Thursday, January 25, 2007

A bout of clumsiness

Earlier this week, while on our early morning walk, Diesel and I were both startled by a car quickly pulling up behind us. As we walked, we both turned to look over our shoulders to see what was going on. Turns out, rather than just stopping at the stop sign and then turning the corner to pass us, the car's driver decided to pull directly up to the mailbox behind us to drop in some mail. I quickly processed the situation, realized we were well out of harms way, and looked forward as I continued walking. Diesel on the other hand continued to look over his shoulder, which led him to walk directly into a frozen clump of snow. Poor thing practically fell flat on his snout. Of course, being the dog mum I am, I bent down to check that he was alright, stifling a couple of chuckles under my breath. Yes, it was funny.

Later, as I was leaving home from my lunch break, Diesel and I stood outside the back door waiting for Mark to lock up, as they were on their way to the dog park. Diesel took a wrong step, lost his balance, and slipped off the two concrete back door steps.

Twice in one day. I thought animals were supposed to be more graceful than this.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Tugging at heartstrings

A whole year later and Mark and I still visit These visits are typically benign. Just checking in. Seeing who's out there. Seeing how everyone is doing.

But every once in a while one special beagle stands out and pulls at the heartstrings. Badly.

There was a beagle named Belinda Mark fell in love with. She was in a foster home through BREW (Beagle Rescue, Education, and Welfare). She hadn't found her "forever home" yet but she was safe and well cared for.

Now I'm afflicted. There is currently a little two-year-old beagle boy at the Sheboygan Humane Society. His name is Matthew and he was surrendered because his family wasn't home enough so he started having housebreaking accidents. Excuses like this would keep me from working in a humane society simply because I would stop liking people.

Matthew's photo did me in. He looks so similar to Diesel and I know that laid-back eared expression. Matthew looks confused and lost. He doesn't know why he's not home. To top it off he's not used to being around other animals so I'd imagine the noise and activity is frightening to him. I'm sure the Sheboygan HS is as nice a place as it can be, but it's not a home and who knows how long he's allowed to be there until adopted.

Okay, enough. It's Friday and I'm supposed to be happy.

Easy solution? Go get him. Adopt him. Bring him home.

Mark and I talk about "another one" often enough. We know our resources are limited so don't feel it's something that would be wise. After all, we enjoy providing Diesel with an only-dog lifestyle. A Greenie® a day, the best quality holistic food, not batting an eye at an extra visit to the vet "just to be sure", the prized donut bed, the beagle transport crate in the OB ... all set for a single beagle. Diesel doesn't seem bored by us for the most part. He doesn't seem to long for the company of another of his kind. He more than enjoys his dog visits at the dog park but I think he enjoys his only-dog status once home just as much.

The best thing to do is leave well enough alone.

That still doesn't stifle the longing to take the hour-long drive to Sheboygan to pay Matthew a visit tomorrow.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

You had me at hello

It was the day before New Year's Eve 2005 and Mark was trying to convince me of the merits of this beagle called Timothy he found on I was coming around to the idea of a boy dog so that wasn't a problem any longer. Timothy had a nice amount of eyeliner so that was a selling point. He looked very handsome and attentive from his online photos … Mark and I were in agreement on his looks 100%. His profile used words like rambunctious and puppy-like. After Red, that was the last thing I wanted to read. But then it also used words like affectionate and "likes to be close to his people." Perfect! Mark persuaded me to call the foster home with a list of questions to put my mind at ease.

I talked to Karen, the foster "mom", on New Year's Eve morning and she gave me all the time in the world to ask questions covering the most minute details. I liked her. She was honest and I got a better idea of what Timothy might be like. She invited us to come by and meet him. Of course since she was on the other side of the state, three hours west of where we live, we agreed it would make the most sense to fill out an application and go through the approval process so, if we were approved, we could bring him home with us on the same visit.

We put together our application and e-mailed it off. CASA (Crawford Area Shelter for Animals, the shelter he was fostered through) contacted our references who gave us raving reviews. By early afternoon we were officially approved to adopt. Now the ball is picking up speed and rolling with it's own momentum.

Another phone call to Karen. When is convenient to meet? Either tomorrow, New Year's Day, or two weekends from then. Tomorrow? Tomorrow is awfully soon. But two weekends is to far. Tomorrow it will be.

New Year's Eve night 2005. Mark and I walked into PETCO for the first time together and shopped for necessities. We picked out the perfect crate, bowls, 6-foot leather leash, treats, toys, everything on our dog list. As we checked out, I verified that we could return our entire purchase in case the next day didn't go as planned. (Ever so optimistic!) We went home to eat our traditional New Year's Eve dinner of Indian curry and stayed up only until one minute past midnight to get as much sleep as possible for our long New Year's Day.

After a restless night, morning arrived. I went through the motions. I wasn't the least bit joyful. I was terrified! I wanted Mark to tell me he changed his mind so we wouldn't have to go. My feet were so cold, I may as well have been walking down the aisle ... and I didn't have cold feet getting married!

The entire three hour car journey I was silent, except for the occasional sniffling as I tried to conceal the tears. I worried about the commitment. I worried about screwing the dog up. I worried that this was just a passing phase. I worried that the house would be destroyed. I worried the dog would like Mark more than it liked me. I prayed that the decision of whether or not to adopt him would be crystal-clear once we got there. I was so tired of indecision. I was a mess. An emotional wreck.

Nearly there and as planned, we stopped at a very rural gas station to call Karen to get exact directions to her house. As my cell phone cut in and out of service, Mark went inside to see if anyone was familiar with a woman locally who fostered dogs. A man approached him saying he didn't know the woman, but he had a dog in a dog box in the bed of his pick-up we could have if we wanted. Mark walked by the truck on his way back to our car and saw a curious girl beagle, probably a hunting dog, peering out. Apparently beagles are a dime a dozen in rural southwest Wisconsin.

Armed with directions to Karen's, we finished our drive. Climbing up her steep and snowy driveway I got the first glimpse of the dogs, probably six of them, waiting for us behind a chain-link fence. As we walked to the house it was apparent who Timothy was. His body was shaking in a full body wag amidst this confusion of fur and tails around him. He picked up a rawhide bone from the ground as though he was presenting us with a prize.

Karen invited us in and let only Timothy slip into the house with us. Mark and I grinned from ear to ear with how cute he was. I kneeled down on the floor to say hello and *it* happened. Timothy calmly came to me, quietly put a front paw on each of my knees and stood there, propped up on my lap, gently wagging his tail, allowing me to pet and hug him. He knew how to work me. Timothy sealed the deal. He had me at hello.

When I told Mark and Karen that I wanted to adopt him I felt sure and calm. It didn't take more time than that moment (prayer answered, thank you!). I was still afraid, sure, but only of the newness, not of the decision. I expressed some of my fear to Karen and she assured me that the fact that I was taking this responsibility so seriously actually made Mark and I ideal dog guardians. Okay, I hadn't thought of it that way.

We said our good-byes and our thank-yous. Karen gave Timothy his blanket and we tucked it and him into his new crate in the back of our car. She also gave him a huge rawhide bone which he's still working on to this day.

As we travelled down the highway, I looked with sympathy back at this scared and confused little creature. Mark and I tossed out ideas for a new name, Mark reading words off signs and trucks for inspiration. When he said the word Diesel out loud we both looked at each other. That's it. It suits him!

Shortly after we left Karen's, the scared beagle in the back of our car had an accident in his crate. Mark pulled over and cleaned up as best possible. My reaction, rather than being disgust (which would have been typical), was an overwhelming concern for what Diesel must be feeling in this new car with these new people.

It was at that moment that I became a dog mum.