30 January 2015

Therapy Dog: Visiting Irene

Visiting Irene

Visiting Irene

I had to go to Bennington this morning to see a doctor, Red and I stopped at Cardiac Rehab to see Irene, a friend we met there.  Irene is an animal lover, she struggles with several chronic diseases, she has cats but says she would love a dog like Red. She keeps asking me if she might buy a puppy from Red, and I tell her he is neutered, but she forgets and always asks the next time we see her.

Red spots her and goes right to her, she puts her walker to the side and leans down to hug him and talk to him. "I didn't give him a piece of cake," she said, "I know you don't like that. If you weren't looking, I would have," she said, "a dog deserves a piece of cake."

I explain to Irene every time we see her that it isn't good to give food to therapy dogs, it distracts them from the work and teaches them that food is the reward, not the attention of people. Still, Irene is Irene, headstrong and determined. Red's visits mean something to her, she tells me stories the dogs and cats she has owned. She and Red are good pals.

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Gratitude: “Last Day At Maple View Farm”

Grateful

Grateful

I am filled with gratitude tonight. For David Snider, who agreed to let me write a play for the Hubbard Hall Winter Festival. I am especially grateful to the seven members of the cast, who performed my play, "Last Day At Maple View Farm." I appreciate Maria, as always, who encouraged me and listened to my first drafts. And to Carol and Ed Gulley of Bejosh Farm, who read the script and guided me in my language and terminology. They have become valued friends.

I was very happy to see friends and neighbors in the audience, including Tyler and his brother Matthew and father Justin. It was so good to see them there. The play is taking shape, the dialogue is leaner and more efficient, the actors are comfortably with the story, adding their own stamps, ticks and mannerisms to the characters. David did a great job, trimming the script, tossing out repetitions and strengthening some of the scenes.

I think I want to expand and complete it.

This weekend, three more performances, two on Saturday (2 and 8 p.m.) and one on Sunday (2 p.m.) There will be other plays and works performed as well on those days, looks like the festival is a hit, new people are coming to Hubbard Hall, people who have not been there before.

I think people liked the play, Ed Gulley said that I "nailed it," great praise coming from a farmer. Tomorrow, there will be talk-back discussions with the audience about the play. Writing a play is so different than writing a book, it is a collaborative experience involving many people – a director, stage manager, lighting specialists, actors. Everyone puts their print on the work in one way or another, and I like this process, the play keeps getting stronger and more focused. I'm eager for this weekend, I have been thrilled to see the play begin to take shape and come of age right before me.

And we had a good crowd tonight, the snow let up early this evening, tomorrow a clear, sunny and frigid day but that does not usually slow people down up here. My bronchitis seems to be easing, still some coughing, but i am getting stronger. I am grateful for new experiences, for creative challenges, for things that stretch me and make me think.

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Still Life: Working, In The Stillness

Working, In The Stillness

Working, In The Stillness

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Inside And Out: The Selflessness Of The Working Animal

Inside And Out- The Selflessness

There is a selflessness about working animals that is almost spiritual. The border collie can get the sheep to go wherever he wants them to go, but he is content to sit outside in the cold and heavy snow to keep them under shelter in the barn, Red would sit there all day if I let  him, and he would be quite content to do it.

True selflessness is a spiritual experience for me I am always touched when i see it, it is part of the wonder of animals. I never want to think of animals as being just like people, why would we defame them in that way? Red does not resident the difficult nature of his work, he does not want to be inside the barn. I saw in this photograph a wonderful symbol of the seflessness of Red and working animals. They have done so much for us.

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When Storms Don’t Matter. Red And The Carriage Horses

When Storms Don't Matter

When Storms Don't Matter

Whenever I am tempted to complain about the winter, I take Red out into the pasture during a storm. I had to clean out the barn this morning, there is a sudden snow storm that looks fairly serious and I told Red to keep the sheep in the barn and he did. When I was done, he was covered in snow head to foot, he did not seem to know or to notice. To some extent, winter is a state of mind, and I always remember in late January to take the Rev. Bill Graham's advice to  heart. Do not complain about your life, it might be listening.

There is external winter and internal winter and I keep the two separate. There will not be a winter in my heart. I am mindful of the fact that if Red were a New York Carriage Horse, it would be illegal for him to be out in the snow working, and I could be arrested for letting him to do it. No carriage horse is allowed to work in the snowstorms, or in heat and extreme cold, as Red does every day. Tomorrow, the high temperature is supposed to be seven degrees, Red will be out several times a day moving sheep and helping out with farm chores.

We have this idea that domesticated animals like dogs and horses are fragile and child-like, weaker than us. We let firemen and woman, police officers, construction workers and laborers work outside for long periods in storms and winter, but the tough work horses, who have worked outside for centuries are considered too fragile and weak for such work. We have it backwards I think.

It's during times like winter and in things like storms that the working animals have done the most for human beings.

The real abuse for domesticated work animals like Red or carriage horses is not work, it's the absence of work. Red reminds me to keep winter in it's proper place.

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