Posts Tagged ‘love’

A Thanksgiving Daisy


It was a Thanksgiving eve well over nine years ago now, that I would unexpectedly begin to have a great love for a small and unexpected thing. I was just finished with the family meal, all warm and toasty sitting around the table drinking a nice hot cup of coffee (all very nice things considering it was one of those chilly, drizzly, cold nights that no one looks forward to going out into). Then the phone rang. It was a gal I knew, Roberta, who had a dog boarding facility up in the Ojai valley. She did boarding but also took in rescue animals from time to time if the shelter was full, or closed down for the holidays.  She mostly took in dogs and cats, but did have piece of land large enough to have a horse and had been known to keep a few exotics – llamas, a potbelly pig, and as I recall, even a mini donkey at one time.

“I need your help,” she explained after a few moments of greetings. “I had a couple of rescue goats come in here, and I really need to place them out tonight temporarily, until I can find homes for them. You still have goats, right?”
Well yes, I had dairy goats, but I never really made it a point to take in rescue animals into my herd. “Please” she begged me, “there are just two and I think I have someone coming in an hour to take one, it’s just until I can get them placed.”
At that moment in time I was way too relaxed and content from the meal to put up much of a fight and, reluctantly, I was on my way to Ojai. “I have had better ideas than this,” I was thinking to myself, as I went out into the chilly night air and cranked the car heater up all the way. It was not quite raining, just misty enough though to make it hard to see out the windshield and slippery on the road. It was just starting to get comfortably warm in the car by the time I reached my destination, where I had to once again venture out into the chilly night.

The fog and damp was thicker here and the breezeway on the side of Roberta’s house was not well lit, so we picked our way to the backyard by the beam of one very dim flashlight. From inside the kennel, you could hear much raucous barking from what sounded like about 20 different dogs all going crazy. “See”, she said to me, “this is the problem, the dogs won’t stop barking at them and it’s having a bad effect on them.” She shone the flashlight over into the far corner of the open corral and there stood two little masses huddled together, their breath white in the chilly night air.

Pygmy goats, at only about 40 lbs each, are much smaller than the large and elegant dairy animals I owned at that time. My first impression of this breed of goat was that it looked like someone had taken a normal size goat and put it in a trash compactor! Small, cobby and useless. The breed had no redeeming qualities in my opinion. The first doe, all black but for a white muzzle and ears, left the corner and started to come towards us as if maybe we had food or treats of some sort. The other animal, a caramel color, just stood, head down in the corner, and did not even respond to our presence. Her coat stood out on end and was beaded with droplets from the damp fog. This little caramel colored doe, I was told, was afraid to use the little shelter that was provided because of the barking dogs. She had survived a dog attack just a few days earlier and had some extensive damage done to her left back leg. The muscle had been severed, and she was now lame, full of stitches, and still on antibiotics for another week. A project to say the least. Well no wonder the animal was standing there in this state, she had just survived a dog attack, and was now standing in the middle of a kennel full of barking dogs!

That was the moment I made a decision. I had an old doe of my own that had gone lame just a few months before, and could not go off with the herd to the breeder this season. My doe had been lonely and upset for weeks. These two could keep each other company for a month or two until my herd returned. Then she could be placed. My guess was it would be much easier for Roberta to place the friendly little black healthy doe with the other people that were coming later that evening.
Roberta seemed relived at the prospect of my taking the injured animal, and had one of her grown sons scoop up the damp little creature and carry her to my car. The little doe was unceremoniously foisted onto a old blanket on the back seat of my car as Roberta and I discussed the treatment instruction left by the vet on how to treat the leg further, and what the outcome might likely be. By the light of the now fading flashlight, half a bottle of penicillin and a small bag of syringes was transferred into my hands across the hood of my car, along with the paperwork and registration that had followed along with the little goat. I glanced at the long name on the registration certificate, and my eyes picked out the last word in the name- Daisy.
“Ok Daisy”, I said to the damp, silent little lump of a creature now hunkered down on my back seat as I got back into my car, “it’s just you and me and an old dairy goat from here on out – no more barking dogs.”

I only questioned my decision once, as I pulled the despondent little doe off the back seat of my car when we arrived at the farm. She did not seem to react to much of anything, and I wondered how much trauma she may have suffered from her injuries, and if she would always remain this way. There is no lighting in my back pasture, so I carried the little creature through the darkness with only a flashlight and held the beam on her for a few moments in the barn so that she could get her bearings in the thick straw. My alpine doe, who had been tucked down in a warm corner, made a little sound at the newcomer, and they were headed towards each other as I backed back out of the barn and into the night.

First thing the next morning, I headed back out to the barn to see if the two does were getting along and found, to my delight, both animals snuggled up against one another happily chewing their cuds. As I opened up the barn door and they walked past me, I noticed for the first time that they both limped in the same rear leg. It made me smile. From that point on the two were inseparable and made a very funny pair indeed.  It made me laugh out loud the first few times I stopped to watch them. The Alpine, tall, flat boned, sleek and deer-like was the exact opposite of the short, furry, heavy boned, cobby, almost cartoon-like Pygmy. Although both breeds of goats, they were on completely opposite ends of the scale of appearance and both with the same lame gait as they ventured out together around the pasture side by side. I noticed they were never more than a few feet apart from each other from that point on. I often pondered on whether their instant bond was due to the fact that they were both lame in the same leg or the fact that they were each other’s only alternative to solitude, or just the fact that they were both goats despite how very different they were from each other in size, shape, and temperament. Maybe it was all three, but whatever the reasons, this very different pair accepted each other without any condition, and they remained joined together, loyal companions from that night on for many, many years to come.

I know there are some humans who could take a lesson from this as well. Some people need to learn to make a choice to accept the differences of family members, and learn to live with the little diversities caused by the close relationships within family units. This way we are able to survive as a group and be happy together. The best relationships are most often not the ones that bring together perfect matches, but the best is when each individual learns to live with the differences and imperfections of the others, and can admire the others’ good qualities and commonalities. We should revel in our differences instead of letting them put us off of each other. My $.02.

Ok, back to the goats now…..

Daisy’s “temporary placement” with us turned into a lifetime love of this breed, as this tiny goat worked her way into our herd and deeply into a special place in our lives, with her funny looks and silly antics. I did not expect it at the time, but a few years after that first night Daisy arrived, I noticed my flock of big beautiful Alpine dairy goats began to transition down into a short, squatty tribe of Pygmys, as more were added, and this new breed of gregarious little goats wove their magic spell around our hearts one by one. I currently have no Alpine goats at all, just the Pygmys (and a fiber goat, but that is a whole story in itself).

Both my little Daisy and the lame Alpine doe, Kellyann have since gone on to heaven, where I know they are both frolicking together in a big green pasture, with their legs restored from lameness. I miss them both very much and it still makes me stop and smile whenever I think about that first morning I saw them together, limping out of the barn.

So now when I recall things to be thankful for during this time of year, I always like to pause for a minute and remember the night I met this little Thanksgiving Daisy, and that unconditional and transforming love that she brought to this farm in a small and unexpected way.
Thank you Daisy!

A Horse’s Spell

While we were over at Shari’s house the other evening, she had to get busy in her aviary putting some of her birds away before the sun went down and the tempeture dropped. She asked me if I could go down to the barn and put a blanket on their horse. Reno is a quarterhorse gelding, and is by far one of the most beautiful horses I have been around in a long time. He is the epitomy of every young girl’s dream horse. Standing at the better part of sixteen hands high, he is a golden palomino, the color of a jar of honey with the sun shining through it, with a cream colored mane and a tail that hangs all the way to the ground. You know, he looks just like the horse our Barbie’s owned. He is placid almost to the point of sleepiness and very people-oriented.

I ducked in between the boards of the paddock and found the blanket thrown over one of the rails. Reno was plodding over to me from the barn at this point, wondering what I was doing in his space. When he was close enough, I softly blew into his nostrils to identify myself to him. He stopped and stood still and dropped his head to watch me with gentle regard as I tossed the blanket over his tall back and moved to his chest to start work on the fasteners in the front. He began to investigate my face and hair with his lips as I worked the buckles. Then he did not move one bit as I walked all around him to work the leg straps and then the belly buckle. As I came back around to his front he rubbed his head across my chest and slobbered on my shirt in approval. I found that little sweet tickle spot in the center of his chest and gave him a good scratch there with my fingernails. His head bobbed up and down in reaction to this, and his upper lip twitched uncontrollably. I put my arms around his neck and inhaled the warm sweet horse smell of him. It took me right back to a place in time decades ago, when I was lucky enough to love a horse of my own.

I had a blood bay hackney/welch cross mare and our relationship lasted from the time I was 14 years old until I was 35. Every one of my teenage years, I can remember climing up on her back the first day of summer vacation and not coming down until someone pulled me back down off of her because I had to go back to school. It was a great way for me to spend my impressionable teenage years. While a lot of my peers were getting into the fast lane of chasing boys or wanting cars, I was growing up strong and slow with a very different perspective of the world that one can only see from the back of a horse. In fact, I went through many seasons of my life with her, my ups and downs, my marriage and the birth of my kids, the breakup of my marriage. I lost and gained friends, was employed and not, but she remained the constaint in my life. I will always live with the conviction that “the outside of a horse is good for the inside of a person”. In her last years she had Cushing’s Disease, which took its toll. I finally had to have her put down in her 26th year. I had owned her 21 of those years. I felt I had lost a large part of myself when I lost her on that cold day in November, but in the end she died just as she had lived, with me holding on to her.

My First Garden Experience

I actually grew up a city kid in Los Angeles. I was raised by a single mother who had a hard time making anything grow – including geraniums (now honestly, who can’t grow geraniums?) I remember way more weeds in our flowerbeds then anything else, and one very sad rose bush that I don’t ever recall having flowered.

BUT we did have an old neighbor couple right next door, Irene and Emery Gellert, with a very extensive flower garden and a home that I was welcomed into. I had a VERY well worn path beaten between my house and theirs. They must have been in their 70s and had no children of their own. I learned at her hand the very peaceful art of “watering” a garden, and how to walk among the bees and not be afraid, how to not to excite them while they worked so I would not get stung. I learned from her how to face my back to the sun so I would not burn the end of my nose, and how to put a daisy in my hair so that it would stay.

Their garden must have covered about half an acre, but was terraced up a steep hillside, with many beautiful paths, retaining walls, stairs and landings to all the different planting beds. It must have taken years to build the whole thing. Their house had huge vases in every room filled daily with fresh picked flowers in all shapes and colors. They were both from Hungary, at the time (I was 6 or 7 years old) I only knew that it was a far off land somewhere else in the world. He had a silver Olympic medal for gymnastics that was displayed in a very special frame in their living room along with an old photo of himself as a much younger man. There was also an engraving that I was too young at the time to read, but I sensed it was something he must be very proud of, so I always tried to walk by it with quiet dignity. I learned from him how to drink hot tea from beautiful flowered china cups with saucers, and to enjoy the heavy, dark semi-sweet chocolate layer cake she would bring us as we sat among the gardens and enjoyed them. He was a painter, and I would sit propped up on a stool for hours and watch him paint with oils on canvas. He loved to paint her gardens. She loved him to paint her gardens. They loved each other.
I was in heaven in their garden.