Service Animals

Has it been that long? It’s the holidays again!

Wow!  Izzy and I have been so busy that we didn’t realize a year has gone by since our last post.  Well, time to catch you all up, I guess.

We are still working on the relationship between Izzy and Louis (Izzy thinks it’s Louis; Louis swears it’s Izzy), but they really do love each other — even though Izzy lets Louis know he was here first and the bed is, after all, his.

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A couple of times this year, we left Izzy with our favorite dog sitter and were greeted enthusiastically when we returned.  I often wonder what it would be like if we moved to another place, like Ecuador or Paris or someplace truly romantic, like Kenya!  Would Izzy feel a bit out of place or would it be okay because we would still be together?

I’ve been working nonstop on my writing since we last posted, and I’ve been fortunate to have some successes.  In September, I spent some time at the Weymouth Center for the Humanities to write (and to heal after a horrible family tragedy). Throughout the year, there have been several essays published, I’ve republished my back list, and I have a new novel coming out next September entitled The Mourning Parade (about the plight of elephants in Thailand and the heartbroken women that dedicates herself to one of them).  Take a look at what I’ve been doing, if  you’d like: http://dawnrenolangley.com   Throughout it all, Izzy sits and keeps me company, reminding me every couple of hours to take a walk!

Right now, this little four-legged guy needs a haircut, but I hesitate to put him back with the same people who did him last time — because for almost three weeks, he walked with his tail held sideways.  They’d clipped his skin in so many places, the poor guy still has scars.  I’m seriously thinking of learning how to groom him myself.

How about you folks?  Do any of you do the grooming yourself?

Hope you all are having a great holiday season.  We promise to be better about keeping in touch.

Peace.

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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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.

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!

http://blog.petplus.com/2014/04/28/momma-pitty-pumpkin-needs-help-and-a-home/

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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Other People’s Blogs: Planet of the Blind

Because I’ve been a writer for more than 9/10 of my life (I could probably say 100%, but there was that one or two weeks when I couldn’t speak or write a sentence . . . ), I have a lot of friends who are also writers.  I support them as much as I possibly can by buying their books, talking about their work to other friends who read, and having coffee (wine) with them to talk about the business.  We share joys and triumphs and we try to ignore those moments when all seems unusually dark.  We are writers.  We are used to rejection and suspicious of those moments that feel off-the-charts happy.  No matter what the emotions, we’ll write about them.

Today, I spent the day working on a schedule for a friend’s poetry readings at my College.  While I was putting together the pieces, another friend was writing about her one-eyed dog’s death on Facebook.  That heartbreaking news (the dog was truly a super hero) reminded me that my poet friend wrote an occasional blog for a blog called “Planet of the Blind.”  The writer who hosts that blog, Stephen Kuusisto, has a remarkable connection to the one-eyed dog.  You see, Stephen is blind, and his best friend is his dog.  He writes about that dog, a gorgeous yellow retriever who acts as his seeing-eye dog, his partner in life.  And his latest blog is particularly beautiful.

So, here, in honor of Andrea Scarpino, the poet who has written ‘Once, Then’ and will be at my College on April 15 and 16, and for Sarah Louise’s Mia, is the beautiful “Planet of the Blind.”

http://www.stephenkuusisto.com/blog