My Favorite Animal Is Puppies...

Anybody who knows me knows that I love dogs. Almost all dogs, though I am not that fond of the various poodles (mini, regular and/or standard). I have always had rescue dogs, with the exception of our latest, Jake, who is the offspring of our friends' dog.

Given my fondness of all things puppy and, specifically, rescue puppy, I decided a few months ago to start volunteering at the Oregon Humane Society. I promised myself that I would try to take some of the emotion out of the job. As a prerequisite I had to promise Ben that I wouldn't bring home any dogs. For the last few months I have been in extensive orientations, registrations, mentor meetings and dog handling training, but I am slowly starting to learn my way around. I also am slowly starting to feel like I have been contributing to making all of those canines' hopefully short stays at the Humane Society a more pleasant experience. I take dogs on walks, clean out their kennels, give them a fresh blanket in the evening, and sometimes I just sit with them when they're looking sad. It really has been a humbling experience.

Yesterday was an especially rough day in that the heartbreak came at me from nowhere. As I said hi to each dog and handed out treats, I noticed a larger than usual number of medical issues. There were two dogs who recently lost one of their legs. They hobbled to get their treats, tails wagging and smiles on their faces, as if this was just a minor setback. There was one guy whose eyeball tended to come out of its socket. He was super happy to get a treat. I usually don't see this many medical cases at once, at least not in my short stint here. Yet none of these hit me that hard.

Close to the end of my day I had one last row of kennels to visit. I came upon a larger kennel that held two rather large dogs. Both dogs were huddled in the corner and wouldn't make eye contact with me. I tossed them some hot dog bits, but they didn't respond. They lay there, huddling in the corner, guarding their food bowls, avoiding eye contact at all times. When I looked at their paperwork, I noticed that they were 5 years old. I also noticed the following: "Lived in shelters entire lives. Not accustomed to human interaction."

I felt as if a ton of bricks had hit me square on the shoulders. I had to stop to catch my breath as I stared at the card and then back at them. I wasn't expecting this. How can people do this to a dog? They've never known the joy of a dog park, or a swim, or even a camping trip with their human friends. All they know is how to live in a kennel. It was absolutely heartbreaking.

I left the room in a haze. I sort of wandered for a minute, but felt more and more emotion coming over me until it was overwhelming and I had to leave. That feeling would not leave me for the remainder of the day and still hasn't, although it has subsided a bit now that I have had some time to think about the situation. Even though they are at the Humane Society, they are in a better place than they probably were before. They have constant interaction with people. They will be walked on a regular basis. They will have people who come to see them, just to see how they're doing. but the most reassuring thought is that they will be rehabilitated to function as normally as possible. There are so many employees and volunteers there who actually care. They are in a place where somebody's #1 goal is to get these guys ready to go home, and not to another shelter.

After considering never going back, I came to the realization that this won't be the last time I come across this type of situation. But that's OK. All of those guys need somebody to visit with, and that's why I'm there. I just hope that next time I won't be caught so off guard.

Word of the Day: Feeble

How timely, this is exactly how I have been feeling for the last month: Feeble. It started out, what seems ages ago, with a little cough. That developed into a sinus infection, which developed into a mondo cough, which developed into walking pneumonia. Anything with a silent "p" sucks. Bring on the antibiotics!

So I started feeling a little better, even worked out a time or two. Then came the appointment. Earlier in the year I asked my doctor about a suspicious mole. She recommended that I have it removed. So I did last week. Leading up to the appointment I was nervous, somebody was going to cut a part of me off. Even though that part was definitely not cute, and potentially harmful, it was still attached to me, and somebody was going to cut it out of me. Little did I know that the procedure itself would be the least of my worries. How about the recovery? Nobody talked to me about that! The mole was removed from my left side, on the upper ribcage. So, you know, a part that is constantly moving as a result of standing upright. Good times!

The first night after the procedure was awful. The local wore off and I woke up at 2am feeling like somebody was scraping at my skin with a dull knife. I panicked a little and got up real fast. Then I almost passed out. Then I popped 4 Advil and went back to sleep. After a week, I'm still not right. It's healing, but so very slowly, due to the location. Movement is still limited.

If somebody were to tell me 2 weeks ago what the recovery from this would be like, I would have completely chickened out. No way in hell. So maybe it's a good thing that I didn't know? And if somebody were to tell me last December what my March/April would be like, I would have never left Maui.

On Motivation

Mostly everybody can relate to lacking motivation at times. You want to get off your ass and do something, but the ass part of you just doesn't wanna move. Sometimes, not going completely batshit crazy is the only motivation that keeps you going through the day.

I have come to realize that the year 2009 has not been very nice to me. I don't know what I did to piss it off so badly, but it has decided to kick me in the ass over and over again.

Beginning in February all the way through today, this afternoon in fact, I have tallied a total of ONE great thing that has happened (defining great as in "Wow, I will remember this for a long time") and 4 life-changing awful things. And by awful I mean health issues and multiple family member deaths. Just when something good finally happens, 2009 comes back and says, "I don't think so, lady. This isn't your year."

And the one thing that has truly saved me from going into a deep dark place and never coming out? Friggin exercise. I'm not prone to depression, but I do get some anxiety here and there. Exercise has truly kept it from surfacing, which is such a god-send considering the circumstances of the last 8 months. I have never experienced so much as I have in the last year, but I think I have dealt with it pretty well. That is definitely due to a great support system that I am very lucky to have. But it is largely due to the fact that I get all that aggression out on some concrete or a bike.

And the new gym that is opening right down the street next week? It better watch the hell out. The year's not over yet.


We got Sophie in 1997, she was 6 weeks old. This is her when we first brought her home. Note how giant her paws were, that was a clear indicator of how giant she would become. She has been with us for over 12 years, the sweetest, silliest, smartest dog on earth. She has moved with us from Northern California, to Southern California to Portland. We've watched her grow into an old lady over the years, her gray hair traveling from around her nose all the way to the top of her head.

Recently Sophie was diagnosed with bone cancer. She has had a limp in her paw for a while now. On Monday she was unable to get out of bed, her back legs had completely stopped functioning. Even when she slept, in her running dreams she only used her front paws. I told B about it, he had to see it for himself before he took it seriously.

That night B came home and had her get out of bed and go out in the yard. With some assistance she got up and stumbled like a drunk man into the yard, falling multiple times along the way. After about 10 minutes they hadn't come back, so I went out to the yard to see what was going on. What I saw will haunt my dreams for years. Sophie was laying on the grass panting heavily, and B was sitting next to her crying. When I asked him what was wrong he simply said, "I didn't think it would happen this fast."

For years and years we made a deal with eachother. Whatever goes wrong with the dog, who weighs 105 lbs. by the way, as long as she can go the bathroom by herself we can manage. Neither one of us thought that it would actually happen. We gave her many chances to get up, we tried helping her so many times, but we could see the look of frustration on her face. Her legs were done. After a few hours of agonizing tears, we made the call to the vet. She would only be with us for another 15 hours.

The next morning, neither one of us needed an alarm to get up, we had not slept very well that night. I got up and decided that Sophie would feel better and we could cancel the appointment. I tried. She tried. She wasn't getting up. She was wagging her tail and eating just fine, she just did all of those things from her bed. At this point she hadn't gone to the bathroom for almost 24 hours. Both of us pleaded with her, just get up, just for a few minutes, just to go to the bathroom. Hell, you can pee on the deck if you want, just get up. All we got was a frustrated whimper. We spent the next few hours sitting with her on the floor, spending as much time as possible.

At 11:30 we both took a great big breath and pulled the car up. B picked her up and put her in the car. He completely broke down at that point. When we got to the vet I went inside while he waited with Sophie in the car. We carried her in through the side door and put her in a room that was all ready with a comfy blanket on the floor. As soon as she laid down she peed what seemed gallons. She had the biggest look of relief on her face. This is when things started to feel very surreal.

The vet came in and told us what to expect. She would be given an initial shot that would slowly dope her up. That should take about 10 minutes. After that she would be given another injection, via IV, and would be gone within one minute.

The first shot was given. I was really happy to see that Sophie was extremely happy. Like happier than she had been in weeks. Usually when we take her to the vet she shakes, but there was no shaking. We grabbed a big bag of treats and just started shoveling them at her. She was insanely happy and hyper. She had more energy than we've seen in months. We kept giving her treats and petting her. She gave us kisses and gobbled up the treats. Right then one of the vet techs who dogsat Sophie about 3 years ago walked in. She came to say goodbye. This was the most touching gesture.

After about 5 minutes she started slowing down. Fast. The treats were all gone and her head started to fall and her eyes got heavy. I was holding her paw, which I noticed was really tense this entire time. In fact, as I remember, it had been tense for about 2 months. It was the paw where the bone cancer started. That paw, and all of the tenseness within, finally relaxed completely. It was at that point that I realized that she could no longer see. So we decided that she could still feel and hear us. And we just talked to her.

After another 5 minutes the vet came in with an assistant. It was time to administer the final dose. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be in the room for this part, but B said that he wasn't leaving. So I decided to stay but not look. So I buried my head in B's arm while he held Sophie's paw. I was balling. B was balling. I opened my eyes and saw that the assistant was also crying. She had never met us before. One minute later the vet put her stethoscope to Sophie's heart and made the announcement in a very quiet voice, "She's gone now. Take your time saying goodbye." And she left.

We got on the floor, said our goodbyes and left.

I drove home as fast as I could. I was about to break down and didn't want to crash the car. As soon as I walked in the house I saw her bed. It still had wet spots from where she drank water. As if having the exact same thought, B started cleaning. First he threw out the bed, then vacuumed the house, she was a big shedder. I got rid of her food, bowls and Costco box of treats. This may sound slightly wrong, but it was extremely therapeutic. After it was all done, it felt better to cry and look at her pictures.

As the day went on, we talked about her more. Every sentence began with, "Remember when Sophie..." And the day just went on and on like that. Funny stories replaced feelings of guilt. We kept reassuring eachother that this was the best thing for her, that she would have only been in more pain if we waited any longer.

This morning was rough. I expected to hear her wagging tail hitting the wall as I walked into the room. But it was quiet. Too quiet. More quiet than I ever remember the house being. There was a lot of sadness this morning.

I had to write this down, just to get it out. It was absolutely the worst day of my life, one that I will never forget.

How I Spent My Sunday

Living the American Dream. Beer & baseball.

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