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The Horse Nipperer

Sunday, June 22, 2008

My neighbor, Jane Augenstein, has a glorious horse named Gilly. She got him from a rescue group, which had found him starving with a bunch of other horses in a muddy paddock. His hair stood straight out from his body; his bones showed through his skin, and he was desperately trying to grow (he was just a foal) without much at all to eat.

Jane has worked with him now for five years, and he's grown up to be a splendid, strong animal. Though she'd never owned a horse before, she trained him and gentled him with the help of her neighbor, Kim, another equestrienne friend, and a lot of reading and videos from horse whisperers. Now, she rides him without a bit, and he is the light of her life, standing 16 muscle-packed hands tall. He's a mix, with some quarter horse, some Tennessee walker, and probably some draft blood somewhere back in there, to judge from the heft of his bones and the size of his feet.

One afternoon, Jane and Kim (on Lacey, her lovely, gentle Appaloosa) came to visit. Baker found them first. This is not as I would have wanted it, since Baker's never been around a horse. But he raced out the driveway, barking, and circled around them.

At first, he just stood them off, barking. This is the biggest animal he'd ever been up close to.
Thank goodness, both Lacey and Gilley are well-used to dogs, and seemed bemused by Chet's excitement.
Chet sniffed and sniffed. He couldn't get enough of that good horsey smell, and the feel of that velvet muzzle. When horses meet, they touch nostrils, and exchange breath, breathing each other's exhalations. It's a nice way to greet a horse, to breathe the warm, grassy breath of their lungs, to touch that plushy skin with your nose.
Baker trembled with excitement, fear, playfulness, and not knowing what to do with it all. Gilly was patient. For whatever reason, Chet's entire focus was Gilly; he barely sniffed at Lacey, perhaps because Lacey ignored him; perhaps because Gilly returned his interest. Chet's always hoping someone will want to play with him. I think he and Gilly are brothers from another mother.
When Gilly would raise his head, Chet would leap up, trying to touch noses, and twice he nipped Gilly's nose. Bad idea, Chet Baker. At the first nip, Gilly jerked his head up and looked down on Chet with surprise. At the second, he laid down the law. He snorted loudly and planted one enormous hoof right next to Chet--STOMP! The message was clear. Try that again and I'll turn you into a spot of grease on your driveway, kid. I was glad for Chet to learn a little bit about horses, though I think he's a long way from wise about them. His devil-may-care terrier half comes through loud and clear. Note that his tail antenna is straight out. I think he got the transmission. I love this picture, even though I missed the actual stomp.

This post makes me miss Chet Baker something awful. I have been Bakerless for 9 days, and I have another 8 to go. We're home for less than 24 hours. Baker remains happily ensconced with our friends David and Mary Jane. This morning's report has him helping with gardening and on constant chipmunk patrol in the yard and woods. He is also eating well, getting enough kisses, enjoying two hikes a day and rides in the car. Sigh. I need a Chetfix, but it would only confuse him and make me want to smuggle him in my carryon to Utah. And I wouldn't do that to any dog, much less the Tennessee Turd-Tail. If I could just bury my nose between his shoulder blades and fall asleep holding him, I think everything would be right with the world.

Our homeward bound experience with JetBlue was not as bad as the outbound; we just idled on the dark runway, stacked up behind 15 other jets, breathing hot diesel, for an hour and 45 minutes at JFK, and then they misplaced my suitcases. We got to Pittsburgh around midnight last night, and were just too tired to drive the 2 1/2 hours home, so we sighed and quietly coughed up another $180 to stay at the airport hotel. Bill and I put the kids in a hot tub and went downstairs to have a drink and get some chicken wings to take back up to the room for our midnight dinner.

When we travel anymore I feel like Scrooge McDuck, watching his precious $100 bills flapping little wings as they fly up toward heaven. You'd think, as expensive as flying is, that you might expect to reach your destination feeling a little better than roadkill, but I now understand that expecting to reach your destination when promised, or to reach your destination at all, is really expecting a bit too much. I hope they get my suitcases here before we leave for Utah. That would be nice. They have 19 hours to do it. But again, probably expecting too much. Flying in the age of fuel shortages is all about having contingency plans, and waiting for the proverbial shoe to drop right onto your fold-out tray, spilling your plastic tumbler of warm tomato juice all over the only outfit you have.

Having said that, Hog Island was terrific, and we showed 29 people a fine time. The kids were a delight to be with, and seeing the two of them sitting together on a boulder, watching the solstice high tide come rushing in, was a beautiful sight. Time to rustle lunch and mow before it rains. More horses and dogs tomorrow!


The equine-canine meeting of the minds makes me think of a very, very short animated film I saw in college called, "Bambi Meets Godzilla".
I'm glad Baker's near stomp experience turned out better than Bambi's.

Those are two beautiful horses and one cute dog.

Do you think Baker would have allowed a stomp? Not! He's too quick for that... Don't underestimate his smarts cause he has plenty of them. A terrier, you know. Chloe has a turd tail, too.

While you are all missing him so much he's enjoying life with your wonderful friends, so take comfort in knowing that. My gut would be sick, too :o)

I wish you easy traveling and a happy homecoming with all suitcases loaded in the back of the car. Perhaps July will be the month for kicking off the shoes and sipping Merlot in the evening?


Would love to know exactly what thoughts went thru Chet's mind during that encounter (I suspect he thinks of himself as a much bigger critter than what he is)...

Ahhh...breathe, breathe, breathe. I am reminding myself, too, since I was tensing up just reading the hectic pace.

The Baker/Gilly moment is priceless.

Have fun in Utah. There is a non-stop from Salt Lake to Anchorage if you get a wild hair!

You can practically see Chet quiver in those pictures. Hilarious.

As for your frustrating flight experience, if only we could chalk it up to a fuel shortage. Up here, we've seen what used to be a fantastic national airline descend over the last ten years to the absolute nadir of customer service, all in the name of profit (or greed). Companies like JetBlue or Air Canada count on the public perception of an oil shortage as an excuse for declining customer service.

Easy to tell it's flying season!! Hope things go smoother for you from hereon in.

I'd love to tell you that JetBlue got my bags here, but they didn't. Just couldn't make it happen in the 24 hours they had to get them from Pittsburgh to Whipple. Now, they're flying my suitcases out to Salt Lake City, and promising to deliver them to our hotel. Oh, goody. Dirty clothes from Maine, along with the boots and outerwear we need. Because I have lost all faith in JetBlue, I have packed a contingency suitcase. Because the script for the keynote I'm giving to the American Birding Association is in one of those suitcases, I've recreated it this morning. I hope I see those suitcases someday. My Irish flute is in one of them.

By my current calculations, JetBlue's incompetence has cost us somewhere around $600 additional in hotels, meals, rental cars and extra bag fees.

I now completely understand people who declare, "I won't fly. If I can't drive there, I'm not going."

That's why we drove to North Dakota, Utah, that's another story.

Hope you get back sane.

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