Tuesday, November 17, 2020


 My favorite literary character is Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird.  He is the agoraphobic hermit who watched over Jem and Scout, venturing out only once to save their lives. 

I looked from his hands to his sand-stained khaki pants; my eyes traveled up his thin frame to his torn denim shirt. His face was as white as his hands, but for a shadow on his jutting chin. His cheeks were thin to hollowness; his mouth was wide; there were shallow, almost delicate indentations at his temples, and his gray eyes were so colorless I thought he was blind. His hair was dead and thin, almost feathery on top of his head.

This is who Garret became, my Boo Radley. 

The day I found him living under a dock at the farm, barely able to stand he was so weak.

All 33 lbs of him on May 9, 2015.  Heartworm positive, chronic pneumonia and a disgusting skin condition yanked $2500 out of my piggy bank just the first month.  He was promptly put on Trupanion health insurance!

My vet back in the day theorized he'd been used as a bait dog by dog fighters because of all of his scars and infected lesions.  He'd always hated rough housing and would shriek if Cole tried to play with him.  PTSD Garrett.

If only they could talk:  he could tell us how he ended up with a little bullet in his back.

Garrett was the most appreciative, quiet boy.

Deprived his whole life, food became his favorite adventure.

Tomato thief on the garden:

The original Three Amigos:

 Cole and I were still busy trying to complete our runs across America and we gained another travel companion.

For a guy who jumped on the dining room table and tried to break out a window his first time in a house and riding backwards in a car for over a month, he became an expert traveler.  He and Peter trekked through 27 states.

Acadia National Park in Maine.

Detente was more his schtick than bagging peaks and logging miles on trails, but he always gave 100%

From the Atlantic to the Pacific, Garrett had seen it all.

The boys at Jefferson's Monticello in Virginia.

Top of the Smoky Mountains:

Oregon beach:

Garrett patiently put up with Cole and I reveling in Idaho snow.

Back at home, he became my work buddy.  His favorite spot was the front drive of the barn where he could survey his territory.  

Or the front seat of the utility vehicle where he could leisurely watch over me while I worked.

Nary a bark out of his lips, he was the quiet protector.  For a guy who hated confrontation, he was always the first to step up to protect the family unit.

During a Nordic ski trip in Idaho, a dog ran into my lines and jumped Cole.  In the scrum, Peter ended up hog tied in the lines and Garrett jumped the attacking dog and grabbed it by the throat, requiring some persuasion to release him.  We left more than a few drops of blood in the snow that day.

Later that year, a neighbor's pit bull strayed up to the house and attacked Cole.  I beat it mercilessly with a shovel to no avail, before I knew it, Garrett and Peter were in the fray. Outnumbered, it ran away. I knew I'd found my Boo Radley 

Hallowe'en of this year, I noticed something was off with Garrett.  Everything pointed to a problem with his back.

I made him a recovery area where he could still be part of the pack, but he wouldn't be able to jump or run.  Something told me it was more than a slipped disc.  I started insisting on an MRI (remember he has better insurance than I have!).  The vet school neurology dept. refused, backlogged in cases for a month when I presented him with non acute symptoms.  

Undeterred, I scoured the the Southeast for an MRI appointment.  Peter's physiotherapist, Liz, came through with an appointment with a colleague  4 hours from here.  Nov 20th.  I rented an actual church bus for 3 days and planned on taking my pack with me to Huntsville. 

By Sunday before the appointment, Garrett had taken a turn for the worse, he was not walking and I brought him to Auburn once again.  This time, he was admitted as an emergency to the neurology department. He would be fast tracked for an MRI. 

For over a week, I'd promised him I would find a way to make the pain end, he wasn't going to be made to wait for the next available appointment in late December.  It was my turn to fight for my Boo Radley.

This is the last picture of Garrett while we waited at the vet school.  The images basically confirmed he was riddled with multiple myeloma

Will you take me home?

Only words spoken by Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird.  

Sometimes the shittiest thing to do is keep a promise. My Baby G is over the Rainbow Bridge now. 

     Garrett Boo Smith 2010- Nov 16, 2020

Wednesday, November 11, 2020


 I live with 5 dogs, one of them is a goober. I don't think he'll ever be normal.

Bless his heart.

Even a trip to the parts store is never dull.

Saturday, November 7, 2020

Kentucky Derby in my Own Backyard

 The Boonies might just be my favorite place in the world. 

It's sacred ground.  Over a mile from anywhere on the farm, secluded, quiet, peaceful and some of the best grazing on the land...but how to get to it?

Up until 2 years ago, 3 of us would each mount a horse and pony two more horses to the Boonies in the morning, and back again at night.  Then, our staff changed and I haven't had skilled riders who can pony two horses through the woods, plus I started my epic year and a half of foot surgeries.

Every day I try to make a pilgrimage to the Boonies, as I said, it's my sacred place.  I run dogs there, did my foot rehab there, all the while dreaming of how to get the horses back to it.

By early Summer, I had a plan:  build a corridor from the Back Pasture to the Boonies, lined with electric fencing.  The 1 mile trail already existed, but required widening. Then the fun part of installing posts and insulators.

3 months to fruition.  Never enough time for everything around here, so most weeks, an hour here and there is all that could be devoted to it.  My new sidekick, Luke, helped me make the final push to completion last Thursday..

D-Day on Friday Nov. 6.  Jordan and Luke volunteer to hand walk the horses through the exercise circuit in the morning.

Everyone gets a chance to familiarize themselves with the concept of boundaries.

By afternoon, these fine gentlemen preferred to ride the horses back from the Boonies.

A nice stroll in the woods.

No drama.  Just one 26 year old half blind Appaloosa leading the pack.  Priceless.

ENRICHMENT.  The new buzz word in animal husbandry.  My philosophy has always been to let them live their best life:  ensure they have the best food, coziest shelter, lots of love, dedicated vet, buddies of their own kind and adventure. 

Did we ever get enrichment on Saturday morning. Alone at work, I theorized I could split the herd in half:  ride Angus and lead 3 horses to the Boonies by myself.  Took forever.  Cody kept dallying, we had to go back for him several times.  They all walked excruciatingly slow.

The second wave consisted of the last 4 horses.  I elected to ride a 20 year old warmblood called Titan. I'd never ridden him before.  Up until 2 years ago, we didn't jive.  The more I tried to coerce him to like me, the more he treated me like a common Waffle House waitress.  Then, it happened, Titan decided to start shadowing me, nuzzling me, simply enjoy my space.  We'd bonded.  I wanted to test that bond. We travelled at a walk for a couple hundred yards, then it turned into The Man From Snowy River  for the entire mile.  

I've galloped a Thoroughbred in an arena.  Nothing compares to racing through the woods, up and down hills. Titan's hackamore bridle is bitless.  Keeps people from needlessly pulling on his mouth, unfortunately doesn't have much stopping power either.  

At one point, I was in a galloping scrum of 4 horses.  I could've reached out to touch each of them...All of them at the same beat, their heads moving in symmetry.  It's the most beautiful moment I've ever been a part of.  

For the return trip, I decided to wear a helmet.  Duh.  And a Go Pro. 

And this day shall go down in history as one of the best days of my life.  By trying to give the horses I love a little enrichment, I'm the one who gained the most.

Soon, I'll be attempting to get them to slow down and build muscle, instead of hurtling through the woods.  That was never the plan.

Regardless, I've had my Man from Snowy River moment.  Taken from a 1982 movie, it's the ride I've always dreamt of.

Tip of the hat to my new BFF, Titan.  The bond between us is indeed solid.