Monday, December 30, 2013

My New Years Wish



About a year and a half ago John and I purchased a vintage canned ham camper. I grew up camping and have always loved spending time off the grid, but John, a native New Yorker, prefers vacations spent in hotel rooms. As it turns out, a camper was the perfect compromise for us. I get my fill of hiking trails and campfires, while he doesn’t have to sleep on the ground. Win/Win

Shortly after our first excursion, John and I started talking about hitting the road for good when our retirement rolls around. An introverted life, roaming wherever our desires take us, on our own schedule, sounds perfect for both of us.

There’s just one hitch in our plan… (See what I did there?)


Because of my terrible blogging habits, you may not have been introduced to Bronx yet. After Jack’s heart failed earlier this year, it didn’t take us long to realize that our family wasn’t complete without a big block-head dog in it.

Enter Bronx…

She has big, derpy ears, and wears a heart on her shoulder. She has a scary bark if you don’t know her, but also an enthusiastic jump for joy, that lifts her three feet off the ground, when she sees someone she loves. She tenderly cares for my daughter’s hamster when it’s out of the cage, and has no idea why the kitty won’t be her friend. She’s a sixty pound lapdog who knows she is loved, and returns that love one hundred-fold.

In short, she is the second most amazing dog you’ll ever meet. The first most amazing was her predecessor.

Now back to our dilemma…

Bronx is technically a mixed breed dog. Some people would label her a Pit Bull Mix, which I wouldn’t disagree with, but that’s also kind of unfair. Without DNA testing, we have no idea what her lineage is. Sure, she could have some APBT in her, but she also looks remarkably similar to a Dalmatian/Boxer mix. She has no papers or pedigree, she’s just a block head.

I look Irish, but I’m not. It’s human nature that we want to label things, and put them neatly in boxes, but sometimes things just aren’t what they look like.

Now all over the US there are places that have BSL (Breed Specific Legislation) or BDL (Breed Discriminatory Legislation). Some states, cities, towns, parks, and campgrounds won’t allow me to travel through or stop there just because of how my dog looks. This isn’t just unfair to my dog, who may or may not be what she looks like, but all of the pure bred restricted breeds who are good dogs in spite of what their appearance implies. Like Jack. He was a papered APBT, and he was a good boy, going his whole life without snapping and biting someone’s face off. There’s no such thing as a bad breed, just bad owners and a select few bad dogs.

So lets think about this. If I were restricted from being in a place because I look Irish, would that be fair? Even if I were Irish, we wouldn’t stand for that type of discrimination. It’s not about how you look, it’s about how you act. My dog deserves to be put on even footing with every other domesticated canine living in the US today. She’s not a wild animal waiting to pounce. She’s just a dog.


And sometimes she’s a coffee table.

John and I have to be careful when planning trips. We make sure we research where we’re going and what dog laws are in place. We avoid places where we’re not welcome, and we’ve already had to cancel plans to attend rallies for a vintage trailer group we belong to called Tin Can Tourists, because they’re held at campgrounds that have breed restrictions in place. Frankly it stinks. We’re being excluded because of something that only a tiny percentage of the population of dogs and dog owners are responsible for. And by tiny, I mean about .001%. Think about that…

So today, as I was reading a blog written by a full time RV’er, looking at the photos of her and her dogs hiking together, and dreaming about the day when that will be me; it occurred to me that it may not ever be me.

My life will never be complete again without a block head by my side. So until our society learns that a dog is just a dog, and a person with red hair isn’t always Irish, my retirement dreams aren’t realistic. My hope for the future is that they will be, before it’s too late for Bronx and all the good dogs like her. Before it’s too late for me.



Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dear God,

I know that when we talk, I’m usually asking you for something. I ask for forgiveness, I ask you to help me through an emotional time, I ask you to watch over my family. I know it must get tedious hearing about my needs all of the time, so today I’m going to take a moment to just say thank you.

You see, the truth of the matter, and I’ve been honest with you about this in the past, is that I don’t really trust you.

Maybe it’s just a product of my anxious brain, but I don’t trust that your grand plan for me doesn’t involve some huge tragedy that will ultimately make me lose my mind.

So I worry.

I worry that the people I love will get hurt, or sick, and I won’t be able to help them. I worry that my kids will be harmed by someone with bad intentions. I worry that my husband will be killed in a fiery crash on the highway during his daily commute. My worry consumes me some days, and I can’t get the horrible scenarios and the accompanying visions of gore out of my head.

Then I pray.

My prayers are often tear-filled pleas. Please God, let them be safe. Please God, have them answer my text so I know they’re ok. Please, please please, don’t take any of them before you take me. Because I just don’t think I could keep putting one foot in front of the other each day if I had to do it without a single one of them.

1236320_10201632432111885_1033043567_nImagine my surprise when the phone rang out of the blue this morning, and I learned how close I’d come to living a shattered life. There was no premonition on my part, no overwhelming sense of doom. Just a phone call asking for a ride home.

I don’t know for sure how close he came to becoming a tragedy this morning. How long it would have been before his brake line melted, or if he would have been able to stop if it had. I don’t know if another driver would have flagged him down soon enough if the guy in the little red car hadn’t. I don’t know if a shift in the wind would have pushed the fire into the passenger compartment hampering his escape. I just don’t know…

20130822_085136I do know that seeing his burnt out car, windshield shattered from the heat, tires and dashboard melted into surrealist representations of their former selves, made me feel like it had been a very close call indeed.

I guess, dear God, I owe you an apology.

I’m not saying I’ll change. I’d love to, but as much as I try to leave my anxiety behind, I’m a slave to it some days. I will concede that today, while I was going about my morning worry free, you had my back. Thank you for that.

20130822_085245I don’t take my life for granted. I’ve lived enough and seen enough to know it can all be taken from me in the blink of an eye. That’s why I don’t care so much about the things we own, or the accumulation of digits in our bank account. I can fight my way through anything as long as I have them, as long as I have ‘him’ by my side. The only thing in this life that really scares me, is loosing them.

So thanks, dear God, for sending that driver to flag down my husband on the highway this morning. Thank you for not letting his brakes fail when he pulled over to see what the problem was. Thank you for blowing the fire in the opposite direction so he had enough time to get out of the car and walk down the road out of harms way.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for all the tiny details that came into play today, just so that my husband could come home tonight.

In the future I’ll do my best to remember that you’ve got my back.



Monday, March 25, 2013

The Post I Didn’t Want To Write


Jack had it rough from the start… Born with the dubious distinction of being his own uncle (yes, his half-brother was also his father), he was the runt of the litter, and had to be bottle fed to survive.

He didn’t let a little thing like having the odds stacked against him get in the way of his survival though. He knew there were important things waiting for him in life, couches he needed to hold down so they wouldn’t run away. And somewhere, there was a family out there waiting for him, though they didn’t know it yet, a family who knew nothing about pit bulls, or even dogs for that matter, who needed to have their lives changed irreversibly…


“I think we should get a dog” I told John.

John was not unaware of my love for animals, and over the years we’d always had the staple cat(s) living with us, along with guinea pigs, snakes, hamsters, hedgehogs, etc, but this statement still caused him to raise an eyebrow. I had never expressed any interest in having a dog before that day. In fact, I had always thought of myself as a cat person. Something had been nibbling at the back of my brain for quite some time though, a feeling that my life was missing something.

“You don’t know anything about dogs” he told me, eyebrow still raised. “I watch Victoria Stillwell on TV” I replied, “How hard can it be?”

He looked at me for a moment, shook his head, and went back to whatever it was he was doing at the time. He didn’t say no, but he hadn’t said yes either.  It was time for some strategy on my part. Over the next few months I went to work on Operation Canine Reciprocal Acquisition and Partner Persuasion, or O-CRAPP.

So what was my plan to convince John I was capable of taking care of a dog? Easy, I trained the cat to do doggie tricks. I taught MacDuff to sit on command, beg, stand on his hind legs, and also to dance by turning three circles on cue. I did it using the positivity method of dog training, and of course it worked. Why wouldn’t it? It’s not like cats are a different species or anything, right?


Still, John was not so eager to jump on my band-wagon. I had to break down his resistance even further, and so I began sending him pictures of available dogs. It didn’t matter what breed they were, if they were cute and helpless looking their picture landed in his in-box. I took Tiana to play with puppies at the pet store, and sent him pictures of the event so he could see how happy she looked with a little bundle of fluff. In short, I wore him down until he was putty in my hands. Now it was just a matter of finding the dog that was meant to be ours.


They called him moo-moo. They thought his markings made him look like a cow. Personally, I didn’t see it. What I did see though, was that there was something not quite right about him. John saw it too. He leaned over and whispered in my ear, “He walks a little sideways.” “So does your daughter!” I hissed back, and before you knew it, he was leashed up and riding on my lap in our car. We knew he wasn’t quite right, so he needed a family that wasn’t quite right either; we would love him no matter what. Little did we know that it would become our mantra. Vet: “Your dog is not quite right.” Us: “We know, but we love him anyway.”


“I am going to KILL that damn dog!” I yelled as John walked in the door. “He ATE my dining room chair!” I pointed to the adolescent dog sleeping peacefully on the couch, totally oblivious to my screaming. “That wood is a half inch thick!” I continued to rant, “How did he manage to chew THROUGH it in the thirty seconds I had my back turned?!?!?” John stood silently at the door, work bag still in hand, a bemused smirk on his face. I eyed him with a scowl, if he dared laugh at me, I was gonna punch him!

IMG_2900Training Jack, as he was now called, had been a test of my patience. He spent the first few months in our home either leashed directly to my belt, or tethered to a piece of nearby furniture so I could keep an eye on him. Because if he wasn’t eating something in the house, he was peeing on it. He kept me chasing after him so much, that I felt like I was running in an exhausted stupor, barely able to care for my kids because I was so intent on keeping the dog out of trouble.

Most days I wasn’t even sure I liked him, let alone loved him, but then a funny thing happened…

Well, not funny in a ha ha way, but a curious kind of funny.

Among the many physical ailments Jack was born with, one of the more noticeable was a deformed spine. It didn’t hamper his mobility to any large extent, but he didn’t run much, and he was never terribly agile. One morning, as he was going out to the bathroom, he fell down our front steps and injured himself. He didn’t show it at first, except for a torn up ear, but he had wrenched his back pretty badly. About a day later he began to show us he was hurt, when anytime he was touched he screamed in pain.

It was the first time, of several, that I was majorly concerned for him and his well being. I curled up next to him on the floor, and I cried. I realized at that moment in time, that he had become so much more than a four legged piranha intent on destroying every article of furniture I owned. He was a furry child. Sure, he would never grow up and go to college, would never be able to care for me as I grew old and infirm, but on the flip side he would never ask me for money for a prom dress or wreck my car either. From that moment on he was, without a doubt, my baby, and it was my job to protect him.

So that’s how it was, and everyone knew where they stood. Jack eventually stopped gnawing on all I held dear as he grew older, but his health continued to plague him. He was prone to all sorts of infections; ear, eye, sinus, and yeast. In another heart wrenching emergency run to the vet, he was diagnosed with pancreatitis that was brought on by eating an entire pigs ear in thirty seconds or less. He only had one visible testicle, a condition which caused me to nearly faint when I saw the estimate to get him neutered (apparently they have to go exploring in the abdomen for the other one), but in the end it didn’t matter because each time we’d schedule the surgery he would either get sick or hurt himself and it would have to be postponed until he was healthy.

It never happened…


During the summer of 2012, Jack began fainting every time he stood up. We rushed him to the emergency vet’s, and eventually he was diagnosed with a heart condition. Expense wasn’t even discussed, we just threw enough money at the vets to start sizable college funds for all of their children, and told them to fix our dog. Medications were ordered, and we were told to cross our fingers and pray, which we did.

I performed CPR on him one beautiful warm August morning. I begged him not to leave me while my kids looked on in horror, and he didn’t. Maybe he heard me and knew I wasn’t ready to let go yet, or maybe he was worried that the couch would run off if he wasn’t around to hold it down.

I had six more months with my beautiful boy before his heart gave out on him for good. Each day was a blessing, and while I was hopeful that the medication could stabilize his heart, a voice inside of me kept telling me to prepare for the worst. In my gut I knew that Jack’s shining star was meant to burn bright, not long.

20130225_125459-1I was with him for as long as they allowed me to be, practically pushing me out the door because I wanted to see it through to the end. I kissed him over and over as he fell asleep in my arms, whispering I love you, I love you, I love you, as I did.

If you had told me four years ago that a pitbull would come into my life and change me forever, I would have laughed at you. The truth of it is though, his absence has left me shattered. An empty crate, an empty collar, a pitbull shaped hole in my heart. I wonder if I could have done more for him, if I should have done things differently, despite the vet’s reassurance that we did more than anyone ever expected of us.  There was something not quite right about that dog, but we loved him anyway.

He changed my life, he changed many of our friends and families perceptions of pitbulls. He was a good dog, who never bit off anyone’s face, and looking back through the many, many pictures I have of him, he was a happy, silly dog most of the time.


When I picked up his remains from the vet’s office a few weeks later, they gave me a ceramic tile with his paw print on it. I took it home, and after shedding a few tears over it, I scanned it into the computer and cleaned it up. I then asked John to help me do one more thing for my dog. I didn’t even have to launch a secondary movement of O-CRAPP, he agreed with a simple nod and a couple of phone calls…


I miss you Poopy dog, but it turns out that you’re not the end of the story. You opened up my heart to the fact that without a dog it wasn’t completely full, and you opened my eyes to the plight of millions of good dogs out there just like you. I think that might have been the important thing you survived against the odds for, and I’m so very glad you did. Do all the things you dreamed about but couldn’t do here on earth while you wait for me. Run, jump, play! I’ll be with you before you know it, and we’ll play a game of fetch.

I’ll love you forever…