Harriet and The Night the Animals Talked

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Part 5…Harriet’s story continued from Rescue 911

Have you heard about the legend, The Night the Animals Talked? According to Norwegian folklore, the baby Jesus was born at the stroke of midnight with only Mary and Joseph and a menagerie of stable animals as witnesses to the sacred occasion. The animals gathered round and watched as the babe was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And then an astonishing thing happened. God gave voice to the animals that night and they began to praise Him for the miracle they had witnessed. Their ability to talk only lasted a matter of minutes – until the shepherds came to worship the Savior. At their entrance the animals fell silent.

This legend of talking animals persists in Scandinavian countries to this day. It is believed that, at the stroke of midnight on Christmas Eve, animals are given the gift of speech.   For 20 years, every Christmas Eve when we get home from Midnight mass, I look forward to walking up the stone path to the barn where our animals are.  Ever since my children were small, I told them that the animals could talk on the night our savior was born and invited them to come with me.  They were too tired from visiting grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and stuffing their faces with holiday bread and ham and kielbasa and thinking about their stockings over the fireplace and setting out cookies and milk for Santa, that never once did they join me.

So, I’ve always taken this time, on Christmas Eve, to think about the first nativity and how Mary and Joseph must have felt.  I sit on a straw bale surrounded by goats who don’t understand, birds who look down from their nests in the rafters, and mice who, on occasion, have run over my shoe as I sit and give thanks in a deeply personal way.  I’ve taken a lot of flack for sitting out in that cold barn imagining the first Christmas.  But let me tell you, there is no more peaceful place on earth than being engulfed in a twinkling black night, filled with stars and being kept warm by animals that nibble your shoe laces and try to pick your pockets, hoping for a carrot.  Every exhale is visual in the cold air and our mingled breaths floated up and slowly dissipated.

Harriet has spent five Christmas Eves tied up in a stable.  I’d like to believe that she could talk to the other dogs she was imprisoned with.  My hope is that they all, on this special night, were comforted.

Tonight, after all the gift giving hoopla and the feasting is over, Harriet and I are are walking down the lane to our big, red barn to sit on a straw bale so I can tell her about her new forever home and the sister who is waiting and how all of her Christmases and all of the rest of her days will be merry and bright.

 

 

What’s the Big Deal?

Continued….part 4

Happy Harriet hopped into my car to go bye-bye again.   Last time we went on a big camping trip so this time she was definitely up for another adventure.  She got one, too.  I dropped her off at the vet to be spayed.  

Harriet had never been to a veterinarian’s clinic before so she was still happy.  I was the one who ended up blubbering when I relinquished her to the techs.  I  imagined her waking up in pain and thinking that she was alone or dumped.  I begged them to let me tie my scarf around her neck so that when she “came to” she could smell my smells and know that I still cared. I couldn’t bear the thought of her thinking she was abandoned.   That’s when I realized I had turned into a “helicopter mom”.

Two days later she graduated from that blasted, shin and calf bruising cone into a sporty blue blow-up donut and insisted on helping me with chores.  We went out to the chicken coop and she helped me collect eggs.  I might have dropped one “on accident” but it was gobbled up right away so I can’t be sure.  Then we filled a big pail of water for Ruby and Stella, my little goaties.  Quality Control Specialist Harriet chomped at the tap water as I filled the goat bucket.  She likes goats.  She gets right up to the red fence and they face off.  Eventually somebody snorts and scares the bejesus out of the others and then they all start running around like buckaroos until the stare down starts up again.

Each morning and evening I slathered ointment on her sutures and she looked up with eyes that said, “What’s the big deal?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AMAZING ISR – (Illinois Shorthair Rescue) – FACTS

Every dog ISR rescues is given the best possible medical care.  They are microchipped, heartwormed, Frontlined, spayed or neutered, and any bumps or suspicious lumps are removed and biopsied.  Broken bones and torn knees are surgically repaired by  veterinarians within their network, who discount their services.   They make sure Heartworm positive dogs get the care they need.  ISR rescue dogs are vetted for temperament and they are  fully vaccinated. Foster families get to know them and work hard to turn these abandoned dogs into excellent canine citizens that anyone would be proud to own.  100% of any monies donated are used to treat and rescue GSPs.  All the administrative and “boots on the ground” work is grass roots, volunteer.

Everyone can do something to help; it doesn’t have to be a financial commitment.  Maybe you can jump on a transport–where you might pick up a dog from a foster home and deliver him or her to a forever home!  I’ve done this and it is the best experience!

Maybe you have old blankets, towels or sheets with holes in them that are too yucky for Goodwill but perfect for a dog who has never had anything soft to sleep on.  Food and cleaning supply donations are appreciated.  Just spreading the word via your own facebook page is awesome.

If you shop on amazon.com, and want to support any cause or any breed rescue, register at smile/amazon.com and a percentage of everything you were going to purchase anyway will be donated to your cause!

Illinois Shorthair Rescue
Gurnee, IL 60031
Phone: 847-276-6995

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harriet Goes Camping

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Continued….Part 3

Week 1: Harriet (L) Remi (R)

Sure, my first foster dog, Harriet, had little things that were broken because she had not had much human contact. 

  • She was not potty trained–but we could fix that, quick, with some crating at night and lots of walks.
  • She did not know her name, Harriet, which was probably assigned to her by the Shelter.   With all her German engineering, ending up with a name like Harriet is, let’s be honest, humiliating.  Something like Heidi (noble and kind) or Greta (little pearl) or Ava (a bird) would have been better. I kept her call name Harriet because it symbolized something greater:  it would be another battle scar she carried until she was adopted.

On her first full day of normal, back at our farm, I noticed something silly.  Harriet, who is five years old, did not know how to walk up or down stairs and she did not know how doors opened and closed.  She had survived winters and summers tied up in a barn her entire life.  It was fun to teach her about these things, and trust me, some things she learned the hard way:  like doors.  Her snout took a few good smacks in all of her excitement.  A big plus was that she had no bad indoor habits…no counter surfing and no jumping on furniture. She craved sitting in my lap, but all she could do was press her head into my knees and push as her sign of love.  I cupped her little face, lifted it up, and encouraged her.  She simply had no brain connection between her wants and the execution.  It is no different than asking someone to wiggle their ears…they may really want to, but just can’t execute the moves.  One day, though, I saw this! (and smiled) 

The goal was to slowly exercise her to build up her muscles so her frame would have support and straighten out.  Her back was deeply bowed like a horse who carried too much weight and her front legs were awkward with elbows splayed outwards in a bulldogesque manner.   Everything about her confirmation was a little “off” from years of abuse at the end of a 6′ rope.   We needed to get some lungs on her, put some weight on her, and see if we could make our own “My Fair Lady.”

After a week of playing fetch and jogging, her carriage started improving.  I decided more fresh air was the cure!  We loaded up the Airstream and headed off to Holland, MI for some trail hikes full of new flora and fauna to explore.  Bees buzzed and frogs scared her when they jumped.  Chipmunks in campgrounds are very brave and Harriet almost caught one!  There were berry bushes and prairie grasses to burst through.  We ran up and down endless sand dunes and shared peaceful sunsets.  At night, Harriet wore a little red jacket and the toasty campfire kept us warm.

She loved everything about camping.  She watched squirrels skit and scatter between pines and she held a skunk eye on all the tweetie birds.  Harriet splashed in the Lake Michigan surf and began to hold her head up just a little bit higher.  She helped me find a stick to roast a hot dog on and she tried to lick the campfire sparks so I had to keep her a little farther away–she was so entranced by the snap, crackle, and high flying pops.  Over and over, she snapped at lightening bugs, missing, as her chops slammed shut with a funny, saggy sound.  Everyone in the campground stopped to say hello to Harriet.

 Within a few weeks, Harriet started looking like and enjoying life as a proper GSP

We had one hurdle left…Getting Spayed.   Stay tuned.

    

 

 

 

Harriet

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Part 2:  Continued from Rescue 911…

Earlier in the year, I had enrolled in ISR’s (Illinois Shorthair Rescue) foster program, was vetted, and was hoping to get my first foster dog.  

A group of eight dogs, including three German Shorthaired Pointers, had lived in deplorable conditions in a barn for five years and were removed by Animal Control in IN.  On an otherwise glorious fall day,  ISR called me with the Shelter’s address and a pick up date for my first foster dog, the pregnant one.  All the dogs had been quarantined and were getting proper immunizations and evaluations by veterinarians.   Now I just had to put on my big girl panties and go rescue a distraught Momma-to-be.

It has been over 10 years since I’ve cared for a litter of pups, but I had all the necessities:  a whelping box, string to tie off umbilical cords, that orange antiseptic that bleeds and stains everything,  an electric puppy warming pad, and lots of time and love.  All I had to do was clean out my mud room which, trust me, was an epic endeavor.  Five garbage bags, lots of perspiration, and two hours later, I was ready!

Driving 220 miles to a Shelter to pick up a dog that could burst puppies in your car at any moment gives one the jitters.  As I rolled down the highway, I sang along with Willie, Waylon, and Johnny Cash.   Their honest lyrics and smooth picking was just the ticket.  When I rolled up the driveway at the Shelter, a lady waved.  After throwing it in park, saying a prayer and stepping out into the unknown, the Shelter ladies and I exchanged information and signed forms.   I waited outside.  Finally I saw her, in full bloom.  Harriet.

Her first worldy possession, a yellow duckie.

At first glance, she was a looker…very beautiful coat markings with ticking and brown patches, topped with a chocolate Hershey’s Kiss face and matching brown eyes.  She had a big, droopy belly but it was soft.  That’s when I learned that Harriet had dodged a bullet.  She had been so full of worms, that until the pregnancy test came back negative, everyone thought she was having pups. What a relief!  Instead of having to find 10 homes, we only had to find the right home for Harriet.  (By the time I picked her up, she had been dewormed and the belly just needed time to firm back up).  Everyone was grateful that she did not have to go through another trama…feeding pups when there was really nothing left on her to give.

We walked around the Shelter together getting to know one another before the long ride back to Michigan.  She was stressed, with eyes flashing above, over, beyond and around….but underneath the uncertainty, she trusted me and was gentle.   I was feeling better and better about this whole opportunity and even celebrated having a mudroom where we could actually hang up jackets.

Harriet would keep her head down and walk to my knees and press her face into my legs and push.  That was her expression of love and it was good enough for me, so we hopped in the car and headed home.  From her vantage point in the rear of my Tahoe, Harriet watched cars and trees roll by.  She saw cornfields and flashing lights and smelled new smells.  She looked out of the back window until she couldn’t hold her head up any longer.  Then she slept, peacefully, probably, for the first time in five years.

….to be continued

Note:

My husband and I have always had German Shorthaired Pointers and we love their merry mischief making, admire what true versatile athletes they are, and how pack oriented each one is; Velcro dogs!  You get the best of both worlds in this sporting breed–when it is done right.  It is even more tragic for these noble dogs, when, through no fault of their own, they become homeless or are neglected.

http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/german-shorthaired-pointer/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rescue 911

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When the rent was late, a landlord in central Indiana decided to check on his property.  The renters had been there a long time and this was unusual.  What he discovered was a house of horrors. Tied with short leads to a post in his barn were eight breathing, panting skeletons:  hunting dogs, of various breeds, who between them did not share a pound of fat.  Out of respect for these animals, I refuse to post a picture of their condition at that time.

One dog had no energy to wag its tail anymore.  There was a Brittany Spaniel who couldn’t stand up and a female that had a big, heavy belly bursting with pups.   The landlord called the police and Animal Control.  The “hunter”  monster who kept these “hunting dogs” tied up without provisions or medical care had kept them this way for FIVE YEARS.   Last winter, when it was minus 20 and more, these dogs ate straw and feces to stay alive.  In the hot summers, they survived on mice they could catch, what food he would throw, and drank water when it rained and the barn roof leaked.  All were severely dehydrated and weak.

This was a beautiful October day in mid Michigan until my phone rang.  A gentle woman, on the other end, sounded urgent.  She was calling from the Illinois Shorthair Rescue.   Earlier in the year, I had enrolled in their foster program, was vetted, and was hoping to get my first dog.  

This particular rescue organization is regional because the need is so great.  It serves German Shorthaired Pointers from IL, IN, and MI using a multi-state network of AWESOME volunteers.   When I applied, I told them our home is quiet because our children are grown.  With my farming background (which includes episodes of doctoring, birthing, and bottle feeding little goat kids rejected by moms) I said my home would be perfect for a very sick or abused GSP.  Any foster dog in my care could recover or be rehabilitated in a quiet, peaceful setting.  I said, “I will sit tight for a hard case; I can stomach it.”

And there you have it.  My first hard case:  THE PREGNANT ONE.

To Be Continued….

 

Blood and Band-Aids

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With orange handled Fiskars, I was cutting up little pills, dividing them in half with the scissors, one by one.   You have to put a lot of pressure into each cut when cutting a hard tablet.  Painfully, I missed and cut the palm of my hand wide open.  Bright red blood spurted out of a three stitch hole. I filled up a paper towel or two using direct pressure and held my bloody paw above my heart.

I reached for the Johnson & Johnson Band-Aids to doctor this one up myself.  Stitches are for wussies.  When the bleeding slowed down, I started applying a bandage, and that’s when  I “lost it.”

Grief is a sneaky thing. 

In the 1960′s through the 1980′s my Grandmother worked at Johnson & Johnson in Chicago and was the head of quality control for bandages at J & J (as we called it.)  Grandma Ashbaucher made sure every Band-Aid that left the manufacturing plant was sterile and perfect.  She was so good at her job, that she was twice voted Johnson & Johnson’s National “Employee of the Year” and flown to New York to receive Johnson & Johnson’s National Leichen Award.

 

So there I was, at the kitchen sink, bawling my eyes out, proud to be opening a J & J Band-Aid bandage, remembering my childhood boo-boos and the white tin boxes the Band-Aids came in, and accepting that the torch has been passed on to someone else, maybe another Grandma.  Not only did she have a stellar career there, but that company also paid for my father’s college education at Roosevelt University. He began working at Johnson & Johnson in 1960, at 19 years of age, in the mail room.  It took him 9 years of full time work plus part time night classes to earn his B.A. degree in Finance.  I attended his college graduation in 1969 when “Laugh-In” was on television, so when he came out in his black robe, everyone said, “Here comes the Judge” –like they did on the show.

My dad, James W. Ashbaucher, gave back to J & J for years, moving up through the management ranks, and later in his career, left to be a Vice President of several other international corporations.

Sadly, they, along with the era that brought us Johnson & Johnson’s No More Tangles shampoo, and Legg’s Pantyhose in Eggs, have passed away.  It is bittersweet when I see J & J bandages on store shelves–knowing that they are in my blood.

My favorite picture of Grandma Ashbaucher

So today, I put my Band-Aids on and cried; grateful for the childhood memories of my Grandma bringing home a box of Band-Aids that “flunked” her high standards, but were good enough for my knee as long as she added a couple of kisses to it.

 

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