The Street Dog
Copyright NoticeJill Perry Carpenter and this blog. Unauthorized use and / or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and / or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used , provided that full and clear credit is given to Jill Perry Carpenter and this blog with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Although these words are my humble thoughts, they are mine. Thank you.
Sending love, hugs and healing light to the injured, their families, friends and the entire city of Orlando.
We will continue to Light up the Darkness.
Madonna states unequivocally at the end of one of her songs, “Absolutely. No. Regrets.”
I have regrets. Quite a few. Maybe a lot – depending on how you define ‘regrets’. I never really saw them as a bad thing – just things I learned from making a choice that could have been made differently, smarter. Now ‘bad’ would be if I repeated those same choices knowing I’d regretted them the first time. Or at least that’s my philosophy. Such as it is. And if you’ve read this blog you know THAT’S a work in progress so please don’t think about adopting any part of it for your own. Just Sayin’.
I had the great surprise and honor of being contacted by Anna Bellenger of the Diamond State American Pen Women’s Group (Delaware) to come speak and sign copies of ‘The Street Dog’ this March. I was invited to their luncheon hosted at the DuPont Country Club. THE DuPont Country Club. And Ca$h Money was issued his own personal invitation to the event as well.
Now I still feel embarrassed to a degree when I realize that someone values what I have to say enough to pay me to speak. Reading to the kids in the Parks of Wilmington during Summer is different, somehow. Maybe it’s the raucous coloring sessions at the end of the reading. I researched the Pen Women’s organization and realized we are talking nationally known authors and artists. I would not be bringing my coloring books and crayons.
But I would be bringing The Pit Bull. By special request.
Maybe you have to be a Delaware native to completely appreciate the wonderfulness of this. Ca$h and I are both West Virginia transplants and we certainly get it. I feel confident in stating that he would be the first Pit Bull to ever cross the splendid DuPont Country Club’s perfectly coiffed lawns and massive stone façade to partake in cobb salad and plates of sweet confections.
I knew the moment had to be recorded and I knew exactly how to do it – Rodney Street Style. The last thing I planned to accomplish that day was a selfie for the ages. Me, Ca$h and the fantabulous DuPont Country Club sign looming large behind us.
The event went very smoothly. The ladies were awesome! They fawned over Ca$h who accepted the adulation graciously. One asserted that he must be an exceptional service dog – he licked her hearing aide when she bent down to greet him. Books were signed, sold, exchanged and I spoke truthfully and pulled no punches during the question and answers session afterward. There were still hands raised when the moderator called a stop to the day. Ca$h and I had a blast. It felt like we’d known those ladies quite a bit longer than just a couple of hours.
We loaded the car up and said our goodbyes. It had been a drab day and it was starting to turn from a mist to raindrops. I’m always the last to go and this was no different. Ca$h and I accepted help loading books into the car, he and I hopped in as the raindrops got bigger and I thought Damn! The only thing I didn’t get was the pic of me and Ca$h in front of the club….oh well…
Absolutely. No. Regrets. Alright Madonna, you win this one.
I wheeled the car to the bottom of the enormous round driveway, put it in neutral, pulled the parking brake and grabbed Ca$h’s leash. Always my partner in crime, he jumped out enthusiastically. I looked once over my shoulder to ensure a good shot. I did not have much time before my hair would look like Keanu Reeves’ in Point Break. We snapped a few frames and jumped back in the car. Then we headed home – exhausted and happy.
It would have been a regret – a small one, but a regret nonetheless. Now it’s a 5 x 7 on my office desk. A reminder of a beautiful day full of diversity and open-minds.
And I keep learning that it’s never to late to do what you might have done if only…..
Dear Raleigh County Humane Society,
I don’t know if you remember me – I don’t expect you to. I’m just one of many who found exactly what I was looking for in your shelter in West Virginia – without even knowing I was looking for it.
You had a bedraggled pit bull there in June of 2012. Man! He was a mess! He had been found wandering the streets of Beckley getting into scraps with other stray dogs. He’d been maced by police, beaten until his bones were broken, bitten, punctured, infected and his prospects were not looking good. Oh heck, let’s admit it – his time had run out. You called him ‘Roosevelt’ after the street on which he was finally captured. I have to give your shelter credit – you folks had done all you possibly could to home him or find a rescue for him. I read that he was sweet natured (unless you were a cat) but that he would keep his back to the kennel door and duck his head low if any visitor walked past. Not exactly a social butterfly.
You’re going to laugh, but the last thing I wanted was a dog – I know, right? Over the last 15 years I had gone from being a creative, social and animal-loving person to someone who just wanted to find a reason – any reason – to hang in one more day. And I was running out of reasons.
Then I saw his mug-shot online. I felt like a lightening bolt went through me.
Within five days he was in the back seat of my car and headed to his new home in Delaware. And we’ve never looked back or had a moment of doubt or regret. Only wondering thoughts like, “How the heck did I ever live without him?” And, “Was there really life before Ca$h?” ( his new moniker is Ca$h Money)
My New Normal Days are spent writing and illustrating children’s books inspired by Ca$h and his journey. Motivation and inspiration flood me like they never have – even before I started struggling mentally. I have a purpose, now, you see. I read my book in the local parks to children and hand out free coloring books and crayons. I speak in schools about the reading and writing process and the inspiration behind them. I attend pet expos and talk about pit bulls and the total nonsense of breed specific legislation. My life has a purpose!
I dreamed to one day be able to give back. To be in a position to present a deserving organization with a monetary gift (Ca$h Money, if you will) that I was able to collect as a direct result of the love and hard work that resulted from folks’ appreciation of something I created. I was not prepared for the feeling that fell over me when I took a moment to let that sink in. I felt like someone had given me a million dollars! I felt a little like how Oprah Winfrey must have felt when she gave all of those cars to her studio audience!
So enclosed you will find a check. It’s not a lot – heck it might not even be enough to buy a kuranda bed. But it can do something good. Thank you so much for allowing me to help out and to give my life purpose.
And thank you for Ca$h Money. He’s sleeping in his bed next to me in my home office right now . He’ll be going to the beach next week to eat seafood and jump in the waves. I’ll send you pictures.
Stay safe, and rescue on,
Dear Raleigh County Animal Shelter,
I bet you all remember me! Mom says I’m a hard one to forget.
A long time ago I stayed at your shelter for a while. I don’t know how you managed to catch me when I was running loose on the streets – I must have been temporarily blinded by that stinging stuff in my eyes or I’d still be running! You really made me feel welcome – and you helped me heal and feel good again. I thank you for that and apologize if I was less than cordial. You even named me ‘Roosevelt’ – a cool, tough name. I hope you don’t mind, but my Mom renamed me Ca$h Money. I like it – sort of street-wise and catchy.
Okay – I gotta ask it – it’s been on my mind every minute since I left the shelter.
How did you know? Do you have a crystal ball or something? How did you know that this one was supposed to me mine? She seemed nice, maybe a bit hard to read at first, but man! Was she a mess! Oh she seemed like she had it all together and was large and in charge, but bit by bit I saw that I had a lot of work on my paws. I hardly knew where to start. Good thing you gave me time to rest and heal at the shelter – I’d need the strength and patience in Delaware!
We’ve made a lot of progress since then. Mom really learns quickly – what else can you call someone who showers you with love, scratches your chest, sings to you and swaddles you in blankies when you’re chilly at night? She’s learned that I ride shot-gun. this gives me maximum ability to protect her and allows me to help with navigation. She’s learned that when I give my special bark, she needs to come running and check too see if the coast is clear in front of my house. She knows that when I raise my front leg and lean back I have a nagging itch on my chest or belly that requires attention. I could go on and on – you can tell I’m pretty proud of her.
And I’ll confess. After my time in various cages, on the street and in the shelter – I learned something. Most bulls would not even admit this but I’m secure like that. I need her. I survived the thug life. Even thrived at times. But man! Three yummy hots and a cot ( not really a cot – The Big Pack Bed), walks in parks, swims, treats, snuggles and my all-time favorite – our evening Pack Pile on the big couch where we all sit, lay and watch television and talk about our daily adventures. A bull can definitely get used to that life. And I have.
So that leads me to this. Mom said she’s sending something to you to try and help other dog, cats, whatever, to have the same life that I have now. So that you can help them find the person they need to help. Tell them it’s hard work but the rewards are many – just be patient. You know, I didn’t know it, but my life was sort of lame before you assigned me to Mom. Puppy stuff, really. I don’t know how to explain it but I know I am doing something important every day. She can’t do it without me. It’s a big responsibility, but I’ve been chosen for this one. Even I know that doesn’t happen every day.
I’d better go now – close to dinner time!
Thank you for finding me my home
and steady employment,
Ca$h Money Carpenter
Somewhere around 2 years ago, I was walking my pit bull, Ca$h Money through a park a block from my house. Art had always been a passion of mine, but for years inspiration had eluded me completely. As Ca$h and I cut across the park my long-absent imagination went from zero to ninety in three seconds. I wanted to write a children’s book. And illustrate it.
The plot, characters, settings and visions of pictures went by in a mental slideshow. But what to call my Pit Bull protagonist? Obviously he would be the manifestation of Ca$h. But I did not feel that name would be appropriate for a children’s book. Especially with that corny dollar sign… The names for the other characters were easy – names from family and friends’ dogs I wanted to honor and memorialize. But the protagonist was really special! What name could do him justice, please a child, characterize my hero and just fit perfectly? I only had to look as far as my own Father to find that answer. My Daddy, Walter Reid Perry. Walt the Street Dog was born.
My Father passed over on May 1st . His life was 84 years of orneriness, energy, passion for athletics and raising his four daughters and walking his own path without hesitation.
Daddy, I hope Walt does you proud.
‘The guilt I felt for having a mental illness was horrible. I prayed for a broken bone that would heal in six weeks. But that never happened. I was cursed with an illness that nobody could see and nobody knew much about.’
It started almost 15 years ago with the feeling that I was living apart from the general public and my friends, on some other planet. I did not try to explain the way I felt to anyone because I did not understand it and even if I did I could find no coherent way to vocalize it.
We believe the earth is not flat, we believe space travel is possible, we believe in psychics and mediums and most believe in some sort of afterlife. But virtually every week I experience the resistance of someone believing that mental illness is not “all in your head”.
I am advised that I ‘just need to fight harder’. That I just need to read the right book. That I just need to make my mind up to be happy. That I need to compare my wonderful life to those who are really suffering. And occasionally I am told to ‘just deal’.
I have voluntarily entered myself into mental facilities, spoken to countless psychologists and psychiatrists, tried various cocktails of medications, journaled, exercised, self-affirmed, volunteered and tried dozens of other therapies I have been advised to try.
I have been stigmatized at work (confidentiality is a fairy-tale), had my work ethic questioned, been turned down for financial assistance, lost friends who could not understand my fear of leaving my house and kept my mouth shut when my poor, beloved Momma says she can tell I am finally ‘back to my old self’. I don’t even notice the ubiquitous eye-rolls that much anymore. I have stopped trying to convince people that my dog is not a Service Dog simply because I want to take him into hotels, banks, post offices and other public places that scare the crap out of me. They have not seen me crawl down to the foot of my bed, wrap my arms around Ca$h burying my face in his wrinkly neck and implore him to make it all better and keep me safe.
But you know what else I do? I over-celebrate.
New follower to my blog? Party! Straight 8 hour plus workday with no nap? National Holiday! Address a classroom of dozens of youngsters? I am the bravest person I know. And when someone tells me they love what I have drawn, written or said to them? Why the HELL am I not running for President?
Newsflash: this post is not for you folks who do not understand mental illness. If modern day science and the proof of current research has not convinced you – I sure as heck can’t.
No, this post is for those of you who found yourselves reading these humble words and nodding your head. Those who feel that inner lift whenever you realize that you are not the only one feeling what you feel. I hope it helped.
And now please excuse me – my Service Dog is grumping at me to take him out for a Walkie. Small price to pay.
After months (well actually 2 years) the project is completed and The Street Dog is a reality!
So please indulge me while I brag shamelessly about my first effort at authoring and illustrating a children’s book.
Most of you that have followed this blog have a real soft spot for pit bulls. And you must know by now that I do too – and hopefully you recognize the tremendous impact my boy, Ca$h Money, has had on my life since adopting him over two years ago. So of course the protagonist of The Street Dog is a pit bull modelled after Ca$h. It is my way of thanking him for all that he has given me. In addition to providing me with courage (how can one not be brave with a 73 pound bundle of muscle by their side?) he single-handedly restored my ability to become inspired artistically and opened up a new…
View original post 787 more words
After months (well actually 2 years) the project is completed and The Street Dog is a reality!
So please indulge me while I brag shamelessly about my first effort at authoring and illustrating a children’s book.
Most of you that have followed this blog have a real soft spot for pit bulls. And you must know by now that I do too – and hopefully you recognize the tremendous impact my boy, Ca$h Money, has had on my life since adopting him over two years ago. So of course the protagonist of The Street Dog is a pit bull modelled after Ca$h. It is my way of thanking him for all that he has given me. In addition to providing me with courage (how can one not be brave with a 73 pound bundle of muscle by their side?) he single-handedly restored my ability to become inspired artistically and opened up a new world of creativity for me. After having closing my sketch pad for over ten years, I reopened it in January of 2013 and attempted my first simple effort. You can probably guess who my subject was. Very shortly after that I was walking Ca$h in a local park and the idea for a book lodged in my mind and refused to leave. By the end of that walk I had characters, personalities and a plot for The Street Dog.
I wrote in my entry ‘How it all Began’ that when I left work on leave of absence in November of 2011 I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety, PTSD and almost full-blown agoraphobia. I wrote that I was terrified to touch my fingers to the keyboard of my computer. This is not an exaggeration. Three years later I have taught myself over eight different graphics applications and have become fairly proficient with my (really cool) Wacom Tablet.
The result is a beautiful children’s book that weighs in at a hefty 54 pages-almost twice the number of pages for the industry standard. It is divided into four grown-up chapters that I feel will make a child feel that sense of accomplishment in conquering something that resembles a real grown-up book. The Street Dog even has its own Table of Contents! The text itself, however, is not complex. It is appropriate for the early-reader age group with some ‘reach words’ sprinkled here and there to encourage vocabulary expansion. The ending of each chapter is a cliff-hanger. I want the reader to want to turn the page to find out what happens next! The dimensions of the book are a generous 8.5 x 11 inches. Every page has at least one illustrations and some have up to three. The larger-than -average size is ideal for read-alongs. I pictured an adult sitting down with a child and reading the book to them initially, giving them the confidence to pick the book up by themselves and enjoy the challenge of reading it solo. The size also makes The Street Dog ideal for group reading. No one is going to have any problem seeing the illustrations in a gathering.
The canine characters in the book are all an homage to dogs that have passed through my life or are still in it, and have belonged to family and friends. Folks in my area in Delaware may recognize the alley behind Ciao Pizza where Dog is bottoms-up in the dumpster foraging for a meal. Some will recognize the steps of the Westminster Presbyterian Church steps where Dog seeks refuge, shivering in a snowstorm. A street corner in Trolley Square opens the first chapter. Even my own husband is not safe – a bald guy at the shelter was inspired by him!
Behind the fun and colorful images are powerful and multiple messages. Embracing one’s own individuality, diversity, self-esteem and the importance of adopting needy animals are all issues I wanted to address. There are two more manuscripts in the editing process that deal with sibling rivalry and bullying. And there is an outline for another installment that encourages neighborhood care and cleanliness. All of these topics are dealt with in a practical and (of course) humorous manner. It was important to me that children understand they are not alone-everyone goes through a myriad of trials throughout their life-and there are good solutions to all of them.
The Street Dog is currently being sold on the Balboa Publishing website, Barnes and Noble website, Amazon, in Kindle and Nook form and on our own website, http://www.waltthestreetdog.com. I invite you to check the website out. It is colorful, easy to navigate and offers opportunities for readings, visits and signings. If you order the book through our website we will send you an autographed copy (autographed!) and will make every effort to get it there before Christmas. I cannot think of an animal-loving child or adult that will not enjoy this heartwarming story.
I could write thousands of words on The Street Dog, but I’ll spare you that. What I do want to leave you with is this: three years ago I sat immobile all day on a couch, wrapped in a quilt, with the meager comfort of a heating pad-too frightened to join in life. I wondered if all of the fear and pain was worth living for the slim hope that things might change. I am here to tell you that it is. Things do change – minute to minute. The path you are following keeps moving forward. If you are in pain, gut it out. Hang tough. Your pain is temporary and you are braver than you know. I know that great things await you.
You are meant to help change this world.
I mentioned in one of the first posts of this blog that I had unpleasant memories of my first marriage in West Virginia. That I had left that state and moved to Delaware. I’m ready to write about that now.
In 1988 I married my first husband in West Virginia. It was not long after we started dating that I realized things were not right. And this is embarrassing because it means that I allowed myself to be caught up in a strong current that led to a speedy engagement and wedding. I take responsibility for my part. I made those decisions and they were the worst I’ve ever made in my life. I’ve spent hours since trying to figure out how an intelligent woman from a normal, loving family, with good friends could act so out of character – to allow myself to be manipulated. In my defense, the abuse started slowly and after he had convinced me that he would treat me like a queen. I even remember the very first instance. He slapped my car keys out of my hand when I was trying to leave the house to get some distance from a disagreement we were having. I remember thinking Oh if you do not get out of here now you will be in so much trouble later. And I did not take my own advice. But self – recrimination serves no good purpose. I learned a lesson and moved on. But I paid and others paid. Dearly.
It took seven years of physical, mental and emotional abuse to force me out of the house and into an apartment of my own. I was trying to take a path that would not require me to move far away, pulling my entire life up by the roots. One year and one restraining order later things had only escalated. I finally admitted that putting great distance between me and my husband was the only answer to removing myself from a dangerous situation. And it needed to happen quickly. He had tried to ‘commit suicide’ in a desperate bid for my attention. Enough. But there would be collateral damage in leaving – and not just in the form of my human family.
At the time I was Mother to a stray barn cat named Precious, a rescued greyhound named Nadine and a diminutive Spanish Barb mare with an attitude, personality and talent for jumping that belied her physical height. I had raised and trained Thamar from a foal. She had been my athletic partner, my passion and my friend for twelve beautiful years. My throat tightens as I type this.
I left the hitting, kicking, biting, slapping, spitting, shoving, choking, filthy name – calling, lying and cheating that had become my miserable life. But in order to do so I had to leave a huge piece of my heart behind as well. I moved to Delaware and into a small apartment with a good friend of mine whom I had shown horses with. Although I had made attempts to keep my new location a secret, stalking by my ex in one form or another would force me to spend the next ten years filing police reports, acquiring and renewing restraining orders, and unlisting my phone number at home and at work. At one point Corporate Security stepped in advising my ex- husband that his advances were not wanted by me. It did no good. He remained delusional to the point that he imagined us not only reuniting in the splendor of our refound love, but also by informing me that he was leaving his new family to come to Delaware and join me. He would leave these calls on my voicemail at the bank in the early morning hours. I’m sure he was in varying states of intoxication. It was embarrassing and distracting. I often wondered just how long a person was supposed to pay for serious errors in judgment.
But the sun came through – doesn’t it always? Almost ten years after that disastrous union, I found the Love of my Life and married for a second time. Edwin was my first long – term and serious relationship in those twenty years. He and my ex husband could not be more different. I’m usually good about not making the same mistake twice.
And eighteen years after leaving West Virginia the carefully guarded wall around my heart keeping me from loving any furry critter was totally demolished by the wrecking ball that is Ca$h Money Carpenter.
I know that I have worked through and with a lot of residual issues resulting from those last years in West Virginia. If you’ve read this blog I guess that’s obvious. But I have one that I continue to struggle with:
Majorly Overprotective Mother Syndrome = M.O.M.S.
I have a friend who responds to my anecdotes in Facebook with his favorite standard of “Poor Edwin!” Indeed. I admit that Edwin is the unfortunate recipient of my many rules, demands and guidelines for keeping the Pit Bull safe. Neither Edwin nor myself has children. And we are not an ‘arguing’ sort of couple. But my determination to make certain that never losing another fur baby to bad decisions on anyone’s part had caused some head – bumping between us. As I’ve mentioned, Edwin is a Type B to my Type A. And our parenting styles often reflect that. We have numerous experiences that support this finding. Eighteen years had passed without the patter of Big Furry Feet in my life and I had forgotten just how much laughter a single goofy dog could provide – and what a balm that laughter is to the soul.
One Summer evening Edwin and I were resting on the couch with Ca$h. We heard a popping noise outside and as Edwin went to investigate, the Pit Bull flew off the couch and launched himself at the door. Again, the noise repeated itself – it was a firecracker. Ca$h has an odd reaction to these. He is not scared of the explosions. He gets angry and tries to hunt the offending origin down. Edwin stepped out onto our porch to show a presence and moved aside a gate I had place at the top of the steps. The gate allowed Ca$h to enjoy these nice days outside with his pack, under supervision. Cash had followed Edwin onto the porch. He is quite a presence himself. But Edwin was too slow shutting the gate and the Pit Bull squeezed past him, flew off the porch and down the stairs in a lather to confront the origin of the noise that was infuriating him. I heard Edwin yell after Ca$h, but the dog was totally focused and unresponsive. I caught a glimpse of several youngsters fleeing in every direction in panic. On my street when a Pit Bull is on the loose it is politic to run. Ca$h had no collor on – the hair on his neck is thin and I am in the habit of leaving it off while he is in the house. Feeling sick, I decided I was of no assistance to anyone without a collar and leash. I wheeled around and ran into the kitchen to grab them off their hook.
Now Ca$h has never attacked a person that I know of. But I can only speak for the year and a half he has been with me. I did not know what form his aggression would take once he slipped off the porch in search of the firecrackers. I did not know what I would find when I ran back out the door after him.
The street was empty. I knew which direction I had seen Edwin head off in, so I kicked off my sandals to facilitate running. I saw several young toughs hanging out on the corner where they had been when the firecrackers had gone off. Part of this group had been responsible, I knew. There were about a dozen of boys and girls watching me sprint down the block with wide eyes. I felt like vomiting. I sprinted another block and came to a corner. An older man and his wife were watching the drama unfold from their porch. I called out to them to see if they had seen a man and a dog run this way. They had and directed me to go left around the corner. Sick, sick, sick. But I kept running. I rounded the corner and looked desperately around.
Perhaps twenty yards ahead of me and crossing the street coming towards me was Edwin. He had left the porch in only his blue jeans – no shoes or shirt. In his arms was the Prodigal Pit Bull looking like some overgrown infant. At least Ca$h had the good grace to look a little ashamed of himself. I was too relieved to fuss at the him, but I gave an ice – cold stare to Edwin that spoke volumes. He had been careless. How many times had I told him…..and still he had been careless. He slipped the collar over Ca$h’s head and I directed four terse words to him. Give Me The Leash. I did not trust myself to say more than that. Edwin walked towards the house as I followed yards behind him. My relief was truly immeasurable. I can remember it even now. But boy, was I cheezed at Edwin. This sort of stunt would get this dog lost or taken from us. The thought of it made my already weak stomach lurch again.
I noticed a car with two women in it approaching me and they pulled over to the curb next to me. One of them leaned out and said “Is your husband a stripper? ‘Cause I am fresh out of dollar bills!” The humor was exactly what I needed. I did think that Edwin looked fetching in his carpenter jeans and nothing else, carrying a hefty Pit Bull in his arms. But I would have cut my tongue out before telling him that at that moment. I grinned and answered “No, but you can tuck a five in his waistband – we’re not proud!” She and her girlfriend laughed delightedly and said “I know that’s right!” and moved on. We trudged towards home. So many folks were on their porches watching our return. Two small girls peeped over the brick wall of their porch and waived hesitantly. I waived back wryly. Another couple called out “Did you catch ‘im?” I affirmed. As I passed the house on the corner where the perp and his friends were staring at us uncertainly, I called out to them “I really thought you guys were going to help me catch him! What happened?” grinning as I did. The guilty party responded to me, “Naw! I thought he was coming after me! I was runnin’!” Our neighbors across the street congratulated us. They were new to the neighborhood and I believe this was our first time chatting with them. Lovely. It seemed that everyone had turned out to be part of the Big Excitement.
Inside the house I unleashed Ca$h. The humor was just starting (just a tiny bit) to make my more reasonable side come out. I tried to stay calm and talk to Edwin about his sometimes lax handling practices. What if Ca$h had seen a cat or a squirrel? What if he had run into traffic? Edwin was resistant and defensive. Finally I took him by the waist and gently turned him to face me. “Do you have any idea what it would do to me if we lost this dog?” He softened. He understood where I was coming from. He knew it would kill me. We agreed to close careless gaps. To be more aware of our actions with Ca$h and their consequences. I felt better. And I laughed when Edwin grinned and told me “You should have seen their eyes when Ca$h rolled off that porch! Kids flew in every direction! They even left their girlfriends behind to fend for themselves!” I do admit I saw the humor in it. And I doubted there would be any more instances of firecrackers in front of the Pit Bull house again.
I truly believe that all of the animals that have passed through my life have had a large part in shaping who I am today and the path that I am bound to follow. Precious, Nadine and Thamar all hold a special place in the compartments of my heart. I still feel the guilt of leaving them behind. Ca$h is helping to heal that as well.
One morning I was walking Ca$h near an assisted living residence. An elderly lady was making her way towards me carefully picking her way with a cane. I moved Ca$h to my right side so that he would not interfere with her progress. He was very frosty. We were near the reservoir and he had only thoughts for the possibility of bunnies on his brain. But instead of passing us, the woman stopped, looked at Ca$h and smiled at his energy.
“He’s taking you on an adventure!” she said.
He certainly is.
I lost my appeal for Long Term Disability with my provider. I had paid into the system for eighteen years. I had collected notes, letters and documents from my doctors and my Therapist, all who agreed that if I returned to work at this time I would end up right back out of the work force, possibly in worse shape and even more quickly than before. With these professionals behind me and my naïve belief that somewhere along the way Insurance Companies really were in the business to help folks that really needed it, I mailed my documentation.
They turned me down.
I cried. I worried. I lost sleep. I was indignant that they assumed I was trying to lie my way into a ‘free’ paycheck. How could this huge well – known company reject a claim for medical compensation without speaking to, interviewing or examining me? Now my only recourse was to hire a lawyer. At a time in my life when my emotional state was at its most fragile I felt like I was being torn apart. Lawyers I called spoke in brief, staccato sentences or talked over my questions altogether. They didn’t want to take my case on – too small potatoes. I was finally pointed in the direction of an Advocate. At last someone listened with human compassion and patience. She was, however, honest. My choices boiled down to A.) Hire the lawyer and obtain a battery of costly psychological tests, pay more fees, see more doctors, make more phone calls and go through the litigation process or B.) Recognize the toll the entire nasty process was taking on my health, weigh the financial offset and let it go. I thanked her for her caring and honesty before I hung the phone up. And I made my decision that evening after talking with Edwin who said he would support me in whatever I chose to do.
I let it go.
Was it fair? No. Was it the right thing to do? Yes. I can say that now after looking back on it. And it solidified another decision I had been wanting to make. I called the Bank, requested the Human Resources department and tendered my resignation. No, you do not need to hold my position for me without pay. I won’t be back. I called another division and requested my entire 401k be transferred to another financial service. I set the process in motion to have my pension mailed to me. I would live on this with Edwin’s help as long as I could make it last. I was scared silly through the entire process. But I felt freed.
And that was it. For the first time in thirty years I was officially unemployed. And I had absolutely no idea what sort of employment I would seek when that time arrived. The thought of any employer made me feel physically ill. Any employer. Doing anything. No, I did not know what I was going to do with the rest of my life, but I knew for sure I was never going back to Corporate America.
Our first week with Ca$h in our home, I never left the house for one minute. For several reasons. I wanted to bond with him, learn what he was all about. I wanted to start reassuring his canine mind that he was stuck with me. Neither one of us was going anywhere that would take us away from the other. But mainly because I did not want to leave him for a minute. He had quickly begun to recognize and respond to my voice. He followed me around the house and snuggled beside me on the couch. He lived for walks. It was as if he could not get enough of the outside. He dropped his weight to the ground if he thought our walk had turned towards home. He lay down at the bottom of our two flights of porch steps and rolled his eyes in apology but refused to budge. He was too heavy for me to carry. With alternate calling, kissy noises, pushing and pulling he would finally trudge his death march up the stars and through the front door. I had dogs all through my childhood and up to the point when I left West Virginia. And certainly they had loved to be outdoors. But poor Ca$h acted as if his every trip outside was going to be his last.
And then there was his kennel. He rode from Virginia to Delaware in it, in the small back seat of my car, uncomplainingly. I had placed it in the dining room in a cozy, quiet corner where he could have an unobstructed view of Edwin and me in the living room. I kept fresh water near it. I placed a purple plushy octopus in it to encourage him to discover the joys of legalized destruction. Softer blankets than those on my bed layered the floor.
He would have nothing to do with it.
On the eighth day, Edwin and I planned a trip to the grocery store. We figured we would be gone no more than half an hour to forty – five minutes and that it would be a good time to start getting Ca$h accustomed to being by himself for short periods of time in the crate.
Edwin approached the crate and unlatched the door. He turned to Ca$h and opened his mouth to call the Pit Bull by name. He did not even get the words out. Ca$h, who had been carefully watching Edwin wheeled in the opposite direction, leapt up on the couch and buried himself in the cushions. We called, we made kissy noises, we sweet talked and pleaded.
Ca$h stayed on the couch as unmoving as a sphinx, his big muzzle tucked between his paws. His brown eyes bounced from me to Edwin and back again uncomfortably. No treat, toy or words swayed his decision.
More pushing and pulling. Gently as possible. I wanted to scrap the project. So what? I don’t care if he runs loose in the house while we are gone. We’re upsetting him. Look at him! Please….he really doesn’t want to go in that thing. But Edwin, the sane one, insisted we carry on with the plan. Eventually the Pit Bull’s big butt was far enough in the crate for Edwin to shut the door and latch it. Sad brown eyes looked out at us. I volunteered to stay back at the house. Edwin took me gently by the arm and propelled me out the door. He set the alarm and stepped out. I felt like crap.
When we returned home, we walked up the front steps chatting about what Ca$h might be doing in his cave. I glanced at the panes of French windows lining the front door. A big beautiful head was framed in it looking happily back at us! Ca$h was thrilled to see us – we had not left him for good! After some hugging and smooching I stepped into the dining room to assess the situation. The kennel was in its place, the door shut tight. Just as we had left it. This did not make sense. I looked closer. The black bars on and around the door of the crate were snaggled and bent in diverse directions. He had tried to eat his way out. On top, one of the fastening hooks had been unhooked. Had I left it that way unknowingly? Great! Just a really great first experience for him alone in the kennel! I’d be careful not to let that mistake happen again.
A couple of days later we tried again. We decided to go work out together and once again tried to encourage Ca$h into the plush protection of his kennel. It was no easier than the first time. He hated it. I hated it. But we promised our boy we would be back soon as we set the alarm and left.
We returned an hour or so later, walked up the front steps and saw our excited, happy and very wiggly Pit Bull pushing his big nose against the French window in an effort to greet us. We quickly let ourselves inside, exchanged greetings and headed for the dining room. The kennel was standing in its spot and the door was shut. Just as we had left it. But the front bars looked as if some Tasmanian Devil had tried to install a doggy door with his teeth. One of the top hooks was once again undone. I knew I had double – checked those before we left. I took hold of the front panel and pulled. Ca$h had somehow applied enough pressure to pop that latch and give himself a six inch wide gap to squeeze his sixty pound body out. And then he had waited for his Pack to come back to him.
I was concerned. I hugged and kissed him. I told him we were all forever. While he was splayed on his back accepting a belly rub, I gently used my finger to pull his floppy chops away from his teeth. I peered at them and quickly dropped my finger and drew back in a mix of horror, sadness and pity.
Ca$h’s right side long canine tooth was completely gone, broken down to or below the gum line. The smaller teeth in between were so worn down they were almost flush with his pink gums. I saw no more than that. I had known one tooth had been extracted by the vet in West Virginia that had neutered him for me. This was a lot more than one tooth.
So despite Edwin’s protests I packed Ca$h up the next day and went on a covert mission to his Veterinarian. The thought of him being in pain while eating or using his mouth was enough to start me planning ways to pay for oral surgery for him if the situation called for it. In her examining room, Dr. Schultz lifted up his lips as I held onto him and chatted to him. Ca$h loves his Doctor and her female techs. They give him kisses and treats and he high fives them and doles out rare kisses to them. But he is not fond of having his mouth bothered and he issued a half – hearted growl. Dr. Shultz mildly told him to shut it and he did. She finished her examination, dropped his floppy chops, gave Ca$h a pat and turned to face me. He’s a rescue, right? she asked. Yes, he is, I told her. And he had a case of happy tail on his first visit, right? Yes, I remembered he did. Three scabs had since fallen off. Well, she told me, it probably can’t be proven but it looks like he was kept in a cage for a long time. I see the worn down teeth in a lot of rescues. They resort to chewing the bars of their cages in frustration or boredom. Often right down to the gum. That and the happy tail. But she declared him OK and said the teeth did not appear to be causing him pain. Relieved, I thanked her, settled my bill and left.
On our way home we stopped at Canby Park and Ca$h walked and sniffed and begged me to let him chase squirrels. I thought about a lot of things as I indulged him in everything but the squirrel chasing. Multiple scabbed wounds on his tail. Major teeth missing or ground down to near non – existence. Begging continually for walks and once outside becoming a dead weight and refusing to come back in his warm house. Broken jaw, scarred muzzle. Steel bars of his kennel bent like paper clips. Turning himself into a pretzel to free himself of the confines of his cage. His cage. Because I knew that’s what it was to him. A prison keeping him from freedom he could not seem to get enough of now. When we got home I folded it up, and carried it down to the basement.
Weeks later while dusting the floors, my Swiffer caught something with a metallic clink. I bent over and picked the object up. Shiny and black, it was a steel S- hook from the front panel of the cage Ca$h hated so much. Some force had been desperate enough to press against it and shoot it across the dining room and under an armoire. I held it while thinking and then threw it away.
Parallel lives, I was thinking. We are parallel lives. You are released from your cage and your past and I will make certain that you are never imprisoned again.