Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Journey to Gurty -- (dog stories part 2)

A few weeks after our dog Izzy died, I started compulsively trolling the local shelter sites, you know, just to see what's out there --all the while telling myself I don't want another dog, I'm just looking at cute puppies just because they're cute -- looking at puppies makes me smile, but I'm just looking.

I knew I was playing with fire so I started laying down some rules about not being swayed by cuteness alone. Rule number one was that I was not to believe a word I said to myself if what I was saying involved me and the idea that I was good enough with dogs to rehabilitate a problem dog. I was to take the dog at face value and know that if a dog is a furniture eating, house crapping in, kind of dog -- I was not to attempt to retrain it.

I offered the situation to God. I mentioned that I was over my need to save the worlds rejects and would really enjoy a problem free animal, thanks. I've had several special needs pets -- and while I loved every one -- I didn't want the extra work. Izzy was a great dog and I'd take her again if I could, but her deal was that she had no inner reproductive organs. It's true, when we took her in to get fixed, she was empty.

Weird, you say, but so what --what's the big deal about a dog with no uterus? The big deal is, if there is no uterus, what's up with the vagina? Well, her vagina was connected to her bladder and it had it's own sphincter muscle to keep pee from pouring out, but sometimes it did leak a little anyway. Features like that I could live without.

We looked at a few shelter dogs and pups. This one dog, Truman, was a sweet and adorable pug mix, but he had been raised on a front porch of an irresponsible breeder and was fairly freaked out by people -- he never would have made it in a house with children. I didn't want a pug, but Truman convinced me that pug mixes might be worth looking in to.

I looked into breeders and read over and over how anything that isn't a pure breed and raised by the hands of angels, is considered a puppy-mill dog. If you didn't want an angel raised dog, you were going to have to deal with the devil and buy yourself a dog that was guaranteed to be riddled with life long health problems.

If I insisted on a mixed dog, I could go to the shelter where they are over run with healthy mixed dogs just waiting for a home. I wouldn't have to pay the devil money for a shit dog, when I could get the same kind of mixed dog for much cheaper from a shelter. It ticked me off that the pure bread zealots wanted to deny me the right to find a good breeder and a shot at knowing a breeding and health history of a dog. If I wanted a certain type of mixed breed, I could wait until someone hands over their problem dog or until an irresponsible breeder gets their dogs taken away, then I can have one of those, but don't go buying one from some 4-H, forever farm guy with twenty-five years of animal husbandry experience and all kinds of health guarantees on his animals -- no -- he's the devil.

While I agree that there are a lot of icky people breeding pups the wrong way, I think the purists make it harder to find responsible people by lumping all non pure-breed breeders into the devil category.

I wanted to do the right thing and help an animal if I could, but I also wanted an animal I would like at the same time. A dog who had been bread by a responsible mixed breeder would be nice for the health assurance, but I remained open to a shelter dog. I found a decent sounding kennel and Rich and I were going to go check out if it looked as good in real life as it did on the internet. On a whim, I ran the situation by my dead dog Izzy.

I telepathed out, "I don't know what happens to dogs when they die, but if you are around, Iz, you know this family and if you want to put in a word for one of your kind who needs us and would be a good match -- well, let us know."

The next day when I did my daily shelter check, the shelter which was in the same area as the breeder we were traveling to had four new puppies listed and they were of the same type we were considering from the breeder.

We made the call and of the four puppies, there was an obvious choice in looks and personality. No, "just looking" that day -- it was love at first sight. We filled out the papers and headed home with our new, tiny, pup. When we turned onto the road toward home I looked up from the pup in my lap and there in the sky was a strip of rainbow.

Even though I mock the rainbow bridge, I thought that was pretty cool. Even cooler was two days later when I was alone with Gurty for the first time -- I sat down in my chair, Gurty curled up in my lap, I turned on the TV and what do you think was on?

That's right -- Brian's Song.

Monday, November 13, 2006

She's my alien baby

On the planet I come from, waking up and being ready to get out of bed is a drawn out deal. Some of the best Heaven on earth moments come during those times of fading iiiin and oooout of sleep in the morning, or of being half awake and reveling in the experience of the perfect combo of sheet temperature and blanket weight -- these are gifts of life.

Others have an ON switch built into their eyelids -- after a few hours of eyelid inactivity, the switch enables itself -- once the being opens it's eyes again it's fully awake and ready to talk, talk, talk, talk, talktalktalktalktalk.

This is the case with my Lizzie. She's so chipper about it too -- it's a crazy thing to wake up to. I start my day with a mix of confusion, disbelief, adoration and irritation. I never immediately surrender to having to get up.

I know this child is not going back to sleep or fending for herself in a manner which is conducive to my process. Although she always happily agrees to negotiated terms that would allow me to have a few more precious moments in bed -- she clearly doesn't understand what she's agreed to because the streaming play by play continues.

"Mommy did you see that? I just stretched -- it felt really good and my toes curled. Gurty licked my face! Did you see Gurty lick my face? She's so cuuuuute. Okay, I'll go downstairs and wait for you. I'm hungry. My tummy feels all rumbly. What are we having for breakfast? Oh, look at Gurty -- she's jumping off the bed. Winnie is still sleeping. Are you going to make breakfast soon? What are we having for breakfast? I'm hungry. Mommy, you said "downsairs" -- you were supposed to say downstairs. I am going downstairs. Mommy, look, catch (standing in the doorway she blows kisses and throws imaginary hugs at me). You missed one! Hurry, it's getting away, I'll get it! (runs back in chases down the kiss and puts it on my cheek).

On it goes, until the notion of staying in bed is finally surrendered and off we'll go to the kitchen to cure that rumbling tummy of hers.


Friday, November 10, 2006

Winnie's presidential platform

Winnie's class is voting for a class president. She has the usual promises of a classroom candidate: no homework, more recess and the like. What hooked me was the endorsement: "Animals listen to me read."

Hey, if she's got the ears of the animals, she's got my vote!

P.S. On the dog story -- coming soon, part two: Journey to Gurty.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

I think my dead dog gives me nods from the rainbow bridge. (dog stories part 1)

Are you familiar with the Rainbow Bridge? According to the sappy condolence card we received from the doggy ER, the rainbow bridge is where your pet goes to frolic with other dead pets until you die and cross the bridge into Heaven together.

A nice thought, perhaps, but the story was so overly dripping with sentiment, I made phone calls to share the good humor and could not get past the first couple lines without going into laughter induced crying fits -- I had to compose myself several times a call, especially when it got to the part where my dog would one day take pause from frolicking as she noticed my familiar face in the distance -- she will run to me, we will embrace, I will caress her head and body, then we will cross that bridge... together.

My kids love the story, even my sarcastic teen -- so on the fridge it is. I can't help but wonder every time I see it -- which one of us will she cross with? And will all my pets come running or just the dogs? Will I turn into Cesar Milan when I die? Will I be Dr. Doolittle or just a pack leader?

I know it's not nice to pick on someone's sincere effort to be consoling, but my keen sense of the ridiculous could not get past the comic issues this particular piece of comfort had to offer. Hysterical laughter is healing, so in a round about way, the bridge story did it's consoling job.

The Rainbow Bridge was not the only form of healing humor via the sap factor. The week we buried Izzy I was doing dishes and thinking about what a great dog she was and of some of the good times we had together. I was really getting worked up and missing her -- this went on for several minutes until I realized I was humming -- not just humming, but humming The Way We Were.

I knew our friend Jeffrey -- who also loved Izzy very much -- would appreciate sharing in the humor of the moment, so I called him. Jeffrey -- one of the 36 just people walking the planet and our own personal Dog Whisperer -- found the humor and said my grief induced lapse into Streisand was okay, "as long as you don't start watching Brian's Song."

Oh, how we laughed and laughed.

I finished the dishes and several other household chores. At the end of the day I went to my room, sat in my comfy chair, clicked on the TV and what do you think was on?

That's right -- Brian's Song.

Could it be that my dog was using her new ghostly powers to manipulate a television station into playing a certain movie and then getting me to sit down to watch it?

That dead Izzy -- she's a funny one. This was one of three (so far) Chicken Soup type moments I've had regarding the dog. Stay Tuned for parts two and three...