Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reaping the Rewards of Cat-Sitting

Someone in my apartment building left me a note asking if I wouldn’t mind looking after his two cats while he took a vacation. I hardly know this individual, and I’ve never met his cats, but I said Yes without hesitation.

I wrote back asking if he would be agreeable to letting the cats stay in my apartment during his absence. My reasoning was twofold: 1) The girls would get much more attention and near-constant companionship from more than one person, and 2) I wouldn’t have to climb two flights of stairs twice a day to care for them.

His reply was unexpected. He agreed to my request and wrote that he was overwhelmed by my offer. He wasn’t used to such kindness. This was the nicest thing anyone had ever done for him.

WHAT? My halfway self-serving request was the best anyone had ever done for this guy? I couldn’t believe it. What’s wrong with our species?

Yeah, I know the guy is blind, but why are so many people afraid to engage with someone who is a little different?

“Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.”
—Samuel Johnson

I was angry and sad at the same time. I started thinking about all the ways I’ve been shown kindness in the last few years:

- the friend who cooked homemade dinners for my husband and I when I was recovering from surgery
- the lawyers who defended me and helped me through the legal system even though they were representing the other party
- the boss who sat in court with me just for moral support
- the friends and family members who called and left messages for me at a time when I didn’t have the reserve to talk to anyone
- the friend who helped man the garage sale of most of my possessions, providing both nutritional and emotional sustenance
- the work colleagues who planned and carried out a most memorable and touching wedding for me

I could go on.
I’m grateful to all these people and more. They balanced out the behavior of a number of slimy, greedy, flagitious lowlifes and kept my spirits up during some very trying times. I can’t imagine the outcome had I not received such kindness. I can’t imagine how my neighbor has persevered.

Well, I guess I can, for judging from his notes to me, it’s his two cats who provide him care and community and purpose in Life. They’re everything to him. They’ve become his world.

Still, it takes so little to be kind to others—holding a door open, carrying a grocery bag, sometimes just saying Hello or listening. We don’t have to get involved in a person’s life or problems in order to be kind; we don’t have to become responsible for them or engage with them for the long term. There’s hardly any downside to it, really. It’s just a moment in a lifetime of moments. But to the person we’re being kind to, it could be so much more.

Push a little kindness into the Universe today, won’t you?

[Art by Harry Whittier.]

Sunday, May 27, 2012

No Contest: My Day at the Races

I went to the dog track yesterday. I’d been looking forward to it all month.

The weather promised to be oppressively hot, so I skipped most of the events that preceded the races—the parade, the agility contest, the costume competition—and planned to arrive an hour or so before the start time.

However, my plan went awry when the event officials decided to race the dogs earlier because of the climbing heat. By the time we arrived, they were dismantling the “track” already and the crowds had departed for home.

To be clear, this was no ordinary dog track. It was a Dachshund-only derby—part of a fundraising event for a local Dachshund rescue organization. There’s no hare or robotic enticement for the pooches to chase, no cruel training methods or neglectful caretaking. There’s only a bunch of tiny pets wearing numbers on their backs who, after a “gate” is opened, “race” a distance equivalent to the length of my world’s smallest living room into the waiting arms of their human companions. Blink and you’ve missed it. Or, as in my case, keep your eyes wide open and miss it anyway.

Today the Indy 500 is running, but it’s got nothing on yesterday’s Dachshund Derby. When it comes to winning my attention, high-tech humans are no match for short-limbed canines.

[Art from a vintage German postcard.]

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Just When I Thought Compassionate Humans Were An Endangered Species…

We attended a festival last weekend at which we noticed an odd sight. Between the tents of the vendors and the picnic tables near the food purveyors was a ring of opened folding chairs, roped together and lying on their sides. My curiosity got the best of me and I stepped up to the ring for a closer look.

In the center of the chairs was a Killdeer. At first I thought she was injured, but then I saw her clutch of speckled eggs, camouflaged nicely amongst the surrounding stones. It seemed a risky place to raise a family—in an open area of a frequently used park—but apparently this is typical Killdeer strategy.

We watched the bird from afar for a while—saw her perform her “Predator Distraction Dance” when she felt threatened and saw her mate swoop in to deliver food. We also heard numerous parents warn their children to keep their distance and not traumatize the bird, and we overheard a festival exhibitor explain how she and a few other exhibitors had first noticed the bird that morning and decided to protect the tiny family from the crowds by creating the wall of chairs.

This contrasted sharply with the last Killdeer-human interactions I’d witnessed at the Rolex Event last month: As a Killdeer was trying to herd her large brood across a triangular patch of grass with people milling about on all sides, one person allowed her dog to chase the chicks. They scattered in all directions, sending Mother Killdeer into a frenzy.

I know, I know. It’s fun for the canine. But not so much for the Killdeer.

So last weekend became memorable not for the festival, but for seeing SO MANY humans doing the right thing for one little bird and her potential family. They made my day.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

BOOKreMARKS: Reading Burdens

I can hardly wait to finish the books I’m reading. Not because I’m glued to the stories unfolding, but because I’m dragging myself through each chapter in hopes that the next one will be better than the last.

It’s probably just a timing thing—my selections are out of sync with my frame of mind. Or it’s a bad combination of topics. I usually have at least one book that’s so arresting I can hardly take a break from it. Unfortunately, that is not the case with my current selections.

One book credits two editors for its completion, but it could easily have used two more. Plodding through misspellings, extra words, and random punctuation slows my reading and comprehension and accelerates my heartbeat and irritation. I could stop reading the book, but I don’t want to miss any of the charming anecdotes about transspecies friendships buried in it. I’ll trudge on.

Another book started out well, but the middle chapters reverted to backstory. As important as this biographical information may be to the author to convey, I find it nearly irrelevant (and, I’m ashamed to admit, uninteresting to me). I’ll continue reading, though. The final third of the book promises to return to the original topic that hooked me in the first place—living with brain damage.

The one work of fiction I’m reading isn’t really a struggle, but I confess I’m having difficulty remembering who all the characters are of all the subplots. My spirits improved last night when the narrator’s own mother exclaimed, “For heaven’s sake, not another character. There are far too many already, and all these minor ones, what’s the point?”

Thanks for putting it bluntly. I feel better knowing I’m not alone.

[Art by Milton Avery.]

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Mother’s Patience

In the last week I’ve read a memoir by an author whose mother physically abused him during his childhood. I watched a documentary about a television titan whose mother abused him verbally and emotionally throughout his life. You can imagine my relief to see this model of motherhood:

To view the bold colt a little later in life, please visit Mustang Saga to see the companion photo.

I guess some things in life don’t change.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A Cat By Any Other Name…Is A Cat Is A Cat Is A Cat?

Most of my pets have suffered through and recognized a multitude of monikers. (Except my husband’s Burmese. She came with an unfortunate name from which we never deviated. This I deeply regret. She deserved better.) I used to feel embarrassed about the affectionate names I gave my pets—even a little ashamed.

However, all my animal reading of late informs me I’m hardly alone in this matter. Wherever the lives of humans and critters intersect, so, too, do quirky identifiers.

Take my first cat, for example. She had NO name when I adopted her. After a round of serious decision-making, I gave her the nickname of one of my siblings: Precious. And it fit. Her tiny, snow-white body of ultrafine fur, her peridot eyes, her translucent pink ears, her troubled past and ultimate rescue—all pointed to a fragile creature whose quiet nature made her seem more of a porcelain figurine than a growing kitten. She truly was Precious. And though she never outgrew this name, she grew in to a few others: Miss P., Missy, Preciouroni (she LOVED pepperoni), Preciouronious, White Thang (after the tune “Wild Thing” and because one vet we took her to labeled her file with a large “W,” meaning she was “wild and uncontrollable”; oddly, this held true only for that particular vet clinic), Miss Thang, Blanche, Blanche du Chat, The Empathy Cat. Her Whiteness tolerated every nickname we dished out.

I thought we did well by her until I read “The Naming of Cats” by T. S. Eliot. The poet contends every cat should be given three formal names: 1) The common, sensible name—the one used daily; 2) A particular name, one that’s peculiar to your cat and shared by no other feline—one that’s used, perhaps, only on paper; and 3) The name only your cat knows and will never confess. As the poem goes:

“When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name…”

Oh my. I had no idea so much was at stake. I clearly failed my felines.

Some people think names don’t concern animals. It’s our tone of voice that motivates them to respond to us. “Pickle” or “Pumpkin” makes no difference; it’s how we say it that matters. But this line of thinking ignores both the intelligence of animals and their individual personalities.

Take Precious’s best friend, for example. When my husband gave the kitten to me, she could fit in the palm of my hand. (She could fit on top of a doorknob, too, but that’s another story.) Whenever I touched her, she purred—like the tiniest of racing engines. I named her InstaPurr, and for her entire life, anyone could rev her motor with the slightest touch.

InstaPurr garnered a long list of nicknames: Purr, Purrbator, Purrly Girl, Pumpkin, Dirtball (she was NOT a clean cat in her youth—ignored the litterbox and showed no interest in personal grooming), Sweet Pea, Binge and Purrge (yup—she ate, she vomited; it seemed like a game for her, her way of challenging me: “Ha! See if you can clean THIS up!”). She took all her names in stride save one. One word could throw her mood and incite her to yowl: Mabel.

Call her Mabel and she’d immediately do the opposite of whatever she was engaged in: jump out of your arms, walk away from nuzzling your ankles, stop purring. We couldn’t believe it; thought it a fluke at first. But soon we realized we could use the name to our advantage. Whenever Purr started to do something bad (she was the most ill-behaved pet we ever had), we would just say “Mabel” to her and she’d stop. “No,” “Don’t,” “Knock it off,” and every other typical reprimand had no effect on the cat, but call her “Mabel” and she’d retreat.

I don’t know what she heard in the name, but her reaction was clear and innate. It MEANT something to her. Purr was not a Mabel, regardless of our intonation. Purr taught us that words matter, even to nonhumans. Naming a creature demands thoughtfulness and vision. And if that creature is a feline, think Eliot and not Shakespeare—for the feline expects a “deep and inscrutable singular Name.”

[Photographs are from Freekibble, which you can access at the right of Lull to feed shelter cats with the click of a mouse.]

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Paying the Squirrel Tax—Again

Back in the Windy City, where we took recreational gardening quite seriously, we learned (too slowly) that our original calculations used to determine the number of bulbs and seeds and plants to purchase each season were wrong. Fell short. FAR short. We had failed to figure in the number of bulbs and seeds and plants that our neighborhood squirrels would exact as their own.

We tried to keep the squirrels out of the garden with various home remedies. None worked.

We encouraged the pooch to shoo them away. To her credit, over several years’ time, our beloved canine graduated from simply giving squirrels “the eye”—about which I’m pretty sure some squirrel said, “What’s wrong with that dog? Is she stuck?”—to trotting a few steps toward them, neck out, back down, crazy eye full-bore. It worked at first. But word got around fast and the squirrels soon shrugged off the pooch’s advances.

Finally, we surrendered to the extortion and paid the squirrels’ tax: For every two or three bulbs/seeds/plants we intended to thrive, we needed to plant one or two for the squirrels.

Here in the Bluegrass, where we’ve switched from gardening to feeding birds, squirrels still rule. Last week, one was trying to pull his fair share of seeds from our ceramic feeder. It was a daring feat and we worried that his weight would cause damage; we also grew irritated that the squirrel’s mere presence warded away the birds. So my husband threw a handful of peanuts (in shells) onto the window ledge to entice the squirrel away from the feeder.

It worked, but not quite as my husband had envisioned. He assumed the squirrel would grab a peanut and take off. Instead, as you can see in the photo, the squirrel made himself comfortable on the ledge and gorged himself. What he didn’t eat, he guardedly transported—one by one—to some secret storehouse. Yes, the squirrel stayed off the feeder, but he came back for more once he’d successfully carried off the first handful. Now he seemed to feel entitled to handfuls of peanuts on the window’s ledge.

Trained as we were by the Windy City’s bushy-tailed, we dutifully obliged the demands of their Bluegrass counterparts. My husband once again filled the ledge with peanuts. And one by one they disappeared.

I worried: Were we going to have to continue this? Would the squirrel try to come into the apartment if he found an empty ledge? Would he tell his friends about the bounty? Would I have to start ordering peanuts in bulk?

Nope. So far, our two-installment payment has satisfied the little critter. I just hope he’s lean on memory and doesn’t return when his storehouse needs replenishing.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Unwind Before Rewinding

It’s been a long week for some of you. If you need help exhaling, watch what this woman has to go through to enjoy a glass of red wine:

[Many thanks to the Lull reader who sent this video to me.]

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Wingèd One

In February I told you about Birdy, a pooch of sweet demeanor who was scooped up from the mean streets of Oakland—starving and riddled with cancer—by one person who bothered to notice her and knew to take the ailing creature to Bad Rap.

From there, Birdy was adopted by “The Lady,” who knew their time together would be short but full of heart. The Lady, a writer by trade, helped Birdy keep her own blog: Birdy Flies Home. It’s a lovely chronicle of living, of making each moment matter and of facing the inevitable.

Today, at 4:00 p.m. California time, Birdy is donning wings to make her great trek Home.

Please join with me in wishing her a calm takeoff and a brilliant landing into a world where bully sticks are in infinite supply, cones of misery don’t exist, and she may dig as many holes as deep and large as she wants with no ill effects.

Birdy, may your Blue Jewel light your way to Joy. We’ll miss you.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Another Wonder of My World

Last month I opened the blinds to a startling sight: a tailless Cardinal at our feeder.

I panicked, naturally, while dozens of questions coursed through my brain: How did it happen? How does it affect his flying? Can he fly only short distances and not longer ones? Has his balance been impaired? What do the other Cardinals think of him? How do they treat him? Will his taillessness prohibit him from finding a mate? Or does he already have a mate? What should I do? Who should I call? I was already envisioning his long-term stay with us.

A quick Internet search calmed my heart rate. Apparently, tailless birds are as common as flocks of Blue Jays. I’ve just never seen one. Birds can release their tail feathers, or be frightened enough to lose their tails, when confronted by a predator. It’s called “fright molt.” If, indeed, that was this little guy’s story, then he could expect to have another resplendent tail in 4–6 weeks.

I didn’t bother researching beyond that. I started calling him Tailless and he started becoming a regular fixture at our feeder.

Weird, right? First we had The Stubster and now Sir Tailless. But where Stubby was clearly alone in the world, Sir Tailless often comes to the feeder with a companion: a Tree Sparrow.

I haven’t researched this odd couple. I don’t know whether Tailless is settling for a Tree Sparrow because no Cardinal will have him, or if the two are simply good friends. As you can see in the photo, they talk to one another; Tailless usually has the last word.

Today I decided to name him LuckyBird—for obvious reasons and as a nod to a couple of his captive predecessors, canaries LadyBird and CharlieParkerBird (who is another story for another time).

LuckyBird successfully avoided having his photo taken for a couple of weeks. No sooner did we pick up a camera than he flew away, no matter how slowly we moved. Perhaps he was still on high alert after the tail incident. Finally, LuckyBird started to relax and my husband got the shots posted.

LuckyBird has become our distraction and our pastime. We feel lucky to have him around.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Feeling Good

“Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.”
—Jane Wagner

Friday, May 11, 2012

Living with “Nature-Rapt Disorder”

After hearing the first bird break the night’s silence today, I rose before dawn. The bird hadn’t cast a song as much as a one-pitch, crescendoing rivet, followed by the sweet tune of a different bird. I intended to record the orchestral efforts of my backyard birds for you since I’d failed to do so in March. However, today’s range of sound was limited and identifiable even by a novice birder like me. That is to say, there wasn’t enough going on to share with you.

One afternoon last month, my husband and I were walking home from the post office and heard Blue Jays nearby. We stopped and looked up. What we saw locked us in that uncomfortable position for some time. Above us was a flock of Blue Jays—not a few or a family, but an entire colony of feathered sapphire flitting in and out of new leaves chattering about this and that, chasing and dancing and diving and twirling. I’d never seen such a thing. Again, I wish I’d had the presence of mind to document the event for you—snap a photo, record the soundtrack—but I was too engrossed in the moment to think ahead.

What is this affliction I struggle with? I want to share these nature-rapt moments with you but get lost in those moments somehow. Can one be “mindlessly mindful”?

[Art by Alexander Wilson.]

Thursday, May 10, 2012

My Big Fat Momentous Decision

I feel GREAT today! Better than I’ve felt for days. Not physically, but emotionally. Want to know why?

Today I’ve vowed to keep my big mouth shut.

I’ve been struggling this week with the number of people who have recently solicited my advice yet haven’t taken it. I realize people aren’t obligated to take my advice, so I can’t fault them. However, I CAN change my response to these requests. And I’ve made the liberating decision to decline such requests—no more advice, solicited and otherwise.

If someone wants my input, I’ll come up with something. Input is easier to dispense than advice. It can be as simple as one thought that, when added to the clamor of all the other input the person has reeled in from friends and family, may or may not get used. When people ask for input, they’re comparing options. One person’s input may carry no more weight than anyone else’s.

But advice is altogether different. There is an implied trust between the asker and the giver—an implied respect—that compels me to honor the request with supreme thoughtfulness, seriousness, and compassion. It requires consideration of many scenarios and their outcomes. Guiding the person through these possibilities to make the best decision takes time and energy. And I believe the advice should be regarded by the receiver in the same light.

I’m not alone in this. I know other folks who are bothered when people—especially family members—ask for their advice and then subsequently find that it’s been ignored. Often, people who ask for advice have no idea why the people they ask get upset. I believe advice-dispensers must view this as a communication problem—a language glitch and not a personal snub. It’s up to us to ascertain whether individuals want our advice or our input. If we have to explain the difference, fine. It may be the only way to prevent future hurt feelings, which can jeopardize relationships.

Anyway, today I’ve decided that mum’s the word. And mum feels fine.

[Art: Three Wise Sock Monkeys—See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Hear No Evil by PeeWee's ClayHouse.]

Monday, May 7, 2012

Derby No. 138 Follow-Up: Why I Don’t Watch Horse Races

I have watched several horse races in my lifetime: a couple on television, a couple at the track. In each, horses were hurt—some fatally. It’s enough of a pattern to convince me to stop watching. Not because I think myself a jinx, but because I believe too many horse trainers/owners/jockeys/track operators don’t take enough precautions to ensure the well-being of the horses.

I’ve been waiting to comment on this past weekend’s Run for the Roses until I could find out the postrun health of Take Charge Indy. Turns out, he has a bone chip.

Hey! So do I! I know just what it feels like to have that little bugger send out crippling shocks of pain to remind me it’s there. I feel for you, Take Charge Indy, and know exactly why your Derby race wasn’t your best.

Unlike me, Indy will be undergoing surgery this week to have his chip removed. The owners and vets expect a good recovery after about 60 days of rest and then it’s back to the races for the horse.

I also worried about Phyllis Wyeth’s Union Rags, whose race got stymied right out of the gate. It’s certainly not the worst that could have happened under those circumstances; at least the horses didn’t crash into one another or hurt each other in the tumult of finding a position.

All-in-all, this Derby went smoothly—no pileups, no falls, no injuries, no deaths. No complaints. O, that every race could end on such a high note.

[Photo by Harry Whittier Frees.]

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Grab a Hat and a Drink

Today marks the 138th anniversary of the Run for the Roses, a celebration that typically includes horses, hats, and mint juleps.

As you already know, I don’t watch races. And I discovered this morning that I suffer from a condition known as PPS: Pretty Pony Syndrome—meaning that if I were a betting person, which I’m not, I’d be swayed by the aesthetics of the horses. In today’s lineup, I’m particularly drawn to Hansen and Creative Cause.

In case you overdo it on the juleps this afternoon, here are a couple of sobering facts about the racing industry:
1. 750 horses die on U.S. racecourses each year.
(Would we allow a stat like that to exist for professional ball players in this country?)
2. More than 10,000 U.S. Thoroughbreds are shipped for slaughter each year.
(That’s just the Thoroughbreds, mind you. There are plenty of other breeds headed for slaughter each day.)

Sorry to be the killjoy, but if you’re watching the Derby, you need to know what you’re supporting.

For previous (mostly happier) posts about the Kentucky Derby, see “Dressing for Derby Day”—which includes info on hats and mint julep recipes, “Derby Day Is Here,” “WordGazing: Derby Tip for Grammarians,” “137th Derby Follow-Up,” and “May Day, May Day!

[Top pic: Amber, owned by Fox’s Biscuits, wears a Stephen Jones hat at Royal Ascot, Britain’s historic Thoroughbred racecourse.]

Nature-Struck in Illinois

A Lull reader sent me this pic of her recent unexpected encounter with Nature:

The duck couple visited her as she enjoyed her lunch on a Chipotle patio (proving that we’re never far from Nature—we’re just not always aware of it). After leaving her table for a moment, she returned to find one of the ducks missing.

Then her mind churned with worry, for in that brief span of time she’d spent watching the feathered pair, she had become connected to them. Responsible to them. She knew the ducks had to cross a busy road to return to their habitat and fretted over the missing duck’s safety. Was he car-savvy? Would drivers brake for the drake? Could he make it without injury?

Oh. The Lull reader’s thoughts expanded enough for her to realize ducks can fly when they choose to, making the busy roadway (and the reader’s fretting) a nonissue. She chided herself for her initial faulty thinking.

But I have news for her: She was right to worry.

Every few days here in the Bluegrass, I see a robin walking down a sidewalk or meandering across a street. No flying, not even a flutter to show they were thinking about it. And that day I left the library with way too many books, I had to stop my car for two geese to cross the road, although “cross” implies a directness that I believe was foreign to these birds. They sauntered side-by-side, then moved apart to continue in single file. Upon reaching my lane, the lead goose turned his head to the left and proceeded to follow the reach of his neck, ultimately walking in a tight circle while the partner goose caught up. After they made it across my lane, they continued their stroll down a different street.

Having wings is no indication birds will engage them. So, dear Lull reader, no need to chide yourself. Your concern was warranted. And I thank you for sharing your Nature awareness.

[Duck couple in bottom pic were taking a walk near the dog beach in Chicago.]

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Hangin’ with the 1%

Sorry for my recent absence. I’ve no excuse, really. I was simply distracted by dogs and ponies and kettle corn.

The Bluegrass annually hosts a Really Big Show for eventing enthusiasts. (For those of you outside the equine sports community, “eventing” is an equine / equestrian triathlon combining dressage, jumping, and cross-country.) This particular contest—the Rolex Three-Day Event—is fiercely competitive and demands the utmost skill and athleticism from its participants, both equine and human. It is also dangerous and has taken the lives of horses and riders in the past.

At this point, you may well wonder why I’d watch such an event. I didn’t. I watched some world-class, gorgeous horses warm up before competing, but that was it. And that was enough. The rest of the time I served as a volunteer for the local humane society, walking a homeless dog through the crowds and telling everyone I could that she needed a home.

I met some great people from around the globe and heard oodles of rescue stories about both dogs and ponies. I also heard tales from the Dark Side—the cruel and unjustifiable things people do to animals because…

(I don’t know how to finish that last sentence, but I’m working on it because I want to fix it/stop it/prevent it.)

For four hours on Thursday and four hours on Friday, “Peachy” (or Peaches as I more often called her) and I walked the grounds. It was a dog-friendly event, so she met lots of elite dogs and their people. She also met vendors (her faves, of course, were hawking fried fair foods) and police officers (she displayed more respect for the mounted variety), horses and equestrians. She never uttered a sound and she never passed up a potentially edible item without first tasting it (peppers, bananas, tomatoes, broccoli, a frog*—all was fair game). When we rested beneath shady trees together, she always ended up in my lap, nuzzling her snout against my face.

As my shift ended on Friday, I considered it a personal failing that she hadn’t yet been adopted. A couple of other dogs snagged new homes, but not Peaches. There had been plenty of interest in her, but I hadn’t closed the deal with anyone.

Some people would initially try to ward me off by saying they lived far away. “I’m from California (or Colorado or Florida). Otherwise…” But I never waited for them to finish. As soon as they named their state, I shot back with “That’s not an obstacle. I’ll personally drive Peachy to wherever you live.” Yes, I realize now that they were actually attempting to say No to me in a way that 1) Wouldn’t offend me, and 2) Let them off the hook for what they considered good reason. I just wasn’t very reasonable. And frankly, I looked forward to a road trip.

I was hot, my feet hurt, and I couldn’t bear to think of Peachy reduced to living in the shelter again—where she’d been for many months because she’s a neurotic mess while there (bloodies her paws trying to claw her way out of the cage, can’t calm down long enough for any potential adopters to get a good look at her) and nobody wants to adopt a neurotic mess.

Except one woman, who I’m pretty sure had some neuroses of her own. I should have been thrilled over her attraction to Peaches, but I wasn’t. I dreaded she would be the ONLY hope. My concern hinged largely on a single question the woman asked me repeatedly: “Can you guarantee she won’t run away?” She explained she planned to let Peachy roam her large farm with her other rescued dogs. I asked her how she managed to get the other dogs to stay on the farm. She said they simply followed her around. I said I couldn’t guarantee anything. I believed she’d need to work patiently with Peaches to educate the dog about her new home and boundaries.

I went home. Saturday passed. Sunday morning I returned to the park for my shift working Doggie Daycare (basically a boarding service for the dogs of the 1%). Several more dogs had been adopted since Friday. And Peachy?

“Yeah, we think she’ll get a home today,” said one of the humane society employees.

I cringed. “Is it the woman?”

“No. You’ll like these people.”

I couldn’t imagine who would meet the standards I’d suddenly set for my Peaches. There had been one family I wanted to belong to myself, but they clearly had enough animals and children and stuff going on already. I didn’t even try to push Peaches on them, but I enjoyed chatting with them whenever I ran into them.

Halfway through my shift as prison warden to a couple of elite dogs from Hell, I noticed my dream family standing outside the Doggie Daycare tent. I stepped outside to say Hey, but was rendered speechless and motionless when I realized why they were there: They had decided to adopt Peaches.

I couldn’t believe Peachy’s good fortune. I thanked the young father profusely and said I could just hug him. (I am NOT a hugger.) He hugged me. I’m sorry now that I didn’t get a pic of the entire dreamy blended family. When my shift ended, I celebrated by buying a bag of kettle corn and blissfully munching on it as I strolled around the park in a daze.

On Monday morning, I worried about Peachy. I sent her telepathic messages: “PleaseBeGood. PleaseBeGood. Don’t steal anyone’s food, leave the horse pies alone, cuddle with everybody. Do NOT make that family resent your adoption—they are the best home any dog could hope for. PleaseBeGood.”

On Monday afternoon, I received a follow-up e-mail about the event from the humane society. In addition to raising an impressive amount of money through the Doggie Daycare, the merchandise tent, and donations collected by the shelter dogs (they wore little coats with big pockets in which passersby would slip $10, $5, or $1 bills), eleven pooches shook free from their homeless labels and left the Rolex event with their new families.

I know what some of you are thinking: “Eleven? What’s eleven next to the millions still waiting for homes?”

You’re right, of course. Eleven is nothing.

But for Peachy, and for each of her ten canine pals, it’s everything.

* The frog incident was not on my watch, thank goodness.
[Pics of Peaches snapped in haste by yours truly; photo of Rolex second-place winner Allison Springer and her horse, Arthur (who won the coveted award for Best Conditioned Horse), by Nancy Jaffer.]

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May Day, May Day

I realize it’s a day of protest for the 99%—a date long observed as the moment of reckoning between greed and want.

But years ago, May 1 meant creating May Baskets for folks near and dear to me. Spring flowers still come to mind whenever May Day is mentioned.

However you choose to celebrate—in protest or in petals—may your May Day be a good one.

[Tulips illustration courtesy of The Graphics Fairy.]
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