December 21, 2011
There’s a pond and garden shop a couple of miles north of town that really does the whole Christmas lights thing up right. I’ve been looking forward to driving out there with Mickey and enjoying the display because I reasonably figured that viewing a quarter acre of lighted Christmas displays on a dead end street would necessitate Mickey slowing down to at least 40/45 miles per hour. (My neck is still slightly whiplashy from our Grand Christmas Lights Cruise of 2009.) Let’s take the dogs with us, I said. It’ll be fun, I said. What could go wrong, I said.
By the time Mickey whipped the minivan around a corner on two wheels past the pond shop and onto the dead-end street, I already knew that Slevin was unhappy. He was stuck in the middle of the van with Shooter and had apparently given up all hope of seeing Christmas lights. Slevin likes Christmas lights. He especially likes the dark gray ones. But the poor guy was missing everything. He was laying on the floor of the van, emitting the occasional despairing sigh. Well, we can’t have that, can we? So I asked Mickey to pull over and stop.
Mickey is nothing if not agreeable.
Once I picked up the items from the back of the van that had been thrown forward onto the dashboard by Mickey’s spirited deceleration (my purse, the smaller of the two dogs, a large bottle of liquid detergent, a floor jack, the spare tire and an old Taco Bell cup), I exchanged seats with Slevin. I strapped myself into the middle seat next to Shooter and Slevin took the front passenger seat. What could possibly go wrong?
Mickey drove down one of the nicest streets in town, Broadway, determined to find Christmas lights for our ooohhhhing and aaaahhhhing pleasure. The faint glowing blur of red, white and green that streaked past the tinted windows of the middle seat assured me that he was giving us the grand tour, but by that time I was unable to fully enjoy the ride. I was feeling slightly carsick. I can only assume that Shooter was also because he began to give olfactory evidence of severe gastrointestinal distress.
In the front seat, Mickey’s eyes began to water. “Did that dog crap in the van?”
Needless to say, we had to cut the Grand Christmas Lights Cruise of 2011 short. I breathed a sigh of relief with what little oxygen left in my lungs that hadn’t been burnt away by Shooter’s methane as we pulled into the driveway. We were home. What could go wrong?
Mickey leaped nimbly out of the driver’s side. Slevin leaped even more gracefully out after him. That left Shooter and I. There’s no way I can explain how a 60 pound dog prevented me from getting out of my own damned vehicle. You’ll just have to trust me when I say that he did prevent me. Mickey reached in to try and pull Shooter away so that I could unfasten my seat belt. Shooter slipped out of his collar. Mickey slipped him back into it. Shooter slipped out of it again. Mickey slipped him back into it. Shooter head-butted me in the nose and anointed me with one last mind-bending fart as tears streamed down my face.
God as my witness, there will be no Grand Christmas Lights Cruise of 2012.
November 28, 2011
A little over one year ago, I cried for a month. A solid month. The little puppy I’d found on the street and fostered through SPAR (Saving Pets At Risk, Shawnee, OK) had been adopted and was gone from my life. I wasn’t sure I would recover, but then a miracle occurred: His foster dad called me and asked if I’d take the puppy back. Well, duh!
I couldn’t imagine why anyone would give back a puppy as marvelous as my Shooter. Welll…one year later, I sort of understand. The little booger has eaten his way through several sets of sheets (600 thread count, mind you!), the remains of a love seat that our lab got tired of gnawing, a dozen shoes and several pairs of jeans.
He is the spawn of Satan. And I wouldn’t give him up for the world.
April 29, 2011
Voldemort’s dog would look like this:
Voldemort’s dog would snatch magic wands from altars and eat them.
Voldemort’s dog would terrorize the neighborhood cats.
Voldemort’s dog would make life hell for all other canines in the vicinity.
Voldemort’s dog would steal the Dark Lord’s blankets at night and leave his master shivering in the cold.
Voldemort’s dog would pee on the rug, no matter how well house trained it supposedly is.
Voldemort’s dog would eat every book, pillow, cellphone, remote control, sock and pair of sunglasses in the house.
Voldemort’s dog would look a lot like Shooter.
Voldemort would be helplessly in love with the Hound from Hell.
I sympathize with Voldemort.
October 30, 2010
You remember Shooter, the little pup I found on Labor Day weekend and enrolled in the SPAR (Saving Pets at Risk) program here in Shawnee, Oklahoma. I was convinced that I couldn’t afford a second dog, so I became Shooter’s foster while taking him to SPAR adoption events on the weekends until the inevitable happened and he found an adoptive parent. Perhaps you saw my Facebook posts during the subsequent weeks, or my post on this blog three weeks ago. Perhaps you already know that I cried for weeks over letting go of the little guy. In any event, my sorrow at adopting Shooter out is no secret now.
Then a funny thing happened last Thursday. I got a call from the young man who had adopted Shooter. It seems the pup was a tad too much of a handful for someone who lives in an apartment. The adoptive dad tried his best, but he had to give Shooter up. He wondered if I would take Shooter back.
We met the young man that evening after I got off of work. Shooter went wild when he saw me. I think some of the young man’s sorrow at giving Shooter up was assuaged by how happy Shooter and I were to be reunited – at least I like to think it was. “You two belong together,” he said. Then Shooter went wild when he saw Mickey and Mickey wasn’t much more composed, truth be known. Then Shooter went wild over seeing Slevin; Slevin’s reaction was rather aloof, lol.
So Shooter, a little bit bigger and a lot more wild, is back with us. He was neutered during his absence (yay!) and he smells terribly of urine (boo!) like a dog who’s been left in a kennel and had to lay in his own pee. I don’t blame his adoptive dad – what can you do with a wild pup when you have to go to work and leave him unattended? Kenneling dogs is all the rage now, it seems. It’s what dog parents are told to do (although I’ve always refused to do it) and so of course that’s what Shooter’s temp dad did. Unfortunately, it left Shooter with a bad smell and an even more undisciplined pattern of behavior.
What can I say about my happiness? There are no words. What can I say about how many kisses we’ve exchanged and how many promises I’ve made to him over the past two days that he would never, EVER leave me again, that I’ll be right here for him until the end? Again, there are no words.
SPAR is an amazing organization. Shooter’s stint as a SPAR-sponsored puppy was the reason I was introduced to so many wonderful animal lovers. Their adoption fee is only $95, which is one half or even one third of what other rescues and some local animal shelters charge. They are all about the animals and yet their kindness to me, just a human, has touched me beyond belief. Trust me, you don’t find that level of kindness to humans among a lot of animal rescue organizations. I know this for a fact. Much to my retroactive chagrin, I know it from my own behavior.
Tonight, Mickey and I sat on the back porch and watched the dogs play in the grass. Shooter was his typical wild self, doing zoomies around the yard and attacking Slevin. At one point I turned to Mickey and asked, “What could God possibly have in mind, sending us this dog?” The answer flashed on me in a heartbeat. Mickey and I simultaneously said, “It’s a test.”
It is indeed a test. If we can transform this demon of a dog into a well-behaved member of the Mills-Blood pack, then we will have passed the test.
I promise Shooter and Slevin and Mickey and myself to do my best by Shooter. And in the meanwhile, there’s no doubt that I will love him past the stars, past the sun, past the farthest reaches of the universe and back, regardless of how many Halloween tombstones and Styrofoam crows he eats.
The little hellhound sleeps between us every night. That has got to stop. But not right away. Soon. I promise.
September 30, 2010
Sometimes the rubber meets the road in a way that can’t be ignored.
The screech and the smell of rubber, and that moment of panic when you wonder if the wheel will hold or if gravity will fail and fling you out into space doesn’t have to be purely physical; it’s philosophical and emotional as well. My emotional/philosophical rubber met the asphalt in a huge way this evening. It’s up to me to decide if this burning sensation is bad (i.e. road rash) or good.
We’ve been fostering Shooter since Saturday, September 4th. That day, I was upset and worried about my son and his wife. Neither one had found work in over nine months. They were facing eviction and there I was, broke and 1700 miles away, completely helpless, unable to save the day the way the parents always manage to do in movies. Mickey, my ever-so-significant other, was far too logical for me that cloudy Saturday. I wanted to be upset. I wanted to nurse my anxiety. So I got in my van and went down a street I’ve never driven before, and there he was.
Shooter. A little pup. In the road, raising hell. I stopped and several neighbors peered over their fences to tell me that the puppy had been hanging around the neighborhood for several days. No one knew who he belonged to. No one cared. No one had even offered him a meal. So of course he came home with me.
I walked in with the little bundle of sweetness and told Mickey that I had found him. Of course Mickey was as sure as I was that the pup had to stay with us until another home could be found. I wonder if either of us would have been so sure had we been able to see into the very near future.
Shooter ate everything. He shit everywhere except for areas that he had already flooded with urine. He terrorized our wonderful lab, Slevin. He ate our underwear. He ate electrical cords. And he “yarked” non-stop. No, it wasn’t a bark; it was that annoying, sharp, constant, Beagle “yark”. Yark. Yark. Yark. Yark. Yark.
Our local Saving Pets at Risk stepped in to help me. They paid for his vetting and Shooter has been staying with us for three weeks while attending SPAR adoption events. Tonight, the call came. Someone is interested in Shooter. It’s now up to me to interview a potential forever dad for this little, maniacal pup.
I’ll interview the young man, of course. And if it’s a case of love at first sight when I take Shooter to meet him, of course I will let Shooter go. But if the amount of tears I’ve shed this evening over this little terror of a spotted pup is any indication, if this potential adopter doesn’t work out Shooter will have to stay with me.
I love him. I adore him. He’s a terrible little shit. He’s a wild man. But I love him past the moon and stars.
The adoption fee is only $95. Looking at my teary face tonight, Mickey assured me that we’d find a way to come up with that fee if I really can’t part with the little guy.
And I don’t think I can. Really, I don’t.
Shooter Blood-Mills. Wild man. Hell on wheels. My angel.
July 30, 2010
I was an ugly, uncivil and melancholy child of twelve when I first experienced the Puppy Cure. My parents, no doubt at a loss, no doubt wondering what in the hell they could do to ease my loneliness and sorrow, bought me a cockapoo puppy. We’d had family dogs before, but Bennie was mine and he saved me in ways that would seem ridiculous to try and explain across the span of four intervening decades. But I know what the love of that little dog did for me and I’ve experienced it with other of my dogs since. The Puppy Cure – if we could only bottle and sell it in place of Paxil or Ritalin.
Today was a wretched day. It was another low point in a battle with personal demons that’s drained too much of my energy for the past month. Jealousy, pain, indignation, all of those unpleasant things hit me full force again today and I began that little struggle I sometimes have with myself: I’m a witch. I don’t have to sit here and take this. I came home on a mission. I would never consider cursing or hexing anyone, not because I’m such a “good” person, but because I respect the power of three. Any evil that I do will come back to me times three. It’s a powerful deterrent to some of my most passionate impulses. My mission tonight was to open a circle and cast a spell to thrust the heartache that’s been caused to me right back on its source. The unfair and unenlightened judgments they’ve formed, the cruel little games they play all the while playing up the Bambi eyes and a “who me?” expression worthy of the most saccharin of Disney princesses – I was going to send those nasty things right back to them with a little extra “umph”. Let’s see if they handle it any better than I.
But first things first, of course. I had to wait until dusk and I had Facebook updates to attend to. One of those posts was from my friends at Rescue Ink. I’ll post the link to the video below, but suffice it to say that a mini-documentary of a troubled man who had to put his faithful old dog to sleep had me weeping. “Weeping” sounds too gentle, actually. I was devastated. I’ve been there. I’ve held that noble head while life slipped away. I’ve kissed those velvet ears as they grew cold. In short, I was a mess as a result of this video.
Leaning on my desk, sobbing like I sometimes do when the pain of all those – human and non – who’ve slipped away from me becomes too much, I felt a nudge on my elbow. It was Slevin, of course. His big ol’ goofy face was wrinkled with concern. His eyes were like – well, if you’ve ever had a dog for your best friend, you know what I mean. He had that look your best friend gets when they know you’re in pain but have no clue how to help. His table-cleaning tail wagged slowly and he reached up and kissed me. Slevin isn’t much into giving kisses, so this was special.
And ah, the Puppy Cure once again! Whether it was the dog and the man in the video, or whether it was my own personal best friend doesn’t matter. How can we harbor resentment or anger in the face of all that unconditional love?
I’m still going to open a circle and I’m still going to do some ritual magic. But I’ll say a prayer of love for those who’ve hurt me and I’ll send my forgiveness out to them. It will be a begrudging prayer, don’t get me wrong. I lay no claim to Christian forgiveness and turning the other cheek. I’m a wronged person who’s angry and hurt, but I’m also a better person because of the animals in my life. I’ll pray extra hard that the person who’s toying with me has a pair of medicinal canine eyes looking up at them, opening their heart, when it seems like all the world is crashing down. They, like me, will understand that it’s not the world we hear crashing to the ground – it’s our prejudices, our pride and our pain. Gone with the lick of a tongue. Gone with the wag of a tail.
March 25, 2010
They came at me from out of nowhere, growling madly and gnashing their thin, needle-like teeth. Alone, they could be dangerous; in a pack, they were terrifying.
I climbed onto a near-by patio chair, but it wasn’t high enough to escape them. They clamored for me, their cries and yips and snarls echoing in the semi-enclosed space. One lunged for my leg as I sprang from the chair into the tall planter that formed a half-wall on the south side. It got my sock and I screamed as I tried to shake the creature off. I succeeded in losing my shoe, flinging it against the north side of the patio with a thud, but the berserker held onto my cotton anklet with a deathlike grip.
The pack was going wild. The group below encouraged and maddened the one that held me captive; their bulging, insane eyes insisted on bloodshed. They would show no mercy.
I tried to scream, but no sound would come. The best I could manage was a dry, shrill exhalation as I swatted at the beast on my leg with my bag. “Help me,” I gasped into the indifferent cool of the morning.
The screen door opened. Mrs. Goldman stepped out onto the patio and into the mayhem. The pack spun away from me and swirled around Mrs. Goldman’s thin legs, still snarling and whining. She ignored them. The old woman walked towards me and, grasping the beast in her mottled hands, rescued me from its clenched jaws.
Bringing the creature to her face, she pursed her crinkly lips and kissed the ball of its round head. “You are such a naughty boy, Nacho,” she admonished. She looked around at the rest of the pack. “You are all very naughty. Get in the house, Pedro. You too, Peanut. Vincent, you heard me – get in the house.”
The pack clicked its way through the open door, disappearing into the darkness beyond. Mrs. Goldman stared at me. “You stepped on my aloe vera,” she pointed out.
Still shaking, I climbed down from the planter. I stood there a moment, trying to catch my breath. When I could finally speak I said, “You have to do something about those animals, Mrs. Goldman.”
She waved her hand dismissively. “Do you have my mail or not?”
I reached into my bag and handed her a small bundle of letters. “Mrs. Goldman, I’m serious.”
She turned her curved back to me and shuffled towards the door. “They’re Chihuahuas, young man. Deal with it.”
November 11, 2009
Sometimes he worries about the woman. Not in a physical sense; he knows the strength in her long limbs and her pony-engine heart. He can smell the health in her skin when she works outside and hugs him, and her sweat is as sweet as the soil she likes to dig in. He can smell the richness of her hair, the shiny scent of someone who’ll live to be an old, old woman. But, still, he sometimes worries about her. He worries about her joy.
He waits for her every weekday. The squeal of the school bus arouses his knowledge that she’ll be home soon. He stands by the window and waits, not daring to let his exuberance show because maybe, just maybe, she’ll be late today. Then the blue van pulls into the yard.
Is it her? Is it her? He breathes so hard against the glass that on winter days it’s hard to see out. Is it her? Yes! She climbs out of the van and walks up to the porch. Why does it take so long to unlock the door? Sometimes she talks to him through the window as she fumbles with the key. When she finally comes inside, his joy is unrestrained.
You’re home, you’re home, I thought you’d never get here! Where’s Pink Ball? Where’s Squeaky Tiger? Where’s something I can bring to show how ready I am to play?
He finds one toy, two toys, as many toys as he can, bringing them to her in huge bounds of glee, dropping them at her feet before dashing away for another. He knows she finds joy in those moments. She shimmers when she’s happy; her joyful moments sparkle the air around her as if she was hung with Christmas tinsel.
They go outside together and she throws the ball for him. His heart pounds so hard that he wonders why it doesn’t burst during those agonizing seconds when the ball clings to the air and refuses to come down. Exquisite anticipation! Will it come down? Will it ever come down? Not everything comes down. Sadly, predictably, the woman throws like a girl. Chewy Rope never came down. She threw it, and it folded itself neatly over one of the wires that bisect the sky above his yard and refuses to come down no matter how much he barks. It remains tantalizingly out of reach, bent over that wire so high up and regarding him daily with its smug, frayed expression.
Sometimes she has errands to run after work and then – oh bliss! – they climb back into the van together. How can she not find the joy in that? The new sights, the new smells, the scent of roasted chicken when they drive past a certain market, the faint bark of an unknown dog unseen behind a mysterious fence. Did you see that? Did you smell that?
Most of the time she doesn’t seem to notice these miracles. Most of the time she keeps her eyes on the road and reaches over to acknowledge his happiness with an occasional caress. He likes to steal a kiss from her when the van rolls to a stop in traffic. There’s so much joy in that. Even the drivers of the cars beside them feel it. He can see them smiling and laughing along with him.
Some nights when it’s late and quiet, she sits very still in their favorite chair. She doesn’t offer to help him climb onto her lap for rock-a-baby. The woman stares at nothing and he senses that she’s only peripherally aware of him as he pads around the house, looking for something to distract her from her melancholy.
On bad nights, he hears her crying. From his post on the back deck where he guards the evening hours and sometimes watches to see if this evening Chewy Rope will tire of the game and finally fall to earth, he hears the woman crying. He finds her on the bed and his heart aches for her sadness. He knows she’s lonely, but he can’t help that. He can’t do anything about the space beside her that should be filled with one of her own kind.
He climbs up beside her. Her arms go around his sturdy body and he can hear the huge weight of her affection for him as she whispers his name. Her tears taste like the ocean and his kisses sometimes assuage the sadness that’s grown in her. Often there’s a battle when she smiles while the tears continue to wet her face – a congestion of emotion, an intersection of giggles and snuffles.
Although he doesn’t like to sleep on the bed (“You’re not a cuddler”, the woman always explains to him, as if he wasn’t already aware of it.), he stays with her when she’s sad like this. He puts his nose under her hand and lays his head down with a sigh. Maybe if he’s the very best dog he can be, she’ll fall asleep soon. Maybe she’ll sleep tonight without the cries that sometimes disturb her sleep and his.
There’s heartbreak in this moment, but there’s joy too. Surely she senses it. He does his best, he does his job; it’s all very simple to him.
There’s joy in his purpose. There’s joy in his immense heart.