Tippy Toes~ A Yankee Doodle Dandy Dog

Tippy Toes, a black Schipperke-Beagle mix with two white front toes, was born in 1972 during the Fourth of July festivities at Sweetbrier Farm in Easton. A litter of two boys and two girls arrived thanks to the barn’s resident Schipperke. Back in the 1970s “Schips” owned by top trainers were all the rage on the East Coast horse show circuit — before the Corgis moved in.

Soon, Tippy’s mother ran out of milk. He ended up at our home at several weeks old. My mother hand fed the little black nugget until he grew into an adorable puppy. Fittingly, I first met “the little captain” — the Belgium translation of the breed’s name — at summer camp in the Adirondaks when my parents came to pick me up in August. He confidently strode out onto the dock overlooking the deep blue waters of Long Pond.

Soon after his brother Floppy Ear joined our family. He was the last pup at the barn that nobody wanted. I identified with his lot in life, since I too had always been picked last to join the kickball team. One day, while visiting the Newtown building lot of our new home the brothers took off in tandem. I ran after them down West Farm Ridge Road.  As fast as my long legs could carry me, I hung a left down Hundred Acres, but I was no match galloping dogs on a mission. I stopped, gasping for breath, and watched them disappear down the middle of the road deep into fox hunting country past some of my favorite stone walls jumps. I eventually gathered them up. But before we moved to Newtown, Floppy escaped the property in Trumbull and was killed by car on a nearby busy street. For some reason, Tippy didn’t go with him that day.

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Tippy on vacation in Dover-Foxcroft, Maine circa 1981

Best Friends Forever 

Tippy became my constant companion. For fun I set up an obstacle course of lawn chairs and broom sticks in the front yard, jumping him around like a grand prix horse. Today, they call it the sport of Agility. I even made a Puissance high jump. My Dad built standards with little nails as the jump cups so I could easily raise the striped bar, an old croquet post, to nearly three feet. My parents even drove me to obedience classes where we trained and eventually earned ribbons in class competitions. I remember one score of 198 out of 200. Not bad for a barn puppy born out of wedlock.

Once I began driving, Tippy became my co-pilot. Sitting in the front seat, head out the window, as we drove to yet another barn to ride yet another horse. At one barn, he used to pop out of the car and hop into my open tack trunk to sleep nestled among saddle pads. He learned a large vocabulary. I spoke to him like a friend communicating with full sentences. He always seemed to know exactly what I was saying to him. Going off to college in California was difficult. Tippy stayed behind.

Chow Hound

Fortunately for Tippy, I didn’t stay on the West coast for long. I enrolled in a local university and he came back to live with me. By this time Tippy was known in our family as the “whiz kid.” He had this knack for knowing who the male head of the household was, whether at my Mom’s house, my Dad’s house or my house. He’d sniff out the patriarch’s bed pillow and leave his wet, yellow signature. Even to this day, when I visit my Dad, he points out Tippy’s signature on an old brass plate on a wooden trunk.

During college I lived about a mile from my Mom’s house. Each morning I would feed Tippy, let him out in the front yard to spend the day, and drive off to college. Within the hour, he trotted back to Mom’s for yet another meal. Then midday, he would commute back to my house, even crossing the busy street that took his brother’s life, and be sitting in the front yard for my arrival. This went on for months, until one day a friend driving to my house spotted Tippy mid-commute, stopped and opened his car door. Tippy jumped in for the ride home. Once home, we found him rummaging through discarded brown bag lunches in the back seat. He loved food so much, he once surprised me by leaping across the room and taking a slice of pizza from my hand. All I was doing was sitting on the floor, pointing at the front door with the hand that held the pizza, so someone would go answer it. Tippy answered the call!

Tippy’s most harrowing escape out of the back seat of a car was detailed in a November Newtown Bee column when my hatchback flew open on Interstate 95 as we crossed the Merrimac River Bridge from New Hampshire into Maine. Here’s an excerpt:

Most Harrowing – We had just stopped at the rest stop for gas on I-95 in New Hampshire just before the bridge heading to Maine. We had three people and three dogs in my compact Datsun. My schipperke/beagle mix Tippy traveled in the hatchback area and I had just put him in his cubby and closed the hatchback after a dog walk. Off we went back on the highway and across the bridge. Halfway across the bridge, sitting in the back seat with my two other dogs, Rodney and Allision, I felt a breeze. The windows weren’t down. I turned to look behind me and saw that the hatchback was open! 

“Tippy’s gone!” I screamed. I feared he’d fell out of the car, off the bridge and plunged hundreds of feet into the icy Merrimac River. “Slow Down!” I said still screaming, not knowing what I would do stopping at mid-span. Then looking back across the bridge towards New Hampshire I saw a little black blur round the corner onto the bridge approach. In the middle of the highway, running as fast as his little legs could carry him, was Tippy in pursuit. “Stop! It’s Tippy!” I watched as my little dog got bigger and bigger. It was a miracle he wasn’t hit by traffic. In another blur, in the middle of the highway in the middle of the bridge a car door opened, a little dog jumped in, and a hatchback was slammed shut – twice.

That vision of him running down the middle of the bridge toward the car was the mirror image of his Hundred Acres Road dash years earlier.

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Tippy as he approached 18 years old, circa 1990

As Tippy aged, he switched gears from the horse show to the dog show circuit, where he found a whole new flock of friends who thought he was a purebred Schip with a tail. His antics even prompted me to buy a purebred and start showing and breeding Schipperkes. But all good canine friendships come to an end, and four months shy of his 18th birthday, his life ended peacefully. His final resting place? Beneath my favorite jumping stone wall at the end of Hundred Acres Road. It was officially named, “The Tippy Memorial Jump” as we popped open the bottle of champagne.

On the Road with Linx & Adele

Read Part I of “On the Road with Linx & Adele” as featured in The Newtown Bee

Part II “Barking Nights for Linx & Adele”

There are some things you just don’t think about until they happen. Day one on the road to Illinois was a long trek, 14 hours, including three stops for potty and water breaks,  from Newtown to Elkhart, Indiana. As we nestled into the Red Roof Inn for a good night’s sleep, it was anything but continuous. A group of camo-dressed hunters held a tailgate party right outside our room until the wee hours. Every time they laughed, my Norwegian Elkhounds, Adele & Linx, barked back. Have I mentioned that elkhounds are notorious barkers? Finally we were all fast asleep when someone was banging on our door at 5 a.m. Amidst more barking than before , I opened the door a crack, “Taxi,” said the driver.

“Taxi?” I said to a cacophony of canine vocalization.

“Yes, Taxi,” the driver offered again.

“No, Taxi,” I replied.

“No Taxi?” came his response as I closed the door.  Bark. Bark. Bark. Boy, this was going to be a long trip.

Mr. Sock

Linx hadn’t been on a long overnight road trip since 2007 when I took him to Canada as a puppy. This would be Adele’s first extended trip. Overall, they were really good dogs, but at night, the demons arrived to deprive us all of sleep. The next night was our first night at the resort, the day before the big national specialty dog show started with the Veteran Sweepstakes for the older dogs.

Crash! Bang! Rattle! Clang!  I woke up with a start in the dark. No barking, but I knew that Linx had exited the bed, the wrong side of the bed. He opted for the tight space on the right side next to the wall. He had somehow hit the metal dolly (what I use to pull cargo around the dog show) that I had propped up against the wall at the foot of the bed for storage out of the way. I guess it wasn’t out of the way enough. Linx settled back into sleep on the floor across the room.

Next morning, we all woke up, and I noticed Linx had some dried blood on his left rear paw. Upon closer inspection, he had actually pulled off his toenail. I went to investigate and found it on the floor next to the dolly. Then I got out my first aid kit and cleaned his paw. Next up, with the help of friends, we managed to get him bandaged in a donated clean sock and started him on antibiotics. He was no worse for the wear. But I needed to keep him from licking his paw, so the sock would stay on unless he was in the show ring. That night he proudly picked up a second place in his age group at the sweepstakes.

Crash! Shatter! Rumble!  That night, a bottle of Pellegrino I had in the mini-fridge froze solid and exploded! Woke us up and set off the dogs barking. Three nights, three disruptions. But we tried to sleep on.

A quick trip the next morning sent me to Target to purchase a 10-pack of clean socks. Linx  garnered the nickname “Mr. Sock” among his friends and looked quite fashionable in a rainbow of colors, until someone made fun of him wearing a lady’s pink ped on his paw. I kindly informed them it was for good luck. His next class the following day was a large competitive Veteran Dog class with an entry of 10 and that the first place ribbon in that class was pink and it had his name on it.

The next day as predicted, Linx, at 9 and half years old, the oldest dog in the class, walked proudly into the show ring, performed his best, and walked out with the first place pink ribbon under a Norwegian judge. It qualified him for the Best of Breed class the next day. That night all three of us enjoyed one long uninterrupted slumber.

Best Brace in Show

Refreshed, we were ready to tackle the final day of the national specialty. Early in the day, Adele captured a first in the Open Bitch class. Then came Best of Breed, where Linx gained an Award of Merit, one of only 15 given among nearly 200 elkhounds. But the real fun was just about to start. The last class of the show is called Brace. According to AKC rules, A brace is defined as two dogs of the same recognized breed or variety that are similar in appearance, performing in unison, and presented by a maximum of two handlers. Both dogs competing in brace competition must have at least one common owner. I’ve always opted to show my brace a single handler. I must be crazy!

Adele and Linx stepped into the ring. Our first test was around the ring.  Then we had to stop and stack. Linx on the outside, Adele on the inside. Then the individual exam, showing their bites. And the big test, down and back across the diagonal of the large ring with an outside turn. Stop for the judge for one last look and one more time around the ring. Then months of roadwork and training paid off as Adele & Linx became Best Brace in Show with the point of the judge’s finger. After another two days of a regional specialty and two days traveling home, Adele and Linx, finally got to sleep in their own beds. And there was no barking. Good dogs!

 

 

 

Jinx Arrives at the Rainbow Bridge

As a puppy, Jinx let out her first deep “Boo-woo” bark as a heavy rain hit the roof. So funny was this, watching her tilt her head at the ceiling to determine if that gush of water was friend or foe. She jumped up on sofa, looked out the window, and then came another, “Boo-woo, Boo-woo, Boo-woo.” The rain was an intruder and she needed to alert us!

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Adele, Jinx (center) and her son, Linx

This feisty Norwegian Elkhound girl, officially known as Ch. Elvemel For Your Eyes Only,  CGC, has traveled far and wide with me. We’ve been to dogs shows in Colorado, Kansas and Wisconsin. We’ve done media events in Manhattan that has landed us together in the pages of Sports Illustrated and New York Dog magazine. We’ve attended  AKC Responsible Dog Ownership Day events from New York City to Raleigh, North Carolina, the latter to earn her Canine Good Citizen title at 9-years-old. She became a champion show dog and appeared live from Times Square on a pet dental health month media tour while a vet brushed her teeth for major TV markets all before she was 2-years-old. And she made her last show appearance of the famed Morris & Essex Kennel Club in October.

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Jinx hangs out with Beckham and Leyna and their owner Gail Miller Bisher

She made friends of her own like Leyna, the Manhattan-based smooth miniature dachshund. Besides doing the Sports Illustrated photo shoot together, these two hounds traversed tri-state dog shows in search of championship points. Jinx even broke the mixed-breed barrier making lifelong friends with Flirt, an adorable blonde labradoodle from Westchester County. Jinx would attend parties and sleepovers with Flirt, playing in her owner’s “enchanted garden,” as we called it.

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Jinx at Flirt’s Enchanted Garden 

And Flirt came to visit Jinx in Newtown, as her owner Renee Richmond, came to help build a garden of Jinx’s own.

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Flirt visits Jinx in Newtown!

By 3-years-old, Jinx became a mother, giving birth to two lovely puppies, Linx & Minx. Minx went on to a wonderful home to become Elvemel All That Jazz. Linx, a.k.a. Ch. Elvemel Casino Royale, CGC, stayed with us. Just last week, he won an award of merit at the Norwegian Elkhound Association of America National Specialty dog show at 9 years old, doing his mommy proud.

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Jinx checks to make sure Ray has a good hold of Linx (left) and Minx, aged 7 weeks.

Wait ’til I Get Home 

But before leaving for the national specialty three weeks ago, I had a conversation with Jinx. I asked her, “Please, wait until I get home.” She knew what I meant. I kissed her before loading Adele and Linx into the van for our 10-day trip.

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She was in good hands with my husband Ray and still able to walk and manage herself. Then a week into my trip, Ray texted me to call him. Jinx had taken a turn and needed help walking and doing her potty business. I had Ray take her to the emergency hospital and put me on speaker phone with the vet. We all determined that she was not in a critical situation and she left the hospital with new medication.

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Jinx always liked the vet’s office better than Ray! 

Three days later on a Monday night, I was home, and reunited with Jinx. I immediately tended to her care, bathing, clipping and making her as comfortable as possible as she was incontinent now. The next morning I set out to Petco and bought her diapers (a first for me) to keep her dry. For the next 24 hours I stayed by her side and watched her mostly sleep and struggle to stand up. Tuesday night was rough. By Wednesday morning she refused breakfast. She could not stand up on all fours anymore. I held her up in order for her to eat breakfast to get her medication into her. Her decline had been swift. As she laid in the backyard, I came into the house and Ray and I watched her sleep.

“Jinx is not doing well,” I said. I took a deep breath and whispered, “It’s time.” Then I burst into tears, sobbing heavily into Ray’s shoulder. I called her vet and scheduled a home visit.

Saying Goodbye 

The rest of the day Jinx and I spent time together among the backyard gardens she loved to rummage through. Several times I would look over at her call her name and tell her, “We Love You, Jinx.”  Although she had lost the use of her tail, the tip of that once-tightly curled tail wagged ever so slightly.

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Jinx amidst clover in earlier years

All throughout the day as Jinx dozed on the grass, Mr. Cardinal, with his bright red plumage, flew around the property, with at least a dozen sightings. Jinx’s last journey across the yard was to my side as I sat in the lawn chair. I stroked her grey grizzled head and looked deeply into her dark brown eyes. She spoke to me silently and said, “It’s time.”

Jinx spent the few remaining hours of her life sleeping among her gardens. However, true to her stoic old bitch fashion, as soon as her vet, Dr. Fran Paulin, walked into the back yard, Jinx had to alert us to the intruder.  “Boo-woo, Boo-woo, Boo-woo” she barked. Her last bark eerily echoing that first puppy bark that made us laugh so long ago.

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Jinx always knew how to make us laugh and smile!

Jinx slipped away peacefully with respect and honor (thank you Dr. Paulin and Sarah). Ray lovingly prepared a grave for Jinx near Roxanne, her great-great-grandmother, and Burt, our first champion.  We brought her old pack mates, those Elvemel champions  who had passed before her —  Bruno, Basia and Obie — and placed their ashes with her.  We covered them all with earth and roses. We then drank champagne to celebrate their wonderful lives and all the unconditional love they had given us over the decades. We are truly blessed to share our lives with this wonderful breed.

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The next morning, as I stepped outside, a sadness came over me as I missed Jinx rummaging through the garden. Then, I looked into the backyard and spotted Mr. Cardinal sitting on a rock overlooking the Elvemel ancestral burial grounds. A smile of happy Jinx memories came over me as he flew away and disappeared into the clouds leading to the rainbow bridge.

Elvemel Reunion ~ Izzy & Jinx

One the eve of Jinx & Izzy’s 13th Birthday, here’s a video from last summer when the two litter sisters — CH. Elvemel For Your Eyes Only CGC and Elvemel Miss Money Penny — met again for the first time since puppyhood at Elvemel. 

 

Izzy & Jinx

As I got ready to celebrate Jinx’s 12th birthday last year, I began to wonder about her litter sister Izzy. I had gotten updates over the years, including one of her sprawled out in joy at the doggie day care center, but it had been a few years now since her owner and I spoke. I checked my smartphone for her phone number, but it was not there. I checked Facebook for her, not there either.

Make the Call 

Sitting on my desk were my breeder notebooks. I’d recently unearthed them to show a friend who was planning her first litter. In desperation, I flipped through the pages and came upon the 1989 litter. And there is was, her old phone number. But before I picked up the phone, I briefly wept, in case the news was not what I wanted to hear. Then I got the courage to dial.

“Hello?” came a familiar female voice on the other end. “Hi, Is this…?” I asked, even though I recognized her voice immediately. “Yes, it is!” I could tell she was smiling and recognized my voice immediately too! We burst into happy conversation about Izzy’s birthday, that she had just a few months ago gave up her mascot gig at the doggie day care center. “She’s doing well and has finally has started to slow down,” she said. We both laughed.

Once though, the condo association issued a cease-and-desist to all dog owners from grooming on a common grassy area. Apparently Izzy had left one too many chunks of white fluff. These days Izzy eat wells, goes for daily walks, and heads upstairs to put herself to bed in the bedroom. We made plans for a litter reunion in a few weeks at Izzy’s ancestral home at Elvemel.

Roxanne – 30 Years Ago My First Pup is Born

I’d only been a reporter for barely four months when I called my editor, Curtiss Clark, to tell him I wasn’t going to be at The Bee that morning — March 29, 1986 — because my Norwegian Elkhound bitch Mumbles was going to whelp her (and my) first litter of puppies. The day fell on Good Friday, and secretly I was happy that I missed having to trundle down to the Smoke Shop for my weekly job of asking the Bee Lines questions.

But the canine birthing event did provide fodder for a personal column I wrote a week later. I wrote about the birth of one particular puppy, Roxanne (yes, she was named after the Police song, and yes we sang her name to her in that “Rooooxanne” way only Sting can do). When born her little 8 ounce body was not breathing. I quickly learned how to clean fluid from newborn nostrils and gently shake the puppy to dislodge any other fluids from where they shouldn’t be. Then I ever so gently blew life into her little lungs, and with a twitch, a gasp and squirm, the tiny black form came to life in the palm of my hand. It really was the miracle of birth, Norwegian Elkhound style.

Mumbles checks out her pups. Roxanne standing tall in the middle

Mumbles checks out her pups. Roxanne standing tall in the middle. 

Roxanne was the only female in a litter of three and so I had no choice but to keep her as she would become the foundation bitch of the Elvemel Elkhounds line. So proud was I of this little puppy that I brought her everywhere. I even have a photo of her at about 4 or 5 months old in front of the Newtown Bee. The only thing more frightening about raising my first homebred show dog, was my big curly permed 1980s hair in that photo. As a puppy I would bring her to The Bee to socialize and play with Bart, Sherri’s Baggett’s Golden Retriever puppy. They were only a few weeks apart in age.

Roxanne visits The Bee in 1986

Roxanne visits The Bee in 1986

Eventually Roxanne became a champion and shortly thereafter went to the Westminster  Kennel Club dog show to win Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed. I only showed her three more times after she finished, including the Westminster win.

Handling Roxanne at Westminster 1988

Handling Roxanne at Westminster 1988

After I bred her the first time, I invented a tagline for her ads, “Her specialty was always in the whelping box.” I thought it was a cute play on words. She had 33 puppies in five litters, and produced seven champions along the way, three in one litter of five.

Dog of Vikings! 

Buried deep in the Elvemel archives I unearthed an old dot-matrix print-out of her show record which documented 42 shows over two years. I did eventually take her out to a national specialty in 1996 and 2000 for the veterans sweepstakes. At the latter, a friend made her a headpiece of sequins and beads which resembled a Viking princess helmet with long glittery braids. Did you know that the Norwegian Eklhound is known as the Dog of the Vikings. His skeletal remains have been found near Viking graves around Scandinavia dating back 5,000 years. That was until, DNA proved the breed was much younger than that – oops! We like to think those bones belonged to related ancestors.

Beyond showing and whelping, Roxanne has provided me some lighter moments. There was the time she found her first skunk, literally moments before my grandmother would be visiting the house in Newtown for the first time. Thinking I could get to her later with a bath, I threw her downstairs in the basement only to have that skunk smell wafting up into the living room as grandma walked through the front door.

Once she got loose from my home in Southbury and made her way to a local dairy farm, only to come home covered in green “cow pie” stuff. This antic was followed by her chasing Burt around the yard after he found a dead, dehydrated, flattened squirrel. Squirrel jerky anyone?

Roxanne and Ray enjoy a moment in the kennel Ray built for Elvemel in 1995

Roxanne and Ray enjoy a moment in the kennel Ray built for Elvemel in 1995

I still have the fleece jacket I left on the chair one day after a dog show. When I came back into the room, she had eaten a hole in the pocket where the liver was. I never mended the pocket. Whenever I wear that jacket and put my left hand in the pocket, my fingers always find that hole, and Roxanne’s antics are revisited.

She was the consummate beggar, especially at the dinner table. Her ability to talk to us in a low moan, “rahr, rahr, rahr” is still repeated by my husband Ray and I when we eat dinner. We make fun of Jinx, six generations down from Roxanne, who tries her vocal skills in the same manner.

Roxanne a few days before she passed away in 2000

Roxanne a few days before she passed away in 2000

Roxanne lived well into her 14th year. Later in life we called her “Slab” because in her old age she began to resemble a slab of beef. She started a love affair for me of breeding dogs and following generations of happy pets placed in loving homes. Today, on this 30th anniversary of Roxanne’s birth, Jinx — the last bitch in the line of direct descendants — took a walk with me as we visited Roxanne’s final resting place in the back yard. The daffodils I planted 16 years ago on her grave had just started to bloom.

Jinx amid Roxanne's daffodils

Jinx amid Roxanne’s daffodils

Regina Brown Last Seen Alive ~ March 26, 1987

Regina Brown was last seen alive 29 years ago today — March 26, 1987.

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Regina Brown, right, with her mother Ernestine Fontenot during happier times

Two weeks prior to her disappearance,  Regina Brown, an American Airlines flight attendant, was reading about the disappearance of Helle Crafts, another Newtown flight attendant whose pilot husband had recently been arrested for her murder. In Danbury Superior Court, a three-day probable cause hearing from March 10th to the 12th, was held to determine if the state had enough evidence to proceed with the prosecution of Richard Crafts for the murder of Helle.

As a reporter for The Newtown Bee I wrote on March 13, 1987:

“Helle Crafts told her attorney that if anything was to happen to her during her divorce proceedings from her husband Richard, not to assume that it was an accident, Attorney Dianne Anderson testified in the probable cause hearing, in which Mr Crafts is charged with the murder of his wife.” 

Many of those close to Regina said she followed the Crafts case closely, even keeping newspaper clippings about the case in her kitchen drawer. She began to tell friends, most notably Hope Lambert, what Helle Crafts told her divorce attorney, if anything should happen to her not to assume it was an accident. Regina’s words to Hope: “If you don’t here from me after I send the children to Texas, than Willis will have done to me what he promised to do.”

In September 1986, the court had issued a restraining order against Willis Brown, to stay away from Regina, the house and the children, based on a documented history of domestic violence against Regina. Willis Brown also was reluctant to admit that the children were his, and by March 1987, the three children had been submitted for a total of six paternity tests, all requested by Willis Brown.

Regina had on March 21, placed her two older children, Nicholas and Reina, on a plane to Texas to stay with her parents, Emile and Ernestine Fontenot in Liberty, Texas.

According to Lambert, Regina called her on March 22 to say her husband threatened to kill her and the three children, who at the time were 4, 3 and less than 2 years old. On March 25, Regina called Lambert again and said that she was sending her last child, Ashley, and the baby sitter, Sharon Ryan, to her parents in Texas. She told Lambert that she should call Texas the next day to see if she had arrived and if Lambert did not here from Regina by March 27, to wait a few days until March 30th and if she still did not hear from Regina to call police.

Regina never did appear in Texas and she never contacted Hope Lambert either. But Lambert never called police in the wake of Regina’s disappearance either. It was her neighbor Linda Van Horn who notified Newtown Police on April 2, that Regina Brown had not been seen since March 26, 1987.

March 26, 1987

What exactly happened that day? At approximately 4 p.m. the Brown’s babysitter Sharon Ryan drove Regina and Ashley in Regina’s gold Honda Civic from their Newtown home to New York. First they stopped in Danbury before heading to La Guardia Airport. They drove down Route 6 from Newtown into Danbury and stopped at the Path Mark supermarket to buy a half gallon of Sealtest milk, a half gallon of Tropicana orange juice, and a plastic container of chili, which Regina ate partially en route to the airport. She cashed a $20 check at the supermarket.

The next stop was McDonalds, where Regina purchased a Happy Meal for Ashley. The same McDonalds where the Crafts nanny, Dawn Marie Thomas, worked the night of ‘Storm Carl’ on November 18, 1986, the last night that Helle Crafts was seen alive. This was the last meal Regina would provided for her youngest daughter.
After McDonalds, they stopped and used $8 of the $20 to fill the car up with gas at the Mobile gas station at Exit 8 off I-84. Then Ryan drove the car to La Guardia, where Regina was based as a flight attendant with American Airlines. Ryan noted that when driving Regina’s Honda she used Regina’s key ring which had 6 to 7 keys on it. Ryan later told police that prior to leaving for the airport, she overheard Regina on a telephone call at home telling someone to let themselves in to feed the dog.

Regina had gotten a mixed breed puppy named Sport, part Brittany Spaniel, just a few months earlier. By the time of her disappearance the puppy was approximately 9 months old. The puppy was in need of some shots and vaccinations, but Regina couldn’t afford them, as she told her divorce attorney. She said she struggled to pay for expenses for her children, since Willis, her estranged husband, was late paying her the court-ordered child support she needed. Willis Brown was a pilot with American Airlines and also owned and operated The Moped Man, a moped rental business on Block Island, Rhode Island.  Regina opted to pay for the needs of the children before the puppy.

Barking Dog 

When they arrived at La Guardia that night, Ryan and Ashely went into the American Airlines terminal while Regina parked the car in the employee parking lot. Later she joined them in the terminal, after picking up her most recent pay check. Then she left them again to make a few phone calls from a pay phone at the airport.

At 7:08 p.m. Regina calls Liberty, Texas, charges the call to her home phone, and speaks with her mother. It is the last time she speaks with her mother. Shortly thereafter, Regina Brown put her youngest child, Ashley, then 19-months-old, on a plane to Texas. She kissed her goodbye. It was the last time anyone saw her alive.

Based on evidence collected by local police, it appears Regina Brown did return to her home that night.  She had told friends and family that she planned to fix up the home, get things in order, and then join her children and parents in Texas in the coming days.

On March 27, 1987, at approximately 2:30 a.m. – Regina’s next door neighbor called the Brown residence to ask why the family’s dog was barking constantly and keeping the neighbors awake. There is no answer to the phone call at the Brown residence and the neighbors call the police.

At 2:41 a.m. the neighbors call the Newtown Police Department. According to the log book, filled in by the dispatcher, dated March 27, 1987 2:41 am, the neighbor “complains that Mr. Brown is not home and dog is barking.” It was noted that no cop was sent by the dispatcher on duty.

I interviewed those neighbors in 2006, who had since moved to another home in Newtown. They said, they actually went over to the house that night after the cops wouldn’t send any one. The husband said he saw the dog in the breezeway of the Brown home, tied up and barking. The breezeway was a hallway between the main residence and the detached garage at 18 Whipporwill Hill Road.

As I continued to research a Connecticut Magazine cover story I was writing, published in June 2007, a retired Newtown Police detective told me, “We should have sent someone to the house on the barking dog complaint, it might have made a huge difference.”

As it turned out, the event provided police with a first clue, a staring off point for the investigation into the disappearance of Regina Brown.

Area Pony Clubs Make a Splash (Newtown Bee)

Wilton Pony Club Rocks!

Wilton Pony Club

Check out this wonderful article from the Newtown Bee about Beach Day:
http://newtownbee.com/lisa-unleashed-area-pony-clubs-make-a-splash/

beachday Wilton Pony Club Members at Jennings Beach

Lisa Unleashed: Area Pony Clubs Make a Splash

by Lisa Peterson, Newtown Bee

Scattered sunshine, a very low tide and a panoply of ponies populated Jennings Beach in Fairfield this past weekend. It’s rare to see more than one or two other horses out on the beach during a ride despite Jennings being one of the few beaches that allows horses (and dogs) access from October 1 to April 1 each year.

But upon arrival in the parking lot, we were greeted by several horse trailers, which was unusual. Once on the beach there were ponies and people everywhere! Large ponies, small ponies, and one very small pony with a flaxen mane and tail. Too cute for words! Where did this pony herd come from? A quick glance at one…

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Red Ribbons at the Redding Horse Show

“At virtually any daylight hour on almost any road in Redding, children in hard hats can be seen riding their ponies or horses to and from practice fields, pony club meetings or any of the many other horse gatherings in the town.” 

This was the scene in neighboring Redding according to Norwalk’s The Hour newspaper dated Aug. 10, 1976.  The reporter was painting a picture of the equestrian community as preparations were being made for the 17th Annual Redding Horse Show which was considered to be “one of the most sought-after local shows in Connecticut.”

Located on Cross Highway at the intersection of Route 58, the large pasture opposite Christ Episcopal Church dubbed Karraker’s Field, was used only once a year for the horse show. In fact, “…both the outside course and the ring are in such perfect condition that both horse and rider are able to perform at the peak of their abilities.”

The Hour continued, “The outside course is long and rambling, offering a true test of a hunter and with the added benefit of No Dust and good footing because of its infrequent use.” The show boasted a trophy and six ribbons in each class.

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Karraker’s Field ~ Site of the Redding Horse Show, a popular show in the 1960s & 1970s

This stop on the local horse show circuit was an annual fundraiser for the Boys Club of Redding, whose club house – built in the 1950s and destroyed by fire in 1996 – was down the road. The show even made The New York Times Horse Show Calendar each year. On August, 26, 1979, it read, “Today – Redding, Karraker’s Field, Redding, Conn. Regular, local, special and children’s working hunters; pleasure horses, equitation. 8:30 am.”

Riding the Outside Course

At the 1978 Redding Horse Show, I rode that outside course aboard Speculation my bay Thoroughbred fox hunting mount. This course, like most others at local shows at the time was held in a big field to simulate hunt country. But unlike the others which were up and down hills, around tighter corners and held daunting, solid stone walls in three heights, this one was flat, with well cushioned grass and lovely fences spread so far apart, each one was a long approach.

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Looking past the old riding ring towards the outside course

We were entered in one of the local hunter classes, maybe 20 or so entries. We neither practiced nor made an entrance circle. Simply, we picked up a gallop and off we went across Karraker’s Field in search of the first fence. In the middle of this pastural oasis was the judge’s stand, a wooden platform with a single folding chair from which to officiate.

There the judge watched as Spec and I galloped freely from obstacle to obstacle. No counting strides between coops and split rail fences. As we turned towards home, the red barn and riding ring cam back into sight. We had a blast! We won a red second-place ribbon.

Later that day we entered an equitation jumping class in the ring boasting perfect conditions. We loved the tight turns in that little ring. We had a blast! We won a red second-place ribbon. Finally, we entered an equitation flat class. Spec, a high-energy horse, was settled enough to for me to put in a red second-place ribbon performance.  My girlfriend from New York City had come to visit and proudly displayed my three red ribbons off the back pockets of her blue jeans. She was my surrogate trainer for the day.  Red ribbons waving in unison with her sashay.

Visiting Karraker’s Field

Two years ago I stopped at Karraker’s Field, a mere 36 years after my red-ribbon day for a look around. In the ensuing decades, the horse show had ended and the land donated by the Karraker family to the Redding Land Trust as open space. It was a peaceful place, yet the ghosts of horse shows still lingered. In the middle of the outside course, a collapsed judge’s platform lay hidden beneath a mound of prickers.

 

 

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The grass from the long and rambling outside course had made its way into the ring, only a post and hinge remained of the in gate.

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Only two corners of rotting fencing reminded me of the riding ring with the perfect conditions. The reminders of the Redding Horse Show seemed doomed to disappear into the dust.

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Then, last Fall the old red barn where entries were taken and numbers handed out for the horse show had a face lift thanks to a local boy scout. According to the Redding Land Trust site: “There is a corner in Redding Ridge, at the intersection of Cross Highway and Route 58, that has long been celebrated as Karraker’s Field, from the days when young riders assembled there for local horse shows to the open fields now preserved by the Karraker family’s gift to the Redding Land Trust. When Cooper LeBlanc, a member of Redding’s Boy Scout’s Troop 15, was searching for a needed community project to tackle in order to earn Scouting’s top badge of merit – Eagle Scout – he spotted a rotting red barn covered in weeds in the historic field.”

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Karraker’s Field Barn ~ recently fixed up by the Boy Scouts

When I drove down Route 58 on Monday, the barn with it’s bright red exterior called out to me, instantly igniting memories of my red ribbon horse show. I could even feel the wind on my cheeks as we galloped the outside course. Thank you Cooper LeBlanc and Troop 15 for preserving reminders of the Redding Horse Show.

Reporter’s Notebook: Regina Brown on this date in history

March 1987 was a haunting month in Newtown, Connecticut.

On March 1, 1987, American Airlines flight attendant Regina Brown was in the midst of a divorce from her estranged husband Willis Brown, Jr. The 35-year-old Newtown resident was planning ahead for the safety of herself and her three children.

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Regina Brown circa 1980s – Northeast Magazine 1990

She was planning on returning to work so she did not have to completely depend on her husband of four years. The 51-year-old American Airlines pilot was already two to three weeks late with weekly child support payments of $170, she told her attorney in a letter.

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Willis Brown, Jr. on Block Island – August 2006

Based on a documented history of domestic violence against her, the state had recently awarded her temporary custody of her children and the Whippoorwill Hill Road house as well as issued a restraining order against Willis. Regina told friends she was planning an Easter party with her children the following month.

But no one in Newtown escaped the growing media coverage surrounding the so-called woodchipper murder case. Eastern Airlines pilot Richard Crafts was arrested on January 13, 1987 for the murder of his wife, Helle Crafts.

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Richard Crafts Perp Walk at Danbury Superior Court – January 13, 1987

Just like Regina, she too was a Newtown flight attendant, married to a pilot, with three children in the midst of a divorce. The probable cause hearing — which would detail the state’s case to proceed to trial — was scheduled to start on March 10 in Danbury Superior Court. The same court Regina’s divorce case was being heard.

For the first time the public would learn the gruesome details of how Richard Crafts carried out the murder of his lovely Danish wife.

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Helle Crafts circa 1986 ~ Newtown Police Department photo

How he killed her at their home on Newfield Lane on November 19, 1986. How he disposed of the mother of his children using a rented commercial woodchipper into Lake Zoar. Everyone would read in the newspapers how Richard Crafts almost got away with the perfect crime.

 

The Fancy Ponies of Sweetbrier Farm

 

You never know who you are going to meet in the horse world! This week I interviewed a woman for an article I’d been assigned to cover for a horse magazine. As usual the first question is, “Where did you start riding?” And to my amazement she answered, “Sweetbrier Farm in Easton.” Here is where my jaw dropped, smile followed and my reply was, “So did I!” We checked our dates and thought we might have ridden there at the same time.

Then I started rattling off the names of school horses, Missy, Briggy, Worthington and Miller. Then she named some ponies, Bonnie, Sprite. And then I offered up the name of my favorite pony, the one who gave me my first blue ribbon — Marvel-Us.

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Marvel-Us and Me: Fall 1971 Sweetbriar Farm Schooling Horse Show, Reserve Champion

“Marvel-Us!” she quipped. She remembered that pony too. In fact, she had ridden her, once. As she recalled it, the pony would respond differently to each rider. Those who were nervous or tense, got the speedy treatment. Those who were calm and confident, got the dream ride.  She told the tale about how she watched as someone tried to ride Marvel-Us, getting the speedy treatment. Then she got to hop on during the lesson, and briefly got to experience the dream ride.

Missy and Marvel-Us

My memories of Marvel-Us, where just that, Marvelous! I first climbed aboard this little white pony mare as a 10-year-old. But I didn’t get to ride the dream pony at first. Fresh back from learning to ride at summer camp, I clearly remember my first lesson at Sweetbrier aboard this bay mare named Missy. I had mastered the walk-trot at camp, even showed in the lead line class at the camp show. But the wise instructor felt I was ready for that first canter. Missy obliged, a new riding thrill emerged and I was on my way.

Along that way, I learned to master the canter on an old horse named Miller, who was a retired racing trotter. There is nothing quite like trying to ask a horse to do something he was clearly trained not to do at any cost. But we persevered. Then we started tackling the cross rail jumps on those tried and true school masters, like Worthington and Briggy. As a child you are not quite aware of things like the horse’s age, but I do know that when I asked how old Briggy was, they told me, “Ancient.”

Fancy Ponies 

But then one day I got to ride Marvel-Us. I remember how effortless things seemed, like picking up the canter on her versus Miller, the king of trotting. Eventually, after another year I was able to join the advanced lesson on Saturday mornings. It was filled with fancy ponies like Dark ‘N Fancy, owned by the Humphrys, the farm’s owners. He was always ridden by a red-haired girl named Emily. This very cute large pony, was black with a speckled white blaze all the way down to his nose. His white stockings on his rear legs were matched up front by a near sock and what looked like a white splash on his remaining far leg just below the knee. His nickname was “Too Big” and I can still hear Emily call out to him as “Toooooooo Big.”

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Sweetbriar Farm Riders at the Fairfield County Hounds Thanksgiving Day Hunt at Greenfield Hill, circa 1973. From left: Lisa on Gingersnap, Emily on Dark & Fancy, Gerri on her horse, and Holly on Fleet Nancy

There was also Sprite, a dapple grey pony that loved to jump and occasionally stop! I do recall one of my worst spills coming off that pony, right on top of a very sturdy and hard vertical jump, landing on my back, like a gymnast performing a flip. But the first time I ever rode her, the barn let me tack her up myself. So proud was I as I entered the ring to mount up, before the instructor came over to explain I had put the saddle on backwards. Other ponies that joined us in that lesson were Bonnie, a cute bay pony mare, and BeBell, a rambunctious alibino pony, who was actually Marvel-Us’ daughter! Once I rode in a pairs class at a horse show on Marvel-Us with BeBell ridden by a girl named Diane.

And then Marvel-Us gave me the gift of our first few horse shows. Our first was a  schooling show at Sweetbrier, in the fall or winter, it was cold and the show was indoors. But bless you Marvel-Us as she took my novice seat around one of those egg roll jumping courses. It was my first blue ribbon. Later, next spring, took me to my first away show, a local recognized show, where we also garnered a blue ribbon in the pleasure pony class.

It was Marvel-Us who set me on the path of lifetime riding and a love of horse shows. Just like many, many other little girls who passed through the Sweetbrier gates in search of that dream ride. In fact, during my recent interview with the barn owner for that article, she admitted that seeing all those fancy ponies at Sweetbriar fueled her imagination to grow up and bred fancy ponies herself. Thanks Marvel-Us!