Friday, April 29, 2011

Equus caballus: it's been awhile.

Equus caballus.

When I was a kid, I was all about the Equus caballus.  For the non-nerds out there, it means "domestic horse."  I was the epitome of "horse crazy girl."

When a horse show was on t.v., I'd grab a [p]leather purse, jam the bag part under a bunch of couch cushions, piled high, and run through the course astride my noble tweed and poly-fill steed, ensuring that my hands were positioned just right on my pleather pink reins.  I'd clear every hedge, every oxer.  I'd hold my breath over every water jump until my earth-tone steed ended with a clear round and a jump off (and then I'd wave to the crowd, reins gathered in one hand, raised in my carpet stirrups as I cantered around with my blue ribbon.)

A family friend was an avid rider.  She showed horses.  She rode polocrosse.  She taught lessons.  She's the person that taught me how to ride in the first place (one can only be a horsemaster of pillows for so long.) She would call my mom on the phone and say, "I'm going to feed the horses carrots, does [Jack] want to come?"  Well d'uh.  Of course [Jack] wanted to come! "Feeding carrots" actually meant I would walk into the musty and dusty tack room, don a velvet-covered riding helmet, and gather "Strawberry Shortcake," a plump little red roan Shetland pony, for brief lessons around the ring.  I remembered pointing to a western saddle in the tack room (shoved way back in the corner,) and I asked, "what's that?"  The response was, "we don't ride in those."

First there was "Strawberry Shortcake," lessons snuck here and there between carrot feedings.  Then there were company picnics with the company my dad used to work for.

Same barn.  More horses: Applesauce, Heineken, Idol, and more.  I'd see the horse trailer pull up at Memorial Park, and I would RACE down to the field where I KNEW there'd be pony rides.  By the third year they came, they were already saying, "Hi, [Jack.]"  I look back now, and I realize there was no enthusiasm in their voice.  It was more like, "oh dear Lord.  Here's that gangly horse crazy girl again.  'Greeeeeat.'"

Every year for my birthday, my parents or Nan and Pop would buy me boots: one year they were these fabulous brown leather boots with a zipper down the inside.  They looked like Dress boots.  The next year, I received rust-colored leather and cream-colored leather cowboy boots (that I wore when my Pop took me to trail ride at the same barn.) Black boots with black sparkles would come as would more cowboy boots.  You get the idea.

When I turned nine years old, my big birthday surprise was that our family friend was taking me on a lengthy trail ride.  I was disheartened when it started to rain on my birthday: disheartened to the extent of crying at the window.  I was upset until...."we have all-weather saddles we're using."  Wearing my pink and purple plastic, non-breathing raincoat, we headed to the barn where I was mounted on a HUGE black horse (16 hands) named 'Whinny.'  To me, Whinny looked like a prized Friesian stallion (Google it; it's worth it.)  In reality though, Whinny was probably a draft cross of some sort.  We rode for, what seemed like hours.  I remember cantering for the first time through the trails.  I remember imitating the aforementioned "show" scene by gathering reins in one hand and managing a wave to some other riders as we passed by them.!

When we moved to Georgia, I didn't get any riding time.  I take that back.  I got riding time at a barn, and my chosen horse's name was "Mischief."  Imagine my mother's terrified look when I told her my horse's name (when my mother's ideal horse is defined by her as "one foot in the glue factory and one foot in the grave.")  The look was priceless.  Then I finished, "he's 29."  After a week at the horse camp, I was horseless again.

When I turned thirteen, I had read information about therapeutic riding centers in Horse Illustrated.  Then I found out that our town (30+ minutes away) had one.  When I turned fourteen, my mother took me down to the center to talk to the director, and although I was fourteen, I was allowed to volunteer.  Of course, I couldn't do any volunteering as far as sidewalking, etc.  BUT I did get to bring up the horses and get them ready for classes.  I got to go on trail rides, introduced the instructor to Australian Stock Saddles (someone had donated one, and no one knew what it was.  I was proud of the fact that I knew exactly what it was as a very sexy Aussie careened down the mountainside in "Man from Snowy River" in one!) That was a grand experience until 1) I was introduced to Heat Exhaustion (puking in a towel on the way home while having a body temp over 100 is NOT fun and 2) I was put on an ornery and pissy mare in heat that kept taking off with me and eventually scared me from ever wanting to ride again.

Several years passed, and I rode some horses here and there: mainly some audacious trail rides or around a friend's farm.  I gained back confidence, and I rode some PITA horses whose owners had become fed up with them.

My fiancé and I started taking lessons until we had to stop due to distance, money, and an accident.

So fast forward from my whole heat exhaustion adventure to present day. So here I am: twice the age that I was when my ardent passion was horses.  When you're a kid, horses are these magical four-legged creatures whisking their riders away on rolling countrysides, through the forests, crossing creeks.  When you're an adult, horses are magical four-legged creatures....that are expensive to care for.  Sure they will whisk you away to mysterious lands (such as a back pasture) that long as they don't think a tree will kill them.

My fiancé and I have an opportunity to ride a friend's horses : every Sunday and every other Saturday; a trailer for our use for off-site trail riding, all tack provided for us.  Way down deep I still have that "racing around on pillows" passion for horses, but I've been burned by so many horse people through the year, I'm still trying to bring it forward.

I want that same giddy excitement I used to get (and get myself physically ill!) before heading to "feed carrots."

I want that same hay/manure smell I cherished, and every incident in which I smelled it, I knew there were horses nearby.

But how can I get it again?  When we go meet our new mounts and mount up for our first ride, will it come back again, or will I have to work at it?  I'm much taller now.  I'm much heavier now.  As a kid, I'd ride anything.  Common sense has told me, "I'm not a kid anymore."

Will that same little girl making her friends run circles around her on the end of a length of rope come out to play?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Update: Bush Goliath and Better Boys...

Because I had some folks ask me for updates on my 'maters....

As you can see, our tomato plants have grown quite a bit.  They have several flowers already blooming on them that will produce tomatoes.  Yeah, we created a chicken wire barrier around our picker and our other plants (see our TOXIC post below.)  The dogs haven't bothered them since!

Our Marigolds are also growing you can see.  Yay for Marigolds keeping pests away!

Here is one of our two tomato-plant-eating-culprits: Grimm.  Now you can see why we blocked off our plants!

For what it's worth, set up of the City Picker was fairly easy: time-consuming, but it was easy enough.  Based on how awesome our plants are growing and how easy it was to set up, we plan on getting one or two more for peppers and perhaps beans.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Why UPS [commercial] Customer Service Sucks.

Almost a year ago, a company in Jacksonville, Florida started giving our UPS Account number to its customers to ship return items, collect, next day air to their location.  We noticed random charges popping up on our company's UPS invoices.  We would constantly call UPS to dispute charges, and we also called the company [four times.]  Finally, the accountant from the company basically said, "oops" and that it "would never happen again."  Unfortunately, it continued to happen.

Now our company has been using UPS for decades.  We have been a valued "tier 1" customer for as long as well.  We had to call UPS to see about changing our account number.  Unfortunately, to do so we had to open a new account with them.  That was one of the biggest mistakes we ever made.  You see, what our sales representative (and UPS) never told us was that when you open a new account, you lose all of your former account history.  None of that history gets brought over to your new account.  I'm not talking to whom you've shipped, I'm talking all of our discounts, etc.

While we asked for our UPS former account number to be closed in September 2010, our sales representative never actually closed our former account until December 2010.  Meanwhile we continued to receive invoices for shipments made by the company in Jacksonville. 

In January 2011, our UPS driver told us that UPS told him not to pick up at our location anymore because we had closed our account.  WHAT?! We had to call UPS, again, to straighten everything out.  Well we thought it was everything.

Our [new] sales representative came in ONCE.  He promised to come back the following week to bring our agreement, pricing, etc. That was three months ago.  Since then, we have attempted to e-mail him, call him, and call UPS to get some sort of assistance once we realized we had lost the majority of our discounts.  He never responded to e-mails.  He never responded to voicemails.  UPS just said, "I've sent a note to your representative.  He has until the end of business day tomorrow to respond."  Those went unanswered as well.

When e-mails were received, he would ask the same questions he had already asked us (did he think the answers would change such as "who is XYZ?" (our former company name.)) 

He finally responded today to a phone call made two days ago to customer service, and he asks, again, "who is XYZ?"  When we tell him it's the same company, he says, 'well based on your shipment history, I can't offer you those discounts.'  Bullshit. You're looking at our NEW account number history from January not our entire history (including our former account number, a number he also asked us about....again.)

Thus far the moral of the story is...if someone is fraudulently using your UPS account number, and you have to get a new account number, don't expect to get the same discounts or level of service, and sure as Hell don't plan on ever getting a response from your UPS Sales Rep.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

TOXIC! Tomatoes, potatoes, and more...

Little did I know that my useless information would come in handy yesterday.  When my fiancé called me to tell me that he had to go to the store to buy another tomato seedling because one of the dogs ate one, I shrugged it off.  Then I remembered reading something online that said tomato plants were highly toxic to pets (and people, too!)  I called my fiancé back and told him, and I told him not to leave the house until I had spoken to our Veterinarian.

I immediately called our Veterinarian's office.  The Tech asked the Veterinarian who said, "they should be fine," but they were calling animal poison control.  Less than five minutes later, the Tech called me back with the Veterinarian standing nearby.  Her cheerful voice was grave and wavering as she said, "We contacted animal poison control, and yes, tomato plants are toxic.  You need to induce vomiting immediately with a tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide.  If that doesn't work, wait five minutes, and administer again.  If THAT doesn't work, wait another five minutes, and administer the hydrogen peroxide one last time.  If there is still no vomiting, your dogs need to come in ASAP or to a Veterinarian closer to you.  The problem with tomato plants is it contains a toxin called solamine, and the main effect of solamine is a drop in heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, CNS problems, and rapid absorption and death.  Even if your dogs vomit, you need to closely monitor their heart rates and breathing, or bring them to the Veterinarian."

I called my fiancé back, and I told him what the Veterinarian had said.

Flooded with tears, I left work, and I headed home to help my fiancé.  The dogs had thrown up in the yard (no tomato plant pieces which means *hopefully* that they decided to shred the plant instead of eat the plant.) We checked their active heart rate and respirations and their resting heart rate and respirations and continued to do so on the hour for the next several hours. 

They seemed okay last night as well as this morning (heart rate and respiration normal - no diarrhea, no vomiting, no loss of coordination.) 

My PSA is that tomato plants are toxic to pets and humans.  Keep tomato plants out of reach of pets and small children, and after handling tomato plants or gardening around them, wash your hands thoroughly, and prevent children from sticking their hands or fingers in their mouths until their hands are washed.

Tomato plants are in the nightshade family. Other plants in the nightshade family include potatoes, sweet and hot peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, paprika, cayenne, and tabasco sauce. 

For additional information on nightshade plants, please visit

Monday, April 11, 2011

Better Boys and Bush Goliaths.

We're talking tomatoes, folks. 

Knowing that I don't have the most time in the world this year with wedding planning and such, I knew it would be ridiculous to try and create a proper vegetable garden this year.  Instead, I found the City Picker Patio Garden Kit online last week, and much to my surprise at our local Home Depot yesterday, they sold them.

The kit must be pretty popular as there were only two left out of a dozen or more.  The staff had opened one kit so that people could use the instructions manual in order to figure out what they needed to buy for it.  I grabbed the manual, and away I went:

Potting Mix (not soil!)
Dolomite Lime
Fertilizer granules: not time-released, and the three numbers between 5 and 15. 

After heaving those bags into my cart, I returned the manual and went to pick out my plants:

2 Better Boy tomato plants
1 Bush Goliath tomato plant
6 Marigolds
2 Snapdragons

I purchased the Marigolds as they are easy to grow, and they also help keep pests away from my tomato plants.

Because we keep our privacy fence gates locked from the inside and out, I had to carry all of the bags up stairs, through the kitchen, and onto the patio.  It was HOT yesterday, too. 

Within a few hours, I had this...

Now the Marigolds and Snapdragon on the left will be transplanted to a larger pot. 

The City Picker is in the center: it's a UV-safe Resin base with casters (wheels) so you can move it easily.  The black plastic on top is a "mulch cover" or weed blocker.  The little pipe in the foreground (if you can see it) is for filling the water reservoir.  The City Picker allows the tomato plants to draw water from the base, through the fertilizer and dolomite, and voila! You just pour water into the pipe daily, and when you see water dribbling out of the overflow hole on the side, you stop. 

Of course, I plant all of this, and now we have severe weather coming in tonight so I brought my plants inside, and I wheeled my City Picker inside, too (another great benefit!) 

I'll let you guys know how it turns out!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Great Vets - crappy support.

I should have known something changed when I dropped my dogs off for boarding, and Royal Canin was plastered everywhere.  For what it's worth, contrary to popular belief, Royal Canin is NOT high quality kibble for dogs. 

Some background information on our dog, Gidget.  Gidget was dumped at a high kill shelter when she was six months old due to her "inability to housebreak."  Had her first owners actually cared about her, they would have taken her to the Vet where she would have been diagnosed with a raging Urinary Tract Infection.  Based upon her crappy initial upbringing, I can almost guarantee that no one took the time to work with her on nail trimmings, etc.  Because of this, Gidget will send herself into almost cardiac arrest panicking over nail trimmings.  Several times in the past, we've boarded our dogs and told the front desk to make a note that "Gidget needs sedation for nail trimmings."  Well, the previous three times they didn't do it, and she returned home with ONE trimmed nail and not groggy at all.

When I made boarding reservations for the kids back in March, I told the person on the phone "Gidget requires sedation for nail trimming."  I went into detail as to why.  The woman said, "I completely understand, and thank you so much for telling us.  I'll be sure to note it right here." 

Back to showing up at the clinic yesterday to drop the kids off for overnight boarding and grooming...

When I checked them in, I went over some things with the front desk, and I said, "Now, Gidget requires sedation for nail trimmings."  The woman smirked at me and scoffed.  I said, "'s very important she be sedated.  She will worry herself sick and WILL hurt someone with scratching, etc."

This morning I head over to pick them up, and the tech says to me, "I was just talking about you! I was just about to call you!"  I said, "Well I was headed over that way, and I wanted to see if the kids were ready to be picked up." 

"Both were getting a bath and a nail trim, right?"
"Yes - well Grimm chews his claws down, but Gidget yes.  In case you couldn't tell, her nails are long..."
"Yeah - about that.  Um - she like seriously scratched the heck out of one of our techs."
"Well was she sedated?"
"That's what I was going to talk to you about.  We probably need sedation on hand when trimming her nails."
"Yeah, that's why I said 'Gidget needs to be sedated when her nails are trimmed' when I made their boarding reservations and yesterday when I dropped them off."
"Oh, really?"
"Yes - we've asked several times in the past, and it's never happened.  You may want to put a large tag somewhere on her file that says 'SEDATION REQUIRED FOR NAIL TRIM.'"
"Yeah, I'll do that because we don't have anything anywhere showing that."
"Well I told two people including when I dropped them off yesterday."

I get around to picking the kids up around 11:30, and they both couldn't wait to get out of there to the extent that Gidget was trying to push open the door.  Grimm was beyond stressed.  He was panting heavily, drooling, and just not himself the entire way home.

It's now 3:40, and both dogs are passed out due to being worked up with stress and anxiety.

I love our Vets, but they had a staff change, and their staff is incompetent and pretentious. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Reality TV and Common [Horse] Sense

We watch a handful of reality television shows, and by "handful" I mean less than five.  One television show I'll catch when there's nothing else on is "Sister Wives."  "Sister Wives" is a reality television show introducing a husband and his four wives to the world (as well as their large brood!)

An episode I caught recently (from a March airing) was the family headed to the family farm for a little R&R.  While on this farm, one of the many tasks to perform was a family cattle drive (actual working cattle drive.)  The family gets all prepared, we see them mounting various horses, and immediately, I'm a little shocked.

Boots? No.  Tennis shoes, among other footwear wholly inappropriate and unsafe for horseback riding of any kind especially work.

Helmets? Not hardly.  The majority of the family (save one or two members) have never been on a horse, or at least they look like they have never been on a horse, but why wear helmets?  If you've never ridden a horse, clearly you must be an expert.  Why would you wear a helmet in an uncontrolled and unpredictable setting such as, I don't know, a cattle drive?

Instruction? Nope.  We see the family members mount these horses, stirrups too long, feet all the way through, reins held upward (reins being used as means of balance to stay on the horse,) poor horses' mouths being jerked around, yanking to get a horse trained a different way to do something....disaster.

They head out on the "range," and I cringe at them.  Bouncing almost out of the saddle, going entirely too fast for people who don't have riding experience, and yanking horses to and fro.  Then it happens.

We see one of the teenage girls flat on her back, writhing in pain and screaming.  Her horse has dumped her.  Let's backtrack, we are informed that the father told them, "do not ride that horse.  He is young, he is acting up."  Now, the horse looks like a horse that is sick and tired of being yanked around and having his back slammed on by inexperienced riders so he gives them a little trouble.  It needs repeating, "the father told them, 'do not ride that horse.'"  Instead of heeding advice, the girl mounts the horse and tries to take off running.  The horse has other plans including dropping its head between its front legs (a big "uh-oh" warning sign well known among riders!) and the girl goes ass-over-apple cart onto the ground.  Horse's fault?  Who knows.

So instead of doing what people should do (DON'T MOVE HER!) the father says, "are you hurt?  let's stand you up."  Ugh.  LUCKILY, the girl was okay, but the father (attempting to be...what? John Wayne all of a sudden in his dress shirt and modern-fit jeans?) says, "I have to get on this horse and teach it that it can't do that."  I thought, "wow - dad is a horse guy."  Dad is NOT a horse guy.  Of course, we don't see what dad does (or tries to do.)  Instead, we see the inexperienced family members slamming down on their horses' backs still, nearly falling off, and coming close to serious accidents.

You'd think that the family would throw some helmets on the kids (if not horseback riding - at least bicycle helmets!) and make sure they were dressed safely before riding, but why would they?  We see dad zipping around on his motorcycle, without a helmet, all over the town.