An author, a teacher, a candlestick maker? I am lucky enough to have followed my muse through a most eclectic life of many careers, many interests, and many friends and liasions. Two beautiful children, now grown and one their own, several books -- the penultimate accomplishment dream come true, a hores trainer, a college professor, and a stint in corporate America to validate my feelings that I never, ever want to go there again. So I donned my ruby slippers and dared to take those different paths, those diverging paths, and that has made all the difference! (Thank you, Robert!)
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!
City/suburban living (technically we are in the suburbs, but the city is just a few blocks away): baby robins in a nest under the eaves, deer prancing down the street, a blond, baby raccoon running furiously across the front lawn, and of course, bats in the belfry?
It has been a dramatic time in the wild-life sector, and it isn’t even summer yet!
It amazed me how quickly the robins went from feather-less lumps to fledglings crowded together and amping up to fly from the nest. It takes a village because a number of adult robins spent several days urging these young ones to fly and when one of my dogs came too close, she was aptly dive-bombed. Anyway, my anxiety level increased when the fledglings perched on the edge of the nest.
And so, my “vigil” began. I looked out to make sure there were no young ones flapping around on the ground or flying low, as first-flyers do, before letting my pack out to do their business. I also put a leash on my little huntress who has been known to grab low-flying birds out of the air and catch squirrels and rabbits. At least with a leash on her I could catch her quickly. In fact, once I had let the dogs out and saw a young robin flapping that I’d somehow missed during my inspection of the yard before letting my dogs out. The bird was over by our chain link fence, and when I approached, she tried to make her way through it. However, she couldn’t quite squeeze through, so I gave her a little boost and off she safely went.
However, the bad news is that one of the fledglings didn’t make it and I am assuming my high prey-drive girl managed to grab the little thing when I wasn’t looking. The good news: no sign of the other three which I’m hoping means they have made it safely to becoming adult robins.
As spring morphs into summer and life in the wild marches on, I’m hoping that next year I’ll find another robin’s nest under the eaves.
Oh friends, the proverbial time clock ticks and tocks and suddenly months have gone by.
I have many things to share with you, but I’ll just gloss over the highlights now and fill in details later. We lost our precious old lady, Sasha, who crossed the Rainbow Bridge in November after she spent months of hanging on to her little corner of life. Nothing is as heartbreaking as ushering a beloved pet on to wherever their sweet souls find to rest.
In January we adopted a beautiful, 3-year-old Boston Terrier of the red-coated persuasion. He came to us as an abused case, and he is keeping me busy with training and loving. He gets along with our other two – a big plus. It’s just strange people he’s not real fond of.
After much pondering, I have decided to throw in the career towel and retire! I still feel like I’m 16 instead of 60-something, so I cringe when I say the word. It always reminds me of old people, of which I do not mentally consider myself one.
So, with retirement here, I devote myself to my lifelong pursuits of writing and dreaming.
She’ll be 14 next month and she doesn’t particularly wear it well. Once a beautiful girl, she is now painfully thin, despite gorging on the high-protein foods we feed her. She limps terribly, but we can find no obvious injury. She is stone-deaf and her vision is also going. However, she ‘sees’ through her nose and continues to follow me faithfully. I slow down my pace for her now, and when we arrive at one of our in-home destinations, she plops down and falls into an immediate and deep sleep. She is my office mate, my reading companion, and my sit-under-the-tree in the backyard buddy. She sleeps with us in bed at night, and hardly moves once she’s curled herself up tight and cozy.
She has many health problems including Cushing’s and never-ending UTI’s. She’s been on every antibiotic in the book. She wears diapers because she has no control over her bladder. But her time hasn’t come despite her current condition. She eats, she follows, she sleeps, and she loves. Likewise, I love her with all my soul and heart. My beautiful girl. It’s not time, but when it is, she will tell me. I dread that day.
I continue to smile with joy and admiration every time I see this video and the heart of this little Boston Terrier, Ripple, as she races with everything in her, only to make sure her handler is okay when he takes his unfortunate fall. Despite losing, at the end these two show the world what real winning is all about.
As an academic for (dare I say it) over 30 years, there is one thing that has always bugged me and that is the self-serving, pretentious and utterly unreadable text of many in the higher education profession. So when I came across this article today, I could not wait to pass it along.
Author of Living Well in Froggy's World of Plenty: Sweet Talk to Read Aloud; A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way; and Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal; and Owner of Shenouda Associates Inc., Provider of Technical, Marketing, and Business Communications