The New York City Fire Department suffered a tremendous loss this past week when Twenty the Dalmatian died.
For nearly 15 years, this dog has been a proud member of FDNY. Shortly after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2oo1, two sherriffs from Rochester, NY, delivered a dalmation puppy to Ladder 20 company. Ladder 20 Company needed a morale boost — the kind that only a puppy can bring — after seven of its members perished on the 35th floor of the World Trade Center’s North Tower.
This beauty served alongside her human counterparts and provided a bit of hope in the dark days that followed 9/11.
On FDNY’s Facebook page, Lieutenant Gary Iorio wrote about Twenty: “She really helped to build the morale in the years following 9/11. I can’t say enough about what she did to help us. She went on all the runs, she’d jump in the truck, stick her head out the window and bark. She became a local celebrity.”
Dalmatians have been affiliated with fire stations since the 1800s, and I’d venture to guess that none was as beloved as Twenty. Because early fire stations used horse-drawn wagons as fire engines, they also employed Dalmatians. It seems that Dalmatians are able to bond closely with horses, and because horses tend to be afraid of fire, Dalmatians were essential. Early accounts tell of horses being afraid to approach a fire and of Dalmatians distracting and comforting those horses, which allowed the fire wagons to get closer to the fire.
Lieutenant Iorio posted this sweet send-off to his colleague Twenty: “We offer our heartfelt thanks to her for being a loyal companion to FDNY members and the community for nearly 15 years. Today, Twenty has taken her final run to Heaven. Rest in peace, man’s best friend.”
Upon learning of Twenty’s death, FDNYdispatchers transmitted a specific message: 5-5-5-5. The fire code, which has been used in New York fire stations since 1870, signals the death of a firefighter.
5-5-5-5 for Twenty means she has been officially released from duty, and that her job has been done.
Want more stories of hardworking, hero dogs? Read this.
Photographer Charlotte Dumas has profiled many of those 4-legged heroes in her book Retrieved. It’s on my wish list.
One of the dogs in Retrieved is Bretagne (pronounced Brittany), a Golden Retriever who is reported to be the only surviving rescue dog from the Twin Towers disaster (one other dog, a springer spaniel named Morgan who worked at the Fresh Kills site at Staten Island, is still alive). A Golden Retriever is also on my wish list, BTW.
Bretagne was trained in and lives in a suburb near mine in the great state of Texas. Her very first assignment was search & rescue at Ground Zero. She was just 2 years old when she was deployed, along with her handler Denise Corliss.
The absence of any human survivors at Ground Zero was unimaginably difficult for everyone involved in the recovery effort — including the dogs. Despite the fruitless search, the dogs worked tirelessly among the perilous conditions that included broken glass, twisted metal, and hazardous emissions. The human searchers were protected by heavy gloves, boots, and masks; the dogs, however, relied on their bare paws for balance, their exposed claws for traction, and their sensitive noses for any whiff of human remains.
Bretagne spent 2 weeks working 12-hour shifts in the dangerous conditions. Her handler recalls that on her very first search, Bretagne slipped on a metal beam that was wet from the fire hoses that still doused the smoldering wreckage. Corliss was nervous, but said that Bretagne “pulled herself back up onto the beam with her front paws and continuing to sniff intently as if nothing had happened.”
Corliss recalls how Bretagne seemed to make a point of putting herself in front of weary first responders. Several times, Bretagne left Corliss’ side to greet shell-shocked firefighters. Corliss gave the command for Bretagne to come back, sit and stay, but was rebuked. Corliss was shocked that the usually well behaved dog disobeyed: “I was surprised that she wasn’t listening to me, but she really wasn’t — it was like she was flipping me the paw.”
One of the veterinarians who looked after the search & rescue dogs at Ground Zero founded the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. Dr Cindy Otto realized that the dogs working at Ground Zero supplied much more than search & rescue or recovery: they provided great comfort to the first responders. She says, “You’d see firefighters sitting there, unanimated, stone-faced, no emotion, and then they’d see a dog and break out into a smile. Those dogs brought the power of hope. They removed the gloom for just an instant — and that was huge because it was a pretty dismal place to be.”
At the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, the puppies in training are named after the dogs who worked Ground Zero. Bretagne met her namesake, who now lives with a man who has Type 1 diabetes. Bretagne 2 alerts her new master if his blood-sugar levels get out of whack.
Cheers to Bretagne and the next generation of 4-legged heroes. May your treats be plentiful and your belly rubs never-ending.
On my way home from carpool #1 this morning, I was driving down my street, minding my own business, when I saw a tiny white dog running full-speed down the sidewalk. With no humans in sight, I figured this little dog had escaped. I pulled over to get a better look at the dog and to see if he had a collar and tags. He had both, so I got out of the car and called him over. He came right away and was quite friendly, and his tiny body was shivering from the 43-degree morning chill.
He’s a friendly little guy, and was happy to drain the water bowl I set out for him. I tried his owner’s phone number a dozen more times, each time getting a busy signal. Just as Pedey the Weasel Dog was getting upset about our visitor, and just as our queen-bee piggie was considering whether this littler furball was edible, inspiration struck and I called the vet listed on Maxwell Chambers’s rabies tag.
The vet said that yes indeed Maxwell Chambers was a client of theirs, and she gave me another phone number to try for his owner. I told her that my animals were about to riot and rather than keep Maxwell Chambers while I tracked down his owner, I’d just bring him to the vet and let the owner pick him up there.
Clearly he’s used to being indoors. He made himself quite comfortable on the bathroom rug and tunnelled under the wet towel a certain girl left on the bathroom floor this morning.
He was a good passenger briefly.
After my #1 son got out of the car, Maxwell hopped into my lap, and before long, he barfed all down my shoulder, covering my seatbelt, spraying the inside of the door, and drenching the carpet in the backseat.
Gross. Really, really gross.
There wasn’t a good place to pull over for a while, so I could feel the undigested kibble he had for breakfast seeping through my sweater. The smell was less than pleasant. I scooped out as much as I could into the street as soon I pulled over, exhausting my glove-box supply of napkins and dousing myself in hand sanitizer.
When we got to the vet, I handed Maxwell Chambers over and big him adieu. I was tempted to tell the vet tech to have Mr Chambers’s owner call me to discuss the car-cleaning bill, but I did not.
I sped home and employed every cleaning technique I could: first sucking up the remaining chunks with the shop vac, then using the Shark hand-vac to get the gunk in the crevices where the driver’s seat moves back and forth on the little track. Who knew there were so many nooks & crannies in which bits of doggie barf could land? I sanitized the door, seatbelt, seat, and carpet as best I could with Lysol wipes, then finished it off with a coat of Meyers Clean Day lavender all-purpose spray to get the smell out. The final step was to Windex the windows and leave the car wide open in the garage to air out.
Perhaps no good deed goes unpunished, but this is ridiculous.
Yes, it’s National Pig Day, and at our house, that’s reason to celebrate. What’s it all about, you ask? It’s about sweet piggies like ours.
Created in 1972 by sisters Ellen Stanley and Mary Lynne Rave, this day gives us an excuse to party and, according to the holiday founders “to accord the pig its rightful, though generally unrecognized, place as one of man’s most intellectual and domesticated animals.” Hear, hear!
Our entry into the world of all things pigs started about 10 years ago, when my favorite girl could barely walk & talk. Bypassing the usual little-girl favorite animals of kittens and horses, she fell in love with pigs. It wasn’t long before she started asking for a pig, and every time she brought up this seemingly crazy subject, we’d tell her sorry, baby, but people don’t have pigs as pets. Problem solved, right?
Not so much.
Once my favorite girl realized she could look things up on the Internet, probably in 1st grade, she discovered that why yes, people certainly do have pigs as pets, and fine pets they are.
We were in very big trouble.
Every year, my favorite girl would have a pet pig at the top of her wish list for Christmas. When the blessed holiday came and went without a piggie under the tree, she began asking for a pet pig for her birthday. We put her off as long as we could, but knew that eventually, we would have a pet pig. When she made this list
we knew the deal was done.
My girl did her research (again), contacting local breeders via email with her list of preferences and inquiring as to whether they had a pig that met her criteria (her words, for real). She wanted a female, preferably black & white (in the pig world, this is called a tuxedo pig). She set her sights on this little beauty
and it was all over.
but quickly warmed up once she realized we were the keepers of the cherry tomatoes. That remains one of her most favorite foods, followed closely by wasabi peas. Yes, you read that right: our pig LOVES wasabi peas. She will be sleeping the sleep of the piggie dead, dreaming piggie dreams and snoring in her piggie way but will bolt upright the second she hears the can of wasabi peas being shaken.
Grass is delicious!
One of my blog friends shattered my heart last night. She didn’t mean to, I’m sure. I read her post about her sweet dog Jazzy and crumbled. I went to bed thinking about Jazzy and woke up thinking about her. I’ve never met Jazzy or her owner, but my heart hurts for them.
Reading her post took me back to Maddy, aka The Best Dog Ever in the History of the World. I have never blogged about Maddy. I’ve blogged about Harry and about Pedey, but not Maddy. It’s not because I don’t love her as much as I love Harry and Pedey; in fact it’s just the opposite.
Maddy was my first dog as an adult, and I saw her being born. She was the pick of the litter, and she lived up to that honor every day of her life.
One day I will write about her and share all of the unique Maddy-ness that made her The Best Dog Ever in the History of the World. But not today.
Today belongs to Jazzy.
Rest in peace, sweet girl.
Our little piggie Piper turned one on Sunday, and we went a bit hog-wild celebrating her first birthday.
My favorite girl is quite the party planner, and this shindig was top-notch. She started planning the menu a week or so in advance and it underwent several revisions before she settled on grilled fruit kebabs, BBQ chicken sandwiches, twice-baked potatoes, Ramen-almond salad, and carrot cake.
Now, if you’re inclined to leave any comments pertaining to bacon bits or pulled pork, resist the urge or I’ll set the birthday pig on you, and let me assure you that she has no mercy when it comes to porky jokesters. She’s vicious when it comes to that.
Party preparations started early and lasted all weekend. The first order of business was to make a party wreath for the front door. We are fortunate to have an artist at the ready, and he created the focal point of the wreath. He’s also the creative genius behind the logo that graces the front page of this little blog.
Next came the gathering and placing of various pig-related decor:
And the custom-made bow for the birthday girl. Amazing how cute it turned out considering it was made from a $1.50 bow from the grocery store, a flower clip from the clearance aisle at Hobby Lobby, and a candle sticker from the scrapbooking aisle.
Making the party favor goodie bags kept my little social butterfly busy for awhile, and she was quite pleased with the results. She decorated the cookies herself with a pig snout and pig-shaped sprinkles delivered across state lines from Pennsylvania to Texas by our uber-thoughtful friend, Debbie.
Birthday gifts for our little piggie included all of her favorites: cucumbers, wasabi peas (yes, she likes it spicy!), and strawberries. Part of her birthday feast was a chunk of watermelon, which she thoroughly enjoyed and hastily demolished.
Two thumbs up for the twice-baked potatoes, which disappeared before I had a chance to snap a photo. My favorite girl has always had a huge love affair with potatoes, so it was no surprise to find them on the menu.
And then came the highlight of the evening: the birthday cake! We scooped out a little of the cake batter and added extra carrots to bake a special (and portion-controlled) cake for the birthday pig. Miss Piggie needed a little help blowing out the candle; we were afraid she’d eat the whole thing, flame and all!
He’s a coyote, not a wolf. My bad. But let’s not become distracted by the matter at hand, which is hijinks. My lovely hostesses got up to some hijinks on our last night in Louisiana, and everyone was in on it but me.
A coyote in the bathroom is par for the course for these girls. In fact, they’ve been pulling this trick on unsuspecting houseguests for years — literally. Is it any wonder I love these girls?
A little history: Sister Wendy, whose bathroom is pictured above, has a friend, Hanks, who is a biologist. Hanks and his wife, also a biologist, have access at their workplace, the Monroe branch of the Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries, to some fine, preserved animals. “Choppa” is one such animal. Apparently Choppa was due to be retired after 30-some years baring his teeth, but was too fine a specimen to be thrown onto the trash heap. Hanks rescued Choppa, and like many other wayward animals, he came to reside at Wendy’s house.
Sounds like a nice, altruistic story of coyote adoption, right?
Nuh-uh. While Wendy & her hubs Lester are the epitome of altruistic when it comes to rescuing abandoned animals, having amassed quite the menagerie of strays, their altruism is certainly equaled if not outmatched by their mischief. Hence the coyote in the bathroom.
Allow me to introduce the current cast of Wendy & Lester’s menagerie. I really should let Sister Wendy tell this part because she’s much more amusing than I (again, hence the coyote in the bathroom), but she’s probably busy at this very moment in the OR helping someone transition from an old, worn-out hip or knee to a new and improved body part. So, you’re stuck with my version with bits of Wendy’s version sprinkled in for flavor.
There’s Brown Betty, who’s in charge of the pack. Don’t let that sweet face and those soft brown eyes fool you — she rules her pack with an iron fist, but I like to think she imparts her authority with love not tyranny. She had the good sense to show up at Wendy’s house, and the agreement was to foster her for a few weeks while Sister Holly found her a home. Sister Holly also has a soft spot for stray dogs who could easily star in the Island of Misfit Toys. In fact, we’ll now refer to Sister Holly as King Moonracer.
So King Moonracer finds Brown Betty and says she will find her a home while temporarily placing her with Aunt Wendy. That was 8 months ago. I’m guessing Brown Betty is a keeper. Wendy refers to BB as “a work in progress” and her main talent is identifying things that belong to Lester to chew.
Baby Gretchen showed up Wendy & Lester’s as a tiny baby. So tiny it was hard for her benefactors to tell if she was a kitten or a pup. She was small but mighty and mean enough to bite right through Lester’s palm. Gotta love a tiny girl with big spunk. She has a permanent sneer from a previous injury, which is just plain funny. It’s hard to get a photo of her because she’s a little nervous about people pointing things at her, and my iPhone-attempt to snap a quick pic of her freaked her out.
Then comes Disco, whose main nickname is Biscuit, and somehow I managed to conflate the two names to create Bingo, much to my favorite girl’s chagrin. She couldn’t for the life of her figure out why I kept flubbing that sweet dog’s name. Bingo didn’t mind the flubbing. She survived being shot or stabbed in the mouth as a young pup, so she’s pretty forgiving of a city-slicker who messes up her name. I love Bingo for that, and also because she has the softest face, which reminded me of my sweet Harry. And because she likes to sleep all the way under the covers, which reminds me of our little piggie.
Disco/Biscuit/Bingo has perhaps the most colorful story of all the mules in the pack. Wendy and Amy saw her running down the highway the day after Thanksgiving and noticed she had a collar so they called her over to get her owner’s info off her tag. Wendy says Disco came right to her, but jeepers creepers she was dripping pus from her jaw. Her jaw “was obviously caddywompus and not quite aligned as one would expect.” Intrepid rescuers were not deterred, however, and loaded her into the truck but had to stick their heads out of the windows because the smell was SO BAD! (emphasis Wendy’s). They cleaned her up and had Papa give her a penicillin shot, then brought her to Camp Langley (aka Wendy’s place) for a bath and some TLC. After her bath and her medical treatment, you might think that Disco was on the mend. However, as Disco shook her wet coat in the kitchen, Wendy says that “something went flying! I found some jawbone in the living room. Yes, I said jawbone.” Yikes. Wendy started Disco on antibiotics and flushed her jaw wound several times a day. “That girl was hooongree and thirsty! By Monday she was a new girl.” A trip to the vet confirmed a big bullet in her shattered jaw. Wendy reports that “most of the bone was dead, and the vet removed the jaw on one side and sewed her lip together so that it wouldn’t sag. She felt better than ever that night and has been our cutie pie since.” Talk about being luckier than a dog with two tails. As if having the most colorful back story isn’t enough, Disco also has the best nickname: Yellow-bellied-lilly-livered-long-eared-speckle-bellied-cat-head-biscuit.
At the bottom of the pack is Wayne Gretzky. About WG I have two words: sweet. heart. At first he scared me a little bit, I’ll admit, because he’s big and rock-solid. My first impression was that I wouldn’t want to meet up with him in a dark alley, but after scritching him between the eyes and having him flop at my feet, I realized he’s a lover, not a fighter.
Choppa, in all his glory with his impressive dentures flaring menacingly!
I can only surmise that the proliferation of adult beverages, including this delicious dill-pickle martini, is responsible for my less-than-creeped-out reaction to finding a snarling coyote on the vanity. If I recall, instead of a blood-curdling scream followed by a frantic fleeing from the scene followed by a need for a change of clothes, I uttered a small yelp that most likely disappointed the mischievous band of spectators. I’d give myself a 3 out of 10 for my reaction to Choppa. I was more alarmed by the fact that every single person knew what was going on but me. That kind of a hoodwinking following right on the heels of a full-blown surprise birthday party worries me. I’m afraid I may be losing my edge and will endeavor to become more observant, suspicious, and paranoid straight away.
Friday was a very exciting day for my favorite girl and her little piggie. They were asked by our fabulous school counselor, Mrs Prine, to be the Grand Marshals for the annual kindergarten Pig Parade at our school.
This is a big deal, as everyone in our school looks forward to the Pig Parade. We have a rather large school, with more than 800 kiddos, which meant a lot of exposure for our little piggie. Lucky for Macy and Piper, Mrs Prine is an animal lover with great ideas! Sadly, Mrs Prine missed the parade because she was a teeny bit busy welcoming her first grandbaby into this world. So Mrs Prine, this blog is for you; one day when Baby Jude is a little bit older, you can show him these pictures and tell him that this is what was happening in one corner of the world on the day he was born.
I had hoped to chronicle this special day earlier, but am having epic computer problems. I’m a Mac girl through and through, and something is seriously wrong with my iPhoto. This troubles me greatly; :iPhoto won’t import my latest photos because it doesn’t recognize them. Before my in-house IT guru could figure out the problem, I resorted to emailing myself each and every photo you see here, then manually importing them into my blog. Tedious and time-consuming, to say the least, so please…humor me and gaze upon these photos.
Letting our little piggie loose at school could have been a big ol’ mess, but instead it was a great time with just a little big of mess involved. This is a live piggie, after all, and our little piggie is a bit opinionated and sassy (we’re still trying to figure out how that could have happened).
So the deal is that every year, the kindergarten classes at our school have an at-home project to create a pig. Once everyone has created their porcine masterpieces, the piggie projects are carted up to school and the kindergarteners parade through the entire school carrying their creations while the rest of the school gazes appreciatively from a seated position in the hallway. Every single one of the kids in grades 1 through 5 sit in the hallway in a single-file line and watch the kinder kids proudly walk by with their pigs.
When it was Macy’s turn to take on this project, nothing could have tickled her more. She’s been a pig-lover her whole life, so having the chance to make and present a piggie was her idea of heaven. Being the queen of accessories, she gave her pig big hoop earrings and giant kissy lips.
This year’s crop of pig projects were mighty fine. I especially liked the eyelashes on this one.
This guy was very proud of his curly-tailed pig, and wanted to be sure I noticed his pig’s fluffy legs. He told me in a very loud voice that his pig has THE FLUFFIEST LEGS IN THE WHOLE SCHOOL! Indeed it does.
Just before the parade began, this guy was crying on the couch,unable to find his pig head-dress. After I inquired about his wooden pig, he cheered up and even managed to smile, although he never did find his head-dress.
At long last, it was time for the parade to start. Getting multiple classes of wiggly, excited 5- and 6-year-olds lined up and orderly seemed like an impossible feat, but those wonderful teachers at Austin Parkway Elementary know what they’re doing, and in short order the kids were ready to march. Note the long line of pig owners decked out in their head-dresses behind the Grand Marshals.
Piper was nonplussed about the whole affair. She was likely wondering how to get back into the hallway that contains all the lunch boxes and snack bags.
Hold the phone — in addition to the Grand Marshals, there’s another special guest: a certain middle schooler who made a return visit to his alma mater for the big occasion. This Big Kid walked the entire parade route in lockstep with his little sister, stopping to greet his former teachers and answer questions such as, “You are making straight A’s, right?” and “How many girlfriends do you have?” The best moment for him, however, came when the parade passed by the 2nd grade hallway, and one bold second-grader called out to the Big Kid, “I like your pig, little boy!” The Big Kid and I are still chuckling about that.
The parade meandered by each grade’s hallway, with our little piggie leading the way. Macy carried her most of the way, and yes she is a bit of a load. Our little piggie walked some on her leash, but made too many unscheduled stops to sniff and root at the carpet. She also proved to be a bit too tempting for some of the audience members to resist, and more than once a pair of small hands reached out to touch her before being reprimanded by the sharp-eyed teachers.
One of the moms directing traffic for the photo shoot decided it would be fun to have Piper in the picture, too, so she joined the kids on the hay bale. She was a very good sport about it and wasn’t the least bit bothered by all the hub-bub. In fact, she was so relaxed she took care of her morning doody off the back of the hay bale without hesitation. A bit later, she relieved herself on the hay bale, as well, thankfully in between photo opps and discreetly enough that no one noticed, and no one asked why I was flipping the hay bale over, either. Once her business was concluded, it didn’t take her long to realize she was on a giant block of hay, and she started chomping away. Each photo snapped by the kinder moms shows her stuffing her face with hay. She is a pig, after all.