Monday, May 4, 2015

Never Underestimate a Mama Cow

We're just about finished calving for another year. And every day that I check cows I think about how dog gone smart mama cows are.  "There are some people who will tell you how stupid a cow is, but that's just a sign they've been outwitted by some." I'm paraphrasing the great horseman Bill Dorrance with that quote.  But he hit the nail on the head for sure.

I see numerous people posting a picture on Facebook of a mama cow with the saying "If you want to know fear, try out running a mama cow"....or something to that effect.  But I wonder if people really stop and think about why that mama cow does what she does.  Well, if you happen to be female and you happen to be a mama, just think how you'd feel if you thought someone was trying to mess with your sweet baby.  Maybe it looked like someone was trying to do harm to your baby.  Well, you'd fight to the death, wouldn't you?  I hear other ranchers say that a cow should stand while you tag her calf.  And I kinda prefer that too, but I understand and I don't blame her for trying to protect her calf.  I'd like to think she'll stand her ground if a coyote comes pestering her baby.  And I'd like to think she'd run that coyote off and blow snot on him all the way.  'Cause that's her job!

But some of the things that I've seen all my life never cease to amaze me.  One is how a cow can leave her baby all tucked up sleeping in some bunch grass way out in the middle of a big pasture and she can go to the well for a drink, maybe head to the salt tub for a little lick and on her way stop and pick a little grass or even eat some hay if it's brought to her.  Then after several hours have passed, she can walk right back to the exact spot where Junior is still napping.  She can let out a beller from a ways away and he'll stand up and come a runnin' for lunch.

Here's another thing that I just saw again yesterday.  Two days ago, I moved some bigger pairs through a pasture that had some newborns and heavies.  I thought I had everything moved out of the way before I started my bunch through, but as I was moving them I saw a newborn curled up in the grass.  I didn't think too much of it, figured Mama was up in the hills pickin' grass and she'd be back eventually to pick him up.  I moved everything else across and left the baby alone.  So as I always do, I went back yesterday to make sure everything was ok.  When I got to the gate to the pasture where all the older pairs were, there was a cow standing patiently at the gate.  I happened to notice that her bag looked pretty full and like she had not been nursed in a while.  When I opened the gate, she kinda acted like she'd like to come to the other side, so I let her through.  I stayed and tied a wire up on the fence and then I followed her.  She wasn't in a big hurry, just walking along, but she was very obviously headed in a certain direction.  By this time, I was pretty sure where she was going so I wasn't a bit surprised when she got over to where that baby I'd seen the day before had been and the baby stood up, stretched and ran to mama for a meal.  That never ceases to amaze me.  And I've seen that happen on way bigger scales when we go to summer pasture.  The next morning when you go check, there will be a cow either standing at the gate or making her own way back to the pasture we started from.  And if you follow along and open gates for her, when you get to that last pasture, you will see her walk to the very spot she left Junior napping in the morning before.  It's almost equally as amazing to me that the calf will hide there until his mama returns.

And then of course, there's the Nurse Maid.  Well, that's what Dad always called her.  The Nurse Maid can be any cow who has a calf.  When we feed, there will almost always be one cow that will stay back with a bunch of calves while the other cows run to the cake pickup.  She stands watch over all the babies that are in her little bunch until their mamas come back to pick them up.  She won't come to the cake pickup.  She'll just stand and watch you leave if you don't drive over to her and feed her.  She'll eat, but she won't leave her post.

A cow can recognize her calf from its smell, very often from sight and I'm pretty sure they can both recognize each other's voices.  I think that's pretty amazing for a "dumb animal".  But of course, I'm of a lot different mind set when it comes to cows than a lot of people, I guess.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's a Good Time to be in the Cattle Business

It's a good time to be in the cattle business.  I hear or read that statement a lot these days.  And it's absolutely true.  Cattle, even not so good cattle, are worth a lot of money these days.  And there are a lot of people making a lot of money in quite a few different ways in the cattle business right now.  And I think that's great....well, I'd be hypocritical if I said anything different now, wouldn't I?

But to be honest, money isn't why I ranch.  I coined a phrase the other day that pretty much sums up my thoughts on the deal. "Some people ranch to make money.  I make money to ranch."  I don't care nearly as much about having money in the bank as I do those cows out there making it.  I would do what I do if I didn't get paid to do it.  But of course, you can't do anything without the money to make it happen...that's just the way the world works.  It takes a lot of money to make it happen don't think for one second that I don't get how the world operates or that I don't like the things money can buy.  I absolutely do. 

I can't say it isn't nice when you get that paycheck for a load of calves that did well. Because it surely is.  But seeing those calves from the time they are born until the day they get on that truck, to me anyway, that's what makes my job worthwhile.  Seeing that first calf heifer that I bred and raised, spit out a calf and jump up and go to mothering it, makes my heart swell with pride.  And seeing that calf grow up and become a good, big, soggy calf that is the type I'm trying to raise, knowing that's the genetics and the planning that I have done.....well, I sometimes get tears in my eyes when I look at them.  Matt says I get a different smile on my face when I am looking at my cattle.  I don't doubt that for a second.

Of course we have land payments and feed and all sorts of other big expenses, that if you aren't in the cattle business would probably make your eyes pop out of your head when you see the big checks we have to write to pay for things.  Things aren't cheap and I don't suppose they will get any cheaper.  Unlike cattle, which, will probably get cheaper once supply catches up with demand.  It's how economics works.  Not much you can do about that. 

But those of us who are in it for the long haul, whether it's because we love what we do or we love making money, or both, it doesn't really matter.  We will tighten our belts if need be and do what we need to do to keep doing what we want to do.  Make no mistake, there are those who will get out...either just at the right time, or too late, for the money making.  Some are in this business strictly to make money and more power to them, I guess.  Some people love money.  I just love what I do.  There's a peace that a person gets when they know they're where they're supposed to be doing what they're supposed to do.  My days aren't always peaceful, but at the end of the day, when I lay down to sleep, I have that peace.  I am content.  It's a good feeling.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Depth of Grief

In continuing with my last post about my beloved Sparkle, I came upon a post on Facebook this morning about grieving animals.  It said:

 "It is the depth of love that determines the depth of grief, NOT whether the loved one was human or animal."

I could not agree more.  While I am certain there will be those who disagree, those of us who truly love animals and hold them dear to us, absolutely understand.  I have said several times about different animals that I have loved that I thought more of them than most people I know.  And nothing could be more true.

Animals are pure.  They may not love in the same sense we humans do, but their love is absolutely pure.  Think of how happy a dog is to see their family after they have been gone....about their pure joy just in seeing their people!  Think about that family friend who has comforted a sick or hurting family member.  There is nothing more pure than that....except for maybe the laughter of a baby.

I have often compared children and animals.  The innocence and the purity in their thoughts and actions.  No malice, almost always trusting.  Regardless .....pure is always that thought that returns to my head.  And who couldn't love that purity?

I understand animals much better than I understand people, although in recent years I have come to the realization that both run on instinct.  I have never held anything an animal did against it because I have always understood that everything an animal does is out of self preservation....and I have come to realize that is the same with humans.  People do what they think they need to to survive also.  So what does all this have to do with grief?

Well, I believe that when we choose to love (and love is a choice)..... whoever or WHATEVER we choose to love....really love, give our heart and soul it a spouse, a child, a friend, an animal, or some inanimate object like money......We give a piece of our heart to that....person, animal, whatever....and when they are gone, they take that little piece of our heart with them.....and replace it with a little piece of them.  So whatever it is that we love, a small part of that becomes a small part of us.  They never completely leave us.  So grief is just part of that love that we have.  And it's good to hang on to that love.  Yes, after a time, it becomes easier to deal with, but if we love, the grief remains, because it is a part of us now.  And eventually, our hearts are made up of all the things we truly love and very little of us.....

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Life and Times of a Cow Named Sparkle

I don't think I've ever written about my little old cow named Sparkle.  But since she just recently passed away and she meant so much to me, I feel inclined to write about her today.  This will probably be a pretty long if you're short on time, you might want to come back to this one on a rainy day.

Sparkle was a little Red Angus cow born in the Spring of 1996, the same year my first husband and I moved into the new trailer house in my folk's yard.  I well remember the afternoon I found her over on the West Heavy pasture.  Dad and I were horseback, headed over to the Hansen place to do something.  As we got close to the well on the West Heavy, there was a little blind heifer running in circles.  Dad said it wasn't uncommon for a blind calf to run in circles like that, but I went over to check it out anyway.  The little blind heifer was running circles around a new born heifer calf, curled up, sleeping peacefully.  At first glance, everything appeared to be fine.  A calf won't lay sleeping and curled up like that if it hasn't nursed, but it was a little odd that mama wasn't in sight of her baby.  A cow generally doesn't leave a calf until it's a couple days old.  But we rode on anyway.  Just over a little ways from the well was a black cow with another red heifer calf that was sleeping peacefully.  This calf looked identical to the other said me.  Dad couldn't tell one from the other, he said.  I was sure I had the whole deal figured out.  The cow had given birth to the first little heifer, nursed it and when she started having pains for the second, she walked away and had the second baby.  So they were twins.  And mama was wanting nothing to do with that first little one she'd had.  So I guess she would be mine to raise.  After we finished whatever we were going to do on the Hansen place, we came back to the barn, unsaddled our horses and loaded up in the pickup to get the calf.

I rode in the back of the pickup with the little red calf.  She happily sucked on my fingers, a good sign if you've ever picked up an orphan..that means they'll usually go right to nursing once you get a bottle for them.  We unloaded the little calf and I went to the Folk's house to mix up a little colostrum for the calf.  I have had quite a number of bottle calves before and since and I have never had a calf gulp down the bottle so quickly on the first try.  I declared that she was "a soak"....a term we used in college to describe someone who drank a lot.....and she was like a paper towel she "soaked up" so much.  So I thought she should have a name that described her.  Paper towel brands like "Bounty" and "Brawny" were the ones that came to mind, but this was a little heifer.  She needed a girl name.  Then I remembered the brand of paper towel called "Sparkle" and that was to be her name.

We didn't have any other bovine around the barn that spring.  Odd.  So Sparkle followed my two or three dogs around when I was doing horse chores.  I am convinced until she was weaned that she in fact, thought she was a dog.  I set out to teach her all the things that bovine need to know.  First things first, how to play.  Bovines head butt to play, so I taught her to head butt.  Looking back, this was probably not the best thing I could have done.  I'm not so sure she didn't go through a stage where she thought she might be a goat.  She head-butted everything that moved....or didn't....whichever the appropriate case.  I also taught her to suck grain off my fingers...something she would do until the day she went to greener pastures.  But what she really loved was CAKE.  I'm pretty sure I've mentioned cottonseed cake before.  Sparkle loved it.  But pretty much any food was ok with her.

When it came time to brand the other late calves that summer, we gathered them at the barn.  Sparkle was scared to death of the bovines!  She ran and hid behind me.  Dad thought we should brand her with the others, but I didn't want to "offend" her.  So instead, I made an eartag with her name and my brand on it for her.  When I went to tag her (the first time) she pulled away and I split her left ear.  I felt terrible because it bled and bled.  Years later, she frostbit the split and it peeled and bled and looked horrible.  Eventually, it became tough and didn't cause her any problems.  But she carried an eartag in her right ear most of her life.  I had to replace it a time or two because she lost them once in a while.

Eventually, that first summer, I let Sparkle run around loose on the ranch.  She was an absolute pest.  She ate clothes off the clothes line....and she pooped on my mom's sidewalk and yard and flower beds.  Mom didn't like that very much.  Sparkle also managed to find her way into the quonset where we stored corn.  How we managed to keep her from foundering is beyond me.  Apparently, she had an internal alarm clock also.  If I didn't have her bottle mixed and ready to go at 6 am and 6pm, she was on my back step (halfway up the steps, mind you) bellering at me for breakfast or supper.  And she knew whether I was home or not....If I didn't appear at my house, she would take herself down the trail to my folk's house.  She'd look in the screen door at my mom and beller until I showed up.

She also ended up across the highway one time.  I tried driving her across the road on foot, but she wasn't having any of that.  After quite a few bad words, I ended up getting a rope and making a halter and "teaching" her to lead.  I will use that term "teaching" pretty loosely there.  It wasn't pretty, but I got her back.  Dad thought maybe I should put her out in a pasture so she didn't get back on the highway after that.

As far as Sparkle was concerned, I was her MOM.  When it came time to wean her, she was pretty put out with me.  I put her with the other calves, which at first, scared the be-jiggers out of her.  But she got over that pretty quickly.  Whenever I would go out where she was, she would find me and suck on my pant legs or my coat or my shoes or whatever of me she could get ahold of.  I finally started taking a little cake out to her so she didn't molest me.  That just opened up a whole new can of that never ended.

She bred up with the rest of the heifers that year, except she was a little late.  Her first calf came on branding day morning.  She'd gotten out in Dad's windbreak trees the night before and I'd had a bugger of a time getting her into the pen in front of the calving barn.  I knew she was trying to go out there to calve and I was afraid she'd have trouble since she was a little bit smaller than the other heifers we'd kept.  I still remember going to check on her that morning before I saddled my horse for branding.  It was pretty cold for May and the steam was just rolling off her...I could see it way before I got to her.  I was afraid she was dead.  But she had just had a really nice little bull calf who was fighting to get up.  She sat up and looked at him and jumped up and went to mooing and licking.  I was beyond proud!!

Sparkle was a great mama.  Over the years, she raised 16 calves, 15 of them were hers.  She was sixteen years old when she lost her first calf.  I count that as my fault because she had the calf during a storm.  She came into the barn yard on her own and did everything she could have possibly done.  I think she was getting as close as she could to me for help, but I didn't get there soon enough to save her little heifer calf.  I was pretty upset as I had seen her get bred that summer and I thought the cross would be a really good one.  I wasn't wrong.  It was a real nice heifer calf that she lost in that storm.  Sparkle stayed with that little heifer for 5 days.  Most cows, three is tops.  I was sick for her.  It took about two weeks, but I found a baby for her.  She kicking at it.  I could stop her by scolding her.....usually, you have to put a cow in stanchions or at least tie them up.  Not Sparkle....I just put her in a pen and stood there and scolded her when she didn't let little "Minnie" nurse.  It took three or four days, but Sparkle was just as good a mama to Minnie as she was to all the calves that she birthed.

Sparkle was pretty well known by about anybody who came to our branding.  She would snoop around to anybody on the ground, hoping somebody might have a bite of cake in their pockets.  The vets who came to preg check cows knew her well too.  She'd been through the working chute a lot of times.

In the Spring of 2012, we got a big snow storm, 18 inches of heavy, drifting snow.  Most of the bunches of cows got in behind the hills and didn't get drifted in, but the bunch that Sparkle was with, got in behind a hill that had a fence right next to it.  The snow drifted all around them and they were pretty much stuck there.  When Matt and I went to try to get them out with the front wheel assist tractor, it was just too slick and too much of a hill to get to them.  We decided to scoop and walk the cows out.  But it was waist deep to Matt and my short little legs could barely walk through the deep snow, let alone the cows.  So we kept scooping  and tromped the snow until we had a path.  We thought the cows would follow the tractor, but they still didn't know they could get out.  I couldn't see Sparkle in the bunch...she was smart and in the middle....but I knew she was there.  So I started calling to her.  Pretty soon, she came to me and I started out through the path we'd made.  She followed, and the other cows, seeing her go, started following her out.  Old Sparkle saved the day!!

Her last couple of years that she calved, I kept her with the replacement heifers so I could keep an eye on her.  I was really afraid if I left her out in the hills that she might get down and not be able to get back up.  You see, that isn't terribly uncommon with an old cow that's been around too long.  I knew Sparkle was on borrowed time, especially for having calves.  Her last calf was born on a nice afternoon in the west end of Dad's heifer lot.  That calf probably didn't weigh over 40 pounds and Dad said he didn't think it took Sparkle more than about five minutes to have him.  I think Matt gave him the name "Twinkle".....since it was so tiny, we just assumed it was a heifer calf.  He was several days old before we realized Twinkle was a little bull calf.  Sparkle's blood line ended there.  I don't think I ever kept a heifer out of her.  I wish I had.

I had made up my mind years ago, that Sparkle would not go to the sale barn like most cows when she came up open.  That happened last year, so I didn't let her go out in the pasture, except for a very short time.  She was hurting in her hips, she squeaked when she walked and I couldn't keep her toenails from growing way too long.  I tried cutting them off, but couldn't get them short enough.  So I was afraid she'd take herself out somewhere and not be able to get back for a drink.  We kept good alfalfa in front of her and I made sure she had cake.  The soft stuff we feed the calves, since most of her teeth were gone too. When we started feeding our calves and fat steers, it happened that Twinkle was one of the fats, so he ended up back in the same pen with his mama....and she got to spend her last months eating ground hay and distillers and licking on a lick tub with a good wind break and plenty of bovine company.

I would take the time, once in a while, to go love on Sparkle.  I had always called her "the most beautiful cow in the world" and I scratched her head and she would put it down almost on the ground for me to squat down beside her and love on her.  I would scratch her back, right in front of her tail, and she would act like a cat sometimes does, licking something "cause it just feels so darned good"....Her old eyes would get all soft and I would say, "I love you, Old Cow"...and I'd go about my day.  Most mornings though, she would say her soft little moo to me and I would say "Cler, Cler" (short for Sparkle) and sometimes she'd walk over to the fence, but usually we just spoke to each other and went on about our day.  Day before yesterday when I got to the barn to do chores, it took just a second to see that I wouldn't get to do that anymore.....Sparkle was gone to greener pastures.  She didn't appear to have had a struggle, for which I am so grateful.

I cannot express the love I felt for this little cow.  For many years I prayed for God to keep her safe whilst she was out in the hills.  I worried about her until I knew she'd had each calf safely.  She had the sweetest, kindest spirit of any animal I have ever known.  No one will make me believe that she didn't have a soul and that she isn't right now grazing in green pastures in heaven.  I hope no one leaves Heaven's gate open a crack, because she will surely find it and be "across the highway" , grazing somewhere that she isn't supposed to be.  I hope that my friends and relatives who have gone on before me, who take care of such critters as her, will be patient.  She has been spoiled all her earthly life....and I will certainly miss her for a very long time.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Words Aren't Enough

Sometimes life just isn't fair.  Sometimes we are so confused over something that happened that we can almost not comprehend it.  The last couple of weeks have been this way for me.  And sometimes when I don't know how to process things in my mind, it helps me to write.  And since I have been having difficulty wrapping my brain around so many different emotions, that is what I am doing.....writing.

With heavy heart, I write about the loss of my brother in law, Devin, Matt's younger brother.  Devin was a husband, a father, a son, a friend.  He was loved by many.....And he left this world much too soon. I know God has a plan.  I know my job is to trust Him.  But I also know that I have a bigger job.  I am to be a comforter and also a light in this time of darkness.  But to be honest, it's difficult to be a light sometimes because of two emotions that keep roaming around in my heart.

The first, obviously, is grief.  Matthew 5:4 says, "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted."  I know with all my heart that God will give us comfort.  I know He will wrap his loving arms around all of us who are mourning the loss of a loved one and give us the strength and the courage to carry on.  Joshua 1:9 tells us to "Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid....For the Lord your God goes with you.  He will never leave you nor forsake you."  And Isaiah 55:8-11 reminds us "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.  As the heavens are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts, As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it, without watering the earth and making it bud and yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth.  It will not return to me empty but it will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it."  All these words give me comfort and help me know that just because I don't understand the "whys" of such things, I do know the One who does know.  And finally, Proverbs 3:5-6 "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight."  This verse, of course, reminds us that if we trust Him, He will make the load a little lighter to bear.  Which brings me to my second emotion.....

Guilt....Whoa.  That's a big one.  Any time we suddenly lose a loved one, or especially suddenly, we think of all the times we didn't go see them, all the things we should have done but didn't, all the words we wished we said (and maybe some words we wished we hadn't).  We think about all the opportunities that we passed up and now they're gone.  That's a pretty hard pill to swallow sometimes.  I think we all suffer from guilt in these situations. 

But here's the other part of guilt that maybe not everyone deals with....I have come to think of it as almost like "survivor's syndrome".  It's the "Why me?" part of the spectrum.  And maybe not quite how you would think.  I keep thinking about how WONDERFUL my life is.  How blessed I am.  I have Matt, who is such a blessing to me in so many ways.  He's stuck with me through some pretty rough patches and he is more than my husband, he's my friend, my coworker, my partner, my protector....the list goes on and on and on.  And I still have Dad, who, even though he is slowing down a lot and slipping from the guy he once was, I am blessed to have him still in my life.  I have wonderful family and friends, folks who have gathered around me in good and bad.  Folks who have stuck with me and given me support and love.  You really can't ask for much more than that.....But still I have all the blessings God sent to me in the good land, cattle, horses. dogs....the sunshine and rain, enough wind to pump the water, a nice, cozy, comfortable, albeit often not-too-clean house, with things that make my life so much easier than the generations before.  Truthfully, there just isn't anything to complain about because my life is just so doggoned good.  And that makes me feel a little guilty that I have so much. And even though my sister in law has 3 beautiful kids and so many wonderful things in her life.....she doesn't have HER protector anymore.  The kids don't have THEIR dad. My in laws don't have THEIR son. And Matt doesn't have HIS brother(thank God he does still have a younger brother)..... And yes, I loved and still do love Devin.  And I don't have him either.  But comparatively, I still have so much.  And my heart breaks for my loved ones.

So.....If there is a lesson to be learned from all this, I guess it would be two-fold.  First.  Take the time to spend with loved ones.  Make the phone calls, the visits, the dates or the drop in visits.  And don't let those moments slip away when you do.  Relish them, enjoy them.  Take the photos.  Tell them that you love them.  And secondly, well....secondly.....just look up.  Trust that He's got this.  Open your heart and let the healing, the comforting, the strengthening happen.  Realize your blessings and let go of the "coulda, shoulda, woulda's".....

Oh, and there's a third thing.  While you're alive, don't forget to LIVE.  Life is short, shorter for some than others.  Make every moment count. 

Monday, March 24, 2014

The New (and improved) Heifer Lot

Another calving season is upon us.  Things are a little different this year than in years past.  Instead of the heifer lot where Dad and I have spent so many hours over the last 23 years, Matt and I built a new one at our place.  It is one of the greatest things we have ever done with time and money.

Dad broke his hip last June and things have changed a lot since then.  He wasn't able to help with any of the spring/summer work and he just wasn't up to doing much in the fall either.  That's ok.  I mean, he is almost 86 years old.  If he's tired and doesn't feel like doing something, that's more than ok. And Matt and I had planned to build a heifer lot here at our place anyway.  We just needed the time and "incentive" to do it.

We started out by putting in a little 3-sided building a couple of years ago.  It worked pretty nice for parking vehicles in during hail storms.  But it had always been with the intention of putting it to use as a calving barn.  And then last year, we bought continuous fence panels.  And they sat just waiting for us to get the time to start building.  We finally got in gear digging postholes in December, I think.  Right before the first big cold snap hit our area.  Several warm ups and well below zero days were to follow.  So we were glad we at least had our outside posts set and were hoping for enough warm weather to get it finished before calving actually started.  Finally, in February, it was do or die.  We either had to get it finished or admit defeat for another year.  Matt was pretty determined not to have to drive to Dad's every 2 hours (I think that had something to do with the fact that he does the night checks) so we got busy.  We put in windbreak panels and continuous fence.  We built pens.  We hung gates.  A lot of gates.  But our years of planning had finally come to fruition.  We had a heifer lot.

And it was none too soon.  The heifers were due to start any time after the 25th of February.  And that day started another of the cold snaps that we had.  The temperatures were well below zero for several days.  Fortunately, we did not have any calves during that time.  But we still needed to be checking them day and night, just in case.  Because there's a good chance a heifer would not save a calf when it is that cold. 

But when the little gals did start calving, it has been such a joy!  The pens we set up have worked perfectly.  Everything we have done works so well and our heifers are so nice and gentle, it has just been so fun to calve them out. (with the exception of lack of sleep on both our parts). 

I'm not one of those women who cares much about gifts or fancy things.  But build me a nice heifer lot....
Now that's another story.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

And So the Journey Begins.....Again.

While the end of the last journey is still somewhat fresh in my mind, I wanted to take a moment and reflect on it.  I'm referring to the "changing of the guard", so to speak.  My dear friend, Deets has been gone for about nine weeks now.  I still miss him.  I still expect to see him when I drive in the driveway and I still think I should call him to "jump in" and go with me in the pickup.  He was such a big part of my life for so long that it's difficult to say goodbye so easily. 

Those last hours he spent on this earth were difficult.  His breathing was so labored.  He was so weak.  I sat on the floor with his head on my lap for much of it.  I looked into his eyes many times and told him how much he meant to me and how much I would miss him.  And I told him it was ok to let go.  And finally he did.  And I took him outside and laid him by the door until sunup and then Matt and I buried him at the end of the tree strip overlooking the calving lot, one of his favorite places.

Saying goodbye to our old friends is the most difficult thing we do as pet owners.  It isn't something folks think much about as they bring a chubby, happy puppy into the family.  When we're being bombarded with puppy kisses and house training and watching that awkward "puppy kid" run and play and discover new things, we don't much think about the end of the journey. 

But a week ago, our journey began anew.  We welcomed a puppy into our family.  "Chisum" (named for the cattle baron John Chisum) is a red border collie male who made the trip all the way from northern Oklahoma with my niece last Sunday.  He was born three days after Deets died......He is already a part of the family.

We laugh at the silly puppy antics as he becomes more and more comfortable with being with us.  We get up in the night to take him outside to potty.  We tell him "no", when he tries to chew on our shoes or the rug in the kitchen.  And he reminds me so much of old Deets that it isn't even funny. 

Chisum has not replaced Deets' spot in my heart.  Or Matt's.  And he never will.  We talk about Deets a lot.  We miss our old friend and we give him the respect an old, departed friend deserves.  New dogs do not replace old dogs, just like new loved ones don't replace departed ones.  There is just a new place in our hearts for them.