When I first moved to NY I still had my Samoyed Rio. That was ok for awhile, but I had to live in Queens to have a dog. Rio and I lived in the “garden” apt. on 63rd Ave. in Forest Hills. We did fine while I was working from home, but when I had to travel, I had some very bad experiences. The worst was when I hired a teen-ager who lived a block over. When I came home, my neighbor Danny, who was 80 something, told me he had to come in because Rio was howling. He found the dog w. no food, but plenty of poops on the floor. The girl had just decided not to come over anymore. Luckily I was only gone for a week, but I never got over Rio’s being abandoned. He did. He forgave me the moment I walked in the door. From then on, I depended on the sweet old guy next door.
When Rio died of heart trouble soon thereafter, I got two cats. They were cats that acted like dogs. They came every time I called; they played fetch w. pieces of paper. They stayed with me for the rest of the time I spent in NY and they died of old age in San Francisco. By that time I had dogs again. Two of them. One mutt I found on the street, Miapia Meatball, and Xeus, my German Shepherd. I decided I needed even more animals to depend on me, some that lived longer. I was worried I’d die of old age and leave a parrot because they lived until 50, so I rescued a racehorse. They can live to 30.
His name was Metallic Gold. His grandfather the famed sire Mr. Prospector. Around that time Walter Payton, the Hall of Fame football star, died of liver disease. So, I named Metallic Gold Walter. Walter changed my life. At first I had to keep him an hour away at a ranch in the hills. One night the hills caught on fire as they are wont to do in California, and I panicked. I moved him closer for double the boarding fees. I still had to travel 75 miles roundtrip and it was exhausting if I went three times a week as I did, plus work fulltime.
As soon as I was able, I retired from being a fulltime photojournalist, covering World Series, Super Bowls, Final Fours and the Olympics. I had done them so many times they were no longer a draw. Walter was. I wanted to ride him everyday, not three times a week.
So, I went to work for a commercial real estate investment firm right next to where Walter lived in Menlo Park, California. It cost a lot to live there and it cost a lot to do that job, but it was worth it. I have a very compelling connection with that horse as if I were a six-year-old girl. Come to think of it, that horse made me feel like a six-year-old girl. Not a bad feeling.
I read Jane Smiley’s Horse Heaven and realized I wasn’t the only sane person who went nuts over a retired racehorse. I found a ton of middle-aged women in Menlo Park that did the exact same thing. Only they were even crazier than I and were actually JUMPING their horses. They started leaving and going to the Eastern part of Northern California to actually LIVE with their horses. It cost more and more to live and pay horse board in Menlo Park. I took note.
After surfing the internet for two years to see where I might buy a small ranch and live with Walter, I found one in Sheridan, Oregon near Portland. I sold my SF house and bought it. Now I live on the most beautiful land in America with my horse Walter and I could not be happier. There are a lot of crazy women doing the exact same thing.
p.s. I get four NPR stations!
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