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The Aftermath

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I’m worried about Adriana. My independent little soul is depressed. Bee’s attack shook her up pretty bad. It’s breaking my heart to see her so down. She won’t play at all, particularly with Bee. Every time Bee tries playing, Ade hunkers under whatever is closest. Last night, tired of watching her pout, we took her to Dairy Queen for a pup cup, then for a slow stroll where I let her sniff whatever she wanted. I’m really, really trying to stay mindful of my behavior at home and act like nothing has changed. I don’t want Adriana to suffer long-term fears over Bee’s attack. I also don’t want her being afraid in her own house, which makes me wonder if Bee should continue living at the Farnival. Am I risking my animal’s safety by letting Bee stay here?

But what about Bee? She has nowhere to go. I spent a long time on the phone yesterday. First I talked to ICHBA’s head honcho Donna. Donna and I both agreed that euthanizing her has to be on the table. Donna said, “How can we adopt her out knowing about this?” And she’s right. Then, I talked to Bee’s first foster mom Miss Judy. Miss Judy said Bee had several aggressive incidents when she stayed at her house. The worst was when Bee attacked her other foster dog Duke. Unlike Ade, Duke has backbone, and it turned into a brawl. Judy is a small woman, about five-feet tall. She wasn’t strong enough to break up the fighting dogs. She had no option besides helplessly standing by and letting them go at it. Luckily, Duke outweighs Bee by at least twenty pounds, and he pinned her down. Judy also thinks euthanizing Bee is a responsible decision. Judy kept repeating, “Melissa, we can’t save them all.”

But then, I look at Bee, and I can’t even imagine going through with it. 99% of the time she’s just a high-energy dog, which means 1% equals a death sentence? Is euthanizing her the only responsible decision? I’m really struggling with this one. What happened to the good old days, when my biggest problem was Shady Shae pooping on the couch? Sometimes this dog rescue business straight-up sucks.

Let’s Talk About Aggressive Dogs and E-collars

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We finally broke down and put an e-collar aka shock collar on Bee last night. We’ve witnessed aggressive behavior on several occasions, but we were easily able to correct her. Her outburst yesterday was way over the top. Frankly, yesterday’s behavior qualifies her as a borderline red zone dog because it was dangerous.

Mason and I were sitting on the deck, enjoying the pleasant temperatures of a late summer evening. As usual, Meadow, Adriana, and Bee were throwing down in the mosh pit. Occasionally, we’d glance at the dogs playing, but mostly we were enjoying the sounds of the numerous birds chattering back and forth, the cicada’s underlying buzz.

Adriana’s frightened screeching broke through our peaceful evening like a car alarm. From my chair, I saw Bee on top of Ade. I don’t know what started it, but Bee clamped onto her neck and whipped Ade’s head back and forth. Our deck sits at the top of the yard, about fourteen feet off the ground. Bee and Ade were fifty yards away. It took Mason fifteen seconds to get off the deck and down to the yard. The whole time Ade’s screaming got louder and louder. Those fifteen seconds felt like a hundred years, every second ticking like a decade.

Finally, he grabbed Bee, wrenched her off Ade. Adriana bolted for the rusting swing set, taking cover under the sliding board. The second Mason released Bee, she shot at Ade, clenched onto her ruff and shook her like a ragdoll. Some trigger had gone off in Bee and she wasn’t stopping until she inflicted pain. Bee outweighs Ade by twenty pounds. And Ade isn’t a fighter. She assumed the same submissive pose wolves have assumed for hundreds of years, crouching down on her back. But Bee wouldn’t stop. Ade’s weakness only infuriated her. She just kept attacking.

By the time Mason got Ade in his arms, I was in the yard, my sight zeroed on Bee, who circled Mason and Ade. I tried grabbing her, but Bee is way faster and easily skirted my reach. Even with Ade in Mason’s arms, Bee wasn’t done. The moment she lunged at Ade, I got a hold of her and threw her down, pinning her against the ground. I’m not a strong woman, but adrenaline is like a power surge, and someone was hurting my girl. Bee instantly submitted.

As soon as we got everybody inside and calmed down, Mason dusted off the e- collar and strapped it on Bee. I’m thrilled to report that Ade is fine. Her neck was pretty bloody last night, but the wound isn’t nearly as bad as it initially looked. She’s been avoiding Bee, but who could blame her? As far as Bee is concerned, I’m worried about her future. Who is going to want a dog with that kind of trigger? Who is going to be responsible enough to handle a dog like her? Ninety percent of rescue agencies in the United States won’t accept a dog with aggression issues. In the worst cases, euthanizing them is the only option.

I’m trying to remain hopeful about the e-collar. I keep thinking about Todd Langston’s advice. He says e-collars can produce amazing results, even with the toughest dogs. Let’s hope he’s right because I don’t even want to think about the alternative.

Thank you, Meadow.

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Last week we took Meadow and Dawn to the Springfield library to visit a group of three to five year-old children gathered for story time. When we got there the focus became less about a character called Penny the Pig and more about fist bumping Meadow. After the ten plus children got their chance to high five Meadow, they started heading back inside for more popcorn. Kids’ attention spans are about as long as firing firecrackers.

But one little girl named Ana didn’t want to leave. She had shiny hair, pink shorts, and a dimpled smile. At one point, I handed her Meadow’s leash, and you’d have thought I pulled a star from the sky. She lit up. Ana had come to the library with her grandmother, who stood off to the side, quietly taking pictures. The older woman never stopped smiling.

Ana wouldn’t let Meadow kiss her, but she turned away from her licks with such an enthusiastic giggle it tempted Meadow to keep trying. After running up and down the sidewalk with Meadow by her side wasn’t enough, Ana asked me if she could walk Meadow and Dawn. She was a bold little girl, but she had a few problems managing both leashes. She finally conceded that as a beginning dog walker she should probably only handle one at a time.

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When we said our goodbyes, Ana’s smile disappeared. Her eyes widened. I swear a shadow moved over our heads. My heart melted right then and there. I asked her if she would mind helping me walk Meadow to the car. Miraculously, Ana’s smile returned.

Later that night, I wrapped my arms around Meadow – who had been snoring on the couch since we got home – and whispered into her shaggy ear, “Thank you for making a little girl’s day.”

P.S. Meadow and I are both hoping we see Ana again this week at the library. We also heard a rumor Rosie might be making a guest appearance at story time. We’re crossing our fingers and paws.

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Three-Time Foster Failures

Dawn(Dawn, Summer 2014)

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The biggest thing that went down during the blackout: we’re keeping Dawn. Forever. In my defense I voted no. It’s not that I don’t love her, but I had my mind settled on four dogs. I thought four would be the perfect number for our family. It would be like the old days, when Mason could walk two, and I could walk two. ALL four actually fit in my little Honda Civic.

I knew things weren’t going my way when I tried getting Mason to agree on a time for a meet and greet. Dawn’s potential adopter was a perfect fit. She is an active, semi-retired woman. She has another dog she takes everywhere with her. Mason didn’t want to hear about any of it.

Within five minutes our conversation turned into a rare screaming match. The second our voices went a few octaves above normal, the dogs scattered, looking over their shoulders with that WTF expression. Our fight ended with Mason throwing his coffee off the deck and yelling “What would I like to do? What I’d like to do is pay Dawn’s hundred dollar adoption fee and f*ck it.”

Later that week, walking with my friend and dog sitter Lino Chavez, I told him Dawn might have found her new family. Lino is possibly the most supportive friend in the universe. He’s the guy that calls me everyday when Mason’s on the road, just to make sure I’m okay. But when I told him about Dawn leaving the Farnival, he said in his broken, musical English, “Meleezza, nooooo. Dawn is peaceful.”

Even my dogs were against me. The day before Dawn’s meet and greet, I walked into the bedroom, glanced at the bed, and stopped in my tracks. The cuteness factor was overwhelming, like a snapshot from a dog calendar. Our pack – Adriana, Floyd, Sara, and Meadow – were all sitting on the bed. Dawn was snuggled between Sara and Floyd. Ade had her head resting on Dawn’s back. Meadow was on the fringe of their cuddle fest, wearing her goofy smile.

As I turned away, I caught Dawn’s glance. She was staring at me with those innocent eyes, looking as happy as any other mutt. How could she look so innocent after seeing so much? She’s lived a lot for a three-year-old dog. I thought about how she witnessed her whole pack get killed, how she survived alone on the street for way too long, how she birthed and fed nineteen puppies. I thought about how downtrodden she’d looked in that ghetto. But look at her now. She is peaceful here.

“Who wants Dawn to stay at the Farnival?” I asked.

Five tails whapped against the comforter until it was all I could hear, like drum beats reverberating yes. I was done fighting it. Officially, Mason and I are three-time foster failures.

Four Boxes

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Mason brought Dessie’s ashes home from the crematorium. I placed her box next to the others. When Des died last month, an era ended. Mason calls Annie, Joe, Des, and Lucy our “starter pack.” We made every mistake possible raising those dogs, and from our mistakes we learned how to be leaders.

Now, four boxes sit side- by- side on the bookshelf. Annie’s box is so light it’s hard to imagine more than air fills it. Lucy’s container is heavy enough to hold rocks. They are high enough so the young mutts living here can’t disturb them, but not too high. I like them level with my eye. Those four unremarkable containers hold the only physical evidence I have of a family I loved for sixteen years.

They died with the same frequency that we adopted them, one after the other, three in the last thirteen months. I don’t know if losing them so quickly made saying goodbye easier or harder. There are separate losses to each one. I know I’ve learned what grief really means. It means permanent absence. It means there are four hollow spaces in me that will never be full again. And sometimes those empty places ache.

Every morning before I sit at my desk and start working, I glance at those boxes, reassurances I didn’t imagine the life we shared. Now, it all seems so unreal. Is it possible to love as unconditionally as we loved each other? Sometimes, during the day, when I need a dose of inspiration I’ll take a second look at those four boxes. I’ve thought about spreading their ashes somewhere in the yard or the woods. But as much as they loved being in the outdoors, they loved being with us more.

Shady Throwing Down in the Mosh Pit

My office has one window. It looks over the backyard aka the mosh pit. Mason has threatened more than once to turn my desk around. Whenever he walks by my office door, I’m never writing but staring outside. He’s got a point. But who could blame me? Over the last two weeks it’s been a particularly entertaining view. I watched our foster puppy Shady Shae learn about throwing down in the mosh pit:

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