Home Sweet Home

Deb’s Wild Kingdom

All she has ever wanted was to be under her own roof, with her precious animals by her side.

As you drive up the dirt road to the small home that lies at the top of the hill, deep in the New Hampshire backwoods, the first thing you’ll see is the Belgian Drafthorse, a tremendous creature, all muscle and sinew, its body a tapestry of a life hard-worked on a far-flung farm.

Your gaze is disrupted by the bleating of the nearby goat. The front door opens as a dog slithers out. A cacophony of birdsong briefly escapes before the door slams shut. Now you’re curious. You climb the steps, ease open the door—and a whole new world opens up

Parakeets flutter overhead. A chicken takes a drink of water from a bowl. Another dog sleeps lazily near the sliding deck door. A cat meanders. And there is Deb. She sits in a motorized wheelchair, stroking the fur of a black cat. She looks up and instantly flashes a smile, giving you a look that says: So, how great is this place??

When Deb Bjorklund was three years-old she lived in Connecticut, just outside a United States Naval base. As sailors were deployed overseas, many of them abandoned their pets, leaving behind a legion of strays left to roam the streets. More than a few of these forgotten animals made their way to Deb’s backyard, a makeshift refuge where wayward cats and dogs could stop by for some food, water, a warm bed, and, as Deb puts it, “basic compassion.”

“To me they were children,” she says. “I felt we were saving lives, giving them a loving home.”

As Deb introduces the animals in her care now, 49 years later, that kinship is evident. Her home is their home. And there is nothing more important than home.


In July of 1998, Deb received a diagnosis of advanced Multiple Sclerosis. This came on the heels of a particularly brutal stretch in her life, where she lost a step-son, an emotional trauma that acted as an accelerant to her symptoms. Her physical wellbeing deteriorated quickly.

By 2015, she was living alone, trying to get by. Her streak of fierce independence propelled her forward, but the MS would not be deterred and as her day-to-day functionality suffered, she ultimately arrived at an inevitable realization: she needed help.

A connection to a friend at the local Senior Center led to an application through Servicelink for the Choices for Independence (CFI) Medicaid Waiver. The CFI Waiver provides home-based services to over 3,500 New Hampshire seniors and people with physical disabilities each year. And that’s how she connected with Crotched Mountain Community Care (CMCC).

CMCC offers case management to individuals that would otherwise be placed in a nursing home or long term care facility. As the CFI Waiver is designed to support clients in their home, those who qualify can use Medicaid funding to contract with CMCC. From there, a CMCC case manager works with the client and family to arrange services to ensure that home remains, well, home.

“My physical body is 97, but I’m only 53 years old,” Deb says. “I just wouldn’t fit in at a nursing home. I wouldn’t have any peers there.”

“This is Deb’s home,” says Janice Bresell, Deb’s RN Case Manager with CMCC. “This is her life. Our job is to make sure people have the quality of living they want for as long as they can stay home.”

Janice and CMCC arranged for a personal care service provider and personal care assistant to come to Deb’s home to do everything from helping her get in and out of bed to making coffee to preparing a protein drink to bringing Diesel the Belgian Drafthorse right up to the window so she can hand-feed him.

“My physical body is 97, but I’m only 53 years old,” Deb says. “I just wouldn’t fit in at a nursing home. I wouldn’t have any peers there.”

“When I was on that mountain, people didn’t even know I existed,” Deb says. “Life has since gotten a lot easier and better. It’s reassuring and comforting to know someone cares enough to check in.”

She strokes the black cat as she speaks. Deb’s body can’t sense this animal touch, but there is a shared communion here, the same connection she has with the horse and the parakeets and the dogs and the goat and all the rest. Every inhabitant of this house has a hard story to tell, lives that were patchworks of struggle. But in the end, they found each other. The cat nuzzles back, content on Deb’s lap.

“This is Midnight Blue,” Deb says. “About twelve years ago at exactly midnight, she showed up on my porch with a broken leg. I don’t know how she found me, but she did. Another lost soul came home.”

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