Thursday, November 17, 2011

Charlie's Story (insert goosebumps here)

I'm an animal lover, always have been always will be. But I especially love dogs. I own two. There's just something special about dogs and the way they interact with humans, the way they cock their head at you like they're really listening. You can leave the house to start your car, come back in, and they act like they haven't seen you in 6 months! If you love dogs too, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

This is one of the reasons that, at the age of 41, I'm enduring late nights of studying, memorizing medical terms that are Greek (or Latin!) to me, stressing over grades and devoting every spare minute to becoming the best Vet Tech I can be.

But this next story is a once in a lifetime story, and makes all those sacrifices seem trivial and is the total sum of the reason that I'm doing what I'm doing.

Let's start out by telling you that my mom had a dog named Sophie. She was a little Bischon mix, that was frankly, hard to love at first. And even harder for me, because I like BIG dogs (think Great Dane). But Sophie mellowed out from her puppy stage, kept my mom company and became the reason we had to spell out "walk" any time we were within earshot of her. But Sophie, at the tender age of 5, became very ill. My mother was frantic. She took her to one Vet who had the horrible task of telling my mom that Sophie only had a few days to live. She had liver disease. Like anyone would do if told you were told you had a fatal disease, my mom sought a second opinion. The next Vet opted for exploratory surgery. But Sophie just didn't have the energy to fight anymore, and she left us. My mother was heartbroken. She called me, barely able to talk through her sobbing.

Fast forward to about 4 weeks later. I had explained to my sons about Sophie's passing when it happened. But who knows what goes on in little boy's minds and how they think like they do? As I was driving my youngest to school, he mentioned something about Sophie, some random comment that indicated that he was thinking she was still alive. So the conversation went like this:

Me: "Honey, remember that Sophie went to heaven?"
Kam: "Oh. I forgot. (pause) Grammie should have a new dog, he should be black."
Me: "You think so? What should we name him?"
Kam: "(Pregnant pause), I think his name should be Charla. (pronounce the 'ch' like "chew")."

I didn't think anything of it. I know that Grammie was considering adopting a dog to fill that empty space in her life, I was encouraging her to adopt, because there were so many wonderful dogs that just need a forever home. All of our dogs at school come from different rescue shelters, so I had my instructors on high alert to any potential dogs that would be suitable for mom. Morning progressed, and after I had dropped Kam off and had gotten to school, one of my instructors stopped me right away. "There's a perfect dog for your mom. You should go see him."

Of course I dropped my backpack and went to take a look. Here in our kennel, was the sweetest terrier mix. According to his chart, he had been kept (I use this term loosely) in a shed for six months. He was a year old. My gathering is he had very little human contact. I was told that he was going to need a lot of socializing. He was scared. When I went to see him, he didn't look at me, he laid curled up in a ball on a large blanket and wouldn't make eye contact. My heart immediately went out to him. "Hey sweetie," I coaxed. I opened his kennel door and sat beside him. He wasn't even interested in sniffing me really. I scratched his head, his ears, ran my hand along his back. I tried to be soothing with my voice. He was mostly black in color. My heart ached for him. How can people be so cruel? His whiskey colored eyes tugged at my soul. After a few minutes, I decided he really wasn't that interested in me, but he would be a terrific addition to my mom's household. I stopped petting him to reach for my phone to take some pictures, and he army-crawled a few inches and laid his head on my lap.

I took a couple of pictures, and then stood, closed the door and looked at his chart. His name was "Charlie." I stood stock still. My son's conversation suddenly filling my ears. The hair on my arms stood up and I could barely catch my breath. "Charlie?" I said. He glanced at me and then quickly looked away. I immediately called my mom. "You're not going to believe this..."

Charlie didn't know what a leash was. The Vets were worried because he wasn't eating. I visited him two more times that day. He had to be lifted from his kennel to go outside, and even then, would just sit the minute he got out the door.

I couldn't get him out of my head. I thought about him alone in that kennel at night and willed him warmth and comfort. Those eyes haunted me. I sent my mom the pictures. He was a bit bigger than she was hoping, and he looked nothing like Sophie. I convinced her that it was a good thing. She didn't need a replacement Sophie. I dog who looked different wouldn't be such a painful reminder.

The next day, I went in early just so I could see him. The same instructor who had told me about him now knew I wanted my mom to adopt him. I went in again at noon to see how his physical went, and she allowed me to keep him out to play with him. I sat on the floor and he came right up to me and leaned on me. After a few minutes, he would explore, but any loud noise or unfamiliar person, and he was right back next to me. Since he wasn't eating, I grabbed some dog treats to try to entice him. He eagerly snatched them from my hand. My instructor (we'll call her S.), said, "Let's get his dish and see if he'll eat for you." He looked at the dish, looked back at me..."Come on honey, have some food." I stuck my hand into the mixture of food and held it out for him. He gobbled it up and continued to sniff my hand, which I placed back in the bowl. It took about 2 seconds for him to realize that there was food in there. "I bet they just threw food at him and he doesn't know what a bowl is," said S.

Anyway, Charlie and I bonded. It became the running joke of my classmates that I had "fallen in love." Every day there was something new, he stood up and was excited to see me, he wagged his tail, he made some noise, he was curious again. I tell you, I have never been affected by any dog like I am with Charlie. The transformation I saw in him in just 4 short days was nothing less than miraculous. And although I would like to think it was all me, it wasn't. All the students there doted on him. By the 4th day, he was greeting me at he gate, licking my face, enjoying time outside and behaving like a dog should. Socializing? Nah. What he needed was some attention and someone to just love him. Which I do. I can't explain it. The other students started to refer to him as, "my dog." I was also told that this would be one of many that I would feel like this. But I don't think so.

My philosphy is that when sentencing someone for animal cruelty, they should endure what the animal has endured. I want to put this person in a shed for six months, throw his food on the floor and neglect them. I think anger is going to be one of the hardest emotions I have to deal with in this profession.

My mom has also fallen in love with Charlie through pictures and daily progress reports. She has already filled out her application, written her letter (along with mine) and we're hoping for the best. I'm pulling every string I can pull to ensure that he can live with my mom and dad. I'm not going to lie, I want him for myself, but he would be spoiled rotten with mom and dad, and I'm not sure who needs who most.

I only get a week with our animals at school, and tonight was my last night. S. could see the special bond we have, and allowed me to have my "alone time" with him. I walked into the kennel run, and this sad, lonely dog just a few days earlier, stood at the gate, tail wagging. "Charlie!" I exclaimed. He greeted me with paws on my lap and licks to my face. I took him outside, and saw something that would mean nothing to anyone else. He put his front legs down with his butt up in the air. Something we call a "puppy stance." He wanted to play! Something completely foreign to him. He was unsure of himself, but he after play position, he would run to me and stand on his hind legs and lay his head in the crook of my arm.
Can you tell the difference?

After about 30 minutes, I knew my time was up. I think he sensed it too, because as I put him in his kennel, I whispered, "keep your paws crossed, Charlie." He put one leg on each shoulder and licked my face. I don't cry easily, but that lump in my throat was the hardest I had to swallow. I closed the kennel door, and for the fist time, I heard him whimper.

I cried all the way home.

The story isn't over yet, hopefully. I love him enough, that even if it isn't with my mom, I hope beyond all hopes he gets the perfect "forever home." He deserves it.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Highlights of the Year

It has been a year since I started blogging. Some months are better than others as far as having time to write when I want. But I wanted to thank all of you who read me on a regular basis. I can't tell you how much it means to me when people ask when the next blog is coming out because the can't wait.

So here are some of MY favorites from the past year. I hope those of you who started reading as of late will take the time to read some of my earlier posts! Thanks again!

Laughing in Church
Now you'll understand that it's not that I'm not a believer....

Sheep & Weapons of Destruction
Boys are so much fun, you don't play with dolls...

Over the Hills
The dreaded six hour car ride and all it entails.

Pet Peeves and Perfection
One of my all time favorites

Snow is a 4 Letter Word
Appropriate. It explains so much.

Scouts or Just Armed and Dangerous?
It's a cult I tell you!

The Way it Should've Been
This is for all my Vet Tech friends.

Visitation Rights
If you've ever had to take your kids to a restaurant, or be seating next to that person...

Well I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoyed writing them. Here's to another fun-filled, blog moment filled year!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Can't You Just...

Can't you just. Three little words, so innocent and non-threatening when they're all by themselves, but stack them one on top of another, up and up and up and soon, they're towering over me like an impending avalanche. Looming. Suffocating with their massive weight.

My last, "Can't you just..." piece was placed on top of my already created mountain, and came tumbling down. It had it's casualties. My cheerful morning was ruined and my husband reeled from the severe bite wound of, "I JUST SAID, I WOULD DO IT!" It seemed like a petty thing, asking me to run to the bank, but on top of all the rest, it brought the mountain down.

Can't you just. 

My schedule is packed. I mean, every minute, every second of every day. Those three little words cause more chaos than anyone in my family understands. "Can't you just get me one more glass of water?" Every step to retrieve this water, standing waiting for the cup, pushing through the stalling tactics of going to bed, is directly proportional to the amount of time I will have to stay up to finish studying. Forget the fact that I had just asked you if you needed anything before bed ten minutes ago.

"Can't you just help me get dressed?" Means I have less time to make sure we have everything we need to before we leave in the morning, and has on more than one occasion, resulted in my going hungry throughout the day, because I didn't have time to make me a lunch, or a forgotten piece of crucial homework.

"Can't you just tell me what there is to eat?" No. I haven't had the menus printed. Get off your butt and go look.

"Can't YOU just call the insurance company?" I'm on the phone in my car, or during the 10 minutes between classes taking care of something that seems so incredibly simple.

"Can't you just go to school conferences?" Now I must check my work schedule, call the school to find a different night and time, and take an hour and a half out of my nightly list of things to do.

Can't you just...get that paperwork together, pay that bill, send that email, take the kids to the walk-in clinic, pick up that prescription, feed the dogs, look up someone's phone number, get the kids out of the bath, help me with my homework, pick up snacks for school, drive the kids to or from school, make that appointment, approve that ad, or record that show?

When asked what I'm doing today, when I say "not much" doesn't mean I'm sitting in the recliner eating bon-bons. It just means that I don't have to work after classes. I still have housework, homework, laundry, dishes and other menial tasks that fill my day.

I used to think that it was just easier to resign myself to this position since it probably would take me half the time to do it. But now, when I have to claw my way out from beneath the rubble without any recognition or appreciation, I realize I have put myself in a very dangerous position. A position of being constantly frustrated, to a point of gnashing teeth and high blood pressure. Of being too weary to be able to do the "fun" things, like going for a walk or playing outside.

So now it's my turn. I'm throwing some stones your way, and if we all carried just a little bit, it would be a lesser burden.

Can't you just pick up after yourself? And I mean actually put the dishes IN the dishwasher instead of gambling that the last spoon isn't going to topple the leaning tower of Pisa in the sink? Can't you just go to bed without argument, without poking each other and fighting over who has more blankets? Can't you just do what I ask the first (or I'll even take second) time I ask instead of wondering why I'm hurting your feelings because I've raised my voice on the 8th try? Can't you just respect me as your mother/wife instead of your personal wait staff? Can't you just give me some input about what groceries to buy instead of complaining that, "There's nothing good." when I plan a week of nutritious meals? Can't you just take out the garbage when it's overflowing instead of attempting to put ONE MORE wrapper in and walking away when it falls to the floor? Can't you just do a couple of loads of laundry when, "I don't have any underwear." or at least put away the stacks of folded clothes that I have even sorted into shirts, pants, PJs and socks? Can't you just realize that when you leave them sitting out until I'm not even sure what's clean and what isn't anymore, that you have now created another hour of laundry? Can't you just take it upon yourself to do some of these things without me asking you first?

I drink LOTS of caffeine. Not because I particularly enjoy the taste of coffee, but more because I am up at 5:00 and in bed by 11:00 at the earliest. I NEED caffeine. I don't relish being "mean" or "hurting feelings," I am trying to do my best not to totally lose it and go ballistic on all of you. I really DO want to read just one more book at bedtime, but my precious minutes and seconds have been nearly eaten away throughout the day.

I know this is true for a lot of women out there, and I'm sure they would all want just a little empathy, a little compassion, and some more recognition. We know you've had a "hard" day, but I'm pretty sure you'd crumple under the pressure if you had to walk a few steps in my shoes.

I realize that at this rate, I'm going to end up with a couple of pansies, mama's boys, whose future wives will hate me if something doesn't change. And honey, when you scoff and rib me when some TV doctor tells the audience the benefits to your health if you're intimate 3 times a week? Help me make time in my schedule! Think about it. "I don't have time" does not mean, "I'm not interested." So let's make it happen, alright?! That should be some motivation for you.

So, because I know that everyone would benefit all around, then next time that, "Can't you just..." is casually flung out there. Expect a resounding, "No! No I can't." It's for your own good.