The smells of oiled leather, the mustiness of a sweaty horse, and the fresh alfalfa hay bales stacked in the loft. The sounds of saddles being slapped on a horse’s back, hooves slowly plodding down a path, and birds and crickets with competing voices. The sights of pure, virgin land – weed-wild fields and untended forests, horses grazing in lush green pastures, and turkey vultures circling overhead, laying claim to some dead creature.
Unforgettable rides, tromping through spring mud, enjoying the shade of summer rides in the woods, crunching red and yellow leaves underfoot in fall, and being dazzled by a hundred million glittering sparkles during the magic of winter in the saddle.
All this and more were my spiritual and sensual experience of the barn, of riding my horse, of overcoming fears, of perfecting saddle-born skills, of being.
But now? We’re old. The barn is old. My horse is old, and though to say it makes me cringe, I, too, am old. My horse, Buzzy, is 30. I will not say how old I am. Buzzy is blind and my balance sucks, so our days together in the saddle are done. Still, I go out at least once a week and feed him a bag of carrots. He loves his carrots and I love feeding them to him. He licks my hand when we are done.
However, now as I drive out to the barn where Buzzy lives cozily, I am appalled at the raping of the beautiful fields and woods we used to ride through. They are gone, replaced by ugly half-finished monstrosities of buildings, and the monster machines that are making them. They call this progress.
When I was in my Catholic elementary school, we all took great pride in seeking to have the prettiest cursive writing in the class. Much to my chagrin, I was not one of those writers. Don’t get me wrong, I loved learning and writing in cursive, but I just did not have manual dexterity to craft the model handwriting as did some of my fellow students.
Crappy handwriting or not, I now write in cursive every single day in my journal. I am fanatical about the Zen mental state and hand and finger dexterity it affords me, and I far prefer my pen and paper to tapping away on a keyboard to share my innermost thoughts.
However: Enter keyboards, smart phones, tablets. Exit: cursive handwriting.
Courtesy of the Common Core State Standards of 2010, which set out guidelines for K-12 education in English language, arts, and mathematics, schools were no longer required to teach cursive handwriting. Why? Because the powers that be decided that future communication would take place digitally, not by hand. However, some states have issued statutes making the teaching of cursive handwriting mandatory – yay! These states include Texas, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Arkansas, Virginia, California, Florida, and North Carolina.
Bravo to these states because our historical documents, as in the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, are written in cursive. Kids who are not taught cursive will not be able to read it, or anything else that is written in beautiful, handwritten script. And kids who don’t know cursive will not have a signature: could they be on the verge of identifying themselves with numbers?
Would you believe (of course you would) that in this day of rampant conspiracy theories that a widely seen TikTok video promoted the idea that cursive writing was dying so people could not read the bedrock of our democracy documents and therefore understand their rights? Phooey. Says Reuter Fact Check:
Although it is not part of the Common Core State Standards guidance, each state and U.S. territory can choose whether to teach cursive writing. Versions of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights are widely available online and in print in a variety of formats and fonts.
So, boys, girls, men, and women, the moral of this story is to not believe what you see on TikTok, or any other social media platform; rather, pick up that pen, buy yourself a Moleskin pad, and write away to your heart’s content.
Fact – this 90+ y/o couple lives in this senior apartment place where they pay $7000 month. Yes, I gulped, wide-eyed when I heard that. This does not include food, garbage removal, or cleaning. It also does not include help, as in with mobility issues or situations that just plain require the assistance of a kind human being.
Last night, the female of this said couple, who recently got a motorized wheelchair and who is also suffering from quick onset dementia, rammed her chair into something on the way back from the dining room, which resulted in her leg tearing open with blood gushing out all over.
It was fortuitous that my son and his wife were there, who then ran into their respective bathrooms to get paper towels to futilely attempt to stem the flow, mostly unsuccessfully. Would you believe that no one from the staff, several of whom were nearby and saw the episode, offered to help. This for people who are paying $7000 per month.
Alas. We have an escalation problem in our house. We have 3 Boston Terriers – Rosie and Finja are our 2 females, and Dash, the lone male in the pack. Rosie came by way of a rigged purchase, I adopted Finja – a former Amish puppy mill mama, and Dash, also adopted, came from an abusive situation.
A few forward facts:
They are all three loved dearly.
Finja and Dash are bonded more to me.
Rosie is bonded more to my partner in crime, Dom.
A few other notes of interest
Admittedly, my precious, tiny (14 pounds) Finja is an odd one. Before taking her home, I went to the foster mom’s home every other day to give Fin baths to soothe and heal her dreadfully sore skin. She had just small patches of hair and the rest was red, inflamed skin. She was good during these sessions, but rigid and non-communicative. After several weeks, her skin improved and her hair started to grow back. The miller had given her up to the adoption group because he thought she had scabies. Scabies it evidently wasn’t because she completely healed. My supposition is that her skin issue was caused by what I now know is a highly sensitive and fearful personality.
Fearful, indeed. She spent the first 2 weeks in our home hiding under the kitchen table, growling when anyone even looked at her. Gradually, she emerged and began to assimilate herself into our household and its routines. At the time we adopted her, we had a third female, Sasha, and Dash had not yet joined our household. Finja and Sasha always cuddled together and were the best of friends, so it was heartbreaking for everyone when she made her way to the Rainbow Bridge.
Rosie has a high prey instinct. She grabs birds in flight, digs up moles, and has killed numerous squirrels and rabbits. During that early time with Fin, Rosie began to pick fights, first with Sasha and then with Fin. I remember tearing out to the backyard one day when Rosie had Sasha in her mouth and was thrashing her about.
A dog fight is a terrifying thing to see, and even more terrifying is the fact that it’s impossible to separate 2 dogs who are out of their minds in their quest to kill. We have been lucky. There have been no major catastrophes or emergency visits to the vet.
Other than her instinct to kill, Rosie is a good dog. She is affectionate, loves to play Frisbee, enjoys walks, and thrives on her nighttime cuddling with humans.
Recently we have finally figured out the trigger for these fights. Finja is afraid of noises – loud and/or sudden, and she goes into a frenzy of barking and growling which then triggers Rosie, who tears into Finja, and bingo! The frequency of these fights is escalating, so we are in total separation mode which we’ll eventually transition into highly managed and as best as we can – a noise-controlled environment.
Animal cruelty is pervasive and even at this moment, a helpless animal is being subject to some form of brutality. Many of these poor dogs find their way into adoptive situations, which is a blessing and a curse. The curse is that because of the brutality they have experienced, they often become an unworkable challenge in their adoptive homes, a tragedy both for the dog and the humans who have tried to make a difficult situation work.
The good news: it can work. The bad news: it takes work.
The ASPCA motto is “All animals are entitled to protection under the law.” However, there are way too many situations where animals are not protected and undergo unimaginable suffering. Here are just a few of those situations.
When dogs are raised to fight, they are trained to be aggressive and often part of the training involves attacking and killing…
One of the things I absolutely dread more than anything is coming across a road- injured animal or loose pet. I came across the latter this week as I was driving down a 3-lane interstate. Several cars were lined up by the side of the road and people were running in the grass. It looked like it could be an accident scene except for the people running in the grass. And then I saw why they were running – this little brown-ish dog was tearing down the middle of the highway. In my rearview mirror I saw her get hit and my heart exploded, but after a somersault, she was back up and running like a bat out of hell. I pulled over and opened my car door, hoping maybe she would leap in, but she sailed right past. In the meantime, bless the State Police, one of their cars got in front of the traffic, lights flashing to slow down the lines of traffic moving towards the little pup. Last I saw of her, she ran up an exit ramp.
I could not sleep wondering what happened to her, so the next day I posted to a Lost, Missing and Found group on FB to see if I could find out what happened. Amazingly – she was safe. She was sore and had a seriously bruised lung and ravaged foot pads, but she was otherwise home. After being on the run for 30 hours, I hope everything turns out okay and she doesn’t find her way out again.
Perhaps one of the greatest, and most tragic mystery of times is the wrong-way accident on the Taconic Parkway in New York. It happened on July 26, 2009. The wrong way driver was one Diane Schuler whose autopsy showed she was both intoxicated and high on marijuana. She killed 8 people, including the 4 children in the minivan she was driving, 3 of whom were her brother’s little girls.
The Schulers went camping just about every summer weekend at Hunter Lake Campground in Parksville, New York a beautiful spot in the Catskill Mountains. On this weekend, she had her 3 nieces with her and by all accounts, the kids had a great time playing, while the goal for Diane was to relax. Diane was a regular marijuana user, and she did smoke a joint that Saturday before the next tragic day. She and her husband also had a few drinks as they sat by the campfire that evening
Diane had been suffering from an abscessed tooth which was causing her a great deal of pain. She was also stressed by basically being a single parent while her husband worked nights, and the main breadwinner for the family. Pressure!
The story goes like this: After this weekend with her husband, her own 2 young children, and her brother’s 8, 7, and 5-year-old girls, Diane set off in her brother’s red minivan with all the kids and her husband drove away in his pickup with the family dog.
As evidently was the custom on the way home from camping, Diane stopped at McDonald’s with the kids for breakfast. After breakfast she emerged with a cup of orange juice. Shortly after, she pulled into a gas station and went in and asked for Tylenol. They had none. Back on the road, she is said to have driven crazily – honking, tailgating, straddling lanes and flashing her headlights.
By the time she and kids had crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge, (now the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge) Diane had called her brother to say they were being delayed by traffic. Also, witnesses recall seeing her bent over by the side of the road and appeared like she was vomiting. Shortly after, her oldest niece called her father and said words that were etched into the kinds of everyone who has ever followed this story: “Daddy, there’s something wrong with Aunt Diane,” who she said was slurring and having trouble seeing.
The catastrophe finally unfolded when Diane got on the Taconic State Parkway going the wrong way. After 1.7 miles, she slammed head on into a vehicle carrying 3 men, a father, his son, and a close friend, all of whom were killed in addition to herself, her daughter and her 3 nieces. Miraculously, her 5-year-old son survived.
The concrete cause of the accident became clear after toxicology tests were performed, and that was that Diane Schuler had a blood alcohol level of 0.19%, 6 grams of which was in her stomach and had not yet been absorbed into her bloodstream. Accident investigators found an open, half empty bottle of vodka in the van. Her blood also contained levels of marijuana.
So that’s all straightforward. But what’s not is the denials made by her husband that Diane had not had any alcohol and her condition must have been caused by her tooth pain or another physical condition. Then there was the sheer disbelief that a woman who was referred to as “Super Mom” would experience such a tragic meltdown. Or was it? Some people believe it was suicide. Others believe she had a black out of some kind.
The bottom line is, we will never know what prompted Diane Schuler to kill herself and 7 others.
So much has been written about this, and here is one very thoughtful and detailed article
I suppose many people will take umbrage with what I’m going to say here, but I think it merits some thought. This morning I read a story about a yacht fire where 3 people and 2 dogs had to jump off and into the water. The story talked about the people’s conditions, but nothing about the dogs. Truthfully, so what about the people, I wanted to know about the dogs.
A plane crash: You always hear how many human lives were lost or saved, but what about the animals on board? Dogs? Larger animals in the cargo hold? And what about the animals that are saved or fall victim in home fires? Car crashes?
Our dear animals catch short shrift when it comes to being treated as the valuable and precious souls that they are.
How lucky I am to wake up to the songs, sights, and antics of the birds in the tree outside my window. The melody of the wren is cheery and a delight to wake up to. I have put a small yellow birdhouse in the tree and in resides a family of little wrens. I got to see as they brought small twig after twig and stuffed them through the small entry hole. I got to watch them scoot away from the robin who used the tree as the perch with which to guard his nest in a nearby bush. But despite the robin’s apparent intimidating presence, the wrens still managed to scoot in and out of their cozy abode, all the while entertaining the human in the window.
And so, his nibs arrived to our humble abode on January 12, 2022. A big, burly Boston Terrier with a single, beautiful blue eye! He made himself comfy pretty soon after arrival, and “announced” his preference for being a veritable couch potato.
He came with the name Dash, and we decided to keep it because of the traumas he had evidently endured during his previous 3 years. No one could tell us for sure, but at the very least, he was screamed at and tormented by two toddlers, and at the worst, he was physically abused. We now see vestiges of behavior that surely stems from previous suffering.
Now he has two siblings – “the girls,” one of whom annoys him terribly, and the other who mostly ignores him but sets forth a rocket-pace Frisbee derby in the backyard every day. In short, they act like normal dogs who pretty much get along.
Dash is strong! When we take our daily walks, I look like the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, flailing about uncontrollably. We are working on this. He has also discovered that with a single flying leap, he can bound right through the baby gate that has successfully corralled our other in the dogs, without fail. We are looking at new gates. He has also decided he does not like visits to the vet, the dear man who has cared for my dogs for over 30 years! My vet and I are working on this.
The bottom line is, we love this boy, our Dash. I have just retired, and as my 97-year-old Dad recently said to me, “Dash is going to be good for you.” I guess that’s one way to look at it!