ANIMALS I HAVE LOVED – for my daughter Emily
by Laura Rohrer Little Brooks
A long time ago, my daughter Emily told me that she wanted me to make a webpage called “ANIMALS I HAVE LOVED”. It took me about twenty years, but finally I got it done… the delay is due to the fact that the stories were still unfolding.
As I recorded these beings who had so graciously shared their love and lives, along with the depth and complication of the years, relating them in context sometimes required more autobiographical details than I had anticipated. Still, they stand as witness to their existences in the life I have lived with my children, my family, my identity.
It is my hope that this record of love will be a more than a Rainbow Bridge to reunite my children, grandchildren and I – and our beloved pets – in the light beyond all spectrums of frequency, space and time.
Happy Birthday, dear Emily. I love you with all my heart. Love has wings, and transcends all trauma.
ANIMALS I HAVE LOVED
The first pets I ever had were red-eared slider turtles named Tinkerbell and Sam. Actually, these two were “replacement turtles”, for at age two I was molested by my father in the same time period that I was taken to a University of Maryland Terrapins football game along with my parents and Uncle Mike and Aunt Dee. It was a Thanksgiving game and they gave green plastic turtle shells as souvenirs. I was holding one while my Uncle Mike held me aloft over the crowds, and it was jostled out of my hands, and I was crying. The next day I did something terrible, to accomplish two ends. I wanted another turtle shell, and I wanted to see if dying was real. I had frequent headaches and my mother would give me Bayer orange-flavored baby aspirin, and because I liked the taste so much and I was so precocious, warned me that if I ate too much they would kill me. I took a table knife from the kitchen and my turtles and hid behind the couch and removed their shells. I felt very bad, and the basis wasn’t the turtles, but what my father had done. Then I was in my room (which had a large Sinclair Oil inflated green dinosaur in it that I tried to ride) which had a bed and a wood floor, and was in apartments on Riggs Road in Hyattsville, Maryland, and I heard my father leave and his car go away (it was a Volvo). I went to the bathroom and got the bottle of baby aspirin and crawled under my bed and ate the whole bottle to die like my turtles did. Then a thunderstorm came, and my mother found me and gave me syrup of ipecac to make me vomit.
I think I was given the replacement turtles after we moved to 11 Shadynook Avenue in Catonsville (neighborhood of Paradise). I know they lived in the same oval clear plastic dish with a fake palm tree and a ramp from the food dish down to the water that the original ones did, and I named them Tinkerbell and Sam. In sixth grade they were outgrowing the tank and I gave them to my friend Suzie Cullom’s father, who had a wall of tanks fish and turtles in the den in their basement. Visiting Suzie, I saw how large they were getting, living in large fishtank habitats, and Suzie’s father told me that they would bite me and I couldn’t hold them anymore, but they were happy, and I accepted that.
Sidenote: I kept tadpoles, toads, a rabbit and box turtles in my bedroom from age seven to twelve, brought back from my Uncle Mike’s farm, and let go outside or taken back to his farm at the next visit. Animals I decided not to try to keep include bats and mice. In the summertime I would punch holes with an ice pick in the metal lid of a glass peanut butter jar and catch honeybees in it then sleep with the jar of bees under my pillow, letting them go the next morning.
When I was four/five my father found a small beagle on his way back from his master’s classes at Towson State University. She was God-sent, and gave me so much companionship and comfort during the years of trauma growing up. Someone in our neighborhood of Paradise in Catonsville always gave her a loaf of italian bread every saturday, and she would bring it into the yard and bury it. She used to walk my brothers and I to school and back – in the days before dogs were leashed and kept in yards. When I was sixteen and at the Forever Family house on Frederick Road across from the Eddie’s grocery store, she was hit by a car at Beltway Exit 13 after going to meet my brothers Jay, Charlie and David after school. My mother called the Forever Family house and told me and I rode my bicycle back as fast as I could. I took over digging her grave (in the spot behind Charlie in the picture of him in his jacket with patches, reaching into a pocket) from Jay. The ground was hard. She was wrapped in a blue towel stained with blood and I did not look at her. A biblically torrential thunderstorm came as I dug the clay soil for her grave, and it felt biblical then, not only in retrospect: I felt God had sent the storm, and my brother Jay, three years younger, who had been digging her grave until I got back and took over remembers the sudden violent thunderstorm in the same way.
Dutchie used to sit next to me on the top of the front porch steps as I read, or played my guitar and sang, waiting for my brothers to get off the schoolbus. I miss her to this day and blink back stinging tears as I write.
I do not have a picture of her; perhaps my daughter Emily does in the “family history trunk”. She was a tricolor beagle with more brown and black than white, and always a bit chubby. Mother bought her Gainsburgers (cellophane-wrapped “patties”) for dog food and she got Purina Dog Biscuits. It was the Seventies. Dutchie was spayed when I was seven at the Howard County Veterinarian on Route 144. She loved going to Uncle Mike’s farm: she loved us.
Princey was my cousin Kimmy’s pony, a chestnut and white Welsh pinto pony. I began riding Princey at age four at Uncle Mike’s farm. In this picture my brother Charlie is riding him. He was a very easy pony, not naughty or rebellious. When I was five I was riding him in the field and Uncle Mike’s Appaloosa “Frosty” ran Princey and I under a tree branch and I fell off and was afraid to get back on. To teach me not to be afraid of riding, Uncle Mike tied Princey to a post in front of the stable after dinner and sat me on Princey. He told me I was going to stay on Princey’s back until I wasn’t afraid anymore. Uncle Mike sat there telling me to sit backwards, stand, hang from Princey’s neck, sides… it was like gymnastics on a horse and Princey put up with it all. Long after dark I wasn’t afraid anymore, and I imagine it was around midnight when Uncle Mike let me get off of Princey and go to bed. I rode Princey every summer until Uncle Mike and Aunt Dee divorced and he sold the farm.
After graduating high school I left my mother’s house, renting a room, then went to live at my great-uncles’ Homer and Clarence Lung’s 175-acre farm in Southern Maryland. They had a wild ten-year old Morgan mare named Midnight who had actually broken the Amish blacksmith’s son’s leg throwing him off against the well when he tried to ride her. After my attempts to gentle her failed, my great-uncle Clarence suggested selling her at the livestock auction and buying me a younger horse. Shortly after that an emaciated, listless broken-down four year old Standardbred appeared. He was copper chestnut, incredibly skinny, and had been “shafted” in a track accident at Rosecroft Raceway in D.C. (now closed). Uncle Clarence told me that after being injured at the track, in which a cart shaft went through his chest and out his right side (hence “shafted”), and Amish man took him to his farm and used him as a buggy horse. He explained that the Amish wait at the track for free horses that would normally have been shot and put out of their misery after racing mishaps.
I named him Sunny, being optimistic. It took about three weeks before he even registered some sort of look in his eyes or interaction with me. Then suddenly he came alive! His health returned and I began riding him, working on trails, flatwork and then “barrel racing” him around tires I put in the field. I rode him nearly every day, and he followed me like a dog, with his nose on my shoulder. I couldn’t tie him as he would break the rope to be near me. He was a pacer par excellence, and I rode him at first with a western saddle and then with a bareback pad (seen in the picture of my daughter on her horse Candy). riding him, I developed a “seat” and he scissor-paced at all speeds, by-passing the three-beat canter, until at a gallop.
A neighbor who farmed tobacco used to let me know when his fields had just been plowed so I could run Sunny in them. He had one field that was one rolling hill after another, and one summer evening as Sunny and I were galloping across them I realized that Sunny was literally flying from hilltop to hilltop. That was when I realized horses could fly.
I began college and saw less of him, and he became insolent. Circumstances had me move back to my mother’s house, and I sold him back to the livestock dealer as a hunter jumper prospect. Within the year was pregnant with my daughter and married to Jamie.
While living at my uncles’ farm, with their permission (maybe they suggested it?) I contacted Friends of Animals in Baltimore and signed up to adopt a cat. A few weeks later I got a phone call about a Siamese cat named Simon, who had one black and white kitten. They explained that Simon had the short, curled knob tail like Siamese originally did, and the kitten was only a few weeks old. I went to pick them up and put her litter box in my upstairs bedroom (second floor room on right as you face the picture). The screens in the room were the antique kind that expand out sliding from the center. Simon escaped and was killed in the road at the end of the farm lane. Her kitten hid under my bed and I left bowls of fresh Amish milk and plates of finely chopped meat and fish every day. Weeks went by and suddenly one day the kitten greeted me when I came in. I checked the sex and saw it was a girl, and named her “Elizabeth” after the Queen of England, because this kitten had been so regally haughty. She became a best friend, and was very intelligent.
An entire book could be written about Elizabeth, and probably should be. I will relate one story here.
After my brother Charlie died in 1985, my boyfriend Sam (Jamie and I had separated six months before) took me to his parent’s cabin in the westernmost part of Maryland. We left just before dusk, and sam stopped for fuel. He left the hatchback of his VW Gulf open while pumping, and I asked him to be careful that Elizabeth didn’t jump out. Well, she did. Arriving late at night I discovered she was missing, and he refused to drive back for her. He refused the next day too. My depression became intolerable and I was so worried about my cat. Snow fell all weekend. Elizabeth waited in a blizzard for 3 days at that Exxon in Ellicott City by the 83 Lumber when Sam let her out of the car while taking me to his parents’ cabin after Charlie died. He refused to go back to look for her when I discovered she had jumped out when he got gas. I practically fought with him to get him to stop at that gas station on the way back). It was late at night, and there she was, at the edge of a cone of light from the pole casting a circle of white on the snow in the dark, the station closed. I saw her before we even crossed the median, from a distance. She waited where I could see her at the edge of that cone of light when I came, and she knew I would. As I wait for you, Emily. This is what our hearts do.
When I gardened, Elizabeth accompanied me, resting along the rows as I worked. She liked being carried in a wicker picnic basket with me when I went on errands.
Elizabeth lived for fifteen years, and in the last half of her life carried a fluid-filled tumor on her neck as large as her head. She was euthanized in Flagstaff, Arizona, and I buried her in my flower garden. Years later my daughter, driving back from San Francisco with her husband Brian, stopped and got the stone and flowers I planted over her grave and brought them back to Richmond, where she has them still.
One summer weekend Jamie, Emily (age two), our friend Bob Nance and I were on our way back from The Edmondson Drive-In Flea Market, and found ourselves wedged in traffic in a narrow jersey-walled lane. The cause for this was a very large DOG, looking worried and intent on survival. Once clear of the jersey wall lane, he began to lope, dash and jump, back and forth across and in-between the traffic. In spite of my yelling-no husband (now ex), friend, and two year old daughter, I pulled over. Jamie (ex) and friend Bob (now dead of AIDS and suicided) took Emily, and walked home, their facial expressions clearly showing their lack of confidence in my decision to try to save the dog. They safely walked home (less than a mile). I walked into traffic at an opportune break, stopping all 3 lanes of the beltway. They really did stop, looking incredulous, angry. Horns began blaring, and I was madly trying to keep them all still and quiet, my hands holding a river of cars, as I tried to make the dog look at me, come to me. He almost did, but some boat of a car revved and zoomed past, and they all started, then the dog leapt the divide, cross the northbound lanes miraculously, ran up an embankment, over a 6-foot fence, and disappeared into a neighborhood. Well, I knew the neighborhoods. Back in my navy blue ’71 VW Bug, I drove off the exit ramp, speeding up the side roads. I saw the dog here, and there, and it saw me, too. Running. After a few blocks of this, it was tired, and slowing down, the street shady and overhung, maple canopy. I stopped my bug Dragnet-style; diagonally blocking the street, opened the passenger door, and sat there. It jumped right in. I shut the door, looked at this panting dripping drool dog, obviously a Belgian Shepherd, and he looked at me and licked around his mouth. I said to him, “I guess I have a dog now”, and drove home. He followed me up the three flights of stairs to our hot little attic apartment in a house like the Addams Family House, long since condemned (I’ll tell you that story sometime), and drank water and followed me every moment until I went to sleep. Then, during the night, I heard a tearing, crashing sound. I turned on the light, and the screen in the window, an old expandable screen like the kind Simon had escaped through, was torn out and hanging. The roof outside sloped down to another, and another, to the ground. I was so tired, and must have been in some weird REM place, I dismissed the dog, and counted him as a free soul gone. In the morning, he was laying in the lawn waiting for me. I named him Zoey, which I thought was Greek for “life”. He was the best dog I have ever had a chance to share life with. Incredible. I could say, “Zoey, go lay at the top of the stairs until I come up there”, and he would. I could walk with him into Catonsville, leash-less, go into a store, say, “Zoey, sit. Stay”, be in a store for an HOUR, and he would BE THERE. Two weeks after my brother died, on June 15th, 1985, I had him put to sleep. Suddenly, Zoey had become incontinent, horribly. I couldn’t deal with ANYTHING else. I think I forgive myself for not taking him to a vet for examination, tests, treatment. I understand that my closest friend, who happened to be my brother, was made gone from me, by his own hand. I think parting with Zoey was an act of control. Charlie was taken from me, so I in turn exerted some kind of power as well, and took his life. This is how I have come to terms with what I had done, because perhaps he wasn’t incontinent – perhaps I had no idea what time meant at all anymore, as one day of searing pain ran into the next. Perhaps I made him wait 12, 18 hours… I don’t know. I just remember piles of dog poop and urine in corners. I could barely function after Charlie died.
But he was an amazing dog. I still love him. I always miss him. I regret what I did.
When my daughter Emily was three (and I was pregant with Max) I bought her a pony for Christmas, and kept it in a small run at Jamie’s parent’s property, the last zoned farmland in Catonsville at 100 Bishops Lane. He came from a horse stable in Howard County and had been a matched pair of cart ponies, along with his twin Mindy, outgrown by the children of the director of the Baltimore Zoo. He cost $115.00. I brought him home in our Ford Econoline van.
Mork was Emily’s show-and-tell every year at school, and I led her on him in the Fourth of July Parades. Jamie, Emily and I went hiking in the Patapsco Park, saddling Mork up and luring him to jump into and out of the van for a handful of raisins. Emily was the only little girl in Catonsville with a pony in the yard! Sometimes when the grass was long, I would tie him out with a dog stake, and if it rained and the ground softened, he’d walk away, and the neighbors and a few times the police would call to have me go retrieve him. To make ends meet after Jamie and I separated, I used Mork doing “Little Pony Parties”, braiding his long white forelock with a wire in it to make it stiff like a unicorn’s.
Once Jamie was giving Max, then just two) rides on him in the back yard, and Max fell off, dislocating his elbow. I think that is the only time either of my children were hurt riding him.
Eventually Emily outgrew him, and I decided – after asking Emily if I could – to sell him to someone with small children. That is the very abbreviated story of my
daughter’s first pony, Mork, and there is another photograph I don’t have access to anymore, but remember showing it to Emily maybe ten years ago and the sound of her warm laughter as she commented how bombproof he was, standing like that next to a gorilla and helium balloons!
In 1991 while studying full-time at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), I found out about a Great Dane belonging to the drummer of the Baltimore band called The Pearlfishers and his girlfriend, and that they had broken up and were keeping the dog chained to a radiator in the bathroom of the apartment they moved out of. I paid my boyfriend Joey Cirri’s best friend Joe Goldsborough’s girlfriend Karen $100.00 to steal the dog and save her. She was emaciated, young, and very sweet.
I was one of the few students allowed to bring a dog to my classes at MICA, and she was very well-behaved, even sitting or lying down as I asked her to while I worked in the darkroom. Sometimes I took both Gilda and my son Max, and he would sit in the front of the lecture hall assembling his Legos, with Gilda next to him. I worked with the Maryland Great Dane Rescue League and found Gilda an excellent home. I later went on to rescue another Great Dane which I named “Ben”, but he escaped and never came home. Having a Great Dane is like having a horse in the house!
After finding the rescued Gilda a home, I missed having a dog to go on walks with and as a companion, being alone that year and a half of art school while Emily and Max lived with their father Jamie (a failed parenting decision on my part, an autobiography and family amends subject, not for here). I adopted him from the Falls Road Animal Shelter in Baltimore, and Poe was a two year old black and white beagle, longer legs than Duchess, and very sweet, athletic yet calm disposition, who had been rescued from becoming pit bull bait, the shelter attendant told me when I looked at him. It was good for my children to have a dog again too, and when I left MICA to focus on our family, Poe, along with Elizabeth, rounded out our equation “just right”.
Poe was intact, not neutered, and wanted to roam at our Red Lion farm. One day Emily, Max and I were outside in front of the barn and the chicken shed/pig stall (an old building) and I tied Poe to one of our metal garbage cans with a piece of baling twine so he wouldn’t run off. I forget why or what for, but Max, who was eleven, ran up the driveway and Poe followed, pulling the trash can over and dragging it behind him, suddenly terrified and looking back at the silver metal monster “on his tail” (literally!) as he ran in the way one sees dogs running in cartoons, their back bowed and hind feet landing far further out front than their head, and the front feet all the way back. It was hilarious and sad, and we all laughed, but I know too that we felt bad for poor Poe, who on top of that scarring experience suffered embarassment at the behest of the family who supposedly loved him.
When we were forced to move from the farm and decided to go to Arizona for a year (side benefit: finishing the FJ40 rebuild) the mechanic who offered to rent and share a house with us demanded “no dogs” (he had a real problem with Elizabeth, too, and was a strong but very repressed well-meaning soul, exerting control in external ways to offset internal demons), Poe had to be taken to the SPCA on Nicodemus Road in Reisterstown near Glyndon. Again we cried, dropping him off.
When we returned from Flagstaff the next year I called the SPCA and asked if Poe was still there. The woman who answered looked him up in the file and told me that he had been adopted the day after he came in.
While in school at MICA I read an ad in the Baltimore Sun “FREE THOROUGHBRED”, and called. I was the first person to look at and ride the horse that Thursday evening (when the weekend ad edition came out). The horse was black and at 18.3 hands, HUGE. He wasn’t a thoroughbred: he was a European Warmblood Trakhaner/TB cross (or full Trakhaner, more likely, but I was never given his registry). She explained that he had a form of arthritis in his hoof called “Navicular” and had made it to the Fourth Level Grand Prix Saint Georges Olympics competition with her. But during the veterinary checks, it was discovered that he had navicular, and she had to retire him, ending both of their careers, and she was disgusted. He was a highly trained: she had worked with him to get to the highest levels of dressage for the last six years. Her farm was in Butler, Maryland, and she had a ring and was very rich. She said Cal Ripken (of the Baltimore Orioles) lived next door. I had had basic English lessons and enjoyed riding him, then left. I didn’t expect her to give him to me.
The following Tuesday evening the woman called me. Linda Blatchley was her name. She said that sixty-seven people had riden him after me, and I was her first choice, that he seemed happiest with me and she liked how I handled him.
Suddenly I had to adjust to having a horse. Jamie had had Emily and Max with him the last year while I was at MICA, and he and I put up a fenced area and a small stable for “Big”. For the trailering cost of forty dollars she brought him to me. I had the farrier “Tater”, well-known in our area, come remove his shoes, and gove him a barefoot trim, and Tater watched Big and I corcle around him told me I had a quarter-million dollar horse. He looked as if he was in shock. Big was beauty in action.
After a few months, I moved Big to a boarding stable in Howard County where my daughter’s friend Kara’s mother Kiki rode. I researched Navicular and actually reversed it, and when my children and I lived in Flagstaff, Arizona for a year so I could rebuild my Landcruiser FJ40 after the Red Lion, Pennsylvania farm we had rented was sold out from under us, I sold Big to the president of the Sounthwestern Drassage Association before we returned to Maryland when the FJ40 was done, so they could finish school in their hometown of Catonsville.
Sometimes I looked outside at Big in the pasture and he would do his dressage on his own, like a dancer. I left cavalettis (wood lanscaping 4X4 poles) on the ground for him, and he enjoyed that.
What cured his Navicular was the removal of all high mineral food and supplements, rubs and soaks of methol, capsaicin and salicylic acid, and varying his work and activity daily, so he never did the same thing two days in a row. X-Rays revealed his complete recovery and the reabsorbtion of the calcium deposits in his hoof. I saw online that he had gone back into competition and he was used as a schoolmaster at her Phoenix, Arizona estate.
Big was a total gentleman, and helped me to become a better equestrian than any human ever could have. I look back and recall how I used to be able to jump up onto him with only that same bareback pad seen in the photo of Emily with Candy. God broke the mold when He made Big.
When Emily and I saw Big off, he walked willingly , eagerly, dutifully, like the good horse he was, right onto the huge hauler’s trailer at the boarding stable in Flagstaff. The doors shut and the rig lights came on and they drove off. Emily and I held each other and sobbed. She was 15 and I was 31. (The decision to sell him was because we were going to be returning to Maryland and I was going to go to nursing school, and keeping a horse was too expensive for a single mother with no child support and two teenagers.)
My first husband Jamie, Emily and Max’s dad, had a girlfriend when we separated and after our divorce. She had a Black Lab named Shadow who ended up being in my care so much that at a certain point I just kept her. Shadow was perhaps sixty pounds, and always grateful and attentive. She was aptly named, as she followed the humans she was with like a shadow would.
One sweltering summer day I took Emily and Max, with Shadow, to the Prettyboy Reservoir to go tubing. Getting there involved parking at the edge of a cornfield on a sideroad, walking through the tall rows to the boundary of the Baltimore County Watershed (state property), then heading downhill until we ran into the trail that would take us to the water’s edge. On the trail, Max was in front, followed by Shadow, then myself, and after me, Emily. All of us were carrying towels and our innertubes or floats. Almost as one motion and moment in time, I saw Max, who had just turned eight, appear to stumble over a large dark stick which in the blink of an eye twisted and hit Shadow on the neck before rolling out of the dirt path into the growth on the edge of the trail. Emily was right behind me, and we kept walking. We made it to the water and got in. Shadow swam out to me to crawl onto the tube with me as she had become accustomed to, and I noticed that her neck was swollen and she had trouble breathing. I realized that she had been bitten by a poisonous sname, not struck by a twisting branch, and inwardly grateful it had bitten her and not Max, got all of us out of the water to take her to the emergency vet I knew was maybe ten miles from where the Landcruiser was parked.
By the time we were ready to walk on the trail back to the car I had to carry Shadow, who was in a visiblemedical emergency, straining to breathe, her neck swollen almost the circumference of her chest. I don’t remember anything else until pulling into the High’s Dairy Store parking lot to use the payphone and call the emergency vet. The woman who answered said that by the time I got Shadow to them, based on how long it had been bitten with the venom and her activity, she’d be dead before I got there. She asked where I was calling from and I told her “the High’s on the way to Prettyboy up the road from you outside of Hampstead”. She told me to go inside and if they had any, buy two packs of Benedryl and give her 24 pills (24 X 50Mg). She said that it would make her sleep but was the only chance to save her life.
I ran in and they had it. I bought two packs and forced all 24 pills down her throat with water from a canteen (probably Max’s Boy Scout canteen).
She would train her dark brown eyes on me and just gaze, and I remember the comforting energy I felt when I laid my palm on her side as I read.
Shadow lived, but the following spring was hit killed by an ambulance outside of where our van was being repaired on Frederick Road near Dimitri’s Restaurant. It was a bitter irony that she had survived such an attack of nature and saved Max by taking the Copperhead’s venomous strike in his stead yet was killed by a vehicle exceeding the speed limit on the road, ostensibly to save a human’s life. All of these animal stories – and this one is significant in priority because she saved my son – make me wonder of dogs, and I mean REAL dogs, not demons as dog avatars – do go to heaven. I have more to say about that esoteric subject, involving Anubis, fallen angels, hybridization and the animal species humans historically co-exist with, but it is for another place in time to expound upon. What is relevant has been said, and the adage about dogs being man’s best friend has merit genetically.
Emily, Max and I were in the Columbia Mall (Maryland) pet store (“just looking”), and for some reason I was compelled to buy… a snake. I hadn’t been shopping for one, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision. He was a young Ball Python and had been handled well and was very docile. I found holding him soothing. At first I kept him in an aquarium we had, then, after seeing custom cases, found an old stereo cabinet at the Collins Thrift Store in Irvington for $19.19 (their prices!) and made him a habitat with a branch and a plexiglas front, a grey industrial carpet floor and side, a branch, heat rock, water bowl, infrared lamp and a daylight lamp as well.
He ate live mice, and as he got bigger, gerbils, and I began to raise them, selling the excess babies to pet stores.
At our Red Lion farm, he escaped once and was missing for two weeks, until I awoke one morning and he was near my head in my bed. When Max and I were driving back from Flagstaff, we thought Gorgeous had fallen off of the truck. We stopped at a Stuckeys’ for a break (and an oracle – I mean pecan log, Max knows) and got the pillowcase Gorgeous was in soaked with water to hydrate his skin, and tied him to the rope holding the load in the back of the truck. When I remembered and we pulled over we were so relieved he was still there!
As seen in the photograph, I wore Gorgeous to festivals. This was taken by my friend Colin (“If it’s female I call it Maam” – Emily knows this reference), and that is the year that my work called DRIPPING KEYS won first place in the SOWEBO Festival Art Show. I felt as if Gorgeous provided a public service as a reptile ambassador. People think snakes are slimy, but they’re not. Many people pet him and it was a positive experience for them, especially in the city of Baltimore.
It wasn’t uncommon for Gorgeous to rest a few days after having had a meal. One evening Emily was said to me “Mom. I think Gorgeous might be dead”, and she was right. He died curled up sleeping in the floor of his home, and looked peaceful.
I buried him in the back yard in the shape he was in, and planned to dig up his bones in a year, to cast them in silver and make a necklace from them, something I had seen in one of the jewelry stores in Ellicott City. After having the dissociative fugue and returning, along with almost everything else that was gone, his bones were too. Perhaps I shall see them again.
I owned a few other snakes, including a friend’s insanely huge and intimidating Burmese python “Magnus”, including a hognose as well as a small rosy boa, but only Gorgeous felt like a pet. It was nice that I was his human tree. He bit me once when I put my hand in too quickly and cast a shadow which surprised him. Snakes move strikingly fast. I won’t own one again, but knowing what I do definitely helps me understand the devil. ‘Nuff said, in this context.
While we lived at the rented farm in Red Lion, Pennsylvania (before the year in Flagstaff, and if the owner had not died and his wife not broken the rent-to-own agreement we had, we would have stayed there), one day Max came home from fifth grade with a parakeet in a cage. I asked why he brought it home, and he said it was from his music teacher and she said that the parakeet “was vicious and no one could handle him”, and Max told me he told her that his mom was good with animals and he’d take him for me. I was so touched that Max had so much faith in me. The “vicious parakeet’s” name was Sammy.
Sammy was a yellow parakeet with green and blue, and I kept his cage over the kitchen sink at the window. He didn’t seem vicious at all. He loved sitting on my shoulder, collar or on my head, and if I opened my mouth would look in and peck at my fillings. he loved to bathe in the sink under the running water.
While we lived at the carriage house (where Viktor “saved me” from the centipede), and I was in my third year of nursing school at UMSON, my uncle Mike died and I went to Florida to see my cousin, a cousin related only by marriage to my uncle’s second wife Helga. I was gone for a week and locked my room, like an idiot forgetting about Sammy in there. When I returned, he was dead on the floor of his cage. So much was going on, and I wrapped him in paper towels and a baggie and put him in the freezer. I came home from classes and emily was thawing a chicken breast… or so she thought. I noticed the bag and said “DON’T EAT SAMMY!” and that became a running family joke when looking for food in the freezer, as I was always buying meat in bulk and freezing it in small portions for us.
While training horses and living on a farm (Gaitaway Stables in Randallstown, Maryland), I tried getting another parakeet, but it just wasn’t the same. There was something special about Sammy, and the way that Max brought that little bird into our lives, with the faith in me that he had then.
Within three months of Elizabeth’s death, an Applehead Siamese cat I named Viktor came into our lives. It was snowing and Friday night in Flagstaff, and Emily and I drove to return a video just before the video store on Route 66 closed at 9PM. As we left the subdivision, out of the corner of my eye as I stopped at the stop sign, on my right I saw a Siamese cat running back and forth behind the chain link fence of the corner yard, a yard I knew was usually just white quartz gravel, in a house where an old, sternly unfriendly white-haired lady lived, and from having spoken to her before, I knew she had no pets. I said “There’s a Siamese cat running back and forth in that yard and it’s not supposed to be there!” Emily said in her inimitable way (probably well-practiced with her best friend Emily Troutman, and easily slippable from the tongue therefore) “Mom, you’re crazy!” And I put the flashers on, set the truck in neutral with the emergency brake on and got out, and walked up to the fence and reached over, picked up the cat, and walked back to the car, opened her door, and asked her to hold him. Emily was shocked, and wrapped the rather large cat in her arms. We returned the video and went home.
The cat had an infected wound at the top of his tail below the dock where it joins the body, almost encircling his tail. The next morning I called the animal shelter, the SPCA and the local veterinary offices, and no one had as yet reported a lost male Siamese cat – an intact male, at that. Speaking to the vets, I asked about his tail, and was told to bring him in on Monday to have him checked. I was thinking already that if no one claimed him, we’d keep him.
There was a bathroom with a Jack and Jill door between the kitchen and Emily’s bedroom, and to keep the cat safe – and us, as he was an unknown – I kept him there. All he seemed to want to do was tear the toilet paper off the roll! He didn’t have many social skills, like a blank slate. On Monday I took him to the vet and they gave him a Rabies (and distemper?) booster and recommended that I have him neutered but first amputate his tail. The vet said that the cat was going to get a systemic infection called “ringtail”. I rejected that and asked for oral and topical antibiotics and told them I would heal it, and after that would have him neutered if no one claimed him. Back at home I wrapped him up in a bathtowel like a bug with head sticking out at one end and his tail at the other. I shaved the hair off, cleaned and dressed it, and kept up that daily regimen of cleaning and dressing his tail in a gauze bandage for two weeks. Within those two weeks, I named him Viktor, after the obstretrician who both performed the C-Section my daughter Emily was born from as well as my son’s VBAC, which was a first in Baltimore in 1982. The name seemed appropriate because of both the cat’s strong but refined personality and the Asian provenance of his breed. The vet was pleasantly surprised and happy, and Viktor became a beloved family member for nineteen years, as long as Elizabeth had been with me, I think.
Viktor loved to fetch aluminum foil balls, sit in the middle of the living room pile of Christmas present wrapping, once attacked a Rottweiler to defend our house when a friend came by with hers on a leash, and sat at the Thanksgiving dinner table. I called him “The Godcat” because he felt so spiritual. I believe that Elizabeth’s spirit returned in Viktor to our lives. I remember Emily telling me how Viktor would go to the door and wait ten minutes before I came home, and that’s how she and Max knew I would be home soon.
Once we were living in a converted carraige house, with a dirt first floor below. In the middle of the night I woke up feeling a pain on my leg, and slapped at it and went back to sleep. In the morning light I opened my eyes and Viktor was sitting there at my thigh as if guarding me. Focusing, I saw many 1″ long insect legs and quickly realized that I had been bitten by a very large centipede that Viktor had killed and eaten the body of. I had a scar there for years, which is now a dark freckle.
Viktor developed a skin tag at age 16 and the vet (now back in Maryland) said it was something I could ignore. Within a year it became a tumor. I spent almost $2,000.00 on laser surgery for him, and it was hard for him, I could see. The next year he got weaker and in September of 2006 he stopped eating and laid in front of the refrigerator where warm air came out while I worked out in the yard landscaping at my then-boyfriend’s house where we lived. Within a week I knew he had to be euthanized. Emily was in Richmond and working, and I was alone with this decision. I am beginning to cry writing this.
I dug a grave and made a wrapping of kimonos and went to the vet’s and it was done. While I was burying him I called Nichole’s twin Morgan, and she talked me through it. Morgan had kept Viktor for two weeks once when I was travelling, and loved him.
When I had the dissociative fugue after Kurt’s failed murder attempt, Emily asked me where the Siberian Irises were in my garden at the farm which I had brought from Viktor’s grave, and she went and dug them up, and has them in her gardens now.
After we moved to the farm in Red Lion, PA and Big was living there with us alone, it was important that not only should he have another horse as his companion, but that Emily have a horse as well. (Years later, perhaps ten years ago, Max told me that I had never thought to ask him if he wanted a horse, and that he would have, and I think it was prejudice on my part to think only girls wanted horses, although he really didn’t ask for one.) Having bought and sold antiques and kitsch to raise my children in leiu of the fact that we never got their court-ordered child support, I gathered together a truckload of “stock”, and drove to John’s Antiques in Fell’s Point, and sold him the entire truckload, taking $900.00, being talked down from the thousand I was hoping for.
That week I found an Appendix – a Quarterhorse/Thoroughbred cross – for exactly $900.00 in the local paper, and went to see her. She was a lovely and well-mannered mare and I thought that she would be perfect for Emily. The owner’s vet was the vet I used and I called him and he assured me that the horse was healthy, so I bought her and the woman trailered her over. The veterinarian “neglected” to tell me that the horse had an allergic reaction to clover, which there was plenty of in the fields. It was expensive to keep her medicated during the months it bloomed, and when we were forced to move from the farm to Arizona, I shipped Big down to AZ but had to make the sad decision to send Candy to the New Holland Horse Auction without disclosing her medical need, hoping she would find a good home. Oh, the terrible decisions we make under duress.
Candy was a fantastic partner for Emily, and I trusted them together. One day I was at the kitchen sink (with Sammy in the cage with the door open as he liked) and watched Emily return from her ride being escorted by a hawk, which landed on the utility pole near where she dismounted and unsaddled her horse. When Emily came into the kitchen, I told her how I watched the hawk and she told me that it happened all the time when she rode Candy. That was and always will be very significant in meaning to me, and is a sign of my daughter’s strong spirit through the spirit of the hawk who enjoyed her company.
My mother (“Nana”, to my children) took the photograph and had it blown up and framed, but the glass of the frame was broken in transit long ago. It will be a restoration task to soak the poster-sized print off the broken glass. I am grateful to have the print, which Emily had me take, not wanting it for some reason I didn’t understand at the time. Now the broken glass seems symbolic of our fractured relationship as a transparent layer between us until it is repaired, which is only a matter of time, because love is eternal, and, like that hawk, has wings, the expression of the soul. I love you, Emily. Thank you for being my dear daughter, and asking me fifteen or so years ago to make a webpage called ANIMALS I HAVE LOVED.
In September when Emily and Max began school after we moved to Flagstaff I took a part-time job working the gate at the Coconino County rodeo gate. There I met a woman named Annie, who had a half-mexican son named Dakota, had been R. Crumb’s muse for his “Mother Jugs” comic book character when she lived with him in New York City at age sixteen after running away from home. She and her son lived in a camper trailer in the state forest, towed along by her old blue Ford truck with a 5th wheel hitch, moving it once a month, which was legal at that time. Annie worked as a racehorse groom and also at the county racetrack where the rodeo I was working was held. She raised Australian shepherd puppies and had a litter in a stall at the track. Soon after meeting me, she gave me one, telling me that the puppies had learned to chase the cars going down the track road and she feared this last puppy would be killed tirechasing. I named her Zoey, too.
Our yard had a chain link fence like the kind Viktor had been behind when I spotted him, and in the early spring Zoey had begun jumping the fence to chase cars. Because I was afraid she’s be killed by a car, I placed an ad in the local paper to find her a remote country home. I chose a home that was 20 miles from Flagstaff, and set way off the road in the forest.
A few months later the woman who had adopted Zoey called me crying. She assured me that no trucks had ever gone by but a tractor trailer did, and Zoey ran after it and was run over immediately, crushing her. She said she wished she had never taken her and felt responsible for her death. I told her we both had tried to do the right thing, and that it was part of her herding instinct.
Something happened with Zoey that I wonder if my son remembers. Emily, Max, the man we were lving with, David Waller, and Zoey went to hike along the Little Colorado River Gorge, which isn’t little at all, but a huge canyon birdering the Grand Canyon. There was a trail along the ridge of the gorge running along it, and the river was down at least a mile, it seemed. It was a sunny day, and crisp. Max was walking in front, then me, Emily behind me, then David and the dog, unleashed (who used leashes then?). Then Zoey trotted up on my right, and continuing on passed Max who was at most 10 feet from me. The path was about six feet from the drop-off, and Max was eleven.
As Zoey went by Max, she brushed against his right leg while he was walking, and he tottered a tiny bit and caught his balance as Zoey made her way ahead. It was a gusty day, and it seemed like a wind helped him right his balance. All this happened in a moment as I was in stride, and as it happened my “gut” wrenched and I felt like if he had fallen I would have jumped after hin to catch him, die with him but hope to lift him up in my mind. This memory has woken me up or entered my thoughts countless times since it happened thirty years ago.
I believe an angel saved Max’s life that day, and have learned since then that there indeed are angels in our lives.
“For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash they foot against a stone.” – Psalms 91:11-12
Albert and Ruby
Albert and Ruby were a “married couple”, a mated pair of pot-bellied pigs who were in need of a new home after outgrowing the family that had them in Potomac, Maryland outside of Washington, D.C. Pot-bellies are only small if kept starved, and Albert and Ruby were about the height of a German Shepherd dog. Emily, Max and I drove to get them in the old station wagon we got from a neighbor, and got back late that night, chasing them into the chicken shed where Poe had the trash can incident. The next day we discovered that Albert was gregarious and a “real ham”, and Ruby was shy to the point of being afraid of humans. But Emily, Max and I each enjoyed the challenge of gaining Ruby’s trust and interacting with Albert was always fun.
I fenced a yard for them with 4X4 horse fence, but Albert would dig out under it with his snout when we were would leave the farm and drive away. We would find him sleeping on the front porch doormat waiting for us. He liked to play, and his tusks had never been surgically removed, and made great handles for me to take hold of and wrestle him with. All of us remarked how Albert seemed to talk, as if he had a language and was speaking to us.
One day while my children were in school, I noticed Albert had escaped again. Next to our small farm was a golf course, and on the other side of the golf course was Dallastown Middle School, where Emily was in 8th grade. She came home from school and breathlessly told me how all the classes had been brought into the auditorium because a wild animal was running loose in the halls, and they said it was a monster – it was Albert! We didn’t have a telephone at that time (I didn’t mind, it was great, actually, to write letters and look forward to replies, communicate with intention, and if I needed to make a call, made it from the payphone at the Rutter’s store up the road. So there I went, and called the police, and the conversation went like this:
“Hello, I’m calling to ask if anyone has found a black pig. My pig got loose this afternoon and hasn’t come home yet.”
“Yes, the suspect is in custody.”
“Um, there may be confusion here, I’m calling about a lost pig, not a person or a criminal.”
“Maam, the suspect is in custody, and eight officers got very dirty apprehending him is a drainage pond and their uniforms will have to be dry cleaned.”
“Is my pig in jail?” I asked, incredulous.
“He is with the township animal officer. You have to call this number.”
They gave me the number and I hung up and called. I had to wait until after 8 in the evening to go get Albert, and paid a $42.00 fine. I never recieved a dry cleaning bill, but the story alone was worth the $42.00.
Ruby had a litter of babies and they ran around like a school of tiny piglet fish. The owner of the farm passed away suddenly and his wife broke the rent-to-own agreement he and I had and demanded I either buy the farm or move. I sold Albert, Ruby and their babies to a man with a farm who picked them up on his way from work and transported them away in the back of his dump truck. Albert actually jumped out of that and tried to come back to our farm, and I helped the man catch him and they left.
Living in the Fern Valley Apartments on Edmondson Avenue at Beltway Exit 14 in Catonsville, some time after returning from Arizona, I ran into a woman with a dog she was struggling to make walk across the polished-smooth aggregate stone hallway from her apartment to the main door. I knew she didn’t have a dog and suddenly here she was with this one, looking to be at a total loss with it since it was just standing there shaking uncontrollably, terrified to move. He was a tall, muscular golden-fawn dog with a thin, glossy coat, a dark muzzle, a long thin tail and a stripe which ran down his back. It was a Rhodesian Ridgeback, although I didn’t know the name of the breed just yet, I knew I was looking at a special dog. I asked her whose dog it was and she said it was her brother’s, but he couldn’t keep it, so he brought it to her and now she was trying to take it out to go to the bathroom. As she told me this I looked at the dog shaking uncontrollably, and thought also about what I knew about her: a simple, financially-challenged very working-class single mother, and here was this dog.
I told her I would take him.
She looked from him to me and gave me the leash, which was either a piece of rope or a very cheap and thin leash. I asked her his name and she said it was Jasper, for the color of his eyes.
It took me perhaps a half an hour to get the dog to trust me enough and walk across the few feet of floor to the entrance outside and onto sidewalk and grass. He walked just fine then, and happily peed and pooped and explored the parking lot and grounds. Going back in was another long ordeal asking him to go up the stairs, which were floating steps of the same polished stone material, and the amazing thing is that in that 45 minutes or so, encouraging him to go up the steps, a bond was formed in addition to overcoming the fear he had. The next morning he had only a second’s hesitation, going from our third floor apartment down two flights to the outside, and after one glance at me, with a pat and soft words, never again did he show fear of the floor and stairs.
He loved to ride in my FJ40, especially with the hardshell top off, and go on my runs with me (I ran five miles a few times a week), and even dance with me. I frequented the Mount Royal Tavern, the bar next to MICA, and the only dog ever allowed to be in the tavern besides Eaton’s dog Bosco, a Bernese Mountain dog beloved by everyone.
The next summer Jasper, being a site hound, acted on instinct and ran across the field where my friend Kiki’s aged cat was running across, and as we watched in horror, grabbed her in his mouth and shook her, killing her instantaneously. Kiki had just finished her nursing home administrator board exams and I had just finished painting the interior of her newly-built home a hand-painted butter yellow faux leather finish, which had taken nearly five weeks. As I stepped off the ladder and Kiki handed me a glass of white wine, raising her glass to toast, she saw Jasper run for her cat, and her face changed and my eyes looked where she looked as we watched it happen.
Screaming, she went outside to her dead cat and I screamed for Jasper. She said to me, crying (we were both sobbing) “Just go.” I told him to jump in the back of the Landcruiser (the top was off) and I was practically out of my mind with emotion as I drove home. Back in the apartment he crawled under my bed and didn’t come out. Because he had tasted blood I feared he would kill Viktor and Shindle. So in the morning I drove him to the SPCA I had had to surrender Baxter to, and told them what happened and to rehome him to a home without cats.
A week later I went to Artscape, the festival on the Mount Royal Corridor in Baltimore where I had shown the FJ40 (an art car). Jasper was there on a leash held by a bearded, pot-bellied man. I told him Jasper was my dog he’d just adopted, and asked if I could walk him. A band was playing and we danced one last time. I regretted giving him back.
When Max was twelve, for his thirteenth birthday he asked for a ferret. We were in pet stores alot because of our aquariums, the excess baby gerbils I sold, and to “just look” too. Max had a hard year then, between the gruesome oral surgery he was subjected to at the University of Maryland Dental School, and the breaking his arm in a bicycle accident on the first day of summer vacation. We knew the ferret would require a cage and supplies costing more than the animal did. I asked Max if he would be willing to forego a birthday present this time, and if he still wanted a ferret, for his next birthday at age fourteen I’d get it all, and we would just have a birthday dinner and the homemade carrot cake with cream cheese frosting he loved me to make (really homemade), and he said yes. I knew at that time that that was a remarkably mature decision and it illustrates some of the beautiful qualities my son possesses.
Max had a year to learn all about ferrets and what he wanted and a year later we went to the Paradise Pet Store and got it all. He was so happy! He chose an albino baby ferret and named him “Shindle”. Shindle and Viktor got along really wellm and there was never a lack of mirth and hilarity with him and his silly antics! He loved to abscond with shiny things, and would hide socks, toys and the baby doll parts I made artwork with under furniture and in closets. When Shindle had the run of the house, he’d pop out from under the couch or chairs and attack your toes, never biting hard, then run away as if it was the greatest trick ever pulled. You could practically hear Shindle laughing.
When we lived in the carraige house, Shindle got out, and Viktor found him, leaping in the air through the tall grass meadow, swivelling his head and looking from left to right at the apex of each jump. When he located Shindle, he carried him back to us like a mother cat would a kitten.
When Max was a bit older he added a second ferret to the equation, whose name I forget. Max got busy with girlfriends and being a teenage boy and one day, frustrated with the dirty cage I had to clean, I gave the ferrets away. Max called Emily at college and she came down with her roommate and they got Shindle back and took him to college with her.
I am ashamed to say that I don’t remember what happened to Shindle later. I know he was with us when I got into working in computers during the dot com boom when I was working at NASA Goddard… I’m, sorry, Max. I love you. I hope you had happiness with your ferret. You were amazing in your decision to wait a year to get him… my amazing son.
Driving back from the Saint Michaels, Maryland (the eastern shore) fireworks on July 4, 2000, I thought I saw a roadside cross, which I had been documenting since our 1993 move to Flagstaff, Arizona, where I first saw them. Getting closer, I saw that it was a small dog on the median, walking very shakily.
I pulled over and asked my then-boyfriend Jim to wait in the car, because I didn’t want to possibly scare the dog into the road. But I was able to walk up to the little thing who let me pick her up, and I walked back with her to the car and had Jim drive the rest of the way home so I could hold her. She was quiet and sat on my lap with difficulty, and I observed her right side and hip were smeared with black grease and swollen. I wondered if she had either fallen from or been hit by a car.
The next day I took her to my vet in Paradise in Catonsville. (Cheryl Burke had been a classmate and friend, and my father taught her brother Paul guitar in our home before my parents’ divorce). I was well known there for the occasional dog rescue I did, too, and they had given me an extra-large dog crate and discounts over the years. Examining her, Cheryl told me that the dog was between 16 and 19 years of age and had a heavy load of parasites, and that unless I kept her, the Jack Russell rescue – she was what is called an Irish Shorty Jack, I was told, and full-blooded, not a mix – would likely decline taking her, which meant she’d be euthanized. So I left there knowing I had a “new” dog.
I named her “Olga”.
She was a big dog in a little dog’s body, loved going for walks, and was quickly extremely devoted to me. I have learned that the older rescued dogs are extremely grateful, soulfully so. She slept in bed with me at night and was my little princess. Jim and I went away for a few days to visit his parents in Chicago and Emily amd Max were alone in the house, and Emily told me that Olga never left the landing of the stairway to the upstairs, just inside the front door (where perhaps she had been watching when I left?) and she cried the entire time I was gone.
When I rescued and retrained the Chesapeake Bay Retreiver Jasper, 110 pounds to Olga’s 15 tops, Olga went on many of our walks, and was a tempering influence on that freight train of a dog, for sure (more on Jasper below). One morning we were walking as we did in the field near our house, and my footsteps landed where Olga had just stepped: the heel of my boot was clamped by an animal trap, and if it had sprung upon Olga, would have snapped her little leg in two. I used that trap in the piece CARRION FREEDOM.
Crossing the country to pick up a vintage trailer, walking Olga outside a lot full of large concrete statues of dogs, lions, elephants and other animals, Olga stopped and growled as menacingly as she could at them, once she noticed. Her heart was beginning to fail, and she had ascites: fluid buildup on her chest.
A few months later, during the blizzard of March 2004, I took Olga outside to potty and she had a seizure. I carried her inside the house and laid her on the couch, which she never left. I was snowed in (it snowed almost four feet, thanks, geoengineering) and had to wait until the long driveway at the farm we lived at was plowed before I could take her to the nearest veterinarian – to be euthanized. It was all she could do to lay on the couch and take her shallow labored breaths. My heart was breaking, like it did with Viktor, for days.
I had her cremated. Her ashes are gone, due to the dissociative fugue.
I really loved Olga, and she introduced me to the breed called Puddin’s – Shorty Jacks (that’s what Clover was).
I found Jasper much the same way I found Zoey, although maybe just slightly less dramatically. She was running loose on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, and I stopped the traffic to catch her and put her in my Landcruiser FJ40 (#2, the forest green one I bought while working at NASA Goddard, which I sold to get a pickup truck, a good idea in hindsight only). Jasper was a very large and willful spayed Chesapeake Bay Retreiver, and I named her after the color of her eyes. It took months to train her to walk in a manner that didn’t injure me. Olga helped by snapping at her and keeping Jasper in line, and Jasper minded Olga’s lessons! Walking them together was a conversation starter, and Jasper became very socialized.
I adopted her out to a family near White Marsh, Maryland, but a few months later they called and siad that they couldn’t handle her, and because my rescue clauses include taking the dog back to keep it from “bouncing back into the system”, I went and got her. She “snapped back into line” very quickly. I then found her a home on Smith Island of Maryland’s Eastern shore, and followups with the gentleman proved Jasper was perfect on the bay her breed’s namesake’s of.
I used to run and hike, and would leave Olga home to take Jasper to the Patapsco Park so she could swim in the river while I was the trail on its edge. Once Jasper was swimming upstream against the current and still keeping up with me. She swam past two fishermen and I yelled an apology to them for her disturbing their lines, which they had withdrawn as they saw her coming. They each yelled back that it was a pleasure to watch her, and thanked me, and that I had a wonderful dog.
I would have kept her if I could have. The reason I didn’t is because Jasper was unable to ride in the landcruiser – or any car – without barking frantically. She had a huge ribcage, was a huge dog, and had a huge voice. I actually lost hearing in my right ear because of her barking. No amount of conditioning and training changed it. That’s why I rehomed this magnificent dog.
I later learned that Chesapeake Bay Retreivers are one of the few dog breeds that will eat their own young.
It had been a decade since I had a horse, and in that ten-plus years, 9-11 had happened as well as Draconian changes in the “healthcare” system. In those ten years, I was pressured to participate in mental health counselling and psychotropic medications, and I was historically non-compliant with the pharmaceuticals, which deadened me to myself and creativity and functioning. When Bush, Jr. took office a sweeping change happened as if overnight in terms of refill co-pays, and my $3.00 pharmacy bill jumped to over $500.00. I paid that for one month, and in that month, reflecting on the life we had had as a family with Big in our lives, I decided that having a horse was healthier, less expensive and more natural than being on drugs, so I started looking online for an OTTB – Off The Track Thoroughbred – and didn’t renew the prescriptions.
Emily and Max were both “out of the nest”, my boyfriend I lived with was cheating on my online, and although I bought and sold on eBay and made art, I needed an anchor and meaning. I found a three year old TB mare who had a pinned cold-bow left fron tendon, visited her a few times and adopted her for $900.00 from a rescue outside of Hagerstown, Maryland, near my Gramma Rohrer’s Myersville-namesake hometown, and kept her at the Fort Meade Cavalry Stables (yes, still open) available to me because my boyfriend was the curator of the Fort Meade Museum. An OTTB trainer recommended by the rescue came a few times to work with me to “get the track out of her”, this Irish Thorougbred I named Zoey. She was a dark bay, almost 17HH tall, big-boned and strong-willed. It took a few weeks for the sedation cocktail she’d been doped with to wear off, and she didn’t calm down being off the track: she ramped up. Three times she attacked me, and the last time it happened when her front hooves just missed my skull as she reared at me when I fed her, I called the trainer to discuss and we came to a solution. She had a dressage student whose husband was a dentist and she taught aerobics and they had money. Her personality was harder than mine; she thought it was a better fit. I knew she was right, and after round-penning her with a pitchfork instead of a lunge whip, with her charging me still, and then in the paddock cornering me with a threatening curled lip, ears laid back and cocked hip with hoof ready and twitching to kick until she was distracted as I stood still praying, I was so ready for her to go.
All that after her arrival unbeknownst to me drugged, and two weeks of quiet isolation, during which my daughte Emily and I drove to the Horse Expo in Pennsylvania and got Zoey a winter blanket, both of us excited, and a time together I treasure memories of still. There we saw and met Pat Parelli and another natural trainer (Chris Cox?) Emily liked, and we were really looking forward to having a horse again. It was something meaningful for us together. After all, I got Emily her pony Mork when she was only three.
Well, the OTTB trainer and her student came, and Zoey was saddled and led to the ring where while exerting her will against being ridden (I only rode her in the roundpen with supervision atthat point), the woman literally broke the bridle pulling Zoey’s head to her toe and centering her in the ring to keep her from running off with her. She dismounted and led Zoey by the one unbroken rein to where we stood watching inside the gate and said “I’ll take her.”
She paid me $3,500.00 for this horse, and I threw in the “Be Good” halter and blanket Emily and I had bought. She also got Zoey’s papers, with breeding rights like Lana’s had.
I used that money to buy Devon that week, because that’s exactly what he cost. This is all part of a plan far greater than us that will be understood in full out of the body.
*I retired the name after this, for in retrospect, maybe Kim was right about changing horse’s names. She’d said dogs, too.
Devon (audible sigh, inner groan… sadness). I have written a great deal about my horse Devon on my EatingToAscend blog.
I had “been horseless” for about seven years (since Big), and realized that I needed one again. This is something a horseperson “just knows”. At first I adopted an OTTB – off the track throughbred – who I named Zoey – but her personality and mine clashed, and I sold her, making a profit, which I used to buy a two year old Percheron-Quarterhorse gelding.
Devon (the name he came with, it’s supposedly bad luck to change a horse’s name) had a torn nostril when I went to pick him up. The vet came out and we did surgery in the barn and he healed perfectly.
This is another animal I have loved that I could write an entire book about. He became a fearless partner, an incredible trail horse, and was multi-talented in so many ways. I used him training other horses, I sold him as a foxhunter and then eight months later bought him back, and when he sniffed his bridle which I had purposely not cleaned, wanting to keep his smell, I watched in utter awe as tears welled up in his eyes and he gazed into mine for what was easily a full minute. He loved to swim and was a bold leader too. All this for a baby who was afraid of birds and once was infamous for tossing me off on a flighty U-turn spook! When Nichole was pregnant with Emily I took her riding double, up until into the seventh month of her pregnancy. Devon was good with Emily and a real confidence-booster for children of all ages.
In 2007 in Richmond, Devon contracted Canker on all four hooves. Canker is a type of cancer (this is not a mispelling) caused by parasites in certain environments, and affects draft breeds moreso than others, for some reason (I have my theories, and it involves deplorable species miscegenation and GMOs). It took almost eight months to cure, involving keeping all four hooves sterile while working and caring for my granddaughter, but we did it.
When I became sick unto death with medically-denied Lyme disease and the subsequent Morgellons syndrome I leased Devon to a “riding friend” who lamed him – permanently. A GoFundMe campaign helped, and a high school classmate named Robert Polk contributed nearly $4,000.00 to try to save him. I moved Devon to a “medical barn”, and in June 2017 had to make the hardest decision, since he lived in pain and was basically three-legged, and have him euthanized.
I should have left him with my daughter, but had taken him from her after the man who ran the farm Emily kept him (and Cloud) at after I had the dissociative fugue told me he thought Emily was selling him, so I trailered him to Lucy’s, who is responsible for his eventual death. It is events like this that make me clearly see the devil at work destroying lives.
Devon was born on 11/11 – November 11th. Those are God numbers.
He trusted me so much, and was a true partner to me. He was a victim of the conspiracy and trauma as I had been. If horses can be angels, he’s mine.
Baxter was a black and white Parsons (taller) Jack Russell Terrier I adopted, and was a great little guy. He was as good on trails and with horses and riding as Jacks can be. Before my granddaughter Emily was born I went back into working in computers full time, feeling the need to help Max and Nichole financially as much as I could, and get more established as a grandmother. I lived in a carpeted apartment and my landlord was concerned that Baxter would become destructive, being left alone for as many as 10-12 hours a day (usually not twelve though). So I returned him to the Maryland Jack Russell Rescue. One memorable occurence was when Devon, Baxter and I were riding in frigid January weather in the Patapsco alone. We had to cross the river and Baxter was caught by a current. Devon and I went downstream along the trail looking for him. We waited and waited, and finally Baxter ran up the bank, shivering uncontrollably. I unzipped my coat and put him in against my skin and we went back to the barn.
Baxter enjoyed sitting on Devon’s saddle or the bareback pad when Devon grazed during our rest stops on long rides, and even rode Devon while I lunged him (see image).
Jacks are just the best dogs. They like a job, and they like their owners to settle down in the evening and rest. They’re only neurotic when not in an optimal environment for what they were bred to do. Kind of like humans, who were not meant to be slaves.
When Devon was 2-1/2 we both moved to a horse farm that trained gaited horses, where I rented the basement apartment. In a short period of time I became a trainer there and rode a horse named Tank. At first I thought he was a large Quarterhorse, and when I was asked to tack him up and do ringwork, I put a snaffle bit on him. In the ring with the owner and the head trainer, Tank was out of control, and I had to circle him in to the center and stop by pulling his head to my toe. The women looked at him and exclaimed “Why did you put that bit on him! He takes a curb with a 6″ shank!” I said “Isn’t he a Quarterhorse?” and they laughed and said no, he’s a Tennessee Walking horse, and no one can ride him yet! Kim, the head trainer, told me how Tank had tried to kill her the one time she rode him, and since then until today, he’d been left alone.
A few days passed, maybe a week. I rode many horses a day with them, riding Devon only twice a week for short periods because the growth plates of his knees were wide open (drafts mature slowly). One day, maybe the third time I went to get a horse to train, I went to the field to get Devon, and Tank followed me with his nose at my right shoulder. I got to the gate and Kim was there. She said “Tank’s decided you’re his person.” I looked at him, and looked at her, and looked at Devon, who was unperturbed. Then Kim told me that Tank had followed me to the gate all day, I had just never noticed.
Soon I was riding Tank and realized I had to buy him. I didn’t need two horses, but Devon was young and could only be ridden every few days. And my ego was flattered Tank had chosen me. Riding “gaiteds” was a new challenge, as well.
Tank had a long, thick tail and was the most beautiful copper chestnut. He learned to both gait as well as canter, and rein english or western. Once instead of freaking out and throwing me off when his tail got caught in heavy, thorny brush, Tank sat down to let me dismount.
One day, against Kim’s admonition that it was “bad luck” to change a horse’s name, I decided to call him “Fire”. I saddled him up to ride, and we went into the ring, where instead of working he stood still yet as if he was holding an explosion in and could shoot sky high any moment, and I realized that Kim was right. I had to dismount and take him back to the barn, learning a lesson I didn’t really understand but respected the validity of about horses and their identity.
I had to make the decision to sell Tank because I couldn’t afford to keep two horses after moving from the farm a year and a half or so later, and he sold with a buy-back clause: the year was 2005. In 2011 I got a phone call from the wife of the man who had bought Tank giving me the chance to buy him back. For them, Tank was a frightening, spirited horse. The man worked for the government and had used Tank as a pleasure horse accompanying his polo pony string in Florida in the winter months, but Tank had become dangerous.
I said yes, and the next day drove up to get him. They lived on an estate outside of Hunt Valley, Maryland, and as I walked into the barn where the wife (Ellen) said they’d be, I saw Tank in the wash rack and Ellen and her daughter on each side. They warned me not to step too close, in case he would hurt me! As if he were dangerous! Tank saw me and he visibly relaxed. The looks on their faces were of shock, and Ellen looked from Tank to me, remarking how he instantly calmed down, for them he was dangerous to handle. She handed me his lead rope and they unclipped the cross ties. As I led Tank down the aisle to the trailer to load him she told me to be careful, but Tank was eager to come and her concerns were moot.
Devon and Tank reunited seamlessly as if no time had passed. I was able to ride more with both horses, and things were great until the neighbors were shooting at the horses and I was being gaslit by my husband Kurt, who had taken a life insurance policy out on me without my permission after I bought a 42 acre property with a gold mine on it and asked for a divorce. When I fled for my life after surviving the final, brazenly set up murder attempt as orchestrated by Kurt (detailed in my autobiography), a local riding friend took Tank and my dogs and cat Egypt. I discovered while I had to rescue Devon in April 2016 that Tank died in her “care”.
My son-in-law Brian’s mother always had Pugs, and when Emily and Brian returned from their year in San Francisco where he tattooed at Ed Hardy’s shop, they bought Maude, a brindle pug puppy. Emily called me “Maude’s gramma”, and I had the pleasure of taking care of her while she was still very young when they went out of state to a tattoo convention. (I have been looking for the photograph of Maude wrestling with a stuffed horse plush toy on the oval, jewel-colored braided wool rug I made from coats cut into strips, a skill Mamaux, my mother-in-law who was the mother of my first husband Jamie, the father of Emily and Max, taught me, but can’t find it yet.) What a dear companion Maude grew to be!
In the time before their wedding and Rowan’s birth, Emily told me of how she would take Maude to dog parks to socialize, and how she played with other dogs. I remember once Emily recounting another woman’s reaction to Maude’s rare brindle color, as if Maude wasn’t truly capable of being recognized as a pug, which were conventionally fawn or black, and my daughter’s raised-eyebrow tolerance of the mistaken viewpoint of the woman’s criticism. I was proud of how Emily handled that, and if I didn’t tell her, it’s recorded for posterity now.
One of Brian’s tattooer friends painted a portrait of “Princess Maude” which couldn’t have been more appropriate, picturing her in a jeweled crown with a sceptre and an Elizabethan lace ruff collar around her neck. Maude made the best snuffly sounds, being a pug. And of course, the pug breath, but her endearing personality made one forget that instantly.
Maude communicated so well with all of her senses, especially her eye contact. Her eyes melted hearts!
One day I went to visit Emily while they still lived in Carytown (Richmond), and she told me how she had taught Maude how to jump up onto their high bed, then she demonstrated it! Amazing! Maude was truly a very human dog.
The last time I saw Maude was very briefly the night I returned from rescuing Devon from where he had been laimed. Emily and Brian had just adopted a mixed-shepherd puppy named Duke (which I thought interesting, since I had had a “Duchess”), and Emily, Rowan, baby Albie (my grandson) and Maude and I took a walk after having dinner (which included Emily’s delicious parchment-baked rosemary-sweet potato wedges) we took a walk. Duke’s youth contrasted with Maude’s maturity in a way I had never noticed before. That was going on five years ago, and I am not sure if Maude is still in the body, but she will always be in the heart. I love the photograph of Maude as a puppy on the braided rug and will add it when I find it.
Nothing is every truly lost.
Immediately after Viktor passed due to cancer, Steve Irwin the Crocodile Hunter died, killed by a stingray which struck him in the heart as Steve swam over. I think the scenario is like when Gorgous bit me that one time: it was a strike due to being startled: even expert animal handlers make mistakes. To err is human.
Bereft without an animal, living alone in a flailing romantic relationship, I found a pug on Craigslist and at 10PM drove to pick him up after calling. The couple giving him up were “goth punk”, very obese, with sharp, pointed facial piercing and technicolor hair. It was September 2006.
They said the dog had peed on their daughter’s high school graduation pictures, and the man wanted to kill him (the dog). I took him and he was obviously in poor shape, but perhaps two-three years old, a fawn. He was skinny and stank, with crusted sores on his skin all over. They had kept him in their yard and he was neglected. The vet I took him to wormed him, gave him the requisite rabies shot, and a prescription for a systemic yeast infection.
He healed quickly and I named him “Mate” in honor of Steve Irwin, who called people Mate, being Australian. Mate meant partner and friend, and this dog became that immediately for me.
When the relationship I was in abruptly ended in a very bad way, Mate, the chickens (I had 44) and I moved to a house Emily found me in Fulton Hill in Richmond, a low-class black neighborhood compared to the TV show “THE WIRE” in a fitting Facebook meme. It was a very dangerous place for a single white woman to live, especially one spending long days in the yard tending plants and vegetable gardening, taking care of chickens, landscaping and mowing the yard, working on craft and furniture projects outside. I knew of one other house where whites lived, and tried to befriend the neighbors with free eggs and vegetables or baked goods as I worked at my 17th Street Farmer’s Market stall and the HOME – Our Home Farm LLC business that my daughter was my partner in.
I had to give Mate to my son-in-law Brian’s sister Nikki when the Fulton Hill Gang targeted me and I was threatened with being killed. The police told me to move, so I did. I am abbreviating this to the point of incomprehension, but suffice to say that the month before, on the 4th of July a plainclothesed policeman came to the front door and told me to “leave the house with my granddaughter and dogs for the few days of the 4th of July or you would be shot”, and my two year old granddaughter Emily, Mate, Lucky (the next animal account, below) and I stayed with Emily, Brian and Maude in Carytown for three days.
It was so surreal, how I had to leave, giving Mate to Emily and telling her to give him to Nikki without having asked at all: I was in flight and survival mode, and had spent a week with blackout blankets on the windows and police escorts in and out of the neighborhood. I must say, witchcraft is alive and well in Richmond, where people are mind-controlled into targeting others, doing the dirty work of persecution by the powers-that-be. This event helped me decode much of what happens to people in this world.
Mate was renamed “Toby” and I heard he became fat but stayed happy. I am sure Nikki gave him a great home and am grateful for that. Having Mate, saving him from an awful life to enter a good one, is a gift to me and I love the pug dog breed, who make deeply soulful companions which travel easily and are full of love.
While living in the neighborhood of Fulton Hill in Richmond, Virginia, it became necessary to have a large dog for protection. Since I had Mate already, and my granddaughter Emily spent a lot of time with me (since birth), I decided a large Labrador Retriever would be best, and found “Lucky” through a rescue recommended by my landlord. Lucky was a 4-5 year old black English Lab, and easily over 100 pounds, and an intact male stud. He came with a Chester the Cheeta (of Cheetos fame!) stuffed toy which he carried in his mouth everywhere, and my daughter called the toy his “dirty woo-woo”, something she had heard a story of on NPR.
Within two or three days of adopting him, Lucky attempted mating with Mate, and I witnessed him nearly sodomizing him, and had to beat Lucky off of Mate with a broom. Then Lucky turned on me to attack me. I had to kick him into the corner of the kitchen, where he snarled. I was able to separate him, he calmed down, and I called the SPCA and made an appointment to have him neutered the next day. My daughter had taken Mate to their house for safety until this was done, and in a few days Mate was home and Lucky began to settle down nicely, and no more dominance issues arose.
The gang’s death threats changed everything. They had said to me “We are going to kill you, and we are going to kill your dogs”, making a knife sign in the air in front of my throat after stopping my truck as I left for work one morning. For a month we stayed at the farm of a near-stranger from the League of Maryland Horsemen (I was a member and the webmaster) outside of Gettysburg in Spring Grove, but again truly demonic activity occurred and Lucky was knifed, his entire side exposed, a 12″ on each side L-shaped flap of black fur-covered flesh hanging.
We stayed then with my son Max and granddaughter Emily, who would be three in a few months, at his apartment, and with horse medicines “Wonderdust”, mortar-and-pestle hand-powdered SMZ antibiotic tablets, gauze and duct tape, I was able to save Lucky’s life, and he healed. Every day I had to clean and dress the huge 12″X12″ wound, and he endured the pain, sometimes silently curling his lips as if as a warning to me to stop or be more gentle. He never bit me; I was never afraid. Lucky healed.
Lucky loved life and was a perfect family and farm dog, as these pictures show.
When in the “care” of the woman responsible for Tank’s premature demise, Lucky was starved and also hit by a car, and I saw him after returning from the dissociative fugue, a shadow of himself, so hungry and in poor condition he chewed dirt from the ground.
I hold the memory of this majestic dog close to my heart, along with so many other memories both animal and human. As these brief (I am trying to be so) animal stories coalesce, what forms as well is the pattern of the external factors which were at play in my life, sabotaging success and prosperity, relationships and well-being, reputation, family and future of all in it.
On Mother’s Day while living in Fulton Hill, I went to the Southern States farm and garden store for some things for Devon, Lucky and Mate. The store was a little different than other Southern States I’d been too in that it had an air-conditioned, grey-carpeted entrance foyer roughly 10’X12′ in size, and double automatic sliding doors in and out, and with a “whoosh!”, the first set opened automatically, and once you entered, the second set did, and the first set cloded behind. This day I noticed a small wire crate to the left of the second door, and in it was a very small kitten which was pressing itself as far as it could into the corner, away from the sound, wind and footsteps of the doors. I noticed it and then my intention returned to the items I wanted (including a SLICK grooming block for Devon, and a new shedding blade for his winter coat, which was like a bear’s). Checking out, near the entrance/exit, the sound of the doors jogged my memory and I asked the cashier why there was a kitten in the crate. I’d never seen animals for adoption there before. The young woman told me that a customer, who was an old man, had brought in a litter of kittens that morning, born to a feral cat who lived under his porch, but he accidently ran her over the day before and he brought them there to find them homes. And, typical of me, without a single thought, I said “I’ll take the kitten.” So she put it in a box and I took it home.
It was skinny, with ticks all over like corn kernels in its coat. Male. I gave him a bath, removed the ticks, and named it Smitty, because Jamie had always called Elizabeth “Pretty little smitty, litty kitty” when he was being fond of her, and no one disliked Elizabeth except my mother, who once poisoned a neighbor’s cat that had the audacity to get close to her deck’s birdfeeders, and when she told me she put rat poison in tunafish and left it for the poor white persian pet and never saw it again, I looked horrified, and she told me if I told anyone, she would write me out of her will – she already had, I found out after she died. Anyway…
Somehow I got worms from Smitty, and had to take an entire tube of horsepaste Ivermectin, which took care of that. I had him neutered, all shots, and he grew to be a sleek, healthy tuxedo black and white cat.
A year and a half later living with Kurt and boarding Devon as a barn about a mile away but closer as the crow flew across fields and woods, Smitty disappeared, and the barn owner called me twice to come get him. She had many barn cats, two barns, a big colony well-taken care of. One day during a blizzard (after my neck fusion)she called me, furious, yelling at me for dropping my cat off! I hadn’t! So I drove over and tried to bring Smitty home, but this time he wouldn’t let me even close to him. He obviously had decided he preferred life in a feral barn cat colony to life with me. But in between his entering my life and leaving it, the pictures show how well he fit in. This decision of his taught me a good bit about animal freewill and their intelligence. The barn owner didn’t believe at all that Smitty did this of his own volition, and I never saw Smitty again, even from a distance.
Clover was a “Puddin”, an Irish Shorty Jack who came into my life as a six week old puppy along with her half-sister Claddagh, who was “nippy”, and as a puppy snapped when disturbed while sleeping, so Claddaugh was rehomed to a woman with teenagers, as I needed a dog that would be safe with my granddaughters Emily and Rowan. She was a brave dog like Olga, and good in my small farm life setting. She had a broad chest and a big dog’s walk and personality, and very protective when someone came to the door. She learned to growl silently, and one look would remind her to “turn her decible level down”.
When I had the dissociative fugue and went to Hawaii, Clover was bred by the woman who had taken my animals, Katherine, and returning, I got Clover back, built back her health (Katherine starved her) and bred her one more time, hoping to get ahead financially as Kurt had decimated me financially (described in autobiography).
She had three puppies, and one went to the man who owned the stud and became an agility champion, I sold one to a local man, and the last one, Eros, named for the heart on his head, went to a family home on the Eastern Shore.
When I became ill with first Lyme disease and the subsequent Morgellons syndrome, Clover also developed Morgellons, which manifested as a skin cancer. I had success in causing one of the tumors to resorb and was seeing the two others reduce in size by giving her the colloidal silver I made, which I treated myself with succes with. I changed her diet to raw ground beef, brown rice, flax seeds, raw garlic, fresh raw oregano which I grew, and olive oil. I also gave her some of the other treatment items and protocols I had to use to heal myself.
A turn of terrible events hinging on Devon’s ruin, mold in the house I rented, and my own flailing psychically, not yet having come to understand the levels of evil at work in my life, keystoned by the medical system’s refusal to diagnose and treat me for Lyme and Morgellons, as well as having contracted demodex mites from the apartment I had rented on the farm I moved Devon to after I rescued him from the woman who lamed him led me to being forced to flee for fear of being illegally institutionalized by the system which denied me medical treatment. My last hope was to go to Johns Hopkins Hospital Emergency room and seek diagnosis and treatment there, and as my son and his second wife Laura had just bought a 28-acre farm, I asked him to keep Clover (and Peanut, whose story follows) until I found another apartment. I took Clover to Max’s, and never saw her again. When I saw Nichole in the beginning of October 2018 for the first time in four years she told me that Clover had had to be euthanized because of her cancer. I will always wonder if, had I been able to continue what I was feeding her and the protocols, would she have lived her life out.
She was stocky and loved to snuggle. No vices, a very good girl Love you Clover, named for the plant, and good luck. I thank my son and Laura for giving Clover and Peanut a home when I couldn’t, due to the layers of evil at work in my life. I know that you took good care of her in her last days, and that in her dreams she remembered me. It comforts me that Clover was able to be with my granddaughter Emily when I was shunned, in my place.
Oh, Daisy – our little family’s Thelwell pony,, and my granddaughter Emily’s joy and delight.
When my granddaughter Emily turned five I got her a chestnut Shetland pony mare named Daisy. She was nine years old and given to me by a boarding and lesson school in Potomac, Maryland, who found her too bright to use as a lesson pony and recognized that if she had one owner she wouldn’t develop vices, which they saw as a potential, and did the right thing and put the animal before money. I paid a neighbor $175.00 to trailer her, and she fit right in with Devon, and was bombproof with Emily. The most wonderful little pony anyone could ever want.
After moving to the farm and just as the “marriage” [sic] was falling apart, feeding the animals that evening, Kurt turned Daisy back out of her stall to the field with the other horses. He had no experience with them, though, and didn’t check to make sure she ate her handful of grain, which is something horseowners MUST do, as uneaten meal indicates pending colic.
The next morning everyone came in to eat but Daisy. Looking out across the field, behind me, Kurt, who was taller, said “Is Daisy dead?” and I looked where he pointed and her legs were stiff in the air. She was. I ran crying to her. She was on her left side, as if she had died in her sleep. Or been shot. There had already been shooting attempts at the horses by the neighbors, who eventually were contracted to shoot at me, which Kurt was part of (autobiography).
I called my daughter Emily and told her, and she posted on Facebook.
I called the veterinarian who I had seen so recently when we gelded Cloud (story follows). I asked her to come do an autopsy.
The first thing we did when she arrived was to roll Daisy over, and she told me she fully expected to see a 22 caliber bullet hole. She was a deer hunter from Louisiana. But there was no bullet hole, and we were relieved, looking over at the neighbor’s trailer on the other side of my riding ring. Next came the autopsy, and Kim (Kimberly Little, DMV) “dressed” Daisy as one would a deer’s gut, and together we examined her stomach and its contents, and extended her intestines across the ground, together with gloved hands looking for a mass of stuck hay or grass, or an object, or poison. She found a place where there was inflammation and swelling, and acidic pH, and said that Daisy had died from rapidly changing blood gases which caused her heart to stop, explaining why she looked as if she died sleeping.
I knew nothing would ever bring Daisy back, so I didn’t pursue the fact that she had been poisoned. I was bereft: brokenhearted for my granddaughter.
After Kim left, before the man I bought the 42-acre gold mine property from came with his backhoe to bury her arrived, I groomed Daisy one last time. I banded her long, lush tail and cut it off, and braided her mane and cut the braids off too, to have jewelry made for and keepsakes for Emily. I felt inconsolably guilty because Max and Emily had visted the week before, and we were all outside grooming the horses after they ate in their stalls, and Emily came to me and asked me if she “could put Daisy’s pretty halter and lead rope on her” – AND I SAID NO because the moment before Emily walked in and asked me that I had just been overcome with a terrible dark feeling that made me begin to sob with my head on Devon’s left shoulder. Kurt was behind me, grinning. Emily asked that and I had said no. I remembered the night before, in the moonless dark checking the water tub with the field lights off because I feared the horses or myself being shot at again, Daisy pressed herself against my side as I filled the tub, keeping herself gently pressed against me silently, with no distress at all. I should have checked to see if she had eaten her grain, but was lulled by routine. Now I know what it is to be spiritually attacked by demons, who can live in human bodies like Kurt’s.
And that demon – or another in someone else – made sure that after I had the dissociative fugue that Daisy’s mane, tail and the dusty-rose “pretty halter and lead rope” that they were stolen from my things, and that Emily never got them. When I saw my granddaughter at Nichole’s in October 2018, she told me that she had nothing to remember Daisy by and I told her I had saved Daisy’s mane, tail and halter and lead rope and that Kurt had taken them. I do not want to think that my granddaughter’s namesake did.
I wanted to write something cheerier, but this is what came out, and the lesson is more relevant than I can convey: animals enter our lives reflecting the love we have, and that love, unlike the body, is never extinguished.
Sophie was a Maremma, a rare flock-guard breed from Italy resembling the Great Pyrenees, but not as heavy, and, being free of inbreeding, are immune to the diseases plaguing AKC and CKC-recognized dogs. I needed a livestock guardian dog to protect the horses, gaots, chickens and geese (and the baby Jacks I hoped for in the future), but Sophie ended up saving my life too. A cost-prohibitive breed, Sophie came from a breeder near Charlottesville whose barns had collapsed under the winter snows and he was having a “fire sale” to recover from the losses and rebuild. She was the pick of the litter and I paid $350.00 when normally she would have cost $1,500.00. She grew quickly and trained herself, and spent days in the fields and when the shootings at the Spotsylvania farm began, I brought her inside at night, where she slept in my bed with the other three dogs (including Clover’s “husband” Phinney, who I don’t write about here, but Katherine “lost” when I had the dissociative fugue after the last shooting).
She was keenly intelligent, attentive to the other animals, and never hurt anyone. She had a dominant personality but exercised good judgement and wasn’t overbearing. She knew her duties outside and did them valiantly.
On Sunday December 9, 2012 I drove to the Fredericksburg Tractor Supply Store to get feed just before dark, so I could unload when I got home in the dark. The shooting attempts by the neighbors cast a long, dark shadow over all I did running that farm (and the final which revealed Kurt’s part in them was yet to happen), and a torrential rainstorm came while I drove home. When I pulled my F-350 up into the driveway and parked under the carport I’d had installed, as I turned off the diesel engine I heard the shotgun blasts. Three of them in rapid succession. I screamed at the top of my lungs “STOP NOW”, ran into the house for my 1/4 mile spotlight calling the police on my cellphone as I ran through the barn aisle, flung the rear doors open, and there Devon, Tank and Cloud were frantically together by the door, shaking, covered in foam, the mud churned beneath them by their trampling hooves, and sweat pouring in foam from their noses, mouths, necks and chests. I brought them in and as I evaluated them putting them in their stalls I *told the officer who answered what was happening. I rubbed them each down, gave them warm, liquidy mashes, and a little Banamine small muscle relaxer to prevent colics from happening. Tank was the most distressed and I had brought Sophie with me for protection, leaving Lucky, Clover and Phinney inside the house. Sophie stationed herself outside Tank’s stall door and would not leave it – she was there all night.
When the officer arrived – only one – he was worse than the preceding ones, and told me “unless there was a dead horse, there was nothing [he] could do”. (This was to be eclipsed only by the reaction by the Spotsylvania Police department when I survived that final shooting attempt orchestrated by my now ex-husband, proving to me their collusion with his life insurance collection plan.)
That night I put a plea out on Facebook and with every horseback-riding and email contact I had, seeking to move them off my rented farm to save their lives. A man I bought hay from offered to let me move them to his place, and the next day I did, so they would not be killed on my own property. I trailered Devon and Tank together first. Cloud hadn’t been in the trailer since I took him to be gelded in the spring. Again a heavy rain and sudden storm came (now I know these are HAARPed with DEWs – directed energy weapons, so all is orchestrated). I had to park the truck and trailer in the road at the end of the driveway. Cloud was frantic in his stall when I fetched him to take him to load, and it took only about ten minutes, and, trusting me, he got in. I took him there, and went home. Words fail me to convey the desperation and despair of the entire gaslit evil situation.
A few weeks before the horses being shot at described above, I was sleeping in my bedroom and Kurt in his, with Sophie, Clover, Phinney and Lucky on the bed with me. The house was a ground level rancher, and there were motion detector lights and surveillance cameras on the house, garage and all around (eight of them on the house alone). It was after midnight and I turned my bedside light off to go to sleep. I was laying there in the middle of my double bed, Sophie along my left side, when looked up growling and lunged at the window on the wall past the right side of the bed, hitting it with the full force of her body. I heard a sound outside like something hitting against – or pushing off from – the side of the house, and the sound of footfalls as someone ran off. The motion lights never came on, and all of this happened in a few seconds time as with a cold fear falling in my chest like death I realized I was about to have been shot in my own bed and dropped and rolled onto the floor and crawled as fast as I could into the laundry room on the other side of the kitchen, calling to Kurt and followed by the dogs and my cats. From my place on the laundry room floor, I yelled to Kurt what happened and to call the police. His reply, laughing mockingly as he said it, was that I was “crazy and they knew it and used the crazy code on the scanners when [I] called. Go ahead and call, they won’t come.” After a few minutes during which my thudding heartbeats began to return to normal I dialed 911 from my cellphone, but it wouldn’t connect at all. I went to the dining room and called the police from the landline, and the captain who Kurt had befriended and bragged he’d had lunch with answered. He refused to send an officer. I tried calling the state police, but twice my calls were re-routed to the Spotsylvania Police and the captain answered. He told me he refused to let me call the state police and I realized that the telephones were compromised. Sophie saved me that night.
*The final shooting proved that the police disregarded all of the shooting attempts because my husband – now separated – was in news and seen as reputable and he lied to them about what was really going on.
Having Devon and Daisy for my granddaughter, I sought a calm riding horse for Kurt. I saw Isabelle on Craigslist, an 18++ hand full Percheron with a docked tail who had been left in a field when the couple who owned her had each passed away and the family neglected her. She was about fifteen years old and had exactly ten teeth. I paid $750.00 for her for Kurt to have a horse. It might be difficut for anyone knowing him at that time, but privately with me, he resented the animals I loved and cared for, and somehow acted as if he was being left out. So I got him one of his own, hoping he’s choose more wholesome hours in nature than parking himself in front of the television with DVR’d shows eating potato chips off of his shirt as if his chest was a plate. I was trying to enable LIFE: my bad.
Quickly Isabelle gained weight and enjoyed trail rides and ringwork. Immensely strong, still she needed only a halter and lead rope or a the Dr. Cook bitless bridle I got her when she once ran off with Kurt on board, trying to keep up with Devon and I as we galloped up a powerline trail.
Although she was wormed and thrifty, Isabelle needed a good deal of volume in her food, so she got a large pan of wetted beet pulp with her hay and grain twice a day. In contrast, the other horses ate very little compared to her. Because she had been through abandonment, she had severe food issues, and when it was time to call the horses in to eat, it was best to stay out her her way to her food!
Then the unthinkable happened – twice. Within a one month span when I went to bring her in to eat – she was always waiting at the gate before the others – she broke through the gate and trampled me. I survived this twice, the first time seeing her dinner-plate sized hoof miss smashing my skull like a melon after breaking down the gate – a 12′ TSC new bar gate, chained – and the second time (and another sleeting-snow day) she burst the gate and the metal lock and chain hit my temple, just missing my eye.
It took me almost three months, but I sold her to a woman who was looking for a draft lesson horse and did therapeutic PTSD therapy riding too. I told her what had happened and what I thought was needed to avoid the same thing happening with Isabelle.
What I remember most fondly about Isabelle: she loved trail riding and was a bold leader on the difficult passages and water crossings in the Graves Mountain area of the Shenandoahs, unflinchingly crossing the water amidst the big rocks. She enjoyed ringwork and had an amazing trot with long strides that enabled a sitting trot beautifully. I rode her with the Parelli bareback pad and she was scopey and fun.
Other than the two incidents with me involving freezing weather and mealtime, she was inquisitive with children, gentle with people, and made a beautiful bond with my daughter and Rowan. That moment remains frozen in time.
Cloud came into our lives when I was looking for a fifty gallon rain barrel and there was his ad in the farm and garden section of Craigslist. Such a beautiful great and white pinto Paso Fino! He was only $400.00. I went to look at him, and the woman, Carrie, also gave me a Standardbred she had rescued. I took him, too, thinking I could rehome him quickly.’
All the horses got along well together, and Cloud was gentle and kind. He and Sophie played as if they were the same breed, be it dog or horse I couldn’t tell. The vet and I gelded Cloud, he was an easy keeper, and I hoped that our whole family would be able to ride together.
Cloud was the first horse I began riding bitless, bridleless and without a saddle, and was just beginning to go well when I completely dissociated. What really stands out about this gorgeous, compact Paso Fino gelding – who now would be around eight years old (and I would love to see him again) is how trusting he was, and held so much promise as a partner. The photograph of Devon, Tank and Cloud in the field with me says it all.
My daughter Emily took Devon and Cloud after I had the fugue, and I saw him with her and he neighed at her, which she recorded on her cellphone. I hope she has him still.
Bay was a twenty year old Standardbred gelding I was offered for free when I bought Cloud. He had been neglected and the woman was trying to get his hooves back in shape, and she told me that when she took him (from where and whoever), his hooves were six inches too long and rolling upwards and he could barely walk. As my first horse, Sunny, was a Standardbred, and I had great respect for the breed, after looking at Bay, and mentally comparing her lack of resources and abilities to mine, I took him altruistically. Once home, I cross-tied and began to groom him after handling Cloud, introducing him to Devon, Daisy, Tank and Isabelle and turning him out. I had noticed ticks on Bay due to his fine, smooth coat. I went into the tackroom and got 5% pyrethrin in a spray bottle as well as the spot-on for forelocks, manes, ridgeline and dock of tail. I wiped Bay down with a rag dampened with the pyrethrin, brushing out his mane and tail. I put the spot-on on, and walked away for a few minutes while he stood quietly in the barn aisle tied, enjoying the attention and falling asleep standing patiently.
Walking back, I began to brush him with a fine brush and with a horrified shock saw that a wave of powder-ey LICE was manifesting itself in a slowly moving formation moving away from where I had applied the spot-on and downward toward his body. It was graphically easy to see, this white-ish dust of nearly microscopic insects against his dark bay coat. I went and washed my hands, changed my shirt and put in gloves, then gave him a bath outside. That horse took it all with complete tolerance.
I spot-tested Cloud the way I found the bugs on Bay, but he was free of infestation. Still, I treated all the animals – horses as well as dogs. As the days and weeks passed, his health improved. I added Red Cell supplement (by the gallon) to his diet to rebuild him from anemia caused by the mites/lice, which he must have had a long time – as long as it took for his hooves to overgrow. I wondered who had done this to him.
Over the months, his health improved, and the farrier trimmed his hooves every 5-6 weeks he came. I didn’t ride him, but didn’t feel a need to. I knew he’d be an amazing partner under saddle.
One day in September 2011, I looked outside and Bay was just standing in the sun on the western size of the barn. I thought nothing of it, but a few hours later when I was out collecting eggs from my “candy chickens” (eye candy frizzles), Bay was still standing there. I stopped and looked at him and immediately noticed that he stood almost parked, his legs stiff and placed more like a vintage plastic horse than a real one. Immediately I knew what was happening. I ran to him and felt his pulses and fetlocks for heat and he had what every horseowner fears, which usually happens in the spring: the sugars in his diet had affected the circulatory system of his hooves. I put icepacks on each one, and told Kurt, who had made Bay his friend, sort-of. I called the vet, who came with X-Ray equipment. Standing in the aisle with Bay tied, I told the vet I wouldn’t take on any more expenses: I knew the prognosis was fatal. *Kurt said he would pay for X-Rays to evaluate the hooves. Four sets were done and Bay had rotated coffin bones on every hoof. No chance for recovery. Nine months of care I had spent, but a happier horse; a perfect gentleman.
So we put Bay down ourselves. Kurt shot him point blank with a pistol from his friend Scott Ranoccia (who lied under oath in the divorce court as Kurt did), and I fell onto Bay’s body and rode his spirit to heaven. Horses do go there, or a place like Valhalla. Felicity’s story is another window to the Rainbow Bridge.
Endnote: the farrier had told me that if Bay was ever put down, his hooves would be useful for farrier students, so I asked Kurt to saw them off and had bagged them and put them in one of my freezers. How awful it was to know they were there and as the dissociation from trauma continued these pieces of that good horse seemed to call out to me, a constant Greek chorus, foretelling things to come.
*Kurt never did pay Bay’s vet bill like he said he would, which was nearly $700.00. I paid it when I seized Devon back from Lucy Donhauser in order to transfer Devon’s veterinary records and try to save him.
My daughter was eager to finally have another horse of her own, to do dressage with, a lifelong passion of hers. She had confidence that I could keep one at my small farm, where she, Brian and Rowan would visit. Emily found a warmblood and dressage breeder who was firesale liquidating her stock as happened with Sophie’s breeder, although this person had broken her hip in a winter fall and also suffered a head injury, leading to dementia. Her daughter, a woman in her mid-forties, came up from where she lived in the Southwest (Arizona? New Mexico?) to dissasemble the entire life’s work of her mother’s Virginia sport horse operation. What a frustrated woman, I remember feeling so sorry for both of them. (Another foreshadowing of events I did not foresee…)
Lana was a five year old Hanoverian (I hope I remember correctly) mare, a bay, and completely green and unridden. She had the most perfect confirmation, the most beautiful legs and feet, and for $500.00 Emily got her, with breeding papers. Then we had to load her into my horse trailer.
That took nearly an hour, and was traumatic. I had experience loading difficult horses – I THOUGHT. To load Lana required placing the trailer at end of the aisle and blocking it, and myself, Emily, Kurt and the woman selling her mother’s horses all working to funnel Lana in. Ropes, straps behind her rump, lunge whips, barriers, practically ratcheting her with a stallion’s shank behind her lips, finally after this horse fell backwards onto the cement floor, she loaded and it took all of us to shut the doors, while I tied her so she wouldn’t have room to turn: the divider for my extra-tall, extra-wide Sterling two-horse trailer with a ramp not doors was locked to the side.
Back at my farm, she unloaded and ran whinneying in the smaller field running alongside where my horses were. Lots of horse snorting, hello-ing and faux warning kicks ensued but I was able to let her join the others. She was a wild thing, though, and I couldn’t even lead her. Like a wild mustang, I had to let a lead rope hang from her halter.
I spent weeks working with Lana every single morning after the feedings, teaching her to be handled, lead, and become acclimated to the trailer. Emily told me she had a deadline to get Lana shipped to a dressage trainer at the beginning of the next month, and was very excited to finally pursue something just for herself she had always wanted to do. We were really making progress, taking photos and video and putting progress updates on Facebook (this was 2011), and Emily and her friends as well as mine “followed”. One morning Lana “lost it” and completely regressed, breaking the halter and lead line and falling backwards out of the trailer like that day we picked her up, cutting her head above her eye. I was unable to put another halter on her, unwilling to risk being struck because she was rearing at me and striking. I hadn’t even let out the chickens and geese yet (155 chickens, eleven geese): for the last few weeks it had been this way, with every one of them waiting to be released from coops and pens and fed until Lana had had my total attention and the barn to herself. I opened the gate (the one Isabelle had charged) and Lana trotted her floating, impeccable ballet-dancer’s trot into the field.
Finishing the rest of the chores, back in the house after placing the egg basket on the granite counter I went onto Facebook and wrote what happened. Emily read it right away and wrote that Lana had to be ready to trailer to go to the trainers’ at the beginning of the month. I responded that “horses don’t keep timetables like people do” and I think I said it would take longer. My daughter was not happy about this, and I will abridge this to say that this made the beginning of the rift between us now.
I paid a supposedly Parelli-trained hauler to move Lana $350.00 and Kurt directed her to drive in the mud and her huge truck and trailer rig got stuck in the mud. Lana did not get moved. Emily gave up on not only Lana, but me.
The next-door neighbor I bought the gold mine and acreage from (which I returned to him, forfeiting my investment, so Kurt couldn’t take half the worth in the divorce) who had buried Daisy and then Bay helped me rehome Lana with friends of his. They had a huge step-up cattle trailer and Lana walked right in. Roger told me they had her under saddle as a trail horse in a week.
Emily and I are still estranged, but what we share is greater than any and all differences temporarily – and temporally – dividing us.
When I dissociated during the second year of marraige to Kurt I went to Hawaii, where I was invited to live in an “Ohana” where pig dogs – fierce pit bulls and “black dog” (the Hawaiians eat them) crosses – that had become rogue while hunting and unsafe to their owners were rehabilitated as opposed to being put down. A litter of “Poi Dog” (terrier mix) puppies were dropped off by a native Hawaiian woman, and the old hippie couple ostensibly running the ohana and rescue, who were really growing pot, Hoku (Patricia) and Larry, kept the three puppies in a box of rags and a few tools on the lanai (porch), not even feeding them except papaya peels and odd food scraps and rice. Each of the puppies looked different and likely had different fathers. Peanut was the shyest, and had been scratched by the black cat that lived outside, tearing the schlera of his inner eyelid. It was a situation like with Tank: Peanut chose me.
I stayed on the other edge of the 30-some acre banana plantation, living under tarps with the dogs we were retraining. Peanut would visit me of his own volition, and then go back before sundown. This went on for a month or so after I arrived there in late March 2013. Someone visiting Hoku’s grandson (who lived in the “camp”) visited and he had a young dog, a puppy maybe at most five or six months old, and it was immediately obvious that his dog was very sick. He could so weak and listless he could barely stand, was dehydrated, feverish, with
water-ey diarrhea. I looked the symptoms up on my cellphone: Parvovirus came back in the unanimous, unequivocally chilling results.
His name was Alex, but I forget the dog’s name. I showed him my phone. He was in denial at first, but within the next hour, his puppy began to fail. I told him he was dying. The sun went down as it does around 6:30PM in Kalapana and the dog died.
A few days later I realized I hadn’t seen Peanut for a few days, so I walked over to the ohana. I asked Ariana, Hoku’s great-neice from New Hampshire, where Peanut was, and she pointed out to the yard where an old van sat rusting and said “I think Peanut’s dead, he’s been under the van for three days.”
! ! !
I had to pull the lifeless Peanut from under the van. He was unresponsive but still alive. I carried him back to my camp, resolving to do all I could to save him. I had had enough loss and could not bear another, and didn’t even know to conceptualize that I was undergoing a legitimate psychiatric breakdown from excessive trauma. My animal skills automatically kicked in and I fed him a gruel of ground cooked rice, honey and raw egg with salt, using a dampened cloth to wet his lips and tongue, massaging drops of water down his throat. This went on from mid-afternoon until I had to sleep, exhausted. The deafening coqui frogs and the downpouring night rain made sleep easy in the rainforest jungle, the tarps louder than barn tin roofs.
I laid Peanut along my right side and fell asleep listening to his ragged, shallow breaths. I awoke with a start because my hand must have sensed he had stopped breathing. I tried chest compressions and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation but he was dead. All at once I had the idea to “shock him”, and I unzipped my tent and carried his lifeless body to one of my two 25-gallon water buckets where I collected rainwater for bathing, drinking and cooking (I later did get Rat Lung disease from that, and other things) and, holding my hand over his nose and mouth to keep it closed, plunged him under and shook him, and then brought him out and breathed into his mouth again.
He came alive.
But not really conscious. I spent the rest of the night watching over him, giving him small amounts of gruel and water, and when Jacob, Hoku’s grandson, came over from the ohana I told him what happened. He was in shock that Peanut was alive: Peanut’s brothers had died overnight. As the day progressed, Peanut recovered practically miraculously. Afraid of attachment, I told Jacob to take him back to Larry and Hoku. From what I read online, I knew that Peanut was going to survive, as he would have died if not.
The next day Hoku came over to invite me to dinner, and so I could see how Peanut was doing. Dinner included salmon and I gave peanut half of mine. He had been so happy to see me and sat at my feet as I ate. Larry made a snide comment about not being able to afford feeding dogs and I told him Peanut deserved half of what I ate. When I left I told Jacob that if Peanut was alive in the morning, to bring him to me.
Tides turned and I ended up training horses on the second-largest horse ranch on the island, its boundary shared with the reknowned Parker Ranch. It was a “The Man From Snowy River” environment and lifestyle, and Peanut was fantastic with the horses, in the coastline jungle and mountain pastures just north of Rainbow Falls in zipline country halfway around the coast to Kona. Before I returned to the mainland after “waking up” from the fugue, I entrusted a man who was supposedly a friend, “Eden” from North Carolina, with Peanut and my four suitcases. he was to find Peanut a good home and I was going to send him the money to ship my suitcases.
Eden answered one call when I got back and then stopped answering. So I had only a knapsack of clothing, my bag of jewelry, my riding boots and my laptop. In the next year, my daughter-in-law Nichole, her sister Morgan and my son all helped me begin to reassemble my life. The joke of a divorce settlement gave me the $1,500.00 it would cost to have Peanut shipped back and I had found him, placing ads on the Big Island Craigslist from my Catonsville apartment. A woman who worked for the University of Hawaii, Hilo, emailed me and offered to print the ad and pictures and place them in on the Dell’s (a division of Tractor Supply) bulletin board, and I received an email from a man named “Farmer Ray” who told me he had my dog. Only Peanut had that butterfly-shaped saddle on his back, and Eden had taken Peanut to the Hilo SPCA where I had had him neutered, vaccinated and microchipped when I became his “owner” after he survived Parvo. The SPCA confirmed for “Farmer Ray”, a native Hawaiian, that I was indeed Peanut’s owner. Ray told me in a phone call how smart Peanut was, and how Peanut knew what type of chores Ray would do on the farm based on the type of footwear he put on, and if he didn’t want to do something he’s hide.
It took over four months of waiting until I could have Peanut shipped, and the reunion at BWI was so quietly memorable. Peanut hugged me with is body, and then made it very clear he had to urinate, and in the parking lot of the airport cargo claim terminal he raised his leg in a fencepost and peed for at least a full minute. The one thing he didn’t ever want to do, I learned, was to get into a vehicle again, though. Back at the apartment, Clover accepted him immediately, and Peanut and Clover walked with me four to five times a day. He was a gentle “uncle” with her puppies. After my mother died and Emily (and Brian) reached out to me to visit over Thanksgiving, I moved to Lakeside and Peanut (and Clover) loved the large fenced back yard, though we still enjoyed our walks. When I became ill with Lyme disease and the Morgellons syndrome accompanying it, I actually basically “lost a month” in which all I could do was the never-ending laundry due to the Morgellons fibers and artifacts, the protocols I was beginning including three baths daily, and the rest of the time I laid on the couch watching YouTube videos to learn how to treat myself due to the medical conspiracy hiding these aff;ictions, and Peanut, Clover and Emily’s cat Niko laid on top of me. I remember “coming out of it”, “waking up” with my eyes focusing on Peanut’s: he and Clover were huddled together on the blanket in front of the fireplace, and there was pain in their eyes, and concern. Things were to get worse before they eventually got better.
I have not seen Peanut since taking him to Max’s farm at end of the summer in 2016, but see him in my mind and his unique, joyous island-grass, jungle undergrowth-hopping leaps that are a part of his makeup as Peanut the Hawaiian Dog.
Emily adopted a small brown tabby a year or so before I moved to Lakeside on her birthday, December 14, 2014, and because the cat, who Emily had chosen, and named Niko, was not exactly safe to have around Rowan and Albie, as Niko would suddenly scratch or claw, even bite, for no good reason, gave her to me. I liked having Niko, but she did the same thing, and at the most unexpected times. For the first months of having her, it wasn’t too big an issue. And when I was delirious on the couch December 2015 – January 2016, Niko laid on top of me with Clover and Peanut, reserving her place on my left shoulder, since I was for some reason most comfortable laying on my right side. That period of time was when her lashing out became a problem. All of us were cold, and, because I was practically dying and had been forsaken by family and the medical establishment and left alone, suffering and struggling to find ways to survive the assault on my body I didn’t understand, I know the animals were affected by my fear and despair. So I attribute part of Niko’s smacking at my face with her paw clawas out a cat’s versiob of a kneejerk reaction while she slept on me, no matter how slowly I tried to move so as to at least disturb her gently to minimize her reaction. Then one day I was really scratched, and the scratches were what I came to call “a breach in the hull” because sores developed in the area, and spread on top of the ones I already had, which I now know are called “Lyme dermopathy” as well as Morgellons.
Calls to my daughter to take Niko back went ignored. I took Niko to the SPCA in her carrier and dropped her off in the conference room. That was in late February, 2016.
On June 11, 2019 I took gifts to my children and grandchildren, first stopping at Max’s, then Emily’s after dark on the way home. I could hear family voices and the porch light was off. As I carried the packages to the porch, a small brown cat came up to me in the dark, walking alongside me within the yard. I think it was Niko. I hope she was microchipped and returned to Emily. I didn’t stoop to try to pet her, but felt a rush of love inside, and a sense of relief, hoping she was home with our family.
After moving Devon to the medical care barn just over the Pennsylvania border, I sought a part-time job to pay for the staggering medical expenses each of us had. Without a car, I had to find something local, and I accepted a position as a “stitcher”, the factory term for seamstress at the Bar-Ray Company, where I sewed lead-lined protective shielding garments of all types. Due to the deleterious affect it quickly had on my body because of the heavy metal dust, I could only work there two months. But it was worth it because on the way back from work I found Luna, a tiny kitten lost in an alley. I scooped her up and she bit my leather-gloved hand, but didn’t break the skin, and let me wrap her in my scarf (it was a cold fall day) and take her home. It took her only a few days to place her trust in me, and I wormed her with the fenbendazole I used, and made an appointment for a vet visit.
She was adorable: a tortoiseshell with a perfectly bisected face. And I was terrified that she would develop Morgellons as Clover had.
In the Spring she had her second set of vaccinations and the veterinarian spilled some into her fur while injecting it, so gave her a second vial. I protested as she did it but she was so fast she ignored me. That night Luna fell limp and the next day would not eat, drink, raise her head or walk. I called the vet and took her in and they “did bloodwork” and $285.00 later told me nothing was wrong, but they could observe her for $100.00 overnight. I said no thanks and took my little cat home. Still using Facebook, I wrote about her to my Morgellons and Lyme group friends, and Claudia in New Hampshire, an energy work healer, offered to help. Others prayed. I had to go to work (I was by then working as a nurse in the assisted living next door to my apartment) and all I could do for Luna for my eight hour shift was put her in my bathroom on towels, and I laid out food – tuna fish, canned cat food, dry cat food in three separate bowls and water. Her litter box was clean and ready. I put the diffuser on with Thieve’s Oil, and classical music on the radio. I fully expected to come home to a dead cat but set my intention otherwise.
I came home and in the eight hours I had been gone, Luna had apparently fully recovered, she ate ALL the food, drank most of the water, used the litterbox, and was standing on her hind legs patting me and begging to be picked up with her meowing voice, purring at the top of her lungs. It is the most dramatic healing I have ever seen.
“For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever you desire, when you pray, believe that you will receive them, and you shall have them.” – Mark 11:22-23
Because of the targeting, gaslighting, the stalking and persecution, along with the stigma associated with the effects caused by contracting Lyme disease, having no family anchor – a key to a person’s identity, I sought to leave. A man named *Jesse Funderburg had joined my Facebook group who passed himself off as an architect with a large off-grid in Utah called the Southwest Off Grid Coalition. Because I had had to euthanize Devon, and, still struggling in the battle against the Lyme and Morgellons, decided to accept his “offer” to run the off-grid. I was completely shunned by my biological family (a common thread in the lives of many with Lyme and Morgellons). The owner to the property I rented was selling it anyway, and gave me an eviction notice. So I rehomed Luna through Craigslist for a fee, and for a few months received texts, videos and photos of her in her new home, with a pet rabbit for a companion. That is the last pet I have had.
*The man from Utah turned out to be a scam and I should have done a background check before moving. My landlord had rescinded the eviction notice as well. Geographic solutions to problems, I have learned, are standard operating procedure for people with CPTSD, and the addition of targeting worsens it significantly. Being stalked and hacked by my ex-husband remained a continuing saga for which I had to meet with the Virginia State Police and file a report with the Internet Crime Commission. Every factor which had destabilized me has been addressed and corrected, I am delighted to confidently say. I thank GOD for every animal I have loved. Imagine the love I have for my children, and for my dear daughter who twenty years ago asked me to make a webpage called ANIMALS I HAVE LOVED. It wasn’t my intent to add autobiographical elements, but in each case they appear, it is relevant to the context.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MY DEAR DAUGHTER EMILY.
All my love, always,
December 11-20, 2020 (Zoey I was written in the year 2000)
Post script: It takes courage to face rejection when you differ from those closest to you as you do something you know is right. Some of what is documented here may vary from the narratives that have influenced those who shunned me. What I have done is to widen the aperture and deepen the focus, with greater development and detail. The result is True History, which saves lives because people can be informed with verity as opposed to lies crafted by those who keep skeletons in closets.