Category Archives: Animals

Lost Dog: The Hopes of Saving Addie

15826392_1526907177338552_3601472285197357349_n
Some humans possess a genetic disposition to love dogs. Like my wife Patricia, they join humane societies, manage dog parks, and respond viscerally to lost-dog reports.

On New Year’s Eve, 2017, a vacationing young couple from Atlanta, Georgia were in the Blue Ridge Mountains resort town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina, when somehow Addie, their four-year-old, six-pound longhaired dapple dachshund ventured out into the night. As a desperate search began on the small town streets, an alarm went out on social media that caused people like my wife to take immediate action.

By the fourth search day, more than thirty volunteers encountered the dog owners and their fellow searchers in a cemetery (during a funeral) and in a ski area subdivision where Addie had been spotted. The very timid dog, however, continued to elude every attempt to catch her.

As the search continued into a second week, the owners had reluctantly returned home, but the Facebook pages devoted to Addie, as well as the barrage of texts, reported the search activities on an almost minute-by-minute basis. Day and night, “Addie’s Angels,” as the volunteers came to be called, kept faith in the hopes of saving the small elusive dog.

15975168_10154868576948232_2370324261216192237_o

Emily and Charles Heuer reunited with Addie. Photo by Erin Shelnutt.

Through a snowstorm and bitter cold nights, “Addie’s Angels” remained of one heart, one mind, and one purpose. Finally, at about 7 pm on Friday, January 13th, Addie was caught in a humane trap set in the crawl space under a burned house in the suspect area. The joyous news spread quickly to the “Angels,” and their relief was often bathed in tears.

15941438_10154868694283232_8974875119152005080_n

Some of “Addie’s Angels” at the clinic.

The next morning, the owner couple arrived from Atlanta to be reunited with Addie at an animal emergency clinic. About twenty of “Addie’s Angels” were on hand to greet them and to share in their reunion.

16143324_10154880373408232_2887012920334753352_n

Photo by Susanna Russell

16105640_10211339958552584_8705860510872162627_n

Addie’s Reception. Photo by Donna Hunsinger

 

One of the “Angels” arranged for the owners to have a pet-friendly hotel suite that night.

A meeting room space was also donated, and area food and beverage establishments furnished refreshments for an afternoon party to which all the volunteer searchers were invited.

The owner couple was overcome by the generosity of the mountain community, and sincere bonds of friendship were forged by the common experience of the previous two weeks.

I was merely the support person behind “Angel”searcher Patricia Joynes, but I did get to witness the reunion with Addie at the animal emergency clinic. As my wife and I talked about the emotional impact of her experience, she suggested that it could be the genesis of a poem.

And so it became:

img_1672

Photo by Patricia Joynes

The Hopes of Saving Addie

A New Year’s Eve vacation
in Blowing Rock, a resort
town in the Blue Ridge Mountains,
turned desperate by the loss of Addie,
a very timid dapple dachshund.

Only four years old and six pounds,
her black and gray long-hair coat
and tan colored face would soon
appear on Facebook and on wanted posters.

Find Addie became a social media cry
and over four hundred people “liked” and “shared”
while more than fifty searched
where early volunteers had seen her
in a cemetery woods and
the crest of a ski mountain.

Into the second week of sightings
and unsuccessful chases,
the forecast of a snow storm
made Addie’s Angels fearful
for her survival against the cold
and the potential of predatory coyotes.

Small animal traps baited
with Vienna sausage and rotisserie chicken
had only caught raccoons and feral cats,
but those bonded to Addie
and to each other by the search
kept faith and continued.

The police and fire departments,
The Humane Society and Animal Control
supported the volunteers with
infrared lights and night patrols
as the second week passed.

A crawl space under a burned house
was a suspected refuge for Addie,
and so multiple traps were set.
Then the night exploded in tears
with the news of her capture,
and she was taken in her trap
to an animal emergency clinic.

Her human companions arrived
for their reunion with Addie
the next morning and found
nearly twenty of Addie’s Angels waiting
to celebrate her safe return with them.

The joy of their common thanksgiving
was monumental as the bonds
of new friendships were on display.
Some termed it supernatural
in the way Addie had brought
them together in a winter
of such American social discontent.

A tiny dog had united all factions
in a common unselfish purpose.
In those fearful days
no one was separate from
the hopes of saving Addie.

15977646_10211339939232101_809344152462353404_n

Addie with her new squeaky ball at her reunion reception. Photo by Donna Hunsinger.

1 Comment

Filed under Animals, Poetry, Writing

Dogs – Life’s Companions – Part 2 – Mili and Heidi

img_0496    It took a full year of mourning before Pat and I could consider another dog. Again we looked to the Watauga Humane Society shelter for an adoption. Pat made the heart connection to a small Pekingese-type female who had a distinctive under bite. As we processed the adoption, the shelter manager informed us that our new dog had been diagnosed with third-stage heartworms. Our adoption would require us to see the little princess through a risky two-stage treatment to kill the heartworms. We were warned that some dogs do not survive the treatment, which necessitated two extended periods of guarded non-activity. We accepted the responsibility and named our new family member Mili after a close veterinary doctor friend who had helped us care for Angel.

img_1232

Mili

Mili came through the heartworm treatment, and her personality emerged as a feisty little girl who was not easily affectionate. She nevertheless became Pat’s shadow as if she recognized the person who had chosen to save her. Mili regained her strength, energy, and endurance and became Pat’s companion on five-mile hikes from Bass Lake to the Moses Cone Manor on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Our long-haired friend was never a lap dog. She rather had an almost cat-like posture of independence. Mili soon settled into our household routine as Pat and I worked the literary life from our home office. None of us expected the arrival of a second dog.

img_5995

I was sitting on the bench rocker across from Angel’s shrine when a medium-size, tan, short hair female hound-like dog came down our street and shyly entered our front yard. I spoke a greeting to her, and she approached and then jumped up on the bench beside me. I reached out to pet her, and she put her head onto my lap. That was the scene that Pat witnessed when she pulled into our semi-circular front driveway. We both had questions concerning our collarless visitor who demonstrated a sweet, affectionate disposition. We fed and watered her, but we would not take her into the house for fear of Mili’s reaction. Then with night coming, I retrieved a large travel kennel from storage and fitted it with blankets to warm the dog against an early spring chill. The kennel was placed outside our front door on a covered porch.

the-hills-are-alive

Heidi on a mountain hike

The next day, Pat began to search for the strayed dog’s owner. She did all the responsible things including posted and email notices, and “lost dog” newspaper ads, with no results. Pat then advised me that the dog’s teats indicated that she was pregnant or that she had recently had puppies. Her pregnancy was later confirmed when we took her for a vet examination. As the weeks passed, we were drifting into the “strayed and stayed” dog care category. When a freeze warning was issued for our area, we decided to bring the new dog, whom we had identified as a mountain feist breed, off the porch and into the house.

6-14-2007-02

Heidi and her litter of pups

The critical moment arrived as Mili confronted the new arrival. Mili may have smelled the vulnerability of the pregnant visitor whose size was not overwhelming and allowed the intrusion. Thus a new dog bed was provided for the stray that stayed, and she was named Heidi. Within a few weeks, Heidi birthed five puppies in our living room, with Mili in curious attendance. When the puppies were mature, they went for quick adoption at the Humane Society, but Heidi was too closely involved with us to go with them.

Mili and Heidi were frequent visitors to the Humane Society’s Arko Dog Park. Heidi was very social and ran free with the other dogs. Mili stayed close to Pat and could even dissuade a Great Dane who wanted to sniff her. Mili and Heidi were a pair of odd step-sisters.heidi-and-mili-2

The first time Heidi was taken on a hike, it was apparent that she had not been trained on a leash. She proved to be, however, a lovable companion who liked to be covered with a blanket when on the sofa or in her bed. No one could approach the house without Heidi sounding the alert. Mili would join the outcry, but Heidi got credit for being the major watchdog.

IMG_0932.JPG

Mili had been with us eleven years when she was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Our dearest friend, Tennessee veterinarian Mildred Bass, monitored the surgery progress and the subsequent holistic treatment, but our little feisty friend could not beat the cancer. Brave and remarkably active, she survived seven months longer than the surgeon’s most optimistic expectations. Pat’s constant care and Mili Bass’s recommended herbal medications, we feel, extended her life, and when she passed, it was mercifully only after a few hours of distress on her final day following her visit to the dog park. For weeks after, Heidi searched the house for Mili every time that Pat and I called her to go out.

Doggies in the Window 5-1-2015 2-05-00 PM 2353x1964.jpg

There is the possibility that we will outlive Heidi and that her loss will be another mournful event. Her cremated remains will be added to those of Angel and Mili on our property, and we will miss her. The emptiness of the house, however, will lead us back to the Humane Society shelter to find another dog companion. There are both responsibility and cost involved in living with a dog, but even as septuagenarians, we want to share our home with a four-legged friend.

 

3 Comments

Filed under Animals, Family, Memoirs, Writing

Dogs – Life’s Companions – Part 1 – Angel

Angel in the Driveway We never own our dogs. We only reside with them by ancient covenants that bond us. Life is defined by events that include both joy and pain. All human emotions apply in our close relationships with our dogs. It is thus appropriate that we honor these special friends as we would our beloved human family members with stories, photos, monuments, and sincere reflections of gratitude.

Pat and I have already had three canine companions in our married life, and they have been as dear to us as our own three daughters. A super intelligent Border collie came to us as an overnight guest after she had been spayed by the Watauga County (North Carolina) Humane Society. Pat, a member of the board at that time, and I were delivering blankets and needful supplies to the animal shelter when a member, who had just returned from the vet with a small black dog just out of surgery, approached us. She said that she did not want to return the still groggy female to the kennels and begged us to take her home for overnight care.Angel on sofa

We were then living in a rented condo that specified no pets, but we thought that we might get away with a one-night stay. We tried to bed the little dog down in a bathroom with a barrier at the door, but the dog jumped over it, and her incision site began to bleed. As a former Army veteran with medic training, I took the dog onto my lap to bandage her. She was so patient and trusting that we were amazed, and Pat remarked that she was an angel. That night we realized we were hooked, and that we must adopt her, so we arranged with our landlord to keep her at an added deposit fee. Her name was self-evident. She was Angel.

Angel and MontyAngel was seldom on a leash, and she went to work with us every day. At that time we had a retail store with an upstairs office, so Angel was both our home and office dog. Angel loved to leap into my lap as soon as I sat in my easy chair at home. She could be trusted to be let out to do her necessary business, never crossing the street or wandering off.

Angel was a wonderful hiking companion on the Blue Ridge Parkway trails. She kept us in sight and never got into trouble when presented with other dogs. In a high mountain meadow she delighted us as she raced in a zigzag pattern as if to raise quail or sheep from the high grass. For fourteen years she was our constant, ever faithful, ever loving companion. Her disposition was always playful and affectionate, and she was obviously the smartest dog we had ever known.

Angel gazing

The last months of Angel’s life, however, were challenging as she struggled with cancer. Her passing was mourned as that of a beloved family member. To memorialize her, we erected a wooden black silhouette of her wearing her collar and tags at the foot of a granite gravestone engraved with her name. The shrine site sits in a front-yard garden across from a two-person rocking chair bench. In this way, we daily honor and remember a wonderful friend who happened to be a Border collie.

IMG_5992

8 Comments

Filed under Animals, Family, Memoirs, Writing

Carl Sandburg and My First Poem

Carl Sandburg portrait

Carl Sandburg portrait by William Smith, 1959

I had no idea who Carl Sandburg was when my distant and pretty cousin led the way on horseback from the stables along a mountain trail to Connemara, a goat dairy farm in Flat Rock, North Carolina. My father had brought our family to nearby Hendersonville to visit a favorite cousin who owned a restored antebellum restaurant and inn. We ate supreme southern cooking in the historic restaurant but stayed overnight in the cousin’s home. Their sophisticated daughter was put in charge of showing me the sights. We matched ages at fifteen.

Connemara home

Connemara

The horse trail emerged a distance from the goat pens and the dairy barn to the back of the owner’s residence. There was a low picket fence to keep out the goats. Mrs. Sandburg was a celebrated goat breeder, and she operated this premiere goat dairy farm from 1935 until her husband’s death in 1967.

Goats at Connemara

Goats at Connemara

My cousin halted her horse at the low fence and addressed an elderly man who was sitting in a high-backed chair on the long wooden porch. He had a stack of magazines at his feet, and he put down a copy of Look Magazine when she spoke to him. It was clear to me that he recognized her as a neighbor child, and I was introduced as a visiting cousin. Mr. Sandburg’s face was angular and his frame had the narrowness of hard labor. His shock of parted white hair seemed somehow biblical to me. Maybe the Old Testament Moses looked like him.

We were not offered to dismount, so the conversation was brief, and it ended when Mr. Sandburg said something like, “I guess you best be going,” and the Look Magazine was brought up to cover his face. In 1956, as young teenagers, we were not offended as we turned our horses and rode away.

Later in high school, I was taught about Carl Sandburg and read a few of his poems and excerpts from his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Abraham Lincoln: The War Years. He also won two additional Pulitzers for his poetry. Much later in my life, while doing post-graduate literary work in Sweden, I became aware that Mr. Sandburg was the son of Swedish immigrants to the United States.

Carl Sandburg bw National Park Service

Carl Sandburg

When I met Carl Sandburg, I was saying that I intended to become a medical doctor, and that intention continued as I entered the University of Virginia. But my ambitions changed, and I became a writer of novels, biographies, and poems that include the libretto for a classical music oratorio.

At some mature reflective moment, I realized that I had composed my first poem on the day after meeting Carl Sandburg. I had no literary goals at age fifteen; and being unaware of Mr. Sandburg’s greatness, I could claim no porch-front benediction from him. Nevertheless, I wrote an honest expression of the heart with no anticipation of writing hundreds more.

Many years later, I brought my wife Pat to Flat Rock and took the National Park Service tour of the Sandburg home and grounds. In the attic of the house was Mr. Sandburg’s reading retreat, and there was a straight-back chair amid piles of Look and Life magazines. Outside the house, I took the opportunity to stand at the back porch and recite my first poem to Pat. It is still the only poem of mine that I can recite spontaneously from memory. So wherever you are, my sweet and endearing cousin, thank you for that horse ride into poetry.

Connemara lake with Sandburg photo

Carl Sandburg’s home

        AFTER AN ACQUAINTANCE

                          by Monty Joynes

 You meet and then you part.

 An empty feeling grips your heart.

You’re sure a friendship

Could have grown,

If time had ceased and

You had known

A love so true could

Make you cry.

But a bit of your heart

Did die

After an acquaintance.

 

 

 

 

 

3 Comments

Filed under Animals, Famous People, Memoirs, Poetry, Writing

The Use of Remembrance in Storytelling

In writing the unpublished novel BOY AT SEA, based on my personal experiences of going to sea on a Norwegian coal freighter as a third cook when I was 16 years old, I also used family characters and events to give depth to the 1950s narrative era.

One of the most vivid memories of childhood is when I assisted my father in performing cancer surgery on my grandfather’s dog.  This is that story.

HIS FATHER AND DOGS

Buddy James’s father was a reticent storyteller.  He seldom spoke about his manhood.  What few insights were given were told from his childhood.  At age six, Glenn James had driven his father’s Model A Ford out of its shed, circled a huge plum tree at the side yard in sight of the Fairgrounds fence, and then parked it back in the garage.  When he told his father what he had done, he was admonished not to invent fantasies.  Glenn then required the entire family, including his two older brothers and two older sisters, to witness the feat done a second time.

The boy’s father had a sensitivity toward animals that at times seemed magical.  Glenn had no fear of rampaging dogs, and the boy more than once saw his father separate dogs—muzzle to muzzle in bitter combat in their front yard—by snatching them by the fur at the backs of their necks and flinging them apart.

When Buddy was a teenager, his father discovered a pit bull dog abandoned by a rental family.  The dog had been chained to a clothesline pole and was ravenous, vicious, and injured from trying to escape the chain.  Glenn James first pushed food and water within the dog’s reach before and after each workday in a machine shop.  On weekends he sat just beyond the dog’s bite and talked to him.  It took two weeks before he could approach the dog and begin to medicate its wounds.  Days later, he was able to remove the chain and bloody collar.  Finally one day, the dog followed Glenn to his new home five houses away.  For as long as the dog lived, no one could approach Glenn without reassuring that dog of their good intent.

Whenever the boy thought about his father and dogs, he could not help but revisit the memory of the cancer surgery he had assisted his father in performing on his grandfather’s ancient beagle hound.  The dog’s name was Tito.  He was famous for his long tongue that constantly protruded as much as three inches from his panting mouth.  Tito had chased rabbits in his prime and loved to howl the sentiments of the hunt.  But now the old boy’s muzzle was completely white, his black and tan spots subdued by age, his gait a slow struggle to cross from a shade tree to his tin feed dish.  An ugly growth had appeared on the back of his neck and grown like a hideous black mushroom.  The vet said that it was cancerous and recommended that Tito be put down, but the boy’s grandfather could not do it.  So when the vet refused to operate, Glenn decided to try.

The day was already hot when Buddy helped his father put the weathered gray planks across equally antique sawhorses as an operating table.  The location was away from the house—in the sun for light on the lawn nearer the tool shed and the chicken house.  His grandfather had no stomach for the event and set off for a long walk up to the boulevard where the streetcar tracks ran and where there was a confectionery shop next to the movie house where he could have his Pepsi and maybe even a candy bar to take away the bitter taste in his mouth caused by hurt.  He fully expected to find Tito dead when he returned.

Glenn spread out a white oilcloth over the gray planks and assembled the tools of a trade so piteously thrust upon him—a short flat can of ether, a fat gauze pad to administer the anesthetic, a newly, skillfully sharpened straight razor, a razor-sharp pointed paring knife, two surgical forceps, and a talcum-like can of sulfa powder from a WW II medical kit purchased at a surplus store, and assorted gauze pads and adhesive tape.

Buddy brought out of the house a pan of hot water and the mug of shaving soap with its lathering brush.  Tito watched with the languid eye of his dimmed vision, displaying his legendary tongue, moving his tail as resolutely as he could in the acknowledgment of company.  His father required help as the man and twelve-year-old boy lifted the forty-pound sack of dog onto the outdoor operating table.

Young Monty with father Leger and mother Evelyn

In the boy’s memory, there were shared events in which his father achieved a greatness he could not recall in other men.  The surgery on Tito demonstrated a nobility that the boy always found heroic.  The boy’s role was to hold the dog down during the shaving around the surgical site and the anesthesia, and then to position the head for the cutting.  His father worried more about the ether than the surgery itself.  He feared the gauging of how much anesthetic the animal could take before it went to sleep forever.

There was much less blood than Buddy had dreaded.  The mass itself was sliced off by the razor in one definitive cut and dropped from forceps onto the grass.  The agony came in his father’s determination to cut out the tentacles of the cancer rooted in the dog’s neck.  The process seemed endless, the boy expecting Tito to awaken and chaos to ensue any moment.  He watched the dog’s closed lids and listened to every labored breath as a duty that released him from watching the surgical progress a foot away from his nose.  Finally his father relented, put down the bloody paring knife, washed the open wound, powdered it generously with sulfa, and then bandaged the neck of the old hunting hound.  They removed Tito to a pallet in the boiler room off the kitchen of the house and watched him for long hours before he revived.  By nightfall, the dog stood and ate his supper.  He lived another two years and died finally in his sleep.

Leave a comment

Filed under Animals, Family, Writing