Pets

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!

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Izzy’s Fear of the Car

Izzy’s terrified of cars.  As soon as he figures out we’re going somewhere (all I have to do is rattle the keys when I’m grabbing my pocketbook), he starts shivering.  If I take him out for a walk before I go somewhere, the tail goes between his legs and he shivers throughout the whole walk.  Whenever we go anywhere near the car (and we have to every time we go out the back door), he makes as wide a turn around it as possible.  It’s been like this since he came to live with me, but it’s getting worse.

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I’ve tried everything I can think of.  When I first started taking him in the car, he wanted to sit on the glove box with his head on my shoulder (while shivering), but I didn’t think that was very safe, so I hunted for a seat for him.  Found one that was supposed to be large enough for him, but it hung off the back of the passenger seat and he barely fit into it, so that didn’t work.  Shopped some more and finally found one that’s sheepskin lined and sits up high so he can look out the windows.  I left it in my house for a while to see whether he’d explore it, but the only thing he did was to grab the pillow from inside and play with it.  Not once did he want to lie in it.

That seat is safe.  The seatbelt buckles it in, and his leash is attached to a short restraint.  He fits in it nicely and sees everything, can even put his head out the window (though that terrifies him, too, thus I drive with the windows up).  But it doesn’t help his fear.  He still sits and shivers and pants.

I have made it a point to take Izzy on “fun rides.”  We go to my friends’ houses and Izzy gets to play like crazy in their fenced-in backyards with their dogs.  I’ve taken him for long hikes behind the college where I work.  No go.  He’s still terrified.  When it comes time to go home, I sometimes have to pick him up when I put the leash on him to get him into the car.  

I’ve asked my dog trainer what to do.  She had great suggestions for getting him into the car, but none for ridding his fear.  I did some research online to see if there was anything I could do, and the one thing I learned was that if the dog is shaking, he shouldn’t be forced into the car.  So, no rides for now.

I’m trying to desensitize him and have been walking around the car two or three times every time we go out.  I’ll start giving him treats when we’re near it so he’ll associate it with “good things.”  Over this coming weekend, I’ll wash the car and entice him to come near it, sit inside it with me without the car running.  All the while, getting treats.  I know this will be a long process, but I don’t know what else to do.

Anyone have any ideas?

Spring and April = Poetry Month and Happy Dogs

To celebrate April (which is Poetry Month) and our happiness (Izzy and mine) that we can go out without coats on, here’s a poem by one of my favorite poets, Mary Oliver.  Enjoy!

 

LUKE

I had a dog
  who loved flowers.
    Briskly she went
        through the fields,

yet paused
  for the honeysuckle
    or the rose,
        her dark head

and her wet nose
  touching
    the face
         of every one

with its petals
  of silk,
    with its fragrance
         rising

into the air
  where the bees,
    their bodies
        heavy with pollen,

hovered—
  and easily
     she adored
        every blossom,

not in the serious,
  careful way
    that we choose
        this blossom or that blossom—

the way we praise or don’t praise—
  the way we love
     or don’t love—
        but the way

we long to be—
  that happy
    in the heaven of earth—
        that wild, that loving.

Dog Treats that Kill.

Every night before we go to bed, I give Izzy a doggy treat.  Most of the time, it’s Pupperoni, but sometimes it’s a piece of dried chicken.  Imagine how I felt when I found out yesterday that some of these treats are being recalled because they’ve been KILLING dogs.  I can’t imagine what I’d do if something happened to Izzy, so my first thought was to share this story with as many people as possible so that no one else loses their beloved pets.  Please read the article that’s linked here: http://www.ibtimes.com/jerky-treats-recall-fda-issues-alerts-after-600-dogs-cats-mysteriously-dead-full-list-pet-treat 

Birthdays and Visits and More Car Rides with a Terrified Dog

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Izzy didn’t want to get out of bed this morning, probably because he thought I was going to force him into taking another car ride.

Yesterday, I put him in his ThunderShirt and took him for a long walk before getting into the car to head for my daughter’s house.  Izzy shivered so much, I finally pulled him onto my lap for the ride.  That’s something I never do, but driving for almost an hour and a quarter with him shivering and drooling and sliding on the glove box didn’t seem like a good idea.  He was a bit more comfortable on my lap, but I can’t say that I was.  I don’t like driving that way, even though he was completely still and didn’t impede me at all.

The up side of the ride was that Izzy got to spend the day with Gordon and Wilson, my daughter’s two dogs.  Gordon is a Cockapoo who thinks he’s human, and Wilson is a rescued Rat Terrier mix who was even more of a mess during his first year than my Izzy.  The three dogs played in the fenced in yard while I helped my daughter, who has thrown her back out.

It was my grandson’s birthday, his first birthday, so we played with his new toys, I read him the books I had bought him, and we had some cherished ‘grand’ time.

When we left, Izzy just about turned himself inside out to get his leash on, but when the ThunderShirt was introduced, he knew what it meant:  the horrible red car.  The ride home.  Facing his fear.  As soon as he saw my red sedan in the driveway, he sunk his butt down and refused to move.  Normally, I’d take him for a walk and get rid of some of that anxiety, but it was early evening, starting to rain, and I was tired.  We drove home with him on my lap again and shivering — though not as much as earlier.  By the time we were halfway home, he had his head on my arm, a bit more relaxed.

This morning, we put on the ThunderShirt to go for our early morning walk because it was raining . . . and because I don’t want Izzy to see it as a negative or as a clue that we’re going for a ride.  He won’t have to worry this afternoon, because I’m going back to my daughter’s alone and he can stay home and enjoy napping on this gray, rainy day.

Street Orphans

Street Orphans

In the South, there are house dogs and yard dogs. I’m not a big fan of yard dogs. I hate seeing dogs on a chain in a back yard, and I truly feel that those dogs begin to harbor aggression after a while. Yes, it makes no sense to let dogs run free, but if you have a dog, aren’t you responsible for giving it love and care and making sure it’s healthy and safe from the elements? Yes, Izzy goes out in the yard occasionally, and when he does, he’s tied up (because he does the fa-la-la-I’m-free! thing when he’s off leash and he’s too little for cars to see when he zips across the street — giving me heart attacks). But when you leave a dog outside day and night, simply giving it water and food, that doesn’t work for me.

Yesterday, when Izzy and I walked, a clownish black Lab raced up to greet us, large pink tongue lolling out of his mouth. He was wet and obviously wanted some water, so I knew he’d been outside for most of the day since it had been raining. And he was young and wanted to play. Suddenly I realized he was Spike, the black Lab that lives around the corner from me — in the back yard on a chain. He’s been there since he “moved in” when he was quite little and quite scared. Occasionally, Izzy goes back there to play for a few moments (when I’m brave enough to let him off the leash), but other than that, Spike sees no one, doesn’t play, doesn’t get to walk the neighborhood, and doesn’t have any shelter other than the trees overhead.

His newly-found freedom was obviously an aphrodisiac for him last night. He hopped over Izzy, did the puppy-bow, raced alongside us, rolled down the grass, and generally looked — plain and simple — happy!

We worked with one of the guys on the street to try to get Spike back to his yard, but he was not interested. I think he rather likes being one of the Street Orphans, those dogs who race freely up and down the streets of our little town.

Can’t say that I blame him!

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.