Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Best Birthday Ever

Not to call undue attention to myself or anything, but today was my birthday! It was epic.
First off, waking up next to my beloved people, the furry ones and the Swiss one, and being showered with joyful hippie gifts--tie dyes and lip balm and hippie parfum and all my favorite things in the world. Then, a birthday text from my sister and a note that she'd bring Princess Sky over for the day, as she often does on Wednesdays. 

My little Princess came crashing into the yard, exploding love all over the place. Then she zoomed around the back yard while I pulled a few weeds, zoomed up the steps and down half a dozen times, wrestled with Dahlia, ate Fozzie and Dahlia's food, and let Dahlia hump her for a few minutes. 

Pretty soon it was time to load up Fozzie and Dahlia and leave Princess here to make out with Florian, which was a good set up for everyone involved. Uncle Johnny needed to go to Baltimore for a doctor's appointment, and I wanted to go on a hike with my dogs, so let's combine those activities for fun all around.

Not 10 minutes from where I left Johnny is Patapsco State Park. Where the dogs and I unloaded, walked right down to the water, and had the best time ever.
Walked in the stream, which was cool and fresh (like certain noses), tossed sticks for the dogs, watched them splash around. 

Left the phone in the car, so these pictures are not from Patapsco, but from Sunday's hike to the Monocacy River, which was also epic. 

But if I had taken pictures, they would look a lot like this, because as you may have noticed, all my hike pictures look a lot like this. 

Because in the end, what else is there? 

When you have two wet dogs, sloshing around, arguing over a stick, everything else kind of just falls away. 

And you are left with pure bliss. 

On this hike I couldn't take pictures, couldn't check the time, wasn't distracted by technology or compulsive iphone brain.

Just me, the dogs, the cool water, the warm air, the green vegetation.

And a lot of really good sticks. 

After sloshing around for a while, letting Dahlia get nice and clean then come out and roll ecstatically on her back in the dirt, then dragging her back to the water to rinse and holding her by the harness as we walked back to the car so she wouldn't do the roll thing again, back to the car.

And a short drive to pick up Johnny, with Dahlia on my lap and taking selfies, Because fuck it. It's my birthday. 

Then home to eat half a pineapple, do some online planning of the revolution, and receive mindblowing kisses and cuddles from Princess and my two tired, happy dogs. And then dinner with my sweetie and rest time for the short people.

Wouldn't have done anything different.  

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Staying Close to Home for a Far-Out Vermont

Well this has not been the easiest summer. But it did contain some intervals of peace and joy, and things seem to be on a better track now. After a stressful July, Florian and I rewarded ourselves with a summer road trip to Vermont, which we knew would be an amazing and slightly cooler place to take the dogs. 

Our intention was to camp, explore the extensive national forests and parks, and discover a lot of trails and swimming holes. Of which there were no shortage!

The first place we stopped was this gorgeous creek in the southern part of the Green Mountain National Forest. 

Amazing white rocks and heaven for the dogs as although Vermont was cooler than Maryland, it was still pretty hot.

Our entire week-long vacation consisted of driving around the state and stopping wherever we saw a cool trail, stream, or ski area worthy of exploring, some interesting rocks, a public campground, or a nifty little town with a General Store that sold maple syrup and local beers. 

There were a few great surprises, like this Spirit in Nature Interfaith Path Sanctuary in the Green Mountains. We happened upon it when driving out the dirt road from our campground our first night in Vermont, and took some time to walk on the Buddhist, Pagan, Interfaith, and Druid paths

 which were beautifully laid out through a magical forest

and each of which had signs to remind you of the gifts of inner peace and reflection brought by each of the great spiritual traditions. 

It is amazing how seeing such things, and especially being reminded of them in such a beautiful setting, can instantly bring about a state of well-being and joy. I think even the dogs felt it.

When we passed a ski area, 

Florian insisted we check t out and it was a good thing! It turned out to be a great place for the dogs to run around.

Of course in the summer it was totally empty, and there were some amazing views 

and even a stream at the bottom where everyone could cool off. 

It was a bit challenging to do city and shopping visits since we had the dogs and it was hot. But we did check out Burlington, and even there found attractions for everyone to enjoy

My favorite camping spot was one that we got to well after dark, after the one we wanted to stay in, Smuggler's Notch Campground near Stowe, was full. We drove around looking for another place, checked out a couple of overpriced, kind of smarmy private campgrounds, almost ran out of gas, 

and finally, on a dirt road in the middle of the forest, saw a clearing and a place to pull off.  

We woke up to a display of flowers and a stream to freshen up in, 

and a nice picnic table where we could eat breakfast and relax.

Absolutely loved that place. 

Also loved Warren Falls, another gorgeous creek where the water had carved out these deep potholes

Magical! But we were there in the morning, so it wasn't hot enough yet to swim...

at least not for the humans
Fortunately, later we came upon our own private lake where there was no one, and we got to have an amazing swim 

As you might imagine, after about 6 days of this we were satisfied and a bit tired.  Fortunately Florian bought a queen-size inflatable mattress about halfway through our trip so we could rest in comfort, and the dogs could too. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

Blue Buffalo Wilderness Bayou Blend and a Bit of Good News

Wednesday morning, as I was making ready to leave the campground in New Jersey where I was staying 

while I protested the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia 

(and even being interviewed by the AP, which actually covered the protests after engineering the coronation that motivated them), 

I was thinking about Marshal and feeling sad that I didn't try harder to give him another chance, somehow. So you can imagine my mixture of relief and anxiety when I got a call from Montgomery County Animal Services, saying he was still in quarantine. Apparently they try to do everything they can for dogs they take in, even under those circumstances. 

I don't want to think about it too much because he hasn't been evaluated yet, though he did get medical care. They said they were well-connected with rescues and would do their best, and I sent them everything I know about him including the kind of circumstances in which he could thrive and some of the thousands of pictures of him looking cute and happy. 

I'm going to try to avoid getting too involved as there's no way I can--I can't take him in, and the shelter doesn't need help with transport or calling rescues--and I'm going to just send Marshal love. 

So, if you can, please just send Marshal love.

Soon after returning from Texas and when I was worrying about Marshal, 

I had the opportunity to try a product from and I chose Blue Buffalo Wilderness Bayou Blend with Alligator & Catfish Grain-Free Canned Dog Food. Much as it freaks me out to think of feeding my dogs alligator, it seems to me most humane to feed animals that at least you know are raised wild and not in feedlots, and as far as I know there are no alligator feedlots. 

The other thing is that dogs seem to love wild, grain free food. Dahlia of course devoured it, 

and even picky Marshal and Fozzie were not too long in coming over to down some alligator and catfish. 

That stuff was gone pretty darn quick once those dogs stuck their maws down into those dishes.

Though I'm not one to trumpet animal-based foods of any kind, I have to say that these Blue Buffalo foods for dogs seem to be high quality and very enjoyable to the pups. 

And who knows, maybe if I ate those sort of things I'd eat alligator too. 

Right now I'm just going to think loving thoughts for the alligators, and for Marshal, and for all creatures, and pray that they all experience joy and fulfillment and freedom from suffering. 

This world is a tough place but its a lot better thanks to our animal friends, in all their complexity and beauty and ecological importance! Thanks for another great feeding experience, and thanks Montgomery County Animal Services for doing your best for Marshal. 

Monday, July 25, 2016

Pretty Flowers and Joining the Mainstream

Well shit. That post was really sad. So I promise, the next few posts will be nothing but pretty flowers, scenic vistas, and happy, playing puppies. 

This post will be a bit philosophical. I miss Marshal and I'm sad about what happened, but I'm not haunted by it the way I thought I would be. 

Every time I go over the events of the past few months, I see that I did do everything possible. 

If I could have had a few months with Marshal, doing TTouch and taking him to reactive dog and confidence building classes,  I think he could have been a good, reliable dog. But for whatever reason something happened in his relations with Fozzie and it was no longer safe to have him.

As far back as I can remember I have always been what you might call a deep ecologist. I believe that the earth and its creatures have intrinsic rights to exist and pursue well-being.

I still am that way, and I think the death penalty is no more appropriate for animals than it is for humans. 

I'd no more choose to get rid of a problem dog that way than I would to relieve myself of the burden of a troublesome relative by killing them. 

But I know now that there are limits. 

It is actually kind of a relief to have my thinking, at least in one department, closer to the culturally accepted norm. 

It's a lot of pressure to be so far outside the mainstream! 

Now I can just do completely normal things like daydream about Fozzie and Dahlia every moment I am away from them, 

spend hours massaging their paws, plan every vacation around their favorite activities, take slow-motion videos of them tongue kissing with Florian, and shop online for better-tasting dog toothpaste so they can improve their breath. 

Feels great to be normal!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

When everything you can do is still not enough

The original title of this post was Marshal's Recovery Diary, and it was going to be a hopeful post about how much TTouch seemed to be helping Marshal. 

It was helping him, I could see how the little circles in his muzzle made him finally relax some of the tension and tightness he always carried around. 

Then yesterday, Marshal and Fozzie got into a terrible fight--redirected aggression again, when they both saw something outside my yard, got excited about it, and lay into each other. I tried to pull them apart, and Marshal just nailed my arm. All the way through the subcutaneous fatty tissue, into the muscle. I called 911, and animal control and an ambulance came. I went to the ER and got 5 stitches, and Marshal went to animal control. 

I have never given up on an animal. Lars bit Florian and was tense with Lamar for many months before he found a fantastic forever family. Star figured out how to open my gate and beat the hell out of a neighbors dog; she is now winning trophies in obedience class with her beloved adopter.

I truly have never believed that any dog couldn't be rehabilitated. I was incredibly stubborn in that belief, and it was the reason why I could never work in a shelter. So I was going to keep Marshal here and work with him, train and TTouch and desensitize, keep him separate from Fozzie and hopefully defuse the anxiety that has seemed to only get worse and worse since I've known him. Even though I could no longer walk him with my dogs, and the anxiety was definitely worse than it was at first, I thought he could still get better.

At first it went so well that I thought I could just keep him. He was such a sweetie and Dahlia and he got along so well. 

Then one fence fight with Fozzie happened, and it was like something switched in him. The fights became more frequent. I still thought he was a good dog who just needed the right place, so I posted him every place I could think of. 

But as you might imagine, no rescue groups would take him and no adopters came forward.

It was an impossible situation and I literally didn't know what I would do. I still couldn't conceive of giving up on him, because that is not something I do. 

Only when I saw Marshal's teeth sink into my arm, and watched Fozzie trying to get away from him, and knew at that moment that it would be impossible and irresponsible to adopt him to another person did that stubborn part of me die. 

I suppose it was an evolution that needed to happen, for me to fully understand and embrace the full spectrum of what it means to be a rescuer.

It sucks though that Marshal didn't have a chance. It sucks that I couldn't set him up for success, and it sucks how mysteriously, things shifted for him somewhere along the way and it just became too difficult. 

We had some really good times and I hope Marshal will bring those memories with him wherever he goes now. It will be a while before I foster again but I have to remember all the animals I did set up for success, all the ones I did save.

Bless your little heart Marshal, I wish I could have saved you.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Fostering Dark Night of the Soul

OK, maybe that's being a little melodramatic. But I got your attention, and that's exactly what I need right now. 

I need help. I am tortured by the fact that when I got Marshal last fall, he was a shy, but happy, silly playful little man who immediately fell in with Fozzie and Dahlia and seemed happy here. 

And then was adopted by a family who said they would never bring a dog back to the shelter, who then not only brought him back to the shelter but said things about him that brought about the dreaded label "unadoptable," which meant he came this close to death. 

And that the shelter, who knew him well and knew me well, chose to take the adopter's word over everything they and I knew about Marshal--even though the adopter afterward strenuously denied saying that Marshal had an aggressive bone in his body. 

And that now, having been through the repeated trauma of abandonment by people he trusted, and going back to the shelter, and perhaps knowing somewhere in his being how close he came to having his life extinguished, he is no longer the happy, silly carefree man, but a man who cannot go on walks with my dogs because he reacts to badly to dogs or people that he snaps anything nearby. 

And a little man who once played and humped and wrestled and was so happy with my Fozzie, has now gotten into several fights with him so bad that he has scars that will forever give him that look you never want your adoptable pit bull to have in his profile shots. 

The last fight was while I was away in Texas, so maybe the dogs were unusually stressed out. In the days since, Marshal and Fozzie are slowly getting more relaxed, less tense around each other, more joyful and playful overall, though not directly with each other.  

But I can't foresee leaving them with anyone else again, so the rest of our summer contains no dog-free vacations. 

I get stressed out thinking of leaving them, and thinking of traveling with all 3 of them. I can't walk all of them together, so I was doing 4 walks some days instead of 2...although Marshal doesn't even want to go on walks anymore, so that lets me off the hook.

I love my little Marshal, love watching him gradually open up and be more affectionate with me and especially with Florian, and love how he and Dahlia are such sweet companions. I love watching his process and thinking about how to help him overcome his shyness, and imagining the dog he can become. I love when he lets me cuddle him, and how he takes comfort in being very physical and close. 

But it is stressful to have 3 dogs whose dynamic is tense, and stressful to know I can't travel. So I've listed Marshal online and looking for a home or a sanctuary for him. 

I know I can find a wonderful adopter, who has a quiet home and another playful dog, and knows how to work with a shy dog, and lives in a place where the dogs can play and have fun and be stress-free. 

I know Marshal can be more happy in a home where there's no tension with the other dog, and I know there are saintly adopters like I found for Lars and Star--two other challenging dogs who found very happy endings. 

This is a tough experience, as I fear for the welfare of a beloved little creature that I believe in, but whom others have abandoned. But I'm going to keep believing in Marshal and working to manifest that perfect home for him. 

Could it be YOURS?