animals, book reviews, nostalgia, religion

Exposing Bill to Black Beauty…

No, I’m not referring to the black pills or capsules filled with amphetamines, although there are times when I think Bill might benefit from a little speed. Kidding, of course… He’s just chronically tired, because he doesn’t sleep soundly.

No, not THESE Black Beauties.

I’m actually referring to the book, Black Beauty, by Anna Sewell. It was one of my favorite books when I was a child. In those days, I was certifiably horse crazy. My sisters had passed down several copies of the 1877 novel, which was English author Anna Sewell’s only book. I read it countless times when I was growing up. Curiously, Bill was never exposed to this children’s literature staple. He says it’s because he was reading “adult” books when he was a child. I would say that although Black Beauty is a supposed children’s book, there is much value in it for adults, too. Not only is it a good reminder that animals are sentient beings with thoughts and feelings, but there’s also a lot of wisdom in it that is surprisingly timely today.

Anna Sewell spent several years writing Black Beauty, as she was an invalid who was very ill during the last years of her life. Anna was not able to stand or walk for very long distances, owing to an accident she had when she was 14 that injured both of her ankles. She relied on horse drawn carriages to get around, which caused her to love and respect horses very much. Sadly, Anna died at age 57, only five months after her book was published. She did, however, live long enough to see its initial success. Black Beauty is now one of the most popular and best-selling books of all time. And yet, Bill hasn’t even seen any of the movies, or the 70s British television show. I used to love watching Black Beauty on Nickelodeon in the 80s, when I was a pre-teen.

The TV theme for the show based on the novel.

I don’t remember what prompted me to buy a Kindle version of Black Beauty last night and start reading it to Bill. I knew that more than once, I had told him he needed to read the book. He kept expressing interest whenever I mentioned it, but never got around to taking my suggestion. He was always too sleepy!

I finally took it upon myself to read it to him, so I knew he was exposed to the story. Sure enough, he was very quickly hooked. Black Beauty is a very engaging book, even for men in their late 50s. Bill loves animals, and this is a book that isn’t just about horses, but also other creatures. It’s a plea against cruelty, and a reminder that religion doesn’t necessarily determine someone’s value as a person. For instance, this morning, I read this in the final paragraph of Chapter 13:

“Your master never taught you a truer thing,” said John; “there is no religion without love, and people may talk as much as they like about their religion, but if it does not teach them to be good and kind to man and beast it is all a sham—all a sham, James, and it won’t stand when things come to be turned inside out.”

Sewell, Anna. Black Beauty (p. 46). True Sign Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

As I read that, all I could think was that it was such a timely quote, given how things are today, in 2022. Anna Sewell was definitely a wise and intelligent woman, ahead of her time. I think about all of the so-called religious people– especially certain “Christians”– who claim a moral high ground because of their religious beliefs. And yet some of those people are the biggest liars, social climbers, and hypocrites ever! Give me a kindhearted atheist, any day.

Anna Sewell hadn’t meant for her book to be for children. She had wanted to increase awareness of animal welfare and promote kindness and sympathy, particularly toward horses, but likely also toward everyone and everything that lives. She even expressed consideration for flies in her book, as she wrote a story about a mean spirited boy named Bill who was cruel to his pony, and was once caught pulling the wings off of flies in a window sill. God knows, I’ve killed some flies in my day, but I don’t torture them. Hell, the other day, a bee landed in my beer and I helped the poor drunken fellow out to recover. Of course, it’s illegal to kill bees in Germany, anyway.

We’re already up to chapter 14. I’m determined to introduce Bill to this story, once and for all. I don’t think he’ll be sorry. I feel lucky to have such a patient and kind husband, who doesn’t mind indulging my idiosyncrasies and letting me read to him. The chapters are pretty short, which is a nice thing. It makes it easier to stop. I have read this book so many times, yet it never gets old. It truly is a great story. In its day, it helped change people’s attitudes about animals and how they are treated. Sewell’s commentary about “bearing reins”, which were used to force horses to keep their heads high, even led to their use being banned in the United Kingdom and the United States.

Besides reading books from the 19th century, we might also venture out today, since I’m not contagious anymore. I do still have a slight cough, but cold weather will be upon us before we know it. What I’d really like to do is find a nice hike to a waterfall, like we did when we lived near Stuttgart. Unfortunately, I don’t think we have too many near us. On the other hand, we didn’t really have any near us down in BW, either. We were just more willing to go out, because there wasn’t a pandemic going on. Germany’s rules have loosened a lot, but we’ve kind of lost the desire to go out as much anymore. And now, I can’t see COVID as an abstract threat, because I just got over it myself.

I’m also still working on reading Revenge, but I expect to be done with that book very soon. I look forward to dishing. In the meantime, below is a link to the abridged Kindle version of Black Beauty I’m reading. It’s only 60 cents! If you purchase it through the below link, I will get a pittance in commissions from Amazon. 😉

Standard
dogs, ethics, Ex, true crime

I’m calling it “puppy love”, and thinking it would be a doggone shame…

Hello from rainy Antwerp, Belgium. I took yesterday off, save for a short post on my travel blog, because Bill and I were having so much fun walking around the town. There was some kind of festival going on in the big square that went on all day, with lots of drinking, dancing, and carousing. It was fun to watch. Bill also rode on a ferris wheel for the first time, ever. That was a pretty big deal. We ended the evening at a piano bar, where we were poorly dressed, but managed to have a good time, anyway.

It’s hard to believe that I’m turning 50 tomorrow. I look back on my long history, and realize that my life is likely over half over. My Granny managed to live until she was almost 101 years old, but I doubt I will live that long. In fact, I hope I don’t. Granny had people to help take care of her. I don’t think I’ll have that. She was also much beloved by many. I know I won’t have that.

I don’t yet have much to say about turning 50. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll have more than a couple of comments. All I know is that my body is a lot more padded than I’d like it to be; I need new glasses and contacts; and sometimes my ankles swell up. They did when we were in Italy. Happily, they’re not doing that in Belgium.

Although we’ve been busy, I did take a moment to check on Ex and see what she’s up to… I have to say, I didn’t like what I saw.

Ex is still howling about wanting a dog for her “severely autistic son”. Under ordinary circumstances, that would probably be okay. Unfortunately, nothing about Ex is ordinary. She’s not your garden variety harmless person who loves normally. She is very likely a narcissist, which is bad news for any living thing in her sphere.

I had to gape in disbelief yesterday, when I noticed a couple of recent tweets by Ex. She’s still going on about getting a dog, and even falsely claims to be a “dog rescuer”. She doesn’t rescue dogs, and never has. As a matter of fact, she had a dog when Bill left– a little elderly poodle named Fifi whom she’d inherited from a relative who died. Bill liked Fifi. She was friendly and sweet. He said that when he visited the kids once, early after the breakup, Fifi still remembered him.

Bill was horrified later, when he heard from ex stepson that #3 got really angry one day and kicked Fifi so hard that she lost an eye. Bill asked Ex what happened, having related to her what he’d heard about Fifi from ex stepson. She got all sarcastic and pissy, and said, “That never happened.”

A few years later, when I stumbled across the evidence of what ex stepson was planning– changing his surname without telling Bill– I looked up #3 in the court system. Sure enough, there was an animal cruelty charge listed for him. I think the fact that #3 kicked a dog so hard that she lost an eye should exclude Ex and #3 from ever having pets again. Ex doesn’t agree, though. Recently, she tweeted this:

How?

Next, she claims she’s always been a “dog rescue momma”… But she has only had one dog that we know of, and that dog lost an eye because her husband couldn’t control himself. Notice that she’s asking for “help”, too. Help with what? Money, no doubt. Edited to add: We have since learned that they did have a dog for awhile, but he died of heart disease.

No, Ex. You don’t need to get a dog. You also have never been one to take suggestions from anyone.

No, you haven’t always been a “rescue dog momma”, Ex. Bill and I have always had rescue dogs.

Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t care too much about this. But it’s just another example of the tremendous lies she puts out to the masses. Sometimes it seems like she lies, even when it would be easier to just tell the truth. And she’s still running a crowdfund campaign for a “new fence”, but no one is contributing to it.

I can’t help but notice that, once again, it seems like Ex is kind of emulating me. There are a number of “coincidences” that have come up in the 20 years I’ve known about her. Like, she went to grad school– or so she claims– to get a master’s degree after I told her in my one email to her that she shouldn’t be “diagnosing” Bill as a woman hater. He’s the exact opposite of a woman hater. And she didn’t used to be so excited about Scotland, but then about ten years ago, we started going there, because of my heritage. Now, suddenly, she’s in a famous clan… a famous clan that declined to raise her and put her up for adoption. :/

Now, she’s claiming to be a “dog rescue momma”, when we have not seen any evidence of that. Bill has known her since she was a teenager, and she’s only had the one dog… Fifi. And poor Fifi got abused by #3. Ex is claiming now that she wants a puppy to train as a service animal for her son. And yet, in her crowdfunding campaign, she writes that her son has escaped the house several times, once without pants. What will happen if, while she’s training the dog, it runs out and gets hit by a car? What happens if her son gets super attached to the dog, and the dog becomes a victim of negligence, or her husband’s evident inability to control himself when he’s angry?

I’m sure there’s a psychological name for people who can’t develop their own identities… It seems like she’s an empty shell of a person, always trying to fill the void with new things and new interests. But it never works. I just worry that a dog, who would be helpless against Ex, could really suffer in her “care”. According to reliable sources, Ex isn’t the one who does the heavy lifting, particularly when it comes to taking care of her son. That duty mostly falls to older daughter now, since younger daughter flew the coop… after Ex feigned a suicide attempt.

I do think it would be a tragedy if an innocent dog was brought into the mix. It won’t fix things. And if Ex is disappointed by the hard work, expense, and responsibility of taking care of a dog, it will just end up discarded.

I want to point out one other thing… something kind of sinister. Ex bears a resemblance to another woman… a woman who is now sitting in jail, awaiting trial for the disappearance and death of her children. I recently reviewed a book about Lori Vallow Daybell, and her crazy life. Ex has a few things in common with her. She’s had dealings with the LDS church. She’s been married multiple times and has children by different fathers. She’s big into fantasy… and she has an autistic child. Lori Vallow Daybell’s adopted son, J.J., was autistic and had a service dog. Days before J.J. disappeared and was murdered, likely by Lori’s fifth husband, doomsday Mormon author, Chad Daybell, Lori got rid of the dog. I could see Ex doing the same, when the dog becomes too inconvenient, expensive, or drains too much of her narcissistic supply.

So count me among those who are silently hoping Ex doesn’t get what she claims to want. I don’t think it would be good. Hopefully, any dog people who get contacted by Ex will be wise enough to steer clear.

Anyway… just had to get that off my chest. Time to continue my birthday celebration… which will proceed with a nap. 😉

Standard
dogs, lessons learned, love

Hugo and Viva put things in perspective…

This post also appears on my travel blog.

I was really struggling for something to write about today. I wanted to write something nice… something non-depressing. I wanted to write something different than my usual stuff. As I was enjoying lunch with Bill, I happened across a new video posted about a disabled dog I’ve been following on Facebook. His name is Hugo, and he has a Facebook page all of his own.

I first became aware of Hugo when my German friend, Susanne, shared his story with me. Hugo was born in Romania, where there is a big problem with stray dogs. Someone very cruel wanted Hugo dead, and decided he should die in an incredibly inhumane way. This person took Hugo to a pile of snow, tied up his legs with wire, and left him there to suffer as he waited to die in agony. No one knows how long he was left like that. Although the dog did manage to free himself, unfortunately, when he was found, all four of his feet were necrotic. The vets in Romania could see that Hugo was a fighter, so they decided not to euthanize him. But all four of his paws had to be amputated, leaving him with stumps that didn’t want to heal too easily.

Hugo’s story… in German.

For six months, Hugo was unable to stand up, and he lost a lot of muscle. He was eventually adopted by a German woman who lives in Baden-Württemberg. Unfortunately, the stumps were miserable for Hugo. His new “mom” tried everything she could think of to help him. One day, she asked for ideas about how to cover his stumps on Facebook. A local shoemaker named Daniel came to the rescue and made custom shoes for Hugo. The shoes made all the difference. Hugo can now walk and run, although the shoes have to be repaired occasionally. Daniel did this work for free– unless you count the chocolate he was given by Hugo’s grateful family, who make it a habit to adopt special needs dogs.

On December 12, Hugo’s family visited the Tierheim (animal shelter) in Heilbronn, where they found a little dog named Viva who has no hind legs and gets around using a “wheelchair”. Hugo came along for the ride so he could meet Viva. Apparently Hugo liked Viva just fine and was happy to have a new “sister”. Viva became part of Hugo’s family, along with an existing blind dog named Bertl. Another dog, still in Romania, will soon be joining these three. And how are Hugo and Viva getting along? See for yourself! Bertl is also in the video, but plays a supporting role.

When I saw the video I linked above, my heart just melted. These two dogs don’t seem to realize that they’re in any way “handicapped”. They’re happy as they can be to be able to play together in a loving home. And they’re able to play pretty much as if they were both completely normal dogs.

Maybe I should think about Hugo and his friends next time I’m feeling depressed and incompetent. A lot of people would have euthanized Hugo when they saw how badly injured he was when he was found in Romania. But he was given a chance and he’s risen to the occasion. The same goes for little Viva, who is certainly living up to her name. Both of these dogs have indomitable spirits, and they have been able to thrive thanks to the loving care of good people who were willing to find a way to surmount what must have seemed like insurmountable problems.

There are some really terrible people in the world. People who have no qualms about screwing over their neighbors to get what they want. People who would resort to violence and threats to get their way. People who are abusive and mean, who lie, cheat, and steal, or commit violent acts against innocents.

But there are also people who would help dogs like Viva and Hugo, and do whatever it takes to give them a good and loving home with an excellent quality of life. And there are kind people like Daniel who want to help, and create special shoes that not only helped Hugo, but also provide a precedent for another animal who might be in the same predicament. My heart is so full after watching these two beautiful animals play together, so happy and carefree, and really wishing for nothing more than what they already have. We could all learn a lot from them.

Incidentally, our own rescue dogs are doing great, too. Noyzi, our pooch from Kosovo, is getting more and more acclimated by the day. This morning, I let him out to pee and he got a sudden burst of crazy dog and went tearing around the garden at top speed. You’d have to see him in person to understand what that looks like. Noyzi is a big boy, so he can cross our backyard in just a few strides. But he’s quick and agile and can turn on a dime. He was especially animated this morning, and kept dive bombing Bill’s empty garden plot, which is still full of soil. When he was finished getting the tickles out of his feet, he came back inside and relaxed, very contented and happy.

Noyzi has discovered people food. He’s a fan.

I have never once regretted adopting any of the dogs we’ve had. Noyzi has been especially rewarding to get to know. He’s come so far in just under three months. He’s still afraid of Bill, but every day, he’s a little bit less so. It’s obvious that he loves having a family and a nice warm bed of his own. It’s an honor to be able to provide that for him.

Standard