I don’t know what it is with me and my animals, but something very strange goes on. After David and I began living together, we found out we both had a love of horses. We would visit different horse farms on the weekend and I would call it our  “field trips.” I introduced David to an old friend who I had met when I was raising my daughter. Her daughter and my daughter were friends. Barbara had a beautiful horse farm. We reconnected in a deep way and began to ride her horses. She found David his first horse and she connected me with Ransom. Ransom was a very tall handsome gelding who had an owner who was allegedly diagnosed multiple personality disorder. She took tremendous risks with him and they had fallen together going over jumps. He was known to be a bit skittish. However with me, he was gentle and reliable. This perfectly demonstrates the ability horses have to mirror human behavior. I remember at an informal horse show while resting between classes, I was sitting on a tree stump and he was nuzzling my hair and putting his lips on my shoulder. The other women laugh saying, “he’s in love with you!” I clearly felt his love and gratitude.

The expenses for this hobby were swiftly becoming too great to rationalize and we decided to purchase a small horse farm. We were more than casual enthusiasts and ready to take the next step. This was probably in 2001. One day, Ransom shied and ran across the field. I went to run after him, but my legs would not run. I remember telling myself that I didn’t need to run. Denial.  What was happening concurrently was when we would ride Ransom he would kick out with his right leg. We called a veterinarian to look at him and Dr. Keith was very concerned. He wanted me to take him to Baton Rouge to the LSU vet school. I loaded him in the horse trailer and drove him two hours to LSU. Around this time, I developed optic neuritis, inflammation of the optic nerve which is common in MS. When the LSU veterinarian saw him, he suggested his wife take a look at him as well. She was an equine ophthalmologist and he felt there was something going on with Ransom’s eyes. At that time I was not talking about my optic neuritis. It was pretty ironic when the equine ophthalmologist looked at Ranson’s right optic nerve and called me over to look at it with her instrument. “Look at that optic nerve, it is frayed.” I was struggling to look at his optic nerve while my optic nerve of the same eye was not focusing.

Suffice it to say that I had no idea what was happening with me or with him. As I became weaker, he became weaker. I eventually found him a home as a pet since he was no longer safe to ride. I have to say that some of these entries are really painful to write. The constant heartbreaks. I feel like I’ve lived ten lifetimes. What is also true is once I’ve written this Story down it is out and I can let it go. Again thank the blog gods for this catharsis. And I thank you all for being very willing and gracious witnesses.

Around this time, my stepson’s girlfriend got a great Dane puppy. I was very excited and heard there was one left in the litter. When I called, the puppy was not available. But I had gotten the fever really bad. I began looking on the Internet for a Great Dane puppy.

I found Basha in Victoria, British Columbia. An eight-week-old puppy who had never been away from her mother flew from Victoria to Toronto to New Orleans. When I opened the crate a twenty-three-pound lion cub crawled out. She took one look around and crawled right back into her crate!

I hired a very well-known dog trainer to help me train her weekly as a service dog. Our horse farm was very busy with boarded horses, the horse’s owners, clients from my psychology practice, our existing two dogs, chickens, ducks, roosters and a turkey. Basha learned manners around other dogs, horses, and people.  As she grew, and believe me she grew, she was socialized well and was my constant companion.

There were many incidents that I feel like I need to relate. I would often say that Basha was not a dog. She was from a different species above humans.  She would come with me to women’s groups and would comfort a grieving member. It took us a while to catch on, but once we realized she was working the group we found it hilarious. Years later, when I had a nonviolent communication group, if someone was angry she would try to calm them by getting them to pet her and if that didn’t work, she would lie down in front of me, between that person who was angry and me. She always knew where I was. She took her job very seriously.

One devastating day on the horse farm, our two other dogs got into antifreeze. We didn’t know it at the time, but I noticed that Isabel was walking funny. I called her over and she ran away. I had never seen the effects of antifreeze or I would’ve grabbed her immediately. A few hours later I couldn’t find Isabel and I went out my golf cart to look around. Basha always came with me in my golf cart. Often I would look out of the window and see the back of her head as she was sitting in the golf cart, waiting for a ride. Today however, we were on a serious mission together looking for Isabel. We drove all around the tree line, all around the periphery of the property, to the barns and shed and couldn’t find her. I was getting desperate and I said to Basha, “where is Isabel?” I’ll be damned if she didn’t jump out of the cart and jump into the tree line to show us where Isabel was failing. David grabbed Isabel and I got her water and we rushed both dogs to emergency veterinarian. Isabel and Maggie had gotten into anti-freeze and after trying to revive them all night, we had to euthanize them both. David held Maggie and I held Isabel as the life went out of their eyes. We brought their bodies back to the farm and buried them in our animal graveyard. A few days later when I was in the house alone I let out a wail. From the other side of the house I heard an echo. It was Basha with a reverberating Great Dane wall. This was not a normal dog.

One day I was carrying my computer and I tripped. In an effort to save my computer, I fell to my knee and cracked my patella in half. The same day Basha was running with Dr. Keith’s  dog and tore her ACL in the same knee. I was on crutches and she was walking on three legs! Could this be an accident? I had never experienced another being as committed to my well-being as this dog. She walked with me to offer me support. I had a harness and held her on my right side which was my weakest. I went to renew my passport at the courthouse, and there was a very long outdoor staircase. I’ll never forget the rhythm we found walking down all those stairs. I held the railing with her on my other side. I took a step as she watched me, then she took a step. I took another step as she watched me, then she took a step. Her focus was 100% on me and the task at hand. The level of support this Being afforded me was immeasurable. One day I fell down with my walker and couldn’t get up. David was going to be away for another two hours, so I tried to get comfortable on the floor. Basha pushed her head against me to try to get me to get up. How would an animal know to do this?

When David moved out in 2008, Basha was beside herself. She was clearly grieving. That same time I was getting bee venom injections. As I was getting my last injection, which was near my wrist, I made the statement, “this one is really going to hurt.” The exact moment the injection was given, Basha screamed from the next room and ran to us shaking. She shook for twenty minutes. I called David to take her to the veterinary. At that point I put her on herbal stress tabs. It took her a couple months to work through her grief. Whether she was experiencing her own grief or my grief, I don’t know. She definitely tapped into The Grief.

There were other instances that I could mention, but basically you got my drift: this was no dog.

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