It’s a Dogs Life

So fellow travelers, I am finally back in Portland Oregon, resting comfortably at the residence of Favorite Older Daughter and Favored Son-in-law. 

It feels like we never left. And it feels like an eon has passed. Time is strange like that. 

Caught this moment with the kids two rescue dogs, Zeus and Coffee. 

They go and they come

Mysterious human ways

We wait patiently

Simple moments are sometimes the best respite from the worrisome moments in life.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Sunday’s at the Rescue: Scarlet

So fellow travelers, I was at the rescue one afternoon a few weeks ago when it happened again.

That magical experience of watching a “gotcha” moment unfold.

With several new dogs transferred in from local shelters and the St Patrick’s Parade committee putting the final touches on the float for Saturday’s Parade, Friday afternoon was busy, even though this is not a transport weekend. I went to help with the afternoon feeding walks and chores. While I was there, several dogs went home with their new families, including adorable little pittie Jackson

Jackson

Jackson is a local pup who came to HHDR  through our transfer program with the city’s shelter. He was found tied up in a garage with his harness embedded in his skin. *sigh*  human beings can be idiots. Jackson is a spunky fellow, fully recovered, just as sweet and loving as can be. I am not surprised he was adopted so quickly.

Jackson is the kind of dog who reminds me to focus on compassion, so willing to forgive and trust us humans again inspite of the cruelty they’ve endured. You cannot be involved in any kind of rescue work for long without a strong set of coping skills or you burn out faster than a match in a snowstorm. This holds true for “rescue” work with humans too as I’ve learned from my job at the local high school. Anger is a draining emotion to hold and it does nothing to stop the cycle of abuse. It’s a challenge to feel compassion for abusers and I admit most of the time the best I can do is a benign shroud of sadness for those who are in so much pain they are driven to inflict it on others. When I hold a trembling, terrified dog I often think if someone, maybe just one person had done the same for an abuser it would have made a difference.

Pretty little Scarlet was one of those frightened souls.  She arrived two weeks ago on a transport from Alabama and she took a while to stop shaking and come out of her shell. Her profile said she had been “found one day at a shelter,” which likely means she had simply been abandoned. Her foster family said she was very shy yet responded to calm quiet interaction. The experience of the long transport trip can set a shy dog back a bit too, so it takes a special adopter to see the potential in these dogs.

Scarlet’s special people came in yesterday afternoon, a soft spoken young couple looking for a quiet dog they could have in their apartment.  The young woman spoke earnestly with me while her husband was finalizing their application at the front desk. She explained, almost apologetically that they had to be careful of the breed mix not from personal preference but because their landlord had a list of prohibited breeds (*sigh again*  BSL : Breed Specific Legislation and its ignorant offspring of breed specific policies is flawed and misguided concept. However, that’s a topic for another post.)

 “We would take a pit mix if we could. We know so many of them need homes,” she told me. I assured her we understood and that was why the staff always speaks with landlords before giving a green light to an application.

As we talked, one of the volunteers walked by with Scarlet in her arms.  The young woman had seen Scarlet in her crate, but said she was curled up on her bed in the back and didn’t come towards the door.  Now, held gently in the arms of a volunteer she knew, Scarlet didn’t cringe when this young woman spoke to her.  In fact, I noticed her adorable ears perked right up.  I held my breath when, after asking for permission the young woman slowly and gradually reached over to gently touch Scarlet.

Scarlet did not shake or turn away. The woman’s husband joined us to happily inform his wife their application had been processed and they could start the process of selecting a dog.

“Oh, honey this is Scarlet.” she told him.  There was no mistaking the longing and love in her voice. She had not stopped gently petting the little dog, still resting in the arms of our volunteer. “She’s very shy but she’s so sweet!”

He leaned in ever so slightly, without reaching for her and spoke calmly “Hello, Scarlet.” Again, our shy girl did not flinch.  In fact she turned her head towards the young man and looked right at him, so he extended his hand, let her sniff.  My heart skipped a beat.

I asked if they would like to take her outside for a little walk. Usually prospective adopters take the dogs outside with some help from a volunteer to get to know the dogs a bit better.

“Wont she be too cold outside?”

It was as if the young woman instinctively knew Scarlet was not a fan of the vast cold outdoors. “Can we hold her for a bit?”  I held my breath again as the volunteer gently bundled our shy girl into the young man’s arms.

Scarlet sighed and settled right in. For a few minutes time stood still, the noise of dogs coming and going faded, the clatter of bowls being washed sounded like chimes marking the moment, that moment when three souls wound themselves together into one family.

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Scarlet’s arrival photo on transport day.  Happy life sweet girl.

 

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Editorial Note: Sunday’s at the Rescue is a series of posts about my experiences working with rescue dogs.  It is named for Sunday, a sweet young dog who came through the rescue where I volunteer, stole a piece of my heart (as so many of them do) and got herself adopted into a great home. If you like this piece, you can search the blog for other posts with that title.

Ghosts in the Wood

So fellow travelers,  after a heart breaking day of helping students and staff work through grief that cast a somber silence through the halls of our high school, I returned home in a restless, unsettled state of mind.

My soul was asking me to journey someplace both familiar yet unknown. It took a few minutes of flipping through the many trail maps in my mind to know where I was being called to walk. This is uncharted territory, this ability to hike deep woods trails free from snow so early in the season. It has afforded me a new experience of some previously familiar paths.

While I sought the solitude of the woods, I also needed the simple comfort of an unassuming companion. Delilah was thrilled to see me bring out her walking harness.

Oh, the unconditional love of a dog, asking no more than to be with us where we are in each moment whatever state of being that is.  If there is a more powerful  balm for broken hearts I have yet to find it.

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The woods show me strange images in this portal between seasons. The light is harsh without a filtering canopy. I can see far deeper into the forest than I am accustomed to. Trees stand in skeletal clusters, wind rattling residual leaves like a fortune teller casting marked bones. Deer paths beckon off the main trails only to disappear like false promises. Early leaf buds have wisely held fast after unseasonable warmth gave way to waves of arctic chill. Everything is a dry, grayish brown. Only ancient mosses clinging to logs hint of the green still to come.

Even before the tragic news of this week, my recent hikes on these trails have felt haunted by an unsettling Presence. The spectre of life’s end has hung in my thoughts since an elder family member’s medical team gave us sobering news. No, I am not one given to morbid obsessions even as an increasing number of those I know reach advanced ages.  Death, as our community has experienced several times recently, can come at any time in unexpected ways. It has taken quite a few long, ponderous walks through these new to me forest trails to finally recognize the Presence shadowing my steps.

Time,  I thought,  I am running out of time.

I have no specific concern which would indicate my time to depart this life draws near. I am in relatively good health and take decent care of myself. Oh sure there’s things I could do, eat a few less desserts, engage in more weight bearing exercise to slow the loss of muscle strength, all things I am working on. Being one to fully engage whenever possible in the opportunities life presents, this sensation of running out of time  is a strange state of mind. It stopped me in my tracks for a moment.

And then Delilah stopped and sat still. She looked at me, then ahead on the trail and then back at me.

This is what I have trained her to do to let me know something approaching has caught her attention. It is a vast improvement over the lunging and explosive barking she used to exhibit when anything, other dogs, bicycles, strollers, runners, squirrels, anything came moving towards us. She is rewarded with praise and often a treat as well.

It took me a few seconds to see the two black eyes staring at us from far ahead on the trail. The slightest flick of a brown ear and glint of bone branching up revealed our observer was a young buck. The three of us stood frozen in an eternal moment.  Delilah did not stir a muscle even with the intensity of her olfactory exploration of the air.

You must not pass this way.”

The directive was as clear in my mind as if someone had spoken directly to me. This was no ordinary woodland encounter. I stood still for a few more seconds, gathering my balance making sure of my footing and then whispered to Delilah.

“Leave it girl, come.”

I turned slowly in a seamless T’ai Chi pivot and walked down the path.  Delilah followed without a single glance back.

I do not know what transpired at that trail crossing. I only know it felt right as if Something had been Resolved.  My steps on the walk back felt lighter, not so much in joy as in the relief of simple acceptance.

Just before we turned onto the main path leading back to the parking lot the haunting laughter of a pileated woodpecker reverberated through the woods. Delilah and I stood still once more, listening to the echoes bounce through the trees.

“Ghosts”  I said looking down at her.  “Let’s go home girl.”

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

 

 

Delilah meets the Bumble

So fellow travelers, a few weeks ago Delilah and I had a rare encounter

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DD meets the Abominable Snowman

With the snow nearly gone I thought I better get the story told before it became as unseasonal as the record warmth we’ve been blessed with this month. Delilah was none too sure about this strange creature. She barked furiously when she first saw it and insisted on checking him out.

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Approaching cautiously

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Hmmm. No reaction

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Bravely sniffing, checking more thoroughly

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“Hey you’re ok! Wanna play?”

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“No ? Ok, maybe another time. I got squirrels to chase now. Bye!”

 

Nice weather and lingering daylight has had us scurrying to the lake trails this past week, so we haven’t gone by this neighbor’s house for a while. When we did pass by again the other day, Delilah paused for a minute or two looking at the now green and empty lawn. It took me a second to realize what she was looking for.
Oh well~see you next year Mr. Bumble
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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Sunday’s at the Rescue : Transport Day

So fellow travelers, the past two weekends have featured Transport Days at the local dog rescue where I volunteer.
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The calm before the (well-0rganized) chaos 

Whenever I write about transports I know there will be questions regarding this aspect of the operations at Helping Hounds and I always welcome the chance to help people understand the whys and hows of rescue work. Most of those are covered in this previous post.

I’ve served in many roles during the years I have been a volunteer. Joining the Transport Team allows me to serve in a way that fits into my life right now. Knowing the transport dates helps me block out dates in advance so my schedule for that weekend can accommodate any last minutes changes which may (and often do) occur.  Since I drive a 35 mile round trip to get to the rescue, it’s more effective for me to put in longer hours several times a month rather than shorter shifts once or twice a week. Transport weekends are intensely busy, extra help is always needed to keep things running well.

Transports are timed to arrive during hours when the rescue is not open to the public. This gives us a chance to get the new dogs welcomed and somewhat settled in before the long line of potential adopters begins to stream through the front doors.

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Each dog is greeted by a volunteer as they come off the transport trailer.

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Some dogs are eager to check out their new surroundings
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I think I smell that place they call “home!”

 

 

others are more cautious,

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Ziggy leaning into Alan for a little extra assurance

That’s an understandable reaction given what most of them have been through just to get here. Calm, crazy or cautious, every dog gets reassuring attention from the minute they arrive.

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Each dog receives a martingale collar with a Helping Hounds tag and after a quick relief walk, they head inside for a meal

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Yum these folks sure know how to feed us pups!

 

Then it’s another round or two of walks (the stress of travel can upset some tummies, so frequent potty breaks are part of the arrival routine.) Some of the volunteer team walk dogs, others stay inside to clean crates, change bedding and refresh water buckets. Dogs who need a little freshening up are given quick baths. One of my favorite tasks is sitting with a trembling pup, wrapped in a towel and waiting for that moment when they relax enough to give a first little kiss.

When the doors open to the public at noon prospective adopters are greeted by guides who walk them through the rooms, answering questions and helping them interact with dogs they may be interested in. Watching the heart connections form between the dogs and their adopters is a truly magical experience.  I never tire of seeing the “gotcha” moment click into place.

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This is a photo from 2014 and while its not a great shot it is my favorite photo I have ever taken at the rescue.  I watched this young couple fall in love with Kimbo a local “pit mix,” as they waited for a different dog to arrive on a transport which had been delayed. Lucky Kimbo did indeed go home with them that day and the dog they had originally selected from the transport list went home with another family.  Two perfect matches.

For some dogs, that moment takes a little longer

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My buddy Buddy, who has been waiting as patiently as a young fellow can for a family of his own. He’s one of the local transfers brought over from the city shelter, part of the rescue’s efforts to help reduce the over population of bully breed (aka “pit bull”) mixes in our local shelters.

and when it happens it is that much sweeter, because while they wait we all fall a little more in love with those dogs every day. The day their adoption photos post on the rescue’s page there is a steady stream of “happy tears” comments.

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Our amazing photographer Carolin posts an album of the dogs arriving.  The photos soon have a string of comments from their original fosters and rescue sponsors who anxiously follow their journey North to find permanent homes. What selfless and compassionate people they are to take in these dogs for a few weeks as they recover from their spay/neuter surgeries. The personality profiles the fosters send are tremendously helpful in creating a better understanding of each dog’s temperment, because the dog’s behavior in the rescue kennels vs a foster home is often quite different. Many of the families also pack up “going home” bags with favorite toys, treats, blankets and letters which bring tears to everyone’s eyes when the new parents share them with us.

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In the days following transports, we all check the daily posts to see who went home. Occasionally a first placement does not work out quite right. It happens less often now because the staff works so hard to make the right match for both adopters and dogs. Besides even dogs that come back don’t stay long.

So many dogs, so many stories each one a life saved.

Actually two lives saved, because each successful adoption makes room for other dogs in need, a kind of domino effect of openings down the line: an open kennel at our rescue, a spare bed in a foster home and one more sweet soul pulled from a kill shelter in time.

Like I said, so many dogs, so many stories. It would easily become overwhelming so I make a conscious choice to focus on the hope of the work we do. I am but one human doing what I can do and hope is what keeps me going.
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Photo courtesy of Carolin Booth Murphy

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Editorial Note:  Sunday’s at the Rescue is a series of posts about my experiences working with rescue dogs.  It is named for Sunday, a sweet young dog who came through the rescue where I volunteer, stole a piece of my heart (as so many of them do) and got herself adopted into a great home.

 

 

Sunday’s at the Rescue: the Kiss

So fellow travelers, I spent some quality time with my rescue friends, both the 2 and 4 legged variety, yesterday.

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Our volunteer photo ninja, Caroline Booth Murphy has an eye for capturing the heart and soul of the dogs, as well as the great team of humans who work with them.

This haiku came from a comment she shared with me about a special moment, one I myself have been blessed to experience.

Quick lick simple kiss
Shy soul reaching out past fear
Cherished gift of trust

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Although Caroline’s moment came with a different pup, this shot she took of a staff member and a newly arrived rescue dog captures it perfectly

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

Editorial Note: Sunday’s at the Rescue is a series of posts about my experiences working with rescue dogs. It is named for Sunday, a sweet young dog who came through the rescue where I volunteer, stole a piece of my heart (as so many of them do) and got herself adopted into a great home.

Hearts and hounds

A wonderful post on the gift of giving love on Valentine’s

Quilt of Missing Memories

“Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy.” – Buddha.

I was told to take a small piece of paper from a basket as I walked into the studio room for an exercise class last Sunday.

“It’s an affirmation,” I was told by the smiling instructor. “Take one if you’d like.”

I did, and I slowly unfolded it.

“Seek joy,” it read.

A good one I thought for a bitter cold week.

Especially since  I wasn’t feeling sweet at all.

The Valentine’s Day holiday can do that to a girl, especially when you’re buying your own chocolates.

My rational side knows it’s just another Hallmark holiday, so I was happy to re-focus on a quest for joy.

Still, I mailed a few Valentines to friends and family.

And I addressed a box of playful kitten and puppy Valentines for…

View original post 411 more words

Running with a Spirit Dog

So fellow travelers, a bit of serpentine luck derailed my plans for an important Friday evening meeting with some new friends.

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A little photo art fun with the serpentine villain of the evening.

 

About forty new dogs were due to arrive at the rescue where I volunteer and I had signed up to help out the transport team greet them. It had been a demanding week at work, assisting students through mid-term Regents exams, end of semester projects and covering a constantly shifting schedule of assignments.  I was looking forward to welcoming the rescue’s new furry visitors, getting them fed, walked and settled in before their big adoption meet ups this weekend.

Unfortunately something called a serpentine belt gave out just as I was coming around a high angle curve onto a major highway. All I knew at that moment was I heard a loud thump, felt a sudden jolt and suddenly found myself fighting to keep the car from veering off the road. I had no idea what had happened. I honestly thought I’d hit a big chunk of snow or ice or worse, maybe an animal. Ninja driving mode kicked in. I managed to hold the vehicle on the road through the curve and guide it safely through merging traffic to the far lane of the highway. By then I knew I had lost the power steering. The battery and check engine lights both flashed to life on the dash board. It did not take long for the engine to start overheating.

*O*H*C*R*A*P*

Time to give my buddies at AAA a call. Trust me between my aging camper and my run of luck with various vehicles (this same car tried to ditch its exhaust system last year while I was on a road trip) I get full value for every dollar I spend on my Auto Club Membership.

Fighting back tears, I messaged the rescue to let the transport team know I would not make it in. When I got back home, I made a batch of hearty ham and bean soup, changed way too early into my pj’s and curled up with my own little rescue girl, Delilah

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Homemade soup, a refreshing drink in my favorite Mickey glass and the company of a good and faithful friend.  Comfort at it’s best.

I slept restlessly, inspite of being exhausted. I woke much later than usual this morning so Delilah was pretty eager to get out to the yard for her morning patrol of last night’s critter tracks.

Steaming mug of coffee in hand, I stood by my ice covered fish pond listening to the bubbling song of the life sustaining aerators frozen into the surface. Hang in there my graceful friends, I thought and then realized I was probably talking as much to myself as to the assorted fish below the ice.

Suddenly, Delilah burst into a figure 8 run around the dog yard. It’s something she learned from Sox, the Shepard-Collie mix who left us for the Great Fields Beyond several years ago. When she first came to our home as a foster, she would sit in the center of the yard and bark with great agitation at Sox when he burst into the outlay running pattern. One day, instead of barking, she just took off with him. How funny it was to watch this spirited little black Chi-mix tearing around with her big brother as they herded imaginary sheep. Resident squirrels would chatter at them from the tall fir trees, birds scattered, dirt flew high until they would come to a sudden stop by the gate, panting and looking pleased with themselves.

Sox died suddenly one morning a little over five years ago. He was not quite eight years old and had shown no signs of any illness at his vet check a few months before. He simply collapsed on the living room floor one September morning struggling to breathe.  Our vets office told us come over right away and not wait for them to open. He died in in the car, his head resting in my lap on the way to the vet.

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Sox,  in his signature “stair pose” photo by Emma Rahalski 2011

I will never forget the day some weeks after Sox died that Delilah first burst into the outlay run around the yard. The heartache and grief from his sudden departure was still raw yet there was Delilah racing around the yard as if he was right there beside her.

And in the very depths of my soul, where truth resides untouched by the doubts of this world I sensed his spirit was running with her. It was a sweet moment and, although not often repeated, it is a moment which brings joy to me often when I am most in need of it.

Thanks my friend for the visit this morning.  Bless you Delilah for running with his spirit and refilling my heart with joy.

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Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

Winter Dogs

So fellow travelers, this beautiful photo popped up on my feed this morning.

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Taken by Nancy Gallimore,  the joy she’s captured here warmed my heart (and slightly frozen appendages) this morning.  I posted a happy comment and then realized there was a haiku brewing in those words.  She graciously gave me permission to repost her photo.

Here is the haiku it inspired.

 

Glimpsed from a window

glowing with the Light of Love

Winter dogs at play

 

Nancy writes often about her work with rescue animals.  Her most recent adventure had a very happy ending something we both are all too aware does not always happen.  All the more inspiring to see Nancy’s dog so well cared for and loved.

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.

 

 

Battle of the Lap

So fellow travelers, Lake Ontario continues to spread her fluffy white presence through the streets and by ways of our towns and villages.

The three day MLK Jr. weekend has been extended to a fourth day off by a snowday. It will mean some quick assignment rewrites for my teaching colleagues who have to wrap up the semester by Friday. Still,  I am truly grateful to avoid driving in the blustery winds and periodic white out conditions haunting my view from the big window over my deck.

After a round of shoveling, required to access the yard for the morning dog run, I have settled down to complete a few writing assignments of my own. Delilah immediately made it clear who wins the battle for the favored spot on this snowed in morning.

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“Back off Annoying Thing.  This lap is taken. “
Delilah 1 : Laptop 0

Walk gently on the path my friends and may adventure find you ready.