Tag Archives: dogs

The Cone is Back!


Just when we thought we were free from the terror of a Great Dane encased in a hard plastic cone…

Just when the other dogs quit cowering in fear at Olive’s entrance into the room…

Just as the cuts on our arms and legs began to scab over…

Just when we finally threw that sad excuse of a cone into the trash,

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the adventure begins again.

For the THIRD time!

We arrived home on Wednesday evening, following two fun-filled days at Kalahari. We were greeted by enthusiastic, happy dogs who were glad to see us.


All was good.


All was well.



*cue scary music*

We open the door to find this!


Blood everywhere.

Olive was let outside for a few minutes and in that time, in the midst of her leaps of joy and pirouettes of happiness, she somehow injured herself. And I mean REALLY injured herself.

We opened the door to find our front porch looking like a scene from The Walking Dead.

Undeterred by the gushing wounds on two of her feet, she continued to bounce around with 100-pound-puppy energy, quickly coating the porch, us, and herself with blood.

It was at this point Molly pondered out loud, as she ran to the medicine cabinet for bandages, “I wonder what it would be like to just have a normal, boring day around here.”

But, alas, nothing is ever simple, uneventful, or boring at Patchwork Farm.

No, everyday is an adventure…whether we want it to be or not. 😉

Thus began adventure # 786,901 at Patchwork Farm: “The day the cone returned!”

It took all the older kids to hold Olive down so that Toby and I could inspect the damage. When the blood kept soaking through the pressure dressings we put on her ankles, we knew the situation exceeded our level of expertise and it was back to the vet for another overnighter for Olive.

She is earning her frequent flyer miles at Rainbow Vet, and we are personally funding our veterinarian’s next European vacation! Ugh.

We were able to pick up Olive the next day. After walking the entire yard we still have no idea what she ran through that tore her up so badly that she needed to get staples in her legs,

But the end result was minor surgery, boxing gloves for paws, and the return of “The Cone.”


She is now on “bed rest” once again-

“And it is SO MUCH FUN!!” I scream with a manic grin.

She also can’t get her bandages wet for 10 days, a challenging feat living in Western Pennsylvania, so she was sent home from the vet with little plastic galoshes that must be tied onto her feet every time she goes outside.

Moving with the grace of a newborn giraffe, she struggles to move through the yard hampered by boxing glove feet, covered in stiff plastic bags.


She has adapted by learning to walk on her tip toes, quite reminiscent of Wile E. Coyote sneaking up on the Road Runner.

It is quite comical to watch,

but the return of the “cone of shame” is not so comical.

We are all suffering from this latest Olive adventure…

Olive is feeling the pain of her most recent injury in her feet.

The kids are feeling the bruising pain of collisions with the “cone of shame” on their arms and legs.

And Toby is feeling the piercing financial pain of Great Dane ownership in his wallet.

Can someone pass me an aspirin?


Olive the other Reindeer



Olive our Great Dane pup is growing by leaps and bounds. She now outweighs half the family, is as tall as Toby when she is standing on her back legs, takes up the entire couch when she is stretched out, and can reach the countertop with all four feet on the ground…

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which has led to a new level of puppy proofing,


And she is not even 10 months old!

With this incredible 9 month long growth spurt comes a lot of feeding (8 cups a day/ spread over three servings) Toby recently repurposed an old bench that had lost its seat, into a new feeding area for our tall girl.

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But even with all the unique challenges of owning a Great Dane, the dividends are huge. Since we brought home Olive, Tyler is a different child. We were led to adopt Olive as a therapy tool for Tyler, our youngest son who suffers from PTSD due to early childhood trauma. He was in a bad place and couldn’t sleep at night because of the paralyzing fear he had that his birth father was going to find him and kill him. He needed to feel safe. He needed a furry companion that he felt could protect him from his worst nightmare which led us to find the biggest, and yet gentlest/most tolerant breed of dog we could. We needed a gentle giant to serve as Tyler’s support dog.

Since Olive moved in Tyler has become a different child.

Olive has not only grown physically in the time we have had her but she has also grown in her ability to obey and follow commands thanks to obedience class. We knew it was important with a dog that big, that we establish control and teach good manners as soon as possible. It is one thing to have a naughty 8 pound Yorkie that jumps up on you, but quite different to have a naughty, 150 pound goliath try to climb up your leg.


Olive has now completed three levels of training and begins the advanced class this week. Rusty has stepped up as the primary trainer who works with Olive in her classes and at home. We found Tyler’s energy, coupled with Olives distractibility, a bad fit for obedience class. Rusty’s calm, but strong presence, is a much better fit.


Olive loves class and looks forward to playtime with her four footed friends, especially Rebel, a German Shorthaired Pointer, who is her best friend.

I am amazed at how much she is learning and how well the classes are working…

for the most part.

But every now and then Olive gets herself in trouble.

For example…

Saturday morning we woke to the clip clopping of feet on the roof above our head.

Our first thought was “Tyler!”

After a quick peek in his bedroom to find him still asleep,

Our next thought was, “Goats!”

It has happened before…


What we never expected when we stepped out the front door was to look up and see this:

It wasn’t the pawing of Dasher, Dancer, or Vixen…

No, it was Olive, the other reindeer!

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Being the owners of an under one-year-old Great Dane is a dichotomy. She has the appearance of a full grown dog. She is as tall as a small pony. But she has the enthusiasm, curiosity, lack of common sense, and klutziness of the puppy she really is. It is a dangerous combination and many a breakable has been destroyed inside the house because of this  combination of energy and enthusiasm, coupled with her complete lack of understanding of how big she really is.

She has gotten “stuck” in many sticky situations as a result, and this morning was a prime example of that.

Near the back of our house the distance between the ground and roofline in significantly shorter than in the front of the house, which means a determined little boy, a pair of climbing goats, or a tall Great Dane in pursuit of a cat can, if they are motivated enough, climb onto the roof.

It appears this is what happened on Saturday morning. Olive, in pursuit of the cat, followed Stripy up onto the roof and then discovered it was a jolly, good place to play. She ran, frolicked and barked, delighted by this grand adventure until mean old Toby made her come back down to earth.

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What a goofy girl she is!

Olive, down girl! Down!

Meet Olive!



Well, we are home.

And while home is a lovely place to be I must admit the transition from life as a gypsy back to a life filled with schedules, appointments, farm chores, phone calls, and responsibility has been a tough adjustment.

I finally feel like I have my footing again and have adjusted to the point that I can blog and share what is new with us at Patchwork Farm.

I wasn’t the only one who struggled with the adjustment from life on the road back to life at home. It was an interesting experiment in character and temperament to see which kids relished the nomadic lifestyle and which ones struggled with life on the road.

Overall  everyone did well and enjoyed our once in a lifetime adventure, but some “thrived” while others simply “managed.”

This was most notable with our two youngest.

I anticipated that this trip might challenge Ozzie. Ozzie is a child who does best with a rigid routine, predictability, quiet time, and opportunities to isolate from others. This trip offered little of that. In the months leading up to our trip we worked with our therapist to identify possible struggles and make a plan that Ozzie could use to find some quiet time in our travels. Even with that preparation this lifestyle was not one that suited Ozzie’s temperament and he struggled with the abundance of family togetherness, a tough thing for Reactive Attachment kids.

For a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder and Autism, a life of living on the road, with intense family bonding experiences and little routine or predictability, is very hard.

He loved the vacation. He loved the sites and the opportunities to see and learn but there was a noticeable exhale of relief when we pulled into the driveway and he could run up to his room and shut the door.

Tyler on the other hand came to life on this vacation. He was a different child. He was joyful and engaged. He was extroverted and confident. He was eager to learn and willingly put himself in social situations that would have shut him down emotionally had we been at home.

For a child with PTSD and ADHD, a life of constant changing experiences, exciting new sights, and new people to meet, all while living in close proximity to the people who bring a sense of safety and security, resulted in miraculous changes.

Tyler’s anxiety all but disappeared as he spent 24/7 surrounded by people who could keep him safe, all within arm reach from any corner of the bus.

Coming home has been hard for Tyler.

On the first night home he broke down in tears and asked, “Why can’t we just all live in the bus?”

I often tell people that we could not have adopted little boys who were more different.. They are extreme opposites in their looks, stature, strengths, weaknesses and even in their struggles. This extreme contradiction makes parenting them a challenge because in my efforts to meet the needs of one child I am giving the other child the opposite of what they stand in need of. Case in point: this trip. One thrived. One struggled. Now that we are home the other is thriving and little brother struggles.

It is a challenging juggling act and that description is a simplification of reality because there are also three other children and a husband whose wants and needs need to be considered.

It seems that, whether right or wrong, my way of meeting the diverse needs of everyone is to “triage.” I do this by meeting the needs of the child most in crisis at the moment, as I shared in this previous blog post:


I now find myself trying to save Tyler from a heart gushing wound as he faces the fears that have consumed him for years but have reemerged after a two month vacation that did more to address his anxiety than all the medication management in the world.

Tyler’s early childhood has a storyline that would shake you to the core and leave you sleepless. The horrors of Hollywood films don’t hold a candle to the horrors he experienced at the hands of the very people that were entrusted to protect him. The result is severe PTSD. He lives with constant fear but is debilitated by the fears that awake as night approaches. Like most little boys he fears the monsters that lurk in the dark corners of his room. The difference, however, is he knows what the faces of those monsters look like. He knows they are real. He knows the hurts they can inflict, and he is terrified they will return.

For over a year Tyler’s anxiety has increased. I won’t go into all that results from such severe trauma memories but suffice it to say that I am dead on my feet after a 4-5 hour bedtime routine every night. My heart breaks for him and rages against the adults responsible. I consider myself a forgiving individual but after parenting the trauma inflicted on both my boys by the very people that were supposed to protect them I am convinced there is a special corner of hell reserved for those that hurt the innocents of the world.

About a year ago, as we were discussing treatment options with Tina, our therapist, she suggested a emotional support dog for Tyler. She shared that she had been praying about Tyler and how to help him and this came to mind. She spoke of the success she has seen with a friend that raises and trains dogs for soldiers returning from Afghanistan who also suffer from PTSD.

Long story, short, we spent this last year praying for the right dog and the right time and through a series of “God-incidences” we find ourselves with a new addition.

Her name is Olive.


She is a 10 week old Great Dane.


It was after speaking with the trainer and her suggestions for breeds that would be a good match for Tyler that we decided on Olive.


We needed a breed that had a impressive, threatening stature that Tyler could believe would physically be able to protect him from the father he believes is going to try to come and kill him,


Olive’s Dad.


but also a breed that is incredibly gentle and loyal.


Olive came home on Monday night.



Tyler has slept in his room with Olive at his feet ever since.  For the first time in over a year we have been able to get him to sleep in his room without acting out in his anxiety with destructive or self-injurious behaviors. He has fallen asleep within minutes rather than fighting to stay awake for hours  in fear of what will happen when he closes his eyes.


He finally feels safe.

I wish I could convey the weight that has been lifted from this Momma’s shoulders. I could weep with joy at the rest I see in Tyler’s body and the peace I see in his eyes.


Toby leaves to go back to Michigan to finish my sister’s addition in a day or two and he will be gone for 6 weeks. This will be the true test of Tyler’s confidence and trust in Olive. With Daddy gone can he still feel safe?

I pray that is the case!

Caring for Critters



On Friday we were invited to join some of our friends from co-op on a really neat outing that was especially close to our hearts. The field trip was a service project. We were joining our friends at the local humane society to spend the day offering whatever help we could to this great organization.


The outing lasted most of the day. We arrived at the Humane Society around 11 o’clock. Our day began with an orientation that all volunteers need to go through before they can work with the animals. After signing the volunteer paperwork we were taken into the back of the Humane Society where we were able to meet and greet all the fur babies that are up for adoption.


There are three separate back rooms in the Lawrence County Humane Society. There is a cat room, a small dog and puppy room, and a large dog room. I was surprised at how few animals were there.  They only had a handful of dogs up for adoption and about a dozen cats. Many of the dogs were “on hold” while the Humane Society reviewed applications of potential families. While we were there we witnessed two of the large dogs find their “furever homes,” as well as one of the cats. It was such a heartwarming thing to see.

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After the tour we headed to the outside building where the bedding supplies and food is stored. There we enjoyed a pizza party with friends before our work begin.

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After lunch our large group was split into two smaller groups, with the young children and moms staying outside in the garage to work, and the teenagers moving inside to do needed chores inside.

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Outside the younger kids and the moms took on the task of sorting through bags of donated towels and blankets, separating out the ones that had zippers and buttons and anything else that could be a danger to the animals. These donations were put in separate bags that will be donated to another charity for the local rescue mission.


The other big task that was worked on outside was sorting and organizing the many bags and cans of dog and cat food. Tyler, Grace, and Rusty helped with this task. They helped other volunteers sort through the many containers of food, checking the expiration dates and reshelving all the food and treats according to whether it was cat food or dog food,  adult food or puppy/kitten food, or if it was for large breed or small breed animals.

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It was a big job but many hands made for light work…(or as light as possible with 50 pound bags of dog food.) 😉


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Inside the Humane Society other kids were helping out with cleaning chores and laundry. The Humane Society, with its many animals and many pounds of bedding, requires many loads of laundry to be washed and dried daily. The staff was thrilled to have eager helpers to lift some of that burden.

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 One of the favorite chores of the day however was the opportunity to care for the animals themselves. We were able to take one of the dogs that is up for adoption out for a walk.

The boys went with me but I was the one who did the actual walking due to volunteer policy and their age.

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We walked Brady. Brady was a Pitbull/Boxer mix. He was a 1 year old and basically a black and white furry Tyler. He bounced his way through our 20 minute walk, full of enthusiasm and energy. By the end of the walk we were convinced that Brady has ADHD. Both little boys tried to talk me into adopting Brady but I think we have enough bouncy energy in our home. I think a 14 year old Bassett Hound might be more our speed. 🙂

But he was a charming, goofy, and sweet puppy that is wonderful with kids and other dogs (for anyone that might be looking to adopt!)

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Overall it was a very enjoyable day and we left feeling quite satisfied by the opportunity to spend the day volunteering at our local shelter. The experience left my teens eager to go back and volunteer on a regular basis. We are looking at our schedule and to see if that is a commitment we can take on right now. I’d love it if we could make that happen for them.

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When Toby arrived home the kids eagerly greeted him with a play by play of our day at the shelter. I could see Toby discretely scanning the room for an extra four furry feet and seemed relieved to discover that we had resisted temptation and returned home empty handed. 😉

…at least for the time being,

because everyone knows:


The loss of a furry friend



On Sunday we said goodbye to Brownie, Rusty’s beagle.  Toby went outside and called her. She wasn’t moving from the dog bed. When he walked over he discovered that she had died in her sleep


Needless to say there were many tears shed. Every time a beloved pet dies, hearts break. It is so hard, so devastating, to hold your children as they weep over the loss of a dear friend. I sometimes wonder if the heartbreak is worth it and then I consider all the joy and love and companionship our furry family members bring to our lives and I know it is.

Brownie, in particular, had a profound and powerful impact on Rusty’s life. Brownie was his dog. On his 6th birthday, 5 months after moving to Patchwork Farm, we surprised Rusty with a dog for his birthday. It was during a time in his life when Rusty was dealing with severe anxiety that was manifesting itself in the form of Selective Mutism. My little boy couldn’t speak out loud to anyone except his Mom and Dad and two sisters. He was mute and as a result couldn’t talk and laugh with friends. We prayed about how to help meet his need to talk and share and confide in someone other than his family, while his therapist worked with him to address the underlying anxiety.

Brownie was the answer to that prayer. She became his best friend, his confidant, his support. He could whisper secrets in her floppy hound ears and squeeze her when he was feeling overwhelmed with anxiety. She was an amazing blessing to Rusty during a time when he needed an unconditional friend.

When we walked into the Humane Society that Saturday so many years ago we had a vision in our minds of what we were looking for . We thought we wanted a big lab of some sort. A dog Rusty could lay on and squeeze. A dog that could handle the loving of a six year old boy…

That’s what we thought we wanted and then we saw her:

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She was standing, and smiling, and begging to be chosen. We knew she was the one.

We brought her home and Rusty was in love. It was probably his best birthday ever. As I look back on pictures from that special day I find myself tearing up over the loss of times past…tears over my sweet, quiet six year old boy who now towers above us all, the loss of animals who have passed on and loved ones, like my Grandpa Parmley in this picture, who now watch down on us from heaven.

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The passage of time is bittersweet. Saying goodbye to a friend is hard. Saying goodbye to a season of life is hard. Saying goodbye to a pet, who was so much more than a pet, is hard.

That evening Toby went out to dig a grave under the giving tree where other beloved pets have been laid to rest over the years. There were tears shed as we prayed a prayer of thanks for Brownie’s loving and generous spirit and for the important role she played in the life of one little boy. She was more than a pet, she was a best friend.

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And one day they will be reunited in the sweetest reunion ever!


Camp McCleery is for the Dogs!


This week it is Camp McCleery for four furry friends that we are dog sitting. Four friends asked us to watch their canine family members while they were out of town, and it just so happened that it all fell on the same week. Add our four visitors to the three dogs already living here and we have seven…yes, seven!…fur balls running around. Luckily we are a family of dog lovers and it has been a really fun, though crazy, week. All the dogs have gotten along pretty well and seem to enjoy doggy camp at Patchwork Farm.

But let’s see what they have to say as they write home 🙂

Hello Mudder- Hello Fadder

Here I am at Camp “hootNholler.”

And it’s very entertaining,

They say we’ll have some fun when it stops raining.


There are kids here-

Oh, such kids here!

Tyler calls me

little deer, here.


There are many

hands to hold us,

Even when we’d rather hide

from all the fuss. 😉

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We do school with

all the wee ones,

And they hold us

through their lessons.


Then when school is

finally over,

They take us out to play

in all the clover.

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The food here

tastes like dog mash,

for this “food” here

I wouldn’t waste cash.

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But the staff is

nice and clean,

and the beagle is the only one who’s “mean.”

(Grumpy, that is)  🙂


There are seven

dogs at  camp now,

big old dogs and

a “chick a wow wow.”

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We are having

fun with our friends,

but at night we go to sleep

in our own dens.


There is one boy

who is fox-like,

his name is Mojo

and he is Alright!


He is sweet, and

kind, and gentle,

and for enduring Ellie’s crush-

should get a medal!

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Sweet Jemima

hangs with Buddy.

She loves to play and

 he is cuddly.

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When he wants a

little lovin’

he dances, spins, and does

some friendly shovin’.


Then there’s Nevis…

he is teeny too.

He’s the piglet,

to our Winnie Pooh.


He is timid,

and so nervous

He likes hiding out

with dear, calm,  Mr. Russ Cuss!

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Wait a minute-

it stopped raining.

Dogs are running.

 Dogs are playing.

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Maybe things are

not so bad here…

Mudder, Fadder,

 kindly disregard this letter.

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A Boy and his Dog


“Frogs and snails and puppy dog tails..

that is what little boys are made of.”


“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them and filling an emptiness we didn’t even know we had.”


Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.” – Roger Caras


“A dog has no use for fancy cars, big homes or designer clothes. A water log stick will do just fine. A dog doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, clever or dull, smart or dumb. Give him your heart and he’ll give you his. How many people can you say that about? How many people can make you feel rare, and pure, and special? How many people can make you feel extraordinary?” – Marley and Me


“A boy and his dog make a glorious pair; no better friendship is found anywhere.” – Edgar Guest


“Every once in a while a dog enters your life and changes everything.”

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Live like someone left the gate open.” 🙂

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“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you, but he will make a fool of himself too.” – Samuel Butler