dog

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.

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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 🙂

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.

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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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.

 

 

Sprained Human Ankle and Diggin’ Doggy Dirt

Sometimes being preoccupied with thoughts of work brings negative “schtuff” directly into your life.  On Thursday, I ran home to go to the last women’s basketball game of the season and hurried Izzy out for a quick walk.  I’ve walked up and down the driveway at my house a million times, but this time, I was so into the thoughts in my head that I paid no attention to where I was walking.  Right into a hole I went.  Left foot bent at an unnatural angle, and as if in slow motion, I went down–thinking only that I had to hold on to Izzy–smack, crack.  Right knee.  

And suddenly couldn’t get up.  Yup, the old commercial:  “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”  Only I was in the driveway.  It was 28 degrees, the wind was blowing, the sky was grey, and no one was around.  Izzy whined and sniffed around my legs.  I started shaking uncontrollably.  Whimpered a little.  Tried to move my legs, but they wouldn’t even wiggle.  Shit, I thought.  How was I going to get to the phone?  How many times had people told me to bring my cell phone with me when I went walking?  And, shit again.  I was going to miss the game.

Ten minutes later, I dragged myself to a standing position though the pain shot through my left ankle and my right knee.  I was close enough to the car to grab the bumper and used the car as stability to get back to the house.  Once inside, I called next door, but no one was home.  Called a friend at work, but he didn’t answer.  I desperately needed someone to take me to Urgent Care.  Finally, called my friend Peggy and within moments, she was at the house.  I left a message for my next door neighbors to please walk Izzy.

Two hours later, x-rays showed a sprained ankle and a badly bruised knee, but no breaks.  Thankfully.  Peggy took me to CVS to get some pain meds and Ibuprofen, then home.  My friend from work brought over a pizza and helped that night, and my neighbors/friends, Deb and Danny, have been walking Izzy and helping me ever since.  I don’t know what I’d do without my friends!

What Izzy can’t get used to is that we haven’t been taking our walks anymore.  He’s been going with Deb in the mornings, but before Deb comes over, I put Izzy on a leash/rope into the back yard.  He sits at the back door and peeks in through the window.  Doesn’t move.  Until this morning.

Deb called in the back door when she came to pick him up.  “Yoo hoo!  Your pup is having a good ol’ time out here.”

I hobbled into the kitchen and saw her holding Izzy tight on his leash at the back door.  “What’s he doing?”

“Digging!  He’s got a good sized hole started out back.”  She pointed to his tell-tale mud-covered paws.  “He needs to be wiped off before he comes in.”

I found a towel, we wiped him off, chatted a minute, and she took him for a walk.

While they were gone, I started catching up on some writing I haven’t been able to do.  All I’ve done for the past three days is watch TV.  Izzy has been good at keeping me warm and giving me love, acting like the Nurse Dog he is.  But I’m sure that’s boring for him.  He needs to walk.

Hopefully, the ankle will be strong enough to move around a bit more today.  My knee is a lot better, though still a little sore and I won’t be able to kneel on it for a while.  I have to get better so I can go for walks with Izzy again — or I’m going to end up having more holes in my back yard than in the driveway!

In the meantime, he’s holding down the bed for me . . . .

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So I’m a Baby Boomer Woman and I have a Dog. That doesn’t make me a crazy old lady.

Lately, I’ve been doing some thinking about dating at this age, and I’ve come to a conclusion:  I have more fun with my dog and my grandson.

For years, other single friends of mine have basically told me that they have “rich, full lives without men.”  I never believed them.  I thought how could they not miss having someone to eat dinner with?  How could they live without sleeping with a man?  How lonely must they be traveling without someone to share the scenery, someone to grab a suitcase when they’re tired, someone to do half the driving?  But every time I came up with one of those questions, the answer would be:  I don’t miss having to cook what someone else wants.  I don’t miss someone snoring and farting in bed.  I have plenty of friends who are fun to travel with and share half the driving.  And, inevitably, the friends also had companions of the four-legged variety.

My friend Jenna travels all over the country in a small mobile home accompanied by her dog, Sandy, and a cat, Mittens, both of which she adopted sometime during the last ten years.  Sandy isn’t her first dog and probably won’t be her last.  Mittens isn’t the first cat either, but she might be the last since dogs travel better than cats in mini-mobile-homes.  Jenna has been single for all of the years I’ve known her (we met back in the  mid-1980s when we were at a writer’s conference).  Only once during that 30+ year span has she had a relationship.  It lasted less than a year, and she practically threw a party when it was over.  I could hear her relieved sigh all the way in Florida, where I was living.  She was in Maine.

Greta moved from Massachusetts to Florida when her long-term relationship disintegrated because the guy she had been living with for 23 years was arrested for pedophilia.  Good reason to say goodbye and good riddance.  I thought she’d find another, better, man at one point, but she has always insisted she’s been quite happy with her two cats (sometimes one) who are quite independent and reflect her persona.  She travels with friends, works from home, visits her grandchildren in Seattle, London, Boston, and has come to the point of being happier at home in her seacoast town than she has ever been elsewhere.  Her question to me has always been:  why do you need a man?  I always insist that I haven’t “needed” one, I just liked having one around, especially one I loved.

Julie pens children’s books and teaches at a liberal arts college.  She lost her husband, the man with whom she was truly in love, several years ago.  Her dog, a rangy and adorable mutt, has kept her company and staved off an unbearable loneliness.  I think that, in many ways, that dog saved her from dying of a broken heart, much the same way my Izzy did with me.  She dates on occasion, but the last time I saw her, she said that she would be fine if she spent the rest of her life walking her dog, visiting with friends, traveling to see her daughter, and being happy that she had the time she did with her precious husband.

The women in my family who lost their husbands always ended up spending the rest of their lives alone.  Some of them had animals, others did not, and I think that the reason why most did not is because the majority of them lived in apartments (which might not have permitted pets).  Those who had animals were happier, I think.  And that supports the research that’s been done on older single people who live with pets — they have less heart attacks, less stress, and get more exercise than their counterparts who simply live alone.  I suspect they are also warmer during storms like the ones we’ve had during this (not-over-yet) winter.  Nothing better than having a cat or dog cuddle up with you on the couch or in bed when no amount of quilts seems to be enough to keep you warm.

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Perhaps I’ll be like this woman in the picture who probably talks to the dog and cat who have been her companions for most of her life.  It could be worse.  At least she’s smiling!  I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s better to have the contentment I have with my silly little dog (and my grandson and my friends and my writing) than to have knots in my stomach  because I’m wondering what the man who lives with me will find to critique at dinner tonight.  I’m not crazy.  And I’m not alone.  I’m a dog lover who happens to be over 40 :0)

January Surprises with a Fairy Dusting for Izzy to Sneeze at

This morning when Izzy and I stepped out the door before the sun rose, our backyard surprised us.  When I was a kid, I thought that the light dusting we often got — you know the one:  the grass and trees have a coating of white that disappears before lunchtime — was powdered sugar and I wanted a taste.  This morning, that’s just what it looked like outside.  My lawn furniture (which I should bring in, but I’m too lazy) had a coating, as did my car.

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This is our first true snow of the season, so to see the ivy bushes with their heavy red berries looking quite Christmas-y almost felt like the holidays were upon us once again.

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Izzy, half asleep as he usually is on our first walk of the day, did his duty by making sure that every telephone pole  and bush got a generous dose of his pee.  He didn’t pay attention to the snow until we came back to our street.

Walking along the neighbor’s grass, Izzy lowered his face to the snow and did as he usually does when he’s getting ready to poop — he sniffed, a good long one.  And he got a snoutful of icy cold snow.  He popped off the ground as if he’d just snorted coke — and did a little dance like the one I do when I have an ice cream headache:  part pleasure, part pain, tickles but it hurts.  Then he did it again, and again, he did a little dance.  Not until the third time he lowered his nose did he realize that he couldn’t take a deep inhalation.  Though he paced back and forth a million times like he usually does, he kept his face at least four inches from the ground.  And he gave me a dirty look when I couldn’t stop giggling at him.

When we got back to the house, he retreated to my bed, only  lifting his head when he saw me get my coat on and get ready to leave.  He didn’t move to go out again, though.  Wonder why.

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Run Like the Wind, Izzy!

As everyone in the U.S. knows, the whole country is experiencing some frigid weather, and it’s only going to get worse.  Though Izzy seems to get invigorated by cold weather, I don’t, so when we had a chance to visit a fellow writer in Durham this weekend, we took it . . . especially since that writer has a dog and a fenced-in yard.

Izzy hates riding in the car.  As soon as he knows we’re going somewhere, he commences shivering.  Nothing helps.  I put on his Thundershirt whenever we have to take a ride, I’ve bought him a sheepskin seat that basically boxes him in so he’ll feel safe, and I’ve given him treats.  Still, he shivers.  But since going out in the car often results in a positive experience, I keep taking him (though it breaks my heart to see him sitting beside me, tongue hanging out, his little body shivering and quaking as if he is convinced I’m taking him somewhere that will result in pain and horrors beyond imagination).  Funny, because he rarely goes to the vet’s and absolutely loves going to the groomer’s and our visits to friends far outweigh the vet visits.  I think it’s the actual traveling itself that has him terrified, which is why I bought the seat for him.  Suffice it to say, he’s going to continue traveling with me, shivering or not.

Yesterday’s visit resulted in a pure, unadulterated treat for him.  Our walks are always leashed.  Rarely does he have the pleasure of running freely since he cannot seem to get himself to listen to my calls to “come” when he’s free.  Being in a fellow dog’s fenced in yard is something akin to my feelings of bliss when I have a dish of salted caramel ice cream topped with hot fudge in front of me.  Orgasmic!

Nothing makes me happier than seeing my little guy running as fast as he can, ears flying, tongue hanging out, eyes bright.  If he could, I’m sure he’d be yelling, “yippppeeeeeeeee!” as loudly as he could.  You know how sometimes you can “hear” a dog’s voice without actually hearing it?  Some dogs have deep, Southern drawls (basset hounds), while others have foreign accents (poodles) and others are likely to be intellectual (bulldogs) while some would sound like hippies (yellow labs).  I imagine Izzy’s voice to be fast and chatty,  an adolescent’s nonstop silliness in a high-pitched, friendly, happy tone.

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He still glances at me questioningly whenever I open the door to my friend’s backyard, as if to say, “You’re coming too, aren’t you, Mom?” but to see him enjoy being a dog with Alfie, my friend’s rat terrier/bully mix, is worth driving him shivering to the next doggie play date.

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Fly, Izzy, fly!