I love my job, because I change a life every day. Sometimes several lives, but always one life, mine.
My job is crazy busy. I always wake to a dozen text messages, and voice mails. Then I make the mistake of turning on the computer where there are a couple of dozen emails. That is when I remind myself that I’m retired and this is my fun, fill my days, job. Turn off the phone, shut down the computer and head for either the stable and/or the kennel. Then bury my face into the first fur baby I come to. Breath in deeply, drawing in all their kindness and unconditional love and remember I love my job.
This animal I am hugging is alive because of my job. This life exists because I deal with the text messages and voice mails and emails. Spend countless hours filling out grant applications and on the phone to other rescues and perspective forever homes that will be perfect for one of these lives.
I remember every one of the hundreds of horses and thousands of dogs that have come and gone from this safe place. Whether it was to a new forever home or to the pet cemetery in the maple grove beside the office/house. Knowing they passed being surrounded by love in a safe place. I remember their names and their issues, their personalities and most of all their love and trust they eventually shared with me.
Some stick out brighter than others. Like Rose, a beautiful tobiano paint mare who was born deaf. She came to us with a horrible skin infection and way underweight. She was terrified of everything. She had scars from either abuse or self-inflicted fleeing in fright from whatever ghost snuck up on her. She was the first deaf horse I had ever encountered and I wasn’t the least bit sure how to help her. We treated her physical needs first and she quickly learned the feeding schedule. She would stick her head out of her stall as soon as we came into the barn. She couldn’t hear us coming, but never was late presenting her beautiful head as we headed for the feed room. She watched us silently for weeks. I began to wonder if she was also mute. She made friends with the horses on either side of her. Harriet a retired race horse who hadn’t shed her winter fur for a few years which earned her the name and Duf we had found at a local auction and was nothing more than a skeleton with a head two times the size to fit his body and was quickly named Duf.
When her health improved, we took her out into the smallest paddock with Duf and Harriet so she could get a bit of sun and exercise. She galloped about with them for a bit and settled down to grazing on the grass. I set on the fence to keep an eye on her and I noticed she was always facing the other horses. If they moved, she moved so she could see them. A loud truck went by and Harriet and Duf raised their heads to look at it. She raised her head also, but didn’t look toward the truck, but watched the other horses. When they relaxed and lowered their heads to graze so did, she.
After a time, I called to Harriet and Duf to come in. They came willingly because they always got a treat when they came and they knew it. As they started toward me, I dug deep into my pocket for their cube treats, which were actually vitamins, but all the horses loved them. Rose came with them as I suspected she would. She stood off a couple of feet as Duf and Harriet pushed to be the first to get a treat. Then I turned to her and offered her a treat. She stretched her neck out without moving her feet and sniffed the cube in my hand and then picked it up with her lips and her face came to life with surprise and joy.
She then stepped closer and stretched her head out again. I gave her a second one because she was still underweight. Then I reached in the other pocket for alfalfa cubes. I stepped one step forwards and she didn’t move away. Ears forward and expectation in her eyes nibbled the alfalfa cube from my hand. I raised my hand and touched her face while staring straight into her eyes and she leaned into my touch. We had connected finally.
It was the beginning of Rose and our training.
We worked out a type of sign language for Rose. She picked it up quickly. She lowered her head to be haltered and stepped sideways if she was crowding while being lead. She backed and stopped and calmed herself all from Rose’s sign language. Rose finally had her own language and could communicate with humans.
She soon was being taught to be ridden and accepted it very well. On through the summer and winter Rose learned to be a good companion horse. She rode trails and arena alike. Then one day after a little over a year, I received an email from a woman who wanted to adopted a horse that would understand sign as she was mute.
Rose found a forever home and lived a long and happy life with her new best human friend who also later adopted Duf to keep Rose company as he would never be strong enough to be ridden. When we unloaded Duf at his new home. The question of whether Rose was mute was answered because she let out the loudest and longest nicker I have ever heard when she spotted Duf coming out of the trailer. The best friends were together again and this time forever.
Harriet lived to be 29+ years and passed from old age while sleeping. She is with us in the Maple Grove beside a couple of her pasture mates.
Then there was Tipper. As far as we could tell he was a border collie/husky mix. Black and white and full of bounce and would woo, woo just like a husky when he greeted you. His right ear tipped over from an old injury and that is how he got his name.
Some friends of mine who had moved to California called one day and asked if I could go check their old house in the country as they had rented it out and the renters had left six months earlier and their old neighbor thought that they may have left dogs behind as he had seen them running about in his pasture now and again. Well of course we would.
When we arrived, we seen a yellow lab mix and Tipper. They were about a year old and wild as the wind. The lab headed off into the pastures and Tipper headed for a garden shed that the door was ajar. We followed Tipper. As we stepped into the shed and pulled the door shut behind us, I seen eyes staring at us from under a pile of insulation and cardboard and what may have been a blanket. I knelt down and attempted to lure him out. As I moved closer, he took off and slammed into the closed door and then ran around and around the building. Fearing he would injure himself we stepped out of the building and waited for things to quiet down.
We had come unprepared for two wild dogs. We assumed if they had been left by the renters that they would be docile pets that we could simply coax with a few hot dogs then leash them and put them in the travel crates. Boy, were we wrong.
Taking note of what tools, we had we devised a plan. We had the hot dogs, a large pack by the way, and a lead rope and two short leashes. We devised I would lure him out with hotdogs and she would, I don’t know, lasso him with the horse lead rope. After two hours and over half of the five-pound package of hotdogs she was finally able to get the loop over his head and tighten it enough he couldn’t pull his head out again, which he had done a few dozen times so far.
He screamed and howled and flopped trying to rid himself of the rope. I worked my way down the rope talking quietly all the way. He finally stopped and took a hotdog out of my hand. I reached out and petted the top of his head. He sniffed my hand and completely relaxed. Then licked my hand. I wondered if he was taste testing it until he smiled. A great big ear to ear smile and allowed me to put a short leash on him and take off the loop.
I was sitting on the floor of the shed by this time and he climbed onto my lap and snuggled me. Okay, I thought. Where did the wild dog go. Then he licked me again as I stood up and walked to the truck with him trotting beside and let me lift him onto the bed and put him in the travel crate. I gave him another hotdog for being a good boy and we went after the lab.
Which turned out to be a four-day adventure and a very large live trap. He definitely had always been a wild dog apparently and was about three years old. Long story short. Six months later the dog trainer had turned the lab into a respectable pet who was adopted by a family with four kids and a forty-acre hobby farm, who sent us pictures of Ralph and family adventures until his death nine years later.
As for Tipper he adopted me. I actually convinced myself that he was up for adoption and even had a few people apply for him and somehow none of them were ever good enough in my eyes.
After a couple of years, I finally accepted that I was Tipper’s and that, was that.
He was never very far from me. He even attempted to help bring in the horses from the larger paddocks. He loved riding in the truck and going on vacations. He ran beside the horse I was riding for well over a million miles I am guessing. He was the welcome comity to any new rescue dogs that came in and kept the hens safe from those dogs that wish to have a fresh chicken dinner by herding them into the coop and pushing the door shut behind them. He chased a million bunnies around the hay field and never caught a one of them, but always came back smiling that ear-to-ear grin of his.
He was my best friend and companion for thirteen years before he had a heart attack and then a stroke that forced me to let him go.
Why do I love my job? I change a life every day. Sometimes several lives, but always one life, mine.
About the author
I'm a writer. The stories invade my mind and won't leave until I write them down.
Never published, but have gotten a great deal of strong suggestions from friends and family to do so. So I am.