I open the sliding glass door and a small fluffy bolt of lightning tears out, launches off the deck and starts his succession of laps around the backyard. He's not The Stig, but he is The Stig's four-legged cousin.
Milo is a MalkerSpoodle (Maltese, Cocker Spaniel and Poodle). We prefer this term to "puppy mill escapee." Found at a shelter in Durham a couple weeks before Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law Karli chose his new name: Milo is a popular chocolate drink in New Zealand, where my husband Gareth and his family are from, and where Karli is in her final year of vet school. Milo met Gareth first, so naturally he is Milo's favorite; however, Milo does have a soft spot in his heart for The Food Giver (my new role).
I can't help but wonder about this little man's "past life"—we have his old vet records, we know his old name and that of his previous owner. But that's about it. What has he experienced? It's clear what he has not experienced: for one, other dogs. We're working on getting him less fearful of other dogs so he can one day be relaxed around them. And if his laps around the yard are any indication, tongue hanging out and the wind in his furry face, we're fairly sure he's never experienced a fenced-in backyard either.
All we can really do, though, is focus on the present. Little daily moments are the things from which each of our histories are built anyway. And we enjoy those moments with him: the thud of his bottom hitting the floor in a "sit" when he really, really wants a treat; the belly-up position he takes on the floor when I get down there to do ab exercises; the way he rests his head on my hip or my legs when I settle in for a nap, waiting patiently for me to become interesting again; the occasional "hungry now" growl that turns into a yawn partway through. Mostly we hope we make him as happy as he makes us ... or at least that he finds us just as amusing.
Heather Bowler, Raleigh
I slammed on the brakes near Crabtree Valley Mall, narrowly avoiding a rush-hour dumbass. It was November. Wyatt and I were headed to Charlotte. Near Chapel Hill, the pH chart-topping stench of feline urine filled my car. I glanced back and the poor fella was face-planted against the grill of his carrier, which had vertically wedged itself between the console and the back seat.
Pee takes awhile to atomize. While I drove in a mindless oblivion, Wyatt rode along, breaking some gravitational laws. No meowing or complaining. Quiet as a mouse, he took it in stride, festered in urine.
We exited I-40 and flew into the closest lot. My pal Phil met us, equipped with supplies to un-urine my pet. We sprayed, patted and comforted my cat. Then, we rolled Wyatt through some mint bushes to equalize the scent.
That was on Phil's birthday. Wyatt knew I had no present for Phil. "No gift? Here's some pee I made for you." Wyatt's so good at not-helping.
Wyatt had a bath when we arrived in the Queen City. His attitude was mature; sure, I got soaked with some flailing on his part, but he actively participated in his hygiene maintenance. Then, he sauntered out of the bathroom and plopped down on the sofa. Wyatt finished up, licking each square inch of himself, while watching the nightly news.
My car was mind-altering for weeks. I went to work, high on pee, eyes bloodshot throughout the Christmas season.
I chalk it up to a short feline attention span that he voluntarily pissed himself again on the way home: "I'm pretty sure I went here before. What if I'm stuck here for hours? What if we're going to Texas?? Should I go? I think so ... that Lady would be mad if I got a UTI for not going. Here I go..."
Moments later, Wyatt realized his error: "Dammit! I'm soaked in my own pee! Why aren't we stopping? Your car smells like piss, Lady! How much longer? HOW much LONGER?!"
With an hour left, car smelling like the gates of Hell, we drove.
I needed to post-process my car/carrier from days before and certainly wasn't about to waste time on more pee. Onward bound.
After Bath #2 in Raleigh, I accepted that my lot with this animal revolves around his urine. Scared shitless, but urine-full during a storm one time, he peed on my futon.
On December 26, 2008, he boldly mounted my torso as I slept and unloaded his bladder on me. A UTI, I later discovered. Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like opening your eyes to your pet, purposely pissing all over you.
Wyatt has his faults: he peed on me, peed on my stuff and peed in my stuff. Sporting his World War II era mustache, he sort of looks like Adolf Hitler. He's had snafus along the way. But his Jew-friendly nature and nine lives of personality makes up for his boo-boos. He's an old soul with class, an earthling with common problems we all face.
Emily Walker, Raleigh
Sophie's New Toy
My sweet and loving aunt recently gave my 75-pound puppy, Sophie, a new toy, since I apparently do not spoil her nearly enough. Pictured below is Sophie happily chewing on said toy.
As one can see, this toy is MOST exciting. First of all it is soft and cute, which means it should last her all of 10 minutes before it is ravaged and strewn about my floor in little cow bits. Second of all, and I can't make this readily apparent via picture, but this toy is literally gorged with various obnoxious squeak items. Each one of those checks has a squeak. The legs squeak AND the head squeaks. This does not make for good sleep preparation.
I was reading, trying to get to sleep last night, and she was playing some horrendous squeak-cow-jazz-sonnet at the foot of my bed. Finally, I took the toy away from her. She sat at the base of my dresser staring at it and looking all pathetic until she noticed that I wasn't paying attention and gave up. I finally fell asleep and had wonderful dreams in which Sophie did not own such a beast of a toy. I woke up this morning to the sound of her huffing puke noise. HORK! HORK! HORK! She puked up fluffy cow bits right in the doorway to my bedroom. Although she did have two infections recently, not to mention a horrible case of fleas from being outside at a bonfire, I had not had to clean up puke in awhile, so I let this one slide.
Now, I am sitting on my couch, catching up on news after having had dinner. I had given Sophie her toy when I got home from work, and she has been chewing and squeaking and rendering asunder all night. Finally, the squeaking just stopped. When I go look to see what had happened, I find this. Here is a picture of the carcass.
You can't really tell, but the cow is missing one of its feet and its tail, as well as four or five of the plastic squeaky innards. Oh, and if you look carefully, you can see bits of green fuzz strewn about, which I believe she ripped from the cow's head. Such carnage. Where is Sophie? Well, after striking down with great vengeance and furious anger upon this hapless (albeit annoying) cow toy, she apparently got bored and is now sitting on a rug in another room, chewing on a peanut-butter-flavored bone. Now I have to go pick up these fluffy green bits and deflated plastic squeaks. I will keep the empty cow-hide in case she becomes interested later, but I have a feeling that this pitiful thing has served its purpose.
R.I.P. Squeak Cow
Born July 18, 2010
At Peace July 19, 2010
Christa Harris, Cary
It was a typical July day in Chapel Hill, meaning it was hot as Hades and most folks and animals had slowed their pace in deference to the heat. I was returning via taxi from a grocery-shopping excursion and the taxi driver was following me down the walk carrying the grocery bags. There were three steps to climb to get to the front door. On the top step sat my beloved black and white Cat, who paid us no attention but rather calmly gazed into the distance, seemingly lost in his own feline world.
On the lower step stretched a very long, very still black snake. This caused the taxi driver to stop abruptly and yell out, "Your cat done killed that snake!" He hollered this not once but several times. I wasn't sure if it was from disbelief or admiration or what, but I too stopped and pondered how I was going to get to the door. I don't like snakes, poisonous or non-poisonous, dead or alive, and this one stretched almost the entire length of the steps.
So there we were, a tableau of cat, snake, taxi driver and myself, when suddenly the snake—with a movement only a snake can make—darted into the large bush next to the steps. Cat made a flying leap in after him, I screamed, and the taxi driver shouted, "He ain't dead, he ain't dead," dropped the groceries on the walk and beat a hasty retreat to his vehicle. What sticks in my mind most strongly is not that all those things happened but that they seemed to happen at the very same moment.
The snake somehow disappeared; even the search by a snake-friendly neighbor proved fruitless. Cat eventually emerged from the depths of the bush and wandered off. I'm sure he was a bit embarrassed that the snake had eluded him, for he has great pride, and rightly so, in his hunting abilities. The taxi driver backed out of the driveway with a screech of his tires that could be heard all over the neighborhood, and I picked up my groceries and carefully made my way toward the air-conditioning that awaited me on the other side of the front door.
Molly Cameron, Chapel Hill
The Love of a Fighting Dog
I used to joke that my dog, a Chinese Shar-Pei bred by Ms. Coffee of Dallas, Texas, and aptly named Maxwell Coffee, was the only man in my life who truly loved me. In fact, to this day, I think Max is the ideal representation of the perfect husband. (So men, listen up. Max has a few lessons to teach you.)
Despite being bred as a fighting dog, Max always expressed his love and loyalty toward me ever so tenderly. In the times I treated myself with a manicure at home, Max sat on the floor with his body pressed against my feet to ensure protecting me from the manicurist! His gentleness and warmth was ever present.
On another occasion, after I returned home from a two-month journey, Max's reaction astounded me. At first glance, he paused to study me; my return was unexpected in his doggy brain. But as soon as he recognized me, his demeanor changed. He ran toward me and jumped for joy! He seemed to be smiling on the inside, and his warm welcome was the most fun and joyous welcome I can remember.
My Maxwell taught me many more lessons about love and loyalty throughout the years as my companion. His untimely death due to kidney failure at the age of 7, then, was shocking for my entire family. In some ways, I felt I'd let him down by not being able to save him. In those moments before his death, it felt that his loyalty and generosity surpassed mine.
A couple of years after his passing, I ran into a lady walking her Shar-Pei in town. The dog's resemblance to Max was uncanny. I stopped and told the dog owner about my Max and asked her if I could pet her dog. She nodded, and I knelt down to pet her dog. Petting turned into hugging. Before I knew it, I wrapped my arms around this stranger's Shar-Pei dog, and I actually started crying. It felt just like I was hugging my sweet, old friend Max, and I missed Max terribly.
I still miss Max. But as I'm sure every dog lover who has lost a pet knows, Max is still with me: in my thoughts, in my heart and in my memories. It's been 10 years since Max left this world, and I feel grateful that he was a part of my life and for the lessons of love and loyalty he shared, particularly those about unconditional love and the joy of loving others.
Shahla Bagheri & Larissa Majlessi
Becoming a "Dog Person"
Growing up, I wasn't what you would call a "dog person." Most were smelly, some drooled, their food smelled awful and so did they when they farted. They had this embarrassing habit of trying to sniff you in places you'd rather they didn't. They made cleaning a house so much more work that I couldn't understand the point of having one. But then one day my sister's dog had puppies and my daughter just had to have one.
It was love at first sight. I got up at ungodly hours to take Niki outside. I researched dog food to find the best one. I bought a baby gate to keep her safe when we weren't home. I made trips to the animal hospital in the middle of the night. I let her sleep in my bed. In other words, I became a dog person. I loved the way they smelled, I didn't mind their food or being sniffed inappropriately. And who cared if I had to sweep the kitchen every day.
I loved dogs so much I agreed to a second one. Miss Blackie was very skittish and not so trusting at first but over time she came to trust us and was the sweetest dog. Together she and Niki balanced each other out perfectly.
We had lots of routines that were comforting to us all. We had our breakfast and going-outside routine. We had our walking route we would always take. At night, everybody got tucked in and Miss Blackie always gave me kisses on the nose.
Miss Blackie was the first to show signs of aging with arthritis. At first it just slowed us down a little on our walks. Eventually, we were down to a snail's pace and only went a short distance. I did all I could to keep her comfortable. I made sure she had a nice bed, that she had all the medicines she needed, and when she developed liver disease, I started buying her chicken and rice. I hired a dog sitter to help out with mid-afternoon meds and potty breaks.
Miss Blackie's arthritis continued to worsen until one day she could no longer use her back legs. It was a sad, sad day when we had to say goodbye. We loved her so much and she had been such a big part of our family. I've not known what to do with myself since. No more trips to Food Lion for chicken and rice or Target to pick up her meds; and no more trying to figure out everybody's schedule to make sure someone would be home to take care of her.
How I miss it all and how I miss those nighttime kisses. Who would have ever thought I could love a dog so much; but I did and it was one of the best experiences I've ever had. Even though the end was quite painful, I wouldn't hesitate to do it all over again.
In our neighborhood Patches is known as the "mayor." He is everywhere, visiting and making himself right at home.
Although his former family claimed him and paid his taxes, that was the extent of their relationship. They never seemed to mind the fact that he stayed out night and day, nor that his food bowl remained empty most of the time. When they planned to relocate, I asked if I could keep him; they were relieved.
So, off they went; Patches stayed behind and became my cat. Gradually, he began to come inside and found that he really liked his new home.
Patches is a unique boy with funny looking eyes and no meow-er. When he wants your attention he "chirps" like a bird until he gets it. He is not only a handsome, sweet boy, he is also sneaky.
As you can see, I had my cereal on the patio table. I was preparing to do my morning devotion but went back inside a moment for something I had forgotten. I saw Patches through the glass patio door; he had jumped into my chair and was looking for me. When I figured out what he was about to do, I reached for my camera.
You can see what happened. He kept looking; when he no longer saw me, he simply helped himself to my cereal. Then, when I appeared ... well, just look at that face; doesn't he look ashamed and pitiful? He perked right up when I consoled him and told him it was OK.
He quickly jumped down and gave me my seat. Then, he sat and watched as I finished our cereal. Seeing the empty bowl, he wiped his lips with his paw, chirped a few times and exited through the cat door to make his "mayoral rounds" of the neighborhood.
A month ago, I had a job that I loved and a beautiful brownstone apartment in Boston where I lived with the man of my dreams. He proposed and we were all set to live happily ever after until, several weeks later, I was sitting alone, jobless, family-less and friendless in (an albeit grand and three times the size as my previous apartment) loft in Durham where my fiancé began his first year as a resident in a prestigious hospital.
What did I have to whine about? Even my friends back home were so excited that I was starting off somewhere new, and I was engaged!!! Woooo ... who was even here to celebrate with me? I knew no one! I was so depressed and spent the day at the gym, then pool and watching trashy TV shows wondering when I would have an actual conversation that wasn't on my iPhone or with my fiancé. My self-induced pity party slowed down when I started scouring the internet for companionship. And then I found her! A gorgeous white English Bulldog!
Immediately I called the breeder to meet my puppy. When I lifted her up for the first time, she held onto me and didn't want to let go. Little did she know that all eight pounds and eight weeks of her would lift me up instead!
It's been a week and I've already learned so much from my puppy Penelope, especially as I seek employment and friendship:
1) No matter how many times you hear "NO," keep trying anyway.
2) Shoes and food are the most important things in the world.
3) Play with everyone, no matter their size, breed or temperament, there's always something to be learned.
4) Be loyal to your family.
5) Whenever possible, nap.
6) Enjoy the outdoors, especially rolling in grass.
8) Know how to take compliments (which are endless for Penelope thanks to her unmatchable cuteness).
9) Get plenty of exercise and drink plenty of water.
10) Love more and you will become more lovable in return.
Charles Schultz said it best: "Happiness is a warm puppy." Penelope has warmed my heart and I will never be the same. I'm happy to be in Durham and looking forward to the adventures we'll have together and all the friends (four-legged and two-legged) we'll meet along the way.
Ann Sarno, Durham
I have 51 percent control of my household, but only because I control the food. Who controls the other 49 percent? A common dog or a cat? A squawking bird or scaly reptile? No! I have, in the words of Elmer Fudd, a "wascally wabbit." How could I know when I brought my adorable 9-week-old bunny home that I would fulfill my father's "curse" for me—to have a child just like I'd been.
Bunnies can be litter trained, just like cats. This was wonderful to know because I looked forward to easy clean-ups, as my rabbit has free rein of the house. I watched him for hours, waiting for him to "do his business" so I could put him in his litter box to show him the proper place for those pellets. But he wouldn't do anything in front of me. However, when I left the room for just a few minutes, my baby's performance anxiety ended. I would come back to find 40-50 tiny pellets on the floor. This led me to dub my baby a nickname my mother used to call me when I was a little girl, Bunny Butt.
However, the hard and fibrous pellets aren't the problem. Rabbit urine is the bad stuff. And Bunny Butt sometimes wields this potent stuff like a weapon. If I've done something to displease him, I'll find a puddle of urine right beside his litter box. I've even seen him do this. Once, when I refused to give him another piece of MY Reese's cup, he ran over to his litter box and jumped in, then out of it to the other side, where he proceeded to demonstrate his liquid displeasure of being told no. I tried to catch him, but he scampered under the bed and out of reach.
But this is not the only way he drives his mother batty. Since a rabbit's teeth grow about five inches per year, I place old books and boxes on the floor for him to chew. He makes a lot of noise with these in the middle of the night when he wants attention, ripping them in excruciatingly loud layers. Of course these "foils," as I would have liked to have thought of them, haven't prevented him from chewing through phone chargers, a TV cord, extension cords, shoe soles and straps, leather purse straps, rug fringe, scarf and wrap fringe, an ethernet cable (this one out of spite because I was paying too much attention to my new computer and not him), and a computer keyboard cable. It's my fault for leaving these things on the floor, or, in most cases, hanging on a chair or sitting on my bed or desk. If I want to keep things chew-mark free, I need to keep them under lock and key. And, whenever possible, buy wireless.
Why do I put up with the bathroom "accidents," the sleep-interrupted nights, and the destruction of property? It's because my baby boy is the most loving pet in existence. He shows me the greatest love and affection, by running circles around my feet when I'm walking and figure-eights around my feet when I'm standing, giving me bunny kisses when he licks my ears and cheeks, making happy grunts as we cuddle on my bed. And even though my parents don't accept him as a grandchild, he is more than a pet to me. Bunny Butt is my son, and I love him immensely.
Never been petted
January 22, 2009, dusk, 15 degrees and falling, somewhere near Roanoke Rapids on 95, 80 MPH
The absolutely incredible life-changing after-effects of the Obama Inauguration are still with me, along with the incredible cold, and a sweater, a scarf, a coat & a hat; have the heat on full blast and I'm still cold. A dog foraging on the side of the road catches my eye. On this desolate stretch of 95 his chance of survival is measured in minutes.
Pulling off at the next exit, I turn back, get back on and he's still there. Pulling over I get out & call him. Looking up he runs maybe 50 feet and … just sits down. He's out of gas. Those great big Sad Eyes say, "Do what you're gonna do, I'm done here." So I do what I do. Approach slowly, circling.
Then I do something unusual and definitely not in the Rescue Manual. Once next to him, I touch him, wearing gloves, okay no growl, talk soothingly "good boy" and … pick him up. No resistance.
Carrying him to the car I see his eye is half closed. He's very, very weak. Inside the heat overwhelms him and after a small piece of bread he just passes out. Looking for a vet or shelter out here in... well, nowhere, there's nothing but the Wal-Mart and fast food. His head on my lap asleep. I'm toast.
My wife calls to check on me.
"Got a situation here honey, found this dog on the highway, looked for a shelter but there aren't any out here. He's whooped."
"Well just bring him home. We'll keep him in the shed until he gets better." (We already have a house full so…) At least that's heated."
Surprised at her willingness but we're both Animal People. You either are or you aren't, and we most certainly are. Currently with five, at one time eight.
The vet said she thought he'd never been petted. "Minimal human contact." Walker was starving, emaciated, low 40s (now 57 lbs.), injured eye & paw, lime disease, fleas, heartworm, parasites, anemic, dehydrated, half dead and shook uncontrollably almost all the time.
He doesn't really eat a full bowl of ANYTHING as much as he just sort of inhales it in three or four gulps, and then eats anyone else's unattended or not claimed. And the cat's. And looks for more.
Dr. Alley, our gift from God vet at Bowman who donated thousands of dollars in services to Walker including two surgeries: "He probably wouldn't have lived more than a few days when you found him."
"He's been out all winter, possibly six or eight weeks since being lost or abandoned on the hunt. No food. No shelter, sub zero and just survived a major snow / ice storm." Barely.
No collar but that is normal for a dog lost on a hunt. He still had markings where they paint ID'd him. He's an older dog. No sense of smell and afraid of loud noises. Not a strong suit for a Coon Hound.
My guess, left in the woods. It took a few months to determine age; estimated 8 (now 10).
Integrating him into the household with two small dogs, our formerly feral cat Tiger, two rabbits and a mouse, in a very small house. Walker didn't fight or chase anyone thank you very much. Chipmunks could run over his nose and he'd probably not bat an eye. "Just let me sleep over here, I'll curl up real small. Wake me for dinner; no, I'll hear it. No worries."
The de-worming, parasites, multiple surgeries for his eye and all the stuff he swallowed before and during his stay with us took some time but eventually he filled out. And the constant shaking, almost completely gone. A favorite of the neighborhood kids who sent him get well cards. He's very handsome and sweet as can be. True Southern gentlemen.
He also has numerous slices from knives in his ears where the owner / hunter apparently would discipline him. I was told this is a common practice.
When we played with the other dogs he'd watch, curious. So we petted him. He'd look up... "Hmmmm… This is nice but… What is it?" Now he must have head scratches to go to sleep.
About a year or so in he developed a bad infection, rapidly lost weight and started bleeding from his nose. Constantly. Dr. Alley: "Most likely a nasal or brain tumor or a very bad nasal infection." Not a whole lot we could do. A scan will run up to $1,000 and not tell us much. We'd still do the same thing. I'd already spent more on him than my car which was fine, I drive crummy old cars. We passed on the scan.
I was told to prepare for putting him down. And knew immediately I couldn't do that. I cried. A lot. I couldn't … wouldn't kill him. Cancelled work travel and stayed home for four to six weeks, which is a lot in my job. If that's all he had left I'd feed him hamburgers every day or whatever he wanted. There was no way I would willingly and actively shorten his life even one damn day. Everyone would say "Walker won the lottery when you found him! Blah, blah, blah… He's been well-treated, it's okay…"
Blah, blah, blah. No, it isn't okay. I mean is that it? He gets better and dies?
See, I was once that dog on the side of the road, abandoned at 16, home being more dangerous than the highway. No one seemed to want me or care where I was. I'd fend off strangers hitching across the States not sure where I was supposed to go. Slept under a bridge once in winter and was rescued by a kind person in a gas station when I came in to use the restroom. "You were sleeping outside? In January?" He insisted I come inside and sleep where it's heated.
Walker was not going to be put down. No way. A cruel life of cold and abuse sleeping on concrete for so long he has stomach nipples and skin tags larger than a bitch after four litters.
Is this what we've come too? A warm place to sleep, food, health care & love is winning the lottery? That's not winning the lottery, that's just the basics people! What we all deserve. Hello!
We gave him a Chinese herb protocol and with my ADD I screwed it up, giving him a double dose. This mistake, it seems, may have saved his life as the other dog at the vet with the same condition on the same (correct) protocol died. As most all do with this condition. He's a tough old boy.
Walker got better. And filled out. And almost never shakes or has nightmares anymore, which used to be nightly. He's sleeping with his paws tucked in on his old futon right now. Been with us 30 months. Sits up on the porch watching the world go by. Don't have a home security system except him. Never been robbed either but most my neighbors have. How 'bout that for payback?
Every now and then if another dog challenges or threatens the two little ones he leans back his head and howls, "OWOOOOOOOO!" Then looks at me like "Uh, was that okay, I mean they were in danger, right?" Of course buddy. But he is clearly happy. He doesn't bark too often, maybe once or twice a month. He's very, very quiet. And he's a coon hound. Okay he drools. A lot. And sheds. Big deal. We once met a woman who put her Yorkie down because it peed on their rugs. That's sick. We had that problem too. We got rid of the rugs.
Everyone at Bowman calls him the Miracle Dog. I agree. I'm the luckiest guy in the world to have found him. He has healed me. And let me tell you I'm not special so cut the "That's so…" whatever. I've met hundreds of people with a lot less than I've been blessed with who have done the same or more without regret or hesitation. Whatever the cost. You take on the responsibility, you do the deal. All the way home. That's why I believe in the heart of humanity and this country god dammit, even today.
And heck, bein' a Yankee that's been livin' below the Mason Dixon Line for 36 years, hell no one can mess with me now 'cause I got me my very own coon houn', sits on the porch, waits for me.
Even if I accidentally named him after George Bush's middle name.
But heck, whatcha gonna do? Ride on by? No way.