As long as you have a dog

Julie and Elle in our Nissan Frontier, summer of 2017 as we headed west. Destination: USCA Nationals in Dubuque, IA then Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado.
Bella and Julie at our local dog park.

Life is good as long as you have a dog.

A pup brings a furry friend for virtually every moment of her life. She lives to be near you (albeit closer to her next meal, of course). I get that.

Their brown or darker eyes tell the stories of every moment you have spent together, then remember only the ones in which the day was grand. Because to them, they all are grand!

I’ve heard it said that the problem with having a dog is that they don’t live long enough. Oh so true I have come to understand this to be.

Before you know it she limps or lists through her day, still smiling deeply into your eyes as if everything is still going to be o.k. If only, my pet.

Elle dragged through her last moments of life, trying to tell me that she loved me more as I stroked her thick fuzzy coat. Are you sure?

I still miss her you know. She was my first dog and fulfillment of a lifelong desire to have a companion like her. Oh the places we have gone together!

My husband and I had our special ways of relating to our Elle; she responded in kind. I loved that.

Sitting on the floor in front of the sink each night, she knew to lie beside me for her goodnight snuggles, belly rubs, and treat. Yes, I do remember.

My worst memory was our last: her bony butt walking away like a lamb to the slaughter at Animal Control, the day that was to be her last. No fanfare there at the loading dock with a vet tech there more to do her duty than comfort our weeping hearts for our Elle, our Currrrrr.

We cried sitting there in the parking area, for as long as we needed. She was gone. There was just so much pain in saying goodbye after 13 years of living together, us three.

You loved us well and were such a good puppers, our friend. You gave the best kind of love: selfless and sweet. How could we go on without you? You were so more than just a dog.

Time went on and the hole in our hearts got less sore. We discovered that we just needed one more like you, oh canine gift from above, to fill our empty nest with more love.

It took a failed adoption (aka foster), checking dozens of pet rescues, the viewing of hundreds of profiles, and two near-misses to find the next member of our family. Her name is Isabella, whom we shall now call Bella, and she is beautiful.

A month has gone by and we are slowly becoming a new pack as puppy power gives way to awesome wonder. Who is this nearly 2 year old beast who runs like the wind and leaps like a deer?

I am looking forward to our adventures to come, even if it be just to the local dog park in our changing times where travel isn’t quite the same anymore.

Each day brings a new surprise with you tender beast: so strong, so fast, so smart, so loyal as we have discovered in such a short time together.

Bella Bean you rock! It’s time to go!

That’s all she needs to know . . . as we three are off and running once again!

JJ

The Dog that Will Be

We may never really know the dog that our sweet Luna will be

For this pup lover appears to have severe allergies revealed from she.

Elle left us and shockingly I got better on many fronts

Then I cleaned and purged, only to backslide when I shouldn’t.

The German shepherd sheds like mad. Luna’s fur is stunning and long

But when she came to us so did a return of symptoms; it’s all just so wrong!

The allergy testing suggested my love for dogs was safe

But this is not the case at all suggesting years of medical pursuits largely a waste.

We have endured much in our 2 weeks together already dear puppers

How can we part when you have barely begun to trust us with belly rubs, your suppers.

It’s more than simple allergies when it’s neurological relapsing too

After nearly 3 weeks of reprieve only to backslide just too soon for it not to be true.

Some tough decisions are ahead for each of us, our 2 year old friend

Please forgive us if we must send you forth to another GSD lover in the end.

We are heartbroken. JJ

The 10-Minute Luna Eclipse

If the name Luna also means moon and if yesterday was a full moon then it stands to reason that the squirreliest things would happen as we tried to rescue a German shepherd dog. Or does it? Here’s her story.

We have come to understand that there are some missing puzzle pieces to the story of this 2 year-old German shepherd named Luna. I found her on a pet rescue website and showed her to my husband, Steve. “There’s something in her eyes,” he noted and we both agreed with the ad that she is probably a “sweet dog.” But how could we know for sure? Our meeting of the owners in the parking lot of a frozen yogurt shop a 2-hour drive away from our home was largely uneventful. And cold! Luna was skiddish to meet us and the ad had already said this would be the case. D. and his wife just didn’t say much beyond the fact that she ate Pedigree dog food and sheepishly mentioned having taken her to a vet. But why wasn’t she chipped, registered, neutered, or vaccinated? All they said was that Luna was given to them around the same time as their AKC-registered GSD Lucian, a larger, black male. The pair both were described on the rescue site as “sweet dogs.”

The owners lived in the country until the landlord of their rental property had sold the house they were renting. Forced to move, the young family of five sought a new home in the city nearby that would accept their dogs. The new landlord said o.k. until his wife discovered that their insurance company considered GSDs an aggressive breed and instructed them to get rid of their dogs. This is all of the information we had until our meet-up. Then D explained before they left that “Luna just started her heat cycle.” He had told us earlier that she already had 1 litter of puppies when Luna and Lucian got together despite their best efforts to have their kids help to keep them separated. What would all of this mean for us? Steve and I would soon find out! We gave the couple our thank you gift of big chocolaty cranberry pecan cookies and parted ways with our FREE DOG . . .

Luna was shaking as she crouched down on the floor in the back seat of the truck cab. She accepted us touching her but also just stared at us. At times her nose was pressed into the door as far away from us as she could go. This is quite an accomplishment for a nearly 70-pound dog! She walked around the parking lot with us when we stopped at a pharmacy to use the rest room, albeit looking scared and hesitating to heel next to either of us. Back into the truck we all settled for the 2-hour drive home as the sun was sinking behind us. Steve and I made a plan for our first steps when we arrived home and had already prepared some things for her first night with us. What happened next was rather shocking!

Luna at her former home the morning before we met her.

Steve attempted to coax Luna out of the truck as she stared at him from the opposite side of the floor board. Once outside, she pulled this way and that on the leash then in a continued catty-wampas fashion, followed him into the darkness of the backyard. She did go to the bathroom once. Meanwhile, I cleaned up the vomit off the floor of the truck! Luna was very anxious so I offered to take her for a short walk to burn off some energy. Mistake! She pulled on her leash as I turned to face the driveway from the lawn where we were standing so I turned her in a circle to get control of the lead. By the time I had completed the circle, I lifted up the leash to shorten the slack only to find her collar dangling at the end of it . . . without Luna! She had slipped out of a snug collar without pulling on it at all! Like a bat outta hell she raced into the night and around the backside of the house. Steve tried to follow her but lost sight of her immediately in the moonlight. It all happened so fast! I headed towards the opposite side of the house in time to greet Luna racing towards me. She quickly turned around and zoomed back behind the house. Neither of us saw her after that moment. She was gone.

In just 10 minutes and before we could even get her into the house, Luna had escaped! First Steve then I slowly searched around outside in our backyard to no avail. She was hell-bent on getting away and sadly, succeeded. Where was she going to go? We live about 130 miles from her former home. More importantly, what were we going to do to try to find her? We looked at each other in shock as we continued to unload the truck from our day trip to get our supposedly “sweet dog.” We were only with her for just over 2 hours and now she was a LOST DOG. But why wasn’t she chipped, registered, neutered, or vaccinated? And how in the world do you go about finding a dog without any identification whatsoever?

Answer: you tap into social media, call the county sheriff and animal control, call the non-emergency number for the adjacent town, and start praying! We learned a lot right at the beginning from the Lost Dogs of Fort Wayne group on Facebook. We made public posts on our Facebook accounts and our local Next Door app. Then within hours the seemingly ill-fated post came through on Facebook: a young gal had driven by the scene of an accident in which a German shepherd dog was hit by a black sedan. She reported that the driver had stopped and was outside of her car with the dog; the dog was lying down then sat upright holding a front paw up in front of her. Our hero called her Mom, Lindsay, right away to check any “Lost Dog” posts on social media who in turn sent her daughter our picture of Luna. Yes, she said the GSD looked like Luna!

Immediately I contacted the authorities noted above and no one had a report of the accident yet. Within another hour I received a call from an officer who was covering for the officer who responded to the “crash” scene. The 2nd sheriff said that the dog had run off into the darkness once again. He didn’t specify into which direction she went. We later figured out that Luna was heading west and south, in exactly the direction of her former home. She had run 3 miles in that first hour before attempting to cross a 5-lane highway and got hit. Steve was already out looking for her but was unsuccessful. So was Dv, a family friend who felt a burden to find our new dog. Dv’s two kids had become friends with our former pup, Elle, and were heartbroken when we had to put her down very recently. To be honest, we were still missing her terribly as well. We love dogs! By midnight we were asking ourselves, “what have we done now? We should have known that a 2 year-old dog of the very loyal German shepherd breed could be difficult to separate from- and be relocated to another family. But what were we to do when that family passed her off to us when Luna was in heat? On the night of a full moon our GSD was a definite flight risk! Oh Luna, what is going to happen to you?

There was nothing more we could do until daylight returned. Steve came home and went off to bed while I tried to answer questions about Luna online and continue to spread the word on social media. Many folks were praying as we were too. Luna was alone and scared out in what would become a low temperature of 9 degrees by daybreak. What were the chances that our pup was going to make it? To her favor, Luna reportedly loved to be outside and evidently spent a lot of time outdoors. Perhaps she would bed down somewhere along the road in a place where we could find her the next day? What I didn’t realize until later is that there would be other people looking for her as well. There are a lot of dog lovers out there who jump into action when they find out about a lost dog. One gal in our neighborhood. Two gals in the Lost Dogs group. Our friend Dv. As soon as I got up that Sunday morning, I prepared myself to search for her myself wherever the Lord may lead me. Please Lord, which way did she go?

I decided to head to the wide open spaces of the county fairgrounds first, just west of where she was last spotted. Just as I started wolfing down some food before heading out the door, the doorbell rang. It was about 10:00 a.m. There was a county sheriff’s car in our driveway and a sheriff at the door. Oh no. What does this mean, I wondered? “We found your dog!” the officer reported. He then asked me for more identifying information as the facts seemed to line up that the GSD they found trapped in a fence about 3/4 mile from our home was indeed Luna. SHE WAS ALIVE!!! The officer expected me to jump into the squad car with him immediately but I needed to get dressed for the cold. He didn’t seem to understand this nor that my husband wasn’t home at the time and that I wasn’t feeling well. Then he said that he was the captain of the shift and called over to direct the Animal Control Officer holding Luna to bring her over to us from the scene where she had been located. Luna was discovered by someone who had seen her wedged into a fence when driving by along the same highway, albeit 2 miles north, as the night before. We are so grateful to both parties, last night and this morning, who had contacted the sheriff’s office to report these two sightings of Luna. The police got involved only because there was damage to the car that had hit her; the driver has called the police, to file a report. That report helped further link us to our anonymous, evasive, elusive, scared, and now injured GSD.

Dollar signs floated through my head much of Saturday night into Sunday. Steve even more so. This was all looking a little crazy for a FREE DOG from a RESCUE WEBSITE! By now every possible authority had our contact information and our willingness to help out the driver of the damaged vehicle as well, if needed. “The officer will call you,” said another dispatcher, if the driver needed anything more from us. Soon back at home, another squad car rolled into the courtyard in front of our home and opened the back hatch. I peered inside to find one extremely frightened Luna pup. Awwww. Oh you dear dog. “How are you puppers?” I said to the blank stare of her big brown eyes. The very young, weekend Animal Control Officer slowly coaxed Luna to come out. Luna jumped down about 2 1/2 feet without a whimper from her injuries. But when she started to walk she was limping. No blood or wounds were visible (until later after her bath) but that left back hind quarter looked exceedingly painful. “She just wanted to get warm” explained the AC officer at the scene. They didn’t have to convince her to get into the squad car and out of the freezing temperatures; “she just wants to get warm” he said again as Luna headed directly for the house. Did you catch that? She was heading directly for a house in which she had never been inside. Our house was now the refuge she was seeking. I was so very glad.

We went into the laundry room by way of the garage. I made sure to close the garage door behind us as the Officer continued walking through to the front door to leave. “God bless you!” was the most of what I could say, still emerging from more shock from the morning’s developments. Steve and I had no idea that we would ever see Luna again! Steve came home from church early and soon went off to Petsmart to purchase a proper harness for use outside. (A snout harness is on order per the recommendation of Misfit Shepherds rescue. We already had a clean and stronger leash to use.) By the afternoon Luna had gingerly agreed to a bath to check for wounds and diminish the dirt and scent of a cheap date, not to mention heavy pheromones as her heat cycle continued.

Our home wreaked of more noxious odors for the rest of the day than I could have ever tolerated in the past. Thank the Lord that for some reason I have been having fewer convulsive episodes the over the past 2 weeks! But by Sunday night I was pretty loopy and having a couple of tic attacks, albeit nothing like what I have experienced for a decade before this January. It’s pretty amazing that this change would emerge as 1) Elle passed away earlier this month and 2) I had increased a new supplement of a type that my Doctor prescribed for brain and joint health but struggled to tolerate in the past. (By the way, the new Omega 3 supp is made from the same kind of plants that I have grown in our garden!) I was able to help Steve care for Luna this past weekend and even take the road trip yesterday to go meet her, bring her home. For all of this I am amazed, exceedingly grateful. Praise the Lord!

So to our beautiful-perhaps-still-scared and precious Luna, we are beginning a new journey together. Tomorrow, Lord willing, Steve and I will take you to meet your new Vet who will get you fixed up properly and evaluate your wounds from your accident. The emergency vet hospital staff didn’t think that you broke any bones but we do think your tender spirit was damaged a bit by your unfortunate escapade. Maybe this first crazy night under a full moon will serve to bond us all together a little more? We are here to love you and care for you, our sweet fuzzy girl. More fun adventures than you can ever imagine await you if you but give us a chance. We will be patient. I already love you so.

The spot where Luna decided to camp out her first night with us. That’s an ice pack on her hip.

Zero to 60 and the UPS Driver

She lifted her head and barked out that ferocious alarm that let anyone who came near, especially those in brown UPS trucks, not to mess with her or her people within. And within two hours, she was gone.

The ad on Craig’s List was for a free German shepherd dog. My husband said that German shepherds were a great breed for a pet dog but I was a little skeptical. Maybe afraid is a better word. I had witnessed the torture of a German shepherd and was further traumatized by the behavior of one in heat when I was still a kid. Flash forward to bites by a Rottweiler and an Akita as an adult, the latter sending me to the Emergency Room for a tetanus shot, and you could say I wasn’t a big fan of big dogs. I still always loved dogs. The gerbils that me and my brothers had as kids didn’t satisfy my longing for a real furry friend. That’s all you get when your Mom is a single parent and I do understand. Flash forward over 4 decades and off to a town an hour’s drive south of us Steve and I went to pick up Elle. What a great decision!

Elle was timid and small, tied to a tree when we arrived to the address out in the country. “Are you sure she is going to be o.k.?” I asked Steve as the owner pointed to her and simply said, “Take her.” “She’ll be fine,” reassured Steve and he was right. Within about the first 20 minutes of the drive home, the approximately 5-month old German shepherd puppy went from scared to picking her head up and exploring the new life ahead of her. The first few days are a blur to me now. She was born outside so gratefully we never had to house-train her. What a bonus! We got her checked out then spayed according to the guidance of our new Vet. I remember fondly cuddling Elle’s neck in her slumbered state from the pain medication after the procedure. That posture of her tucking her head down to receive my affection close-in would be our special thingy throughout her life. What a special bond we had!

A couple of moments stand out to me the most over the course of the next 13 years or so. The first was when we learned a little more about who our dog really was. Steve and I were hiking at a local Acres Land Trust park when he decided to let Elle off her leash for a bit. Before long Elle was racing from point to point between us along the trail, leaping over downed logs and sliding many feet in the leaves covering the path as she zoomed one way then back the other. If you’ve ever heard of large canines getting a case of the ZOOMIES then this is exactly what happened. We laughed so hard! It might have been on this same outing that we learned something unique about German shepherds. We were walking along the trail when a couple of deer crossed our paths, up along a ridge about 100 feet ahead of us. As soon as Elle saw them, her pace slowed as she put herself between us facing the “threat.” Well we didn’t know that the deer were a threat but to Elle they must have been so! We stopped in amazement to watch both the deer scamper away and our dog keep a close eye on them until they were out of sight. Some very detailed sniffs followed by our fuzzy protector when we got up to the line where the deer had crossed our path. Good dog!

There was the time when we tried to get Elle to ride in our Hobie Oasis kayak to no avail. She preferred swimming in the water, any water, alongside our outrigger canoe and especially when there was a tennis ball to chase from the ball chucker! Retrieving the ball launched to the end of our property was her favorite thing, over and over and over again! Or maybe it was chasing after the radio-controlled car or airplane? She raced around the courtyard in front of our home, hoping to get a bite of the rubber tires of the RC car Steve had bought to enjoy with his son, Daniel. The trick was to grab the car before Elle pounced on it as if it was some kind of live prey to be devoured! Noooooo! The same was true with the RC airplane my husband expertly flew in the open and pond areas behind our home. Even though the plane was at least 50 feet up in the air, Elle ran and ran and ran after it, nearly crushing it when the battery wore out and the foam glider touched down for a landing. The race was on to see who could get to it first with our Pup racing in for the kill on the grass strip of our backyard! As Elle got older, her chasing of the plane was interrupted by stopping to take a dump or a swim, or a sniff, or otherwise rest, before charging off again with her nose in the air tracking the plane. We loved every minute of it and so did she!

Then there were the tragic days that I spent battling my serious illness while Elle slept softly on the floor across from the bed, in front of the tub in the Master bathroom. She wasn’t what you would call an affectionate dog yet one who would definitely seek out hefty scratches around the ears when we came home. When one of us came home from an errand or work, the other would send Elle out to the car to be the first greeting. She learned quickly not to jump up, instead how to nuzzle her way past the open car door to the driver’s seat to welcome either of us home. I loved that. But it was a different story when I was sick in bed. Was she just watching and waiting to make sure I was o.k.? Or frightened by the screams of pain and seizing that erupted virtually every single night as I writhed in the bed in front of her?

For years the convulsive episodes met me every morning for about 30 minutes as I awakened. I had to lie in bed like a victim succumbing to a beating before I became functional enough to attempt to use the bathroom. One particular day, early in the afternoon, I simply could not get out of bed. My head pounded from the daily headache, body hurt so badly, ears were ringing, and I simply could not think straight enough to get things to be any different. Trying to drink some water or even the breakfast that I had prepared and placed bedside the night before was beyond my ability to accomplish. Those times were especially sorrowful. So I called over to Elle. She seemed very confused when I invited her up onto the bed, next to me. She wasn’t allowed on the bed nor on any furniture. “What is this?” she must have wondered. It took a few tries and some coaxing at a time when she clearly was able to jump up into the back of a truck and onto most furniture. I guided her to lie down next to me and there we stayed for a long time. Her warmth comforted me in a way that nothing else could possibly have come close. I needed my Puppers and she was there for me.

As the years went by, Steve and I got to take our Elle along as we traveled to many different places. She’s was an excellent traveler and went west with us a few years back, to many United States Canoe Association events to cheer Steve at his paddling races, and to Florida about ten times. She just hunkered down behind the passenger seat and off we went on one adventure or another. She never had an accident unless very sick. Her loyalty to us, to the way things should be, to her role as protector, a lover of most kids (unless you were a rascally boy big or small) was precious. She was my Elle-Beast, Puppers, Pups, and Elle: all names to which she would respond as quickly as Steve’s clap of his hands. He was her Alpha dog; she did put up with me and was obedient most of the time with a little extra encouragment . . . And treats of course!

I really wouldn’t have had it any other way. At least today. Today I’ll say that she was a perfect dog, a perfect pet. They all are after they are gone. So go squeeze your furry friend for me today, Gentle Reader. I’m sure I would love your pet as much as our Elle. It’s just the way it should be. Unless you are a UPS driver, of course! Then y’all better watch out! JJ

My garden buddy

Earlier Today

The salesman said that the service guy dropped the bed liner in earlier today (yesterday).  I noted that the General Manager said that they could drop in a bed liner in the truck for me for the same selling price.  There are 2 problems with this:  1)  I had just gotten off the phone with the GM about an hour ago and 2)  the bed liner the salesman was showing me was DIRTY!  There would not have been enough time to install it and it should be at least as clean as the truck in time for my test drive, right?  The salesman said that they often had old bed liners left lying around.  And since I wasn’t born yesterday, I didn’t believe him.  I took a test drive to Steve’s workplace for him and me to have a little fun with it, accepted the man’s business card, and parted ways.  It wasn’t even the year of vehicle for which I had asked and the cheap air freshener smell had given me a headache!

We are not sure if we are in the market for a new truck or not.  The added expense comes at a time of a few life transitions, the biggest one being the visit and possible moving in of my Aunt Lori very soon.  Transporting her across the country in our Nissan Frontier, towing a travel trailer, has challenged several logistical parameters even our  German shepherd pup traveled in a kennel in the bed of the vehicle.  (The cage is on order, just in case!)  Renting a full-sized truck proved to be extraordinarily expensive and it’s a bit late to arrange airline tickets.  The latter involved staging a car at a local airport, a fair amount of expense that would come from the purchase of two air fares (since she is unable to travel alone), and my hubby returning from Florida separately with the pup and Camplite.  Doable, yes, however not so easy to implement when my Aunt couldn’t decide what she wanted to do about any of her affairs.

And so we are making decisions based upon prayer, speculation, clinical judgement from my experience as an occupational therapist, delay/disinterest from my Aunt’s adult children to act on their Mom’s behalf, already considerable costs-to-date, and reading between the lines of communication with extended family at a distance.  Sadly her health continues to fail, that is for sure.  We will be in her home State soon for my next medical appointment so it made sense to begin her trial visit with us with our return trip home.  I have been very stressed attending to all of the details of this process.

Regardless, plans are still coming together except for one big one:  deciding if our Nissan Frontier King Cab 4×4 SV is adequate to make the trip.  Can we tow a larger travel trailer that is just within the specs of our tow vehicle even with the new Anderson load bearing hitch?  Can I survive in a jump seat of a King cab for a cross-country trip, modified with pillows and a step stool?  Will Elle survive alright in the 90+ degree heat in a kennel in the open air, if shaded from the sun?  I have my concerns for her!  She was born and lived as an “outsider dog” before we got her 10 years ago.  A lot has transpired since then, including her becoming a lovely house pet and indoor companion for me!  Sorry pup!

dog in truck, jump seat, German shepherd, woman and dog, travelling, Nissan Frontier, pet dog

The expense of a larger truck is considerable.  Stay tuned.  I do like the 2017 Ford F150 Super Crew 4WD . . . but I won’t be visiting salesman Jim anytime soon!  Ugh.  Next!  JJ

UPDATE 6.29.18:  No new truck at least for now!  We considered last minute airline tickets for me and my Aunt and staging a vehicle at the airport to get us home from there.  But it is time for us to come together as a family for this 3-week visit and it was my hubby who decided the best way to do that was a road trip together.  Low and behold with one day to spare, a full-sized rental truck with towing capacity became available in our city.  IT IS EXPENSIVE yet the right thing to do.  For now anyways.  :J