This year, our annual animals issue has a couple of firsts. It’s the first time we’re featuring a puppy in Pet Portraits. (One, two, three — aw.) Cagney, a Border Collie mix pup — yes, she has a sister named Lacey — wriggled her way into our hearts as I’m sure she will snuggle up in yours.
A bigger first, however, is our double cover. The outside one features a stunning image of a horse from “Equus: Story of the Horse,” which aired recently on PBS’ “Nature.” It’s fitting that the horse should grace our cover. We began our animal theme with a May horse issue in 2011. Back then, we didn’t know a paddock from a pasture, as I like to say. (How far we’ve come since then, turning out regular features on the Spring Horse Shows at Old Salem Farm in North Salem and Greenwich Polo Club, as you’ll see in this issue, along with Jena’s piece on the Bronx Equestrian Center and a peek at a new luxury lifestyle show from polo enthusiasts Carole Haarmann Acunto and Avril Graham.)
When we interviewed “Nature” executive producer, Irvington’s Fred Kaufman, in 2012, we told him that though we admired the series, we couldn’t watch it, because we found the dog-eat-dog circle of life thing too upsetting. Interviewing him seven years later for this issue, we told him we can’t get enough of “Nature.” As Michael Corleone says in “The Godfather 3,” “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
Our inside cover features Michael Feinstein, the standard bearer for the Great American Songbook. But the entertainer — who’ll perform this month at Ridgefield Playhouse — is also a vegan with a spiritual connection to animals. He quotes Mahatma Gandhi who says, “The way we treat animals is a reflection of who we are as a culture.” And the way we are as a culture is complex. We care for animals, as in Jena’s story on Emily Harrison, a Katonah veterinarian and animal acupuncturist who makes house calls. We’ve turned our zoos into great conservation centers (Jena again, on The Bronx Zoo.) We anthropomorphize and memorialize animals in the arts (as in Mary’s articles on the Year of the Pig exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the return of the American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog to Manhattan).
And yet, we use animals. We eat them. They serve us, not vice versa. Guest columnist Mariah Baumann Shammel, “the High-Heeled Cowgirl,” does a marvelous job of describing the painstaking care that goes into raising cattle on a Montana ranch. And yet all I could think of is, these animals are going to end up on the dinner table.
Our complicated relationship with animals is the poignant undertone in two our stories. Laura’s piece on Carmel photographer Jim Dratfield, the Annie Leibovitz of pets, will have you laughing over the lengths we go to get Fido and Fluffy to pose for us, then weeping over the tale of the pet owner seeking to immortalize his disfigured rescue. Gina has the story of another animal photographer, Brooklyn’s Sophie Gamand, who depicts rescued Pit Bulls, an oft-misunderstood breed, in a gentler light, festooned with flowers. There is such evil and yet such good in nature — human nature.
You don’t have to tell Wonderful Dining columnist Aleesia that there’s more to the Pit Bull than the violence it has been embroiled in. She’s the adoring mom of Champ, a rescue Pit Bull, who was there to precede her down the aisle when she married in March. (See Page 126.)
It’s been a momentous time for us, what with Aleesia marrying and Phil getting five awards from the Connecticut Press Club, including a first place for his November piece on rock’n’roll brothers Steve and Nick Balkun and a second place for his book on a film about Bigfoot, which we excerpted last October. He is our rare bird, with an unusual approach to everything, so it’s fitting that he should report this month on the ivory-billed woodpecker, which may or may not be extinct.
We began with two and so we must close the circle with two lasts — the last pieces by feature writer Ryan Deffenbaugh and Wit columnist Jack Leshi, who are moving on to new chapters. Each is such a good guy and team player that he didn’t want to leave without one more contribution. So herein Jack’s last Wit and Ryan’s report on the Rockefeller State Park Preserve’s carriage trails.
Animals remind us that, in the words of Ecclesiastes, “To everything there is a season.”
Everything, and everyone, in his own time.
A 2018 Folio Women in Media Award Winner, Georgette Gouveia is the author of the “The Penalty for Holding” (Less Than Three Press), a 2018 Lambda Literary Award finalist, and “Water Music” (Greenleaf Book Group). They’re part of her series of novels, “The Games Men Play,” also the name of the sports/culture blog she writes at thegamesmenplay.com. Readers may find her novel “Seamless Sky” and “Daimon: A Novel of Alexander the Great” on wattpad.com.