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
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
I’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.
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!
When Sara found Momma Pitty, we all rooted for her to give birth without problems. That happened.
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.
(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.
But before the event happened, something amazing came about . . . .
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.
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.
Izzy’s terrified of cars. As soon as he figures out we’re going somewhere (all I have to do is rattle the keys when I’m grabbing my pocketbook), he starts shivering. If I take him out for a walk before I go somewhere, the tail goes between his legs and he shivers throughout the whole walk. Whenever we go anywhere near the car (and we have to every time we go out the back door), he makes as wide a turn around it as possible. It’s been like this since he came to live with me, but it’s getting worse.
I’ve tried everything I can think of. When I first started taking him in the car, he wanted to sit on the glove box with his head on my shoulder (while shivering), but I didn’t think that was very safe, so I hunted for a seat for him. Found one that was supposed to be large enough for him, but it hung off the back of the passenger seat and he barely fit into it, so that didn’t work. Shopped some more and finally found one that’s sheepskin lined and sits up high so he can look out the windows. I left it in my house for a while to see whether he’d explore it, but the only thing he did was to grab the pillow from inside and play with it. Not once did he want to lie in it.
That seat is safe. The seatbelt buckles it in, and his leash is attached to a short restraint. He fits in it nicely and sees everything, can even put his head out the window (though that terrifies him, too, thus I drive with the windows up). But it doesn’t help his fear. He still sits and shivers and pants.
I have made it a point to take Izzy on “fun rides.” We go to my friends’ houses and Izzy gets to play like crazy in their fenced-in backyards with their dogs. I’ve taken him for long hikes behind the college where I work. No go. He’s still terrified. When it comes time to go home, I sometimes have to pick him up when I put the leash on him to get him into the car.
I’ve asked my dog trainer what to do. She had great suggestions for getting him into the car, but none for ridding his fear. I did some research online to see if there was anything I could do, and the one thing I learned was that if the dog is shaking, he shouldn’t be forced into the car. So, no rides for now.
I’m trying to desensitize him and have been walking around the car two or three times every time we go out. I’ll start giving him treats when we’re near it so he’ll associate it with “good things.” Over this coming weekend, I’ll wash the car and entice him to come near it, sit inside it with me without the car running. All the while, getting treats. I know this will be a long process, but I don’t know what else to do.
Anyone have any ideas?
I love it when good wins out. No animal should have to be part of a mill where the animals are only a dollar sign. There are far too many loving dogs and cats in shelters, looking for their one and only homes, dying because there is no space. We need to continue the fight to stop this.
To celebrate April (which is Poetry Month) and our happiness (Izzy and mine) that we can go out without coats on, here’s a poem by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver. Enjoy!
I had a dog
who loved flowers.
Briskly she went
through the fields,
for the honeysuckle
or the rose,
her dark head
and her wet nose
of every one
with its petals
with its fragrance
into the air
where the bees,
heavy with pollen,
not in the serious,
that we choose
this blossom or that blossom—
the way we praise or don’t praise—
the way we love
or don’t love—
but the way
we long to be—
in the heaven of earth—
that wild, that loving.