Tag Archives: Animals

From Britain to Sarasota, Mothers and Babies Need Each Other

A few months back, this irresistible photo showed up on the internet.  Hours after his birth on a farm in Britain, this foal was abandoned by his mother, perhaps because she had no milk. The foal ran from mare to mare, trying to suckle and being turned away.  The farmer brought him, scratched and dehydrated, to Devon-based Mare and Foal Sanctuary. There they named him Breeze, and administered medical care. The ordeal had traumatized the foal, and he couldn’t sleep.  A staff member got the bright idea to put Buttons, a giant Teddy Bear, into Breeze’s stall.  As you can see, Buttons did the trick.  Breeze found a replacement for his mother.

The story about the bond between mother and baby reminded of something I saw last winter.  I visited the Big Cat Habitat near our home in Sarasota, FL.  Big Cat is a sanctuary run by the Rosaire family, renowned animal trainers and rescuers of unwanted animals, mostly cats, for over 35 years.  I looked into an enclosure at a Capuchin monkey with pendulous breasts.  One of the Rosaires, who was standing nearby, told me the monkey’s story.

A little girl visited the sanctuary one day, holding a small stuffed teddy bear. Kylie, the monkey, grabbed the toy and took it to her house.  When the staff tried to remove it, Kylie began shrieking and flailing.  She grew so agitated that the visitor agreed to surrender her teddy bear. Kylie was so devoted to her “baby” that she grew breasts. Concerned, the staff called the vet. They could administer painful hormone injections, the vet said. Or they could leave the wanna-be-mama alone. They left her alone. She guarded her baby with devotion for about two months until it turned to shreds. By then, Kylie was ready to let her baby go. The tattered teddy was removed with no further drama.

Speaking of Big Cat, we have some celebrities in the neighborhood. Two Big Cat occupants are current movie stars. Chance, a chimpanzee, and Handsome, a lion, are featured in the new Leonardo DiCaprio film, The Wolf of Wall Street. They play exotic pets brought into the office of an out-of-control stockbroker. Chance learned to roller skate for the part. Chance and DiCaprio “really liked each other and worked well together,” says Big Cat owner Kay Rosaire.

Kay calls her animals “professionals.” Their earnings help support the nonprofit sanctuary, which also houses many non-working animals.

(Please send me your Godsigns stories, whatever kind of monkey business they involve.)

Stray Border Collie Mix Eases a Veteran’s PTSD

Todd served as a paratrooper in the army for four years. In 1994, while stationed at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, he survived a deadly plane crash at nearby Pope Air Force Base. Twenty-four members of the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division were killed in the worst peacetime loss of life suffered by the division since the end of WW2. Several were Todd’s good friends.

This brave warrior, trained to parachute into an operation as part of an airborne force, was traumatized by the accident. Todd suffered PTSD for nearly two decades. Psychotherapy wasn’t working. He and wife Stephanie discussed getting a therapy dog.  Too many objections arose.  They were busy. Their three cats wouldn’t get along with a dog.  A dog would prevent their weekend travel.  “We came up with every excuse in the book,” Stephanie says.

In September of 2012, Stephanie was headed to work.  She’s a fundraiser for Moffitt Cancer Center, a cancer hospital in Tampa, FL. She noticed a black dog on the side of the road near their neighborhood. She happened to be on the phone with Todd and commented on it. That evening, driving to pick up teenage daughter Rowan from band practice, Todd noticed the same dog still sitting on the side of the road. A few hours later, a thunder storm rolled in. Todd kept thinking about that dog.

“We love animals and hate to see them homeless, lonely and in pain,” Stephanie says. “But Todd had never been so focused on a stray. He was restless and worried and drove off in search of the dog. He spotted her as she ducked into some bushes. Five seconds later he’d have missed her. The poor dog was so weak she couldn’t jump into the car. Todd had to lift her.”

Todd brought the stray, a border collie mix, home. He, Stephanie and Rowan bathed her. They borrowed dog food from their neighbor and fed her. They created a bed for her on the patio out of old car wash towels. She was spayed but had no identification. They resolved to find her owner or find her a new home. The local animal shelter website knew of no dog matching her description.

Within a week of the stray dog’s arrival, Todd’s anxiety eased. This new member of the household comforted Todd. He felt more relaxed. They named her Shelby, a nod to Todd’s love for the Mustang Shelby GT Cobra. (He has owned a Mustang but not a Mustang Shelby.) Shelby instantly took to her new name. And her new owner. Whether Todd goes to the mailbox or has been gone for hours, she races to him and does her “Shelby dance.” Her feet tap rapidly; her rear end wags along with her tail. She kisses Todd and follows him from room to room. Although she weighs 50 lbs., she jumps into his lap when he reclines.

Stephanie says, “This loving, beautiful animal calmed my husband and brought him a peace he hadn’t felt for years. We knew our search for her family was over. We had found a new home for Shelby. She was meant to be Todd’s companion. He picked her up from the side of the road and gave her a second chance. She returned the favor and gave him a second chance.”

 (We love animal stories. People stories, too! Please share your Godsign stories with me.)

Shih Tzu Orphan Annie Finds A Home

In April of 2011, Sandi and Jerry lost their beloved blonde Shih Tzu, Sammy.  Sammy had been part of the family for 17 years and was the couple’s second blonde Shih Tzu.  Sandi and Jerry had both grown up with dogs and had owned one through four-plus decades of marriage.

Sandi was done.  She didn’t want to go through the sadness of losing another pet.  Their children were adults, living on their own.  They had just remodeled and redecorated their house in Scottsdale, AZ.  And Sandi wanted to travel without worrying about a pet left behind. Case dismissed.

But not quite.

Jerry spent months researching websites, looking for a third blonde Shih Tzu and hoping Sandi would relent.  He found the Ruby Ranch Shelter in Phoenix, AZ.   Owner Pam rescues unwanted dogs, many with special needs, and fosters them until finding them a home.  On weekends, she shows them in a pen she sets up at Petsmart.

Sandi remained firm.  No more dogs.

Cut to Yuma, AZ, 150 miles from Scottsdale.  An elderly woman had two blonde Shih Tzus—one with bladder stones,  one healthy.  Unable to afford surgery for the first, the owner left both dogs with a vet.  He called a local rescuer.

After almost 1 and ½ years, Sandy recovered from grieving Sammy.   She began to think “it might be nice” to have a dog again.  She gave Jerry her qualifications.  No puppy.  A female.  (In case of an accident, she wouldn’t lift her leg on new upholstered furniture,)

That was all Jerry needed to hear.  He emailed Pam.

Pam had both dogs brought from Yuma to Phoenix.  She funded surgery for the sick one and contacted Jerry about the other.

Sandi and Jerry, who had seen and passed on a different dog, drove to Petsmart.  They met a 5-year old Shih Tzu named Annie.  They held her, walked her on a leash, and fell in love.  Annie won Sandi’s vote.  Pam agreed to keep Annie for a week while the couple took care of previous commitments.

Sandi says, “As we left, Annie was standing with her front paws on the fence of the pen.  She watched us walk away.  Her big eyes seemed to say: Where are you going?  Don’t you want me?”

After a week with her new family, Annie stopped hiding under the coffee table.  Now she dances on her hind legs when Sandi & Jerry come home, has taken over Jerry’s favorite chair, and sleeps snuggled in their bed.  As Sandi puts it, “Annie, like Sammy, runs the household.”

Sandi says, “With people and dogs, there’s chemistry.  You just know when something is right.  Annie’s a perfect fit.”

Rescue dogs often don’t come with papers.  Annie did.  Looking through her papers, Sandi was startled. She realized that the exact time Annie’s former owner decided to give her up was the exact time she changed her mind.

In Yiddish there’s an expression, beshert, or meant to be.  That’s just how Sandi and Jerry feel about Annie.   As for Annie (sorry about this…), she thinks it’s bow-shert.


(Please send me your Godsign stories about subjects that bark, neigh or simply speak.)


On A Farm in Northern Michigan, A Grateful Appaloosa Says Goodbye

Highs and Lows.  They’re part of a day on the farm.

The day started off with grey skies, chilling drizzle and wind.  And a call alerting us to the poor health of our Appaloosa mare Chinoek.   “Collicky,” our manager warned.  The vet was coming.  At the stable we peered into a stall at a long brown and white speckled face.  Chinoek, at 30, was no longer the proud, galloping steed who, with a flick of her head, could back off the herd.  She had been given medicine to settle her stomach.  She wore a navy blue blanket.  She gazed at us sadly, then limped to the bars of the stall, to Burton and me in turn.  We each reached in to give her a gentle scratch.  She lumbered to the center of her stall, bent her arthritic legs and  heaved with a thud to the sawdust laden floor.

That day we had agreed to host a trail ride on our farm as a fundraiser for The Front Porch restaurant in Ellsworth, MI, a tiny town hard hit by the last recession.  The Front Porch is unique and not just for its yummy American fries.   Begun and supported by several local churches, it operates on an unusual basis.  Diners pay what they can for breakfast and lunch–sometimes more; sometimes zero.  When only a few riders signed up for the trail ride, it was postponed–fortunately since it was a sad day around the barn.

Part of the event was a raffle.  A $500 cash prize was donated.  By the day of the drawing, all 1000 tickets were sold. Additional donations raised a total of $7000.  John, manager of the Hastings Funeral Home in Ellsworth and past president of The Front Porch, was the star ticket seller.  Early on he’d tried selling a ticket to a local man.  It was against his religion to gamble, the man said.  “Don’t look at it as gambling,” John parried.  “It’s a charity donation.”  The man reached for his wallet.  John started to write his name on the ticket.  The man objected.

John had recently conducted a funeral for someone who died in his young 50s, leaving behind a wife and six children.   The widow was struggling to support her family.  John wrote her name on the ticket.  Others joined in this effort, without ever informing the possible recipient.  By the end of the raffle, John had racked up 670 ticket sales.

The drawing took place at our barn.  The winner turned out to be a retired woman who’d taught in the Ellsworth schools, as had her husband.  Their son was getting married soon.  She was thrilled to save the money for the church wedding.

Sara, the large animal vet, showed up.  Burton met her at Chinoek’s stall.  I didn’t have the heart to join him.  Winter was approaching.  Chinoek was suffering.  Sara had put down her sister the day before at a different barn.  She recommended the same for Chinoek.

Burton returned to the farmhouse and told me what had happened.  I said, “This morning when Chinoek came over to each of us, I had the feeling she was saying, ‘Goodbye.’”

“So did I,” Burton said.  “I mentioned it to Sara.  She said, ‘I don’t think she was saying goodbye.  I think she was saying thank you.’”

Now, it’s your turn …

Please send me your Godsign stories, big and small, about humans or animals. And, please, share this story with friends by using the blue-“f” Facebook icons or the envelope-shaped email icons. Invite friends to share their stories, too.

(And special thanks to jumpinghooves for the photo, today.)



4-H Club’s Famous, and Valuable, Pig

The Carousel 4-H Club in northwest Michigan lost a member and friend when Christa, 14, died in a traffic accident, along with her father, Dave.   In response, the 16 member group did what they do best.  They raised Ginger, a pig, in Christa’s memory, to help fund an education for Noelle, Christa’s surviving sister, also a club member.  They hoped to raise $5,000.

Club member Courtney, 14, wrote a letter to Bob, a Traverse City businessman.  Last year Bob had purchased the pig Courtney raised because she donated those funds to wounded warriors.   Courtney, whose best friend was Christa, alerted Bob to this year’s project.  Courtney simply saw Bob as a generous executive, successful in oil and gas exploration.  She didn’t know how her letter would affect him.

Courtney’s letter, Bob says, “struck a chord.”  When Bob was 9, his father was killed in a car accident.  His mom, a homemaker, took over her husband’s job as township treasurer.  Making $1600 a year, and receiving some social security benefits, she kept her family of 9 children going.  “The barber gave us free haircuts,” he says. “The grocer gave us dented cans. While we never had much, we had enough thanks to the generosity of others.”

After receiving Courtney’s letter, Bob started making calls. By the time of the auction, Bob says, “I was pretty sure we’d get the pig.”

Ginger, a red pig, was given Christa’s nickname.  (Christa had red hair.)  Ginger was the last animal to be auctioned.

Once the bidding began, most people in the packed arena were in tears. Their average action price for a pig had been about $3.50 per pound. But, bids for the 288 lb. animal kept climbing and settled at a record $71 a pound. Other donors made additional pledges. In all, 17 donors contributed. Ginger brought in $31,998.

“It just seemed like the right thing to do,” Bob said.  “I hope it will help lift the load.”

(Photo of the 4-H club by Heidi Misser. Used with permission.)