Community, Ranch Life

When the Sun Just Keeps Shining

I didn’t physically grow up on a farm or ranch but I wasn’t too far removed from the life. We are still very rural where small talk centers on the weather and cattle or wheat prices. So now I am a rancher’s wife and the world I thought I knew is the world I am learning.


Haying season is in full swing and it very much a goldilocks situation of too much…too little…and always hoping for just right. This year the July air is dry and hot, with record-setting heat in the triple digits this last week. The evening thunderstorms roll in bringing noise and lightening but no rain will let loose from the darkened clouds. We are in a drought.

The grass in the hay fields that was once green and lush, set to grow and be harvested for cattle feed when the winter snow fell, is brown and dormant. Crops that were meant to be harvested have just failed and instead are being hayed and salvaged for cattle feed. The pastures that were meant to last the season are dry and barren and producers are creatively scrambling to find feed and grass for the cattle. Many cattle been taken down the road to the sale barn with producers hoping to make due with a smaller herd forced by this new reality. The dry and crisp grass remaining on the prairies have served as kindle to area fires.


The work still needs done… even though the grass is 1/2 to a 1/3 of the what a normal year brings it still needs to be cut, raked, and baled. The equipment still costs what it costs, the fuel to run it no less, and the breakdowns no less infrequent. My husband sleeps in the tractor waiting for the heat of the day to subside and the nightly dew to come and condition the hay. While the yield is low, there is still a need to produce the best that can be made. Too dry and the hay shatters, too wet and it molds.


I get frustrated with his long hours, inconsistencies, and no guarantee of a paycheck let alone a break even. Though hard work has its place, some days it seems you are just about as guaranteed to become bankrupt as you are to become rich at this gig. Sometimes it just comes down to the goldilocks situation…just enough demand for the product produced ensuring a strong market… good weather….no major breakdowns or expenses…and a blessing from above.


In a world we try to control, farmers and ranchers are the ultimate believers…believers in a merciful God that provides, in neighbors to help, and that their hard work will be enough. I see my husband’s heart and soul poured into a career with no guarantee, no median annual salary, no paid vacation days all with the belief that his hard work will be enough to “make it”.

When training dogs they call it “jackpotting”. The idea of giving a large amount of a reward when the desired response is done…but not every time. There has to be anticipation for that jackpot. The theory is much the same for gamblers. They sit and wait for that one “hit” of the machine. Maybe farmers and ranchers are the same. I sit and worry, ponder a future I can’t predict while the older generation talks of the good years and the not-so-great years. They all talk of the great year…the market high, when there was “just enough” of all the resources they needed. That one great year carries them thru the not so great. They ride out the bad in the hopes of averages…that when it is all said and done and the book cover closes that they will be ahead.

I know it is just part of the cycle…these farmers and ranchers are very in tune to cycles…hopeful and optimistic for the ups and patient and tolerant of the downs. I have a lot to learn from this group of folks…to look at seasons and cycles and take it as a whole not a day. These ranchers gather, arms crossed and leaning around the back of a pickup box to shoot the breeze and discuss how to make it all work when the world seems against success. Yet there is a perpettual optimism. As humans, we all want control…to make our own decisions…be in control of our own destiny…yet here is this group of farmers and ranchers so OK to accept their fate, their hand dealt.


We can’t control the weather. I can’t make those ominious clouds that come and go finally let go of any moisture. But I can live and learn, take pride in the work my family has choosen to do. I can’t speak for my husband but I know he isn’t motivated by a paycheck or pride, but with the quiet purpose of a life well lived, enjoying and sharing a legacy, with reverence for the land and its history.

 

Motherhood

Raising Kids and Dogs: The Run-Away

“I was a perfect parent until I had kids” starts many a story in my life. I laughed at the thought of baby harnesses and leashes. What type of parent needs a leash to control their kid when my Labrador can walk on a heel and has a pretty solid recall. Well apparently this parent needs one!

The little one is a runner. To be fair I raise my kids like a raise my cows….free range! The joys of farm life are the freedom to run and explore while still understanding the dangers of animals with hooves, teeth, or beaks and of the risks of large equipment with poor visibility going thru the yard, that balance of promoting exploration while wanting to swarm over them as the anxious helicopter parent.

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I admitted the problem after our family vacation. There are about 10 ways to die for every mile in Yellowstone National Park so we had some serious talks on safety.  That being said the 1 year old was determined to see just how serious we were. Every board walk required he be tightly held for fear he bolt off into certain horror. Every hike he found the “edge” of the trial and if there wasn’t an edge he tried to climb the rock walls. I turned to Amazon for options for safety harness or hand cuffs to force him be by my side…if they can deliver to middle of nowhere ND maybe I could set up a delivery for Old Faithful!

We all survived the trip (even after the little one took off after a rabbit in the camp ground like a frenzied wild hound dog!). But we had a problem.

We had successfully taught the concept of “range” and “recall” to our dogs so how hard can this be right. He is an intelligent, communicative toddler…but with a clear mind of his own desires and ambitions! We worked on emergency stops and recalls as a “game”. Turns out cheese cubes make a nice reward treat for young dogs and kids in training (Mother of the Year I know). We discussed consequences and safety as much as you can to a 1 year old.

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The farm life provides many “live and learn” lessions

Then the other day the little adventurer slipped between two corral panels just 4 inches wide, luckily into an empty corral. I found a cow halter and fashioned a leash…yup I did it! I leashed my child for his own safety! This is a problem.

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A few evenings ago we were enjoying one of those free range evenings when I thought I would test the little one. Maybe he was just testing me so I hid behind a tree while he wandered ahead. He turned his little blond head and uttered a “Mama?” realizing I wasn’t following behind. Then newly aware of his freedom, he promptly found a new gear and headed off with dust rising from his little cowboy boots to the chicken coop. How can something with such little legs be so dang fast?

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Just like we taught the new puppy to enjoy a “collar grab” in the event we need to quickly restrain him maybe we should do the same for the little one and fit him with a baby restraint handle. The final test came when we headed into town.

Town brings its own unique safety dangers…namely cars! The rules are clear…no roads, stay on grass. No bolting and stay with an adult. So of course the little one bolted. I stayed back to see if he was testing and this only resulted in my having a undeniable handicap in our race to freedom. My shoe-less feet hit the steaming hot payment and I envisioned those zen persons walking on hot coals to prove their inner peace and here I was running on hot asphalt to prove my worth or dis-worth as it was as a mother!

I envisioned the road being lined with fresh lined baking sheets and I mind over matter chased “The Bolter”. Then I hit the dry crisp brush and weeds…my feet were screaming at me so I called for help, like there may have been a shoed super hero nearby that would swoop in to collect my unruly toddler. My mind quickly surveyed for danger… a child-hating dog could soon emerge from a home, the black bird flying over was probably a hawk ready to swoop in and carry him off, and of course for CARS! Dangerous speeding cars!

I had failed as a mother as he ran faster and faster while I was perishing on our own version of parental “Survivor”. He was making a large circle and I was rounding the corner. I parked bike caught his attention and I used this distraction to gain some ground, screaming “Stop” and “No”. In hind sight when my dogs had taken off I had most luck running the opposite direction screaming “Who wants a treat?!” so apparently my mind didn’t translate that into a parental version.  Then came the broken glass part of this feet on fire motherhood walk. Why had I not had shoes on?! One must always be prepared for emergencies like a run away.

I finally swooped him up and gathered him in my arms only to have him protest, squirming and fussing. I didn’t know wether to have flames of fiery rise from my head or tears of joy that it ended with no harm. We limped back to the house and I nursed my wounded soles, pulling slivers and scraping the pieces of tar and gravel from my heels.

I had read in our dog training books no off-leash activity until your dog is solidly recalling and can be safely and reliably trusted. So back to “training” we go. My children need to be self-aware of the dangers in their world and learn to take appropriate risks. They may just be doing it with their baby harnesses securely fastened and their long-lines in tow!

Pet Care, Ranch Life

Thinking of a Pet Goat…here is why you need one!

The kiddo and I begged and begged for a goat and scoured every classified hoping to find the “one”! Seeing little utilitarian purpose for such a creature on a ranch,  the Hubby quickly and repeatedly said “No!” The Kiddo and I knew our agenda for acquiring a goat would be challenging but not impossible.


Last fall Kiddo and Hubby headed to the neighboring town to sell our lambs. They sat in the stands watching the animals go thru the sales ring. A group of good looking goats had just gone thru the ring. Then the door re-opened and in walked a little, friendly goat, matched in appearance, dark brown with black points, but half the size of the goats before her. Brad tells the story of how he saw this little goat and then and there told himself “Well, we are going home with a goat today.” He blames his “Dad Heart”.

So up went the hands as the little goat followed the ringman, bleating for attention,. Clearly she was a former bottle baby, well accustomed to people. Another person started bidding against the Kiddo and the auctioneer stopped the bidding saying “Sorry folks, this little goat is going home with that young gentleman.” At that moment, for just $30 the Kiddo acquired himself a goat.

I received the text picture with the beaming Kiddo and the Dad who clearly had thought with his heart and not his brain. The sales slip generally had a buyer number but for this little goat, the buyer number simply had my Kiddo’s name listed as the “Buyer Number”.


She has quickly become very bonded with her little person and it seems she is all our former dogs reincarnated in goat form, running with the 4-wheeler to the pastures and serving as the boys yard companion. The neighbor just chuckled, saying “Your dogs would be pissed if they knew they got replaced by a goat.”  Ella, became her name because she looked like an Eland African animal though Ella is actually an Oberhasli dairy goat. 

She is comfortable to stay in the corral, bothering the heifers or visiting the horses, until she hears her boy outside. Ella then comes running to join in his adventures.


So here are our top reasons we have and kept a goat!

  • No need to water flowers because you won’t have any. Flowers and other wonderful greenery are like salad containers for goats and what hasn’t eaten she simply ripped out roots and all.
  • Delivery man are just about as taken aback by a goat running to their truck as a barking guard dog. She assaults the delivery trucks and men with over enthusiastic greetings and nosing for granola bars they had mistakingly shared before. We have to lock her up when the Schwan’s man comes as she tries to steal his food items as he removes them from the truck.
  • Goat antics! Nothing like watching our little Ella buck and run around the yard, though I would prefer if she didn’t use our patio table as a launching pad. She can be a regular “Butthead” as the Kiddo says.


  • When the dogs have enough sense to not follow the Kiddo as he makes his 100th lap around the farm yard, she is a faithful side kick. Where the boy goes, the goat follows.

  • Maybe someday she will be the pet that gives back with milk. The hubby vows one goat is enough but the Kiddo and I have plans…shh! We may have to turn his “Dad Heart” back on for the possibility of Ella babies.
  • Fencing is only a suggestion! If nothing grabs her attentions Ella is content to follow our suggestions of where she should stay. But she generally goes when and where she pleases. Last night she slept by our open window instead of in the barn or shelter that were her other options. The Hubby immediately knew the look that had crossed my face and replied “No she can’t stay in the house at night. She is a goat!”.

  • You will finally kick your selfie habit! Ella has horns and I wish she didn’t but don’t have the heart to remove them now. That means that any close hugs near her face results in your face being in very close proximity to two very pointed and hard horns….that hurt even with mild contact. So no selfies…it isn’t worth the risk of facial trauma!


Capricious means “given to whimsy, sometimes erratic” and derives from the word “caprine”. Caprine means goat! So there you have it…goats are these little whimsical, erratic creatures that do things on their own terms. Either you love ’em or you find ’em a giant pain in the rump!

Community, Motherhood

Parade Time

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There was no raining on this parade. Though with our recent drought conditions a downpour would have likely been more celebratory than the parade itself. Yesterday we partook in our annual RoughRider Days Parade. Small town life is friendly waves and an enjoyment of days much the same as the last. But every year 4th of July brought a big celebration with rodeos, street dance, 4-H activities, fireworks, and parade.

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As was tradition, every year on that designated Saturday morning in July, we sat street side to see the local businesses parade down Villard, with hopes of filling our pockets with candy. Now I share that same tradition with my own kiddos.

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My sister and nephew. His 1st parade of many.

 

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Aunt Stephie time

 

 

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There is an excitement and nostalgia. No float is really that extravagant. The only requirement it seems is a business banner and maybe some streamers or balloons. If you have a unicycle, old car, or vintage tractor your are welcome too.

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Suckers were his favorite! He picked up each and every one!

 

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Look, more candy!

 

 

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It was quickly overflowing and they moved on to the next container.

 

For years I carried flags horse back in the parade and my sister painted her face and placed on her clown nose to take her part in the parade.  Those traditions continue.

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DSC_3939pIn the past, there was more of a celebration of our agriculture and western edge heritage. With the resurgence of oil in the area, the companies have brought prosperity and wealth to many in the area and they sponsor many local happenings. There addition to the parade demonstrates a changing time.

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It was a great Saturday enjoying our local community and celebrating with family! Happy 4th of July everyone! Anyone else take in a parade this year?

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Pet Care, Veterinary Health Topics

Pet Dental Care: Why the Resistance?

Pet dental care is so much more than white teeth and great smelling breath. 85% of dogs over the age of 3 will have some degree of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease not only leads to unsightly tarter and bad breath, but causes infection, bone loss, and chronic pain when left untreated.

Dental disease is one of the most common diagnoses in the exam room yet brushing and regular maintenance is hard. For puppies and kittens, we send home dental kits with the hopes of acclimating them to a lifetime of brushing and at-home dental care. We hope for regular, routine dental care throughout the pet’s lifetime with the intention of avoiding infection and pain and that one monumental dental experience as a senior pet where a lifetime of inattention results in dental extractions.

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How do we define neglect? What if I showed you this picture of a dog’s mouth and told you she was a puppy mill survivor forced to have a litter every year, living in a tiny cage with matted fur, with no dental care (not even a dental treat in her lifetime). Is this neglect?

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Now what if I told you these were the teeth of a very beloved 10 year old Pomeranian who lived in the lap of luxury with a well tended hair coat and wardrobe accessories. She had complete adoration and attention to all of her medical needs….except dental care. What if I told you while her owner loved her very much it was that very love that prevented her from tending to her pet’s dental issues? What if I told you her person’s fear of anesthesia forced her to live with chronic pain, infection, and rotting bone. Is it neglect now? (*For the record, this is not a client photo but some random internet PetMD image).

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There are many resistances to pet dental care. I believe strongly in the benefit of routine dental care. I have heard too many testimonials to not believe it matters to our pets quality of life. If we wait until our pets have stopped eating or cry in pain, we have simply waited too long. Remember these are animals that survive because of their ability to withstand pain and disease without drawing attention.

Your coworker may complain of a tooth abscess but still eat his lunch and show up at work day after day, just dealing with the chronic pain until one day that infection becomes so bad he lands himself at the ER with injectable antibiotics. Our pets are no different at hiding that pain.

Common Points of Resistance to Dental Care

Fear of anesthesia.

I love my pets and have those same feelings of concern and fear but I know the benefits will out way the risks. I also know that all precautions including a balanced anesthetic approach, careful and detailed monitoring with a designated trained technician, IV fluid support, thermal support, and pain control will be part of the anesthesia event to minimize risks.  I can’t take away the fear… as your veterinarian I can only assure you that we do everything in our power to minimize the risks to hopefully relieve your fears. Many owners may have had a terrible experience a decade ago. We are always striving to improve your pet’s anesthetic experience, using the newest research and medications to allow the best experience possible.

The cost.

Truth. Pet dental are is expensive, especially if we are undoing years of inattention. Personally we cap our dental estimates because we believe very strongly that the pets NEED this service. It is unfair to leave behind painful or infected teeth and wish to reward the owner taking the steps to care for their pet.

Too Young or Too Old.

I always got a little squeamish when I saw the 14 year old dog with a mouth of pus, mobile teeth, and a risk of a jaw fracture secondary to that infection knowing I needed to say the words, “Your pets needs a comprehensive dental assessment and treatment”.  It all felt like too much too late.

There were probably many years of dental recommendations and now the teeth were in desperate need of attention. Or if they new clients to us they may have heard for 5 years “Their pet was simply too old for anesthesia or dental care.” But then I treated the 12 year old dog, and then the 14 year old dog, and then the 15 year old dog or the 16 year old cat and I couldn’t deny how much better they felt afterwards.  Owners would report “I had no idea but now they feel like a puppy or kitten again!”  My oldest dental patients are usually 15-16 years of age and I love the reports of how much better life is after. “Where there risks?” “Yes” but they were calculated in the hopes the benefits would outweigh them. Does quality of life matter more than quantity?

Save all the teeth! Fear of tooth loss.

My job as your pet’s veterinarian is simple…to give him a pain free, disease free mouth so it is a disservice to leave any compromised or infected teeth behind just to “save a tooth”. The reality is these teeth are worthless and most pets eat better without them. Also pets use their teeth very differently than we do. They have fewer molars and don’t do a lot of “grinding” and since we don’t make them hunt for their food, many don’t slow down a bit with eating or playing even when we take every single tooth. For those worried about how their pet could possibly eat without the teeth, many actually eat much better without mobile or painful infected teeth.

But do they really need it or is this just some great upsale?

I am not a sales person but I do have a passion for dental care. There are too many times to count when a tooth “looked” just fine and the pet didn’t complain only to find a problem and have the pet feel so much better. I tell clients “Our pets can’t tell us where it hurts so it is my job is to find the problem and fix it.” An exam under anesthesia and with dental radiographs tells the story. Just like eat food and brush everyday we are still advised to have our teeth cleaned regularly. Relying on just eating a kibble or dental chews is often not enough.

Some breeds are very prone to developing dental disease (smushy faced breeds, smaller or toy breeds, those with crowding). Researching the breed and preparing for the dental care necessary in the pet’ s lifetime is big step in responsible pet ownership.

So here is my big secret…I don’t brush everyone of my pet’s teeth every SINGLE day. I barely get my kids to brush the necessary times per day. I try! Regular dental assessments, cleanings, and appropriate treatment are a priority though. We are all human, just doing the best we can for those we love and care about, including our pets!

If your pet has had a dental treatment recommended and you have stalled, resisted, or just ignored the recommendation I urge you to really think about the reason why. As a veterinarian, it is my job to help pets and their owners enjoy a great quality of life and effective communication must be part of the equation. Don’t hide those fears or concerns! Tell us and we may have ideas or solutions to those hurdles holding you back from getting those teeth the attention they need. 

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Source: Making the Case for Dentistry. Paul Q. Mitchell, DVM, DAVDC

Pet Care, Veterinary Health Topics

Pet Health Insurance… Is it worth it for you and your pet?

I was in veterinary school when I acquired my first pet as an actual adult, a little Chocolate Lab puppy. Then I quickly learned as a I went thru my veterinary school courses of all the things that could go wrong or accidents that could happen in this puppy’s lifetime. Then I became a hypochondriac and with each new disease I learned about, I was convinced my dog had “IT”. Gagged once= probably Physaloptera sp. esophageal worms. My mind was frantically planning for the esophageal endoscopy. When he misstepped across the yard my mind rushed to the diagnosis of debilitating hip dysplasia that would certainly need a total hip replacement. The good news is he coming 11 years old now and really hasn’t had all those rare and not so rare diseases I had learned of.

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I also learned there were more and more options for my pet’s health care and with those options and expertise came expense. Pet health care is expensive.  This puppy was family and if needed care to save his life or give him the best quality of life I wanted to have that option, even though my pocket book as veterinary student was pretty devoid of means of doing so. I remember the dogs I had growing up and the extent of their veterinary care and expense. We hauled them to City Hall once a year for “shots” and treated the random ear infection or rash. Veterinary medicine had changed a bit since.

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“The times they are a changing!” Courtesy The Animal Pet Doctor

 

We were active in DockDogs, a community of dog competitors and athletes and Embrace Pet Insurance was offered at a discount to participants and many raved about the benefits of health insurance so I signed up. When clients ask me about whether insurance would be a good idea also my single biggest question is:

“If money were no object, what would you do for your pet?”

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My former canine athlete Brody

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Brody loved this activity but as a vet student I saw a ruptured cruciate, iliopsoas injury, or fracture, etc just waiting to happen!

In veterinary school I learned about the many advanced care options available including imaging, cancer treatment, critical care/ICU stays, or complex surgical or dental procedures. These wonderful options could quickly deflate a savings account. Not to mention the pets we treated with chronic illnesses such as allergies, where the costs added up more slowly but steadily. If money was no object, would I want these options for my pet? The answer was “Yes!”.

“Could I have set aside funds every month for the emergency or severe illness I dreaded?” Sure.

But I also knew care could be in the thousands. At $20-30/month my pet was covered for the worst…which could cost thousands of dollars. At that same rate of savings it would take my 150 months, or 12.5 years to save $3000 as an emergency fund. I could have played the odds that my pets would be healthy and have no issues in their lifetime but as a veterinarian I knew the reality. Over 50% of dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer. And how many puppy owners I saw that had just dropped down a sum of money for their new pup, collar, kennel, and food only to struggle to find the $1000 it would need when that same clumsy puppy tripped up the stairs and broke its leg.

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I have sat with clients that had no money but had all the want and willingness to help their pets and there is NO worse feeling. I have worked for free, had the pets relinquished, or found resources or rescue groups to help but there are only so many dollars available. No one expects bad things to happen to them and so that is where insurance may be worth the money.

So I got pet health insurance and paid my monthly premium and thought about the money I was “wasting” and how I should be investing it in retirement. We had actually talked about dropping it. Why would a vet have health insurance…it seemed most things to fix where within our budget and manageable.

Then I felt a firm boney mass near my soul-dog’s ear, arising from his skull. My Newfoundland had bone cancer. As a veterinarian I knew I could do nothing and he would be gone in months or I could seek care and hope for better. There were just a few places that offered the treatment options we needed, including Flint Animal Cancer Center in Fort Collins, CO. So we loaded up as a family including my 2 week old newborn and traveled for stereotactic radiation.

The price tag was about ~$10,000. No way, no how could I have justified that expense with the costs of a newborn, student loans, and life. I would have been limited to the option of pain meds and waiting. But my Embrace Plan, the same one I had contemplated cancelling months before, paid 90%.

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His CT Scan showing the boney tumor…osteosarcoma
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Computer-generated 3-D Model for use in radiation treatment planning

$10,000 may be crazy to spend on a dog…any dog… soul mate or otherwise but I figured a bargin compared to the cost of that same technology applied in human health care. When owners complain about the costs of veterinary care being more than human health care it highlights the misunderstanding. The same supplies, drugs, education, equipment sits in our veterinary hospitals but as pet owners we pay out of pocket and feel every single penny leave our wallet. I have received statements and bills from hospitals and half the time I have no idea what was charged to the insurance company (in my mind it reads: $40 million dollar IV catheter. You own $1.47! So someone, somewhere paid or negotiated the difference).

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The medical equipment used to deliver steriotactic radiation therapy

Then Piper, our beloved GSP, developed Congestive Heart Failure. Echocardiograms and monitoring were doable without the worry of cost. I had considered stem cell treatment for her shoulder arthritis and had the $2000 cost approved through insurance before her heart condition worsened. Then that same puppy I acquired in vet school now with a gray face and aging body, developed a limp. I had done rads after rads with radiologists reviewing and though I suspected elbow arthritis, never got the answer I needed. A visit to Colorado State University and a CT scan provided the answer I needed to know.

So when we got a new puppy that was learning how to explore the world with its toxins and hazards and how to use its limbs without falling or tripping, it made complete sense he needed health insurance too. I couldn’t stomach the thought of not being able to offer him the care I knew was available just because money was the limiting factor.

Houses, boats, and cars…well they all have a set insurable value. But pets their value is determined by our connection to them. For some they may be totally replaceable but not in my world.

It may come down to priorities…what do you want to spend your hard earned dollars on. I value health care and realize the options and associated expense that comes with it. My pets are family and I want the best for them. I just don’t have unlimited funds to do that so insurance has helped offset the financial strain.

In addition to the question of “What is your pet worth to you?” I would consider “Are the odds in your favor?”.

The reality is certain breeds are more prone to medical issues such as cancer or orthopedic disease. General higher risk breeds may include the giant breeds such as the Newfoundland, Great Dane, or Mastiff and also Bulldogs (I once saw a bumper sticker that read “Support your veterinarian. Buy a Bulldog” and perhaps there is some truth in that).

Is your pet’s lifestyle such that an injury like a broken bone or athletic injury more likely to occur? This could include the canine athlete or working dog (hunting, ranch dog, or competitive dog) or the dog that runs at the family farm (with its associated risks of livestock, 4-wheelers/Quads, toxin, etc) on the weekends. Then insurance may be worth it.

No one gets home insurance planning for the day it burns but the reality is insurance is there if the worst should happen. Pet health insurance is largely designed to cover your pet’s accident and disease, not wellness care. 

There are several insurance options and resources to fit your unique needs and budget. The following companies are consistently well rated and recommended (Insurance Comparisons) : PetsBest, PetPlan, Embrace, and Healthy Paws.

My General Considerations are:

1) Does the policy cover hereditary or congenital diseases? If you have a Lab and they don’t cover cruciate disease surgery your plan won’t be very helpful to you. Research the diseases  must likely to affect your pet’s breed and read the fine print to ensure you are covered.

2) How are pre-existing conditions handled? This is still the world of insurance so if you pet has developed a disease such as allergies or hip dysplasia prior to acquiring your plan prepare for limitations in your coverage of the condition. The best way to get around pre-existing conditions is to get insurance early in your pet’s life.

3) What are the limits and deductible? Like all insurances, a higher deductible will mean a lower monthly premium. I personally have a higher deductible with the idea that my plan covers for the big and major. Some have no annual limits, others might.

4) How much and what do you want covered? Are prescription drugs covered? If you have an athletic dog such as a hunting dog which may be prone to injury you may want to make sure rehab services are covered.  You may need to tailor your plan if you wish to have routine vet care (vaccines, dental cleanings, heartworm testing, etc) covered.

5)How do they pay out? I prefer they pay a portion of my bill and not a set amount for the condition. Costs vary from location to location and this ensures I am not having to price shop. Most plans can be tailored to cover anywhere from 70-90+% of the treatment costs.

Pet health insurance isn’t for everyone. Only a small percent of the millions of pets in this country are insured but I am glad for the option and how it helped my family make decisions based on medicine and not money. Could my pet’s go their lifetime and I never get my money back? “Sure”. But their policy could also prevent heartbreak if the worst does happen.

Some additional resources:

2017 Canine Journal’s Top 3 Comparison

Pet Insurance as the Latest Work Perk

Consumer Reports: Is Pet Insurance Worth It?

Motherhood

Top Reasons RVing with Kiddos Rocks!

My RV Cowboys

I had long dreamed of an RV adventure and it remained at the top of my Bucket List. We typically do an annual vacation to the Black Hills but Hubby had suggested we head to Yellowstone. Imagine my joy when he agreed to renting an RV.

Leaving the hotel…final day living out of and hauling luggage

As RV and really any sort of camper virgins, there were some worries but  really this trip has been a dream and here is why:

1. Kitchen and snack drawer on wheels. No one likes a hangry kiddo or adult for that matter. Eating out with kids while pleasant in my imagination usually involves waiting too long to decide to eat, then suffering through the finding of a restaurant and “The Wait”. I really am trying to raise decent human beings but whether it is 30 seconds or 30 minutes until the hangry kids get their food that time is usually among the most stressful of my life with desperate distractions of crackers, color crayons, or people watching. The joy of just pulling over for a snack or meal without worry of destroying someone else’s dinner plans…amazing! One afternoon we had broccoli cheese soup and sandwiches while watching a fox catch mice. Best lunch entertainment around.

2. Immediate bathroom access. The reality hit when I passed a long line of poor full-bladdered people. Do you know how much time is spent finding a rest room, standing impatiently in line, and peeing…. a lot. And one of mine is still in diapers so that is hit or miss if their is a changing area.

3. Keeping a routine.  When staying at single hotel it isn’t so bad but the packing, unpacking, and new sleeping arrangements of hotel room hoping made for some stress in the past. Not in an RV. Unpack once and enjoy a routine of consistency.

4. No need to pack a 72 pound diaper bag anticipating the variety of weather patterns you may encounter and then potential for dirt and spills! Especially in Yellowstone where the weather is variable, it has proved invaluable to have all our clothes within arms reach.

Big Windows. Big Views. Happy Kid. 

 

 

5. Travel entertainment. The kids stayed buckled but bigger windows and a table to sit by meant more opportunity for wildlife viewing and table top activities. RVs mean lots of room to spread out and enjoy some travel games, coloring, and activities.

 

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Completing his Junior Ranger Booklet as we saw wildlife

6. See more. Do more. Especially for a big park like Yellowstone this allowed us to go with less concern of keeping within distance of our hotel. If the kiddos were needing a break we simply pulled over and often enjoyed a great view or short hike for the kiddo still in good spirits.  A cranky kiddo at the museum meant one of us headed out to the RV for a quick nap while the other continued to get some sights in. Historically, with a hotel experience that meant heading back to rest and re-coop, then loosing any motivation to venture out again. With a hotel, we usually  planned a single big daily outing to factor in grumpy or down time.

 

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A suctioned shower container made a great binoculars holder. They were in ready reach and didn’t get lost.

 

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More shower containers held cows, crayons, fruit snacks, and whatever needed to be in easy reach of the kiddos.


CONS

 

1. The biggest con is the RV parks and camping arrangements.  I haven’t had “neighbors” or lived in a “town” in a while.  Due to our shorter notice and Yellowstone’s popularity, the reservable camp sites were full. The RV parks are quite nice but still leave you feeling a little too close to your neighbors and very suburb-y.  I soon realized I can never move back to town with the manicured postage stamp shaped yards and neighbors within view.

My kiddos are semi-feral, free range sorts who spend most days semi-dressed, with no concern of their decibel level, and more awareness of staying out of the corral than a street. So it was a bit of a lesson for my country bumpkins! But riding their bikes on actual paved roads proved novel and fun.

The exception was the Cody WY KOA. While “neighborly” there was some breathing room and it didn’t feel so rectangle lot suburb. Plus there was a ton for the kids to do, including a pool and giant jump thing, so they loved it.
2.  Another con… hot showers. The RV water heater was a waste of propane and only served to heat the water to just above chilled! After our community shower episode where I probably mooned a nice retired couple while struggling to keep the kiddos from reverting to their feral naked states, I thought kiddo camper showers were the answer. Nope!

3. Safety. In my research, many argued traveling with kids in a RV was unsafe due to non-secured items and seat belt arrangements. We had an initial strawberry fiasco where a carton of strawberries shot out of the unsecured refrigerator when the refrigerator wasn’t properly latched on take-off.

Overall, our maiden RV voyage was a wild success and may have sparked the “bug”. The kids loved it and small home living wasn’t all that bad.