Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cujo at Peace

Over the last decade my friends & family have been extraordinarily patient with my deep devotion to my dog Jolie.  Nicknamed "Cujo" by my acquaintances, Jolie Greydor was a stray who came into my life while I was teaching at Groveport Madison.  I came home from school one day, and found a poor, straggly creature lying on the breezeway.  It was April 2nd of 2003, and one of those lovely spring days when it feels as though spring is in full bloom.  The black dog that had wandered to the farm, however, was far from enjoying life.  She was extremely malnourished, with cuts all over her paws, and very fearful of humans.  After I had nursed her back to health, a trip to the vet informed me that she was actually only about a year old, but her poor state had led me to believe she was an old dog.  In that time when I wondered if the pitiful creature would ever recover, I promised Jolie that I would give her a home until she died.  Last night I fulfilled that promise.

The best guess of the vet was that Jolie was half black lab and half greyhound -- with the worst characteristics of both.  She was a beautiful creature, so reminiscent of a lab until you saw her next to our black lab Duke -- and then realized how streamlined she was.  And what a runner!  To see Jolie in motion in her prime was breathtaking.  Unfortunately, I never knew what could have happened in the first year of her life before we found each other.  Whatever it was, though, led Jolie to be fearful and aggressive.  She was overly devoted to those she loved -- me, Mother, my brothers, Grandmother -- and overly protective of us.  I will admit that I always felt safe on the farm with that dog, and especially appreciated that Grandmother was protected when I was away from the farm.

The older Jolie got, however, she lost any decorum of behavior and began to suffer intensely from arthritis.  Every time I increased her medication or created a new protocol to keep her content, I knew it was just a matter of time until that solution failed.  By late summer, she could no longer jump in the truck.  She self-mutilated out of frustration over her joint pain.  Eventually Jolie could only be handled by a few people due to her aggression.  I knew the time was coming when I would have to say goodbye.

Yesterday morning when I took Jolie for her morning walk, I realized that her hip problem had intensified and she would not put weight on her back leg.  She was losing weight as it was, and no longer groomed herself properly.  I was aware that the impending cold weather would be difficult for her, and I could no longer justify asking her to stay with me.  Last night, my step-dad Joe came over and made sure that she went peacefully.  As hard as it was to say goodbye, I knew it was time.  I knew it was the best decision for Jolie, as much as it pained me.  She was loved, she had a good life, and she went quickly.

Harrisons have always loved our dogs, even one as capricious as Jolie.  I have an odd ability to love animals that most would deem unlovable.  I like to think that if I can find it in my heart to love such a creature, then maybe others can overlook my own human flaws and find it in their hearts to love me.  The manner in which we treat animals is a true reflection of our own humanity.  I hope that all animals -- and all people -- would be loved, fed, housed, and pass peacefully.  My mother and Jolie adored each other, so the most comforting thought for me is that they are now together.

This morning I took Cash Cat to the vet to be neutered.  Less than ten minutes after dropping him off, I received a call from the vet's office that he was a "Tasmanian Devil" and would require special sedation akin to what is used with wild animals.  I could only laugh.  Cujo may have gone to her reward, but she has left a powerful ninja cat in her stead to carry on our well-earned reputation that Harrison Farm always welcomes crazy creatures!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Iron Ladies

Ever since my childhood, I adored Margaret Thatcher.  As a girl growing up in the 1980s, it was fantastic to watch the evening news and see a woman who was a world leader.  My grandfather was a staunch Republican; his support for Reagan & Thatcher -- and his opposition to communism -- was a major influence on me.  When I learned that Margaret Thatcher and I shared a birthday (10/13), it further cemented my view that we were kindred spirits.  The death of Baroness Thatcher feels like a closing of my childhood, now that Reagan, John Paul II, and Thatcher have all passed on.

At the beginning of April, I had the pleasure of attending one of the meetings of the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation Board.  It has been an honor to represent Delaware, Franklin, Madison, and Union Counties, and now that I am in my second year I have gained a greater understanding of the operations of this board.  Amongst the many reports that came before the board at this session was a discussion of recommendations for the evolution of American Farm Bureau as an organization.  At a recent conference of Young Farmers & Ranchers, one of the top recommendations that emerged to streamline the organization was to discontinue the Women's Committee of American Farm Bureau.

Over lunch that day, discussion on this suggestion ensued.  Many gentlemen were surprised that young people would advocate for removing the potential leadership opportunities that women would have through this special committee.  During that discussion (only days before the Baroness would pass), it was Margaret Thatcher whose name I brought up.  As younger farmer -- and being in the unique position of being one of four women who serve as district trustees for the 22 Ohio Farm Bureau districts -- I have a different perspective on potential leadership roles.  Having grown up at a time when I routinely saw a female Prime Minister of Great Britain, I did not learn as a young person that there were any limitations to what a woman could achieve if she put her mind to it.  While I applaud the good work of the Women's Committee of American Farm Bureau, I am seeking equality of opportunity to serve as a leader.  Not equality of outcome, but of opportunity -- the ability to achieve as an individual, not based upon gender.  Women & men both serve as farmers, as business people, as professionals.  This is based upon personal success, and should be driven neither by bias against nor for one gender over another.

When Baroness Thatcher passed just days later, I was intrigued to reflect on this conversation.  As we live our lives, we never know how far-reaching our impact can be.  I am sure that during her career in Parliament, Baroness Thatcher could never have imagined the devotion with which a little farm girl in Ohio was following her achievements.  The Saturday after she passed was April 13th -- our half birthday.  In her honor, we held an "Iron Lady Party" at the farm.  I invited my closest local friends, who are truly an accomplished, remarkable group of women.  We dressed up in honor of the Baroness, grilled meats, drank wine, and smoked cigars.  It was a diverse group of women (not all of whom had met before), but the conversation flowed freely -- from history to women's issues to funny stories.

My friends inspire me with their activities and accomplishments.  As I looked around the table that night, I was amazed by everything that had been achieved by this group of women.  As unique as each of those ladies is, they are all driven by the belief that they can succeed in their chosen realm.  In this, Thatcher was a role model.  She did not expect to be limited by her gender, nor receive benefits because of it.  Thatcher showed us that a woman can achieve success in her chosen field, and still be a lady.   My favourite Thatcher quote: "Being powerful is like being a lady.  If you have to tell people you are, you aren't."  Amen.