Friends

Izzy’s Christmas Portrait

During this time of year, things happen that are often surprising and heart-warming.  Sometimes when you plan on a great gift for someone else, it becomes a gift for you, as well.

It all started when my daughter, Jen, fell through the ceiling.

Yes, I’m serious.  She was in the attic getting some stuff down and took a wrong step, literally through the ceiling of her son’s room.  Long story short, that fall damaged a few things, one of which was a photograph of the dog she grew up with:  Jessie, a gorgeous German Shepherd who was the best dog I’ve ever had.

My all-time favorite photo of Jen is a pic of her on the floor in my kitchen dressed in pj’s with her arm around Jessie on the first day we had her in our home.  Jessie was about 8 weeks old, one ear up, one ear down, huge paws, tongue hanging out.  They bonded in that moment and after that, they were best friends.

When Jessie passed at the age of 19, Jen fell apart even though she hadn’t lived at home for years, but that dog was like the sister Jen never had.  Jen’s fall scratched up the portrait of Jessie at her best, sitting under the apple tree in our Vermont backyard.

I took the portrait from Jen, who asked me to get it fixed somehow.  She had a tear in her eye as she relinquished the photo.

My friend, Deborah Bradsher, is an artist who normally sketches houses for homeowners, but she’s done a few animals, so I asked her if she could create a pencil drawing of Jessie.  She took on the project with a promise to “try.”  I told her I wanted to give the sketch to my daughter for Christmas.

When Deb finished, we met for lunch in downtown Durham, where she shared the sketch with me.  It was wonderful!  Jessie came alive on that page.

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But even better than this gorgeous portrait of Jessie . . . Deb pulled another portrait out of her bag, one I didn’t expect at all . . . a portrait of Izzy!

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This was a huge surprise that I absolutely loved!  Just like she had with Jessie, Deb brought Izzy to life.  His eyes are perfect, and the look on his face is one that I see all the time.

I told Deb that she could sell these portraits, and she’s so modest that she doubted whether anyone would buy one.  I’m determined to prove her wrong, so I’m posting her information here.  If any of you dog lovers want a portrait of your baby, this is the artist for  you!

Deborah Bradsher, https://www.facebook.com/deborah.bradsher, or email her at deborahbradsher@centurylink.net

 

 

 

Izzy’s Fourth Birthday: No cake. Just bones.

IzzyWe celebrated Izzy’s fourth birthday quietly last week.  Just the two of us.  I don’t think he even knew it was a celebration until I brought out the new bone.  It took him about five minutes to eat it.  So much for that.

I’m not the kind of person who usually celebrates dogs’ birthdays.  I mean, I know generally when my animals were born, but I’m not going to make a cake and have a party and announce the day to the world.  Dogs don’t care.  Cats care even less.  But Banfield (where Izzy goes to the vet’s) sent me an email to tell Izzy “Happy Birthday,” and that kind of got me started thinking about the day, the time that has passed, and the many changes Izzy has gone through during the past three years (he came to me when he was 9 months old, so I don’t count that first year in “our” memories).

 

He spent his first year with very little human contact, which is probably why he loves other dogs so much.  They were his companions until he came to live with me.  In fact, he was so poorly socialized that I didn’t have to pay for him.  The person who ‘sold’ him to me knew that he would be a challenge, and she was right.  “You can have him for free,” she told me, “as long as you promise to work with him.”

I did.  But I didn’t know how difficult it would be or how long it would take for him to trust humans.

For the first three months, Izzy would not come near me.  I couldn’t pat him, and when I forced him to sit in my lap or to let me touch him, his body stiffened and he pulled as far away as he possibly could manage.

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I’m not quite sure when that changed, but finally, he found his way to my lap to ask for love and would look at me directly instead of in a sidelong fashion.

It took a lot longer to habituate him to other people.   He loved dogs much more (and still does).

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My next door neighbors are the ones I credit with socializing Izzy.  Deb and Danny never gave up, constantly talking to Izzy, sitting on the ground in order to touch him, and going for walks with us so that he would “feel” their presence.  It worked.  Three years later, he still gets excited when I mention their names, and when Deb came to visit us in this new house a couple of weeks ago, Izzy tried to turn himself inside out to get to her.

Still, when someone new comes by, he will jump and bark.  My new guy, Louis, is a bit frustrated by the fact that Izzy doesn’t want Louis near me, but we’re working on my four-legged friend.  Giving him treats when he sits quietly works most of the time and reminding him that he’s a dog who lives with humans rather than vice versa works, as well.  But it’s a work in progress.

I wish Izzy understood that dating is difficult as it is, and he’s making it even harder.  Thankfully, Louis is going to stick around for a while and knows that Izzy is “family,” so he (Louis) has to figure out how to get this stubborn little Shichon to chill out a bit.

After I got Izzy, I had the opportunity to rent a little bungalow five minutes from work, so we moved–which was probably the best thing I did because Izzy didn’t do well alone in my apartment all day.

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I kept a journal of our first year in Roxboro, and I’m now working on rewriting it, making the story more of a narrative that might someday find its way into a publisher’s catalog.  Rereading that work reminds me of how much Izzy has learned since arriving in a crate to the Raleigh-Durham airport one hot early summer’s day.  He has gone from being terrified to get out of the crate and say hello to “owning” his new house and making friends with all of our new neighbors.

He especially adored Ellie (and her human, Peggy), always perking up his ears whenever I asked him if he wanted to take a walk to see her.

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It’s been an uphill battle for this first four years, but I’m proud of my little guy, of the commands he’s learned, and the way he has adapted.  We have a mutual love-fest going on that I know will continue for as long as we’re both around.

They say dogs are humans best friends, and I truly agree.  They are also our rescuers, even though we might be the ones doing the initial rescuing.

So, Happy Birthday, little buddy.  And thank you for coming into my life.

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Izzy’s Big Move

On the third of July, Izzy reluctantly climbed into the car with me, and we waved goodbye to Roxboro and to our friends, to the streets we walked in the early hours of the morning, to the job I had for eight and a half years, to my little bungalow and the gardens that bloomed better last week than they have all summer long.  Goodbye for now to Deb and Danny (though I expect them down for dinner soon!) and to Mr. Mendoza across the street (I couldn’t even say goodbye to him before he left for his annual trip to Mexico) and to Ellie and Peggy around the corner.  Izzy will particularly miss Ellie, his best dog friend.

It was a day of mixed emotions for both of us.  Izzy spent most  of the day in the backyard as the guys moved the furniture out of the house.  He barked and ran from one side of the house to the other, straining to see what those strange men were doing in his house, very worried that I was in that house with those strange men without his stalwart protection.

The first night at the new place, Izzy jumped at every noise and when we did our evening walk, he couldn’t figure out which blade of grass to pee on first.  He bristled with senses so heightened that they were almost too much for his brain to handle.  I have to admit my own senses were on tilt, too, and when we crawled into the bed in the new bedroom that night, we both sank into a sleep both deep and confused.

We rose at 5:30 for our longest walk of the day to explore the neighborhood.  New bushes.  The smell of other dogs.  Streets we hadn’t walked before.

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Though I had driven the neighborhood many times before moving in, we hadn’t walked the streets, so it was time to learn the neighborhood.  This new place is nice, well-kept, and the neighbors seem to watch out for each other, but I’m amazed that I’ve moved to a place where each house resembles the one next door.  I’ve always said that I want a house with character.  Well, this one only has character because of the “things” I brought with me.  Without the “things,” this townhome would look the same as everyone else’s.  Unless you look closely, this neighborhood is fairly bland.

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As we did in Roxboro, we sniff out the possibilities and explore the hidden corners, and on that first walk, we found a little gift:  a walking trail in a cool copse of trees.

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There are dogs to meet here, and people, too, and roads to discover, trees to sniff, and adventures to enjoy.  But, for now, we’re tired from unpacking and would love some serious downtime before getting back into the work of being our own boss!

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For now, Izzy says he’ll hold the bed down 🙂

Izzy and the Easter Bunny in the Bush

It’s been a busy month. Izzy took care of me while I was sick for a week around Valentine’s Day, then we had two weeks off from work because of snow, and by that time, it was mid-term week at the College, so I’ve been slammed with doing evaluations for my faculty. Izzy has been patient, teasing me occasionally with his ball, forcing me to remember there are other things in life besides work. I’m so grateful for that.

This morning when we walked, I realized it might be time to put away my winter jacket and to let Izzy out without his Thundershirt. The weather has turned. The jonquils have bloomed and the pear trees are giant puffs of white blossoms. Spring has come to North Carolina.

And so has the Easter Bunny . . . he’s nesting in the bushes around the corner from my house, and this morning when we walked, he lit the way. Izzy thinks it’s weird. So do I.

 

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Izzy and the Holiday Shindig

Every year, I invite my faculty and staff to my house for an annual holiday party.  People tend to come in “shifts” — ten or twenty at a time, over a three-hour span.  During the past couple of years, I’ve had one of my friends “babysit” Izzy or I’ve left him in the back yard.  This year, I decided to give him the ultimate test and let him stay for the whole party.  This is a big deal considering he’s gone from being the most antisocial dog I’ve ever had to a dog that now likes to say “hey” to his neighborhood friends but is still nervous about me having anyone over for dinner.  I have to admit I was nervous.

I gave him a bath that morning.  He’s had an issue with dry skin recently, so I used that as an excuse, but the truth is that I wanted him to look and smell nice when everyone came.  My next door neighbor, Deb, told me that afternoon when I took him for a walk, “I’m surprised you don’t have a bow for him to wear for Christmas.”

Rummaging through  my Christmas paper and ribbons, I found the perfect one for him to wear and put it around his neck.  Black and white polka dots with silver trim.  He pranced around the house as if he knew he was too cute for words.

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Throughout the day, he monitored my cooking, aroused by the smells that I know reminded him of pizza.  That’s the one meal that he and I “share.”  Whenever I cook a pizza and eat it while watching TV, he shares the crust with me, the only human food I let him have.  This year’s food theme for my party was Italian, so the smell of two different kinds of lasagna, meatballs, and pizza dip must have reminded him of pizza.  He pranced around the kitchen as if excited about the possibilities.

When the first two visitors arrived, he did his usual barking, but, thankfully, they had dogs of their own and were perfectly calm when he “greeted them.”  I warned him to be quiet, and he knew what was expected of him.  Wiggling, however, was not something he could stop.

The next couple of visitors oohed and aahed over him, then my neighbor (Deb) came over, and I could leave her in the living room with him while I prepared the food.  Perfect.

People came and went.  Izzy greeted everyone and popped around from person to person, seeming to enjoy the attention.  By the time we were more than an hour into the party, he had taken up a spot on the living room rug, just watching the conversations and occasionally doing some harmless begging.

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At the end of the night, the two of us sat on the couch, and I told him how proud I was of him.  I think he actually understood because his fan-of-a-tail wagged.  Love this little guy!

A Dog’s Vacation is Never Done

The past two weeks have been inhumanly difficult.  Not a dog’s life. Impossible, really.  And Izzy has known it.  Every night, he crawls up on my lap and lays his head on my hand.  If I try to work at night, he insists of being beside me, paw pulling my hand away from my laptop.  He stares at me with his dark, round eyes as if begging me to pay attention to him.  He knows that I don’t normally stay in anxiety mode when I get home.  I know yoga.  I know how to breathe.  I know how to relax.  But this past two weeks have required working non-stop and anxiety is my middle name.

It’s the perfect time for a stay-cation.

And Izzy knows that, too.

This morning, he crawled up on my lap while I was still in bed (doing my checkbook — yup, I know.  Enough with the nonstop work.) and insisted I pay attention to him.  You’ve been in another place for weeks, his gaze seemed to say.  You owe me.

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Last night, his eyes drooped as I stayed up until 1 AM reading.  This morning, he pulled me determinedly as we walked up Main Street, and he understood when we had to make a u-turn because I heard the old guy’s cane tapping as he walked his pittie mix a block ahead of us.  I didn’t want to deal with the dog’s growling and barking and pulling at the leash to get at Izzy.  I think Izzy understands when we have to make detours.  He knows who his friends are and who aren’t.  The black pug and the girlie boxer and the raggedy Shihtzu and the little Maltese are his friends.  He understands their names when I speak them, and he loves being able to say hello to them when we’re on walks, but he doesn’t mind at all when we don’t say hello to the pittie mix that hates us. Izzy’s smart that way.  He realizes that not everyone has to be your friend.  I need to learn that lesson.

This morning, Izzy kept close until I finished eating a late breakfast and took out the laptop again.  Then he looked at me, gave a little nod and moved into the other room to wait for the mail delivery.  This is our weekend routine, even though it’s not the weekend.  He knows our weekend pattern:  breakfast in bed, catching up on TV, some reading, then I go out for a while:  visit my grandson, see friends, come back every four hours or so to check up on Izzy, more relaxed, not stressed like during the week.

By the end of this little stay-cation we’re about to start, I will have let loose of the anxiety. I will write and read.  I will see friends and family.  Izzy and I will have walked long walks at least twice a day.  He will have visited the groomer and will have shed at least five pounds of fur.  He will have cuddled with me on the couch for hours.  He will have greeted some of my friends who will visit.  He will have taught me the meaning of vacationing.  He will have simply enjoyed being with me.  Living.

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 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.