Its been quite some time, but before another event passed us by...another hiccup throws us around...or another unfortunate event knocks us down...I needed to say, THIS.
In 2010, I was a paid professional firefighter for the City of Kingston. It was, in its brief existence, the most fulfilling and amazing job I not only strived to have for years, but relished in once I had it. It was, for all intents and purposes... my dream job. It was hard, challenging, and gave me such pride that it made me feel like giving back in this capacity was not only rewarding, but I was actually lucky enough to get PAID to do it! Sadly, months later my exciting and long-awaited career came to a screeching halt. Just two days before Christmas, I was on an aerial truck ladder doing suppression at a now rather controlled structure fire. The firefighter on the platform made a tragic mistake, and accidentally retracted the ladder while I was standing on it high above. My right leg was pinned and foot crushed between the rungs, and in a perfect storm of unfortunate events...the limb became unrepairable. After several surgeries and failed attempts to overcome infections, heal soft tissue, repair crushed bones, and restore a labyrinth of misrouted nerves that were either severed or malaligned...the decision to amputate became the best possible option. After just over 2 years of trying to fix what was slowly killing me, my right leg was amputated below the knee in February of 2013. While I mourned the loss of my job likely more than the loss of my limb, I’ve never regretted losing the leg and have been better for it ever since. That's not to say that being an amputee is easy...not at all. But not living in constant, chronic, can’t escape the unbearable discomfort in your own skin pain... that was a plus. No more narcotics, drooling on the couch unable to live a normal life, wallowing in my misfortune and pain. Losing my leg ultimately saved my life...Im sure of it...but now what? Now what do I do? Who am I? Where do I go from here? Well...that was the long journey to where I am today.
Chickens Are My Gateway Drug
As I lay feeling sorry for myself on my living room couch, days in the same pajamas, no shower, no motivation, sleep deprived and limiting my narcotics as best I could...my husband (Saint Pete) did an amazing thing. He brought home a bunch of chickens and said, “There. Now go do something with these chickens. I’ll build a bigger coop.” Maybe set something up in that big empty barn we aren’t using much. Maybe get some other animals. But GET UP. Get going and DO SOMETHING. Take a shower. Find a purpose. Have a routine. So, even before I lost the leg...I drug my sorry ass out there in PJ’s and 1 Muck Boot, to do chickens. Often on crutches. Limping along in an orthopedic shoe or sneaker...but I tried. Now, you’d think my children, just babies at 1,2,and 6 would be motivation enough. But don’t judge me, they weren’t. I love my kids with my whole heart, don’t get me wrong. But I was never a “stay-at-home” Susie Homemaker type. That just wasn’t me. So...yeah. Chickens. ;-)
Chickens led to ducks, and a pond, and then some tough decisions. The leg had to go, but what will that look like? What will I do? How do I get by independently? I wasn’t sure, but I banked on the fact that I wouldn’t be in such pain anymore and THAT was all I really needed. Sleep is something that means little to you until you can’t have it, no matter how hard you try. When you are so overcome with discomfort and frustration, exhaustion and pain. Pain that doesn't leave you, no matter what you try to do to make it better (or see if it gets worse). Pain that is constantly there, nagging you, questioning you, taunting you to try one more procedure. Take one more prescription of pills. Overcome one more endless, sleepless night of feeling alone and desperate. And then...hope. Hope in the form of, wait for it...more pain? Oddly yes. And even on surgery (Leg-Lop) day, I was at peace. Peace that I knew I couldnt keep living like I was living, but the chance to get rid of dead weight and move forward (literally and figuratively) was a chance I was willing to take. Shortly after waking up from surgery, I’ll never forget feeling pain and asking myself, wondering, if it was the same pain or different pain. Indeed it was different. There was something I could do to make it better or worse, and it was glorious. I wasnt sure where I was headed, but I slept like a baby for days and for the most part, those days have been behind me ever since.
Goats and Dogs and a Horse ...Oh My!
As I healed, I found solace in my animals. The ducks gave way to a couple goats, and then a couple rescue dogs. Lastly, after a momentous and near death mountain climbing excursion that about killed me (I may be exaggerating a bit) among a group of other disabled folks...I came home and decided maybe we could manage a horse. Of course the horse needed a friend, and BAM! Donkeys.
Dominick The Christmas Donkey
Dominick was the first donkey here at the farm, and the only one truly purchased. He came in December 2015 as a companion to our Halflinger horse Polly, who could honestly care less about Dominick. Still, he was cute as a button and I doted on him constantly. He came from some folks out in Jeffersonville who had his mom and dad, Harry & Ruthie. They were in rather rough shape with feet untrimmed and curled like elf shoes, but the folks that had them truly did love them and meant them no harm. Sometimes folks don’t realize neglect if they don’t truly understand what is needed. In this case, farrier care to trim hooves, and medical care to castrate a very obese, older jack and save an equally obese overbred jenny were first on the list. While I offered help and resources of folks that might be able to help, it seemed the couple was quite firm in managing on their own, but said they would try to get them care from a friend who offered help. Fine enough. So, I brought my new donkey home and figured we’d be a one horse/one donkey show, and that was that. Until...what I can only describe as The Calling.
A year almost to the day, those same folks with Harry & Ruthie called me and asked if I was interested in another donkey. Clearly then, Harry had not been castrated based on this new baby donkey. While I wasn’t really in the market for another donkey (a Jenny named Josephine), I was worried and concerned for Harry & Ruthie so, upon consideration of the “possibility” of another donkey, I brought my friend Steve out to meet the gang and maybe offer some advice to the folks who had them. Since Steve had connections, maybe we could offer them a way out to bring the donkeys to a rescue? Not ME mind you, but a legit, other rescue that was willing to take them in and get them care they needed. Long story short, they agreed and I was simply the transport. Meanwhile, my sweet Polly passed away due to a neurogenic (likely Lyme) condition, so the thought of a friend for Dom was promising.
You know, when someone passes a bucket of sh*t around, and everyone else is smart enough to keep passing it, and there’s that ONE person who cracks the lid to look inside...? That’s me. I should’ve known there would be complications. While Ruthie and Harry are a bonded pair (donkeys often have bonded mates they are attached to and mourn, cry even, if they are separated) and had a young foal, the couple stressed that they wanted Harry and Ruthie to be kept together. Rightly so. I agreed. And, that was the plan. Until...the Rescue organization realized Harry was not in fact castrated. That was a bit of a game changer, along with a couple other snafoos along the way, so....yada,yada,yada...the donkeys came to live with me. But ONLY till I found them homes. Together. Just before the holidays. In winter. Needing all sorts of medical care. Yeah, they were NOT a hot sellers, and I couldn’t rehome them together anywhere that either didn’t have adequate shelter, refused to keep them together, and certainly no one wanted a fully in tact, older jack. The baby on the other hand...she was a keeper.
End Of the Year Sale: Five for the Price of One!
So now it’s the end of November 2016, and while looking for a reasonable home for these two older donkeys, we had to get them proper care. While I was able to get them farrier care and change their nutrition almost immediately, vaccinations came next, and lastly...but most needed...was to clip the cohones of that baby-making stud Harry. Poor Ruthie was so very overbred. I promised her a life of Girls Nite outings, Happy Hour watering hole drink specials, and kid free cardio sessions to get that mom bod back into shape. Sadly upon just a few weeks with us, it was apparent she had another little one already cooking. Ugh. Well, I certainly wanted to wean Josephine properly, but then there is the stress of another baby, and then she must wean THAT little one...oh Lord. What have we done! By now it’s Summer of 2017 and I’m in deep. How am I ever going to financially care for FIVE donkeys? So, Sweet Ass Farm is created and a 501c3 journey is begun.
The farm became a full fledged 501c3 in November of 2017. Exactly one year after this crazy idea of having a herd of donkeys fell in my lap (or walked into my trailer, I guess). At any rate, it’s been a heck of a rollercoaster of up’s and down’s, of recreating myself and my purpose, of finding the good in what the Universe gives me, and saving what needs saving. In myself. In others. In whatever comes my way. You know the story of the boy on the beach? You know, the one where a man see’s a young boy throwing scores of starfish back into the ocean after they’ve all washed ashore after a storm? The man says, “Why do you bother? It doesn’t matter. You can’t save them all.” And after a moment of contemplation, the boy replies, “It matters to THIS one.” I think about this analogy often. And while I know I can’t save everyone, I know I can do my best to save THIS one. Imagine if we all did our best.
“I may be a foot short when it comes to a race for the finish, but I’ve got a leg-up on perseverance to carry me to the end .”-GoodyOneShoe Hoppinfast