Sunday, September 25, 2011

Hubbub Pillsbury Pinard

By the time most kids reach ten years old, they are pretty excited if they have ridden on a train or plane and visited Disneyland for a few nights. When Sara was ten years old, her dad and mom packed up the family and moved them all to the African country of Cameroon. 

Sara and I worked together on a photo shoot for an advertising campaign surrounding the grand opening of St. Anthony Hospital.  This ad campaign was a big deal, you know, with ‘all eyes’ watching the development of our creative approach.  And so, our project had us working together closely throughout several days of shooting.

Over lunch one day, looking out onto Gig Harbor bay from our perch inside picturesque Tides Tavern, we exchanged the pleasantries typical when coworkers share a meal together.  We just finished the “what-do-you-do-when-you’re-not-at-work” question, to which I’d told her about my ‘Too Perfect’ collection of ‘dog stories’ as I called them by this point.  We then moved to the ‘where-are-you-from’ part of those polite getting-to-know-you conversations.

“Well, I have an animal story,” she said.  “But it’s not about a dog.  It was a goat,” she explained.  “She was a Cameroonian Goat,” Sara said with not just a little laugh in her voice, probably because of the look of amazement on my face and that of our photographer, Tom. “My mom gave her to me because we lived there for a year when I was ten and she thought I could use my own special friend.”

Those sorts ‘openers’ as I call them silence a room.  Even the air, it seems, holds its breath anticipating the rest of the story. 

“My dad was a doctor and part of a six-person family practice group from our hometown in Snohomish,” she began.   “But there were just enough patients for five physicians at the time.  So once every six years we would take a one-year sabbatical and when I was ten, my dad and mom picked Cameroon.” 

She and her family settled into a community of hard-working and earnest people, all eager to help them adjust to their way of life.  As Sara explained it, her mom was keenly aware that Sara was gangly and seemingly comprised entirely of arms and legs that stood out a bit among the other children her age in the village. 

As a result, her mother decided her daughter needed something to connect with and care for who didn’t mind a hoot what she looked like.  Looking among the suitable animals at hand, Sara’s mom picked out a weaned female goat that was part of the village herd. 

This selection was met with not just a small amount of hilarity among the locals.  A female goat, for heaven’s sakes, was meant to be fed, raised, bred, milked and then slaughtered for sustenance.  It wasn’t raised to become the over-loved plaything of an awkward little girl from America.  To add to the nonsense, Sara’s mom suggested that everyone in the household take part in naming the goat. 

“So among my choices included my sister’s suggestion, which was ‘Hubbub’, for all the hubbub around that goat,” Sara explained.  “Then, the cook suggested ‘Pillsbury’ for the cake mix-in-a-box that my mom packed among the precious cargo of our belongings so she could make a cake for each of the kids for our birthdays while we were in Cameroon.

And so where did ‘Pinard’ come from? I wondered aloud. 

“Well, the gardener suggested Pinard, and said to me ‘Pinard, because you are like the pinards who traveled across the sea when it was thought to just be flat to find a new world.’”  Obviously, he meant pilgrim, but the word was lost-in-translation.  

Then Sara, with all the pomp-and-circumstance a ten-year-old can muster, took these and other suggestions and laid them on her bed to decide the very best name for her Cameroonian goat.  And, she couldn’t pick just one.  So it was formally Hubbub Pillsbury Pinard and when the occasion called for it, ‘Hubbub’ worked just fine. 

It was a love, too perfect, from the very start.  It was not unlike that little nursery rhyme, remember Mary Had a Little Lamb?  Well, Sara had a little goat and Hubbub was its name.  And everywhere that Sara went the goat went just the same.  When the two very best friends were apart, such as during the school day, Hubbub Pillsbury Pinard waited patiently around the yard.  I can just imagine her claiming a perch of her own and standing watch until the appointed time.

“I would walk down the path from the school and call out “Hubbuuuuuub!”  Sara said cupping her hands and letting her mind wander back to that special time after school each day.  “And Hubbub would answer back in a loud bleeting that sounded like ‘I’m so glad you’re home.’  My mom was right.  Hubbub was a perfect match for me.” 

As love stories go, this one had its own ending.  A Cameroonian goat belongs, quite rightly, in Cameroon.  And, at the closing of their year in country, Sara’s mom helped her understand that and also to ease their parting with the promise that Hubbub would be well cared for in the village. 

“I heard from them that they let her have a kid, and raise it until it was full grown.  I know later Hubbub became sustenance,” Sara said in a matter-of-fact way.  “But she was special and everyone knew that.” 

Sara loved Hubbub and Hubbub loved Sara right back.  Everyone in the village knew it and while they may have joked about it, their actions were to revere that relationship.  Maybe they did so in honor of their rapport with Sara’s parents and the healing medicine her father practiced in their community? 

“My dad was one of the last, great country doctors,” Sara says proudly, whose father recently retired from his Snohomish practice.  “He listened to his patients and took as much time with them as they and he needed to ensure he diagnosed and treated them properly. It’s not like today where doctors can only spend a few minutes with a patient depending on the type of illness and the time allotted by insurance reimbursements.” 

He understood about using his gifts and education and giving back to those who needed his attention, such as the families living in and around that village in Cameroon.  Can you imagine the numbers of children who received immunizations and the countless others treated for minor ailments and injuries who otherwise would not have received such care? 

His wife, a partner in the truest sense of the word, supported and enhanced that commitment by ensuring he could bring his family wherever he practiced medicine.  She passed along invaluable lessons of love, commitment and friendship to her children and everyone around her.  I’ve often heard love is best used as a verb, and Sara’s mom knew how to put love into action. 

Sara herself is now a mother, with a beautiful daughter who is just as precocious as Sara was as a child.  The other day, as Sara explained it, she asked her daughter to say ‘the magic word’ in order to get dessert.  Without missing a beat, she answered with “Abracadabra!”

Sara’s daughter is bright, inquisitive and holds the promise of becoming a gangly youth full of arms and legs and pre-teen awkwardness someday.  Given the lessons passed along from her own mother, Sara is well-equipped to usher her daughter through the many changes and stages that life brings her.  Its love, in action, any way you look at it.  And, just too perfect

Sunday, September 18, 2011


So, it was a Sunday.  In fact, the exact week before Easter; Palm Sunday.  And, quite unusually, I’m forced to travel this early morning.  I have to commend my former day-job employer in that the days I must travel on the weekend are few and far between.  However, on that very Sunday I’m up before dawn and boarding a flight to Atlanta.

It’s important to note that our department’s administrative assistant loaded all our personal preferences into the travel agency’s database long before my flight. Things like frequent flier numbers and the like help her to know that I want to sit forward in the aircraft (though, of course, not First Class; I certainly didn’t rate that).  So, despite being assigned seat 10C during ticketing, even though I arrived two hours early, I’m still reassigned to 31D.  Trudging with my small stack of Hollywood gossip magazines, I slide back into my slice of the sardine-can-style space we call an airplane seat in Delta’s Coach Section.  Squeezing in place, I prepare myself for the long flight ahead. 

As I’ve learned since Chelsea came blissfully, serendipitously into my life, there are no mistakes or random events where love is concerned.  Armed with this truth, to learn that my seat was reassigned gave me pause enough to open my eyes and look around.  Maybe in the roulette wheel that is the seat-assignment software program, I simply got shuffled to the back for some reason I will never know?  Maybe not.  I place the magazines in the seat pocket in front of me and settle in, pausing long enough to listen for a moment to the world around me.  Hmmm.  I count to myself…one-one-thousand, two-one-thousand. 

I stare into the seat pocket in front of me and my mind wanders far away from the Hollywood gossip magazine I brought to keep me company on the flight.   I rouse myself from my musings long enough to notice that the woman now sitting on my left is also perusing her own Hollywood gossip magazine.  And, in fact, she has a copy of the one that I didn’t purchase.  We women understand the unwritten rule that one Hollywood rag is a communal item to be shared once we, of course, have finished it cover to cover.  It’s like spreading good karma.

This woman sitting next to me offers a smile and I give one back.  Hi I’m Jacquie, I’m Shannon, and we exchanged polite, brief conversation, each not trying to intrude on the other’s space.  I found out she has children; young, like mine, and gradually we enjoyed swapping stories of juggling motherhood with new jobs.  We both laughed at how we were going to try to enjoy our trip, though it was so hard to leave home on a Sunday. 

 I tell her that I’m just a little worried leaving my son behind because he was sick when I left, and I’m worried about my dog who is also taking medicine.  And, really I’m not sure who I’m more concerned for, the dog or my kid. 

“Yeah,” she agrees.  “Between kids and dogs, it’s a toss up.”

“Oh, do you have a dog, too?”  I ask, making more polite conversation. 

“Well, I have two dogs, but I also own a horse.”

Somewhere in my mind comes the phrase Shut the front door!  Get outta town.  I can’t believe it.  Of course, making polite conversation, I say none of these things. 

“You are the mother of an eighteen month old and a three year old,” I do manage to say with not just the least bit astonishment.  “How do you have time for a horse?”

“Oh, I’m just in love with her,” she blushes back.  “I’m a nut and I know it.  When we moved to Washington State, I brought her with us. She was shipped in one of those horse moving vans.”

“Wow,” I say honestly. I wondered, probably out loud, something along the lines of purebred something-or-other, National Velvet, competitive rider, blah, blah, blah, to which she replied;

“Oh, no, she’s a rescue horse, but I think she rescued me.”

 There was my answer.  It was too perfect. 

The guardian angels let me know that this was to be a story about that magic kismet that happens when we give way to the love in our heart and the compassion to care for and be cared about with reckless abandon. 

Of course, for the next hour I’m entranced by the story she tells me. 

On a beautiful Mother’s day Shannon and her husband took their oldest son, then just a baby, out to a petting farm.  It was their way of introducing him to the farm animals that he was learning about in all the baby books.  As a mom myself, I think that’s a great idea.  I mean, what better way to understand the sound a lamb makes than to hear it first hand?

As they walked around the farm, they saw lots of horses, along with the regular cast of characters that you find in the barn.  The farm, North Wind, is also the home of the Horse Rescue, Relief and Retirement Fund, an organization dedicated to ending the slaughter and abuse of horses.  (

The founder of HRRRF and owner of North Wind Farm, Cheryl Flanagan, showed everyone around the farm as their tour guide and introduced Shannon to Inca.  This was a tiny foal, splotched brown and white, standing there in a stall without a mother by her side.  As Cheryl explained, in the horse racing industry there are nurse mare farms.  Mares, and in particular draft horse mares, are bred specifically for the purpose of fostering a race horse foal so the race horse mare can either return to racing, be bred again, or, as high strung as some race horses are, there are times a racing mare will reject her foal.  So, nurse mares, as they are called, are bred and then their foals are taken away and, literally, dumped. 

Inca was the offspring of a draft horse mare and thoroughbred stallion, also known as a warm blood because of the cross breeding between a draft horse and riding horse.  Inca was immediately discarded after she was delivered and did not receive the essential colostrum, or first milk that a mother gives to her offspring in the initial feedings after birth.  That made her particularly vulnerable to infection and greatly increased her risk of death in those crucial first few weeks.  Cheryl pointed out to Shannon she thought that the wobbly little filly might not make it. 

“Well, that was it,” Shannon told me as she rolled her eyes, smiling.  “I made excuses to stop by a few times to feed her and sit with her in her stall. Being a new mom myself, it bothered me so much that Inca didn’t have her own mother with her.”

Shannon just happened to “drop by” over and over again during the following weeks. Finally, this new mom who was now pregnant with her second baby dropped the bomb.    Shannon got up the nerve to say what she really wanted and she wanted that filly.  The problem was that now Inca was healthy and had just been adopted from HRRRF’s list of available horses.  The new owner was coming to pick her up in a couple of weeks. 

“I started crying and told Cheryl that I wanted Inca,” Shannon described, while making small waving gestures to express that foment of drama surrounding her in the moment. 

And Cheryl Flanagan made a call and the adoption of Inca went to Shannon. 

You just can’t keep a relationship that was meant to be, like Inca’s and Shannon’s, from their happily-ever-after beginning. It just took Shannon some time to get to that point. 

If you are one who is owned by your animal, you understand that at some point you stop yourself from doing what you should do and do what your heart is aching to do.  Your house will always be too (small, no yard, on a busy street), your life is too (full, crazy, obligated).  Or, simply put, you just can’t afford it. 

Whether its motherhood, marriage or one brown and white pinto-coated filly, your heart will tell you long before your head agrees, that there is always room for love. 

I can only imagine what the conversation must have been like back home, though I’m sure it went something along the lines of:  I know we have a baby and another on the way, but I love that foal. And Shannon’s husband, who now ranks somewhere near sainthood-status with me (even though we’ve never met), told her to follow her heart. 

So, Shannon made sure that Inca grew up from a beautiful filly into a well-mannered and capable riding horse.  She’s healthy and happy and loves her “mommy.”  With two kids, two dogs, and one very wonderful husband, Shannon gets up early every Saturday and goes on a trail ride with Inca.  It’s just their time, no one else.  During one summer, Shannon and a small group of women took a few days to ride the forest trails at the base of Mount Rainier here in Washington State.  It is a perfect, picturesque setting for a perfectly suited pair. 


Over time, I've lost track of Shannon and Inca, though I've kept in touch with Cheryl Flannigan and the happenins' @ North Wind Farm.  Cheryl and I played phone tag all summer as she's busy hauling horses and taking care of all the big and small animals at the farm. Right now, she's in the midst of readying for the winter months with her October 22nd "Hay Day" event at the farm, to raise money for feed to ensure her rescue animals are well-fed throughout the winter. As it says on her facebook page..."Carry your ass on over and donate a bale of hay!" I LOVE that!

Just like our Darla Clark, who runs Strawberry Mountain Mustangs rescue in Oregon, Cheryl is dedicated to the rescue and rehab of abused equines, as well as the sucessful retirement of working equines. Learn more about her work at as well as her facebook page of the same name.