Home and Back Again

So fellow travelers, fueled by a good strong cup of coffee to remedy jet lag from yesterday’s return trip,  my morning meditation by our pond stirred up mixed emotions swirling like fish gliding in and out of the water lily leaves.

Portland Street Art

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Sudden flash of gold

Revealing hidden darkness

Morning Reflections

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Oppressive heat and humidity welcomed us on our return, adding to my longing to be back to PDX where each summer I feel increasingly more at home. Instantly I missed cool misty mornings, I missed 60% humidity, I missed random glimpses of Mt. Hood shrouded in hazey clouds, I missed innovative brunch menus and bird themed drinks, I missed eating dinner and playing board games with my kids.

Only one thing could ease all this yearning.

The happy yelps and ecstatic wiggling of one very happy dog.

In some ways it is good to be home here too. 

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

Content

So fellow travelers, it is a gloriously lazy Sunday afternoon. A graceful breeze wafts down from the pine clad sides of Powell Butte tickling a gentle song from the sparrows in my daughter’s yard. Bird song and after effects of a hearty brunch have cast a spell upon us.

Ceiling fans spin as

dogs snore at my feet and I

am content to nap

The days have been filled with family dinners, heartfelt conversations, a bit of shopping at our favorite second hand shops and bookstores ~ ordinary moments which fill my heart with the simple joy of just being together.

I am indeed profoundly content.

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

… on a letter to the first owner of my second-hand dog

So fellow travelers, a guest post here from a fellow blogger and now rescue dog adopter whom I am blessed to also count as friend. Grab some tissues and be ready for your hearts to smile.

Dear Sir, Firstly, I’m so sorry for the anonymous nature of this salutation. It’s just that I don’t know your name. My name is Lisa Dingle, and I adopted your Bella nearly a month…

Source: … on a letter to the first owner of my second-hand dog

Fading West*

So fellow travelers, a friend who reads my blog posts commented on the line I used at the end of a recent entry. Their point was well taken.

“Nothing in (my) life would ever be the same” is indeed a rather sweeping claim. Being aware of the hyperbolic aura it casts, I did not use it lightly. In fact I rewrote, deleted and retyped it several times, eventually coming to the conclusion it accurately reflected the impact of the week I spent in California.

Since writing is how I process my experiences, I am sometimes bound by self-inflicted parameters. An example of this is the prolonged stretch (five weeks, the longest gap since I began the blog in August of 2013) in my posts between the Verdi Requiem weekend and my current series of posts. When I returned home from that regenerative time with friends, I walked back into a malestorm of situations at work which rapidly escalated and deteriorated. It took every ounce of energy to stay focused, professional and compassionate. At day’s end I literally had enough left in me to walk our dog, eat a decent meal and tend to a handful of chores around the house, pond or garden before collapsing into bed.

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On weekends, my work at the dog rescue where I volunteer became my therapy; making a difference in one arena compensated somewhat for the frustration of not being able to get responses at work.  The affection and acceptance of these dogs who had been through so much in their quest to simply find a home where they would be loved became a beacon of Light and hope in a time of tremendous frustration. The sincere gratitude of the rescue staff for every hour I could contribute was a reminder that what I was able to do mattered, whether it was answering phones, cleaning crates, folding laundry or taking a challenged dog on a long respite walk.

Every Sunday morning I would rise early and write for a few hours but due to the confidential nature of my position (I work as a special education assistant in our local high school) what I wrote could not be posted. That I wrote at all came from the advice of several of my creative tribemates.  “Write,” they said “whether you can publish it or not, write for your own sake. Eventually you will find a way to share what you need to say.” I stopped worrying about the extended gap in the published blog posts.

 

So I wrote and walked dogs and got through the weeks, day by day and I focused on what became an even bigger adventure than going to Switchfoot’s 14th Bro-AM concert at Moonlight Beach. I signed up to spend four days with the guys who created the music which had kept me going for so long so I could thank them in person.

 

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

*The title FADING WEST is a reference both to the direction I traveled for my great adventure and a movie/music project the band undertook during their 2012 world tour. You can watch the trailer for the film, released in 2013  at this link .

 

Push to the Finish Line

So fellow travelers, returning home from the Verdi road trip I received an enthusiastic greeting from my devoted trail companion Ms Delilah

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Granted I am blessed to be greeted in a similar manner when I come in from a trip to the grocery store. A greeting shorter in duration with less yapping perhaps, but just as effective at refueling my heart with the glow of unconditional love dogs radiate into our lives.

Delilah has been a placeholder for love and acceptance through the recent challenges of my journey. Whether I  arrived home and immediately grabbed a leash to head for a mind clearing walk or collapsed on the couch under the weight of incomprehensible stress, Delilah followed the cues. She even learned to gently nudge me awake so those naps did not stretch out to interfere with deeper sleep I would need later.

Because of the confidential nature of my work with special ed. students at our local high school it is not possible for me (at least not at this time) to detail the specifics of what our team was dealing with.  Suffice to say, there were connected situations which had been evolving for two years which had reached a point of tremendous concern for the team I was on.  What was most disconcerting was the struggle we faced trying to have those concerns heard by people in a position to address the issues. In my nineteen years working with students of diverse needs and abilities from elementary through high school I had never experienced anything like what we were being asked to tolerate as acceptable for our students as well as our teaching team and support staff.

20180626_131101Mural in Artists Alley Oceanside CA

I found myself asking  how long does one remain in a setting where it no longer seems possible to make a difference?

When you follow every protocol and send clear, well documented reports that help is needed and the response is dismissive, when you hear the policy statements about the importance of mental health but see nothing done when a crisis point is reached repeatedly, when you hear and are told to teach the message “if you see something, say something,” and you do say something, day after day, but it results in no actions, how long beyond these tipping points do you stay?

Reaching the end of the year, feeling discouraged and depleted I knew leaving my position now (which I could easily do by retiring a year ahead of schedule with minimal financial impact) would feel more like quitting than “retiring early.” I am many things, but I am not a quitter. I was mindful too of the impact leaving would have on my co-workers, many of whom I am grateful to also call my friends.

Through all of these challenges, there has been a soundtrack playing which kept me going even when I was sure I could not face another day of chaos. It is a soundtrack filled with songs of the restless quest for meaning, of reaching for hope in the face of doubt and a search for light when plunged into darkness. So two days after dragging myself across the finish line of unresolved dilemmas, I headed West to spend some time with the band who writes those songs.

Nothing in my life would ever be the same.

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

The Final Disappearing Act

As a rescue volunteer, stories like Merlin’s always touch my soul.
That he had a second chance is a gift granted by special people. I hope Dianes post inspires others to give another dog a second chance.

Merganser's Crossing

The story goes that Merlin’s tail saved him.  He was born in South Carolina, and just before his move to the Northeast, he lived in a cage in a barn with a bazillion other unwanted dogs.  A dog rescue worker had been through the barn and made a list of the dogs she wanted to pull and send to rescue organizations.  Merlin was on another list.  The list for dogs to be euthanatized.  He wasn’t even a year old.  We don’t have the story about how he ended up there.  I imagine that he was a handful and just wasn’t wanted.  But the rescue worker noticed something about him that she couldn’t ignore.

His tail never stopped wagging.

He was hungry for attention and made it known that he was really a good boy despite his youthful energy and inability to pay attention for more than 3 seconds.    She said…

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Two Hundred Thirty Two.

Nancy’s writing goes right to the point and speaks right to my heart.

tales you win

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Oh…hey there! Yeah, it’s been awhile. Sorry about that. It’s not you, it’s definitely me.

Yes, 2017 slipped by with barely a word here from me. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t have stuff to say. I can always find SOMETHING to say. It’s just that somehow, I didn’t find much time to put everything I had to say down in written form. That may not seem like much of an excuse…you should make time for your passion. You should make time to do the one thing that always centers you and brings you joy.

And yet, time escaped me. When was my last post? June-something? And then I blinked and it was New Year’s Eve. There may have been time travel involved. Yikes!

So here we are.  From June-something to a week into 2018. Seems like a good time to hop back in the old saddle…

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Sunday’s at the Rescue : The Beat Goes On

So fellow travelers, one small downside to the extended trips we take to the Left Coast each summer is I miss all the action for a couple of weeks at the local dog rescue where I volunteer.

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‘Cuse me, are my people here yet?

Going into my sixth year of volunteering (I started seven years ago back in November 2010, but took a year off to attend to important family responsibilities) it does not take long to get back into the swing of things no matter how long I am gone. So bright and early this Saturday, I headed off to help welcome sixty new furry arrivals seeking homes. When I pulled into the parking lot just after 7:30am the big truck was already in position, ramp down ready for the our transport team to get the dogs out and settled in.

adoptersline.jpgThanks to the dedication of a hardworking staff and a solid core of trained volunteers, Helping Hounds Dog Rescue has become a well organized operation. Transport shifts are hectic. Cooperation and flexibility are essential. There’s a lot to get done before doors open to the crowd of potential adopters who line up well before Noon.

Adopters waiting for doors to open.

Before the transport dogs are brought in, all the dogs currently on site have to be fed and walked, crates cleaned, water replenished and laundry started.  Thanks to the “Morning Marauders” weekend team this happens with good humored, coffee and donut fueled efficiency so by the time the Transport Team shifts into gear the new dogs will have the full attention of everyone on hand.

By the time the dogs arrive here, they’ve been through a lot. Whatever the circumstances (strays, puppy mill raids or owner surrenders) which find them in held in high kill shelters, its a terrifying experience for any animal. The lucky ones are “pulled” by rescue organizations in Texas and Alabama, given vet care including spay/neuter and sent to foster homes to wait for an available opening on the transports headed to other states.  When a slot opens up, the dogs are loaded onto the transports often traveling several days (yes they are fed and walked and cared for along the way) to reach their new home state. So by the time we meet them coming off the truck, they are understandably a bit stressed and disoriented.

 

Some of them bound down the ramp, thrilled to explore this funny smelling new place. Others have to be coaxed or carried to the stations where they have their arrival photos taken and are fitted for collars with official HHDR tags. It’s not uncommon for us to end the shift a bit damp but we all agree it’s worth wearing a little eau de pee in exchange for a gentle lick on your ear as you comfort a trembling little chi-mix or shy puppy. A good breakfast, a few walks and extra buddy time for any dog in need of comfort does wonders to soothe nerves and settle fears.  Most are ready to meet potential adopters by the time the doors open and people start streaming in.

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Pups resting before the doors open to the public

At that point I usually switch roles to answering the phones, freeing up the staff to focus on processing adoptions. Other volunteers act as tour guides showing people around and answering questions, bringing dogs out to meet interested adopters or at any moment assisting when a call goes out for a “crate cleanup in the puppy room.” Staff approved volunteer team members assist with “meet and greets” a required process of introducing a family’s established dog(s) to the dog they are considering for adoption. Transport Saturdays are crazy busy, people can wait over an hour to finalize their paperwork and go home with their new companions. A few grumble, but I’ve never heard anyone say it wasn’t worth the wait once they’re walking out the door with their new companion.

 

Bags

 

One nice benefit of working the phones is I get to see a lot of the dogs go home. I always have several favorites in each new pack, dogs who touch my heart for one reason or another.  My heart fills with joy as I pull their “Going Home” bags made by their foster families, then watch their new families eagerly pick extra toys or treats from our donation shelves, tucking them in with the things sent up from the families who so graciously gave them a place to rest and then let them go to make room for the next foster. To give love and let it go takes some resilience, I know, I’ve been on that side of the rescue process. Its the ability to focus on keeping space open for the next dog which makes sending them on their way ever so slightly easier. There’s no shortage of dogs needing homes so fosters know there’s will soon be a new furry guest to love.

One new addition to our transports are the Kelly Dogs, whose transports have been sponsored by a fund started in memory of Kelly Wilson, an avid HHDR volunteer who died in a tragic accident. Kelly’s enthusiasm on transport days even on the coldest, wettest of days was contagious. She and her new husband had just adopted a puppy from Texas just before she died; her family and friends wanted to help make more adoptions like that possible. Many people don’t realize there are substantial costs involved in pulling dogs out of high kill shelters and getting them to areas where the demand for adoptions is higher than the supply of available dogs (*see notation below.)

Kelly’s fund makes sure her love for these dogs lives on.

Kelly Dogs : DaVinci, Wynken, Marco, Blynken & Frida getting ready for their official photo

By the time my shift is done I’ve fully embraced the expression “dog tired” yet as tired as I am, when I leave at the end of a shift to head home and walk our own rescue girl (herself an HHDR alumni) I leave knowing I have done something to make a difference. That’s a feeling which refuels my spirit and I am grateful for the opportunity to  live it.

Walk gently on the path my friends and remember kindness matters.

*HHFB_IMG_1471630236490DR works with several rescue groups in Texas and Alabama to bring dogs up here where very eager families are seeking to adopt. The process is not without concerns. There is always the question of how this impacts local dogs in need of homes. I addressed this aspect in a post from a few years back.  The issue of finding a solution to the over population of certain breeds in local shelters is not a problem any community can adopt its way out of.  Education of the general public and cohesive communication between rescue organizations is essential. Our area is fortunate to have groups working towards a brighter future for breeds, I for one am blessed to have in our own family. Photo : Zeus and Coffee, our daughter and son-in-law’s rescue pitbulls. 

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.

There and Back Again: Redefining Home

So fellow travelers, it’s been a quiet few days since we’ve returned from our marvelous trip to the Pacific Northwest. There’s more than a hint of Autumn in the air, one local weather watcher reported a record early frost in her area a bit north of here. Delilah and I found signs of way too early color on our first walk.

 

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HRH Princess Delilah met us at the airport with squeals and cries of sheer delight. She arrived courtesy of her escort Mark B. who along with my good friend and camping buddy Lisa provide our spoiled rescue Diva with the best of care when we are out of town.  They also happen to be the adopted family of our former foster Sammy aka Sammers Wiggle Butt. He stays with us when they go out of town.  I’m deeply grateful for this reciprocal arrangement, without it our extended annual visit with our kids would not be possible.

Parting goodbyes grow harder for me each time as every trip deepens my connection to the wild wonders of the PNW.  The irony if this is not lost on me, since I had said for years that region of the country was one I had no interest in moving to. Never say never.

Functional graffiti on a side street in PDX

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Each year we explore more areas, seeking out potential towns to purchase a retirement home. My husband tracks property values on Zillow and I seek out natural vistas and new trails to explore. We learn more about the issues each area is facing  and I am planning at least one future trip to experience the colder rainy season. I expect I’ll remain a willing convert, after all you don’t have to shovel rain to get to your bird feeders or brush it off your car to load your groceries.

Rain 2014 the only year its rained during our trip

 

Since returning, I noticed I had a hard time saying I was “home.” Yet I also felt content to be back, walking the neighborhood with Delilah, cleaning my little fish pond and weeding the small forest attempting to take over various areas of my yard. I gathered flowers from the wildflower patch I seeded last spring and discovered a dozen or more tiny fry had appeared in the pond during our absence. Seeing them wiggle in the waterfall current and darting around the lily pads sent a wave of joy through my heart which ached to have coffee at the bagel shop* where Favorite Younger Daughter works and hike just one more mountain trail with either one of my girls.

Then insight dawned.

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Just as I can equally love two daughters with their unique talents and temperaments I can have and love more than one “home.”  It simply means I am twice blessed and for this I am truly grateful.

 

Massive sunflowers greeted me when I got home. They are the first ever to bloom after many unsuccessful attempts to grow them. I laughed right out loud when I saw them. Maybe it was good to be back at this home after all.

 

 

 

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

*If you happen to find yourself  in Portland  do stop by Spielmans.  Their custom roasted coffee is excellent and they make the best bagels I’ve ever had- and I grew up in New York City so that assessment bears some weight.

 

 

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.