Tuesday, March 16, 2010

March 16, 2010 - The Muse of the Manse


It occurred to me, skimming over some of these blog entries, that Cj lurks around the edges of many, and a more complete introduction is long overdue.

It would be easy for a casual reader to conclude that she is merely the "co-innkeeper" of the introductory paragraph. She is, but that is only one small facet of the importance of her presence here.

On a personal level, she has been my spouse, partner, best friend, lover, confidante, co-worker, inspiration and cohort in crime for nearly 25 years now. Those who dismiss the notion of love at first sight have never seen us together. We met, appropriately enough, on Halloween 1986. We both immediately felt a connection, more of a "recognizing" than a "meeting," not so much a "pleased to meet you" as "Oh! There you are! Finally!" We really haven't been voluntarily separated since then.

She still consistently amazes me, this hazel-eyed, red-haired marvel from Oklahoma. She can still surprise me, still make me laugh, still make me think. Her depths of compassion and sympathy, especially for animals, still sometimes brings tears to my eyes and I want to be her, when I grow up. A scared and skittish new foster, afraid of his own shadow and of me, will go to her, allow her to hold him, to croon at him, and cradle him until he's not scared any more. The fact that she willingly fosters with me makes it all possible. I know a few people in rescue who cannot foster dogs, or can only foster one at a time, because of spousal reluctance. Blessedly, I have no such obstacle. Just when I think we cannot possibly work in one more fur-covered anything, and suspect she'd beat me for even suggesting it, she will be the first to say, "Poor little guy. I think we can work him in, can't we?" Couples have divorced over far less than she puts up with daily, without a murmur of complaint.

I'm blessed in so many ways by her constant presence in my life. We've had our rough times - she had a life-threatening case of meningitis a few years ago, with a year of recovery time and two emergency brain surgeries. She's had to endure two phone calls telling her I'd had a heart attack, one call coming from another state. Floods, deaths, financial crises and yet, each simply strengthens our bond and we come through closer than before, still holding hands, still making each other laugh.

Cj is also the origin of my love for pugs. She's the one who first fell in love with our first pug, Petunia. At the time, I pretty much just went along because this particular dog made her very, very happy. Of course, it didn't take long until I was pugged too. Petunia introduced us to pug rescue and life has not been the same since.

Several people have said they enjoy reading the stories of the Shady Rest, and I am deeply grateful and appreciative for each of them. I'm happy if my ramblings about life in this cluttered, fur-tufted little Midwestern suburban brick ranch-style bring a smile, but to give full credit where it is due, Cj is the source. There are eight dogs and four cats here (today); only four dogs and three cats are technically ours, yet I defy anyone to tell from her demeanor and treatment which are which. They all have a warm, safe bed in her heart, whether they're here forever or just for now. Without her tolerance, generosity of spirit, gentleness of soul, and compassionate heart, there would be no Shady Rest. She is my muse - without her constant support, love and inspiration, there would be no stories.

Y'all take care now.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March 10, 2010 - Sherman Update


Since I've heard some folks wanted updates, I'm happy to report that Sherman, the newest Shady Rest inmate, is settling in very well.  He's starting to relax, learning to appreciate warm stew mixed with his kibble (he was less than impressed on the first go-round), and become quite the snuggler. He actually takes a little offense if you have a free hand and you're not using it to pet him!  This morning, my alarm went off. He lifted his head, and snuggled closer, crawling up my torso until he was comfortably settled with my arm wrapped around him and his head on my shoulder.  Of course, I did what any dedicated employee would do on a work  morning - I hit the snooze bar on the clock so I wouldn't have to disturb him for another eight minutes.

He's smart, too!  We've discovered he's a little finicky on what he eats and there are some dog treats he's just not into, but he does like beef jerky strips.  We tend to switch up treats around here and this week, the treat on offer is a crunchy biscuit type.  All the other dogs love the things, but not so much with Sherman.  Because George sometimes has difficulty chewing harder treats, we always keep a bag of soft treats for him. So, anyway, last night Cj handed out the after-dinner/before-bed treats. Everybody ate their biscuit just fine, except Sherman. He carried his around, dropping it now and then, sniffing at it. He clearly didn't like it but was too polite to just spit it out in front of us.  Then Cj picked up the bag of jerky strips to get one for George.  Sherman perked right up. He picked up his biscuit, carried it over to her, laid the biscuit on the floor at her feet, sat down and looked at the bag of strips.  "Trade?"  His intention couldn't have been clearer if he'd spelled it out with Scrabble tiles.  She took his offer and swapped him his biscuit for a jerky strip, which he promptly carried off and consumed.

He was a little overwhelmed by all the other dogs, when he first arrived (can't say that I blame him - sometimes I feel a bit overwhelmed by them too, and I'm more or less used to them) but now he's running with the pack like he was born with them.  Freya seems to like him and is already including him in her count-of-noses when she comes in from outside.  Sammie seems to have attached to him as an acceptable successor to Orville, and he gives the old blind fellows no grief.  He does like chasing the cats, but as long as he's not trying to do them any harm, I figure they can use the extra exercise.  The Shady Rest cats are accustomed to new foster dogs and will slap some respect into him if they get tired of it.

So, a couple more weeks, a little socialization and confidence-building, and I'm pretty sure he'll be off to a new forever home, to make some human very, very happy.  

That's another day here the Shady Rest. Ya'll take care.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

March 6, 2010 - You Say Goodbye and I Say Hello


It's been an interesting day here at the Shady Rest.  We did Orville's adoption today, to a fine family about an hour outside of Columbus.  Cj and I both feel/felt SO good about this one!  We've never yet had an adoption of a foster about which we felt bad, but some just seem to be so very right, and this was definitely one of those.  The family, mom, dad, toddler girl and infant boy, had met Orville at the Dogs Rule Doggy Day Care Center Adoption Day a couple of weeks ago.  They were smitten with him, and as far as I could tell, he with them, but they were smart. This was no impulse.  They'd come because they wanted to adopt a rescued pug, and though they thought Orville would be good for them, they met all the other pugs too, just to be sure. They asked questions, lots of questions, and good ones, about the breed and about the individual pugs.  They have a dog, a delightful black lab named Gracie, but never a pug before.  They wanted to do it right. After meeting all the pugs that were in attendance (and there were quite a few), they filled out an adoption form on the spot, with Orville's name on it.

At some point in the process, there was a misunderstanding.  Orville wobbles when he walks. His back end has some weakness and loss of sensation; nothing dramatic, but he wobbles.  The new family had been told he had degenerative myelopathy. For those unfamiliar with degenerative myelopathy, it's an ugly disease, blessedly uncommon in pugs but seen fairly often in larger breeds, like Belgian Malinois.  The cause is unknown, but the sheaths surrounding the nerves start to degenerate and die. When the protective sheath dies, the nerve follows.  It starts at the tail and works forward, a progressive, crippling process with no cure and no treatment. Ultimately, the affected dog will die when the paralysis reaches the diaphragm and the dog can no longer breathe.  The process itself is painless - dead nerves don't register pain.  We lost our first pug, Petunia, to it.  First her back legs gave out and we got her a cart. Then her front legs went, and we put her in an infant carrier. We spoiled her rotten as long as we could, and as long as she had some quality of life and was enjoying herself, we kept going right along with her.  The day finally came that she told us she wasn't having fun any more, and the vet confirmed that it was only a matter of days until she started having trouble breathing, so we let her go.  It was an experience for which I will forever be grateful, and one I wouldn't wish on anyone who loves dogs.

So, anyway, they thought Orville had this condition, but unlike so many people would have, they didn't walk away or request another pug.  They just dug in and started researching the disease, to see what they'd need to do to make his life as filled with love and joy for as long as they might be able to.  Amazing.  Meanwhile, I got on the phone with his vet and after a nice chat, was happily able to confirm that no, he didn't have DM at all.  Orville has an old, stable spinal injury that left some nerve damage behind. He doesn't hurt, and, best of all, is quite likely to never get any worse, but will be wobbling along for years to come.  

Orville arrived at their home and obviously remembered them all, right down to the baby, who greeted us with a HUGE grin.  The little girl was so excited to see her friend again.  At first, I think she thought we were just bringing him for a play date, thanking us for bringing him to visit. When we said he'd be staying, she jumped up and down, then ran to remove his harness and leash, "because he's not going."  Then she had her mom help her carry him upstairs to show him her bedroom, because she wants him to sleep with her.  I didn't notice Orville showing any aversion to this plan. 

I had jokingly commented to some friends that, given the way things usually seem to work here at the Shady Rest, we'd probably get a call to foster another pug within five minutes after Orville's adoption.  I was wrong.  The call came in an hour before the adoption and the dog is a Daug (half dachshund, half pug), not a pug.  :)  His name is Sherman. He's about six years old, very handsome and incredibly shy.  He won't come near me yet, though he's learning to trust Cj. Whenever something scares him, like me walking down the hall or Freya barking, he runs and ducks under Cj's chair.  I hope he'll come around, some at least.  If he's just shy by nature, he may never be the outgoing beast the rest of the Shady Rest inmates are, but that's okay.

So, for all those people who ask us, "How do you do it?  How can you foster a dog and then give it up?  I'd want to keep them all," or "you must be SO unselfish because you foster," there's your answer.  No, you won't want to keep them all, and Cj and I are incredibly selfish. Few things in life are as feel-good rewarding as handing over a homeless dog to a family that's in raptures over him, ready and willing and eager to make the rest of his life as happy and healthy as possible. It's a huge pleasure for us.  Not only that, but think about the numbers.  If you limit yourself to, say, two dogs at a time, you live to be 80 and each dog has a mean life span of about 13 years. That means in your life, you'll only get to meet, interact with, learn from, and enjoy about 12 dogs. I'm greedy - I like meeting new dogs, loving on them, spoiling them, teaching and learning from them. Fostering adds bunches of dogs I wouldn't have otherwise gotten to enjoy.  Again, selfish of me.  I wish more people would indulge themselves and their love of dogs through fostering.  It's one of the few forms of selfish indulgence that does a world of good.

Well, that's just another day at the Shady Rest. Y'all take care.