Before I get in too far, let me first state that a human's life always takes precedence over an animal's life. Animals are animals. I think there are some people that come close to being animals, but still...a human life is far more valuable. But, I do believe a person that abuses animals should be punched in the nethers and then receive the same treatment they felt that animal deserved. Pretty harsh, I know, but what's to stop them from doing it to a human one day? It's disgusting to abuse an animal. Period. Now, I'm not talking about self-defense. You defend yourself if a bear is coming at you. You pick up a stick or something. You're in a lake, and a pack of wild brim is surrounding you, you kick those suckers in the teeth and swim. You hear me?! Swim! But if you provoke an animal...I don't feel too sorry for you. Bull runners? They had it coming. I mean, common sense, people.
But, (most) animals are sweet (from a distance) and funny to watch and they're just cute. I like lizards. I don't want them on me, but it's funny to watch cats chase them. And I like to watch them out hang out on branches at the zoo. And they get scared and lose their tails and it's like, "Aw man, my tail! But, hey, I'm free!" I like most furry animals. Again, no possums or monkeys. I love cats and dogs, duh. I love koalas. And otters. And dolphins. A meerkats. Oh, I don't like pigs that much. I just now thought of that. Ever since Old Yeller. No boars or regular pigs. I do like bacon, though. Mmmm...and Boston Butt. I remember being pretty young and crying during Bambi (I mean, who hasn't?) and Charlie the Lonesome Cougar and The Legend of Lobo the Wolf and Tonka.
My favorite animal of all time is a horse. They're just perfect. They smell amazing. They really do. They're beautiful. Every summer for years, Sara and I would go to a summer camp up in North Alabama called Saddle Rock. It was a girls' two-week camp. Of course, there was horseback riding. When you got old enough, you could be a CIT (counselor-in-training) and spend one of your track times helping younger campers with whatever their track activity was. I always took my own horseback riding lessons and then I signed up for horseback riding again for my CIT thing. But, I didn't want to teach kids how to ride horses. They should figure that out for themselves. I wanted to hang around the horses. So, I volunteered to wash them, scrape and clip their hooves, brush their hair, polish the saddles and bridles, clean out their stalls. It was heaven. I know what you're thinking..."Cleaning horse poo out of a stall is Ruth's idea of a good time?" Yes, yes it was. I like doing good work and I like being around horses. It was the perfect situation.
Mom and Dad let us take horseback riding lessons for several years growing up. It was so much fun. We did English and Western riding. My favorite is Western, because you can say "Yeehaw!" and you don't have to sit up so straight. One day, Sara was stupid and fell off and the horse stepped on her and Mom freaked, "Oh my! Horses are dangerous!" No, Sara is just a bad rider, Mom. Just because she has a huge, hoof-shaped bruise on her leg doesn't mean it was the horse's fault. She could have fallen on a small toilet for all you know. We stopped taking lessons, but Mom couldn't deny my love for horses. So, she let me go over to a friend's house all the time and ride their horses, Cochise and Pancho. I was bucked off and bitten and thrown into trees on a daily basis. I loved it. One time, I was walking in a field, holding Pancho's reins and I walked smack into an electric fence. I peed on myself a little bit and scared the ever living mess out of Pancho. Luckily, I had sugar cubes in my pocket, so after a half hour of coaxing, he came back to me.
When I was, gosh, probably 10 or so and Sara was 12, we all went on a family vacation to Colorado. I don't know where Noah was. I don't remember him being there. He must not have come with us. Sorry you got left behind, Boog. It was a fun trip, but you were too itty bitty to remember and you would have been a burden to the rest of us having fun. I loved Colorado. The Rockies are incredible. We got nosebleeds every day from the dry air and altitude. We were surrounded by ghost towns and fat chipmunks. And the best part was, we stayed on a ranch...littered with horses. And every day, we could pick a horse and ride. There were cowboys on the ranch that would escort a group out. You could kind of pick your level of riding abilities. We started off with the "walking" class. It was fun, but several other super weird people were there. Bunch of whiners. "My horse smells funny." "NO HE DOESN'T! HE SMELLS WONDERFUL! SHUT YOUR MOUTH!" But, that was the trail where we crossed a river and my horse stopped for a drink, then sat down, then laid down, then rolled over on his side for a little dip...directly in the river with me still on his back. It was a wet ride home. But worth it. I felt as though he christened me. The next day, we went up a notch to "trotting." Whether you ride Western or English and whether you're a girl or a boy, trotting ain't comfortable for anybody. There is a rhythm you sink into and it pops you up in sync with the horse, but who wants to sit there and count, right? The next day, we did the cantering class. When I say "class," I mean that a cowboy would take out a group of people and you'd never go faster than a walk or trot or canter. This was Western riding in an open range. There were no trails or corrals or rhythms you had to worry about. It was pure freedom. My favorite day was the galloping day. Sara and I were the only ones brave enough to go. Our cowboy's name was Jack. He had a mustache and it was awesome. My horse's name was Chanticleer. I couldn't remember how to say it, so I called him Chandelier for most of the day. But he was fast. I will always remember that day. The three of us and our horses. I couldn't walk right for weeks.
So, obviously I love horses. I just wanna kiss 'em right on the soft, whiskery lips.
Like I said, I love other animals as well. One time, I gave a newborn kitten mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. One of my parent's cats had given birth to a huge litter and one was super tiny and it just didn't have a chance. I tried so hard. It broke my heart. I made a little casket for it. :(
Another time, our cat Flea caught a little field mouse and was playing with it like cats do to torture their prey. I shooed her away and scooped the little guy up with a golasher. (I think the plural is golashes, but I don't know what a single boot is...I've always said golasher.) I took him away from Flea and held the boot upside down to let him slide out. He wasn't coming. I looked in there and he had all four limbs outstretched, clinging to the inside of the boot for dear life using some kind of Mission: Impossible technique. I, with the understanding that this little field mouse knew I had just saved his life and was trying to help him, reached my hand into the boot to grab him. The little cuss bit the fire out of me. I was mad. So........I gave him back to Flea. That's a dark stain in my past that I'm a little ashamed of.
When Dad would trap the armadillos that were digging up Mom's flower beds, I would give them food and water kind of like their last prison meals. I knew what was going to happen to them later that weekend, but at least I could make them comfy for now. (If you don't know what happens to armadillos on the weekend...I'll tell you later.)
These two dogs that lived near us growing up...well, I mean, they belonged to someone that lived near us. It's not like this dog couple lived in a 3 bedroom, 2 bath craftsman-style cottage nearby. But these two dogs would come and harass our goats. Yes, we had a herd of pet goats growing up. They were Nubian. I'll name them all for you at the end of this post, because I know you're dying to know. But, these two dogs (and you know I love dogs, but you don't mess with my own pets) would come and bite at them and chase them and it really irked me. So, one time, I climbed up in a tree with a bag of golf balls. And, as hard as I could, I pegged those mutts in the face until they ran away. It took them awhile to come back and when they did, I picked up our big cat, Nappy, and put him on the back of one of the dogs. It was like a cloud of fur and fangs and claws and black fury and yellow eyes. It was AWESOME. We never saw the dogs again. And Nappy lived another 11 years. Sara named him Nappy because he liked to take naps. If that's your reasoning, sister, all cats should be named Nappy. (Side whisper: we don't let her name animals anymore).
A few years ago, when I was working in an office, we were all in the creative suite. We kept hearing this little shrill Wreeee! Wreeee! I kept thinking it was a fly stuck between a window and blinds somewhere close. But it was pretty intense. I thought maybe it was the kids revolting in the daycare. Brandi started hearing it, too. Zack pulled his earphones out asking, "Is my music too loud?" Ann Claire offered, "I think it's something outside." We looked toward the front door, which we could see from our room. There was a huge, black crow hopping around by the glass windows. Brandi exclaimed, "Oh my gosh, you guys!" She jolted up from her chair. I followed her. That stupid crow had grabbed, carried, and tossed a little baby bunny into the corner of the front entrance. He was crying. That was the noise we heard. The crow kept jabbing at the bunny with his claws and beak. Brandi threw open the door, scaring the bird away. She took off her jacket and snuggled the little guy, who was covered with cuts. I drove and Brandi held the bunny as we went to the animal rehabilitation center. It was pitiful, but the people there said he would probably be just fine. When we got back to the office, Lee came in and said, "You guys ruined the circle of life. That was probably breakfast for the crow's family." And then I felt bad, because I was thinking about poor, sad, hungry little crow babies.
Mom doesn't super-like animals. Dad's fine with them. All of my siblings like them. Noah is slightly allergic to cats (there goes Melvin's theory). We grew up with cats, because Mom wanted them around to catch mice and snakes around the house, and they did. We had a Chow Chow named Coffee once, but he started eating the outside of the house, so they gave him to a family who had wanted a Chow. One of Dad's patients gave us one of his Golden Retriever puppies a few years later and we named her Maggie. We would put jackets on her. She was a sweet dog. Noah was 2 and Maggie loved Noah. So much so that she would tackle him whenever she saw him and smother him with love. Mom was worried for Noah's safety, so they gave her away to a farmer with lots of cows to herd and ducks to chase. I will always blame Noah. Another of Dad's patients gave him a slew of ducklings. Mom thought it'd be be fun and "pretty" to have them running around the outside of the house like a postcard. We raised them until they learned to fly. We let them out of the aviary. They went straight to the pool and blessed it with gallons of duck poo. Back to the aviary. Did you know that ducks lay eggs and more ducks come out of those? Seven ducklings turned into thirty adult ducks overnight. We didn't think it was fair to keep them in the aviary forever, so we released them at the river junction. Their ancestors are thriving there today. You can tell it's them because those ducks were U.G.L.Y. Then, we had our goats.
We started off with Blackberry and Strawberry. We borrowed a male goat from the guy that sold us the first two and Strawberry had Lily and Tulip. (I have to state that Mom declared it law that all goats would be named after a plant or berry or flower or tree.) We borrowed the male again, who we named Mr. Rogers (the only non-plant name), and all four goats got pregnant. Oh yeah...goats don't seem to care about that kind of stuff. It's one of those situations where "Daddy" is also "Uncle Grandpa." Most times, goats will have one or two babies at a time. Blackberry had quads. Sara and I delivered them. We have it on video. It's awesome. You see SO MUCH. And......yeah, you should never watch it. It's pretty gross. We had Mr. Rogers for about a year and ended up with a nice little tribe of female goats. We gave Mr. Rogers and all of the males back to the goat dealer. These were the names I remember. We had to get creative toward the end...Bluebelle, Buckeye (we had three Buckeyes total), Pine, Raspberry, Magnolia, Peach, Granola, Raisin...gosh, that's all I remember. We loved our goats. They would follow us everywhere in the woods and you could call them and they'd come running.
Anyways. That's my animal story(ies).