Llama Trekking at Moose River Farm

Llama Trekking at Moose River Farm
Activities at MRF; Fall 2021

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Special Needs; Part II

Good Morning,
My friend Vicky’s three special needs cats were the popular subject of last week’s post, (Special Needs, Part I).  Many readers tuned in to learn about these three felines who have grown into loving family members despite physical, emotional and mental disabilities.  Vicky’s menagerie is not limited to cats.  In addition to feline residents, there are three other four legged family members in Vicky's life.  
A saucy Schnoodle, (Schnauzer/Poodle cross), named Cricket arrived eight years ago. Vicky bought the tiny terrier puppy from a backyard breeder.  In hindsight she feels that such a purchase feeds the puppy mill cycle; keeping it fueled for generations of puppies to come.  Regardless, Cricket is a cherished creature who uses her terrier tenacity to protect Fern when Timber’s and Woody’s actions are interpreted as threatening.  It is a perfect example of standing up for what is right and assuring a loved one that she is safe.
    Several years ago, Vicky found herself in need of something to fill the hole that empty nest syndrome bores into a mother’s spirit.  Her two boys, Matt and Michael had excelled through high school, college and graduate school.  They were busy establishing careers, traveling the globe and keeping their eyes peeled for every potential opportunity in between.  Although Vicky was happy for her boys’ success, she mourned the end of the phase of their lives that had included her parental guidance.  Therefore, she had a special need to fill the space within her that had been gouged out after the boys transitioned into adulthood.  The void was eventually filled by a fifteen hand black and white pinto gelding named Tango.  After responding to a horse for sale ad about him, Vicky drove to St. Johnsville to inspect the potential prospect.  Impressed by his calm nature, Vicky immediately felt comfortable around the solid compact horse while working with him on the ground.  Eventually, she tacked him up for a test ride.
“He almost killed me!” she exclaimed in summary of the initial jaunt.  “While out on the road he stopped and refused to get out of the way of moving cars.  It was terrifying.”
    Once they returned safely to the barn, Tango dropped his head into Vicky’s arms obliterating the entire traumatic experience.  Now, five years after Vicky bought him, Tango is a dependable trail horse who accommodates all levels of riders.  The stocky paint is also a calming influence for the special needs of anxious horses who may lack confidence out in the woods alone; away from the protective safety of the herd.  Vicky’s black and white steed loves to jump and gallop cross-country.  Lately, he has been challenging young students as a lesson horse.  Tango’s quiet attributes have allowed Vicky to attempt some fearless feats that include standing on his back, riding him backwards and thwarting his desire to grab the bit and charge back to his stall!   Needless to say the part of Vicky’s heart that was depleted after her sons grew up has now been filled by the relationship that she has established with dear Tango.
    “I think I am going to take a road trip tomorrow to Queens...as in Queens, New York!”  Vicky admonished the day after Christmas.  
    Although Queens is a five hour drive south of the Adirondacks, the trip was one that Vicky had been considering for several weeks.  Waiting there at the end of the long journey, was a tiny miniature foal, only nine months old.  For some time, Vicky had been entertaining the thought of acquiring a miniature horse.  Numerous correspondences with the caregiver of this little one made quite an impression on Vicky.  Although she inquired about other available minis, Vicky’s thoughts always returned to the baby in Queens. Like an itch that one can’t seem to scratch, Vicky felt compelled to bring the foal back to the Adirondacks. And so...she did. 
River is in the initial training stage of, hopefully, becoming a therapy horse. In the future, she and River will possibly visit nursing homes, hospitals and any other locations where the mini-horse's charming repertoire of tricks and social engagement will bring a smile to those with special needs.

Baby Cricket in need of a loving home....
....grew into a sweet companion with terrier tenacity.
 Tango filled a special need for Vicky.
 Trusted trail horse indeed.
Tango provides challenging lessons in horsemanship.
 River is in training....
...so that someday he will inspire those with special needs.


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Special Needs; Part I

Good Morning,
    My friend, Vicky has a collection of cats who might never have found forever homes. She is attracted to those with special needs.  Time and again these animals have rewarded her with love and devotion; a testament to their gratitude for being given an opportunity to do so.  In addition they have demonstrated to Vicky how well an animal can adapt and establish itself as cherished member of the household.  Looking passed their peculiarities and disabilities, Vicky has accepted them as they are.
Perhaps the most inspiring of Vicky’s cats is a gray tortoiseshell female. Four years ago, Vicky heard about a litter of kittens that included one with a severe deformity. Aside from an unusually stiff tail, the kitten was born without fully formed feet. She also appeared to be missing lower forearms and lower hind legs. This stubby conformation prevented her from learning how to use a conventional litter box.  
Eventually, all of the normal kittens were adopted. Sadly, the remaining one was kept isolated in a bathroom while the owner determined her fate. Vicky was working for a local veterinarian when she became aware of the unwanted kitten's plight. For days the image of the lonely six month old baby, haunted her. She felt compelled to intervene. Finally, Vicky made the decision to take the kitten home and assess its abilities. 
At first the kitten was quite shy for she had rarely interacted with people. A severe case of diarrhea added to the challenge of caring for such a needy kitten. Bathing the un-socialized cat added unavoidable stress to the situation. Immediately, diet was addressed and changed to combat diarrhea. A litter box was modified to accommodate shorter legs. The kitten was also spayed. No doubt, Vicky had her hands full but patience and problem solving paved the way to make a happy life for this kitten. 
Four years later, the cat, Fern, is an inspiration to all. A distinct rhythmic gait easily identifies her when she bounds about the house. Fern is still a bit shy around strangers and she doesn't love being held. However, she does seek out a lap to sit on and at bedtime she curls up on her own special blanket between Vicky and her husband, Mike. Sweet Dreams Fern.
One year later, Timber, a red tabby found his way into Vicky's home. He was a healthy rescue who struck a heart string with his tiny ginger good looks. There was hope that this kitten might provide company for Fern. Fern, however, was not impressed. She had spent too much time as an only cat and planned to maintain her status as such. Timber was not discouraged. He loves to socialize with people, but only those with whom he is well acquainted. Until then he remains shy and a bit aloof.
Two years after Fern's arrival, Vicky took in another cat with special needs. This little guy was born with cerebellar hypoplasia; a condition caused by a viral or bacterial infection, injury or poisoning while the kitten is in utero. The permanent effects include spastic, uncoordinated movements that frequently result in miscalculated jumps and falls.
This kitten had another lethal factor stacked against his chance of finding a home. Although his condition was not life-threatening, his coat color was. Black cats are the least likely to be adopted, for whatever reason. Once again, the fate of this innocent animal weighed heavily upon Vicky's heart. She adopted the little one and named him Woody to compliment an Adirondack theme already established by Timber and Fern.  
Woody is the sweetest cat Vicky has ever owned; a little simple perhaps but without a mean bone in his body.  From the day that Woody arrived, Vicky engaged him in physical therapy to build muscle strength. She made him walk up the grassy hill in her yard and encouraged him to romp freely about. Gradually, his muscles improved and undignified falls have decreased. Over time the cat has gained even more control of his physique. Wrestling with Timber guarantees extended workout time each day.
At mealtime Woody must be reminded where his food station is. When he gets excited his, physical symptoms magnify with tremors and jerky movement. He walks as if he has sticky tape on his feet; pulling his legs up in high cadence. He may run into walls if he gets going too fast and frequently loses his balance. His resilience and acceptance is what endears him to Vicky the most. Despite physical challenges, Woody embraces life and lives it with charming exuberance.  

Fern has adapted to life as a normal cat.

 Timber is Vicky's 3 year old rescue.
 Woody is unfazed by failed attempts at landing where intended;  due to in-coordination.

Next week; Meet the rest of Vicky's menagerie in Special Needs Part II!