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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Holy Mole-y!

Yesterday I had the utterly delightful experience of photographing a shrew-mole.

The first evidence that a mole had been at work.
My mother and I were setting out for my physical therapy appointment and as the car pulled out of the driveway, I noticed that a mole had been at work in our front lawn. Up until the last couple of years, there were no moles in our neighborhood. However, there have recently been moles aplenty, though we'd managed to spend the winter mole-free. As we sighed over the state of the lawn, I saw movement. The grass quivered, heaved, and then out popped a mole head! Well, I couldn't resist jumping out of the car, stopped half in the driveway and half in the street, to see a mole in person! And there it was, its little head and classic mole paws sticking out of the moss! It then ducked its head back down and continued rooting around in the lawn with its little furry black back sticking out. I couldn't believe how small it was or, when I touched it, how soft. However, I needed to get back in the car to go to my PT appointment, so off we went, leaving the mole to do its thing.

A closeup of one of the little channels it had dug.

The mole moving through one of its trails in the grass.

The velvety soft fur on the mole's back.

A pink mole nose sticking up out of the moss!

When we returned home a couple of hours later, I went in the house to get my camera in case the mole was still around, not actually thinking I would be so lucky as to see a mole on the surface again. But as I approached the trails in the grass where the mole had been working, I could hear the sound of it working away just underneath the moss (like many lawns in the Pacific Northwest, we have as much moss as grass) and sure enough, it made another appearance! I was never so lucky to see it paused with its head sticking up like I did the first time, but it was quite busy going about its business and did not seem to mind my presence as long as I didn't move around much, so I spent a very happy hour sitting on our driveway taking pictures. It was with reluctance that I eventually went in for dinner. After uploading the pictures I'd taken and seeing that I'd managed to get some good ones despite having to use the manual focus option on my camera (with my hand tremor, it's generally advisable for me to use the autofocus setting, but in this case I needed to be better able to select the depth of the focus to catch the mole in action than was possible on autofocus), I went out again because, after all, how often to you get to photograph a mole? I was once again able to locate it by sound and when it seemed disinclined to go scurrying about like it had before, I must confess I poked at its position under the moss until it decided to go hunting in its little trails again. It may not be entirely ethical to disturb an animal, but seeing as it probably has poison in its future, I decided to bend my rules about leaving nature alone (my dad is in charge of the mole eradication efforts, so my flexible conscience is unsullied in that area), and make the most of my unprecedented access to a mole. Once again, my efforts were rewarded!

That's the mole's tail on the right with displaced
dirt from the hole it was digging on the left.

Mole tail!

A hind paw.

A glimpse of the long nails on the mole's hind paw.

The photographs aren't perfect because that little bugger is FAST. While its back was often visible, it seldom stuck its little nose out and it moved that long and flexible snout so quickly that it was hard to catch it when it did break the surface. That is why there are considerably more photographs of the mole's hind end than the front! Still, I was delighted to have had this opportunity at all. I've seen a mole at work before in the sense that while looking out the window, I've seen a mole hill increasing in size, but they don't often come above ground! Why it was willing to expose itself for several hours is beyond me (I suspect that the food payoff must have been worth it), but there is no other wild animal that would have tolerated me sitting there at such close quarters. Moles may not have much in the way of vision, but they have keen hearing, so I have to assume it was aware I was there, especially since I poked it occasionally! Anyone who has followed this blog at all knows that I love animals, so it was thrilling to have an opportunity to watch a seldom-seen critter at work and to be able to take photos of it, too, was incredible.

I caught that fast-moving little pink snout in the act of intercepting a tasty grub snack!

Mole face!
I was so excited to see that this picture turned out as well as it did because the mole
did the neatest little flip turn in its tunnel immediately after I snapped this shot!

Another glimpse of the mole's face, captured the second time I went out!

Digging back into the dirt.

I went out again this afternoon to see if the mole was still about, and while I saw lots of mole handiwork and spent an hour and a half squatting in a corner of the backyard holding my heavy camera, I was only able to catch half a dozen fleeting glimpses of the tip of its little pink nose because it was busy tunneling just below the surface of the dirt and pine needles instead of out in the open. I suppose it's possible if I keep my eyes (and ears) open, I'll get another opportunity, but I'm really extremely lucky to have 70 macro photographs of a mole on the prowl that required no more effort than showing up, paying attention, and sitting in my front yard for an hour or so!

New mole handiwork near the backyard fence.

Mole hole, but, alas, no mole.

I just did a little research and what I saw was an American shrew-mole, the smallest type of mole found in North America. They usually measure less than four inches long and weigh only .35 ounces! Unlike eastern moles, shrew moles often forage above ground, so the behavior I saw was typical for the tiny little worm and insect eaters. Some argue that shrew-moles are not true moles, but rather a species that is an intermediary link between shrews and moles. Other fun mole facts: A group of moles is known as a "labour." Mole saliva contains a toxin that paralyzes earthworms, allowing moles to store multiple live worms in larders for later consumption. Moles squeeze out the dirt in earthworms before they eat them. The American shrew-mole is the only shrew-mole found in North America (the others are found in Asia) and it is only found in the Pacific Northwest. I have most definitely learned a lot about moles, thanks to our little lawn disrupter!

Mole rump!

Friday, May 25, 2012

A Week Without Horses

I photographed these buttercups by the water trough last week.

One of the most tiresome things about having a disabling medical condition is that it always has to come first. I've gotten used to this and am accustomed to adjusting my to-do list day-by-day and even hour-by-hour to match my current capabilities. I have to admit I feel a little bit discouraged today, though, because this week my disability has come between me and the horses.

Drifter in a fly sheet (he's allergic to fly bites) after last week's grooming session.

I didn't report on last week's wonderful visit to the stable because it was while I was grooming Drifter that I was able to process my grief over Birdy's death, develop my thoughts into the blogpost I wrote down the next day, and then move into that quiet, in-the-moment state of joy and relaxation that makes working with horses so rewarding for me. I was very much looking forward to finding that quiet space again this week and blogging about both visits together, rather than posting last week's photos while feeling sorry for myself!

Bear grazes in the pasture.

I suppose I was lucky to manage to visit the horses four weeks in a row without any trouble, since there were certainly other days during those weeks when I wasn't well enough to drive or didn't have enough energy for the physical demands of grooming a large horse or simply had a rotten migraine. I just wish, since I've had to cancel first on Thursday and now on Friday, that I had a better idea why my system is all out of whack.

The charming cat the keeps the stable free of rodents.

Since I'm struggling with more than just migraines and fatigue, signs point to some problem with my medication: my temperature is fluctuating, mostly causing hot flashes that make it very hard to sleep, but I'm getting chills, sometimes, too, and my blood sugar keeps crashing even though I haven't done too bad of a job of getting enough food in despite a general lack of appetite. Yesterday, I was thinking it was perhaps the result of the combination things from the day before: a little too much physical activity (I thought I was well enough to walk the dog around the block, but the exercise gave me a migraine), not quite enough water, and then some stormy weather (I am very susceptible to changes in atmospheric pressure). Dehydration and changes in my level of activity can both affect the way I metabolize my medication, resulting in side effects similar to those I've been experiencing, but it usually involves several days of not drinking enough fluids or very strenuous activity, so I'm not entirely sure. Whenever things like this happen, I always look at what changed, and so far, if it isn't those stresses on my system on Wednesday, I'm stumped. I haven't missed any medications. I haven't changed any medications. I haven't made any radical changes to my diet. I haven't made any radical changes to my routine. The weather has now cleared up and is sunny and warm, which is typically when I thrive. I'm a little better today than I was yesterday (I spent most of yesterday afternoon sitting in the shower in the dark, watching my blue migraine aura lights twinkle), but I didn't sleep off the symptoms, as I'd hoped.

Drifter grazing as I led him by his halter rope after last week's grooming session.

So I'm not vacuuming out the dog-hair-mobile that is my car today, which I had ambitiously included on the agenda at the beginning of the week in case I was up to it; nor am I writing either of the two longer, more complicated, and more thoughtful blogposts I've started; nor am I dealing with the giant pile of mail that has been growing on the counter for months and that I had also tentatively put on this week's agenda; nor am I writing listings for my shop or out taking more photos in the sunshine; and I'm most certainly not quieting and emptying my mind as I groom away the remains of Drifter's winter coat on this beautiful May afternoon.

Syd glimpsed between pasture trees.

It can be frustrating, but I can handle having to proceed at a snail's pace when it comes to expanding my photography business. I've accepted that there're many days when my brain is not up to the task of writing or working on projects. I have no expectations that I should be able to drive or walk the dog or even do much reading on a regular basis. And I'm so used to not being able to work or travel or cook or hang out with friends that I hardly ever think about it. I really make an effort to work with my limitations, not against them. But missing out on my time with the horses because my medication isn't metabolizing correctly for reasons I have yet to pinpoint is turning out to be a loss that is not so easy to swallow.


It turns out I didn't feel well because I was sick! I've become so accustomed to having hot flashes and fatigue and weird appetite issues that I didn't notice the difference between that and having the flu! I've been getting lots of rest and my temperature has stopped fluctuating wildly and I'm starting to feel more like my regular self, abnormal as that may be.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Choosing My Sorrows: Thoughts on Dogs and Loss

Yesterday, a dog I'd never met passed away.

Of course, thousands of dogs I've never met pass away every day, but rarely do their departures elicit a sensation of loss on my part. This is quite deliberate: I know I cannot bear the weight of thousands of daily dog deaths, so I avoid the cross-posted "URGENT!!! TO BE EUTHANIZED TOMORROW!!!!" messages that whiz around the internet and focus my attention and emotional investments on rescue groups that highlight the positive, the survivors.

Skinny Girl, still skeletal after a week of feeding.
Birdy was a survivor. When she found her way into one of my favorite rescue groups, she was starving and so close to death that they initially didn't give her a name (they referred to her as "Skinny Girl") because they weren't sure she would live. Even if she was able to regain her strength, her massive, visibly-swollen lymph nodes boded ill for her long-term prospects. But Skinny Girl had other plans. She may have been skin and bones and she may have had advanced lymphoma, but as soon as she had the strength, she made it quite clear to the rescue that she intended to keep on "living 'til the wheels fall off," thank you very much, and so she was given the name Birdy and introduced to the world.

Birdy's cancerous lymph nodes
When a dog with a terminal illness comes into a rescue, sometimes the group will be able to arrange what is called a "compassion hold": that is, some brave and kind soul steps up to give the dog a home until he or she dies. Despite her demonstrated zest for life, it was clear that Birdy had only a few months, maybe a year at the longest, before cancer claimed her. Treatment was out of the question and yet euthanizing a dog who was so ready to live seemed immoral. What she needed was a soft place to land, a home where she could hog the bed and be fed delicious meals and bask in the sunshine until she died. Birdy got lucky: a wonderful woman decided to take Bird into her life.

I got lucky, too. This early photo of Birdy, above, charmed me completely. Just look at that goofy, wiggly, mischievous girl! I was delighted, then, that Birdy's new "Nice Lady" set up a blog in Birdy's name and spent the next five months detailing Birdy's exploits as a beloved pet. The "voice" that the Nice Lady developed for Birdy exactly matched the personality that seemed to radiate from her photographs and that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I managed to make an emotional attachment to a dog who I never met, whose stinky sardine breath I never smelled, whose "clippities" I never fondled, whose mismatched eyes never gazed into my own.

Seven months after Birdy was found starving in the streets, it became clear that the cancer, which had spread throughout her body, was finally going claim this spunky soul. The overarching metaphor used to discuss Birdy's condition from the beginning was that she would soon be "flying home" and so when I heard that it would only be a matter of days before the Bird took flight, Poe's song "Fly Away," with the lyrics, "Sweet bird/If you knew the words/I know that you'd say/Fly away," immediately popped into my head. The next thing I knew, I was putting together a tribute video with that song and photos from Birdy's blog and some from her earliest days at the rescue. The woman who adopted Birdy had given me a gift in the form of the blog she wrote and I felt I needed to somehow give a gift back. I shared the video with her--and with the substantial community of others who'd come to love Birdy, too--on Wednesday night. On Thursday morning, no longer able to breathe because of the tumors constricting her lungs, as she lay in the arms of her loving owner, Birdy spread her wings and took flight.

Birdy and her Nice Lady
Anyone who has ever loved a dog knows how painful it is to lose one. I recall reading that while considered less devastating than losing a child, parent, or spouse, most people rate losing a dog more painful than the death of a sibling or a friend. Even people who aren't crazy about dogs may find themselves getting choked up at the end of "Old Yeller" or "Where the Red Fern Grows." It's no secret that I love dogs. I really truly will miss Birdy's presence--virtual though it may have been--in my life, but she was incredibly lucky to have gotten such a wonderful ending to her story and she was an old, very sick dog and it's okay to let her go. So one of the reasons that I'm memorializing the loss of Birdy has to do with recognizing the grief that her owner is going through, the inevitable but no-less-painful consequence of the selfless sacrifice she made when she took in a dog that was going to die and ended up loving her more than she expected. That's the thing about loving dogs: it hurts like hell when you lose them and there's just no way of getting around it. (I happened to love George Carlin's line on pet ownership: "Congratulations! You've just purchased a small tragedy!") It's all too easy for me to imagine what Birdy's Nice Lady is feeling right now.

Abbey's muzzle is going gray.
Mourning for Birdy is also a little bit about preparing to mourn for Abbey. My gal has almost certainly got a few more years in her yet, but she's getting to be an older dog now. Her eyes are cloudier and her muzzle is getting increasingly gray. The vet and I have an eye on a lump in her neck that is probably another mast cell tumor. I don't know how it is she'll leave me, but leave she shall--and should. The only thing more terrible than losing Abbey would be if she should outlive me. I've made a point of reminding myself all along that Abbey will die. Once upon a time, when I was very sick, she was my reason for living and while it's been a long time since I needed her to be that for me, I still feel it's important for me to prepare for the immensity of losing this dog who has made such a positive difference in my life. Feeling sad about Birdy, knowing that it is similar to the grief I will one day bear, and furthermore, ceasing to feel sad about Birdy, as I know I shall, is kind of like training wheels for the loss that will be mine when Abbey dies.

And yet, my mind said to me, is it not a little ridiculous to feel sad about the death of a dog you've never met when there are so many larger tragedies out there?

My difficulty lies not in being insensible to the various ills that plague our world, but being too sensitive to their immensity. There was a time in my life when I had come to see the world as a terrible place filled with so much suffering and pain that it overwhelmed what light and joy might also be found in it. I felt helpless to rectify or mitigate any of the injuries and injustices being inflicted on the undeserving and staggered under the weight of feeling obligated to right so many wrongs. I felt guilty for enjoying what privileges I had and deeply ashamed that sometimes I just didn't want to hear any more. I started to drown in despair.

I think we bear, in our time, the somewhat unfair burden of knowing too much. It is not enough that I should care for my family and my friends and what might be more abstractly described as my tribe; I must now care about every pocket of misery that exists on this planet because there are pictures to prove the suffering being endured. However, I simply cannot. What I ultimately realized, with the help of medication and therapy (and dogs!), is that I have every bit as much of a right to exist as the starving child from a famine-stricken African country whose picture makes it into the magazines. Furthermore, it is not only not selfish, it is paramount that I put my survival first. That's the whole point of life: to survive. And I learned, that in order for me to survive, I had to be selective in what kinds of grief I took on. For me to manage my depression and anxiety, it was essential that I let go of things that were beyond my control. That meant surrendering my emotional investment in wars in far-off countries that were beyond my influence, distancing myself from images of poverty I had no means of alleviating, accepting that others would have to be the ones who stepped up to make changes.

Prior to the onset of the chronic migraines, it was possible for me to maintain a balance between staying well-informed (as I believed was my duty as a citizen of the world) and keeping a sufficient emotional distance. After the migraines started, I found that I no longer even had the tolerance for being well-informed. In order to be happy within the confines of my disability, I have to prioritize what limited time and energy I have each day and I am not going to spend them on being unhappy about things I cannot control. I wish I could do more, but if I am to cope with the fact that I am not well enough to work, to see friends, to travel, to care for myself, or to even leave the house most days, I can't sacrifice any of my energy on distant causes.

In other words, I need to choose my sorrows.

That brings us back to Birdy. It is within my capacity to mourn for this dog who was sick and old but also loved sardines and sleeping on the bed with the Nice Lady and chewing on bully sticks and digging holes. It's a grief of a size I can bear. But my hope is that in mourning for Birdy, I am also mourning just a little bit for those starving African children, for casualties of war and hate crimes, for the impoverished and exploited: in short, for all those who suffer, but whose suffering I simply cannot mourn for individually. I don't think Birdy would mind. I may have never met her, but I know she knew about suffering and happiness and in the end she demonstrated she also knew all about letting go. These sorrows of mine, both the ones I feel deliberately and the many more I wish I could afford to mourn: she's light enough to carry them. She's got wings now, after all.

Fly away, sweet Bird.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Sunny Days in May: Dog-Sitting and Flower-Photographing

A sweet old girl.

Splash! Lady goes swimming.
I spent this weekend looking after a new client, a golden retriever that I'll call Lady. She's the quintessential golden: sweet, mellow, and friendly. She's thirteen years old, and while she's got some arthritis, an active lifestyle keeps her joints moving relatively freely and she's still got plenty of spunk!

This active routine calls for a nightly walk to the park where I first met her and her owner while I was walking Mr. Gorgeous, where she plays fetch for roughly twenty minutes, and then walks back to her house, a little more than a mile away. I failed to replicate this routine for her, but not for lack of trying!

On the first evening, we arrived at the park to discover the presence of two policemen AND an animal control officer with a pup paddy wagon! It appeared they'd been called regarding a specific incident, since they spent the entire time speaking to an individual who had a barking dog in his car, but I was not about to let Lady off-leash in front of an animal control officer! The park is treated by the locals as an unofficial off-leash park, but there are prominently posted signs to remind park-goers that letting your dog off-leash is against the law. It would be terrible to have your client's dog hauled away because you were dumb enough to let it off-leash in front of law enforcement! But I am not dumb and neither were the many individuals who arrived with their dogs, observed the situation with dismay, and then left. Lady and I took a meandering walk around the perimeter of the park, stopping for petting sessions, trying to kill time in hopes that the cops would leave and I could give Lady her ball game. They eventually left, but the animal control officer didn't, and finally I gave up and walked Lady home. She thought it was a rather lame walk and I was very sorry that I couldn't explain to her why there could be no game of fetch that evening!

A (non)retriever and her ball.
Things looked more promising the next evening. When we arrived at the park, there were no problematic legal impediments to our pleasure, so I let her off her leash and threw the ball for her. Well, she moseyed after it and then lay down and rolled around on her back on top of it, but she didn't return it to me. I threw it again, she slowly trotted after it, and then stood with the ball in her mouth, surveying the scene. On the next throw, she settled herself in the grass to enjoy the breeze. Her owner said that she's great about bringing the ball and dropping it without any fuss, but Lady displayed no interest in playing fetch with me! So finally I gave up and sat down on the grass with her and gave her a nice petting session, which she enjoyed, pressing her head against my chest as she leaned into the rub-down. It was very pleasant at the park, but not exactly what had been prescribed! I then walked her around the park to see if I could get her juices flowing, and while she displayed so much enthusiasm upon seeing a man hitting balls at one of the tennis courts that he offered to give me one for my dog, she expressed zero interest in returning her ball when I tried tossing it for her again immediately afterward! So I gave up and we walked down to the marina and admired the high schoolers all dressed up for prom instead.

A sopping Lady post-swim with her toy in mouth.
On Day Three, I decided to try something different. Lady's owner mentioned that she loved to swim and that it was great for her arthritis, so I decided that we'd make an excursion to the secluded little lakeside park where I take my own dog swimming. It was sunny and 80 degrees, a perfect day for a swim, and Lady got extremely excited when I got one of her float toys out of her toy box! She insisted on carrying it herself out to the car and then down to the lake. In her enthusiasm to get to the water's edge, she nearly pulled me off my feet as we scrambled down the steep slope! (She's not exactly a loose-leash walker and can exert plenty of pull even on level ground.) We had the little park all to ourselves and it was very fun to chuck her toy for her out into the lake. Unlike with the ball, Lady had no problem retrieving her floating toy for me! It was such a nice thing to do on a hot May day. I had been wondering how much swimming would be enough, but I needn't have worried: Lady told me she was done by trotting away back up the trail, toy in mouth, at such a rapid pace that I had trouble catching up to her to get her leash on! We met two dogs and their families coming down the hill as we went up it, so we certainly weren't the only denizens of Seattle who were charmed by the idea of spending part of a sunny Sunday by the lake. I took Lady for a brief walk in the hot sunshine in an attempt to get her somewhat drier before putting her back in my car and then it was back home to bask out on the backyard grass.

A playful Lady rolling around on top one of her toys to get a good back-scratching!

Snoozing on her bed.
Except for our seeming inability to play a decent game of dry-land fetch, Lady and I got along just fine. She liked my massages and being brushed and grinned most gratifyingly when I returned to the house and got up in the morning. She could usually be found in my vicinity, including waiting patiently outside the bathroom door while I showered, and on one occasion, dropped her ball in one of my bags in the bedroom. I think it can safely be said that she found me an acceptable substitute for her owner in her owner's absence.

Lady in profile.
There were two things that went slightly awry during this dog-sitting gig. The first involved sleeping. It's never easy, especially the first night, to sleep in a new place. I had a terrible time falling asleep the first evening and then dreamed that I continued to be awake for sometime after I dropped off, and dreaming you're unable to sleep is not generally very restful! So after a poor beginning to my night's slumber, I found myself awakened when dawn came and started to fill the bedroom with light. It was a very nice bedroom, but it had an entire wall of east-facing windows, so on a sunny May day, even with the mini-blinds closed, it was flooded with light from about 4:30 onward. I have difficulty sleeping unless a room is pitch-black and have special "black out" blinds on my bedroom window to prevent any light from entering. I also need a lot of sleep in able to function properly. Between falling asleep after sometime after 1:00 and sleeping fitfully until 3:00 and then being awoken by the light at 4:30 and sleeping only fitfully until I finally gave up and got up around 8:30, I was a wreck! My mother was kind enough to buy me a sleep mask while I was at my acupuncture appointment, which fortunately worked wonderfully the next night, but Saturday was not an easy day. I nearly broke down when it came time to take Lady on her walk: the enormity of that mile-long walk with a large, pulling dog to the park and then the uphill walk home again just seemed too much. I was able to give myself a little pep talk about not trying to do too much and so, after eating an enormous bowl of granola for dinner and taking my migraine medication, I drove to the park with Lady and left my large, heavy, fancy-pants camera at home. (I was sorry I didn't have it because one of the park's resident bald eagles was sitting in the PERFECT place to get an amazing picture; I seldom go to that park without seeing one of the eagles, but it was the first time I'd seen one of them so perfectly situated in regard to unimpeded sight lines and not hopelessly silhouetted against the light!) In the end, I did have a nice time and while Lady didn't get quite as long of a walk, she did get some exercise.

The other thing that didn't go quite right was that I couldn't get the kitchen sink to turn on. I'm pretty sure this was not my fault. Lady's owner left me a note that the sink's garbage disposal wasn't working and I suspect that the water had been turned off somehow while she was poking around with the disposal. At least that's what I hope. It didn't SEEM like a difficult-to-operate sink, but I sure wasn't able to get any water to come out of it! That kind of thing will certainly make you feel idiotic and paranoid, though. I ended up washing the dishes that couldn't be put in the dishwasher in the bathtub!

Of course, one of my favorite things about dog-sitting (other than the dog) is getting to take my camera for a walk in a new place. Since it was sunny all three days that I dog-sat, I was able to get more than two hundred beautiful photos of late-spring flowers. The following are some of my favorites in rainbow order:


To view a whole album's worth of ranunculus photos, click here.


(This is probably my favorite photo out of all the ones I took!)

Bearded Iris.



You can see more photos from this outing (and early spring photo sessions) in this Facebook album. (You don't need to be a member of Facebook to view the photos, by the way!)

That concludes my extended rundown of my first (and hopefully not last!) weekend with lovely old Lady!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thursdays With Horses

Drifter in his turnout.
It's Thursday and that means, once again, it was time for me to go hang out with Drifter. I initially considered skipping Drifter this week because I have a dog-sitting gig that starts tomorrow and I want to be sure to have enough energy for it, but then I thought of how good for my soul last week's visit was and realized I couldn't bear to miss a week of spending time with horses! Still, it was my intention to do a shorter visit, maybe just one hour of grooming instead of two, until last night, when I learned that a crew of men would be coming to pressure-wash our roof, patio, and deck in the afternoon. I decided it was much better for me to hang out with Drifter and maybe wear myself out doing so than sit in the house listing to the pressure washer's air compressor and getting a terrible migraine!

Drifter dozing off in the cross-ties.
I decided to bring Abbey along with me, since I knew that she wouldn't be pleased to spend the afternoon in her crate listening to people walk around on the roof. I emailed the stable's owner to let her know that my dog would be in my car. Abbey was so excited when I told her she was going to get to come with me that she practically jumped into her seat-belt harness. She suspected good things were in store, but she had no idea that she was going to get to play with her squeaky ball! I decided to have a little picnic lunch at the park where I took my first riding lessons and once I was done eating, I threw Abbey's beloved squeaky ball for her. She had a wonderful time skimming across the grass and leaping into the air to catch the ball. It's great fun to watch and I knew if she was worn out from doing her very favorite activity in the whole wide world, she'd mind less when I left her in the car for a couple of hours while I hung out with Drifter. I'd like to emphasize that she's great at waiting patiently and the car was parked in a beautiful shady spot, so it wasn't really such a bad deal!

Drifter has shed most his
winter coat on this side of his neck!
In the past, I've just brought along my little point-and-shoot when I've visited the stable, but today I brought my Canon and both lenses to see if I could get a few high-quality horse pictures. Naturally, most of my photographic efforts were focused on the gorgeous Syndicate, but I snapped a few of Drifter, too. All the horses were feeling friendly and let me pet them today, but Drifter got the bulk of my attention--two more hours worth of grooming! My intention to do a less-intensive grooming session dissipated once I got into plucking hunks of loose winter hair out of his coat. I love doing this with Abbey, too; it's so satisfying to tug on a clump of hair and have so much come away! I got all wrapped up in doing that and then his owner came by and told me I could give his belly a shampoo if I liked to help calm down his itchy skin. I've never bathed a horse before, but she showed me the wash
Drifter at the wash rack.
rack and the tools and products and it seemed straightforward enough, so once I'd finished his coat and brushed his mane and tail and cleaned out his hooves, I led him down to the wash rack (Abbey sat up and barked with alarm when she saw me leading that giant animal!) and gave the patient old fellow a belly bath. I'd avoided grooming his belly prior to the bath because I didn't want to stir up his itchiness more than I had to, but massaging in the soothing product was a great reason to give him the belly rubs he'd been hankering for! He really is very funny how he stretches out his neck, opens his mouth, and sets his lips quivering with ecstasy
Drifter contemplates life after being groomed.
when he gets touched on the stomach. There's no doubt about it: he thinks it feel gooooooood! After the bath, it was time to get his blanket put back on and then he got a carrot for being a good boy. I thought he seemed a trifle subdued today, like maybe he was a little bit tired, but he also might have seemed somewhat more subdued in contrast to the other horses, who were feeling frisky. Regardless of how  sprightly he felt on the inside, when I departed, there was considerably less hair on the outside!

Drifter's ginger eyelashes.

Before I left, though, I made sure to get some pictures of the other horses with my good camera. The slope of the property made it somewhat hard to set up a good shot, especially when I was using my 100 mm lens, but the quality is definitely better than the ones I took with my point-and-shoot! I hope that one of these days I can photograph them when they are out in the pasture, which would make it much easier for me to get a shot of the whole horse and without all kinds of nibbled rails cluttering up the view! You may notice that the bulk of the pictures are of Syd, or Syndicate, but that's because he's the prettiest.

Beacon, the most aloof horse, surveys the scene.


I caught Bear mid-yawn with his tongue out in this photo!

Bear and Syd seem to be buddies. They often touch noses over the fence.

Such a handsome horse!

He has a very nice inquisitive personality, too.

Look at Syd's beautiful muscular neck!

He has a beautiful big head, too.

Be still my heart!

The handsome Hanoverian.

It was a rather exhausting afternoon, but it was good I spent all the time at the park and at the stable. It ended up taking the roof-cleaning crew five hours to do the job and I'm very glad that I was away for four of them, spending time outside on a beautiful May day with some of my favorite animals. It beats sitting around feeling cross and wearing earplugs! I'll be starting out my new dog-sitting gig a little more tired than I would like, but I've had my weekly horse fix and that goes a long way!