Sunday, July 24, 2016

Three's Company Too

One week ago, my day started off pretty normal. I had volunteered to take a dog to PetSmart for an adoption event. So after some breakfast and pug lounging, I headed to the shelter. When I arrived, I asked which pup I was taking, and they said, "You're with Blackjack." He was a new guy. I walk into the "little dog" room to find him waiting in a small cage. After a bit of tussle trying to get on a harness and leash, we were on our way.

I noticed right away, under all of that hair, Blackjack looked a lot like my Jack. In fact, I used to keep Jack's hair long and wiry like Smoky's. Not that I particularly liked it, just because the thought of getting him a haircut never entered my mind. Soon, we arrived at PetSmart (if I remember correctly, with Blackjack in my lap) and after dodging this psychotic bird that kept swooping at us while I was trying to get BlackJack to go potty, we made a run for the door.

We settled inside the store with a few other dogs and a ton of cats, just waiting for someone to walk in the door within the next three hours to take them home. From the start, Blackjack wanted to lay on me, so I let him, and he basically proceeded to take a three hour nap. Which didn't bother me at all. People tend to not like a "lazy" dog, but I do. I can keep up much better with a couch potato than a wild child.

Many people came by and said, "He's so cute!" and asked questions about Blackjack. Most were looking at the cats or the adorable little Eleanor who was stealing the show. Or big girl Reagan who kept rolling over for belly rubs. But when it came to Blackjack, everyone passed. And deep down inside, I was glad.

The end of the day came, and I asked Becca, the HSYC director, if I could foster Blackjack. Since he had just arrived at the shelter a few days before, she suggested waiting a week to see if he got adopted. That's the moment I knew: I didn't want anyone else to have him. So I took him back to the shelter, hastily filled out an application and went home to pick up Pmo. He had to meet this dog. I was so flustered I even lost my keys for about ten minutes before I found them in a box of collars.

I think Perry liked Blackjack immediately, but he was worried about taking on another dog. Our foster experience with Max went well, but there were a few skirmishes, especially with Jack. And the four of us had grown to be pretty comfortable since Gizmo came into the picture. However, my mind was made up, and I wanted Pmo on board. He agreed, especially when he found out Blackjack was surrendered by his owner to animal control. So we moved onto the next step: setting up a "meet and greet" with our fur kids.

All morning/night/whatever-you-want-to-call-it at work, I couldn't stop thinking about Blackjack. I was dying to pick up the boys, get to the shelter and see how they all reacted. And it went just fine. Blackjack seemed a little possessive if he was sitting by me when Gizmo or Jack came up. But overall, everything was cool. I was told I would know something soon and we went home, without Blackjack.

Naps were in order at this point, so after some social media surfing, Gizmo and I passed out on the couch and Jack slipped off upstairs, like he does. I awoke in the afternoon, filled with anticipation. I was so excited I felt like I was waiting on a job offer or college acceptance letter. Then the call came: "I talked to Becca, everything checked out, we're going to waive the home visit and you can come get Blackjack!" I said, "Now?!?!" And I was out the door.

Pmo and I had been talking about names ever since we met Blackjack. I wasn't coming up with anything good. Then Pmo said, "Well, he looks like he came out of a chimney with the gray on his face. How about Smoky?" Worked for me. We were also calling him "Wolfie" for awhile, until he got his haircut and his wolfieness went away. 

It's been one week now, and we're working on a few assimilation issues, the biggest being attachment. When I leave for work at night and Pmo goes to bed, we can't have Smoky whining for me and not settling down. So I'm teaching Smoky to "stay" while I do other things and also leaving my clothes around the house so he picks up my smell when I'm gone. He's not too excited about the leash, but he will at least go for a walk. Smoky was not eating at all at the shelter, now his appetite is just fine. He's also not crazy about the pet taxi, which he'll have to get used to in order to take any trips with us. 

Right now, we're all on the couch. No, wait, Gizmo's on the recliner. But we do all fit on the sectional, thank God we got it. A king bed may have to be next. We plan to get Smoky his own name tag and leash today, plus take all the boys for a walk before the sun sets us on fire. 

There you have it. Even though we were perfectly happy with two sweet dogs, and we're outnumbered now, turns out three's company, too.

"Come and dance on our floor, take a step that is new
We've a lovable space that needs your face, three's company too"

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Find Your Good

I've never been much of an activist. I don't participate in protests. I'm not one for a sit-in. And God help me if I ever try to go on a hunger strike. Don't get me wrong, I have beliefs and principles. I'm just not that involved, and I doubt I will ever be that type of person. However, I have found my own way to "change the world", and in light of the hate spreading throughout our nation so rampant right now, I'm beginning to understand why it's not only good for the cause, it's good for me, too.

When there's a tragedy like a mass shooting, and people are trying to make sense of it, this quote from Mr. Rogers almost always starts circulating on social media. I know I've shared it a time or two.

In other words, find the good. I say, find YOUR good. Start with something to make yourself feel better, and the rest will follow. Whether you're going through a personal struggle, or you're tired of seeing all the violence in the news, giving your time on your terms is a easy way to bring what really matters into focus.

Again, don't get me wrong, I can lie around, play on my phone and watch TV for hours with the best of them, and not get off the couch for a whole weekend. With snacks and a pug, of course. And that's fine, sometimes you just need to do that. I'm a staunch supporter of "me time". But I think part of the reason I began going to the animal shelter this year was because I have all the "me time" I can stand since I work overnight. And there's only so much TV-watching, nap-taking, house-cleaning, errand-running, pool-sitting I can do before I start to feel like I'm just worthlessly killing time. Plus, I don't have any kids, and I don't see myself going down that path. That takes up a lot of time. That is a major contribution to society. So if I'm not doing that, what am I doing?

I found the HSYC online and read up on how to volunteer. The guidelines and instructions were super easy. I knew exactly what I could do, what was expected of me and how to go about it. I didn't have to do anything I didn't want to do, and I could come at my leisure. Pretty soon, I was walking dogs a few days a week, even taking them to adoption events. And like I said, it does me just as much good as it does them. Especially when I've had a rough day at work.  Any worries seem to wander away, replaced by wagging tails and wet tongues.

Now I'm looking at other ways to donate my time. I've applied at CMS to help children learn how to read. Because I like to read. So far, I've received a clearance status as "unsupervised without driving". Whatever that means. I'm waiting to find out the next step. And, if for some reason that doesn't work out, or if I just really never want to be lazy again, I'm going to check out what I could do at the library to help out.

It really doesn't take a lot, and you can do it. Start small, with something you love. Why it never occurred to me before to volunteer at a humane society, I'll never know. For once in my life, I was looking for a way to get to know my community since I moved away from home. Which was odd. Normally, I prefer to mind my own business and keep to myself, being an introvert and all. But something about the CLT area made me not only want to explore my surroundings and what they had to offer, but also see what I could offer in return.   

So get out there. Find your good. For yourself and whatever cause you choose to back. There are so many different things you can do for non-profits. You don't have to work in a soup kitchen if you don't want to. Or if you do, go for it. We have something in CLT called Share Charlotte where you can find all the different charities, what they're about and how you can help. I'm sure there are similar organizations across the board that make it easy like that.

Alas, the time has come for me to bring this blog to an end. You see, I also volunteer as a pug snuggler. Now that's a demanding job.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

At Home with Max

Max was one of the first dogs I met at the Humane Society of York County. The cute little guy reminded me of my terrier mix, Jack. I took Max to an adoption event early on, and I've walked him at the shelter several times since. Every time I go back, I think he'll be gone, that someone has taken him home. Alas, not yet. So I decided to break him out of there until that day arrives.

I've never taken a dog home without the intention of keeping him forever, so I wasn't sure what to expect. My concerns were the same, I'm sure, as anyone who plans to keep a dog in the house: accidents, barking and chewing. I'm happy to say, after spending a week with Max, he's been found not guilty on all three counts.

Max must have been potty trained at some point. I haven't seen him hike his leg on anything in the house, and that's the number one thing I look for in a male dog. He's enjoying the freedom of our fenced backyard immensely, but he also loves to be taken on walks. Just like my terrier mix, it's hard to totally wear him out, because he could go for miles.

Max loves to be outside, even if it's just to sit out on the deck. In the house, he wants to be near you most of the time, just like my pug, Gizmo. Max can also relax on his own if you need to do something without him. He goes in his crate with little problem, although he'd rather sleep in the bed with you or be free to roam around when you're gone. He doesn't make any fuss overnight, however, he does get quite excited when you come back to let him out of his cage.

Max gets along fairly well with my other two dogs, but he may do better in a home where he's the only pet. There have been a few scuffles, as to be expected, but it's only been a week. I'm sure, over time, everyone would get used to each other and things would be just dandy. My own dogs have spats from time to time, and they've been together for two years now.

Overall, Max is a sweet, loveable dog that anyone would be lucky to have. He'd be great for someone who's looking for a companion to just hang out with or go on adventures. Will you be the one to give him a "fur"ever home?

8177 Regent Pkwy
Fort Mill, SC

Monday, March 7, 2016

Religious Roots

When I started training to be a dog walker at a shelter in Fort Mill, SC, the volunteer took me along the preferred route: cross the street, go up the hill, take a right down the abandoned road, turn around at the end and come back. On the street where traffic could not go, I noticed right away I was walking through what used to be a grand entrance of some sort: the two way traffic setup, divided by a median with tall trees. It was in my imagination anyway. The current landscaping left a lot to be desired.

The more I walked, the more I wondered, "What was here? Something big must have been here." Once I began following other dog walking paths, I found another clue: a big slab of concrete where some structure once stood. And in the distance, every day, there was the sight of that big high-rise with the broken windows and huge parking lot. This is an old picture I found online. The building with the domes is still there. The fence is not.

My first thought: it was some sort of college campus, and the tower housed dorm rooms. But why the fancy entrance then? Then I rationalized it was an assisted living complex. But then what had stood nearby on that concrete plot, and why was it torn down?

I finally got my answer last week. I discovered a new, longer path around the lake, and another, far more seasoned volunteer, ended up alongside me with her dog of the day. I asked her if she knew what had been here, before all of the new housing developments and dog walking took over. She said, "You've heard of Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker?" I said, "Yes." She said, "This was Heritage U.S.A."

You know the Bakkers: the PTL Club televangelists who ended up ruined by money and sex scandals? It turns out I've been walking dogs smack dab in the middle of what used to be their Christian-themed amusement park! It opened the year I was born and attracted millions of visitors, until it closed in the late 1980s. That slab of concrete? A castle stood there. The high-rise? It was supposed to be a hotel, but I don't think it was ever finished. There was also an amphitheater, a water park, a train...all of the typical theme park attractions.

I found this picture of the castle online, and it best represents what I see when I walk. The bridge over the lake is still there. I walk through a housing development to get to it. Starting in the bottom right corner of this photo, I go across the bridge, up the steps in front of the domes, then head back through a field just to the right of the castle, I mean, empty concrete slab. Then it's pretty much a straight shot back to the shelter.

Isn't that crazy? I can't wait to go back this week and look for more park remnants. From what I can tell, the whole thing was torn down only a few years ago. So I missed my chance to truly explore it. But, I knew I was onto something...

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Reality of Resolutions

My last blog was six weeks ago. So I should have several in the can by now, if I had kept up with my goal. But, I'm blogging now. Pat on the back.

I have kept up with volunteering at the animal shelter, and I love it. I do feel pangs of guilt for neglecting my dogs and going to play with others. But Jack and Gizmo get plenty of love when I get home, along with plenty of smells. I have fallen in love with a few shelter dogs, but so far I have not taken any home.

Yoga never happened. I was getting so much exercise walking the shelter dogs at first, for free, I thought, "Why should I pay for a yoga class?" Truth is, I can do yoga at any time. For free. In my living room. There are two mats in the closet, right by the TV, along with the yoga DVDs or plenty of videos on youtube. Just need to set my mind to it.

Meditation went well for awhile, but that, too, has fallen by the wayside. I'm hoping because I'm less stressed and don't need it as much? I tend to meditate when I'm having difficulty. Same thing with praying. And though the past few weeks have not been all rosy, things are getting better in the "what is my purpose" department.

I've completely stopped the brain games (Lumosity). It was fun at first, but I just got bored with it. And I didn't feel like it was doing me much good. I'll stick to reading ebooks and tons of articles on other ways to get smarter.

The classical music? Love. Pretty much a daily habit. It's calming, relaxing, peaceful, lovely...and I feel very intellectual when I'm listening to it. Like I need to have a library, with many leather bound books, and wear my glasses, though I tire of them easily.

Like this blog, I haven't touched my journal in six weeks. Probably too much to ask of myself for today, but hopefully, I'll get back to it soon. It's another one of those things: if I don't sit down to do it, I won't. I default to flipping through my Facebook feed with the TV on in the background. FOMO?

Meanwhile, Pmo and I are still all about discovering new parks, mountains, eateries and breweries. And loving every minute of it. I tried to eat healthier yesterday. I had a salad. With my boneless wings. Dipped in teriyaki and honey BBQ. So freaking good!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Mental Makeover

At 37, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. Unfortunately, the time has come to admit, I am well into adulthood and should know what I'm doing by now. And who I am.

I'm on a mission of self-improvement for the new year. Losing weight would be great, but I don't enjoy that pressure. And I like food. I am trying to eat better, just for the sake of living longer with less ailments. I'm always "trying". Willpower is a fickle beast. Especially when you live in a city with a restaurant on every corner.

What I am "into" right now: cerebral enhancements and soul searching. My passion for pups has led me to volunteer at an animal shelter. My struggles at work have steered me toward brain-training games, reading more books and listening to classical music to help me focus. My general disposition (the way I handle, or don't handle, stress/people/life) has driven me to take up daily meditation and possible bi-weekly yoga classes.

Writing lists and scheduling events helps me attempt to keep it all going. I'm more inclined to follow through when I see an activity on a calendar, and I haven't over-scheduled myself for the day. Getting, or staying out of the house helps. too. I can tell myself I'm going to do yoga when I get home 1,000 times. But the minute I hit that recliner, it's "Downton Abbey" episodes with a blanket and snacks.

I'm having to push myself in a way I've never thought necessary before. Even further outside my comfort zone than just moving away from home. There were several opportunities to attend the animal shelter volunteer training before I actually did it. I would come up with an excuse each time and say, "I'll go to the next one." Finally, the new year arrived, and I was out of excuses, so I just told myself, "you're going." This sort of thing is hard for an introvert. Meeting new people scares the you-know-what out of me. Being in unfamiliar places makes be uncomfortable. But I think I've finally realized, I truly just need to not "be me" sometimes, for the sake of personal growth. And those other activities that allow me to revert to my inner, quiet, self...become rewards for good behavior.

Writing more is another goal of mine. I've started another journal on my computer, because my handwriting is horrible, and I'm so used to typing all of the time anyhow. I've read plenty of articles that say getting all your thoughts down on paper is a very good way to release. Hopefully, blogging more will also become a regular habit in 2016. I've really slacked off in the past few years. I think I had almost 80 posts one year in the early days! My goal has always been at least once a week, but I've found one reason or another not to write. I'll fix that. Excuse me, while I go add "blog" to my list/calendar :)