Thursday, March 25, 2010


A Man in My Life

BLOG Entry Dated 02/27/07

As I sit here to update you on a rather large, recent change in my life, I’m not sure how to start. Perhaps it’s best to start at the beginning and our first meeting.

It was a Friday night. We were both out socializing in Eau Claire. And another couple introduced us. We greeted each other and my heart left me at his first touch. Our initial meeting ended all too soon and as I watched him walk away, I remember thinking, “Is he the one?

The weekend passed as they usually do – very busy and with so many plans of tasks to accomplish … but before I know it, it’s Sunday feeding time! All the while, however, his face stuck in my head. I found myself wondering what it would be like to have him with me…

Monday I kept busy with work. But on Tuesday, I just had to call. So, using my handy dandy computer, I located his telephone number and without pausing to think, I called.

Yes, he was there and yes I could see him. How about Friday? It was set. I would go to his house on Friday and we would see how it went and where it went from there. Friday arrived and the day was merciless in its schedule. I did find time to go to his house, however, and bring him home with me for the weekend.

A tad younger than me, this young man is 5 to 6 years old. He is a Chocolate Lab and is so attracted to human touch he literally lays on my feet or rests against my leg. His manners are decently intact and to say he is grateful is to understate the obvious.

This lovely dog was found roaming the streets with another dog. He was rescued and has completed a full medical exam. His only health issue is a heart murmur, but that is of no consequence to me. It’s his soul and his compassion that attract me.

He is calm. He is polite. He is patient. He is respectful. He is curious. And he is the new dog of Refuge Farms.

His name? Well, he came with the name of Bunker. But that name doesn’t cause his head to turn. We have tried an assortment of names and the one that seems to stick as well as cause a reaction in him is “Little Man”. Don’t know if that name will stick, either, but it’s where we are now.

So yes, there is a new man in my life. Someone new to love. Someone to accompany me as I walk to the barns. Someone who loves to ride in the truck with me as I run errands. And amazingly, someone who already barks at the horses when they cross the fence line.

A dog with four legs. Still causes me to shake my head when I see a dog on the property with all four legs. And the horses are staring, too. I suppose they wonder what’s wrong with this dog that he has that extra leg hanging down?!

And so now you have a new reason to visit us! Come and feel the warmth from this young man as he adores you and your touch. And maybe you’ll find the name that sticks!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd and The Man in Her Life

BLOG Entry Dated 03/25/10

This lovable creature became Little Man. A dog who would, in thiry-seven short months, cover over 100,000 miles with me in the back seat of the pickup. A dog who would be next to me as I cried over the loss of one or worried over the freezing ones or fretted over all of the business of rescue. A dog who never, ever failed to greet me. And a dog who simply oozed The Missions of THE FARM through his lovely chocolate fur.

Little Man arrived the Friday of the weekend that Big Jim crossed. So early in his life here, this dog learned the cycle of life and how we cry and then move on to another life to save. Stalwart throughout, Little Man never failed to understand, to console, and to support.

I never worried about group tours. I knew, with Little Man, we would entertain everyone. If, by chance, the young boys or the adult men weren't interested in the horses, well then they would just walk outside and there would be Little Man. Ready to entertain them until it was time for all to leave.

School buses would pull in the driveway and Little Man would be out of his skin with excitement! We would take him to schools and he would be in the very center of the children! He loved people and I never met a human who didn't love him right back.

My favorite story of Little Man is how he took Keller, his companion for a brief six months, to the manure pile one morning. Blind Keller was perched on the top of the pile with his face in the wind. Meanwhile, Little Man was digging like he was searching for clams! There! There was one! When a choice morsel was located, Little Man would gingerly retrieve it and place it on the front feet of Keller. Nudging him to say, "There. Try that one. You'll love it, buddy!"

On Tuesday, there were some young adults here to visit the horses, but their hearts were taken almost instantly by Little Man. He was leaning on them, loving them, and they loved him in return. It was a good day. Little Man worked his magic on Tuesday.

And then early Wednesday morning, he just floated away. He was not alone. I hugged him and held him close and I told him we loved him. It was just very simply his time to cross . . . while riding in the back seat of the truck. Where he loved to be . .

The house is empty without him. And the truck! Dear Lord, the truck is so big now! No little brown ball resting in the back seat while we run our errands.

This dog was a gift of the grandest kind. He was meant to come here. Little Man was meant for Refuge Farms. Many of us will cry over the loss of this little magician. We will tell his stories for hours.

Little Man. This little bundle of love wrapped up in a chocolate coat of fur.

Missing you, Little Man . . . .

Sunday, March 21, 2010


Is She or Isn't She ? ? ?

It was Easter Sunday. The day of resurrection. The calendar said it was April 12, 2009. On this day a partially blind, fleshy, frightened, red roan Appaloosa Mare came to be rescued by Refuge Farms. Rose R., the volunteer who accompanied me on this adventure, blogged about the experience back on Mother's Day in the blog dated May 7, 2009. It may be fun to go back and read her blog again!

This was no ordinary experience, to say the least. We went up to this hoarder's farm to pick up two blind mares as a result of a kill buyer's call for help earlier that week. We came home with one blind Quarter Horse and a down, dying Paint stallion that we now call Dude.

BUT! Not to be fooled, we returned the next day and retrieved the Appaloosa Mare that had been promised to us. And I am so very, very happy that we returned for her!

We found her standing in a cement paddock area with pipes and posts sticking up out of the cement at all angles. The cement had cracked and heaved and walking the area - even with good, working eyes! - was treacherous. Forget the fact that intact stallions were also housed in the area! But all the other horses were occupied by frantically consuming a stock tank of corn placed in the center of the paddock. There was not a blade of hay or a bucket of water to be seen.

Shivering in fright, tightly pressed up against the barn wall, trying to be invisible was the red roan Appaloosa Mare. She was haltered and lead out of that trap directly into the Refuge Farms trailer. Her withers and hips shook in fear. Her ears were rotating trying to pick up every sound. The lightest of touches would cause her to jump literally off of the ground. But I whispered to her that she was safe now. We had rescued her and we would find her a good, loving home.

Fast forward to December of 2009. Appaloosa Mare, as she came to be called, was looking a little heavy in the tummy. A little low and wide. Her body elsewhere seemed about the same but that tummy . . . . And then by January, I noticed that she began to withdraw from the herd. She was separating herself. I read that as protecting herself. What was going on with this mare? Could it be ?

I continued to watch her and that belly of hers. Other horse people came and pushed on that belly and looked at those swollen milk bags and lifted her tail. We all counted and recounted the months. Gestation for a horse is eleven months and eleven days. If she was bred prior to arriving at Refuge Farms, then she should be gifting a little set of hooves right around . . . March . . . mid-March . . . Yikes!

She and I began a routine of daily checks for tail head relaxation, bag checks, and tummy checks. The mare tolerated all the touching and I continued to question her. "Are you carrying a little set of hooves in there, Appaloosa Mare? Or are you just getting fat?" Never an answer, but always the question.

Dr. Brian had been to THE FARM several times this winter but always on emergencies or specific care calls. Never the time to examine the mare and discuss the findings. So early last week I called his office. The forecast was for sixty degrees - above! The sun was shining and this mare was large. It was time for Dr. Brian to give the definitive answer.

We put Appaloosa Mare in the shoeing bed and before we began the exam, Dr. Brian looked at me and asked me what my preference was. I went on to verbalize the battle that had been raging in me all winter . . .

"Heaven knows, there are enough horses in the world! The last thing the world needs is another horse! Dear Lord! We are in the rescue business, for crying out loud! We need to re-home this mare, let alone another baby!"

But then in the next breath, I continued by saying, "But a baby brings out the very best in all of us. A baby rejuvenates us! A baby brings us laughter and smiles and hope! A baby brings the public to THE FARM and a chance for us to tell them the stories! A baby brings its own kind of MAGIC! A baby would be so good for us this spring. We have had so much death here lately."

I finished my argument and went to stand at the mare's head. I stood with her and knew that whatever the result of this exam, it was part of The Plan. I would accept it and welcome whatever Dr. Brian told me.

"Well, Sandy," he said. "I have it in my hands."

"WHAT? The head? The hooves? The baby?"

"No, her uterus. There is no baby."

Disappointment mixed with relief. Joy mixed with sadness. A grateful exhale mixed with a single tear.

So, she isn't. There is no baby. And we are now, once again, clear to find the home for Appaloosa Mare that she came here to find. A home with a loving family who will be patient with her as she learns the new grounds and the new routine. A mare who will show her new family that she is a very easy keeper. A grateful horse who does not test the fences. Who halters easily and stands easily. Who loves her blanket in the cold winter and who loves the companionship of another gentle horse like her.

A family who will give her time to adjust to them and her surroundings before they begin to ride her. Knowing that she must trust the rider before she will move. But she rides well and I have sat upon her with her ears plastered back so that she can listen to me. A pat on her neck and a gentle voice and the Appaloosa Mare steps forward. In complete and utter trust. It just takes a bit of time to build that trust. The mare just needs a little time.

And yes, the world does not need yet another horse. We are a rescue. And we have rescued this beautiful mare. And now we must re-home her as we promised we would. And we must be grateful that there isn't a baby.

Easier said than done.

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

Sunday, March 07, 2010


Cole's Sharing Garden

The snow is melting more and more every day. There are patches of the lawn showing through around the base of the big poplar trees. The ring of the pond is becoming more and more visible. The driveway is once again, in spots, showing that there is indeed gravel somewhere under there. The warmth of the sun is working its magic on the world around us. The earth below the snow is starting to show.

And with this magic, comes the peeking out of the recently dug earth. The mound of fresh dirt raised where Ole' Man Cole was put to rest is also becoming visible. Just like the horse himself, poking out to insure we remember that he is here. Still here with us.

We've done a lot of talking and reminiscing about Cole recently. He has taken up residence in the hearts of all of us and it helps us all heal to remember him together. In our rememberings of him, ideas have taken shape. Ideas that will show everyone who passes and all who visit that we love that horse. We honor that horse. And we miss that horse.

Read on . . . and join us in celebrating the horse that was Ole' Man Cole.

From Pam W.:


Cole was a wonderful horse who loved and enjoyed everyone who visited THE FARM. He enjoyed the attention that he received and was very patient with people and gentle with the children. One young lady impressed me because she cared so much for him that she would chew up apples for him so that he could enjoy the special treat.

He impressed everyone who met him and I was no exception. I first met him when I attended a couple of Open Barn Days back in 2007. I was so impressed with everything that I saw as well as the dedication of the volunteers. I thought that it was so remarkable what Sandy (then an unknown to me) had created here at Refuge Farms. I decided that I wanted to be a part of it and that has been one of the best decisions that I have ever made.

When I met Cole the first time, I was of course impressed with his age and how good he looked for such an “Old Man”. Next, I remember that he was always right in the thick of things. He would always push himself in so as to be the first in line to check things out and of course to see if there were going to be treats. More than once he would check out my pockets, and if there were carrot or apples in them, he would use his lips to let me know that he wanted what was in the pockets (they would be in baggies, but he knew). Of course, he was always a gentleman about it.

It seemed like he was the “head honcho” of The Herd. When horses were shifted about, Cole would still pretty much be the “boss”. He was also very much a “ladies man” and would flirt with all the girls, but his true love was “Miss Bette”, now our very gracious “Elizabeth”.

I love the fact that he was always so curious, or nosey, about everything that was going on like he was afraid of missing something. He love checking out the people that visited and would check their pockets out as well (probably hoping that they had something good to eat.) When we had guests or groups come to visit, he always made sure that everything was okay and safe for his “Herd”. It also gave him the first chance to say “hello” and to get any treats that might be available from someone’s hand. He always loved his treats.

I do not believe that Cole knew that he was “so old” for a horse. He kept up with what each of the horses were doing and what was going on all around him. He would “visit” with all the guests, and would not miss a thing that they were doing either. A good thing for us humans to remember as we age: stay active, don’t slow down, stay aware of what is going on around you.

As Cole’s health developed problems, it amazed me how he could just accept, adapt, and keep on going. Another lesson he left for us humans. As Sandy would find things and ways to help him continue with a quality of life, he would just go with the flow and knew that everything was done to help him. He was very, very intelligent.

Since he loved to eat so much and have treats like carrots and apples, I would peel, dice, and soft cook them so that he could “gum” them and feel like he was eating normally. As time went by I would also mash them a bit as well, but they tasted just as good. A treat is a treat!

Another lesson he left us was the pleasure of touch. He loved to be brushed and touched, have his mane and tail combed out. All living things need attention and gentle caring in order to stay healthy and happy. They know that they are beautiful when they are brushed and shiny and no tangles. We see the change in the horses that we groom.

Cole seemed to know if I was in an up or down mood. When in a down mood, he would be much pushier than usual so I would pay more attention to him than to myself and the mood I was in. If it did not work, he would then head butt me to get my attention so that I “let it go”. It would work!!!! Animals are so attuned to us and are very good at letting us know what is really important. Them!!!!!!!!!! I loved the way that he would just push his way in to be the center of attention and make us laugh and feel good.

I treasure the time that I had knowing Cole. He was so unique, sensitive and caring for all of us and the young people that came to visit. I love all of the animals at THE FARM as if they were my own. From them I have learned the art of forgiveness and love. Knowing what they have gone through, but are still able to forgive, love, and trust again, those humans that love and care for them

Every moment that I spend at THE FARM is very special, no matter what I am doing. I feel very privileged to be a part of such a wonderful and healing place. To be able to help in some small way, the healing that goes on here at THE FARM, that is what it is all about. My awareness for this began with OLE' MAN COLE but continues to grow as each animal needs something from us. I am glad that I can give back, even just a little to these animals, whether bold like COLE or more on the timid side. I miss this “guy” but am so grateful for the memories of him and the smiles that come when I think about him and the things that he would do for attention (he really was good at head butting if he thought he was not getting enough attention) and the joy that brought to all of us.


I am so honored to be a part of this group of people that are so deeply committed to this very special place and all the love and caring that takes place here for both animals and humans.

From Colleen B.:

With Cole crossing over the winter, that gives us a new Memory Bed to create this year. And 40 years is a lot to pay tribute to, so we want to “do it up right”, as they say!

Sandy recently mentioned to a few of us that for Ole' Man Cole’s Memory Bed she was thinking a vegetable garden might be appropriate. The more we talked on it, the more we were convinced that yes, that is what we should do! What better way to pay tribute to him than with a big, colorful, busy vegetable patch right in the center of the lawn?

We’ll plant his favorites - carrots and beets - because after all, Elizabeth, Miss April and Laddee and everyone else will enjoy those, too! We’ll have his water bucket (bird bath) there, too. And we can plant tomatoes and peppers and onions (oh, my!) so we can make the seasonal salsa to sell at the Applebee’s breakfast bake sale!

But let’s not forget the humans, too! We can enjoy lettuce, peas and beans, and watermelon, too! Can you imagine Cole’s garden just bursting at the seams come mid August?

While we’re discussing Cole, let’s not forget about all the others who have passed on before . . . Frances Andrew, Jimmer, and Bonita . . . Lady the Dog. They all have Memory Beds that need some new gardeners to bring them to life again! So on that note, let’s get our official Refuge Farms Garden Club started!

From Jeanne D.:

The Gardens at Refuge Farms are a beautiful tribute to those, both large and small, who have crossed before. So much time and energy have been put into the Memory Beds, but sadly, some of them are becoming a bit crowded, and some have yet to be established. That's where the 'Garden Club' comes into play.

The "Official" Refuge Farms Garden Club is an elite group!! The only way you can be a part of this incredible group is by showing up and offering your hearts, your hands, your feet, your gardening knowledge, or your desire to learn. There are so many projects we would love to accomplish this year!

Cole's Sharing Garden is one we want to start on as soon as possible because we all know how much work it is to plan, plant, tend, and harvest a fruit and vegetable garden.

We would also like to clean up the other Memory Beds on THE FARM - not just weeding the weeds, but thinning out some of the overgrown plants, and maybe, just maybe, placing markers in the Beds so that everyone knows just who is resting where.

There are so many great things we can accomplish in the Gardens at THE FARM! Won’t you join us?

For more information and to join in the celebration of Cole's Sharing Garden, see the bulletin board entitled "The Refuge Farms Garden Club". Come and join us!

Enjoy the journey of each and every day,
Sandy and The Herd

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