Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Christmas Sweater

What a difference a year of training and practicing patience makes!

This year's photo shoot (minus the wet weather) was easy peasy. Rocket lifted his paws to put on his Christmas sweater. He modeled appropriate looks for the camera (*wink). He also stared at the dried liver every time, without being asked...and ate every piece I offered between photos. It was so successful, I had a hard time choosing which poses to use for the card. He made 2 out of the 3 available photo slots on the final card. Good boy. Very, very good boy.

This year for Christmas, Rocket wants donations for his bully buddies at rescues and shelters. I would like more patience and more time to write. Here's hoping all of our wishes come true.

Mele Kalikimaka!

(Charlie got into the holiday spirit, too. She wants her own throne room for Christmas).

Friday, December 17, 2010

Christmas Memories

Here are some pictures from last year's Christmas card photo shoot. Rocket was so interested in playing with the santa hat that I couldn't get him to sit still for a decent picture. As I was explaining this to my trainer, she said "Next year, hold liver over the camera."


I guess I could have done that. Or anything other than expect a super-hyper energetic puppy to sit still while I pseudo-torture him with holiday apparel. Point taken.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Smell

Mange stinks. I’d get used to the stench and then walk outside to take out the trash and walk back inside only to realize that the garbage smelled better than the house. On some deep, deep level, it was comforting to know that the disconcerting odor was temporary.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Change is Instant

Charlie's eyes nearly popped out of her head when Rocket came through the door. She raced under the couch. I know how she felt. My eyes were bugging, too. This was Rocket’s new home. I felt like I should be giving him the grand tour, but instead, I was shell-shocked. Our “family” had increased from 3 to 4 in a matter of seconds. I felt the sudden urge to do damage control rather than throw a welcome party.

Rocket was interested in Charlie. He eagerly staggered through the house sniffing for her. She tucked her body down tighter under the sofa. There were barks and hisses. We held Rocket back and peeled Charlie out from her hiding spot, threw her into the bedroom and closed the door. We all needed a moment to think about what was happening. What was the best thing to do? What if Rocket didn’t like cats? Why hadn't I thought of this before? Charlie was my baby first. They would have to get along. Have to. Everyone would need to be happy with the arrangement for this to work, or maybe we just needed ground rules. So it was decided:

Rule #1: “No eating one another.”

Thursday, November 18, 2010

New Dog Bliss

There was a brief moment of new dog bliss. The actual “meeting” of Rocket took place in the side yard at my house. I had simply gone through the motion of driving to pick him up; but as I sat there in the grass in my comfy clothes, delirious with jet lag, I couldn’t comprehend if he was really there in front of me—really mine—or if I was just imagining him. His tail wagged constantly, as he clumsily walked in circles around me, alternately sniffing the ground and flopping down, smiling and looking disinterested, kissing me and not meeting my eye. I’m not sure I said much, but rather watched, half asleep, what felt like a beautiful dream. I am grateful Amanda took pictures of the event otherwise I wouldn’t have much memory of it at all. Looking back, I had no idea how varied Rocket's expressions were. These "looks" held much insight into his dynamic personality, (I was just too tired to pay attention at the time). I couldn't tell if he was okay with being where he was, I just knew he looked happy. I looked happy, too. We were happy in that moment, settling into our new dream.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Baby Brother

No one asked Charlie the cat if she wanted a “sibling.” No one even warned her. We had left her home alone, with cat sitters popping in and out, for two weeks. Her sweet face and giant eyes were clearly visible in the window as we pulled into the drive—we could hear her wailing through the glass. Amanda and I stumbled through the front door with our heavy load of suitcases, carry-ons, bags of dog food, dog toys, a dog bed, and large metal crate that we had hurriedly purchased on the way back from the airport. Charlie was practically screaming. We scooped her up to shower her with affection and apologies, but she quickly jumped down to smell the new ‘things’ in the house, crying the whole time.

The goal was to set everything up and then I would go get the puppy. We rushed around as much as our tired bodies would allow. The sun was setting quickly—the night of severe jet lag and anxiety was already upon us. Charlie was a never-ending siren in the background. Her meows were filled with complaining and relief. There was desperate rubbing and petting as she zig-zagged between our legs. She had a lot to tell us, she stayed too near. (‘Underfoot’ doesn’t come close to describing her actions that night. What’s a word more severe than ‘underfoot’?)

We scurried around, puppy proofing in record time, then I was out the door again. If a cat’s jaw can drop open with shock, hers did. We’d just arrived and I was abandoning her again. Oh, if she only knew then the true depth of my betrayal. I didn’t turn around to get one last look at my life the way it was. I was sure I had already messed it up beyond recognition anyway.

“If only I had a little more time,,” I told Amanda. “I should have read more books about how to bring a puppy home the right way.”

“Too late,” she quipped and closed the door with a ceremonial “thud.”

Monday, November 8, 2010

In Training

So the real reason I haven’t posted anything in a while is this: all of my fantastical ideas about wanting a dog turned out to be completely different than actually having a dog. The idea of Rocket captivated my thoughts—the vision of him in my life somehow made my dreams feel closer to coming true. I wasn’t ready for all the complex emotions and massive amounts of patience it would require to keep, care for, and train a sick puppy. “I don’t know this dog,” kept running through my head, and yet he was supposed to be ‘the one’ for me. And I apparently didn’t know myself, either. In the following blog posts, I’m going to be candid about the fact that I was not a perfect dog rescuer/owner. I was a blundering, impressionable idiot at times—I still have my moments. A true member of the “I may be a grown up, but grown ups have no idea what they are doing” club. (I believe it is healthy to admit this). I was not proud of all of my choices. I was not always happy about having the burden of an animal. But, [whew] the lessons I did learn were big, and on some level I deeply loved Rocket. Still do. I was smitten with the hairless wonder of a dog that still lives with me today. Hopefully you can tell from the pictures that will accompany the posts that, while there were an abundance of rough patches, it wasn’t always unpleasant. Most importantly, we were learning. We’re still ‘in training,’ if only because we’re living life.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Just a Dog

Amanda agreed, after hours and hours of conversation, that Rocket could stay at our house. In true best friend form, she said she wanted me to be happy and that's what mattered, (plus she knew that I would help the puppy, whatever that meant). Landlords approved. Lists of needs were made. Rocket would be picked up on the day we returned home, and he would live with us. We'd need a crate, food, collar, leash--nothing too fancy to start off, just the basics. He was growing so quickly. This last photo before our return shocked all of us. He'd turned into a giant overnight.

I was getting what I wanted, but my mind was crowded with expectations. It was just a dog. Just a decision. One that's made and unmade every day by hundreds of people. One that I'd wanted to make for so long. Australia was captivating, but as our trip began to wind down, all I wanted to do was get home to what felt like the possibility of a brand new way of life.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Rocket kept growing, getting more comfortable in his new surroundings while we were away. There was so much to look forward to, yet so much I feared. How old is he? How big is he going to get? What if Amanda says “no” to another four-legged roommate? What if the apartment really is too small? Where did he come from? What if he came from an abuse situation? Wait, what if he already has a home? Is anyone looking for him?

[insert screeching of brakes]

To clear the record, quite a few people spent time investigating the sudden appearance of Rocket. It was determined that he did not belong to anyone, he was a genuine stray in every sense of the word. But even as questions got answered, more sprung up in their place. What if we’re not a good match? What if I’m not ready for a dog? What if he doesn’t get better? Can I afford him? What if I move? What if he doesn’t like cats? What if he doesn’t like other dogs? What have I done?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Who's to Decide?

According to Amanda, I forwarded the photo of Rocket wrapped in the orange towel to her work the morning he showed up. I was on the phone with her cooing about him, saying that we don’t know who he belonged to yet, but he needed help and a home. When I hung up, she turned to her co-worker and groaned, “Oh my God, we’re getting a dog.” (For the record, she just told me this information this morning, ten months after the fact).

A week before Rocket stumbled into the road, Amanda and I were driving along that same highway (I should point out here that there is only one “highway” that leads to and from our house…Honoapiilani Highway. That’s island life for you…), towards Lahaina town when we saw a striking white and grey pit bull riding in the back of a white truck. Both of us “oohed.” “Now that is a looker! I would have a gorgeous dog like that,” I said. “You know,” Amanda remarked, (and I quote), “if I had to have a dog, I’d consider a pit bull.” (She later denied this vehemently as it worked against her argument of why she didn’t want a dog, but I wanted a dog so badly, I vividly recall this passing comment as an opportunity to plead my case as to why it would be a great idea to get two Dalmatian puppies, which I’d been begging for for months). I gasped. She quickly turned to me and corrected herself, “Don’t come home with a pit bull. That didn’t mean anything. We’re not getting a dog.”

Before Rocket, I’d spend hours online looking up rescue dogs and Dalmatian puppies. (I had a beautiful Dalmatian years ago, Jaxum, who passed away at a young age from organ failure. He lived with my Mom and Dad, but I wanted my own chance to do right by another Dalmatian. I missed the feel of his fur, his sweet disposition, his high energy, his unbroken spirit. I believe some breed specific qualities can speak to person. I wanted my buddy back. I wanted it to be better this time. I knew it was delusional to think that just by getting the same type of dog, that I would have the same experience, but I entertained the thought anyway). In my searching, I kept thinking about what I would name a new dog or two. I kept coming back to one name: Rocket. This meant I’d have a boy dog, and only one. It was the only name that felt like a “sure” thing. Rocket, Rocket, Rocket kept going through my head. Does this mean a “Rocket” is coming into my life?, I journaled weeks before he arrived.

(My journal also says: My next dog is going to be Banjo, when the time is right. This entry, of course, is post-Rocket. “When the time is right” is underlined for emphasis).

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Is your name Rocket?

This video showed up in my inbox shortly after the name "Rocket" was decided upon. Do you think it suits him?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Name Game

I hadn’t really told anyone that I had decided to keep the puppy. My best friend and roommate, Amanda, was arriving the following day to join us for the last two weeks of our trip. There was a lot to talk about with her—and I had a sneaky suspicion it would take the full two weeks to work out the details. In all fairness to the dog (and Amanda), everyone in the house needed to be on the same page in order for this to work peacefully. There was still a chance he wouldn’t be able to live with me. My thoughts were racing day and night—from the adventure, work, and the possibility of a puppy. Something was starting to stir inside me. I found it easier to enjoy and be in the moment when my future was forming in front of me. Nothing was certain, nothing was familiar, not even my current surroundings, and yet everything felt “right” and alive.

Names were being discussed. The puppy should have a great name—but what? Buster? Biscuit? John? Peter Pan? Story? James? Lucky? Pickles? Action? Bruiser? Dopey? Gonzo? Luke? Rascal? Bubba? Gizmo? Poko? I cringed at some of them, because, (although these are fine names), I felt like he already had one.

I kept adding “Rocket” to the list. “Hey, you already said that one!” I was told over and over. “I know,” I answered, “because that’s his name.” “No, we’re choosing his name right now,” was the reply. “I know,” I smiled.

When I thought back to my dream of having a dog, I saw him. I saw a “Rocket” by my side. This puppy felt like that Rocket. From the moment he crawled in my lap at the vet, I had been trying to smother that “Oh, there you are!” feeling. But I was nervous. What if Amanda came and we discovered that he couldn’t stay, and then he was named Rocket and went to live with someone else? But I didn’t want my dog to end up with a name like Hippo or Rover. So I had to keep pushing for ‘my’ choice.

A tiny bit of my fear subsided when I heard someone say, “So what should we name Rocket?”

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Almost as soon as I made the silent decision to keep him, the puppy began to get better. He looked healthier in his photos. His caretakers said he was getting more comfortable, letting his personality show more each day. I was feeling better, too, knowing that he was going to live, (and live with me).

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Life on Hold

Sinking into a bathtub at a six star hotel (I didn’t even know such things existed before that trip), on the gold coast of Australia, I sighed, and started to think about my life rather than…well, anything and everything else.

I was having one of those “how did I get here?” moments. Quite a few of my friends and family often mentioned that I’m “living the life.” I’m not married. I live with my best friend on Maui. I have a great job that allows me to travel all over the world. No kids, no mortgage…on paper, I look as young and fancy free as they come. I bike or walk to work along a picturesque path—ocean to my left, the majestic West Maui mountains to my right; more than once a week, the beauty of it all takes my breath away. But a nagging thought occurred to me, “Is any of it really “me?”

Truth be told, this isn’t the life I signed up for. As a little girl, I didn’t dream of being single or traveling or living in Hawai’i. It never crossed my mind to wish for any of that. There are days I think I want what all of my friends on the mainland have, if only because I spent years wanting the same thing: to get married young, have the mortgage with the yard and kids and the dog, and even the stinky boy husband. But right now, my lifestyle lets me take off at a moment’s notice—I can explore entire cities and meet a dozen new people at breakneck speed, but still have the space and lack of attachments to enjoy it at whatever pace I choose. (I just always choose the fast lane). But how much of that exploring has been intrinsic? How much of my life involves getting to know the ‘real’ me as I change? How much of it includes my goals, present and future? It had been a long time since I had asked myself anything like that. The blankness I felt in response was enough of an answer.

My life felt like it was on hold. The idea of “living the life” bothered me, because some days it felt like someone else’s life. Did my life really belong to someone else? Had I allowed my job and other people’s concerns to completely block out my hopes? I knew my job and Maui could work as long as I remained unattached and available for travel. (I won’t tell you what my job is, because it honestly doesn’t matter. And in an effort to make myself feel better, I’d like to point out that I am not the only person who has ever used their job as a scapegoat for the lacking in their own lives…). I was allowing myself to be held back.

Maybe that’s why I wanted to keep the new puppy so much, (sooooo much). It felt like a portion of my ‘old’ dreams was presenting itself, reminding me to work for things that I really wanted in my own life. I made up my mind, while still in the bathtub, that this is what I really wanted. Now to convince everyone else that adopting the puppy was a good idea…

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Dog with 1,000 Faces

Huh? When these photos arrived in my inbox, I began to wonder if this was even the same puppy. His shape shifting was making it difficult to choose a name...not that anyone was talking about names.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Guessing Games

Blurry or not, the puppy's "in your face" photos made us laugh. We started multiple guessing games, What do you think his name is? What kind of dog is he? Where do you suppose he'll live? What on earth is he doing in that photo?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Photos From Afar

He was medically boarded for four days at the vet before being brought to my employer’s home to be monitored by a friend while we were away. We were told that his health and gusto for life were improving daily…but based on the images, it felt hard to believe.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Long Distance Romance

The baby, an ocean away, was on everyone’s mind. Conversations went a lot like this: “How’s the puppy? Had anyone heard? Any emails? Photos? Texts? What should we call the puppy? Puppy, puppy, puppy.” The daily updates never seemed to come soon enough. That first week made us laugh: “He smells. His tail is wagging. He’s such a sweet dog, happy to be alive. He takes his meds like a champ. He eats every meal like it’s his last”.

Never mind the fact that we were in a foreign country, the puppy overshadowed that excitement. I couldn’t help but wonder how powerful a puppy would have to be to dazzle us from a different time zone after only a brief meeting. Sick or not, that puppy knew voodoo.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hello, Goodbye

Later that afternoon, on our way to the airport, the car packed full of luggage and excitement, we swung by the vet’s office to formally meet the puppy and find out his diagnosis. If he was healthy enough to survive, he would be medically boarded until our return, (and then we would decide what to do with him—it was the best we could do without sloughing off the responsibility onto someone else).

We were invited into the back room of the vet’s office and led to a wall of small kennels. Severe mange, worms, malnutrition, sunburn, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory, months of medications, months on his own—the words blurred as we crept closer to the cages, my hand on my sleeve, trying to conceal my heart. I’m not sure what I was expecting to see when they opened the kennel door. I do know that I was trying desperately not to fall in love or form any attachment. Work mode prevailed. I stuck to the side of what was quickly becoming a crowd in the tight space to make way for others to see first (more for my selfish detachment than their benefit). All of us were crouched around the cage expectantly. The latch clicked, and a wiggling, scrawny, bright red puppy promptly peed on this freshly laundered bed before sauntering out. A little rough looking, his appearance didn’t exactly inspire an “awww…” but his positive spirit did. Tail wagging wildly, he walked a straight line, past outstretched hands, right to my lap. I rubbed on him while encouraging him to go visit someone else. I may have covered my heart, but obviously forgot to mask the word “sucker” written across my forehead. It’s blaringly obvious, even to animals. Someone said, “Look, he walked straight to L.B.” Silence. No one commented on this. No one wanted to say to whom the dog belonged (if any of us). Anything put out into the universe could bind one (or all of us) to the dog before we’d barely had a chance to say hello, or decide if any of this was even real. We’d just met, and we were on our way to big adventure down under. That seemed surreal enough.

We kissed him goodbye (from a distance, he still smelled, despite the bath) and wished him well. The reality was, he was going to live, and we were going to make our plane (but not if we stayed a moment longer). The real adventure had just begun, for all of us.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

At First Sight

He was so sick, so sunburned, so hairless, so smelly…he needed immediate help. It was decided that we would decide what to do with him later. (Later, as in the few hours we had before leaving the country). In the meantime, this was my first impression of the puppy, accompanied by the comment: “I wish cameras could capture smells.”

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Exits & Entrances

It was a bright October morning on Maui. The sun was shining in on Charlie, my six-month-old calico kitten, who was curled up in my suitcase watching me frantically dash back and forth, folding and unfolding “warm” clothes for my three-week work trip to New Zealand and Australia. None of my Maui clothes seemed appropriate. To-do and Don’t Forget lists were flying through my head. My cell phone buzzed. The lists blurred and I pressed answer before I could stop myself. You don’t have time to talk to anyone about anything, I chastised myself. Just hang up. Too late. Tanya—my dear friend’s name shined up at me, a welcome relief. Of all people to call at this frenzied hour, the voice of someone I consider to be a sort of spiritual advisor to me was just what I needed. I smiled. Her voice cracked. “Molly’s gone…”
She was calling from Ohio to let me know that she had just returned home from the vet. Molly, her beloved corgi of twelve years, had just been put to sleep. The tumors were too much and it was time. We cried. My packing slowed. I listened to her celebrate the life of our sweet Molly girl. I asked about Annie, Molly’s littermate and life long companion. We cried some more. I wished I had been packing to return ‘home’ to Ohio and that it was really last week, and that I had had the chance to give Molly a proper good-bye.

There was a call waiting beep. It was the housekeeper from work. Her call could wait. We weren’t done crying and remembering.

After I’d said good-bye, dried my tears and zipped my bags, I remembered the missed call. The housekeeper’s voicemail was quick and rambling. “Hi there, I’m so sorry because I know there are dogs at the house and that you all are leaving for your trip today and that you’re really busy, but there was this puppy and he’s really sick and he needs help and I couldn’t just leave him there in the middle of the road and people were honking and he was going to get hit and everyone was just driving around him and not doing anything so I have him and we’re almost at the house…”

I hung up. A sick puppy at work the morning of our trip could be a major speed bump. We were leaving the country in hours to be gone for weeks. The professional in me speed dialed my employer, brain rattling: What kind of sick? Where would we put him? Why doesn’t she just take him somewhere and come to work later? What if the other dogs catch something and die while we’re away? The animal lover in me tried to hold it together, heart pounding, Dear God, I hope he’s okay. What can I do?

My employer answered. I gave her the short version of what I knew. “Ooooh,” she cooed, “are you going to keep him?” What!? I screamed in my head, but answered, “Are you packed for New Zealand?”

By the time I arrived at work, my employers were already gone—speeding to the vet with the mystery puppy, down the road on which he was found.

Monday, July 12, 2010


To love loving animals is not enough. There are needs that have to be met, reality that has to be dealt with, and, Lord knows, vet bills that need to be paid. To love loving life is not enough either. Nor is it enough to love someone else’s life. There are needs that have to be met, reality that has to be dealt with, and, Lord knows, bills that need to be paid. I have always found it much easier to set aside my own life and work on someone else’s problems. Even a dog’s problems seem lighter. This was my mantra—work to make other people’s lives easier. So it was no surprise that when a sick puppy showed up, I performed the same song & dance. I poured my days into bettering his health and his behavior, but for the first time ever, all of my efforts seemed to come back to me. I began walking more. I found myself outside more often than not. Reading filled my downtime, (albeit dog training books). Budgeting became an immediate requirement in order to afford the giant vet bills, medications, and expensive food and supplements suitable for a sensitive puppy’s tummy. Exercise, education, savings...all things I had been meaning to focus on. Somehow, with a dog under foot, I was becoming more patient, more conscientious, looking for the least difficult way to get through my day. Spending my time setting him up for success set me up for success. No relationship I’ve ever had with a person has done this for me. I started to remember who I was, what I wanted to become, and how those ideas could meet in the present moment. In short, I began living (and loving) my life.

To date, I’ve lost forty-three pounds, read more books in the past six months than I have in years, changed my sleeping and eating habits for the better, and have more money in the bank then I did before vet bills. All because, one fateful morning, a puppy crawled into the middle of a busy highway—his life needed to change. The outcome of his choice was clear: get help or the end. Neither one of us could have kept going down the paths we were on. This is our adventure. One dog, one girl, one big awakening.