A Lesson from the Dog: Anticipation

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I finally snapped this photo of Rudolph in his daily pose – full of anticipation awaiting the arrival of my husband. ¬†If I could, I’d Insert the vintage Heinz commercial music here ūüôā ¬†He always knows when he’s coming home and runs to the front door, bumps up the curtain and stares out waiting for his human daddy to arrive. ¬†It’s so genuine and yet another reason to¬†love our dogs. ¬†Who else is so happy to see you day after day? ¬†For Rudolph, anticipation is almost always followed by pure bliss.

As I was working on¬†this post,¬†I realized how much time I’ve spent waiting these past few days¬†as well. ¬†Although I don’t have a cute photo of myself waiting because I wasn’t always a happy camper! ¬†My youngest was finally diagnosed with walking pneumonia after eight days of high fever and no energy, and so most of the past ten days all I’ve done is check temperature, administer medicine, and wait. ¬†And go to the doctor multiple times wondering why he was getting worse, why the “sinus infection” wasn’t a sinus infection, and why the antibiotics weren’t working. ¬†Then we’d go back home¬†and rest. ¬†He’s missed the start of school, practices with his new soccer team, and the Tennessee Titans first preseason football game:¬†the small, yet important,¬†things an eight-year-old waits on all summer. ¬†As parents, we’ve been waiting for that spark of life to jump back into his eyes, waiting for a sign that he’s back to his old crazy self.

He’s recovering¬†slowly but surely, and I feel so lucky and happy that his illness is treatable and temporary. ¬†The time we spent waiting in Vanderbilt children’s hospital for his chest X-ray this week was a true life lesson. ¬†Mack’s eyes were wide watching all the little kids wait for their scans. ¬†We saw a family wearing t-shirts that said “Cancer Sucks!” and heard them talk to another mom about her son who is 3 and in remission. ¬†Mack innocently asked me if kids can get cancer. ¬†We’ve lost a grandfather to cancer, and have my sister (his aunt) who is a cancer survivor, so he is well aware of cancer as a disease. ¬†But he’d never seen the disease affect a child, someone like him. ¬†Our small time waiting to find out if he had pneumonia pales in comparison to what these families are waiting on. Their strength was amazing.

So we’ve learned a lot about waiting this month. ¬†Hopefully, we can also learn from Rudolph and spend a little time¬†each day full of anticipation, followed by¬†joy, as we run to our friends and loved ones.

Guess Tennyson was right…

I’ve always been an optimist, and tried to see the reason behind things happening. ¬†But I’ve also always been someone who feared the worst case scenario, which has definitely increased since having kids. ¬†So last week I had to reconcile one of my worst fears and find a reason for it. ¬†Easier said than done.

This past week my husband and I had to watch my kids and my mother go through something awful – my mom’s new rescue dog – which we named Carson after Downton Abby because of his dapper black and white fur – was killed in front of us. ¬†It was a freak car accident – somehow he freaked out at the vet, wiggled out of his collar, flew through the front door as another client was coming in, and took off. ¬†We all chased him for nearly 20 minutes with the vet techs, but he was out on a joy run. ¬†The only saving grace was it happened instantly, no blood, no gore. ¬†Which of course is a pretty low standard for “the good news is…” (Sorry have to keep the sense of humor or else I’d be crying again!)

I felt like we were in a movie, that surely we would catch him. ¬†But that didn’t happen. ¬†It’s made me think of other tragedies friends and family have endured. ¬†When children get sick you think they’ll get better. ¬†When friends are diagnosed with serious illnesses, you think they can be cured. ¬†But that’s not always what happens. ¬†Handling the reality of life can be overwhelming to us adults, so how do a 7 and 9 year old handle tragedy?

Unfortunately my kids have been around death before – death of their dear grandfather, death of my mother’s pug Jessie, and the death of a close friend of ours who had kids their same age. ¬†But I realized it was the trauma of seeing it happen and the sudden shock of it that made it so hard to understand.

I also know that I’ve passed along the Murphy “dog crazy” gene to my kids. ¬†And as hard as everything has been, I have to say I am happy to see my kids developing a true love of animals. ¬†It’s heart wrenching to lose them, but it’s so rewarding and wonderful to love animals. ¬†Would we ever choose to be different? ¬†Although I have to admit momentarily as we were running down the side of a busy highway I did think we were all crazy, and I should get my kids back to the car (they weren’t near the traffic we were being safe). ¬†But I couldn’t turn around. ¬†We had to keep going, keep trying to save the dog. ¬†Why?

I think it’s unconditional love that is so rare in life. ¬†And even though my 7 year old said “Nana needs a cat” which was heartbreakingly funny and such a simple solution for a child, I knew that wouldn’t fly.

Because we are dog people. ¬†And proud to love our pets because they sure deserve it. ¬†So the old cliche is still true, and it’s the only reason I can find in this hour – I’m glad we’ve loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.

And I know little Carson is safe and running free. Image

A beautiful expression of hope and comfort in Newtown, courtesy of our canine friends

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It’s been a horrendous week, in fact a horrendous year. As a mother of a 1st and 3rd grader trying to explain what happened last week is impossible. And shouldn’t be necessary. And things were made even worse on Monday when our school was on lockdown for two hours due to a break-in. But I saw a story that brought me so much hope I wanted to share.

We are the proud, and sometimes angry, family to a rambunctious Golden Retriever named Rudolph who will turn 4 on Christmas Eve (hence the name Rudolph). We switch between yelling at him for eating unmentionable items and loving him so deeply it hurts. Well, we aren’t alone.

This week, a group of Golden Retrievers made the 800 mile trek from Chicago to Newtown, Connecticut to bring comfort. That’s it. Just to bring comfort. Because you can’t see an adorable dog looking at you, begging to be pet, and not rush over and smile. And kids more than anyone adore dogs and will accept the gesture of love and hope without question. No judgment, just pure love.

This week has been one of the saddest in our country’s history. But I am so proud to see our animal friends stepping up to the plate and bringing even the smallest amount of comfort to those who need it the most.

I just hope, as human beings, we’ll be able to do the same.

THANK YOU DOGS…YOU RULE!

Signing on the dotted line….

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I’ve been out of the loop for a few weeks now mostly due to the entire family’s bout with the flu (on spring break believe it or not). Then the flu again once we were home. Then strep throat, then full body rash accompanied by a recurrence of strep throat – these last few were all suffered by my poor six year old ūüė¶ Fingers crossed we will be returning both children to school tomorrow. But I have news….I am officailly signing my contract with a literary agent as we speak!

I am so thrilled to have come to a place where I will have someone advocating on my behalf. Kind of ironic since I have spent years as a lobbyist advocating for others.¬† Even if nothing happens I feel a small personal triumph. And no, it’s not a huge NYC agency, but perhaps more importantly for this unpublished author, it comes highly recommended from a friend and fellow attorney who has been in the publishing industry for nearly 30 years. The honest, personal recommendation meant a lot to me, in addition to the fact that this agent totally gets my book and thinks combining animal issues with a modern mystery is a great idea. I think so too ūüôā

The best part of my news is that it has truly freed me to focus on my sequel which is finally in the works. It took me a while to find motivation (I am a professional procrastinator)¬†but now I have a new plotline (well almost), and have some research ahead of me, which is what I love to do. After working for years on my first book, it’s a welcome relief to move onto something else. I honestly don’t know if I could have reviewed that darn thing one more time!

I’ll post more news if and when I have it, and will keep updates going on my books.¬† I’m getting more and more attached to Eden Hayduke, Animal Cruelty Investigator¬†and of course her best friend/Siberian husky Buck (aka Cato) each day.¬† This is a new world for me so who knows what changes lie ahead?¬† Just hope that someday I’ll be able to post a link where you can purchase a copy of my first novel Warning Signs!¬† And if not, I am sure I will be happy to email copies to those who have a few spare hours on their hands.¬† Just like other things in life, hopefully the first time is a great learning experience, and the second time is…at least better written and more interesting???!!!

Happy April 24th!

Who do you gather in your safe place?

This week we were huddling in our safe place, along with several other midwestern states, as the storms rolled through. Since we don’t have a basement, it’s always tricky to figure out where we should go. To the tiled shower off the master bedroom? To the closet under the stairs, which houses all of our tools since we also don’t have a garage? Nowhere seems exactly safe.

Our friends had texted that we could join them in their basement. Which immediately prompted a question from my 8 year old – what about our dogs? can they go too?

Well, since our friends have a cat, a dog and a hamster, we didn’t even ask. My quick answer was no – our 80 pounds of pooches wouldn’t fit and probably would try to snack on their pets. Not a reassuring answer for the kids.

This is a stressful choice for many families. I immediately thought of friends and family who are in wheelchairs – how do you get them in your safe place? What necessities do you bring with you? We had time to plan this since we were on high alert all day and the storms didn’t hit until after 4pm. But it brings back a basic question – who do you gather in your safe place?

As usual, we decided to stay home, and did a last minute clean out of the closet under the stairs so that all four of us humans, and the 2 dogs, could all fit without sitting on something sharp and dangerous. We were quite a sight – bike helmets on, dogs panting on our laps, sitting on top of a mound of stuffed animals that my 6 year old insisted on bringing. We were lucky. Only hail passed through our neighborhood. All of our friends and family were safe.

If the storms had been worse we may have needed to find a basement. What then? How difficult would it be to look at your pets and leave not knowing if you’d see them again?

Almost 14 years ago a tornado came through our neighborhood – we were living only a block from where we live now. My husband and I were at work, both safe, but our house and area did suffer some damage. It took hours to get home, driving up and down streets blocked with fallen trees. All I could think of at the time – long before children – was what happened to our dogs? We had a doggy door and fenced in yard so who knew what the dogs did or where they went. And they definitely heard and saw a lot. Our shed was destroyed, part of our fence was ripped down, and sidewalk and trees were ripped out of the earth beside our house. I’ll never forget running into the house calling “Cato! Solo!” and seeing 2 terrified dogs running at me, jumping and licking my face. What did they think when they heard the freight train sounds rolling over our house?

Once again we are safe, and I am ever thankful. But secretly hoping to find a house with a basement!

Behold the power of dog hugs!

This week we celebrated Valentine’s Day with our loved ones, but it was also a time to remember loved ones who are no longer here. A close friend lost her beloved golden retriever this week and as we talked and laughed and cried together, I kept thinking how cruel it is that pets live such short lives, but also how LUCKY we are to share them. She, like I, was head over heels for our dogs and often regarded as “crazy” by our friends and family. In a good way I hope ūüôā But we both know that the pure unconditional love you share with special pets is so powerful. I don’t feel embarrassed, in fact, I feel sorry that some people will never experience this type of love. Because it is simple and uncomplicated and something we all deserve and need.

As we age, we are losing so many dear friends that sometimes it’s overwhelming. It’s like a clock is ticking and we know we will be next. It’s unavoidable. And we don’t always see eye to eye with our relatives, sometimes there are so many mixed feelings we have to reconcile at the end of life. But our pets are always just there, not judging us, not staying mad at us, never ignoring us, just loving us. How special that relationship is, and for me, as I struggle with aging parents, I am ever thankful that I have had and will always have a furry dog to hug.

And hugging a dog can be true therapy. As you can tell by the photo of my oldest son, I am (hopefully) passing on the dog hugging gene to my boys ūüôā Because they will need it too. During one of the most painful times in my life when I lost a close friend to a car accident at a very young age, I remember feeling like life was spinning out of control. It was my first time dealing with death and I was in shock. We were all grieving at my friend’s house and so was their family dog. I remember this little dog gingerly walking up to me and bowing her head and it dawned on me that she also needed a hug. That hug meant the world to me and now I don’t hesitate to grab my dogs when I need a hug. Of course I grab my kids and husband as well so don’t think I’m ignoring them! But sometimes it’s nice to huge someone without having to explain, without having to go into details, to just feel that love. Because your dog will always give it back to you. (Well, assuming you treat it with respect and dignity of course.)

This past week I was awakened at 2am to clean up vomit – yes once again Rudy ate something hard and plastic – and I was irritated and cranky and couldn’t get back to sleep. But then the next day I’m reminded how fragile life is. For all the hassle and cleanups, it’s truly a small price to pay for the love I get in return.

Now go hug those doggies ūüôā

To clone or not to clone…NOT!

Although I can understand the deep longing to recreate a lost pet, I was so disturbed to read about South Korea’s dog cloning industry. For a mere $100,000 – yes one hundred thousand dollars – you too can have a genetic replica of your deceased dog. Just think how many homeless pets are euthanized every year around the globe. Just think of how many lives could be saved with $100,000.

To make matters worse, many of the surrogate mother dogs are sent off to be slaughtered for their meat after they give birth to the clone. Many cloned offspring also don’t make it, or are deformed, and “disposed of” until a suitable clone is created. Think the prospective pet buyers are informed of how many dogs are being sacrificed so that they can recreate their lost pet? Doubtful.

The bioethics of pet cloning seems fairly cut and dry. Maybe it should be allowed once we can honestly say our animal shelters are empty, there are no more unwanted pets, and every animal that needs a home has a loving forever home.

Until then, check out your local pet shelters. You’ll save a life and a whole lot of money!

Maybe I was born this way…

How many of us can trace back to a pivotal point in their childhood when they realized they were different?¬† Or maybe you felt that everyone else was crazy wrong and you were the sane one?¬† I can clearly remember two situations which have stuck with me throughout life, and reaffirm my belief that I was born an animal lover.¬† (And being raised in a family wild about dogs of course didn’t hurt.)

I was probably six or seven, the age of my boys now, sitting at the dinner table talking about fire safety.¬† I had pasted little safety tips over outlets and switches throughout the house,¬†much to the chagrin of my parents, to show what we were learning in school.¬† My ever-rational father was asking what I would do if there was a fire.¬† I said I would run downstairs, get Tammy (our boxer featured in the lovely early 1970s family portrait), and run outside.¬† “No, you don’t get Tammy, you run outside.”¬† I was dumbfounded.

Leave my dog?¬† are you kidding me?¬† my best friend in the whole world?¬† “No, daddy, I will not leave this house without Tammy!”

“Yes you will, that is not safe!¬† She’s just a dog, you run out of the house first!”¬† This conversation went nowhere except with me wondering why we should leave a dog in a burning house…I can see me having the same discussion with my boys soon, although I will try to be a little more sympathetic and explain that we will TRY to rescue our dogs as we all run out safely together.¬† Yes, I know that sounds unrealistic but if we’re making a plan, I’ll try to make an ideal plan which we of course can amend at the last minute…

Flash forward a few years to my Catholic upbringing in CCD class (aka Sunday school).¬† We were talking about what heaven looks like and I raised my hand and talked about all the animals, especially dogs, that we’d see.¬† My teacher was not happy with me.¬† “No, dogs don’t go to heaven.”¬†

My heart stopped.¬† “What?¬† Why not?”¬†

My teacher emphatically told me “because dogs have no souls.”¬†

The future attorney in me quickly countered.¬† “But if God created us all, I don’t understand why we don’t all go to heaven.¬† MY dog has a soul.”¬† I had to blink back tears.¬† But I was also pissed off at my teacher.¬† ¬†

He didn’t have a good answer, but as a ten-year-old girl I felt strongly that¬†I was right.¬†That he had it ALL WRONG.¬†¬† Why was he teaching this class anyways?

Hopefully one day I will prove him right.¬† I just hope he was nice to all the dogs in his life, because I hear karma can be a bitch ūüôā

In a weird way, I should thank whoever abandoned my lovely Siberian husky Luna…

At times I can’t imagine how anyone could abandon a dog.¬† I’ve heard so many stories about dogs being left on the side of the interstate, dropped off at vets and never reclaimed, and of course brought into animal shelters.¬† I know many times there are good reasons, just like putting a child up for adoption.¬† But I’d always wonder how you could just leave an animal somewhere like a parking lot?¬† well that is what happened to my lovely Luna…

After¬†Cato, my first Siberian husky, it took me a long time to think about another dog.¬† We still had Solo who was a stray that was bottle fed from birth after being rescued by some loyal animal lovers who were trying to capture his stray mother.¬† I was always drawn to the Siberian husky breed and realized I had become kind of a crazy husky person – yes even a guy at my local wine store called me the “husky lady” because I always asked about his husky who lived in our neighborhood.¬† You could say I was sort of obsessed…¬†

So after about 2 years I decided I was ready for another dog, and began looking for huskies.¬† To be honest, it was very difficult at first.¬†¬†Even after I found Luna I experienced a definite high then low.¬† Because it wasn’t Cato.¬† I could never replace Cato.¬† But that wasn’t the point.

Someone left Luna, a beautiful husky female in a Wal-Mart parking lot outside of Jackson, TN, 2 hours from Nashville.¬†¬†The shelter named her Lollipop because they just had run out of names after taking in so many dogs over the years.¬† Earlier tonight, as a friend marveled at Luna’s beauty and calm nature, I relayed her story.¬†¬†I told her how the animal shelter found her, 10 pounds light then she is now, malnourished, and very skittish.¬† We weren’t even sure she would work out after we brought her home because she fought with Solo over food and attention – it was obvious she was used to scrounging for food and wasn’t sure where her next meal was coming from.¬†¬†But as strange as this sounds – I should thank the person who left her.¬† Because the person who left her obviously would NEVER have provided her with the life she deserved.¬†Maybe they couldn’t afford a dog, who knows, but thank God that shelters like the Carroll County¬†Humane Society¬†exist.¬†

It was a beautiful full moon the night we adopted Luna – January 24, 2008 – which is why we named her Luna.¬† So tonight as I gaze¬†at another beautiful full moon, I thank whoever left Luna and all the other dogs who have found loving homes.¬† Our dogs all deserve better and now they’ve found it!¬† I just wish there was a home for each and every one of them…

Why we don’t put our pets in nursing homes…

 

 

On my recent visit with my father who has been residing in a dementia specialty nursing home for several years, I realized that often we are kinder to our animals than to people. Although he is not in much physical pain, his quality of life is pretty much gone. I know that sounds harsh, but it’s true. Seeing men and women who can no longer hold a conversation, recognize loved ones or eat solid food is depressing, to say the least. So I should be glad that he and others don’t know what is going on around them.¬† At times pet therapy does seem to help, and it is wonderful to see some sparks of recognition from other patients when dogs are brought in for visits.¬† ¬†

I’m thankful that we never let our animals suffer in the same way. I have had to make the most difficult decision in my life twice –¬†to put down my beloved Cato, and then 2 years later Solo Mio –¬†and both times, as sad as it was, it was also a relief. I knew I was doing what was best for my dogs. It was my selfishness that told me to keep them alive, but my heart and mind (with the help of my husband)¬†eventually won out and we knew the right thing to do.

It seems ironic that we would treat our human family members worse than we treat our pets. I don’t know the solution, but I know how difficult it is emotionally and financially to treat dementia and other Alzheimer’s-like diseases (most dementia care is NOT covered by Medicare¬†until you need full-blown hospital type care).¬† I remember hearing Nancy Reagan describe Alzheimer’s as “the long goodbye” and now I know why.