We drove past a cemetery for old farm trucks today, near Granville, N.Y. Farm trucks have earned their resting place, they have character and dimension unlike any other truck I know of.
Animals change us and mirror our loves, our growth, our emotions. They are sometimes a reflection of us. There is much drama in the animal world now, animals have been so emotionalized they are often a license to project our own emotions and neuroses onto them.
We are literally passing along our sorry stuff onto them.
We were talking to Donna Keays, one of the people who now has Chloe, about the ways in which horses and other animals adjust to one another, and Donna, whose life revolves around animals and their care and rescue, said something that resonated deeply with me.
We were talking about a thoroughbred that has been left at Donna’s farm and whose owner has not been heard from since.
I asked if Donna wanted to keep her if the owner never returned. She shrugged and said, “I don’t believe in drama. I don’t do drama, with animals or people. If she doesn’t behave or work here, she’ll go.” It was just that simple.
This, I told Donna is my philosophy as well. I am allergic to drama, in people and animals, perhaps because I grew up with so much of it. And I do not always encounter people who avoid it in their lives with animals.
Chloe’s departure is not a drama, it certainly wasn’t for her.
She was happily munching hay and never gave us a glance as we left. It wasn’t a drama for me either, it was just the right move at the right time. And I shed some tears when she got into that trailer. So did Maria.
We were in one place when she came, another now, we found a better place for her. It is not simple, but really, it is just that simple.
I avoid drama when my dogs die. Almost every die, I get messages from people who suffer from extreme grieving or profound upset at the loss of their dog or cat, sometimes for years, sometimes in a way that disrupts their lives and health. They are desperate, they want me to help. I cannot, of course, take on the grieving of countless strangers, and will not. Tens of millions of dogs and cats die every year.
What did they expect, that they would live forever?, I wonder.
I am grateful for my dogs, every one them, what would make me sad and fill me with grief is not to have any or be thankful for them.
I try to answer these requests politely, but there are too many of them to respond to, and it is never clear what it is they want me to do, or why they don’t urge their friends to seek professional help from a therapist or social worker, not a writer who lives 1,000 miles away.
“A friend of mine just lost his dog,” wrote Melissa this morning. “He got out..and was gone. He lost his best friend for six years in one fell swoop, and I thought maybe your book (Going Home) would help, but it doesn’t really cover how to help someone or how to deal with losing a pet suddenly, and I don’t know how to help him. Can you help him.”
I didn’t tell Melissa that my book does cover that very subject in detail, many dogs die suddenly.
Nor did I remind her that in cases of extreme grieving, people ought to seek the help of professionals and pay for their advice. Free advice is generally worthless, especially on the Internet.
I love to help people, I do it as often as I can. But Melissa’s friend needs to understand why his best friend of six years is a dog, and not a human. And that is not something I am qualified to do. I love Red very much, he is not my best friend, I cannot talk to him about my life or problems or aspirations, we can’t have lunch together at the Round House Cafe, he doesn’t speak or think in human terms.
Maybe her friend’s problem with guilt starts there. A human friend is likely to tell him that.
It feels like drama to me, all the sadness, hysteria, judgement and anger and guilt that swirls around animals and their lives, around their rescue, illnesses, death and troubles. Drama is not good for animals, it is part of the complex and often damaged psyches of human beings, it is not natural to animals, and it only makes their lives complex. More animals die from being overfed by well meaning people than any other cause.
Drama causes people to spent thousands of dollars to prolong the pain and suffering of animals who are ready to die. Drama encourages people on Facebook and Twitter to grieve over dogs they do not know and have never seen, or to judge total strangers for the hard decisions they make.
Drama causes people to rescue and adopt dogs that are dreadful choices for them and their families, these are the dogs that are so often returned or neglected or abused. Drama has spawned one of the cruelest things to ever happen to dogs, no-kill shelters where animals meant to roam freely spend their lives in cages.
Getting a dog is not dramatic for me, it is quite cold and as dispassionate and well thought out as I can make it.
I have seen enough drama in my own life to last two lifetimes, and I believe it is one of the most difficult challenges facing animals in our world. Drama suggests the carriage horses in New York are lonely and depressed, not science or logic. Drama says every single elephant in every single circus is abused, not only literally, but by the very nature of their existence. And that there is no single elephant anywhere in the Western Hemisphere that can be content or humanely treated in the entertainment of people, so all of them must be removed from public view and consigned to idle lives on very few preserves and resume their sad march to extinction.
Many are already dead.
Drama convinces people that animals cannot be re-homed, or that dogs will never die, or that we can blame all of our emotional dysfunctions on them when they leave or get lost or get sick.
I don’t pursue drama in my life with animals, it does not enter into our decisions or responses. Drama is not about the welfare of animals, it is about the problems of us.
I used my Petzval Russian portrait lens, i focused the lens on Chloe and and softened Queenie, Donna and Treasure, the people who now own Chloe. They were very eager and happy to get her, we were happy to see how much they cared for her and wanted her.
We’ll go back and check on things tomorrow, but everything looked great. She is in the winter pasture, and just across a dirt road is the summer pasture, big and hilly and lush. Another chapter ends and begins on the farm. Chloe was happily munching on some fresh hay as she left, it didn’t feel like she had left home, it felt like she had come home.
Chloe met Queenie, a thoroughbred race horse boarding at Treasure’s farm. The two touched noses, as horses do, and later started chasing after each other. This is typical of horse encounters, it may go on for a few days, but Chloe seemed quite at home with Treasure and with the hay placed out in the pasture in neat piles, so the horses could get away from each other and still eat.
Treasure has done this many times, and we are happy Chloe is there. There will soon be kids and grandkids swarming around her to ride and groom and fuss over her. She will be much loved and busy, and in the company of her nation, other horses.
I have this odd feeling about horses that they don’t belong to people in the way dogs and cats do, they live on another place. I could see that clearly today. Chloe was right where she belonged. Good for Maria for putting the pony’s interests above hers. it was a tough day for her.
Chloe left us this afternoon, Chad Gulley came in his trailer and drove her to Shushan to live with Treasure Wilkinson and Donna Keays. Maria walked Chloe out of the pasture and down the driveway and into the trailer, she went easily and without a fuss, as is her nature.
This was a very hard thing for Maria to do, that’s really for her to write about. We both felt it was a good thing to do, and that feeling did not waver. I got a final kiss on the nose, but we will be going to see her in her new home tomorrow to check on things.
We drove to Treasure’s farm with Chad and helped her get settled. There are two other horses living on the farm, Queenie and Mickey, and there were some fireworks, as there often are with horses, some shouting and nipping and kicking. Treasure got bounced off a fence post in all of the posturing, but she seems indestructible, Red stayed outside of the pasture and wanted nothing much to do with the goats and horses inside.
It is a wonderful place for Chloe, Treasure and Donna are passionate and experienced animal lovers, and Chloe settled in immediately, grazing in the pasture, and on the very fine second cut hay Treasure and Donna buy for the horses.
So it is done. I’ll put up a couple more photos along with this one.