WHITE MOUNTAINS â At Just a Little Ranch on Bourdon Ranch Road in Show Low, thereâs a lot of work going on. After leasing the property for a year, Mica Diaz and her father are âgussyingâ things up and getting ready to offer the community a little something different.
The seven and a half acre facility is close to the popular Hole in One establishment and was originally owned by Connie Trams and her husband and was known as Gilâs Trading Post. The trading post included a kennel which they built for dogs and cats, but also had horses, cows, hogs and dogs. They ran this for 10 years.
Carolyn Reagan became the propertyâs next owner and she and her husband also ran it as a kennel â Cinder Mountain Kennels â the cinder pits are right behind the property. When they moved they put the property up for sale and Diaz and her father, David Axford, leased it for a year, surviving as a start-up business with the help of rescue organizations. Now as owners they have even bigger plans.
This is not the first time Mica has involved her family in her animal pursuits. Sheâs been an animal enthusiast since the age of 3, when her family lived in Washington state and she wanted a horse, so her mom and dad rented a farmhouse. The love affair with animals has continued all of her life, though she was not sure where it would fit into a career.
Knowing she needed to claim something for her livelihood, she grabbed at a couple of life-sustaining jobs and worked in retail and cosmetology with a tattoo apprenticeship lurking in her rear view mirror. That, however, never came to fruition.
She always got side-tracked by animals.
One year her mom gave her the Cesar Millan dog training videos. She resisted but when she ran out of things to watch, she decided to play them. Her reaction: âHe gets it.â Thatâs all it took; she was back on track to what she knew in her heart was her path â as an animal behaviorist. Her appetite for knowledge was insatiable and she began reading everything she could get her hands on.
After a change in her life circumstances, Diaz moved to the Mountain and moved in with her parents. During this period she continued to drive by Cinder Mountain Kennels and had the thought again about farm life and ranching. Deciding to âjust askâ about the possibility, she and her dad leased the property. Micaâs dream is a tall order, but definitely within her reach. With the help of her dad, a retired contractor, and her animal partners, she is on her way to success.
Now that they have ownership, they are trimming back trees and spreading out with what they started creating a year ago â just a little ranch. The property is inhabited by turkeys, chickens, goats, pigs, rabbits, donkeys, horses, snakes, tortoises and of course, dogs and cats. The business offers dog training, pet boarding (including horses), farm-raised meats and eggs and livestock for sale, specializing in animals such as poultry, goats and pigs that people want for a small acreage. Mica made it clear that âthe animals are for eating.â
They are currently making changes just inside the entrance to the main building where they will have a general store. There they will sell goat meat, turkey, chicken and duck eggs, and more. They plan to use Malapai Meat packing for the goat meat because they inspect. Rabbit and poultry meat will be also be sold but marked, âNot for Human Consumption,â though they personally eat the rabbit meat from their little ranch.
A lot of the animals are mini in size, not unlike Mica herself â though she describes herself as a drill sergeant when it comes to being in charge of the animals. Many of the animals are rescues and require major attention with regard to behavior and nutrition.
Though certifications are available for dog trainer and animal behaviorist, they are not required. Mica stands on her experience. âI have worked with animals all of my life and have learned about animals from books and from the animals themselves. I have not been reading story books, but books by veterinarians and scientists. If at some point certification is required, I will address that.â Energy and animals instincts are at the core of her training philosophy.
âDogs have the mind of a toddler â the brain capacity of a toddler,â states Mica. âWe all know that toddlers are smart and you have to treat a dog like a toddler.â The trainer must hold the alpha position.
âNobody wants to be around a bad 3-year-old; the same is true of a dog. A dog needs to release energy; he needs to be exercised. You also have to pay attention to the animalâs instincts. What is lacking with a lot of animals is socialization with other people.â
Mica stresses that all animals are born with certain instincts common to their breed and people need to know what those are. People also need to realize that even with training, it does not end at the kennel, but must continue at home.
âWhen we get in a rescue,â explains Mica, âit takes three or four days of socializing them before they are ready to learn. There is the undoing of what has been done. I have a rule for training â two weeks boarding. It takes that long to break through to the animal. Once you train them, they can revert back very quickly so I write very detailed notes to the owners. I follow up on the progress and I have about a 75 percent success rate because of that.â
Mica is always reading; these days her focus is on scientific studies and the genetic makeup and behavior of the animal. Even the pigs she has will challenge her; she said they are bullies and they are very smart.
âMost people see the animals as fragile,â continued Mica. âThey are not. You have to be in charge. You have to tell then to âknock it offâ and mean it, but not in a frustrating manner. Horses and donkeys are large and they will take control if you do not,â advised Mica. âYou have to read their energy and their body language.â
Mica cautions that the animalâs training must be continued after the initial progress. âPeople expect a robot. You learn to ride a bicycle but if you havenât for a long time, you donât do well at first, but if you keep up with it, you will. It is the same with training a dog â you have to keep up with the training. You focus on what you want from the animal.â
Having a ranch, albeit âJust a Little Ranch,â is a lot of work. The day begins when it is light outside rolling out of the bed, getting everybody watered and the yard cleaned up is the first order of business seven days a week. âI canât keep the animals from pooping,â she smiled, âbut I can clean it up and make the place somewhat presentable.â That usually encompasses the first two hours of the day. There is never not something to do on the ranch.
The business plans are a progression. Education is one of the areas Mica wants to give focus to. She believes it is important for kids to know where their food comes from and how animals fit into our ecosystem. âBecause of technology, there is not enough animal education,â said Mica. Another planned addition to the education offerings will be classes for dogs and dog owners for rattlesnake awareness. With only one other place on the Mountain holding that type of class, she wants to ensure that she incorporates it into her operation. She also wants there to be awareness of the species of snakes in this area. She is currently treating a rescued boa who was seriously bitten by a rat â again, instinct and behavior rule in dealing with helping the snake heal. Adding to the educational component, Mica wants to incorporate information about skunks and coyotes and their place in the ecosystem so that people do not kill them.
Whether you are looking for information, a boarding kennel, training or behavior modification for your animal, or fresh eggs and meat and other things from their soon-to-be general store, a visit to âJust a Little Ranchâ shows you that the pioneer spirit is alive and well in the White Mountains of Arizona.
Just a Little Ranch LLC is located at 1568 Bourdon Ranch Road in Show Low.