Sunday, December 8, 2013

Brio: Stolen Horse Posting

This is Brio, an Azteca stallion that was stolen from his corral just south of Tecate, Baja California in November of 2013. His owner hopes that spreading the word far and wide will help bring him home. Please look at him closely, remember him, and watch for him at horse sales. Thank you. 

Carey Hannigan (530) 305-1585

Saturday, October 26, 2013

If Most of the Country is Against it, why are Horses Still Being Slaughtered?

Bureau of Land Management Horses. Photo in Public Domain.

If you're wondering what is REALLY behind the rush to send wild horses to the slaughterhouses, read this article:

Friday, October 25, 2013

Stop the Slaughterhouses!

Stop the Slaughterhouses!

Santos to reporter: those against horse slaughter oppose Agricultural business ~ Colts Western Shop brilliantly put Santos in his place!

October 25, 2013 at 4:30pm

From Beverly Hughes:

For those of you who may not know who "Santos" is, Rick De Los Santos is the owner of Valley Meats in Roswell, New Mexico. Santos has petitioned for a waste water permit in order to open his plant and begin slaughtering horses. There is a lawsuit filed to prevent him from opening and the Attorney General of New Mexico is also trying to prevent him from getting the waste water permit. He was in gross violation of EPA regulations when he slaughtered cows in Roswell, was shut down for abuse as well as gross EPA violations. 

After the hearing in Roswell this past Wednesday, Santos told a reporter that this issue is a bigger deal than people realize: that the people trying to stop the slaughter of horses - are fighting against the agricultural business. So Colts Western Shop brilliantly put Santos in his place. And it should be shared with EVERYONE who loves horses and who does not want horse slaughter in this country. Kudos to this business for standing up to de Los Santos!!

The owner of Colts Western Shop has given permission to share this post - you could also send the text to Letters to Editors of newspapers, and to legislators and give credit to Colt's Western Shop ! (link in comments with information about Colts)

Colts Western Shop:

My apologies to MR. Santos for the confusion, as at NO time have WE EVER stated this is against Agriculture since WE ARE AGRICULTURALLY BASED OURSELVES. In fact, we apologize that he misunderstands this IS solely and Completely without exclusion about HORSES, Burros, Wild, Feral, Domestic, US born or Abroad Horses Period. 

In Fact, the Fact that the Agricultural Community tries to separate Horse People From their Base across the US just clarifies the crack in the industry. The Horse Industry has a multi-billion dollar following and only a few thousand people are For slaughter, the rest of the United States let alone the Horse Industry is AGAINST this. Cattle men do not want us in their industry nosing around so may we suggest they back off of OUR INDUSTRY and lets settle this as REAL HORSEMEN AND WOMEN and quit pretending that its about MORE than Horses. IT is NOT, we are not trying to stop other avenues of slaughter-we prefer that they are more animal friendly naturally, but that's to be expected, we are after all human.

We are the REAL Horse people, we feed, train, raise, admire and manage OUR animals, seems to me the Extremists are the cattlemen who cannot care for, maintain, or properly afford these animals that they so desire to kill at slaughter for profit. I think it's high time we called this what it is, a public rip off. The public doesn't need the slaughter plant to make the least profitable horses profit, in fact, this just proves that you have to be patient to sell horses, be knowledgeable in your training skills and presentation to sell, and that Auctions now have to put a minimum bid required on the horses coming in-in other words they need to up their standards of how to market horses for auction.

It's high time the industry made some changes, responsible breeding, more concerted training and making sure your horses are really ready to sell. Then people need to understand selling horses is not as easy as posting a picture, it takes planning. I am certain that the best thing that could happen to the horse industry is to close the slaughter industry completely, we then clean up and care for the industry properly, regulate breeding. Did you realize that the less you have of a specific lineage the more the price comes to when selling it, its a demand issue.

As well, we need to allow the economy to rebound and then see where we are headed, prices on horses are coming up steadily everywhere, and to be honest the sales in auctions really do NOT and NEVER have set the prices outside of the Auctions, that just is a spur of the moment mixture of buying and selling-so the market outside of the auctions always has sold much high more consistently. Remember raising your bottom line on your animals, many people are selling horses easier with higher prices. When the prices are too low they assume somethings wrong with animals.

They also believe that people who live in cities and towns have no idea how to manage animals and clearly indicate that they wouldn't have a say in slaughter or not-keep in mind there ARE many stables dedicated to hardworking people who live inside towns and cities and are veterinarians, executives, CEO's, College Students in every walk of life, Physicians, and the list goes on, so to say they know nothing of animals and have no voice you are ridiculous! There are people who study and work inside their larger communities and have their own stalls and pastures but you say they are not worthy of opinions, I am sorry but all this time people have paid for years to become exceptional riders who live in cities and they are coming out to ranches to do it. They know, horses are not for slaughter, so to minimize their opinions or remove their right to a voice has been ridiculous.

Yes we know this is Nationwide, you may not realize this, but its Worldwide, and the world is larger than just your little plant in Roswell New Mexico! We are in Illinois and we experienced DeKalb plant first hand, you don't want this is your beautiful little town, in your wonderful state, around your amazing people, or happening to your incredible horses. We KNOW, we didn't need a picture, we saw it first hand, we didn't need a report we attended the actual meetings, we didn't need to read the responses of who was harmed, we talked to our friends and neighbors throughout our state.

Until you watch a tiny girl hang pictures of her missing pony up at all the Farm stores and cry explaining that a trailer pulled up and took it-the parents were beside themselves, a couple of weeks later the girl and pony were reunited when they retrieved it from a known Kill buyer. They had to PAY him to get it back. Now that's greed! You do not want this. As for the Agriculture Industry-no ones against what WE are a full time part of, through farming, raising animals, and working in the Industry. Sorry- you have IT all wrong, Santos.

Colts Western Shop Facebook Page:

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bees, Grackles, Dragonflies and Bunnies

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

It was a busy day for the little creatures! I stopped at the library today while running errands and when I was getting back into my truck I heard a humming noise. I thought I was going to be swarmed again, so this time I reached into my truck for my camera. The sound was coming from the Sandoval County Veteran's Memorial Garden next door, so I opened the gate and tracked the sound to a large bush covered with branches that were filled with some kind of sunflower.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

It was stunning--I have never seen anything like it.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I glanced around the garden and noticed five or six more bushes just like this one. I think they are blooming so profusely because of the recent floods, and we are coming to the end of our monsoon season. Regardless, the bees seem quite happy! 

A very happy bee. Notice the pollen on its legs? Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

My daughter is very allergic to bees and has to carry an epi pen, but I am obsessed with them. I love the sound of them as they swarm around the Russian Sage in my backyard, and the color contrasts of their yellow and black stripes.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

After I left the park I stopped at the grocery store and the tree in front of the store was filled with grackles. I love grackles. They are so chatty, and really are beautiful birds, though the females tend to look a bit grumpy when it's cold outside!

Grumpy Grackle photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Some people view grackles as nuisance birds because they hop around the parking lots searching for food, but the Road Runners do the same thing! I think they're fun. I like the sounds they make when they call back and forth to each other.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

As soon as I got home I started unloading the groceries and noticed the dragonflies had returned. We had a few cold days this past week and I thought the dragonfly season was over, but tonight we had some huge blue and red ones flying in front of the house, and a small sparkly one that landed in the arroyo behind my house.

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

It only has a few spots of color on its wings, but when the sun hit its wings the sparkles seem to have color, as well. It also has a striped body. 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Then, as I walked the dogs around the block, I noticed a few bunnies in my neighbor's yards. I have to remind my dogs that the bunnies are God's little creatures or they try to take a bite out of their tails, which is odd considering we have a bunny living in the house that they don't seem to mind at all! It was a great day for watching God's blessed little creatures! 

Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Pledge

Layla Lou, who came to me in a desperate time of need. Every day she grows more loving, gentle, compassionate, affectionate, appreciative of our relationship, and every day I feel the same for her.

My pets are all rescue animals. I rescued them, and they, in turn, rescued me.

I respect their right to life, safety, food, shelter, compassion, love and kindness.

I hereby pledge that for the rest of my life on earth I will never purchase an animal 
from a breeder or pet store.

When an animal comes to me seeking shelter, compassion, and love,
I will give all that I have to this animal.

For the rest of my life, all animals that share my home will be rescue animals. 

I will rescue them, they will rescue me. 

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Unknown History and Mystery of Mama Dog

Mama spends most of her family time belly up, begging for belly rubs. 

History. The word means many things, but when we hear the word history we generally know there is going to be a story that follows. There are many stories in this post, but this is mainly the story of Mama Dog and the thoughts I have about her when she curls up beside me on the couch and rests her head on my lap. I often wonder what she thinks of me, and why she was so comfortable with me, snuggling and cuddling me from the moment we first met. It's not that I am surprised by her behavior. I have a house full of animals, or as I like to say, a house filled with love--four dogs, a cat and a rabbit, Layla Lou. Technically, we didn't adopt or rescue any of them, they found me, every one of them, even the rabbit who was lying on her side beneath our trailer, dehydrated and starving. No, I'm not surprised that Mama Dog feels comfortable with me. She knows I am an animal person. I just wonder about her past, that's all. I just...wonder. 

Layla Lou a few months after I found her. When I found her I wiped the bugs from her eyes and cleaned her ears, bathed her, fed her water with an eyedropper until she could drink it on her own, and she gradually recovered. She started growing so fast and is now large, long and cuddly.

My husband thinks some animals instinctively know where to come for help, and this may be true, but how? Past experience? There is so much we don't know about animals--what they are thinking, how they know what they know--and there's one thing that often intrigues me about the animals in my life--their past. 
Chewy the Chewchewcabra found me when he wandered out of the forest surrounding our property in Texas. I suspect he was abandoned in the forest, which would be very cruel. We tried for months to find his owner. If he did not find me, he would not have survived for long. 

The homes of my children are also filled with love. They each have two children, two dogs and cats. My daughter and her husband adopted a puppy, Marley, who they were told was a mix of German Shepherd and Rottwieler, but he looks more like a mix of German Shepherd and Polish Sausage.
Marley the wonder dog with my granddaughter, Layla. Marley, who is still a puppy at one year old (dogs grow out of their puppyhood at different ages according to their breed) looks like he swallowed a Polish sausage. He certainly does not look like a Rottie! 

My daughter's family lost our beloved friend, Edgo, last year. They adopted Marley after the children were able to grieve over Edgo's loss. Marley is still a pup at a year old, jumping and running and wrestling with the children, and chewing up anything he can fit inside his mouth (including my computer cord, as I just discovered). My son-in-law decided Marley needed a friend, an older dog to calm him down, teach him to slow down a bit, so he visited the local Humane Society and adopted Mama. I knew immediately why he chose her the first time we met. She is not only calm around others, but also has a calming effect on people, and pups! 

Mama Dog and my grandson, Eli Lou.

Mama is a black and white Australian Shepherd with chocolate brown eyes that melt your heart. When I visit her home she cuddles and hugs me and loves to sneak onto the couch and curl up beside me with her head on my lap. And yes, she is wonderful with Marley. She is eight years old, but has been a member of our family for just over a year, so we know little about her past. 
Marley can be a pest, but we love him. He's still a pup, a Mama Dog in training. 

There are some things we do know about Mama Dog, clues to the mystery of her history. Mama does indeed take care of Marley, though he's a bit of a pest and she occasionally gives him a warning growl when he gets too rowdy, she is actually teaching him boundaries and that he needs to stay calm around the children and strangers. 
Mama Dog grabbed a bag of chips and ran outside for a quick snack. 

She teaches him that there is a time to rest and a time to play, although she also has her trouble-making moments, such as the time she pulled a bag of chips from a shelf in the pantry and ran out the back door with it clenched in her teeth. 
"Oops! I am so busted right now!"

I'm sure she had a rather funny expression on her face when she realized she was caught in the act, but I don't know for certain since the bag of chips was stuck on her head! Yes, Mama can play, too!
Like all well-trained dogs, Mama knows when she's been naughty!

Mama was picked up by the Humane Society as she was wandering down a country road in Colorado. The true mystery of Mama's history began during the adoption process and required veterinary exam, but the veterinarian thought he found a tumor on Mama's side, and my son-in-law agreed to pay the expenses of the surgery to see if they could save her life. During the surgery, the veterinarian discovered it was not a tumor in Mama's side, but a six inch chunk of glass. Her skin and fur had healed over the glass so it had been there for quite some time.
Mama is not particularly fond of having her picture taken!

There are other things we know about Mama Dog, such as the fact that she is terrified of storms. She can hear them before we see them rolling over the nearby mountains. I know there is a storm coming when she starts to whine and climb onto my lap, or head-butt my hand so I cannot type on the computer. She will also sit still to have her picture taken, but does not like the flash. She loves to ride in cars and trucks and opening a car door is a good way to recapture her if she has managed to sneak out the front door! 

Mama also likes to lie on her back for belly rubs and curl up on the couch to lay her head on my lap when she is afraid of the storms outside. 

So, what do these clues tell us? It is possible Mama was a farm dog. Though she does not "herd" the children like some farm dogs do, her comfort with vehicles implies she often rode in cars or trucks. The glass in her side could indicate that she was in a car or truck accident and ran, frightened by the impact and her injury. Though it is strange that no one claimed her, the would was healed, which would lead one to believe she was on the road alone for some time. I could write a book about the stories that have come to me, the possible past of Mama Dog, her trials and tribulations as she made her way to her forever home.  
So sad to think such a loving family dog was fighting to survive with a serious wound, searching for food, trying to make her way back home! 

There are so many questions I wish I could ask her. Did she have pups before she was spayed? If she did, there is no doubt she was a gentle, compassionate, loving mother. Was there children in her first home? I suspect there was as she is wonderful with children. Did anyone stop to help her on her journey before she was rescued by the Humane Society? I am often both amazed and shocked by the way people will treat animals, sometimes feeding strays no matter how aggressive or feral they seem, sometimes throwing rocks at the gentlest little creatures or puppies, or claiming they will shoot them if they come on their property. One thing is certain, though: Mama does have a past. She was loved, and she loves, deeply. It is certain that she feels grateful to have found shelter, to have the glass removed from her side--I cannot even begin to imagine the pain she was in--and to know that she has found her forever home.
The Baby dance.

You may remember Baby the Desert Dog? If you are new to my blog, last summer I drove my dogs to the desert for a walk and had a strange experience. All day long as I completed various tasks the word "dog" would pop into my mind. That evening, as soon as I turned onto the sandy mesa, I started seeing the word "dog" in my mind--the actual word, like a banner. I am not a "psychic" person, I don't have visions or hear voices. Nevertheless, we recently had a few run-ins with coyotes so I naturally felt a bit nervous. Was God warning me of potential danger in the only way He knew I would listen--with words? I will never know. What I do know is that I was so nervous that when we reached our usual spot I realized I could not leave the truck. I was afraid of what might happen to my dogs, or me, so I started to back up on the single lane sandy road. Suddenly, a handsome, skinny, dehydrated, brindle-colored dog crawled from beneath a sagebrush, crawled to the front of my truck, rolled over on his back and stared up at me through the windshield. I was stunned. I called the Humane Society and they told me that because he was a medium-sized dog he would be "put down" in three days, so I added yet another dog to my collection. Baby. 
Baby holding paws with my female chocolate lab, Holly. He wants so much to be part of a family. He loves being a family dog and loves Holly! Holly has a twin brother, Buddy, who is my right hand dog, always by my side. We were walking through a parking lot and noticed Buddy and Holly staring at us from the back of a truck. There were ten puppies in the truck, standing on the hot metal in the afternoon summer sun. We couldn't save them all, but we wanted to, and called the local authorities, but they said there was nothing they could do. She wasn't breaking any laws and would likely disappear before they arrived. Sometimes the apathy of animal "authorities" shocks me, as well. We told the truck owner we would take Buddy and Holly off her hands--they needed water, and shade. Sadly, the next day, the remaining eight puppies were found wandering on a road in Colorado and ended up in the Humane Society anyway. It is unlikely that they found homes as they are very large dogs. 

A few weeks ago I was giving Baby a bath and discovered he has what I can only describe as slice marks all across his right shoulder and down his leg to his paw. I didn't notice them before because of his brindle coloring and the fur has grown over them for the most part. So he, too, has had a traumatic past. Was he abused? He has a fear-based personality, though he adores me. He actually slides his paws around me when I'm lying on the couch, rests his head on my chest and hugs me. Every time he sees me he stands on his back legs and does the "Baby dance." Where did he learn this? He is leash-trained, house-trained, and also loves to ride in trucks. He is so happy to be loved, so thrilled to have a family I can only wonder what horrible experiences he must have had out there in the desert. If I didn't find him, he would not have lasted long with the coyotes! But why was he there? Did someone abandon him? Was he in a car accident, running in fear in the heat and sand trying desperately to find shelter? I will never know his history, but I have clues, enough to tell me that all he really wants is to be loved, to feel safe, and to live as part of a family.   

We love you, Mama Dog.

Dogs have one primary goal in life, to please their people friends, and Mama tries hard to meet this goal. When they are "returned" to a shelter or given away they do not understand. They think it is their fault, but it is always the human's fault, the human who was unprepared for a pet, unwilling to dedicate the time and give the love required by a pet. Mama, Baby, Chewy--they all have mysteries in their histories, a past, but they also have a future with me and my family, a home, and to them, that's all that matters.  

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Road Runner, Lizards, Coyote, Pronghorn Antelope, Super Moon and Strange Furry Thing

It's been awhile since I posted so of course I have plenty to talk about! The neighborhood road runner stopped by yesterday and strolled around the yard, pausing on occasion so I could take his picture.

He's definitely a male and I think he's young, perhaps looking for a female, but when he visits my house we all know he's looking for food. I have a large shrub in the backyard and he occasionally squats inside the shrub pretending to be part of the branches, as if the little birds can't see his big ol' tail and beak sticking out. He's not as sneaky as he thinks he is, but we still love him.

My young friend who lives down the street brought me another gift last night. The first time I met my neighbor he was walking down the street with a friend. They were both carrying buckets and I knew what that meant--they were catching lizards! They stopped to show me their collection and I told them I was going to miss the lizards when I move back to Colorado and always wished I could take some back for my grandchildren. A few minutes later the boys showed up at my door with two lizards in cups. I kept them in a fish tank for a few weeks then opened the lid and one escaped out the back door, but the other seemed content to grow fat on hand-fed crickets inside the tank. I finally picked it up and placed it on a plant outside so it could get some fresh air and it disappeared inside the plant. 

In my neighborhood we have home-delivered lizards in a cup! (They really are handsome young men, but I thought it was best not to show their faces without asking permission from their parents.) 

So, last night I stopped to chat while I was walking my dog, Holly, and his cousin is visiting so we introduced ourselves. During the conversation we learned we have a lot in common--we all love lizards, watch Treehouse Masters, and want to live in a treehouse! I don't just want a treehouse in my backyard, I want a treehouse for my home! Shortly after I returned home the boys knocked on the door. They had a gift for me, a lizard they caught behind my house. It was cute. I handled him for a bit then set him free. 

The boys told me they do the same thing--watch the lizards, learn from them, then set them free. It's important to wash up well after handling lizards, though, because they can carry salmonella, but they're generally gentle creatures that will sit on your hand or arm for awhile so you can get a closer look before they slowly stroll down your fingertips and climb onto a nearby tree branch. I always stand near the shrub, a tree, or the brick wall so they don't climb onto the ground where one of my dogs might get them. 

I visited Colorado and returned last week, which is why I haven't posted in awhile. The entire drive there and back there were signs on the sides of the road and above the highways to watch for wildlife. This is because Colorado and New Mexico are both suffering from severe drought and wildfires are burning furiously in both states. I did actually see quite a few animals, though. As I was driving on Raton Pass the smoke was so thick that cars and trucks were pulling over to the side of the road. I pulled over, stopped, the smoke began to clear, and I suddenly realized I was only five inches away from a huge elk who was standing in front of my truck. I almost hit this beautiful creature! I couldn't see her and she couldn't see me because of the smoke! Thankfully, she ran off into the forest instead of onto the highway. 

Elk grazing in Loveland, Colorado near my daughter's home.

Shortly after I drove through Trinidad I had to pull over again due to a severe rainstorm. When the rain stopped I started up my truck, looked to the left for cars and saw a beautiful coyote strolling through the grass on the opposite side of the highway.

When I see these animals I am always filled with gratitude that they managed to escape the inferno and find safety, but I also pray that they also manage to stay off the highways and roads so they don't get hit by cars. I think sometimes people forget that it is not just humans who are affected by wildfires. Thousands of animals die in these fires and just as many lose their homes. 

As I continued down the highway I noticed a small herd of antelope grazing near the highway fence. The females often run off when I stop to take pictures, but the male of the herd watches carefully to see what I intend to do.  

Of course, all I did was stand beside my truck and take pictures, but I admire him for his calm demeanor. When the male realizes I am only taking photographs he will round up the females and young back into a herd, keeping them together. This one didn't seem to be in too much of a hurry to round up his family. He clearly did not feel threatened by my presence and even looks a bit bored. 

It didn't take long to bring the family together again. They didn't go far. In fact, one of the females continued to stand near the fence the entire time I took photographs. 

There are two herds that I often see on my drive to Colorado. They are both between Las Vegas and Raton, New Mexico and on the west side of the highway. They are small herds, but beautiful, and fun to watch.

Last night was the night of the Super Moon when the moon appeared larger than it has for years. I managed to take some great photographs as the sun was setting and pink clouds floated across the sky. As I was taking pictures, my husband noticed a small, furry creature creeping across the top of our brick wall fence. He did not recognize the animal, which is interesting because we have encountered everything you can imagine while living in Texas, New Mexico and Colorado, from marmots and raccoon to o'possum and ringtail cats. He said he had no idea what this creature could be, though. Perhaps it was the light of the moon that made the furry animal seem so mysterious, or perhaps it was the super moon that brought him out of his home to explore. Either way, it was exciting. A bit of a mystery! 

Friday, May 10, 2013


Bee on flower in Loveland, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman. 

It was a warm afternoon in Sandoval County, New Mexico and I was doubling up on my dog walking. Buddy, my 100 pound male chocolate lab likes to walk with Baby, the Australian Shepherd/German Shepherd/Bull Terrier mix that found me in the desert because the two are well-paced, brisk walkers, so I took them around the four-block circle first then returned for Buddy's sister, Holly, and Chewy the Chihuahua, who I tucked inside my jacket.

Chewy the chihuahua. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I checked the mail and stood in front of my neighbor's house looking at my recent issue of Audubon Magazine. Chewy the Chihuahua appeared to be dozing in my jacket, although I did notice his ears twitching, which I thought was odd. Holly sat very still between the toes of my shoes.

Bee on flower in Loveland, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Suddenly, I heard the strangest sound, like a dozen chain saws. A few minutes earlier I passed one of our neighbors working with a saw in his garage, so I assumed he changed tools to something larger and returned my attention to the magazine. Then, out of the corner of my eye I saw a black cloud moving over the house across the street. It was one of those odd moments where something is so completely out of place that you actually have to stop and think for a few seconds about what it could possibly be, even though you know what is coming toward you...and within seconds we were engulfed in a thick cloud of bees swirling around my face, head and body. I could barely see Chewy in my arms and could no longer see Holly at all, though she was still sitting very quietly near my feet.

Bee on sunflower in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

It was such a strange sensation. I wasn't the least bit afraid--perhaps because not one even attempted to land on me--but I was curious. I'd never seen or heard of anything like this, particularly in New Mexico. I sensed that the bees were agitated, but I've been swarmed twice before by red wasps in Texas and they usually start stinging immediately. The red wasps chased me back into my home and slammed their bodies against the glass door. They stung me 15 times when I was first swarmed and 18 the second time. My husband finally found their underground nest and blocked it, hoping they would move on. According to the neighbors, they simply move to the next property, then the next one, and so on.

Bee on flower in Kingsland, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

Having recently moved from Texas my first thought was killer bees and as they swarmed around me I mentally prepared to run into the neighbor's home as I noticed when I checked the mail that his front door was open. One sting, I told myself, just one sting and the dogs and I will be off like a shot.

Chewy the Chihuahua is a very sensitive dog. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I felt Chewy move slightly and realized he was awake, but both Chewy and Holly were holding very still. Perhaps they sensed that movement might anger the bees. Animals certainly know more about other animals than we humans. I really have no explanation for why they held still. I knew I should try not to feel fear. I've heard many times before that bees can sense fear, but that didn't seem to be a problem for any of us. It was curiosity, not fear that held us in place.

Holly is also a sensitive dog, and extremely obedient. 
If I stop, she stops. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

So we stood in silence and stillness for at least five minutes, maybe more, maybe less. It was dark and loud and the movement of the bees felt like a slight breeze against my skin. To be honest, I lost all concept of time. I have no idea how long we stood in the middle of the street (there are no sidewalks in my neighborhood so we always walk in the street).

Bee on wildflower in Kingsland, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

As suddenly as they had swarmed around us, swirling past our faces, between our bodies, never landing, they just as suddenly started moving upward, forming what appeared to be a black tornado rising above our heads. We continued to stand in place, but I did look upward and that is precisely how they appeared, like a tornado. They moved sideways like a cloud, then to the side again forming a second cloud. They appeared to be following a leader, their movements synchronized, like a dance, and I began to feel as if I was experiencing something magical. Then the cloud of bees moved to the front of my neighbor's house, hovered near his door, rose up the front of the house, over the roof and back down the other side, and the majority of the bees disappeared.

Bee on daisy in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

As I watched the last of the bees I raised my camera to take a picture of the tail end of the swarm. There was only about 40 or 50 left at the top of the roof. I knew the majority of the swarm was in my neighbor's yard and I was worried about my neighbor's little dog, then I heard his dog bark from inside the house and realized he had seen the swarm, but was safe.

Bee on flower in Loveland, Colorado. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

I ran home, unloaded and unleashed the dogs, downloaded the pictures, made a copy and jumped into my truck. I first drove to the neighbor who was working in his driveway with the saw, but he said he hadn't seen a thing. He needed to know, though, in case the swarm became angry by the noise. Then I drove to the nearby school bus stops and warned the parents who always park on the sides of the road waiting for their children--they recognized me because I generally walk my dogs when their children are coming home from school. I stopped at a group of teenagers walking home and warned them not to scream or panic if they saw the swarm. Then I returned to the neighbor whose house I was standing in front of when the bees arrived.

You can see the dots above and on the roof tiles. These are the last of the bees as they swarmed over my neighbor's roof. I waited to take a picture until I was certain they were all far away from me and the dogs. I lost the opportunity for a great picture, but at least we were not stung. 

My neighbor once worked with bees and has a family member who still works with bees. He said it was a potentially dangerous situation, that the bees were possibly angry and agitated due to the destruction of their habitat or the loss of their queen. He thought they probably entered his backyard then headed north toward the lake at the golf course since they need water. Unfortunately, the golf course is also near the local elementary school, but by that time the children were already on their way home and on the school buses. I showed him the picture and described the swarm, the largest swarm of any kind I have ever seen or imagined. He suggested I call animal control and report the swarm, which I did.

Bee on Russian Sage in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

When I posted about the swarm on Facebook my friend, Angela England, who writes about homesteading told me that she did not think I was in any real danger, that it sounded as if the bees were simply looking for a new home. Angela recommends raising bees for people who want to farm on an acre of land or less and wrote a chapter about it in her book: Backyard Farming on an Acre (More or Less). The chapter is called "Beekeeping in Your Backyard," and according to Angela beekeeping is "one of the fastest-growing city homesteading trends in the nation." By coincidence, I am also writing a review about one of my favorite shows, Pushing Daisies. The couple in this show bakes pies on the ground floor of a skyscraper and raise bees for the honey on the roof of the building. In the show, they also mention beekeeping as a city trend.

Bee on Russian Sage in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

To be honest, after the magic of the moment wore off I did begin to feel a bit of fear, but it was not for reasons one might think. I knew that if they began to sting I would run into my neighbors house with my dogs--I always highly recommend getting to know your neighbors for your safety and the safety of your animals. I was also close enough to home to run zig zag down the street and into the house.

Bee on flower in Marble Falls, Texas. Photo by Darla Sue Dollman.

No, my fear was that there was something more serious behind the swarm. First, I want to be clear that I cannot even begin to adequately describe how large this cloud of bees was when they it approached me. My concern is that the environmental factors are affecting the behavior of the insects. My husband and I have noticed on our walks that many of our neighbors spray their entire front rockscaping with an herbicide so powerful it stains the rocks for weeks.

This photo was taken in April of last year. The desert was filled with purple, white and orange wildflowers, waves of color. Right now, there is not a single flower blooming. 

But it is the drought that concerns me most. New Mexico is in a severe drought, more severe than any other state is experiencing right now and I suspect it will set a dramatic weather record as we did not have any snow whatsoever during the winter and still haven't had any rain this spring. My husband and I visited the desert a few days ago, which is only five minutes from our home, and there wasn't a single wildflower blooming. Not one sagebrush was greening up and the branches of the Cholla trees were gray and hanging limply downward. I don't know how the swarm could have been connected to the drought, but I do know that everyone I spoke to that day said they have never heard of or seen as many bees as I described. I hope the swarm was a normal, natural event. I hope that my fears are unfounded.

Right now, the New Mexico desert is like a tinderbox waiting for a spark.