Category Archives: Animals

A Reminder Named Allison

A Reminder Named Allison

*While I’m out traipsing across the country for my real job, I thought I’d post something that was written 5 years ago today.  I was living in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, away from my family, while I worked.  For sanity, I spent my free time volunteering at a local animal shelter.  This is a story about a dog, one of millions, that explains why I am so passionate about animal rescue.  Please consider a shelter pet.*

Last night, I was invited to the home of friends for dinner & a movie.  They have 2 dogs, sweet mixed breed companions that are well loved members of the family.  One is a little possessive, and will bark at you if you pet the other.  It worked out ok for me, because Moose & Echo have taught me well how to pet 2 dogs simultaneously.

So, I was grateful for some canine time.  This morning, though, I realized that a little dog time is much like one handful of M&M’s….it’s probably plenty, but you really want another handful.

After leaving work today, I went back to the Humane Society.  I continue to be very impressed with this facility and its operation.  The volunteers/employees are friendly and helpful, the animals are always spruced up with neck scarves or bows, the information cards are filled out….it’s just a good facility.   I was happy to see there’s no overcrowding right now.  As a matter of fact, one of the 4 kennels is completely empty, which gives the Society time to do some maintenance on those enclosures.

There’s a real glut of American Staffordshire Terriers in the kennels, a.k.a the politically correct identification of a pit bull.  Whether it’s for marketing purposes or legal reasons, I’m glad to see that the stigma of “pit bull” is left off of the descriptions of these sweet, smart dogs.

While I won’t go so far as to say there are no bad dogs, I am a firm believer that there are no bad breeds….only bad owners

Note:  there ARE bad dogs, but based on a percentage of population, there are way more bad humans than dogs. I’ll take a bad dog over a bad human any day.

I’m going through the kennels, thinking it’s a pretty good day to be a shelter dog.  Happy dogs, lots of families looking for canine companions, with constant exclamations from all sides:  “Awwww, look at her!”  “Moooooom, come see this one!”  “Wow, what a beautiful dog!”  Yep, it was a good day to be a shelter dog in Ft. Lauderdale.

Then I came to the last enclosure in Kennel 4.  Allison’s enclosure.  Beautiful face, beautiful eyes, just a gorgeous young dog.  Another American Staffordshire Terrier, wink wink.  I wonder who picked “Allison” as a name.  It doesn’t suit her at all.  She’s a Chloe, or a Shera, or maybe even a Margot or Zoe, but not an Allison.

She is shaking like a leaf in the center of her kennel. I take another step and she bolts to the back of the kennel.  Check the signs on the chain link, and learn she just had a bath, she’s a year old, she’s in training.  There’s another sign, that says “I’m shy, please be patient”.  “Shy” is kind of a mild word for her.  If she could find a way to crawl into the floor drain, she would.

I sit on the concrete floor.  I’ll go down to her level, let her investigate.  I don’t call her over, but I do talk to her.  I stay still, letting her decide when she wants to take a sniff.  She peeks around the opening into the front part of the kennel, takes 2 steps towards me, then runs to the back.  We do this for 20 minutes.  She is shaking so badly I’m starting to feel guilty for causing this anxiety attack, but I know this behavior isn’t going to get her adopted.  So I wait a little longer.

Eventually, she takes the two steps into the front kennel and doesn’t bolt.  She sits.  She shakes.  No growling, no signs of aggression, and I’m encouraged. I put my hand out, hoping she’ll return the effort and at least lean her nose towards me, but even that minor movement causes retreat.

She tries again.  Hesitantly crossing the divider and slowly sitting down, averting her eyes.  Shaking, shaking, shaking.  I wait.  Whether faith or anxiety or curiosity compels her, I don’t know, but finally she looks at me.  In just the briefest of moments, I see behind her eyes, and know that Allison is the reason I am so passionate about these animals.

Her heart wants to run over and climb on me and lick my face.  She wants nothing more than to have someone throw a ball or play tug of war or get a belly rub.

She is shaking because her fear is greater than her hope. 

Her instinct is to love and protect, but her experience defies her instinct.  She doesn’t know if this human is going to hurt her.  Has she been hit, yelled at, neglected, kicked?  I don’t know what the method of action was, but the result is that she is a dog betrayed.  She doesn’t know what she has done wrong, and is unsure what to do now that will get a good response.  She is fearful, distrustful, terrified…but still wants to trust some human enough to love them.

She puts her front legs forward a bit, a timid introduction to lying down. She is still shaking.  I s-l-o-w-l-y bring the camera up from my lap, and she runs with her tail between her legs.  I’m an idiot for trying to move, and fear we’re going to start from scratch.  It’s beginning to feel like a really awkward slumber party, and my knees are starting to scream protest against the concrete floor. She surprises me, and returns to her hesitant spot in less than a minute.

We hang out this way for another 20 minutes, with Allison fleeing only when prospective adopters walk past.  I sneak 2 pictures.  I finally decide to go, and she turns her head and backs away as I leave.

I have reinforced her fear of rejection.  It breaks my heart.

I walk away wondering if the right person will show up.  I wish I could leave yet another sign on the cage. I would title it “Do You Deserve This Marvelous Animal?”  I want to tell those who are looking for the perfect dog to not be put off by the shaking.  This is a wonderful dog, a beautiful dog, an intelligent dog.  She is going to need a lot of time, a lot of attention, a lot of reassurance. The payback will be huge.  She will be loyal and kind and loving.  She will protect you with her life.  She will be your companion and your confidante.  She will be an incredible family dog.

Tonight, my hope is that the right person will stop long enough to see what’s behind those eyes, and will give her a forever home…and a new name.




I Hope My Dog Dies In His Sleep

I Hope My Dog Dies In His Sleep

It’s so easy to be selfish towards those that are the most giving.  I think each of us has or at one point had a Giver in our lives.  They are always available, nothing is ever any trouble, and they possess a strange knack of being there when you need them most.

It’s quite difficult to not take advantage of the Givers, even if unintentionally.   There’s certainly no lack of appreciation, and there is a tremendous depth of emotion, but reciprocation is often difficult.  The Givers always seem to come by their talent naturally.  It comes off as effortless.  One has to wonder if the Givers are equipped with a secret vault of time and resources to be so darn helpful all the time.

I have Givers in my life.  To be honest, I have more of them than I deserve.  Oh, and I kind of suck at reciprocity.

One of the biggest Givers I’ve been gifted with is the Moose dog.  My Moo-Pie.  Our little Schmoopie Moopie.  Most dog owners will agree that their dogs are Givers, because they’re always happy to see you, always want to be with you, and are simply happy to make you happy.  I’ve got nothing against those dog owners, or their canine companions.  However, Moose is different (i.e., better).  I’m not biased, I swear.

There are no trade offs with Moose.  Going to the lake or creek?  SURE!  He loves the water.  Going to work in the yard?  YIPPEE!  He loves to be a porch dog.  Kids coming over?  GREAT!  He has a ball hanging out at the playground.  Is one of us sick?  GOTCHA!  He will force himself to go outside once in the morning and once at night, then stay next to his patient the remainder of the day.  Road trip?  YAY!  He loves the car.  Food Network marathon?  WOOT!  He’ll make a day of curling up on the couch.  Wanna go for a walk?  ABSOLUTELY!  Let’s get some fresh air.

He is happy no matter what.  He finds a reason and a way to wag that tail every single day.

One little tangent here:  a story from the past that will give you some insight into the mind of Moose.  When he was a puppy, he would run to the door when anyone said the word “outside”.  There was no differentiation between a direct “Wanna go play outside, Moose?” and “Steve, you need to take the garbage outside.”  So, utilizing our superior human intellect, we began replacing the word “outside” with spelling “O-U-T”.  As if this dog, who clearly associated the two-syllable word “outside” with the door, could be  fooled for more than a couple days by the switch to the three-syllable “O-U-T”.  Yes, we’re geniuses (dumbasses).

Everyone who knows me even a little bit, or reads this blog at all, knows that Moose is an old man now.  He recently turned 12, which is well past his expected lifespan.  He has severe hip dysplasia, and just in the past couple of weeks, he’s developed a “click” when he walks.  That is the sound of a ball joint snapping against a socket when he moves.  His eyesight is compromised, and I suspect complete blindness is not far away.  His appetite is only a fraction of what it once was, resulting in about 20% reduction in his body weight over the past year.  He can’t get in and out of the car any longer without a ramp and some help from his humans.

The hip leaves him in pain often.  We give him aspirin, and joint support supplements, and vitamins, and cherry extract, and anti-inflammatories, and all sorts of stuff.  If it’s especially bad, we give him the pain pills from the vet, but they make him woozie and he is more likely to take a fall after one of those, so we try to not do that.  He still tries to follow me from room to room during the day.  My office is in the basement, the kitchen/living/dining area is on the main floor, and my bedroom is on the second floor.  That’s lots of stairs.  I try to tell him to stay when I run up to the kitchen to grab a coffee, but normally when I’m on my way back down, he’s hobbled half way up the steps.  Some days I work from the back deck so he can just lounge on the porch and keep an eye on me when I step into the kitchen.  Some days I work from the couch so he can snuggle up next to me.

Winter is coming.  Winter is hard on him.  The cold combined with the dampness has had a noticeable effect on him the last few years.  I don’t want Winter to come this year.

Just this evening, Steve brought up acupunture.  Should we try it for him?  Would it help?

Help.  Help is a curious word.  Would it help whom with what?

Would it help Moose feel better?  Maybe.  Temporarily.

Would it help US feel better?  Would it make us feel like we’re doing everything we can for him?  Probably.  Even if it doesn’t work.  Even if we make him tolerate the ride to Springfield and the discomfort of acupuncture for nothing.  Would it help us avoid the discussion of how much longer we let him limp through the day and whimper through the night?  Would it make us feel less selfish because we don’t want to even talk about the end of Moose’s life?  We’ve faced this decision 3 times before, with Bug, Harley, and Echo.  I didn’t falter when those times came, and it was the right choice.

I don’t want to make the decision.  Not this time.  Not with Moose.   I don’t want him to suffer, and I don’t want to lose one good day with him.  I don’t want to be responsible for the end of his life.  I want to wake up one morning and find that he’s died peacefully during the night, snuggled into his bed.  I want him to be the Giver one more time, by making sure his passing is quick, painless, and totally not my decision.

Like I said, it’s easy to be selfish towards those that are the most giving.

I hope my dog dies in his sleep.  That’s shameful and cowardly and unscrupulous and gutless and 100% honest truth.

The Old Man

The Old Man





Silence….and Cicadas

Silence….and Cicadas


What follows was first written in June, 2011.  I came across it this evening and realized how far I’ve come since then.  Moose is still gimping along, but Echo has crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  I still haven’t started that book, but I’m writing here.  Baby steps.  My funk has lessened, and my smile is no longer absent from my days.  I still loathe cicadas. 

So, it’s been awhile since I wrote a note, and I know y’all miss hearing from me. (I’m smirking as I type that.)

Truly, I write for myself. It’s cathartic for me, and it saves my family and friends from listening to even more of my rambling about things that aren’t really of any significance to them…or me…..or, really, anyone. I just ramble. It’s like a mental walk through a park that doesn’t have any marked paths. You’re headed for the nice big oak tree with your picnic basket, then get distracted when you spot the lake with the ducks swimming in it, and end up on a bench eating your sandwich while you watch squirrels play. It’s not what you had in mind when you started, but it all works out in the end.

Much has happened since I wrote that last note on March 27, none of which I will write about here. That’s not much fun, is it? You’ll have to trust me that it’s not a story any one would want to read. The aforementioned park has been more like a disaster area, with bombs and snipers and snare traps instead of ponds and squirrels and ducks. I think the only relevant thing is that I have been in a bubble this Spring…..withdrawn, discombobulated, disoriented, befuddled. Not like me at all. (No smart comments from the peanut gallery! I’m in NO MOOD!)

For those who questioned my unusual silence and detachment, I told them that I’m fine, just busy. I think I was trying to convince myself more than I was them.

I decided today to inject a moratorium on my funk, so be aware that today’s wandering dissertation is a result of that choice. (i.e., this may well be completely incoherent…..and I don’t necessarily care.)

A common theme when one is in a funk, and I am no exception, is to become exponentially more introspective than normal. In my case, that equals epic introspection, because I am a natural over analyzer to start with. What epiphanies did this self absorption give birth to, you ask?

1. I truly, deeply, genuinely, and desperately want to write a novel…..and my fear of not being able to achieve that is as intense as my desire to do it. Will I forge ahead anyway? I don’t know. I think I may be too much of a weenie….and that is not something that I like to admit.

2. I am getting old. The years are flying by, and my bucket list is getting longer instead of shorter. I had always envisioned a mid-life crisis as a time when people buy convertibles and start hanging out in bars again. Although I’ve spent my share of time bellied up to Alex’s bar these past couple months, it really has been only to hang out with him….and there’s no (running) convertible in my possession. My crisis seems to be taking on the persona of a never ending anxiety attack, coupled with ZERO emotional control. I stare at the clock at 2:30 in the morning, trying to decide where my life is going. Oh, and the neverending emotional roller coaster? I cry when I hear Sara McLachlan sing on the animal rescue commercials……and I have also started yelling at other drivers. With my windows up. Yes, that’s right. I’ve become one of THOSE people.

3. My priorities, thankfully, are straight. Put one in the “win” column.

4. I want to live long enough to become an embarrassment to my family. I am debating a tattoo, and already horrify them with my complete lack of clothing style. On my 70th birthday, I am going to start smoking cigarettes again. Menthol. Probably Newport. Oh, and at 60 (or maybe tomorrow), I’m going to start putting Bailey’s in my morning coffee.

Now do you understand today’s moratorium? I’m a rambling nut job over here.

I went out with my dogs today, and that’s when I decided I had to pull myself up by the bootstraps. Even though I don’t have boots. Actually, I wore flip flops today, and it’s not even possible to pull yourself up by your bootstraps if you’re wearing flip flops. Did I mention that I just got my first pair of (fake) Crocs, and they have Canadian flags on them? OK OK OK OK, back to hanging out with the dogs….

Moose is getting old. He has health issues. He’s in pain a lot. He limps and gimps and cries, and he has hotspots on his fur, and bumps on his skin, and severe allergies, and just finished a course of antibiotics for an infection. He’s seen better days.

It was hot today, and that heat is probably worse for dogs wearing a fur coat than it is for me. So I’m outside with the gimpy dog (and Echo, the needy dog, too…but her behavior isn’t relevant here), watching him limp around. He went to the chicken coop, tail wagging. The chickens hate him. He makes them very nervous. That’s probably why he loves walking around the coop, so he can watch them get riled up.

He checked for critters under the trailer, scooting his front 1/3 underneath, butt up in the air, tail wagging.

He came up on the porch, slowly, painfully, and started to sniff the cicadas, which are everywhere.

Let me interject here. I loathe cicadas. I know they’re a necessary part of the environment and yada yada yada, but they’re creepy. And crunchy. And loud. And creepy. And abundant. Did I mention creepy?

Moose began eating the cicadas. Munching away like they were little tiny Milk Bones. Nudging them out of the cracks between the boards on the deck. Digging them out of the little votive holders for the outdoor candles. All along the deck he walked, crunching away, tail wagging. When he had cleaned up the critters, he came over to where I was sitting, and slowly lowered himself down to lie next to my chair, finally settling with a big groan.

He keeps doing the things that make him happy. He finds new things to enjoy, even if it’s eating disgusting (creepy) insects. Even when it hurts.

I need to be more like my dog.

The Old Man