A Letter to Tinkerbelle

September 19, 2014

Beautiful Tinkerbelle

Beautiful Tinkerbelle

Dear Tinkerbelle:
You’ve never met me nor I you, but you are a large part of my thoughts these days. I am one of the lawyers trying to help correct the injustice you have been victim of.

I’ve looked at the photos of the life that has been taken from you. Times shared with your family, your two-legged siblings and Pet Parents…happy times. I’ve seen the nice furniture you snuggled on…the home you shared…the people you loved. I’ve heard the story of your life before then…how you ended in a shelter and then kind Capri took you to live with her family and find you a loving forever home. And then sadly and unjustly one day it was all gone.

Now you are back in a shelter with noise, and clanging, and most likely haphazard care. You are surrounded by people who know that you are now a condemned dog and it is my belief…their behavior around you most likely reflects this. You sleep on a hard floor at night…in the dark…all alone. So if you cry or whimper asking why in your dog way…no one hears you…no one answers.

Sometimes at night when I can’t sleep I look out on my deck and see a raccoon or a possum eating the dinner I’ve left for them. I hear the soft rustle of feathers under the cage cover of my beloved bird Henry and when I return to bed…my sweet Sadie is there…asleep and safe. I think of you Tinkerbelle…you deserve no less.

Tinkerbelle, I want you to know that we are fighting for you. I read in the late night hours and I research as the sun comes up. I pray for you and for your family…I plead with God to show the light to those that persecute you…that you have done nothing wrong. Believe me honey, if someone took something out of my mouth in my own yard…I’d snap at them too and if my teeth caught their lip…so be it. This is about you…not me…not the other lawyers…not your supporters. We seek no glory for ouselves…just to right the wrongs inflicted upon you unjustly.

There are those who will never know the love of a dog such as yourself and for them I am sorry. For you, I am hopeful. We are out here despite you being locked away from everything you love…just know you are loved. They say every dog has his day…Tinkerbelle…despite the long period of isolation you are bearing bravely and the dark nights…and that everything in your world seems to have evaporated…you too will have your day. This I promise you. You have good dedicated people on your team and I am honored to be one of them. Hang in there Tinkerbelle…we are coming and we will bring you home.


PET PARTNERS (Kansas and Kibble Part 3)

September 17, 2012

 

Following the afternoon speakers, it was time to go visit the Hill’s Pet Partners.

These are the dogs and cats that test the food, both for taste and how it nourishes their bodies at different stages of their lives. I was not happy to know that 400+ dogs and 500 cats lived at the Hill’s facility spending their entire lives testing food. I was very skeptical as we approached the Pet Partner’s living quarters and not shy about voicing my displeasure at such a concept.

I was expecting a scene out of one of the PETA promos or something resembling a shelter. I envisioned long rows of cages in a one story concrete block building with outdoor runs having dirt floors. I was ready for the overwhelming din of hundreds of barking dogs…something like the shelter in my home county only 400 times as bad. I was so very, very wrong.

I limit my comments to the dog areas nd to the dogs in particular, because I don’t really know what makes cats happy or what they expect out of living quarters. I do know that dogs are pack animals and since these animals were part of a large group, living in areas of 20 dogs each with very spacious sleeping quarters and plenty of room to play, it was not surprising that they seemed happy. There were no metal fences, no cages, no squalid runs with dirt floors and even the barking sounded happy and communicative. Most of the dogs are beagles, why I never really understood, but they were lively, bright eyed, and active.

The indoor area was light filled, spacious, and clean. There were plenty of toys and play objects about and the dogs were enjoying using them. Each area is for 2 dogs…I don’t call it a kennel because it is large and unlike any kennel I’ve ever seen. They share a play area and a sleeping area. I found it interesting that even though a separate bed is provided for each dog in the “bedroom” area, they most often sleep together on one bed. Of course, my dog sleeps on the large part of a king-sized bed and sometimes I think she’d rather I sleep on the couch, so I can’t connect this behavior as them missing a human sleeping partner. The dogs get plenty of outdoor time, have toys that are replaced regularly, and eat from a two bowl test feeding station. The food is carefully weighed, and what the dogs eat monitored and recorded. The dogs live their entire lives here in this 40,000 square foot facility and may be adopted by Hill’s employees when it’s time to retire.

The outside “area” is huge with play structures as nice as any fancy daycare center. The dogs were active and comfortable with each other. They did not look starved for attention or affection and their shiny coats and “healthy hug” bodies certainly confirmed they weren’t going hungry either.

The dogs have yearly dental cleanings and any other vet care that’s needed. The hospital/vet care center isAAHA (American Animal Hospital Association) accredited. This organization sets high standards for animal hospitals and is nationally recognized. The vet hospital is equipped with all the best medical equipment and even one of those body fat scanners that top notch fitness centers offer. This is used to check the dog’s body fat ratio to determine the adequacy and effectiveness of the food.

Tracy and Napolean share a special moment.

So how do I feel about this now? From my own dog I’ve learned that dogs are creatures of habit…they like routine. In a perfect world as they say, every dog would have a home and every home would have a dog. We do not live in a perfect world. We live in a world where hundreds of thousands of dogs are killed every year in what we call “euthanasia”. A world where people desperate to save dogs’ lives end up hoarding them, and poorly organized and under-funded “rescues” ferry dogs across state lines dreaming of “forever homes” at the destination that more often than not don’t materialize. County shelters are poorly funded and even more bereft of competent and compassionate staff, and dog food companies still exist churning out unhealthy and risky food for our pets with little or no oversight, research or testing.     In light of all of this, the dogs at Hill’s have a good life and since they come there as puppies, this is the only life they know. They get cuddled, played with, the best of vet care, and walked. They have names and identities within their pack. They never spend a night out in the cold, long hours on a chain or in a cage, face the uncertainty where their next meal is coming from or if their next day will even dawn. They live in clean spacious quarters and have a great outdoor area to play in. Lots of dogs have jobs and see the worst of humanity in war and in crime fighting. Other dogs like my dog live in a home with pet parents. The Pet Partners at Hill’s perform a vital job so that valuable research can be accomplished for all our pets’ nutritional needs. I think they’re doing just fine and not in need of rescue fromanyone or anything

Our last day in Kansas was spent at the dry food manufacturing plant in Emporia. After a safety session about the plant and putting on the required hard hats, lab coats, steel toe covers for shoes, and headphones, we set out on our tour. My first impression was surprise at how clean the plant was. And I think it was actually pretty quiet too…or it could have been the headphones. We really didn’t see that much…because it’s a closed manufacturing system where all the products travel through closed large pipes. Now, pipes is my word, as the system looks like large sections of conduit, but no matter what you call it…you don’t see the food actually being “made.” Over a half-million pounds of dry dog food are made every day at this plant. Nothing is made on Saturday or Sunday as the entire plant is cleaned then. We sent through all the different areas; where the raw materials arrive, where they are “extruded” in closed containers so again, we couldn’t see this, followed the overhead “pipes” to where the food is packaged.

We did see LOTS of finished product on pallets. Each bag and pallet is part of an intricate inventory system that can target down to the very moment if something goes wrong and pull that product out of the system. With over 140 ingredients it wouldn’t be surprising if something went wrong every day, but it doesn’t.     As a pet parent, my overall opinion of Hill’s was quite different than I thought it would be before the trip. The Hill’s employees we met appeared dedicated to creating a healthy food for pets and each of their roles in this process was quite different, yet they are a team. They believe in the mission of their company and in my estimation, benefit from that mission in their personal lives with their own pets. The mission of the company is sincere and one all pet parents can endorse.

You can’t help but being impressed with the qualified personnel on the Hill’s team…from the veterinarians…they employ the second largest number of veterinarians in the world (150)…to the business people…they talk passionately about their product and the lives of the pets that benefit from it. The scientists are top in their particular field of expertise and their enthusiasm and dedication to their field of research and its contribution to the finished Hill’s product is refreshing in a world where complacency is common.

Hill’s shares its knowledge and its product with veterinarians, shelters, and customers through various programs. The company demonstrates responsibility in the shelter program…providing food to 1000 shelters daily. Our last speaker of the day on Wednesday was Jan          , who is the CEO of two of Colorado’s largest shelters. She told how the food Hill’s provides to their shelters makes what they do possible.  Hills Food, Shelter, and Love Program  has helped find homes for5 Million pets and is working on 5 Million more.

 

      Good nutrition plays a key role for homeless pets. Getting them healthy is a first step to the road to a permanent home. Customers can call the company and get answers to questions about feeding their pet, and there is a special consultation line for veterinarians as well as the Mark Morris Institute and all its resources.

     Choosing good nutrition for our pets is vital for their health. I still seek what is ultimately going to be best for Sadie and it might be a Hill’s product, but for now I’m glad to know there’s a company that cares about what she eats…what your dog or cat eats…and after seeing it for myself  I am confident they’re on the right track and have been on it for many, many years, with a mission of constant improvement and above all:

To help lengthen and enrich the relationships between

People like me and their pets like Sadie.

                       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Food for Thought (Part 2 Kansas and Kibble)

September 14, 2012

 

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Aerial view of Hill’s Pet Nutrition Center, Topeka, KS

After breakfast the next morning, we boarded a bus for the trip tothe Pet Nutrition Center. We arrived at a large commercial complex, which reminded me more of a college campus. We were ushered downstairs to the conference room a.k.a. Tornado Shelter. It was good to know that we wouldn’t be leaving Kansas like Dorothy had. The schedule in our folder listed the topics for the day and all the speakers. I didn’t expect to know much about the list of topics, but I was happy to see that Hill’s Mission was one I definitely related to. As a mission driven company their goal is:

To enrich and lengthen the special relationships between people and their pets.

     This mission was emphasized over and over again during the day and not in an abstract manner. This is Hill’s mission…what they strive to do with each piece of research…each new food developed…each dog or cat that eats their food and for their own unique Pet Partners, which I’ll tell you about in Part Three.

The day was started by Kostas, Kontopanos, President of Hill’sUSA. Kostas shared a photo of himself and his pet partner in real life, as did each speaker that followed during the day,   Later, when we toured the facility and the living quarters of the Pet Partners, the walls were lined with beautiful portraits of Hill’s Employees and their pets. Kosto’s overview of the company was overwhelming at best. Most of us have a difficult time understanding the food we eat let alone all the ins and outs of what is species appropriate for out pets. Hill’s research, their clinical trials, all their different products can make your head spin trying to grasp it all. Here’s what I got out of it as a pet parent and what I think is important to my readers.

Hill’s strives and obviously succeeds in providing top quality, easy to acquire and use nutritional food for both cats and dogs. Their market is global, their company a billion dollar industry that is part of an even bigger multi-billion dollar conglomerate…Colgate-Palmolive. But just because they aren’t Mom and Pop’s Dog Food stand, doesn’t mean they can’t accomplish the same goal…providing nutritional food that you’ll feel good about feeding to your pet.

With years of research that began with Dr. Mark Morris. DVM, in 1939 and is on-going today, Hill’s produces what they believe is the best balanced diet for dogs and cats for each stage of their lives. This diet is based on science, nutritional studies, and clinical trials. The Mark Morris Institute is dedicated to a program of global nutritional information for veterinarians.  Click on the link to their website to learn more about reading animal food labels. During our day at Hill’s, Bill Schoenherr, MS, PhD, who is Hill’s principal nutritionist, gave us the Cliff Notes version of better understanding what’s on pet food packaging. Yes, it’s even more confusing than human labels, but definitely worth getting a good understanding of the basics. Unlike human food labels that list the ingredients in order of quantity, pet food labels list them in order of weight. Just because chicken is listed first, doesn’t mean there is more of it than say rice…it just weighs more. That’s just one of the surprising things I learned about reading labels on dog food.

Dennis Jewell, MS, PhD, Diplomate ACAN, spoke about the heritage of Hill’s philosophy for their precisely balanced nutrition. Understand, decades of research have gone into this precisely balanced nutrition basis for all their food, and he only had 45 minutes to talk to us. In my understanding, its food specifically developed for each stage of a pet’s life that contains all the essential nutrients to provide optimum health for that pet. It’s easy to understand that a puppy needs different nutrition than an older dog, but it goes beyond that. Hill’s has 90 specially developed precisely balanced foods for as many different types of dogs as you can imagine. Additionally they have 80 therapeutic diets…the prescription foods… that can only be obtained from a veterinarian for specific conditions.

The first prescription food was developed in response to kidney disease for Buddy, one of the first guide dogs in the United States. Buddy had kidney disease and Dr. Morris developed a spcial food just for him.  What is now known as Small Animal Clinical Nutrition,  was the beginning of the Hill’s prescription diet food.

There were more initials thrown around during the presentations than letters following the names of all the Hill’s employees, but I was familiar with one set and that’s AAFCO, American Association of Feed Control Officials. I’d come across them when I began researching food for Sadie and her allergies.

The AAFCO is a non-profit organization that sets standards for animal and pet foods in the United States. Before a pet food manufacturer can label any food “complete and balanced” it must meet the standards of AAFCO. It’s easy to understand what these standards are by going to  Dog Food Advisor . I used this website to check out the “ratings” of the food I was considering feeding Sadie. AAFCO also requires that pet foods state on the package how the food was tested to determine the “complete and balanced” standard. There are two ways this can be done:

  1. Laboratory Analysis
  2. Laboratory Analysis and feeding trials with real animals.

Hill’s uses both methods and is therefore permitted to say so on their packaging.

One of the most fun presentations of the day was by someone with no initials after their name…Dave Baloga. Now if you look at his name quickly or type it fast, it seems like “bologna” which would make sense, because he deals with the science of taste. Seems when Sadie sniffed the carefully researched dinners I placed before her, only to walk away…she had a good reason. Dogs “taste” their food through what they “smell.” Now, Dave had a lot of very scientific reasons for this, but the most important one to me was…dogs just don’t have as many taste buds as humans do therefore the smell of their food…appetizing or not…determines if they want to eat it. What smells good to people is very different from what appeals to pets.

Dave used a simple demonstration to prove this fact. Using plain white bottles pre-loaded with certain scents, we were asked to sniff them and guess what the scent was. Turns out there’s a reason I eat everything I see…I didn’t do too good on the “sniff” test and would have eaten dirt if going by smell alone. Sadie definitely can’t depend on me to provide food with the greatest smells, but Hill’s devotes a great deal of time to test different smells and make sure that their food appeals to the pet’s sense of smell which makes it pleasing to eat.

We heard from Diane Loiselle, who is VP of Product Safety, Regulatory & Quality. After hearing all the hundreds of standards Hill’s uses to make its food safe, I asked her why then was Hill’s food recalled in the horrendous 2007 dog food recall? Her answer that it was an “intentional criminal act in China”, is true. The Unites States Attorney’s Office prosecuted two business owners, Sally Qing Miller, 43, and her husband Stephen S. Miller, 56, of Las Vegas. They pled guilty of selling adulterated food and one count of selling tainted food through their company, ChemNutra. They admitted to substituting melamine for wheat gluten in their products. They were only fined $5,000.00 each, given 3 years probation…a paltry sentence in light of the loss of lives of beloved pets and the destruction of innocent pet food companies.  They did contribute to a $24 million towards settlement of a class action lawsuit brought by pet owners in New Jersey (The Miller’s insurance company paid most of it and they paid the deductible). Their company was fined $25,000.00 and also contributed to the class action settlement. Read more: http://news.legalexaminer.com/pet-food-melamine-contamination-case-closed.aspx?googleid=265150#ixzz26SHj3Bny

I was a relatively new pet parent when this happened and was afraid to feed my dog anything commercial for a long time. What is important is that Hill’s no longer gets any ingredients from outside of  States and all are strictly tested. The company immediately took responsibility during this horrendous time and made necessary changes.

The last speaker before our tour of the facility was Julie Churchill, DVM,PhD, Dipl. ACVN who teaches pet nutrition at the  University of Minnesota. Her presentation was full of information on nutritional needs of pets and how they can be met, what standards deem a pet “healthy”, and other pertinent information for feeding your pet healthy food. It was time to go visit the Pet Partners!  Next up…Hill’s Pet Partners.


Kansas and Kibble

September 13, 2012

I’m not a veterinarian, a nutritionist, or scientist. I don’t write about technical subjects or issues that involve knowledge acquired through the study of any of these professions. I’ve been a teacher, am presently a lawyer, and above all…I am a Dog Mom in love with my dog, passionate about the well-being of all animals, and dogs in particular. I constantly seek information that will enhance the quality and length of my canine soul-mate’s life.

When I received an invitation from Hills Pet Nutrition through their public relations firm, Burson Marsteller, to be their guest for three days at the headquarters in Topeka, Kansas, I accepted. Hill’s has been hosting groups of writers to their facility to learn about their products, their company’s mission, and how their efforts in research can benefit cats and dogs. I believe they’re opening their doors to pet writers to get the good word out about Hill’s, dispel the numerous and rampant rumors about commercial dog food companies, and distinguish themselves from the pack of other pet food companies viewed as pariahs.

My report will most likely be different from the writers in my group. I was impressed our group consisted of nationally recognized writers, a few vets, cat writers, who by the way were more fun than I could’ve ever imagined not being a “cat” person, and even the CEO of two very large animal shelters. These people were very knowledgeable in the science and nutrition of pet food and asked far more intellectual questions than I did. I was personally interested in learning more about pet nutrition for my dog Sadie. She’s going through some very trying times with food and allergies. It’s no secret that I was ignorant of almost everything dog when I adopted Sadie, but I promised to care for her, so with her patience and the help of other dog parents, I learned. I thought the Hill’s event would be a great opportunity for me to add to my knowledge, find material to write about for other pet parents like me, and most of all benefit Sadie. I am happy to say, I was right.

I was astonished to learn that Topeka, the capitol of Kansas did NOT have an airport! All the writers flew into Kansas City, Missouri and were met by drivers in nice Lincoln Town Cars sent by Hill’s. The hour drive seemed remarkably short because I had a driver who was a good conversationalist, and two hilarious new friends in the car who were “Cat Ladies.”

Our driver dropped us off at the Hyatt Place Hotel where we would stay for the next three days. The desk clerk greeted all of us warmly, pointed out the food and beverages available to us in the lobby during our stay, and we were off to our rooms with time to get ready for our reception/dinner that evening at the Kansas Museum of History .

The reception was informal giving everyone time to mix and mingle and get to know each other. Hill’s arranged for a great dinner catered by local restaurant featuring some signature Kansas dishes which of course included beef barbecued ribs that were delicious. Our seating was assigned with at least one Hill’s employee at each table. Dr. Karen Johnson, DVM, and Luce were at our table. I can’t remember her title or her last name, but her friendly welcome and ability to make our table feel like we’d known each other for a long time won’t be forgotten. Luce shared with us that she was worried about her dog that night and a problem he was having which endeared her to me right away. Dr. Johnson discovered that she and one of the people at our table had graduated from the same vet school…the University of Pennsylvania…which is where I took my LSAT and off we went…talking like we had known each other forever.

After dinner each person was asked to tell something about themselves; what they write about, what they hoped to get from the Hill’s trip, and anything else they felt like sharing. It was a warm and comfortable evening, good food, new friends, and since the group was small, I felt like I knew at least something about everyone.

After dinner, we could tour the museum, or return to the hotel. I opted for the museum tour and was not disappointed. It was very interesting with historical artifacts and information about Kansas and the Midwest. There was a haunted locomotive with a few train cars we walked through, lots of civil war remnants, and a complete teepee and a woven grass house. I was disappointed not to see anything about the Wizard of OZ, but then again, it’s hardly a historical fact.

The gift shop did have some snow globes featuring various Wizard of Oz characters and my new friend Patrick, a veterinarian from California with a most interesting practice, shared a dark chocolate candy bar in the shape of the locomotive.

Our schedule for the next day started early, so even with an open bar, we returned to our rooms looking forward to seeing the Hill’s Global Pet Nutrition Center, meeting more of the employees, and in particular, I wanted to see how Hill’s tested food on animals and meet the dogs and cats whose job in life is to eat!


August 14-17 Hill’s Pet Nutrition Tour

September 3, 2012

August 14-17 Hill's Pet Nutrition Tour

Night at the Kansas State Museum


LIVING ON DOG TIME

April 16, 2010

I don’t read newspaper editorials because they’re usually boring political issues. I do though have a habit of buying local newspapers wherever I am, and when Sadie and I were in the Smokey Mountains working on our book, I read an editorial because the title, “Goodbye Old Friend” caught my attention and when I saw that it was about a dog…I read on.

The editor of this rural mountain newspaper had left New Orleans 15 years previously to take a lowly job at a place she’d never heard of. She put everything she owned in her car, and was leaving town when fate stepped in disguised as a lost puppy that ran into the side of her car. She brought her car to an abrupt stop and jumped out to scoop up the tiny dog and began looking around for a possible owner. As the puppy snuggled against her, grateful and safe she looked into his eyes and said…”Oh what the heck,” put him in the car and continued.

Fast forward to the weekend before I read the story…this dog who had been with the editor for 15 years…waited on the porch for her return from the paper each day…hiked the mountains with her…shared her new life…had died. I looked at my dog Sadie in disbelief…as a new dog Mom, I had no idea she would most likely die before me. I saw us growing old together…never could I imagine my life without her now. The editorial said that since one dog year supposedly equals seven people years, the editor’s dog was about 105…a long life for a dog or a person, but it hit me hard…one day Sadie wouldn’t be here. That’s when I decided to live my life on Dog Time.

Dog Time is living in the moment…allowing yourself to savor, enjoy, and appreciate the moments in your life…before they turn into years…dog years or otherwise. I learned to do this from watching Sadie and you can learn this from your dog too. It’s your ticket our of the fast paced, stressed out, human being time world. Sadie lives in the moment…all day long…it doesn’t matter what she’s doing…it’s her moment and she enjoys it. It all starts when she opens her eyes.

I used to silence the morning alarm numerous times attempting to delay the start of my day. Not so after Sadie came to share the king sized bed with me. “Morning Moments” start the minute I open my eyes and see bright brown eyes staring at me and hear her tail thumping on the mattress. She scootches up to my face and with an eagerness I can’t deny, our day begins. Sadie stretches…I stretch…we go downstairs and out the side door. Sadie stops and surveys each aspect of the yard…and her day of mindfulness begins.

Mindfulness is a great way to live…it simply means you give attention to the moment and place you are in. Sadie revels in her surroundings…she sniffs the air…has something bloomed during the night? Is the wind blowing her fur…are the birds at the feeder? After however many seconds it takes her to assess the new day…she goes off the porch for a run around the yard…maybe a squirrel chase…perhaps a sniff at the fence trying to determine if Mr. Raccoon slipped under it last night. I sip my coffee and breathe deeply…thus are our morning mindful moments….the ones I save in my mind and return to during my hectic people time day.

Dogs know how to live in the moment and are attentive to what they are doing because they don’t multitask. Humans like combining tasks…driving…talking on cell phone…eating…listening to radio. Or watching television…reading the newspaper while folding clothes and polishing nails. What’s our hurry?

When Sadie eats…she doesn’t do anything else. She chews her food while she scans her bowl looking for her next bite…when she drinks water she does it with gusto and when she sleeps…she is relaxed and at peace. Well…sometimes even Sadie has dreams…and in those dreams I think she re-lives the moments from her day. When she plays with her toys or runs after the ball…she does it with her whole being…living in the moment…each moment with her is precious…they are ticking by at seven times the speed of the clock.

Mindful moments…magic moments…sitting on the couch…feeling the stress of the day go away as I stroke my sweet dog’s fur…seven seconds to her one…slow down…a magic moment as we watch the sun set over our fence…a magic moment when the rain falls on us with the convertible top down and I laugh as Sadie hunkers on the floor reluctant to get wet…magic moments watching the birds…planting a flower…going through McDonald’s for a hamburger.

Driving back from Pittsburgh this past fall, having just left the bedside of a critically ill sister, it was the comfort of my dog in the silent moments of the dark car that eased my worries. At the hospital I was the person getting things done…making arrangements…assuring everyone that it would be ok. But in the company of only Sadie, I could confess…I was scared…I was tired…I needed the reassurance I was quick to hand out…a split second tragedy had brought my family to this moment…but I was comforted in dog years by Sadie. Our time difference was reversed… one moment of her time was like seven for me…soothing…peaceful…needed.

Seven years to our one…it makes me cherish the time I have with my dog more. One of the Ten Commandments for Dog Owners says: “Please limit your time away from me. You have your friends, your work. I have only you.” It made me see there was a lot of unnecessary time away from my dog who wouldn’t be here forever…seven minutes to our one…it adds up.
She has taught me not to tug on my leash always pulling towards the future when the present moment is more than enough. Live in the moment…follow your dog’s example…adopt her appreciation for the fleeting hours that turn into days and then into what is called your life. Live it in dog time…the best lessons for appreciating life are right before your eyes on four legs with a tail.


DOG HOUSE HUNTING

July 14, 2009

Sadie and I sold our large house right in the center of Charleston over a year ago now. There really was no pressing reason to do so except that I had a poster with a message that haunted me for months. The poster was a scene of an ocean sunset with the scripted words….”Sometimes it is time to depart even when there is no certain place to go.” So believing this was a sign for us to head to the coast, in a quick process and a down market, we sold the house at a decent profit to a government agency and moved into a friend’s condo temporarily.

Thus the search began to find a place that would be suitable for both Sadie and me while we decided what to do next and that was no easy task. Reading the rentals in the newspaper and checking Craig’s List became a daily obsession. Finding a vacation rental was a lot easier than this ordeal. All the pet friendly properties have a paw print next to the listing, but not so for apartment or house rentals. Overwhelmingly the notation at any decent sounding property was “NO PETS,” which I would sadly relay to Sadie.

We found an apartment complex that actually said “Pets Welcome,” and eagerly drove out to see it one Saturday. That trip was not only a waste of time as the complex was neglected and had the worst “dog park” I have ever seen, it was an eye opening disappointment. Turns out landlords have a preset notion about dog owners that includes lack of responsibility, lack of money, and lack of common sense. These landlords think they can provide substandard, over-priced properties and desperate dog parents will flock to them. Sadly, they are often right.

I have always been very disturbed when I see the reason listed for a pet being abandoned at the animal shelter as “owner moved.” What kind of person would abandon their dog in order to find a place to live? Seems many people are forced to make this very difficult decision, but I knew it would never be me. I’d find a dog house that was big enough for both Sadie and me and would not settle for an unsafe, unclean, or unfriendly abode. As with other major decisions in my life, I prayed about this and began checking the classifieds and Craig’s List in other cities….they might be more dog friendly.

We finally found a place here that was promising. It was a very nice condominium whose owner was a dog parent and immediately liked Sadie. The small condo would be perfect for us while we decided if we would stay in West Virginia or head south. It was in a great area for walking and convenient to everything. However, this building’s condo board had ridiculous rules that made it impossible for a dog to actually live there. Turns out you had to carry your dog in and out of the building and hold them in your arms on the elevator too. Now Paris Hilton and her handbag hound might be able to manage this, but not me. Sadie is a strong, wriggly; face licking, healthy 30 pounder that would never go for this kind of arrangement. Other landlords had rules that I don’t think even the dogs in The Dog Whisperer’s pack could obey.

Thus with no clear direction, we began looking for a house to buy, with the help of the best real estate agent in the world, Nadia Hardy. Yep, I had to buy another house so I could live with my dog. After wearing Nadia out with looking at many overpriced houses that lacked the mandatory basic dog amenities such as a yard, I did the unthinkable and decided to look at a house nine miles out of the city. Mind you, I had walked a block and a half to work for 13 years then operated my own practice out of my home for almost three years. Commuting seemed impossible to me as I barely made it to work on time when all I had to do was walk down the stairs.

It was a rainy November day when we made the trek out to the house that looked interesting in the listing. The open house wasn’t going to be until later hat day, but I wanted to at least see the exterior first and get Sadie’s opinion. As we drove up the long and what seemed a very steep road, my mind kept telling me this too was a waste of time and how desperate was I becoming to even consider such a plan. And then the house appeared.

It was the last house on the street…a circle driveway…looking neglected and lonely…but like a once majestic woodland retreat…it was perfect. Sadie and I bounded out of the Jeep and walked through the carport to the yard on the other side of the house. I immediately noticed it was fenced and it was huge! I let Sadie off her leash and she ran around the yard in obvious delight. I slipped and fell on the wet leaves and she jumped on my and licked my face excitedly as I said…”Mommy doesn’t even care if the house is a rat hole inside…if I can buy it for you just for this yard…I will.”

Lucky for us it was not and now it’s home and part of some plan greater than ours that has fulfilled our every need. We planted a garden, installed bird feeders, cleaned, polished, and put our familiar possessions in a new environment…but more than that….we have put down roots deeper than the large trees that surround us. When we drive up the not-so steep street every evening and open our door…we are content in this big dog house that I share with my dog-daughter and no one sets unreasonable rules or tells us our barks or music is too loud. Oh, and Sadie doesn’t have to share the city squirrels any more…she has plenty of her own to keep her busy.

And so the old poster is in the new house…the message fulfilled….and duly noted with a notation that simply says…”We did.” It was time to depart….we had no certain place to go…but through it all…we are here and we are home.


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