For the Love of Dog


“I have found that when you are deeply troubled, there are things you get from the silent devoted companionship of a dog that you can get from no other source.” — Doris Day

On the path of life God has given some incredible aids to enhance the thrill of success, to curb the sting of loneliness, to ease the pain of loss, and to make even the most seemingly insignificant moments exciting.  These aids walk beside us, guard us at night, forgive our faults and love us unconditionally.

No other creature on earth can provide the comfort of a dog.  This month, my grandmother passed away, and the loss was heavy on the family, especially her devoted husband.  It was her time, and she passed peacefully, but her absence was felt immediately and will be felt in so many future moments, because we all love her so much.  Among all those she left behind, were two furchildren.

In the days after her death, my grandfather would go outside and hold his dogs close to him.  The eldest walked slowly around, looking at all the friends and family that had gathered, and never barked, but with a sincere and understanding look in her eyes, seemed to thank us for coming.  She made sure she slowly approached each table, and she even stood in line for food instead of approaching first.  The younger dog never left her dog house.  The look on her face was one of deep despair.  Without understanding our conversations, she knew.  She just knew.  And she felt pain and loss.

I left my dog Sydney with my parents when I moved to my teeny one bedroom apartment in 2010.  She now has a “pack” that includes my parents’ furkids, PJ and Osa.  My visit was welcomed with the usual jumping, tail wagging and licks.  At one time, I was talking to Mom and petting PJ.  Dad was walking in and out of the room, and PJ would look at him and look at me with a worried expression in her eyes.  She laid down and let out a sigh.  I would pet her and kiss her head.  She was worried about Dad, and she could sense the weight of grief he carried.

Writing my grandmother’s eulogy came to me at 4:30am, so I had to start writing when I could think of words.  When I write, I need quite and concentration.  As the words poured out, I started to weep at the computer, and then I couldn’t see the screen so I had to stop.  Sydney put her head on my knee and looked at me with big brown eyes.  I petted her head.  When she tried to crawl onto my lap, I told her to get down, and she sat at my feet.  A very hyper dog, she never is still for very long without a good hour of play beforehand.  She didn’t play with the other dogs, but remained perfectly still, watching me.  Every time I got up to get something to drink, she would follow me.  She followed me all over the house as I got ready.  When I would look into her brown eyes she would howl and whine and tap her feet.

After we laid my grandmother’s body to rest, the next day I knew we needed to get out and get air.  I demanded we take Sydney to the mountains. She was so excited, and for a day, she allowed us to forget the world we left behind and to just relax and enjoy the beautiful mountain air and desert scenery.  She made us laugh, because in just a year, she has become more out of shape.  She stopped us three times during our hike to find shade and sit down.  I was astonished, because she used to run with me twice that distance every morning. As we neared the end, a lizard crossed our path, and she looked at it as if to say, “eh, go ahead, not worth the attempt.”  Even though she was wanting breaks, she made sure that she was the first one on the trail, and that she knew where we all were.  She had to make sure it was safe, and we were together.

Sometimes we take for granted the characteristics dogs always have, that we do not.  And lessons they have learned, that we sometimes forget.  They are always ravenous learners.  Every new object and creature has a history, and a story, and it should not be ignored.  Every day has the promise of unfathomable joy and discovery.  Hearts can be broken, and must be treated with care.  We do need one another, to lean on, to walk with, to hold.

Our path will only be richer with a dog to walk with, to remind us to love the journey.

Happy as a PJ

When I think of a role model for good moods and happiness, I don’t think of any particular positive person who leaves an example to follow.  Don’t get me wrong, I know many a bright eyed and busy tailed person, but someone who is incredibly happy every waking moment?  That gets joy out of all the small wonders and surprises each day brings?   There is one that comes to mind when I am low and need to cheer up.

It’s so easy to let the little things get to us and pile up and weigh us down.   Not to mention the big things.  From giant work projects to a nail in the front right passenger tire (I swear the inside of my tires are covered in magnets) and from the little disagreements to the bigger problems underneath.  All of this easily deters us from enjoying the sound of laughter, the sunrise, the chance at something great that every single day brings.  When I am festering on the little annoyances and the bigger ones, I think of a face that I need to emulate.  And even the thought makes me smile.

Plain Jane (PJ) was left without a home and she had just lost her whole family, all of her children and all she had was a chance.  One morning, she could be chosen for the life that would make her happy.  It would be her turn.  I met her, and she had very sad eyes, and she rested her head on my knee, as if the weight of the world was on her shoulders and she needed respite.  I knew she would be the present from my mother to my dad for Valentine’s Day.

Just a few years later, Peej is the happiest creature on the planet.  She cannot stop jumping from the excitement of every new encounter and familiar acquaintance that comes her way.  She walks on the tops of picket fences and jumps over 10 feet in the air.  She craves adventure, calms fights, and loves deeply.  Her whole world is in each moment she has.  And she has the world.

Flood of Aggravation

One of those, you know? 

It seems like the car, the house and my own forgetfulness take turns in giving me crappy days.  Some people scream obscenities, I blog and write emails about it.

Last month it was the car, another $200 in repairs and upkeep.  This beautiful July – the house.  It was a boring Sunday afternoon, the kind I like.  I was watching Costner’s Dances With Wolves, because yes, I had never seen it (you may commence gasping at this thought…okay, you done?).  I threw some bedding in the wash.  That’s when all hell (and by hell I mean tons of water) broke loose. 

The downstairs toilet starting talking in gurgling noises.  Sydney and I went to investigate.  By the time we got there, we heard the washing machine draining in the next room and then all that sudsy water came gushing up through the toilet.  It at first made a obnoxious tinkling noise as it hit the tile, then it sounded like Niagara Falls.  Water everywhere.  Having no heavy duty shop n’ vac, but rather a small Bissell wet/dry vac, I went to work.  Every swipe of the vacuum was followed by a trip to dump it out.  This took 45 minutes.  I had at least three inches of water in the bathroom, in the laundry room and in parts of the kitchen and hallway.  Just when the vacuum stopped making waves on my floor and I could see an end in sight, I heard the noise and remembered – large load, second rinse cycle.  Before I could even run the few steps back to the washing machine it did it again, and worse. 

Sydney sat in the corner of the kitchen on a dry patch staring in astonishment.  Dublin came in to see the commotion and started meowing about the state of his bathroom.  Then I started crying about the state of his bathroom, because the water hit the litter box this time.  Clean litter that Dublin had recently scooped out of his litter box in his fanaticism over cover up was now floating on top of another 3 to 4 inches of sudsy water in the laundry room.   I had to let it sink in, then went back to work.

Over an hour and a half later, only streaks of wet were visible on the floor and the laundry room couldn’t be cleaner if I had taken gallons of water and All laundry detergent and poured it over the floor and sucked it up. 

My day doesn’t end there!  After a quick rest, I hopped on the treadmill.  I felt something on my ankle and looked down to see water spurting up from the front of the belt!  Where was it coming from?!?  I had no water left in my tennis shoes!  Was this a flashback due to post-laundry flood stress disorder?  I looked behind me and saw that the leak had made a long streak down the belt of the treadmill and there was a puddle on the floor near the back of the treadmill.  Then I noticed this water had a pungent smell, not clean and sudsy at all!

Sydney rarely has accidents unless something frays her nerves.  She was the one with post-laundry flood stress disorder.  How did a female dog no taller than my knee successfully relieve herself on the back of a moving treadmill?  She must have lied on her back and let loose like a fountain figurine.  I’ve seen her do it.   She put on such a display at PetSmart when a German Shepherd gave her the evil eye. 

It was now the middle of the night and I was sweaty from cleanup with dry hands from all the cleaning solution.  Then yesterday I locked myself out of the office.

In case you wondering, the exact cause of the flood is yet unknown.  Professionals are working around the clock, in cooperation with homeowners and the HOA.  It doesn’t look good.  I have faith God will provide me a rainbow to this flood in the form of stress-free plumbing.

The Furkids

People can go on and on talking about their pets until they have kids, then they talk about their kids until the kids get booted out of the nest and the new pets come in and they go back to talking about nothing but what the dog said the other day.

I’ve seen this happen first hand.  Mom was “Mom” to Keeto Dan, her bishon until I came along.  Then it was all about me.   The tale was that Keeto didn’t like kids.  No, Keeto didn’t like me.  She only cared about my well being, I am sure, because Mom did.  Other than making sure I wasn’t kidnapped for Mom’s sake, she kept her distance, giving me dirty looks.  Sure, I was just a baby, but I remember her cold stares.  Those dark, beady eyes of contempt.  Makes sense.  I took her place on Mom’s lap.

We always had family pets when I was growing up, and my parents doted over all the favorites.  Cindy Chicken, Liz (my dog, the Vizsla), Betsy Wetsy Dog, Sarah Jane Watchcat (she could imitate Mom’s voice perfectly), Martha the Cat (she flew like a flying squirrel across rooms to latch onto you – that grabbed attention),  Rosita, and Pookie (Dad’s Choodle).   Pookie survived Parvo, rat poisoning as a puppy and broken ribs.  So, it was no surprise, that she was the last pet I grew up with to say adieu.   All of them were talked about much, but nothing to the degree of when I left the roost.

I was 23 when Pookie, gray and tired from cancer, left us.  My parents took some time to enjoy the empty house and the freedom to travel, but they couldn’t go long without adopting more furkids.   I found PJ (then named Chloe) while volunteering with the city’s Animal Welfare Program.  I hadn’t seen a dog look more like Benji.  She was so quiet and kind.  I adopted her for my parents, and my mom gave her to Dad for Valentine’s Day, then named her Plain Jane.  She took no time at all ripping the house apart, digesting as much as she could in as little time as possible.  Every phone call started with, “You’re not going to believe what  YOUR dog did today!!”  For being such a demure “plain” dog, she was making a statement about being left alone.  PJ this and PJ that.

I truly thought my parents had their hands full with Peej, as I call her.  I think she’s on collar #4,592 as we speak, but they decided no dog should be without a pack.  So here comes the baby, Osa.  Osa is an Aussie/Husky mix, and looks more like some furry alien hybrid than dog.  As a puppy, though, she looked like a cotton ball with legs, a baby polar bear, and because she growls in syllables, they named her “Bear”.  Osa.

The calls turned from what was destroyed in canine rampage to what the baby said in a matter of a few weeks.  I was right there, in the pre-kid furkid obsession with Sydney, Osa’s sister.  Sydney is an Aussie/Blue Healer mix but she and Osa share the same build and knack for conversation.  Osa says “I love you” and Sydney says “Shut up” so you can tell that Osa lives with a kinder (and now more subdued) older sister and Sydney lives with a big brother cat.

How much my parents and I discuss the pets compared to other topics (work, retirement, plans for the future, politics, investments, friends and family of the human sort) doesn’t surprise me.  Any pet owner will tell you that furkids demand 24-hour time and investment, responsibility and care.  Furkids also give you protection, love and they don’t talk back.  Oh wait, ours do.

Sydney's first day home
Sydney's first day home


Sydney (March 09)
Sydney (March 09)