Gale’s Little Schnapps

Every Labor Day weekend the Cuyahoga County Fairgrounds has Oktoberfest.

One of the highlights is the wiener dog races. I love watching those little legs run as fast as they can.

Our family has always owned dachshunds. In 1968, we got our first doxie – Schnapps. He came as a puppy from Florida, actually riding on a plane before any of us. He loved to swim and would bark non-stop and bite at the splashes when we were in the pool. We would put him on an inner tube and he would float around the pool. He was very protective of all of us and his food and rawhides. Some might say he was a little nippy. He was a natural at sitting up and begging. My sister taught him to say “por favor”. She was the only one learning Spanish, so we had to take her word for it.

At Christmastime, my mom would bake cookies during the day and hide them so we wouldn’t eat them before Christmas. One year, Schnapps found a box of chocolate chip cookies hidden in her closet, and helped himself. His little belly was so full and we worried he would be sick -and this was before we knew chocolate was bad for dogs. He lived fortunately, although my mother sure wanted to kill him that night.

I used to have a gerbil named Spanky which I kept in a small aquarium. Sometimes, if something had spilled in the oven, the smoke alarm would go off at the top of our stairs. Schnapps would dart up the stairs, go right to the gerbil aquarium, and start barking and poking his nose right on the glass until the alarm stopped. He thought the gerbil was making that noise. I never said he was smart.

Schnapps never raced at Oktoberfest. I bet he would have been a contender while in his prime. I think he was about 12 when he died. We buried him in the backyard – a little area we called the pet cemetery. I wondered how he felt being buried near Spanky. He probably said something smart like, “Hey rat, I don’t want anymore noise from you.” Schnapps – always had a little attitude.

Thank you Gale for sharing about Schnapps. We welcome our friends to share their stories of a favorite pet with us.

Surprised by Lady’s Love

horse face

When I was a young girl, I dreamed of owning a horse. I read all the Walter Farley horse stories and cherished every page, however, I was the second child of six and my family did not have money for the luxury of a horse. I dreamed anyway. Each Christmas I told my parents I was certain this would be the Christmas I would find a saddle and bridle under the tree and directions to the barn where I could find my new horse. Each Christmas there were toys and clothes and other gifts, but no bridle and no saddle.

I rode every time an opportunity came along. Then, the summer before my last year in nursing school, while just sitting around in my room, I said to myself, ‘I am going to buy a horse today.’ And I did. I bought a quarter-type mare named Lady.

What I did not know was that Lady was ‘spoiled.’ She was not well mannered and could be very unpredictable. She would quickly jump as if afraid of objects and could turn on a dime. I did not have the skills needed to ride when she twisted her body this way or spun around on her back heels. I was convinced she did this to throw me off her back. I was afraid of her and would drive home after trying to ride her crying, ‘I bought a horse I cannot ride.’

Once,  when attempting to ride Lady around the grounds she was stabled at, she began to rear and move quickly from objects we were passing and scared me so badly I dismounted and tied her to the fence with her bridle on- a real ‘no -no’ in riding. I went back to the barn to ask someone to get her because they were not afraid of her. As I shared my fears with a friend at the barn, he assured me I would be riding her everywhere in six months. I did not believe him, but he was right. I did learn to control her and ride her erratic movements, but she was not much fun and I wanted a horse I could enjoy.

I found a thoroughbred who was easy to ride and loved him immediately. He was kind and rode quietly and was a delight in every way. I was amazed when Lady pinned her ears and showed her teeth as I rode him past her stall. She never gave me the impression she knew who I was, that she knew I loved her, or that she loved me.

One sunny afternoon, a friend and I decided to ride the horses to a nearby park several roads away from the barn. He rode Lady and I rode the thoroughbred. I trotted ahead of them – across a large field as a matter of fact- when I realized she dumped him and was running full speed – riderless with stirrups flapping in the wind- in the direction of the barn. I was frantic because all I could image was her being hit by a car or falling in the street with slippery metal shoes as she ran furiously down busy streets and across main roads to get back to her barn.

I started screaming, “LADY” “LADY, COME GIRL.” To my surprise, she stopped, looked my way, and began running full speed in my direction. I continued to call her name and she came right to me and the thoroughbred. Relief is a word. Love is another word. She really did know I was her owner and the one who cared for her and loved her. I saw her differently after that day. She became my Lady.

Share your story when you had a pleasant and unexpected surprise.


Gone Fishin’

I have only fished a few times- and that was when I was a young girl. Recently, my brother-in-law, Rick, has asked me fish with him.  He was injured in a motorcycle accident 8 years ago, so he has taught me to put the leaders on, the hooks on, the bait on, the sinkers on, and tie the knots, cast, and open and throw the bail. He has educated me on test line- and needing large enough fishing line to keep the line from breaking if we caught something. I probably don’t know enough to do all these things, but how does one say no to a paralyzed man? When I went to the store to purchase items, it was helpful when the young men fished in salt water themselves. Lost is a word for me.

I often wondered how he could enjoy fishing. It seemed he was not able to do all the things necessary to fish. Nevertheless, we rigged a holder on his wheelchair to hold the rod after I cast the line into the ocean on the Daytona Beach pier we are on.  He is so happy to sit on the pier for hours waiting patiently for a nibble.

I realize it is the social interaction that happens on the pier when Rick fishes. He loves to be around others enjoying themselves and fishing is something he enjoys too. The sound of the water coming in is pleasant and the pelicans fly by continuously – they spend their mornings as master fishermen themselves. Rick has some limited ability to reel in a fish in the event we catch something. He and a friend told me they actually did catch a fish one day, however, I think I require proof of this.

The true fisher story of this tiny little striped fish on the line I am holding is that we fish for hours without catching anything. When someone fishing on the pier catches a fish, we ask if we can hold it and take a picture so we look like we caught the little thing.  Rick holds the pole, I hold the line, and we both pose for the picture.

It’s a great day at the beach.

Share your most exciting fishing story with us.

Race Day at the Fair

I raced harness horses for many years. It was a fantastic time in my life. There has been little to compare to the thrill of one of my horses crossing the finish line first.

My favorite place to race was the county fair. I looked forward to fair season every year. Not only was it easier to race there, and I felt closer to the race since the tracks are close to the barns we stabled at, but the entire fair itself was enthralling.

Once my horse and her equipment were unloaded, she was settled in her stall, and I retrieved her warm up pad with her number on it, I made my way to the fair.

The sounds of clanging and the rides going round and round were all around me. As I walked down rows of game booths and food stands, the smell of the ‘fair food’ invited me to partake. What would I have today? I enjoyed the gyros, funnel cake, and french fries covered in vinegar- to name a few of my favorite great greasy fair foods.

I visited each building. As I visited the Arts building, I saw all the ribbons awarded before the fair opened. The blue and red and other ribbons were displayed on the wining pictures, quilts, pies, cookies, cakes, and artwork the locals brought to the fair. I loved seeing what and who won first prize. Once I entered my own cross stitch piece. I wish I could say I won a blue ribbon, but we’ll get on with this story. It was just fun to participate they tell me.

Each fair I made sure I stopped by the 4-H building to see the vegetable art the children displayed. They brought gourds dressed as farmers and carrots with faces painted on them. Watermelons decorated and some with faces carved out like Halloween pumpkins were also some of my favorites creative additions to the fair. I always thought, ‘These kids have talent.’

The fair that was the blue ribbon winner for me was in Lancaster, Ohio. This fair had all the usual buildings and displays, but this fair was my fair to remember. As I strolled through the poultry building, I was fascinated. The 4-H er’s were preparing their chickens and roosters for show. Some girls had just given baths to their white hens. They were the whitest I had every seen. Then, using blow dryers, proceeded to dry them. I stood watching and was speechless. These young girls waved their blow dryers over the chickens as the chickens submissively and agreeably let them. Their little eyes were half closed as the warm air blew at and over them. Their feathers blew under the flow of air coming at them as they were primped for show. They seemed to be enjoying the whole process. While I was quite amazed, these 4-H er’s seem to be saying, ‘just another day at the chicken and rooster show.’

On the other side of the poultry barn, another amazing site awaited me. A young man had his rooster on a stump. He was working diligently cleaning the grooves in the rooster’s feet with a toothbrush- he had to be perfect for show of course. As this young man worked, what I found amazing was the rooster was not being held, he was just standing still, letting his young owner clean his grooves.

After enjoying each fair, I focused on my race horse. It was her turn to have my undivided attention. I brushed her, put her equipment on, warmed up, and then sent her to the start line. We were off! The race ran and sometimes we were even first across the finish line. Sometimes it was just great taking part in the sport- so they say.

I am looking forward to you sharing your favorite summer or fair or chicken or 4-H story with us. I know everyone’s been to the county fair.



Are we home yet?:

It was a normal day at the clinic – surgeries and office appointments filled the morning. During all the hustle and bustle in came the Animal Control lady with a small kitten.

“We found this kitten in a storm drain,” she said. “Do you think anyone would want her?”  The kitten just fit in her hand.

I stopped working and said, “Let me take a look at her.”

As I examined her, I noticed the usual stray kitten problems- goopy eyes, discharge from the nose, and frightened. This little girl also has fly larvae in her back end area. This is a big problem and sometimes too advanced to save a pet.

“I’ll take her,” I said. I knew if someone did not, the animal control folks would not care for her and adopt her to a family. I named her Harriet.

I started her on antibiotics and began treating her fly larvae by flushing the area with hydrogen peroxide several times a day. Each time I did, more larvae were killed. This procedure was slightly uncomfortable. I knew this because Harriet would allow me to flush, but she complained with short little ‘mews’ – not a full meow sound- each time I flushed. I like to think she knew I was helping and I loved her and that’s why she let me treat her.

After several days of treatments, she was cleared of her fly larvae. Next I treated intestinal parasites causing diarrhea. After treating all that and her eyes and nose, eventually she was healthy.

When Harriet was young, we lived alone on my farm. This resulted in her not being properly socialized, so she was frightened of other people. She and I played all the time, but whenever we had company she hid until they left.

A few years ago, family needs took me to Florida. I asked my brother to care for her thinking I would only be gone for 5 months. I am still there. When I left her, Harriet was inside my brother’s home, but a few weeks after later, she darted out an open door and refused to come to him or back into the house. I was devastated when told. She spent the entire harsh winter outside that year. My brother assured me he put food out for her and it was eaten, but we did not know if other animals ate it or she did. I was afraid she would be harmed or lost in the mountains around his home. 

After ten very long months of separation, my brother brought her to me in Florida. We both agreed it was a miracle he was able to catch her, put her in a carrier, and bring her to me.

When she arrived, Harriet I took her into my bedroom, and when I began talking to her, the look on her face was priceless. She perked up and began talking her kitten talk. I took her out of the carrier and as I held her, She curled up in my arms and many months of separation came to an end. My heart broke again and again as I imagined her outside wondering if I was coming back or what happened to me. Wondering if we were ever going to be together again or if she was going home. I think our pets know us and miss us very much when separated from us.

Harriet has convinced me of this because every day since she and I have been reunited- 2years now, when I come home from anywhere, she greets me and snuggles close to my neck on my chest. She does not seem concerned whether I have work to do or not. She does not care if I need to make phone calls, clean the room, or anything. She just wants to be close. In her mind she owns me and never wants to be separated again.

When I sleep on my side, she rests on my shoulder. I squint when she does this and I see her watching to see if my eyes are open. If I open my eyes, she kisses my face or touches me with her paw. She sits on my shoulder until I wake in the morning.

Harriet was neglected as a kitten before I rescued her which resulted in her teeth decaying. When I did dental care, I discovered almost all her teeth needed removed-all but the front teeth. What I find funny is that she has recovered well from the extractions, however, she loves to play and when she does, she bites me playfully – with her only remaining front teeth.

I made a promise to Harriet that I would never leave her again. I know pets are attached to the ones who own them. I see it with each pet I treat in the offices I work in. 

Share your stories with us about pets that show you how attached they are to you!


Training My Dogs



Ever see a border collie ride a horse? Hekan can! See this amazing dog do some cool tricks in this great video!:

There are some pretty talented people out there who could train a dog to do anything.

I, on the other hand, fear I could not train a Spaniel to sit. I realized this a long time ago. When I was a little girl, our family pet was a Doberman/Shepherd cross. She was very smart and I trained her to stay, jump a small stick held by buckets, fetch, and other tricks. Looking back, I don’t think her learning had anything to do with my training talents, I think  she just really had a knack for knowing what to do.  Some dogs are like that.

I have friends who train their dogs for search and rescue. Some train them for showing or herding. We all know some dogs are service dogs- these are talents that amaze me.

Over the past twenty years, I have owned many dogs. When clients ask me about training issues with their pets, I share with them that I am truly not a trainer, my knowledge is in medicine. We share our stories and I tell them my dogs only know ‘cookie’ and ‘bye-bye.’ I add that sometimes they even come to me when I call them. My present dog is a Blue Heeler. His name is Rudy. He is a prime example of this. He hears me call him, he looks my way, and then promptly goes the other way! Little stinker.

One evening several years ago, my dogs were all sleeping on various blankets scattered on my living room floor. I was on the phone with a friend.  When my call ended, I said ‘bye bye’ to this friend. All of the sudden all eleven of my dogs jumped up and came to me with smiling faces and wagging tails as if to say, “Yes, we want to go bye-bye.” THAT they respond to.  We did go ‘bye- bye’ and then had ‘cookies.’ Great dogs.

Share the tricks you’ve taught your dogs.


Water Thirsty Animals

Gale Kovach's photo.

Gale Kovach to Terrie Sizemore Story Teller

Every spring I plant a little vegetable garden. Every year I get a little better at it. I learned how to safely keep the deer away and still maintain an organic garden. But we are always at the mercy of the weather. You see, Ohio weather can be brutal: snow in May, a soggy June, and now a dry, hot July. So I wait for the fruits of my labor, the cucumbers, the zucchini, the peppers and the most coveted prize, the tomatoes. Friends, the bright green tomatoes look great and with the hot weather it will be ripening them soon. I have a tradition to take the first red tomato and make the world’s best BLT. Unfortunately that might be a few days away. But I do have a small tomato plant with cherry tomatoes that were ready and I had a salad planned for dinner. I go out to pick those cherry tomatoes and I start seeing half eaten tomatoes all over the ground. Who could do such a thing? The next day, I ask someone at work why, all of a sudden, would the chipmunks start eating my tomatoes? And the answer was so obvious – they are thirsty.

The take away- water all the critters in our lives. It’s hot everywhere now!

Worst Day Ever

One day as a large animal veterinarian, (code for horse doctor), I responded to a call for a trailer accident with horses trapped in the trailer. The car pulling a trailer with 2 horses did not negotiate a hill ant this resulted in the trailer tipping over on its side. The fire department also responded. None of the young women in the car were injured, and the firemen and I successfully removed one of the horses with minimal injury from the trailer. The second horse was trapped. We tried everything to free the horse, but were unable to do so.

As I watched the horse struggle and being injured by the metal parts in the trailer, I made the decision that the only way we could get that horse out of that trailer was for me to use the field anesthesia I used so often to perform minor surgical procedures

First I would give a sedative, then follow with a short acting anesthetic. When used in the field, I was able to lay the horse on the ground, do my procedure, wait a short time, and then have the horse wake up and stand on their own. Easy-peasy most of the time.

So, I shared my plan to the firemen. They were on board. I administered my medication and, as expected, the horse stopped struggling, relaxed, and was sedated as planned. Since firemen arrive with water in their trucks, we sprayed water on the horse, the ramp of the trailer, and as much under the horse as we could. Then we – me and 6 strong men – pulled the horse free of the trailer.

It was great to have the horse free. One problem solved, but one just beginning. Being forced to recover this horse on the road presented some pretty significant challenges. There were ditches on the sides of this country road and, as I began to recover him, he tried to get up too soon. The short acting anesthesia is short acting, but it does need some time to clear the body and allow the horse to stand without being wobbly.

As the horse began to wake up sooner than able, he stumble and rolled. Off the road. Into the ditch. Then, he continued to try to get up too soon and continued to roll down the ditch and down a ravine and into the water at the bottom of the ravine. There was no way I could stop this because the horse weighs too much for a person to stop them. With the riders of the horse standing there watching me and all this, I kept thinking was ‘this just keeps getting better.’

I stood there speechless praying he would not break a leg or his neck. I knew he was an athlete, but this just kept getting worse. His rider and I jumped down into the ravine We stood on each side of him with ropes. I had her place a towel across his face to make him think he was sleeping in the hopes that he would just stop trying to walk until more of the medication wore off.

Finally he was steadier on this hooves. In his athletic jumping fashion, he hopped up the incline out of the ravine out of the ditch to the road level. He was still a little wobbly, but walking well enough to not endanger any of us handling him or himself. We found a nearby farm that allowed us to place the horse in a stall to repair the injuries he sustained in the accident. I spent two hours repairing his cuts and medicating him. He may not have been able to do his show jumping that day, but soon afterward he was back in saddle again- so to say.

I am thankful that all worked out in the end even though I was never more terrified in my life for all the events that happened this day.

Share your worst day ever with us.

Gale’s Story- What do our pets do while we are away?

This past weekend I went to see the movie”The Secret Life of Pets.” It was positively delightful. But it made me think about what my pets do all day. Oh it is easy to think all they do is sleep. But every time I pull in, there is Newman at the door waiting for me. Back in the day, when my daughter was small, she would receive a Christmas gift from the dog/ cat. Usually it was pajamas or slippers, but always something. One year, she asked me how the dog got out to go shoppi

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Gale Kovach's photo.

The Amazing Things They Do


When the recession hit several years ago, one Ohio friend and her husband sought employment in West Virginia. They decided to make it an adventure and traveled there in an RV with their two dogs.

They had an aged dog named Shelby. I had taken care of her as a veterinarian for many years. Now she was at the point in her long life that she slept most of the time and had slight difficulty getting up sometimes.

They also had a spry young little pup named Penny. Penny had enough energy for 5 dogs to tell the truth.

They were in West Virginia over the summer months and one day it was quite hot outside. Shelby was resting on a blanket in the RV when my friend saw Penny take hold of the water bowl with her paw and drag it across the floor to her friend, Shelby. Thoughtful for sure.

When they came back to their Ohio home, I visited one day to learn each day my friend came home from wherever she had been she would give both dogs treats. One day upon her arrival home, Penny met her at the door for her treat. After taking the treat, the pup ran into the other room but returned quickly looking for another treat.

My friend told Penny, ‘No, I gave you a treat, this one is for Shelby.’
When she went into the room where Shelby was, she discovered that Penny had unselfishly delivered the first treat she was given to her friend, Shelby. Penny did receive another treat and told what a very good girl she was.

It always amazes me how often I am surprised by the wonderful things dogs do.

Share a story with us about something your pet has done to surprise you!