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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Day 2 — Taffy — 40 Days of Writing, Summer 2017

The earliest memory I have of a family dog from my childhood was a black Labrador named Duke, and it is only one memory. At age two or three I rode on his back and he brushed by a tree, close enough to knock me off.

When I was four we adopted a Chihuahua-Rat Terrier mix and named her Taffy. We were still living on Acacia Avenue in Antioch, California, the town in which I would live until I was twenty.

Taffy came from a litter of puppies that were born in a home somewhere in the vicinity of 6th and G Streets, not far from Florine, my babysitter at the time. My grandma and grandpa, who lived in the neighboring town of Brentwood, adopted one of Taffy’s brothers, and at my suggestion, named him Feisty.

Taffy was more my brother Tom’s dog than anyone else’s. If Tom was holding her I would sometimes run over and play-hit him just to get Taffy riled and cause her to chase after me. A pissy little thing, she would yap incessantly at times, snap at the slightest thing, and go after the mailman any chance she got. One day the mailman kicked her across the yard, so we figured we had better take more care on keeping her confined.

On one of our trips to Bodega Bay, where my dad commercial fished, we made the mistake of bringing Taffy along. She kept pooping on the docks, and my dad, mortified, threatened to use her as bait if we ever brought her again.

Me and Taffy at Bodega Bay
Taffy and me, near Bodega Bay

Back then we were a poster family for irresponsibility when it came to spaying or neutering, and over time Taffy would have four litters.

Once when I was about seven and we were living on Minaker Drive, I sicced  Taffy on a girl named Stephanie who had a slight crush on Tom. I don’t think it was a jealousy thing so much as just wanting to see what would happen. I remember seeing the girl running down the street and Taffy leaping up and biting her as she ran. The sight was quite comical to me, but the humor soon gave way to the sight of Stephanie, her younger sister Sherry, and their mother all marching down the street toward my house. I’m not sure where Tom was at the time, but I hurriedly gathered Taffy and ran inside my house to hide. My parents were at work, so I was alone at the time.

The knocks came fast and furiously on our front door. Taffy and I stayed secluded in the bathroom, not coming out until the commotion subsided. A few minutes later the knocks resumed and we retreated to the bathroom again. I found out later that the second set of knocks were from a police officer.

Long story short, Animal Control was supposed to come the next day and take Taffy away from us. Tom was in tears over the thought of losing his dog to something so senseless, but the next day came and went, and no Animal Control.

Taffy had a bad habit of pooping and peeing behind one particular chair in our living room. You would see her walk behind it, then a minute later, either slink or scoot back out.

After Taffy’s last litter one of her breasts stayed large and hardened. We weren’t sure of what the problem was, and our financial situation at the time was not stable enough for vet visits, let alone any surgery her condition might require.

Me, Taffy and Pups
Taffy, a litter and me.

Taffy slept in an old wooden doll cradle in our garage. One afternoon I came home from 6th grade to find the cradle empty and on its end in a corner of the garage. I asked my mom what happened, and she said she had taken Taffy to the vet and had her put to sleep. Back then, in my world, animals were so disposable, and didn’t pack the caliber of family members. Besides that, Taffy was seven, and at the time, it seemed she had lived a long enough life.

Although I didn’t cry over Taffy’s death, losing her still left an impact, especially when I found out years later that my mom had lied to me about having her put down. About five years before her own death, Mom admitted to me that she had instead enlisted an older cousin by marriage, Robert, to take Taffy to the pound and leave her. She more than likely stayed there for a few days, awash in confusion and fear, with no hope of someone adopting her, before meeting her demise.

My mother admitted to me several years before her own death that she could be cruel when it came to animals. This surprised me, as Mom had an unfortunate dog experience when she was around ten. Her family was in two separate cars making the dusty drive  from Texas to California. The family dog, a Chihuahua named Tiny, was with them. Somehow during one of the stops at a gas station there was a mix-up where Tiny got left behind. When they realized something was amiss, both cars turned around and went back, but Tiny was never found. Mom’s mother was in tears. When Mom was telling me the story, she added, “I imagine poor little Tiny, left behind and wandering around, wondering what happened to us.”

A sad story that made me cry, but even more so, left me wondering why my mother didn’t learn from it back then. We have numerous opportunities in life to make up for past hurts, yet so often we don’t take advantage of them. “Kelly,” Mom confessed to me around the same time, “you have to understand, when you were little, kids and animals were just nuisances.”

We can’t force others to learn and grow from life experiences; we can only work on ourselves. Fortunately my husband Chuck and I are on the same page where our pets are concerned. We have spent $2200 on back surgery for a dog, and countless thousands more where their health and care are concerned. Each dog we adopt brings with it basic costs of food, toys, regular veterinary visits and boarding when we go on vacation; throw in the inevitable emergency care at different points in that pet’s lifetime, and well, that’s what credit cards are for, if necessary.

As I write this, my Boston Terrier Olive hops up on the ottoman in front of me and leans forward for a scratch and nuzzle. She, like her siblings, lives the good life, not wanting for much, and quite oblivious to the fact that part of their good fortune has a lot to do with a less fortunate dog from my childhood.

 

 

 

 

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Day 1 — I Think I’ll Write About Dogs — 40 Days of Writing, Summer 2017

It’s been a bit of a rough week, due to a couple of dog issues. Nothing to do with my own dogs, of which I have four; it’s more along the lines of what could be considered by most people as First World problems: the cancellation of my new favorite show, Downward Dog, and the failed attempt to adopt a dog from the Humane Society.

It’s like the Universe is trying to communicate something to me, these two issues that brought me grief, but I am not sure what. At this point I can only see it as a sign that it is dogs that I should write about for this session of the 40 Days. I have so many stories in so many capacities that it is doubtful I will run out of material. I will make a point to start from the beginning, with memories of my first dog,  and go from there, backtracking at times where I feel it is necessary, and taking full advantage of my vivid memory.

Laying back on my pillow as I write this, I am surrounded by dogs, and it is likely there will always be at least one close by as I navigate through the next 39 days. Inspiration at its best, when your toes are warmly tucked under a sleeping Schnauzer. And who knows, by the end of 40 days there may be a new dog to draw inspiration from.

And so commences my own personal Dog Days of Summer.

dogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 40 — ’til Next Time — 40 Days of Writing, Spring 2017

I am officially giving myself a celebratory pat on the back, and possibly opening a bottle of bubbly to celebrate completing this 40 day excursion. Although not the first time I have written 40 days in a row, it is the first time in about 2-3 years.

The past few times I have started out pretty gung-ho, then fizzled after a week or two or three….and what I came to realize before embarking on Spring 2017 was that I was writing about stuff that simply scratched the surface of what was going on with me. Numerous times the blogs consisted of more of a diary; other times I was on some sort of rant.

About a week before the onset of Spring 2017, I expressed to a good friend — also a writer — my frustration in not being able to put all of my swirling thoughts into some form of context; basically, I didn’t know where or how to begin. He suggested I start with “A” and move through the alphabet, writing about the first thing that came to mind with each letter. Although I didn’t write about the first thing that came to mind with each corresponding letter, that strategy proved to be an integral part of gathering my thoughts and ideas into some kind of format; a good beginning, hence Day 1 — Apologies. From there I found it easier to stay on track (thanks, Doug).

You’ll notice, by the title of this entry, that I only got as far as “T.” Hmmm…26 letters in the alphabet, and 40 days of writing; how did this happen? Numerous chapters on the same subject, that’s how. Even had I gotten through all 26 letters, I would have had to start from “A” again, so there was bound to be repetition either way. This approach worked fine.

I also decided that the diary and rant approaches weren’t satisfying my palate — and weren’t getting a lot of traction. I needed to go deeper. Way deeper. My memory is long, and I have enough life experience to draw from, to where the combination of both might enable me to come up with material that would not only interest and inspire me to keep writing, but perhaps be of interest to others, as well.

The last and most poignant strategy is derived from a quote from the late, acerbically great Carrie Fisher, “Take your broken heart, make it into art.” Just this moment, pecking out that statement on my keyboard, I have to fight back the tears.

It’s so true. Although I try to stay positive, enjoy life and surround myself with like minds, I am much more complex than that. There is no denying the undercurrent of terribly depressing things that have happened in my life that need attention. Iris, Marvel and Julie were all taken too soon; writing extensively about them — each warranted numerous Days of Writing — helped me heal, and honor them at the same time. While formatting my memories of each, working to get my stories into some sort of context, I would often find myself sobbing — and I took that as my cue to keep going. Don’t stop. Surrender to the tears. Blurred text, typos, and raccoon eyes be damned. Carrie Fisher would be proud.

Yes, there were also a few days — usually when I was coming off multiple chapters on one subject — where I just needed to keep things light and somewhat brief. We sometimes forget that writing for 40 days straight can mean a few paragraphs, one paragraph, or even a sentence or two — and it can be whatever you feel like writing about. Yes, let’s not forget.

Of course there was that one handful of days when I had had it up to here with Facebook narcissists, and needed to vent. So much for being positive; I’m only human, so I may as well work it out here, in this fashion, rather than attacking people to their faces. If I offended anyone from our 40 Days community, it was so not my intention. I love you all, and I appreciate your taking the time to read and comment on my work.

And “work” it was. Well, maybe a labor of love. Regardless, carving out the time each day was probably the most challenging part of this project, but somehow I was able to make it happen. Breaking subject matter down into chapters really helped, and a bonus in utilizing this method is that the reader only has to carve out a certain amount of time, as well. Yes, in the past I have had good friends tell me that, although they enjoyed my blogs, they preferred the shorter ones. Although their prerogative, it’s something I have since kept in mind, and applied when feasible. Feedback of any kind is usually quite helpful.

So, ’til next time. No promises on the next round (Summer 2017, anybody?), but I did learn a lot this time — especially about myself.

Thanks, everyone!

Pink
Me, celebrating 40 Days of Writing, with a glass of grapefruit champagne.

 

 

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Day 39 — Saturday — 40 Days of Writing, 2017

My Saturday got off to an excellent start when I woke up a few minutes before 4:00 a.m., shut off my alarm before it went off on its own, walked across the bedroom and shut off my back-up alarm, went into the bathroom, and while peeing, realized it was Saturday and that I could sleep in. This never happens, so I’m thinking it may have had something to do with the two shots of really good tequila (leftover from the tequila bar at our annual Christmas party — Chuck only buys high-end for that event) I had the night before, plus some nice hits of some excellent weed once Chuck went to bed (I usually only vape the stuff, but now and then I crave actual smoke).

Talk about a natural high, getting to go back to bed once the realization kicks in. I slept in until about 9:30, then lingered in bed, played some games on my computer, and planned my day.

At 11:30 I met Diane for pedicures. We always have mimosas when there on Saturdays. She showed up with her wine tote with a good bottle of chilled cava, while I brought the Pom. We wound up drinking out of Dixie cups, as she forgot to pack plastic wine glasses in her tote. 1st World problems, right?

Always fun to catch up with Diane; we talk about work a lot, but since we’re in careers that we love, the conversation is always lively and engaging.

Finishing up the cava as our toes dried, we talked about stuff going on the next few weekends. It’s getting so that every one of our weekends is filled with something; either out-of-town guests, Easter, a party, or some other social event. More 1st World problems.

I am actually writing this during a break, before heading out later to VinDiego, a wine tasting event at Liberty Station. We were at another such event last Saturday, but this one  I got free tickets for, and there will be food vendors there (all inclusive). Unlike last Saturday, however, we will be coming straight home afterwards and staying put for the rest of the day.

So that is my Saturday in a nutshell. Tomorrow will be more about chores around the house, because there is nothing worse than waking up at 4:00 a.m. Monday morning — when it really is a workday — and looking around to see that nothing got done over the weekend because I was having too much fun. That’s a 1st World problem I plan to dodge.

Happy Saturday, everyone.

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