Saturday, March 21, 2009

Woman's best friend

I was thinking about my childhood dog last night as I was trying (unsuccessfully) to fall asleep, and I wanted to share his story with y'all.

My mom got a puppy from one of her students, whose bitch had an unexpected pregnancy. She was a registered Australian Shepherd, but the father was unknown. There had been an intact Blue Healer roaming around about the right time, but as the puppies grew up they looked more like lab crosses. I was 6, my sister 5, and the puppy was supposed to be for both of us. As those things, go, though, the puppy (Wyatt) and I really bonded. My sister is more of a cat person, turns out.

I had ridden horses since I was 1 (with lots of help, of course), and when I was 10 I really started riding a lot, being able to be more independent. Wyatt always came along on my trail rides and pack trips. Wyatt, my horse, and I spent a lot of time together. Wyatt slept in my room at night, of course, while the other dogs slept in my mom's room. My parents were divorced, but they stayed friends and split the property to be neighbors, so that it would be easier on my sister and I. Wyatt's home was at my Mom's house (supposed to be, anyway). My sister and I spent equal time at each house, and it didn't take Wyatt long to figure out when I was at my Dad's. He would often come looking for me whenever he got a chance to run off and I wasn't at Mom's. Mom said sometimes he would rub on the coats hanging in the hallway, and knock them down to lay on mine.

When my mom was building the barn for the horses, her and Rae did most of the work on it. I think I was 12 at the time, so I wasn't much help (though I tried). Wyatt, and my Mom's two dogs, were hanging out on the ground while Mom and Rae were working on the frame for the roof. The way my mom tells it, the dogs were all calm while Mom and Rae were up high in the skeleton of the barn, swaying around. I went down to check out their work, climbed up the ladder to the top. And Wyatt went nuts, apparently very worried about me. As my Mom tells it, he couldn't care less if she and Rae were in danger, but as soon as things looked iffy for me, he suddenly cared very much!

I returned his love as much as I could. Even as a child, I appreciated his devotion. Sure, I made mistakes, lost my temper, but he always forgave me and we always had that strong bond. I took him with me whenever I could, and he had a good life. When I went off to college, he was 12, and had slowed down a lot, but was still very healthy. He couldn't come with me, and I missed him very fiercely. No animals allowed in dorm rooms, you know. And I couldn't give him the freedom he was used to at home, anyway. He would have gone crazy, even after having slowed down so much. When I came home for Christmas that year, and the summer after, he sure hadn't forgotten me. Our bond wasn't as strong, but we still loved each other so much.

I was married that summer, between my freshman and sophomore years, but my husband went back to Iraq, and I lived with my mom. I tried taking him on trail rides a couple times, because he wanted to go with me so bad. But halfway through the trail ride, he always slowed down and couldn't keep up, so I gave up. He always barked like mad, though, and I felt bad leaving him behind. Our last trail ride together I remember vividly. I went out for a trail ride alone, and decided to take Wyatt with me. We had to cross a busy road to get to the trail, but Wyatt was very good at sit and wait precisely for this reason. My mom and I were very careful with that, since we couldn't exactly keep our dogs on leashes. I always brought both horse and dog treats on trail rides! Halfway through the ride (I was doing fast trotting), I couldn't see Wyatt anymore. I called and called, but he didn't come. I thought he maybe had missed one of the turns I took, and went home early (unfortunately, that sometimes happened, although rarely). I was very worried because he had to cross that busy road on the way back. I rushed back across the road, no Wyatt. I ended up beating him home, and he was fine. I had stopped to talk to a neighbor on the way home (after checking the road), and there came Wyatt 5 minutes later, while I was still there, walking very slowly. That's when I knew that I couldn't take him on rides anymore. I couldn't put him in danger like that anymore, no matter how much he wanted to come on the trail rides. Used to be that he could always keep up, and was with me when we crossed any road, so that I could control when we crossed, and do it safely.

When Wyatt was very young, still a puppy, really, he used to run off a lot. He fathered at least one litter of puppies by the time he was 6 months old! We quickly neutered him, but for a while he still ran off. He soon stayed at home for the most part, but started running off again when he was older. My mom has 40 acres, and takes the dogs with her outside when she's outside. She can't keep an eye on every dog every time, and doesn't want to keep one locked up all the time. So sometimes he ran off, and there wasn't much we could do about it. He always came home safe and sound.

Diasaster struck our family in quick succession. We lost two dogs in a row, including Wyatt, a month and a half apart. First, my mom lost her dog, a bitch named Sasha who was very special to her. I was home for that one. I went back to school at the end of September, and a little over a month later, October 29th, I got the call from my mom as I was getting ready to go to polo practice. Wyatt was dead, hit by a car. Looked like a quick death. Just like Sasha, about the same place on the same busy road. I had said my goodbye, because he was old, albeit healthy, and I never knew when he might go. I had been especially sensitive because we had just lost Sasha. So I had said my goodbye, but I wasn't ready, it was too sudden. My childhood friend, who had been with me for everything, was gone. It's more than a year and a half later, and I still have a hard time not crying just thinking about him.

I'll probably post more stories about him in the future... most notably one involving a porcupine... but that's enough for now. Here's a picture of him about a year before he died:

Not bad for a 12-year-old, huh?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

More polocrosse

Our lesson today was in the morning instead of night, since we're on spring break. No missing dinner for me! Our trainer taught us more about polocrosse - but this time, we were in the saddle! woo-hoo! Well, we also did a lot on the ground to get used to catching, throwing, picking up, and cradling the ball. Lots of fun, although my throwing will need a lot more work.... My hand and arm were tired by the end of the lesson. It was a 2 hour lesson, but we spent a lot of time on the ground learning practicing the moves. When we were in the saddle, it was mostly walking and trotting with the horses, since we're just learning this sport. I hope the club does start doing bimonthly polocrosse clinics/chukkahs (A chukkah is like the "period" of the game).

My spring break has been pretty lazy. I have gotten a start on my projects I want to get done during break, but I still have a lot more to do. I gave myself Saturday and Sunday off, Monday I did some work, and yesterday I went to my friend Linda's house to help her with gardening. She has a very small back yard, and just had a couple corners partitioned off for her garden. We planted carrots, cucumbers, tomatoes, cabbage, spinich, cauliflower, and radishes. Her fiance had tilled on Saturday, at least that was done! We added some top soil, planted, set up the trellices, set up the soaker hose, and set up the fence. All in all, only about 2 hours of work. The rest of the day we watched movies. And her fiance cooked us chinese for dinner, yum!

My mom has a very big garden at home (some pictures at, and I never really enjoyed helping her out with the work; the weeding was the worst! I never thought I would enjoy gardening, but working in a very small garden like that I enjoyed. Go figure. As if I wasn't already enough like my mom... Not that that's a bad thing, I love my mom. I would just like to be more unique!

Well, now that I've caught up on my blog a little bit, I should really get working on those lab reports... yay...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Time to celebrate!

All right, Spring Break is finally here! I get a week off classes, although not off school in general since I'll be doing a lot of school work. But it's so nice to get that week off! I had a test today in physiology and I know I aced it! I think they wanted to give the class an easier test because the first two had such low averages. I also decided to drop Organic Chemistry for sure because I don't need it. One less stressor!

My riding lesson on Wednesday was, again, awesome. No more jumping, but we did some dressage, working on laterals (a new termed I learned for stuff that I had already been doing). We did some stirrupless riding, two point at the walk (I'm still sore from that today!). Then we did some bending, walking and trotting around in a circle. We did some cantering, but not much. I rode this big paint draft cross, he was so big and smooth. Responsive to aids, but not as sensitive as I like (well, what can you expect from a school horse? he's pretty good considering). Then we started working on laterals - half-passing, shoulder in, etc. I got a couple of nice compliments from our instructor - first she put me on the horse that had supposedly acted like a "dick" earlier, because she figured I could handle it. He was fine, no problems, though. Then she said that she didn't know what I was doing in the lesson program, that I should be one of the trainers! That was very nice to hear. I have a lot to learn, but it's nice to know that all my riding has paid off and is obvious. It's been a long time since I've done laterals, and even longer since I've worked on bending (not as applicable on the trail). My muscles knew what to do, though, and I haven't lost the touch for being able to tell when they're legs are crossing over under neath me. Hard to explain, but I can always feel when those legs cross over like they're supposed to!

We're going to have a lesson next Wednesday during spring break, but only 2 of us plus our instructor will be there (usually 4 students). So we thought we would do some polocrosse, and have a longer lesson. Start on the ground to get used to the net (stick? whatever it's called), then get on the horses and try throwing the ball around. I'm looking forward to it! I also met someone recently that lives about an hour away who has horses and is willing to let me ride one of hers. That's too far to go every week, but I think I'll go next week and get to ride on some trails! She's really into competitive trail riding (CTR) and endurance, and CTR being my true love with riding, I'm looking forward to riding with her.

Have a great weekend everybody!

Friday, March 6, 2009

One week later...

Whew! Another week of ups and downs! It looks like I will be doing weekly posts (as opposed to more frequent), now that the school year is in full swing and I feel like I'm in over my head! Today I had a Calculus test (that I feel like I failed), and 5 references due for a Physiology paper. Since I had the Calculus test today, I didn't start looking for the references until I got home this afternoon. Fortunately, they weren't due to be uploaded until midnight tonight, and it didn't take as long as I thought. Apparently there is a lot more information out there about calcium-gated chloride channels then I thought there was. Go figure.

My husband and I were having a fight all week... we finally worked it out yesterday, so that was very stressful. And I was stressing about money (of course), and not doing well in school. I failed my organic chemistry test and my physiology test last week. Got an A on my bio test though! I wouldn't be so worried about the organic chemistry test because there will be a large curve, but I was almost 10 percent below average. Physiology I can drop a test, and pull up my grade from my last test (a 65) with extra credit. I have another Physiology test this Friday, and no other test(s) this week! So I can focus on studying for Physiology. Of course, that's what I thought I would do for calculus this week, and that didn't go so well...

Ok, onto happier things. And why I'm not as stressed out anymore. I met with an academic advisor today, and got a lot of things cleared up for what I have to do to become a teacher. The bad news: I didn't have to take Organic Chemistry and Calculus. The good news: I won't have to take Physics like I thought I did! When I got to UMD, I thought that the only option in the education department was for Biology, and that I would have to pretty much do a double major in Biology to fulfill the requirements to get into the program. But I talked to the advisor for the Ag Science and Technology major, which has the option for pre-education. He told me that the new Ag Ed track in the Education department just requires an Agriculture BS (like Animal Science, which I am). So if I can just make it through this term, next year should be a little easier and I can pull my GPA back up again! I came home so much more relieved - no more fighting with my husband, calculus test over, and school stress decreased.

Tomorrow I'll be helping with the 4-H horse bowl, on campus all day. It should be fun, but it's already almost midnight and I haven't gone to bed yet... so I'm going to be tired. But I'm looking forward to it. The Collegiate 4-H club is selling grilled cheese at lunch, but I already told the coordinator that I would help out with the horse bowl, so I can't help them with that fundraising. They'll also be selling baked goods, so I made some brownies they can sell. Actually, I made two batches. One for me and my husband, one for the 4-H club! They are tasty. And I made them out of a box!

We got all that snow Monday, and then it was 60 degrees today! So Wednesday, when I would normally have my riding lesson, the arena was a mess and we couldn't ride. Our instructor took us into the barn office and she went over some of the basic rules of polocrosse. We looked at some of her photos on Facebook (of polocrosse), and watched videos on YouTube. The club has been trying to do more polocrosse going, and I've been interested, since I had a lot of fun when I played polo. So that was really interesting. A lot of similarities, but a lot of differences. A true cross between polo and lacrosse!

Ok, it is midnight now. And I need to get up at 7am. So bedtime. Enough writing.