Category Archives: Seeing the world

Horse Fun Show

Saturday was a horse fun show at Butternut Stables in Hampton. And it was fun!horses by ring for show at butternut stables

Riding students on school horses, visiting horses and riders. A barn open house and bbq. Warm, sunny weather. A good thing because the yard and barn were full of horses, people and dogs.

It was my first time in a show. As the day neared, I got more and more scared. I weighed the validity of every possible excuse to not take part. Assuming that my preferred horse was sound and that I was too, I couldn’t come up with any good reason to bail.

The number of horses available was finite, the number of potential riders was not. The horses could not be overworked. Maybe there costume-kids-photo-jim-stewart.would be so many kids wanting to ride that I could do the “adult” thing and offer my spot to them. Fingers crossed!

The road alongside the stable was filled with vehicles as far as you could see. I took my helmet with me, in case my plan failed.

Saddle up

Elizabeth, the owner, said “You can saddle Jamie. You’re up for Lady rounding polepole-bending next.” “Are you sure he’s ok? Is anyone else riding him? I don’t have to, if you need him.” “He’s good to go,” she said with a little smile. Like she knew exactly what I was doing.

Saddled up and waiting, another rider asked me if I was excited. I figured saying I might be sick at any moment was more than she wanted to know, so I just went with “terrified.”

Then Jamie and I were called. My teacher Dani opened the gate for us. “Back straight, sit up tall,” she said. I did, and stopped thinking about the people lining the rail and the timer. Jamie and I loped up one side, trotted the poles and loped for home. We did it – in a respectable time! Yeehaw.

Nervousness? Gone. Next was keyhole, and we were first up. A line laid on the ground in the shape of a keyhole. Run in, turn around and run out, as fast as you can without touching the line. I’ve ever only shoe-race-photo-jim-stewartdone it playing around in lessons. Fortunately Jamie had more experience. We did it.

The shoe race – where I realized, after we started, that circling and dropping a horseshoe in a barrel was not going to be as easy as I thought. I slowed Jamie, got it in, then we knocked over the barrel. Disqualified.

Show Ribbons

Finally, the flag race. We loped around the ring, plucking flowers off poles held over the fence. Jamie shied at one flower, but I managed to grab them all. We got second place!2nd-place-ribbon-photo-jim-stewart

Whew! My competing was done. Jamie did more work than I. He went in a few more classes with another rider. He and I joined other horses giving rides to non-competing kids. And we took a teddy bear teddy-bear-photo-jim-stewartaround the ring in the costume class. Mya the teddy bear won second place.

To top it all off, I won a 1st place rosette. High points in 16+ group. I was the only one in that group. But I am very proud of it. I am also proud that I can now say that I have competed in a horse show.

timbit-pic-jim-stewartThanks, Elizabeth, Dani and the ring crew. Thank you, Wendy, for being there. Thanks, Jim, for taking pictures. And thanks especially to John Perkins – I wish you could have seen Jamie and me go!

School Horse

To call yourself a rider, one  horse can give you your best final test: a school horse. Horses ridden in lessons build up knowledge of school horse dennywhat makes a good, and bad, rider. When you can ride a school horse consistently well, you can say, why yes, I do ride.

School horses are the most even-natured and tolerant creatures in a stable. That is why they give lessons and the divas of horsedom do not. School horses will figure out what the mixed cues you’re sending actually mean. But not forever. When they deem it time, they require you to do it correctly. They make you search for the answers of how to ride.

Like every student at Butternut Stables in Hampton, I started on Denny. He is an old hand at lessons. He is quiet and gentle with little kids. With older students, he assesses their abilities and acts accordingly. Sometimes he helps you learn and sometimes he simply amuses himself. Just depends how he feels at that moment.

Anything a neophyte rider can do wrong, Denny knows. Anything a horse can do to foil a rider, Denny knows. He has a neck of steel that he can lock in place if he wants to go a different direction than you want to go. An hour on Denny is a full workout – legs, arms, and patience and willpower.

Ride on the wind

oreo and me leaving arenaBut Denny and every school horse I’ve ridden like to show you what they can really do. When they figure you can handle it, they’ll take you for a ride on the wind. “You wanna go faster? Okay!” You can only hang on. You’re trying to remember what you’re supposed to do. Your human teacher yells ‘legs, seat, reins!”

With or without you doing anything, your Pegasus suddenly snorts and stops. You put your parts back where they belong in the saddle. Then, as if he had never seen that vast plain in his ancestral mind’s eye, your horse goes back to plodding along.

At some point, you learn how to keep your legs, hands and seat where they’re supposed to be. Your horse slows down when you ask, speeds up when you ask. You’re working together. And running like the wind is fun. Yeehaw!

After riding other Butternut horses, I went back to Denny. I wanted to see what I’d learned. Quite a bit. What a massive thrill when we agreed on what we were doing!jamie and me in outdoor ring

But he’s a tough examiner and I never passed my finals with him. Denny and his stablemate Oreo recently retired to a life of leisure. Both great teachers, they will be missed by their students. Happy trails, boys.

Sadly, Oreo’s trail ended too soon. He passed away Oct. 26th. Robin’s Moocho Denero (his registered name) will not be forgotten.

John Perkins

John Perkins fixing bridle on Jamie August 2016On Saturday, July 22nd, John Perkins, of Butternut Stables in Hampton NB, died. He was my riding teacher. For many others, he was that and more. First, he was a family man and horseman. He and his wife Wendy have kids and grandkids and a stable full of Quarter Horses. They also have a large extended family. And an even bigger surrogate family of horse people.

The loss for everyone is devastating. In emotional ways and practical. So many posts on Facebook attest to that. I’ve been reading them, and crying, astounded by their eloquence and depth of feeling. A huge community of people in New Brunswick, and throughout the Maritimes, eastern USA and Florida are all feeling the same great big hole in their hearts.Watching horses wait to enter ring

John touched a lot of lives, and kept a lot of lives – human and horse – on track. He taught riding to beginners and coached experienced riders. He trained and showed horses. John was an executive member of Quarter Horse associations and a founder of the Princess Louise Park Show Centre in Sussex.

He also shod horses, doctored horses and acted as a midwife and nursemaid for new-born foals. John fixed vehicles, fences and stalls. And he drove a truck and trailer loaded with kids and horses to shows all across the eastern provinces and states.

He took horse-crazy kids (and adults) and turned them into good horsemen and -women. If all you wanted to do was ride for fun, he taught you. If you wanted to go to the next step and start showing, he was there to coach you, get you and your (or his) horse to the show ring and calm you both. When you wanted to buy or lease a horse, he made sure you got a good match.

The Butternut Barn

Butternut Stables signI met him four years ago when I wanted to resume riding lessons. Thanks to him, Wendy and everyone else both two-footed and four-footed, it was easy to start feeling like I belonged at Butternut . It is a family, a very large one. It is not uncommon to see three generations at the barn. People who brought their kids for lessons are now there with those grown-up kids and their kids.

When we started building a barn, John was our resource for where it should be, the layout and what we needed in it. It’s not finished yet, and I still have a million questions for him.

saddleOne thing I’m very happy about – I have his first show saddle. He bought it in the 1980s, he said. I liked riding in it, and I liked its history – the stories he told about it and the horses he had then.

John’s saddle to fill – I’ll never do it but I will forever treasure my time with him. Here’s my favourite horseman song, for you, my friend.

Salisbury Horses

“Outside this lovely home, drive down the circular driveway covered by mature trees and be greeted by an old barn and about 3 acres cleared ideal for horses.”

3063 main street salisbury mikedoiron.caThus reads the real estate listing I found online for a 5.6 acre property in Salisbury NB. It is now owned by the Dangremond family. They bought it so they could keep their horses Misty and Reiner at home instead of having to board them. A barn and cleared pastureland – ideal for horses!

Then, while putting up fencing last year, they were told that the property is zoned RU, Residential Use. They appealed for rezoning, a variance, or even a temporary permit to keep the horses there for even just a year. Denied.

Following the story on CBC NB news, I’ve hoped, even believed, that the town council would wind its neck in and allow the horses to stay. But the news report yesterday was that the horses must move.

Reiner and Misty beside barn
Beside their barn, from “Help Misty and Reiner the horses” gofundme page

A neighbour has offered to board the horses – yes, a neighbour. A distance of 150 metres, CBC says. Not a big distance for the Dangremond daughter to walk to see her pets. Also not a big distance for the town council to make whatever variance is needed so those pets can stay in their own barn.

I realize municipal planners must do what is best for their region now and in the future. Evidently, the town foresees residential expansion in the area where the Dangremonds live. But, if houses are not going to be built in the immediate future, why not make an exception for the Dangremond horses with as many caveats as the council deems necessary?

location of propeerty google maps
Location of property in Salisbury area – click for larger view

Zoning Labyrinth

This sad story reminds me of when we were still in Ontario, hunting for a small farm in Elgin County. John Blake of Elgin Realty warned me that what looked like a farm might not be zoned one. So I started phoning municipal, township and county offices to get an overview of the zoning basics. No generalities, only a labyrinth.

One side of a road might be agricultural, the other – just as distant from a street light or a Tim Horton’s – is not. A township line at the edge of a property means another set of rules. Animals and farming may be “grandfathered” in after a zoning change, meaning they can stay only as long as those owners stay. Other times you can bring in new animals as long as the presence of farm animals is continuous. So, if the existing animals move off before the sale closing date, you can’t move new ones in. The planners told me to ask about each and every property.

Salisbury horses Reiner and Misty, photo Joseph Tunney CBC
Salisbury horses Reiner and Misty, photo Joseph Tunney CBC

That said, Salisbury has the chance to make a statement that matches its lovely rural-looking appearance. Let the Salisbury horses stay at home.

Misty and Reiner have a GoGetFunding page (updated July 7/17). You can also check the Facebook page Power in Numbers for Misty and Reiner.

Goderich Postcards

My grandmother’s parents, Matthias and Emily Lymburner, lived for a few years in Goderich, Ontario. These are postcards sent from their early days there in 1911. (click images for larger view)

General View of Goderich Harbour, looking East

goderich harbour looking east D Stewart postcards coll.goderich harbour card message D Stewart postcards coll.Mr. Charles H. Burwell, Tillsonburg, Ont. Goderich, Jan 9th, 1911.

Dear Boy, Charlie:- This card shows the mills and cooperage – the cooper shop, I have marked with an X on the gable-end. It looks small on account of the flour mill being so large. I am feeling fine, and I think I will like it well, here, haven’t seen much of the town yet, it’s nice, though, what I have seen of it. I will write frequently, and will be glad to hear from you all. Yours, M. E. Lymburner.

Look slightly right of middle. See a small yellow triangle at left of large brown building – that’s the X. Matthias was a cooper so that’s where he would have worked.

Central Park, Goderich, Ont. Canada

Central Park Goderich D Stewart postcards coll.central park card message D Stewart postcards coll.

Mrs C H Burwell

This is for Minnie. It is the city hall, and central park. It is the very centre of the town. I will write again when I get time.

I think this is Mary Emily’s writing. She must have been sent it to her daughter Minnie in Tillsonburg with someone.  The courthouse and park is the hub of an octagon of streets that comprises the town centre. The town layout was planned from the very beginning.  The Town of Goderich website describes it.

On the Maitland River, Goderich, Ont. Canada

on the maitland river D Stewart postcards coll.
Mrs Minnie Burwell, Tillsonburg PO, Ont.

Goderich Feb 24 1911 Dear Minnie – Just a line to tell I was down town yesterday and came near losing our way home. There are so many streets and they look so much alike. Well good bye. From Mother

The 1911 Canadian Census has Matthias and Emily, two sons and two youngest daughters living on Britannia Road. It runs west to east  across the south side of town.  The spokes of the streets mean that if you take the wrong one leaving the square, you can end up a long way from where you intended. The Maitland River skirts the east side of town, with its mouth at the harbour.

Court House – Goderich Canada

court house goderich D Stewart postcards coll.court house card message D Stewart postcards coll.
Mrs Chas Burwell, Tillsonburg Ont.

Dear Sister, Just a card to let you [know] we are alive and will answer your letter soon but have been very busy trying to get straightened up. Then I am so lame that it keeps me a long while. John is working at the furniture factory here. I am nearly settled all but washing my curtains and quilts. Evellyn

Evellyn was Minnie’s older sister. John Hewson was her husband. This sounds as if they too had just moved to Goderich. But I cannot find them in the 1911 census.

About this beautiful Court House, the Goderich website (link above) says, “The octagonal-shaped park at the centre was occupied for nearly 100 years by the original Huron County Courthouse, an Italianate brick building of imposing scale, massing and elegance. It was replaced in 1954 by the present building.”

Concrete Elevator, Goderich, Canada

concrete elevator goderich D Stewart postcards coll.elevator card message D Stewart postcards coll.
Mrs Charles Burwell, Tillsonburg PO, Ontario.

Goderich Aug 3, 1911. Dear Minnie – We arrived home just at twelve. Pa was home for dinner, he is well. It is raining hard here this afternoon. Bye Bye from Ma.

Maybe Emily had just got back from visiting her daughter? I don’t know but the message sounds like a check-in.  This photo is a close-up of the elevator that you can see in the background of the first postcard. From the Goderich Port Authority website: “The first grain elevator at the Port was built in 1866 but was later destroyed by fire. The current elevators, constructed in the 1920s, are still in operation today.”

Point Farm Hotel, Goderich, Ont., Canada

point farm hotel goderich D Stewart postcards coll.point farm hotel card message D Stewart postcards coll.
Mr. C. H. Burwell, Tillsonburg, Ont.

Goderich, Sept. 1 1911. My Dear Charlie; Arrived here O.K. in time for dinner. Found the folks all well. The baby was real good coming up. I hope you found enough to eat. Am having a dandy time. Will I give your best respects to Miss Bell? Bye Bye, Minnie (write soon)

Minnie and Charley had no children at this time. But Minnie’s sister Evellyn had a daughter Mary Julia Hewson in July 1911. Maybe they travelled to Goderich together.  My mother told me who Miss Bell was, but unfortunately I can’t remember.  The Point Farm Hotel, also unfortunately, is gone. The area is now a Provincial Park. The hotel’s history is told by David Yates in the 2016/17 Goderich Visitors’ Guide (pp 57-58).

…at Tillsonburg and thinking much of you

Tillsonburg D Stewart postcards coll.Tillsonburg card message D Stewart postcards coll.
Mrs C H Burwell, Goderich, Ont. [postmarked Sep 2 1911]

My Dear Minnie – I rec’d your card and feel a lot better to know you are all right. I am getting along all right keeping bach with John. Yes, give my best respects to Miss Bell and the rest of the folks. Bye Bye, Charley xxxx X1 for Miss Bell

John, I think, was a friend of Grandpa’s. I gather, from this exchange of postcards, that Grandma left them to fend for themselves when she went away. But it seems that he and John had “found enough to eat.” Ha!

And that’s our tour of Goderich from 1911. See my Goderich, Prettiest Town for my memories of the town and Bluewater Beach from several decades later. I wrote it right after a devastating tornado hit the town in August 2011.

Princess Louise Park

Sussex has the best all-in-one park I’ve ever seen: Princess Louise Park on Leonard Ave, just off Main Street. There are other recreation areas in town, but PLP puts a whole lot of everything in one place.Canada Day Princess Louise Park photo Jim StewartFrom spring to fall, every weekend, there is a special event going on in the park. Plus Canada Day and fireworks, even the circus (Great Benjamin’s Circus).  All that is aside from its regular usage by ballplayers, skateboarders and people walking with or without dogs.

Old bandshell Princess Louise Park photo d stewartA pretty treed area alongside the creek has picnic tables and a bandstand. Baseball diamonds, soccer field, tennis courts and skateboard park. Also a hockey arena, agriculture museum (housed in an old tank hangar) and senior centre.

And the PLP Show Centre. Filling the back corner of the park, it has a covered riding arena, an outdoor ring, five barns and a penning corral. There are horse shows almost every weekend from April to October. Put on by horse breed and equestrian discipline clubs, they’re open to everyone. The season starts with the Equine Review, put on by the Maritime Quarter Horse Association (this coming weekend, schedule here).PLP Show Centre 2014 mini horse competitionWhen horses aren’t in the Show Centre, other animals are. All kinds of livestock fill the barns and riding ring during the 4-H Club’s annual exhibition. It provides performance space and horse accommodation when an event like the RCMP Musical Ride comes to town (Musical Ride II).

Agility competition PLP photo d stewartOn almost as many weekends through the summer, the park hosts dog agility competitions on the playing fields. In September, a rod and gun show fills the hockey arena in September. Outside, on the grass, hunting dogs demonstrate their skills.

The park is large enough that more than one event can take place at the same time, and still leave space free. Only two events fill the entire park.Sussex flea market and car show photo Jim StewartOn the weekend of the 3rd Saturday in July, is a huge flea market and antique car show. All the grounds and even the hockey arena are used for vendors.Atlantic Balloon Fiesta 2014 photo Jim Stewart

Then, the weekend after Labour Day, is the Balloon Fiesta. Hot-air balloonists come from all over North America each year hoping for good weather for dawn and dusk takeoffs. Also a midway and lots of food (curly fries!).

Summer Camp parade, Camp Sussex 1910 8th Hussars Reg. Museum virtual museum.caThe Department of National Defence used to own the land. Established in 1881, Camp Sussex was used in both World Wars for training troops prior to deployment overseas. The 8th Hussars (Princess Louise) armoured reserve unit is headquartered across Leonard Ave. When the base closed in the early 1970s, Sussex acquired the land and turned it into the park. The town has used it well.

Hanover Horses

Waco Hanover and Donnie MacAdams photo Barbara LivingstonA Facebook share – Waco Hanover celebrates his 40th birthday in 2017. He’s a Standardbred pacer, living in Vermont.

From his name, I knew he was of Hanover Shoe Farms. I’ve read Donald P. Evans’ Hanover: The greatest name in harness racing. It tells the story of a Pennsylvania racing and breeding stable that the Hanover Shoe Company owners started at the turn of the 20th century.

About ten years ago, after reading the book, I read online about Ralph Hanover who won the US pacing Triple Crown in 1983. He was the only Canadian-owned horse to do so. I learned that Ralph Ralph Hanover racing photo Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Famehad lived at Grand Royal Farms near Calton, Ontario. It is a magnificent property, one you know has seen days of glory. It was past those days when I knew it, but it was still a working horse farm.

So Ralph Hanover and Grand Royal, what were their stories?

The story of Grand Royal was easy to find. It had been a large Standardbred stable in southwestern Ontario. Then it went to Thoroughbred racing. Then it changed hands several times and its racing days were over.

mare and foal Grand Royal 1980s photo Elgin County Archives
Standardbred mare and foal, Grand Royal Farms, Calton ON, late 1980s

Finding out about Ralph Hanover proved more difficult. I googled and asked anyone I knew in the horse business. He went to Kentucky to stand at stud. Then he’d gone to Prince Edward Island, maybe. Alive? Nobody knew.

Reading about Waco Hanover now, I wondered how closely related he was to Ralph. My go-to horse pedigree site told me Waco Hanover, born 1977, is the son of Tar Heel and Wanda Hanover. Tar Heel was son of Billy Direct and Leta Long. Wow, Billy Direct was the horse who matched Dan Patch’s record 1:55 mile in 1938.

Tar Heel was Ralph Hanover’s maternal grandsire. Ralph was born in 1980, sired by Meadow Skipper out of Ravina Hanover. So Waco and Ralph’s mother are half-siblings, making Waco Ralph’s uncle.

Ralph Hanover Waco Hanover pedigree by Dorothy Stewart
Ralph and Waco Hanover pedigree chart (click for larger view)

Then I google Ralph. Right at the top are articles about his death in October 2008 at the age of 28. He lived in Dutton, West Elgin, Ontario. In 2008 I lived in St. Thomas, a half hour drive from Dutton.

West Elgin Horse Farms

In July 2008, we went on a tour of West Elgin horse farms. One was a harness racing stable. I talked to the owner, but did not ask about Ralph Hanover. If I had, he likely would have told me that Ralph lived a few concession roads over. Ralph lived on the Mac Lilley farm.

One of the owners of Grand Royal Farms in its harness racing heyday was Doug Lilley. Googling hasn’t given me the connection between Mac and Doug, but the Mac Lilley Farms website says it’s a three-generation operation.

Ralph Hanover and Ron Waples horseracinghalloffame.com/1986/01/01
Ralph Hanover and Ron Waples, Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame 1986 inductees

So the lesson from this? Google, drive around, ask – and keep asking and driving. One good chat at the Western Fair race track probably would have told me where Ralph Hanover was. And keep googling. I might not have found out about Ralph until he died, since that’s what most of the results were about, but at least I’d have known eight years earlier.

Finding Ralph, too late, has made me think about the famous horses meeting their fans at the Hall of Champions in the Kentucky Horse Park (see my Cigar). And Dan Patch’s towns, Oxford, Indiana and Savage, Minnesota, making sure that visitors know they’re entering hallowed horse racing ground (see my Dan Patch). Ralph Hanover was among the elite of racehorse champions. Dutton deserves to be proud of being his final hometown. I only wish I’d known he was there, so close by.

Christmas Stable

Their stalls are decorated, the horses snugged in. Wintertime at the stable, and Christmas approaching. Stockings soon will be hung on stall doors.Fletcher in decorated stall photo dorothy stewart

The riding students who decorated the stalls will come to the barn on Christmas Eve, so one told me, to have a Christmas party with the horses. They will fill the horses’ stockings and give them their presents.

Samson aka One Kid CoolOne horse is getting a lot of stuff from his Secret Santa. I know because she told me. Whispered it, actually, so Samson couldn’t hear. And they are practical things that horses need but that he will also enjoy. A lot of thought went into choosing his gifts. (Amazon links below give you a clue)

I’m sure his Secret Santa has made a Christmas wish list for herself. She’s a girl in her early teens and she has a wide range of interests. But the only gifts she has talked about to me are those she is buying for the horses. The special, big presents are for “her” horse but she’s been shopping for small things for all of them. She’s very excited about it, about the shopping for them and the giving to them.

“Her” horse is not actually hers. He belongs to the stable. The other horses being shopped for are the stable’s lesson horses. The details of ownership don’t matter. We all have a special bond with our favourite horse, no matter how many others may ride him or her. The horses feel the same way, I think. They have their favourite riders too.Willie in aisle beside decorated stalls

I don’t know what they think of their decorations. Well, I do know what “my” horse thinks. When I was leading him to the cross ties, he tried to eat the holly off a stall door. So that is his opinion: food!Butternut Stables doors with wreaths

Dan Patch

Dan Patch was a harness racing horse, a pacer. He was crazy good, they said. 110 years ago, he was the best pacer ever seen. He was a Harness racing Dan Patch Breeder_and_sportsman_mag_1911_wikicommonshuge celebrity in the US, the first multi-million dollar sports superstar.

His story is told in Charles Leerhsen’s 2010 book Crazy Good. You will enjoy it even if you know nothing about harness racing. It’s a story of triumph over adversity, of middle America at the dawn of the automobile age, and of the hucksterism that Americans do so well.

Crazy Good: The true story of Dan Patch - Amazon link
Click for Amazon link

Dan Patch was born in Oxford, Indiana in 1896 to Zelica, a mare obscure in Standardbred breeding history. His sire, Joe Patchen, was well known for both his speed and his bad temper.

At birth, Dan Patch’s prospects seemed zero. His left rear leg was misshapen. His owner Dan Messner was advised to put him down. But he didn’t. For the history of harness racing, and for Dan Patch, that was a very wise decision. Dan Patch learned to walk, then run.

Dan was a natural. He loved to race and he loved audiences. As his star rose, other parties became interested in him. With a new owner, he went to the big time. That’s when the hucksterism started. Not by Dan Patch, who simply continued to run the very best he could, but by Marion W. Savage, his new owner. At Savage’s International Stock Food Company farm near Minneapolis, Dan Patch lived out the rest of his days. When he wasn’t travelling the country in his own rail car.

T-Eaton-Co- photo Dan_Patch_wikicommonsDan Patch never lost a race. Horse owners became unwilling to enter their horses against him. So Savage promoted exhibition races with Dan running only against the clock. Dan set a record in September 1906 at the Minnesota State Fair with a mile in 1:55. That time was not officially recognized because a windshield was used. Dan Patch’s official mile record was 1:55:¼ set in Lexington KY in 1905. His unofficial record was not matched until 1938 when Billy Direct paced a mile in 1:55. It wasn’t beaten until 1960.

Dan Patch Two Step (for piano)

Dan Patch coffee can from ctpost.com
from ctpost.com March 22 2012

Savage was an odd man, very successful at selling himself and products. However much he may or may not have known about horses, he knew a lot about marketing. And market Dan Patch, he did. Dan’s image and name were on livestock feed, tobacco, a railway and everything in between. He even gets a mention in The Music Man.

For horse people, Dan Patch didn’t need a front man. His talent spoke for itself. But Savage’s marketing of Dan and racing made both better known to a public much larger than harness racing fans.

Dan Patch died July 11, 1916. Marion W. Savage died one day later. By that time, harness racing had ceased being a major national sport.Dan-Patch-Line-MN-Bachman-farm workers load train car-wikicommons

If, like me, you’d like to do a pilgrimage to the homes of Dan Patch, check Dan Patch Historical Society in Savage MN for places and events. Also look for “Dan Patch Days” in Oxford IN.

Therapy Visitors

“A woman was here today, a long time. I don’t know who she was. She had a dog. I don’t know if she was lost. But she sat right here, with the dog, talking and talking. I didn’t want to be rude, but I had things to do.”

mom and charlie dog 2012My mother told me this one day at her assisted living home. She didn’t have anything she had to do. She had Alzheimer’s. I doubted that this woman and her dog really existed. But to be sure, I asked the nurse if anyone had been to see Mom. “Today is the day the therapy dog comes,” she said.

I told Mom the names of the dog and woman, and explained. She kind of remembered. But why were they coming to see her, she asked. “He was a cute little fella. But I’ve got my own dogs!” She meant mine who came with me.

Another time, Mom was even more distraught. “A kid was here all morning. I don’t know where her parents were. I thought maybe I was supposed to be babysitting her. But I’m too old for that.” I asked where the kid went. “A nurse took her, thank heaven.”

The nurse told me what I suspected, after the therapy dog incident. School kids visiting nursing home residents. It’s good for the kids and good for the elderly.

Therapy or confusion?

I’ve seen the joy dogs can bring to nursing homes. The residents in Leo being therapy dog at Glendale Crossing 2012Mom’s home were always so happy to see me. When I went alone, I found out who they really wanted to see. ‘Where are the dogs?’ Those who usually smiled and came over, even if they couldn’t speak, didn’t even notice me. It was the dogs they wanted.

Bearing in mind Mom’s opinion on unsolicited visits, I kept the dogs away from residents who kept away from them. For Mom, the staff made notes on her preferences. She did not mention any more perplexing visits.

Social contact is good therapy for people in long term care. It breaks up their daily routine, the boredom, keeps them connected. Staff do their best but they have the nuts and bolts of care-taking to do. So waverley-resident-cat-2009visitors, of all ages and species, help. But they can also be confusing, especially for those with memory loss. Like for Mom – wondering who is this, do I know them, why are they here.

“Do-gooders!” Mom spat when I told her why the young girl was with her, “why don’t they ask you first?” Words to keep in mind. Maybe they did ask and explain, and she forgot. Alzheimer’s can cause memory and perception of reality to wander. Frequent cues might help lessen confusion, at least for the moment, about the “who” and “why” of visitors.