Have you ever fed for your friends or neighbors when they went away?

I’m guessing that some of you might feed other horses for a living or for extra cash  – but that isn’t what I mean… I mean when someone you know well calls you and asks for a favor.

“Would you feed (my very precious animals) for me this weekend?  I’m stuck and wouldn’t ask but I just really need some help and would you mind?”

Of course!

At the moment of the inquiry, I’m totally into it and have no issue with the request.  Actually, that is exactly how I feel the entire time…

It’s just underneath…  underneath and in my subconscious I’ve suddenly been given the ultimate responsibility – carrying an egg on a spoon – The MISSION IMPOSSIBLE type of task that one does for their friends… feeding the beloved pets.

Or at least that is how my brain reacts when I’m not looking.


My good friend asked me to feed for her.  Friday night and Saturday morning.

She lives very close and if I happened to fall and somersault all the way down our sloping hillside, I would roll right into her backyard.  She has 3 equines and 4 cats.  Easy.  Also, her setup is totally efficient and foolproof.

My friend is easy-going and she puts no pressure on the task.

The approach to my neighbor's paddock



All of this was fine except she gave me too much notice.  I had three weeks to forget about it.

So, in my minds eye, way down deep, my brain went into ALERT!

I started having those dreams where I’m still in highschool and I can’t find my locker and I’m going to miss my midterms and my SATs.  Do you have those dreams?    I wake up in a cold sweat only to realize that I am not wearing the body of a seventeen year old (drat!) and that I wish my only responsibility was homeroom and SATS…  Sigh.

Anyway, I started having those dreams this week.

Except my dreams this week were not about high school.  They were all about her animals.  My dreams had me totally forgetting to feed them and the poor horses and cats were revolting.  They had created cardboard signs on sticks and were raising them above the fencelines to alert the neighbors that I totally sucked at feeding.  Next on their agenda was to incite all the surrounding animals into a wailing riot.

Also in my dream, all of the animals had created little hobo kerchief traveling bags and were getting ready to hop a train (which came out of nowhere and ran behind their home).  But, as in all dreams, catastrophe was avoided when their owners came home just in time to rescue them and realize what a nincompoop I turned out to be…


The equines saunter up to greet the newbie...me.



But, this mayhem didn’t only happen in my sleep… I found myself checking and re-checking the calendar to make sure I had the dates on there correctly.  Finally, I wrote it in RED so I could see it from afar.

I was becoming obsessive/compulsive over this and I knew it.

So, taking my affliction by the horns, I put all of my “feed after work” clothes in my car so that I would be totally prepared in order for me to forget to try to remember.  Or something like that.

And then I forgot.

Well, kinda.  I didn’t forget that I had to feed but I forget the papers on ‘how to feed’ that I had set by the door.   On that red letter day, I left for work so early (and before my coffee) that I totally ignored the conspicuous paper sitting there waiting for me to stuff into my purse.


Just to digress for a minute… I don’t know about you, but when I feed for others, I try to be ‘Super Feeder’.

I’m not trying to be the best, I’m just trying to be better than I am at home…

Don’t get me wrong, all of my animals are well cared for, but I might do it in my slippers – if you know what I mean.

To be honest, sometimes I’m still asleep when I feed.  I stumble down there, turn on the radio, and slowly adjust to the day as I fumble through the flakes.  And as far as cleaning,  I often wad up the haystrings in loose ties and throw them in a pile in the corner to be gathered later.  I don’t always dump my wheelbarrow every day.  And, my nastiest secret… sometimes – if I am especially busy at work and I have lots of supplements and medicines to distribute – my feed room counter and sink can look a bit like a science project.

There, I said it.

I’m not Super Feeder at home.  I’m Regular Feeder who makes sure everyone is safe and healthy, but maybe isn’t Hazel of the Barn.

But, when I feed for others, I wear my cape.


After work, I was so happy to know that I had my feeding jacket right there in the back seat.  I had already chosen comfortable shoes for the day so I knew I was home free.

I drove to my neighbor’s house and easily navigated the locked gate.


I drove through, and locked it behind me.


I drove up to the paddocks and parked.

ME (waving hysterically at the equines far away at the end of their paddock):  “HELLLLOOOOOOO!”

Them (staring at me from afar):  “And you are…?”

ME:  “I’m here to feed you!  You will learn to love me!”

Them:  “Uh huh.  Well, if you are here to feed us, where is the page of instructions that you should have in your hands?”


It was exactly then that my cape withered.  I realized I had forgotten the instructions.

I stood there frozen.

Me:  “OK, well, I’ll be right back!”

I got back into my car, started to drive down the driveway to unlock the gate and go around to my house when I realized that I had my iPhone and that I could just recall the email that had the instruction and open the attachment.


So, I backed my trusty steed all the way back up the narrow, windy driveway and back into my original parking spot.

Them:  “What was that all about?”

Me:  “Nothing… just – uh – nothing…”

Them (muttering and walking away):  “Oy, Mom picked a good one this time…”

With renewed confidence, I headed towards the feeding shed.

Showing me their feeding positions...



Whenever I feed for someone else, I always note their systems.  I wonder if I could learn something that would make my feeding simpler or better.  I love seeing how other people do it.

So, I entered the shed and was surprised at how much hay could fit into a canvas building that looked relatively compact.  There was a nice table, a refrigerator, a wheelbarrow, a nice coat rack that had hanging items, a few grain bins and everything I had in my barn except this cost a whole lot less to build.


Anyway, much to my chagrin, THERE on the table was a copy of the feeding instructions.  Of course.  I would have done the same thing for any of my feeders.  However, this note was marked up by the previous feeder who wanted to make sure that I did it correctly.  (She takes her job very seriously.)  The previous feeder had prepared all the grain and supplements for me.

That was nice.  Even less for me to obsess about.

The instructions with written-on notes from the previous day's feeder - she's the regular feeder.



Now it was time to actually feed, since after all, that was why I was there.

By this time, the two donkeys and the one horse had made their way up to the shed to see what I was doing with their food.

Them:  “Hey, what are you doing in there?  And, while you are in there, can you throw us some hay?”

ME:  “Sure!  Where do you want it?”

Have you ever noticed how once they know you are going to feed them, they run into their ‘feeding positions’?

Immediately, they ran into their feeding positions.

Clearly, the big horse ate near the barn, the female donkey ate next to him and the male donkey ate in the barn.

This was contrary to the note the previous feeder had given me.

ME:  ‘Um, the note says that Mikey, the horse, eats in the barn…”

Mikey:  “Not today.  Today I eat here.”

ME:  “OK, but Stella is supposed to eat there.”

Mikey:  “Not today.”

ME:  “Stella, are you OK with that?”

Stella:  “Not really but what am I gonna do?  He’s bigger.  (winking and whispering to me) Just make sure to spread the hay where I can get a good bite of alfalfa before he hogs it.”

ME:  “Sounds good.”

Stella winks at me and tells me to just put her food here today and add some alfalfa before he can take it from her.



So I fed the three equines and they seem very contented.

I checked the water.  Easy.  It was on a float.  No worries there.

And then I saw it…  The rake.


Why is the rake there?

Is this a food or notfood rake?

I decide that it must be for cleaning up the hay that dropped while feeding.

So, I did that.

Then, I turned around to head up to the house to feed the cats.

The rake.



Now, we live in GRASS VALLEY.  In Grass Valley, especially this time of year, there is a lot of grass.  Tall grass.  Tall grass and very large rocks.

As I turned to walk diligently and purposefully towards the house, I smacked my leg full force into a hidden rock then fell rather ungracefully right on my shoulder.

Yup.  I should have known better… You see, at my house, I have worn a path around those ankle grabber rocks.  I know where they are.  And I’m sure my neighbor knows where hers are.  But, I didn’t know where hers were…  Except, I do now.  Or at least, I know where that one lives…  I decided to put a warning object near it, just in case I did that again the following day.


Sitting on that table is one of the cats who was totally disgusted with my efforts to gain access to the house.



My friend leaves her house unlocked.  If you knew where she lived, you’d know why.  Suffice it to say that we are all safe.

Unfortunately, however, the previous day’s feeder didn’t feel the same sense of security and she locked the house.

So, Ignorant Me skips up to the house, cape on again, to feed the felines and finish the job I had set out to do.

I didn’t break stride as I twisted the door handle and pushed my body weight into it to enter.  SLAM!  I crashed my already bruised shoulder into the formidable door.


I tried the door a few more time – for whatever reason I don’t know… and then I decided that there had to be a simple explanation.  So, I poked around and under all the potted plants.  I pretended to be my friend and mindmeld where she would have put a key…  I then thought I would let myself into the guest house in case there was a phone in there (we have no cell service out where we live).  So, I walked into the guest house (it wasn’t locked) and found – no phone.

Here is the point where I should have made the smart decision to drive back out to where I knew we had cell service and simply ask where they had stashed the key…

Instead, I tried to be Sherlock Holmes.

Mistake…  Even the cats were shaking their heads and pleading with me to call their owner.

Yup, I spent a half an hour climbing up on things, opening panel boxes, rummaging around the hay shelter, uprooting every chair cushion… Truly, I was worse than a burglar.  At least the burglar would be INSIDE, which I still wasn’t.

To put salt in the wound, two of the four cats kept going in and out of the cat door…

Them:  “Hey Braniac, this is how you get in.”

Me:  “I cannot fit inside that door.”

Them:  “See, it is easy.  In.  Out.  In.  Out.”

Me:  “I cannot fit inside that little, tiny door.”

Them:  “But we’re STARVING!”


I got in my car and I drove out to where we have cell service and called my friend.

Her husband answered and handed the phone to his lovely wife.  “She can’t get into our house.”

My friend surmised that the previous feeder must have locked the house.  My friend told me where to find the hide-a-key.

(Obviously, I’m no Sherlock Holmes…)

And, obviously, the previous feeder needn’t worry about her job security… she has it in spades!

HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!



Champ with his friends during his last days of life when he finally knew love.


Little Champ was born a few days later. His mother rescued on the same day as Champ.


Starving Cinnamon arrived shortly thereafter... click image to donate.


And last week SF SPCA took in three more starving horses. Please donate if you can... Click image.

And SF SPCA's newest addition, Little Baa Baa Black Sheep born April 27th! Click image to donate!


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HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth... if you like this, please pass it around!

6 comments have been posted...

  1. RiderWriter

    LOL! Since we were shown the photo of the rake, I was thinking you would either have an accident with that or figure out it had another use besides cleaning up stray hay, such as breaking a window to get in the house. :-) I know, oh ye of little faith…

    I’m sorry you tripped over the rock – that must have hurt. I, too, become over-anxious and over-conscientious when taking on the care of other people’s animals. Except for the time when I/we forgot about the neighbor’s dog… I am still cringing over that. SO BAD. Somehow the poor guy “held it” for 18 hours and didn’t seem to suffer any ill-affects, but I will be guilty forever. If they ever ask us to dog-sit again I will be surprised – we didn’t tell them we forgot, but I still think somehow they knew.

    One of these days I’m going to write a blog post of my own of my epic adventure farm-sitting for a friend of a friend. THAT was a hair-raising adventure, and I haven’t signed up for anything that ambitious since! I think you are awfully nice to help your neighbor out. Nerve-wracking at best.

  2. Joanie

    Dawn, I do the same when taking care of my friend’s animals. I always want to do an excellent job for them…you always make me laugh…thanks for your great posts I love the way you write!!

  3. Jeanette

    So here it is. The last day of the April Bucket Fund. On behalf of CHAMP and now his namesake, LITTLE CHAMP, I want to thank all of you for your concern and donations. We at SF SPCA see so much cruelty and evil. It does our spirits good to know that there are so many others who are kind and caring. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  4. Vonnie Jones

    OY! Just as I hit the submit button I noticed the e-mail address above was my old one at Hughes. Maybe that’s the problem…….

  5. Vonnie Jones

    Uh-oh. No horseandman by e-mail today. Didn’t think too much about it after the problem the other day, but tonight I checked here and found the blog about feeding the neighbor’s animals. However, I see it is dated April 30, so maybe it’s the one to be delivered tomorrow. If I don’t get it in my e-mail I’ll be back in touch!
    Vonnie Jones from Umpqua

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