Izzy’s New “Job” and New Friend

He wants to be a rug. No kidding. He flattens himself out, all four legs in different directions, head flat against the floor, and he looks up at me. “See, Ma? I’m a rug!” No matter what I say, which treats I wave in the air, where I move, all that he does is move his eyebrows. He’s a rug. See, Ma? The eyebrows go up and down, the eyes move left to right, but nothing else does.

I wonder what he’s thinking.

As I watch him, I think about an old skit George Carlin used to do (and my ex husband mimicked whenever he had the chance) about dogs and cats and how they communicate through their eyebrows (or lack thereof).   Carlin’s Routine

We always had both dogs and cats, and without a doubt, Carlin was right on the money. Cats are aloof. They are disdainful. They have no eyebrows. But dogs . . . they can be guilty (Izzy knows as soon as I walk in the door and see my slippers on the floor that he’d better scoot to the other room because I don’t like chewed up slippers), and they can be persuasive. (Who hasn’t seen the “woe is me, I’m starving” look when a dog sees you move toward where the treats are kept? The skittering little move they make as they try to contain their excitement when they know they might just get that Milk Bone or Pupperoni.)

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I try to ignore him as he watches me with those round brown eyes of his, his eyebrows alternately jiggling up and down, then popping from side to side. He wants me to understand something and is doing his best to talk to me via dog telepathy, but I’m being human-stupid. Then I give up talking to him, gather my dinner dishes and head for the sink. Suddenly, my dog-rug isn’t a rug anymore. He runs in front of me, shivering with excitement as he waits for me to deposit the dishes in the sink, then feints a dash for the door.

Oh, that’s what it is! It’s the “I really want to go out but I have to be patient for her to finish” dog-rug routine.

So there we go. Walk time.

This morning’s walk was a bit more exciting than the usual. Izzy met a new friend, a chocolate-colored Pug who has just moved in down the street. They’re the same size, the same energy level, and both wanted to play, but the Pug’s mom was in her housecoat, and their leashes became tangled — not something I wanted to deal with at 6:30 AM. More on the new friend as the story unfolds.

Hope your day is shared with a telepathic animal :-)

Izzy’s Summer Vacation

Why haven’t I written lately?  Because Izzy and I went to the beach with our good friends Ron and Alfie.

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Unfortunately it rained almost the whole time we were there! We spent time in the little house we rented.  The dogs cuddled while I wrote.  Ron took his writing to the local coffee shop.

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I definitely want to get to the ocean again, particularly because Izzy seemed to enjoy it much more so this year than he did when we went over my birthday last year. It’s also great for me to get there because it frees up my mind. The salt air clears out cobwebs and inspires me to write what I haven’t been able to write at home. I have the philosophy that breathing deeply of air that is not perfumed with car exhaust and not hindered by the sounds of industry and humans helps me access the creative genes I know exist deep inside of me.

Izzy and Alfie had many walks along the coast, and I think the air worked on them, too, but all it did was make them sleep more soundly.

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Now that summer’s over, more time to keep up with my blogs!

The One I Didn’t Want to Write: Izzy Gets Attacked

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve put off writing this post because it was my worst nightmare. Thankfully, the nightmare didn’t complete itself.

During the past couple of years, Izzy and I have walked the streets of my neighborhood and others, exploring the world around us and often coming face to face with things, animals, people that threatened us. Other dogs (remember Nasty Dog? Haven’t seen him lately), skunks, people who didn’t like dogs. But we’ve either fled from them or were able to deal with the situation. That wasn’t the case a couple of weeks ago.

I was walking down the driveway talking to my friend/next door neighbor when a large German Shepherd wandered up the driveway. I watched the stray near Deb and so did Izzy. For the first time since I’ve had my little buddy, he barked at another dog. Usually, his tail wags and he pulls at the leash so he can go say hello to the dogs we see on our walks. This one was threatening, and the only thing I can surmise now is that the dog was nearing Deb, one of Izzy’s best human friends.

I had the retractable leash and before I could stop him, Izzy was at the end of it, and he and the Shepherd were checking each other out, both tails wagging. They did the usual sniffing routine, and I watched attentively, looking for signs that the other dog posed a threat. She seemed okay.

Then she headed down the lawn toward me, and within a heartbeat, Izzy’s leash tangled around the Shepherd’s legs and they were on top of each other. Right in front of me. Biting. Snarling. Growling.

Izzy’s 16 pounds. The Shepherd was at least 90. And Izzy was under the Shepherd.

I screamed. Deb screamed. My mind flashed back to the nightmares I’ve had about losing Izzy to an attack. My own memories of being attacked by a Chow surfaced.

I pulled Izzy’s leash. That made it worse. Now the Shepherd had Izzy’s head in her mouth.

I knew I had to get the dog off my boy. Digging my hands into the ruff of her neck, I yelled for Deb. I kicked the leash handle between the Shepherd’s legs.

“Take Izzy! Run! Now!”

Deb took the leash and pulled Izzy while I held the struggling Shepherd.

It seemed to take forever for Deb and Izzy to flee but when I knew they were gone, I let the other dog go, fully expecting the dog to go for me. Instead, the Shepherd raced up the driveway where Deb and Izzy had gone.

I followed as quickly as my legs would carry me, screaming at the dog. Screaming for anyone. Screaming.

The dog circled the house, leaving me an opening to dash in through Deb’s back door. She was standing there, with Izzy on a blanket in the middle of the floor. Deb’s face, white as a sheet of paper, reflected my own. I started shaking uncontrollably and sank to my knees beside Izzy.

Deb’s husband Danny took a fireplace poker and went back outside while Deb and I checked Izzy for bites. His entire body was wet, his black eyes wide, his tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. But he was okay. No blood.

For an hour afterward, we waited for the dog officer to arrive to take care of the Shepherd, who was still roaming the neighborhood. We watched the dog follow the mailman from house to house and now that we had time to look at her, I could see the fur matted on her hind end, the obvious hunger and thirst in her eyes and evident by her lolling tongue. Still, she had no collar. No tags. And I was terrified to go back outside, even without Izzy.

Finally, the dog officer arrived and when I told him Izzy had been attacked, he said, “That’s not an attack.”

Excuse me? I was watching my dog being overpowered by a much larger one and that wasn’t an attack? Needless to say, the Boston in me came out and I gave the guy a piece of my mind. We have a leash law. This dog was definitely not on a leash, not with a person, and posing a danger to other dogs and humans.

They found the Shepherd and took her to the pound. I hate to think what happened to her afterward. But even more so, I hate to think what would have happened to my Izzy if I hadn’t been able to control the Shepherd.

More than anything else, I realized how important it is to have animals under control. And I’m now going to fight for a stronger leash law in this town.

Funny, the attack happened more than two weeks ago, and I’m still trembling as I write this. The PTSD I suffered for years after the dog attack that left me with partially disabled hands came back full force, but I’m kind of glad it did because it gave me the adrenaline rush I needed to save Izzy.

Now, the work begins.

Update on Momma Pitty

I’ve included stories about my former student Sara and the pit bulls she’s rescued in the past. One that particularly stole her heart — and the hearts of everyone who meets her — is Momma Pitty Pumpkin. Found on Halloween when Sara was out for a horse ride, this friendly, small girl was in her advanced stages of pregnancy and shortly after Sara took her in, Momma gave birth to a whole passel of puppies. Sara found loving homes for every single one and they’re now pretty much full grown and gorgeous. Momma Pitty was the last of the group to find a home, and when she did, Sara let her go with a caveat: take care of her because she has cancer.

Throughout the past year, Sara has run campaign after campaign to raise money to care for Momma and the pups. She’s been successful each time, but when Momma was diagnosed with cancer, you could sense that Sara felt defeated. Suddenly the bills were overwhelming. Even though Momma had a new home, Sara was still invested and wanted to make sure she got the best of care.

Then Momma and her new owner disappeared.

Sara was frantic. The new owner had violated his contract with her and wasn’t taking care of Momma’s cancer. She found a lawyer and threatened the new owner with court, and though I’m not sure of all the details, the bright side is that Momma’s cancer is being tended to.

Momma Pitty Pumpkin’s radiation treatments started just a few days ago, and she’s a trouper. Everyone at the vet’s loves her and she loves them, and like Sara says, this tail-wagging pup will probably be pretty weak and not so happy soon, so she’s stealing all the kisses she can.

Check out her Facebook page if you want to keep up with her: https://www.facebook.com/PumpkinPitty?fref=photo

Animals and Emotions

Lately, I’ve been doing some research for a new novel that has an elephant as a main character, and though I thought I knew something about these fascinating animals, I’m finding out more and more with each page I turn.  I realize as I do  my research that the emotions we define as human-like are often simply instinct and the animal instincts we see are often emotions.

For example, last night, my friend Peggy came over with her dog Ellie (I’ve written about them here before).  As soon as Izzy heard her voice, he went into “play mode,” exceptionally excited to see both of them.  He ran over to me, tongue out, tail wagging, then went back to the door, over and over again, as if to say, “Well, aren’t you going to open the door?  I’m excited!  Look who’s here!”  To say that he wasn’t happy to see them would have been the understatement of the century.

Then there’s the dog who lives across the street from me, tied to his tree all day, all night, every day of every week of every month of every year.  There are times we walk by him and he simply cries.  Sadness?  You bet.  And Izzy feels compassion for him because when he hears Tyson cry, he whimpers a little, too.

Elephants are said to have emotions.  They sense their own mortality and are known to mourn over the lifeless bodies of those who were part of their herd.  Baby elephants torn from their mothers and forced to work for the vanity of humans experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  Adolescents who lose their families because they’ve been off exploring are incredibly anxious about catching up with the matriarch.  And if a human abuses an elephant, that elephant will not forget.  Truly.

Over the recent Father’s Day holiday, I found a photo of my dad with one of his dogs.  I happen to know that the photo was taken shortly before my father had his sexy pompadour shaved, not long before he headed off to World War II.  That head of hair never grew back but was maintained in a crewcut for the rest of my father’s life.  That moment when the photo was taken was particularly poignant for my father who knew he might never see his beloved dog again, and I believe that dog picked up on the emotion, because he leans in protectively against my father’s leg.

My father and his dog, a Shepherd mix, circa 1943

My father and his dog, a Shepherd mix, circa 1943

Do Dogs Miss Us When We Go Away?

If you can’t tell by the title of this post, I just returned from vacation (visited Thailand, and yes, it was the vacation of a lifetime.  Adventurous!  Slept in a hut in the jungle — okay, it was a resort — off the River Kwai, swam with elephants — yes, I did!, and saw more temples than I thought could exist in one ten-square-mile area).  Izzy spent almost two weeks with my next door neighbor and my friend around the corner.  When I got home, he stared at me for a moment, then jumped into puppy frenzy to welcome me home.

What I noticed about being gone:

  1. I missed him more than he missed me.  My friend Deb said that he didn’t want to be alone in the house, but once he was with her and her husband, Izzy made himself perfectly at home, climbed onto their bed, basically moved in.
  2. Leaving him home is less traumatic than taking him in the car to the boarding kennel.  As I have said before, he’s a bit panicked whenever he thinks he’s going into the car, so I thought that being in his own home would be better.  It definitely was.
  3. He “forgot” some of what we were used to doing.  I always say “wait” before we cross the street so he’ll know not to just dash.  When I first came home and started walking him again, he had to be reminded of that command.
  4. He needs to be with other canines on a regular basis, but he truly needs people more.  He can spend five minutes, an hour, an overnight with other dogs, but eventually he becomes bored with them and will ultimately go to the human in the room to get some cuddle time.

Just out of curiosity, I did a bit of research to see whether my own suppositions were correct, and here’s what Psychology Today said about dogs missing humans.  One test put dogs into an MRI and tested their brain function when they were given the scent of their human vs. one of a fellow canine.  Though tests are not conclusive, they have stated that dogs definitely miss humans more than other dogs.  The other aspect the tests looked at was whether dogs could tell time or days.  They can tell the difference between 30 minutes and 4 hours, but it’s not clear whether they can tell how many days someone has been gone.  Here’s the link to the whole article, if you’re interested:  http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/plus2sd/201309/do-dogs-miss-us-when-we-re-gone

My conclusion is that Izzy did miss me, though he had no clue that I was gone for two weeks, and had I left him with my neighbors longer, he probably would have been fine.

I, on the other hand, would have been heartbroken.

Does he look sad to you?

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The Sounds of the Dog Walk

ImageI’ve been thinking about the various sounds I hear, especially early in the morning, when I take Izzy for walks.  Some of them are the usual:  the world waking up around us, birds stirring, leaves rustling, the breathing of every living thing.  Others make no sense at all, unless you live in the small rural town in North Carolina where Izzy and I explore something new each day.

In the morning, a rooster who lives across the railroad tracks makes certain that everyone knows he’s around.  The ra-a-ra-a-roooo echoes down my quiet street and Izzy’s ears perk up.  Unfortunately, that rooster really has no clue what time it is, because he cock-a-roos at all hours of the day and night.  It’s just easier to hear him when everything else is silent.

The other dogs in the neighborhood are let out into their respective yards, so those sounds are part of the fabric.  The shepherd mix across the street is still yawning as the sun comes up, so he does little more than give us a ‘huff’ as we go by.  The two rescues behind the fence on the corner are invisible to us (I’ve literally never seen them), but Izzy sniffs through the fence at them to say ‘good morning’ and they do their usual crazy, frantic barking as they trace us from the inside of their compound.  The chihuahua that lives around the corner doesn’t go out into his fenced in section of the yard until later in the day, so we’re spared his craziness.  (That’s one dog both Izzy and I can live without.)  And there are several others that are either just waking up in their houses and want to be let outside or who have already spent the evening tied up in the yard and want to eat.

But those aren’t the only sounds.  The turkey vultures that nest in a huge magnolia behind Mr. Mendoza’s house lift in unison–25-30 big birds–and the whoosh-whup-whoosh of their wings sends shivers down my spine, whether it’s first thing in the morning or late at night when I can’t see them.  Izzy stops whatever he’s doing and lifts his head to the sky to watch them.

Robins always tempt Izzy to chase them because they poke around the edge of the newly-mown yards in the hopes of getting a worm.  Though Izzy is fast, he hasn’t caught one yet (thankfully), but that doesn’t mean he’s quit trying.  Cardinals swoop past us, a flash of scarlet and a quick double whistle-clack-clack-clack, to signify they’re on the move.  The dainty call of a pretty Eastern Bluebird as it sings to its mate, the low coo of the soft gray doves that live in the rafters of the stately brick house on the corner of Main Street, the insistent call of a blue jay guarding its nest.  Normal bird sounds.

Then there’s the gas station on the Boulevard where a verse from the “Car Wash” song blurts every couple of minutes (and, personally, drives me nuts–Izzy doesn’t even notice anymore).  And the bang of trucks filling with lumber at the lumber store further down Main Street.  During the day, those sounds disappear into the fabric of other, louder sounds:  bleeping car horns, the occasional whine of a police siren, the rumbles of trucks.  Not to mention the phone that rings at all hours of the day and night — I think it’s on a stereo speaker so that the mechanic to whom it belongs can answer whenever he’s outside, but why do people call at 6 AM and let it ring and ring and ring?

My favorite sounds of all, though, are the ones Izzy makes.  He huffs and sniffs at dandelions, whines softly when we pass the dogs unlucky enough to be on ropes in their backyards, burps loudly when we stand waiting at the corner.  He’s my funny companion, quieter than most, but his language is just as recognizable as the language of the morning, the sounds of our dog walk.

Momma Pitty Pumpkin’s Journey: From Abused, to Rescued, to Momma/Foster, to ADOPTED!

I’ve written before about my very special student, Sara Elizabeth Jackson, and how she gives her foster dogs the very best part of her heart.  Sometimes those stories are sad ones, but in this case, we have a happy ending.  I’m providing a link to a story just written about Momma Pitty Pumpkin here, but continue on . . . there’s more!

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When Sara found Momma Pitty, we all rooted for her to give birth without problems.  That happened.  

Then we all rooted for Sara to be able to find homes for each of the 8 pups (which were all, by the way, named for the season:  Halloween.  Treat, Wednesday, Poe, Salem, Raven, Magic, Boo, and Candy).  Image

One by one, the babies found homes where their families loved them and appreciated their cuteness as much as all of the “Momma Pitty Family” had from day one.  

Then we rooted for Sara to find a home for Momma (though there were several of us who tried to talk Sara and Mario into keeping the lovable little girl.  But Sara already had Harvey (her very large, constant companion), Capone (an easygoing pit bull), Poppy (a cross-eyed cat) and a Ferret.  She has also found space in her home to foster other dogs.  None of them have suffered from a shortage of love.

 

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(P.S.  Momma’s the one with the pearl necklace :-))

Sara knew Momma needed her own home, though, so she took her to the vet’s to be checked out, only to discover Momma had cancer.  As she had with the puppies’ vet expenses, Sara reached out on Facebook one more time, begging for help with Momma’s vet expenses and for prayers as Momma went through her surgery.  Once again, everyone pulled together and raised some funds, but it wasn’t enough, so Sara became creative and planned special events, her friends made jewelry, and she even sent out invitations.  Because Sara is a runner, she appealed to her runner friends and pretty soon, Momma Pitty’s fundraising event became a Mother’s Day event.

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But before the event happened, something amazing came about . . . .

 

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Momma Pitty fell in love!  And so did her new Papa!  She now has a home where she’ll be loved and spoiled, and where she can have her own human that SHE can love and spoil.  Last night, she spent the first night in her own home and cuddled with her new dad, who is over the moon with happiness.

I’m sure this isn’t the end of the story, but to take it full circle from being an abandoned, abused dog to being rescued by the FABULOUS Sara Elizabeth Jackson, to becoming mother of 8 absolutely adorable pups, then to be faced with cancer . . . and to come out the other end of this tale with a truly loving dad . . . well, that’s something to celebrate.

Thank you to all those warm-hearted people who take in dogs like Momma Pitty Pumpkin and love them and care for them while they look for the right home where they can enjoy the one thing all animals have in common:  a need to be loved.

 

 

Adopting — and The Emotional Tugs. (from a friend)

Today’s post is one that my friend, Sara Elizabeth Jackson, posted on Facebook.  She’s one of my former students, fosters dogs regularly, and has a huge heart.  This post was exceptionally poignant, so I asked whether I could share.  At the bottom of the post is a photo of the dog to which she refers. 

 

My head is spinning and tears are flowing, and with every drop I become even more angry because rescuing sometimes feels as good as banging your head against a wall that keeps coming back for me. Driving home in silence tonight with this forgotten dog sitting shot gun beside me didn’t feel silent at all, it felt as though I was talking to an old soul. Her eyes are confused and worried, she whimpers with fear every few minutes, only then to look me in the eyes and heavily wag her tail with little thumps that soon fade. Her bones are showing, her breasts are heavy and evident that she has not been loved, she has been used. She has been seen as a money dispenser. Her hips hurt, her back is arched and protruding out in pain. She looks at me for comfort and all I can do is beg for her forgiveness. We have failed her. We as the dominant species have let down another soul that was put here only to give love to us whole heartily, selflessly, and for their entire lives. Instead, many abuse them, use them, forget them and toss them aside as if they are trash. You say you feel bad for her, that it makes you sad, that it hurts? Well I’m no longer sad, I can no longer just feel bad for her, I am angry. I have seen the pain in her eyes, I have felt the confusion and chaos in her soul, the plea for help, the desperation. Every day dogs like her are euthanized in shelters, alone, confused. Blah Blah Blah… you’ve heard it all before, but you know what, take in one of these dogs. See how they transform and only beg to be loved. Love. That is what we need to save this world. Selflessness and Love. Something the dog has truly mastered.

 

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