Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A bit of this, A bit of that

I've been so immersed in dog issues as of late, that it seems like I've had no life outside of my pets to report here. To some extent that is true. Taking care of Cosmos, especially in his last weeks, was a 24/7 job, and the loss still brings me to agonized tears when I think about it. I miss that boy terribly; he was so incredibly quirky and loving and I can't imagine ever finding a love like that again.

Lucy is delightful, Lucy is terrible, Lucy is a fantastic addition to my home, and I know that I am going to love her wildly too. She's weird enough and trouble enough to fit my preferred criteria, and the fact that I swooped in and saved her life at the very last moment adds to her charm. I do have to admit, though, feeling a little bit of discomfort with her. All of my dogs have been beautiful in my eyes, but I've never had a dog that could be considered classically beautiful before. Lucy is beyond gorgeous by any standard, even that of complete strangers. It's obvious that she must have a pedigree that's quite impressive if only we knew it, and that if she had papers and if I was so inclined, she could have been shown in confirmation competitions successfully. Of course, I've done dog shows and horse shows in the past and have absolutely no interest in going down that path again. But the idea of having a dog so stunningly beautiful that she stops people in their tracks (even my vet) is something new to me.

Sunny's Senior Dog Check came back very good with the exception of his eyes. He is almost completely blind now, and I have to be very careful to watch out for him during our walks. If I don't warn him about curbs and stairs and uneven pavement, he will fall over them. On the other hand, he has quickly learned the implication of the word "stair" and is rarely tumbling now. I have reported before how he knows numbers and how to count... that skill is standing us in good stead now as he has come to realize that if I repeat the word "stair" three times, that there are three stairs to negotiate. He is facing an eye biopsy surgery... there is a suspicious lump on one of his eyes that may just be a weird pigment thing, but potentially could be malignant melanoma. We need to get to the bottom of it early, and have it taken care of if necessary. Worst case scenario, he will lose an eye, but since he is 100% blind in the eye in question anyway, the issue is simply cosmetic and I don't think he cares. I don't. What I do care about is that he has suddenly gotten an interest in life again and is walking up to 2 miles a day again. He looks years younger than just a few weeks ago. I also care that his blood work from his physical came back and Dr. Florio stated that if she didn't know that he was somewhere in the neighborhood of 11 to 12 years, she would have thought the blood came from a dog of between 6 and 7. Bottom line, assuming we deal with the eye issue quickly, I am not immediately staring down the barrel of another dog death. I can't tell you what a relief that is.

* * *

Last weekend, I had the honor of filming a segment for Richard Simmons to be used in the Infomercial for Sweating to the Oldies 5! To have been asked was not only an honor, but quite a surprise as I did not audition for the video itself, and if I had auditioned, I doubt I would have been chosen as the only repeat cast members from earlier videos he used were those that appeared in the original Sweatin' tapes. Additionally, my health is such that I don't think I would have physically held up under the pressure of rehearsals and taping. But the good folks at Time Life asked Richard if he had any long term success stories in his classroom that would be willing to speak to the benefits of his program, and I was an obvious choice. Despite my issue of small weight gain this year, I have kept off an incredible amount of weight and changed not only my eating habits but my entire life to the extent that if you didn't know me from before, you'd never believe I was the same woman. I owe Richard for his part in this transformation... it was huge, I owe the universe as it was not just Richard who helped me with this change. Anything I can do to get the word out not only about Richard's program - it works! - but the value of losing weight is very important to me.

Oh, but do I ever owe Sharon Klindworth of Macy's Fashion Square (Sherman Oaks, CA) who is my Personal Shopper as well as an extraordinary woman. She's the one who helped dress me for this filming as well as on other important events in my life. I will fully admit that shopping is still a horrible experience for me. I have never gotten over trying to find clothing at close to 400 pounds, and I still don't understand how normal sized clothing works. When left to my own devices, I find items of apparel that don't serve me well, don't make me look that good, and usually don't last very long either. But when I entrust the job to Sharon, allowing her to "dress me like a Barbie Doll," I come out looking good, and I know it. And if I didn't know it on my own, I got the external validation from Richard that I needed. When I walked into the room where we were filming (he hadn't seen me on set up until that point), he took one look at me and stated low and reverently "Holy crap!" I think that means he liked what he saw - lol!

* * *

Ethan turned 14 last weekend. I was in charge of making his cake. Trust me, the irony of going directly from a weight loss / maintenance interview with Richard Simmons to my kitchen to bake this: was not lost on me. But that's the thing about Richard's program; it allows for a multitude of lifestyle options, and it allows us to live and be successful at the same time. I think that's why it worked so well for me. I never felt restricted in my food choices; I never was forbidden to partake in cake or whatever. I just learned how to moderate my choices to fit my ultimate goal.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Causalities of Lucy

That used to be my iPod cord.That used to be my Sony Trinitron Remote Control

That used to be the cover to my digital thermometer.

That used to be my favorite lamp that came from Grandma.

Oh, but I am so new on the scene.

I do not know enough to be held responsible for my own actions.

I really am a very sweet girl and you know that you are very happy to have adopted me.

By the way, has anyone mentioned to you that Labs have a reputation for chewing?

Oh, you hadn't heard that? Forget I mentioned it.

I am a bird dog.

Didn't the squeeker on this bird work just yesterday?

Thank you, 1-800-Pet Meds

In an e-mail received 10/19/09:

My Reply:

"How is Cosmos doing?" you ask? It didn't occur to your system that if Cosmos had been deleted from the sidebar of my account (and I had presumed from your system) as one of my pets, that maybe he is DEAD DEAD DEAD? And that I deleted him from your system so that I would not have to endure reminders from 1-800-PetMeds to order him pills that are not going to do him any good anymore because he is DEAD?

Thank you, 1-800-PetMeds, for your fantastic system that does not recognize when an animal is taken out of the mix, maybe something bad happened. Thank you for reminding me that after desperately nursing my boy virtually 24/7 for eight months (and yes, literally day and night... I had to get up several times a night to tend to his needs as well as all day, every day), it ended up being for naught. He is dead and gone. Thank you, 1-800-PetMeds.

So you wanted to know how Cosmos is doing? Now you know. Thank you for asking.


And their response 10/20: Form e-mails # 1

and #2

How about it 1-800-PetMeds? Why is it that your system doesn't just automatically update? And in your second e-mail, you can't even bother to ensure that his name was spe
lled correctly? This is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.

Lucy, you have a lot of 'splaining to do!

Well, it will be a week since Lucy moved into my home and into my heart. She is an amazing girl, and quite talented. This evening, I shut the master bathroom door on her because it was late enough that I felt her anger voiced loudly at that dog in the mirror might impact what my neighbors were saying about me. She was facing the bathroom door as it was shut, then she levitated (yes levitated, and if you don't believe me oh doubters, remember that you didn't believe me about Cosmos watching TV for a long time either), rotated 180 degrees in mid air, moved forward mid-air from that levitated position by about three feet, and gracefully landed on our bed. I know young dogs can do a lot of things, but levitating and defying gravity in that manner was something that I didn't expect.

I was also in the studio working on the neck piece for Eric for his Man-Group Tribal Weekend coming up, and heard a loud crack come from the bedroom. I was on the phone with Beth and even commented on it. I looked in, didn't find anything amiss, and figured that whatever it was that she had gotten, it couldn't be important. Well, I was wrong.

She got three things. A Rubbermaid Plastic Food Container that she must have removed from the kitchen counter and carried into the bedroom before decimating it. The cord to my i Pod Touch and she was starting in on my Sony Cyber Shot Cord too when I caught her. The i Pod cord is way past dead. And finally, remember the hunt on Freecycle to find a new remote control for my old Sony Trinitron TV in the bedroom? The one that I desperately wanted to replace because I'd do pretty-much anything not to have to enter the new millennium when it comes to TVs? Well, it's history.

Eric asked me "Are you sure it can't be repaired?" when I told him about it on the phone. Oh trust me Eric, this is a job that cannot be reversed.

I have a puppy on my hands! I thought I was adopting a 2 year old girl (not that I'd do anything different and I'd grab her up again in a second), but when our vet and I discussed her age, Dr. Kashimoto got completely hysterical because the pound said 2. She said she's not even a year old. Oh yes, I have a puppy! And puppies do all sorts of bad things including chewing! As soon as I get done writing this, I'm going to post on Freecycle for a new remote control AND lots of doggie toys. She's too young to expect that she's not going to bite into things.

On the other hand, I took both dogs to Balboa Lake today. Sunny, now getting 1/2 a Rimadyl 2 x per day, did amazingly well. We only had to rest once, and frankly, I think it may have been the glare of the water in his eyes rather than him getting tired. It's 1.3 miles around the lake, by the way.

Lucy, upon arrival, was stunned. Coming from South Central LA, I'd put my money on her having no idea that places like that existed. There are all sorts of water fowl there from the standard ducks and geese through sea birds like gulls and such, all the way up to herons. You could tell that something deep inside of her was stirring. As a Labrador Retriever, she knew that she was supposed to be doing something about those birds, but she wasn't quite sure quite what it was. It took about 2/3 around the lake before she got the idea. And yes, I indulged her a little bit. Right now, the goal is to socialize her and make her understand that life is fun and she doesn't have to be afraid anymore. If chasing geese and ducks into the water gives her a thrill, I'll let her do it for the time being. Later there will be Obedience School, and for the first time ever, I have a dog that may actually end up not in the bottom of the class - lol! (Cosmos was 3rd in a class of 4, Sunny was expelled on his first night for being vicious.)

Lucy's ears are really big, by the way. And they were perked up to their highest point as she was finally recognizing what the birds were for. A lady was walking a smallish dog in the other direction (oh, but it's so much easier to walk Sunny now that he can't see well enough to know that there are other dogs in the vicinity), and remarked that Lucy looked like Sister Batrille in The Flying Nun. She was right too. But Lucy is still her name.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Sheltered Life

The night passed with very little sleep. I didn't know if the girl was going to survive or not. Finally, at 6 am, I gave up, called Claudia, and together we counted down the time until about 6:56 Pacific Time. At that point, I couldn't stand the tension anymore. I hung up with her and made my first call to the shelter. The phone rang and rang and rang and rang and rang... no answer. Finally, their system must have disconnected me.

I waited 10 minutes, and then the exact same thing happened. Ten more minutes, and the phone rang. It was Eric, making sure I was awake because it was 7:30 and I needed to call. We quickly got off of the phone, and I tried again. This time, a man answered the phone, and curtly told me that the girl was still alive, but he had no idea what her status would be in a little while. "Call back at 8am," he said. "That's when the Vet Techs come on duty. They're in charge of that kind of thing."

At 8am I called back again. This time, a woman answered the phone, and she transferred me to the Techs. They assured me that my girl would not be destroyed, but wanted to be sure I understood that she was sick. I did. I promised to be there before noon. We ended the conversation.

Eric arrived at 9 am for the trip to South Los Angeles. It used to be called South Central Los Angeles, but some well meaning and misguided residents petitioned to have the name changed to South Los Angeles because they thought that the reputation of South Central was too horrible, and maybe they would get more respect if they were known by a different title. It made no difference. The area is economically depressed, I believe primarily black, and very VERY dangerous. Not so much during the daytime as I understand it, but most of the really serious gang-related crime seems to happen after dark. Any way you look at it, Eric was nervous for me to go down there by myself, and I was happy to have some moral support.

We decided to take my car. In all honesty, my car is old and decrepit, and I figured it would stand out less in that neighborhood. But I explained to Eric - and this part is the truth too - that I had never rescued a dog from a kennel situation where it didn't poop in my car out of fear on the way home. I didn't want this to happen to his car. I don't know if he bought it or not, but he didn't give me any argument.

We had one stop to make... it took about 1/2 hour, then we were on our way. Down the 405 San Diego Freeway through the Sepulveda Pass and West Los Angeles, a very affluent part of town. Transfer to the 10 / Santa Monica Freeway heading towards downtown L.A., and 15 or 20 minutes later, we took the Crenshaw Exit and headed closer to our destiny. Google Maps was excellent, not only providing excellent directions but also picture snapshots of the corners where we were expected to turn. We had absolutely no problem finding our location. The South Los Angeles Animal Shelter.

It didn't look that bad from the outside... considering the entire neighborhood since we got off of the freeway had been nothing except concrete and older buildings, it actually was maintained. A small strip of grass outside. Industrial, but acceptable. But as Eric & I entered the front door, a sense of doom immediately fell over me. Eric commented that it wasn't that bad in there, but I could feel the despair and death down to my core.

A cage of kittens were by the reception windows. We looked at them... adorable. A stack of cats in crates and cat traps were piled in a corner, all looking like typical cats. I don't know if they didn't know the desperate situation they were in, or they were just good - as cats are - at masking their feelings. I ventured the opinion out loud to Eric that I wondered how many, if any, of those kittens would see the light of day. I don't remember what he answered.

As we waited for somebody to take care of us, I looked around. None of the facade of paint outside. The building and entire reception area was concrete cinderblock - gray - and concrete flooring. Staff members walked through, completely oblivious to anything that was going on. The ceiling was interminably high... at least 20 feet, maybe more. There was a staircase leading to a 2nd floor behind us; but our eyes were trained on the window waiting for somebody to be available to help us. It didn't take that long, but it seemed like forever.

When we were "helped," we simply were directed to the "Receiving" desk. That was a low desk in a semi-"U" shape, with a couple of places to sit behind and a man simultaneously on the phone and typing on the computer. Probably the phone that I ended up speaking to the night before. We introduced ourselves, told them the doggie case number, and were perfunctorily told to wait for a woman from the back. We did as we were told.

While we waited, we noticed more crates of cats being stacked in the entry way. Two men were talking to each other by large holding crates for dogs. They were discussing the death of a Cocker Spaniel. Eric and I gave each other a horrified look... we had also been considering an 8 month old Cocker puppy from this same facility. Was it our candidate? If I remember correctly, it ended up not to be, but I have no idea what happened to the pup we were looking at.

Then the woman came for us. She announced that we needed to go in back and talk to the Med Techs about our girl. She headed off directly towards the kennel. We would have to walk through all those lovely dogs. Risa has promised that we wouldn't have to see the cages of desperate and doomed eyes, but that turned out to be wrong. The woman marched directly through, coldly ignoring the dogs. Some of them got up and gave us beeching looks, most of them didn't bother. They know that they're nothing.

I will give them credit... the kennels were clean. The numbers of dogs in each kennel varied, but they were all wearing chain collars, all the cages were locked with a key-lock, and the beds for the dogs were blue plastic pillows. Hardly something that could be comfortable, although I know that it would be better than sleeping directly on the concrete, and the plastic had to be in deference to keeping the place cleaner.

I tried not to look, but couldn't help it. I started crying... a serious tear-streaked bawl. Fortunately, the walk was short, and the woman left us in a hallway while she went though a door marked "Vet Tech." Eric hugged me, I cried lots of make-up onto his sweat shirt... it was so incredibly cold, and we waited.

We waited a fairly long time. Enough time that I was able to regain some composure and take in my surroundings. We were in a cavernous tunnel, long, curving, dark, dank, and dark gray. A man was off to our left working on sanitation. His mode was to throw a lot of water on the ground and then sweep it in a direction away from us. We couldn't see the ends of the tunnel on either end. It must have been at least 15 feet wide and 20 feet tall, made out of cinder-block. It occurred to me that it was the right size for a truck to drive down. Perfect for removing countless animal bodies of poor dogs and cats who's only mistake was to have unwittingly become affiliated with the wrong people. I started to cry again.

The Tech and the woman came out again; I took a quick peek through the door although they closed it quickly behind them. I'm not sure... I thought I saw dog bodies piled in a corner, but that could easily have been my imagination. The tech again warned us that my girl had a "very bad" runny nose and warned us that we would be responsible for veterinary bills. We didn't care. We wanted her. And so the woman and us set off to try and find her.

It didn't take that long, but it did require that we search a couple of different kennel halls. This time, the dogs could tell that we were looking for someone. Many of them became animated, although the majority of them remained despondent. We found our girl, who was jumping up and down with joy... she was isolated in her own run. I don't know if that was because she was sick, she was big, or they put all the dogs executed that morning in that particular run and she was the only one who had escaped. Any way you cut it, she was very happy to meet us.

We were told to proceed directly back to receiving again where our application would be processed. When we got out there, there was a large lovely dog that I guessed was a Bernese Mountain Dog in one of the holding crate. Clearly he had been dropped off while we were in back. He had the happiest smile... no idea where he was or what was in store for him. I started to cry again.

Eric tried to divert me with some of the literature about adopting a pet from the shelter; it worked to a certain extent for the moment. But then a couple - black, clearly nice people, he was wearing a skull cap or whatever you call the piece when it's a middle eastern religion, and they were delivering two dogs. "Our friend died and left these two dogs behind." they explained to the receiving desk. Receiving was only interested to know whether they had tried to place the dogs on their own; they had them for three weeks and had given up. They couldn't keep them and had to turn them in. It costs $25 per dog to condemn them to the pound. They were taken and perfunctorily placed in separate cages, not even in eye sight of each other. Friends who had lived together separated. The larger of the dogs immediately became very frightened and aggressive in his cage. I couldn't avoid seeing that. The little one? He went into a bank of cages against the back wall, awaiting his turn to have is picture taken and be listed on their web site.

Fortunately, just about this time, we were instructed to go back to the initial receiving window to get our paperwork processed. We had to wait a few minutes... numbers of people ahead of us paying $25 each for disposing of dogs or cats.

The gray cavernous and cold area weighed down on me even more. I had no idea what was happening with my girl. "Mistakes are made." We were finally called to the window and subjected to tons and tons of paperwork. It was clear with the inefficiency that it was processed that they didn't do it often. I qualified for almost a free dog based upon my low income Medicare/Disability status, and had brought both the application and the supporting documentation along with me, but in the end, they only credited me for the spaying. I know that I qualified for more, but I was afraid of costing my girl her life, and was too despondent to argue. I paid $62 dollars for my dog.

I asked where she was... why wasn't she already in front? As it turns out, she was having her microchip implanted and was getting her shots. She would be delivered shortly.

While we were waiting, a woman who was clearly in charge of the facility was talking to the black couple who brought their dead friends dogs in. They were offering to do some kind of film about the place promoting it... I was thinking that this was utter bullshit. I know entertainment people when I see them, and these people didn't' fit the bill. But the woman was talking up the situation like there was no tomorrow. She talked about the demographics of the area, how the people were so poor and especially in these economic times, couldn't hold on to their animals. How they were so inundated with animals that the rule was that if they were turned in by their owners, they were put down the same day unless they seemed exceptionally adoptable. But this was - confirmed for me - the highest kill-rate shelter in town. The overcrowding and lack of community interest made the situation impossible. She talked about dogs with a little bit of age - maybe 5 to 7 and within my adoption age range before this particular pick - and how they were doomed, no matter how good they were with kids. They were lovely dogs, but nobody wanted to take on the responsibility of an older dog. I got the feeling that she was probably the least calloused of the people that we encountered that day, but that she was only talking on an intellectual level and really couldn't allow herself to feel anything either. That was the overall impression that I got there. Nobody gave a damn about all those lovely animals. Maybe they really didn't give a damn... maybe they did but if they allowed the dam to burst, they wouldn't be able to cope. I don't know. I just don't know. The woman talking to the couple seemed desperate to get the word out about her shelter.

Finally, all paperwork completed, we were directed once again back to receiving. More lovely dogs and cats there being admitted and awaiting their fate. Lots of drop offs, nobody but us adopting.

It crossed my mind that there was a real racket going with the $25 admittance fee. If somebody couldn't afford it, then what did they do with their animal? Probably just set it loose on the street to take it's own chances. I wonder if that's how my girl came to be there? She was listed as a captured stray. I guess I'll never know.

Finally, after what seemed an interminable wait, the double doors burst open and out came a tech with my dog. She was being led by a rope affair,no collar. Fortunately, I brought along a harness and leash because i had envisioned the shelter providing collars and leashes and being financially strapped, and me giving them back their equipment in lieu of my own. I was so wrong. Maybe they couldn't afford to even provide cheap restraining equipment, maybe they didn't give a damn. I'll probably never know.

I pulled out my harness and leash, sat down on the floor, and explained to my girl what I was doing and how this was only a temporary harness, but it was her "forever' leash. I start all my dogs with new collars, but don't have a problem passing leashes from animal to animal. The leashes I am using are possibly 30 plus years old... they're perfectly serviceable.

My last question before taking my girl home was to ask what they were feeding there. I wanted to start her off on the same food not to upset her tummy. They seemed shocked at the question, had to consider it a bit, and then decided that they were feeding Canadie. I hope it is true. That's a pretty decent dog food.

We headed towards the front door. The girl was happy to go with us until the doors opened. At that point, she became terribly afraid and wouldn't leave the building. We cajoled and begged and bribed her, trying to get her to walk outside on her own, but she was having nothing of it. Probably a factor of being a stray. She didn't want to go outside ever again.

We finally pushed her out the door, it closed behind us, and she knew she was trapped outside. She was terrified of all of the cars and street traffic. i asked Eric to go get my car started, and I'd let her piddle on the grass before bringing her across the street to load. She was too nervous to do anything, and i gave up after only a couple of minutes, took her - resisting - across the street, and tried to load her into the car. She was absolutely panicked and didn't want to go in. We pushed the issue and locked her inside. She promptly vomited her breakfast in fear. Fortunately, I had anticipated this maneuver and had lined my seat with a very thick throw blanket specifically designed to protect furniture from dogs. Not a problem.

We left South Los Angeles, and she alternated between nervously looking out the windows, and putting her head between the front seats for reassurance from us. I could see how confused she was. She had likely spent the majority of her life in the concrete jungle and as we went on the freeway and the topography got greener, she was intrigued. Frightened to death,but intrigued. Finally, she collapsed in a nervous sleep as I promised her that our next stop would be someplace she liked. She was going to get her "forever" collar.

That happened about 45 minutes later when we went into The Red Barn Also in Mission Hills. She was terrified to leave the car, and was absolutely panicked at the traffic and even parked cars in the lot. But when we got on the sidewalk she almost sighed in relief, and when we went into the store, it was clear that she had no idea that places like this existed.

We fitted her for her "forever collar," bought her a bed, some toys, and some dog food equivalent to what she was eating. Eric & I stopped briefly for a fast bite to eat at Baja Fresh (we ordered in the location but ate in the car with the girl), and then off to our vet appointment.

It turns out that most vets will give an exam of shelter dogs for free if they are brought in within 3 days of adoption. That exam does not include any treatments though, and it ended up costing me over another 60 dollars in antibiotics. But we had good news. Dr. Kishimoto didn't even think she was more than a year, and couldn't even conceive that she was about to be destroyed for the very minor case of kennel cough that she had. But i had been at the shelter. I knew without a doubt that it would have happened. A young vibrant dog without even being given the dignity of a name killed over a minor case of the sniffles.

I brought her home. She was very happy to arrive. More on that tomorrow. Good Night!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The New Girl on the Block

Heartbreaking story. She's home. I'm exhausted, physicallly and emotionally. Here are initial pics. They don't do her justice.

Will write about it tomorrow.

Monday, October 12, 2009

My Next Dog

No, I am not ready for it. I am still fairly hysterical over Cosmos, even though I understand now that there was little-to-nothing to do for him. But I recognize that Sunny is not doing all that well. I hope that it is just "Senior Dog Syndrome" and bringing somebody in younger than him into our home will inspire him out of his doldrums. He's been through hell with Cosmos's illness too, and additionally, his own medical needs were neglected to a certain degree as I just ran out of energy with the Cosmos 24/7 Care Factor. It was a 24/7 job for the past many months.

Anyway, as you know from yesterday's post, I was looking at pound puppies, and was agonizing over who to meet. I know that most of these dogs will be put down if I didn't take them. But as Risa (my good friend and animal care specialist... her company is "Furballs" and I'll happily give you contact info if you need the best sitter in the world) said, "you will look for the dog, but in the end the dog will find you." It did. Now it's a race to save it's life.

In the past, I've always taken unplaceable rescues. They come with a variety of histories, and I was agonizing that my criteria had changed this time round and I was looking for something a little more specific. I wanted a dog who would be kid friendly. I wanted somebody who Sunny could love and, if there was a tussle, was big enough that he couldn't seriously hurt. I had decided, with only slight urging by Risa, to pick up a pound puppy. My preferred location would be South Central Los Angeles Shelter because they have the highest kill rate in the city. Also, their animal living conditions are reputed to be horrific beyond all belief. According to the internet, they've built a new facility so I don't know if it's true or not, but while you can change buildings, it's much harder to change employee attitudes and I'm sure those people are hardened and the dogs suffer for it.

I preferred a black dog because I know that black dogs are almost universally destroyed at shelters. It's hard to get a good picture of blacks, and also people are stupid and superstitious. I wanted a younger dog than I've adopted in the past. Not only will there be kids directly involved in it's life and I don't want them upset by a quick death, but Cosmos is gone, Sunny is not well, and frankly I need a break too. I'd counseled Eric that if he was considering a dog for his kids, a Labrador was a good choice. And labs were not what I was exclusively looking for, but there seemed to be a number of black labs at a number of different shelter locations. Including this one at South Central:

The terror and despair in this dogs eye's spoke to me. It met all the other preferred criteria. All the while I was agonizing over the multitude of dogs that were within the group I had singled out, and agonized even more over the dogs that I had excluded, this one was seriously on my mind.

Eric had asked that I try to involve his children in the selection process if at all possible. I was planning to show them the different pictures yesterday at Swap-O-Rama, but when Gabby opted out, I told him that she had lost the opportunity to have a voice. I would make the sole selection, with his input of course. But today when he showed up with both of his younger children for a completely different and unplanned occasion, I pulled out the pics and asked what they thought.

I had decided this to exclude terriers and terrier mixes from my choice. I love terriers, but they are bred to hunt small animals, and to have one is to court disaster if they were to visit or live in a home where there were hamsters and such. I explained this to the kids and also explained that if the Terrier ate their hamster, we couldn't even be mad at the dog because this was what they were bred to do. They understood and all the terrier pics were put in a pile. Then they started going through the rest. And in the end, they chose the exact same top four that I chose, and right on top as #1 was the "Black Lab Bitch" at South Central. The universe had spoken. This was the dog that I was going to try and adopt if it was still available.

My plan was to take Sunny for his well dog check on Thursday, then see about adopting the dog Friday or over the weekend. I know that shelter policy won't allow them to release it to me until it is spay, but I figured I could do all the paperwork, leave it, and pick it up early next week. That would give me a little more time to recover from Cosmos and prepare for the new girl's arrival. But something was nagging at my mind. Even though the shelters are closed on Mondays, I decided to make a call down to South Central to get more information, hoping I could get a real person and not just a computer. I did.

I spoke to a dispatcher who was nice enough, even as I felt that I was interrupting his day with my inquiry. He looked the dog up by Identification Number. She was a stray picked up off of the street. No wonder she was so frightened. Given the area she came from, chances are she was dumped, but even if she wasn't, no collar, no tag, and nobody cared enough to track her down. And then to be captured and drug into the hell hole of a pound? I'd be terrified too.

He looked at the other specks. "Normal." "Normal." "Normal." Then "Wait A Minute! She's a Red Alert!"

"What does that mean?" I inquired quickly, dreading the worst. And almost the worst I got. She apparently has a runny nose, and the pounds waste no time in destroying all dogs with any symptom of contagious disease no matter what it is or how easy it is to treat. She was on the list to be destroyed immediately only because they dumped her into a pound with a bazillion other dogs where she was exposed to something and her nose was running. That's it. End of story. He either didn't know or couldn't be bothered finding out what was causing the runny nose, but I'd put my bottom dollar on it being Kennel Cough. Uncomfortable, but extremely treatable.

I barely could ask if she was still alive, but apparently she was. Only because the shelter was closed today and they were operating on minimum staff. No care, no treatment for her illness, just a promise of an extra day suffering from whatever it is she has, and then death.

I told her I wanted her, she had been on my radar for a few days, and please hold her for me. He responded that the longest they ever hold dogs is 24 hours, and he didn't know what they would do with this one since it's execution had already been scheduled. But he flagged it's file with "Customer Interest" and warned me to call very early tomorrow morning to speak with the Daytime Supervisor. By 7:30 am, he warned. Things happen early at the shelter. I begged him for a direct line to the supervisor's desk; at this point he knew that I really meant business (not that I was mean; I think he appreciated my attitude) and he gave it to me without argument. Then he warned me again. Call early.

After hanging up the phone with him, I immediately called my own vet. I know that they treat shelter dogs. I've seen the officers go in and out with them many times while waiting for our own appointments. I explained to them what I was about to do... rescue a sick, un spayed dog who was scheduled for immediate termination, and would they be able to treat since they are an animal shelter vet? Sadly, the answer was not under the current circumstances. Their contract was with West Valley Shelter, and all of the shelters had agreements with local vets. Theirs did not extend to South Central.

But Bianca and I had an idea. What if the dog was "transferred" to West Valley? Then they would be a treating veterinary clinic, and I could potentially use them right away. It would obviously only be a paper transfer. West Valley wasn't going to allow a known sick dog into their group. Bianca gave me a direct phone number to West Valley that would put me in touch with somebody in charge there today, and who knew? Maybe something could be arranged.

I did speak to the officer there who was abrupt and uninterested in my situation. In a way I understand it; I'm sure she would much rather me adopt a dog from my own local shelter. But on the other hand, all I could think of is "dog pound personnel."
She simply advised me to call South Central again in the morning and see what can be arranged. She too warned me to call early, and to be prepared to go down for the dog on the spot.

I hung up and fretted. Now what? Then it occurred to me. I have a direct line to the South Central Supervisor's phone. Why don't I call down and leave a message on his machine. That way there would be something for him before he even showed up for work! So I did so, but got a live woman on the phone. The Officer at South Central for today.

She was not completely unsympathetic, but not totally sympathetic either. She checked the system and confirmed that I was registered as interested in this bitch. I asked her if she would put a note on the dogs actual cage to be sure that nobody missed that I wanted it. She flat-out refused. "Everybody uses the computer here" she said. "They'll check it and see that you want this dog." But then she offered an ominous warning. "Call Early. Call at 7 am. Talk to the Daytime Officer. Sometimes there are mistakes made." And so that's how we left it.

I have expressed interest in this dog, and they're supposed to put a 24 hour hold on it. They never do more than 24 hours because most of the time, people who express interest never show up. But this is a sick dog, and by the way, they never even bothered to give it the dignity of a name. All they want to do is terminate it's life. Mistakes are made. "Mistakes" are made.

This is what I have always done. This is what I do. I rescue things. I fix them. If the shelter will only respect my phone calls and my concern and hold on to that girl, I will be down there as early tomorrow morning as I possibly can, and I will save her. The girl, the stray, the sick, the dog that nobody has enough respect for to even give a name before they kill it. She is nothing to anyone. I desperately want the chance to fix that in her life. If she is alive long enough for me to save her.

My only regret is that Sunny will not be part of the selection process. I had wanted his voice too. I trust that the universe is guiding me to this dog and that she will make Sunny happy. Risa has promised to come over later tomorrow when we know what time we are going to arrive home, to help us make introductions. Hopefully little will be required.

I don't know what's going to happen to all those other dogs. I will probably have nightmares about them for weeks. But I know for absolute certain what is going to happen to this particular dog if I don't intervene immediately. I have a life to save tomorrow. If I am successful, I have a life to change. I will make her life matter. Please, my universe, give me the opportunity to make a difference. Again. It might mitigate some of the pain and void that the Cosmos left last week.

PS - Thank you all for your suggestions for other dog options. I love you from the bottom of my heart for your concern for both me and these other dogs. I hope that the dogs in your lives, and the dogs that you know are well cared for and find "forever homes." But it appears that, if I can intervene in time, this particular dog has chosen me. I have a path and direction. I have to follow it.

Enie Meenie Miney Moe

Cosmos has been gone for a week; there's a hole in my heart and an empty space in our home that can't be filled. Sunny is enjoying being top dog, but every time I leave him alone in the condo for a period of time - and it happens regularly, I come home to a dog that seems very depressed. Enforced solitary confinement. That's why I've always kept two at a time.

While I'm still beyond hysteria about Cosmos, it turns out that he lived beyond the average life-span of a Dal. If the rescue people who gave him to me are to be believed (when they originally gave me his age upon adoption), he was 13 1/2 years old. I thought Dals lived to 15. It turns out that their lifespan is 11 to 13 years. Cosmos was a miracle in yet another sense of the word.

But he's gone. Getting a new dog is not going to change that fact. Sunny needs a friend. I need something to fill the void. There are dogs being killed in shelters every single day because they are "inconvenient." And Risa has put the bug in my ear that I should go directly to a shelter to adopt, rather than through an adoption agency.

I would have gone through my last adoption group, but G- (Cozie's and Sunny's Godmother) said something so horrible to me about the care I gave Cosmos, the choices I made on his behalf, that was so hurtful and utterly untrue and uncalled for after I let her know he had passed, that I don't think I can ever talk to her or her group again. I'm beyond grief that I couldn't do more for my boy, but I was working pretty-much 24/7, especially towards the end, to alleviate suffering and give him every chance I could. I could NOT drive him to San Diego three times a week for dialysis. I could not handle it physically (I am not well myself), Cosmos definitely couldn't have withstood it, and what about Sunny who would have been left behind while we were gone 8 to 10 hours a day, 3 day s a week? I do not believe that it would have extended Cozie's days in any meaningful way, and would have added to his suffering. He was not a car dog in general; he'd get car sick and sleep uncomfortably if forced into it for more than maybe 2o minutes at a time. It wasn't feasible. But I have been condemned and I can't deal with those people ever again.

So my option has mainly become shelter dogs.

My nightmare in the past was walking the rows of cages, some marked with "E" for euthenasia on their last day. How do I choose? Who do I pick? How do I play God and help determine who lives and dies? But Risa told me that I don't have to walk the rows any more; I can look at the dogs on line and narrow the choices down. We would specify which dog(s) we would like to met, and they would be brought to an area that we AND Sunny could make introductions in. Sunny's opinion counts a lot here. He will play a very important role in determining who his next best friend is.

So I've been looking at dogs on line, and narrowing down the choices based upon my current living circumstances and those that I know I will be moving into next summer. And I'm left confused and horrified. 80% of all shelter dogs in Los Angeles are killed for lack of interest. I have narrowed down the search to over 20 individuals. Of all these wonderful dogs, only 4 are going to survive. How do I pick? I can't take all of them in! I'm still left in the same position of playing god.

How do I do this? Play God and determine which one of these dogs will live an leave the rest to an uncertain fate? And what of all the wonderful dogs I excluded in my search based on age or breed? In former times, they would have been part of the mix too! So much suffering. I don't know how anyone can go to breeders when there are so many loving pets, individual and distinct personalities, waiting for a 2nd chance at the pounds, in adoption centers. (I haven't adopted anything but a rescue in my entire adult life.)

What I know is that I have, unwittingly, stumbled into the role of God again. Last week, my hand was forced. I applied needle and drug to my best friend in the world and ended his life. Now I am looking at all these dogs, and by making a selection just out of this group, am condemning 16 of the remaining furballs on my list to death. And by avoiding the selection, 17 of them will go. I'm screwed. Let the nightmares increase.

I will probably choose Sunny & my next best friend on Friday or this weekend. I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Cosmos - In Memorium

Born - 1996
Adopted - November, 1999
Passed, October 2, 2009

We struggled long and hard during his illness. He did not want to leave me, even at the end. He was so brave, and he loved me with complete abandon.

He loved me when I adopted him.
He loved me when nobody could stand me.
He loved me in my sickness and health.
He loved me in his sickness and health.
He loved me, even as I changed into a different person.
He loved me, even as I applied needle and drug during his last eight months to sustain life.
He loved me when he passed.

I have been blessed with the support of so many kind friends. But still, even though I know deep in my heart that he couldn't have lasted much longer, and that his struggle to live had turned into intense suffering, I still feel like I've betrayed my best friend.

From Elissa:
No betrayal...
It was time.
Nothing left to do.
Bye bye little certainly entertained us over the years.
Nothing left to do.

I have loved each and every one of my dogs. I've had many over the years. Taking in unplacable rescue dogs, they are generally middle aged or older, in poor health, and emotionally damaged. The bonds between each of them and me have been intense. But I've never experienced anything like what I had with Cosmos. The intensity of the bond, the slavish devotion, the willingness to put up with anything to please me.

Thank you to Elena for sending me this poem by Kipling:

The Power of a Dog

There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
And when we are certain of sorrow in store,
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and Sisters, I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.

Buy a pup and your money will buy
Love unflinching that cannot lie --
Perfect passion and worship fed
By a kick in the ribs or a pat on the head.
Nevertheless it is hardly fair
To risk your heart for a dog to tear.

When the fourteen years which Nature permits
Are closing in asthma, or tumour, or fits,
And the vet's unspoken prescription runs
To lethal chambers or loaded guns,
Then you will find -- it's your own affair --
But . . . you've given your heart to a dog to tear.

When the body that lived at your single will,
With its whimper of welcome, is stilled (how still!)
When the spirit hat answered your every mood
Is gone -- wherever it goes -- for good,
You will discover how much you care,
And will give your heart to a dog to tear.

We've sorrow enough in the natural way,
When it comes to burying Christian clay.
Our loves are not given, but only lent,
At compound interest of cent per cent.
Though it is not always the case, I believe,
That the longer we've kept'em, the more do we grieve;

For, when debts are payable, right or wrong,
A short-time loan is as bad as a long --
So why in -- Heaven (before we are there)
Should we give our hearts to a dog to tear?

He was incredibly funny. He was incredibly bright. He was loved by many.

Our bed seems empty without him.

I miss him. I don't know how to go on without him.


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