Getting in the Christmas Spirit

The unusually warm weather for this time of year is making it very hard to believe that Christmas is only a few short days away. Two weeks ago I went to the Morton Arboretum’s Illumination. The gorgeous trees with its lights synchronized to classic Christmas music, and the entire production with all its festive decorations certainly helped to get me into the Christmas spirit.

But despite the Illumination and all the houses I drive by dressed in green and red costumes with front lawns pinned with giant plastic Snowmen and blown-up Santa Clauses, I still feel that the holiday has crept up on me.

All this even after I purposely made sure I went to see the movie, Krampus, just to be certain the Christmas spirit stayed with me. And maybe it did a little because for a couple days after seeing that movie, I walked around the house yelling, “I believe! I believe! Do you hear me, Krampus? I believe so you don’t have to come for me on Christmas morning.”

Still, I think I’ll lock my bedroom door when I go to bed on Christmas Eve, just in case. And Phil may not know it yet, but he’s definitely sleeping in my room that night, even though my dog prefers a certain family member over me. This little habit of my baby favoring someone else took time for me to accept, and I am often compelled to remind Phil that I was the one who took him from that over-crowded shelter, with its constant barking and utter chaos, and gave him his furever home. 

But I don’t say that to him because I don’t want Phil to remember his life before he had a home.  Because dogs live in the moment, I’m quite certain he doesn’t dwell on the past or wonder about what the future holds. He lives in the “here and now” and as long as that “here and now” consists of lots of comfy blankets, bowls of food with scraps of chicken or steak, fresh water, a tennis ball and a soup bone smeared with peanut butter, Phil doesn’t worry about the future, only the “here”. 

I love that about dogs. Their ability to move on, even from the most abusive pasts, and love and trust again, absolutely amazes me.

This Christmas I’ll be thinking of all the dogs in crowded shelters, waiting for someone to come rescue them, many with only days or hours left to their lives.

If you’re thinking about getting a dog for Christmas, and remember they could be a 15-plus years commitment, please consider visiting your local shelter. If you can’t afford to care for a dog right now, but would like to have one, please consider fostering. The shelter provides everything for the dog. There is no cost to you, except to love the dog. If you don’t have time for an animal in your life right now, please consider sponsoring a shelter dog or cat.

All of these will help to save a dog’s life.

If you’re looking for a puppy, please know that shelters have lots of puppies, too. You don’t need to go to a pet store or a breeder for a puppy. But the more time I spend around animals, the more I appreciate and love older dogs. Puppies are cute, but it’s hard to explain the feeling that overcomes me when an older dog looks me directly in the eyes and licks the top of my nose.

It’s as though they’re saying, “I’ve known and met a lot of humans in my life, but not all of them have deserved a kiss on the nose, but you do.”

Aww….nothin’ beats that.

Since Christmas has sneaked up on me, I will be running around tomorrow, and possibly early Christmas Eve, picking up last-minute gifts.

And to be sure that I am in the holiday spirit come Christmas morning, tonight I will watch a couple of my favorite Christmas movies, It’s a Wonderful Life and You’ve Got Mail.  Okay, maybe You’ve Got Mail isn’t technically a holiday movie, but it does have some Christmas scenes in it and it is sweet and revolves around books and online romance, a couple things I know very well (only one is kinda unfortunate).

Merry Christmas, Everyone.

 

phil in front of tree phil santa hat 2 phil santa hat cute phil santa hat tree

 

 

 

We Could Save Them All if We Wanted To

I spent a couple hours today at the the animal shelter I volunteer at. The unusually warm weather we’re experiencing for this time of year affords me extra time to take the doggies out into the yards.

Like many people, dogs don’t really like the cold weather. Unless, the dog is a husky. If the dog is a husky then it relishes the cold and snow.

We don’t have any huskies with us right now, so while this awesome weather is around I intend to take advantage of it and get my furry friends outside as much as I can.

But I was a little more adamant today, than other days, about setting aside time for the shelter. Last Friday, my shelter took in fifteen dogs from animal control in Oklahoma because they were overflowing with dogs, as many animal controls unfortunately are. All of these dogs were on their last day, scheduled to be euthanized. 

While I was in the yard with one of the rescued dogs, Heather, a brown lab mix, I thought about all the poor babies that never make it out of the horrible places their trapped in. Being in rescue you hear a lot of stories, and their all terrible, but the horror of it all is more real, palpable, when you can hold a dog and understand why it is shaking, or look in a dog’s eyes and are aware why they’re petrified; because you know their story.

Heather is a young, very scared dog because she was taken from a property that had over two hundred dogs and one large trough. The big, stronger dogs got all they wanted, leaving the weaker, smaller dogs to fight over scraps.

Heather was shy and unsure when I took her out of her kennel, and she didn’t want to follow me right away. But when I gave her the time she needed and showed that I wasn’t going to force her, that she was in control, she slowly made her way toward me.

Once we were in the yard, I let go of the leash and let her roam and smell wherever her nose led her. I sat down in the gravel, hoping she’d trust me enough to come near me. I saw her look my way a couple times as she explored the area along the fence. She was definitely curious about me.

I left her alone, until, finally, curiosity got the best of her and she came over to me. I petted her gently on her back and sides, and that was all it took. Like most neglected dogs, Heather deeply craved attention and affection. She wasn’t interested in the toys in the yard or the treats in my pockets, all she wanted was love.

Heather is going to be a super-loving dog for a very lucky person someday. That is, if that person is willing to give a shelter dog a chance. Shelter dogs aren’t broken. From what I’ve seen, they have survived some of the most cruel and gruesome living conditions I’d never want to imagine.

That doesn’t sound very broken to me, in fact, it sounds pretty damn strong and resilient.

I’m so glad Heather was able to escape what fate, it seemed, had in store for her. I wish every dog did.

My shelter is a no-kill shelter. That fact means I don’t have to experience a very real side to rescue; killing dogs (oh, the irony in that). I feel for the people who have to administer that fatal, life-stealing shot to a completely healthy dog knowing the only reason the animal is seconds away from death is because someone couldn’t (or wouldn’t) take the poor baby in as their loving pet.

According to OxfordPets.com , 3 to 4 million cats and dogs are euthanized by U.S shelters every year, yet only 18% of owned dogs were adopted from an animal shelter.

What the heck is wrong with people? Why, when so many wonderful animals are being killed every day, year after year, would anyone buy a dog from a pet store, online, or even a breeder.

Whenever I see “Puppies for Sale” signs, I take them down. If I’m driving, I pull over and yank them out of wherever their hanging while cursing under my breath how people should get real jobs instead of contributing to the animal overpopulation by charging thousands of dollars for puppies.

Pet stores only take back the dogs they sell for a limited time, no refunds after a couple weeks. Shelters will take back one of their dogs any time in the dog’s lifetime. Because of this, we do get animals dropped off at our shelter that were bought from pet stores. Some of these dogs are sick because most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills, which are inhumane and the mother pups receive zero veterinary care.

As if pet stores, puppy mills, and breeders weren’t enough, recently, I was told about a new craze called “Puppy Parties.”

Apparently, a group of people can rent puppies and gush over them like idiots for an hour or two. Scratch their ears, kiss their noses, and hold them like a baby.

My first thought when hearing about this was,”What happens when these cute little puppies aren’t cute little puppies anymore?” Puppies grow fast. To stay in business, there must be a high-turnaround rate. Which means, now dogs are being bred to produce puppies to keep adults amused.

How pathetic and how sad. When these puppies are grown, they will most likely end up in an already over-crowded shelter, maybe even a high kill-shelter.

So, if you ever attend one of these despicable parties, and you give a puppy a kiss, please ask yourself who will be kissing that puppy in a year, if that puppy will even still be alive.

Puppies are not here for your entertainment.

Strippers are here for your entertainment.

Use them instead.

 

*Note: If my writing about puppy parties made anyone reading this want to throw a puppy party, despite knowing that the puppies’ futures are precarious, (at best); you’re kind of a jerk. I hope the puppies poop all over your carpet, couch, and a couple of laps, too.

 

Below are four of the fifteen dogs that were about to be put-down. They are in a good place now. Waiting for their forever homes. Heather is the brown lab mix with the big ears.

Please adopt and don’t shop!

This is Me Finally Doing Something

I talk about dogs…a lot. And I write about dogs…a lot.

If you follow my blog at all, you probably already know this. It wasn’t my intention to use so much space penning about my favorite animal, but these things happen. I write about what I love.

Ever since adopting my Lab/Pit mix, Phil, five years ago, I’ve gotten more involved with animals than I ever had before, or ever imagined myself to be. I volunteer at an animal shelter, spending as much extra time with the dogs, outside of my regular shift, as I can.

I protest regularly with an organization against pet stores selling puppies that come from puppy mills, which are most, if not all, pet stores. With this group, I have also sat in on town meetings to support a ban against the sale of puppy-mill puppies, and I’ve emailed numerous politicians pleading for such a ban.

I’ve taken my stance. I’ve lent my voice to a cause I believe in. Whether it be through emails, signs in my hands, or by my mere presence, my voice has been spoken, but whether it’s been heard? I don’t know.

But I won’t stop.

I don’t state this to show how wonderful I am. I’m not wonderful. Trust me. I’m a terrifically-flawed person. A Deeply, terrifically-flawed person. I write this because I don’t know where all this fight came from. I didn’t grow up in a household of activists. Neither of my parents had staunch political beliefs. We just lived our lives in a quiet suburb, where the word “protest” was never uttered.

But then, decades later, I adopted a pit-bull mix, and everything changed.

Even though having a pet isn’t new to me, this time around it was different. Growing up we had a cherished family dog, a Lhaso Apso/Maltese mix named Coco, for over fifteen years. But I was a child when we got him, and barely a young adult when he died. None of the years between that time did I ever think about animal abuse. I had naively assumed that all dogs were as loved and doted on as Coco was. Maybe I was too young, or too capably self-absorbed to look beyond the walls built around my cozy little life to see the world.

But I’m looking now, and I see the kinds of abuse animals suffer. Phil’s breed is the most abused and neglected breed of all dogs. The moment I fell in love with my pit-bull mix, I knew I had to fight for him. But I can’t only fight for pit-bulls. I need to fight for all the animals suffering because of human greed. Whether it be dogs living their miserable lives in dirty, over-crowded puppy mills, or pigs crammed into gestation crates so small they can’t even turn around, or mother cows bellowing for their babies, taken from them seconds after birth, to either be killed for meat, or raised to suffer as a dairy cow.

I need to fight for all animals being abused..

Last week, I participated in my first protest with Mercy for Animals. It was a protest against the way farm animals are forced to suffer.

This isn’t me being wonderful. This me finally doing something. And it’s about time I did.

puppy-mill-     pig_gestation_crates1pigs in crates

loving-mother-cow-and-calf1 Beautiful picture of love right here.

*I don’t own these pictures. I will take them down if they are copyrighted.

Save Two Lives. Adopt a Shelter Dog.

When I adopted my dog, Phil, almost five years ago, I didn’t have a specific breed in mind during my search, (although I’ve always had an affinity for Labradors, all labs, Black, Chocolate, and Yellow). So, it was no surprise when I went scouring the Internet for shelter dogs, and my eyes fell upon a beautiful yellow lab mix, that I was instantly smitten and knew he was meant to be my baby.

The fact that Phil’s other breed was pit-bull (please note, pit-bull is technically not a breed, but a broad generalization to include dogs like, American pit-bull terriers, American Staffordshire terriers, and Staffordshire bull terriers, and other terriers) didn’t even factor into my decision to truck down to the shelter and pick up my new bundle of joy.

Phil being part pit-bull didn’t deter me from adopting him, but it also didn’t play a role in my choosing him, either. I wasn’t making a stance of any kind. It wasn’t a conscious decision to rescue him because of his breed. I wasn’t aware most pit-bulls never make it out of shelters alive.

I didn’t know, at the time, that pit-bulls were the most euthanized dogs in the country. I didn’t know much about pit-bulls, apart from what I had heard in the news every now and then. But surely one can not reasonably judge an entire breed over the actions of only a few. (And the actions of those few were without a doubt instigated by neglectful and abusive human beings.)

But I was wrong.

I was ignorant at the time of the very real, and very strong prejudice against pit-bulls. I didn’t know, the day I took Phil home with me, the powerful stigma attached to this wonderfully loving dog.

According to a 2012 article by Save a Life Harbor Animal Shelter, in Los Angeles alone, two hundred pit-bulls are killed each day. ASPCA estimates that 3.9 million dogs (all breed of dogs) end up in U.S shelters every year, with only 35% of those getting adopted, and 31% being euthanized.

Latest data from ANIMAL PEOPLE shows that pit-bulls make up 60% of dogs euthanized every year. Easily over a million adoptable pit-bulls are killed each year because of ignorance, prejudices, insurance refusal to cover pit-bulls, and discriminatory bans on the breed.

This is a horrible shame.

All that I didn’t know about the unfair treatment toward pit-bulls, before I adopted Phil, that I know now, has made me a huge advocate for pit-bulls. I fight for this breed because I have to. I wasn’t looking for this job, and I didn’t ask for it, but I’ve turned out to be pretty damn good at it.

puppymill protest                                            dont shop adopt

big puppymill protest

*On a side note, ASPCA estimates that 70-80 million dogs are pets in the United States. That’s beyond the amount that could give EVERY single shelter dog a home, as well as the millions of strays in other countries. So much money is spent caring for animals in shelters. If America would only open their homes to all the homeless dogs here, then shelters can spend their resources on flying abused and hungry strays in from other countries, because the numbers show we have enough homes for them, too.

Please note, most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills. Please stop supporting these awful places. Adopt don’t shop.  Thanks!

P.S – Here’s a pic of my scary pit bull mix…..Shhhh…don’t wake the baby.

phil adorable nuzzle on blankie

Give a Pit Bull a Chance

In the summer of 2013 I started volunteering at an animal shelter near my house. Volunteering my time with animals was something I’d wanted to do for years, however my lack of good health had gotten in the way. But as soon as my body allowed, I hurried at the chance to focus my attention on something other than myself. I had suddenly felt normal again.

Since that summer, I have gone from volunteering 1 1/2 hours a week to 8 – 10 hours, and hope to commit more of my time in the future because I love what I do.

There is a dog at the shelter I have bonded with named Sable. I go to see her on days outside of my “scheduled” shift because she has created for herself a permanent place inside my heart. She is an amazing dog who has been at the shelter longer than she should be because unfortunately for her, she is part-pit bull. She isn’t unfortunate because there is anything inherently wrong with the breed. Sable is unfortunate because there is everything inherently wrong with the stigma humans place on pit bulls.

Just this past week, Sable was twice passed-up because she is part-pit bull. I was told one woman took a fondness of her while watching Sable through her kennel, but when told of her breed, the woman balked that she would never take a pit bull home, and then moved on to the next kennel. And then there was a family who were very interested in giving Sable a home, but found out their apartment complex has a no bully-breed dog policy. This is a big reason why pit bulls and pit bull-mixes are the most-highly euthanized dogs in the country – they are discriminated against by both people and businesses. Statistics vary, but the most solid report is 2800 pit bulls are killed each day. That’s over a million a year.

However, the fate isn’t much better for the pit bulls who do manage to live because this breed is probably the most abused dogs on the planet. With the internet and social media, it’s hard to escape the images of the consequences of dog-fighting. And you know what? It should be hard to escape these images because they show the reality of what horrible and cruel human beings create. And we need to see these images every…single…day because these gruesome acts occur every…single…day.

Sable has no idea how close she had come, this week alone, to finding her furever home. She is unaware of any “pre-determined prejudice” against her. She’s as happy-go-lucky of a dog you’ll ever meet. When I am with her, her body language doesn’t scream out “poor me” or “nobody loves me” or “why am I still here!”

Sable lives in the moment, as most dogs do. When I make my way toward her kennel, (she’s about five runs down from the entrance) and she’s curled up sleeping sweetly on her bed, I’ll squat down quietly and whisper, “Hello pretty girl. Are you ready?” Sable jumps at the sound of my voice and wags her tail madly because she knows it’s time to play in the yard. She’ll lick my face through the cage and then spin her body toward the doggie door, waiting impatiently for me to open the run.

Aside from being part-pit bull, Sable is also half-lab, and it is the lab-side of her that’s been showing a lot this summer as we’ve been playing with the hose. Sable absolutely loves water and I dare anyone not to crack up while watching her leap high to catch the water sprinkling in all directions. She never tires of jumping into the fountain of water I create by sticking my fingers against the opening of the hose and spraying it toward the sky, splashes form all around us.

Sable’s favorite game with the hose is when I spray the hose directly at her face and she tries to catch the water with her teeth. Spending these days with her is the epitome of what summer should be – hot, laughter-filled, care-free days playing with a hose.

When it’s time to put the hose away, I dry her off on a porch in the yard with a towel. Although she will attempt to lunge toward the pool a couple times, when I give her a stern “no,” she knows play time is over and lays quietly beside me and lets me dry her off. I think she enjoys the gentle massage as I rub the towel over her body. Dogs love being pampered…maybe shelter dogs the most. Before I bring her in, we lie across the porch, Sable cuddled against me, and we rest in the shade of a gorgeous summer day.

When I take Sable, or any other dog in the shelter, out, they leave their kennels behind. Each dog is completely committed to enjoying every second out of their cages. They don’t waste precious moments worrying about when their time will be up, and they’ll be back in their small cages with nothing but a bed, a bowl of water, and a nyla-bone to occupy their time.

Once outside in the yards, the dogs are too busy having fun living in the moment to waste their time lamenting about where they’ll be twenty minutes from then.

People, who almost always carry our heavy burdens with us everywhere we go, can learn so much from these loving animals.

Below is a link to a video of me and Sable playing with a hose.

To know a pit bull is to love a pit bull.  sable with ball and tongue

Sable smiling Sable with ball

Sable with tongue out

If you’re looking for a pet, please consider visiting your local animal shelter. Animals at shelters are not broken. They are not “dirty.” Most puppies from pet stores come from puppy mills where their mothers live in horrible condit Please visit thepuppymillproject.org for more information.

Also, if possible, please don’t overlook an animal just because he or she may be a pit bull or pit bull mix. I know first-hand these dogs make great companions and are loving and loyal animals. I’ve had a pit bull-mix for five years and there is no better dog out there – well, maybe Sable runs a close second. 🙂

“Mommy” Promises To My Dog

To Phil,

I promise I will love you and care for you always.

I promise I will never dump you at a shelter when you get old.

I promise to give you at least 147 kisses a day and just as many snuggles.

I promise to comfort you during thunderstorms and never leave you alone on the Fourth of July.

I promise to always roll down the car window at least halfway so you can stick your head out, no matter how hot or cold it is (unless it’s raining. I know how much you hate to get wet).

I promise to give you my sundae bowl when I am finished so you can lick it clean (as long as it isn’t chocolate).

I promise to never get stingy with the amount of peanut butter I smear on your bone.

I promise to always add a little table food to your meals because I know how much you love steak.

When we’re on a walk, I promise to let you sniff as many trees and bushes as you want, but I will pull you away when you start sniffing other dogs’ butts. (I know that’s how you guys roll, but it’s really gross.)

I promise to replace old and worn blankies with new blankies because I know how much you love your blankies.

I promise you an endless supply of tennis balls.

I promise to be an advocate for pit bulls because you’re a pit bull and you’re awesome.

I promise I will weigh all potential dating partners with you in mind because the woman of my dreams will love you as much as I do. (That is a requirement and is non-negotiable.)

Lastly, when it’s your time, I promise I will not make you endure unnecessary pain and suffering because I’m not strong enough to let you go. I will kiss you goodbye and keep close to my heart the memories you leave behind…..

And never will I forget the day I brought you home from the shelter…the day you rescued me.

phil cuddle   phil 8 phil bed 4 phil blanikie phil in a blanket phil sleeping

When looking for a pet, please consider adopting from a shelter. There are millions of wonderful animals looking for a home. Most of the puppies sold at pet stores come from puppy mills. For more information on puppy mills, please visit the Thepuppymillproject.org. Thank you.

And Then She Lived Happily Ever After

I heard a story of a woman who loved a man and believed that man loved her, too.

She believed his love was the kind of love that would never falter, was without any condition, and he would love her always.

Forever.

No matter what.

She believed he would protect her, without regard for his own safety, because he couldn’t bear to realize a life without her.

She believed he wanted to be with her always, and if she ever went away, he would long for her, and wait for as long as she took to walk through the door.

And he would be there.

Waiting.

She believed he wanted to make her happy, and her happiness was his happiness, because he loved her that much. And when she cried, he’d soak up her tears. And when she needed to talk, he’d listen patiently. And when she desired nothing but his body close to hers, he’d lay still beside her and never try to move away.

She believed he loved her this way because she’d read all the books -every Cinderella-like fairy-tale- when she was a little girl, and that’s what she wanted.

Her Prince Charming.

And she believed she had found him, until he proved she hadn’t.

She cried most nights, and every time she was alone, because she knew her life didn’t match the stories she had read.

Then one day she stopped crying, and she let the man who didn’t love her go.

Despite the heartbreak and disappointment, she was determined not to lower her expectations. She still  wanted the fairy-tale ending she remembered so well.

She prayed that the next time she fell in love, her recipient would be deserving of her devotion.

She got lonely while she waited for her Prince Charming to come. She went to a shelter and brought home a shaggy dog that wagged his tail every time he looked at her.

She loved him right away and believed he loved her, too.

This time, she was never proven wrong…….

And she lived happily ever after.

me phil smiling phil cuddle