Part Two: Ginger, Quinn and a Cloud with a Silver Lining

by R.T. Fitch ~ president/co-founder of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

“For me, I was in heaven and the Queen of the Wild Ones was sitting right beside me…”

GingeratWork“Feel Good Sunday” brings me full circle and back around to where we were last week when I wrote Part One of my week in the Pryor Mountains of Wyoming/Montana with Ginger Kathrens on our quest to find Cloud, dead or alive…and I need to stress that, it was not a happy-go-lucky excursion into LaLa Land to observe the ‘Yellowstone’ of wild horses, it was a trip of trepidation that, luckily, turned out for the best.

Again, the real story teller will be Ginger and due to the untimely passing of the stallion Shane of the Cloud Foundation’s Freedom Family her attention has been rightfully deviated.You can readaGinger’s tribute to Shane by clicking (HERE).

Cliff note version:

GingerWorking_1On our first day we searched for Cloud from where he was last seen on the desert floor all the way up to, almost, the crest of the mountains where we DID locate him and his family, late in the day, calmly grazing in a small valley. I CANNOT tell you how relieved we were…and for me, it was pretty much a dream come true and I will tell you why.

As Ginger and I sat and observed it occurred to me that I had really, truly, never seen our native wild horses in their pure natural state. I had only witnessed them being driven into traps by money crazed BLM helicopter contractors and had only experienced the trauma, stress and total depression of watching our Federal government intentionally destroy and ruin the freedom and family of these most magnificent icons of our country’s freedom and independence. I was stunned.

Gingerand Quinn_1Here we sat, on day one, calmly watching the interaction between not only Cloud’s family but the dozens of other wild horses that call the Pryors their home. For me, I was in heaven and the Queen of the Wild Ones was sitting right beside me, in the sunshine, in shirt sleeves with Quinn the Magic Irish Terrier. Life just does not get any better than that.

The topography and geological beauty of the mountains is breathtaking. Terry and I travel around the world to document and view horses in exotic environments. Outer Mongolia, Tibet and this year Tanzania on the African continent but I experienced more than one moment wondering why we travel so far when there is so much magnificence right in our own backyard…something that we may need to consider.

MeandQuinn_1Ginger, my new doggie buddy Quinn, and I ate lunch among the horses as the week progressed. Ginger kindly made us custom sandwiches and always found a band of horses for us to break bread with and I returned the favor by making dinner, by purchasing it at the only restaurant in Lovell, Wyoming in the evening. I think that Ginger got the short end of the stick.

I would like to share with you some parting moments as Ginger and I left Cloud and his family on the last day of our expedition in another installation, but in the meantime I am going to stop right here and simply state that I have seen the bright light, I have been to the mountain top and my soul is secure in knowing that we, meaning YOU and I, are on the right path and doing the right thing in attempting to secure the future safety and well-being of these beautiful and magnificent American wild horses and burros. It is our destiny to secure theirs.

Keep the faith, my friends.

R.T.

Part One: Friendship, Family and a Wild Horse Named Cloud

OpEd by R.T. Fitch ~ president/co-founder of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

A Week in the Pryor Mountains with Ginger Kathrens and Cloud: A Wild Horse Dream Come True

Cloud and FamilyIt is “Feel Good Sunday” and I ‘Feel’ like sharing several intimate and special wild horse moments with you supportive and loyal reader.

As most of you regular visitors are aware, I spent several days up atop the Pryor Mountains with Ginger Kathrens, in Wyoming/Montana, just 3 short weeks ago.

I am not going to beleaguer you with the details and the intimate encounters that both Ginger and I experienced, at this point, as she is in the process of wordsmithing an article that will be far beyond what I could do with my limited skills.

Instead; I would like to give you a boots-on-the-ground view from about 35,000 feet as to what the planning of the experience meant to a layman such as myself…as I am still attempting to catch my breath. (more details to follow)

First off, this was NOT a planned mission of photo taking or documentation.

In fact; it was not even on my calendar until Ginger left a bone chilling message on my cell phone as I was enroute to the U.S. from China.

Ginger detailed the fact that the good folks at the Pryor Mountain Wild Mustang Center had witnessed a horrendous battle between Cloud and another band stallion, Doc (I know that is not his BLM name but I am hanging with it out of respect for TCF) and that afterwards Cloud could not be found and his mares were with his attacker.

Obviously this alarmed the folks at the Cloud Foundation and to further raise the volume on their concern…Cloud was not to be seen thereafter.

Ginger called and gave me the facts, we had to go and look for Cloud.

It’s been a long time since I was as depressed as I was to travel to meet Ginger and search for Cloud…being a veteran of both Vietnam and the Gulf War I do not remember being as “down’ as I felt knowing that I would have to search for the remains of the one and only wild horse that has given a face and a voice to the plight of wild equines of North America…I could not let Ginger endure this alone. So I readily agreed to join her.

It was a bad several days prior to departure, Terry was deeply concerned about my attitude, but the night before I boarded that 787 Dreamliner to Denver Ginger called and said,

“I don’t know how this will affect your plans or way forward but Cloud was sighted today, injured, but alive.”

My only words, and Ginger will verify, were; “Let’s go lay our eyes on Cloud!”

And so the journey began, one that was initially an expedition of doom and depression only to metamorphose into one of elation and the celebration of new life.

There will be more to follow as I am humbled to have been able to spend days on end with the world’s leading authority on wild horse behavior, alone, amongst the horses that we all know and love thanks to her tenacity and dedication.

Wild Horse Freedom Federation fully endorses and is in total alignment with the efforts of the Cloud Foundation (along with EWA, Front Range Equine Rescue, Equine Advocates, Respect 4 Horses and HfH to name just a few legitimate organizations that are attempting to better the plight of our American equine be they domestic or wild) and we will continue to work together to further enhance and ensure the future well-being and safety of one of our most precious natural, national resources; the wild equines of the United States of American.

Keep the Faith…more to come.

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R.T. Fitch trip to Pryors with Ginger Kathrens: Wild Horse & Burro Radio tonight!

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Times for this Wednesday night (May 28) show are:

6:00 pm PST … 7:00 pm MST … 8:00 pm CST … 9:00 pm EST

Listen Live (Here!)

Call in # 917-388-4520

This is a 2 hour show, and you can call in with questions during 2nd hour of the show.

The shows will be archived, so you can listen anytime.

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R.T. Fitch, President of Wild Horse Freedom Federation will be our guest, and will be talking about his trip to the Pryor Mountains last week to search for Cloud and his family with Ginger, and other wild horse & burro issues. Ginger Kathrens, Director of The Cloud Foundation will be calling in from the Pryor Mountains at some point during the show. (Ginger will also be our guest on another show after she returns from the Pryors.)

rtandthreestooges300dpi R.T. Fitch and friends

Ginger and Cloud Ginger & Cloud (photo by R.T. Fitch)

This radio show is hosted by Debbie Coffey, Vice-President & Director of Wild Horse Affairs at Wild Horse Freedom Federation .

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To contact us: ppj1@hush.com, or call 320-281-0585

LISTEN TO ARCHIVED RADIO SHOWS:

11/6/13 – John Holland, President of Equine Welfare Alliance discussing the latest in horse slaughter issues. Click HERE.

11/13/13 – Marjorie Farabee, Director of Wild Burro Affairs for Wild Horse Freedom Federation and founder of Wild Burro Protection League (under Todd Mission Rescue) and Carl Mrozak, videographer (Eagle Eye Media), with work appearing on CBS, PBS, the Discovery Channel, the Weather Channel and other networks. This show focused on wild burros. Click HERE.

11/20/13 – Simone Netherlands, Natural Horsemanship Trainer, founder of respect 4 horses Organization, and director & producer of the documentary “America’s Wild Horses.” To see the trailer for the documentary, click HERE. To listen to this radio show, click HERE.

11/27/13 – R.T. Fitch, President of Wild Horse Freedom Federation and author of the much acclaimed book “Straight from the Horse’s Heart: A Spiritual Ride through Love, Loss and Hope.R.T. also runs the blog “Straight from the Horse’s Heart,” which posts current news and information and gives a comprehensive education to the public on issues in connection with wild horses & burros and public lands issues. Also, Ginger Kathrens, founder and Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation, joined in on the show to talk about the Salt Wells & Adobe Town roundups. Click HERE.

12/4/13 – Craig Downer, wildlife ecologist and a member of the Board of Directors of the Cloud Foundation. Craig is the author of the book “The Wild Horse Conspiracy” and has a website http://thewildhorseconspiracy.org/. Also, Robert Bauer, Wildlife Biologist. Craig and Bob debunk the Bureau of Land Management’s “junk” science about wild horses and burros. Click HERE.

12/11/13 – Ginger Kathrens, the Founder and Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation, who has been described as “the Jane Goodall of wild horses.” Ginger Kathrens is an Emmy Award-winning producer, cinematographer, writer and editor as well as an award-winning author. Her documentary filmmaking trips have taken her to Africa, Asia, Europe, Central and South America and all over the U.S. Click HERE.

1/15/14 – Victoria McCullough, international equestrian and CEO of Chesapeake Petroleum and John Holland, President of Equine Welfare Alliance, give details on the key support from Vice President Biden and congressional leaders, and the defunding language in the omnibus bill, which stopped horse slaughter from being reinstated in the U.S. Click HERE.

1/29/14 – R.T. Fitch, John Holland and I hosted this show to honor and celebrate the life of wild horse advocate Garnet Pasquale, who dedicated her life to save the wild horses & burros, especially the wild horses near her home in Las Vegas, Nevada through her work with the Spring Mountain Alliance. Garnet’s dear friend, wild horse advocate and wildlife photographer Arlene Gawne,gives a vivid account of these wild horses and the work of the Spring Mountain Alliance. Click HERE.

2/26/14 – Barbara Clark, founder of Dreamcatcher Wild Horse & Burro Sanctuary in northern California talks about the sanctuary and natural behavior of wild horses and burros. Click HERE.

4/1/14 - Marjorie Farabee, Director of Wild Burro Affairs at Wild Horse Freedom Federation, Equine Manager of Todd Mission Ranch (home of TMR Rescue, Inc.) and President of the Wild Burro Protection League, who recently went to Bonaire (Dutch Antilles) to investigate the donkeys that turned out to be a thought to be extinct, rare globally endangered species. Marjorie was joined on this show by Carl Mrozak, videographer (Eagle Eye Media), with work appearing on CBS, PBS, the Discovery Channel, the Weather Channel and other networks, and Rona Aguilar, member of the team formed by her father, Al Catalfumo, to investigate the plight of the donkeys in Bonaire. Click HERE.

Field Report/Video: Cloud the Stallion has a New Son

Update by R.T. Fitch ~ author/president of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Cloud walking much better today

Cloud proving that he is well by adding his 2 cents worth to the “Stud Pile”

Please excuse the brevity and total disregard to any journalistic skills but Ginger Kathrens, of the Cloud Foundation, and myself have been up on the mountain for two days in row and it is beginning to tell on my stamina BUT; I am elated to say that we were privileged to spend the entire beautiful day with Cloud, his family and dozens of of other wild horses who names Ginger knows at the drop of the hat while I can’t even remember my own the bulk of the time.

I won’t be very formal and will leave the final report up to my much more knowledgeable, and sometimes more resilient, partner Ginger but for layman’s speak there are two important developments to note, today;

One is that both of us are in total alignment with the observation that Cloud is walking much better today and improved markedly as the day went on…the inserted video will highlight this.

Cloud and new babySecondly, late in the afternoon while Ginger and I were planted for hours watching Encore, prisoner of the band stallions, we heard some distant noise so I opted to investigate and hike to the source.  Well it turned out to be Cloud defending his two mares and foal from Jack the bachelor stallion who was trying to steal them.  I knew that Ginger would want to film this but part one of the fight was over before I could even say, ” What the …heck?”.  But Jack was stupid enough to come back out of the woods for a second attempt and Cloud kicked the living you-know-what out of him with his hind legs WHICH I was watching closely due to his recent injury.  He did great with no hesitation and trotted back to his band in a victory trot without any hitch in his gitty-up.  Looking good in my book.

So in a nutshell, Cloud is good and getting better, his new son is cute enough for me to use the word cute in public (which is not real macho but totally describes him) and tomorrow we are continuing our spring documentation of the magical and wonderful wild horses of the Pryor Mountain Range.

The Cloud Foundation and Wild Horse Freedom Federation are working in tandem for the betterment of the wild horses and burros.

Keep the faith, folks…the Force of the Horse® is with us.

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BLM Bypasses Ginger Kathrens, R.T. Fitch and other (real) wild horse advocates once again

By Debbie Coffey, Vice President and Director of Wild Horse Affairs, Wild Horse Freedom Federation.    Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved.

In reading the BLM Press Release below, a few things stand out, besides the fact that we don’t see the names of Ginger Kathrens or R.T. Fitch on this list of people who were just appointed to the BLM’s National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board.

Advisory Board Nominees R.T. Fitch and Ginger Kathrens speak at press conference during BLM Advisory Board meeting in March 2013 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

Advisory Board Nominees R.T. Fitch and Ginger Kathrens speak at press conference during BLM Advisory Board meeting in March 2013 ~ photo by Terry Fitch of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

While Ginger Kathrens (Executive Director of The Cloud Foundation) has spent many years studying actual wild horse behavior on the range, BLM’s new appointee Dr. Sue M. McDonnell maintains a semi-feral herd of ponies specifically for the study of their physiology and behavior under semi-natural conditions.”  McDonnell’s books are published by The Blood Horse and Eclipse (Blood Horse Publications) Blood Horse Publications is owned by the Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders Association, which promotes thoroughbred racing and breeding.

According to the BLM Press Release below, Dr. Robert E. Cope moved to Idaho and was “elected as a Lemhi County Commissioner in 2001 and currently serves in that position.”   Dr. Cope has been “active in the National Association of Counties” and served as the vice chair of its Environment, Energy, and Land Use Steering Committee for nine years.

This is kind of interesting, because the Nevada Association of Counties recently filed a lawsuit against the BLM to remove wild horses, and to euthanize all wild horses in holding.  The White Pine County Commissioners (Nevada) voted to donate $5,000 to support this lawsuit, and Elko County Commissioners (Nevada) voted to donate $10,000 to support this lawsuit.  BOTH of these counties are members of the NATIONAL Association of Counties.  Meanwhile, Iron County Commissioners in Utah are threatening to illegally roundup wild horses.  It seems we’re seeing a pattern with counties.

In documents received in a Freedom of Information Act request, even Edwin Roberson, BLM’s current Assistant Director of Resources and Planning, noted that county interests could be seen as representing livestock interests.  Robertson noted “Wild Horse and Burro Advocacy Groups may see a county elected official position on the Board as an attempt to make the Board membership weighted towards livestock interests, which is already represented.  Many of the Wild Horse and Burro advocacy groups have already accused the Board of this.  Livestock interests in the many western states and groups like the Public Lands Council will likely be in favor of a county official position on the Board.”

Roberson also noted “The Nevada Association of Counties (NACO) and the Western Counties Alliance (WCA) have requested that a county elected official position be added to the Board.  Director Abbey responded to NACO in the attached letter, dated September 27, 2010, explaining that any change in membership categories will require a change in the Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board’s Charter and encouraged NACO to nominate individuals that qualified for the present existing positions.”

And then, referring to WH & B Advisory Board member Callie Hendrickson, Roberson noted “Presently one of the public interest representatives now on the Board is closely aligned with county representation in Colorado as the Executive Director of Colorado Association of Conservation Districts.”

Finally, in the press release below, it states “In Fiscal Year 2013, the BLM generated $4.7 billion in receipts from public lands.”

In other words, in only one year, the BLM sold off over 4 1/2 billion dollars of public lands and public resources, so if you hear anyone bring up the money BLM spends on holding facilities for wild horses at this National Wild Horse & Burro Advisory Board, direct their attention to the money BLM rakes in on our natural resources.

SOURCE:  blm.gov

Bureau of Land Management Contact: Tom Gorey For immediate release: Friday, April 11, 2014 (202-912-7420)

BLM Announces Three Selections for National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board

The Bureau of Land Management announced today that the Secretaries of Interior and Agriculture have made selections for the three open positions on its nine-member National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board. Dr. Sue M. McDonnell of West Chester, Pennsylvania, has been appointed for the category of wild horse and burro research; Fred T. Woehl, Jr., of Harrison, Arkansas, has been appointed for the category of public interest (with special knowledge of equine behavior); and Dr. Robert E. Cope, DVM, of Salmon, Idaho, has been appointed for the category of natural resources management. Each individual will serve a three-year term on the Advisory Board. Dr. McDonnell is Clinical Associate and Adjunct Professor of Reproduction and Behavior at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine. Also, as a certified applied animal behaviorist, she consults privately on equine behavior and welfare. Dr. McDonnell, who holds a Ph.D. from the University of Delaware, co-edited the current leading academic book on horse behavior, titled “The Domestic Horse: The Evolution, Development and Management of its Behaviour,” published by Cambridge University Press. Mr. Woehl has been involved in the horse community for more than 40 years as a trainer, natural horsemanship clinician, and educator. He is actively involved with the Equine Science Department at the University of Arkansas and taught Equine Science at North Arkansas College. He has served as a volunteer for the BLM’s Wild Horse and Burro Program for 10 years, conducting demonstrations of wild horse versatility and assisting with adoptions. Mr. Woehl worked as a senior agricultural adviser for the U.S. State Department from October 2008 to November 2009 in Iraq, where he was responsible for the development and implementation of agricultural programs and policy for the Ninewa Province. Dr. Cope, who earned his DVM at Kansas State University, has practiced veterinary medicine since 1975. After relocating to Idaho, he was elected Lemhi County Commissioner in 2001 and still serves in that position. Dr. Cope has been active in the National Association of Counties (NACo), serving as chair or vice chair of NACo’s Environment, Energy, and Land Use Steering Committee for nine years. As a veterinarian for nearly 40 years, Dr. Cope has focused on large animals, particularly range livestock. The National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board advises the BLM, an agency of the Interior Department, and the U.S. Forest Service, part of the Agriculture Department, on the management and protection of wild free-roaming horses and burros on public lands and national forests administered by those agencies, as mandated by the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act. Members of the board, who represent various categories of interests, must have a demonstrated ability to analyze information, evaluate programs, identify problems, work collaboratively, and develop corrective actions. Information about the board can be found at: http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/whbprogram/Advisory_Board.html The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM’s mission is to manage and conserve the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations under its mandate of multiple-use and sustained yield. In Fiscal Year 2013, the BLM generated $4.7 billion in receipts from public lands.

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Wild Horses Expected to Explode from near 20,000 to 69,000 in only One Year

OpEd by R.T. Fitch ~ president/co-founder of Wild Horse Freedom Federation

The Magic of Federally Perpetrated Propaganda and Blatant Lies

BLM mouthpiece predicts that sex crazed wild horses to triple in number within 12 months

BLM mouthpiece predicts that sex crazed wild horses to triple in number within 12 months

There was a time, not long ago, when the Department of Interior’s (DoI) Bureau of Land Management (BLM) would slip in a few false numbers and bad mathematical equations when publicly discussing the last remaining wild horses and burros on western public lands.  But now the federal propaganda machine has turned up the volume and enlisted the help of their bed-fellows, cattlemen, to such an extent that anyone with an education beyond that of the third grade can tell that they are out and out lying.

For the last several years the enemies of America’s national icons have loosely stated that there are between 30,000 to 40,000 wild equines roaming upon their rightful land on 10 western states.  (These numbers have never been verified but all leading indicators point to more like 20,000ish are still free.)  And the number held unnaturally imprisoned has always hovered around 50,000 give or take a couple of thou.  All of this bad math has remained constant while the renegade agency has consistently ripped an average of 12,000 wild ones a year from their federally protected homes.  “Duhhhhh, do the math, boys!”

AND if left on their own the wild ones will double in herd size every four years; WHAT?

You do know that they are stoking the fires behind the scenes to actually kill our wild horses, on sight, and sell the prisoners of their concentration camps to slaughter, don’t you?  That is why they have hand picked an advisory board that is made up of 50%+ openly pro-slaughter mouth pieces with the bulk of the remaining members being pro-cattle and hunting special interest representatives.

We, Wild Horse Freedom Federation, exposed in a FOIAed internal BLM document that high ranking BLM officials have and currently are discussing killing wild horses on the range; well now they have their special interest buddies doing the same in public media.

One Thomas Mitchell wrote an editorial in the Ely Daily news that the wild, or in his uneducated opinion (feral), horse population is going to explode, overnight, to 69,000 (where the heck did that number come from) and that killing them is a viable option.  In what galaxy does that make sense?

He referenced our exposed document, without naming us of course, and included that the AP had said paperwork, yes…from us, but then rambles on about the deadly sage grouse and all of the damage herds of crazed wild equines will wreck upon his much coveted and loved Nevada.  Give me a break.

The only common ground that we share with this BLM puppet is that contraception can be a viable option of on range management IF and only IF it is done correctly and used only where needed…on viable herds, not the decimated majority of herds that the BLM has run into ruin by attacking them with helicopters at about every opportunity or when the mood so moves them.

Let’s get this right, folks; you know that the BLM is lying when their lips are moving.  Not only do they fudge the numbers but also it has been verified by the National Academy of Sciences that was hired BY the BLM to look at their broken Wild Horse and Burro program.  Did they, the BLM, pay heed to what the NAS said in their report and get their act together, hell no.  They just plod on under the direction of their semi-covert buddies and plot to wipe our wild equines off from the face of the planet.

Public beware; there is a Wild Horse and Burro apocalypse coming and it is closer than you may imagine.  The BLM has been creating a false emergency of loading up all of their short and long term holding facilities so that they can look to their big brother government and shrug their shoulders and say, “Day gots ta go!”, and the killing shall begin.

We need to ensure that our natural, four legged resource is protected for years to come and to do that we must expose the BLM for being the corrupt and mismanaged that the agency really is.

The evidence is there, in black and white, all we need to do is spread the news and shine the light…it really is just that easy.

The BLM cannot be left to their own corrupt devices and be allowed to manage our wild equines into extinction.  That cannot happen, it must not happen and we, meaning you and me (us), are the only hope that the horses have for salvation.

Let us not let them down!!!

Click (HERE) to comment directly at the Ely News

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For the Love of a Dog, Companion and Friend

An original story by R.T. Fitch

“It’s ‘Feel Good Sunday’ and I am going to do something different, today.  Instead of sharing something that someone else has written I have penned, for you, a few thoughts and feelings that crossed across my heart this very morning.  A true blog is supposed to be an online journal of the creators thoughts and plans but we use this as a sounding board for the causes and issues that engulf our American Equines both wild and domestic.  But today I wax a little emotional with an eye turned inward, not a bad thing to do to revitalize one’s heart and soul.  So today I share this moment in time and hope that the love and the glow reaches out through the words to touch your heart and brings you great joy.  Keep the faith, my friends.” ~ R.T.

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Suzie ~ photo by Terry Fitch

Suzie ~ photo by Terry Fitch

I woke up rather differently this morning.  Only three days into attempting to pull myself backwards in time from living 13 hours ahead of U.S. Central time; the night had been sporadic and unsettled enough without my wife’s phone pinging an audible text message signal at 0523 hrs.

“Who would be texting her at this hour?”, my jet lagged brain attempted to deduce when it chimed again, followed by a ping.

I tried as I may to keep my eyes closed and my mind turned off when it happened yet a third time and when I heard the following ping I realized that the last tone was and had been coming from my phone recharging in the kitchen.

“Who would be texting both of us at this time of day?” I thought as I stood up from the bed and scooped up my clothing, flashlight and Big Max from their every ready state next to our bed.  (Yes, being a former volunteer fire fighter has taught me to be ready in an instant, even when you are asleep.)

I scrambled to the kitchen while pulling on pants, shirt and socks only to realize that I could not read the messages on the phone without my glasses, getting old is such a bitch.

Once I had the Coke bottle bottoms latched onto my face I could read that the messages had come from one of the barn’s internal surveillance cameras as movement within our closed up barn had activated it and there were no horses inside…this peaked my interest.

So I strapped Big Max onto my right hip, not for protection from critters but the two-legged kind, and put the torch in my left pocket while heading for the garage door only to almost trip over our geriatric German Shepherd, Suzie, sprawled out in front of the back door.  She struggled to stand when she spied me out of her last working eye; I could tell by her expression that she wanted to go out.  So I helped her up, as she has trouble standing, and opened the back door for her to go out.  I closed the door behind her and turned away as it pains me to watch her struggle to negotiate the three low steps that take her down to the patio, she is tough though.

I exited the house through the garages and opened up half the barn door with torch in hand.  Quickly flipping on the light switches I was greeted to a great big nothing, no one or no thing was there.

I entered and listened for any sort of sound and nothing came bouncing back to my ears.  Methodically I opened up each stall door and peered inside with the LED torch ablaze, nothing.  I looked up into the haylofts and walked over to the ladder, “A raccoon could be up there I thought”, so I pocketed the torch and headed up.

Once up I could clearly see the second hayloft and it was clear, I could look down into all of the stalls and nothing stirring.  Likewise I surveyed the storage area over the tack room and the bales of hay in the loft itself and not a creature was stirring, not even a rat.

Hmmm, something must have triggered the camera but it was obviously not inside anymore so I carried my search outside to the parameter of the barn.  Nothing to the north, east or south but down in the western pasture the eyes of the grazing horses and deer reflected back to me as did two rabbits nibbling grass in the backyard.

False alarm, so I retraced my steps down the barn’s drive, across the driveway and into the garages and back into the house where I knew a hot cup of tea would help clear away the cobwebs of jet lag, as it always did.

But once wide awake with a steaming hot cup of hand carried Chinese Ginseng tea in hand I noted yet another alert coming across my phone, a weather warning.  It seemed that a narrow band of thunderstorms was bearing down on us from the northwest so instead of making a detour into my home office to work on a morning installation for the blog I headed back out the garage door to sit and watch the natural fireworks in the darkness of the early morning.  It would be refreshing and rejuvenating.

So I sat under the west garage’s porch as I sipped my tea and listened to the distant rumble of the storm; suddenly my chair nudged from behind.  It was Suzie, she had finally made her way around from the back and was coming to the garages to see if any of her people were about, and they were…I was there.

I looked down at her and scratched her graying chin, she closed her eyes and instead of gracefully lying down next to me she did the only thing she can now do to recline, she fell with a thud.  Riddled with arthritis she cannot bend like she used to so she just falls and each time she does it I become a little shaken.  But she does not cry, whimper or complain; it just is.

I have talked with Terry about releasing her, about allowing her to transcend her aging and crippled body but Terry claims that she has not asked nor is she ready.  We must be patient and help her whenever we can; she deserves that much respect.

But I see her fail more each time I am away and then return, so much so that I said my heartfelt goodbyes before I left last month as I was certain that she would not be here upon my return, she proved me wrong.

As the breeze began to freshen and the petals from the Bradford Pear tree blossoms fell on us like snow I looked into her one seeing eye and listened, I tried to shut my mind off so I could hear her and to my dismay I found that my brain would not stop talking and continued to yapp away about her condition.

I looked away as the first drops of the storm began to fall and noted that both of us were a little too close to the edge of the roof line to be fully protected from the rain.  I stood up to move my chair back and Suzie took that as a cue to move, too.  She sat up on her front two legs and paused, I saw her hesitate and then she looked right into my heart and said, “Help me”.

I did; I hugged my arms around her and gently slid her back to my chair so that she would not have to go through the effort of trying to stand up, move and then fall down again.  I just placed her next to me and we both watched the rain.

As the rain fell I softly laid my left hand on her head and gently rubbed her ancient brow as my heart felt yet another hole beginning to form as a piece of me was beginning to dissolve.  It hurt, the knowing of impending loss yet there was a glow under my hand as I softly rubbed her ears as she looked out upon the storm.

I listened over the thunder, wind and rain and I could hear a faint sound of warmth, a feeling of love and a musical note that came not to my heart but instead to my soul.  I listened without my ears and I could hear Suzie humming, not loudly but contently and with great love.

I looked down at her as she looked up to me and I swear that she smiled as I heard her say, “Not today, but soon.  I love you.”

It was not a raindrop but a tear from me that landed between her paws and with her tongue outstretched she gently licked it up and kissed my hand.

We smiled and then turned to the storm.

“Not today,” I sighed.

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