Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Old Year Ends with a New Beginning

I was going to do a wrap up of the year on this last day of 2011. So many friends, canine and human, have come and gone. But I’m going to save that until tomorrow. Because today there is something much more exciting to blog about!

About a year ago, I began to watch the rescue sites for another sheltie to add to my forever family, and I spread the word among my rescue-and-shelter friends. I also contacted Sheltie Rescue to let them know I would love to foster and/or adopt another sheltie. My life with Belle and Oliver gave me a love of this spunky breed, and their passing in June 2010 left a big void.

A couple of shelties surfaced but one was adopted before I could meet him, and the other was palliative and passed away shortly after (in the loving care of a wonderful person who looked after her during her last weeks on earth). I heard through the grapevine that the coordinator for Sheltie Rescue had changed, but before I could contact the new person to introduce myself, Charley fell ill and I put everything on hold for a few months.

Two hours before my Charley passed away, I received an email from a friend to let me know there was a sheltie in need of a new home. I was in no emotional shape to deal with it at that time, so I just left it in my inbox.

A few days later, fully expecting the sheltie to have already been placed, I inquired. And to my delight, from over twenty inquiries mine was selected for further discussions. A week of emails and phone calls back and forth, some negotiation on a date to accommodate holiday plans and my own care of granddog Becky and integration of new foster Petey, and a trip up island to meet one very special boy, and I had absolutely no question in my mind that my family would grow by one.

And so, without further ado, please welcome Eddie!

Hai!  What is this place? What's a blog?

Eddie is a seven year old purebred blue merle sheltie who has lost his second home through no fault of his own. His breeder, who raised him for the first two years, was contacted but didn’t want him back. The family with whom he was living received helpful guidance about rehoming from Sheltie Rescue which enabled Eddie to move straight from his old home to mine without the unsettling additional step of a shelter or foster. It is to the family's credit that they did due diligence at what, for them, was a very difficult and sad time.

Eddie is a happy boy, though a bit anxious at the moment – however, when I met him in his old home, he was clearly relaxed and at ease with the world, and wanted nothing more than to entice Sadie, who came with me for the visit, into play.

He is not deaf. He is not blind. He is not even senior. As much as I love the old and special needs ones, it was time for me to offer a forever home to a dog who I hope will be with me for a long time. He will be going in for dental and a neuter once he has settled in here. So far, his only real flaw seems to be his fear of cameras - he races into his crate and hides whenever he sees me pick it up. We shall have to work on that!

Scary black box!!!  Put it down! Put it down!

He is proving himself to be great with Petey (who mistook Eddie for a fluffy humping pillow for the first several hours), good with the cat, and willing to let Sadie come to him on her own terms. Sadie's nose is a little out of joint, and she’s not sure what to make of this playful guy, but she’s beginning to think he might be okay.

Sadie:  I'm not looking at you.  But you can lie next to me if you want. 
(I haz a bruver! I haz a bruver!)
 It may be the last day of 2011, but today is the first day of the rest of Eddie’s life. Welcome Home, Eddie. I hope you like it here.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Sunrise waits for no one

It is 7:00 AM. I let Becky into the back yard for a pee and notice the faint beginnings of a promising sunrise in the clear dawn sky. I pop back inside, toying with the idea of a sunrise walk. I pour a large mug of coffee, my second this morning, and take another look. The sky is now deep golden. Definitely a morning for a sunrise beach walk.

But sunrise waits for no one. By the time I get the other two dogs out to do their business, pull on some clothes, find the camera, grab a fresh battery, choose a jacket and gloves, and leash up a dog, the deep golden has paled to a light yellow, and the streaks of red are now pink and white.

Still, Becky is all leased up and ready to go, so we head to the beach. For two walks a day, every day for nearly three weeks, Becky has walked well on leash. Today, just as we hit the seawalk which is covered by a very thin and very slippery layer of black ice, she decides to take me for a drag, pulling heartily as any untrained extra large puppy.

I need more hands - one firmly on the leash and one firmly on the handrail leaves very few fingers for manipulating the camera. Still, I manage a few shots before the sun slides behind Maple Mountain and dawn turns back to night.

We reach the far end of the seawalk and firmer footing on gravel path, and the sun begins to re-appear and sets the bay on fire.

Twenty minutes later, sunrise over, we head up the hill to complete our 2km morning walk, albeit in the reverse direction from our usual walk. This direction involves a much steeper uphill climb, and Becky has quit pulling me. I am getting too warm in my winter coat, hat and gloves. I begin to question my sanity. Sunrise walks? I should have gone back to bed.

I am nearly at the top of the hill, half way round our loop, when I realize that drinking two big mugs of coffee then going for a walk in the cold, cold air not a good idea. I muse that this might give credence to Freud's theory of penis envy - oh, to be able to surreptitiously stand beside a bush or tree and take a whiz!

I make it home without incident, where Petey is barking for his breakfast, and Sadie wants to go for her walk (because, after all, she always gets a turn right after Becky). I placate all the dogs with food, head for the shower, and make a mental note to avoid coffee and to wear non-slip footwear the next time I entertain sunrise walks.

But it was a nice way to end Becky's Island Vacation.  By noon, her Papa had arrived to take her back to Vancouver. Her weeks here went very quickly, and she was such a good guest. I think she had a good time - she enjoyed our walks, Santa found where she was staying, and she got lots of quality time with her Grandma Jean.

I'll miss her, though I'm rather thankful that Sadie and Petey are quite happy to sleep in past sunrise. I look forward to some lazy mornings again.

But, then, who knows what tomorrow might bring?

Yeah.  Who knows?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Little Dog That Could

I think this bowtie is a bit big for me!

The spunk and intelligence of many dogs who come into rescue from sad circumstances never fails to amaze me, and my newest foster Petey is no exception. He may be all of ten pounds soaking wet, geriatric, completely blind, deaf, with rotten teeth, and obviously has been terribly neglected, but no one ever told HIM that. He is one independent dude, who in five short days has learned to negotiate the whole house and most of the back yard, much of it without even lowering his head to sniff the ground any more.

Let's see, kitchen ahead and to the right....

He can now find his way between the living room, kitchen, and my office without bumping into a thing. With a few missteps, he can make his way from the mudroom at the back of the house to the kitchen near the front. The dining room is more of a challenge because of chair legs, but he does amazingly well. Mostly he will try to find his own way out of Chair Leg Forest, but occasionally when he gets stuck he will sit down and squeak until I give him a hand. I try to wait a little bit longer each time he squeaks, keeping in mind a poem (by Ogden Nash, I believe) I learned when my daughter was about two and which I think I have quoted on this blog in the past:

I see him stumble on the rung,
But do not run to get him.
He's learning how to climb, and I
Am learning how to let him.

Petey is also very competent in the back yard – he no long bumps into fences. The large puddles currently forming from our first day of heavy rain in a long, long time are a bit of a challenge to him, but usually I just carry him over them to higher, drier ground.

Petey is not keen on his crate, voicing his opinion loudly before settling down to sleep, or waking up and demanding his servant come let him out. However, he loves his oval dog bed and can find his own way in and out of the basket with no problem. While the crate is a necessity at times - like on our trip to the vet yesterday - he has the run of the house when I am home, and an xpen around his basket when I must go out for more than a half hour or so.

He is completely comfortable with Sadie and Becky and Allie, though they are not so sure what to make of him.

Sadie:  MOMMMM.....He's staring at me again!
Petey:  Silly cow! Doesn't he know I can't see????

Petey chows down like there's no tomorrow - he has no problem at all finding his dish! Because of his rotten teeth, he is on canned food only, and he likes most varieties. But today's salmon and sweet potato was a Big Fail. He flatly refused to eat it, backing away in disgust until I, needing to get his medications into him, opened a can of lamb and rice and offered him that. Half a can was gone in a heartbeat.

I dunno about the service here.  A guy could starve waiting for dinner to arrive.

He is incredibly clean – not a single accident in the house - and does his business as soon as he feels his feet on the grass outside. He likes to be warm, and gets quite trembly when naked. I stopped by the SPCA yesterday and they loaned me a sweater which fits him perfectly - much better than wearing his fleece-lined parka inside, and warmer than his "Born To Run" teeshirt, though both have their uses.

Just watch me - Speedy Petey!

We’ve begun a little leash training - trying to get him to follow the tug of a leash in the yard or house. He will follow for a few seconds but then he plants his butt on the ground and rolls over. It’s rather like trying to walk a cat on leash – I follow him rather than the reverse! See, he's no dummy - he knows who's in control!

But the most amusing aspect of this little dog that could is the effort he puts into make his bed. Sometimes it takes him a full twenty minutes of scratching and shoving and twisting and turning and pulling and pushing and mouthing and tugging to get his blanket just where he wants it. Try taking the blanket away and he is inconsolable - he will scratch at the pad in the basket and then give up in disgust and walk away to search for a better spot. Here's a video taken part way through his bed making effort - and although it ends with him settling down, he was back up working on it again as soon as I switched off the video. (I apologize for the darkness - I cannot seem to get the camera to allow in more light in the video mode).

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

From Sadie,

Yeah, whatever, let me sleep a little longer would ya?

And Allie,

You're kidding, right?  You expect me to look Christmassy?

And my visiting granddog Becky,

Mama!  Papa!  Save me!

But most of all from my little foster dog, Petey,

I have NO idea what my foster mama is doing to me!

And, of course, from me. Merry Christmas. May your day be filled with peace and joy.

And lots of laughter, too!!!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Charley's Will, Petey's Inheritance

Shortly after Charley passed away, I received the following beautiful poem from my friend Gail.  The accredited author is Luis Delgado:

A Dog's Will

Before humans die, they write their Last Will and Testament, give their home and all they have to those they leave behind.  If, with my paws, I could do the same, this is what I'd ask....

To a poor and lonely Stray, I'd give my happy home.  My bowl and cozy bed, soft pillows and all my toys.
The lap, which I loved so much, the tender loving touch.
The hand that stroked my fur,  and sweet voice which called my name.
I'd will to the sad, scared shelter dog, the place I had in my human's loving heart, of which there seemed no bounds.

So when I die, please do not say, "I will never have a pet again, for the loss and pain is more than I can stand."
Instead, go find an unloved dog.  One whose life has held no joy or hope, and give MY place to HIM.
This is the only thing that I can give .....The love I left behind.
This is my inheritance! My Last Will and Testament.

I know if Charley had left a will, those would have been her words.  And while I expect to adopt another dog or two in the coming year, today we address the spirit of the will by welcoming a new foster dog to our home - a dog who, without a doubt, fits the above description of those Charley would want to help.
Please do not skip this photo, as hard as it is to look at.  It is the 'before' picture of a sad unloved dog.  If ever you doubt there is a need for rescue, consider this photo.  This is Petey, when he arrived at animal control a couple of days ago:

The good people at Broken Promises Rescue responded to the shelter's call for help - a shelter was no place for this dog.  Petey is blind and appears to also be deaf.  The vet believes he is at least twelve years old.  His blindness is due to neglect - likely neglected eye infections - in which his eyes are now completely destroyed and will likely need to be removed.  His teeth are also destroyed - nearly all will be pulled when he is ready for surgery.  He was, as you can see, a matted mess.  He has now been bathed, groomed, and been to the vet.  He's on antibiotics and pain relief.  Here is his 'after' photo, courtesy of Broken Promises:

And for all he has been through, despite months or years of living hell,  he is a funny, sweet, loving boy who likes nothing better than being cuddled and who is already showing signs of being the male version of a Diva.  I brought him home from Victoria this afternoon, and he quickly took charge of my lap, much to the cat's disgust.  Then he chowed down on a dish of food, pranced around the back yard with a little guidance from me, wasn't the least bit fazed by Sadie or Becky or Allie, made a lot of squeeky noises and a few barks, and after an incredible effort at remaking his bed to get it 'just right' (I have never seen a dog put so much effort into making a bed!), settled down in Belle's old basket, with Charley's old blanket.  He then continued to grouse and complain until I covered him with his fuzzy-lined coat.  Once appropriately covered, he promptly went to sleep:

Welcome, Petey, welcome.  May you enjoy the bed and bowl bequeathed to old shelter dogs by those that I have loved.
Surgery for Petey and others like him is expensive. Please consider making a donation to Broken Promises Rescue, a registered charity, to help cover such costs. You'll find donation information on their website. Tell them Petey sent you.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Solace in a Winter's Solstice

The silhouette of an eagle passes over head, its wings pulsating gracefully in the dawning light. The frosty grass crunches as the dogs pad around the yard, looking for that perfect place to do their morning business. Standing in my pjs on the back porch, I shiver, clutching my coffee mug with both hands in a feeble attempt to keep warm. I should have grabbed my winter coat. I could go back into the house for it, but I know if I open the door both dogs will rush in without finishing what they have started. And then I shall have to hit replay ten minutes later.

I am plodding through my grief-filled days, one foot in front of the other, taking one day at a time. Such clich├ęs, but oh so true. It is all one can do. Death is part of life, life is part of death. Dogs and sisters pass on. So shall we all.

It is Winter Solstice. Paradoxically, with the advent of winter comes the lengthening of the daylight hours. I haven’t minded the darkness. My evening walks around town, looking at Christmas displays and nosily peering into people’s undraped windows, have been enjoyable. I find comfort in spotting things that make me smile. Joy and sorrow are so intertwined. Laughter is so important to survival.

A Christmas turtle with his fishy catch

I am thankful that the weather has been nice – cold and crisp one day, warm and mild another, but little rain to dampen my spirits. The outdoors is my solace. How can one not feel at peace with such beauty all around?

Osborne Bay on a December morning
Arbutus tree reflection

Sun filters through misty morning

Becky leads the way on the oceanside path

Granddog Becky and I go for a long walk each morning, a shorter one at night. This morning we watched ducks do water ballet, hoisting their little white rumps straight up in the air, then twirling around in perfect synchrony. They made me laugh out loud.

Sadie and I also do two walks a day, though shorter by necessity, Sadie slinks low to the ground as if every step is an effort for her. She stops to sniff the ground where Charley once peed. She is grieving too. As I returned from a walk with Becky the day after Charley passed, I heard, then saw, Sadie howling in the middle of the house. She looks for her friend, for the companion she so carefully watched over the past few months. But she is slowly coming around – today, when I returned from an afternoon out, she greeted me with happy playbows and attempts to mouth my hand with her big smiling face. That, too, made me laugh.

I fill my days with reading, music, seasonal activities. The Christmas parade, a couple of community sing-alongs, a few volunteer shifts at the theatre, dinner out, coffee with friends – it is an enjoyable time of year, surrounded with people and animals and sounds and sights that I love. It is good to be alive. I weep, at times, but smile through the tears. Oh to share this place I love with those who have passed on.

In many ways I do.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Best Dog Ever

July 12, 1997 - December 16, 2011
The Best Dog Ever

She came to me a wee little ball of black and white fur, the only dog I would ever raise from pup to old age. I didn’t know about the thousands of homeless older dogs just waiting for homes. I wanted a puppy, the local SPCA didn’t have any, and I’d never heard about rescue organizations. And so I answered an ad in a paper, went to the house, gave them $50, and the backyard breeder handed her over, no questions asked. They said her mom was a border collie and her dad a rough collie, and she was due for her shots.

She threw up in my lap on the way home.

She was the Best Dog Ever. She never chewed a shoe or destroyed a piece of furniture, she didn’t bark or whine or create havoc in the house. Her only bad habit, one I was never able to change, was her tendency to paw people’s knees with her very strong claws. She was just saying “Pat me, please pat me!”

We went through a lot together, Charley and I. She stayed by my side when I marked exams late into the night, and she rose at dawn when there were piglets or foster pups to be fed. She camped with me and travelled with me.  She never much liked riding in the car,  though a lakeside or seaside destination made the travel worthwhile. She loved to gaze at the water.  She loved farm life almost as much as she loved beaches. Give her a beach or a pasture, and she was content. 
She accepted well the steady stream of dogs who came and went in our house, though she never became ‘best buddies’ with any. She thought piglets were far more interesting and much easier to herd. However, she was always sensitive to my emotions, picking up on my stress, my sorrow, my joy, and so she grieved with me for the many dogs who passed on before her, and she celebrated with me when fosters found their forever homes.

She was an independent missy not unlike her mama, and preferred to retire to another part of the house away from the action.  But in the past few weeks,  I would wake in the night to find Charley standing in my bedroom doorway, leaning against the jamb. “Mom? Mom, I can’t sleep. Can you help me?”  I would give her some meds, and lie down with her on her mat, and she would shove her nose gently against my cheek or under my chin  - “Thanks mom" -  as she drifted back to sleep. It was only recently that she allowed Sadie, who has lived with us for three years, to lie beside her and watch over her while she slept. We all knew she was getting weaker and would soon be leaving us.

Last night she told me it was time. And this morning, in our home, with my arms around her, she slipped quietly from sleep to death and took a chunk of my heart with her.

I have shared my home with her longer than with any other being, canine or human, except for my parents and my daughter. Fourteen and one half years. And I wish for fourteen and one half more.

Charley-girl, you were a good, good dog and a good, good friend, and I shall miss you and love you forever.

Charley, age 3 months

Charley on the beach

Charley's signature smile

A Thousand Tears

A thousand tears have washed my face
Since you left home today.
A thousand sobs have pierced my throat,
A thousand sorrows stay.

A thousand stories come to mind
Of all the things we’ve done.
A thousand walks, a thousand parks,
A thousand days of fun.

A thousand pieces is my heart,
So shattered by your leaving.
My friend of over fourteen years
Now gone, and I am grieving.

But for each tear that I have shed,
For all the sobs and sorrows,
A thousand memories remain
To comfort my tomorrows.

 J. Ballard  (c) 2011

Run free, my good, good dog.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dear Mama, Dear Papa, Love Becky

Hi Mama and Papa, it's me, Becky!   

Well, here I am at Grandma Jean's house, and she doesn't seem to be blogging much so I figured  I'd give it a go. 

It was sure fun to visit Great Grandma Rose on Sunday (wasn't I a good dog in her nursing home?), and then to ride back to Vancouver Island in Grandma Jean's van with my Sadie.  I wish you had come too, but  Grandma Jean says you are both going away for Christmas and I will have a lot more fun here than in some dumb jail  kennel.  Grandma says I get to stay for the rest of the month, so I sure hope Santa will know where to find me!

I love Grandma Jean's house.  It's nothing like our apartment - there are no long hallways or elevators here. I just go to the back door, wait for Grandma to open it (I wonder if I can figure out how to do that myself!), and bingo, I’m in the back yard. I like that! Grandma thinks I am smart to learn about the door so quickly – I showed her just how smart I am at least five times the first night. Charley and Sadie wanted in on the game, so we all spent all night getting Grandma out of bed to open the door for us. That was fun!

I am being a very good girl.  I haven't chased the cat, not even once!  Mostly I just follow Grandma around, or sleep on one of the many dog beds around here.  At night time, I sleep on my special blanket right beside Grandma's bed.  Other than the first night, I have slept allllll night long. 

Grandma and I go for lots of walks.  It sure is quiet here - there are hardly any people or cars or trucks or sirens or noise at all.  Sure not like downtown Vancouver where we live!  I love walking along the Crofton seawalk and down to the beach.

Here I am, waiting to go down the stairs to the beach
On the seawalk

On the beach

And ya know what, Mama and Papa???  Yesterday, we saw one of Santa's reindeer on the beach!  Yes!  Grandma says maybe he  - or she - is having a little holiday before the long, long flight on Christmas Eve.  Grandma tried to get a photo, but the deer ran up to the park by the ferry terminal.  This was the best shot she could get.

Santa's reindeer on holiday in Crofton
I told her not to get too close - I didn't want to be singin' "Grandma got run over by a reindeer". 

And we also saw cats and ducks and trumpeter swans and herons and gulls and all sorts of things.  And I never tried to chase any of them.  Of course, I was on leash and Grandma had both hands holding on tight, so I didn't have too much choice.

Must. Not. Chase. Cat.

Must. Not. Chase. Ducks.

I like watching the sun come up on the big cargo boat over at the mill, and the little tugboats moving the logs around in the water.

Grandma says there is going to be a parade here on Sunday, and Santa will be riding in a fire truck (I guess he is coming down to pick up that reindeer, eh?), and it will go right past Grandma's house.  Auntie Else is coming down to watch it with us, and then we will all walk over to the next street for a big outdoor community sing-a-long. 

Grandma already saw Santa - Mrs. Clause too! - the night before she came over to get me.  She and Auntie Else went on the Chemainus Carol Boat, which is a little ferry that takes all the people for a ride up to Ladysmith, and they all stand on the deck and sing carols and drink hot chocolate.  The carol ships from Ladysmith come out too, and dance twirly circles to show off for the people on the Chemainus boat.  And there are fireworks on the beach at Ladysmith.  Grandma said it was lots of fun.

Carol Ship from Ladysmith

Grandma's attempt at capturing the fireworks

Santa and Mrs. Claus!!

Anyway, I guess I should go because it's time to take Grandma out for her evening walk. I'll write again soon.

Love, Becky

P.S. Grandma says to tell the blog readers that Dover the little piggy moved to a foster-to-adopt home today! She is with some people who had a big companion piggy who went to the Bridge, and they love piggies and they also have a few other farm animal pets to keep Dover company. Dover will be spayed January 4th, and then the adoption can be finalized.  Be good Dover - I was once a shelter doggy, and found a forever mama and papa, and I just know you are gonna have your forever home too.