Kitty Cab

As much as I hate what New York has become, there are still New York-ish moments to be had, which I cherish all the more now that they are so rare.

Last night one of my new kitties, Albert, who is ordinarily a perfect angel in cat form, (see visual below for confirmation of angelic status) freaked  out and began trying to pee everywhere. Which of course caused me to freak out, because A) Cats peeing anywhere other than the litter box is a bad, bad, baaaaad thing, and because B) Although he was trying, nothing was coming out and he was very obviously uncomfortable, which led me to believe there may be a blockage, which is quickly fatal to cats.
 Angel in rare moment of repose:

At 1 am, after watching him suffer for a few hours I decided it couldn’t wait for the vet in the morning, and that an emergency trip to the Animal Medical Center was necessary. Oh joy. But this is a positive thing about New York City, at any hour of the night you can hustle your pet into a cab and over to East 62nd Street, where there is a full medical facility and when you enter with your ailing pet they hustle you into an examination room while simultaneously calling for triage over the loudspeaker with a tone of urgency. However, everyone that I personally know who has used this wonderful service has also walked out with a bill in the thousands. Definite, terrifying downside. But there didn’t seem to be any way around it.

So there I am outside my apartment on a full swing East Village Friday night, attempting to hail a cab. The sidewalks are packed with what I deem are assholes. There’s a twinkie gay dude pissing on the street in between cars while his friends alternatively squeal at him or make phone calls to locate other squealing friends. Groups of college girls scream and shout things like, “EPIC FAIL!” while stumbling out of the traffic they’re blocking. I grumble under my breath, feeling unarmed and vulnerable in bare face and sweatpants, carrying my sick kitty.

When I got there the staff was lovely and quickly determined that the problem was not blockage. They then sent me to the waiting room while they worked on more urgent cases, and I sat. And sat. And sat, for an hour and a half, next to a moneyed looking white couple and their cheerful, non-ill appearing Bichon Frise and a guy with a giant standard poodle who hacked with what appeared to be a case of kennel cough. A half hour into my wait a dubious looking couple came in with an injured chihuahua which they claimed they found on the street. My assumption is that they didn’t want to pay their own vet bill and would rather drop the dog off “anonymously”, and I crabbily refused to make eye contact as they loudly clucked over the stray status for our benefit. An hour into my wait a Hispanic family ran in en masse, the father holding a tiny, dying kitten, their two little girls crying.

The kitten did not make it. I know this because I could see the mother crying, then the vet went into a room to speak with the little girls. They didn’t come out for a half an hour. I was sympathetic for quite a while, toward the end I was on the verge of becoming that person. The crazy bitch who cops an attitude while everyone else is calm and nice. But it was 3:30 am fer Chrissake. Jenny McCarthy (who I love) was being annoyingly flirty with Larry King on the flat screen TV. I had seen her on Oprah two days before and she was hilarious, here she was acting like the bimbo that some people believe her to be. It was past my bedtime; my butt hurt from the plastic chair. I was not in the mood for Jenny’s televised insecurities.

So by the time the vet saw me I was clearly hostile but thankfully was able to shake it off after snarking for a moment that I was glad it wasn’t a true emergency. This is probably more of a relief to me than for the doctor on the receiving end, as I always end up feeling shitty any time my lack of patience and innate bitchy temperament become too visible to the world.

I got my diagnosis and medicine and paid my $189 bill (thank you Jesus, thank you Lord), got in the elevator, and prayed it would be possible to get a cab at 3:45 am on 62nd and York while lugging a cat in a bag. I stated an intention, as my good mother has taught me, and said, “I choose to have a quick and easy trip home.”

Et voila, a cab sat on the empty street in front of the center with what looked to be an exiting friend. I caught the cabbie’s eye with a question mark on my face and he smiled and nodded. The friend said goodbye and I got in.

The cab driver, of Indian descent, asked me with an accent if I was coming from work. I told him about my cat and he stated he had a cat once and he liked them. Then he said it was very late, and I mentioned that I always feel sorry for cab drivers on the weekends, because many passengers are drunk and obnoxious.

He said, “I have had a very hard night this evening.”

And I said, “Problem drunks?”

He said, “No. I was working, working, working for many hours. So busy. I had to make bathroom very badly, and I put my off duty sign on and locked my doors. This girl pounded on my window and begged me to take her. I said, I cannot, I must take a break, I am sorry. She said, ‘Please, are you going to the East Side, can’t you just take me there?’ So I said yes and I took her and her friend to 1st Avenue. But when I got there her friend got out but she would not.”

I said, “Why?”

He continued, “She wanted me to take her to a second stop, to Delancey near the bridge.”

I nodded, “There’s a club that gets very crowded over there…”

“I said to her, ‘Please. My stomach is hurting. I am in pain, I have taken you to where you asked. Please get out and let me go or give me five minutes to use a bathroom.’ She said no, and she would not get out of the cab, and she began yelling at me and told me that she was a lawyer and was going to make a complaint about me. Now I am scared and sad, and my stomach is hurting. I do not want to lose my job.”

“So you took her to Delancey?”

“I did, I had no choice, but she was yelling at me and telling me about being a lawyer and how she would get me fired. After this I take my break and then I was so upset that I sat in my cab for an hour. I was so sad. I do not want to lose my job. I have a big family.”

“You’re not going to lose your job. You didn’t do anything wrong.”

“But she is a lawyer.”

I said, “Let me tell you something. Assholes that want to win a fight with a stranger always say they’re lawyers because they think it makes them look important and special. If she complains you just explain your side of the story.”

He said, “I hope you are right.”

By this time I had paid him and was sitting with the cab door open in front of my apartment, the douchery of the night still apparent around us in the form of more screaming drunk girls in front of the bar 20 feet down the street. I said once more, “You’re not going to lose your job. Just tell yourself, ‘I am not going to lose my job.'”

I smiled at him, he smiled back and I got out, relieved to be home. He waited until I was safely in the building before driving away. This is something most cab drivers used to do (the good ones), and which forged a quiet bond between the working cabbie and the female customer in the scary Wild West days of the East Village in the ’80’s and early ’90’s, when to exit a cab and fumble with keys could prove to be a dangerous situation. Now the cabs just roar away as soon as the car door clicks shut, which is okay in one way because there are so many people on my street at night that safety is not generally in question. But I miss the chivalry and camaraderie of the old days.
I was touched and I felt a little guilty. He was such a sweet man and I know he would have liked to talk about it for a minute more. But I rushed it at the end because I was tired and my suffering little cat was meowing and I really wanted to take off my boots and go to bed. I hope he was able to go home to someone who could talk to him and reassure him that everything was going to be okay. And I’m grateful for the random connections that New York can bring us at times. I’ll never see the man again but I won’t forget him either. And that makes me love the city…for today at least.

Hello and Goodbye

Sooooo….my favorite cat died this week.

I read a quote from John Updike recently (in a great article in NY Magazine about people and their dogs) that said, ““Sometimes it seems the whole purpose of pets is to bring death into the house.” Kinda harsh, but true. They don’t live as long as we do so their mortality is always hovering in the back of our minds, almost as soon as they arrive. In what seems like a very short period of time, they go from this:

To this:

To this:

Each stage contains its own merits. As a kitten he is too cute for words and you carry him around in one hand.and try to catch him as he topples off of chairs. As an adult cat he is involved in all the mundanities of home life, and the bond grows deeper as you discover all the entertaining qualities that make him (you think) more interesting and love-able than any other cat on the planet. And then in old age, you again try to catch him as he falls off the couch, and every time he lays on your lap or extends what we liked to call “the pleading paw” you remain conscious of the gift of his presence, because you know it is not one that you can keep forever.

Monty was so important to me that I tattooed his name on my arm. I know that it’s corny to tattoo a pet’s name, but he deserved it. He was simply the coolest feline in town, and the friends that got to know him agreed that he was worthy of the tribute. But I know many of us feel that way about our pets, so I am under no illusion that my cat was more magical than yours. He just was to me.

Monty had been winding down for the last year with kidney disease. He ate less and less and got skinny and drank tons of water all the time. He was like a little old man. He slept a lot. He didn’t race around the house anymore. Never a graceful cat, he became more unsure of foot and although we chuckled when we heard him scale up the bed rather than leap, we also knew it was not the greatest of signs for his future.

And then one day he refused all food and went into a corner and slept with his back to the room. He would respond when touched but wouldn’t look at me. And when he did rise to use the litter box or drink the water I proffered, he was wobbly on his feet. I thought sadly, “all right, here it comes“, as he lay sleeping in that one spot for two days.

In a moment of desperation I bought and cooked a steak and waved a piece under his nose. He opened his eyes and ate a small amount. It was a miracle, or at least the dog thought so because it meant everyone got steak for dinner. The next morning I woke up at 5 am to find Monty sitting on my pillow, staring down into my face. Drew jokingly said it was like Pet Cemetery, but I was ecstatic. Monty spent the morning sleeping on top of me like he used to do and I was loathe to move because I knew it might be the last time.

Which it was. Once we got out of bed he retired to the couch and went back to refusing all food, steak or otherwise. It seemed that he’d pulled himself together to have some last moments with us, and then it was back to the business of preparing to leave. He hung out on the couch all that night with Drew while he (Drew, not Monty) played video games, and I got up early in the morning and took Monty to the vet.

I had it in my head that we could let him go naturally, but the vet said that he was in kidney failure and that it could take weeks of him uncomfortably wasting away on the couch. Unacceptable. Or the vet could hydrate him and keep him going on fumes for a few weeks. Also unacceptable. Once he knew that I could handle it, he recommended that we put him down right then. I burst into tears and nodded my head and called Drew and told him to come immediately.

The vet left the room to allow me to wait alone with my cat, who started purring very loudly, something he hadn’t done in days. I know that cats do this under distress sometimes, but Monty was the mellowest of cats (Jesse once called him “a potato”), and in no real distress. He was always content of mind, just very, very tired in body. I felt that he was reassuring me that everything was okay, much as he had rallied to spend a morning together. Throughout his life he would come if I called his name or even just called it in my head, so I know he was, as all of our pets are, cognizant of what we picture in our brains. And it is my personal belief that animals are not nearly as attached to being in the body as people are, and sometimes they hang out for longer than they might because we want it so badly.

Drew arrived and told Monty he loved him, and the doctor came in and gave him (Monty, not Drew) the shot to anesthetize and then the shot to kill him. He was gone in a blink and what remained was very obviously just the shell. And then there was that part that is the most difficult: you are forced to walk out of the room and leave that defenseless little body behind, laying alone on a towel. You spend their whole lives making sure that those bodies are safe and comfortable and then you are obligated to turn your back and leave them. It’s so painful. 

There are posters all over the East Village right now for a missing dog named Sammy. Every day new posters go up and my heart breaks for the owner, it’s obvious from the constancy that these are distraught and determined people. I wonder what happened. Did they stupidly leave him tied up outside to be stolen? Did he have a moment of exuberance and break free and run away on the street? I can’t imagine what it must be like not to know whether your animal is safe or in distress (I can’t even touch on missing children or this blog will never end), or whether they are alive or dead. 
So to be able to know this amazing creature, to be the one assigned the privilege of ensuring that he remained comfortable and happy throughout his life, and then to hold his head in my hand as he left his body in the most peaceful manner possible, is an absolute gift. 
So yeah, pretty grateful. I hope everyone is having a good summer.

My Dog

My channeler mom did a reading for my dog. The “aww” factor is pretty high so I thought I’d share…

“He is a wonderful dog with a great personality.  He knows what he likes and how to show it  He will leave when he is good and ready. and not a minute sooner. He is going to be here for awhile yet, as he loves Mary and his home. He has never had a loving home, and is enjoying this.  He was severely beaten and punished for no reason and did not trust human beings but now he is learning to enjoy people and is very happy where he is. He is learning to love. This is an important issue for the animal kingdom as well as the human kingdom for we are all One in the Creator Light. We see him here for about another two years as his body is not strong, but his spirit is, and he is so filled with the joy of being loved that he wants to stay.”

Rambly Update About This and That

Some random items just to keep anyone interested in my tiny life caught up…
My mom was in NYC, she came to work on some signature cell healing courses in NJ and then stopped at my place for a week. It was nice to have her here for a little while and she got to meet a few of my friends. We went to Alex Grey’s gallery up on 27th Street (waaaay West) and it was worth the trek. His artwork is absolutely incredible and if you are in NYC you def need to see it in person. You can google him and see most of the paintings online but they’re very large so the impact is much stronger in person. My mom also helped me drag my old couch into the hallway, she’s more of a man than half the boyfriends I’ve had in my life.
Mike and I went to see Wolfmother last night. We were both skeptical and Tara warned me that it would be yet another case of me standing in the middle of the room complaining that there’s not one attractive guy onstage and the rock star is extinct (Plea to the 20-somethings out there forming bands: Can you please, please put the donut down, stop with the gay emo haircuts and put on a decent pair of jeans?!). But we were very pleasantly surprised. The band rocked the fuck out and were much sexier than they look in photos. It was mostly Deep Purple redux and the Jack White-ish vocals can wear thin after a while, but they played with conviction and it was nice to hear some real riffs for a change. Thank God people are starting to mine the 70’s now because if I have to hear one more 80’s ripoff band I’m going to get on a roof in Williamsburg with a gun and start taking out hipsters. Yes, I’m talking to you Interpol!!
And in pet news, Drew left town for a week and so of course I took the opportunity to sneak yet another cat into my one-bedroom apartment. So now we have:

My beloved Monty Lemieux…

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The long suffering and extremely patient Lila Lemieux…

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Winter the Berserker…

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And the new guy, who was named Alexander the Great by the rescue people, we are still not sure if that name will stick…

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He is very skinny right now, they found him on Coney Island and suspect that he was kept in a cage and used for breeding. Drew wanted to kill me when I told him there was one more live being in the apt, but as soon as he saw Alexander he forgave me. The cat is really cute and a total character. But I have been absolutely forbidden to drag any more needy furry things into the house.

And since I’m on the subject of needy furry things, I feel I must do a public service announcement on the animal crisis out there. Especially since Tila Tequila just tried to buy a fancy little dog and then decided not to when it turned out he was sick. She is now on the market for a new puppy mill dog, it’s so frustrating that someone with that much internet power is so completely ignorant. I don’t have a fraction of her readers (though I like to think that mine are far more intelligent) and I know I’m preaching to the choir, but just so it’s said:
There are SO MANY animals out there in need of homes. Thousands of them are euthanized every day. Other thousands are sitting in cages, hurting for love and attention. Please people, STOP BUYING PETS. You are only feeding a sick money machine and often in the process getting pets that are genetically damaged. If you like a particular breed there are all kinds of rescue agencies for purebreds, it just takes a little more time and research. And if you have pets, SPAY OR NEUTER. Yes, puppies and kittens are cute. But there are already too many out there. For every puppy you bring into the world that is one more dog in a cage somewhere that won’t get a good home.

We don’t think that our own personal actions have much impact on the world but they do. We have to stop thinking of ourselves as autonomous and separate from the rest of the world and start making responsible choices. I am in the middle of my own little personal crisis because it has suddenly dawned on me that everything I purchase comes from somewhere and has an energy. This is really difficult because I am a beauty product junkie. I went into the Duane Reade yesterday to get astringent and I had to put everything down and go to the health food store for it instead. It was the weirdest thing, I kept picking up bottles and feeling sick. I just can’t hand money over to companies that pollute or test on animals anymore. And all of the major brands are owned by giant corporations that just don’t give a shit about the planet or its inhabitants.
And I’m feeling the same way about food as well. The energy of what we put in our bodies becomes our own energy. It’s so simple but its so true–we are what we eat. So now I’m getting way more fussy about what I’m eating and it’s becoming a pain in the ass. But it’s like my eyes have opened and I can see very clearly how all things, people, actions are interconnected, intertwined, and as Alex Grey expresses in his paintings, all one large grid in which the movements of one affect the movements of all.
Oh, and lastly, yes, we are doing a MINI Slut reunion at Dirty Bomb on June 24. I say mini because we are missing one girl and are only doing 4 songs. It’s purely for fun and none of us want to feel too pressured out about performing like pros. It has been a while since we’ve put on the vinyl bras and screeched in unison. But stay tuned for details.
So to recap: Wolfmother cool, too many pets, I am a treehugger, old broads getting back onstage.
I hope everyone is feeling good and I’ll try to get a fun story out in the next week or so.

A Tale of Two Dogs

Okay, this one is a bit long and weepy, so if you’re not interested in dogs, don’t bother. And if you are, go get a cup of tea and a tissue…

I had the perfect dog once. His name was Panda, short for Pandaemonium (Victorian spelling because I’m pretentious). He was a Pekingese, the runt of his litter and born on Valentine’s Day. I purchased him from a Chinese puppy mill pet store; I knew it was wrong but once I saw his face I knew I had to have him. This is Panda:

Panda was enthusiastic and charming. He went to work with me every day and made the walk a joy. He would trot officiously, as if he was headed toward his job as well, which he sort of was, and as we neared the store he would speed up and drag me. He loved the socializing and spent his days roaming the floor, napping near my desk and hanging in the salon with his favorite friend Karlo, who would call for Panda on the intercom. Panda would sit on his lap and wrangle bites of food from staff members until he got tired enough to come back to the office and lay quietly while I worked. He was my partner from waking up to falling asleep, every day. We were in sync; when I reached to pick him up he would jump to help me; wherever I went he followed. He was my love.

Panda was run over by a giant black SUV on 2nd Avenue and 2nd Street. I had him off the leash because he liked to run on that 2nd Street block by the cemetery. I figured it burned off some of his energy and he always stopped when I told him to. But we came from a different route that day and when he got too close to the corner and I took a step to pick him up, he thought it was time to move. He looked over his shoulder and grinned at me and bolted into 2nd Avenue traffic before I could get to him. I ran screaming into traffic and he almost made it to the other side, but it was over in a second, a cotton ball under a steamroller. I bent down in the middle of the street with cars whizzing by and picked him up. His head fell back, blood pouring out of his ears and mouth. He looked so surprised and I stood in the traffic sobbing and pleading with him not to die.

A couple in a passing car saw what happened and picked me up and took me to my vet’s office on Eldritch. The street was one way so they dropped me on the corner. I ran breathless down the street and got to the office only to find the gate down—they were
inexplicably closed in the middle of the day. The street and buildings started spinning around me.

I ran up to Houston and waved for cabs. There were no open ones and car passengers gaped at me as I ran down the middle of the street, covered in blood, crying, carrying my dying dog, and waving my arm. No one stopped. Everything felt silent and dreamlike and I moved in slow motion, like those dreams where you can’t seem to move or you feel as if you’re moving in quicksand while somewhere in the background there’s a loud ticking sound of precious time slipping away.

Finally a man ran into the middle of the road and flagged a police car for me. They took me to another vet, a very kind man who talked me down after he told me my dog could not be saved. I kept repeating, “It’s my fault, it’s my fault.” He told me that it wasn’t and let me spend some time in the room with the body of my perfect little love. I pressed my face into his side and touched his feet, I whispered a secret word I always used to tell him I loved him, and then Drew came and took me home. Words cannot tell you the sorrow and guilt that I felt for squandering this gift. I promise I will rarely impose my poetry upon you, but this is as close as I have gotten to explaining what it was like:

Small Dog Hit By Car

Wet line trail on the concrete
Red and thick and ropey
Blood on the pavement,
Black tar too coarse to hold the honor.
Someone I don’t know tells me,
You can clean yourself up in there.
As if I had asked
Small bathroom with clean metal sink and I catch my reflection.
Puffy tear-stained with patches of leftover foundation
Small islands of black mascara pool on cheeks
Not cute crying

My arms are smeared with blood

My chest
My neck small spatters
If I wash this blood he disappears.
I stand debating against propriety
It’s all I have left,
though sticky and brownish
In the end I pick up dutiful soap and watch him run down undeserving drain.
Whispers the faucet.

After that I couldn’t drink alcohol without going on a crying jag. I began obsessively looking at Pekingese dogs online. Not so much to find another one, but just to see their faces, to feel nearer to him. I missed him so much it ached all the time, and I felt so shitty, so horrendously guilty for not protecting him. I knew I should have had him on a leash, why did I risk it?

One day I looked at Petfinder and found this picture of Winter:

I freaked out and printed the photo and showed it to Drew. He thought it was a picture of Panda. He tried to talk me out of adopting so soon and though I didn’t feel ready for another dog, the photo compelled me. I wanted my dog back so badly. I sent an email and within a week took two trains out to Jersey to meet with the woman who fostered him.

Meeting Winter was a disappointment. I think I had a fantasy that he would actually be Panda. But Winter was much bigger, his face was different and his feet were huge. Panda had delicate little feet. You can’t tell from the photo that Winter’s fur was coarse and matted, and his body seemed oddly out of proportion; his head and chest were big while his hindquarters were too small. I realized upon touching him that it was because was emaciated. He had been found on the street in Brooklyn, badly abused then starved and discarded in the street.

I sat on the floor and pulled him to my lap and his foster mom Amy was very pleased. Of the many people who had come hoping to adopt a small, purebred dog, I was the only person that hadn’t been bitten or growled at. He was terrified of everyone, it seemed, except me. I held him and petted his head and tried to hide my disappointment and sadness that he was not my beautiful Panda. Still, there was something very poignant about his tentative desire to please.
I rode the train back thinking that I wouldn’t adopt Winter. When I got home I got an email from Amy saying that she felt that I would be the perfect owner for him, if I wanted to take him. I called my mother and sister and discussed it; they both thought he would be a good dog for me. Drew wanted me to wait and get a puppy at a better time; he thought I was acting crazy, which was true. But I also wanted to make amends somehow, to redeem myself. This wreck of a dog seemed to need me.

And so the next weekend, against my better judgement, I rode the trains back out and picked up my new dog.

Winter was sweet and tolerant on that first day as I trimmed, brushed and bathed him, and he seemed to only want to lay quietly on the floor while we went about our lives. Drew was less than thrilled at his bedraggled appearance but tried to be supportive. He started calling him “The Brain” from “Pinky and The Brain”. This is him during that first week, the saddest and most serious dog in the world:
Winter soon turned out to be incapable of the most mundane of dog activities. He was actually afraid to eat, and completely unable to eat off of a plate. Every time I fed him I would have to sit on the floor next to him and coax him with small pieces laid on the hardwood. He would neurotically bob his head towards the food over and over until he got down far enough to lick up a small piece. If I stood up he would stop eating altogether. It took forever to get through a meal.
Next up was walking: nearly impossible. He didn’t understand what was required of him. He would get as close as he could to a wall and just stand there. Shadows were terrifying, movement equally so, the sound of footsteps or car doors slamming set him off into a gasping fear frenzy. If I reached to pick him up he flinched violently, expecting to get slapped. The first time I tried to take him out it took a half an hour to get ¾ of a block. It was months before we made it all the way around the block, and the time it took was unbearably long. And I realized fairly quickly that on top of being afraid of everything and completely unfamiliar with the concept of taking a walk, he was fairly blind. He could only see shapes and shadows and if I got any distance from him he had no idea where I was.
So, taking him to work was a joke, I had to carry him the whole way and even starved he was not light like my perfect Panda. One day I got so frustrated that I forced him to walk. I dragged him angrily by the leash for blocks until I realized his toe was bleeding from being scraped on the pavement. It was official, I was the worst dog mom in the world and should be banned from ever owning a pet. I sat down on the curb next to my dog and sobbed in public. On the days we actually got to work with a minimum of trauma, he would still panic if I left him for a minute and attack anyone who tried to touch him. If there was too much activity around him—multiple people walking near, noise, whatever—he would flinch in terror until he just shut down. It was clear he would have to stay home.
Winter would do a weird gagging thing all day, especially whenever he became uncomfortable. In milder moments it would manifest as a head bob, but the bob could also lead to a full on thrown back gagging and choking, crying in pain while he smacked at his own face with his paw to try to make it stop. It happened when he tried to eat or whenever he got upset, so I thought it was a fear thing and would hold him and try to calm him down, which didn’t always work. It was difficult and frightening to watch.
Winter had never known any of the normal things a dog knows—food on a plate, hands touching him with love, a walk in the park, playing with toys. He was a beaten, discarded, shattered, ruined, fearful and defensive little dog. I expected that after a few months it would change, but it didn’t. It went on and on the same way for a very, very long time, months went by and I felt like no progress had been made. I felt disheartened, sapped, frustrated and not up to the job before me, and Panda’s absence continued to feel like a hole in my heart. There were times I couldn’t even look at Winter. Everything about owning him felt weighted and heavy. I knew that I could take him back to Amy but by that time he was so bonded to me that I didn’t have the heart to abandon him after he had suffered so much already. I felt trapped.
Then one morning as I was putting on my makeup he sat down next to my feet and pressed his flat little face into my leg and just kept it there. It was such a quiet, loving gesture from a creature who up until then had never expressed anything other than fear or compliance. My heart cracked for this little dog. Something shifted in me and it dawned that it wasn’t my job to “fix” him, that I needed to let go of my expectations and just let him be, to accept him for who he was with all of his limitations.
Around that time and while I was attempting to teach him to walk I got into a conversation with a man with a goofy Shepherd mix. When your dog won’t walk everyone on the street wants to give you advice. But this man was very understanding and told me that his dog was found as a stray and she wouldn’t walk either. He told me it took two years before she started behaving like a normal dog. That was the best piece of information I could have received and that extended time frame gave me heart.
So here we are, two years and a few months later. It took about a year to get him completely healthy, now he is a meaty little tank with the most gorgeous, soft, long fur. People stop on the street to comment on how beautiful he is. My vet (the one that talked me down) figured out that the gagging is a form of seizure, and Winter takes medication for it now. It’s not perfect but much better. And even though he’s not very fast, he likes going for walks. I actually saw  the realization wash over him one day that walking outside was for pleasure and that he wouldn’t be punished or left behind. It was beautiful to see and his movements and energy shifted after that. And in the safety of my apartment he has forgotten to be nervous and behaves like a happy clown. I can see the effects of his abuse fading away. They will never totally be gone, but he is happy. He is not my partner in crime the way that Panda was, but I have come to love him in a different way. He is a valiant little soul who often has to try harder than other dogs just to be a dog.
My reason for telling you this tale is twofold: One, do not ever, ever, EVER  walk your dog without a leash. Even if your dog is good, they don’t understand traffic and it is not worth the risk.

Two, to help anyone out there who is thinking of or has already adopted an abused or neglected pet. You don’t know what you’re getting when you adopt an adult animal, especially one that hasn’t had it so great. I had no idea that it would be so hard and there is no manual for it. I’m sure there are people out there who have dealt with worse, but there is no network of support to go to when you need help, and I could have used it. So if anyone is out there looking to take something like this on, I want to tell you that you have to be patient, very patient.

And though you don’t always know what you’re getting, the reward for patience is often great. I am not going to buy any more dogs in my life. It’s wonderful to get a perfect, purebred puppy. It is SO much easier sometimes. But it’s too selfish an act to justify anymore. I love the puppies, they’re adorable, but there are too many animals out there that need homes, too many desperate souls sitting in cages day after day waiting for some attention, for a walk, for a life, or just waiting to be euthanized while some ass makes cash breeding new and unnecessary puppies, oftentimes in abusive mills. Winter has been a huge life lesson for me about patience and acceptance, about the ways that abuse changes who we are, canine or otherwise, and about how the machinations of healing work. Which I suppose is why he entered it in the first place. I think there are times in our lives when we are meant to be “in service”, and it’s important to be able to see that the gift is not only for the ones we serve, but also for ourselves as well.


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