Has anyone ever thought to themselves, "Gee, I would like to grab my spouse, strap my toddler into his car seat, load up two cows, and drive over 650 miles?" Really? Never? Well, if the wild urge ever strikes you, may I suggest either repeatedly slamming your hand in a car door or perhaps driving a few nails with your forehead.
We had a promising new baby bull to pick up in Church Roads, Virginia and two of our cows were being leased to Maymont Park in Richmond, Virginia. After discussing all options, we decided to do our first family road trip. Note: we do not own a minivan with any sort of entertainment center and sound-proof barrier. No, there was no way to lull our offspring into a Disney-induced, eyes glazed over, DVD coma. We left armed with some feeble toys, lots of wipes, Kleenex, snacks, water, and access to both hubby's and my I-tunes, all within easy reach during the drive. And, I thought, naively, that I was well-prepared.
John has many talents. One of which is to yell for miles on end when we do not play his favorite song 37 times in a row. In fact, I do believe the back seat of a 3/4 ton pick-up truck actually magnifies young voices so when his 37th request was refused, his wails were actually louder than stepping on the toes of 40 cats, blasting 15 trumpets, and a Blue Angels flyover all simultaneously.
I am happy to report, however, that while John had his moments, I did bring one magical toy that made the trip bearable: a soccer ball. At every stop for gas or sanity, we took John out to a grassy spot to kick the ball around and get rid of pent up energy.
Meanwhile, the cows, Erin, and Arnold, were quite well-behaved. The first night, we stopped at Mistletoe Farms in Varnville, SC. Erin and Arnold were unloaded and placed into a large 14x14 foot stall to rest. The barn was cool and dark in the June heat. We toured the miniature horse farm with the owners of the quaint little Bed and Breakfast. John was a bundle of energy after the long drive so the walk did him some good. Then, we dropped the trailer and headed into town for dinner. We ended up at a local diner sitting next to the grumpiest old sheriff's deputy I have ever seen in my life. He had to work hard at being that grumpy. The small town of Hampton, SC surely could not have had the murder rate to make that cop so bitter towards his fellow man that his face was masked in a permanent scowl. I truly believe he would make NYC homicide detectives cry. Even John inquisitively peering at him over the back of our bench did nothing to break his mask (as we hurriedly sat our child back down lest Mr. Robocop reached for his taser).
Erin and Arnold at the B&B.
Although still concerned that we might be arrested for smiling too much, we had to let John run around a bit before heading back to the B&B. Thankfully, Mr. Grumpy had urgent business elsewhere (no doubt stamping out excess mirth in some other sector of town). It was nice to return to the B&B to relax and check on the cows before bed. By early evening, there was a cool breeze flowing through the paddocks so we moved the cows outside to spend the night.
The cows loaded easily the next morning for our drive to Virginia. It was a long day and we didn't reach Maymont until after the park had closed to the public. Erin and Arnold didn't seem at all fazed by the new surroundings. The pastures were lush and spacious as was their own private paddock, complete with a shelter. We tied them up and brushed them with their new caretakers and then unloaded their hay, feed, treats and buckets. We left their halters with them as well. It was hard to leave them since I had known them since the day they were born, but they are in very good hands.
We noticed a problem with one of the trailer tires and fortunately, the baby bull's owner was able to direct us to a tire repair service the following morning. After that little adventure, we were off to Paradise Farm to pick up Armstrong. We had a chance to meet the bull's sire and dam as well as may others in Mr. Bowen's herd. Very impressive animals. Armstrong was coaxed into the trailer and we were off to South Carolina once again. We arrived late at night so we left Armstrong in the trailer and dragged ourselves off to bed.
The following morning began early again and we packed up and readied ourselves for another lovely breakfast. As we stepped out of the door, the B&B owner was watching a skinny Golden Retriever cross walk around his yard. The dog came right up to us with his tail wagging. He was subdued and dirty but very friendly. No collar or tags and the farm owner had never seen him before. He and his wife had three dogs, two of which were aggressive towards other dogs (though perfectly lovely towards people) so he told us that he would have to take the dog to the local pound. He also mentioned in passing that the pound didn't have much luck finding new homes for dogs (you see where this is going). At that point, I decided to be aloof towards the dog and let hubby be the one to decide if we would get involved in this poor scrawny dog's future. As if sensing exactly whom he would have to charm, the dog walked right up to hubby and sat down while giving him 'the look'. You know the one. A mixture of "I am a loving dog that will be your devoted friend for life" and "I am a poor starving, desperate beast". Well, it was well played because hubby started asking about whether or not the dog could ride in the tack room. The clincher for us both was how gentle and sweet the dog was to John. At that point, it was out of our hands because John was walking with the dog saying "My dog! My dog!" I fixed up the tack room with a towel from the B&B owner (who was so delighted that we were taking the dog home) and tied a rope around his neck so we could walk him when we stopped for gas. We packed up, fed and watered Armstrong, and set off for home. We were a little concerned about passing the Agriculture Inspection Station with a stray dog but they asked me no questions and I told them no lies.
Poor Miles when we first came home.
I unloaded Armstrong into a pasture adjacent to his cow herd and he was neither intimidated nor afraid of our cow herd so after a brief introduction through the fence, I turned him out with the cows. After some initial nosing and sniffing, he set about to checking his girls like a seasoned bull. Quite impressive for an 8 month old. Dexters can be quite precocious.
Armstrong in his new pasture.
Meanwhile, the new dog was introduced briefly to the farm and fed and watered separate from our two dogs. I bathed him and treated him for fleas as well. He was nothing but skin and bones underneath his golden fur. It was also alarming how much he just wanted to sleep. I looked at his teeth and he seemed to be a young dog. The following morning (now Monday) we took him to our vet and he was treated for extensive parasites, vaccinated, neutered and bathed twice more. He will have to go back to the vet when he is stronger to get a more complete heartworm treatment (he was a strong positive for infection). After only a few good meals, he was much more alert and hyper. His eyes shone with delight and joy as he bounced around. He had no manners, but he is catching on fast to life on a farm and how to be an inside dog as well. Our dogs have really warmed up to him these past few weeks and I can see he is becoming part of the family. We named him Miles in honor of our long trip as well as his. He was also found near Miles Road. He has gained weight very well and plays with the other dogs now. Amazingly enough, he has no food aggression type behaviors. He looks so much more alive now and he's a good dog.
Amazing difference after only three days of good meals.