And they call it puppy love – a Dalmatian love story


My husband came home from work one day and told me that a friend had a Dalmatian he could no longer take care of. My husband asked me if I knew anyone who was interested. Was he serious? I laughed. “Duh,” I said. “Do I look like chopped liver?”

I don’t know what I was thinking. After all, I was in my forties and had just started pre-menopause. My husband and I worked full-time jobs. We had four kids spanning elementary, middle and high school, two dogs, three cats, a cockatiel, a miniature blue rabbit, two ferrets, a hamster, a four-foot iguana, a small decorative fish pond, a 150-gallon saltwater tank and a fifty-gallon freshwater tank with Oscars. We were stretched thin with all the vet visits, the kitty boxes, the dog walks, homework, cooking and laundry. The last thing we needed was another mouth to feed. But my husband and I agreed to think about it over the spur-of-the-moment weekend vacation at Disney World with the kids.

During the hour and a half drive to Orlando, we saw signs from God and the universe. There were billboards featuring Dalmatians. We followed behind a car with a Dalmatian in the back seat. We saw Dalmatian bumper stickers, but the kicker came when we tried to check into the All-Star Music Resort and found out they had no more rooms available; however, they did have rooms available at the All-Star Movies Resort in the 101 Dalmatians section.

Talk about destiny.

My husband and I knew then what our answer was, and on our way home, we swung by the house of my husband’s friend and adopted Baby into our home.

From day one, she was the best dog I ever had. She was full of life, energetic, full of expression and personality. She followed me around like a shadow and she loved to cuddle. She was a beautiful dog, one brown eye, one blue, and she was covered in spots. Baby wasn’t “show” quality, but she was perfect for our family.

For two years, she led a spoiled-rotten life. Before we adopted her, she lived outside, chasing squirrels, barking, not getting much attention. With us, she curled up at our feet, slept in our bed, enjoyed the dog park, played in the surf at the beach, and lived a blissful, happy life inside in the cool air-conditioning, out of the hot Florida sun.

Then, one day, I got a call from my husband while I was at work. Something was wrong with Baby—something terribly wrong. I was perplexed. She’d just been to the vet, and he gave her a clean bill of health. By the time I got home, she was lying in the hallway, unable to lift her head or move. Her tongue hung out of her mouth. My husband and I lifted her into the van and drove her to the emergency vet, a five-minute ride from our house. I ran inside to get a tech, but by the time I returned to the van with a gurney, Baby crossed the Rainbow Bridge while being held in my husband’s loving arms.

At the time, I hadn’t experienced so much hurt since my father passed away two weeks before my twelfth birthday. It felt as if my heart had been yanked from my chest and no matter what I did, the tears kept coming. We managed to go back home without her, my sweet Baby, but then we had to face the next hurdle. We had to tell the kids. There was nothing that could prepare us for the loss of a family member. We sat around, hugging each other and sobbing. Our Baby was gone, and an incredible emptiness settled inside our home.

I went to work the next day, my eyes swollen and red, and I still couldn’t stop the tears. My friends were supportive, but there were others in the office who didn’t understand. “She’s crying over a dog?” I heard someone say.

No. Baby was more than a dog. She was my sweetheart, a soul mate in her own right. She gave me and my family unconditional love. The vet said she died from a ruptured spleen, but it didn’t matter. All I could think was that I’d never see her face, kiss her cold nose, hear her bark, or watch her run and romp in the waves. Who was going to curl up at my feet when I read, or lay her head in my lap when I was sad?

She was so young. Only six. My age, in dog years. My own mortality sank in.

It’s been twelve years since Baby passed away. Since then, most of our other pets have passed on, too. I am not looking forward to my dogs or cats dying, but they are getting older, like me, and I know it’s inevitable. And while it makes me sad to think of losing these precious creatures in my life, it soothes my soul to know that Baby will be there, waiting for them on the other side of the Rainbow Bridge, ready to romp and play. And when my time comes, I know she’ll be there waiting for me, too, alongside my mom, my dad and all my other critters. I couldn’t ask for a better welcoming committee.

Baby - February 2001

Ok, so my dragon is a dog


Yep, you read the headline right. My dragon is a dog. Well, at least he acts like one in my current W.I.P. that happens to be the second installment of my Young Adult fantasy series, The Chronicles of Fallhollow.

I hadn’t planned for Mirith to take on doggish traits. I mean, he’s an Oppernicus for heaven’s sake.   They are very odd dragons. They don’t fly. They are quite stocky. They have a frill of feathers for  a mane, a beak-like an eagle, scales like a fish, and a tail like a lion’s, except with a pointed mace on the end.  Oh, and they don’t shoot fire. Instead, they curl their tails over their heads like a scorpion and shoot ice bolts.

But when Mirith is with his best bud, David, he is reduced to a puddle of goo. He rests his head on David’s knee and begs. He wags his tail when happy. He growls when mad. He struts around like he’s all that. And he tries to sit on the furniture, with not much luck because he’s bigger than the freaking couch.

And even though he gets into mischief, and is fiercely loyal in his protection of David, he really is a big, sweet, loveable baby who loves getting scratched behind the ears … if you can find them. But watch out. When he’s getting his lovin’, he purrs like a really big cat.

I’m sure his antics will delight young and old alike. He makes me smile, that’s for sure.

What/who is your favorite fictional pet? Snoopy? Hedwig? Pascal? Scooby Do? Falkor? I want to know.

 

Wet Nose


As a pet lover, I had to share the following story.  It may or may not be true, I haven’t checked, but the story is so well written and touching I have to share.  A friend of mine shared it on her Facebook page.  It’s linked back to another Facebook page called Wet Nose, “a pawtique focused on the health & well being of your 4-legged kids.”

The story below appears here on Facebook.  Many of you, however, don’t have a Facebook account, so I’m sharing it with you on my blog.  Have a tissue box handy.

***

This is a great story…worth reading.

They told me the big black Lab’s name was Reggie, as I looked at him lying in his pen. The shelter was clean, no-kill, and the people really friendly. I’d only been in the area for six months, but everywhere I went in the small college town, people were welcoming and open. Everyone waves when you pass them on the street.

But something was still missing as I attempted to settle in to my new life here, and I thought a dog couldn’t hurt. Give me someone to talk to. And I had just seen Reggie’s advertisement on the local news. The shelter said they had received numerous calls right after, but they said the people who had come down to see him just didn’t look like “Lab people,” whatever that meant. They must’ve thought I did.

But at first, I thought the shelter had misjudged me in giving me Reggie and his things, which consisted of a dog pad, bag of toys almost all of which were brand new tennis balls, his dishes and a sealed letter from his previous owner.

See, Reggie and I didn’t really hit it off when we got home. We struggled for two weeks (which is how long the shelter told me to give him to adjust to his new home). Maybe it was the fact that I was trying to adjust, too.  Maybe we were too much alike.

I saw the sealed envelope. I had completely forgotten about that. “Okay, Reggie,” I said out loud, “let’s see if your previous owner has any advice.”
____________ _________ _________ _________

To Whomever Gets My Dog:

Well, I can’t say that I’m happy you’re reading this, a letter I told the shelter could only be opened by Reggie’s new owner. I’m not even happy writing it. He knew something was different.

So let me tell you about my Lab in the hopes that it will help you bond with him and he with you.

First, he loves tennis balls. The more the merrier. Sometimes I think he’s part squirrel, the way he hoards them. He usually always has two in his mouth, and he tries to get a third in there. Hasn’t done it yet. Doesn’t matter where you throw them, he’ll bound after them, so be careful. Don’t do it by any roads.

Next, commands. Reggie knows the obvious ones —“sit,” “stay,” “come,” “heel.”

He knows hand signals, too: He knows “ball” and “food” and “bone” and “treat” like nobody’s business.

Feeding schedule: twice a day, regular store-bought stuff; the shelter has the brand.

He’s up on his shots. Be forewarned: Reggie hates the vet. Good luck getting him in the car. I don’t know how he knows when it’s time to go to the vet, but he knows.

Finally, give him some time. It’s only been Reggie and me for his whole life. He’s gone everywhere with me, so please include him on your daily car rides if you can. He sits well in the backseat, and he doesn’t bark or complain. He just loves to be around people, and me most especially.

And that’s why I need to share one more bit of info with you…His name’s not Reggie. He’s a smart dog, he’ll get used to it and will respond to it, of that I have no doubt. But I just couldn’t bear to give them his real name. But if someone is reading this … well it means that his new owner should know his real name. His real name is “Tank.” Because, that is what I drive.

I told the shelter that they couldn’t make “Reggie” available for adoption until they received word from my company commander. You see, my parents are gone, I have no siblings, no one I could’ve left Tank with .. and it was my only real request of the Army upon my deployment to Iraq, that they make one phone call to the shelter … in the “event” … to tell them that Tank could be put up for adoption. Luckily, my CO is a dog-guy, too, and he knew where my platoon was headed. He said he’d do it personally. And if you’re reading this, then he made good on his word.

Tank has been my family for the last six years, almost as long as the Army has been my family. And now I hope and pray that you make him part of your family, too, and that he will adjust and come to love you the same way he
loved me.

If I have to give up Tank to keep those terrible people from coming to the US I am glad to have done so. He is my example of service and of love. I hope I honored him by my service to my country and comrades.

All right, that’s enough. I deploy this evening and have to drop this letter off at the shelter. Maybe I’ll peek in on him and see if he finally got that third tennis ball in his mouth.

Good luck with Tank. Give him a good home, and give him an extra kiss goodnight – every night – from me.

Thank you,

Paul Mallory
____________ _________ _________ _______

I folded the letter and slipped it back in the envelope. Sure, I had heard of Paul Mallory, everyone in town knew him, even new people like me. Local kid, killed in Iraq a few months ago and posthumously earning the Silver Star when he gave his life to save three buddies. Flags had been at half-mast all summer.

I leaned forward in my chair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the dog.

“Hey, Tank,” I said quietly.

The dog’s head whipped up, his ears cocked and his eyes bright.

“C’mere boy.”

He was instantly on his feet, his nails clicking on the hardwood floor. He sat in front of me, his head tilted, searching for the name he hadn’t heard in months. “Tank,” I whispered.

His tail swished.

I kept whispering his name, over and over, and each time, his ears lowered, his eyes softened, and his posture relaxed as a wave of contentment just seemed to flood him. I stroked his ears, rubbed his shoulders, buried my face into his scruff and hugged him.

“It’s me now, Tank, just you and me. Your old pal gave you to me.” Tank reached up and licked my cheek.

“So whatdaya say we play some ball?” His ears perked again.

“Yeah? Ball? You like that? Ball?”

Tank tore from my hands and disappeared into the next room. And when he came back, he had three tennis balls in his mouth.

***

Wetnose website:  http://www.wetnose.com 

Preparing for a hurricane


June 1 through November 30 is Hurricane Season, and for those of us along the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico, those six months are crazy.  The storms are unpredictable at times.  They wobble, some stay true to forecast tracks. Others have minds of their own.

At the moment, Florida and the those living on the Gulf of Mexico are staring down Tropical Storm, Isaac, which some forecasters are saying has the potential of turning into a Category 2 or 3 hurricane before it makes landfall somewhere in the northern Gulf.  I’m not sure about that, but I’ve seen hurricanes do some really weird stuff and I don’t trust them.  If anyone lived on the west coast of Florida in 2005, we all know about the unpredictability of Hurricane Charley.  Tampa (my neck of the woods) was supposed to get that storm.  Instead, it made a sharp right hand turn, elevated to a Cat 4 in the snap of a finger, and slammed into the Captiva/Sanibel/Ft. Myers area, giving no one time to leave.

I don’t know what level of storm Isaac will be when it passes near the Tampa Bay area, but I do know we will be on the east side of the storm, which is the bad side.  The NHC (National Hurricane Center) has given my area sustained tropical force wind probabilities.  That, combined with the rain bands feeding on the east side can cause flooding, beach erosion, uprooted trees and possible tornadic activity.  That’s why I think it’s important that people in the area from Alabama to Florida start preparing for the possibility of being without power, water, etc. once Isaac decides to do his thing.  If you are planning on riding out the tropical storm/maybe hurricane, the following lists are items you MUST have in your possession before the storm hits.  It’s always best to be prepared than not.  As Floridians are also coming into the most active part of hurricane season, the supplies will not go to waste if you don’t use them this time around.

Remember, if you lose power and water, you are going to be miserable, hot and in a very bad mood.  Take inventory of what you already have on your shelves, and then shop.  If you live anywhere from Ft. Myers north, today is the day to get your food and other supplies.

What you’ll need:

  • 3 gallons BOTTLED water per person for at least 3 days, preferably 5
  • 1 gallon bottled water per pet per day
  • enough prescription medication to get you through 10 DAYS if you take any
  • bread
  • canned meat
  • canned chili
  • beenie weenies
  • canned soups that don’t require water
  • mustard/ketchup (no mayo unless you have some way to keep it cold or if you have handy packs from fast food restaurants)
  • canned vegetables and fruit
  • dry cereal
  • peanut butter and jelly
  • crackers and snacks
  • instant coffee or tea
  • instant creamer
  • sugar, salt, pepper
  • juice
  • fresh fruit
  • butter or margarine
  • pet food for your pets
  • bleach
  • diapers
  • baby food
  • antiseptic hand soap
  • paper towels, napkins and utensils
  • paper plates
  • plastic trash bags
  • toilet paper
  • Ziploc baggies
  • DUCK tape
  • wooden matches
  • manual can opener
  • lanterns/flashlights/non-burning candles (don’t want a fire)
  • bug spray
  • battery operated/hand crank radio
  • batteries for radios, lanterns, etc.
  • propane/charcoal/wood for grills
  • charcoal fluid for the charcoal
  • cash
  • coolers for ice and food from fridge
  • fill up bathtub with water for flushing the toilet
  • first aid kit
  • generator and gas to fill it
  • Camping equipment/stoves/etc.
  • board games, playing cards
  • real books
  • ice
  • fill up cars with gas/check oil/tire pressure, etc.

As always, stay tuned to your local forecasts and follow instructions issued by your local authorities. If you’re told to evacuate, go. It’s better to take the precaution than endanger your and your family’s lives.

I would also like to make one more heart-felt request.  If you find yourself in a bad, bad storm, whether it is a tropical storm, hurricane, whatever…do not leave your four-legged friends behind to fend for themselves.  They rely on you to take care of them.  You made that promise when you took them into your home. You would no more abandon your child to fend for itself, so don’t do it to your pets.  If you say they’re just animals, imagine yourself as a helpless child in the midst of a disaster, and your family abandoned you.  It breaks my heart thinking about it.  If you have to go to a shelter and can’t take your pets, please find a friend who will take them for you until you can come back for them.  Prepare.  Have a plan in place in case the worse happens.  Just please, don’t leave them alone.

So I guess that’s it for now.  The weather is sunny here in the Clearwater/Tampa area but it’s getting quite breezy.  I will update our status on my Facebook page.  Unfortunately, we have no money to go anywhere, so whatever Isaac does, we’ll be riding out the storm, whatever comes this way.  Everyone, keep those of us on the Gulf coast in your prayers that Isaac fizzles and becomes a fish storm.  That would be perfect.