A game of cat and mouse and me in my robe at 6 am

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Cat and mouse game isn’t our new cat’s strong suit

Last week while I was writing my column, unfolding a tale from the olden days about my dear grandmother’s run-in with an ornery bovine and an exasperated husband, a saga of my own was developing in my living room between our new orange cat who now has six names and a mouse, who shall never be named.

At first I thought the commotion our new feline was making was just what cats do when they become “possessed” and chase imaginary threats around the house. I continued with my work unconcerned, encouraging the behavior of Sven (one of his names), thinking he was just practicing for the real fight.

Then, out of the corner of my eye, I caught a glimpse of the threat — and it was not imaginary. The fight was real, and Reggie (one of his other names) wasn’t winning. The mouse ran under the couch. The Cat (his third name) was now on a stakeout.

But I decided to be in denial for a bit. Tigger (his other name) looked like he had it under control and I had a deadline. I continued typing, one eye on the couch, but I couldn’t concentrate.

I called my husband to give him the report, because I heard husbands like to be informed of impending doom. I was right.

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Sven the cat takes a break after a hard day of work.

I texted my sister. I called the fire department. No, I didn’t really call the fire department.

But I did move the couch because Orange Kitty (his fifth name) needed help. The mouse scampered out toward my bare feet, and though I be tough, I screeched with immediate regret, praying it didn’t wake the kids. Because now the mouse was under my chair and I was neck-deep in a hunt and I hadn’t even finished my coffee yet.

I grabbed the cat and set him by the chair. He didn’t get the hint, but the mouse did, and he ran for his furry life toward the fireplace, huddling there behind the dollhouse. I grabbed Sven (my preferred name for the cat) again and placed his nose right on the stunned mouse. But apparently Sven only likes a challenge, and he turned that nose up and strolled away.

And so there I was, hunkered over, my robe undone, my hair undone, my column undone, my quiet morning undone, trying to teach a cat how to chase a mouse. It wasn’t working.

The mouse retreated behind the kids’ craft cupboard and I tried to pretend nothing was happening. I sat back down. I heard the 1-year-old stir just as I hit “send” on my column and realized that having a mouse and two toddlers roaming free in the house was not the kind of life I wanted to live.

So I got up. The baby cried louder. I grabbed the broom. I sent Sven subliminal messages and we approached that cabinet. I got down on my hands and knees to take a look and the mouse flew out toward my face at lightning speed. And though I be fierce, I screamed.

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The baby cried, I wiped the sweat from my forehead and I muttered some harsh words about our broken cat under my breath — until Sven, glorious Sven, emerged from the abyss of dust and smoke with the mouse in his jaws.

I beamed with pride for about three seconds until he dropped it. And though I be Wonder Woman, I screeched. And the baby cried harder. And the mouse ran back under my chair.

But its time had come. I grabbed the broom and Sven and I went to work as a team of freaked-out hunters, me sweeping, him catching and releasing, leaving toys and furniture, my hair and robe flying behind us until Sven crouched over a stunned mouse in the middle of the living room, the door of my 3-year-old’s bedroom cracked open, the baby couldn’t be left to cry any longer and I mustered my courage to finish the job, flinging the remains out the door and turning around just in time to bid my oldest daughter good morning.

And though I be brave, I never want to do that again. If you need me, I’ll be setting some traps.

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What the cat knows…

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What the cat knows
Forum Communications

When we were growing up, we had a house cat.

I shouldn’t say “we,” really, because that cat was all my little sister’s, except that my big sister named her Belly, after one of her favorite mid-’90s girl grunge bands and I got the heroic ranch kid privilege of rescuing her as a tiny abandoned kitten from underneath my grandma’s deck while my 5-year-old sister clenched her small, nervous fists under her chin and waited for her turn to hold her.

And so the runty calico cat with the weird name came to be ours and stayed through the entirety of my little sister’s childhood. And she was a typical cat in all the ways cats are cats.

She did her own thing. She waited at the door to go out and then would immediately climb up the screen, tearing it to shreds and driving my mother crazy. In an effort to try to deter this habit, we were given permission to use our squirt guns in the house. But only on the cat clinging to the screen door, of course.

But Belly didn’t care. She knew how to get our attention. She knew how to get what she wanted. And what she wanted was to sleep in my little sister’s bed every night.

After she was tucked in, if my dad forgot to leave the door open a crack, the cat would sit out there pathetically whining until the little kid version of my sister, with her wild hair, leaky eyes and big heart, would let her in. Every night for 13 years until my sister left home and left that cat behind.

Belly didn’t live a year without my sister in the house. My little sister was her person. And in a different life I’d be the type of skeptic that doesn’t believe in those sorts of bonds, except I watched that cat come and get my little sister before she gave birth to both sets of her kittens in that house that raised us all, which is an uncommon behavior for any animal, especially an independent cat.

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I’ve seen it with my dad and his horses, too. And I’ve had it with my old dog Hondo, who always slept on the floor on my side of the bed, even though he was technically my husband’s hunting lab. My mom has a cat now that will only sit on her lap — that is until the few times a year my uncle from Texas arrives, and then that cat’s all his. It’s as if she’s saying, “Oh, there you are. I’ve been waiting for you.”

Yes, I think we choose them, and then they choose us, because maybe they just know better.

Last week I brought my two young daughters to Dickinson, N.D., to sign the paperwork to adopt a big, orange house cat from an animal rescue. As I write, I’m not sure why I felt compelled to do such a crazy thing. Maybe it was that heroic ranch kid rescue gene in me, but the last thing I need is another wild creature in these walls.

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And Lord knows there are plenty of cats for giveaway out here in rural North Dakota, except I saw him in a photo all curled up in that cage and I made a decision. Oh, I used the “we need a mouser” excuse on my husband, but this big orange cat is clearly a lover, not a fighter and my husband knows it.

Time will tell us what this cat knows.

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How a dog’s life measures time…

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How a dog’s life measu
res time
by Jessie Veeder
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

The first year my husband and I got married, we lived in the little house in the barnyard where my dad was raised, unloading all the earthly possessions a pair of 23-year-olds can acquire in the short and broke spans of our adult lives — hand-me-down lamps and quesadilla makers. By the time we emptied our car and unwrapped our presents there was barely any room left for walking.

And so I did what any responsible 20-something newlywed with an uncertain future would do: I got my husband a puppy for his 24th birthday.

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It’s been more than 10 years since I chose him from the swarm of his wiggly brothers and sisters. I picked him up and he melted in my arms the way kind creatures often do.

And then the woman warned me.

“Big dog, more poop to clean up. That’s what I always say,” she declared.

And she was right. He is big. His paws make tracks like a wolf in the mud and his tail clears a coffee table with one sweep while he runs to the door enthusiastically to welcome guests, sometimes with an accidental and oblivious swat to the groin.

And while he spends most of his time outside these days, grunting while he rolls around scratching his back on the lawn before picking up the giant stick I swear he’s saved for five years, when he does come inside, he still wonders why he can’t sit on the couch with me.

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Because in his mind he is fluff, weightless and wishing to fit in the palm of a hand all the while working to squeeze his body between the small nooks of this house, taking up the limited space available for walking.

But what he is in cumbersome, he’s always made up for in manners, polite and happy to move out of the way when prompted, not recognizing that perhaps he may indeed be fluff after all … and the rest of his 110 pounds is taken up by his heart.

But 10 years weighs heavy on a dog. White hair has appeared around his snout and his eyes droop a bit. His winter fur is slower to shed. Tonight we’ll go for a walk and he’ll hang by me instead of running ahead to kick up pheasants. If I have to take him in the pickup these days, I have to hoist him, heave-ho style, all 110 pounds.

I hoped our babies might grow up with him, but it all took too long and he’s beat them to the growing thing. I didn’t know when I made him part of our lives how those big paws would track time. I hope we have him around for many more years, but I didn’t know when I chose him, when we were so young, how fast a dog’s life goes…

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Baby Edie rides her horses

Here’s Edie, doing what we do in the morning.

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Rolling and flipping and grabbing and smiling and screaming at her toys because they aren’t doing what she wants them to do and I have no idea what that might be but it sure pisses her off.

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But mostly she’s plain happy, as long as there’s action.

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So when she’s done rolling and flipping and screeching I put her on her horse.

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And as you can see she likes it.

So you can imagine her delight when we put her on a real horse yesterday.

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Yup.

We had a branding at the neighbor’s and Pops brought the horse around before he rode it back home.

I wish we had a video camera to record what she moved like when we put her close to the nose of that bay and then up on his back. It was one of my favorite moments with her.

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All of the sudden I had this flash-forward moment to all of the things I dreamed about doing with our daughter out here on this place someday. I saw her up there so tiny and excited, reaching for the horn of the saddle and squealing and then reaching further to grab the black mane and I saw her at five years old, blond hair and curls, riding a pony while I lead her around the pen in front of the barn. And then I saw her at ten years old, on a big horse, following behind us across the pasture in the warm glow of a sinking summer sun, her face flushed and dirty, her hair windswept.

And then she’s sixteen and I’m holding my breath, her ponytail flying and bouncing under her straw hat as she rounds the last barrel at a rodeo and I let out a sigh of relief…

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Maybe it was watching the neighbor girls that I used to babysit all grown up and beautiful, helping to ride and wrestle calves, or maybe it was the light of the evening casting long shadows and reflecting off the dust in the air, making everything soft and dreamlike, but I was nostalgic for a future with this tiny little human who could just as easily grow up to prefer video games to horses.

But for now she seems delighted by it all, by the big outdoors and the blue sky and the grass and especially the animals.

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She has a physical elated reaction to them. She sucks in air and reaches out her hands and grabs their fur. When we go to feed the calf she has a mini hyperventilation spell. When she’s crying for no apparent reason all I have to do is open the door and walk out on the deck and a smile spreads across her face.

She leans down from my arms and tries to get closer to the dogs.

She reaches out for the kitty’s fur.

The wild world is hers…

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Yes, this is Edie. Our daughter. Our baby discovering that the fun is just beginning.

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A walk with a baby, ranch style.

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So we’re not really into sleeping at night these days, but the nice weather lately has gotten us really into walking, especially since Edie is big enough now to face out and see the world.

A world that looks like this.

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Brown and muddy and full of puppy slobber.

And, it turns out, cactus. Of course cactus. Because here in Western North Dakota if it isn’t the cold it’s the mosquitos. And if it isn’t the snow it’s the damn cactus.

As I type this I have a few little wounds on my hands as a reminder. Because as peaceful and angelic as this little scene might look from the still capture of the camera, it turns out taking a walk across the pasture with three dogs, two puppies and a baby strapped to you looks a little like, well…

Finish eating lunch. Finish feeding the baby lunch. Look outside and notice the blue sky. Check the temperature gauge to make sure the blue sky isn’t deceiving. Decide that 50+ degrees calls for a walk. Decide to take a walk. Change the baby’s diaper and put on her leggings and socks under her footie onsie. Add a fleece jacket on top of that. And a hat. Tell her not to cry about the hat. Tell her this is going to be fun. Go find your hat. And sunglasses. And sweatshirt. Make sure your shoes are by the door. Detangle the baby carrier. Adjust the straps the way you’ve practiced and latch them together the wrong way first, of course, and then the right way. Cuss a little and wonder how you can make this so complicated. Go get the baby. Make sure the pacifier is clipped to her fleece. Put wiggly baby and dangly pacifier in carrier. Adjust those straps so you’re both nice and snug and cozy. Walk toward the door and realize you forgot to put your shoes on first. Say shit. Grunt and groan and remember what it was like being pregnant as you try to squeeze on your shoes without fully bending over or seeing what you’re doing. Sweat. Get shoes on finally. Kinda. Good enough.

Open door and go outside. Yell for the dogs who come barreling at your legs. Try not to step on the little ones who are rolling and frolicking around your sorta-half-tied shoes. Decide to take the trail to the east pasture. Maneuver your body and the baby strapped to it under the fence. Because around here you have to cross fences. Wonder if that’s in a baby book anywhere. “How to cross fences carrying a baby.  Find the trail with the least cockleburs. Stop to remove cockleburs from your shoe laces. Try not to step on the pups as the gray one grabs the brown one’s tail.

Laugh. Try to take a picture. Fail at the picture. Wish you had your big camera. Or another set of arms.

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Accidentally step in a mud puddle while laughing at the puppies. Notice Gus is out of site. Call for Gus. Notice the baby’s sleeping and the sun is in her eyes. Use one hand to hold her head and the other to shield her face.

Keep walking. Sweat. Sweat. Sweat.

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Make it to the gate and decide to go off trail to stay out of the wind. Immediately regret it as you lead the puppies through a patch of cactus. Hear the gray one cry. Bend down. Grunt and attempt to fling the cactus from his wiggly paw with one hand while holding the sleeping baby’s head with the other.

Wonder if you strapped her in the baby carrier and sat with her in bed if she would sleep through the night.

Figure it would be likely, but also likely cause neck issues.

Cuss because now the cactus is stuck to your hand.

Grunt as you get back up. Keep walking. Pet momma dog. Find a trail. Avoid mud. Call for Gus because he’s chasing a rabbit in the trees.

Pet big brown dog. Notice little brown pup is limping. Say shit. Lean over to try to grab her wiggly leg with one hand while holding the sleeping baby’s head with the other. Get another cactus stuck to your hand.

Decide you’re glad your almost back to the house.

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Step in horse poop. Go through the gate. Try to take the least muddy path. Get a lot of mud on your sorta tied shoes.

Pick up some more cockleburs and start planning the spring bur eradication process.

Sweat.

Make it to the driveway. Wonder if you can put the baby down and she’ll stay sleeping. Think it’s highly unlikely. Try to get in the garage without a puppy following you. Get one puppy out of the door as the other one runs in. Do that about three times and notice that momma dog got in the garage someone. Get her out.

Open the door to the house.

Go inside.

Sweat while you try to quietly maneuver the sleeping babe out of the carrier and into her swing without waking her up. Curse the sound of velcro and the burs still on the back of your pants.

Set the baby in the swing. Notice her eyes are still closed. Pat yourself on the back. Head to the bathroom because you had to pee that whole time.

Come back to the living room to find the baby smiling, eyes wide open just hanging in her swing.

Awake.

Because we don’t sleep much around here.

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Puppy Pile

This little fella went to his new home today.

He was so chill about it when I handed him over, like he knew it was all going to be alright.

Like, he knew he wouldn’t have to share his food bowl with his hooligan brothers and sisters anymore.

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Out of the eleven pups, we’re down to seven left. Here’s a picture before they started going…notice Edie’s pup is the only one not sleeping.

I think she likes naps about as much as her little girl.

Or maybe we have a pattern of choosing the wild ones.

Either way, a pile of puppies is about as adorable as it gets.

I’ve been spending this week making arrangements to get these pups to their homes. They will be spread out a bit, some to neighbors and some across the state, but all have places at good homes.

And it sounds like most of them will have little kids to play with, which is important I think if you’re a puppy, to have someone who can match your energy level.

IMG_8759We need about twelve little boys to match Gus’s. So he should be happy when little Dolly is let loose to play. Hopefully the wear each other out.

Because it’s a rare occurrence to catch these squirmers sleeping, but I happened upon them after Husband paid them a good amount of attention, proving to me that they do indeed sit still.

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I know I can’t keep them all, but I feel like a mom whose babies are going off to college, annoying them with photos and snuggles, telling them to be good and mind their manners.

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Clearly it’s working.

I don’t know when we’ll have pups on this place again, but it sure has been fun. Mostly for me because I haven’t had to be the one to build the pen or scoop the poop, because, you know, I have the baby. But I think the boys have loved it too, just maybe not every smelly, squeaky second.

But probably most of the seconds, because, I mean, look at that face…nothing that smelly could come out of that could it?

Ah, I’m going to miss our puppy pile,

but we’ll be left with a couple cute ones to fill the void…and keep our hands full of babies at the ranch.

IMG_8380Next up, baby calves!

It’s Friday. Here are some puppy pictures.

It’s Friday. To get you through, here’s a shot of the puppies in their box five seconds before they all dispersed into a wiggly, frantic swarm of fluff anticipating their supper.

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They’re getting so big, and there are so many of them that we moved them into the big barn last weekend, which meant we put them all in a box for their first little road trip.

A pile of puppies in a box is probably the most adorable thing in the world.

It’s a good thing these pups are at mom and dad’s or Edie and I wouldn’t get anything done all day except cuddling.

I mean, that’s sorta all I do at home these days anyway…

IMG_8057But ugh. The fluff.

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In a few weeks all of these babies will go to their forever homes and Dolly and Pops’ pup will stay here with us.

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The timing of having a newborn and a newborn puppy sounds just about right for keeping the crazy and chaos at the normal level around here. I’d hate to be bored you know.

Here’s the best and most recent photo (out of dozens) of the two of them. The level of wiggle and squeaks are uncountable. Maybe I should try video next time to get the full effect.

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And the way these two girls are growing, you can bet the both of them are eating well.

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No, the ranch isn’t as quiet as it has been in past winters. To add to the excitement and work load, last weekend Pops and Husband went to pick up a small herd of cattle to add to the place.

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My husband and I have dreamed of owning our own cattle someday and last weekend that dream came true.

Funny how some dreams come on four legs, bearing promises of a whole lotta blood, sweat and tears.

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These cows will have their babies in early spring when the weather is a bit warmer. Until then we’ll feed them up and watch them close and make plans for the next season, which will look like a whole lot of fence fixing and corral maneuvering and some good excuses to get on a horse and take a ride.

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I can’t wait.

And to gear me up for the season change, it looks like this weekend the weather’s going to be nice and warm, a nice break in the winter to remind us that the cold isn’t forever.

Not that I’ve minded the weather so much this winter, you know, being my job title has been changed to Jessie Veeder, writer/singer/mother/rancher/professional snuggler…

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and baby feeder and putter-to-sleeper….

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Happy weekend everyone. We only watch the Super Bowl for the snacks, but we hope your team wins!

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Puppy Boom

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Well, it seems to be a baby boom at the Veeder Ranch, and I tell you, I can’t get enough.

On December 29th, just in time for the weather to get good and cold, dad’s dog Juno gave birth to a big ‘ol batch of puppies.

I got a text from dad early that morning telling me that there were “4 pups so far.” Later that morning, when mom stopped over to snuggle our baby, she said she thought there were five. But it was hard to tell, because she had them in the dog igloo and it was dark in there.

Five pups was my guess. That’s what I thought she would have and that was a nice manageable number.

I called my little sister to report the news and then headed over to mom and dad’s when Husband got home to take a look for myself.

We pulled into the yard just as Pops was pulling in from work and Juno ran up to welcome her favorite human, giving him the opportunity to shine a flashlight in the igloo to see what she made.

“They’re so loud in there,” he said.

And then he found out why.

“Holy Cow!” he hollered.

“What?!!” I asked nervously “What’s in there? Are they ok?”

“There’s a whole pile of them!”

And indeed there was….

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A little more than five I guess. I tried to get a good count on them while they were wiggling and squirming all over each other.

I thought I counted nine.

I was confident. But I counted again.

Yup. Nine.

Nine’s a lot. That’s a lot of pups there.

The mat they were laying on was a little damp. These pups were brand new, so I decided to get a couple towels to put underneath them and help absorb some of the moisture.

So we took the pups out one by one.

And we all counted out loud, Pops, Husband, my niece and I.

“1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9!!!”

“9,” I declared. “Perfect!”

“Oh, we’re not done yet,” said Pops.

“WHAT?!”

“10, 11!”

E.LE.VEN.

Eleven.

ELEVEN PUPPIES!

That’s a lot of pups.

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“Good idea we had here huh dad?” I said to him.

Because it was our idea, to breed our Gus with his Juno the best cow dog ever.

Because cute + cute = so damn cute…

But also, because they will be really good dogs.

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Baby Gus 

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Baby Juno

After Pudge died this fall we thought we needed to get another young pup to start learning the ropes.

And we thought maybe someone in the neighborhood might be interested in a good cow pup too.

But eleven? ELEVEN?! What were we going to do with eleven puppies?

Well, first things first I had to pick one out for Edie.

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Which wasn’t an easy task, except I liked the brown border collie. She was the only one like that in the batch. And I haven’t seen many brown border collies in my life.

So she was my favorite.

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It seems like Edie liked her too..

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But this one is also my favorite because she’s so little and she has brown eyebrows that match her brown feet and I just can’t take that sweet face I want to smush her and put her in my pocket…

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And this one is my favorite too because of his speckled little feet and speckled nose and he seems like he’s going to be really smart and I just can’t take it I want to scoop him up and put him in my cereal bowl.

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And this one breaks my heart because, well look at him! Those ears! That look! He’s so beefy and rolly-polly. He’s also my favorite. I really like him. I like his white face. I can’t even take it, I want to wrap him up in a blanket and snuggle and watch re-runs of Seinfeld together. He seems like he’d like Seinfeld. He seems like he has a good sense of humor that way.

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And be still my heart. This one is my favorite. Look at her! Look at the brown on her. She looks like she’s going to be SO FLUFFY I COULD DIE!!!! Look at her feet, with the little speckles on her toes. And I just can’t take it I want to buy a pink purse and put her in there and walk around the mall with her peeking out, smiling while everyone declares “What an adorable pup!” and I would say “I know right?!”

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And this one is my favorite because of his brown legs and white face. He looks smart. And snuggly. And I just can’t take it I want to tuck him in bed and read him bedtime stories.

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And this one is Husband’s favorite, but I think he’s also my favorite because he looks like his dad Gus and Gus is my favorite. I like that he’s solely black and white and he has a cool big black spot on his side and he’s going to be beautiful. And I just can’t take it I want to teach him the best tricks and enter him in one of those frisbee catching contests that you see on TV. We would win, because, well, just look at him.

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And this one. This one’s my favorite because he’s going to be fluffy and I love him and I just can’t take it I want to comb his hair and put a bandana around his neck and name him Scout.

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And this one is my favorite because of his white legs and spotted nose and I just can’t take it I want him riding shotgun in the pickup with me anytime we go somewhere so he can stick his head out the window and really get his ears flapping.

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And we’ve established why this one is my favorite…But it looks like she’s going to have curly brown hair so I think we’ll be able to relate…

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And this one. Look at this guy! He’s going to be smart I can just tell. He’s got the look of a perfect ranch dog and he’s my favorite because he reminds me of the old dog we had growing up named P.V. and she was the best. I just can’t stand it I want to bring him inside and let him lay on the rug in front of the fireplace.

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And this one is my favorite because he’s classic and he knows it. He looks like he could be in a movie where he herds up lost sheep that got out on the highway and headed to town so he grabbed his brother and saved the sheep and the day. And I just can’t stand it I want to give him an extra bowl of milk because he looks like he’s going to do such a good job someday.

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Oh Lord. It’s been hard on me. All this cuteness. It’s giving me cavities.

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But it turns out it hasn’t been hard to find these babies homes. No. One little social media advertisement and they were homed in a matter of hours to some really wonderful families who will probably not put their puppy in a pink purse and cart it around the mall, but might let them ride shotgun in the pickup. Or sleep on the rug in front of the fireplace. Or, most importantly, give them a life where they can do what they were meant to do…chase cows and roll in poop and drag bones from gawd-knows-where all over the yard.

And be unconditionally loyal.

And fluffy.

So fluffy. Just like their mom.

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And so annoyingly smart, just their dad.

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Because that’s what’s running through their blood.

And I can’t take it.

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Now, does anyone have any name suggestions for our new little girl? I would ask Edie, but I don’t think she’s old enough to make these sort of decisions.

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Ugh, life must being going good when too cute becomes a problem…

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This seems like a good time to share my music video “A Girl Needs a Dog” again, featuring baby Gus and the photos you all submitted of you loving on your favorite dog. Enjoy!

If you need me I’ll be snuggling something.

Peace, Love and Puppy Breath,

Jessie

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Sunday Column: Dreaming of horses…

Chad and Jessie Maternity 1

Coming Home: Dreaming of horses, the best gift a ranch kid can get
11-9-15
by Jessie Veeder
http://www.inforum.com

A funny thing happens when you’re in the home stretch of your first-ever pregnancy. Between all of the unpleasant symptoms we’ve all heard about — the heartburn, the aches and pains, the insomnia — you suddenly find yourself with an overwhelming need to purchase a festive Christmas baby hat because the most important thing in the world is being prepared for this new baby’s first Christmas photo under the tree.

It’s all you can think about, never mind that you don’t yet have the car seat properly installed or a single diaper stocked up. If you have this hat, you will be ready.

But three days later when that handmade Rudolf hat with the red button nose arrives in your mailbox, you’ve completely forgotten that 5 a.m. panic order altogether. Because you’ve already moved on to the next obsession.

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And lately, for me, three weeks away from my due date, I’ve decided I should really be thinking seriously about this kid’s first horse.

It’s not logical, I know, not in the sequence of things anyway. I mean, I have a good few years to find the right animal, one I can trust to take care of my firstborn as he sits tall in the saddle beside us, chasing cows or checking fence, honing his skills and his way around this place.

But to have a horse of your own as a kid is a unique and life-shaping privilege, one not granted to every child, and one I want to give to mine. Because I remember how I was one of the lucky ones. I inherited an old red mare from my grandma. Her name was Rindy, and she was short and squat with just the right amount of attitude and a rough trot.

I would ride her bareback in the summer, learning about balance and patience as I searched the tree lines for raspberries, leading her to big rocks or side-hills to help me swing my short legs up on her back if I happened to climb down or fall off.

 

I broke my arm tumbling off Rindy.

I broke my foot jumping off her in a youth rodeo.

I won “best groomed” at a sleepaway horse camp because she couldn’t find a mud hole to roll in like she did at the ranch each time I groomed her the night before a 4-H show.

I put red, white and blue yarn in her mane and rode her in the county fair parade.

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I rode double, or triple, with my best friends on her back, trotting through clover fields, seeing how fast we could go before we all tumbled off, leaving her grazing a few yards away as we rolled around on the ground laughing.

And in the fall I would saddle her up, pulling the cinch as tight as I could around her round back, and she would puff out her belly to trick me into thinking that’s as tight as it would go only to let the air out once I climbed on, her way of controlling her comfort level, I suppose.

Oh, that horse was something. But that’s the thing, anyone who had a horse of their own as a kid will tell you stories like these about an animal that helped raise them in an environment that has the potential to be intimidating for a kid.

But a horse out here gives a kid some power. I felt like I was worth something on Rindy’s back, like I could help move a cow through a gate or learn where the fence lines run. I had a partner, a big companion that gave me new abilities. I was stronger and bigger up there. I was capable.

Who wouldn’t want to give that gift to a child if they could?

And so I have that Christmas hat in the drawer, we’ve set up the crib, I’m washing onesies and putting away diapers, and late at night, when the world is dark, my husband’s chest rising in sleep next to me, I lie with my eyes open in our bed, a hand on my swollen belly, waiting on this baby and dreaming of horses.

Maternity Haze

Sunday Column: Goodbye old friend

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We’re quickly coming to the end of another season out here on the ranch.  School has officially started and my friends are posting “first day of school” photos of their kids, some sending their first borns off to kindergarden for the first time.

I’ve been spending time picking peas and beans, cucumbers, carrots and every red tomato I can find out of my garden, fascinated always by how time can transform dirt into food, just like that.

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Fascinated by how time has made it harder for me to bend over and pick those beans every day, made those little flutters in my belly turn to jabs and hiccups…and then, soon, an actual tiny human that breathes this air.

Life and time are twin sisters it seems, conceived at the same moment and moving through the world together hand in hand. And just as time creates and grows life in one breath, it quiets it and takes it away in another.

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And so it goes here on the ranch, the circle of life we’re made so aware of every day among the growing and withering things, reminding us that to everything there is a season.

Last week our faithful ranch dog, Pudge, gave us the gift of living until old age took her away in her sleep.

My husband came home to tell me the news, then went out to the big oak tree where we were married and dug a deep hole in the hard, dry, gumbo packed earth and buried our old friend.

“One day you will hear the sound of time rustling as it slips through your fingers like sand.” Sergei Lukyanenko

Yesterday I was just a kid shaking dirt off the carrots in the garden.

Tomorrow I turn 32.

Today I count the kicks in my belly, make plans to assemble the new crib in the box and miss that old dog…

Coming Home: Goodnight, Pudge, the sweet, tough cattle dog
by Jessie Veeder
8-23-15
Forum Communications
http://www.inforum.com

Lately the coyotes have been howling outside our open windows, slicing the black silence with chilling wails. Inside the garage, our domesticated dogs rise from their beds, lift up their heads and howl back to them, long and dramatic cries, an unnerving message sent between the wild and the tame.

Last weekend, while I was out on the highway heading for home after a late show, my husband opened the windows to the house to let in the night air, turned on the porch light and laid his body out on top of the covers of our bed.

Somewhere between his dozing and me cutting through the dark miles, down the road at my parents’ place the oldest cow dog on the ranch took her last breath, and quietly, one of the most familiar lights on our ranch went out.

We knew it was coming. Pudge, an Australian shepherd with thick, wooly fur, one blue eye and one brown eye, came to us on a hand-me-down after her owners moved to town. Pops, who had lost his previous cattle dog to a snakebite, needed a new animal to help him get cattle out of the brush and to accompany him on rides.

We think she was 4 years old when she came to us. Lately, the topic of her age had come up often. I was in college, or on my way there. Could it be that she was 15? Fifteen and no longer possessing the strength to go for long rides with Pops, but holding on to the spirit of her job by making the walk with him to and from the barn.

That was the last walk they took together it seems.

And now we’ll no longer find her snuggled up in the her spot under the heat lamp in the garage in the winter, in the pickup box in the summer or trying desperately to make her way through the window screen and under the covers of my little sister’s bed during a thunderstorm.

Pudge hated thunderstorms. That might have been the dog’s only flaw.

Because it turns out she was just the right combination of sweet, smart and tough enough to be one of the few cattle dogs on this 100-year-old ranch to get the chance to die of old age.

This place can be hard on the strongest, most cared-for animals who live a life more in tune with their primal instincts than the couch-dwelling suburban pet.

Pudge tried out that life with me once. I took her back to live with me for a little while in college when life was overwhelming me. I’d take her for bundled-up walks on sidewalks and she would sit in the sunshine by the door and watch the cars roll by, comfortable knowing she had a purpose in helping me find my big girl legs again before I brought her back to her ranch where she belonged.

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Before my husband came home to tell me she was gone, I was pulling carrots in my garden and singing to myself, “To everything turn, turn, turn … there is a season, turn, turn, turn … and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

If you can’t see that manifest itself out here, if it doesn’t become known to you as morning turns to night and summer turns to fall and the hair under your husband’s hat turns silver, you’re not paying attention or you don’t want to know.

It all happens so slowly and then so quickly, as if all at once the time has passed and then it’s up.

I listened to those coyotes howl last night and thought about Pudge, who would sit out at night under those stars, just on the edge of the light that flooded into the yard from the garage. When it was time for the people to lay down and pull the covers up, Pops would call to her to come in and she would pretend not to hear him, preferring a cool bed of grass under that sky to her fluffy bed.

And if Pops gave in and left her out there, she would wake him with her barks and wails to that dark sky for hours on end.

Sweet turned wild in the night.

Goodnight, old friend.

Goodnight. 

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