What is Dead May Never Die…

This has been a year.

Our current situation has 7 dogs, 2 rats and 2 people in a 1200 square foot apartment in the city.  Our goal was 6 dogs, 2 rats and 2 people in a 2000+ square foot one house in the burbs.  You can see where we fell a bit short.

We had been in our house 6 years when we decided to put it on the market and purchase a bigger house with more land for the dogs.  We were specific in what we wanted: ranch or split, big fenced in yard, pool, only cosmetic work needed.  The must-have list was short but absolute, however we were confident we would find what we wanted in a reasonable time frame.  After all, we weren’t newbs — we had danced to this beat before.

We put our cute little colonial up for sale in February, and 3 days after the open house we accepted an offer.  Joyous!  Everyone who’s played the real estate game before knows that the most important thing is to secure a buyer — you can’t move forward until you do.  So we quickly checked that one off and we were on our way to finding our new home within the 60 day agreed upon time before closing.

It was around day 30 when my husband got laid off.  As a full time student, I make no money.  I make less than no money, actually, since I also have to pay for school.  So at the moment our entire income is supported by his job alone.  Which meant that when he got laid off we had no income.  Which meant we then could no longer qualify for a mortgage.

Worse, is that we did not have a “contingent upon us finding suitable housing”clause in the Purchase and Sale of our home, which meant we had to sell no matter what.  No matter if we had no place to go to, no matter if my husband lost his job, no matter if I got run over the next day.  We had to vacate our home in 30 days or the buyers could sue us.

Options?  Stay with my mom and her dogs — an hour+ away from our lives, my job and school, but at least we’re not living in a card board box under the overpass.  Another option was to stay with his parents and their dogs, also over an hour away from everything, but also not a card board box under the overpass.  Being over an hour away wasn’t ideal, but at least we had 2 places we could go and we’d be with family either way.  Besides our family, a couple of very generous if not insane friends offered up their homes as well.  The problem really was the dogs — the amount of dogs and their personalities.  But of course, we are a family and we had to find housing for our ENTIRE family.  It’s all or nothing.

By some stroke of luck, or fate, or magic, or I don’t even know, one of our friends happened to have recently purchased a two family in the city that needed renovations.  It was vacant.  It was close by.  It had a yard.  By God, it even had a driveway.  (If you’ve lived in the city you know how precious a driveway is!)  Our friend would renovate one floor while we occupied the other, affording us time to get back on our feet.  It was a prayer answered, if you believe in that stuff.

So we rented a storage unit and hauled all of our not so important stuff away in boxes.  We hired a moving company and took only what we needed to the apartment.  We said good bye to our first home, to the city where we planted roots, to the good memories and the bad.  We set up shop in the apartment, figured things out, and continued our search for the perfect home.

House hunting is akin to online dating: you have to kiss a lot of frogs until you find your prince.  And we kissed plenty of frogs, believe you me.  Houses where the cigarette smoke permeated into the walls, where parts of the house had no heat, houses with extreme water damage, houses we literally walked in and walked right back out.  It got to be where if we pulled up to a house and didn’t immediately see something we liked, we drove away.  It was disappointing still, but at least we didn’t have to get out of the car and shove our way through a throng of people.  That was the other frustrating thing about house hunting: the other potential buyers at the open houses.  There were just so many of them, they were sucking the air out of the room.  They were rude, they were grabby, they were just fucking everywhere I wanted to be.  One time a family tried to block the entrance to an open house, and when my husband asked them politely to step aside they said, “We really like this house.”  Oh you, bless your heart little first time home buyer heart.

While we house hunted, we also took in a hospice foster from MSPCA Nevins.  Logan, a 4 year old Boston Terrier, was surrendered to the shelter as the owner’s could no longer afford his care.  Logan had Lymphoma, likely GI Lymphoma, and was given maybe weeks to months to live.  My friends at the shelter alerted me to him, and soon after he came to his forever home.  We got a good 6 weeks with Logan, we even started chemo, but unfortunately the cancer was too strong and we had to say good bye.

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Our good boy Logan

In the meantime between house hunting and sobbing over my good Logan boy, I had finals, I had an externship, I had summer classes, and I had work.  The externship, summer classes and work lead to 50 hour weeks for about 7 weeks.  I don’t even know how I got dressed in the morning.  Yeah, I know there are plenty of people out there who put in regular 50 hour weeks, my problem was the emotional drainage from working in an animal hospital, and then 9 hours of microbiology every week, and then coming home to my family who still needed my attention and love, and then all the homework and studying I had to do.  Somehow I made room for my husband, the dogs, my sisters, my mother, my friends, and lastly myself.  Caregivers are always putting their needs last, that’s what makes them so invaluable, but it’s also what causes them to burn out faster than a gasoline fire on top of dry birch bark.

I burned out.  And then the anxiety kicked in:

“I’m not good enough.”

“I’m failing.”

“I should just give up.”

“What was I thinking, going to school, pursuing my dream?  I have no time for this.”

“I’m letting my family down.”

“I will never feel happiness again.”

“I will always be an anxious person.”

“I will never get it together, might as well bow out now before I make a fool out of myself.”

If you’ve never experienced crippling anxiety, you’d have no idea how damaging negative self talk can be.  It will send you into a spiral, it will haunt you, it will consume every waking minute and penetrate your dreams.  Eventually, you would do anything to stop the internal pain.  It’s just crushing.

I hadn’t talked to my therapist in over a year, and once I broke down from mental exhaustion — the house, school, work, emotional demands, my own perfectionism, a bout with severe food poisoning while we didn’t have health insurance because hey why not — I decided I had better try and get myself together.  I had a goal, I still have this goal, to be a CVT.  It’s pretty much all I’ve ever wanted out of life besides winning the lottery!  I was getting in my own way, however, and on top of it all I had piled my plate sky high with outside demands.

It has taken a lot of personal work but I am finally in a better place.  It also helps that I’m done with my externship and summer classes, which means all I have to do is work.  I love my job, I love the people I work with, I love my clients and my patients, so when I work it’s not a chore.  In some pleasantly surprising way it’s relaxing: I run best in chaos (I know that’s hard to believe!) and a veterinary hospital has chaos in spades.

We came to the apartment with 6 dogs, we had 7 for a time with Logan, and now we have 7 again.  The 7th is a new foster puppy.  Because I’m insane.  Because his face was just too cute.  Because I believe in animal rescue.  Because his life matters — to me, and to the lucky family that adopts him.

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Hercules, my shy guy through SOS Animal Rescue League

Despite the obvious craziness in my life this month, it’s a comforting sort of crazy.  Being back with my work peeps and my rescue peeps feels easy compared to house hunting and homework.

My husband eventually found another job, as I knew he would.  He’s very smart, talented and probably most importantly well liked and connected, so if his layoff had happened at any other time I would not have been an ounce of worried.  Of course it happened in the middle of our mortgage application, but that’s how we roll.

And finally, at long last, after such an arduous journey, after loss, we found our house.  It was worth the wait, of course, but in the thick of it you can’t see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  This house is everything we’ve wanted and at a great price.  The dogs will have a nice big yard to run in, my husband will have his man cave, I will have my office/creative/ready room, and we’ll both have the nice big functional kitchen we’ve always wanted.  Did I mention pool?

T-minus 2o days till closing.  We’re scheduling the movers, the painter, and the pool guy.  We’ve started packing up anything in the apartment that we can and trying to get rid of any surplus that didn’t get cut in the first round.  We’re excited, we’re eager, we’re ready for our next chapter.

School starts up again for me September 6th, and I only have 2 semesters left (knock on wood!) until I graduate.  This fall I’m taking Chemestry, A&P, Exotic Animal Medicine, Animal Disease and Veterinary Office Management.  If I can just focus on the horizon and stop tripping over tiny pebbles in my way I’ll be just fine.  I know I can do it, I know I’m worth it, I know I’m going to be amazing someday.  I know this, I just need to believe it.  I need to believe in myself.

…But rises again, harder and stronger.

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Were They Loved?

A theme that comes to mind every so often is how did such-an-such get from here to there?  How did a thing once so valuable become dilapidated?  How do ruins become themselves — from structures of wonder to eye sores?  How does a life become a burden, an afterthought, unwanted?

I often wonder what lay upon the paths of the dogs that come into my home.  Were they happy?  Abused?  Did they have enough to eat?  Were they touched by gentle hands?  Was there a child they loved?  Did they comfort old hearts, snuggle against aging bodies, a rock in someone’s swiftly wilting life?  Did they stretch their legs, bask in the sun, size up squirrels, lazily pick at the grass?  Did they play fetch?  Were they loved?

Most of the dogs I take into my home are older, so there is a lifetime of moments in these dogs.  Moments I will never know and can only guess at, moments that we will never share, time that has come and gone and I was not there for you.  The part of their lives is mysterious to me, pieces of the past I can only glimpse at from their current behavior.  It’s like looking out a dirty window into the fog.

Have you ever watched the episode of Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown where he goes to Detroit?  It is beautiful and ghastly at the same time.  Enormous abandoned factories, one that was over a mile long, rise up over the horizon like old mountains.  House upon house upon block upon district sits abandoned, or destroyed, or lit ablaze.  Someone built those houses and those factories.  Someone spend the money to excavate the foundation, pour the concrete, install the window, choose a paint color.  Someone cared, at one point, cared enough that they sunk money into it — maybe even blood, sweat and tears.  But now all that’s left is ruin.

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Abandoned Packard plant

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Warehouse in Detroit

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Vacant house

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Someone lived here once

For those keeping track, Anthony (the stray) is doing well in our home.  He is slowly–painstakingly–gaining confidence and is even more slowly accepting new people into his life.  We have him on Prozac and most of his time is spent in the sun room where he feels comfortable.  We take him out during the day so he can experience life outside of his comfort zone, and he is starting to come out of his shell a little.

Tiny, if you remember, came to us a year and a half ago and is back now.  He started to get grumpy with his human little brother, as old dogs often do, and so he’s back to live with us.  Surprisingly, Bruno and Tiny became fast friends and love to play together despite the 10 years between them!

My dogs are happy now, you can tell by their relaxed postures and smiling bully faces.  They will never again want for anything — food is provided (sometimes to excess!), fresh water fills their bowls, there are more toys and treats and beds and blankets then they could ever use, and most importantly there are gentle hands to caress them.  If they were happy before in their previous life, I can only hope that they feel as content as they did before coming here.  If they were mistreated, I can only hope that they have forgotten the pain and live happily ever after with us.

How does one go from there to here?  What happened along the way, what made this what it is now?  How did you become yourself?

Seven dogs all in one pic

Seven dogs all in one pic

Anthony

He was a stray from a local town.  He has two wonky legs, both on his left side, and a crooked tail.  He needs a ton of teeth pulled, he needs to be neutered and of course he’s cryptorchid.  He marks my house, he could be visually impaired.  He’s nervous, he winces when petted.  He snaps at people and he doesn’t relent when provoked.

He’s my foster.  And I love him.

As soon as I saw him I knew he was a dog for me.  Crippled, sad looking, tragic story, older — yup, right up my alley.  He came into the animal hospital on a Friday and that night I took him home because he wasn’t eating.  He didn’t eat the next day or the day after, and by then when I took him back for an exam and meds that Sunday he had lost nearly a pound.  He’s a Jack Russell/Rat Terrier mix, so one pound is a big deal for a 10 lb dog.  But that day he got a shot and started eating pizza 15 mins later.  A dog after my own heart.

But he snaps.  He protects me, he’s wary, he has attacked my sister (who also works with me) even after she gave him a Dorito.  Who doesn’t like Doritos!?  Who doesn’t like people who give them Doritos!?  But Anthony went after her, attacked her shoes and cornered her until I could pick him up by his harness.  It was super stressful, but in a way I’m glad it happened because I saw how serious the situation was.

Anthony could possibly be unadoptable.

What does that mean?  It means that he is some combination of too damaged and too much of a liability to be adopted.  It means that life has failed him, people have let him down, his skeletons are too loud and terrifying to recover from.  It means that Anthony, if deemed unadoptable, will be put down.

I have some comfort knowing that I am in the driver’s seat for this situation, that I will decide whether he is ok or not, and I will be able to choose the behaviorist to evaluate him.  This means a lot to me since it’s my hands that will be bloodied should that be the path for Anthony.  I know it’s going to the worst decision of my life, but at least it’s me that gets to make it.  At least I know I’ve done what I can, I’ve exhausted my resources, I’ve done right by Anthony and I’ve done it all out of love.

A perfectly healthy life extinguished.  There is nothing wrong with Anthony’s body besides his wonky legs and horrible teeth, both of which can be rectified.  His bloodwork came back good, he’s not on death’s door.  It’s his mind that is damaged from whatever happened to him before coming to me.  To quote the Matrix, “The body cannot live without the mind.”

We meet with the behaviorist tomorrow and I am both nervous and hopeful.  I trust this person as I’ve come to know her as a friend and I’ve seen her in action with Bruno.  I asked her to come evaluate Bruno last year for his leash aggression, and she was so wonderful and engaging.  She laid it out to me, realistically, gave me pointers I could actually use in every day but she didn’t sugar coat anything.  I know that whatever the outcome, Anthony will be evaluated fairly and with his best interest in mind.

Anthony is but one dog in a sea of dogs just like him: those so emotionally scarred from their experience with people that their ability to be “normal” is in question.  Someone said to me recently that you don’t want to adopt an older dog because you’re just taking on someone else’s problem.

What if that person created the problem, what happens then?  Well, you get Anthony.

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The Changing of the Seasons

I know it’s been a while.  School, work and family takes up most of my time.  I’m not sad about it, I just have such little time for extras like doing the dishes and posting on here.  Thankfully my husband does the dishes, or at least doesn’t complain when I let them pile up.

In the meantime, we have added and lost.  Buggy, my foster through SNORT Rescue became our 6th addition and closed the doors of the Inn.  We stopped fostering for a while so I could concentrate on school and also because we simply had no more room!

My sweet little Bugg

My sweet little Bugg

In case you’re wondering: Yes, he is missing an eye.  What an ordeal that was!  Buggy came to us with eye pressures at almost 90 — normal pressure is 12-15.  He was in immense pain due to the pressures and the eye couldn’t be saved.  It’s better this way, anyways, as his pain is alleviated.  But he also has a heart murmur and is heartworm positive, so surgery to remove the eye was risky.  Everything turned out all right in the end though, and we are waiting until the summer to run his final heartworm test.  Fingers crossed it turns up negative!

We also lost Fred the other day.  To say it was a devastating blow to our family would be insufficient.  We are lost without our baby boy Fred.  He went quick and sudden, with a full belly from breakfast, but I’m left with this enormous hole in my heart that chokes me at every turn.  Fred is everywhere in this house: his pictures hang on the wall, his ghost trit-trots across the floor in sightless determination, his medicine lays on the counter, his sweater still within reach for those cold nights where he needs to go potty.

Fred had this aroma about him that probably only myself and my husband cherished.  It was a mixture of weathered body and dried bits of food.  There was a sweet heaviness to it, like pumpkin spice.  I used to bury my nose in his copious neck skin and breathe in his sweet old man smell.

He was at the doctor’s just the day before rechecking his liver values, which had been worryingly elevated a few weeks prior.  We were on a regiment of liver supplements and antibiotics hoping it would help if the issue was infection.  As the doctor put it when we brought to her his pale little body, “He wasn’t the pillar of health, but he also wasn’t on death’s door.”

“It was likely a clot,” she said, “since it happened so fast.”

“There was nothing we could do?” I sobbed.  As Fred lay dying, I felt feeble and grossly inadequate to try and save him.  Not even finished a year of my animal studies, as he gasped his last breaths the thought flashed across my mind that if I only knew more I could stop this.  But I didn’t know more.  I didn’t have the experience nor the training to resurrect a collapsing life.  And so my husband and I did the only thing we knew how to do: we comforted Fred.  We stroked his shaking body, I told Fred it was ok, we were with him so he wouldn’t have to make the journey alone.  It was terrifying to watch my baby boy struggle leaving this world.  I wish I had a chance to say good bye.

I thought the face of death would come as succumbing to illness.  Cancer, liver failure, kidney failure, heart failure.  I thought Fred would hang on by the tiniest thread and that we would have to make the decision for him.  I thought we’d have the summer.

I’d do it all over again, even if the outcome was the same.  Fred changed our lives for the better, and although there is so much sadness in our hearts right now I know that because of Fred we will do great things.  We will turn our sadness into action, we will help others like Fred — old, sick, decrepit dogs long forgotten will be honored in our home.  We will love and care for them no matter how long or short they have.  They will live and die with dignity.  There will be happiness in their hearts, and ours as well.

We have Roxie, Kahlua, Emerson, Bruno and Buggy who still need our love and support as they mourn in their own ways.  They were there too, they saw Fred pass, and I notice a clingyness to their habits since Fred left us.  Do they sense my sorrow?  Do they grieve for the loss of their brother?  Either way, their warm little bodies lay piled nearly on top of me at night and scamper at my heals as I walk.

Fred, I wish you didn’t have to leave us.  I love you, my baby boy, I love you forever.

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Toofers!

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Fred used to come to work with me where he gained a following, I think it was because of that adorable old man face!

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Fred was a grumpy dinosaur for Halloween — rawwrrr!

Buggy and Fred sleeping

Fred and Buggy were BFFs

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My sweet baby boy

Coming Home

First off, my lap top is back which means I can post pictures more easily than from my tablet, which is what I was using in the interim.

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Can you even stand the excitement.

Second, my fosters are going home.  Hazel, the little jack russell/whippet mix found her home in an unlikely old man.  This old Italian throw-back came into the hospital, clutching a few pieces of paper in his hands, and announced that he was looking to adopt a dog.  “Not a mean dog, like one of those pitbulls. They’re bred to be mean, you can’t change ’em.  I’m looking for a good dog.”  Immediately my hair stood on end and I promptly labeled him too crass and old-school for my sweet needy Hazel.

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OMFG THAT VICIOUS PITBULL IS GOING TO EAT THE BABY!!!!111!!one!

He persisted though, and wanted to know about any dogs we had available.  He pointed to the papers in his hand and showed me Petfinder print outs of dogs he was interested in.  Through experience I know that it’s important to trust my gut, but it’s also necessary to let things play out till the end.  Sometimes people change and open up the more you talk to them.  I gave the old man Hazel’s information, told him how to fill out an application online and sent him on his way.  Honestly, I never expected to hear from him again.

Of course his application finds its way into my hands, and as soon as I see it I know it’s his.  He liked to go on and on about how much money he spent on his previous dog who passed away a few months ago.  I am of the opinion that people who like to talk about how much money they throw into this and that can’t be trusted.  In my life I’m the total opposite: “I got it at Target!” is one of my favorite sayings.  So when this old Italian gent openly bragged about how he spent upwards of $25,000 on his diabetic dog (and I’d believe him), I mentally scoffed.  He did not leave that detail out on his application.

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Look at that sweet Hazel face!

My husband is my sounding board, and when I come across a foster-related speed bump I discuss it with him.  He is the ying to my yang.  Where I am anxious and over-analytical, he is patient and thoughtful.  I told him about the old man and he reminded me of Boston the Boston’s adopter who was the same way: rough, crass and standoffish until you saw him with a dog.  Boston the Boston’s owner was in tears when I left Boston with him.  He was both mourning the love of his life, a sweet female Boston Terrier he lost moths before adopting Boston, and overjoyed to have another beating heart at his feet again.  I was touched and forever reminded that you have to give people time to take down their walls.

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Boston the Boston – what a mug.

So when I got the old Italian’s application, after some back and forth with my husband I decided to play it out and see where the whole thing went.  I called his references: Glowing.  Stellar.  Impeccable.  This man bragged about the tens of thousands of dollars he spent on his previous dog for good reason: the dog was ill and he did literally everything in his power to make him well again.  When I called his vet they knew him by first name.  Gave an outstanding review of the old man’s care for animals.

So, I scheduled a meet in greet coupled with the home visit.  There is more to this man than meets the eye, I thought.  I went to his house with Hazel, and the old Italian melted.  His heart poured from his chest; there was love in his gruff old veins.  And Hazel made herself right at home rolling around in his yard, on his carpet, on his couch.  She looked at me with those big doe eyes and told me she’s found it: her forever home.

And that’s the story of Hazel winning the heart of a gruff old Italian.

 

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I slappa you silly.

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending SOS Animal Rescue League‘s second adoption event at Yawgoo Valley Ski and Waterpark.  The owner of Yawgoo is a friend and huge proponent of rescue.  If there was anyone you’d ever aspire to be, it’d be her.

Taz, my foster through SNORT Rescue, met his new family that day.  I asked SOS if I could bring my SNORT rescue to their event, since Exeter RI was in the middle between where the adopters were from (somewhere in no-mans-land Connecticut) and Boston.  Taz made friends left and right, and loved to yodel at passing dogs.  His family came a couple hours after the event started and we spent a lot of time together.  They have a little boy, maybe 7 or 8, who fell in love with Taz sight unseen.  That boy and Taz will have their best years together, they will be best friends.

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Taz in the play pen, no doubtedly yodeling at dogs having fun without him.

SOS Animal Rescue League is made up of a lot of key people from FOHA, the rescue I left unceremoniously.  These women and a few men have been my rock for the past year and a half, and rescuing with them again has felt like coming home after a long hiatus.  I slipped right into old habits, picked up right where I left off, and hit the ground running.  I’ve been to a few Yawgoo events and each one has been such a delight: good people, good times…did I mention there was a bar??

Yawgoo is where my Donny found his forever home, where Cupid barreled down the hill, where Dukey found and destroyed countless squeaky toys, where Emerson got microchipped, where I won my Alex + Ani bracelet for selling the most raffle tickets, where Belle fell in love with children, and where I last saw Molly Moo.

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Donny and my sister Casey, who used to come with me to events on summer break.

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Me and Cupid, Summer 2013

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We had to parade down the hill, and well…Cupid doesn’t have any mode besides As Fast As Possible

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Me and Miss Molly Moo

Home.  What is home to you?  To me it’s familiar, comforting, cozy, a little crazy, and the place where everybody knows your name.

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That’s me on the far right.

 

Dog Mom

Yesterday I left Emerson outside for half an hour. I was talking to someone on the phone, someone important who I needed to reconnect with, and I went outside for privacy and quietness.  I didn’t realize Emerson followed me, so when I was done with the converstation I came inside and shut the door.  By that time I had to get ready for work, so I went upstairs and took a shower.

I came down after I’d dressed in my scrubs and I looked around.  “Where’s Emerson?” I asked to the crowd including my husband.  I found him scratching at the sliding door.  My poor little old man.

As I was leaving for work, Emerson got excited.  He stamped his feet and made little excited noises indicating that he was ready to come with me.  Stamp[ng his feet, sighing little “Hynnnughhh” noises: Emerson was a dog that knew what he wanted, and he wanted to come with me.  Saturday can be really crazy so I hadn’t planned on taking him — in fact I had planned on going to the gym after work.  Some Mommy time.  Emerson seemed to have a different plan in mind.

Off we went to work, Emerson and I.  As I left my husband joked “I can’t believe you’re being bullied by a 12 year old dog!”  But it’s not bullying — It’s mother’s guilt which is a constant undercurrent in my daily life.

Today I had to rush Roxie off to the hospital because she had a boogery nose.  I was talking to my friend, the doctor whom I highly respect, and I was saying about how I had meant to go to the gym this moring.  But here I was, at the vets, with a sick dog.  She said, “You should still go to the gym.  You spend how many hours a day as The Dog Mom,  but how many hours are you just You?”

She is right.  I spend most of my day as Mom to Seven Dogs, but I don’t take very much time to just be me.  It’s the guilt, which is omnipresent in my life.  I just want my family to be taken care of, and I’m half of that equation.  It’s hard to seperate myself from Dog Mom and Regular Person — especially with the volume of dogs I have in my house.

I need to make a point to take more time for myself.  I am more than Dog Mom, that’s important, but there is more to me than that.  I love being Dog Mom, but I need to broaden my horizens.  I also want to be fit and healthy, and to be a good wife, and to be a fun friend, and a caring sisiter, and a loving daughter.

I’m doing what I love, but I can’t lose myself in it.  I need to keep a balance.

Love Is…

I bought my car two years ago.  Before the sea of dogs, before I cut my salary in half.  When excel and data warehouse were my daily companions at work.  When I used to open my closet to a neat row of pencil skirts and Express blouses.  When lunch breaks were spent at Marshalls down the road.  When leather seemed like a good idea.

Now daily there are two dogs that accompany me to my job: one goody two shoes Boston Terrier and one goofy pitbull mix.  Leather seats — two toned, I may add — don’t hold up so well to sharp nails that don’t like to be trimmed.  My car smells like an old sleeping bag that’s been lived in, rugged and earthy, musky with body oils.  I sheepishly mask the Eau du Dog with a Gain scented air freshener.  It’s a lame attempt.

The other day I was driving to work, on a rare day I didn’t have any dogs (Mommy needs some Mommy time) and as I was half listening to Sirius, someone said “Unconditional love is loving someone no matter who they are, or what they choose.”  Or something like that, but the moment struck a chord with me and I chewed on that sentiment all the way to work.

You know how I knew when I was different?  When I used to say things out loud and get blank stares.  When in 2nd grade my teacher had us do a poster project of what we wanted to be when we gew up, and I said I wanted to be a kangaroo.  When my 4th grade teacher did a series on wolves, and instead of going to recess that week I stayed with her to learn more about our wild canine friends.  When I was 16, my friend found a rabbit outside of the big box toy store we worked for.  She was huddled in a corner of the vestibule, a big black lagamorph beauty.  I told my friend to get a box, which he did, and I scooped her up and took her home.  Her name was Raven, and she was a queen.

When she died, I watched her ears turn from pink to white.  Her body looked exactly the same, only her big hare ears gave her away.  That milky white where there should be pink now embodies death to me, as I have seen it too many times.

Love is putting your nose to the grindstone with a smile on your face.

I am exhausted.  There are seven dogs in my house.  Seven.  Dogs.  Insane?  Yes.  Overwhelmed?  Yes.  Crazy?  Oh yes.  they take up all of my time, all of my resources, all of my energy, all of my emotions.  Love is guilt when you only have two hands and five eager little faces nudging your palm.  Love is sleeping on the couch so you can sleep as a family, no exclusions, even to the temporary wards.

Love is wanting to scream and cry, all sharp words and soft tears when the day has been unbearable and you come home to hungry mouthes begging for attention.  Love is holding back your immediate desires.  Love is realizing that feelings change minute to minute, so you’d best hold your tongue because in a minute you will melt into their soft fur and gentle eyes.

You know how I knew that I was different?  When I looked at Roxie and Kahlua–now this was mayne 8-9 years ago–when I looked at them and saw ROXIE and KAHLUA.  Not just dogs put forth to entertain or fufill some shallow desire to nuture.  Not just an accessory, something cool, a wicked fun idea at the time.  I looked at them and saw individuals, I saw unique contributors to my family.  I saw souls.

I have seven dogs in my house right now.  I am totally overwhelmed, let’s just lay that one on the table.  My limit is six dogs, less if the pack isn’t jiving.  I am over my limit and I have been operating this way for months.  My fosters, Taz and Hazel, are good dogs.  Real good dogs, sweet and easily adaptable to a variety of homes.  It’s simply the numbers that’s stressfull….you know it takes me over half an hour to feed them all?  From start to finish, I have to make sure each day I set aside 45 mins (just in case) in the morning, and 45 mins in the evening to feed the dogs.

I have been running on empty for miles, crossing my fingers and praying to Jebus that I don’t break down in the middle of nowhere.  But there is a light at the end of the tunnel now: Taz and Hazel have applications.  With Hazel, she is being fostered through PAWS Wakefield, and Taz through SNORT. Both are good, sweet dogs that deserve their own home and someone special to dote upon them.  I love them, but in my home they are getting 1/7th of my love.  To be fair, they should be getting 100%.

I think to be successful in rescue, you have to love rescue unconditionally.  You have to love it when it’s cute and fluffy and smells like puppy breath.  You have to love it when it’s old, blind, deaf and incontinent.  You have to love it when it’s small, never ending numbers that need entering into some spreadsheet.  You have to love rescue when you are spending your last dollar on dog food, instead of drinks with the girls.

Love is not something that would ever be framed, or sculpted into marble statues, or set against fireworks or a rosy sunset.  Love is not ooh and awwed, not cheered by a crowd, love it not shouted from the roof tops.  Love is not sparkley, nor is love sunny tropical beaches.

Love is quite and demure.  Love is dirt under your fingernails, love is shopping at the clearance rack.  Love is spending not just this Saturday night but every Sarturday night in, on the couch, with a glass of wine and your heart content.  Love is saying goodbye, even when you don’t want to.

I breathed again when I found out Taz and Hazel had applications.  I felt like if I squinted I could see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Love is holding your breath, kicking to the surface and knowing that at some point the water will break and air will fill your lungs.  Love is trust and hope.