North Carolina

Dogs and Death

One of the things that has always struck me as ironic is that we give our animals more dignity in death (usually) than we do our fellow human beings.  Whenever one of my animals has neared the end or contracted a deadly disease, I’ve had him/her “put down.”  I distinctly remember when my German Shepherd, Jessie, could no longer hold on at the old age of 19, and we made the decision to take her to the vet.

She couldn’t lift her head when I went out to the yard that morning to feed her.  For at least three years, her eyesight and hearing had been failing, but she still swung her tail, and she still knew that she was the one responsible for herding our other dog, a massive British Mastiff, whenever he was doing something wrong.  Though she couldn’t see me, nor hear me, when I touched her head, her tail wagged weakly, yet she couldn’t eat or drink.  I called my husband and told him to come home. Together, we went to the vet and held hands while he inserted the needle with the tranquilizers that would put her out of her misery.  Together, we cried like babies over the dog who’d been with us most of our adult lives.  Together, we buried her in the back yard where we would bury our Mastiff a scant three months later.  Leaving that house and their graves was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do.

During this season when all the leaves fall off the trees, the ground goes brown, and everything appears dead, Izzy is only excited.  He can see further, there are new smells, and somehow he seems to know that nothing is ever truly dead.  It’s just gone temporarily.  When we were walking this morning, it dawned on me that every day is new to him.  Ooh, what’s that over there?  Did I smell that yesterday?  I did?  Well, let me smell it again.  And that mean dog . . . there he is today.  Maybe he’ll be nice to me now.  Nope, he won’t.  Okay, let’s go the other way.  Even if he has done the same thing a hundred times, every time he does it again, it’s exciting.  He has no memory for the sadness of a dead rose bush or the crispiness of dead leaves on the ground.  A dormant rose bush is something new to investigate.  Those dead leaves?  Let’s scuff through them and throw them up in the air.

This season reminds me of all the people and things that no longer exist in my life:  those dogs I mentioned, my parents and grandparents, some friends.  I just lost my former mother-in-law last week, and the sadness that I have felt is one that deepens when I think about the fact that she is the last adult in my life.  There are no other generations before me.  I — and my siblings, my cousins, my friends — am the “older generation” now.  It dawns on me that every day brings me closer to the day that I, too, will no longer be part of this earth.

As with so many other life lessons, I learned this morning from Izzy that age simply doesn’t matter.  He doesn’t recognize dogs because they are puppies or because they are senior.  He recognizes simply that they are friends (or, in some cases, animals he needs to avoid).  He has no idea where he ranks on the scale of age, nor does he care.  He simply does.  He simply lives.  He simply explores every day as if it’s the first one.

By the time we arrived back at the house from our morning walk today, my eyes were no longer wet with the grief I felt for my mother-in-law.  Instead, I thought about the last photo she took:  nestled in a wheelchair, she weighed about 50 pounds, her cheeks sunken and unable to hold her teeth.  She wore a knitted hat over her kinky gray hair and her church friends and pastor clustered around her chair, all grinning as if enjoying a party.  In her lap, a tiny chihuahua.  I can hear her voice as if I were there myself:  “How cute!  Look at him wigglin’ all ’round.”

This week, I watched a brief video with Oprah interviewing Eckhert Tolle about what happens to us after death.  He explained that our body is a shell, animated by atoms that are pure energy.  When that energy dissipates, it leaves the shell that is our body inert.  The energy simply rejoins the other energy that powers our earth and every living being on it.  We are everything.  Everything is us.

I think animals know that.

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Izzy’s Summer Vacation

Why haven’t I written lately?  Because Izzy and I went to the beach with our good friends Ron and Alfie.

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Unfortunately it rained almost the whole time we were there! We spent time in the little house we rented.  The dogs cuddled while I wrote.  Ron took his writing to the local coffee shop.

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I definitely want to get to the ocean again, particularly because Izzy seemed to enjoy it much more so this year than he did when we went over my birthday last year. It’s also great for me to get there because it frees up my mind. The salt air clears out cobwebs and inspires me to write what I haven’t been able to write at home. I have the philosophy that breathing deeply of air that is not perfumed with car exhaust and not hindered by the sounds of industry and humans helps me access the creative genes I know exist deep inside of me.

Izzy and Alfie had many walks along the coast, and I think the air worked on them, too, but all it did was make them sleep more soundly.

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Now that summer’s over, more time to keep up with my blogs!

The Sounds of the Dog Walk

ImageI’ve been thinking about the various sounds I hear, especially early in the morning, when I take Izzy for walks.  Some of them are the usual:  the world waking up around us, birds stirring, leaves rustling, the breathing of every living thing.  Others make no sense at all, unless you live in the small rural town in North Carolina where Izzy and I explore something new each day.

In the morning, a rooster who lives across the railroad tracks makes certain that everyone knows he’s around.  The ra-a-ra-a-roooo echoes down my quiet street and Izzy’s ears perk up.  Unfortunately, that rooster really has no clue what time it is, because he cock-a-roos at all hours of the day and night.  It’s just easier to hear him when everything else is silent.

The other dogs in the neighborhood are let out into their respective yards, so those sounds are part of the fabric.  The shepherd mix across the street is still yawning as the sun comes up, so he does little more than give us a ‘huff’ as we go by.  The two rescues behind the fence on the corner are invisible to us (I’ve literally never seen them), but Izzy sniffs through the fence at them to say ‘good morning’ and they do their usual crazy, frantic barking as they trace us from the inside of their compound.  The chihuahua that lives around the corner doesn’t go out into his fenced in section of the yard until later in the day, so we’re spared his craziness.  (That’s one dog both Izzy and I can live without.)  And there are several others that are either just waking up in their houses and want to be let outside or who have already spent the evening tied up in the yard and want to eat.

But those aren’t the only sounds.  The turkey vultures that nest in a huge magnolia behind Mr. Mendoza’s house lift in unison–25-30 big birds–and the whoosh-whup-whoosh of their wings sends shivers down my spine, whether it’s first thing in the morning or late at night when I can’t see them.  Izzy stops whatever he’s doing and lifts his head to the sky to watch them.

Robins always tempt Izzy to chase them because they poke around the edge of the newly-mown yards in the hopes of getting a worm.  Though Izzy is fast, he hasn’t caught one yet (thankfully), but that doesn’t mean he’s quit trying.  Cardinals swoop past us, a flash of scarlet and a quick double whistle-clack-clack-clack, to signify they’re on the move.  The dainty call of a pretty Eastern Bluebird as it sings to its mate, the low coo of the soft gray doves that live in the rafters of the stately brick house on the corner of Main Street, the insistent call of a blue jay guarding its nest.  Normal bird sounds.

Then there’s the gas station on the Boulevard where a verse from the “Car Wash” song blurts every couple of minutes (and, personally, drives me nuts–Izzy doesn’t even notice anymore).  And the bang of trucks filling with lumber at the lumber store further down Main Street.  During the day, those sounds disappear into the fabric of other, louder sounds:  bleeping car horns, the occasional whine of a police siren, the rumbles of trucks.  Not to mention the phone that rings at all hours of the day and night — I think it’s on a stereo speaker so that the mechanic to whom it belongs can answer whenever he’s outside, but why do people call at 6 AM and let it ring and ring and ring?

My favorite sounds of all, though, are the ones Izzy makes.  He huffs and sniffs at dandelions, whines softly when we pass the dogs unlucky enough to be on ropes in their backyards, burps loudly when we stand waiting at the corner.  He’s my funny companion, quieter than most, but his language is just as recognizable as the language of the morning, the sounds of our dog walk.

Dogfighting in North Carolina

This morning, I’m home sick from work (yes, another bout of bronchitis) and one of the first posts I see on Facebook is about dogfighting in North Carolina.  If I wasn’t sick already, I became physically ill at the sight of injured dogs and immediately signed the petition.  I hope you will, too.   (I’ll write about happier things when I’m feeling better.)

http://www.yousign.org/en/dog-fighting-nc

 

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!

The Nurse Dog

The holidays mean a two week vacation and usually Izzy loves that I’m home.  This time, he liked it even more because he got to cuddle with me constantly, because I’ve been sick.  That’s also the reason for the lag in blog posts.  That said, he did have a good time on Christmas Eve/Christmas Day with my daughter’s two dogs. They were in the kitchen (my grandson loves to grab at them, so no need to tempt them).   Here’s a pic to make up for my silence.  Izzy’s lying on the floor next to Gordon, a Cockapoo, and Wilson (a Rat Terrier mix) is sitting in the background.

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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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Nighttime Walks and Dog Sweaters. Okay, I give in . . .

After my post about dog clothes and my aversion to them, it’s turned into a chilly winter here in North Carolina, and I must admit that I’ve put Izzy’s Thundershirt on him during cold rainy days and chilly evening walks.  He had a haircut less than a month ago, and I was aware that he didn’t have that extra layer of warmth, so I gave in.  And this morning, I got my newsletter from Cesar Millan and read this article on walking at night during the winter.  Guess it’s not so silly to dress your dogs.  Mea culpa.

http://www.cesarsway.com/dog-training/dog-walk/How-to-Keep-Your-Dog-Safe-on-Evening-Walks?utm_source=BlueHornet&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Dec4GuideDogs

Holidays in the ‘Hood

In our neighborhood, we know who lives in every house (I know the humans, Izzy knows the animals) and have begun to learn their habits.  The old guy with the pit bull-mix that doesn’t like Izzy walks Main Street around 6 PM.  If we’re there at the same time, we have to walk on separate sides of the street, because he can’t quite control his young, angry dog.  (It’s not his fault.  The dog came from a home where he was tied outside in the back yard all the time, and he’s frustrated.  I think the dog could use a LOT of exercise, but the old man can barely do the walks down Main Street a couple of times a day, never mind run with the dog to get rid of some of his aggressive energy).  On Main Street, the artsy couple walks their two dogs very early and when we didn’t see them one day, I wondered why.  We found out the next day that the older dog had passed away.  And two houses down from us, the Spanish teacher at the community school takes out his dachshund at the same time that Izzy and I make our second walk before I leave for work.  They have a sniff every weekday morning, then happily trot away.  When I heard the dachshund barking every day over the Thanksgiving holidays and didn’t see the teacher’s car, I started to worry, but it was okay.  He was just away for the holiday.

During the holidays, certain houses decorate over the Thanksgiving weekend (I’m one of them) while others don’t decorate at all.  Izzy watches them out the window, patrolling the couch to make sure that no one puts any extra decorations on our lawn.  

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And when we walk the neighborhood, we check out the sights that we see along the way.  The yellow Victorian house that had such wild decorations for the Halloween holiday has now put out their figures and lights for the Christmas celebration.  But one of them seems oddly out of sync with the others.

In the middle of the lawn, in front of the sparkly horse and Cinderella-type carriage that the folks used as their focal point last year, stood a life-size brown wire moose.  A moose.  Izzy looked at it, then looked at me, then peered back at the moose again, as if to say, “What the hell does that have to do with Christmas?”  I started laughing.  I’m thinking the same thing.

That’s what holidays are like in my ‘hood.

A moose.

Damn.