Category Archives: Pets

NO BAD DOGS…really?!

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Bubbles for Bella

Back in the day, world-renowned British dog trainer Barbara Woodhouse wrote a book, “NO BAD DOGS.” She finished that sentence with…only inexperienced owners. Oh, Barbara, I beg to differ. I haven’t been without a dog since the age of 4, having had all shapes and sizes and breeds. And yet, I’ve discovered that even as experienced as I think I may be in the handling of dogs, they literally have a mind of their own and most of the time are going to do what they want when they want to.

Riley

Just rethinking the size of these heels, Mommy!

Take my dog Bella a Labrador retriever, for example, who doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. Most of the time, she’s as calm, gentle, sweet and laid back as they come. But take her to the park and let another dog attempt to walk by…uh oh…she yanks me like a rag doll and tries as hard as she might to pounce on the dog. It’s just so annoying. I’m always making excuses for her behavior, especially to those unwitting people who insist that their dog and mine make friends. I find myself saying, “Oh, she actually loves other dogs, so I’m not sure why she’s jumping up and down and acting like an idiot,” or “oh, she’s just a little too excited right now,” or “she’s just a maniac.” It eventually evolves into, “I wouldn’t come too close; she’s just so predictable,” or “NO, SHE DOESN”T WANT TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH YOUR DOG!” It’s exhausting. I wish it were different….I wish she would sweetly walk up to other dogs and play. And, honestly, that’s all she really wants to do; she just doesn’t know how to go about it in quite the right way. Where is Cesar Milan when you need him?On the other hand, Bella loves a bath, which is a good thing. All I have to do is say the word bath, and the next thing I know, she’s sitting in the tub. Even if I just say the word in passing, she races to the bathroom. She gives me a good laugh and kind of washes all the other stuff away.

And how about my daughter Megan’s and son-in-law Matt’s dog Riley. Riley has been somewhat of a problem child since puppyhood, especially with barking and annoying people who visit to the point of ad nauseam, and you just pray that they’ll put her in time out (the downstairs powder room) which happens quite often. For instance, Meg and Matt are recent newlyweds, and for her birthday this year Matt prepared her a bubble bath complete with candles, etc., (these are the kinds of things you get at the beginning of a marriage 🙂 ). As soon as Megan got home, she retreated to the tub, closing the door behind her. Riley was left outside the bathroom door and apparently was not too happy about it. She usually gets Meg’s undivided attention and a long walk. I guess she got mad because when Meg finished soaking she came out to find her favorite pair of shoes chewed up by you-know-who. Uncanny!

peanut butter

MMM…MMM…Good!

But, then there’s Lulu, my daughter Katie and boyfriend Blake’s black Labrador retriever. To preface this in Lulu’s defense, she was a rescue dog, a puppy mill mother who at the time of her rescue weighed only 40 lbs. and was in very sad shape. She’s come a long way with a lot of tender loving care and has gone from 40 to 90 lbs. in a hurry. Lulu is sweet and gentle, but has a major food fetish…understandably. Let a bag rustle softly or a refrigerator door open, and she’s there. And when Katie and Blake go off to work, it’s SHOWTIME!

food

Snack time

At first Lulu got into the garbage, although it had a lid. They are now very careful to put the garbage can in the pantry closet before they leave, but sometimes they forget and come home to a big surprise.Then it was the dog food, which used to be kept in a bag in the kitchen until it was ripped open and finished one day. They started storing the food in a plastic bin. No problem…Lulu dragged the entire bin (with a full 20 lbs. of dog food inside) to her bed and snacked all day until it was gone. The bin is now being stored in the pantry closet as well. Blake made himself a peanut butter sandwich one day and left the jar on the counter….another thing proactively being put away in the pantry closet. It’s getting crowded in there.

Garbage

Oh, Lulu…

The last straw came when the Great Houdini somehow opened the refrigerator door…PARTY TIME!!! It must have been so much fun to nose around and help herself to the feast in front of her all day long! Lulu was hiding that day when Katie returned from work…with good reason. Katie went upstairs to the kitchen to find the remains of the day. Items were dragged into the bedroom, onto her bed and around the house. The bed was covered in peanut butter and chocolate from a leftover birthday cake, a bag of cooked chicken was devoured, cheese was gone, etc. Food was strewn everywhere. Katie and Blake tried to retrace their steps to see if maybe they might have left the refrigerator door ajar…or not. No matter, Lulu had a five-star day! And she never got sick…just seemed very satisfied. When Katie dragged Lulu out of her hiding place, she took her to the refrigerator and gave her a scolding, pointing to the handle and saying No, No, No! Then she took her out for a walk. It’s hard to stay mad at Lulu when she cuddles up to you with those sad brown eyes. I’m happy to report she hasn’t gone into the refrigerator since. Must be that experienced dog owner stuff kicking in. But that was only last week. Or did they fit the refrigerator into the pantry closet as well?! Good dogs, bad dogs, we love them all. Eventually their shenanigans become funny stories to tell later on after you have finished crying…maybe…or not.

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A GENTLE REMINDER

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A stray dog wandered by my sliding glass door yesterday as I sat writing on my computer.  He/she was picking at the ground under the bird feeder, nibbling at bread crumbs that I had thrown out to the birds earlier.  Dog lover that I am, I jumped up and bolted into action.  First grabbing a bowl and some dog food, and then charging outside to feed him/her as my dog barked wildly and my cats scurried in different directions.

The dog was grateful for the food and ate ravenously.  I was able to get a glimpse of his dog tag, Spencer. “Hi, Spencer, I cooed as I petted him…are you lost?”  I ran inside and grabbed my cell phone, ran outside and plugged in his master’s phone number as he wiggled around me. “The voice mail of the number you have dialed is full.”  WHAT?!  So I memorized the address on the tag, ran inside and map quested the address.  Six miles away.  “What are doing six miles away from your home, Spencer?!”Sheila

I somehow maneuvered the dog into my car with a bag of biscuits and started my six-mile journey with map quest directions in hand.  When at last I pulled up in front of Spencer’s house, I was shocked to find that the lawn was covered with debris and a huge dumpster sat in the middle of the driveway.  I knocked on the door anyway, knowing it had to be vacant, and, of course, no one answered. I looked at Spencer’s pretty brown eyes as he cocked his head towards me.  “Now what, Spence?”  Just then a construction vehicle pulled up and then another.  I talked with the men about the home’s owners and asked how I could return their dog who was sitting in the back of my car.  Turns out the house had been destroyed during awful “Hurricane Sandy.” That name now makes me cringe. I wondered if Spencer had been misplaced since the storm.

The construction worker said he would try to contact the owners who were living, of course, in another location and gave them my number.  As I drove home wondering what I was going to do with this gentle, sweet beast, my phone rang, and I pulled over. “Do you have my dog?” a flustered voice asked. “Well, yes,” I replied.  “Where can I meet you?”  “Where are you?”  Ten minutes later I delivered the dog to the family who had been staying with friends not too far from where I live.  “My son let the dog out,” she explained, “and she got away.”  The kids ran out and happily greeted the dog.  The dog’s name, it turns out, is Sheila, not Spencer…she wore the tag from their old dog who had passed until they could get a new one for Sheila.

I walked away reminded that for so many people here in Jersey; life just has not even begun to get back to normal.  People are still misplaced, their homes are still disasters, their dogs are getting lost in unfamiliar surroundings, and they are not anywhere near leading a normal life yet.  I pray for Governor Christie and thank him for playing hard ball in trying to get funds into the hands of these desperate people so they can start to rebuild.  Why did Washington take so long to get this relief approved?  When will these people be able to move back into their own homes in their old, familiar neighborhoods, where their dogs can safely sniff around their own backyards?

I had almost forgotten about the devastation and the horror of what happened right here around me. We should not forget that life does not go on as usual for a large portion of our population, and thoughts and prayers and assistance are still so badly needed for so many. It took a sweet dog named Sheila to gently remind me.

PRE-DAWN TREK

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1115121919My dog Bella woke me up this morning at 5:30 – yup, lucky me, right?!  It’s actually only a half hour earlier than when my normal workday begins, but its Saturday, its cold outside and last night we had our first snow. Why, Bella, why?!?!  I guess she’s just trying to torture me as she bounces on the bed panting in my face and trying my patience. But, when a dog’s gotta go, a dog’s gotta go. And what’s the alternative?  Cleaning up stains on the rug?  No, thanks. So, I pull on my coat and plop my hat on my sleepy head yawning uncontrollably.  I can’t find my gloves, so I grab an old pair that are too big, and step out into the tundra. I lose my breath to the burst of cold wind that greets me when I open the door.  Awesome…1107121557a

Muttering to myself, I trudge down the snow-covered street while Bella frolics in the virgin white snow. It’s quiet and peaceful on this lonely trail up to the bay, since most sane people without pets are still wrapped up in their cozy beds and won’t rise to daylight for another three hours. I eventually trick myself into thinking that it really isn’t so bad (not) to be the only human being in the universe walking up the snowy path in the dark, which is only slightly illuminated by the pristine snow and full moon hiding behind the clouds.  But if I let it, this pre-dawn trek could be a good thing. Bella immediately does her thing, so I guess she wasn’t just pulling my chain.  Good girl, I praise her.  She looks up at me with that big wide grin, tail wagging wildly, then streaks off into the snow, yanking my arm out of the socket.  Arrgghhh…

The quiet of pre-dawn actually fills me with peace after a very stressful week.  I walk along feeling calm for the first time in days.  I take a cleansing deep breath of the frosty air and blow it out forming circles before me.  Bella sniffs the ground and follows tiny footprints of an animal that arose even earlier than us. The ducks, which are usually quacking quietly in the swamp, have disappeared.  I guess they have finally wised up to the fact that the warmth of the south isn’t a bad idea after all and have probably flown the coop.  I imagine how nice the warmth of the sun would feel upon my skin right about now and yearn for the summer.  Instead we turn to head home to a pot of hot coffee, which I’ll sip as I sit on my chair in meditation and watch the sun rise over the lagoon.

I can’t really say that I’m unhappy to have gotten up as early as I did, thanks to my rambunctious Labrador retriever.  Guess I’m used to braving the weather in the name of walking her outside before she does something inside.  But this morning Bella inadvertently has taken me on a path of mental renewal where enjoying the quiet and peace of an early morning snow has calmed my nerves and given me hope for tranquility on this cold winter’s day. Gotta love her.

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SWEET CREATURES OF THE LAGOON

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I live on a lagoon that is frequented by some very interesting and beautiful wildlife. Swans are one of the more familiar visitors to the docks. They float effortlessly from one waterway to the other, gliding along without rhyme or reason. They don’t seem to be bothered or afraid of the people around here because everyone treats them with respect and kindness. They are, for the most part, quiet curious creatures.  I am often caught off guard while working in the garden with a surprise greeting by one of these lovely creatures stretching its neck to see what I’m doing. Maybe it’s just to say hello, but most likely they are looking for a morsel of food.

The only time they make a lot of noise is when for some reason they take off into flight. It is a deafening, indescribable rush and squawk of maximum velocity. The first time I heard it without seeing what was making it was quite scary.  But for the most part they meander about minding their own business.

If we could take a lesson or two from a swan, I can guarantee life would be more tranquil.

Lessons like:

  • Slowing life down to enjoy the glide
  • Quietly listening and observing
  • Not being apprehensive about others
  • Visiting people often and without an agenda
  • Giving and receiving respect and kindness
  • Stretching our necks
  • Being curious
  • Saying hello
  • Making a lot of noise when needed
  • Going about our own business
  • Accepting gifts thankfully

 

A WALK IN THE RAIN

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I’m a walk-a-holic, so if I don’t get in my 2-3 miles a day (which isn’t really much), by nightfall my muscles start atrophying. And, although I like to blame my rambunctious lab Bella as the reason I’m so obsessed, it’s really my choice. There’s no stress reducer in the world like a brisk walk on a sunny day with a cool wind at your back. Pounding that pavement is so much better than, say, downing a triple layer fudge cake imbedded with chocolate chips.  I’m sure Dr. Oz would agree.

So off I went on this dark, gloomy day with Bella in tow.  Although there was only a light drizzle as I pulled out of the driveway to go to the park, by the time we made it there it was pouring rain.  Bella was itching to do her duty, so there was no other choice then to zip up, pull on the hood and get out of the car.  I opened the hatch and Bella reluctantly stuck her snoot up and sniffed the air.

“Let’s go,” I coaxed…

“Come on, girl,” I pleaded…

“Get out of the damn car!” I yelled as I yanked on the leash. Bella leapt out of the car into a huge puddle and drenched what was left of the dry part of my pants. Off we went to the tune of my saturated sneakers squeaking and squishing.

What’s nice about a walk in the hammering rain is that you walk faster, work up more of a sweat quicker and cut the time of the walk in half.  Add to that the fact that since you are the only whack job crazy enough to stroll along in the sopping wet, you can retreat into the solitude of a private park and do some soul-searching without anyone trying to disrupt your train of thought by saying hello. “What is the meaning of life?” “What is the purpose of my existence?” I ponder. I start getting lost in my thoughts until Bella gives a monstrous shake and douses me with a heavy spray of muddy water startling me back to reality. The soul-searching question becomes, “Why am I not getting in from the rain?”

I rush Bella along now and can tell she is really disappointed that she hasn’t had the opportunity to yank me towards another dog because there is no other creature existing in this place at this time.  Then she spots a squirrel scaling a tree and makes a mad dash toward it through the saturated grass dragging me along like a rag doll.  She boisterously jumps up and down on all fours at her newfound prey, and I am now dotted with mud from head to toe.

I give up.  I’ve had enough. Mile or not, atrophied muscles or not, I’m done. I pull her along the trail towards the car, rain now coming down in sheets and barely make it to my vehicle as I hear thunder clapping in the distance.  Bella happily jumps into the car, I follow, and she immediately shakes again and sprays the whole car with wet and mud. “Excellent…” I mutter.  I drive home with the stink of wet dog permeating the air as Bella sticks her big square head between the seats to help navigate the road with me. The stench is so bad, I can hardly breathe. She turns toward me and gives the side of my face a big, wet kiss.  “AARRGGHH! Thanks, Bella,” I say as I pat her soaking wet head, “Glad you had fun.”

Here’s hoping the sun will come out tomorrow…

Do Pets Go To Heaven?

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My Sweet Girl, Molly

(Prelude:  I recently saw a Facebook post from someone whose beloved pet had passed.  The remembrance of my own grief welled within me, and I thought this essay I wrote at the time might bring comfort to those who have suffered the loss of their loving companion.)

I listen to the rhythm of my dog Molly’s gentle breathing as she sleeps peacefully. I stroke the baby softness of her ears.  I want to hug her, but I’m afraid she’ll awake and have another seizure.  So I watch her slumber and tenderly hold her paws in my hands as she sighs heavily. How I want to freeze this moment in time because I know I’ll never get it back.  And my heart aches because I just can’t fully grasp the fact that after eight years of unrelenting love and steadfast loyalty, she’ll be gone.

Molly was a happy yellow Labrador retriever with a unique intelligence and brightness in her eyes.  She was everything that was good and pure.  She was never without a silly grin and a big, firm kiss for you, along with a constant wag in her tail. I was forever under her watchful eye as she followed me wherever I went. Anything I said or did was of the utmost importance to her. She listened intently whenever I spoke to her, cocking her head sideways and trying so hard to understand what I was saying.    She watched me do my daily household chores like it was the most interesting thing in the world and stood guard at the door of the bathroom when I showered.  Each day she walked me to the door as I left for work and waited patiently for me watching out the window until she saw my car pull back into the driveway at night.  She then bounded enthusiastically as I entered the house, covering me with doggy kisses.  She had unlimited patience, always satisfied with whatever attention I could manage to give her.  She was good-natured to a fault even through the shots and torment of the disease of diabetes and the seizures that ensued.  Accepting her passing was hard and left me grief-stricken.

I know some people don’t understand the bond between humans and their pets.  There are those folks at the opposite end of my spectrum who think nothing of mistreating animals and using them for profit, whether it be for an ugly sport like dog fighting or for over breeding or warped entertainment.  I instead view them as gifts of God’s creation to be loved and enjoyed.

Before God created man on the sixth day, he filled the earth with animals of all shapes and sizes. I believe there were many purposes for this, not the least of which would be companionship on the journey. Church doctrine and theology teaches that only souls go to heaven, but the question that haunts me at this moment is, will I ever be with Molly again?  Heaven is supposed to be the ultimate paradise, and I couldn’t help but think that if God filled the earth with these beautiful creatures, why not heaven as well so that we may truly live in eternal happiness surrounded by the many joys they bring to us?  What would paradise be without them?

I was walking in the field behind my house the other day, missing the presence of Molly girl romping gleefully beside me, when I came upon two tiny fawns peering at me quizzically from under the brush.  I thought with a chuckle how Molly would have gotten a charge out of chasing them out and down the path.  I was once again seized with the heart-wrenching ache of grief.  I looked up to the sky tearfully and said, “Did you see those deer, girl?” I imagined her smiling down upon me with her silly grin, tail wagging wildly. 

Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs.  I believe that if I somehow warrant the kind of life that allows me entrance through those pearly gates of heaven, there will be my Molly girl, waiting patiently for me with that silly grin and big, firm kiss.

Bella Jella Kiss a Fella

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Thought for the day:  Can’t live with them and can’t live without them

“Bella Jella Kiss a Fella,” I call to my 95 lb. yellow Labrador retriever in a sing-song voice only she can love. Bella runs to me wagging her tail wildly, grinning from ear to ear – then side swipes me and keeps on running.  Coming to me when I call her is just not her style. Teasing me into frustration with her cat and mouse game is much more her forte, since she seems to relish having me chase her around the neighborhood like a bumbling Keystone Kop.  Her greatest satisfaction is seeing me hopelessly trying to catch my breath as I turn beet red.

Bella has never been an easy dog.  She is probably the worst puppy I have ever had – chewing furniture, rugs and two or three dog beds, tormenting my cats and eating everything she can manage to sneak behind my back.  She drags me around the park like a rag doll and infuriates me with her passive/aggressive behavior around other dogs – we pass them; she becomes aggressive.  Not that she’s an attack dog – she just can’t wait to get close enough to lick them to death.  Her approach is obnoxiously forceful as she pants furiously, intimidating the poor owners and their scared pets until they run away from her like she’s a rabid lunatic.

Our good walks are those we’ve managed to have in complete solitude.  It is then that she is quite well-behaved for the most part and almost a pleasure.  But let her spot a dog in the distance and her character immediately switches from Doggy Jekyll to Mastiff Hyde in a hurry.  It’s embarrassing when she starts huffing and puffing, jumping up and down and acting like, well, a completely mad dog. I’m a bone’s throw away from testing out a shock collar and am desperately considering a 911 call to Cesar Millan.

But I love her.  Don’t know what I’d do without her.  She is my…

 …Belly Button…jelly belly…butterfly chaser…buggy catcher…bath lover…rug chewer…pool plug puller…soccer ball destroyer…slipper hider…foam padding ripper…frisbee leaper…stick fetcher…cat attacker…nap taker…puppy school graduate?!…bunny sniffer…in-the-shell peanut eater…dog intimidator…park patroller…peanut butter lover…friend LuLu licker…food beggar…moon gazer…under the deck hider…apple peeler…tag ripper…cookie stealer…bone chewer…linoleum floor hater…car ride wanter.

Smart as a whip; quite a pip. That’s my Bella.