Lucy Jensen

During the last several months of Covid — or the ongoing lifetime of this pandemic, depending on how you feel about it — people and dogs seem to have become even closer. Record adoption levels at shelters were noted the world over. People needed an excuse to walk the dog and get away from the prison that used to be their home with all their so-called beloveds inside of it driving them crazy.

Maybe not everyone felt that way, but I know many who told me that being allowed to exercise their dog during the Covid lockdown became a habit, which evolved into an essential part of their everyday, lockdown or not. Some were even petitioning for “Pawternity” leave. Yes, it has become a thing apparently, as the global passion for canines mostly flourishes and blooms.

I was afraid that the shelters would start filling up again once people returned to work and semi-regular life, but it doesn’t seem that way. It appears that the animals became a much more intrinsic part of a household during the dark days of lockdown; more civilizing than many of the family members in some cases. Some of us already knew that about animals; it took a worldwide pandemic to teach some of the late starters.

Olive and Mabel are two Labradors who own a man called Andrew Cotter. If you do not already know about Olive and Mabel, you have been living under a rock these past Covid-ridden months and you must immediately stop whatever it is you are doing and tune into their many videos on YouTube. What is special about these Labradors, you might ask! Well, truthfully, absolutely nothing; but they are just delightful, as most dogs are.

Their dad, Andrew, is a British sportscaster who found himself a little unemployed and, let’s face it, “skint” (broke) — to coin a nice English turn of phrase — during the pandemic. He started to do voice-overs for the Labs and became an internet sensation. Why, you might ask! Well, one reason is he is very funny and the other is that he totally understands dogs and their patterns of thought. That, for dog people, is an essential part of life.

Who knew that such a “talent” would turn viral almost overnight and have people going to YouTube just to see what kind of food-seeking and mountain climbing they were going to do next. Good for Andrew is what I say and when is the movie coming out? (Oh, a movie about dogs and food-seeking and mountain climbing, you might roll your eyes! Yes, with Mabel and Olive and Andrew and these are some very fun characters to spend time with!)

Though Andrew may not have made his million over his overnight sensation, he likely at least gets a free year of kibble that promotes his lovely Labs, or has some mountain climbing gear sponsorship. And he didn’t even do it for the money; he did it, seemingly, for the love of his dogs and his own sanity.

Moving on from that topic, but not really at all; I must introduce you to the horses of Riverview — or rather ponies, as my father and aunt insist upon calling all splendid specimens within the equine world. I wonder how viral their lives might go in the scheme of things, if there were an eccentric sportscaster among us to get inside the ponies’ minds. These “ponies” were raised on an unsuitable “ranch” of sorts close by to our neighborhood.

Tony, as the colt is called, was born rather unceremoniously in the neighboring vineyard when his mother Mary, yes her, bolted through the broken-down fence — no barbed wire, thank you lord — and gave birth in the middle of nowhere. Thanks to some worried vineyard workers, Mary was coaxed back to the ranchita with her baby, stressed but reasonably intact. This could have ended up so badly and still things on the ranchita failed to improve.

Many of our neighbors stopped by and checked on the water and food status of the horses, since it seemed to be very unreliable. Too many times I drove past and witnessed the horses car-watching and seemingly waiting for an owner that never seemed to come. One time I called the landlord of the property and told him I was going to cut the lock on the gate and do a well-check on the animals. It was 100 degrees outside and, sure enough, the horses — and the dog and chickens at the time — had no food or water. I was absolutely beside myself, rectified the diabolical situation and drove to the man’s house to give him a piece of my mind. He was too scared to face me that day, but at least the animals got fresh food and water. When I did finally catch up with him, he asked for a second chance, which he received under somewhat parole-like conditions.

The situation continued to decline from there and, finally, one of our neighbors got his permission to rescue the horses and bring them closer to our homes where we could properly take care of them, Mary, the Mare, was super slim and the colt slim and skittish. I think they were rescued just in time, before some serious ailments assaulted them. Our neighbor with the nice corral and stalls volunteered her “pasture” for them. Other neighbors helped pitch in with food and supplies.

Alfalfa, apples, grains, beet pulp and fresh water were delivered to these animals. They must have thought they had gone to horsey-heaven. The Mama Mary is sweet with kind eyes and, obviously, a lovely nature. She reminded me of my old Sir Winston White Horse and it brought tears to my eyes, as I brushed her and remarked upon her relaxed poise with the tip of her back hoof resting gently on the ground. Winston would always do that when he felt secure. He was a flea-bitten grey rescue also with beautiful eyes.  

It has been very heartwarming to witness a neighborhood coming together for critters in need. Crystal Maravilla set up a Go Fund for the animals’ care on Facebook, if you would like to contribute to their feed, care and soon, we hope, vet and farrier visits; or you can contact one of us. It does take a big-hearted village to do wonderful things with small hands and budgets, but I love seeing how things can work out.

We still don’t know what the future holds for Tony and Mary, but I do know they will, ultimately, be fine and live out safe and serene lives wherever they hang their hooves. We will all make sure of that.

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Soledad columnist Lucy Jensen may be reached at [email protected].


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