Day 12 — Working like a Dog — 40 Days of Writing, Summer 2017

I was feeling extremely tired and sore last night, and for some reason, the Beatles song “Hard Day’s Night” kept running through my brain.

“…and I’ve been working like a dog.” Aside from helping to facilitate the second line into a rhyme “…sleeping like a log,” I have always been puzzled by this expression, so I looked it up. It simply means working very hard.

Aside from extracting peanut butter from a Kong applies, my dogs don’t really work, but there are plenty that do. There is a whole Working Group category in most dog shows, German Shepherds still reign where police dogs are concerned, and then of course there are the therapy dogs, like my Griffin, who “work” at bringing joy and comfort.

Back to police dogs, I had to chuckle one time while watching the news. A high speed chase had ended and the suspect had been pulled from the car and was laying handcuffed on the ground. A canine unit was nearby, and the officer was struggling somewhat to restrain his German Shepherd, who kept lunging toward the suspect. The news anchor commented, “…and as you can see, the police dog is anxious to get to work…” Fortunately — especially for the suspect — dog intervention proved unnecessary for that particular situation.

Working like a dog; I’ll admit that, at my age, it is a rarity that I do. Nothing too physical about my job, unless we’re talking vocal cords. So, why was I so tired last night? No idea. Perhaps I still hadn’t caught up on sleep from the previous night when I only got about three hours in.

Not sure where else to go with this. There is a lot on my mind.

 

 

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Day 11 — Pavlovian II — 40 Days of Writing, Summer 2017

Tired of my dogs immediately demanding their evening snack the moment I walk in the door after my afternoon shift — which gets me home anywhere between 6:20 – 6:50 p.m., I developed a new strategy that keeps them from bugging me until I can get settled, start dinner and tend to any pre-dinner chores. A very simple formula, I simply set the alarm on my smart-phone for 7:00 p.m. which will alert them that it is officially time.

I started working on this Pavlovian method about six weeks ago, and it didn’t take long for them to get the idea — they are terriers, after all. Now it is rather endearing to see all four of my dogs immediately get into position in my kitchen the moment those first two notes of that sweet tune emit from my phone. I keep it playing during the brief feeding session (3 treats apiece, the girls are better at catching, while the guys need to have theirs handed to them). If Chuck is downstairs he will pause to enjoy the show, himself grooving to the tune.

Sometimes it’s the simple things.

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Day 10 — Dogs and Chocolate — 40 Days of Writing, Summer 2017

People are always warning us about how chocolate can be fatal to dogs. If that was the case, I would have had at least three dogs succumb to such poison.

Around Christmas time 1993 a bowl of Hershey’s Chocolate Kisses disappeared off our coffee table at our home in Orange County. We knew it was an inside job, as we hadn’t had any guests that particular day. Each morsel was wrapped in either red, green or silver tinfoil, and you can bet the culprit(s) didn’t bother to unwrap each piece before devouring. At the time we didn’t know that chocolate was very bad for dogs. Since they roamed in a pretty tight pack, we figured all three of our Miniature Schnauzers must have partaken in the heist, with our craftiest, Winnie, more than likely the ringleader. We heard groaning from underneath the bed that night, so we assumed someone was experiencing the after-effects.

For the next couple days we picked up poop in our backyard that was flecked with the colorful tinfoil. I later joked with people that we could have hung those turds on the Christmas tree, they were so festive.

All three dogs lived through that experience with no necessary vet visit, but whether they learned anything was doubtful, so we made a point to keep anything like that out of their reach in the future.

A few years later, after our move to San Diego, the same trio of Schnauzers found $40 worth of See’s candy I had tucked into our closet. I was going to surprise Chuck with it Easter morning. We didn’t realize there was a problem until the boy, Clive, walked up to Chuck and dropped what looked like a doorknob at his feet. Chuck reached down to find a half-eaten Bordeaux Egg. Realizing what had happened, I raced to the closet to find half of the candy gone. The humorous part was that the box the egg had been packed in was still in one piece, not torn or eaten; it was if a dog had carefully opened the once-taped box and lifted out the egg.

The not-so-humorous part was that soon after, there was a virtual lake of diarrhea in our hallway. We called the vet and she informed us that, considering the type of chocolate, their symptoms probably wouldn’t get any worse than what we had already witnessed and cleaned up.  She did tell us to monitor the dogs’ behavior for the next day or so.

Massive amounts of chocolate can be fatal. The worst kind of chocolate for dogs is Baker’s chocolate; even just a bit can cause problems. Dark chocolate is next. Milk chocolate produces the least amount of harm, and fortunately in both cases, that was the majority of what they had eaten.

The size of the dog also comes into play. Although “Miniature,” our Schnauzers at the time ranged in weight of 22-28 pounds — and that had nothing to do with forbidden foods; they were just a little bigger than average, is all (we had met their biological parents).

dog-sniffing

People that go running to the vet after their dog devours a Snickers bar or a handful of chocolate peanuts are alarmists, and could save some money and stress with a little education. If you have a dog, read up on how much and what type of chocolate can harm them, before you find yourself in a questionable and potentially scary situation. No matter how careful we are, sometimes dogs get into things. Being informed ahead of time can save you a lot of angst.

Sure, it’s better to be safe than sorry, but Chuck and I can’t help but chuckle when people gasp at the prospect of a dog ingesting even a fragment of chocolate. “Chocolate is fatal to dogs!,” they exclaim, eyes wide with horror.

“Yeah, that’s because I almost killed those dogs after they broke into $40 worth of See’s candy years ago,” I laugh. I am in no way making light of a potentially fatal situation; I am simply putting people at ease should they ever find themselves in panic mode after their dog happens to take advantage of an unattended chocolate chip cookie.

We have had five other dogs since that first generation of Schnauzers back in the day. We have been extremely careful about keeping certain foods, especially chocolate, out of their reach, but I can almost assure you, each one of our dogs has at some point had chocolate in some form cross their taste buds. No side effects, however, and no emergency vet runs — or “runs” of any other kind, thank goodness.

We’re careful, but we’re not paranoid. Something serious happens to one of our dogs, and we are off to the emergency vet in a flash. In that case the last thing we need is to have to wait because an uneducated and drama-infused pet owner who got there first with their Labrador who chowed down on a handful of Peanut M & M’s.

Education and precaution. You, your pet and your wallet will all benefit.

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Day 9 — In Limbo — 40 Days of Writing, Summer 2017

I make a point to visit the San Diego Humane Society on a weekly basis these days. I feel the need to rescue somebody, and we have room for another dog in our home, as long as it is around the same size of the dogs we have now.

I have only had one somewhat heartbreaking experience, and that was almost two weeks ago when I foolishly got my heart set on a Brussels Griffon/Terrier mix. The good news is he got adopted. The bad news is it wasn’t by me. I have to learn to not get my hopes up, and instead get into the mindset that if someone beat me to the punch, that is still one less dog in a shelter.

Sadly — and understandably — about half the dogs at the SDHS are Pit Bulls. The stigma attached to this unfortunate breed has led to  their situation mostly due to no fault of their own. As I pass through the aisles of cages I acknowledge the ones who stare out so forlornly, even speaking to some of them. “Aren’t you a pretty girl,” or “Hey, sweet boy,” but that is as far as it goes.

Some of the smaller dogs are boarded with other dogs of similar size and temperament. As I roamed the viewing halls this morning I noticed a very sad-looking tan terrier mix in a cage all alone. His info indicated he was about two years old, and had arrived there two days ago. My rescue instincts kicked in a bit, but I continued to wander down the other halls just to cover all bases.

Once I finished my rounds I gravitated back to #C684 to take another look. He hadn’t moved much, and continued to look very sad, confused and lonely.

Terrier

I decided to inquire about the little fellow, and I found out that he wouldn’t be available for adoption until July 21st. There was already someone interested in him, but no guarantee that they would take him. If they didn’t, I would be next in line for consideration.  Regardless, I found myself filling out the familiar blue form with the usual questions, then waiting for my name to be called so they could put me in their database. I couldn’t help but feel somewhat somber and out of place.

Within five minutes I was called up, and the nice young woman behind the desk smiled and said, “I hope you don’t mind my asking, but are you the same Kelly Danek that does traffic on KSON?”

“Yes, that’s me,” my mood lifting,”and I don’t mind at all.”

She beamed and excitedly told me how much she and her mom loved KSON and how she couldn’t wait to tell her mom she had met me. We chatted a bit more about the station and the on-air personalities as she typed my info into her computer.

We chatted a bit more, and she gave me instructions on when I could call about the dog’s availability and what time I could visit if the other party chose not to take him. She also gave me a bit of background on how the dog got there; it turned out he was removed from a home and the owner taken to the hospital, but that was all she could tell me. I assumed that his situation may have something to do with having to wait until July 21st, in case a family member came forward to claim him instead.

Do I feel hopeful? Somewhat. Ambivalent? Perhaps for now, as I have not officially met this dog; I have only seen him through the bars of a kennel. Can this feeling of potentiality encompass my heart without setting myself up for disappointment? I think so. Do I feel proud that I have taken the first step in rescuing somebody that may very well enjoy the same advantages that our own Griffin experienced when we first brought him home over six years ago? (Who Rescued Whom?) Yes, but why am I now crying?

Because amid all the red tape, paperwork and uncertainty, a confused and dejected dog must wait — and he is in good company.

 

 

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Day 8 — A Rescue After All — 40 Days of Writing, Summer 2017

There were three boys and one girl in the litter of Schnauzer puppies Chuck and I were interested in. Actually, we were interested in adopting the girl, but we hadn’t seen the litter yet. I spoke with the woman on the phone and she seemed in a hurry to adopt these pups out. “My brother-in-law is being a pain; it’s just not a good situation here, so I want these pups to go to good homes as soon as possible.”

Long story short, I checked out the litter, met the Miniature Schnauzer parents — the female was black, while the male was salt and pepper — and on Election Day 2008 (Obama would be our new president), I took “Mittens” home to meet Chuck and our other two dogs.  She had earned the name by her white-tipped front paws. We renamed her Maggie, but the paperwork we sent to the United Kennel Club (UKC) was “Smitten with Maggie’s Mittens.”

Maggie Puppy
Our first meeting

Over the years there have been a handful of instances where Maggie would run off and hide in a secluded spot in our backyard. The first time was about four years ago. I didn’t realize she was missing until after my friend Jim left. I panicked, thinking perhaps she had gotten out. I called Chuck, and he came home from work. While I was starting to look up and down the street for Maggie, Chuck called me from inside the house and said he had found her hiding in her little “fort” out back.

It happened again less than a year later, while Chuck’s nephew Chris and his wife Angie were visiting. This time we knew right where to find her. What bothered us was that she was shivering nervously in her fort and we had to physically bring her back in.

We weren’t sure what to make of it; the only common denominator was that my friend Jim and our nephew Chris were both somewhat loud, and had similar inflections in their speech. But these men were gentle and respectful of all of our dogs, so what was the issue?

Then it dawned on me. I thought about her previous owner and how there was mention of a difficult brother-in-law. Could that brother-in-law have possessed the same boisterousness and speech pattern as Jim and Chris? More importantly, had he been abusive to the dogs in that house and/or the people? Was there just a lot of negative energy in that household, all stemming from that individual’s actions and words?

Maggie
Maggie

I would never know, as I had not been in touch with Maggie’s previous owner for years. Part of me didn’t want to know. What I did know was that whatever was triggering Maggie’s small panic attacks and reclusion needed monitoring and remedying, whether it be anxiety meds or simply assuring her that no one was going to harm her.

Chris and Angie live in Arizona and don’t make it out to San Diego very often, but Jim is a frequent guest. Now when he comes to the house he makes a point to pet and maybe hold Maggie, speaking to her gently at first, just to put her at ease. Once Jim and I get to laughing I check to see that Maggie is still with us, and she usually is. If she disappears I usually know where to find her. Do we walk on eggshells after that? Not really; we just give her some gentle, reassuring strokes and continue our conversation and laughter.

A friend of mine, after hearing about Maggie’s issues and my speculation as to why, asked, “Animals really remember that stuff?”

“I’m almost certain that they do.”

I am all about rescue dogs these days, but back when I was purchasing Maggie from a litter, that wasn’t the case — or so I thought. As it turns out I probably was rescuing this puppy from a difficult, and possibly dangerous situation. All I can hope for is that her litter mates met the same good fortune as she, settling into loving homes where there was no fear of verbal or physical abuse, and where positive energy permeates their environment.

Shouldn’t that be what Home is about, for all of us?

 

 

 

 

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Day 7 — Pavlovian — 40 Days of Writing, Summer 2017

I once knew a family who had a poodle that loved to sniff its own farts. Audible or not, once the fart was emitted, the dog’s nose would immediately gravitate toward its butt. Naturally hilarity would always ensue. To up the ante, now and then a family member or friend would make a fart noise just to watch in amusement as the dog would, in response, yet again sniff its own butt.

That is some cheap entertainment, in which everyone wins.

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Day 6 — “It’s Just a Dog.” — 40 Days of Writing, Summer 2017

It was 1999. I was fairly new to the Radio biz, doing mostly fill-in, plus part-time on weekends. My boss, Rich Barnes, called me one evening and asked if I could possibly be on call for one of my co-workers the next morning.

“Pamela has a very treasured dog,” his voice was firm, yet sympathetic. “Max is about 12 and has been pretty sick to the point where she may have to have him put down.”

“Of course, yes, I’ll be prepared,” I answered, without missing a beat.

After Rich’s call I gave Pamela a quick call to let her know I would be there for her if necessary. She was gently weeping, but managed to express her gratitude.

At 3:30 the next morning I heard from Pamela. She actually sounded better, but she did indeed request that I go in for her that morning. She wanted to spend the next few hours with Max.

Later that morning as I reported traffic and read the news on Pamela’s stations, I overheard from across the room a conversation between a somewhat obnoxious male coworker, Chris, and our producer, Mark; they were talking about Pamela. “It’s just a dog,” Chris opined, rolling his eyes, “jeez!”

I stood up and leaned over the console that separated us. Looking him square in the eye, I fired, “That dog is the closest thing Pamela has to a child, so lose the attitude!”

Mark nodded sheepishly and said to Chris, “C’mon, she’s right, dude.”

I heard some mumbling after that, but I didn’t care. I simply put my headphones back on and waited on standby for my next report.

Fortunately that was the last time I ever heard anyone utter that insensitive and ignorant phrase. These days most people know better, and even more so, many folks are sensitive to the fact that they cannot dictate where, why, how and with whom other people’s emotions run deep. They just have to accept it and hopefully be supportive. If they find it hard to accept, then they should be prepared to keep quiet, as they may find themselves in the minority.

I was there for Pamela that day, and not just to fill in on her shift. In the back of my mind I knew I might be in her position one day, and need the same support and understanding. It’s really not that complicated, especially to dog people.

 

 

 

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Day 5 — Finders Keepers — 40 Days of Writing, Summer 2017

My older brother Tom was always bringing home stray dogs, but they were never around for long. I’m not sure how proactive my family was in finding their owners; I want to give them the benefit of the doubt by assuming that there was a correlation between a dog’s short stay in our home to perhaps its owner being located. I was quite young, and there were already so many secrets in my family, and questions never asked.

I do remember when I was around thirteen, a miniature collie showed up at our house, and we kept her for a while before she ran off again. I named her Michelle. A neighbor kid later told me that Michelle and another dog had been found tied to the railroad tracks, their remains hardly recognizable; I chose to not subscribe 100% to that grizzly story because the kid was a notorious liar and brat. Regardless, I was still left wondering somewhat, albeit not tearfully.

I know that animal cruelty didn’t run in my family, but I heard about it now and then from others, and sometimes in the news. Stray dogs were usually the most convenient victims, but knowing what a fine line it was between a stray dog and one that just happened to slip out of its home or yard for a few hours — not to mention the already-ingrained mindset of the disposability of animals — I believe I had built up sort of a callus around my young heart during that time It’s probably a good thing, as I was quite shy and powerless.

It’s a happy story where a dog breaks away from an abusive home and finds its way to a loving, respectful family. Finders keepers, with the “losers” less apt to weep, as they didn’t appear to care much for the animal, anyway. They never even bother to check the Lost and Found section of the classifieds, which the finders — considering their integrity — may have very well posted an ad.

But it is the sad story that entails a beloved dog getting out and getting “adopted” by a dysfunctional and/or abusive family. The scenario could play out many different ways, but in the end, it’s doubtful the found dog will fare very well.

I take solace in knowing that the attitude toward pets has changed dramatically for the better since I was a child; I’ve fallen in step with those changes. Microchipping has been a godsend for many, and the fact that most pets these days are seen as family members ensures we naturally take extra precaution and care in their livelihood and safety.

Also, cruelty toward animals is met with stiffer sentences. Animal advocates aren’t afraid to get involved. An abused animal that can’t find the exit may eventually be fortunate enough to be rescued from its situation and placed in loving environment. That is what we all can hope for, anyway.

Anyone finding a dog and taking the “Finders keepers” stance may find themselves challenged by well-meaning folks who insist they do the right thing and attempt to find the original owners before claiming the found dog. “How would you feel if you lost this dog and no-one bothered to return him or her? If you don’t try to find the owner, I will!” Yes, that person would be me. (Next-door.com can be an excellent source for getting the word out.)

I have lost dogs and thankfully, miraculously gotten them back (I’ll write about that another time). I know the anguish; it is multitudes more heartbreaking than what I used to feel as a child whose cat or dog ran away and didn’t return. Therefore, I take extra precaution, even raising my voice at a guest who might obliviously leave the front gate open one time.

As I write this, all four of my dogs are within view. Boston Olive snores loudly at the head of the bed, while Schnauzer Maggie lounges at the opposite end. Wrigley “Big-Rig,” our older, robust Schnauzer, cools his body on the hardwood flooring. Griffin, our Brussels-Griffon/Schnauzer mix, is on the window seat in the next room, in and out of sleep. When his eyes are open, they follow my every move; not unusual for a rescue dog who has experienced the feelings of uncertainty and confusion so common within the chilling and noisy surroundings of an animal shelter.

4th of July was yesterday, and I can’t help but ache for anyone whose pet may have gotten loose all due to fireworks-induced panic. It happens a lot; people just aren’t careful or considerate enough. I would rather be home, avoiding the crowds and providing my dogs with comfort and reassurance as the popping of distant fireworks plays out around different parts of the city.

We actually could see part of the finale from the Big Bay Boom show from our upstairs window last night. No panic from our dogs, no incessant barking at the noise; just comfort. All of us secluded, comfortable and safe.

Of the numerous uncertainties my future may hold, there is one area where I will not deviate: my love, care and gratitude for the 4-legged kids that come in and out of my life, and hold me in the highest esteem.

 

 

 

 

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Day 4 — Years without Dogs — 40 Days of Writing, Summer 2017

It’s hard to believe that, as much as I love being the mother of 4-legged kids, there was a long period in my life where I didn’t have any dogs. Before I left for San Jose State my boyfriend Dave and I had a Boxer-Pitbull mix named Eddie, plus a 1-year-old purebred Boxer pup named Clare. It wasn’t that heartbreaking to leave these dogs behind as they had never really felt like mine. This may have had to do with the fact that we were living in the house that Dave grew up in, where nothing really felt like mine. Also the fact that in my own upbringing, animals were just that, and not the family members they have come to be in my life. My subtle indifference toward Eddie and Clare helped make a very difficult move much more tolerable.

Apartment living was not conducive to pet ownership, at least in the places I would call home for the next nine years. The four years I lived in San Jose I don’t believe I had one dog encounter; no visits to friends’ homes where there might be a dog. There may have been a dog present at some point, but nothing stands out.

The same would hold true for my first couple of years in L.A. No dogs, but I did adopt a pair of kittens in early 1988 when I first moved into my one-bedroom apartment in Torrance. Pets have been a part of my life ever since.

 

 

 

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Day 3 — Lassie Come Home — 40 Days of Writing, Summer 2017

When I was in 4th grade I read the book Lassie Come Home. My mom had given me a preview of what the book was about, and that alone brought me into such a funk that I feigned illness for the next three days so I could read the book and cry at my leisure.

Looking back, I have to wonder if a certain amount of depression hadn’t already planted its seed in my young psyche. My home was a hotbed of dysfunction and hostility, but knowing other families on my street who seemed to possess the same traits — if not worse — I never gave it much thought except that this was simply my lot in life. I hadn’t met many happy people, especially adults, in my life; even my paternal grandma, who could be quite jolly and loving most times, had a slightly dark side where her conservatism and Pentecostal beliefs could swath you in guilt in a matter of moments.

By the end of my 3-day run of phony illness and book-inspired tears (the part where Rowlie and Toots are attacked was especially heartbreaking for me), my dad was on to me, and accused me of being “nothing but a big phony.” The shame plummeted me into an even deeper funk, and by the time I returned to school my vulnerability felt at an all-time high.

Time heals most wounds and within a few days I was back into my routine. Besides that, my mother was pregnant with my brother Brian at that time so hope and newness were on the horizon.

 

 

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