life as a young woman with a service dog - dairy farming, dog training, mental health, and more


17 May 2017

Back To Reality

The job situation continues to degrade. We’ve been here for over a year now and all of it has been a struggle. Overworked, underpaid, very poor communication. Strangers coming onto the property at all hours without prior warning and going about their business without bothering to let us know what’s going on. Sometimes I think the boss forgets we live here.

 

And now, again, he’s saying he won’t be able to afford to pay us for much longer. His son came back to work on the farm, and he hired another girl recently (who then requested more work, so he cut down “the kids” work days without talking to us first). Calving season is in full swing but I’m not involved. I get to milk the cows only one afternoon a week now, and that’s it. Whereas my dad spends pretty much all day every day on the farm doing everything.

 

The whole situation is completely unfair.

 

So tomorrow we’re driving five hours north for a job interview and I’m hoping like anything it works out but honestly I’m not expecting it to, because everything this year has been a massive struggle, and bad news on top of bad news. But still, we carry on.

 

Some photos of my happiness the past few weeks.

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10 May 2017

Convention Report: All Hell Breaks Loose 8

**We went to a Supernatural convention in Melbourne on the weekend. Sparkie was brilliant, we went to a Louden Swain concert, Jared Padalecki said Sparkie was a sweetheart, we got to hear Jensen Ackles singing and Jared playing the guitar, and everything was just fun and wonderful. Read on for more details.**


What a weekend!! It was a whirlwind of anxiety, exhilaration, exhaustion, and ridiculous amounts of coffee.


Maybe someone can tell me why everyone was lining up at the doors for over an hour before the concert?? We all had allocated seats so there shouldn't have been any rush to get in the moment the doors opened, but there was. I chose to sit down, where I could still see the door but rest my legs. I'm glad I did because everything was running late and some people ended up sitting down on the floor in the line.

Jason Manns was amazing. The first song he sung was "Soul" which was beautiful. I think he sang one other song too but I can't remember what it was.


And then Louden Swain came out and did a couple of songs, and they are awesome, and oh wow Emily Swallow can freaking sing as well! And also Matt Cohen, who seemed nervous (or maybe just drunk lol). It was late, so I was just thinking to myself that there was no way Jensen was going to come out, and fair enough because it had been a really long day for him plus jetlag and everything, but then BOOM! Jensen freaking Ackles walked onto that stage. The whole room just lost it. When the cheering lulled, a girl in front of us dressed in a fantastic Abaddon cosplay yelled out "I love you!" and Jensen said back "I love you too," and set off another round of screaming. First he sang Simple Man, which took me back to that opening scene from the beginning of season 6 with Dean trying to live a normal life with Lisa and without Sam. Jensen sang it beautifully.


After the song, some people shouted "encore!" and Jensen faked being annoyed and snapped "alright" before smirking and saying "Encore? Well how about this?" In the lead up to this day I was watching a video of him singing Whipping Post at VegasCon earlier in the year and thinking how incredible it would be to see him sing it in real life, and I screamed when I recognized the music. It was every bit as amazing as I imagined. The energy he put into that performance, even though surely he must have been absolutely exhausted, was just incredible. AND he even did that silly little jump at the end.


There was more from Louden Swain after that and every one of their songs was amazing. This was my first ever concert and it blew me away. I wish they would come out here more often!!

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On Sunday morning we grabbed a coffee on our way into the building and then had issues finding the correct queue because there was so freaking many and they all curved around corners out of sight so we couldn't even find the ends. We ended up in the token line for a bit instead of the wristband line. Thanks to everyone who helped us find the right place!
Jensen's photo op was so quick. I remember I was shaking waiting in the line and I kept saying "I'm so scared" but the moment he put his arm around me all the anxiety just disappeared, which is exactly what I felt last time I met him. I only had time to say hi and thank you because it was really quick (but yay I made eye contact this time even just briefly so take that, autism) and then I was walking across to Jared's photo op. He was watching my sister leave (she went in ahead of me) so I just kind of stood there awkwardly. He'd been manoeuvring people over to his right side but because Sparkie walks on my left, I wanted to be on his left so she wouldn't get in the way of our hug. So when he turned to me and said hi I just went "what side do you want me on?" because I'm ridiculously anxious at this point and I didn't want to get in trouble for requesting a certain pose. But he's like "whatever side you want" so I moved over to his left side and then he patted Sparkie and then he pulled me close and he was so warm and maybe a little sweaty. And after the photo was taken he patted Sparkie a bit more and said "she's such a sweetheart" and as I was leaving I turned to make eye contact with him as well (YESSSSS) and said thank you and I was just floating.

We stopped by the Hillywood table on the way back to the auditorium and both the girls are so lovely. I think it was Hannah who was saying how cute Sparkie's white paws were and just going all heart eyes at her lol


And then much more waiting for panels to start but the staff were great at keeping us updated. We had a lunch break and then it was time for the Hillywood panel.
Let me just say they were so much more fun than I expected. I regret not having a photo done with them actually. There was a lot of geeky quoting and references to other shows and stuff, and talking about what other parodies they might do, fans mentioned Once Upon A Time and American Horror Story. The girls said OUAT probably has too many characters though and they'd need so many extras, and that they have never tried horror before. Someone asked if they'd consider going back and redoing older parodies now that they have improved with their own songs and stuff and they said they wouldn't want to because it's hard to do them and they'd rather try new things. They kept getting distracted telling other stories that led off the previous answer instead of going to the next question. They talked about how they started out doing home videos as little kids and they were asked to start a YouTube channel back when it first started. Someone asked how they got the SPN cast involved with Shake It Off and they told a story about ending up in a taxi? with Osric at "a weird convention" somewhere I can't remember, and getting talking about their channel and Osric saying he would check it out. They said they had considered doing live parodies in theatre but it takes six hours to get the makeup done for some characters so it's not really feasible. They wouldn't say no to being extras in Supernatural. Hilly said she'd probably be a waitress in the background of a scene.


Emily and Amy were next. They used some of the audience to recreate a scene where Amara was stopping the Impala with her powers, and the Impala was chained back and Jared was flooring it while Emily stood right in front of it thinking she was going to die. They talked about how it feels to have other actors cast as older/younger versions of them and their characters. Emily said how she deliberately played Amara as very still, and curious about everything, because she grew up so fast she would not have lost that curiosity of childhood. Emily would be Amy's sidekick if they were in a superhero show together. At the end of the panel they called on some fans for a talent show with an unknown prize. And oh wow there were some actually talented fans up on that stage. The prize turned out to be a bun/roll, that Jared had taken a bite out of, which the winners were not made aware of until they had already eaten it.


Matt came out onto the stage very dramatic and did a roll. "I have to do a better entrance than Rich." Both of them spent most of the panel running around the room and spent very little time on the stage. Matt wanted to do an impersonation of Jensen, and asked which camera was showing in the green room so Jensen would see it. After an impressive pout and glare at the camera he pretended to dig himself a hole in the floor and lie in it like a dead body. Rich kept yelling at him to go up the back of the auditorium. Someone asked "How does it feel to play a character that's as hated as John Winchester?" so Matt asked the audience who hated John Winchester. Some people did. Then he asked who liked John and there was quite response for that, and he asked who loved John and lots did, so he turned back to the questioner and said "Your question is moot." One fan asked a really long complicated question about John and Mary (I think) and at the end Matt just replied "I like purple. Bananas have potassium. Uh, happy turtle day?" Rich answered most of his questions with the same response each time. What would sort of movie would you make if you had an unlimited budget? "Porn." How would you like your character to come back in Supernatural? "In a porn video." I think some fan did say something pretty inappropriate to him at one point about that sort of thing and he played it cool of course but I heard later that Hub was "dealing with it." Matt and Rich wanted to go up to the balcony to take questions so one of the Hub staff escorted them out of the room to go through the other door into the upper level, and they talked the whole time they were out of sight - "I don't hear them screaming so maybe they can't hear us anymore."


Rob's panel was maybe one question and then he got his band Louden Swain to come out and they played some more songs which was cool. He mentioned his stroke and said "I can talk about that because I recovered," which got a good cheer from the audience.
Jared and Jensen started out doing dramatic gestures at each other like kind of presenting each other to the crowd and getting us to cheer. Jensen said "Aussie Aussie Aussie" and then held out the microphone for the crowd to shout back "Oi Oi Oi." When they sat down Jared exaggeratedly crossed his legs and Jensen faked being fed up with him and said "Stop crossing your legs like that." "Oh sorry," and Jared switched legs and then went back again and put one across Jensen's legs. Jensen was kind of leaning over and he had his hand with the microphone up by his eyes like he didn't want to see what Jared was doing, and then he just shifted the microphone to his mouth and started to say something but as he did Jared started to shift his leg away and he accidentally kicked the bottom of the microphone and it went up quite hard into Jensen's lip. "I punched him in the face recently," Jared said, and he kept putting his hand on Jensen's shoulder and arm while he was talking. They stood up and demonstrated how they were doing a scene where Jared was going to help Jensen up with a hand under his arm but Jensen had moved his arm so Jared hit him in the face instead. They sat down and Jensen said "I'm bleeding," touching his lip, and Jared leaned in close and said "sorry, brother." Then they re-enacted a YouTube video about a soccer player faking injury, which involved Jared knocking over his chair and rolling across the stage, and pulling off a shoe and throwing it. "I lost my shoe" and Jensen saying Jared's shoes were stupid and Jared kept pulling up the leg of his jeans to show off his sock with a hole in it, which was "one of Sam's." Jensen asked "is there something wrong with your calf?" and Jared pretended to call a doctor and said "I have a weird calf, and a hole in my sock." Jared spilled coffee on his chair and asked if Jensen wanted to swap chairs. "No." All this happened before they even took questions lol At one point they were trying to take a question from the balcony. Jared: "I can't hear you!" Jensen: "Speaka de englesh!" Someone asked if they believed in a higher power/supernatural beings and Jensen said when weird things happen in his house he says he plays a ghost hunter on TV. Jared: "I tell them, I'm not a Losechester" and he actually dropped his microphone on the stage. Near the end of the panel suddenly Rob came out with a guitar and the band, and he leaned in close to say something to Jensen. Next thing I know Jensen is telling the audience to get out their cameras and start recording, and the poor Hub staff are running around trying to get more microphones (pretty sure Jared actually damaged the one he dropped too lol). And then we had Jared playing guitar while Jensen and Rob sang Free Falling. Amazing, amazing end to a brilliant panel. Jensen got us all to give Jared a standing ovation at the end of the song, and he looked so freaking proud of Jared.


Nobody told us where to collect our photos for the autographs like they had in 2015 so we had no idea what was going on, so my mum went out and asked someone, and they said "second room upstairs." So we went up, and there were so many queues all over the place, and we had to ask someone else because what we thought was the second room was a signing room. It was the last room at the back that had the photos so I don't understand why we were told it was the second room. Anyway we went in and had a brief moment of panic because the photos were on tables labelled "Jared" "Jensen" etc and we only found one photo each of ours and no amount of searching turned up the missing photos, but then I turned my Jared photo over and there was my Jensen one tucked in the back. We went back downstairs with our photos and were waiting in our seats for some time while they called each row up for autos. Eventually the last of the rows were all called and we headed upstairs and the line was so freaking long. We moved about halfway to the autos room and then I heard that J2 had asked for a break. We ended up standing in line for an hour. Maybe next time Hub staff could let us stay in the auditorium a little longer?? My back and my knees were killing me. I saw Matt Cohen walk by a few times and one of the people in front of me said hi to him and waved but he didn't respond, and she said "fine then don't look at me," and he looks back and he says "I saw you."


Anyway when we finally got the room, it was really small and there were two lines kind of intersecting with each other. I was directed into Jensen's line first and he looked so tired. Poor guy. He said hi and I said hi and thank you again and then I went over to Jared's table. He said "hi sweetie, I love your shirt" (I was wearing an AKF shirt of course) and I seriously couldn't even speak. As he was signing my photo he said "I'm sorry I'm so tall, I look like a giant," and he smiled at me and I said "no, that's okay," and then I said thank you and I smiled at him and then I like floated out of the room and I just couldn't believe Jared Padalecki called me sweetie and he called my assistance dog a sweetheart and just ugh he is so lovely.


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Convention high is a real thing, guys. I think back to what happened over the weekend and feel it all over again. And I wish I could live in that moment forever.

 

Also watch my video of our adventures in Melbourne for AHBL8! aka "When Dairy Farmers Go To The City." - https://youtu.be/ZZ83_XsOkh8

12 April 2017

Worth Fighting For

WARNING for sad post, with talk of animal and human deaths.


This year has brought more than its fair share of loss and struggles already, and we’re only in April.

 

In January I lost my nana and my Grandad. In March, my favourite rat Squeaky. And on April 10, Jessica went to see his brother, Mr Fizzles, and found him dead. Nobody was expecting it. Mr Fizzles had been fighting a respiratory infection for quite a while, but he was bright and happy and had a good appetite. Just a few minutes earlier I’d gone to pat him and there was no indication he was about to die. We buried Mr Fizzles beside the graves of his two brothers, Squeaky and Callen.

 

Life is hard. I came into this new year, full of hope that it would be better than 2016. But it’s been worse. There is so much fear and grief and hurt, and the pervading feeling that maybe things won’t get better.

 

But then there are the good times. Taking Skuggi through Woolworths for the first time, and having him totally ace it like he did it every day. Finding out there’s an Australian organization that runs an online video/photo competition for horses every year, and they welcome cattle competitors as well. We’re about three weeks out from a Supernatural convention, which will be amazing. I will fight through this crap. I have my dogs, and my calf and my baby rat. I am not alone. They give me a reason to keep fighting.

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(Unfortunately my baby rat doesn’t stay still for photos!)

30 March 2017

Cold Front

Well, the previous forecast wasn’t entirely accurate and we still had a few more days of warmth after the predicted rain. But it finally ended quite dramatically on Monday this week - after 20*C overnight, it reached 30 by 10am with very strong, hot wind. By 11:30, the wind had turned icy cold with heavy drops of rain and the temperature had dropped ten degrees. Here is our forecast for the next seven days.

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With the rain, new green shoots have broken through summer’s dying stalks, and the dust has settled into soft dirt.

 

We built a feeder for our calves this week, so they won’t have to eat their hay off the ground anymore, especially important once the winter rain arrives and turns everything to mud, and in really gross weather we can put it in the shed so they can eat in comfort. Last winter they were able to use hay nets like horses, but now that their horns have grown the risk of them getting caught in the net is too high.

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Last Thursday Skuggi had his first mall trip, just very quickly. He didn’t do too bad. It’ll take a few tries for him to settle with the new environment though, it was pretty noisy in there even though there weren’t many people. We also did Bunnings for a bit which he was great at.

 

Unfortunately my writing program is glitching again so I can’t put the video straight into this post, but go to this link to see Skuggi’s training session - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pDmaObw4SiY. And this link for a short video of our calves being happy fatties - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwnm9BQzjXo.

18 March 2017

Autumn

Winter preparation has begun. All the cows have been pregnancy tested and the new heifers have been freeze branded. Probably half the milking herd is on holiday now, fattening up and resting before calving season begins in May. With so little rain this month, the difference between our irrigated paddocks and non-irrigated is extremely obvious now. Feeding the cows after milking takes the rest of the morning to complete.

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Firewood collection has started, a little late because of the heatwave and Total Fire Ban days. In the past eighteen days, eight of those have got over 30*C. For reference, in all of December we only had seven days over 30*C. In January we had ten. And February, which is usually the hottest month of the year, only gave us nine days over 30*C.

 

On Monday and Tuesday this week though they are forecasting 10-20mm of rain each day, and a temperature drop to under 25 for the following four days. We cleaned out the shed for our calves this week, two hours work spread over two days. It’s now ready for clean bedding to be laid down so our calves can be warm and dry when winter arrives.

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9 March 2017

Another Year

It’s that time of year again. It’s come around so fast. I’m trying not to fall apart but it’s hard, and life just keeps on hitting me with tragedies this year. I debate what to post, what to keep to myself, how much to reveal this year? I think each time around I just get vaguer.

 

Being “okay” is exhausting. The nights are too long, and not long enough. I am a survivor but surviving is hard. Some days I just want to give up.


We lost one of our pet rats, 14 month old Squeaky, just before 6pm on Monday. He’d been going downhill for a while so it wasn’t a surprise. He was held and stroked gently as he took his last breaths. We buried him at the corner of the shed, beside his little brother Callen who we lost seven months and a day earlier.

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Walking is an outlet for anxiety that I’ve stopped utilising so much since moving to this farm. There’s nowhere to go really – the property is smallish with only one short piece of track and the rest is cattle and/or locust-filled paddocks, and walking out on the road isn’t an option because of the neighbour’s aggressive dogs that regularly escape their yard. But Tuesday Skuggi and me walked 20 minutes through the back streets of town and it felt so good. He’s slowly settling into his role as an assistance dog while Sparkie is spending more time at home. Last week he woke up from a deep sleep to do his anxiety alert, for a signal I’ve only just taught him.

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My loyal Sparkie, who has been at my side since before the original event and helped keep me in some state resembling sanity each year. She’s letting Skuggi take over sometimes now, but she still keeps an eye on me at those times, just in case his response isn’t “proper.”

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These two give me reason to keep fighting. My hero dogs.

2 March 2017

Summer’s Last Stand

It’s the second day of Autumn and this is the weather forecast for the next seven days. It’s only the second time we’ve had three days hit 35 and over in a row and the longest run of days over 25 in the past ten months. With no aircon, it’s been a struggle.

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Our two fourteen month old pet rats nearly overheated despite bottles of ice and a fan and a bowl of cool water to dip in, and we had to keep putting water on them and bringing them their water to drink where they lay squished up against the iced bottle, because they were too hot to move even to get a drink. An occasional spoonful of ice cream or some frozen fruit also helped keep them from overheating and give them some sugar for energy.

 

On Sunday Mummy and me (and of course Sparkie) went to meet up with friends in the city. After the quietness of country life, the city’s crazy is always a bit of a shock. Luckily it wasn’t too bad this time. Sparkie as always handled it all amazingly with only a few small slip ups.

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