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

Oggy Doggie Wednesday


My son asked me the other day, “Who are you?”  I’d just done something rather insane and idiotic so the question wasn’t meant to be philosophical, but it got me thinking.  Who am I, really?  Deep down.  What makes me tick?  So, like any writer would do, I got out a piece of paper and I wrote down the things that make me, well, me.  The first five ‘things’ that spewed forth were:

  • Mom
  • Writer
  • Animal lover
  • Nut case
  • Sentimental fool (hey, I cry over Mary Poppins and Edward Scissorhands)

That got me thinking:  if I wrote these things down in this order, is this the value I place them in my life?  Are these the primary building blocks that define me as a person?  What about being a wife?  That was like #12 on the list.  It didn’t even make the top 10.  What does that say about me?   Am I condemned to Hell because my faith didn’t top #1? What about ‘being employed’?  Am I bringing about bad financial juju because I’m content with working from home as a writer, even though I haven’t seen one cent from anything I’ve written?

Or am I over thinking?  Is the placement irrelevant so long as the ‘defining things’ made the list? Or, wait.  Here’s another question.  Do I see myself as others see me?  Would my list match my friend’s or family’s list? Better yet?  What difference does it make?  Am I defined by their list or mine?  Both?

Oh  my gosh, finding out who I am is like trying to map out a character in one of my novels…except worse.  Geez, I mean, I can create them, mold them, make them be however I want them.  I can’t do that with…

Wait.  Hold the phone. Shut the front door.  I just had a revelation.  I’m a writer.  Of course I can create me, mold me, make me however I want.  What a doofus I am.  It’s called free will, Jenny Minny.  And why do I care how I appear on anyone else’s list?  I’m not in charge of their opinions of me.  That would involve gathering an army of minions.  I don’t have the energy for that.  All that matters is my own list.  And here’s something else I learned.  It doesn’t matter where any of the ‘things’ fall on my list, because they all make me who I am, and you know what that is?  Special.  And if you disagree with me, I’ll turn you into a character in my book.  Let’s see how you like those apples.

What about you?  Do you let others define you or do you define yourself?  Do you have an army of minions I can borrow?

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The Family “Plot”


As a child I spent many hours dreaming of the type of family I’d have when I had my own.  It would be a little of the Waltons,  touched with a bit of Happy Days, and blessed by angels like in Highway to Heaven.  We’d live in a big house with a white picket fence. The house would be filled with love, laughter, music and reading.  I’d have a home, not a house.  I had it all plotted out.

What I got was completely opposite.

Insecurities, bad choices along the way, marriages to two men who were not my best friend, the tragic death of the one man who was…  Through all of that, I had four beautiful children, children that I dreamed would be best friends, confidants, tight, unwavering in their love for one another.  Again, I shake my head in sadness at what went wrong.  While wonderful and dynamic as individuals, as a family unit, my plot fell apart.  They are not close.  They rarely speak to one another.  One lives on one side of the country, the other is a traveler.  One still lives at home and another is floundering, making wrong, unhealthy decisions.  They are all adults.  My molding, plotting years are over.

Sadly, I can’t pick up an eraser and fix the plot line.  My childhood dream of the perfect family gave way to a different one, a different set of circumstances, six individuals who have failed to connect to one another on an intimate, personal level.  As I lay in bed last night pondering the most recent events, I wondered where I went wrong, and if given the power to go back and fix the story, would I be able to find where the plot line strayed.

I don’t have the answers, but there is one thing the writer in me has taught me about life.  As characters in the book of life, poop happens.  Lots and lots of poop happens.  We are tortured, tested, made to laugh, made to cry.  How we face the antagonists in our lives determines who we are and where we go.  While I would love to scribble ‘happy happy’ on everyone I love, I am not in charge of their destiny.  Their story is their own.  I cannot provide a happy ending for them.  I can provide one for me.  All I can do is hope and pray our stories are entwined somewhere down the road and we all end up together in a great big white house with a white picket fence, in a home filled with love.

It is a dream I have.  My family ‘plot’.

 

 

 

 

My loving message to teens


As a lot of you know, I’m a Wizard101 fanatic.  I like this game for several reasons: (1) the game centers around a school of wizardry.  Harry Potterish – yes, but the game is quite different.  (2) I have met some really interesting people, both young and old, on this game, two of which turned out to be aspiring authors, and (3) I get to participate in a lot of online discussions with young people and teens (yes, they know I’m a parent).

Late last night I was playing the game when another player joined in a battle I was in.  After we chatted for a while, moving from one level to the next in a dungeon, she said she was a teen, and then decided to tell me she was very, very angry with her mom because her mom snooped in her room and found some pot.   Her mom also went through some other things in her room and took some things away.  She couldn’t get over the fact that her mom was so disrespectful of her privacy and it wasn’t like she was “doing crack or something.”

I offered my ‘ear’ and listened, but gave no advice.  You have to be careful in these online games.  However, it got me thinking after I logged off.  Part of me sympathized with her.  I remember times as a teen feeling angry at my mom for reading my diary and going through my things, especially since I was a ‘good girl’.  I didn’t smoke, drink, sneak out of the house.  I was an honor roll kid, polite, a member of Who’s Who Among American High School Students.  I was a goody two shoes.  In that sense, I could relate to this poor girl’s feelings of betrayal.  There should be a room in a home where kids can go and feel safe, that their things are their things.

But then the mom in me kicked in.  Her mom was probably worried, scared.  She probably noticed a change in her daughter that she couldn’t pin point.  Maybe her mom tried to talk to her and the daughter withdrew.  Maybe there was a horrible relationship there to begin with.  Maybe, mom is just a snoop and wanted to know everything and anything going on in her daughter’s life.

My mom told me once:

“You live in my house. You have no privacy.”

That always stuck with me.  “You live in my house.”  To a teen, that one word ‘my’ can make one feel so isolated, like a visitor in your own home.  I remember thinking then, “I thought this was our home.”  Sad thing is, I’ve said the same thing to my kids, but I digress.

To the young girl online and to all other teens, please listen up.  Parents aren’t perfect.  We make mistakes.  We say things perhaps we shouldn’t say, but there is one thing that holds steady for 99% of us – we love you.  We care about you and what happens to you.  Sometimes we have to rely on our gut instincts, especially if our kids aren’t honest and opening up to us.  Don’t get me wrong.  I totally get it.  I was a teen once, too.  That’s why you as a teen are at such a disadvantage.  You can’t see both sides of the coin.  While it may make you angry that your parents snoop and interfere, try to imagine your life with parents who didn’t care what you did or where you went or who you went with.  Love makes us do some extreme things.  Our only thoughts are to keep you safe.  And while we know we can’t protect you from everything, that doesn’t stop us from trying.

As for the pot:  I’m not going to preach.  I’d be a liar to say I didn’t try it when I got older.  I can’t tell you I didn’t get involved with the wrong crowd in my early 20s.  I can’t say I didn’t do other drugs I wish I hadn’t done.  There was a time in my life I felt so alone, like there was no way out.  A time when I felt no one loved me or needed me.  A time when I wanted to forget…to not feel the pain.

But I was wrong.  Oh, God, how I was wrong.  To all you precious, unique and beautiful teens…you may think pot is okay, but it’s not.  It’s a band aid, sweetheart.  Getting high, whether with drugs or alcohol, is not the answer.  I know.  I’ve been there.  If you can’t talk to your parents about what’s bugging you, find someone you can talk to.  Drugs aren’t the answer.  Believe me.  Someday you’ll meet someone who cares about you and loves you, and someday you will have children of your own.  Someday, you’ll understand what it means to love someone so much that you would lay down your life to protect him or her.  That’s the life of a parent. That’s the pain we live with every day.  We worry. We love.  We care.

Please, don’t be angry for our interfering.  Instead, be thankful you have someone who loves you enough to interfere.  You are blessed more than you know.  I wish you all the best.  (((hugs))).