Big

June 11, 2011

When growing up, I think most kids want one thing and one thing only: to fit in. Unfortunately, fitting in would never be in the cards for me—back then or back now or any space in between. However, I do find myself in an excruciatingly typical female situation these days.

It involves Pete and I playing tug of war with the remote control: he wants to watch the A’s and I (gasp) want to watch re-runs of Sex and the City (SATC.) In the end, we do the dance of compromise to satisfy the smack-down-the-gender-lines requirements of each player.

Anyway, the SATC re-run I seem to catch every time is the one where Big leaves for Napa. This episode, I’ve come to learn, is called “I Heart New York.” For their last night together, Big and Carrie go on a romantic horse drawn carriage ride through Central Park. Their date, however, is interrupted when Carrie gets a call that Miranda has gone into labor and she needs Carrie there-stat. Carrie leaves Big to be with Miranda and, the next morning, discovers that Big is gone. For good.

Maybe it’s Henry Mancini singing Moon River in the background. Or how an autumn leaf gracefully falls in front of Carrie as she’s walking in her pink chiffon layered Christian Loubitown shoes. But more than likely, it’s this voice over from Carrie that relentlessly brings me to my knees:

CARRIE (V.O.)

It was official. A new season had begun. Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives? Perhaps if we never veered off course, we wouldn’t fall in love, or have babies, or be who we are. After all, seasons change. So do cities. People come into your life and people go. But it’s comforting to know the ones you love are always in your heart. And if you’re very lucky, a plane ride away.

Then if that isn’t enough to bring on the water works, posted on the screen we see: “Dedicated to our city of New York, then, now and forever.”

This particular SATC re-run is hitting me hard right now because Stella’s bff Mia and Mia’s ball and chain, Mary, are pulling up stakes and heading to the hinterlands. And soon, just like Big, these two will be lumped into the “people go” category.

Mia and Stella nearly grew up together and, although they’ve morphed into very different dogs, they remind me of the ideal sister coupling. Mia, in Stella’s keenly observant, picky and intolerant eyes (and nose), can do no wrong. Mia can walk into Stella’s house, grab her bully stick, plop down on Stella’s pillow and Stella wouldn’t bat an eye.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt no other dog will occupy the same place for Stella. Ditto for me and Mia’s owner, Mary.

I used to be awful about people coming and going which is likely the culprit behind my fascination with this last scene of “I Heart New York.” In fact, I was so bad about it I subconsciously decided not to participate or acknowledge that either were happening in my life—people coming or going. But people, like seasons, can and do change. Myself included.

So with that, I’m writing my own voice over in my own blog. Imagine Mary, Mia, Stella and myself taking our last walk in the cemetery where we’d walked so many times before…

ME (V.O.)

It was official. A wonderful season was ending. Maybe our dogs help to make our fate. Without them, we wouldn’t be here right now. Perhaps if I never rescued my pup I would not have gotten to know such a fine person and her dog. Seasons change. People come and go. But it’s comforting to know the ones you love are always in your heart and just an email, phone call or plane ride away.

Dedicated to Mary and Mia, then, now and forever.

Whine Country

May 16, 2011

A few weeks ago Pete went back east to visit his sister. Which left me alone with the hound for a few days. Since she’s mostly a big zero, no problem. She does little, requires little and offers about as much interaction as a toaster oven.

So it was with some surprise that when I crated her the second night after Pete was gone she began whining. It wasn’t ear piercingly loud. It was just loud enough to be annoying. I think she understands the difference and leverages it. Anyway, it became not incessant but fairly constant.

Eventually I released her from her crate to see what she’d do. Would she go have a drink, something to eat, knock on the door to go pee? No, no and no. She simply sashayed over to Mount Bedrest and passed out.

Huh.

The next night, nothing. She just slept through. And the same for most nights after that. So it wasn’t related to Pete leaving.

Fast forward a few weeks, Pete is back, no changes but this week, here we go again. The past two nights, she just whines. Pete changed her bedding–cleaned it up a bit–but still the whining. She’s spent every night of her life (except one when she was a cone head) being crated. But as we head to her fourth year she’s becoming a whino, much like her brothers Keegan and Oscar, who I have heard, from their owners, have moved permanently up to Whine Country.

Time to Google this I think.

Hare Ball

November 18, 2010

Note: The following post is not for the faint of heart, rabbit lovers, or anyone not blessed with an iron stomach.

Rabbit number five lost its life on Friday. The great black and white hunter struck again.

The only difference this time is that she ate the thing–not the whole thing but pretty much everything but the two hind legs. She was going nowhere until she’d had her fill so I was relegated to listening to her crack bones and tear flesh for about 30 minutes. I called Pete, “You want the good news or the bad news?”

“The good news? Stella won’t need to be fed for about a week.”

“The bad news? Ask the rabbit. “

After waiting her out, I bagged the remains of the rabbit in a turd sack and put it in the trash. I was feeling like I had really gotten a stronger stomach from all this gore.

But not so fast.

While driving home I was cognizant of whether or not Stella smelled since I had to hose off some rabbit blood that got on her front legs during the feast. Fortunately, everything smelled okay. After I arrived, I ran up into my house briefly to grab a few things, leaving Stella alone in the car.

When I came back down and opened the car door the odor nearly knocked me off my feet. At first I wondered if maybe I hadn’t cleaned her off well enough. And then, I looked in the back seat and wondered no more.

There, sitting right beside Ms. Stella, was a steaming pile of mushy, bloody, regurgitated rabbit.

I let out a little scream. I contemplated whether or not that pile of puke would in turn spur me on to hurl which may have caused a hurlific, endless loop of sorts. It did not.

Stella of course looked nonplussed. Her usual self, sitting in the back seat, head bent down, eyes looking up, innocent. Dog live in dee moment, remember? She probably was questioning who deposited that vomit next to her and, had I given her time alone, how might it taste?

Miraculously, I remained calm and pulled the sheet that I use to cover the back seat up from underneath Stella. I gathered the sheet and the regurged rabbit all in one and stuffed it in a big Glad (or maybe not so “glad”) bag and tossed that into the outdoor trash making me realize that garbage guys can in no way make enough money to do that job, especially if the stench soaked through.

All clean, we drove to Pete’s place. Stella walked in and immediately went for a munch. She was starving.

The next morning she got up on the bed and I simply observed her. I think it’s very easy for most dog owners to fall into anthropomorphizing their pet–at least to some degree–especially when they’re on your bed, their head resting, just like a human’s would, on a pillow. But with a dog like Stella you see things differently: you see a lean, lightning fast, natural born killer–whether it be on your bed or in a savannah–resting up for her next hunt.

Pudge

September 17, 2010

Okay, I get it. I don’t write anything for six months and here I am, swaggering in just one week later, with a new post. I need to stop being so schizophrenic about my blogging schedule. But P is out of town and it’s just me and a big cup of coffee ice cream and I had news and, well, you get the picture.

Anyway, when people have asked me in the past how much Stella weighed I’ve always said, “About 65 pounds.” Which was “about” right. But in truth, she weighed 63ish. Why didn’t I say 63ish? Why, you ask, did I not tell the truth? In other words, you ask, why did I lie?

I guess a few reasons:

1. 65 is a round number. And 65 sounds like an important number. A milestone number. Like a when you retire kind of a number. And what your dog should weigh kind of a number.
2. 63 sounds like you really know your dog’s exact weight and it is my desire to appear to be as disinterested in my dog as she is in me. When’s the last time Stella ever asked me how much I weigh?
3. She’s so lean to begin with and a really picky eater that I would prefer she have maybe a half ounce to spare in case she decides to go on a hunger strike for a few days.

So you see I’ve had good reasons to lie approximate. But not anymore!

Today I went to the pet store to waste spend a few bucks on some new dog bedding (she’s been on the same flattened padding in her crate for 2+ years) and when I went to look at some stuff in the room where they have the scale, Stella actually just stepped on it voluntarily. Maybe she saw a fly buzz nearby. Or perhaps she smelled some German Shepherd that peed on the scale earlier in the day.

Or maybe, just maybe, she wanted to tell me something.

As I looked up at the digital reading I could not believe my eyes: 66 pounds. And change.

Since she never really eats with any vigor and in another life I strongly believe she was a smoker, it is heartening to see Stella actually gain what amounts to over three pounds.

So congratulations, dog. And I promise now to stop calling you Stellean.

In other late breaking canine news, I do have one other thing to share. The other day I was walking Stellean Stella alongside a creek. A tough looking band of fourth graders came cruising by. As we were passing, one kid grabbed another kid’s arm, pointed to Stella and said, “Yo. Check it out. That dog is hella tight!

Yup, I got me a 66+ pound hella tight dog. And one major coffee ice cream buzz.

No News…

September 9, 2010

I strongly hesitate to even tap out these words: no news is good news. Because the minute I do so, you know something is going to happen. But I’ll risk it because I feel like I haven’t posted in this blog in ages.

But the reality is: Stella is pretty much not a problem. I really get why people will rescue one Greyhound and then go back again (and again–and again.)

The only real issue she has is that she can be growly on lead. This, I have learned, is something that just comes with the dog or doesn’t. The best thing to do is to just avoid extended “meet and greets” with other dogs if she’s on lead.

The therapy work we do at the psych facility is challenging and I question how long I’ll continue. The people act funny, smell funny and, as much coaching as we do, asking them to be gentle in their approach, there is generally at least one person who comes at her and frightens her. I’ve shifted to letting her walk around without her leash and I believe she feels more secure without it. And I’m reducing her sessions from an hour to 30-45 minutes. We’ll see…

I’m training for another half marathon and Stella has been training right alongside me. I’m now up to 9 milers for my long runs–I sort of wish I could take her with me on the actual day of the race. It feels odd not to run with her, like I’m missing a 65 pound, four legged, black and white appendage.

So yeah, no news is good news. And honestly, I’ve been writing a lot less and “arting” a lot more. Check out Wildpots, my latest endeavor!

Half To Run

April 4, 2010

One of the reasons I wanted a Greyhound was because, despite the fact that I love to run, I did not want to feel obligated to run with my dog. Getting a retired racer would allow me to still have a dog but one that was lazy and would not require me to do much of anything except a few deep knee bends each day to collect turds.

But things changed: my favorite running partner and partner in life had ankle surgery. Despite the surgeon’s rosy predictions (you’ll be running in three weeks!) Pete never ran again. So I bought an iPod and it was Ira Glass and “This American Life” that kept me company for a while.

And then along came Stella. Since I couldn’t rescue an adult Grey (Llewis would not allow it), I wound up with a pup. Turns out Greyhound pups, like most any other pup, like to bound around a lot. And run. And run. And run. So at about six months I was taking Stella on four milers. At a year she could hang with 8′s on Sundays. And more recently when I decided to give the Oakland Half Marathon a shot, Stella was game, trotting alongside me on Sunday mornings down to the lake, around twice and back. Most of the time she was so quiet and so good on lead I honestly forgot I had a dog running with me.

Last weekend the final day arrived, the day I’d trained for and the day I’d been pretty nervous about. The run was hotter than I had anticipated. And harder than I anticipated. I kept thinking about the twenty bucks I’d shoved in my running shorts: enough for cab fare home when I bonked at the six mile mark. I kept thinking about the sag wagon and when it would roll around to pick me up.

But the twenty remained in my pocket. And I never did hook up with the sag wagon. Instead, Pete and Stella and Mary cheered me on at mile eleven and I went on to happily finish the run in a couple of hours.

Today, back to our usual run under the Redwood trees dripping with rain, I reflected: in the beginning, my vision was this big retired ex-racer who considered walking to the food bowl enough exertion. I’d never feel guilty for not getting him out. But the Universe had other plans. And instead I got something different. And something a lot the same–the same as me. I got a girl who is as happy to hit the trails, every time, all the time, as I am.

Bitter Critter

February 10, 2010

Ten percent of all proceeds from the sale of the following rap will go to GreyRap LLC. GRLLC was formed to promote Greyhound rap throughout the world. Note: Not intended for small children.

Bitter Critter

by

Furpile Hayes

she’s a bitter
critter
a pisser
and a shitter
full a hate
won’t get in her crate
she’s a bitter
critter
runt of the litter

waistline shaped
like Betty Rubble
cat in the yard
gonna be trouble
bitter critter
read about it on twitter

black and white
just like a cow
favorite dish
is rabbit kung pao

bitter
critter

eat a fortune cookie
just for luck
today’s your day, dog,
you’ll whack a duck
cuz she’s a bitter
critter
a pisser
and a shitter
layin in bed
pear shaped head
lack of contentment
full of resentment
bitter
critter
read about it
on twitter

sittin in the car
payin her dues
turn on the radio
listen to the news

bitter critter
runt of the litter

why should she walk
when she can laze
cockroaching is
all the rage

bearing her teeth
upside down
mess with her
she’ll take you down

bitter critter
read about it twitter

sighthound sleepin
twentythreeseven
dreamin bout bones
rainin from heaven

legs and lungs
like she’s from Kenya
find her on Facebook
and she’ll friend yah

bitter
critter
read about her on twitter
face is long
a furry bong
bitter critter
bitter critter
bitter critter…
[Fade to black--and white.]

Living In The Dot Calm Era

February 3, 2010

It’s pretty remarkable that a dog this fast, one who has caught two rabbits this season, would, for the most part, lay on her back all day, teeth exposed, dead fast asleep. Maybe not 24/7. But 23/7 for sure.

It is also amazing to me that the other day I went to clip her nails and…she fell asleep. While asleep I was also able to brush her teeth. Let sleeping dogs lay, indeed.

Which reminds me…

Yesterday at a Paws For Reading event I had this tyrant-in-training kid. As usual, Stella was picked last because she’s tall and skinny and kids like those small fluffy dogs. But because this brat came in late, Stella was his only option. He did not say hello but just plunked himself down and began to read. Stella wanted to check him out so she sniffed the top of his head and began tasting his hair, “I don’t want her touching me while I’m reading!” he demanded.

As if Stella could understand English, or maybe she’s fluent in “brat” she actually moved and stretched out on the floor a few feet away. Immediately the kid then yells, “Why isn’t she here? I want her HERE!”

I told him that Stella was more comfortable stretched out and suggested he go over to her and read. He got up and went to her but then began to reprimand, “Don’t sleep. You listen to me, dog, don’t sleep while I’m reading.”

I let the kid know that Stella wasn’t asleep but couldn’t help but warn him that he should never get up in the face of a dog he doesn’t know, especially if they were sleeping. When I added that some dogs could react and bite I could see the information registering in his eyes, settling deep into his brain. I could tell: He’d be taking this pearl of wisdom home with him for good.

It was interesting to observe this child. First he did not want Stella to touch or bother him. Then, when she moved away he was angry about that. He said he was tired of reading. And then he became angry because Stella wasn’t listening to him read, “How can she listen to you read if you’re not reading?” I asked. He had moved on to being angry about how skinny she was.

I wondered about this kid. I wondered if he had any friends and what his life as an adult would look like with this off-putting personality. I wondered if he just came out of the womb a brat and the parents were trying like mad to work with him. Or if his parents were verbally abusive and he was just passing along what he knew to Stella. And to some degree, me.

And I wondered too since my business has a baby focus that if people thought about giving birth to an adult–or even a seven year old–if they thought about that vs. an infant if they’d have children at all. Because the possibilities of personality quirks and disturbances are limitless. I thought about this too: in the end, as a parent, you will likely spend much more time relating to your child in an adult form vs. child. So what happens if you just do not like that person that is your kid?

Makes yah think. And ramble. What a crap shoot this all is.

Fur Better Or Furcon: A Pet Therapy Review

January 25, 2010

Last week the head of TherapyPets.org gave me a call. She wanted to know if we could attend FurCon. Fur what? I quickly googled it to discover that Furcon is an annual convention for celebrating the anthropomorphics genre and furry fandom. Think huge stuffies roaming the Fairmont San Jose and you’ll begin to get the picture.

Turns out that TherapyPets.org was one of three organizations benefiting from the proceeds of several large art auctions.

I often tell people that having a therapy dog is a lot like having a free ticket to places you would otherwise never think of or be allowed to go to. FurCon was the perfect example of this.

The director told me that we would each be asked to speak about our experiences having a therapy pet. Huh. I didn’t think I’d actually have to *do* anything. Damn. But I figured it was a good opportunity to stop for a minute and and review my pet therapy work to date.

Backing up a bit, I realized doing therapy was one of the reasons that got me to really thinking about Greyhound rescue. I wanted to do pet therapy work and Greyhounds tend to make fantastic therapy pets. They’re calm and polite and so tall their heads can graze the edge of a patient’s bed.

About a year and a half ago Stella and I became a certified pet therapy team.

Interestingly, before I really got going with my certification, I honestly wasn’t a true believer in the “healing powers” of pet therapy. But I liked the idea of it (that free ticket thing) and I really wanted to give it a try. Ironically it was during the process of becoming certified that I had one of those moments where you find your heart melting all over the hallway of an acute rehab unit. And I was hooked.

What happened was this: Stella and I were doing a visit in a rehab center. We were being observed and would be given our final critique, the last step in getting certified at a pet therapy team. I was feeling challenged because Stella, reserved as usual was polite but not big on the eye contact or licks. I was working hard to try and get her to engage with patients but the going was slow. We were nearly done and I was bracing for the critique but at the last minute were guided by the director to see one final patient.

Along the way the director told us this patient was blind. When we arrived we peaked in to see a gentleman sitting quietly along with his physical therapist. Suddenly I looked down to see Stella’s tail wagging up a storm. She wanted to meet this man. So away we went.

Unlike every other encounter, Stella clearly was having an instant and strong connection. She went right up to him and nuzzled her long nose into the palm of his hands. The patient, encouraged by his physical therapist, touched her soft ears. Those watching the entire visit were floored by the obvious rapport these two were having, especially in light of Stella’s previous non-reaction to every other patient.

Afterward the physical therapist took us into the hallway where she explained the situation. She told us that her patient was recently blinded in a horrific accident. She then paused for a moment, tears in her eyes, and told us that the connection with Stella was the first he had made since being at the facility for several months.

I was so blown away, first I think by being able in some small way, to help. I then felt this enormous rush of respect for my dog–for her keen sensitivity–for her ability to sense something in that man who had been so hugely traumatized.

I have since gone on to work with Stella at a lock-down psych facility where we visit with long term and for the most part, psychotic patients. Since psych patients can often times move in an unusual and sudden ways and since they can smell quite differently due to medications, it takes an extremely calm and steady dog to do this work.

And while it’s not an easy gig for Stella, she does her job and connections are made. The patients work to gain her trust and this process of working with another being, touching a warm furry body, taking a large animal for a little walk, patients are empowered. And for a brief period of time, these patients can escape the difficult thoughts in their own heads by concentrating on Stella.

But I digress.

Back to FurCon!

The FurCon community is large (a couple thousand attended this year) and, up until today, completely foreign to me. I think these people range from individuals who like to clip on a tail every now and again to those who wish and strive to really look like a certain animal 24/7 (e.g. facial tattoos and implants.) And everything in between.

On the surface, if you cruise through the exhibit hall, it feels like any other conference exhibit hall with related vendors hawking their wears. I actually priced out some clip-on tails ranging from $40 to $70. There were people selling comic books, jewelry, one guy was selling knives and a few furry (would that be “soft?”) porn rags. So yeah, like any other convention but with a kink and a twist.

What I found compelling though was how in-depth the tracks and seminars went. I read somewhere over 130 of them. The various tracks included Fursuiting, Species, Writing and Puppetry. Venture into the details of these tracks and you’ll find the actual seminars including ones called: mustelids (weasel family), rodentia and both a feline and avian panel. There was also seminar on Buddhism and one on Norse spirituality. I found anthropomorphic sculpture, furry ham radio (??), basic and advanced head making.

Was there an adult bent to all this? For sure. I found something called Furoticon, there was an adult dragon panel and the auction that I spoke at was all for adult anthropormphic art.

The landscape, when you really took it in, was quite vast. But honestly, on the day I was there what struck me was that every attendee Stella and I interacted with seemed to genuinely care and appreciate animals and the work we were doing. And it was this common ground and deep appreciation that, for me, made the event quite meaningful.

And so yeah, maybe they’re not exactly mainstream. And maybe they’re not everyone’s cup of tea. But I had a blast attending and getting to know some FurConnies. And bottom line: having raised over $100,000 for various animal related charities, this group isn’t just paying lip service to caring about animal welfare, they’re putting money where their snouts are.

A Good Friend With A Good Idea

January 8, 2010

We interrupt this dog blog for something different. Actually 365 days worth of something different.

My good friend Wendy has dedicated herself to doing something different every single day of the year. At night she then downloads the experience onto her blog where those of us doing the same sh*t every day can either feel shamed or inspired.

I’ve decided to be inspired.

So watch out Stella. This something different idea has legs as long as yours. And you just may wake up to find yourself dyed purple or welcoming a pet armadillo into the household.


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