The Big Trip-Anticipation

It was a “bucket list” item that I thought I’d never get to experience.  Actually, in the back of my mind, I thought there was a better chance that most of my list would go un-accomplished.  I’m like that.  Plus, in the nearly 15 years that the hubby and I have been married, we haven’t traveled together to another state unless it bordered our home state.  We’re homebodies, so when I began broaching the subject that I really, really wanted to do this and that I was going to do it regardless, I think we were both surprised when he agreed to accompany me.

I began planning for real in October.  I began making plans, scouring sites for hotel and airfare rates and making lists.  And keeping secrets.  Deep in my heart I believed that this trip would be derailed in an epic manner.  Our prepaid flight would be cancelled because of a snowstorm the likes of which no one had ever seen before.  Our volunteer slots would be filled and we wouldn’t be able to visit.  Something would happen here at home to prevent us from leaving.  You name the scary scenario and I lived it in the depths of my psyche.  I loaded the weather for every city we’d be visiting and checked the forecast every day.  Surprisingly, the night before our flight I slept like a rock.  No bad dreams chased me and I calmly boarded a plane that I knew wouldn’t fly.  Not until we landed did I begin to think this trip, #TheBigTrip, would happen.  The nerves really and truly didn’t dissipate until we arrived on morning two of the trip at my ultimate happy place destination.  The night before that was riddled with nightmares of too many adoptable animals and missing shifts, but the morning dawned bright with all the promise of the fulfillment of so many of my dreams and the chance to make an impact and to give back.

This trip was so packed with bucket list items, that the recap will take several days and I’ve decided to break it down into digestible chunks, so I hope you’ll check back for all of the adventures.

Gotcha!

I see from my TimeHop that today is Ray’s Gotcha Day and truth be told, I knew it was around now but I’ve let the exact date escape my consciousness. You see, because I was there to witness his birth I would have always considered him “mine” in some way. Connected.
I don’t feel the need to celebrate the day he came to live in my house as much as I celebrate and cherish the day he came into my world and into my heart.

2015/01/img_2265.png
So while I might not be able to cradle him in exactly the same way, you can be sure that if we are in the house together, chances are we’re near each other.

2015/01/img_2266.jpg
I know that my life course has dramatically altered since my little piggy came into my life. There are things I do and think and want and feel just because of him so with that inspiration, after just one more sleep, I’ll be leaving my Gotcha boy in the very capable hands of his human sister while the hubby accompanies me on the fulfillment of a dream.

Dogs as Art

While I do have some dog-centric art in our home, I don’t feel like there’s too much or even enough yet. (The hubby might disagree). The thing is, until recently I had lots of photos of other dogs in our home.

2015/01/img_0933.jpg

Recognize any of them? This is a portion of a collection I’ve gathered from participating in fundraisers, whether it’s been for Handsome Dan or Strut Your Mutt or even smaller fund raisers for blog dogs.

Well, I finally found some frames I like and made some prints of the Peaceabull boys to adorn my shelves and will be planning to commission some more art this year.

Hmmm…is this post s hint of some sort?

Belle of the Ball

I do so enjoy getting dressed up for special occasions and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic presentation of Holiday Pops was just that type of occasion. What could make it even more fun and special? Being accompanied by and adoptable dog, of course! The Allen County SPCA joined forces with the Fort Wayne Phil to hae some adoptable dogs on hand for the performances and a few lucky pooches even got to go on stage!

We volunteers were told in advance (at least I was) that we’d be handling small dogs since the singers taking the dogs on stage in all likelyhood weren’t experienced dog handlers, and I had my eye on a cute little poodly-do to be my date. Imageine my delighted surprise when, a few hours before the performance, I received a message stating I would be accompanying SnowDrop (ugh! that name!) For the evening performance, two of us would be handling larger dogs (SnowDrop and Myrrh) and the third would bring Candy and Cane, a bonded pair of Chihuahuas.

IMG_1964-0.JPG

After picking our pretty girl up at the shetler and securing her in the Pittie Van, I switched out her collar and leash for our Freedom Harness, a gold and pearl (duh, not real) necklace borrowed from my closet and a beautiful peacock colored tutu donated to me by our friends at Lamae Designs.

IMG_1962.JPG

Not only did our girl rock her fancy attire, she was a perfect ambassador for -not just her “breed” -but for all adoptable dogs waiting at the shelter. She was well behaved, steady in the face of massive crowds around her, she was utterly affectionate to all who jockeyed in for a pat and some doggy smooches and she is apparently even house broken. People of all ages clamored around her to admire the fancy, muscular dog in a tutu and she was steadfast with the youngest to the oldest.

IMG_1958.JPG

As the Embassy seats filled up and people began vacating the lobby, SnowDrop settled on some pillows with a bully stick (of course!) for a well-earned break. She chomped happily uninterrupted on her treat until intermission and then once again donned her tutu and sparkled for the masses.

I thought she might have garnered some serious interest and am hopeful that she made enough of an impression that those who fell in love with her will come back soon and fill out an application. This girl is a gem. After intermission, we packed up and all headed back to the shelter to get the dogs all settled in for the night and as I removed SnowDrop’s borrowed finery and settled her back on her blanket covered Kuranda bed, I couldn’t help but think of Cinderella at the stroke of midnight.

Pets For Life

Recently I was able to attend a seminar in Detroit given by the HSUS about their Pets for Life program. While I was pretty excited to attend I had very few expectations other than a) to be inspired and motivated and b) a bit apprehensive of the provided lunch since it would be vegan. I can eat copious amounts of vegetables but had somehow worked myself up to believing I’d probably shrivel up without a dollop of mayo (which I rarely use) or a bit of cheese. Fortunately I was correct in the first instance and utterly off base on the second. I came away inspired, motivated and satiated. Lunch was completely delicious and satisfying, including the vegan chocolate chip cookie.*

 

I swear I didn't add the gratuitous cookie picture just to show off my fancy nails.

I swear I didn’t add the gratuitous cookie picture just to show off my fancy nails. Ok, maybe I did.

When our shelter director brought information about Pets for Life back from a HSUS conference she attended earlier this year, I was intrigued and hoped that we would be able to implement this program here in Fort Wayne in an effort to make an impact and to help pet owners in underserved areas of the city keep their pets. I think we who volunteer at Allen County SPCA get to see a small slice of that community because the shelter is located in one of the zip codes which could be targeted for the program. Being a visitor/dog walker in the neighborhood around the shelter has made me feel a type of bond with the area and with some of the people I’ve met. I’ve talked to people along our walks about their dogs, neighbors helped me “rescue” Julius and in return when one of them asked about equipment, I gave her an old harness that I used on Ray when he was a puppy and on smaller dogs like Glamour. Helping others with resources is one of the major factors of this initiative and something I’m very interested in.

DSC_0029
Though we’ve been beginning to implement a Pets For Life program, it has mostly been centered around pet food and some other donated supplies whereas HSUS talked about things like free spay and neuters, vaccination clinics, medications like flea and tick preventative or equipment such as collars, leashes or dog houses. I think it will take some time to get this going in our area along with some false starts and baby steps but when it gets up and running will be a great resource for our underserved pet lovers in general.

Throughout the day, we learned about the Pets For Life program and how HSUS has targeted the audience and about implementation. We learned about pets in poverty and the differences between systematically poor as opposed to being conditionally poor as well as how the systematically poor often don’t utilize many resources available simply because they aren’t aware of them. We discussed respect and minimizing the “power dynamic” to ensure that when visiting people we are never “educating” them but rather “sharing information.” We learned about having a plan, setting realistic expectations and always being transparent with the clients and finally to understand that above all these are not “our” successes or “our” failures. They talked about how even a reduced fee spay or neuter might possibly be out of reach for some families who are struggling to feed and clothe themselves on a poverty level budget. That doesn’t mean they love their pets any less because they can’t provide as much and it doesn’t mean they don’t “deserve” to own pets. Each spay is a win for the animal and each utilized resource is empowerment for the pet owner and we are just the tools by which to help them along.

The audience was made up of a nice mix of staff of shelters and rescues as well as volunteers of both. There were groups who have been practicing the Pets For Life way and could attest to the success and there were those who, I felt based on questions and feedback, would not be in a position or mindset to implement the program. That’s ok. Pets For Life is focused on helping people keep their pets and not about knocking on doors and removing pets. Enforcement and rescue do have a major place in animal welfare and while extremely important, are not what Pets For Life is focused on, though HSUS representatives were very clear that if they encountered situations that they felt needed to be reported on, they had a transparent enough and respectful enough relationship with their clients to say, “this is not something I can ignore” and reported when necessary.

We also learned about data collection and were given a sample of the form HSUS uses when developing a relationship with clients. The one page, front and back form is a bit daunting but apparently most of the info can be gleaned just from conversations with clients and can also be filled out over the course of several visits. I do have a teensy issue with question 12/12 a. of the form as the “ask” is if you own a cat or dog, and if you answered dog, “type of breed.” That in itself is nearly fine, but the choices are: (in order as listed on HSUS form)
A) Pit Bull type
B) Toy dog (Chihuahua, Shih Tzu, small white fluffy dog)
C) Medium dog (Cocker Spaniel, Beagle)
D) Large dog (Rottweiler, Labradors, German Shepherd)
E) Mix, unclear what major breed is involved

I would like to see the form, if asking for size or breed give choices and make spaces for such. If we single out Pit Bull types as a separate but equal category, we are, in my opinion, perpetuating the “Pit Bull” stigma as well as possibly implying that a certain socioeconomic group might tend to have a certain type of dog. How about just small, medium, large and then a space for predominant breed?

Overall, I found the seminar interesting and motivating and am curious to see how it can and will be implemented in Fort Wayne.

*Full disclosure is that I’m not much of a chocolate chip cookie fan, so that might be partly why these were so delicious to me.

Reflections at the Half

 

Not that I actually expect to live to be 100, but this milestone just seems so much more apt for reflection because I don’t remember any other age feeling like this, but that could very well be due to advancing age and declining memory. It does seem to be the point at which the limits of your mortality stare you in the face as in, “I only have x many years to do this,” and x is the variable. X used to be larger than my age, now it is not.

 

How have I arrived here? Old Blue Eyes sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention.” I’m hard on myself. I have more regrets than “too few to mention” and although I truly believe that each step along our path leads us to where we are, (side note: I once had two job interviews in the same day and accidentally went to the second one first and I was hired on the spot. That is where I met my first husband, Asia’s father. If I had gone in the right order my life path could have been altered in the worst way) there are some things that I would have done very differently.

 

More days I feel old. I read less because I don’t always have my glasses at hand. My body, which I used to push past limits is now more fragile and Mighty Mouse is not so mighty anymore. I thought I’d have a tattoo by now. At this point, I’ve missed some deadlines for goals that I had set, but I guess rather than scrap a worthy project, I will continue on.  My project.  I had a conversation with a friend about kindnesses performed and what I would allow myself to count.  It’s possible I may have reached that goal but haven’t acknowledged it.

I interact more with the help of my fingertips and a keyboard.  I’m awkward in person which tends to make me quiet enough to seem reserved or even stuck up.  I try to be kind but can also be abrasive and cutting.  I don’t take compliments well, nor do I give them freely, so if I pay one I’ve meant it and if I’m given one, I revert to the above mentioned awkwardness.  I love and trust wholeheartedly, but once that is broken it can never again be restored to a pristine state.

I believe in karma and because of all of the  deficits I see in myself, I try to work extra-hard to build my good karma bank.

All of the above was written before my birthday and saved in draft.  I’m glad I didn’t finish it and publish it before my birthday.  I didn’t realize how morose I was feeling as the day approached.

 IMG_5951

 

Remember in Sixteen Candles how Molly Ringwald didn’t feel any different on her birthday than she did the day before?  That’s usually how birthdays are: full of anticipation and a lot of let down from not “feeling” different.  This time it was different.  I feel happy, re-energized and full of purpose.

The hubby and I spent the actual day of my birthday cleaning the house like madmen in preparation for the party hanging out together, followed by dinner out with Asia.  On Saturday morning, I fulfilled one of my bucket list items by volunteering at the Pet Food Pantry for the SPCA at the Community Harvest Food Bank.  What a truly humbling and rewarding experience and a great way to start the day.  In the afternoon friends and family gathered to help celebrate what seems like a “coming of age” type of revelation for me.  While the party wasn’t a surprise, the guest list/RSVPs were withheld, so I had very little idea of who was coming.
What a thrill!  So many neighbors, friends, family, and a huge gathering of staff and volunteers from the shelter who all made connections among themselves to form new friendships.  The comment so many different people kept making to me was, “Your friends are so nice.”  Yeah.  I’ve done something right because I have the best of the best surrounding me.

So, to my husband who worked like a fiend to get the landscaping and so much around the house in shape, to Asia who helped organize everything and ordered the most amazing cake, thank you.  I love you both to the moon and back.

Weekend Wrap Up

This past weekend was a busy one with wrapping up the AdoptaJubitation, readying for the next round of celebrations coming up in August, helping with the baby’s two year photos and taking a beautiful girl named Meadow to Pride Fest.

 

Proud to be a Pit Bull at Pride Fest

Proud to be a Pit Bull at Pride Fest

I’ve been enjoying a look back via the Timehop app at some of the first pictures of Julius in our home ad what has surprised me is that he looks so at home even on the first day or two. July 26th is actually the day I brought him to our home and it wasn’t actually until a few days later that we officially decided to utter the words aloud that we really were keeping him.

 

For the second year in a row, I was able to bring an adoptable dog from AC SPCA to Pride Fest. Little Miss Meadow, who seems so quiet and reserved in the kennels, completely blossomed among the crowds of people who stopped by to visit our booth. She handed out kisses and affectionate tail wags to scores of people, accepted pats while gnawing on a bully stick and only barked at one person…the protester outside the main gate. What a good girl.

 

Aurora and Meadow

Aurora and Meadow

The second kennel-mate Meadow has had since arriving at the shelter was adopted on Sunday, so I’m hoping Meadow’s person comes soon. She is definitely the type of dog who would love living with another dog, so I hope that will happen for her.

 

Finally, our “contest” is over, so I want to thank everyone who commented, liked, shared and/or entered. Allie F. is the winner, so be on the lookout for your package.

Queen Bee

Over the weekend, I stopped by the shelter to visit with the adorable pocket pittie named Meadow whom you may have seen spammed all over a picture or two of on my personal Facebook page.  I had actually meant to make a quick visit to her on the way to running some errands and though this story isn’t about her, here is another gratuitous picture.

Meadow

Meadow

After I visited with Meadow, I departed the kennel area to find Miss Honeybee wandering around the hallway having escaped from her gated office accommodations.   “Hey, what are you doing out here?” I asked her, to which she turned and in all of her haughty splendor gave me a look that quite clearly said, “Why are you daring to speak to me, peasant?”

I shoo’ed her back towards the office in which she was being kept, all the while she darted indignant glances at me over her shoulder as if to ensure that I wasn’t thinking of touching her.  As I reached in an attempt to navigate her back over the gate opening I was treated to one more frosty gaze, so I sat and waited for staff to come rescue me.  When a staff member arrived with another dog on leash, I explained that Honeybee had escaped and that I was a bit afraid to touch her.  I held the leash of the 80 pound dog she had been showing and she scooped up all 6.2 pounds of  Honeybee to be returned.

Honeybee, photo courtesy of Allen County SPCA

Honeybee, photo courtesy of Allen County SPCA

I know when a dog doesn’t want to be touched and  I respected her wishes in an effort to not get myself bitten.  After all, what would have happened if she bit me?  She’d have to go into bite quarantine, we’d have to fill out a report and you know, they just have such a bad rap anyway, that I wanted to save her from any prejudice a potential adopter may have in feeling they were unsafe with a dog of her breed.

A Monday Mini Me-ow

Those who give of their time and talent know how rewarding that can be, especially if it is an area that you are passionate about.  I daresay if you are reading this, your passion in some way involves animals, probably dogs, probably pit bull types and probably rescue in some way.

When my daughter was born, I had a grand idea that each year we would go and buy a toy together to donate for Toys for Tots or some similar organization and hopefully set her on a good path of a giving life.  I’m embarrassed to admit that happend exactly zero times.  On the other hand, I’m not embarrassed at all because maybe that was never my passion, but just a popular foundation that does good for a group that I thought I’d like to help.

What I am so proud of is that Asia has decided to lend her time and talents to a group that I am very supportive of, ACSPCA.  We drove together to the shelter on Saturday so she could attend orientation and I could walk some dogs, specifically You-Know-Who.

Though she likes dogs, Asia’s passion is cats.  She is actually very cat-like herself and we joke that when we adopted Miko, the two of them spent his transition period in her room so he probably thinks they were adopted together.   I’ve spent time in the cat rooms as well, and am fascinated by the different ways people interact in there.  Some people walk around the perimeter of the room, greeting and petting each cat before settling in a chair.  I usually walk in and sit on the floor and wait to see who will approach me.  I wondered what Asia’s method would be, although I had an inkling that I already could make a pretty good guess.

She and I are both pretty quiet and reserved, so I wasn’t at all surprised when she told me she sat on the floor and waited for kitties to approach her. 

I think she made quite a few new friends.

October is ____ Month

I’m amazed at how many awareness type campaigns are going on this month.  I wonder what makes October so ideal for so many groups to raise awareness. September, in my mind, is the three day weekend month and if you’re from the same home town as I am, then it is Blueberry Festival time.  It is also the month we have Talk Like a Pirate day.  That’s pretty much the extent of my “awareness” in September. 

So, I’m sure you know that October 27  is Pit Bull Awareness Day and it is very important to us here, but we really feel that every day is Pit Bull Awareness Day.  In light of that, we will be focusing more on Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.  “Shelter” can encompass a lot and usually carries with it a negative connotation when you work with or volunteer with a Rescue.  My intention is to keep this positive and only relate my own experiences and observations while always inviting others to share their thoughts and feelings.

I’ve been volunteering for a few weeks now at our local SPCA office, mainly during the week.  I’ve found that in the midst of a bad day or in celebration of a very good day, it is therapeutic to be in the company of animals.  I’ve found that no matter how bad the day seems, when you walk into the kitty room and are greeted with furry faces eager to inspect the depths of your handbag or the comfort of your lap, all troubles melt away.

When I walk into the dog area, for a moment a hush falls over the room.  Though it is by no means silent, there is a noticeable hush.  A lull.  All eyes are on you as you walk past the kennels like girls lined up along the wall to dance with Fonzie.  Who will be selected?  Who gets to go outside and play or for a walk.  I stop at a door and reach for the leash that is in the basket.  All heck breaks loose! Everyone knows what this means and the lucky “winner” is excited while the unselected jump and bark at me, “No! Not him!   I want to go!  Pick me! Pick me!”

Maggie-adoptable through Smiling K9s*

There’s a system in place and we volunteers know who has been walked so far and who hasn’t so I always try to pick up where someone else has left off in the rotation.  Sometimes I walk a favorite just because I need to enjoy his company and once, I skipped over a young jumper as I wasn’t feeling up to the task.  My biggest revelation and most profound feeling of happiness has come while doing nothing.  Walks are great and I know the dogs enjoy it but when we go out to the yard, a few will chase some balls for a bit but every last one has sat on or near my lap for some snuggle time. These pups love themselves some human companionship and every last one will stop what their doing for a snuggle which I am happy to provide. 

The thought crosses my mind quite a lot…if I could bring Ray to work or if I worked from home would my volunteer time increase or decrease?  I could make a case for both.  I doubt if I will ever have that kind of job so it is a pipe dream and until that day comes, I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. 

*Had to post a pic from SK9’s even though I wrote about ACSPCA today.