LIVING ON DOG TIME

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.

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ANIMAL ATROCITIES

Patti Lawson for
Pittsburgh Boomers

Last week the nation recoiled in shock as every major cable show, sports networks, and newspapers revealed the horrendous details of the indictment of Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Michael Vick and his cronies on numerous charges of animal cruelty stemming from dog fighting at his Virginia home. Of course under our jurisprudence system, Vick is deemed innocent until proven guilty, but the evidence found by federal investigators clearly showed that truly innocent dogs suffered horrendously.

That people earn money often through the mistreatment of animals or even other people is nothing new. Tales of despicable treatment of dogs in puppy mills and people murdered by the hands of those they once loved is rampant today. But dog fighting, the filthy secret torture and slaughter of innocent animals has been cloaked in secrecy. Now that national attention and outrage is suddenly focused on this cruel and sadistic practice, all decent people must take a stand against it and urge that swift justice and punishment come to those found guilty of perpetuating it.

Evidence was abundant at Vick’s estate and seasoned investigators reported they were sickened by the sight of massive amounts of blood and devices used to inflict inordinate suffering on these dogs in the name of training.

After watching one of the cable shows that spared no details in reporting this heinous activity, I found myself unable to sleep. Listening to the rhythmic breathing of my own dear dog Sadie, my heart ached for these animals I never knew. Dogs bred for destruction whose fate was decided before they were born.

Vick’s estate was complete with the small wooden pit used for the dog fights. There is no escape from the pit…or from death for these animals. The fight lasts for hours… until one of the dogs is dead. The survivor is then often hanged, drowned, or electrocuted for failing to become the victor.

I thought of the one time I saw Sadie react to the surly advances of another dog and how frightened she was. Was there a time when these dogs had a chance for such a reaction? Did they ever know any happiness, joy, or even the gentle touch of a human hand?

I reflected on the rituals I’ve established with my dog that insures her care and her trust of me. How each night I tap her toothbrush and say “teeth brushed” and she comes into the bathroom. The report said these dogs teeth were filed to sharp points to make their bite more deadly…and this barbaric act is done without pain prevention. It said these dogs’ jaws are so powerful they can break the jaw of their opponent leaving gaping wounds.

I thought of the “wardrobe” of pretty collars Sadie has hanging at the head of our basement steps…pink with sea shells, royal blue with “diamonds”, and her strand of “pearls” that match mine. The dogs in Vick’s world were forced to wear weighted thick chains to increase the strength of their neck muscles…all the better for attacking you see.

Sadie’s beautiful hair was shining in the television light and I touched its luxurious softness. The words of the reporter ran through my brain…the pit bull owners put ground glass in the dog’s fur prior to a fight…it cuts the gums and mouth of the attacking dog and the painful result was evidenced by the rivers of blood found at the crime scene. I thought of my sweet little dog and how she enjoys eating her food…did these animals ever enjoy a decent meal without pain?

And the repulsive details went on and on, but I could not. What makes people so hungry for and addicted to cruelty and violence? Isn’t there enough sacking and thumping in the football stadium on any given Sunday to satisfy the quarterback? My one experience with the death of a dog due to cruelty was heartbreaking. A dog much like the mother of my dog had been adopted from the local shelter only to be returned so badly beaten that she had to be put out of her suffering.

I took her body to Virginia Tech for a necropsy (dog autopsy) in order to facilitate the prosecution of the hateful man who had killed her. It was a solemn three-hour ride with a dog’s lifeless body in the trunk of my car…a dog that didn’t deserve such an end to its’ life. I brought her to a wonderful facility dedicated to the care and well-being of all animals…even the dead ones. It was a sad return as well, because this was one dog that none of the skilled veterinarians there could help.

I resolved I would not be silent over this atrocity and I relentlessly sought the prosecution of this man. Unfortunately he was arrested on federal drug charges first and taken away before he could be indicted.

People who care for animals are crying out and we all must. Blatant cruelty with no conscience spills over into society in thousands of ways. Don’t look the other way when you see an animal being mistreated. Don’t ignore the obvious…if you know of someone with multiple pit bulls that are vicious and wearing thick chain collars…call the humane office in your community and the police too. Report things that aren’t right such as:

* Dogs tied out in the hot sun for hours with little room to move or water to drink.
* Dogs left in hot cars while their owners shop in air-conditioned comfort.
* Dogs that appears seriously malnourished.
* Dogs that are visibly scared of the person holding their leash.
* Dogs left alone for days with no one caring for them.
* And if you hear of a backyard breeder…someone whose only concern is the profit from endless puppies a dog must bear over and over…turn them in.

I don’t know what the answer to any of these hideous actions is. I do know that we have a fighting chance if we join with organizations like the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I know the dogs and other animals don’t have a chance if we look the other way and remain silent.

My sleepless night ended, and as the morning sun came up Sadie gave me that questioning and happy look she does every morning as if to say…”What wonderful thing is going to happen today?” I am saddened beyond measure for all the dogs who never get to ask that question.

DOGS…DIETS…DATING makes no apology for veering of our normal uplifting material this week to expose this evil massacre reportedly participated in across our nation by over 40,000 “professional” dog fighters. SPEAK OUT AGAINST THIS. Next month….we will be back with a story about our happy adventures.

Patti and Sadie Lawson are available for fundraisers to benefit the welfare of animals. Visit their website: http://www.thedogdiet.com. Watch for their new book in the spring of 2008.

Treated Like Dogs

DOGS…DIETS…DATING
PATTI Lawson

TREATED LIKE DOGS AT THE LIBRARY

I developed a love of books early and a trip to our local library was always a wonderful event in my life. That’s why now, whenever Sadie and I are asked to participate in an event at a library, we always say yes. It’s been rewarding seeing the expression on kids face’s when they meet a dog in the library and to hear their dreams of writing. That was until this past Saturday in a small West Virginia town. From now on, I’ll make sure the library REALLY wants a dog there, because if they don’t, then they don’t want me either.

You can learn a lot about hospitality and decorum by watching Sadie and probably most dogs as I learned at this event. Sadie is always the star at our book signings. Ever personable, she kicks it up a notch or two when she is “working.” Everyone stops to see Sadie…beautiful…tail wagging…ready to beg for a stomach scratch at any moment; she’s out front doing her job. But even dogs can sense when they are not welcome and she was not her usual self at this gathering.

When we arrived, there was an area of long white tables set up and most of the authors already seated and smiling. However, we were shown to a table quite a distance away, at the back of the room, with the explanation…”The director felt you’d be more comfortable near the door with HIM.” HIM! Did these people even read the jacket of my book? How could anyone not know SAIDE is a SHE! I politely told the woman that Sadie has probably traveled more than then entire staff put together and would be most comfortable where the other authors were set up.

A table was procured for us and we set up our poster and books. I asked for a bowl of water for Sadie, one of her few requirements while she works. It seemed to cause quite a bit of consternation among the library staff and about 35 minutes later, a plastic container with ONE HALF inch of water was produced with the warning that the “Director” didn’t allow water in the library and didn’t want Sadie to spill it on the carpet. As a matter of fact, we were told that the DIRECTOR was being “generous” and “allowing” the authors to have their own bottles of water today just as a FAVOR. Who would expect people or a dog to sit for four hours with NOTHING to drink?

About an hour into this ordeal, I noticed Sadie. She was lying very still, very flat under my chair and she remained there the entire time except when coaxed out to meet a few people. This event was not well attended and it was no wonder. Who wants to come to a library fraught with such inane rules?

A “reception” was planned afterward for the authors and we noticed some preparations coming together outside in a little courtyard. A staff member came by to tell the authors that the reception was going to begin early and we could go out and have some food, but we could not bring any of it back to our table…and she would “watch” Sadie so I could go. That was the last humiliation….want me…want my dog. We both declined the opportunity to stand out in the hot sun and gobble down some food, opting instead to take our books and come home.

Sadie realized the stress swirling around this place and it was foreign to her. Libraries are places that should foster the love of books….places where you feel free to dream….to reach for the stars… not be afraid of spilling a drop of water on the carpet. I thought of the dozens of book signings where Sadie and I were welcomed, both provided with something to drink and often to eat as well. I had flashbacks of the generosity and love given to us in strange cities where people treated us with kindness and we both relaxed and had a great time. Sadie reacted like most of us do to restrictions and feeling unwelcome…she retreated…she became as invisible as she could possibly be. She couldn’t be herself and that made me very sad. Just when I thought I knew everything about my wonderful, little dog, she amazed me again.

I apologized to Sadie on the way home and promised her I would never take her anywhere again where she wasn’t welcome. We put the top down on the car, cruised through a fast food place and got a couple of hamburgers and some bottled water…which we ate in the car oblivious to the crumbs feeling the freedom of more than just the wind in our faces.

Patti and Sadie Lawson are available for any event that promotes reading, the welfare of animals, and kindness to all creatures.

Every Dog Has Her Day

I had never watched a dog show before I got my dog Sadie. Then suddenly I became interested in all things dog related. Animal Planet became the sole channel on the basement television for Sadie’s enjoyment when I was out. I wasn’t sure if she actually watched it, but I figured it would keep her entertained. Then one day a commercial for cheese came on where one of the cows was named SADIE and when the cow’s name was called…my alert little dog jumped up and ran to the television. Her interest in television was confirmed when she started sleeping with me and would scootch to the bottom edge of the bed and watch television copying my bad habit of falling asleep with the television on.

When we discovered the Westminster Kennel show, both of us became enthralled in this grand exhibit of dog perfectionism. When we watched the perfectly groomed dogs prance around the show ring, I’d put Sadie’s special collar on her and we would imitate the dog’s show strutting techniques as we ran around the coffee table in our living room. I’d reward Sadie with a treat and tell her…”Someday that will be you.”

After I became a member of the Dog Writers Association of America, the show had special significance. This group of writers also known as the Dog Writers Press, covers this event every year and sponsors a prestigious writing contest. The awards are given out at a fancy banquet the night before the show begins. I dreamed of winning an award while Sadie would win at Westminster. We were clueless that you had to be a “pure” bred dog to participate in Westminster. See…when I say I was really a dog illiterate until I got Sadie…it’s the truth.

When I found out that Sadie could never participate in Westminster and of course had to tell her, we were both crushed. After all she is such a beautiful dog and had practiced so hard! And none of those dogs with pedigrees could dance on their hind legs to “Who Let the Dogs Out” like Sadie. It was all so unfair.

Sadie kept inspiring me and I kept writing. Our column was a finalist in 2005 and we were ecstatic to receive a nice letter and a beautiful certificate to frame and hang on the wall. I booked a flight to New York and was all prepared to come back a winner. It wasn’t to be and we never even got off the ground. New York City got hit that weekend with the one of the worst blizzards they had ever seen and a writer form the New York Times won the award.

Late December of 2006 we returned from a book signing in Pittsburgh and anxiously checked the Dog Writers Association website. We had entered out book and the finalists would be announced any day. It was too good to be true…there in the category for books was what we were hoping for…our book THE DOG DIET was a finalist! Again, I made the flight arrangements and booked Sadie into her favorite pet lodge for the weekend where she would wait with the staff for good news.

It was exciting in New York City meeting all the other finalists and the many contestants in the Westminster Show. Up close these dogs weren’t as confident as they appear on television. They seemed nervous and warily glanced at their competition. The night of the banquet, my Mom and my friend and I went to the upscale hotel. We were seated at a table near the front of the room and anxiously awaited for the announcer to get to our category. It was just like the Academy Awards…ok maybe not so glamorous, but to me and a little dog waiting back home…it was a night to remember.

It seemed like forever before our category was announced…they read off the nominees…the moment was upon me as I heard…”And the Maxwell Award for Dog Humor Book of the year goes to THE DOG DIET.” I admit I cried. I stumbled with an acceptance speech except for the part where I said…”This one’s for you Sadie”. The emcee placed a beautiful medal around my neck and it was over.

I was so excited I wore the medal home on the plane and when Sadie greeted me at the airport…she jumped all over me and licked the medal and I put it around her neck. The heck with the Westminster Show…we were happy with our medal. Some things come with birth and some things come with luck and perseverance. Sadie might never be best in show at an official dog show, but she’s best in life every day to me. Every dog has her day…and this one was Sadie’s.

Visit Patti and Sadie’s website: http://www.thedogdiet.com

STAY OUT OF THE DOG HOUSE THIS VALENTINE’S DAY!

Just when you’ve finished your Christmas shopping, Valentine’s Day is here with its own set of problems. Sadie and I’ve received dozens of questions, mainly from those of the male gender, expressing bewilderment as how to please their sweethearts. It seems that much time and money is wasted on ridiculous efforts that fail to impress or please. Anniversaries are so easy compared to Valentine’s Day. You need only stroll into the local Hallmark store and look at a chart which will gladly tell you what gift to get according to the number of years you’ve been together. Of course, it only works if you remember the date and the number of years.

Sadie and I’ve taken all the questions together and offer the following advice for staying out of the dog house this Valentine’s Day. No one should allow the day to pass without recognizing the person you are dating, beginning a relationship with, want to have a relationship with, or most importantly, are married to. The commercials are filled with heart-shaped diamond necklaces and luxury hotel packages, but with a little imagination, the holiday can be memorable and meaningful.

1. Valentine’s Day should set the standard for how you treat your beloved the rest of the year. While men justifiably hate having their inadequacies pointed out to them with good examples of friends’ husbands/boyfriends, perhaps they won’t take issue with taking a look at what dogs can teach them about showing affection. Dogs are the same every day. Quick to let you know they love you…steady in their love…and always seeing the best in you. Take heart men, February 14 is a good time to start acting like a dog by showing your loved one you care…every day..

2. Just like Christmas isn’t a good time to give someone a dog as a present, Valentine’s Day is not a good day to ask someone to marry you. Deciding to make a dog part of one’s life should be a personal decision brought on by sound reasoning, not forced on someone during a festive season. The same is true of marriage proposals…they should be special and create their own occasion not caught up in the artificial atmosphere of a day mandated for love.

3. Valentine’s Day is not great time for a first date. While restaurants abound with $9.95 surf and turf specials (bite-sized shrimp and steaks your dog would reject), the last thing you want on a first date is a server hovering over you assuming a level of closeness you’ve yet to reach! It can be embarrassing and artificial to be in such an atmosphere with someone you barely know. Instead, make plans for a date with a new person after the big day avoiding any misunderstandings and forced emotions created by the holiday.

4. Acts of kindness are always romantic and should be abundant in any relationship. When I was a student in England my boyfriend did something incredibly simple and ever memorable. I’d been in London and he knew I would arrive back at the train station as always without an umbrella. When I got off the train, he was waiting there with a huge umbrella and a bouquet of small pink roses. No big fancy gift, just simple thoughtfulness I’ve never forgotten. Here are some ideas that are sure to keep you in good graces long after February 14.

  • Have lunch delivered from your sweetie’s favorite restaurant.
  • Get her car washed and detailed.
  • Cook dinner or serve take-out with Il Divo in the background.
  • Make her an old-fashioned Valentine with a favorite photo of the two of you.
  • Bring her coffee in the morning.
  • Prepare a basket of goodies for her AND her dog.

5. Trust me; there is a HUGE difference between a stuffed animal and flowers. While we love hugging our dogs, the stuffed animal attachment disappeared long ago. Flowers are the quintessential gift for the heart holiday. Don’t just go for the standard flower industry contrivance…be creative…how about tulips…or lilies? Of course, a dozen long-stemmed roses are always perfect, but don’t despair if you can’t afford them because other flowers are just as romantic. Flowers shouldn’t be a once-a-year splurge and while they are always necessary for an apology, how about at her hotel when she must be out of town, or to brighten a rainy day?

As I think back over Valentine’s Day past, I remember very special moments; a guy who drove a hundred miles through a snow storm to my parent’s house and brought me perfume and roses. He deserved a badge of courage just for being brave enough to face my Dad who was quite protective of me and my three sisters. I think of my parents…still sweethearts after 50 married years and how my Dad always has a card waiting at breakfast on Valentine’s Day with flowers he’s managed to keep hidden. I think of my sister Amy and her gold-standard husband Terry who continually does something unique for her like turning the gym at their mission compound in Africa into an Italian restaurant complete with a meal he prepared. And above all, I think of my sweet Sadie, my four-legged 365 day a year Valentine and I thank her for showing me unconditional love and hope to pass it on to the two-legged Valentines in my life.

A NEW YEAR…A NEW APPROACH

Tomorrow is January, the month when millions of people look back, and decide they will be different this year. It’s when some of the things I write about are on everyone’s mind…we will lose weight THIS year…we WILL find a soul-mate in the next twelve optioned filled months. Yes, sadly many Januarys are spent in a futile attempt searching for things that we think will make us happy.

I have decided to approach this year the way my dog Sadie begins every day…I am going to jump into January with joy for the things I have and the good things I choose to believe lie before me. You see, dogs always anticipate the best in situations and people and this is where we humans can learn a great deal about ourselves and those things that really matter in life.

When I was placing Sadie’s wrapped gifts under the tree this year, she was exuberant with anticipation and unabashed in showing this. She had no way of knowing what was in the packages; she somehow knew they were for her and that alone made her happy. Even on Christmas morning, she ran downstairs and sniffed all the packages and stuck her head down in the gift bags. Then with a sigh, she sat back and just stared at our little tree and all the things underneath she just accepted were going to be wonderful.

That’s how she begins every day. Happy, tail wagging, eyes dancing…body wriggling in anticipation of all the good things she knows are going to happen for us this new day. Her attitude has made the days I want to just roll over and go back to sleep very scarce if they happen at all. Thanks to Sadie, I have come to believe and know very well that happiness is definitely a choice, not a condition.

There will no New Year’s resolutions in our home this year, but there will be a list of things we are grateful for. It’s wonderful to look back in a spirit of appreciation….not regret. Sadie and I traveled over 2000 miles this year and met hundreds of really nice people and dogs who shared our delight with our first book and their stories with us. The weather has been absolutely fantastic this winter, the price of gasoline is lower, our friends and family are all healthy and happy.

And strange as it might seem, we are extremely thankful for the things that didn’t happen this year. My Mom had an accident while driving to meet us in Pittsburgh. The front tire of her van blew out and while trying to keep it under control it crossed over the median on Interstate 80 near a heavy truck traffic area. She didn’t get hurt. Sadie managed to open the front storm door as she excitedly watched Rodney cross the street. She ran in front of a car that was going slow enough to stop in time and she didn’t get hit. Someone we love survived a serious illness and none of our family members suffered any great harm this year.

As a former English teacher, I taught a poem that spoke volumes about regret and missed opportunities. I see it differently now…an entire life can be changed in a moment and often it’s the things that don’t happen we need to value. Don’t look ahead to what you will be…enjoy January…don’t spend it trying to change things about yourself that might be fine the way they are.

I’ve learned from Sadie that when we choose to be happy…just about everything else falls right into place. And I’ve taken the liberty to re-write that portion of the poem I once thought so poignant. I think it should say…“The GREATEST words of tongue and pen….just might be the things that could have been.”

HAPPY NEW YEAR…CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY.

Gravy Train

SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 27, 2006

Patti Lawson: Dogs…Diets…Dating

EVER since our book’s release in April, Sadie and I have gotten quite used to traveling in style on the “gravy train” provided by our publisher. Yep, it didn’t take much to get used to five-star hotels, room service, gift baskets and first-class travel arrangements.

But like every other train on the track, the gravy train stops and you have to get off. In our case, this stop was just a few weeks ago in Columbus, Ohio.

I had to attend a class, so this trip was on my own dime. We tried our usual first choice of hotel chains that love dogs, and were dismayed to find out they had no vacancy. Other hotels we were used to staying at were either too expensive or unavailable. So the Internet search began for a bargain hotel that allows dogs. It’s difficult to pick a hotel you’re unfamiliar with, but we booked a room at a major hotel chain that sounded fine even though the price was less than our dinner budget has been. We were about to learn that luxury for less is a myth.

We left very early on the first morning and went straight to the class. After a long day, we were eager to check into our hotel and navigated unfamiliar interstates through the rainy, dark night via the Mapquest directions, anticipating a nice bubble bath and room service.

I knew we were in trouble when we arrived at the hotel finding it plastered with neon signs advertising every beer brand on the planet. You couldn’t tell the difference from the sidewalk to the filthy indoor/outdoor carpet that led to the front desk. I sensed a serious dilemma here as the desk clerk opened a bulletproof glass window to talk to us.

Because the reservation required payment in advance and the chance of a refund seemed slim, I took the key card and Sadie and I went off to see the room. The dark hallway was littered with leaves and debris, and we had to climb a flight of metal stairs to get to the room.

I opened the door and went inside; Sadie, however, did not. She dug all four paws into the carpet and refused to budge. Fearful of entering the room alone, I dragged her in with me, propping the door open with my purse. It was worse than I care to describe. I will tell you that the carpet in front of the heating/air conditioning unit was soaking wet and the entire time I stood looking around, Sadie was tugging on her leash toward the door.

Back at the front desk, I asked for a clean room. After looking me over and staring at Sadie, who as usual was standing on her hind legs with paws on the counter, the clerk surprisingly just gave me my money back.

Once in the sanctuary of the car, I started crying. Tired, cold and hungry, in a strange city with a dog and no place to stay is enough to make anyone weep, but I had to get a grip on things. After examining the room of a nearby motel, which was only slightly better, I forked over an additional $5 for Sadie and asked for an extra blanket. They didn’t have any so we went to Dollar General for a blanket, picked up water at the grocery store, got some takeout and went back to make the best of it.

Sadie didn’t refuse to go in this place, although she did step lightly, and once the lights were on, I realized this was not a floor I’d want my bare feet on either. The “amenities” consisted of one small bar of soap, one ice bucket, one set of very thin towels and two plastic cups. Where was the body lotion, the coffee maker, the plush robes, the down comforter?

After feeding Sadie, whose spirits picked up considerably when she saw chicken in her bowl, I approached the dark bathroom and bravely endured a trickling shower of lukewarm water. I called the front desk to tell them this room didn’t have a hair dryer. Seems they don’t have hair dryers at this motel either, so I dried my hair over the heating unit, and armed the security system — a chair wedged under the doorknob.

Later, my sister called to see how we were doing. I told her I felt like our great-aunt Dell who used to wear shoes and white socks with everything. There I was in my nightgown with shoes and socks on, sipping Perrier out of my motel plastic cup as my sweet little dog tried to sleep on the lumpy bed. We were used to sleeping on sheets with 400 threads per square inch, not in the entire bed.

I used my one free local call from this joint to call our favorite hotel chain and beg for a room. We both felt like we were in heaven as we entered the lovely lobby that evening. Sadie sighed as she settled on the splendid king-size bed while I enjoyed a bubble bath.

One night at the no-star motel made us resolve to keep our seats on the gravy train for as long as possible.

E-mail Patti Lawson at thedogdiet@aol.com.

COME MEET PATTI AND SAID THIS SATURDAY…DECEMBER AT THE KANAWHA PUBLIC LIBRARY
CAPITOL STREET, CHARLESTON. CHRISTMAS OPEN HOUSE. THEIR BOOK THE DOG DIET: A MEMOIR, WHAT MY DOG TAUGHT ME ABOUT SHEDDING POUNDS, LICKING STRESS, AND GETTING A NEW LEASH ON LIFE IS THE PERFECT GIFT FOR THE ANIMAL LOVER ON YOUR CHRISTMAS LIST.