Like most little girls, I was infatuated with Disney princesses in my youth. Those lovely ladies possessed everything I desired: beautiful gowns, angelic singing voices, handsome princes, pure hearts, and the uncanny ability to communicate with beloved woodland critters, pets, and farmyard animals. The animals, while sometimes comical, were full of health and zest. None of the princess’ loyal companions ever had parasite infestations, personality disorders, or were procured through Craigslist.
Growing up on a horse farm in Iowa provided me with endless opportunities to converse with furry creatures. While feeding hay in the pastures, I would lift my slightly mannish singing voice to the timber and beckon the woodland animals, yet I never drew birds to my fingers or fawns to my side. Instead, I’ve been the target of squirrel defecation, hissing raccoons, and a trash-raiding black bear. While raking manure, I gently encouraged the horses, barn cats, sparrows, and mice to fashion a beautiful garment made from the Carhartt overalls I wore, yet they ignored my wishes and continued their non-sewing activities. Instead, I had to purchase my clothes from the sale rack. While riding in the bed of the pick-up truck, I stuck my head through the rear sliding window to address the stock dogs lounging on the front seat. Using my best imitation of repressed royalty, I requested that they magically turn into a staff of servants and bring me grapes and cheese, yet they were content panting into the A/C vent. Later, work-weary and starving, I would reach for the bag of chips, only to find it licked clean by efficient canine tongues.
As an adult, I moved west to Colorado and met a carpenter with kind eyes. We were married and birthed two rambunctious, adorable boys who filled up our hearts, emptied our pantry, and stole our sleep. In addition to our family of four, our tiny home now provides shelter for two spoiled dogs and one smelly cat. Currently, we stable two sweet, slightly disabled ponies, and our two horses will winter on pastures in Iowa. Through some serendipitous twist of fate, I am not only blessed with animals, but I am surrounded by a herd of high-maintenance, somewhat misfit animals who drool on my lap, sneak into my bed, and occupy a special place in my heart.
Even though my life is not a fairy tale, it provides me with constant entertainment and accidental insight. As a person who looks for the humor in life, our rag-tag band of critters completes the big picture. We have loved scruffy cats with allergies, mouth lesions, and kidney failure. We have cared for antique ponies with chronic lice, blindness, and founder. We enable dogs with cataracts, OCD, and bad judgement. And we have stabled emotionally unstable horses. I have yet to charm wildlife with my singing voice or convince any animal to make me garments and help clean my house. I have, however, tamed feral cats, trained dogs to respond to important words like “dance,” “submit,” and “high-five,” and bathed the unbathable. I have yet to convince my godmother to turn a pumpkin into a vintage Ford Mustang, but I own a two-tone riding lawnmower with a chronic backfire and a hood that flies off when you hit a bump.
After years of my Disney dreams being dashed by animals who chose to ignore my sing-song commands (unless I was bearing food), I submitted to my fate. I was simply not perfect Disney Princess material. No Disney Princess had dogs that urinated on them when they were lounging in the haystack. No Disney Princess had ancient cats with weepy eyes and snot-encrusted noses. No Disney Princess ever worried about contracting ring worm three days before their wedding. No Disney Princess was chronically sleep deprived, covered in hair, and always smelling faintly of manure. My animal magnetism grants me the constant company of critters and little men, yet I’m certainly no Snow White.
Perhaps I’m more of a Snow Yellow.
Click through to meet Snow Yellow’s posse of misfit animals.
My World 1 of 15
Welcome to my world! It looks better than it smells.
Black Dog 2 of 15
Meet Black Dog. She is afraid of water, cameras, and clouds. She loves barking at nothing, breaking into my bedroom, rolling in dead things, and begging for food. She would have preferred to be a Teacup Poodle. She has cataracts and cannot hear her name being called. She can, however, hear the pantry door being opened. Black Dog's best friend is whoever will let her lie on the couch.
The Rips 3 of 15
Black Dog may be old and chronically lazy, but she still gets "The Rips."
Red Dog 4 of 15
Meet Red Dog. She fears being left out of fun activities. She is sassy, makes monkey noises, and is OBSESSED with fetch. "Stop trying to make 'fetch' happen, Gretchen."
She is my walking buddy, my fierce protector, and a master at grooming avoidance. Because of neurotic stick chewing, she ground all of her teeth down to the nerve endings. Red Dog's best friend is whoever will throw the ball for her.
cRaZy 5 of 15
Did I mention that Red Dog is straight up cray cray?
Ball Ball Ball 6 of 15
Ball. Ball. Ball. She could do this all. Day. Long.
Smelly Cat 7 of 15
Meet Smelly Cat. He is one part Pepe Le Pew, one part ninja, and one part shiftless dude living in his mom's basement. He occasionally chews out his tail hair and has mouth lesions. He always insists on laying on my arm when I type. He also drools and rolls in garden debris. He is a master hunter and lines his fresh kill up (in a perfectly spaced, straight line) in the driveway. His best friend (besides me) is Red Dog.
Blizzard 8 of 15
Meet Blizzard. He is our half-blind appaloosa pony. He is 11 years old, enjoys eating, and loves his boys. He does not enjoy baths. I'm not sure how he feels about cats. I do know that Blizzard loves living at my house and we love him.
‘Merica 9 of 15
Doesn't this picture scream 'Merica?
Duke 10 of 15
Meet Duke. He is 26 years old and completely friggin' adorable. He used to be a parade pony, but he suffers from founder, so he was demoted to my backyard where he is kept on dry lot with carefully selected hay. There's a good chance that his vision is fading a bit, but he can still see his boy just fine. And he loves his boy.
Yeehaw! 11 of 15
This is completely gratuitous. You. Are. Welcome.
P.S. For those of you who are familiar with founder: It was only a bite or two of grass for the photo session. Duke's feet are fine.
Buds 12 of 15
Gus and Prince 13 of 15
Meet Gus and Prince Charming. Yes, that is really his name. They are brothers. They are descendants of the great racehorse, Seabiscuit. Seabiscuit was notably lazy and slept lying down. Most horses sleep standing up. Both Gus and Prince sleep lying down, apparently on their left sides. They are good stablemates.
Dirty Hair 14 of 15
This is me riding Gus. Gus makes me happy. Because of similar grooming habits, we smelled the same this day.
The Yawn 15 of 15
Prince Charming is done with this slideshow.
See you again soon!