Low-Income Preacher Fulfills the Dreams of His Horse-Loving Girls


When I was growing up, I was horse-crazy.  One Christmas, when I was eight or nine, I was writing my Christmas list.  After scribbling down requests for books, doll clothes, and Breyer horses, I calmly added to the list: “a pony”.  Those were my exact words.  I didn’t care what color or age it was, I just wanted a pony — any pony.

Sadly, I never got one.

After all, we lived in the suburbs; you weren’t allowed to raise chickens, let alone have a pony in your backyard.  And to my parents’ credit, they did pay for expensive riding lessons for many, many years, so I am not in any way blaming them.

Be that as it may, I still feel a little sad knowing that I can never say: “I had my own pony as a kid”.

That is why I was delighted to read this article from Reader’s Digest.

Two girls, Brenda and Jacy, wanted a pony.  But their father was the pastor of a small-town church, and couldn’t afford such a thing.

Yet, since they had their hearts set on it, he decided to look around and see what he could do.

One day, he revealed to his daughters that their neighbor, Mr. Dubbs, was getting a pony for his granddaughter, and was willing to let them ride it.

The two were ecstatic!  They had a pony!  So what that it wasn’t technically theirs?  So what that they didn’t know how to ride?  So what that the pony would try everything in his power to throw them off?  They had a pony, and that’s all that mattered!

The pony, whose name was Blackie, slowly taught them how to ride.

A few years later, they were becoming too big for Blackie.  So, secretly, Mr. Dubbs bought them each a horse.  He didn’t ride, and his granddaughter had lost the horse-fever long ago.  He merely bought the horses out of the kindness of his heart.

Brenda and Jacy didn’t know any of this, but nevertheless, they were over-joyed to each have a horse to call their own.  Brenda took the palomino, whom she called Maize, while Jacy rode the sorrel.  The sorrel’s name was Rex.  “To say we were in heaven is an understatement”, Brenda writes.

Tragically, after two blissful years, Mr. Dubbs passed away and the horses were sold off.

“We were heartbroken.”

But that was not the end.

Their father, the pastor, found a way, yet again.  Another kind-hearted neighbor lent them his two horses — Dolly, another palomino, and Sparky, a paint.  Brenda and Jacy had lots of adventures with these horses, including one time when Brenda’s horse got scared and galloped away.  Brenda had to walk 3 miles to find it again.

That was many years ago, but the equine enthusiasm lives on to this day.  Nowadays, Brenda still rides, and she is even passing the love of horses on to her own granddaughter, who is herself learning to ride.

Despite now owning two quarter horses and competing professionally, Brenda still often pauses to remember how she got here.  “[W]ithout the generosity of others, this unlikely cowgirl would still just be dreaming….”

So I propose a toast — to kind people.  To dreams.  And most of all, to horses.





10 Weird Facts about Dogs


NOTE: I meant to publish this post last week, but due to some kind of glitch, it was not, and I only realized the mistake today.  So enjoy a double serving this week, and things will be back to normal next Saturday.  Happy reading!

  1. Floppy Ears Make It Harder To Hear.  According to How to Speak Dog, it’s like the dog is wearing earmuffs!
  2. Rear Leg Extension.  I owned a black Lab/Chow Chow mix when I was growing up, and she had the strangest reflex.  She would roll over for me to rub her stomach, and whenever I would scratch the top of her back leg, she would extend it, stiff as a board.  I’ve done a little research on this odd behavior, and it seems that no one really knows for sure why dogs do this.  It’s just a reflex they have, like a human kicking when the doctor taps their knee with a mallet.
  3. Lassie Was Always Played By Male Dogs. The iconic collie – Lassie – her very name means “girl”.  Yet, strangely enough, she was always played by male dogs in all of her live action appearances to date.
  4. Butt Sniffing.  This action is not only weird, but it’s gross and embarrassing.  Yet it’s perfectly normal in your dog’s mind.  A dog’s sense of smell is far stronger than a humans, so that is the world they live in – the world of smells.  Every dog has glands in his rear which contain his own, personal scent.  So dogs greet each other by sniffing that area.  Unfortunately, there is no way around this behavior, so just grin and bear it.
  5. Eating Grass. Grass acts as roughage, clearing a dog’s system out.
  6. German Shepherds Are Born With Bent Ears That Stand Up As They Mature.
  7. Tail Chasing. Why do dogs do this?  Well, it’s rarely because they want to.  A dog who does this probably has excess energy, and is looking for a way to vent it.  A canine in that situation often resorts to destructive behaviors – like tail-chasing.  It can become an obsession; he may even bite his own tail.  If your dog chases his tail frequently, you should probably give him more exercise.  If that doesn’t work, visit the vet.
  8. A Labrador Retriever’s Webbed Feet. That’s right, Labs have webbed feet.  The breed originated from Canada, around the Labrador Sea, where the dogs were trained to leap off boats to collect nets for fishermen.  The webbing helped them swim better, as did their thick, otter tail.
  9. The world’s tallest dog is a Great Dane named Zeus, who was the size of an donkey.
  10. Avoid Tug-of-War.  Some say tug-of-war is a classic game of bonding between a dog and his owner.  Or is it?  Dog trainer Sarah Hodgson disagrees.  In her book Dog-Perfect: The User-Friendly Guide to a Well-Behaved Dog, she writes about how most dogs take tug-of-war as a struggle for dominance.  If you lose, your pup will think that he is now leader of the pack.  He may start to disobey your commands.  Of course, some dogs don’t take it so seriously; they take it as a game.  In any case, owners just need to be aware, and to think before they tug.

Which fact did you think was the craziest?  Do you have any more to add to the list?

And if you are in the mood for more animal tidbits, consider reading my other posts from the Weird Fact series.

Fun fact: A horse’s teeth take up more room than their brain does.  Yes, it’s true.  Read more here: https://fuzzyfanaticblog.wordpress.com/2017/10/29/10-weird-facts-about-horses/

As for cats, did you know that many are lactose-intolerant?  So a saucer of milk could lead to — er — the runs.  More surprising facts found here: https://fuzzyfanaticblog.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/11-weird-cat-facts/

See you next Saturday!




Horse Behind War Horse Movie Finally Gets His Recognition

War Horse movie

Many of us horse-lovers have watched or at least heard of Steven Spielberg’s film “War Horse”, released in 2011.

But you may not have heard of Blackie.

Blackie was the real-life equine who inspired the movie.  Or rather, Blackie was the horse behind the book, which led to the play, which then became the movie.  But enough of that, back to Blackie.

This incredible horse survived some of the most desperate fighting of WWI.  He lived through many battles, including “Arras, the Somme Offensive and Ypres, where he suffered severe shrapnel wounds” (http://bit.ly/2kdPkyI).

Tragically, his owner, Lieutenant Leonard Wall, died from that same shrapnel which exploded out of a German shell.

Yet somehow, Blackie pulled through, and even continued fighting.  He served until the end of the war.

After the war, Lieutenant Wall’s mother arranged to bring Blackie home.

When Blackie arrived home in his old pasture, it was a triumph over the odds.  Untold numbers of horses served in WWI, about 8 million of which were slain during the conflict due to wounds, starvation, and disease.  Even after the firing stopped, it was too expensive to ship the horses back to England, so many were sold to European slaughterhouses, where they met a horrible fate.

But, thankfully, not Blackie; Blackie made it safely back to his home turf.

Back in the UK, Lieutenant Wall’s mother lent Blackie out as a lesson horse to a riding school for a little while.  A few years later, Blackie was retired to live at Horses’ Rest in Liverpool, in accordance to what Wall had written in his will.

After having lived a full life, Blackie passed at the ripe-old age of 37.  Wall’s mother again followed her son’s will, and had Blackie buried with all of Lieutenant Wall’s medals.

That was in 1942.

Almost 75 years later, in 2017, Blackie finally gets the recognition he deserves — although posthumously.  Historic England has finally granted Blackie’s grave in Halewood, UK “heritage site protection” (http://bit.ly/2kdPkyI).  This means that the grave will be preserved for future generations to see.

blackie grave
Blackie’s tombstone, courtesy of Heritagecalling.com

Unfortunately, Historic England currently has no plans to recognize any more war horse graves, but at least it’s a start.


On a side note, what did you think of the movie?  Let me know in the comments, because I would love to hear from you!

Come back next week for a list of strange, yet hilarious, facts about dogs.



Transforming Your Fat Cat into a Lean Lion (Cat Playtime Part 3)

Maybe you can relate to this: You realize that it’s been a while since your cat exercised.  So, to get your cat running around, you bring out the fake mouse.  Energetically, you throw it all over the house – up on furniture, down the stairs, everything.  You feel you did a rather good job and you might even have worked yourself into a sweat.

But your cat looks like this:


Mittens seems to be rather unimpressed by your antics; or, at best, she was mildly amused to see you flailing about.  In either case, she never chased the mouse, never moved a muscle.

You were hoping for something more like this:

cat-1680873_1920 (1)

But sadly, that isn’t the case.  You give it one last try, and Mittens responds with a bored stare before yawning and walking away to somewhere quieter where she can sleep.  You give up in frustration.

This pattern continues for a long time, maybe even years.  Over time, you slowly stop playing with your cat.  A small voice in the back of your head tells you that you need to play with Mittens more, but when you do, she engages for about 10 seconds at best, and then no more.

The results of this unfortunate pattern look like this:


As you may have guessed, I’m speaking from personal experience.  I love my tortie kitty Autumn, but there’s no denying that she’s lazy.  And fat.  I’ve tried playing with her countless over the years times, but after she left the kitten years, she just didn’t engage.

Why is this?

Well, there are many reasons why this may be so.  If you haven’t read it already, then I recommend that you read my post “Cat Playtime Part 2: What to Do When Kitty Won’t Play” (http://bit.ly/2En0hX1).  In it, I go over 9 things that might be causing your feline’s lethargy.

Although it would take too long to review them all here, reason number 9 is: “your cat might just be lazy”.  I followed that statement by saying: “if this is true, then there’s almost nothing you can do to fix the problem”.  I wrote that article back in October, and am now typing this post just before January.  During the time in between, I have learned a critical lesson: there is something that you can do about a lazy cat.  

Here is the key: when your cat gets “the zoomies” (zipping around the house for no apparent reason), join in the action and chase her around the house like you would run around with a dog.

Just remember that while a dog may be content to run from you for 5 minutes straight, a cat will quickly become bored if she doesn’t get to chase you back.

To let her chase you, run around in random directions at random speeds.  If she runs at you, run away.  If she crouches in a hiding spot, pretend not to see her and walk by (cats love ambushing their prey).  In short, act like a scared prey animal.

Although this may not work for every feline, Autumn loves it.

A word of caution before we go on: my cat has never hurt me intentionally, but it might be a good idea to wear jeans while you do this.  And of course, it goes without saying that if your cat has aggression issues, then do not let him play with you like this, because it’s too dangerous.

After your cat chases you, switch roles.  You are the hunter now.

It’s like tag with only two people.  You might also try throwing in some peek-a-boo, hide-and-seek, or even regular cat toys into the playtime mix.  Stir up a new combination each time.  The goal is to keep it fresh, since this type of cat gets bored easily.

Just as a kitten can help an older cat become re-energized, so you too can get your lazy, fat cat to move again.

You can do this.  

Good luck.


If you missed the earlier posts in this series, here are the links.

Part 1:


Part 2:


Happy reading!

Guest Blog: 10 Things to Avoid on your First Trail Ride.

A guest post by yours truly on Anne Leureen’s blog Horse Addict. It was great working with her to bring you this article, which I think all horse-lovers will enjoy.


Today I am posting a Guest Blog by Gayle Jorgenson of The Fuzzy Fanatic

Gayle writes about dogs, cats, horses, and occasionally humans. Her blog is entertaining and lively. This blog post is essentially a beginners guide to going on a trail ride. I can tell  you that  knowing horses and trail riding as I do her advice is sound and practical.

10 Things to Avoid on Your First Trail Ride

By Gayle Jorgenson

When I was 11, I rode in my first trail ride.  I was assigned a young, brown-and-white horse named Taboo for the ride, which was to be a group outing.  Up until that point, I had ridden exclusively in a fenced arena, so I was nervous, and I think maybe Taboo was also.

Whatever the reason, it didn’t end well.

During a stretch of trail through corn fields, Taboo started cantering without my permission (I had…

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Horse Fleeing California Wildfire Is Saved

The wildfires of 2017 costed 2 billion to stop — the costliest year yet (http://bit.ly/2eYQlHV).  And that was back in September.  One can only imagine it’s much worse now, what with the recent wildfires in California.

As many of you may know, on December 7th, a prominent race-horse facility housing about 450 horses fell victim to the flames.  A minimum of 46 horses were killed.

Tragically, when a horse is terrified, it does not behave rationally.

However, a human who is in the right place at the right time can step in and turn the equine away from certain doom.

Gina Silva was just such a person.

As a Fox 11 News reporter, she was out in Sylmar, CA covering the wildfires there, when she stumbled upon a trapped horse.

Somehow, as the horse fled the flames, it fell and got pinned between a hard place and another hard place — as in, between a metal fence and a concrete wall.

Photo Credit: @ginasilvaworld on Instagram

When Gina saw this poor animal kicking the wall, trying but unable to escape, she called the LA County Fire Department.  She also informed the public of what was happening on Twitter (@ginasilvafox11), and filmed the event live.

Then others took up the baton.

A local vet saw the segment on TV and drove to the site.  He tranquilized the horse, which calmed its fears and enabled rescuers to work around it without danger.

Then other viewers arrived, and so did a small team from a nearby fire department.  With everyone’s help, the wall was torn down and the horse was freed.

Photo Credit: @ginasilvaworld on Instagram

He was taken to a close-by animal hospital to recover.  Thankfully, he quickly regained his strength in a few days and was sent home.

Turns out, the horse’s name is Kenny, and he is 23 years old.  That’s about 65 in human years!  What an adventure for this senior!  He was lucky he didn’t get colic from being on his back for so long.  And yet, judging by the picture below, he is none the worse for wear.

Photo Credit: @p3pirate on Twitter

So please: if you ever see an animal in distress, follow Gina’s example and run to help it immediately.  Be the Good Samaritan.

The owner will thank you, the pet will thank you, and who knows — maybe I’ll write about it, too.



Soldier and Stray Dog Rescue Each Other

fred and craig

Stories of humans saving animals, sweet as they are, abound on the Internet.  But accounts of animals saving humans, now that’s more special.  Yet, perhaps best of all are those heart-warming stories of how a human and a pet saved each other.

Like Craig and Fred.

Craig Grossi was a sergeant sent to Afghanistan to fight the Taliban.  His unit was under near constant attack.  Craig had just weathered a mortar attack when he saw a white-and-tan stray dog.  Craig described it to the Dodo as having “a big goofy head and little legs”.

Now, it wasn’t unusual to see stray dogs; only they typically traveled in packs and were aggressive.  This one was alone.  It seemed confident, but not aggressive.  There is a rule against marines taking in dogs, but eventually Craig couldn’t resist.  He approached the canine with a piece of beef jerky.

fred wild

The dog didn’t react in fear or anger; “[h]e wagged his tail and it blew me away”, Craig said.  This canine obviously had a heart of gold.

After petting the dog a little, Craig walked away.  Then he felt a bump on the back of his leg.

The dog had followed him.

One of Craig’s fellow marine shouted: “Looks like you’ve found a friend!”  But Craig heard instead: “Looks like a Fred!”  And the name stuck.

Over time, the other marines in Craig’s unit came to love Fred the dog, too.

Fred even came on night patrols with them.  Fred was smart and knew that he had to keep quiet, even when other stray dogs barked at him.

But not everyone thought that the presence of a dog was a good thing.  The military had a ban on dogs, and if they were caught, Fred would’ve been put down, and Craig would’ve been imprisoned.

Then Craig’s unit received orders to move to a new location, and the Sergeant wasn’t sure whether to take Fred or not.  He said to the dog: “I need a sign”.

A helicopter arrived to pick the men up.  As it hovered overhead, it sent out gusts of wind, knocking up dust and sending things flying.  As Craig braced himself, “he felt a familiar poke at his heel” (thedodo.com).

Fred.  The dog was scared, but wanted to come.

Dog owners everywhere are cheering.

Anyway, Craig managed smuggle Fred along with him in a duffel bag until he convinced some men from the DHL shipping company to keep Fred for him while he was gone.

Yet after all that, Craig almost didn’t return.  The Sergeant suffered a brain injury from a Taliban rocket.

As he recovered, all he could think about was that dog.  Hoping against hope that Fred was still safe and undiscovered, Craig returned to the shipping facility where he had left him.

He couldn’t find him.

But then, he spotted some men playing soccer, and “Fred is in the middle, running around with guys from all over the world. It was just this [beautiful,] universal moment.”

After overcoming some more obstacles, Craig was finally able to ship Fred back to the States, where he stayed with Craig’s family until Craig’s return.

Fred the dog
Fred flying home (c) Sergio Giacchetti

When Craig got back, it was a beautiful reunion.  Fred went crazy-happy.  “I just lay there and just let him go crazy, and lickin’ my face,” Craig told Today.com.

Yet even now, more troubles loomed on the horizon.  Craig was physically damaged after his brain trauma, and emotionally scarred after losing a close friend in combat.  Craig was diagnosed with PTSD.

Craig had saved Fred.  Now it was up to Fred to save Craig.

And he did.

Fred’s companionship and boundless joy set Craig on the road to recovery.  Craig is now able to open up about his experiences, and he even wrote about them in his book, Craig & Fred: A Marine, A Stray Dog, and How They Rescued Each Other.  They both now live happily in Portland, Maine.

craig and fred cover

Thank you for reading.  Hopefully, no kleenexes were needed along the way, but even if they were, my wish is that you enjoyed it anyway.

Don’t you just love happy endings?



7 Beautiful Cats Who Know They Are Models

Let me just start by saying it’s a good thing that I don’t own these cats, as I would probably be a slave to their cuteness.  “You want my chicken dinner?  Okay, here you are!”

But let’s not waste time.  You came here to see cats, so let’s begin.

  1. Quimera the Two-faced Cat.  
    Quimera is a lovely calico cat with a striking face, which she is putting to good use gaining Instagram fame.  She lives with her humans in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Although she posts only in Spanish, you don’t need a the caption to appreciate this pretty kitty.

    Instagram handle: @gataquimera
  2. Mimi the Ragdoll Cat.  
    Ragdoll cats are wonderful creatures, with long, silky fur, and a gentle disposition.  They go limp in your arms when you pick them up — hence, the name.  Ragdolls are intensely loving, like dogs.  Incredibly, a few, including Mimi, play fetch!  All of these attributes got Mimi nominated for a Kitten of the Month award from Floppy Cats.com, an online site for Ragdoll-lovers.  Check it out here: https://www.floppycats.com/mimi-ragdoll-kitten-of-the-month.html.

    Photo from FloppyCats.com
  3. Scrappy the Black-and-White Cat.  
    When I first saw this cat, I was stunned.  He looks like he’s wearing the Milky Way Galaxy on his coat!  Later, I learned that this was because of a non-fatal skin disease called vitiligo, which causes patches of skin/fur to lose its pigment.  Sadly, however, Scrappy died of old age last year, at the ripe old age of 19.  May he rest in peace.

    Instagram handle: @seniorscrappy
  4. Autumn the Tortoiseshell Cat.  
    Yes, talking about my own cat may seem like shameless self-promotion, but if I do say so myself, I think torties are beautiful, and that includes Autumn.  She looks and acts queenly.

    My Twitter handle: @GayleJorgenson
  5. Smoothie the Tabby Cat.  
    Brace yourself for cuteness!  This green-eyed kitty is just too fluffy.  This is how they get us, you know.  Hypnotize with cuteness, and then BAM!  You’re a slave for life.  Not that we mind it though.
  6. Brown, Mysterious Feline.
    Does anyone know who this cat is?  All I can gather from the internet is that this cat was present at the International Cat Show that was just held in Portland from November 18th and 19th.  If I had to guess the breed, I would say it’s some sort of Bengal cross, but I don’t know.  Again, if you do know, please leave a comment.

    Source: http://katu.com/news/local/photos-felines-of-the-cfa-cat-fanciers-association-international-show-portland-2017#photo-4
  7. Galaxy-Eyes Cat.  
    Wow.  Just wow.  If this isn’t Photoshopped, then this cat has the most striking eyes in the world.  Blue eyes are rare, mismatched eyes are rarer still, and eyes like these are one-of-a-kind.  Scientists call this “partial heterochromia”; I call it breath-taking.  

There.  We should probably stop before we get overloaded with cuteness.

Who do you think is the most photogenic cat around?  It could be one of these, or a different online feline, or even your own kitty.  I’d love to have feedback.

In any case, thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next Saturday!



Two Purple Hearts, a Presidential Citation and More for Sergeant Reckless!


Last year in the lead up to Remembrance/Veterans Day I wrote a post about the War Horse Hero of the Korean War….Sergeant Reckless. This was a mare of great bravery and intelligence.  Here is the text of that previous post.

In  1952 Reckless was bought  by the US Marine Corps to serve as a pack horse for the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Anti Tank Company, of the 5th Marine Regiment in the Korean War.

The chestnut mare of Mongolian breeding was trained in battlefield skills: how to avoid being trapped in barbed wire, how to lie down when under fire, how to run for the bunker upon hearing “incoming”. She soon became friends with the troops and was allowed free run of the camp and spent nights inside with the troops. She had a remarkable appetite and ate scrambled eggs, bacon, chocolate bars, shredded wheat, peanut butter sandwiches and drank Coca-Cola…

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The Battle of Greasy Grass was Custer’s Last Stand.


The Lakota and the Plains tribes refer to the Battle of Little Big Horn as the Battle of Greasy Grass and it was the scene of an ignominious defeat for the 7th Cavalry and the Custer Battalion.  But one survivor has gone down in history as the sole survivor of the Battalion; Comanche, the  mount of  Captain Myles Keogh.

Although Comanche’s date of birth and his breeding were uncertain Captain  Keogh of the 7th Cavalry liked the 15 hand horse.  In 1868, when the army was fighting the Comanche tribe in Kansas, the horse was wounded by an arrow but continued to carry Keogh in the battle. He named the horse Comanche as a tribute to his bravery.


June 25, 1876 was the day of a great defeat for the 7th Cavalry of the US Army and a great victory for the combined forces of the Northern Cheyenne, Lakota, and…

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