animals

Izzy’s New Friend: Meeting Alan

Let’s get something straight.  Even though Izzy thinks he’s rough and tough, he’s not.  He’s a 17 pound cutie of a dog whose bark is truly worse than his bite.  Occasionally, he “gets” that, but there have been many times he IS the one bigger than the others and can flex his doggie muscles (like when he pees on chichauhas). In years past, I’ve had big dogs who thought they were lap dogs (like my British Mastiff, Joshua, who weighed 175 pounds and always wanted to sit in my lap), but I’ve never had a little dog before and I’m constantly surprised at the amount of attitude this Shichon has brought into my life. Last weekend, he was made very aware of how little he truly is.

One of the things I’ve always tried to do with Izzy is to “introduce him” to my friends’ dogs.  He sees my daughter’s two dogs regularly, he loves playing with my friend Theresa’s Jack Russell, and if I even mention his little maltese friend Ellie’s name, Izzy does the cocked head-wiggly feet dance until I leash him up and we head around the block for a visit.  But all of these dogs are either Izzy’s size or just a little larger.  Meet Alan.

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Alan’s a Great Pyrenees, a hunk of an ol’ man who doesn’t have to throw his weight around.  All he has to do is shift every once in a while, and the world rocks.

When we walked into Alan’s house, he moseyed over to meet us, and Izzy looked up, tail wagging, curious about this behemoth in front of him.  He poked his nose against Alan’s leg, sniffed, then touched noses with him.  They wandered around the yard together, Alan peeing everywhere Izzy did (sometimes I wonder where boy dogs get all their pee since they “water” everything they pass, but that’s another blog for another day).

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By the end of the night, they had come to the point of ignoring each other.  A dog’s way of saying, “you’re okay.  I’ll let you hang around in my place.”

Next week:  Izzy and Alan go to the beach!

Izzy’s Glad He Doesn’t Live in Thailand: The Thailand Dog Trade

Lately, Izzy’s been confused about why the dogs across the street bark nonstop — and I’m getting irritated by it.  I have to turn up my TV to the point where I feel like one of those senior citizens who refuses to get hearing aids even though s/he’s going deaf.  But what we’re going through on our little street in North Carolina is really silly compared to what the dogs in Thailand experience regularly.

In Southeast Asia, the dog trade is phenomenal.  I’m not going to post photos here, but if you click here or Google “dog trade Thailand,” you’ll get your fill of some of the most disgusting photos you’ve ever seen.  And they’ll break your heart.  People shove dogs into tiny crates, so many dogs that their faces are smashed against the wires, and most of them never make it alive to their final destination.

Let me say this:  I respect other cultures and really don’t like listening to others who feel the need to diss others simply because their traditions aren’t the same.  However, when it comes to saving animals, I’m not going to shut my mouth — especially when I look at the happy and loving dog who lives with me and think about the thousands of other dogs who never get a chance to live like Izzy does.

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One of the clinics that works nonstop to save Thailand’s dogs is the Soi Dog Foundation.  Their volunteers have worked tirelessly to bring the Thai dog trade to a screeching halt, but when you work to end a horrible business, you rarely realize what it’s going to cost to change that practice.  The clinic’s volunteers have given of themselves — mentally, physically and economically, and I salute them as dog heroes.  Hell, simply as heroes.

If you have a dog that lives in a healthy and safe environment, like Izzy does, think about either giving your voice or your assistance to foundations like Soi Dog so that others will learn to respect the best friends humans have.

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 🙂

Holidays from a Dog’s Point of View

When Izzy and I walk our neighborhoods in our small town in North Carolina, most of the time the only things we need to worry about are other animals — skunks, raccoons, cats that tease Izzy unmercifully, and dogs (most are friendly, but there is that one Nasty Dog . . .).  During the winter months, however, we also need to worry about . . . da da da duhhhhh . . . Horrendous Holiday Decorations.

Right after Thanksgiving, the decorations started going up.  I always put my tree up the day of Thanksgiving, so Izzy’s used to seeing strange sparkly things in our living room, lights that blink, boxes that sing jingles, and packages that he can’t quite reach but would love to rip up.  But seeing strange things on our walks, well that’s just simply and totally unacceptable to Mr. Izzy.

The day after Thanksgiving, he had to put up with our own doorway.  His red eyes are an indication of his confusion about this sparkly gold and silver thing that suddenly impedes his way in and out of the front door.

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And our next door neighbor followed suit with a door that Izzy likes quite a bit.  It’s tastefully done and doesn’t scare him at all.

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Around the corner, one of the local attorneys has a particularly lovely house and always an elegant display.  This one is far enough from the street that Izzy doesn’t notice it (it’s one of those houses that’s not on his radar anyway, because they don’t have any furry animals he can greet during our forays around the neighborhood).

 

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But there are others that he DOES notice, and the most obvious of them all is the house that was decorated so completely for Halloween.  This house is home to an incredibly aggressive Chihuahua that has attacked both Izzy and me.  We’ve run past the house many times in our attempt to get away from the little bugger.  

The people who own the house have outdone themselves for Christmas, putting up so many blow-up figures and flashing lights and moving wire figures that I can’t possibly get them all in one photo. On the roof, there’s a penguin popping out of an igloo, three moving polar bears, and a Mickey Mouse Santa; on the lawn, there are at least 8 wire reindeer of various sizes and shapes, a sparkly Cinderella type sleigh and horse (replete with a plastic Santa stuck in the seat), a plastic 8-piece nativity set (the shepherd boy has a missing nose), and various Christmas trees, as well as an 8′ tall blow up Santa and matching Snowman.  At one point, they had a wire figure of a moose alit with lights next to the Chihuaha’s pen.  (Izzy looked at it, then back at me, as if to say, “What does a moose have to do with Christmas?”) but they removed that one.   And I noticed when we walked at 6 AM this morning that they’ve just added a small wire pig dressed in a Santa outfit at the end of the walkway.  This one is close enough to the sidewalk that Izzy cautiously stretched out his whole body until he was nose-to-nose with the brightly lit pig (that’s, ironically, the same size as he is).  When he realized after tense moments of hyper-active sniffing that the figure wasn’t real and was utterly ridiculous on top of that (the question remains:  what does a pig have to do with Christmas?), he pee’d on it.  That’s a dog for you.

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Izzy’s Happy I Came Home From the Writers Conference

This weekend, I joined the “writingest writers in the U.S.” in Wilmington, North Carolina for the North Carolina Writers Network Conference.  We are dubbed the “writingest state” because so many well-known writers have brought their Carolinian stories to the rest of the world.  I always enjoy conferences because I get to talk business with people at various stages of their careers and writing different types of work than I do.  Writing is such a solitary profession that when one has the chance to press the flesh with others who understand exactly how frustrating it is to determine what genre your book will fall into or who will empathize when your favorite editor has decided to retire from the business or who might have wise advice when you’re unsure what kind of writer’s platform you want to build. Conferences are invaluable to the working writer, though I don’t attend as often as I used to.  But who can turn down a conference on the beach?

I drove down with my friend Ron, a really astute and elegant poetry and flash fiction writer, so the conference started long before we arrived at the hotel.  At many points during the weekend, he and I talked about our dogs, and because I’ve begun to shop around my book about Izzy, I talked to other writers about their dogs, as well.  It dawned on me that almost 99% of the people I talked to had either a dog or a cat (or several) and that pet was an important component of their lives.

On Facebook, I’m friends with lots of writers around the world and we always share our animal stories.  Amy Tan lost her little Yorkie last year and her FB group of friends all joined with her in mourning the little guy.  Now she has Bobo, who has moved into her heart and shares her travels like Bombo did.  Susan Wiggs, well-known romance writer, has both a little guy and a big guy (a Chihuahua named Lennie, and a Doberman named Barkis).  A beautiful big white cat “owns” novelist Anne Rice.  And Connie Lee Fowler just lost her precious boy, Scout, who was almost 21 years old, and she’s giving extra love to her sun worshiper, Murmur Lee.

For some great shots of writers and their dogs, check out this collection:  http://www.newyorksocialdiary.com/node/205235  And below, Izzy and I share time at the beach.Image

Hoarders. Are they protecting animals or hurting them?

Over the weekend, a story came out in the local news about a woman who’s a former animal rescuer and how she’s been charged with animal cruelty.  Come to find out, 60 of the 93 animals in her home had to be euthanized because they were ill.  

My first thought was that she probably thought she was rescuing the animals (most were cats; 3 were dogs), but when push came to shove, she simply didn’t have the money or resources to feed all of them.  A good Samaritan whose good deeds came to a horrendous end.

I can empathize with what this woman has gone through and why she felt the need to take in so many animals.  I volunteered for a rescue service for more than a year, answering emails for them, and there were many times that I would have taken an animal that someone was trying to turn over to us.  The irony is that we couldn’t take any animals since we were a small, volunteer-run organization with no “home office.”  Instead, we rescued from the shelters, but only when one of our foster homes had space for another animal.  As a result, the animals we fostered had a solid foundation, usually learned some basic commands, and were in much better condition when their forever homes finally found them.

I do remember one particular email that I received on a cold January afternoon.  A woman had bought a Havanese pup from a breeder.  Nine weeks old, black/white/brown, and full of mischief, the pup would have made anyone who saw it say, “awww.”  In her email, the woman’s anguish came through clearly.  She had paid $900 for the pup, plus all of the food, toys, and accouterments necessary to make a home for the little guy.  But less than two weeks after bringing him home, she lost her job and was being forced to move in with her daughter — into a home which didn’t allow pets.  The woman simply wanted someone to take and love her pup.  No money was necessary.  Just give him a good home.

My heart broke for both the pup and the woman, and I wanted desperately to take him in.  At the time, I didn’t have Izzy, but I had dreams of having a pup like the Havanese, and here was my chance.  Unfortunately, I already had a cat and lived in an apartment complex where one pet was the rule.  My cat, Jojo, was 18 years old, blind and deaf, and I knew she didn’t have much longer to live, but bringing a pup into the house (secretly–which I was ready to do) would not have been fair to her. 

I often wonder what happened to that woman and to the pup, just as I’m going to wonder what’s going to happen to this woman who is probably brokenhearted that her plan for rescue has resulted in her arrest.

If you want to read the full story, cut and paste this link in your browser:  http://www.examiner.com/article/former-animal-rescue-head-charged-after-90-cats-found-her-nc-home

Izzy’s day at the S(pa)w!

Sometimes dogs get that smell.  You know the kind I mean?  That odor that really makes you go “pe-yoooo.”  As much as you love the little buggers, you really don’t want them on your lap and you certainly don’t want to be lovin’ on them.  Time for a bath — or better yet, a trip to the groomer’s.

Yesterday, Izzy went to Spaws here in Roxboro and not only got the dreaded bath (he doesn’t like the water, though he’s a real nut about being toweled off.  He’ll wait in front of the door after our walks for me to get out the towel and give him his rubdown), but he was also trimmed and sprayed with an appropriately scented “freshener” for the holidays.  Suffice it to say, my house smells like pumpkin pie now.

Okay, for those of you who thought I was a bit down on doggie prima donnas who get all dressed up, you might want to give me a hard time for the pic of Izzy with his bandanna.  Not my doing.  Everytime he gets groomed, he comes home with a different kerchief.  They last maybe five minutes.  I usually find them under the couch with all the balls and bones he has “lost.”

So, here’s the boy — before and after.  Gotta admit, he looks (and smells) much better.  But it would be nice if he looked into the camera occasionally.  Take out the cell phone for a quick shot, and he either looks away or averts his head so I can’t get a full view, making him look horribly uppity 🙂

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Falling leaves and temperatures . . . must mean cold dogs and NaNoWriMo!

Over the weekend, I spent most of my time writing (this is National Novel Writing Month, and the goal is to write 50K words), but when Izzy and I went out walking, it struck me that autumn is at its peak.  This morning, I realized winter is on its way.  We’ve had our first frost.

Saturday night, Izzy and I scuffed through piles of leaves that industrious neighbors blew off their fading lawns and onto the sidewalk.  At first, he didn’t want to plow through them, and I had to cajole him to hop right on in.  He’s short, so there were times the leaves were over his head, and he’d pop up, leaves stuck to his nose and to his coat (which needs to be cut before the end of the week — he’s having more “bad hair days” than good lately).  After the first couple of leaf dives, he discovered it’s much more fun than he thought, and now he’s searching out those piles of crunchy playthings.  Now I’m the one reticent to dive in since I’m not sure whether the snakes who’ve just shed their skins might be finding a hiding place under the warmth of the fallen leaves.

While we were walking down Main Street, I glanced up at the sky.  The black storm clouds were backlit with fiery reds, lemon yellows and pumpkin oranges, mirroring the colors of the leaves hanging on the trees along the street.  The whole world seemed warmed by the autumnal colors.  In the air, the smell of woodsmoke reminded me that the season for lighting the fireplace was upon us.  The air, brisk and clean, prickled at my cheeks.  Even Izzy seemed to recognize the change in season and he popped along beside me as if invigorated by the chillier air.

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On Saturday night, I relished the extra hour of sleep, and Izzy didn’t seem to mind it either, but this morning I had to get up for work, and Izzy’s internal clock hadn’t registered Daylight Savings Time.  He started poking me with his paw around 4:35 AM.  Twice, I said, “ten more minutes, Izzy,” but he wasn’t listening.  He hopped over me and sat on the floor near my head.  I could feel him standing beside me, paws on the bed, sniffing my hair and quietly “woofing” — as if to say, “Here’s a gentle reminder that it’s time to get up, woman.  Let’s go!”

He lasted until 5:30.  No matter how many times I rolled over, it wasn’t working to ignore him anymore.  So I got up, put on three layers and my gloves and headed out into the 37 degree morning.

Yup, it ain’t warm in North Carolina anymore.

Herding the pack and Why Friends Are Necessary

Over the weekend, the weather improved from its bone-chilling factor to a rather reasonable and mild 50-60 degree range.  Though I couldn’t do the hike I had wanted to do with Izzy, I did get in some nice walks, and we were lucky to find Peggy and Ellie at home — with visitors!  Nothing like a Fall romp in the leaves with dogs, but when they’re all the same size, are great friends, and absolutely adorable, it makes it even better.

Whenever I’m with dogs, I am struck by how much they teach us.  The attention to detail that Izzy spends when we’re walking always reminds me that I need to pay the same amount of attention to my writing.  He notes every new sound, whether it’s in the neighborhood, up in the sky or in the trees.  This weekend, he heard a new bird, and even though I have no clue what type of bird it is, I can guarantee that Izzy separated that birdsong from the others we hear regularly.  And the sound of fire engines and ambulances on the boulevard several blocks away made Izzy (and the other dogs in the neighborhood) howl in response to the high-pitched noise.  He’s also aware that the seasons are changing, and his gait reflects his pleasure in the piles of leaves he can sniff, as well as the cooler temps.

But this weekend’s most important lesson was about friendship.  I have always valued my friends and have kept in touch with everyone who has been special to me through the years, from my first friend (we met before kindergarten and have been friends ever since) to those I’ve worked with recently at various colleges.  I drop a card or an email or just a comment on Facebook to let people know I’m thinking of them, and I truly treasure the moments we’ve spent together.  The only way to have friends is to be one, that’s my mantra.

Izzy’s excitement when he sees his little buddies knows no bounds, and when I see him (and them) greet each other with that quiver that only dogs can have when greeting someone they care about, I am reminded that we need to show that same kind of pleasure when we see people whose presence in our lives is special.

Next time you see someone you like, wag that tail of yours a little.  Friends are necessary.  They lower our blood pressure and make little problems laughable.

Here’s the pack of Izzy’s friends this weekend.  A smile for a Monday morning.  From left to right:  Cocoa, 6 month old chocolate Poodle; Ellie, 5 year old Maltese; Izzy, 2 year old Shichon; and Maggie, black Poodle (I think she’s 3).

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