My Eco-system is out-of-whack

In order to survive our here on the ranch, we have to have an ecosystem in-place where a hierarchy of critters eats the undesirable substrata in the food chain:

  • I have a flock of Guinea Hens that constantly patrol, eating ticks, chiggers and mosquitoes
  • We have black snakes in the barn to eat stray mice feeding off of dropped oats
  • I have barn cats to kill the larger vermin like rats and Raccoons
  • With 55 horses, flies are a huge issue. We use “fly predators”, small flying bugs who feast on fly larvae

All is-well outside, but my house is being over-run with mice. Our elderly cat (Whitney) has stopped eating mice . .

Lizzie, our Yorkie-poo died last year at age 18, and she was a fantastic mouser. She would kill and eat mice by the dozen, crunching them whole. For some reason, Lizzie would like to eat her mice in the house, and I would often catch her at the door, looking up at me with a tail hanging from her mouth.

Anyway, Noel, our latest addition, is only six month old, and she has not learned to eat mice yet.

Our Vets, Dr’s Chris and Amy O’Malley say that mice have complete nutritional balance and are the ideal food for cats and dogs:

The Catkins diet:

Is this “Over the top”?

As more blind people start using ponies as guide animals, I’m seeing a huge interest in custom horse shoes.

As co-founder of the Guide Horse Foundation ( we have had huge interest from the blind community for our experimental program. As guide horses become more popular, we were asked to provide a working Guide Horse for an episode ot the TV show “ER” last fall, and it was great fun, especially staying with the horse in the Marriott all week and flying with him in the plane, in the passenger cabin.

Anyway, seeing-eye animals often wear sneakers (for traction) and we have had some major companies’ offer-up custom sneakers for our guide horses:

It all started when Cheryl made some formal dress shoes for her guide horse, Confetti:

Now, Cheryl is totally blind and cannot see how these shoes look, but we are now getting requests for custom horse shoes, like this prototype for horse slippers for evenings at-home:

OK, I understand how closely attached blind people become to their guide horses, but we have recently had one guide horse user in Texas request prototypes for cowboy boots for her guide pony. Personally, I think the spurs are a tad over-the-top:

Now, it’s been our experience that tiny horses in sneakers guiding blind people attracts enough attention without having them wear cowboy boots, but hey, it’s a free country and so long as they are safe to the horse, ”to each his own”.

Dan Shaw, our first graduate, leverages on the incredible stamina of his horse to participate in marathons, jogging for miles with Cuddles, his guide horse. Dan says that only a horse can allow him the freedom to run without fear and he has expressed interest in having custom athletic shoes designed for Cuddles, which he calls “Mare Jordan’s”:

For many blind people, having a guide horse allows them to meet new people, so I guess that custom horse shoes are also a conversation-starter. Dan was once a recluse, but now all he has to do is find a bench at the mall and he has well-wishers stopping to chat all day long.

He says that Cuddles has changed his life, and that’s what counts. In just 5 years, Dan and Cuddles will be the world’s longest-use guide team since Cuddles has a life expectancy of 35 years.

As Dan noted in his “My Turn” article in NEWSWEEK:

I have always been a rebel, and as an ex-biker I have many tattoos. I suppose it is only fitting that I was given a horse named Cuddles. I had a tattoo of her placed on the back of my hand.

I may not be as tough or macho as I used to be, but with Cuddles I have as much self-confidence as I ever did as a sighted person.

I have never regretted taking a risk and pioneering a new concept. Today I live a full life. Owning such a unique service animal gives me independence, but it also gives me a reason to talk to people, a way to connect with the world.

Every time I hear the gasps of amazement from an onlooker who has just realized that Cuddles is not a guide dog, I smile.

What constitutes personal integrity?

People sometimes wonder why I place such high value on personal integrity and character. More than education, skill or personality, a self-grounded moral compass is a critical key to success.

In my job, I have to trust people to always tell the truth, and I rely on my B.S radar to spot posers and folks with questionable values. With my own children, I’ve taught them time-after-time that lying has far more serious consequences than the actual offense.

Today, I surround myself with people that I can trust, no matter what, and everyone knows that saying “I messed up” has a far better result than hurling excuses or dodging personal responsibility.

I never look at my kids College report cards and I trust them to tell me about their grades, good and bad. I demand a 3.5 minimum (if I pay their expenses) and I pay them handsomely for Chancellors List (3.8 or higher).

It’s like what my Dad (a disabled vet) said about personal honor and teamwork. From life-threatening combat down to solving a complicated problem, you must be able to always rely on your team-mate.

Some folks say that I’m too old-fashioned to place such importance on moral turpitude (like paying bills late or plagiarizing), but these acts reveal a great-deal about someone’s personal character. According to my old-fashioned moral compass, there is no greater asset.

The Chester-test

I’ve been thinking about experimentation and “proofs” lately and I’m reminded about my Cairn terrier, Chester. Chester has a warped sense-of-humor, and he has a behavior that is 100% reliable and reproducible.

People approach Chester and say something like “What a cute doggie”, and Chester rolls-over on his back, begging to be picked-up. Right when you get him chest-high, Chester cuts-loose with a stream of urine and soaks you. For some reason, he enjoy’s people’s reaction to his trick.

This empirical experiment is 100% reproducible (Chester is great fun at cocktail parties), and he has never failed once. So, does this prove anything?

Can I conclude from by experiment that all Cairn terriers do this? No. Can I conclude anything at all? Yes.

I can derive the rule-of-thumb that “It may not be a good idea to pick-up a male dog, lying on his back”. This rule-of-thumb is not always true, of course, but it IS VALID, and it has kept me dry on many occasions.

At the horse show

I’m at a horse show in the Shenandoah Valley and I’m dying to start riding again, but I don’t always trust the horses.

Dude is only getting-started under saddle, and a few months ago my daughter challenged me to ride him. He was wearing a western saddle (far easier to stay-in than those English saddles), so I said that I’d give it a try.

I put my foot in the stirrup, and as I swung by leg over, my heel scratched his rump, and he took-off at a full gallop. I’m standing up, both hands on the saddle horn and one foot in the stirrup as Dude accelerates. When he made a turn I fell, and let me tell you it was no pleasant. I was passing blood for 2 weeks afterward, and the old adage “The bigger they are, the harder they fall” is true. I’m still leery of riding him . . .

What is it with dogs?

Sometime I feel like I live in a petting zoo.

I now have 55 horses, three dogs, three cats, countless chickens, and sundry wildlife (“chuck” the woodchuck) who call my place home. . . .

We just got a new dog, noel, and she has become quite a handfull.


We have a 20 year-old cat (Whitney) in the house, and Noel has decided that the litter box is way too disgusting and she has been cleaning it out on a regular basis, placing “presents” all over the house.

In case you don;t have cats, when rolled in litter, cat turds look remarkably similar to those “Sno Caps” candies. . .

Yeesh. . . .

Anyway, we had to move the litter box up-high to keep Noel out, but I now have a stinkin litter box on a table . . .

Somebody shot our cat. . . .

Oh brother.

I just got back from out-of-town to find out that “tiger”, one of our barn cats was found all shot-up, half-dead in the back pasture.

Tiger had both her ears pierced by buckshot and her left rear leg was completely shattered. I suspect that a neighbor caught her raiding their chicken coup and blaster her ass.

Penny found her and rushed her to the vet for emergency care, and Tiger is now one of the most expensive barn cats in Franklin County

Now, I’ve never care for Tiger, ever since I heard a scream in the barn a few months back.

I went to investigate and found a cute bunny (like “Thumper” in Bambi), screaming bloody murder. Tiger was nonchalantly munching on Thumper’s entrails, ripping-out hot bloody sections of fresh bunny chitlins.

You see, Tiger is a big-time hunter, and Thumper was way too big for her to break the neck, like she has done with thousands of mice and rats.

It was over 5 minutes before “the silence of the bunny” started, and Tiger could enjoy her hot meal in peace. (BTW, she always leaves the fur, and Penny hates having to scrape-up bunny parts every day).

Anyway, Tiger is now a our house-guest, clomping-around with a hard cast on my hardwood floor like something out of a Poe story (ka-thump, ka-thump). She has so much buckshot in her that she is magnetic (really, I not making this up), and the x-rays show look like the stars on a summer night, with hundreds of white dots on a pitch-black background.

We moved her into the Sun-room because she cannot jump-up high to get the litter box (the dogs were raiding her litter box for hot treats). Tiger is well, and bunny’s all-around Franklin County are happy that she is imprisoned for awhile. . . .

Don Burleson Blog