Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Oh yeah...

Well, we were down to 32 dogs last night, and it feels down right... unimpressive. All day long I had the feeling of 'where are all the dogs'? Very surreal. BUT, I guess that is good news.

In thinking back over the past couple of entries, which I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear were written quite sporadically, there were some omissions.

There was Monday when we were already out of bowls to be able to provide each kennel with a water bowl and one or two food bowls. We'd ordered more, but they took a few days more to arrive than we'd hoped. So at lunch when the shipment arrived on the porch, we quickly dug into it, grabbed the bowls and took them out to the kennel. I was already preparing to leave for my work-thing so I was working in the kitchen. I gradually became aware of the noises of Cisco playing in the living room. Not unusual. What was unusual was that he had a squeaky toy. Since his main goal in life is to de-squeak every toy as soon as he gets it, I figured Dave must have picked him up a new toy at the store since we've been so neglectful of them this week. (I can rationalize with the best of them!) But when the squeaking continued far longer than I knew one toy could last, I finally went in to see what was going on. Cisco, I'm sure, was in heaven! He was already on his 4th toy out of the box -- toys that were meant for retail sale in the kennel -- surrounded by fluff and 3 squeakers already dismantled. What can I say, those 4 were already a loss so I let him have them and closed up the box with the rest.

One day at lunch we were in the midst of taking dogs into the kennel, when I looked up and there was a large cow peering in through the wire gate in the picket fence. I was quite taken aback, and I was a good 100 feet away at the time. I was just thankful that the only two dogs left in that yard at the time were Shep and Loki, who are both very large, but rather sensible creatures who did little more than sniff concertedly at the behemoth who suddenly appeared there.

But the turn-in was only half done, and my entire bunch needed to be brought in still:

AND of course the cow didn't have the decency to just disappear the way it had arrived. Oh no. It continued up to the area just outside of the kennel where the picket fence is only 1/2 tall... which gave everybody a nice view of the strange visitor. Getting the pups in around this particular distraction was a bit of an adventure.

The cows in general have caused a number of stirs in the dogs. One time they were grazing near the dog fence (outside of their own pasture mind you... thank goodness we put up that cow fence to keep them from coming over onto our property!!) but the dogs would get all excited and run down there barking. It would take us 10 minutes to get them to shut up and resume playing, and then 10 minutes later one of the dogs would re-discover the cows and run down there barking again.

Yesterday morning I was watching the before-breakfast-crew, and had finally had it with one new dog who'd arrived last night. We've had him before, but I put him in my group and he was just way too rambunctious to fit in well. I had to chase him down a bit and I was going to toss him through the gate into the other group of dogs, when I notice Teddy, who is a fairly large and mature puppy -- just the worst age to handle -- run by with something big and black in his mouth. I couldn't think of what that could be, so I looked again, and recognized my cell phone and phone case! Initially I was thankful he'd picked it up becuase, other than being a little slobbery (and goodness knows we've all gotten used to dog slobber this week!), I hadn't relished the idea of having to search the entire yard to find it. Well, that was until an hour later when I went to try and use my cell phone... Gee, those rainbow designs are so pretty! The phone is unusable. Dave's, at least, when he did about the same thing to his could still be used but you just couldn't see the display, so you had to know how many times to press each button to place a call. Nope, tried that... mine is dead I'm afraid.

So there I was just hours later, using the office phone to call to Dave for all the dogs who were checking out. Today was one of the big checkout days after Thanksgiving, so for a period of an hour there I think I called him 5 times. Only, I did so in the process of making 6 calls. Aparently I called the wrong number once. The guy answered just like I would expect Dave to: "YES??" So I said -- "Hey, I need Maggie and Bailey." The guy just paused and said... "Well, Maggie and Bailey aren't here." I've never felt like such an idiot.

In general, though, Saturday went very well! There is something to be said for having a lot of dogs here for many days in a row. They definitely all know each other now, so the moderating duties seemed to have lessened considerably. Not only that, but we've also been able to watch a couple of our less sociable dogs come out of their shell to varying degrees and start to play with the other dogs. One has been making more and more steps every day and today before she went home whe was full out playing and chasing with another dog. Since every visit before has consisted of sitting by the gate waiting to go in, we find this an incredibly satisfying development.

Yesterday was by far our largest revenue day ever at over $2,200, and today promises to be in the same ball park. Suddenly all our doubts that maybe it was too early to install the extra kennels, or too early to install ALL of the extra kennels have evaporated. Though the truth is we did not fill up until the Friday before TG. So, I guess we really lucked out at expanding to exactly the size that we could fill.

Christmas and New Years promises to be another exciting time (we have reservations for 38 already), because that holiday will stretch over 2 weeks instead of 1. But mostly we look forward to going into it with the facility already built out and all the lessons learned of the past week under our belts.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Turkey Day

We had grand plans to get the dogs done really quick-like on Thursday morning, so that we could close up the kennel and head out for a trail ride. Plans, of course, are subject to change. Oh well, we still got them all out and fed by about 9. We'd talked about pausing to have a toast with Mimosas around 8:15 because that would be about the time we actually had 60 dogs. Three checked in that morning bringing us to 60, but Chloe was due to check out at 8:30 which would leave us at 59. However, that moment passed without so much as a notice from any of us. Oh well. Since our leasers had offered to come feed the horses and bring them in for us, it was a nice treat to walk down to the barn and most of the work be done. We quickly tacked up, and headed out.

The major deterrent to riding from our property is that our road, County Road 1, is very heavily trafficked, and the shoulders are mostly steep sided, deep ditches. Extremely unsafe for riding. We decided that we'd tackle it by hand walking the horses the 1/4 mile to the safer stretch of shoulder, which extends all the way to the ditch road. The nearest ditch to our place is Ish Ditch, and since we own shares of water from Ish reservoir, we have rights to use the ditch road. This dirt road follows the ditch through fields back to County Road 3, and we've long wished to be able to get there easily to ride. Thus our hand walking solution. And it worked great! There were hardly any cars out that early on Thanksgiving anyways, and it took us only 20 minutes total to get to the ditch road. Once there the ride turned very nice.

Dave educated us on which ditches were which. Which we have access to and which we don't. It's all such a complicated, and yet antiquated system! Half way across to County Road 3, we looked and we were directly south of our house and kennel. If only we could find a way across the three intervening properties, we could skip the main road altogether! Then we found a gate... On the way back we decided to poke around a little on the other side of that gate. This gate goes into a parcel that is slated to be divided into 9 lots, but is all still open field now. The other two properties between there and our house are our neighbors, and we already knew we could get across them if we could get there. So we trekked, and after messing about a bit being idiots, ended up finding a pretty near direct route from the ditch road right to our house! I guess now we'll have to pay more attention to the approval process for this parcel development and see if they will plan in some ability for us to continue to cross through there.

We got back in time to get the dogs out for an extra long afternoon session, and I ran to the store to pick up our ready-cooked feast. We'd already decided that there was no way we could do dogs, riding AND cook, so we settled for dogs, riding and reheating. That's ok -- the meal turned out very good.

In the evening, both of Ginger's kids and spouses came over for our second annual dessert and games evening. We waited to let the dogs out the last time until they came so that they could help... It is pretty fun to open a bunch of kennel gates and let the dogs come flying out.

Gaming was great, but by 10ish the baby and the puppy were both complaining it was time to be heading home. Frankly, I don't think any of us were arguing against the thought of getting to bed either!


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Babysit'n Dogs

Monday, as I said, dawned with only 18 dogs in the kennel. HA. I say 'only' 18 because at this moment, 18 would seem like a god-send. Never the less, it was my first day to stay home and work as a kennel worker. Ginger and I typically head out a bit before 7 to get the dogs out and serve breakfasts. With this many you need two people - one to watch the dogs outside and the other to serve up breakfast and put them in the kennels. Then, letting them in is fairly easy because they all know breakfast is waiting for them.

But with 11 checkins, we quickly fell behind. Some of the kennel gates still weren't adjusted, so it was a major wrestling match to get them open. We still had all of our tools, and the vacuum cleaner strewn around, so it was a great relief when Dave showed up a little later in the morning.

The morning went ok - we tried out our two yards for the first time.

Click on the photos to see BIG versions of these pics.

Gosh, even this pic doesn't do it justice!

Ginger had her own crew in addition to Dave's and Patrick's


Ginger got off to go feed the horses breakfast about 10 am. I needed to leave about 11 ish to come in and prepare my laptop to return to my company. But then I also realized I've never had a chance to go back to my primary office to clean out my desk, so I thought I’d stop by Broomfield on the way down. Nuh-uh. It was taking so long to burn disks with my data, that I ended up skipping the Broomfield trip AND declared that I just could not return my laptop that day. Fortunately, no one complained. BUT -- now that still remains as things I need to do and I'm not sure when that will happen. Never the less, I went down for a happy hour thrown in celebration of a number of promotions due to a new org structure just released by our acquiring company, as well as farewell to me and 2 other consultants I've worked with for 8 and 10 years respectively. It was great to see some folks I haven't seen for a very long time, including my old boss who left 1.5 years ago.

Tuesday again Ginger and I were out there before 7, but this day we told Dave in no uncertain terms we needed him right away, since we had 24 dogs in the kennel, thus 24 breakfasts to serve AND a bunch of checkins to handle. And he made it by 7! :)

Beyond this many things become a blur. I know I had to run to the store during lunch this day, and when I came back our farrier was there for an appointment we'd forgotten about. The FedEx truck was also there to pick up "8 items". I just love the way they specify shipments. I called the kennel manufacturer and indeed the freight mgr had, despite the notes to the effect of not doing this, had scheduled for the pickup of our 7 gates plus a bag of fasteners on this day. We sent Mr. FedEx on his way.

Just getting the dogs in and out of the building has become a massive endeavor. Ideally we have 3 people. One way out in the yard to entice dogs out that far, one between the kennel and the yard gate to control the door and gate, and one inside the kennel to let dogs out. Since the farrier was there and Ginger with her, we had two. So, to move some 40 dogs from a building to one of three yards takes about an hour. Yes, AN HOUR! I still can't believe it. But of course there are the unforeseen incidents: the dog who puked coming out of their kennel. The two dogs who had diarrhea all night so their kennel needs to be cleaned. The checkin that shows up 2 hours earlier than we expected them. The dog out in the yard who needs their bark-collar refilled with citronella because, clearly, it is empty. Or, by far the most common -- the dog that was forgotten in their kennel and needs to be hand walked through a different set of dogs to get to their correct yard.

Today, with 59 dogs, we're getting better. It took only 1 hour with 3 of us. Uff Dah! (but we had NO checkin or outs, but I did have forgotten dogs, a dog that peed on the gate and food bowl and water bowl and the bedding of another kennel, and a puke incident. Hee -- don't y'all ALL want to get into the kennel business now?)

Oh yes, of course. I FORGOT the whole incident Wednesday morning when Dave and Ginger and Patrick!!! Yes - we decided we couldn't deal with just three of us so hired our neighbor kid who worked over the summer for a few days this holiday - the three of them were introducing two of our dogs together, and it did not go well. At all. We've had dog A several times and he's a very well socialized dog. Dog B we've had in for an evaluation day, and he did fine. However, they are both intact males, and when put together, Dog B totally had it in for Dog A. Fortunately we had them in a controlled situation and were able to break up the fight quickly. Not before Dog A, however, sustained a bite/cut to his upper lip. Ginger and I went to wash off the seemingly small cut, and discovered that it was deeper than anticipated. I called our own vet to consult, and he said given my description of how large the cut was (when stretched out the flap exposed about 1/3 inch of inner flesh) he thought it should be sutured. So I called the owner who was fortunately still in town as they'd just dropped the dog off that morning. She was wonderful and completely understanding, and agreed we should take the dog to our vet for sutures. So once all the dogs were out I took him in and left him hoping he'd be done by the end of the day. This was our first trip to the vet with a client dog, and it wasn't an auspicious start to the holiday weekend. However, I have to think back to several posts I saw on the Doggie Daycare Yahoo group that attested to the fact that Vets who see these relatively minor injuries being treated seriously by co-mingled facilities, thus understand that the facility is well and responsibly run. Upon initial inspection, the vet still seemed to waiver whether it really needed stitches or not, but we decided with all the dirt and slobber that he was bound to get on his muzzle during the course of his stay, that we really were better off going forward. Dog A did come home that evening, albeit still quite groggy.

Now we get to figure out what to tell Dog B's owners. It is our opinion that Dog B was the aggressor. Well, not only that but immediately after the incident when he was put into timeout, he climbed out of the timeout pen. Then today, when we put him and his companion out alone in "Area P" (aka Area Pee) while other dogs were out -- he again climbed/jumped out of the 5 foot v-mesh fence. Fortunately Dog A was still another yard away so he didn't get in with him, but this is just unacceptable. So Dog B was again confined to his kennel indoors. (Which just makes more work for us to let him out individually)

UG. We certainly will have to ban Dog B from any other high-volume time. We have reason to believe he is fine with most dogs, so will we accept him again if there are no other intact males coming? Can we accept Dog A again during a high-volume time? He is intact but as yet still has never acted aggressively towards other dogs; is that a double standard? Dunno, we have some policy making to do.

Wednesday went much like before, but more dogs. We were a bit more prepared for getting dogs in and out, but we still had the unexpected happen. Like when Ginger and I were running to leave the property at noon and as we were driving out she realized she still hadn't fed the horses breakfast! We decided to head out regardless, and when we returned three leasers were there to ride. In talking to them we mentioned that they hadn't eaten breakfast yet, so they were quick to volunteer to come out on Thursday to feed the horses. That was a terrific offer, so we jumped at their generosity and invited them to come on a trail ride with us on Thursday -- our traditional holiday activity.

Ah, but the upshot is that we survived Monday through Wednesday, despite the 12-13 hour days to do so. And then the holiday was just a day away...


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The mad dash

Wow, this past week has been just a blur.

Last Wednesday Mom and Dad arrived. We went out to the kennel immediately and tackled a few of the kennel panels. We got 10 or so up, and felt good because they included several which were unique and more difficult than the rest. Thursday I stayed home from work and so Dad, Dave and I dove in head first. Ginger ran around trying to take care of all the check ins and outs, and the horses, but there was so much going on we had a lot of distractions pulling us in many directions. Friday I had to go back to work, as it was my last day and I figured I really ought to at least make an appearance. I came home early and jumped back into kennel assembly mode, for a few hours, until we went out to a very nice dinner in Loveland to celebrate my new job.

My mom, meanwhile, was recuperating from knee surgery (from earlier in the week!) so she was manning phones and then we set her up to call all of our customers with reservations over Thanksgiving to confirm times and such. She had my cell phone so she'd call me when a question she didn't know came up. I said we'd have to hire her to continue this for us, since she was so well trained.

Saturday was even more disruptive from the kennel stand point because Ginger had a full day of lessons. Not only that, but our Thanksgiving checkins were beginning, and in several cases we were counting on some of the new kennels to house those dogs. What with all the multi-day reservations we have, it becomes very difficult to switch things last minute, but in a few cases we had no choice. In a few cases I just put the after burners on the guys and got targeted kennels complete enough to hold pups. Well, these pups were a special case -- Jasper is SOOO huge, and with his moon-collar on he really needed one of these super large kennels, of which we don't have any in the original set of kennels. So, we managed to set that kennel up and then continued to build around them!

That was another long day, and we were thankful that Roger was able to join us for a few hours. We did take a break at one point and went out to work on installing the gates in the cross fence in the yard, and got one and 1/2 gates installed. That night we even managed to quit early enough to both have dinner and watch a movie! Sunday my parents headed back to Albuquerque, Ginger did more horse lessons, and Dave and I finished the gates in the yard and all but 2 kennels. We were really nearly ready for Thanksgiving week!

What with more dogs checking in all weekend, Monday morning arrived with 18 dogs in the kennel, and 11 checking in that day. Dave, Ginger and I worked it together until mid day when I had to leave. That afternoon, Marshall had some time to come over, so he and Dave finished the last of the kennels and got many of the gates adjusted. Upon first install a great number of gates are so tweaked that you really have to wrestle with them to get them open -- something that isn't very easy if you have a dog in one hand already.

Unfortunately this time around we had several rather major issues with the kennels. I don't know why it was different than back in January, because we were working with the same reps. But fairly early in the process my Dad diagnosed that 1/2 of particular type of fitting they had sent us were faulty. We called them in a panic Thursday night and Friday first thing the kennel manufacturer agreed to overnight us some more. Then, over the weekend, again my Dad recognized that a good number of the gates they sent us (9 out of 29 actually) were hinged wrong -- they were backwards. This is super annoying. Not disastrous, but super annoying. Of course we went a head and installed them because I knew they couldn't overnight us gates. But then I fretted over the weekend that they'd try to claim that we'd signed off on the final documentation. Ah - HA, it wasn't until about 4:30 Sunday morning when I was awake and dwelling on this that I remembered that all they had ever sent to us for approval before had been drawings, and the drawings were all correct. Indeed, they admitted the error and will be sending new gates to us next week. I told her that I would need a few days after that to switch out the gates and have the others ready for pick up. No problem, she said that was their standard procedure, but that she would note that on the order.

Uh huh. And FedEx still showed up at our house on Tuesday to pick up the gates.

No kidding, though -- we are very grateful that Mom and Dad came up. What with all that continually drags each of us away from projects like this, we may well not have finished at all without Dad plugging through without us. In all we got the 29 kennels installed taking us from 23 to 52. And Mom making all those calls has been a life saver!

Tuesday broke with 24 dogs in the kennel (our previous max had been 23), and this morning, Wednesday ,we had 38 with a whopping 19 more checking in. Ai yi yi. These two days have been very long, very trying, and very busy. But I think you'll have to stay tuned to get that story. ;)


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Kennels Phase 2 - Day 1

Ufff Dah...


Monday, November 13, 2006

And Tom comes through again!

We were kind of dreading the kennel delivery because we figured we'd have no choice but to break down the crates inside the truck and carry the pieces off one at a time. Last time we managed to finagle the crate down off the truck using a combination of the tractor bucket and the lift gate on the truck, but these crates were bigger. AND, I wasn't going to be able to take the day off. And our neighbor Patrick wouldn't be home untl 4:00.

Well, what did Dave spy over at the neighbor's place this weekend? A forklift!!! Bingo - just what we needed. And Dave gets to add another toy to his list of equipment he knows how to operate:

Ohh, guess tomorrow night we get to try our hands at assembling these things so that by Thursday, when we have folks coming over to help... we know what we are doing.


Sunday, November 12, 2006


Well, we've had Bambi for just over a month now, so thought it was time for a status report. As I go back now to remember what I've said here... I'm surprised it's been almost nothing!!

The week we brought her home I didn't get out to ride Bambi for several days, and by the time I finally had a moment, Ginger mentioned that she was pretty lame. So I went down to get her out and longe her for myself. Extremely lame was the answer -- at the walk but nearly falling over at the trot.

We knew she had a poor shoeing job, so already had the farrier coming out on Saturday to do her. Ginger and Dave had ridden her the week prior and hadn't seen anything. On the day we picked her up I'd thought I'd seen some mis-steps but nothing I was concerned about. But by Thursday she was.. dead lame. Very strange.

Ginger called the person who had her (who is not the owner.. they were borrowing her and it wasn't working out for their child because Babmi is quite a big horse) and she said she didn't know of any reason she'd be lame. But she did confirm that she was in her stall almost exclusively for the few months they had her.

The farrier came on Saturday and diagnosed at least some of the cause of her pain. Her hind shoes were both squishing in on her heels, so she was not willing to stretch her hind legs forward to land on her heels every step. Her fronts... well, just bad shoeing. And the farrier thinks she has foundered sometime recently (observable by a malformation in her hoof walls). New hoof is already growing out nicely, so hopefully 6 months we should have her feet back to their proper condition.

We put Bambi out in pasture and didn't do much with her for a few weeks. When we pulled her out then, she was about 90% recovered! Ginger asked if I would ride her, but I didn't have time so she did and then put a few students up on her. They all fell in love immediately. This past weekend I finally went down to try her out. She is a great horse! They'd originally tried her out western, so Ginger didn't know how fabulous she is going english.

She is still struggling with some lameness, but we're counting on that being a matter of a lack of conditioning. We're riding her gently several times a week. Last Monday I worked from home and Dave and I rode at lunch. He rode Babmi and I rode Jordan: our two big bays. They'd make quite the matched pair except that Jordan is already a big furry monster for winter, and she has not grown even a hair of winter coat. We're thinking she's been in a stall for a lot longer than just the past few months.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Getting ready for Turkey Week

With the holidays approaching, we have been trying to expand our kennel operations a bit so that we can take advantage of this peak boarding season.

I've already have mentioned that we ordered additional kennels. They shipped Tuesday!!!! Next week Mom and Dad are going to come up for a visit, and we'll spend Thursday installing them.

We already have reservations for TG week exceeding the number of kennels we currently have (31 dogs so far, and the overflow traffic is just starting to come our way) ... so I'm somewhat holding my breath that nothing disasterous happens that prevents us having at least some of the kennel installed in time.

We're also getting a cross fence up so that we have two large yards... A week ago Dave and I headed out to make some progress on the remaining posts, and were incredibly pleased to discover that our recent snow managed to make digging holes way easier than ever before! That day we got 14 holes in and 8 posts up, and we finished the remainder the next day. Pretty much a record for us. Dave and Ginger had only 3 dogs on Tuesday, so they started putting up the wire. Yesterday, however, they had 12 dogs, so they had their hands full.

Ya know, we THINK we can get work done while keeping an eye on the dogs, but that is just an increasingly false assumption. We can't have the dogs out while digging the holes because the dogs are incontrollably curious about what we are doing and while we're operting the tractor and auger, we can't have that. But we thought we could have dogs out while we were setting posts. Well, could -- except we were amazed at how frequently dogs fell into these 10 inch diameter holes!!! One samoyed, in particular, TWICE fell with both back feet into a hole and got totally stuck. Huuummm? Fortunately all of our dogs were physically too large to actually go down in. But the balls and toys? CONSTANTLY were being dropped in - usually the hole we were working with.

Our other new news -- the day care business has picked up quite a bit. The 12 dogs yesterday were ALL daycare. In fact, from Monday through Thursday this week -- we actually don't have ANY boarding dogs! First time in a very long time. It sure is nice not to have to go out at 8:00 pm to let them out again, and not to have to do letout and breakfasts before 7 am! I tell you, this day care business is the way to go.

Finally, we've also been making progress on the barn bathroom -- the one that technically was supposed to be in place by summer camp 2005? And then summer camp 2006? We actually had the septic in and rough plumbing and the concrete pad poured by May this year, but that's as far as we got.

Now.. we got walls and a ceiling!

Insulation and heat may go in this weekend since I think the weather may be too wet to work on the fence. But once we're assured the water supply won't freeze, then I'm sure we'll have no choice but to put all energies into the kennel until after TG.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Another Baby!!!

This week Phyllis and Mike had their first cria born at home. A dark brown female --just what they were hoping for!

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