No Emoji is strong enough!


I swear to God I can smell that with my eyes, that is not right, that is how bad your cooking smells.

Namaste! Just a short post because the retching is interrupting my typing.

We were up and down all last night with Mali feeling a lot of pain from surgery and needing comforting. Somewhere around 2:00am Gracie decided to take advantage of this by going outside for some nosing about. I was waiting by the door and suddenly got a really pungent waft of musk. Skunk! I called to Gracie fearing the worst. A few seconds later she cam trittle-trottling in smelling as fresh as a vizsla can. (BTW – vizsla actually smell really good, not kidding.) I wiped my forehead with the relief of dodging the “middle-of-the-night-dog-bathing” bullet.

With Mali recovering from surgery and Gracie is afraid that she’ll be left alone again if she leaves her side, I had to venture forth to the barn for chores by myself this morning. As I approached the corral I got a wiff of the most gut-wrenching odor. It got steadily stronger as I approached, reaching the level of burning eyes by the time I got up close to the boys. I quickly gave each of them their grain and started searching about for the source.

Luckily (?) it didn’t take me long. Along one side of the corral, the fierce donkey defender Bo had completely stomped a skunk to death. Intestines here, head there, one paw here, and another there. Such carnage has not been seen since the last “Friday the 13th” I saw way back in 1980. And the donkey, smelling like the back-end of a pig with an intestinal disease, had a gleam of pride in his eye as he finished his breakfast and trotted off into the now-skunk-free meadow.


No break for the wicked…

Mali's tumorNamaste! Well, we took the dogs in for their yearly. I had noticed what I thought was a bug bite on Mali’s side and decide to ask the vet about it. She took a look and decided to do a quick needle aspirate on it. A few minutes later she came back with the news that it was a Mast cell tumor. She sent us home with a script for prednisone and a date for surgery.

Our tummies were all fluttery, but we took solace in the fact that we caught this early and it is a fairly treatable cancer. We started Mali on the drug right away. Within two days it had shrunk to almost non-existence! Hoorah!

As anyone who has ever gotten short term prednisone knows, there is a taper period where you decrease the dose. We were two days into the dose reduction when it started coming back, seemingly more aggressively than before. We got in contact with the vet and she had us change the dose back for the higher amount. After several days of it not reducing the tumor size we moved the surgery date up.

MaliIncisionThe surgical treatment of mast cell tumors is fairly straightforward – scorched earth. Cut out as much surrounding tissue as possible to get nice clear, cancer-free margins. So, this is what we got from a tumor that was about the width of my finger!

The pathology report came back and said the the bottom margin, toward the rib cage, has a really small margin, but the rest look clear. We can only hope that there isn’t a recurrance. 

Getting her home post-surgery and staying up to comfort her was a whole other story that I think I will save for another time. This whole experience has reinforced the idea that we have to remember that although they may not understand sometimes, our fur babies look to us for comfort when they are in pain.


RIP Gretchen


Don’t be dismayed at goodbyes. A farewell is necessary before you can meet again. And meeting again, after moments or lifetimes, is certain for those who are friends.

Richard Bach

One of the bad things about having animals in your life is that eventually they pass away. Although I don’t practice the organized religion called Buddhism anymore, I try to keep the mindset and some of the key thinkings in my life. Like mindfulness, like trying to remove one’s ego. Death always gave me a problem, though. I just could never come to fully accept re-incarnation and the cycles of death. Without going too deeply, without this belief, a lot of the other parts fall away as meaningless.

At any point, I just thought I would update the followers of this blog with the news that Gretchen, fierce, feral feline warrior has passed away from congestive heart failure. The symptoms (although not the disease) came on quite rapidly. We spent an obscene amount of money on various medicines, that for a short while we would force her to take several times a day. We would hunt her down, wrap her in a towel and force a syringe in her mouth, to the point where she would run when she saw either of us.

Next we tried flavored medicine, in her discomfort she still maintained her independent spirit and wouldn’t eat any of the many we tried. In the end, we decided that she should be allowed to retain her dignity and not be scared of us subjecting her to something we, not she, wanted. She passed away under the very porch where she hid away for half a year before we convinced her that our house was a safe and loving environment where she would still have her freedom to come and go.

I would really like to believe in rebirth where I would meet Gretchen again in new form. Or believe in a heaven where Gretchen could spend long hours grooming my Dad’s beard while he slept. But, I can’t.



The “leftovers” scam during the polite days.

So it has been a few days since the last posting so I thought I would share a small story I found humorous this morning.
Gretchen the cat has always been a fussy eater. You would think that an animal that was feral for a portion of her youth would be willing to eat any size portion that was put in front of her. Nope. Usually only tuna-based wet food and only salmon-flavored dry food. Sometimes she will demand dry food three times until she gets enough, sometimes she will demand food and eat three pieces. Enter her partners in food-scamming crime. We began to sense a pattern. Gretchen would wander by her sisters and then come to us and demand food. We, being the ever faithful servants, would deliver. Three small pieces later she would wander off and miracle of miracles, of of her sisters would be there to finish up her leftovers so that Gretchen had fresh food every time.

cat and dog sitting side-by-side
Mali and Gretchen, co-conspirators.

At first we thought this coincidence. After all, don’t these two seem innocent? It soon became apparent that some type of food-trading scheme was going on. We weren’t sure what Gretchen was receiving in return, but for a good amount of time we allowed the “leftovers” scam to continue. It seemed to contribute to a degree of sisterly-bonding between the three we reasoned.

Fast forward to several days ago. It is unclear what brought this scam to such a horrible point. Gretchen has finally started venturing forth from the house in the warm weather. Perhaps she isn’t delivering on some winter promise of all the mouse-heads the girls could eat. It really is unclear. However, Mali has now escalated the leftovers scam. Mali will hover over Gretchen getting closer and closer until she is resting her nose on Gretchen’s back while she eats. Or, horror of horrors, drool on Miss Gretch. This forces the cat to abandon her food more quickly, so that Mali gets a bigger portion of the loot. Mali took it to an all-time high yesterday when, after finishing her dinner in another room, came scrambling into the kitchen where the cat was eating and leapt onto her dog bed causing it to slide into the cat, pushing her out of her food bowl. Observing this, Mrs. BoDonkey commented, “Well, it looks like it has turned from a leftovers scam into a pushovers scam.” I found this funny, the cat — not so much. Moral of the story, All good scams depend on the willingness of the participants to play well together!


“…the next guy that says, ‘Hijinx’, gets pistol whipped…”

So, little Gracie barked a couple of times in the night -not her going out bark, more her, “there is a skunk I want to play with” bark, or her “there is a fox making noise” bark, or even her “a squirrel is eating something out of the large paper bag of birdseed that got left on the porch right outside the front door” bark – so of course we told her to be quiet and go to sleep.

Come this morning, the BoDonkey family woke up and looked out the balcony doors toward the barn only to find the Mustang standing in his favorite spot sleeping – not inside his locked up corral. We went up to feed and found that Dakota’s stall door had been left unlatched. He had pushed it open, proceeded to tear the bale of hay in the aisle apart, and then opened the aisle door to freedom. Luckily the barn is completely fenced, so no foul. The only damage was to the bale that Gracie normally sits on to eat her morning carrot. She was quite disappointed.

Moral of the story, we need to work on expanding Gracie’s vocabulary.



Whether appropriate or not, it is the weekend and Bo enjoys kickin’ back with a brew or two (just kidding, we only give him a sip now and then.)

So, you’ve met Bo, but I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce you to the rest of our crew. As the weeks go by I’ll dig into the wayback machine and tell you some stories about each of them.

MandGThis is Mali and Gracie. When we finally decided that we would get a dog, we were a little worried about the amount of time we spent away from the house. In the end we decided to get two so they could keep each other company. We questioned this decision for the first six months or so, now I can’t imagine having done things any differently. I’ll tell you some stories in other posts about “incidents” and their hijink!

Dakota the BLM mustang
Dakota at Spring Hill Farm

This is Dakota. He is a rescue mustang from the BLM. He is actually a double rescue. After leaving BLM land he did some duty as a trail horse before being given up for dog food. Some kind people saw him at the slaughter auction and bought him up. Some day I’ll tell you the story of how he came to Spring Hill Farm. It involves a dude ranch, “adventure riding” (highly endorsed!! ) and the next resident of Spring Hill Farm.

This is Hussar’s Tessaria. She is (was) a full-blood Arabian out of the stud Hussar. She was my wife’s horse and sadly passed away in Feb. 2015 at the age of 34. She is very dearly missed. We had a lot of ups-and-downs with this girl. She had spirit and an ability to find every hole in the meadow!


This is Gretchen. She was abandoned on our farm, flea collar still around her neck. All Summer and Fall we saw her darting around the property –

Gretchen bed
Nuttin’ more comfy than a bed of dog toys

likely sleeping under the deck. Finally when it started getting cold Sabine managed to coax her inside. We took her to the vet and they said she was about 1 year old. That was about 8 years ago. She is still an indoor/outdoor cat. In Spring/Summer/Fall she is out with the dawn and sometimes doesn’t come back inside. In Winter though, she curls up in from of the fire and doesn’t go anywhere. Smart cat!

The Times They Are a-Changin…

Bob_Dylan_Barcelona    No, this post isn’t about Dylan, just a reflection on my life at the moment. I have worked in biomedical research for several decades. I got my doctorate at Harvard in virology. I followed that up with a post-doc before getting a position as an Instructor. After a few years I moved to Yale University ( the dark side) and took a position as an Assistant Professor.

Those were the good years. Publications came easy. I got an R21 and an R01 before the economic downturn kicked in. While I earned promotion to Associate Professor, things no longer flowed as easily. Publications slowed down and grant money dried up. Now, I’m looking to change things up a little. I’ve always been interested in computers (I’ll tell you a story about that when you get to know me better). So, I’m trying to change careers by going through several on-line code camps along with utilizing other resources. Hopefully the stars will align and result in a new position that allows me to use my new skills alongside my long-term expertise in the sciences.

In the meantime, I’ve started this website to record my thoughts on a little bit of everything from computer science and molecular virology to organic, sustainable farming.