Bailey’s Boot Camp for Dogs – Timid Puppy – Day 3

puppy puppy

The timid puppy is getting less timid all the time, but the confidence- building exercises continue. At times (like at the farm store yesterday) older dogs can come in handy.

One thing that builds confidence in puppies, especially the toy and miniature breeds (because people tend to coddle and carry them everywhere) is to allow them to walk on their own four feet, and solve problems in their own way.

As example, this puppy did not want to walk up or down the stairs. We fixed this today by allowing my two chihuahuas to show her how it’s done. Here, Jack Johnson provides an example on how to descend. This is the puppy’s third attempt to go down stairs.

Meanwhile, teaching of simple tricks can help the puppy “learn to learn”. Food luring comes in handy for young puppies, as it is the genesis of hand signals. This puppy learns to turn in a simple circle by luring with a treat. The hand acts like a magnet that guides the puppy around.

Eventually, the hand luring is faded into a smaller gesture, and the puppy hopefully has the idea. The food will eventually be faded altogether, and the hand cue can be replaced with a verbal cue.

During these exercises, there will be an increase in focus as the dog watches for the cue. I haven’t been using the clicker because I am having trouble handling the camera and a clicker simultaneously. I am using verbal praise. It really doesn’t matter what I say, since the tone of my voice encourages the pup and she’s getting the food at the end of the behavior.

I will be able to fine-tune this trick with a clicker eventually as it offers a lot more precision for the reinforcement. So I can add perks like having her stay on her hind legs while performing this pirouette, or a sit at the end.


For more info on training puppies, check out my book, 25 Ways to Raise a Great Puppy.

25 Ways

Posted in clicker training, dog, dogs, empathy, puppy, training | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bailey’s Boot Camp for Dogs – Timid Puppy – Day 2

I’ve always said that people with Golden Retrievers don’t know how easy they have it. These dogs train themselves. Poodles are pretty much the same. I would imagine that a cross between the two would be heaven for a behaviorist.

This puppy is 3 quarters miniature poodle and 1/4 Golden. She’s about eight pounds now and I expect may double that.

She has begun to reveal a playful and lively nature, and is as sweet and cooperative as her breeding suggests.


Today she overcame the dodging habit although she still has a tendency to back or scramble away when approached. However, she will come to me now when I put my hand down.

We went to the feed store and I bought her a harness and tried that on her. My intent was to walk her into the store, as she had followed me around the house and yard consistently.

But the harness proved to be a big deal. She just planted all four feet. Rather than carry her, or drag her around the store, I employed the help of Til, my border collie.

Sure enough, the prospect of going with another leashed dog did the trick. We walked up and down the store aisles and she had no objection of trotting along with us. She allowed petting by various people and earned a couple of cookies.

Now that she has experienced this, with Til’s help, in the future when she goes alone she will handle it much better.

I am getting the basic socializing and harness/leash stuff out of the way before I start getting too serious about house training and teaching basic obedience or tricks. These first days, I am just letting her be a dog, letting her see that it’s all okay and she is safe.

I wish that more people understood the importance of getting small puppies out of the house. It is so easy to prevent future problems with leash pulling and coming when called. You can prevent dog bites and dog fighting this way. Make the commitment to take your dog out of the house every single day. Have him ride in the car in his crate, every day. Do a leash walk every day. Have him meet three new people a day. Take him through automatic doors and on tile and wood floors and concrete. Take him on stairs and in elevators. Until he is four months old, work hard at it, and you will save yourself so much trouble in the years to come.

25 Ways

Posted in clicker training, dog, dogs, empathy, puppy, training | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bailey’s Boot Camp for Dogs – Timid Puppy

It’s puppy season! It’s a busy time for those of us who train puppies, rescue and foster puppies, or who are breeders planning that next litter.

Timid puppies can grow up to be serious problem dogs. They have a tremendous propensity to bite, usually a reactive behavior due to fears and insecurity. Fortunately, timidity in a young puppy is super easy to fix.

mup mup.jpg

I was given this mini Golden doodle to keep for ten days or so and house train. Unfortunately for the new owners, this puppy likes to race and dodge just out of reach. She doesn’t want to allow herself to be caught.

Rather than just fix it, I decided to journal the process so that others who have similar issues can see some solutions.

  1. First of all, I do not free feed these puppies. I make sure that every bite of food is earned. I carry delicious treats with me when I work with them. A hungry dog is a motivated dog: Use it!

When a puppy is dodgy like this I kind of ignore it for the most part. I don’t do a lot of talking, wheedling or coaxing. I never say the dog’s name. Name recognition is taught as a separate exercise at a later time. A lot of talk is certain death! It is a sure way to condition the dog to ignore your voice.

I just sit calmly and tap the ground with my fingers. As long as the hand is lower than chin level, the puppy feels confident enough to mince toward me.

Naturally, these exercises all have to be performed within a safe and enclosed area. This puppy is very social with other dogs, so her contact with my dogs will be kept to a minimum. I want her to become people-social.

We started off on enclosed deck with solid floor so there would be little distraction. Puppy is pretty hungry.

2) Puppy did so well that I moved her into an area with more stimulus. She is starting to experiment with biting my hand in a play mode. Mostly what she is doing is sucking on my fingers. I am armed with delicious bits of chicken. I haven’t started clicker training yet.

She is very wiggly and excited.

3)  Once we had established a little bond, I started teaching her what the clicker means. This is the first stage of what I call Attention Training.

I click when the puppy makes eye contact or at least looks up toward my face.

This is outlined in my booklet, 25 Ways To Raise a Great Puppy.

4) Our last exercise of the day was to take a walk.

There is a big, enclosed field in the back of the property. Puppies have a strong instinct to follow. So I walk pretty fast and it becomes her job to run to keep up with me. I don’t call her or talk to her or say her name. I just keep moving. Since she is timid, I become the security object and when I stop moving she will sit on my feet.

I can occasionally bend down and give her a treat, and reinforce her for sticking with me. But most puppies at the age of under four months will do this naturally.

Off-leash walking is a tremendous opportunity to instill this “following” mechanism in a dog’s brain. Beginning this type of walking early on can create a dog that will always stay with you, even off leash, who comes when you call, who can be trusted in all situations.

For more information on puppy training, check out my book, 25 Ways To Raise a Great Puppy.

For more information on clicker training, check out 15 Rules for Clicker Training Your Dog.

Posted in clicker training, dog, dogs, empathy, training | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Book Sale! The North Side of Down – Excerpt

The true story of two sisters, one with Down syndrome, the misfits in a large, dysfunctional family. When their father dies, the two sisters find their lives quickly unraveling.

The North Side of Down is winner of the 2015 Medallion from the Book Reader’s Appreciation Group.

This work of nonfiction sells for $17, but this week you can get it for under $10.

Order directly through the publisher: and enter this discount code:
for a whopping $8.00 off the $17.95 list price.
Our lowest price ever!
Sale ends Friday!

North with BRAG


Polly was Dad’s red-headed niece, and one of his life’s greatest darlings.  She had a perpetual smile that squeezed her eyes into happy slits.  Her hair was a mass of tight curls and she kept it barely contained by pinning it up over her ears.  Her home had always been open to Mom and Dad and Amanda.  Nearly every trip to the Soo, whether it was for groceries, or doctor visits, or any type of business, involved a stop for coffee at Polly’s.  We parked in the alley behind her house and a walked through the yard to her back door, into the homey kitchen peppered with photos of grandchildren. She greeted us with a big grin, and hugs all around.  “How are you, Amanda?  You want some coffee?”

“I’m fine!” Amanda said.  “Yes please!”

Dad sat down and stammered, “I’ve been to – to the doctor.”

“Yes, what did you find out?” Polly was turning away from the counter with a steaming mug, and she set it down in front of Dad.

“They said I have lung cancer.” It was the first time I had heard him say the words, and he gasped, a sharp breath after they came out.  Tears suddenly began streaming down his face.  I felt a cold, stabbing pain go through me; an awful helplessness.

“Oh, I’m so sorry.” Polly’s eyes immediately flooded.  She came over and quickly embraced him.  “Well, we don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”

Dad took a napkin from her little ceramic holder on the table, and mopped at his face.  He looked calmer, I thought.  As I sat down at her table, I marveled at this woman’s ability to say just the right thing, to offer so much comfort in so few words.

She turned again, with a cup for Amanda, and I saw that her face was reddened, but she was maintaining an anguished smile.  Amanda was steadfast as usual, but her eyes leapt from face to face, assessing every reaction.

Polly cradled her mug, sat down and talked about her grandchildren, and how everyone was spending the fall, and how the little ones were doing in school.  She talked about how Frank would stop in now and then with her favorite donuts from Cedarville.  “They’re just the best.”  She nodded to Amanda. “They have that crispy little edge, eh?  I can’t get enough of ‘em.  It’s a good thing they make ‘em a half hour away or I’d weigh 300 pounds!”

Dad and Amanda laughed.  While I watched, they both relaxed visibly as Polly chatted on about how lawn mowing was over for the season, and how Frank’s grandson was doing in basketball, and how she had seen a late flock of geese flying south, finally, and wasn’t it strange that fall had been so late in coming, this year and last.  She talked about her childhood days on Lime Island with her sisters Bonnie and Maxine, and Dad absorbed this like one who has waited all day for a drink of water.

When we left there and I loaded Dad’s oxygen tank back into the car, I reflected on the gifts of a person who asks for nothing, who has no agenda, who merely offers companionship through small anecdotes.  This, I thought, was heroism in its simplest form.  I thought that anyone should be able to do this.  I thought Polly had the right idea.  There was so much comfort in little things; in normalcy.  It was a good example for me to follow.  Driving past the brown fields and naked trees, we were all feeling grim.  I knew attitude could make all the difference and I was firm in my resolution to meet this head-on.  With this in mind, Amanda and I continued our bickering.

“Way to slop up the coffee, there, Java Sucker,” I said.

Dad laughed.

“You should tell Nancy to stop teasing me, Dad,” Amanda said.

“You should give Amanda a spanking, Dad,” I said.

“You should pull her hair, Dad,” Amanda said.

“You should pop out her eyeballs, Dad.”

“You should run over her with the car, Dad,” Amanda said.

Dad had his customary smile and delivered his line, right on cue.  “You two get along.”

Perhaps as a result of our determination to maintain some semblance of normalcy, Dad was able to recover his sense of humor.  He was trying hard, I thought.  I remembered when he had his biopsy, we had waited an excruciating four hours in radiology pre-op.  I thought we might never get out of that room.  Eventually, we noticed a Black and Decker power drill sitting on a desk in the corner.  Dad nudged me, nodding toward it.  “I hope they’re not gonna operate on me with that!”

Posted in amanda, books, down syndrome, empathy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Nerdy Talk About Horse Tricks

Horse tricks are fun, but they have seriously helpful applications.

(As an aside, first of all, I found out too late today that in order to get a proper video, I have to turn my new phone, which I call the Monolith, sideways. Oh well.)

Today I worked with my six year old Morgan, Kerry 7th Gen, on some stuff that I have been developing for awhile.

The important thing about tricks is that it teaches the horse to focus. A well-educated horse will become less reactive, by concentrating on the task at hand. The more a horse learns to learn, the more he is up in his brain and able to disregard stimulus that would otherwise be scary.

But reaching that educated point takes a lot of work. Here is an example of a completely distracted Kerry 7th Gen. He is looking across the street and although he is staying in position as I have asked, he is completely ignoring every other cue.

This is an example of how JR, as we call him, has a long way to go before he “graduates” to a higher level of expectations. By diverting his attention back to me, I am able to get him to perform the trick. Here he breaks the stay, but he responds honestly when I ask him to stop, and when reminded, he picks the whip up.


Clifford was watching the training and giving me little reminding nickers that he would perform each trick exactly as he was supposed to.

So, after Jr’s session was over and he was put back out to pasture, I went to Clifford and let him earn a couple of apple wafers.

Did you see how I handed him that apple wafer? It was supposed to be on my flat palm. My bad.

Clifford was too nervous to mimic aggression with the more dominant JR standing right next to him. So, I cut him some slack.


Posted in clicker training, Clifford, empathy, horse, horses, training, tricks | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Clifford Rocks the Charlotte Library

Clifford played host to some 60 little kids this morning in Charlotte Community Library. Director Sally L. Seifert, the Children’s and Young Adult Librarian, had seen to it that the place was set up to my specifications: Plenty of room for Clifford to move around, a big table for him to paint on, and a strip of masking tape along the floor as a visual boundary, for the kids to keep their toes back.

Clifford Charlotte Library 2017.jpg

He walked around and did his usual meet-and-greet, singling out a few particular kids with extra attention, maybe blowing in their hair or doing his fake side-swipe nipping motion. He was greeted with screams and laughter.

This crowd was pretty young; most of the kids were under ten years old. We talked about animals and what they like to eat. Clifford answered a lot of questions about his thoughts on the matter. “Do you want a peppermint? Do you want it now, or wait til we get home?”

Clifford Charlotte Library 2017a

He performed some tricks and then painted pictures and signed some copies of his biography, Clifford of Drummond Island.

We finished the program with the usual: A long lineup of posed photos!

This may have been the first time many of the kids had an opportunity to handle a full-sized horse, all by themselves.

We hope to spread the message that animals are sentient beings with likes and dislikes and thoughts of their own, especially about when they should have a snack!

Big THANK YOU to Charlotte Library for having us!

Clifford Charlotte Library 2017b

Clifford Charlotte Library 2017d.jpg

Clifford Charlotte Library 2017g.jpg

Clifford Charlotte Library 2017h.jpg

Clifford Charlotte Library 2017f



Posted in Clifford, empathy, horse, horses, morgan, therapy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Alternative Facts — The Guardianship Takeover

There is a rumor floating around that I am trying to “take over” Amanda’s guardianship.

One of the biggest problems within this family is the constant spreading of “alternative facts.”

However, you need to get your information straight. It’s not really that complicated. I am sure if you concentrate, you will begin to comprehend the difference.

I have never applied for guardianship.

I have petitioned the court, 3 times now, to AMEND the current guardianship to give Amanda more control over her life.

You have labeled yourselves as “victims.”

You are not “victims.” You are all able-bodied adults.

The only “victim” here is Amanda. She is being victimized by the system, and by her current guardian.


My goal was to change Amanda’s guardianship situation to one of “supported decision-making.”

This would enable Amanda to call and visit her family members without being used as a pawn in someone else’s agenda. That’s right, people! I said, “family members.” Not just me. That means that you too could benefit from this amendment! She would be free to maintain her own relationships, as she has done for 43 years. There is no reason for her to be censored, monitored, shadowed and harassed.

This would also mean that she could call someone for help or to come and pick her up, should she, say, get stuck with some sibling who is behaving badly.

Furthermore, whether her case moves to Arizona or not doesn’t make any difference. Amanda is still entitled to basic human rights no matter where she lives. She may actually be treated better in Arizona courts than she was here. For that, I would be grateful. For the record, I did not object to this transfer when I was asked about it on May 2.

In my petitions I have asked to have the ALTERNATE guardian removed and replaced by myself, which was Amanda’s wish. This is due to past abuse of Amanda by the alternate guardian, which includes but is not limited to threatening her with a foster home, disabling her TV, threatening her physically, yelling, isolating her, involving the police and forcing them to interview her about a day she went to the movies with me, commandeering her finances, and other crazy, dangerous and frightening behaviors.

I have not attempted to replace or remove the PLENARY guardian. (Plenary is a big word, but it means “numero uno” or “primary” guardian.)

This is despite a whole host of issues including, but not limited to, cutting Amanda off and not allowing her to contact her family members for a period of nine months, or visit them on extended trips, despite the fact that she wanted to go and she was welcome.

It saddens me that the plenary guardian has gotten sucked into these same techniques employed by his siblings. But I cannot reverse his descent into that realm. Therefore, as he suggested, my only other option has been to petition the courts.

Remember that when you go low, Amanda and I go high. Our award-winning book, “The North Side of Down” is a pretty good example of what happens when facts need to be clarified. There is documentation to back our facts. Documentation is another big word. It means “written proof.”

North with BRAG

My petitions have been denied all three times, each without the court ever allowing Amanda one word of opinion on the matter.

I just want to clarify this again. If you look at the court documents you can see for yourself how the forms are filled out. You should have been mailed your own copy. (An X or check mark in a box indicates what the petition is about.)

I want it to go on record that, while I do not approve of the way Amanda is being treated, I have NOT EVER filed for guardianship of Amanda.


Thanks so much for your fervent concern over the welfare of our sister, Amanda, and me.

I am grateful for the sudden interest in her — since before the death of her parents, she wasn’t the topic of much focus and had plenty of free time to hang out with me. No conflicts then!

Oh, and I am sure you are merely overlooking everything I have done for every one of you. This includes lending you money, shelter, food, clothing, moral support, expensive gifts, and not to mention the years of care and effort I put into my mom and dad and Amanda. But this is probably just an oversight on your part, and the spirit of gratitude actually prevails.

So, you’re welcome.

In the meantime, if you get any more court documents, you should probably look em over and see what boxes are checked before jumping to conclusions. If you can’t understand the documents, might want to run them past the county clerk — or even a grocery store clerk, or maybe even a homeless person on a corner somewhere — and have them explain it to you.

Take care.

Posted in empathy | Leave a comment

Down Syndrome, Guardianship and the Justice System

Down syndrome, formerly called “Mongolian Idiocy” was named for a physician who described the condition in the 1860’s, Dr. John Langdon Down.

He wrote:

The Mongolian type of idiocy occurs in more than ten per cent of the cases which are presented to me. They are always congenital idiots and never result from accidents after uterine life. They are, for the most part instances of degeneracy arising from tuberculosis in the parents. They have considerable power of imitation, even bordering on being mimics. They are humorous and a lively sense of the ridiculous often colours their mimicry. This faculty of imitation can be cultivated to a very great extent and a practical direction given to the results obtained. They are usually able to speak; the speech is thick and indistinct, but may be improved very greatly by a well directed scheme of tongue gymnastics. The co-ordinating faculty is abnormal, but not so defective that it cannot be strengthened. By systemic training, considerable manipulative power may be obtained.

It’s ironic that the guy’s name was “Down”, and perhaps unfortunate that it wasn’t something like, “John Langdon Self-Empowerment” or as Mark Leach pointed out in his 2013 article, “Dr. Awesome.”

john langdon Down.jpg

A person with Down syndrome is certainly the lowest priority in the justice system.

Yesterday was the second hearing allowed me in the attempt to talk to my sister, Amanda. She was being prevented from contacting me through her guardian, our (much) older brother.

For the first time in our lives, Amanda and I went nine months without being allowed to talk!

This was due to a tantrum on the part of her guardian, who was angry because I had the nerve to speak up in protest that he wouldn’t let her visit me in summer 2016 while she was in Michigan for two months.

Because a state of normalcy is just too much to ask.

“I’m the guardian, not you,” he said. “Don’t continue with your old self. Turn over a new leaf.”

After all, I am not one of the Chosen. Not a white gazillionaire with expensive toys and designer clothes and pricey vacations.  Not a rich business owner or trophy wife raising offspring to a life of privilege. Not an avid church member who can rattle off a verse including the source and number. Not a towel-snapping, booze guzzling quipster. Just a struggling artist, visiting schools with an aging horse, choosing my dogs and the woods over family gatherings. (Every time.)

As my ex husband pointed out, I am a nothing. He is an engineer.

But I am Amanda’s blood sister.

Rather than understanding how important this relationship is for Amanda, and prioritizing her needs, he decided to prove a point. After all, Amanda would be just fine without talking to me, right? She doesn’t really “need” to talk to me.


The guardian does not have the perception to see how much suffering he is causing to the stoic individual who lives in his house; who will not, or cannot, tell him how she feels. The guardian does not see the pain, the never-ending cycle of worry he is causing to me or a host of other people in a community who loves Amanda. He merely feeds into the gleeful, self-righteous hatred ignited by a pack of rabid siblings. He is buoyed by their sickness. Hailed as their hero, he either doesn’t understand how he fails miserably in the reality of Amanda, or he simply doesn’t care.

Speaking of idiocy…

And here begins the distortion of what is plainly true, and right, and fair.

First of all, again, Amanda was not present at her own hearing. The judge did not agree to meet with her privately. This time, she wasn’t even in the state of Michigan. I do not understand how a hearing to benefit a person with a disability can be conducted in this manner.

This is the area where the justice system rules: the veiling of facts, the pretend innocence, “who, me?”  The bag of tricks used as a means to an end, rather than upholding what is reality. I believe this is known as gaslighting.

For instance, during the hearing, Amanda’s court appointed attorney asked me, “Did you give Amanda your phone number? Did you write it down for her?”

Since yes or no answers are all that is permitted,  uhm, yes. Of course.

“Did you give her your address?”


So, the point is, if Amanda wanted to contact me, she would. And this is the person who is supposed to be ADVOCATING for her!!

This is the tapdance that will drive an honest person to the farthest reaches of frustration.

We are all advised to attempt to reach agreement with the guardian rather than go to court. And that is sound advice, because the courts will not help a person who has Down syndrome. However, when the guardian refuses to cooperate in a year’s time, then what?

This judge did note that the original order for Amanda’s guardianship included the stipulation that she be allowed to contact family “through phone and internet”. Therefore, he saw no need to amend the guardianship. However, he did not give instructions as to how one is supposed to enforce this stipulation.

I had been blocked from calling Amanda, but the guardian’s attorney told me that I could use the house phone. I asked her for the number. I called the house phone and left a voice mail. Thankfully, Amanda did call me back.

Of course, the helicopter guardian was still hovering around in the background, making sure she didn’t tell me anything they didn’t want me to know. She could not speak freely. I could hear in her voice how stressful that was for her.

And yet, by all accounts, she is just fine. And I did get to talk to her. So what am I complaining about?

And, with the skillful gaslighting technique, the guardian will turn this around and claim that talking to me is stressful for her… Anything rather than admit that he and his wife have done, and continue to do, a terrible wrong.

I am somehow supposed to be grateful for this B.S. and happy that it happened. Well, now I do know she is still alive. I know she has received at least some of my mail, and the gifts I have sent. But she has still sent me furtive messages, asking me not to give up on her.

To know anything about Amanda’s well-being, under these circumstances, is impossible.

This guardian should own up to his mistake. He should admit to wrongdoing on the part of Amanda and me. He should apologize to Amanda, to me, and in fact, everyone who truly cares about her. This will be the first step in healing. Until then, healing is not possible.


Posted in abuse, amanda, down syndrome, empathy, guardianship | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

When Your Guardian Acts Like a Creepy Stalker Dude

Amanda: Hellooooooo
Me: Holy moly where have you been?! Do you know how long it has been since I talked with you?
Amanda: I know!
Me: I mean like I was wondering if they threw you in a ditch or were looking for some other place to dump the body!
Amanda: Don’t worry. They don’t have that much insurance.

Dear Amanda,

Since we couldn’t talk freely due to your every move being monitored, I decided to write you a summary.

It’s too bad you missed the hearing. I was all dressed in a suit just like a real professional. The judge denied my petition for visitation without feeling the need to get your thoughts on the matter, but at least my hair looked good.

It was kind of you to assure me you are doing just fine. But I can hear that little edge of nervousness in your voice. That same one that used to be set off by the lunatic oldest sister who threatened to put you in a foster home. The edge telling me that spark of drama is glowing in the bottom of your life experience and any little gust of wrong words or too much excitement can set it off. As long as it is kept just the right temperature, shielded carefully from the wind, it will stay a small orange dot. A glowing warning.

What a way to live! It’s like going through a tunnel where a pack of carnival characters await, all wearing masks that resemble real people but each one has a twist, or a cavernous mouth and eyes like that Scream character. You float along on your ride in a little boat called Narcissus. It’s traveling too slowly and you just want to reach the end and go get some cotton candy. But you wait with dread for the next ghoul to jump out at you: a frizzy-haired fat cowgirl in gaudy plaid who screams at you for eating too much, or a belligerent, beer-swilling faded athlete who waves a pool stick and prods you with it. You know it’s going to be temporary, because the ride will end. But it’s nauseating all the same.


Your court-appointed attorney tried to blame you for our 9 month long separation. I just thought you should know that he wasn’t really on your team. He was faking. He asked me if you had my phone number or my address written down somewhere. It reminded me of the advocates who claim that they will help you if you just call them.

Yeah, Amanda. Why didn’t you do your research?

The one good thing is, we know the Carnival of Narcissus wants to be taken seriously. It doesn’t want to look bad. If the Arizona court accepts your case, you will be under the jurisdiction of the Falk Bill, which means your guardian will have to prove my insanity to the court in order to prevent you from calling me.

In theory, of course. Because they have not been preventing you from calling me all along. Ever! Because even though I have been blocked from all cell phone contact, they have this land line that I could have searched on the white pages and found the number. And maybe you just didn’t feel like calling me for nine months.

Silly me.

And the judge has reviewed the court documents and tells me he understands that you are a “lively individual”, and this somehow negates the need for him to have an actual, in-person, private conversation with you.

And they say I am blogging about you too much. Private issues should be kept private.

So you and I talk on the land line and the guardian is hovering around in the background hanging on your every word and correcting things you say to me. Don’t you just want to hit him with the phone? Like that scene in High Fidelity when John Cusack loses his shit on Tim Robbins and his friend hits him with the phone and his teeth go flying across the room.

It’s a fantasy, of course.

It’s like a Close Talker or having someone brushing against you, bumbling through the invisible wall of Personal Space.

I can feel you rolling your eyes. But I like the eye roll a lot better than the voice tremor.

I don’t know how you put up with it, Amanda. But I am truly grateful that you get to escape three days a week, and go hang out at Adult Day Care where people are sane.


Your Blood Sister Nancy

Here’s the thing. And here’s a Bible verse for you.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”

I write these stories because there needs to be a change. You know it, and I know it. Nine months of no communication from Amanda is unprecedented and alarming.

I have been asked to, “Play nice.” To, “Play along.”

But to me, this is not a game.

You can count on me to stay honest.

Therefore,  “if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise,” where Amanda is concerned, I will be elated to share that.

So far all I have seen from this group is a bunch of self-righteous self-congratulation. No one has reached out to me with a single word of kindness since this 9 months started. What I see is Amanda being used as a pawn in attempt to assert dominance and teach Amanda and me a lesson.

What do you think this is teaching us?

And here is another thing. What kind of incentive is there for friends and relatives to send Amanda anything, when there is no acknowledgment that she received it? For nine months now, every letter I have sent, every gift, once or twice a week, has gone into a void. While people do not send letters and gifts and expect to be thanked, it is still good to know the article has been received, not lost, or stolen or kept from her.  It is easy to conclude if you hear nothing about any of your mail, and you get no replies, that she is not receiving it.

Besides, not bothering to say thank you or somehow reply is extremely bad manners.

When I hear a lawyer’s explanation, or anyone’s explanation, of how my sister feels, I immediately discount it as probably false. I will only consider things that come from the horse’s mouth, and then I have to consider the circumstances.

I see no charity work in any of my siblings. I am not talking about church. I am talking about a serious gesture to make life better for someone less fortunate. Start using your energy for good instead of trying to prove some kind of misguided point.

A little humility goes a long way.

Amanda and I did just fine on our own for 43 years. We do not need messengers, monitors, interpreters or censors. We know how to talk to each other. I am telling you that things will be better if you butt out.

In other words, if you want to be thought of in a good light, if you want to be remembered as someone who did the right thing, then give me something better to blog about.






Posted in abuse, amanda, disability, dispute, down syndrome, down's syndrome, empathy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Clifford’s Birthday Ride – With a Morgan Legend

The Morgan Horse Pride and Product.jpg

Kerry 7th Gen – Morgan Horse – Pride and Product of America

My friend Stayner Haller is something of a legend in the Morgan horse world. With his eventing gelding, LGM Challenger, he competed in 104 USEA events, including one when Chally was 27 and Stayner 73. “Chally” lived into his mid-thirties, remaining active and fit, and even still jumping before succumbing to colic in 2015.



Stayner with Challenger and Clifford in 2013


This loss, besides being one equivalent to the loss of any beloved family member, has left Stayner temporarily without a mount…. Sort of. Not surprisingly, he has a host of friends suddenly pushing horses at him. Heck, who wouldn’t want to place a horse with someone of Stayner’s caliber?

Luckily for me, he had a hankering for a trail ride and thought we should take Clifford and the baby (Kerry 7th Gen) to Waterloo State Game Area. Not only that, he offered to ride the baby. Not only THAT, but he offered to hook up his deluxe, made-for-Morgans trailer and come and pick us up!

Kerry 7th Gen is now six years old and has only been ridden with a bit in his mouth a handful of times. Although he ran loose on Drummond Island for 4 months in 2016, he didn’t carry a rider in all that time. He knows nothing about leg yields, cues from the seat or the reins, or the cursing of an irate rider.

Okay, well maybe he knows about the cursing.


The date Stayner chose for our ride, Saturday April 22, just happened to fall on Clifford’s 26th birthday. The horses had all been celebrating with a mud bath. I tied Clifford and his doppelganger, the baby Morgan known as Kerry 7th Gen, to the rusty trailer Wheelzebub, now flushed a hot pink with embarrassment as the sleek silver bullet of Stayner’s trailer backed down the driveway.

We spent a good twenty minutes brushing and scraping the mud off the horses as big clumps of soft winter hair floated to the ground.


Clifford the Birthday Boy was all too happy to walk right into Stayner’s wide, welcoming vehicle with its padded butt bar. What a switch from the rattle trap where he leans against the wall, bracing himself, probably with his eyes squeezed shut.


After Kerry Seventh Gen, or JR as we call him for short, was reluctantly loaded with a few coaxing taps from the Leather Negotiator, we drove a good hour down to Waterloo Rec Area. The roadsides were bursting with clumps of bright yellow daffodils and sunny forsythia. Stayner knew the way to a small staging area where we unloaded the horses. JR was pretty excited to be there and thought he’d better show off a few dance steps while Stayner put the saddle on.


What followed was the clench, when Stayner tried to put the bit in his mouth.


Stayner finally won the tack battle. But then he spent about half of the trail ride moving in reverse. Clifford was in his element, happy to forge ahead, although he agreed to stop so I could snap a couple of photos.



There was so much backing up that we finally decided since we had no beeper, we should just call it a day. Upon our return, Jr posed next to the trailer, showing that when all else fails, it’s important to at least look good.


Clifford, on the other hand, had a magnificent time. I didn’t mind so much that the first trip to Waterloo involved a short ride. But before we loaded up again, in a wistful moment, I saw him look back toward the lake.

Posted in Clifford, empathy, horse, morgan | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments