Saturday, October 24, 2009

Red Ted's spot: Collie or Ibizan Hound?

While looking for something else in my files this morning, I came across a photo that shows Red Ted's spot on his head! So in the interest of full disclosure, here it is :)

I still think he looks a little like an Ibizan Hound.

© 2009 Terry Albert. All rights reserved.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Woodle and the Dab

Oh I love these designer dog names! My two newest clients arrived today. Claire, their owner, a perfectly rational person who has long been involved in Dalmatian rescue, has two new dogs. I asked her what breeds, and she said "One is a "woodle." Huh?
I've heard of labradoodles, goldendoodles, schnoodles, puggles, malti-poos, and more, but never a woodle. Claire has decided Bogey is a combo between a poodle and a Wheaten Terrier. Well, maybe, but he looks suspiciously like a cockapoo to me! Regardless, he is a sweetie, and that's what really matters. 
I have met Claire's other dog, Wally. She tells me he is a Lab-Dachshund mix, and I agree on that one. So I'll just call him a Dab. What a sight he is, with his Lab head and stumpy little dwarf legs. I've seen a Lab-basset hound mix before, which was a much chunkier dog. The perfect Lab ears seem to survive the cross breeding. 
So enjoy the photos of my guests!

© 2009 Terry Albert. All rights reserved.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Red Ted, The un-Collie

“In Loving Memory of Care Bear, SCR No. 786, a therapy dog to many seniors, a true gentleman and friend to all.”
On the Collie Wall of Fame

As I looked through the Southland Collie Rescue website, I found my former foster dog memorialized on the Collie Wall of Fame. To me he was Red Ted. But to the 99 residents of the Sunbridge Care Nursing Home, he was Care Bear.

Teddy’s Story

I told the Oceanside shelter staff I would pick up their collie on Sunday afternoon, in order to give him the weekend to get adopted. When I arrived at the shelter at 4 pm, the last possible minute, there was a big sign on the front of his cage “HOLD FOR COLLIE RESCUE.” So of course no one adopted him. Worse, he wasn’t a purebred collie. Anyone else might have left him there, but I couldn’t do that to him after he’d lost an entire weekend of possible new homes. The shelter would have to euthanize him on Monday morning. But they didn’t, because he came home with me.

He looked sort of like a collie, with his beautiful white mane, white legs and plume of a tail. The blaze on his face was weird though. He had had a big spot in the center of his head, right between the ears. He reminded me of an Ibizan Hound. Come to think of it, he was the same color as an Ibizan too. He was a vivid red, like an Irish Setter, not a golden sable like a collie. Could he be the product of a puppy mill breeding gone wrong? I would never know. I named him Teddy, which soon morphed into Red Ted with the Spot on His Head.

Teddy’s favorite place in the world was on the couch and his favorite pastime was chasing rabbits in our back yard. He would dash out the back door and head straight for the hole in the fence where the bunnies tried to escape before the dogs could catch them. After several weeks, Teddy finally caught one, and he was so proud. I came out the back door and was horrified to see Teddy standing almost upright on his hind legs, wiggling from his head down to his tail in ecstasy, with a dead rabbit hanging from his mouth. A game of keep-away ensued, which Teddy won with ease. He ate every bite of that darn rabbit–even the feet, fur, and head. Ugh.

Red Ted gets a home

Sometimes it is hard to see them leave, and this was the case with Red Ted. I always comfort myself that the dog I’ve fostered is going to a place where he will get more love and attention than I can offer in my house full of animals. Teddy became the resident collie at Sunbridge, and like all the collies before him, he was renamed Care Bear. Susan Osborn, a staff member, explains that Ted/Care Bear is the only reason some residents want to get up in the morning.

Susan told me about Teddy’s life at Sunbridge. “He makes the world beautiful for so many people,” she told me, “ including staff, residents and their families.”

Teddy is part of the staff, and can go wherever he wants to in the facility. He wears a special collar that is the same as the one that Alzheimers patients wear. It buzzes an alarm if he goes out an exit door. This ensures his safety even if someone isn’t keeping an eye on him every second. He has his own health chart, just like the residents, where his meals, potty breaks and care are logged in every day. One staff member is responsible for him on each shift.

Ted senses who needs him most and often sleeps in the room of the sickest residents, comforting the families keeping watch over their loved ones. He enjoys watching the birds in the aviary, especially Dufus the cockatiel. There are treats for him in every office and it seems that everyone, even the staff members, thinks Teddy likes them best. He has his own bulletin board and it is updated regularly with photos of him with residents and visitors. When the marketing director takes visitors on a tour, Teddy goes along as an escort. He knows the route by heart.

Volunteers walk Teddy regularly, and some of the patients also get to walk him as part of their physical therapy. A sponsor pays for his care, and he gets a trip to the groomer once a month.

A good-hearted dog, Teddy always wagged his tail for everyone, even the mailman.
Teddy is gone now, and a new Care Bear has surely taken his place. But I fondly remember my foster un-collie, and the how he made so many people happy. There is a photo of Ted/Care Bear posted on the Collie Wall of Fame, where no one will ever forget him. He is shown relaxing on a couch, just like he did so often at my house.

Photos above: Teddy with a stuffed toy on my couch, and posing in the yard.
© 2009 All Rights Reserved Terry Albert

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Icelandic Horses, and camping in San Juan Capistrano

I took a weekend off and went camping with my friends at Caspers Wilderness Park in San Juan Capistrano. Starr Mesa Equestrian Campground had fabulous facilities where you don't ever have to back up your rig and turn it around!  We arrived Friday afternoon and rode four times over two days. The weather was perfect and the horses were full of steam. We had 7 Icelandics, 2 Fox trotters, a Gypsy Vanner and three quarter horses, so it was an unusual mix.

I am lucky because Ari can go out with the slower horses and he can also keep up with the gaited group. Some Icelandics, and a lot of gaited horses of other breeds, just can't slow down enough to enjoy a ride with everyone. So Ari and I did a little of both.

Our first two rides were out with the Fox trotters and quarter horses and we saw beautiful scenery. The trails are wide and well maintained. Even the single track trails are in perfect condition. We rode up to the East Ridge trail and had a fabulous view. There were signs warning of mountain lions everywhere, but all we saw (thank goodness) were deer. The trails are so well-marked it is hard to get lost, and the maps were very accurate.

On Saturday afternoon we did Mr Toad's Wild Ride with the Icelandics. It was probably the most fun I've ever had! One horse tolted at top speed and several of us tried to keep up. Then there was a slower group behind by several hundred yards. Ari never tolted so well and so fast in all the time I've owned him. He was inspired by being with his Icey friends again.

It was interesting that the Fox Trotters couldn't keep up with the fastest tolt without breaking out of gait. I didn't realize it, but their running walk can only go so fast (which is plenty fast, believe me). The Icelandic tolt is like you'd see a racking horse or Saddlebred do. Very fast and knees pumping like a sewing machine. Watch a video here of Icelandics in action. And a Fox trotter here.

On Sunday morning we did a slower gaited ride (but still pretty quick) and took in the scenery we missed the day before. The giant oak trees and deer in the woods made it worth slowing down!

I've had a few accidents over the years, and I was marvelling as we flew down the trails that I never once was afraid on Ari. I never felt out of control, I always knew that if I asked him to stop, he would. I could just sit back and enjoy the ride. My riding has improved a lot, but the real truth is I just have the best horse in the world.

I definitely recommend Caspers for miles and miles of easy riding, and more challenging rides if you want them. It is also open for day use riding, and is located in South Orange County, about seven miles east of San Juan Capistrano.

© 2009 Terry Albert. All rights reserved.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Horse stories: Books You'll Enjoy

I've been on a reading binge- and enjoying some great horse stories. I usually don't read animal stories, because I need an escape from my all pets all the time life, but these snagged my interest, and I'm glad they did. 

Horse Heaven, by Jane Smiley
This is a great novel, providing a tongue in cheek look at the eccentric variety of characters who own thoroughbreds. What I really enjoyed was the chapters told from the viewpoint of the various horses. She really provides a unique perspective, which doesn't usually match what the people are thinking. If you like long books, you'll enjoy this one. It does get a little confusing because there are so many characters, but Smiley provides a list of who's who, including owners, jockeys, trainers and horses in the front of the book.

Stud, By Kevin Conley
My friend Gina Spadafori from the Pet Connection is a big racing fan, and when I mentioned Horse Heaven, she recommended Stud. This is a non-fiction book by an editor from New Yorker magazine. The books details the ins and outs (oh, the pun!) of the horse breeding business, and he never loses sight of the absurdity of it all, especially when viewed by an outsider. You'll read about the breeding careers of the great Storm Cat and Seattle Slew, along with a host of other lesser known mares and stallions. The money involved is astounding, the stories amusing, and the education... well, enlightening. A good read.

Chosen By A Horse and Chosen Forever, by Susan Richards
These last two go off in a different direction. If you've been involved in pet rescue of any kind–dog, cat, horse, rabbit–you'll identify with author Susan Richards and her book, Chosen By A Horse. The author writes a memoir about a horse named Lay Me Down that she rescues from severe neglect. The book is as much about her own life and recovery from divorce as it is about the love she has for Lay Me Down, Hotshot and her other horses. In many ways, I felt like I was reading my own story of my life with Spice and Sage in Seattle, and of my divorce and subsequent years of recovery (I, thank God, did not relate to the abusive upbringing she suffered). 

The sequel, Chosen Forever, is about how, having written Chosen by A Horse, Richards goes on a book tour, and the life-changing events she experiences, including reconnecting with old friends and finding love. I again, felt like I was reading my own story here, as I have been finding old friends lately and enjoying our reunions (Thank you, Facebook). I don't buy into the theory that you have to have a man in your life to be happy, and she doesn't either, though it happens to her. Some of us can be perfectly happy alone, as I am. This book is not so much a horse story as a personal journey, and a very interesting one. 

I have written a book, but my own rescue book is still brewing inside me-- maybe the person who gave me these books was telling me to write it.