normal after we tripled his dopamine-promoting drugs - he's good now, and I ride him 2-3 times a week, but his coat is permanently weird (last winter he was a yak despite medication; I don't know yet what his hair is going to do this year but I swear I'm buying clippers if he starts looking like Mary Lou again...).

We had a big hike planned for next day, and I said to Brett, "I better not fall off trying to get on bareback, and break something." He offered to give me a leg up, the lovely man, but I thought that was even more likely to end in tears, and besides, I used always to get on by myself and I'm merely out of practice. The important thing is though, that I can't let myself get out of practice like this, so it's going to be something I'll do once a week again. A lady who lived to be a hundred told me when I was 28 and doing an impromptu handstand on the beach that I must never let myself get out of practice with things I intend to do for the rest of my life, otherwise I might lose them along the way, and I try to follow this advice (and wish for 40 hours in the day).

So I hoiked myself up and over Sunsmart's back like a bag of potatoes, so that my head was hanging off one side and my feet off the other, and he began to walk, so I circled him while attempting to get out of my not very illustrious riding position, into the standard riding position. I succeeded in this matter without hitting the ground in the process, and thought, "Well, that wasn't actually so hard, and with more practice it will get much smoother again!" 🙂

Since I was still alive and in one piece, I had this brainwave that my camera was still just inside the front door, and asked Brett if he would take a film.  We got a highly amusing outtake when Brett accidentally started off filming with the camera vertical - and of course, it's not easy to rotate films...

Here's a longer one...just clowning, and then off to ride around our valley floor:

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How cool is this?

A friend in North America says these fellas are all "drumming" throughout the woods near her place at the moment...

Of course, the Australian Lyre Bird is also astonishing...

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As the temperatures are dropping here in the Southern Hemisphere, our dog is finding more ways to be extra-cosy:

She has now taken to sticking her face under a pillow - but in such a way that she still gets oxygen.

Summer mode looks more like this:

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In case anyone doesn't know what baby hedgehogs look like.  :heart-eyes

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When we got this farm 11 years ago, my horse Sunsmart discovered that cattle actually aren't scary aliens from outer space - something he'd firmly believed the year I agisted him in Albany when I did his saddle training after adopting him ex harness racing. (That led to some breathless situations because he could turn rapidly on his axis in mid-air to facilitate escape when frightened by the appearance of such a space alien on a ride through the countryside - and he demonstrated this capability frequently in the first few months. Thankfully I stayed glued to the saddle.  :-D)

There was nothing like sharing the paddock with cattle, and with horses who weren't afraid of cattle, to cure him of this misconception. The cream on top for a horse is when it discovers that something else runs away from it because it finds the horse scary. This leads to impromptu joyous games of chasey - one such episode we captured below. The horse isn't bullying the cow here - his ears are forward, he maintains reasonable distance, isn't threatening to bite, his tail says woohoo - it's just a case of, "Oh this is fun, it runs away!" - until he discovers us on camera and comes to investigate!  :lol:

The grey Arabian mare in the film was the first horse I ever owned; I bought her half-price in a drought as a starved, ribby yearling, and educated her myself. She was 30 when we took this, and lived until age 32. I've never bought another horse and never bred one - the three we currently run are all post-harness adoptees.
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...just in case anyone missed the llama/alpaca therapy for dementia patients at an old people's home in Germany:

More pictures and complete article here:
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