Reporter’s Notebook: Storm Carl ~ On this date in history  

When I walked in the door 30 years ago and took a look around at The Newtown Bee’s newsroom, it was the most curious newspaper I had ever seen. Among antiques, a wooden carousel horse, and bee memorabilia was a giant ball of tin foil in the publisher R. Scudder Smith’s office, marking decades of sandwiches for lunch.

The Bee’s offices on Church Hill Road building are just down the hill from the old congregational church on Main Street in Newtown, Connecticut. Folklore has it the holes in it’s rooster weathervane atop the steeple were made by bullets shot by Rochambeau’s army on his way to Danbury to fight the British in 1777. In front of the church, in the middle of the state highway, sits a 150-foot tall metal flagpole. Old glory waving at the passing motorists.

Cub Reporter

Fresh out of college, in my early 20s, this journalist was ready to take on the world, to be a member of the fourth estate, to probe government, to investigate for the public good. Hired on October 28, 1985 as a staff reporter for the police beat, I ended up writing about roaming sheep, flags stolen off the pole and dead people.


Juxtaposed with the vintage ephemera that surrounded my desk was the new computer monitor with its green glowing LED screen. It was cutting edge newspaper publishing in the 1980s. My editor Curtiss Clark sat in a small office whose window abutted my desk. Sometimes he peered through the window like he was looking through a two-way mirror watching the phone interrogations by his reporters on the townspeople of Newtown.


Cub Reporter Lisa at her desk at the Newtown Bee ~ 1986

My first story was about a one million dollar property transfer from a doctor’s estate to Danbury Hospital for a new wing and a tower. It was to be named in Dr. Stroock’s memory. As part of the story, I toured his 300-acre Buckeye Farm on the corner of Cemetery and Flat Swamp roads, located in Newtown’s Poverty Hollow district. This part of town was dotted with dairy farms, rolling pastures and landscapes that screamed bucolic.

Missing Wives

Little did I know, that a year earlier, just down the road was a barn belonging to a young mother who was missing. In fact, her case kicked off a string of missing Newtown wives and suspect husbands — Elizabeth Heath, Helle Crafts and Regina Brown — all in the 1980s. These murder cases would embroil and devour the Newtown Police Department, for which I had just been hired to cover as my beat.

About a year after I started my Bee tenure  — on Nov. 19, 1986 — Storm “Carl” battered the small New England town. This late autumn snowstorm encased everything, including the power lines, in icy inches. A photographer from our rival daily newspaper, The News-Times in Danbury, had traveled to the top of Castle Hill. He captured one of the most iconic images, on one of most unforgettable days. White buildings, a gray steeple, snow-covered evergreens and the flagpole took on a silent blue hue. The only color in the photo was the American flag, the one frequently stolen, blowing in a stiff breeze.


Newtown, Connecticut ~ View From Castle Hill ~ November 19, 1986

There was no power. The town was cold. The Bee offices were closed that morning. I stayed home. To stay warm, I nestled in my bed with my dogs, since my electric heat would not work. Looking out my window, all I saw was my breathe and ice.


View from my bedroom window ~ After Storm Carl ~ November 19, 1986

Regina Brown, a 34-year-old American Airlines stewardess, was at her Whippoorwill Hill Road home that morning. In the middle of a divorce from her airline pilot husband, she felt vulnerable after the storm. Her house too was heated by electricity. There was a coal stove in the basement that would provide some warmth, but she needed help. Against her better judgment — she did have three young children to keep warm after all — she called her estranged husband, their father, to come over to the house. To the same house that the courts had barred him from entering with a restraining order just a month earlier based on a history of domestic violence. Storm Carl forced Willis Brown, Jr. back into Regina’s Brown’s life.

But what none of us knew that morning, is that another Newtown airline stewardess, Helle Crafts, with three young children, in the midst of a divorce from her airline pilot husband, who lived less than three miles away from Regina, had just been murdered.




Life’s A Beach! ~ Riding the East and West Coasts

It’s beach season for Connecticut horse and dog lovers! From October 1st to March 31st, horses and dogs are allowed on many local beaches to splash in the surf and kick up some sand. Fairfield’s Jennings Beach offers a superb swath of sandbars that during a super low tide give equestrians some awesome gallops. Recently, as I traveled to ride at Jennings, I thought back on my first two beach riding adventures, both on America’s West Coast.

Off Jennings Beach in Fairfield, CT

Off Jennings Beach in Fairfield, CT

See ya!

See ya!

Splashing in the Surf!

Splashing in the Surf!

California Beaches 

It all began at Pebble Beach when I was 12-years-old. My mother and I took one of those ‘nose-to-tail’ trail rides from the PB Equestrian Center nestled on the Monterey, California coast. We had to cross the 17-Mile Drive, with its stunning views of ragged coastline, wind-blown cypress trees and meandering sandy paths, to access the beach. Our horses, wearing large Western saddles with horns you could cling on to for dear life, were placid and practiced. No riding skills required here. Walking promoted sightseeing and discovery.

The horses’ hooves dusted aside white sand and crushed coastal grasses as we made our way towards the ocean. As we walked along the edge of the manicured golf course, there where green links on my left and the deep blue northern Pacific on my right. To this day, every time I watch the Pebble Beach Classic golf tournament on TV and they switch to the blimp view that pans the course from above, I am instantly brought back to that moment of wonder, when a horse connected me between the land and the sea in a seamless blue-green ribbon.

Pebble Beach Golf Course  in Monterey, CA ~ Great Pacific Ocean beach ride

Pebble Beach Golf Course in Monterey, CA ~ Great Pacific Ocean beach ride

My next Pacific Coast adventure unfolded during college. One day while at Pepperdine University’s Malibu campus, and missing my horse back home, I noticed a 3×5-inch index card on the student community bulletin board. Scribbled in blue ink was an invitation to go riding on the beach. This 19-year-old was game.

Malibu Beaches in Southern California

Malibu Beaches in Southern California

As we walked down a dirt path carved into the bottom of a clay canyon surrounded by shore pines, the aqua waves of Santa Monica Bay came into view and expanded as we reached the coast. We took a right turn, trotted some, and then from behind I heard the horses’ owner say, “Let’s Gallop!” And off we went. Up into my half-seat, my long hair flying behind me almost touching my chestnut-colored chaps which matched my horse’s coat. We galloped North up the beach and into the surf on the hard-packed wet sand. The best footing I’d ever felt. The horse loved it as he grabbed the ground with each lengthening stride. We spent several more hours of exploration among the scrubby brush and sandy cliffs of Malibu that day.

Connecticut Beaches

Fast forward several decades. Last month, the beach riding experience came alive for me on the East Coast as I used the park’s picnic table as a mounting block, which is probably against the rules! It was a bright afternoon, unseasonably warm for the end of October.  My horse and I headed straight for the surf. We took a right turn and trotted off.

Oz & I off on a beach adventure!

Oz & I off on a beach adventure!

The bright sun coming down at an angle across the water glimmered so brightly I was missing my sunglasses. Each ripple on the water shone like a million strobe lights spread out across the sound.

The sun in my eyes reflecting off the rippling water

The sun in my eyes reflecting off the rippling water

Then we came upon a flock of seagulls, but it was even bigger than a flock, whatever that might be called, a migration? Like little children spoiling a quiet gathering we raced at them. The gulls shot up towards the sky, and as we rode under them, they enveloped us in a squall, a snowfall of seagulls, swirling around us like a snow globe. While squawking in protest, gulls swooped past looking for a new landing place.

In a snow globe of seagulls

In a snow globe of seagulls

Then we met up with some other horses. They left early and we meandered around the farthest jetty before heading home, to beat the incoming tide. At slack tide we moved into the barely bubbling surf.

Slack Tide

Slack Tide

Then my riding partner yelled, “You ready? Let’s Boogey!” And off we went at a gallop. Up into my half-seat, smooth strides made rhythmic hoof falls on wet-packed sand.

Cantering on the beach - best footing ever!

Cantering on the beach – best footing ever!

Yes, I remember, best footing in the world for an awesome gallop! A huge smile spread across my face. The stone-colored sand on my left and the slate blue-grey water of Long Island Sound on my right. Once again, a horse had connected me to the land and the sea in a ribbon of happiness.

Between land and sea

Between land and sea

Prince – The White English Terrier That Lived at the Octagon House

Towards the latter half of the 19th century, the popularity of purebred dog paintings was at an all time high. Newly acquired pets by society were all the rage and many artists were commissioned to capture their likeness in oil on canvas. These purebred dogs, mostly imported from England, not only were comforting to the women of the house, but greeted the men returning from work with a wagging tail. Americans were following this “pet craze” as it was the fashion in Victorian England. Queen Victoria, an avid dog fancier, was especially fond of Pomeranians. Many in Great Britain and in the States emulated her by having pets of their own.

Prince - The White English Terrier - as seen in the George Earl Painting circa 1874

Prince – The White English Terrier – as seen in the George Earl painting circa 1874

Paintings of royal dogs, sporting dogs, hunting dogs and pet dogs across all breeds were in abundance in the grand estates and city townhouses of the Gilded Age. At the same time, field trials were gaining in popularity with many hunting dogs being imported from England to compete in the U.S. in both field trials and the newer sport of dog shows. These hunting and show dogs became celebrities in their own right.

George Earl British Painter

George Earl, an English painter known for his depictions of sporting dogs, came from sporting families in Worcestershire and Gloucestershire. An early member of The Kennel Club in England, he had two exhibitions at the Royal Academy in 1857 and 1882. His most important work “The Field Trial Meeting” was a compilation of the most famous sporting dogs and their handlers of the ear in a fantasy field trial on a Northern Welsh landscape.

Earl’s other notable work, “Champion Dogs of England,” was painted in the 1870s. This series of 24 purebred dogs were portrait head studies painted in a circle or oval design. They included such famous dogs as Warrior, a Scottish Deerhound. He was one of the most prominent Deerhounds of the 19th Century. Sir Walter Scott is credited with promoting the breed to the masses. He wrote about them in his novels and kept them at Abbotsford, his estate in the Scottish Highlands. Others portraits in the series were Rake, the Irish Water Spaniel, Cato, the Newfoundland and Prince, the White English Terrier.

The White English Terrier

The White English Terrier, a ratter with cropped ears, hailed from Birmingham and Manchester eventually working its way down to London through promotion by Fredrick White. By the end of the 19th Century dogs with cropped ears were barred from dog shows in England and this little white breed fell out of favor among fanciers.  By 1906, there were no White English Terriers to be found at any dog shows and soon after the breed went extinct. But not before one handsome male, Prince, made his way to the new world.

In 1872, Joseph Stiner, a tea merchant from New York City and an avid dog fancier purchased one of the most beautiful and unusual houses in America, the Octagon House in Irvington-on-Hudson from Paul J. Amour, a New York financier. Nestled 25 miles to the North of Manhattan, this eight-sided house built in 1860 became his summer retreat. It was Stiner who added a unique dome and lovely verandah to the original house. According to a book written by the Octagon House’s current owner, preservation architect Joseph Pell Lombradi, “Stiner traveled extensively throughout the world, and was noted as a connoisseur and collector of art. A breeder of horses and dogs, he had the head of “Prince”, his prize winning White English Terrier, cast in iron in the center medallion of each bay of the cast iron railing of the new verandah.” 

Close Up of Prince's head on the Verdana railings

Close Up of Prince’s head on the Verdana railings

When I first visited the Octagon House many years ago and heard the story of Prince and the breed’s extinction, a deja vu feeling came over me. The verandah head study is in profile, facing right, wearing a small leather collar with Prince inscribed on it. When I went to work at the American Kennel Club the next day, I came upon an oval painting, of a little White English Terrier named Prince, in profile, facing right, hanging in the Chairman’s office. Bingo! I was looking at the very same “Prince,” one of George Earl’s series of dog portraits from “Champion Dogs of England.” Looking at that painting, you couldn’t help but think it was used as the model for the iron cast heads on the verandah of the Octagon House. It is possible that Joseph Stiner may have owned that George Earl oil painting of his beloved dog at one time?

The Veranda circling the Octagon house ~ Prince's head is seen at the center of each panel

The Veranda circling the Octagon house ~ Prince’s head is seen at the center of each panel

I can only speculate, but it is known that Prince was a show dog and exhibited at the Westminster Kennel Club. Based on my research, Prince most likely arrived from England after 1872 and before the First Annual New York Bench Show, held by the Westminster Kennel Club in 1877. At that time his portrait, most likely, had already been painted in England by George Earl. This top winning British show dog eventually joined 1,201 other purebred dogs at one of the first dog shows in America at the Hippodrome at Gilmore’s Garden. But like all dogs, his biggest achievement was to greet his owner Joseph Stiner with a wagging tail.

Behind Estate Gates: Childhood Discoveries of a ‘Great War’ Veteran’s Service 

Bobby kicked up the soft dirt as he walked along the bridle path at the Zeeview estate. As he walked, he noticed a big fire ahead, like a bonfire, burning brightly one late summer afternoon next to the stables. He was just 12 years old in 1951 when he came upon the large metal leaf wagon filled with burning bundles lit by two estate workers.

Zeeview's Garage circa 1951 when the property was sold. The big burn took place to the far left of the photo, just beyond the horse paddocks

Zeeview’s Garage circa 1951 when the property was sold. The big burn took place to the far left of the photo, just beyond the horse paddocks

Bobby, my father who lived on the estate with my grandparents, watched for days as Emery and Steve brought truckload after truckload of personal items, like clothes and papers, belonging to the late Dr. Philip Gillett Cole to the leaf wagon.

Estate worker Steve Codis driving the tractor. He helped Emery with the big burn.

Estate worker Steve Codis driving the tractor. He helped Emery with the big burn.

Normally, Steve, a Slavic man who always smoked a pipe, would hitch the large six-by-six foot wagon with two metal wheels to the tractor and drive it around the great lawns of the 20-acre estate built in 1929 by Dr. Cole overlooking the Hudson River in Tarrytown. Co-worker Emery, a slight Irishman, would rake leaves and fill wooden baskets with the colorful fall foliage to be dumped into the wagon for burning.

Emery the estate worker who helped with the big burn prepares the garden

Emery the estate worker who helped with the big burn prepares the garden

But not this summer day, the leaves had not yet fallen, and Dr. Cole’s widow Katherine had sold Zeeview, along with most of its furnishings. She was moving north to Last Chance Ranch in Lake Placid, New York with her second husband Dwight Mills. Mrs. Mills had called my grandfather, her chauffeur, to help dispose of Dr. Cole’s belongings that had been in the house for the past decade since he died in 1941 at the age of 57.

Dr. Cole had three children with Katherine Pyle, — Kay, Jane and Philip, Jr. —  and was not only a medial doctor, but a businessman, an art collector, and a World War I veteran. Among the burning bundles were his military uniforms. He had enlisted in the US Army and according to his New York Times obituary, “He practiced medicine in Helena from 1910 until he enlisted in the US Army when this country entered WWI in 1917, going overseas as a 1st Lt in the Medical Corp of the 1st Div and being wounded. He was commissioned a Capt while in France and, on returning to this country mustering out of service on April 15, 1919.”

Bobby would check up on this marvel of burning usually on his daily walk around the estate when he would head to the playhouse near the swimming pool and children’s cabin on the lake. He’d sneak into the playhouse and steal an ice cold Coca-Cola bottle out of the industrial refrigerator when his father wasn’t looking to quench his thirst on hot summer days.

Bobby Nelson with his aunt's Cocker Spaniel - Vicky - named for Victory Day in 1945.

Bobby Nelson with his aunt’s Cocker Spaniel – Vicky – named for Victory Day in 1945.

When the last of the bundles were burned, Bobby noticed a dull black item that he thought was a medal in the cooling ashes in the collection tray below. He thought, “Maybe there are more?” and began to poke through the sooty ashes, tossing them onto the green lawn.

Saved from the ashes~ Dr. Philip Gillett Cole's collar pins from the US Army, World War I Victory medal & First Division AEF medal

Saved from the ashes~ Dr. Philip Gillett Cole’s collar pins from the US Army, World War I Victory medal & First Division AEF medal

He found a handful of soot-covered medals so black you couldn’t read them. One was from 1912 and had strange lettering that looked Russian or Arabic. One was a German Iron Cross from 1917. But there among them were two America medals, the winged Victory medal given to all veterans of “The Great War For Civilization” and also the First Division A.E.F 1917-1919 medal, for which Dr. Cole was a member. Also, a smaller French medal dated Avril 14, 1918 was found along with U.S.R. collar pins. He cleaned them up, coated them in clear nail polish and stashed them away in a metal box in his desk draw. A place typical for young boys to keep their hidden treasurers. There they rested for the next 64 years.

Reverse of the medals - The Great War of Civilization & First Division 1917-1919

Reverse of the medals – The Great War of Civilization & First Division 1917-1919

Images of the Great War

Several years after the burning bundles, my grandfather, now the Superintendent of the estate renamed Belvedere and owned by the Bronfman family, was looking in the attic in the garage.  He came across a box of 8 mm silent films. They were several reels that Dr. Cole had shot himself on the battlefields of France! He gave those films to Col. Tilden Swan, who owned Camp Pok-O-Moonshine in the Adirondaks, a boys camp that my father attended in the early 1950s. One day Col. Swan rounded up the boys in the mess hall and showed these silent films to the campers. My father recalls images of “horses pulling small artillery, like in the movie War Horse, and entire landscapes getting blown up. You’d see a hillside one moment, an explosion, and then half the hill was missing.”  These black and white home war movies were taken sometime between 1917 and 1919. When the reels wound down, all the boys could say was “Wow!”

By the early 1960s, I was a little girl living on Belvedere, with my parents and my grandparents. One day while playing in front of the garage on the slate patio outside the chauffeur’s quarters, I recall playing with a wooden box, which contained a viewfinder and stereo glass slides. They seemed cool enough, just like my Viewmaster at home, but like an antique.

The Garage and Stables at Zeeview circa 1958 ~ Zeeview was built in 1929. The chauffeur's quarters are to the right of the garage

The Garage and Stables at Belvedere circa early 1960s ~ Zeeview was built in 1929. The chauffeur’s quarters are to the right of the garage behind the trees

I slid the first slide, which had two images on it, into the box and held it up to the sun. The image appeared in 3D. I was holding in fact, slides made with a World War I Richard Verascope stereo camera. And the first images I saw were ghostly white against a ragged sooty black landscape. Was this an outside hospital? I saw doctors wearing helmets. I saw bandaged soldiers. One after another I put those slides in looking at them with wonder and growing horror.

What was this? What am I looking at? I had no idea what a war was. And then I saw something familiar. A leg, just a leg and an arm, just an arm. Then another and another. Then I found myself looking at a pile of arms and legs forming a tall pyramid against the darkened sky. Then I saw whole bodies, in a row, lifeless. Then a man, with a pipe, in a uniform. These eerily, ghastly images, in their grey, black and silver hues burned into my memory. Images from 40 years earlier, as seen by a man I never met, but whose former home I now called my home. Somehow, these films and slides had escaped the big burn more than a decade earlier.

A Reunion of Families

Recently, I tracked down a granddaughter of Dr. Cole’s and paid her a visit to learn more about her family and the home they built called Zeeview. On the day before I went to see her, my father tells me — for the first time — the story of finding Dr. Cole’s medals in the ashes. During my visit with the granddaughter, we laughed about the memories of the cherished family home, a place she had never visited but I knew intimately. I told her the story about my father and her grandfather’s medals. I then pulled them out of the manilla envelop and placed on the table in front of her. She then picked them up in her hand. Through the ashes we were sharing a moment between our families of a World War One Veteran. Neither of us could believe what my Dad had done. Days later she told me she was still in awe that my father had saved the medals from the ashes for all these years. I recently asked my Dad why he held on to them for so long. Bobby told me, “I’m not sure I ever intended to do anything with them, but I did not want to throw them away.”

Thank you all veterans for your service this Veteran’s Day. 

Throwback Thursday Horses: Mother/Daughter Maclay Winners Redux

Last night I had the pleasure of interviewing the National Horse Show’s 2015 Maclay Equitation Champion McKayla Langmeier for an upcoming issue of Connecticut Horse Magazine. Before the interview when I learned that her mother Linda (Kossick) Langmeier had won the Maclay in 1983, making them the first-ever mother/daughter team to achieve this honor, it sparked a deja vu for me.

While making lunch it hit me. In 1983, I was a staff reporter at the New Haven Journal-Courier (the now-defunct morning paper of the New Haven Register) and I remember interviewing a Maclay winner from Connecticut. Anxious to confirm my suspicions, I raced to the basement and dug into boxes of my newspaper clippings I’ve hoarded for more than 35 years. Then I found it! The yellowing front page of the Family & Leisure section, with an article I penned under the headline State teen’s ride clinched a national title. Staring back at me was Linda Kossick’s smiling teenage face with her horse and dog.

Newspaper clipping - State teen's ride clinched a national title - from the New Haven Journal-Courier, November 25, 1983

Newspaper clipping – State teen’s ride clinched a national title – from the New Haven Journal-Courier, November 25, 1983

I had taken a few photos of Linda that day with her retired horses out in the paddock. I had such fun interviewing her as I had been one of those little girls – just like her – who loved horses and dreamed of riding and winning in Madison Square Garden at the National Horse Show. Here’s one of my favorite photos:

Linda Kossick Langmeier and her childhood horses

Linda Kossick Langmeier and her childhood horses in 1983 just after her Maclay victory

So this Throwback Thursday has come full circle. I’m proud to write about McKayla Langmeier’s accomplishment just as I was so many years ago for her mother. Does that make me the first-ever journalist to interview both the mother and the daughter right after their Maclay victories? Any other horse writers out there who did this too? Would love to hear from you!

Behind Estate Gates: Oyster Bay, Long Island ~ Circa 1925

Jack the Manchester Terrier ~ A member of Teddy Roosevelt’s Family

On a recent trip to Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York, I went looking for a piece of my family history. In the process I discovered the depth of pet ownership of President Theodore Roosevelt at his family home.

Teddy Roosevelt's family ~ Jack belonged to Kermit, fourth from the left in the front row, standing next to his seated mother Edith

Teddy Roosevelt’s family ~ Jack belonged to Kermit, fourth from the left in the front row, standing next to his seated mother Edith

The 26th first family had a plethora of pets, including notable dogs like Rollo the Saint Bernard, Sailor Boy the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Pete, the bull terrier, his son Archie’s favorite pet, Skip the Rat Terrier, and most importantly, Blackjack or “Jack” the Manchester Terrier, the favorite dog of his son Kermit Roosevelt. All these called Sagamore Hill as well as the White House home.

The original Jack the Manchester Terrier sits in a chair at Sagamore Hill, circa 1904

The original ‘Jack’ the Manchester Terrier sits in a chair at Sagamore Hill, circa 1904

While at Sagamore Hill to retrace my grandfather’s brush with history, I imagined the six Roosevelt children running around the 3-acre garden with ponies and puppies.

As a chauffeur for a Rockefeller in-law in 1925, my grandfather happened to be driving alone along Cove Neck Road in a rain storm and came upon a well-dressed woman scurrying home. He offered her a ride and drove the former first lady to the front door of Sagamore Hill. As I walked the route of my grandfather’s good deed, I took in the landscape of the 155-acre working farm and discovered the family’s pet cemetery near the stately home.

Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York

Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, Long Island, New York

The Roosevelt’s menagerie, some would say zoo, occupied the home from 1885 through the children’s grown up years, past 1919, the year of the President’s death at age 60 and until Edith Roosevelt’s death in 1948. The stable and lodge that housed the horses was built around 1884 before the farm when into production. Horses were used to pull plows around the estate and carriage horses, like General and Judge, took them through the villages of Long Island around the turn of the 20th Century. Roosevelt was known for his jumping and polo playing skills and Bleisten was his favorite horse.  Shetland ponies, like the famous pinto named Algonquin, taught the children to ride.

Beyond the family pets, the children treated many of the farm animals as their pets too. The cows, horses, and chickens joined the dogs, cats, guineas pigs, rabbits, a badger, kangaroo rats, snakes, bear cub, lizard and others. You can see the full list at

Jack The Manchester Terrier 

Several letters date 1902 from Roosevelt’s years in the White House, reveal the depth of the family’s affection for animals. Teddy writes to a Mrs. Field of Chicago that he had, “such pleasure to send you a photo of my boy Kermit with Jack, the Manchester Terrier, who is absolutely a member of the family.” Later in the year, President Roosevelt is complaining to another family friend that he could not possibly take another Collie puppy as a gift to the household because, “we already have three collies, one of them a puppy, and four other dogs in addition, and that I really have not house space or stable room for any more.”

They valued pets as family members and each got a formal funeral ceremony and burial. Kermit’s pet Jack was most beloved by the whole family. So much so that he was buried twice. First at the White house, where he was the nation’s first pet. He was laid to rest under one of the rose bushes in the famed garden. But then Mrs. Roosevelt, the same fine lady my grandfather “drove” insisted that he come home to be buried at Sagamore Hill. After Roosevelt was no longer President, she could not bear the thought of Jack being so far away under the gaze of politicians who cared nothing for the beloved black breed and her Jack in particular.

On an exhibit at Sagamore Hill Teddy is quoted in his autobiography as saying, “As for the dogs, of course there were many, and during their lives they were intimate and valued family friends, and their deaths were household tragedies.” Photos of Jack adorn the exhibit, but so does the actual stone monument that marks his grave in the pet cemetery. It reads, “Faithful Friends, 1902, Susan and Jessie, Little Boz. 1903 Jack.

The stone as it appeared more than a century ago

Jack’s gravestone as it appeared more than a century ago

Jack's grave as it appears today at Sagamore Hill

Jack’s grave as it appears today at Sagamore Hill

Today, Sagamore Hill is open to dogs to walk the remaining 83 acres of Teddy’s pet paradise. Of course, now visitors must abide by the National Parks Service regulations which are noted in Section 2.15 of the Code of Federal Regulations that states that pets must be “restrained on a leash which shall not exceed six feet in length, or otherwise physically confine a pet at all times.” So, while still pet friendly, it’s not quite the same as a century before when animals roamed free across the summer white house lawn.

Horses Parading Around ~ Including American Pharoah  

Horses and parades go together like peanut butter and jelly! This partnership began millennia ago when horses were paraded around to celebrate battle victories. More recently, the Horse Guard Parade, those beautiful black horses of the British monarchy stabled at the Royal Mews in London, codified the daily practice of ceremonial parades in 1745. There is even a type of horse in America called the Parade Horse. This breed is used in a sport the celebrates the Southwestern tradition where stylishly dressed ranch owners would ride into town on their high-stepping horses in saddles dripping with silver.

Today, I rode in my first parade, a mounted costume parade through the streets of downtown Danbury. Hosted by Happy Trails Farm, nearly 20 horses — and one donkey — ridden by a costumed clown, giraffe, queen of hearts, cowboy, ghost, Game of Throne’s winter, and even a pair of horseflies, paid homage to Halloween and horses. Dressed as Downtown Abbey’s Lady Mary out for a hunt my trusty steed Oz and I proudly marched across busy city intersections and bustling suburban woodlands with ease. He was such a good boy! And it was his first parade too.

Oz waits to head off on his first parade!

Oz waits to head off on his first parade!

But, the best part of the day was watching the spectators stare in awe at the horses. People came out of their apartments to wave. Others stopped their SUVs to watch the horses stroll down the cityscape. Dogs hung their heads out of car windows to get a glimpse, or bark a greeting. Many residents came to the curb to take photos of horses in their ‘hood. One man shouted, “You made my day!”

American Pharoah’s Post Parade

His remark reminded me how rare it is today to see a horse on any given day. On Halloween this year most people who saw horses, saw them in a different kind of parade, the iconic ‘post parade’ of Thoroughbred racing.The ‘post’ is the starting point of the race. It’s name comes from the early days of racing when only a post at the rail marked the beginning of the race. It’s why today, horses have ‘post’ positions, not starting gate positions. Before each race, the horses are called to the ‘post’ by a bugler playing some form of First Call. Once played, jockeys mount up, leave the paddock area and ‘parade to the post’ in front of the grandstand. It’s this pre-race parading that gives fans and bettors a good look at their favorite horses.

American Pharoah in the Post Parade at Saratoga Race Course

American Pharoah in the Post Parade at Saratoga Race Course

After his post parade, millions of TV viewers watched Triple Crown Champion American Pharaoh make history with his Breeder’s Cup Classic win at Keenland Race Course in Kentucky. A new achievement in America’s oldest sport was born, the racing grand slam — winning the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont Stakes, and the Classic. As a huge AP fan, I cheered him on as he pulled away at 6 and half lengths. Announcer Larry Collum screamed,  “He’s a horse of a lifetime!” as he crossed the finish line in a track record of two minutes. Jockey Victor Espinoza turned and smiled for the finish line camera to mark the end of AP’s triumphant racing career.

For most viewers of this historic achievement, sadly, television or social media will be as close as they ever get to see, not only a horse of a lifetime, but a horse in their lifetime. American Pharoah reignited the sport of horse racing and I’m hoping that with it the preservation of the horse, all horses, has truly begun. No longer are horses the mainstay of transportation. No longer do they pull plows for farmers to create food. No longer do small stables offering riding lessons or backyard barns to keep a pony for the children dot the landscape. There just aren’t as many opportunities for people and horses to cross paths and connect in the modern world. In cities we may occasionally see carriage horses, mounted police officers, or those in parades! In the suburbs, apart from secluded private farms, horses are even harder to spot in daily life.

I don’t want the horse to disappear from the landscape. We need horses in our lives. If you have never been in the company of a horse, go find one today, bring them a carrot, and say hello. They will change your life. They are magnificent animals with a deep, historic bond with humans. Oz and I may have done our post parade while following a black horse ridden by a bumble bee, but we were happy to share the beauty of horses with others. AP’s trainer Bob Baffert said it best about his charge — and all horses — when he called him, “a gift from God.” Let’s cherish them all.