Friday, May 28, 2010

Journey's End

She will be gone in the morning. Her bedding will be picked up, washed and put away. Her room cleaned, toys removed, as if she'd never occupied that space at all.  I think of this as we walk down a winding dirt road in the middle of nowhere, this old American Bull dog and I. I knew the day we met she was destined to break my heart, even said it out loud, as if by doing so I could prevent the inevitable for both of us. Her death, my grief.

Maybe it was that she reminded me of my own American Bull dog Zeus. Same bark, same mischievous streak, same endearing way of flopping down and showing their bellies as if to say "Aww shucks, I was only kidding," if you spoke to them sternly.  Or maybe it was simply the glimmer in her eye. Whatever the reason, from day one I was smitten.

She was the sole survivor of a cruelty case that counted over fifty other dogs among its victims. She'd been in the shelter system ever since, a victim of policies that had nothing to do with her as an individual. She had survived the cruelty and the shelter stay with her spirit and sweet nature intact. She'd made it so far, from hell and back, but the illness came before the forever home and so it was that we walked that dusty dirt road together one last time. 

As we walked, she sniffed every little thing, taking it all in. I watched her and cried. Through my tears, I told her that our journey together was reaching an end. I told her she was going to go walk with my friend Thea soon. I promised I'd be there to hold her one last time, to send her on her way.  It was the least I could do for this soulful old bull dog.  "Thea will love you," I said. "You are her type of dog; smart, spunky and with one heck of a sense of humor." Cancer took Thea, but as a Buddhist she believed she would be going on to another life, had another path to walk. Since she'd died, I have always pictured her walking down a country road, surrounded by a pack of dogs. I knew my sweet girl would be joining them.

She will be gone in the morning. She has a new journey ahead and she is leaving me behind, better for having known her.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hunting for Bargains at the Salvation Army

"So its come to this," I told myself as pulled into the Salvation Army parking lot. Money has been tight for longer than I care to admit, and that was before the dog ate the candles, the deer hit the car and the cat developed a kidney problem. I was down to one pair of decent jeans and two pair of Khakis, a "work pair" and a "good pair" ie, the pair I could wear to do errands and not look like a ragamuffin. Everything else was worn through at the knees, stained or both. I work at an animal shelter. When your jeans aren't fit to wear to work, you KNOW you're in trouble.  So here I was at the Salvation Army on the hunt for a bargain.

My father was a school teacher back when feeding a family of six on a teacher's salary was a real challenge. When we were kids my mother would go to rummage sales. She also used to make our clothes, something I'm am definitely  not capable of doing. Its not overstating my lack of sewing prowess to say that in junior high I was the Home Economics teacher's worst nightmare. Still, this was the first time that I found myself shopping for second hand finds as an adult.

I entered the store, breezed by the used furniture section and headed straight for women's jeans. The clothes aren't arranged by size and the sizes aren't on the price tags, you have to hunt for the size on the garment. I started at the end of the row and flipped through checking size and price tags and sometimes labels. Levi's, Tommy Hilfiger, Chic, Wrangler, Mudd, Old Navy, Gap, you name it, they got it. A woman started at the other end of the row. She was much faster than I and it wasn't long before we passed headed in opposite directions, I'd done about a quarter of the row. Was there a trick to this size reading thing? Maybe my speed would improve over time.

Next it was on to the dressing room to try on the stack of jeans I'd pulled from the rack; no, no, no, the Levi's were a maybe, a pair of Tommy Hilfiger painters pants a definite yes. Street clothes back on, return rejects, search again. More jean, Dockers, cargo pants, a pair of olive khakis, back to the dressing room, this time there's a wait. The gal who passed me in the jeans aisle was waiting at the dressing rooms too. She was an attractive woman,  about my age, tiny, with long salt and pepper hair. I noted a couple of tattoos designed to look like bracelets on her wrist as I observed the finds she has clutched to her chest. We waited amicably for the changing room occupants to try on their selections, their feet visible under the door. The woman in changing room one wore flip flops, no socks and was doing a little jig as she tried on each outfit, feet landing back on the little black sandals like a gymnast on a balance beam, never touching the floor. The gentleman in the changing room next to her was using a pair of jeans as a carpet. I hoped he planned to buy them, not put them back on the rack.

My second round of try-ons scored me two more pair of pants, a pair of jeans, a pair of navy blue Dockers. I tallied up my purchases and headed for the check out. The woman ahead of me in line was asking the clerk to check the prices on a couple of items. She said she'd just returned to the area and had nothing. She was getting as much free stuff as she could and asked for recommendations where she might find household items etc. "I gave all my stuff away when I moved," she said, looking up at the clerk from her wheelchair. The clerk gave her a few suggestions, checked the prices and turned her attention to me. While I'd been waiting I noticed a sign that I had missed when I first arrived, "all green tag items 50% off." Two of the three items I held in my hand were green tags. Yes! The clerk tallied up my purchases, folding them neatly and placing them in a bag. The grand total for all three items, $10.37. Score!  Looks like I just may become a Salvation Army regular.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Meet the Bull dogs!

American Pit Bull Terrier
Birthday: July 4th, 2000
Claim to Fame:Sun God

He was only 10 weeks old, but Isaac knew we were meant for each other right from the start. When I sat in his kennel at the shelter, he climbed into my lap and gave me a very gentle kiss. Later when I got up to leave he tried to squeeze underneath the kennel door to follow me and promptly got stuck. We have been inseparable ever since.

Isaac is my rock, my doggie soul mate, my port in any storm. He is sweet and gentle and greets everyone like they are a long lost best friend, even if he's meeting them for the first time. He is kind to other animals including with his canine brother and sister and head butting cat. Yet there are those who would cross the street when they saw us coming or back away after learning he was a pit bull. That makes me sad, not for us, but for them. Cleary a fully wagging behind and a big pit bull smile was not enough to calm their fears or assuage their prejudices.

At almost ten years of age he’s getting a little gray around the muzzle, but he is still young at heart. All these years later it is still amazing to me that this soulful dog was left to die in a dumpster as a pup. Someone considered him trash, but he truly is his mama’s most precious treasure.

Madeline aka Maddie
American Staffordshire Terrier
Birthday: December 25th, 199???
Claim to Fame: President, Counter Surfers Club of America, New York Chapter
Maddie wasn't supposed to stay. In fact, I used to refer to her as Madeline NOT Fraser, as if I could somehow convince myself that this naughty little dog hadn't charmed her way into my heart. She was a foster, a foster, a foster, until she went on a trial adoption. I cried every night for a week before she left, I cried all the way to the house where her new family lived and all the way home again. When the family called four days later to say that perhaps they weren't "ready for a dog," Maddie came home and never left. That was  eight years ago.

Maddie is my comic relief. She makes me laugh every day. She thinks she has the world by the tail and even when she gets into mischief, which she often does, I just can't stay mad at her. She is sweet and sensitive and a world class snuggler. Not bad for a dog who lived the first 3 years of her life on a 4 ft chain.

She is probably at least eleven now and could be older, she was an adult "3-5" when she was pulled from the shelter. Maddie the foster dog wasn't staying, but I am so very thankful that she did.

American Bull dog
Birthday: March 31, 2000
Claim to Fame: Run Away

The new addition to the family, Zeus joined us in November 2008. Zeus is proof that sometimes dogs do know best. He knew he was my dog from the start, it just took me awhile to get on board with the idea.

He’d been at the shelter for four months and we had been best buds from the start. I loved him to pieces, but I wasn’t looking for a third dog. Two was enough, we had a nice even keeled household, why mess with a good thing? When a nice couple adopted him, I was wistful, but happy. He was a great dog, going to a nice home. Then he got lost. I spent every day for three weeks looking for him day and night. During that time I made a lot of silent promises to him if only he would be found safe and sound. Thankfully he was, thin and sick, but able to make a full recovery. He came home the “for the weekend” the Saturday after Thanksgiving and never left.