friends

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’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!

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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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!

Beginnings and Endings and New Car Seat and the Holiday Dog Spirit

Grades were due yesterday, but some of my faculty didn’t get them in until the last minute — always a nail biter.  But they’re done now and we’re all heaving a huge sigh of relief.  Today is our holiday lunch, and when it’s over, I’m going to pick up a new desk for myself.  I’ve been writing on my dining room table, which means the center of the house is a disaster area.  Not that anyone sees it except for Izzy and me, but I would love to be able to sit in front of a window where I can daydream and write and have space rather than sitting where I eat.  And I’m loving this new desk . . . .

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During the holidays, I’ll be seeing my friends and family, which means Izzy’s going to see some of his friends, too.  Unfortunately, that means traveling.  Not one of Izzy’s favorite things to do.  BUT he now has a new car seat, and I tested it out last week when we went to my daughter’s house.  He still shivered during the whole hour and fifteen minute trip, but at least he wasn’t sliding all over the place, and I think that, with time, he’ll feel better about the traveling . . . especially if the end of the trip means he gets to run around with two other dogs in an enclosed backyard sans leashes.  Nothing better than seeing dogs running around free!

 

Izzy’s getting into the holiday spirit, too 🙂

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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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Dog Brains

When I was younger, I took a women’s literature course and one of the writers the young professor introduced us to was a revolutionary woman named Rigoberta Menchu.  Physically, she presented nothing of a threat:  plump, ordinary-looking, no scowl on her round face.  But mentally and dynamically, she’s a powerhouse for the indigenous population of Guatemala.  I remember reading her work and appreciating the guts it took for her to speak truth to power and righteously defend her people.  She not only defended people; she defended animals and nature  . . . basically, she defends the rights of all living beings.

She said, “There is not one world for man and one for animals; they are part of the same one and lead parallel lives.”  That statement is so simple but incredibly powerful.  And true.  One thing you can count on with Menchu is that she tells the truth.

This morning, I was thinking of that statement when I walked Izzy before the sun rose.  We saw several of his dog friends while walking.  One’s a female boxer whose submissive and sweet personality reminds me of Menchu herself.  Boxers are strong, muscular dogs, yet Peaches defies the stereotype.  Instead, she is friendly and wiggly, like you would expect Izzy to be.  Both of them are the exact opposite of what you would expect, as is Menchu.

We inhabit a neighborhood where possums live next door to foxes, bluebirds share the sky with buzzards, tiny yappy dogs (like the Chihuahua down the street) walk the same streets as burly pitbulls.  Black Methodists sing in a church a block away from White Baptists.  Single women who have grown up in North Carolina and spent their lives surrounded by family are friends with others who grew up in New England and have no family nearby.  Doctors shake the hands of field workers.  Though there are times when our paths do not cross — and other times when they collide — we all are part of the same world, and as Menchu states, we lead parallel lives.

As I pondered that thought, Izzy did his morning routine:  sniffing under the old white Cadillac for the tortoiseshell cat that hides there, peering into the sky when the rook of buzzards lifted off the roof of Mr. Mendoza’s house, lapping the pool of rain water that has collected in the dip in the sidewalk.  Occasionally, he’ll glance up at me, tongue hanging out the side of his mouth, and I laugh at him.  He may not speak human words, but the language he has says one important thing:  I’m here for you.  I’m part of your world.

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Pitbull

Izzy spends the weekend days and nights at my screen door, looking out on the street and letting me know if anyone comes too close to the house 🙂  He’s a guard dog as long as he’s behind the door, but if he’s out on the street, he just wants to meet all the new dogs in the neighborhood and greet those he already knows.

I spent Saturday writing, so I was in my office and looking out on the same street Izzy sees from his door.  It’s early Fall and the day glowed with that special light autumn days embody.  We made excuses for more walks than our usual, mostly because I needed to stretch after sitting in my office chair for so long — and Izzy had to see the people and “other beings” who had walked by the house during the day.  The last week at 10 PM presented the gift of a star-filled sky, high-flying planes that competed with the brightest stars, and a glimpse of what I think was Venus near the half moon.  I breathed deeply, sure that all was right within my world and comforted by the thought that there is so much more than what exists within the perimeters of Roxboro.

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Izzy took his seat again on Sunday afternoon as I did my laundry and ironing.  The weather, as gorgeous as Saturday’s, enticed more people to take a walk, and I really didn’t pay much attention to what was going on unless Izzy growled or did his squirrel dance (on his back two legs) in front of the door . . . until I heard a tinkle-clink-clank-tinkle-clink like a broken ice cream truck going by.  Izzy came to where I stood at the ironing board, dancing and whining, then went back to the door as if trying to tell me something.  Curious, I followed him and heard the sound but didn’t see anything.  Still, he wouldn’t calm down.

A couple of minutes later, he still hadn’t calmed down and kept going to the back door, then coming to the dining room like he does when he wants to tell me to take him out.  Though we had gone for a walk only half an hour before, I gave in and put him on the leash.  He scrambled through my gravel driveway, choking on his collar and trying to get me to walk faster.  I could tell he had picked up the scent of something and thought it was the groundhog we have in the backyard (that has pretty much destroyed my garden).

On the way down the street, Izzy was at “high alert” but I still didn’t see anything.  Then a van coming toward us slowed down and stopped in front of us.  The window rolled down and a heavyset, older woman in a flowered dress leaned out.  “You might not want to walk up that way,” she said, motioning toward Izzy.  “There’s a brown pitbull wandering around up there.  He’s dragging a 6-8′ chain, so I think he got loose from someone’s yard.  He’s kinda big.  Your pup wouldn’t stand a chance.”

I thanked her and wondered whether it was the same one that my friend, the old man, was having trouble containing when Izzy and I walked earlier this week.  Then I realized he never had a chain on that dog.  And I realized instantly where the loose pitbull had come from.  The night before when Izzy and I were out, I heard howling, barking and growling from beyond the railroad tracks.  I’ve heard it before, and it’s obviously a group of dogs that are either caged or within close proximity of each other.  I’ve seen several pitbulls with some rather large guys who walk them up my street and can barely hold onto the dogs when they see Izzy.

I think there’s a dogfighting ring close by . . . and I’m feeling two emotions:  fear that my Izzy wouldn’t have a chance if any large dog became violent and compassion for those dogs who are chained up in a yard or made to fight when they should be in a loving home.  Now my journalistic curiosity is aroused.  I need to find out what’s going on.

Friends

When I ask Izzy as we’re putting on his leash to go out the door whether he wants to “go see Ellie,” his ears perk up, he cocks his head and does a little dance, pulling me all the way down the driveway, up the street, around the corner, up the little hill, then down Ellie’s street.  She actually lives behind me with her ‘mom,’ my friend Peggy, but we have to go around the block to get to her house because there’s a stand of 50′ tall bamboo and a few buildings separating our yards.  It’s the height of Izzy’s day if we visit his best friend, the little Maltese.  I suspect it’s the height of Ellie’s day, too.  And in a lot of ways, when Peggy and I sit on her porch and watch our little dogs chase each other around a tree, it’s the height of our day, too.  But the past couple of times we’ve gone to visit Ellie, she hasn’t been home.  I think Izzy would have patiently waited at the door for her, but when I told him, “She’s not home, buddy.”  I think he understood, though he seemed disappointed for the rest of the day.

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As I write this, I’m reminded of the delicate strands of friendship and relationship that wind through all our lives.  I’m watching two people unload a little house across the street, packing a lifetime of belongings into a trailer they’re pulling behind a black GMC pickup.  The house and its belongings were the property of my neighbor, a 90 year old woman.  She spent her life her life in that house.  Though I never really got to know her, my next door neighbor did, and when the old woman was taken to a nursing home, my friend Deb cried.  That’s one of the many things I like about Deb.  She’s compassionate and warm.  She thinks she’s oversensitive sometimes, but I don’t believe there is such a thing.  I think we use that term to cover our own need for self-protection.  We don’t want to feel someone else’s pain or anguish, so we call those who do “oversensitive.”  I find that term . . . well, insensitive.

Dogs don’t feel the need to hide their feelings.  What you see is what you get with my Izzy, as well as with his other friends.  If someone’s having a bad day, they growl or snap.  If another is happy to see you, there’s no denying the little happy dance dogs do — big or small.  There’s something contagious about a dog that practically wiggles out of his skin when he sees someone he loves.

I’ve been reading a lot of Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist monk who was nominated by Martin Luther King, Jr. for a Nobel Peace Prize.  Thay (pronounced Tie), as his disciples call him, is traveling throughout Canada and the United States right now, and as a practicing Buddhist, I would love nothing better than to see him.  Unfortunately, he’s not coming near my little hamlet in North Carolina, so I’m satisfying myself by reading some of his writings.  Today, the one the struck me has an awful lot to do with friendship.  I’d like to share it with you.

“The most precious gift we can give others is our presence.  When mindfulness embraces those we love, they bloom like flowers.” 

I think Thay knows dogs well 🙂

Peace.