Friday, October 31, 2008

Jack in a Wheel Chair

After almost almost two months of Friday afternoons of bookwork & dog interaction on the Ranch, it was time for a Field Trip. Our Quickie wheelchair was all serviced and the tires pumped to prime pressure.

I selcted two dawgs for this trip, Bo'sun and Katie. Bo's is an excellent puller - for me. Katie has been prepped, but has never been tested on real sidewalks.

Jack, our young volunteer, has never been in a wheelchair, but he does ride a unicycle. He thinks it's going to be easy. We head to Broadway in Eagle, the kindest ADA main street in the entire Eagle Valley. We park on the South end, unload and I show him how the chair assembles. I pop him in and send him off, no dog to help, for a tour, from the bottom to the top of the street and back. I want his impressions.

Jack isn't as swift on the circuit as I thought he would be. I figure he is getting the hang of the chair. Upon his return, I want to know what he's learned:

  • The sidewalk slants towards the road.

  • People won't meet your eye.

  • He already has a blister on one hand.

I'm pleased, Jack has learned more than I wished. I thought it would take another hour to get a blister. Jack also admits that he crashed twice already. I'm not about to admit how many times I've done that.

We take a moment and I play the dog for Jack. I show Jack how to position his elbow and how to follow me as I lead. Then I instruct him how he can turn by moving his hand left and right, not moving his elbow, and the wheelchair turns. We crack up because it's so easy when we are doing it, but later when he tries with a pup, it's not so smooth.

So next I match Jack with Boatswain. Bo's is an amazing puller, but he's my baby, and always looking for approval from me. But Bo's has a bond with Jack that is awesome, I don't think this is going to be a problem. I lead off with Katie before them.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

Jack & Bo'sun go off for a Broadway tour alone. This time no one avoids his face, they smile. Bo's helps him not to slide towards the street. Jack doesn't trust the elbow turns and gets another blister.

But Jack gets it. When you have a dog, people connect. Assistance dogs aren't just physical assist, they make a social connection. Everyone wants to greet you, meet you. From being a pariah, you become a celebrity. We made a side trip into the Eagle Pharmacy - the Everything Place, and ran into several teachers from Jack's school as well as one of my fellow patrons of physical therapy.

It's Katie's turn. She's totally toy-centric, so I grab a stick. Bo's & I and quick-step ahead with the stick; Katie goes nuts. She's pulling! Off they go around the County building loop. Um, I think she just pulled Jack OVER. Oops! Or was that Jack hot-wheeling again?

Now I made a deal with Jack that he would study his copied text for his day out. I get home and all those sheets are still on my dining-room table. We are going to fix this.

It's Halloween and I had my first normal in years ghosts & goblin night at Jack's parent's house. I helped spread webs and black lights. I admired weak and terrific costumes. After living where no Trick-or-Treater ever dared, it was wonderful to see the flood of costumes. I really liked the Ghost-Buster and the lil' Cinderella.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

82 Dove Pick Up

Kristin & I are hunting out a log cabin with a green roof; this should be easy - we live in a log cabin with a green roof. I believe they must have had a sale on them in Collbran though. Suddenly Kristin sights an appropriate roof adorned with white doves, "Looks like our place!" and we start to climb the incredibly steep driveway.

Paul & Nancy's place is a veritable aerie. Two large flocks of doves are out exercising, or should I say, putting on a Broadway Review. We stand on the new deck overlooking a sheer drop to a vast basin with a pond. The birds fly below us, even to the deck, and then up above the mesas & mountains. White contrasts against greens, browns, and blues, the two flocks weave and warp. One flock has some grey feather markings that flashes nicely against the all white grouping. I've never seen so many doves flying all at once, so aware they are performing.

And it's okay that I'm coveting because we've come to buy a mess of young birds. 74 in fact. And 4 breeding pairs as well. That's 82 doves from this special and highly recommended loft.

Checking out other folks lofts is always fun - what are they doing better? We got some ideas we'll share later.

Loading was swift. Paul has some very agile hands. Both Kristin & I learned a new way to grip the doves so as to easily hand them off to each other. Paul shared so many tips & lore I had a hard time keeping my count straight. I'd mess up my count a hundred times over for each bit of knowledge shared. Kristin was the middle handler so she never missed a bit of information. I really wanted to switch locations with her, but I was handling the birds outside and was more familiar with the baskets we were loading with both hands full with doves.

After washing up Nancy treated us girls to a hand treatment from her BeautiControl® line - instant manicure & cuticle salve, and I'll tell you, my hands are still very happy. We also got to play Trick or Treat with a monstrous bag of candy. I'm so glad the servings were minute. We all got a good laugh about never getting T&Ters in the country...but still buying candy...just in case.

Getting late, never enough time to hang with new wonderful friends, we hit the paved roads hard and fast.

While we were gone Jim, with the help of Jared's step-dad, Keith G. tidied up the loft bay we need to off-load this wealth of birds. They mounted perches and secured doors & bobs. No one was here when we arrived but we were in awe. Sure we'd like to have everything all painted but that can wait until we are creating a cash flow - this is a sweet loft!

Enter the 82.

The Breeding Pairs were the first to venture out, and the first to pick the highest perches. The Young Birds, having never been out of their own loft, in a basket, nor having ever traveled, were baffled, and took some time to exit. Eventually we helped the last ones out. Only one bird sustained injuries in transit.

Then it was Musical Perches.

That's fine for Young Bird kindergarten but we humans were mighty hungry and weary. The new kids had plenty of food and water in their new quarters. We dimmed the lights so they would rest, but light enough so the boogeyman would stay away and they could keep flying & vying for their perches and bid them all sweet dreams.

But I did the math.

Jim said they put up 80 perches.

That means two will be sleeping on the nesting bench tonight. That's right, just a bench, no boxes there yet.

Life is so not fair.

Grand Mesa Road Trip

Road Trip!

Kristin & I were off to stock the dove loft with a plethora of new birds.

But on the way we took a detour.

Exiting I-70 at De Beque, in lieu of the Cutoff heading South, we opted for V Road, also known as Sunnyside Road. Any road that Google Maps says is 17.7 miles and has a travel time of 43 minutes has got to be worthy.

Now we've seen red rock, and white rock, and grey, but pinks? purples? Click on some of this pics for a more detailed view.

The road started out quite well maintained. And we saw a bit of traffic - it's oil country out here. Then we hit a fork, decided to stay on the better road. We passed an encampment of cowboys, tents, a trailer & horses and waved. They must have started placing bets on how long it would take us to switch back, because we soon dead ended at some pumps. Some 15 minutes later we were passing them again, this time to hearty waves and smiles and we took a left on the road less traveled.

And the road disintegrated.

But the season was perfect for off roading in a Subaru wagon - everything was very dry. We went through deep washes that would have been terrific in mud if only we had been in Dad's Jeep. The switchbacks around deep ravines were dramatic. The remnants of massive boulder falls on both sides of the track were intimidating. Have I mentioned the purples?

At last we passed a sign. But I had to stop and turn around to read it. So that's where we'd been!

Grand Mesa National Forest. Well, we'll be back.

Next time in a Jeep!

The road gradually improved. We started seeing oil workings again. And we popped out on CO-330, not far from our destination in Collbran. You'll notice there aren't any links for this trip, that's because this section of Grand Mesa National Forest, located in the Plateau Valley area, and this particular road aren't marked in any of the online scenic byway or forest literature. But the locals sure know about it!

PS - Upon refection an in a later edit, this post of DG's needed to be referenced here.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Our Sweet Ami, Ted

How many ways am I linked to this wonderful hound named Ted?

His mom, Nadine Lober, is one of my oldest and most dearest friends in the valley. She's on the board of With Alacrity, our nonprofit for assistance dogs. She is our veterinarian.

Before Ted, Nadine was Mom to Ami, the dawg that showed me the way to service dogs. Actually it was Nadine that showed me the way by sharing her dog when I was housebound. By dropping off Ami, she knew through my love for her pup I'd scooch down the stairs on my butt and get Ami outside when he asked.

Ami lead to Gladys, my first full time certified service animal. Gladys changed my life completely.

In 2006, Nadine and I lost both Gladys & Ami to cancer.

Gladys had picked our pup, Boatswain, four months before she passed. Nadine would later come to meet Ted when she assisted in whelping his litter of Ridgeback-Labs. Katie arrived on Christmas Eve 2006 to complete the crazy trio. Katie would be the mama and boss of our nonprofit. She's not a mother yet, but she is the Boss.

Ted's been coming out to Camp Alacrity often while Mom finally takes some well deserved vacation time. Bo'son welcomed him in as a brother. Katie had her reservations. Poor Ted had to go through fiery hoops to win her approval. At last Katie laid the crown of acceptance upon Ted - he was approved!

Ted's a different dog out here. At home he's totally tied to Nadine's side. He won't go out to play unless she goes too. At first Ted was that way with me while he was here, but the pack won him over.

At the Ranch, or Camp as it is for Ted, people aren't No. 1 All the Time, one is allowed to Go out and Play. As long as the whistle home is respected - GO PLAY! Yes, schooling is important, but free time to use one's imagination is almost a lost art in which we believe heartily.

It was so delightful to watch Nadine realize her pup wasn't in the house while we were visiting. He was out playing until the very last minute. Ted had been happy to see her drive up, but when he realized they weren't leaving just yet, he went back out to play. Of course, when Nadine went out to their vehicle, Ted was ready to go home, because There is No Place like Home.

Mama Mia, It's a Cria!

Around noon today Kristin was chatting with her best friend on her cell when she glanced out the window onto the South Pasture and was a tad baffled. Was that Katie getting close to Mya, our llama that isn't all that friendly? But wait, Katie looks nothing like a skinny poodle, she's a trim American Labrador. What is that with Mya?

Could it be a baby llama?

Those are due in the spring. And what with all the trouble we've had with that toxic weed death camus, we'd given up on having a cria. Could it? Could it be? Kristin hung up on Julie and ran over to the Big House. Jim was about to have lunch. I was in bed fighting a fever. We all bee-lined for the pasture.

About that time Ande, our male llama figured out he had some competition; he'd been playing reindeer games over in the excavation hole for the wind turbine. Jim covered the cria. Kristin scrambled for the baby shots, and I, well, I tackled Ande. Honest. Ande was already after the cria. I grabbed him by his coat and took him down. Male llamas are known for kicking the crias so the females come back into estrus. We know from the previous owners that Ande did this last spring ('07) and I'll be damned if he was going to do it again.

I cursed Ande, telling him that Jared & I had saved his life last winter when he was choking on his cud and we intubated him and cleared his passageway, Ande owed me a life, dammit. Ande didn't try to kick me after my outrage. He laid there stubbornly, refusing to move, even after Jim got a lead on him. I don't blame Ande - I'd been pretty persuasive. Finally Katie came to our aid and helped Ande to his feet and we escorted him to the BOQ, otherwise known as the house paddock.

I took a nap. With a thrice sparained ankle and a whooping head cold, I was toast. Two hours later, I limped back into the pasture with my camera. Cria was standing steady & nursing!

The puppies are totally intrigued with the cria. Mya is usually a very standoffishish critter but she's learning who her friends are. Mya's ears are normally pulled way back in a very bitchy attitude. Motherhood must agree with her. Her cria will grow up amongst reindeer and puppies and as the only cria - with what breed will the lil' critter identify?

The reindeer were honoring Mya's space, but did you think the labs would?

Please notice, Mya's ears are quite forward!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

No Place Like Home

The Beav was a great place to roost, but there's no place like Ranch Alacrity.

- The Doves

NPLH = No Place Like Home

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Doves do have a Bedtime

Well, I learned a big lesson. When you say what time is the latest that you will release your doves, stick to it. Be firm.

I fudged by some thirty minutes. I was attending a Vail Valley Partnership function at the Dusty Boot and they wanted to announce the release...but it wasn't timely. By the time the doves were announced twilight was fading and the doves decided to bunk down in Beaver Creek Village for the night.

These are some savvy birds, heated streets, warm rooftops, a totally cozy environment to be had. It made for a poor release, but I totally deserved it. I'm just glad the doves have such a grand place to hunker down.

Best meets: Jenny Schechter of Heartland Payment Systems - I have hopes of having her volunteering with the assistance dawgs- we talked about going for a "roll"; Ken Pearson of Alpine Construction & Remodeling - I was intrigued with his CAPS certification - Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist; and best of all I ran into Lynette Horan of HR Services of Vail and I got a good report of her puppy now on Ester C! Lynette also won a gift certificate from the Dusty Boot but there was some confusion - seemed there were several Lynettes in the audience, but we made sure they had the right one!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Finest Dove Photograph

That I have ever experienced! I was googling "dove release vail" and right above our site, on search page one, I can proudly type, I found this, the most amazing How do I Dove Thee™ moment.

I'm beyond awe. These photographers, Andy & Angie Wood, have created the perfect indelible memorable magic moment. Not only can I wish that we at Doves of Vail can hope to have an opportunity to work with them someday, but Kristin is already wondering if she & Jared can save enough to engage them for their future wedding at Ranch Alacrity.

The Incredible Edible Egg™

That's the trademark of the American Egg Board.

A singular incredible egg was of monumental importance on the Ranch today because it was our very first from our young flock of hens. Kristin located our first nugget of gold, but since she was mid ranch tour with Jared's visiting family, she set it aside for later gathering. Inappropriately, or appropriately enough, the dawgs dined on our first egg.

Oddly, it was a plain ole white egg. Most of our gals will lay brown and rainbows. I suspect the layer was one of the exotics with the feathered legs that arrived early in the year with the cocks, a surprise chick thrown in for every so many birds we ordered. That makes sense since they are a month or so older than most of the hens.

Nevertheless, celebrate with a round of the American Egg Game.

New egg layers will lay just about anywhere except in their roosts. This egg was laid in the water bath! Our eyes are peeled now, pun intended. The next eggs are for the humans that feed and care for the flock.

I have souffles on my mind. Mmm, a chocolate souffle, no less.
And egg money.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Young Jack

We have a young volunteer at the nonprofit that is simply irreplaceable. Jack is 15 and wise beyond his years. He's also so very much his age.

Jack adores all the animals here.

That can be difficult because we plan to eat a mess of them, quantity-wise. His job here is to help with the assistance dogs. (We don't plan on eating them!) But I know it's tough because we have plenty of chickens and turkeys...We also have llamas and reindeer, peafowl, laying hens, cats and of course dawgs, and they are all here to stay. Jack would prefer to be vegan.

Jack has been a lovely surprise. He grasps the teachings for dogs easily but he has many layers. We break the rules of social conversion and talk about politics and religion. And it's very stimulating. We don't fight, we debate, and compare references. This kid is an old soul. We segway through many topics but we always seem to get the core curriculum of the nonprofit's week accomplished. Amazingly, we always have a word to look up every week, to the the benefit of us both,

Ah, but I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

~Bob Dylan

What's interesting is that when I watch him with his own dog, he doesn't have the same touch that he has with the dawgs here.

We have to work on this.

Log Jam & Lumber Festival

How can I say how grateful I am to Habitat for Humanity ReStore of Eagle County?

For all the the advancements on the Ranch I've been buying raw lumber from them, averaging 10-30 cents on the dollar. It all depends on whether we pick it up from the donor site, saving them transportation costs, or we pick it up at the ReStore.

Habitat usually sells at 30% of value. If you haven't shopped Habitat, you should.

I'll be honest, we often get more lumber picking it up on site because we load up and then they tell us they have more for us, just come back!

One of the most wonderful things is that we get to go into the most reclusive, exclusive neighborhoods, and it's so lovely to see these areas. How else would we see them when they are behind security gates?

Are we Permitted?

After months, and I do mean months, of awaiting approval from the county planning commission, at last our wind turbine has recieved all of its permits.

That date was 25 September 08 and you can see what day it is today.

Our hole was properly dug in half a day by Keith, our amazing excavator, on 6 Oct, after the gang from GridFeeders came out and plotted out the exact location. on the Friday beforehand. It's still a great big hole. We're still awaiting the contractor to frame in the concrete and then we can pour.

The wind is blowing hard. There's just no Las Vegas ding to it. No turbine in the air yet. Gridfeeders has as much as I do invested; this is their first pivate wind turbine in this county. Hurry! Hurry!

Being first is very difficult.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008


I''m sore.

But not near as much as I thought I would be! No shooting up recyclables today, but I definitely want shooting back in my life.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Shotgun Separation

We're coming up on our 2nd anniversary at the Ranch in a month or so and finally I was the one to scare the coyotes off.

Yip. Yip. Those damn creatures like to creep in on our stock. Rory, our wonderful reindeer/stock dog will do battle with them. Boatswain, Katie & Ruby are good backup dawgs. However, when the coyotes come up the drainage and Rory starts to go down the drainage, it's usually time to fire off a shotgun.

We don't subscribe to killing coyotes. There is too much research that proves that it culling coyotes ultimately increases their population.

But 'Yotes don't like the sound of shotguns, and it puts an end to their predatory action for the evening. Usually Kristin is the first to stand out on the Looking Rock over the creek drainage and fire out above the mesa.

Kristin was a very tired camper. She's been sound asleep for hours. Rory was getting closer to the creek. Yip. Yip. Yip. Rory still has scabs from his last encounter. I looked in my closet - nice clean 20 gauge. Looked in the secret place for full, but aged.

I haven't fired a gun in years but all that hunting training came back in a flash. Out to the Looking Rock I went. Chambered, safety off, up to the left eye, aimed high, tightened the core, slow pull on the trigger. *Boom* 'Yotes silent. Even remembered to lower the shotgun before unchambering because this gun ejects across my face and I wasn't wearing glasses. Katie retrieved the shell and handed it to me. Good girl.

I forgot how much I adore that smell.

All these years I've been afraid to target practice because I was afraid of the kick on my back! I may think differently tomorrow, but what kick? I've got a mess of recyclables I want to aim at tomorrow!

Maybe it's cleaning all these chickens and turkeys that has me in a hunting frame of mind. I've never cleaned domestic animals before, always wild game. But now I have the smell of cordite in my nostrils.

I'm a Louisiana girl, so don't worry. If I shoot it, I'll eat it.