Today’s Accomplishments were Yesterday’s Impossibilities

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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.

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A Mother’s Heart is a Patchwork of Love

Me N Ca$h Thanksgiving ii

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.

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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.

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You Can Cage the Singer But Not the Song

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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.

 

Ever.

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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.

Ever.

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We Must Become the Change….

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October! What an amazing series of events have led Ca$h and me to this point!

We are very proud to announce the birth of Dream Big Designs LLC. My Dear Friend and Business Partner, Elena, and I have officially launched our own business! We have been working diligently behind the scenes to bring DBD to life and today we would like to invite you to view our new (and still under construction) Facebook page. As I write this, our website is being designed as well.

For all of you who have been awesomely reading and following this blog, we’d like to tell you a bit about Dream Big Designs. The idea for our company started a few months ago when I began writing a children’s book about a homeless Pit Bull (Walt) and the adventures he and his Pack have on the streets. I shyly showed the scripts I was working on to Elena. When she responded positively I was blown away! Elena is not one to gush over a project or idea unless she believes in it. And then she said those words; “I believe in Walt.” In no time at all we had committed ourselves to one common purpose. Making a Difference. Something both of us, unknowingly to the other, had been longing to do.

And where would we make a difference? On my walks with Ca$h, practically every day, I see children. Children needing confidence, role models and self – esteem. I wanted to write a series of books that could help boost those critical strengths. Of course the protagonist would be a Pit Bull! What other breed at this moment in time needs the positive press more? And why stop there? I am forever grateful to the Shelters that work above and beyond what their job descriptions call for. We could design these books to help educate children (and the parents who read them as well) about the dire need to adopt and rescue the needful animals in Shelters. As Elena and I talked we realized the possibilities were practically endless.

And now we are ready to take that exciting (okay, and maybe a little frightening) step of releasing our dream to not only our Friends and Family, but to anyone who shares an interest in the same passions that we do. We hope that you follow us as we travel down our path and watch us grow. It is going to be a fun journey! Feel more than free to re-blog this news to those you feel would enjoy reading it and watching us grow.

And now if you will excuse me, Ca$h Money has found my shoe and is shaking it at me and threatening destruction. The Pit Bull is not impressed with lofty titles and new responsibilities. How nice to know that I can always depend on him to bring me back to earth when I need it and keep me grounded.

Enjoy your October and stop by to visit us often. We love having company.

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October is Always a Very Important Month!

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Before I continue with another anecdote about the Pit Bull adjusting to the Good Life, Ca$h and I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the month of October as both National Pit Bull and Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Being a true renaissance man and secure in his masculinity he had no qualms about sporting pink gear – he actually seemed to relish this photo shoot.

I am sure the dish of wiener bites beside me had a little bit to do with that…..

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Interlude

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Please pardon this interruption of the story of Ca$h and myself, but I wanted to share a picture taken a few days ago of our 2013 Vacation. Every year my Family meets off the coast of North Carolina and we spend a week of total relaxation. That is until 2012 when the Pit Bull joined in the fun. Now our week, while still relaxing, is spent parenting Ca$h and his never – ending pleas to run full tilt into the surf crashing into the biggest wave he can find, snapping fiercely and more often than not getting completely immersed.

For a land – locked state, West Virginia certainly produced one Wave – Jumpin’ Fool of a Pit Bull!

Here, Ca$h and I share one of his calm moments at night on the beach in front of the Lighthouse.

‘ At the beach, time you enjoyed wasting, is not time wasted.’

t.s. eliot

Posted in Anxiety, Depression, dog adoption, Dogs, Uncategorized | Tagged | 13 Comments

You’ve Got a Friend.

Guilty

Up to this date, my past weekly appointments with Sheila often involved me recalling my prior week and the questions it brought to light (many) and the successes I experienced ( not many). Usually I was frustrated by my lack of motivation to do something. Anything. Read something. Discover something. Try something. And I would swear that by my next appointment I would do something that would please Sheila and really impress her.

I love Sheila’s counseling style. She makes soft, non – pushy suggestions. That works for me. A more aggressive Therapist would scare the crap out of me with their expectations. I would feel the impossibility of their plans for me. Sheila leaves me thinking, “Yeah? I could do that!” We still chuckle delightedly when we recall my initial sessions where she brought me literature about using a Therapy Dog. At the time I was so not ready for that step! I was still in my pre – dog days although I really liked CoCo. And boy do we laugh when I remind her of the session where we had a silent moment and she hopefully suggested, “You could adopt a dog….” then as if she did not notice that I pointedly ignored that advice, a few minutes late she doggedly followed up with, “You could foster a dog……”. I think it is safe to say that Sheila pretty much always saw a dog in my future! Wise, wise Woman.

But I wonder if she ever saw this coming.

Ca$h had been a part of our lives long enough for us to determine that he ran hot and cold in his day to day socializing with other dogs. We had begun using a nylon halter on him to afford us greater but humane control during his walks. He did not like the feel of the headgear but it was important to protect other dogs as well as himself.

And certain dogs certainly seemed to catch his interest more than others. Naturally, he was small – prey driven. Squirrels, rabbits, cats , groundhogs opossums and even some large birds appeared on his radar. And his actions left no doubt – he loved giving chase. Even seemed to truly take joy in it. But his definition of ‘small prey’ bleeds over to include  small dogs. And why stop with small dogs? Ca$h felt it was equally his due to warn medium, large and gigantic dogs of his dominance. With heavy hearts, the careful and closely – monitored occasional nose sniffs became more and more rare until allowing these attempts at socialization were stopped altogether because of his extreme unpredictability. We had tried the careful off – leash romp with non – aggressive types in an enclosed dog park. Those visits were stopped  as well due to violent episodes on his part. Seeing him realize that he could play normally with other dogs and watching it happen in front of me made my heart sing. He would play until he dropped from exhaustion. But as more time went by, the least indication of aggression on anyone’s part turned a good time into a dangerous argument at best and a bloodbath at its worst. Before long, absolutely no sign of aggression at all from his playmate escalated immediately into the worst case scenario.
I had known when I adopted Ca$h, that there existed the likely possibility  that he would be an only child. I was ready to be his Best Playmate and his Pack. I mourned only for the part of him that watched longingly from the sidelines as groups of dogs played in a park without him. The fault was not his. It strongly appeared that his aggressive behavior may have been the one consistent action for which he might have been praised, rewarded and fed in the past. I felt only sympathy. And I developed definite opinions around dog – fighting.

But…I had different hopes for his relationship with CoCo Bella.

CoCo was the most positive, happy and well – rounded Pit Bull or even dog that I had ever met. She even traveled with Sheila to the Farmers’ Market one weekend and met and sniffed a baby bunny! At our Reiki Session, one woman who was frightened of dogs requested to be introduced to her because CoCo had been staring at the lady throughout the entire occasion. Of course she loved CoCo, and of course CoCo loved her. CoCo Bella is a registered Therapy Dog and a registered PAWS Dog – helping children learn to read. She is working towards her Canine Good Citizen’s Award. And she managed to change my mind about dogs. She is Sheila’s Soul Mate, and Shelia is hers.

And  my Soul Mate is a big sloppy, stinky, burpy, poopy, drooly, messy, farty, growly, snoring Boy.

I think you can see why I was eager for a meeting between the two. If any other single dog was going to be an influence on Ca$h Money, I prayed it would be CoCo.

Sheila was very agreeable to the meeting. We set a date, a time and a place. She had patients in a local assisted living facility across from Cool Springs Reservoir. Perfect!

We set out for the Reservoir and I was more than a little nervous. I wanted Ca$h and CoCo to hit it off. She would really make good girlfriend material in my mind. And I wanted for Ca$h to be able to claim a friend.

Sheila and CoCo were waiting in a grassy patch outside the wrought iron reservoir gates. I waived and pointed Ca$h in their direction. When he finally saw them he pulled towards them enthusiastically.

Sheila and I kept tight holds on our leashes. CoCo wore her pretty pink harness and her Therapy Dog vest as she was just on the clock. Ca$h was sporting his nylon black halter. He was very interested in getting to know CoCo up close. He moved towards her very strongly. CoCo was not intimidated. Sheila and I allowed them to meet nose – to – nose. I was watching and listening every second. Ca$h jumped forward and pawed at CoCo. I thought I might have heard a growl. I was not sure but was about to take no chances with Sweet CoCo Bella. Sheila pulled back as I did. Since CoCo repelled any aggressive or antagonistic overtures Ca$h attempted, he decided to resort to a more ‘romantic approach’ if you know what I mean. I caught him and pulled him off her. Much like a good, protective Mother, Sheila encircled CoCo protectively in her arms to thwart any further amorous advances. Ca$h was confused. If he was not here to fight or to……then exactly why was he here? He was out of ideas. The big dork hid behind my legs and peeked around them uncomfortably at CoCo Bella.

Sheila suggested that we walk them around the path outside the Reservoir together. She kept CoCo slightly ahead of us And Ca$h seemed to feel comfortable following. He did not pull, nor did he exhibit any aggressive energy As we all walked we drew closer together as a group. Ca$h and CoCo walked calmly beside each other as if they had been litter-mates. It was thrilling. Just what I felt he needed.

After a loop around the Reservoir, we headed inside through the gates. There was a large brick patio with benches and a water fountain which we headed towards. Unceremoniously, we both plopped down on the warm bricks. Our pups followed suit, lying close to each other companionably. The evening sun was naturally relaxing. We chatted about normal things and did not mind the comfortable silences. After a while, it was time to go.

I do not know for certain exactly what the first five years of Ca$h’s life entailed. But I can guess. I think it is safe to say that although he is not completely sure what to do with her, he has his first Friend.

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