Category Archives: Pets

A WALK IN THE RAIN

Standard

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?

Standard

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

Standard

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.

Meow-Meow and the Boys

Standard

Meow-Meow (in front as usual!) with Colin

As a child I was very allergic to cats, so I never much cared for them because of the physical discomfort they caused me.  They seemed aloof anyway and seemed to distance themselves, probably because I would never allow them to come close to me.  In fact, I avoided them like the plague.  But when our family moved to the country, a cute little calico cat started hanging around the backyard. She was friendly and affectionate, running to me like a dog when she saw me.  She nibbled at breadcrumbs I threw out for the birds until I, the old softie, provided her with her very own cat food and a little dog house for her to sleep in under our deck. I went door to door in the neighborhood, trying to see if anyone owned her, but nobody claimed her.

 I finally named her Meow-Meow and made an appointment at a veterinarian’s office for shots and spaying. When it was time to capture her for her visit, she ran and hid, nowhere to be found. I did locate her the next morning curled up in her little house on her cozy blanket…along with her four newborn kittens. I was in awe, fascinated by Meow-Meow’s unrelenting commitment to motherhood as she protected and cared for these tiny little balls of fluff. My fondness grew as well, watching with delight as these little beings matured into amusing creatures with diverse personalities.
 

Eight years later Meow-Meow and two of her sons, Colin and Booie, are now indoor cats and much-valued members of the household. My brother adopted her other two sons, Bailey and Brindle, and they are spoiled rotten! My immune system seems to have readjusted because I am no longer allergic to them.  And, I have become a lover of cats.  Go figure.

                                                                            

Skylar the Survivor

Standard

Thought for today:   What’s life without a risk or two?

It was sweltering July day, and the pounding rain caused clouds of steam to rise off the sidewalks.  I was making my way out of Philadelphia and heading for home anxiously thinking of all I had to do in anticipation of our move.  There was lots of packing to do and uncertainty in general since the home we were building was behind in construction.  I was disheartened because I had no idea how long my family would be living in temporary housing.

I stopped at a red light – third in line.  That’s when I spotted a pathetic looking, little cocker spaniel trying to push her way into a bank door.  People were moving in and out shushing her away, and she was soaking wet.  Her sad brown eyes darted back and forth, scared and sadly searching for someone…anyone.  She was obviously abandoned, and my heart broke.  Without thinking, I pulled over to the side of the road.  It wasn’t a safe neighborhood, so I wasn’t about to get out of the car.  I reached for a towel on the floor of the car and quickly threw it on the seat.  I opened the passenger door and called to her.  If she gets in, I’ll…well, I don’t know what I’ll do, but if she doesn’t, she’s out of luck.  Without hesitation, the dog ran to me and jumped right in the car, sat down and looked out the front window as if to say “where are we going?”  I fed her a pretzel, which she immediately hid in the towel.  It became her way with food – always hiding a little of it to save for later.  It must have been something she learned living on the streets.

I thought about the other two dogs I had at home, a golden retriever and a black lab.  I don’t need another dog, I thought.  I would be living with my brother in the interim until the house was completed – how would he react to one more dog?

Driving straight to my veterinarian, I was lucky they took her in.  “Can you please keep her over night, give her all her shots and please, could someone bathe her?” I asked.  She was a grimy brownish-gray color.  A while later the veterinarian called to report she was very sick with a fever and full of worms and fleas.  She weighed only 16 lbs. – half of what she should have weighed. Heaven only knows how long she had survived out on the streets of Philadelphia by herself.  I authorized all treatment.

After I broke the news to my family, I fretted over how Skylar would get along with my other dogs.  Throwing caution to the wind, I picked her up the next day.  She was hanging out in the office with the receptionist who was feeding her treats.  I looked but almost didn’t recognize her, astounded that once bathed she was pure white with a few brown patches around her eye and on her ears.  She was adorably cute and spunky.  Everyone had fallen in love with her at the veterinarian’s office.  The vet tech wanted to take her home to her grandmother.  But my gut said no; I had found her for a reason, and she was meant to be with me.

The first few days weren’t easy.  My other two dogs were very friendly, but Skylar was scared, constantly growling and snapping at them.  It must have been frightening for her with two towering giants sticking their curious noses in her face.  She wouldn’t sleep in the crate, scratching and pawing frantically until we let her out.  She chased my neighbor’s cats relentlessly and was merciless with the squirrels in our yard.  She barked at every moving object.  She was extremely territorial with her food, which was probably a survival mechanism. Feeding time became a snarling fight until I began feeding her in another room. Eventually she settled in. She loved going for car rides and was a relentless ball catcher and squeaky toy player. 

 A month later we all moved in with my brother, who accepted her unconditionally. She adjusted tremendously as we all did.   In time we moved to a new home, and it was as if she had been with us all of our lives.  And you know what?  She became one of the best dogs I’ve ever had!

Skylar stood faithfully by my side and comforted me during many difficult situations including the death of my parents, divorce, my kids leaving the nest and the sad passings of my other beloved dogs.  She became my role model for adaptation and flexibility and demonstrated endurance through hard times.

Skylar suffered through many health problems including chronic ear infections, tick disease, a torn ACL, eye ulcers and two cancerous tumor removals.  Yet, through it all she remained as sweet and as adventurous as the day I picked her up.  She mellowed with age and slept a lot toward the end. Listening to her gentle snoring used to warm my heart, and I thanked God for this little ball of fur He blessed me with so long ago. 

She developed cancer in the end and was a trooper, as always, through what was probably painful for her at times.  The night I took her for her last car ride to the veterinarian’s office, my heart ached as I glanced over to see her sitting and looking out the window just as she had on that first car ride home.  Our veterinarian told me that Skylar had been hanging in there for me because of all I had been going through personally, and now it was time to let her go in peace.  So I painfully said goodbye to my faithful little companion of almost ten years.

I’ll never know what made me stop my car and open the door on that miserably hot and rainy summer’s day, but when I did, I was blessed with an angel disguised as a spunky little street dog who will always own a piece of my heart.