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.

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. 





Thanksgiving Schmanksgiving

ImageI need everyone to know just how normally we began.  I keep saying this! I mean, my family was NORMAL! I grew up normal, the Goose and I were normal when we married.  When I had babies, I was a really good mom.  They had schedules, both slept all the way through the night before three weeks, ate right, took baths.  I read a story every night, we listened to Wee Bible Songs in the car.  They had my parents as the best grandparents who ever lived.  I believe this could the at the heart of the issue. 

When my parents passed away, we just went to hell in a monogrammed handbag.  

Also, my house might have something to do with it.  We moved out here in the sticks before the wave arrived.  The house, ugly and sprawling, sat for two years without anyone making an offer.  Thank goodness one of the only three talents I possess is design.  I was in the business and the Goose has “an eye” as well (oh, I’m going to catch hell for saying this) and we saw through all it’s scary bluster and blue carpet.  That said, it has been a monster of a house that my mother in law said I would never be able to keep clean.  I refuse to make a snide posthumous remark here. It would just be too easy and those of you with monster-in-laws can fill in the blanks. 

If it were just us four, we might have held it together.  But no, living with us we’ve had one snarky foster child, one bi-polar uncle, two hospice patients, Shep’s traveling circus of friends, Cricket’s boyfriends, 25 fawns, numerous opossums, snakes, squirrels, two house rabbits, two house pigs, multiple dogs and cats, way too many housekeepers with personal issues, visiting relatives, oh and a frog that escaped and was seen for years just sitting in the sun in various rooms. We have played thousands of games of sardines in the dark and have managed to retrieve each and every person without much damage to their soul or body. There has been more covert smooching in my basement than anywhere in the county, I shudder to think. Kids have ridden mattresses down the stairs. At least one million drinks have been spilled by probably one million kids. There have been so many bonfires that the smell of woodsmoke is ingrained in our very hearts. Things have been launched, set afire, catapulted and a coconut bra was thrown through a new giant tv.  A sheep has run through my house on more than one occasion,  not to mention the craziness that goes on in my barn. It is insane.  


I’m planning for Thanksgiving now.  Growing up, I only ate downtown at beautiful hotel buffets for Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, the ones with omelet makers in tall hats ready to jump to satisfy my gastronomical desires.  Just my little family, well behaved and nicely dressed (I was an only child). There was always a harp playing, artichoke salad, little tarts for dessert.  As an adult, I’ve run the half marathon most years downtown.  This year, though, I am lazy and out of shape and so we are having a “bastards” dinner here for those of us without families in town, or whose loved ones have gone.  The diversity in our group is enormous.  I would have never imagined that my “family” would grow to be what we are but I love it.  Stop asking yourself what I’ll do about cooking.  With heartfelt apologies to the two turkeys, Arlo 2 and Marlin, and two pigs, Orson and Babette, in my family, you know I’ll order in for the carnivores at my table.  Kids will be drinking Kool-aid from my grandmother’s crystal and that will be okay.  Adults will be telling stories, exaggerating, and loosening their belts. There will be laborious cocktails in silver shakers, wine will flow and things will get broken. Some will take walks.  Sheep will graze on the lawn and all will be right with the world.  

Judging by television, maybe families aren’t the same normal they were when we were growing up.  When I look at my list of guests, I feel so blessed that, even though my everyday group of friends are with their families, there is always room for other friendships to grow and become closer and we can fill in for those who we miss so much it hurts, like my mother and dad. I am so excited and hoping to add anyone else who wants to come. I don’t care if people have to eat on the stairs, I want a real Thanksgiving, because sometimes I think we all forget to be thankful. This year, I am going to stop and be thankful in the moment that anyone loves me and that I have all of these people to love right back. 

Everyone is invited. I can tell you this, there will be lots of non-poisonous food not made by me, barrels of wine, tons of laughter, music playing in the background (probably Jerry Garcia, not a harp, but anyway…) and time to be thankful for all the love for which this creaky, lovely old house with hidden rooms and uneven floors has had the room. Ya’ll come on, ya hear, and bring a casserole!