Yes, I Know, it’s Another Animal Rant

My dog just asked me for a chewy bone.  While she didn’t actually say this in English, there was no doubt I heard her, loudly and clearly.  We all do it.  I know my goofy Jack Russell, Finn, speaks in a grammatically challenged, raspy voice.  I know my other, more cultured Russell, Matilda, sounds a lot like the Dowager from Downton Abby.

Like every dog owner, I see the bright (in Matilda’s case at least – Finn might not be called exactly bright) intelligence, willingness to obey, desire to please and need to be accepted and loved  I can’t imagine my household without these non-human counterparts.  This is probably what has led to my, um, animal abundance.

Image(Matilda and Finn on the boat.  Although it might look like Finn is bright, due to the lightbulb over his head, he is not, but he is snuggly and pretty.  Sometimes, that’s enough.)

Yes, I have a barn full of oddballs, living together in what is, mostly, harmony.  There is a distinct hierarchy to my barnyard that I could sit and watch, silently, for hours.  My largest, Gracie, is a horse who is nearing 30.  Bought when my daughter was a 5th grader, she is known as “bomb-proof”.  The perfect horse for a girl.  But in looking back as to why she has this personality, it’s sad to remember that before she came to me she had several other homes, where she had friends and formed families but was separated, over and over, and came, originally, from a rent-a-horse ranch.  She was most likely whipped, beaten and berated into submission.  Now, she’s too old to ride and views me with distain.  I can’t blame her.  People probably haven’t been that nice to her.  At this elderly stage of her life she shares her stall with pigs, chickens, donkeys, sheep and an emu.  It’s not the retirement home of her dreams.  I try to make up for it by making her golden years as stress free as possible and giving her senior feed that costs $18,000,000 per bag.

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(And no, I do not know why, when allowed to graze outside the pasture, both Gracie and Bethlehem will choose to stand in the one place there is no lush grass, the porch.)

The undisputed queen of the barn is a sheep I bought from the classifieds.  She was a whim, 13 years ago, and the first of my oddballs.  When I got to the farm selling sheep, I was disturbed to find out that “them was eatin’ sheep”.  I wish I could have taken them all.  Clementine is the most intelligent animal I’ve ever known.  Smarter than dogs, smarter than many children, she rules the roost.  No one eats without her permission and Gracie and my donkey Bethlehem (Not that brilliant as for years he wouldn’t walk across my black driveway, afraid he’d fall in.) vie for her affection.  We have long called her “My Pretty Pony” because when we had more horses, each would court her to stand underneath them, and be their little sidecar.  When one orders lamb at a restaurant, it has caused the terror, pain, and death of a creature who is smarter than one of my children when they were in kindergarten. (I won’t say which one.)

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(Clockwise: Clarence as a baby, Clementine shocked to be found in the kitchen, Clementine getting lots of love from me during her annual haircut, a most humiliating adventure)

The pigs each have such engaging personalities and the interactions between the distinct families of chickens could fill a sun drenched day with entertainment. I really can’t fathom, when I’m in there with them, the fact that one day, a long long time ago, someone said “hmmm, I’d like to kill and eat that”.  Blows my mind.  I wonder if dogs tasted like bacon if people would be so quick to torture and kill them?  Pigs are smarter than dogs, you know. My pigs are engaged in a constant battle over a certain blanket in the barn, whether due to its texture, its color or print is the object of their intense desire.  Mediating between them takes both me and Clementine.  We’ve decided on an odd day/even day schedule for sharing. No one is happy about this.


The reason I’m saying all this is because knowing the thoughts and feelings of these guys has caused me to spend my life worrying over dogs I see from my car, trapped in tiny pens wondering what crime they committed to be kept in a cell, cats freezing behind grocery stores, birds in tiny cages.  There is a family near me that keeps two big birds in a minuscule cage hanging by their garage no matter what the temperature.  It’s killing me.

The other night, a friend of The Boy’s called and asked if we were missing a pig.  As if my pigs, Babette and Orson, are going to leave their Little Mermaid sleeping bags and snug barn on a cold night.  I called my neighbor and asked if he was missing either of his two.  We laughed because we were having such an absurd conversation.  Nope, not his.  So we went on about our lives.  That night, in the dark of the night waking that happens to middle aged women, I began worrying.  Whose pig was it?  Where was she sleeping?  Was she cold? (Well, duh, she was cold!)  Pigs have IQs that rival that of children 3 – 5 years old.  Can you just imagine the sad and confused thoughts of your preschooler, lost and alone?  Pigs don’t like the dark.  They sleep at night, just like us.  They’re scared of everything that’s unfamiliar.  It’s a shame someone just put her out because she was no longer a cute little piglet.


Dogs are the same way. They fully believe us when we get them as puppies and tell them they’re our babies.  They don’t get it when we get tired of them one day and send them to the shelter.  I get so many entreaties to take dogs that people no longer want or “can no longer take care of”.  It happens with bunnies and chicks that are given as Easter pets too.  My heart can’t take what we as humans do to these little souls.

I’m not all that knowledgeable about birds.  Recently, a friend posted this story on Alex, an African Grey parrot.  I knew they were smart but had no idea they were thinking like this.  If you have time, this is a real eye opener. (  Yet, everyday, parrots die, imported or bred, insane because of their care.  Arrrgggh!

I’ve got no snappy, funny wrap up. I usually see things from a humorous angle but this has really been on my mind lately.  We’ve become a society that throws away our animals because they’re inconvenient.  We don’t take care of our elderly and our children are being raised by iPads and TV. I think we’ve stopped making connections altogether.


My point is, take in a stray, spay and neuter, leave notes in the mailboxes of assholes who are keeping dogs in the cold, in tiny pens.  My dad once stole a dog that was being mistreated.  That’s what I’m talking about.  Do something for those that can’t help themselves. Give up meat for a day a week, then two days, then maybe everyday. Rail against circuses and Sea World for taking these intelligent species, with family units, separating mothers from their children and beating them into doing tricks.  Elephants don’t naturally wear hats and carry poodles on their backs. They are whipped until they cry.

We wonder why children are mistreated, our elderly are disrespected, and people can be gunned down in theaters?  It’s because, down deep, at our very evil human core, we’ve forgotten to respect anything and everything that was given to us, by God, to care for.  Maybe today, or tomorrow, we can all put ourselves second, just for a day or two, and do something for someone smaller than us, who needs our help. It’s not that hard to show love to another species.


I’m sorry I continue to post animal rants every now and again instead of talking about shoes and wine  I have to do it or explode. It keeps me from committing crimes.

What is Normal? (or Yes, my Baby is Periwinkle, Thank You)

My great friend, The Trophy Wife, called me today to see what’s up.  Even though we are just two doors away, sometimes we go weeks without actually setting eyes on each other due to the fact that our families make unfair demands upon our time.  We talk every day, though, and our kids are as intertwined as a nest of snakes.

I’m sad to say that she might have been a more normal person if she’d moved somewhere else.  I feel sure that our “otherness” has been the tool that shaped her kids into absolute freaks.


(Note:  I am including this picture of an elephant with a prosthetic leg because there was no other picture that could go with this story that includes that words”prosthetic leg” that wouldn’t have been just tacky, and also because this picture restores my faith in humanity.  When someone will make an elephant a new leg AND give her a pink princess collar, all is not lost)

Once, a while back, the TW and I were lounging around on her sofa, discussing economics or string theory probably, and her stepson (who, incidentally dates my daughter, how inbred is that?) came walking in saying “hey, there’s an ambulance pulling a dead guy out of one of your rental houses”.  Within 4 seconds, her kids had strapped themselves into their car seats and were displaying a decidedly Jack Nicholson gleam in their eyes.

Upon driving the two miles away to this ramshackle house we own, complete with chicken coops in the back and dogs tied to trees, we discovered that truly, one of our tenants had passed away.  We sat for a moment in reverence and then a paramedic came out carrying the deceased man’s prosthetic leg.

I know, we’re wrong.  We should have left it alone but my friend has a great haunted house in her basement every Halloween and I could see her mind turning about what was going to happen to the leg now that it was no longer needed.  I’m just going to leave the conversations that followed to your imagination as those who were involved in it, besides the TW and me, seemed shocked by it.  TuTu, her stepson, was so disgusted by us that he shook his head all the way home. Suffice it to say, after some rational pleadings on our part against the deaf wall of understanding that often comes with people in authority, we left without the leg.

Now, some might say this is not normal. But who, really, can say what’s normal?

Take religion, for example.  I’m surely not going to get up on a religious high horse here as I find my whole grasp of organized religion changes daily.  Although I grew up with what I though was a pretty good understanding of the whole thing, as I’ve gotten older, I find I am pretty darn tolerant of most things.  As long as I’m happy where I am, I really don’t care what you believe unless you try to argue with me.  My dad got the greatest pleasure in life from Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to the door.  He would usher them inside with gusto and they would leave, an hour later, dazed and stumbling while my dad would be in the kitchen making a celebratory sandwich to chalk up another win.

I do find it sad when people say they have no belief at all.  I turn things over in my head all the time, disregarding what doesn’t make sense, including what does. I talk to God a lot, a hundred times a day, describing how happy the new plants shooting up make me feel and telling him of my disgust at WalMart for buying animals that have been raised in horrifying circumstances.  (Truly, if you’re buying meat at WalMart, shame on you for being both cruel for supporting this way of farming and tacky for buying meat, or almost anything else at WalMart.)  God might get a little tired of all my chatter, frankly. I feel that if there is a god, and I fully believe there is, he (or she, if it makes you happier) is pretty pissed about the whole state of things.  Let’s think about it, I’m confident he’s not hung up on marijuana, which he made, and who marries whom, but I’ll bet he’s really scratching his head about the fact that we cage up his wonderful creatures and then eat them.

God: “How’s that sweet little Marybelle doing, Gabriel?”

Gabriel: “Um, she’s standing right behind you already, God.  Some idiot grilled her.”


I’ll bet he might be confused about grass mowing as well.  Every time I cut the grass I picture God saying “well, hmmm, I never considered they’d do THAT with it.  Seems a little redundant, but…”

Cricket and I have the same thoughts about Native American Indians.  What if an Indian from 200 years ago could time travel and spend a day with us.

Indian: “Let’s see, you are wearing shoes that don’t allow you to run fast, don’t allow you to climb trees and make you feel like you’re running downhill at all times. It just doesn’t seem, well, normal.”

I do think both God and Indians would appreciate the joyous ingenuity behind roller coasters and water skiing though.

(I tried desperately here to find a picture of either God or an Indian on either a roller coster OR water skis.  Couldn’t find one.  Go figure.)

Normal isn’t all that important as I see it.  Except for the time someone in my neighborhood painted their 20,000 square foot house pink, I really can’t think of a time when a little deviance bothered me. I even got used to that. In fact, wacky honestly delights me.  This morning, on Facebook, for example, one of my online friends was looking for non-toxic baby paint.  I have spent all day deeply regretting that I never thought of it.  Pastel babies at Easter, neon babies in the summer.  Glow in the dark for when they catch fireflies in the yard, orange at Halloween.  The possibilities are endless.


Once people can start choosing their color for the day, racism might be out the window and wackiness will skyrocket.  I’m thinking that this would greatly please the God in whom I believe.  From what I’ve read and believe, probably God is just wishing we were a little nicer and a whole lot more tolerant.  I think being periwinkle would just be a bonus.

ImageIn a quick aside, I would like to say that my new brother-in-law, despite being a brilliant mind and a fantastic father and husband, will henceforth be referred to, both in my blog and in real life, only as “Handsome”. Make a note.