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.