Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

Somehow the least awful moment of the whole brutal day was when he went to his knees and then laid himself down and died. It was so quiet, and so–not painful, not panicked, just body down and head stretched out, and it was such a damn relief and so fucking sad.


When I was a little girl, I started riding at the stable round the corner, and almost as soon as I started I was warned off one of the horses as unreliable and untrustworthy. It wasn’t until I was a lot older that I worked out that it was less Bad Nature and more Poor Training (with a healthy dash of Sliiightly Inbred thrown in there for good measure), and started ponying him around in an idle manner, getting to know him. I was eight when we met, and he was already twice my age with ludicrous conformation and atrocious ground manners, a bug-eyed, long-maned, stargazing, absent-minded Arabianish chestnut gelding.


My mother rode him on trail rides, and he was my barn-sister’s first 4-H project; for him we invented a whole new way to put a horse on a trailer–involving two long ropes knotted together, gloves, leverage, and some serious patience–that drew stares at every show we went to. We always told people he was a little bit gay; he adored my gelding and was crazy about Justin, the horse he was raised with, before Justin passed away a number of years ago. He didn’t see well, had a tendency to whip his head back and forth when moving any faster than a trot which we never worked out an explanation for, and was deeply uncomfortable to ride bareback due to distressingly high withers. He had cataracts and string halt and Cushings, all of which made him look a little funny but never got in his way. And he was old. He was born at the farm, a mistake and a surprise, and we called him all sorts of things, Beetle and Beasley and B, Brian Timothy’s Surprise! and Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Doofus and BT.


This morning, as I sat down at my desk, my phone rang and rang and rang again, and when I looked down at who was calling–Meg, my barn sister, my best friend–I knew. 45 later minutes I was out of the office and on the train, up the stairs, getting changed, and in her car on my way home. One look at him in the paddock told me that this had to be the day. He didn’t look unhappy, but he looked old and sick and ready to go, and one of the things I was taught growing up as a young horse-mad girl was that we owe the horses we love an end that is dignified and free of pain.

We spent the rest of the day following him around, telling stories, petting him and feeding him cookies and carrots and hay and his favorite mushy-pellet lunch, sitting outside his open stall and talking and trying not to cry, and crying, and smiling through it because he had always been a weird, weird horse who licked you with the back of his tongue and did not respect your personal space because he just loved being near you too much. He stood on Meg’s toe and smacked me in the face with his nose and we laughed and shooed the flies away from his legs for him so he didn’t have to move his hurting feet to kick them.


While we waited for the vet we put on his new halter and walked him down to the Long Field, where a grave had been dug for him next to where his mother, Huda, and Justin and Jenny and April and Pal, and all the dogs, were already lying underneath the hill. He wasn’t worried or upset, and stood for us to trim his mane until we all had a braided lock to put in our pockets or cling to, and then wandered around lipping at grass as we followed him as if he were leading us. All the pictures of those last few minutes we are smiling, because this was something he always did, walked those circles around us and into us, and because he deserved his last moments to be in the sunshine, with the people who loved him showing him that everything was alright. And then the vet came, and we all said our goodbyes in whatever way we needed to, hands against his shoulder, his neck, the sides of his long thin face, and then stood back to watch and wait and witness.


Meg and I held him while the vet did what she had to, soothing him with our hands beneath his chin and with our voices, and because above all we are good horse people our hands were steady and somehow we did not cry until it was time to step away and let him go. But after that we clung with our arms around each other and sobbed as if our hearts would break because sixteen years ago we were little girls together watching BT through the fence.
When he lay down to die he did it without fear, and when we knelt to stroke his face we knew we had done right. I was the one to take the halter off, and without it he looked calm and half-asleep, the pain that we had seen every line of him gone. And then one by one we got up from our knees, and walked away, listening to our vet tell us stories of death and birth and love.
Some horses are good at telling you it’s time.

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Short explanatory post.

Reason one is because, well, I remind Jim of Bones McCoy — but I’ve mentioned that. Reason two has more to do with one of the things I collect. I collect Breyer Horses, model dragons, books — and bones.

Well, bones and fur and feathers. I currently have Badger (she’s a badger skull), a small rodent skull from Tasmania, five unidentifiable leg/vertebrae bones from Tasmania, two horse teeth. A rabbit skin. A fox tail. An Aussie possum tail. A number of feathers that I found out on my dog walks, some shells. A keel bone (Jim gave this too me, and I have yet to put it out, since I FORGOT IT AT HIR HOUSE). I have a small butterfly knife as well, a magpie-beer bottlecap from Oz, a smooth white stone. A quill pen.

I desperately want more skulls. I love the lines of them, and stroking the long slope of their noses, and thinking about they were when they were alive, and touching the hinge of the jaw and the join of the neck. I took Anatomy and Physiology in high school and I’ve never forgotten learning how to look at bones.

I am waiting until I am out of the house to buy more, so my mother doesn’t squawk. I like predator-looks better, so I’m thinking ‘yote. What I really want is hyena, though — or cougar. My other two totems – Przewalski’s and Badger – are both represented on what Caroline used to call with mild horror “the shrine”. I want my third!

Coming up: gender.

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Dognose Says

I have this problem with sending peculiar text messages to Jim while I’m at work. In that I do it a lot. I mean, I work alone most of the day, my boss regularly takes phone calls while on walks (as I do; I set up an interview while on a walk once). So it’s not like it’s a bad thing. I just – as mentioned in the previous post – get a little weird when I’ve been on my own all day.

So there are a number of messages in my Sent folder that contain a close-up picture of a dog’s nose and text that begins DOGNOSE SAYS.

(Jim, by the way, is my significant other, and will get an entry of hir own soon.)

The ones that are there now say the following:

DOGNOSE COMMANDS IT (golden retriever)



Dognose says Happy We Are Dorks Day (golden retriever, on Jim and I’s two-month anniversary)

Dognose is nuzzling meee. (greyhound, no picture)

There are a LOT of other dog pictures, including FAT DOG IS FAT, SO VERY FAT and TINY DOG IS TINY and THIN DOG DUG A HOLE.

So… essentially I take pictures of stranger’s dogs’ noses and send them to my partner. I really, really need to get my iPod earbuds fixed so that I have something to distract me.

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My main source of income during the summer is working as a petsitter. I work for a company that shall remain nameless, run by two gay men who did so well at it that they were able to quit their day jobs. They also got a horse, and horses are not cheap, so that suggests to me they have been extremely successful.

It’s generally a pretty good job. I usually have between 3 and 10 visits/walks a day, which can be rough but also means that I 1) get a lot of exercise, and 2) make a lot of money. My pay-per-visit is ten dollars for a regular walk, and 12 dollars for an off-leash run, which means that on a particularly rough day I can make upwards of a hundred bucks. It can severely cramp my social life, given that my day has the potential to  start at 6am and end at 9pm. However, I’m generally off by 6 or 7, which means I can do things at night, and I also have three-to-four hour periods off during the day – and I’ve been known to bring my friends along on walks once in a while.

It’s a weird job, though. It gives me a lot of time alone, and when I’m alone for long periods of time I start to mutter to myself. This should by all rights be good for my writing; one of the ways I used to compose stories and poems was out loud, at the barn — unfortunately I seem to have only one mode of thought during my dog walks. And it’s not poetic.

I call it “Where do greyhounds put their organs?”

It’s not that I only think about greyhounds (although I often do, because I walk four of them a day in two sets of two), but that’s the question I keep returning to. I just cannot figure it out. Where do they put their stomachs? Do they not have intestines? They seem to be all legs and fur and ribs. I mean look at this dog.

Variations on “where do greyhounds…” include things like “What possible reason is there to breed a maltese?” (I take care of five), “Are all Jack Russells missing the part of their brain that says ‘do not bite Grace’?” (two dogs), and “I wonder how many Labs it would take to knock me down?” (uncountable dogs, and the answer is ‘more than two’ but I do not know the exact number, please do not let me find out).

The problem isn’t so much the questions themselves. They are all valid questions (especially the last). It’s that I will ask myself the exact same question every time I see the pertinent dog, and go over the exact same answers, and come to the exact same conclusions, every. single. day. I do this when I’m working out a scene or plot or character or line of poetry, but at least I do it to some end. This is just sheer repetition. I need new questions, because I’ll be working this job for at least another month and a half.

Next time: Dognose says hello.

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