Surrounded by Dogs


It’s not often that I don’t have a dog or two -or 5- near me. One could say they must follow me because I have food -and I sometimes do but I often don’t and I don’t share all the time. I also am not the person who feeds them most of the time.  My husband and my kids do that job. But our dogs (my dogs) are my comrades. Lemon our yellow Lab prefers the company of my son -Luke- and I am her second choice when he’s not home -I love their love for eachother.  The other pups -my boys-are my shadows much of the time. One might move to a cooler place on the floor in the hallway outside my office or bedroom- but they are always near me. Is it because I’m their leader? Am I their leader? I don’t know what they think. I’ve always had a comfort being around animals especially dogs.  But my husband always is amazed that they follow me around like the I am the Pied Piper. 

It’s something that I don’t take for granted -this affection – but it is something that I’ve come to be used to in my daily life that I don’t always notice it. They are just there. And I need them to be there.  Dogs have been a calming force much of my life. When I felt alone or scared at times in my life there was a dog there to comfort me. They were my PTSD dogs long before there were such a thing. 

We usually are all quiet as we sit in our spaces either in my office or in my bedroom –  Unless the UPS man comes. Then it gets a little wild. 

In the last couple of months I’ve been out of sorts. My spirit is down and my physical body is in pain. I’ve waxed cranky and sad and sometimes downright angry. There have been days where I felt like there was just too much dog near me. I felt crowded impatient and claustrophobic. I’d shoo them out of my space.  It really wasn’t them at all – but yet in my angst I’d push them away.  

 I’d shoo them away -but they never went very far from me. They might lay in the hall or go sit by my husband or ask to be let out. 

 My old English sheepy -Ridley just doesn’t understand cranky or mad. Or the word shoo or off. He doesn’t leave when asked and in fact comes closer to offer his head for pats. Rudy is like glue to me. He doesn’t shoo he just curls himself a little further away to give me space. 


When I’d get back to my work or stop wallowing in my crankiness I’d notice later the dogs had moved back in closer. And I realized that I didn’t feel claustrophobic any longer. I’d feel a sense of calmness and I felt cared for.  Loved. 

This pattern has continued and as I looked around me today I realized that they may know what I need better than I do myself sometimes. 

It’s what comrades do for eachother…..

UPS?

Adventures of a little dog….

My mom’s dog ,Suki, was pretty confused that first night after I left my mom in the hospital after her back surgery.  Kevin and I walked into the door of my mother’s house and went to get Suki from my moms bedroom and she looked past me and Kevin in what I think was a search for her mom.  My mom and Suki hadn’t been apart much in the four years that my mom had her. They were a set. So it didnt surprise me that Suki would spend much of that first evening in my moms home popping her head up at every small sound in hopes that maybe my mom would walk in the door.


But it made me a little sad for her.

I had no way of telling Suki her mom was ok and they would be together again soon. Well- in a few weeks after my mom got through recovering in a Rehab Hospital. I kept trying to sit quietly with Suki while sending her pictures in my head of what my mom was doing. I tried to settle her with my words of assurance but she didnt understand.

Suki was a rescue dog. My mom and step dad (who recently passed) fell in love with her on Petfinder. They had been looking for a corgi mix. It had be a few years since their chow corgi etc mix had passed and I knew my mom was missing having a dog.  The time had to be right as both had health issues and the size of the dog needed to be manageable.

My mother ever the Anglophile had a soft spot for corgis ever since she saw the royals of England kept them as their breed of choice. So when they saw Suki (aka Foxy) online it was love at first site. She was the perfect size -about 15 lbs- and a good age -4- not too young not to old. So after a call to the rescue Foxy began her life as Suki -which means beloved in Japanese – with my mom and stepfather.

She looked part Corgi and we still wonder what else is in her though i am convinced there is terrier in her. She has an affinity for sticking her nose in small spaces and chasing my chickens and ducks. There may even be some chihuahua in there. We have talked about getting her DNA done. Maybe we will.

Suki came from another family where the owner got sick and couldn’t care for her anymore.So I  wondered if the  absence of my mom would be more upsetting for her because she had the loss of an owner in the past.  I know I was putting my human feeling on her but that first night I know she was confused and distressed.

I am thankful that she knew Kevin and me because I think that may have helped her some during her time of distress. She finally settled down late in the night. In the morning she ran back to my moms room and jumped on the bed and looked at me. I decided to feed her in there but she didn’t eat much. I knew it would take some time for her to adjust to this new situation.

After breakfast we took off early to get back to the Maryland to get home before the blizzard that was on its way to dump a ton of snow on our farm. We  put Suki in her crate in the back of SUV and off we went.  Rudy my Golden Retriever -had also accompanied us to PA so he was some company for Suki when we were at the hospital and in the SUV driving back to Maryland.

Suki did well on the trip. She didn’t whine or pant. She seemed to take the ride as an adventure.  Suki seemed to settle in quickly. She let my other dogs -all much bigger than she-know who was boss. She has this major growl – it sounds more lioness than tiny dog but it gets the point across very well.


The one thing I admire about dogs is their adaptability.  They have such a way of dealing with change. Suki claimed our bed that first night as a safe spot and she curled up a began to snore -and she does snore.  She got up in the morning to a giant blizzard but still managed to figure out a good spot to do her business. She didn’t cry or act upset that my mom wasn’t around. I was glad. It’s a thing dogs do for survival. I wish I was an ounce as adaptable.


She would sometimes stare wistfully out the window of my office. I suspect she was staring at all the birds because my feeders are just outside that window but I did wonder sometimes if she was thinking of my mom. She would perk up when a car came but that’s just dog curiosity -I think -but she was certainly cute staring out that window.


When I told my mom about how well Suki was settling in she was worried Suki might forget her. I assured her it would take more than a few weeks for her pup to forget her. But she still worried. They hadn’t been apart ever for this long. I told my mom this is Sukis big adventure.

Suki could easily be a farm dog except she may want to eat my chickens and ducks. She likes to chase them that’s for sure. The birds soon realized that the little fierce thing that was chasing them was on the other side of the fence so they have begun to become somewhat immune to her sudden moves.


Weve weathered a blizzard  and we have had nice  walks up the lane to meet the neighbors horses. There was a lot of growling by her at first glance at the horses.  She was just feeling her shortness I think. We walked in the fields. She has gone to Tractor Supply where she was well received. Of course that’s Rudy’s favorite place and he knows if he sits nicely or puts his feet on the counter he’ll get a treat. Suki was a bit surprised that she would get a treat  just for standing in line. She left with a new harness and some yummy canned food.


I have never had a small dog. I have had many dogs over the years and they have always weighed well over forty pounds. So having a little girl like Suki is new and it’s pretty cool. She does manage to take up more space in the bed between Kevin and I every night and sometimes I wake up and see her laying up next to Rudy at the foot of the bed. Sometimes I would wake squished and hanging half off the bed with Suki pushing at my back and Rudy laying in the path where my legs  needed to be.  I have no idea how I ever sleep at all. No wonder I’m so tired!


But small dogs are pretty cool. I have not gotten used to her in the fray with my other dogs though if they step wrong she tells them off. I know little dogs hang with the big guys all the time. It’s amazing that this 17 pound ball of fluff could be boss over the five big dogs but she has set her intentions.

One thing about little dogs is their portability. It’s been easy for me to take her places. She fits in any car even if  it’s stuffed with junk. She would prefer to ride in my lap even if I’m driving so the passenger has to hold her or we put her in her crate for the ride.

We took Suki to visit my mother in law. Suki took to her right away and part of me thought how great she could be as a therapy dog. She’s the perfect size and perfect temperament. Well she can be a little tiny bit  leery of men at first but that only lasts a minute then she is right up next to them asking for pets.

Suki and my mother-in-law



My mother in law said ” Tell your mom I really like her dog”. I think so – since no dog would ever be allowed to jump up on the couch mom Sweeney’s home and Suki took the liberty without any human correcting her.  Suki decided my mother in law would be her friend. She just seems to have that ability to engage a person without being nudgie ( a thing i work on with Rudy all the time)It is amazing how dogs can brighten a persons day. It certainly seemed a good thing for my mother in law.

Years ago I did therapy dog work with my greyhound Jay jay Star – she was a natural- she was calm and her breed drew attention wherever we went so making our rounds in a nearby nursing home was an easy choice. She became quite popular with many of the residents. Of all the things I have ever done therapy dog visits were one of the most gratifying and heartbreaking all at the same time. I loved making people smile but I often got into the car and cried – nursing homes aren’t always the easiest places to visit. But for some reason I think I would like to  do this work again someday. Being with Suki made me think about it a bit more.

Last week when we went to see my mom in the rehab hospital we were able to have my mom wheeled into the vestibule of the building to have a visit with Suki. It was a big moment because my mom was so fearful Suki would not remember her. I was pretty certain that she would remember and she didn’t disappoint.

Is that you up there , mom?

She jumped up on my moms lap and it was clear she knew who she was. I think Suki was confused as to why my mom was at this place and not at her home and when we had to take my mom back into the building Suki was not happy. Kevin had to pick her up and put her back into the crate in our SUV because she kept trying to pull him back into the building. I felt badly about confusing her but I think the visit was good for my mom. She had been visited regularly by a few different therapy dogs while she was in rehab and by the way she spoke about the visits I know it was a highlight of her day – but not the same as having her own beloved dog next to her.

My Mom and Suki

Suki’s visit with us is coming to an end this week. My mom has a discharge date from the rehab hospital. It will be time for both of them to get on with life together. I will miss her. She was an easy charge.  She has been comforting in her littleness. But having six dogs here made me feel a bit outnumbered so it will be nice getting back to a more mangeable(?) five.

The last few weeks have been tough for my mom and it was often hard for me too as I couldn’t do anything to fix my mother in her discomfort. She had to get stronger and more mobile on her own with the help of her therapists.  I am a fixer – a planner- I don’t like it when I can’t make things better. And as I learned – sometimes you have to stand back and let life happen and help where you can. In my case taking care of my moms dogs was a way I could help and Suki helped me feel less helpless in a difficult time–didn’t I tell you she would make a good therapy dog?

Don’t Forget Fido!

 

If you read my blog you know I am a crazy animal lover. I am especially partial or partially nuts about dogs. Dogs have been an important part of my existence ever since my childhood– they loved me unconditionally when I needed it. Dogs were and still are my solace.

I had a friend that I once used as a rescue referral that told the rescue “ If I was a dog, I would want to be a dog who lived with the Sweeney’s”. I considered that a compliment. When you are a dog at my house you are part of the family.

My pets are spoiled- pets in America today have it good. I know from the ads on TV that the pet supply industry is big business. Americans spent $56 billion on their pets last year (info on that here) and I helped build that number. I should be proud! Does everyone get gifts for their pets? Probably not, but I know many who do. I have my limits on my spoiling but I am definitely among those that love to indulge their pets from time to time with toys and other sundries.

When it came to holidays and pets I haven’t always bought them gifts for Christmas. I figured they got special treats and gifts all year long and, really, they have no idea it’s Christmas anyway. They just act excited on that day because they pick up the kid’s vibes- and mine -but it is so cute!

I know they don’t need these things. I just like to think they need these things but that’s my own issue – but I say -who cares! – they seem to like getting gifts and it makes me happy to give them stuff.

For the last two years we began to do Secret Santa for the humans in our home. I am not sure who it was (probably me) that decided it might be nice to add the dogs to the Secret Santa game. We each pick a pet name – we keep it a secret- and go and shop for something for the dog and they get it on Christmas day – they might even get a wrapped gift if their “Santa” wants to wrap it.

I can picture their faces when they get their gift. They may not know what Christmas is but they know a dog toy when they see one!

This year we almost didn’t do the Secret Santa thing for the dogs. I almost nixed it (I know – scrooge) because we each already picked a person in the family to buy a special gift for – with a $30 limit. I guess I didn’t want to stick anyone with having to buy another gift.

It turns out that my son, Luke, really wanted to do the Secret Santa – The Dog Version and he’s as cute as my dogs and has those eyes that melt my heart so we put the dog’s names in a bowl and picked the dogs names. We had quite a laugh that we were keeping this a secret from each other! Would we spill the beans to the dogs if we knew whom we each had?!

Ok so what was the limit going to be? I asked.

Luke said $30.

Really? $30 – per dog?

I felt that to be a bit excessive especially since I would essentially be the one buying the gift my son’s would be giving their dog. It’s easy to set a limit when you aren’t ponying up the cash!

The limit was set at $10.

I chose bandannas for my pick – Ridley – our newest dog. I have become big into dog embellishing. Not dressing up per se but I like a dog in a nice bandana or fun collar.

Ridley is one big giant fur ball(I just saw Star Wars and am thinking of renaming him Chewy) of an Old English Sheepdog and he is quite pleased wearing bandanas. The other dogs (excluding my perfect dog Rudy) think bandanas suck and they try to rip them off the dog wearing them. Rudy is also a bandana wearer and many of his have been found in the yard in shreds. Hate is ugly.

So I asked the humans in my family for purposes of this very important blog to tell me who they chose for their Secret Santa – The Dog Version – and what they got there dogs and why. I promised not to tell their chosen dog.

Luke had Lemon our witchy and super smart yellow lab – and he bought her that new yellow Frisbee. They are very close –those two—“she would have asked for that if she could speak” He said (I am so glad she can’t speak to be honest- she would not ever shut up). Lemon is quite the Frisbee dog. But she will eat the Frisbee if you leave her alone with it. I give it a week until its in shreds.

Kamilla chose Pierce our collie/shepherd mix. She got him treats because she thought, “he would enjoy them”. Yes you had him at T-R-E-A-T. He can spell. Those treats will be gone in 30 , 15, 10, 5 seconds.

Anyway – where was I? Suki – my mom’s Corgi mix. She is a little fiery spark plug and she already has a mountain -and I kid you not a mountain- of stuffed toys. When we visit my mom’s home there are always new stuffed animals – around but she has her favorites – her birthday cake, and her banana, and she has a kangaroo that has a baby in the mom’s pouch. I don’t understand that one at all – and I am wondering if my mom didn’t get that off of the Discovery Channel website and is trying to pass it off as a dog toy.

Suki isn’t a stuffy destroyer – which my dogs are – and my dog, Rudy, often goes with me to visit my mom and he has tried to de-stuff Suki’s stuffy’s many times but for such a small dog she packs a wicked snarl and Rudy has only managed to steal and gut one toy from her.

Kevin drew Suki’s name. I asked him today what he chose and why. He chose…a stuffy(another one?)… it’s an elephant. So why did Kevin choose the elephant I asked…”It was cheap- it was in the $3.99 bin” he said. Well I burst out laughing at that one. I don’t know why I was expecting a much deeper answer. It’s a dog toy- he wasn’t going to put much thought into it.

My son has Rudy our Golden and he bought Rudy a Bandana. Why I asked- “because you told me to get him that.” Well he is right I did give him that gift idea. I am excited to see what he chose for him. Rudy looks so good in bandanas!

Have I gone through all six dogs yet? Nope — I missed Reese our pit mix. Well he’s one lucky guy because my mom chose him, and Kevin also bought him a new Washington Redskins collar yesterday. Hey we are contenders this year- in a terrible division but we are in the mix so a new collar showing our support was perfect. And Reese just likes anything – well except for getting his nails clipped.

My mom- who officially chose Reese – had already gotten all the dogs gifts well before we picked names and I forgot to ask her what she got them. It didn’t occur to me until now that the gifts she bought for them would have been enough and we could have saved the money and not bought them anything else- but what fun would that be? Zero fun. I vote for fun.

Yesterday, I went out shopping for some last minute human gifts but don’t you know when I was in Home Goods. They have grown a once very small pet section into a small pet store inside their store. Wouldn’t you know that I found a huge deal on a huge orthopedic pet bed. It was way over the $10 budget we set but I had to get it for Ridley who is old and would appreciate (at least I thought he should appreciate) such a bed and maybe he wouldn’t need to sleep on the couch all the time. If it doesn’t work out for him – and it might not because he really loves couches – I think it could be a decent guest bed.

I got caught up in the fun of it and my pets deserve it because they make me happy. Giving to them makes me happy. I like happy. Lately I have needed some extra happy. They don’t have be able to pick a name to give a human a gift -they give their gift of love everyday. Well the dogs do – and the cats do sometimes when they feel like it – and my horses give some love on Mondays and Fridays only because horses are like that -and the Chickens and ducks never give us love but they give us eggs so all in all it is win/win with our little group of critters here in our farm.

PostScript: Ridley got his new bed. He looked at it, stood on it, circled around on it, sat on it, got up and went over to the couch got on it and went to sleep. I had a good giggle over that. I laughed harder when Pierce ate all his treats in a nano-second and Rudy attempted to eat the package the treats came in. Every single dollar spent was worth it- these guys make me smile everyday!

Merry Christmas to you and yours….

 

  

    
    
  

Dogs and Me-thoughts on my love (and need) of dogs. 

Last week our PitBull mix Reese got into a fight with my Old English Sheepdog Ridley – our newest edition to our home. The dogs had come in from outside where I had just watched them playing. The dogs seemed pretty rambunctious and I don’t like that in the house so I was going to put them back out but decided to give them some leftover apple first. I stood up with a plate in my hand and the dogs ran over and never quite got settled (they need to sit to get any treat). In a split second 2 year old Reese was going at Ridley who was doing his best to protect himself. Reese who is smaller but much stronger than 11 year old Ridley pushed him to the ground and had a hold of his next above the ear and he wouldn’t let go. Ridley stopped fighting and was whining. It was very scary.

I was able to get Reese to release his hold – my son had the mind to grab the water spray bottle we keep handy – he sprayed and I tugged at Reese. He let go and I threw him outside. I went out and yelled at him and chased him with the spray bottle more bc I was so mad than it being any important correction. But I think I made my point – but it was very upsetting to me. Thankfully Ridley had only a minor cut behind his left ear.

Ever since the altercation over a week ago -things have been quiet between these two. A couple days after that event Rudy took his turn getting after Ridley too. No damage was done to either dog and I did correct Rudy and gave him time in solitary – away from the pack. They all seem to have moved on.

Since the first event, I have been quite off kilter and not as relaxed when my dogs are all hanging together as I usually am. I feel like I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. This is not really like me. These altercations were clearly tiffs and the dogs have seemed to move past them. Why can’t I?

I realize it is my issue not the dogs. I have been doing a lot of thinking about it.

I have mentioned before that some of my reaction is likely comes from some Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. PTSD from my own life which probably is what drives me to want and need dogs in my life, and then the post traumatic stress that has caused such a strong reaction to the fight which derives from the time last year when my husband, Kevin, was bitten by another sheepdog we had adopted. We had him 4 days and the dog attacked my husband without warning – severely biting him multiple times. This landed my husband at the urgent care (in hindsight we should have gone to the ER) and he became very ill due to the infection he ended up with from the bites.

It was a scary event and one that could have been avoided had I never agreed to take that dog in the first place. I knew he had bitten the foster person. Though it was downplayed I should have had a much bigger red flag on that bit of information. I ignored it bc the desire to get another sheepdog into this house was greater than my red flag meter.

I think I was very affected by the attack on Kevin and I wasn’t sure I would ever adopt a dog again. Though this is what we do so I could only stay away from getting another dog for so long. I have carried a lot of guilt and fear away from that incident, which I am sure, played a part in my reaction to the fights between my current dogs.

Kevin reminded me the other day that when we chose to add another dog to our pack we stir up the dynamic for a time. He is right. I need to remember that dogs have their own hierarchy and though over three weeks had gone by since Ridley joined the family, things are still getting established in their dog world.

We can’t ignore the fact that Pit Bulls have been bred for fighting and their reactivity to challenge is well known. They can be fierce and scary when they decide to fight. Deciding to have a dog with Pit Bull in them is not for everyone. When we decided on getting Reese we felt confident that we could handle anything that came up. Had we met Reese after the dog-biting incident I can’t say for sure if we would have adopted him. I may have been too nervous. But maybe that would be the fear talking and I don’t like to bend to fear.

Dogs have been an integral part of my life for as long as I can remember. But recently, I have been thinking more about this and have realized that in my childhood dogs represented calm for me. Psychiatrists have said that dogs are very important to children who are leading complex and difficult lives. I realize now why I was so drawn to them from such a young age. To this day I have a dog near most of the time. I have a dog curled at my feet as I write this piece.

I grew up in a chaotic household. Not normal chaos – the dysfunctional kind. There was yelling and fighting. Our family dog, a black and white cocker spaniel mix named Inkspot-became my friend and she calmed me. If things got too loud in my home I would hide in the closet and Inky would sit with me until it felt ok to come out.

I am realizing now that so much of my life even in adulthood has been about chaos or post-traumatic stress and dogs were the medicine to comfort me.

My need to have multiple dogs in my life has been to fill something that I didn’t get in my childhood. A sense of stability and of calm and order – a need to give to living things what I did not have. We get dogs for all kinds of reasons but rarely think about them. Thanks to Reese, I am thinking about them.

I have always been drawn to saving things. This primal need must come from my childhood. The trainers know it is rarely about the dogs, it is always about the people. I felt unsafe for much of my life. When you feel you have saved something you feel like are saved as well. It is healing. The more I do it, the more I heal. In a way I know this is selfish, but it is good and feels good to me and good for me. And the dogs benefit too. So it’s a win/win.

I got into rescuing dogs by accident. I hadn’t considered rescue back in 1992 but I just happened to hear about Greyhound rescue. I felt this instant need to help. Probably my first jump into rescuing a dog was not well thought out. I got into it on a whim and thankfully that breed worked out.

I have had dogs in my adult life for 25 years. I have had at least two dogs for much of that time and I have up to six living with me. That’s not for everyone but it is something that I feel is right for me. My husband shares this passion, and that is important. In a marriage, you can’t do this alone. In that time I have learned a lot. One thing I do know for sure is that you cannot ever think you know everything. Dogs are animals after all and they will act that way and sometimes it will take you by surprise.

I remember as a kid when our Lab Sam killed a squirrel in our backyard. My brother thought it was cool – I was sad for the squirrel and my mom was horrified. We don’t want to see the primal side of our animals. We try to teach them to live with us in a civilized manner and for the most part they do this agreeably and I am sure the fact we provide them food and shelter is a good motivation.

The best thing we can do for ourselves is when getting a dog rescue or from a good breeder is to look at the type of dog you are considering and learn about the temperament.

In our case with Reese we really liked him. He was just about 4 months old and pretty darn cute and we had some connection to him. We didn’t really chat about the fact he was part Pit Bull until after we put an application in on him. We knew the good sides and the bad and we knew the risks and we opted to go ahead and adopt him.

When we get a dog we also think about whether the dog will fit in with our other dogs and we have to also consider the kids. If a dog is aggressive to my kids or to us they have to go -as did the dog that attacked my husband. It would have been irresponsible for me to keep a dog that was aggressive.

I also had to re-home a dog once because my other dogs were attacking him. It was heartbreaking but sometimes dogs just cannot get along and to keep the dogs safe sometimes you have to rehome one. The dog that we rehomed ended up in a great home for him and lived out his life in peace and safety. It hurt me to give him up but this wasn’t about me it was about the dog.

When getting a dog we also should consider where they will live

A giant dog that needs room to roam and run should not be kept in apartment. I had a greyhound in an apartment but they are couch potatoes – really they are. But to have our collie mix Pierce in an apartment would drive him mad and a potential owner mad. In our case now we have four acres and a big dog yard where they can run and run.

Reese has been an incredible dog – albeit full of energy- he has been the ambassador of our dogs welcoming guests human and canine alike into our home. Until the issue with Ridley he had never been aggressive at all. In fact, it was he and Rudy who lay with me after my cancer treatments bringing me so much comfort. This fight last week was the first and it shook me. Dogs are the calming forces in my life so when they act aggressively– it stuns me.

After a lot of pondering, I do feel that my reactions to Reese fighting with Ridley were valid – but I also think they shook me more because of the biting incident with Kevin. I lost some of my confidence when that happened. I hadn’t realized it that until I really thought about it. I can get past this though. It is like falling off a horse. It is imperative you get back on and ride through the fear and doubt.

Rescuing dogs is what I do and I have experience at it. I realize that I can’t fix everything and we have our limits but we think Reese is a pretty good dog and we are willing to work with him on his issues if they arise.

I did learn to be more diligent with them when it comes to food. I am not sure the fight occurred because of food alone but something happened when they saw me with a plate. I also will be adamant that they stay calmer in the house. They seem to play well outside. Inside a dog can get bumped when they are jumping about and that can sometimes result in misunderstanding that can lead to a fight.

I have learned that I love the Pit Bulls and the Pit mixes but they come with some risks. The very cute and sweet dog can be a mean creature. But in general he is a very nice dog. I am more aware now of what he is capable of and I won’t take the for granted.

I am dedicated to Reese. I can’t let a dog go easily. I don’t give up on things that quickly. I spent much of my life trying find love and acceptance. I have that now with wonderful people in my life that have lifted me up and have never given up on me. I am not ready to give up on him.

I am lucky; I found the acceptance and love in my life that I had been craving as a child. It took a while to find and it took a while for me to feel worthy of it. My love and need for dogs has never wavered and my dedication to helping them is still as strong as ever. The little girl inside me will never forget the little black and white cocker spaniel mix that sat with her when she scared and sad and licked her tears away.

Thanks for reading…

 

 

Reese -age 2 – the Pit Bull mix that is the inspiration of this post.

My heartdog Rudy -age 3

Newcomer- 11 yr old Ridley

Lemon – age 6

The crew. Lemon in back . L to R – Rudy, Pierce-age 2, Ridley, and Reese

 

It’s what we do. 

 This is Ridley. I have hesitated to write about him. Partly because I tried to be in denial that we were actually getting a 5th dog – yet again- after I said no more dogs! The other part is because this is an Old English Sheepdog and if you might recall we tried to rescue another OES about 1.5 years ago and that turned into a disaster. That dog bit me on the second day we had him and after I decided to let that go as a stress thing- two days later he attacked my husband. He suffered severe bite wounds- and despite being seen at urgent care he became very ill with an infection from the bites. He nearly lost a part of his finger and to this day he has stiffness and bad scarring on his hand. I suppose he fared ok seeing as how the bites were all over his hands and legs. He was lucky.

The hardest part of that experience aside from seeing your husband crouched in the bathtub allowing the blood to go down the drain as he tried to rinse off the wounds and not pass out was how the rescue group treated us. They never asked how my husband was doing and acted like the dog was the victim – and they implied we must have done something to make the dog attack my husband. This really was upsetting on so many levels. They did take the dog back and as far as i know he is living in a separate building on a fosters land. But blaming us ignored a dog with a serious problem. I was contacted by a number of rescues groups after I wrote about the incident that the dog should be euthanized. Maybe we should have done that – in hindsight I cannot say I wish we had – bc the entire event it hurts my heart still – but if one looks at it logically that dog should probably have been put down. I have prayed that he never ever bites anyone again- especially a child. I can say that in hindsight I wish we had never dealt with that rescue and for a while I wasn’t sure I would ever rescue again – especially an OES.

Since 1993 there has been 12 dogs that have been part of our lives. Ten of those were rescues the other 2 pups we bought from breeders. I am no dog trainer but I know dogs. I think after the experience with the sheepdog and the reaction of the rescue I was hurt and discouraged.  I wasnt sure I could handle going through that again. I thought puppies would be the only way I would go if I brought another dog here again. All of our dogs now are young. Ages 6 and under. We did not need a puppy.

And we didnt need 5 dogs again. We don’t. For a while finances precluded us from adding to the group but that has been lifted as my husband has gotten a new job that will allow us to loosen our belts some. We still don’t need 5 dogs. We don’t. I kept telling myself we needed to downsize the number of dogs we have because we want to move to the beach in a few to sometime years (we have no idea is what I am trying to say) and I couldn’t figure out how many dogs would fit on any of those little lots at the beach. So I thought after each precious dog in our lives left us we would not get another one. Two would be the optimum amount for us I thought -and for many two  is too many—for me two dogs just seems like an empty nest! But I had to be practical and financially careful. But that stress has been lifted so maybe there is room for more.  But we don’t need five dogs- we don’t…

But I miss having an OES and I miss having a senior dog.

And with the passing of time I realize that I am less effected by the last fiasco with the biting dog and the nasty rescue. I also realized that I am not a practical person. I have never been one. I have no idea if we will move in a few to sometime years…and I cant start living like that now. The more I thought about leaving my farm the more I didn’t want to leave it. The more I looked at my hens – whose numbers were dwindling after the loss of a number of my old girls over the summer and fall- and realizing I said I will not raise anymore chicks or ducks bc we are going to downsize in a few to sometime years- I realized this was living for the future and I wasn’t living in the now. That made me sad…because after having dealt with cancer I try to embrace the now more than ever.

So I began to make contact with some OES rescues that I know- I had been too impatient before and used a rescue I had not heard of and as it turns out had a bad reputation among other OES rescues country-wide. So this time I knew who to contact and we began a dialogue. But the dialogue also had to happen with my husband- Kevin. After all it was he who suffered the most the last time I tried to get an OES. But hes an amazing guy and he doesn’t harbor resentment and he has moved on. He knows how much I miss my OES Dave and how I fell for the breed and he knows how much I miss having one- so he is on board and not reluctantly…he looks forward to a new friend. If he lived alone he definitely would not have 5 dogs-  that’s all on me. But I think Kevin – who grew up with no animals- loves the life we have created and is up for adventure. We are in this thing called life together and for that I am blessed.

My wants for dog number 5 were pretty simple…I wanted an older dog 7 yrs plus and I wanted an OES and a male- and I didn’t want a biter. I love old dogs and we have rescued a number of them. They often get euthanized if they are put into a shelter bc they aren’t the first in line for adoption. So sometimes it isn’t as easy as it sounds to get an old guy. But once I put the feelers out I got a line on Mr Ridley in the picture above. Ridley met my criteria…he is a male and OES and hes old between 8-10. He is said to have a wonderful temperament – no known biting and has done very well in his foster home that he shares with other dogs.Tarheels OES Rescue in NC was pulling him from a shelter in WV. The owners could not keep him anymore bc they had young kids and no time for him. I think he was loved enough at some point but the kids became a priority and Ridley was relinquished to the backyard (he was quite matted and flea bitten) and then they took him to the shelter. From all I hear he is a happy guy.

I have known about this impending addition for weeks now. I think I was afraid to post bc then it would seem too real.. I am still nervous about all of it—my PTSD from before. Is writing about it making my life to much of an open book? Will people flame me if it doesn’t work out for some reason? But I can’t let fear deter me. I have a lot of support with this one. Belinda- the rescue director- has my back. She has been very careful to get me a dog that had an incredible temperament. I have my friend Betsey who did OES rescue for years and gave me my first beloved OES Dave years ago. At first Betsey wasn’t going to give him to us bc we had young kids- but she liked that we were at home most days and Dave needed that for health reasons. I am so glad she took a chance on us – I fell in love with Dave and the OES breed. There will never be another Dave but I do look forward to having an OES in the house. I am nervous and hoping this placement is a good fit. I am sure I will be reporting about this journey.

So tomorrow at 3pm we will meet Mr Ridley and bring him home. We were able to get a transport all the way to Hagerstown, MD 50 minutes away from us. Everything is falling into place. We have his food and his bed. Tomorrow we will have 5 dogs. We don’t need five dogs….but I am not living in the future – I want to live in the now. And giving a home to an old dog who lost his first home- to give him a second chance- is part of who I am (and now who Kevin is). This is the life we chose to live. It’s what we do.

Thanks for reading…..

 

Hanging with dogs

One of my favorite things to do in life is hang with dogs. I think maybe my favorite place to hang with them is outside. Don’t get me wrong I love cuddling with a dog on my couch (yes the dogs let me on the couch!) but being outdoors with them is when they can be more like dogs. In the house we ask dogs to behave less like dogs and more like humans. We want them to be calm and settle down. We don’t want them digging a hole in the carpet nor do we want them chewing up our ottoman (all things that have happened to me but my house has gone to the dogs really. ). Outside is just a fun place to be with my pups. We have a big canvas bag of toys and when they see that come out they get pretty pumped!  They launch into pure dog happiness. And frankly when I am out there with them I am in the moment  and often I need that in my day. I don’t spend enough time in the now.

Each dog has its own personality (isn’t that so cool?) and of course each dog has its own instincts built into them depending on their breed or in the case of mutts breeds. It’s really fun to watch each one interact with me and with each other. They are guaranteed to make me laugh everyday.

Lemon is a pure retriever. She is a field lab bred to hunt. She’s also bossy and barks at me until I throw the ball. I try to wait until she stops barking and sits but it requires a lot of patience and frankly sometimes I just want to keep the ball in the air and keep things moving. She can be a blowhard. But man she can catch and retrieve well. She won’t return the ball close to me either another game we play and I work on this with her when we play alone. She’s a bossy cow!

 

Rudy is affable when it comes to toys. But most Golden retrievers are that way. He won’t fight for them or over them. He likes to retrieve but his drive is more laid back. Think of a sweet friend you have that likes to have a good time but doesn’t cause a raucous. Maybe he likes a quiet game of catch. That’s Rudy. He only gets his seriousness on when he wrestling with another dog. Then it’s more a dominance game and he takes that seriously. Oh and he doesn’t appreciate any other dog messing with his food. But what man does? When Rudy plays he waits his turn and doesn’t bark at me. Just gives me those sweet eyes and sometimes he likes to sit with his toy and push it around a little with his feet.  He seems to have such joy when he’s doing this. I love looking at him.


  
Reese is a just a goofball. He’s still young and figuring out where he stands in his pack. He is not a retriever at all and has no true instinct to bring anything back to you.  Being part Pit Bull and Vizsla I would have thought he would have some retrieving sensibilities as the Vizsla is a hunting dog.  But he mostly just likes to carry a frisbee around in his mouth while he tries to stuff other toys in at the same time. If he could he would have a couple frisbees and a ball or two stuffed in there. Maybe this is a Pit Bull trait. As some of the pitty breeds were bred as companions and the Staffie Bull’s actually were known as the “nanny dogs” because of their great demeanor around kids. Maybe he likes to “mind” all the toys. He also enjoys digging holes and puking  int the car. (its true he has motion sickness problems). He does enjoy trying to get the other dogs to play with him by prancing around and moving his head up and down as the frisbee flaps away. Sometimes he catches another dog’s interest and they will play tug with him- he loves a good game of tug.


 Pierce is a Collie Australian Shepherd mix. He is a great dog but has zero idea how to play with toys. He does great with wrestling but toys are a mystery. Is he supposed to hide them? Often he does this as he finds holes in the yard where he and the pit bull try to dig to China. When you are out playing you have to be careful not to trip in one of these holes. Pierce thinks it’s fun to take a toy and drop it into a hole. He has a hiding place behind a wall that goes down to our lower level and if I can’t see him I look there where he is usually sitting with three toys he has taken. He might be chewing on one but mostly he’s into collecting. Perhaps that’s the Aussie in him? Or the collie? He isn’t a true herder and he doesn’t play fetch. He likes to have something tossed and will return it but it isn’t with gusto. It’s more for attention. He loves to run after a toy if I intend it for another dog. He will go after it but let’s the other dog have it as he tries to play with them. The other night we lost a red ball and we searched for it fir a while and I couldn’t find it in the yard at all. I turned to look in another area and as soon as I turned back around to go in -bc I was giving up finding that red ball -there it was sitting about 15 feet behind me. I think I know Mr. Pierce was playing a trick on me.  The more we play outside with toys the more he begins to understand what’s up. He is a sweet guy and though initially shy with humans he is exuberant about his own kind. He is also a dogdini and he gets Reese to breakout of the fenced in yard to chase our barn cat. It is great fun for them and gives me gray hair. We installed an invisible fence around the hard fencing. It is great when it works- and isn’t Pierce so smart that he knows if its broken!? Stinker.


Like many dog families we have a small cheap baby pool in the yard (lucky you if you have a real pool!) With that pool comes the pool dance. We chase a toy a few times – then we decide it needs to be dunked into the water while we also cool off our feet in that water.  Pierce is not into the pool much – maybe his breed mix aren’t water lovers –  but the other three find it magnificent and enjoy dumping their toys in it. I appreciate the pool as a toy spit remover.
  
  
I love watching the dogs interact with one another- sometimes I feel like I am one with them – It is so hard to live in the moment like they do. So unburdened- it is a gift that dogs bring us. Often I am out there with them so I can live in that moment for those minutes. The dogs don’t talk to me and ask me questions or tell me things to distract me from the present. They keep my present by dropping balls at my feet. Or in Lemons case barking at me (she comes the closest to being a distracton!). I need those moments. I am really trying hard to learn to live in the present. I spend too much time in my head or doing other things that are distracting.  Once in a while I am on my phone or laptop Rudy will come up and nudge my hand for a pet. I am not into rewarding nudgie dog – so I ignore the plea- and sometimes it comes again and I realize maybe he is right maybe I need to pay attention to him maybe I need to be in the moment – with my dog. I can stop doing what I am doing to fully engage with this being. I am trying to do that with all the beings in my life. When my kids were small I used to say “look at my face” . Once they looked at me in my face I would tell them what I needed to say. It is a way to connect for that instant to get my message clearly across, I still use that with my kids – teens can be elsewhere even when sitting in front of you.  With my dogs I use the “watch me” command(they don’t always look at me but I try!)…maybe Rudy’s nudge is his version of “watch me lady”. Smart guy…

Hanging with my dogs in the backyard is really fun for them (it seems to be anyway!) and each one is so different. Each one brings a different dynamic to our lives. But when I am out there I am them- no I am not a dog- but I am fully there and we are a group- a pack of beings living in the moment and loving life.

Thanks for reading….

Ends and Beginnings…

On Sunday as I walked down the drive way of Bedlam Farm to my car I began to cry…

But that was the last day of the Bedlam Farm Open House in Upstate new York hosted by Author Jon Katz – that was the end. So much happened in between – and to think up until the minute I left home on my trek I thought I might not go. I do that. Its my opt out mechanism. The opt out comes from a long dance with an anxiety disorder. As an event approaches – an event like the Open House that I was looking so forward to  going to – I will become increasingly anxious and I will think of reasons not to go…or I will feel so bad physically I will cancel. But as much as those thoughts came into my head the more I willed myself to push them out. I was going to Bedlam.

I have had enough of my dance with anxiety and the fact that it has limited me. It still wins sometimes. There is still part of me trained by the beast but I am getting better at ignoring it. After I had cancer last year I realized that life is now. None of us have the promise of tomorrow and decided that I better get living. For me that sometimes comes harder than it needs to be – but it is my reality. Over the years I have learned a a lot about dealing with anxiety and much was from the man I hoped to meet on my journey to Bedlam Farm – Author Jon Katz.  Jon has dealt with his own fears and I learned from Jon that fear is a space to cross – a chasm to jump over. Get through it and there is love and accomplishment on the other side. I had to jump that chasm to get to meet the person who has inspired me so much over the last few years. I wanted to meet the people in the Facebook group he created (The Creative Group At Bedlam Farm)and I joined a few years ago. A group of incredible creative people that i am lucky to have come to know online- I wanted to meet them in person. (read the bloggers posts here).

I had cancelled the trip to the other Open Houses two times prior.  I was pretty tired for a while after radiation and I had nerve damage and then I got frozen shoulder and traveling in the car was a bear. It seemed like I might never feel good enough to trek to upstate New York to attend and Open House. Of course anxiety played a roll in canceling the trips and finally I realized maybe I wont ever feel 100%.  I realized that though my mindset was to get busy living i was still limiting myself waiting to feel a certain way.  I might be waiting for a long time and i might be missing out on a lot of life. So this past winter I decided to get on with it. I began doing more things and I realized the more I got out the better I felt. So I booked a Yurt at Grist Mill Campground and decided to head to Bedlam in June. And even know that demon anxiety tried to thwart my trip – I faced it -and off we went – my entire family on my journey to my Mecca.

The car trip on Friday was a little rough but entering Upstate New York and its beauty made it so worth it. We checked into our Yurt -which I will write more about later- and headed out for a bite to eat. I hardly slept that night and was thankful for the sounds of the stream that ran just behind the yurt.

I am not going to lie–heading down south from our campground to Bedlam Farm I felt the anxiety build as the GPS counted down the miles to our destination. Kevin pulled into a restaurant just up the road from the farm to get some bottled water. I sat in the car praying that the Holy Spirit would calm me down..and I alternated between the prayer and  rationalization that we could drive right on by. There was no pressure…I did not have to go. Kevin came out and joked that he tried to score me a little wine but they didn’t sell it to go. Actually I think he really wasn’t kidding. But I told him that I was going into this head on and I was going to enjoy myself. I knew that the big fear cloud in front of me was thin and I could just step right through it. And I did.

When I saw the farm for the first time it was like a dream but also there was so much comfort in it. I barely recall walking up the driveway to the house (except I told Kevin I knew the boy in the ATV was Tyler- a young man who has been a huge help to Jon and Maria- he has become quite the celebrity). I looked up the driveway hoping to recognize someone. I laughed to myself bc I had never met anyone (except Janell Tomas that morning at our campground- and I thought they hadn’t arrived yet)- so who was I really looking for? I know anyone from the Creative Group reading this will know who I might have been looking for- a beacon in the forest – a light that always shines…Lisa Dingle. (No it wasn’t Jon Katz bc I would be too nervous to just run up to him and hug him- which I wanted to do!) Lisa is an Admin for the creative groups Facebook world but she is also everyones friend.  She is an incredible writer and a warm person..How did I know this having never met her? Her writing exudes it..her encouragement to others in our group shines of caring and love. And lo and behold there she was there to greet me! A big hug and introductions the first 30 minutes are a blur. I got that hug with Jon and was touched by his attention on a busy day with many people coming and going. Ok I was a little starstruck– it might be Brad Pitt for you but for me it was Jon Katz.

I was engulfed in love from all the farmies (members of the Creative Group)that were there. So many hugs and smiles. I knew right away that I was meant to come – it was something that had been waiting for me – this visit. The first 30 minutes were surreal- I was in a dream bc I was on Bedlam Farm- the farm I had seen in pictures thousands of times. I am not sure why – maybe it was the fact I had seen the photos of the farm so often- but I felt so at home in the space. But more oddly I felt like I had known many of these people already -and perhaps I did- you can create connections online.

I listened to poetry, visited with the animals, watched herding – all incredible. But I wanted to meet the matriarch (I had to use that word lol) of Bedlam..Maria Wulf , Jon’s wife. Maria has been an inspiration to me. I have seen her grow creatively over the years and I have always admired her quiet strength.  Kevin didn’t get to chat with Maria as I did and wondered if she was shy. I told him I didn’t find her shy at all…she was easy to talk with. She may not have realized that I was a bit starstruck with her too – and when I get nervous I talk a lot (sorry Maria if I blabbed). Most people don’t realize I have anxiety bc I compensate by talking! Meeting Maria was sure a highlight for me.

I wanted to take in the weekend and I really tried to focus on absorbing it all. I tried to talk less-hard for me- and listen and observe more. I didn’t take a ton of pictures the first day. I left that up to my daughter Kamilla. I just tried to soak it all in. It was overwhelming for the first hour – meeting so many new people. I wanted to embed their faces and names in my brain – but don’t test me.

I was enamored with the animals and Red is amazing! I can see that Fate is going to be some dog- I look forward to watching her grow. The great things about the end of Saturdays Open House is that there is another one on Sunday. So it really isn’t over.  On Saturday we decided to follow others to the Bog (nickname for Foggy Notions Restaurant in Cambridge Mass.). How unlike me to just meet strangers out for a bite…but not strange bc these people weren’t strangers. I had met them all before just not in the flesh. It was familiar and comfortable and good. I sat near the Deborah’s (Glessner and Rahalski) I chatted with Doug Anderson. During the meal, I never felt weird or tongue tied (maybe that was the wine spritzers). My husband was right there and as always he was chatting away and enjoying himself. His support is really what helps me face my fears. He is truly the partner I was meant to have on this life’s journey.

On Saturday night the rain began. So no campfire and I was worried what that might do for the open house the next day. In the morning we all headed down to the Roundhouse Cafe and enjoyed a meal and fellowship with other farmies and Jon and Maria and some other folks from Blue Star Equiculture a draft horse rescue in Mass. The food was great and it was really cool to spend time in a place that Jon has shared on his blog for many years. The town of Cambridge, NY is very nice and I can see why one would be drawn to this community. I hope to explore the town more when we head back in October for the next Open House.

After we packed our car we headed back to Cambridge to see if the Open House was going to happen and sure enough it was. I was glad bc I was not ready for it to end. The rain held off and it was a great day. There were fewer people and that was nice as we could spend a bit more time chatting with Jon. I was able to buy some more wonderful things from Maria’s shop. I love Maria’s fiber arts and had to have another potholder.  I was taken by the batik work of Carol Law Conklin.  Rachel Barlow’s cartoons on magnets were a hit as was her Hoga necklaces (i bought two)I loved all of the artists showcased – there was so much talent there.

For me the weekend was about many things. Overcoming fear…living in the moment and connecting with people. Meeting all of the farmies was just wonderful and I want them to know that I so appreciate the way they welcomed me. I want to thank each of you by name but if I left anyone out I would feel bad…you know who you are and I send you a cyber hug of thanks and love. I look forward to meeting more farmies on my future trips to the Open Houses. I am not sure I can really ever put into words what the weekend meant to me. I know those that have made the journey for the fist time know the feeling.

Jon and Maria thank you for opening your home for this event. Jon I probably will never be able to really tell you how you have inspired me and made me think about things. Your open writing has helped me (and many others a lot). See I don’t have the proper words so I will just leave it there.

I will see you all in October – I will probably have to fight the anxiety demon some but he won’t win….

On Sunday as I walked down the drive way of Bedlam Farm to my car I began to cry….

These weren’t tears of sadness – they were tears of gratitude. It was the end….but it was also the beginning of something new and special. Making friends is not easy for me…but I feel like I made some new friendships and connections and I think this is just the beginning of more joys to come…

Thanks for reading…