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.

Hey, Big Girl, Back it Up! Come on Back it Up!

For those of you who have followed the big fabulous life of Babette, here’s another chapter.  Although I sometimes wonder why her life has become the source of pleasure for so many, once I turn on the news, I realize why.

DSC_0366There are reasons why people shouldn’t be tempted to buy sweet little piglets, even when they are tiny enough to wear a sock as a sweater and stand on one’s back.  (Why we let her stand on us, I don’t know, because now she cannot understand why she doesn’t fit in our laps.)   Sadly, like many of us over this miserable winter, Babs has grown large.  Quite large.  Neither one of us made an enemy of carbs this season.  We drowned our sorrows over the cold in Girl Scout cookies and other assorted snack foods.  She’s a big girl with big appetites and those who know me know I have trouble with the word “no” and even more trouble with that hateful buzzword, “moderation”.  If giving a pig a Hershey’s kiss and some cheese ravioli is wrong, I don’t want to be right.  I’ve tried.  Believe me. I am helpless when she bats her long eyelashes at me and oinks that lovable oink.  We’re about equally matched in size now and no force on earth can keep her from my cabinets.  She can now nudge the refrigerator across the kitchen.

Using her heart shaped pink nose, she has systematically plowed up three acres of grass and pulled out every expensive perennial, some over 25 years old.  I had a beautiful  peony, of the most delicate ballerina pink, that was planted by the original owner of my house years ago.  It must have been delicious.  If only I had planned to go into farming, she’d have been a great employee hired to plow.  But, the time of aeration and seeding arrives soon and I’d rather not look like the white trash we are rapidly becoming, and so I am being forced to introduce her to the barnyard.


Babette is not popular there.  At the house, she was the undisputed queen.  Once she won the dogs over by showing them how to get into the cabinets, she reined supreme.  At the barn, she is hated universally.  Our large, old, rescue pig, Orson, has twice tried to kill her.  Orson has not been seen standing up in three years.  His eyes are mashed shut because he is so fat.  His tusks curl up in an evil smile.  He is rendered invisible because of the constant array of chickens using him for a warm perch.  I have hardly even seen him eat, yet something must fuel all that bulk.  He is really just a lump in the corner of the barn, noiseless and forgotten. When I am in the barn, he has always just pretended I wasn’t there.  Upon the arrival of Babs, he heaved himself up and came at her like a stealth missile.  He then came after me, just for being her friend.  My genius old sheep, Clementine, who literally walks on only two legs, has also arisen and bitten her repeatedly while Babette cries and wonders how she dropped into this nightmare.

One of Babette’s tricks is turning around to get a treat.  Usually, I have to ask her several times while she blinks and looks at me as if to say, “Really?  Why waste the energy?  You know you’re going to give it to me anyway.”. When she saw I was leaving, she commenced to spinning like a top to get my attention. Walking away from her squealing for me was worse than leaving Cricket on her first day of preschool.

At the end of the day, I went down and brought her back to the house to sleep in her bed.  She ran into the house and straight for The Goose.  Then, using the special noise heretofore used only with me, she began to tell him what I can only guess was, “Do you know what that @$%^& did to me today?  She took me to Hell!  She lifted me OFF THE GROUND (shudder) and then, she left me there, with no chocolate, no treats, with a bunch of ANIMALS! (another shudder)”  The Goose, sucker that he is, then lay down on the floor and proceeded to tell her how awful I am and how she doesn’t belong down there, princess that she is.

IMG_0257That pig is smart.  She flirted and shamelessly threw herself at him all night, rolling over to expose a giant swollen underbelly so fecund and obscene that I felt embarrassed and looked away.  When he sat in a chair, she tried to climb up into his lap.

When he left the room, she launched herself up on the sofa with me and tried to look interested in what I was watching. She pretended to bite my foot and then pulled back and chuckled to make herself seem funny and endearing. She struck several fetching poses accompanied with sighs so mournful one would think someone has uttered “bacon”.  She politely moved away from the dogs‘ bowls when I asked her to, and when I said “bedtime”, she marched purposely towards her crate, pausing only to root me lovingly.

IMG_0223I know what she’s doing.  I have raised two kids.  I know “being on best behavior” when I see it.

Still, I can’t keep her from destroying our yard and I can’t let her stay out when we travel and even The Goose won’t let her go to the lake with us, despite my deep desire to see her in a life jacket, thus, she is moving in with the animals.

It’s not forever.  I’m working hard to overcome separation and guilt.  I’ve only walked down to see her four times today.  I just  took her two doughnuts and some celery (she is on a diet, after all).  She can still come in and sleep at night.  She will always be welcome come out and chase balls with the dogs.  I am already envisioning a small barn addition, painted a buttercream yellow, with window boxes, a cushy paisley pillow and, perhaps, a bench for me. Just because one lives in a barn doesn’t mean one has to live like an animal, you know.


Cough, Cough, Cough

I am: 


There are several phrases that I say all the time.  One of them is “I never get sick”.  This has been true for as long as I can remember.  I’ve only had one true illness, and even though it lasted months, and was scary as all heck, I’ve been super duper healthy for the rest of my life.  I haven’t had a fever since 4th grade.  While others suffer with allergies, insisting that the pollen must surely be bothering me, I glide through the seasons.  I might get a sniffle now and then, usually because I stupidly use the blower in the barn, breathing in airborn dust and poo, but I just deny it’s happening and it goes right away.  

This is why I am so incredibly pissed off and, yes, embarrassed to be lying here on day four of what has been intense misery on the part of myself and, probably for my family, due to my whiny need to share my feelings. 

ImageAs a vegetarian, I have somehow come to the conclusion that I cannot allow myself to appear weak in any way or someone will point the finger and say “Ah hah! She needs MEAT!”  While other kids suffered through numerous childhood maladies, I would not allow my kids to exhibit a symptom, lest their bad grandmother, again, point her carnivorous finger at my parenting.  Luckily, though, they stayed well for most of their childhoods, never having antibiotics, never coming home with green noses, until middle school, where their romantic antics caused them to swap germs with those kids from sicklier families. 

The last two years I have had several colds.  Once, because a man sneezed directly on me in the dairy isle.  I turned to the Goose, who lives in fear of germs, and said, well, now I’m infected, and it turned out that I was.  I got sick from something that ejected directly from another human’s nose.  It’s too horrible to think about. 


This go-round, I am lucky enough to be sharing an illness with the Trophy Wife, who is a few days ahead of me and can point out what’s coming next.  We’ve spent days on the phone, diagraming our symptoms, whining about our heads and coughing.  Oh, the coughing.  It has caused me to banish the Goose to the guest room lest he sigh ONCE MORE because I cannot control it.  Last night, he came into our room for company and TV.  So angry at his unfeeling attitude was I that I finally just licked my finger and rubbed it on him, to which he shrieked, not unlike a frightened drag queen, “oh, yeah, cut the throat of the Golden Goose”.  I kid you not, those were his exact words.  Hopped up on Nyquil, I couldn’t quite get my facial expression to convey what I was feeling about it, but I’m not surprised by his response.  He’s a weenie. 


Being a man, however, even with me in my mother’s old bathrobe for comfort, strung out on various over the counter remedies, with dark circles, watery bleary eyes, hair that looks like an 80s rock video by accident, I am marginally sure I caught The Goose giving me “the look”, which only goes to show that a man really has no standards and will brave any danger just to get lucky. I don’t know if he got lucky or not, as I was well and truly knocked out by then, but I assume he felt sorry for me because when I woke up later, at least I was covered up and I thank him for it.

Sickness is disgusting all the way around.  In the old days, I would have at least gotten a satin bed jacket or caring nurse. When I have imagined getting sick, I have always thought I’d enjoy my time being quiet and lying around, which are not the norm for me. And, even though I have watched all three old Topper movies, which were wonderful, I find that I am swearing at my dogs, who cannot get their hot, hairy little bodies close enough to me, the cat, who has ignored me for 16 years and now wants to meow and slink around my head and that friggin pig, Babette, who just needs something all the time.  There really should be a place where people can go when they’re sick, an old fashioned sanatorium, with 1000 count sheets, lilies in vases, May breezes coming in through open windows and nurses who bring you omelets and champagne and schedule your massage. 


My family refuses to believe I’m down and out and I hear them wondering why no one has gone to the grocery store. They are lost. They’re calling me to bring them the shoes they left behind to their schools, necessitating makeup so as not to frighten the attendance secretary there. They need me to shop for dresses with them when all I can think about are my cool sheets and black and white movies on AMC.  

So, today I combed my hair, and dragged back into life.  I found a dress for Cricket, I cleaned up the house, and, oh, yeah, I sneezed on someone in the dressing room. 

Now I’m one of those people, just sharin’ the love. 





Downton Detox


It’s true that I’m not a fan of TV.  While others discuss what went on last night on The Bachelor, I just smile and nod, exactly the way I did in math class.  I have never seen Survivor and I don’t know anything about any Housewives, no matter from which city they hail.  

I do confess to liking The Big Bang Theory and I do occasionally snuggle on the sofa with my giant son when Modern Family comes on.  (Okay, he’s not really snuggling me, he just watches it from the sofa and I will squeeze in next to him, clinging to the very cording of the cushion to prevent him from becoming aware and telling me to move on.  You moms understand.)

I had heard of Downton Abbey, duh.  I just thought it was another mindless show people tuned in to watch.  Never have I been more wrong.  It is surely a brainwashing time machine, made to make our very existences look dingy in comparison.  

On Sunday I came home from church and took to the sofa like a dowager needing smelling salts.  The weather was horrid, the house was cold and The Goose had said something VERY unchristian in the car that had made me despise his very soul.  The laundry was done, there was no sun to run, I had finished every book in the house, and so, I tuned in, to season 1, episode 1.  

At 11:30 that night, I went to bed wealthy, beautiful and dreaming of picnics and ponies after finishing the season.  


In the morning, I waited for my valet to bring me something beautiful to wear.  Apparently, he was not available.  My lady’s maid did nothing to make my hair look any better, so I resorted to a ponytail.  My breakfast did not arrive on a tray and no one plumped up my pillows.  There was no fire in my fireplace and no one to warm up the house. I am sure my yogurt would have gone down a lot better from a porcelain bowl. 

I spoke kindly to both dogs, with an aristocratic British accent, even whilst plucking a no-no from underneath the piano.  They ignored me.  

No chauffeur was available to take me to the feed store, so I resorted to driving myself, in the pouring rain, and no footman told me the weather was unseasonably dreadful and produced a wrap for the car so I wouldn’t catch a chill.  At the store, I was asked to produce actual payment rather than just putting it on the house tab.  Horrors. 

I waited all day for cook to bring me something warm and delicious for lunch, but, after sitting alone in the dining room for a half an hour, decided to eat peanut butter on Ritz. 

This afternoon, as I was washing out the garage where my swine and the dogs had made muddy tracks, and the back door, that the pig had belligerently thrown her angry countenance against, repeatedly, until it was splintered and muddy, I thought to myself, huh, well this just sucks. 

This is the danger with anything period and English.  The Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Rosamund Pilcher, for heaven’s sake.  They leave me feeling tacky and poor, with a bad accent and the make-up of a hussy.  Suddenly, my house feels small and dark and my family is horrendous.  It will take me days to recover from my Downton induced delusions unless I do actually awaken, in a country hospital, and this murky, shabby, cloud filled day has all just been a bad dream that came from a fall from my mount.   

Well, I must be off as I have to hurry and dress for dinner.  Ta!


Oh, Gosh, I Might Be Tacky

Remember that crazy phrase that went around a while back, “you might be a redneck”?  I snickered right along with everyone and never, not once, associated myself with any of the redneckisms I ever heard.  Tonight, as I lie in my bed at the miserably dark hour of 6:42, bloated, salted and sugared, in elastic pants the day after Thanksgiving, I’m seriously starting to question that maybe I didn’t listen hard enough.

Yesterday at our Bastards Thanksgiving day, things started out beautifully.  I had several tables seating between six and eight, all laid with my mother’s sterling, multiple generations of crystal and china, napkin rings, candlesticks and flowers.  Lovely music played.  I wore an antique Bavarian crystal necklace and earrings, my mother’s gold bracelets and had clean hair.  My house was in order, animals removed from the kitchen.   It smelled heavenly.  Things went along swimmingly as friends arrived, hugs were had and drinks were poured. Folks stepped out onto the front porch to admire the beautiful day.  Then, I heard it, that incongruous shout back into the house, “Hey, y’all, come outside and watch.  There’s a kid riding the sheep around the pasture and that big ol’ emu is chasing around a wiener dog”.  Things just went right on downhill from there.  I blame the Goose.  Not the Golden one this time, but the Grey.  One particular couple, you see, arrived at my house bearing not only two casseroles and a banana pudding, but also adult jello.  I’m sure someone yelled out something about showing a body part at some point.  I am hoping it wasn’t me.

What is it about holidays that never end up the way we envision them?  Does anyone’s? All week I dreamt that my first home Thanksgiving would be a House and Garden worthy event.  When a kid walks into the house with filthy feet holding a hen and proceeds to thrust his hand into the dinner rolls, something has gone astray.  Chippendale chairs ended up outside in the yard and someone lit a fire in the fire pit by pouring gas directly into it and shouting “watch this”, accompanied by much verbal abuse and encouragement. We told story after story of growing up.  Bunch of inbred folks that we are, we all married someone from high school and we all know everyone who is anyone from our hometown and are more than willing to talk about them in their absence.

I only hope my mother couldn’t see any of this and was busy elsewhere in Heaven supervising dinner done correctly.

In the paper today, I saw that a woman had been arrested for stabbing someone at her dinner table with a meat fork.  No one who saw that headline can possibly blame her.  I’m sure the woman had a dream day in her mind and the poor man just used the wrong utensil or, like the kids’ table at my house, failed to use even one.  Nor did any napkins at that table come out of their rings and the glasses remained clean so apparently no one there drank anything or wiped their mouths.  Although I have asked repeatedly, my son claims not to know how the consumption of dressing and gravy was accomplished without a fork.

Tonight, as I lie here, fat and sad that yesterday’s laughter and golden sunshine is over, I am answering an email from the editor of a paper who wants to come over tomorrow to photograph my pig, Babette, and this, more than anything, has caused me to question the sophisticated life I’ve always believed I was living.  Unless this pig can land the cover of Vogue or Veranda, I’m going to have to believe there might just be a problem here, not redneck, but possibly…tacky?  But just like the fact that I saw one of my friends yesterday make the decision to eat cake with an olive fork, I’m going to chose to ignore it.

Annabelle and the Trophy Wife


There’s a hillbilly saying in our house, that we really only say amongst ourselves.  Okay, all of us don’t say it.  Really, just my daughter, Cricket, and I say it.  Sometimes she doesn’t even join in.  The saying is “there’s no lovin’ like pig lovin”. From day one Cricket loved pigs.  When she was little, she looked for pigs in every book, stuffed ones in stores, pigs on signs.  We haven’t always been country people.  I grew up in Atlanta with a “True Southern Lady” (this just has to be in caps to emphasize how true a statement this is) of a mother and a “True Gentleman” of a father.   We did have one outdoor dog, the prerequisite golden retriever, but I am certainly not farm bred stock.  When I was 20, I married my husband, the Golden Goose, thus called because this is how he refers to himself.  If I ask him if he would like me to pull him on skis behind the boat, he answers, “what if the Golden Goose gets hurt?  Who will pay the bills and take care of all of you?”  If he is asked to do a zip line, we get the same response. ‘Bout the same thing with bike riding, wake boarding, jumping off the dock, shopping, trampolining, walking or jogging with me or playing Words with Friends.  Apparently, golf is the only sport he finds safe enough.  Probably because he has done it so often and has lived to tell about it.

The Golden Goose had no reason to believe the southern belle he married would become the twisted, middle-aged goddess I’ve become.  I’m sure, looking at my storybook family, he believed I was a safe bet.  I don’t know when I started to crave the critters in an obsessive way.  When our first was born, we lived on a golf course.  She got a normal start that doesn’t explain the pig craziness.  Whatever it was that flipped the switch, I soon realized that life without giving our daughter a pig wasn’t worth the living.  I felt they would frown on a pig on the golf course and began the campaign for a country house.  I spouted facts about spoiled kids and clean air and any other crap I could make up and probably brought the Golden Goose drinks in flimsy attire a few times as well.  Once moved, the assemblage began in ernest.  There are lots of animal tales, but this one is about pigs.  Our first pig, Jemima, was so magnificent as a baby that it caused two of my normal friends to immediately demand a pig baby as well.  Our pigs had dainty painted toenails, rhinestone collars and took baths with lavender scented soap.  They had floral and toile beds, were house-trained and had heated oatmeal for breakfast.  Let me explain my friend the Trophy Wife.  Gosh, she just deserves to be hated.  She is tiny, a zero, with naturally straight white blond hair that never frizzes.  And, damn it, she is nice.  Really nice, but not namby-pamby.  If I called her and told her I needed her to jump into a mud puddle with me, she’d say, okay, should I bring red or white wine?  She is the best.  Well, her pig, Annabelle, went to the ball field with her.  Her stepson was up to bat and her husband was coaching first base.  Annabelle had the bad luck to be situated behind the plate, behind a gap in the fence.  We’ve all been there, All Star game, travel team, anxious parents in Range Rovers, sure their kid in the next star, whispers… So Annabelle walks through the gap.  The Trophy Wife sees a situation in the making and immediately begins to try to operate her retractable leash.  Until you have heard a baby pig get angry about not being able to go where they want, you probably can’t imagine the sound.  Think tornado warning system.  Think dump truck being pulled on it’s side across asphalt.  Think malfunctioning rocket.  Annabelle began such a ruckus that parents and players from other fields looked up in distress.  Mothers picked up their babies out of their strollers.  Old timers checked the skies for attacks.  The more she pulled, the more Annabelle squealed.  All the Trophy Wife could think of was that Annabelle was going to slip her collar and run, willy-nilly, through the game.  When she got her back to the gap in the fence, she couldn’t fit her back through.  Kind of like taking off your heals under the table, she just wasn’t the same size going back in.  Under the scrutiny of the entire ballpark, players, two angry umpires, her husband and his glaring first wife, she finally got her through, tucked her into her purse and slunk to the car.  I know this had to be a problem when they got home, but seeing as how the Trophy Wife is more than cute, I think it all worked itself out.