I’ve been trying to write this post all week but it’s been hard.
So here are my five dogs things first, and then the story.
#1 We met a dog named Cullen.
#2 We agreed to foster Cullen.
#3 Cullen came to our house.
#4 Cullen and Cassie played wonderfully well and never a cross word between them.
#5 Cullen moved on to another foster home.
Recently we met a dog named Cullen.
He had been found on the streets in Monterey, picked up and taken to the pound and pulled from the pound by the wonderful Bob at the Northern California German Shepherd Rescue group. We met Bob and Cullen at a local park and Cassie and Cullen seemed to get along just fine. They walked nicely together, sniffed a lot, played a bit. Cullen was still a little stressed (panting/drooling) from his trip to the pound but was a real love bucket. He was about the same age as Cassie and a total goofball, all arms and legs without a lot of control.
We went home to talk about it. Then last Saturday we went to the adoption fair to take Cassie to see her amazing foster mom PJ. We also wanted to meet Shane, PJ’s current foster. Shane was a beautiful sweet boy but my heart had already been stolen by Cullen. He was a living, breathing teddy bear and I could already see him as my therapy dog.
So we agreed to foster him which would give us a week to decide if we wanted to adopt him. Bob dropped him off at our house that afternoon.
There was a bit of excitement right off the bat because the dogs were being dogs and chasing one another and we hadn’t removed everything from their path. My fault and no one was hurt and my wonderful husband cleaned up all the broken glass.
This is Cullen.
He quickly found where all the air vents were in the house. He especially liked the one in the kitchen so he could stay cool but keep an eye out for food that magically fell from the sky.
He also found Cassie’s bed.
But she didn’t seem to mind too much.
It took a bit to tire him out but he finally crashed. Cassie is laying just a few feet away from him.
It really was a case of wherever one went, the other would follow, exactly the kind of doggy friendship one would hope for. Really, the two of them were great, walking side by side, sharing and swapping bones. Cassie couldn’t quite figure out what Cullen was doing when he launched himself into the small wading pool and laid down in it but she was very happy to have him to chase around.
Alas, while the dogs were fine it was too much for me. Cullen had no house manners yet (major counter surfing, broken dishes, etc) and was on and off the furniture. I have no doubt that a few months of training is going to turn him into the perfect dog for someone, but that someone is not me.
I thought back to when I was much younger, in my twenties with babies in diapers and 4-5 big dogs living in the house, a house much smaller than this one. I don’t recall it being so intense, where I wasn’t able to relax a minute. But then I’ve gone through a lot in the past years so I guess I just can’t do it anymore. Or maybe later, down the road, when life settles down some.
I should have posted this yesterday, I meant to, if only to be able to give thanks once again to the Northern California German Shepherd Rescue group. First for bringing sweet Cullen out of the pound and second to finding another foster family to take him in when it became apparent that I was unable to keep him. A special thank you to PJ who not only helped me hold it together over the phone but gave up her Sunday to drive over the hill and pick him up.
Cullen, I know you’ll find a forever home soon. I’m sorry it couldn’t be ours.
These are the thoughts going through my head this Friday:
1 – Cassie is very attached to my husband. I adore her, she has a giant chunk of my heart already, but if I had it to do over again I might go looking first for a male dog that would glued to my hip. (Example – My husband left the house around 9:30 this morning. It is now 11:30. She has circled the house up and down stairs, his office, around the house again, outside, back inside, repeat, for 2 hours. ) She loves me, but she loves me more when my husband is home.
2 – Another dog might help Cassie with missing her favorite human. Her foster mom had told us that too.
3 – Cullen (see yesterday’s post) is a real teddy bear of a snuggler who would totally be my giant lap dog.
4 – Cassie and Cullen are close in age – maybe only a few months apart. This could be insanity waiting to happen.
5 – I don’t know if it’s crazy to bring another new dog into the house so soon or not. But with all the stressful stuff in my life right I have to admit that having a teddy bear dog to love on sounds pretty good. But I have to think with my head and not with my heart and make sure we can do right by two dogs.
Oh, and a bonus I just remembered – the yard is not in, not even close, barely started. So to deal with two young dogs and new plants? Yes, I am insane.
1 - Thank you to everyone who shared my pain in saying goodbye to my long-time four legged friend, Chelsie. It really does help to hear from so many of you. While I miss Chelsie and will continue to do so for a long time to come, I can look back on how unlike herself she had become and know that it was the right thing to do. We have packed up her toys and bowls and will donate them to the local shelter. (New animals will have new things.)
2 – We are already looking for another dog. Actually two. We wanted two dogs for quite some time but Chelsie never did well with other dogs. I’ve spent my events scouring Petfinder.com and the various animals shelters. Hopefully we can find one or two that click with us aged 1-3 (for at least one of them.)
3 – At least one of the dogs will be a German Shepherd rescue dog. Both my husband and I have had them in the past and miss them. I didn’t have the room for one when I got Chelsie. Tomorrow we will go to the first of what I imagine will be many events to meet a few potential dogs and see how we get along.
4 – To adopt from anywhere but the pound there is a mandatory home visit, which is fine. I can understand wanting to make sure the yard is safe, etc. But we had been spoiled in that Chelsie basically never did anything. Now that I am looking at the house through new eyes we have a lot of picking up to do. That’s okay. I’m also looking at my landscape design in the back with new eyes. One thing to be grateful for is Chelsie leaving us before the new yard is in. I need to plan for a longer expanse of grass for the dog and a dog water play area.
5 – We’re looking forward to being able to have a dog that wants to go places with us. Many of our friends have dogs that we would like to visit. We want a dog that can go to family dinners with us and play with my brother-in-law’s dog. We live in an area where many places are dog-friendly and we are anxious to get out and play.
It was not a coincidence that today’s memory challenge was about animals. I have been trying to get up the courage to write this post. I still don’t think I have the courage but I need to write it now.
Monday, my 50th birthday, was not spent with cake and ice cream. There was no quiet dinner out at a favorite restaurant. Instead I came home from work early to spend a few last hours with my best four-legged friend Chelsie. Her time had come. And as always is the case, it is too soon for those of us left behind.
Was it only May that I wrote this post about her? I knew then that my time with her was coming to an end. Later in May I posted the sunflower episode. After that she slowed down even more, rarely wanting to move from one of her two favorite spots in the library, one of two corners, each with the safety of a chair for her to hide behind. She was less interested in saying hello in the morning or when I came home from work. She would skip meals for several days. After that it came fast.
Monday afternoon I sat with her for the last time.
I spoke softly and recalled every step of the journey we had taken together over the last 14 years. She came into my life at my absolutely lowest point, when I was living in New Orleans. She would jump up like a kangaroo to greet me each day. As I spoke, I reminded her of the great escape I gave her from the pound. It was a horrible place, filthy and she was covered with so many bugs. She was skin and bones but even then, not interested in food. I talked of the agility classes we had taken together and how much she used to love the tunnel and the poles. I laughed again at how she never met a puddle she didn’t want to roll in and how, in her younger years, she believed children and ducks at the park were meant for herding. She and my big orange cat Benjamin were the best of friends. I don’t know if she thought she was a cat or if she thought the cat was a dog but the two of them did everything together, including getting into cabinets for their favorite treat, bread. She wasn’t food motivated but she did love the scraps of plain tortillas and a spoonful of vanilla ice cream.
In New Orleans life was rough and many a day I didn’t want to get out of bed, not even to go to work. But I got out of bed for her. And while I lived in a very scary place and she really wasn’t that big of a dog, I felt a little safer with her by my side.
On the trip moving from New Orleans back home to California Chelsie was supposed to ride shot-gun but instead she scooted over as close as she could get, her nose always under the steering wheel. And when I got pulled over for speeding I think it was her goofy clown face that saved me from getting that much-deserved ticket.
She was terrified of most men but once we were in California and she met me soon-to-be husband, she didn’t hesitate to give him all the love she had reserved for me. She was content to sleep on the floor on the side of the bed until someone got up in the middle of the night and then she would quickly jump up and claim as much of it as she could. She and Benjamin would sit on the chest in front of the window to watch for me to come home. When she injured her back and had major surgery I had to move the chest and not let her jump anymore. I think she began to die a little bit back then, so much did that girl love to jump.
When Benjamin died she mourned him for months and some of the light went out of her eyes. She would lay in the garage staring at the last place she saw him and my heart hurt for her hurting, missing her buddy.
Monday I knew it was time. I told her to go find Benjamin. That it was okay to leave me now.
A wonderful vet, Dr. Apple, came to our home so we didn’t have to subject her to the vet’s office. (In recent years she had become so fearful of the vet that she had to be sedated for basic exams.) I worried that she would give me a look of betrayal at the end but instead I saw her finally relax and look more peaceful than I have seen in longer than I want to remember.
This morning when I came downstairs there was no black and white clown face to greet me. When the doorbell rang there was no answering bark to make sure I heard it. My husband went out to get the paper alone. The house is emptier than I could have imagined it would be.
Chelsie was not my first dog nor will she be my last. But she was the dog I needed most for one of the toughest struggles in my life. I was so proud to call her friend.
Goodbye, my friend. Run wild. Run free.
#1 I am the sort of person that needs to be around plants and flowers and bugs and birds and stuff like that.
At my last house, even though it was a rental, we put in a small native garden. When I would come home from work I would head out the garden just to deadhead flowers or see what new bugs had come by to visit. It was soothing and inspiring.
#2 Sunflowers make me smile.
#4 But sometimes I CAN have them outside.
I have been patient, waiting this first year in the house as we learned what we did and didn’t want in a garden. We’ve done the prep work, ripping out everything in the backyard save one tree and the lawn and the lawn will be gone too. But I missed flowers. The birds were coming to visit. But all we had growing in the yard was a Japanese maple that, while lovely, had no flowers. While the garden I am designing will be filled with many natives that will flower I didn’t want to plant them now because we still have to take up the lawn and the concrete and do some more prep work. So I decided I could have just a few sunflowers out back. I picked up 4 plants in the little 4″ pots but the sunflowers were already over a foot tall. I planted them out back, near the bird bath. They all had flowers about to open. The second day, one flower opened and one of the local hummingbirds came to visit. (Hey, it was the first time I had something new to offer him besides the bugs on the maple tree.) I was thrilled.
The next day I opened the blinds, looked out back hoping to see a little hummer darting around or at least a smiling sunflower face beaming back at me.
Instead I see this.
That would be just a stem of what used to be a sunflower. One of the four flowers were gone. And I don’t mean broken off and sitting in the dirt which was my first thought. I figured a bird or squirrel had landed on them, broken it and that we’d fine the flowers in the dirt. Nope. We looked all over the yard (which, remember, has been stripped of everything but the one tree and the lawn. There’s just dirt.) There was no flower in sight. There were no seeds in the flower yet but we finally decided that a squirrel must have carried them off. There was no other explantion.
Or was there?
The next day when I was at work my husband was working from home. He sent me a text message that said “I know the creature that is eating your sunflowers.”
Of course I had to call him right away to find the answer to our mystery. He said we had lost another flower but that he caught the criminal in the act.
#5 Dogs will eat anything, even entire sunflowers.
Yes, my picky eater dog was the one who calmed ate an entire sunflower and then, went back for more.
Sigh. I still have two left but I don’t know for how long.
She’s a Southern girl. Part Border Collie with a little bit of Aussie Shepherd and Spitz.
I got Chelise in New Orleans. Yes, I know that is not the way most people spell Chelise but trust me, it was the only small battle I could win about her name at the time. I wanted to call her something literary. Sigh. I did not intend to get a dog. I had a cat. I was living in an apartment (albeit a nice sized one) and I was working a full-time job. But I went to the pound with a friend (always a big mistake) who was looking for a replacement dog. Replacement because he had adopted a dog there and then when they went to spay him, the dog had some disease and they had to put it down. So he basically had a gift certificate to the pound that he didn’t want to use.
Then I saw Chelise who was scrawny and covered in bugs. I figured she was about 9 months old back. She leaned against the cyclone fence and it was love at first sight. I remember being worried about have the same pound spay her. When I went to pick her up she was still out cold, sleeping in a pile of urine. They let me take her home even though she wasn’t awake and I remember carrying her up those very many stairs of the apartment and hoping I didn’t drop her. Benjamin (my cat) was fascinated with the sleeping dog who didn’t move even when he poked it with a paw.
I gave her a sponge bath and waited for her to wake up.
This is the oldest picture I have of her. I think she was about a year old.
Here she is a few years later. Filled out a bit more but she still has the goofy black eye that I fell in love with.
When I lived in New Orleans she was always happy to see me come home from work. I thought she was part kangaroo the way she would jump into my arms. I’d have to be quick to put my purse down so I could catch her.
Not so much anymore. I often have to go find her to let her know I am home. Part of it is I think she is starting to go deaf and part of is she just doesn’t care as much as she used to.
For the longest time my cat Benjamin was her best buddy. (She mourned him for months after he died.) The two of them would wait anxiously for me to come home from work. We had a special cushion made to fit on this chest so they could look out the only window in this very tiny place we lived in when I first moved back to California.
Back then she could still jump up on all sorts of things but now that she is older and has had back surgery, she hesitates before deciding if she really wants to make the next step up or down between the library and the rest of the house. Now that we finally have a big house with a yard it is sad. She doesn’t go upstairs at all and really doesn’t care to be outside for any longer than it takes to do her business.
She is the least food motivated animal I have ever had in my life. At least now. When I was in New Orleans and she was still so afraid of everything and hungry she would do more for food but not anymore. She saves her treats until after dinner. No matter when you give them to her. No matter how many you give her. She just lets them pile up. At the end of the night she could have 5, 6,7 treats piled up. And while she will eat a milk bone or a greenie, she would much rather have a piece of a plain tortilla or lick the ice cream bowl.
She does, eventually eat them though.
She’s a bit of a snob.
She’s not fond of most men and doesn’t like other dogs. She takes a while to warm up to anyone new.
And she’s easily bored.
She is also the first dog I’ve ever had who didn’t know how to play with a ball. In all the years I’ve had her I’ve never been able to teach her how. She doesn’t play much at all. Never did. She has some stuffed toys and will sometimes run after one once if you throw it, but only once.
She’s also a bit silly.
Whenever I sneeze, she leaves the room. And my office has two sets of French Doors, one from the library (where she spends most of her time) and the other from the living room (where no one spends any time.) If I close the ones to the library and leave the ones to the living room open, she can’t figure out how to go around and get in the other way.
She appreciates a good nap.
In fact, nowadays that’s what she spends most of her time doing. Sleeping. Behind the chair in the library or in the corner of my husband’s office. Sometimes in my office but not often. Getting her to eat anymore is a major chore and she doesn’t want to be petted or brushed so it is always a struggle. She just wants to be left alone and sometimes I find myself resenting the caretaking I am doing without any of the fun of having a dog.
But then I remember being in New Orleans with only Chelsie and Benjamin to keep me company. I remember how Chelsie and I would run laps around the inside of the gated apartment complex (because it was too scary to run anywhere else) and how she would always stop to roll in a muddy puddle (of which there were always many) and then jump up and shake like it was the best joke she had ever heard. I remember when a stray mama cat deserted the last kitten in a litter and I brought it home. My own cat wanted to eat it but Chelsie let it sleep between her outstretched paws and growled whenever Benjamin came close.
But most of all I remember how very lost and alone I felt living on my own for the first time (even though I was in my 30s) and how easy it was to get depressed and feel like my life was never going to get any better and how knowing I had to get up and take her outside was often the only thing that got me through the day.
And I figure being a caretaker to her in her old age is a mighty small price to pay for all she has done for me.
Today is going to be better than yesterday. I so deem it or is that supposed to be I deem it so? Lack of sleep notwithstanding, of course. Yawn.
In non-writing news we went to go visit my brother-in-law’s brand new 6 week old puppy (German Shepherd). Poor guy had ordered one from a breeder back east who, at the last minute, decided to sell the pup to someone else. Luckily he found a more local breeder and picked his new baby (still nameless) up this weekend. She’s adorable but I’m reminded of how much work a new puppy is (kinda like a new baby). Before we went over there I thought I would come home with puppy envy and want to get another pup right away (which is silly because Chelsie, the current dog in residence – would not tolerate another dog in the house at all and she still has many years with us.) Anyway, it was good to know that neither my husband nor I had any desire for a pup. More dogs, yes, but when Chelsie is gone we both prefer the idea of a rescue dog or two.
I can link this to writing, really, because I am trying to figure out what kind of dog Max might be. I thought I knew but now I’m not so sure. I will have to go look at rescue dogs online and try and figure it out. I started mapping out Frankie’s neighborhood yesterday, figuring out what streets would be normal for him to run around on. Since this is based in a real town I went looking for landmarks and got all excited when I found a low-income housing project right in the area. It was perfect. But then the more I read about it the more I learned how much trouble the area was having with gangs and now I don’t know if I want or should use it. This book is writing itself in a completely different way than anything else. I’ve never done so much thinking ahead of time, I’ve usually just plunged in and wrote but I am still in that limbo-land knowing I have to do the Hugging the Rock revisions soon. (The revision letter is due today – we’ll see.) But the thinking is good. I’ve been able to discard a bunch of stuff plot-wise that either doesn’t work or doesn’t interest me and hopefully I have primed the subconscious pump to be working in the background. Time will tell.