Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Connor's Last Season

 Jan 27th, 2021, an old Florida dog came to become a Smith.

Picked up by animal control, he weighed 33 lbs at intake.  This is two weeks later.  

His first night at home, he crawled up into my guest bed, peed and pooped, then laid in it for warmth.  

Whoever turned him out at the rip old age of 12 gave him no chance of survival.

His teeth had been mechanically filed down, he couldn't grasp any potential food or defend himself. Top and bottom incisors and canines ground right to the gum line.

My Dewalt grinder and I would love, love, love to have some alone time with his former owner.

Eventually his fur grew back, we whacked off some tumors, he put on over 45 lbs and bloomed into the most beautiful soul.

This is what I live for: their eyes.  The journey from dead to joyful.

My Lab X American Foxhound was given a fitting retirement.  

Couch potato who loved to carry around his purple dinosaur.

When cancer struck in January 2022, the pathologist gave him 3 to 6 months to live.  He lost his spleen, but not his desire to live.

Sorry, ain't got time for dying, we had places to be, naps to be had.

Another large tumor was removed in mid August.

He rallied for a week, convincing me he was going to live until 20.

Not to be.  Cancer from within was calling, no outrunning it this time.  I made the call, he'd had 3 bad days in a row.  My motto:  maybe a day early, but never a minute too late.  

Saturday morning, Connor Smith went over the Rainbow Bridge.  It never gets easier.  They live with me, sleep in my bed, we study together, they come to work with me.  It's an amazing feeling to have a pack, it's utterly destroying to lose a member.  

Then the Universe stepped in and a friend brought a Great Dane puppy in need of new digs.

Could he look anymore like Connor? This little 16 week old nugget graced my life for only a day before going off to his new home.

We made the most of it.  

Life serendipitously sent me what I needed: the reassurance that love is a thread that winds its way through all of our lives.  Let it in.

Saturday, August 20, 2022


 At some point in everyone's life, you wonder what kind of legacy you'll leave behind when all that's left of you is dust.

For those who have kids, your legacy comes prepackaged in a drooling DNA bundle that you're supposed to mold to become a better person than yourself.

Absent of  progeny, you kick the can around for a while until you can create your own path towards a legacy. I didn't have to kick the can far, for as soon as I had my own apartment, I'd taken in dogs, cats, rabbits, snakes, I was even hiding a pig in my apartment. 

Rescue is what I do.  I took a break from companion animal rescue for a while when I had my draft horse rescue (first rule is not to spread yourself too thin).

I have no intentions of ever stopping.  It doesn't bother me that I've had the same old truck for almost 20 years, don't give a flip that all my clothes are hand-me-downs or thrift store bought, not ashamed at all to get my groceries from Misfit Market, I cut my own hair to save money.  One day, if my Social Security check is so tiny that I can't take more in, I'll ride my powerchair to the local shelter and clean cat boxes.

A friend so tactfully said: "You don't owe anyone an explanation for what you love until the world can explain hate."  

It's been over 3 years since I've seen anyone in my family, I mean no one, not even a 3rd cousin once removed.  Thank you covid.  I feel like I'm off in Alcatraz for a crime I didn't commit.  

This is the family I made.  

Two of the heathens were bought as puppies when I still held unrealistic hopes that I could overcome health issues and resume being the little phenom endurance runner I once was.  

Dax is almost a rescue--because no one else would've handled the spawn of Satan.  

Micah is perhaps the second best dog I've ever had (Cole will never be displaced from 1st Place).

Peter is Mother Goose who dotes on everyone, stands at the door and stops any dog coming in from the rain to lick them dry (only makes matters worse, but he tries).

Connor was a junkyard dog who outlived his usefulness and was kicked to the street with his teeth brutally grinded off.  He is ever grateful and loves his purple dinosaur toy.

Pippins lived almost 4 years locked in a laundry room with very little contact, and it still shows, bless her little savage heart.

Emmett was carried out of the woods by a hiker who found him so emaciated, he could no longer stand.

Stella was a mess, and still is, but she's my mess.

Fergus is just a baby. I fell in love with him when he was hours old.

Cash was damaged goods that had lived as a stray for 10 years before a no-kill shelter took him in for 2 years.  Still bald over large patches of skin from previous mange, scars galore, chronic heartworm infection, one damaged eye and pretty sure he's deaf. He deserves a quiet place to come spent his last year or two.  

So, when this little number shows up at my house, the neighbor tells me to ignore it, "you can't save them all".  

True, but you can be part of the problem and ignore an animal who so obviously is asking for help, or be part of the solution.  

I choose the latter. 

It doesn't take much time at all to feed, bathe, give him a Capstar for fleas, Benadryl for the flea dermatitis, do a quick temperament test and make some phone calls to my network of rescuers.

Legacy, it's built one brick at a time.  

Thursday, August 18, 2022

My Covid Journey


I used to roll my eyes when I'd hear people talk about their weight loss journeys, their addiction recovery journeys.  A journey, to me, was something you did with a backpack while travelling. I've since broadened my definition.  I tested positive last week for covid and it went from bad to worse. Yesterday's hospital visit, coupled with previous doctor visits and prescriptions will end up costing me the equivalent of a long weekend in Paris, minus the pain au chocolat, visit to the Louvre and mandatory people watching from a trottoir cafe. 

This week in between semesters at Auburn was supposed to be spent bush hogging at work and painting at my other house in the evenings. Neither of which happened.  Undeterred, I thought in the least, I could catch up on scanning farm receipts.  Splitting headache and high fevers for days killed that idea too.

Next insult was the viral pneumonia diagnosis. They sent me home with an antiviral inhaler, I felt better.

So good in fact, that I decided to go through with the preplanned hay run to northern Tennessee on Tuesday.  

I left at midnight Monday night, breezed through Atlanta, tip toed across Knoxville before morning rush hour, arriving early at the farmer's mountaintop hay fields.

I'd been told that CDC quarantine times have been reduced to 5 days, and I was past Day 5.  Usually, it an take every bit of 4 hours to load the 220 bales because the older farmer insists on helping and he's in possession of  so much lore that it spills out at every occasion.

This time, I refused his help.  He disapproved of my new stacking method and would jump in the van to restack the bales. I watched him struggle with the heavy bales, his little flamingo legs buckling under the weight; I finally forcefully told him I didn't want him in my air space.  And I managed to squeeze 13 more bales into the the Uhaul thanks to my unsanctioned stacking method. 233 bales total.

The farmer would bring me 8 bales at a time with his grappler, then sit in his tractor, like an old wet hen, shaking his head in disapproval that a woman was doing the physical work. Granted, I did look like shit, still do, but I'll never be useless!

I left with a full belly of hay and the optimism that I might actually make it past Atlanta before 4 o'clock rush hour.  In spite of only 2-1/2 hours sleep the day before, I kept the pedal to the metal. Record breaking 16 hour roundtrip, 3 hours shorter than my previous 19 hour record. 

Adjanie had sustained my spirit by sending me pictures of all the dogs and horses.  She has an artistic eye for composition and lighting.  

I had McGyvered a cut up waistband from my shorts to allow the dogs to come and go out the front door during my absence.  The strike plate had been taped over.  I had enjoyed the security camera footage of what looked like a saloon door opening and shutting a million times.

We unloaded the hay the next morning, despite the hay elevator chain hopping off its track twice. (Murphy)

Tip of the hat to Adjanie and Bri who have been manning the ship and forsaking their weekend off to cover my shifts.

Upon returning the Uhaul, I dropped back in at the doctor office for a quick recheck.  From there, I was mandated to the ER.  Covid causes blood clots and with my holey heart and previous stroke history, a blood clot in my lungs was suspected.

I think my picture is next to the word 'comorbidity' in the dictionary.  

The doctor's thick accent made understanding questions difficult. When he tapped at my chest, I assumed the metal clasps of my bra were an issue, so I struggled and pulled my bra out my sleeve.  Tada.  Apparently, that wasn't what he had requested.  Also lost were the names of the drugs they piped into me or any discharge instructions.  I did catch the fact that I would need to go back to my regular doctor for a recheck on Friday. That's about it. Oh, and the fact that if I cut myself, I can bleed to death.  

I had attempted to complain about my lost sense of smell; how I'd rather go deaf than lose my sense of smell.  He seemed uninterested, I guess they have bigger problems in whatever war torn country he left than Karens who can't sniff their precious posies. My entire flower garden is one of fragrances.  I can smell when I'm close to a snake long before I can see it.  I know the smell of each of my dogs individually.  I hate covid for making people scared to hug each other anymore. I miss the smell of all my friends.  I mourn the loss of smell, I cling to the hope that it will return.  A neighbor close to 3000 feet away uses a nauseating fabric softener.  He does laundry on Sunday nights, like clockwork.  I thought I could smell a ghost of it, excited, I tested my theory.  I produced the best fart I could muster, looked over at Emmett who winced from it, yet I smelled nothing.  

If there's anything I learned this past week is that my life isn't worth living without good friends, dogs and horses.