By now summer is in full swing and I hope you are having a blast with your animal friends as often as possible! I have just returned from spending the weekend at the Evergreen Rodeo. My attendance at the rodeo came as a surprise to some of my friends who know me well. Rodeo is often thought of as not the kindest display of handling animals. However, rodeo and ranching folks live their entire lives caring for animals, often sacrificing their own comfort and safety to care for large, dangerous animals no matter the weather, and often understand the difficulties involved with large animal care more deeply than the average person. Their entire lives tend to revolve around the care of animals, including keeping the animals healthy to have success at these events. 

Evergreen RodeoSo it may seem out of character for an animal lover like me to attend an event that can be difficult to watch at times. The fact is for people who love animals, especially horses, it's a great way to see the animals up close especially if you are from the city and don’t get to see big animals like this very often. Most attendees are animal lovers, although for some from the outside looking in, there are certainly some who don't understand and feel the animals are treated, possibly not in the best way. 

I was encouraged last year (my first time to see it in person) to see some things like the breakaway calf roping, where horse riders were still able to practice their roping and horse maneuvering skills, a valuable thing to be able to do for sure, yet once their noose caught the calf they released the rope to let the calf run off and didn't throw it to the ground, wrestle and tie it up. This to me shows that even in rodeo the animals stress is being taken into consideration and that's a good thing. Vegans and animal rights activists might still find it difficult to see everything that happens in a rodeo, but I can assure you that picketing or protesting such an event causes nothing but anger and divisiveness. It also ignores the fact we all actually love animals.  So after much soul searching I figure the best thing I can do is attend, smile, promote positive animal welfare,  watch for anything egregiously abusive (which I did not witness), and spread the message of kindler, gentler ways (positive reinforcement animal training) from the inside out, side by side with my fellow animal lovers, even if we don't agree on everything. I was fortunate to have many things to talk about with folks, for we have a very busy summer schedule at the ranch that is humming along with lots of volunteers( although we need more volunteer horse trainers!), and progress with training our new Mustang babies. Much to be grateful for!

Still, did I love everything I saw at the rodeo? Certainly not. But I also know most of the people there just want to enjoy the animals and have a good time and not get drawn into a big debate. So it is a way for me to reach families with small children who love animals. One video that I took of a little girl smiling from ear to ear while sitting on a little pony, is exactly why I attended the rodeo. That magical feeling she felt connecting with that little pony for just those few moments, is what my ReqRanch non-profit is all about, with a goal of getting a lot more little kids (and adults) smiling happily like that through safe interactions with horses!

And in other local news, with all this beautiful weather, people and wildlife especially in our area are having many more interactions than usual. As a vet, people often speak to me about these. Such as people not being careful with their dogs around mama elk and their babies, and getting charged. Another person shared with me how his dog harassed newborn baby moose twins for 3 hours and he couldn't call his dog back, which is a travesty for the moose, the babies, and frankly an unconscionable failure to be a good pet parent who can control your animal and keep them out of harm's way. The dog could have been killed, not to mention the stress on the moose. I have seen images of people blatantly ignoring the “avoid this area” signs and going into restricted areas to hike and fish.   People have shared with me stories about animals with injuries, littles foxes were all but one are killed and the parents have disappeared, raccoons stumbling like they are drunk and to be avoided in case they have rabies, and even other baby wildlife that seem to be without a parent to care for them. I try to give the best advice I can, if people ask me, on how to handle these situations. Most of the time the best thing to do is contact the division of wildlife and get their help. That is their area of expertise. Some people really want to help these animals which might seem in trouble, which is wonderful, but we must take care in how we proceed. Such as with the raccoon, you must be very careful to keep yourself and your pets safe if the animal might be carrying some disease. And when it comes to intervening in what seems to be abandoned babies, please, there is a big difference between providing a bowl of water for a lonely baby fox, to feeding large predators! Please do not ever encourage bears or mountain lions to find safety, security, or food, near your home or pets. This will likely end up being a death warrant for that animal as it loses its fear of people, and then feels emboldened to seek food around people. This could mean property damage, or worse, a dead pet. Regardless, make your choices very carefully, as my biggest worry is your loving heart leading to the division of wildlife being forced to shoot and kill an animal because your good intentions lead to putting its life in danger. So this summer, please, please don’t feed, encourage, or attract large predators to your home. Like the bear our neighbors warned us about on our evening trail ride with the horses last night, these animals have been here long before us, they will survive, and this will keep you, and your pets, safe.

Here's wishing you a wonderful, safe, rewarding rest of your summer, thanks for reading and God bless!

DrQ and the Crew of Aspen Park Vet and the ResqRanch.