Friday, July 29, 2011

Summer Camp

Late in the day, I brought Diesel back home to my house and snuck him in the side door. It appeared my contact for emergency shelter that night was a no go, which worked out for the best. Leaving him in a pen somewhere totally strange would have been unnecessarily traumatic and I would've spent the night worrying about him.

We came into the house through the basement and the very first thing he did - the very first thing - he did after seven hours of exercise and more stimulation than he'd had in years, was pee in my brand new chair. It was the first upholstered chair I ever bought new. I put it together with my bare hands a couple of days earlier. He's tall too so it wasn't just on the side. It shot straight into the seat and ran down onto the carpet. That was the moment I learned I could scream and twirl at the same time. Stella couldn't get in her crate fast enough.

He slept like a baby that first night. He didn't want to go into the crate at first but sliced turkey is a powerful motivator. I woke him up at three-thirty in the morning. It was cruel I know, but I wanted him to understand from the very beginning who was running the show. We started day two with a long ride in the car and an even longer walk at Spring Hill Cemetery and ended up at my friend (and savior) Beverly's house around seven-thirty that morning.

I apologized. Not only for arriving so early but for bringing along a big giant dog that she and her husband hadn't planned on having as a house guest. They already have two elderly dogs but offered to let him stay since his owner was still across the street, tying one on. I ended up calling the six days that followed "Diesel's Summer Camp period". It would prove to be a big slice of the life Diesel craved, the freedom to run around a big (secluded) yard, rest where and when he wanted to, mark every last chain link in the fence as his very own, have multiple humans loving him up and dog friends, for the first time ever.

There was just one hurdle.



If Smiley were a guy he would drive a rusted out LTD. He's a beefy dog, a wire-haired mix of Terrier and Whupass. Rest assured no strange, mega-he-man type dogs are invited over to Smiley's house unless they understand and abide by the rules. There's a test and apparently a hazing period. It's easier to pass the test if you are a female, of course because Smiley likes him some girl dogs but if you happen to be a big beautiful manly dog who stands around looking like (as Beverly called him) Captain America AND you're still what they call "intact" - Smiley has news for you. With no fear whatsoever he's going to stand up on his hind legs like a bear, rest one paw on your back and threaten to tear off your left ear. He's going to peel all of his lips back and show you a nearly complete set of rotten teeth, while he curses the day you were born. In front of everybody. Smiley is from Texas. The best thing to do is just stand there and take it.

At first Diesel looked at us like: "Is he serious?"

It got heated a couple of different times and lasted longer than any of us would've thought primarily because Smiley's girlfriend Pepper showed up and Diesel felt compelled to express his dude-ness with her and old Smiley went off like a rocket once more.

Fortunately, Diesel's man parts weren't the only things intact. His survival skills are multi-faceted. Instead of launching an attack the likes of which might have caused no telling how much chaos and destruction not to mention all of the humans going haywire, he chose the high road, soaked it all in, put up a low level defense and went galloping off around the yard. Eventually, the two of them decided that collusion was the perfect option and by later that night they were patrolling the yard together on some real or imaginary squirrel hunt, with Diesel as the extra muscle to Smiley's worldly ways.

That week Diesel and Stella got to play together for the first time in three years. Diesel went to the vet and got "tutored". He returned drunk and confused but a grill full of chicken brought him back to reality, good as new. He is listed on Petfinder at Critter Cavalry Rescue of New England. There, I'm told, people are more likely to appreciate his magnificence. Active dog-lovers in any state are welcome to apply. Of course, there may be a test to pass. And some hazing... :)

After three years of small-time bickering, Stella and Diesel finally had the chance to play together.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

That first day

I'd started taking him for walks a couple of weeks earlier when his owner was out of town working. If I had known he could be such a great walker, I would've done it a long time ago but his family gave up easily the few times they tried. His initial burst of energy told them he was too rambunctious to learn. Not true. Same with house breaking. I noticed on those early walks that once we were away from the house, he calmed down considerably and was a better natural walker than dare I say our resident protagonist, Stella.

That first day was exhausting for both of us. I took Diesel straight to the park and we hiked about two miles, the extra steep route I use when Stella seems to need a tranquilizer, then we went to the library (just to drop off books), the bank, and Sonic, for a hot dog - no bun. He loved me then, by God. He didn't realize we were celebrating both his freedom AND the end of his junk food diet. Truly, that's a whole blog post of its own.

Several people said I should change his name but I'm probably not going to. Not now. His new owner can do that. If I'd met him a few days ago, it would be easy but we've known each other for too long. That's part of the reason I decided to foster him myself, alongside Critter Cavalry, in Franklin (many thanks to Gayle and Candace for their help). His transition will be easier that way, he'll get to learn some manners from his friend Stella, she'll have a real job for a change. It's win-win. Oh and I almost forgot the most important part, somebody gets to end up with a pretty great dog too although we can't take much of the credit for that. Before last Thursday, my experience with Diesel was pretty superficial and like I said, rarely positive. I hadn't had a chance to know his personality. By the time we got to Sonic, I could tell Diesel was going to be fine, perhaps even outstanding.

Monday, July 25, 2011


Few people enjoy letting go of a pet. My neighbor was no different. He had deep feelings for Diesel despite what could be construed by many as evidence to the contrary. I mislead him at the outset but our goal was the same, a new future for a dog who was about to go from poverty to homelessness. At one point around two years ago, he gave Diesel to a guy he worked with and then about six weeks later retrieved him when he realized he was keeping him in a pen with an angry male dog. I believe his intentions were good but overuse of alcohol limits everything; financial, physical, and emotional resources.

It was Thursday morning when I agreed to pick Diesel up. I got up at five-thirty made some coffee and took Stella for a walk. I assumed she would spend much of the day confused about why I was suddenly having awesome fun playtime with that big sweaty dog across the street. Over the years, she and Diesel had come to an agreement. He was welcome to come sniffing around her as long as he didn't charge us like a bull at which point she was going to go all Lara Croft on the side of his head and end their relationship once and for all. He understood.

There were photos to deliver that morning to a client who had just celebrated her own dog's first birthday with real birthday party. That afternoon included a beautiful little luncheon and all manner of doggie paraphernalia; nine dogs and twelve or fourteen humans. There was a lot of "Oh, that's the cutest thing I've ever seen!" and "Isn't that the cutest thing you've ever seen?" conversation. It was without question the polar opposite of what this week had become. Driving across town with Stella to deliver the photos I told her things in her world were about to change only this time, it wasn't going to include a bunch of nut-ball kittens.

When we got home I put her in the house and carried her leash back out the door with me. I walked across the street to Diesel's yard and as always he barked his regular greeting alerting my neighbor who emerged from the basement door. When I asked if I could have the chain he seemed surprised but gathered it up, put it in a box and carried it over to my car. He bent down then with a heavy heart and hugged his dog, told him that he loved him and assured him that he was going to a better place to live, all of which was true.

Diesel seemed anxious but cheerful about the whole transfer. He bailed into my car all seventy-one pounds of him, like a fifteen year old boy. I asked my neighbor for the first time if he did okay in the car (brilliant on my part). I knew he'd been in a car but not often or recently.

"Great," he said, "he loves to ride in the car."

"Oh good," I said "I'll let you know how he's doing."

"Thanks Sue, see you later," he said, "Bye Diesel."

I gave him a minute to make it home and started the car.


Friday, July 22, 2011

The story of Diesel

There's a dog I haven't talked about.

He lived across the street from us for the last three and a half years. I think I've never mentioned him because I didn't have much good to say. His future was always unpredictable and very much at risk. His predecessor didn't fare well and it was easy to see this dog was headed the same direction. Speaking honestly about him now could get me in a real bind with his extended family but I've resigned myself to thinking what I did was for the best and that in the end, even the dog's owner would understand. I know. Countries have fallen under the same rationale.

Diesel, his name is Diesel, was still technically a puppy when I got Stella. He was about nine months to her three. His owner was one of those guys who really wanted a big macho dog, a pit bull if possible, to help promote his tough guy image. Interestingly, he didn't need a dog at all to get that idea across. He's not a small guy. I'm guessing 250-265 lb. He spent enough years in jail to have procured the full catalog of tattoos. He was released as inmates are all too often, without any rehabilitation whatsoever yet he wasn't a bad guy at all when he was sober. When he wasn't sober, things became problematic. He regularly came home from working, had a few beers, and let Diesel out of his tiny pen to run the neighborhood. This dog used to (and this is funny looking back on it but at the time it wasn't funny at all) charge me and Stella and not knowing his intentions, Stella would go berserk snapping and growling at him whereupon he'd look momentarily confused and then trot UP ON MY PORCH and empty his bowels. To say that I didn't like him was an understatement but at that time it was easier to just project my anger onto the dog.

When Diesel got big enough to escape the pen, his owner put him on a tow chain. He isn't a pit bull, by the way, he's some sort of Lab mix. I think that's when many of the dog walkers and neighbors started to soften on his behalf. They'd sneak down the driveway and give him treats just to make sure he had water in his bowl. They called rescues and others who were inclined to help dogs escape such situations. They (and I) called the police and Animal Control numerous times when my neighbor was drinking and either let him run or beat the snot out of him for some unknown infraction. For the record, listening to a big dog get a beating will drive a dog-loving person clean over the edge. That's the day I vowed to take the dog if and when the opportunity arose. It took a long time but that day finally came a week ago.

In the end, I didn't have to take him. It took about two weeks. It cost me a three dollar pack of tobacco and some groceries. His owner was about to be evicted and thankfully chose rehab over homelessness or jail. He surrendered him to me, based on the fact that I told him I had a friend who was looking for a good dog. Over the last couple of years, he'd offered up the dog a few times but none of the rescues I contacted back then could take him right away. Seeing as alcoholics change their mind every few minutes, each time I tried to secure the dog's freedom, everyone was busy. This time, I sent out nine or ten e-mails. Three people responded and one of the rescues agreed to take him on. When the moment came to collect him, I couldn't help myself. I stood there with a straight face and lied my ass off. Kinda'.

continue reading

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The latest haul

Stella will steal the dog toys right off your living room floor. She shoplifts at Pet Smart too if I don't keep an eye on her. Rawhide here, stuffed duck there. I shot a dog birthday party the other day. It was just this side of professional suicide but fun nonetheless. Stella wasn't invited but I stole her a bakery bone.

Hm. Maybe she got that shoplifting thing from me. Anyway, have a great Thursday. I'm off to liberate a dog. Film at eleven.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Lefty and Domino

Saying Hello and Goodbye (to the felines)

Sorry I've been out of touch but it's been wild around here for the last two or three weeks. Janet and Lefty went to PetSmart last Thursday. Janet was adopted last night and according to sources, Lefty has a sign on his cage that says: Almost There. That basically means someone went home to either think it over or get their checkbook so it looks like we're kitten free. I've started putting the house back together - finally.

Momma'cat Domino, or as my friend Karen called her "Momino", is going to her forever home this Saturday. Me and Stella are crazy about her but my original cat Gigi, isn't that easily swayed. Domino basically hit the mother lode when my other friend Pam decided they'd be a good fit. She's going west of Nashville to live in a beautiful house in the woods where she'll have her own screened in porch, among other things.

Stella meanwhile, has empty nest syndrome. The night after I took the last kittens out of here, she slept in the doorway of the spare bedroom most of the night. It was sad but it looks like there's a chance we'll be getting a (temporary) foster DOG now so I don't expect her grief to last all that long.
More on that later.

The kittens were a wonderful experience for Stella (me too) and I hope they love their new homes as much as we loved having them around. I wrote to someone yesterday and told him that after this I was going back to rescuing people because they don't usually tear your drapes off the wall*.

(*Attention new kitten owners: The curtain thing will pass. Until then you can tie your curtains in a knot at the windowsill or take aim with a spray bottle of water (my personal favorite training tool). Either way, thank you, enjoy, and don't hesitate to send us an update now and then.)