Monday, July 11, 2011

Damn caring disease

Wasting time on Facebook tonight, I came across this status update from a friend

Today I got a message from Sue Bell of HT that their shelter partners are overflowing. More than a dozen puppies that HT had hoped to rescue were euthanized because they could not get to them quickly enough. If anyone is willing to become a dog/cat foster--or better yet, if you or anyone you know is interested in adopting a pet or donating--please contact HT (!

And boom, my night was ruined. (I'm not blaming you Meg!)

Sue had emailed me recently to ask if I was up for fostering soon, and between being out of town over the July 4th weekend and returning just to be socked with a crappy cold, I haven't gotten back to her.

Just about five months after the great flood of oh eleven, my new kitchen is in.

Sadly, i've fostered only one or two dogs since--not because of a fear of lightning striking twice, but because my once super mild asthma has amped up.

"Now I'm not going to talk to you about rehoming your dog," my allergist said (there's no way I would), "but I am going to tell you to hold off for now."

No Dogs Allowed.

How's that for a prescription?

It's terrifically hard for me not to foster, to sit in my cozy home with my cozy rescue girl and not worry about all the other sweet boys and girls out there in cold or heat or rain.

Or about to be put down.

So I ignored Dr. Rohatgi, despite the fact that she's literally one of the smartest people I have ever met and she has not been wrong yet.

Bella and I took in Tekla, the sweet girl pictured above, as temp fosters (when a sweet girl or boy's foster has to go out of town these shorter gigs fill the gap) and, despite my collection of inhalers, I found myself constantly short of breath.

A wise friend of mine said, 'I wonder what sign the universe is going to show you next...'

In other words, 'What's it going to take for you to Take. A. Break?'

I'm pretty keen on keeping the universe happy, but why? Why would the universe want me to hold off--to not help??

That's the thing about the universe: She's big on requests but not too forthcoming with her reasoning.

So, literally, because I didn't get back to Sue (and when I do it will be to say that I can't foster now), a dog was put down.

Yeah, I feel great.

Any words of wisdom for me? I clearly have to find some other ways to give back (and sitting here on the couch telling my sweet girl Bella that the thunder is *great fun* doesn't count; that's just par for motherhood). But I also have to find some ways to not take it so hard.

Sometimes I feel like Andie MacDowell in the opening scene of Sex Lies and Videotape:

Garbage. All I've been thinking about all week is garbage. And I just can't stop thinking about it. I just... I've gotten real concerned about what's going to happen with all the garbage. We've just got so much of it.

The line elicits laughter from the audience, but I get what she's saying: How can we go on when something really terrible is happening?

Someone recently told me some cute story or another about animals. To which, rather than responding, "Aww," or "So cute, those critters!" like I was supposed to, I said (because I cannot help myself):

That's why I became a vegetarian. Animals have souls.

So she said--because she can watch a barge with garbage float on by and still buy lunch in a styrofoam container, you know, like a normal person:

I just try not to think about it.

Yeah, I said (because I don't wish to be shunned by all two-legged creatures), That's one way to do it.

What I wanted to say was:

Yeah, that stopped working for me when I was 16. I mean, I struggled with it before then but by 16 there was no way I was going to put that chicken--who just a little while ago was knocking around in the dust with his buddies--in my mouth.

But, you know, boundaries.

I'm not perfect, btw. I strive not to harm, but I do harm. I've never successfully gone vegan, for one.

And I *try* not to be obnoxious. Although when someone says to me (always with an affected little giggle)

I'd be vegetarian if meat weren't so DELICIOUS!

I'd like to toss 'em on the nearest garbage barge and wave goodbye.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lost Dogs and You

Before you contact me to help look for your lost dog, I have to warn you. I get pissy and short-tempered when I'm fliering. I know it, I try to stop it. I cannot. Lost dog hunting is my first circle of hell. My personal existential crisis.

The wandering, in cold and heat, in ever widening circles. The lack of any tangible evidence that anything I am doing matters at all. The solicitation of attention from strangers who, at best, do not wish to talk to me.

Sweet girl Olivia has been lost a ridiculously long time now, but she's out there. We know it. People keep seeing her and calling in to the number indicated on the fliers her loyal foster mom and those helping her hunt for Livvie keep posting around Southwest DC. Sam & Salsa keep finding her scent. She's out there, and we just can't get our hands on her.

It's maddening.

I've been trying to join Livvie's foster mom once a week as she circles Southwest, pasting fliers to utility poles and handing out calling cards to everyone--tired moms pushing baby carriages, seedy, threadbare men just hangin' on street corners--in her quest to bring her girl home. Her foster mom is new to DC, and Livvie was new to her when she bolted that November day. Someone else could very well have said: That's It. I've done my share. I've got to go back to my life now. But foster mom (FM) keeps at it. She says the nightmares have stopped, but it's not much better.

I can't imagine. When it's pouring out, I wonder if Olivia is dry. When it's freezing, I wonder if she's found a warm spot. When I walk the streets with FM, my eyes dart beneath every bush. I just want to call to her and have her trot up. I've had that dream, and FM has too.

Why do I do it? Why does the loss of a dog I've never met hurt me? Why am I such a bitch out there?

Ashley Judd, who I've never thought two minutes about, has a memoir out. The review I read says Judd calls herself a "lost child"--she had a pretty crap childhood, apparently--and lost children, Judd says, love pets.

I can't empathize with any of what Judd's been through--divorced parents, showbiz--and I can't help feeling that how I feel about myself matters little when it comes to how I feel about animals. Do those with fabulous childhood memories not suffer heartbreak when they hear about animal abuse?

My friend Kris and I call it the caring disease. We want to Not Care At All. We want to eat hotdogs at the rodeo and the circus. Not a chance.

Here's a test. If your childhood was all Good Humor trucks whistling into your neighborhood as you played kickball on soft summer nights, read this story.

Didja cry?

If you felt nothing, you are a psychopath. (Test over)

My personal goal is to come to a place where I can look for Olivia once a week and not feel I should be looking every day. And not feel like I should spend other nights looking for other lost dogs, like Sassafras.

Olivia's FM and I fliered for her the other day.

'Paying it forward' is what O's FM called it as we slowly tooled around, me driving and FM hopping out to tape another flier on another utility pole.

'Sometimes I hate fliering, and sometimes I really hate fliering,' she said.

'I don't think you have to pay it forward until your own dog is found,' I decided.

'I don't?' she asked, all excited. We continued a bit longer. (FM's call. She's the big heart.)

Fliering, for the uninitiated, is only mildly less fun than a virus. I exaggerate. It's less vomity, your body doesn't ache and you're not hoping you die, but it is really boring and, for those of us who don't own cars, expensive.

The other day, Olivia's FM got a call from a kid who said he'd found her dog. When she drove to Southwest she saw her, ingeniously 'leashed' to the kid's cell charger. Wasn't Livvie, but she understood why he thought it was. She thanked him profusely, asked him to please keep looking, and, in lieu of the reward she couldn't (yet?!) award him, slipped him some cash from her own wallet.

Then, rather than send another pit to a shelter, she took this very sweet girl home (not forever. Should the shelter--which has been contacted--not find her family, she's going to need a new one. Please spread the word.)

I made the executive decision to take a hunting break and FM, me, my sweet hound, her sweet lab/something and the new girl all went to Shirlington.

New girl had an awesome time. And on the ride back, she stretched out reaaaallly long on FM, so she could be touching me too.

On the way home, we did some fliering.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Pets in the bed: "Zoonoses" are not the real problem

A new study by the CDC warns of the dangers of letting your dog or cat sleep in bed with you.
Franklin, Washington, DC. First day home from the shelter.

Tinoket & Ella, two hip DC cats

Liebe and foster brother Billie of Arlington, VA, all tuckered out and tucked in
after a three-hour hike with Mom.

According to the CDC, contractable zoonoses can include:

*Bubonic plague
*Chagas disease
*Cat-Scratch disease
*Pasteurella spp

As AOL put it, 'Letting Sleeping Dogs Lie in Your Bedroom Can Kill You.' (cue panic)

But if you read beyond the headlines, you'll see the study is upfront about the fact that catching anything from a pet is rare and, of course, requires the pet to actually be diseased. Easiest fix is to keep your pet healthy, regardless of whether you sleep alongside him or her.

Clearly the CDC hasn't focused on the real perils of pets in the bed:

***What about those times you steal your fiance's face mask and, while you're out cold, pit in the air, tee-shirted cat beside you, that self-same fiance takes your photo? What then, CDC?

my cousin Daev and Saba, both of Santa Cruz, CA

***What if your puppy takes up the entire bed?

I'm not naming names, BELLA.

***What if you don't want any more kittenz? (Assure your peace of mind: Spay/Neuter!)

    Moseley & Dylan snuggling.

    ***Excessive adoration

    Lucy of New Jersey loooooves her human

    ***Many of us dog lovers have woken to find a half-masticated, slobbery wet bone next to us. The CDC does not discuss this issue anywhere in its report.

    Sure Billie is cute, but look what's next to him.

    ***Nothing comes between Yoshi of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and her (your) blankets. And if she's just rolled in something, you're not going to want to join her. Nor will you want to be holding onto that comforter.

    *** And what about bears?! Sometimes a person goes to brush her teeth, and when she returns, a wild bear (in a bandanna!) has taken her spot. (Greta!)

***Some dogs are so tiny and teddy bear-like you literally don't want to fall asleep because you might miss a moment of their damn cuteness. And that can get exhausting.

Roxy of Maine works hard all day helping make declicious TriPomChews,
so you must let her sleep where she wishes.

Rico of Tucson, Arizona, relaxes with his mom. Neither of them is suffering from anything, thank you.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Going Home

The short version: This is what happiness feels like: "Mo" went home today. His family, and he & they together, are perfect.

The slightly longer version: Mo's new canine brother's been doing poorly in the wake of his family's aged dog's death. It wasn't just that the family wanted another dog in the house. Mo's new brother, bereft without his buddy, needed one. The grieving dog came into the room with his tail between his legs. Mo crossed to him immediately and the two smelled each other out. In a matter of a minute or two, Mo's brother was a changed dog. He didn't need to stick closely to his human dad, searching his face for assurance that everything was fine. He was lit up--tail high, eyes happy, coming to one and all to say hello. But mostly Mo.

Mo also has two human brothers. The five-year old kept hugging Mo (he stood still and wagged his tail) and telling him that there were toys waiting for him at home. When he wasn't hugging his new dog (or his other dog), Mo was licking his face. In glee upon learning Mo could go home with him that day, he hugged me several times.

Mo's parents know young labs, active labs, separation anxiety. They clearly love dogs and have no illusions about the work and committment that bringing one into your life entails. They weren't looking for 'perfect,' and yet.

I don't know these people, I may never see them again in my life. But this was one of the best days--most rewarding, heart-warming, genuine--of my entire life.

Thank you, Mo.

Monday, February 21, 2011

It's almost a funny story

I've been off the blog for a month now, but I'm back. The question is: Do I yet have the strength, the perspective, the peace of mind to tell you why? It's almost a funny story. And I do think I'm ready to share. It just might take me a little while to do so. So please enjoy some other fun stuff I've come across in the past month while I take a deep breath and spill.

Like these guys. A friend snapped them waiting outside a Manhattan store for their guardian to come out. Evolution, right before our eyes!

So I had a wonderful, sweet foster and he didn't like his crate. We worked on it over our first weekend and he was barking less when I went back to work. (Note: Of the 16 dogs I've been fortunate to foster, I think I've had two who didn't have some separation anxiety at the start. It's very common and it should never keep you from fostering or adopting a dog)

When I think of dogs on the beach, they are usually running in the surf. But not always, I now know.

Where was I? Right, so "Mo" didn't like the crate. So he barked. Which is normal. What is not normal (or rather: not par for the course) is what came next.

Have you ever noticed how dogs are always saving people from fires? Ohio, California, Alaska, South Carolina. I think insurance should require people with homes to adopt dogs!

So Mo actually managed to bust out of his crate. I didn't know this was possible. But he rocked it so hard, he undid the clips and walked out the back. Then he turned on my kitchen faucet.

Dogs have also saved people from cougars, swarms of bees, and sexual predators.

I had dirty dishes in my sink, and Mo wanted to lick them. So he stood on his hind legs and did so, in the process knocking into the faucet with his head, and turning it on.

My sink overflowed. My kitchen flooded, as did the kitchen below. We calculated that it was no more than 3 hours of pouring, streaming, damaging water. I have a hole in my kitchen where the folks had to remove the flooring. The neighbor below needs a portion of his ceiling replaced. Do you know the term for drying out a place following water damage? It's water mitigation. I know that now. The water mitigation team told me how lucky I was. Wasn't feeling it.

Earning that knowledge was followed by lots of back and forth between insurance (mine) & insurance (condo's) & lots of stress, which pretty quickly decimated my immune system and let in a rotten flu. Three weeks of flu, responsibility assigned (to the condo. DC law is a crazy thing) and more stories of errant (I prefer "talented") dogs (in fact another dog in this very same complex did the same thing 10 years ago) and general water damage (the woman who forgot about the bath she was drawing til it overflowed, ruining her downstairs' neighbor's bathroom; the friend who was sick in bed when the ceiling started to cave in on her --she thought she was hallucinating) than I could have ever imagined, I am back.

The blog is back.

Fostering is on hold for a bit. But that's OK, because dogs are so amazing and so cute, that I'll still have plenty to write about.

Akasha of New City, NY, cutely changing channels.

Bella and I are off now to help look for Olivia. Because I can't imagine anything worse than losing your dog. And I have seen some crazy stuff.

Monday, January 17, 2011

A week in dogs part iii and the usual insanity

The third part of my dog week is that I signed on for another foster "Mo" (white midline, looking away) and the part that warms my heart the most is that former-foster Mikey's adoptive family agreed to foster his kennelmate Star!

Mikey's folks wouldn't have found their sweet boy if it hadn't been for Homeward Trails, who rescued him, and his foster (me) who brought them the adoption event at which they found him. And now they are paying it forward by helping another sweet dog find her forever home.

Heart is so warm.

So this weekend Mo and Star hitched a ride on the the five-hour transport from North Carolina and the ever-kind Jamie met them at Dog Paws in Arlington, VA. *And* Jamie took Star for the weekend while Mikey's folks were out of town. Which can only mean one thing: I had Mikey and Mo and, of course, Bella.

For three days.

My headache is searing (not from dogs: snow is coming, and this is how my head reacts) so I will have to limit my tale-telling and go lie down momentarily. But all is good & everyone is getting along. Mikey has decided Mo is cool (ish), Mo is getting comfortable (almost every foster I've had has a few days of confusion. Mo's is far less vocal or nutty than some others have been. He just wants to make sure--understandably--that everything is alright and he's safe now.) The car lives again, thanks to Triple A. The dogs are ok sleeping in the same room--though Mo seems to need to sleep with his full weight on my legs. And it's oddly comforting.

More to come, I'm sure, but for now: First night is always hard with the new foster. Maybe he's not housetrained. Maybe she has no concept of a leash. Maybe he barks in the crate. Maybe Bella is a jerk to her.

I lucked out with Mo: Sweet as hell, Bella was fine with him, he pretty much understood the housetraining concept (two accidents in three days. Not bad.) But Mikey DID NOT like the young interloper and retired to the bedroom for the entire evening. I couldn't walk three at once and Mo (understandably) barked if I took his dog friends out and not him; Mikey refused to walk with Mo (he would walk with Bella). I needed Mo to sleep in the crate, as I didn't know the full extent of the housetraining and Mike wouldn't share the bedroom.

So I dragged a mattress next to the crate and tried to sleep. Bella took up the entire mattress and Mo cried and then he wanted to play and when he went to sleep, I was wide awake.

Long night.

First thing in the morning, we decamped to to Mikey's house via Mikey's family car. All got better once Mikey had the space to walk away from Mo (who loves him!), although Mo took a liking to shoes, and with a family of four, there are many. And not just shoes. In short order I removed from his mouth: Lots of stuffed animals, a pencil, a sled, a pair of ice skates and a shovel. He's not destructive, he's just a puppy and likes to see how everything tastes.

Luckily, he is gorgeous (camera is broken!) and sweet, so sweet.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

LOST dogs--Please spread the word

DC & VA folk, please keep your eyes peeled for these lost dogs.

We were at the vet this evening and a vet tech took her out to walk to get
pee and LOST her. They didn't come tell me immediately but instead tried to chase her.

She was last seen running west down U STREET. She is a tricolor female.

Her name is VICKIE, but she doesn't respond to it. She will only respond to
her bonded male companion who is with me. If everyone can help get the
word out to look out for her and let me know immediately where to come
to find her, I'll bring Rascal and we'll try to coax her to me. She is
terrified and people shy so no one should try to catch or chase her
unless she is cornered and cannot escape.

I am a regional coordinator of a Basenji rescue organization.

Call JR at 202.270.8447 or Dave at 301-503-2120.

She weighs about 30 pounds, has a short coat and has a characteristic CURLY


J.R. Key
Basenji Rescue And Transport
Adoption Coordinator
(c) 202.270.8447
(f) 202.355.6484

Reply to:
We have lost our dog - Nika, female, Italian Greyhound.

She is 8 months old, 9 lbs - skinny and tiny girl. Her main color is
brown; her ears are much darker (almost black); her chest, tip of the
tail and legs are white. Nika also has white mark on her face and a
little bit of black color on the back.

Nika was lost on Thursday, December 9th around 8:30 am in Reston (VA).
She was playing in the snow on a leash outside our home and suddenly
darted after the trash men scared her. We believe that she was picked
up by somebody later that day.

If you have found her or you see somebody walking her, please call us at:
703-303-5955- Vladimir

The reward will be granted to the person who brings her home safely.
No questions will be asked. We miss her terribly.

Please help us find our Nika!

P.S. If you have found a dog and you think it might be Nika, please
send us a picture.

Thank you so much!