“To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being.”
My keys jingled as I made a mad dash out of the house. Bidding my small pups Magni and
Mye goodbye, I yelled instructions to my disgruntled and distracted brother who was playing
video games (I hoped he heard at least half of the chores I’d listed).
I reached my car and double checked I had everything: Keys. Library books to return.
Shopping bags. Lunch. Hay and milk and bottle for RiverSong. And Riversong…
“River! Where are you?!?” I turned to see her right at my heels, looking at me expectantly.
We had been doing this for two weeks now and she knew the routine. I opened the car door
and she jumped in, settling herself on the passenger’s side floor.
“Good girl” I piled my bags in the back, yelled goodbye to my brother, and reminded him a
second time to feed the horses while I was out. It was the start of another typical work day!
River chewed her cud and gazed at me dolefully as I turned the car on and cranked up the heater.
I cranked down the volume on the S.J. Tucker music so as not to hurt her ears. A social lamb,
she was going to spend the day at her Grandmaaaa’s (sorry, I couldn’t resist!) otherwise known as
my mom’s place, while I was at work. I could have left her at home, but with two pups who
were teething and an absent minded brother with a new video game, I could foresee too
many potential hazards for a small lamb.
I got River when she was only a few
days old. She spent much of her first
weeks asleep on my lap while I painted
and worked on my computer.
She loved to follow me around and
acted more like a dog than a sheep.
Not surprisingly, it had only taken River a few days to become completely comfortable riding in the car. She seemed to enjoy it
and would be eager to jump in the car with
me (while my pups looked on with jealousy at being left behind!).
Unfortunately, River got a little too
enthusiastic about eating Mom’s garden and was quite dismayed when she was not allowed to come visit anymore, haha!
There is a major misconception that sheep are dumb. However, in my experience, sheep are just
as easy to train as dogs if given the chance and, like River, are intelligent and full of personality.
We may be surprised by what we discover when we engage with animals with an open mind
After reading my story about River, has your perception of sheep changed in any way?
Let me know!
Thanks for reading
Love & Light,
Hello my dears!
Apologizes for the long absence from the blog.
But I'm back!
I really hope you enjoy this ❤️
Let me know what part resonated most for you?
Have you have ever learned something about yourself from your pet?
Please feel free to share your stories in the comment section of my blog.
Peace, Light & Love,
"A great horse will change your life. The truly special ones define it..."
My heart was in my mouth and I hardly dared to breathe. I silently prayed again and again, “Please let this be okay…”
Terrified and seriously questioning my own judgement, I watched the pair before me engage in an epic battle of wills.
I don’t normally let other people work with my horses, but this time I agreed. S. loved and used to own horses before she had an accident (unrelated to horses). It had been over 11 months now, and she told me she was working on her confidence in all the things that seemed so effortless before losing a limb.
I had been putting a lot of work into Cygnet, and I thought she out of all my horses would be okay. We have a decent relationship with quite a bit of trust.
The moment I put Cygnet in the round yard I had twinges of misgivings, but I ignored them. Instead I explained a little of what I was doing with Cygnet to S. and gave a quick demonstration of getting Cygnet to back up without me touching her, just by using my energy.
Excited, S. led Cygy into the round yard and asked her to move around in a circle. Cygy turned and looked me straight in the eye as if to check if I was okay with this. I gave her a nod and with a great sigh and little shake of her head she moved off at a slow trot, continuously checking back with me to make sure it was still okay.
At first Cygy did as she was asked. But then something happened; maybe S. mistimed a cue, her energy didn’t quite match her ask, or an ask wasn’t removed quite fast enough and turned into a nag.
Cygnet looked over at me as if to say, “What the hell? I'm doing it! Tell her to stop nagging me!”
Although I offered S. some suggestions, the situation continued to worsen. Something in their personalities started to clash and Cygnet seemed to take this as a great insult. Her reluctant obedience soon turned into a show of utter disrespect and defiance, something I hadn’t seen in some time since I’d been working with her.
Up until that moment I had forgotten what a difficult horse Cygnet was when she came to me. She was shut down and catatonic from her previous people forcing her to obey, and I had to work hard to earn her respect, enlisting the expertise of a good friend and horsewoman. We had forged such a good relationship over time, it was easy to forget what Cygnet used to be like.
Things rapidly escalated and Cygy wasn’t looking at me for instructions anymore. Both Cygnet and S. showed no fear, with S. reading Cygnet as easily as Cygnet was reading her. It had become a battle of wills.
Suddenly Cygnet wheeled around in a great cloud of dust, her hind quarters against the fence. She stood breathing hard, facing S. As S. began to advance, Cygnet squared up and drew herself up to her full height, nostrils flaring, neck arched and eyes glaring in a way that I had never seen before. It terrified me; she was ready to fight.
Cygnet looked as though she was going to rear on top of S. My heart was in my mouth and I held my breath, praying things would be okay, and wondering if I could somehow step in before it got dangerous.
But just as I was thinking this both S. and Cygnet paused... A long second dragged by and bled agonizingly into the next. Finally, amazingly, I heard both of them let out a sigh. S. moved back. It was only a tiny movement on her part but enough for Cygnet to relax her battle stance, lower her head and begin licking and chewing, move toward S., all the fire in her eyes gone just like that.
And suddenly they were two good friends making nice and rubbing on each other.
It was the most incredible thing I have ever witnessed.
Afterwards I apologized to S. for my horse’s behaviour, but she shook her head and laughed.
“No, she was incredible. I don’t have any boundaries since the accident - I just keep pushing.
She showed me that I need to STOP, that sometimes I can't keep pushing.”
In that moment I remembered what an amazing teacher Cygnet is; our animals’ behaviour can show us so much about ourselves, when we stop to breathe, take a step back and listen.
“Way down deep, we’re all motivated by the same urges.
A growing sense of urgency gnaws at me while the chatter in my mind clamors to be heard.
I sit at my desk and stare down at the growing to do list on my note pad. It's a recurring pattern over the last couple of months; the fast pace of everything, work that keeps building up with seemingly no end in sight. Even with a detailed list of everything I need to get done and where to place my focus, it can feel overwhelming. Sometimes it's easy to sacrifice self-care just to get a few more things off the list.
I get caught up in the fast pace of things, and fall out of flow.
This constant noise in my head used to be a daily part of my life and kept me in a constant pattern of stuckness, until in a moment of terrifying courage last year, I hired a creative empowerment coach who helped me to move forward and build so much confidence in myself. (A huge shout out to Nikol Rogers of ZenRedNYC. THANK YOU!)
Now, as I sit at my desk with the overwhelm setting in, I realize my old patterns of brain noise and inner critic are rising to the surface. I become aware of the tension I’m holding in my body. Sometimes a start is merely bringing your attention and awareness to the fact that there is a problem. I ponder this as a furry, ginger blur flies out of nowhere, lands in my lap, and gives me a loving headbutt. His tail wraps around my neck and he purrs contentedly as he jumps from my lap onto the table and drapes himself on my notebook. He glares at me with piercing yellow eyes. As he meows and rubs his head on my hand, he forces me to drop my pen and pay attention to him.
'CAT MAGIC' ~ "One maybe forgiven when they mistakenly believe at times that their cat is simply staring off into the distance, seeing things we do not. In actual fact only half of this belief touches on truth - our cats are Zen Masters, and at these times in deep meditation with the flow of the Universe; helping to balance and harmonise these unseen energies, and communicate with the higher realms.."
Odysseus by nature is not a cuddly cat, however he does have moments.
When these moment come along, I have to seize them right then and there; no ‘’in a minute,” or “wait a second,” or even “hang on, just let me write this email!” If my mind wanders when I’m cuddling him, he can sense it and he’s not shy about biting! In this way, he reminds me to be present, to embody more of his Zen like qualities in my daily life.
Not all cats are perfect Zen Masters. Just like us, they have are here to learn and sometimes have lot going on. We live in a very noisy world, be it physical or mental noise. But, cats know how to observe silence and regularly take time for themselves. I suspect that they are masters of Meditation. Odysseus regularly joins me in my meditation sessions.
Although cats are capricious, they don't really need us. That they decide to stay and ‘help’ their humans is a gift. In keeping with this idea, cats have their own pace; you can’t rush your feline friend as life is on their terms. They remind us that we must practice our own self-care if we are to thrive and give back to others. For all our feline’s detached love and sometimes plain selfishness, how often when you feel the dread from deadlines and overwhelm creeping in, does your cat appear and sit on your work or keyboard to remind you to take a few minutes to come back to the present and just ‘be’? You might remove the cat, but very often they will keep coming back until you listen!
Most importantly, cats know how to protect their energy, so they can focus on the things that are important to them. I have seen Odysseus sit for hours in intense concentration, focusing on a single spot until his prey appears. How many of us can keep that sort of focus before getting distracted?
So as I sit at my desk stroking Odysseus’ head and listening to his’ contented purr, I take a few deep breaths and let myself become more present. My to do list waits, however right now I’m going to take a break and spend some time in quiet focus with my furry, ginger Zen teacher.
"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.'
Donna's hooves hit the earth with a gentle clip clop, reassuring in its predictable rhythm. The sun warmly beat down on us as we rode through the hills. Her ears were pricked up and we were both eager for the ride. This was only the third or fourth time we’d been on a trail ride in the months we’d been together; taking things slow was key with Donna.
All was good in the world - for exactly five seconds before a wild goat blindsided us.
The kid shot out from the bushes with a startled bleat. Its eyes bulged in its head as it was pursued by Dad's unruly - and apparently at that second, deaf - young Kelpie, Indy.
Every muscle in Donna’s body went taut beneath me as she stopped dead in her tracks. I barely managed to stay in the saddle. Reacting quickly, I tried to verbally reassure her while patting her neck, as I simultaneously growled at Indy who was chasing the kid a merry dance, oblivious to the chaos he was creating.
Donna snorted and danced nervously on the spot, but one ear cocked back, listening to my words. It seemed things might be okay...
However, the kid spotted an escape route and dashed toward it. Unfortunately, it was under Donna's belly.
I only had time to think 'Oh no,” and notice in a blur that:
I jumped up and called helplessly after her as she disappeared over the ridge, heading for home in a blind flight instinct stampede. I dusted myself off and hurried after her, hoping she wouldn't hurt herself.
Thirty minutes later I arrived home to find her soaked in sweat, hiding behind my sister's 'wonder pony,' Asha. Her reins had caught around the inside of her front leg, she was a little shaken up, and looked almost ashamed that she had left me behind. To my relief, she was otherwise fine. I dug out a carrot from my pocket and offered it to her. She approached cautiously and I stroked her velvet nose soothingly as she crunched. She signed heavily, nuzzling in my hands. “Its okay, Donna girl.”
Donna was a skeptic, highly sensitive and reactive to the slightest thing. She always tried her hardest to please, but her strong flight instinct and fear often won out, making her a danger to herself and others in her mad dash to escape whatever startled or scared her.
Having no confidence in herself, running away was the only way she could deal with frightening situations. And to her, everything was potentially frightening.
During rides, she relied on the rein contact as almost a mental support to keep her on track. I literally couldn't let go of the reins without sending her into a panic of, “What do you want me to do? I don't know what you want me to do!”
We needed to rebuild her foundation of self-confidence and trust. This involved much pleading, reassuring, rewarding, and just about every holistic and horsemanship trick in my toolbox. With time and hard work, we began to replace her self-doubt with self-confidence.
Flash forward seven years and you won't believe the difference! I can let go of the reins completely and her world doesn't come to a grinding stop. Instead, she'll just turn to me as if to say, “What are you up to?”
Sometimes we all need a person in our lives to tell us it’s okay, to give us the push we need to step out of our comfort zone and grow. And to shine a light on the monsters, our fears, so we can see them for what they really are and be less afraid.
Then one day, like Donna, we find we can let go of the reins and trust ourselves.
"But if he is truly
I was heartbroken.
Losing my Livingstone, the most regal ginger cat in existence and companion of the past 17 years was still rough, three months later. Nothing can truly fill the massive gap created by that kind of loss creates. Livingstone had been with me though some of the toughest moments and losses in my life.
It just wasn't the same, waking up without him purring by my side. He had been a furry skeptic keeping me grounded, down to earth, and my personal people reader (I trust what my cat has to say about someone, as they are generally spot on). I always felt loved even when he refused to talk to me, because I knew hey would always forgive me.. eventually.
I felt eyes on me as soon as I stepped through the door, which wasn't unusual. The veterinarian reception room contained a couple of small dogs and their owners, a large elderly dog and a small girl with a cat basket. The feeling only intensified, as I glanced around. A pair of yellow eyes locked on mine.
I broke his gaze and glanced at the scrap of paper taped on the side of the glass:
"Hi! My name is Arnold."
He sat there with the air of a tiger surveying his kingdom, appearing much larger than he actually was. He wasn't the most handsome cat I had ever met; his hair was short and he was a tad on the chunky side. But what he lacked in looks he made up for in a roguish sort of charm. As if reading my thoughts, he got to his feet and strutted over, demanding attention and showcasing his charm.
He let out a trilling mew and butted his head against the glass. One end of the case had slits just big enough to poke a finger into.
Delighted, he began butting his head against my finger and purring furiously.
The message couldn't be clearer: “Please give me a home?”
The charm and charisma coming off him, this little ginger, was quite amusing.
However, it wasn’t until one of the lovely nurses asked me if I'd like to give him a cuddle that I was sold.
I adopted a new friend, meditation buddy and my very own art supervisor (and occasional muse) that day. He will never replace Livingstone, as they are so completely different! For one Odysseus is only cuddly when he wants, not when I need him to be, and he has a few issues - but doesn't everyone? I love them both for their uniqueness.
And no, I didn’t stick with Odysseus’ original name... The name Arnold is derived from German and roughly means 'Eagle Power' (hey, my sister is a writer, I get to pick up lots of random trivia!). There was no way I was going to have a cat called Arnold!
Every time he went out the door, all I imagined was that line from the Terminator, "I will be back..." LOL
Naming him Odysseus probably wasn’t any less pretentious, and it seems to suit him, so I think he got a pretty good deal. After all, I could have named him Ginger…
I love The Odyssey, and Odysseus was probably one of the only heroes who got a decent ending and didn’t get murdered or die in some tragic way. Albeit, it did take him 10 years and many epic adventures to get home to his beloved Penelope and son. (I find it amusing that Odysseus is very much in love with my other studio cat Ms. P. Although the P originally stood for Persnickety, I believe it actually is for Penelope now.)
The point is that Odysseus in the story survived many great challenges that were thrown at him (mostly by angry gods) and got to come home to people who loved him.
Now, what more could an adopted cat ask for?
I was so uncomfortable.
Pins and needles were beginning to creep up and down my legs. Carefully I eased myself into a more comfortable position on the dirt trying not to cause alarm. But the movement was enough to disturb the nearest animals and soon small shock waves of uneasiness rippled throughout the herd. Hooves stirred, sending clouds of red dust drifting into the dry and still October air. A few horses snorted, others looked on curiously. While a magnificent black stallion gave me an accusing glance before returning to play with the chestnut stallion with a striking blaze down his forehead.
I raised my camera again, as I searched searching through the lens and I clicked some more shots and pondered my options. But my eyes eventually strayed back to her. The horses moved again, this time more urgently as they all crowded over to the opposite fence. I winced hearing loud thwacks, the hooves connecting with hides of lower ranking horses who had strayed a bit too close. My dad strode over to where I was sitting, seemingly unaware of all the chaos happening in the yard.
"Have you made up your mind yet?" he asked impatiently. I stared out at the herd again a sea of colored coats.. There was a cute little bay colt with lots of spunk who had caught my eye, but he had looked like he had a stubborn streak... Or that gorgeous skewbald who was just a little too big..
I wanted to take them all home, and the longer I stayed the more it broke my heart. How could I choose just one? How would I know if it was the right one??
I wasn't ready! I could have spent the entire afternoon out there sitting in the dirt, hiding from the sun behind my big cowgirl hat and the thin strips of shade that the fence railing provided. This was a very big decision, I couldn't rush it! Even though part of me knew that mind had been made up pretty much the moment I stepped out of the car and spotted her; she was the one. This would be a great place to say that the music swelled and our eyes met and our souls sang to each other, but often there are very important moments in life that are without the fanfare that the movies would have us believe. But there was a calling in my heart for her, she had something about her you know? A little bit of grace in the way she moved and held herself, and bright kind eyes amidst her scruffy appearance.
I looked back to where she was over the other side of the yard, and looked her over again, mentally pulling up Linda Tellington Jones book Getting in TTouch with Your Horse and reviewed the bits on horse profiling again. I took a breath, praying to the horse lords or anyone who happen to be listening in the universe at that moment.
"I think that one." I said pointing in the scruffy black filly's direction. This was a huge decision and responsibility, I was adopting and saving a single precious life of a wild horse who had never before seen humans! It could turn out to be a disaster, but my gut said she was the one for me.
Its been nearly five years now. We have both grown and honestly I had no idea of the profound effect that inviting that little dark horse into my life. Or that the universe had both our backs that day; and I had just opened the door to a kindred spirit, teacher, friend and Muse. She is seemingly a deep reflection of myself.
This filly became my teacher who would inspire both myself and my art. She became a friend who can always make me smile and encourage me to keep dreaming, and a Muse who would grace my Artist's name and who's hooves would inspire and model for the cover illustration of a book! If you had told me that then I would have been pretty skeptical that any of that could, let alone would happen.
It’s funny...when I took her home I thought I was the one going to be doing the teaching, not the other way around. And instead I learned Muses and the universe often have the last laugh.
Thank you Gracie for gracing me with your amazing light and continually warming my heart xx
A little over 4 weeks ago I couldn't have told you if this brave and precious little soul was going to live or not.
Her life was hanging in the balance, and the scales could have tipped so easily either way. She was so frail but for a tiny stubborn spark of life, but honestly I wasn't sure if it was enough.
Late afternoon, when the shadows were growing long and the chill was slowly creeping into the air I first gazed into Nicki's beautiful amber eyes. Dad laid her sniffling and shuddering slightly at my feet and told me he found her caught up in the fence and it looked like she had been there a couple of days unnoticed; her efforts to free herself had only made the damage worse as the wire had bitten deeper and deeper into her front legs, rubbing away the flesh and scarred her with two twin wounds down to the bone on either sides of her legs. He wasn't sure if she'd make it but told me to do what I could. Now it's important to note that we live in a pretty rural area and born from the fact that the closest vet is a four hour drive (but we since have gained a closer one who is an hour and a half closer) so we have to be a little self reliant when it comes to stuff like this and we have a pretty extensive animal medical box and over the years I have done a lot of consulting on the phone, I think I could make a pretty decent vet nurse ;)
Anyways, I gave her a shot of antibiotics, something for the pain and rummaged though my homeopathic kit for something to fit her symptoms (I'm a big believer in holistic medicine, but sometimes you have to use it in conjunction with conventional medicine) and began to clean away the mud and blood from her legs, it wasn't a pretty sight that greeted me. But I soon found myself giving thanks that it had only damaged the soft tissue and had just missed all the important stuff (a benefit for an artist living on a farm is that knowledge of anatomy comes in handy not only for drawing!) When I had finished cleaning and disinfecting her wounds I packed them with Manuka honey (I have had some really good results with this stuff) and bandaged them with bight and cheerful bandages. I also made a prayer to who ever was up there listening that however this went, good or bad, that she wouldn't suffer.
It was a pretty tense week with a lot of ups and downs but she hung grimly to life and as I tended to her I sent her as much love and compassion as I could. She didn't have the strength to stand, so we made her a soft bed of oldtowels to keep her comfortable. We had to turn her over periodically and massage her legs to try and keep circulation in her legs. We also had to monitor her pain with painkiller, and try to keep her as painfree as possible so she had a chance to heal.
At night we covered her with a warm horse rug and tucked her in with a hot water bottle.
My sister cared for her while as I was at work and I worried every time I saw her name on my caller id that it was was bad news.
Half of the first few days she refused to eat anything that I offered at all which was a concern, so I had to force feed her warm milk via a syringe, which she finally decided wasn't that bad and began to take without protest. I remember when she finally began to eat the wisps of hay I offered her, I whooped with such joy that my brother, who is normally quite oblivious to such things, stuck his head out the window and asked what I was yelling about.
I have been though this process with sheep so many times over the years with various ailments, and sometimes no matter what you do you can't save them, but when you can and you do, it is always such a blessing.
She was on her feet again by the 10th day which was such a miracle, and slowly she grew stronger and stronger until she was skipping and running around the yard with our 4 pet lambs and two other sheep who had also had miraculous recovery's in the last couple of months.
Living on a wool producing Sheep Station you get to see the whole circle of life and death up close and personal, and sometimes its just so damn unfair, like seemingly endless cycles of drought so bad that it seems that it will never end and stripes of green across the dry dusty country seems like a faraway dream. It breaks your heart over and over, but then there are times that little tiny sparks of life, tiny little miracles in the grand scheme of things just light up and warm your heart. You realize exactly why you haven't gone grown that thick skin and a hard heart.
Nicki is one of these little woolly miracles that I have been blessed with over the years: Andrea, Mildred, Sully, Moe, Iris, Buddy, Teddy Teabags (who memorably managed to heal after breaking his front leg in two places!) and so so many more. It never gets old that warm fuzzy feeling that fills up your whole heart when they recover. Its just the best feeling and makes all the heartbreak that you endure for them just a little more bearable..
Thank you for reading,
Love & Light,
Somehow Stars started happening!!!
It was sort of inevitable for me, but not everyone is into my whimsical stuff, so I'm going to try and balance it out with realistic paintings as well... hopefully?
It's the PLAN anyway...
I'm having a lot of fun working on this series in my spare time, and on a small note all original paintings will be available though my Etsy Shop soon.
(however feel free to contact me if you MUST have one of them now, I totally understand)
Let me know which is your absolute favorite so far!
Or what Aussie Animal you REALLY want to see me do (and in what style ;))
Look forward to hearing from you!
Only about two weeks left to enter! Get your skates on guys if you want to be in the running!
AND! Just so you know the $25 etsy voucher can be used on anything in my Etsy Store, and can even be put towards getting a gorgeous soulful portrait of your pet...
You don't want to miss out!!
I've linked both photos in this post to the giveaway FB post for easy access!
Hope to see you join & Good Luck!!
Siobhan is a Visual Artist Connecting Animal Lovers with Customized & Magical Animal Portraits, and an optimistic realist with a day job.