Smelling the Roses — Learning from my Dog

My black and white Boston is the prim and proper sort; he has definite thoughts on the way the things should be. I call him my protocol droid.* While he is a formal little man, all gussied up in his natural fur tuxedo, he also has a fat streak of adventure and curiosity. Individual walks with him are a joy. I don’t need to be on close watch for his personal bubble of safety; he’ll try to make friends with anything with breath (squirrel, bird, cat, goose, fox, deer). Walks with my black and white involve him leading me with punctuated exhalations (dog laughter) around trees, through bushes, up and down stairs, and atop short walls. He stops to sniff flowers, bugs, leaves, and unseen stinky spots. He won’t eat bugs right away; he’ll sniff and paw at them before deciding whether they would be delightful in his tummy or just friends. He explores his world deliberately. Sometimes, from full speed, he’ll stop short, staring with startled eyes at…what? He’ll bow, front legs splayed wide, with a gruff growly bark and tick tocking of his nubby tail. He’ll wait for a response from It then repeat the bow and gruff bark several times, bouncing up and down in between. He’s trying to figure out if It is a friend or foe. It may be a brown leaf on a patch of green grass that wasn’t there the day before, an orange cone where it “shouldn’t” be, a stray shoe or hat, a patch of new growth from the bottom of a tree (when everyone knows greenery grows at the top), or anything else that “doesn’t belong.” I’ll let him do his thing, then I’ll approach the object and touch it, making happy noises; he’ll join me, sniffing and wiggling his nub and laughing. In all of my busyness, he reminds me to stop and actually see the world around me, even if for a moment.

* Shameless Star Wars reference for those scratching heads

Not Guilty

It is tragic when a person dies, especially in a violent way, especially when that person is a child. It is very sad that young Trayvon Martin’s life was cut short by a bullet from George Zimmerman’s gun. That boy will never laugh, hug his mom, kiss his girlfriend, move the tassel on his college mortarboard, shake his boss’ hand, walk his bride up the aisle, or spin his little girl around playing helicopter.

The law’s function is not to convict a man based on the emotions swirling around a case. Based on the facts — not the emotions — they were presented, the jury assigned to the Zimmerman case found Zimmerman not guilty. The jury had much to wade through. They had to piece fragments of testimony together with Florida’s laws. Based on the pieces they had, they made their decision. It doesn’t matter what anyone feels about the matter.

The system is not broken. And the legal system certainly is not something that should be infuenced by vocal protesters. The man was judged by a jury of his peers who did not take their duty lightly. Consider the possibility that maybe a juror, or more than one, felt strongly that Zimmerman was guilty of at least manslaughter. Should that person go by her feelings and what others say or by the details presented in the courtroom? The system would indeed be broken if she went by anything other than what was provided in that courtroom and helped to convict someone based on personal views. Emotion has no place in law. I don’t need to hash out the minutia of the case. The jury did that, and they came to an obviously unpopular decision. They soberly made that decision, knowing the possible fallout. They found him not guilty based on all of the information they had — facts and law. Justice has been served.

American

I am American. In addition, my ancestral roots make me a Euromutt or CeltiKraut. As with all but the First People of this land, mine is a family of immigrants. Their first boat arrived (we believe, yet unconfirmed) in the 1600s from England. Their last boats arrived in the late 1800s from Germany and Ireland. The Germans dropped their language faster than you could say schnitzel when they hit these shores. They did not teach their children German, though a few words made it down to my generation. If I want it, I must take it upon myself to learn it. Some of the foods and traditions from all sides have survived, too. My ancestors were farmers, teachers, businessmen, and blue collar workers. Most of the men served in the military from the Revolutionary War forward. They fully embraced their nation.

I love and am proud of my family history. But it is just that — family history. I am not Irish-American, German-American, European-American, white-American, female-American, or Episcopal-American. All of the prefixes are secondary. I am American.

My American family has a delightfully varied background. We are every color, every religion, every political view, every worldview. We should remember and honor our roots. But we are all American.

Situational Awareness — Learning from my Dog

Out on a walk with my neighbor and my dogs, I slowed a bit to be a pace behind her and smoothly shifted my brindle dog’s lead so that he was slightly behind me and my black and white so that he obscured the brindle’s vision. “What are you doing?” my neighbor asked. “Dogs ahead. My boy will go batshit. The lady secured one of hers, too.” “Oh, I hadn’t even seen them.” The other dog owner and I smiled at one another as we passed her; she had even gone off the path a ways to give both of our dogs space. No one went crazy, though when my brindle did finally realize there were other dogs, he seriously considered it.

My neighbor hadn’t seen a woman in red with two large dogs heading right for us. It made me wonder about situational awareness. In taking responsibility for one’s own safety, it’s important to pay attention to what’s going on. After that walk I thought about my own behaviors and observations. And I realized that my sweet brindle in his nuttiness has helped me become more aware of my surroundings.

When my brindle came into my life two years ago, his normal state of being while on a leash was DEFCON 2 and could go to DEFCON 1 (nuclear war is imminent) in the blink of an eye. We continue to work on that, and most walks now hover at DEFCON 3. He walks like a predator in stalking mode and wears a perpetual crease between his pricked ears. He goes about his business but is on the lookout for birds, squirrels, or anything that moves. His triggers are other dogs, people approaching me, and children.

It’s my job to be on the lookout for anything that will set him off and to assess the situation and remove, shield, challenge, or control him. To do that, I have to be aware of everything and everyone around us at all times, lest a child sneak up behind us to pet him. That would be very bad for both child and dog. I watch him for signals, too, for often he’ll hear something or catch a movement before I do; and that flick of attention is all the warning I’ll get. I’ve found myself, even when he’s not with me, making sure I know who’s behind me, just outside of my peripheral vision, who’s moving toward me, who’s watching me.

Thank you to my beautiful brindle boy for keeping me safe in more ways than you know.

Joy in Living

I had the joy of fostering a boy Boston puppy for about five weeks; he went to his Forever Family last weekend. They are the perfect family for him.

If he had not been surrendered when he was, he probably would not have lived much longer. Given his condition, he was a risk to treat; there was a good chance he would not have survived his treatment. He had broken teeth, broken ribs, broken hip with decaying bone, badly damaged eyes, and, in spite of being full of food, had muscle wasting and malnutrition. He was in extreme pain. He was 7 months old.

No, he was not abused. He was a product of bad breeding (don’t get me started on bad breeders and mills), and the family was simply overwhelmed with mounting medical bills and worsening health in spite of treatment. Medical records indicated that he’d started having issues at about 3 months and that he was given excellent care. Surrender was the pup’s best chance at life. Thank you to that family.

The shelter’s vet repaired his hip, removed his eyes, neutered him, and gave him a high quality diet. He spent nearly a month healing in a crate in a busy vet clinic. In spite of everything he had been through, the day he met me and the shelter worker who brought the transfer paperwork, he cuddled, licked, and pawed at us both, as if we’d been friends forever.

Two days later, he travelled with me to deliver my other foster, a girl puppy, to her Forever Family. Every hand extended to him as we shopped at a pet supply store, met another rescue volunteer, and met the girl’s adoptive family he greeted with interested sniffs and happy licks. He spent a week on strict confinement as his major surgical sites healed. Although he wasn’t permitted to walk yet, I carried him in a baby sling on walks so he could enjoy the wind, sun, smells, and sounds. He rode around like a little emperor. Over the course of the week, his energy increased. My adult Bostons thought he was weird for bumping into them in the kitchen at meal time, but during couch cuddle time, one groomed him and the other brought him toys.

The day came when he was off confinement. I thought I’d have to teach him to follow. Oh, no. I walked a few paces toward the kitchen and chirped his name. His head snapped up, and he barrelled toward me at top speed. I stumbled backwards, laughing into the kitchen, and he was right there with me. I tapped his food bowl; and he tucked in. My two, the foster, and I went on a short walk after dinner. With all the confidence in the world, the little blind boy trotted next to his play buddy, nipping at his ear and patting him with his paws. Inside during play times, he charged around at full steam, egged my boys on to play, chased them as he heard their tags jingle, and wrestled like a luchador. When I introduced him to stairs, he felt them out then climbed as fast as his tiny body allowed. He wanted to figure things out on his own and seemed pleased with himself when he succeeded, lifting his chin and prancing like a pony.

He decided the family we visited was his. The dad took the pup from me, and the pup nestled into his arms. He made himself at home visiting everyone for scratches, cuddling with the mom, and initiating play with the other dogs.

I love and am inspired by his confidence, curiosity, and positive attitude in the face of challenges.

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Not Disposable

It’s been awhile. Work has been kicking my tail (in a good way). I brought home my first foster dog. He’s an adult, purebred Boston Terrier with AKC papers, on the smaller end of the range. He’s sweet. He kisses my hands often and my face whenever he can reach it. He decided that his place is on the sofa with his head on my thigh. He has a lot of spunk and is delighted to play with my Bostons. He likes soft blankets and semi-rigid chew toys.

When he came to me three weeks ago, those semi-rigid, slightly flexible toys with nubbly ridges probably felt really good on his inflamed gums and rotting teeth. His emaciated body weighed 12 pounds but should weigh about 15 to 17 pounds. I could count every vertebrae and every rib. His hip bones stuck out, too. He has an old eye injury that was never treated, making one eye look like a walker’s from The Walking Dead. Amazingly, he still can see through that eye, though I wonder how much since he walks into my leg if I’m on that side during walkies. Both hind legs have luxating patellas. He favors one or the other when on walkies, mostly the left. He was kept outside day and night, because at some point he began to take up too much space in the house, according to the owners.

What the fuck is wrong with people? They went through the trouble and expense of purchasing a purebred puppy. They had their fun with the cute, cuddly puppy. They didn’t bother with training or neutering. When he became a precocious teen, they stuck him outside and basically forgot about him. Then they gave him up. And as they handed him over, they said that when their old dog dies they want to adopt from the very rescue taking their little time and space wasting dog off their hands.

This is a life, one of God’s creatures, a being with emotions and thoughts. They chose to take on the responsibility of this tiny life. If one no longer wishes to or cannot care for the life one is responsible for, give it to someone who can. Let them have a beautiful, happy, quality life. The only positive thing I can say about the owners is that they did the right thing in giving him to rescue.

Did they not see that he was hungry? Did they not see he was physically uncomfortable? Did they not feel the cold of winter and think that maybe that little creature, who had happily bounced around their living room entertaining everyone as a baby, wanted to feel warm and safe? He was starved for kindly touch.

And after all this little boy has been through, all he has wanted to do since he arrived in his foster home has been kiss, play, and cuddle. The obnoxious male behaviors like humping and marking have virtually disappeared since neutering a week and a half ago. He has clean teeth; the rotten are gone. His fur is shiny. His eye is no longer inflamed. With exercise and supplements he’s walking more comfortably and normally. He has meat on his bones and looks downright robust at nearly 15 pounds. He stands tall instead of cowering. He is docile and well-behaved. He has given a lick to every single hand extended to him, regardless of gender, age, race, stature, or what the person was wearing or carrying.

If only every human could be that loving and forgiving.

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Watch Out for the Quiet Ones

A friend’s husband sent me a note last night. He lamented that our political views seem to have drifted apart lately. He hoped that we could still be “geek friends” (as long as I didn’t post any pictures of Gandalf with a gun).

I replied that our views have never been aligned on much. Some things, yes, but not a lot. I simply have found my voice. I will not stand idly by while told that all I believe and love is crap and wrong and worthless, that one way is the only way and everyone should think that way. He certainly has the right to think and say what he wants. But stop shoving it down my throat like it’s a five star meal. We don’t need to agree on everything. Let’s talk about puppies and organic veggies if wanting to have a harmonious discussion rather than one that challenges the mind.

One of the many beauties of America is that we don’t need to share the same thoughts. As long as we all don’t cause each other harm, we can go about our merry ways. Live and let live. In theory.

And ST, these are for you:

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