This is Patches my families first dog. We got him as a gift from my grandfather when I was 5 years old. My mother lost my 7 week old brother to SIDS and my grandfather brought her the puppy to help her heal.
One day my family was coming home from an afternoon barbeque with friends and as we pulled into the garage an electrical storm was beginning.As my mother stepped out of the car, before the garage door was closed, thunder struck and Patches jumped out of her arms and took off.It was pouring rain and pitch black out and he disappeared. We went into the house and hoped he would come back.
They next day was grey and overcast and as the morning wore on the sun began to emerge from the clouds. By noon it was sunny and there was a wet and muddy puppy sitting in the front yard. My mother took him to a professional groomer at a commercial kennel. The woman who owned the kennel asked my mother if she was interested in showing him.As he had come from a reputable breeder and was AKC registered we were good to go.
Thus began my beginnings of being involved with the world of show dogs. Their were children in my age range at the kennel I began spending time with. I began working at the kennel from then until I was 14 at we moved to another state. We , the kids cleaned the kennels and I assisted an older child with all the dogs coming in for grooming. When the work was done we would play dog show and going swimming in the pool on the property.
There was also an ex thoroughbred racehorse mare on the property named Guess because she had a marking on her face that looked liked a question mark. I was always more interested with the horse. Someone else took care of the horse and I was no allowed around her for safety. There were ducks and geese and sheep there. The sheep lived on acres that were fenced in and the ducks and geese had free roamed on the property.
I spent most of my time there. I would come home from school and ride my bike there, and I would leave on my bike again on the weekends.
There also was a an old mama cat named Mama Cat and she was referred to as Mama Cat as if it were her job title. I got my first kitten named Smokey from one of her litters. Back then there always seemed to be homes for them. The kittens were always claimed by people coming on and off the property for various reasons and sometimes her offspring were reserved in advance.
I knew nothing of spay/neuter or of shelters, rescue or adoption. The pound was a place you found your lost dog. The dogs I was around were all housebroken and trained to a minimum of competition level Companion Dog in obedience which meant they would heel , sit , stay and come on command off leash and never stray from the handlers instructions. They were trained to stand for a judges examination of their conformation and demonstrate correct and sound movement. Dogs were bred for quality and conformity to their breed standards. Even their teeth had to have a specific type of alignment for the purpose the breed was developed for according to the standard. A dogs “bite” meant the configuration of the teeth in it’s mouth. Puppies were sold with contracts that stating the breeder would take the animal back at any time during it’s lifetime for any reason. The contract guaranteed their health as well. Breeders also x rayed the hips for hip dysplasia and the dogs were certified clear or if diagnosed with this conditioned were sterilized.
Over the years there were more show dogs that my mother bought or came to visit when dogs were juggled between breeder friends when traveling to shows or on vacation. We had cats and some litters, eventually sterilizing them as we learned. The kittens always found homes but it was luck. My mother knew enough people to place them.We had lot of puppies and a rabbit for a few years. I was involved in Junior Showmanship and got qualified for “The Garden” at the big Harrisburg PA show.
But all the while I ached to be around horses. One time years after Guess was gone a lose Palomino horse showed up at the kennel. It belonged to a neighbor on an adjoining tract of land. We probably covered about 5 acres to bring him back. Once we knew were he lived and that he had escaped once we would sometimes hike over there and “borrow” him. No one was home during the day at the residence except another horse that was kept inside and was not friendly. We would go get the Palomino and lead him around with each other riding bareback. If anyone was home when we brought him back we planned to say he got loose again. We never got caught.
The plan was for me to go to vet school. The daughter of the people who Patches came from who was older than me was off to Cornell. She quit in her junior year because she did not want to dissect a pig and a rabbit. I decided right there I did not want to dissect a pig and a rabbit either.
When I turned 13 my mother gave me 10 riding lessons for my birthday. My instructor was a German Cavalry officer in his 80ties. The discipline was Hunt Seat Equitation. My school horse was a small chestnut mare named Cinnamon. I learned how to steer, walk, trot, canter and basic riding terminology for the schooling ring . I learned stretching exercises with no stirrups to develop balance and also intended to quiet a human body on the back of a horse. Years later I came across information indicating a very important and successful man in the hunter/jumper industry took his first lessons at the same stable. The Colonel must have been his riding instructor. The name of the stable was mentioned,it is common knowledge this man grew up in the area and owns a stable in the area.But since I do not know for a fact I will not drop his name.
When I was 23 I saw an ad in the local Penny Saver that someone was looking to share lease a standardbred mare for light trail riding. I jumped on the ad. The woman decided not to have anyone else ride the horse but she was a wonderful lady and gave me some lessons on another horse. I was so excited that I called a girl I knew in highschool, a riding instructor graduated from Morven Park Equestrian Center.I said you have to meet this lady and come take a lesson on her horse. She did. We all had a blast and the friend and I connected in a way we had not in highschool and she gave me a working student job at the lesson stable she managed and taught at. All I had to to was show up at the barn, help the teenage girls muck stalls and groom and tack up horses for lessons and I could ride as much as I wanted and get lessons.
A few months later another friend had found an Equestrian Program at a community college. I enrolled with her. My text book for the instructor certification was authored by the man I mentioned earlier who may have taken lessons from the Colonel as a child. I had no idea who he was yet. The horse I was assigned was a 16.2 hand brown Appaloosa with a white blanket named JJ. I always was one of those kids who was picked last for the team and so it was I got JJ , a horse who was known by other students as being stubborn, lazy, mean and spooky. Sometimes I rode a big chestnut gelding named Tom. The first time I sat on Tom I learned I had a gift for feeling what is going on under me. I walked tom about 3 steps and said “This Horse has navicular” People looked at me like I was crazy. How did I know ? I do not know, I just did. Navicular is a disease of the triangular coffin bone inside the hoof. The disease causes the coffin bone to rotate and it’s progression is different for every animal and can worsen based the type of use the horse is subject to. These horses are still useful for trail riding or for light school work for students and very often work out of the stiffness as they begin moving. They also can become more uncomfortable or the condition exasperated or progressing faster with overwork.And for some reason I could just tell. This horses gait felt different than a sound horses.
After school I could not get a job in the industry. They area I lived was dead smack in the center of horse country. I was to learn later not just an area where people own horses but where the wealthy own the top show horses and the stomping grounds of Olympic level riders and trainers. And there was a foxhunting club.(No they do not kill the foxes.)I was laughed at for thinking my education qualified me for a job. I finally got hored at a brand new state of the art Arabian breeding and training facility. This was during the Reagan administration when owning Arabian horses was the trend for the rich and famous. Horses kept for breeding purposes at the time could be used for tax write offs and so the Arabian became the breed to own as with the Arabian horse comes glamour to those who seek it or are already in the spotlight. Also the prices were outrageous and you had to be extremely wealthy to afford to own the most beautiful and well bred ones that would win in the show ring. And so the Arabian horse industry exploded.
The existing horse industry in this area was not interested in Arabian horses. Arabians were for new money and hunters were for old money. They could not get experienced help. So they hired 3 of us that did not have much other than a love for horses. They figured good we will train these people our way. It was the best thing that ever happened to my career in the industry. The other girls could ride, groom and tack up horses. I could tack up and groom and I also learned a tremendous amount about legs and injuries and veterinary care. I learned how to deal with all kinds of horse personalities and behavioral issues , and how to handle dangerous animals and difficult situations. I learned how to work with and bring up youngsters from birth to ready to be broke.I continued riding with my friend from highschool. And one day the Arabian trainers said we found a half Arab hunter prospect, are you interested in buying this horse and riding and training with us ? Of course I said yes. My Dad came up with the money to buy the horse. He considered it as tuition money since my 2 year associates degree had cost substantially less than my brother’s 4 year Bachelors.I bought the horse seeing only a photo. His name was Stretch. He was furry and had a wispy tail and and his mane had never been pulled like a hunters.he got off the truck and the farm owner said no clients/employees. I had been there 18 months. We had big plans. Stretch was going to give me an opportunity to learn and have a Top 10 Arabian Hunter. He would give the trainers exposure in that division with a winning horse. I moved him to my friends barn and gave my notice.
I went back to square one thinking ok I have experience now and I put a notice in the local tack shop that I was available for any work. Two days later I got a call. from the Goldens Bridge Hounds hunt club. What, A real hunt ?They needed an exercise rider for the staff horses. It was part time. could I come meet them and go for a cross country ride ? I was there. They evaluated my experience and put me on an older horse who was quiet. They were concerned I was not experienced enough to handle the other horses who were all donated head cases. They gave me a chance anyway because they had no other options. This was the beginning of my serious education as a rider. These horses were fit,forward and not exactly your trusty school horse. I learned how to ride. forget about my equitation but I learned how to sit on a horse, and stay on a horse. I got another position riding horses coming out of the kill buyers auctions, to test them to see if they were safe to resell as trail horses to pleasure riders. The next step was a show/sales barn. The clients were wealthy hunt members that owned and invested in show horses and warmbloods imported from Europe.I could handle horses that were dangerous to the average professional.I started getting private clients. The vets started sending me out to deal with injury rehab. I managed the show string and private clients horses on the road. I worked my way up with salary and got better horses to ride.
During the time I was working for the hunt, my mother’s last show dog had to be put down due to bone cancer. All the horse people had Jack Russells. Some had Australian Shepherds. I had always liked the hound breeds.I had fallen in love with the hounds although I did not get to work around them much.I asked for a foxhound puppy. If one get’s loose it will follow it’s nose and could wander for miles, so we do not place them as pets. I would not be able to have one for a companion dog. We thought about getting a Jack Russell. They were definitely a great breed even though “Frazier” had not made them popular in the general population yet.
We decided to go look at the local pound. We got there, started walking through the kennels and I stopped dead in my tracks at the third run on the left. Because there he was was. An 8 month old terrier mix that looked like a Jack Russell. I did not proceed any further. I said this is the one and we took him him home. We named him Max.And Max was an amazing dog. I had never had a dog like him. He buried bones and chased mailmen. I had only seen dogs like this in cartoons. He also made me aware of the need. I decided right then i would never buy a dog again, I would always adopt.
Max came with me everywhere I went. He would come to the barn and fit right in with the Jack Russells. He looked like them. He acted like them. My boss from the hunt would joke with me saying “You need to get that bastard terrier’s tail docked. He was so much fun. he would come with me when I rode cross country. He would able ahead and stop, look back and wait for me to catch up. then he would amble ahead of me again. Never a worry he would get lost. It was normal for dogs to be off leash at the barns and out in the country. He was never on a leash except for his 10 basic obedience lessons when I first got him or to go to the vet. I now understood what a REAL dog was.
Max made the trip to Arizona with me and lived the last of his 14 years at my parents house. He is buried under a palm tree in their back yard.
All these years working with animals one thing got to me. I could not handle seeing a lost dog alone on the street. I could never take it home. It was extremely upsetting. I kept telling myself if I ever am rich I will build a shelter and take in homeless people and animals. I have thought this since I was 14 years old.I wished for the day I could take any stray dog and cat home and keep it if I could not find its owner. I did not know there were people who abandoned or abused dogs until I got Max.
After moving to Arizona I ended up a single parent and I did not have animals when my kids were growing up. Not that did not one a dog. But I had too many other problems. When my daughter was 14 I got a beautiful cat that i found after a monsoon, emaciated and with a cold in the grocery store parking lot. I took him home, got him fixed, cleaned up and healthy. He slept on my bed, sat at my feet anywhere I went in my apartment. he slept on my daughters chest. She loved him.I had him for 4 years. He was one the most difficult loss of all my animals.
Now my kids are grown and I was able to buy my first house. I started rescuing cats that I kept finding behind the strip mall where I worked. There is nothing more that I want to do with my life but be around animals. The fact that there are so many abused and and abandoned dogs in shelters is devastating to me. I want to be able to take all of them home and I can not. Everything I am working for is for the purpose of saving more animals.
I am currently working towards building my consulting business in order to continue to move forward towards the goal of having a ranch/farm where I can bring home more dogs and also branch out into horse rescue and rehab.My consulting business consists of working with people to improve their lives and financial situations through opportunities, products and services I promote and educate people with. Please contact me by phone, 602 475 1975 or email me at meryl.uniqueconsulting@gmail if you are interested in what I can offer you in that area.
I am looking to grow my rescue efforts with income I earn myself as well as donations.
I have both short and longterm goals.
My current goal is to add fenced areas and sections so I can provide sanctuary for more dogs that come to being e listed and provide them sanctuary until when and if they are adopted.
The next goal is to get the mortgage on the current rescue property paid off with plans to do neccessary renovations to put it on the market with the rescue holding the new mortgage as a source of income.
The long term goal is to pay cash for a ranch/farm to be a permanent rescue location. I need a room, a shower and toilet, a basic kitchen and laundry facilities for me, plus reliable transportation. The animals and the staff I bring in to help me can have to rest.
Thank You All For Being Here And Having An Interest In What Is Everything To Me, The Animals.