Friday, February 21, 2014

The Slapstick Element

Having Parkinson's is a lot like being locked into a slapstick comedy act at a Vaudeville show.

For you littlun's who aren't familiar, Vaudeville was a travelling show, popular from the late 1800's to somewhere in the 1930's, made up of several different, unrelated acts. There were acrobats, singers, skits and of course, slap stick comedy.

I'm not old enough to have experienced the real thing, but I've watched the Abbot and Costello and Three Stooges reruns, sang "Mr. Sandman" along with Dolly, Emmylou and Linda, which led me to the the Andrew Sisters, all of these acts came from Vaudeville.

I'm guessing Saturday Night Live is the closest thing to it these days, but The Carol Burnett Show was probably my intro to Vaudeville. It was a TV show, but based on the same theory, and it cracked me up to no end as a little kid.

Charlie Chaplin, who we know through his work in the cinema, also began his career in Vaudeville, and is probably my most shining example of the classic slapstick comedian. That dude was born to fall. He was the master at finding humor in sadness and making mayhem madcap.

My disease, so far, is remarkably under control. Carbidopa/Levodopa is a frigging miracle drug. Most days I can kid myself that everything is fine. The stuff that goes on, well, I can compensate.

Brockle is an obsessive ball playing freak. I keep it from becoming a vice by saving his ball for a reward, so we use it a lot for training and getting through the off-leash area without killing any other dogs. I also use it on the days I'm too tired to walk as far as he needs.

I throw the ball, he brings it back, we mix it up with some obedience drills, but on those tired days I just want to wear his ass out, so I throw, and throw and throw. Sometimes, out of the blue, the slapstick element appears and the ball will fly up in the air and in a direction nobody is prepared for. Me, Brockle, and whoever may be with us, search the sky with our mouths hanging open until one of us figures out where the heck it's headed.

Twice now, I have been changing my clothes, and as I pull the clothing on or off over my head, I send it flying, much like Brockle's tennis ball. Both times it has landed in the toilet. Yep, twice. There's the stinking Slapstick Element, what part of me was aiming for the can?

It's like my brain says, "Body, pull on the T-shirt," and my body yells "Psyche!!!"

Being the control freak I can be, this internal rebellion pisses me off. Except it also cracks me up. Because pratfalls are funny, even in real life. Nope, I'm not crying on the inside and  laughing on the outside, I'm too old for that nonsense. I just have a sick sense of humor and get tired of feeling sorry for myself.

I was crawling up on an examination table in the doctors office when, without warning, my feet stood me up on my tiptoes. The little devils. All by themselves, they put me on point like a prima ballerina, which trust me, is not a good place for me. I fell forward in slow motion and did a face plant on the table, then, slowly, ever so slowly, while the MA squawked, rolled off the table and hit the floor. With a very loud thud.

I propped myself up on my elbows and looked for the MA, who was standing in the corner doing a great impersonation of Munch's painting, The Scream.

"I swear officer," I said, "I only had two Margaritas at lunch."

The poor little MA fled the scene.

"Are you sure she's drunk?" I heard my the thump of my doctor's cane  as he shuffle stepped to the rescue. "What do you mean you don't know? Did you just leave her on the floor?"

He came in the door, saw me grinning at him from the floor, and asked, "Are you hurt,drunk or both?"

"Nope. My feet yanked me on my tiptoes and I lost my balance."

"You idiot!" He shouted down the hall, "She has Parkinson's!"

He extended a hand to help me up, suddenly, up on his toes he went , and yep, you guessed it, fell right on top of me. See, my Doc had Parkinson's too, and the tippy-toe thing comes under the "Shit happens," clause for all of us.

What did I tell you? There it is again, the Slapstick Element.

Here's the thing. I don't get to quit at the end of the day and rethink my routine. The routine is in charge and it makes up it's own rules.

The random body movements and jerking hands don't bother me, except when it comes to my horses and dogs. Because training is about timing and balance and consistency. As a matter of fact, I think if you've got those three, then the rest is fluff. Those three things are what PD specializes in destroying.

The good news is, for now anyway, my symptoms get me when I'm tired or distracted. If I'm in tune and focused they leave me alone. Also, muscle memory is an absolute amazement. Once I'm in the saddle, it's all there. If I don't ride as well as I used to, it's because I'm out of practice, not the disease. I can still sit a spook or a buck and my horses can trust my hand. Riding is a vacation from my new slap-stick self. I get to hang out with my healthier, thinner, tougher self, and I'm grateful for it.

With the dogs, it's a bit harder. Dog training is new territory for me, between my own weaknesses as a trainer and my lack of muscle memory to hold me steady there have been some hurdles. But I have some great dogs and they're willing to wait for me to get it right.

Do I fear the future? Of course I do. PD doesn't go away. It's a lifetime on Vaudeville. I dread the day I no longer talk to my horse through my spade, the first time it launches on it's own course will be the last day Madonna rides straight up in the bridle.

That day hasn't arrived. I don't think about it much, but it lives in the shadows. In the mean time, I'll keep working horses, cattle and dogs and appreciate every sure and steady move of my romels, both of my quiet legs, and my solid seat.

"Life is a tragedy when seen close-up, but a comedy in long shot." - Charlie Chaplin

Tuesday, February 18, 2014


 hybred needs a new home today!! (pueblo)

  • Location: pueblo
  • do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offer

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Good Morning!

I unapologetically stole this from the Terrorized Trail Guide (

Friday, February 7, 2014

Low Carb Hounds - Mug's Other Job

I'm not sure if you know I write in other places. For the most part it doesn't apply, so I don't bring it up. I write a weekly food column for the El Paso County and Fountain Valley News. My boss likes to call me the food editor, but I think that sounds like more work than I'm willing to do, so I go by columnist. 

This week's column applied to the blog, enough anyway, that I thought I would share. Here's what I sent in, unedited, so go ahead and blame the messenger.

Food for Our Table 2-3-14
Low Carb Hounds
By Janet Huntington

   Around 11,000 years ago, somewhere in Eurasia, an upwardly mobile portion of the wolf population decided to become dogs.

These wolves might have been smart enough to know morphing into dogs was the best plan for world domination – the current worldwide wolf population stands at about 200,000 compared to 500,000,000 dogs. Personally, I feel a small group of slacker wolves discovered eating human garbage and hanging by a campfire on a cold winter night was much easier than working for a living.

The dogs soon learned, if they helped humans hunt, played with their children instead of eating them and guarded camp against pillagers and predators, their two-legged benefactors provided them with all the bones and offal they could eat.  Once dogs realized Paleolithic man was all about cute and cuddly, they changed a little more, developing floppy ears, curly tails, spots and baby faces.

Everybody got along just fine, but good old Homo sapiens couldn’t be happy, and about 7,500 years ago ran in droves to be part of the latest fad, the Neolithic Revolution. All of the cool kids started farming and everybody who was anybody began eating grains. Dogs were more than willing to do whatever it took to avoid hanging out on the tundra with the wolves again.

Evolutionary geneticist Erik Axelsson from Uppsala University in Sweden found dogs, determined to maintain their garbage eating privileges, geared up their digestive tract to handle rice and potatoes, something wolves still can’t do.

Dogs went the extra mile and developed a protein, called maltase, seen in herbivores and omnivores, but not in any other mammal. This gave them the ability to digest not just Bugs Bunny, but his carrots too.

Once we humans decided to settle down and farm, we could take time off to think. Thinking led to boredom, which led to thinking up stuff to do, or Science. Our loyal garbage disposals had maintained their ability to change into whatever their best friend man wanted. Being human, we not only noticed, but also decided to take charge of this unique ability. Being lazy, we began thinking of ways to get dogs to do our chores.

Before long we had mastiffs guarding our homes, terriers killing our rats, collies herding our flocks and pointers finding our game. The poor dogs must have been confused, they had domesticated so they could eat garbage and sleep by a fire, not work their paws to the bone.

It was too late to go back, not only had their dietary needs changed from sick mastodon to oatmeal, but now, there were collars and tags. There would be no sneaking back into the wild. The jingle of those tags let wolves know the dogs were coming from miles away. Dogs, it seemed, were screwed. The wolves must have been laughing like a bunch of hyenas.

In the 1850’s the human power trip derived from molding the way dogs thought and worked went into overdrive. We had discovered our little canine friends were as moldable as Sculpey. Within a few generations we could make them long, short, smash in their faces, make them grow hair or be completely naked. What fun! Some called it breeding, others eugenics, but semantics aside, we had discovered something to do when we were bored. We called it a dog show.

Dog shows came at a time when the descendants of the Neolithic farmer had more time on their hands then they knew what to do with. The Neolithic Revolution had given way to the Industrial Revolution. Even dogs drew the line at working assembly lines, so humankind took the lessons they had learned from subjugating their dogs to doing the same to each other. The key was for a few, skinny weak guys to give a few more burly angry guys a little power, in turn, they convinced everyone else the key to survival, happiness and entrance through the pearly gates, was mindless, dangerous, fifteen hour work days, substandard pay and no healthcare. It was the rise of the middle class.

Dog shows were just the ticket to promote class distinction.  The rules were stringent, and only about the physical features of the dog. To win, your dog had to be the fluffiest, the barkiest, the weirdest looking and the most useless. As long as there was limitless time, funds, staff and no moral dilemma with drowning puppies that didn’t make the grade, a dog’s shape could change in a few generations. The rewards were a bit of ribbon and bragging rights.

Everybody had dogs, and anybody could own a purebred dog, as long as they had some money. Purebred dogs were replacing the working dog and becoming symbols of success for the middle class. If your dog was a blue blood, then you must be too, right?

This had to have made dogs nervous. No longer necessary, but only for show, with the evolution of trash pickup, the dog was in danger of becoming passé. Being the survivors they are, our dogs took the next step up the evolutionary scale. They became adorable.

Dogs looked deep into our eyes, snuggled better than a damp baby in a fluffy towel and loved us unconditionally. Dogs became our best friend. Because of the different breeds, they lived anywhere we could. They didn’t cheat and they didn’t lie. Lassie and Rin Tin Tin saved a few lives and clinched the deal. Dogs became part of our family.

Dogs have never had it so good. They sleep in our beds, have their own parks, trainers and psychiatrists. We give them birthday parties, devote television shows to their well-being and provide for them in our wills. They have become our companions, our furkids, and our children. If it wasn’t all about to come to a sad and tragic end, it would be the dog’s finest hour.

It’s the humans fault, of course. We just can’t stop one-upping each other. Where we used to compete by owning the oddest shaped dog, now we compete by rescuing strays and feeding them the most expensive diet. No longer do our dogs eat our trash, shoot, they don’t even get our leftovers. They live on food especially made for them and it’s expensive. The food we design for them correlates with our latest diet trends.

Current standards have us feeding them like the wolf, or at least like a Ciliac patient. Dry dog food has meat, meat by products, meat juice and meat dust as the first ingredients. Gluten-free is the way to go. Wheat and corn are considered  no-no’s and we have even come up with a raw food diet, to bring our babies back to their wolfie roots.

This must have our dogs in a state of panic. How many generations will it take before our dogs lose the ability to eat starch? Dogs can adapt with a vengeance, but might not be able to overcome being turned back into meat eaters. Will our little Maltese be packing up her Gucci crate and heading out to live with her lupine relatives?

I think it’s time to re-evaluate how we’re feeding our dogs. Let them eat leftovers, take them to Taco Bell for a Mexi-pizza. Let them eat white flour and old socks. They’ve worked hard for their place in our lives and it’s time to quit messing with it.
Gluten Free Homemade Dog Food


1 lb. choice of meat, chicken or fish etc...(ground works best)
3/4 C gluten free grain (rice, quinoa, oats etc...)
2 C chopped veggies (sweet potato, carrots, broccoli, beets)
1 tsp. rosemary
1 garlic clove
1/2 to 1 C bone broth or water

Place choice of meat, grain, rosemary, garlic and broth or water in a saucepan and bring to a           boil.
Once boiling reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 20-25 minutes.
Add the chopped up veggies and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes until soft.
Remove from heat and cool.
       Store in the refrigerator.

Raw Dog Food
2 lb. ground turkey
3/4 lb. ground beef
2 Tbsp. bone meal
1 Tbsp. fenugreek
1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary leaves, use less if dried
1/4 C marigold petals
1 C roughly chopped parsley leaves
2 apples, or 8 ounces fruit, no grapes or raisins, roughly chopped
1 squash, roughly chopped
2 carrots, roughly chopped
1 C broccoli florets
1 C dandelion greens
1/2 lb. haddock, chopped into 1-inch squares
1/4 lb. beef heart, chopped into 1-inch squares
1/4 lb. liver, chopped into 1-inch squares
1 lb. kidney, chopped into 1-inch squares
1/4 lb. gizzards, chopped into 1-inch squares
1/4 lb. beef fat, chopped into 1-inch squares
4 eggs
1/2 C olive oil
4 cloves pressed garlic
1/2 C dried organic seaweed, soaked and strained to remove the salt
2 C chicken or beef stock, optional
Put ground turkey and beef into a large mixing bowl.
In a separate bowl combine bone meal, fenugreek, rosemary, marigold petals, and parsley, and mix well. Combine with the meat mixture.
Use a food processor to grate apples, squash, and carrots. Add broccoli florets and dandelion greens and mix well.
Add to the meat mixture.
Combine haddock, beef heart, liver, kidney, gizzards, and beef fat and mix well. Add to the meat mixture. Combine eggs, olive oil, pressed garlic, and seaweed and mix well. Add to the meat mixture and thoroughly mix all the ingredients with your hands.

Recipe can be made ahead and stored frozen in 1 week-sized containers.
Or you can go buy a bag of dog food.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Me and the Big K and the Pointless Horse

The paint gelding was tall, smooth gaited, pretty handy and crabby.

Robin was a retired pleasure horse. His show career had been successful until he had enough and rebelled.Over a period of months he slung his head and bolted in the arena, wrung his tail with every touch of a spur, buried his head in the far corner of his box stall, threatened to kick anyone who entered and finally, bit the hands, arms,or legs that fed him. He was put up for sale.

A wealthy family bought him as a guest horse for their 1200 acre weekend place. Their barn manager turned him out for six months, hoping to cheer him up by letting him "be a horse." The problem was, he didn't know how to be a horse. The wide open spaces frightened him and he paced the fence line for hours. Other horses had always been separated from him by walls, ropes or riders and he didn't know how to socialize. He was aggressive, yet a crappy fighter, so he ended up ostracized.

 It was a long six months for Robin, and when he was brought back to the barn he was thin, anxious and beat up. He wasn't happy to be back in a stall and run though. He cried for his herd mates and lashed out at the other horses in the barn.

Robin didn't have a lot of success under saddle either. He was clumsy out of the arena, and so slow moving he was always lagging behind the other horses on trail rides. He was smooth and easy to ride, but soon fell back into his old, cranky behaviors. The unhappy gelding was on the market again.

One of my clients bought him as a husband safe horse. Robin settled in well enough, his only company was an elderly Arab gelding. He had a walk in shed, plenty to eat, and a corral, big enough to run in and small enough to help him feel safe. The husband didn't really want to ride, so, for a while, life was pretty good for Robin.

Then, the 12-year-old who rode the Arab decided to ride Robin in 4-H. It didn't go well. She wasn't one to give up, and tried a few reining patterns on him. To everyone's surprise, the pretty paint got along fairly well, and earned a few ribbons.

Next thing you know, I've got him in training, to see if he could actually have a career as a youth reining horse.

Robin wasn't bad. He had a fluid, effortless lead change and with a little encouragement, turned his showmanship at halter pivot into a decent spin. He liked loping fast fast circles, it was the happiest and most relaxed I had ever seen him.

There was a bit of a problem though. He consistently  threw himself on his front end for his stops and backing him up was like yanking a pulled easyboot out of a bog. He sucked.

Transitions didn't improve things, hill work made no difference, I didn't need much but I needed something.

I finally talked to the Big K about Robin. It was a short conversation.

"He isn't going to stop," K said.


"He's built wrong. If you push him, he'll go over." He untied his next ride and walked off.

 I stood and pondered Robin's hind end. It wasn't set up like a nice cowhorse, but it wasn't the worst I'd seen. I had taught a long-backed, off the track mare with string halt to slide and a 17 hh hunter jumper. When you are a mid level trainer at an upper level barn you get all kinds of interesting problems and didn't let them stop you. He was a pleasure horse, they were trained to step way deep. Maybe K was cranky. Maybe he didn't like the horse.

I saddled Robin up and took him out in the arena. K was loping colts, giving a lesson and coaching his wife. I warmed the gelding up, loped him until he was relaxed and then started playing with backing him up. If I couldn't see it, then maybe I could feel it.

I asked him to step back one foot at a time. I moved his haunches, flexed his ribs, moved him in a reverse circle, thinking, feeling, trying to find the elusive stickiness that was stopping this horse from stepping under himself.

I felt for each hoof as it came up of the ground, was he stepping deeper with the left hind than the right? I moved his haunches to the right, so I could push for a longer step. I was so deep into what was happening, when I felt his stifle stick, his leg lock, and our launch into the sky, all that crossed my mind was,Well there it is.

As we tipped over backwards and went crashing to the ground, two more thoughts whipped by, I wondered if it was conformation or injury, and just how pissed K was going to be.

I got up, Robin got up, I dusted off my jeans and checked the gelding over.

K came at a gallop. "Are you OK?" He asked. He looked scared.

"Yeah, feeling kind of stupid, that's all. I guess I found the hitch."

"You just refuse to believe me, don't you?" K didn't take kindly to being scared. "I told you that horse would go over, but you had to keep at it until you made it happen."

"I, uh, no, that's not it."

K was gone though, back to work and geared up to be twice as hard on everybody. The glares I got from the other riders let me know they were aware my nonsense just turned their day to hell.

It was a week before things simmered down enough to square things with him.

"I've been fretting," I said.

"Well,  it doesn't do to have you fret,"  K said and smiled.

"I don't want you thinking I don't listen to you, because I do. I just didn't understand what was wrong with that paint."

"I know. It was hard watching you go over, that's all."

"I know." I turned and headed back to my barn.


I stopped. "Yeah?"

"It's the trainer in you. That's why you can't leave it alone."

I gave him a half wave and went to collect my rides.