Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Bichon Frise Turned 20 Years Old - Meet my Fred - The Oldest Living 'Confirmed' Bichon Frise in the USA Today!

<> Fred died peacefully in his sleep on Sunday morning, March 25, 2012. He was buried Sunday evening with all the love and grace and honor that such a wonderful life companion deserves.

"We do have another current report of a 20 year old Bichon," and "we have heard of a few that may have reached 20 but their owners never sent confirmation of date of birth.  I suspect those that are supposed to have gone beyond 20 are VERY few and far between." (Feb 1, 2012, Anne at

Forever Fred the Wonder and Pumpkin, Jan. 2012

We managed to escape the ranch for a week on a last minute trip down to Port Mansfield, Texas.  The weather was so mild it was flat hot some days.  Of course we took Fred, my elderly Bichon Frise, along for the trip, and that warm weather seemed to do wonders for his old arthritic bones.  He woke up Christmas morning unable to walk because of some new problem with his right rear leg.  His lower vertebrae are all fused together, a solid mass of bone per the vet.  By the time we got back from Port he was walking good stretches on his own and managing turns as well.  I figured out a way to walk him after Christmas.  I put a leash under him and in front of his rear legs, and support him lightly with both ends of the leash.  It works remarkably well. 

Some of you know Fred from the early days when he was agile and manageable to travel to association meetings and sales.  The past few years that's not been the case, and so I've missed a lot of events out of consideration for my little Fred.  Seems silly to most people, of that I am certain.  But, we do what we do.  Fred turned 20 years old on October 28th, 1991.  I finally contacted the AKC to double check the year of birth, as I'd been thinking he turned 20 last year, but my old memory was off by one Christmas.

Freddie Boy, my 20 year old Bichon Frise, Christmas 2011
Click this link for a video of Fred on Christmas
Fred was a Christmas present for me, and he arrived on Christmas Eve 1991, a bundle of rolly polly joy from the day he arrived, and he loves me madly like I'll never be loved again.  Unfortunately, for quite some time now I rarely get a full nights sleep, or even a stretch of sleep for more than 3 hours, because only his Mom can seem to make him happy and figure out just what it is he needs - food, water, or just me to hold him until he goes back to sleep.  It's not something you think about when you get a pup, that he'll live to be a crotchety old fart that needs constant attention - and believe me it is tiresome and really wearing me down.

Freddie Boy on New Years Day 2012
Click this link for a video from New Years
There are good days for him still, for us all, like New Years Day.  He really enjoyed being outside and just hanging out in the mild weather.  This past summer was so brutal that it was the very rare event that he ever ventured outside, he can't tolerate the heat anymore, or for that matter real cold weather either.  Last September when the weather finally turned mild I brought him outside with me for a while.  I was very happy to see him interested in exploring and sniffing and just enjoying himself out of the house. 

Pumpkin the cat has a thing for Fred, she always likes to say hello to him, tries to get him to interact with her.  It's kind of strange.  Pumpkin gets along with absolutely none of the other cats on the place - once she raised her kittens she was quite done with tolerating them and considers herself very important around here.  This is a video of Fred and Pumpkin in September 2011:

One of these days I'm going to get a scanner so I can scan in some of his old photos - he was quite the cute Bichon pup and the handsome all grown up Bichon as well.  I can't imagine there are very many Bichon Frise's that have made it to 20 years and beyond, so I figure he deserves a little recognition out there for his stubborn survival of 2 decades.

And it really has been a miraculous survival.  He has had so many brushes with death it is mind boggling.  Let's see how many I can recall in order . . .

. . . . . He was deliberately run over by a young punk when he was real young and we were down in Port Mansfield.  He had gotten out of the yard and was standing in the middle of the road and the kid drove straight over him, while I'm running from the yard and screaming my head off at him to stop.  Fred was still standing there after the car passed over him, just fine except for a greasy streak across his back.

. . . . . He was attacked by a vicious and big Cocker Spaniel while he was on a long lead staked out in the front yard at Port.  The dog probably would have killed him were it not for a Labrador retriever named 'Bear' that was Fred's bud from down the street.  Bear heard the ruckus and showed up and attacked the cocker spaniel who ran off with his tail between his legs.  The cocker managed to completely shatter the brand new juvenile cataract in one of Fred's eyes - so it was a pretty rough attack.

. . . . . He jumped off the deck of our fishing cabin and landed in the water instead of the boat he was aiming for.  I was cooking inside and that sixth sense kicked in and I ran outside and there he was paddling for all he was worth in the Laguna Madre - staying like a miracle right there by the boat despite the current that should have carried him away. 

 . . . . . He survived a high speed, high impact rollover accident, along with me, that should have killed us both.  He was literally standing on all four feet after having been tossed through the window on the last roll.  We did lose our Ginger, and Fred howled in grief for her for many years.

. . . . . He fell about 20 feet from a porch to the concrete below and a little bitty BBQ pit broke his fall, and a tooth.  He went in to shock and almost died from that but for a very good vet in Beaumont.  Miraculously he only had a chipped tooth from the fall.

. . . . . He managed to walk the cattle guard and all the way across the front pasture and through the barbed wire fence and into the middle of the highway.  This was early one morning and poor Fred had been forgotten about after being put outside to do his business.  He was saved from sure death by a young family who left their camp on the lake early that Sunday morning to head home in time to go to church.  They stopped and picked him up.  It was a few hours before we found him -- he was at the police station in Woodville having a fried egg with the local cops for breakfast.

. . . . . He was snatched from my doorway by a visiting Rottweiler, literally snatched from where he stood at my feet.  His head was completely in the Rott's mouth and he was being swung back and forth, back and forth.  My Mom saved him from the Rott.  She threw herself on the dog and he dropped Fred.  All Fred had were two slits on either side of his neck that somehow managed to not hit major veins, and the shaking didn't break his neck or hardly even hurt him at all - the vet said he was indeed one lucky dog.

. . . . . He fell that same about 20 feet from the living room floor and straight down, glanced off the bottom stair we think, and hit the floor. We keep the upper stair railings roped off as they are widely spaced, something came undone and we hadn't noticed.  Anyway, Fred the Wonder Dog screamed on that fall, but didn't go into shock, and didn't break any bones or chip any teeth.

Just having problems with his lower back after all these accidents isn't so bad . . .

Forever Fred the Wonder, Born 10-28-91, AKC Registered Bichon Frise
Pictured here at 19 years old in June 2011 -
Lots of Napping may be the key to Longevity!

Friday, January 13, 2012

British White Cattle in Southeast Texas Pastures - Winter of 2012

J.West's Elvis - Having himself a lazy day in the sun . . .
Jan. 11, 2012

Lazy, I've been terribly blog lazy the past few weeks, but it's good to have some things set up and ready to post to give myself a little holiday vacation time from scratching my head about what to talk about.  Today has seen very sunny, cold and windy weather, at least compared to anything recently, and tonight it may well freeze.  I have to think the 18 plus inches of rain we've had the past couple of months, including the 3 and 7/10ths from a couple of days back, will be be of help for all the pasture plants and trees.  Did you know that the safest way for a plant in a pot to endure a freeze is to saturate the pot with water?  It actually helps protect the roots from the cold. 

I'm not sure yet just how many trees we lost in the drought, I'll wait until next spring before declaring anything for sure dead.  So if some hardwood trees that are suffering and still clinging to too many of their leaves (which means they are dead or sick) might just need the protection of wet soil to endure a freeze -- I'm mighty pleased the ground is brim full of water right now.

Limit feeding helps cut down on this sort of behavior as well!
This past summer of drought was a learning experience, but no less so has been this winter.  There have been many articles written over the past few months advising and alerting cattlemen how to manage their herds through a lean winter, and I made some changes in routine following their guidance. 

One I think that has lots of merit is limit feeding hay to your cattle.  Instead of having 24 hour access to the hay, I limit fed for several weeks, letting them in to the hay about 5PM and turning them out mid morning to eat their daily alfalfa on clean pasture.  Afterward, they would mosey around and graze a bit, nap a bit, then by about 4PM they'd begin to gather at the gate to the corral, waiting for me.  I definitely think that helped cut down hay consumption.  The premise is that some cows will just eat and eat and eat if its there, basically getting more than they need, leaving less for others who aren't so greedy. 

The other thing really hammered on by lots of the articles was the importance of adequate nutrition in that last trimester.  We all know they need to be on a good diet leading up to calving, but the problem this winter that the writers were focused on was the 'quality' of the hay being fed.  There is lots of really bad so-called 'hay' out there these days.  Even in my own very fortunate supplies of hay, I realized real quick that lots of it wasn't as good as it had been in the years past. 

So, I brought in Crystalyx mineral tubs again for the first time in a number of years.   The Crystal-Phos tubs are an excellent and reliable product, and it gives you a sense of relief having them out there, particularly through the past several weeks of lots of rain.  A dry loose mineral would have mostly been money down the drain for certain and the cows would have suffered for it I'm sure. 

J.West's El Presidente - Jan. 11 2012
The bulls on the other hand haven't seen much special treatment.  They have red mineral blocks and always the worst hay, but their daily alfalfa ration as well.  They have also begun to graze the pitiful rye grass finally coming on.  Not that I really want them to already!  But, of course I have way too many bulls on the place and they have to call some pasture home around here.  El Presidente doesn't look like he's suffering much, nor Elvis in the photo up top.  We're all getting along just fine for now (knock on wood) . . .

Friday, January 6, 2012

Shorthorn and white Park Cattle - Crossbreeding Experiment with Notable Results

Champion  White Shorthorn, A very large 19th century
bovine, or so it would appear in comparison to man and dog.

The following late 19th century account of the crossing of white Shorthorns with white Park cattle from the Chillingham herd is a very interesting read.  The heterosis from the cross was remarkable, resulting in at least a doubling of the harvest weight of the resulting steers; per some references, an almost tripling of harvest weight of a pure wild white steer. 

"This wild breed holds its own very strongly, and the first cross is not distinguishable from the pure breed in its colour or distinctive marks."  The Earl of Tankerville, ~1890, in reference to the cross breeding experiment with white Shorthorn cattle.

"The calves at birth are pure white, more creamy white afterwards, ears reddish-brown. The horns of the animals as they grow are white, with black tips; hoofs and noses black; eyes fringed with long eyelashes, which give them depth and character; bodies symmetrically formed; backs straight and level; shoulders fine, enabling them to trot like match horses with amazing rapidity. The average weights of wild (whitecattle killed from 1862 to 1889 were : bulls, 560 lbs. ; cows, 420 lbs.; and steers, 570 lbs." (Houseman, 1897)

Bruce Herald, Volume XXIV, Issue 2485, 16 June 1893, Page 4

"Our readers have heard of the famous white cattle of Chillingham, Northumberland, supposed to be the descendants of the original "Bos primigenius," but much degenerated in size, that once roamed the plains and forests of Europe in prehistoric times. There is still a herd of these cattle at Chillingham, and a recent number of the 'Agricultural Gazette' publishes a chatty and interesting article about the animals and experiments with them and thusly proceeds:

"At the Royal Show at Kilburn and again at the Smithfield Club Show in 1888 the public were much interested in the specimens of white animals which Lord Tankerville exhibited, being a cross between his own famous white wild cattle at Chillingham Park and the pure Shorthorn. In 1876 an experiment was made in putting a wild bull on four pure-bred Shorthorn heifers; only two of them bred. One produced a heifer calf (Eve), which she in her turn, never bred, and the bull (Adam), whilst running with his dam, a fine white cow, Honored Guest, got her in calf, and the produce was another bull, called Cain. At three years old this animal showed great masculine character, with extraordinary hair and flesh, though retaining some of the wild nature.
In 1884 a second experiment was made the reverse way. Two wild heifers were crossed with the white Shorthorn bull, Baron Bruce 47,387; from one of these was born, on March 20th, 1885, a white heifer called Wild Rose, and on April 13th the following year the other heifer produced a white cow calf called Wild Blossom.  Both these have since been mated with purebred white bulls from Mr. Booth's herd, Wild Rose, still breeding, having produced five calves and Wild Blossom four.
Now the second calf of Wild Rose, a heifer calved in September, 1888, called Wild Rose 2nd, has produced in her turn two bulls, which, like the rest of the male calves, have been castrated. Altogether there are to be seen in the small paddocks outside the park and adjoining the farm the two original half-bred wild cows and their ten descendants, six being females and four steers.  
On a bright winter's morning at the close of the last year the wild herd appeared remarkably quiet and well; they were lying in "happy content" on the grassy plateau to the west of Ross Castle, high up under the woods, basking in the sun. Two or three, the stragglers of the herd, got up, stretched their legs, and picked a bit here and there, but the early morning graze was finished, and a quiet hour's look at the herd from the wood showed little of their individuality. 
The herd for many years past has been numbered, and during the last five years has exceeded the usual sixty, going up to seventy three in 1890. The females ranged in the five years from thirty-five to thirty-nine, but more bulls and fewer oxen have been kept of late years.  A bull was sent in 1886, at much risk of life and limb, to the Duke of Hamilton's wild herd at Cadzow Park, near Glasgow.
Champion White Shorthorn exhibited at Smithfield, Dec. 1874
Print available from

The half-breds are kept completely apart from the wild herd, and there is rich grazing and comfortable hammels in each paddock for them. Wild Rose and Wild Blossom, both by Baron Bruce but out of different original wild cows, though each have the short legs and long, curved, upward type of horn, are deeper in their bodies than their wild ancestors, but differ in general character.

Wild Rose, with red hairy ears and dingy nose, is of broad frame and comparatively tame, though her produce inherit the wildness of her ancestors; whilst, on the contrary, Wild Blossom retains the wild type of head and horn and wild nature of her race; her hind-quarters are drooping and plain, the udder is well shaped, and she is a good milker, yet her produce are singularly tame; her third calf, a heifer, Wild Blossom 2nd by Sir Reginald Studley 58,148, was calved on January 12th, 1891, in the snow, and rarely goes under cover.  
Wild Blossom's first calf by the Rajah was calved December 3rd, 1888, and steered. It ran in the paddocks, and had, in addition, hay, a few cut turnips, and a little cake. It was killed on December 17th, 1891, and weighed 112 stone of 14 lb live weight, and dressed to 70 stone, being sold for £36 19s 6d. This is a great increase of the weight of the wild steers, as many years ago "The Druid", when writing of the Chillingham herd says, the steers always grow larger horns, and weigh from 40 to 50 stones of  14 lb in their natural state. Four steers were feeding in the paddocks during November last, and two of them would have easily carried honors in the crossbred classes at the Smithfield Show, one of them, full brother to Wild Blossom's first calf, was sold on December 12th last year for £50, he weighed alive 130 stones, and dressed 81 stones 8 1b when just three years old.  
Wild Rose 2nd by Rajah out of Wild Rose by Baron Bruce, having two crosses Shorthorn blood, is more lengthy and broader in body than her dam, the head, horns, and eye assimilating more to the shorthorn. She was served in July, but came regularly in use and was served again until November, and yet she produced a bull calf in April to the first service. The three calves by Sir Reginald Studley running with their dams were of singular merit; although shy and galloping a short distance off when approached, they were remarkably full of abundant long white hair and thick flesh, such, indeed, as would astonish the public if exhibited in our show yards."